asked the Minister of Health what is the extent and general nature of the powers which he has delegated to the clerks to all local authorities to requisition suitable property for the accommodation of persons inadequately housed, other than, bombed-out persons; and, approximately, how many premises have been requisitioned in the County of London under these powers in the last three months.
I am sending to the hon. and learned Member a copy of the relevant circular issued to local authorities. Because of the need to provide for families made homeless by flying bombs and rockets all but one of the 2,300 houses requisitioned in the County of London in the last three months have been requisitioned for them, though in other ways 26 houses have been made available for the inadequately housed.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell me whether the last date of delegation of any such powers was in August, 1943, shortly before his appointment? In those circumstances, would he like to withdraw or correct the answer he gave a few days ago to the effect that he had delegated these powers, which implied that he had done it himself recently?
I do not follow the implication that it was recent. I am sorry if I took the credit to myself of something that should have stood to the credit of my predecessor, but I am surprised that a learned Member should suggest that delegation would be any stronger or more effective by repetition.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman look again at his answer and see that this reference comes immediately after another sentence in the same reply, implying, to any person who reads it reasonably, that it was something he had done to deal with an emergency that had arisen during the last few months? Would he look at it and see if it is not plainly a rotten trick?
I shall certainly be pleased to look at, my reply. The hon. and learned Member no doubt appreciates that I am just about to answer a Question dealing with dates, but I leave it to the House to decide as to whether his description of my reply was justified.
In view of the fact that an answer by the Minister to a supplementary question last week left the impression that Servicemen who lived in the East End boroughs but had no accommodation there, could be provided with accommodation in other parts of London, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether any circular to that effect has been sent out to local authorities?
Arrangements for mutual liaison and accommodation between boroughs were in existence when I was Special Commissioner in charge of the homeless in London. I think all London Members will appreciate that there is not one London area which has not great difficulties, so that very wide distribution as between the boroughs is not easy to effect.
The power to requisition houses for persons inadequately housed was delegated to clerks of local authorities on 4th August, 1943. The last circular on the subject was issued on 17th April, 1944.
Is the Minister aware that I am not referring merely to the requisitioning of houses, but to providing room accommodation? Could not billeting officers who have dealt with war workers now be told to deal with Servicemen and ex-Servicemen and their families, and women expecting babies, who have no accommodation after confinement?
It would need careful consideration whether, at this stage, there should be any wide extension of billeting powers, as opposed to other powers to assist in such cases.
I am quite prepared to consider whether local authorities or, rather, their clerks, to whom these powers are delegated, are fully aware of the way in which the powers should be used, but I have no doubt that the delegation of such responsibility is fully within the minds of the officers in question.