Two licences to a total value of £1,200,000 have been granted for the rebuilding of Lewis's Stores in Ranelagh Street, Liverpool. Fifty-one other licences to a total value of £48,627 have been granted for work to Lewis's other premises in Liverpool, including the remaining part of the main store, their clothing factory, warehouses, garages, and other small buildings.
Can my right hon. Friend inform the House whether this includes or is exclusive of the fittings, and the rest, which obviously go with it; does he not think that the amount granted for one particular firm in Liverpool showed at least some favour; and was it not rather excessive in view of the tremendous building programme for better purposes in Liverpool?
I could not answer the first part of the supplementary question without notice. With regard to the second part, this scheme was sanctioned in the early part of 1947 in order that unemployment in the Liverpool area might be dealt with, and was at the time the only scheme available to come into quick operation for that purpose. Its carrying out has been considerably slowed down since then.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that because this licence has been granted for this particular building, the Housing Committee of Liverpool has been handicapped for some years; and that while other buildings are derelict, privilege and monopoly have been given to Lewis's to get this building up, which is a scandal?
No, Sir. During the whole of the period of operation of this licence, my Department has kept a very careful watch to ensure that labour is not being drawn from other jobs, and that material is not being used to the detriment of housing.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree, in regard to the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan), that the thousands of pounds which will be spent on fittings and decorations subsequent to the work which has been licensed will need no licence, and that there will be no control over them?
asked the Minister of Works what reasons prompted his Department to issue a licence to Mecca Cafes, Liverpool, for £18,800 to alter the Olympia Theatre to a dance hall; what restrictions were imposed on the type of labour and materials to be used; and if he is aware that a large dance hall has been next door to the Olympia for many years.
The type of labour required was available, and only small quantities of steel and softwood were required. No special restrictions were placed on the type of labour to be employed, and only sufficient controlled materials for the job were released. I do not consider that the fact that there is a dance hall next door is relevant as I understand this is the entertainment centre for the area.
Is the Minister not aware that the granting of these licences for luxury building is being very strongly commented upon by the many families in Liverpool who are living in housing conditions under which no people should be asked to live?
Most of this work was repair and decoration work, and by far the larger amount of labour that was put into it was existing unemployed painting labour in the area.
Is the Minister not aware that many loads of bricks are being used and many bricklayers are working on this building continually, and are working overtime, while we in Liverpool are unable to complete our housing programme because we cannot get bricklayers?