A. V. Roe & Co., Middleton (Agreement)

Oral Answers to Questions — Housing – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1954.

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Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West 12:00 am, 20th July 1954

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the terms of his instructions with regard to the continuation of tenancies of Middleton, Lancashire, council houses, occupied by workers employed by Messrs. A. V. Roe, after such workers had ceased to be employed with that firm.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I have given no such instructions. The management of council houses is vested by statute in the council.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we now have a position in which tenants of council houses in Middleton are paying rent to the corporation and a rent to their employers—in some cases their former employers? In those circumstances, has not the time come for the right hon. Gentleman to interfere and find what the facts are?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I think that arises on a later Question.

Photo of Sir John Barlow Sir John Barlow , Middleton and Prestwich

Is the Minister aware that the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich can look after these questions of local interest without the interference of hon. Members opposite? Secondly, is the Minister aware, or can he tell us, whether this arrangement was made with the knowledge and authority of the Socialist Government?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I do not want to be drawn into that matter, but negotiations have been going on for a long time.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, first, that 7,000 workers of A. V. Roe are largely employed in Oldham, West; secondly, the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) has not raised his voice in this matter, although I have invited him to do so, over the last 12 months; and, thirdly, he has told me on more than one occasion that he is investigating the matter?

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that a collateral tenancy agreement is insisted upon between Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company and the tenant where council houses are let by the Middleton Council, Lancashire, to the company's employees; that this agreement contains a provision whereby a sum of 3s. 5d. is deducted from the employee's wages each week to reimburse the council for the amount of subsidy borne in the rates; that this is in derogation of the council's responsibilities and freedom of action under the Housing Act; and if he will cause further investigations to be made.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that 90 municipally-owned houses at Middleton, Lancashire, have been let to Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company Limited on terms that they reimburse to the council the amount of the rate subsidy and provide tenants at the full rent; and what action he proposes to take.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

No, Sir. If any such agreement exists between the company and its employees, it is not one in which I have any power to intervene.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he told me, in answer to Question No. 88 on Thursday last, that he was of opinion that this agreement was illegal, and, if the corporation has made an agreement which in the opinion of the Minister may be illegal, has not the time come when he should investigate it; and has not the time certainly come when he has ample evidence before him that the statements he made to me in a letter in January last and in a Parliamentary answer on 11th May were not founded on fact?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I think the hon. Member is confused. Question No. 4 refers to an agreement alleged to exist between Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company and its employees. I have never said that that agreement was illegal, nor was there any reference to me about it. It is not a matter with which I could have any concern. There is an agreement between Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company and the Middleton Town Council. It is on that that I expressed the opinion, on advice, that it was of doubtful legality. They are two quite separate issues.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

As my Question refers to the agreement between Messrs. A. V. Roe on the one hand and the corporation on the other hand, and Messrs. Roe's employees, surely the right hon. Gentleman is being a little disingenuous when he says he knows nothing about it?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

No, Sir. I have no power whatever to intervene in the agreement between the company and its employees. If I am not mistaken, the agreement between the borough council and the company is dealt with in a later Question. The two matters are quite separate.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my Question. He is talking about power to interfere. My Question is whether he knew of this agreement or not?

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

The right hon. Gentleman said that he was answering Question No. 29 with my Question. He keeps on saying that that has nothing to do with the agreement, but it expressly refers to the agreement and to nothing else. It may be that by misunderstanding the right hon. Gentleman has answered the wrong Question with mine.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

If I have not misunderstood the point, that may come on a later Question.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

The right hon. Gentleman has not only not answered my Question but has made no attempt to answer it. Therefore, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that the Middleton Council, Lancashire, at their last meeting, decided to give notice to a tenant of a council house on the ground that his employment with Messrs. A. V. Roe had been terminated; and, in view of this evidence that the houses in question are tied, if he will reopen his investigation into the principle of these lettings.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many of the 90 houses built by the Middleton Corporation in pursuance of an agreement with Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company Limited are now occupied by workers employed by the company on tenancies tied to their employment.

Photo of Mr Harold Davies Mr Harold Davies , Leek

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is satisfied that the 90 municipally-owned houses at Middleton, Lancashire, the subject of an agreement between the corporation and Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company Limited are not tied houses.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I am aware that the council decided to terminate the tenancy granted to a former employee of Messrs. A. V. Roe Limited, who left his employment voluntarily. They think it would be wrong to allow the man to retain the tenancy now that the special circumstances in which he was given precedence over others for it no longer exist. I am satisfied that what has happened does not make these "tied" lettings since the council and not the company are in control of the houses.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the report of the council meeting was to the effect that the council regarded this man as a model tenant but felt bound to turn him out under the "tied" clause in view of the agreement with Messrs. A. V. Roe? Is the Minister further aware that almost everyone in the district—with the exception of the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwick (Sir J. Barlow)—is alarmed and excited about this matter? In the circumstances, would he, if he is asked, consider receiving a deputation to go into the whole position which has arisen, in which a pregnant woman is faced with eviction from her home?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I am always willing to see hon. Members of this House, as they well know, and I shall be happy to meet the hon. Member immediately concerned—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is not interested."]—and other hon. Members who would like to discuss this matter with me.

Photo of Mr Harold Davies Mr Harold Davies , Leek

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government on what grounds he has advised the Middleton Borough Council that their agreement with Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company Limited relating to 90 municipally-owned houses may be illegal.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I informed the council that I was advised that the agreement was of doubtful legality in some respects. However, this is a matter which in the last resort can only be resolved by the courts.

Photo of Mr Harold Davies Mr Harold Davies , Leek

I thank the Minister for that reply, but is he aware that, while neither side of the House wishes to discourage new industries in any area, it will be a completely new and dangerous approach to have tied council houses for any industry in Britain? Will he tell us whether there are any other areas in Britain where this sort of thing is happening?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

There has been a very long tradition since the war, under both Administrations, of trying to facilitate the housing of key workers and so forth in special industries. There may be dangers and difficulties involved, but this is the first instance of trouble that has come to my notice. Normally the matter has been amicably arranged. This sort of thing is of importance to industry, and it is equally important that there should be no sense of grievance or unfairness.

Photo of Sir John Barlow Sir John Barlow , Middleton and Prestwich

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that similar arrangements have been made in many other places such as Bristol, Liverpool and Bolton and the Development Areas, and that they have been beneficial to the development of new industries?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Arrangements on similar lines have been made, but they are not precisely similar under the terms of the contract.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether the agreement between the Middleton Borough Council and Messrs. A. V. Roe and Company Limited was submitted to his Department before its execution; and on what date his Department first received a copy of this agreement.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

No, Sir. The council had no need to submit this agreement to me. It was executed on 2nd March, 1953, and a copy was first sent to my Department on 24th December, 1953.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

Can we take it that the right hon. Gentleman has taken no action at all from December last until the present time and that he now admits that the agreement is of doubtful legality?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I take it to be my duty to respect as far as possible the autonomy of local authorities, and I believe that is the view of most hon. Members. I do not wish to interfere with them so long as they are carrying out their statutory duties. The point might arise, but not at this stage, as to whether they have done so. In that case, it will be the duty of my Department, if necessary, to take some action.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

Surely the right hon. Gentleman has a duty to the ordinary citizen as well as to private enterprise? If he now admits that the agreement is of doubtful legality and that that was known to his Department over a year ago, ought he not to have done something about it?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

It is not a question of any arrangement with the private company but of the rather complicated financial arrangements in connection with the housing subsidies.