asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (1) whether, in the case of houses lacking a bath, hot water or inside toilet, and whether the house is suitable for improvement, he will take powers to enable him, where the tenant is willing, to require the landlord to apply for and use an improvement grant;
(2) what compulsory purchase measures or other compulsory steps he proposes to ensure that baths, hot water systems and inside toilets are added to houses suitable for such improvements.
I believe that co-operation is preferable to compulsion and that a fresh effort on this basis can increase the number of improvements. I shall, within the next few weeks, be asking local authorities to make a new drive to secure the carrying out of improvement schemes for whole groups or areas of houses in agreement with the owners. Though I would hope that most owners would be willing to co-operate, some compulsory acquisition may be necessary to prevent the frustration of schemes by an unwilling minority.
While welcoming that reply to a certain extent, may I ask the Minister whether this will really do what the experts on the subject have asked for? By experts, I mean the local authority experts—the public health inspectors—who almost unanimously feel that the statutory standard of fitness should be raised to include these three things, and that compulsion on the landlord is necessary to get it. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 112 Labour Members and some hon. Members opposite now favour this course?
When I was in Leeds last week, where they have adopted, broadly speaking, the method I shall be advocating in the circular, I was very greatly impressed by the results of a concentrated drive on a particular area, including offers, if necessary, to lend money to the owner of the property. The whole scheme has produced very significant results there. As a next step I want to see it done elsewhere.
This is a very important question, but is the right hon. Gentleman taking further steps to see that when all these baths are provided there will be enough water to go into them? It may be that this will intensify a water crisis. Sooner or later will not the Government have to plan water supplies in this country?