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Clause 1. — (Payments to Owner-Occupiers of Unfit Houses.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Housing (Slum Clearance Compensation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th December 1965.

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Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes 12:00 am, 15th December 1965

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The effect of the Amendment would he to continue the supplement for all owner-occupiers who brought their houses between 1st September, 1939, and 12th December, 1955, for another five years from 12th December, 1965, to 12th December, 1970. In order that the House should appreciate the significance of the Amendment it would help if I reminded it that owner-occupied houses which come within a slum clearance order fall into four different categories for compensation.

First, there are those owner-occupied houses which were acquired before 1939, which get only site value, those which were acquired between 1939 and 1950, which got market value until 12th December, 1965, when the present Act expired—which is the question that we are arguing about at the moment: those acquired between 1950 and 1955 which under the recently expired Act got market value, and which, under the Bill as it left this House will get at least 15 years' enjoyment before they will fall out of market value compensation, and, finally, those acquired after 1955, which get site value only.

The group which, under the Bill as it left this House, are going out of the protection of the Act, have had at most 26 years' and at least 15 years' enjoyment of the house before it was acquired. The group which are remaining under the provisions of the Bill as it left the House might, under the expired legislation, have had as little as 10 years' enjoyment, but, under the Bill, will be sure of getting 15 years.

I have drawn attention to the importance of this period of enjoyment and have pointed out that under the Bill as it left this House, these houses have had at least 15 years during which the people who acquired them have been able to write off the cost which they paid for them. That is fairly important, but a noble Lord in another place said that this was a quite unacceptable argument, and that the length of occupation had nothing whatsoever to do with the question whether or not the owners should receive market value compensation.

All I can say about that is that it was not the view of the last Government when they introduced their Bill in 1956 and it was not the view of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), my predecessor, who said in the House earlier in this Session that he recognised the sense of the 15-year proposal.

If we depart from the 15-year test, there are no grounds for stopping short of giving all owner-occupiers market value compensation. If we allow the group who have held occupation for at least 15 years to continue their right for another five years, so that in some cases they will be having 30 years enjoyment of the house, there is no point in not giving it to everyone. Many cases in which hardship has been caused and which have had publicity are cases of people who acquired 30 or 40 years ago and who now have to leave their houses.

One of the great difficulties of the Amendment is that it emphasises the rigidity of the distinction between people who are in the Bill and those who are out of it. Under our scheme, on the other hand, the benefit tapers off. Under the Amendment, if one acquired in 1938 one would get nothing, and if one acquired in 1939 one could continue to have protection until 1970. This is a distinction which it is extremely difficult, to justify.

The Amendment has nothing to do with trying to extend the protection to these people. It does not attempt to do that, and to go into great detail arguing about the pros and cons of it would be to go much beyond what we are debating tonight.

I would simply make only some points which came out when we discussed the matter earlier. The difficulty is that in having a blanket arrangement by which everybody will get full market value we should undoubtedly drive up the cost of slum clearance. Once it had been established that there was a cast-iron undertaking that a local authority acquiring a house would pay market value for it, the unscrupulous vendors who were selling unfit houses would be able to say to the purchaser, "You need not worry. The price may seem high but you will get it back from the local authority because this is the market price".