I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I would like to see far more use made of rehabilitation whenever premises are habitable. I also wish to ensure that when premises are acquired by a local authority they are not allowed to stand empty. Of course mistakes have been made—probably more in Liverpool than in many other areas.
The Secretary of State has demonstrated in Liverpool that he is willing to use compulsory purchase powers for general improvement areas. I hope that he will consider using his powers under the 1957 Housing Act and will have regard to the decision of Moore v. Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which indicated that the Minister was not restricted in exercising those powers to places where properties were required for the acquisition of houses intended to be altered, repaired or enlarged so as to make more housing units.
A reasonable interpretation of that case is that the local authority may acquire houses in the area which are unoccupied, in need of repair or improvement, or where furnished tenants are being evicted to secure vacant possession, so long as it is exercising its powers in a reasonable manner—that is, for housing provision.
I hope that the Secretary of State will pay attention to the article on compulsory purchase in the January-February issue of Housing Review. I hope, too, that he Will consider this and the provisions of Section 112 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. He has wide powers, and I urge him to use them, before it is too late, to prevent the wholesale eviction of low-income families from cur city centres.
The Minister does not need any additional powers; he needs only the will to prevent exploitation and the hardship which results from the unfettered operations of the gentlemen who publish the London Property Letter, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) referred. I see that, very properly, the company is known as Stonehart Publications. What is happening in our cities is a disgrace to a civilised society. It is something which will be destructive of any satisfactory standard of living for the families concerned and anyone else who seeks to remain in the cities afterwards. I urge the Secretary of State to approve as many compulsory purchase orders as are put to him, and I urge local authorities to submit as many as possible to him. I also urge them to use their powers to acquire voluntarily as many properties as possible as quickly as possible, because tomorrow or next year may be too late.