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chance, perhaps, to try to hold this set of Ministers on the Front Bench to certain promises which have been made.
The Minister of Housing and Local Government was, at any rate, sufficiently impressed by some of the abundant evidence brought forward by my hon. Friends and some sections of the Press about housing scandals to promise to establish a committee on the subject. We do not know what the powers of the committee will be, what its membership will be, what its firm terms of reference will be, or anything about it. It was certainly to the dismay of many hon. Members yesterday that in a Written Answer the Minister of Housing and Local Government said that he was not yet in a position to make an announcement on the subject, but that he would make an announcement when he was ready to do so. There was no promise that he would do so before the House rises for the Summer Recess.
In view of the character of the debate which we had the other day on this subject and of the known anxiety not only 245 in London, but throughout the country, about the kind of exploitation of tenants and racketeering that has been going on, it would be absolutely wrong for the House to disperse at the end of this week before a statement is made to us about the powers, terms of reference and membership of the Milner Holland Committee so that hon. Members will have an opportunity to put some points on this subject to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. If we adjourn before that is done, there will be a suspicion that this subject will be evaded and shelved and that no serious action will be taken on behalf of the tenants.
There is, further, the wider question of speculation in land and general property racketeering which has been going on. Twice in the last fortnight I have had occasion to draw attention to a case in Staffordshire, also connected with the late Mr. Rachman. We received the stupid answer from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government that the late Mr. Rachman had been prospecting for oil in Staffordshire and that that was why a piece of mainly derelict land of about 50 acres had been over-valued to the extent of £100,000.
My constituents will want to know how it came about that this mainly derelict land was so valued by the Eagle Star Insurance Company for the purposes of advancing £100,000 to a company called Huntflink Investments, composed of the late Mr. Rachman and his wife. My constituents will want to know where the £100,000 has gone, whether it has gone out of the country, and into what other companies it has gone.
My constituents will also want me to report to them on the spider's web of companies that are known to exist, about which a great deal has been written in the newspapers recently, which have been concerned with this kind of exploitation and racketeering. It may be going on under the noses of many hon. Members. There may be many hon. Members who have companies in their constituencies that only conceal and disguise some of the speculators and racketeers who are deliberately bidding up the prices of land, and the prices of property for speculative purposes, thereby having a serious effect upon the whole housing situation.
We want an inquiry into the nature of these companies. I am sure that, had the evidence which has so far been submitted emanated from shareholders in those companies, it would have been the cause of an immediate investigation by the Board of Trade. If some of the things which have been published, to which I could draw the attention of the Leader of the House, in the last fortnight about this spider's web of companies had come from within those companies and been reported to the Board of Trade, the Board of Trade would have been compelled under the Companies Act to establish an inquiry. Because the evidence was submitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), it was brushed off yesterday by the Minister of State, Board of Trade, who said that there was no adequate evidence at the moment for him to establish such an inquiry.
This is a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation. It is, again, a case where the suspicion will be spread that because perhaps some of the paymasters of the Tory Party are involved in some of these businesses the Government will not establish an inquiry.Hon. Members No.