There is not much more that I wish to add. Indeed, most of the matters we have been discussing will, I am sure, be raised more fully on Committee Stage. I should just like to elaborate to some degree on what I have already said about this Bill and its purposes and to relieve the minds of those who feel it is intended to cure all the housing ills that exist, or that in some way it was related to the inter-Departmental report on small farms, or to the housing survey requested from the local authorities by my Department. As I said already, this Bill is not intended to be the answer to that particular problem, Consideration of that problem and of whatever legislation or assistance which may be required is under way at the moment. That consideration will continue and we hope it will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion in a matter of months.
If we find that these problems remain in regard to houses unfit for people to live in, particularly in rural areas, it is possible that we will be coming before the House with new or amended proposals. This Bill deals with the routine matters of grants and loans. For the first time, it introduces a few new features, none of which is earth-shaking, or intended to be, but nevertheless added to what exists already we hope they will prove beneficial.
In other directions, there is a certain loosening of restrictions on local authorities in so far as the drawing up of their supplementary grant schemes are concerned. As the House is aware, there were certain statutory regulations in the past that laid down a pattern within which a local authority might pay, for instance, a new housing grant to members of the farming community and a scale was laid down. Under £12 10s., they might give a full grant, equivalent to that paid by the Department of Local Government. The scheme was graded up to £35 and after £35, there was no grant whatever.
Now, instead of that graded statutory scale, there is just the one limit and that is not the £35 valuation limit but a new one of £50. Corresponding to that, in so far as the other classes of the community are concerned, the income level is increased to £832. Within those two limits, the local authorities, if this Bill is enacted, will in future be enabled to design their own schemes, regard being had only to the ceiling of £50 in the case of farmers, and £832 in the case of wage or salary earners. That would be of considerable advantage to the local authorities to make the best use of the money which they will put into supplementary grants and which in turn the ratepayers will have to pay. It is only right that they should be given this freedom and that they should be in a position to design their own schemes better than any central authority might design them.
The new grants which we have mentioned are those applying to the housing of elderly people, and I should like to add a little to what I have already said. We do not insist on the structure being newly built. It could be a good conversion job, the provision of a number of dwellings in the same building achieved by conversion. So long as the appropriate dwelling is provided, we will be quite happy to support and assist by way of grant those people who may be so minded.
It has been suggested in regard to these grants that there should be a definition of the word "elderly". Somebody suggested that people were regarded as elderly at 45.