27 FEBRUARY 1948, Page 18


SIR,—Not five minutes' walk from my home is a house which, some three months ago, had been empty for the previous twelve months. Is not this a crime. just as great as that against which Dr. Allen fulminates so delightfully and rightly ? Let it not be forgotten that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the effect of requisitioning, or the threat of it, is sufficient to deter owners of property from leaving it vacant for a long time for no reason at all or from driving up its value unduly, and to compel them to use it to supply accommodation for their fellow-country- men less fortunate than themselves who have no homes. These include many ex-service men and, so far as I know, the ordinary law does nothing to compel owners to treat their fellow countrymen, at least in this respect, as human beings in genuine human need.

It is right that one individual wrong should be remedied in the Courts, and that the rights. and duties of official authorities should be clarified— and closely watched I—but what evidence is there that the individual property-owner, if left to his own free devices, would consider the needs of others in preference to his own profit ? Ninety-nine right instances do not justify one wrong, but let Dr. Allen remember that that law of which he is so distinguished an exponent is full, as he well knows, of examples where individual cases are hard for the sake of the general majority where there is at least some approximation to justice. We do not expect more of the law, which is but fallible, and on balance the same is true of the powers of requisitioning.—Yours faithfully,