The Cabinet discussed on several occasions in September 1946 the problems of Squatters in Service Camps and the steps taken to check the occupation of the camps which included ensuring that unoccupied camps were guarded. 1,500 squatters had also moved in to residential property in London which had been derequisitioned. The Attorney General explained that the only redress open to the owner of the property was to take out civil proceedings to establish title to the premises. The Minister of Health and the Minister of Works had refused to receive deputations from the squatters who wanted to ask for facilities to be provided, for example, gas and cooking stoves. The Attorney General reported on 17 September that five leaders of the squatters had been arrested for conspiracy and had been committed for trial. The Cabinet also discussed the injunction which had been granted and what should happen to the squatters in the future.
The following extracts give a flavour of what was said in Cabinet:
Appln granted in Court this a.m: injunction restraining named defendants fr. continuing their trespass.
Action after Court decision. a) Good warning to Squatters of position in law. b) Alternative arrangemts. for accommn.
This (b) is in hand. L.C.C. will look after (b) as p.a. authy not giving them any priority for housing, only case on p.a. basis.
(b) will be gt. relief to Police. If squatters won´t go there, are Police to take them off on grds. of obstruction. May Police be informed they can remove them (to rest centre, not Police station)?
Forcible removal to poor law institn wd. be awkward.
Wdn´t take them so far.
Wd. only move them on. If they won´t go: arrest for offence. Public announcement. (a) Announce Ct´s decision. (b) All are equally liable: & all shd. move. (c) Procdgs. will now be commenced for damage etc., v. all: but will not proceed v. those who have voluntarily.
Put squatters to bottom of priority list for housing - as at Aberdeen? Genl. view: not a good idea to do that. Tell l.a.´s they shd. not give punishment for which the law doesn´t provide. Agreed: issue communiqué from 10. Downing St.
Want to tell my caretakers what in law they can do about squatters, after High Ct. decision.
Caretaker entitled to use force to prevent entry.
Need for clear directions to Police. Can´t exercise a discretion. The bottle of milk for the baby can be handed in by someone else.
May be some exceptional cases. Don´t allow the man who goes out to work to return. New entries - absolute bar. Re-entry - as little discretion as possible.
No re-entry: tho´ in v. except. cases of domestic hardship it might be allowed.
Need to avoid enlisting public sympathy for squatters. Also to winkle the squatters w´out force.
Conspiracy case. Communist leaders: but 4 can show hardship. Point raised in Minute to P.M. Cd. we take the line tht. we want to establish the law not to obtain penalties? Fear Comm. "reprisals" by industrial disturbance.
Believe Comm. Party is divided - this is only London Branch.
London housing. 750.000 = target for U.K. = separate home for each family. But that won´t give uniformity all over - & Ldn, in particular, will be far behind (i) because of damage (ii) need for decentralisation. There is therefore some basis for Ldn. action. Propose therefore (i) W.O. & Air Miny to consider wtr. they can de-requisition some more living accommn (flats etc.) by concertina-ing. (ii) Hotels being de-requisitioned. Cdn´t they be used for housing? Holborn e.g. asking for 2 such bldgs. V. diff to go on resisting that.
Taken from C.M. 82(46)(2) - Meeting held on 17 September 1946