HC Deb 12 March 1866 vol 182 cc115-8

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, he hoped the House would allow him to state, in fulfilment of his pledge, the manner in which the Labouring Classes' Dwellings Bill differed from the Bill of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. M'Cullagh Torrens), and the course the Government proposed respecting both. The Bill which he had the honour to introduce would simply empower the Government to make advances through the agency of the Public Works Loan Commissioners towards the erection of labourers' dwellings in populous towns. It would not, however, give compulsory powers for pulling down dwellings unsuited for occupation. With respect to individuals, the Bill was somewhat novel in England; but it was not a new thing in Ireland, for there at the present time the Public Works Commissioners possessed the necessary authority for lending money to persons to erect labourers' cottages. With regard to public bodies, however, in England, under the Act of 1851, loans could now be granted to them for the purpose of erecting labourers' dwellings, and it was simply to extend the powers of that Act that the present Bill was brought forward. It had been intended that the money should be lent at 4 per cent, and the repayment spread over a period of thirty years. That would involve an annual payment of 5½ per cent on the capital lent for interest and repayment. But it was represented that the dwellings of the labouring classes in populous towns seldom paid more than 5 per cent, and therefore it was now proposed to postpone the time of payment to forty years, the interest being calculated at 4 per cent. There were some minor Amendments which he would explain in Committee. Coming now to the Bill of the hon. Member for Finsbury he wished to state in what respects it appeared to him faulty. In the first place, he thought that compulsory power to take property should not be obtained only by the order of a Secretary of State; but that some order of a judicial tribunal should be necessary. Then there was this great objection to the Bill, that under it public money to be advanced by the Public Works Loan Commissioners would be applied not to half the value of property as in his (Mr. Childer's) Bill, but often to double the value of the new buildings. For the whole expense, both of buying the old buildings and of rebuilding them would be provided in this way, and there was no doubt that under the compulsory clause far more than their value would have to be given for the old buildings. The result would be that local bodies would either refuse to burden themselves with these heavy loans, or if they did would get into difficulties and want to be released from their debt. Again, under this Bill an indefinite quantity of house property would become vested in local authorities—a result which might be a grave political danger. He, however, thought that the hon. Member's Bill contained valuable matter, and might be worked into a useful shape. If the owner of this property, instead of having a premium for allowing it to become a nuisance and taken under compulsory power, were subjected to the risk of getting no more than the bare value of the land (their houses being pulled down) and provision were made for condemning buildings of this kind by a judicial process, and for lending money to rebuild them on condition that they should not vest for any length of time in public bodies, he thought a very useful measure might be brought into operation. The Government, shadowing out this as the general principle which they would favour, were prepared to support a reference of the hon. Member's Bill to a Select, Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Childers.)


thought that it would be expedient to grant powers to local authorities in small towns beyond the limits of the metropolis to purchase bad buildings. Could not the provisions of the present Bill be grafted on the Local Government Act?


observed, that no discourtesy was meant by the Government towards the hon. Member for Finsbury in suggesting that his Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, while they did not propose that course in the case of their own Bill. The fact was the Government Bill contained no novelty, but only enlarged a principle already recognized.


said, he cheerfully adopted the suggestion of the Government, and would be glad to have his Bill thoroughly examined by a Select Committee composed of Gentlemen from both sides of the House.


also thought it advisable to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. It was not the metropolis alone that was looking to this measure. His hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) intended to move an Amendment with the view of making the Bill applicable to Scotland.


expressed his opinion that buildings such as those the erection of which was contemplated by the Bill could be erected so as to give a fair return for the money expended on them, but he thought the rate of interest proposed was too high.


said, there were very good reasons why the Government should not lend money at a lower rate than was now proposed. He thought that the Government Bill also ought to be referred to a Select Committee, who would have the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury before them.


hoped it would be understood that in reading the Bill a second time the House did not pledge themselves to any particular scheme. There was no principle recognized beyond the latent desire that people should get better houses, for until the House saw the provisions by which it was proposed to give effect to that desire, they were not pledged to anything. His own opinion was that the building of houses for the people in towns was an extremely profitable undertaking; and he believed that the people could do much for themselves in this way if the Government amended the Acts relating to investments.


thought 4 per cent was higher than ought to be charged by the Government. The rate of interest charged ought not to be higher than 3½ per cent. A good deal had been done in this direction by benefit building societies. That was the agency which he thought ought to be employed in the erection of improved buildings for the working classes. He had employed that agency himself. He thought from the two Bills together a very good measure might be produced.


said, the principle of the Bill was clearly admitted. It would be absolutely necessary that there should be some intervention on the part of the Government, in order that many wretched abodes should be destroyed, and others of a more suitable character erected.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.