HC Deb 22 March 1866 vol 182 cc809-14

Order for Committee read

Bill considered in Committee

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 (Authorities and whom Loans may be made)


said, this appeared to him to involve a very important question of policy—namely, the expediency of Her Majesty's Government advancing money to private persons to enable them to carry on a private speculation. This was the first time a proposal of that kind had ever been submitted to Parliament. It would certainly act with great injustice. For example, if a builder undertook to build houses in the ordinary way he would have to pay 6 per cent interest for the money he borrowed; whereas, if another person in the same trade took a plot of ground, and if he speculated under favour of this Bill, he would be at liberty to obtain money from the Treasury at 4 per cent, It was to be regretted that the Government had begun a system of communism the end of which could not be foreseen. He there fore thought that these clauses relating to the loan of money to private persons should be struck out.


said, that upon the abstract principle of political economy the hon. and learned Gentleman was perfectly right; but the Government had to deal with facts. From the rapid increase of the metropolis and large towns, and from the unwillingness of persons to enter into sufficiently large building operations for the working classes, there had arisen a state of things which to some extent might be remedied in the manner proposed by this Bill. The hon. and learned Member was mistaken in saying that this was the first occasion when the Government had advanced money for private purposes. The Government advanced money at the present moment in Ireland for the same purposes as those contemplated by the present Bill, and in England for drain-age for the benefit of landlords. Considering that the present proposal was for the benefit of the working classes, he hoped an abstract principle would not be allowed to prevail against the necessity of dealing with the evil proposed to be remedied. There would be ample security for the money lent, as the parties borrowing must expend on the construction of the houses an amount equal to the sum borrowed.


observed, that there was no difficulty in carrying on building operations for the benefit of the working classes in the suburbs of the metropolis. The places where the houses were not fit dwellings for the working classes were situated iii the old part of the town, which was crowded with dwellings, to which the Bill did not apply. As far as money was concerned, the benefit building societies had plenty, and the real difficulty in applying it to the purpose of providing dwellings for the working classes arose from the jealousy exhibited by the House of Commons in Conner times of any society interfering with land. Consequently, in the Acts regulating those societies there were clauses preventing their dealing directly and honestly with land for the purpose of building houses. What was wanted was that the law should be amended, so that these societies of working people might have facilities for taking land for building purposes; but it was plainly objectionable to advance public money to a private speculator to enable him to enter into a building competition with others.


asked, whether the Secretary to the Treasury had taken into consideration what class of buildings would be erected under the Bill, what would be their value, the probable number of £7 houses and £10 houses which would be erected, and in what boroughs and cities they were likely to be situated?


said, that the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), might have been more properly raised on the second reading of the Bill, the principle of which it affected. It was a surprise to him to hear it stated that there were houses in abundance for everybody, because the general belief was that there was a scarcity of houses for the labouring classes. If that were so, it did not seem unreasonable that Government should advance money on easier terms than it could be had in the public market to supply the want. As to the Bill putting a stop to building, private builders did not usually build unless they had something like the fee simple of land or along lease of it. The Bill was not restricted to any class of persons, and any one who complied with its provisions might obtain advances. If it stimulated the building of houses for the humbler classes it would do great good; and if its operation produced any evils, it would be easy for the Government to put a stop to them.


wished to know, whether anything had been determined in respect to the plans on which the houses were to be built. The Public Works Commissioners of Ireland had prepared plans for such dwellings on a liberal scale. He trusted that the operation of the Bill would be superintended by competent persons, who would really understand what were the best plans on which to construct dwellings in any particular town; and he feared that the Bill would be nullified if these matters were left to the Public Works Commissioners, than Whom no one had offered more opposition to the rendering of assistance in the erection of this class of dwellings in Scotland.


said, in reply to his noble Friend the Member for Haddington shire (Lord Elcho), he must confess that in preparing the Bill he had no eye to the Reform question, which did not agitate him in the least. He did not feel it necessary to consider the probable number of possible electors who would take advantage of the Bill. In regard to the machinery for carrying it out, the precedent of the Irish Act had been adopted. Under the general direction of the Treasury, rules, regulations, and plans would be prepared by] the Department of the First Commissioner of Works, and with these any building brought under provisions of the Bill must conform; and there was no intention of employing for any purpose, except inquiries as to security, the machinery of the Commissioners. An answer he had given had been misunderstood by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, for only one-half the value of a building could be obtained from Government. As they had heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley), there was great demand for additional accommodation for the working classes. They must not be driven out of the towns to the outskirts, which were in many instances miles from their employment. To put them to inconvenience made labour more expensive, and diminished the labour power of the country.


said, he dissented from the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets. There was great need of dwellings for the working classes, that the building societies did not supply the want, many parts of London were frightfully overcrowded, and the Bill would usefully stimulate the erection of dwellings which would not otherwise be built on speculation.


supported the Bill, which was salutary in its object, and remarked that building societies had studiously avoided the substitution for old and dilapidated dwellings of new and improved ones. He desired to point out that the Bill was not confined to the metropolis, but that any bodies constituted under the Local Government Act might make use of it. He looked upon the measure as a wise and sanitary one which would benefit small towns, and he was therefore prepared to support it.


observed, that it would be necessary that those representing the First Commissioner of Works should be well acquainted with the building materials used in different parts of the country, so as not to insist upon the use in the north of materials which were obtainable only in the south, or vice versâ.


said, the Department had an efficient officer in Scotland, fully competent to advise in these matters.


said, that in order to attain the object aimed at, advances should be restricted to those public bodies which would destroy houses unfit for habitation and build others; but the Bill should not tempt capitalists to speculate in cottage building. It would be a monstrous thing to lend money at 4 per cent to a manufacturer who came in competition with another unable to avail himself of the Bill. The latter part of the clause was altogether preposterous. It amounted to a species of communism which no feelings of philanthropy could justify. He hoped the House would have the moral courage to set its face against it. He moved that the latter portion of the clause from the word "same" be omitted, leaving the Government to make advances to benefit societies.


said, there was nothing in the Bill to lead to the assumption that money would be advanced to manufacturers, but he apprehended that if the Bill passed, rules would be made bringing building societies under its operation. The reason for bringing in the Bill was not because there was any call for it by the manufacturers in the north, but because of the great want of proper dwellings for the working classes in London. He thought that the Govern- ment, instead of lending money at 4 per cent should lend it at 3½, in order to give an impulse to the movement now going on, and to provide better house accommodation for the poorer classes,


hoped the Government would exercise some super-vision over the plans of these buildings and some control over the rents which the working classes would have to pay—adopting, in fact, the principle which had been found so useful in administering the Pea-body donation,


said, he was at a loss to understand the objection of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, But he did think that there was not a sufficient security that the dwellings to be erected would be fit dwellings for the working classes.


said, the Bill contained the same words as the Irish Act, and they would be quite sufficient to insure that proper buildings were erected for the working classes. He would not go into the politico-economical question which had been raised, as the House had so clearly expressed its views on that subject. The Department which would have to be satisfied as to the security was not a Government Department. The Public Works Commission had not that intimate connection with the Government as had been supposed by some hon. Gentlemen.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 (Incorporation of Commissioners Clauses Consolidation Act).


objected to loans being granted to companies such as harbour and railway companies. The want that was felt in the metropolis of dwellings for the working classes was caused in great measure by so many houses having been pulled down in order to make room for railway stations, and the Bill certainly ought not to he complicated by the introduction of a clause enabling railway and other companies to carry on speculations with regard to these loans.


thought the clause was a most valuable one. Its object was; to prevent any question which might otherwise be raised as to the legality of railway; and dock companies to raise funds under this measure for building houses, In other words, it authorized such companies to take these loans in addition to their ordinary borrowing powers.

MR. WALDEGRAVE-LESLIE moved the addition of a proviso that the houses to be occupied by the working classes built under the provision of this Act should always be occupied by them; and that if at any time they should cease to be so occupied the Board of Works should be empowered to call in any balance which might be due.


objected to the proposed addition. There would be ample power to make proper conditions in each case as might be deemed feasible.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


called attention to the complex character of the Bill.


said, the rules and regulations mentioned in the 4th section would be very carefully drawn up.


asked the hon. Gentleman whether he would lay those rules and regulations upon the table of the House?


signified his willingness to do so.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9


inquired whether it was intended to extend the benefits of the measure to Ireland?


replied in the affirmative, stating that this would be done in a Bill which the Government was about to introduce for amending the Public Works (Ireland) Act.


then proposed an additional clause, providing that all rules and regulations made by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury under the provisions of the Act should he laid before Parliament,

Clause agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.