HC Deb 30 August 1909 vol 10 cc28-45

Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890 (in this Part of this Act referred to as the principal Act), shall, after the commencement of this Act, extend to and take effect in every urban or rural district, or other place for which it has not been adopted, as if it had been so adopted.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


I rise to oppose Clause 1 for two reasons: First, because it casts doubt upon the capability of the local authority to decide what is good for the needs of the neighbourhood; and, secondly, because it gives arbitrary powers to the Local Government Board. It, in fact, makes the President of the Local Government Board a sort of Emperor, a kind of Julius Cæsar, who, of his own sweet will, is to direct the fortunes of his poorer and less fortunate fellow men. I shall certainly, for these two reasons, vote against the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill. I feel astonished such a proposal should come from right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, more especially, from the right hon. Gentleman himself (Mr. John Burns), because I can remember when the right hon. Gentleman and myself were new Members of this House, there was no Member on either side who was more strongly in favour of great powers being granted to the local authorities, or who held more strongly the view that the local authority was the fit and proper body to decide almost anything than the right hon. Gentleman. I fancy at one time in the political career of the right hon. Gentleman he thought the London County Council a far better authority than the House of Commons. Of late years he has changed his opinion, and he is now gradually coming round to the idea that the local authority is not fit to decide what it ought to do in its own district. If we allow this Clause to pass, what will be the effect on the local authority? Part III. of the Act of 1890 applies, I believe, to rural sanitary authorities, which are now represented by the rural district councils. Surely a rural district council is a body which should have some knowledge of the needs of its own district. I am not altogether in love with the elective principle. I think it can be carried too far, and hon. Members below the Gangway who cheer that remark can not themselves be enamoured of the principle, and at the same time vote for this Clause, because it does away altogether with that principle. What is the use of electors in a rural district going to the poll, very often at considerable trouble to themselves, and electing rural district councillors, if their representatives are not to have the right to say what they believe to be good for the people of the district. It seems absurd altogether, and the sooner you abolish the rural district council and make the Department in Whitehall supreme the better. I can conceive no other alternative. I have a great admiration for the right hon. Gentleman, but can he tell me how he can possibly know the needs of every rural district in England and Wales; he surely cannot be so well acquainted with them as the chosen representatives of the people. Clause 10, which must be read in conjunction with this Clause, is very important and far-reaching. We will presume—as I am afraid will be the case—that I am not successful in my endeavour to strike out Clause 1, which, therefore, becomes part of the Bill that eventually passes into law. What will be the result? Take a given area where the district council has been elected after a considerable contest as to whether or not steps should be taken under this Clause. The ratepayers have decided that there is no need in that particular district for additional housing accommodation, and that the district is not in a sufficiently strong financial position to indulge in the luxury of building new houses. Under Clause 10, four people, who, while being householders, may not pay any rates at all—


How can a person be a householder without paying rates?


If the hon. Member will go into the country he will find any number of people living in cottages, and possessing Parliamentary and local voting powers, who do not pay a farthing in rates. They pay for their cottages 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week, but the landlord pays the rates to keep the cottages in repair; yet the occupier has the vote. Well, four such people, paying Is. a week rent, having a vote, but paying no rates, will have a right to demand an inquiry. Inquiries are exceedingly expensive, and the cost has to be paid by the ratepayers, and should the President of the Local Government Board come to the conclusion—although I venture to say no holder of that office will really be capable of knowing what are the real needs of the district— but should the President of the Local Government Board think the complaint well founded, he may order an expenditure of £50,000 or £100,000, and he may have houses erected in a rural district where there are no inhabitants except farm labourers, who cannot afford to pay more than 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week for cottages. Yet it may be the case that the houses erected cannot be let, except at a loss, for less than 6s. or 7s. per week, and the ratepayers will consequently have to pay for the fad of that particular President of the Local Government Board. If this Clause is adopted it really means the extinction of the local authorities as far as regards their work under this particular Section. They will have nothing whatever to do. They will not be able to say, in our opinion, as chosen representatives of the district, we believe such and such things ought to be done. They will be at the mercy of the Local Government Board moved by four people.

Some ardent Socialist, desirous to benefit the people at somebody else's expense, may go down into a district and easily induce four people to demand this expensive inquiry, and eventually the unfortunate ratepayers will have to bear the brunt of the burden of this fad of the right hon. Gentleman. Has the right hon. Gentleman carefully considered what will be the effect of this fad? I presume I shall not have a chance of converting him, although I believe he is always open to reason. But possibly he may not have considered the effect of this Clause on his Bill. The omission of the Clause would not interfere with the other parts of the Bill, which could still be adopted all over the country by those who desire to adopt it, and that in my mind is the only safeguard for Bills of this sort. Still, I am afraid I have not been successful in convincing the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore I appeal to the House generally, and especially to the Radical Members of this Committee, who have always been loud in their praise of the elective principle, to support me in my endeavour to preserve to the elected of the people the power to choose to do what they think right for the benefit of those who have elected them.


I think there is no doubt that this Clause goes very much further than it need, if the only object of it is to facilitate the adoption of Part III. by rural district councils. Of course, in the past, we all acknowledge that certain county councils have no doubt thrown obstacles in the way of rural district councils, putting up cottages under Part III., but that difficulty can be done away with by taking away the power of veto from the county council, and giving this same power of veto to the Local Government Board instead. If the right hon. Gentleman restricted himself to that Amendment of the law, I think the majority of us on this side of the House would have agreed with him, but of course this Clause goes a great deal further. Its real object is to pave the way for the Local Government Board, compelling every district, whether it is necessary or not, to go in for schemes of housing under Part III. They obviously cannot compel districts, unless they do away with the necessity of adopting Part III., because it would be a defence against the Local Government Board compelling them, that the authority could not act if Part III. had not been adopted, and until it was adopted any action would be ultra vires. Therefore the whole foundation of this Clause is to enable the Local Government Board to compel local authorities to adopt Part III. of the Act. Clause 10, I suppose, will not be discussed at all under this Resolution. It is very regrettable that it should not be discussed, because I think it is the most important part of the Bill from the housing point of view. Under that Clause small authorities will, with the assistance of the Local Government Board, be able to compel large authorities, large authorities will be able to compel small authorities, and four ratepayers will be able to compel any kind of authority. The Bill has been very justly criticised as a measure which is designed to set up the uncontrolled bureaucracy of the Local Government Board, and I think there is no greater instance of this defect than this proposal about the adoption of Part III. I believe that, quite apart from the administrative danger of centreing all these powers in the Local Government Board, there is very great danger to the cause of housing. I think it is disastrous to transfer the responsibility for action of this kind from the local authorities to the Local Government Board. Even where the Local Government Board does not exercise these powers, it is perfectly certain that their power to do so must very much discourage housing. After all, the housing question cannot be solved by the local authority alone; however much money they devote to the purpose they can only touch the fringe of the question, and we must depend for the better housing of the people upon private enterprise controlled by the local authority. If this Clause passes and the superstructure passes, and the Local Government Board can compel the local authorities, they will put up houses, and be quite regardless of the heavy loss which will be thrown upon the rates.

Hitherto local authorities have shown a great amount of common sense in this matter. They have realised that it does not pay in the long run to put up houses unless they can make both ends meet, but once the responsibility is taken off the shoulders of the local representatives, and they can go to the ratepayers and say: "It is not our fault that this heavy expenditure is cast upon the rates but the Local Government Board's fault," they will only be too ready to bribe certain portions of the electorate by providing these houses. Of course, the Local Authorities are handicapped in competing with private enterprise. Although they have cheap money, they have to pay back during the sinking fund period the whole cost of the buildings and the land; and, of course, they build in a very much more extravagant way than private enterprise, and they suffer from the general extravagance which you always find in municipal trading, when the managers do not suffer in their own pockets by insufficient attention to detail. When encouraged by the Local Government Board they are certain to pay rent out of rates. In the past, of course, the adoption of Part III. was confined to those parts where it was absolutely necessary, and where private enterprise did not supply the want, or where it was possible to put up buildings of this kind without loss, but now it will become the general rule to build, regardless of financial consequences, and this must inevitably discourage private builders, both in the country districts and in the towns. There are many country districts where the owners of land put up houses at rents which do not pay reasonable interest on the cost of building. They certainly will not go on doing that in the future. They will not consent to pay twice over, and if they have to pay very heavy rates to provide unremunerative houses they will cease to build cottages of their own. In the same way in towns, it is inevitable that building will be checked. Rate-aided competition must prevent the builder from putting up houses to meet the local demand, and the eventual result will be that the local authority will have to do the whole work; because builders will be so alarmed that they will leave the provision of working class accommodation, where they may be undercut by the competition of the local authority, entirely to that body. I must say I think it is a very dangerous proceeding to start compulsion in these matters where the central authority does not make any grant.

Compulsion has been limited hitherto to those services such as public health and education and poor law services, where the local authority gets help from the central authority. The ground on which the central authority has given this help has undoubtedly been, that these objects were national objects, and that the neglect of giving the service in the district might bring disastrous results, not only upon that district, but on a far larger section of the community. I think the demolition of slums, where the Local Government Board has had this compulsory power may be looked upon as a public health service and one in which the Local Government Board should have this power of compulsion. Part III. is on a different ground. It is not a sanitary service in any way; it is a matter which concerns the local authority alone, and it is quite arguable that in the majority of cases, much more will be done to encourage sanitary houses by the local authority encouraging private enterprise and controlling and instigating these enterprises than by driving them out of the field by rate-aided competition. There is no necessity for making Part III. universal because if the ratepayers want it adopted they can easily make their views known to the local authority, and get them to adopt it. The right form of building for the local authority seems to be that which does not tempt private enterprise. In London, for instance, private enterprise goes in for providing large tenements, where the site is not much larger than that of small tenements, and where the amount of sanitary accommodation is much less. For these reasons it is much more profitable to put up large tenements. That is a typical case where Part III. has been adopted, and where very great service has been done by doing so; but it seems to me that local authorities are undoubtedly the best judges as to whether they can best encourage housing by building themselves or leaving ground for private enterprise; and it is because I believe that this Clause and the compulsion which will hinge upon it will really hinder the progress of sanitary housing of the working classes, that I shall certainly follow the hon. Baronet if he carries the matter to a Division.


I think we have now reached a stage in the history of our public health legislation when the adoptive Act of 1890 ought not to be left to the discretion of the local authorities. The history of all of these statutes is that you have had an adoptive Act which has been largely taken up, and has had an operation in yearly extending areas. Then, after experience has shown their wisdom, the provisions have been made general by statutes for that purpose. That is really the drift of this Clause, and I myself, having a deep interest in the public health of our great towns, think the time has come when we should take another step in advance in this matter. It does not follow in any degree that we are to sanction the Act of 1890 in every particular. On the contrary, I think there are several provisions in the Bill before us which are capable of very great improvement and valuable Amendment. This Clause was brought before the Committee at their first sitting. There were 53 Members present, and after an Amendment was negatived, the Clause was carried by a unanimous vote. A decision so made is entitled to consideration in the House. This is really a large question affecting the health of large numbers of our people, and I feel sure in my own mind that to reject this Clause would be a retrograde step.


The admirable speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Powell) entirely disposes of the speech made by the preceding hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), who was under the impression that this Clause had for its object the increase of the Cæsarean powers of the Local Government Board over local authorities, and he thought the time had arrived when some restriction should be placed upon the grasping power of the Department that I represent. But, oddly enough, this Clause has the very opposite intention and effect. Its object is to allow the 671 rural district councils to which it applies to cut themselves free from the shackles and restraints of the county councils, and to put themselves, so far as the initiation of housing is concerned, outside the supervision of the Local Government Board and for them to be allowed to include in their ordinary sanitary and public health duties automatically, as they discharge other duties, that of housing, which is now denied them. Why should a rural district council have to go cap in hand to a county council, the centre of which is very frequently removed from the source of the overcrowding and the insanitation that bad housing means? We have 671 rural district Councils, and, in consequence of the restraining action by the county councils, only nine rural district councils have been able to put housing powers into operation. We consider that in this question of housing, where the greater portion of the difficulty and the greater portion of the complaint arises in rural district council areas, many of which are rapidly becoming urban district areas, these authorities ought to have that power without going to the county council or even to the Local Government Board, and this Clause enables them to carry out that power.

4.0 P.M.

The hon. Member (Mr. Guinness) thinks this Clause goes farther than it should, and he suggested that if rural district councils had this power we should find them universally embarking upon expensive and extravagant schemes of housing. The hon. Member knows probably better than I do the attitude of rural district councils on this and many similar matters. I do not picture to myself at this moment, even with this power, rural district councils bankrupting the local ratepayers by charging the rates with extravagant housing schemes. On the contrary, I believe even with those facilities and this increased power both the county councils and the Local Government Board will be compelled even to persuade and bring pressure to bear upon the rural district councils to carry out their legitimate sanitary duties. The hon. Member also said that local authorities must depend upon private enterprise for housing generally. That may or may not be the case. The hon. Member is honourably associated with the name of a family which, to its credit, has done its very best in the large towns for the unskilled labourers. Does he find in his experience that that enterprise has had that effect, or that conversely the action of local authorities has materially depressed private enterprise? That applies to the towns and cities. Where is there any evidence of local authorities in rural district council areas so seeking to build as to compete prejudicially with private enterprise? I need not go into the figures with regard to defective, insanitary, and insufficient housing in the rural districts of this country, which is such a scandal that anything that would stimulate competition between private enterprise and the public authorities in the matter of providing houses where they are now insufficient would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage. Therefore, on the ground of this Clause dissuading or discouraging private enterprise there is really no argument in the speeches to which we have listened. I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. W. Guinness) state that this was not the way in which to do this work. He thought probably that there was a way out in the central authority construing housing to be more a matter in connection with public health administration than it is now, and that probably public health could be promoted by means of subsidies and contributions, which they now indirectly receive. If he means that, it is just as much a charge on the taxpayer and ratepayer as if the local authorities compete with private enterprise. So far as the money of the taxpayer is concerned, there is not much difference, and not much to choose between them. In conclusion I would say that what this Clause does is simply to remove the restraints now upon the rural district councils and to give them equal facilities to those now enjoyed by the urban authorities. In a word, it is to give the rural district council the same capacity to grapple with the housing problem as the London County Council now enjoys with regard to its particular area. As to the suggestion of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) that this is not a thing to be lightly done, I would say that our experience is that it is not an easy matter to get four people to complain to the rural district council, the county council, or the local authority. The reason why I will leave the hon. Baronet himself to determine, psychologically, when he is in the seclusion of his own rural domain. The fact is, in the first place, it is very difficult to get four villagers to complain about anything. Secondly, even if they do complain, the request for housing is to be subjected to the ordeal of a local inquiry. When a local inquiry is to be held, experience shows that the wrong people appear, and try to make it appear that the rural area is an Arcadia, and that nothing is required to be done. Then comes in the Local Government Board to consider the report of the inspector who holds the inquiry. It is not compulsory upon the Local Government Board to adopt the report of an inspector unless he can give good reason for the report being adopted. I can assure the hon. Baronet that he is entirely mistaken if he thinks the Local Government Board on the complaint of four householders or four persons who have been for a short time there, is going to sanction housing schemes in the centre of Salisbury Plain, because these four persons of advanced views, who have been exercising in the recent Territorial manœuvres, say there is a housing grievance. This Clause was discussed in Grand Committee from all points of view, and it was unanimously adopted. It meets with the approval of nearly all the local authorities. It has received practically little criticism up to this stage. No argument has been adduced against it in this House, and I sincerely trust that the hon. Baronet's Amendment will be rejected.


My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Sir F. Powell) pointed out that this Clause was passed unanimously in Committee. It is quite true, but he has not pointed out that we had not in Committee an opportunity of discussing Clause 10, which materially affects this Clause. In fact, this Clause depends upon Clause 10, and unfortunately, owing to the procedure adopted by the Government, the chances of our being able to discuss that Clause are of the very slightest. The President of the Local Government Board repudiated bureaucracy in this matter, but, I am afraid, it was only lip service. He said that what we are doing away with was the necessity for a district council going cap in hand to the county council to ask for powers to deal with their local areas, but those persons will have to go cap in hand to the Local Government Board. I fancy that a rural district council would far prefer to go to a county council, to which they themselves fiend representatives, than to go to White- hall, even to the right hon. Gentleman. For my part, I do not think it makes much difference whether we reject this Clause or leave it in the Bill, for it depends on Clause 10. If we were to arrive at Clause 10 we should discover that when the Bill has not been adopted it would then be incumbent on the Local Government Board to hold an inquiry, and, having held that local inquiry, the Act could only be put in force in cases where the powers ought to be exercised. That is a very difficult thing to settle, and I think the Local Government Board will find it is practically impossible to force the local authorities of this country into any very break-neck pace, because all that is proposed by this Bill depends upon money. I gave the Bill general support, and I support it still; but I am afraid that, like some of the other ambitious measures which the Government have brought in. with a great flourish of trumpets, this Bill which we have been told is going to revolutionise the country side and bring about what has been called the colonising of England, will, when passed, show that not very much will happen. I fancy the Local Government Board will find that if they attempt to put burdens on the shoulders of the local authorities beyond what is humanly possible for them to bear, the local authorities will strike, to use a convenient coloquial word. At any rate, it is certain that if the Central Government go on piling these burdens on the shoulders of the local authorities, there may be an informal strike, for even if local authorities were willing to carry out this work, they will find themselves absolutely unable to undertake it, because the finance is not there. But, for my part, I believe that the Clause which allows an extension of the time and gives cheap money is likely to do far more good in bringing about housing than all the coercive action of the Local Government Board and the right hon. Gentleman. For these reasons, I believe it is not really material whether we leave this Clause out or not.


I would point out that not only shall we not be able to discuss Clause 10, but we shall not be able to divide against it, because all the Clauses are going to be put together. Therefore we will be in this awkward position, that we cannot vote separately against the Clauses we disapprove of, and for the Clauses we approve of. Therefore, the only opportunity we have, or are likely to have, of signifying our disapproval of Clause 10 is by voting against Clause 1, which has to a certain extent to be read with Clause 10. The right hon. Gentleman said it was not necessary to answer my remarks, because the hon. Member for Wigan (Sir F. Powell) had made a speech in which he said that the Grand Committee was in favour of the Clause. I venture to disagree with my hon. Friend. The mere fact that the Grand Committee, composed mainly of hon. Members on the other side of the House, were in favour of the Clause, was, in my opinion, evidence that it was a bad Clause. It would certainly be no reason for supposing that it was in any way a good one. The right hon. Gentleman said that I really did not know what this Clause meant, because I had not read Clause 55 of the principal Act. I have read that Clause, and I think I thoroughly understand it. I think the person who does not understand the Clause in the Bill is the President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman said this Clause was to remove the restraints now existing on the rural district council. Then he went on to say that they had to go cap in hand to the county council, and that they could not do that which they thought they ought to be allowed to do. I beg to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Clause does nothing of the kind. It does much more than that. It does not allow a district council to say whether they will adopt the Clause. On the contrary, it forces the district council to adopt the Clause, which is a very different thing. If the right hon. Gentleman really desires the Clause to carry out what he says it carries out, he ought to amend the Act of 1900 by removing the veto of the county council. Then the Clause would carry out what the right hon. Gentleman says it does. Under those circumstances I think I should be justified in asking the right hon. Gentleman to acquiesce in the omission of the Clause, and to bring up on the Report stage a Clause corresponding to what he says it will carry out. If the Clause merely removes the veto of the county council and allows the district council to judge for themselves, with the consent of the Local Government Board as to whether or not they should adopt the Act, I am not sure that I would object to it. Certainly, if I did not object to it, I should not view it with very great favour or hostility. When it takes from the district council the power of initiative of their own, and prevents them from doing what they might like to do, then I object to the Clause. The right hon. Gentleman says it is not easy to get four people to complain. I do not agree with him at all. I believe it will be very easy to get four people to complain. I think that, human nature being what it is, there will be a certain number of people only too glad to get the opportunity of complaining. Probably they will be chosen by the Radical caucus. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the Local Government Board is not under compulsion to do anything in the way of building houses on the complaint of four people who may have been to Salisbury Plain. We cannot legislate for the Local Government Board being represented for all time by the right hon. Gentleman. We must look to the future, and we must remember that there will be other Presidents. I should be the last person to say anything against the right hon. Gentleman. In the course of time, and possibly in the changes of Government which are not improbable, there may be other Presidents of the Local Government Board, and consequently it is giving to Presidents of the Local Government Board a power which ought never to have been given to any single official. For these reasons the speech of the right hon. Gentleman has not satisfied me at all, and I will vote against the Clause.


I would like to ask, after what the hon. Baronet (Sir. F. Banbury) has said, whether we shall have a chance of voting against Clause 10, or whether our only chance of voting against Clause 10 will be to vote against Clause 1?


It seems to me I have no discretion with regard to this matter. The Order of the House says: "And on the Committee stage of the Bill the Chairman, in the case of a series of clauses to which no notice of Amendment has been given by the Government, shall put the Question that those clauses stand part of the Bill without putting the Question separately as respects each clause." Therefore, I do not think that I have any discretion.

Viscount MORPETH

Does that mean that any clause of which notice of Amendment is standing on the Paper can be divided on?


Any Government Amendment, yes. Because in that case I shall put the clause separately.


Under these circumstances, as the Government has told us nothing about their ideas as to whether this Bill is to be self-supporting or not, and have given no reply to the figures which I ventured to bring before the right hon. Gentleman on second reading as to the cost that might be involved, involving possibly an increase in the rates of even 2d. or 3d. or more in any housing scheme, I feel that our only chance of voting against the power of the Local Government Board to force expenditure on the local authorities under the Bill is to vote against this Clause. I am certainly not hostile to the general principle of the Bill, but if we are to have an opportunity of voting against that compulsion and that increase in the rates, possibly against the wish of the local authorities, which under these circumstances I think absolutely unjustifiable, it seems to me that the only opportunity given to those who object is to vote against this Clause.


I would ask the hon. Baronet and hon. Members opposite to consider, as the general question raised has been very seriously discussed in this House and in Grand Committee upstairs, whether, if we had any time at our disposal, we could not make some progress in discussing the real points raised in the Bill? There are, no doubt, points on which there is great divergence of opinion. On the other hand, there are many points as to which both sides of the House are tolerably agreed. But the real Committee points might be dealt with if you left the more general question as much alone as possible. I would urge the House to consider the expediency of devoting as little time as possible to the general question, and to come to the real Committee points, so that a Bill which many of us agree is a most important Bill should receive the fullest consideration possible on the points of the greatest importance.


The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down illustrates in a most practical way the disadvantages of the guillotine. If the hon. Gentleman and his Friend desire that the Bill should be properly discussed before the House then they should not have brought on the guillotine Resolutions.


I cannot help a passing reference to the guillotine. It is, however, out of order for hon. Members to reflect on the decision of the House.


I must thank you for your guidance. This is the only opportunity we have of discussing this part of the Bill. The principle of this Clause is extended under Clause 10. The Local Government Board ask for power to bring pressure upon the rural district councils. The Local Government Board take no kind of responsibility in the matter. They merely wish power to force expenditure upon the people, and the local ratepayers have got to find the money. All the Local Government Board do is to bring the pressure, and we in our various localities of the country will have to provide the funds necessary for carrying out this work. With all the desire in the world that there should be an abundant supply of good cottages for labourers, we must remember the fact that cottages under the normal conditions cannot be built at anything like a return for the investment. I have had the same experience, I expect, as most hon. Members of this House who have a little land, and build cottages from time to time. One knows very well that if cottages pay 2 per cent., or a little over 2 per cent., it is as much as anybody can expect them to pay, or is likely to find them pay. Then I ask, is it a fair and reasonable thing to call upon local ratepayers to provide the balance of rent which is represented by the difference between, say, 2 per cent., which the ordinary labourer could afford to pay, and the reasonable interest which must be paid upon the loans or money otherwise obtained? It is a most difficult question. This is not giving power for adoption of a plan of this sort, but positively forcing the local authority to adopt it, which is a rather unreasonable thing. However much we may desire to have good cottages it is extremely unjust towards the people in the locality to bring compulsory power to bear on them. Landowners, I should say, would be very glad to have plenty of cottages provided, because if they are not provided as a rule in other ways we have to provide them ourselves, and we always do provide them ourselves; and I think, in my case, I do not charge any rent at all for many of the cottages which I have got. No fair, reasonable return could be expected by any local authority from erecting cottages under this Bill. Is the country prepared to make up the difference? Are the ratepayers willing to undertake this increased burden? I do not know of any district myself where the ratepayers are complaining of the rates being too low. We hear a great many complaints from different sources of the rates going up by leaps and bounds under this Radical Government.


You say that which is not true.


The hon. Member ought to know that. Reference has been made to the grasping power of the Local Government Board. We do not complain of the grasping power of the Local Government Board. It only relaxes its grasp too easily at present. It is not a grasping power. It is a diffusive power, to which the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to add coercive power not at all tempered with mercy. It is extremely hard on us to divide against this Clause and all that it means when there are many provisions under the Bill which we should like to support. But now this has to be dealt with with a large number of other clauses under this guillotine arrangement. If the local authorities are prepared to face these losses and to provide as one hon. Member already pointed out half the rent out of the rates I am afraid that they will have only themselves to blame. But I do not think that that is the attitude of the local authorities. I think the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will find out later on that the local authorities do not approve of having coercive vigorous force brought to bear upon them to provide rent out of the rates in localities where small houses may be in some demand. I think they will find that this is a policy which is not likely to meet with general approval. I do not know that we have power to do any more than to divide against this proposal, but I trust that some further opportunity may be given for discussing the provisions of the Bill.


As a member of the Rural Cottage Society all I can say is that our secretary has been written to from districts where houses are required, and we have found on investigation many cases in which there was practically no opportunity of having houses. We have found cases in which people could not be married simply because there was no cottage within miles open to them or only cottages without any water supply, or in which defective sanitary conditions prevailed. We have sent down an inspector, and when that inspector made his report we communicated with the Local Government Board, and they sent down their inspector, who agreed with the report of our inspector. But when it came to practical work the Local Government Board had no power to enforce rules as to sanitary conditions or the general condition of the house. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last mentioned that local bodies would not advance money or take any steps under present conditions. That seems to me the strongest argument why we should give these powers to the Local Government Board, which are contained in Clause 1 and Clause 10, and therefore I shall have very great satisfaction in voting for Clause 1.


I hope it is quite possible for hon. Members while criticising certain portions of other clauses in this Bill, which are indeed great blots upon this, to be able nevertheless to support this Clause. It is not necessary to agree with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in his picturesque expressions as to the local authorities quarrelling with the alleged tyranny of the Local Government Board. Whatever the point of view from which we look upon this question those who realise how important it is will agree in voting for the first Clause of this measure. It has been said by several speakers, because they object as I object to certain things in Clause 10 and some other clauses, that therefore under the peculiar conditions of Debate to-day, the only way to protest against these other parts is to divide on this Clause. I for one desire to enter my protest against the adoption of that method. Here is a clause, which I believe the vast majority, no matter in whatever part of the House they sit, believe to be a good one, yet because they object to something else later in the Bill, they would put us in the very false position, if they were successful in their attempt of striking out this Clause entirely apart from those provisions which are a step in advance in respect of housing. There is no question of a Government Department tyrannising over a local authority, or one local authority tyrannising over another, and this is a perfectly clear attempt on the part of Parliament itself to make universal that which hitherto has only been partial and none too easy to bring about. I cordially vote for this Clause, although I share the objection of hon. Members opposite and on this side of the House to other parts of the Bill.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 132; Noes, 19.

Division No. 545.] AYES. [4.35 p.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Gwynn, Stephen Lucius Parker, James (Halifax)
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Paul, Herbert
Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R. Hart-Davies, T. Philips, John (Longford, S.)
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Hazleton, Richard Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Barnard, E. B. Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Radford, G. H.
Bellairs, Carlyon Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Reddy, M.
Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R. Hogan, Michael Rees, J. D.
Berridge, T. H. D. Holt, Richard Durning Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Bryce, J. Annan Hudson, Walter Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Idris, T. H. W. Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles Jackson, R. S. Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Jowett, F. W. Robson, Sir William Snowdon
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Joyce, Michael Rogers, F. E. Newman
Cleland, J. W. Laidlaw, Robert Rose, Sir Charles Day
Clough, William Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Rowlands, J.
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.) Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lehmann, R. C. Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)
Cooper, G. J. Lewis, John Herbert Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Lundon, T. Seely, Colonel
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Lupton, Arnold Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Sheehy, David
Cox, Harold Mackarness, Frederic C. Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Crooks, William Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Cullinan, J. Mac Neill, John Gordon Swift Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Devlin, Joseph MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.) Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Masterman, C. F. G. Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Tuke, Sir John Batty
Duckworth, Sir James Micklem, Nathaniel Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Duffy, William J. Molteno, Percy Alport Verney, F. W.
Everett, R. Lacey Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall) Vivian, Henry
Faber, G. H. (Boston) Morrell, Philip Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Ferens, T. R. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Ferguson, R. C. Munro Muldoon, John Wardle, George J.
Ffrench, Peter Murphy, John (Kerry, East) Waring, Walter
Flynn, James Christopher Nannetti, Joseph P. Waterlow, D. S.
Fullerton, Hugh Nolan, Joseph White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Furness, Sir Christopher O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Gilhooly, James O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Ginnell, L O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John O'Doherty, Philip Young, Samuel
Glendinning, R. G. O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Grayson, Albert Victor O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
Greenwood, Hamar (York) O'Malley, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Gulland, John W. O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.
Anson, Sir William Reynell Harris, Frederick Leverton Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Carlile, E. Hildred Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Valentla, Viscount
Cave, George Lane-Fox, G. R. Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) M'Arthur, Charles Younger, George
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Morpeth, Viscount
Craik, Sir Henry Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir F.
Fell, Arthur Stanier, Beville Banbury and Hon. Walter Guinness.
Fletcher, J. S.