HC Deb 01 November 1909 vol 12 cc1489-509

(1) The last foregoing Section shall as respects contracts to which that Section applies take effect as if the condition implied by that Section included an undertaking that the house shall, during the holding, be kept by the landlord in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.

Lords Amendment: At end of Subjection (1) insert "but nothing herein contained shall make it obligatory on the landlord to remedy any defect caused by the act or default of the tenant or occupier, or any person for whom the tenant is as between himself and the landlord responsible.

"(2) The landlord or the local authority, or any person authorised by him or them in writing, may at reasonable times of the day, on giving twenty-four hours' notice in writing to the tenant or occupier, enter any house, premises, or building to which this Section applies for the purpose of viewing the state and condition thereof."

Mr. BURNS moved to omit the words, "but nothing herein contained shall make it obligatory on the landlord to remedy any defect caused by the act or default of the tenant or occupier, or any person for whom the tenant is as between himself and the landlord responsible."

The reason for disagreeing with the first part is that we must make it obligatory on the landlords to remedy any defect caused by the act or default of the tenant or occupier on the ground that that is practically the law now. The tenant must necessarily, in these circumstances, be a man of straw, against whom proceedings could not be properly taken, and it is the business of the landlord, if the tenant is behaving in such a way as to make the house undesirable, to get rid of him as soon as possible, and if that were not done we should place a premium upon landlords using the misdeeds of some tenant as a reason for not keeping in order houses and rooms which were desirable for better tenants.


I do not think it is very reasonable entirely to exclude the first part of this Amendment. The case proposed to be met, I understand, is this: That the property is let on a yearly tenancy and the tenant wilfully damages the property. The Act throws on the landlord the responsibility of putting it into order. When it is put into order the tenant may repeat the damage again and again if he is a malicious tenant. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Let the landlord turn him out." That sounds reasonable at first sight, but if you look into it, is it so? The property is let on a yearly agreement and it may take very nearly two years to turn out the tenant, and during that time the damage may be done again and again, and a malicious tenant may throw a very heavy burden indeed on the landlord. Where damage is caused by the tenant the landlord ought not to be responsible. Of course he will do his best to keep his property in order, but when he has no effective remedy and cannot turn his tenant out except by giving him a year's notice, determining at the end of some year of the tenancy, it may take nearly two years to turn him out, and in that case the remedy suggested is useless.


The landlord, in the case the hon. and learned Gentleman assumes, would have an action for malicious damage. A person who took a house like this for a year would not be a titled person.


That really is scarcely an answer. It would take about six months before an action for malicious damage could take place, and the hypothesis is that the malicious tenant, first having done the damage, could throw upon the landlord or the owner the expense of defending proceedings taken by the local authority against him, and the remedy suggested to the landlord by the right hon. Gentleman is that he should incur against a man of straw further additional cost.


The hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division (Sir Walter Foster) said earlier in the evening that he was against delay. I would like to know what the hon. Member thinks of this delay. Is he going to vote for this Amendment to the Lords' Amendment, which would prevent a man from getting compensation for damage to his property, unless he goes into a court of law, against a man who may have gone out of the country months before the case can be heard?

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Lords-Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 49; Noes, 186.

Division No. 878.] AYES. [6.4 p.m.
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Fletcher, J. S. Newdegate, F. A.
Baldwin, Stanley Forster, Henry William Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gardner, Ernest Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Bignold, Sir Arthur Goulding, Edward Alfred Percy, Earl
Bowles, G. Stewart Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edmunds) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Bull, Sir William James Hay, Hon. Claude George Ronaldshay, Earl of
Butcher, Samuel Henry Hills, J. W. Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hunt, Rowland Stanier, Beville
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Joynson-Hicks, William Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Clyde, J. Avon Kerry, Earl of Valentia, Viscount
Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E. Kimber, Sir Henry Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Courthope, G. Loyd Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Craik, Sir Henry Lonsdale, John Brownlee Younger, George
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott- Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- M'Arthur, Charles TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Cave and Mr. G. D. Faber.
Dumphreys, John Morpeth, Viscount
Fell, Arthur
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Dobson, Thomas W. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Armitage, R. Edwards, A. Clement (Denbigh) M'Callum, John M.
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Essex, R. W. M'Micking, Major G.
Astbury, John Meir Esslemont, George Birnie Maddison, Frederick
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Evans, Sir S. T. Mallet, Charles E.
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Everett, R. Lacey Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Ferguson, R. C. Munro Marnham, F. J.
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Massie, J.
Barnes, G. N. Fullerton, Hugh Masterman, C. F. G.
Beauchamp, E. Gibb, James (Harrow) Menzies, Sir Walter
Beck, A. Cecil Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John Micklem, Nathaniel
Bell, Richard Glendinning, R. G. Middlebrook, William
Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R. Glover, Thomas Molteno, Percy Alport
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Mond, A.
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Gooch, George Peabody (Bath) Morrell, Philip
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford) Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Black, Arthur W. Griffith, Ellis J. Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)
Boulton, A. C. F. Gywnn, Stephen Luclus Myer, Horatio
Bowerman, C. W. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)
Branch, James Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Nolan, Joseph
Brodle, H. C. Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Norton, Captain Cecil William
Brooke, Stopford Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire) Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)
Bryce, J. Annan Hedges, A. Paget O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Henderson, Arthur (Durham) O'Malley, William
Byles, William Pollard Henry, Charles S. Parker, James (Halifax)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe) Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Higham, John Sharp Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Cheetham, John Frederick Hobart, Sir Robert Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Hodge, John Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)
Cleland, J. W. Horniman, Emslie John Pirie, Duncan V.
Clough, William Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Pointer, J.
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Hudson, Walter Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Jackson, R. S. Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.) Jones, Leif (Appleby) Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Radford, G. H.
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Jowett, F. W. Raphael, Herbert H.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Keating, M. Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Kekewich, Sir George Rees, J. D.
Cox, Harold King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Crosfield, A. H. Laidlaw, Robert Ridsdale, E. A.
Cross, Alexander Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Crossley, William J. Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester) Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Dalziel, Sir James Henry Lamont, Norman Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington) Rogers, F. E. Newman
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Lehmann, R. C. Rowlands, J.
Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.) Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral) Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John p. Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Lupton, Arnold Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Sears, J. E. Thorne, William (West Ham) White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Sherwell, Arthur James Tuke, Sir John Batty White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
Steadman, W. C. Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Stewart, Halley (Greenock) Vivian, Henry Wilkie, Alexander
Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal) Wadsworth, J. Wills, Arthur Walters
Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon) Walker, H. De R. (Leicester) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Summerbell, T. Wardle, George J. Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Sutherland, J. E. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Taylor, John W. (Durham) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury) Waterlow, D. S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. J. Pease and Mr. Herbert Lewis.
Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire) Weir, James Galloway

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords Amendment as amended."


May I ask the President of the Local Government Board why this Amendment is being accepted? The assumption underlying the Lords Amendment is that the occupants of these houses, who, of course, are working people, are not to be trusted to admit the landlord to come in and inspect his own property at reasonable times unless they are compelled to do so by Act of Parliament. The speeches which were made above the Gangway a few minutes ago in regard to the tenants of these houses were such that if they had been made by the same speakers in Bermondsey a few days earlier there might have been a different result to the election. The same reason, which led to the rejection of the first part of the Lords' Amendment, seems to justify the rejection of the second part. What justification is there for assuming that the people occupying these houses require to be compelled by Act of Parliament to admit the landlord to view his own property under reasonable conditions?


I rise to support the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. It seems to me that this is none of the most extraordinary proposals I have ever read in my life. I think, if it passed into law, it will be possible to visit and inspect a house at any hour of the day. There is a large section of the middle classes in the provinces who occupy houses with a rental not exceeding £26 a year, and even £16 a year, while in London a large number occupy houses with a rental not exceeding £40 a year. This Amendment is going to give the right of entry to the houses of the greater part of the population by landlords whenever they like. I have been brought up on the theory that an Englishman's house is his castle. I think, if his house is his castle, it should not be invaded unless it can be shown that some local authority invested with power for the purpose has reasonable grounds for invading the house. It is possible that an inspector representing the sanitary authority might bring disease into a house. I am glad to think that this was not in the Government Bill. It is an Amendment which was introduced by the House of Lords, and I strongly urge this House to reject it.


The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil has asked the reason which has induced the Government to agree to this part of the Amendment. The reason, in our judgment, is very simple. By the medium of this Bill we impose upon the landlord certain responsibility, and if he does not exercise that responsibility we put upon him severe penalties for failing to keep the house in order. It is impossible for him to fully and freely exercise both his responsibility to the tenants from whom he receives rents, and to the local authority to whom he is under liability for keeping the houses in a sanitary condition, unless he has the right of access to see that repairs are carried out by the contractor to whom he often sub-lets the work of keeping the houses in order. It is in the interest of the working classes that the landlord should have the right of entry to see that the houses are in a sanitary condition. If he has not that right, I really believe that three-fourths of the liability and responsibility for a certain class of property put on the landlord would not be carried out, because if he were brought before a court of law he would only have to plead as an excuse for not carrying out the work that he was menaced by a sturdy tenant who declined to allow him to enter.

Mr. KEIR HARDIE indicated dissent.


The hon. Member shakes his head. I have known a number of people not belonging to the working classes who would almost repel with horse, foot, and artillery the attempt of an ordinary painter to enter their houses for a spring cleaning. If that be true of people comfortably situated surely it is doubly true of people who live in such places as the neighbourhood of Tabard-street, or in many parts of our large cities. If you compel the landlord to keep the house in order surely he ought to have the power to see that the sanitary repairs are carried out.


With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman he has altogether evaded the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie). The suggestion which my hon. Friend made was that the tenant might reasonably be left to give access to the landlord to the house at any reasonable time on reasonable cause being shown. The right hon. Gentleman assumes that tenants are not going to be willing to do that, and that three-quarters of them are going to deny access to the landlord, whether the landlord goes there properly or not. Our point is that no case has been made out for imposing this condition on the tenant. I may further point out that if you strike out the word "landlord" you still have in this particular Subsection the provision that the local authority shall have a right of access to the house, and in this case the local authority is going to determine when a house is not fit for habitation. It seems to me that this provision would be quite enough without giving the right to the landlord every other day to enter the house of a man which we were led to believe was his castle. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the matter.


The hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. Barnes) and the hon. Member for Sleaford (Mr. Lupton) referred to the ancient and admirable maxim that an Englishman's house is his castle, and we are now insisting on the principle that it is the duty of the owner of the castle to keep it in a condition fit for human habitation. Now for excellent reasons—and I am strongly in favour of this part of the Government proposal—it has been decided that it is not the duty of the occupier of the house but that it is the duty of the owner of the house to keep it in habitable repair. It is now provided by this Amendment that the person who is charged with that duty shall have an opportunity of seeing whether he is under any obligation in respect of the duty so put upon him and that he shall be allowed to go and see whether anything ought to be done The hon. Member who has just spoken positively suggested that it would be perfectly equitable and legitimate to give the local authority the power to go and see whether the house was being kept in repair, while the landlord, on whom the duty rests, is to have no power to go in to see whether it is necessary to discharge that duty.


This Clause gives the landlord no power to repair; it only gives the power to inspect.


It throws upon him the duty to repair. This Clause, which was accepted by the Government, very properly, in the House of Lords, so far as this particular provision is concerned, merely gives the landlord the power of seeing whether he is under any obligations under the provisions of this Clause. The hon. Member for Merthyr and the hon. Member for Blackfriars both made a statement which, if I did not know that they constantly tell us that they are fully acquainted with, and are experts on, the housing problem of this country, would cause me to doubt whether they really knew anything at all about it. The hon. Members say that the Clause dealt solely and entirely with the case of houses occupied by what have been called the aristocracy of labour, artisans who earn high wages. They did not deal with the important case, the case that is exceedingly common, as hon. Members ought to know, in every big city, of having undesirable tenants, who will not keep the necessary sanitary appliances of houses in proper condition. That is constantly occurring, as everyone who knows anything about this class of property knows, and the landlord must be entitled, and the local authority must be entitled, to go in and see whether any nuisance has been created, not by the original defects of building or defects of the house, but by ill-treatment on the part of the tenant. Of course, good tenants would be only too willing to admit the landlord to inspect as to the necessity of repairs, but the hon. Members do not deal with the case of the other class of tenant, who are one of the great difficulties of sanitation. I am very glad that the Government have accepted this Amendment, as it is obviously necessary for the proper working of the Bill.


I do not know whether the hon. Members for Sleaford and Merthyr are aware that in nearly every lease of premises for £1,000 or £2,000 a year there is provision that the landlord may enter at all reasonable times to inspect the property. I cannot see why they should make this difference between the case of pro- perty covered by this Bill and the case of property of a valuable character, which may be worth £10,000 or £20,000; and I hope that the Government will stick to this Amendment.

Sub-section (2).—If it appears to the local authority within the meaning of Part II. of the principal Act that the undertaking implied by virtue of this Section is not complied with in the case of any house to which it applies, the authority shall, if a closing order is not made with respect to the house, by written notice require the landlord, within a reasonable time, not being less than fourteen days, specified in the notice, to execute such works as the authority may specify in the notice as being necessary to make the house in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.

Lords Amendment: Leave out "fourteen" ["fourteen days"] and insert instead thereof "twenty-one."


It has been represented to us that injustice might be done in particular cases if the period were limited to 14 days. We have, therefore, agreed to an extension to 21 days, which I ask the House to accept.

Lords Amendment: Add at the end of Sub-section "(4) Within twenty-one days after the receipt of such notice the landlord may by written notice to the local authority declare his intention of closing the house for human habitation and thereupon a closing order shall be deemed to have become operative in respect of such house."


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

You might have a case in which a landlord with house property worth £200 would have to spend £120 or £130 to put it into habitable repair. He might think it better to spend an extra £70 on building a new house instead of repairing the dilapidated house, and we think that in such a case it would be only reasonable to allow him to do what he wishes.

Other Amendments made.

Sub-section (4).—A landlord may appeal to the Local Government Board against any notice requiring him to execute works under this Section, and against any demand for the recovery of expenses from him under this Section or order made with respect to those expenses under this Section by the authority, by giving notice of appeal to the Board within fourteen days after the notice is received, or the demand or order is made, as the case may be, and no proceedings shall be taken in respect of such notice requiring works, order or demand, whilst the appeal is pending.

Lords Amendment: After "Board" ["Local Government Board"], insert "or the county court of the district."


I beg to move that the House do disagree with the Lords in this Amendment. The object of this Amendment is to substitute for the Local Government Board a county court.




A county court, or rather to make it optional for the parties to go either to a county court or the Local Government Board. In our judgment the county court is not the proper tribunal for deciding such questions as whitewashing, sanitation, and building repairs, and we think it would be dilatory and wasteful. The inspectors who will see that this class of work is carried out will have a greater knowledge than any officers that the county court could appoint, and we sincerely trust that the House will accept our disagreement with the Lords on this particular point; but it is only fair that we should note here that we have art Amendment which enables points of law on serious matters to go to the High Court of Justice. That was pressed upon us when the Bill was in Committee, and we now see our way to adopt the suggestion, and the words are as follows: Clause 40, page 17, line 20, "Provided that the Local Government Board may at any stage of the proceedings, if so directed by the High Court of Justice, state in the form of a special case for the opinion of the court any questions of law arising in the course of the agreement." I believe that the Local Government Board has already considered that, and with regard to the Amendment which I have now read out, the Local Government Board is a better authority than any county court could possibly be.


I regret the decision at which the Government have arrived on this occasion, and I regret it mainly in the interests of what I believe to be good housing legislation. As I understand it, the procedure under the Bill is that the local authority makes a closing order, and, if there is any objection, the appeal goes from the local authority to the Local Government Board. We do not know yet—because the Government have always refused to tell us—exactly what the procedure of appeal to the Local Government Board will be. That is to be dealt with under Clause 40, by Regulation to be made by the Local Government Board later. There is nothing that I can see that provides for an open trial in open court where anything can be heard properly, and where everything is in the sight and hearing of the public. I attach enormous importance to that. I am not only saying what is my own opinion, but what I know to be the opinion of people who during their whole life have devoted themselves to this housing question, and they all hold very strongly that, unless you have some means of public trial, in the case of certain of the smaller local authorities, you will have the gravest abuses in connection with the housing question. There will be favouritism, and a tendency to make closing Orders against certain people unless certain steps are taken to propitiate certain people. The only way to prevent action of that kind—I do not speak of any particular authority, I am only referring generally to the smaller local authorities—is to have a public and open inquiry, which ought to be held before a judicial tribunal, absolutely free from any imputation of bias either for or against the tenant, or the landlord, or the local authority. An appeal to the Local Government Board does not do any of these things. There is nothing to secure an open inquiry. There is nothing to secure that an inspector will be a person of judicial training. Some of the Local Government Board inspectors are admirable, but there is nothing to secure that the decision of an inspector will be adopted by the Local Government Board. That is not a satisfactory procedure in dealing with a matter which is essentially judicial, essentially a matter of litigation. I understand fully the objections that have been made to appeal to the bench of magistrates. It is said that the magistrates may have a local bias and that sometimes they are biassed in favour of the landlords, and sometimes in favour of a closing order. That has been true in some parts of the country, and I think it is quite legitimate to take away the jurisdiction from them. But no one will say, taking them broadly, that the county court judges of this country are not perfectly competent to deal with this matter, which has always been treated as a judicial matter. Whether a house ought to be closed is a pure question of fact that any judicial tribunal can perfectly well decide. I repeat that I regret the decision of the Government, but I hope even now the House will refuse to be led by the right hon. Gentleman, and will insist on some independent and open inquiry free from bureaucracy on the one side and the suspicion—I will not put it higher than suspicion—of corruption which any secret inquiry must necessarily give.


Members on both sides of the House have sat together many days on this Bill, and I think hon. Members opposite ought to agree with us that this measure should be right in its provisions, or at least that it should be thought right by ordinary citizens. Take an ordinary person who has had a demolition Order made against him—say, it is a case in the North of England. What is his remedy? This is, of course, a judicial matter, and there is a severe penalty upon him. He thinks he has a right of going to court, and he has always had the right in these matters of going into court. The Government have decided that the court, which has hitherto dealt with these matters, namely, the bench of magistrates, may be possibly open to some objections. The Government are possibly right in that matter. But they do not set to work to substitute another Court, which would be altogether free from any imputation such as that. Although, of course, I should never think of making any implication upon the Local Government Board inspectors—far from that—I am perfectly certain that in the ordinary sense, when property is being dealt with by a local authority, the owner of that property will not regard the inspector of the Local Government Board as a satisfactory tribunal, and, above all, he will not regard that tribunal as satisfactory when the inquiry which takes place will be private. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would be necessary where a case arose in Newcastle for someone to come from Newcastle up to London for the purposes of an appeal, or whether the inspector would be sent down in every case?


There would be a local inquiry.


Is my Noble Friend right in assuming that the local inquiry will not be public?


The local inquiry would be public.


I do not find the words.


It is in Clause 17, Subsection (6).


"Where an appeal is made to the Local Government Board tinder this Section the Local Government Board shall not dismiss the appeal without first having held a public local inquiry."


That is only as to appeal under Clause 17.


I do not see that the Sub-section affects the matter at all, and my Noble Friend is perfectly right when be says that there is nothing in this Bill which will prevent the inspectors from holding these appeals in private under regulations which we have not seen, and which may not be of a judicial kind at all. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider this matter. The county court, after all, is a legal tribunal which is highly satisfactory. It is judicial, it is open, and it is entirely unbiassed. None of these qualifications are possessed by the tribunal of appeal which the Government have substituted for the magistrates. I ask what possible reason can there be for putting the Local Government Board inspector to decide on the mere question of fact, in a position superior to the county court, when it is not alleged that the cost of the inquiry before the one will be greater than the cost of the inquiry before the other? I think my Noble Friend is fully justified in his opposition to the Government's attitude on this matter.


May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that these officials of the Local Government Board are, after all, responsible to the Department, and the Department is responsible to the House. [An HON MEMBER: "No."] In all these administrative matters they are responsible to this House.


Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that in this House we can challenge inquiry into the action of the Local Government Board as to the value of? a house which is to be closed?


Yes; any question can be asked any day at the proper time, and these matters can be raised on the right hon. Gentleman's salary. The Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) said that this was essentially a judicial matter, but I venture to say that it is essentially a practical matter which ought to be decided by men experienced in the work. What experience, after all, Lave county court judges in these matters? What means has a county court judge of ascertaining whether the order which has been made is reasonable or not except by pocess of a full and formal trial in court, with witnesses called on both sides, and each side represented? We cannot possibly expect the county court judge to spend the limited time at his disposal in investigating slums of various kinds, and in seeing what is the state and condition of certain property. All those who are strongly interested in the housing of the working classes are opposed to this Amendment made by the Lords, and I understand they are absolutely united in their opposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no."] May I quote one or two passages—I could quote many were there time at my disposal—bearing on the question of the county courts. A very representative Committee was appointed by the Lord Chancellor to inquire into certain matters, and among other passages of their Report I will quote the following:— It is not surprising to find that with the increase in the ordinary work and the numerous duties cast upon the county courts, the amount of work to be done has reached a point at which the strength of the courts, as a whole, is heavily taxed to cope with it, and the information which the Committee have been able to obtain, shows clearly that attempts to try cases of any length have frequently resulted in serious inconvenience and waste of money. … The county courts, with the mass of small cases which are brought in them, must continue to dispose of the poor man's cases. This is their primary business, and the statistics above given, show how, as the population increases, the work of these courts also increases, and may be expected to increase. It is essential that that work should not be interfered with by an attempt to deal to any serious extent with larger cases taking up longer time in hearing. … Small debt cases must be disposed of at once, and parties in contested cases may or may not have their cases reached and disposed of on the day fixed or may have costly and inconvenient adjournments. They express the opinion that no change in the extent of the jurisdiction of the county courts should be made. Here we have the opinion of the Committee chosen ad hoc for this particular purpose. I think the opinion that they have expressed is conclusive. I believe that the proposal is most practical, and I trust that the House will accept it.


The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary has stated a few points. One is that, according to a recent Report, the county court judges have a great deal of work to do. The Committee express no opinion at all upon the point now before the House. If it be a fact, as it is, that the county court judges are fully occupied, surely the remedy is not to withdraw from judicial cognisance matters that ought to be judicial, but to appoint more judges. I really do not see the difference between doing that and to appointing more inspectors, which hon. Members opposite are in favour of. One or other course is desirable. It matters nothing to us from any point of view, except the public point of view, which course they take. The hon. Member said also that no housing reformer is in favour of this Amendment. I can assure him he is very greatly mistaken. Housing reformers are desirous, like other people, that the procedure of the Bill should be fair. I could give him one name, of a lady, very closely connected with housing reform for years past, who takes very strongly the view that this Amendment ought to be accepted. It is quite true, as the hon. Gentleman says, that the Clause as amended gives the option to go either to the Local Government Board or to the county court. The President of the Local Government Board made a remark in his opening statement which struck me very much. He said that that provision means that there will be an appeal to the county court. What is the meaning of that? It surely is this, that the right hon. Gentleman knows that the Local Government Board will not be deemed to be the best tribunal for this purpose——




And that if appellants have the choice that they will choose to go before the county court judge. The point of the matter is this, that we think that the Local Government Board, with all its merits, ought not to be entrusted with judicial functions, and that no appeal, in which the rights of individuals are concerned, ought to go to a Government Department, but to a court, or some wholly independent tribunal which would decide the case without any kind of feeling either on one side or on the other. The second point is, and it is one which I press on the Government, that it ought to be made perfectly clear that any appeal shall be heard in public. That does not appear in the Bill now. The provision to which the right hon. Gentleman referred only deals with the appeals against closing orders, and does not apply to Clause 15. I think if the right hon. Gentleman will consider that point and go some way to meet the objection we have and insert a provision that appeals over this Clause shall be open public appeals, then he will meet one point on which he has not met us up to the present.


I hope that the President of the Local Government Board will adhere to his decision and not accept this Amendment. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) asked why the appeals will go to the county court instead of to the Local Government Board. We all know that they will, because the landlords will want to frighten the local authorities, especially small authorities, with costs, and with that view will take the cases to the county court, and then will take the right of appeal from them. [An HON MEMBER: "They cannot do so."] It does not say so. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] Even giving way on that point, we have over 60 county court districts, and we shall have all the varied decisions of that number of judges, while in the Local Government Board they will work on one decision, and all the cases will be settled on that basis. As an illustration of the variety of decisions of the county court judges, take the instance of imprisonment for debt. I have the figures for 1906 before me, and on the same law one county court judge committed 1,014 persons to prison, while another with exactly the same sort of facts before him and the same sort of cases committed less than 20. With a variety of decisions like that applied to this Bill, I think that every Member of this House interested in the question and who has any hope of housing reform would be in despair if the Amendment were accepted. I hope, for the reasons I have mentioned, that the President of the Local Government Board will keep to his decision to disagree with the Amendment.


The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has quite unconsciously hit on an argument in favour of the Amendment. We say that in order to make an appeal to the Local Government Board satisfactory the right hon. Gentleman should give one or two pledges which I understand he has not up to now given. The first question is: Will there be publicity in these proceedings? The right hon. Gentleman has referred to a clause as to publicity, but which ap- parently does not apply to these particular appeals which we are discussing. Axe we to take that as an implied promise that such an inquiry will be held in public? We certainly ought to have some sort of pledge in the affirmative or otherwise on that point. There is the further point raised by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Higham) as to the uniformity of the decision on these appeals. Will there be bonâ fide consideration of the cases by the Local Government Board? Or will they leave the matter, as Departments are so apt to do, to the inspector, and to the man who is sent down on the spot? Will the decision rest with the inspector? Will the inspector on the spot be allowed to announce his decision beforehand, as we have seen done in some cases? I wish to state with all possible respect for the inspectors that as everybody knows there are some of them more advanced and some less advanced in their views, and that they take the most widely divergent views upon questions of housing and sanitation and kindred matters. Therefore, unless there is some security that the ultimate decision shall be considered by the Local Government, and that the inspector's inquiry shall be properly reviewed by officials, whose decision shall be uniform, then I think we would be much better in the hands of the county court judges. At present the appeal lies to the magistrate. In these cases it must be borne in mind that although we are told that on questions of law we are going to have an appeal to the High Courts, questions which are not purely questions of law, but in almost all cases questions of fact, will arise, and I do think that the county court judge is a better judge on questions of fact than even an inspector. I should like to know whether we are going to have publicity on these appeals, and as to what steps the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take to bring about uniformity.


I can only with your indulgence respond to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stuart-Wortley). He asked what the Local Government Board will do in relation to inspectors' decisions dealing with the appeals that have been referred to by previous speakers. In order to secure not only uniformity of action, but, if I may add, uniformity so far as equity and justice in deciding those appeals is concerned, I most willingly repeat the statement I made upstairs, that, considering the nature and character of this Bill, and its experimental character, it is the desire of the Local Government Board that we should attach to this Bill all the interests that are affected; and he can rely upon it that within the first six—and I will go even further, and say, within the first 12 months, it should be the obligation and the duty of the Local Government Board to review very carefully the inspectors' reports and recommendations, so that some of the hardships that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House apprehend may be obviated, and, I trust, entirely disposed of. The hon. Gentleman can rely upon it that we shall do our best not to damnify the interests of anybody, but to pursue the line of least resistance, because it is the interest of our Department to make as many people in favour of this Bill in the initial stages as we, by reasonable and just action, can induce. I trust that with that assurance the House will agree with us to disagree with the Lords Amendment.

Viscount MORPETH

The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Higham) said if this Amendment were inserted, it would entail the whole paraphernalia of appeals. If he will look at page 8 of the Amendment, line 29, he will see that a further Amendment is inserted as follows: "The decision of the judge of the county court shall be final." The other reason that he put forward for putting the Local Government Board in the position of a court of appeal was that we would have uniformity, and that otherwise each county court judge would act according to his own idiosyncrasies. The hon. Gentleman must surely know, if he has had experience of Local Government inspectors, and especially educational inspectors, that it is almost the invariable practice for a new inspector to take diametrically opposite views with regard to almost every question from those held by his predecessor. That is one of the greatest difficulties the local authorities have to face. Why the hon. Gentleman imagines that the emissaries of the Local Government Board should act with more unison than those of the Board of Education, I do not understand. This matter goes on appeal to the magistrates at present. I am told, I should not like to say on my own opinion, by housing reformers that the magistrates are hot a good authority. They are supposed to be somewhat backward in supporting municipalities that wanted to adopt an advance policy, and it is sug- gested that they are interested to a certain extent themselves in house property. I do not say that, but it is alleged by many persons that that is the case, and that is the reason for removing the magistrates from their present position. Even if it is not true, I agree that if there were a suspicion of that it is well that some other tribunal should be substituted.

On the other hand, if the old tribunal is to be taken away, many persons feel where the authority is very zealous that the work might be rushed, and that they might be exposed to injustice, not owing to the action of the local authority, but because the local authority allowed its zeal to outrun its discretion. It seems to me that the proper authority is the county court. It is perfectly easy to put before the court the question pro and con whether a house is fit for human habitation, and the county court judge is a person who, being a man of common-sense, can very easily settle that question. It is not a

very abstruse question, and it is a question which might very well come before him. I am reminded that it is suggested that the whole divorce question should be given to the county court judges, and surely, if they are able to settle a question of that kind, they could equally settle whether a house is habitable. County court procedure would not be expensive procedure. It would be a procedure that would reassure a great many people who have apprehensions at the present time, and I do suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he would be wise to provide such a court of appeal as would give satisfaction and confidence to the people who have to repair to it rather than he should set up himself when those who have to appeal to him are not satisfied that they will get impartial or rapid justice.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 190; Noes, 51.

Division No. 879.] AYES. [7.0 p.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Hyde, Clarendon G.
Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R. Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Isaacs, Rufus Daniel
Ainsworth, John Stirling Cox, Harold Jackson, R. S.
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch) Crosfield, A. H. Jones, Leif (Appleby)
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Cross, Alexander Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Armitage, R. Crossley, William J. Jowett, F. W.
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Dalziel, Sir James Henry Keating, M
Astbury, John Meir Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Kekewich, Sir George
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) King, Alfred John (Knutsford)
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.) Laidlaw, Robert
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster)
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)
Barnard, E. B. Dobson, Thomas W. Lamont, Norman
Barnes, G. N. Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)
Beale, W. P. Essex, R. W. Lehmann, R. C.
Beauchamp, E. Esslemont, George Birnie Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)
Beck, A. Cecil Evans, Sir S. T. Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)
Bell, Richard Everett, R. Lacey Lewis, John Herbert
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Ferguson, R. C. Munro Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford) Findlay, Alexander Lupton, Arnold
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Black, Arthur W. Fullerton, Hugh Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Boulton, A. C. F. Gibb, James (Harrow) M'Callum, John M.
Bowerman, C. W. Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John M'Micking, Major G.
Branch, James Glendinning, R. G. Maddison, Frederick
Brodle, H. C. Glover, Thomas Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)
Brooke, Stopford Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Marnham, F. J.
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Gooch, George Peabody (Bath) Massie, J.
Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire) Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Masterman, C. F. G.
Bryce, J. Annan Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Menzies, Sir Walter
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Micklem, Nathaniel
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Middlebrook, William
Byles, William Pollard Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Molteno, Percy Alport
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Mond, A.
Cawley, Sir Frederick Hart-Davies, T. Morrell, Philip
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Hedges, A. Paget Morse, L. L.
Cheetham, John Frederick Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Henry, Charles S. Myer, Horatio
Cleland, J. W. Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe) Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)
Clough, William Higham, John Sharp Nolan, Joseph
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Hobart, Sir Robert O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Hodge, John O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)
Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.) Hooper, A. G. O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.).
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Horniman, Emsile John O'Malley, William
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Hudson, Walter Parker, James (Halifax).
Paulton, James Mellor Rowlands, J. Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Pearce, William (Limehouse) Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford) Walsh, Stephen
Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Walters, John Tudor
Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke) Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester) Wardle, George J.
Pirie, Duncan V. Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Pointer, J. Sears, J. E. Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Sherwell, Arthur James Waterlow, D. S.
Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Steadman, W. C. Weir, James Galloway
Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Stewart, Halley (Greenock) White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Radford, G. H. Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal) White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
Raphael, Herbert H. Summerbell, T. Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester) Sutherland, J. E. Wilkie, Alexander
Rees, J. D. Taylor, John W. (Durham) Wills, Arthur Walters
Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.) Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Ridsdale, E. A. Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr) Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Thorne, William (West Ham) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke) Vivian, Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.
Rogers, F. E. Newman Wadsworth, J.
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Fell, Arthur Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)
Balcarres, Lord Fletcher, J. S. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Baldwin, Stanley Forster, Henry William Peel, Hon. W. R. W.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.) Gardner, Ernest Percy, Earl
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham) Randles, Sir John Scurrah
Bignold, Sir Arthur Goulding, Edward Alfred Ronaldshay, Earl of
Bowles, G. Stewart Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edmunds) Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)
Bull, Sir William James Hills, J. W. Stanier, Beville
Butcher, Samuel Henry Hunt, Rowland Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cave, George Joynson-Hicks, William Valentia, Viscount
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Kerry, Earl of Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Keswick, William Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Clyde, J. Avon Kimber, Sir Henry Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E. King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull) Younger, George
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.
Douglas, Rt. Hon, A. Akers- Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount Morpeth and Mr. Rawlinson.
Dumphreys, John M'Arthur, Charles
Faber, George Denison (York) Newdegate, F. A.

Question, "That the House doth agree with the Lords Amendment as amended," put, and agreed to.

House disagreed with Lords Amendment: After "Board" ["notice of appeal to the Board"], insert "or the local authority."

House agreed with Lords Amendment: Leave out "fourteen" ["within fourteen days"], and insert "twenty-one."