HC Deb 01 November 1909 vol 12 cc1519-28

(1) Section six of the principal Act (which relates to the contents of an improvement scheme) shall be read as if in Sub-section (1) the words "for sanitary purposes" were omitted in paragraph (a); and as if the following paragraphs were inserted at the end of that Sub-section:—


(e) may provide for any other matter (including the closing and diversion of highways) for which it seems expedient to make provision with a view to the improvement of the area or the general efficiency of the scheme; and

(f) may provide for giving to the local authority any powers which may be necessary to enable them properly to carry out the scheme and for dispensing so far as necessary with any obligation of the local authority or any other person to comply with any provision contained in any Local Act, Provisional Order, or Order having the effect of an Act or any bye-law, regulation, or other provision, under whatever authority made, which is in operation in the area."

(2) Provision may be made in a reconstruction scheme under Part II. of the principal Act for any matters for which provision may be made in an improvement scheme made under Part I. of that Act.

Lords Amendments: In Sub-section (1) leave out "were" ["paragraphs were inserted"] and insert instead thereof "was."

Leave out paragraph (f) to end of Subsection.

House agreed with Lords in the said Amendments.

Lords Amendment: Leave out Clauses 24 (Amendment of procedure on improvement or reconstruction scheme authorising compulsory purchase of land) and 25 (Duty of local authority themselves to carry out improvement scheme).

Mr. BURNS moved an Amendment to restore Clause 24, which deals with the Amendment of procedure on improvement or reconstruction scheme authorising compulsory purchase of land.


I understand that the effect of this Amendment to the Lords Amendment will be to reinsert Clause 24, which was left out in another place. This is an extremely important Amendment, and I should like to hear some good reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman for proposing to reinsert Clause 24.


May I point out that the Noble Lord in charge of the Bill in another place agreed to the omission of this Clause?


This is an important matter, and I think we are entitled to a fuller explanation from the Government. I understood that the Government in another place expressed the view that they did not regard the retention of this Clause as a matter of vital importance. A good deal has been said about the expense of Provisional Orders, but I think the matter has been a good deal exaggerated. Not long ago the Under-Secretary to the Board of Trade gave some very striking figures on the Trade Boards Bill, in which he pointed out that Provisional Orders were not really an expensive matter, and that Department does not appear to have found them, either a cumbersome or an expensive procedure. The vast majority of Provisional Orders are not opposed, and they are neither cumbersome nor expensive. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have given the House some good reasons for abandoning this procedure.


The Noble Lord is perfectly justified in asking for an explanation which I will readily give. The action of the Government upon this point is consequential on what the House did in regard to Clause 2.


I understand that this Clause deals with the larger schemes of housing, and the effect of it will be that such schemes will be withdrawn from the cognisance of Parliament. I ask hon. Members to consider what they are doing. They must not consider this particular provision in isolation. Are they prepared to withdraw all these great schemes involving the compulsory acquisition of land, and dealing with water supply, railways or other matters from the cognisane of this House? Are they prepared to violate the immemorial practice of this House in this respect and hand their functions over to a public department. If that is so there is no reason why we should keep any of these powers. Does anybody pretend that a relatively small scheme of water supply for a town which requires compulsory powers should go through all the forms of coming before this House to be open to opposition, and if opposed be tried, and at the same time you have powers which may be used in a far more important case involving greater interests and much larger sums of money, and yet be able to say, "This is a matter which the Local Government Board may decide." I do not think the House ought to begin piecemeal in this way dealing with the immemorial rights and privileges of Parliament. It may be right to withdraw small matters which can be withdrawn, perhaps because they are out of all proportion to the benefits to be gained, but here you are going far beyond small cases, and you are dealing with really big matters of national importance. I do not see how it would be possible for this House to retain its powers over any private Bill legislation if it gives up its powers in this particular case. This is one of the disadvantages which the sending up of Bills to Grand Committee inevitably involves. Things are allowed to pass in Grand Committee which would not be allowed to pass in this House, and possibly vice versâ, things that are allowed to pass in this House would not be allowed to pass in Committee. There is no party in this matter, and it has nothing to do with party. As a matter of fact, the party to which I belong happens to have done more than any other party in lightening the weight of this procedure on public Bills. But, however that may be, do not let us in respect of one measure and one class of property give up the whole principle of Parliamentary control over great questions dealing with compulsory purchase in regard to vast schemes of rehousing. These are not less important; in fact, they are more important than many of the things which we seek to keep within our jurisdiction, and I am sorry a Member of the Government has determined to make a breach in our immemorial system without giving due notice to the House that we are travelling far beyond the particular case with which we are dealing, and we are really starting a new principle which cannot fail to have very large consequences in the future which neither side of the House at this moment can realise. We should not initiate a new policy without knowing it, nor start a great change without fully recognising our responsibility.


When a Bill dealing with waterworks comes before this House, it generally deals with the water supply of more than one town. This particular Bill deals with one place and one town.


The hon. Member is quite mistaken in regard to waterworks. A great many Bills have no relation whatever to any other towns.


There are a great many Waterworks Bills which have relation to other towns.

8.0 P.M.


I think the right hon. Gentleman opposes this Amendment owing to a confusion of thought as to what really causes expenses in regard to these inquiries. As a rule, the expense is not caused by a Provisional Order, but by the investigation which is necessary owing to the necessity for the compulsory acquisition of land. A provisional Order itself is a comparatively small thing. Very often they are not opposed, and, if they are opposed, the matter is generally fully threshed out before an inquiry. An inquiry must lead to expense, and it can only be saved by abolishing the system whereby you inquire into all the various claims which the different parties put forward. I cannot imagine that the Government want to do away with this form of inquiry and take people's land without having all the circumstances of the case brought forward. Where an application is unopposed, there is no necessity for a Provisional Order, and I think it is advisable to leave this Clause out because it adds very considerably to the perplexity with which anybody not very well acquainted with the Hous- ing Acts will meet with when he tries to understand the existing state of the law. Anyone must feel puzzled who reads it to know what this Section means. My impression is that, when he looks it out, he will find another reference in the Section to which he is referred. It has caused no inconvenience in the past to bring up these proposed schemes, and I think the Government will be very well advised to agree to this Amendment.


The House ought to understand that all these Orders go through without Parliamentary confirmation under the existing law, excepting only in a limited part of one class of cases. All these Orders go through without Parliamentary confirmation, except where it is proposed to take land compulsorily, and, even there, if steps have been taken to ascertain whether opposition exists and opposition does not emerge, there is no necessity for Parliamentary confirmation. If, as the right hon. Gentleman proposes, Clause 24 is replaced, it will be for the Local Government Board, without Parliamentary sanction, to decide whether the land of a man shall be taken compulsorily in spite of his opposition. I think that ought not to be done. It was not done in the case of the Port of London Bill without a preliminary and impartial inquiry, and I think it is a very serious step with which we should disagree.


May I point out that the principle to take land compulsorily has already been settled, and that, whereas compulsory acquisition of land under Parts I. and II. schemes of the Act of 1890 is merely incidental, it is the essence of schemes under Part III.


I regret that the President of the Local Government Board cannot see his way to accept this Amendment. I am sure the House will realise that Part I. schemes are very different from Part II. and III. schemes. I have had considerable experience of Part I. schemes in connection with London, and I think it is the general feeling of all who have had experience of them that they are an unduly expensive and clumsy method

of dealing with insanitary areas and improving housing conditions. One of the main objects of this Bill is to improve the sanitation of houses individually and, if possible, by closer supervision to prevent houses becoming insanitary. We may, therefore, contemplate that in future the majority of cases of insanitary houses will not be dealt with under Part I., but under Part II. schemes. They will be dealt with in small blocks or individually. If there still remain any bad districts in some of our large towns which necessitate Part I. schemes, the buying out of all the interests in large areas and all the expensive machinery attached to the laying out of a whole section of a town, those instances will, I think, be very rare, and where they occur I do not think it is asking too much that they should come as a Provisional Order before this House. It would in no way prejudice the best cause of housing, and it will maintain a most important tradition of this House. I therefore appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision.

Mr. W. R. PEEL

I listened to the reply of the Under-Secretary, and I fail to understand his argument. He said that compulsory acquisition was the essence of Part I. schemes, whereas it is only incidental to Part III. schemes It is just as incidental to Part I. schemes as it is to Part EEL schemes. Very complicated questions arise under Part I., and there is, of course, a difference between the amount of compensation given. Under those circumstances, I fail to understand what the hon. Gentleman means. I certainly thought, when he was talking easily about small schemes, he had really forgotten what was the nature of Part I. of the Housing Act. I cannot agree at all that it is a small matter. I agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that these cases, and more particularly cases where very difficult and complicated questions arise, ought not entirely to be removed from the purview of Parliament, and that they certainly ought to be dealt with by Provisional Order.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords Amendment to leave out Clause 24."

The House divided: Ayes, 183; Noes, 38.

Division No. 880.] AYES. [8.14 p.m.
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Astbury, John Meir Barnes, G. N.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Beale, W. P.
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch) Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Beck, A. Cecil
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Barker, Sir John Bell, Richard
Armitage, R. Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)
Berridge, T. H. D. Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Pearson, W. H. M. (Suffolk, Eye)
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maiden) Hart-Davies, T. Pirie, Duncan V.
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford) Hedges, A. Paget Pointer, J.
Black, Arthur W. Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Beulton, A. C. F. Henry, Charles S. Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Bowerman, C. W. Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe) Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Branch, James Higham, John Sharp Radford, G. H.
Brooke, Stopford Hobart, Sir Robert Raphael, Herbert H.
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Hodge, John Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)
Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire) Hooper, A. G. Rees, J. D.
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Horniman, Emslie John Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hudson, Walter Ridsdale, E. A.
Byles, William Pollard Hyde, Clarendon G. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Jackson, R. S. Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight Jones, Leif (Appleby) Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Cawley, Sir Frederick Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Jowett, F. W. Rogers, F. E. Newman
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Keating, M. Rowlands, J.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Cleland, J. W. Laidlaw, Robert Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Clough, William Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster) Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester) Sears, J. E.
Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.) Lamont, Norman Snowden, P.
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.) Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Lehmann, R. C. Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich) Summerbell, T.
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral) Sutherland, J. E.
Crosfield, A. H. Lewis, John Herbert Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Cross, Alexander Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Crossley, William J. Lupton, Arnold Thorne, William (West Ham)
Davies, Sir W. Hewell (Bristol, S.) Lynch, H. B. Toulmin, George
Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.) Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Verney, F. W.
Dobson, Thomas W. M'Callum, John M. Vivian, Henry
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Maddison, Frederick Wadsworth, J.
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston) Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Edwards, A. Clement (Denbigh) Marnham, F. J. Walsh, Stephen
Essex, R. W. Massie, J. Walters, John Tudor
Esslemont, George Birnie Masterman, C. F. G. Wardle, George J.
Evans, Sir S. T. Menzies, Sir Walter Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Everett, R. Lacey Micklem, Nathaniel Waterlow, D. S.
Ferguson, R. C. Munro Middlebrook, William Weir, James Galloway
Findlay, Alexander Molteno, Percy Alport White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Mond, A. White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
Fuller, John Michael F. Montgomery, H. G. Whitehead, Rowland
Fullerton, Hugh Morrell, Philip Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Gibb, James (Harrow) Morse, L. L. Wiles, Thomas
Ginnell, L. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Wilkie, Alexander
Glendinning, R. G. Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.) Wills, Arthur Walters
Glover, Thomas Myer, Horatio Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw) Winfrey, R.
Gooch, George Peabody (Bath) Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster) Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Norman, Sir Henry Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) O'Malley, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.
Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Parker, James (Halifax)
Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Faber, George Denison (York) Morpeth, Viscount
Balcarres, Lord Fell, Arthur Newdegate, F. A.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.) Fletcher, J. S. Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gardner, Ernest Peel, Hon. W. R. W.
Bignold, Sir Arthur Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham) Randles, Sir John Scurrah
Bowles, G. Stewart Gretton, John Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Cave, George Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edmunds) Stanier, Seville
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Valentia, Viscount
Chaplin, Rt Hon. Henry Hay, Hon. Claude George Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Clyde, J. Avon Hills, J. W. Younger, George
Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E. Joynson-Hicks, William
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Kimber, Sir Henry TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. H. W. Forster and Mr. Pike Pease.
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.
Dumphreys, John Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred

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

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords Amendment to leave out Clause 25."


Why are we to agree with this Amendment? The Clause, as I understand it, prevents the Local authority from deputing the duty of carrying out an improvement scheme to an independent body. If they make an improvement scheme under the Bill they must carry it out themselves as the Bill is now drafted. But if this Amendment of the Lords is carried the result will be that the local authority may arrange with any society or person to carry out the whole or any part of the improvement scheme as provided for in Clause 12. It seems to me very undesirable that they should depute their duties in this way. If they want an improvement scheme it is better that they should carry out the work themselves. I should be very glad to know in what way the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this Amendment of the Lords will improve his Bill?


I think the hon. Member is reading into the agreement with the Lords something which is unjustified. We contend that this thing can be better done in the Scheme itself or by an Order of the Board.


I would like to move to insert that Sub-section (2) be retained in the Bill. That Sub-section is altogether different from Sub-section (1).


It is too late to move an Amendment. The proposal before the House is "That this House doth agree with the Lords Amendment."


Perhaps I may be allowed to make my point. At the present moment no authority can build a house to sell unless it gets the express approval of the confirming authority. As it left this House the Bill abolished that restriction. I do not see why it is necessary, in order to carry out what the Lords desire, we shall retain the impediment in the way of local authorities building themselves, namely, that of getting permission or express approval from the confirming authority. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, in any arrangements he may come to with the other House, to allow Subsection (2) to stand even if he be obliged to accept the excision of Sub-section (1).


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain at greater length why this Clause should be left out. I understand that what it does can be done in some other way, but some of us are not so well up in the practices of the Local Government Board, and therefore I ask for a further explanation.


The Clause simply makes statutory the existing practice of the Local Government Board, which has always been able to insert the necessary provision in the Order confirming the scheme.


If the Clause merely makes the existing practice statutory why was it introduced into the Bill? It surely must have been drawn for good reasons, and I do not think we have had anything stated which will show not merely that the Bill will be improved, but that it will not be damaged by the excision of the Clause.


In the period between a Bill leaving this House and being dealt with in another place we often have second thoughts. Sometimes they are wiser than our first thoughts. Here is an instance in which we can say that the words may almost be construed as verbiage. They are not needed, as they only embody existing practice which can be inserted in a better way in the scheme itself.