HC Deb 06 August 1912 vol 41 cc2973-5

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890 to 1909, and the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, 1899, and to encourage the private ownership of dwelling houses and business premises amongst the working classes."

The measure has for its object the encouragement of that proposal. A similar movement has been encouraged both in France and Australia by very wise legislation, and it seems to those who are associated with me in this matter that the time has now come when steps should be taken of a similar character in this country. Three years ago French legislation was passed for doing this very thing. The State lends money at a very low rate of interest to societies for the purpose of enabling them to advance sums to the working classes who desire to purchase their own houses. The purchase price is repaid by instalments over a period of years at the rate of interest which the State charges for those loans, a rate extremely low. A good deal has been said in this House about 3½ per cent, being a low rate of interest, but in France the State only charges 2 per cent, to societies which are working the Act. In Australia similar legislation was passed, and there the movement has flourished to such an extent that in the large towns of Australia, I am told, nine out of ten workmen are now the owners of their houses. A similar movement has taken place in this country. We have friendly societies, building societies, house purchasing societies, and insurance companies all taking up this work, one of the largest being the Provident Association of London, which has already sunk £5,000,000 of the money of the society, and no less than 24,000 members of the working classes have acquired their own houses. In a recent Report issued by the Home Office, the medical inspector at Old-ham attests the fact—a very astonishing fact—that there are in that town, out of 33,000 inhabited houses, no less than 11,000 which are actually owned by the working classes. What we propose to do is this. The average rate at which the societies undertake this work and advance money is 5 per cent., or rather more. The friendly societies used a large amount of their funds for this purpose, but, fortunately or unfortunately, according to the point of view, a good deal of this money by the National Insurance scheme will be wiped off, and no longer available for such purposes by the friendly societies.

It seems to me a desirable thing that the State credit should be used, and that advances should be made of societies' money at 3½ per cent., whereas at present they can only get it at 5 per cent., and this would enable the work to be carried on under more favourable circumstances and enable the occupiers to become owners sooner than they can at present. Even under the present conditions friendly societies, co-operative societies, and building societies can make such good terms on the basis of purchase that the tenant can come into possession and become owner of the premises by payments which shall not exceed fifteen years, and which do not exceed the amount paid in rent. So it comes to this: that a man by paying no more than his rent, even under existing conditions, can become an owner in fifteen years, and possibly in less time. If by the use of the State credit—it has been done in Ireland, and why should it not be done in this country—we can decrease that period of fifteen years to ten or twelve years, we shall be encouraging an excellent movement and we shall be assisting these societies who want money, and who can make the best possible use of it. We hear a good deal of various schemes for dealing with the land. I do not quite know how far those schemes go, or what they amount to, nor do I know that anybody does, but I think it is clear that if you are going to have a large measure for such a purpose you may impede this most useful movement on the part of the poorer classes of the community for owning their own houses at the end of from ten to fifteen years, while at the end of that time the State will say that they will have to pay rent, or an amount equivalent to rent.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Montague Barlow, Mr. Joynson-Hicks, Lord Robert Cecil, Mr. Frederick Edwin Smith, Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, Mr. Astor, Mr. Guinness, Colonel Kyffin-Taylor, Mr. Baird, Mr. Norton-Griffiths, Mr. George Gibbs, and Major Dalrymple White. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday, 7th October, and to be printed.