§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
On a point of Order. I desire to ask your ruling as to whether 709 this Bill is in order. Clause 8 says that there shall be advanced to the owner by the Treasury sums of money for the building or improvement of cottages. The money is to be advanced at the rate of 3¼ per cent., out of which 10s. per cent. is to be by way of sinking fund, so that the money is to be advanced at the net rate of 2¾ per cent. At present the yield on an investment in Consols is £3 6s. 9d. per cent., so that on every £100 lent there will be a net loss of 21s. 9d. per annum. It states, in paragraph (c) of Sub-section (2), that any deficit, even after the money has been lent at 2¾ per cent., is to be met out of the Development Fund and Clause 11 says that any deficit upon the Development Fund is to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom. Then in addition to the lending of money at an unremunerative rate of interest, and in addition to any further deficit being chargeable upon the Consolidated Fund, there is also provision under Section 13 (2) (a) for £200,000 a year to be provided by the Treasury towards additional Rural Housing Grant. I submit that money paid under any one of these three heads, if provided by a private Member's Bill, would mean the levying of a charge upon the taxpayers of the country. I submit, therefore, the Bill should not be proceeded with.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
None of those Clauses to which the hon. Member has referred can be proceeded with without a resolution of the Committee, and it is obvious that it is possible that the Government by declining to pass a resolution can practically stop the working of that part of the Bill. But this Bill differs from the last in respect that while the main object is to provide for better housing in rural districts, there are several ways in which that could be done under Clauses included in the Bill, apart from the Clauses to which the hon. Member has referred. It would be possible for the House to strike out all the Clauses which impose liabilities on the central fund, and to carry out the proposal by rates upon the districts, or by some other method. Therefore, the main purpose of the Bill could still be carried out. I think the hon. Member (Mr. Fletcher) is entitled to proceed with the Bill.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Do you consider that this Bill differs from the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Dudley 710 (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen), inasmuch as in this Bill the provision of money by the Treasury is the sole mainspring of the Bill, whereas under the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Dudley, the advance of money by the Treasury was only a subsidiary part of the measure? I think the hon. Member for Hampstead is going rather further than the hon. Member for Dudley, whose Bill is to be introduced the week after next.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is true, but it is still open to the House, supposing it approves of the general principle, to take some steps for the erection of cottages in rural districts. It may assent to the principle and yet strike out all the machinery by which that principle could be worked out by Imperial funds. It may be that, in the course of the passing of the Bill, the House would put that obligation on local funds, and, therefore, the hon. Member is entitled to ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. J. S. FLETCHER
I rise to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
I hope I shall be able to induce the Government to support the Bill, the object of which is "to secure the erection of three-bedroom cottages (with up to an eighth of an acre of garden land attached) at rents within the means of the agricultural labouring population." The measure has been before many meetings of labourers in different parts of the country, and has been received by them with enthusiasm. No less than seventeen rural district councils have already passed resolutions officially supporting the Bill, while no less than ninety-two agricultural organisations have done the same. The first point to which I wish to refer is the need of rural cottages. I do not think the House will deny that there is an absolute need of cottages for the rural population. In support of that view I need only quote from the report of an extremely interesting deputation of the National Housing and Town Planning Council, a non-party organisation, which visited Ireland in order specially to inquire into the working of the Irish Labourers Acts, 1885 to 1911. Having gone into the matter very carefully, they have issued a valuable report, in which they say:—In an earlier memorandum published by this council, a strong appeal was made to have adopted by the Government a similar policy in regard to the housing of the poor in the country in Great Britain. Our inquiries in Ireland have deepened our conviction as to the wisdom and justice of the appeal then made for granting seine similar measure of State aid.711 I am sure, therefore, that the Government will attach some weight to the deliberate opinion of that non-party organisation. I know that labourers' cottages are urgently needed throughout the country. I have lived at different times in four or five small villages, and in every one of these the need of cottages has been expressed to me by everybody I have talked to. In one parish where I lived for fourteen years I do not remember a cottage being built which could be described as a labourer's cottage. A gentleman in the district built a row of very neat houses for which he asked and obtained 8s. 6d. a week from the tenants. I think that venture has been a successful one, but that cannot be considered as genuine building for rural labourers, who cannot afford any such rent. In the rural district where I am living at present the usual rent of a labourer's cottage is 5s. 6d. a week, and they do not object to pay that amount. I do not know one house that is let for less than 3s. 6d. Let me call attention to another reason why I consider that there is urgent need of cottages. There has recently been a great breaking-up of large estates in the country. I may quote the case of the Duke of Bedford, to which reference has been made again and again in the newspapers. The Duke of Bedford lost heavily on his cottages. I have seen it stated that the annual loss was £2,000; but whether that is correct or not, there is no doubt that he lost heavily upon them. I believe most large landowners lose heavily on their cottages. The Duke of Bedford came to the conclusion that the trend of public opinion was against large estates, and he has broken up his large country property, sold most of it, and transferred his capital largely to British Columbia, where he is able to get 8 per cent. and good security for his money.
I dare say that is a result which the Prime Minister will describe as a great benefit to the country. I dare say the result to the Duke is to double if not to treble his income. Whether that be a good or a bad policy, many are imitating the Duke of Bedford. In the year before last £70,000,000 worth of land was sold, and last year something like £90,000,000 worth was sold by auction. The large landowners are getting away from their land as fast as possible, and it is being sold in small portions to their tenants. I am glad to say that the tenants have been 712 able to buy their farms. But as they have done so by borrowing the necessary money, they cannot afford to lose heavily by their cottages as the Duke of Bedford used to do. I say there is increased urgency to provide cottages for the labouring class because the small owners of land—a class we want to increase in this country—cannot afford to provide them. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said a year ago that people are leaving the centres of towns for the suburbs, and people are leaving the suburbs for the rural districts. That is true. I think he told us something about 60,000 empty houses in London alone. The people who go to live in the rural districts are people of small incomes, who when they go to the country buy or rent a cottage and perhaps spend some money on it, and live there quite happily. But the result is that the cottages available for genuine agricultural labourers are becoming fewer and the need for such cottages is increasing. This is a case where State aid should be given. When I was a young man the Manchester school, in the part of the country where I come from, took quite a different view as to State aid from that which is now generally held. Their view was that the State was a mischievous necessity, and the less it interfered with any business the better, and they would be horrified at large sums of money being granted by the State for one interest or another, as is increasingly done at the present day. The State is year by, year giving increased Grants for special objects, and is doing so with the unanimous approval of the House. We all thought it an excellent thing when the Government offered to grant a half-million of money to our prosperous Colony of Uganda—[HON. MEMBERS "No"]—and only a few weeks ago we all welcomed the proposition to spend £3,000,000 on promoting cotton growing in the Sudan.
§ Mr. FLETCHER
The right hon. Gentleman will remember the large doles which were granted for the relief of unemployment in the time of great distress four or five years ago, and to this day we have Grants for necessitous school areas, and I see in connection with a deputation to the President of the Board of Education that that dole is likely to be increased. For 713 many years we have had State aid in lending large sums of money for drainage schemes. The Duke of Bedford's estate became famous for the enormous sums spent on what is known as the Bedford level. That has been done with the general approval of the nation. Large sums of money have been given to our Colonies, and if it is right to give these large sums of money to some of our Colonies it is much more important that financial help should be given for the class of Englishmen known as our country labourers. If it is right to give money for main roads or drainage it is still more right to give financial help to provide better homes for our country labourers, who are a most deserving class of men. In the nature of things they are not capitalists and cannot raise money to build homes for themselves, but they are the backbone of our country, and from their ranks we get soldiers in times of stress and danger of war and policemen in times of peace. It may be asked what is the good of supplying home for agricultural labourers when they, like every other class in the country, are fleeing in enormous numbers, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us lately, from their native country as from a pestilence. It may be said that if we wait a little there will not be enough labourers to fill the homes which already exist, and that the Grant will be useless. The answer is that it will be a very serious thing for this country if emigration goes on increasing. About a quarter of a million of able-bodied men and women are leaving this country year by year because they can get their bread better in our Colonies. I know that a certain amount of emigration is certain to go on, but the need is urgent to cheek the unnecessary amount of emigration that is absolutely dangerous to the country, and we can do so by giving some special help to our labourers.
The Memorandum gives an excellent account of what the Bill proposes to do. It is to secure the erection of cottages with three bedrooms upstairs and with up to an eighth of an acre of garden land attached. I had nothing to do with the drafting of the Bill, and I do not know why those who drew it up limited the amount of garden land to one-eighth of an acre. In the part of England where I live most of the cottages have more land than that, and a large part of the profits of the people come from selling cut flowers, keeping pigs, and growing pota- 714 toes and other vegetables for their own use. Personally, I think that the amount of land to be attached to these cottages should be left to the district council, subject to the supervision of the President of the Local Government Board. One method of providing these cottages is for the holders of the land to build themselves, and those who drew up the Bill much prefer this method. The other is for the local authorities to build either in the case of default of or opposition of the landlord. Both these methods are provided for in this Bill, and it is proposed to lend money both to landowners and district councils to build cottages. The amount is to be repayable in sixty-eight and a half years, as is the case in Ireland. The principle of the Bill is the same as in Ireland. Can the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else seriously argue, when this country has been so remarkably generous during the last few years to our fellow countrymen in Ireland in providing £8,000,000 at the rate proposed in this Bill—that is 2¾ per cent. with ½ per cent. for sinking fund—that the same procedure should not be adopted in this country? And I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman, who has the power to kill or spare this Bill, as an Englishman and as a friend of labour, which I believe him to be, to consider whether it is just or fair to English labourers to deny them the same facilities which we have given so generously and cheerfully to the labourers of Ireland. I do not say the positions are the same; the customs and modes of life of labourers in the two countries are different; but, so far as is suitable, I earnestly submit that the time has arrived when we ought to grant some facilities and some sort of State help for building homes for English labourers. We have already given, and are continuing to give, money for this purpose to Ireland, and I think it not improbable that more money will be required for these homes in Ireland. By the Bill it is provided that the amount of rent is not to exceed 2s. a week where the cottages are built by the landowner, and 2s. 6d. a week where the rural district council build the cottages. Obviously it would be more expensive to that body, as the landowner has already got the site, and he is better able to keep the cottages in repair and to pay the sinking fund; whereas the rural district council have to obtain the land as well as build the cottage, and I suggest that in their case the 715 rent should be 2s. 6d. I am acquainted with places where cottage rents are very much higher than the amounts this measure proposes, and in the case of one or two labourers, when I told them that it was sought to provide cottages at 2s. and 2s. 6d. a week they did not believe me. The rents named in the Bill have been fixed with regard to the conditions which obtain in Dorsetshire, which is a typical rural county. There is another point of great importance. We suggest that there should be loans to owners and to district councils repayable by the whole of the rents received for the cottages by the charge on the sinking fund and by the Development Fund, upon which fund a claim is made for the first time in England on behalf of the agricultural labourers. I am informed that the Secretary to the Treasury has announced that the Development Fund cannot be used for building the houses of English rural labourers. I hope he is wrong in that. But I should like to call attention to what Mr. Balfour did in 1903. He passed a Development Bill for Ireland, and in that measure not a word was said about cottages or a Development Fund. Mr. Balfour passed that Bill—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member is referring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London he must do so by the name of his constituency and not by his own name. If the hon. Member is referring to Mr. Gerald Balfour he can use his name.
§ Mr. FLETCHER
I am very sorry I did not refer to the late Prime Minister by his constituency. The right hon. Gentleman passed that Bill for the economic development of Ireland, and "development" was interpreted by the authorities as applicable to the erection of cottages, though neither "development" nor "cottages" was mentioned in the Act. I think that is a valuable precedent, and I hope the Government will be induced to allow a Grant from the Development Fund on behalf of agricultural labourers here as is done in Ireland. The Bill states that neither the owners of land nor district councils may make any profits out of the tenants. No charge, moreover, will fall on the rates where the owners of land are induced to build; nor in the case of the district councils, does any unproductive charge fall on the rates. The contrary is the case in Ire- 716 land; only the sinking fund is payable by the councils in respect of any loan borrowed by them under the Bill. There is one other provision to which I desire to call attention, and which is to enable tenants to buy their cottages on particularly easy terms. The Bill is complete in itself, and therefore in no case necessitates reference to any other Act. I should like further to call attention to the housing department, which is provided for in the first Clause. I am sorry that the housing department has been introduced. It is to consist of three Commissioners appointed by the Local Government Board. My mind immediately reverts to Commissioners for Vaccination and the Poor Law. The Poor Law Commissioners sat for years, and their report is buried in huge Blue Books, and has been forgotten for many years. What we aim at in our Bill is a more practical system. We want friendly officials to go from the Local Government Board to the various localities and encourage and stimulate, if necessary, the rural districts in this matter of the provision of rural cottages. I should like such officials to compare with the excellent Poor Law inspectors who were sent down to encourage Poor Law guardians. As a guardian of the poor for twenty years, and chairman of a board of guardians, I remember with gratitude our pleasure when the Poor Law inspector looked in occasionally and joined in our debates, making valuable comments, and giving hints for our working. That is the sort of thing which the promoters of this Bill wish to be done in regard to the building of cottages. I hope these gentlemen will go down from the President of the Local Government Board's Office, and assist the rural district councils in providing schemes for rural cottages. Clause 11 of the Bill provides:—
"If at any time the Development Fund should prove insufficient to meet the expenses declared by this Act to be charged thereon and payable thereout, the deficiency shall be charged upon and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom or the growing produce thereof."
I have already, I think, maintained that agricultural labourers have a great claim for help of that kind. Under Clause 13 the amount is limited to £200,000, but I believe there is no reason why it should not remain within £100,000. Clause 24 is very valuable in that it enables every occupier 717 of a cottage to acquire the ownership. It sets forth:—(1) Every person occupying a cottage under this Act as tenant of a rural district council shall be entitled to acquire the ownership of the cottage occupied by him, subject, so long as any of the money advanced remains unpaid,to certain conditions which I need not trouble to read, but which make it possible for the tenant to buy his cottage. We wish to help the peasants of the country, and this is one of the means we propose. By Clause 29 the tenant shall not pay Stamp Duties. I want to make an appeal to Irish Members, not now in the House, or at least only one of them. Two years ago when the Chief Secretary for Ireland proposed to give another £1,000,000 for cottages in Ireland, the Member for East Somerset (Mr. E. Jardine) strongly objected on the ground that nothing was being done of a similar character for rural labourers in England. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) got up and said, "We will support you," and the hon. Member for East Somerset said that certainly if the Irish party would help him he would withdraw his opposition. I think, therefore, we may fairly call on the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to help and give that support which was promised in 1911, and which induced the hon. Member for East Somerset to withdraw his opposition. I would like to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. I know he has great power, and that if he opposes the Second Reading the Bill is wrecked, but I do ask him to consider whether it would not be more generous and more just to allow this Bill to go to a Committee. It is not perfect and needs alteration, but would it not be better to allow it to be moulded into shape and so arrive, without any undue delay, at the carrying out of further provision for the rural labourers of this country, which I am convinced is very much wanted, and which I think the House will agree it is right that this country should carry out?
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out all from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words,
"this House, while deploring the lack of proper housing accommodation for rural workers, declines to proceed with a Bill which pledges the credit of the 718 State for the purpose of placing rural landowners in a privileged position as regards the fulfilment of their obligations to those whom they employ."
I may say at the outset that I entirely agree with the views of the Mover of this Bill as to the need which exists for the provision of cottages for rural workers. Not long ago a report was issued by the medical officer of health for Essex, who had made investigation amongst the farmers and others. The replies which he received throw a light upon the position in regard to this matter. One farmer with 230 acres, who employs six or seven men, has only three cottages, not sufficient for those employed. In another district farmers with about 200 acres had only one cottage; and in another a farmer with 270 acres had not a single cottage. Out of five replies in another district three have insufficient cottages, and there is another instance of a farmer with 110 acres who has not a cottage and of a farmer with 350 acres without a cottage. It is just as well to bring those facts before the House to see what they involve. Here are men farming large farms of 350 acres without a single cottage upon the farm. It is necessary to keep that in mind, because the Mover made a sort of ad misericordiam appeal on behalf of the agricultural labourer. I admit that at the outset he referred to the difficulty of the position of the tenant who has bought his land, and having made an appeal on behalf of the landowner he then went on to make an appeal on behalf of the poor agricultural labourer. There was one point that he made with regard to this matter with which I am in full agreement, at any rate in the inference I draw. He said that in the past the President of the Local Government Board had made doles on behalf of the unemployed. If he will characterise and acknowledge that the land-owning class are unemployed, and that the dole is to go to that unemployed class then I will agree with him, but the proper way to solve the unemployed problem is to set them to work and let them no longer come for doles to the State.
This Bill is intended out of the Consolidated Fund and out of the taxes of the country to provide doles for the landowners to enable them to provide cottages on their own estates and cottages which, after a term of years, through the Sinking Fund Return to the landowners, during 719 which time the landowner pays to the rural fund the rent he receives while he gets from the Development Fund payment to make up the deficiency between the cost of construction and what is received by way of rent from the labourer. The object and the real intent of this Bill of course is to provide a dole from the Treasury to enable the landowner to provide a cottage, which he afterwards comes into possession of, at a rent which will enable him or his tenants to continue paying a low rate of wages. This Bill is based on three assumptions. The first is that the rural workers cannot pay an economic rent; and the second is that the landowners are too poor to pay wages that would enable the workers to pay an economic rent; and, third, that the landowners are too poor to provide cottages themselves which would pay an uneconomic rent. Let us deal with the first assumption that the labourer's wage is so low that he cannot afford to pay a rent which will induce anyone to build a cottage for him with the certainty of securing a fair profit on capital expenditure. We have to admit, unhappily, that it is the fact that the wage of the agricultural labourer in this country over a great area is a starvation rate of wage. You have men getting 12s. and 14s. per week, and you have thousands and tens of thousands of men employed on the land of England who certainly cannot afford to pay any rent for a cottage, and the very utmost they mild pay is the two shillings suggested in the Bill. We have to acknowledge that condition of affairs exists, but we have not to acknowledge or, at any rate, to admit that that is a necessary condition of affairs, that is to say, that the land of England is unfertile and that the general production of the soil are so disadvantageous in this country that the labourer has to be paid that miserable pittance. It is very evident that there is some great anomaly in the position of the agricultural labourer as regards his wage when you consider the fact that, as the Mover mentioned, men are leaving this country in thousands and tens of thousands every year and going to the Colonies. Many of them go to Australia, and they went there last year, I suppose, to the number of from 40,000 to 50,000. I know something myself from practical experience as regards the conditions in Australia. These men go 14,000 miles across the sea; they go to a land which is not nearly so fertile as the soil of 720 England; they have not the same advantageous climatic conditions; their grain and dairy produce is sent perhaps hundreds of miles to the sea-board, and almost the whole of it is sold in the British market; yet these men, when employed by the Australian farmer, will receive the equivalent of a wage of at least 30s. a week. If 30s. a week can he paid on the land of Australia, the produce from which is sold in the British market, the landowner of England can afford to pay his labourers 30s. a week at the very least. Consequently it is an absurdity to say that these wages of 12s., 13s., and 14s. a week constitute a condition of affairs which must necessarily be maintained. This Bill is designed to stereotype and maintain a condition of affairs which ought to be done away with in this country. The proper solution of the whole problem is to raise the wages of the agricultural labourer.
§ Sir RANDOLF BAKER
Mr. Speaker, I desire to call your attention to a question of privilege. I think it right to do so at the earliest possible moment. It has reference to a paragraph in the "Stockbroker."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to raise that question in the middle of a debate on another matter.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Is not the hon. Member entitled to raise a question of privilege in the middle of a debate? Does it not take precedence of other questions?
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I desire to turn to another point which is involved throughout this Bill. The Bill in its financial provisions is really intended to provide doles to help landowners to provide cottages for their workers to a great extent at the expense of the taxpayers. The question immediately arises: Who are the landowners, and what can we regard as being their financial position? Is it necessary for this generosity to be exercised by the taxpayers on their behalf? In the Bill the term "landowner" is used in a rather indefinite way. It is necessary to call attention to how few are the landowners in England and Wales, and therefore into how few hands this payment would go. The latest Return as to landownership in England is that of 1876, but it is probably 721 fairly correct to-day as regards areas, etc. We find from an analysis made by a standard writer that 2,250 people own nearly half the area of England and Wales. That in itself necessarily shows that the land of the country is in only a few hands, and that the landowners as a class are probably well able to make the necessary provision of cottages upon their estates. As I think this is a very mean Bill, because it seems to be on behalf of the agricultural labourer, but really is not, I wish to draw the attenion of the House to the manner in which the land of the United Kingdom is divided. According to this Return, we have, first of all, twenty-eight dukes, who own 158 estates, comprising roughly 4,000,000 acres. Is it proposed to give these gentlemen doles out of the Treasury? I am confident that they do not need them. Then we have thirty-one marquises, who own 121 separate estates, comprising 1,500,000 acres. Is this Bill prepared on their behalf? We have 194 earls, who own 634 separate estates, comprising 5,862,000 acres. Then there are 270 viscounts and barons, who own 680 separate estates, comprising 3,780,000 acres. That makes 523 people owning 15,000,000 acres. I do not for one moment believe that the President of the Local Government Board has need of this Bill to make provision for these landowners. When we consider how few are the hands in which the land is held, and how profitable under a proper system should be the production of wealth from the soil of England, I submit that there is no reason whatever why we should be generous on behalf of these people.
It is proposed not only that these Grants should be made to the landowners, but also that no rates or taxes should be paid in regard to the cottages. On that point I am in thorough agreement with the Bill. I say that that principle should be extended. If we are to provide Grants from the Treasury to enable the landowner to provide cheap cottages and so to keep down wages, similar provision should be made for other employers of labour. There is no reason whatsoever why it should be confined to landowners. Let us have a fair deal all round. I see no reason whatsoever why, for instance, the pottery manufacturers in my Constituency should not have capital provided for them by the State at an unremunerative rate, so that they may erect for their workers cheap cottages, upon which no rates or taxes shall be levied, and then be able to say to their workers, as the landowners say 722 to theirs, "You have no rates and taxes to pay; you have a cheap cottage; therefore you can take 2s., 3s., or 4s. a week less in wages." If we are going to be generous let us have a fair deal all round, and not be generous to the class which has the least need of the generosity of the State. After all, a house is not the first essential of existence. Food and clothing are the first essentials. If the State is to provide cottages at uneconomic rents, I see no reason why it should not provide, for those who require them, food and clothing at uneconomic prices. A cottage ought not to be the only thing that the State should provide at less than the market price and at the cost of the poverty of those who use it. Exactly, for the same or better reason, it should provide what are more the necessaries of life at uneconomic prices. I was interested in a certain remark which fell from the Mover of this Bill. He said he did not understand why those who had drafted it had cut down the area of land to go with each cottage to an eighth of an acre. There are others, I think, who will very well understand the reason.
I perhaps would have been able to support this Bill if, instead of an eighth of an acre given to each cottage, there had been, say, three acres, because I believe the solution of this problem, as I said before, is to establish a higher rate of wages for the agricultural labourer. The provision of an eighth of an acre means that he will just be able to grow enough to eke out his miserable wage—an eighth of an acre is a means of keeping wages down—a man cannot live for any time upon the produce of an eighth of an acre. But if with the cottage went two or three acres the labourer would be able to live for some time on the produce of that area of land. He would be able to refuse to work for a low rate of wages, and his consequent economic freedom would result in a higher rate of wages. That no doubt is in the minds of many people when they are discussing this question of cottages and land; and if this Bill ever comes to Committee, where we could move that the eighth should become three acres, we would see then whether the Bill got the same amount of support in certain quarters that it does at present. What is the most, after all, that is promised by this Bill? The amount to be annually spent is limited to £200,000, which means that to meet this great and widespread evil—each cottage costing £200—you will build a 1,000 723 cottages per annum—where tens of thousands are required! The whole proposal is absolutely grotesque. It is unjust. It is brought forward in the guise of benevolence for the agricultural labourer, whereas, as a matter of fact, it is benevolence to the landowner. I believe there is a better way; that the right way to go to work is to take the rates and taxes of all cottages, and all buildings, and to raise the vast sum that we now raise in this way—and that hon. Gentlemen opposite now agree is unjust—to raise that revenue by a tax on the value of the soil, which would compel the use of the soil and make that use more profitable. This would set up a demand for labour which would result in a rise of wages and enable the agricultural labourer to work out his own salvation, and achieve his freedom without dependence on the State.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I beg to second the Amendment. There is one gratifying fact in connection with the introduction of this Bill which must appeal to every Member of the House, and that is that at least there is no dispute that the agricultural labourer in England and Wales is miserably and inadequately housed, and that it is necessary to find a remedy for that state of things. An old conversion is better than no conversion at all. Still, one cannot but remember that it is only a few short years since my hon. Friend the Member for Hanley, and those who thought with him, were denounced throughout the length and breadth of the country as setting class Against class because they ventured to Allege that the agricultural labourer was living under conditions which did not give him, as an Englishman, a fair share of the fruits of his labour. The facts which have been accumulated during the last few years have put an end to that state of things. At last it is admitted that the condition of the agricultural labourer is such that it is necessary to find a remedy. I do not propose to follow the previous speakers in giving numerous instances which show the necessity for action of this kind. Recently we have had reports from the counties of Devon and Cornwall, two of the most beautiful counties of England, of the most painful description. In one case a body of the clergy appointed a committee of investigation, and that committee reported that in the area of Cornwall that they dealt with, in the great majority of cases not only was there the 724 grossest overcrowding—ten and eleven persons living in two and three-roomed cottages—but there was hardly any of the usual sanitary conveniences. It is on evidence of how we can get used to the most terrible conditions, to try to palliate them, and to find excuses for them, that clergymen were found to rise up in that gathering, and say that the state of things—absence of sanitary provision in hundreds of these cottages—was not felt there as it would be elsewhere, because in Cornwall there were the cliffs. In the other case, either Devonshire or Cornwall, quite recently a report was published of an investigation by a medical representative of the Local Government Board. In that report it was stated that in the whole of a certain parish not only was there a terrible shortage of houses, causing a tremendous amount of overcrowding, but there was not a single house in the parish—so the representative of the Local Government Board declared—that was habitable; that in the case of every house a tall man was bound to stoop before he could enter the door, and that he could not stand upright when he did enter. I do not labour this because it is unnecessary. It is admitted on all sides that that state of things exists, and every humane man feels that it calls for a remedy. On all sides the Conservative party, the Liberal party, the Labour party, all agree that something should be done. One would like to think it possible that with such general agreement as to the necessity of dealing with the question there might be some concordat which would render it possible to agree as to a remedy. But I think that has still to be found in regard to this matter. There is nothing to be gained towards the solution of this question by deceiving ourselves, and having examined this Bill and having listened to the speeches made in support of it from the point of view of the Conservative party, and speaking for myself and those hon. Members who are more especially associated with me, I say in my view national agreement is impossible. I do not suggest that this Bill is not a sincere proposal, but I say that on this question of the land there can be no co-operation by the Conservative and the Liberal party—though I am not entitled to speak for them—or with the Labour party. Why do I say that? Because it is evident that the point of view of the two parties in approaching this question is totally different. The Conservative party view all agricultural 725 questions from the point of view of the landlord; it may be from the point of view of the best landlord and the most humane landlord, but they begin from that point of view and from the point of view that the most important man in the parish is the landlord. He is the centre round which all light revolves, and whatever is to be done in the parish is, from the Conservative point of view, to be done in accordance with the views of the Hall. They put it that if there is to be any solution of this question you must begin from the point of view of the Hall, and not from the point of view of the man in the cottage or from the point of view of the agricultural labourer, whose standpoint is absolutely and totally different from that of the landlord, and therefore no agreement can possibly be come to.
What is the underlying assumption in regard to this Bill? It is that the landlord in the past was desirous of doing his best for the agricultural labourer, and that at any moment he would not deal with him otherwise than out of the generosity of his heart. The view of the future is that by the beneficence of the State he will act the part of the benevolent despot, so that he will give a cottage and a garden to every labourer in the parish. That is the view of the party opposite, a view which does them no discredit from their standpoint and from the standpoint of those who live in the Hall and in the houses of the nobility and gentry. How different is the point of view of the agricultural labourer! They look back to the days of the past, to a sort of golden age when there were no "beneficent" landlords and no "Lloyd Georgian" finance. What they think of is the days of their fathers and grandfathers, when they had the common upon which to turn out their cattle, when it was possible for them with the aid of the commons, which were the common property of the English people, to earn a livelihood for themselves, instead of being cribbed and confined as they are to-day. Then, when they look to the present, the problem they see is that the commons are now stolen from them, that the parish charity, which was not indeed freeded to help the able-bodied man but which in circumstances of his dire necessity he could ask for, that even that charity has passed under the control of the landlord class. I am putting the labourers' point of view, and his point of view is that he is deprived of his commons and of this charity, and yet he is a man who has been 726 thought worthy to be entrusted with a voice in the destinies of this Empire. He is an enfranchised man, educated under the operations of the Act of 1870. He is educated and enfranchised, but he is economically a bond slave. What is his outlook for the future? What he hopes for is that, using his education and his vote, he will bring about such a state of facts in this country that you will have a free England in which he will be able by the exercise of his toil and free access to the land to earn an adequate living for himself and pay an economic rent for a decent cottage to dwell in. If we read so differently the story of the past, if we diagnose so differently the problem of the present, if our views of the future are so fundamentally different, I think it is absolutely wasting time to try to bring about any concordat or to reconcile points of view so absolutely antagonistic.
Why do I suggest that this Bill is a mere landlords' Bill? It is a Bill which admittedly starts with the assumption that it is impossible to erect a cottage and let it at an economic rent without assistance from the State. There is, indeed, under this Bill, to be a stream of gold flowing from the Imperial Exchequer to assist cottage building. First, you are going to have the benefit of loans at extremely low rates of interest, but at such rates of interest it is said the Treasury will make no loss upon the transaction, but how the Treasury can lend at 2¾ per cent. without making a loss is one of those things that I would be glad to hear explained. At any rate, it is perfectly evident neither the landowner or the builder or anybody else could borrow money at that low rate of interest at the present, time. And at the beginning there is to be a bonus of 1 per cent. in addition. If at the present anybody goes in for cottage building there are obviously methods by which you can get advances. You can get an advance of two-thirds or three-fourths of the value, but there must be a margin under which the person who holds the mortgage may find himself secure. Here there is no margin, not one-third, one-fourth, one-eighth, or one-tenth. The cottage is to cost £200 and the landlord is to get his £200 to build it, not even a beggarly 1 per cent. being held in the hands of the Treasury. Two hundred pounds is to be advanced at 1 per cent. below the rate which the money could otherwise be borrowed, and it is not only that you are to borrow the money at this 727 extremely low rate of interest, but even then the rent will not enable you to pay back to the Treasury the interest on the money advanced, and so there is to be a charge upon the Development Fund, and if this is to be successful, other objects for which the Development Fund was provided will now be starved so that the landlords may get the money to subsidise the cottages.
Then if the Development Fund is insufficient, then he can go to the Consolidated Fund, and from that there will flow this stream of gold. That cannot be disputed; that is the object of the Bill, and its basis is that it is necessary to erect these cottages at uneconomical rents. The cottages cannot be built at economic rents, and therefore this assistance is necessary. The Bill professes to be one for the purpose of securing the erection of these cottages by two methods—in the first place, by the landlords, and, in the second, by the district council. I dare say I shall be accused of being unfair to the landlords when I say that the whole of this assistance necessarily goes to them. If the problem is to find a cottage for the agricultural labourer, and if the £200 for the building of this cottage is to come from the Treasury, suppose we were agreed about that, is there any reason why the £200 should not be advanced direct to the labourer himself, so that he can have some voice in saying what type of cottage he wants, and get it built according to his wishes and desires. If the object of this Bill be to help the labourer to get a cottage suited to his needs, why should not the labourer get the £200, and handle and get the cottage built such as he needs.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
The hon. Member tells me that he can do it under this Bill. Probably he can, just as any other landowner can if he owns one-eighth of an acre of land and brings that into the scheme and gives it free. Does the hon. Member know how many agricultural labourers own one-eighth of an acre, one-tenth of an acre, or even a yard or an inch of land? The whole problem which makes it necessary to bring these Bills in is the fact that the agricultural labourers has been cut off from the land, and the system denies him access to the land. When the hon. Member says he can get £200 he forgets to say that it is under conditions which the 728 labourer cannot fulfil until you have aimed a blow at land monopoly, and when you have done that Bills of this kind will be entirely unnecessary. There is a suggestion that the money can be given to district councils to build cottages. It may be said that it is unfair to say that this is a landlords' Bill. May I point out that when the district councils attempt to build under this Bill, when they try to get orders and bring schemes forward, they will find that they are blocked by the landlord at every turn. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] If the hon. Member who interrupts me will follow my analysis I shall be glad to be corrected if I am wrong, or if I have misunderstood the Bill. I take it that there are three methods under which orders can be secured. The first method is that the rural district council may itself, having made investigation into the circumstances of the district, apply for an order. The second method is, if the district council neglects to apply for an order, a certain number of parishioners—I think it is six—may send a petition to the district council, and, having received that petition, the council is bound to send an answer saving what they are going to do. The third method is that the Local Government Board may, in the exercise of its powers, send down an inspector, and if he discovers cottages so insanitary and unsuitable for habitation, he may order those cottages to be pulled down and others can be erected in their place.
Those are the three methods. The district council takes the first step, it calls its meeting and decides to apply for its own order, and then it is brought up against the Clause in the Bill which says it cannot take that action if the landowner is prepared to take advantage of the provision of the Bill which permits him to erect those cottages. Suppose six men petition the council according to the phraseology of the Bill, the rural district council must decide and give an answer. Even that provision of the Bill is nullified by the other provision that they must not provide these cottages in response to that petition until an opportunity has been given under Clause 8 to the landlords to provide them, and if he is willing to provide them, then they must not take action at all. Under these circumstances it is difficult to know how they can immediately send an answer to the petitioners. If there is more than one landowner they must go round and ascertain what they are able to do before any answer is possible. 729 Consequently they are powerless to act in the matter if the landowner is willing to erect the cottages. When the cottage is so bad that it has to be pulled down, there is a proviso which says it must not be pulled down until you have something better to put in its place. The rural district council cannot erect one solitary cottage under these circumstances under this Bill until they have given the landlord his opportunity and he refuses.
Every avenue up which the rural district council marches they find the landowner there, the man in possession, and they cannot possibly get past him. I think I am entitled to say that this is no alternative. The council cannot do it so long as the landowner is willing to take advantage of the provisions under this Bill. It will be suggested that this is sheer anti-landlord bias, because, after all, what this Bill proposes to do is not to put anything in the lord's pocket, and if the landlord takes advantage of it all he can do is to impose certain definite obligations upon the tenant, and, whatever else may be said, the landowner cannot reap a financial advantage because the rent he charges is limited to 2s. a week, and he cannot posibly make the cottages pay. It is therefore suggested that he must make some sacrifice in the matter. Let me analyse the sacrifice which he makes. He puts his money into this housing fund, and the whole of the deficiency is made up from public funds, except that he must pay the sinking fund, and he must keep the houses in repair and provide the land free. These are the three things he is compelled to do. In return for paying the sinking fund, which amounts to £1 a year for sixty-eight and a-half years, he keeps the cottage in repair for that period, and at the end of sixty-eight and a-half years the cottage becomes his property. He has paid £68 10s., he has kept the cottage in repair, and now the cottage becomes his property. I am very dubious whether at the end of sixty-eight and a half years, with the changes that may take place during that time, the transaction will prove financially very profitable to him or to his successors. I admit that, but it is not for me to interpret the finance of the Bill. The promoters have apparently seriously considered whether it is going to be a good investment or not.
It is not an investment which is merely open to the landowner, because there is a provision under which the occupant of the cottage may himself become the owner of it. What does the labourer do if he 730 wishes to become the owner? After he has been in possession of the cottage for some time, he agrees that in addition to his rent of 2s. per week he will pay £1 a year sinking fund, keep the cottage in repair, and pay the insurance. If he does these things, the very things which the landlord does, then at the end of sixty-eight and a half years the cottage will belong to him or to his successors. That is set out in the Bill as if it were a great boon to the labourer, as if it were giving him a great opportunity to become the owner of his own cottage. I cannot suppose that the hon. Members who have framed this Bill would for a moment have put in a provision of that kind if they had not thought it would be advantageous to the labourer who makes the investment. Surely they would never suggest that the poor agricultural labourer out of his 10s. or 12s. a week should make this sacrifice to pay these charges for sixty-eight and a half years, unless at the end of the sixty-eight and a half years he is to be in possession of property worth £68 10s. or more! If, however, it will be worth £68 10s. to the labourer, it will be worth that to the landlord who has advanced the money and paid the sinking fund. Therefore I am entitled to say that, according to the arithmetic of the promoters themselves, all the landlord does is to make an investment. He makes no sacrifice, because at the end of sixty-eight and a half years in return for his investment he is to have something worth more than he has spent. That is the view of the promoters of the Bill. It does not take into account the land. He does give the land. That is his entire contribution under this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I have pointed out what happens with regard to the sinking fund, the insurance, and the repairs, and I would ask what else is there in addition to the land? There is nothing to be gained by discussing the matter on a false assumption, and I desire to be fair.
§ Mr. E. JARDINE
It comes to about £2 15s. a year, and at the end of sixty-eight and a half years the landowner will have paid for the cottage twice over.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I am not going to dispute it, but, if that be so, it is not only a sham and a mockery, it is not merely gross hypocrisy to say that the agricultural labourer is to become the owner of his own cottage by making these payments, but it is absolute cruelty to ask this poor man to make these sacrifices only to find at the end of 731 sixty-eight and a half years that he has paid for the cottage twice over. It is paraded as one of the points of the Bill that the agricultural labourer is to have a unique opportunity of becoming the owner of his own cottage. The promoters cannot have it both ways. It is either a good or a bad investment, and, if it is a good investment for the labourer, it is a good investment for the landlord. I come back to the point that the landowner contributes the land and nothing else, and in return he gets this stream of gold from the Treasury; he gets the benefit of the Development Grant at a low rate of interest, and he escapes having to find any capital. All he contributes is the use of the land for sixty-eight and a half years, and at the end of sixty-eight and a half years, when the cottage becomes his property, the land comes back to him. I imagine that under the provisions of the Bill he would not only get the land but everything that was on the land as well. I do not see any provision protecting the tenant's improvements. At any rate, all he contributes to this scheme is the use of the land for sixty-eight and a half years. What is the value of that? I am speaking in the presence of a great number of hon. Gentlemen who know the value of agricultural land throughout England, and, so far as I can tell from my own experience as a member of a rating authority—and whenever we get returns from landowners as to the value of the land we put in the rate books we of course get the true value of the land—there is a large quantity of very useful agricultural land which is not worth more than £1 per acre, and a great deal of it is worth a great deal less. I should imagine, if I took as an average 30s. an acre as the value of the land which would be utilised under this Bill, nobody would say I was making an unfair estimate, but let us take it at 32s. an acre. That acre has to be broken up into eight plots for eight cottages, each cottage having an eighth of an acre. What is the landlord's contribution to each cottage? It is a little less than 1d. per week per cottage. That is the landlord's sacrifice under this Bill. That is the landord's contribution to the solution of the housing problem. We are, indeed, making great progress when we find this fine body of English gentlemen are coining forward prepared to make this tremendous sacrifice. The State is going to do its share with money which must ultimately run 732 into millions, the rating authority has to be content with having no rates upon this property, and the landlord is going to contribute 1d. a week per cottage towards the scheme.
I think, in view of the analysis I have made, that nobody can deny that the Bill, whether it be a desirable thing or not, is one which puts the full control of the future housing problem, so far as this Bill decides it, into the hands of the landowners of this country, and it puts that control into their hands without any contribution from them worth naming. We are asked: What is the hardship to the landowner? It is said he can make no profit. Even if he contributes nothing, on what ground do you say that this is a dole? I suggest that the mere fact that during sixty-eight and a half years he is able to dominate the use of the cottages is a sufficient answer to that question. A landlord can use that power for his own economical interests, for his political interests, and in the interests of the religious body with which he is associated. I hope it will not be thought I am making such a charge against the landowners of this country generally. But they are only men, and, on the other hand, it would be a perfect miracle if, under the conditions in which they find themselves, they would be able to act otherwise. If put in the control of these cottages, the landowner will probably say that as he undertakes this trouble, and as he makes this small contribution, it is only right he should control the use of the cottages, and it may and probably will be the case that throughout the greater part of rural England the farmers on the landowner's estate will begin to worry him for the use of the cottages for the labourers on their farms, and he would be less than human—it might even be said he was not doing his duty to his estate if when the farmer came to him and said, "I have asked you during many long years to build cottages, you have always told me you would be glad to do it, but have no funds at your disposal; now you have funds, there are the cottages, and I really cannot go on farming if I have not decent places to put my labourers in; let me have these cottages for my labourers"—he would be less than human if he did not under the circumstances give the preference to the farmer and let him have the cottages, especially as he would thereby be securing an absolute economic advantage as a result of this Bill, for the farmer would be 733 so able to house his labourers as to benefit the farm, the letting value of which would go up.
Then in the matter of political interest, I do not suggest that all over Great Britain landowners generally would issue notices—in those cases where they had control of the cottages—that "no Liberal need apply." They would not do anything so clumsy. But observe one of the conditions of this Bill is that tenants renting cottages under the rural district council must not take in lodgers without the consent of the council. It is not set down so, but it may be that the landowner probably will be held to be free to impose a similar condition. The rural district council may meet but once a month, and perhaps not so frequently, and the result would be that a tenant of one of the cottages would not be able to take in a lodger—his cousin or his sister—until the local authority had met and considered the application, and so there would be a long delay. It would not be thought it was unreasonable for a landowner, whose representative was more easily accessible, should be asked to give his permission before a lodger was installed in a cottage under his control.
§ Mr. STANIER
Can the hon. Member mention any rural district council which only meets once a month? If so, I would like to report it to the Local Government Board.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I do not think the point of time is material. My experience is confined to county and district councils, the former of which meets once a quarter and the latter once a month. Rural district councils may meet more frequently, and if so I accept the information from the hon. Gentleman, and to that extent I withdraw the point I was making. The fact still remains that the applicant will have to wait for a meeting of the rural district council, and that being a busy body it will probably relegate the matter to a subcommittee to report at the following meeting. It is, however, a comparatively small point. But if it is reasonable that the rural district council should ask for that power it may be held that the landowner, too, is entitled to possess it. I do not suggest that in the case of a large landowner he would individually investigate these matters and discriminate against political opponents. I can quite conceive that if cottages were erected in one of the Dukeries, and the occupier sent notice to the duke that my hon. Friend the Member 734 for Hanley was going to stay with him for a month, and to occupy his time in investigating local conditions, his Grace would do anything but say that my hon. Friend would be a welcome visitor. But I am confident that if his Grace happened to be on the Continent and the application was made to his agent, that gentleman, like a good many other agents, would say quite respectfully that he preferred my hon. Friend's room to his company. Even if one could suppose that some more distinguished Member of the House wished to occupy a little of his leisure in that way, and if it were suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to go down to one of these rural districts, not to investigate local conditions or to prepare a new Budget or arrange a land campaign but to indulge in a little fishing or some other recreation, I do not believe that any Member of the House of Lords would say at once otherwise than that he was most delighted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should honour his estate by his presence. But if the application went to the agent who controlled the estate he would probably, like the agents of a good many other Noble Lords, reply that the climate of the parish was not suitable for the right hon. Gentleman and that he had better go to some place a great deal warmer. I do not, however, want to labour this point too much. I come next to the religious aspect of the question.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I would ask if I am not entitled to argue that the landowner who is going to control these cottages is enabled to discriminate as between people of the religious persuasion to which he belongs and to give them preference to the cottages, shutting out people who hold other religious views? Surely that is a matter for discussion?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Of course, the hon. Member could carry that argument a good deal further. He might say the landowner could object to all people and not allow the cottages to be occupied by anyone, but really that would be pressing the argument to a ridiculous extent.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
May I suggest that the very thing has happened and is usual, and is a real factor in the housing problem, because the men who are likely to be most 735 distasteful to landowners, if they get control of this scheme, are men who are members of Nonconformist bodies, and who feel a deep sense of grievance with regard to it.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It seems to me that that would only introduce an element of discord into a discussion which has been very amicable. I do not think it is really relevant to this matter, but if the hon. Member thinks it is a valuable argument I have no doubt the House will listen to him.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I should not, of course, press my point against your ruling or against your wish, Sir. Having put the view, I will leave it there, summing up the whole matter by saying that in my view this is purely a landlord's Bill, because no one in authority and no other person can get any benefit or advantage under the Bill until the landowner has first had a chance, that the landlord's contribution under this Bill is so infinitesimal that it is absolutely ridiculous, and that the landlord will have the power, so long as the scheme lasts, to discriminate in favour of those whom he desires to have in these cottages and who are to be tenants on his farms, and in favour of those who hold his political views. If it is necessary to raise this additional penny a week, if the labourer has to bay 2s. 2d. instead of 2s. 1d., it is better to eliminate the landlord and his penny and provide an opportunity for a scheme for free men in a free country. The whole of my point would be lost if I were not allowed to say that in my view the real solution of this question is to be found along the lines indicated by my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment. Why is it necessary to go to the Treasury? Why is it necessary to come here and ask even for cheap homes? Why is it necessary to ask us to disregard the ordinary conditions in regard to mortgages? For two reasons only—first, that the rent of cottages in rural districts at the present time is artificially high, and wages in rural districts are artificially low. If you break down these artificial barriers, the low wages will rise to a natural level and rents will be depressed to their natural level, and there will be no necessity for any of these fancy schemes for dealing with this problem. The promoters of this Bill themselves fully realise, although they do not carry the case to its logical issue, the obstacles which stand in the way. Under this proposal, 736 fantastic as it seems, they admit that any scheme which has to pay its own way is a scheme which cannot succeed so long as the landlord monopolist can fix his own price and demand his own tenant. Therefore the first thing necessary is to break down the land monopoly. Secondly, by stating that under this scheme no rates are to be payable upon these cottages, they admit that rates upon improvements, rates upon cottages, and rates upon buildings do necessarily artificially raise the price of land. If you have a system under which rates are taken off buildings, improvements, and cottages, and the rate is put upon the unimproved value of the land, you will then force the land into use and secure access to the soil for the labourer, so that it will be unnecessary for him to pay a monopoly rent for the land on which he wishes to build a house or which he wishes to cultivate. When you have land which is free, when there will be no longer ground rents to pay and no longer crushing rates on improvements, you will have independent men who will be able to live happy, contented, and prosperous lives. The real ideal for the people of England is not a system of charitable doles for agricultural labourers, but a system which will produce free men in a free country.
§ Mr. STANIER
I rise to support this Bill, which has been introduced by my hon. Friend (Mr. Fletcher) in a very able speech. Before I go into the question of the Bill itself, I should like to answer some of the questions raised by the two hon. Members who brought forward the Amendment. The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) made a rather extraordinary statement with which I cannot agree, and I think I shall be able to show him is not a fact. He stated that this Bill was intended to keep down the wages in agricultural areas, or he used words to that effect. I deny on behalf of the promoters of this Bill that they ever thought of such a thing, in fact, the absolute contrary is the case. They wish to give the labourer, especially in the rural districts, a helping hand, and to give him a chance of bettering himself. The only case where this is done is that of Ireland, where about 42,000 cottages have been sanctioned and built, and the Government have sanctioned and granted loans now amounting to within a few thousand of £8,000,000. In that country you see the benefit of these cottages. The benefit is clear and definite—wages have risen since these cottages have been built.
§ Mr. STANIER
I am quite aware of that, and will deal with it in a few minutes. The report of the National Housing and Town Planning Council has been quoted. It cannot be said that that report was prepared by Gentlemen entirely composed of Members from this side of the House, because I believe I am right in saying that the majority of the members of that council are of the political persuasion of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They put this question I believe in many places in Ireland, "What has been the effect upon wages of letting these cottages at less than the economic rent?" I think that is the question that the hon. Member (Mr. Outhwaite) put before us. The answer was this. "During the period over which the letting of cottages has extended wages have everywhere increased." I give that as the answer.
§ Mr. STANIER
I will read it if the hon. Member desires it. "Wages have, as stated above, everywhere increased, but in view of the many economical forces operating and difficulty of estimating their force and direction we will only say that we are convinced that the building of these cottages has had no adverse influence upon wages." I think that only supports me. I do not feel that I am called upon to go any deeper into that question, but I will touch upon one or two minor points that the hon. Member also brought forward. He said he had been in Australia. So have I. He said he had seen workmen work for 30s. a week out there, and that that was about the wage out there.
§ Mr. STANIER
I can say this: I have myself worked in Australia for 5s. a day, which is equivalent to 30s. a week, and I therefore feel I can say that I know a good deal about wages out there. I drove a pair of horses behind a plough for a considerable period at that price. Is it fair to state 738 that and then to state that the agricultural wages in this country are 12s. a week, when in the report of the earnings and the hours and wages of agricultural labourers issued by the Government giving the figures for 1907, which I believe is the last record we have, the Government state that it is not 12s. but 18s. 4d. Therefore, I should not like that statement to go forward as a correct statement.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The hon. Member seems to suggest that I made a statement which was quite incorrect. He has read out statements with regard to cash wages with supplementaries being 18s. a week, but I think he will find that there are some counties in which it is estimated that cash wages of 12s. 6d. and what is received supplementary does not raise it to 18s., and I have never found an agricultural labourer who regarded those figures as the true value of what he gets.
§ Mr. STANIER
I quite agree that wages vary in agricultural districts from about the figure he has given in some parts—and I deeply deplore it—to 26s., but if you mention one figure you should mention the other and not try to mislead people who read these speeches in the House. The hon. Member also stated that in 1876 there was a very small number of landlords. Since then, however, the number of landlords has doubled. But who are the landlords who are touched upon in this Bill? They are persons, granted, but they are also societies and such like who can take the advantages of this Bill, and therefore we who advocate this measure must also include in it the members of those societies as well as of the landlords who are named in this great list that we heard of in the year 1876. The hon. Member also touched on the subject of the area of the land on which these cottages are to be built, and he asked, "Is not this an extraordinary thing that these men are not to have more than the amount of land specified in this Bill?" We have increased the land, as compared with that proposed by the Local Government Board in their Official Report issued only on 25th March, 1913, and we contend that if the men who have these cottages would like to have more land, there are at this moment plenty of Acts of Parliament to enable them to get it through the Allotment Acts, and it is perfectly well known that those men who do not take on horticulture as one of their hobbies sometimes do not care to have a garden larger than the amount specified 739 in this Bill. That is a very good answer, indeed, to the criticism of the hon. Gentleman.
I will now turn to the hon. Member (Mr. Raffan). He told us a good deal about Cornwall. I also know about the deplorable state of affairs in Cornwall through having read the reports of the extraordinary state of affairs down there. I believe there is a place called Bideford, which is reported by the Local Government Board as being in a deplorable state for cottages and sanitary requirements. It is to help these places that the promoters of this idea came forward and tried to bring up a scheme which would be applicable to rural areas, and he said, "Why did you put two and three-quarters?" The hon. Member ought not to have attacked this side of the House. He ought to have attacked his own Government, who are to-day, and have been for some years now, lending money to Ireland at that rate of interest, and who have built all these cottages at that rate of interest. But if the State cannot provide it at that rate of interest, does not the Bill say, "such a rate of interest as the Treasury can provide," so that it shall not lose on the transaction? Why should Ireland have these enormous benefits and we in this country not be allowed to have any benefits at all? I will ask, with all due respect, if the hon. Member cannot consider that, and see some day if he cannot bring forward a proposal which will remedy all this, and give facilities to England as facilities have been given to Ireland. The hon. Gentleman made great play with the question of lodgers. There is nothing in the Bill about the question of lodgers. The Clause referred to is only to help rural district council officials when they have control of those houses. No landlord has the power of questioning these lodgers. Another matter, regarding which great play was made, was unexhausted improvements. Is it not within the knowledge of every Member of the House that there are Acts of Parliament which enable cottagers to claim for unexhausted improvements in their cottage gardens? If any Member of this House does not know it, I hope he will make himself fully cognisant of the fact. We did not put these minor items in the Bill for the simple reason that they are to-day provided for by Acts of Parliament, and quite rightly so.
740 Then there was much play made of the fact that a tenant farmer should go to his landlord and say, "You must now build cottages for me." There is not a point in this Bill that can enable a tenant fanner to say that these cottages are tied to that holding. It is one of our great and strong points that these cottages are not to be tied cottages of the farmers, and we believe, if they are not tied, that will enable the labourers who live in them to put up their labour for open competition in the market, so that the principle of supply and demand will benefit those labourers in a way they ought to be able to be benefited. The consequence will be that in many cases where wages are now low they will be enabled to get their wages raised, and the whole scheme will be beneficial to the labourers. I do not want to labour this question any further, but I did think that I ought to answer the points so ably put from the other side, and with due courtesy. They do not refer to the aims and objects of the promoters of this Bill.
I turn now to the Bill itself. The Bill is to facilitate the building of cottages in rural areas. I am sorry that the President of the Local Government Board is not here. I should like to say that we who follow these questions feel deeply that, while he has been at the Local Government Board he has done a great work in the direction of the improvement of the housing of the people in this country. He has got a very able staff of secretaries and officials in that Board—men who are able to pick up and carry forward the work of this Bill, and who need not be put on one side. They are men who can be gathered together and made the officials under the Bill. We do not want to see any new officials brought forward; in fact, the salaried officials are there at the present moment, and all we want to do is to make them into such a body that they can facilitate the building of cottages in the rural areas. This Bill is not in any way whatsoever antagonistic to the one brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen). We welcome the Bill which is fathered by the hon. Member, but we thought, in view of the reports of the Local Government Board and the actions of the Board, that very little indeed has been done for the rural areas. A great deal has been done for the urban areas, and therefore it was purely and simply to further the work in the rural areas that this scheme has been brought 741 forward. To prove my statement that the work has been chiefly in the urban areas, I would refer hon. Members to the 37th Annual Report of the Public Works Loans Board for 1911–12. In that report there is a list of loans under heading B. Out of thirty-two loans, twenty-two are urban, and only ten rural, and out of these ten, some of them were really urban. From that report it will be seen that very little has been done in the rural districts.
If we go further than that, and refer to the admirable Memorandum which was issued on 25th March this year, we find that it contains excellent advice and excellent plans, but the advice and the plans are urban in character. More than that, they are urban in suitability and absolutely urban in design. Therefore I think we can show that we want some Department that will give more heed to the subject on the rural side. It has been stated in this House that there will be difficulty in obtaining land for building these cottages. Is it not a fact that only yesterday we heard in this House of land being offered at agricultural prices? Only a week or two ago there was a very able letter written by a number of large landlords of the class we have heard condemned by hon. Members below the Gangway even to-day. They show that there is land available at purely agricultural prices if loans could be got cheaply for the building of these cottages. We advocate the principle of this Bill because we find that under the 1909 Act loans cannot be devoted to local purposes. The machinery of this Bill is chiefly through the rural district councils. We make that proposal because they are the sanitary authority. They control the building of cottages in the rural areas, and, what is more important, they make the bylaws. Therefore in this Bill we propose that they should be the local authority. The higher local authority next above them, the county council, are in agreement with that idea, because a resolution was passed six months ago by the County Councils Association to this effect, thatit is desirable that the facilities given to the Irish authorities to provide cottages for rural districts should be extended to English local authorities,and by local authorities the association meant the rural district councils. There we have the County Councils Association stating that they think that the rural district council is the right body to erect them. Later on the resolution was extended to say that in case of default on 742 the part of the rural district council the county council should be the authorised body. If there were default on the part of the rural district council I would think that the Local Government Board should have the power, because they have got the power at the present moment. We do not want to upset any of the machinery of the Local Government Board or any of the work of the people in that Board, especially of the right hon. Gentleman himself. I should add that 182 rural district councils out of 655 have admitted they require more cottages, and seventeen of them have absolutely supported the principles of this Bill. Therefore we have some grounds for stating that the rural district councils are the body who should control this measure. There is no need to go into the question of the scarcity of cottages in rural areas. It is acknowledged, and the question is non-political. I need not even go into the question why we want more. We know perfectly well that we do want more for every reason, tuberculosis and emigration, that great question which has been touched upon; and, in passing, I would like to say that a Report was issued by the Irish Department about two years ago in which it was stated very definitely and clearly that this building of cottages in Ireland has been one of the chief causes of the slackening of emigration from Ireland. Undoubtedly it is the fact that it will raise the standard of life and prevent overcrowding, and more important, in my estimation, through the Insurance Act, that very valuable Act, in the direction of preventing tuberculosis it strikes at the very beginning of the whole question. If you do not deal with this question you will find great difficulty in carrying out the rest of your scheme.
The promoters of this Bill contend that this is not and cannot fairly be called class legislation. There is no class legislation in it. Everybody benefits and everybody is penalised as well. We have heard it said that this will only cost the landlords a penny a week. I have worked it out, and by the time the owner conies back again into possession of his land with the house thereon he will have spent £312. That surely is not giving a great benefit to the landlord, who supplies this land, because he has to provide the money out of his own pocket for sinking fund and management, repairs and insurance. The occupier will have to pay rent and rates, which is absolutely contrary to what was 743 said by the hon. Member below the Gangway. The tenant can work where he likes, at any trade he likes, and charge what he likes up to a maximum of 30s. per week. Therefore, it can fairly be said that this proposal is not class legislation. Now we come to the question of a county where the rates will be touched upon, but we contend that where they are touched upon it will be a profit-bearing rate. I think the county of Dorset was mentioned. In Dorsetshire this rate will only amount to one-twelfth of a penny in the £. In the case of the counties in Ireland, under the Government schemes, the cost is very much higher. For instance, in the county of Waterford it is costing 11ìd. in the £ to carry out the schemes. How can you say anything about one-twelfth of a penny in the £ in this country when on the other side of the Channel they are spending 11¼d. in the £ in Waterford to-day out of the rates. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Hear, hear."
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Burns)
No, on the contrary.
§ Mr. STANIER
I am very glad to hear that, because I am one of those who in this Bill and in every way would like to do the best they can to keep down the rates in this country. I sum up the benefits of this Bill under these headings. We have proved in Ireland that building these cottages does not stop the builders' enterprise. We have plenty of proof that it has raised the standard of living in that country. We know that cottages can be built at less than £200, and are being built, excellent cottages with three bedrooms, two rooms below, and all the modern conveniences according to plans that will be passed by the Local Government Board. The effect on wages has been to increase them and the health of the people has undoubtedly risen where those cottages have been built. But more than that, the process of pulling down unsanitary cottages and replacing them with good ones has not been going on to the full extent that it ought, and, reading the Local Government Board's own reports, one finds that there are over 13,000 cottages that are unsanitary, while up to the present moment, there have been only 1,300 cottages built to replace them. These are figures taken from the Local Government Board's Reports. If the principles of this Bill which I advocate here to-day are 744 carried out, the rural district council will not be placed in that dilemma, but will be able to go forward in their good work. Undoubtedly we are proposing a Bill which will benefit the three classes of the rural districts, and we hope and trust, as in Ireland, that the great question of emigration will be slackened in the way that it ought to be. I think I have answered the points as to the landlords, and I also am asking this: If economic building is to be put in force in this country—and the Government are going to advocate that—why on earth—in view of the facilities given in Ireland—should we be criticised, as we have been for five or six years, for our action, and why are we to be treated in a manner different from that in which Ireland is treated at the present time? Ireland is asking for loans and grants for further buildings, and if the representatives of that country are faithful to what they say in their own country, they should rise to-day in their places and back us up in advocating for this country treatment similar to that which is adopted in their own country.
As to the finance of this Bill, I am afraid it cannot be influenced by merely a private Member. But there is a great deal more in this measure than simply the finance of it. Loans have been granted in the past, and why not in the future? Why should we not do something in this direction, just as the French are doing in their country, and why should we not see that we have our house in order, and do something to help the labourers who are in need of help to-day? For these reasons, and many other reasons that I could give, I, as one of the promoters of this Bill and who has taken a keen interest in it, having brought it before this House last year, strongly urge that it should be allowed to go to a Committee of this House, and be further inquired into. There are many parts of this Bill in which even my Friends who are below the Gangway must acknowledge there is a great deal. We should give the measure the chance of being justly and fairly argued, and I hope that the House will allow the Bill to go to a Committee upstairs to be examined and considered in the proper way. I beg to support the proposal made by the Mover of this Bill.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I make no apology for speaking to the House upon this question, because it is a subject to which I have for many years given very close attention. This question of the housing of the agricultural labourer is one 745 of the most important departments of the great question of the condition of agriculture, and I must at the outset, having in view the declarations which have been made by leading Members of the Liberal pary within the past few weeks, declarations which have been suggestive of future reforms—among which the question of the housing of the agricultural population is to occupy a prominent place—express my deep regret that the Government—I do not in the smallest degree seek to express any disparagement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who is well capable we know of discussing this question—is not more strongly represented on that bench. I regret that the Minister mainly responsible for agriculture should, upon this most important topic, be absent from the House to-day. It is not a good augury of future dealing with this all-important subject. I regret that my hon. Friends who have spoken on this question have rather framed their speeches in the form of violent, diatribes against landlords than of giving a calm and dispassionate consideration to this subject. There is a very real grievance; it is a grievance even of the greatest complexity, and it is one which, at any rate, is attempted to be dealt with in a reasonable way by this Bill. I do not think that this Bill, I say at once, meets my view of what is a proper scheme of reform. Some reference during the course of this Debate has been made to the legislation for the Irish cottager, which commenced in the year 1883, and which has been succeeded by Acts extending the benefits of that legislation even to urban labourers. That is a matter which, after all, may be dealt with at a later stage of this Bill, and it does not necessitate the crude action upon the part of the Government of negativing the principle of this Bill, because it is in a plastic state in which it can be dealt with in Committee, and those very points which are obnoxious can be overcome in Committee, and we might have a Bill passed upon the lines followed by the legislation of 1883.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I think it rather accentuates the force of my observation to find that on a day when we are discussing the interests of the agricultural 746 labourers there cannot be found a sufficient number of Members—at any rate on our side of the House. I was saying that in my judgment the lines upon which the Bill should proceed should rather be on the model of Irish legislation. If you take Irish reports, which are available up to a very recent date, you will find, and I do not think I am overstating it, that from 40,000 to 50,000 labourers' cottages have been built through the operation of those Irish Acts, which are based, I think I am correct in saying, on precisely the same lines as the alternative proposals of this Bill. I mean that part of the Bill which provides that in the event of the landowner not voluntarily providing land for the building of houses, that then the intervention of the rural district council can be secured and the council can claim State aid and build the cottages. That is precisely what takes place in Ireland. The matter comes before the guardians under the Act of 1883, almost on identical lines with the second part of this Bill. The result has been of the utmost benefit to the people of Ireland. One thing we should do, and that is to clear our minds of all this cant about the iniquity of the landlords. I am not going back on the archæology of landlordism, which in parts is one of the most unpleasant and possibly most deplorable annals in the history of this country, but we are dealing with the modern state of things, and every man who knows anything about land knows that it is to the interest of the landowner, for the purpose of letting his farms, that he should have his cottages in good condition.
Anybody who has taken the trouble to read, as I am afraid that some of my hon. Friends have not, the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes of 1883—I do not mean that referring to the urban population, but that portion that refers to the rural population—will find there that where the cottages are either insufficient in number or inefficient in sanitation that it has been not only on the estates of the dukes, earls, and viscounts, but on the estates of the poorer landlords. In the case of the larger landowners, from the Crown downwards, though I need not mention cases like that of the Duke of Bedford and Lord Tollemache, who may be to some extent exceptional in their attitude of liberality, you will find generally that those who are called territorial proprietors in this country have maintained accommodation for their cottagers in a high state of efficiency. The difficulty 747 is an economic difficulty, and the Government, in 1883, recognised that it was an economic difficulty in Ireland. It has also been recognised as an economic difficulty in this country, and successive Governments, Liberal and Conservative alike, have seen that for the purpose of developing the land of this country through the pecuniary inability on the part of the landowners to do so, it has been the duty of the State, and a duty which they have performed, to advance money to landowners for the purpose of developments and improvement on their property necessary for good cultivation and for the amenities of life and happiness and comfort of those who are employed on the land.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
In various Acts. Under an Act of 1882, money may be advanced by the State for the purpose of enabling loans to be granted to enable lands to be improved. I will refer my hon. Friend later on to the Statutes if he wishes, but I do not want to enter into any lawyer-like detail on this matter. There are three kinds of cottages in this country. There is the tied cottage of the farmer, a very perplexing subject, and I must frankly admit I do not see any extrication therefrom. They are generally sufficient in number for the stockmen, the horsemen, and the ploughmen. They are not sufficient in number to meet the employment of casual labourers. That is one class of cottage which is entirely open to objection in its form of tenure. I think an hon. Friend who sits behind me is one of those landlords who recognises that to leave the tenant in the cottage entirely dependent upon the continuity of his employment is an evil, and he and other landlords have endeavoured to meet it by keeping the cottages in their own hands and not letting them into the hands of the farmer. Then there is the close village, where the cottages are owned by the landlords themselves, and are let to the agricultural labourers at very much the same rate of remuneration as labourers pay for the tied cottage, namely, a wholly uneconomic rent. There is then the class of cottages which is the real evil, and which is the evil to which I believe this Bill to be directed, and that is the cottages in villages, mainly in villages, which belong neither to the landowner nor to the farmer, but belong to the small man 748 for the most part. If my hon. Friend will take the trouble to look and investigate into this question he will find that the dilapidated cottages, which exist in the country in very large numbers, are possessed, not by landowners, but by men of small means, who have invested their savings in buying these little cottages and exploiting them for their rents. Therefore let us at once eliminate from our minds all that is false from this question. It is not the earl, the viscount, or the duke; it is not even the farmer with the tied cottage; it is not in overwhelming preponderating numbers the landowner of comparatively small means. When we talk of landowners, let us remember that the great mass of the landowners of this country owing over 1,000 acres are landowners who own between 1,000 and 3,000 acres. The great territorial proprietors, although they own a vast extent of land, are numerically very few. If you take any county in England you will find perhaps 130 or 140 squires with estates ranging from 1,000 acres upwards, and some ten or twelve great territorial proprietors who may own in the aggregate practically as much land as 100 or 150 squires. But it is not on the territorial proprietors' property that you find this grievance. It is on the property or in the villages contiguous to the property of the comparatively small owner. How are you to get these cottages? A certain machinery is suggested by this Bill. It is most unreasonable to allege that the machinery of this Bill is a present to the landlord.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I will demonstrate that it is not. I do not approve of it. I prefer the Irish method. But, at the same time, to negative this Bill and with flippant speech to dismiss it from the consideration of this House, when you know that it can be amended by the Government in Committee, is to inflict a great injustice upon the agricultural labourer—an injustice against which I protest. A landlord has a dilapidated cottage. He is too poor to spend £350 or £400 per pair in building cottages, and to let them at an uneconomic rent of at the outside 2s. a week. A man with a thousand or two thousand acres of land in England is not in the same position as an Irish landlord. He is a quasi-partner with the tenant. He has to contribute to the maintenance of the land, the steading, roads, fencing, 749 ditching, and so forth. That is part of the ordinary work of an English landlord. When you come to take his net income, the amount left to him for the purpose of improving his property is very small indeed. Unless he has an income from extraneous sources he is quite unable to build cottages on his land. If he is able, he is discouraged from doing so by the, I will not say necessity, but the natural desire to make provision for other members of his family. The landlord is approached under the machinery of this Bill. Assume that a cottage costs £200, which I think is a reasonable price, or a pair of cottages £350, though I doubt whether that is enough. They say to the landlord, "If you will give us a plot of land, we will build a cottage." I think it would be better if the amount of land were increased from one-eighth to one-fourth, or one-half of an acre, although I quite recognise that an agricultural labourer after a hard day's work is not able very successfully to till a large piece of land. It depends very much on the nature of the soil and so forth. They say to the landlord, "You will also pay us every year 10s. per cent. on the cost of the cottage. Not a farthing of the rent will you receive. You are not to charge more than 2s. a week, and all that you receive you are to hand over to the authorities. You are to keep the cottage in repair"—and anybody who has had any experience of agricultural cottages knows that it is not an infinitesimal item—"and you are to insure the cottage against fire. You are to do that for sixty-eight years, and then when you have undoubtedly expended a great deal more than the capital value of the cottage, not you, but your descendants are to reap the benefit of the outlay." That is not a great gift to the landlord. It is preposterous to contend that it is. I do not think it is the best mode of dealing with the question; but it is not, as one hon. Member suggested, "a stream of gold" pouring into the landlords' pockets.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
There we come to another question, and a very important one. But you do it in precisely the same way if you follow the lines suggested by an hon. Member who spoke against this proposal.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I will not argue with my hon. Friend across the benches. Certainly you will not get good cottages for labourers unless the Government provide the money for them. It is an absolute impossibility. In these cases, where a landlord's means are so hampered, you cannot compel the landowner to build cottages. You can compel him to pull down insanitary cottages, but what is wanted is an increase in the number of agricultural cottages. How is that to be effected? It cannot be effected by private enterprise. There is no compulsory legislation that can be employed for the purpose of compelling individuals to build cottages. I expressly reserve myself from falling into any error. I quite agree that the sanitary authorities can compel landowners to put insanitary cottages in proper repair. Why do they not do so? Why does the Local Government Board omit to enforce its own provisions now? I am not blaming my right hon. Friend. I know the reason. The reason is that, when the sanitary officer goes to these dilapidated cottages, he knows that if he condemns them and causes them to be pulled down, there is nowhere else for the labourers to go. That is a very serious difficulty. Why should not the Government do in England, where the necessities are just as great, what my hon. Friend has supported their doing in Ireland? I am perfectly prepared to bring the greatest compulsion to bear on landlords to do their duty. But it is no use trying to enforce impossibilities. I know perfectly well that the State must step in to deal with this matter in order to provide the financial resources.
I recognise that there is a very grave evil, and it has resulted to some extent in the depopulation of our country districts. I have been recently in different parts of the Midlands and of the Home Counties, and in many places I have found a lack of cottages. I have asked the reason for that lack, and have been told that the landowner, as a rule, is too poor to go to the expense of building cottages. But the paucity of cottages is an enormous hardship upon the agricultural labourer. The insanitary condition of many of these cottages is abominable and disgraceful. We want to deal with them. Here is a proposal, which I do not say commends itself to my judgment entirely; I would go upon the lines which I imagine my right hon. Friend would wish. I would very much prefer the work to be undertaken by the 751 State, and that the profits, if any, to be derived from the letting of these cottages should go to the State. But you cannot let them at any large figure in view of the present rate of wages, which is so low. When I say wages I mean weekly earnings, which vary from over 20s. in the county which I represent to 15s. to 16s. in some of the Southern and Western counties. This is a very ridiculous and improper wage; there is no question about that. It would be a very much better one if agricultural labourers combined.
Anybody who knows anything about the matter knows that the agricultural labourer is scarce, and if there was combination on the part of the agricultural labourer such as exists in some parts of Norfolk—where the wages have been increased by combination—wages would be raised. Unhappily, there is no combination. In conclusion, I have no sentimental sympathy with the landowning class. Why should I have? Perhaps I have a little more with them than with the commercial class. This I do say, let us approach this question in a reasonable spirit. Let us not indulge in a number of vulgar tirades against landowners. Let us endeavour to see where the shoe pinches. Here is a measure which, in spite of its defects, enunciates a principle. That principle is that the labourer shall have better housing provided for him. Are we going to have a non possumus from the Government? Is my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board going to flout and scout every provision of this Bill, when he knows perfectly well that when this Bill comes to Committee—if it does come—that he can mould it in exactly the form that he desires it to take? For these reasons I do entreat my right hon. Friend, having regard to the urgency of this question—because it is an urgent question—at any rate to extend to the matter such encouragement that even if he cannot now even accept it from a priori considerations and give a Second Reading to it, at least he will give assurances that if this Bill cannot be dealt with by the House of Commons he will at any rate—and I suppose he will get the authority of his colleagues to say so—he will be prepared to bring forward a Bill which shall be free from the defects of this Bill, be of a good character, and tend to the advantage of the agricultural labourer.
§ Mr. COURTHOPE
I was delighted to hear the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just resumed his seat, because he has, I think, grasped that which the two previous speakers on the opposite side entirely failed to grasp—something of the economic conditions governing the rural districts. My principal object in rising, however, is to try and correct one or two misconceptions which I think exists, and which alone account for certain objections which the hon. Member for Hanley and the hon. Member for South-West Lancashire raised in their speeches. The latter hon. Gentleman, I am sure, with the evidence of sincerity which ran right through his speech, will at once admit that if he realised the conditions to be such as I believe them to be he would not have raised the arguments and objections against the principle of a Bill. It is about the principle of the Bill that I am speaking, for I am not going to weary the House by giving my own opinion upon certain aspects of this question. The first misconception that I wish to point out appeared in both the speeches I referred to, and also appeared in the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Hanley. It suggests that the shortage of rural accommodation, to meet which the Bill is introduced, applies to the employés only of the landowner. It is nothing of the kind. Chiefly speaking—of course you could name exceptions—the labourers actually employed by the occupying landowner are housed more adequately than the rest of the labouring classes in the rural districts. The difficulty is quite different from that supposed.
The houses needed are for the housing of the labourer of the tenant farmer. I admit the hon. Member opposite made a point there. The cottages required are for labourers who have nothing to do in any way, directly or indirectly, with those who own the land in a given district. In those districts where there is a possibility of rural development, where, in other words, there is a proximity to a decent market, and therefore an opportunity for profitable intensive cultivation and so on, you find the greatest rural demand for additional housing for the rural workers. In those districts you find also the most complicated economic conditions, because in the villages and small towns of those districts you will almost invariably find that cottages can be readily let at an economic rent, and very often at more than an economic rent—at a rent certainly which the agricultural labourer could not think of 753 paying. The class of people these houses are let to are railway workers, artisans, officials of one kind and another, shop assistants, and so on, a class which can and do pay a very much higher rental than the agricultural labourer. I have cases in my own neighbourhood to which I could point where there are blocks of cottages, and where similar cottages are let, in the one case at 6s. or 6s. 6d. a week to shop assistants or railway guards or people of that kind, while another is let to an employé on the estate adjoining for 1s. 6d. or 2s. That is a very frequent condition. These are the districts where the greatest need arises for this Bill, and which would derive the greatest benefit from it. The Bill is not intended, I think, and would not in effect bring any direct financial advantages to landowners, great or small, but it would have this effect. It would reduce the rental figure at which cottage accommodation can be supplied without actual loss. This is a benefit to the labourer mainly, who has a difficulty in finding housing accommodation which ex hypothesi exists, and indirectly also to his employer the farmer, and it is a direct financial benefit to the owners of the land upon which the houses are to be built. Two other points I want to refer to in the speech of the hon. Member opposite. One of his objections to the Bill was based on the argument that the sacrifices asked of the landowners under the Bill was not sufficient. The landlord was only making a sacrifice of 1d. per week for each cottage, but surely if this or a similar Bill is required in principle, its whole prospect of success or value will depend upon the fact that it makes the provision of those cottages possible without substantial loss or sacrifice to anybody. What we require is cottages fit for the agricultural labourer to occupy, at a rent which he can pay, and which will not cost the State or the local authority anything of a permanent nature, and which will not demand great sacrifices from those who have to provide the land. If great sacrifice was involved, either from the local authority or the State, it is perfectly certain that the provisions of a Bill like this would not bring great benefit to that class which it is our desire to help.
A very strong objection was raised by both the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment against the Bill on the ground that it does not go to the root of the matter. Of course, you do not go to the root of the matter of rural wages and conditions in a Housing Bill. You have to look 754 at economic causes far more vast, far more difficult than the question of cottage accommodation in order to find out why the agricultural labourer in rural districts does not get a living wage. Whether it is really a question that the land is not worked on the principle of more intensive cultivation, or whether, as most people think, it is a question of demand and supply of labour in regular employment from year's end to year's end is quite another matter. We are all agreed that a lack of cottages exists and we all want a remedy, and I believe the principle of this Bill is not only a sincere but a sound step in that direction. It will not, of course, remove the evils we all deplore, but I think it may mitigate them and help to some extent to accelerate the development of intensive cultivation in those districts where a ready market already exists, and which are, therefore, capable of developing on sound economic lines.
§ Mr. JOWETT
I have no wish to give a silent vote upon this Bill. The vote I will give will be in favour of the Bill, and I shall take that action because in my opinion it is necessary that the principle for which this Bill stands should be approved by Parliament. It has already been approved, as was pointed out, in regard to Irish legislation. What is this vital principle of moment contained in the Bill? It is that the State shall assist local authorities and shall spend public money in order to alleviate the bad housing conditions that now exist among the working-class population. I believe that there is no possible solution of the housing question, either in rural districts or in urban areas, without the assistance of the State, and I cannot for the life of me understand the position of hon. Gentlemen who will with the utmost freedom vote for millions being loaned for Irish housing, for cheap loans and subsidies, and who will not, on principle, vote for a similar system for English housing. I may remind the House that in 1906 the Irish Labourers Act provided that four and a quarter millions of State money at 2¾ per cent. interest, which is at least 1 per cent. less than the Irish local authorities could borrow, should be loaned, and that certain conditions should attach in regard to cheap transfer along with the removal of legal expenses and subventions each year, and with power also to spend money out of the rates in order to let these houses cheap. Since then another million has been loaned on similar terms, and Irish Members of all shades of 755 politics are even now pressing for further loans upon the same lines for Irish houses. What has been the result? Has it been good?
There is no dispute, so far as I know, as to the effect of the Irish policy in regard to labourers' houses. I have heard the Irish Secretary give the most unqualified testimony to the immense improvement in the condition of the Irish labouring class through the operation of the Housing Act. Over 42,000 cottages have either been built, or are sanctioned, in order to facilitate housing on good conditions in Ireland. Now the turn of England has come. I am not sure that the President of the Local Government Board approves of the Irish policy. I believe he does not. But where is his consistency? If this policy of State subvention is wrong for England, it is wrong for Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to have opposed it. My hon. Friend near me says there is no subvention to the landlords in the Irish housing policy. That is true, but then there is no reason in the world why this Bill should not get a Second Reading, and then anybody who believes that a subvention should not be given to the landlord, but that assistance should be given through the local authorities, and the local authorities alone, can, in Committee, endeavour to bring that about as I most certainly shall. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) suggests that this is a subvention to lower wages. I dispute that statement, and I believe it is against the facts. Experience has proved that wherever the housing and general conditions of the working population have been uplifted there has been less disposition there to lower wages. Go to any district in this country, either urban or rural, and where you find the people badly housed, miserably poor, and half-starved, there is no fighting for better conditions. Give them decent conditions, lift up their standard, let them see there is something to fight for, and they will fight to maintain that standard. Even if there is something in that argument, what is the position of my hon. Friend who resists all these palliatives, as they call them. They have got some fancy economic notion that all public money and all taxation should come from the landlords. That may be right or it may be wrong, but how long is it going to take to work it out? Are the poor people who live in hovels to wait twenty or thirty years? If so, many of them will be dead. What is wanted is 756 better houses now, and I am surprised at the moderation of those who have drawn this Bill with the example of Ireland before them. I heartily support the principle, leaving myself free in Committee to do whatever I can to make the operation of this Bill work through local authorities and public bodies, and I shall endeavour to delete that part of the Bill which would have a tendency to tie labourers to the owners of the cottages. To that part I am opposed, but the principle of State aid for housing purposes I most unreservedly support.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Hon. Members opposite have supported this Bill mainly on the grounds that similar legislation has already been introduced for Ireland. I was always under the impression that every political economist in the country admitted that in Ireland political economy has been thrown to the winds; in fact, Ireland has been treated as a spoiled child, and when she was crying she was given two or three lumps of sugar to keep her quiet, and the more sugar that was given her the more she wanted, with the final result that after very large sums of English money have been sunk in Ireland we are now face to face with Home Rule, and probably the rupture of Ireland from England altogether. I do not think because we have done something foolish in Ireland it is at all necessary that we should do foolish things in England. There are two questions concerned in this Bill: The first is finance, and, the second, whether the Bill is or is not a good Bill. I will deal first with the financial aspect of the question. Let me remind hon. Members who, in the kindness of their hearts, are desirous of doing all sorts of good to everyone, that you have first of all to find the money. Good nature and kind hearts will not find the money.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is possible the hon. Member who interrupted me may be in favour of robbing hen roosts, but I think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will, at any rate, be in the same boat as myself when I say that neither of us want to rob anybody. I was dealing with the question of finance. Let us consider what is really the position of the financial resources of this country at the present moment. Consols stand at about 74½, practically the lowest they have stood at for many years. Our expenditure will probably be about 757 £200,000,000 this year, the largest that we have ever had, with the possible exception of one or two years when we have been at war. I give these figures from memory, but I think I may say that this is the largest expenditure that has ever been incurred in this country even when we were at war. This is the moment hon. Gentlemen opposite come down to this House and say, not that we must do what we can to resuscitate our credit and be a little more economical, but we must do something which has never been done before in England, that is, we must set about building cottages for people who cannot afford to build them for themselves. If our finances are going to be conducted upon that principle, instead of Consols, being 74 they will be 60, and instead of people talking about borrowing money at 2½ per cent. and 2¾ per cent., they will be very lucky to get it at 4½ per cent.
Under the Local Loans Acts the State has already lent money to certain people for the purpose of developing lands. My belief is that the Local Loans Acts initiated by Lord Goschen were initiated for lending money to public authorities, and I do not know that they were ever used for lending money to private individuals. [An HON. MEMBER "Yes, they are."] If that is so, why have this Bill? If there is machinery for lending money to private individuals for the development of land, then this Bill is not necessary. My own belief is that whatever power there is under the Local Loans Acts for lending money to private individuals it is of a very restricted character. I believe that under this Bill the amount to be advanced has been stated to be £200,000 a year, but you are not going to stop at that, and it is evident that we are only at the beginning of a very large contribution from the State. I happen to be a rural landlord and I presume I shall get some of this benefit, which I agree is not a golden stream, but a very remote kind of benefit at all, and though I may gain something I cannot help asking why should I be singled out to lend money to build cottages which I do not want to build? Why should not other people also receive Grants from the State to build cottages or houses in the towns and to do all sorts of other things which all of us would like to do? [An HON. MEMBER: "They will."]
My hon. Friend says in the future that other people will also receive this sort of benefit from the State. I am not a 758 Socialist and I did not believe people on this side of the House were Socialists, but I never heard anything more Socialistic than the statement made by my hon. Friend. It is Socialism pure and simple that when there is an evil or the private individuals are not fitted to contend with certain conditions of civil life the State is to come forward and do the work for them. That is Socialism pure and simple, and absolutely nothing else. I really do hope hon. Members will pause before they give their consent to a proposition of this kind. We are face to face in this Bill with provisions which have been denounced over and over again by hon. Members on this side of the House—I mean provisions for the establishment of further numbers of officials. My hon. Friend said that there would not be any new officials, because the right hon. Gentleman had got the officials already, but, if I know anything of officials, they are not going to take on onerous duties in addition to their present duties without increased pay or increased help. The Bill must therefore mean additional inspectors and additional Civil servants at the cost of the State. The Bill does mention 2¾ per cent. or 3¼ per cent., but it also says, "any such other rate which shall be remunerative to the State." You may put in 3¼ per cent., or 2¼ per cent. interest and ½ per cent. sinking fund, but it will have no effect at all if you cannot get the money at that rate. Consols at the present time, an hon. Member opposite told us, yield £3 6s. 9d. I believe that is within a few pence correct, and, if you add 10s., you come to very nearly 4 per rent. That is what will have to be paid under this Bill, and not 3¼ per cent., unless, of course, the State is going to lose.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is a question for this House too, because the chief principle is that you are going to obtain the money at such and such rates, and all the arguments which have been used have been to show that it will impose no loss upon the local authorities. I am going to show that it will. If you have to get the money at the rate which I feel perfectly certain you will have to pay, instead of there being any profit to the landlord there must be a loss. The question of the cost of the cottages has been mentioned. I have never been able to build a pair of decent cottages under £420. The last pair I built 759 cost me rather over £450, although I gave nothing for the stone, which was obtained only one and a half miles distant. They were built with three bedrooms for utility and not for show. I therefore think £200 is really a very low estimate if you are going to build cottages to stand sixty-eight years. We will, however, take the figure at £200. The cottage is to be let at 2s. per week, which comes to £5 4s. a year. If you have to pay 4 per cent. for the money, and with sinking fund you will not get it for less, that comes to £8. Therefore, there is immediately a loss of £2 16s. upon each cottage, and that does not include insurance, rates, and repairs. There must from the very commencement be a loss to the landowner. The rural authority is entitled to charge 2s. 6d. a week, which comes to £6 10s. per year, but as the local authority will have to pay £8 a year, there is a loss at once of £1 10s. without any allowance for rates, insurance, or cost of repairs. There can, therefore, from the financial aspect be little said for the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Courthope) said hon. Members opposite made a great mistake in thinking that the Bill was only intended to provide cottages for the rural districts and for agricultural labourers. I have read the Bill through very carefully, and I believe my hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It seems to me that is one of the worst blots on the Bill.
The rural district council, as I understand, will have power to build cottages of a good description and will be empowered to let them at 2s. 6d. per week and no more. They are empowered to take the land, and the money will be obtained from the taxpayers. What is going to happen in rural districts where there may happen to be a manufacturing town within five or six miles? The rural district authority, if it is enterprising or if pressure is put upon it by the locality, will build a large number of cottages which will be inhabited not by agricultural labourers, but by artisans and mechanics from the manufacturing town, who will cycle to and from the cottages. That will interfere with private enterprise and cause a large number of houses which have already been built for these men in the town to be empty. The rates of that town will increase and property will result in the municipal authority in consequence. That is not a far-fetched statement; it is a thing which has occurred within my own 760 knowledge, and it is practically certain to arise in a very large number of districts in this country under the Bill. I do not know whether it is true, but I was told a few months ago by one of my hon. Friends who is connected with Ireland, when I was criticising the spending of such large sums of money in Ireland upon cottages, that the wrong class of people had been inhabiting the cottages. That is what is going to happen here, and that is not what my hon. Friends desire. I do not think it necessary to go into the various details of the Bill. I have shown, I hope, that it is an ill-considered measure; that it is badly drafted, and that it will probably do that which it is not intended to do: it will provide cottages at the expense of the ratepayers and of the State, not for agricultural labourers, but for mechanics, small tradesmen, and other people from the neighbourhood of large towns. I do not know what attitude the President of the Local Government Board is going to take up. I sincerely trust he will not be led away by any desire for popularity. It is very easy to get up in this House, or on the platform, and declaim about the misery which exists and how one wishes to remedy it. But one must be careful and first ascertain that, in attempting to remedy one evil, many others are not created. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead talked about the Manchester school. He thought that, with all their faults, they were consistent, and had a good deal of common sense and practical knowledge. But if we once begin upon this downward plane, whenever we see something which we think ought to be remedied by rushing to the State for assistance, we destroy that vitality and enterprise which are so essential to progress. It is the spur of necessity which has made this country what it is, and if we attempt to modify that and to act as kind grandmothers to all people in this country, we shall only do that which we have done in Ireland: we shall be giving sugar to spoilt children, and we shall be giving them more than they want.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
I think everybody owes a debt of gratitude to those who have brought in this Bill. We all feel the dire necessity there is for better accommodation for workers in country districts. But there is one fault which strikes me in this Bill. It is not in the introduction of it, because good work has been done by bringing it forward, and I cannot do otherwise than congratulate 761 hon. Gentlemen opposite on having introduced it. Of course, as the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) says, it is pure Socialism. There is no question about that, but some of us are not ashamed to own that there is some good in Socialism. That is not the objection to it on my part. There are many things Socialistic which we acknowledged long ago. Socialism in some forms may do a great deal of good. But there is one serious objection to the Bill. The operative Clauses are, under the Rules of this House, struck out. We are not going to vote that this money shall be lent, but we are going to vote for regulations and conditions on which it is to be lent.
I dare say most hon. Members some time or other have had to borrow money on or without security. But they have never gone to the lender and said, "These are the conditions on which I want to borrow the money." They have left it to the lender to say what conditions he desires to impose for his own protection. What you are doing in this Bill is to say, "We want to borrow money, and we intend to lay down the conditions on which we will borrow." That is a wrong way to go about the business. If you want to get money, the proper way is to say to the lender, "We want the money and we will allow you to fix your conditions." Although excellent work has been done in introducing this Bill, you will only, if you pass it, be restricting the powers of the Government in the way of lending money, and you will make it more difficult to get it. We should be in a very much better position and much more likely to get the money for this object—a Socialistic object, if you like, a squandering and wasting of the money of the people, if you choose so to call it—although, to my mind, it is one of the best objects the Government can spend money on—we shall be much more likely to secure the end in view if we do not lay down these conditions beforehand. Therefore I would urge hon. Gentlemen who have brought in the Bill not to seek so much to get it passed into law—they may take it to the Committee if they like—but I want them to realise that it would be most disastrous, from the point of view of getting money from the Government, if the Bill is passed into law. I hope, therefore, they will not go so far as that.
§ Mr. HICKS BEACH
I cannot quite follow the drift of the argument of the hon. Gentleman who last spoke. He is anxious for the Second Reading of the Bill 762 and he would have it go to Committee, but he suggests that the machinery it contains is wrong, because it lays down terms on which somebody or other is willing to borrow money from the State. I do not quite see how you are to define in a Bill the conditions under which money is to be loaned by the State unless you draft it in terms similar to this measure. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London as usual put his finger on the weak spots of the Bill. With a great deal of his criticism I very much sympathise, but what we have got to remember is that there is a very crying evil in the villages of the country—I am not referring to those situated around the home of the hon. Baronet, which are fortunate in having, as squire, a Gentleman of considerable means who is willing to spend his money on the provision of cottages. There are a large number of villages in the poorer parts of the country in which this housing problem is becoming a more crying evil every day of the week.
It has been accentuated to a very considerable degree in the past few years by reason of the fact that whenever a district council has made a serious attempt to improve cottages which are really insanitary the result has been that the cottages have been closed and no new ones have been built in their stead. It has grown such an evil that, at the present time, we are seeing the best part of the young population of our country districts emigrating to Australia, Canada, and other Colonies, very largely for the reason that, if they desire to get married, they cannot find a decent cottage in which to settle down. That is a terrible evil. What is the obvious remedy for it? The only sound remedy is a general increase in the wages of the agricultural labourer. That is the real solution of this problem, and everybody would like to see it adopted. But how are we going to get that reform carried out? It is true that the wages of the labourers in different parts of England vary very much. They vary a great deal in the North as compared with the Midlands and the South. To what is it really due? I honestly believe it is due to the fact that in some parts of England the soil varies so greatly in character. In parts which I know pretty well the soil is of a very unproductive character, and it is well to note that where rents are lowest, wages too are lowest. That goes to prove that the character of the soil is such that it cannot produce a 763 sufficient amount of saleable food to provide an adequate wage for the agricultural labourer, and an adequate return to the landlord for his expenditure on buildings and cottages. In the poorer parts of England the return the landlord receives in rent is only a very small percentage on the amount spent on the buildings, and it is no return at all for the actual ownership of the soil itself. How that problem is to be met in the poorer parts of England I, for one, fail to see, but I honestly believe that the only way to solve the problem is to adopt some method of the kind outlined in the Bill.
I do not for one moment believe that the Bill is perfect in every detail; nobody can pretend that. I should not support the Bill if it definitely set forth that the State was to loan money to an individual or to a public body at a rate of interest at which the State itself could not borrow the money. For instance, as the hon. Baronet pointed out, for every £100 the State borrows at the present time it has to pay not £2 10s., but about £3 6s. 8d. It is unsound finance to attempt to lend money to people at the rate of £3 5s. per cent. when one can only borrow money at £3 6s. 8d. This Bill is not quite so iniquitous as that, because it does make this a definite charge upon the Development Fund. The House passed the Development Fund Act for the purpose of providing every year a certain sum of money for the promotion of various industries in this country. I believe that the industry of agriculture has not so far got very much out of the Development Fund. The best way to assist agriculture at the present moment is to provide out of the Development Fund a certain sum every year for the purpose of improving the housing accommodation for agricultural labourers. That is what this Bill proposes to do. It is impossible, as the hon. Baronet said, that a large sum of money can be loaned every year by the State indiscriminately, because this sum of money can only be loaned by a Grant every year from the Development Fund sufficient to make up to the State the loss it would sustain by lending the money at £3 5s. per cent. There is a definite restriction in the Bill on the amount of money to be raised every year for the improvement of housing accommodation in the country. That is one important feature of the Bill the hon. Baronet did not say very much about. As regards the question of officials, if I thought that this Bill were going to largely 764 increase the number of officials at the Local Government Board, I should not give it my support. Not many Sessions ago a Housing Act was passed which set up a definite body of officials at the Local Government Board to deal with the housing problem. Why cannot those officials spend some of their time in attending to the housing in rural districts, instead of spending the whole of their time in attending to the housing in the urban districts?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HICKS BEACH
I am sorry if I am incorrect in saying that. I do not think the effect of passing that Housing Act has been to build a single cottage in a purely rural district. Cottages have been built in urban districts, and, I admit, in the neighbourhood of county towns, but I very much doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman can produce a greater number of cottages which have been built in purely rural villages, right away from any county town, than he can count on the fingers of his two hands. There is one point in the Bill to which I strongly object, that is the exemption of these cottages from the payment of rates. I do not think it is a sound principle, so long as rates are levied on houses and buildings throughout the country, that cottages built as a result of the money advanced under this Bill should be exempted from rates. The obvious result of that would be that the building of these cottages must be a charge of some kind upon the rural rates. If you wish to induce rural district councils to work this or any other Housing Bill with any degree of sympathy, you must first be able to assure them that the result of building the cottages will not be to levy any additional charges upon the rates of the district for which they are responsible.
In conclusion, I should like to say that the difficulty of the housing problem in rural districts is not solely due to the inability or disability of the landowner, or even of the district council itself, to build cottages. The paucity of cottages is to some extent due to the fact that the State itself neglects to provide cottages for some of its servants. For instance, the local post office in the rural village is very often a small house which might very well be occupied by one of the superior class of labourers in the village. The postman, as the servant of the State, as a rule occupies a cottage which ought to be occupied, not 765 by a servant of the State, but by one of the agricultural labourers in the village. The local policeman very often occupies a cottage which is not the property of the county council or the State, but of the local landowner, and that cottage also might be put to much better use by being occupied by one of the agricultural labourers. The State ought to realise its own responsibilities in this matter, and to set a good example to other employers of labour in the country by building at every place where they employ postmen or maintain a post office a house or cottage with sufficient accommodation to provide for their own servants, thereby setting loose that house or cottage for the accommodation of other rural labourers. This is a problem of very great magnitude, and I do not pretend that this Bill is a solution of the whole problem, but I support the Second Reading because I think it is one that attempts in some way to meet the real evil that increases day by day in our rural districts, and because—though it is not perfect in detail and might well be amended in important points in Committee, and as a result be fashioned into a workable measure—it is a Bill which will do something to diminish this crying problem in our rural districts.
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Member who last addressed the House made one or two statements in criticism of the Bill, and in so doing expressed the view, which was generally cheered, that probably higher wages for the agricultural labourer would do more to attain the object the Bill has in view than some of the schemes put forward in this Bill and elsewhere. He also referred to policemen's houses and postmen's cottages in the country, and he might have gone on to refer to the cottages that may, ought, and can be provided if the local authorities are willing, for the many thousands of road men, who are increasingly asking for better accommodation, and whom the local authorities have the power to house. The other statement he made was really a challenge to myself, namely, that the Local Government Board had done comparatively little for rural housing and comparatively little was being done. Considering how short a time the Act has been in operation and has allowed rural authorities to do what they are increasingly doing, I think he will admit that he did not do justice to the rural authorities and certainly not to the Local Government Board.
766 The Bill is one of a type of Bill that seeks to improve the condition of the housing of the working classes in town as well as country, of which the House has had several specimens during the last three or four years, and which is becoming with a certain section increasingly seductive, but, for business and practical men, increasingly unpopular. I am glad, however, even in a bad Bill, with bad finance and worse draftsmanship, we should have an opportunity of discussing the housing problem, because we have nothing to fear from its discussion and the more it is discussed in the House of Commons, particularly when an indefinite result is arrived at, the more it stimulates the local authorities, who in the main are responsible, and draws more attention to it than if the discussion did not take place, and in that sense we welcome it. But it seems to me that it is a serious demand upon the House of Commons that we should have a Bill ostensibly to deal with rural housing—and I think also it ought to deal with urban housing—which has practically nothing to do with the administration of the Housing Acts, that lacks even the small element of justification that the hon. Member's Bill did last year, and is, if its true title were expressed on the front page, a Bill for extracting from the Treasury money, money, money. That is its first, its second, and its last claim. It is a financial measure pure and simple. The Bill rests on the fake system of subsidy, and without a subsidy, as you, Sir, suggested on the point of Order, it is useless as a contribution to housing. None of its provisions could be worked without the money demanded, and the particular subsidy in the form demanded in this Bill is one that does not commend itself, I am glad to say, to any of my colleagues, and certainly not myself. I cannot promise this subsidy; it will not be promised, and whether this Bill passes the Second Reading here to-day or not, whether it goes upstairs or not, the operative financial Resolution necessary on the responsibility of the Treasury and the authority of the Ministry will not be moved for the purpose of this Bill. The Bill proposes to secure the building of cottages by Government credit and loans with exemption also from local rates. The cottages, partly provided out of Imperial taxes, with exemption from rates, are not to be let at economic rents, because if they could be built at economic rates under sound conditions the artificial subsidy would not be needed, and charity 767 rents would not be required. These cottages, subsidised from the rates and taxes, are to be let at a maximum rent of 2s in the case of privately owned cottages, and a maximum of 2s. 6d. where they are owned by the rural district council. This is what we should see—assistance from State taxes, exemption from rates, privilege subsidies to private owners of cottages of a low standard, and privilege rents for favoured tenants, involving a charge on other people who are very frequently poorer than the tenants themselves.
This is a type of Bill we cannot support. In a word, this is a Bill in the worst form for charity rents, or, to put it shorter still, this Bill means outdoor relief in bricks and mortar to the wrong people. It is worse than Poor Law relief when it was indiscriminately given before 1834, because when outdoor relief was given from the rates it was given only to the persons who required it, but we are going through this form of relief by bricks and mortar to subsidise people who are rich enough to give land, and who have money with which to contribute some portion of the cost of the cottage. You are going through these agencies to give to people cottages they could not otherwise get, with the result that this charity would be a bonus to low wages, and instead of helping the agricultural labourer to a higher standard of life it would stereotype his present low wages by giving him a cottage at 2s. a week. It would create privileged conditions for favoured tenancies in the countryside, and instead of adding to the harmony of rural life it would, in my judgment, add to the jealousy, narrowness, bitterness, and suspicion. Many landowners with whom I have discussed this problem—I have discussed it with many—have done much better than their critics would lead the general public to believe. Many of them who house the labourers well and spend more on the cottages than the £200 proposed by this Bill say the fact that, they have provided good cottages at low rents is taken advantage of by their neighbours, who do not do as well as they do, to depress wages and the standard of life. What is more, the landlords realise that it is a mistake to nay the agricultural labourer partly in wages, partly in house accommodation, and partly in kind.
The most intelligent and sensible landlords—dukes have recently arrived at this view—believe that it would be better to 768 translate payment for labour into terms of cash at a weekly wage—a wage higher than the agricultural labourer now gets—so that he should be able to pay out of that wage, with no payment in kind worth talking about, a fixed economic rent. Many landlords of the best type are beginning to think that the time has arrived when the condition of things which has come down from feudalism should be abolished, and that agricultural labourers, like other workmen, should have a wage high enough not to be dependent upon other people for a privileged rent. One would think from the speeches, particularly on the other side of the House that it was the duty of the Government always to give loans at absurdly low rates of interest out of the pockets of other people to any section of the community that had the audacity to ask for them. So far as this Government is concerned where it has dealt with problems affecting rural life it has done no such thing. As President of the Local Government Board I have during the last four years sanctioned £3,000,000 for the provision of 160,00 acres of land for small holdings, not privileged loans at charity rates of interest, not subsidies or doles. The money is only loaned out at the rate at which the Treasury can get it in the current market. The small holder and the county council do not receive privileged terms from the Government at all. The loan is on economic lines, for a special obligation which the county council undertake, without corrupting anybody by any privileged forms of loan, rate, rent, or interest. Everybody knows that allotments are secured by the labourers at much higher rates per acre than they would have to pay if they rented the land in larger blocks. Neither in holdings nor in allotments is anyone dependent upon rates or taxes for any advantage that he could not get if he were a free and independent holder, or a small allotment holder going elsewhere, say to the bank, for similar terms and treatment.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Is that true of all housing schemes sanctioned by the Local Government Board?
§ Mr. BURNS
One swallow does not make a summer. Now I come to the enormous sums that have been lent by the Public Works Loans Commissioners not only to landlords but to public utility societies, local authorities and private individuals. Many millions have been lent for small holdings, allotments, houses and cottages, 769 by the Public Works Loans Commissioners, and all have been lent upon business and practical lines. The cottages, holdings, allotments, and houses all pay the cost of erection, maintenance and repairs and sinking fund, and pay back to the Public Works Loans Commissioners an amount of money sufficient not only to repay the advance but even the cost of administration. By this Bill there is suggested a different form of treatment for rural cottages than is given to holdings, allotments, urban housing and other public works. In a word, the State by taxes, the locality by rates and the labourer by rent are to provide the landowners at the end of 68½ years with a cottage that reverts to him on which from £200 to £300 has been spent and paid for equally almost by rent from the labourer, subsidies from the taxes, and exemption from rates. But at the end of 68½ years the house so built reverts to the private individual. That is no part of the Irish system. By the Irish system the cottage remains in public ownership. I did not think that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke in support of this Bill was as incisive and as convincing as many of the speeches which he has made in the last five years from the same place. He spoke about the tied cottage. The tied cottage, he admitted, was a great difficulty. So it is, but this Bill does not rectify it. On the contrary, this Bill accentuates the difficulty of the tied cottage, because there is some excuse for a man—I do not admit that he has justification—who builds a cottage and who lets it at a rent lower than the economic rent to a labourer, thereby implying that the man, being under an obligation to him, should reciprocate it either by deference or dependence.
Under this Bill, the cottage is to be subscribed for and subsidised out of Imperial taxes, with, in addition, exemption from local rates, and the labourer himself is thus going to contribute to the lengthening of the chain of local dependence. This Bill accentuates the tied-cottage difficulty, and does not relieve the situation at all. The hon. Member said that one of the great difficulties of the countryside was not the cottages owned by the territorial landlords, who in many cases build very good cottages indeed; the difficulty is with the dilapidated cottages owned by small owners. Does the hon. Member not see, if we passed this Bill, if we were to accede to its immoral doctrines and its unsound 770 finance, that it would be a perfect godsend to the owner of dilapidated cottages? He would be able to use the rack rent which he got from his cottages to put them in repair, and to use this Bill as the medium of getting hold of other cottages at other people's expense, thus carrying on a system of exploiting and rack renting. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] That is my view and that is the experience. Where is the evidence that this Bill is wanted? From what I have heard in the House to-day I see no evidence. I do not see the House on either side in "fine frenzy rolling" in favour of this Bill. There is no evidence that it is wanted. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead, with whom I have worked in another place for twenty-five years, gives as evidence in support of this Bill that seventeen rural district councils have asked for it. Seventeen out of 655 rural district councils is not a very large number. I can only say that when this particular Bill was before the Chamber of Agriculture on 1st April, this year, they did not embrace it with open arms, and they very sensibly remitted it to a committee to be examined and reported upon. Then we have heard a great deal about rural authorities. I am going to quote perhaps the only real authority on rural housing to which I trust the House can defer, namely, the Rural Housing Association.
§ Mr. BURNS
If it is to be described as one individual, what about the Noble Lord's own association? I shall quote that directly. As to the Rural Housing Association, I shall read, in connection with it, four names honoured in England's rural life. They are: Charles Thomas Dyke Acland, Dudley Buxton, C. Cochrane, and A. Churton. And this is what they say about the subject of State Grants:—The financial difficulty in the way of increasing the supply of country cottages arises in large measure from the inadequacy of the wages of the agricultural labourer, which in many districts do not admit of his paying an economic rent. The policy of the State Grant appears to the association to be merely tampering with the symptoms, whilst leaving the real cause untouched. State-aided housing will do nothing to raise the standard of wages to a true economic level; it will rather tend to lower them. The association would urge that the cash wages of the labourer ought to be sufficient to enable him to pay an economic rent, so as to render it unnecessary that the deficiency should be made up by the State.They go on and say:—A State subsidy for cottage building would tend to put a stop to building by unsubsidised agencies. At 771 present a certain amount of building—more than is generally known—is actually carried on in villages by private individuals, who are able to give personal attention and care to the detail which are essential for successful cottage building. Voluntary effort would probably be entirely checked by a State subsidy.Here I may add that I have official and very recent instances of seven or eight rural district, councils, because a subsidy is in the air and doles are in the mouths of public men, holding up their housing schemes on economic lines which they would have prosecuted at once except that they have hopes that this kind of thing will enable them to do their local work and to build at someone else's expense. The association continue:—On the other hand, the association is of opinion that the continuation of the present policy of the Local Government Board of promoting the building of cottages by rural district councils at economic rents would, if pursued, have the contrary tendency, namely, that of forcing up wages in those districts where they were too low to admit of such a rent being paid.That is the opinion of the best authority on local housing that I know. What is more I enjoy myself, not infrequently in going to different parts of the country to open different housing schemes. I will never forget what I saw in Yeovil, not an agricultural district, where something like 140 cottages have been very successfully built. The council did me the honour to ask me to open them. They are built at economic rents, good in design, practical in construction, and the artisans and labourers do not ask for anything else. Then I went from Yeovil to probably one of the most rural districts in the South of England, Montacute, where the rural district council have erected cottages costing from £135 to £150 and very good they were in design, the best I have seen of that character. There was one singular thing about both functions, both in the country town and the rural district, and that was that the labourers not only did not ask for charity rents but they were indignant at the suggestion that they should be asked to pay them. The next authority I am going to quote is the National Labour, Land and Home League for promoting the revival of country life, and the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) I think knows something about them. This is what they say:—The National Land and Home League is of opinion that the enactment of a legal minimum wage by means of wage boards is the most urgent of rural reforms, and will be the most effective means of facilitating the improvement of rural housing." I think those two authorities are sufficient for me.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
The National Land and Home League wrote and sent me a resolution in support of my Bill of last year, absolutely unsolicited by myself.
§ Mr. BURNS
I am quoting them when they were clothed and in their right minds. I want to know who is for this Bill. I followed with great interest the contributions in the columns of the "Times" by a number of large landlords and four or five neighbourly dukes, who at last have entered into this particular subject. I read with interest the other day the excellent pamphlet of the Duke of Marlborough. I think that he deserves great credit for having written it, and that he is putting Blenheim Park to a better use than it has hitherto been put. This is all the Duke of Marlborough asks for—plans for standardised cottages, which we have provided, and easier by-laws, which we gave a considerable time ago. He asks for cheap loans, not in the sense that he wants other people to pay for the money, but loans at the cheapest rate consistent with the market and the Treasury's ability to raise the money. He wants loans on terms similar to those which the Public Works Loans Commissioners can now give under the Housing Acts. What have they done? Extraordinary progress is being made now that the Housing Acts are becoming known. In 1911–12 the Public Works Loans Commissioners granted £338,000 for housing. In 1912–13, the £338,000 had risen to £877,000. More than half that sum was lent to public utility societies, and £404,000 was lent to local authorities, urban and rural, for the building of houses and cottages. I am more tolerant and mellow than the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Jowett); I am not so doctrinaire. I do not care who builds the houses so long as they are provided at economic rents for free and independent labourers to live in. I oppose this Bill because quite 97 per cent. of the building of houses and cottages in this country is done by private enterprise, and if that private enterprise is arrested—and the expectation of a subsidy will do that quicker than anything else—instead of assisting the 773 provision of houses and cottages you will do infinite harm. On the administrative side this Bill does not harmonise with or enter into the existing Housing Acts. It is independent of them, and on the practical side that would be against it.
I come now to the scheme of the Bill. It asks for £200,000 a year at privileged rates of interest. That will build only 1,000 cottages. What is 1,000 cottages per annum as a contribution to what we all agree is a serious problem and one that is being increasingly dealt with? As a contribution to the housing problem there is really nothing in it. In the form in which it is offered it will prevent more than 1,000 cottages from being undertaken, and in that sense will do more harm than good. The next point is the finance. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury) is a financial expert and authority. Thank God, I am not. But I am willing to admit that the hon. Baronet's trenchant analysis of its finance indicates the unsound character of the Bill from every point of view. Therefore, I say that financially the Bill is unsound in every particular, as has been described on both sides of the House. I put it to the House of Commons what right has anybody to be exempted from local rates? What right has the postman, the policeman, the railwayman, or the gamekeeper, living in one of these privileged cottages, the owner's property at the end of sixty-eight years—what right have these men in regular work, at comparatively high wages compared with many town dwellers, to be sponging upon the charwoman of Lambeth or the dock labourer of Bermondsey, whose average earnings are not higher than the average earnings and wages of the men in some of the lowest paid agricultural districts? I see these people every day. They are a very worthy body of people. Forty per cent. of our pauperism is due to widowhood and orphanhood. Many of these widows clean out our public offices. What right have these women, making a really noble struggle to keep their homes and families together, and their children in a decent condition—to have, through a contribution from the Imperial taxes, their total earning power limited—by a contribution to the Duke of Marlborough, or any other landlord who would be mean enough—as the Duke of Marlborough would not be—to take it by virtue of the vicious principle of this Bill?
When you start exemption of the people from local rates, you can rely upon it that 774 appetite will grow with what it feeds upon. You will find that interest after interest will ask for a similar exemption. The result will be that it will lead to a condition of things which we ought not to encourage. It is said: "Oh, but what is wanted is done in Ireland." This particular thing is not done in Ireland. We have, and very properly, to look at the two countries from a different point of view. The only argument in favour of this Bill is that what is proposed in it is done in Ireland. The promoters ask that the system of building cottages in Ireland shall be extended to England. As I said before, the cottages in Ireland do not belong to private owners. They belong to the rural district council. That is the vital difference. The conditions in Ireland are altogether different from the conditions in England. What these cottage houses built under the Irish Labourers Act set out to relieve was a condition of things unknown in England and Wales. You had people living in mud huts, hovels, amongst dirt, subject to disease, living under most degrading and demoralising conditions. You had an awful condition of affairs that required a drastic, even an heroic remedy. You had the people there earning, when at work, an average of half the wages of agricultural labour in the Midlands, and less than half of that in Cumberland and Durham, or agricultural labour in the Lothians, with its 22s. and 24s. per week. You had in Ireland, as a result of political injustice, an economic dependence, bad housing, and a condition of things that has not for centuries been equalled in any other part of Europe. You had two or three times the amount of consumption in Ireland that you had amongst a similar population in this country, and the result was this exceptional and drastic remedy. You must take the Irish system with its advantages and its disadvantages, and here is a remarkable fact that, since subsidised cottages have been built in Ireland, no other cottages have been erected. I can conceive no greater condemnation of this system being adopted in this country.
I turn now to the question of Commissioners. I will not labour that point. I am opposed to Commissioners, and I am against all these ad hoc authorities that undercut the authority of Parliament. They are resented strongly by the local authorities, and so long as I am President of the Local Government Board I will never have a Commissioner with me. I 775 would have inspectors answerable to Ministers, who are responsible to Parliament instead of Commissioners gadding about on their own initiative, free from criticism and all responsibility. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I note the general approval of that, and I hope hon. Members will show it in the Division Lobby if there is to be a Division. Who are the three Commissioners to be who are to supersede our inspectors and doctors and local authorities and undertake the work? A doctor a builder, and an agriculturist! And they are personally to investigate 655 rural areas where we now have the local authorities doing their work reasonably well, not under the education of experts who very often are faddists, but the local housing associations who try to persuade, educate and convert local authorities to their particular view. The local authorities are unanimously of opinion that these Commissioners are not wanted, and would be useless. It will be asked: Is there not reason for something more being done than now. Yes! but you do not make out a good case for a bad Bill by creating a wrong impression of what is being done. We have the right, as we have been challenged upon rural housing, to give the House a figure or two as to what is being done. Before the Housing and Town Planning Act was passed, there were hardly any loans sanctioned in the previous twenty years to rural district authorities for housing. In 1910 £525 only was sanctioned. After the Rural Housing Act, 1912, £67,000 was sanctioned, and in the first three months of 1913 I sanctioned or received applications for £120,000 for rural housing loans, and that was done, not on artificial rates of interest, not on privileged terms of subsidies, not on charity rents, but on economic lines on which the local authorities are willing to build and the workers are willing to pay. I will give one or two instances. Only yesterday the Boston Rural District Council, a severely rural area, out of twenty-three parishes, have decided to, or are proposing to build in twenty-one. Another rural council has asked this week for a loan to build in ten out of thirteen parishes. On every side, if this Bill does not pass, and if people are not buoyed up with the false hope that they are going to get assistance which the Treasury will never yield to them, there are indications that at last the rural 776 authorities are determined to compete with the urban authorities in providing good housing for the agricultural labourer. I am very glad to say that in the mining districts where the men can afford an economic rent, at this moment twenty-five mining districts have building schemes for workmen's houses, and there is every sign that without a dole or subsidy or bad finance housing in rural areas will be stimulated and accelerated if you only allow existing agencies to do their work. One hon. Member spoke about dilapidated cottages being allowed to exist in certain cases because if they were pulled down the labourers had nowhere else to go.
§ Mr. BURNS
To show that that is not so to the extent hon. Members allege let me point out that in three years 77,000 representations of unlit houses were made, and in 1912 alone 47,000 houses of the kind the hon. Member referred to were made fit for human habitation by landlords and owners without any cost to the rates or taxes under the Act and in accordance with the existing law. I say that with our housing staff increased, with their greater practical knowledge and supplying local authorities and owners with plans, with the by-laws relaxed, with separate reports on housing, with town planning admittedly doing exceedingly well, with the Local Government Board of its own volition making its regulations adaptable to modern needs, with more inspectors and more experience, we say we ought to be allowed to continue that work and not have it depressed by Bills like this, that will depress it if the local authorities think they are going to get a dole. The hon. Baronet knows—and that is where the hon. Baronet knows he has the Local Government Board in a cleft stick—there is no complete census of houses and cottages built by private enterprise. You know how many the local authorities build, but you do not know how many are built by private enterprise, hence the 777 nebulosity of the Return. I am only dealing with public enterprise, because you cannot get the number built by private enterprise. I asked the rural district councils to provide me with some evidence of what building was being carried out by private enterprise in the districts under their control. There are 655 rural authorities. In a census taken by the Rural District Councils Association of houses and cottages in exclusively rural areas I am glad to say that they reported to me that out of 655 districts 206 have rural cottages that have been built which were not in existence three years ago. If the hon. Baronet will look at the Inland Revenue Return he will find that there were 130,000 more houses of £15 annual value and under in 1911 than in 1909; and I may add that in fourteen months loans for over £700,000 have been applied for to build 3,000 cottages, rural and urban, in the mining districts. This is an answer to the melancholy, dismal suggestion which emanates from some hon. Members on the opposite side of the House that nothing is being done to deal with this problem. It is for the House to judge whether it is enough or not. I am not content with the rate of progress, and everything I can do to increase and accelerate it I am doing. This Bill, I say, wants an operative financial Resolution. It must be moved by a Minister on the authority of the Treasury in the House or upstairs in Committee, and, if this Bill passes to-day and goes up to a Committee, that Resolution will not be moved for the reason I have advanced. We believe that the Bill would do more harm to housing than good. It would institute a bad precedent; it would invoke the aid of the taxes; it would secure exemption from the rates; and it would divert the Development Fund to a purpose it was never intended to serve. It is, in a word, a tax and rate subsidy for landowners and farmers, and would probably depress the wages of their people, and have the very opposite effect from that which all of us would like to see produced in our rural life. For these and other reasons, I say that if the Bill goes to a Division, though it is for the House to decide what it will do, I shall vote against it. It will arrest, housing, and it will apply to England and Wales a system to meet conditions which do not exist here but which exist in Ireland, where perhaps different treatment is wanted. If we want to make our rural countryside better than it is, it is 778 by wages, wages, wages alone that it can be done. It is because I have spent my life to the best of my ability in raising wages as the best means of improving the economic position of the workman that I am against this Bill lock, stock, and barrel; because, instead of helping the labourer, it would still further depress his too low economic position.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I much regret that it is quite impossible in the five minutes left to answer the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but let me deal with one or two expressions which he used, because I take it they indicate the view of the Local Government Board as regards the necessity for houses in our rural districts. I think the attitude of the Board is nothing more than lamentable if we are really to make any reform in that which is admitted to be a great danger and difficulty at the present time. He first of all denounced any use of Government credit in order to deal with this difficulty. I say that is monstrous.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
That just shows how the President of the Local Government Board has a prejudiced mind, and how from an official point of view he has entirely misunderstood the whole purport of every Clause of this Bill. I wish I had time to deal with the gross misstatements made by the President of the Local Government Board, or rather his most grave misapprehension of the objects of the Bill. Let me refer to one or two of his expressions. He spoke of subsidised rents. Why, the only reason that rents are fixed as they are in this Bill is that they should be as low as possible on the one hand as regards the agricultural labourer, and on the other that there shall be no advantage given to the landowner who under the terms of the measure would obtain credit by means of a Government loan. The very object of this Bill is not to give subsidised rents in the sense suggested apparently by the right hon. Gentleman, but to make certain that what is called the privileged classes shall not get a farthing in any way if the Bill is passed.
Let me take a more gross expression made use of by the right hon. Gentleman. 779 He said these are "charity rents." What does he mean by that expression? Is it because you build cottages cheaper if you obtain money on loan on easy terms? If you had an agricultural bank in this country supported by the Government, and by means of it you got a loan on easy terms to enable you to build cottages to let at cheap rents, would you call them "charity rents?" Surely the right hon. Gentleman used a term utterly out of accord with every principle in this Bill. Let me use the right hon. Gentleman's own expression: "This is a Bill to build cheap cottages by means of Government credit." How does he express it? He says it is "outdoor relief to the wrong persons in bricks and mortar." That is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to a proposition to build cheap cottages by means of money
§ obtained on low terms. If you really want to give relief to the working classes of this country, there is no better way of doing it than by supplying good sanitary houses on the most economical terms possible. That is the underlying proposal of this Bill, and if such a proposition is to be called outdoor relief, then I say no statement could be more detrimental to the solution of one of the greatest economic problems we have in this country. I regret I have no time to deal further with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 91; Noes, 92.781
|Division No. 25.]||AYES.||[5.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Munro, R.|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Fell, Arthur||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Baird, J. L.||Gilmour, Captain John||Nield, Herbert|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Goldman, C. S.||O'Grady, James|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Barran, Sir J. (Hawick Burghs)||Grant, J. A.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Gulland, John William||Radford, G. H.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hardie, J. Keir||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Sutton, John E.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hudson, Walter||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, N.)|
|Campion, W. R.||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cassel, Felix||Hunt, Rowland||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Illingworth, Percy H.||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Jowett, Frederick William||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Crooks, William||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Younger, Sir George|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. Sir C. Scott||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Stanier.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Mount, William Arthur|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Crumley, Patrick||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Delany, William||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Doris, W.||Hazleton, Richard|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Duffy, William J.||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Bryce, John Annan||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Hughes, S. L.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Farrell, James Patrick||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Ffrench, Peter||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Joyce, Michael|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hackett, John||Keating, Matthew|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Kelly, Edward|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Mooney, J. J.||Rowlands, James|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Schwann, Rt. Hon. C. E.|
|King, J.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Sheehy, David|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Doherty, Philip||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Leach, Charles||O'Donnell, Thomas||Wardle, George J.|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||O'Malley, William||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||O'Shee, James John||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Lynch, A. A.||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Parry, Thomas H.||Wing, Thomas|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pirie, Duncan V.||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Manfield, Harry||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Marks, Sir George (Croydon)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Reddy, M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Raffan and Mr. Pringle.|
|Millar, James Duncan||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Molloy, Michael||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
§ It being after Five of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.