§ 41 and 42. Mr. LANE-FOX
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture (1) whether, since local authorities who are carrying out building schemes in rural districts to replace condemned cottages are not to be assisted under the Government Housing Bill, the building proposed under the Bill will be limited to the area of those authorities who have not put forward any such schemes, how the Government propose to avoid thus subsidising the less active authorities and penalising the-more active; and (2) on what principle it is proposed to select the rural areas in which building is to be carried out under the proposed Housing Bill; and whether the Government will give a preference to areas in which the local authority has made genuine efforts to use its powers under the Housing and Town Planning Act?
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Runciman)
The number of local authorities carrying out building schemes in agricultural districts is extremely small. In selecting the agricultural districts in which cottages are to be built under the provisions of the Housing Bill, the Board will have regard to the urgency of the demand and to the practicability of obtaining land at a reasonable price. I am prepared to consider any representations which may be made to me on behalf of local authorities, but the Board cannot bind itself to refrain from exercising its powers in any particular 1907 district merely on the ground that the local authority has or has not taken action under the Housing and Town Planning Act.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman how "agricultural districts" are to be denned for this purpose?
Will the Government be prepared to commence building in those districts where the landowners are prepared to give land to the Government?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Yes, Sir. One of the reasons for the Bill is that we had no legal powers—so we were advised—to take over land offered us on those conditions. I hope that we shall now be able to take advantage of them.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that "agricultural districts" are not denned in the Bill?
§ 43. Mr. LANE-FOX
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture if he will state on what principle the societies for building cottages will be selected under the Government Housing Bill; and when he will be able to announce to the House the names of such societies?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The Board will be prepared to consider an application made by or on behalf of any society which conforms with the definition in Clause 4 of the Bill. Several societies of the kind, which the Government have in view, have already been successfully promoted by the Rural Housing Organisation Society, and with the increased financial assistance which will be possible under the provisions of the Bill, I hope that many more will soon come into being. After the Bill has been passed into law I shall be prepared to announce to the House from time to time the names of any societies which have been approved.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The experience in England is that the local authorities have done very little in the agricultural districts, but, having embarked on this scheme, proposals brought forward for 1908 agricultural or other districts will be considered on their merits.
§ 50. Mr. C. BATHURST
asked the Prime Minister whether the Government propose to carry their Housing Bill into law this Session if it is treated as a non-contentious measure?
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if, as is likely to be the case, this Bill proves to be contentious, seeing that it gives arbitrary power of selection and discrimination involving the possibility of corruption, the Government will still proceed with it?
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Am I to understand that the Government will not be prepared to take time to carry this Bill if it proves to be contentious?