§ Considered in Committee.
§ (Sir E. CORNWALL in the Chair).
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Dr. Addison)
I beg to move,That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the enactments relating to the housing of the working classes, town planning, and the acquisition of small dwellings, it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of expenses incurred by any Government Department:In moving this Resolution for the provision of the necessary expenses to enable us to deal with this Bill, I may say that the Resolution has been drawn to cover the Bill, and also, as far as possible, to cover what we believe will be found necessary to enable us to carry out its provisions, after it has passed the Committee stage; because it is quite clear that after the discussion in Committee there may be other provisions which would call for expenses. We have drawn the Resolution in order to cover all these matters. One of these is the part with regard to public utility societies to enable us to carry that out in providing the houses. There will also be uncertainty in view of the cost of building of the present time and in view of the fact that it is not possible to say how many houses would be built in the course of the present year and what the actual cost will be. I have been asked to mention an amount. I can only give a conjectural amount and I am sure the House will not expect me to go any further at the present moment. Our policy, of course, is that local authorities, where they can borrow for themselves, should do so and pay the market rate of interest. A big Exchequer subsidy in regard to the granting of loans at ths market rate of interest is not called for in these circumstances. As to giving: a figure, we will say that 100,000 houses are erected during the current financial year, 200,000 houses during the next financial year, and 200,000 during the following 2665 financial year—say, 500,000 houses altogether. It is difficult, when the Estimates are coming on, to say what they are likely to cost. Supposing we say, however, that they will cost £500 or £600 each. If we allow for those authorities who can borrow for themselves, the capital expenditure involved, which the Treasury might have to assist in raising, would probably be £125,000,000 in respect of those authorities who could not borrow for themselves. It would be £150,000,000 if the cost of the houses was £600 each. The loss that would ultimately fall upon the Exchequer would depend upon the amount which will be derived from the rates. I think it was quite agreed on the Second Reading that it would be very bad policy to embark on any scheme which would subsidise low wages by providing houses at less than an adequate or proper rent; although it is quite clear that you cannot in present circumstances expect that you will get an economic rent, that is to say, a rent commensurate with the cost of production of the houses that are now built. As another item, there is the produce of a penny rate. It will be remembered that the contribution will not be made until the produce of a penny rate is exhausted.
- (a) When acting in the place of local authorities or county councils in preparing and carrying out schemes under such Act;
- (b) In recouping losses incurred by local authorities and county councils; and
- (c) In contributing to costs incurred by public utility societies and housing trusts and other persons."
As to what rent should be charged for these houses that must clearly vary a good deal with the localities. You will have to compare them with houses of a like character in the neighbourhood. We must also remember that they will probably be a good deal better than the houses with similar accommodation in the neighbourhood. I think we ought to aim at the end of the seven year period at having got these houses on to a proper basis of a commercial rent in respect of the cost of building at that time. We may say that the cost of building in 1927, which is the end of the seven year period, represents two-thirds of the actual cost of building as it may be during the next year or two. That would mean that we should aim generally at the end of that time to be receiving rents which would be equivalent to an economic rent on at least two-thirds of the present cost. We propose to issue in the near future to local authorities, for their general guidance in respect both of rents and procedure of accounts, a general instruction which will indicate that in our view they ought to aim by 1927 at getting a rent equivalent to a commercial rent on at least two-thirds of the present cost, that is to say, if a 2666 house now costs £600 to build we should, by 1927, by way of rent, receive the rent of a house which cost £400. That is quite an arbitrary figure, but it is something general to go upon. Certain allowances will have to be made for expenses. The cost of management ought not to be more than 5 per cent., and the cost of repairs during the whole period should not be more than 10 per cent. Clearly in the earlier years the cost of repairs would be trivial, but during the whole currency of the loan I am advised that they would amount at least to that. If we allow an estimate on that general basis, it is probable that you may anticipate, at all events in the seven-year period, a contribution, perhaps, of 5s. a week per house. The figure of 5s. depends upon the number of houses that are provided. I hope that this scheme during the period I have mentioned will at least provide 500,000 houses.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Yes, about that. Anyhow, taking that as a round figure of the schemes which will be authorised, if you take it at 500,000 houses, a loss of 5s. a week would ultimately mean an annual contribution of £6,500,000 in aid of this housing scheme. That is what the loss would amount to at 5s. a week. Hon. Members can easily reckon for themselves how the rate of loss is estimated when I say that 1s. a week on 500,000 houses represents £1,300,000 a year.
§ Dr. ADDISON
No, it is inclusive. Allowing for what comes in from the 1d. rate and from other sources of income, such as rent, and so on, we shall have to face a loss of 5s. per week per house. We all know how conjectural the figure is. It depends upon the cost of building during the next two years. I am doing my best to meet the wish of the Committee that I should give some kind of estimate. If you estimate the loss at 5s. per week per house all round—it may be more in some places and a good deal less in others—that would mean an annual contribution for 2667 500,000 houses of £6,500,000. That will be the extent of the State contribution. If we get 500,000 houses during this time we shall at all events have made a great contribution towards an urgent national necessity. I believe myself that if that 500,000 houses involves us in a loss or a contribution of £6,500,000 a year or even more it will be worth while making such a contribution towards a great national necessity, and it will be a very good investment.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I do not know whether the Committee realises that this is a very important stage of the Bill, as important as the discussion which took weeks on such a scheme as the old age pensions. It involves not only the well-being of a far larger number of persons, but a very much greater contribution from the National Exchequer.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I ought to have said we estimate that the loss falling upon this year will not exceed probably £500,000.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
It is the first step that counts. This is the real beginning of the whole thing. Of course, in the Second Reading Debate a very large number of platform speeches were delivered by all of us—I am including myself in that—without any sort of real grip of the details of the Bill. It is a big Bill, and difficult to grasp. But now we know a great deal more about it, and we come down to real business. We know not only what it is going to cost, but the kind of machinery which my right hon. Friend has laid before us. I have just got this Resolution out of the old familiar drawer in the old familiar table we know so well. I know the ropes quite well. The Resolution is in a drawer, and I know how to go and get it, but I do not think there are more than five or six Members present who knew where it was or how to get it. I thought it was part of the new Rules that this should be printed. I should like to ask you, Sir, whether it is not at all possible for the Committee to have these Resolutions printed on the Order Paper, or at any rate available in the Vote Office?
It is entirely within the power of the Government, if they so please, to give notice of a Resolution to be moved, but there is nothing in the Standing Orders to make it compulsory.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I anticipated my right hon. Friend's wishes and did everything I 2668 could to meet them. The terms of the Motion were finally settled on Friday evening. I did everything I could to get it printed and circulated, but I was too late. I am exceedingly sorry I was too late.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I will put a question to the Leader of the House to-morrow. It is very important that these things should come before the Whole House which should have full knowledge of what it is in for. We are starting here an expenditure which will work out annually at about £6,500,000. I hope the thing is going to be run on such lines that it will be more. This is real reproductive expenditure if it is done on business lines. Now I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether in this Resolution, so as to make a start on strictly business lines, he will not introduce, in quite round, generous figures, a sum which will cover the first year's expenditure. I will move an Amendment at a later stage with that point of view. In the money Clause in the Bill the specific sum of £20,000,000 is mentioned. It ought not to be any more difficult in a measure of this kind to put in a sum for the first year with some particularity providing for quite a safe margin. Our power of control is fast slipping away, and the bigger the sum the less notice we seem to take of it. We lose all sense of values when we talk in millions, and that is pretty general throughout the country. They have not the faintest idea what money values are. Let us make a start to-night. I suggest that as a matter which my right hon. Friend might consider for the moment, and I will direct his attention to it at a later stage.
§ Colonel GRETTON
The Government to-night has certainly made a very great improvement in its method of procedure on Money Resolutions, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the course which he has taken in endeavouring to form some estimate of the expenditure proposed to be authorised by the Resolution. The Committee on financial expenditure made the specific recommendation on this point, that these Money Resolutions should be accompanied by an Estimate, or in cases where an Estimate cannot possibly be given a printed document should be submitted to the Committee giving reasons why an Estimate cannot be presented. If that has not been done the right hon. Gentleman has, at 2669 any rate, done the next best thing. He has endeavoured to explain the limits of the expenditure. We are grateful for what he has done, but all we really have ascertained is that the sums involved are very large. Perhaps that is inevitable owing to the nature of the Bill, which is of an experimental character, and is based on not very sure or well-ascertained foundations. The House passed the Bill with full knowledge of that fact. So far the right hon. Gentleman has justified the course which he has taken. I should like to take the matter one step farther. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) has alluded to a very old practice of placing Money Resolutions in a drawer of the Table of the House. I have ascertained by long years of groping and failure what is the right course to pursue on these occasions, and I obtained knowledge of what the Resolution contained before it came before the House.
Surely there is no reason why the House should not be informed as to what is contained in the Resolution to be submitted. Everyone should know what it is they are being asked to assent to. I should like to reinforce the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) and to urge upon the Government that all these Money Resolutions should be printed on the Order Paper. In regard to the Estimate, that part which refers to the preparing of schemes is not a very vital matter from the financial point of view, but the subsidising of local authorities and the equally necessary subsidising of building societies is a plunge in the dark. All we can do now, having assented to the Second Reading of the Bill, is to urge upon the Government that they should put down in the form of a White Paper the calculations which they make, and the basis upon which their schemes start, and put a limit upon the figures which they anticipate asking the House to authorise during the next few years. I think that is a reasonable request to make. We have made some progress in that the Government have endeavoured to give us some information, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon it. I wish he had been able to give us something much more accurate which would satisfy a business assembly.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The difficlty in speaking on this kind of Resolution always lies in a suspicion that we are 2670 wanting to obstruct, because it is very difficult to keep in order on a Resolution of this kind. I can only personally assure my right hon. Friend that nobody is more anxious than I am that he should be helped by every Member, to whatever party he belongs, in gettting this Bill through as quickly as possible. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean), and I cannot understand why the Government have not put the Resolution on the Paper. The President of the Local Government Board mentioned Friday, but, after all, this was an Order of the Day on Thursday, and it was to have been discussed on Thursday, but owing to various reasons the Debate was postponed until Friday. On Friday it was an Order of the Day, but if the Resolution was not ready on Friday night how could this House be expected to discuss it on Thursday evening? I think it is most undesirable that a Resolution of this vast importance should simply appear on the Paper as "Housing, Town Planning, etc. [Expenses]. Committee thereupon," and that the House should know nothing about the Resolution until it appears on the Paper after the Committee stage and we are on the Report stage. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that for the Report stage he will put the Resolution on the Paper so that Members may see what they are going to debate upon.
We are in ignorance as to what the Government is going to do under this Financial Resolution. The only information that Members can possibly get is by going to the Local Government Board and asking for the Circular that has been issued by the Local Government Board. The Government has not issued a Parliamentary Paper in regard to loans and subsidies to local authorities, but they have issued a Parliamentary Paper in regard to the financial assistance which is to be given to public utility societies. So far as Parliament is concerned, we are entirely ignorant in regard to the financial provisions as to the subsidies to local authorities under this Resolution. We cannot discuss this properly until we see the Resolution on the Order Paper. I have various Amendments which I want to move, one I think on paragraph (b) and another, I think, on paragraph (c), but not having seen the Resolution, it is impossible to move these Amendments. Therefore, I think the only course to take is to wait until the Report stage, and then to move my Amendments when I see the Resolution on the Paper.
2671 10.0 P.M.
In the Parliamentary Paper and in the Circular which has been issued by the Local Government Board to the local authorities, the Government has made various promises to the local authorities and the public utility societies. They made various financial promises before they had Parliamentary sanction for carrying them out. I am sure that is utterly unconstitutional. It is not fair to the local authorities and it is not fair to the public utility societies to make financial promises to them without getting permission from this House. Surely the Government, before making these promises ought to get the sanction of Parliament and to know exactly what they are going to be entitled to do. That is all I will say for the present, but on the Report stage I shall ask to move Amendments.
§ Mr. N. CHAMBERLAIN
I want to raise one or two points arising out of what has been said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Locker-Lampson). He has called attention to the fact that the financial proposals of the Government in the present Bill are embodied in two Papers, one the circular issued to the local authorities on the 6th of February last and the other as a Parliamentary Paper No. 89, which refers to the assistance to be given to the public utility societies. In the circular issued to the local authorities, the President of the Local Government Board said, "Parliamentary sanction to these proposals will be obtained at the earliest possible moment." Having that in my mind, when I saw the Bill I looked to find in it the proposals which were embodied in that Paper, and I was very much astonished to find that no such proposals found any place in the Housing Bill. We were told in the Bill that the financial proposals will be subject to Regulations to be issued hereafter. I am a new Member, not familiar with the procedure of this House, and perhaps that procedure may be usual, but at any rate it is giving a good deal of concern and anxiety to the local authorities and public utility societies, who do not know from this procedure whether to suppose that the Government have gone back upon the promises made in these Papers. I hope the President will be able to give us and the country an assurance that the Government have not in any way departed from the promises made to the local authority and the public utility societies.
2672 One word as to the estimate of the possible cost to the State. In my opinion you very much under-estimate what it is likely to be. I do not know whether the Committee realise how very small a part the 1d. rate, which is to be raised by the local authorities, is going to play in the total cost of building houses, which are going to be let at uneconomic rents. Let me take an example from the town I know best, Birmingham. The type of house which was most popular before the War, known locallly as "three up and three down," let at 6s. 6d. per week. I made careful inquiries as to what this house might be expected to cost after the War. Estimates vary very much, indeed, but the economic rent for such a house may be anything from 14s. to 25s. a week. Looking at the figures given to me, 14s. seems to me to be under the mark. The loss, of course, is the difference between the rent which is going to be charged for these houses and the economic rent. I was very much delighted to hear what my right hon. Friend said on that subject, which showed that he had considered this question, and was going to give a definite lead to the local authority as to the rents which they were to charge. I hope that he will do so soon because local authorities are already announcing the rents they are going to charge before they have got a brick on the ground or the slightest idea of what the houses are going to cost. I am afraid, therefore, that public announcements, if they are to be changed afterwards by the action of the Local Government Board, may give rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction among the prospective tenants. If you increase, say, by 2s. 6d. the rents charged in Birmingham before the War, that will bring the rent for these houses up to 9s., and you are going to have a loss, therefore, of something like £20 per house per year, so that the local rate in Birmingham would be exhausted before you had built 1,000 houses, and, seeing that we want 50,000 new houses in Birmingham, and the local estimate is that in a very short time they will be able to build at the rate of 5,000 houses a year, the Committee will see that the contribution of the local authorities will be simply trifling as compared with what would be exacted from the State. For that reason alone I think that the £6,500,000 is below the mark.
Then I come to the public utility societies. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend includes any estimates for houses to be built by these societies or 2673 only calculates for those to be provided by local authorities. I may remind him that a very definite pledge was given on more than one occasion that the public utility societies should receive terms no less favourable than the local authorities. It may be said that it is extremely difficult to compare the terms given to the public utility societies with those given to the local authorities, because in the latter case there is a rate of a penny and there is nothing comparable with that in the case of the public utility societies. But the proposals of the Government are practically equivalent to a present of 30 per cent. to the public utility socities upon the cost of these houses. Incidentally, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman would say whether the capital sum, which is to be taken into account in the case of public utility societies, will include the cost of anything which is not strictly a dwelling-house upon the land, public buildings, open spaces, and other amenities in connection with villages put up by public utility societies. It is not clear from the language of the Parliamentary Paper whether the cost of these amenities will be included in the amount which the Government is going to advance. Public utility societies will naturally want to charge an economic rent after taking into account this subsidy of 30 per cent. But their rents must be governed by the rents charged by the local authorities in the same neighbourhood. If the local authorities can, by reason of the terms extended to them, charge a lower rent than the public utility societies, then you cannot say that the terms given to the public utility societies are not less favourable than those given to the local authorities. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear that in mind, and I will be grateful to him if he will answer the points which I have put.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
This is a matter on which obviously there is no difference of opinion in the Committee, but at the same time it is one of those matters in which, perhaps, it is not undesirable or irrelevant that unanimity of view should be expressed by a number of Members with varied experiences of the different aspects of the question. I desire to associate myself entirely with what has just been said by my hon. Friend. To a very large extent what he has been saying, with his great experience of a large city, is also felt by those of us whose experience has been more in rural or small urban areas. 2674 I for one accept to the full all that my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board has said as to his great regret that this Resolution was not on the Paper. The fact that that has been said from all sides of the House may we hope be an effective reason for this not occurring again. In the next place, when we are dealing with sums of money so large as those which my right hon. Friend has mentioned, which may well turn out, as my hon. Friend has said, to be much larger than the Government state now, it is surely of the greatest importance that the House and the Committee should be taken into confidence at the earliest moment, and that, as far as possible, this money should be put into the Statute as far as can reasonably be done. We all realise that it is necessary for my right hon. Friend in a matter of this, kind to have intimate and it may be prolonged negotiations with local authorities of all kinds and public utility societies. But it is very desirable that no definite pledges and promises should be given either to local authorities or public utility societies until the consent of this House is practically ascertained.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will realise that the unanimity of feeling in the Committee on behalf of his policy is such that there is no risk of delay, and the more he takes the House into his confidence the better. As to the Clause in the Bill which says that these forms of financial assistance are to be given to the extent to be laid down by regulations, my experience of this House is that the House looks with the greatest regret upon matters being left to regulations which could possibly be put in a Bill. Here we are dealing with expenditure of very large sums of money on a matter of universal interest in which people feel themselves more concerned than in any other matter of domestic politics or administration. Therefore it is of the greatest importance that the regulations should be known to Parliament before Parliament parts with the Bill. I would ask my right hon. Friend to give a definite pledge, before this House loses control of this Bill, that the amounts and rates of assistance to be given from the Exchequer should be set out in the Bill or that regulations setting them out should be submitted to and approved of by Parliament before it is too late. I quite admit there must be some elasticity 2675 in regulations as to that small part of the Bill dealing with the proposals by county councils for housing their employés. That is not easy to define in a sentence, as the number of those employés is increasing every year, and the duty and burden on the authorities concerned increases correspondingly. I wish to join with the request made from all parts of the House that the omission to put this Resolution on the Paper should be the last time such an omission occurs, and that the amount of expenditure should be budgeted for as the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) suggested, and that what is now proposed to be done by regulation should be put in the body of the Bill, and that there should be as short an interval as possible, and if possible no interval at all, between making a definite promise to local authorities and getting the sanction of the House of Commons for all that is involved in those promises.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I do not want to take any steps to hinder the consideration of the various stages of this important Bill, but at the same time I am bound to protest as strongly as I can against the manner in which this Resolution has been brought before us. I do not think an important Resolution of this kind should be considered in Committee of the House until it has appeared upon the Order Paper of the day, and Members have had the opportunity of putting down such Amendments as they may think necessary. I may be in a more fortunate position than most Members, as I have had an opportunity of seeing the terms of the Resolution for a few moments, but if I had not been in the fortunate position of being by those who knew about the place where Resolutions of this kind are kept—
§ Mr. ADAMSON
It is here at the Table. Were it not for that I would have been in exactly the same position as other hon. Members and would not have known the exact terms of the Resolution. Like the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) there is one part of the Resolution with which I and those associated with me on these benches strongly disagree, and I would certainly have put Amendments down had we known about the Resolution being taken to-night. I 2676 refer to paragraph (c) where provision is made as to contributions to public utility societies and to housing trusts and to other persons. We do not think when money that is being contributed by the State in the way in which money is to be contributed under the terms of this Bill that any part of the contributions should be given to public utility societies and housing trusts. As to what the last sentence in paragraph (c) means I do not know very well. Not only are contributions to be given to public utility societies and housing trusts, but also to "other persons." I would like the right hon. Gentleman when he replies to tell us what is meant by those concluding words, referring to "other persons." I suspect it will be to cover contributions made to industrial councils which may undertake housing schemes, or it may be to private individuals who may undertake schemes, but up to the present, as far as I know, we have had no explanation. We should, certainly, if we had had the opportunity, have put down Amendments dealing with paragraph (c), and, like the hon. Member for Wood Green, we will take the opportunity of dealing with them on the Report stage. At the same time, I am bound to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to the fact that under the new Rules of Procedure, we will not have the same opportunities on the Report stage as we would have had in the Committee stage, and, consequently, it was all the more necessary that the Members should be treated with the courtesy and consideration that are due in connection with such an important measure as this. I am, therefore, bound to protest as strongly as I can against the treatment that has been meted out to us on this occasion.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken objected to any assistance being given under this Bill to the public utility societies, housing trusts, and so forth, because that objection, I must remind him, was not voiced by any member of his party on the Second Reading of the Bill, so far as my recollection goes. I believe it will be found in Committee, and indeed I will venture to prophesy, that the right hon. Member and his party will be unanimously of opinion that this is a wise provision, to bring in public utility societies, housing trusts like the Peabody Trust, and so on, if we are going to augment the number of houses. 2677 I did my best to anticipate the right hon. Gentleman and others who have complained that the Resolution was not printed in full on the Order Paper, but it was not, I must confess, till Friday afternoon that I knew it was coming on today. We tried to get the copy through on Friday night, and I am sorry that for one reason or another it was not able to be printed in time. It was no fault of mine. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the annual contribution will, of course, be voted annually by the House, and will therefore appear annually on the Votes. There is a figure on the Local Government Board Vote—I do not think myself it is a big enough figure, and I hope it is not big enough, because it will mean that we shall have more houses—of £400,000 in respect of contributions towards loss in the current financial year. In response to many other requests, I will undertake to lay a White Paper, before the Committee stage, setting out as well as we can—but it must be understood that we can but do our best —what the contributions will involve, and we will print with it the circular to the local authorities, to which I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. N. Chamberlain) for calling my attention. It is the first time I knew it had not been circulated to the House. We will see that that omission is corrected, and we will give in the White Paper the proposed Rules and Regulations relating to accounts and so forth which it is proposed to issue to local authorities. I will try and get them out before the Committee stage. In reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham, I think the estimate I gave does involve a contribution which might be called upon in respect of houses built by public utility societies, but I shall be glad if the hon. Member will tell me, or give me privately afterwards, the pledge to which he refers. It is new to me that we were pledged to public utility societies as well as local authorities.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I will look it up. I confess it is very difficult to deal with public utility societies in the same way as local authorities, who are responsible to the ratepayers. But I quite agree that the terms given to the societies are not the same as to local authorities. We must regard local authorities as having the first claim oh us, but we have gone a long way 2678 in assisting public utility societies. I must say, notwithstanding the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adamson), I do think a large number of firms will build a great many houses. I hope they will, and that they will not be tied houses either. We may hope that this will be a great deal of assistance. I will do my best to circulate to Members, before the Committee stage, such information as we have, and the proposed Regulations dealing with this matter. Under these circumstances, and the friendly criticism it has received, I hope the House will give me this Resolution.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I beg to move, at the end, to add the words,Provided that the total expenditure for the-year ending the 31st day of March, 1920, shall not exceed £750,000.This sum is for recouping the losses. I hope I shall be able to withdraw the Amendment without pressing it, after making proposals to my right hon. Friend, which I trust he will accept. My proposal is that the Report stage of this Resolution should not be pressed on the House until after Easter, because there is no need for it at all. The Bill will not go up to Committee until after Easter. The Committee upstairs will not be impeded for one day, because this Money Resolution can be passed over for the time being and relegated to the end of the Committee proceedings. The further proposal I have to make is that the Estimate to which the right hon. Gentleman has been referring, which he will lay before us before the Committee stage of the Bill, should be laid before us before the Report stage of this Resolution. That will be a real opportunity for the House to exercise its control over this expenditure, and the first time this Session that we might have a chance of taking a step towards the control of expenditure which the whole nation is looking to us to exercise. There is no subject of more deep and vital concern in the country than the control of expenditure, or the lack of it, by the House of Commons. My suggestion, if adopted, will not delay by a minute the Bill in Committee upstairs, because you can take this Money Clause right at the end of the Committee stage. You can skip it. You can take it sideways or backways, or any way you like—it is in italics until the Report stage! I again press upon the right hon. Gentleman that here is a real chance for the Government to implant some part of their 2679 promises, and those given by Members of this House, and show that they are going to do something towards retrenchment. I do press this matter very strongly indeed upon the right hon. Gentleman that before the Report stage he should by White Papers or otherwise, give us the Estimate to which he has referred. If he refuses without an adequate reason I shall really come to the conclusion that all the fine words mean nothing at all.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
With most of what the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean) has said I cordially agree; but I do not agree that it makes no difference at all if this Resolution is taken during the Committee stage. Those who may happen to be on the Standing Committee to which this is referred would certainly like to know long before they get to the end of the Committee stage what is the precise form, intention, and effect of what now stands as Clause 6—the financial proposals. While I, therefore, agree it would be well if we could have this—
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Yes; but my right hon. Friend sees perfectly well—it might merely have been rhetorical exuberance on his part when he said that this might be taken sideways, backwards, and the rest of it—but to come down to the sphere of facts, it is essential that the financial Clause should be settled; that it should be agreed where it stands in the Bill, and that that should be known by the time the Committee gets to that Clause. If what my right hon. Friend asks can consistently be done with that, I for one hope that it may be done. But I do not want a good case to be prejudiced, even by the right hon. Gentleman's picturesque presentation of it.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I desire to support what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench. We should have this Estimate submitted to us. I am inclined to agree that it is desirable that this Resolution shall not be long delayed. Under the new Rules the Report stage of the Financial Resolution can be taken without interruption. It is desirable that we should have these financial safeguards, which are absolutely necessary. I do most strongly urge that some more definite Estimate should be put before us, so that we may have the opportunity really of scrutinising this Resolution in a friendly spirit.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am very anxious to do all I can to meet my right hon. Friend opposite. I agree, though, with my hon. Friend (Sir R. Adkins) that if my right hon. Friend had had as much opportunity as I have had to look into the Clauses of the Housing Bill he would know perfectly that his picturesque description does not apply. As a matter of fact, a good deal is dependent upon the Financial Clause. Allowing for the right hon. Gentleman's rhetorical exuberance, as to whether or not the Government are going to fulfil its pledges, I say that this Bill is an endeavour in reality to fulfil, those pledges. As to retrenchment and economy I am only too anxious to derive all the benefit I can from the criticisms that hon. Members are good enough to make. On the Thursday after we meet again, 1st May, we will commence the Committee stage of the Bill. It is of the utmost importance that no day should be lost—I think the House will agree—in considering this Bill in Committee upstairs. At the same time there is a difficulty, and I agree that it is reasonable to ask for the White Paper. I agree to circulate the White Paper as soon as possible on the understanding that we are not thereby delayed in getting the Report stage or in getting on with the work in Committee. I think we shall be able to get on without delay, and on that understanding agree to the arrangement suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
We are very much indebted to my right hon. Friend, all the more so because he has made this concession in spite of my rhetorical exuberance. We have only made an attempt to deal oat something like business lines with these matters, and I am glad that he has acceded to my request.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.