HC Deb 25 July 1919 vol 118 cc1715-7

(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority within the meaning of Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890 (in this Act referred to as the principal Act), to consider the needs of their district with respect to the provision of houses for the working classes, and within three months after the passing of this Act, and thereafter as often as occasion arises, to prepare and submit to the Local Government Board for Scotland (in this Act referred to as the Board) a scheme for the exercise of their powers under the said Part III.

(3) The Board may approve any such scheme or any part thereof without modification or subject to such modifications as they think fit, and the scheme or part thereof when so approved shall be binding on the local authority; but if the Board consider the scheme inadequate they may refuse to approve the scheme and require the authority to prepare and submit to them an adequate scheme within such time as they may fix, or they may approve the scheme subject to the condition that the authority prepare and submit to them a further scheme within such time as they may fix.

The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. W. GRAHAM:

In Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "working classes" ["provision of houses for the working classes"], and to insert instead thereof the word "people."


The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh imposes a charge. This part of the Bill follows Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, and depends upon it. To alter the words "working classes" to the word "people" would bring about a very large extension of the benefits to be derived from the Act; therefore the Amendment is inadmissible.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "Local Government Board for Scotland," and to insert instead thereof the words "Scottish Board of Health."

This is purely a formal and drafting Amendment. The Board of Health has come into being since this Bill was framed; hence the necessity for this Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In Subsection (3), after the word "scheme" ["may approve the scheme"], insert the words "or part thereof." — [MY. Munro.]

Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. HOPE

I beg to move, after Sub-section (3), to insert (1) Before the Board finally approve a scheme the local authority shall furnish to them Estimates of the cost of the scheme and of the rents expected to be derived from the houses provided under the scheme. I am very sanguine that the Secretary for Scotland will agree to this Amendment. A similar one has already been inserted in the English Bill. It will be within his recollection that I moved an Amendment on these lines in Committee. The question of rent to be paid for these houses strikes at the very root and essence of the Bill. There is no doubt that the economic rent of these houses will be from £40 to £45, and the question is, What rent shall be charged to the tenant? If the rent is too high, it will defeat the whole object of the Bill, and those people for whom this Bill is intended will not be able to pay the rent demanded; while, on the other hand, if the rents are fixed too low in proportion to the ability of the tenants to pay, there will be an excessive charge put upon both the local authorities and public funds. Personally, I should have liked to see some proviso inserted under which the tenants should pay for these houses a certain proportion of their income—that is, that they should contribute to their own houses commensurate with their ability. There seems to be difficulties about that. But what I do suggest is that the central authorities—the Scottish Health Board—should retain some control and supervision over the fixing of these rents, so that throughout the whole country the rent may be fixed in accordance with some principle. There is a danger that one local authority may fix the rents too high, and thereby prevent the poorer classes of the population being able to get the benefit that Parliament intends to give them under this Bill. On the other hand, another local authority may fix the rents too low, and therefore give an unreasonable subsidy to tenants who are well able to pay a prescribed sum for the rent of their houses. The Secretary for Scotland gave me an assurance in Committee—or perhaps I should say he said he would try to ensure—that before the tenants actually entered the houses the rents would be supervised and approved by the Scottish Board of Health. I submit this Amendment is designed to give effect to what the Secretary for Scotland himself more or less promised in Committee. It is already in the English Bill. Therefore I can see no reason why it should not be accepted for this Scottish Bill. I put forward my proposal both in the interests of the tenant and of the public purse.


I beg to second the Amendment.


As my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, this Amendment has now been included in the English Bill. The reason for this was to ensure that the Board of Health, before approving of the scheme, should have before it data as to the probable cost and as to the rents which are likely to be obtained. From those facts they would then be able to deduce the probable financial liability of the Treasury. This Amendment is designed to prevent undue extravagance, and also to protect the public purse. These considerations which apply in England are of no less importance in Scotland, and I therefore have much pleasure in accepting this Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.