HC Deb 27 May 1919 vol 116 cc1165-70

The following Amendments shall be made in the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, 1899:

  1. (a)In Sub-section(1) of Section one "seven hundred pounds" shall be substituted for "four hundred pounds" as the limit on the market value of houses in respect of which advances may be made.
  2. (b)In paragraph (a) Sub-section (1) of Section one "eighty-five percent." shall be substituted for "four-fifths" with respect to the limitation on the amount which may be advanced.


In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Everton (Sir J. Harmood-Banner), I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the words "seven hundred pounds," and insert instead thereof the words eight hundred pounds or such higher value as the Local Government Board may in any case prescribe.


Would not that increase the charge on the Exchequer?


I respectfully submit not. Clause 43 is to enable persons to purchase their own houses under the provisions of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act of 1899. The limit of the value of the house which a person is entitled to purchase under that Statute at present is £400. The Clause as it stands now in the Bill increases that to £700.

With great respect it is not a question of a charge on the public fund at all. I think the House will be unanimous about the desirability of housing as many of the working classes as possible under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. The limit of purchase under that Act was £400, and a house of that value cannot be built for much less than about £800 to-day.


I beg to second the Amendment. I understand representations on behalf of the local authorities have been made to the right hon. Gentleman in favour of this Amendment, and I trust they will be more successful than in the former case.


There is a good deal in what my hon. Friend has said, but he has not mentioned that the value here is the market value, and it may easily be that you will have a house which costs about £800 or £900 to erect now at the present high prices, and the market value of which, at a future date, may not be more than £700. On the other hand, the price may not fall. I do not like the possibility of putting on the Local Government Board the duty of prescribing other figures, if other figures are necessary, and, therefore, if my hon. Friend will stop at the word "seven," and instead of that, move to insert the word "eight," I will accept.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In paragraph (a), leave out the word "seven" and insert instead thereof the word "eight."—[Mr. Neal]


I beg to move, in paragraph (b), to leave out the word "eighty-five," and to insert instead thereof the word "ninety."

One of the difficulties hitherto has been that a purchaser under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, has had to provide 20 percent. of the purchase price. With the limit of £400 before the War that meant £80, and with the limit of £800 now, and having to provide 15 percent. it would mean a sum of £120, and it would be very difficult for any working man or clerk or person in a small way, to find such a sum. I suggest he should only be, required to find 10 percent., and that, I submit, would be a quite adequate margin for security of the Government. We are not dealing with the cost of erection in this case, but with market value, which may be very much less, and that gives the Government additional security. My object is to facilitate the working of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act.


Does not this really impose a charge?


I submit it is only a question of a loan and not of a grant in any form whatever.


But suppose the loan be not paid?

10.0 P.M.


There is always, of course, a chance that the loan might not be repaid, but I submit, with all respect, that it is pressing the rule against a further charge to a very extreme limit to say that it applies to a loan because there is the chance of the loan not being repaid. In that case I take it that on all loans this House would Be powerless in any case to increase the amount of a loan set out in a Bill.


My experience of loans i? that very often they are not repaid.


I submit that does not apply to loans by the Government.


I will hear what the Minister in Charge has to say.


In Belgium in pre-war times any workman, a mechanic or a labourer, could buy his own house by paying £30 to commissioners appointed for the purpose, or have one built if they wished it on agreed sites, the balance of the cost was allowed to stand at a very low rate of interest, but repayable by instalments spread over a number of years. In the past, many people in this country have been able to secure and own houses by paying £30 or £25 down. Many occupiers will desire to purchase their houses under the new Act, and if they are to be called upon, to pay £100 or more, that will debar very many of them from achieving that desire. A sum of 10 percent. on an £800 total will mean providing £80. If you go beyond that amount many will be shut out from buying their own houses. I speak with some knowledge, because I moved the adoption of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act in a town some twenty years ago or more, and that town has lent £100,000 out to borrowers who have bought their houses, and many of them have paid off all the money, and the town has not lost one penny piece. They have some thousands of pounds in hand from the ¼ percent. they are allowed to charge for working expenses, and not one has defaulted. We want pleasant garden suburbs and if one only saw the difference between a garden suburb or a town where ownership prevails and where tenancy prevails one would see what a difference in appearance there was. A man who owns his own house will take an interest in it and do his own repairs, but another man wants to move from house to house for a spring cleaning. If he occupies by way of a modified rent, a large cost will be incurred for repairs. In my view the success of this housing scheme depends on the people owning their own houses, and we ought to encourage them as they do in Belgium and in France. Every facility ought to be given them, and I hope the Government will agree to this Amendment.


I am quite clear in my own mind that this increase might result in a loss to the local authorities, and I am not prepared to accept the Amendment, not for that reason alone, but for another and quite sufficient reason. We have increased the amount which may be advanced by the proposals in this Bill from 80 percent. to 85 percent., and if we have regard to the very great uncertainty that exists now with regard not only to the cost of building but of market values, and which must exist for a considerable time to come, I am afraid 85 percent. is as much as we can safely go to at the present time. I do not think it would be wise to go beyond that at present.

Lieut.-Colonel BUCKLEY

I rise to support this Amendment. It would be obviously wasting the time of the House to move a similar Amendment of mine to increase it to 95 percent. if this were rejected. I think we are entitled to ask the sympathetic consideration of the House on this Amendment. To ray mind the Acquisition of Small Dwellings Act is a most important piece of social legislation, and I do not think its importance has yet been fully realised. It has not been fully availed of in the past, I think, for two reasons; in the first place, because it was not very well known, and, secondly, because it was not within the reach of the ordinary working man. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill admitted in his speech on the Second Reading that lie did not know of the existence of this Act until he came to study the whole problem of housing, and I do not think he is unique in that respect. I hope he will take steps, therefore, to remedy that deficiency, not merely amongst the people of this country but amongst the local authorities themselves. The real reason why the Act is not as successful as it ought to be is because the margin that he requires is too large. You cannot expect the ordinary working man to produce £80 or £100 when he proposes to enter into a transaction of this character with the local authority, and I think we ought to do all we possibly can to give him an incentive to own his own house, because the very essence of house ownership is the finest possible incentive to good citizenship. Since this Act has been in operation in the city of Liverpool we have had less than one hundred people avail themselves of it, but the results in those cases have been most satisfactory. We have found in most cases that they have paid off their advances long before they have matured, and only last week three people came to the Housing Committee and repaid loans which would not have matured for some time, notwithstanding the fact that they had borrowed with all the advantages of cheap rates. I would like to ask what risk the local authority runs, because I cannot see that it runs any risk. It is not

Enactment to be amended. Nature of Amendment.
Paragraph (8) The words "by causing such notice to be published or otherwise in" such manner as he thinks advisable "and the words" in disputed "cases as to the amount of compensation to be paid" shall be omitted.
Paragraph (10) For the words from "and the local authority shall thereupon" to the end of the paragraph there shall be inserted the words "The title" in the case of a person claiming a fee simple interest in any lands "included in any such award as aforesaid shall commence twenty

an ordinary business transaction between a mortgagor and a mortgagee. The local authority has special rights and privileges, and it seems to me to be far better to have a ratepayer who is a potential owner than to have a ratepayer who is merely a tenant, and who may leave his house at any moment. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision, and to give this Amendment more favourable consideration.

Amendment negatived.