§ Section five of the Housing (Additional Powers) Act, 1919 (which gives power to local authorities to prohibit building operations which interfere with the provision of dwelling houses), shall be amended as follows:—
§ (1) The powers and duties of a local authority under the said Section may, subject to such terms and conditions as may be imposed by the authority, and subject as hereinafter provided, be exercised and performed by a Committee appointed under Section eighty-one of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, as amended by the Second Schedule to the Housing, Town Planning, &c., Act, 1919:
§ Provided that any Order made under the said Section by such a Committee shall be forthwith submitted to the local authority and taken into consideration by the local authority at their next meeting, and shall not continue in force unless confirmed by the authority.
§ (2) For the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the said Section in special cases, any local authorities having powers under the said Section may appoint a joint Committee consisting, as to a majority of its members, of members of their own bodies or may otherwise act jointly, and where any local authorities so appoint a joint Committee the said Section shall have effect as though the areas of those authorities were a single area and as though the joint Committee were the local authority for that area:
§ (3) The power of a local authority under Sub-section (1) of the said Section shall include a power to prohibit the construction of any works or buildings where it appears to the authority that the provision of dwelling accommodation for their area is being delayed by a deficiency of labour due to the payment of remuneration in any form to persons employed on the construction of those works or buildings in excess of that commonly recognised by employers and trade societies in the district:2247
§ (4) Where the Minister of Health (in this Act referred to as "the Minister") is satisfied that the provision of dwelling accommodation within the area of a local authority is or is likely to be hindered—
- (a) by reason of the construction in the area of some other authority of buildings of less public importance than the provision of dwelling accommodation; or
- (b) by reason of the failure of the local authority to make adequate use in their area of their powers under the said Section as amended by this Section;
§ An Order made by the Minister under the foregoing provision shall not extend to any works or buildings authorised or required by, under, or in pursuance of any Act of Parliament, and shall be subject to the like appeal as if it were an Order made by a local authority under the said Section:
§ (5)The tribunal to which appeals under Sub-section (2) of the said Section are to be referred by the Minister shall, instead of being a standing tribunal consisting of five persons to be appointed by the Minister, be constituted as follows: —
- (a) The Minister shall constitute a panel of persons to act as chairmen of the tribunal and a panel of persons to act as ordinary members of the tribunal;
- (b) The tribunal shall consist of one person selected by the Minister from the panel of chairmen and not less than two persons selected by the Minister from the panel of ordinary members;
- (c) The tribunal shall sit in such number of divisions as the Minister may from time to time determine:
§ (6) It is hereby declared that the power of the Minister to make rules of procedure under Sub-section (2) of the said Section includes power to make rules with respect to hearing of appeals by the tribunal:
§ (7)The costs of an appeal under Sub-section (2) of the said Section shall be in the discretion of the tribunal hearing the appeal, and the tribunal may direct to whom, by whom, and in what manner those costs or any part thereof are to be paid, and may settle the amount of the costs to be so paid or any part thereof:
§ An Order of the tribunal for payment of costs may by leave of the High 2248 Court be enforced in the same manner as an Order of that Court, or if the amount thereof does not exceed fifty pounds, may be recovered summarily as a civil debt:
(8) The following shall be substituted for Sub-section (3) of the said Section: —
(3) An Order made by a local authority under this Section shall have effect as from the date specified in the Order in that behalf, but any person who is aggrieved by and has appealed against the Order may apply to the tribunal of appeal, and the tribunal may, on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit, suspend the operation of the Order pending the determination of the appeal or for such shorter period as it thinks fit.
§ Mr. HOPKINS
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
This Clause is two and a half pages of interference with the business of private individuals, and it can only have the result, if the powers under it are exercised, of inducing unemployment. At the present time we do not want to diminish the amount of available employment in this country. Even when a local authority, for good or sufficient reasons, and knowing their own district, may desire that some factory or other building should be put up in their neighbourhood, the Minister may think that he knows better than the local authority, and may step in and prevent it. I do not think that this wide, autocratic and unnecessary power should be put in the hands of the Minister.
§ Dr. ADDISON
My hon. Friend has described this Clause as two and a half pages of interference with the business of private individuals. I am afraid he has not read it, or that he must have lived in some strange world during the past year or two, for he appears to have forgotten that powers to this effect have been in our possession for a long time past. The dangers with regard to them only exist in the mind of my hon. Friend. What has happened has been that a number of authorities up and down the country have exercised their powers to prevent a certain amount of unnecessary building, but they have only power to stop such building where they can show that the provision for housing in their area is actually short on that account of labour and material. It is 2249 not a question of diminishing the volume of employment. In fact, in order to enable an authority to exercise its power, it must show that the opportunity for employment on housing is thereby prejudiced, and therefore there is no question of limiting the amount of employment. I have not heard of any case throughout the length and breadth of the land where necessary factories or works or shop extensions have been stopped by this procedure. I see that an hon. Member is present who was a member of the appeal tribunal to which such cases go, and he will be able to correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think that a single case has occurred throughout the country where this has happened. The fact is that it is administered by sensible people, who recognise that the provision of works and shops and factories is necessary for the provision of employment, and nothing of the kind has ever been stopped. What has arisen has been that in a number of cases great public annoyance has been caused by flagrant disregard of the provisions of the original statute. There are cases where simply nothing has been done, and that has caused great trouble and annoyance and even serious distress.
The Clause contains another provision which, I agree, at ordinary times is objectionable, but which I think is absolutely essential just now. It is the provision which puts a limitation upon the amount of wages or excess payments that may be made. That goes beyond what was in the original proposal, and the reason for it is that it has been found that one very potent cause of forcing up the cost of building, which is so disastrous to everyone concerned, has been competition for the scanty amount of building labour available. The result of that competition has been that certain people have been willing to pay their workmen 2d. or 3d. more than the district rate of wages, that has been done sub rosa. In one case in which it was stopped by the Master Builders' Federation, some philanthropic individual appeared outside the works gates on a Saturday afternoon and presented every man who came off the job with a sovereign, and the other men in the same district clamoured for the same kind of consideration.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think I had better intervene at this point. 2250 Almost the next Amendment on the Paper which I propose to call is one proposing to leave out Sub-section (3), and I think it would be better to defer this discussion until we reach that Amendment and not to take it on the more general question.
§ Dr. ADDISON
This is a Motion to leave out the whole Clause, but of course I defer to what you suggest. At all events these are the novel suggestions in the Clause. It is really a question of machinery for the purpose of administration, and embodies procedure which has been found by experience to be the best for getting expeditious work. The other novel points were the two that I have mentioned. I am sure that, in the present state of public temper, and with the present shortage of building labour, if we are going to prevent unnecessary competition, which is carried on in a highly improper manner and at high cost, some powers of this kind are really necessary, and I hope the House will not accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I do not propose to call the next Amendment, to leave out the words from "1919" to the end of the Clause and to insert the words "is hereby repealed," as that would conflict with the decision at which the House has already arrived.
§ Major NALL
On a point of Order. You put the question that the words down to "1919" stand part, and I suggest that that really does not rule out this Amendment.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The House has already decided that the Clause in some form—that is to say, some form of amendment of Section 5 of the Act referred to—shall stand, and it would clearly be a contradictory proposal to move to repeal that part of the Clause alternatively.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (1), to insert the words "at such meeting." This is merely a drafting Amendment, which makes the meaning clearer.
§ Colonel L. WILSON
I do not know that I should call this exactly a drafting 2251 Amendment. I think my hon. Friend's suggestion is that it should be made necessary for the local authority to confirm or disallow any order made by their Housing Committee at the first meeting of the authority following the date of the order.
§ Colonel WILSON
It does not always mean that, but on behalf of the Government I am prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (3).
In spite of the attempt of the Minister of Health to take the wind out of my sails by talking about philanthropists giving sovereigns to workmen on Saturdays, I intend to persist with the Amendment, and I am not discouraged by finding myself in the company of the right hon. Baronets opposite (Sir F. Banbury and Sir H. Craig) whose names are also down to move the rejection of this paragraph, although, except in matters of economy, I do not find myself very often in agreement with them. I wish to address myself more particularly to my hon. Friends who represent Labour. I want to point out that this paragraph sets up a very dangerous precedent. It provides that if an employer in a certain district pays a higher wage than other employers he is to be stopped from employing men at all. We have had a good deal of discussion lately about key industries. If it is to be said it is wrong to give more wages to attract workmen, there is no reason why people employed in key industries should not say to other employers, "You must not offer higher wages to our workmen in order to draw them away." This is a most unhealthy precedent, and may lead to a lot of bad feeling.
There is an organised attempt in certain industries to bring wages down. I am not complaining of that. I only wish to draw attention to the fact. Furthermore, certain local authorities will make great efforts to pay low wages for house building, and I understand one of the 2252 fears of the building trades union which make them oppose a great dilution by unskilled labour is that it will bring down wages. Certain local authorities may be so unscrupulous, or so hard up for money, as to take advantage of unemployment in their district to bring down wages, because men would be willing to work for a lower wage rather than starve. You are going to penalise the good employers in a district. You are going to encourage sweating on behalf of local authorities. This paragraph will not encourage or help building at all, because where unnecessary building or luxury building is taking place to the detriment of building dwelling houses, there are ample powers in the original Act and in paragraph (4) to prohibit it by an Order of the Ministry of Health. Therefore the argument that this is going to help the building of houses for working classes will not hold water. The House should be very 10th indeed to penalise men for paying more money. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the disgraceful action of an employer in giving a £1 note to every workman on a Saturday who was engaged on a certain job.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman talked about drawing men from house building work. If that was the case, why did he not prohibit the building going on in that neighbourhood if it could be shown that it was hindering house building? Was the money not paid because the employer was a good business man who could afford to pay higher wages? I am highly suspicious of this Clause. When you begin to interfere with this form of contract between workers and employers you do not know what trouble you may create. I have never advocated the limitation of profits. As long as we allow private industry, you must allow the highest profits to be made. At the same time it is not fair or right to limit the workman in the wages he commands. This paragraph seeks to do that. I hope I have made out a case. I am looking forward to the able advocacy of the right hon. baronet opposite, and I hope at the same time my hon. Friends near me will support the omission of the paragraph.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to second the Amendment, although I am not sure that the reasons which actuate me are the same as those which have been given by the hon. and gallant Member opposite. I am against this paragraph because I am in favour of freedom. I have always been a lover of liberty. I believe a man has a right to sell his labour, or any other kind of property he may possess, to the highest bidder. I have always taken the view that where trade unions interfere with the liberty of a man to sell his labour at whatever price he likes, whether high or low, that is not true liberty. It is not true liberty to tell a man who chooses to work for 20s. a week that, unless he demands more, his head will be broken. There is no freedom about that. If a man is fortunate enough to command a higher wage than the rate current in the district, because he may be more skilled than anybody else, I can conceive of no reason why he should not accept an offer of a higher wage. It is quite true that during the War certain people—and I am not sure the Government are not to blame— who were engaged in the manufacture of munitions and required labour took it from other industries by offering higher wages. That made it rather unpleasant for people who had to deal with labour, but at any rate there was no reason it should not be done, and why the employés should not accept the higher wage. Here you have the possibility of a person who happens to have, a considerable sum of money and does not mind spending it, offering to men engaged in building houses a higher wage than is current in the district and this Sub-section says that that is to be prohibited. Supposing for the sake of argument that the proposal is right in principle, is this the proper way to give effect to it? Are you to pass a law which says that no man shall accept more than a certain sum for his services? That is, what you are doing by this paragraph. I say you ought not. A friend of mine told me this story the other day. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of it, but my friend is a reliable person, and I believe his statement to be accurate. A friend of his was making some alterations to his house. It was a large house, and the person interested was a rich man. These alterations were going on for a long time, and he went to the contractor and said, "Now, look here, I would like to pay these men a rather larger sum if they 2254 will work rather harder. I will not ask you to do it. I will pay it out of my own pocket, in addition to the contract price, and I will pay it direct to the men." The contractor replied, "You had better see what the trade unions say about it." The gentleman saw the foreman, and in some kind of way they got over the trade unions, with the result that this particular gentleman paid the men himself. The consequence was that he got the work done in one month, which would have taken three months, and saved £600, and at the same time freed the men for work on workmen's houses or any other job.
That is an illustration of my point. If, in order to deal with what is supposed to be a certain evil, we pass legislation which deals with all sorts of other things, I do not see that anything will be gained. I do not believe there are large numbers of people, especially in these times, who are going about the country offering higher wages than the trade unions will allow. They must be a very small number, and in the financial position in which we are, and which will become worse in a. very short time, they must grow less. The present financial position, in my opinion, will be followed by a large reduction in wages. That must come. It is as certain as I am standing here. I do not think there will be any necessity for this particular Clause, and by omitting it we shall have struck a blow for the remaining liberty and freedom left to us in this year of grace 1920.
§ Dr. ADDISON
My right hon. Friend has given us more attractive reasons for this particular Amendment than did my hon. and gallant Friend who moved it, but I do not think he was any more convincing. The right hon. Gentleman is a director of a very important railway. He has a very important position on that railway, and I have no doubt that in the course of business his company, along with others, come to certain understandings, as to what they will do with regard to the payment of workpeople and all manner of other officials. If I apprehend his doctrine aright, he says that, notwithstanding all these arrangements, "I am an apostle of liberty."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the right hon. Gentleman means that because one railway has given certain wages, I have immediately done the same, he is mistaken. I have always fought against it.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman would always insist that any understanding which is arrived at shall be honourably kept. The employers and trade societies have come to certain arrangements for particular districts, and have determined a district rate of wages. That is an agreement as between employers and the trade unions. I do not think the right hon. Baronet is such an apostle of liberty that he will suggest for a moment that an agreement binding on the industry shall be broken. The difficulties that have arisen are due to people going outside the agreements arrived at in the district. In order to attract men from housing schemes they made all manner of payments beyond and in addition to what is agreed by the trade shall be paid in particular districts. It was on that account that not only the employers but the Joint Industrial Council of the building trades, consisting of an equal number of representatives of the employers and operatives, came to me and said, "This is bad for our industry; it is forcing up prices in an artificial and sporadic way all over the place "— and so its was—" and we want you to help us to stop it." The representatives of the industry themselves applied to me with absolute unanimity to put this proposal before Parliament, because it was being used as an instrument to inflate prices and costs. I am quite sure the experience of the last few months fully justifies the proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London was quite right in one observation. He says this is not so prevalent as it was. There are undoubtedly signs of what is commonly known as a slump, and people are not so anxious to do this kind of thing as they were. Therefore, I think the number of cases will be much fewer in the future than in the past. I would remind him that during the War we had to do the same kind of thing, and we did it with the consent of all concerned. It is not with the desire of interfering with individual liberty, but to secure that trade agreements arrived at by representative bodies applicable to those in the trade shall be fairly and properly observed. It has to be shown in the Clause itself that the deficiency of labour on the housing scheme is due to that, and unless that 2256 can be proved as an initial proposition no case arises.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman did not reply to one argument of mine. If this is happening why are not these buildings slopped under the next paragraph?
§ Dr. ADDISON
Because at present there is no power in the existing statute to stop them on this account.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I was somewhat surprised at the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that this Clause is inserted at the request of the trade itself, because I hold that established or standard rates are minimum rates and do not in any way interfere with the recognition or payment of something above the minimum. If that were so many industries one could mention are at the moment paying quite 25 per cent. of those engaged in the industry above the standard rate. When these matters are argued and reasoned out one generally gets established what is looked upon as the minimum basis rate for industry, leaving freedom of action so far as a recognition of a price above that minimum rate either to the discretion of the employer or to some special arrangement which may be made between the workmen and the employer so long as a rate less than the established minimum is not paid. I support the Amendment but for quite a different reason from that of the right hon. Baronet, because such a case as he mentions would not in my opinion come within the jurisdiction of this Clause— the mere matter of an alteration to house property. I rise particularly to protest against the insertion of a provision like this because I believe the local authorities could well have secured to themselves an adequate supply of building trade labour had they refuted to pass plans for such things as picture palaces, and these are in the main I believe the parties who are offering these extra inducements of Id., 2d. or 3d per hour over and above the rate that is being paid on the building of houses under local authorities, and naturally they do the trade. You ought to have taken away the incentive for it, and the local authorities ought not in the first instance to have sanctioned plans for the erection of mere pleasure palaces whilst at the same time calling out for labour for houses for the working classes. But the local authority 2257 having passed the plans can also ration the particular contractor so many operatives. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There is some arrangement of that sort, because I have in mind one glaring instance. I feel that having passed plans for building you ought not to take away the inducement offered to a man to get a higher rate for his labour. If the building trade had themselves suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should include a Clause which will restrict the scope of their employment after a local authority has once granted permission for the building to go on—I cannot for the life of me believe it, because in my constituency I get quite a different view from the members of that industry that I meet.
I should much have preferred that the plans had not been passed in the first instance, but having passed the plans they restrict the called-for labour because of the shortage of the houses. The trade itself has pointed out to the Government Departments the fact that there are on these luxury buildings all the thousands of skilled men that you might well have had on your housing. But the initial fault of course lies with the local authorities. How can you say to the men who are engaged on luxury-building at 2d. or 3d. an hour over and above the standard rate for the district, "You are going to suffer a reduction of 2d. or 3d."? Do you think that is going to create a feeling of harmony and attract to the building of houses men who know that it means for them a reduction of so much per hour, or some other special arrangement which may have been entered into with their employer? I deplore the shortage of labour on housing as much as anyone inside or outside the House. Although it is a parallel with the right hon. Baronet's example, we are at the moment engaged in altering suites of offices. As some special attraction to get building trade men there I have myself given an extra inducement because we want the occupancy of suitable offices and are we therefore simply to stand and say, "Just take your chance, if you care to come at the ordinary flat rate," knowing as a trade union official that all these arrangements and all these rates that are established are minimum and not maximum rates? I do not think the House ought to lay down the prin- 2258 ciple of a general flat rate arrangement because it might well be carried into other industries, but once accept the principle that a general flat minimum rate arranged in conference between trade unions' must not be exceeded, and one particular department of the industry complains that someone is offering a further inducement and drawing from him men whom he is willing to pay the minimum rate. It is a principle that, I think, will be rather a bad one, and would create more discontent than content.
§ Sir T. ROBINSON
I think all contracts between local authorities and builders for the erection of private houses provide that the standard rate of a district must be paid. Every contract to which local authorities are parties includes a Clause to that effect. What is happening? Last week in the Manchester district, where there is a housing scheme for the erection of 250 houses, IV joiners were attracted from it to other buildings within the district because the contractor responsible for the erection of buildings outside the housing scheme offered 2d. per hour more. The result was that the contractor responsible for the building of the 250 houses under the housing scheme was unable to proceed. He came along to me and asked me what he was to do. He said, "The erection of the houses will be delayed. My difficulty is to keep within the time I am given by the local authority for the erection of the houses, and I cannot contend with this sort of thing." In another case I have seen on one side of the street the erection of houses and on the other the extension of works. I am not going to say that the extension would not mean greater efficiency, more production, and lower cost, to the advantage of industry; but I have seen men attracted from the right-hand to the left-hand side of the road in one week to such an extent that it practically stopped the housing scheme. So far as I know, the leaders of the men's unions are opposed to this sort of thing. The employers take the same view, and I need hardly say that the local authorities take the same view. If the House will not assist the Minister to get rid of this sort of thing they must take the responsibility for the delay in the building of houses. I do not think it is fair to hold the Minister responsible for quick erection if the House refuses to 2259 assist them when he has pointed out its difficulties, and has asked the House to assist him to remove the difficulties that stand in his way. This is a real difficulty in the North of England. Wages at the rate of 2d., 3d. or 4d. per hour more are offered to men to leave housing schemes and to go on the erection of buildings, in particular in connection with works. It is done in some cases with regard to luxury buildings, but not in many. The local authorities, on the whole, have been very discreet in regard to luxury buildings, and have refused to pass plans for such buildings, and on that account this difficulty has not obtained to such a great extent in connection with luxury building. The Minister is justified in asking the House for these powers, and if the House refuses to grant them the House must take, the responsibility for the delay in erection of houses.
§ Major HAMILTON
It is not often that I support the Minister of Health, but on this Clause I shall support him. It seems to me perfectly clear that our object in housing legislation has been to get working-class houses put up, and put up quickly, and here we have a difficulty that the House is asked to put right. Luxury building can be stopped by the local authorities, but there are other buildings not as essential as working men's houses which do not come within the definition of luxury building, and on those buildings, by paying higher wages, workmen can be attracted away from housing schemes. These buildings, which are not luxury buildings, may be put up in another locality not coming under the same authority as the housing scheme. The hon. Member who spoke last will bear me out when I say that the Manchester Corporation are complaining bitterly of buildings, not of a luxury nature and not working-class houses, which are being put up in other authorities' localities, and where the owners of those buildings are paying above the district rate for Manchester and Cheshire in order to tempt the workmen away from the housing schemes in Manchester to go on to this other work outside the Manchester district. In this Clause it is the first time that the Government has taken authority to prevent such building outside the locality of Manchester, at the request of Manchester, and if this paragraph is not carried the whole power that 2260 the Government is seeking under this Clause will be taken away and Manchester, taking the example that I know best, will have just cause to say that this House has prevented them from getting on with most important building schemes in that very congested area where the housing conditions are a disgrace to our country and to the great city of Manchester. I do not agree with what was said by the Mover of the Amendment (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy), but I agree with what was said by the Seconder (Sir F. Banbury). I am entirely for liberty, but this is a temporary provision to meet a very great difficulty arising out of the War, and I hope the House will support the Government in this matter and not carry the Amendment.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I hope that the House appreciates the highly dangerous principle that underlies this paragraph. I cannot think that the arguments, weighty as they are, advanced by the last two speakers, as regards the necessity of meeting practical inconveniences, really weigh against the danger of adopting such a principle. The practical inconveniences might be met in other ways. I see no reason why the local authority should not have power to arrange, as it were, a table of precedence within its area and say. "These works are most necessary. These are less necessary and these are still less necessary, and they should be carried out in that order." In view of the great need that is described that might be quite defensible, but if you say that they ought to interfere in the bargaining between a labourer who wants to get a higher price for his labour on the one hand and an employer who thinks it worth his while to pay that higher price, it seems to me that by parity of reasoning you might control all bargains in every form of mercantile transaction from one end of the country to the other I do not understand the position of the Government in making such a proposal while it purports to maintain the doctrine of private enterprise against nationalisation. I do not deny that there are some arguments in favour of nationalisation, but, having laid down that principle, by putting in a Clause like this they really make their position ridiculous. Nationalisation is nothing but general State regulation. That is all it comes to—a highhanded State settlement of everything, 2261 of all transactions of a commercial, mercantile, and industrial character. If you once begin to lay down the principle that people are not to pay more or less than a certain amount you are destroying the whole foundation of private enterprise, which is the liberty of bargaining with free competition, which, confessedly with many incidental injustices and hardships, in the end maintains the prosperity of the country
If you adopt this system of control in respect of the building trade, why should you not do it in respect of every transaction in which there is any shortage, whether of raw materials, or labour, or anything else? The principle lends itself to corruption. The man who wants to have his building erected quickly is to be prohibited from giving publicly and openly higher wages to labourers in order to attract them. But there is nothing to prevent somebody from going secretly to labourers, as a member of this trust which my right hon. Friend is so fond of encouraging, which is a building trust of employers who have come to agreement with the trade unions in the district, and saying, "I will give something to you if you arrange that my building takes precedence." If you once have a close market, which is limited to a certain number of people who are fortunate enough to have got the ear of the principal builders of the district, how are you going to stop it? You may prevent the labourer selling his labour in the dearest market, but how are you going to stop an employer selling secretly his preference to somebody who approaches him privately? How is it that my right hon. Friend does not see that these inroads into the principle of private enterprise are madness? Socialism is a logical theory, though I believe that it is mistaken, because it is founded on an unsound view of human nature; but these inroads on private enterprise, by which you are trying to stop private competition here and elsewhere, are madness. It was done during the War, but that was because the War interfered so tremendously that there was no free competition, but you have got to get back to it. Here you are proceeding on a new basis against a new evil which is alleged to have arisen lately. It would be far wiser to say that you will interfere with respect to the necessity of building, which I understand we already do. Some are 2262 classified as luxury buildings. Carry that classification further, but do not interfere in the bargaining between, labourer and employer, buyer, and seller, but leave it to the free competition in the open market which our ancestors believed in and which brought such unbounded prosperity to this country.
§ Colonel PENRY WILLIAMS
I desire to support the Amendment. This is the first time in our industrial history that a man is to be prevented from selling his labour at the best possible price. I think there must be something behind it, and that the Minister of Health must be cognisant of the arrangement which has been made.
§ Colonel WILLIAMS
I have been associated with an organisation which tried to co-ordinate wages, and I know what a difficult task it is to get wages at a dozen works all on the same level. I have always found that when a man, either inadvertently or on purpose, paid higher wages for contract labour it invariably tended to increase the general rate of that labour in that district. The right hon. Gentleman gave us the comparison of the railway companies, but when they make an agreement it would be improper for any one of them to break it, and yet you take power to stop the railway company and not the building employers. Does the right hon. Gentleman know that there is an agreement between employers and workmen that nobody has a right to employ bricklayers except a contractor, who draws a sum of 3d. or 4d. an hour for every bricklayer he employs. That is his profit. If I employ a bricklayer, am I to be hauled up before a building committee if I pay him that 3d. or 4d. per hour which the contractor now gets. I am credibly informed an arrangement has been come to between the trade unions and the builders by which no man can build except through a contractor.
§ Colonel WILLIAMS
I am credibly informed by a man of considerable experience in a district I know that the 3d. or 4d. per hour for each man is the contractor's profit; and if I employ a bricklayer privately, can I pay that 3d. or 4d. to him? I am sorry to think that this is a deliberate attempt to prevent a man reaping the benefit of the selling of his labour. I hope the House will hesitate very much before they will initiate this system in our industrial life.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Let us consider exactly how this matter stands. This Clause was not in the Bill as it was originally read a Second time by the House. It was a new Clause thrust upon us, against strong resistance by many in the Committee, by the right hon. Gentleman, and he told us plainly: "This is pressed upon me by some industrial societies and unions."
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The right hon. Gentleman has told us to-night that both employers and trade unions agreed upon this point. If I misrepresented him, I am ready to withdraw anything that was inaccurate, but I say that this was a new Clause introduced into the Bill after it had been read a Second time. I have heard defences of this Clause, to my greatest surprise, from hon. Members representing the Labour party. I appealed the other day to the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), who is usually thoughtful and careful. He is not here now, but in a speech which followed a speech I made, he admitted the difficulties. He skimmed very lightly over these difficulties, and he admitted that it was only in very special circumstances that he would allow any such restrictions. The hon. and gallant Member beside me (Major Hamilton) has tried to bolster up this Clause by saying, "You will stop luxury building, but you must have an additional power of interfering with the rate of wages earned. Surely my hon. and gallant Friend cannot have read the Bill. Already in the Bill the local authorities have the power to prohibit building operations which interfere with the provision of dwelling-houses. Is that not quite enough?
§ Sir H. CRAIK
It gives power to local authorities to prohibit building operations which interfere with the provision of dwelling-houses, and the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing his Bill, thought that was quite enough; but a new suggestion came to him, that he must not only have the power of stopping something which interferes with the building of houses, but he must stop it by getting hold of the workman and telling him he is not to earn more than a certain wage; and it is not only the wage, but the words are "remuneration in any form.' There are many forms of remuneration besides wages. Certain facilities for assisting his family might be given, or certain consideration given to his convenience, but under this provision any convenience that a good employer might offer to his employer may be turned into a reason for stopping the whole operation altogether. He may be told, "You are giving far too easy terms. You are too easy altogether. Your employment is too convenient. You are taking away from this man, who treats his employés in rather a harsh way, and who wants to get his pound of flesh out of them." He may reply, "You did not stop me because I was interfering with the building of houses, and, therefore, presumably, I was not interfering with the building of houses, but because I happen to pay my workmen a little more, you have a new grievance against me."
I do not care in the least for the allegation that this is arranged between employers and employed. In the 18th Century there was an episode which has been over and over again instanced as one of the utter absurdities, one of the economical insanities of that time. Certain of the farmers and the agricultural holders in special localities were found— wicked creatures that they were—to be offering rather good wages and so stirred up discontent among the others. What happened? They were actually brought before the court and fined. That was not 200 years ago. Are you wanting to revert to that now, where a man who happens to employ under easy conditions, who makes his employment more attractive than another, is to have his rival go to this little junta—not the local authority, but a junta within the local authority— 2265 and say, "You must really stop this unpleasant rival of mine, who is offering too good terms, and you must tell his workmen that they are to be brought into rule, and to be under exactly the same terms as others." I am glad to see, on the part of the hon. and gallant Member for Middlesbrough (Colonel P. Williams) and the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) there has been a protest against this. Do not think this protest comes only from old reactionaries like myself. It may be that we, the old reactionaries, are the only people left to stand up for freedom. Let us resist this attempt to curb trade and wages and the independence of employers and employed.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
It does seem to be an anomalous position for me to be occupying to be opposing the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City as to the necessity for increased wages for the working classes. Equally, seeing an appeal has been made to us here to give some explanation for our conduct, the House will at least agree that it cannot be levelled against us that we are placing material considerations in front of the necessity and importance of building houses. During the War—to take the history of the principle—this House unanimously, in practically half an hour, carried one of the most important Clauses affecting labour that was ever carried. What happened? There were private engineering firms giving, not 2d. or 3d. per hour extra, but 10s. a day, to induce engineers to go to private work because these firms were selling to the Government at an enhanced price. The Minister of Munitions came to the House and said: "We are suffering; the soldiers are suffering, the country is in danger, and we want you to help us to deal with the difficulty. It was sent to the leaders of the trade unions: "It is your men who will suffer; it is your men that must make the sacrifice; and we put it to you that we expect you to help the nation out of its difficulty." The Clause was passed. The trade unions' leaders went to the men, and not only agreed to the provisions of the Clause, but to a penalty which, in many cases actually prevented men being employed. That was the justification for that. The justification was outlined by the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil). It 2266 was the War circumstances. The nation was in difficulties.
§ Mr. THOMAS
We could not wait that is exactly the point! Does the Noble Lord know what is happening to-day? I have no hesitation in saying that I view with grave apprehension the taking charge of public building by the House of Commons. Do not make any mistake—
§ Lord H. CECIL
That is not your remedy. You should stop unnecessary building, but if a building is not unnecessary, why should you stop it?
§ Mr. THOMAS
I will come to that in a moment. There is another way to do it. But you could very well have said stop it on the occasion referred to.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The circumstances proved that there may have been other ways, but they were not exercised because the Government thought they would have been ineffective. Does the Noble Lord know that there was a very serious raid in Bristol two nights ago? Does he know there are at least 30 towns at this moment where the unemployed have taken possession of buildings? I tell the Noble Lord the housing problem is so serious that it may be as big a menace to the country as the War. It is the fact that there are not more than 15 per cent. in the building trade working on cottage homes to-day? What do the trade unions say? They say that it is infinitely better to make a straight, open bargain than to have indirect bribery of any kind. For it is perfectly true that there is more than Id. or 2d. given. Let the hon. Gentleman be under no misapprehension; in all branches we deprecate this undermining the moral principles of the men. There are traders in the City of London who, in addition to the trade union rate which the men receive, are obliged to go and collect the goods earlier than their competitors, and that is wrong.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Because it is a demoralising position. If the Noble Lord was suffering as a result of this, I am sure he 2267 would take an opposite view, and if he were in need of a cottage for a wife and family, he would take a different view of these necessities. Whether hon. Members go into the Lobby or not on the principle of liberty, we know there is so much necessity for this twopence an hour for the working classes, and I hope hon. Members will go into the Lobby realising that we, who speak directly for the working classes—
§ Lord H. CECIL
If you speak for the working classes, why do you not get more hon. Members on your side?
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am not concerned with hanging the Kaiser. An appeal has been made to us, who specially speak for the working-classes—
§ Mr. THOMAS
I do say so, and I specially speak for a section of the working-classes, and I say on behalf of those people, and speaking as a working-class representative, I believe that the problem of housing is so serious and dangerous that any sacrifice ought to be made to hasten it on. I believe this Clause will do it, and it is because of that that I shall give it my support.
§ Mr. REMER
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down spoke of the danger that this country went through more then two years ago when this House passed a number of Bills of an emergency character. I do not think that any comparison can be drawn between this Bill and any legislation we passed when the country was passing through a serious crisis. Then we were short of men, and there was a great difficulty in finding labour to carry out the necessary works for the War. Even to-night the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Thomas) has spoken of the great volume of unemployment in Bristol and other parts. Therefore, to talk of being short of labour at the present time is beside the point, and that is not an argument which will carry any weight with hon. Members. I object to this Clause for the very simple reason that it interferes with the liberty of the subject, and it interferes with the ordin- 2268 ary relations between employer and employed. There are workmen who are paid high wages because they are worth them, and there are workmen paid low wages because they are only worth low wages. There are men dear at Is. per hour and others who are cheap at 3s. per hour. I want to impress upon the House that in this Clause we strike a knife right through the principle of payment by results We strike a knife right through the principle of any kind of piece work. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I read the Clause that way. It refers to anybody who pays more than trade union rates per hour. In it we strike a knife through the principle of piece work, of payment by results, of increased production, and of profit-sharing. If we read the Clause carefully, we find that anyone who pays more than the trade union rate of wages, whether by piece work, by results, or by profit-sharing, is offending the Clause, and is open to condemnation on that account. On that ground, particularly, because I believe in payment by results in the form of profit-sharing, or something of that sort, I support those hon. Members who object to this particular Clause.
§ Major NALL
The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), the hon. Member for Stretford (Sir T. Robinson), and the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Major Hamilton) all assumed that any man in the building trade who is paid more than the trade union rate of wages, and is induced to leave a municipal housing job, goes to some other sort of work. They did not say that that is actually the case. As two of those hon. Members have referred to the difficulty in Manchester, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word on that position. Strange as it may seem, I have reason to believe that these men who left the municipal housing job went on to other housing jobs, which are costing the State less than municipal work. Therefore the State is gaining, and the men are getting higher wages. What is the position in Manchester? After 18 months of the operation of the right hon. Gentleman's municipal housing scheme, the Manchester Corporation has succeeded in building 86 houses. Eighty-six houses in 18 months! In a very much shorter period the private builders, actuated, un- 2269 doubtedly, by the building subsidy of £210 or £260, have built 79 houses. That is only a few, and there are only a few contractors doing it. If the private builder can build 79 houses in a short period and the municipality can only complete 86 houses in 18 months, as is shown on statements made, I take it, on the authority of the Manchester Housing Committee, in the "Manchester Guardian," whilst the liability of the State in respect of the subsidised house is only £260, the liability in respect of the municipal house is £500 or more, and the hon. Member for St. Pancras said, earlier in the Debate, that in due course it might well cost £1,000 per house. Whilst the State is saving on the privately built houses, the workers are gaining better wages by working on those houses. This is what one of the builders said publicly:—My men know that I have not, like a public body, an endless purse to draw from, and they know that, certain trade union regulations notwithstanding, they will receive some suitable acknowledgment if their work is conscientiously done.There we have the whole secret of the thing. A private builder can always out-do the State or the local authority. Private enterprise every time, given proper opportunity, freed of the restrictions which the right hon. Gentleman imposes in this Clause, and the previous Act to which the Clause refers; freed from these restrictions—the removal of which I endeavoured to obtain earlier on to-night but was unfortunately prevented from moving an Amendment owing to the Rules of Procedure—will clear off these arrears in housing in a manner which will save money for the State and provide houses for the masses. Here we have the actual fact that men are being attracted away from municipal housing jobs—some of them, probably, going to other sorts of work, but many of them, undoubtedly, going on to other houses, which, in the long run, cost the State less. The House can judge which is the more economical and the more common-sense policy to pursue.
I have said on another occasion, and have taken frequent opportunities of saying outside this House, that hon. Members above the Gangway on this side of the House will support anything that will help to smash the private builder. In my division condemned houses have fallen in, 2270 causing casualties to the tenants. Other houses are condemned, and the tenants are under orders to quit. They turn up at the court, and, despite the fact that the houses are propped up temporarily under the care of the corporation, they appeal to be allowed to stay in them because there is absolutely nowhere else to go. Hon. Members on this side of the House above the Gangway do all in their power to prevent the erection of houses to which such people can go in that particular district. So strong is the feeling among the workers themselves— and it is a working-class district—that, in the recent municipal elections, the councillor who holds the opinions that I hold was returned by almost two votes to one against a Labour candidate. The feeling in Manchester is so strong that the Labour party may well keep quiet, as they have, in this Debate; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, when he gets up to support the extraordinary proposal that is contained in this paragraph, is doing the worst thing that he can to hinder the completion of houses and the restoration of the building trade to a proper and economic basis. I hope that the House will divide on this question, and that we shall show by our votes in the Lobby that we believe that the municipal schemes of the Minister of Health are doomed to failure. Their record up to date is nothing but one long tale of failure, and the only hope that this country has of gaining the number of houses that it requires to make up the arrears that have already accumulated lies in the restoration of the private builder, in supporting and encouraging private enterprise, and in allowing the workers to get the highest wages that they can get, according to their ability to earn them.
§ 11.0 P.M.
This paragraph is a most perfect example of the methods of the right hon. Gentleman. It is introduced ostensibly because there is a great shortage of skilled labour, and, as is the right hon. Gentleman's custom, he takes a course which must infallibly have exactly the opposite result to that which he says it will give. While saying that we are short of labour, he proceeds to put a provision into the Clause which says, in effect, that the man who goes into the building trade as a skilled man shall, alone of all men of all trades, be 2271 disallowed the privilege of selling his labour in the best market. That is the right hon. Gentleman's way of increasing the amount of labour in the building trade. Imagine a bricklayer who has a boy who has just passed through school and is ready to be apprenticed to a trade. If this paragraph is passed, what is the position of that man? Is he, knowing perfectly well that the unfortunate boy, if he acquires an unusual degree of skill, is to be debarred from offering his labour in the highest market—is he likely to let his boy go into that trade? Is he not really more likely to put him into some trade where there is no such restriction on labour? I hope the House will bear that in mind.
§ Mr. SEXTON
It is most refreshing to hear the arguments advanced from the other side of the House in favour of paying higher wages than trade union rates. It is a revelation to me. The tendency has always been on that side to pay less than trade union rates. I am speaking from experience. It occurs to me there must be some sinister motive behind this. We have heard a good deal about private enterprise. I am not going to argue as to the rival merits of private and municipal enterprise. I am not going to dispute that houses may be put up more cheaply by private enterprise than by municipal enterprise. But what the private builder loses on the swings he gains on the roundabouts. He can afford to pay higher wages because he does not put up houses but only apologies for houses. If it was not for the fact that they lean so lovingly on each other not one of the houses would stand on its own bottom for 24 hours. The walls between them are so thin that, as one of my hon. Friends suggested, "you can hear the fellow next door making up his mind." In the comparison with municipal-built houses private-built houses appear in an odious light. An important test is the length of life of the house. It apparently pays the private builder to put up a jerry-built house, particularly under the leasehold system. He knows he will only own the house for a limited number of years and that at the end of the lease every brick on the land becomes the property of the landlord. It is the length of life of the house that counts, not the amount 2272 of money spent on the building. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas), we naturally want to get as much wages as we can for the workers, but after all there is some morality in trade unions Hon. Gentlemen may be able to point to isolated instances, and I am not going to defend them, but I say there are responsible men in the trade union movement equally as moral as the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I endorse what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby said. Those who step in and interfere with the progress of the housing of the people are responsible for more than they imagine if they carry that game on.
§ Mr. MYERS
On this occasion it is not a matter as to whether houses have been erected by private enterprise or by municipalities. The great question is-whether houses have been erected at all. Our complaint on this side of the House is that while lip service has been given to the necessity for houses being erected, the tendency has been to work in the other direction. I would like to ask the hon. Member for the Hulme Division (Major Nail), when he mentioned that 86 houses had been erected by the municipality and 79 by private enterprise in a given period, how those 150 houses compared with the volume of alternative building that has taken place in the city in the same period. It is not so much a question of who erects a house, but the measure of the building operations that have taken place in other directions. On the Second Reading of this Bill I gave some figures to the House. The trade unions of the bricklayers, carpenters, slaters, plasterers, and plumbers returned a membership on the 1st January of this year of 305,502, and out of that number on the 30th June this year 15,109 were employed on State-aided housing schemes. Out of 108,000 carpenters, 4,000 were on housing; out of 53,000 bricklayers, 7,000 were on housing; out of 3,000 slaters, 569 were on housing; out of 12,000 plasterers, 1,000 were on housing.
§ Mr. MYERS
On housing of a State-aided character, and that brings in those houses which have the subsidy. They are State-aided houses. It cannot be denied by hon. Members opposite that, while lip 2273 service has been given to the necessity for houses in the country, the skilled labourer in the building trade, having been occupied in the erection of houses, has been bought off, and turned his energies into building of an alternative character. Take the case I mentioned on the Second Reading in the neighbourhood of the Walton Heath Golf Course. The housing scheme in the vicinity was in operation, but the builders were taken away from the housing scheme and put on luxury building in the immediate neighbourhood. They are not paying extra wages above the trade union rate, but the men are paid for the two hours they do not work. They are bought off in that direction, and that is prevailing all over the country, and instead of houses being erected, cinemas, garages, factories, and all the rest of it have been put up wholesale in all parts of the country, and every hon. Member who takes a railway journey of any length has only to look out of the carriage window to see the work in progress. Our quarrel on this matter is that these men have been drawn away, and they ought not to have been drawn away. We have heard a good deal about dilution in the building trade, and I believe any labour that is available for the building trade ought to be brought in, but I think there is a method whereby a lot of this discussion and demand for dilution can be instantly silenced. If dilution in the building trade is admitted, I hope the building trade will insist upon unskilled labour going on to these buildings which are not for people to live in. A garage to hold a motor car or a warehouse to hold bags or wool may attract unskilled labour, but we ought not to have it applied to buildings in which people have to live. We shall have a C3 population continued unless we provide the very best habitation for our people, and I am not going to favour shoddy labour or shoddy materials going into places in which people have to live. If the people who are shouting for dilution of labour in the building trade can be told that unskilled labour will go on to buildings such as I have named a lot of the criticism in this direction will be instantly silenced and our position in supporting this Clause is to insure that the best building labour available will go on to that building where it ought to go, the erection of houses for the people.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I think we have now thrashed the question out, and I hope the House will come to a decision.
§ Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS
I find myself in conscientious disagreement with my hon. Friend belonging to the same party as myself. I opposed this in Committee, and found myself alone, so far as my own people were concerned, and I am in the same position to-night. If a Division is taken, I shall certainly support the Amendment. The point of municipal building as against private enterprise does not touch the question at all. What we are discussing is whether a certain class of building shall be, stopped by preventing a man paying higher wages. I have not been sent to this House to help to produce legislation to keep wages down to a certain dead level. Further than that this Clause can never produce the effect that it claims, and no buildings will be stopped because this Clause becomes law. You might drive it underground, but you cannot prevent any employer of labour giving a bonus to men which did not appear on his pay-sheet. This Clause will never have that effect. All the power that local authorities require is in the Clause already. But I can quite imagine that there are certain authorities in this country who would far rather act under a Clause of this sort which deals with wages than they would under one of the other powers given them, and if there is any class of building which is of less necessity than houses, and which is not covered by anything that is in the Clause already, words could easily be found to deal with that when dealing with the wages of the workmen. I look upon this as the lowest, meanest possible way of trying to prevent a certain class of building, and I am opposed to it. If you are going to pay bonuses to labour, if you are so desperately anxious to pay higher wages to labour, pay them to those engaged in the erection of dwelling-houses, and we shall not object We want the erection of houses for the class to which we belong, and as a party, in spite of the defection of one or two. we shall support the Ministry of Health in this matter. The whole question of wages does not arise here. The question of eighteenth-century wages does not arise. It is a question of getting houses for the workers, which have been 2275 delayed because of certain War measures that have had to be carried through Hon. Members must remember that this is still a War measure as it affects the workers.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
What seriously alarms me is the speech of the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers). He said he opposed this Amendment on the ground that he wanted to force the skilled labour among the plasterers, joiners, and carpenters into work on housing schemes. That is a very wrong thing to do, under the circumstances, when you have in the building trade a large number of skilled plasterers and joiners who can do work of a far higher quality and earn far higher wages on other work than house building. Housing is not the highest grade of labour in the building trade.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
That is a considerable answer to my question. Is it going to be practicable? Are you going to succeed in forcing a largo number of highly-skilled men from work, such as steel construction, on to bricklaying for housing schemes? The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) was under a complete misapprehension. It is not the case that anything is good enough for the workers. The plans for the houses have to be approved by the Ministry of Health, and the thickness of the walls has to be approved by the Ministry of Health. The idea about hearing a man think in the next house is done away with. You cannot get round the byelaws now, though you could 50 years ago. At the present time no house is allowed to be erected for occupation by the working-
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I hope that the hon. Member disapproves of that, and that he will vote against the Ministry of Health on that point. I supported this Clause as it stood in Committee, but the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers) has raised serious doubts by his speech. The idea of forcing highly-skilled men to do less skilled work is repugnant to my ideas of the progress of the artificers of this country. It is an entirely retrograde movement. I shall feel serious compunction about supporting the Clause as it stands, and I hope that either now or in another place the right hon. Gentleman will give serious consideration to a Clause to carry out the purpose of the hon. Member for Spen Valley.
§ Mr. MILLS
May I explain that the Labour party in this matter are guided by the wishes of the operatives in the building trade. They realise that it is necessary in order to get the houses to keep the men off the other buildings to which they arc attracted by higher wages, and that if the housing scheme is to be finished at all it must be by forcibly transferring the men to building houses.
§ Major NALL
Does the hon. Member intend to say that the operatives arc themselves asking for this change?
§ Question put, "That the words of the paragraph to the word 'where' ['or buildings where'] stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 112; Noes. 70.2277
|Division No. 391.]||AYES.||[11.25 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Barlow, Sir Montague||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Barnett, Major R. W.||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Broad, Thomas Tucker|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Bromfield, William|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Betterton, Henry B.||Bruton, Sir James|
|Armitage, Robert||Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Blane, T. A.||Davidson, J. C.C.(Hemel Hempstead)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Sexton, James|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Lindsay, William Arthur||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Forrest, Walter||Lorden, John William||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Lynn, R. J.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Manville, Edward||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Mills, John Edmund||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Mitchell, William Lane||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Gregory, Holman||Morden, Colonel H. Grant||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Waddington, R.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Morrison, Hugh||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Hailwood, Augustine||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Myers, Thomas||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Neal, Arthur||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport) '|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wignall, James|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Parker, James||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Wise, Frederick|
|Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Younger, Sir George|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Renwick, George|
|Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Rodger, A. K.||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley|
|King. Captain Henry Douglas||Sanders, colonel Sir Robert A.||Ward.|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gretton, Colonel John||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Perring, William George|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayday, Arthur||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Briant, Frank||Hayward, Major Evan||Remer, J. R.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Cairns, John||Hood, Joseph||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Hopkins, John W. W.||Spencer, George A.|
|Casey, T. W.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vera||Sugden, W. H.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hurd, Percy A.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Kidd, James||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Lort-Williams, J.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||M-cLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Matthews, David||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Flldes, Henry||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grant, James A.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and|
|Sir F. Banbury.|
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (3), to insert the wordsIf in any area any fifty or more local government electors represent in writing to the local authority that the power to prohibit building operations under this section should be exercised, and the local authority within six weeks after receiving the said representation declines or neglects to take any proceedings to put this section into force, the local government electors who signed such representation may petition the Ministry of Health for an inquiry.
§ Mr. MYERS
I beg to second the Amendment. Section 10 of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1909, provides for four residents making a complaint to 2278 the Ministry, if the Housing Acts are not carried out by the local authority, and if that principle is carried out under that Act at the instance of only four resident electors, the provision that the representation under this Bill should be made by 50 electors would appear to be very reasonable, and I hope the Government will accept the Amendment.
§ Colonel L. WILSON
I feel sure my hon. Friend will not be disappointed when I say that it is impossible to accept the Amendment. It is quite unnecessary. It rests with the local authority to do its duty in this matter, and if it does not do so the Minister has full power to act, and 2279 would act, on the information given him by his own officers in the district.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman so certain that he will be informed of neglect on the part of the local authority if this Amendment, is not accepted? There is, for instance, a great deal of what is called luxury building going on now, and how does he know that he will be informed? How does he know that his officials will take the same view as the people in the district? It seems to me that the Amendment provides an ample safeguard, as a petition to the Minister in these cases is very salutary, and I feel suspicious when the Minister declines to accept this Amendment. Does the right hon. Gentleman think he will get so many petitions that he will be worried to death? If people show sufficient spirit and energy to get up a petition of this sort, I should have thought the Minister of Health would have been delighted to receive it, and to send down an official to make enquiries.
§ Colonel L. WILSON
May I just say, in order to remove the suspicion of my hon. and gallant Friend, that municipal electors can make representations, and that there is no necessity for this Amendment?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. LORDEN
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (4).
I do so because I feel that the autocratic powers given to the Minister here are too wide. They should be limited very considerably. The Minister takes the power practically to over-ride the local authority's opinion, although he gives them an opportunity of being heard first. After all, it would be utterly impossible for the Minister to deal with this himself. It must be in the hands of an official, and therefore I do feel that the paragraph ought to be safeguarded so that it is on the advice of a tribunal. The Minister wants houses, and he wants them any way, and his mind must be biassed in that respect. He has plenty of power without this, and I hope he will agree to the Amendment.
§ Dr. ADDISON
My hon. Friend is aware that the necessity of this arose, it being represented in various cases that the authority had failed to exercise any of its powers in respect to this matter. It was in order to meet that that the proposal was accepted. Real and effective safeguards are provided against any arbitrary action of the Minister or those acting on his behalf. In the first place, he has to give the local authority fourteen days' notice of the suggested order, and then the order is subject to an appeal to a tribunal set up just as if it were an Order made by a local authority. The hon. Gentleman might perhaps have put forward some effective suggestion for safeguarding the position that would not destroy the usefulness of this Clause. I have had representations from all over the country that this Clause should be inserted, and I think the safeguards are to the point.
§ Mr. T. WILSON
I hope my right hon. Friend will not accept the Amendment. It is necessary to safeguard the rights of the public. The people concerned in the localities can deal with this matter in the best way irrespective of this Amendment.
§ Captain THORPE
Personally I do not feel satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. I am opposed, and of the people in my division— there were a sufficient number right-minded enough to return me—who also are opposed to the growing despotism and the growing powers that from time to time are being collected in the hands of individual Ministers. In this case I do not suggest that any powers taken by the right hon. Gentleman, for whom we have a great regard, would be misplaced or misused, but it is a possible source of that growing bureaucracy which is a curse to, and is retarding, the recovery of this country, commercially, as in every other sense. We have got absolutism in the liquor trade, in the flour trade, indeed in every trade, and now we are asked to accept, for reasons that, I think, are totally inadequate, absolutism in the building trade so that we may, if necessary, prohibit buildings. To my mind any form of restriction of the means of employment is misconceived. We know that in October there were 2281 274,000 unemployed, and that in November that number had risen to 471,000. Surely the solution for unemployment is productive work, further employment? The principle has been laid down that anything, whether luxury building or otherwise, that provides employment is to be restricted; that will fail as a remedy for unemployment.
Let me give a concrete case. It may be proposed, as it was in Lancashire the other day, to build a brewery. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say without fear, however personally you label it, that a building which is to create what is known as honest British beer is a very excellent institution. In that estimate for that brewery, to cost £30,000, the amount to be paid to the bricklayers and the other essential trades that might in the alternative be employed on cottages was £10,000. The local authority, in its wisdom, decided that in point of fact a brewery was a luxury trade which should not be allowed to proceed because it was likely to interfere with the building of houses. What is the immediate result? You have available, hypothetically, the value of £10,000 for the building of cottages, but you have no guarantee that that £10,000 worth of labour will be devoted to the building of cottages.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Member's speech has no relevance to the question before the House. I submit that the question whether you could spend a given amount of money on building a brewery is not raised by the proposal we are discussing.
§ Captain THORPE
I quite anticipated that comment. What I was going to say was that powers which are now exercised by local authorities it is now proposed should be handed over to the Ministry of Health. I submit that what is wrong in the case of the local tribunal is infinitely worse in the case of a Minister who knows nothing of the local conditions. In the case of the brewery to which I have alluded there was £20,000 worth of labour for unemployed men, some of whom might have been employed fixing girders or on concrete work, but the argument of the right hon. Gentleman practically is to let that £20,000 remain unemployed, provided that we get potential work for £10,000 on cottages.
§ Dr. ADDISON
That could not possibly arise, and such a case can only arise when there is a shortage of labour on cottages. In the case which has been given by the hon. Member there is a surplus of labour, and that would not come under the Bill at all.
§ Captain THORPE
There is no place in the United Kingdom where there is not a shortage of cottages. If there is a short age of labour my submission is that the remedy is not to be found in restricting one particular form of employment, but among hon. Members on the Labour Benches. The whole of these discussions are being conducted on a fallacy which is that the kind of labour available at any given moment for any form of building is limited. As a matter of fact, it is limited because the trade unions have put an artificial barrier against increasing the number of bricklayers and the number of men employed in the building trade. There are any number of ex-ser vice men—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I fail to see the relevancy of all this. This paragraph gives certain powers to the Minister of Health under certain circumstances, and it has nothing to do with the matters which are being dealt with by the hon. Member.
§ Captain THORPE
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and I will conclude by saying that the war-time exigencies for placing absolute control in the hands of the Minister have passed. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, but I will give fourteen days' notice to the local tribunal of my proposed action." What is the effect of that? Assume for a minute that a local authority has neglected to do its duty. By reason of its failure the right hon. Gentleman sends a notice to it, in some form or another, saying that it has not done its duty. For fourteen days that notice will be on the Table, and there will then be an appeal for a tribunal to be set up. Paragraph (5) says that the tribunal to which appeals are to be referred by the Minister shall be a tribunal selected very largely by the Minister. I do not suggest —and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think it—that any tribunal selected by the Minister will not be impartial, but a tribunal selected by the Minister, sitting at the Ministry of Health, in London, to hear an appeal from the decision of the Minister of 2283 Health, and brought into personal contact with the right hon. Gentleman, cannot help being somewhat prejudiced. If I do nothing else, I ought to take this opportunity of protesting against this growing system of despotism, and against the idea that a Minister of the Crown combines the infallibility of the Pope with the omnipotence of some Turkish Sultan. It appears to be one of the inevitable concomitants of democracy that it should he badly governed—but to be over-governed—and that is what we are suffering from—is a mark of slavery and an insult to a free-born people.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I hope the House will pass this Clause. The Minister simply asks, in cases where necessary housing is being held up by building of another kind, that he should have the power to take steps to see that houses are erected. What are the safeguards the public have against bureaucracy? First of all, that the Minister, if he believes that these buildings are being erected to the detriment of housing, shall give a certain notice to the local authority, and that his decision on the matter shall be submitted to a tribunal. Surely that is reasonable. If the House is desirous that working-class dwellings shall be erected there is nothing wrong in the Minister asking that he should not be blocked in his good intentions by the diversion of labour and of skilled workers on to buildings that are, not of the same importance and as essential to the public as a whole. The public have two guarantees. First, that the Minister must give notice if he intends to interfere, and secondly that his interference shall go before a tribunal. The House is quite justified in assuming that these two conditions make it certain that building will not be interfered with unless there is a legitimate reason to deflect the labour to more important work for the housing of the people. I know what is said about bureaucracy. I do not like bureaucracy myself, but certain pledges were given by the Government at the last Election, and particularly by Members who stood with the coupon of the Government. One of those pledges was that there should be housing for the people. The Minister is now asking, that he may devote his attention, not to the stopping of useful building, but to the prevention 2284 of the carrying out of work on buildings that are of less importance than houses for the people. With the safeguards that are in the paragraph, I hope that the House will accept it without further demur.
§ Lieut.-Commander WILLIAMS
I had intended at one time to support the Minister in regard to this paragraph, but I am afraid that, when I find that Ministers are in a hurry to get through any particular piece of work, my suspicions are aroused. I find that the Minister is in somewhat of a hurry in this case, and I do not think he explained very satisfactorily, at any rate as far as I was concerned, precisely what he means by this Subsection. In the first place is it really necessary that he should start by assuming that the local authorities will not do their duty? It has been pointed out that, if a local authority does not meet the requirements of the time, it is possible to change it; and it has also been pointed out that it is easy to appeal to the Ministry in various ways. I would ask the Minister to see if he cannot in some way modify the paragraph, so that he may at any rate seem to trust the local authorities more than he seems to trust them at present. Then I should like to ask what precisely is meant by "buildings of less public importance than the provision of dwelling accommodation." At present, in almost every district, the matter of primary importance is dwelling accommodation, but it is conceivable and possible that in the immediate future there may be a considerable number of places where there may be a shortage of, say, factories, or agricultural buildings, which might be of more importance than dwelling houses in those particular cases. I should like, therefore, to see some modification of this part of the sub-Section also, so that it may be left almost entirely to the local authorities to carry out the work. I am convinced that if they are trusted they will carry it out at least as efficiently as a big Ministry in London.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down has said that he is always suspicious when a Minister is in a hurry. Personally I am in a hurry to get to bed, and at our present rate of progress we shall get to bed at about six o'clock in 2285 the morning. What we have to do is to hurry on with housing. This paragraph is a very simple one. We have already swallowed the previous paragraph which seemed to me to be far more serious, dictating as to the wages that shall be paid. This simply gives to the Minister the power to act in certain conditions when buildings are being erected which prevent the provision of housing accommodation. With regard to the second point, we all know that there arc good local authorities and bad local authorities, and I think there ought to be some central power to see that defaulting local authorities do their duty. It is not necessary to interfere with good local authorities, but pressure is necessary, in the case of some authorities, to see that this important work is carried on.
§ 12 M.
§ Mr. REMER
I should like to join with the last speaker in his protest against attempting at the hour of midnight to discuss for the first time on the floor of this House the important proposals embodied in this measure. Members have no doubt debated the Bill upstairs but there is a great disadvantage because Members who do not happen to be on the Standiing Committee have usually to discuss the Bill at a late hour like this. It is a great injustice to hon. Members themselves. This is a proposal to give the Minister of Health most autocratic powers not merely for a short period, but for all time. Forty years hence there may be a Labour Government in office, and we may find men occupying the position of the Minister of Health using the powers given in this Clause for all kinds of ulterior purposes, and defining luxury buildings in a way no sensible person would dream of doing. I have carefully examined this particular Clause. It seems to me that these autocratic powers will be given to the municipality. There are local authorities in the country dominated by Labour majorities which have run the rates up to as much as 25s. in the £ by reason of their wildcat schemes. I am very much inclined to move the adjournment of the Debate until a more opportune time for the discussion of this very important subject. It is impossible at this late hour of the night to properly debate proposals of this kind.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I have rather come to the opinion that this Clause if strengthened somewhat would obviate the necessity for 2286 putting into operation a decision recently arrived at in the division lobbies. It seems to me that the Minister ought to have power not only to review possible building operations by an authority outside the area where housing schemes are in progress, but he ought also to have power to review them within the area itself, so that, assuming that by local influence plans are being passed that are absorbing a greater number from the building, instead of going to the outside authority, who are also passing plans for further buildings, I think he ought first to review the state of affairs within the area itself. Surely if that were so you would be able to gauge whether cottage building would be interfered with by the local authority passing its own plans within the area. That would be a much better way than saying, after the plans were passed: "You must not pay more than the trade union rates to the men."
§ Colonel GRETTON
This Clause is really of considerable importance because of the principle it raises. The Minister proposes, either on his own motion or at the instigation of some local authority, to proceed into the area of some other local authority than the one in question because in that other area buildings are being erected which are of less public importance than the provision of dwelling accommodation. It means that the local authority whose area is to be invaded either by the Minister or some other local authority has already dealt with this question. No objection has been raised, the buildings are proceeding, plans are laid, material bought, labour employed, and then somebody comes along and instigates the Minister to act. The Minister may or may not agree. If he does, on the advice he gets, then he proceeds to give notice that in 14 days he will make an order, and he proceeds to do so accordingly. The right hon. Gentleman tells us there is an appeal. Let the House see what sort of an appeal he is going to set up.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I am taking what the right hon. Gentleman put in the Bill. It is set out in paragraph (5)—The Minister shall constitute a panel of persons to act as chairmen of the tribunal and a panel of persons to act as ordinary members of the tribunal.2287 He appoints his own tribunal—persons of his own selection—specially chosen for ' this particular Bill.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I will of course do so. So much as illustration of what an appeal is worth in the protection of the local authorities from the invasion of the Ministry. This is a Clause for gingering local authorities, and I maintain that in these matters local authorities should have the power to carry out these Acts with as little interference as possible from the Minister. I have risen for the purpose of protesting against arming the Minister with these extraordinary autocratic powers, practically without appeal, for any purpose whatsoever. Surely he has sufficient powers already in other Sections of the Bill without attempting to override local authorities in the way he proposes in this paragraph? If my hon. Friend goes to a Division, I shall feel obliged to support him in the Lobby.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment made: In paragraph (8) leave out the words "by a local authority."—[Dr. Addison.]