HC Deb 30 November 1920 vol 135 cc1194-6

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."—[Mr. Baldwin.]


I should like an explanation why certain laws are to be continued in this particular Bill. The laws to which I allude are in Parts III and IV of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919, Section 21, and the Housing, Town Planning (Scotland) Act, 1919, Section 18. These two Sections renew the power given under the Acts to grant a subsidy of £250 to any private individual who builds houses for the working classes. We are shortly going to discuss the Public Works Loans Act, and when we get into Committee on that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is to move a Clause which would seem to me to render the continuance of these two Acts unnecessary. As I understand it he is going to grant powers to the Local Loans Commissioners to make grants payable under the Housing Act, and if that is so I would like to know why it is necessary to continue in this Bill these two particular Sections. I do not know who is in charge of the Bill, but if it is the Secretary to the Treasury I think we may get an explanation from him. There is also the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, Section 1, which gives very drastic powers to the Government. I am not at all sure that I do not agree with them, but I think we ought to have some explanation as to why it is necessary to continue for another year these very drastic powers.


As this is perhaps the only occasion on which we shall have an opportunity of referring generally to the terms of this Act, I wish to say I observe it is proposed to continue the Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905, as regards the whole Act, and that moves me to ask if the Government on this Bill can give any indication of their policy under that Act regarding unemployment at the present time, and whether in point of fact they in reality intend to continue it at all, and if it is to be continued, whether the powers 'under it are to be used. The position in the country, certainly in England and to a very large extent in Scotland, is that every form of activity under this Act of Parliament has practically ceased, and little or very little is being done at the present time. The machinery of the distress committees is being continued, but the overwhelming majority of those committees are doing no work at all, so that that represents an expenditure in salaries and in office and other accommodation for no earthly purpose in the matter of helping to solve the unemployed problem. I desire to ask on this Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill whether it is worth while to continue this Act at all, and whether it would not be good business to allow it to go, and to take definite steps to deal with unemployment on other lines, preserving what is good under this Act in any new machinery that may be set up


I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London for not having been in the House at the commencement of his speech. The preceding Bill was disposed of more rapidly than I had anticipated. I think I understand the point which he raised. The Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919, Section (21), relates, as he says, to loans by the Public Works Loans Commissioners to private persons constructing houses under certain circumstances. The desirability of continuing that form of subsidy will, I think, be generally accepted so far as the ensuing year is concerned. But without explaining the Clause I have set down on the Public Works Loans Bill I can assure my right hon. Friend that it does not touch the point which he has raised. It is entirely dissimilar. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Graham) I have asked the Minister of Health, at whose desire this Act is being continued, to attend and I hope he may be here in time to explain his reason. But I would point out to my hon. Friend that we are now on the Second Reading and, if necessary, he can raise his point in Committee and move the omission of any particular Act. I hope that that explanation for the moment will be satisfactory. The hon. Member will understand that further discussion is not precluded. Although I am responsible for the introduction of this Bill it contains a very large number of Acts concerning the activities of many Departments of State and sometimes it is a little difficult to ensure the attendance of Ministers unless one has warning beforehand of the points intended to be raised.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Baldwin.]