HC Deb 28 June 1921 vol 143 cc2048-55

(1) This Act may be cited as the Housing Act, 1921.

(4) The enactments specified in the Second Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of that Schedule.

Lords Amendment:

In Sub-section (4), leave out the word "Second."


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is a purely a formal, drafting Amendment, as there is only one Schedule now to the Bill.

two years there were therein substituted the period following (that is to say):—

  1. (a) In the case of any house in respect of which a loan has been or is being made by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland under Section nine of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911, or assistance by way of loan or by way of sale at cost price has been or is being provided by the said Board under paragraph (e) of Sub-section (1) of Section four or Sub-section (4) of Section five of the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, the period of three years and six months; and
  2. (b) In the case of any other house the period of two years and six months.

Amendment proposed: In paragraph (a) to leave out the words "under Section nine of the Small Landowners (Scotland) Act, 1911."—[Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. Hope.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


The House is obviously waiting for the Prime Minister to make a statement on the coal dispute, and the point raised by this Amendment is one which the Scottish Members would like to discuss outside the atmosphere in which we are waiting, but if this Debate cannot be now put off, I must put our case. The point deals with the ex-service man and his position on the land in Scotland. Under the existing Scottish Land Acts there are certain loans which are given to smallholders who are already settled on land, and there are also loans which are given to ex-soldiers as such who have been settled on the land since the original Small Holdings Act came into operation. On the top of that there is the subsidy which was given by the Government in order to aid builders, and on those smallholdings in. Scotland there are obviously buildings which these ex-service men occupy. Under this Amendment we would claim for the ex-service men the benefit of the housing subsidy. If hon. Members who apparently are not interested in the fate of the ex-service men in Scotland were to pay any attention to the conditions under which they are put on the land, they would know that the loans which are given to them at a very advantageous rate cannot be repaid inside either 40 years at the higher rate or 80 years at the other rate. I understand now that the Prime Minister cannot make his statement on the coal settlement before 7 o'clock, so that hon. Members who are not interested in the fate of the ex-service men may now have the opportunity of leaving this discussion if they wish to do so.

What we want—and I think it is a perfectly fair request—is that in addition to the advantage which every smallholder has in Scotland under the existing Acts, the ex-service men shall have the benefit of the subsidy granted for building. That is the whole point. Upstairs in Committee this Amendment was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. Hope) and the Secretary for Scotland promised to consult the Government and see whether or not some arrangement could be made whereby the ex-service man who has been put on to the land, should, in addition to the advantages under the existing laws, get the advantage of the subsidy. The answer given upstairs was that under the existing scheme the ex-service man gets the advantage of a loan borrowed for 18 years. I put the point to the Leader of the House. I do not want him to reply, but I want his sympathy, and this is a real point of substance. No loan which operates for 80 years is going to be of use to the ex-service man, because by that time the man will be either dead or a hundred years old. We want the advantage of this extra assistance which everybody else in the country is getting. This is an Amendment to put the ex-service man into the favourable position we desire. It may be argued it is not, fair to give one man as against another this advantage. Our reply to that is that we had the promise of the Government, and the country that the ex-service man should have special conditions. He is not getting those special conditions.

The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr Morison)

Yes, I think so.


My right hon. Friend says, "Oh, yes, he is." We reply that we know that he has a choice of two methods, one of which gives him the same amount of money repayable in a shorter number of years at a higher rate of interest than he would have for the 80 years' loan, but he does not get the housing subsidy. What I am putting forward is the view of the majority of the Scottish Members on both sides of politics. Upstairs in Committee we were unanimous. If the Government had gone to a division in Committee—which we could not do because there was not a quorum—there would have been only one vote on, the Government side, namely, that of the Secretary for Scotland. Everybody else was against the proposal. We were promised consideration between then and the Report stage. In view of the money the Government has set aside, I appeal to my right hon. Friend to deal with this question, and to go to the length of giving the ex-service man settling on the land, in addition to the advantage of the loan, this subsidy which everybody else all over the country can get for housing.


I am very glad that this question in regard to the position of the ex-service man in Scotland has been raised. I am sure the Secretary for Scotland desires above all things that the ex-service man should receive at least as good consideration as anyone else. I am glad also that my hon. Friend opposite has reinforced the arguments in support of what he con- ceives to be the claims of the ex-service men. The Amendment, however, misrepresents what really is the position of the ex-service men. This Bill does not confer a benefit upon any class of citizens in Scotland. It does not give a subsidy to anyone. It merely extends the period within which certain existing subsidies can be paid. In all respects the effect of the Bill is to conform to the arrangements under which the original subsidy was granted. The Amendment proposed neglects, I think, what is the real situation in regard to the loans which are paid to the smallholders. It is a very technical matter, but I hope I may be able to make the point clear.

There are two classes of smallholders in Scotland. The existing small landholders was the particular class in a position to benefit by the subsidy under the housing scheme. They could build new houses which complied with the conditions of the Statute and, of course, the subsidy was of assistance to them. On the other hand, in regard to the new small landholders class for whom my hon. Friend has spoken, a great many ex-service men had been settled under the Land Settlement Act, 1919. If I understand accurately the arguments of my hon. Friend I think it was the case of those to be settled in future, that he had in mind. In regard to these new landholders, after the Statute of 1919 was passed a special scheme was prepared in their interests by the Board of Agriculture and published in October, 1919. Under this they receive no subsidies but receive loans on extraordinarily advantageous terms. Moreover they were allowed loans not merely for their houses but for their steadings, farm buildings, and things of that kind, and the rate of interest that was exacted in their case was only 2 per cent. If the proposal is that these men should not be brought under the housing scheme they would be the first to object. In point of practice the 2 per cent. loan scheme is more advantage to the ex-service man than are the terms of the Housing Act. The matter has been carefully calculated and I am sure that that is correct.

There is this further point to be considered. In the case of the ex-service men who become new small landholders they wish for a house of a substantially different character from the class of houses which is capable of earning subsidy. Not only does the ex-service man who is settled under the Small Landholders Act, 1919, Sec. 7, Sub-section (7), get, in fact, better and more substantial terms, but he gets a scheme which he can make use of, whereas it would not be in the least to his advantage to come within the housing scheme. I wish to make this further comment with regard to the ex-service man, that he obtains his loan upon his farm building and the house, without limit of time, and the scheme goes on as long as the Board of Agriculture has funds. The effect of the Amendment would be to place him under a limit of years contained in. the Bill. If the ex-service man who becomes a smallholder runs a farm the housing benefit would only apply to his house, and not to his steading. The result would be that you would have one bond of 4 per cent. for housing and another of 2 per cent. for the steading—in short, you would have two bonds if you put him under the new scheme.

From an administrative point of view that is an insuperable objection. Any intelligent ex-service man who considers this choice between the 2 per cent. scheme of the Board of Agriculture and the 4 per cent. housing scheme established by the Board of Health will have no difficulty in seeing that the former is infinitely to be preferred. One thing I should add, which I hope will induce my hon. Friend not to press the Amendment. If the Amendment suggests that the ex-service man and not any other should get the advantage of the 2 per cent. loan and the housing subsidy as well, there are two conclusive answers. The first is that you are giving him a particular benefit which no one else in Scotland gets. The second obstacle is this: that the Treasury will not agree to any scheme of the kind. If the housing scheme is to be applied to the ex-service man it must be applied as it is to the rest of Scotland. The ex-service man has his special loan scheme at 2 per cent. and gets this advantage at the expense of the State. My hon. Friend must also remember that the ex-service man gets priority in regard to the choice of land and to that extent he has some advantage. This Bill has been framed exactly in accordance with the housing scheme which was in existence, and the reason you have the limitation of Section (9) in this sub- section is because the housing scheme as such does not apply in the case of the persons who are settled as new smallholders. It was not intended to apply to that case because the new smallholders had better terms. I hope that explanation, and the fact that my hon. Friend knows that the Treasury have the ultimate control of this matter, and refuse to combine the Two Per Cent. Loan with the benefits of the Housing Act, gives a conclusive answer to the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. HOPE

Will the right hon. Gentleman say definitely whether, if he rejects my Amendment, that by legislative action there will be taken away from the ex-service man the right to the advantage of the loan which they already have under the Act of 1919?


No. If I may explain, it is to their advantage that they should remain under the Board of Agriculture scheme as long as possible.


My Amendment would not take away the right by special legislative enactment?


No, it is perfectly true, it would not bring them within the housing scheme unless a new scheme was prepared to meet their case.


Surely, they will, and can, remain under the Act of 1919. If my Amendment be accepted, it comes under Section (1) of the Housing (Additional Powers) Act, 1919, which will give them the subsidy?


Let me be clear. Do I correctly understand that the acceptance of this Amendment will impose a charge upon the Exchequer?


I submit that it would not, because there are grants already given by the Treasury for this purpose in Scotland dealing with land settlement. We have already suggested in Committee that if there is no other way of doing it, then the moneys already provided could be used. It is only a question of rearrangement by the Government. The proposal was made upstairs that if the Government had any difficulty about the subsidy being applied to these particular buildings, there was already money provided out of which special arrangements could be made in order to give this advantage to ex-service men. We expected that here in the House the Secretary for Scotland would have said something about that matter. All the Lord Advocate has done is to point out that legislation will be required to make it legal in another way. We say that the money is there and we suggest that it should be used.


May I draw attention to the memorandum of the Financial Resolution which provides that out of the £1,650,000, £1,140,000 is to be expended. We are not asking for any extension of this sum, but we are simply dealing with the allocation of it.


I am not quite clear that this proposal does involve a new charge, and so I do not withdraw it.


I am afraid the Amendment does not cover the case completely. Perhaps what I am now going to suggest would meet the case of my hon. and gallant Friend. I suggest that we should delete from paragraph (a) the words "section nine of," and that would place the whole housing scheme under Subsection (7) of Section 7 of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911, and that would give to the discharged soldier the option of coming in under the Housing scheme. Paragraph (a) would then read: In the case of any house in respect of which a loan has been or is being made by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland under the Small Landholders Scotland Act, 1911. That is taking away the limitations of Section 9, and it will include Sub-section (7) of Sec. 7 of the Small Landholders Act.


Will the right hon. Gentleman add the Land Settlement Act, 1919? What he has suggested seems to me would only provide for all smallholders under the Act of 1911.


There is no power to make loans at all under the Act of 1919, and therefore you would add nothing by inserting that provision. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that my proposal will bring these men who have been settled under Section 7 within this Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

That gives the man a choice, but it would not give the man who is now obtaining a loan a chance of obtaining the subsidy, and deducting it from the capital amount of the loan.


Not if it came under the 2 per cent. loan. All these loans are subject to Treasury sanction, and they will not agree to it along with a loan at 2 per cent.


It is very difficult to come to a decision under these circumstances if the Government will not give way in reference to these ex-service men. Under these circumstances I certainly think we ought to accept the Lord Advocate's suggestion, because then he could get the subsidy which would enable him to a large extent to spread the cost over that period.


As the original mover of this Amendment, I hope we shall accept the suggestion made by the Lord Advocate, which I think is the best way out of the difficulty, and I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.


This Amendment, on the Consideration stage, stands in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Midlothian (Sir J. Hope), and it is only in his power to ask leave to withdraw it.


I understand that what the Lord Advocate has suggested gives ex-service men the right to the loan at the reduced rate, and also the subsidy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!'] In any case, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the words "Section nine of."

Amendment agreed to.

Bill to be read the Third time Tomorrow.