HC Deb 02 May 1923 vol 163 cc1451-505

Resolution reported, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the enactments relating to the housing of the working classes (including the amendment and revocation of building bye-laws), town planning, and the acquisition of small dwellings, it is expedient to provide for the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—

  1. (a) of contributions towards the expenses incurred in connection with the provision of houses of such type and size and completed within such time as may be mentioned in the said Act not exceeding a sum equal to six pounds for each house in respect of which a contribution is made payable annually for a period not exceeding twenty years;
  2. (b) of contributions not exceeding in any case one-half of the estimated average annual loss likely to be incurred, towards the expenses incurred in connection with the carrying out of rehousing schemes, and towards expenses incurred under Sub-section (1) of Section eleven of the Housing, Town Planning, etc. (Scotland) Act, 1919;
  3. (c)of such additional percentage of the annual loan charges referred to in paragraph (b) of Sub-section (2) of Section seven and in Sub-section (2) of Section nineteen of the Housing. Town Planning, etc. Act, 1919, and the corresponding provisions of the Housing, Town Planning, etc. (Scotland) Act, 1919, as the Treasury may approve."

Resolution read a Second time.


The first Amendment which I shall call is that in the name of the hon. Member for the Louth Division (Mrs. Wintringham).


I beg to move, in paragraph (a), after the word "contributions" to insert the words to local authorities with a population exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand. During the earlier part of the Debate the Minister of Health remarked that this Bill was not a solution of the housing problem, but was merely a contribution. As it stands, it certainly is a contribution to the problem of housing in towns, but it is not of any real value to the rural districts. It means that houses will not be built in country areas, and that, if they are not built, the people living in the country districts will be taxed in order to provide the houses for the towns. We do not mind the towns having their houses, but we in the rural districts wish to have a share of the plunder. I represent a rural district in which there are 163 villages. On all hands it is agreed that the loss on the building of houses will be greater in the case of rural authorities. The subsidy of £6 will not be sufficient, and because the wages in such districts are so low—the case was admirably put by the right hon. Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans)—economic rents cannot be paid by the agricultural worker. I ask the Minister of Health, therefore, whether he cannot change his attitude. He gave a half-promise that in future, if this legislation did not function in the rural districts, some change might be made. I ask, Why cannot that change be made now? In 1913 we were told that there was a shortage of 120,000 houses. For half a century no houses have been built, except by the generosity of the landed proprietors or the self-interest of the farmers. But it was never an economic proposition to build houses in the rural districts.

It has been said that perhaps the landowner would continue to build. We cannot expect the landowner to continue to build at a loss, and the labourer is too poor to pay an economic rent. Therefore, the labourer gets no further forward. We do not want the town dweller to be penalised, but we do want the agricultural worker to obtain some of the benefits of the Bill. The problem is just as real and just as human in the country districts as in the towns. In many country districts housing conditions are appalling. That statement brings me to a consideration of what those conditions are. What is the smallest space in which a family can be accommodated? The proposal of 850 feet of floor space is quite insufficient for a large family. It may suffice where there are only a mother and father and one child, but where there are a mother and father and four or five children it is totally inadequate. The Minister has suggested that with 850 feet of floor space it is possible to fit up a scullery, kitchen, parlour, three bedrooms and a bathroom.

I would like to examine the size of the different rooms. One bedroom is of the dimensions of 10 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 10 inches. I visualised that room in my mind, and I compared it with the Table in front of the Treasury bench, and afterwards I was interested to go down and measure the Table. I found that the smallest bedroom would be half-a-foot less in length than the Table. I ask the Minister, how would it be possible to use such a room as a bedroom for the accommodation of two girls or two boys? I cannot see how the furniture could be placed in it. You would have a bed 6 feet long, and in addition to that there would have to be a couple of chairs and a chest of drawers or some place in which to hang clothes. Even if the furniture could be got in, we have to consider the woman who has to clean the room. How is she to remove the furniture in order to keep the room clean and healthy? Consider also the question of health if such a room contained a bed for the accommodation of two children. How could one encourage people to enjoy the benefits of more fresh air? Certainly two children accommodated in such a room could not have the window open. I find that the other bedrooms will be 11 feet 4½ inches by 13 feet 6½ inches and 12 feet 2½ inches by 9 feet 3½ inches. Those would have to accommodate the parents and other children and perhaps a baby. Again, I do not see how there could be much room for the parents and the baby and cradle, and other furniture.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

I am afraid that a discussion of types of houses will not be in order on this Amendment. The Amendment raises the question whether the larger local authorities only are to have the subsidy, and discussion of the type of houses is outside the purview of the Amendment.

Captain BENN

Would such a discussion be in order on the Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Louth, which stands next on the Order Paper—[In paragraph (a) to leave out the words "of such type and size and completed within such time as may be mentioned in the said Act"]?


I would not like to say at the moment. It is probable that Mr. Speaker will return before that Amendment is called.


The object of this Amendment is to exclude from the Financial Resolution districts with less than 250,000 population, and one of the reasons for it is not only that the financial aid proposed is inadequate, but that the size and type of houses are inadequate. The size and type of houses are named in the Financial Resolution.


I am afraid that if I took the view of the hon. Member the whole of the Bill could be discussed on this Amendment. Discussion must be confined to the question as to which of the local authorities are to carry out the provisions of the Bill.


I bow to your ruling, but I would like to say that I have tried on three occasions to speak on this question of the size of the rooms, because I have felt it is a question about which I know something. I will conclude by asking the Minister of Health to consider the matter from the rural point of view. If he does not do so there will be a wave of condemnation which will sweep through the rural districts. We in the rural districts have the feeling that we do not always get justice and fair play, but we want to feel that we are to have fair play in this instance. If this Bill can be strengthened it will be of great value to the country districts.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I trust that the Minister will realise that I do not second the Amendment because of any feeling of antagonism to the Bill. I voted for the Second Reading, and I am intensely anxious that we should get houses built. The chief reason that prompted me to vote for the Second Reading was the statement made by the learned Attorney-General. I may be wrong in my interpretation of what he said, but at the end of his speech he seemed to me to indicate that the Minister of Health intended to make some concession in the direction of providing means whereby larger houses could be built. To me it is a matter of great disappointment that so far we have had no hint that that is to be the case. There is no issue of principle between us and the Minister; so far as I understand the position, it is purely one of degree. The Government do not say that this is not a national matter, and that, therefore, they have no responsibility. They have accepted responsibility and have produced this Bill. Our suggestion is that if it is worthy for the Government to undertake this scheme at all, they should do it as worthily as possible and really try to meet the situation.

During the Committee stage of this Resolution and also in a speech of the Mover of the Amendment we have had indications that in a very large part of the country, this Bill will not operate, or, at any rate, will only operate on a scale so small as not to meet the expectations of the people. Consequently the object we have in view is not to oppose the right hon. Gentleman, but to support him and help him so far as we can by expressing the public opinion. If he found it possible to extend the subsidy he would have the support of a very large section of this House — I believe the majority on both sides of the House—because there is in the House an intense desire to meet the demands which are coming right and left from all parts of the country that the people should be properly housed. I dare say the right hon. Gentleman may recollect certain words which, at the time, struck me as being very significant and which were used on the occasion of the opening of certain great municipal buildings. They were to the following effect: Institutions which are meanly housed are meanly esteemed. I should be sorry if the charge could be brought against the Members of this House that, because the people were meanly esteemed by us, we were content, that they should be meanly housed. I am satisfied that is not the wish of the right hon. Gentleman. As a near neighbour of his I know something of his public attitude, and I know how sincerely he has worked in municipal matters and how earnestly he desires to provide houses for the people. Therefore, what I am trying to do is to help him, so far as is in my power, to make the Bill a real success. He seems to think that the Bill is only a temporary Measure and that the points we raise are not applicable. But I suggest and I think the right hon. Gentleman's great knowledge of municipal affairs will enable him to see, that if this Bill operates for two years it may, to a large extent, stereotype the kind of houses which the people are compelled to inhabit. Holding that view, I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that, he should at this stage reconsider the course he has taken in reference to the subsidy. This is our last opportunity. This Resolution is the crux of the Bill. If it passes in its present form, and the Bill goes into Committee, I do not see how it will be in any way practicable or possible to carry out what we understood to be the idea expressed by the learned Attorney-General in his speech on the Second Reading. It seems to me that to carry out that idea, to make the housing scheme effective and to give the people houses in which they can be comfortable and have a reasonable degree of decency—


The hon. Member is now discussing the Resolution as a whole, but the Amendment before the House is to confine the subsidy to the larger municipalities.


Of course I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I understand that on this Amendment I was permitted to show that, for the great bulk of the community, the proposal will not be effective. My point is that while it may be effective for the very large municipalities, where we understand same kind of an arrangement has been made with the right hon. Gentleman, with which we do not wish to interfere, yet that generally, throughout the country, satisfactory results will not be achieved. My point is that such will be the case in Scotland and in many of the country districts of England. In my own constituency—because I do not represent Wolverhampton as a whole but chiefly a district outside the borough—I do not think for a moment that the Bill and the subsidy really and fairly meet the case. The right hon. Gentleman has come to a position of great responsibility at the present time, and it is because I sincerely hope that he may achieve practical results and provide houses suitable for the people to live in, that I am here, seconding this Amendment. I conclude by saying again what I said before, that I am seconding the Amendment not to oppose the right hon. Gentleman's proposal but to do all that in me lies to support the object which he has in view.


It must be generally admitted, with regard to the real rural districts, that this is a temporary Bill, and a partial Bill, and will not do much to solve the housing problem there. I do not think the Minister or his advisers expected hat it would, because the housing problem in the rural districts is not so much one of providing houses at 5s. or 6s. or 7s., but of providing the money to replace houses which are now out of repair and in an insanitary condition and which are let at rents of is. 6d., 2s. and 3s. It comes to a question of subsidising wages more than of building houses at an economic rent, and any subsidy that was offered would not tempt the rural district councils to build unless it was almost on the same scale as the subsidy in the Addison scheme. The houses built under the Addison scheme did not directly help the agricultural labourer. When one sees a row of 8 or 10 houses built under the Addison scheme, one generally finds that very few agricultural labourers are living in that row. The houses are occupied by people like insurance agents, post office engineers possibly, and men working in neighbouring towns who go to their work each day on bicycles. The scheme did very little to solve the problem of finding houses for the agricultural labourers.

I realise that this Bill may do a great deal to help housing in the larger centres. It may do something to help schemes in rapidly developing colliery districts, where the subsidy will be of assistance to newly formed public utility societies in getting on rapidly with their work. That, I look upon as being all to the good. With regard to the rural districts, I suggest that we should look on this as a temporary scheme, and as one which is not going to do anything for the agricultural labourer, but that we should allow this scheme to have an opportunity of working for a short time. When it is seen how much money is being found by the State towards subsidising the urban areas, then the rural areas will have the right to claim that a certain amount of money should come to them. Let it become known first how much is going to the local authorities of the big areas and to what extent they are utilising the subsidy, and going forward with the work. Then there would be a clearer case for the rural people to say they wanted a share of money—an equivalent share according to population. In that way they could start schemes, and though they might have to take a smaller number of houses, there would be a proportionately larger subsidy to meet the needs of the rural areas. I do not know whether I have been able to make the point clear.


No, you have not.


I am very sorry I have not been able to do so. I will try again. In order to build houses in rural areas for agricultural labourers a larger sum of money is required from the Government than is required in big towns. If we say that £1,000 is going to a certain population in the town, and that that £1,000 will build so many houses, my suggestion is that a similar £1,000 should go to a similar population spread over a rural area. It will probably mean that only half the number of houses will be built, but the subsidy per house will be greater than in the town and the burden on the local authority will be less. As a result, of course, there would be a less number of houses to the population, than in the town. I think there is more commonsense in that suggestion than hon. Members opposite pretend to see, because the urgency of finding houses for the people to live in is greater in the towns than in the country. [HON. MEMBERS "Why?"] Because in the towns there are far more people living two or three families to the house than there are in the country. The problem in the country is that so many of the houses are falling to pieces, and must be replaced. In the country districts the population, I am sorry to say, has not increased but decreased. Therefore, the housing problem is those districts is not one of preparing for an increasing population because I am afraid it will not increase, but of rehousing the people who are badly housed at the present time. I hope I have now succeeded in making my suggestion clear to hon. Members opposite.


Along with other hon. Members on this side of the House, I listened to the whole Debate on this subject on Monday evening, and to the reply of the Minister of Health. While the right hon. Gentleman's reply was generally against the arguments directed from this side, he left a very distinct impression on our minds that this question was to be further considered and that, probably, any device which could possibly be introduced would be expounded by him, or by some other Member of the Government, at the earliest possible moment. Our difficulty to-night is that this is the Report stage of the Financial Resolution, and we are parting with the Resolution which is fundamental to the whole Bill, and which will determine the whole of our proceedings in Committee. This is the last opportunity of making any effective protest on this subject. We are dealing on this Amendment with the question as between rural areas and urban areas with a population of over 250,000—though I do not claim that as a hard and fast line, and the figure has merely been put into the Amendment for the purposes of discussion. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was really a question of the flat rate as a whole. He did not defend the flat rate as a proposition; he admitted it might involve all kinds of difficulties and anomalies, but he said that a flat rate had been agreed upon, that the Government were not going back upon it, and that it was the best they could do under this Bill. If that be the state of affairs, may we not ask the right hon. Gentleman, at this final stage, whether there are any other steps he can take to give us a reasonable chance of seeing houses erected in the rural districts and the smaller urban districts?

The right hon. Gentleman quite rightly asked us for any constructive suggestions we could make. For the purposes of reply, I am going to put to him at least two suggestions which I think have an important bearing on the problem. In the first place, it is perfectly clear that if houses are to be erected, in the rural and smaller urban districts, their erection must be preceded by some attention to the existing rating system. That is under consideration in Scotland, and I think also in England at the present time, and it is reasonable to ask the Minister whether he intends to take any steps under that head, as a preliminary part of his effort to apply this Measure to the rural and smaller urban districts. In the second place, the right hon. Gentleman knows that the smaller local authorities will require to have recourse to the Public Works Loans Commissioners for a great deal of the money which they are going to use under these housing schemes. At the present time these small authorities are at a distinct disadvantage in getting money as compared with the larger authorities. In practice, the larger local authorities do not repair to the Public Works Loans Commissioners at all, and we showed in previous Debates that they were able to get money in many cases at 3½ per cent., and most of them at least at 4 per cent., but the smaller local authorities, which have to go to the Public Works Loans Commissioners, cannot get money at less than 5 per cent. under their rules. Not only that—and attention was drawn to this a little earlier in the discussion—but the Loans Commissioners generally lay it down that the loan in the case of the smaller local authorities must run for the full period; that is to say, that there cannot be repayment before the expiry of the period, which is generally a long one, originally fixed.

That means that the smaller local authorities, and including many of the smaller urban authorities, are at a distinct disadvantage, and that is an extra load which they are going to carry under this £6 flat rate subsidy as applied to the housing schemes under this Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman could say to us tonight that he intends, in the smaller urban districts and in the rural districts, to precede this Measure with reform in two directions, in the direction, first, of rating and, secondly, in the rules under which the Public Works Loans Commissioners now lend money to these authorities, I would be prepared to say that in part—I do not go beyond that—some of the difficulty under this part of the Measure might be met, but so far we have had no proposal of that kind, and I am sure that, in the light of what he himself said on Monday evening, the Minister of Health will agree that the difficulties of the smaller authorities are greater than even the most extreme statements on this side of the House have described them.

I press these considerations, because I want to avoid one very lamentable result under this Bill. Many of us are opposed to the Bill, but let me say at once that, if the Bill is passed, we shall do our best in the localities to see that it is carried out for what it is worth. After all, we want to see housing, and we do not want merely to score debating points, but this lamentable result is quite possible, that you will actually, under the financial structure of this Bill, stimulate building by some of the local authorities in the large centres, but you will make it more or less impossible in the smaller areas, and I think that will encourage indirectly the tendency of drift from country to town. The country has had quite enough of that in the past. Do not let us contribute indirectly to that sad state of affairs under the financial provisions of this Bill. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will give us a reply on those two points, which I think are of a constructive character, namely, rating and the system of grants to local authorities by the Public Works Loans Commissioners, and so make the scheme of this part of the Bill better than it is now.


The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) has, like myself, the inveterate habit of speaking to the point and of addressing his remarks to the Amendment before us. I am not sure that it always pays, but that is the fact, and may I, with all respect to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, ask them whether they really appreciate what would happen if the Amendment that they propose, but to which neither of them spoke very closely, were carried. The Amendment would cut out of the Bill every district in the country except those with a population of over 250,000. The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh seemed to think that that meant merely a question as between the rural districts and the great urban centres, but that is not so. There are a great many other districts in the country, the class of district which I represent, suburban districts, which would certainly not come within the category of those not having more than 250,000 population, and if this particular Amendment were carried—and I can hardly believe that it is seriously meant—it would mean that not only would the rural districts be cut out of the Bill, which some hon. Members seem to think would not matter very much, because they do not expect the rural districts to get much out of it, but also all that great mass of districts, such as the one I represent, that do not happen to be within the very few great cities of the country would be absolutely cut out of the Bill. There is another Amendment lower down on the Paper which I am trying to understand, but I have not yet succeeded. All that that later Amendment says is: in connection with the provision, by local authorities with a population not exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand, of houses of such type and size and completed within such time as may be mentioned in the said Act. Therefore, if these Amendments were carried, there would be nothing in the Bill, when passed, which would provide the class of house or the conditions and terms under which that class of house could be built for such persons as my constituents.


If the hon. Member looks at the last Amendment, to which he has referred, it provides that the town he represents would get, not nothing, but half and half. Instead of coming under the £6 grant, it would get the 50–50 grant.


That does not necessarily follow. There are a good many districts in this country which will get off with less than the 50–50. I have seen the figures worked out for some districts which anticipate getting a good many houses built with the aid of the £6 subsidy from the State alone, with very little in addition to it, and in connection with that, as the suggestion has been made that it would be beneficial to get the 50–50 grant, I should like to point out that the London County Council, in their observations on the Bill—which were really, as a matter of fact, more favourable than we were led to believe by quotations given from a report of theirs, I think it was yesterday—indicate quite clearly that whilst at first they might have to pay something like £8 or £9 against the £6 provided by the Government, before very long the amount of their contribution would come down to £3 14s. 6d. and to £4 12s. 5d., at periods when their road debt and their sewers debt were wiped off.

Captain W. BENN

Is it not a fact that they went on to say in that report that when the Government subsidy ceased they would have to bear the whole of the substantial deficit themselves?


Absolutely, but I am giving the amount of the deficit after the Government subsidy has ceased in the third 10 years. In the second 10 years, the road debt having been partly paid off, they would only be saddled with £3 14s. 6d.


What about the last 10 years?


It would then be £4 12s. 5d. However, I do not want to labour these details, but the acceptance of this Amendment as it stands would simply mean that, in addition to the rural areas, immense masses of districts throughout the country would be excluded from the Bill. As far as my experience goes, most people think it is a useful Bill, as far as it goes, and I do not think the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment are really doing much of a service in proposing such an Amendment, if it is really meant to be taken seriously.


The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir P. Pilditch) has, I think, done us a service in pointing out that this Amendment must be read and taken with the other Amendment that he quoted, and these two Amendments are really part of a scheme which, under the strict limits of order imposed by this discussion, we venture to put to the Minister of Health. We are not proposing merely to limit the subsidy of £6 to the populations exceeding 250,000, but we also have an alternative plan for those populations under the 250,000 limit. We understand that the larger boroughs, with a population of 250,000, have made their bargain with the Minister of Health, and that he could not get away from that, even if he wished to do so. So be it, but we venture to put it to the Minister that, by his own admission and the admission of his supporters, there is a large area of the country where this Bill is not going to work at all. We suggest that the people in that area will do very well indeed to accept our suggestion that in that area it should be 50–50, a share between the localities and the State of half the cost, and I venture to say that, without going into those figures, I think even the larger boroughs below the 250,000 population would probably do a great deal better over the whole period of 60 years if they accepted our suggestion of abandoning the fixed £6 subsidy and taking this 50–50 arrangement.

I should like to point out to the House that this is not exactly the same Amendment as was discussed in Committee. It comes in at a different place, and it provides a consistent scheme, in so far as we can make it consistent. We should like it to have been more adequate, of course, but it is no use our trying to make suggestions, variants, and additions. Directly you begin to do that, as I know from experience, you are called to order, and you transgress the rule allowed in speaking in this House. It is not for the critics of this scheme of the Government to propose the additions. It is, we think, for the Minister himself to propose them, and I venture to think he ought to propose them now. I think the whole position is deplorable. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) spoke just now. I do not know whether the Government, were very grateful for his support, but certainly we were. He gave away the case against this Amendment. He said in so many words that the Bill admittedly will not do anything for the rural districts, and that they can wait. There are hon. Members sitting on the other side of the House who claim to be in an especial degree the champions of the countryside, the advocates of the interests of rural areas. I think it is about time that they put some pressure on the Minister of Health. He does not seem to be in an absolutely unyielding mood, for he admitted the case, and it is really a very strong case.

6.0 P.M.

Anyone who knows what the problem of housing is, must, I think, be impressed by a sense of the seriousness of it. Houses have not been built in the country for years past, and, looking ahead 10 or 20 years, if nothing is to be done, you will have an absolute collapse of rural housing. People say that the population is not increasing in the rural districts. I think the population increases. I do not think there is any lack of size of the family, but the people who live there drift away, emigrate and go into the towns, very largely because there are no houses being built. I do not wonder that the Minister of Health looks at this question with the eyes of one who has had great municipal experience. He has achieved his successes in dealing with the towns. Country districts are an afterthought with him. Jam for them to-morrow, but certainly not jam to-day. They can perform, meanwhile, a very useful function—they can be taxed. Of course, if the private owner puts up houses to pay 1½ per cent., the Government will take their toll of the revenue coming from the houses, so that the Government do not do their duty in the rural areas. They admit that they leave it to other people to do it, and the other people say they cannot do it.

Surely that is an impossible position in which to leave the question. It is no use saying that the thing may be dealt with two years hence, and giving mere vague hopes and promises of that kind. Is it beyond the power of the Minister of Health to do something in this Bill? He admits the gap, and that the problem is made worse by the invasion of the town dwellers into the country districts. I think there is an uneasy feeling. I do not want to score points on this Bill against the Minister of Health. I voted for it. I am only anxious by pressure, and, I hope, by eliciting the pressure of those who have more influence with the right hon. Gentleman than I can hope to have, to do something to prevent the case of the countryside going by default. I believe, as a matter of fact, if you have this scheme, under which, in the rural districts, the costs will be shared between the rural district council and the State, you may do something. I think that is the only scheme which we thought we could put forward within the terms of the Resolution, but it does not exhaust the possibilities. It, is for the Minister himself, when he admits there is this gap in his Bill, when he admits there is this area where it will not work, where there is a real crying necessity for it, where there is overcrowding, and in some districts as high a rate of tuberculosis as there is in the towns, where you have conditions as to water supply which some of us know in the country districts—you cannot leave all that on one side, and say it is a temporary Bill, and take the taxes out of the country districts to meet the cost of the towns. Really, that is an impossible position.

It is all very well for the Minister to say that we will be able to deal with it in Standing Committee. I think, before a, Bill goes forth shackled by the terms of this Money Resolution, which may, unless it be extended in some way or other, and some more latitude be given, make it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman, even if he wishes, to do something at a later stage. I put it to him that it is the duty of the Minister of Health, who is as much responsible for the country districts as for the towns, to make some further proposal. It is impossible at this day to leave this simply to the tender mercies of the squire, who may, in a few cases, be able to deal with the matter, but who certainly cannot cope with the whole requirements, and it is quite clear, by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters, that there is this gap which ought to be filled. We invite him to do something to meet the case. If our scheme is a bad one, it is open to him to produce a better.


This Amendment is one with which the rural areas are very intimately concerned. The matter has been considered by the Agricultural Committee of the House of Commons this afternoon, and I am authorised to speak on their behalf. What we feel about it is this. We do not want to put our case too high. It would not be right to say that the rural districts would get no benefit at all out of the Bill as it stands, putting aside the point dealt with by the hon. Gentleman opposite of houses which might be built by private owners. I quite understand it would not be right to be satisfied in any way with this Bill, because it merely facilitated building by private owners, which, under present circumstances, can only cover a small area indeed, and I do not pin my faith to that at all. There is one direction in which this Bill will be of use to rural areas, although of much less advantage than to large urban areas. It is this. The hon. Gentleman said that houses in villages were considerably occupied by town dwellers. Town dwellers can pay the higher rent, and so can a good many other people who live in rural areas other than agricultural labourers. Houses which ought to be occupied by agricultural labourers, or would be occupied by agricultural labourers, who can only pay low rents, are not now available, because the town dwellers and officials of local authorities, policemen, postmen, railway servants and others, who are receiving a much higher wage, are occupying those houses, and if additional houses were built for the occupation of these town dwellers and others, it would set free houses at lower rents which would be available for agricultural labourers.

To that extent, therefore, the Bill will help the rural areas, but when all that is said, it is quite clear that the advantage to the rural areas will be a very great deal less than the advantage to the large industrial communities. But Where we differ from the hon. Gentlemen opposite is as to the Government being very strongly pressed, and our making it a sine qua non that this should be included in this Bill, because this Bill is a flat-rate Bill, and, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out the day before yesterday, once you depart from a flat rate, and if, for instance, you accept the suggestion which is just made, that in this development you should divide a loss, it involves setting up the whole machinery of supervision centrally, the Ministry of Health has to satisfy itself of the measure taken, and the whole administrative machinery has to be set to work by the local authorities for the purpose. That, of course, would be very expensive, and entirely outside the definite proposals of this Bill as it stands.

Therefore, if the Minister will admit, as I think he has admitted, that the rural districts do suffer a considerable disability under this Bill, in that they will pay the same rate of taxation, whereas they will receive a considerably less benefit, if he will tell us that this Bill is only regarded as part of a larger and more general scheme, and that he recognises that something is due to the rural districts, we do not want to oppose this Bill, because we are not gaining as much as we ought under it, and so injure in any way the large communities which we know want this Bill very badly. We do not want to take up a dog-in-the-manger attitude about this at all, and, therefore, we desire to support the Bill on general grounds, in the interests of the industrial communities. We are always asking industrial communities to recognise the disabilities of agriculture, and are continually pressing upon them to consider us, and saying that they do not consider us enough. Therefore, I do not think it would be a reasonable attitude to adopt to say, "We will not let you have this, because it does not benefit, us as much as it does you." We help them now, and we shall want to ask them to help us.

That is really our attitude on this question. But I do most earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us a very definite undertaking that he will, to the best of his ability, and at the earliest possible moment, make good to us the loss which we shall suffer under this. I do think you want a separate Bill, the problem is such a different one. It was pointed out in Committee upstairs that it is clearly beyond the wit of man to devise a flat rate which will apply to the large urban communities and also to scattered rural districts. If you are to produce a Bill which is to give equal conditions to both sections of the community, it is perfectly clear that it cannot be a flat rate Bill. But this is a flat rate Bill. It is being dealt with as a flat rate Bill, and you have either to alter the whole construction of the Bill, and go on totally different lines—and I can understand a good many hon. Members would find fresh objections to another Bill of that kind—which would involve great delay in these large communities getting what they want. Therefore, taking it on these lines, the policy of the Agricultural Committee is to support this Bill for the benefit of the community as a whole, only on condition that it is recognised by the Government that we are not getting our fair share out of it as a general housing measure, and on their undertaking that they will make that good at the earliest possible moment.

Captain BENN

I am not quite sure that I understood the position of the Agricultural Committee as voiced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). He says this is a flat-rate Bill, and, therefore, we cannot amend it. But that is what we are engaged in doing. The Amendment of my hon. Friends purports to do precisely what the right hon. Gentleman says requires doing, namely, to make this an urban Bill, and have a separate Bill for rural districts. We say that we think it it unsuitable not only for rural districts, but for Scottish districts as well, and therefore we say, give us a separate Measure for them. That is what I understand the right hon. Gentleman proposes, and, therefore, I shall be greatly surprised if he and those who follow him do not come into the Lobby with us, and support an Amendment which is not a wrecking Amendment. No one in the party with which I am associated desires to wreck the Bill. We merely desire to confine it to those districts to which it is suited. What is our proposal? We are proposing by this Amendment and subsequent Amendments to make the flat rate apply to the urban districts, the bigger ones saying that they can work under the scheme. We are proposing as regards rural districts and Scotland to put them under the half-and-half arrangement—the 50 per cent. arrangement. What is the objection to that proposal?

I confess my experience is small, but I am not very much impressed by the argument of the Minister of Health that this would involve an infinitesimal central control. What about the rehousing and the demolition of slum property in which 50 per cent. of the expense is borne by the Ministry? Does that involve this meticulous and infinitesimal control in regard to the scheme of expenditure? Apparently not! If you have the 50 per cent. in respect to a suitable arrangement for clearing slum areas, why cannot something of the kind be adopted without the putting up of great new Departments and the employment of many men in them for the rural districts—that is for the districts which cannot work on the flat-rate scheme? The Minister of Health has two answers to that point. First of all, he says that he has never given us too rosy or exaggerated promises as to what the Bill will do. For that I admire him. We have had, perhaps for the moment, enough of the stormy seas and the mists on the mountains. That sort of thing has been rather overdone in the past, for when the seas have calmed and the mists have cleared away it has not always been found that the boat has got safely to harbour, nor, to vary the simile, have we got houses at the end. I like the frankness of the right hon. Gentleman, but at the same time it is not very comforting to people who really want to see something done and believe it is possible for something to be done.

What is the reason that this Bill cannot be turned really into a—I will not say a bountiful—but a generous Measure of housing reform for the rural districts? The Minister says two things. The first is that we may rely upon the squire or the landowner to build the cottages. That is not a very desirable way of getting houses in connection with farms, for the owner, may have to put them up for his own employés, and it is not desirable, nor should we be very anxious, towards putting a man into the possession of power, sometimes called tyranny, in the rural districts, which is possessed by the man who owns the only houses in which the rural labourer can live! The second contribution of the right hon. Gentleman was that in the future, if this Bill fails, something else will be done. On that rather vague and shadowy premise the right hon. Gentleman founds his determination not to support the Amendment. Why wait for the future? I understand the right hon. Gentleman's determination is to get as many houses built as the conditions of labour admit, that is to say, the number of men available. By this Bill all you will do is to draw upon the rural districts for the building operatives and other workers and bring them into the town, so that they will not be in the place where they might be used for building their own houses. There is another point which I wish to impress on the Minister of Health, and that is that so long as there is a scarcity of houses in the rural districts so long will rent control continue. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman said, "I join with the housing reformers in the cry of 'Houses first, houses before decontrol,'" but even that slogan was not very triumphant. Until you have got more houses you cannot decontrol rents. Therefore to await for the future merely means that you are forcing us to remain in this morass of Government interference with rents which is causing so much difficulty in housing. I say, therefore, that the Minister would be well-advised to consider whether it is not possible now to deal with the rural areas and the Scottish points mentioned by various spokesmen who have declared that under this Bill nothing can be done.

I should like also to ask the right hon. Gentleman how many houses we may expect to get annually under this Bill? I think that is a fair question, which surely he can answer! Will he tell us in his reply what is his estimate of the number of houses which will be built under the provisions of this Bill? He must have some estimate. It cannot be that he is just going to wait and see how things shape. He will before long have to present to Parliament a Supplementary Estimate because I find nothing in the main Estimate for this grant. He has got to arrange that the money shall be forthcoming, and, therefore, his Department must know perfectly well, that is to say somebody there must know, how many houses, roughly, are going to be built, and what will be the distribution of them. If he will give us these figures we shall know whether or not our contention that for the rural areas this Bill is insufficient is or is not well founded. If, as we believe, our contention is well founded, I would particularly urge upon the right hon. Gentleman again to consider whether it is not possible so to enlarge or to amend this Financial Resolution—which is the last word this House will have upon the matter—for once we pass this iron law in which we have to frame the legislation it is useless to say anything. I, therefore, plead with him whether before this passes, and settles the matter for the future, he could not so enlarge or amend the Resolution in the way suggested to deal with the matters brought before him.


Perhaps it will be to the convenience of the House if I rise at this point to make some reply to the criticisms and suggestions which have come from various quarters of the House. I am afraid that I cannot follow up the remarks of the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) owing to the ruling of the Chair. I must, therefore, leave the point she put for consideration on some other occasion. Before I come to the question of the rural areas and the interesting suggestions put forward by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite I should like, first of all, to say a word upon what fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne). I am sure he will believe that I accept with a feeling of gratitude his kindly expressions towards myself and his belief in my sincerity. I do not, however, quite follow what he had in his mind when he said that my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General left upon him the impression that the subsidy was likely to be increased in respect to certain districts. I do not think, if he will again read the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend, that he will find any words which would bear out an assumption of that kind. What the Attorney-General did say was that the question of the area of the houses taken within the ambit of subsidies would be considered. I do not think that he will find any suggestion that the amount—


What I had in my mind was that what the Attorney-General said could not be given practical effect without the subsidy being in some way increased.


What I think my right hon. and learned Friend said was that the ambit of the scheme might be rearranged, but, so far from the subsidy being increased, that you might at the same time have to decrease the amount. The hon. Gentleman asks why we cannot deal worthily with the subject, and why we should attempt to house our people meanly. I am sure he understands that the reason for any limitation at all is not a desire to lower the standard of housing. It is to provide houses for which the people we expect to live in them can afford to pay rent. I do think that that is a condition that too often is lost sight of. It is all very well to say that we ought to build better houses than those we are providing. I am sure we would wish that such houses will be put up, but we have to face the fact—it is not the slightest use burying our head in the sand—that if we only put up the sort of houses we should like the people to live in, they would have to take in lodgers to be able to make up the rent.

I come at once to the larger general question which has been raised by this Amendment, namely, the relative position of the rural areas and the towns. I am not prepared to accept the suggestion that because I have had some experience of the local administration of towns, therefore I have no thought for the country; or even that I have no knowledge of the country. Though I do not profess to be an expert on the subject, I do know something of the conditions in the country, and I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) make the point which I had intended to make the day before yesterday, but which somehow slipped my memory when I was on my legs. In the course of my observations, I pointed out that overcrowding in villages was to-day largely caused by the fact that there had been a migration into the villages from the towns.




Well, partly. What I had intended to say was that I did not admit that under the Bill we are not doing anything for the country, because, in so far as by our proposals we can relieve the pressure in the towns, we will relieve the pressure in the villages. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) that there were two ways in which we could mitigate the hardships in the rural areas. One of his points was in relation to rating reform. I confess that I did not quite appreciate what he had in his mind. I thought when he began he was referring to the relief to be afforded in the matter of the rating of agricultural land. That would not apply in this case. If the hon. Gentleman had only in mind a measure of general rating reform, of which some mention has been made in this House from time to time, then I can tell him I do not see any possibility of a measure of that magnitude and complexity being introduced in time to be of much service in this case. I wonder, again, whether he has quite appreciated the present situation in regard to the rate of interest. After all, the smaller bodies which obtain their loans from the Public Works Loan Commissioners are not in an unfavourable position even comparatively. They are going to get their money at 4¾ per cent. and on the annuity system. Therefore, it is really a more favourable arrangement for them than that of the larger authority which borrows at 4½ per cent. and has to set aside a sinking fund. I would point out that even if you were to reduce the rate of interest still further the amount of difference you would make in the case of a house so as to be able to have an equivalent reduction in the rent and debt would not be nearly sufficient to meet the discrepancy which hon. Members believe exists between the town and the country.

Now I come to the observations made by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. C. Roberts). I will put the two Amendments together and explain what I had not appreciated before, that the purpose of this Amendment was to draw the line between the larger authorities with a population of over 250,000 and those below that figure. Those above that figure are to have £6 per house and those below the 50–50 arrangement. I wonder what authority the hon. Member has to suggest that this 50–50 arrangement would be acceptable? Consider the case which has been put by the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley). According to his calculation, which I do not accept as correct, he estimated the annual loss per house, that is the annual gross loss, at £21. How would that work out on a 50–50 arrangement? By that method you are putting £10 10s. per house on the local authority, and they cannot bear that charge. The hon. Member charges me with not meeting the situation in the rural areas, and yet he puts forward this proposal to meet the case. I ask the hon. Member how is £10 10s. per house from the local authority going to meet the case? This illustrates again that the moment you depart from the flat rate and try to put your ideas on paper you begin to come up against the real difficulties, and the hon. Member has not got over those difficulties by his suggestion.


I said that it was not for us, being bound down by this Resolution, to put forward another solution. It is not for us to put forward such suggestions, but for the Minister to find his way out of the difficulty.


Then I understand that the hon. Member opposite is only restrained by considerations of order from showing us a solution. I should have thought that the ingenuity of the hon. Member, aided by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), would have enabled him to get round any difficulty of that kind. No, Sir, I am afraid the hon. Member will not get over his difficulties as easily as that. If these suggestions were adopted you would be in the same difficulty as that which I pointed out at the beginning, namely, you would be having one form of subsidy for one class of authorities and another form for another class. There are only some 12 or 14 authorities in the country to which this £6 would apply, and on what ground are you going to say that the one which is just below is to have more favourable treatment? If its costs are higher, what are you going to say to other authorities? I would like hon. Members to seriously consider these things and to remember that we have had to decide between a number of alternatives, any one of which is subject to difficulties and criticisms, and that we have taken that one which on the whole appeared to us to be the most practical, the most easily worked, and the most likely to accomplish our object. I now come to the question which has been put to me as to the number of houses that can be turned out during the period covered by the Bill. Of course it is strictly limited. It is limited by the capacity of the building trade. If that is so, it comes to this, that somebody has got to wait, and you cannot all have houses in this limited time. Whilst I do not want for one moment to suggest that I do not appreciate the conditions of many houses in the country villages, I do say that when you are thinking who shall come first and who shall wait a little longer, you should bear in mind that whilst the conditions inside the houses in the country villages may be as bad as anything which exists in the towns, nevertheless the people in the country are spending their time mostly out of doors instead of working as they do in the towns in a confined space, where the ventilation is not as complete as is the case with those who work in the open air where they are exercising their lungs and keeping themselves particularly fit. Whilst I do not want it to be thought that I do not appreciate the difficulties in the villages, I think the considerations which I have just mentioned should be borne in mind when you are deciding who should have the first claim to be relieved from these unhappy evils.

Captain BENN

How many houses is it expected will qualify for the subsidy provided under this Bill?


I think it must be obvious that no estimate which I could put forward would be worth anything at all on this point, because it does not lie in my hands, but in the hands of the local authorities. It is said that if the subsidy is big enough you will get the fullest possible number of houses that can be turned out, but I think that would send prices up to such an extent that you might have to bring your whole programme suddenly to an end. If we were to raise the subsidy I warn hon. Members that, in my opinion, it would not have the effect that they desire, but really, in the long run, it would check and hamper our programme, create a variety of scandals, and would put money into the pockets of those to whom it was never intended that it should go. It is suggested that we have adopted the principle of half and half in the case of slum clearances, but that is not so. I think the answer to that is pretty obvious. You cannot adopt a flat rate when you are dealing with slum areas because there is no unit, and therefore you cannot apply the same rule. The hon. Member opposite was not quite correct in his description of what is contained in the Clause dealing with slum areas. The amount is half the estimated annual loss, and if the local authority make a mistake in their estimate, the extra charge will fall upon the local authorities and not upon the State. Apparently that is a new point to the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain W. Benn), but it is a point which I would like to make clear, because it is rather an important one, and one which, if applied to the building of new houses, would again do a good deal to make unpopular the suggestion that the system of half and half should be applied to these small local authorities. If they make a little mistake as to the rents of the houses—there might be a rent strike or something of that kind, or they might have to reduce the rents below what they anticipated—then their estimate would be completely out, and the loss would fall upon them and not upon the Exchequer. Therefore I say again that is not likely to make such an arrangement popular.

I tried to make clear in Committee what my attitude was towards these rural areas. I said practically that when you have a flat rate you cannot expect that every local authority is going to get an equal advantage. I went further and said that, in my opinion, the rural areas would probably get less out of it than perhaps any other class of authority. I say again, if that proves to be so, when this legislation comes to an end I think those authorities would have a further claim upon the consideration of the Government. I am not in a position to-day to make a more definite statement than that. A man who has only been in office for seven weeks, and whose experience has been largely gained in towns, can hardly be expected to have grasped all the difficulties of country life in that time. It would be absurd for me to pretend that I had got any clearly worked out ideas as to what might be done in the future in this respect, but I am convinced that the problem in the country villages is different in this respect from the towns, namely, that it is a more or less stationary problem. There is a certain amount of work to be done, and it consists principally of replacing old and rotten houses by new ones, and speaking broadly, when you have done that you have solved the problem. Sooner or later I know that the problem of the increase in population has got to be dealt with. This problem has been accumulating for generations, and no houses have been built for many years, and to say that a state of things like that, which has been going on for all these years must be solved here and now in this particular Bill seems to me to be rather unreasonable. We have to deal with a huge problem right throughout the country, and to say that a particular class of the community who are going to receive benefits from the urban population in the proposals in connection with rating, would have proper and just ground for grievance and indignation, because this whole problem was not being solved at the moment when we are trying to bring about a partial mitigation of the conditions in the towns, seems to me to be a position which is unreasonable and one which I do not think should be taken up by the Government.


I was very much surprised by one remark that fell from the right hon. Gentleman. In dealing with the question of building houses, although he admitted, in the earlier part of his speech, that houses were urgently needed, he admitted that the great British nation, despite all its power as represented in its Army and Navy, if it built houses at a greater rate than the trusts would permit, the trusts would have the power to step in and stop it from building houses. That, to me, is a very sad reflection upon any Governments, and especially upon the British Government, which says that it holds in its hand the power to govern. If the British Government holds in its hands the power to govern, it would so govern the nation that no body of trusts or combines in building materials would be allowed to interfere with the rights of the people to have whatever number of houses they want. Speaking as a Member representing an industrial area, in the centre of which is a very congested area, I want to make my plea on behalf of the rural districts. The Minister of Health stated that he had found some cases where the industrial areas were finding their way out into the rural areas for houses. That is not the case so far as Glasgow is concerned. Only last week the education authority in Glasgow had to deal with the case of a house measuring 8 feet by 8 feet, in which there were 12 persons, but despite that fact I still plead that something more should be done for the rural areas.

I have listened to all the arguments that have been put forward to-day from all quarters, and I can find no argument that can show to anyone who thinks the thing out clearly any reason why they should not ask for even more for the rural areas than they ask for the industrial centres. The custom in regard to building houses in rural areas is not the same at all as in the towns. The area given is 850 feet, and in the country the habit is to put that all under one roof. When you do that you increase the cost, because you have a greater roof to build over that area, whereas in the towns you box them like cigar boxes, one on the top of the other. Then, when it comes to the arrangements in regard to water, it is cheaper in the towns, where houses are built together, than in the country, where they are separate. When it comes to the question of gas distribution, you have more mains to use in the country. For these reasons I am surprised that the Minister of Health should in any way combat the plea that something more should be done. He tried, but, in my opinion, failed, to point out the difficulties. He said that if the flat rate were departed from something terrible was going to happen, but nothing would happen.

The subsidy, so far as Scotland is concerned, cannot be compared with England, because our costs are higher in Scotland, and when the Minister of Health seeks to impose a flat rate, he places a penalty upon Scotland in its house building. With all due respect, I say that the class of house suggested now, upon which the subsidy is to be paid, is only a potential slum. It cannot be otherwise. The one objection that I have on the question of the finance of this Bill in relation to houses is that, while we are giving 850 feet as the area, there is nothing that determines what ought to be the height of the ceilings, whether of a single flat or a double flat. If it is going to be left in competition with regard to the finance side, and if the contractor sees that he is going to get £6 for covering a certain area, then, since nothing has been suggested by the Minister to show that the ceiling shall be a certain height, the subsidy, in that way, when handled by private contractors competing with each other, may have a different value altogether, and, through the sub-contractor, there may be a departure from the flat-rate system which the Minister wants to adopt so far as this Bill is concerned.

The whole point of real, sincere effort in housing is that we must do everything to encourage the small local authorities, if we are going to have anything in the way of decent housing in colliery districts, for instance, which have been mentioned by various speakers to-day. I have been in two mining villages in Scotland this week, seeing some of the so-called new houses, which are no improvement, with the exception of six inches in width, on the houses built 70 and 80 years ago. What, then, is going to be the power that the Minister of Health is going to wield to show to the whole country that he is really interested in housing? I would make an appeal to him that he should again take this into consideration, and, while doing the best that can be done for the industrial areas, should put his best foot forward so far as rural areas are concerned.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

I should like just to correct one point in the interesting speech of the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), which shows rather a common misapprehension in regard to the question of cost as between rural and urban areas. We are not going to discuss the matter in general on this occasion, but I think it is necessary to correct this at the present stage. The hon. Member talks about the higher cost in rural as compared with urban areas, in, for instance, such matters as the greater length of gas mains. I should like to know what rural area there is in which gas is ever put into the houses? The costs, of course, vary a good deal. In the first place, in the London area wages are definitely higher than they are outside in the rural area, and the cost as far as labour is concerned is, therefore, smaller in the rural areas. The second thing that must be realised is that one of is site development. The difference lies not in the house, not in the original cost of the land, but in the site, and that goes to the root of the housing question in the towns. The development of the site multiplies something like ten-fold the cost of the land in an urban area, and the cost of the site, the roads, the sewers, fencing, and so on, amounts to nearly a quarter of the total cost of the building of the house. In the country it is totally different. You have the cost of the land, but you probably have no road, possibly only a track, or the house is put alongside an existing small country road.


I was looking towards the future. I was not thinking of going back to the troglodyte stage, because we have rural areas in Scotland where we are pushing the supply of gas and so on.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

I regret that the hon. Member should have such extraordinary ideas about the troglodytes as he seems to suggest. In the ordinary rural problem, as it is at the present time, and not looking into the strange future to which the hon. Member is looking, it is an actual fact that at the present time, in the villages in ordinary rural areas, you have not to develop the site by water mains—because you have a pump—or by sewers, because you have the cesspit at the back, and as long as it is a decent distance from the cottage it is perfectly healthy. You have not to make provision for central heating, or for gas or electric lighting. The result is, therefore, that in the towns there is a far greater cost for building than in rural areas. Nevertheless, I stand by what my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) has said as regards the agricultural question. Undoubtedly, in the country districts that I know in England, this Bill will not help them to the same extent as it will the towns.

I do not want to go into a general discussion, because it would be out of order, but I did think that the House would be interested in one particular scheme and its results, as showing that the matter is not nearly so difficult as is suggested by many critics at the present time. Let me take as typical a small urban district in my own constituency, which has devoted itself to the housing question, and put up some of the best houses, with an economic rent, before the War, when I was county medical officer of health. It is a paying proposition still, and stands at this day as a monument of what can be done by municipalities at an economic cost. They have put forward a further scheme, which has just been sanctioned by the Ministry of Health, for the erection of 42 good houses, with 5 rooms each, besides all the accessories, such as scullery, bathroom, and so on, with site development and all included; and the proposal is such that within 25 years the tenants will all own their own houses. This is a scheme for what may be called the better-class artisan, and yet they will not have to pay a rent higher than many ordinary working people, unfortunately, have to pay in the towns for a couple of rooms, as we have heard already in the Debates on housing this Session. Under this proposal, by paying towards a sinking fund something like £3 15s. every year, in addition to a rent of £40, they will be paying off the whole cost of the house, and the house will be theirs at the end of 25 years. The money has been raised, not by that, extravagantly careful body, the Public Works Loans Board, but by private enterprise, from the Westminster Bank, and they are able to get that money—


Did I understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that these houses were to be occupied by artisans who were to pay a rent of £40 per year?

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

Yes, Sir, the hon. Member has understood me perfectly rightly. The total rent, including sinking fund, will be 15s. 9d. a week for 25 years, and at the end of that time the house will be their own. As regards the question whether it is possible for artisans to pay that, I think we ought not to discuss that now upon the Financial Resolution, but, at the same time, one-fifth of the total income of a family spent on rent, rates and rail is a perfectly correct figure, and is, unfortunately, less than most of the industrial population have to pay. The money was originally arranged to be raised at 5 per cent., but they have now got better terms, and have managed to make a contract at the bank for raising it at 4½ per cent. I only bring that forward to show how at the present time, without any allowance for subsidy, an ordinary small urban authority can bring forward a scheme like this which is obviously self-supporting, and designed for the use, at any rate, of the better class of artisans.

7.0 P.M.

It is sufficient simply to refer to the arguments which have been so well brought forward, as regards the effect of the flat rate, to realise that in a district such as that the flat rate would enable a large amount of good housing to be done, and that it will help very materially in the problem. We know that it will not help sufficiently to solve the whole problem, because the building trade is unable to produce houses at the rate necessary to catch up with the deficiency. We know that perfectly well, and recognise that it is only by degrees that we can make up the leeway that has been lost I suggest that this flat rate has one extra advantage, which has not been sufficiently mentioned. I have tried, like all who have had to have personal responsibility in the housing question, seriously to consider in what way we can prevent the increase in prices which has always hung like a millstone around every State scheme of housing. I regret that the only official suggestion we seem to have had was that a Committee would be appointed to watch prices. I have no doubt that publicity has a very great effect in helping to show the true facts and to prevent exorbitant profiteering, but if a contractor in any business in this world sees a possibility of making a profit by supplying clients with a certain commodity at a certain price, surely, he has no scruples about getting the best price he can. Therefore, I do not believe that even publicity will help to keep costs down if the costs are going up under the natural law of supply and demand.


That is raising a larger question than can be debated on this Amendment. The matter must be raised on the Bill when it is in Committee.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

I wanted to show that the flat rate is having an advantage, in addition to those which have been brought forward. I hope I shall not be ruled out of order if I just give the point of what I was going to say, namely, that, if the flat rate be adhered to, the contractors, building rings, and makers of materials all know that the amount of money that is coming from the Treasury is limited, they know by practical inference that the amount that can come from the local authorities is also limited, and they will know further that, unless they can keep their prices down to ordinary limits, they will not get the orders. Therefore, naturally, they will keep their prices down according to the ordinary law of supply and demand. I maintain, and bring it forward as a serious solution of the problem, that a flat rate and definite limitation of the State grant will be the best and only economic check upon prices of building material that do so seriously affect the amount of building under a State scheme.


The Minister of Health has practically admitted that this Bill will affect only in a very attenuated fashion the rural districts. He said so in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), who asked whether he would give some kind of definite pledge to introduce a Bill which would affect the rural districts more favourably than will this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman did not give us a definite promise. He said he had the town problem to consider, that it was very urgent, that he had only been in office seven weeks, and had had to settle the town problem. If he settles the town problem this Session, he will deserve a greater niche in political history than his distinguished father. I want to come back to the rural districts. I do not want to attack the Minister of Health, but to get something from him for rural areas. Will he give us a pledge that next Session the Government will introduce a Measure dealing with the housing problem in the rural districts? This Bill, he admitted, will do no good to us, or very little. I am not sure that he did not put it too highly. The local authorities and the rural districts have been bitten already, and I am perfectly certain they will be reluctant to come into any building scheme under this Measure. There is this other point. I have been asked on several occasions by local authorities in the country districts to approach the Minister of Health that they may actually sell the sites already bought. If the Minister of Health could promise us some Measure which would help the rural districts, then there would be no necessity for selling these sites which have been bought at a considerable price.

I would point out that in giving this subsidy you really are forcing up the price of building in the rural districts. It is the inevitable result of any Government subsidy that up goes the price. Whenever the State engages in enterprise, if it ever has any enterprise at all, which I doubt very much—[Laughter]—well, when they put in into operation we shall be very interested to see it—directly you have a State subsidy or State enterprise, you put up prices. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that there was a committee watch- ing. I will back private people against all the committees in the world, and I suggest that you are putting up the prices against us in country districts to-day, even in the small matter a farm repairs and such like. I think it only just, therefore, that we should ask the Minister of Health, seeing that this Bill will do nothing material for rural districts, to give a pledge to introduce some Measure which will help us next Session. He talked of the benefits we are to receive from the rates. I quite admit, and am grateful to the Government for this measure of rating reform. It is not, however, wholly a benefit, but a measure of justice which we have asked for, and to which we have been entitled for a very long time. We shall have under this Bill to pay taxes in order that the houses shall be built in the towns, and I ask some Member of the Government to give us a definite pledge that the rural districts shall be dealt with next Session.


I should like to deal with one point that has been referred to by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) in his criticism of the hem Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie). I do not wish in the least to digress from strict order, but the points of difference between the two arguments are both founded on fact. The problem of the rural area in Scotland is a problem which does include many of the costs referred to by the hon. Member for Springburn, and, in addition, there is the enormous difference in the question of cartage and transport. The Glasgow Corporation can choose a site alongside a railway, as they have done in the last scheme. They have a scheme in operation just now where they are building 1,500 houses, to the site of which they have run a branch line direct from the railway. There are practically no cartage costs. They have temporary plat forms, and they dump the material on to the site of the actual houses. On the other hand, I could give cases within half-a-mile of Springburn where the cartage from the railway station to the site amounts to a very high charge indeed, and where the distance is from one to two miles. I think the questions of water mains and gas connections do arise in the rural areas in Scotland. Indeed, I have had an argument with the Under-Secretary for Health, which has extended from the time before he was in office, on the question of connecting up gas mains under one of the Addison schemes.

With regard to this Amendment, it would limit, the scheme to burghs not exceeding 250,000. The effect of that in Scotland would be to leave only two cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, under the present Bill. It has been argued that if that be done there will be a great delay in facing the housing question, but my information is rather the reverse; that the county councils, who are the authorities in the rural areas, and the small burghs in Scotland at least, are not going to touch this Bill; that it does mean a hopelessly large charge on the rates, and that the Bill is practically a dead letter in Scotland outside those two cities. Therefore, from that point of view we can quite fairly argue, I think, in favour of the Amendment as it stands. The hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans argued a case in which private enterprise had provided houses and in which the rent, and rates I take it, amounted to about £43 15s. in the year.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

It was the local authority—the urban district council.


There we are up against a difficulty in that we do not have such institutions as urban district councils in Scotland, with the result that we have a different problem. I am afraid, however, I should be out of order in arguing that, although there really is a direct case on the argument which was put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans for having a separate Measure for Scotland. Taking the case he gave, it would appear that this urban district council did provide houses, but at a rental of about 15s. 6d. a week.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

That included sinking fund charges.


And rates?

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

No, it did not include rates, but at the end of 25 years there is nothing more to pay.


If it did not include rates, that 15s. 6d. would, with rates, come to something like 22s. a week. Taking that as one-fifth of income, the figure he gave for the rental of the household, it would seem that this urban district council was indeed providing houses, but for people with an income of at least £5 or £5 10s. a week, or for that class of people who have roughly £300 a year. I suggest that is not, the problem which the Ministers in charge of the Bill are attempting to deal. I agree that it is possible that this Bill even in the large cities is going to provide houses, but at what a rental! In Scotland, Glasgow, for instance, will be able to build houses provided it is going to get a rental of about £34 or £35 a year, which with rates is going to mean 18s. 6d. to 20s. for rent alone. That is not the class in the community that the Government profess to be catering for in this their first instalment of solving the housing problem. It means, if we take a tenth, which I used to regard as a fair proportion of the rental, rather than a fifth, that the scheme that we are considering is going to provide houses for people with incomes somewhere between £400 and £500 a year and for that class alone, and on that basis even this is not the kind of house that the people in that position are going to desire. I have always been in this quandary as to limitation of size, because I have been worrying myself with the problem as to how either the Minister of Health or, for example, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs could possibly have a bath inside the dimensions of the bathroom they mention. I rather think there would have to be a course of acrobatic training for the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs before he could get into the bath.

My complaint is that the Bill as it stands is not going to provide houses at all. It will allow of the big municipalities building houses, which I agree there is possibly a market for in the present stringency, but it is a market only among people who have incomes round about, £400 a year. That is a class of the community which many of these authorities ostensibly are not aiming at housing, in the belief that they can quite easily house themselves. I think the Minister has not produced any sort of balance-sheet by which we have got over the difficulty of the loss of £17 per house. I admit you can put a very large proportion of that on to the rent, but if you do so you immediately come to the point at which you are providing for another class in the community altogether, and, on that dilemma, I think the present Bill fails entirely to fit the situation. We cannot look upon it as a solution. In Scotland it is going to mean that in all probability these two cities will bring forward schemes and will build, say, 3,000 houses under them, but those houses will not be occupied by the people whom the Government profess to be going to provide houses for, and that outside the two cities no house building can possibly be done in Scotland under the Bill as it stands. What is needed is a larger flat rate if the Government is wedded to the flat rate—a very much more substantial contribution. Taking al the Clauses of the Bill together the Government proposes as its share of the solution of the housing problem £720,000 or so at the outside for new houses, £230,000 under the slum clearance section, and about £30,000 under the others—a total of rather less than £1,000,000. Yesterday we practically promised more than £1,000,000 over a considerable period of years in order to build a naval station at Singapore. We are prepared, that is, to put more money in the next 10 years into this questionable naval station at Singapore than the Government is prepared to put into the solution of the biggest question that faces us at the moment. That is my main contention. I do not think there is any great use in arguing one small point as against another. What is needed is a bigger contribution, and that contribution should not be put on the local rates. The biggest hindrance to the solution of the housing problem in all parts of the country, but particularly in the country districts, has been the fact that the rates are so high and the whole policy has been to put the rates higher. This Bill is going to make the problem worse by that method.


The hon. Member's argument would be quite relevant on the Second Reading of the Bill, but he is going beyond the present phase.


I admit that I have probably transgressed the precise and strict orders for this stage, but I feel that it is no question of settling the distinctions between one area and another, and that what is needed is for the Government to produce a second instalment which will be more than a piece of window dressing such as this one is.


I am sure that to-morrow morning, when the urban districts and the smaller boroughs read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, there will be a sense of great disappointment that, after the great work he has done in Birmingham, he is not taking the opportunity which is open to him of continuing to allow municipal bodies to carry out those housing reforms which we all know he has at heart. It has been suggested that this is a question of rural as against urban, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) said he would not grudge on behalf of rural England the advantages which urban districts would get from this Measure. I am afraid the advantages which will accrue in urban districts will be very limited. The present proposals will not carry with them the goodwill of the local authorities, which is so essential if we are to produce houses.

The Minister of Health on the Committee stage of these Resolutions criticised the difficulty of abandoning the flat rate and suggested that if you once depart from it you would have to have a huge army of officials and bureaucratic control at Whitehall, which he for one was anxious to do without. We agree with him on that, but the alternative is not what he suggests. Already his Department is administering, on the basis of a percentage grant, medical health services, maternity and child welfare, the venereal centres, the feeding and the medical inspection of school children, and neither he nor the Minister of Education has a huge army of officials who are checking and visiting the various municipalities and local authorities, and therefore it is raising an unnecessary objection to this principle of the percentage grant to suggest that with it you inevitably get a huge army of officials who have to control every movement of the local authority. He suggested that the difficulty with the local authorities would be that they might estimate wrongly as to the rents they were to receive, and he asked how they would be affected should there be a rent strike. Whether there be a rent strike under the percentage grant or under the flat rate of £6 per house does not materially affect the local authority, and I think, on further consideration, he will have to admit that his hypothesis is not sound.

I appeal to him to get the goodwill of the local authorities. He said, "Do you think they will be satisfied with your 50–50?" If he remembers the earlier interview that his Department had with the local authorities, it was on the basis of the 50 50 grant. He suggested in the earlier stages that the £6 for 20 years would be in effect a grant on the 50 50 basis. The local authorities do not feel that. It is true that a few of the bigger authorities have agreed to work this scheme on the £6 for 20 years, but the smaller local authorities, the municipal associations below this figure of 250,000, the urban district authorities which comprise the smaller towns, are very nervous indeed as to what obligations they may be entering into by the terms he has offered, and I suggest that he should even now reconsider the question in order to get the goodwill and the hearty co-operation of these local authorities, because I feel under the scheme, as it now stands, local authorities will hesitate before they embark on providing the houses which are so necessary.

We cannot afford to wait any longer. We have waited long enough for these houses, and it would be a very great disappointment if we had to delay further until we see whether this Bill will supply the houses the Minister suggests. The same difficulties as between Scotland and England, between the rural and urban districts, arise in the needs of the various local authorities. Industrial districts which have very heavy rates probably have the greatest need for houses. A residential area where you have a high rateable value and a small need for houses can very well carry on with £6 for 20 years. Another town with a low rateable value and a large industrial population requiring thousands of houses as compared with the other's hundreds cannot wait. It will be very inequitably treated. Again I appeal to the Minister even now to reconsider the matter, because the country cannot longer wait for the supply of these houses which have been promised for so many years and which we fear will not materialise under the present proposal.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. WALLHEAD (seated and covered)

I should like to ask a question. I have tried for at least three days, on this question of housing, to get the right hon. Gentleman to say a word on behalf of the over-populated valleys of South Wales. I have not been able to get a chance, and I should like to know when it will be possible to say something on

behalf of the people in the valleys I represent?


The hon. Member should put down an Amendment to the Bill in Committee.

The House divided: Ayes, 250; Noes, 149.

Division No. 123.] AYES. [7.30 p.m.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East) Ellis, R. G. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. England, Lieut.-Colonel A. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)
Ashley, Lt.-Cot. Wilfrid W. Erskine-Bolst, Captain C. Lorimer, H. D.
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W. Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M. Lort-Williams, J.
Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence Falcon, Captain Michael Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray Lumley, L. R.
Banks, Mitchell Fermor-Hesketh, Major T. Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm
Barnett, Major Richard W. Ford, Patrick Johnston McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)
Barnston, Major Harry Foreman, Sir Henry Maddocks, Henry
Bell, Lieut.-Col W. C. H. (Devizes) Forestier-Walker, L. Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Mercer, Colonel H.
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish Furness, G. J. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw
Berry, Sir George Galbraith, J. F. W. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Betterton, Henry B. Ganzoni, Sir John Molloy; Major L. G. S.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Gates, Percy Molson, Major John Elsdale
Blundell, F. N. Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R. Moreing, Captain Algernon H.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Gilbert, James Daniel Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Goff, Sir R. Park Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Brass, Captain W. Gould, James C. Murchison, C. K.
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Gray, Harold (Cambridge) Nall, Major Joseph
Briggs, Harold Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.) Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)
Brittain, Sir Harry Greenwood, William (Stockport) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham) Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury) Gretton, Colonel John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.) Gwynne, Rupert S. Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
Bruford, R. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Bruton, Sir James Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Paget, T. G.
Buckingham, Sir H. Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by) Parker, Owen (Kettering)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Halstead, Major D. Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Penny, Frederick George
Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Butcher, Sir John George Harrison, F. C. Perring, William George
Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North) Harvey, Major S. E. Peto, Basil E.
Button, H. S. Hawke, John Anthony Pielou, D. P.
Cadogan, Major Edward Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South) Pilditch, Sir Philip
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray
Cassels, J. D. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Cautley, Henry Strother Herbert, S. (Scarborough) Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hilder, Lieut-Colonel Frank Privett, F. J.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Hiley, Sir Ernest Raeburn, Sir William H.
Chapman, Sir S. Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G. Raine, W.
Churchman, Sir Arthur Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Rentoul, G. S.
Clarry, Reginald George Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Reynolds, W. G. W.
Clayton, G. C. Hopkins, John W. W. Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Houfton, John Plowright Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.) Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K. Roberts, Rt. Hon. Sir S. (Ecclesall)
Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale Hudson, Capt. A. Robertson-Despencer, Major (Isl'gt'nW)
Cope, Major William Hughes, Collingwood Robinson, Sir T. (Lanc., Stretford)
Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South) Hume, G. H. Rothschild, Lionel de
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L. Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South) Hurd, Percy A. Ruggles-Brise, Major E.
Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North) Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.) Russell, William (Bolton)
Crooke, J. S. (Deritend) Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove) Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney
Curzon, Captain Viscount Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton) Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Jephcott, A. R. Sanderson, Sir Frank B.
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul Sandon, Lord
Dawson, Sir Philip Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Doyle, N. Grattan Joynson-Hicks, Sir William Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)
Du Pre, Colonel William Baring Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel Shepperson, E. W.
Edmondson, Major A. J. King, Capt. Henry Douglas Shipwright, Captain D.
Ednam, Viscount Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Lamb, J. Q. Singleton, J. E.
Skelton, A. N. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland) White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South) Whitla, Sir William
Snowden, Philip Thorpe, Captain John Henry Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)
Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Titchfield, Marquess of Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement Winterton, Earl
Sparkes, H. W. Tubbs, S. W. Wise, Frederick
Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Turton, Edmund Russborough Wolmer, Viscount
Steel, Major S. Strang Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P. Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Stewart, Gershom (Wirral) Wallace, Captain E. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H. Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull) Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Strauss, Edward Anthony Waring, Major Walter Yerburgh, R. D. T.
Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H. Wells, S. R. Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel
Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H. Weston, Colonel John Wakefield Gibbs.
Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley) Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.
Adams, D. Harbord; Arthur Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Hardie, George D. Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Harris, Percy A. Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hartshorn, Vernon Ponsonby, Arthur
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hastings, Patrick Potts, John S.
Berkeley, Captain Reginald Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart) Price, E. G.
Bonwick, A. Hayday, Arthur Pringle, W. M. R.
Bowdler, W. A. Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill) Ritson, J.
Briant, Frank Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.) Roberts, C. H. (Derby)
Bromfield, William Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Brotherton, J. Herriotts, J. Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hill, A. Royce, William Stapleton
Buchanan, G. Hillary, A. E. Saklatvala, S.
Burnie, Major J. (Bootle) Hinds, John Salter, Dr. A.
Buxton, Charles (Accrington) Hirst, G. H. Scrymgeour, E.
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Hogge, James Myles Sexton, James
Cairns, John Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy) Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Cape, Thomas Irving, Dan Shinwell, Emanuel
Chapple, W. A. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Charleton, H. C. John, William (Rhondda, West) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Clarke, Sir E. C. Johnston, Thomas (Stirling) Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Snell, Harry
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Darbishire, C. W. Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon) Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)
Davies, David (Montgomery) Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East) Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools) Sullivan, J.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Kenyon, Barnet Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Duncan, C. Kirkwood, D. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Dunnico, H. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Thornton, M.
Ede, James Chuter Lansbury, George Tillett, Benjamin
Edmonds, G. Lawson, John James Tout, W. J.
Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.) Leach, W. Wallhead, Richard C.
Entwistle, Major C. F. Lee, F. Warne, G. H.
Fairbairn, R. R. Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Falconer, J. Linfield, F. C. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Foot, Isaac Lowth, T. Webb, Sidney
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Lunn, William Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon) Westwood, J.
Gray, Frank (Oxford) McLaren, Andrew Wheatley, J.
Greenall, T. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) March, S. Whiteley, W.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Grigg, Sir Edward Maxton, James Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Groves, T. Millar, J. D. Wintringham, Margaret
Grundy, T. W. Morel, E. D. Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Guthrie, Thomas Maule Muir, John W. Wright, W.
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Newbold, J. T. W.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Nichol, Robert TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) O'Grady, Captain James Mr. Phillips and Sir A. Marshall.
Hancock, John George Oliver, George Harold

Question put, accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided: Ayes, 159; Noes, 245.

Division No. 124.] AYES. [7.40 p.m.
Adams, D. Berkeley, Captain Reginald Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Bonwick, A. Buchanan, G.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Bowdler, W. A. Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Briant, Frank Buxton, Charles (Accrington)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Bromfield, William Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish- Brotherton, J. Cairns, John
Cape, Thomas Hill, A. Price, E. G.
Chapple, W. A. Hillary, A. E. Pringle, W. M. R.
Charleton, H. C. Hinds, John Ritson, J.
Clarke, Sir E. C. Hirst, G. H. Roberts, C. H. (Derby)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Hogge, James Myles Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy) Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)
Darbishire, C. W. Irving, Dan Royce, William Stapleton
Davies, David (Montgomery) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Saklatvala, S.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) John, William (Rhondda, West) Salter, Dr. A.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Johnston, Thomas (Stirling) Scrymgeour, E.
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Sexton, James
Duncan, C. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Shakespeare, G. H.
Dunnico, H. Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon) Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Ede, James Chuter Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East) Shinwell, Emanuel
Edmonds, G. Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Entwistle, Major C. F. Kenyon, Barnet Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Fairbairn, R. R. Kirkwood, D. Snell, Harry
Falconer, J. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Snowden, Philip
Foot, Isaac Lansbury, George Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Lawson, John James Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)
George, Major G. L. (Pembroke) Leach, W. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Gilbert, James Daniel Lee, F. Sullivan, J.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley) Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Linfleld, F. C. Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Gray, Frank (Oxford) Lowth, T. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Greenall, T. Lunn, William Thornton, M.
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon) Tillett, Benjamin
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) McLaren, Andrew Tout, W. J.
Grigg, Sir Edward Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Wallhead, Richard C.
Groves, T. March, S. Warne, G. H.
Grundy, T. W. Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Guthrie, Thomas Maule Maxton, James Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Millar, J. D. Webb, Sidney
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Westwood, J.
Hancock, John George Morel, E. D. Wheatley, J.
Harbord, Arthur Muir, John W. White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)
Hardie, George D. Murray, John (Leeds, West) Whiteley, W.
Harris, Percy A. Newbold, J. T. W. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Hartshorn, Vernon Nichol, Robert Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Hastings, Patrick O'Grady, Captain James Wintringham, Margaret
Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart) Oliver, George Harold Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Hayday, Arthur Paling, W. Wright, W.
Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.) Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Ponsonby, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Harriotts, J. Potts, John S. Mr. Phillips and Sir A. Marshall.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East) Button, H. S. Ellis, R. G.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Cadogan, Major Edward England, Lieut.-Colonel A.
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W. Cassels, J. D. Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W. Cautley, Henry Strother Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.
Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Falcon, Captain Michael
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray
Banks, Mitchell Chapman, Sir S. Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.
Barnett, Major Richard W. Churchman, Sir Arthur Ford, Patrick Johnston
Barnston, Major Harry Clarry, Reginald George Foreman, Sir Henry
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Clayton, G. C. Forestier-Walker, L.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Cobb, Sir Cyril Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
Berry, Sir George Cohen, Major J. Brunel Furness, G. J.
Betterton, Henry B. Colfox, Major Win. Phillips Galbraith, J. F. W.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale Ganzoni, Sir John
Blundell, F. N. Cope, Major William Gates, Percy
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South) Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L. Goff, Sir R. Park
Brass, Captain W. Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South) Gould, James C.
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page Gray, Harold (Cambridge)
Briggs, Harold Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North) Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)
Brittain, Sir Harry Crooke, J. S. (Deritend) Greenwood, William (Stockport)
Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham) Curzon, Captain Viscount Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury) Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton) Gretton, Colonel John
Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.) Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.
Bruford, R. Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Gwynne, Rupert S.
Bruton, Sir James Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Buckingham, Sir H. Dawson, Sir Philip Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Doyle, N. Grattan Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Du Pre, Colonel William Baring Halstead, Major D.
Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew Edmondson, Major A. J. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Butcher, Sir John George Ednam, Viscount Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)
Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North) Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Harrison, F. C.
Harvey, Major S. E. Molloy, Major L. G. S. Shepperson, E. W.
Hawke, John Anthony Molson, Major John Elsdale Shipwright, Captain D.
Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South) Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury) Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton) Singleton, J. E.
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Murchison, C. K. Skelton, A. N.
Herbert, S. (Scarborough) Nall, Major Joseph Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)
Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Hiley, Sir Ernest Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)
Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G. Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Sparkes, H. W.
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster) Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.
Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Steel, Major S. Strang
Hopkins, John W. W. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)
Houfton, John Plowright Paget, T. G. Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.) Parker, Owen (Kettering) Strauss, Edward Anthony
Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K. Pattinson, S. (Horncastle) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Hudson, Capt. A. Pennefather, De Fonblanque Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Hughes, Collingwood Penny, Frederick George Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.
Hume, G. H. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis Perring, William George Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)
Hurd, Percy A. Peto, Basil E. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley Pielou, D. P. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.) Pilditch, Sir Philip Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove) Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray Titchfield, Marquess of
Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G. Tubbs, S. W.
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Privett, F. J. Turton, Edmund Russborough
Jephcott, A. R. Raeburn, Sir William H. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul Ralne, W. Wallace, Captain E.
Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Rentoul, G. S. Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Joynson-Hicks, Sir William Reynolds, W. G. W. Waring, Major Walter
Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P. Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
King, Capt. Henry Douglas Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend) Wells, S. R.
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey) Weston, Colonel John Wakefield
Lamb, J. Q. Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R. Roberts, Rt. Hon. Sir S. (Ecclesall) Whitla, Sir William
Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Robertson- Despencer, Major (Isl'gt'nW) Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)
Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Lorimer, H. D. Rothschild, Lionel de Winterton, Earl
Lort-Williams, J. Roundell, Colonel R. F. Wise, Frederick
Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon) Ruggles-Brise, Major E. Wolmer, Viscount
Lumley, L. R. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Wood, Rt. Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Russell, William (Bolton) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury) Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Maddocks, Henry Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Yerburgh, R. D. T.
Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Mason, Lieut.-Col C. K. Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mercer, Colonel H. Sanderson, Sir Frank B. Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel
Milne, J. S. Wardlaw Sandon, Lord Gibbs.
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.

Question put, and agreed to.


May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether I shall be in Order, before the next Amendment on the Paper is called, in moving to leave out, in paragraph (a), the words, "and size" ["houses of such type and size"]? I think these words, as they appear in the Resolution, must be limiting words. The Minister of Health, earlier in the Debate this afternoon, said there was an intimate connection between the size of the house and the subsidy. If that be the case, I submit that these words were put in for the express purpose of limiting the subsidy to houses of the type and size which the right hon. Gentleman is contemplating. The matter is of importance, because a Circular is being issued by the Ministry of Health at the present time, inviting the localities to build houses of the particular maximum size which is at present specified in the Bill. I think, therefore, that the Minister of Health must have put in these words originally. It is quite true that in the Debate the right hon. and learned Attorney-General said that it might be construed—


The hon. Member submitted his Amendment to me, and I told him that I did not select it. Under the Standing Order he is only entitled to address me on the matter, if I ask him to do so.

Captain BENN

On the point of Order. With regard to this manuscript Amendment, and to the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham), which is to leave out, in Parapraph (a), the words, "houses of such type and size and completed within such time as may be mentioned in the said Act," as well as my own Amendment, which is to leave out the words, "not exceeding" ("not exceeding a sum equal to"), I should like to ask whether we shall be at liberty, if these Amendments are not selected by you, and have never been discussed and divided upon in this House, to move them in Committee? Our fear is that, if we do not move now, we may be limited by the Resolution hereafter. If we are at liberty to move in Committee 1, for my part, am satisfied.


It is not for me to usurp the functions of whoever may be the Chairman of the Committee, but I think these Amendments could be moved in the Committee, at any rate, in so far as they do not impose a charge, in which case they would be equally out of Order now, or if they were raised in Committee.


If the words mean nothing at all, I am quite satisfied.


I beg to move to leave out Paragraph (b).

The object of the Amendment is to enable us to discuss the question of slum clearances and rehousing. I dislike the whole policy contemplated in this part of the Bill. I do not think the policy of buying up slum property at the public expense is the way to tackle the housing problem. This policy gives slum owners an interest in the shortage of houses. The remedy lies in building new houses, in offering them at rents which the inhabitants of the slums can afford to pay, thereby inducing them to remove into the good houses; and having done that, in exercising the powers under the Public Health Acts to compel the owners of the slums to remove the slums at their own expense. If there were a sufficiency of houses, obviously it would be extremely difficult for the slum owners to let their slums. I do not think it is sound public policy for the local authorities, or for the State, to be the scavengers of private enterprise in dealing with the question of housing. All these slums, and all the problems associated with their existence, are a heritage bequeathed to us by the private enterprise which has dealt with the provision of houses for the working classes in the past. When we hear the merits of private enterprise extolled in this House, we must never forget that all the existing state of affairs is due to the lamentable failure in providing for the necessities of the life of the people in days gone by.

If local authorities must adopt the policy of clearing up these slums, I sub- mit that the amount allotted to them here, while, on the face of it, it may seem generous, is insufficient. In the larger areas particularly, and in some of the larger cities—in one which is familiar to the right hon. Gentleman, and in one with which I am familiar—fabulous prices have to be paid to the people who own the ground on which these insanitary houses are located. While I have not the figures at my disposal, I should have no difficulty in getting, from the experience of the City of Glasgow, cases where £11, £12 and £14 a square foot have had to be paid in the past for areas that were purchased for similar schemes. In the past, the Corporation of Glasgow has had to impose so high a rate as 6d. in the £ for this purpose alone. Prices in modern times have considerably increased, and if they are to deal with the problem as it presents itself to them now, I do not know, under modern conditions, what the rate for this purpose may be. Let me mention the extent of the slum question in the City of Glasgow, which may be taken as typical. We have there, as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health informed the House the other day, 13,195 houses occupied by 58,000 people. These houses have been certified by the Medical Officer of Health as unfit for human habitation. If the areas contained in these houses are to be cleared, and if the prices of the past are to be paid to the owners of the sites and properties, the burdens which will be placed on the local authorities by this Section of the Bill, when taken into consideration with the other Sections of the Bill, are bound to clog the wheels of progress and to make the provision of houses and the removal of slums an ever-increasingly difficult one in our local areas.

This Bill places on the local authorities three distinct burdens. First of all, there is the burden of the subsidy, or their part of it. Secondly, there is the burden of dealing with the slum areas; and, thirdly, there is the burden of the assistance which they may give to private enterprise. I submit, quite seriously, that these burdens which are being piled up on the local authorities are bound to break their backs and to make progress practically impossible. The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough, in a discussion on a former Amendment, to remind us that we are not being promised half the amount required for the clearing of these areas and the rehousing of the people, but only a certain proportion of the estimated loss on the transaction. Here, again, we are not even guaranteed this amount, and these unfortunate words, which are to be found all over the Bill, appear here again. The words are, "That the amount will not exceed," and it is left for the Minister or the Department to say what the amount will be. We are only stating the maximum here, and not mentioning the minimum, so that the local authorities have no guarantee, when they enter on these proposals, that the Minister may not limit the loss, say,. to 5s., instead of £5 or £500.

An important departure has been made from the main principle of the Bill. We are dealing here, not merely with the removal of slum houses, but with the provision of new houses into which these people are to be moved. In the principal sections of the Bill the Government have laid down the minimum standard of house and have said they will not subsidise the local authorities unless they conform to this minimum standard. When, however, they come to deal with these unfortunate inhabitants of the slums who have suffered most, and have been oppressed most under the industrial system, no minimum standard at all is laid down in regard to the housing to be provided, or the subsidies by the State. Surely, if you can lay down a minimum standard for the more fortunate people for whom houses are provided, it is not too much to ask that for the class which most needs protection from the State—the poorest of the poor—a minimum standard should be laid down whenever you are making your financial provisions.

8.0 P.M.


I beg to second the Amendment. I would like to say that it is an impossible proposition that the local authorities should deal with slum areas in the manner proposed by this Bill. We have heard about the position in Glasgow and Scotland. I would like to draw attention to the conditions in London. We have black spots in Kensington, Westminster, Poplar and South-East London. Wherever you cast your eyes in the Metropolis, you see great houses in the big streets, but behind them are some of the foulest slums to be found in the Kingdom. To-day I put a question to the Minister of Health, and in answer he said that he could not trace any correspondence in reference to our slums in Poplar. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the late Member, Mr. Will Crooks, both in the House and outside of it, talked of the slum areas in Poplar and other districts with which he was acquainted. We have sent up over and over again representations in regard to our different areas, but they have not been dealt with. Quite contrary to what the Attorney-General said the other night, the only reason given by the county councils or the Minister of Health is that they have not the money to deal with them. The difficulty that every council and every medical officer of health is in regarding such areas as these lies in the fact that the local authorities who suffer most is the poorest local authority; that the central authority here in London, not being in touch with the localities, refuses every time either to raise money or to take any effective action.

I would like the Minister of Health and the House to realise that it is no use saying that the houses you are to build under this Bill will accommodate the people who are in the slums at the present time. The people in the slums need big houses because they nearly always have big families. The staggering fact which I think this House has not realised is that the poorest of the poor are those who have the biggest families. You might say that they ought not to have them, but Bishops and other people say that they ought to have them. That is one of the difficulties of this problem. I would like, in order that the House may realise the point of view that the houses you are to build under this Bill are of no use to the people in the slums, to read two or three figures. There is a family of four persons living in one room. There are 11 persons in another family, sleeping in two rooms. There are, lower down, eight persons sleeping in one room, and I could go down to another where there are 12 persons sleeping in two rooms, 11 in three rooms, 10 in two rooms, 10 in three rooms, and so on, and there is one case of 15 persons in three rooms.


One family?


Does it matter whether they are one family or more?


I understood the hon. Member was saying that the houses built under the Bill would be of no use for these families because they were so big. That was why I asked whether the 15 persons he speaks of were one family.


I cannot say as to that. The report I have here gives the total rooms occupied as four. The rooms for sleeping three and the number of persons 15. If you split that family into two, the houses would not be of any use for that family.




Because there are too many children. How can you sleep children in one room where there happen to be both boys and girls and where the ages of the eldest would be such that they could not sleep together in one room? The houses to be built under the Bill, as I understand it, are to have two bedrooms or cupboards in which people are to sleep. The father and mother must have one room. No amount of argument or talking can get over the facts. There is nothing so costly as dealing with a slum district or a district where slums exist. I am quite confident that the building of these small houses will mean the re-creation of slums. That is another thing I think all housing reformers have passed by. In London you destroyed the slums in the centre and you have re-created them on the circumference. You have not re-created the courts and the alleys, but courts and alleys are not necessary for slums. You can have slums because of overcrowding where the streets are wide. I want to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman and the House that this question of slums ought to be taken in hand nationally and right out of the hands of the local authorities altogether. There have been plenty of laws to get rid of slums, but the reason you have not got rid of them is because the local authorities, rich even as London is, can never face the cost of it. Only the nation can face the cost of it. A nation that spends millions of money on the improvement of roads as a national service, I think, should spend money on the provision of homes for the people, which is a greater national service than the provision of roads.

The only way to get rid of slums is for the nation to come to the assistance of these people, because by no other means can we get sufficient money. We hear about the nation and local authority paying half-and-half, but we do not know what half-and-half really means. I am certain the local authorities will not be able to face that burden. Every local authority is overburdened with debt, piled on to us because of unemployment. You are now going to put on these overburdened authorities—if we accept it, and I am sure it will not be accepted—this new burden. This bit of the Bill will simply be a little more window-dressing, just as many provisions in other Bills were. I want to see the House taking this matter in hand in the only effective manner by the nation finding the money, buying up the slum owners, or hanging them, whichever is the most effective means of getting rid of them, and destroying the business of making money in slum property. The local authorities cannot bear half this burden that is to be cast upon them, and the slums will not be got rid of, unless the nation finds the money out of national funds to deal with them. I conclude by saying this. My late colleague and friend, Will Crooks, speaking of the slums of Poplar in connection with Imperialism, said that people talked about the Empire on which the sun never sets, but he could show them where it never rose. That is true in many a district of Poplar to-day. We cannot deal with it. The county council cannot deal with it. The only people that can deal with it is the nation as a whole.


I want to say a few words in support of the Amendment on behalf of the townships of South Wales and in particular the constituency I represent. I have in my hand figures supplied to me from the Health Department of Merthyr Tydvil, in which they tell me that in the various wards there are 1,108 houses in which four families are residing, that 501 of those houses are unfit for human habitation but are still occupied, that 84 houses are in such a bad state of repair as to require rebuilding, while there are 1,962 which require extensive repairs before they are fit for habitation. I want to point out that, if a local authority, faced with a problem of this description, is to receive no more assistance than is given by the Bill, this problem cannot be faced by a local authority. The rates of Merthyr Tydvil are excessively high. They have had an excessive amount of unemployment to deal with in the last three or four years. There are men there who have been entirely unemployed for two years or more and the rates are in the neighbourhood of 25s. to 26s. in the £. Owing to the fact of the method of assessment, which is upon the poundage output of the steel works and the various coal pits, owing to the fact that there has been such extensive unemployment, works have been closed more or less for two years or more and the burden of the rates fall upon a particularly low assessment. Under these conditions, it is absolutely impossible for the local authority to take advantage of the Minister's Bill for building the houses required before they can even tackle or thing of tackling the terrible problem of the slum areas. I want to point out that this presses with particular severity upon towns such as Merthyr. If I take a comparison with the neighbouring city of Cardiff—

It being a Quarter past Eight of the Clock, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.