§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House declines to give a Third Reading to a Bill which calls for a greatly increased subsidy without any security that it will provide houses at rents which can be paid by the poorer section of the community, and which purports to arrange for the erection of greatly increased numbers of houses without any guarantee that the necessary additions of labour and materials will be forthcoming.It is with a full sense of responsibility that I rise to move this Amendment, which stands in my tame and those of two other Members of the House, whereby we ask the House to decline to give a Third Reacting to this Bill. I think there is no difference of opinion in any section of the House as to the urgency of the problem and the need that there is for new houses to be built in very nearly all parts of the country. If this Bill, in our view, gave any hope of being successful, any hope of doing that which the promoters had set out to do, then we should be reluctant, and more than reluctant, to move any Motion that would hold up or delay a prospect which had, in our view, any hope of success. But we have to look at the Bill from this point of view: When, a few weeks ago, the Bill was before us for Second Heading, we moved an Amendment wherein we set out various fundamental objections that we had to the Bill which had been prepared by the Minister. Since then we have had opportunities, during many hours of the day and of the night, of considering that Bill in detail, of going through it word by word and Clause by Clause, and of endeavouring, as far as we possibly could, to improve the Bill and to help the Minister. I must at once admit, as far as we personal opinion is concerned, that the geniality, courtesy and ability with which the Minister has dealt with the Bill right 1640 through Committee have done very much to commend him personally to us, and I hope that, if I say any unkind things about the Bill in my remarks, he will not in any way take them to himself.
We have to consider whether, after all the discussion, after all that has been done to the Bill. after the way in which the House in general hashandled it, and dangled it and seared it to the bone"—whether, now that it 'has come out of that process, it is a Bill which meets the needs of the situation, and will do that which it sets out to do. I want to admit at once that, through the various concessions that the Minister has made and the proposals that have come from different parts of the House, in several respects the Bill has been improved; but we have to consider whether it has been improved to such an extent as to give it a fair chance of success. In moving this Amendment I want to say that, in the first place, my objection to the Bill is that it sets out to do certain things which it does not do; it holds out hopes which cannot be fulfilled, and it does not in any way do those things which were claimed for it by its parents and its authors when it was first introduced to the country with such a flourish of trumpets as the one final solution of the housing question in this country. In fact, I may say so with respect, I should like to attack this Bill as an illusion and a sham. We have to come down from the heights of eloquence that have been reached, and the promises that have been made, to the actual Clauses of the Bill. I think it was Lord Morley who, speaking in this House, once said that. "though we speak with the tongues of men and of angels, yet, for all our fine talk, we must ultimately come down to the Clauses of the Bill." I want to deal with the Bill Item the point of view of one or two things that it is proclaimed to do, to look at the Clauses of the Bill, and see if it does them. In the first place, the public have been given to understand that this is a great comprehensive scheme, setting up a building programme whereby 2,500,000 houses are going to he built over a period of 15 years. But when you come down to the actual facts, You find that it is really only a three-year programme—that at the 1641 end of three years, it can be brought to an end if certain things happen. I think one may almost say that one can see the signs of coming death upon the face and in the words of the Bill itself. The diagnosis of its coming fate appears to be written in Clause 4. There one sees definitely set out the various contingencies upon which the Minister can bring the scheme to an end, and many—I think most—of those contingencies are almost certain to happen. The first is if the labour and material are not provided in reasonable quantities; the second is if they are not provided cheaply enough; the third is if the money is not forthcoming cheaply enough; and this is where we get to the real crux of this part of the question as to whether these houses can be ultimately put up at a price that will enable them to be let at rents which the working-class people of this country can pay.
The Bill proposes the expenditure of a very large sum of public money. Public money has this unfortunate attribute, that it is extraordinarily sticky, and, when it has to pass through many hands, it will be found that inevitably, whether one likes it or not, and condemning it as we all do, that money is apt to stick to the hands and pockets through which it passes, and, to a large extent, not to reach ultimately those whom it is intended to benefit. Look at the conditions in the building trade to-day, when the right hon. Gentleman in heralding this Bill, and sending it from this House. You find the building industry—I am not for a moment attributing blame to one side or the other—in a state of chaos, and you actually find public statements being made by one gentleman representing the operatives that they mean to exploit the situation. That, of course, is a very serious situation, and, as has been proved in the past, it is inevitable, and it is almost impossible for any Government to check it, that this supply of public money will lead to an increase in the price of houses, in the same way that if the supply of public money is cut off, it will lead to a decrease in the price of houses. As far as I can see, although the Ministry have been very careful not to give us any figures as to their estimates, a rise in the price of houses will entirely upset the finance of the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman has put 1642 forward. Then, the building trade have been told that they have a 15 years' guarantee. But surely it is obvious, from the wording of the Bill itself, that that 15 years' guarantee is an absolute sham. No guarantee that is worth the name of guarantee can be found in any of the Clauses of the Bill whatsoever.
Now I want to come to what I may call the "agricultural parish issue." This is a matter in which I personally have taken a very deep interest, and I want, if I may, to deal with it at a little greater length than the other matters upon which I am touching. In the first place, I think it is beyond controversy that there is a tremendous need in nearly every part of the country for new houses for agricultural workers. Certain people have said the agricultural population is on the decline, and it is likely, owing to the turning down of various schemes and the bringing forward of various schemes, that the agricultural population may go down in future. So I took the trouble to have sonic amount of inquiry made in all parts of England—I did not make any in Scotland or Wales—as to the actual need for new houses for agricultural workers, and about 30 individuals, most of them medical officers of health and others, friends of my own whom I could rely on, in different parts of the country, have almost unanimously told me from their experience and knowledge in their own districts that there is this need for new houses for agricultural workers. Then we are up against the very difficult proposition that in England the agricultural worker is not and never has been able to pay an economic rent, or anything near it. The Bill professes upon the face of it to provide some benefit to the agricultural worker. I am prepared to argue that under the Bill as it stands, it will be very difficult for a single agricultural worker to get a new cottage in any part of the country.
We have to work out what the actual extra subsidy means. As far as I can make out it is a fairly simple sum, and it comes to 1s. 4d. a week off the rent. The Minister, perhaps from his own point of view very wisely, has always refrained front replying as to what he estimates the appropriate normal rent in rural agricultural parishes will be. If you take a purely agricultural parish, you will find in 1643 many parts of the country that the appropriate normal rent will be about 2s. 6d. a week on an average. Again, the Minister has not told us what he expects the local rural councils will be able to charge under this scheme, and we have had to try to make our own estimates. I usually try to take the various estimates which have been made by others, and strike an average between them. If you take the various estimates and average them out, the rent that the local authorities would have to charge in order that the scheme should be self-supporting after it had received all the subsidies will be somewhere between Gs. 6d. and Ss. 6d. a week, leaving a considerable margin. Would it be practicable in many districts—in practically all the rural districts—for an agricultural worker to pay a rent of Gs. 6d. to 8s. 6d. a week? I only heard on Saturday, with regard to an urban parish in a rural district, that they had been working out their figures. They started off with the assumption that they could not ask more than 7s. Then they worked out the figures on a tender they had for a couple of houses and the proposals under the Minister's scheme. They came to the conclusion that to carry out the scheme would mean an increase of between 2d. and 3d. in the £ on the local rates, and they decided to turn down.
If you take the rural parishes, you will find things are considerably worse. The Under-Secretary yesterday pounded a new theory, which I do not think we had ever had suggested before, and that was that rural district councils might use the extra subsidy in this way, that they would use no extra subsidy where there were workers in the parish who could pay the appropriate normal rent and that they could bank up the extra subsidies and so reduce the rent for the cottages of agricultural workers in other parts of their district. It is difficult to work out. that scheme, but if he means that money can be taken from a rural parish where the extra subsidy has been given and handed over to a parish that he has written out of the scheme as being non-rural, it is simply making for trouble as between parish and parish and it would be absolutely-unworkable in a country district. If his intention is that within a certain parish 1644 the subsidy should be pooled and the extra subsidy taken from the houses which are going for non-agricultural workers and put on to the houses which are for agricultural workers he is up against this other difficulty, that with the increased cost in country districts owing to the difficulty of transport and labour and material and also the increased price of money that the smaller authorities will have to pay when they come, I suppose, to the Local Loans Board to get their money, they will have pay more than in cities like Liverpool and Lancashire and other places that can go absolutely into the open market, and that will at once consume all the extra subsidy. The Minister has never told us which horse he is backing with regard to these agricultural parishes. There are two horses being run. One is to do something for the agricultural labourer. The other is to do something to help the rural parishes where the cost of building is higher. Different people have taken different points of view, but we have never been told which is the horse the Minister of Health is backing. He is possibly trying to ride both at once and if he is doing that, unless he is an expert like we have seen at Wembley, he will probably come to the inevitable end that comes to anyone who attempts that very difficult task.
The extra subsidy, as far as one can judge, will be needed to meet the extra cost and there wilt be nothing to hand over to the houses which are to be occupied by the agricultural worker, who is the one in the rural districts who needs it most. The agricultural worker got no help whatever out of the Addison scheme. He naturally does not get much help out of private enterprise schemes except where the owner comes forward and puts his hand into his pocket to help the subsidy very considerably in order to get houses built for those for whom he feels he has a responsibility, and a great deal of it is done because there are still in the country. side large numbers of people, hard up though they may be, who still realise that they have a personal financial responsibility to those who live on the land. I should like the Minister to give us an estimate as to what he considers the appropriate normal rent would be in an agricultural parish and what he considers the amount at which the local authority could let the house taking a general estimate, we will say, of £500 a 1645 house, and you can add to that or cut it down one way or another. This would enable the clerks and members of rural district councils to have some idea what obligations are put upon them under the Bill. It would be in the interest of the success of the scheme if the right hon Gentleman would make these things clear so that these people, who are very anxious to do something for their people, may see quite clearly what their obligations are and what the so-called benefit is that is to come to them from the State.
If it were only that we consider that the Bill will do no good, I should not move this Amendment. If it were simply a question that we thought the Bill was going to fail, I should certainly say, "we wish it luck, and we hope it will not fail and we will do nothing in any way to prevent the attempt to put it into force." But I want to go a little further than that. I consider that the provisions of the Bill art actually harmful and retrograde. We have got, unfortunately, owing to the War, into a very difficult situation with regard to housing. Serious trouble began with the Rent Restrictions Act. Then we began to get into a vicious circle—control, restriction of rents, subsidies and more subsidies till you got a competition between three or four different kinds of subsidies. This Bill is doing nothing whatever to get us out of that.
The Bill which we passed last year was, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain), who introduced it, admitted, and as everyone admitted, only introduced as a first instalment towards solving the housing problem. The right hon. Gentleman did not pretend that it was going to do everything. That Bill when he introduced it was, at any rate, a step in the right direction, as has been proved by results, in trying to get private enterprise back working again. Until we do that[Laughter]—I suppose hon. Members opposite would like to see no private enterprise in house building at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "The sooner the better."] On that point we can in a quite friendly way agree to differ. There are such terrible dangers with regard to public enterprise as against private enterprise taking in hand the whole housing question of the people for all time. We object to a Bill which is going the backward way towards 1646 setting private enterprise up again, although the Minister of Health has stated again and again that the Bill does no harm to private enterprise. If the Bill succeeds it will do no harm to private enterprise.
On the other hand, we are going to set up all over the country a vast number of tenants of local authorities. If the Bill proves successful there will be 2½ million tenants of local authorities. That is a danger, and a very great danger, to the public life of the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I should have thought it was very obvious that if the local council is the landlord, and the majority of the voters in the districts are actually tenants of that same local authority, there is a danger of improper pressure being brought to bear at election time in order that those tenants may receive benefits to which they are not legally entitled. That is obvious. I do not want to be drawn away into side issues, but anyone who knows what happens at election time knows what pressure and what questionnaires come from Government servants. Therefore, one can well understand the pressure that would be brought to bear at the municipal elections if a great many voters in a district were tenants of the local authority.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The real verdict upon this Bill will not be given in the House to-day. It will not be given at the next election. The real verdict will be given by the actual results as to whether this Bill succeeds or not. No argument can affect that. Nothing that we can say and nothing that we can do to-day will affect that in any way. If the Bill does succeed, and if these 2,500,000 houses are built for the working classes in this country, and at rents such as the working classes can pay, then the right hon. Gentleman will be entitled to the full honour and full glory. He will then go down to history as one of the master builders of all time. He will compete with Rameses II, the great master builder of Egypt, and we, his grateful countrymen, will erect in his honour a monument no less great, so that with eyes of stone, which cannot weep, he will be able to gaze upon the houses which he has built, and which, in the inevitable 1647 course of time, he will see, through those eyes of stone, fall into decay and go back to the clay from which they came.
If his scheme fails, as we think it will fail, what then will be his fate? A little time ago there. was a great illusionist, I think his name was the Great Lafayette, and he suffered death in flames in the middle of his own show. I hope the right hon. Gentleman's fate will not be like that, although so far as his political fate is concerned we have not such deep sympathy for him as we have for his personal fate. I do not think that will happen; but I do think that he will be away in some other department when his great illusion is shown up. They are advertising for illusionists at the Ministry of Labour. The right hon. Gentleman could very easily, when he feels that his role as illusionist in the Ministry of Labour has failed, apply for a job across the way.
We are to-day at the final stage of the launching of this great ship, known as the Government housing programme that will solve the housing difficulty which has arisen in consequence of the great war. It has been launched, as we think, into a great sea of trouble. The Minister, no doubt, is full of hope, as he should be, as to the success of his scheme. if we consider it a bad scheme. we do not suggest that he thinks it is a bad one, because every parent is apt to look upon his geese as swans. We consider that this ship is overloaded and that it will sink from the over-weighting of its financial provisions. We say that this ship is setting out on a voyage and that it will not—
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I said that I was hoping to make a very short speech in order to give hon. Members who desire either to give their blessing, or to give their final kick to the Bill, an opportunity of doing so, and I trust that I have not said anything which is offensive to hon. Members opposite. It is very difficult not to be led away by interruptions, and not to be drawn off the point and have to retrace steps that otherwise would not have to be retraced. I was coming to an end of my remarks. [Laughter.] The 1648 courteous jeers of hon. Members opposite will not encourage me to be any shorter. I was saying—
§ Mr. ROBERTS
We believe that it is overweighted with financial provisions, and for that reason it will sink. We also consider that it will not carry out the voyage on which the right hon. Gentleman intends to send it. We consider that it is to some extent a failure. It has been held up as a great, panacea for this great evil, but it will not carry out the obvious intentions of those who have brought it forward. Therefore, we refuse to take part in the cheering as this ship leaves port, and we do not intend to take any responsibility for its safety in the future. We consider that it is a bad Bill, and we must in duty to ourselves, as the Bill has not been seriouly improved since it went through Second Reading, register our definite protest against this proposal becoming law.
§ Sir PHILIP PILDITCH
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so I desire to associate myself with what my hon. Friend has said, that it is through no lack of sympathy with the desire to accelerate the building of small houses that we take this action. If the Minister of Health will allow me to do so, I would like to associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend as to the geniality with which the right hon. Gentleman has met us during the long- continued discussions on this Bill, a geniality which had hoped might have been excelled by the soundness of the principles which underlie his Bill, but I regret to say that that has not been the case. If the right hon. Gentleman had introduced a measure designed to speed up the provision of houses under the Act of last year, and to extend the period of operation, he would have been supported by us from beginning to end.
The right hon. Gentleman must agree that we have shown no spirit of partisanship in the way in which we have handled this Bill, much as we disagree with its fundamental principles, but the fact which cannot be disguised is that while the right hon. Gentleman's Bill does in terms repeal the Chamberlain Act it is, in fact, a negation of its principles. That Act is founded on the only 1649 sound basis on which the housing shortage caused by the events of the last 14 years—commenced by the four years' operation of the land tax from 1910, extended by the four and a half years of the War, and not ended by the circumstances in which we have found ourselves during the five and a half years that have elapsed since then—can be overtaken. That is on the two principles of private enterprise and municipal effort, both helped by the State, as working partners in their efforts to diminish the housing shortage. It was succeeding, and this shows clearly that private enterprise was the most vital of the methods of dealing with this matter, for with the modest subsidy of only £6 per annum, which mean a capital expenditure of £75, it succeeded in providing no fewer than two-thirds of the houses which were either constructed or the foundations of which were laid.
But the right hon. Gentleman—and this is the main reason why I am seconding the Amendment—showed clearly what was at the back of his mind on two occasions during the Debates. The first was when he gave those figures, showing the interest paid for the capital used in building the houses and for replacing the houses at the end of the 60 years, and the way in which he held up to opprobrium those who provided that money, forgetting that even in a socialist. State the State would have to find the capital, and to make an appeal to the private individual to get it. Even under this Bill he will have to borrow money from the capitalists, and if the right hon. Gentleman were justified in making the references which he did make to the private capitalist, who has been our backbone in this matter, he will have to say exactly the same thing about the State capital either under any fully socialist scheme or the scheme of this Bill.
The second occasion on which he indicated the principles that underly this Bill was when he pointed out that, while his Socialist principles did not make him object to any man using his private capital to build his own. house he did object to anybody, except the State, building houses to let to non-owners, which he described as making profits out of their neighbours. Does the butcher or the baker or the tailor do anything else than make a profit out of his neighbour? I see the right hon. Member for Rus- 1650 holme, (Mr. Masterman) present. I wonder what attitude my hon. Friends below the Gangway would have taken if Sir Alfred Mond had been there in place of my right hon. Friend. I can imagine that he would have dealt faithfully with the fundamental principles of this Bill and that he would have indicated to my hon. Friends below the Gangway who, we are told, are going to follow the Minister into the Lobby in support of this Bill, why it was undesirable that this should be done on this occasion. But my right hon. Friend, presumably actuated by wider political thoughts and views both as to the present and the future, has decided on another course. Unless my hon. Friends opposite realise, even at this moment, what is the nature of the Bill I presume that, as has been foreshadowed, they will follow the Minister of Health into the Lobby.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Did not you and Sir Alfred Mond bolster up Dr. Addison's scheme, which was much worse than this?
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
The right hon. Gentleman is the lineal descendant of eight Ministers of Health who have held that office since the Peace, and he has had experience of the experiments that were made, and in some cases undoubtedly mistakes were made. I wish I could say, that lie had fully profited by those experiments and mistakes. Had he followed the Act of last Year fully. I think that he would have done so.
My second reason for seconding this Amendment is a financial one. I do not object for a moment to the extended view of the situation taken by the Bill. I do not object to looking forward for 15 years, but I doubt the necessity of a subsidy of 50 per cent. of the cost of the building being dangled before the eyes of the trades and the operatives. Enormous sums will be required, and if the scheme be fruitful it will be a source of great embarrassment to the State and to those 1651 municipalities which embark upon it. That has been shown by the very careful and impartial view of the situation from the point of view of the municipalities, taken by the Corporation of Sheffield.
But the point is, will the right hon. Gentleman's scheme be fruitful? I doubt altogether the efficacy of the right hon. Gentleman's arrangement to get the houses built. He may say, "If I fail, I fail where others have failed before." I agree that other Ministers have had to tackle the situation, and have not in full measure succeeded, but I do claim that the Act of last year laid down principles which, if extended, would have afforded the means whereby progress in this attempt to clear away this great social evil would still exist. Will the right hon. Gentleman's scheme lee fruitful in producing the expected large number of houses? His expectations are based upon a scheme of bargains with three sets of people, with the local authorities, with the builders and manufacturers and with the operatives. As to the first I say nothing, except that it depends entirely upon the second and third. The right hon. Gentleman, when he has been pressed as to the exact bearing of this arrangement, excuses himself for any lack of definiteness as to the bargain of agreement or guarantee or whatever it is, by saying, "It is not for me to interfere in the working of these trades or unions. I have promised them the money and they have promised me the houses." The right hon. Gentleman must be a great optimist if he thinks that the houses will be produced to anything like the extent that he wants or to anything beyond a very small extent.
As to the bargain with the builders and manufacturers, obviously these trades would produce the houses if they could, at a profit. It is to their interest to do so, and if it were in their power they would do it. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give me a brief reply to one question. In the report of the Committee set up by the right hon. Gentleman, in which report the number of houses was mentioned—it is the only case in which anything in the nature of a promise is given—they required a statutory committee with extensive powers of control. But that has entirely disappeared. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the 1652 bargain or arrangement with the builders and manufacturers will still subsist on the lines laid down in the report, seeing that he has departed from one considerable element of it? The crux of the difficulty is in the lack of operatives. When the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House a few days ago I had great hopes. I had great hopes that he would have told us o some more definite and real arrangement with the overatives' unions. All that he told us on that occasion was that he hoped to accelerate the production of apprentices, that he had some scheme whereby the educational authorities were to take a hand in the creation of more apprentices in the building trade.
I am not going to deny the great desirability of an increase of the apprenticeship system. In the end it is upon that that the welfare of the building trades and of house construction must depend. But the right hon. Gentleman must know that, even if he gets gradually carried out this extension of the number of apprentices, that can afford but a very slight move towards a solution of a gigantic difficulty. I prophesy that at the end of his 15 years' period he will find himself faced with the same difficulties, or very nearly the same difficulties, as those which face him now. There is nothing like enough operatives in the industry, and the difficulty of getting a sufficiency of men into the industry is tremendous. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have been able to tell us of a very different bargain. I had hoped that he would have told us two things: first, that he had succeeded in persuading the unions to open their doors to the skilled men of other trades amongst the unemployed.
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
I disagree entirely. If you take a man skilled in any craft a man of mature age, he will make himself a qualified bricklayer certainly, and possibly a qualified carpenter, much more rapidly than would any young apprentice. I am quite satisfied that that is the case. If it be not the case, the right hon. Gentleman is in a very bad way towards getting these houses. He not get the houses through his apprenticeship scheme. He can take that from those who know some- 1653 thing about it. Unless he is prepared to do something further, so as to bring in skilled men into the industry and to persuade the trade unions to permit them to come into the industry, his supply of operatives will never suffice to give anything like a fraction of the houses wanted. I had also hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have succeeded in disabusing the unions in the building trade of the idea that the, less work a man does the more work there is for others. That fallacy has lain at the root of many of the difficulties we have had to face and it will continue to lie at the root of our difficulties unless overcome by the right hon. Gentleman or someone else and the attempt to provide houses to any large extent will be a failure.
The right Hon. Gentleman is face to face with a situation very like that which faced the Government of 1914, when it tackled the question of munitions. The right Hon. Gentleman wants houses pressingly. The Government of 1914 wanted munitions pressingly. What did the Government of that day do? It handed out contracts and made loose and vague arrangements with contractors all over the country for the supply of munitions, and it let it stay at that. The Government waited until it could be seen whether the contracts would be fulfilled. We know that they were not fulfilled. The cause of the hick of munitions in the spring of 1915 was that the industries of the country had been unable, to fulfill the contracts. The right Hon. Gentleman is in almost the same position with regard to the supply of houses. He has entered into contracts or agreements or bargains with two or three elements of the building trade. He professes that he thinks it wise to leave them alone and not to inquire too deeply into the arrangements that they are making to carry out those contracts, and I very much fear that before three years have passed he will find himself in very much the same position as the Government of 1915 found itself in regard to munitions. For these reasons I beg to support the Motion. While I sympathise with the right Hon. Gentleman in his efforts to tackle this great question, I think he has made a great mistake and that he would have done better to maintain the sound principle which underlay the Act of last year. I realise that this principle conflicts with the right Hon.
1654 Gentleman's own theory, but I am quite satisfied he will never produce houses to the desired extent on the lines which he has laid down because he has departed from the sound method of doing so.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)
We have listened to two speeches of almost unrelieved pessimism, largely, I think, because hon. Members opposite refuse to face the consequences of their own philosophy. If they are prepared to be logical and to support their own theories, there is a drastic and heroic method of doing so and one which might ultimately result in the provision of houses. That method would be the total repeal of the Rent Restrictions Acts in order to allow rents to rise to an economic level, having regard to the short supply of houses, and thereupon to allow private enterprise to come in attracted by the golden prospects of enormous profits and high rents to fill up the shortage. That, I submit, is the logical way of dealing with the problem on the lines of private enterprise The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir P. Pilditch) described the Bill now before the House as a Socialist Bill. Let me disabuse the hon. Member's mind. The Bill which we have placed before the House follows upon the lines of the Measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lady wood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) who, lacking the courage—and I am not surprised at it—to abolish the Rent Restrictions Acts, and allow private enterprise free play, resorted to the method of subsidising building out of State funds. That has been tried and in our judgment that Measure has proved insufficient in itself.
That Measure, as hon. Members opposite must admit, is being continued by us, but it is being supplemented in two directions. The first is as regards the subsidy, because experience has shown that the subsidy under the Chamberlain Act is insufficient to pro duce houses in certain parts of the country. It is insufficient to lead to the development of building in Scotland and it is insufficient to lead to the development of building in the rural areas. The second mistake in connection with that Measure was as the short period of operation and the purpose of the 15 years was to get a programme large 1655 enough to meet the need and to give a measure of permanence and a reasonable opportunity to those in the industry, over that period, to increase the supply of materials and labour and reduce the cost of houses. Those are the lines on which we have proceeded. If hon. Members opposite are right and if this method fails, let me suggest there is only another way of dealing with the housing problem, and that is by a Socialist Measure on purely Socialist lines such as the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Captain Elliot), in his heart of hearts, would like to see put into operation. During the passage of this Bill we had the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove and the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) both hinting, in rather vague words it is true, at some State bureaucratic scheme for the provision of houses by the nation and not by the local authorities, and if this middle way, which is a development of the Chamberlain Act, does not succeed it may be that under a Conservative Government the Minister will come to this House with a full-blooded Socialist Measure to deal with the problem. The criticisms to which we have listened at various stages have been gramophonic in their regularity and monotony. They have been concentrated upon certain features of the Bill. We have had complaints from both hon. Members who have spoken this morning on the question of the labour supply. This is not a new problem, but no attempt was made to deal with it either in the Act of 1919 or in the Act of last year. These things were left over and they have not assumed a new importance which they did not possess last year. At least we have made some attempt to deal with the augmentation of labour whilst our predecessors never made any such attempt either in the Act itself or in their administrative actions. To-day in working the Chamberlain Act, as we have tried to do to the full, we have been limited because of the shortage of labour supply, a shortage the existence of which was known to hon. Members opposite at the time but to remedy which they took no steps whatever. We have taken steps and because it may be that augmentation will not be possible in a week, a fortnight, or a month, we are held up to criticism and told that we have failed to deal with 1656 the problem. That is a criticism in which there is no real point.
We were criticised yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) and this morning by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) with regard to our provisions respecting rural areas. The hon. Member for Hereford has discovered that there is an agricultural need. He has written down to his friends in the country to find out, and they have replied telling him of the need for cottages in rural areas. There are people on these benches who could have told him that 20 years ago, and the need for cottages in rural areas was as insistent last year as it is to-day. Yet the Act under which we are now working contains nothing which is of the slightest assistance to the agricultural labourer in search of a cottage. Because we have made provisions dealing with this matter we are told we have not gone far enough; that we have not defined the agricultural parish properly, and that the rents are going to be too high. We stand here as the first Government which has ever attempted to deal with the problem of rural housing. How far we are going to succeed the future will show, but at least we shall be vastly more successful than our predecessors, who never made any attempt to deal with the problem.
So far from there being an Amendment for rejection, I think there ought to be a special motion of thanks to my right hon. Friend, because he has tried to deal with his problem in order to remedy the evils and the difficulties which stand in the way of the development of a housing programme on the scale that is desirable. We have made an attempt to deal with both labour supply and materials supply. We have made an attempt to deal with the problem of rural housing, and, what is equally true—and this affects the questions of labour supply, materials supply, and rural housing—we have succeeded in so stimulating interest in new methods of building that in the next few years there will be undoubtedly very substantial changes in methods of construction and in the cost of houses. One of the most important things that we have experienced in the last, few months has been the desire of men of experience to assist in reducing housing costs, and one effect of this subsidy, which hon. Members 1657 opposite appear to think wildly extravagant, will be that in a very short space of time it will be an inducement to those who have new methods which they think practicable to come into the field and put down their houses experimentally. If we do these things, we do not say it will solve the housing problem. My right hon. Friend has never claimed that this Bill would solve the housing problem, but he has claimed, and I think the Government are entitled to claim, that with a comprehensive scheme of this kind, lasting over fifteen years, the nation will set its feet on the way to a complete solution of this big problem.
The hon. Member for Hereford said that the verdict on this Bill would not be given in this House or at the next general election. That is perfectly true. The verdict will be given by the people, and it will be given on the facts as they appear after the Bill has been in operation a reasonable time. If this Bill does not produce the houses, then, in whatever glowing terms my right hon. Friend might paint it, it will be a failure. We admit and accept that, but we believe—we have sufficient confidence in our proposals to believe—that this Bill, once on the Statute Book, will begin a new movement for the housing of the people. The hon. Member for Hereford, on behalf of his party presumably, attempted to wash his hands of the whole Bill. Hon. Members opposite cannot do that. If this Bill continue to work, it will not come to an end short of a new Act of Parliament, and an Act of Parliament clearly would not be passed were this Bill achieving the desired result of providing houses at reasonable prices. I go further, and I say that I believe that, after the passage of this Bill into law, Members on the benches opposite and below the Gangway will be prepared to associate themselves with my right hon. Friend and myself in bringing these proposals to the people. My right hon. Friend has said on several occasions that he has no desire to reap any mere party advantage out of this Bill. Let it be, once it becomes an Act of Parliament, a national Act. Let Members in all parts of the House of Commons assist in developing in the country the right kind of spirit of co-operation among all sections, in order that the Act may be a success. If it be that hon. Members opposite feel, at the end of this Debate, that they must walk into the Lobby 1658 against the Bill, I ask that, once it is on the Statute Book, once it is part of the law of the land, there shall be a common effort on the part of all parties in the House to achieve a great common end.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir P. Pilditch) twitted those of us on these Benches with following a different line on this Bill, but may I remind him that the action we have followed in regard to this Bill has been in strict conformity with the attitude of the Liberal party in the last two Parliaments in regard to housing proposals? We have always urged that a longer running scheme should be brought in, and we have always protested against the inadequacy of the Chamberlain Act, because it did not give a subsidy to the agricultural districts and did not help the poorer towns. We have also protested against the fact that the Chamberlain scheme was heavily weighted in favour of the builder of a house to sell, and did not sufficiently help those who desired to rent houses. Therefore, we are carrying out the policy of continuity in the line that we have taken in supporting this Measure and attempting to improve it, in order to make it a more comprehensive Act. I share the view of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health that, unless you can have goodwill and co-operation on all sides, there is very little hope of solving the problem. The speeches of the two hon. Members who moved the rejection of the Bill were full of gloom, but what have they to offer? We have had a series of Ministers of Health attempting to deal with the question, and every one has failed, up to the present time, to produce an adequate number of houses. We are all agreed that that failure has been due to an inadequate supply of labour, and surely we have a right to give this Bill every encouragement and every opportunity in its endeavour to increase the supply of labour.
What alternative is there? You cannot dragoon labour. You cannot have an Act of Parliament making a compulsory levy on labour, and unless you can get the goodwill and the hearty co-operation of all concerned in this matter, it seems to me we are faced with absolute failure. Therefore, I hope that when this Bill is passed, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, we will have co-operation throughout the country to try and make 1659 it a real, living Measure. I submit that Parliament, when this Bill becomes law, will have done its share and made its contribution towards the problem, and that then it is up to the local authorities on the one hand and the building industry on the other to see that they play their part and rise to the occasion. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) suggested that in the rural districts they would not make it work, because it would involve a twopenny or threepenny rate in order to provide houses at rents which the agricultural worker can pay, but surely the local authorities are not going to throw away the opportunity they will have of providing a reasonable number of houses because it would mean an additional twopenny or threepenny rate. I submit that local authorities and ratepayers throughout the country should be glad of the opportunity of solving this problem for so small a sum as a twopenny or threepenny tate. I believe that many districts will require a considerably larger rate than that, but, even if the rate be doubled, the need is so great that it is well worth that contribution on the part of local authorities. I believe that local authorities, and the ratepayers generally, will rise to the occasion, and co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman in making this Bill a success in the country. I believe, also, that when the present clouds have passed away from the building industry, we shall find that employers and employed will use this opportunity to the utmost, in order to give us the increased production, and in order to give us the larger number of workers in the Industry. We have known in the past, owing to the uncertainty of continuity of employment, that apprentices have been slow in coming in. We know also that the risks of the trade have not induced men to remain in it. Now, with this long run policy, with this certainty of employment for 15 years, I submit there is a reasonable chance of getting that accession of labour which is so essential.
While making these remarks in support of the general principle of the Bill, there are one or two points of criticism I would like to offer. I regret that the Minister and the Government, in bringing in this Measure, have not risen to the height of their opportunity. We have had diffi- 1660 culties in discussing the matter in the House, owing to the way in which the Financial Resolution was framed. The responsibility for curtailing the discussion in this House rests with the Government, and I think it is very unfortunate that there has not been able to a free expression of the opinion of this House, and for Amendments to be moved in order to make the houses that are to be built worthy of the programme which is required. We all know that the houses are restricted to the very limited size provided for in the Chamberlain Act, and no Members were stronger in their condemnation of those houses than the right hon. Gentleman himself and those who sit behind him. He has ventured, in defence, to say that the size of the houses in the original Chamberlain Act, which he condemned on Second Reading, was increased in Committee by another 100 feet. That is perfectly true, but may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that what he condemned in his speeches, and what his party condemned, was the small size of house that was permitted? Although it is true the maximum was increased by 100 feet in Committee on the 1923 Bill, instead of improving the size of the smaller house, it was worsening it, and the Minisiter had power to reduce the inadequate size another 50 feet. Therefore, his condemnation of the Bill of 1923, as introduced, applies even more to the Bill as passed, because there was a smaller type permitted under the subsidy, and it is that miserable type of house of 500 superficial feet which the right hon. Gentleman is perpetuating in this 15-year programme.
Then the right hon. Gentleman said he had to give way to the local authorities. I have asked him on more than one occasion to give the House some information as to what efforts he made to combat this request, as he said, of the local authorities. I have been through the correspondence and the papers issued in connection with this, and I find that, while it is true the local authorities did specify that they desired to have the right to build houses of the same type as the 1923 Act, that was one of seven or eight requests that they made, and although the right hon. Gentleman resisted some of the other requests, he gave way on this. I want to submit to the right hon. Gentleman that if he had put up a stronger fight, if he had 1661 resisted the requests he said came from them, he could have come to this House, and asked the House to settle on a larger type of house. It is unfortunate that, in building, for 15 years, houses to meet the needs of some millions of people, they should be limited and restricted to the miserable type of small house which the right hon. Gentleman's party rightly condemned in the 1923 Act. Moreover, local authorities themselves have repudiated the request, which he says, they made. At a meeting of the Municipal Corporations' Association, held only last month, a Resolution was passed unanimously, representing hundreds of local authorities, that they should have the right to build the larger type of house, and that they should have freedom to exercise discretion as to their own requirements, and I am sorry the Minister has not seen his way to comply with that request from the local authorities. I hope that when the time comes, he may be able to bring in an amending measure, in order to give local authorities the right to build houses more worthy of the name of homes for those who need them. I am sorry the Minister has not realised the opportunity he has. His party often say they have not a majority in this House, but I submit on this question there would have been a majority from these Benches, and their own Benches, and, I believe, from the Benches opposite, to give a larger type of house. I am sorry the Minister did not take his courage in both hands, and test the feeling of the House on this particular question.
While one welcomes the request the right hon. Gentleman made that we should have co-operation in this matter, may I, with all respect, say to him it does not help that co-operation when we have such fantastic proposals put forward as those outlined by himself with regard to the finance of a real scheme of Socialism, whereby houses could be let at 3s. 3d. a week? I think the House is entitled to have from the Minister either a retraction or a justification for that most extraordinary statement, because what does it really mean? He takes £500, and allocates the various charges which go to make up that amount, and out of that allocation only 1s. 3d. a week is required for building labour. On what basis can he say that only 1s. 3d. is required to provide for labour? Is it not 1662 only on the absurd and ridiculous basis that you are going to spread the payment of wages over a period of 60 years?
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) says, "Why not?" How are you going to get your labourer to wait for 60 years? [Interruption.] If you take the total amount of wages paid in the building of a cottage, and spread it over 60 years, it will amount to 1s. 3d. a week. But, if you are going to make a practical proposition, it also means that the labourer will only be paid at the rate of 1s. 3d. a week for 60 years. [Interruption.] If that be not so—and I am sure we are only anxious to get at the facts—no doubt when an opportunity arises, hon. Members frill explain how you can arrive at this rate of 1s. 3d. a week for wages if you do not spread it over the 60 years. It is perfectly obvious that you have to pay the trade union rate of wages to a bricklayer—something like £3 a week—and you cannot pay that until the house is built and the rent is coming in. Is he going to work for three months without getting any wages at all? [An HON. MEMBER: "Ridiculous!"] We say it is a ridiculous assumption altogether, and it is because it is ridiculous that we say it is unfair.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
May I point out that the Minister of Health was making a comparison between the labour costs spread over the financial year and the interest costs? It had to do, not with any practical scheme, not with any definite scheme, but with the statement that the cost of labour was the reason why rents were high. The point of the Minister was that if the cost of labour were high, then what about the cost of interest?
I am grateful for that interruption. I think we shall all agree that the Minister's proposal was not a practical proposal at all. It was simply so many figures put down on paper, with no practical application to the actualities of life. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend who interrupts says that capital has to be found to pay the wages. That is perfectly true. But they are complaining about the charge for that capital. How are my hon. Friends going to build houses without capital? Or how are they to get money without interest? What actually 1663 happens now under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman? The municipalities have to raise the money. They are not bloated capitalist and money usurers who are sweating the public; they are ordinary citizens of as good repute as ourselves. They have to go into the market. They have to go to their own ratepayers, and the ratepayers lend them the money at 4 per cent., 4½ per cent., or 5 per cent. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Hon. Members must listen to the Member in possession of the House It is as well to have one Member at a time.
I want to ask the right. hon. Gentleman whether he suggests that in order to get the rent at. 3s. 3d. per week, as he has suggested—because he said he was going to dilute this 9s. 9d. the last penny—to dilute the 6s. 6d. paid in interest to the last penny—how is he going to do it? Take the municipalities. They, have to borrow the money, [Interruption.] An hon. Friend who interrupts asks why should they have to borrow. Is it seriously suggested by the Labour party themselves that we should take this capital without paying any interest on it whatever? The Corporation of Middlesbrough, who have been building houses, have to borrow the money from their ratepayers, from the trade unionists, the engine drivers, the provident societies and the friendly societies.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
How do you build "Dreadnoughts"? By borrowed money or out of revenue? I am tired of being alternately patted on the back, and slapped in the face.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We cannot carry on the Debate in this way. Each speaker must be allowed to state his case without interruption.
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the various local, authorities should go into the market and say to those who lend them the money that they are to have no interest whatever? They know themselves they will have to pay the ordinary market rate of interest, and it is because they have to pay the ordinary rate that you have the charges which the right hon. Gentleman says amount to 6s. 6d. a week on the rent of a cottage. Unless it is proposed that you 1664 should take the money for nothing, and pay no interest for it whatever, then I submit he is throwing dust in the eyes of the public when he suggests that the rent will only be 3s. 3d.
Moreover, I put this to the right hon. Gentleman: How does it come that if there is all this usury, this blackmail, the bleeding of the public through excessive interest, that the tight hon. Gentleman himself, without taking any steps to stop it, is going to be responsible for raising a thousand millions of public money in order to build houses? Surely if the right hon. Gentleman really believes that there is this iniquity with regard to interest and to the rent of the houses, he would have done something to prevent that happening in connection with the large expenditure of money which he is responsible for in his Bill! We know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman does not really mean what he says. The figures have been really used to throw dust in the eyes of the public, and I say it is unfair to those who have to pay the rent that these suggestions should be made; suggestions that they are being fleeced and exploited by capitalists and usurers, when, as a matter of fact, things being as they are—if you have to get money to build houses, without the workers are prepared to build houses without payment, it is inevitable that you should have the rents on the basis that has been suggested in the Bill. Therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to deal with this matter later will tell the House frankly that he did not mean what he said that the rent should be 3s. 3d. per week, and that he knows perfectly well if he has to raise money, and if the houses are to be built at all, the rent will have to be 9s. 9d.—if not a little more!
§ Sir JOHN BAIRD
No Member in any part of the House will differ as regards the needs for meeting the deficiency of houses. The only point upon which we shall differ will probably be as to the efficacy of the method proposed by the Government to meet the present situation. We do not think that the proposals of the Government will lead to the production of houses. I think I can in a very few minutes give adequate reasons for that belief. In the first place, the building trade is fully occupied at the present moment in the construction of industrial 1665 buildings and domestic buildings for those who are able either to own their own houses or are able to pay an economic rent. The building trade is not in a position to supply houses to that section of our fellow countrymen who are unable to buy a house or to pay an economic rent. That, I think, is the problem of to-day.
In the very temperate speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary I was surprised to find that he limited the methods for dealing with this difficulty to two. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the present scheme was the only scheme short of a measure of pure Socialism. The first point that occurs to one on listening to that remark is that obviously this scheme, in the view of the Government, must be better than a Socialist scheme, otherwise they would have introduced a Socialist scheme What such a Socialist scheme is I do not suppose anybody knows. Their credit depends so much on the solution of this vitally important question that it is only fair to say that obviously in the judgment of the Government the Socialist scheme would not be effectual, or would not be as effectual as this scheme.
What reason is there for thinking that this scheme is going to meet the demands for those particular kinds of houses which I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will agree that it is desirable to have. Houses are badly needed to take the place of the slums, to house the people who are living in insanitary houses, or housed in overcrowded conditions, though the houses may be perfectly good, and to meet the demand of the people who get married year by year. The right hon. Gentleman apparently anticipates that that demand covers something like 22 per cent. of the population. His scheme provides for the supply of 2¼ million houses. Taking four inhabitants to each house that covers about 22 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom. The first point that arises is what ground has the right hon. Gentleman for supposing that that amount of housing of this kind is required? What reason is there to suppose that it is in the national interest that 22 per cent. of the population should be housed in subsidised houses? No statement has been made as to the actual number of houses which are required. We all know that in our own constituencies there is a demand 1666 varying in different parts of the country for houses whether you take the rural districts or the towns, and all over the country undoubtedly there is a very large demand for houses. Up to the present there has been no survey made in order to give us information on this point.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
An attempt was made to get a survey, and it was defeated by the votes of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
Nevertheless the fact remains that we do not possess this information. I do not want to approach this question in a party spirit, because it is far too serious, and there are far too many people suffering from the lack of housing accommodation, and no hon. Member is entitled to claim more sympathy in regard to this matter than anybody else. What is important is that we should get to business to see how we can supply the houses, and supply them at a cost which people can stand, and at a rent which the people can afford to pay. That is the whole problem. I would suggest to the Minister of Health and to the Parliamentary Secretary that when he suggested that there was no way of solving this problem except by this Bill or by a socialist scheme, I suggest there is a third way.
The way of this scheme is based on conversations which the Minister of Health has had with the building trade. Whether the right hon. Gentleman has got a guarantee or an arrangement is quite beside the mark, but one thing is obvious from the report of the building trade, and from the white paper which has been issued, and it is that the building trade, in its present condition, is quite unable to cope with the situation, and it can only meet the difficulty if it has the opportunity of expanding its numbers. There is an increase in the shortage of skilled workmen. We had some most alarming figures given to us the other day. The Minister of Health told us that in 1924 there were 62,000 less skilled workmen in the building trade than in 1913, and what was still worse, he said that in 1924 there were 25,000 less skilled men in that trade than in 1920. That is an appalling state of things. The same state of affairs exists with regard to building materials. 1667 Everybody knows that the position as regards building materials is one of the limiting factors in any kind of building, and it is only fair to say that the methods of the building trade are now the same as they have been ever since the middle ages, and the only modification that has been introduced is a greater degree of leisureliness in carrying out the work.
We are all appalled by the slowness with which houses are built at the present time, and if you compare the work done in Belgium and France by Belgian and French builders who are restoring their devastated areas; if you compare the enthusiasm and the energy put into their work by the French and Belgian builders you will feel rather sad about the state of affairs in our own country. I do not think any hon. Member of this House will deny that that is a very important factor in the situation. What is the position? We find the building trade disorganised and engaged in frequent disputes, and we also find a great shortage of building materials. There is a demand for the whole of the activities of the building trade and building materials by the current requirements of industrial building and domestic building, in so far as it is necessary for the people who can afford to own their own houses. That is the situation.
I am reminded of an incident which occurred in November. 1914, when I came, back from France. I happened to meet a personal friend, who at that time was a distinguished member of the Labour party, and I complained that we were not getting shells fast enough and that we were losing many valuable lives on that account. The parallel is perfectly dear, because by the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary the deaths amongst children vary directly in proportion to the crowded or uncrowded areas where the children live, and this question of housing is just as much a question of saving life as it was when we wanted to get shells to save life during the war. At that time my Labour friend said, "You have, got no shells because the only men who can make them are the engineers who have gone to the war to fight." In this matter the engineers responded in a way second to none, and if we had had to rely upon the training of people to produce shells in order to bring them up to the standard 1668 of skilled engineers we should have lost the war. Surely that is a good parallel in connection with the housing question. Having discovered what appalling difficulties we are confronted with in dealing with the building industry the Minister ought to have tried to find some other way of meeting the difficulty.
A reference was made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the stimulus which this Bill was going to give to people to devise other methods of construction. If it does give a stimulus it can only be on the ground that people are so dissatisfied with the method which the Government has adopted that they are putting their best brains into the problem of trying to find a more practical and effective solution. If that is the effect of the Bill, surely it is quite unnecessary to have these discussions with the budding trade, and to make this, I will not say provision, because no provision is made for the finance, but these proposals for throwing these heavy burdens on an already overburdened country in the matter of finance.
It is well known that men who are not politicians, and who are not concerned with votes or profits, are appalled by the conditions under which large numbers of our people are living, and they are turning their minds in the direction of trying to find some solution of the building problem in the same way as they tried to find a solution of the shell problem during the War. It is only along those lines that the right hon. Gentleman is going to get a solution of this difficulty. It is fair to carry the parallel of our shell history to its logical conclusion. My point is that we had a very great shortage of shells, and at the beginning of the war the cost of an 18-pounder shell was 20s. They were made by engineers who were not well paid at from 38s. to 40s. per week. At the end of the war, not only had we ample shells for our own requirements and for the requirements of our allies, but the shells were costing 8s. 10d. each, and they were made by women earning £4 per week.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to apply the same methods to producing houses as were applied to producing shells, I am prepared to support him, but I do not think hon. Gentlemen 1669 opposite are under the impression that is Socialism. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Very well, if that be not Socialism, by all means let us have it and get the houses. If that be so, why do not hon. Gentlemen urge it on the Minister? Why do not they support us in our Amendment, because, if the plan I suggest be correct, the only part of the Bill which is of any use at all is the Amendment that was accepted at the instigation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain). If you adopt the principle that I have advocated and which I am glad receives so much approval from hon. Gentlemen opposite, the only part of the Bill which is of the slightest use is the Amendment which was introduced yesterday, which the Minister accepted, and which enables him to spend a lower sum than £9 which, otherwise, he would be rigidly forced to pay. The whole of the Bill turns on the Minister having to pay £9 per house, whether that subsidy be necessary or not. Taking the analogy of the cost of shells, and apparently I carried hon. Gentlemen opposite with me right through that argument—[lnterruption.] If hon. Members see a prospect of getting houses by this method, surely they will try to get over the difficulty.
The only thing that matters is to get the houses, and, if the right hon. Gentleman be fortunate in securing the provision of houses under the system which has been devised by one distinguished man to whom he has referred in previous speeches, and no doubt by other people who have come forward, he will be bursting with gratitude to us for having saved him from the worst effects of his Bill, not only from the national point of view, but from the Scottish point of view of having to pay far more for the houses than necessary. I was appalled when the right hon. Gentleman was dealing with the Amendment by which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood sought to get the right hon. Gentleman to put a similar Clause into the Bill on the Committee stage. What was the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman then? He said, "Well, none of these good things can happen for three years. At the end of three years, the whole subject will be reviewed, and, if we find that we have made a present of a certain sum of money unnecessarily to the local authorities, I am sure nobody will begrudge it." Are 1670 we in a position—I see there is no representative of the Treasury present—to throw about money like that? [An HON. MEMBER: "No"] "No" says a hon. Gentleman opposite, and he may be thankful that we on this side have noted that defect in the Bill, and have probably saved the country millions of money and enabled thousands of houses to be built.
As a Scotsman, I find the Bill particularly unsatisfactory, more unsatisfactory, I suppose, than the majority of English Members. I wonder what the Secretary for Scotland himself thinks of it. There is no part of the Kingdom where, in certain areas—not only in the great towns, but in some of the rural areas—there is a greater need for new houses. There are houses there which ought to be pulled down, but which are inhabited at the present time, because there is nowhere for the people to go. We cannot get from the Minister of Health any sort of statement as to how many houses we are going to get in Scotland in the next three years. The right hon. Gentleman refused absolutely to commit himself either to an allocation or to an estimate as to the number of houses he was going to get in the next three years for Scotland. People cannot wait indefinitely until the building trade pulls itself together and gets the number of apprentices, and until the ring which makes the materials expands in such a way as to produce the necessary quantities. We cannot go on waiting, and this Bill is doing nothing to supply houses in the meantime. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to investigate the subject from the point of view of a third alternative, and not merely the alternative of this Bill, because all that this Bill does is to extend the time of the subsidy and the amount of the subsidy. It does nothing in the nature of that new spirit which we are told hon. Gentlemen opposite possess, and there is in it nothing in the nature of imagination or vision from hon. Gentlemen who call themselves progressive. It is one of the most humdrum and ineffective measure to cope with a pressing question which it is possible to imagine.
That being so, I do think that we are entitled to invite the right hon. Gentleman—and I can assure him that he can count on the co-operation of Members of every Party and of no Party to support 1671 him—to come out and says, "The building trade cannot do more than cope with the cope with the amount of work in sight and that will be in night for many years to come, and we must go outside the building trade, not in the spirit of hostility to that trade, but in a spirit of supplying the houses and work." If he does that, he will find not only that the houses will be produced in a shorter time than he has any idea of, but that they will be satisfactory houses in which—it is the only test—any one of us would be prepared to live, and, in getting those houses, he will not only remove one of the greatest blots on our civilisation at the present time, but he will also be giving employment in trades outside the building trade where employment is urgently wanted. It is because I believe that the wording of our Amendment accurately expresses the defects of this Bill, that the Bill is not going to supply the houses, that it is not making provision for increased labour or material, that it is throwing a financial burden on the country totally unnecessary, and that it is not going to he effective, that I cordially support the Amendment.
§ Mr. HARDIE
From the speeches delivered this morning from the Opposition benches, one can feel that there is a real, genuine fear that we are going to get more houses. It would look, from the efforts made by the Opposition this morning, as if a deadly blow had been dealt, not so much by the fact that we are going to build houses as by the fact that they practically, since the war, have had all the opportunities and have failed to take advantage of them. It now becomes practically a farce for men, having occupied that position, to begin carping criticism, for that is all that it can be. I want to deal with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir J. Baird). Before sitting down, he said that we had no imagination or vision. Well, if prayers will do any good, I will pray from now that the Powers that may be may give a little of these qualities to the right hon. Member for Ayr Burghs. Just imagine the lack of imagination in the human mind that suggests that we can produce houses by the same methods as we produced shells during the war. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have seen the inside of a factory for making 1672 shells. If he had done so, he has not at any rate had his imagination impressed by what he saw. He would have seen a system of machines practically automatic All that the attendant had to do was to feed that machine, to touch a lever and automatically, when the job was finished, the machine stopped working.
Then we come to the question of how to build. The right hon. Gentleman has been too long in this House to have been able to retain his Scottish logic. He spoke of the "ca canny" policy. Every time this question has been raised by the Opposition it has been raised by a man who has never had the slightest practical experience in that class of work. If you want to put house building on the same basis as the making of shells you have to assume that you require a certain number of trained men. You can train a man to pull the lever of an automatic machine in two hours, but when it comes to a question of understanding the plan of the houses to be built, how to start and how to lay the bricks, there is something more than taking a trowel in one hand, laying on a certain amount of plaster and putting on that a brick. I was on a job before I came to this House where efforts were made to absorb the so-called trained men from other trades in bricklaying. What happened? Half of the work done by these men had to be taken down and the practical bricklayers went on strike because they said these men were getting them a disgraceful name as bricklayers. That happened at Grange-mouth. I can give the men's names and addresses if required. There is another point in regard to these trained men. When you train a man for a certain trade you give him a bias of that knowledge, but when you transfer him to another trade he has to unlearn what he has been taught in the first trade before he can start on the second
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Member for Dumfries may know something of psychology but he knows nothing of bricklaying except what be learnt in the Fiji Islands. He may know something about plasters for human sores but he knows nothing about plastering between bricks. If a man has a bias in the handling of tools it takes time to unlearn that bias and to learn how to use the new tools. The Mover of the Amendment shakes his 1673 head. I wonder what experience he has had in the handling of tools. The right hon. Member for Ayr Burghs tried to draw up great schemes of what might be done. Why did he not, in his enthusiasm for the production of houses on the same basis as shells, fight inside his own party when it was in power to get these things done? Why did he not advocate using a place like Gretna for this purpose?
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
The place is perfectly impossible from that point of view for any practical commercial proposition.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am prepared now to show that taking Gretna, dismantled as it is, from a transport point of view there is no better provided works in Great Britain, and if the party opposite had wanted to use them for such a purpose it would have been quite possible. But all this in so much talk. If they had been as serious about using the nation's wealth for the production of houses as they were for the production of death-dealing articles they would have been doing it. But they did not want to do it. They were out to destroy instead. They wanted to use the nation as a means of supporting a private system which was to exist always at the expense of the nation and of its needs. The right hon. Member for Ayr Burghs spoke of the reduced means of production. Even in the stress under which, the nation suffered during the War we could not trust private enterprise. It is just the same to-day.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
Who was at the head of these great organisations during the War? Was it not picked business men, the very best we could find, acting not under the orders of the Government but seeking to help the Government by using their trade knowledge as individuals?
§ Mr. HARDIE
The right hon. Gentleman's figures contradict what he says. If he were able, by taking national production in hand, to produce the results he mentioned, he is contradicting himself. It was not a business man who was in charge; it was the right hon. Gentleman 1674 the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and no one would say that he was a business man with any experience. Now let me come to the other part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in relation to Scotland. He did not stop to explain why we suffer so much more in Scotland than you do in England so far as houses are concerned. He did not stop to say that the system of landholding in Scotland was responsible for building as high as possible in order to get the price of the land on which the foundations sit. He did not explain that the whole of the land system in Scotland is responsible for all the death-rate in the slums and congested areas of our cities to-day.
When we come to think of the Scottish situation from the point of view of land, I have some regrets so far as this Bill is concerned. If the Labour Government, knowing, as it does, that land and rating to-day form the one real obstacle to the production of houses at economic rents, had brought in a Bill to wipe out present-day anomalies, either by nationalisation or by taxation of land values, and to put rating where it should be, I am sure that the public would be so solidly behind any Government that wanted to build houses at economic rents that, if they had gone to the country even after they had been only a month in office, with a Bill that would wipe out once and for all the anomalies of this system of blood-sucking of the life of the nation by landlords, they would have come back to this House with a power that would not only have wiped that out, but would have left the land clear for building houses, as it ought to be, and free from all those things that still to-day make an economic rent for the working man impossible.
It is not only a question of the land upon which the house sits, but here we have this land taken out of the ordinary competitive market in which other commodities are. Here you have City men who are holding up land where there is clay, and let me point out to the Minister of Health that, even around Glasgow today, Glasgow business men are to my knowledge taking rights upon certain lands that they expect to be demanded by the Corporation when this Bill passes. The reply to that is always, of course, that there is a Land Court, but the Minister of Health realises just as well 1675 as I do that even the decision of the Land Court is always a profiteer's price. If we are to deal with this we have to get a real grip upon it, because here again there is clay land for making bricks which is not in the competitive market, and the man who owns the ground is not compelled to come into the competitive market; but, if we had the power to tax him right down to the bottom of his ground, he would be forced to come into the market, instead of the Government having to bribe, as they are doing to-day, men to come and make bricks.
What is the position of the Government to-day? The position is that the Government are saying to these people, "We have more money to offer you; give us the land." That is the position in which the House has placed the Government to-day. The whole thing becomes absolutely absurd. In conclusion, let me say that, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs speaks of the death rate, he only speaks of it from figures supplied to him, but a great many of us on these benches can speak of it from having lived in these areas. I was born in a house that was owned by the right hon. Gentleman's grandfather, and when the right hon. Gentleman spoke about "ca' canny," he was making a personal remark, because as a worker I take that remark to apply to me, and I throw it back to him as a falsehood. I would remind the House that, in the houses of that now in which I was born, the death rate was as high as in your slums in the City, and why? Because the scions of the house to which I refer were absolutely indifferent to the life of the child in those rows. There was nowhere to take away dirty water but a common channel running past the front door, no convenience of any kind, no decencies, the lavatory without any doors, and in the summer time flies by the million—no water in the house but a common tap-pipe at the top of the row to which we all had to go—and you dare come here to-day and try and challenge those who are at least doing something—you come here, with all that history of your family behind you, who have not only been the cause not only of deaths but—I do not call it infant mortality in the case of your grandfather—it was indifferent murder. Much as I regret many things that are 1676 not included in this Bill, I will say this, that, if we are going to have opposition, let it come from men who can give the points from their personal knowledge or by decent argument, but not the kind of tripe we have heard to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order! Order!"]
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in referring to the speech of another hon. Member as "tripe"? Really, on this sort of gutter talk, I do ask your ruling.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am very sorry if I have given any offence, and I withdraw the word. I was taken so far away from the subject by the visions of my youth, in so far as the family of the right hon. Gentleman were concerned. I am very sorry, and I withdraw.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I only desire to say, with regard to certain personal references which the hon. Gentleman made to me and my family, that they are absolutely untrue. I do not know what he is talking about.
§ Mr. E. SIMON
I do not want to follow the lines upon which the last speaker finished. I hope he will accept it from me that we have the greatest possible sympathy with the case he has put forward, and our one desire, in dealing with this Bill, is to deal with it in such a way that it will result in the production of houses and the abolition of the conditions to which he has so eloquently referred. I want to deal with the matter from the point of view of how this Bill is going to affect that part of the housing problem of which I have direct personal experience, namely, from the point of view of how far it is going to enable us to build good houses in a great city like Manchester. The Amendment which we are now discussing is a very drastic Amendment. It deals with the two main objects of this Bill, the first of which is to give an increased subsidy in order to reduce rents, and the second to extend the subsidy over a long period in order to get more labour into the industry. That is the treaty with Labour, which some people say is not, and which other people say is a Treaty.
1677 This Amendment deals drastically with both those aspects of the matter. It condemns the whole Bill, and it does not admitted that it has any merit whatever in either of those two aspects. The Amendment seems to me to be very much a product of the party system, from which we suffer somewhat in this House, because I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite would admit in private conversation that the Amendment is far too drastic, and that there are certain aspects of the Bill which will and must be beneficial if the Bill becomes an Act. Otherwise, it is hard to understand the extraordinary enthusiasm shown by the agricultural Members opposite to get in Amendments in order to claim the benefit of the extra agricultural subsidy for certain villages in their constituencies. That, surely, is an admission that there is something that may be some good to somebody in the Bill. What I think is wanted, looking at it from the point of view of our great cities, to solve this housing problem, is to get about twice the amount of labour that we have had during the last few years on to the building of houses. That is the root of the problem. It is a great mistake to suggest, as the last speaker has suggested, that the difficulty is caused by the land. The land represents after all, a very small proportion of the cost of the house. I think that the hon. Gentleman's Leader, speaking on this matter, said that the cost of the land was 1½d. per week, but calculated in a more orthodox way it is about 4½d. per week, and surely he does not suggest that, even if the land were given free, that would be a very big contribution towards the solution of the housing problem.
§ Mr. SIMON
That is the rent of the land, which I think is the important point. What we want is to get more labour, and, so far as possible, not only to get more labour without increasing the subsidy, but to get it in some way which will enable us gradually to decrease and do away with the subsidy. We recognise that at present a subsidy is absolutely necessary, but we see very great evils in it and we want to work towards an economic rent and doing away with the subsidy as soon as we can. Under these conditions the 1678 right hon. Gentleman, instead of decreasing the subsidy, deliberately makes a substantial increase in it which is equal to 1s. 6d. on the rent of houses in urban areas. That increase was not asked for by the building trade. It has been repudiated by the employers' section, who think it will demoralise the trade. It is not going to provide a single extra worker or a single extra house. It is deliberately given in the hope of reducing rents. There are two ways in which it can go. It amounts to just about 15 per cent. on the cost of a £500 house. Since the intention of the Bill has been announced there has already been a substantial increase in the cost. Taking the best available statistics, that is the orders placed throughout the country for non-parlour houses, in January and February the cost averaged £381, and in March, April, and May, after this scheme was announced, £418. That is an increase of 8 per cent., so that slightly over half the subsidy has already actually gone in an increase in cost. Now it seems quite possible that when this very unfortunate building strike is settled there will be another increase in cost, which will possibly absorb the whole 15 per cent. One hopes it will not, but there is the greatest possible risk. The law of supply and demand has taken half the subsidy and is threatening to take the other half. There is a danger that there will not be a single penny of the extra subsidy in urban areas available for a reduction of rent. I hope it will not happen, but there is great danger.
Let us take the other possibility and assume that the building trade really plays the game and does not take any advantage of the extra subsidy, and that the right hon. Gentleman is successful in building houses at the prices of January, 1924, and, further, is successful in building 2,500,000 houses in the next 15 years. Many of us have tried to get figures as to the rents which should be charged for the houses. It is almost as hard to get figures out of the right hon. Gentleman as to get blood out of a stone. He finally gave us a figure, and I think he admitted that the lowest rent at which houses could be provided in urban areas, assuming the rate of interest to be 5 per cent., which is a reasonable assumption, is about 8s. 6d., and you have to add the rates to that. Therefore, the whole of these 2,500,000 houses are going to be let to the upper working classes, artisans, clerks, and 1679 people earning 70s. a week and upwards. Those people are going to be given a subsidy of £4 10s. a year, or something over 1s. 6d. a week on the rent, at the expense of the whole of the rest of the community. That means that the privileged members of the working classes who are living in these houses, and who can afford reasonable houses, are going to be given this dole, which they do not need, at the expense of all the rest, and all the rest will, of course, include all the poorest members of the working classes. The slum dwellers and the fathers of large families who cannot afford to pay large rents are going to have to contribute something towards these privileged 2,500,000 tenants of weekly houses. That is a thoroughly vicious form of dole.
The right hon. Gentleman in one of his speeches said that under real Socialism the weekly house would be let not at 8s. 6d. but at 3s. 3d. The hon. Member for Salford went further. He put in more logical form the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, and said, "Why not build these houses out of the rates; why not raise money by taxation, just as money for Dreadnoughts is raised, and pay no interest on it?" That is a perfectly logical and intelligible proposal. What it means for Manchester is that we should have to levy a rate of 3s. At that rate we could build 2,000 houses a year, and let them to privileged tenants for nothing at all. Surely that is the logical conclusion if you want to have privileged tenants. It is a most excellent proposal for those who are fortunate enough to have the houses, but it means that every other householder is going to have his rates increased to the extent of 3s. in the £. That is simply the logical development of the scheme actually in the Bill, and it is obvious that it is a most grossly unfair proposal.
§ Mr. DICKSON
Can the hon. Member also tell us what you now pay in the £ in interest on housing loans already contracted?
§ Mr. SIMON
I am sorry I have not the figures, but we get the rents in return for that. In this case we should not get the rent and the whole thing would be a burden on the rates. The right hon. Gentleman sincerely believes he is going to house the poor by this Bill. He has 1680 already defied the laws of supply and demand and he now defies the laws of arithmetic and he has repeated so often that he is going to house the poor that he probably believes it himself, and when we point out that the houses cannot be let possibly for less than 8s. 6d. plus rates, that seems to slide past his mind. But I think he is going to have a very serious disillusionment when the houses come to be built and he sees that they are going to be occupied by exactly the same class of tenants as are already occupying the houses built under the 1923 Act, and that is why I agree that this subsidy, apart from agricultural areas, where I think it is really necessary and has value, is not wanted. It is demoralising to those who receive it. It is going to impose an extra burden on the poorest section of the community, and if that was the only part el the Bill I should have no hesitation in voting against it and supporting the Amendment. It is, however, not only not the whole Bill, it is not by any means the most important part of the Bill. The really vital part of the Bill is the second part, and that is the treaty with Labour, because almost everyone agrees that shortage of labour is the crux of the whole housing problem. Certainly it is the case in Manchester, and I think everywhere else. What is the chance of getting extra labour out of the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman went to the building trade. It was the only thing he could have done.
§ Mr. SIMON
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how much extra labour he got during the time he was at the Ministry of Health? That is the answer to this part of their Amendment. He has made so many speeches, saying hon. Members opposite produced a Bill that housed the rich and he was going to produce a Bill to house the poor. They were there for a year, and at the end of that time there were 20,000 fewer skilled men in the building trade than when they went there. The right hon. Gentleman went to the building trade and said, "The number of skilled men is going steadily down. Can you help us to get it up?" They produced the Building Trade Report, and said that under certain conditions they were prepared for a great increase of apprenticeship. The average existing number is one to every ten skilled workers. They offered, under cer- 1681 tain conditions, to make arrangements to get one for every three skilled workers and to agree, in addition, to the upgrading of suitable people. That is a very great achievement on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Successive Ministers of Health have made efforts, but none have had any success in stopping the actual decrease in the amount of skilled labour. The right hon. Gentleman has for the first trace got a promise that under certain conditions there shall be a very great increase in the amount of labour. If that can be achieved under the Bill it is obviously the duty of the House to support it. It may be suggested that the so-called treaty is not a treaty and that the building trade is not bound by it. There is a good deal of force in that. Certain conditions are laid down in the Report. One is there should be a definite and continuous programme for 15 years. I do not think anyone can say this Bill gives a definite and continuous programme for 15 years, because the Minister in three years' time can break it. He is almost bound to break it if the building trade do not fulfil their side of the treaty. There is an attempt at getting a definite and continuous programme, and it seems to me that we are as near to getting a continuous programme as we can possibly pledge this House to agree to. We have gene a long way towards meeting that objection.
Another thing that they asked for was a statutory Committee with rather wide powers. That is not in the Bill. I hope that the building trade are going to accept this Bill. We have pressed the Minister of Health as to whether he has submitted the Bill to the building trade and whether they are prepared to say, "We accept the Bill as fulfilling your part of the bargain and we will accept it as fulfilling curs." We have not had an assurance to that effect, but we have a general assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he is confident that they will, in fact, regard it as part of the agreement, and will, in fact, honour it. It it said that when right hon. and hon. Members or the other side come into power they will not regard themselves as in any way bound by this Bill. It is obvious that this House has no power to bind itself in future or any of its successors, but it is equally obvious that this House has power to enforce moral obligations on is successors.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Does the hon. Member mean that this House has power to impose a moral obligation upon me, when I am totally opposed to a Bill?
§ Mr. SIMON
This Bill is the only practical proposal before us on which there is the least chance of getting extra labour into the building trade. It can only be done on certain conditions, and they are contained in this Bill. This House by this Bill undertakes that we are to go on building houses at the rate laid down in the Bill for the next 15 years, with certain powers of modifying the grant, and it seems to me that that does impose moral obligation upon us. I am fairly confident that the moral obligation which this Bill imposes upon the country is one which the country as a whole will approve of, and if the building trade does its part and does produce the substantial increase of labour which they have promised as a result of this Bill in the next three years, then no House of Commons would dare to cancel the Act and stop the subsidy and stop building houses. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) would not do it in those circumstances. If he did, I am sure that the whole country would be against him. If the building trade as a result of this Bill does actually provide the extra labour and build houses in large numbers I am confident that this House will be morally bound to meet them in return and continue on the principle which this Bill lays down.
That is the reason why I think this question of getting labour is far more important than the difficulties that are going to be raised as regards the subsidies. I think those difficulties are very unfortunate, but the crux of the whole thing is to secure labour. The right hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir J. Baird) said that the only thing of importance is getting houses. How does he think he is going to get houses or labour by rejecting this Bill? The Government have gone into the matter honestly, trying 1683 to see how they can get the extra labour and extra material which are absolutely essential, and they give us their assurance that if we support this Bill they will do everything in their power, and they are satisfied that the building trade will respond and give them the extra labour. If we reject the Bill there is not the least possibility of getting extra labour while the present Government is in office. Moreover, we shall again shake the confidence of the building trade, we shall see a further diminution in the numbers of skilled workers, we shall see further emigration, we shall see more men from the building trades going off to other trades, and the housing problem will become steadily more and more insoluble. If we support the Bill there is, at least, a possibility, indeed I hope there is almost a certainty, that we shall get some augmentation of labour. That is the reason why we on these benches who are largely responsible for putting the present Government in power—
§ Mr. SIMON
We got the present Government into power, and it seems to me quite obvious that we must give them a fair chance to show what they can do to face one of the most vital problems before the country to-day. I dislike certain parts of the Bill, but having regard to the fact that the Government is prepared to accept full responsibility for it and also having regard to the responsibility of the building trade to respond to what their own people have pledged them to, I shall vote for the Third Reading of the Bill, and I hope that it will be passed. If so, I am ready to give the assurance asked for by the Parliamentary Secretary that, as far as I am concerned, and I am sure that the same remark applies to everybody on these benches, when the Bill becomes an Act we shall do everything in our power to make it a success and to secure the houses under it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I feel obliged to take a different line from certain other hon. Members because from long professional experience I look at this question from the outside point of view of the medical officer of health as well as that of a politician. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will recog- 1684 nise my sincerity when I say that my friends on this side of the House and myself recognise his great sincerity in wishing to tackle the housing problem, just as we are sincere, and that his sincerity is a burning desire and a burning flame of determination to deal with this subject. We recognise all that he has done to try to put that determination into force. As a medical officer of health, my feeling on this subject has been burned into my soul during the 20 years I have been engaged in public health work. The necessity of dealing with the housing problem, and dealing with it adequately and on a large scale, has been impressed upon me during the whole of that time. I am sure, therefore, that there can be no question that we are prepared, and I personally am prepared, to go long lengths with a view to getting a solution of this problem, from whatever side of the House that solution may come.
In fairness it must be recognised that the original start of housing reform came with deadly determination from Conservative statesmen, voiced by that magnificent Conservative social reformer, Lord Shaftesbury, when as Lord Ashley he sat in this House. It was in 1847, I think, that the first Housing Acts were put forward and it was a Conservative Government. It was a novelty at that time to imagine that a Government should take in hand the housing of the people, because it had always been dealt with by private enterprise, like clothing or food for the people. These housing reforms were resisted with force by the Liberal Leaders and industrialists who sat in the seats of the mighty now represented by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. It was Lord Shaftesbury who got that converted Radical, Disraeli, to interest himself in housing and to introduce the first Measure with regard to housing by local authorities, namely, the Public Health, Act of 1875. Since that time the action of the Conservative and Unionist party in regard to housing reform has been continuous and always good. The Conservatives have gone on advancing one Measure after another, small Measures and great Measures, since the Act of 1875, and they were responsible for the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1899, which is so often referred to as the principal Act. I hope that the Conservation party will always live up to that record.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Dying down to it! You could not have a greater record than that, and I believe the Conservative party will always live up to it. There has been steady and constant progress, and if the new party who now hold the reins of Government rise to that record in the record which they have still to make, we shall welcome their work and co-operate with them in every possible way. To those for whom I speak housing reform is the nucleus of social progress all over the world. That being so, the next thing to consider is the action to be taken to interpret that view. Is that action being taken by this Bill? The question has been put forward from the Government side and the Opposition, "Will this Measure produce the houses?" There is no question that it will produce houses. The whole question is, will it produce more houses for the workers whom it is wished to house under the 1923 Act? That is the question that is always burked by speakers in favour of this Bill and is emphasised by those who are opposed to it.
The figures under the 1923 Act, though not sensational—the figures under no Housing Act will be sensational—were extraordinarily reassuring. Nobody could imagine, when you are taking a step forward, as was taken last year, that the whole building trade would suddenly leap forward and provide a full measure of houses for this year. This Measure is not expected by its exponents to do so. It is proposed to begin very slowly and to increase rapidly. If this Bill succeeds in having houses built as rapidly as the Bill of last year the Government may be congratulated, but if it is going to produce houses more rapidly I shall be surprised. There is not the least doubt that the Chamberlain Act, if left alone, would have increased building operations very much, and kept the building trade fully employed.
The criticisms made in reference to that Act were these: was the building trade being increased so as to increase the output of houses, and were those houses being utilised in the best way by the right people? It is absurd for the exponents of this measure to come forward as if we were considering for the first time the different questions that have to be con- 1686 sidered in reference to the housing problem. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health referred to the speeches of the mover and Seconder as being full of inspissated gloom. The hon. Member's speech reminded me of the unqualified and rather exuberant enthusiasm of Dr. Addison, when introducing his Bill, and if the hon. Member were to read the speech of Dr. Addison on the Third Reading of his great measure he would find the general tone fairly comparable with his. I hope that this House has a similar feeling of hopefulness. We recall the picture of "Hope" by Mr. Watts—Hope sitting blindfolded, playing with a harp with only one string left, on the top of a cold, deserted world. Still we can have hope, and a practical hope, but I think that the hope that we have been indulging in before and with conviction is absurd.
Nor is it possible to suggest that previous Governments and local administrations have not similarly tackled the special points mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary. He says that we are going to have experiments with new methods. Every housing reformer has experimented with new methods. Every Government has been looking out for new methods and encouraging them in every way, and every local authority has been doing so too. When we started to work the Addison Act under the London County Council, no one was keener than myself as to new methods. A scientific training always induces me to take up experimental work, and I like to see it done, especially when it is done by other people's labour and at other people's expense. Therefore I encourage new methods in every possible way. In that ease on our Becontree estate, just outside the London area, we tried every new method, building with concrete, and doing away with skilled labour, except one or two persons on a house, and the conclusion to which we came was that the old method of building in red brick and in the old style—other things being equal—was the cheapest, and in the long run the best and the most satisfactory. But that is no reason why we should not encourage new methods.
There is one experiment which is being conducted at present—I was asked to go down to a demonstration of it to-day—to 1687 which my right hon. Friend has already referred—I think that it is the same method—and we may come to it. I have been a keen adherent of wise building by-laws by local authorities, because I know how much they save, both in the health and comfort of the owners and occupiers of the houses, and in the actual finance of the houses in the long run, but they must be wise. But the present time is not a time when we can confine ourselves to the long run We must take shorter views to meet the crisis existing at the present time, so far as these do not conflict too much with the needs in the long run. Therefore, I believe that we could at the present time suspend not all but a great many of the by-laws, and that we could have a great deal laxer interpretation of by-laws and regulations in order to allow even rather shoddy methods of housing to be adopted so long as houses are built. One of the most distinguished workers in applied physiology was talking to me the other day, and he was telling me how, behind his bungalow on the edge of the cliffs, he had to provide himself with a cottage to live in, in view of the liability of his own house to disappear into the sea. As a physiologist he was fully convinced as to what it meant to his wife and his family and himself to have inadequate housing, but nevertheless he turned on unskilled labourers to put up a shoddy shanty which would meet the needs at the present time, and he is going to add to it and improve it as may be required, but he was able to put up a house in which he could live comparatively cheaply. I think that something could be done in that way to meet the present crisis.
Speaking generally with regard to this Bill, the first difficulty which I have in accepting the Bill is the fact that it does not seem to have taken the main step that is required for an enormous problem of this sort. If you are going to build 2,500,000 houses, and they are going to rise in masses all over the country, one of the first things which we have got to consider is the redistribution of those houses. We have got to insure that we shall not have those houses put up in gaunt terraces on the outskirts of ever-increasing suburbs of our towns, and we have got to arrange for the redistribu- 1688 tion of our towns in association with their industries. A little has been done by the Amendments put into the Bill as regards town planning. But that is very little. It is only to prevent the main defects arising from mass houses. Everyone recognises that what we must have is decentralised industry, a decentralised population. That has now become generally accepted throughout the housing reform world in the general term of satellite cities. Nothing in the speeches of the Minister of Health or of the Parliamentary Secretary suggests that there will be a supplementary Bill to help this method. There are several things in the Bill which are against the development of the satellite city. No one will be able to get any considerable extension of housing en proper lines unless that principle is adopted. Then you have to encourage the small builder and the small owner. I am afraid that the small builder is not, encouraged as he should be. Nor is the small owner. The tendency is that the people shall be made subservient to the State, relying on the State for the provision of houses. That may be necessary now to a certain extent. But not nearly enough is done to meet the main hope for the future, namely, that the workers should possess their own houses through the development of public utility societies. A great deal more could have been done in that way.
The main blot on housing always has been the slum. I know that you cannot remove this great blot until you have houses, and that the first thing to do is to provide the houses. But there is not nearly enough done in this Bill fur the clearance of slums. That work should be going on contemporaneously with the erection of houses. No Bill is going to grapple with the subject of housing on a proper scale until you tackle the root basis, which is the cost of building houses. We know, or we fear, that the subsidy will go only to a small extent into the pockets of those for whom it is intended, but will go very largely into the pockets of the building trade. What has to be tackled in this, as in other departments of industry, is the question whether you will get the different sides of the trades plundering the public wherever they can by strike or by lock-out, or by agreement amongst themselves at the expense of the consumer, and whether you can do away with 1689 the miserable principle of lowering everyone to a maximum wage—called a minimum wage—instead of adopting the system of America, of every man encouraging every man to give fall output according to his capacity, and to pay him for it. The result of the American method is vastly to increase output and to pro vide vastly better wages for the workers.
§ Mr. PERRY
I do not wish to take part in a Third Reading Debate without paying a tribute to all parties for the way in which the proceedings have been conducted. I do not think that in the records of the House there are many examples of a Bill of this magnitude, in which such great issues are involved, where, although there has been opposition, there has been less of organised obstruction. It is only fitting that acknowledgment should be made of that fact. Before saying anything about the contents of the Bill, I would like to deal with one or two objections that have been raised this afternoon. I confess to some astonishment in listening to the argument of the last speaker. I cannot understand how an ex-medical officer of health, the member of a profession which does honoured service in dealing with public health, and, more than that, a service encouraged by the State and by local authorities to improve the health of the people, should try to advance an argument about subservience to the State. After all, the employment of medical officers of health either by the State or by local authorities is a recognition of the part that the State has played in preserving and improving the health of our people. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough West (Mr. T. Thomson) complained that the Financial Resolution had been so tightly drawn that he was unable to deal with many matters. I would remind him that when the Financial Resolution was before the House no Member voted against it. It is remarkable that a Financial Resolution, dealing with a Bill which, it is estimated, will entail an expenditure of £1,400,000,000, should have gone through the House without a Division.
Then a point was raised by the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. E. Simon), who has taken a very keen interest in housing. It will be familiar to the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks), who in the old days used to be interested in Lancashire—at least 1690 I have a very vivid recollection of his representation of North-West Manchester some years ago. The hon. Member for Withington complained that under the Bill you are laying down a State subsidy of rent. It has been admitted, even by the right hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain), that two of the things which he feared when the 1923 Act was before this House, have actually been realised. It will be recollected that when that Bill was introduced a minimum of 850 superficial feet was included in the Bill. Before the Bill became an Act that had been increased to 950 feet. In the earlier stages of the Debates the right hon. Member for Ladywood said that what he feared had actually happened—one of two things or both: first, that under the 1923 Act houses would be built for those who could afford to purchase them, or, on the other hand, houses would be built for those who could afford to pay the high rents charged.
That brings us to the problem of trying to provide houses for those who, no matter how thrifty or careful they may have been, have never earned sufficient wages to enable them to buy their houses or to pay the high rents charged. I remember that in the earlier part of these Debates the Noble. Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) argued that the speculative builders had never been considered in the drawing up of this scheme. If my memory serves me right, at a conference at which the hon. Member for Withington was present, Mr. Selley, President of the Federation of House Builders, made the declaration that if the municipal authorities would confine themselves to the erection of houses not exceeding 850 superficial feet, so far as private enterprise was concerned he would be pretty well satisfied; if private enterprise could be left to deal only with houses over 850 superficial feet he would be very well satisfied. Then he made another remarkable declaration:The poor have always to be housed by the public. Whatever is done, it can hardly be made an economic proposition or an attractive one to investors to buy the smallest type of house, and yet that is where the bulk of the demand lies.Such a remarkable admission by the President of the Federation of House Builders, representing the speculative builders of this country, should be noted. Then one turns with interest to a remarkable contribution from a former Member 1691 of this House, Major Harry Barnes, whose speeches have had considerable effect upon hon. Members below the Gangway. He makes this somewhat remarkable admission:One excellent thing in the Housing Bill is that it confronts the nation with the fact that housing demands an extended programme and a large contribution from OK public funds.He also writes:State-provided housing has come to stay, a fact which is apparent to all but the obtusest authorities.I think those are remarkable admissions so fat as our hon. Friends below the Gangway are concerned. I submit that in bringing this Bill before the House and in making this attempt to deal with the housing problem, a great step forward has been taken. It would be folly at this stage to enlarge further upon the gravity of the problem, and it is apparent that while much good work has been accomplished by the Act of 1923—to which I gladly pay tribute—it has not done all that even its own promoters would have desired. Yet I would remind some of my Friends opposite that while on the one hand they are urging objections to this Bill, on the other hand the right hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir J. Baird) says that the Bill is an extension of the Act of 1923, and that there is nothing more in it. If it is desired to claim that a great deal has been done by the Act of 1923 and if it is claimed that this Bill is simply an extension of the principles of that Act, then hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways.
I submit that the Bill is an honest attempt to deal with a very difficult problem. It proposes to extend the principle of the 1923 Act and we have the advantage of 12 months' experience of the working of that Act, and we are in a position to do something towards developing its provisions for dealing with the three great difficulties, namely, labour, material and finance. I think a genuine effort is being made to deal with those three matters. Those of us who have been brought up in industrial towns realise the difficulties in which the building trade is placed. It used to be said that in the summer time a builder had not any time and in the winter he could get nothing to do, and largely on account of that uncertainty we know that educa- 1692 tion authorities and teachers when called upon to indicate careers on which boys should embark usually place the building trade among the last on the list. That uncertainty checked the flow of boys into the industry. I believe something will be done by this agreement to increase the amount of skilled labour in the industry.
I want to be optimistic and I wish I could be equally optimistic in regard to the question of building materials, but one has to recognise the force of the conditions which control the supply of building materials. During an election which I fought recently, I had a glaring example of what can be done in this respect. At that time bricks were being sold at £5 per thousand. A friend of mine purchased an old mill for demolition, and offered the old bricks for sale at £2 per 1,000. Some of my Manchester friends will know the illustration which I have in my mind. In that particular locality as it happened, the supply of new bricks is practically controlled by one brick and tile company, and the builders who were inquiring about the supply of bricks at £2 per 1,000 were very plainly told by this company that if they purchased any of the old bricks, their supply of new bricks would be cut off. That is a problem which has to be considered when the future Bill dealing with this question comes up.
I think the problem of finance has already been adequately dealt with by other speakers. As I say, I feel in connection with this Bill that an honest attempt is being made to deal with a great problem. The responsibility for making it a success will not depend entirely upon this House. A great responsibility will rest, on the building industry. There must be a concerted effort by employers and men to avoid those industrial disputes which bring about poverty and suffering in any trade. There are many on these Benches who know what industrial disputes are, and having worked in the cotton trade for over 20 years I have been locked out or have been on strike as often as any hon. Member here, and I have always held, and hold to-day more strongly than ever, that the strike is a weapon which hurts the workers 10 times more severely than it hurts the employing class. The building industry has an opportunity now to prove that they are anxious to carry out this 1693 agreement made with this House, and if they do so they will be realising a great ambition and doing much to make this Measure a real success.
§ Sir ALFRED BUTT
The hon. Member who spoke last alluded to the significant fact that Members who are now opposing the Third Reading of this Bill allowed the Financial Resolution, involving an expenditure of £1,300,000,000 to go through without opposition. I think that points to the fact that everybody on this side is quite anxious to authorise expenditure provided it is going to get the people the houses which they require. At the last General Election the Socialist party in my constituency said if returned to power they were going to do away with the slums, and promptly provide an adequate supply of decent houses. I took the view that the supply of decent houses for the people and employment for the unemployed were the two vital issues before the country, and I told my constituents that if they felt the Socialist party could carry out those policies, they should vote for them. The "promptitude" has resulted in this grandiose Measure being brought before the House after seven months—a Measure which certainly is going to supply a generous subsidy as regards rent, but makes no attempt whatever to provide houses to rent. My constituency is situated in one of the largest and most progressive boroughs in the country, and the borough council take the view that this Bill will not produce the houses. It is poor consolation to give my constituents in answer to the letters which I receive every morning from them to tell them that in three, four, or five years' time there may be a sufficiency of houses. What we require, in the words of the Socialist propaganda, is to get the houses promptly. Quite apart from the effort to produce houses I am of opinion, in common with an hon. Member who spoke just now from below the Gangway opposite, that practically the whole of this increased subsidy will be absorbed in the increased price of materials, and that the country will be faced with a gigantic expenditure, which will have to be borne by the people some way or other, while they will not get the houses.
I should like the Minister to turn his attention to the question of rating reform, the consideration of which is long 1694 overdue. At the present moment the rent is bearing a very large burden in regard to rating reform, and I believe that if some consideration had been given to that subject, at least two-fifths of the total charge for rent might have been obviated by extending the principle of grants-in-aid. Another point to which I would like the Minister to have given greater consideration is the question of providing cheaper capital for building. There is no doubt that what appeals to the building enthusiast most of all is cheap money. If the Minister had considered lending public utility companies, private enterprise, and anyone else who was competent and able to enter into the building business cheap money, I believe the people would have got a very much larger supply of houses than they will get under this Bill, and that the cost to the country would have been but a fraction of the £1,300,000,000 which we are now going to squander in order to subsidise the building trade and the building unions.
I hope quite frankly that the House will reject this Measure, because I am satisfied that it is not going to give a single house to the people of this country in excess of what we should have had under the Chamberlain scheme. On the contrary, what it is going to do is to drive away the small builder and private enterprise, and it is going to create the thin end of the wedge of the nationalisation of industry in this country. The Minister of Health has said that he is prepared and anxious to go to the country on this question. I wish the Conservative party and the Liberal party in this House had had the courage to accept the challenge and allow us to go to the country and expose the greatest monument of incompetency that has ever been introduced into the House of Commons, and I sincerely hope that the constitutional parties in this House, who are anxious to do their best for the people of this country, will take their courage in their hands, face the issue, and fight it out now.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I very gladly agree strictly to limit the time during which I shall occupy the attention of the House, in order that various other Members, and especially the Minister of Health, may have an opportunity of adequately winding up the Debate. I speak, of course, 1695 as my hon. Friends speak, from a different angle of approach from that of the hon. Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt), who has just shown such unexpected vigour in denunciation of the Bill, so remarkably different from what I may call the apologetic assassination attempted by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. We decided, rightly or wrongly, to support this Bill on the Second Reading. The utmost pressure and persuasion were put upon us by hon. Members opposite to join with them in a very unusual move on their part, namely, what they called turning the Socialists out. Most of their efforts are, of course, devoted to keeping the Socialists in. We refused that for many reasons, chiefly because we wished any Housing Bill to have a trial, and we hoped that we could amend the Bill, and that the Minister would listen to our representations and make it a better Bill in Committee. We know that there is no finality in any Housing Bill at all. We know that four housing schemes have been advanced since the War, each of which has proved an absolute failure in connection with the real problem which had to be approached, and probably the last one the worst, in connection with the problem that we care about, and that is the problem of dealing with the overcrowded and the unemployed.
Therefore, we were anxious to give the Minister a fair chance of advancing his point of view We deliberately stated then, and I do not know whether it would make for the edification or interest of this crowded assembly if I were to state it again, that we had serious divergencies of opinion concerning his method of approach. Some of these divergencies have remained. We complained then, and I still complain—and, in so far as we can put that complaint on record, it is the complaint of the Liberal party—that a minority Government desiring to produce a Bill which shall be the manufacture of the whole House and for which the whole House afterwards will take the responsibility of administration, should have so cunningly tied up the Financial Resolution as really not to permit the whole House to consider the details of it as those details might be considered. I do not believe that the system makes for business and welcome carrying out of propositions, and as probably, for the 1696 next 30 years, we shall have minority Governments in power or in office—at least, it is conceivable that such may be the case; it is one of the possibilities of the future of British politics—I think that minority Governments will have more and more to realise that their Measures will have to be Measures for which the whole House takes the responsibility, and that is not the case with this Bill.
In consequence, the Minister has prevented us passing Amendments of which, I believe, a large number of his own supporters are in favour, and which, I believe, would have made the Bill a better Bill and a more welcome Bill in the country. I do not intend to go into those in detail, but it is, of course, ridiculous that the Minister should have deprived himself—he is the first Minister of any Department who has ever adopted a policy of depriving himself of being able to do something good, even if he wants to do it—of the possibility of relaxation in connection with the size of houses, apparently in conformity with a promise made to the two most reactionary parts of the country, London and Scotland, or, if I may say so, the municipal authorities of Scotland, which I very gladly dissociate from Scotland itself, and against the desire of all the municipal corporations of this country. That would mean, if it were to continue, a grotesque divergence between the nature of the houses built for the working people and the demand and the desire of a progressive civilisation as the years go by, and I am quite sure that, even before 1927, or at least at 1927, whatever Government is in power, if this scheme is working, there will be a short Bill introduced and carried almost unanimously by this House to relax such a condition as that.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who has for the moment disappeared, who spoke last, as to what I believe would be a most desirable method of approaching this problem. If you could have laid down the standard, and then given cheap money and cheap credit to municipalities, to private builders, to cooperative societies, to builders' guilds if you please, to anyone prepared to build houses of any sort or description, so long as they were not mansions for the great, you would have given such a stimulus to building that, even if the houses built 1697 were above the standard of the very poorest, they would have been occupied by those who were able to pay for them and so loosened the tight band of inadequate houses that exists at the present moment and allowed the poorest to get, at economic rents, better houses than they are getting at the present time. I do not want slum clearances, and I have always opposed slum clearances. I have always opposed subsidies being given to slum landlords. I believe there is joy in heaven as on earth when the spectacle is exhibited of two slum landlords trying to get a tenant, and being unable to get one because alternative accommodation is available.
Then, again, I criticize—though, to a certain extent, I think, the Minister of Health has met our criticism—the inadequate attempt at the augmentation of labour. I still wish he had not made such an agreement with what is sometimes humorously called, "the organisation of the building trade employers and employed," who seem at the present moment mainly desirous of cutting each others' throats, instead of dealing with this Bill. Had he definitely stated the Government were going to see that, whatever the age of the people is, whatever their class is, ex-Service men, engineers, trade unionists out-of-work, they were going to provide labour enough for Government subsidised houses, I believe he would have had behind him, not only the whole of this House, but the whole of the country, and he would have compelled those who wish to hold up building operations to come in. I realise in full the statement made by an hon. Gentleman opposite that, of course, the past history of the building trade has given the operatives grave cause for dissatisfaction in connection with the unlimited bringing in of persons from outside, although they might have been reassured by a continuance of building, and by the appeal made to them here not to build houses for public edifices, or for the rich and great, but to build houses for their fellow-workmen, the trade unionists and the very poor, which the right hon. Gentleman has said is the object of his Bill.
Those criticisms still remain, but in politics you can never vote for the first best. You can only vote for the second best, and you cannot even get the second best unless a Liberal Government is in 1698 power. In any other case, you have to try and turn the fourth best into the third best, and I certainly think this Bill as it is leaving us, more nearly approaches the third best than any of the four other schemes, which proved abortive, which were proposed by various fluctuating Coalitions and Conservative Governments. Here I want to refuse to adopt for one moment our usual attitude of humble and contrite heart, patience and submission, and boldly to remind the House that by refusing to join with hon. Gentlemen opposite, first in rejecting this Bill, and secondly in more or less sulking during the Amendments, and in continually pressing day and night for some change, we have not altogether done anything unworthy of a great party. I am not suggesting there has been any weakness on the part of the Minister of Health, but every time we have moved an Amendment hon. Members opposite have exercised some queer delight, in the humour which is peculiar to themselves, in stating that we have run away from our Amendments, and very often voted against them. Being an ancient student of statistics, I find that, including consequential Amendments, hon. Gentlemen behind me have moved some 76 Amendments to this Bill, and in substance, if not actually in words, the. Minister of Health has incorporated in the Bill something like 65 of them. We have appealed to reasonableness, and we have not appealed in vain. I think that fact should be known in order to encourage others who come after us that it is better to argue than to sulk, and although I do not propose to weary the House by running into all the Amendments, I venture to pick out some 10, not indeed to explain them, but merely to mention them. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), I think, suggests that we ask leave to circulate the remainder with the OFFICIAL REPORT.
We have, first of all, broken down the trust which was only going to allow the the municipalities to obtain labour from an organisation of employers and employed, who definitely told us they were going to run labour in accordance with their own ideas, and who, undoubtedly, intended between them, against the consumer, to run up labour and material to any price they considered desirable. We have broken down that trust, with the consent of the Minis- 1699 ter of Health, by bringing in again the possibility of private enterprise and the speculative builder tendering, or agreeing with the municipal authorities, to build houses to be sold to them at a lower rate than the trust sells them if the trust chooses to raise prices unduly. That, I believe, will be welcomed by a large number of builders throughout the country, and also by a large number of municipalities. In the second place, we have removed from this country the nightmare of the existence of 2,500,000 brick-boxes existing till the end of this century, let to various classes of tenants who will be increasingly willing, as the years go by, to become tenants of them, and who will be committed to being municipal tenants, with the municipality having no choice at all but to maintain them as tenants on their shoulders. We, therefore, persuaded the Minister of Health—I do not think he needed much persuasion—to make this very useful and important alteration to the Bill, to permit the municipalities freely to sell these houses as often as they please to those who want to buy them as soon as they are built, so that there may he at least, perhaps, 300,000 or 400,000 people who have bought their own houses from the municipalities, instead of being in the less desirable position of being tenants, perhaps, of backward, ignorant and corrupt municipalities. Thirdly, we have managed to secure, largely through the activity of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. E. Brown), who has been indefatigable in this matter, that more than 50 per cent. of rural parishes, excluded from the extra grant in the Bill as it stood, and who would have been excluded if no one had taken action in the matter, have been made eligible for the increased grant. That, I hope, will be widely recognised and widely accepted, and will induce many more of the rural districts to build houses than are building them at the present time.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I think only on that occasion after the right hon. Gentleman promised to meet us, and in order to have the pleasure of making the hon. Gentleman vote against his own Amend- 1700 ment. Everyone knows that houses which have been built for years are the centre of the difficulty. In the smaller rural areas houses which used to be built by the landlords years ago no one builds now, and the result of it all has been to convert many of our countrysides into something like rural slums.
Fourthly, we have established, beyond doubt, in the words of this Bill, free trade in the raw materials. That is a protection, and the only protection I know against the creation of great trusts and combines to exploit alike the building industry, the municipalities, and the poorest of our people. I should not be so very anxious myself or care about this free trade if it was merely a question of building houses for those who have ample means to build them. But free trade is established in houses, and for the poorest of our people, and free trade on those lines comes into exactly the same category as free trade in food and the necessities of life. Fifthly—and this will be appreciated in the rural districts also—it is provided that every cottage shall have a garden adjacent to it, instead of some allotment three-quarters of a mile away. Some of these allotments you may see now going back into grass and heather instead of being used as they ought to be. We have also established the principle—and I should like here to express our gratitude to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), who is not now present and who has given great assistance in this matter—that in building houses in the towns, except under exceptional circumstances, the number shall not be more than 12 to the acre, and that in any case the whop development shall be controlled by the Housing and Town Planning Scheme. That alone may help to make this England of ours a less disastrous object looked upon by posterity than many of our towns look to us at the present time.
The Minister also has given us a promise, and if he is not here, there will be another Minister in his place, and as the matter is controlled by words in the Act the Minister is responsible whoever he may be—and he can always be challenged by Parliament—he has promised to exercise all his ingenuity to encourage the use of any possible material, cheap and desirable, for building the new 1701 houses, and that he will not tie himself down to what it is probable will in a few years be regarded as an archaic system—that is the present laying of bricks, which end in the establishment of small brick boxes. He is eager for experiment in the use of new materials, in dealing with the industry, and that he is going to press forward the idea that all efficient builders' labourers should be allowed to become skilled craftsmen. In every way possible he is going to allow no vested interest to stand in his way in the establishment of these houses which are to be built for the working classes. We know that he is sincere in his desire to carry out the provisions of his Bill. If any other Minister replaces him we shall make his life a misery unless he also carries out the promises made at the present time.
The eighth thing we have succeeded in establishing is that although we voted with the Government, and against the Opposition in the general idea that there should be a continuous programme without which you cannot expect supplies to flow into the various industries which will be engaged in building, whether they are the old workers, or the engineering industry, or whatever new methods may be adopted, yet that there shall be a very definite and practical break at the end of three years' time, if for some reason or other the demands of the Minister are not complied with. In the strongest words which we have been able to devise, in 1927, the whole method shall be revised, and if the scheme is not going forward on the lines, and up to the dimensions, which the Minister desires, this House will be free to reconsider; not only will the Minister himself be under an obligation to propose to the House an alternative, but the House will have a perfectly free opportunity of saying, "We regret to say that owing to the refusal of those who promised to work it to come in has not proved a success, and we must, therefore, look for another method of dealing with this great problem—and this irrespective of party.
Another small, but I think a very useful thing for a certain number of people, is that we have managed to get from the Minister—we had to go to a Division for it—we try to get what we can without a Division, but we are always prepared to go to a Division if we want 1702 to get a thing—we might have gone to more divisions but for the uncertainty as to how hon. Gentlemen opposite would behave—and sometimes—I speak in general terms which I think the House will understand, in negotiations the choice lay between Kingsley Woodism and chaos—we have obtained what we believe to be justice for several hundreds, if not several thousands of the smaller men, who took up what is known as the Chamberlain scheme at its face value. They started building under those conditions. They had not received the Chamberlain subsidy, under the local authorities, for some reason or another. If they had not been assisted in the matter, as they ought to have been, they would have been reduced to bankruptcy and compelled to stop business. I think the House of Commons is glad, in a matter of this sort, if it only does justice to a few.
We have done a good deal also to assist the public utility societies which we believe should work at the same time as the local authorities; and the best a which we believe should receive every conceivable support as an alternative to the local authorities, some of which I know—and I could give examples in Southern England—will do nothing at all for the housing of the people, and some of which are controlled by the worst owners of slum houses in the district. In the large towns public utility societies have already been formed with hundreds of applicants for houses, and they are only waiting for this Bill to go through in order to go ahead, despite the opposition of slum owners who control the town dwellings and mostly are the pillars of some religious denomination. That, I think, brings me to No. 10 of the improvements. I could give more, but I would submit that the giving of these ten examples justifies us in having gone on, having kept this Bill on the Floor of the House, and having passed this Bill as it now stands, and all the work which has been done and done untiringly, with the special knowledge, information and energy of hon. Members who sit behind me on these benches. This is merely an indication of which party probably will be regarded in the future as the most appropriate one to deal with this matter. May I conclude with one word, which, I hope, the Minister of Health will neither think inpertinent nor fulsome. The 1703 Minister of Health, during the Committee stage, made one or two statements which it would have been better if he had not made. They have not facilitated business, and have only resulted in considerable misunderstanding outside. It is no good any Minister, when an Amendment is proposed, to offer threats concerning elections and their results. That sort of thing may be very useful in the country or in the organs of public opinion which you control, but we have never in the House of Commons been bullied by such statements, and the only result is that instead of facilitating business you delay it. That is only a suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman has given us figures which have staggered, dazzled and amazed us, and which we should like during the Recess to examine, because they do not conform to anything that we have ever understood in this connection. The right hon. Gentleman has offered us economics which I can only characterise as the economics of a lunatic asylum. I think the right hon. Gentleman has done his own party a great disservice by circulating such nonsense broadcast, and I think it would have been far better if the country had taken it as a jest instead of us having to waste our time in tearing such nonsense to pieces.
I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the effort which has brought this Bill to fruition. For over six months, with extraordinary patience and industry, and with a humour and a willingness to compromise, and with all the arts of one who might have been in this House for 20 years on the Front Bench, he has conducted a difficult Bill in such a manner as to disarm opposition, and he has always been ready to accept proposals which he knew would make the Bill better. I am quite sure that, as far as the right hon. Gentleman himself is concerned, his conduct of this Bill has established him in high esteem amongst all parties in this House. If the supporters behind the right hon. Gentleman had only shown the same quality, the harvest reaped by his own party would not have been so meagre as it promises to he at the present time. May I remind the House that, notwithstanding all this humour or attempts at humour, and all them wranglings about cubic space and technicalities which few understand and 1704 which other have tried their best to pretend to understand, there has been and there is to-day facing this Government, or any Government, a gigantic problem which must be tackled, and one which cannot be dismissed by the discussion of technical details. It is so great in its immensity that we ought to be willing to accept any honest endeavour which is made to attempt to solve what so many other honest endeavours have failed to accomplish. We have at the present time over 1,000,000 people on the unemployment dole. I know this is not relevant to this particular issue, but we have it in the words of experts who have never been contradicted that there are at least over 1,000,000 inhabitants of houses which have been condemned, or ought to have been condemned as being unfit for human habitation, and they have not been condemned because there is no accommodation for the unfortunate people who are compelled to live in those conditions.
Consider for a moment the degradation and the misery caused by such overcrowding, and the bringing up of a new nation under such conditions. The bringing up of a new nation under conditions which ought not to be allowed to exist only leads to bitterness, and all this is taking place because we have not, the sense and the ingenuity to solve the problem. Under these circumstances to have imperial exhibitions and pageants of Empire seems like dust and ashes, and it is gold a little tarnished. This Government and no ether Government can hope to solve this problem in a few years time, but if the. Government now make an honest attempt, I am sure they will deserve the gratitude of the future, and they will be working towards a time which we hope and believe must come, if this nation is to continue as a civilised nation, when this particular reproach of our people shall be taken away for ever.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has told us in plain language that this Bill stands, if it is to stand at all, because neither his party nor the party opposite would dare to turn it down; indeed he has said that any attempt to defeat the purpose of this Bill has been unsuccessful. The Resolution plainly points to four main features. The whole of the criticism has revolved to-day round the cost, the rent, labour, and materials. The only criticism 1705 against the cost seems to me to be that we are proposing to pay something more than was previously paid by the State to produce houses. The first thing you have to consider is what is it worth. On all sides of the House there seems to be unanimity, but the one great outstanding need of the country at the present time is houses.
I have been surprised to see the unanimity with which all parties in the House subscribe to the needs of the case. I have been surprised to hear those opposed to each other in politics say that they are ready to join hands to produce houses, and there is no denying the fact that at the root of many of our great social evils is the present shortage of houses. We have had the testimony of medical officers of health who happen to be Members of this House along those lines. We have seen, in following their speeches, how much health is impaired. I would go further and point out the worth it would be to have houses where people could grow up under conditions of health and happiness that would enrich and ennoble the nation. There is also the great moral questions that revolve round this great question of housing. There seems to be a note of insincerity in the arguments that have been used with regard to cost, because the provisions of the Bill are so drawn that no money can he paid unless the houses are produced. It seems to me that the great fear underlying these Debates has been that the provisions, of the Bill will really be successful and that the number of houses designed will materialise. There is a fear that, compared with the other schemes which have preceded it, this scheme seems to stand in a better light and seems more likely to succeed. There seems a genuine rivalry between this scheme and the previous scheme.
This scheme aims at 2,500,000 houses, and immediately the cry went up that they would not be produced. Again it was said, "Look what they will cost if they are built." Either one of two things will happen. Either the houses will be produced and the cost incurred or they will not be produced, and there will be no argument left as to cost. Failure to produce the houses will mean that the money will be saved. I would like to feel that the lip service that has been paid to the need for producing houses was really 1706 more genuine. I would like to feel that, when we have got through these artificial Debates that reflect on one side a fear lest, the Socialist Government that has dared to take a long view of 15 years should inspire confidence in an industry which hitherto has been so badly served and has had so much difficulty to contend with and should really succeed; and that, when we get over these party quips, there will be a genuine co-operative effort by all parties of the House to make this Bill a success. There is a point even in British politics when we should really face the needs of the case, and when we should endeavour fully and frankly to meet one of the greatest needs of the nation at the present time.
I do not envy the Mover and Seconder of the rejection of the Bill, nor do I envy those who will go into the Lobby in support of that rejection. For my part, and for the part of those who mean what they say, we want to see the houses built, and it matters very little whether it be done under a Socialist or any other Government. This Bill is going to put to the real test those who have paid lip service to the demand as to whether or not, when they get the opportunity, they will support a well-thought-out long-visioned programme. I hope, for those reasons, that the Amendment will receive the rejection which it deserved.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am glad that there was a speech, however short, interposed between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rusholme Division (Mr. Masterman) and myself, because when he ended I personally was almost crying, and I am sure that he was wellnigh doing so, for I could almost see the, tears dropping on to the Floor of the House at the eloquence of his peroration. I will, however, leave him for the moment, though I shall refer to him later. I was sorry that the hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. Palmer) should have introduced into the Debate a tone of bitterness, which has really been absent to-day. He said, quite frankly, that he did not envy my hon. Friend (Sir S. Roberts) who moved, and my hon. Friend who seconded, the rejection of the Bill (Sir P. Pilditch). Personally, I do envy them. I envy them for the way in which they made their speeches. As everybody knows, it is a difficult matter to move the rejec- 1707 tion of a first-class Bill, and I think the whole House will agree with me in paying a tribute to them for the care and ability with which they did so. There was no trace of bitterness in their speeches, and I desire that there should be none in mine.
At the same time, I say quite definitely that I am going to vote against this Bill for the reasons given in the Amendment, because I do believe that it will not produce the houses, while it will create desires, wishes and hopes which will never come to fruition. If that be my view, it is not only my right but my bounden duty to state it and to vote against the Bill. If a Socialist Government can produce the houses, nobody will be more pleased than myself. We are just as keenly in favour of housing as hon. Gentlemen opposite. We know all that can be said of the evils of slum dwelling and overcrowding. Many of us have made speeches on the subject, not only inside but also outside this House. Last year we made a quite definite effort. Hon. Members opposite may say that our effort has not been a success, and that the Act of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) has not produced and will not produce the houses. They to-day are starting a proposal and nobody knows what the result of it will be. We have lived through the period of experiment, and I want, quite definitely, that the House should understand whether there really be any need for those portions of the Bill that were strongly animadverted upon by the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) and which enormously increase the subsidy.
My right hon. Friend's Bill was laughed at when going through the House last year, and it has been sneered at more than once during these Debates. While Minister of Health and since, I have never failed in my belief that that Act was working well, and that, if left alone, it would work well. Let me give the latest figures—given by the Minister of Health himself—up to 9th July this year of the working of the Chamberlain Act with the particular subsidy granted by that Act, roughly one-third of what the subsidy will be under this Bill. There are already 17,714 houses completed. All together, there are 44,760 houses under construction 1708 to-day, ten months since the passing of that Act. Twenty-thousand of those houses are already roofed in. You may fairly assume that when a house has been roofed in it will be completed within three months; and, if there are 20,000 roofed in, in addition to 24,000 of which the foundations are completed, you may assume quite fairly that during the next three months the completed houses will go up to the extent of 7,000 per month. If the Act is let alone, the production of houses will go on in that, ratio, and we shall get very near the number which I was perhaps foolish enough to announce when I stated that the Act would produce 100,000 houses per annum. 149,000 houses have been provided either by my right hon. Friend or myself, or by the present Minister of Health, under the provisions of that Act, and there are just over 100,000 houses which are included in contracts, or in regard to which definite arrangements for finance has been made. If you leave out for the moment the 48,000 houses not yet definitely allocated to contracts or to finance—and let me add they are going on, for surely no one will suggest that a man is going to buy land, prepare plans and make arrangements for building simply in order to fool the local authority or the Minister of Health—there may be some few who will drop out from the programme, but it can fairly be assumed that the majority of these houses will be built ultimately—you have 100,000 house definitely arranged for, and, in addition, you have 40,000 others likely to come on. Thus the provision of houses is going on increasing from month to month, and I am certain that any impartial man who studies these figures—given, be it remembered, by the Minister of Health himself from month to month—will see how the total is running up, and how, if the Act is let alone, houses will be built more quickly, and we shall soon have an output of 7,000 per month and probably of 100,000 per year. I do not say that that is all we want, but it is better than any other scheme which up to the present has been put before the House of Commons by any Government whatsoever, and it is better than the average production of houses before the War.
In addition to that, do not forget the large number of houses that are being built without any subsidy at all. I refused subsidies to a good many schemes of 1709 house building, because the houses could be built without them. There was such a demand in certain districts that it was not necessary to subsidise the building. 70,000 houses are being built to-day altogether outside the subsidised houses. If I am right in saying that the Bill of my right hon. Friend will produce 100,000 houses in a year, and in addition there are something like 50,000 houses more being built, you will get a total of 150,000 houses per annum, which is far, far greater than any number of houses built in any year before the War, or when the Addison Scheme was in full working order, houses which at that time were being built at a cost of from £1,000 to £1,100 apiece. When the Chamberlain Act is working so well why is it deemed necessary to increase the subsidy by something like three-fold? The capital value of the Chamberlain subsidy is £75. The capital value of the subsidies under the present Bill represents nearly three times that amount. The State subsidy is per house per year, and the subsidy from the local authority £4 10s. per house per year, or three times the subsidy under the Act of last year. It may have been necessary to increase the life of that Act in order to give stability to the building trade. It may have been necessary or desirable to make the life of my right hon. Friend's Act extend to 12 years. We said when we brought it in that it was only an experiment—a first effort, and I think it is quite right that this Bill should have made the Chamberlain Act run for another 10 or 12 years. But there was no possible need for this new Bill from the point of view of getting houses built. There was no possible need whatever to increase the subsidy three-fold.
What more does the Bill do? It does not produce any new houses. There is no evidence that it is going to produce more houses than the Chamberlain Act. If you look into the schedule of the Bill it will be seen that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has been clever enough to include in the figures he gives all the houses which are being built under my right hon. Friend's Act. That is a rather remarkable thing for the building trade to note. The figures presented to the building trade include all the houses being built under the Act of 1923 as well as the houses that will be built under it. 1710 It will be seen that the right hon. Gentleman presupposes a very small addition to that number under the provisions of his own scheme. I doubt whether he will even get the small addition he suggests. The Bill does not produce more material or more labour. It does neither the one nor the other, and it simply leaves the question of finance in the hands of Providence. It is a very remarkable thing that in all these Debates we have not had any word whatever from any responsible Minister as to where the money is coming from or how it is going to be found. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury have been conspicuous by their absence from our Debates. One would have thought that if the Government were going to produce a scheme costing £22,000,000 or £23,000,000 a year, a scheme which it is admitted by one of its own members will ultimately involve, if it is a success—and I am assuming it is going to be a success—a Government contribution and a local authority contribution of £1,300,000,000, £900,000,000 of which is to be found by the taxpayers of the country, one would, I say, have thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have come forward and said that he saw his way quite clearly to provide the money, and that there would be no difficulty if they continued in office for some years in finding it. Yet not one word have we had from anyone responsible for the finances of the nation as to where this money is coming from.
Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Parliamentary Secretary has touched upon the question of finance. Some of my hon. Friends have said to me, "Why worry about the finance of this Bill? The working man, the voter, is not influenced by questions of finance." I think that is wrong. I think the working man has realised during the War what a huge War Debt means. He sees how a debt of £7,000,000,000 weighs down the trade of this country. I think that when I tell him, or when anyone else tells him throughout the country, that this Bill is going to add another £1,300,000,000 to our Debt, he will begin to wonder whether the game is worth the candle. Then there has been no word at all as to where the money is to be found for building the houses. I have been dealing for the moment with the subsidies which will be 1711 paid as doles in reduction of rent, but the houses themseves have to be built, and they will need to be built at once. The local authorities will want to raise money to the extent of something like £90,000,000 or £100,000,000 a year in order to carry out the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. Where is that coming from? Are the local authorities going to burden themselves with loans? Is the London County Council going to burden itself with a loan of something like £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 every year for the next 15 years? Are the local authorities all over the country going to burden themselves and their ratepayers with an amount of £90,000,000 or £100,000,000 a year for the next 15 years? We have had no assurance from the right hon. Gentleman on that subject. We have heard of negotiations with the local authorities, but we have not heard a single statement from him that any one local authority of any size has told him that it is prepared to go into the money market at once and borrow this money in order to get to work on the building of these houses.
These are points that must be considered before we part from this Bill. It is no use passing a Bill which tells the country that you are going to build 2,500,000 houses if you have not the money. It might just as well have been said that the number would be 5,000,000 or 7,500,000. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, on this last opportunity, to give us same information as to how he thinks this money is going to be provided without dislocating the money market? It is curious that the Building Trades Employers' Federation is not satisfied with the finance of the Bill. One would have thought that they, if anyone, would have liked this Bill, which is to put £1,000,000,000 more into their own pockets for house building; but they condemn the Bill; they condemn the finance of the Bill quite definitely. Here is a letter, dated the 15th of this month, from the Federation of Building Trades Employers, in which they say:They believe that the amount of the subsidy proposed by way of Government contribution together with the contribution of the local authorities is greatly in excess of what is necessary to promote the building of the houses required.1712 That is their view, that is my view, that is the view of the hon. Member for Withington, and it is the view, if I may say so, of nearly every authority on finance. The right hon. Gentleman has overdone the amount of subsidy under this Bill, and we could have got the houses, if they are to be got at all with the labour and materials available, for a much smaller subsidy.
Then there is the question of rent. I do not know whether the tenants all over the country realise that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his tune since he became a Minister, and that he is now going to make the rent the pre-War rent plus 40 per cent. Everyone knows, because his whole political life has been lived in the open, that he got into this House on the promise that he would knock off the 40 per cent. and reduce rents to the pre-War level, and he suggested at one time—I am not sure whether it was in a speech or in a statement—that these houses should be built by unemployed labour and should be given rent free, in order that the money that would otherwise have gone in rent might be utilised for other purposes. That is rather like feeding off your own tail, as far as I can see. What I want the House to realise is that under the previous Acts the rent was more or less steady. Under the Addison Act the deficit fell on the Exchequer, and under my right hon. Friend's Act it fell on the local authorities. Under this Measure it will fall on the tenant. Unless the houses can be built for the figure which the right hon. Gentleman takes as his normal figure, namely, £475 all in, they cannot be let at the pre-War rent plus 40 per cent., and, for every £25 that the cost of house building goes up, the right hon. Gentleman or the local authority will have to increase the rent to the unfortunate person who has become a tenant under the provisions of this Measure. An hon. Member opposite told us the price of building has already gone up. A strike is going on now which, whatever the result, must increase the cost of building. The trouble in the building trade, the trouble between employer and employed, as all these troubles must do, increases the cost of production, and you will find that the cost. of wages, the cost of bricks, the cost of everything 1713 is gradually but quite definitely going up. I took the trouble yesterday to ask one of my constituents, who is a builder, to get me the latest price of bricks. The right hon. Gentleman told us he had arranged with the brickmaking trade that they should charge nothing more than they charged in January of this year. I think the price of the normal brick was 55s per 1,000 in January. We have to wait till the autumn for the Bill by which the right hon. Gentleman is going to ensure that this takes place. But he has not arranged with the building trade to compel them to supply the bricks. This is the position to-day. I caused telephone inquiries to be made yesterday. The price of rough stocks, quoted from one of the biggest firms in the country, is 90s. per 1,000. The price of best stocks is 107s., having gone up 10s. during the last week. The price of the cheapest brick is 78s. 6d. The price of best French bricks delivered at Hounslow was 79s. 6d. It is true that we can get a Belgian brick delivered here at 63s. per 1,000. The building papers are full of advertisements—I am not going to give the names of the firms—of French and Belgian brickmakers who are prepared to supply bricks at prices considerably below English prices. Whether that is desirable is not for me at the moment to say. I see the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. II. Spencer) trying to draw me into a discussion, but in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird. The prices of bricks have already gone up through natural causes.
§ Sir W. JOYNS0N-HICKS
Yes, and I expect them to go up still further. If you give an order for 2,500,000 houses, or motor cars, or horses, or anything, the price is bound to go up. Nothing on earth can stop it doing so, more particularly if you say you are prepared to give a subsidy of half the cost. It is no good hiding our heads in the sand. We have to face the facts, and my objection to the Bill is that the right hon. Gentleman has not faced the facts. He is telling the country they are going to get the houses, but he has not told them how he is going to get the bricks to make the houses.
There is a further difficulty that I should like to put to him—the agricul- 1714 tural difficulty. He has not solved the difficulty in agricultural parishes. He has not solved the difficulty of the agricultural worker who lives in a non-agricultural parish. That must be solved in some way or other. I do not know how it is going to be done. He ought to know, but he has not, produced a scheme. lie has not accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown), or that of my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and curiously, in connection with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby, I find the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman), speaking on that Amendment, said:if he does not do it "—that is, deal with these rural areas—on the Amendment of the hon. Member we can still defeat him on the Report stage. and certainly meat of us are prepared to do so.That "most of us" did not extend to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
On the contrary, we proposed an Amendment on which we could have defeated the Government if they had not had the good sense to accept the Amendment.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the Amendment that was accepted did not carry out the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby. It did not deal with the point, and it does not deal with the point. It improved the position, and it gave the right hon. Gentleman an excuse for accepting the Amendment, but I challenge the hon. Member for Rugby whether he dares to rise and say that the Amendment accepted clearly met his point. He knows that it did not. The Parliamentary Secretary tells us that at least they have tried to deal with the agricultural difficulty, and that if they have failed, at least they have tried. o I suppose he thinks that it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
We have had no assurance from the right hon Gentleman that he has any treaty with the building trade that he can put in any Act of Parliament or put on the Table of this House. He has said to the building trade, "If you will build the houses I will provide the money, but if you cannot build the houses I will not 1715 provide any more money. "That is a queer kind of proceeding. That is a queer kind of guarantee. I do not think that I should like to put money into the building trade on a guarantee of that kind, knowing that the whole of the costs are rising and that wages must inevitably rise in the building trade, with all these large orders in front of them. What is the treaty there? There is no guarantee there. I cannot believe that the building trade are satisfied with it. I know that some of them are entirely dissatisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's so-called treaty.
All the way through this Bill the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with facts. He has dealt with hopes and trusts. He trusts that in the future it will come right, but there never has been a definite fact put on the Table of this House to show what this treaty or this guarantee really is. It is the same with regard to the question of labour. He has not told us how he is going to get the labour. I have here some figures which are more serious than any that have yet been quoted. They are figures from the National Housing and Town Planning Council, which is friendly to the right hon. Gentleman and his scheme. I want to quote figures that are friendly and not figures that are opposed to him. In the year 1901 there were 828,000 men employed in the building and allied trades, bricklayers, joiners, plasterers and so on. In 1914 there were 483,000 so employed, and in January of this year 367,000 only. We are now building more houses than we built in the years prior to the War, although we have only 367,000 men compared with 828,000 in 1901. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are working harder now."] I will deal with that point later. I do not say that there is more actual building going on, because I am leaving out the question of commercial building. I have been reading a book, as well as the figures I have quoted, and I find some rather remarkable statements about building labour and also about the point mentioned by the hon. Member opposite, that the men are working harder now than they did in 1901. This is what the book says:It is alleged that when men were on piece work in 1885 the number of bricks laid per day varied from 1,200 to 1,500. In 1912 it was round about 600 per day, while in 1920 it was 300 or less.1716 The author goes on to say:Under most favourable conditions of advanced scientific management it was said to be possible to lay 350 bricks per hour.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is a book by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury called "The Wages of Labour." I do not know what the price is, but I am certain that it is well worth the money It is a new addition which has been recently published by Cassels, and though there is no reason why I should give it advertisement, there is no harm in doing so. The right hon. Gentleman should say frankly to the bricklayers, "You must help us more in this matter. We want the houses for your fellow workpeople." The right hon. Gentleman told his own constituents just before the election that he was going to employ some 500,000 unemployed in building houses. He hoped to build 280,000 houses a year with unemployed labour. He knows that that is impossible, but he could go to the building trade unions, and appeal to their sense of honour and their love of country to help the Minister in this matter.
The only way you can get houses built by getting, not driblets of two or three apprentices, but getting men into the building trade by the thousand. I gave the figures a short time ago as to the number of men needed in order to build an extra 50,000 houses a year. The right hon. Gentleman has given no assurance of any kind that he will get any number of men into the building trade. Those are the questions involved in this Bill—the labour and the material. One other point mentioned by the Minister was the possibility of new methods of construction. He has before him, I believe, the proposals of a well-known business man for bedding houses of a different building material. I have been inundated with schemes for building houses of wood, cement and other materials. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should have a competition or that, if he likes, on behalf of the Government—I think that the House would willingly pass a Supplementary Estimate for the purpose—he should have one or two houses erected on a bit of land under his own control, according to every 1717 one of these schemes, to see whether there is not something in them that might be useful for the country.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Let him have an open competition and find out whether these schemes for building houses have any good in them. If they have not, the sooner we know the better. If we are forced to go back to the old brick buildings, then the sooner we realise that, and the sooner we get more men into the brick building trade, the better for the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme has told us that he pressed the Government day and night, and that his courage was oozing out, and whenever we went into the Division Lobby we found the damp spots where he had been.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
This is all very pleasant, but as a matter of fact, I never said a word about myself in the whole debate. I was referring to my hon. Friends generally, and to the fact that when we went into the Division Lobby we found that you were keeping the Socialist Government in power.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman told us of 65 Amendments which had been introduced into the Bill at the instigation of himself and his friends, and he told us about 10 of them. He said that he had removed the nightmare of the existence of 2,500,000 brick boxes. That is a splendid thing.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I must correct the right hon. Gentleman, even if the interruption spoils his humourous remarks. I said that we had removed the nightmare of 2,500,000 brick houses being committed to municipal ownership, by allowing municipalities to sell them to the occupiers.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to refer to the OFFICIAL REPORT. He said "brick boxes," not "brick houses." Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to use language about municipalities. Really, the right hon. Gentleman is leading the Liberal party.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
At all events, we have heard nothing from the 1718 right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) or the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The right hon. Member for Rusholme has been leading his party. The right hon. Gentleman told us about his modesty. He has got over his modesty. Really, when I listened to his catalogue of all that he had done to improve the Bill, I could not help thinking, "Here is the one and only man who is honest." Surely he never owned a slum. He said that slum owners were often the "pillars of religious denominations." That statement may pass on some public platforms, but will not do for the House of Commons; nor will it aid the effort which we are all making to get a Bill that will produce houses. I am not going to indulge in fulsome praise of the Minister. I think the Minister would rather be left alone than be told in the midst of fulsome praise, that his economics are the economics of a lunatic. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme and the Minister have both been concerned in getting this Rill through, and it is rather reminiscent of the stage elephant of the pantomime. These are just the kind of remarks that the back legs would make to the front. I agree with all that has been said with regard to the Minister, but I think some of it should be allocated to the hack legs. Just one serious word in conclusion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Well, somehow I never can regard the Liberal party seriously, and I am quite sure the country will not regard them seriously except those who have the honesty to make their views and opinions about this Bill known, and I assume they will go into the Lobby with us. For instance, there is the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. H. H. Spencer). If hon. Members will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT of 17th July, they will find that the hon. Member said:This Bill even with the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend … will be a failure. Without the Amendment it will be a disastrous failure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 17th July, 1924; col. 661, Vol. 176.]I assume, therefore, he regards the Bill as a disastrous failure, and in these circumstances will come into the Lobby with us.
§ Mr. H. H. SPENCER
As the right hon. Gentleman addresses me by the name of my constituency, I would ask him to 1719 wait and see. If he wishes to prophesy, I should say that I voted against this Bill all the time, and propose to do so.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am much indebted to the hon. Member for that candid and honest declaration. The Bill will depend in the future upon the success or failure of the arrangements which it contains. The Parliamentary Secretary, a few hours ago, told us that he would appeal to the country when the Measure had been in operation for the verdict of the country. I am quite satisfied to leave the result of this Bill to the verdict of the country. The Government have told us it is going to produce 2,500,000 houses, that they are going to get the material and the labour and that they are going to reduce the rents. That is what they have told us. I am prepared to wait whether it be six months or a year—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or to-morrow."] The Parliamentary Secretary has asked to be judged by the results of the Bill when it gets, into working operation, and I am prepared to accept that challenge.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am prepared to accept the decision of the country. Having sat through all these discussions, having listened to all the words of wisdom which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, having listened to the long catalogue of advantages which he says he has put into the Bill, I say to the House of Commons that the verdict of the country when the Bill has been in operation will be "guilty, without extenuating circumstances."
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Wheatley)
I am sorry to have to interfere with the entertainment of the House, but as we have only a few minutes to go, after what has been a rather prolonged discussion, it is expected that I should say a few words in submitting this Measure to the judgment of the House. Hon. Members will excuse me if I do not attempt to cover the ground which has been traversed to-day by those who have so ably and eloquently participated in the Debate. I am sure it will not be regarded as offensive if I say that there have not been many, if any, new argu- 1720 ments put forward. Indeed, the speech to which we have just listened is one that I think, with all due respect, could be delivered almost verbatim from the OFFICIAL REPORT by a person who had never been present during the discussions. As I listened to that long eulogy of the 1923 Act I was brought back to the Debate on the Money Resolution, when exactly the same speech, almost exactly the same figures, and almost exactly the same undiluted, gloomy prophecies were presented to the House as the speech of a great statesman, and I wondered, after all, whether we were entitled to criticise the output of the building industry when we ourselves were so unoriginal in our output of arguments. I thank the right hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman) for the kind remarks he made about me and the not unkindly sentiments he expressed towards the Bill, and when he did turn to a few words of criticism, and spoke of little brick boxes, I noticed that among his 10 great achievements was one which would enable the moneyed section of the working class and the lower middle class to become the proud possessors of these little brick boxes, so that they might demonstrate to an admiring community the aestheticism which the presented in the o selection of housing accommodation.
The figures which the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) presented to the House are, as I have pointed out on many occasions, of the most misleading character. He chaffed me for presenting to this House statements that raised false hopes in the minds of the people outside, but what else is he doing when he tells them that the 1923 Act is producing houses? He quotes these figures and rolls them off, knowing that even Members of this House, and to a much greater degree the population of the country, do not analyse statistics, but take round figures as representing facts. We have heard a good deal in this House about housing conditions in Scotland, and we have heard a good deal recently in the Press on the very same subject. Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that most of the people of Scotland require to rent houses, but those people, whose social conditions we all deplore, are in those deplorable conditions, because they have not the means of purchasing houses and must depend for that essential accommodation on the renting of houses? Does 1721 he not know also that in Scotland under the 1923 Act only 19 houses had been completed for letting on 30th June this year, 11 months after the Act had been in operation? When he turns to England and Wales, he will find that, with all those wonderful figures that he presented, the total number of houses produced by local authorities and public utility societies for letting up to the 30th June was 7,500. Does he mean seriously to suggest to the House that that is solving the housing problem, that that is preventing the housing problem from getting greater and greater? It is even getting worse and worse under the operation of that Act. I have never tried to withhold from the Act any praise to which it is entitled, but it is a national injustice to suggest to our people that under the operations of that Act the housing problem is being prevented from getting worse. The housing problem is worse in 1924 than it was when that Act was passed in July, 1923.
The right hon. Gentleman made a helpful suggestion to which I would refer before passing from his speech. He thought I should put up something in the nature of an attractive prize to the people who would do us the national service of producing the right type of house—a competition for £2,000. I thank him for the suggestion. I may take the opportunity of saying—I do not know whether it will interest the House—that one of the things I propose to do immediately the Bill becomes law, is to organise an exhibition of housing, so that everyone may have an opportunity of showing to the nation what can be done in the way of house building. I do not think, as I say, that it should be regarded as an act of discourtesy if I say that very little new has been introduced into the discussion. We have been told that the Act in its operation is bound to fail. There is really nothing new about that. I submit that no Member of Parliament who ever rose in this House to oppose a Measure, prophesied that that Measure would be successful. Naturally, if he did, somebody would ask him, why, in that case, was he going to oppose the Measure? I have a shrewd suspicion that if I had adopted any line suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, or any other line of policy dealing with this problem, the ingenuity of his mentality would have found equally eloquent reasons for opposing the Measure I proposed.
1722 I think it was the right hon. Gentleman for Ayr (Sir J. Baird) who told us that the housing conditions of this country were one of the blots on our civilisation. May I remind the House that this inheritance of a blot on our civilisation has not come from Socialists, and has not come from the Labour party, but it is our inheritance from generations in which the critics of to-day were the governments of yesterday. Does it come with good taste from those men who have been in this House, not merely as a minority Government, but who have been here with full control of this House, and of the ether House, with influence among the private enterprises, and the financiers and bankers, to come forward and tell us that our efforts in this direction are not the proper efforts that we ought to adopt? Why have they not adopted the proper efforts? I think that is a perfectly reasonable question to ask hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I have been reading in a book called "Coal and Power," which I have no reluctance to advertise, about a place called Calderbank Square. I have said frequently in my public speeches that the wealthier sections of our citizens would spend their time more profitably, educationally and intellectually, if they explored their own country, instead of spending their time in investigating foreign lands. At any rate it is hopeful to find that they have now discovered Calderbank Square. It is 40 years ago since the supporters on those benches removed thence. If the Labour party had been ruling during those 40 years, what a damning accusation would have been made now as to the governing capacity of the Labour party! We have had beautiful sentiments thrown to us during these Debates, and again at me to-day. But why is it that Calderbank Square and the methods of solving the housing problem that have been referred to have only been discovered since I introduced this Bill?
We have been told by several speakers on the other side that we must have the houses. I agree that we must have the houses. I also say that we must have the houses at rents which the workers can afford to pay. Did the 1923 Act give us houses for which the workers could pay? If it did not why did you present it. What objections can you have in that case to voting for this Bill that you 1723 could not have raked up if you had honestly approached the difficulties of the 1923 Act? No one expected it to succeed. The Act of 1923, did it stop the emigration of our skilled workers? Is it not one of the most deplorable things of the whole situation that, as the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway pointed out, our skilled workers, upon whose training so much has been spent, and upon whom so much of the success of the country depends, have been emigrating in thousands and tens of thousands. [An HON. MEMBER: "To protected countries."] My point is that the 1923 Act did nothing to stop that emigration. I claim for my Bill that it is intended, and designed, to do something to stop emigration. We have heard about the shortage of apprentices. Did the 1923 Act do anything to help this aspect of the question, anything that could be regarded as a substantial effort—even if it had failed—to deal with one of the most anxious problems that faces the country to-day?
I would remind the House, however, that the failure of the other parties is no consolation to the Labour party. We may be in a minority, but I hope we are but the advance guard of a party representing new ideas and new ideals that will govern this country to-morrow, and make it a much better country than it is. No one has seriously questioned, amid all superficial criticism, amid all the beautiful—and my hon. Friend revealed the state of his mind when he began to give a music-hall description of the people who had endeavoured to promote this Bill. What does the housing condition of the people matter, if the jokes of hon. Members are first class. No one has seriously questioned the main and fundamental provisions of the Bill. No one has questioned the long-term proposal. It has been blessed from the other side and from below the Gangway, but it was never proposed until now. If it was such a good thing in clays gone by why was it not introduced in the 1923 Bill? We have been told that the subsidy is too large, but are hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to go to the local authority and try to convince them that the subsidy is too large? Have not the local authorities refused to operate the 1923 Act because the subsidy was insufficient? We have been freely criticised for not doing 1724 more for the agricultural districts. Have you only just discovered the needs of those districts? When I was proposing the recommittal of the Bill what was the opposition raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) who has criticised the subsidy? It was that the provision made in my Bill was not sufficiently generous, and that the Bill should be recommitted on a wider scale in order that they might get a greater subsidy for the agricultural districts.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman must not misquote me, because I never said that. What I asked was that the subsidy should he given to the people who needed it, namely, the agricultural labourers.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
It is true that the right hon. Gentleman did not ask that the sum should be increased, but he certainly proposed that the number of people to be given the increased subsidy should be increased, and surely that is an increased subsidy. Again we are told that we have done nothing to prevent prices from rising. What is the charge underlying that assertion? It is that there is a doubt whether we shall be able to control private enterprise in its efforts to exploit the people of this country. I do not know whether we shall succeed in controlling them or not, but during the War we were the first people to suggest that they should he controlled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) in 1923 felt that he was confronted by the same menace, and what did he do? He appointed a Committee to watch the operations of building manufacturers. He did not give power to investigate the books, or to penalise or to control them in their efforts to put up prices. After all you who are the defenders of private enterprise should be the last to criticise us for not being able to control private enterprise. What is private enterprise but an effort to make money out of the needs of your neighbours? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] Has it not been one of the accepted dogmas of private enterprise up to now that he who could make money most rapidly was the member of the industrial community to be most admired?
Is the whole idea that it was wrong to put up prices when you could put them up, something that has only been intro- 1725 duced into public life by Socialistic propaganda? Prior to the outbreak of War, nobody suggested that it was an evil thing to charge the very highest market price for any commodity you had to sell, and I welcome the change in public opinion. I think it was the most deplorable thing in our social life that we should have worshipped those who, by making excessive profits, contributed to the poverty and the degradation of the community. I hope the time is not far distant when every man who gets wealth in this country will have to justify the means by which he gets it. I do not think it will be bad for the country or for any section of the community.
There are many things with which I would like to deal, but the clock goes on. May I, therefore, say, in conclusion, that the criticism has been levelled at me: Why did J not introduce a Socialist Measure? I was not in a position to introduce a Socialist Measure. The country is not ready for Socialism. I wish it were ready for it. I will devote my life to an honest effort to prepare it for Socialism. Meantime, I have to take
§ the materials which are available and use them, however much I may disagree with them, in order to contribute, however slightly, to the betterment of my fellow men. I have done that. I have submitted a Bill which I believe will succeed. I do not think that it will succeed without encountering many difficulties. I do not think that it will succeed without great efforts being put forth inside this House, and, to a greater extent, outside this House, in order to use the machine which I have constructed for the solution of the housing problem. I believe that it will succeed. I have, at any rate, made an honest effort to contribute to finding a solution for this vast problem, and, if I be so fortunate as to be successful in wiping out what the right hon. Gentleman described as one of the greatest blots on our civilisation, then I shall he rewarded for all the labours of the past six months.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 226; Noes, 1311727
|Division No. 184.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Dickson, T.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Dudgeon, Major C. R||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Dukes, C.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Duncan, C.||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Dunnico, H.||Hillary, A. E.|
|Alstead, R||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hirst, G. H.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Hobhouse, A. L.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Egan, W. H.||Hodge, Lieut.-Colonel J. P. (Preston)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Falconer, J.||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Baker, Walter||Finney, V. H.||Hogge, James Myles|
|Banton, G.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie|
|Barker, G.(Monmouth, Abertillery)||Foot, Isaac||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Barnes, A.||Franklin, L. B.||Hudson, J. H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Hughes, Collingtwood|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood(Leith)||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Isaacs, G. A.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)|
|Birkett, W. N.||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Black, J. W.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Jewson, Dorothea|
|Bonwick, A||Gillett, George M.||John, William(Rhondda, West)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gosling, Harry||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)|
|Broad, F. A.||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)|
|Brown, A.E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Greenall, T.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. w. (Bradford, E.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Keens, T.|
|Buckle, J.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Cape, Thomas||Groves, T.||Lansbury, George|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Grundy, T. W.||Laverack, F. J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Guest, Dr. L Haden (Southwark, N.)||Law, A.|
|Church, Major A.G.||Hall, F. (York, W, R., Normanton)||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lawson, John James|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Harbord, Arthur||Leach, W.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hardle, George D.||Lee, F.|
|Compton, Joseph||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Lessing, E.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford||Harris, Percy A.||Livingstone, A. M.|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Loverseed, J. F.|
|Cove, W. G.||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Lowth, T.|
|Darbishire, Charles W.||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Lunn, William|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||McCrae, Sir George|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hayday, A.||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)|
|Dlckie, Captain A. P.||Hayes, John Henry||McEntee, V. L.|
|Macfadyen, E.||Rathbone, Hugh R.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Mackinder, W.||Raynes, W. R.||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Maden, H.||Richards, R.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|March, S.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Ritson, J.||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Marley, James||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Thurtle, E.|
|Martin, P. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Robertson, T. A.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Cheimsford)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Maxton, J.||Romeril, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Royle, C.||Vivian, H.|
|Middleton, G.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Mitchell, R. M. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Mond, H.||Scrymgeour, E.||Webb, Lieut.-col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Montague, Frederick||Scurr, John||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Morris, R. H.||seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Whiteley, W.|
|Morrison, R. C.(Tottenham, N.)||Sherwood, George Henry||Wignall, James|
|Mosley, Oswald||Short, Alfred(Wednesbury)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Moulton, Major Fletcher||Simon, E. D.(Manchester, Withington)||Williams, Dr. J. H.(Llanelly)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smillie, Robert||Williams. Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kenningtn.)|
|Nichol, Robert||Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Williams, Maj. A.S.(Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Oliver, George Harold||Snell, Harry||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Paling, W.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Windsor, Walter|
|Palmer, E. T.||Spence, R.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Perry, S. F.||Spero, Dr. G. E.||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F.W.||Stamford, T. W.||Wright, W.|
|Phillipps, Vivian||Stephen, Campbell||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Stewart, Maj. R. S.(Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Potts, John S.||Stranger, Innes Harold||TELLERSFOR THE AYES.—|
|Purcell, A. A.||Sullivan, J.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Raffan, P. W.||Sutton, J. E.||Warne.|
|Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Terrington, Lady|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Ferguson, H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace(Hastings)|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Gates, Percy||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Perring, William George|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pilkington, R. R.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pownall, Lieut. Colonel Assheton|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Harland, A.||Raine, W.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Hartington, Marquess of||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Remer, J. R.|
|Berry, Sir George||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Bourne, Robert Croft||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hertford)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Savery, S. S.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Spencer, H. H.(Bradford, S.)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Joynson-Hicks, Rt Hon. Sir William||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J A. (Birm. W.)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Lamb, J. Q.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Ward, Lt. Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Craig, Captain c. C. (Antrim, South)||Lorimer, H. D.||Wells, S. R.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lumley, L. R.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||McLean, Major A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Curzon, Captain viscount||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Meller. R. J.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Deans, Richard Storry||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Dixey, A. C.||Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A.C.(Honiton)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Elliot, Walter E.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Elveden, Viscount||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfleid)||Commander B. Eyres-Monsell and|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Colonel Gibbs.|
Bill read the Third time, and passed.