HC Deb 05 May 1925 vol 183 cc835-901

As amended (in the Standing committee,),considered.

Two new Clauses (Power of local authority to determine operation of Acts),and (Power of local authority to continue operation of Acts)stood on the Order Paper in the name of Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE.

CLAUSE 1.—(Prolongation of 10 and 11 Geo. 5, c. 17, and Part 11 of 13 and 14 Geo. 5,c.32.)

The following Amendments stood on the Order Paper:

In page 1, line 6, at the beginning, to insert the words,

" except in so far as amended by Section 2 of Part I of the Act of 1923."—[Mr. T. Thomson.]

In page 1, line 6, at the beginning, to insert the words,

" except as determined according to Section 2 of this Act."—[Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle.]


The proposed new Clauses of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) are beyond the scope of the Bill, —and therefore are out of order. The Amendment of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) is also out of order, as not coming within the Title of the Bill, and for the same reason the proposed Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for St. Albans is also out of order.


Might I, Mr. Speaker, respectfully draw your attention to the fact that in Committee the present paragraph (b) in Subsection (3) of the Clause was inserted as an Amendment.? That amended the Act of 1923. All my Amendment seeks to do is also to amend the Act of 1923. Might I ask you, if the one is in Order, why the other is not within the scope of the Bill?


The hon. Member was good enough to draw my attention to that point, but I must say that I agree with the Chairman of Committee upstairs that, on Report, consequential Amendments do not properly come within the scope of the Bill.

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. DENNIS HERBERT:

In page 1, line 8, after the word "force," to insert the words

For the following periods, that is to say, so far as it applies to mortgages until the twentyfifth day of December, nineteen hundred and twentyfive, and in all other respects.


This Amendment is also out of order.


Might I respectfully ask you, Sir, whether my Amendment has been ruled out of order on the same lines as the others, because as it is drawn, it is strictly, as I supposed, within order, in view of its dealing only with the periods of the continuation of the Act?


That is just one of those points which I had under consideration. The point was put to me at the time of the Second Reading. I then gave a ruling that, unless the House passed an Instruction, the Committee could not deal with this Amendment, among others. An Instruction was moved, and the House decided against it. Therefore, that point has been made quite clear.


If my memory serves me rightly, that Instruction did not deal with this particular question of the mortgage provisions at all.


That is quite true, but if the point had been put to me at that time, I should have given a similar ruling, in view of the decision on the Instruction.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

May I on that point, ask you, Sir, if seeing the definition is merely to prolong the duration, and my Amendment is simply to qualify or extend that prolongation, my Amendment to define the period is not in order?


I am dealing with specific points, and not with the general matter. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's Amendment would be distinctly an Amedment of the Act which we are now proposing to continue for a period. What I have said in regard to the other Amendments necessarily also applies to his.


May I very respectfully suggest that this Bill itself prolongs the Act, and not merely for one whole specific period of years, but for one period for England and another period for Scotland? If the Bill can do that under its Title, surely under the Title we can continue the Bill for one period in regard to one portion and another period for another portion of the Bill?


The reason for that provision in relation to the two countries was that in Scotland the quarter day is different. The present Bill only continues that differentiation.

The following Amendments stood on the Order Paper:

In page 1, line 8, leave out the word "twentyfifth," and insert instead thereof the word "twentyfourth."—[Mr. T.THOMSON]

In page 1, line 9, leave out the word "December," and insert instead thereof the word "June."—[Captain Bean.]

In page 1, line 9, leave out the word "twentyseven,"and insert instead thereof the word" thirty."—[Mr. Fenby.]


I think these three Amendments should be taken together. They are one proposal, namely, to lengthen the period of extension by a further two and a half years. If that be the case, they can be moved and debated as one


I beg to move, in page 1, lines 8 and 9, to leave out the words,

Twentyfifth day of December, nineteen hundred and twentyseven, and to insert instead thereof the words,

twentyfourth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty. The meaning of this is to extend the period for five years, instead of the two and a half years which appears in the Bill. I submit that the Government on the Second Reading gave us no reason why this particular period should be inserted. There is no virtue in it. The Minister of Health—if I may say so—seemed to glory in the fact that he had no information or data available in order to give a reason for any very definite date. I submit, if it is not possible to fix the date when decontrol shall come to an end, at the same time it is possible to fix a date at which the control shall not come to an end. Undoubtedy, in the face of all the information which we have —such as it is—control could not come to an end at the date proposed in the Bill, because there is no certainty of belief that the present existing shortage of houses will have come to an end.

The Minister told us upstairs that his desire was that control should cease at the earliest possible. date. I presume a great many people will agree with him on that point, provided the doing away with control will not bring hardship and suffering to a large number in the community. I submit to him, however, that there is going to be a very large amount of uncertainty, and a very large amount of hardship and risk involved, if this Bill passesin its present form.It is all very well for us who have houses—or possibly houses which are not in special demand—to think lightly of the question of uncertainty which haunts so many of those living in controlled houses. It is very desirable at this stage to put in a date on which there is a reasonable prospect of the present shortage being made good. All the circumstances which were pointed out on the passage of the original Bill to protect the tenant apply, I submit, with greater force today. The shortage of 1919 was given, I think, by all parties, and certainly by the then Minister of Health, at half a million. The shortage to day is practically the same. What has been done in the meantime has not really reduced the total shortage which was then in existence. I was told by the Minister of Health, in reply to a question some little time ago, that the total number of houses built under the various Acts—the two Acts of 1919, the Act of 1923, and the Act of 1924, amounted to 284,352 up to the 1st April. To that you have to add now the houses built quite apart from the State subsidy. No figures, I understand, are available as to these, but it has been estimated variously that they number something like half the number built by subsidy. Supposing we say 150,000 houses. This will give us a total of something less than 450,000 houses built since our national housing programme started. This may seem a large number on the face of it, but I would remind the House that that does not wipe out the balance. It is merely sufficient to make good the normal demand year by year. We must remember that since the Armistice five and a half years have passed, and for that period you would require normally 80,000 to 90,000 houses in order to cope with the normal wastage and increase of the population.

What we have done up to the present, I submit to the Minister, has been merely to build sufficient houses to meet the normal yearly demand. Consequently, the shortage of half a million houses, admitted at the time of the Armistice, is untouched. Until there is some reasonable chance of this half million houses being found, there is still the haunting dread of the tenants of being turned out as soon as decontrol takes place. Until, therefore, there is a reasonable prospect of these houses being built, it is foolish to fix any definite date when decontrol shall take place. We want at least another half a million of houses. There is no chance of getting these within the next five years. Taking the most favourable conditions of production, and their increase from one cause or another, suppose we get up to 150,000 houses, or considerably in excess of what we have done up to the present, still it will take five years, because we have to build 80,000 houses a year to make good the normal requirements.

These figures are altogether apart from the houses which are needed to make good the slums which are a haunting nightmare in our large towns. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has big visions of a big slum campaign. The whole House will encourage him in his efforts in that direction. That, how ever, means the closing of more houses before you can do that, and you must build in excess of previous years. Therefore, in view of all these reasons, to suggest that in two and a half years you will be able to effect decontrol is not to the point! The Minister has told us that., if needed, the Act can be continued under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. That is leaving the matter in a very uncertain and indefinite condition. We know that as long as the shortage continues there will be uncertainty amongst occupiers, tenants, and owners, and that pressure may be brought to bear by agents and landlords as the period of decontrol draws near. I submit, if we are to have regard to the security that we all desire should be permanent, and that feeling of confidence which should be in existence in the minds of those who occupy houses, we should not do anything that would give them cause to fear that they are likely to be disturbed. They feel at the present time that there is a sword hanging over their heads, because they may be threatened with being 7.0 P.M. Minister can today follow the suggestion of the Amendment. If the Amendment that was moved from these benches when the 1923 Act was passing through the House had been accepted, there would not have been any need for this Bill today. It is impossible within the limited period prescribed in the Bill to fulfil the needs of the people. Another reason is one that will appeal to all of us. Five years will take the period well beyond the next General Election, and one knows it is not very desirable that the extension or otherwise of the Rent Restrictions Act should be made a question of party conflict in the heat of an election. It is very much better that we should fix the period now, when we are able to reconsider it in the calmer atmosphere. I hope the Minister may see his way to extend the period, unless he can say definitely that he is satisfied that the number of houses that will be built between now and two and a half years will be enough to provide for the shortage. I think you can say definitely that in two and a half years' time there is no reasonable chance of those houses being built, and consequently there is no reason why decontrol should come to an end in two and a half years' time. Continuation by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act creates uncertainty every year. Uncertainty is bad. There is nothing which makes material for the agitator more than uncertainty in connection with housing. We want to give security and confidence. If you put in the five years suggested in the Amendment, you would give a certain measure of confidence and security to those most in need.


I was rising to a point of order that we should take all these Amendments together. I myself am of opinion that we should have a much longer time than the five years suggested by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson)


If the hon. Member's Amendment be rejected, that will settle the question of the period. I should not entertain a Motion to differentiate Scotland from England further than it is already differentiated in the existing Bill. As I said just now, it is due to the difference in the quarter day. If the House should decide to leave out 1927, then it will go on to insert either the period suggested by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) or the other period proposed by the hon. Gentleman himself. If the House affirm the 25th day of September, 1927, that will settle the matter.


In each of these three Amendments you have not only got a proposal to leave out certain dates and months, but you have also a proposal to insert others in their place. Do I understand that you are taking as part of the Amendment the proposal to insert other dates? If that is taken it means that these Amendments will cover all the Amendments on the Paper subsequent to those which also have dates to leave out and to insert others. If we take this discussion not so much upon the insertion of dates but on the question of leaving out of the Bill proposals that are already in the Bill, it will leave it open to the House, if that he carried, to insert any date that it thinks fit. Do I take it that is your ruling?


Yes, that is so. I propose to put those three Amendments as one in this form, "To leave out the twentyfifth day of December, 1927," in order to insert "the twentyfourth day of June, 1930.' That is the form. If the House reject the words in the Bill, then it will be open to the House further to divide on the year 1930 and the year 1940


I think that in the interval since this Bill was in Committee the right hon. Gentleman in charge may have had his heart a little bit softened with regard to the needs of the people in this connection. The House has had to deal with this position on various other occasions, and evidently the Minister contemplates that it may be necessary, when the 2½years have expired, that further provision should be made. The result of such a line of thought is that the people who are affected by this Measure are left in a state of uncertainty. All the time the sword is hanging over their heads. What is going to happen in 2½ years? Unless there is an improvement with regard to the provision of houses, a great many will have to face the position of a Government in trouble with regard to time, and with regard to dissensions' which will no doubt occur during those 21 years. The domestic troubles which will take place within their own family and within their own party may make it impossible for the Government to deal with the situation at the end of 2½ years. So far as we in tins House have seen, there is nothing farfetched in the picture I have Arawn of the possibility of internal conflict among hon. Members opposite.

In Committee I ventured to suggest to the Minister that, seeing that we have got to deal with this question so often, the time has really come for him to adopt a different view point, to apply those imaginative gifts of his and his capacity for taking a broad view of the situation, to change the position entirely, and to take a long period of time. The period of time I would suggest to him is the fifteen years contemplated by the measure which was passed by his predecessor last year with regard to the provision of houses for the people. Take this period and make the people safe for fifteen years. Give them an assurance that during this fifteen years, unless the building trade and the various authorities are able to provide houses in sufficient number to take away the monopoly character that the property owners have got at the present time, they have got security in their homes.

If the Minister is able to be as successful as we all hope he is going to be, and if he is going to accelerate the rate of building houses; if we are going to have here, there, and everywhere throughout the country every district getting its quota and getting houses in sufficient number to allow of this legislation being done without, then it is a simple matter for him to come to the House of Commons and say. "We have provided, say, a million houses, and we feel that now that these million houses have been provided it is possible for us to remove the control that is in operation at the present time." Then nobody will have a grievance. As it stands, it is a case of grievances all the time. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) suggested that the present condition makes an opportunity for the agitator and the disturber of the peace. I agree. Consequently, I suggest to the Minister that he should take this opportunity of making agitation and the disturbance of the peace in this connection an impossibility by giving this measure of security to the tenant. In this House I do not suppose there is a great number of Members who are livingin controlled houses. Personally, in Glasgow I do live in a controlled house. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] I know it is a shame, but I cannot help it. Past Governments have made such poor attempts to deal with the housing question. I do not want to rub it in to the Minister and his predecessors who have had power in this country for so long. It is also a bigger shame that people in the same position as myself should have all this anxiety, and that people in this House who have no anxiety themselves should vote and administer the Government in this House in such a way as to bring this anxiety to people like myself and people who are living in controlled houses.

There is another point. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough suggested that if the advice had been taken on the 1923 Amendment that was proposed, the Minister would not have been coming to the House today with this Measure. That may be true. If he suggests that in two and a half years the Government will be coming with a section in the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill dealing with this matter, and that if he would only take his advice, that would not need to occur for five years, then I say let us still make it 15. Why should he have to come in five years? Let us get a decent period. Turn the whole thing round about. Give the tenants control—[Laughter.]—Hon. Members laugh. You would not laugh if you were threatened with eviction at the end of two and a half years. You would be out leading a revolution. I say give the tenant security for 15 years. Then, when you prove that you are in earnest with regard to the provision of houses, when you have provided a million or so, you will have some right to come and say, "Well, now we have got all these houses, it is only fair that the tenants and the property owners should be put in a certain position."

Personally, I believe control should be continued long after 15 years and quite apart from the number of houses. I make that frank acknowledgment to the Minister. I believe it is a good principle, the principle of control. I believe it is the Socialist principle, and so I stand for keeping on control, but I am not hopeful of persuading the Minister to that extent. I am only asking the Minister to try to view the matter from the point of view of the tenant who has only got this very brief term of security. I myself believe property owners would feel they were put. into a better position by being given this long period, with the knowledge that control would be lifted when the monopoly character of property owning which exists at the present time is removed. In the name of humanity I appeal to the Minister to take the broad view of this important matter, and to give to hundreds of thousands of his fellow—citizens the sense of security every householder ought. to have in a country which is supposed to be free.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

The hon. and reverend Member (Mr. Stephen) who has just sat down—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Order"]


We do not employ that title here.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

The hon. Member has appealed for an indefinite extension of rent and mortgage control. If he had been a Member of the Departmental Committee which considered this question he would, apparently, have been at variance with the members of his party who took part in the Committee and issued a Minority Report. Their proposal was that rent restriction should be prolonged until 1930; the idea of its being continued indefinitely was very far from their thoughts, anyhow, as put down on paper. They made no suggestion that control was good; on the contrary, they arrived at the general conclusion which I should have said, everybody who studies the subject comes to, that control is against the best interests of all concerned, and is a definite and serious obstacle to the building of houses, and that the Rent Restrictions Bill is necessary to meet only a temporary need in order, on the one hand, to protect people against exploitation and, on the other hand, to provide against landlords not having enough money with which to carry out repairs. It is a well balanced and well thought out Measure to meet the emergency of the moment.

If there is to be a real solution of this problem, the suggestion to prolong interminably this Act is one which, in the interest of all classes, cannot be maintained, and will have no backing in the country. I say clearly and definitely that what we want, in the interests of all parties, is to get back to free trade in houses. That;s the end we are all aiming at. The idea is to have free trade in housing, that is, such a provision of houses as will not only supply the needs of the community, but also furnish the necessary margin of vacancies—to the extent of 5 per cent.—which will enable people to pick and choose, allowing a tenant to give notice, if he thinks the house he is occupying is not good enough,. in the knowledge that there is a sufficient variety of other houses for him to choose from. That would be an incentive to builders to provide a sufficient variety of houses, and the competition amongst them would bring rents down. That would be the sound solution of the housing problem, and it is what we want to get back to.

The question comes back to this: Are we now at the point where we can abandon this protection which was imposed originally in the War? We are not in that position, and His Majesty's Government do not suggest that we are. They propose that this Act shall be prolonged—despite what has been said, for I could quote the Minister as to the desirability of getting back at the earliest possible moment to a free market in housing. But we are not in a, position to do that today, and we must prolong the Act, and that is the purpose of this Bill. Shall we prolong it for another five years, as is suggested by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thompson)? I think if you take the basis on which the hon. Member for Middlesbrough argued the matter, there is no question, at any rate there is very little question, that it would be necessary to prolong the Act until 1930. The hon. Member for Middles. brough, quite rightly, points out that the shortage of housing is not likely to be made up by 1930, and it is on the shortage of housing that this question is to be decided.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Health definitely argued on the Second Reading that until the shortage was overcome we must prolong this restriction. If that argument, which he used, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the AttorneyGeneral used, and which has been the basis of arguments on this Bill, were taken as the general measure of the need for the continuance of the Rent Restrictions Act, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough has got his case clearly before him that this Measure will require to be continued until 1930. But the hon. Member for Middlesbrough is not differentiating between different parts of the country. I cannot go into the Amendment which, by some process that I am unable to comprehend, was ruled out of order in Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order "] I say I cannot understand why. It has been ruled out of order, and I do not dispute the ruling, arid I am not going into it. At the same time, that leaves me, and my friends who agree with me as to the solution of the problem, in this quandary, that if we are to argue from the point of view from which the Minister has argued it, I see no prospect of release in 1930, or later.

With the slums that there are in Glasgow, and with the appalling conditions in Glasgow which have been described to us over and over again, can we have any hope that the provision of houses will overcome the shortage in Glasgow by 1930? The same consideration applies in the East End of London. Can we believe that the shortage of housing in the East End of London will be overcome by 1930? I wish I could believe it. We cannot believe it. The existing conditions in the great cities cannot be relieved in that way. I confess myself as being uneasy with regard to the continuation of this rent restriction. It is stopping housing, and it will continue to stop housing, although in a diminishing degree, and in the interest of the tenants I want to see it removed, and yet, on the other hand, again in the interests of the tenant, cannot see it removed yet—

What are we to do? I think the argument is clear that we must carry it on for a short time. To revive the question year by year all over the— country would not give security, and therefore I believe we shall have to prolong restriction until 1927. But I hope that when we get to 1927 we shall be able to relieve a large number of areas in this country that are alrea,dly ripe to be relieved of this burden, and who at present are saddled with this burden purely for the sake of the larger towns. The great mass of rural districts in this country are already ripe—the great mass, not all, by any means, but a great number of them—to be relieved of this intolerable burden. One of the members of the Government who at the time was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health said in Committee upstairs two years ago that his own constituency of Hastings was already desirous of being free of this incubus. "Why," he asked, "should we be saddled with this for the sake of the slums of Birmingham and Glasgow?" I believe, therefore, we must retain in our hands in 1927 the power to apply some more convenient and more sensible solution of the present problem. When that time comes, I hope my friends on this side and on that side of the House will be behind me. in support of an Amendment such as that I have referred to, and that if we cannot introduce it, into the Bill the Minister himself will introduce it into the Bill in 1927, that is, will introduce some method that will enable us to vary this incubus, this obstacle to housing according to the needs of different parts of the country. Do not let us prolong control till 1930, and so prevent our having a free hand to deal with the matter in 1927.


Many of us must have heard with some amazement the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle). I wish he had been a little more clear about those happy districts of England which are supplied, or almost supplied, with houses. He mentioned one only, Hastings. I know Hastings fairly intimately, and I know its slums, and I should be surprised if there is alternative accommodation existing for the dwellers in those slums. I cannot think of a single place, in all my wanderings in England, of which that can be said. Since —he made the statement, he ought to have supplied us with the names of a few of those paradises where this happy condition of things exists. I have not met one, and he apparently is not able to quote even one of his own knowledge, but only cites a statement from some other Member who says Hastings is happily provided with houses. If he could have given us more information, we should have had an opportunity of examining it and analysing it.

I do not share the opinion of my hon. Friend the Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow (Mr. Stephen) about control. I am not looking forward to control in perpetuity, as I think it would be bad for the tenants and for the country, but we have a right to ask the Government by what process of reasoning they have arrived at the conclusion that two and a half years from now will be the precise time for the removal of control. What makes them say two and a half years? We know that Ministers are sometimes unduly optimistic, and I do not know a single person outside this House who imagines the shortage will be met in two—and—a—half years, and I cannot believe that Ministers, with all the optimism which they must have to enable them to keep their positions, can believe or will assert that two—and—a—half years will be a sufficient time in which to meet the shortage. If not, why not make a reasonable extension?

The constant revival of the threat of eviction at the end of these short periods only makes matters infinitely worse. It is far better that people should know they have a fair number of years in front of them than that they should be warned constantly that at the end of a short period they will be again threatened with being turned out of their houses, or at least that a very much higher rent will be extracted from them. Already some landlords, and I am not attacking landlords as a class, are trying to get round the Act in order to get their tenants out by all sorts of subterfuge. You cannot get any tenants to realise that two and a—half years will be a, sufficient period during which all their fears and anxieties will be removed. There is not a person either inside or outside of this House who believes that a period of two and a—half years will be sufficient to solve the housing problem. The Government cannot persuade us that this question will be settled in that period, and I cannot believe that the audacity of any hon. Member opposite will enable him to make such a statement as that.

The Government ought to realise that there cannot possibly be any advantage in proposing such a short period as twoand—a—half years, and such proposals as these do not help in any way to solve this problem. If hon. Members who want decontrol do not believe that it can possibly come at the end of two and a—half years, what is their object in supporting a proposal of this kind. I am not one who believes that even Socialism will solve this question, neither do I believe that houses will never be decontrolled. I have had some practical experience and knowledge of the conditions of housing, and I ask the Minister of Health does he believe it is possible to decontrol houses at the end of two and a—half years. At least, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make the period five years, and thus give more stability and security to the tenants, and let them feel that they are safe from eviction and from the extortion of an enormous rent for a little longer period. I hope the Minister of Health will see his way to accept this reasonable proposal, which will go some distance to meet the needs of the present situation.


I am going to support the proposal which has been made in favour of this extended period. Having regard to the fall in political stock due to the introduction of an ill—advised and ill—balanced Budget, the right hon. Gentleman cannot do better than seek to restore that political stock, and incidentally his own reputation, by accepting the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson). No one will deny that the lack of housing accommodation in this country is deplorable. Not only is it deplorable but it is increasing with some measure of rapidity, and we appear unable to overtake either the deficiency which existed after the War or the increasing shortage. Population has increased, slum property and slum areas have increased and corporations and municipalities find themselves in the difficult position of being unable to enforce their own closing orders. That is a most unfortunate position for local authorities to be in.

In my own constituency, I observe that the local authority has just put into operation a closing order. Under great protest, culminating in a great agitation, all the families have been ejected, and they are now residing in some adult schoolroom belonging to a neighbouring church. I find that the standard of room accommodation per person or family, particularly in the Black Country, is lower after the census of 1921 than it was after the census of 1911. If we accept the very low standard of accommodation obtaining in 1911, if we have to admit that the standard of room accommodation has decreased despite all our efforts, it behoves the House of Commons to be serious about these matters. This is the evidence founded upon our own investigations that has been brought to our knowledge by the census returns, and it shows that there has been a lowering in the standard of room accommodation.

Let me give another example. I think the estimated shortage in 1919 was from 800 to 1,000 for Wednesbury alone, which is only one—third of my Parliamentary constituency. We have built 300 houses there since 1911. It is quite true that we have just commenced another scheme of 32 houses, and to do that we have had to take over a recreation ground from the children. We have not built houses to meet the deficiency that existed in 1919. What about the increase in the shortage of housing accommodation that has taken place since 1919, due possibly to the demolition of houses for industrial purposes, to increased population, marriages, and so forth? Is it suggested by any reasonable Member of this House that through housing activities the building of houses either by private enterprise or municipalities, whether under the Bill of 1923 or 1924, we are going to overtake the deficiency throughout the country by 1927? I do not believe there is a Member in the House of Commons, not even the Minister of Health or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, who believes that we are going to overtake that deficiency or the growing shortage in two and a half years

If we leave the year 1927 in the Bill it will only produce doubt and suspicion in the minds of tenants, and this is being done merely to satisfy the ambitions and desires of a handful of landlords. If that is not so, I do not know of any other reason. I expected something bigger and better from the Minister of Health and his Parliamentary Secretary than what has been proposed. I do not believe even they seriously suggest that we are going to overcome the shortage in housing by 1927. With the evidence in our possession I do not believe we are going to achieve that end by 1930. I hope we are, and if I had as much faith in the Government as I have in working men and working women I should think that was possible, but unfortunately I have not.

Let us approach the consideration of this question in regard to the evidence. The Parliamentary Secretary founds his case invariably upon evidence, and it is not much use proceeding otherwise unless it can be done through the oratory of some brilliant King's Counsel, and the evidence must be sound. What evidence is there that we shall he able to overcome this shortage in two and a—half years? —Under these circumstances I urge a reconsideration of this matter in accordance with the evidence, and if that is done, putting on one side all prejudice, political and otherwise, I am satisfied that the Minister of Health will agree to accept this Amendment at least in the form in which it has been moved by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough.


I wish to add my voice in favour of the proposal for an extension of the period provided in this Bill. I make no excuse for referring for the 150th time to the slums of Glasgow. I do not see any Scottish Office representatives present, but if they were here they would bear me out in regard to the facts as they exist in the City of Glasgow. During the six-and-and-a-half years since the War the Glasgow Corporation has built a little over 5,000 houses or less than 1,000 a year. What do we find alongside of that state of things? In 1918, 13,000 houses were certified by the sanitary authority as being unfit for human habitation. Here you have 13,000 houses in 1918 declared unfit for the people to live in, and we have only built in the intervening period of six-and-a-half years 5,000 houses, and yet we are told that all we need to carry on this work in Glasgow is an extension of this Act for the next two-and-a-half years. Although we have been building houses for five or six years since the War, that has only accounted for the natural increase of the population. Not a single one has been built for slum clearance, or to provide for the demolition of old houses, nor has a single one been built to allow for the normal extension of the city.

Again, there is an evil that is constantly possible in a great city. Take what happened recently in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). There was a fire, and there was actually no surplus of houses, as there ought to be, in which people in an industrial area could be housed when a fire or any other tragedy of that kind occurs. I want to put it to the Minister of Health that there is not a single place in Scotland that I know of, rural or industrial, where within two or three years there is the slightest hope of decontrol of the houses being possible. I want to put to the Minister, also, another view which I think ought to weigh with him. He, with many others, thinks, I believe, that subjects of this kind ought to be taken out of the political arena—that the question of solving our housing difficulties ought not to be the subject of discussion or fighting between one side and the other. But let me put to him the probable state of affairs in regard to what he is now proposing.

In two and a half years his Bill will lapse, and it will be either renewed or not renewed as the Government then in power think fit. In the course of another two or three years, however, the possibilities, even in the normal course of events, are that a General Election will occur, and the party that is prepared to go out—you can call it bribery if you like, or by any other name—and say to the electors, "We will pledge for five years," or "We will not pledge for five years," the party that can make the best appeal in that way will possibly obtain the larger number of votes. Why should a problem that we know will not be solved in two and a half years be exposed to the luck of a political ballot on one side or the other? Why should not the Government say, apart from election promises, "Here is a problem which we know will last a considerable time," and allow us to fight our elections in the future without handing out guarantees for 5, 10 or 15 years? Here is a Government with a considerable majority, with power to make or unmake la was as they desire; why do not they come forward, with those great powers, and lift this whole question from the arena of political fighting and the influence of general elections?

In my view even five years is too short. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) knows, as I know, that in Middlesbrough the problem will not he anything like solved in five years. Why should we make it five years when we know that it will not be solved at the end of that time—that even at the end of 15 years it will not be solved unless housing is speeded up? At any rate, with normal foresight, no one can expect it to he solved in less than 15 years. Therefore, we say that, in suggesting 15 years, we are making a very mild proposal. Glasgow ought to have over 10,000 houses, and at the rate at which we are going it will take far longer than 15 years to provide that number, never mind the normal excess of population. It may be that in that period we shall develop new methods of construction and more adaptable methods, but that will not be obtained in two and a—half or even five years, though it may be possible within a longer period like 15 years. All that will be done, if this Bill is to be extended and re—extended, will be to have the whole issue again fought out as to whether the extensions should be for three years or some other period, or whether control should continue or not.

Those who have taken part in them know how elections are won and lost, and how views on popular issues, or strong feelings on the part of electors, may carry a Government in or put them out. Suppose that the issue is Socialism. It might be unpopular and might carry defeat for us, or, on the other hand, it might carry us to victory; but, assuming that it carried defeat, why should the electors voting on that issue be also, possibly, bound on an issue as to decontrol on which they themselves had given no specific vote at all We know that sometimes that can occur. The Minister knows that in Birmingham, for instance, not even the faintest hope is held out that the problem of control will have ended in two and a—half years, nor can even Woolwich, grand place as it is, hope to solve its difficulties in two and a—half years. In my view we ought to allow at least 15 years, but I am sure my colleagues would be prepared to compromise on, say, 10 years at least. I only hope that the Minister, with his knowledge of the conditions, will agree to extending the period much beyond even the five years asked for by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough.


As most of the remarks in this Debate have fallen from hon. Members who represent urban districts, I should like to say a word or two from the rural, the agricultural point of view. Looking back into the history of the Rent Restriction Acts, it is not too much to say that there never was any necessity for the inclusion of purely rural areas within the scope of the Acts at all, and the harm which has been done to the agricultural worker through that inclusion is very difficult to overtake. The situation in rural areas, at the time when the first Rent Restriction Act was passed, was so utterly different from that in urban areas that it was a complete anomaly to try to include two such completely different sets of circumstances within the scope of one Bill. What was the situation? In the rural areas we had cottages inhabited by our agricultural workers, let at rents as low as is., Is. 6d., or sometimes 2s. per week, with a considerable garden thrown in. That may have been quite as much—indeed, it was as much—as the agricultural worker was able to afford, but the fact remains that the agricultural workers living in those cottages in rural areas had other advantages in the fact that they were able to live near to their work. At all events, it will be agreed that the rents paid were reasonable. But for similar accommodation in an urban area the rent would probably have been something between 15s. and 30s. a week, and, therefore, there was every excuse for a Rent Restriction Act dealing with rents in urban areas. That necessity did not, however, obtain in rural areas.

What has been the result? The position now is that cottages built in the first instance and intended for occupation by agricultural workers are inhabited at this moment, or a very large proportion of them—I will say too large a proportion—by people who are not agricultural workers at all. In many instances, when the agricultural worker was called up for service during the War, his wife, perchance, maybe with a child, went to live temporarily with her own parents. The cottage became vacant, and immediately some town settler, attracted by the low scale of rents obtaining in the rural area, left his more expensive and less comfortable dwelling in the town, and came and occupied the cottage in the country. For the time no harm was done, but, as soon as the War was over, and the agricultural worker came back to his village and wanted to go back to his own cottage near his work, he found it occupied by someone else, who, probably, had migrated from the town in order to finish the evening of their life in the country. The fact remains that it is impossible to get that cottage of the agricultural worker out of the possession of someone who really comes from the town.

There is a great shortage of cottages in many of our rural districts, and one of the reasons that is making that shortage more acute is, that in many cases these cottages are not being inhabited by the right people for whom they are intended. The worker in the agricultural industry receives the lowest rate of wage of all industries, and, therefore, it is absolutely essential that we should see that the lowest—rented house should be made available for him, and that that house should be as near as possible to his work. I would plead that a reasonable measure of de—control be given to local authorities in rural areas. I support the plea of the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), although I do not do so on quite the same grounds. I would plead that in this Bill local authorities in rural districts should be given power, after giving due and sufficient notice, to give release from control to the houses in their area. I do so in order to try to assist the agricultural worker to come back to his own village, to his own surroundings, in many cases to his own home, and on this ground I hope the Government may be able to give some consideration to my plea


I have listened with some attention and with considerable astonishment to some of the arguments advanced in opposition to this Amendment. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans sLieut.-Colonel Fremantle) who stated that the continued application of the Rent Restrictions Act would either retard or prevent the building of houses, but before allowing such an argument to pass, it would be well to examine it. Is it true, is it well founded, or is it untrue and ill—founded? Is there a single new house being built today that would be affected by the continued application of the control given by the Rent Restrictions Act? Is it not true to say that, if I were to continue building houses from today onwards, if the Act remained as it is now framed, I should be able to charge any rent that I cared to charge for the houses recently erected? Instead of retarding the 8.0 P.M. building of houses, I think the continued application of the Rent Restrictions Act would actually stimulate the building of new houses, inasmuch as it would leave the owners of those new houses free to charge such rents as they chose and they would not be subject to the application of the Act. After all, the purpose of the Act is to prevent particularly working—class tenants from exploitation by unscrupulous landlords. The landlords of the new houses would not be subject to restriction, and if it can be shown that houses can be built to let at a profit—built to let at uncontrolled rents—then I think there is no justification whatever for saying the continuation of the Rent Restrictions Act would have the effect of either retarding or preventing the building of houses.

But it is interesting to note that we have had decreasing wages for all the craftsmen, ail the semi—skilled and all the unskilled workers simultaneously with the increase of the rents of the houses those workers have occupied, and after all if we are going to have peace we must pay some attention to the needs of the people who are receiving the very lowest rates of wages in the lower paid industries. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down mentioned the wages paid in the agricultural industry, and claimed that they were the lowest wages being paid to the workers. In my Division we recently had an industrial dispute and, according to the local newspaper reports, there were 8,000 people involved in it. They were in dispute because they felt that the wages paid in the iron and steel producing industries were too low for them to obtain a living. They were being paid from 28s. to 32s. 6d. for a week of 47 hours, and many of these men were not able to work a full week. In many instances they were only able to work three or four days, and very few indeed were able to work the whole five and ahalf days. These people, if they got married, were fortunate if they became the tenants of new houses the rents of which were anything from Ils. to 18s. per week. Imagine any of the right hon. Gentlemen who form the British Government drawing a wage of 28s. to ns. 6d. and being called upon to pay lls. or 18s. a week for rent. Many hon. Members of this House pay more for a bottle of burgundy to take home to their wives than these men draw for a week's wages. The workers consider that if they are called upon to pay big rents their wages should be increased in such a manner as to enable them to pay those rents. The continued application of the Rent Restrictions Act is one of those things that is necessary not merely 9in the interests of the workers but in the interests of the peace of the country. Are you going to continue to allow property owners to exploit the needs of the people and, when a house becomes decontrolled, as it does in the ease of a change of tenant, to increase the rent not by 40 per cent. but. often by cent. per cent.? If so, instead of making for peace you are going to create that feeling which has been deplored so often on every platform by almost every member of the Government and by every supporter of it, which we are told goes to the making of communists, extremists, rebels and so forth. I think I should be a rebel if I were called upon to pay 11s. a week rent out of a wage of 28s. to 32s. 6d. It simply cannot be done

The Amendment seeks to extend the period to five years. It has been suggested that the period should be 15 years. Even at the end of 15 years the probability is that there will still be a shortage of houses. If the shortage is no longer there, if the houses necessary to meet the requirements of the people have been built, circumstances will adjust themselves and it is immaterial whether this Act is continued for two and a—half, five, seven or 70 years. There is no need to bring an amending Bill before the House at some future date. The landlords will find that the people have sufficient houses and they will he unable to charge extortionate rents. The whole thing will adjust itself as soon as ever we can obtain a sufficient number of houses to meet the requirements of our own people. I hope the Minister in charge of the Bill will give some consideration to the needs of those people who are being harassed every day, who are very often being told things which are altogether untrue by unscrupulous landlords in order that greater rents may be extorted from them. If we can but get something definite, something substantial in the way of an extension, I am sure it will be worth while and that there will be a greater measure of peace among the workers than there can possibly he if the Rent Restrictions Act is either going to be mutilated or withdrawn. There has been a great deal of feeling manifested because if and when a change of tenancy takes place the house becomes decontrolled and the landlord is at liberty to do whatever he likes with it. That would never have occurred if, when the Labour Government was in office, they had also had the power to bring in certain Amendments which were necessary to protect the interests of our people. But the time is fast approaching, and our friends in the Opposition are doing very much indeed to help along the day, when the people will have the sense to return in sufficiently large numbers to the House of Commons those who have been controlled by the Rent Restrictions Act, those who, like one hon. Member who has spoken, live in controlled houses and know exactly the difficulty of the people who are concerned in this matter. I thank the House for the indulgence shown to me on the first occasion I have addressed it.

The MINISTER "of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)

I have waited what I hope hon. Members opposite will consider a reasonable time in order that I might get a fairly complete idea of the sort of arguments which were to be adduced in favour of the Amendment, and I am very happy that I have deferred my intervention, as it has given me the opportunity of hearing the speech to which we have just listened, I think the first speech the hon. Member has addressed in the House, the impression made by which upon my mind was that he knew exactly what it was he wanted to say and that he had no difficulty in finding appropriate language in which to clothe his ideas. I am sure the House will listen with interest to further contributions from the hon. Member. I think the discussion has proceeded far enough to show that most of those who are nominally supporting the Amendment are in entire disagreement with the Proposer of it. Even the hon. Member who seconded it was not in favour of it, or, at any rate, he struck out one definite point of difference between some hon. Members who sit opposite and Members on this side. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) is in favour of control as a good thing in itself, a matter in which he differs from some, certainly of those who sit on those benches, for I know that — view is not generally shared. That is a definite point of difference

The purpose and the policy of the Government is to get rid of control at the earliest possible moment consistent with the safety of the tenant from exploitation by unscrupulous landlords if such should seek to take advantage of the condition that at present exists, because we believe control is a bad thing for the tenant as well as for the community generally. I say it is a bad thing for the tenant first of all because I differ from the hon. Member who has just spoken, who seems to think the existence of control would tend to stimulate the building of new houses. I failed altogether to follow his argument there. I think the general opinion will be that in so far as control affects the building of new houses at all it must tend to hinder it, because it disturbs confidence in investment in house property, on which the building of new houses must depend. But in addition to that the existence of artificial conditions, such as are inseparable from any system of control, is bound to work hardship and injustice in a great number of individual cases. It leads to a great number of results which might perhaps be unexpected. You have landlords, for instance, who, if they get a house empty, decline to put another tenant in because they know that if they do they cannot get rid of him. You get the difficulty, that occurs over and over again, of the bad tenant. There are bad tenants as well as bad landlords. The landlord cannot get rid of him and replace him by a better one, and he sees the house suffering constant deterioration and is utterly helpless to put out the tenant or to find any remedy for the damage which is being done to his property. I could continue to indicate various ways in which I think control in itself is a thoroughly bad thing, and I believe the great majority of hon. Members, including probably the Proposer of the Amendment, desire to see control brought to an end at the earliest possible moment consistent with the conditions I have laid down.

If that be so, it comes to this point. What is the earliest moment at which control can be brought to an end? The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) said I have not allowed enough time. The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) said we ought to name a reasonable time. He thinks five years is a reasonable time, but other hon. Members opposite do not think that is a reasonable time. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) says he cannot conceive that in five years it will be possible to give up control. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Lambeth, for instance, really thinks he can guarantee that in five years' time control can be ended. [Interruption.] Then why does he not name a reasonable time I do not follow the consistency or the logic of an hon. Member who quarrels with my two and a half years and supports a period which has certainly no more justification than the period I have put down if you are going to assume that at the end of your period control definitely must come to an end. But that is not my position. What I have said was that I did not know that it would be possible 'to bring control to an end. What I desired was that we should not keep control on longer than was necessary. I have purposely framed this Bill so that when the two and a half years are up it may be possible if conditions are not then favourable to the ending of control, to continue the control under the Rent Restrictions Act by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. That does not mean that we shall have to discuss questions of amendment. It means that the control will be carried on from year to year. It does not necessitate any repetitions of the arguments which hon. Members have carried on.

There is a further argument, adduced with an insinuating smile by the hon. Member for Camlachie. He drew a picture of the tenant with the sword of Damocles suspended over his head, and he told us that he himself has been wasted with anxiety for years over the question of control. I deplore the ravages which this uncertainty has brought about in the physique of the hon. Member, but I think he must be an exception to the general rule, because I have not been able to ascertain that tenants are today concerning themselves about what may happen 2½ years hence, especially after the very definite indication that I have given of what the policy of the Government on this matter really is. In the interests of the tenant and of the security of the tenant it is far better to tall him, "You are going to be protected as long as protection is necessary," than to tell him, "You are going to be protected for this, that or other definite number of years," when no one in this House or out of it can say with any certainty, or give any guarantee w hat the period will be.

There is the further point which has been raised, that this matter is likely to fall into doubt again about the period of a General Election. That argument leaves me stone cold. Those who are going to prophesy when a General Election is coming will probably be just as much out as those who attempt to prophesy when we can safely take off control. As for taking this question out of the arena of party politics. I wish I could think that any pledges that may be given in this House could possibly achieve that object. It will always be possible so long as the present conditions remain for this matter of the extension of control to be made a party question. When it is merely a question of continuing the control under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act from year to year, there will be far less opportunity and far less invitation to those who are taking part in elections to make this a subject of what the hon. Member for Gorbals called election bribery, than if you are going to fix a definite period, when possibly you will have to keep control on, not under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, but so that you will have to bring in a fresh Bill, which will open up the whole question.

If I were continuing definite control for such a long period as five years, or for 10 or 15 years, I should not have proceeded in this way. I should not have proceeded by a mere prolongation. I should have had to consider the full question of an amending Bill. It is quite certain that there are defects in the present Act, and there are hardships which are inflicted by the present Act, not on one side only, but in many directions, and if I thought that this control was going to be carried on for a much longer time, I should feel, in justice to the people affected by the present Act, that it would be necessary to see how I could improve the Act. I am hopeful. I think that hon. Members who ask for this longer period are unduly pessimistic. I shall not commit myself to any prophecy; I have never done so, and I am not going to begin now; but I do think that we may clearly take account of the fact that once the process of catching up arrears begins, it will proceed with increasing rapidity, because as we get labour and materials set free in one direction, they will become available in others, and so the actual catching up of these long overdue arrears may proceed much more quickly than one would suppose if one merely looked at the situation today.

There are various other factors which we cannot measure at the present time, which may have a very 'beneficial effect upon the time that will be necessary before we can feel ourselves to have solved the problem. I think it would be a very grave mistake to the ourselves up in any way which would inflict upon the country the burden of control even for a month longer than is absolutely necessary


I am not in any way supporting the Amendment that control should continue for five years, because I am not in the least enamoured of control. We seem in this Debate to have developed into a kind of Dutch auction. Hon. Members above the Gangway on this side suggest 15 years, and another hon. Member above the Gangway suggests 10 years. In this Amendment five years is suggested. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in spite of the speech he has just made, will reconsider the decision he has come to in regard to the period. He said there are certain defects in the Act. They are almost too obvious to need pointing out. The right hon. Gentleman said that if he had been extending the period of control for longer than two and a—half years he would have made certain improvements in the Act. He went on to say that if the matter is not settled at the end of two and a—half years the Act will go under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.

By saying that if the period of control was to be longer than two 'and a—half years he would have made certain improvements, the right hon. Gentleman admits those improvements to be necessary if at the end of two and a—half years the Act goes into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, he will be debarred from improving the Act. That is a very important point which the Minister ought to take into serious consideration. Control hits both sides, the landlord and the tenant. I am wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman has been in any way influenced as to the brief period of two and a—half years which he thinks is sufficient, because of opinions expressed to him privately by Members of his own party, and which have been expressed in the House to—night with regard to the non—necessity of control in rural areas. I am amazed that any Member of this House of any party can make the statement that there is no need in certain rural areas for a continuation of control with regard to working—class houses. To me it denotes a lack of knowledge concerning the actual conditions in rural areas. If hon. Members who have made those statements will consult the agricultural committees of the country they will find that large numbers of applications are continually being made to agricultural committees by tenant farmers for certificates for the purpose of getting out men who have left their employment, but who are living in the houses which are said to go with the farm. The reason that these certificates are being applied for is that the people cannot find any other houses to go into after they leave the employment of a particular farmer

I will give another concrete fact to dispose of the statements which have been made. I can take you to certain rural areas in the North where men, working in the towns during the day, walk from their homes four miles in the morning, and four miles home again in the evening. In another part they have to travel even longer distances—up to six or seven miles. We are told that these men cannot pay reasonable rent of houses in towns, but these men are working in towns and are drawing town wages, but they cannot get houses in the town and they have to live in the country where they come into undue competition with the agricultural worker. There is no foundation for the statement that there is no reason for the continuance of control in rural areas. In my opinion there is just as much need for control in rural areas as there is in urban areas. The Minister stated that my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) only suggests control for five years, and asked, does he suggest that control should end then. He does not. What he suggests is that it should by no means end before that. That is the real root of this Amendment.

An appeal has been made to my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) as to his reason for supporting this Amendment. His reason is that he wants to have a period of security, and a period which clues not extend to five years does not give reasonable security. We are not advocating this from the point of view of a General Election or from the point of view of party politics It is a question of human need. Knowing, as I do, the urban and the rural areas, I say that there is a great human need for better housing accommodation, and that security can be given and control removed only by a large extension of the number of houses that are built. We are all agreed that the necessary increase in the number of houses cannot be made in two and a half years. We are certain that it cannot be made in five years, but we do say that five years gives a reasonable period of security to the people in their homes. Therefore, we make the appeal to the Minister not to put this into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill at the end of two and a half years. The Minister himself has admitted that there are grave, faults in this Bill, and that if there had been suggested a period of control of more than two and a half years he would have made great improvements, and now he suggests that it is going to be included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, in which it cannot be improved. I hope that he will respond to the very human appeal which we are making to extend the period of control from two and a—half to five years.


I want to add my appeal to the Government to extend the period of control. The last speaker has said that the Minister of Health has himself admitted that there are many defects in the existing Rent Restrictions Act, and then he comes before this House in a rather curious manner, asking the House to continue for two and a.—half years an Act in which he admits there are many defects which ought to be put right. I should have imagined that a Minister of the Crown, who has taken in charge the amending or continuation of a Bill, and who asks for a Second Reading, a Committee stage and a Report stage, merely to continue what he admits is a defective Act of Parliament, is not playing the game with the Members of this House, nor with the people outside who occupy the houses which it is proposed to continue to control. If he is going to play the game with those people, then an opportunity should be taken at the earliest moment in this House, of remedying the defects of any Act of Parliament that may be entrusted to any Department. That is not being done, and the Minister in replying to the discussion, and in setting out what he thought were some of the major defects in the Bill, admitted that at the end of two and a half years, if it is necessary to continue it, it will be included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Why did he say "If it is necessary?" The Minister of Health knows that it will he necessary. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that it will be necessary, and that in two and a half years there will not be sufficient houses built in this country to make good the shortage of houses at present existing.

He knows that it is only a trick of words to say, "If it is necessary, at the end of two and a—half years, we will smuggle this little Act into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, where it may be continued from year to year." He knows that no Act which it is proposed to continue under that Bill can be altered and improved, and consequently the Minister of Health, who admitted that if, at the end of two and a—half years, the housing shortage has not been made good, then he will put the Rent Restriction Act into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, with the result that the House will have no opportunity of remedying the defects of the Act, is not playing the game with the House or with people outside. If the existing legislation has to be brought before the House once again, opportunity ought to be given to Members to remedy its defects.

The Minister of Health said that owners of houses were not the only people who were at fault, and that there were faults on both sides. We admit that. He quoted an extravagant illustration. He said that if a tenant does something to damage a house, the owner of the house cannot put him out. But he can. He can take him into Court. He can show him to be an undesirable tenant. If he shows that the tenant is destroying the house wilfully, is putting it into an insanitary condition, is doing something to the walls or the roof, or other permanent fixture, to make the house uninhabitable, then he can get that tenant removed. Why put such an illustration as that before the House when he knew perfectly well, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health knew, that a tenant of that kind could be prevented from injuring the house any further?

An hon. Member who spoke from the benches opposite showed the real nature of the following of the Government, as did one of his colleagues. They were out for decontrol. They tried to sugar their pill by suggesting that instead of this House passing an Act to control the houses, we ought to leave the matter in the hands of local authorities. We know perfectly well that in a place like Hastings, with a Tory majority, And in other towns where you find large numbers of members of the local authority vitally interested in the ownership of houses, you would get the council, with its majority interested in or friendly towards the house owners, to pass at once a motion for the removal of control front houses. I am quite certain that when an hon. Member quoted the President of the Board of Education as saying that the people in his place wanted decontrol, he was either interpreting the President of the Board of Education wrongly or the President of the Board of Education, if he used those words, was not interpreting the thoughts of the people of Hastings. Those who know Hastings know quite well that even in the well—to—do part of the town, in St. Leonards, there is a shortage of houses. In the old town of Hastings there are no vacant houses. Indeed, there is a proposal in Hastings now to try to bring about some Lig clearances which will sweep away the whole town with all its slums and narrow passages and tiny houses cooped up between two hills in a gulley, and to replace them by a, big housing scheme.

We want control to continue. One of my hon. Friends mentioned control for 15 years. Some hon. Members laughed; they thought it was unnecessary to have control for such a long period. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can fix a definite date when the housing shortage will be met. I am certain that he cannot, because the Minister of Health admitted that it was impossible to say when the shortage could be made good. If he cannot fix a definite date when the shortage will be met, he cannot fix a definite date for control. Consequently, he cannot say that in two and a half years he is going to provide sufficient houses to make good the shortage. Consider many of the cities of today. The matter has been referred to by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson) and by the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant), and by other hon. Members. At the present time, in most of the big industrial cities, houses that were condemned four, five and even ten years ago as unsuitable for human habitation, have had to be opened again and used as dwellings for people who cannot find other houses. It will take five years at least to sweep away the insanitary dwellings in the towns and to provide for the accommodation of those who are dispossessed. Even then you will be touching only the fringe of the problem, as it will appeal to you then because of the increase of population and the number of people wanting new houses. It is really an insult to the intelligence of the House and to the people who are living in slums or in condemned houses to try to fob them off with the idea that in two and a half years' time this Government will provide sufficient houses for them all. It is impossible. The Parliamentary Secretary would not dare to make that suggestion in his own constituency at Woolwich. If he cannot make that statement in his own constituency he cannot make it in this House. If he cannot make it in this House, I repeat that he is insulting the people outside, as he is insulting the Members of this House, by asking us to continue control for only two and a half years


I have been sitting here all the afternoon listening very attentively to the Debate on housing and the need for the extension of control. Most of the statements made have related to districts outside this little area where we are. One would conclude that, as no London Member has said anything about the housing conditions in and around London, we were all contented. I have risen for the purpose of stating that London has not solved the housing problem entirely, and to call the attention of the Government to the fact that another public body just over the other side of the river recognises that fact. It is 18 months since a conference was called by the chairman of the Housing Committee of the London County Council, when he told the people that it was time we had housing carried out rapidly. He said

Over 53 per cent, of the persons housed in London live in two—roomed tenement—s. That being so, there is ample opportunity for housing to be carried out in order to clear the people out of those tenements. But that is not the worst, for he said also:

There are 2,000 slum areas scheduled in London as insanitary. We can safely say that during the past 18 months that big body has not cleared one of those insanitary areas. I understand that it is going to set about the clearing of one area at St. Pancras, and in order to do so to build blocks nine storeys high, when consent has been obtained. That is the way they are setting about clearing the deplorable condition of over 2,000 insanitary areas that are already scheduled. At that rate, if they clear one area in five years, one can well see the necessity for the extension of control. In my district we appealed to the County Council to clear away certain slum areas but to this day they have been unable to do so. We set about clearing one of these areas ourselves and we put up tenements upon it. To show how necessary it is to put up houses and tenements I may mention that for a block of 12 tenements we had 1,700 applications. The committee in charge of the matter had the utmost difficulty in selecting the most urgent cases out of these 1,700, they were all so bad. We propose to go on building and we have purchased a piece of land on which to erect 72 houses. Four years ago we put up 98 houses on a site apposite to that which we have just purchased for the 72 houses and we had to pay £200 an acre more for the land purchased—recently than we paid for the land purchased four years ago.

It seems to me that control is very necessary, not only in regard to the houses already built, but in regard to the landlords who sell land to people desirous of building, and who in four years increase the price of land—which had been let in allotments as agricultural land during all that time—by £200 an acre. When the inhabitants of our district learned of the proposal to erect 72 further houses we had no fewer than 2,000 applications. In most of these cases it was very necessary that the people concerned should get houses, and we found case after case of man and wife and four, five or six children living in one room. It is not common decency; yet we are told that it is not necessary to have control extended further than two and a—half years. I think we ought to have control for at least five years, which would give us an opportunity of considering the matter and dealing with those defects which, according to the Minister of Health himself, the Act contains. I presume the Government has something in mind when they suggest two and a—half years. Probably they think, after the Chancellor's statement, that there will by that time be a 10s. a week old age pension payable at the age of 65, and that if they get rid of control the landlord will be able to take away that 10s. in increased rent. So they are going to help their friends in that way. It is a nice way of doing things. One has only to consider these matters, and one can see how these people help each other. It is necessary that control should be extended, and I had hoped that the Minister would have considered the very moderate Amendment which suggested five years, as against the 10 or 15 years mentioned by some of my colleagues, though 10 or 15 years would not have been at all too long. I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry will agree there is no likelihood of the housing shortage being supplied in London in 10 or 15 or even 20 years.


I would not have risen in this Debate had I not heard the Minister of Health state, before retiring from his place in the House, that it was absolutely necessary to have decontrol, in order to get on with house—building. He said it was the only way. That means that, because there is control, those who own the houses are prevented from increasing the rents. I ask the House, and particularly those Members who support the Government, to consider well why we ever had this control. Why was the Rent Restrictions Act originally brought into being? It was a war—time Measure, and the reason for it was that those who own the houses in which the people of this country live were charging rents which the people could not pay. They were demanding those rents. from the womenfolk, while the men folk were away fighting the battles of the country. Nothing could have been more treacherous or more despicable than the part played at that time by those individuals commonly called landlords in this country —we call them factors in Scotland—and it is evident that the Tory party forget those facts.

I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the Minister of Health that he is wrong, and the Tory party is wrong, in the statements which are made in this House, that we on this side do not represent working—class opinion in the country. I was recently in Birmingham, the home of the Minister of Health and of the Foreign Secretary. I believe in bearding the lions in their den, and on Friday night in Birmingham, although I am only a back—hencher of the Labour party, I had the town hall packed from floor to ceiling in order to hear a message delivered from the Socialist point of view—yes, even in Birmingham. That spells the end of the Foreign Secretary and of the Minister of Health.


The point under discussion is the end of control, and not the end of the Minister of Health or the Foreign Secretary.


Decontrol is a very serious matter to our people. On Sunday I was in my own constituency, the town of Dumbarton, and visited quite a number of the people whom I have the honour to represent. Where are they living? In wash houses. Why are they living in wash houses? Because there are no other houses for them to live in, and they are paying rent for the privilege of living in wash houses. Think what that means. There is no use in control for the rich men. The rich men's wives have no housing problem. This is a problem that affects only the working folk of this country. There is no housing problem for the rich, no housing problem for the individual who represents Birmingham, no housing problem for the Minister of Health, no housing problem for his Parliamentary Secretary, sitting there with his face beaming and smiling while our people are being roasted and toasted by the awful conditions that prevail, even in the constituency that he represents. But we will see. The Rent Restrictions Act, it has never to be forgotten, was brought into being to protect the common people of this country from the rich people of this country, and the Minister of Health is of the opinion, backed by his Parliamentary Secretary, backed by a great many Tories—not by all the Tories—either that or they do not speak the truth when I am speaking to them privately.

Colonel DAY

And on the platform.


Yes, and on the platform, as my hon. and gallant colleague informs me. Some Tories, as well as some Liberals and all the Labour party, believe that control is necessary to protect the common people of this country, the reason being, as admitted by the representatives of the Government on this matter, that if control is done away with on will go house building. How will it go on It will go on because they will have the right then to put on any price they like for the houses. Now our people, I want to tell you rich men, cannot afford to pay any increased rent. Every hon. Member, at any rate, from the West of Scotland—and we from the West of Scotland will do all we possibly can to make it the case all over England —is pledged to his constituents to bring rents back to pre—War level. We know quite well that that may injure, but you cannot have justice done to the great. mass of ale people without hurting somebody, so therefore I would appeal—because I do not want. to use too much time at this juncture, as I intend to bring up other things on this Budget Debate—to the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Health —


Where is the Secretary for Scotland?


Yes, why is it that Scotland is not represented on the Front Bench? Is this what we pay them for? Is this what the Secretary for Scotland is putting in a claim for a rise in his wages for—for not being present? Where is the Secretary for Scotland? Where is his Under-Secretary, the captain of the guard? [An HON. MEMBER: "Where is the Minister of Health? "] The Minister of Health has been here a good while, but he is away dining. I do not know whether or not he is wining—I have nothing to do with that—but 9.0 P.M.this is something which the Tory party will be well advised, by me, not to pass lightly over. It may not be of tremendous international importance, but it is of tremendous national importance, and, to me, that is of more importance than anything international. We intend to hammer at this thing, because it is always the last straw that breaks the camel's back, and all these little things will tell against you. You are before the bar of judgment, remember. You are before the people. The people are watching you. The people are watching the Tory party. We have the ear of the people in the country, and we are going round the country, and it will just depend on how you treat this rent restriction


I think the hon. Member is getting a little wide of the subject, which is as to whether control should 'be for two and a half years or five years.


Of course, two and a half years or five years is too short a period for me, and for the people whom I represent. I am backing up either my hon. comrade the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) or my gallant, learned and hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) in their demand for 15 or 30 years, because I am in for control. I want to control the rich man. I want to take from him the power to crush the working folk. I want to do all that I can. in my own peculiar fashion—it may not be Parliamentary—from the Floor of this House, believing that it is possible to get things done in a Parliamentary way, and I will continue to do that as long as you allow me, but I want these conditions that appertain today in working—class life changed. Through this decontrol, you are going to make the lot of the people whom we represent harsher, and we are not going to stand for that, whether we are in order or out of order.

Fifteen years is the period arrived at as the considered opinion of the party which we represent. It has been discussed at the Labour party conference, and it has been decided by the Independent Labour Party—at any rate, by the Scottish section of it—that we require 15 years of control. The very fact that we have to stand here and ask for control is evidence in itself that we fear those who have control. We want to get control of them, not only of the houses, because, as I have stated here before, it is my confirmed opinion that no man has a right to own my home. No landlord has a right to own anyone's home. Again, the Minister of Health stated that there were people who were bad tenants.They are always telling us that, but it depends on what you mean by bad tenants. It does not matter how bad they are, they must be housed. Neither the Minister of Health nor the Parliamentary Secretary is going to say to us that, because people are bad, they are not to have a roof over their heads. In this country of ours, it is necessary to have a shelter. Supposing a man was a, murderer, which is supposed to be the worst crime he can commit, you would have to give him a shelter. You do not cremate him right off; and if you do not give people homes, you have to cremate them.

None of these folk called had folk are too bad to go and fight your battles. None of them were too weak, none of them were "the unemployable" during the Great War. You even went into the workhouses and brought out old men. Everyone in this country has a right to a shelter, but as society is at present constituted, it cannot be done, because, as the Minister of Health has pointed out, those houses were not built in order that they might be homes for the people. Those houses were built in order that a profit might be made out of them. It is only incidental that the homes are happy homes or miserable homes. It is all the same to the landlord. He builds those houses in order to make a profit out of them. How do. you expect to rear a hardy, intelligent race, a race of beautiful men and beautiful women, under conditions such as these, that the homes have not been built because the people require homes, but have been built by people in order that they might make money out of the transaction. Therefore, I support the idea. of 15 years


I think anyone coming to this House, not knowing the facts, not knowing what the Bill was, not knowing the Amendment we were discussing, and listening to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) dealing with the matter in what, I think I may say without offence—because he used the expression himself—his own peculiar way, would think this was a Bill immediately to bring in decontrol of houses, whereas it is a Bill to continue it for a period of two and a—half years. I really think, after the speeches to which we have just listened, it is necessary to impress it upon such people as may tot have grasped what the Bill proposes to do.

What. I really rose to say was that we hear a good deal in this House about election pledges, and charges that those pledges have been recklessly broken. I I have a very strong recollection in my mind, and I think a good many other Members will have the same, that a definite statement was made by those who are now on the Treasury Bench with regard to this decontrol, that the present system would be continued for a period of two years, and that after that it would be necessary to see how the situation stood. That is exactly what this Bill carries out. The Amendment to continue it for five years, if accepted, would be a breach of an election pledge, and yet hon. Members opposite calmly ask us to break our pledge. Here was an absolutely definite statement made by our leaders, and I should think repeated by all of us on the platform, that control should be continued for two years, until we could see how the housing situation stood. It may be as hon. Members say, that after two and a—half years the housing shortage will not be met, and decontrol will have to be continued. It is rather risky to prophesy, but I imagine this House will be here to deal with that situation when it arises, and all this eloquence and violent language might well have been reserved until the end of the two and a—half years if this Government should then propose to do away with control. I think that is a conclusive argument against all the opposition that has been raised to this Bill at every stage

I want to draw attention to a remark that was made by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. March), who made, I think, one of the most unworthy suggestions I have ever heard in this House. Hon. Members opposite are very susceptible to taking offence themselves. If they think the slightest word is said which they consider insults them, or insults their class, they will howl down a Chancellor of the Exchequer. But what did the hon. Member for Poplar insinuate against us? He insinuated that we are bringing in an old age pension scheme, whereby the old people will have los. a week more in two years, and that this Bill was brought in to extend control for two and a half years, so that control could then be taken off and the landlords allowed to grab the 10s. old age pension. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear ! "] That insinuation is cheered by hon. Members opposite. Those are the insults they are prepared to throw at us, and yet they howl down our Front Bench should any suggestions be made which do not in any way approach such insinuations as that made by the hon. Member for Poplar. Surely hon. Members opposite must know that if they are prepared to make insinuations, and to give blows of that kind, they ought to be men enough to receive them. There has been a good deal too much of the velvet glove in dealing with them: I would much rather have a little more of the mailed fist.


I am delighted to see that a Samson has arisen with a speech which one would say was heat without fire. We can take a knock on this side, but, apparently, the hon. Gentleman himself is susceptible to attack. [An HON. MEMBER: "Below the belt."] I do not care where it is so long as it gets there. I understood the Prime Minister to say there is no belt now. I am going to ask the hon. Gentleman whether, in fact, it is contemplated that when the old people receive their pensions, they are to have their houses rent free, and, if not, will not, in fact, some part of that los. be taken as rent? Is there not, therefore, some modicum of truth in the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar? Obviously, there is. I want to put this point of view. Why set a period to control? Why two and a—half years? I remember being on the Committee which considered our Rent Restrictions Bill when we were on the other side, and hearing the present Parliamentary Secretary arguing against 1928, which was in our Bill. Not only that, but he destroyed the Cornmitt.e's work, leading his people out of the Committee room, and moving Amendments galore that had no semblance of sense or anything to do with the matter. I ask why, at this moment, state a date at all? Surely, the reason for the two and a—half years is, that when the period expires you may have worn our people down so that you can build houses at an economic rent, so called, which will have the effect of increasing rents and enticing the jerry builder again to the industry. If not, why not let control go on without fixing a period, and then we can deal with it when the time arrives, as you are dealing with the gold standard when the time arrives, as you say?

The Ministry is wrongly named altogether. It is not a Ministry of Health, but a Ministry of Misery. [An HON. MEMBER: "And death! "] Ay, and death stalking from borough to borough. The hon. Member opposite has paid a visit to my constituency. He has been in the famous Salisbury Street area, where nearly half the children born die. We called in a valuer to value the land in view of the property which has been condemned. He valued the land at:12,000. We went to the Ministry, who, in reply to our query, said: "We will send down our man." They sent him down, and he valued it at £36,000. The suggestion now is that if we, who wanted to put up cottage homes for our people with a bathroom, in one part of Bermondsey, and to allow God's sunlight to rest on the houses, take £12,000 worth of the land, we can sell the other two—thirds for commercial purposes, by putting our people into barracks, we can have reared up alongside streets of warehouses and factories, which will destroy all the health—giving properties of the new places. There is no question about that. It is true! Now, in my constituency


I do not quite see how the hon. Member relates what he is saying to the question before the House of the number of years.


My reason is that we as a borough council are trying to be the scavenger of the jerry builder and the landlord, and we are likely to be subjected to the interests of private enterprise if and when control ends. That is all the point I am trying to make, and I feel I am within my right in doing so. In my constituency in London there are back to back houses with one solitary front window, in front of which the lavatory is built. The only means of getting any fresh air is from over the river across the refuse heap into the houses, and the people there are dying daily. The Ministry of Misery! We have tried all we possibly could to get these people de—housed, and sent away to Becontree. We have taken over the workhouse, and fitted it up with flats, and still we are waiting for the Ministry to give us an answer as to what they are prepared to do. The Minister says barracks. We say cottages. That is how we stand. We do not want the sunlight or the air stopped by piling on stack upon stack of dwellings on every side, having no regard for the poor devils who have to walk up at night and mount these stairs to the top flat; no regard for the children who are weak and practically half—starved having to mount these stairs. I say, therefore, and repeat the name, it is a Ministry of Misery, and not a Ministry of Health. If it were really a Ministry of Health, it would stand at nothing to clear away the 2,000 slum areas in London or to see that the men, women andchildren—and more especially the children—were properly housed in this great city of London, as well as in the rest of the country.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite—despite their two years' pledge—that was forced upon them by the party to which I belong—despite their pledge that they would take the two years off when we were the Government and the Bill was in Committee upstairs—are destroying the Bill, are now coming as wolves in sheeps' clothing and saying we are the people who gave the pledge. It is sheer humbug, and nothing else. We are now so honouring our pledge that we are desirous of continuing the Act six months longer than we promised. I say that the whole question and method of rent control as dealt with in this Bill is wrong. The period ought to be extended. I am not sure whether you will not yet have to extend it yourselves. There may come a time whoa you can do what you so easily do, make volts face on this question of control, and say that control is the best thing for both tenant and landlord. There may come that time. At the moment our policy is the longest possible period of control in the hope of seeing that no one shall not profit by the misery of ow! people.

Mr. G. W. H. JONES

In opposing this Amendment I think that there are two points which should distinctively be kept in mind. One is the question of the prolonging the Act, and the other is the question of the period of control. I entirely agree with the speakers who have said that the period of two and a—half years is nothing like a sufficiently long period for control. All the same, I should be very sorry indeed to find the Act prolonged for longer than is absolutely necessary. It is impossible for anyone to go into a County Court or other of the lower Courts of this country without finding day by day the defects of this Measure, and the grave injustices that are perpetrated on one side or the other. I extremely regret that the Ministry of Health has not made an entirely fresh Bill. The defects of the Bill, and of the recent Acts, in relation to tenants are only appreciated when you look into the matter. For to appreciate what are the rights and duties of the parties it would appear necessary to read through three Acts of Parliament and to have in mind several hundreds of decisions. If a new Bill had been introduced, and I think a new Bill will have to be introduced sooner or later, I would suggest that the entire position should be reconsidered, so that it might be possible to have an ad hoc Measure which would deal with questions of fact, without people having to go to law so much. I do not want to say anything against anybody going to law, or having litigation if so minded, but to seek decisions in the Court puts both tenants and landlords to enormous expense, and it must be remembered that many landlords are quite poor. I should like to see some new system similar to that adumbrated in Part II of the Act of 1923, by which we could get rid of all these technicalities and the litigation on legal points, and let us know where we stand.

Passing from that, I entirely agree with the policy of the Bill that control should be continued. I do not think that we can possibly drop control until such time as the housing shortage has been reasonably overtaken. I agree it must be abolished at the earliest possible moment. One of the unfortunate points about control is that the very fact of putting on control discourages the builders from putting up the houses which are needed. The hon. Member who last spoke, spoke as though this was a Bill dealing with the housing shortage. It has nothing to do with the housing shortage. In fact, if it has any effect at all, it will make the housing shortage worse by discouraging the builders from coming in. What we have to do is to try to get through a very difficult period and at the earliest possible to get rid of control altogether. Only by that can we remove the housing shortage which has been the foundation and root of all our troubles


I should like to put a point or two to the Parliamentary Secretary, which I think justifies this Amendment, and justifies further Amendments which seek to extend the period of control for even longer than five years —points that come as the result of my own experience in a very overcrowded district of London. People who are overcrowded and are affected by the question of housing and rents are people who do not understand and would not follow the statements made by the Minister of Health as to the proposals of the Government to extend control, if necessary, at the end of the period of two and a half years. Those people are concerned about the question of control, and feel that they require security, and because of that necessity for security I do urge that this Amendment should be carried and that the security should at least be extended for double the period proposed by the Government. Of course, everyone who knows anything about the housing problem understands that it will be impossible to overcome the housing shortage and, by any measure of justice, to end the period of control at the end of two and a half years. When you consider the fact that the necessity for new houses is usually based upon the marriage rate of this country, which is somewhere about 300,000 per year, and that it is regarded as proportionate that there should be at least new houses built equivalent to 30 per cent. of that marriage rate in order to meet the normal requirements for increased accommodation, that means 90,000 houses per year in addition to all the other questions that are involved in housing in the country.

Houses get beyond the possibility of living in in proportion to the number of years that they have been in existence, therefore in addition to the 90,000 houses required as 30 per cent. of the marriage rate, at least 70 to 80 per cent. more houses are required to take the place of those that necessarily come to an end by reason of time and dilapidation. On top of that you have the whole question that has been referred to so often, the question of houses that have been condemned. In London you have 2,000 slum areas scheduled by the London County Council for the better part of 20 years. There is no question about the impossibility of overcoming that shortage in anything like two and a half years, or anything like 15 years. Realising that, it seems to me that it would be only fair to the people of London, to the people of my constituency, to the people of Glasgow, and to people who do not follow the details of political speeches and do not understand that the Government have pledged themselves, if necessary, to extend control for two and a half years, to give them a little bit more security than they have with regard to the possibility of being turned out of their homes at the end of the two or two and a half years.

I should like also to touch on the point which has been the main point of the last speaker, and which was referred to by the Minister of Health himself, that is, the effect of control on building. We are told control is a bad thing. It may be or it may not be. So far as housing is concerned, it is a good thing until there are houses sufficient to meet the needs and the 5 per cent. over which the Minister of Health admitted was desirable in order to allow the play of demand on the part of those who want houses. Until that time comes, until the people of this country are decently instead of abominably housed, surely there should be some control over landlords who would, and unquestionably will, if control is taken off at any short period of time, take advantage of the situation to profiteer at the expense of poor tenants whenever the time of control automatically elapses. There is no question of supply and demand. If houses are built in sufficient numbers, whether there is control or not, the automatic result will be that normal conditions will prevail.

I should like the Under-Secretary to say what there is in the continued statement that the effect of control prevents people getting houses. As I understand the situation—and I think I have studied the housing question in this country for a number of years closely—a builder can build any number of houses he pleases without any control. He can charge What rents he likes or, as is usually the case today, he can put whatever selling price he likes upon the houses. If that is the case, and control only applies to houses built before the War, what argument is there in the statement that control has affected tenants or has affected at all the question of re—housing and the urgent demand there is for houses in the country? I would like a reply to that question. In debate after debate that statement has been made, and I, for one, can see no ground at all for it. If that is so, surely there is only one argument as to control being taken off, and that is that the interest of the people will be injured by control being taken off. In support of that the only thing ever said upon the matter—because no one has ever said that the landlords want the advantage of control; of course they do not, they never do—is that the tenants will suffer and they will suffer because the increased number of houses required will not arrive owing to the discouragement of building as the result of control. I want to know where discouragement comes in, since the control that is exercised at the present time does not affect new buildings in any way whatever? I do hope the Under-Secretary will enlighten the House upon that point


I do not want to keep the House any longer than is necessary upon this important subject, but I think that this is a matter that really wants to be considered very fully by the House, because in producing this Bill the Government have shown very clearly that they have not given the matter of rent restriction very full consideration. I want to support the Amendment for extended control and to support particularly the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and one or two other Members for a recognition that control as a principle is right with reference to the housing of this country, not for two and a half years or five years or 15 years, but that the housing of the people of this country should not be a matter that is subject to the fluctuations of the law of supply and demand and should be guided by consideration of two things—the cost of constructing house property and the capacity of the people to pay rents of Louses, and that the law of supply and demand should not be allowed to operate at all. I see the Minister for Health has now returned to his place, and he smiles at the idea of suspending the law of supply and demand by the neck. I think he will agree with me that since Einstein produced his theory of relativity, the law of supply and demand has gone completely off the economic map as the law of gravitation have gone completely out of the physical sciences, and that he has now to approach these problems from an entirely different point of view than that of charging people for the commodities they want, the most that the conditions of supply will enable him to extract. It seems to me particularly futile that today they should be wanting decontrol so that the landlords may charge exorbitant rents for the working—class houses, and that we should be wanting control just now, and yet perhaps 20 years hence, when there is a supply of houses, we shall be demanding decontrol then in order that we may get houses as something less then the real cost of production. The Minister ought to consider what is going to happen when there is an oversupply of houses, as we all hope and expect there will be. The natural tendency then will be for rents to fall some way below the real value of the houses. If, in the intervening 15 or 20 years, when the municipalities of Great Britain have become the owners of a larger proportion of house property, there is an over—supply of houses, and rents are dropping steadily, I he municipalities will then come running along to the Minister of Health, who will not be my right hon. Friend. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] He will either have bad promotion by that time, or be out of the political picture altogether. He was prophesying about things, but I am not going to prophesy. The Minister of Health of that date will find a whole collection of municipalities owning house property, but because there are more houses than people wanting houses that property will be a bad debt and a burden on the community. All the municipalities, the municipality of Birmingham included, will be running to the Minister of Health to ask him to establish control, so that the landlords may not be starved to death because they cannot get a just price for their unoccupied property. [Laughter.] You laugh at the idea of them coming forward, but under the Safeguarding of Industries Act they are coming along to ask for exactly the same thing. and under the McKenna Duties, which are being reimposed—


The relativity of the hon. Member is competing with the relativity of Einstein.


I admit it was an effort for me to bring the relativity of Einstein within the scope of the Rent Restriction Act. I hope, though, that I am well within the Rules of this House in arguing as to the law of supply and demand and the effect of control. If the right hon. Gentleman asks me to follow his principle of controlling, say, silk stockings, interfering with the natural order of supply and demand and interfering with the supply of other commodities by the McKenna Duties, I think I am within my rights—I speak subject to your ruling, of course—in pressing him to apply the same principle in an extended way to the production of houses. The principle that is involved is exactly the same, we are trying to prevent over supply, to prevent rents falling below a figure that will enable the men who are building houses to earn a living wage and the employers to get a reasonable profit. I say all commodities should be produced in such a way that persons engaged in the production of them, whether there may be an over supply or an under supply, get a proper reward for the labour of producing them. Therefore I want the Minister of Health to project himself 15 years forward


I think the hon. Member is building up a rather large argument on the period between 1927 and 1930


The point I am making is this: The House has been arguing this question all night on the assumption that control is justifiable only for the limited period when there is an under supply of houses. I am arguing that somewhere within the confines of 15 years, or perhaps within the confines of five years, there might be a big inrush of men and capital into the building industry, or there might be a great emigration of people from the country, or a reduction in the birth rate or a great increase in the death rate, so that there came a period when there were more houses than people wanting houses. I am arguing that if those circumstances arrive the landlords of this country will come running to this House asking for control. While I must honestly admit that I am not very much interested in the welfare of the individual private landlord. I am interested in the welfare of the many municipalities which are now becoming big property owners, and I am anxious that when the market is running against them they shall get a just return for the labour that has been invested in the construction of houses, and that the rents of houses should not be fixed by the higgling of the market.

I am not talking about things that have not taken place. I remember a big building boom in a certain part of the country about the year 1900 or 1901, I think. Probably other Members will remember other parts of the country where houses were built at such a great rate by private enterprise that they outstripped the needs of the locality. The owners of property in one street were competing with the owners of property in the next street for such tenants as were seeking houses, and on occasions a landlord would offer free tenancy for nine months, or a year, or 15 months, in order to get a tenant to come into his property rather than go into the property of the other man in the next street. That is all wrong. I think the community should definitely have control of house erection and house owning and the rental at which houses should be let, and that it should be part of the definite aim of Government., as far as they possibly can, to make the supply of houses just exactly meet the demand for houses. But since that poise can never be quite accurately kept —there is either a swing to the one side or the other—they should see that no fluctuations of the market are allowed to decide what the rent of a particular property shall be—they should recognise that that is a responsibility which rests with the Government of the country, and not with any body of speculative builders, or even municipalities, and that the matter should not be left at the mercy of unregulated occurrences that may affect the incomings and the outgoings of the population.

Therefore, I urge the Minister to agree. to this extended period of control, the longer period. I am not satisfied with the conditions of control, even for the shorter period. I Nvish I could think that in the intervening two and a—half years the Minister would go into the whole problem of the rental that should be charged for houses, and try to tackle it in a really scientific way, instead of by the very rough-and-ready way of slapping on 25 per cent., or 15 per cent., which is a very clumsy way of trying to assess the real value of these places. I think there ought to be a roll kept of the houses in this country, and those houses more than 20 years old ought to be placed on a steadily descending scale, and immediately the whole lot of houses more than 100 years old should be wiped off the rent rolls altogether.

If I thought that the two and a half years' period proposed by the Minister of Health was going to mean that during that time he was going to produce a system of rent restriction and rent control that would be a decent reflex of the economic facts, then I would agree to the shorter period. The right hon. Gentleman says, however, that his reason for the shorter period is to enable him to continue this Act unamended by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, which means that he regards the present increase in rent as the basic rent in the future. Those increases were imposed without any justification, and when the right hon. Gentleman says that he wishes to make that state of things permanent through the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, I must say that I intend to support the Amendment providing for an extended period rather than this short term of two and a-half years.


Perhaps I may be allowed at this stage to reply to some of the questions which have been put by various speakers. I think it is well to remind the Committee exactly what it is we are discussing. We are discussing whether the Rent Restrictions Act of 1920 shall be extended, and if extended, for what period. May I remind hon. opposite that the Rent Restrictions Act of 1920 contains some very important provisions the majority of which I think it can be said are for the benefit and protection of the tenants of this country. That Act restricts the amount of rent which a landlord can impose upon his tenants by a sum not exceeding 40 per cent. over the standard rent. It restricts the increase of mortgage interest to a certain percentage over the pre—War standard. It prevents in a very drastic fashion landlords recovering possession of their own houses, and finally it prevents people who have lent money and have not been able to get it back again, foreclosing, and getting possession of the property upon which they have advanced the money.

The proposition now before the Committee is that all those rights and all that. protection to the tenants of this country shall be continued, and so far from there being any attempt by the Government in this Bill to do any harm, wrong, or injury to a large body of people in this country, the real truth is exactly the opposite. At this moment we are proposing—although I admit that a stranger entering this House during the last two hours would not think so—that all this protection to tenants shall be continued. The only issue before the Committee at the present moment is the period. The Government have proposed a period of two and a—half years accompanied by the assurance of the Ministry of Health that if at the end of that period the state of matters should be such that the tenants of this country are not properly protected without a further extension of the Act or other legislation the Government will see to it that they take the proper steps to give them the necessary protection. What is the opposite proposal to that? It is one made by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), who proposes that the period, instead of being two and a half years, should be five years. That Amendment has had one of the most remarkable receptions that I have ever known given to any proposition in this House, because I have noted throughout the Debate that not a single hon. Member, although professing to speak in favour of it, really desires it. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough, when asked if he was prepared to accept that period so far as Middlesbrough was concerned, shook his head


I never suggested that control should come to an end on the expiration of five years, but I suggested that protection should remain for five years, and then be continued on its merits.


Those are not the terms contained in the Amendment moved by the hon. Member. Just as it has been urged against the Government's proposals that the Bill only extends the period for two and a half years, it has been urged against the hon. Member's Amendment on the Paper that it only extends the period for five years. In addition to that, various hon. Members who have supported this Amendment, so far from saying that five years is the proper period, have made all sorts of astonishing suggestions. An hon. Member opposite, who made such an eloquent speech, got as far as suggesting 30 years. Another hon. Member spoke in favour of the proposition of the Eon. Member for West Middlesbrough, and he went so far as to say that there ought not to be any date at all.


On these benches we support the broad principle of control for a longer period, and we have been speaking upon the general question of extension.


I am afraid the hon. Member is not following my criticism, which is that there has not been a single hon. Member who on its merits has supported the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough.


The Parliamentary Secretary has just stated that those supporting this Amendment do not desire the five years' control. I hope the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that I was not sincere. I supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough, and I support the extension for five years.


I at once accept what the hon. Member for East Bradford has said, but I would point out that I made a careful note of what he said. He supported the five years' period, but added that he was certain that control would not come to an end after a period of five years. Those are the various proposals before the House.


I was logical.


I venture to think that there is not a great deal of difference between, at any rate, a good many of the views that have been expressed. So far as I am concerned, and so far, I think, as the Government are concerned, any proposal that control should permanently remain in this country would not receive the slightest amount of support on this side of the House. We desire to provide that due protection shall be given to the tenants of this country with as little control as possible. I do not believe that there is any virtue in control as such. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) asked how it was, inasmuch as new houses are not the subject of control, that people say the present measure of control is preventing and restricting house-building in this country. I will, at any rate, venture to give him a reply. In the past, as I daresay he knows, a great deal of house-building in this country was done by the aid of two people the small house builder and the small house investor who supported him. Those two people played a very big part in, and made a very big contribution to, the housing position in this country as it was before the War. The small man erected the house, and there was then, as I believe there is today, a very large number of people in this country with a small amount, say, 2400 or £500, who desired to invest their money in house property. They could see that it was a tangible security.

That went on freely, but the situation now has changed very much, and one of the reasons for the change is that, instead of these small investors today investing their money in that way, they are afraid of this class of investment and turn to other means of investing their money. Why is that? It is because they have found, far instance, in connection with the Rent Restrictions Act that we are considering this evening, and an extension of which we are passing, that when they advance their money on house property they are restricted and cannot deal with it in the same way as other people who own other classes of property. The consequence is that they are—perhaps unnecessarily—frightened by these restrictions. They say, "We never know what is going to happen." Somehow or other people in Parliament, as they think, have taken an unnatural objection to their investing in house property. It is not that the restrictions are affecting new houses, but the fact that Parliament has embarked on an unnatural, but, no doubt necessary course, as this has been, has undoubtedly been an adverse factor acting on new house—building in this country. It has only been, I think, this year that it could be said that the private builder and, to a large extent, the private investor, are now coming back again into their old combination, and to a large extent are responsible for the considerable increase that has been shown in the rate of house building. So far as the position of the tenants in this country is concerned, they can, under the Government's proposals, sleep quietly in their beds to night. This Bill will continue their security for another two and a half years, and, if it is a question of new legislation, or of continuing the Measure in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, it will be subject again to the review of Parliament—



Sir K. WOOD:

Any Member who, if it were not included, desired to call attention to that fact, would10.0 P.M. be able to do so. The tenants also have the assurance that, if conditions are not improved by the end the period of two and a half years, the protection to them would be continued.


Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that it will be possible to put this Bill in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act later.


Yes. The Bill has been purposely framed with that in view if the necessity arises.


It cannot be amended there.




That is the point.


I venture to think that the proposal of the Government is certainly for better, from the point of view of house building, than the proposal which has been put forward by hon. Members opposite for a very considerable period of control. I myself do not take a pessimistic view at all of the present housing position. At this moment we are building houses at a bigger rate than at any time in the history of this country. I should be the first to say that that obviously is not sufficient—that, having regard to the very great shortage, it by no means meets the situation. Hon. Members opposite have not referred to night to the other side of the housing programme, in which I hope we shall have their assistance, namely, in connection with new methods of construction. There ought to be, and I believe there will be, a great. possibility of dealing with the housing shortage in that connection, and I hope that, coupled with this Bill, the efforts that are now being made in connection with the erection of brick houses, and the fact that the difficulty in connection with the erection of other kinds of houses has been swept away by the report of Lord Bradbury's Committee— for the working people of this country. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No ! "]—we can con', as I hope they will, but in helping towards the real solution of rent restriction, namely, a much larger

acceleration in the building of new houses for the working people of his country.

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

The House divided: Ayes,243;Noes,137

DivisionNo.81.] AYES. [10.5p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut. Colonel Edmondson, MajorA. J. Lloyd,Cyril E.(Dudley)
Albery, Irving James Ellis, R.G. Loder, J. deV.
Alexander, E.E.(Leyton) Elveden, Viscount Lougher, L.
Allen, J. Sandeman(L'pool. W. Derby) Erskine, Lord(Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C.M.S Evans, Captain A.(Cardiff, South) Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman
Applin, Colonel R.V.K. Everard, W. Lindsay Lumley, L.R.
Ashmead-Bartiett, E. Fairfax, Captain J.G. MacAndrew, Charles Glen
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F.W. Falls, Sir Charles F. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch(Inverness)
Atkinson, C. Fanshawe, CommanderG. D. Macdonald, R.(Glasgow, Cathcart)
Balfour-,George(Hampstead) Fermoy, Lord McDonnell, ColonelHon. Angus
Balniel, Lord Fielden, E.B. Macintyre, Ian
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Fleming, O.P. McLean, Major A.
Barclay-Harvey, C.M. Ford, P.J. MacRobert, Alexander M.
Barnett, Major Richard W. Forestier-Walker, L. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. steel-
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Foxcroft, Captain C.T. Makiits, Brigadier-General E.
Beamish, Captain T.P.H. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Margesson, Capt. D.
Bellalrs, Commander Carlyon W. Gadie, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony Mason, Lieut. Col. Glyn K.
Bennett, A.J. Galbralth, J.F.W. Meller, R.J.
Bethell, A. Ganzoni, Sir John Merriman, F.B.
Betterton, Henry B. Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Meyer, Sir Frank
Bird, E.R.(Yorks, W.R., Skipton) Gilmour, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. SirJohnMilne, J. S. Wardlaw-
Bird. SirR. B.(Wolverhampton, W.) Gower, Sir Robert Mitchell, S.(Lanark, Lanark)
Blades, Sir George Rowland Grant, J.A Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B.M.
Blundell, F.N. Greene, W. P. Crawford Moore Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J.T.C.
Boothby, R.J.G. Grentell, Edward C.(CityofLondon) Morden, Colonel Walter Grant
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Moreing, Captain A.H.
Bowyer, Capt. C.E.W. Gunston, Captain D.W. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Cilve
Brass, Captain W. Hall, capt. W.DA.(Brecon Rad.) Nan, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph
Brassey, Sir Leonard Hanbury, C. Neville, R.J.
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CIW Hannon, PatrickJosephHenry Newton, SirD. G.C.(Cambridge
Briscoe, Richard George Harland, A. Oakley, T.
Brockle bank, C.E.R Harrison, G.J.C. Pennefather, Sir John
Brooke, Brigadier-General C.R.I. Harvey, G.(Lambeth, Kennington) Perkins, Colonel E.K.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Harvey, Major S.E.(Devon, Totnes) perring, William George
Brown, Maj. D.C.(Nthid, Hexham) Haslam, Henry C. peto.(Somerset, Frome)
Brown, Brig. Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Hawke, John Anthony Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur
Buckingham, Sir H. Headlam, Lleut. Colonel C.M. Preston, William
Bullock, Captain M. Henderson, Capt. R.R.(Oxfd, Henley) Raine, W.
Burman, J.B. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V.L.(Bootle) Ramsden, E
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Heneage, Lieut.-ColonelArthurP. Rawson, Alfred Cooper
Cadogan, MajorHon. Edward Hennnssy Sydney H. Reid D.D.(CountyDown)
Calne, Gordon Hall Hennessy, MajorJ. R.G. Remer, J.R.
Campbell. E.T. Hennlker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Rentoul, G.S.
Cayzer. Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.) Herbert, S.(York, N. R. Scar. & Wh'by) Rhys, Hon, A,U
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn(Aston) Hilton, Cecil Rice, sirFrederick
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Hoare, Lt. col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Roberts, E,H.G.(Flint)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Ladywood) Hogg, Rt. Hon. sir D.(St. Maryleoone) Roberts Samuel(Hereford, Herefort]
Chapman, Sir S. Hohier sir Maid F Ropner, Major L.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Holland, Sir Arthur Ruggies Brise, Major E.A.
Chilcott, Sir Warden Holt Captain H.P. Russell, Alexander West(Tynemouth)
Christie, J.A. Homan C.W.J. Salmon, Major I.
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Hope, Capt. A.O.J.(Warwk, Nun.) Samuel A M.(Surrey, Farnham)
Clayton. G.C. Hopkins, J.W.W. Samuel, Samuel(W'dsworth, Putney)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Howard, Capt. Hon. D.(Cumb., N.) Sanderson, Sir Frank
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G.K Hudson, Capt. A.U.M.(Hackney, N.) savery, S.S.
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hudson, R.S.(Cumberland, Whitehn) Shaw, Lt. Col. A. D. Mel.(Renfrew, W)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hume, Sir G.H. Shaw Capt. w. w.(Wilts, Westby)
Cope, Major William Huntingfield, Lord Shepperson, E.W.
Couper, J.B. Hurd, Percy A. Skelton, A.N.
Courtauld, MajorJ. S. Illffe, Sir Edward M. Smith, R.W.(Aberdn& Kincdine. C.)
Crooke, J. Smedley(Deritend) Jacob, A.E. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro) James, Lieut.-ColonelHon. Cuthbert Somervllle, A.A(Windsor)
Cunliffe, JosephHerbert Jephcott, A.R. Spender clay. Colonel H.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Jones, G.W.H.(StokeNewington) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Davidson, J.(Hertfd, HemelHempst'd) Kennedy, A.R.(Preston). Stanley, Lord(Fylde)
Davies, A.V.(Lancaster, Royton) Kindersley, Major G.M. Stanley, Hon. O.F.G.(Westmeland)
Davies, Ma).Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) King, Captain Henry Douglas Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Davies, Sir Thomas(Cirencester) Knox, Sir Alfred Storry Deans, R.
Dawson, Sir Philip Lamb, J.Q stott, Lieut-Colonel W.H.
Drewe, C. Lane-Fox, Colonel George R. Strickland, Sir Gerald
Stuart,Crichton-,Lord C. Ward, Lt. Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull) Wolmer, Viscount
Stuart, Hon. J.(MorayandNairn) Waterhouse, Captain Charles Womersley, W.J.
Sugden, Sir Wilfred Watson, Sir F.(Pudsey and Otley) Wood, B.C.(Somerset, Bridgwater)
Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H. Watson, Bt. Hon. W.(Carlisle) Wood, E.(Chest'r, Stalyb'geHyde)
Templeton, W.P. Watts, Dr. T. Wood, Sir Kingsley(Woolwich, W.)
Thompson, Luke(Sunderland) Wheler, Major Granville C.H. Woodcock, Colonel H.C.
Thomson, F.C.(Aberdeen, S.) White, Lieut. ColonelG. Dalrymple Worthjngton-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon. S.) Williams, Com. C.(Devon, Torquay) Wragg Herbert
Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement Wilson, SirC. H.(Leeds, Central) Yerburgh, MajorRobertD. T.
Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K.P. Wilson, R.R.(Stafford, Lichfield)
Waddlngton, B. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-ColonelGeorge TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Wallace, Captain. E. Wise, Sir Fredric Colonel Gibbsand Captain Douglas Hacking.
Adamson, W.M.(Stall., Cannock) Henderson, RightHon. A.(Burnley) Saklatvala, Shapurji
Alexander, A.V.(Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hirst, G.H. Scrymgeour, E.
Ammon, Charles George Hirst, W.(Bradford, South) Sexton, James
Attlee, Clement Richard Hore-Belisha, Leslie Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas(Preston)
Baker, J.(Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hudson, J.H.(Huddersfield) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Barker, G.(Monmouth, Abertillery) John, William(Rhondda, West) Short, Alfred(Wednesbury)
Barnes, A. Johnston, Thomas(Dundee) Sitch, Charles H.
Earr, J. Jones, HenryHaydn(Merioneth) Slesser, SirHenryH.
Batey, Joseph Jones, Morgan(Caerphilly) Smillie, Robert
Beckett, John(Gateshead) Jones, T. I. Mardy(Pontypridd) Smith, Ben(Bermondsey, Rotherhlthg)
Benn, CaptainWedgwood(Leith) Kelly, W.T. Smith, H. B. Lees(Keighley)
Briant, Frank Kennedy, T. Smith, Rennie(Penistone)
Broad, F.A. Kenworthy, Lt. Com. Hon. Joseph M. Snell, Harry
Bromfield, William Kenyon, Barnet Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Bromley, J. Kirkwood, D. Spencer, George A.(Broxtowe)
Brown, James(AyrandBute) Lansbury, George Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Buchanan, G. Lawson, JohnJames Stamford, T.W.
Cape, Thomas Lee, F. Stephen, Campbell
Charleton, H.C. Lindley, F.W. Sutton, J.E.
Clowes, S. Lowth, T. Thomas, Sir Robert John(Anglesey)
Cluse, W.S. Lunn, William Thorne, G.R.(Wolvorhampton, E.)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J.R.(Aberavon) Thorne, W.(WestHam, Plalstow)
Cove, W.G. Mackinder, W. Thurtle, E.
Dalton, Hugh MacLaren, Andrew Tinker, JohnJoseph
Davies, Evan(EbbwVale) Maclean, Neil(Glasgow, Govan) Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C.P.
Davies, RhysJohn(Westhoughton) March, S. Viant, S.P.
Day, Colonel Harry Maxton, James Wellhead, Richard C.
Duncan, C. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn(paisley) Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Dunnico, H. Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Wanie, G.H.
Edwards, JohnH.(Accrington) Montague, Frederick Watson, W.M.(Dunlermline)
Fenby, T.D. Morris, R.H. Watts-Morgan, Lt. Col. D.(Rhonddi)
Forrest, W. Morrison, R.C.(Tottenham, North) Welsh, J.C.
Gillett, George M. Murnin, H. Whiteley, W.
Gosling, Harry Owen, Major G. Wignall, James
Graham, D.M.(Lanark, Hamilton) Palin, JohnHenry Williams, C,P.(Denbigh, Wrexham)
Greenall, T. Paling, W. Williams, David(Swansea, E.)
Greenwood, A.(NelsonandCoins) Parkinson, John Allen(Wigan) Williams, Dr. J. h.(Llanelly)
Grenfell, D.R.(Glamorgan) Pethlck-Lawrence, F.W. Williams, T.(York, DonValley)
Groves, T. Ponsonby, Arthur Wilson, C.H.(Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Grundy, T.W. Potts, John S. Wilson, R.J.(Jarrow)
Guest, J.{York, Hemsworth) Rees, SirBeddot Windsor. Walter
Hall, G.H.(MerthyrTydvil) Richardson, R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Wright, W.
Hardle, George D. Rlley, Ben Young, Robert(Lancaster, Newton)
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Roberts, Rt. Hon. F.O.(W. Bromwich)
Hastings, Sir Patrick Robertson, J.(Lanark, Bothwell) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Hayday, Arthur Robinson, W.C.(Yo'kt, W.R., Ciland) Mr. Trovelyan Thomson and Sir
Hayes, JohnHenry Rose, Frank H. Godfrey Collins.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 1, after the word "and" [" and of Part II "], to insert the words "to postpone the date of expiry."

In the course of the discussion on the Committee stage the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A. Greenwood) suggested to me that the Title of the Bill was not properly descriptive of its matter, and that so far as the second part of the Act of 1923 was concerned the Bill was not really one for the prolongation of the Act but for the postponement of its coming into operation. I told him at first sight that I thought what he was contending for was well founded and that I would consider it further before the Report stage. I have considered it further and I am still of opinion that his objection was correct and I have, therefore, introduced this Amendment to alter the Title so as to make it more properly descriptive of the real purpose of the Bill

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."


I should like to ask the Minister of Health one simple question. I say, quite frankly, and I am sure that he will agree with me, that it is important that everyone in this House, and particularly tenants, should be able to understand the simple facts which I am anxious to elicit from the right hon. Gentleman. If I am wrong, I am sure the Minister will be able to correct me in a sentence. I submit that, taking only one example, this Bill is absolutely unintelligible. I propose to read one sentence, which is one of the main sentences in the Bill, and ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will be good enough, if I read it correctly, to tell me, and to tell the House, what it means. The words to which I wish to call atten tion—it is only one example of what I think about the Bill—are contained in Clause 1 (3, b),namely: after the twenty—fourth June, nineteen hundred and twenty—six. I take those words to apply to the same words in Section 2, Sub—section (2), of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1923. I propose to read to the House, leaving out superfluous words, Sub—section (2) of Section 2 of the principal Act before the Amendment passed in this Bill, and precisely the same words after the Amendment. If anyone can not only understand them, but can have the faintest idea of what they mean, it will be a great relief to me and to hon. Members sitting behind me, whose anxiety is not merely to explain the words to our constituents and to the tenants, but, first of all, to understand them ourselves. The portion of the Act as it stood before the Amendment, leaving out superfluous words, reads Where … the landlord of a dwelling—house to which the principal Act applies grants to the tenant a valid lease of the dwelling—house for a term ending at some date after the twenty—fourth day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty—six, being a term of not less than two years the principal Act shall cease to apply. I think that is a fair summary of the Sub—section, and I think every hon. Member thoroughly understands what that means.[HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear ! "]I am so glad that hon. Members understand it. May I ask the same hon. Members, whose intellects move so quickly, to allow me to read that Sub section with the Amendment, and if they understand it I shall be delighted Where … the landlord of a dwelling—house to which the principal Act applies grants to the tenant a valid lease of the dwelling—house for a term ending at some date not earlier than one year after the date fixed at the time at which the lease is granted for the expiration of the principal Act, then something will happen. What on earth that means, passes my comprehension. I have not heard one single "Hear, hear !" If the point is so simple, we only want to understand it for ourselves, and if anybody understands it, lawyer or layman, landlord or tenant, all I ask is that that hon. Member should explain if not to the House at least to me, because I have not the foggiest notion of what it means


I am puzzled at the contrast between the want of apprehension which the hon. and learned Member displays in this House and the rumours of that quickness of intellect which he is said to display in other places. I confess that I fail to understand what is difficult in this matter, but I will endeavour to explain the meaning and purpose of the original Section and then to indicate to the hon. and learned Gentleman what it is that the arrangement proposes to do. The original Sub section, to which he has referred, was an arrangement under which the tenant might obtain security for a longer period than he would have got if the Act which controls the dwelling house had come to an end, by getting a lease from his landlord which would not provide for a period earlier than one year after the Act came to an end. The Act was to come to an end on the 21st June, 1925. Therefore the agreement between the landlord and the tenant w as to give the tenant a lease of his house enabling him to be certain that he would not be turned out for a whole year after control had come to an end. He knew what the lease was—that when the lease came to an end the house would be so controlled.

Under the present Bill we are proposing to extend the duration of the principal Act. Instead of coming to an end in 1925, it is not to come to an end until 1927. Furthermore, as has been explained in the course of the Debate upon the Bill and again this afternoon, even then, when that time comes, it may be necessary to extend the control still further by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill for periods of a year at a time. We are in this position. We do not know when? this Act will come to an end. If therefore these agreements are to have any force or any meaning for the tenant, he wants to be sure that the extra term of the period which he gets will be at least one year more than the duration of the Act whatever the duration may be. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would kindly read these words again I think that he will find that they provide a running security, if I may so describe it, for the tenant., that he should have his lease fixed so that he will have security for one year after the expiration of the period. PION. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear ! "I


After what has been said by the Minister of Health, I do not think that the approving "hear hears" imply any understanding of his words. I was watching to see if any hon. Members were looking at the Bill when they were applauding, but they were not doing so, and the applause was, I may say, emotional and not intellectual. I am in perfect agreement with the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am not even prepared to say that his intentions are not excellent, but I am concerned that we should not pass into law, even at this late hour, words which, I think, are entirely unintelligible. At the risk of monotony I shall read those words again. The proposal is to substitute for the existing provision these words

: not earlier than one year after the date fixed at the time at which the lease is granted for the expiration of the principal Act. Those are the words. Though there might be any amount of applause in this House, it will not get over the fact that you cannot grant a lease for the expiration of an Act. The words do not make sense. The period which the Minister has endeavoured to fix is not earlier than one year after a date. We ask what, date? The answer is:

the date fixed at the time at which the lease is granted for the expiration of the principal Act. There is no comma, and no indication whatever as to the relation between the lease and the Act. Quite apart from party, the whole House is concerned to see that legislation makes sense. It may be that members of my own profession do not suffer if some legislations not clear, but so great is our concern for the honour and dignity of this House that we prefer to call attention to the fact that this phrase is unintelligible. The Minister has not explained the meaning of it. He has explained the mischief which he has tried to correct and he has explained what he wanted to do. Perhaps some other right hon. Gentleman will explain what is the meaning of the words:

at the time at which the lease is granted' for the expiration of the principal Act." Until those words are explained, I submit that. the House is about to approve the passage into law of words which are admittedly unintelligible. Every Member is entitled to have explained in unambiguous phrases what the words mean. I hope that., even now, either this Bill will be held up until such time as these. words are made intelligible, or that someone will explain to us what they mean.


I should have thought it was very simple for the hon. and learned Gentleman to read the words as they appear in the Act. As he has challenged someone other than a member of the legal profession to say something, I would say—in an Act of Parliament you never insert punctuation marks—that they mean one year after the date fixed for the expiration of the principal Act, at the time at which the lease is granted. I am certain that if there is any ambiguity, the Minister of Health will have no difficulty in making the matter right, in another place.

Captain BENN

In view of the fact that no legislation of recent years has given rise to so much litigation as the Rent Restrictions Acts, which are the subject of much animadversion from the Judicial Bench, it is surely desirable that the of the Law Officers of the Crown should be present to—night to explain this conundrum. The Minister of Health has charmed, but not on this occasion elucidated. I have read the principal Act and the Amendment, and it seems to me that there is no intelligible meaning that can be attached to the words. The last speaker is mistaken in supposing that Acts of Parliament are not punctuated. They are punctuated, as he will see on examination. But the House is entitled to a legal opinion in order to avoid making this Bill, like other Acts, the subject of endless litigation and expense in the Courts of the land


I do not wish to take part in the discussion on the precise meaning of the words to which attention has been drawn by my hon. and learned Friends. No doubt, the Minister will examine them, and if they do not bear the meaning he intends will see that they are altered. But this Bill, with all its sins upon its head, is about to leave the House—no doubt much to the relief of hon. Members—and I rise to explain our attitude towards it and to make a protest against it. It is a mere continuation Measure. It continues the existing law for an arbitrary period of time which we believe to be far too short. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister has explained his views. He wants early decontrol. He has pleaded that he can use the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill if it should be found necessary. If that was his object why did he not make this Bill continue for one and a—half years instead of two and a—half years The real reason is that the right hon. Gentleman, in his heart of hearts, believes that in two and a—half years he can dispense with control. That is his view, but we have not had any argument adduced, nor has any information been given to this House, to justify that extraordinary optimism. He has admitted this evening, as he did on the Second Reading, that the present law with regard to rent restriction is defective, and that there are legitimate grievances. But he says, in effect, that this is going to continue for so short a time it is not worth troubling about it. We object to that view. Two and a—half years of grievances is a very substantial period of time to the people suffering from the grievances, and if those grievances exist—and the right hon. Gentleman has admitted them—surely the Government in this Bill ought to have taken steps to introduce remedies.

Our opposition to the Bill is not based merely on the ground that the period of control is too short. We say it does not deal with other problems which should have been considered. No consideration has been given to the present level of rents. No consideration has been given to the stealthy and surreptitious decontrol which is going on day by day. When the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry referred to the benefits of the Act he did not tell us that since 1923 houses have been steadily decontrolled, and the rents raised against the tenants, and that tenants are being worried out of houses, if they could not be evicted, in order that these houses might be let at much higher rents or sold.

This Bill, although it does not alter the law by one word, is a landlords' Bill. It is a landlords' Bill because it continues at the present time a level of rents fixed at a period when prices were far higher than they are today. It is a landlords' Bill because it continues for a further two years that process of decontrol which, by the time the Act expires, is going to provide the right hon. Gentleman with an argument for not continuing control any longer. It is true that legislation must be passed now, and, therefore, we du not intend to divide on the Third Reading. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear ! "] I see no reason for the cheers of hon. Members on the other side. We would rather have this measure of control than none. We must, therefore, refrain from voting against the Third Reading of the Bill, but in doing so I wish to protest, on behalf of my hon. Friends, at what is a miserable, mean, and shabby Measure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear! "]—two and a half years hence those words will have been proved true—a mean and shabby Measure which, under the guise of fulfilling election pledges, is merely playing into the hands of, and giving a maximum of satisfaction in the circumstances to, the landlords, but the minimum of trouble for the Government


The Minister of Health admitted, in the course of his remarks, that he might have to contemplate some extension of the period of control after the end of the two and a—half years, if his optimistic feelings were not justified by the course of events, and he suggested that he might have to do that by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. He himself admitted that if this Measure were included in such a Bill, it would be impossible to amend it in any form whatever. Earlier in the Debate, he told us that the Act, as it at present stands, is very incomplete and wants amending. Therefore, I put to him the importance of considering whether it would be wise to seek to extend its duration through the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and whether it would not be necessary to bring in a special Bill in order that the Amendments, which he admits are necessary, could have an opportunity of consideration. May I further say that these Amendments might have been made now if it had not been for the skilful ingenuity of the Government in so drafting their Measure that nothing. beyond an extension of the time was possible by means of Amendment '1 It is the Government's fault, and not the fault of the House, that Amendments have not been possible, and that the defects, which the Minister admits exist, are continued. It is through their wilful action in refusing the House an opportunity of making the necessary Amendments, which many of us desire to be made


By leave of the House, may I say, in reply to the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson), that if, in two and a—half years' time, he will bring to my notice the considerations which he has just adduced, T will give them my most sympathetic attention?