§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
I beg to move,That the Draft of the Order proposed to be made by the Minister of Health and the Scottish Board of Health, with the approval of the Treasury, under Section 5 of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924 (presented 25th November, 1926), be approved.4.0 p.m.
By Section 5 of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, after the 1st October this year, the Minister of Health, together with the Scottish Board of Health, are to take certain things into consideration, and, after consultation with the representatives of the local authorities, they may, if they think it expedient to do so, make an Order reducing the housing subsidy, and by Section 6 of the same Act it is enacted that such an Order, if made, must be laid upon the Table of this House and shall not become operative unless a Resolution be passed by this House approving it. It is in accordance with those two Sections that a draft Order has been made, and that I am here this afternoon to ask the House to approve it. Before I give the House the reasons which have actuated my right hon. Friend and myself in making this Order, I would like to call attention to the wording of the Statute. The things which we are directed to take into consideration are:The expenses which are likely to be incurred in the period of two years from such let day of October in connection with the provision of houses in respect of which contributions would be payable by the Minister or Board, due regard being had to the expenses actually incurred during the period a two years ending on that day for the like purposes.Those words are not very precise. They do not, for instance, say by whom the expenses in question are incurred, but I think, if one refers to the first Section of the principal Act of 1923, which gives the Minister of Health power to make contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament towardsany expenses incurred by a local authority for the purposes of Part TIT of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, 1398 in promoting, in accordance with Section 2 of this Act, the construction of houses.it will be perfectly obvious that the expenses referred to are expenses incurred by local authorities and contributed to by the Exchequer in connection with the promotion of the building of houses under the Act of 1923 and 1924. But I wish, particularly, to emphasise to the House the fact that the directions given to the Minister in the Section to which I have referred do not lay it down that a reduction in the subsidy is to depend on a fall in prices, and much lees that it is to be in proportion to any fall in prices.
Of course, it would have been quite easy, if that had been the intention, to have said so. The Section might have been worded to the effect that the Ministers were to take into consideration any fall which had occurred in the average cost of houses provided under these Acts, and to have said then that if they thought it expedient they could make such deduction as they deemed proper. But the Act does not say that. It merely says that these expenses are to be taken into consideration. Such is the wording, coupled with the only specific condition, namely, that the Order is not to be made unless in the opinion of the Ministers it is expedient to make it, that it shows that, in considering whether an Order should or should not he made, we are to take into account not merely the cost, but any circumstances which may be connected with such expenses. For instance, the relation of the expenses to the general financial situation of the country or of local authorities, the possible causes of any alteration in cost, and the possible effects of the subsidy upon such alteration, all seem to be matters which under the wording of the Act might properly be included in the consideration of the Ministers.
I make that preliminary statement, because the case I desire to make for this Resolution does not depend upon a fall in prices. As a matter of fact, there has not been a fail in prices. On the contrary, the tendency during the last two years has been upward rather than downward. Nor am I in a position to express the opinion that during the next two years we shall see a fall in prices if the subsidy remains where it is. There may be a fall or there may be a rise in prices. All I say upon that matter 1399 now is that for some little time, while there have been fluctuations in price levels, there has not been any variation of an extensive character. Therefore, I proceed to examine certain other considerations connected with the expenses incurred by local authorities. In answer to a question which I gave to-day, I stated that the estimate for the current year contemplates the provision of a sum in respect of housing subsidies amounting to about £8,500,000. Out of that sum, £7,000,000 is attributable to the Addison scheme, and will continue about the same figure for a number of years. At the present rate of building we estimate that the Exchequer subsidies will rise by a sum of about £900,000 each year, so that by 1929–30 the present £8,500,000 will have risen to something like £11,000,000. I am not in a position to give estimates of the burden which simultaneously has been imposed upon the local authorities, but obviously that also is an increasing burden. The liabilities of the local authorities must expand pari passu with the increasing charges upon the Exchequer. Those are very substantial figures.
I think everybody will agree, if you must have subsidies, that there is no object to which one could more properly or more worthily devote them than the alleviation of the continued misery and degradation under which masses of the people live. But I think it will be equally agreed that, in view of the size of the figures I have quoted, in view of the local and national taxation under which we all, and industry perhaps most of all, are groaning to-day, it is incumbent upon us to see that we do not pay out subsidies a moment longer than they are necessary, and that for what we do pay out we get full value.
It is well to bear in mind what was the position of the building industry at the time the subsidies were first imposed. It was moribund; it was apparently drowned, and some sort of artificial respiration was necessary to bring it to life again. Building had practically ceased for a number of years. The industry was depleted of men, and at that time there was not in the country the capacity for turning out the materials which were necessary if the industry was again to take the place which it had occupied before. The 1400 subsidy, then, was a form of artificial stimulus, and, in the first instance at any rate, it had, as one of its objects, the nursing of the industry back to life, and I think we must admit that to a large extent that purpose has been fulfilled. The output of bricks before the war averaged about 2,800,000,000 a year. To-day it is about 5,100,000,000 a year. As for the personnel in the industry, it is difficult to give any figures. The classifications of the Ministry of Labour do not perhaps altogether represent the actual strength of the labour employed in the building industry to-day. But the output of houses is evidence of the enormous increase that must have taken place. If you remember that in the 12 months ending 30th September, 1924, the total output of houses was 109,000, that in the following year it had risen to 159,000, and that in the year after that it was 197,000, I think it will be seen that those results could not possibly have been achieved if there had not been such an increase in the industry of fresh labour as to bring its capacity far in excess of whatever it possessed before in its whole history.
When you come to consider whether we are getting full value for the subsidies which we are paying, one has to go a little more deeply into the history of the subject. The House will recollect that there have been at different stages three different subsidies. First of all, there was the Addison scheme. Under the Addison scheme, the rents of the houses were fixed by an independent tribunal. The liability of the local authorities was limited to the produce of a penny rate. The liability of the Exchequer was unlimited. The result of that scheme was that it produced 176,000 houses at an average cost of over £1.000 a house, and a loss to the Exchequer of over £40 per house per annum for a period, the exact limit of which I could not say, though the final liability will not he exhausted for 60 years and the £40 will persist during a very large part of that period. These results were so disastrous that, as the House knows, the scheme had to be shut down.
Then came the Act of 1923, which was based on entirely different principles. In that Act., the liability of the Exchequer was limited to a definite sum of 1401 £6 per house per annum for a period of 20 years. There was a provision, deliberately inserted, that before local authorities were permitted to build houses they had to satisfy the Minister that those houses could not, or would not, be provided by private enterprise. The object of that provision was to separate into two parts the field of housing—one part to be dealt with by private enterprise and the other part to be dealt with by municipal enterprise—the latter part being the provision of houses for the poorer paid sections of the community which, in the circumstances of the times, no longer presented those attractions to private enterprise which had led them to do so much in the past, owing to the fact that prices had gone up out of all proportion to the returns, and that the whole system of finance, under which the private builders used to work, had been shattered by legislation before the War.
That provision was repealed, unwisely as I think, by the party opposite. I say "unwisely," because the effect of that repeal was that in certain instances local authorities were tempted into embarking upon the provision of houses of a class which should have been provided by private enterprise, and they did erect a number of such houses instead of concentrating, as was origiNally intended by the Act of 1923, upon those houses which nobody else was likely to erect. Under the Act of 1923, the local authorities who had ceased to build when the Addison scheme was shut down, began again. Progress at first was, naturally, rather slow. All big movements must start slowly. You have to prepare designs. You have to find sites and perhaps to purchase them. Resolutions have to be brought up in committee, passed by committee and submitted to the main body of the council. These things take time, until the machinery gets into running order. Nevertheless, local authorities did make a move, and by the 1st August, 1924, 54,000 houses had been authorised for construction by local authorities under the Act of 1923, all for the purpose of receiving the subsidy of £6 per house per annum for 20 years.
Then came the Act of 1924, which became law on the 7th August of that year. In that Act, a new subsidy was given for houses, to which special con- 1402 ditions were applicable. It was a subsidy of a greatly increased amount, namely, £9 per year for a period of 40 years. If one compares the present values per house under the two subsidies of 16 for 20 years, and £9 for 40 years, they are represented by the figures of approximately £75 and £160. Therefore, I may say that the subsidy in the 1924 Act was more than double the subsidy of the 1923 Act. That was a great opportunity for local authorities, and it is not surprising to find that the first result of it was that some 28,000 houses, which had already been authorised for construction under the 1923 subsidy, were at once swung over to the 1924 subsidy in order to receive the increased subsidy. That was a good bargain for the local authorities, but it was rather a poor one for the Exchequer, because the Exchequer had to pay on every one of these 28,000 houses the equivalent of about £83 10s. more than they would have done if the houses had remained under the 1923 Act, and in return for that they got no equivalent whatsoever, either in the shape of an increased number of houses or even in the number of houses to let, because these would have been houses to let in any case.
I know very well that the party opposite had in mind a further consideration, the consideration which they took into account was, that they believed that by giving a larger subsidy they would get houses at lower rents. I have here a quotation from a speech made by the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) in which he expressed that view. It shows very clearly what was in the minds of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman said:As things stand to-days it is those people who do not need our help for whom houses are provided. In order to provide for people who do need our help, in order to widen the range, to enlarge the areas from which tenants may be drawn, we require to extend the subsidy and bring rents down to a level which those people can afford to pay.That is the substantial reason. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Quite so. It is not a matter of dispute. That was quite clearly the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his party. The question is, how far has that policy been successful. It is not necessary for local authorities to submit to the Minister of 1403 Health the actual rents which they propose to charge for their houses. Therefore, we do not get a succession of statistics on the subject, from which information would be available, but one does hear from time to time of individual cases. I have certainly got a general impression that, in fact, local authorities are not making any serious distinction, and very often they are not making any distinction at all, in the rents as between houses built under one scheme and houses built under the other. In order to get some definite information, I asked a number of county boroughs and Metropolitan boroughs to tell me what rents they were charging for houses built under various schemes. I must admit that the figures which I have obtained are very limited, but I will give them to the House for what they are worth.
I asked 25 boroughs to provide me with information. Of these, I found that it was not possible to make comparisons in the case of eight because, for one reason or another, chiefly because they had not built under both Acts, one had not the material on which to make comparisons. In the case of the remainder, I found that in respect of six, the rents are equal for comparable classes. In the case of Plymouth, Salford, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bradford and Cardiff, the rents are the same for the 1924 houses as for the 1923 houses. In four other cases, the rents are somewhat lower for the 1924 houses than for the 1923 houses. In six other cases, the rents are actually higher for houses built under the 1924 Act than they are for houses built under the 1923 Act. It is not a very large margin of difference. In the cases where the 1923 houses are rented higher, the greatest difference that I have been able to find is 2s. 6d. a week; that is in the case of Bristol. In the cases where the 1924 houses appear to be rented higher, the greatest difference that I have been able to find is 3s. 6d. in the case of Poplar. These, certainly, are maximum variations, and it is rather difficult to be quite certain that in the two cases the two classes of houses are actually identical. The general conclusion I have arrived at is that, speaking broadly, we may take it that there is no substantial difference between the rents of the 1924 houses and the rents of the 1923 houses.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not think that I can give the average, because they are for different classes of houses—some parlour houses, some non-parlour houses, some with two and some with three bedrooms.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That would not enter into the argument, because these are houses built on land which was purchased, in many cases, before either of those Acts was passed.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I think the right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake about Poplar. Is it not a fact that as far as building is concerned Poplar has built as cheaply as, and in ninny instances cheaper than, anyone else in the Metropolis?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The point is, that the anticipations of the party opposite that by giving this bigger subsidy they would be able to get houses at lower rents have not been realised. Therefore, as far as that point goes, I think it can be said that the 1924 Act has failed. Why? The answer is simple. The reason was predicted by myself and other hon. and right lion. Members at the time when the 1924 Bill was before the House. It has failed because the cost of houses has gone up, and if you look at the price you will see that in 1923, when the last Conservative Administration went out of office, the average cost of a non-parlour house way 1396. By July of 1924, when the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was approaching completion, the cost had gone up to £428, and by October of the same year it had reached 2451; and it has remained somewhere about that figure ever since. I imagine that some hon. Members on the other side of the House will say that this would not have happened if we had passed their Anti-Profiteering Bill. I think, for reasons which I gave at the time and need not repeat now, that if that Bill had become an Act it would have been as great a failure as the 1405 Housing Act of 1924. It could not have achieved the purpose for which it was introduced.
But if hon. Members opposite contend that the reason why the cost of houses has gone up in this way is that the cost of materials has not been regulated by a Bill similar to that which they introduced, they must show that the rise in the cost of materials is sufficient to cover the rise in the cost of houses. And that is not so. The figures I have just given show that between January, 1924, and October of the same year there was a rise in the average cost of a non-parlour house of £65, and in the whole of that year, up to the end of December, the rise in the cost of materials could not have accounted for more than £15 out of that £65. If you take the increased cost of labour as well as materials it would only account for another £12 10s. on the house. Of course, the cost of labour was not dealt with in the so-called Anti-Profiteering Bill, it only dealt with the cost of materials, and it is perfectly clear that you cannot. account for the rise in the cost of houses by the rise in the cost of materials. What did cause it? I am forced to the conclusion that there is a co-relation between the rise and fall in the price of houses and the rise and fall of the Government subsidy.
Let the House listen to this. In July, 1921, when the decision to curtail the Addison scheme was taken, the average price of a non-parlour house built by a local authority was £065. By December of 1922, when no new scheme of assistance had been propounded, the price of a non-parlour house had fallen to £346. In 1923 the Housing Bill which gave a new subsidy was introduced, and in May the price of a non-parlour house had gone up again to £368. In January, 1924, it was, £386, and, as I have mentioned, after the introduction of the Housing Bill of 1924 it went up to £451. I do not see how anybody can resist the conclusion that there is a relation between these two sets of figures, and if the introduction of this Government subvention has had the effect of raising the price of buildings I invite the House to accept the logical coroflary of that—namely, that the most promising way of bringing about a reduction in the cost of buildings is to reduce the subsidy. That is my reason for asking the House to pass this Resolution this afternoon. 1406 As for the amount of the actual reduction itself, I have recognised that you cannot without serious dislocation suddenly cut off a subsidy such as is now being paid, and I have recognised that in this matter one must go cautiously.
I do not think anybody will say that T have not been very cautious in the first step I am proposing to take. It amounts to a £2 reduction in the £6 subsidy for 20 years under the 1923 scheme, and to £1 10s. per annum reduction in the £9 given for 40 years under the 1924 scheme. These reductions are strictly comparable, and I have fixed them deliberately so as to make the same reduction in both subsidies. If you take the present value of the reduction in each case it comes out to the same figure —namely, about £25 per house. I am thoroughly convinced that if we are to maintain the continuity of our building programme, if, above all, local authorities are to be able to provide houses for the poorer paid sections of the community, it. is absolutely essential that we should get some reduction in the cost, and I am equally convinced that so long as it is understood that the subsidy will continue to be paid on the present terms and in the present amounts until the demand for houses is satisfied or the price falls we shall get no fall in the cost of houses. There is nobody in this House who has a stronger desire than I have to see this problem solved, and although there may be some risk in interfering with this subsidy to-day I am convinced that the risk of leaving it where it is is much greater. From the reports which come to me from all parts of the country the growing need to-day is for houses which will be let at lower rents than those which must be asked for houses which local authorities are building to-day.
§ Mr. HARRIS
May I interrupt for one moment? Will the right hon. Gentleman define the word "completed" before he sits down?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not quite certain that I understand the particular point of the hon. Member, but it can be answered by the Parliamentary Secretary later on. So far from interfering with the continuity of the progress of building, the course which I ask the House to adopt is the only one which gives us a fair chance for the future. I believe it 1407 will put us back again on the path which leads to freedom from the artificial and unnatural conditions in which we have been living so long, and it is in the interests of the country as a whole, and in particular in the interests of those who are crying out for accommodation within the means they can afford, that I ask the House to approve this Resolution.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
While listening to the right hon. Gentleman, I could not help feeling that I have never heard him speak on a case in which he had so little heart. We have had none of the sparkling enthusiasm which characterises the right hon. Gentleman when he has something to put to the House in which he seriously believes. Nor have I ever heard—I say it with all due respect—a weaker case made out for a very drastic policy. I will deal in the course of my speech with the various points made by the right hon. Gentleman, but I would like to follow his example at the outset and attempt to survey briefly the steps that have led us to our present position. I hope to be able to prove to the House that the step we are invited to take to-day is bound to lead to needless suffering and industrial chaos. In order to do so, it is necessary that I should remind the House of the conditions which existed in. 1924, when the subsidy that is now being attacked was unanimously approved. It was admitted without question in those days that there was a serious shortage of houses, a serious shortage of builders, and a serious shortage of building materials. There was no reliable data on which we could fix with anything like absolute accuracy an estimate of the number of houses which were wanted, but a large number of local authorities a short time previously had made estimates of their wants, and most of them had long lists of people who were waiting for houses.
On the basis of these statements and these lists it was usually assumed that the shortage was not less than 1,000,000 houses. In addition to having to meet that shortage, 100,000 houses are required annually to meet the natural depreciation of property and the growth and expansion of our population. In addition to all this we had, and we still have, a deplorably low standard of houses which 1408 it was our duty as a nation to improve at the earliest opportunity. I noted that the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, told us that local authorities wanted houses of a smaller type, and presumably of a poorer type, than those which are provided for n the 1924 Act. When we remember that to-day we are building for the people of 60 years hence and are laying down the standard and conditions under which they will live, it is difficult to understand the mind of a gentleman who, with some little knowledge of modern tendencies, thinks that the people of this country, half a century from now, will want a lower standard of houses than those we are building under the Acts to which he has referred.
The shortage to which I have referred naturally led to overcrowding, even in the good houses of the country. Overcrowding in turn produced disease, filled our hospitals, raised our rates, raised our taxes, and, in addition to all that, impaired the industrial efficiency of our workmen. Every national interest demanded a healthy working class, and all the available evidence went to prove, and still goes to prove, that large numbers of those workers were not healthy and could not reasonably hope to be healthy in the conditions in which they were compelled to live. The people who were waiting for houses might be quite well and reasonably divided into two main sections: those who could afford to purchase the houses in which they wished to dwell, and those who could not afford to purchase their dwelling houses. I think that is something upon which we are agreed. This might also he generally accepted, that as to-day the overwhelming majority of the workers of this country cannot afford to purchase the houses in which they wish to reside, they must depend for housing accommodation upon houses that are rented. This overwhelming majority are, of course, in the very nature of things, the poorer section of the working class.
I submit to the House that the people who are in the greater need ought to have first claim on the consideration of the country. But that was never the view held by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. The 1923 Act aimed mainly at providing 1409 houses for the owner-occupier. There were no restrictions attached to a subsidy in the 1923 Act. A sum of, approximately, £75, representing the capitalised value of £6 for 20 years, was given to the building speculator to induce him to produce rapidly houses that would be purchased. This was a very large bribe. The right hon. Gentleman has told the House to-day that money under these Acts has been unnecessarily spent. No money was more unnecessarily spent than the amount which was given to the speculative builder in order to encourage him to provide houses for the people who least required support from the national resources. The idea was, of course, that the £75 would reach the purchaser. It is well known and must he known to the right hon. Gentleman that the demand for houses being so great and the people for whom we were building comparatively comfortable, the keen competition for these houses made it unnecessary for the speculative builder to devote a penny of the £75 towards a reduction in the price of the house. In actual practice it has occurred that £75 per house has been in the main a gift to the speculative builders of this country and, if they have not, been utterly demoralised, they ought, in gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman, to erect in every county a monument to his political policy.
Having passed his Act in 1923, the right hon. Gentleman, with admirable foresight, left the Ministry of Health. He handed over the administration of that Department to the right hon. Gentleman who is now Home Secretary and who, I am pleased to note, has honoured us with his presence this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who was then at the Ministry of Health, found the administration of this Act no very simple process. He was no sooner in office than he was in difficulties. He could sanction housing schemes, but he found it impossible to get houses built. The hopeless plight in which he found himself was described by him in a speech delivered standing at this Box, when opposing the Money Resolution of the 1924 Bill. The right hon. Gentleman argued that there was no use in granting public money for the building of houses because the Minister of Health of the day coud not hope to find labour for 1410 the erection of the houses. "I am asking the Minister of Health, "he exclaimed in dramatic tones, "where he is going to get hie men in order to build 100,000 houses." To the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues the problem was insofuble. He quoted town after town in which failure had dogged his footsteps. He mentioned Workington, Hull, Bristol, and particularly Norwich. He gave us details of his experience in these towns during the 12 months in which the Act had been in operation. Let me take the case of Norwich. He said that 447 houses had been authorised, but only 138 had been begun and two had been completed. The House may understand the change that has come over the building industry during the two years that have since elapsed when I tell them that during those two years 1,300 subsidised houses have been completed in Norwich and in addition 2,000 more are under construction. My critics of that time were not capable of even in imagination seeing that happier state of things. The right hon. Gentleman, in his desperation, went round the country doing his best to look like a roaring lion. He damned the bricklayers' unions and demanded that the building industry should agree to a system of dilution. I remember that he returned from one of those pilgrimages and told us that, with the aid of a very simple contrivance, he had been able to lay in one minute as many bricks as an ordinary bricklayer would lay in an hour. The Unionists and Conservative clubs of the time resounded with rhymes about "Jicks and his bricks. Fortunately the right hon an was removed from office Gentleman before he was able to do any serious national damage.
Surely no one wishes to go back to those old bad times. I am submitting that the present Resolution, if it is adopted by this House—as it almost certainly wilt be—is bound to lead us back to exactly where we were in 1924. The conditions of the industry in 1924 were directly due to its instability. We had never had anything like a continuous building programme; one year a boom, the next year a slump; Addison putting on steam, Mond putting on the brake. During the period of slump our skilled workers emigrated and, when we wanted them to build houses, they were 1411 not available for the purpose. Our manufacturers, with their keen business acumen, refused to put capital into the production of building materials more than was required to supply the demands of the period of depression, because they knew, if they put additional capital in to meet the requirements of the boom period, that the boom period would not last, the capital would be unproductive and they would lose on the transaction. The obvious remedy for that state of affairs was to give stability to the industry. The right hon. Gentleman is able to tell us to-day of the progress that has been made since 1924. I think that ordinary courtesy should have compelled him to give credit for that progress to the quarter to which it is due. As I said, the obvious remedy was to bring stability to the industry. The operatives worked in terror. They felt that, if they allowed a wholesale addition to the personnel of the industry, when the slump arrived they would pay for their generosity in the unemployment which had been formerly their experience. Manufacturers desired a steady market. After many difficult conferences, the Labour Government of the day came to an understanding with the operatives and the employers. We practised what the party opposite are so fond of preaching. We brought employers and employed together; we appealed to them to view the housing situation as citizens and not as interested parties.
We told them that, if they would give us a pledge to increase rapidly the number of houses and to accept from us a minimum, we in return would do our very utmost to ensure for them a long-term building programme. We met the manufacturers. They were naturally suspicious of representatives of the Labour party, but we overcame their suspicions and we got them, for the first time in the history of this country, to give us an undertaking that the prices prevailing in the slump period of January, 1924, would not be increased as a result of the boom period in building in the years that lay before us. I think I may safely say that that undertaking by the industrial partners to it has been very loyally observed. Not only has 1412 there been a very large inflow of fresh labour to the building industry Voluntarily, but those operatives and employers themselves, through special committees appointed for the purpose, found for the employers during the first year of the operation of this Act over 8,000 apprentices in addition to what. the employers could find themselves. I have no figures for the past 12 months; I am told they are not available; but I am advised that when these figures are available they will show that the augmentation in 1926 has been even greater than that of 1925.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that he had no reliable figures to give in regard to the building industry. I have been favoured since I arrived in the House with figures from the Ministry of Labour and I give them for what they are worth; I am sure they will be accepted by the party opposite. Taking the number of insured persons in England and Wales, classified as belonging to the building industry, I get the result that during the two years that have elapsed since we made that agreement an addition of 69,000 men has been made to the building operatives of this country. The right hon. Gentleman tried to get our flesh to creep by stating that the subsidy, if continued at its present rate, would cost £900,000 a year. May I ask him to consider what 69,000 unemployed men would cost the country? We have emancipated 69,000 men from unemployment and have placed them in the most useful occupation in which men are engaged. I have made a rough estimate of the saving to the country in that way. I take it that, if those men unemployed had cost us only £1 a week, they would have cost us £3,500,000 a year. If we take it that, through one form of assistance or another, they required for themselves and their dependants 30s.a week, the cost of their maintenance to the country would be £5,000,000. I put it to you whether it is not a much more sound policy to spend £900,000 in meeting the needs of our industrial population, than in spending £3,500,000 or £5,000.000 a year in maintaining an unemployed proportion of the same population. The augmentation in labour that has taken place in the building industry since the passing of our Act is the best reply to those who went to the country ranting about the selfishness and the laziness of the trade unionists.
1413 I think I may state also that this national organisation of the building industry for which we were responsible was the most important part probably of Labour's housing policy. Political fortune in the course of time put the right hon. Gentleman back in the Ministry of Health. Then, with the aid of this organisation, he proceeded to operate his house-purchase policy. I have stated, and I wish to repeat it, that that policy has cost the nation millions of money, that might never have been spent. The chief result of it is to-day that the owner-occupier has got more than his fair share of the houses that have been erected. For him the housing problem has been temporarily solved, and it matters little to him how the industry may be wrecked in the years that lie immediately before us. I want to direct the attention of the House to the position of the great multitude who cannot afford to purchase their own houses. How will they fare under the policy which we are invited to adopt this afternoon?. I think it is universally accepted that private enterprise, at any rate for some time to come, will continue to build houses, but the right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon, or I understood him to say, that we need not expect private enterprise in the future to build houses for letting purposes. There is a great distinction between private enterprise building houses and private enterprise letting houses.
I admit that private enterprise is likely to continue to build houses, even for local authorities, for many years to come; but, I take it, that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me that private enterprise in the future is not likely to invest money in houses for letting purposes as it did in the past. If that be so—and I do not think anyone will dispute it—we have got to find houses somewhere: we have got to find a capitalist somewhere if the workers are to have houses at, all. As I followed the argument of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, when he was dealing with the inability of the country to meet the heavy burdens that are now placed upon it, I thought his argument was leading us to believe that this country could not afford to house its people at all. Fortunately, he stopped short of that. If these people are to be housed, if they 1414 cannot afford to buy their houses, if the private enterprise that provided these houses in the past no longer finds it profitable to invest money in that enterprise, then a new owner, who will let these houses, must be found to take the place of the owner who has disappeared. The only possible owner—because we have tried and found wanting the system of national ownership under the Addison scheme—is the local authority.
I want to remind the House that it is the question of providing houses for these people that makes the real housing problem. If all the people could afford to buy houses, there would be no housing problem. If the workers could afford to pay an economic rent for the houses, private enterprise would still remain in the business. While there was a penny of profit in it, private enterprise remained; when the profit disappeared, private enterprise left the field. There then, is the problem: the great multitude of people who cannot afford to become owner-occupiers, who cannot afford the economic rent of a house, and who have to depend on the local authority to provide there with healthy dwellings. One of my hon. Friends on the Back Benches reminds me that it would take nearly all the pay of the miner at present rates to pay an economic rent of a modern healthy, desirable house. When we get to that point, we find that the difference between that the worker can afford to pay and the economic rent is a substantial sum, and that 110 local authority is prepared to face the heavy burden which the provision of houses without a subsidy would place upon the local rates.
The Act of 1924, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred in no complimentary terms, was an attempt to overcome that difficulty. The subsidy provided for in the Act of 1923 was of little or no assistance to the local authorities in the provision of houses for letting purposes. Under the Act of 1924, as the House has been reminded, we agreed to give them £9 for 40 years instead of £6 for 20 years, and £12 10s. per house in the sparsely populated agricultural parishes. But in addition to that, we made it a condition that the local authority would subscribe £4 10s. for every £9 that we subscribed.
1415 The houses were becoming the property of the local authority, and we thought it was reasonable and wise from past experience to give the local authority a financial interest in the houses. Whatever could not be met by the £4 10s., plus the £9, for 40 years, was to be an addition to the normal rent that was then being paid by the working class in the various localities. The right hon. Gentleman quoted figures to prove that the rents under the 1924 Act differed little if any from the rents of the houses built and let under the Act of 1923. Surely his Department has not been doing its duty. There is an obligation on the Ministry of Health to see that the whole of this subsidy goes to the benefit of the tenant. The tenant is to be called upon to pay more rent than is being paid to-day by similar people for old houses of a similar type in the same locality, only if it is shown that the additional subsidy is not sufficient to keep the rents down to that level. The additional subsidy here, as has been pointed out, is very substantial, because it is not merely the Government subsidy but the local subsidy as well that has to go to the benefit of the tenant. So the tenant is to gain to the extent of £165 in subsidy, by having his house built under the 1924 Act instead of under the Act of 1923; and if a local authority, which is receiving £165 additional subsidy for a specific statutory purpose, cannot transmit the benefit of that additional subsidy to the people for whom it is intended, then it is the duty of the Ministry to see that the local authority attends to its business.
The right hon. Gentleman did not give us to-day, though he might have given us —he has favoured me with the figures—details of what has been done under the two Acts. I admit that in providing houses for people who can buy, the 1923 Act has been very successful. The object of the 1924 Act was to send public money to the people who were most in need. It was only natural that the local authorities should be very reluctant to erect houses under the Act of 1924. Most of these authorities are governed by Conservative majorities, and they believe in the private ownership of all the things of life. In inviting them to erect houses and thereby enter into competition with the private owners of existing houses, we were openly 1416 inviting them to do something Socialistic. They were asked to do something which was quite contrary, fundamentally, to their political principles. Naturally and for many reasons they did not enter with any enthusiasm into the new duty which industrial developments and economic conditions have forced upon them. They had, and in many cases still have, a sort of vague idea that private enterprise will return to this field one day. They would not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, who believes that it has gone.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Then the right hon. Gentleman is less enlightened than I gave him credit for being, because anyone who understands the condition of things must know that private enterprise will not return to the provision of new houses, and that it would welcome no legislation better than legislation which would enable it to sell to the State the working-class houses which it owns to-day. The local authorities still have a vague idea that private enterprise will return. It was a superstitious belief; it had no more solid foundation than the view that trade must revive, that it must be better next year or the year after or the year after that. It is a superstitious belief that has no more foundation than the beliefs of peasants regarding rain and the blights on their crops. But they still believed that private enterprise would return. So they are trying to keep out of the Socialistic field as long as they can. But, after having made allowance for all that, I must say that they are entitled to a great deal of credit for what they have already done. In the circumstances, they have done well. They have put the nation's needs, in many cases, before political prejudices. The right hon. Gentleman informs me that about 160,000 houses have been authorised under the Act of 1924, presumably all for letting purposes. A very pleasing feature of these figures is that 8,000 of these houses are to be erected, or many of them have been erected, in the sparsely populated agricultural parishes, where nothing had been done to improve housing by the State prior to the passing of the Act of 1924.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted the rents that are being charged for these houses, and he mentioned Bradford 1417 particularly. He said that Bradford was charging the same rent for the 1924 houses as it did for the houses built under the Act of 1923. I can only assume that the Bradford Corporation, with the approval of the Ministry of Health, has adopted a book-keeping policy of combining receipts for all the houses built under all the Acts and averaging the deficit in the rents over the community. Bradford does not want to have two classes of rents. Bradford is suffering to-day from the fact that it built some houses for letting under the Act of 1923, and that the benefits of the Act of 1924 have to go for some time to the liquidation of the deficit that was due to operating the Act of 1923. But I happen to have in my possession, by the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, a note of the rents that are being charged in Bradford. I find that Bradford is letting its non-parlour houses at what I assume to be an inclusive rent of 6s. 4d. a week. It is true that Bradford is probably the best local authority in the country in that respect. In other places the rents are much higher. In Bradford they are higher for larger houses. In other parts of the country they are higher for the same class of house. The right hon. Gentleman also took the trouble, I suppose through political hilarity, to quote the local authority of Poplar. I find that Poplar is letting its houses at inclusive rents of 7s. a week. If you have rents 6s. 4d. a week in Bradford and 7s. a week in London you are getting very near— [HON. MEMBERS: "Poplar's rents are not inclusive! "] I understand that Poplar's rents are not inclusive and that rates have to be added.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I accept the correction, but even then I submit that the rents being charged for these houses are not very much higher, if at all, than the rents charged for similar houses of a corresponding type. The point I want to make is this: that 160,000 houses which have been authorised to be erected by local authorities for letting purposes touch only the very fringe of the housing problem. The needs of the country are still alarmingly great. The right hon. Gentleman is not able to give me any recent reliable figures as to what the country's needs are at the moment, but 1418 I happen to possess figures that were submitted to him a few months ago by the secretary of the Town Planning Association, in speaking for a deputation that approached him on the question of the housing subsidy. As far as I know these figures have never been questioned by the right hon. Gentleman. He was informed by that deputation that London estimates its needs at the moment at 72,000 houses, that Manchester still requires 46,000 houses, and that Liverpool has a waiting list of 20,000 applicants, every one of whom has at least two children. I have not the figures for Birmingham, but I understand that Birmingham's position is equally bad. Leeds has 33,000 back-to-back houses, which can be dealt with only by demofition, and demofition is not possible until there are houses into which to put the displaced population. It is easy to quote figures of these conditions, but it is impossible to convey to the mind of the House an understanding of the human misery which these figures indicate.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that a reduction of the subsidy would not interfere with the building of houses. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman really believes that statement? There is not a local authority in the country that agrees with him. Every conference held this year at which the local authorities were represented, has unanimously declared that the authorities have great difficulty in carrying on even with the present standard of subsidy, and that it will be impossible to carry on if the subsidy is reduced. Many of these areas are what we have come to know as distressed or necessitous areas. The right hon. Gentleman said that builders will bring down their prices when the subsidy is reduced. If that is so, why is the subsidy not being abolished? There would have been some logic in that The right hon. Gentleman says, "You cannot proceed in that mad fashion to alter your policy. "But would there be anything mad in bringing down building prices in this country by the amount that we are paying out of the Treasury in subsidy to the builders of the country? Surely the logical policy was to bring down the subsidy? Probably building prices will come down, and I will tell the House why. They will come down, as the right hon. Gentleman properly 1419 pointed out, as they came down when the subsidy was formally withdrawn. Prices will come down because building will stop. But what is the good of lower prices if you are not getting any houses? Immediately you begin again to erect houses, unless you have taken steps, as we did through a Voluntary agreement, to prevent prices going up as a result of a building boom, the whole tendency again will he for prices to rise. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it will be no benefit to this country to know that a house which now costs £500 could be erected for £400, if the country is not to have that house erected. Every local authority has told the right hon. Gentleman that any interference with the subsidy must necessarily result in the stoppage of municipal building. They have all told him so: they have put it to him with all the emphasis and enthusiasm in their power and they are not members of our party. They are in most eases, members of the party which the right hon. Gentleman represents in this House, and they have told us that municipal building will stop, which means that these houseless people will remain houseless, and that the misery to which I have referred will continue to accumulate.
I notice that some people are already gloating over the prospect of the reduction in wages in this sheltered industry which will accrue from the adoption of this policy. I submit that even a reduction in wages—looked at from the point of view of the party opposite—would be 'secured at too big a price by the human tragedy that is likely to follow it. If municipal building stops, we shall have a repetition of what has always happened previously. Our skilled workers will leave the country and go where their services are more highly appreciated. Manufacturers will stop the development o their works and we shall again come to a condition of things in which when we want to resume building we will not have the men to build nor the materials with which to build. In other words, the proposal of to-day is one that will wreck the building industry and plunge us right back into the chaotic conditions from which we escaped in the harmonious year of 1924. It is all nonsense to talk about this country not being able to afford this 1420 subsidy. The rich people of this country can well afford to maintain the present subsidy. Healthy houses for the workers are a real national necessity and, even for the rich, whether ratepayers or taxpayers, healthy houses for the workers are a sound national investment.
§ Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
The Minister of Health is a member of the Government for whom I have the very greatest admiration, and I consider that the party of which he is so distinguished a member and the country generally are under a deep debt of gratitude to him for manner in which he has conducted the affairs of his office. If I were prepared to resign my political judgment to any Minister, I do not know of one more suitable than himself. At the same time; I had the greatest difficulty in following the right hon. Gentleman in his speech this afternoon. I may be very dense, but I cannot understand the process of his reasoning. I cannot understand how it is that with the reduction of the subsidy, the people of this country can expect to get houses at a cheaper rate. I am connected with a public utility society and, thanks to the public spirit of a number of people, we have been able to borrow money at a cheap rate. Thanks to the subsidy from the local authority and the subsidy from the State, we have been able to build houses at a low cost for working men. I find great difficulty in understanding how, if the State subsidy is to be diminished, we shall get our houses at a cheaper rate. I fear it is much more probable that we must either cease our operations altogether or charge a, higher rate to the working men. The Minister spoke of the great weight of social degradation and misery with which we are faced. I agree it is a terrible burden, and I hesitate very much in assenting to the proposition that the present is a time when the State should in the slightest degree slacken its efforts in its fight against that social degradation and misery.
I am quite willing to admit the progress that has been made since the War. I understand that 064,000 houses have been built under the various Housing Acts in England alone. It. is, I think, taken for granted that to meet the normal increase of population we need 70,000 houses a 1421 year and for replacement of houses which are worn out we need 30,000 houses a year, or a total of 100,000 houses a year. We may congratulate ourselves that in the last seven years we have overtaken the normal increase and the necessity for replacement, but what we have not done has been to eat in any large degree into the arrears which accumulated during the War. I believe it is common agreement that during the War we accumulated arrears to the amount of 851,000. That is the burden we have to bear. This huge incubus is the cause of the social misery, destitution and degradation which exists at the present moment. I hesitate to ask the State to withdraw its aid in any degree, when one thinks that of the 711,000 houses built in Great Britain since the War only 185,000 were built for sale, that is built by private enterprise.
I trust I have not overstated the case, but I am bound to say I agree with the ex-Minister of Health when he says we have hardly yet touched the fringe of the problem of providing houses for the wage-earning- classes. I speak from what I have been able to gather and from what I can see under my own eyes. I lived for many years in a very old manufacturing town in the North of England it is only a small town of 14,000 inhabitants and it lies at the foot of the fells. I believe it was one of the earliest manufacturing towns in England, and its commercial activities date back to the Middle Ages, when the farmers brought down their woof to the town to have it made into cloth, which was exported to every part of the world. Being an old town it has a heritage of insanitary houses. This public utility society, to which I refer, has been able to build a considerable number of houses at a cheap rate for the ordinary worker. The municipality has also done its duty, but, in spite of all, the overcrowding is worse than it was when we started. In fact, there are 365 houses in that small borough, origiNally built for one family, which are now housing two and, in some instances, three families; and there are 205 houses utterly unfit for human habitation, which ought to be pulled down to-morrow. Though we hoped as a result of our activities that these houses would be evacuated and that we would be able to pull them down, it has not been possible to get a single family out of 1422 those houses, simply because they have nowhere to go.
In the city one of the Divisions of which I have the honour to represent, the municipal authority has done its very best, but it has still 4,000 applicants on its waiting list, and if the fact that there were houses to let could be advertised that 4,000, I am informed, would be largely increased. In spite of its activities it still has 3,000 houses unfit for human habitation. Oxford is another instance. In spite of the activities of the local authorities, the conditions in Oxford to-day are even worse than they were at the termination of the War. The ex-Minister of Health has already quoted the shortage in London, Manchester and Liverpool. It is estimated that when Leicester has finished its programme of 4,000 houses it will still have on its waiting list no fewer than 5,000 applicants. Let me give another instance. The Chairman of the Middlesbrough Housing Committee, when he waited on the Minister, as a member of the deputation to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, said that in Middlesbrough they had on the register 1,679 tuberculous patients, and 486 of these patients were sleeping in beds along with people who were not tuberculous. There were 220 houses, each occupied by two families and in each -case one family had tuberculous patients. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said he had no figures for Birmingham. I understand Sir John Robertson reported that he had made an investigation of a group of 527 houses and no fewer than 130, or 25 per cent., were uninhabitable.
I will not weary the House with further examples of the deplorable shortage of houses which exists. With all the good will in the world, I cannot help regretting the decision of the Government. I know the building of these houses has entailed a very heavy burden upon the State, but society has to suffer in the same way as the individual. It has to pay for its sins of omission and commission and of folly. If it comes to a question of the burden on the taxpayers, though times are hard for a great number of people, yet since this House, in its wisdom, reduced the Super-tax, there is ample evidence that there is a vast amount of luxury expenditure in the country. There is plenty of money to 1423 be spared for Rofls-Royce cars, for hunting, shooting, racing, goff, for knickknacks and objects of art, and, while I do not like to talk about the doctrine of ransom, which was so dear to the father of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, yet I feel it is time the country put its hands into the pockets of those people who have plenty of money, in order to aid in fighting this disease of social degradation.
I feel very strongly that, while there is such a thing in this country as respect for Christian charity and for the, welfare of the people, there should be no relaxation in our efforts to fight a social injustice which is inimical to the commonweal and contrary to the principles of social justice. I know that a great many Members of this House are very much alarmed at the spread and oncoming of Socialism and Communism. I am not myself nervous in that respect. The only time I am somewhat alarmed is when we have a Government in power that, instead of following an enlightened policy, pursues a reactionary policy. There is no fear of Socialism and Communism if the Government will follow the traditional policy and principles of the Conservative party. There is such a thing as too much talk about Socialism to-day. I remember that Mr. Rudyard Kipling during the Boer War warned us that we should not kill Kruger with our mouths. We cannot kill Communism by talking about it, or against it. We have got to get down to the factors which create Communism, and 1, for one, shall never cease to protest against a policy which, I feel, is not only not fighting Communism, but is actually helping Communism.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
I wish to join in the protest of the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) against the reduction of the subsidy. Local authorities throughout the country have heard with dismay the intention of the Government to cut down the subsidy, and they all feel that the only result will be a reduction in the houses built. Reference has been made to the conferences held by over 400 local authorities throughout the length and breadth of the land, which have all unanimously passed a Resolution in favour of continuing 1424 the grants for a number of years, otherwise they will be unable to proceed with their houses. Why this halt? What is the condition which brings about a justification for it? The Minister did not say to-day in the House, as he has said outside, that he thought we had turned the corner with regard to house production. The figures he gave to-day show that 768,000 houses have been built since the Armistice, and I submit that that figure, large and creditable as it is does not remove the incubus of the shortage of houses throughout the country. At the time of the Armistice, it was generally agreed that there was a net shortage of at least 500,000 houses, and in the eight years that have passed since then, the ordinary demand for houses and the wastage of existing houses have amounted, according to the Minister, to 100,000 a year, so that since the Armistice we should have had built 800,000 houses. Add those to the 500,000 houses known to be short at the time of the Armistice, and you get 1,300,000 houses which are required to meet the needs of the country, and against that we have built fewer than 800,000 houses. That shows a shortage to-day of at least 500,000, or practically the same as when the housing programme started. Therefore, I submit that there is no justification for cutting down the subsidy.
Reference has been made to the shortage in different towns. In my own town of Middlesbrough we have a waiting list of 1,000 men demanding houses, many of them ex-service men, who have never had a house of their own since they returned from the War, and surely this is not the time to put the brake on. What will be the effect? Building costs are not going to be any lower. The Minister himself told us that, and, therefore, if houses are still to be built, one of three things must happen. Either you must lower the standard of the houses, or you must get greater rate aid, or you must raise the rents. It is impossible to raise rents, for rents are already higher than the workers can afford to pay, and no greater assistance can come from the rates, as the towns are already overburdened. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health apparently assents to both of those propositions. Therefore, you come 1425 back to the third contingency, namely, that you have to lower the standard of your houses if you are going to build houses without a subsidy, and I think it is a deplorable state of things that this Government should be adopting a policy which will lower the standard of house building. We had hoped that one effect of the War, perhaps the only good effect, would be to raise the standard of building for working-class houses. We thought we had seen enough of, and said good-bye to, the old narrow, mean, sordid streets, composed of a number of brick boxes with slate lids, which gave no chance of a decent livelihood to the children who were born there. Surely, the real standard should be from 12 to 15 houses to the acre, with three bedrooms and a bath-room to each house, and I submit that it is a disgrace and a scandal for the Government to seek to lower the standard by dropping the subsidy.
The 1924 Act envisaged a continuous building programme, and took a long view. The Government of that day estimated that the housing needs over a period of 15 years from August, 1924, amounted to 2,500,000 houses, and that, I think, was a moderate estimate, when you take into account the arrears that required to be overtaken, the annual increase of population, and the fact that there were nearly 1,000,000 houses in an insanitary condition which ought to be condemned., Then why this change of policy? We are told that it is necessary to economise, but there is a false as well as a real economy, and I think it is the height of false economy to economise at the expense of the health and well-being of the people. The death-rate is too high in our industrial towns, and the infantile mortality in a disgrace to civilisation. Sir George Newman has recently issued a very illuminating report on the School medical service, from which we gather that 23 per cent. of the children attending our schools are in a state physically unable to take advantage of the learning, and that he attributes to the housing conditions in which they have been brought up. The £17,500.000 a year of national health expenditure is largely due to causes which would be preventable if there was only decent housing.
1426 The noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham has made reference to the appalling condition of the tuberculosis cases in the town which I have the honour to represent, and from a recent investigation it was shown that out of 1,159 houses occupied by tuberculous cases, no fewer than 251 have two families or more crowded into a house, and that is not a large house, but one of three or four rooms. Worse still, out of 1,679 patients 486 have to share a bed with non tuberculous persons. The appalling overcrowding tends to spread disease, and all that is going to be made worse by the policy of the Government. Surely it is penny wise and pound foolish to starve the housing services, who there is no more potent factor of discontent and unrest than the absence of home life due to two or three families being crowded into one house. We may have turned the corner so far as building houses for sale is concerned, but for houses to let we have not touched the fringe of the question. Private enterprise is not building houses to let, and, therefore, the people have to look to the municipalities to provide them with houses to let, and it is an appalling thing to think that with the shortage to-day the subsidy should be cut off, thus preventing local authorities from providing houses to let.
The Education Act, 1870, laid it down that it was the duty of the State to provide a School place for every child. I think we want a Housing Act, 1926, to lay it down that it is the duty of the State to provide a home place for every child. It is most foolish to cut down State assistance at a time like the present, when it is most needed, and any saving brought about at the cost of increased ill-health, loss of work, and discontent will be a false saving. Homes for heroes have Not materialised and are not likely to materialise if the subsidy is cut down, and I do appeal to, the Parliamentary Secretary to have regard to the weight of evidence from the municipalities of the country, which, knowing the circumstances, are satisfied that any reduction in the subsidy will mean a curtailment of the building programme. There is still a shortage of over half-a-million houses to be made good, and cutting down the 1427 subsidy will prevent those houses being supplied.
§ Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON
I should like, in the first instance, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health on having made an extraordinarily courageous speech, because it is always difficult for a Minister to take a step such as he is taking in the Motion before the House to-night. To be able to come down here, as he has done, and to say frankly that a Government policy has failed, and that he intends to take steps to see that that failure shall not continue, is a thing which is not very often clone by any Minister of the Crown in this House, so far as my experience goes. I am also very glad to see here the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. It is quite like old times to be opposite to him in a housing debate, and for the second time to find myself very largely in agreement with the policy which he is supporting. I carry my mind back to the old days when he was supporting Dr. Addison as his Parliamentary private secretary, and whipping up the Labour party on Standing Committee so as to get a majority for the Measures of that statesman; and I remember the subsequent period when he filled the same service for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), with an exactly opposite policy. And now I find him again in the same position relative to the Minister of Health in the present Government; and I think, when the right hon. Gentleman thinks fit to relinquish his shoes, his; present Parliamentary Secretary will be found in them fully experienced in the carrying out of every form of housing policy that every successive Minister of Health has tried, at any rate since the War.
The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) and previous speakers referred to the fact that local authorities are very much upset by the prospect of the withdrawal of this subsidy, and, as a member of a local authority myself, I can quite understand that position. As a member of a local authority, it is my duty, when I am in that district and acting as a local councillor, to rob the taxpayers to the best of my ability for the benefit of 1428 my ratepayers, just as my duty, when I am here in this House, is to rob the ratepayers to the best of my ability for the benefit of the taxpayers. If my council were foolish enough to have adopted a large housing scheme, when I was there in the bosom of my own council, I should certainly protest pretty vigorously against. the policy of the Government, but I hope I should also have enough sense of duty to come down here and support that policy, as I propose to do to-night.. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman because the Government is taking what I regard as the first step towards sanity in housing policy. Since the days when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) created a housing crisis by means of his scheme of land taxation, we have gone from bad to worse, and we have failed to learn by experience to anything like the extent that we might have done. I would only remind the House that when this subsidy was brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman in 1923, and when I ventured to oppose the policy on exactly the same grounds that he has put forward to-day, I could not get even one Member of this House to tell with me against the Bill.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the whole question of subsidies, because that is a point upon which we have had some very remarkable experiments in the last few years. The best examples of the theory which I propose to put before the right hon. Gentleman to-night are the housing subsidy and the coal subsidy. obviously enough at first sight, though it becomes perfectly clear later, the effect of the housing subsidy has been to increase the price of houses, whereas the effect of the coal subsidy was- to decrease the average price at which coal could be sold. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the reason for that discrepancy lies here—that it is the nature of a subsidy, when it is given on a short market, to increase the price of the goods concerned, whereas if it is given on a glutted market the tendency is to decrease the selling price. We know perfectly well that in the case of the coal subsidy the tendency of the subsidy was to keep down the selling price of coal, and we know also that the market in question was for the time being 1429 a glutted market. A little consideration will show why it is that on such a market there would be a decrease of price. The explanation is that the purchaser in such a market has an additional weapon against the seller; if he knows the seller is going to be prevented from making a loss by means of a State subsidy, he knows he himself is in a much stronger position and can always force the seller down in the matter of price. In the cas3 of the building trade it was a short market, short of materials and short of labour, and, as I have pointed out again and again in this House since 1923, the only effect of subsidising a market of that kind is to enable everybody to charge more than they otherwise would charge.
A practical example has been before my eyes in ray own district. No sooner had the Addison policy been finally smashed than local builders began to build houses themselves. For the most part those houses were sold at about £500-M0 apiece—semi-detached houses—and a very considerable number of houses were built up to the middle of 1923, when the subsidy was established. A practical example is worth more than any amount of theory, and the practical effect in my own district has been that the average price of those houses has gone up by exactly the amount of the 1923 subsidy.
The right hon. Gentleman has given us some remarkable figures, but I would like to give him some still more remark-rude figures. It will be remembered that it was in the late summer of 1923 when the 1923 Act was passed, and no houses were built—or, at least, came anywhere near completion—until the Spring of the following year. In September 1923, before any real steps had been taken under the 1023 Act, the A-3 type of parlour house was being built at an average cost of £350. In February 1924, when the effect of the subsidy first began to be felt, and when a certain number of those houses were under construction, the average price had gone up by £39 to £389. In June, 1924, the price had gone to £421, a rise of £71—almost exactly the capital value of the subsidy under the 1923 Act.
In June, 1924, the situation began to develop. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) was Minister for Health and introduced 1430 his additional subsidy. According to the theory, the rise in the cost of houses ought to have about doubled as the result of the subsidy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, but it did no such thing. Under the 1923 Act the theoretical effect was working out in practice, that is to say, the capital value of the subsidy, almost to a pound, was added to the average price of the houses concerned; but in the case of the 1924 subsidy the average price of houses did not increase nearly in the same ratio. What was the reason? That the building trade knew perfectly well that the 1924 scheme was such an absolutely ludicrous scheme that it could never go through on a very large scale, that the subsidy was so gigantic that no Government, even a Conservative Government, would have put up with it for very long. They therefore discounted the effect of the 1924 subsidy, and added only some £25 or £30 to the extra price of the house, making the total average rise 100 per house by 1925; of which sum the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister for Health can credit himself with being responsible for f:75 and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston can rightly credit himself with being responsible for £25. It always seems to me, when the theory underlying an argument seems perfectly logical and when the theory has been tested in practice, and the results predicted by the doctrinaire are found to result from that practical experiment that it is quite a sensible proceeding to take the view that probably the original theory was right, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, now that he has worked the thing out in theory and tried it in practice, on having the courage to accept the results and to bring forward the Motion which he is submitting to us to-night.
There is one great difficulty he has not touched upon, and that is that. I do not think the building trade is going to take this lying down. If the men employed in the building trade are inclined to let it go, I am very much disposed to think the employers will instigate them to action, pointing out to them how the coal industry, when deprived of public money, remained on strike for seven months, and asking them whether the building trade unions will be so poor-spirited as to allow this money to be taken away from them, with the consequence that they will have 1431 to lay more bricks for the money they receive or accept a lower rate of wages. If that is put to them by their employers, as undoubtedly it will be, I think we shall have very serious trouble in the building trade. That is the reason why, in my opinion, the right hon. Gentleman may be making a mistake in not taking off the whole of the subsidy at once. As in all probability we shall have very serious trouble in the building trade as the result of this policy, it seems to me that instead of having a strike on every reduction of the subsidy we might get b the strike over on one big reduction, and place the building industry on an economic basis once more.
I was pleased to notice that the right hon. Gentleman did not bring forward an argument which his predecessor brought forward. I am pleased that he did not argue that it was necessary to put on the subsidy at the time he put it on. That argument is invalid, because when he introduced that subsidy scheme of his we were just on the verge of solving the housing problem. I remember very well preparing plans in January, 1923, when the real effect of the Mond policy was being felt. I prepared plans for 18 working-class houses. I found that if I let these houses for an all-in rent of 15s. per week I was able to build them at such a cost that all the capital charges, including a reasonable sinking fund, would be paid out of the net rents which remained after deductions for rates and repairs.
I also found that in the spring of 1923 it was possible to buy building material from members of building rings at below ring prices. In other words, the building trade rings were breaking up with the utmost speed, and if the policy of leaving things to find their own economic level had been pursued consistently we should not have been suffering now from rings in building-trade materials. After the subsidy had been introduced, I found that the cost of building ran out at something like £70 more per house than it would have done if I had got the houses built in 1923. There, again, I think we have an example of the pernicious effects of these subsidies. It is for all these reasons that who, unlike the last speaker and the speaker before and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, have had some experience in building working-class houses—at my own expense, 1432 and not at other people's—most heartily congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his courageous and wise statement, and hope it will not be long before he comes before this House with a Measure reducing still further a subsidy which, from first to last, has proved an utter failure.
§ Mr. SHORT
The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) is something in the nature of a political conundrum. He always appears as the only enlightened capitalist. Out of 1,000, 999 are quite different from himself, inasmuch as they are most retrograde. I remember when he came into the House during the Coalition Government that he was the greatest advocate of peace, and now he has finished up as the accredited representative of the most brutal body of capitalists with which we have been confronted during modern times. So far as I am aware he has not contributed anything to the solution of our difficulty. He has not assisted us to secure any settlement of this great outstanding problem which is associated with so much degradation and suffering on the part of great masses of the people.
§ Mr. SHORT
I think we are entitled to complain seriously about the shifty policy, the vacillating policy, adopted by various Governments in connection with this housing problem since the cessation of hostilities upon the battlefield. This shifty policy has disturbed local authorities, as, indeed, it. has affected all social reformers who are anxious for progress to be made. I think we must enter a most emphatic protest against the policy which is now being initiated, which, in my opinion, will lead to a cessation of such building as is now going on, and will inevitably culminate in increased rents and an additional shortage so far as housing is concerned. There is still a great deal of overcrowding, particularly in the, Black Country and throughout my awn constituency, where we have extensive insanitary conditions and a long waiting list of people anxious to acquire houses at the earliest possible moment. Private enterprise is not willing and is incapable of meeting the needs of the community in regard to 1433 houses, and therefore we look to the State to realise its responsibilities in this matter, and we expect something in the nature of continuity of policy so far as the subsidy upon the existing basis is concerned with a view to assisting municipalities in coping with this grave problem.
It was estimated that in Wednesbury alone in 1919 there was a shortage of 720 houses, and that figure is a very mean and conservative estimate. Allowing for the increase in the population and the demofition of houses for industrial purposes, or because they were unfit for habitation, the shortage is still very acute to-clay, and I doubt whether we have erected 600 houses in Wednesbury since 1919, when the shortage was estimated to be 720. The census returns for 1921 indicate a very deplorable condition of things throughout Staffordshire, and particularly in my own constituency. I find that at that time in my constituency there were 320 houses accommodating 648 families, that is two separate families per house. There were also 13 houses accommodating 41 families, or over three families per house. We have also a large number of one, two and three-roomed houses, and the great mass of the population there desire' that there should be a vast improvement in their social conditions and in the provision of houses for the working classes. I would like to call the attention of hon. Members to the attitude of the local authorities in my area. In Wednesbury and in Darlaston we have Tory majorities, and in both cases they have appealed to me to do what I can to prevent their own Tory Minister of Health from pursuing this policy of initiating reductions so far as this subsidy is concerned. I am very anxious indeed to respond to the call of the Tory councils of Wednesbury and Darlaston, and I wonder why the Tory party should oppose me, having regard to the reactionary and retrograde policy adopted by the Minister of Health. For instance, I find the Town Clerk of Wednesbury writes:I think you will agree that so far as Wednesbury is concerned, it is highly desirable that the full subsidy should be continued at least until October, 1928.I would go much further and continue it indefinitely until such time as we have removed this disgrace from our so-called civilisation. In connection with Dar- 1434 laston and other parts of my constituency, the town clerk writes:My Council are of opinion that the subsidy should not be reduced until 1928, as there is no likelihood of houses being built by private enterprise for the working classes, and we shall be glad if you can do all you can to see that the present subsidy is continued until 1928.That does not come from members of the Labour party or labour councils, but in both these cases it comes from Tory majorities. They are of opinion that private enterprise is incapable of supplying and meeting the demands of the people, and in the interests of those they represent, they appeal to me to do what I can to bring pressure to bear upon the Minister of Health in this matter. On the other hand, we have a Labour majority in Tipton, and from that town I have received a similar letter making similar proposals in this direction. Therefore, I suggest that what we desire in this matter of the provision of houses is continuity of policy. We want a fixed policy and some consistent effort, and local authorities want to be assured that for some considerable time ahead they will be able to plan their schemes and arrange their policies knowing that, in process of time, they will be able to see a final solution of their local housing difficulties. In the proposals under the Act of 1924, we had such a policy of foresight and such consideration extended to this problem. I wish to record my emphatic protest against this variation in the subsidy, and I trust the Minister of Health will reconsider the matter with a view to securing that continuity which I have suggested.
§ Sir PHILIP PILDITCH
I should have been very pleased to follow the usual custom of commenting on the hon. Member who preceded me if he had addressed himself to the reasons given by the Minister of Health for putting forward the proposal which he has made to-day. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Member will excuse me if I do not follow him in his interesting speech with regard to the necessity for further accommodation, with much of which I am in agreement. I think that any proposal for a reduction in the facilities for providing houses for the poorer classes should he approached at this moment with caution, in view of the fact that, despite the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman 1435 the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) as to the increased number of men working in the industry, and in spite of the facts as to the increase in the number of houses which have been built during the past few years: there are still many districts in which there is a large amount of overcrowding.
I know it is so in my own constituency, and, therefore, I do approach this question with a feeling that a case must be made out for the reduction of any facilities for increasing and speeding up the building of houses for the poorer classes of the community. I cannot help thinking that one has to inquire as to the cause of all this when we hear, at the same time, that the number of houses has been increased. I think it is due, first of all, to the fact that even now there are a large number of the poorer classes who cannot afford to pay the rents charged under the 1923 Act or the 1924 Act. I cannot help thinking, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, when he quoted his figures for Poplar, did not quite give the whole of the facts. The right hon. Gentleman stated that at first 7s. per week, which was subsequently increased to 0s. per week, was the rent charged in Poplar. I presume he was referring to the 1924 scheme for houses of this kind, but I should be rather surprised to find that the 9s. rent to which the right hon. Gentleman referred has not very nearly doubled to the tenant in view of the fact that the rates of Poplar which he has to pay are 24s. in the pound.
The very lowest rent in my own constituency which a builder under private enterprise, with the assistance of the subsidy of 1923, was able to charge for a five-roomed house was 20s. per week, which means that this is a house which the ordinary poor man in my district cannot possibly occupy as a whole, and, therefore, that house must be occupied by two families, a state of things which we all recognise is undesirable. T presume that one of the causes of this state of things is the depressed condition of trade arising from the coal strike, and but for this fact I cannot help thinking that there would have been at the present moment a greater ability on the part of working men generally to pay something like the 1436 rents which still have to be charged. As I said before, I think a case will have to be made out for the reduction of the housing subsidy, and I notice that only one of those who have spoken since the Minister made his statement has made the slightest effort to meet the point made by the Minister of Health that increases in the subsidy had not had a tendency to reduce the cost of houses or to reduce rents. No answer has been made to that argument, and I believe that it is absolutely correct.
There has been no answer made to that argument except a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, who said that when the subsidy was reduced the demand fell off, and that fewer houses were produced. Is that a fact? I say that it is not so. Everything that has been said on both sides goes to show not that fewer houses have been produced, but that the production of houses has been continuously larger. It is quite true that after the 1924 Act was brought into operation, there was a reduction in the number of houses built under private enterprise, and that is very unfortunate, for under the 1923 Act, which gave an opportunity to private enterprise, a large number of houses were built by private builders, like the roan to whom I have referred, with the aid of that subsidy, and many of them were built for letting. The man I referred to was quite prepared to let his houses if he could get a rent that would return a fair rate of interest and pay the rates and so forth. The 1024 Act undoubtedly did reduce the production of such houses although, as we all know, the combined result of the 1924 Act and the 1923 Act has been to produce a larger number of houses. The argument the right hon. Gentleman used would only be convincing if he could show that fewer houses had been erected during the last few years, but a much larger number of houses has been erected annually.
The argument of the Minister of Health is that it does not necessarily follow that, by keeping up the subsidy, you increase the number of houses, but that a reduction of subsidy will be followed by a decreased cost of houses; and, of course, naturally, with a decreased cost of houses, the tendency must be ultimately towards 1437 reduced rents. Although I had some doubts on the matter when I first heard of the proposal, I have come to the conclusion that the argument of the Minister of Health is perfectly sound. I have tested it by what I know about the production of houses in different districts and over the whole country, and, in the absence of anything that will disprove it, I shall not only vote for the proposal, but shall do so in the full hope and belief that it will not in any way interfere with the production of houses for the poorest classes of the community. I think it will be clear to the House that, with all our commitments, which even hon. Members opposite must recognise and bear in mind sometimes, it would be quite wrong for this House to give a larger subsidy if the same number of houses could be produced with a small subsidy. That is, I understand, the Minister's position in the matter, and that is the basis on which I support his proposal. Fully convinced, as I am, that more houses within the compass of the poorest classes of the community are urgently necessary, if I did not believe that the proposal was sound I should not vote for it, but I think it, is, and I think that, in the course of the next 12 months, the position taken up by the Government will be vindicated.
§ Sir ROBERT NEWMAN
I am quite sure, on principle, that all Members of this House have only one object in view, and that that is to get as many houses built in this country as possible, but T am bound to say I have some anxiety with regard to the Minister's proposal to reduce the subsidy, for I receive from municipal bodies, on almost all hands protests against a decrease. I have had the honour of being connected with many local bodies, and I always attach considerable importance to their Resolutions, and T can hardly find any municipality that is not opposed to the present policy of the Minister of Health. It was suggested earlier in the Debate that, naturally, a municipality or county council would wish to place the burden on the taxpayer rather than on the ratepayer, hut, of course, all these bodies represent both taxpayers and ratepayers and, in my opinion, the fact remains that the ratepayer is less able to bear the burden than the taxpayer. I mar he entirely wrong, but I am fully of opinion 1438 that we shall not be able to build decent houses to produce an economic rent for at least two years to come, and I think we may make up our minds that people who build houses at the present time are not likely to make much profit out of it, If that be the case, I should like, whoever replies for the Government, to inform the House whether the loss is to fall on the ratepayer or on the taxpayer. If the houses cannot be built to produce an economic rent, one or the other must bear the greater part of the burden of the loss. The only other alternative, of course, is not to build houses at all.
I know that some people congratulate themselves that plenty of houses are being built in this country, and I dare-say we have been overtaking some of the arrears, but my experience is that we have a great deal more to do. Hardly a week or a month passes without my receiving letters from my constituents and others saying that they want houses and cannot get them. I have known cases in which people have waited for years and still cannot get a house in which to live. It was pointed out by the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), earlier in the Debate, that this scarcity of houses is doing an infinity of harm, and I think we ought not to fill our minds too much with the question whether it means 1d. in the £ on the rates or on the Income Tax, but to think first of finding decent houses for people to live in. That, in my opinion, from an economic point of view as well as from a political point of view, is the wisest policy. I should like to be informed, if possible, where the loss is to fall—whether on the ratepayer or on the taxpayer; or is it suggested that we can build houses to produce an economic rent?
I know that a great number of houses have been built by private builders for the purpose of being sold. I am all in favour of private enterprise, and am all in favour of a policy of trying to build houses that people can buy, so that they may live in their own houses. I believe in occupying ownership. Personally, I always like to live in a house that I own, but we cannot get away from the fact that large numbers of people have not the money to put down for the purpose of buying their own houses. Of course, 1439 I have not the advantage that the Minister of Health has in regard to access to figures, but I know from my own experience that there are, comparatively speaking, very few houses erected by private builders that are bought by people other than those who belong to what I may call the rather better-to-do class. I imagine that the poorer classes of the community are generally housed in houses which are built by municipalities, and which are not sold, but let. Therefore, in considering the statistics of the total number of houses built, we must bear in mind that the very poorest classes, who can only afford to rent houses, do not get the same advantages as those who have a little money to put down for the purpose of buying a house. I know that some hon. Members think that if the subsidy were withdrawn more and cheaper houses would be built, but that seems to me to be rather a homoeopathic cure. What makes me very doubtful on that score is that, as I have said, nearly all the local authorities—who, after all, ought to be able to form some opinion on their own business—are against the proposal to reduce the subsidy, not merely because it may mean 1d. or more on the rates, but because I believe they really have come to the conclusion that it will prevent the building of more houses.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
I view with very great alarm the operation of this proposal on the city in which my constituency is situated. Leeds has already been referred to, and I would like to point out that in Leeds there are 72,000 back-to-back houses. In 1923, Dr. Addison, having visited those houses, said that 32,000 of them were abominations. Those houses had been condemned as unfit for human habitation for many years, but, owing to the poverty of Leeds, owing to the impossibility of getting new houses erected, those houses are still standing and human beings are still living in them. The health of Leeds corresponds exactly with the district in which you live. From the last report of the medical officer of health for Leeds, I find that, in the case of the slums of my own constituency, slums and death-rate and sickness are synonymous. In the better parts of Leeds, where people have good houses, the death-rate and the 1440 sickness rate are very much less than in the other parts.
I contend that this question is a national question, and that our obligation is a national one. When were these abominable houses erected? They were erected at the close of the industrial revolution. At that time, when our social morality was at its very lowest, the people were herded in the northern towns, having been taken away from the south when the spinning jenny—the mule—was first introduced, with steam power and all those other wonderful inventions of the early part of the last century. At that time, with social morality at its very lowest, these houses were pushed up, with very small rooms and very close together, and merely for the sake of self-preservation, the City Fathers in Leeds have had to pull down blocks of these houses and clear them away, in order to let sunlight and air into these congested districts. The reason for that, of course, is that contagious diseases commencing in these districts have a very bad knack of going to the other districts.
The Minister has spoken of a saving of something under £1,000,000. Yesterday we voted something like £10,000,000 to develop some parts of Africa, and it was shown that this money was to be spent in developing districts which would enter into competition with the people who live in my constituency, namely, workers in the coal industry. It does seem to me that we ought first to look at home, and that, rather than talk about spending £10,000,000 away out of England, we might at least see that our own people are looked after first. Who is it that has asked for this proposal? It is, as we have heard, Members of the right hon. Gentleman's own party. It is certainly not the municipal authorities; they are all against it, and I feel that every municipality would contest the view expressed by some hon. Members opposite, that, the lower the subsidy is, the more houses will be built. It seems to me that to give a higher subsidy is the way to get more houses built.
In 1918 a Speech of His Majesty showed that there was a shortage of 500,000 houses then. Since the Armistice only 600,000 have been built. The wastage and the annual needs have not been met at all, and it does seem to me that the 1441 time is not yet ripe, although it was provided for in the Act of 1924, for a slowing down in the building of houses. It seems to me that the Minister is rather playing into the hands and desires of those who have no need to be worried about this question at the moment. The constant agitation for the abolition of the Rent Restriction Act shows that there are those who want to raise rents. It seems to me that, if building is slowed down, we are giving people the opportunity to raise rents. It is only when we have a few surplus houses empty that rents can really reach an economic level.
Then I want to know about the pledges which have been given to the people who did so much for us during the years of the War. No one gave more generously to the welfare and well-being of the community than the slum-dwellers. They were among the first to Volunteer in 1914, and yet these people are most neglected. The great rentier class, on the other hand, have all their obligations kept to them. If we ask them Voluntarily to submit to a reduction of interest on the war debt, a howl goes up about confiscation and our not keeping our bargain. But until there are houses for all those who need houses we are not keeping our bargain with this class of people, and our bargain with them aught to be as sacred as to those who lent their money when the cost of living was 200 per cent. over the cost in 1914. The rentier class have not only benefited lay the fall in prices. They have also benefited by the sudden return to the gold standard, and they are also going to benefit by the way this is going to act. The Minister spoke about artificial conditions. Of course they are, and will be artificial until we have things back in their true perspective. But this is not a thing that ought to be interfered with yet. Until we have reduced our debt, until we have taken the burden of over £300.000,000 off our backs by means known to financiers, it is not time to tamper with this matter. It seems to me that we are being betrayed.
This will undoubtedly give the landlords a far greater opportunity to raise rents than hitherto. All the time wages have been coming down, and, if the miners' executive reported correctly, the Prime Minister has said that not only will the miners have their wages reduced, 1442 but the rest of the workers also. The operation of this Order will mean the raising of rents and, according to what the Prime Minister has said, the lowering of wages still further. I remember during the election of 1918, Mr. Bonar Law said if we did not make every effort to improve the condition of the people we should have a sullen, discontented, and perhaps angry nation, which would be fatal in the last degree to trade, industry and credit. I cannot resist the temptation to connect the timing of the Rural Housing Bill with this Order, and to remember the way the right hon. Gentleman's Committee reported in 1919:Where a landlord has allowed his property to fall into a condition which is unfit for human habitation it is not equitable that he should receive anything by way of compensation for the structure, even though he continues to draw revenue from it.Not only does he appear to have gone back on that, but he is assisting people to neglect to keep their property in order, and now, in order to make it still more valuable, he is going still further to restrict building in rural districts, and so add to the wealth of the owners. Since those days the Minister has been keeping rather bad company. The Minister of Health in 1922 made the statement that the newly married should be so happy that they could enjoy living even in one room. Of course, he would not have applied that to his own son. He says:Is not the demand of the newly-married for a separate house a comparatively modern development? In China and the East generally, I understand they continue to live under the parental roof.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
No. I said the Minister of Health was keeping bad company. His new associates have contaminated him, and he has gone back from the days of 1919. To return to Leeds with its 72,000 back-to-back houses, they are in streets and blocks with no lavatory accommodation in the houses. The lavatory is at the end of the street, and women, children and people in delicate health have to go to it through the 1443 snow and rain. The Leeds Fathers, who are largely adherents of the people opposite and below the Gangway, have always been in power and have neglected to put these things right. I feel sure this will put things back a very long time, and we shall have what Mr. Bonar Law suggested, a sullen and discontented people.
§ Mr. RHYS
I was unable to be present when the right hon. Gentleman spoke, but I gather the reason he gave for the proposed reduction was that the subsidy had been accompanied by a rise in the price. That may be true. I am particularly interested in this question. I suppose there is no district in the country which is undergoing greater building development than the one I represent. What worries me more than anything else is the fact that we have not yet got houses in sufficient numbers at a rent that the poorest of the community can afford to pay. Also, undoubtedly, although private enterprise is certainly building houses to let, they have up to the present been let to the people who are better off, and it is the urban district councils who are making some effort to build houses to let to their inhabitants who are not so well off. I want to be very certain that any proposal of this kind is not going to check municipalities building houses to let to these people. I very strongly support the idea of people owning their own houses if they so desire, but the exigencies of the situation in individual cases very often demand that a man shall be free to come and go and change his work and his locality as he wishes. Therefore, I want to be quite certain that we are not going to see a check on the building of this class of houses.
I was not in the House in 1923 when the right hon. Gentleman passed his first Housing Act, but I imagine that when framing that Measure he held consultations with various local authorities. I should like to know whether the agreements then fixed upon have in practice been borne out, and what was the kind of rent, including rates, that the local authorities suggested to him that they might be able to find under the conditions the right hon. Gentleman offered to them. I cannot help feeling from what I have observed that the rents now charged are probably higher than those at which he 1444 hoped then to get houses built, and, if that be the case, it is possible that the high subsidy has increased the price of houses, and, if the price of houses has increased, it is obvious that a higher rent has to be charged if it is to be economical. If he could give us some sort of indication that they did not hope in 1923 to get houses at a lower rent than are at present charged, it might be a very strong indication that the high subsidy has led to higher rents. That is really the point I wanted to make. I hope we shall not forget that there are undoubtedly tremendous arrears, and that there are very many Members on our side of the House who want to be very certain that you are not going to check houses at low rent in any shape or Form at all.
§ Mr. GARDNER
I listened with great interest to the Minister in putting up what I considered to be a very poor ease on a very serious subject. I think one could say his argument was confined to two points, although he took much time to reach them. The first was that we must reduce the expense. It was not put in that way, but that was the effect of it. The other was in a half-hearted fashion the idea that his experience and reports from the country were to the effect that some people who needed houses badly were not able to get them because the rents were too high. I naturally listened for some ray of hope by which the Minister, as he developed his argument, would show how his proposals would achieve the latter object. He went on to deal with the position some years back when he first took on this work. He said the building trade was moribund and things could not be achieved that were hoped. If he means that the jerry-builders were moribund and derelict I agree with him, hut, if he suggests that the building trade was moribund at that period, he is very badly advised indeed. As a matter of fact, the building trade was more prosperous, and prepared to take on more work, than at any time in its history. He went on to suggest, strangely enough, that the growth in the building of houses was virtually on the edge of meeting the need. If we had built double the number of houses announced in his answer to-day it would not meet the needs of the community, and that would not be allowing 1445 in any way for dealing with slums. Slums are rampant in London and in the district I represent.
Then he went on to deal with subsidies. A Conservative Minister is always on very dangerous ground when he deals with subsidies, because the history of that party is identified with subsidies of one kind or another. The subject is too serious to go into some of the things one might mention, but the education of the community is a subsidy and no one objects to it. Public health is a subsidy, but no one objects to it. We have thousands of consuls abroad trying to keep our trade from going worse. That also is a subsidy and no one objects to it. Surely a subsidy to provide one of the greatest needs of the community ought not to be objected to by any party. There is no doubt that what has been achieved up to the present is of the greatest human value to the community, but all that can be said is that we have created new areas with a new type of house and, I am glad to say, with a new type of citizen. It has been said that the London County Council are building up a new community, and now the Minister who is responsible to Parliament for the health of the community proposes to put the brake on. The case will not bear examination.
I happen to represent a constituency which has been more favoured perhaps than any other constituency in the number of houses which have been erected. We have a lot of land available, and, although we had a Tory council, to their credit, they desired to get a move on. Between the borough council and the county council there have been nearly 2,000 houses erected in my constituency. Private effort also has assisted. In spite of that, and although there are few slums in the constituency, the amazing fact is that 60 per cent. of my correspondence is in respect of people who are in desperate want of accommodation. I could give case after case if time permitted. There is more over-crowding in my district than in others. Magistrates will tell you that one of the difficulties they have to deal with in the Courts to-day is the amount of litigation due to overcrowding. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to assist in that unholy mess, he can carry his pro- 1446 position. The local register in my district has been closed two years last May. At that time there were 2,000 applications. May I remind the Minister of Health that the condition of getting on to that register was that a person had to be resident in the borough between 4th August, 1914, and 4th August, 1919. Lt was a very narrow sieve. There has not been a single name on the register during that period, except on special medical or overcrowding grounds.
I will give the Minister one or two definite cases of people who have approached me in the last 14 days. One is the case of seven in a family living in two rooms. The London County Council and the borough council cannot entertain their application. Another is that of a family with three children, the eldest two children being with relatives in a neighbouring borough. They have only one room, and there is no possibility of bringing the family together There is another case of six persons in one room. No county or local authority can offer any accommodation. In another case eight persons live in two basement rooms. One of the daughters is in hospital with tuberculosis. There is no hope of getting even on to the preferential list. In another case, a family of five persons, there is one child suffering from tuberculosis. The family sleep in one room and have the use of the kitchen. The father earns sufficient to pay the rent. They have a very small hope that the county council will consider their case. In another case, there are seven persons living in a small single room. They have no hope whatever. These are cases which I have verified with the assistance of the medical officer. I had not long ago a case of a family of nine living in one room, and there was not room enough for them to lie down side by side on the bare floor.
We know there is no hope for these people, and now we have the Minister coming forward with the proposition that we should reduce the subsidy. I would not mind that, if I thought there was any possibility that the reduction of the subsidy would achieve the object. I want to remind the Minister that it may he said, and has been said by some prominent members of the Property Owners' Association, that these houses are too dear, and that it is a 1447 middle-class community that is going into them. In so far as that is true it should create vacancies. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health in the last Tory Government took steps to make that impossible. He gave owners permissioon to go outside the Rent Restrictions Act if the property came into their possession. If the Government carry this Measure, the time is not far distant when people will realise the consequences, and the consequences will be what the party responsible for them deserve.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I can give, as I suppose other Members can, facts similar to those which have been described in Hammersmith from all over the country. I do not understand that the Minister of Health questions those facts. I know he is as alive to the necessity for more houses as anybody in this House. That was not the purpose of his speech. He was arguing that, far from increasing prices, the proposals would if anything reduce the cost of building. He gave examples of that to prove his case. To follow his argument to the logical conclusion, I am surprised he has not asked us to do away with the subsidy altogether. I am surprised at his modesty. He will not think me offensive if I say that I cannot help thinking he was speaking a little bit with his tongue in his cheek. I could not help thinking that the face was the face of the Minister of Health, and the hands were the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer finds himself hard up and faced with the problem of whether he will be able to meet expenses in his Budget next year. He has to look for money somewhere. He tried it on education, but public opinion was too strong for him, and he had to modify his proposals. He is now trying to get a little saving at the expense of housing, and, unfortunately, just as on another occasion, the Minister of Health lent himself to the Chancellor's purposes under the insurance economies, so he is lending himself to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this occasion. He does not deny for a moment the necessity for housing.
In London we find the pressure is as great during the last 12 months, if not greater than the year before. At the 1448 London County Council Central Offices alone last year 67,000 people called to ask for accommodation of some kind, and in addition 53,000 people applied by letter. These were all separate applications. That is an immense figure. If I tell the House that it has been public knowledge that the list of the London County Council has been closed for sonic months, those figures speak for themselves, and reveal, in spite of all the efforts of all the public authorities in London, that the need is still there. Really, the question is a very simple one. The Minister does not deny the need. The facts speak for themselves. The question is: Have we come to a time in the cost of building when there is justification for a decrease in the subsidy? The Minister of Health used all his arts and skill to try to persuade local authorities, after many conferences, that the present figure of the subsidy was too much. As the result of all those conferences, the most he could persuade local authorities to agree to was that the subsidy should be reduced in October, 1928. That was considered a compromise. Whether it has been the pressure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or whatever the cause, he is now asking us to hasten the decrease from 1928 to 1927.
I suppose in London we are placed as fortunately as any other part of the country. We are building on a large scale. We have the advantage of mass production. We have the advantage of having large contractors and being able to take advantage of every form of contract. In spite of all the ingenuity of people desirous of building houses, even with the present subsidy we are not making two ends meet. I have here a report of the Loudon County Council Housing committee, submitted to the Council on Tuesday of this week, pointing out that they are placing contracts for 491 houses and flats of the total value of £150,000, and in the preamble of the Report, the Chairman, a very prominent Conservative supporter of the Minister of Health, points out that the estimated financial results of the scheme show, after allowing for State grant, at the present rate of £9 a year, that there will be a deficiency of £4 10s. a house. The Minister comes along with the cheering message to those people struggling with this problem: "We are 1449 going to increase the burden on the rates; we are going to shift every cost from the taxpayer on to the rates." That is very poor consolation for local authorities.
I am surprised that the Minister made no reference to alternative means of construction. A few months ago we had a great speech by the Prime Minister delivered, I think, in Edinburgh, with a message of hope to the Scottish people. The housing problem at last was to be solved by alternative methods. Steel was to be substituted for bricks, and we were to have a supply of houses. I do not think any reference was made by the Minister to those proposals. I wondered if it was forgetfulness or if he had learnt his lesson? We in London had no credit in this matter. We made every experiment. Within a few miles of this House we can see every kind of construction. I have a report by our experts of the London County Council with respect to 12 different kinds of construction—four concrete, five steel and three timber. The experiments in timber are in Scandinavian, American, and English. In addition, there are all those delightful steel houses—the Weir house, the Atholl house, the Telford house, and the house associated with the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Commander Burney) known as the Burney house, which is a special method of timber construction and factocrete. We have made these experiments for two purposes, first, to expedite the construction of houses, and, secondly, to bring down the cost. I regret to have to say that they have been failures, and that they have not made a large contribution to the housing problem, They are not less expensive; on the whole, they are more expensive than the old method. I have the figures, which are familiar to the Minister of Health. When one considers the shorter loan period, the increase in repairs, and the shorter life of the house, on the whole steel and timber houses are more expensive than brick, and concrete houses are not less expensive.
After all our experiments we have come to the conclusion, and if the Minister were frank he would admit it, that the most satisfactory house is the brick and plaster house. That has been the experience during the last 200 years, and it has been confirmed by the 1450 attempts of local authorities and private enterprise to meet the housing needs up to the present time. The London County Council are persevering with some of these substitutes. They are building various types of timber houses but, of course, you cannot put too many of them together, on account of the danger of fire. We are getting a number of steel houses, but the delivery is slow. Wherever possible, and where materials are available, we are building concrete houses. We are doing that, rot because these houses are cheaper, more economical, or more satisfactory, but because the demand is so great that we cannot get the necessary supply if we confine ourselves to bricks. The trouble is, undoubtedly, the shortage of bricklayers and plasterers.
I was surprised that the Minister of Health made so little reference to the supply of labour, because that was part of the 1924 Act. The real problem we have to face in housing is the shortage of certain essential labour, particularly plasterers and, to a great extent, bricklayers. Under the 1924 Act we were to have a large system of apprentices. As far as I can make out, the apprenticeship system is not working. We are not getting the supply of necessary labour. That is what drives us back upon these most unsatisfactory substitutes such as concrete, timber and steel. If the Minister wants to solve the housing problem, he must get the necessary supplies of bricklayers and plasterers. Materials are forthcoming. There is not much shortage in bricks, and plenty of timber is coming into the country, while most of the light castings are now, I believe, being made on a large enough scale to satisfy the most reasonable demands. I am prepared to confess that the London County Council, when it cannot get material in this country, goes abroad, and does that quite unashamed, although the majority of the county council are Protectionists. When we cannot get bricks from this country we get them from Holland or we get them from France; but at the present time we are getting them in large quantities in this country.
This problem of the necessary supply of labour will have to be solved by some Minister. In the proposal which he has made to-day, the right hon. Gentleman 1451 is going the wrong way to get the necessary labour. What has made the various trade unions concerned suspicious about the bringing in of a large amount of new labour into the industry is that they think the Government may, at any time, cut down their schemes. If they could be certain that the programme would continue for 10 or 15 years, the whole problem of apprenticeship would be got over. More people would invest their money in the building trade. The real reason there has been so much hesitation about going on with the apprenticeship system and embarking upon the building trade, is the constant chopping and changing in Government policy. I know that the present Government have not been the only sinners. First, we had the Addison Scheme, then we had the complete reversal of the Mond Scheme, then we had the 1923 Act and the 1924 Act, and now under this scheme the Minister is running away, without any justification in fact or in figure, from the policy underlying the 1924 Act. It is not likely that the building trade, which suffered so much from unemployment and short time before the war, and which has suffered more from irregularity of employment than any other industry, will view with satisfaction the bringing of a great army of new men into their trade.
§ Mr. HARRIS
If the subsidy is to be taken away it will be impossible to get the houses, and they naturally assume that that will bring about a large amount of unemployment. The right line to pursue is to lay down a policy for 15 years, to give a guarantee throughout the trade to employers and employed, to everyone in the trade, the makers of bricks, the makers of light castings, to plasterers and bricklayers, that the Government will adhere to a programme for 15 years. There is plenty of work to be done. It will take 15 years, at least, to make up the housing shortage and to re-house the people under decent conditions. If the right hon. Gentleman would take his courage in both hands and do what is in his conscience—he does care about this housing question; he has knowledge and he knows the truth—and insist that the Government shall stick to the reasonable, well-thought-out scheme of the 1924 Act, 1452 and get the labour and the materials, I believe that the cost of houses would come down. The cost ought to come down. The present cost is too high, even with the subsidy. The Minister admits that. Rents are too high. One hon. Member, who has spoken from the opposite benches, admitted that the rents of these houses are in many cases far beyond the pocket of the ordinary working man. That is one of the difficulties.
What the Minister is doing in regard to rents is really to raise them by 7d. a week, because if the rates are to be raised they will have to come out of the pockets of the poor, and that will probably increase rents by 7d. a week. That is a very cruel message for those who are finding it very difficult at the present time to make ends meet, and when the problem of poverty is so serious. Surely it would be more satisfactory at a time like this to give a feeling of security to all concerned, local authorities, the building trade, the masters and the men. While the Government would be helping to solve the housing question, they would give a great incentive to movements for dealing with unemployment, because the one industry that can absorb a large number of the men who are now out of work is the building trade. The more people that are employed in the building trade the better for other trades. It finds work not only for bricklayers and plasterers but for carpenters, bricklayers' labourers, the men employed in making bricks, and in a hundred and one industries. The Minister has missed a great opportunity of justifying his position as Minister of Health, by bringing in the very unwise scheme contained in the Memorandum.
§ Colonel APPLIN
I should like to congratulate the Liberal party on the length of the speech of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) and the thoroughness with which he has examined the whole question of housing, including the questions of material, labour and methods of construction. I want to deal with a much more important point, and that is the Resolution before the House. I am not a believer in subsidies. We all know the remittance man, who never has any work to do when he gets his remittance. A subsidy is very much the same thing. I agree with the Minister of 1453 Health when he says that he believes that if he reduces the subsidy on houses, of course, gradually and scientifically, he will probably secure a reduction in the price of construction. Where I join issue with the hon. Gentleman is that local authorities are engaged now in carrying out his scheme of the 1923 Act. The local authorities are obliged to make their arrangements, as he said himself, gradually. They start very slowly. Those were his own words. He went on to say that they were now getting on with the work. That is the case in my own constituency. We have reached the point where we are beginning to make some real headway in getting houses for those people who are living in one room and under conditions in which no civilised people ought to live.
In bringing this order into operation so quickly, that is to say, next year, not less than a year from now, the right hon. Gentleman is not giving the local authorities a proper chance to get on with the work for which they have already schemed and planned and for which they have, possibly, given out their contracts. It probably takes from 18 months to two years between the getting of the ground, the planning of the houses, the giving out of the contracts and the finding of the money, before the houses are completed. I disagree with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green when he said that the right hon. Gentleman is doing away with the subsidy. He is doing nothing of the kind. He is curtailing it gradually. Could not the right hon. Gentleman allow the local authorities until October, 1928, instead of fixing the date as October, 1927, for the starting of this scheme? If he cannot do that, I would ask him to give us this concession—to make the scheme apply in 1927 to private enterprise only, and to leave those authorities who are finding the money now with the present subsidy until October, 1928. If he can do that, it will certainly enable local authorities to make their plans for fresh houses without difficulty. If we can get that concession, I feel sure that there will be no injury done to housing as at present carried on, that within two years the price of houses will come down, and we shall find that we are building houses for 1454 the very poor at a rent which they can afford to pay.
§ Mr. SCURR
This Debate has in many ways been remarkable. In the first place, the Minister of Health put forward these proposals in a very half-hearted fashion, and, in addition to that, there has been no enthusiastic support from Members who ordinarily support the Government. In fact, there has only been one Member of the House who has enthusiastically supported the proposal, and he has a somewhat rather remarkable conception of his position as a public man. The hon. Member for Mossley's (Mr. A. Hopkinson) conception of his duty as a public man is that when he sits as a member of the town council it is his duty to rob the taxpayer for the benefit of the ratepayer, and that when he sits in this House it is his duty to rob the ratepayer for the benefit of the taxpayer. That is rather a remarkable conception of his public duty, and I cannot, therefore, congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the nature of the only enthusiastic support he has received. I am quite prepared to say that we on these benches are not committed to a policy of a subsidy merely as a doctrinaire idea, as a mere matter of course, and if the Minister of Health had said that after a careful examination of the housing problem and the financial position he had come to the conclusion that we are not doing what he wanted to do by his Act of 1923, or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) by his Act of 1924, therefore he would do away with the subsidy and propose something else, one could understand it.
The right hon. Gentleman agrees with every speaker who has taken part in this Debate in regard to the awful shortage of houses at the present time. Every day I receive letters from my constituents asking me to use my influence as their Member, and also as a member of the London County Council, to get them some accommodation and it is the experience of every Member of this House. Yet all the right hon. Gentleman does is to come down and say that he is going to take off a certain portion of the subsidy this year. He would no doubt like to take off the whole. It will have one of two or three results. It will either 1455 mean that housing operations will cease or slacken down as far as local authorities are concerned, it will throw extra burdens on the rates of local authorities, or, in the third place, it must be met by the individual person who is going to live in one of these houses. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal is a dishousing policy instead of a housing policy. One can understand a Conservative Ministry looking at this problem from the wrong point of view. They always regard it from the individual point of view, not from the community point of view. The estimate for the current year is £8,500,000, and by 1929–1930 it will be £11,000,000, and this is held out as being an awful thing which ought to be resisted. It is only another method, it may not be the best method of redistributing national income.
The system of private enterprise, which hon. Members opposite so vigorously defend at every Election as a good system, is being proved conclusively, so far as the provision of houses is concerned, to have absolutely failed. Private enterprise failed in the provision of roads, and many other municipal undertakings. What was done? The right hon. Gentleman himself comes from a city which is noted for its municipal activities. The hard-headed business men who represented the city of Birmingham in the middle of the nineteenth century, and his own father was the most distinguished leader of them all, recognised that in certain aspects private enterprise had absolutely failed and that it was the duty of every citizen to step in and deal with the problems as citizens. From the point of view of the supply of houses private enterprise has failed and it is proved to have failed because we hear a lot about the provision of houses which are for sale. I have a considerable amount of sympathy with the unfortunate indivividuals who are acquiring these houses at the present time. To talk about houses for sale is, as they would say in the East End of London, really cod. You get advertisements in newspapers about houses from £1,000 up to 1,20,0 for, say, £50 dawn or £75 down, and that works out at 25s. per week or 29s. per week. I pity the unfortunate individuals who have bound themselves under these con- 1456 tracts. Take places like Wembley and Sunbury. You will see these unfortunate people working in the City, straining every nerve and starving themselves in order to take these houses, and this is held up as the model for the community. It is absurd.
What the right hon. Gentleman should have done was to say that he was going to provide a method whereby municipalities in the future will be able to supply houses to the community just as they supply water, and light, and other services. If water is necessary, if public health services are necessary, surely houses are equally as necessary. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have always to think of our finances. I always think of our national income, and our national income is not divided in any way equitably or fairly so long as a few individuals take the largest amount of that which is produced by the activities of the community. And as long as it is divided in this way so long are you always going to have problems like housing. It is no good talking about sympathy; saying that we recognise the problem of housing. Those who will read this Debate to-morrow will be rather more convinced of the impotence of Parliament than anything else. Here we are, discussing the scarcity of houses. Every speaker says there is a shortage, and no one has yet put forward any practical proposal in order to increase their number. All that can be said is, let us reduce our costs of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman should take his Motion back. He should go back and face this problem fairly and come to the House with a real housing scheme whereby we shall not talk about this or that subsidy, but really provide houses for the people and make Parliament respected in the country for doing something really useful, instead of wasting our time as we are at the moment.
§ Mr. LINDLEY
In approaching this question one ought to consider whether or not the housing problem has been solved or nearly solved. To hear speakers on the Government side one would think that we had almost completed the work of housing the people of this country. It is really interesting, when we analyse the figures, to go back to one's own division and find out what they are doing there and how far they have progressed towards the completion of this work. Let 1457 me quote figures in relation to the position in my own division where we have a borough council, an urban council and a rural district council. I find that a house survey took place in 1919 in the borough of Rotherham and it, was found that we required 3,000 houses immediately, and in order to meet the growth of the population and the gradual decay of existing property at least 225 houses each year for a period of seven years, making a total of 1,575 houses in addition to the 3,000 houses which were immediately required. That is a total of 4,575 houses required. We have built 1,760, and 2,815 are still required, so that we have not yet half completed the task we set out to do. In the districts of Raw-marsh and Parkgate, partly agricultural and partly industrial, the position is the same as in the town of Rotherham. Private enterprise has not helped us very much. Under the local authority in Rotherham 1,760 houses have been built and only 290 houses by private enterprise throughout the whole division.
Then look at the matter in respect of unemployment. Listening to various speakers on the other side of the House one would imagine that in the building industry there was no problem of unemployment at all. Indeed, that, instead of there being no unemployment, there was a scarcity of labour. It comes to one as a shock to find, according to the current issue of the "Board of Trade Labour Gazette," that there are 92,364 unemployed in the building industry. It is true, as the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) said, that many men have been admitted into the building industry. There has been an increase in the number of people employed, but, instead of there being a dearth of bricklayers, we find that there is a surplus of 3,717. There is a surplus of 7,003 carpenters, of 1,729 masons, of 304 slaters, 20,030 painters, 2,263 plumbers and a surplus of 32,443 labourers. In addition to this there is a surplus of all other labour of 24,512 What is going to be the effect of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman if it is carried?
The reason why many of these people are now out of employment is because local authorities, who wound otherwise be building houses, are holding their hands. They do not know where they 1458 are or what to do. They do not know whether it is safe for them to continue their work, which is so necessary to the country, and instead of solving this housing problem this proposal will simply intensify and increase the problem of unemployment. If the right hon. Gentleman desires to do a good turn to the party he represents, and to the Government he represents, the best thing he can do in respect of housing is to follow the advice given him by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr), that is, to take this proposal back and reconsider the whole position, particularly in relation to the cost to the country in respect of the increased unemployment benefit that will have to be paid and the amount of money that will have to be found by local ratepayers under the Poor Law relief system, for these unemployed people must, of course, obtain some sustenance.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to our anti-profiteering proposals and suggested that while the Labour party's proposal for the prevention of profiteering in building materials dealt with material, it did not deal with the question of labour and that labour would be free to demand any price it liked as a commodity required for building houses. It may be of interest to him to know that there has been no substantial increase in wages in the building industry since 1924. Here and there in low-paid districts where in pre-War days men would be receiving 4½d. or 5d. or 6d. per hour, it is true that since 1924, in a few isolated instances, usually in very small districts, slight advances have been made in wages, but speaking generally there has been no wages increase in the building industry since 1924.
Consequently, if the cost of houses has so substantially increased, as he indicated, and if it be true, as he also indicated, that this substantial increase is not accounted for by the corresponding cost in the increase of materials, then it would be interesting, indeed, to know exactly where the difference has gone to. It certainly has not gone into the pockets of the workmen in the shape of wages, and if it be not accounted for by the increase in the cost of materials, then are we not entitled to assume that some of our friends on the opposite side of the House who are engaged in the 1459 building industry have taken their opportunity of fleecing the people of this country? It seems very likely that if it has not gone in paying for increased cost of materials, and has not gone in wages, then it must have gone in profits to the contractors who have made it abundantly clear that they have been charging too much for the houses which we so greatly need. In conclusion, I would add my appeal to that made by other speakers that the Minister should take the proposal back and should come to the House with an assurance that no such proposal will be made until the whole housing problem has been solved in the interests of the people of this country.
§ Mr. SEXTON
It was with sincere regret and considerable disappointment that I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, because, in spite of his peculiar environment, I have always been willing to give him the credit for the best intentions. I know one case in which the right hon. Gentleman very generously came to our assistance, and that was in my own constituency. It was a case where one of the Government Departments with that characteristic inconsistency of every Government Department, evicted a whole colony of people under the auspices of the War Minister to manufacture poison gas, and there was no place for them. The right hon. Gentleman very generously came to our assistance. But his suggestion to-night is absolutely undoing what he intended to do then, because, if it be carried, we shall have very great difficulty indeed in rehousing those people whom the Minister of War and he housed in order to produce poison gas—not only to poison the enemy, but the whole district.
The right hon. Gentleman himself, unconsciously I hope, has been guilty of the same inconsistency. It will be within the recollection of the House that a very short time ago the right hon. Gentleman chastised Poplar and other boards of guardians for increasing the rates by out-of-work and out-door relief, but now the right hon. Gentleman—though I am always willing to give the devil his due—is committing the same offence in another way. For instance, let me give the case of my own constituency. Under present 1460 conditions, a non-parlour house costing £628, with a rental of 7s. 9d. and the present subsidy, causes a loss of £ll 4s. 10d. to the Corporation. Tinder the suggested new scheme of the right hon. Gentleman this will be increased to £12 14s. 10d. A parlour house costing £683 with a rental of 9s. 9d. under existing conditions means a loss of £10 4s. 10d., and this is now increased to £11 14s. So that the right hon. Gentleman himself is, unconsciously I hope, guilty of the same sin for which he chastised the board of guardians, namely, increasing the local rates.
You cannot increase the rent. It remains where it is, for the people cannot afford to pay more. The extra cost is going to be enormous. Again, under the 1923 Act, if we take advantage of it, it will add very much indeed to the cost of the erection of houses. This is only the case of my own constituency, but there are hundreds of other constituencies in the same condition. There is the, neighbouring city of Liverpool where the controlling party is of the same political colour as that of the right hon. Gentleman. There, again—for I give the Devil his due—they have been struggling for half-a-century to relieve, the congestion of local houses, and, to their credit, they have done very well. We still have congestion in housing conditions, and, as in Liverpool, so in every other constituency they are struggling with the present congestion of the housing situation.
Like an hon. Member below the. Gangway, I, too have a strong objection to subsidies. In this case it appears to me, and, I think, to all those who think the matter out, that there is something rotten in a state of things which will not give the ordinary working-class people sufficient wages to pay their own rent without asking for the assistance of a subsidy. That is what your private enterprise has brought you to. The workman to-day cannot get sufficient wages to pay his own rent. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to give some further consideration to this matter, because, if he does not, the whole condition is going to be intensified, the difficulties of local authorities will increase, and it will simply make the existing confusion worse confounded.
§ Captain FAIRFAX
My only excuse for rising this evening at this late hour, when the whole ground has been so thoroughly and ably covered by previous speakers, is that I do feel anxiety as to the possibilities in regard to some of the difficulties which concern my own constituency. With the leave of the House, I would like to read a sentence from a letter received from the Town Clerk of Norwich. He says:If the Government do reduce the subsidies it will be very difficult in Norwich to continue to carry on the housing schemes, as at the present time a sum of £11 per house is chargeable to rates after taking the subsidy into account. In some places where rents are high the hardship would possibly not be so great, but Norwich is one of those places where it would have a distinctly serious effect on the rates, which, as you know, are not low at the present time. The cost of building, more-over, is inclined to raise, and it has been estimated that it now costs in Norwich £20 to £25 more to erect a house than it did three months ago.Most of the substance of that letter has probably been conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman in different words by other hon. Members, but I feel I ought to put the case from my own local standpoint. I may also add that at a meeting specially convened by one of the local committees, it was pointed out that the cost of building had been rising greatly. The right hon. Gentleman, in his very lucid and interesting speech, has urged as his case that the higher the subsidy goes the greater the cost of building, and he argues from that that, with a reduction of the subsidy, the cost of housing will fall. But I would urge that this seems a drastic method of doing it, and his application under this Order is going to cause considerable hardship. I should like to appeal to film to reconsider the matter, and to ask him whether he could not modify this in some way with special consideration for those industrial communities which are likely to be particularly hard hit.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I should like to say, first of all, that it seems to me that, if the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) was expressing the views of his party, the Liberal party are to be congratulated on their conversion to the point of view of the Labour party in 1924. At that time the Liberal party could find nothing better to do than to fire a shot in the back of the Minister of 1462 Health of that day, and they had no conception of the importance, as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green seems to have at the present moment, of the difficulties in the way of the building industry in regard to apprenticeship and to the objections to various kinds of substitute houses, which we have seen borne out fully.
I rise this evening in order to urge on the Government the necessity for maintaining the subsidy at least until sufficient houses have been built to cover the war-time shortage, plus the necessary amount of building due to increase of population and to deterioration of property. Until that has been done there is no justification, it seems to me, for making any difference at all to the prospects of housing by municipalities, let alone private enterprise, in the country, Major Barnes, the Housing and Town Planning Council, and other authorities on housing told us in 1924 that we required to build in this country 200,000 houses a year in order that within a reasonable time we should have made up the shortage of houses, plus the necessary increase of building due to population and deterioration. We have not overcome that, for all that the Minister of Health may justifiably or otherwise claim with regard to increased building dazing the, last two years. We have come nowhere near carrying out the proposals which were regarded as absolutely essential by the greatest authorities and experts in 1924. Until this is done I urge that the subsidy should be maintained. I am particularly concerned with regard to the effect of the non-continuance of the subsidy on the municipalities. We have had a speech this evening from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), whose extreme individualistic position is an anachronism in these days of capitalistic collectivism. He told us that the effect of giving subsidies upon housing was to increase the cost of building. But the increase is due to the Government not carrying out the policy of the Labour Government in 1924 in regard to profiteering in building material. Whatever may be said as to that, that cannot apply to the municipal authorities of the country. The municipal authorities 1463 are not profiteering. They are building houses comparatively cheaply in many cases. They are showing the possibility of building good houses, which can be let at a reasonably or relatively small rent, by direct labour or contract labour. It will hit the municipal authorities very hard indeed, especially with the commitments which some of them have taken on in regard to housing schemes, if the subsidy is reduced in the way proposed.
I do not want to strike a pathetic note for its own sake this evening;; I have a different purpose entirely, but I do want to say a word or two about the terrible housing conditions in my own constituency. Those conditions are similar to conditions in many other constituencies, but there are very peculiar circumstances because of the very compact nature of my division and the age of the great bulk of the property. I want to disabuse the minds of some of our Conservative opponents of the idea that these stories of overcrowding, of six and a hall persons on the average to a room in a. 10-roomed house—and I have streets like that in my constituency—are just pathetic instances. They actually exist, and although it may be true that taking the whole country, we are really doing a good deal, there is still a considerable shortage. In one part of my constituency, representing about 15,000 to 20,000 people, there is not a single house in that particular area that I would care for anyone belonging to me to have to live in—not a single one. They axe all frightfully overcrowded. I came to the House this afternoon from that particular area. I had been to a church function, and the postor of the church told me this afternoon of a very peculiar feature of that church, and that was the enormous number of children who attended Divine service, and who are allowed to attend Divine service on Sunday evenings, and on other evenings when there is a social kind of affair happening to which the children would be more likely to be invited. He told me the reason why those children attend Divine service—and I am not saying that it is not a very nice thing for them to do—in such large numbers is because their homes are so overcrowded that at this time of the year it is a question of going into that church or of sitting out in the inclement weather, in the cold and rain in the streets. That 1464 is typical of that particular district. In that Division there are streets of a sordid character, where you can find stone steps going up to a building erected 60 or 70 years ago. There is no light on those steps. If you go up there canvassing during election times the door is opened and someone comes to answer your knock, and you nearly fall down at the stench of the place. That is not an isolated instance; it is characteristic of whole districts.
When hon. Members talk about the cost of an attempt to solve the housing and the slum problem of the country, and on the question of the reduction of the housing subsidy, and of our commitments and that the nation cannot afford it, I want to put this position. It is perfectly true that taxation is high, but it is also true that the national income is high. We are paying in taxation proportionately very little more than we were paying 100 years ago, if you take the national income into account. That was proved on the Debate on the Finance Bill in this House less than a few months ago. The national income is high; taxation is high. I am not arguing in favour of unnecessary taxation, but what is it going to cost if we keep the subsidy on? A matter of £8,000,000 to £10,000.000 a year. To-day we are paying £80,000,000 to £86,000,000 for all kinds of social services. That is the total cost to the nation. A great part of that expenditure of over £80,000,000 by the nation on social services is due to disease and to the alliance of bad health and inefficiency that comes of overcrowding And bad housing. Surely, we ought to look upon the question from the national point of view. Housing is a matter of health service. It cannot be good for the nation or for the income of the nation if it is put on such a basis as to allow millions of people to live under conditions of housing which do not give them a chance to develop that moral point of view which is necessary, let alone any physical and technical efficiency which is necessary for the best industrial development of the nation. If hon. Members talk about money, I beg them to look at it from all points of view. Let them look at it from the big point of view. In a recent Debate on another question it was urged upon the Government that they should look on that par- 1465 titular question from the big point of view—from the point of view of the big idea. That big idea is wanted upon this question of housing. If you can give people a chance to live decent lives with sunlight and fresh air—not the fresh air that comes from having leaky roofs and walls, that have to have tarpaulins over them in order to keep the rain from the place, as I have had to deal with in my own constituency this year—but with proper health conditions with no overcrowding, surely that is a necessary and essential thing for building up and restoring the industrial prosperity of this nation.
Without appealing to sentiment, let me state one matter that comes under my notice constantly. Over and over again I get letters from my constituents such as this: "I am in work. I can afford to pay, or I will, pay a reasonable rent for two rooms." The statement that the man has work there means, upon an average, that he is getting what is regarded as a good wage of £2 10s. a week. "I can pay for two rooms or three rooms, as the case may be, but owing to the housing shortage I have only one room. I have a wife and two children. My wife is expecting another child. I appeal to you, as I cannot get better accommodation, in the circumstances to ask the Minister of Health whether he can do anything to get my wife into a maternity home for the occasion of childbirth." I have had that kind of letter over and over again. What does living in one room mean for small families? It means that the washing is done in the same room that every function of life and birth and death is carried out in one single room. It does not matter whether there is tuberculosis or any other disease, the people all have to herd together. Surely that is not good for the nation, and I ask the Minister of Health to look on this question not from what I think is a very niggling point of view, the question of a few millions spent on a housing subsidy, but to look at it from the point of view of what might be done if we made serious attempts successfully to solve the housing problem towards making this nation a better nation physically and also a better nation morally.
§ Mr. GIBBINS
At this time of the night it is difficult to say anything that 1466 may be fresh on this subject, but one touches the problem in one's own constituency, and knows that that represents very much the national position. There is something in every experience that may lead the Minister to reconsider his proposal, although I have not much faith that he will reconsider his decision. Usually on housing debates the problem revolves round labour or capital or material. To-day we have had quite a new feature. We admit that we are getting houses, that we are doing better than we have done in the past, but getting the houses now is not so much the trouble. It is the cost of the houses that we are getting which is causing concern to the Government. It has been pointed out on more than one occasion during the speeches this afternoon that the number we are getting to-day does not meet our difficulties in any way. The point raised by the Minister of Health was that the subsidy given had certainly provided the houses, but that the increased subsidy increases the rent, and that on the other hand the subsidy, if taken off, would lower the rent appreciably. But the right hon. Gentleman himself, when he introduced his Bill in 1923, introduced a subsidy of £6 a year for 20 years to get the houses. The need was for houses, and the subsidy of £6 a year for 20 years was given as an inducement.
That subsidy was increased by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), and the number of houses increased. Surely, if we are going to argue that we ought to reduce now the subsidy, is it with the view of taking the risk that the decrease in subsidy will decrease the number of houses? The number required has gone up as far as my own city is concerned. It has done very well in the building of houses. Yet to-day we have nearly 20,000 people waiting for houses, and in my division, representing 40,000 people, the houses that have been built have made very little difference in the part of the city that I represent. Not only that, but the city authorities themselves and those who belong to the other party who are interested in housing are making suggestions that before very long, if the poorer people are to be housed, the demand must come forward to the Government and to the Exchequer to increase the money that they have 1467 already granted for houses, or otherwise the people in the poorer districts will never get houses at all. Talk about overcrowding, why, a large percentage of our people in Liverpool are living in one room, two rooms and three rooms, and as a matter of fact, there are houses to-day with three or four families in them which have been condemned for 10, 20 or 30 years. It is very true that this is a matter of cost, but the coat must be considered from the broadest point of view, and if you balance the money that we are spending on consumption, cancer and disease, against the saving that is estimated to accrue from the reduced subsidy, then I think the balance would certainly be in favour of a strong nation, and would cost far less in the end.
The constituency represented by an hon. and learned Member on the other side has to-day a death rate amongst children of 133 per 1,000. In Liverpool to-day despite, what we have done, we have that terrible cost. That is a real loss to the nation. What the Minister hopes to gain by this reduced subsidy I cannot tell. I suggest that he should reconsider the matter, though we can have little faith in a Government which, first on education, then on unemployment and now on housing, is prepared to shift the burden on to the people. The cost must be met some day and the responsibility will certainly come home to those who are to blame. I had brought to my notice during the past week-end a case where children who had been suffering from rickets and all sorts of diseases had been restored to normal health by treatment in sunlight. The cost of treatment of such cases will fall on the nation in the years to come, and it is penny wise and pound foolish for the Government to pursue a policy which will mean any diminution in the provision of healthy homes for the people.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. and gallant Member for Norwich (Captain Fairfax) made a speech which was as damaging and critical as any made from the Opposition Benches in protest against the Government policy. The hon. Member for Exeter (Sir R. Newman) made a similar speech. There is no use in hon. Members talking like that to console their consciences, no 1468 doubt with the idea of being able at the next election to quote their protests, unless they follow up their speeches by voting against the Government. The Minister of Health pays no attention to the speeches; he has made up his mind and the Treasury and permanent officials have made up their minds. If the hon. and gallant Member for Norwich does not vote with us to-night I hope he will be visited by his constituency with the defeat that he deserves at the next election. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) introduced a Housing Bill when Minister of Health. I criticised it as a milk and water measure, but I understand that in the precarious position in which the Labour Government was, with a hostile Liberal party on the flank and open enemies across the Floor, he had no alternative. The fact remains that that Bill has been the only Measure that has produced houses for renting purposes in any great numbers. That is the evidence I have.
It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health to indicate dissent in his wonderfully expressive manner. The hon. Gentleman is a great joy to many of us, with his different means of expressing approval and disagreement, and so on. I have the authority of the local authorities for my statement about the Bill of my right hon. Friend. It was not the Bill that he would have introduced if the. Labour Government had been in power instead of being merely in office, but nevertheless it has produced a great many houses for letting. The Government propose to stop all that. I wish I could have the attention of the Minister of Health for a few moments while I deal with this matter. I have not had to change my constituency, though he proposes to change his. Has he ever inspected the conditions under which hundreds of thousands of his fellow-countrymen have to live? Has he actually been into houses of the kind that have been described here to-day? I pause for a reply. Do the officials of the right hon. Gentleman see these houses? Do they visit the people and go into the areas where these bad conditions exist, and see things for themselves? I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for not having been 1469 there. If he has been there, his policy is all the more disgraceful. I presume that he is acting in ignorance.
Last Saturday I was in what is called the house of a docker in Hull, an ex-soldier of a line regiment, who had been decorated. He lives in a house over 100 years old, with two rooms. The only window has a wall, only three feet away, which reaches up above the roof. The house is well kept. He is a fine, stalwart man, and his wife keeps her home as Yorkshire housewives keep their homes, everything being Polished and as clean as possible, and the three children are well kept. That house is one of 20 houses, and the 20 houses share between them one water-tap in the middle of a square yard. The sanitary arrangements are disgraceful. The man had that week obtained only one and a-half days' work, and had earned 12s. He drew 13s. unemployment insurance, which made his total income for the week 25s. His rent, under the policy of decontrol of the right hon. Gentleman, was 10s. for the two rooms. Other houses, controlled houses, in the same disgraceful little court, are 3s. 4d. per week, plus rates. This man pays 10s. out of 25s. for a house which was condemned four years ago by the medical officer of health. This man does not interest the Minister of Health, but I hope that he interests others in this House. At any rate, I hope it will not be lost on the inhabitants of Birmingham generally, even the West End of Birmingham, that the right hon. Gentleman will not answer my question, and, apparently, will pay no attention to the case I put before him. I will take his officials to this particular court, which is not the worst in Hull.
That is one side of the picture. Let us look at the other. A few days ago a painting by a British artist called Lawrence, not in the first rank, called "Pinkie," was sold for £77,000. That sum, invested in war loan at 5 per cent., would be equal to £80 a week for ever and ever. For ever that amount will have to be paid by the labour of the country, to keep one picture on the walls of a private house. £80 a week represents the wages of 30 working men and possibly 150 souls. They will labour in perpetuity in order to keep that one picture on the walls of a private house.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
Do I understand that this picture has been bought for the National Gallery?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The artist was paid less than £100 for it when he painted it. The relevance of what I was saying is this: The Minister of Health excuses his policy on the ground of economy, on the ground that there is not the money available to re-house people who are living in dwellings, condemned in this case four years ago by the medical officer of health. I say that when it is possible for a picture to be sold for that extraordinarily large sum of money, there is plenty of money in the country. But I will not pursue the point. I ask, however, is it surprising that the people shows signs of impatience? The man to whom I have referred goes to the docks every morning. He has to "sign on" twice a day. His work is of the hardest, and all he can earn in a week is 12s., and then he has to draw 13s. unemployment insurance. Out of that 25s. he has to pay 10s. as rent for a house which was condemned as unfit for human habitation sonic years ago by the local officer of health. Yet the Government propose to reduce the subsidy. "Those who the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad," we are told, and this Government must have taken leave of their senses.
§ Mr. HADEN GUEST
I do not intend to deal further with the arguments which have been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister or his representative the Parliamentary Secretary, but I wish to place some considerations before the Parliamentary Secretary and before the House which may perhaps be a little more to his liking—arguments, I might say, almost of a Conservative description. There is a certain amount of theoretical justification at the present time for any effort to reduce national expenditure. Let me make that handsome concession to the Parliamentary Secretary. The question is whether this proposal is either an economical or a proper way of doing so. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward a most remarkable economic argu- 1471 ment based on the statistics of a few years, to show that because the cost of housing had gone up as the amount of the subsidy increased, therefore, if the subsidy were reduced housing costs would come down. The natural retort to that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) who asked, "Why not in that case remove the whole subsidy at once?" Naturally the right hon. Gentleman's query was taken up by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), who suggested that it would be the best course to remove the subsidy and that we should then get rid of the trouble. The hon. Member for Mossley is always looking for trouble. In fact, sometimes, it would appear that he is endeavouring to stir up trouble. He suggested that in this way we should get the trouble over and come back to our senses.
Everybody knows that, generally speaking, every trader puts up prices when there is a chance of doing so, and that traders as a rule do not bring prices down when there is a chance of doing so. The trader keeps up prices as long as he can. That is a general economic experience, not derived from a particular trade, but from generations of people making money by buying and selling. Before the right hon. Gentleman can ask the House to accept his economic argument, he will require to bring better proof than mere assertion of the fact that costs are likely to come down. There does not appear to be any justification for that assertion, and we should require to have shown to us exactly how housing costs have gone up and how exactly, in the different circumstances of a reduced subsidy, those costs would come down. But the real reason against reducing the subsidy is this. The subsidy was intended not to meet a normal condition of things, but a condition of things which 20 years before the War was already abnormal and which during and since the War, with a slight amelioration lately, steadily grew worse. We have not overtaken the arrears in normal housing. I hope I do not repeat any arguments which have already been used in this Debate, because I was absent for a time attending to the question of housing in North Southwark. So far as I am aware, we have not yet begun to touch the really serious slum question. How is it possible then to say that a sub- 1472 sidy which was imposed for the purpose of dealing with an emergency, should be removed before any reasonable being can assert that the emergency is abating? That is a ridiculous argument for the right hon. Gentleman to use.
We can approach the matter in a different way. This reduction is altogether too general. Areas differ in the urgency of their demands and there is great difference between the urgency of the problem in the cities and the urban areas and the urgency of the problem in the countryside. If the subsidy is to be reduced at all—and I do not admit that it is either logical, desirable or defensible to do so—then it should only be reduced in particular areas where it can be shown that the problem is being dealt with adequately. It should not be reduced all round and, in particular, I would urge on the House and the Minister not to Deduce it in rural areas. The problem of housing is divisible into three parts. There is first the general policy of providing the number of houses necessary to replace deterioration and to provide new accommodation for the increase in population. Secondly, there is the great slum problem of the cities, and, thirdly, there is the problem of rural housing. The last is riot merely a housing problem, but is a problem upon which the prosperity of the land in this country very largely depends. You cannot have people on the land and producing from the land under satisfactory conditions if they have not decent places in which to live. The problem of rural housing is comparatively small, taken in relation to the great slum problem of the cities or the general housing problem. If by excepting rural housing from any reduction of subsidy little expenditure would be added to what the Minister already contemplates, then we should consider that fact and also the enormous benefit which would be conferred on rural housing. Under the Act of 1924, 8,000 houses have been put up in rural England. The houses were not put up before—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
That is not correct. The right hon. Gentleman said that 8,000 had been authorised, which is a very different matter.
I am glad to admit the correction. The hon. Gentleman says 1473 that 8,000 houses have been authorised, and I presume that, even under the Government which he supports, those houses will be built. Therefore, I may take it that at least 8,000 houses are to be put up in rural areas. Those houses were not there before the 1924 Act came into operation and those houses could not be put up under any other conditions. Those are the facts of the case.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Those are not the facts of the case. As a matter of fact the erection of houses in the rural areas was greater, probably, under the Addison Act than under the Wheatley Act. The actual number in the rural areas erected under the Wheatley Act is something between 2,000 and 3,000.
I am always glad to give way, and I wish to discuss this matter with the desire to get information. However the hon. Gentleman tries to decrease the figure, it is a fact that the Act of 1924 has led to a considerable increase in the number of houses in rural areas. It is also a fact that the removal of the subsidy from rural housing will produce a relatively small economy. He said just now that the houses were produced under the Addison Act. Does he propose to revive that Act in regard to rural housing?
Then perhaps he will tell us in his reply what precisely his Government do propose to do for rural housing. The other day they were proposing to patch up pigsties, stables and other things, but that is not quite good enough and is not going to bring the workers back to the land, which is one of the most urgently necessary things to happen in this country. If the Government refuse the subsidy for rural houses and make it more difficult for houses to be put up in rural areas, they are dealing a very severe blow indeed at any possibility of the revival of what ought to be our basic industry of agriculture. I do not think there is really any justification, from the point of view of economy, for removing the subsidy, and I suggest that the Government should seriously consider withdrawing the proposal to reduce the subsidy as far as rural houses are concerned, even if they are not prepared to go as far as we want them to and 1474 abandon this very lamentable project altogether.
If we were at the end of this problem, or even in sight of the end, I should be prepared to welcome a gradual reduction of subsidy, because methods of subsidy on this national scale are not stable methods of finance, but we are not within sight of the end. Nobody can tell how long it will take us before any Minister can get up at that Box and say: "In so many years we shall have overtaken the housing shortage," and, as far as I can see, nobody will be in a position to predict that for many years to come. In fact, until not only the wastage of houses and the necessary increase in the number of houses to make up for the increase of population are dealt with, but also until the great slum problem is dealt with, we shall not have begun really to deal with this housing question. I am not going to take the particular cases with which the Minister has been bombarded this evening, because I understand they do not affect him. I understand that the Minister is very well informed as to what housing conditions are. I know he is, because he is informed by an army of doctors and public health officers all over the country, who send him reports couched in language which, if it were used by me from this bench, would probably be stigmatised in the Press to-morrow as Bolshevist propaganda.
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but on this aspect of the matter I can claim to be at least as well informed as he is, because I have made a practice for many years past of studying in detail the reports of medical officers of health and of School medical officers, as that is a way in which you can get a look under the official curtain at the realities of life.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I was only dissenting from the idea that the hon. Member would use Bolshevist language of any kind.
That is a very nice little joke on the part of the hon. Gentleman, but what I was suggesting was that the medical officers, in their reports, use language which, if I used it from these benches, would be stigmatised as Bolshevism. We quite agree that I 1475 should never, never do that. We never do that kind of thing, but it is the hon. Gentleman's medical officers of health who do it, and let me refer him in particular to the report of the medical officer of health of no less a city than Birmingham. Read what he says of the actual conditions of immorality, indecency, and so on there. I cannot in this House repeat what he says about the conditions of certain parts of Birmingham, and that is only one area. I will not repeat what I myself know about the conditions in my own particular district, or any of the numerous parts of London with which the hon. Gentleman opposite is very familiar, but the Minister of Health and his very able assistant are bound by the facts of the situation to put all that kind of thing on one side, because they dare not contemplate what these statistics of housing mean in human life and human blood. They dare not do that every day. They could not do their work if they did.
I have been down for an hour just now into my own constituency, and I have been besieged by people wanting rooms, and wanting to know how they can get out of their overcrowded conditions, with eight people in one room, and so on, and it is a living nightmare for people. I have in my hand a little blue paper, issued two days ago by the magistrate at the Tower Bridge Police Court, not a warrant for anybody's arrest, but a request or rather a command signed by a warrant officer of the court, urging upon a certain landlady that she must allow her tenant to take possession of a room, there having been a quarrel about its possession, and the tenant having been compelled, with her three children, to tramp about all night while it was raining, because they had had a disturbance. That is the kind of little human misery that is going on all the time, and it could be multiplied by thousands in my constituency and in the constituency of any Member on this side of the House or on that side who represents a part of London. I confess that it is absolutely necessary to abstract oneself from that heartrending vision of suffering and misery to be able to contemplate this problem cogently and clearly, but that does not excuse the Minister of Health for taking a course of action which 1476 is going to make it much more difficult, especially in the poorest and the hardest hit areas, to get houses erected and to get the slum problem dealt with.
For my own part, I should be prepared, as I have said already, to agree at any rate to consider the question of the reduction of the subsidy if the Government would bring forward a definite programme saying: "We are proposing to do this for a definite stabilised period of years for the general housing problem, we are proposing to do another great work with regard to the reconstruction of slum; and we al c prepared to do a third great work with regard to the building of houses for the rural population," but I have no hope that the Government will do anything of the sort., They cannot do it. They are pulled back by those who demand economy in money first, and who refuse to understand that economy in money can mean a tremendous wastage in human life. There is really no more that we, on this side, can say. I believe it is quite hopeless talking to the party opposite. They are not really permeable to argument. The worst cases that we can bring before them they know quite well. They read the reports of the medical officers, they have the matter before them, and they have decided, on general lines of policy, that this suffering must go on, that the conditions cannot be bettered, that the programme of improvements set up by the Labour Government cannot be accelerated. In fact, if the Government opposite really meant business, instead of closing up on the subsidy, they would have gone on with the present subsidy arrangements and added to them a big programme of slum clearance. If their claim of good will to the workers really meant what they say it means, they would have gone to the heart of the trouble, and that is in the slums. Until some Government in this country takes up the problem of slum clearance, and all the degeneration of life which that means, putting on one side the misery and suffering that are involved, it will be impossible to solve the problem by any method of subsidies or of Chamberlain or other schemes. But, whether they do that or not, there can be no justification whatsoever for lowering the subsidy at the present time, for that can only throw housing back, only make things worse; and I venture to 1477 prophesy that any hope and expectation there may be of prices being reduced will be falsified, and there will also be piled up to the Government's discredit a tremendous debit balance of human suffering, human sickness and human misery.
§ Mr. MARCH
The housing question is so important that, representing the district I do, I cannot allow the occasion to pass without a few words. In the district I represent private enterprise has failed for many years. Private enterprise said there was no opportunity to build houses at all in our district, and had it not been for the Addison scheme we should not have had the numbers we have to-day. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will admit that very few houses were built in our district under the 1923 Act, and those that were, were built by the borough council. Private enterprise gave up Poplar a long time ago, simply because there is no land where they can build enough houses to pay them. If it had not been for the 1924 Act the borough council would have had to stop, because we could not think of continuing house building under the 1923 Act. With the bigger subsidy under the 1924 Act we were able to purchase some ground, which we were prevented by the Minister of Health from taking under the Addison scheme. Under the Addison scheme we got enough land on one side of a road to build 120 houses and tenements. We wanted to get a piece of land on the other side of the road at the same time, but the Minister said, "No, you must get on with the other first." During the three years we were building those houses the other land was being used for allotments. The same landlord owned the land on both sides of the road, and when we applied to him for the rest of the land in order to build 72 more houses the price was just doubled. Having had to pay double for the land, the rents of the houses had to be increased proportionately. Then we are told "Poplar increases the rents of houses." We cannot see how we could do otherwise in the circumstances.
We also have another lot of houses in course of erection. We found an old rope ground which had been discarded for a number of years, and we persuaded the Minister to allow us to put some up there. We hope we shall finish the houses before 1478 this subsidy is reduced, because if we do not we shall have to stop. Poplar cannot go on building houses with a lower subsidy.
Our biggest difficulty is with the slum areas. We have got one cleared away, and we are now taking another in hand, but those are only two out of 40 which want clearing away in our district. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) said that in his division there are a number of houses over 100 years old, but we have some nearly 200 years old. Owing to the miserable wages the people have been getting, coupled with the casual nature of their work, three, four and five families have had to squeeze themselves into some of these houses, and the difficulty when we want to start clearing a slum is, where to put the people in the meantime. We cannot take the people out of those houses where three or four families are living together and put them into the new houses, because they could not pay the rents. We have no difficulty in getting other tenants for the houses we build; but we cannot secure that the houses they vacate are taken by the people from the slum area. We have no power over the landlords who own the houses which the people leave. Therefore, we are left with the problem of what to do with these overcrowded people.
In one of our streets we have four houses with no roofs on at all. We do not know from one day to another when they may fall. In those four houses are 10 families, and we do not know what to do with them. The only thing I can suggest is to send them over to the big house, the workhouse. That is the only place where we can put that lot. They do not pay any rent, the landlord has hopped it, and the houses are beyond renovation. But the people must go somewhere, or else be left till they are buried alive in that miserable place. If the subsidy is cut off before we can build the new houses we are now erecting, we shall have to stop.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The party opposite are often in a state of alarm about the industrial unrest in the country. If they will search their hearts and take note of the sequence of events and of the Bills that follow one another in this House, they will find an excellent reason 1479 and excuse and justification for that unrest. The present Government have expressed themselves very strongly about housing in the years that are past, but the state of the Conservative Benches this afternoon is indicative of their real interest. The Liberal Benches are even worse. I think it is something worthy of note that the question of this kind should receive such small consideration from hon. Members opposite. I think it is remarkable that in the face of the Government proposals which have been made, no defence has been made by any single Member of the Conservative party, and it has been left to the Minister of Health, and, no doubt, later the capable Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will put the lid on the Government's defence. So far as the rest of the Conservative party are concerned, it strikes me that they are rather ashamed to put up any defence for these proposals.
I want to emphasise a note which was sounded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). I am rather astounded, after our experience and our recital of the shocking condition of houses in our country that the Government are proposing to lower the quality of the houses being built, which it is suggested ought to last for the next 60 or 70 years. We have a right to demand that the standard of housing, from the point of view of the quality of the materials used, should be improved instead of being worsened. I think it is a very serious matter that at the present moment various local authorities are being compelled to lower the quality of the houses they are building. In this respect the Government policy has been of a most reprehensible character, and they should have paid more attention to the quality of the houses than has been the case.
I saw the other day a housing scheme which is being carried out by the Sheffield Corporation, embracing something like 3,000 houses. This scheme has been carried out by contract and the contractors have received the subsidy paid by the Government. It is a very large scheme indeed, but if anyone can show me worse samples of house building I should he extremely interested to see them. I have spent about 20 years of my life in the building trade. I have worked 1480 on all kinds of buildings, and I say without the slightest hesitation that never in the whole course of my experience have I seen such rotten jerry-building and finish as I saw in those houses. I have never seen anything so bad in Europe as I saw in connection with that particular scheme in Sheffield. It is a standing disgrace, yet we hear the Government are going to lower the subsidy, and we are going to have a worse quality of houses than those I have spoken about at Sheffield.
We have heard the experience of others in regard to the kind of property in which the poor people are living. I have in my hand a report of the Chelsea Housing Association, and what I am going to say relates to the Royal Borough of Chelsea. The state of things in Chelsea is almost incredible because I do not think there is a single Socialist on the committee of this particular Housing Association. The president of the association is Lady Bertha Dawkins, the chairman of the executive council is Mr. G. W. Currie, of 83, Cadogan Place, S.W.I, the vice-presidents are the Right Reverend Bishop Bidwell; Cecily, Countess of Cranbrook; the Rev. A. E. Hastings, Lower Sloane Street Baptist Church; the Rev. H. W. Reindorp, Rural Dean of Chelsea; Viscountess Rhondda, and Sir Edward P. Thesiger, K.C.B. This is what they say about the condition of a house in Chelsea:The conditions are as reported in the original Report, if not worse. The place is swarming with rats, and general conditions are deplorable. The tenant showed me three rats which she had caught the night before, and said that they literally run over the beds. Rest at night is impossible. She also said that she caught some rats every night. This house should come down.9.0 P.M.
That kind of thing relates to house after house dealt with in the Report of the Chelsea Housing Association, and it is indicative of the state of housing in the Royal Borough of Chelsea, which is one of the richest boroughs in the Metropolis. This is only indicative of what everyone of us could recite from our own experience, and I am quite sure the Ministry of Health could confirm in an incalculable number of instances a condition of things like that. Such a condition of things is intolerable, and yet the people who are living in this state are supposed to sing 1481 "Land of Hope and Glory." Talk about the blessings of Empire! I think it is intolerable that under these conditions the Government should be proposing to lower the standard of housing instead of improving it. The Minister of Health says the finances of the country cannot afford the present subsidy, and consequently money is being withheld from extending the housing of the people. Surely if this policy is pursued, both from a local and national point of view, the people will suffer in the most inconceivable manner. Even according to the figures which have been quoted by the Minister of Health it is perfectly clear that in spite of all the efforts we have made since 1918 we have not kept pace with our normal building programme. Take the eight years which have elapsed since the Armistice, when the normal demand for houses was 80,000 per year. That means that there was a shortage of over 600,000 houses. That means that there is still a shortage of 1,000,000 in the country, to say nothing of the fact that the difficulty has been added to because so many houses have got infinitely worse during those eight years for want of repairs.
It is under these conditions that the Government, which are supposed to have the interests of the country at heart and to deplore the increase of bitterness and class feeling, propose to reduce the housing subsidy. The conduct of the Government is inhuman, callous and brutal in the extreme, and the incalculable folly to which the Minister of Health has given expression by the introduction of these proposals will leave 1,000,000 families to welter in that depth of misery into which they have now sunk, solely through the ineptitude of the Conservative Government. It is clear that if this subsidy is taken away we shall have to give up all hope of seeing any real reform carried out so far as the housing of the people is concerned.
It is perfectly clear that private enterprise has failed. I believe that the Minister of Health, strongly imbued with Conservative principles, hates the idea of the municipal ownership of houses, hates the idea of the public ownership of houses, and wants an extension of the principle of every man owning his 1482 own house. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is all very well, but you have reached saturation point so far as that is concerned. The number of persons who can purchase their own houses, even on the most favourable terms, has pretty well reached its limit. On every estate that is being developed with houses of moderate size, they have houses on their hands which they cannot sell, even with the subsidy. But there is a demand for houses to rent. Workers cannot tie themselves down to localities. They have always to bear in mind the fact that they may, by the exigencies of their job, be compelled to move to other districts, and they must retain some liberty of movement; they dare not tie themselves down to ownership—it does not pay them from any point of view. It is tenancy that we want, and it is tenancy that this proposal is fighting more than anything else.
I urge that the Government be compelled, by the feeling expressed in this House, even amongst their own followers, not to commit the folly of the proposal they are now making. I do not complain that they will have to pay a bitter price for it. I am not concerned with that. I do not want to find victims for the Labour party at the expense of the great mass of the people of this country. If the people could be saved from the unholy wretchedness in which they are at present living, I should be pleased even if it brought no success whatever to the Labour party. Surely, it is within the power of decent-minded people in this House to work for good in this matter, and, where they have the will to express their views, for Members on the Government side to voice the demands made in their own localities. They must be aware that the Association of Municipal Corporations represents corporations that are opposed to this proposal. The county councils and urban districts are up in arms against it. It is not that we represent the towns while hon. Members opposite represent the rural districts. Their own local authorities are opposed to it, they want it defeated, and I am sure that, if they carry out the wishes of the public authorities whom they claim to have the honour of representing, this proposal will be sent back where it belongs, the Government will be defeated in their object of staying 1483 the housing of the working classes, and we shall have done something collectively here, the Tory party and the Labour party combined, out of sheer determination to end the misery of millions of our people, and to show the Government that they cannot play tricks with this horrible question that is condemning our people to live a life of physical, mental and moral misery, when they ought to be looking forward to some contentment and happiness in their lives. From every point of view I urge that this proposal should be defeated in the Lobbies, and that the Government should know that, so far as the House of Commons is concerned, it will not tolerate any playing with the destinies, as regards physical and mental well-being, of the people of this country.
§ Mr. R. HUDSON
The last speaker, like most of those on the opposite side of the House whose speeches I have heard in this Debate, has entirely abstained from any attempt to counter the arguments of the Minister of Health in advocating this draft Order. They have all agreed, as, indeed, we all do, that there is a considerable lack of houses which will rent at sums within the capacity of the less well paid members of the working classes, but, so far as I have heard, not one has directed any arguments towards disproving the contention of the Minister on which this draft Order is based, namely, that the effect of the 1923 and 1924 subsidies, and the latter more particularly, has been to increase the price of houses, and has been, above all, to make no practical difference, as the Minister showed, in the rents charged by local authorities for the houses built under those subsidies. If hon. Members were really anxious to do what they profess, namely, to secure the provision of houses at rents that can be paid by the less well off members of the working class, they would either try to disprove what the Minister said, or, having failed to do that, as I submit they have, would agree that one of the best things we can do is, by diminishing the subsidy, to reduce the price of houses, so as to reduce the rents at which it will be possible to let them.
Personally, I, like many other Members on this side, regret that the Minister of Health did not go further and make a 1484 bolder cut in the subsidy. I, Personally, believe there is very good ground for thinking that, if the subsidy had been cut still further, within 18 months we should have seen, taking the country by and large, a very much greater increase in competition among contractors for the work that was going. They would tend to cut prices very much more to the bone than they have done up to now, and the result would have been that we should have been within measurable distance of getting back to the prices prevailing for houses in the early days of 1923. In most constituencies in industrial and mining areas which are represented by Members on this side of the House, the problem is not to provide more houses that will rent at 8s. to 10s. 6d. a week; the problem is to find houses that will rent at 6s. to 8s. a week, and I regret very much that the Minister did not cut the subsidy further, so as to eliminate the provision of houses that rent at the higher prices, and put some of the money thereby saved towards a bold and comprehensive scheme of slum clearance. There is in my own constituency, for example, one court that was condemned in 1841 as unfit for human habitation, but that court is still inhabited. No provision of houses, however, under the Chamberlain Act or under the Wheatley Act, is going in any way to remedy that state of affairs. As the Minister has shown, the rents of Wheatley houses are practically the same as those of Chamberlain houses, and both are utterly beyond the capacity of the man who has been living in these slum areas to pay. I regret that the subsidy was not cut down very much more, and the money thus saved devoted to some progressive scheme of slum clearance.
There is another question that I should like to raise. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary has a number of points to answer, but I feel that if he could see his way to deal with this one he would be relieving the apprehensions of a great number of local authorities up and down the country. A number of houses have been started, in good faith under the existing subsidy, by local authorities, who believed they would be completed before the end of October next. Local authorities up and down the country realised pretty well, from indications they have received, that the subsidy was likely to be drastically 1485 decreased, if not put an end to altogether, and they have based their plans on the provision of a certain number of houses to be completed by the end of October, 1927, and rank for subsidy. The contractors for those houses have entered into contracts saying that they shall be completed before that date, but I believe that in a number of cases the contracts contain clauses enabling the contractor to postpone that date in the event of his operations being delayed as a result of strikes or force majeure. It is a very common clause, and a perfectly proper one. In many cases those contractors have been delayed as a result of the coal stoppage. Bricks have not been obtainable, lime has not been attainable, and a number of similar delays have occurred.
I quite realise that it is too late in the day to suggest any alteration in the draft Order, but I should like to ask my hon. Friend if he would say that some time next year, when the end of October is approaching, if it seems to him that local authorities can make out a case for having been delayed, as a result of the coal stoppage, in their existing commitments which have been sanctioned, he will consider introducing some short Measure into this House to enable, for example, a delay of three months beyond October, 1927, to be allowed for the completion of houses that otherwise would have been completed by the end of October, 1927, and would have ranked for subsidy. In mining areas, such as my own, we are faced next year with a very large increase of rates and it is a little unfair, and it will be very hard on the ratepayers that. not only should they have to bear the cost of relief which has been given to the miners' families, but in addition to that, partly indeed as the result of that relief, they should have to bear an increased charge on the rates due to losing the subsidy, which they would not have done had the stoppage not taken place, and which is really an obligation which they undertook in perfect good faith on the authority of the Ministry before they realised that this stoppage was going to take place. If the hon. Gentleman will give us some assurance of that kind, that he will take this case into consideration, it would materially relieve the anxiety of a great number of local authorities up and down the country.
This has been one of the most extraordinary Debates during the two years' lifetime of this Government. The Minister of Health came down to the House obviously an unhappy man and made perhaps the most unconvincing speech he has made since he resumed office. He adduced no serious argument in favour of his proposal, and since then we have had speeches from eight supporters of the Government. Five of them have spoken in opposition to the Minister's proposal. The last speaker, while beginning as a root-and-branch man who wished even further to reduce the subsidy, wound up with a whining appeal for an extension. Of the other two Members who usually vote against us, the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir P. Pilditch) in a complicated and congested speech, using an argument that I failed to understand, said he had come to the conclusion that the Government was right. The only other speaker was that arch-individualist the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), who was less concerned to prove that the Government was right now than that it had always been wrong in the past, and to indulge in a sort of family quarrel with the Parliamentary Secretary. When the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. March) was making one of his moving speeches from practical experience, the Parliamentary Secretary nodded his head in acquiescence with all the sentiments my hon. Friend uttered. If we are defeated to-night, it will be by the serried ranks of the inarticulate Members of the Conservative party. The spectacle of the Benches opposite is sufficient to show the interest the Conservative party takes in this question, and if we were to judge this issue by the speeches which have been delivered by hon. Members to-day, the Government's proposal would be defeated, and it would he defeated because the Government has no case.
Let me put before the House the situaton we now find ourselves in as the result of the very large amount of building since the War. Since the War we have built over 750,000 houses, of which 288,000 have been built without State aid. The vast majority of these have not been built for the manual worker. Nearly 467,000 houses have been built with State assistance but of those, 196,000 have been built by private enterprise, and the vast majority of that 196,000 houses are not 1487 to-day occupied by the working classes. 270,000 houses have been built since the War by local authorities. Not three-fifths of those are occupied by manual workers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] If the hon. Member will listen I will try to make it quite plain to his intelligence. Broadly speaking, the houses which have been built without State assistance have been built for people who are not of the manual working class. The bulk of those houses which have been built with State assistance by private enterprise have been built for sale, and the majority of them have passed into the hands of lower middle class people. Moreover, as regards those houses which have been built with State assistance by local authorities, and particularly as regards the Addison houses, a large proportion of them to-day are occupied by bank clerks and professional people because the rents are too high for working class people to pay. It is very questionable whether more than a third of all the houses which have been built since the War are now in the occupation of manual workers, and the rest are in the occupation of professional people, the lower middle class and the middle class. I am not denying that they are not as entitled to proper housing accommodation as manual workers. My point is that two out of every three houses built since the War have gone to a relatively small section of the community and only a third to the mass of manual workers. Therefore, though successive schemes have done much to solve the problem of middle class housing, the problem of working class housing remains much where it was.
It is true the local authorities, as time has gone on, have realised the importance of themselves providing houses which could be let to their citizens. If we take the middle six months of the year, ending September, the best building period, and take the years 1924, 1925 and 1926. we shall find that while in 1924 local authorities built 8,000 houses, in the six months this year they have built nearly 37,000 houses, and whereas private enterprise built 18,000 houses in the six months in 1924, they have built 38,000 houses in 1488 1926. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] I do not see what there is for the hon. Gentleman to be pleased about. In those two years the number of houses built by private enterprise is only doubled, and the number built by municipalities is this year 4½ times as many as two years ago. Why? Because it has been borne in day by day that the local authorities have a responsibility towards those of their citizens who are unable to buy houses. While during the past two years there has been a slackening in the rate of increase of private enterprise building, there has been a very substantial increase in building by local authorities, due primarily to the Act of 1924. Now that local authorities are at grips with this problem and are using every effort to solve it, the Government come along with their proposal to reduce the subsidy. The Government tried to solve this problem by alternative methods. That was the most miserable failure of any piece of Government policy since the War. It is unfortunate that this proposal for reducing the subsidy on new houses should Colncide with the establishment of a new subsidy for improving old houses in country districts. The Government, when a big programme is in full swing among the local authorities, chooses this as the time to reduce its subsidy.
What are the right hon. Gentleman's grounds for reducing the subsidy? I am not at all clear what his grounds are, because not very long ago he said he was alarmed at the increase in the cost of houses. A day or two ago he made a speech to that effect. But what is the fact with regard to the increasing cost of houses? The right hon. Gentleman has established a mathematical correlation between the price of houses and the subsidy. There is no mathematician in the country who would pay the slightest attention to his correlation. There is a correlation between orders and prices. If you stop ordering goods, prices will fall. When, in 1921, the then Minister of Health the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) succeeded in bringing down prices of houses by stopping giving orders for them, it is not trite that that was the only cause that brought down prices. Anybody who will study the monthly prices of houses during that period will 1489 know perfectly well that the Ministry of Health was then in the saddle, and that prices had already begun to fall. In the interest of economy the then Minister of Health stopped building altogether. If nobody built houses the price of houses would fall to nearly nothing.
I will come to that in a moment. It is suggested that prices have been increasing. What are the facts? In 1923, as the Minister himself knows perfectly well, prices were uneconomically low because the Coalition Government had stopped building and because builders were so anxious to get orders that they were prepared to take tenders below the cost of the houses. That is perfectly true. If the Parliamentary Secretary does not agree with that he can say so, but it is the fact. You got an economic price for houses after the Act of 1923 had begun to operate. The 1924 price was the economic price. The right hon. Gentleman quoted prices for particular months. Anybody accustomed to handling statistics knows that if you can choose your figures you can prove anything. If you wish to obtain a general view of the level of prices, the only fair way to do it is take the average average over a period. If you take the average cost of houses for I924—and I take the average of the monthly prices in the possession of the Minister of Health—then for non-parlour houses it was £421 and for parlour houses £477. In 1925, with another Government likely to be less unfavourable to a rise in prices than the Government of 1924, the average price for non-parlour houses was £442 and for parlour houses £497. So that the first year of Tory Government resulted in an increase in the price of houses of £20 each. If we take the first 10 months of this year and take the average monthly prices of parlour and non-parlour houses, the figures are exactly the same as they were in 1925. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman's argument that prices are increasing and he must do something about it is worthless, because it is not in accordance with the facts. He is using a bogey of increasing prices which does not exist as an excuse for reducing the subsidy.
The right hon. Gentleman's main argument about the subsidy, if I under- 1490 stood it—and he has expressed the fear in speeches before this—is that the subsidy had somehow increased the price of houses; therefore, if he could reduce the subsidy, he would reduce the cost of houses. So far as his own Act is concerned, I would not lift a finger to protect the continuance of the subsidy. It is becoming more and more a gift to the builders, and stands on a footing entirely different from the subsidy given in the Act of 1924. The subsidy given in the Act of 1924 was a subsidy in aid of a public service, and stands on exactly the same footing as the State grants given in aid of public health. The subsidy given under the Act of 1923 is a pernicious subsidy, the kind of which the Conservative party has always been fond. Therefore, Personally, I should have had no objection if the right hon. Gentleman had been logical, if, indeed, he had responded to the appeal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson) and been more drastic as regards the subsidy under his own Act. In the case of local authorities' houses the position is much different. It is, I think, generally admitted that the bigger proportion of the houses built under the Act of 1923 were built by private enterprise for sale. It is undeniable that more houses have been built and are being built by local authorities under our Act of 1924 than under the Act of 1923.
I submit that the 1923 Act has done its work. It has virtually solved the problem of the lower middle-class and middle-class houses, but the problem of the working-class houses, the provision of houses to be let, still remains, and if it is to be solved it cannot he solved by the Act of 1923 but can be solved by the Act of 1924. What will be the effect of the reduction of the 1924 subsidy? One of two things will happen. Either there will be less building of such houses, or the houses that are built will be built and let at higher rents. There is not a local authority in the country that believes that this is a sound proposal. Hon. Members opposite know that. If they go into the Lobby with the Government, they will be most unhappy, because they know that they will be acting against the wishes of the local authorities. Local authorities are being put in an impossible position. Two things that really did work against a solution of the 1491 housing problem up to 1924 were uncertainty and instability. We tried to solve that problem.
We tried to give the local authorities heart to enter upon a 15 years' programme. Almost at the earliest possible moment the right hon. Gentleman comes along with his proposal to wreck that scheme and to discourage the local authorities from continuing their work. His proposal means that he is going to give the local authorities less than he has been giving them. Unless there comes a substantial fall, amounting to at least £25, in the cost of building houses, that reduced subsidy can only be met by higher rents or higher rates. If the local authority is public-spirited enough and courageous enough, it may take part of the burden on itself. It really means that, in one way or another, the right hon. Gentleman is merely shifting the burden from the Treasury to the rates and to the taxpayers. Those of us who have been interested in this problem know that, even yet, the rents of municipal houses are too high. I received particulars a few days ago from Nottingham, where to-day there are 4,500 applicants for houses, and of these 1,300 are wishing to move from Corporation houses into smaller and worse houses, because they will be cheaper.
Although efforts are being made, which will ultimately succeed, to bring down the rents of municipal houses, they are more than the working class to-day can bear. Notwithstanding, the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is to increase them. It will mean that not only will the well-to-do be able to profit by the 1923 Act, but they will get all the advantages of the 1924 Act, and the problem of working-class houses will be as far from solution as ever. The right hon. Gentleman's argument is that if he reduces the subsidy he will reduce the price. He never proved it. That is a thesis which is incapable of proof, except on the one assumption that a reduced subsidy would mean reduced price if local authorities restrict their building programmes. That is the only certainty where you will get a lower price for houses. If that be the right hon. Gentleman's argument, it is perfectly sound.
If you reduce the subsidy and discourage local authorities to order fewer houses, and there is more competition to 1492 build the houses, prices will fall. But that remedy is worse than the disease. I would rather have houses at higher prices than no houses with a lower cost level. That solves nothing. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to deal with the question of prices, if he feels that there is something mysterious about the present level of prices, let him arm himself with powers to deal with the problem. If it be true, as he says, that the present increase, presumably over 1924, is not due to increases in the cost of materials or in labour costs, then let him explore where it is to be found, and squeeze it out. That is the only way to reduce prices if they are artificially high.
The real argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has frightened him. This proposal has nothing whatever to do with housing. It is quite unconnected with housing. It is merely part of the Government's economy campaign. It is a way of getting hack some of the money which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave away to the Income Tax payers last year. On its merits, there is nothing to be said for this proposal as a housing proposal. Only a day or two ago the Minister of Health said that he was "alarmed at the high figures piling up in national and local expenditure upon housing." I understand that the aggregate cost of the houses that have been built so far is something like £490,000,000. More than four-fifths of that amount is due to the Addison houses. —we cannot escape from that—and the other cost for houses is a relatively small one. This "piling up of costs" is at the present time going on very slowly indeed. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that it is mounting up by £900,000 per year, which is about one-sixth of the product of one penny in the pound on the Income Tax. Surely that is a very moderate, modest, small increase as a contribution to the solution of this great problem.
The amount to which we have committed ourselves in order to solve the housing problem is a relatively small one compared with the importance of the problem, and it is mean and petty at this stage to attempt to reduce the subsidy. The right hon. Gentleman, in the same speech to which I have already referred, said:Sometimes one cannot help feeling alarmed when one sees the financial re- 1493 sponsibilities we are taking on our shoulders. It is difficult to estimate accurately what the capital liabilities of the State in regard to housing are at the present moment. Personally "—I have no doubt he said this very impressively, in order to create shudders in the audience—I should estimate it at not less than one hundred and fifty millions sterling.That is an insignificant sum. The hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) has made an estimate, which has often been used, and so far as I know has never been refuted, that the annual cost of sickness in this country is £150,000,000 per year, and the right hon. Gentleman quivers with emotion and fright because the capital liability of the State in respect of housing may be £150,000,000, when largely through our housing conditions we are spending that sum per year in dealing with sickness and disease. In that connection I should like to quote some words used by Dr. Childe in his Presidential address to the British Medical Association. He had been dealing with the causes of disease, and he said:The country could spend without loss £50,000,000 annually, or capitalised at 5 per cent., £1,000,000,000 on clearing slum areas and securing better housing and living accommodation, provided that the cost of sickness and disablement were thereby reduced by one-third.And there is not a medical man who would not be prepared to say that given decent housing conditions you will reduce the cost of sickness by one-third. Never a year goes by but what the annual report of the chief medical officer of the Ministry of Health, and the report of Sir George Newman, the chief medical officer of the Board of Education, does not insist upon and reiterate the importance of housing as a problem of public health, and we are to-day losing, not only in money, but in vitality and energy and productive capacity, a far larger sum than that. Every million pounds spent on housing in this country is going to be more than repaid by the improvement in the health of the people. Yet at this moment, when this big movement is on its way, when we are building more houses than ever we built in the history of this country—and on these benches we take some credit for it—when to-day we are build- 1494 ing in excess of any previous period in our history, when even now, in spite of all the building, every local authority knows that it ought to build more houses than it has yet built, the right hon. Gentleman comes down at the dictates of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a miserable proposal to decrease the subsidy by £25 per house.
It is an astonishing thing that when we are within measurable distance of solving the problem, when the wheels of the machine are working as they have never worked before, when the output of houses is larger than ever before, when there is still an accelerating production of houses, the Government should choose this moment to turn around on local authorities who have been doing their best to meet the difficulties And say to them: "You are to take less money, and, if you wish to go on building, you must pay the bill yourselves or put it on the backs of the workers, or build houses for people who are not of the working classes." If it was left to the free will of Members of the House of Commons to vote as they would wish, if the Government would take off the Whips, this Motion would he defeated. I have within the last few days received letters and reports from many parts of the country, and almost everywhere the same story is told by local authorities, by building experts, by mayors and town councillors, that the only effect of this proposal will be to reduce the building of working-class houses. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he does not wish to do any such thing. If he is sincere in that, as I believe he is, the best thing he can do is to withdraw this Motion and be bold enough to say that, serious though the financial situation of the nation may be, in the interests of true economy the present subsidy ought to be continued and every encouragement given to our local authorities to increase their building programmes in order to reduce that dead weight of expenditure, on sickness, disease and death.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I should like first of all to address myself to the various questions which have been put by hon. Members with regard to the proposed reduction on houses on the 1st October, 1927. Let me first say that there is, of course, no reduction contemplated in 1495 this Order in respect of slum clearances or in connection with the houses under the Addison scheme, or in connection with houses which are completed before the 1st October, 1927. As long ago as the 4th August last my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health made a statement in this House to the following effect:The statutory review under the Act of 1924"—that is really why we are choosing this moment now—falls to be made after the 1st of October next, and I cannot at the present time say what reduction of subsidies, if any, may be made by Order under that Act. Any such Order, however, must be confirmed by Resolution of this House before becoming operative. In the meantime, I have decided that houses completed by the 1st October, 1927, will be eligible for the present rate of subsidy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th August, 1926; col. 2984, Vol. 198.]An hon. Member behind me raised a question about local authorities, and pointed out some of the difficulties they apprehend. I must point out that before the 4th August last my right hon. Friend naturally saw representatives of local authorities, and he made known to them the announcement he was going to make. In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman it must be said that ample notice has been given of this particular matter. An hon. Member opposite asked what "completed" means. A house completed means a house ready for occupation. This is not a new provision. Local authorities have to determine the meaning of the word "completion" under the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919, and the interpretation then put on the term was ready for occupation, in other words that the house is fit for the tenant to enter. Therefore the local authorities are perfectly familiar with the position in determining whether a, house is ready for occupation, for very commonly certificates of completion "fit for occupation" are required by various by-laws up and down the country.
We are advised that under the Act of 1924 we are only empowered to fix by Order one date of completion. Therefore, I am afraid it would be very difficult for anything further to be done in that connection, and this late date giving such ample warning, October, 1927, was fixed after consultations with the local 1496 authorities so as to allow ample time for carrying out commitments and programmes which they were anxious to settle during the Summer and Autumn months. They asked far that date themselves, and my right hon. Friend met them in that connection. But, of course, we will consider what my hon. Friend behind me has said. He has asked us to consider the matter further later on in the year, and, of course, consideration will be given to that in the light of what I have just said.
May I direct myself for a few moments to the statements which have been made in connection with the Order which we are asking the House to confirm to-day, and particularly the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, who, I thought, put the principal indictment against the proposals we are making. If I might describe that speech—certainly very able, as the right hon. Gentleman always is—I should say that it was an example of avoidance of the real issues created by this Order. It certainly included one very striking admission, which I hope the House noticed at the time, that in the belief of the right hon. Gentleman, as a result of the reduction of the subsidy, prices would go down. That was accompanied by a prophecy that as a consequence of this proposal the building industry would be wrecked and the building of houses for workers would be shut down. Anyone can confirm that by a reference to the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow morning. Let me make a few observations on that proposition, and especially upon the speech which has just been made by the hon. Member who last spoke. He paid a very handsome compliment to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health which, if I may be permitted to say so, was a very true one. He said in his belief probably the problem of housing for the middle class and the lower middle class had been settled by the provisions introduced under the Housing Act, 1923. We are very grateful to him for that observation. I do not think I should quarrel with him very much on his diagnosis—at any rate, to a very great extent—of the position as we find it in reference to the housing problem to-day. If anyone asked me what was the real and most vital problem in the interests of the working classes of 1497 this country so far as housing was concerned, I should say it was to reduce the cost of houses. The problem so far as concerns the middle classes and lower middle classes, we are told, has been solved, and therefore it is of the very greatest and most vital moment to the badly housed, and particularly to the poorer members of the community, that the cost of building to-day should be reduced.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston divided the badly housed and those who wanted new houses into two classes. He said there were the purchasers and those who could not afford to purchase. He really ignored the most vital need of the whole problem. I think every member of the House will agree with me in what I say. The great problem to-day is to get houses erected at such a cost as will enable them to be let at such rents as can be paid for by the poorer members of the community. The great difficulty is this, and every local authority is confronted with it. I hope they are concerned, as my right hon. Friend is concerned, with the conditions of housing half a century hence. We want to put nothing in the way of housing to-day which will disgrace the community. But their great difficulty and their great problem is to meet the needs of the poorer classes of the community.
If the House will allow me for just a moment, I should like to refer to the position so far as the localities are concerned in some of the poorer districts of the country. Reference has already been made to the position of Poplar and the rents which have to be charged for houses there on account of course of the cost of building to-day. We find, for instance, in connection with Poplar that, taking the 1923 Act scheme first, for a non-parlour house with two bedrooms people have to pay 7s. 10d., plus the rates. If you refer to a three-bedroom house, they have to pay 9s., plus the rates. If you take the 1924 Act scheme you find exactly the same position. You have to pay there for a non-parlour house with two bedrooms 7s. 10d., plus the rates, and if you want to have a three-bedroom house you have to pay 9s., plus the rates. If you take another case 1498 of a great city, which I visited only a few days ago, that of Bradford, you will find exactly the same set of circumstances, and you will find it in a good many other parts of the country. Therefore I am bound to say, especially after the observations which the right hon. Gentleman has made, that so far as the real object of the 1924 Act is concerned, which was not to provide houses to let., but which was to provide houses to let at rents which the poorer members of the community could afford to pay, it has wholly failed in its object.
The right hon. Gentleman, I was interested to note, was endeavouring to find all sorts of excuses, and make all sorts of shifts to explain why it was, with this very large subsidy—which taking the State's subsidy and the local authority's subsidy amounts to nearly £300 per house, which is really a gigantic subsidy—that the rents were no lower than the rents under the Chamberlain scheme. That is a remarkable set of circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman said it was due to two reasons; firstly, because the Ministry of Health had failed to do its duty in not looking after the accounts of the local authorities, and, secondly, he thought that the accounts of the Housing Act, 1923, and the Housing Act, 1924, had somehow or other got mixed up together.
I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman—because I have made inquiries, naturally, since an extraordinary statement of that kind has been made—that it is the duty of the district auditors, who act, as he knows, in connection with these housing accounts, to inspect them to see that the money is properly accounted for. In not a single instance has there been a single report directed to my right hon. Friend's Department of any accounts having been missed nor that any local authority is mixing up the accounts of the 1923 and 1924 Acts.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite really did not do himself justice. He has only got to turn to his colleagues who are associated with Poplar or Bow and Bromley, and ask them the question, "Are you mixing up the accounts together. Owing to some kind of mixing up of the accounts you are charging the poor people of Poplar too high rents." The reply he would receive would be that of course they were complying with the 1499 law, that the accounts were being kept perfectly properly, and that, unhappily, the rents in Poplar under what we call the Wheatley Act were more than they were under the Chamberlain Act, notwithstanding the fact that this gigantic increase in subsidy had been made.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am afraid that will not do. I cannot credit that, and I do not think that any hon. Gentleman in this House will credit that the price of land in Poplar has doubled between the year 1923 and the year 1924.
Is it not a fact that in the case of the 1923 houses there was a London County Council subsidy of £3 a year and that in the case of the 1924 houses there was no such subsidy?
§ Sir K. WOOD
However that may be, Poplar, as I understood from the explanation which has recently been given by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), has taken this course on their own account, and they must be responsible if they have not received the money to which they are entitled. But no such explanation exists in connection with Bradford or many other parts of the country. I am sure the House will believe me, and hon. Members opposite have to face facts—and this is most material to this discussion, when we are reducing this subsidy not on account mainly of the cost to the national Exchequer, but because we believe that these subsidies are increasing the cost of houses—that, notwithstanding the increased subsidy paid under the Wheatley Act, taking the country up and down, you have not got a single reduction of any moment in the rents of the houses. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, curiously enough, alleged that the builders had put in their pockets the Chamberlain subsidy, and he said that the speculative builders might erect a monument to my right hon. Friend. The 1500 best monument my right hon. Friend will ever have erected to him is the over 200,000 houses which have been already erected under the Act of 1923. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston boasted about what the 1924 Act had done, and his efforts, which I will not for a moment decry, in connection with the building industry. He said that they bad actually secured 8,000 apprentices under that scheme.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman for doing that, but I must point out to him that that cannot account for the great increase in house-building in this country, because these apprentices have not yet learned their business. If I were asked what were the two best things that the right hon. Gentleman has done in connection with houses, I would say, in the first place, it was putting in his Act the right to review the subsidy as we are doing to-night. I think that was a very wise and important step to take. Secondly, I think another wise thing he did—notwithstanding all the statements he has made in the past and which, on reflection, he no doubt believes may be slightly amended—was to decide that he would permit private enterprise to have full scope under the Act of 1923. I would like to say that I agree with every statement that has been made by hon. Members opposite as to the need of continuing the housing programme, and, in particular, building houses at lower rents for the poorer classes of the community. But do not let us belittle what has been done. I suppose no country in the world has achieved such a remarkable record as this country has done in the erection of 768,000 new houses since the War.
If one looks at the last figures that we have obtained in connection with new house-building—and I think they are very material to the issue with which we are confronted to-night—it will be found that, of the 197,000 houses built in the year ending September, which is the largest number of houses that has ever been built in the history of this country, no less than 136,182 were erected by private enterprise. I wondered when I heard the denunciations of private enterprise, such as we have heard to-day, where the house- 1501 less and the badly-housed would be if it had not been for the efforts of the private builders of this country. Another fact which is well worth observing, especially when we are considering the reduction of the subsidy, is that, of these 136,182 houses, no less than 65,689 have been built without any grant or subsidy at all. Hon. Members will immediately say, "Oh, but those were houses for the rich." That is a great mistake. Of those 65,689 houses which were built without the aid of subsidy, nearly 80 per cent. came under the Rent Restriction Acts. Therefore, I venture to say to hon. Members opposite when they say that the decrease of the subsidy by a modest amount is going to stop building in this country, how is it that 65,689 houses, mainly for the working class, were built without any subsidy at all last year? I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne and Nelson (Mr. Greenwood) in the very able and effective speech that he made, avoided the real issue in this matter.
No one who has spoken to-night has been able to account for the most extraordinary rise in the cost of house building. It is a rise which is not warranted by any increase in the cost of labour or materials. I remember very well that when we were discussing last year what was called a Profiteering Bill, introduced by an hon. Gentleman opposite, the right hon. Member for Shettleston said, "I made a bargain with the building industry that their prices would be kept at a certain figure, in January, 1924." Whether the bargain was a good one or a bad one, I shall not now argue. The right hon. Gentleman had to admit, in the course of that Debate, that so far as the rise in the cost of materials and of wages was concerned, he was utterly unable to account for it. The hon. Gentleman opposite who endeavoured to deal with this matter to-night was very careful to omit what is notorious. One of my hon. Friends just now referred to the fact that I had been associated with various Ministers of Health. I remember very well one of the most extraordinary things that happened in connection with the Housing Act. When there was an unlimited subsidy, houses which had cost £200 or £300 before the War went sky high in price. They ran up to the 1502 monstrous price of £1,000, £1,100 and £1,200. There is no doubt at all that it was the subsidy which accounted in the main for the terrific rise in price.
We see exactly the same state of affairs, only in a lesser degree, with regard to every subsidy that has been given under the various Housing Acts. My right hon. Friend introduced his subsidy, and we can trace the increase in the cost of houses that immediately occurred. When the right hon. Member for Shettleston increased the subsidy and practically doubled it, we saw the same state of affairs. Therefore, I say, there is little doubt that subsidies have to some extent gone to increase the price of building. The price is an artificial one, which must not and cannot go on for ever. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite what is the position? Are they reconciled and content to give a subsidy, equal to £300, under the Wheatley scheme, and to allow houses to be erected at such a cost that rents of the kind I have mentioned are to continue? Is that the proposition of the Labour party? Are we going to rest content with such building costs and such rents? That is the question. As I understand it—and it has been confirmed by every speech to-night—every hon. Member has denounced these rents and has said that they cannot be paid by members of the poorer classes.
What are they going to do? They have had the Wheatley Act worked and they have had the biggest subsidy—a double subsidy. Are they content that matters should be left as they are? There is no doubt that an attempt has to be made, however disagreeable it may be in some parts of the House, and I believe we are making the best and the most reasonable and a very modest attempt by reducing this subsidy. We have heard prophecies to-night. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston has appeared once again in the rofe of prophet. I remember very well when the Act of 1923 was introduced he said we should have no houses but only rabbit hutches. I remember when the Contributory Pensions Act was introduced he said it was such a wicked and fiendish fraud that the people of this country would never submit to it. In regard to the Bill dealing with Rural Housing he has said that it will do nothing but provide 1503 stables and piggeries far the agricultural labourers. Therefore, I am not dismayed when the right hon. Gentleman to-night says that this reduction in the subsidy will wreck house building in this country. This Government is as anxious as any Government to avoid any break in the continuity of house production, which is proceeding at an unexampled rate and has been exceeded by no other country in the world.
Let me remind hon. Gentlemen opposite, having regard to statements which have been made to-night, that of the 750,000 new houses completed in this country since the War, nearly half have been completed during the last two years. We desire to do nothing but to exceed, if possible, that fine record. There is indeed every indication in the housing figures which are now presented to us that during the next 12 months we shall do even better and that the 200,000 mark will be passed. A statutory duty has been imposed, and properly imposed, upon the Minister of Health by the Wheatley Act to review the position. That duty has been carefully and honestly fulfilled. It is a modest step we are taking and a modest reduction we are making, but it is in the right direction. The main object to-day is to reduce the cost of housing, and it is a very well-advised step to begin to end the vicious and destructive system of subsidy, which is as bad for the building trade as for any other industry. As making for the reconstruction of a normal and healthy condition in that industry, and for greater stability and, I believe, lower prices, I commend the confirmation of this Order to the House.
§ Mr. VIANT
I beg to move, in line 5, at the end, to add the wordssubject to the omission therefrom of Articles 3 and 4.It is indeed interesting and pleasing to have had the opportunity of listening to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. It has been quite the common thing to hear the operatives in the building trade charged with playing the game of "ca'canny," but on this occasion the Parliamentary Secretary has paid a compliment to the whole of the operatives in the building industry by 1504 indicating to the House the enormous number of houses erected during the last two years. My Amendment will mean in substance that the houses that are to be erected in future by local authorities will be exempt from a reduction in the subsidy. The Amendment, I feel, will be in keeping with the desires of all local authorities throughout the country. At least, I feel that it is in keeping with the desires of the local authority that is responsible for the administration of the district for which I happen to be one of the Parliamentary Members. So bad are the housing conditions in Willesden that the board of guardians recently sent a deputation to the council asking them to speed up their housing programme because of the horrid conditions under which a large number of the people were living. Furthermore, the board of guardians were confronted with such conditions that they had some 66 children in the workhouse separated from their parents because the home conditions were so horrid that they could no longer allow the children to live under those conditions, not due to neglect on the part of the parents, but due to bad housing conditions.
I am going to ask the House to pay heed to one or two instances which I shall quote. Here is an instance of a man, his wife, and 10 children living in two rooms. The ages of the sons are 21, 15, and 11, and of the daughters 19, 17, 13, 9, 7, 5, and 3, living in two rooms. Here is another house, a six-roomed house, where there are seven persons per room, of each sex. There is another instance of two families living in three rooms, two men, two wives, a daughter of 18, and four young children. Although not related, for convenience in sleeping the families are inter-mixed. There is another family in three rooms: man, wife, daughters of 22, 19 and 12, and sons of 20, 18, 16, and 9. These conditions were related to the council and a special plea made that the council should speed up its housing programme. The council has already taken steps to do so, but it feels that if this Order takes effect on the day suggested, it will either have to increase rents or else not proceed with its housing programme. That feeling is general throughout the country. In the light of past experience the House must be convinced that, generally speaking, 1505 local authorities will shut down their housing programme. That was the effect of taking off the subsidy on a former occasion.
The building industry has set up Committees throughout the country for the purpose of supplementing labour requirements and already considerable progress has been made. Not only have apprentices been increased in number, but, owing to the promise—as a result of the 1924 Act—of a housing programme spread over 15 years, a large number of operatives who had gone out of the industry because there was no call for their labour have returned to it, and that fact is largely responsible for the increased output at the present time. I suggest that the proposals of the Minister are of a negative character, because they are going to nullify housing progress. We wish the Minister had come forward with a constructive proposal instead of a negative and destructive proposal. I have a proposal to offer. If the Minister is in difficulties he has only to confer with his colleague who is in charge of the Office of Works. Immediately after the Armistice the Office of Works undertook the construction of houses throughout the country, and carried out work totalling no less than £2,000,000 at an overhead charge of 1¼ per cent. They erected houses cheaper than any other houses were erected in the country.
If the Minister desires to bring down the price of houses there is no better way of doing it than by entrusting that Department with the power to erect houses in competition with private enterprise. Hon. Members opposite always argue that competition is good in that it tends to bring down prices. Here is an opportunity for that principle to be put into practice for the advantage of the community. It has been admitted that labour cannot be responsible for the increase in prices, and it is said that building materials are not responsible for the increase, though there is room there for a difference of opinion, because some of the brick companies are making exceedingly large profits; in all probability there is room there for prices to be brought down even below the 1924 figure. Side by side with this state of affairs we have only to glance at what is being done by local authorities who employ direct labour. In Swansea the local authority 1506 saved £57 per house; at Tynemouth they saved no less than £100 per house as a result of direct labour. In West Hartlepoof they saved from £220 to £290 per house as a result of direct labour. At Salisbury £88 per house was saved, and in Manchester 260 houses were erected in regard to which they effected a saving of £13,000 or £50 per house. Derby, as a result of direct labour, employed in the erection of a new power station, effected a considerable saving. The contract price for the station was £40,903, but they would not accept the contract and engaged direct labour, and they erected that station for £28,341 and effected a saving of £12,562.
This policy, if adopted by the Government, would be constructive, and it would speed up the construction of houses and not shut it down. We might go further, and as a result of the experience of local authorities in the manufacture of bricks, a considerable saving might be effected by allowing local authorities to manufacture bricks. In Glasgow a brick-making plant carried on by the Glasgow Corporation which supplied bricks to the Glasgow Housing Department saved at least 4s. 3½d. per 1,000 bricks, which is the difference between the price of the bricks made by the corporation and the price charged for bricks supplied by private enterprise. The Bradford Corporation has also carried on a brick works with a resulting profit amounting to £2,549 in 1924–25 and for 1925–26 the profit amounted to £2,718. I want to suggest that this at least is a constructive proposal which would speed up the erection of houses and not shut it down as the proposal before the House must ultimately do. We have had before experience of what the reduction and the abolition of this subsidy means, and we know it means that many local authorities will have to shut down their housing programme and overcrowding will become more intense.
There is another Amendment on the Order Paper, and I had at least hoped, seeing that that Amendment was put down in the name of an hon. and gallant Member opposite, the Minister in charge might have given us some idea as to whether the Government were prepared to consider it favourably. Might I ask at this juncture whether the Minister of Health will give favourable considera- 1507 tion to that Amendment, if not to the one I am moving, because that would at least enable local authorities to have a space of time during which they might be able to make arrangements which they cannot make under present circumstances with such a short notice. I hope we shall have some indication from the Minister in charge as to whether he is prepared to consider the second Amendment on the Paper as well as the first Amendment.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so, I should like, if I may within the Rules of Order, to offer one or two observations on the speech to which we listened a short time ago from the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
An Amendment has been moved, and we must keep to the Amendment, which is to exempt from the Resolution houses built under the Act of 1924.
§ Mr. THURTLE
That really was my intention, but in doing so I wish to call attention to one or two statements made by the Parliamentary Secretary. I would like to say at the outset that, listening to the hon. Gentleman's speech, I could not help feeling that it was reeking with Pecksniffian cant, because he tried to induce the House to believe that he wanted to make houses more abundant for the working classes by reducing their cost, and he, tried to suggest to the House that he was going to reduce the cost of houses by taking away a certain proportion of the existing subsidy. I have read in my youth, and have read since, the miracle of the loaves and fishes—of how the multitude was fed with five loaves and two small fishes; and it will be remembered that the outstanding feature of that miracle was that, even after the multitude had been fed, at the end of the feast there was still more left than there was at the beginning because they gathered up 12 basketsful. That was a miracle which was really quite modest in comparison with the miracle which the Government are now trying to persuade us is possible.
The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that the subsidy of £300 under the Wheatley Act is at present being given to houses built under that Act, and he is 1508 seriously suggesting—because that is the implication of his argument—that, if the whole of that subsidy were taken away, it would be possible for the local authorities to build houses more cheaply than they are doing now with that £300. I submit that that is a grotesque proposition to put before the House of Commons. It is true that it is not proposed at the present time to take away the whole subsidy of £300, but the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that, of the increased subsidy conferred by the Wheatley Act, only £15 is accounted for by the increased cost of materials. Therefore, with that addition of £165 by means of the Wheatley Act, and deducting the £15 due to the increased cost of materials, we have a net addition towards the cost of the house of £150. Is the Parliamentary Secretary, or the Minister himself, going seriously to suggest that, if that £150 is taken away, it is going to be possible for the local authorities to produce houses at a lower rent? I submit that the hon. Gentleman himself knows quite well that that is not a valid excuse.
I was interested to observe that neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary attempted to give us an explanation of the fact that, although there was this increase of £150 per house, the cost of the house remained the same. Who is getting this additional £150? The Parliamentary Secretary was invited to say who was getting it, but he could not say; and the Minister himself, in his statement earlier this afternoon, did not pretend to tell us where the £150 is going. Does he suggest that this £150 is going into the pockets of the people who are actually contracting to erect these houses? Does he suggest that private enterprise is such that, no matter how great the subsidy may be which may be contributed by the State, private enterprise will always see to it that the whole of that is swallowed up in the shape of profits?
If he does not mean that, I really do not know what he does mean, because it has always seemed to me that if you have more money to expend upon any given undertaking it ought to be possible, especially if some of that money has been given to you, if you are going to charge rent on the basis of the money you have expended, to let that rent be lower than 1509 it would be if you had not received that money. The right hon. Gentleman has had over 400 local authorities represent to him that they do not want this subsidy taken off. Does he think those 400 local authorities, including many Tory authorities, actually want to have money wasted? Does he think they would be willing to see this additional £150 go into the pockets of the contractors? He knows as well as the local authorities know that without this additional subsidy they will have to charge higher rents than they are charging at present It may not be merely a question of maintaining the same rents as those that obtained earlier. Without this £150 it must follow, as a sheer matter of business, that if they want to obtain anything like an economic rent they will have to charge more than they are charging now they have the subsidy.
I would not have spoken, in view of the long Debate we have had, if it were not for the fact that I come from one of the most overcrowded centres in this very overcrowded city of London, and I really could not face my constituents if I did not attempt to catch the Speaker's eye in order to make a protest against this reduction of the building subsidy. I have one or two figures here in regard to London. I see it was brought to the notice of the Minister by a deputation that there was a shortage of something like 72,000 houses in London, and from his reply to me to-day I gather that, so far, the London County Council has erected 3,800 houses, and is proposing to erect another 5,800. That makes a total of something over 9,000 houses. There is a need in London for 72,000 houses, and the total erection envisaged—not completed—by the County Council is only just over 9,000. In view of this figure, is this a time for us to attempt to reduce the housing subsidy?
According to the latest information available there are no fewer than 20,000 families in London living more than four to a room, and I frequently get people living five, six, seven, and eight to a room asking me if I can do something. The London County Council are supposed to be dealing with the housing problem. They have closed their lists. They have such a tremendous list of people still waiting for houses that they refuse to take any more names. I go to the local 1510 borough council and find they have no housing accommodation whatever. I received a letter to-day from someone who is not at all interested in our Debates. It was not written for the purpose of this Debate. He tells me:I have been to the Town Hall. They cannot do anything for me. I filled up the form for Spring Gardens. A gentleman came to my place to see how I was situated. He promised me a four-roomed house at £1 a week. Now they have sent a paper saying they cannot do anything for me. I lost a day's work trying to get them to give me a house." They advised me to go back to the Town Hall and ask them what they can do and they tell me they can do nothing.Here is what I think is the tragic feature of this case. This man goes on to say:The room has only been done no twice in 10 years.He does not mention a single room as though it was an extraordinary fact. It is accepted as being the ordinary run of things that his home should consist of one room. He goes on to say:There are seven of us living in one room.If there are four or five living in a room, it is not considered overcrowding. There have to be seven, eight or nine living in a room before it is considered an urgent case of overcrowding which can be specially dealt with by the London County Council. I submit that with facts like those staring us in the face, it is a, wanton outrage, a criminal act on the part of the Government to reduce the housing subsidy. I would like to appeal to the calculated political cunning of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, because he is a very astute politician, and I would like to put this to him. Here am I and many of my colleagues representing great industrial centres. This question of overcrowding is one of the best talking points we have on the political platform. We get a great deal of political support because people are being compelled to live under these dreadful housing conditions. That means votes to us.
I would like to repeat what was said by a colleague of mine earlier, that while we are glad to have those votes, we would be very much happier if the Government would even now take this problem in hand and deal with it and remove the overcrowding, get rid of this tragic social evil, and in that way take away from us 1511 this most effective point on the political platform because this is something very much bigger than politics. It is a great human question; it is a great human tragedy, and I would like the whole House to look at it in that light and not from the narrow viewpoint of political advantage. The Prime Minister said in the King's Speech at the beginning of this Session that in these matters—I observe that the time is going and I believe the right hon. Gentleman wants to say a word or two—
§ Mr. THURTLE
In that case it is all right. The Prime Minister said at the beginning of the Session in regard to another matter that the interest of the nation as a whole must be regarded as supreme. We have got in this housing problem a matter of supreme national importance. It ought to be the duty of any Government, of whatever complexion, to devote all its resources to giving our people fit and proper places in which to live. Good heavens! If this be a matter of economy, what humbug it is for the right hon. Gentleman and others to talk about the necessity of economy! What does he say himself? Eight and a half million pounds now is the annual charge, and the total charge which would exist in 1929 is £11,000,000, or an addition of £2,500,000 in three years. Yet he is appalled at the prospect of that addition of £2,500,000.
Let him think about the money which is being expended now upon the armed services of the Crown—£113,000,000. Let him take one-tenth of that amount, let him take one-twentieth of it, and spend it upon the housing of the people, and there would be no need to talk about economy. If he would only take one-twentieth of the money which is now being spent upon our armed forces, at a time when the Locarno Pact is in existence, when the German Navy is at the bottom of the sea, when the League of Nations exists and when there are other safeguards against war, and use that money as an additional sum for housing the people, he would be doing a great service to this country, and I, although I am bitterly opposed to his party, would give him my blessing for doing it.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I merely wish to say a few words. In the city of Bristol we have a Conservative city council. We also have a very serious housing problem. I am empowered here to-day by that city council to say that they strongly object to the subsidy being withdrawn at this moment.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
I desire to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, quite recently, he had an opportunity to put his view regarding the great accomplishments which he has achieved in housing, in the borough which I have the honour to represent. Apparently he made out a good case, according to the cheers of his Tory audience; but I have received to-day from the town council of Huddersfield, on which sit a very large body of the gentlemen who were supporting him on the platform at the Huddersfield Town Hall, a request that I should do my best to upset the proposal that he is now making to the House. I can only say Lo the right hon. Gentleman that if his propaganda is so effective as that, I give him a hearty invitation to come to Huddersfield again at the earliest possible moment, and if the Tories who have now let him down by causing this request to be sent to me in the House of Commons will not take the chair for him, I will stand in their place and do my best so that he may make a further appeal to the Huddersfield constituency.
My objection to this proposal is based upon the very simple fact that, in spite of all that has been said about the possibility of this proposal bringing down the price of building materials and of the building of houses generally, the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary know perfectly well especially when they come to the price of building materials in country districts, that the subsidy does not bring down the price. Quite recently, they have shown by the introduction of a subsidy with regard to the mending of rural property that they have no objection whatever to the principle, from the point of view of the effect that it may have upon the price of buiding materials. I, therefore, suggest to them that if there were any honesty at all in their profession, if 1513 there were anything in the cherubic professions of innocence which we have just heard from the Parliamentary Secretary, they would have practiced that innocence with regard to rural dwellings, a Bill for which we were dealing with a little while ago.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 180; Noes, 112.1515
|Division No. 521.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Fraser, Captain Ian||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Albery, Irving James||Ganzoni, Sir John||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Gates, Percy||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gower, Sir Robert||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Astbury, Lieut-Commander F W||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Radford, E. A.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Hall. Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Ramsden, E.|
|Beamish, Captain T. p. H.||Hammersley, S. S.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Harrison, G. J. C.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Haslam, Henry C.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Berry, Sir George||Hawke, John Anthony||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd,Henley)||Rye, F. G.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B,||Herbert, S.(York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Savory, S. S.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hills, Major John Walter||Skelton, A. N.|
|Brown-Lindsay, Major H.||Hilton, Cecil||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Brown, Brig.-Gon.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Burman. J. B.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St.Marylebone)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster. Mossley)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Carver, W. H.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir [...]erbt. R.(Prtsmth.S.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Streatfield, Captain S. R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Huntingfleld, Lord||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Charteris, BriGadier-General J.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchelt.|
|Christie, J. A.||Jacob, A. E.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Clayton. G. C.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Cope, Major William||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Ward, Lt.-Col.A. L.(Kingston-on- Hull)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Luce. Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||MacIntyre, Ian||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||McLean, Major A.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macmillan, Captain H.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||McNeill. Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Macquisten, F. A.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Duckworth, John||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Elliott, Major Walter E.||Meller, R. J.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Merriman, F. S.||Withers, John James|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Meyer, Sir Frank||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Moles, Thomas||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Forrest, w.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Captain Lord Stanley and Captain Margesson.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Baker, Walter||Bromfield, William|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Bromley, J.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Barr, J.||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Batey, Joseph||Buchanan, G.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Charleton, H. C.|
|Clowes, S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Compton, Joseph||Kennedy, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Connolly, M.||Kirkwood, D.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lansbury, George||Stamford, T. W.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawson, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Sullivan, J.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lindley, F. W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Dennison, R.||Lowth, T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Duncan, C.||Lenn, William||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Dunnico, H.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J.R.(Aberavon)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbre. W.)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gosling, Harry||March, S.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Maxton, James||Townend, A. E.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Montague, Frederick||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morrison. R. C. (Tottenham. N.)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Murnin, H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Naylor, T. E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Oliver, George Harold||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Owen, Major G.||Westwood, J.|
|Hardie, George D.||Palin, John Henry||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Potts, John S.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Riley, Ben||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Windsor, Walter|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Scurr, John|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sexton, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Sitch, Charles H.||T. Kennedy.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there added."1516
§ The House divided: Ayes, 113; Noes, 181.1517
|Division No. 522.]||AYES.||[11.9 p.m|
|Adamson. Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Adamson, w. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hayday, Arthur||Satter, Dr. Alfred|
|Ammon, Charles George||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scurr, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Baker, Walter||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Sitch, Charles K.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barnes, A.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Barr, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Batey, Joseph||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sullivan, J.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kelly, W. T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Clowes, S.||Lansbury, George||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Thortle, Ernest|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, F.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Connolly, M.||Lindley, F. W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lowth, T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Abtravon)||Viant, S. P|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Watson. W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dennison, R.||March, S.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||Maxton James||Westwood, J.|
|Dunnico, H.||Montague, Frederick||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Whiteley, W.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Murnin, H.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin, Cent.)||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Owen, Major G.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Paling, W.||Windsor, Walter|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Potts, John S.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Riley, Ben||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||B. Smith.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Ainsworth, Major Charles||Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Albery, Irving James||Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gower, Sir Robert||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Astbury, Lieut-Commander F. W.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Beamish, Captain T. p. H.||Hammersley, S. S.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Harrison, G. J. C.||Radford, E. A.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Haslam, Henry C.||Ramsden, E.|
|Berry, Sir George||Hawke, John Anthony||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd,Henley)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rye, F. G.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hills, Major John Walter||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hilton, Cecil||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Savery, S. S.|
|Burman, J. B||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St.Marylebone)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Holland, Sir Arthur||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, Co)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Carver, W. H.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth.S.)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Huntingfield, Lord||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Streatfield, Captain S. R.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Christie, J. A.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jacob, A. E.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Cope, Major William||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Vaughan-Morgan. Col. K. P.|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||MacIntyre, Ian||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||McLean, Major A.||Watson. Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Macmillan, Captain H.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Dixey, A. C.||McNeill. Rt. Hon. Ronald John||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Datrymple.|
|Duckworth, John||Macquisten, F. A.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Edniondson, Major A, J.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Meller, R. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Merriman, F. B.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fairfax. Captain J.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Fade, Sir Bertram G.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Withers, John James|
|Fielden, E. B.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Forrest, W.||Moles, Thomas||Womersley, W. J.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T|
|Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Captain Lord Stanley and Captain|
|Gates, Percy||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Margesson.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Question put accordingly,1518
§ "That tine Draft of the Order proposed to be made by the Minister of Health and the Scottish Board of Health, with the approval of the Treasury, under Section 5 of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924 (presented 25th November, 1026), be approved."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 181; Noes, 111.1521
|Division No. 523.]||AYES.||[11.17 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Sirchall, Major J Dearman|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Blundell, F. N.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Boothby, R. J. G.|
|Albery, Irving James||Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Briscoe. Richard George|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Berry, Sir George||Brown-Lindsay, Major H.|
|Brown, Brig. Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxt'd, Henley)||Radford, E. A.|
|Burman, J. B||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsden, E.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Herbert, S. (York, N.R.,Scar. & w[...]'by)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hills, Major John Waller||Roberts. E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Carver, w. H.||Hilton, Cecil||Ruggles-Brise, Major E, A.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth.S.)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Rye, F. G.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Christie, J. A.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Savery, S. S.|
|Clayton, g. C.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Huntingfield, Lord||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Koinc'dine, C.)|
|Cope, Major William||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cowan, Sir Win. Henry (Islington, N.)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Jacob, A. E.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Streatfield. Captain S. R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Templeton W. P.|
|Duckworth, John||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||MacIntyre, Ian||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Elliott, Major Walter E.||McLean, Major A.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Macmillan. Captain H.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macquisten, F. A.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Ward. Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Fielden, t. B.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Finburgh, S.||Meller, R. J.||Watson, Rt. Hon W. (Carlisle)|
|Forrest, W.||Merriman, F. B.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Meyer, Sir Frank||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Williams, A M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mitchell. W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Freemantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moles, Thomas||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gates, Percy||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Morrison, H. (Wilts. Salisbury)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Withers, John James|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon, Walter E.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ormsby-Gore. Hon. William||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Pennefather, Sir John||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Major Hennessy and Captain|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Power, Sir John Cecil||Margesson.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File. West)||Gosling, Harry||Lee, F.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff. Cannock)||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lindley, F. W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lowth, T.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lunn, William|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston}||Grundy, T. W.||MacDonald. Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Baker, Walter||Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hall, F. (York, W, R., Normanton)||March, S.|
|Barr, J.||Hall. G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Hardie, George D.||Montague, Frederick|
|Benn, captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Harris, Percy A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bromfield, William||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Murnin, H.|
|Bromley, J.||Hayday, Arthur||Naylor, T. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Henderson. T. (Glasgow)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Buchanan, G.||Hirst, G. H.||Owen, Major G.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Palin, John Henry|
|Clowes, S.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Paling, W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Compton, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Potts, John S.|
|Connolly, M.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Jones J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Riley. Ben|
|Dalton, Hugh||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks,W.R., Elland)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Kelly, W. T.||Salter. Dr. Alfred|
|Dennison, R.||Kennedy, T.||Scurr, John|
|Duncan, C.||Kirkwood, D.||Sexton, James|
|Dunnico, H.||Lansbury, George||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Lawson, John James||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Slesser, sir Henry H.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)||Whiteley, W.|
|Smith Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Tinker, John Joseph||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Townend, A. E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Stamford, T. W.||Varley, Frank B.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Stephen, Campbell||Viant, S. P.||Windsor. Walter|
|Sullivan, J.||Watson. W. M. (Dunfermline)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Sutton, J. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Taylor, R. A.||Westwood, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.||Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Charles|
Resolution agreed to.
That the Draft of the Order proposed to he made by the Minister of Health and the Scottish Board of Health, with the approval of the Treasury, under Section 5 of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924 (presented 25th November, 1926), be approved.