HC Deb 19 July 1927 vol 209 cc236-41

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide that receipt of money advanced in persuance of Section ninety-two of the Housing Act, 1925, shall not disqualify the recipient from being a member of the local authority making such advance. I think I can he assured of the unanimous support of the House in asking leave to bring in this small and very unimportant Bill. If the protestations of hon. Members opposite, in regard to the desirability of creating a large number of small occupiers are sincere, they will grant leave to bring in this Bill and the later stages as well should be made very easy indeed. Briefly, the object of the Bill arises as a result of a legal opinion obtained recently with regard to the recipients of a money advance under the Housing Acts of 1923 and 1925, under which local authorities are empowered to make advances to individuals and societies for the purpose of promoting the housing of the working classes of this country. Under the Housing Act, 1923, Section 29, Subsection (2), power is given to local authorities to make advances for the purpose of increasing housing accommodation and, as is well known by hon. Members, under this particular Housing Act., individuals can obtain advances from their local authority up to an amount not exceeding 90 per cent. of the cost after the local authorities have made a proper valuation and are satisfied that the various terms are met.

Many thousands of houses have been built for owner occupiers under the terms of this Act. It has been the constant boast of hon. and right hon. Members opposite that private enterprise during the past year or two under the Housing Act of 1923 has been responsible for the building of a large number of houses. Recently a difficulty has arisen. In one of my own districts, a person who had been the recipient of a money advance from his local council was subsequently elected a member of the local council, Doubts were immediately expressed as to whether, under the Local Government Board Act of 1894, Section 46, he was or was not disqualified from taking his seat and voting in his capacity as councillor. Counsel's opinion was obtained and the opinion submitted was consistent with that which was offered by the Ministry of Health. The penalty for taking a seat and voting, should one come within the disqualification Section, is no less than £20 for each vote cast. Therefore it will be seen that unless this anomaly is removed that not only Section 92 of the Housing Act of 1925 will to a large extent be defeated, but a large number of people, who otherwise would have become owner occupiers, will refrain from doing so rather than be deprived of serving the community of which they happen to be members. Section 46 of the Local Government Board Act 1894 reads as follows:— A person shall be disqualified from being elected or being a member or chairman of a council of the parish or of a district other than a borough or of a board of guardians if he (e) is concerned in any bargain or contract entered into with the council or board or participates in the profit of any such bargain or contract or of any work done under the authority of the council or the board. Obviously, this particular Section was never intended to deal with the Housing Acts of 1923 and 1925, otherwise, I think the right hon. Gentleman who passed those Acts would have made such arrangements as would have removed the disqualification. There are many anomalies existing at the moment. If a local authority is satisfied that an advance ought to be made to an individual there is no more immorality in making that advance to that individual than in making a similar advance to a building society, so that the individual in an indirect way can obtain the same advantage without encountering the possibility of disqualification under the Act of 1894. To-day, a member who receives an advance, which is inspired by the Minister of Health, is disqualified under a penalty of £20 per sitting from serving on the council of the district in which he happens to live. Whether the subsidy is wrong or right may be a subject of argument, but while it exists individuals who are capable of serving the localities in which they live ought not to be disqualified from doing so because they have received the benefits of the Housing Acts. The Bill which I propose to introduce has no object other than to remove that anomaly and allow the maximum value to be obtained from the Housing Acts, and I hope the House will give a unanimous expression of its willingness to grant leave to introduce the Bill.


The House would be well advised to refuse the hon. Member leave to introduce this Bill. The hon. Member says that he is striking a blow against an anomaly. In actual fact he is striking a blow against one of the first principles of English law and one of the first principles of which govern the conduct of public affairs in this country. It is a first principle of the law that no trustee shall be placed in a position where his duty and his interest are in conflict. A member of a local authority is a trustee for the ratepayers and it is his duty, as such, to make contracts with third persons on behalf of the ratepayers. His duty under the Housing Act is to see that there is security for any advances made, to see that repayment of the principal is properly secured and to see that the instalments of that principal are paid by the borrower at certain specific times. The hon. Member conceives a situation in which a member of a local authority is in that position and is at the same time a borrower from the local authority. It is his interest as a borrower to obtain the money with the minimum of security and to obtain conditions which will enable him to repay the money on the best terms possible to himself. It is inconceivable that anybody who observed the first principles of equity, would place a man in a position where his interest and his duty so conflicted.


Is the hon. Member aware that at the present moment any member of a borough council can obtain an advance under the Housing Act now referred to, and that it is only the members of parish councils or urban district councils who are liable to disqualification?


If there are anomalies under the present system it is very desirable that they should be removed, but we do not want a levelling-down to the lowest level of corruption. We want a levelling-up to the highest standard

of purity. The duty of a member of a local authority is to be a watch-dog, and you cannot be a watch-dog and a marauder at the same time. It is impossible to serve the best interests of the ratepayers and at the same time to secure the best possible terms' for one's self as a borrower. It places a man in an impossible position. If there are instances in which that conflict between interest and duty is now permissible, the House, I am sure, would welcome a Bill from the hon. Member removing that anomaly; but to add to existing anomalies a new anomaly, and to add to existing temptations a new temptation, would be contrary to the best interests of the country.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide that receipt of money advanced in pursuance of Section ninety-two of the Housing Act, 1925, shall not disqualify the recipient from being a member of the local authority making such advance.

The House divided: Ayes, 108; Noes, 162.

Division No. 273.] AYES. [3.47 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Harney, E. A. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. [Fife, West) Harris, Percy A. Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock Henderson, Right Hon. A. [Burnley) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston) Hirst, G. H. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Baker, Walter Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Smillie, Robert
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hurd, Percy A Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Barnes, A. John, William (Rhondda, West) Smith, Rennle (Penistone)
Batey, Joseph Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Snell, Harry
Bondfield, Margaret Kelly, W. T. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Kennedy, T. Stamford, T. W.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Lawrence, Susan Stephen, Campbell
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Lawson, John James Sullivan, Joseph
Buchanan, G. Lee, F. Sutton, J. E.
Charleton, H. C. Lowth, T. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Compton, Joseph Lunn, William Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Connolly, M. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Thurtle, Ernest
Cove, W. G Mackinder, W. Tinker, John Joseph
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) MacLaren, Andrew Viant, S. P.
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wallhead, Richard C.
Dalton, Hugh Malone, Major P. B. Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Davies, Ellis (Denbigh. Denbigh) March, S. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermllne)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Maxton, James Watts-Morgan. Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Day, Colonel Harry Mosley, Oswald Wellock, Wilfred
Dennison, H. Murnin, H. Westwood, J.
Dunnico, H. Naylor, T. E. Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Palin, John Henry Williams, David (Swansea. East)
Gillett, George M. Paling, W. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Greenall, T. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Ponsonby, Arthur Wilson, C H. (Sheffield, Attecilffe)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Potts, John S. Windsor, Walter
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Purcell, A. A. Womersley. W. J.
Grundy,T. W. Radford, E. A. Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Remnant, Sir James
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Hardie, George D. Ritson, J. Mr. T. Williams and Mr. Taylor.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Balniel, Lord Bourne, Captain Robert Croft
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Bowyer. Captain G. E. W.
Apsley, Lord Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Braithwaite, Major A. N
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth. Drake) Brass, Captain W.
Brassey, Sir Leonard Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Penny, Frederick George
Briggs, J. Harold Hammersley, S. S. Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Brittain, Sir Harry Hanbury, C Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexharm) Harland, A. Pilditch, Sir Philip
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Hartington, Marquess of Pownall, Sir Assheton
Buchan, John Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Price, Major C. W. M.
Buckingham, Sir H. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxl'd, Henley) Raine, Sir Walter
Burman, J. B. Henn, Sir Sydney H. Ramsden, E.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Holt, Captain H. P. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)
Campbell, E. T. Hopkins,J. W. W. Ropner, Major L.
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng, Universities) Salmon, Major I.
Christie, J. A. Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Sandeman, N. Stewart
Clarry, Reginald George Hore-Bellsha, Leslie Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Sandon, Lord
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hume, Sir G. H. Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Huntingfield, Lord Shepperson, E. W.
Cooper, A. Duff Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Llndsey, Gainsbro) Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen'sUniv., Belfast)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovll) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Smith, R. W. (Aberdn & Kinc'dine, C.)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Clrencester) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Kidd, J. (Linllthgow) Smithers, Waldron
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Knox, Sir Alfred Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Drewe, C. Lamb, J. O. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Edge, Sir William Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Edmondson. Major A. J. Little, Dr. E. Graham Strauss, E. A.
England, Colonel A. Livingstone, A. M. Stuart, Crlchton-, Lord C.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.) Loder, J. de V. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Looker, Herbert William Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Lougher, Lewis Templeton, W. P.
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Lowe, Sir Francis William Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Fanshawe, Captain G. D. Lumley L. R. Waddington, R.
Fenby, T. D. MacAndrew Major Charles Glen Wallace, Captain D. E.
Ford, Sir P. J. Macdonald, Capt, P. D. (I. of W.) Ward, Lt.-Col. A-L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Macintyre, Ian Warrender, Sir Victor
Forrest, W. McLean, Major A Wheler, Major Sir Granville C H.
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Wiggins, William Martin
Ganzonl, Sir John MacNeill-Weir. L. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Macqulsten, F. A. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Gates, Percy Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Margesson, Captain D. Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lltchfield)
Grace, John Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Wise, Sir Fredric
Grant, Sir J. A. Morris, R. H. Withers, John James
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Nelson, Sir Frank Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Grotrian, H. Brent Nicholson, Col. Ht. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. Gerald Hurst and Major Colfox.

Question put, and agreed to.