§ Mr. STEPHEN
Owing to the operation of the Guillotine Resolution we had no opportunity of discussing this Clause during the Committee stage. There is some doubt as to whether this Clause is in order, and I have consulted Mr. Speaker, who suggested to me that I should raise the question as to whether this Clause is in order or not. Mr. Speaker told me that after the Minister had replied he would be in a position to give a Ruling. Hon. Members on this side were ruled out of order upon a similar Clause not long ago, because it did not come within the scope of the Bill. The preamble to the Bill sets out the various matters with which the Bill proposes to dealTo transfer to county councils and to the town councils of certain burghs in Scotland functions of existing local authorities relating to poor relief, lunacy and mental deficiency, education, public health, and other matters; to amend the law relating to local government in Scotland; to grant relief from rates in the case of the lands and heritages in Scotland to which the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, applies; to discontinue grants from the Exchequer for certain purposes in Scotland and to provide other grants in lieu thereof; and for purposes consequential on the matters aforesaid.446 This Clause proposes to amend Subsection (6) of Section 7 of the House Letting and Eating (Scotland) Act, 1911, which states:Every assessing authority shall, in respect of the occupancy of small dwelling houses, allow to owners from all occupiers' assessments levied on and recovered from them in place of the occupiers (less any repayments in pursuance of a claim under this Section) a deduction, to cover cost of collection, on the following scale.I submit that, in accordance with the ruling given yesterday that a proposal for the transference of rates under the 1920 Act was out of order, this Clause is quite outwith the scope of this Bill as indicated in those words. To give certain commissions to the factors in connection with the collection of rates has nothing to do with any transference of duties to the county council, amending the law relating to local government in Scotland, or granting relief from rates, and it is out of order because it involves an increase in rates. There is nothing in the Preamble to this Bill which allows the inclusion of a Clause of this kind. On a previous occasion when an English Bill was before this House, hon. Members endeavoured to get a Clause of this kind included and Mr. Speaker ruled that it could not be included because it involved 447 a charge. This Clause was originally put down in the names of Private Members and not in the name of the Government, and it was afterwards taken over by the Government. In the first instance this Clause stood in the name of the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. R. MacDonald) and three other hon. Members, and the Government were so long making up their minds to take it over that the local authorities had no opportunity of making representations in regard to this proposal. The corporation of Glasgow have intimated to the Lord Advocate personally, or at any rate to the Secretary of State for Scotland—
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Before the corporation of Glasgow were able to interview the Lord Advocate, some of us tried to get an indication from the Government as to whether they were going to accept this Clause which stood in the names of some Private Members, and we were unable to get any information even the day before it was taken over by the Government.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I understood that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was raising a point of order. Would it not be better if we disposed of that question first?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
On that point of order I should like to say a word or two. I think I have been following out your advice, Mr. Speaker, that I should first raise the question as to whether the Clause was in order, and that after the Minister had replied you would give your ruling. I am quite willing that the point of order should be dealt with before discussing the merits of the Clause.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
If the Clause is out of order, it requires no Amendment to take it away. It seems to me that it would be right to dispose of the point of Order before we discuss the Amendment, and I should like to speak on the point of Order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am prepared to give a ruling if the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) is raising his point of Order now. I thought that he was going to raise it at the beginning of his speech, before actually moving the exclusion 448 of the Clause. My advice to him was that he should allow the Lord Advocate an opportunity of speaking on the point of Order.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Yes, Sir, that will suit me perfectly, and I will confine myself strictly to the point of Order. I think I have put to you the main point in regard to this Clause, namely, that it does not come within the scope of the Bill as set out in the Preamble. It seems to me that the only part of the Preamble which might afford a shadow of ground for its insertion is that which says:to amend the law relating to local government in Scotland.It would, however, seem to me to be a tremendous forcing of the position to try to bring it in there as amending the law relating to local government. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the same wide interpretation as to amending the law relating to local government in Scotland would also have applied in connection with the Act of 1920 and the Clause to which we drew attention originally. I would like to have your ruling on that point.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I shall have no difficulty at all on this point of Order. The local authority, in order to carry on its government, has to levy rates to pay for the expenditure. Having levied rates, it has to collect them, and in doing so, it generally incurs some cost of collection. The provision with which we are dealing here relates to the way in which that collection is to be done and how the cost is to be defrayed. In the case of certain small-sized dwelling-houses, where the rents are usually weekly and there is difficulty in collection, it was found more convenient to deal with the matter by means of what is known as the compounded rent, that is to say, the local authority employed each landlord to collect the rates with the rent, and for that purpose there is statutory provision in the Act of 1911. With regard to the amount of the commission that is to be paid, I submit that that is an essential part of local government in Glasgow and elsewhere in the country—because it does not apply only to Glasgow—and, clearly, it comes within the words of the Title of the Bill:to amend the law relating to local government in Scotland.449 Some suggestion was made that this was comparable in some way or other with the new Clause suggested yesterday relating to the Act of 1920, but the Act of 1920 is something totally different. The provision that it was sought to amend by means of that Clause related to rent, and not to rates—
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The provision that it was sought to amend yesterday related to rent and not to rates. Sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Act of 1920 reads as follows:The amount by which the increased rent of a dwelling-house to which this Act applies may exceed the standard rent shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be as follows, that is to say:(b) An amount"—that is to say, an amount of rent—not exceeding any increase in the amount for the time being payable by the landlord in respect of rates"—
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
Yes; that is nothing more than specifying the amount by which the rent may be increased—
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
Yes, clearly so; the Act deals with the power to increase standard rents. That is a matter which is not dealt with in any way by this Bill. It is a question between the landlord and the tenant, and not between local authorities and their ratepayers, which is the question here. Therefore, clearly, there is a distinction between the two, and I submit that this Clause is entirely in order.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Further on the point of Order. It seems to me that the Lord Advocate has not grasped the essential point. As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), there is only one part of the Preamble to the Bill under which this Clause would come, that is to say, the part which says:to amend the law relating to local government in Scotland.What the Lord Advocate has to prove to your satisfaction is that an increase of 2½ per cent. in rates in Glasgow amends 450 the law relating to local government. I submit that he has not set out to prove that an increase of rates in Glasgow amends the law relating to local government. That is what he must prove, and he has not done it. He seeks to say that the Amendment which was ruled out of order yesterday was ruled out because it was a question of an increase of rent, but may I remind you, Sir, that that was not the ground on which Mr. Deputy-Speaker ruled it out of order? What we are here discussing is not the Lord Advocate's ground for ruling it out of order, but what Mr. Deputy-Speaker took as his ground for ruling it out of order, namely, that it did not affect the law relating to local government in Scotland or grant relief from rates. The Lord Advocate says that it is out of order to deal with rent, but that increase of rent is an increase of rates, and, therefore, if it is out of order to deal with an increase of rates that is added to rent, surely it is out of order to argue about another increase of rates that is to be added to rent. I submit that the proposal which is now before us is the same as that which is ruled out of order. If this proposal be regarded as being in order, it immediately becomes an increase of rent, and, therefore, we say that by no strentch of imagination can this Clause, which provides for an increase of rates to house factors in Scotland, be termed an amendment of the law relating to local government. It does not make for wider boundaries, it does not make for efficient collection. Therefore, we ask you to rule it out of order.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Further on the point of Order. I wish to offer this further suggestion, Mr. Speaker, for your consideration before you give your Ruling. The essence of this Clause is not a proposal with reference to rates at all, but a proposal as to the way in which the collectors of rates shall be remunerated, and I suggest to you, Sir, that it is as much out of order as if I attempted to come in here and move a Clause fixing the rates of scavengers in the City of Glasgow.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) for having given me notice that he was going to raise this point. It certainly seems to be one of some difficulty. Strictly speaking, I should be entitled not 451 to deal with this as a question of Order at all at this stage, because this is the Report stage of the Bill, and presumably, these questions would have been gone into during the Committee stage, and no Clause would be allowed to be in the Bill now if it were not strictly in order. The fact of the Guillotine being in operation might prevent hon. Members from raising the matter with the Chairman of the Committee as a definite point of Order if the Clause in question were not reached, but, at the same time, it would be understood that the Chairman would not have allowed the Clause to be put into the Bill if he had decided in his own mind that it was out of order and should be removed from the Bill. The circumstances being as they are, however, I am quite prepared now to give a Ruling on the question.
I understand that the point raised by the hon. Member for Camlachie is whether a Ruling which was given with regard to a new Clause proposed yesterday ought not to apply to this Clause in the same way. I consider definitely that it ought not. The new Clause proposed yesterday, in my judgment—and I think that that will also be the judgment of the hon. Member if he considers it—was outside the scope of this Bill, in that the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act deals entirely with the fixing of rents. This particular Clause, in my judgment, is a matter of administration of local government, and, being purely a local government matter, is within the scope of this Bill, as opposed to the new Clause proposed yesterday. As I understand it, without going in any way into the merits of the Clause, which it is not my business to do, this Clause allows the landlord something extra because he compounds to pay the rates, and it does so by allowing a deduction from the assessment to cover the cost of collection. That, as I read it, would be purely a matter of local government, as the rates would have to be collected in any case, and, therefore, it is entirely within the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
I desire to thank you, Sir, for your Ruling on this matter, which, of course, I accept. The circumstances in which the 452 factors in Scotland, and more, especially in Glasgow, have sought to persuade the Government from time to time to accept this increase in their percentage for collecting rates, is possibly very praiseworthy so far as they themselves are concerned, but at the same time, of all the attempts that they have made, I think the present attempt is the one which should meet with the greatest amount of reprobation from Members of this House. The local authorities concerned were given no opportunity of knowing that the Government were going to deal with this matter, and, if the factors had to depend upon the support that they could get in this House from Members of either party, apart from the Government, I do not think they would have very much chance of getting this alteration made in the law. But the Government at the eleventh hour agreed to the representations that had been made to them by those people, and the convenience of the local authorities from one end of Scotland to the other has been entirely lost sight of.
It may be that the Government, having put this Clause on the Order Paper during the Committee stage, may hold that the local authorities then had an opportunity of making their representations between the Committee stage and the Report stage; but we all know that it is a very difficult matter for a Government to take a decision and then to alter that decision. Such a case did occur the other day, but it was only after a tremendous rebellion on the back benches of the Conservative party which threatened the very existence of the Government, and it was only the widespread character of the revolt which made the Government on that occasion give way and alter their decision. The Government had no right to come to this decision without giving the local authorities an opportunity of expressing their mind. This is for the local authorities a very important question. It does not apply only to Glasgow, as might be thought from the appearance of the Clause with its reference to Glasgow. It applies to every part of Scotland where the 1911 Act is in operation. Consequently, it is a matter of importance not only to Glasgow but to all the other big cities and towns. The number of factors concerned in Glasgow is 230, according to 453 an answer which was given by the Secretary of State. I propose to deal directly with the Glasgow case, and I have no doubt some of my colleagues from other parts of the country will be anxious to state how it is going to affect their districts.
The 230 factors in Glasgow are responsible for the collection of rates amounting to £1,062,582. You may say that is a lot of money. How much do they get for collecting it? At present they get a fixed percentage of 2½ per cent., which allows them to draw £26,499. Look at the collection of rates by the City collector. He is responsible for collecting practically £7,500,000. In addition, he is responsible for the collection of other accounts, such as gas and electricity. He is responsible for a total collection of £11,474,683. So that, on the one hand, you have the collection of money amounting to practically £11,500,000 as against £1,000,000, and the whole cost of the city collector's office for collecting this £11,500,000 is £53,861, which is practically twice the amount that is taken by the house factors for the collection of one-eleventh of the amount. So that these people are getting five times as much for their work as is paid in connection with the other accounts of the various municipal departments, and the proposal of the Government is that they can go to the sheriff and, if he agrees, they can get the amount doubled. That is to say, instead of getting five times as much as the City collector requires, they are going to get 11 times as much, if you measure it by the amount of money collected. For the rest of the country the figure is fixed at a maximum of 2½ per cent. With regard to the other districts, the parties concerned had a right to appeal to the sheriff, and if they could persuade him they might get up to 2½ per cent. but not more. In Glasgow the 2½ per cent. is to be changed to a maximum of 5 per cent. at the discretion of the sheriff, and the whole of Scotland is going to be put into the same position. I think I have correctly stated the facts in connection with the alteration that is involved in the Clause.
To come back to Glasgow again, a penny rate raises before the Bill passes into law, £45,800. It is estimated that when the Government's de-rating proposals are passed, a penny rate will produce 454 £41,400, so that we are going to have an additional rate levied upon all the people in Glasgow amounting to 64d. in the £ if this proposal is carried.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I accept the correction. I will come back to that later. That is a very serious position. Take the work that house factors do in the matter of rates. You may say it is difficult work and it costs so much to do. Apart from some little book-keeping operations, there is no additional work necessary at all. The rates are collected along with the rent. The rent collector goes in monthly and gets a definite amount month by month. There is no additional charge. He has to be there for the rent anyhow. He has not to explain anything to the people in connection with their rents. They know what they have to pay. There is no additional work involved in the collection of the rates as far as visiting the people is concerned, so that any difference in this matter arises from the fact that in making up his accounts he has to make the difference in his accounts, but that is all the work that is involved, and for this he is paid to the extent of £26,499.
Then, again, I want to make it clear that if this is granted, and if the Sheriff allows the increase to take place, every ratepayer in Glasgow is going to be put in the position of having to pay a contribution in connection with it. I think of my own division. The house factors go to the tenants and collect the rents. In the future I see in my mind's eye a long street, Duke Street, in which there are so many shopkeepers who are passing through a difficult period. They are getting no relief whatever in connection with this Measure. There is the other main thoroughfare in my division, and every shopkeeper in it has to pay a certain increase in rates to pay the house factors for going round collecting the rates in those small dwellings that are affected by the 1911 Act. Every other citizen in Glasgow has to pay a contribution towards this expensive method of collecting rates, because it is much more expensive than the other method that is in operation. I do not want to be unfair in presenting my reasons for suggesting that the Government should 455 accept the Amendment, and should put the matter back for further consultation. It may be said that it would be a very difficult and expensive matter to collect the rates from those small houses in any other way than along with the rents; at the same time, the great majority of these small dwellings that come under the 1911 Act at this time of day have gas, and the authorities are able to collect their gas account, and it all comes into this £11,500,000. So that practically every one of these houses to which the house factor goes is also visited by the gas collector, and the expenses in that connection are met by expenditure of £53,861. There is no case at all for the Government giving this increase to these 230 men in Glasgow. In the past they got £115, but if the Sheriff agrees, in the future they will get £230 a year. It would pay the City far better to take over this business for themselves. There is no suggestion on the part of the Government to allow the local authority the option of taking this matter over.
I should like now to deal with the other point, that it is only going to happen if the Sheriff allows it. The house factors have to make out their case before the Sheriff, and there is an arrangement for revision at various periods under the 1911 Act. That, in itself, is going to involve the corporation in so much more expense. I cannot see how the Sheriff is a person who is likely to be able to give a satisfactory decision. He may be learned in the law, but he may be a very poor accountant. If you are going to have an authority, that authority should be a person who is accustomed to dealing with accountancy and used to collecting accounts. This matter is being handed over to the Sheriff, who will decide, whereas it is something which requires decision by people who are skilled in accountancy. It is not a question of law, but a question of accountancy, and consequently the wrong person is to be the arbiter in a dispute between the factors. I do not believe that the Government could get a thousand people in the City of Glasgow who would be likely to agree with the justice of this proposal. I do not believe that they could get a thousand people in the City of Glasgow who do not believe that the factors are very well off at the present time. It 456 may be said that it is not, the factors who are going to get this money, but the owners of property. In a discussion with one of the Glasgow Corporation people, it was said that this is going to mean an additional charge on the owners as well.
I submit that, if the Government want to deal with this question, they should deal with it in a straightforward manner. They ought to have put this proposal into their Bill at the beginning, or they should have put it down on the Paper early in the Committee stage. If the Government's intentions in regard to this matter had been made known, it would have allowed, not only Glasgow, but Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Motherwell, and the other towns in the country an opportunity of putting their views before the Government. I have not the figures as to how the local authorities in other parts of the country will be affected, but I would like the Lord Advocate, or the Secretary of State for Scotland, or whoever is to reply, to tell us the position with regard to the other local authorities. How many of them are paying on the maximum rate of 2½ per cent.? How many cases were taken to the Sheriff by other authorities for decision? In the case of Glasgow, there was no option. The 2½ per cent. was fixed. I would like to know how many authorities went to the Sheriff, or how many of the property owners had to go to the Sheriff in connection with the rate that was being allowed? What is the total amount of rates collected by these people in Scotland and what is their total charge for collection?
I am quite sure that, of the many unpopular things in this Bill, this will be the most unpopular. People in the poorer districts such as represent are at their wits' end to find the rent for the factors. If the Lord Advocate would pay a visit to the rent Court in Glasgow, he would see the tragedies that are being enacted there. He would see poor people in the most miserable circumstances making the most desperate efforts to find the money with which to pay their present rent. There is to be no relief for them, but relief for the people who collect the rents—a present to them of £26,000 if they can get the Sheriff to agree to the proposal. Local authorities throughout Scotland are going to have 457 to face not only all the difficulties connected with these readjustments but all the trouble of having to go to the Sheriff and of having an inquiry in order to bring out this figure and that figure. This is an intolerable action on the part of the Government, and I hope that, if the proposal is embodied in this Measure, the new Government which will come in in June will take speedy measures to prevent these people from sucking the blood of the people in the way they are doing at the present time owing to the amount of money they receive for collecting rates.
§ Mr. J. STEWART
I beg to second the Amendment. I hope I shall be in order in calling attention to the fact that this is an example of legislation supposed to be for the benefit of the people. A Bill in connection with this matter was before this House for a number of years before it became law in 1911. It was known in Glasgow as Mr. Cross's Bill, Mr. Cross being then the Member for Camlachie. The idea of the Measure was that its provisions should be beneficial to the people who lived in houses at small rents and had short lets, that is to say, weekly or monthly lets. It was provided that the landlords should be responsible for the collection of the rents of these houses. Subsequently we had a rent Act which altered the situation, while later on we had an Amendment of the Rent Act which again altered the situation. As has been mentioned to-night, additions were made to rent by reason of the Act of 1920 which transferred the burden, as it was called, that had been put on the landlord in 1915. In the amending Act rates became part of the rent. Part of the increase of 47½ per cent. in rents was in respect of rates. Later on, we had another Amendment decontrolling houses, and under that we had an addition made to the landlord's income.
Since 1914, the rates of Glasgow have more than doubled, and, although the rate of commission has remained the same, the amount received for collection has more than doubled, first, because of the increase of rent, and then because of the increase of the rates per pound. In 1914, the rates for the City of Glasgow were 2s. in the £, and to-day the corporation rate, apart altogether from the parish council and education rate, is 4s. in the pound. In 1912, they collected £54,080 of 458 rates and the commission received in connection with the same was £13,520. To-day, they are collecting £1,062,000, for which they will receive £52,900 if the sheriff permits the percentage to be doubled. [Interruption.] I have said: "If the sheriff permits it." The percentage may be increased from 2½ per cent. to 5 per cent. The factors of Glasgow, whom I know, and some of them, like the rest of us, are quite decent fellows, are alive to their own interests; much more so than are some other people. If the tenants were as much alive as they are, the Government would not be doing what they are doing to-night.
§ Sir R. HORNE
It is not the tenant who is making a protest. It is the corporation, with all the power behind it which enables it to employ the best advocates before the sheriff.
§ Mr. STEWART
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his interruption. That is just what the Corporation of Glasgow have not had an opportunity of doing.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Oh, no. The hon. Gentleman is mistaking the purport of this legislation. This Bill enables the corporation to appear before the sheriff in order to prove that it does not cost the householder as much as he is claiming to collect his rates, and to have it reduced to the minimum. The corporation will be in a position to employ counsel, as it has frequently done in the past, for its own benefit.
§ Mr. STEWART
Yes, I will concede that point at once. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman has received the same communication from the Glasgow Corporation as have all Glasgow Members.
§ Mr. STEWART
It is quite apparent that that expresses the opinion of the 113 members of the Glasgow Corporation as far as we know—there has been no information to the contrary—and shows what they feel in regard to the Government 459 not giving the Corporation of Glasgow any opportunity of making representations before the Bill is passed through this House.
§ Mr. STEWART
I think it would be proper to allow them the opportunity of making their representation before this Bill becomes law.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. STEWART
I am certain the right hon. Gentleman will be perfectly well able to deal with that when he replies. I was speaking about the question of this increase. The rates of Glasgow have doubled and, instead of getting £13,000 now, the factors are getting £26,000 or slightly more than double what they got when it originally commenced. They are getting more than that, because in 1912 there were over 18,000 empty houses in Glasgow, and to-day one can say with absolute accuracy that there is not an empty house of that kind within the confines of the city. That means that they are now getting commission for collecting rates on about three-fourths of that number of houses. They are now getting commission for collecting rates on those houses which were formerly empty. Altogether the landlords of Glasgow have not done so badly. Under de-control the landlords have been able to increase rents very considerably and their account is very well on the credit side. The only people who are going to lose are the tenants and the Corporation of Glasgow. A penny rate yields £45,000 in Glasgow at the present moment, but when de-rating is in force it will yield only £41,000. That means that when de-rating is accomplished the tenants and landlords of Glasgow—for the landlords will have to pay their proportion—will have to bear their share of the burden caused by this decrease in the yield of a penny rate.
Can anyone show us a reasonable justification for this action at the present time? We are being assured that the Sheriff will have to give permission, and it is suggested that, when the Corporation of Glasgow presents its case, the Sheriff will not give the increase. I have no confidence in any such assurance. I am 460 convinced that the people of Glasgow will resent what is being done by the Government. I would remind the House of what happened in 1922. Members sitting on the Government Benches have at various times castigated the Members on this side on that account, saying that we represented in 1922 that the rents would be increased under the Rent Act, and that by not playing the game we won our 10 seats in Glasgow through those representations. I assure the Government that, just as in 1922 the fact that there was a probability of the landlords getting the opportunity to increase their rents by 47½ per cent. had that effect on the representation of Glasgow, so when the people of Glasgow learn that, besides the burden which de-rating is going to throw on the mass of the tenants of Glasgow, at this moment, when trade is bad, wages are low, rents are high and houses throughout the country are fully let, the Government have thought it opportune to add this burden, they will then know that once again they have been tricked by those who claim to be the friends of the working class-. This burden must come back to the tenants, and I would point out that over 82 per cent. of the rates are paid by householders and shopkeepers, and only 18 per cent. by those who are getting the benefit of de-rating.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I confess frankly that I amazed at the justification of the Amendment, and I am surprised at the attitude which the Glasgow Corporation have taken up in this matter. I would remind the House that the view of the Government was made clear in the Amendment which was tabled to the Bating Bill of 1926, and the intention of the Government has never altered since that date. The Corporation of Glasgow have been fully aware of the attitude of the Government, and I received a deputation from them at the end of last week on this matter among other matters. Whether that is so or not, I am perfectly prepared to defend the Clause. In 1911, before the War, it was found convenient, mainly in the interests of the local authorities and particularly of the Glasgow Corporation itself, to have a particular class of the rates collected for them by means of the compounded rate and it was necessary, in order to adopt the compounded rate method which had been 461 optional in burghs up to that date, to put the burden compulsorily upon the landlords not only to pay their own rates, but to recover the tenants' rates and account to the Corporation for the rates so collected. It was obviously right that the landlords, having that compulsorily put upon them, should be paid for the cost of collection.
That was the provision in the Act of 1911 with regard to all the country except Glasgow. With regard to Glasgow, a flat rate of 2½ per cent. was paid at that time before the War. In the rest of the country it was a maximum of 2½ per cent., but such amount under 2½ per cent. as could be proved before the Sheriff to be the actual cost of rate collecting. I have not been able to get much information on that point about the rest of the country. I know that in one case, in Dunfermline, in 1916, the actual percentage? allowed was 1¼ per cent., and in another case it was an identical figure, about half the maximum allowance. The value of money has changed since then and many factors have changed. I concede entirely what the hon. Member has said about getting a larger sum for collecting one person's rate. That is exactly the factor that the Sheriff should consider. Are the corporation of Glasgow unwilling to pay the actual cost of collecting to the landlord on whom by this House has been placed the duty of collecting these rates for the corporation? It can only be because they think a just payment for this collection is more than 2½ per cent., and they do not want to pay it. Certain figures have been given by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), who said that Glasgow could do its own rate collecting much cheaper. He admitted very fairly that the class of rate collecting with which we are here concerned was probably more difficult. But, if the corporation thinks that its proof before the Sheriff of what it costs a landlord is going to produce a heavier figure for commission than it would cost the corporation to do the work, then the corporation should be freed to collect its own rates. On the other hand, some of the other arguments which were put forward by hon. Members who have spoken were excellent arguments to put before the Sheriff for a reduction to less than 2½ per cent., and it is perfectly open to the corporation to do this. If the hon. 462 Member for Camlachie were qualified in Scotland as he is in England, he might be employed by the corporation to apply before the Sheriff for a reduction.
I take my stand on this even at the risk of repetition. This duty of collecting is forced on the landlord by Parliament for the benefit of the corporation, and I cannot see why they should not pay the actual cost of collection to those on whom that duty is forced. We provide in this Clause that the actual cost of collection, as proved before a Judge, shall be repaid, or rather allowed to be taken out of the money collected. What is the other proposal To stick to a flat-rate of 2½ per cent., the old flat rate. I repeat that, if that 2½ per cent. is too much, they should not be paying it, and should be saving the ratepayers of Glasgow the extra cost. If it is too little, then it is not fair or just to say that the Glasgow Corporation should pay less than the actual cost of what the landlord is bound to do for the benefit of the corporation of Glasgow. I would add that, as far as I know, we have received no representation against this Clause from anybody except the corporation of Glasgow.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The last words of the Lord Advocate explained a great deal to me. He says that no representations have been made. What time has anybody had to protest against this, owing to the way it has been done? The Government should not do a thing like this to the corporation. A local authority has the power to levy rates. Why should the Government compel the local authority to increase the rates, as is being done in this case The Government are compelling the Glasgow Corporation to increase their rates in order to pay for the collection of rates.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I understand all that parrot cry. This Clause is infringing upon the right of the local authority, and it is a very serious matter. Even to give the power as it stood was something of an innovation. When the Lord Advocate spoke about the corporation of Glasgow collecting the rates, he ought to have known that certain classes of rates must be compounded. Therefore, the corporation 463 were not allowed to collect these rates. This proposal will not only impose a new rate upon the local authority, but it means imposing that new rate upon a depleted area so far as rates are concerned. Practically the whole of this rate will have to be put upon the house occupier and the shopkeeper. I want to deal with the position which arose in 1926 when we were dealing with the Rating (Scotland) Bill in Committee. On that occasion, the Lord Advocate said that a very leading association of property owners only requested an increase in the commission if the £4 house was left in. He tells us that this question has been before us ever since we discussed the Rating Act in 1928. He said in Committee that those Members of the Committee who were not asking for the increase would agree that the fair attitude was that those who asked it must satisfy the Committee on the point. Will the Lord Advocate tell us whether, since we finished that Bill in Committee, any bodies have been consulted, and, if so, will he tell us the names of those bodies? He has not informed the House what steps have been taken in the meantime. In Committee on the Rating Bill he said that those who desired an increase must prove their case, and he went on to say:I am not expressing any view on this. The Committee are entitled to say that if more is asked it is for those who ask it to prove the necessity for the advance. That is the position of the Government, and I think it is the position which the Committee ought to take up.We have not had a single word in this House to throw any light upon that particular sentence from the statement of the Lord Advocate. There has been so evidence of any kind since the Scottish Committee discussed that Bill that the Government have had meetings with anyone on the subject, that they have had conversations with property owners or with anyone representing the house factors. We have never been informed of any investigations that have been made by the Lord Advocate or any of the representatives of the Scottish Office in regard to what the Lord Advocate said was essential before the Government would move, namely, that the necessity for any advance must be proved. The Lord Advocate said to the Committee: "That is the position of the Government." 464 If he still says that that is the position of the Government, why has the House been left without a single word on this particular point? The Lord Advocate also said:I do not propose to say anything more except to point out what is the view of the Government. If the Committee are satisfied that an increase is necessary, then it would almost necessarily follow that we must amend the amount in the House Letting Act as well. One knows that in Glasgow the payment of this commission means a very substantial sum and an advance of one per cent. on it would be a substantial sum. Those Members of the Committee who are not asking for the increase will agree that the fair attitude is that those who ask it must satisfy the Committee on the point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee on Scottish Bills, 8th July, 1926; col. 2897.]Here we find the Lord Advocate emphasising the point that there was no need for legislation until, first, a case had been made out as the basis for that legislation. We have not been given any information during the Second Reading, the Committee stage, or the Report stage of this Bill on this most definite statement which was made by the Lord Advocate in 1926, when the Bating Bill was before the Scottish Grand Committee. The inclusion of this proposal in the Clause can only be likened to the last cart leaving the last town to be evacuated. The Government are throwing everything into the cart that they possibly can, because they realise that they are not likely to be coming this way again. This proposal has no relation to de-rating. Reference has been made to the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and to his various abilities. To-day the hon. Member has, once more, shown his legal mind. It does not matter whether a man is qualified in English law or Scottish law so long as he has logic and he can deal with things in an intelligent way. Common sense is common sense the world over.
When the Lord Advocate made reference to the Glasgow Corporation he was forgetting that under compulsion these rates were compounded with the rent. I would like to emphasise the statement which was made by the Lord Advocate that a very leading association of property owners only requested an increase in commission if the £4 house was left in. If we had been dealing to-day with the question of rent or rates it 465 might have been possible for the legal luminaries to have explained matters better, but what we are dealing with is neither rent nor rates; it is simply a question of a sum of money called commission for collection of the rent which is compounded with the rates. I am no lawyer, but I know that when one deals with a question which is complicated, the first thing that a reasonable man seeks to do is to try to put the different things into the different compartments to which they belong. We cannot separate the rates from the rent when by law they are compounded, but we can definitely separate commission for the collection of the compounded rents and rates. It does not matter how much the rates are or how much the rent is, the question involved is the amount to be paid for the collection of rents and rates by the factor of the property. In Scotland the owner is seldom the factor of his property. He generally employs a factor. That is where the commission basis begins. In the old days, before compounding, the factor was simply paid a varying commission according to the conditions and a sum per pound for the collection of rents. When there came the compounding of rates following upon that, it was agreed that that collection had to be paid for. No one wants to quarrel about the payment, but no one wants power from Parliament to compel a community to do something that it does not want to do. You are not compelling the house-owner under this Clause to pay; what you are doing is to say that a commission of 5 per cent. is to be paid to the factor, if the sheriff admits it. We know what that means. A visit to some of the courts of Glasgow and other cities in the early mornings would reveal what is meant when rates are compounded with rent.
The full meaning of this Clause is that property is having another security, small as it may seem, placed upon it. It is not content to have the law as it stands on its side. It is not content with all the rights which the law has given it in relation to rents, most of which is robbery, but it comes along with the idea that even in regard to money that is to be spent upon public improvements, money which the citizens through their town councills collect in order to apply it for social advancement, has to be subject to a Clause in an Act which has no 466 relation to the subject of commission. For these reasons, I hope that the Government will see their folly in proposing such a Clause.
§ Sir R. HORNE
This subject is one which we can and which we ought to discuss without heat, animosity, prejudice or bias of any kind, and I hope that it will be possible for us, on both sides, to regard this problem entirely apart from the question of the particular individuals involved. It may be that the renting system is all wrong and that at some time we shall get rid of it, but up to now we have allowed private individuals to provide the houses for people to live in, and we cannot expect that that provision should be made without any return. Therefore, do not let us think whether the person who is involved is a house-owner or not. Let us look upon him as a person who has done something to serve the community. Without the provision that he has made, how would the community have had their heads covered?
Let us look at the origin of thus question. It has all arisen out of the change which was made in the year 1911. Up to then much as we in Scotland may dislike it, we had fallen behind England in the matter of providing short-term lets for people who required them. Undoubtedly, the people in Scotland suffered from severe and great embarrassment as a result of that state of things. Hon. Members opposite will remember, as I do, the missive system which compelled the workman, long before he knew where he was going to work, to sign for a rent or for a lease months ahead of the time when he could say where he would be employed. He was placed in this further awkward position that, being in a house with a long-term let, he was in difficulty in regard to taking employment elsewhere which might have suited him very much better. England was ahead of us in these matters, and in 1911 the House Letting Act for Scotland was brought in, to establish the system of short-term lets. Immediately you had short-term lets the question arose as to how you were going to collect your rates. Rates in Scotland were collected at one period of time in the year, and if you had people in tenancy for only a month, or two months or three months, the question was how the local authorities were going to collect 467 the rates from these particular tenants unless they had an enormous army of collectors constantly going about to discover how long a particular tenant was going to stay. That is the reason why we are in this particular difficulty.
In that crisis the Government decided that the only practicable way wag to put upon the landlord the duty of collecting the rates, because he alone knew how long the tenant was going to stay. The landlords, and especially the Glasgow landlords, fought most determinedly against this proposal, but Parliament, in spite of their opposition, determined to impose this duty of collecting the rates upon them. In order to reinforce my point, I have taken the trouble to look up the Debates on the House Letting and Rating (Scotland) Bill of 1911. The Lord Advocate then was Mr. Ure, who afterwards became Lord Strathclyde, and on the Second Reading of that Bill he said this:The result will be that there will be a system of short lets in Scotland as in England. If that be so it is obvious that some readjustment of the present system of collecting rates is necessary. Rates in Scotland are collected at one time, and that the most inconvenient time for the tenant.There are two ways in which a readjustment may be made; the owner may be asked to collect the occupiers' rates, or the local authority may be asked to make more frequent collections. The Government prefer the former method because it is the simpler and more convenient."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1911; col. 393, Vol. 27.]In one portion of his speech he indicated that there might be an option to the local authority to determine whether they would collect the rates or impose the duty on the landlord. In the Debate which followed Mr. Scott Dickson, the then Member for Central Glasgow, whom many hon. Members will remember, strongly protested on behalf of house owners against the duty being imposed on the landlords, and the question was really determined by the speech of the then Liberal Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Price) who said thisI am not at one with the right hon. Gentleman as to what he says with regard to allowing the local authorities the option to collect the rates. I am quite sure if that is adopted that it will affect very materially the value of this Bill, and that if he will consult the working classes of Edinburgh and Glasgow that that option will not be given because it will be simply impossible.468 Then he revealed a particular political object. He went onTake, for instance, the Poor Rate on which the qualification for the Vote is based. If that small rate can be collected at frequent intervals then practically speaking the local authorities will strike out the names."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1911; col. 394, Vol. 27.]In the interests of keeping people who would not be able to pay their rates from being disfranchised Parliament, at that time a Liberal Parliament, came down in favour, apart from all other considerations, of imposing this duty against their will on the householders of the country because of this particular political object. If we regard this as a matter of justice every hon. Member will agree that to impose this duty against their will on people who are not responsible for the collection of rates—that is the duty of the municipal authorities—then obviously you must pay them what it costs for the collection. Surely that is fair and just. What are we doing by this Bill? The Lord Advocate in this proposal is getting much nearer to justice in this matter than the old Act did, because the old Act provided a stereotyped rate of 2½ per cent. It is quite possible that it does not cost the householders 2½ per cent. to collect these rates, and if the view of hon. Members opposite is correct, it may be that they are getting far more out of the municipality than they are entitled to. The rate originally fixed may be too high to-day, and if it is too high, the Bill gives the Corporation of Glasgow the opportunity of appearing before the Sheriff and saying that it is too high, and proving what it costs to collect as against what the householder is charging the corporation.
As far as I know the corporation of Glasgow have always been able to employ the most expensive counsel in matters concerning the corporation, whether the case is heard in Edinburgh or in the Courts in Glasgow. At any rate it is quite certain that the corporation of Glasgow will not be inadequately represented when this argument takes place. It has been said, "What do the Sheriffs know about these accounts? "It will be made very plain to the Sheriff by the advocates who appear before him what is the nature of the issues upon which his judgment depends, and I cannot imagine 469 that the Sheriffs, who are entrusted with the decision of grave questions involving large sums, will, under these circumstances, be moved by any extraneous considerations on this matter and will not judge as they find the facts to be and give an absolutely just decision on the points put before them. It has been said that the householders may take a considerable risk in this matter; but they are taking this risk and it is now for the corporations in Scotland to put before the Sheriffs adequate reasons why the amount should be less than 2½ per cent. or such amount as the houseowners claim. Questions of prejudice should really fall outside this discussion. We should see that justice is done. When the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was speaking he seemed to me to roll the word "factor" round his tongue. He reminded me of a school in the Highlands where factors are not popular. A pupil was reading an examination passage from the Bible, and the passage happened to be concerned with the crucifixion of our Lord—There they crucified Him, and the 'male factors,' one on the right hand, and the other on the left.Upon the present occasion, we should get rid of prejudices of that kind, and determine the matter on the pure justice of the case. I cannot imagine that justice can be better served than by the proposal of the Lord Advocate.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The right hon. Gentleman for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has appealed to us to approach this matter without prejudice and without bias, but it is a remarkable thing that the right hon. Gentleman, who I am sure always speaks without prejudice and without bias, has never once delivered a speech in this House in favour of a claim by the tenants or the workers. It must be that with our prejudiced minds we think the tenants are always wrong.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The hon. Member must remember that I have not had an opportunity of speaking upon any question affecting tenants up to now.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The right hon. Gentleman has had more experience of legislation in this House than I have, but during my comparatively brief period many questions affecting landlords and tenants have been discussed, and I am 470 sure that I could search the official records of this House in vain for a speech by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the interests of the tenants. To-day we have had a characteristic speech from him. He has once more appealed to us, not on behalf of the people of Hillhead, not on behalf of the people of Glasgow, but on behalf of a handful of people who, according to him, have the most unmentionable names. The only argument he used was that the Government, having imposed the duty on house factors, or house-owners, of collecting these rates, these men have a moral right to go to a Judge and get a judgment on what would be equitable remuneration. The right hon. Gentleman has been Chancellor of the Exchequer and he has imposed on certain people the duty of collecting Income Tax and insurance contributions, but I have never heard of him pleading that the employers of this country, or the secretaries of limited companies, should have the power and right to appeal to a Judge for a reasonable commission on the collection of Income Tax.
The right hon. Gentleman followed the example of the Lord Advocate in one respect. Neither of them attempted to prove even a prima facie case in support of this amendment of the law which we are discussing this afternoon. One would have thought that they would have submitted some figures to show that there was a case for inquiry, but not a single scrap of evidence has been submitted to the House at all. The only point put forward by the Lord Advocate was that the value of money has changed since 1911 when this maximum contribution was fixed. But the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Stewart) pointed out that the amount received by the house factors for the collection of rates is exactly double what it was in 1911. The rates have doubled. Therefore the 2½ per cent. to-day represents 5 per cent. on the sum that was collected in 1911. There can be no claim that there is an additional amount of work there. If you give them this additional 2½ per cent. and make the amount £53,000 instead of £26,000, it does not follow that an extra clerk will be required, that an extra sheet of paper will be used, or an extra drop of ink consumed. It is the same amount of labour calculating commission at 5 per cent. on a given sum as it is in calculating 471 a commission of 2½ per cent. on the same sum. I submit that there has not been the slightest word put forward as evidence in support of this very drastic proposal. But there is here evidence of something else. How easy it is for a certain section of the community to move the Government! The right hon. Member for Hillhead threw out sneers and jeers at the Corporation of Glasgow.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Not at all. The right hon. Gentleman must justify that statement. I made no jeers. There is not a corporation in the country for which I have more respect, and language of that kind must not be used by the right hon. Gentleman without justification.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The right hon. Gentleman told us that this matter had been before the Corporation of Glasgow and the public since it was mentioned—
§ Sir R. HORNE
I said nothing whatsoever about that in my speech. I do not know to what the right hon. Gentleman is referring. There is not a word that he is uttering now that represents what I said. I certainly said the corporation would protect themselves. They have always been able to do so.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am sorry if I misquoted the right hon. Gentleman, but he said that in 1926 this matter was mentioned in the House.
§ Sir R. HORNE
What I take exception to is the right hon. Gentleman's statement that I jeered at the Corporation of Glasgow. I did nothing of the kind.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Other people may put a different interpretation on it, but the right hon. Gentleman certainly told the House that the Glasgow Corporation needed no sympathy, because they could employ the best and most expensive counsel to put their case.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Surely it is jeering at people to impose an injustice on them and to justify it by the argument that they can protect themselves by employing the most expensive counsel in a court of law? My point is that it is quite easy for some people to move the Government, however difficult it may be for the masses of the people to do so. As far as this Bill is concerned, the secret history of this particular Clause it will be most interesting to hear if we could have it. All that we know is that two or three Conservative Members put it on the Paper. It is a remarkable fact that not one of those who put it on the Paper has risen in the House to-day to support the proposal, and I am not sure that one of them is present in the House.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am glad that one of them is in the House, and I hope he will rise to justify the Clause. I hope that when the hon. Member for the Cathcart Division of Glasgow (Mr. R. MacDonald) goes down to his constituents he will be ready to justify to them the proposal that he is advocating here. The Corporation of Glasgow represents over 1,000,000 people. The corporation has unanimously opposed this proposal, and the political friends of the right hon. Member for Hillhead, who are the majority in the Glasgow Corporation, have unanimously condemned the proposal. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to ask me to believe that the house-owners and factors of Glasgow cannot hope for justice from the Conservative members of Glasgow Corporation? These members are coming to us—
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I do not want to deny that the right hon. Gentleman is expressing his own opinion, but I am sure that if it were possible to take a plebiscite in Hillhead I should find that he was not expressing the opinion of the majority of people in Hillhead, which is a Conservative constituency. I even go to the length of saying that if there were not one or two influential house factors in his Division he might not be so prominent in these discussions. At any rate, I do not think that the right hon. 473 Gentleman is justified in talking about this as a concession to the house-owners. I have very grave doubts as to the £26,000 ever reaching the house-owners. It will go to the house factors, and the factors are not always the owners; the right hon. Gentleman knows that they are very seldom the house-owners. In actual practice, things are being arranged in order that the incomes of the house factors may be increased.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
If the right hon. Gentleman has the information, he has carefully concealed it from the House.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I will make another speech if the right hon. Gentleman likes. In any case, I will interrupt to say that all my information is to the effect that factors get more from the collection at the present time than the house-owners get from the Corporation.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I submit that the evidence that has been produced here is just as weak as the evidence that has been submitted by the Lord Advocate and the right hon. Gentleman to support their action in raising this question at all. Really I hope that the best and most expensive council who represent house factors before the sheriff, if ever a case under this Bill gets there, will be more successful in their pleading than the right hon. Member for Hillhead has been this afternoon. It is a remarkable fact that some Members representing Glasgow have so little consideration for the opinion of Glasgow. This question affects vitally the corporation and the business with which it has to deal.
§ Sir R. HORNE
So far as I am concerned, I am perfectly prepared to appear before any audience in Glasgow to defend the action which I am taking now.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I think that is a challenge. Will the right hon. Gentleman come out to my Division and support his action there?
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Then I shall arrange the meeting. It is very difficult to sustain a connected argument with all these interruptions, but, now that pistols for two and coffee for one have been arranged, perhaps I may proceed in a more orderly way with the discussion. My point was that it was not entirely fair to say that this is a concession to house-owners. In the district that I represent, the house factors own very little if any of the property from which they collect rates. I think that that applies to nearly every working-class district in Glasgow. It would be interesting to know how much property is owned by the 230 gentlemen who are to benefit by this gift from the Government. The house factors are simply agents employed in the collection of rents. As agents they got added this side-line of collecting rates. The amount that they are getting from rate collecting is £26,000, but if this proposal is carried—as no doubt it will be, with the present majority in the House—however unjust the proposal may be, they will get in future a sum approximating to £53,000, and if they have any feeling of generosity left there will be at any rate one section of the community on which Conservative candidates in Glasgow can rely absolutely at the forthcoming General Election. I submit that there was never a proposal put before this House with less justification and support behind it. There is a very old and hackneyed saying, that "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad." There never has been stronger evidence of the wisdom of the author of that statement than we have in the action of the Government to-day.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
It is not often that I trouble the House even with a few words, but as I put my name to this now celebrated Amendment, and as the right hon. Gentleman said that none of those who sponsored the Amendment were in the House, I immediately stepped to the front to show him that there was at any rate one individual who was prepared to stand up and defend his action. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that if the Amendment became law the factors would in future get a certain amount. That is an entire misrepresentation of the Amendment. They will not 475 in future get anything unless the Sheriff judicially decides that they are entitled to get it. Why misrepresent a very simple Amendment by exaggerating it in such a way as the right hon. Gentleman has done? I do not know the rights or wrongs of this particular claim on behalf of the factors, but I have been told that they are losing money. Some hon. Gentlemen think that they are not losing money. The hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) evidently thinks so. He has been in many parts of the world, and he knows a great many curious people. I daresay his opinion may be accurate, but, at any rate, I know my hon. Friend sufficiently well to know that he is a man who loves justice, a word which we often hear from those benches.
If that is so, let the owners go to the Sheriff and state in truth that they are not getting sufficient remuneration. The labourer is worthy of his hire. If the Sheriff says, "I think you are doing very well, I will turn you down," there is an end to it. When the corporation of the City of Glasgow collected these rates themselves, they did not collect them very well; they did not know how to do it. Perhaps one reason why hon. Members on those benches object to the system is that they think the rates are being collected too well. I am going to tell them what the corporation of the City of Glasgow lost. The evidence was given before Lord Guthrie's Commission that they lost £25,000 in ordinary collection of rates in 1905–1906, and in addition they lost to the Glasgow Parish Council £8,000. That is to say, they did not collect £33,000 worth of rates which might have been collected, had they been collected by men who knew their job.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
May I ask the hon. Gentleman what proportion of these rates lost were relieved on account of poverty by the corporation?
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
That does not enter into the question at all. They were rates that ought to have been collected by the Glasgow Corporation. Sometimes, these men have to make as many as 52 calls in a year for a comparatively small sum.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
That is perfectly accurate. It is very brainy of the hon. Member. It amounted to 18s. 11d. per £100. To-day, under the present system all that the corporation of Glasgow loses in the collection of these rates is 2s. 4d. per £100, so that owners of Glasgow have saved the corporation a very great deal of money, and it is the least the House can do, if these people come forward and say that they are not getting fair remuneration for their work, to let them go before the sheriff and present their case. I for one, who place justice before everything else, will vote in favour of that.
§ Mr. CLARKE
I rise to support the Amendment so effectively argued by hon. Members on this side of the House. I listened very carefully to the reasoning of the Lord Advocate, and I feel that he left us unconvinced. He was unable to justify his contention that in the last analysis, as the 2½ per cent. has come to be stabilised, so ultimately will the 5 per cent. be stabilised for the collection of rates that have been compounded. Personally, I feel that the issue lies in this particular direction. Is there a reasonable sum that can be paid to the factors for the collection of rates which can be contained within the 2½ per cent. already provided? I submit that there has been no case that would justify us in saying there is not a reasonable and adequate sum for the collection of rates within that 2½ per cent. where the rates are compounded in towns and villages. I come from a town where the majority of the rates are collected by factors, and I recall the fact that, when this 2½ per cent. was imposed for the collection of these rents, the ordinary rent ran from £8 and £9 to £10 a year. To-day, these rents represent a sum from £14 to £15 and £16 more, although in some cases owing to the occupation of individuals—miners who have had to shift from one district to another—the houses became de-controlled, and the landlord was in a position, to exact whatever rent he was able from the new tenants owing to the scarcity of houses. But that increase on the rent carried with it a proportionate increase of taxes. If, when the rent was £9, 2½ per cent. was the sum that was adequate for the collection of these rates, then obviously when the rent went up to £15 to that particular tenant, there was an increase proportionately for each £ on 477 the rate imposed on the tenant, and an increase to the factor on the collection of the rates. In the same way, it can be reasonably said that there has been another considerable increase in the factors' amount that he is able to collect for the collection of the rates.
It is well known that the rates even on the present increased rent have steadily increased, and so they have reached a sum in the district from which I come of 5s. 6d. to 6s. per £. It may be true to say that unless a case can be made out the sheriff will not agree to an increase beyond the present evidently stabilised 2½ per cent., but I submit that, just as when there was an attempt to increase it at one time when 2½ per cent. was found to be enough and when the much lesser percentage which was given was ultimately increased until the 2½ per cent. became the stabilised amount, so proportionately there will ultimately be 5 per cent. exacted by the factors for the collection of these rates. I submit that these same tenants together with other tenants and ratepayers throughout the burgh will have their assessments increased in proportion as the difference between 2½ per cent. and 5 per cent. will be ultimately imposed. From any point of view that we care to examine this question, it will be admitted that, taking all these factors into consideration, there is no doubt of the fact that the factors are amply remunerated for any service that they give for the collection of the rates in any particular burgh.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I would like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland one question which I hope he will answer when he replies to the Debate. It is a question that affects also some of the statements made by the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). Was he approached, or was the Scottish Office approached, by any deputation from the Factors' Association in Glasgow or Scotland or by representatives on their behalf, and, if so, was a case stated to warrant the introduction on the Committee stage of an Amendment to the Bill proposing to do certain things which were not in the original Bill? If such representations were made, why has not the Lord Advocate, in making the speech he did to-day, which was the first speech by the Government on this particular proposal, taken the House into his confidence 478 and made us aware of what was stated on behalf of the house factors? We are told by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) that the factors are losing money. It seems rather peculiar that it should be the Member for South Edinburgh who should have put his name to an Amendment which was going to affect the city of Glasgow. One hears a lot of the hostility between Glasgow and Edinburgh, but it is carrying such hostility to an extreme point when an Edinburgh Member wants to impose an extra 2½ per cent. on the Corporation of Glasgow and leave the Corporation of Edinburgh free. Was that one of the statements made by the house factors' representatives to the Secretary of State for Scotland, that they were losing money, and that the 2½ per cent. did not amply remunerate them for the collection of rates? Did the Secretary of State for Scotland or any member of his staff in the Scottish Office ask the factors or their representatives to prove it, and was the point proved to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State and his staff?
These points have not been submitted to the House. We have not been taken into the confidence of the Secretary of State or the Government. We are told by the Lord Advocate that this proposal is nothing new, and that it was suggested in 1926. I am not disputing the fact that this proposal or something of this character was in the Bill of 1926. But I ask why the Government, if they had this proposal in mind, did not include it in this Bill as it was originally placed before the House? Why did they include it as a new Clause brought in by Members of their own party? Why did they wait until it appeared on the Order Paper in the form of a new Clause and then suddenly discover that it was something which ought to be in the Bill but which they had forgotten? It appears now in the Bill, but we had no opportunity of discussing it during the Committee stage owing to the Guillotine. The factors are going to get 5 per cent. instead of 2½ per cent., but it is only now, on the Report stage of the Bill, that we have an opportunity of debating the proposal. The House should have had an opportunity of dealing with this matter on the Second Reading of the Bill if it was in the minds of the Government. 479 The House should have been informed of the arguments in favour of the claim that the factors are losing money through making this collection. The Lord Advocate talked about this proposal as a measure of justice. We should all like to deal out to others the justice which we expect to receive ourselves, and, in this case, we want to see that the other people concerned get justice as well as the factors. We want justice, not merely for the factors, but for the Corporation of Glasgow.
When the Secretary of State accepted the proposal of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh and his colleagues, did he notify the Corporation of Glasgow and give them an opportunity of putting their case before him as against the factors' case, or did he merely accept the Clause and leave the corporation to get their first knowledge of it from the amended text of the Bill when it was printed? These are matters which ought to be stated in this House. The Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate are not treating the House fairly in this matter. Neither are they treating the corporations fairly. They are dealing with this question, as they have dealt with many other questions during the past two or three years, in a most slovenly fashion. This Bill is going through in the same manner. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead spoke about what the Corporation of Glasgow could do. He said they were not going to be placed at any disadvantage; that they were a wealthy corporation, and, that if the factors applied to have the percentage increased to 5 per cent., the corporation could brief the most expensive counsel. Why should the citizens of Glasgow be expected to spend money on legal costs because of the caprice of the Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate in accepting this proposal? Why should the citizens be fined in thousands of pounds in order to justify their position against the claim of the factors?
No reason has been given. We are told that the factors lose money. How much have they lost? Surely 2½ per cent. is a pretty fair percentage for this work. It is only a bookkeeping transaction. They go round and collect the rents and so much of the amount which they collect 480 and bank has to be transmitted to the Corporation by cheque. There is no extra work. They would have to collect the rents in any case. In what way do they lose? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) pointed out that if they got this extra 2½ per cent. there would not be any additional work. I think the Secretary of State has been badly misled in this matter. He has accepted this Clause rather hurriedly and without proper consideration. If he had listened to representations made on behalf of the side which is going to benefit, then he should, in common justice to the corporations of Scotland, and particularly the Corporation of Glasgow, have given them an opportunity of stating their case and giving their reasons for opposing this Clause.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
As one having some knowledge of factors, I should like the House to understand who it is we are dealing with here, and to whom it is proposed that we should give this increase of remuneration. I would like to point out the attitude taken by this body of men, particularly since the War. This question affects not only Glasgow but my constituency and my constituency has played a particular part in fighting the factors. They fought the factors because the factors dealt very harshly with the working class in Scotland generally, and in the West of Scotland in particular. This is the body of men on whose behalf the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) and the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. R. MacDonald) put down the original proposal. Why did they put their names down? Why did they not put down the name of the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Couper). Their names were put down—with all due respect to them—because their seats are considered safe. [Interruption.] Sir Samuel, you know not what a day may bring forth.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I would point out to the hon. Member that my name is not "Samuel."
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I never accused you of anything of the kind Mr. Hope. I will say of you that hope springs eternal to put me down, but it is individuals whose seats were considered safe by the Government—
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend—I am sure I can call him so—but will he allow me to say that I did not consult the Government? I never consult Governments at all. I acted on my own responsibility when I put down that Amendment.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Well, I will not pursue that any further, but time will tell whether the working class in Scotland will accept this slight that the Government are giving them. I am sorry the right hon. Member for Hillhead is not in his place, because he has taken a deep interest in this Bill, but on every occasion on which he has risen to speak it has been to down my class, just as on every occasion on which the Secretary of State for Scotland has risen it has been to do the same thing. If ever there was a class piece of legislation, it is this that we are now discussing. We are being asked to give an increase to a body of men who are fairly well paid at the moment, as pay goes. When the working class had to accept reductions in wages, when they were up against it, when they were away fighting for their country, the Government of the moment are proposing to convey great favours to these same factors, namely, to give them double their wages. It is not a case of another two shillings a week here, but they are going to get double their wages. Just fancy any section of the working class having the audacity to make application for double the wages they are getting now! I would like to see the part which the right hon. Member for Hillhead or the Secretary of State for Scotland would play in that event.
But that is exactly what is happening now, and those same factors, when the war was on, took advantage of the men being away fighting on the fields of Flanders to increase the rents. They brought up before the Rent Court in Glasgow 400 cases to be tried, because they could not pay increases in rent, and out of those 400 cases 200 had either their son or their father fighting on the bloody fields of Flanders to defend them from the Germans, from the enemy. Here was their enemy at that time—the factor. The case was so very bad that we stopped work. I led a thousand men in from Parkhead and defied Sheriff Fyfe in the Court in Glasgow to give a decision against those poor people, with 482 the result that Sheriff Fyfe asked the representative of the factor—Mr. Gunn was the lawyer's name—if he was prepared to take the responsibility for stopping the Clyde, and Mr. Gunn said "No." The Sheriff said "Well, neither am I," and he dismissed the case. But that could not continue. That meant that we in Glasgow were defying the law. Lloyd George was then the Commander-in-Chief.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is hardly relevant to the question of increasing the percentage to the factors.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I hold, with all due respect to you, Mr. Hope, that I am showing the type of individuals and the part that they played in this country, and its relation to this increase. I am giving their history—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is quite in order in speaking about the factors, but he mentioned by name the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, which seems hardly relevant.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I beg your pardon. If that is all the crime that I have committed, it is the easiest thing in the world to remedy it, and to say the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I am sorry I called him by his name. He will be known in another world by some name, and he himself will know it when the mists have rolled away. As I was saying when you put me down or corrected me, Mr. Hope, the fact that we were defying the law of the land could not be allowed to continue. We had defied the Sheriff to put into operation what he considered the law, because we had the whip hand at that time, and we were defending the working class, the women and children of the men who were out fighting the battles in Flanders, and we got maligned all over the country as a result of it. The Government sent down Lord Hunter to make an inquiry into the situation regarding the factors, and Lord Hunter came down, after having a consultation with another gentleman regarding single apartment houses in Glasgow. Who was he? He was Lord Salisbury. What knowledge had he about the factors' business in Glasgow and single apartments? It is true that Lord Salisbury was born in one apartment, because he could not be born in more than one 483 at a time, but he was born at Hatfield House, where there are nearly 300 apartments.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That again is hardly relevant. I do not see how the question of the payment of factors depends on where Lord Salisbury was born.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
That may be, but I am drawing the attention of the country to the part played by the actual individuals, not their grandfathers, nor their fathers, but the actual factors now, during the most trying period of the War, during the most trying time that this country has ever passed through. The factors, these bloodsuckers, played that part. This Commission came down, and Lord Hunter reported the state of affairs to the then Coalition Government, with the result that an Order-in-Council was passed which stated that for the duration of the War and six months afterwards there would be no increase in the rent. That was because of the part played by the working class in my part of the world. It was not a kind, Christian, Coalition Government that gave Britain that, but it was because the workers on the Clyde fought for the whole of the workers in Britain, and we were slated by everybody all over the place and called traitors to our country. These factors are the individuals who forced us into that position. Then, when the War was finished, the factors made application for increases in rent. They said then that they claimed an increase because tradesmen's wages had increased, etc., but the fact remains that the houses for which they were asking higher rents had been built long before the War. They got 50 per cent. increase in rent. That means they are getting double the amount of money, and they get 2½ per cent. on that, plus the 2½ per cent. on the rates, which again, have been doubled.
The House is making a great mistake when it talks about the factors going round and collecting the money. That is a serious mistake. The factors, particularly in the West of Scotland, of which I can speak authoritatively, have so tyrannised my class that it is no longer necessary for them to go round to collect the rents. The working folk go to the office and pay the rent. That has now become part of the system. If they 484 send anybody it is the sheriff officer to "poind the gear." I do not want to be in the position of simply calling them names which I am not able to substantiate, and I want to point out these further facts to the House. Prior to the War the factors had to whitewash the houses, because all the old houses in Glasgow were whitewashed. Those who had rooms had the rooms painted, because rooms were painted half way up the wall; though in the more classical parts, where my class live, rooms were papered. All those things were done once a year—whitewashing, painting or papering, and the factors paid for it. The system gradually tapered off until they only gave the people the paint or the paper, leaving them to put it on, and now they give them sweet nothing. They also used to have to whitewash the wash-house, and keep everything there in order, but now they do nothing of the kind. There is no factor within reach of my voice—and some of them are here—who does not know that what I am saying is the absolute truth. That is the part that those individuals have played.
Let us come to what is being discussed at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) says that all they are asking for is justice, and if my memory serves me aright, the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) said the same, proving once again that like goes with like, like an auld horse with an auld stone dyke. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead said all they wanted was justice, and that we were making a mistake; that we were not to run away with the idea that the Government were out to give them 5 per cent. If we did not know them, it would not be so bad for hon. Members like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead to rise up there with a face of brass—I am sorry he is not in his place; but of course he will know of it all right—and to say that. He can go to Clydebank, never mind Shettleston, and discuss that. He said we were running away with a mistaken idea in saying that the Government were out to give them an increase, and that he was rather of the opinion that the factors were possibly taking a risk here, because it was going to be left to the Sheriffs, and that by the learned counsel that Glasgow would be able to employ we might be 485 able to prove our point. Bui Clydebank may not be able to employ such learned counsel. I would draw attention to the introduction again of these learned gentlemen, because with them it is a case of pounds, shillings and pence. I can see that there is an idea here that the legal fraternity are going to get some bones to pick. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead and the Lord Advocate are looking well after the legal fraternity.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be left with the Sheriff. I do not know about that. It has been said repeatedly across the Floor of the House that they would rather deal with the Sheriff than with members of my class. I differ there; I am all out for democracy. We have to pay a price for democracy, and we are paying for it in Glasgow at the moment in the matter of the licensing court, etc. But I am still prepared to pay a big price for democracy. It is the best thing we have yet evolved for the government of any country, and I am not in favour of handing away our rights to the legal fraternity under the name of Sheriff. But, apart from that, we must remember that the Sheriff will naturally say, "If the House of Commons had considered that 2½ per cent. was sufficient, they would never have remitted the matter to me." If the Government put this on the Statute Book, then it follows as night follows day that they are giving a lead to the Sheriffs to grant an increase.
The factors in Glasgow are now collecting £1,000,000, and they are getting £26,000 for collecting it. I ask Tory Members to watch what is happening, and I warn them that we shall make the welkin ring if they put this proposal on the Statute Book. I want hon. Members clearly to understand that the factors are collecting £1,000,000 and the cost of that collection is £26,000. The head of the collecting department of the City of Glasgow is Mr. Lawrence Mitchell, who is a very fine man. That official and his staff collect over £11,000,000, and the whole of that operation costs £53,000, or just about double the cost of the collection of £1,000,000 by the factors. The Government are now proposing to give the factors in Glasgow the same amount for collecting £1,000,000 as is paid to the collecting department of the Glasgow 486 Corporation for collecting £11,000,000. That is what this proposal really means.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The Secretary of State for Scotland shakes his head, but the amount is really twice £26,000 for collecting £1,000,000. This means that the advocates of private enterprise are again playing into the hands of their friends. When it is worked out, this proposal really moans that the cost of collecting £1,000,000 by the factors will be eleven times the amount which it would cost if the collecting of the money was done under a Socialist regime. The working classes are the actual producers of the wealth of this country. Remember that the factors produce absolutely nothing; all they do is to take. The factors are not satisfied with what they are getting, and they want more. All the time it is a case of "Give, give, give," and they are never satisfied. On every occasion, when the working classes have made any attempt, not to obtain an increase of wages, but simply to maintain their standard of life, the Tory Government have used all their power against them. The most powerful Government in the world have used all their machinery to smash the working classes, who are the actual producers of the wealth of the country. Did the Government come to the assistance of the miners? I think we have proved across the Floor of the House that the Government never did anything for the miners, and yet they have gone out of their way to bring in a proposal like the one we are discussing, and they are trying to rush it through. What did the Government do when the miners were up against them? Lord Hailsham at that time introduced a Bill to increase the working hours of the miners—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member was in order in talking about the factors, but he is going beyond that now.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I want the working-classes to understand what the Government are capable of. I have tried to show what the Government have done, and I think I have done so.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I wish to support the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). I want to point out, in the first place, that before you alter an Act 487 of Parliament you ought to make out a prima facie case for the alteration of the law. Any person who wishes to alter an Act of Parliament ought to show that the particular Act he is dealing with operates partially and unjustly on the persons who are working under it. It is a very ordinary political principle that when you are going to alter an Act you should come to this House and show that that Act is working in a way which causes undue hardship to certain of His Majesty's subjects. Up to the present, we have not had a single argument either from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) or the Lord Advocate, to show that the Act has deprived a single house factor in Scotland of anything that was necessary to enable him to lead an essentially clean and happy life. It has not been shown that this Act deprives any of the factors of their legitimate income.
The Lord Advocate said that the case could be proved before the sheriff. The Tory Members of this House are constantly telling us that Parliament should be allowed to decide these questions. I quite agree that Parliament ought to decide these questions and that they ought not to be left to somebody outside Parliament to decide. Let me give as an illustration the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act. At the present time, power is placed outside the Minister of Labour to say who is to receive and who is not to receive unemployment benefit. The result is that we cannot criticise the Minister of Labour in cases where unemployment benefit is refused. Instead of the Secretary of State for Scotland being obliged to come to this House to be subjected to criticism, he delegates his job to a sheriff, because he knows that the sheriff cannot be criticised for the action which the Secretary of State for Scotland knows that he will take. It is true, of course, that the sheriff might not do it, but let us be perfectly frank about this business. Who has pioneered this proposal through the House? Let the hon. Member for South Edinburgh be honest, straightforward; let him tell the truth. Where has he been spending his time during these debates? He has been spending his whole time in personal conversation with the factors; they are his driving force.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I do not know whether I am quite in order in interrupting, but I go for information where I can get it. The Government sometimes have to go into the gallery behind the Chair, and, when I want facts, I go and get them from people who can give me those facts.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
That is true. The people from whom the hon. Member has been getting his facts are the house factors; they are the people who have been priming him for his case. That proves what I say, that all his information, his whole force, has come from the factors. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) has given us some history, and I, too, may be excused if I go back, not so far as he did, but to 1926, when my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie and I played a fairly prominent part, and when, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I may say so in fairness to you, you played a part well-becoming the Chair. You exercised your discretion with fairness and justice, and showed yourself to have no bias in any way. I say that in passing. In 1926, my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie raised first the point of order which ultimately led to the decision, and I assisted him in whatever fashion I could, as I generally do. Some people criticise this group, but at least they are loyal to each other.
I then went back to my constituency in Glasgow, my native town. I wish that, particularly, the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. R. MacDonald) who pioneered this proposal, would go back to his Division as often as I go to mine. If he had done that, he would never have put down this proposal. When I went back, what did I find? I have in my Division possibly the most prominent house factor in Scotland—a man named Gilmour. He is no relative of the Secretary of State, but the Secretary of State knows him very well. He is, perhaps, the most famous factor in Scotland. When I got back, I found a letter from him written in very cruel language. As many hon. Members know, I live in my Division, and I have to go to house factors, not because I like them, but because I have to choose between families being in the street and being in a house; I have to plead with the factors for justice. He wrote to me 489 saying that in the past he had always been fairly decent to me, but that my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie and I had been the means of smashing this Amendment in the 1926 Act, and it might interfere with the happy relationships that had formerly subsisted.
Did that show that the factors were not going to get an increase from the sheriff? Why did he write that letter? Was it because he thought that no increase was to be given? Not a bit of it. He wrote that letter because he knew that our action was keeping him from getting the increase, because he knew that, if this matter goes to the sheriff, an increase is bound to follow. The factors are up in London to-day. I will plead guilty to having this in common with them, that, to some extent at least, they are Scotch. I do not like, nor do they like, to spend any money if it is possible to keep from spending it. They have paid first-class sleeper fares to come down here, and are staying in good hotels—not the Shaftesbury, I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton, but good hotels. That is because the sheriff will give them that 2½ per cent. They have done it because they know their sheriffs. I know the sheriffs, and they have done it because they know that the sheriff will grant this request.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead rises to support this proposal. I must say that those who have done so have shown, not political wisdom, not even political madness, but almost, as I said once of the Home Secretary, stupid honesty. But as for the hon. Member for Cathcart who has said not a word to ventilate his opinions, but has run away whipped and not come near the House, contempt even is too much to give him. I come here because I want to prove what I am now saying. This, as I have said, means an increase of rates, and, as everybody knows, someone has got to pay for it. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead would not disagree with me in this, that someone has to find the £26,400. No one would say that the extra £26,400 drops from the clouds; it has got to be found, and it must be found from rates.
A fundamental theory which I have tried to practise, and to put into my political life, is that, if I have a pound 490 to spend, being a man of narrow income, I have to choose how I shall spend that pound. There may be eight or nine things that I would desire, but I must choose the thing for which there is the greatest need. If the Glasgow Corporation can raise an extra £26,000, they ought to choose what is the greatest need, and how they can best spend the money. I would put this to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh: Would he say that the greatest need for £26,000 in Glasgow at the present time is that of the 230 house factors? I put that to him as a business man. Everyone who has been on the Glasgow Town Council knows that, at every meeting one went to, there was always this need of money. My hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. T. Henderson), and other Members who were on the Council with me, know that the choice had constantly to be made as to what was the greatest and the most urgent need. Even if I went further than my colleagues and granted that a case could be made out, it does not come within the first twelve needs that ought to be satisfied. There sits the Secretary of State, and the Under-Secretary beside him. I can tell almost every street and every close in their Divisions. What is a greater need? Last week the Secretary of State, with a cruelty and a brutality that he ought to be ashamed of, wrote to the Govan Parish Council refusing to allow them to pay 1s. 6d. more in order that the children might be fed. Was it not a greater need that the Glasgow Corporation should spend this £26,000 in feeding the children than in giving 230 house factors this extra money? You must justify this as a business proposition.
The Lord Advocate tried to answer the hon. Member for Camlachie by saying the £11,000,000 that the corporation collect is not equivalent to the £1,000,000 that the factors collect, because it is tenement property and they are a poorer class of people. Let me take it even on that ground. He has no defence. The Secretary of State ought to know, if he knows his business, that the Glasgow Corporation do other work than that. There are altogether 3,800 slum clearance houses in Glasgow. Every one of them pays rates and rent combined. In addition to that they are the very poorest section of the community. Eighty per cent. of the occupants 491 have not worked for years and are living entirely on parish council relief, which is less than unemployment benefit, and yet the Glasgow Corporation collect from their slum clearance houses and they pay their collectors better than the private factor does, and give them houses and give them better conditions, and yet, collecting from the very poor, it does not cost them the 2½ per cent. that is now being demanded by the factors.
What is the answer? There is only one answer. The Secretary of State ought to take the responsibility himself. He ought to say, "I will make inquiries. I will take the responsibility for the issue. I will get to business and defend it." But he knows that he could not defend it before a working-class audience. With that lack of courage which is so characteristic of him, he shoves the duty on to others. He shoves it on to the Sheriff, who cannot meet criticism in the-House of Commons. Some of us are criticised for usurping the authority of the House, for not liking Parliament and for wishing to throw away democratic institutions. It is we who want to preserve the right of Parliamentary control to-night, the right of Parliament to say what is not and what is to be granted to these people.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead only speaks in the House on one subject—I was almost going to say when his paymasters are asking him to call the tune—when he is speaking for some vested interest. He has poor people in his Division. There are poor people in the Cathcart Division. The hon. Member has never once in the House raised his voice to ease the conditions of the unemployed in his Division. Neither has the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman). Every time he intervenes it is on behalf of the rich, powerful vested interests, leaving the poor utterly defenceless and without a voice. I often wonder what is wrong with the House. I wonder whether it is incapacity, stupidity, lack of knowledge, or cruel heartedness, whether it is a desire to rob and plunder or whether it is foolishness. I had a majority at the last election of, I think, about 9,000. It is so great that I sometimes forget to count. As the result of the Government action it will be at least doubled.
492 I would prefer that the Secretary of State should withdraw his proposal. It is wrong and defenceless. Do not tell us the sheriff has to decide it. The factors know they will get it. The Glasgow Corporation is against the increase, but that does not mean that they will continue against it. The house factors know their Glasgow Council and they think if they get time, they can organise their forces so that even the council will not brief a lawyer to fight this proposal. That is behind their minds. They know the value of political agitation. This is a wrong proposal. For the Secretary of State on the one hand to refuse small children, the weakest and most defenceless section of our community, 1s. 6d. to feed and clothe and comfort them, and on the other hand to give to a class that is doing no useful service an extra £26,000 is an outrage which only a man devoid either of social decency or knowledge would care to defend.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
The first aspect of the case concerning this proposal which, I think, is particularly objectionable, is the procedure that has been adopted in order to get it put through. We have a very clear recollection of the circumstances surrounding it, and therefore it is not necessary for me to traverse those points. In view of what has taken place, the honourable course for the Government to have taken would have been to have placed this proposal in the Bill at the outset if they were convinced that the matter was perfectly in order. The Lord Advocate said that the Government had had no representation from any other council. I want to say, that as far as the Dundee Town Council are concerned, they telegraphed their opposition to this course being adopted. They were decidedly opposed to it, and I must say on behalf of the council that we are not getting the treatment that we as an important body ought to receive. Undoubtedly Glasgow holds the pre-eminent position, and the strength of their case has been fully submitted. When I was asked to meet the factors in my own city, I was not impressed with the figures which they put forward. When one considers that one of the strong points made to-night is that facts and figures have proved to be sufficiently effective in support of the proposal, it is remarkable 493 that no one standing at the Treasury-Box has presented any such evidence to substantiate the insertion of this Clause. I am all the more convinced of the inadvisability of this plan being adopted when I recollect that those people whose rates are being exacted in this particular matter are having to pay proportionately heavier rents even than people in comparatively good circumstances.
It seems very strange that such a proposal, which unquestionably will involve an increase of rating upon the general body of ratepayers, should be adopted in order to benefit those who will carry out their accustomed duties without any actual increase of effort or labour. I submit that if there is a case for payment being increased, such increase should go to the house factors or, perhaps, to those who represent the house factors in the collection of the rates. When we have these factors engaged regularly in the collection of rents, and at the same time collecting the rates without any extra expenditure involved, how does this other phase of the matter arise concerning an appeal to the Sheriff? Why should the Sheriff be called in to adjudicate upon the question as to the amount which a town council consider advisable to pay in respect of given services? This seems entirely extraneous. Without making any criticism whatever concerning the Sheriff, I think he would be likely to say: "We will grant the additional money." Why should there be this legal jurisdiction upon a simple question which is regularly dealt with by the town council? If a corporation engage any official or any servant to undertake a given duty, there should be no question of an appeal to any outside personality either on the legal bench or elsewhere in order to determine whether or not the council are giving the requisite salary or wage.
The real reason for the introduction of this Clause is, that it derogates a duty to the Sheriff, and it represents an endeavour on the part of the Government to secure relief from the onus of responsibility. I submit that if the procedure, which was adopted towards the end of the War of preventing rents being unduly increased had been adopted earlier in the War, and arrangements had been made for ratepayers and tenants to pay in proportion to the wages that they were 494 receiving at the time, matters might have been even more advantageous to those house-owners and rent contributors. The increased rents allowed included a provision for repairs, which are not being effected. The landlords, whether they retain any portion of this increased allowance or not, are not doing justice by the people in the matter of the rents which are now being exacted.
The fact that this matter is being slipped through in such an insidious fashion fashion reflects very great discredit upon the Government, especially when they have not given a fair opportunity to public bodies to examine the situation. I believe that if we had had a fair opportunity, facts and figures would have been presented from the point of view of householders and the ratepayers generally. I think the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) was pretty well knocked on the head. We all recognise the position of the right hon. Gentleman. He is, perhaps, one of the most outstanding representatives of class interests to be found sitting on the other side. What is being proposed on behalf of the factors shows how a numerically small force can bring powerful influence to bear upon the Government. I believe that this particular proposal will accentuate the feelings of the many who are concerned with the payment of heavy rents and will cause them to express their views in the way that we should like to see them expressed at the General Election.
§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
I have listened to the major portion of this Debate on a subject which undoubtedly raises keen interest among people in Scotland. I think that the onus for the change rests upon the Government, who must prove their case. I listened carefully to the speech of the Lord Advocate, and I am unable to recollect from his remarks that the actual cost of collection in the various burghs was higher than that which is presently allowed in the 1911 Act. But I am bound to say, that if the cost of collection is higher than that which is presently allowed, the factors have a case to submit their point of view to the Sheriff for this reason. There is a bargain between the factors and the Corporation which is not one between a willing buyer and a willing seller. A duty is laid upon the factors to collect 495 the rates, and this House is always tender to the interests of those upon whom it places a responsibility. At the same time, it does place responsibility upon members of the Government who come to this House to make quite clear to hon. Members that they have studied the figures and to mention those particular figures to the House so that the House itself can judge the broad issues of the case. If they could substantiate their point of view by accurate facts gleaned, not from small burghs such as have been mentioned this evening, but from large burghs throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, then, as this bargain is not one between a willing buyer and a willing seller, I would support the Government in this matter.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I would be ashamed to face my constituents in Bridgeton if I did not associate myself with the protests that have been made by my colleagues. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins) back in his place, but I regret very much that on his first intervention in debate that I have heard for a very considerable period, he should have felt it necessary, representing, as he does, a constituency with all the poverty there is there, to enter a plea on behalf of this very comfortable section of the community. I do not know whether he is voicing the official policy of his party or merely his personal point of view, but I can assure him that, as far as the West of Scotland is concerned, this will be a more vital issue in the General Election than Free Trade or Protection.
The ruling that the Chairman gave on this matter is one that we, of course, accept, and is right according to House of Commons rules, but I want to ask the representatives of the Government if they think they are playing the game in dragging in an issue of this sort into a Bill of this description? This Bill is said to be the great Governmental contribution to the rehabilitation of Britain's trade and commerce. It is said they have the intention in Scotland to raise our whole educational and humanitarian standard. It is the great keystone of Tory policy for the rehabilitation of this country, and yet just because a very few property owners from Glasgow have brought a little pressure upon them, the 496 Government are prepared to shove into the middle of this great policy a trivial question of how a couple of hundred people are to be remunerated. It is a question of piece-work that is raised, and that is the essence of it. In this Bill the right hon. Gentleman upsets the ordinary method of employment of town clerks, parish clerks, sanitary inspectors, medical officers, tramway conductors and drivers, street cleaners, lamp lighters, electricians, and gas workers. Is there any suggestion in any Clause of the Bill that all the employés, whose normal methods of employment are upset and changed by this Bill, are going to have their remuneration especially laid down by Statute? I can imagine that the kind of argument is: "Well, we have given something to the great brewery companies, and tobacco combines and we have given a present to the Scotch landowners. Why should not we give a little present to these humble millions that serve these various interests so well?" That is the only argument of which I can think for singling out the house agents and factors for special consideration in a Bill of this description.
I am closely associated with a special political organisation in this country that stands for a living wage for all, but I never dreamed in my consideration of how that would progress in British politics, that a start would be made by giving statutory rights to house factors. The one argument that I can see for it is this: We have always tried in this country to treat our heroes with special kindness, and lavishness, and, as far as my constituency is concerned, the men who are prepared to go round week after week and take money from the people for the houses they are letting to them are heroes of the highest type. I was at a house last week in Rumford Street in the Dalmarock Ward of the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow. It was a shocking hovel that was tumbling down about the ears of the poor woman who was struggling with her children to live there, making a tremendous battle against poverty. It was a house that was condemned as insanitary by the sanitary authorities, and waiting for demolition. Every week the factor of the City of Glasgow walks along and puts out his hand for the rates, and it is said that you must pay him more for doing it. This Tory Government in the House of 497 Commons say: "This is a man that deserves well of his country. He is prepared to do this week after week. He is a hero, and we are prepared to do for him what we do for no other public employé under this Bill. We will guarantee him an opportunity for a rise of wages at a time when wages in every other direction are going steadily down." I was looking at the Ministry of Labour figures, and again there is a downward tendency in wages at a time when the cost-of-living is going up. Yet the Government come forward and say: "We will allow this body an opportunity of having an increase of 100 per cent. on their present standard."
The right hon. Gentleman also is a man of courage, because he has stood at the Treasury Box day after day on this
§ Bill and defended the most indefensible propositions, but I hope that he will not persist in attempting to do what he knows is a trick on the House of Commons, and nothing more. The Lord Advocate knows it is a trick, and the Under-Secretary knows it. It is not playing the game by the House of Commons to drag this in from nowhere, and shove it into the middle of this Bill that they regard as an important Measure. I protest against such a trick being played upon me, and I shall protest very loudly in the City of Glasgow.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 180; Noes, 81.499
|Division No. 256.]||AYES.||[9.37 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. O. (I. of W.)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Apsley, Lord||Fermoy, Lord||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Atkinson, C.||Fielden, E. B.||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Ford, Sir P. J.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Gates, Percy||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Berry, Sir George||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Bethel, A.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Betterton, Henry B.||God, Sir Park||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Gower, Sir Robert||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Grant, Sir J. A.||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Griffith, F. Kingsley||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hacking, Douglas H.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hamilton, Sir George||Oakley, T.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Harrison, G. J. C.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Haslam, Henry C.||Owen, Major G.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Burman, J. B.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Cassets, J. D.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hills, Major John Waller||Preston, Sir Walter (Cheltenham)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Radford, E. A.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Colfox, Major William Phillips||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stratford)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Ropner, Major L.|
|Couper, J. B.||Hurd, Percy A.||Ruqgles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Iveagh, Countess of||Rye, F. G.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Salmon, Major I.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Looker, Herbert William||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lougher, Sir Lewis||Sandon, Lord|
|Ellis, R. G.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Savery, S. S.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Lumley, L. R.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Skelton, A. N.||Tinne, J. A.||Withers, John James|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Tomlinson, R. P.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Wettm'eland)||Ward, Lt. Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)||Wright, Brig-General W. D.|
|Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Warrender, Sir Victor||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Styles, Captain H. W.||Wayland, Sir William A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Wells, S. R.||Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain Wallace.|
|Templeton, W. P.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hayday, Arthur||Purcell, A. A.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayes, John Henry||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, G. H.||Riley, Ben|
|Barnes, A.||Hollins, A.||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Barr, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shield, G. W.|
|Bellamy, A.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Kelly, W. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Kennedy, T.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Lawrence, Susan||Stamford, T. W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Lawson, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bromfield, William||Lowth, T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Bromley, J.||Lunn, William||Sutton, J. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Buchanan, G.||MacLaren, Andrew||Viant, S. P.|
|Cape, Thomas||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Clarke, A. B.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Cluse, W. S.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Westwood, J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Maxton, James||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Whiteley, W.|
|Gillett, George M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Mosley, Sir Oswald||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Oliver, George Harold||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Groves, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ponsonby, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Potts, John S.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. T. Henderson.|