§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I beg to move:That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further and 2060 better provision with respect to the clearance or improvement of unhealthy areas, the repair or demolition of insanitary houses and the housing of persons of the working classes, to amend the Housing Act, 1925, the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, and the other enactments relating to housing subsidies and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid (hereinafter referred to as 'the said Act'), it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—
- (i) of annual contributions towards any expenses incurred by local authorities in connection with any action taken by them under the said Act for the clearance or improvement of unhealthy areas, or for the demolition of insanitary houses, or for the closing of parts of buildings and in connection with the provision and main tenance of the housing accommodation rendered necessary by any action so taken, but so, however, that such a contribution shall be payable during a period of forty years only, and shall not, exceed an amount ascertained in the following manner, that is to say—
- (a) subject to the special provisions contained in the next succeeding paragraph the amount shall be, so far as regards persons displaced From houses in an agricultural parish, the sum of two pounds ten shillings, and so far as regards persons displaced from houses in a parish not being an agricultural parish the sum of two pounds five shillings, multiplied in either case by the number of persons of the working classes (being persons whose displacement is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister to have been rendered necessary by such action as aforesaid) for whom accommodation has, with the approval of the Minister, been rendered available in new houses; but
- (b) if the Minister of Health certifies that it is necessary to provide rehousing accommodation in buildings of more than three storeys on the site of a clearance area, or on a site which has been, or is to be, acquired or appropriated for the purpose with the consent of the Minister, then, so far as regards displaced persons for whom such accommodation has, with the approval of the Minister, been rendered available, the amount shall be the sum of three pounds ten shilling., multiplied by the number of persons of the working classes (being persons whose displacement is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister to have been rendered necessary by such action aforesaid) for whom such accommodation has, with his approval, been rendered available;
- (ii) of annual contributions towards the provision, to meet the needs of aged persons, of houses of smaller dimensions than those specified in Sub-section (2) of Section one of the Housing. etc., Act, 1923, not exceeding, however, it the case of any such house, two-thirds of the contribution which might under that Act or under the
2061 Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, be made towards the provision of a house of the specified dimensions;
- (iii) of any additional sums which may become payable under the previous enactments relating to housing subsidies by reason of any provision or the said Act which—
- (a) amends Section five of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, in regard to the dates at which the Minister of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland are required by the said Section to review and, if they deem it expedient, revise the amount of the contributions payable by them in respect of the provision of houses;
- (b) substitutes, for the purposes of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, an amended definition of 'agricultural parish' so far as regards houses for the provision of which proposals may be approved by the Minister of Health after the first day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty; or
- (c) provides that, as from the first day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty, the amount of an annual payment to he made to a local authority under Section seven of the Housing, Town Planning. etc., Act, 1919, Section eight of the Housing Act, 1921, or Section six of the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, may, instead of being determined on the basis of the estimated annual loss resulting from the carrying out of the scheme in respect of which the payment is to be made, be determined either on the basis of the actual loss so resulting, or on the basis of the estimated annual loss so resulting, or on the basis of actual income and expenditure as respects some items required to be brought into account and on the basis of estimated income or expenditure as respects other such items;
- (iv) of any expenses incurred by the Minister of Health under the said Act in exercising any powers of a local authority, subject, however, to the recovery of those expenses from the local authority in the manner provided by the said Act."—(King's Recommendation signified.)
In view of the very long discussion which has taken place, the greater part of which concentrated around the financial provisions of the Bill, I think my task will now be light. As has been said, these financial provisions give effect to our proposals. The first provides for dealing with separate grants for clearances. Regarding the present administration, it is necessary to check the purchase and the sale and the destination of every piece of land carried out in connection with a local authority. It is also necessary to scrutinise whether a local authority acquires land for slums, or for 2062 street widening or other improvements. Local authorities have asked that 50 per cent. should be abolished, and in doing this we are fulfilling one of their desires.
Clause 25 of the Bill, which we have not yet mentioned, provides for a periodical review of the amount of grant. A periodical review every three years was provided for in the original Housing Act of 1924. That was altered in the passage through the House to two years. We think now, as we thought then, that two years is too short a period, and we are proposing a review every three years. We do not give any estimate to the Committee of what the cost of this scheme will be. The Committee may consider that that is, perhaps, rather an unusual procedure, but, we do not know what the cost will be. If the response of the authorities is adequate the cost will be large, but if their response be a failure, it will cost nothing. There have been precedents in other Housing Bills in similar circumstances for the same action. The Bill of 1923, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain), proceeded on the same lines. His Financial Resolution said:The charges on the Exchequer consequent upon the Clauses of the Bill will depend upon the extent to which advantage is taken of the provisions proposed to be made.He then gave a sort of total estimate. If 120,000 houses were to be built, the charge on the Exchequer would be so much. It is true that in that Act an estimate was given for the clearance of slums. The Treasury, forced to do the impossible, covered itself by saying they did not expect the call upon the Exchequer would exceed £250,000 a year. As a matter of fact, the highest present yearly cost is only £72,000. On the other hand, the housing memorandum on the Act of 1924 set out an elaborate schedule of cost. But in that case there were definite programmes.
With regard to the other Clauses, only a cursory reference to these will be necessary. With regard to rural houses it will be seen that the county council may contribute in certain cases, and must do so in other cases. This is a provision for spreading the cost, to a certain extent, over the county and no part of it will fall upon the Exchequer. Clause 38 provides for an alternative 2063 method of paying the subsidy on what has been called the Addison houses. It was originally paid on an estimated annual loss, but that was found to be unsatisfactory. It is now paid on actual loss. We ask for powers to pay either by the one method or the other, or by a mixture of both. Sometimes one will be used, and sometimes the other. It will give us an opportunity to make, with the local authorities, regulations carrying out the intentions of Parliament in a way which corresponds with the actual state of affairs.
There is another Clause dealing with small houses—houses provided for aged persons under the Wheatley Act. We propose to give power to provide houses of a smaller size than was prescribed under the 1923 Act, on the condition that such houses are used for aged persons and so forth, and give, in respect of them, a smaller subsidy. The remaining Clauses alluded to in the financial provision include one dealing with the charges on the Exchequer. These Clauses largely deal with machinery. I think I have said as much as is necessary on this matter, and I hope that the Financial Resolution will be received with the same degree of amity as was the Bill.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I would like to say that the change in the method of giving grants to local authorities with regard to slums is meeting with general satisfaction. It is common knowledge that there have been many conferences with local authorities, urban, county, and also London. As far as I am concerned, speaking for the London County Council, and with some 20 years' experience of slums, I believe that this new system will tend to speed up the machinery. I have a vivid recollection of the county council preparing plans, having to visit the Ministry of Health and have those plans criticised and altered, with consequent delay. Anything which will speed up the machinery is all to the good. I must, however, confess to some surprise, almost wonder, that when the Parliamentary Secretary put forward this Resolution she did not even attempt to put forward any kind of estimate as to the charge on the State. I am glad to see that we have such a reasonable Exchequer. I notice 2064 that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is absent, and I understand that that means that the -Minister is going to have a free hand.
The success of the Bill will be judged by the amount of the call upon the Treasury. As far as I am concerned, I would have been more hopeful if the right hon. Gentleman had put forward a figure. I think it would have been a better sign. As I have said, I have had long experience of the machinery of local authorities. There is always a great blowing of trumpets and heating of drums when the first onslaught on the slums commences, but when we begin to count our gains we know that the results are small. I should have liked the Minister to have taken his courage in his hands and said he was prepared to spend not less than a certain amount of money in the next three years. He knows that these slums exist. Would it rot be wiser and fairer both to Parliament and to those people who live in the slums to say that he will not be content with failure, and that if local authorities fail to carry out their obligations and spent the necessary amount of money, then he will step in and do the work for them? In the Bill, in case of default, provision is made for the Minister to step in. We all know that enthusiasm varies. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily in the districts where most slums exist that you have the most enthusiastic authority, and so there is delay. The justification of the Bill and of the Financial Resolution, surely, is the results to be expected from the scheme, and before we pass this Resolution, Members, whether they are economists or, like myself, a bit reckless in this big battle against the slums, should know what figure we are aiming at. Is this a leap in the dark; is it in part a gamble? I should like to know that there is a more definite policy.
It may interest the Committee to know what has been happening in London during the last 10 years. Just after the War, when the Addison scheme was introduced and provision was made for cheapening the purchase of land, great hopes of big results were held out. After many months of waiting we have 26 areas in hand, involving 111 acres. That is all the result of nearly 10 years of effort. The population concerned in those areas numbers 30,000. It might sound a very 2065 big thing if we could say that we bad rehoused 30.000 people, taking them from slums into pleasant neighbourhoods, but, as a matter of fact, we are only half-way through the battle. All sorts of difficulties have been encountered. The right hon. Gentleman knows better than anybody else that for the last two years we have been held up by what was called the Derby Judgment. That has ahanged the whole aspect of the battle against these areas, and I wish to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether his new proposals for circumventing the Derby Judgment are to be retrospective. If not, some of these 111 acres will still remain slum-infested districts. In addition to that we have 90 other areas ready to be dealt with, and I believe that under these new proposals it will be practicable for us to expedite the work.
Will the Minister also tell me how far these new proposals apply to the boroughs? As I read them, they are only to apply to the county. A large number of boroughs in London have done very little. If the delightful City of Westminster, in winch this Palace is located, fails to tackle some of the plague spots which are within less than a mile of this House, will the right hon. Gentleman intervene, or are the county council to do the work for him? I am very pleased that the Ministry of Health have recognised that London and places like Liverpool have a special problem of their own. In big cities like London it is a far more difficult problem to shift the population from the centre to delightful places in the outskirts. In London a big effort has been made to take people out to Becontree, to Downham, and delightful suburban estates, but we have not been able to take out the worst-housed people from crowded areas like Shoreditch, Finsbury and Bermondsey. The families there exist largely on casual labour, their very life depends on being able to live near the centre, and what with the coat of the rail fare and the high rates it is almost impossible for them to move to any distance.
My experience has been that as soon as we have persuaded a few people to go further out, instead of the houses which they have vacated becoming available for neighbours, they are either immediately converted into factories or workshops, or the landlord, free from rent 2066 control, immediately raises the rent, or charges £30 or £40 key money, a capital fine for entering into possession. The hon. Member for Battersea can confirm that this is happening in his district as well as mine. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how his financial proposals will help cases of that kind, because I am afraid there will be very little help. If a house remains fit for human habitation, there is nothing to prevent the landlord scoring in the way I have indicated through fresh housing accommodation having been found by the local authorities for some of the people.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he might save some of the charge on his fund if he extended his rent restrictions to all houses in certain areas, at any rate where the population have been rehoused by the local authority. I have always felt that rent control should apply to the house and not to the person. So long as there is this housing shortage it is wrong to allow a few privileged landlords to profit. by the enterprise of local authorities. While the bulk of landlords are limited in what they can charge as rent, it is not fair that a privileged few should be able to profit by the fact that local authorities have built expensive housing schemes to take the people out of the rent-controlled houses, thus giving the landlords the opportunity of raising rents or converting the property into factories or workshops. So far as I am concerned, as a member of a local authority, I will do my best to spend the right hon. Gentleman's money, to dip into his pocket, in order to see as many as possible of these filthy, foul areas swept off the face of the land and replaced by new estates providing decent accommodation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will show that he is really in earnest, and make it clear to the local authorities that if they fail to do their duty be will do it for them. That will be a message of hope to people who have been condemned to live all these years in wretched hovels and who feel that lo years after the War these plague spots ought to be removed from the face of the land.
§ Mr. CHATER
As a new Member addressing the House for the first time I feel sure that I Shall receive the indulg- 2067 ence which is usually extended to one in my position. Criticism of the financial provisions of the Bill will probably run in the direction of suggesting that too much money is being asked for, rather than too little, and I am concerned to put one or two points to the Minister on the line that the money is not sufficient rather than that it is excessive. The Minister has expressed his desire to prevent certain areas becoming slum areas. In my own constituency I can easily visualise two very large roads, each containing probably 200 houses, where rents are of such an excessive character that in some cases they are two and three times the pre-War rent. The result is that these people have developed, quite naturally, a mentality of absolute hopelessness, because the rents are so excessive in their character that they begin to lose all hope of bettering themselves, and the result of that mentality is that they lose all pride in the houses which they inhabit. I see no provision in this Bill to deal with that point.
It is no use imagining that the provisions of the new Bill will help in that direction, because, whatever happens under the provisions of the new arrangement, it must be a somewhat slow process. First of all, you have to find alternative accommodation for the people who will be displaced, and that cannot be done in too rapid a fashion. The people to whom I refer are fixed to the spot which they inhabit, first, on account of the fact that they must live near their work; and, secondly, because there is no other place provided for them, even if they can afford to pay a higher rent, I hope the Minister will not hesitate to take into consideration the possibility of doing something to relieve the people who suffer from extortionate rents. It is some five months since I gave the Ministry of Health accurate and intimate details of certain cases in my constituency, and I do not doubt that those instances are typical of those existing in all the great cities and towns of this country.
My second point is that we are very anxious to prevent roads like those which I have in mind becoming slum areas. because they contain very substantial houses. The construction of them is very good, and far superior to some of the 2068 houses that are likely to be built in the near future. The buildings ate good and the woodwork is good, but thy have got into a bad condition on account of the heavy rents which the people have to pay. Under one of the Clauses of the present Bill, the Minister of Health takes power to say to the owners of such houses, "You must put your property immediately in a good condition and make it habitable from the point of view of toe standard which the local authority is going to lay down." The point I want to make, and which I am anxious to emphasise, is that, if the right hon. Gentleman puts no provision in the Bill and those repairs are completed, there is nothing; more sure than that the landlord will raise the rent in proportion to the cost of the repairs. In my constituency, that would be nothing short of a calamity, and I hope that, in some way or other, the Minister will take financial power to deal with a position of that kind; otherwise, the very thing which he wishes to prevent will be continued, and the development of those areas, which are not yet slum areas, must become slum areas if some such provisions as I have suggested are not inserted in the Bill to deal with those conditions.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I have not risen to move the Amendment which stands in my name, and I have decided to speak upon the Motion. I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for South Hammersmith (Mr. Chater) upon his maiden speech. He has not had the privilege which was accorded to the hon. Members who made maiden speeches yesterday of having a crowded House. I remember an old Member of Parliament saying "Do not worry if you have not a big audience on the Floor of the House; remember the galleries are always full and there may be one person in the gallery from your constituency who will go back and say that his representative stood up manfully and faced the empty benches." When the hon. Member for South Hammersmith reads his speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT, I am sure he will agree that his maiden effort was a good one, showing a great knowledge of his subject and real sincerity.
I am interested in this Financial Resolution, because I have had a considerable experience as a member of a local authority in dealing with the financial side of many Acts of Parliament which have been 2069 passed from time to time, and then pushed on to the local authority to administer. I am wondering where we stand in regard to the Motion. There is a sort of mystery surrounding the financial provisions of this Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary tried to give us a reasonable explanation of this Resolution. I do not wish to detract from the way in which she presented this question to the House. I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) that it would have been better if we had had a representative of the Treasury on the Front Bench. I know that the Minister of Health will deal with our arguments, but the right hon. Gentleman has a very heavy task in hand, and he might have had a little relief from someone representing the Treasury, and that would have given a little more satisfaction to members of the Committee.
The hon. Lady said that no doubt it was a question of speculation as to the amount of expenditure that would be involved, and she gave as an excuse for not giving the amount that the late Minister of Health, when he introduced a certain Housing Bill, set a bad example by saying that he could not estimate the amount that he would require. Speaking not as a party man, but, as a general critic, I should say that the late Minister of Health was wrong and that the hon. Lady is equally wrong in using the same argument. I think we should have had something more definite from the Parliamentary Secretary and from the Minister of Health with regard to the amount of money that is likely to be required for this particular purpose.
A great difference of opinion has been expressed by experts on housing who are Members of this House as to how these housing schemes are likely to work out. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) has his own ideas about this matter. I do not say whether the right hon. Gentleman is right or wrong, but his idea is that these proposals will work out altogether different from the ideas which are held on the Treasury Bench. Members on this side of the House have also expressed a difference of opinion on this question. I want to know which opinions are right, and we certainly ought to have more information as regards the amount of 2070 money which is involved in this Resolution. I agree that the question of clearing away the slums is not a party question, and that has been shown by the fact that the Second Reading of the Bill has been passed without a Division. We think that the objects of the Bill are very desirable. [Interruption.] I claim to be as sincere in my views of this Measure as any hon. Member of this House.
§ Mr. MUGGERIDGE
; I was not doubting the sincerity of the hon. Member; I was waiting for his "but."
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I am not in the habit of using that word at all. I repeat that we have had evidence during this Debate that this is not by any means a party question. I agree with hon. Members opposite that it is very desirable that we should remove the slums from our large towns, and when, yesterday, an hon. Member on these benches talked about retaining back-to-back houses, if I could have got the chance I should have told him that I did not agree with that at all, and I will tell the Committee the reason why. Anyone who has had to live in such houses—
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
If the hon. Memher in question had had to live in such houses, or in some of the terrace houses in the City of Hull, he would not be so desirous of continuing that state of affairs. We realise, however, that the heavy financial obligations which have to be faced have been paramount in discussions on this question from time to time, and the reason why there has been delay in dealing with this great problem has been that fact, and also the fact that you must provide alternative accommodation before you displace people. We all understand that people even in a very had house are better there than with no house at all, and they will tell you so—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Money Resolution applies to charges on the Exchequer. We have now passed for the moment the immediate discussion of the merits of the Bill.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Yes. Sir, but the financial aspect has a good deal to do 2071 with certain points that I am bringing forward, and I will pass to the expenditure side. The local authorities view this question of expenditure with some concern, because we feel that, although Parliament passes the Acts, we have to administer them. Parliament is constantly passing on to our shoulders the financial burden of carrying on the various Acts of Parliament that are put upon the Statute Book, and we are helpless, because we are told that we have to do it. We have heavy expenditure coming along in connection with education. It certain proposals which the Government have foreshadowed come to pass, there will be an enormous addition to the burden of the local authorities, and I suggest that the local authorities cannot stand much more of it. Therefore, I am disappointed that we have not more generous provisions even than those in this Bill, as far as relieving the local authorities of their obligations is concerned.
When we consider the growth of local expenditure on services that have been thrown upon the local authorities by Parliament, we find it to be astounding. Taking the figures for the year 1926–27, which are the latest figures available, the expenditure was no less than £519,000,000. That is three times the amount that was spent in 1913–14. Deducting the expenditure on loans and so on, but still including the loss of revenue on departments that are supposed to be revenue-earning, even then the total expenditure of local authorities comes to £283,000,000, and, as regards the charges on loan accounts. that money has to be expended in connection with local affairs. Putting that against the figure of £104,500,000 for 1913–14, the committee will begin to realise what a heavy burden the local authorities have to carry at the moment, and that burden comes heaviest on the shoulders of the poorer ratepayers. It bears more hardly upon them than upon the wealthy one, and, if you talk to the people in the towns, you will find that those who complain most bitterly are those who are least able to pay. The figures, which are easily procured, showing the number of rate summonses that have to be issued in our large towns and cities year after year, make one think it is time that something was done to try to reduce this expenditure.
2072 I am not suggesting that money spent on such an object as this, or on many social services which are absolutely necessary for the health and comfort of the people, is ill-spent, but I say that there is a great differensi between extravagance and wise spending, and that is where we ought to be careful. Take the case of our public health services. In spite of the fact that the National Health Insurance Act is on the Statute Book, we are still spending £35,000,000 a year on these services, as against something like £13,000,000 in 1913–14. Nobody can say that the local authorities are not doing their fair share as regards these services whic:1 the people so much desire.
Comming to purely local expenditure, for which we get no gran[...] from the Treasury, such as Poor Law relief, in spite of the fact that we have Pensions Acts on the Statute Book, and that war pensions are being paid and unemployment relief works established from time to time, we paid, in 1927–28, over £42,000,000, as against something over £12,000,000 in 1913–14. I suggest, therefore, that the local authorities are doing their fair share in regard to the social services of this country, and that they ought at any rate to have some fair consideration from the Treasury in these matters.
Going a little further along the line, let us look at our great national expenditure. Although these proposals are very desirable, they are still going to be a charge on both national and local expenditure. I am not suggesting that we should not carry on with this Bill, but that there should be some control over the expenditure, and also that a desperate effort should be made to economise in other directions that can be suggested at the right time. Taking the local and national expenditure together—and this is the right way to look at the facts, because the money comes out of pretty much the same pocket in the long run—we find that in 1913–14 the total of local and national expenditure was about £277,000,000. In 1926–27 the figure had jumped to £1,021,000,000.
When these figures are carefully studied, they are pretty startling, and they ought to receive the consideration of Members in all quarters of the House. 2073 It is not a question of saying that if you talk about economy you are of necessity opposed to social reform. There is such a thing as the old gadget that is used as at municipal elections, "Economy with Efficiency." Although it is an old gadget, it is as true to-day as ever it was. I am all in favour of reasonable progressive reform in the way of social services, but I do say that from the mere fact that you spend money it does not always follow that you get service for it. It is easy to spend money, but it is another thing to get value for it, and to see that the people get the best out of it.
I would like to call the attention of the House to a statement made in today's "Times" calling attention to a resolution passed by the General Federation of Trade Unions. This is what they say:Whatever social improvements are effected have to be paid for by efforts. It foolish to expect that the social improvements of many millions can continuously be paid for by exactions from the wealth of a few thousand. However desirable it may be to secure a fairer distribution of wealth, it is fatal to national prosperity to eat up that capital which is necessary to finance present and future production.I commend that resolution to the Members of the House, and I think it is worth their while to consider it. It is not a question of merely coming from this side of the House. It has come from a very good source.
After that little preface let us now come to the Bill and see exactly where we stand as regards its financial provisions. The most ardent housing reformer ought to give the most careful consideration to the financial side of it, because its success or failure depends on whether those financial conditions are right or wrong. It is not a question of saying, "There is a heap of money. Go and spend it." That will not do any good if it is not spent in a right and proper way. What were the original subsidies under the Housing Acts? This Motion clearly points out that there is a great difference between the system which will operate under this Act and former Acts. I was rather puzzled at the figures the hon. Lady gave us, but I take it they are official and they are probably right and mine wrong. The subsidy under the 2074 1923 Act, as far as I can gather, is £6 per year per house for 20 years. I work that out to a total capital of £20 per house. Under the 1924 Act, which was a little more generous, as regards the subsidy in urban districts, it was £9 per house per year for 40 years, and I work that out to bring in something like £360. In the rural areas it was £12 10s. per house per year for 10 years, and I work that out at something like £500 per house, which is a pretty generous contribution. In September, 1927, the subsidies were reduced and brought down, as far as the 1923 houses are concerned, to something like £80 per house. But still, even with the reduced subsidy, it is something like £300 on the urban and £440 on rural houses built under the Wheatley Act. We had a further reduction in 1928. I have quoted these figures as a comparison in order to see where we stand under this Bill. The hon. Lady said she gave a figure quoting for a family of five, and the right hon. Gentleman yesterday quoted a figure dealing with a family of five. So I take it they regard that as a fair average family figure. We are going to have 45s. per person for 40 years, and I work that out at £11 5s. per year, so that local authorities will get £450. Is that right or wrong? The hon. Lady quoted a figure a little different, I think.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
When you are comparing terminable annuities of different amounts for different periods, it is extremely misleading simply to multiply the amount by the number of years. An annuity of £6 for 40 years is not worth twice as much as an annuity of £6 for 20 years. You have to take compound interest into consideration.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
The hon. Lady cannot make 40 years payment at £11 5s. anything more or less than £450. We want to know where we are. Hon. Members will not smile when they get back to their local authorities if they cannot explain what the hon. Lady means. We want to know what our commitments are before we pass the Resolution. Rural houses are going to get something like £12 10s. a year with a family of five. Then you get to London and the larger provincial cities where you have these tenement houses. I work it out that the local authorities will get something like 2075 £17 10s. a year for 40 years for a family of five. Then we get to the difficult point as to how this money is going to be applied. The hon. Lady said it would be left to the local authorities to decide as they think fit. They can have differential rating, and they can use it for providing houses for single people as well as for married couples. That is not a fair thing to put upon the shoulders of the local authorities. We know that local authorities have asked for more freedom in dealing with these matters. I can visualise a housing committee having to deal with applicants and to state what one person shall pay, and what another person shall pay for practically the same type of house. The task will not be a very easy one, because the very first person to grumble will be the working man who has himself to pay a much higher rent, realising that as a ratepayer he is having to provide his quota towards a cheaper house for someone else.
We have had previous Housing Acts. One at any rate was an utter failure, but not because this House refused to provide sufficient financial support, because if ever there was an Act of Parliament that was costly it was the Addison Act. I am quoting that in support of my contention that it is not a question of how much we vote so much as how carefully the money that is voted is expended. That is why I say the House ought to keep some control over this expenditure, and ought not to give a blank cheque to any Minister. I do not think it is in the best interests of the country that it should be so done. Take that Act for which the House so generously voted large sums of money. They talked then about building 500,000 houses, and they were going to cost anything from £250 to £400 each, and many of them cost over £1,000, simply because the cost of building went up with a rush because of this special push that was put forward from all sides, and there was a shortage of labour and materials. Eventually the then Minister of Health had to leave the office and someone else took charge and stopped building for the time, in fact wound up the scheme. In spite of the generous financial provision, that scheme was of no great use, and some of the very houses that cost such large sums 2076 of money are bordering on slum houses to-day. [An HON. MEMBER[...] Is that in Grimsby?"] We have none in Grimsby. We have a sensible town council. By merely voting money we are not always going to get the thing we desire. It all depends on the good will with which people try to carry out the provisions. I remember reading—I was not in the House at the time—that the right hon. Gentleman who was deposed from his position said he regarded this as a betrayal of the solemn pledges of the Coalition Government to the people. He was rather cross about his chief, the Prime Minister, of that day, and he said that the right hon. Gentleman was more responsible for the stoppage of these efforts—housing and slum clearance—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must confine himself to the Motion which is before the Committee. I have already told him that on a Money Resolution discussion must be confined to the charges upon the Exchequer.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I was trying to show that this House voted money in a generous spirit, because hon. Members were inclined to be generous when dealing with problems which they wanted to solve. I was endeavouring to point out that, although the House did give that money without any restriction whatever, it did not effect the purpose which the House had in mind. I was also pointing out that the right hon. Gentleman tried to put the blame on to ocher peoples. shoulders. I hope, when I move my Amendment later on, to receive the support of hon. Members opposite who feel as keenly as I do that this House shoulct retain control over financial expenditure of every kind. The principle has been laid down that we should not allow any Department to spend the nation's money without Parliamentary sanction. To give a blank cheque to any Minister or to any Department, however desirable the object may be, is a Wrong principle to adopt.
§ Mr. ISAACS
The hon Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) has several times repeated the statement that this Motion asks the House to give power to the Minister to spend money. One would assume that it brings about a method of 2077 control of public finance which has not previously operated. I presume that any money which is voted as the result of this Motion will come under the control of the House in exactly the same way as money required by other Departments has done. The non. Gentleman made reference to certain houses which were provided under a previous scheme, which, he said, had deteriorated into slums.
§ Mr. ISAACS
The hon. Member ought to give more information on that matter, so that it can be clocked.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member would be out of order. He must deal with the Financial Resolution. Under this Resolution, hon. Members are not entitled to discuss the merits of the Bill or the demerits of past Bills.
§ Mr. ISAACS
This is only the second time I have addressed the House, and, naturally, I find myself in some difficulty. I shall try as hard as I can to keep in order. I wish to apply myself especially to paragraphs (i a) and (i b) of the Motion. Paragraph (i a) makes provision for money from the Treasury for the purpose of housing persons displaced from houses, and paragraph (i b) for money in connection with rehousing schemes which deal with buildings of more than three storeys on the site of a clearance area. The Treasury by providing this money will enable many authorities to tackle the housing problem which previously, probably through lack of financial assistance, have been unable to do so.
I represent a borough with a very large population. It is one of the two boroughs in London which have not built a house. This may be because of the high cost of land, but under a provision such as this that borough may find it possible to build houses and so relieve the people of the tremendous burden under which they are at present suffering. It would be possible, if it were in order, to quote to the Committee a number of instances of overcharging of rent, and to give details of the overcrowding, which, we hope, the extra financial provisions now proposed will enable the locality to overcome.
2078 The Minister, in answering the Debate on the previous Motion, referred to the question of differential rents. The provision of money by this Resolution will make those differential rents possible, and the provision of differential rents will make the provision of housing accommodation possible by local authorities. I could quote to the Committee a number of instances of five, six, seven, eight, and up to eleven persons living in one room because they cannot afford to pay a higher rent. This provision enabling accommodation to be provided for those people based upon a grant on the number of persons will give them an opportunity of getting a house which otherwise would be denied to them.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This Resolution does not enable the Government to do that; that is a matter for the Bill. The Bill would enable the Government to do that. We are discussing now whether the charges on the Exchequer are sufficient or insufficient.
§ Mr. ISAACS
If that is the line I must take, I wish that the amount to be provided could have been considerably more, and then a good deal more could have been done. Just as the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) argued that too much money would be expended and indicated his intention to move an Amendment in some way to restrict the purposes of the Motion, I claim that the Motion before us is worthy of our support inasmuch as it enables far more to be done than otherwise could he done, and I regret that we cannot get more money out of the Treasury and so be able to do more.
§ Captain CAZALET
I hope to be more successful than the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) in keeping in order. I think it is clear to the Committee now why no Member of the Treasury is present during this discussion. Obviously, the reason is that there is really no Financial Resolution before the Committee. The Treasury has simply handed a blank cheque to the Ministry of Health. It is a very unusual, unprecedented and a very generous action on the part of the Treasury. The Bill empowers the Ministry of Health to do two things—to sanction schemes and to pay. There have been various 2079 opinions expressed yesterday and to-day as to how the financial provisions of the Bill are going to work out in practice. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health has put the matter extraordinarily clear. If I understand her aright, the method under which the contributions will be given by the Ministry of Health and the manner in which they will be spent is that there will be a subsidy per head given in respect of each individual removed from a slum area to some other part of the town or the surrounding country districts. That money, whatever the sum may be, will be handed over en bloc to the local authority, and the local authority will be entitled to use that money in any manner that they like, provided that it is being used for the accommodation of individuals who come from some slum area. It may be that it will be used in reducing the rents of the houses built under the Wheatley scheme. It may be used for putting up smaller houses for aged couples, or it may be used for building what we have been asked not to call tenements but fiats, in which I presume single individuals—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member is entitled to ask questions and to criticise the different grants of £2 10s. or £2 5s. or £3 10s., but the merits of the Bill are not now under consideration.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If I allowed the hon. and gallant Member to put it in that way, hon. Members will want to put it their way. We must keep to the Financial Resolution.
§ Captain CAZALET
I was really asking a question of the Parliamentary Secretary. She dealt with this point when she was speaking on the financial proposals of the Bill. Am I right in the conclusion that I have drawn from her remarks? I want to draw attention to the question of the building of flats or tenements, because the grant to be given in respect of each person who is removed from some congested area, to houses in tenements will be a very much bigger grant than if they had been moved to some of the Wheatley houses in an outlying part of the country. 2080 In London, especially, when this scheme is put into practice it will be Lund absolutely necessary to build more of these tenement buildings than exist to-day, and my point is that the subsidy which the Exchequer will have to grant mill be bigger than it is expected Lo be. 1 make this assumption because I em certain that it will be found that a very large proportion of the people living in a congested area find their work in factories businesses within a radius of a mile or so of the place where they now and, such are the conditions of travel in London and such is the impossibility of getting these people adequate and cheap enough transport, the only possible way of not depriving them of their livelihood will be to erect tenement buildings or flat accommodation in the locality of the cleared areas where they are living to-day. We must provide adequate accommodation for single individuals.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The provision of accommodation for single individuals or more individuals is not now under discussion. That will be dealt with by the terms of the Bill. There may be Amendments suggested by the hon. and gallant Member or other hon. Members when the Bill is under discussion. At the moment, all that is before the Committee is the Financial Resolution, and the hon. and gallant Member must apply himself to the Financial Resolution only.
§ Captain CAZALET
There is no definite finance before us. The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that this is an experiment. If there are 100,000 people involved, then the sum will be so much larger, or if there are 200,000 or 500,000 people involved, the sum will accordingly be increased. I am trying to show that the sum will be increased because the number of single individuals for whom places will have to be found will be such that suitable accommodation can only be found for them in tenement buildings. The reason for my argument that a greater sum will be required is that we have in this country a surplus population of 2,000,000 women who, until we alter the marriage law, will never be able to alter their state of life. They have to find work to-day, and they N.-ill claim that suitable accommodation should be found for them under this Act. I do not know how the financial provisions of this Bill 2081 will meet the case which the London County Council has experienced many times in dealing with slum clearance, namely, that there are large numbers of houses in various parts of London for which they can find no owners, owing to the fact that the houses have for a period of years fallen into a bad state of repair and the owners are not prepared to come forward and put them in order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Again, I must ask the hon. and gallant Member to apply himself to the finance. There may be property the owners of which cannot be found, but that has nothing to do with the Financial Resolution.
§ Captain CAZALET
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary how she would meet this situation, and whether she would be prepared to assist the local authorities in a case of that kind against damages in respect of some owner who thought the property had been—
§ Captain CAZALET
I was coming to that point. If some financial provision could be included in the Bill, that where these cases occur—I know that they are genuine eases that the London County Council have met with—it would to a certain extent limit the expenditure necessary under this Act. Now, I pass to the question of compensation. That, surely, has something to do with finance, and I cannot be out of order in saying a few words on it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member is not in order on the Money Resolution in arguing whether compensation should be paid or not. He can do that on the Bill. He can move the insertion of provisions for that purpose in the Bill, but he cannot discuss it on the Financial Resolution. The question is whether the amount of money is sufficient for the purposes of the Bill. If he cares, he can allude to the various figures and criticise the various amounts, but he cannot discuss matters which will arise on the Bill itself.
§ Captain CAZALET
I apologise fox having caused you to rise so often. It is very hard not to overstep the bounds of your Ruling, especially as we do not know what amount of money is involved. That is where we are in a difficult position. I hope that whatever amount of money may be necessary will be forthcoming and that by the provision of that money and its expenditure by the local authorities this problem, which has been handed down to us by our ancestors, will be largely remedied so that we may hand on to future generations a better state of affairs in regard to housing than exists at the present time.
§ Dr. FORGAN
There seems to be some anxiety amongst hon. Members opposite lest too much money is to be spent on the provisions of this Bill. The anxiety of some of us on these benches is lest too little of the money to be provided will be used for this purpose. To my mind the weak point in the Bill is that so much depends on what local authorities are going to do. An hon. Member opposite referred to the launching of this war upon slums, attended by the beating of drums. A sum of £105,000,000 was voted the other week in preparation for another war—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That has nothing to do with this Resolution. The hon. Member must obey the rulings I have given. The Money Resolution deals with the finance for this particular purpose.
§ Dr. FORGAN
I will certainly abide by your ruling, but the amount of money foreshadowed in this Financial Memorandum for this war on slums is less than one-four-hundreth part of the sum voted two weeks ago by this House for another purpose. Therefore we need not regard this as too generous a provision. I congratulate the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary on having got what is almost a blank cheque from the Treasury. There is a sketch in it of an idea that possibly £250,000 for the first year followed by a similar sum each year is a maximum.
§ Dr. FORGAN
The hon. Lady shakes her head. If it is assumed that 20,000 persons will be dispossessed and rehoused, that assumption is based upon what has been happening in the past. Up to now £75,000 per annum is all that 2083 the Treasury has contributed towards slum clearances each year. Compare that with the suggestion made in the Financial Memorandum, which I take it must have some bearing on probabilities. If we take it that the forecast of expenditure by the Exchequer of £250,000 a year is to be added to each year by a similar sum, then at the end of 10 years' time not only will the Treasury be spending £2,500,000 a year but local authorities will be spending a sum one hundred times their average annual expenditure during the last 10 years. That means that a very heavy burden is to be placed upon local authorities in years to come if they endeavour to carry out the provisions of this Bill, and I am much afraid that local authorities will not face up to that burden.
The Minister of Health has said that a 50 per cent. Government contribution in his opinion is inadequate, as it would impose too heavy a burden on local authorities. If a 50 per cent. contribution is inadequate, he is now proposing to impose on local authorities a burden scores of times greater, and if 50 per cent. or 70 per cent. is inadequate, we shall eventually arrive at a situation where we shall have to give a 100 per cent. grant, and it will then be desirable to take the question of slums out of the hands of local authorities altogether. What I have said is not meant in disparagement of the Bill itself. I regard it as a valuable instrument in the hands of local authorities, which, if they make full use of it, will contribute materially to getting rid of these blots on our civilisation.
§ Mr. GRAY
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a moment, and I hope I shall be successful in keeping my remarks entirely within the Money Resolution. I want to ask the Committee to consider two points. The first is the rate for rural houses of £2 10s. as compared with the rate of £2 5s. for non-rural houses, and I want to suggest that the difference is not enough. If you are going to meet the problem of rural housing you will have to increase the grant for rural houses to a much larger amount than the 5s. difference between £2 5s. and £2 10s. In my opinion you will have to get somewhat nearer to the sum you are providing for the purely slum clearances and areas where tenement 2084 houses are erected. When you are dealing with rural houses you will have to face the position that you are dealing with the provision of houses for tenants who can only pay a very small rent, and who have only been accustomed to pay a small amount of rent. If you are going to provide adequate housing accommodation for our country villages you must meet the gap that is necessary TO enable these houses to be let at low rents. The difference which the Minister has provided, as between £2 10s. and £2 5s. is not sufficient, and the first amount should be increased if not to the full amount on the slum area, at any rate to at least £3 per person.
The other point, which so far has not been referred to, is the date from which these sums are to be paid. Are they going to be paid from the inception of the scheme, from the time when the local authority commences to deal with the area, or from the time when the persons actually take possession of the houses? That may be a very important and serious consideration to the local authority. It may not be so serious when you are dealing with one or two houses, but if you are dealing with a large clearance area it may be some considerable time from the period when you purchase the land and the date at which you begin to house the people. I should be glad if the Minister will make it clear from what date these sums are to be actually paid.
Mr. ERNEST WINTERTON
We have been asked by hon. Members opposite whether in this Resolution we propose to fix the amount which will be available for the purposes of this particular Measure. I hope the Minister will resist any invitation addressed to him to state any definite sum for the purpose of these proposals. I agree with the final words of his speech yesterday, when he said that he was anxious to place upon local authorities the responsibility of working this Measure to the utmost possible extent. Whatever figure he might quote, some hon. Members will be sure to question it and say it was too much or too little. Local authorities in the past have not spent enough on this vital matter of rehousing the people, and if they feel that there is no unreasonable limit to their activities—not that there is a blank cheque which is likely to lead to ex- 2085 travagance—the Bill is likely to be far more useful than if a definite figure was stated. The hon. Member for Islington North (Mr. R. S. Young) raised an important point which I do not see provided for in this Money Resolution. He pointed to what I think every hon. Member will agree is a very notable gap in the Bill—
§ The CHAIRMAN
If there is a gap in the Bill it must be put in order in Committee; not now. Whatever is put in the Bill will be covered by the terms of the Financial Resolution.
Of course, I acknowledge the difficulty of asking the Minister whether he has any money other than what he is here providing, but I would ask him whether this Financial Resolution in any way provides for the temporary accommodation which may have to be made while the area is being cleared, and, if not, whether any such proposal can be made in connection with this Resolution? I would like to associate myself with the hon. Member on the benches opposite who made an inquiry as to the amount which is to be granted in connection with the scheme for rural housing. I notice that in his speech the Minister suggested that this provision was to be confined to agricultural workers, and I want to ask him in regard to the proposed grants—I see the words used are:so far as regards persons displaced from houses in an agricultural parish"—whether those words will apply, say, to a rural district council or an urban district council or to any other than those Who are specifically employed in the agricultural industry? I ask that question, because the shortage of houses is by no means confined to agricultural labourers. There are many mining villages which are a disgrace so far as housing accommodation is concerned. I would like to ask the Minister whether this expression in the Bill includes any others than agricultural workers? There is one Clause in the Bill on which at a later stage I shall wish to say something more definite. I should have been very much better pleased with the Bill if Clause 11 had not seemed to invade the amount of money available for the purpose of compensating the great number of licensed houses which will be affected by the Bill. I do not propose to enter 2086 into that matter in detail, but I could have hoped that better machinery for dealing with the licences which are to be dealt with would have been devised, because there will be a very large invasion of the money available.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is discussing the merits of the Bill. That is not permissible on a Money Resolution. If he will read the Resolution, he will see that the words he quoted are immediately followed by conditions affecting non-agricultural parishes
I thank you, Mr. Young, for calling my attention to this matter. I think that the discussions which have been taking place as to improvements in our procedure, are fully vindicated by the experience of some of us in our endeavour to keep to this Resolution. I shall be glad if the Minister will answer the definite points which I have put to him, and I should like to congratulate him upon this very admirable Bill and the Financial Resolution connected with it.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not think we ought to pass this Financial Resolution without asking the Minister to give us a little more information concerning it. We are now dealing with purely the financial side of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has now secured a unanimous Second Reading for the Bill from the House. I hope no one will misinterpret what I venture to suggest is a proper attitude for the House of Commons in connection with the financial side of the Measure, and that is to put some questions and ask the Committee to consider the financial implications of this particular proposal. I do not think anyone will quarrel with me or dispute the suggestion that this Financial Resolution makes new and unlimited calls both upon the ratepayers and the taxpayers of the country. So far as I can ascertain from the proposal which is now before the Committee, there is no attempt being made to estimate the cost. The matter is purely hypothetical.
If the view be taken that this Measure will be a considerable success, then I think anyone who sits in any quarter of the House is entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he anticipates will be the calls upon the Exchequer during 2087 the next financial year and exactly what his hopes are from the point of view of new houses. I apprehend myself that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in opening his Budget next week, will have to give some estimate as to what the cost of this Measure is likely to be. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health may be able to indicate to-night exactly what he hopes in regard to this particular proposal. I do not think I shall be making a statement which anyone would question, when I say that, if the financial provisions of this Bill are based on a sound scheme and the money is wisely and carefully spent, that money will not be grudged in any quarter of the House, because certainly while it costs a considerable sum of money to replace, rebuild, and to clear slums, a still larger expense arises from the ill-health and inefficiency due to people having to live in slums at the present time. We undoubtedly pay a large bill every year for the increasing physical and mental deficiency, and the decline in energy and self-reliance which unfortunately arises from slum conditions.
I do not think anyone will misunderstand me if I remind the Committee that we have to consider our whole social expenditure in regard to the state of our trade and industry and the other corn-filaments which this country has already made in connection with what we call our social services. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) the other day, put the matter very well. He said it was very difficult indeed to say "no" to each individual proposition that was put before the Committee in connection with the requirements for unemployment, for housing, and for matters of that kind, but that the net result of it all was that we were piling up a very considerable bill. I think the words which the right hon. Gentleman uttered on that occasion were words to which we ought to have some regard in considering any further cost which is being asked for in connection with matters of this sort. My only regret is that the right hon. Gentleman's followers, on that occasion, did not come up to the expectations which their leader had aroused when he made those observations. The country looks to the House of Commons at this time 2088 to have regard, not only to the need of housing but also to the cost, and during the last few years we have, undoubtedly, witnessed an extraordinary increase in the expenditure on our social services. If we examine the figures for the last 40 years we shall find that we call social expenditure is now some 16 times what it was at the beginning of that period. In 1891 we were spending £22,000,000 on social services, and in 1928 that figure had risen to £365,000,000. One is bound to look at this position from the point of view of trade and industry—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is arguing that the burden on the country will be increased by the specific expenditure which is dealt with in the Financial Resolution.
§ Mr. W. J. BROWN
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in that figure of £365,000,000, he is not including the whole of the expenditure on the armed forces, on the Post Office and in respect of the Civil Service generally.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I thought that question might be asked and if the hon. Member refers to the White Paper recently issued by the Stationery Office, in which all these figures of social expenditure are dealt with, I think he will find that I am correct. Let me say at once, however, that all I am desirous of doing at this moment—and I have followed the course of Financial Resolutions for many years is to ask the Committee to consider this aspect of the question.
§ Mr. W. J. BROWN
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for interrupting him again? I have the figures here. and I find that the total expenditure in respect of the Civil Service and Revenue Departments—the Post Office, being one of them—is a figure not of £365,000,000. but of £258,000,000.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Member will no doubt have an opportunity of making his own observations in reply to me, and I think he will find, on going into the matter, that the expenditure on social services, exclusive of the Army and the Navy and the Post Office, is the figure which I have mentioned. If, however, I am not right in my figure, I am sure that the hon. Member will be one of the first to correct me. Even if he reduces the figure which I have given by £100,000,000, he will still find that the rise has been very considerable indeed—and that is all I am endeavouring to emphasise. I point out these facts, not by way of endeavouring to prevent this Motion being passed, but in order to recall to the Committee the direction in which we are travelling and the important effect of these financial commitments upon our trade and industry and also upon unemployment in this country.
I do not think there is anyone who has listened to the speeches constantly made both in the House of Commons and outside it by the Lord Privy Seal, who would say that the question of national and local taxation is not related to the problem of unemployment. No one has emphasised more than the Lord Privy Seal the connection between these matters, and in considering this Motion we cannot overlook the fact that we are adding to our commitments. We may do it quite willingly and with the best desire in the world, but we should not forget that in Great Britain our taxation per head of the population is already very considerable as compared with that of our foreign competitors.
When by such commitments as this we are adding to the burdens of this country, we might usefully spend a little time—having disposed of the Second Reading of this Bill—in considering a matter which is equally important from the point of view of the slum dweller. Apart from the natural desire of the slum dweller to obtain good housing accommodation, he desires, above all, to get employment in order that he may pay for it; and we ought not to forget that Great Britain to-day is spending £14 per head per year in this respect, while the United States is spending some £6 per head and Germany some £5 10s. per head. When, quite legitimately and properly, we proceed to add to our com- 2090 mitments as we are doing by this Motion, these matters ought to be taken into account.
I hope no one will say that that is an improper subject to bring before the Committee on this occasion, when, on every hand, we are endeavouring to ascertain the reason for the large amount of unemployment in this country and when we are all seeking—no one more than the Lord Privy Seal—to find plans for mitigating the tremendous figure of unemployment with which we are now faced. In connection with a Financial Resolution of this kind, we ought to consider not only national, but local expenditure in general. No one who is asking the Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman is doing—quite properly in my opinion—to commit itself to a further increase of social expenditure, can overlook the fact that local expenditure is also pressing hardly upon trade and industry and upon the mass of our people. If hon. Members turn to the Blanesburgh Committee's Report—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman himself must be aware of the fact that while, on this Motion, he may refer in general terms to certain expenditure, he must refer to it and pass on, but he is not entitled to go into the details of the Blanesburgh Committee's Report and such matters as that.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am afraid you misunderstood me, owing perhaps to my lack of experience, but I was endeavouring to point out that, in addition to a consideration of the cost of national taxation, we must consider the burden of local taxation as well. Great Britain is undoubtedly having to pay a very much larger bill in the cost of local taxation than are many of its foreign competitors. I will only give, by way of illustration, two figures in that connection. When you consider the burden of local taxation per head of the population, so far as Great Britain is concerned, you have a sum of £3 17s., as compared with £1 17s. 6d. in Germany.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
On a point of Order. Will it be in order to debate the figures showing the difference between the cost of living in Germany and in this country?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is only entitled to refer to expenditure as being so much, and then to pass on.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I may say that I am now going to pass on from that matter. All that I desire to say, in the spirit and almost in the words of the Lord Privy Seal, is that we have to realise that industry is the sole ultimate source from which all classes of individuals derive their livelihood, and much as we may commend the objects for which this Financial Resolution is required, we must not overlook this important aspect of the national situation. I would like to have referred, not to any partisan report from the headquarters of either the Conservative or the Liberal organisation, but to a report which is very germane to our discussions to-night, and that is a report issued by the General Federation of Trade Unions, which has recently examined this question.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I will endeavour to meet that point. The point I have in mind is this—and on no occasion has the right of any Member of the House been challenged to enter into it—that when we are asked to commit ourselves in Committee to a considerable sum, as this may well he, we are entitled to review our present national and local commitments in taxation, and—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid I could not allow any such review. It might take all night without relation to the Resolution before us.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I must point out that the question of how long such a consideration might take is hardly germane to the matter. I do not want it to be thought, because I have brought these matters before the Committee, that I am unsympathetic to the proposal which is being made. I do not think the Minister can complain of the support which his proposals have received, but I shall always maintain, subject to anything which any authority in the House may say, that any Member of the Committee is entitled on a Financial Resolution to report to the House and to the country exactly where we stand, and to remind the Committee of where we stand and the 2092 financial commitments which we have already made. I know of no occasion when that right has been challenged in any quarter. While none of us desire, from the point of view of finance wisely and properly spent, to c[...]rtail the Minister in any way, I do think that, at a time when taxation is so important from the point of view of unemnployment, he should be able to give us some further estimate than that which is contained in this Resolution, because at the best it is only an estimate and in no way gives any definite particulars as to our financial commitments. If the right hon. Gentleman can tell us what he hopes our financial commitments will be under this resolution during the next 12 months, I think he will have done all that we can reasonably expect.
§ Miss RATHBONE
The point to which I want to direct the attention of the Committee is the rather curious discrepancy which appears to have crept in between the Financial Memorandum and the Financial Resolution on the one hand and a Clause of the Bill on another. The Clause to which I refer deals with what I may call the super-grant, Which is the grant that is to be allowed for buildings of a tenement character of over three storeys in height, and the curious thing is that, whereas the Bill appears to imply that that higher grant of—3 10s. can only he made if a building is both above three storeys high and built on land of over—4,000 value per acre, the Financial Memorandum and the Financial Resolution imply that those are alternative qualifications, and that you can get the super-grant if your building is over three storeys high or if it is built on a site of a value of over £4,000 per acre. Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly tell us which it is, or whether I am wrong in reading the word as "and" in the case of Clause 23 and as "or" in the case of the Financial Memorandum and the Financial Resolution?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid I must tell the hon. Lady, as I have been trying to tell other hon. Members, that if there is any difficulty about these matters they must be met by Amendments to the Bill. The question arising here is merely the amount of money that is required for the purposes of the Bill
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
Surely if there is a discrepancy between the Clause in 2093 the Bill and the necessary provision in the Finance Resolution, the only chance this Committee has is to amend the Motion, and surely the hon. Lady is in order on this point, because there does appear to be a discrepancy between the Financial Memorandum and paragraph (i, b) of the Financial Resolution.
§ Miss RATHBONE
In any case, the point does affect the financial Clauses of the Bill, because it is quite clear that, if both these conditions have to be satisfied—and this is the further point I want to bring up—it is a strong inducement to property owners to profiteer, and put up site values. The cost entailed by this particular Clause is very much heavier if the indirect effect is that the price charged for housing sites is going to be greater. May I illustrate it by what actually happened no longer ago than last Friday, when I was attending the housing committee of the Liverpool City Council? We had a proposal brought before us to put up a three-storey tenement in a slum clearance project; we liked the look of it, but it transpired that the cost of the land worked out at 14s. a yard, which is less than £4,000 an acre; a gloom spread over the countenances of my colleagues, and the project was dropped. When next I attend the housing committee, if that project comes up again, we shall find that the property owner has thought better of his price. Property owners are always very glad to oblige in a little matter of that kind. Therefore, I suggest that it had better be cleared up whether the Minister intends to make these two alternative qualifications, or whether it means that both must be satisfied.
I hope that the Ministry will, at any rate, see their way to make the whole arrangement a good deal more flexible, because it will considerably raise the cost of these buildings, and therefore the money will not go so far if local authorities are to be goaded into erecting four-storey tenements, and over four-storey tenements, when it is not really necessary, in order to qualify for the higher 2094 grant. It is true that the Minister is asked to give his approbation, but he cannot be on the spot, and must be largely guided by what the local authorities want. Although he told us that this is only to be used in a few places, such as London, he is putting a strong temptation on local authorities to make out a case for a peculiarly undesirable form of building on costly sites, when it is not really necessary, in order to secure a higher grant.
The Ministry of Health should more and more consider whether we are right in assuming always and as a matter of course that housing must be subsidised, that it is a health service. which must involve some charge on the State, and that transport need never be subsidised, but that it must always be regarded as a wealth-producing form of enterprise. Would it not sometimes be cheaper to subsidise transport in the form of workmen's fares—
§ The CHAIRMAN
On this Money Resolution, the hon. Member cannot discuss the subsidisation of transport.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I thought that was in order if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) was in order in alluding to the cost of social services.
I understood that the right hon. Member for West Woolwich referred to these vast sums of money as an argument against too large amounts being paid for houses.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I was deducing the argument that, as trams are always expected to make a contribution to the rates, that indirectly has an effect on tram fares, so that people have to live—
§ Miss RATHBONE
I will try to keep very strictly within the Motion. There is another point which I want to bring before the Committee. It concerns another discrepancy between what the Bill says and what the Motion and the Financial Memorandum say. One might almost imagine that the Bill had been drafted by one set of individuals and that the Financial Memorandum and Motion had 2095 been drafted by another set of individuals. The point to which I want to draw attention affects the qualification for the unit grant. Clause 23 of the Bill says that the contributions payable is to bemultiplied by the number of persons of the working classes whose displacement is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister," etc.,and it goes on:Provided that the number of persons to be taken into account in calculating such contribution shall not exceed the number of persons of the working classes for whom accommodation has, with the approval of the Minister, been rendered available by the authority in new houses.Note the words "the number of persons of the working classes." It does not say the number of displaced persons. When you turn to the Financial Memorandum, it says:The Bill provides (Clause 23) that the new grant shall be based on the number of persons required to be displaced for whom accommodation is rendered available in new houses.The Financial Resolution carries out the interpretation of the Financial Memorandum, for it says:The Gum of two pounds five shillings, multiplied in either case by the number of persons of the working classes (being persons whose displacement is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister to have been rendered necessary by such action as aforesaid) for whom accommodation has, with the approval of the Minister, been rendered available in new houses.It may not be clear to the Committee why there is that apparent but important diversity, because if it means that this grant must depend upon what accommodation is provided in respect of which a grant is to be paid being exclusively at the disposition of dispossessed persons, that is a different thing and will involve different liabilities, if the Minister were able to displace certain persons from the slums, build new houses, but put other persons from other houses in those new houses, and deal otherwise with the persons displaced from the slums. I have been a Member for the last 20 years of a local authority which has pursued that precise policy of clearing slum sites, building expensive tenement buildings upon those sites, charging the official low rent for those buildings, and then reserving them for displaced persons. As a matter of fact, I can say from bitter 2096 experience that it worked abominably. It is a fertile cause of an indirect sort of political and religious gerrymandering. It is extravagant and it is demoralising and causes acute hardship to decent people who voluntarily move themselves out of the slums. We had Some years ago to ask our sanitary inspector to take special care lest people shouk fake overcrowding in order that their homes might be closed so as to qualify for the costly privilege of living in these expensive tenement dwellings. I believe that there are people who carry their beliefs so far that they do not believe in punishment at all. This Bill goes further. It not only does not punish people who have lived in the slums when it was not necessary, but it bribes them to do so, and penalises those who have taken themselves out of the slums.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That [...]nd. of dicussion might be all right on the Second Reading of the Bill, hut we are not considering that now. I must ask the hon. Member to keep her remarks to the Financial Resolution.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I was trying to point out the diversity between the Financial Memorandum and the Bill. It cannot mean two things. It must mean either that local authorities may use these particular dwellings for displaced persons, or they can get the unit grant to deal with displaced persons otherwise. That is a matter which concerns this Financial Resolution, which does not agree with what the Bill says. Surely we are entitled to know which is right. There is a third point, and this, I submit, is strictly in order. It is concerned with a question of differential rents, for which money is provided in the Financial Memorandum. My point is this, that the hon. Lady in winding-up the Second Reading Debate, confidently anticipated local authorities would make use of that block grant for the purpose of providing children's rent reba:es. I would remind the Committee that local authorities who have not the privilege of listening to these Debate will take the Memorandum and the Bill without the advantage of the knowledge of this Debate, and they may not realise the true position.
May I give an illustration? Let us imagine that there is a dwelling in one of these slums to be cleared away. There 2097 is a dock labourer with three children, and his average wage is £2 a week. The maximum rent-paying capacity of this man—I base it on Rowntree's figures of the cost of living—is 8s. Therefore, he is a highly suitable person to benefit from a specially low-rented dwelling provided under this grant. If the form of your differential rent is merely a flat rate, you put this dock labourer into one of these new dwellings, and he pays a rent of 8s. instead of what would otherwise be 10s. That is excellent. Six years hence, what is the case? Supposing his three children are now aged 14, 13 and 11. Six years later they are old enough to be bringing in wages which, at the normal rate for their ages, would mean an income of £5 or £6. Yet that unnecessary subsidy will still be attached to the house in which they are living.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a matter for discussion on the Bill, and not on the Financial Resolution. It will depend on the terms of the Bill when it has passed through the House. The hon. Member must move amendments to it if it does not meet with her wishes.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I thought I was in order in trying to show that if one use is made of money it would cost less and—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. Member was not in the House two hours ago when I said we could not discuss the merits of the Bill on the Money Resolution.
§ Miss RATHBONE
So far as this Financial Resolution is concerned, I think I have tried, and have succeeded fairly well, in making my point clear, that the money we shall require to spend must be so manipulated as to get from it the greatest possible use.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I do not propose to get out of order by following the hon. Lady. I will do my best in the difficult circumstances to keep in order, but that will mean that I shall not be able to reply to numerous points which have been put to me. With regard to the discrepancies which the hon. Lady has found between Clause 23 and the Money Resolution, I can assure her that she is entirely mistaken. I am very glad to think that she is wrong, because it would be rather a serious thing if there were an obvious 2098 discrepancy between the Money Clause of the Bill and the Money Resolution, but, as a matter of fact, the Money Resolution is not always in precisely the same terms as the Bill itself. I can assure her that the words "either or" read correctly in both the Money Resolution and the proviso to Clause 23 of the Bill. There are a good many "or's" and "and's" in that proviso, and perhaps the hon. Lady has not chosen the right one, but if she will read it again and read (i, b) of the Money Resolution, I think she will find that both read in the same sense.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that is so, because the phrasing is so different that it seems to be liable to three constructions? I am sure the Committee will be glad to hear what the Minister says, but I agree with the hon. Lady that there seems very grave risk about it.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I am a plain blunt man and no lawyer, and I am advised that is so. I can only take the word of my advisers, and I feel sure that they are right.
§ Mr. BROWN
This really is very important. The paragraph puts it in this way:Provided that, if in any case the Minister certifies that it is necessary,and these are the important words—in connection with a clearance area, to provide re-housing accommodation in buildings of more than three storeys, either in the area, or outside the area on a site which has been, or is to be, acquired or appropriated.That is the difficult word. The Financial Resolution does not cover all three points. It states:if the Minister of Health certifies that it is necessary to provide re-housing accommodation in buildings of more than three storeys on the site of a clearance area, or on a site which has been, or is to be, acquired or appropriated for the purpose.That does not appear to cover the whole point, but if the right hon. Gentleman tells us his advisers say that it does, we must accept it.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I am advised that that is so, but if it should be found when we have passed this Resolution that the Bill is not in harmony we must alter the Bill.
§ Miss RATHBONE
The line I am referring to is line 42:and of which the cost or, in the case of an appropriated site.I do not see how "and" can mean the same thing as "or."
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The hon. Lady has chosen the wrong "and" or the wrong "or." In a matter of legal interpretation I must be guided by my advisers. [Intterruption.] Oh, I know the old age: "Where is the Attorney?" Earlier it was "Where is the Financial Secretary?" He is here. Now, may I deal with the central points which have been raised with regard to the Money Resolution? The Debate on the Money Resolution has been very unreal. We have had the usual complaint about the absence of the Financial Secretary, and the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) has said there must be some mystery in this matter. We have had the usual speeches, containing urgent, tearful appeals for a quite specific statement as to what is to be spent in the next year. That is all very unreal. Everybody knows that there never has been a Housing Bill on which one could put down in pounds, shillings and pence in the Money Resolution what was to be spent in the next 12 months. That depends on how quickly hon. Members will allow me to get the Bill. If I were able to get the Bill this week instead of at a later date the expenditure would be larger. The longer the operation of the Bill is postponed the smaller will be the expenditure during the current financial year.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The expenditure to be incurred during the current financial year is not a matter which depends only upon me. It depends very largely on the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Wool- 2100 wich (Sir K. Wood) in 1923 helped to pilot a Housing Bill through the House of Commons, and the Financial Resolution introduced on that occasion was just as vague in its terms as the one we are discussing. On that occasion we were told that the charge on the Exchequer would depend on the extent to which the provisions of the Bill were put into operation.
§ Mr. E. D. SIMON
In regard to that Bill an actual estimate was given of the proportion of the cost of the houses in relation to taxes and rates for 15 years.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
We have had negotiations with the building industry in order to arrive at a 15 years programme on an accelerated basis, and we were given an estimate of the number of houses which could be built in a year. That statement was incorporated in a document which has been circulated to Members of the House, and assuming that that number of houses can be built in a year, we can easily arrive, by a process of simple arithmetic, at how much the cost would be to the Exchequer. This Bill is not on the same footing as the Bill of 1923, and every hon. Member knows that it is simply fantastic for anybody to ask what is likely to be the burden placed on the Exchequer next year by this Measure. As a number of hon. Members seem desperately concerned about the money that is to be spent upon this scheme, let me make a statement which shows the difficulties. The cost to the Exchequer will depend upon the proportion of people who are re-housed in rural areas as compared with industrial areas, and in tenements as compared with the number rehoused in cottages. If we assume that in, say, 10 years we are going to re-house 1,000,000 people—I am not putting that as an estimate, but am simply trying to give some sort of figure of cost—and assuming that 20 per cent. of those people are re-housed in tenement buildings, then the peak cost per year would amount to about £2,200,000. It would start in the first year with a net cost of £220,000, and would increase each year unitil. 11 years onwards, that would be [...]he maximum cost. If you were to re-house 1,500,000 persons in 10 years, on the assumption, again, that 20 per cent. arc re-housed in tenement dwellings, the maximum cost would be a little less than £3,500,000 per 2101 year. That is the maximum cost per year—[interruption]—not for 40 years, but for a part of the 40 years—an insignificant sum compared with the results that will be achieved.
Why are people boggling about the few thousands, or hundreds of thousands, that might be spent during the present financial year? It is absurd. If the Bill were on the Statute Book to-morrow, and local authorities were to do their best in the present financial year, the cost compared with the total national expenditure would be microscopically small, and I am prepared to admit that. It seems to be suggested that in the Money Resolution there is some limitation of expenditure. There is not. Nobody will be more pleased than I if the Exchequer has to hand out very considerable sums of money for this work. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will not grumble at it; he is as much a party to this Bill as I am. It is not that we want to put in any limitation of cost; we want to force up the maximum of output of slum clearance schemes, and that, I hope, we shall succeed in doing.
I must say a word. unfortunately, about a question that I have had to meet before, that, indeed, I had to meet in the Debate on the Money Resolution on the Widows' Pension Bill before Christmas. There was much the same speech from the right hon. Gentleman. "Nobody begrudges wise expenditure, but we must have regard to the general social expenditure. The amount of money expended on the social services has increased by leaps and bounds during recent years, and we have got to think, and think very carefully, before we embark on any new schemes." True, his heart bleeds for the slum dwellers. He does not want to deprive any one of them of a new house. But we must consider this £2,000,000 a year that we may ultimately be spending—
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I had an interruption like that before, as well, and my answer is the same. So long as there is money in the till, human interests must come first. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Ah!" Is he going to say that there is no money in the till? I do not understand what the moral of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is, but he must 2102 have something in his mind. [interruption.] I have know the right hon. Gentleman too long ever to believe that he has not something in his mind. But what is the moral? Is the moral that we are already spending too much on these services? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] If hon. Members say "Yes," I profoundly disagree with them. Or is it that we arc not spending too much but that we cannot afford to spend any more? Is that the conclusion the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to draw from his speech? If it means anything at all, it must mean either that we are already spending more than we can carry or that we have reached the limit of our expenditure on the social services.
I do not believe either is true, and I am not impressed by a comparison of expenditure on housing or any other social service in this and other countries. I know that in this country we have our duty to perform by the people whom we represent, and it does not influence me in the least to say that the United States spend £6 per head while in this country we are spending £14. I think it is a matter for pride rather than commiseration. I should have liked, had it been possible, to come down to a closer estimate. In the next, or indeed any other financial year, we shall have to provide in the Estimates, which will be subject to criticism in this House, some sum to be devoted to the purposes of the Bill, and in each subsequent year in the Estimates of the Department some definite sum will have to be included, but it is merely frivolous, captious criticism to complain that a Money Resolution of a Bill of this kind does not specify down to the last decimal of a penny what we are likely to spend in the present or in coming financial years.
The Government will stand by the finance of this scheme. It will do its best to co-operate with local authorities in promoting slum-clearance schemes and improvement schemes in order that the public money that is available shall be expended for the public good, and if it be that in the next financial year I can still stand at this Box on the occasion of those Estimates, I shall be able, or if not I, my successor, will be able to give the House a much more definite statement as to the amount of national expenditure that will be incurred. I believe the House realises the strength of my case, 2103 and will be just as willing to give a unanimous consent to the Money Resolution as it did to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
After the somewhat rambling oration to which we have just listened, interspersed with cheap gibes at my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench, I think the Committee might be brought back to consider the financial aspect of the Financial Resolution, instead of being treated to what one imagines one might hear at a meeting addressed by the right hon. Gentleman in his own constituency. One of the objections, as I see it, to this Resolution, which must be one of the longest sentences ever put into print—72 lines without a break—is that the right hon. Gentleman says the Committee is at fault in that we expect him to give any close estimate. He does not profess to be right down to the decimal point of a penny. It is not a question of decimal points of pennies, but of millions of pounds that he cannot tell us about. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member can answer that conundrum, he will have done well. It is more than we have been able to get out of his leader. It is not a question of decimal points of a penny, hut of £2,000,000, £3,000,000, £4,000,000 or £10,000,000 a year.
It is all very well the right hon. Gentleman saying that he does not care whether we spend £14 per head of the population a year on social services, and the United States of America spend £6 on similar kinds of services, and that arguments of that kind do not impress him. I would suggest to him, with all deference, that in the Cabinet where these matters are discussed, figures of that kind have a very distinct bearing upon the whole question of unemployment in this country, and that they would repay the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues from that point of view. We object very much to the fact that there is such vagueness about the financial aspect of this Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech has admitted that it is vague, because in one of those twitting moments in which he indulged, he said that in 1923 the party to which I belong brought in a Bill which was as vague as this one, thereby admitting the vagueness of the Resolution 2104 about which he had been taking. It is no good his going back sever years and blaming other people. We are concerned to-day with the present Governnment and the present Minister of Health. We are concerned because there is no kind of limit either upwards or downwards.
I understand, from interjections by hon. Members on the Liberal benches, that their complaint is, that they do not think the Minister is asking for sufficient money for this service. That may very well be, for the simple reason that we do not know what he is asking for. It is not a question of thinking. If hon. Members come to this House, they ought to pay some attention to the finances of the country. We are the custodians of the public purse. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Churchill?"] My right hon. Friend is quite capable of looking after himself. This Committee is not concerned with the past history of anybody, but with this Financial Resolution. The objection which I Eave to the Resolution is that there is no maximum and no minimum set. It would have made the whole thing much easier if there had been a maximum provision. [An HON. MEMBER: "What do you suggest?"] It is not for me to suggest any more than it is for the hon. Member to keep interjecting. The hon. Member has not treated us to one of his sonorous contributions on this subject. It is not the heavyweights from the other side, but it is more of a pip-squeak nature. No figure is stated. In a big Bill of this nature that is one of the first essentials. My second objection, and one to which I would direct the attention of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, is that there is no automatic provision for any revision of these rates. Apparently, under the Financial Resolution, there is no arrangement that in, say, three, five or 10 or any other number of years, the subject should come up for discussion to enable us to see if the rates laid down in the Resolution are then applicable.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to indulge in the same kiind of jokes at my expense as he did at the expense of my right hon. Friend. I am talking 2105 about the Financial Resolution. Considering the way that everybody this evening has been pulled up whenever alluding to the Bill, I would say that this is one of the things which ought to be covered. Apart from the two major points, there is a small point which I admit is rather complicated. It arises on the Financial Resolution and relates to the contributions which are made to the local authorities. It is common knowledge that the clearing and rebuilding of a site cannot be done in the twinkling of an eye, but the local authority is put to expenditure from the very start.
The point which has been put to me is whether the local authority would automatically have to take up a loan at once, and purchase the site, and at what period afterwards would they receive the Exchequer contributions. The Government and the Minister of Health stand very badly in this Financial Resolution. They have brought it forward without having any kind of estimate as to what the cost will be. The figures which have been given by the right hon. Gentleman are a mathematical calculation which has no value and no kind of relation to the Bill. He cannot make any actual estimate, nor can anyone else, because he cannot tell which local authorities are going to he stimulated into action and which will want to build tenement buildings, and so on. Therefore, it is all the more desirable that some maximum annual sum should be put in the Financial Resolution. Power should be taken in the Resolution for revising the contributions from time to time.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
When the Minister of Health has a bad case he stands up, flings out his arms, turns his back on the Chairman, and says, "I stand by the Financial Resolution." What is the Financial Resolution? The Parliamentary Secretary said that they could not give any estimate of the cost. That is a nice kind of Financial Resolution for any Government to bring forward. The Minister of Health has not explained to us whether we are or whether we are not the highest taxed country in the world. He has not told us whether we have, or have not, the greatest number of unemployed we have had for many years. Yet this is the time when the Government 2106 propose to put fresh burdens upon the industries of the country! The Minister of Health has not told us haw many houses this Financial Resolution will provide in the rural areas, nor What burden it will put upon agriculture. It is obvious that it will put some burden upon agriculture, but so far we have had no explanation at all of the agricultural side of this proposal. Let me draw the attention of the Committee to another point. How is the right hon. Gentleman going to combat profiteering? There is no provision against profiteering in this Bill, and on a previous Housing Bill the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) protested against the rise in prices. There is also no provision in the Bill to deal with the tied cottage system.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
The hon. and gallant Member must bear in mind that we are not now discussing the merits or demerits of the Bill. We are discussing the Money Resolution.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
There is no provision in this Financial Resolution to deal with tied cottages, and, therefore, in another direction hon. Members opposite have broken their pledge. [Interruption.] I know that when questions of economy are being discussed, when matters concerning the rural districts are before the Committee, hon. Members opposite treat them as a matter for laughter. If the housing conditions of some of the rural areas were known to hon. Members opposite they would appreciate any contribution that might be made towards a solution of the problem. We are justified in examining the provisions of this Financial Resolution in order to see how they affect rural areas. I know hon. Members opposite do not take any interest in such matters, but at this early hour of the night we have plenty of time to consider this and some other aspects of the question. In the Financial Memorandum to the Bill there is mention of a contribution of £1 per year for 40 years from the county council. We have no explanation as to how this is to be raised. Perhaps the Financial Secretary will give us some explanation. While the right hon. Gentleman is considering this point, may I draw attention to the agricultural land which is described in 2107 the italicised part of this Bill? We are not entitled to discuss that on the financial Clause. It specially exempts plantations and woodlands from any contributions—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will have ample opportunity of discussing the Clauses of the Bill when it is in Committee. He must confine himself now to the Financial Resolution.
§ Lieut. - Colonel HENEAGE
With great respect, I have asked for your Ruling once or twice. When there is a financial Clause in italics, has it not been ruled that it is impossible to debate it in Committee? I think your predecessor, Mr. Dunnico, ruled that we were entitled to discuss it on the Financial Resolution, and, with your permission, I will seek to do so.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now dealing with Clause 52. That Clause in the Bill is open to amendment like other Clauses.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
On a point of Order. May I ask if the hon. and gallant Member has not been called to Order three times?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
It is true that I also asked the Ruling of the Chair about special points. There is only one other point which I want to raise.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
Is it not in accordance with the Rules of the House that, when an hon. Member has been called to Order three times, he resumes his seat.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is always done at the discretion of the Chair, and the same rule will apply in this discussion.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
On a point of Order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to address the Chair standing with both his hands in his pockets?
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Is it in order for the hon. Member to address you, Mr. Dunnico, in a foreign language?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am perfectly certain the Committee will make greater progress if we keep good temper. I would remind the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) that he ought not to refer to an accent which is Canadian as foreign.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Having received that explanation from you, Mr. Dunnico, I unhesitatingly and with good heart withdraw.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
In the Financial Resolution I find that there is to be a grant as regards agricultural parishes of a sum of £2 10s. per person, and I should like, in the first place, an explanation as to how this grant is to be allotted, and, secondly, if it has any relation to the explanation which is contained on page 3 of the Memorandum, and which says that county councils are to make a contribution of £1 a year for 40 years.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
The Financial Resolution does not deal with any money which is raised by county councils. It merely deals with the money which is to be provided by Parliament.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Dunnico, because you are the only one who has explained this Financial Resolution at all. We were quite unaware, from what the Minister said, as to whether there was to be any contribution to the county council to help them to pay this contribution. We now have the explanation from you.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
What I have told the hon. and gallant Gentleman is that this Financial Resolution does not include any moneys raised by county councils, but only the money to be pro vided by Parliament.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I am interested to hear that statement because we wanted to know from where this money was to come
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. J. JONES
Some of us have listened with great patience to all the experts, who know nothing about slums, but who have been mainly responsible for creating them. They all want to know how much they are going to get out of the Bill, but we are 2109 only anxious to know how the people are going to be got out of the slums. The Bill provides the machinery whereby a great effort can be made to give those who have been living in slums since their childhood a chance of living under better conditions. As to this Financial Resolution, we know that it is impossible to get houses without money. It is impossible to give the people anything they want unless we are able to find the means. I am not talking about the bread that perisheth, but you must have bread and you must have houses, and you cannot get either, unless you have the money to buy it. I have heard hon. Gentlemen opposite, of both parties, speak of the necessity for dealing with the slum problem and speaking in a manner which would bring tears to the eyes of the Nelson Monument. [Interruption.] You cannot do these things without money. The Government are asking for money, and the late Government asked for money, and the Government before that asked for money. If we want money, why not ask for it? The only trouble is that we cannot get the exact amount we want. I can remember being in this House in 1918, when there was no question of money, when the money was turned out in lashings. A sum of £6,000,000 did not matter when it was a question of a battleship, because the more you spent the better the country would be, and battleships for ever! All we are asking now is houses for the people, and I believe that decent houses built for the poorer section of the community are a better investment than any battleship ever built. So far as we are concerned, we are wanting money, and it is your money we want. Hon. Members opposite are very anxious to know where it will come from, and we will tell them next Monday.
By means of this Resolution, we shall get the money to abolish the slums in my constituency, and we are going to see to it that the slums go at the earliest possible opportunity. I represent an East London constituency close to the docks. Most of the people working there are casual labourers, men who have to go to the docks three times a day on the 2110 off chance of getting half a day's work. How can you house them on the rents that they are now compelled to pay? The consequence is overcrowding and the creation of slums. Every new child born into a family makes a new slum condition, and that is the condition we are up against. Then we have men who work on ship work at six in the morning, 10 at night, and two in the afternoon, and they cannot get away from the conditions under which they work. How are these people going to pay rents beyond their means of earning? Finance, to me, means simply this: How much bread and butter can you put upon the table, and can you have a smoke on the Sunday?—[An HON. MEMBER: "And a glass of beer!"] Yes, a glass of beer is necessary, and I have never objected to one yet, but I only want to ask this House to remember that this Bill is the first big effort that has ever been made to deal with the biggest part of the housing problem. Therefore I welcome the Bill. Alter it as much as you like in Committee, but you cannot alter the facts. The facts are there. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury talked about it in another place. Everybody has been talking about it; now they are trying to do something, and, instead of asking questions, interrogatory Members opposite ought to be backing us. This Bill will help the rural areas as well as the industrial areas.
§ Mr. JONES
The Government are doing more than any other Government have ever done. I know what the hon. Gentleman opposite wants. He wants to know how much the Government are going to grant them as subsidies on the tree tops. He wants rabbits to be subsidised. All we want is to give the people a chance, and to live, not like rabbits in hutches, but to live in the decent air of God.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I should not have taken part in this Debate except for the speech of the Minister of Health. He made the astonishing statement that he was not interested in what was spent on social services in the United 2111 States, and I naturally felt compelled once again to take part in a Debate because of a speech of his. Although he is lacking in interest in this matter, if he will go back to some of the speeches of his leader, or to one of the more vital Members of the Government—[Interruption]. I said one of the more vital Members; I mean one of those who had more push and go, and I refer to the Lord Privy Seal. He told us not very long ago that finance here and in other countries, but particularly in this country, is essential for the welfare of the country. I will not go into that, except to say how glad I am that, as the right hon. Gentleman made such a statement, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is here.
This Financial Resolution is loosely worded, and not particularly well drawn up, and I wish it were made clearer, not only in this Financial Resolution, but in other financial Resolutions, that the Treasury were going to play a much more direct part in controlling the finances of this Bill, and of other Bills. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on a matter in paragraph (i) (a). Two sums are mentioned. One is the sum of £2 10s. for agricultural districts, and the other a sum of £2 5s. for the towns. I have from time to time to explain these Measures to my constituents, and I want to know which particular sections of the community are covered by the £2 10s. Am I right in assuming that that sum is made to cover all people in agricultural parishes who may be removed because of bad housing? Some agricultural parishes contain a fishing village. Will those fishing villages come in under the higher standard? I hope that they will. An hon. Member below the Gangway says "No."
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The agricultural parishes referred to are not rural parishes but parishes which conform to certain special conditions.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I thank the hon. Member for what he has just said. But there are some agricultural parishes which are defined as such which have a very small village group. They are clearly agricultural parishes. Am I right 2112 in assuming that any one in an agricultural parish is dealt with wider the higher sum?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I want to go further; and to know how it is arranged in paragraph (i, b) of this Resolution. Line 34 says, "multiplied by the number of persons." May I inquire from the Minister, when you are working out the number of persons moved from one place to another, are you taking the whole of th family?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has been able to give me that assurance, for it makes it easier for me to vote for this Financial Resolution. I have on many occasions opposed Financial Resolutions. Although I am convinced that the mere spending of money will not necessarily cure anything, will not necessarily cure the trouble, yet we all hope to see bad housing abolished in all our towns. I believe that if you can get real co-operation between the local authorities and all concerned, then money which will be ultimately spent will be for the good of the country as a whole. Although much of this money is obviously capital expenditure, on the whole I believe that, although no one likes growing expenditure more than I do, I am convinced that in this Resolution we shall see results which will justify this Committee in giving the Government this Money Resolution for which they are now asking. I would say in my last remark that it is most extraordinary that throughout this Debate we have had no explanation of any kind from the Treasury.
§ Mr. HALL-CAINE
I have one question to put to the Minister, and that is whether there is a provision in this Money Resolution to prevent local authorities erecting unsightly tenements which will be the potential slums of another generation. In Liverpool they are erecting tenements without any playgrounds or anything which will prevent them becoming slums, and I want to know whether the Minister has any power to prevent this. Could we not put up tenements like those in Vienna, which 2113 certainly will not be slums in another generation? In Liverpool they are putting all the best rooms to the north, and the bath rooms, the kitchens and the lavatories to the south. I only wish to call attention to this matter so that the Minister may give it consideration.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.