Amendment made: In page 42, line 21, leave out from the word "being," to the word "twenty," in line 22, and insert the words:
an urban district which is a borough or contains according to the latest published return of the Registrar-General a population of more than.
I beg to move, in line 22, to leave out the word "twenty," and to insert instead thereof the words "more than ten."
Perhaps it is necessary that I should make some slight explanation of this Amendment. On the Committee stage upstairs, I moved, on behalf of the Urban District Councils Association, an Amendment to leave out the word "county." This association, which consists of practically all the urban district councils in the country, has for the past 18 years successfully contended with the Government that there should be no invidious distinction between urban district councils and the councils of non-county boroughs. In no Act of Parliament which has been passed since that date has that invidious distinction been included. In the Committee upstairs the Parliamentary Secretary was not prepared to accept the Amendment. When she replied one could see at once that the Government were not prepared to accept it though it was moved on behalf of the Urban District Councils Association. In her speech the hon. Lady seemed to give the impression that she was on the side of the big battalions, and 360 that the people in the districts with large populations who could hope some day to become boroughs were sympathetically considered.
At that moment, however, one of my hon. Friends, with rare Parliamentary skill, suggested to the hon. Lady that she might accept the figure of 20,000 for these urban district councils. The bait was very skilfully cast, and she swallowed it and expressed the opinion that she was prepared to accept 20,000. By that means the principle was conceded that some distinction should be made in the case of urban district councils with a certain population. My hon. Friend simply made the suggestion to get the Government to concede the point, and having succeeded, two other hon. Friends of mine tried to get the hon. Lady to accept the figure of 10,000, but she was adamant, and rather than lose the whole thing we accepted for the time being the figure of 20,000. That figure is not acceptable to the Urban District Councils Association. That body, which is very jealous of their honour and of their record, think it very unfair that they should be penalised by what is called official representation, for official representation means that the county medical officer of health can report to his county council on the condition of housing in any given district without consulting or informing the district medical officer. It seems rather unfair that. 107 boroughs with a population of less than 10,000 should be excluded, while 177 urban districts with a population of between 10,000 and 20,000 should be subjected to this supervision.
The Urban District Councils Association recognises that Clause 49 is founded on the Housing Bill of 1890. I may remark, in passing, that at that date the Urban District Councils Association was not in being because they were under the old Local Government Board. The Housing Act of 1925 was a consolidating Act and re-enacted the provisions of the 1890 Act, which was before the urban district councils were in being. So the councils recognised that the Government, had a certain right or claim to include the provisions in Clause 49, but they have steadfastly maintained, and still maintain, that there should be no invidious distinction between the urban district councils and 361 the councils of the non-county boroughs. As late as 1923 an official of the Ministry of Health, in giving evidence before the Royal Commission, definitely stated that the powers of these two bodies were coequal. To meet the difficulty which it is recognised the Government are in, it is suggested that this Amendment should be accepted as a happy way out. In asking the Minister to accept it, I would like to emphasise again that the urban district councils take the stand that there should be co-equal powers between themselves and the non-county boroughs.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I beg to second the Amendment.
The representations of the Urban District Councils' Association ought to receive some consideration. Urban districts with a population between 10,000 and 20,000 are, as a rule, growing districts, and they will feel it very deeply if they are penalised at the expense of the non-county boroughs. I hope very much the hon. Lady will see her way to accept the Amendment. In Committee upstairs on the Land Drainage Bill similar proposals have been accepted by the Government, and I hope the Minister of Health will not be behindhand in emulating the example set by the Minister of Agriculture.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
As has been said, the urban district councils have made very strong representations on this matter, and the Government are willing to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In page 42, line 40, leave out the word "him," and insert instead thereof the words "the medical officer of health."
§ In line 43, leave out the words "the duty of the medical officer of health," and insert instead thereof the words "his duty."—[Miss Lawrence.]