HC Deb 29 July 1930 vol 242 cc427-37

Lords Amendment: In page 11, line 24, at the end, insert: Provided that in any case where it is proved that a building which is injurious or dangerous to health by reason only of the narrowness or bad arrangement of the streets on any land in a clearance area was acquired by the owner before the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and nineteen, or is occupied by the owner for the purpose of residence or business, the arbitrator shall make to the owner an allowance for the value of the building having regard to the provisions of Part II of the Third Schedule to this Act.


This Amendment raises a question of Privilege in that it increases the compensation payable by local authorities.


I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."


I venture to ask the House to consider this matter a little further, and to see whether, in the circumstances, and having regard to the merits of the case, they cannot see their way to withdraw the plea of privilege in connection with this Amendment. I do not think it will be an undue waste of time if I ask the House to consider the position raised by this Amendment, because this will be the last opportunity for discussing a question which will undoubtedly give rise to a good deal of dissatisfaction and anxiety in certain quarters. The question is that of the necessity for compensation in regard to land and buildings which are purchased compulsorily. While I do not think that any Member of the House would desire to ask for compensation for the owner of bad slum property—the man who neglects his duty, or allows his property to get into what I would call a criminal state of disrepair—I think there is a case, and it has been acknowledged in all quarters of the House, if we can only find a remedy, for the owner of property who has done all that he can so far as repairs to his property are concerned, who has obeyed the requirements of the local authority, and who, through no fault of his own, finds his property condemned owing to the narrowness or bad arrangement of the streets in which that property is.

I have read the proceedings of the Committee, and I know that in another place this particular and exceptional case was recognised and acknowledged by members, not only of this party, but of all parties in the House, because it is very unfair that in such circumstances the owner should not receive at any rate some reasonable compensation. I ask the House now to waive their privilege because this Amendment is an attempt at any rate to give some reasonable compensation in such cases as I have indicated. I desire to call particular attention to the words of the Amendment, because it has been devised to meet the criticisms which have been directed in certain quarters of the House to proposals which were made both on the Second Reading and in Committee. It was said by hon. Members, many of whom desire to meet reasonable cases of this kind, that, if you give compensation in such cases, you put money into the hands of people who have specu- lated in this class of property, who have bought it with full knowledge of the law, and who, therefore, cannot complain and suffer no hardship if they buy property of this kind knowing that there is no compensation, and have no right to come to the House of Commons and complain of the compensation that will be payable to them.

I would ask the House to look at the conditions which this Amendment applies. Compensation is confined to the owners of the land before the 31st July, 1919, and this provision was inserted in another place at the suggestion of the spokesman of the Liberal party, who himself said that on the merits of the case some alteration ought to be made so as to avoid compensating people who had speculated in property of this kind. I think I am in order in saying that that suggestion came from so universally respected an authority as Lord Buckmaster. Therefore this date has been included in order that there shall be no question of compensating anyone who has speculated in property of this kind. Secondly, the Amendment confines the compensation to those cases where the land is included owning to the narrowness of bad arrangement of the streets. There is no question of giving money to a man who has criminally neglected his property or has speculated in property of this kind. The principle of compensation is recognised in the Scottish Bill while it is refused in the English Bill. There is a distinction to be drawn in these cases and I hope the House will waive its privilege in order to give consideration to what I think is a reasonable Amendment, which is only doing justice to those who have not broken the law in any way or failed to fulfil their obligations as proper and decent landlords.


I hope the House will not be beguiled by the honeyed words of the right hon. Gentleman. This is an attempt to do in another way what he failed to do in earlier stages of the Bill. All reasonable criticism has been met by the very generous terms provided in Clause 1. The right hon. Gentleman wants to give compensation to owners of property which is unfit for human occupation and which they happen to have had in 1919. I do not think I ever heard a more preposterous suggestion put for- ward. As a matter of fact, it would not be practicable to carry it out, because it would be differentiating between two kinds of property equally bad, simply because one was bought at one date and one at another, and because one is occupied for one purpose and one for another. I am assured by my friends on the London County Council, a Conservative body, who have had many years of experience, that it would be quite impossible to make this differentiation. If we waive our rights of privilege I hope the right hon. Gentleman will fight on better ground. It is not a good issue to fight as the champion of slum landlords. This is a long delayed Bill and I hope the Clause as originally framed will be adhered to and that the House will stick to its privileges.


I sincerely hope the Minister will continue to press Privilege in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman rested his argument on the first part of the Clause. I should like to draw attention to the second portion: or is occupied by the owner for the purpose of residence or business. What is to prevent a person, a week before the order is made, occupying one of those houses or a business, and receiving increased compensation in consequence of the order being made? Whatever may be said upon the first part of this Amendment—and there is very little—it is perfectly unjust and unfair to insist on the second part of it. I sincerely hope that Privilege will be urged on this occasion.


I am surprised that the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) made such a statement as that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) is here defending the slum land-land. [Interruption.] If some hon. Members who cheer so heartily had been on the Committee upstairs, they would have known that nothing of the kind entered into my right hon. Friend's mind. Members of the Committee were anxious to do the fair thing all round. The question whether compensation should be given to those persons who have done their duty by their property in areas scheduled as slum areas has been one of contention for several years. It was very prominent at the last election. I do not know of any candidate at that election, to whatever party he belonged, who was prepared to say that he would vote for a Measure which would mean that no compensation whatever should be paid to the owner of property who had done his duty and carried out the regulations and by-laws of the district in which he lived. It is not a question of compensating slum landlords at all. So far as I can understand, the majority of the people who have done their duty by their property are the small owners of property, who have either occupied the property themselves or which property has been their only means of support. They have invested their little money in it. I know, and many local authorities realise, that the reason why slum clearance schemes have been held up is that many of those who sit on the local authorities could not, in justice, dispossess people of their property without some reasonable compensation, and that as the law stood they had no chance to do so.

In my opinion, this Amendment has great merits, but it does not by any means satisfy the Property Owners' Association; they do not care about it at all, and do not want it. Nor does it satisfy those people who believe that no compensation should be paid to anybody. The Amendment gives compensation where it is absolutely deserved, namely, to those people who, at any rate, owned this property before 1919. It cannot be said that this has been a question of speculation as far as they are concerned, and it has to be proved that the house has been kept in a proper state of repair. I would ask the House carefully to consider the question. I know there is a feeling that anyone, whoever he may be, who happens to be unfortunate enough to own property in a slum area is of necessity doing something wrong in owning that property. That is not so. I could take hon. Members to certain streets, which might be described as slum streets, where they would see two or three houses which might be quite rightly described as slum houses; but I could also take them into houses in the same street which are fit and proper for any person to live in. Those people who occupy those houses have taken a pride in keeping them clean and in a proper state of repair. In many cases the people who own small property have done so because they want to live in a house which is fit to live in. The system which we shall have if this Bill becomes law, whereby these people will receive no compensation beyond the site value, will be unfair. It ought to be altered, and this Amendment meets the position in the fairest possible way.

On the other hand, it gives nothing to those persons who have not done their duty by their tenants, nor to the speculator. It only compensates those who have spent their money in keeping their houses in proper repair and who can prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that they are only asking for reasonable and fair compensation. I hope that the House will reconsider the matter. Do not let us be led away by sentiment—I mean the type of sentiment that condemns everything as wrong because it does not just fit in with one's point of view. We must recognise the fact that we are not in a position at the moment to re-house the whole of the people who ought to be dispossessed of certain premises, and we must not do anything which will discourage those who are willing and ready to do their duty and to spend their money to keep their houses in a proper state of repair. If the Bill becomes law with these provisions in it, there will be no encouragement whatever to any owner of property which is fairly old property and in a working-class district to spend money in keeping the property in decent repair. We have to take the long view rather than say that somebody is going to profit. Further, I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that unless he does something in this direction, we are going to be far worse off than the people in Scotland will be in respect of their Bill. At any rate, they do get something, but we get nothing. I hope that the Minister will withdraw his Motion that we disagree with the Lords in their Amendment.


I wish to take up the point raised by the hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Hoffman). I think that he is a little suspicious. In Sheffield, as in my part of the country, there must be many people who had to buy their residences after 1919, and many small shopkeepers, who constitute a considerable proportion of the population of this country, who bought their businesses after 1919. He suggests that in view of this proposed Amendment people might buy a small business in order to benefit under the proposal. I think the hon. Member is very suspicious. There are many people who bought small businesses or small shops legitimately since 1919, and therefore they are entitled to compensation for other than site value.


I rise only for one purpose, and that is to voice a protest against the argument in the speech of the bon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris), who said that the Lords Amendment which the House is considering and the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) were to the effect that it did not matter how in-sanitary or unfit for human habitation property might be, it was to be given compensation provided it was acquired before 31st July, 1919. I venture to say that an argument put forward on that basis does not deserve the consideration of the House. The Lords Amendment we are considering is specifically limited to a building which is injurious or dangerous to health only by reason of the narrowness or bad arrangement of the street and which was acquired by the owner before 31st July, 1919.

That is an entirely different thing. The whole basis of the argument of my right

hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich when he assumes, and the Lords Amendment assumes, that a house is not unfit for human habitation, has been kept in a reasonable state of repair and is only undesirable owing to the narrowness or bad arrangement of the street, is that it is only on that ground that they should receive compensation, Therefore, it is something altogether outside the scope and power of the owner of property which makes the house detrimental, and there is a clear case for compensation being given to those people who purchase houses and have kept them in a decent state of repair. The whole argument of the Amendment we are considering is the exact opposite from the case put forward by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green. I felt bound to raise my protest on that point, because it is possible that hon. Members, not having a copy of the Amendment in print before them, may be misled by the speech of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 274; Noes, 152.

Division No. 477.] AYES. [11.1 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Buchanan, G. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Burgess, F. G. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Burgin, Dr. E. L. Gibson, H. M. (Lance, Mossley)
Alpass, J. H. Caine, Derwent Hall. Gill, T. H.
Ammon, Charles George Cameron, A. G. Gillett, George M.
Arnott, John Cape, Thomas Glassey, A. E.
Aske, Sir Robert Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) Gossling, A. G.
Attlee, Clement Richard Charleton, H. C. Gould, F.
Ayles, Walter Chater, Daniel Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Clarke, J. S. Granville, E.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Cluse, W. S. Gray, Milner
Barnes, Alfred John Cocks, Frederick Seymour Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)
Barr, James. Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Batey, Joseph Compton, Joseph Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Daggar, George Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
Bellamy, Albert Dalton, Hugh Groves, Thomas E.
Bann, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) Grundy, Thomas W.
Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.) Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Benson, G. Day, Harry Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Denman, Hon. R. D. Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Dudgeon, Major C. R. Hardie, George D.
Birkett, W. Norman Dukes, C. Harris, Percy A.
Blindell, James Duncan, Charles Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Ede, James Chuter Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Bowen, J. W. Edge, Sir William Haycock, A. W.
Broad, Francis Alfred Edmunds, J. E. Hayday, Arthur
Bromfield, William Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Hayes, John Henry
Bromley, J. Egan, W. H. Henderson, Arthur, junr. (Cardiff, S.)
Brooke, W. Elmley, Viscount Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)
Brothers, M. Foot, Isaac Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield) Forgan, Dr. Robert Herriotts, J.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Matters, L. W. Shield, George William
Hoffman, P. C. Maxton, James Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Hopkin, Daniel Melville, Sir James Shillaker, J. F.
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Messer, Fred Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Horrabin, J. F. Middleton, G. Simmons, C. J.
Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Millar, J. D. Sinkinson, George
Hunter, Dr. Joseph Mills, J. E. Sitch, Charles H.
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Milner, Major J. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
John, William (Rhondda, West) Montague, Frederick Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Johnston, Thomas Morley, Ralph Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Jones, F. Llewellyn. (Flint) Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Mort, D. L. Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Moses, J. J. H. Sorensen, R.
Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston) Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent) Stamford, Thomas W.
Kelly, W. T. Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick) Stephen, Campbell
Kennedy, Thomas Muff, G. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Kinley, J. Muggeridge, H. T. Strachey, E. J. St. Loe
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton) Murnin, Hugh Strauss, G. R.
Lang, Gordon Nathan, Major H. L. Sullivan, J.
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Naylor, T. E. Sutton, J. E.
Lathan, G. Noel Baker, P. J. Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Law, Albert (Bolton) Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.) Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
Law, A. (Rosendale) Oldfield, J. R. Thurtle, Ernest
Lawrence, Susan Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston) Tillett, Ben
Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybrldge) Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) Tinker, John Joseph
Lawson, John James Palin, John Henry Toole, Joseph
Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Paling, Wilfrid Tout, W. J.
Leach, W. Palmer, E. T. Townend, A. E.
Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Turner, B.
Lees, J. Phillips, Dr. Marion Vaughan, D. J.
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Picton-Turbervill, Edith Viant, S. P.
Lindley, Fred W. Pole, Major D. G. Walkden, A. G.
Lloyd, C. Ellis Potts, John S. Walker, J.
Logan, David Gilbert Price, M. P. Wallace, H. W.
Longbottom, A. W. Pybus, Percy John Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor
Longden, F. Quibell, D. J. K. Watkins, F. C.
Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Lowth, Thomas Rathbone, Eleanor Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Lunn, William Raynes, W. R. Wellock, Wilfred
Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Welsh, James (Paisley)
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Riley, Ben (Dewsbury) Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) West, F. R.
McElwee, A. Ritson, J. Westwood, Joseph
McEntee, V. L. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich) White, H. G.
McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston) Romeril, H. G. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
McKinlay, A. Rosbotham, D. S. T. Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
MacLaren, Andrew Rowson, Guy Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Salter, Dr. Alfred Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
McShane, John James Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Sanders, W. S. Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loaghb'gh)
Mansfield, W. Sawyer. G. F. Wise E. F.
March, S. Scott, James Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Marcus, M. Scurr, John
Markham, S. F. Sexton, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Marley, J. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Mr. B. Smith and Mr. Charles
Marshall, Fred Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Edwards.
Mathers, George Sherwood, G. H.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Butt, Sir Alfred Dawson, Sir Philip
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles Carver, Major W. H. Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.) Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Duckworth, G. A. V.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.) Eden, Captain Anthony
Atholl, Duchess of Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton Edmondson, Major A. J.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley) Chapman, Sir S. Elliot, Major Walter E.
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Christie, J. A. England, Colonel A.
Betterton, Sir Henry B. Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Everard, W. Lindsay
Bevan, S. J. (Holborn) Colfox, Major William Philip Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Colman, N. C. D Fermoy, Lord
Bird, Ernest Roy Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Fielden, E. B.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. Galbraith, J. F. W.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Ganzoni, Sir John
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Crookshank, Cpt.H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro) Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton
Boyce, H. L. Croom-Jahnson, R. P. Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Brass, Captain Sir William Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Glyn, Major R. G. C.
Briscoe, Richard George Dalkeith, Earl of Gower, Sir Robert
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y) Davies, Dr. Vernon Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.
Burton, Colonel H. W. Davies, Ma). Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Greene, W. P. Crawford
Butler, R. A. Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Gritten, W. G. Howard Marjoribanka, E. C. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Mason, Colonel Glyn K. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Gunston, Captain D. W. Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Savery, S. S.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome
Hall, Lieut.- Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Mond, Hon. Henry Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kin'dine,C.)
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Monsell, Eyres, Com, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Somerville, A. A. 0(Windsor)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond) Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Haslam, Henry C. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley) Morden, Col. W. Grant Spender-Clay, Colonel [...].
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Stanley, Maj. Hon. O (W'morland)
Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Muirhead, A. J. Tinne, J. A.
Hurd, Percy A. Newton, Sir D, G. C. (Cambridge) Todd, Capt. A. J.
Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Train, J.
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement.
Kindersley, Major G. M. O'Connor, T. J. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
King, Commodore Rt. Hon, Henry D. Oman, Sir Charles William C. Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.
Knox, Sir Alfred O'Neill, Sir H. Warrender, Sir Victor
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Power, Sir John Cecil Wells, Sydney R.
Little, Dr. E. Graham Ramsbotham, H. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Llewellin, Major J. J. Reid, David D. (County Down) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Locker-Lampson, Corn. O.(Handsw`th) Remer, John R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Long, Major Hon. Eric Reynolds, Col. Sir James Womersley, W. J.
Lymington, Viscount Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton
MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M. Ross, Major Ronald D.
Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham) Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Makins, Brigadier-General E. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Sir George Penny and Captain
Margesson, Captain H. D. Salmon, Major I. Wallace.

Question put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments to page 30, line 31, agreed to.