§ Where under any contract of employment of a workman employed in agriculture current at or made after the commencement of this Act, the provision of a dwelling-house or part of a dwelling-house for the occupation of the workman forms part of the remuneration of the workman, and the provisions of Sections fourteen and fifteen of the Housing, Town Planning, &c, Act, 1909, ore inapplicable by reason only of the house or part of the house not being let to the workman, there shall be implied as part of the contract of employment and 270 as from the commencement of the occupation or of this Act whichever date is the earlier, the like conditions as would be implied under these provisions if the house or part of the house were so let, and these provisions shall apply accordingly as if incorporated in this Section with the substitution of "employer" for "landlord" and such other modifications as may be necessary.—[Mr. Walter Smith.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. WALTER SMITH
I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I think that the Amendment which it embodies is perfectly clear.
Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. Is not this Clause the same as that which we have just passed? The object, as far as I can make out, is exactly the same, though the words are different. If that is so, it would be out of Order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must confess that it rather puzzles me. The wording is entirely different. Whether the object intended is the same or not, I cannot say.
Sir F. BANBURY
Perhaps some hon. Gentleman will explain wherein the object of this Clause differs from that of the other Clause.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think that, if the right hon. Baronet looks at it, he will see that it does not provide compensation in the same way as the Clause which has been passed proposes to do, but it imposes certain obligations upon the landlord letting the house. I think that it raises a rather different point and that it is worthy of discussion.
§ 7.0 P.M.
Sir E. POLLOCK
I am glad to reassure my right hon Friend that this Clause has really no relation at all to the Clause which he views with a certain amount of dismay and anxiety. This Clause brings into certain cases the operation of Section 14 and 15 of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1909, and I am quite certain I shall have not only his approval, but his support, when I tell him what the object of the Clause is. Under Sections 14 and 15 of the Housing and Town Planning Act, where premises are let they carry with them the guarantee that they shall be fit 271 for human habitation. My right hon. Friend is one of the kindest-hearted men in the world, and I am sure he will callow both his brain and his heart to go with this Clause, because he is the very last man to desire to condemn any person to live in a building not fit for human habitation. The two Sections are necessary, for this reason. In the one case, Section 14 says that, in the case of a house situate in the country, elsewhere than London, which has not got a rental value of over sixteen pounds,There shall be implied a condition that the house is at the commencement of the holding in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.That has not applied and does not apply to houses which are let on a three years' tenancy and on terms that the lessee shall undertake the repairs. Clause 15 says that in particular cases to which Clause 14 applies, that is, where the tenant does not undertake the repairs, and where the houses are of this small value, there is to be a continued undertaking on the part of the landlord that it shall be reasonably fit for human habitation; not a very onerous burden to be put on the landlord. It does not involve him in a very high condition of repair, but it does involve that, at the outset of the tenancy and during the occupation of a tenant, the house shall be reasonably fit for human habitation. The Clause which is now being moved provides that that undertaking shall be given and adhered to in the case of dwelling-houses occupied by workmen employed in agriculture. The reason why the Clause is necessary is that in many cases the premises are given or the occupation takes place without any pay-sent at all being made in respect of it, and therefore you cannot say that there is any rent actually paid. All that the Clause effects is that in this case, where the rental is not, actually reserved, yet where the workman is put into the occupation of premises of small value, there shall be an implied undertaking when he comes in that it is fit for human habitation and shall continue to be so.
Mr. RONALD McNEILL
Does the Clause do anything more than has already been clone under the Public Health Act?
Sir E. POLLOCK
Yes, I think it is necessary, as I pointed out, that in the case where no rental at all is reserved 272 the same—I will not call it letting, but where leave is given to occupy the house in agricultural areas, the same obligation shall apply. Inasmuch as no rental value at all is concerned, the; Act to which he refers does not apply. It applies to cases where rent is reserved. The object of the new Clause is to bring the same system into play where no rental is reserved.
We must all sympathise with the desire that agricultural labourers' houses should be kept in proper repair, as are other houses, but I cannot see how it is brought under this Bill. In the previous Amendment it was brought under the Bill by the words,Where a dwelling-house forming part of a holding to which the Act of 1908 applies.In this case there is none of that, but the words, "a workman employed in agriculture." We have various definitions of agriculture, and one is that it applies to forestry as well as farming, quite rightly in that regard. Is this Clause within the terms of title of the Bill? I cannot quite see how the Corn Production Act and the Agricultural Holdings Act refer to forestry.
Sir E. POLLOCK
I submit that it is not a critical point. The title of the Bill not only amends the Corn Production Act, which is immaterial for this purpose, it also relates to undertakings relating to agricultural holdings. Agricultural holdings are not merely holdings of agricultural land without residences or cottagers upon them, but they include also tenements and residences in which agricultural labourers can be and are in fact housed. The Housing and Town Planning Act contains these two Sections, which apply to houses when let, first in London, next in a borough, and thirdly elsewhere. So that Section 14 does at the present time apply to houses which are let in the country. Inasmuch as there are the words in the title of the Bill "Enactments relating to agricultural holdings" you are dealing with the residences and houses upon agricultural holdings. It is, I submit, quite in order that you should apply Sections 14 and 15 to an Act which deals with the cases of all houses in agricultural areas which are not above a certain rental. I submit that within the words, "Enactments relating to agricultural holdings" it is possible to introduce Sections 14 and 15 of the Act, because these Sections would apply to 273 cases where rent is received for agricultural holdings.
Take the case of a house in a wood—a woodman's house. Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with that?
Sir E. POLLOCK
The question, as I understand it, is whether this Clause can be and would be within the title of the Bill. I am not prepared, nor do I think it necessary, to deal with the question if, when the Clause has been added to the Bill, it will apply to every house occupied by a woodman, or in the particular circumstances which my right hon. Friend suggests. All I am concerned with is to answer the question put, if I can. It is within the title of the Bill, because the Clause will apply to a certain number of agricultural houses, although it may not be actually stated.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I believe that is so. This Clause refers to workmen employed in agriculture, and it comes within the scope of the Bill.
With all respect, Sir, it says here, "workmen employed in agriculture." I venture to submit that the word "agriculture," as used in that Clause, covers a wider field than that covered in the Bill, and therefore to that extent it is outside the Bill.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It can be limited by an Amendment. If the hon. Member thinks that it goes too far he can move an Amendment.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
May I ask the Secretary for Scotland a question relating to this new Clause? As he knows, a very large portion of the residences of agricultural workers in Scotland are covered by the first three or four lines of the Clause, I hope I shall not be presumed to suggest that my right hon. Friend has not very fully discharged his duties in that matter, but I would ask if the Government could give us an assurance that the Clause as drafted, seeing it is provided to cover English conditions, has thoroughly within its ambit all the Scottish conditions which the Secretary for Scotland knows so well.
The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro)
As I am advised, the Clause fits in with our Scottish conditions as fully as with English conditions. If there should be the slightest doubt about 274 that matter I will see that it is put right in another place.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I honestly confess I do not think the Government have treated agriculture fairly in this matter. Here is a Clause moved by my hon. Friend behind me, and I am sorry he did not make it very clear, though that does not matter. I listened to the Solicitor-General, and he did not make it much clearer either. This Clause appears for the first time this morning on the Paper. You cannot play ducks and drakes with a great industry like agriculture. You cannot put in in this way a series of Amendments which we do not understand. If the Government think it is a good Clause, well and good, let it be read a Second time and added to the Bill in the same way as the last Clause. Let us have an opportunity, however, of examining it in Committee, as we shall have with the last one. I protest strongly against agriculture being made the dumping ground of all these somewhat involved Clauses. After all, you are dealing with a very important industry, and I am not sure that all the legislation that is being passed now is not going to have the effect of considerably hampering the application of industry to agriculture.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I have the support of my hon. Friend behind me, who wishes to enforce the point I am making to the Government that this is hurried legislation. I really feel that at the present moment in agriculture we are passing through a very critical time, and I do not want to see ill-digested legislation passed which may injure industry and therefore the country. If this is a good Clause, why did not the Government put it in in the first place? It is not treating the House fairly; it is not treating the industry fairly to accept these Clauses, as to the moaning of which many of us have but a vague idea. If you accept this Clause the right course to pursue is to recommit the Bill in respect of it and let the House study it.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I do not accept the doctrine that the Government are 275 never to accept any Amendment. I should very much like to know what my right hon. Friend would say if I took up that attitude in this House. Surely nothing is more reasonable than that, when the Government find a new Clause or Amendment to be a good one, from whatever quarter it may come, they should give it favourable consideration?
Sir A BOSCAWEN
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Government have accepted this without understanding it? Because the right hon. Gentleman does not understand it, it does not follow that we do not understand it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Explain it"]. I thought, after the Solicitor-General's speech, that the House did understand it. As I understand it, it means that in contracts for the letting of cottages since the passing of the Housing and Town Planning Act there are conditions, which are implied in Sections 14 and 15, requiring the landlord to put the cottage in a state fit for human habitation, and to keep it in such condition. That applies where a cottage it let, but, as is frequently the case in agriculture, cottages are occupied by workmen to whom there is no formal letting—they are occupied because they get the cottage gratis as part of their remuneration. There is, therefore, in these cases no obligation on the person who let the cottage either to put it into a state of repair fit for habitation or to maintain it. That is an obvious omission, and one which, I feel sure, every Member of the House would like to see remedied. I am advised that that is the sole purpose of this new Clause. Under the circumstances, it is not unreasonable that we should accept the Clause. I quite see the difficulty that arises where a new Clause is put down and accepted the next day. I realise that there should be some further opportunity for considering it in detail. In another form this Clause has been on the Paper for a week or ten days. I am willing that we shall recommit it, therefore.
Everybody agrees that it is right and proper that any house a labourer lives in should be in a condition fit for him to occupy it. But what the 276 right hon. Gentleman is doing here is that the moment this Act passes every tenant farmer will be obliged to put the houses which his workmen occupy in a state to comply with certain sections of the Housing and Town Planning Act. The burden will not fall upon the landlord. Some may say that it is the landlord's duty. The tenant may be a poor man, and may not have the money to rebuild what is really the landlord's house. A tenant might be giving up his tenancy and retiring in a year or two, but he will be compelled to put every cottage which his workmen occupy into a state of repair, and if he fails to do it, or is unable to find the money, the local authority may serve notice on him and do it at his expense. It may be said that the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to this new Clause is a possible one. I suppose it is possible. It becomes intolerable when it is pursued in regard to Amendment after Amendment brought before the House. I think that this new Clause ought not to be added to the Bill, even if it is to be amended subsequently.
Any farmer at present charging a rent for a cottage is already, under the existing Act, under the liability to keep the cottage in a proper state of repair. Because he takes advantage of a certain provision which has been made by the Agricultural Wages Board in deciding what shall be regarded as benefits or advantages under a certain Clause of the Corn Production Act, and because they have said that under certain circumstances the occupation of a cottage from the employer may be regarded as such a benefit or advantage, limited to the amount of 3s., it seems to me entirely unreasonable that, because the farmer chooses to make a deduction from wages instead of charging the rent, he should be under no obligation to make the cottage fit for habitation. It is to correct that that this Amendment is being accepted by the Government. I am rather sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary has promised to recommit the Bill on this, but that is a smaller matter.
Mr. R. McNEILL
I should not have a word of objection to urge if the facts were as the last speaker has described them. I do not know whether he is correct or not. It seems to me that his arguments are in strong disagreement with these of the right hon. Gentleman 277 (Mr. Lambert)sitting beside him. I want to probe the matter a little further. It is only with the greatest diffidence that I hesitate to accept a statement made by the Solicitor-General. This Clause was recommended to us on the ground that all it does is to provide that in a certain class of cases covered by the new Clause, where no rent is charged, there shall be security that the cottage shall be fit for human habitation. Is it really the case that where a house of any sort is inhabited in a rural district, and no rent is charged for it, under the existing law there is no power to close it? I find it very difficult to believe that. I was always under the impression that where, in an urban or rural district, a house could be shown not to be reasonably fit for human habitation, there are powers vested in the local authority by which that house could be closed at once. This new Clause contemplates a contract under which the house is to be inhabited. It may not be a contract to pay rent, but a contract that the house shall be part of the remuneration for work on a farm. Will the Solicitor-General tell me that it has not been held in the Courts time after time that it is an implied undertaking of any such contract that the house so let, whether for rent or not, shall be reasonably fit for human habitation? Unless I am authoritatively corrected, I am confident that, whether under the law of contract or the general law, there is no necessity for this Clause whatsoever, if it is not intended to do more than was stated by the Parliamentary Secretary.
It may be that the Clause is intended to impose a very much higher standard of obligation, and that under the particular Act introduced by the Clause there is a very much higher degree of obligation with regard to repairs. I am not prepared to say that I object to that higher obligation, but let us understand fully what it is. If it really imports a higher standard of obligation than can reasonably be expressed by the phrase "fit for human habitation," let it be fully understood. There are one or two rather peculiar circumstances with regard to this new Clause. I have seldom heard the Government accept an Amendment moved by private Members without the proviso that the language required a good deal of alteration. Here we have a Clause very difficult to understand, expressed in very legal language, and yet the Government accept not only the principle of the 278 Clause, but accept every word of its drafting. I look with envy on the drafters of this Clause. I wondered, after hearing it moved and seconded in very laconic speeches, which of the four hon. Members whose names are attached to it on the Paper has been so skilful in drafting it that it has immediately commanded the assent of the Government. As neither of my right hon. Friends has disclosed what may lurk in this Clause, I think we ought to have a further explanation before we accept it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOHN HOPE
I welcome the principle of this new Clause, because I think it is the first attempt that has been made to deal with the deplorable conditions of agricultural housing in this Bill or in the Housing Bill. As I have said before, the Housing Bill in no way touched or helped agricultural housing. I proposed amendments in Committee on this Bill, in order that it might be so drafted as to improve agricultural housing. At the same time, I think we should know clearly what we are doing in regard to this Clause and how it is going to operate, as there seems to be considerable confusion about it. If it is going to help to improve agricultural housing, I cordially welcome it. There is no doubt—and I speak with intimate knowledge— that in Scotland agricultural housing is not in a good state. In the report on agricultural housing in Scotland it was clearly stated that the housing was not in a good condition. Some of the reasons were given, and it was pointed out that in leaseholds many tenants accepted houses in a good state of repair. If this Clause is passed, as many of these houses throughout Scotland require repair, and are part of the leases, will the tenant farmer or the landowner have to repair them, or will they get Government assistance to do so? It is a very big question, and I should be very glad if the Secretary for Scotland would tell us in the case of leaseholds on whom will fall the burden of putting these cottages in a fair state of repair?
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
I think there is one point which shows that an attempt to deal with this matter of housing in a Bill of this kind at the last moment is almost hopeless. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland), apparently thought that he gave a perfectly satisfactory answer to the 279 objection to this Clause that you would be throwing a very heavy liability in a number of cases on small tenant farmers. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is not quite as well acquainted as some of us unfortunately are, with the conditions in regard to some of these tenant farmers. There are many cases where a tenant farmer takes a farm on which there are a number of delapidated cottages not fit for human habitation according to the ordinary standard, and unoccupied at the time. That farmer being a good farmer and doing his land well requires more labour and when a man comes along he says, "I am quite prepared to pay your wages, but you must find your own cottage." He pays the full wages, and the man says, "I cannot get a cottage." The tenant then says, "There is a hovel there and if you do not mind practically open air life, but just a roof over your head, there it is." That is the position, and there is no question of that being taken into consideration as part of the wages, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think. You have got a tremendous shortage of houses in many agricultural districts. That is no the fault of the tenant farmer, and he ought not to have the burden thrown upon him of practically rebuilding cottages which are not fit for human habitation, but which many a healthy agricultural labourer is prepared, used as he is to an open-air life, to put up with for the sake of getting a good job.
When this is passed, I think it will be the worst example we have of legislation by reference. I have been unable to obtain a copy of the Act of 1909, and I do not know what Sections 14 and 15 provide. I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will be good enough to answer the question put to him by the hon. and gallant Member (Sir J. Hope) and which seems to me to be one of some substance. I would also ask the Secretary for Scotland how will Sections 14 and 15 of the Act of 1909 affect the Bothy system which prevails in Scotland? I hope myself it will be affected favourably, because it is a system which, in many respects, is a bad system and gives bad housing conditions, and the sooner it is done away with and proper housing conditions given instead, the better. I hope that the right 280 hon. Gentleman will be able to indicate that that will be so.
I do not know if the attention of the House has been directed to the fact that, in addition to this new Clause, there is another new Clause on the next page—(Power for tenant to recover from landlord moneys expended on certain repairs to dwelling houses occupied by workmen)—standing in the name of the same hon. Gentleman, and which I am sure they will be able to explain quite as lucidly as this Clause. I really think they should be taken together.
I think I am entitled to argue on either assumption, and I elect, if the hon. Member will allow me, to argue on one particular assumption. In that case, it is right to say that the whole of the expenses of this proposal, whatever they may be, would be thrown on the tenant farmer, and by the last words the liability to put into habitable repair is taken off the back of the landlord and put on the employer. To put a matter of such a complicated character before the. House in an Amendment on which no legal opinion could be obtained by these interested, however good the object may be, is not the right way to do it. We cannot legislate in that manner, and by reference to all kinds of complicated subjects mixed up with other Acts of Parliament so that nobody can understand what the effect really is going to be. I do, as an agriculturist, object to agriculture being made a sort of football to be kicked about, and any sort or kind of burden or disability put upon it simply because anybody in this House thinks that somebody may be benefited. This proposal appears to be suitable to a Housing Bill. If there is a defect in the Housing Act, as suggested from the Front Bench, then the proper thing is to amend that Act, and not to introduce into this Bill, dealing with a totally different set of circumstances, something to amend another Act with which we have now nothing to do. However good the 281 object of this Amendment, I am bound to vote against it on the ground that this is not the proper place for it. We do not know what it means or what its effect will be. I really do not think we can be asked, as we were on the last Amendment, to recommit the Bill on this proposal. I think we must ask the Mover to withdraw, if he will do so, not because his proposal is necessarily going to do anything wrong or bad, but because the House does not understand it. One must vote against the Clause in its present form, however much we may sympathise with its object.
Mr. GEORGE EDWARDS
I think the Clause is perfectly plain. As I under stand, it is intended to ensure to the agricultural labourer a house fit to live in and not the wretched hovels, neither watertight or wind-tight, in which in many cases he is now compelled to live. There are complaints about the responsibility that is thrown on the shoulders of the tenant farmer, but the tenant farmer can at once relieve himself of that responsibility by saying to the landlord, "I no longer want these houses with my farm. You can keep them yourself and let them direct to the, workmen." The responsibility then will be thrown on the landlord. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
The responsibility will not be thrown on the landlord, because the Clause provides that the man who is to put the house in repair is the employer, who is the tenant farmer.
I am much obliged for the interruption, but I repeat again that the tenant farmer can say to his landlord, "Keep your houses and let them to the men." [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] If he does not do that, is that any reason why a Clause of this sort should not be inserted in the Bill to ensure for the agricultural labourer a house fit to live in?
Sir F. BANBURY
We must carefully consider what we, are going to do on this Clause. The hon. Member who has just spoken told us that he thoroughly understands it. I certainly do not understand it and I am inclined to think that you, Sir, did not understand it when it was first moved. We have had explanations from the Solicitor-General and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland). The Solicitor-General told us that if a house was let to an agricultural labourer and no rent was charged, that therefore the local 282 authority was restricted in its action. As the Clause is drawn and only appeared to-day on the Paper, it is very difficult to ascertain whether that is so or not. As far as I know from my own experience, the local autherities—whether they have the power to do it or not I cannot say—do go round and do investigate into the condition of houses, and I have never heard of them saying, "Does the occupier of this house pay a rent, or does he receive it rent free as part of his service?" I have, always understood that if they find a house is not fit for habitation, they grant an order to close it. An hon. Friend has just handed me the Section in the Public Health Act, 1875, namely, Section 97, which reads:Where the nuisance proved to exist is such as to render a house or building, in the judgment of the court, unfit for human habitation, the court may prohibit the using thereof for that purpose until, in its judgment, the house or building is rendered fit for that purpose; and on the court being satisfied that it has been rendered fit for that purpose the court may determine its previous order by another, declaring the house or building habitable, and from the date thereof such house or building may be let or inhabited.There is a Section which is absolutely clear and distinct. It completely demolishes the argument of the Solicitor-General and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland), and shows that as a matter of fact at the present moment there is a law in existence which will allow the local authority or the Court to close a house if it is unfit for human habitation. Nobody on either side of the House has the slightest objection to this Clause, or desires to say that a house not fit for human habitation should be allowed to be occupied, but what we are afraid of is this: If it had not been for the kindness of an hon. Friend I could not have put my finger upon the particular Section of the particular Act, but I was aware that as a magistrate I had given orders for closing houses, and that the local authority do come down, at any rate in my part of the world, and look into houses, and never ask whether rent is paid or whether they are held as a condition of service. What we are afraid of is that this Clause, is a camouflage, that it means to go very much further than this, and that it is brought in, not to render a house habitable, but probably to insist that all the most modern building laws shall be applied to cottages in the 283 country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Hon. Members say "No," but the only explanations we have had of the Clause— the Mover of it could not explain it—have been these of the Solicitor-General and the right hon. Member for Camborne.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Might I tell my right hon. Friend that the words of the Section of the Act of 1909 are that it shall be a condition that the house is at the commencement of the holding in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.
Sir F. BANBURY
I have been in the House a considerable number of years, and I recognise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. It. McNeill) said, the peculiarity of the acceptance by the Government of a Clause moved by a private Member, the private Member not understanding his own Clause. I have always been told by the Government in similar cases that there is no harm in the new Clause but it is superfluous, because the law as it already exists makes allowance for that. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean), all that this Section does is to re-enact Section 97 of the Act of 1875, and if so, why introduce all these words, which may lead to conflict of opinion and litigation, and which will certainly tend to frighten people from buying land? All this that has taken place this afternoon, instead of promoting the production of food and increasing the production upon the land, will tend to prevent anybody having anything to do with land. There is no doubt about that. Whoever it is that pays for all these things, whether it be the landlord or the tenant, it all goes back to the land, and instead of helping agriculture, as the Prime Minister said we ought to do, what we are doing now is to put every obstacle in the way of people either owning land or renting land or having anything whatever to do with agriculture. As I have apparently found out that the statement of the Solicitor-General was incorrect, and that what he aimed at is already enacted by the law, I hope the Government will vote against this new Clause.
Perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words with regard to the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) before I deal with the 284 Scottish questions which have been addressed to me. I can hardly hope to succeed where my right hon. Friends have failed, but I would like to make clear to the right hon. Baronet if I can that the sole purpose, and, as I understand it, the sole effect, of this Clause is to bring houses which in substance are let into the same category as houses which are technically let under the Act of 1909. It is not a very large category. If the farmer charged a rent for the house instead of deducting a certain amount every week in respect of the tenancy, he would come under the 1909 Act, but he prefers to arrange matters in another way. Is there any reason why he should be treated differentially from other landlords or tenants who have houses to let simply because he adopts a different method of collecting his rent? I submit that there is no good reason for that distinction, which at present exists. What is the obligation to be laid upon him? It is to keep the house in reasonably fit repair. Is that an undue burden to put upon a tenant farmer or anybody else who lets the house to a tenant? I suggest that it is not. My right hon. Friend said—and he treated the matter as if it were a discovery—that there is in existence now machinery whereby these houses, if they are not reasonably fit for habitation, can be closed. I am well aware of it, both as a Minister and as a lawyer, but surely my right hon. Friend has forgotten that the object which one has in view is not to close these houses but to keep them open and in good repair. Accordingly, that remedy is not a complete remedy, and it does not produce the effect which we desire, namely, at a time when houses are scarce, to keep them open and at the same time to ensure that they are fit for human habitation.
I venture to put to the House that if the sole purpose and the effect of this new Clause is to bring into the existing category of houses dealt with under the 1909 Act the comparatively few cases where the tenant farmer secures his rent in a different way, then surely the purpose of the new Clause is not obscure, and it is a Clause which ought to commend itself to the House. If anything further need be said, I think it is this, that my right hon. Friend beside me has undertaken to recommit the Bill upon this new Clause, as upon a previous new Clause. The fullest opportunity will then be afforded 285 to the House of revising it if it is necessary, but this Clause, I would remind hon. Members, has been on the Order Paper for ten days at least. It has been altered slightly in its form, but it has been on the Order Paper for quite a number of days, and therefore I think my right hon. Friend has gone some distance to meet the wishes of the House in agreeing to recommit the Clause. Having assented to that proposal, and inasmuch as the Clause, I hope, is now perfectly clear, both in effect and intention, and as it affects only a limited number of cases, I hope the House may be able to come to a decision in the matter.
Mr. R. McNEILL
As the right hon. Gentleman is obviously defending this as a Government Clause, and as we are quite clear it was drafted by the official draftsman, is there any special reason why it was not put down as a Government Clause?
I really do not know whether my hon. Friend is correct in what he says regarding the draftsmanship of this Clause or not.
I do not contradict the hon. Member, because I have no knowledge on the subject. But whether the Clause was drafted or not by the official draftsman, as my right hon. Friend said on a previous occasion, if a Clause commends itself on consideration to the Government as a good Clause, then, whether drafted by them or any hon. Member, it ought to be accepted. In regard to the questions put to me by my two colleagues from Scotland, I think it is obvious that the obligation in the first place would lie upon the tenant farmer. That is in answer to the question of my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Sir J. Hope). As regards the bothy system, I take it that the farmers or owners responsible for that system would, under this Clause, have to put their bothies into a fit and tenantable state of repair. I cannot conceive that an obligation so limited, so obvious, and so humane should be regarded as unduly oppressive or burdensome by any class of the community.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The Secretary for Scotland seems to have forgotten the provisions of the existing Housing Act passed last year. Surely they cover cases 286 where cottages are not in a fit state of repair. Did we not then place the duty upon local authorities of seeing that cottages were put in a proper state of repair, and if the owner or person responsible did not put them into repair, the local authority in every case could put them in repair, and charge the person responsible with the cost? It seems to me you are attempting to deal here in an agricultural Bill with a subject which we have got to consider in relation to housing legislation, and as on Thursday of this week we are going to consider a third Housing Bill, introduced by the Ministry of Health—the whole of Part 1 deals with questions of this very kind—I really think the proper place where this could be thrashed out to bring it into terms with the many Housing and Town Planning Acts which have been passed in the last few years is in that Bill, and not here. There is one other thing I feel I must say. We are all agreed upon the intention of this Clause, but look at the drafting of it. I guarantee that any clever lawyer could drive a coach and four through it and render it absolutely inoperative any time he chose to take it into Court. Look at the governing words—There shall be implied as part of the contract…the like conditions as would be implied under these provisions if "—This form of drafting is getting very frequent in our legislation—deeming facts to be other than they are under certain conditions, putting in "would" and "if," and invariably when you use this sort of drafting the Section and the Article become inoperative once they are taken into Court. I believe that if this Clause is read a Second time, and is embodied in this Act, it will never once be put into operation, and it will be absolutely futile to carry out the purpose. I have no objection to it if Members want it put in, but this is not the proper way to get these houses repaired. The proper way to get them repaired—and we want to get them repaired—is to see that the Housing Acts are properly administered, and to amend them, if amendment is necessary.
§ Mr. J. JONES
Representing, as I do, a well-known agricultural constituency, I need make no apology for offering any observations upon this particular Clause. A good deal has been said about the 287 administration of the Housing Acts. Most Members of this House who are acquainted with the Housing problem in I industrial districts know the difficulty of administering the existing Housing Acts. How are we going to guarantee that the people shall have healthy houses in which I to live? We send inspectors round and we issue orders for the closing of houses under certain conditions. Is there any Member of a local authority in this House who can venture to suggest that these houses should be closed under existing conditions? Why, the thing is physical impossibility, and all that this Clause asks is that the tenants in rural areas shall have the same protection in law as the tenants in industrial areas now have. What right has the tenant got now? They can be put into any shed; they can be accommodated in any barn, merely for the purpose of providing rent, and, so far as we are concerned, we want to know why the housing problem in the rural areas has been neglected so much. If everybody agrees, as has been suggested in this House to-night, that the people ought to be decently housed, that the man in the rural area should have as good accommodation as the man in the industrial area, why has not that accommodation been provided?
§ Mr. JONES
They are not provided, or else a Clause like this would not find a place in a Bill of this character. In the rural districts of the country the people are being housed like swine. I happen to be related to people living in the rural areas, and during this past summer I have spent some of my time amongst my relations in the country.
§ Mr. JONES
The right hon. Member is probably one of the exceptions, and he ought to be canonised. The hon. Member is often used as an excuse for people who are not as good as himself. When we come down to rural areas, what do we find? Overcrowding and insanitary conditions. I live in the East End of London, and I find in the rural districts of Essex and Sussex and all around, in so far as agricultural districts are concerned, that the people are worse housed even than they are in the East End of London. All that we are asking for in this Clause is the same protection for the agricultural worker as the industrial worker receives in the great industrial centres. Why the objection? Because the landlord knows, and the people who are mainly speaking on behalf of the landlord know, that he will have to foot the Bill. [An HON. MEMBER:" It is not for that. That is our objection."] We know what you will have to do at the finish. This is, after all, a defence of landlords by the landlords' representatives. Give the workman in the country the same protection as you give the workman in the town. I happen to be a member of a local authority in the East End of London. We have the power to close houses and to say that overcrowding shall not take place and that the people shall have sanitary conditions to live under; but we know we have no power to provide fresh houses for the people to live in. That is where we are hit, and the landlord knows it; and where the workman is bound to be the servant of a certain employer what chance has he of finding a fresh home, if he does not like the home in which he is at present living?
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 253; Noes,29.289
|Division No. 347.]||AYES.||[8.7 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Breese, Major Charles E.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Barnett, Major R. W.||Briant, Frank|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Barnston, Major Harry||Bridgeman, William Clive|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Barrie, Charles Coupar||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Barrie Rt. Hen. H. T. (Lon'derry.N.)||Bromfield, William|
|Allen, Lieut-Colonel William James||Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M.S.||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Cairns, John|
|Astbury, Lieut. Commander F. W.||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Carew, Charles Robert S.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Bigland, Alfred||Carr, W. Theodore|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Casey, T. W.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Boles, Liout.-Colonel D. F.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Chadwick, Sir Robert|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.(Birm., W.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rose, Frank H.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Jephcott, A. R.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Clough, Robert||Jesson, C.||Rutherford, Sir W. w. (Edge Hill)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Johnstone, Joseph||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Collins, Sir G. P. (Greenock)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Seager, Sir William|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Jones, Henry Haydn, (Merioneth)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk, George||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Shorft, Rt. Hon. E.' (N'castle-on-T,)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Kenyon, Barnet||Simm, M. T.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Kldd, James||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirancester)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Spencer, George A.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lawson, John J.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Lewis, T, A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Lloyd, George Butler||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Edge, Captain William||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P,||Sugden, W. H.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Loseby. Captain C. E.||Swan, J. E.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Taylor, J.|
|Entwistle. Major C. F.||Lunn, William||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenhanr)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D.(Midlothian)||Thomas, Brlg.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Maddocks, Henry||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mallalieu, F. W.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Gardiner, James||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.||
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Mitchell, William Lane||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Moles, Thomas||Tootill, Robert|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Molson, Major John Eisdale||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Morelng, Captain Algernon H.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Turton, E. R.|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Waddington, R.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morris, Richard||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Walton, J. (York, W.R., Don Valley)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Murray, Lleut.-Colonel A. (Aberdeen)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Hallwood, Augustine||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Myers, Thomas||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Neal, Arthur||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Hancock, John George||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Whitla, Sir William|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Haslam, Lewis||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Hayward, Major Evan||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Parker, James||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.J|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Pennefather, De Fonfolanque||Wilson, Colonel Leslie D. (Reading)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Perkins, Walter Frank||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pratt, John William||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Hood, Joseph||Prescott, Major W. H.||Wintringham, T.|
|Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Reid, D. D.||Wise, Frederick|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Remer, J. R.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Howard, Major S. G.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Young, Lieut. Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Irving, Dan||Rogers, Sir Hallewell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Captain Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Ormshy-Gore, Captain Hon. W.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Rae, H. Norman|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hurd, Percy A.||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Stevens, Marshall|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Martin, Captain A. E.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Gardner, Ernest||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Morrison, Hugh||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Nail, Major Joseph||Captain Sir Beville Stanler and|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Sir F. Banbury.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.