§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out from the word "on" to the word "towards," in line 13, and to insert instead thereof the words:the conditions specified in the Schedule to this Act.I regret that we had not an opportunity of putting these Amendments earlier on the Paper. The right hon. Gentleman may be somewhat inconvenienced, but it was inevitable in view of the fact that we did not obtain the Second Reading until Friday; that gave us only yesterday to meet and consider our Amendments. This Amendment has reference to the proposal that the Minister may, on the recommendation of a committee appointed by him, undertake to make special contributions on such conditions as he may, with the approval of the Treasury, determine. We take very strong objection to the very indefinite and vague conditions under which this committee is to work. It has to consider applications from rural district authorities, to determine which authorities are poor and which are not, and also to determine the exact amount and form of the financial assistance that is to be given to them. If we pass the Bill in this form without any definition at all, it practically means giving a blank cheque to the various Ministers and to the respective committees for England and Scotland. However much confidence we may have in the Ministers or in the committees, I do not think there are many who will think it a desirable thing to do from the point of view either of Parliament or of the local authorities themselves. From the point of view of Parliament we should, during the limited time we have at our disposal to-day, arrive, if possible, at some definite conclusion as to what these conditions should be.
254 No doubt, many Members have compared the various statements made by the respective Ministers during the progress of the Bill, and they certainly want further definition and further consideration. Inasmuch as we are making considerable grants of money belonging to the State, we should ensure that the conditions to be laid down as to the manner in which it is disposed of should be definite and clear or, at any rate, should give Parliament itself some method of challenging them if it is necessary and desirable. From the point of view of the local authorities it is certainly necessary and desirable that there should be no misconception about the matter, and that they should not simply have to go cap in hand to any committee or any Minister seeking some particular sum of money not knowing whether they exactly comply with the conditions or not. They should certainly know exactly where they stand. Also, what I regard as equally important, any authority, or large body of rural authorities, which object to the conditions laid down by the Minister or by the committee should have their proper constitutional opportunity of bringing the matter before the House and challenging it in some effective way, either by laying it down in the Bill itself or, as is suggested in another Amendment, by means of regulation.
Surely it is eminently desirable that this matter should be cleared up and some definite conditions laid down. In support of that, I need only refer to the statements that the Minister himself has made as to his endeavour to identify those local authorities who will or will not receive assistance under these proposals. On the first occasion that he spoke, he defined such local authorities as those whose financial resources are insufficient to enable them to make any great provision for housing. If one rested on that definition, a good many local authorities who apply on the faith of that statement will ultimately have to be refused extra aid. On another occasion he said such local authorities as have not financial resources sufficient to deal with it and without further assistance will not be able to carry out the necessary housing programmes. That is a very indefinite statement, and it certainly shows the necessity of clearing the 255 matter up. It is not our intention to insert anything in the Bill that is unreasonable or vexatious.
The suggested Schedule which goes with the Amendment which I have moved has been compiled from statements made by the Minister himself to the effect that the houses to be built shall be reserved exclusively for agricultural workers and persons of the same class, that the cost of each house shall not exceed £350, that the rent of each house shall not exceed 4s. 6d., inclusive of rates, that the estimated product of a penny rate for the financial year 1931–32 does not exceed 6d. per head of the population, and that the poundage of the general rate levied for the year 1930 exceeds 10s. These are the conditions laid down by the Minister himself. He has said that the rents are not to exceed 4s. 6d., inclusive of rates, and that the cost of the houses is not to exceed £350 each, and I suggest that these conditions should be definitely laid down. If under this scheme we are going to give an extra subsidy in the case of houses which exceed a cost of £350, I am sure that it will be against the desires of the whole Committee.
I think that in almost every quarter, except in the case of one hon. Gentleman on the benches opposite, who, I believe, is associated with the building trade, everyone agrees that the cost of housing in this country is far too high at the present time and that certain reductions which have been made have not been reflected in the price of house-building in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters) has stated on one or two occasions that he could build houses at a cost of far less than £350 if only he had his way, but unfortunately no one will give him his way. We have taken the Minister's own figure, and, in the interests of rural housing, I think that that figure ought to be an expressed condition in the Bill. If houses are to cost more than that sum, then in the interests of housing generally this further State assistance should not be given. With regard to the question of the rent of a house not exceeding 4s. 6d., inclusive of rates, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth mentioned 3s. in the course of his speech, but that suggestion has been 256 rejected, and we are putting into our Amendment that the rents shall not exceed the figure mentioned by the Minister of Health. Even then, I think that hon. Members representing rural constituencies will agree that a good many people will be disappointed and say that it does not meet the real needs of agricultural labourers to have a rent of 4s. 6d. a week. As I have already said, we also suggest that the remaining two conditions, namely, the penny rate and the poundage which comprise the formula laid down by the Minister, should also be included in the Act.
What are the objections to these proposals appearing in an Act of Parliament which the right hon. Gentleman has advanced in the course of our Debates? He said that it might be necessary that there should be slight adjustments made in those conditions. I was glad to hear that statement. It is not contemplated for a moment to make any major alteration in the conditions he has laid down. I dare say that it would be quite possible, if the principle of the Amendment were acceded to, to give some power to the Minister subject to proper Parliamentary control. He said that the Bill is of a temporary character, that it is simply an addition to the ordinary housing law of the country, and that it is a minor scheme, and that on that account one did not want to go into all the elaboration of setting out in an Act of Parliament matters of this kind. This is a special emergency scheme and nothing else. I think that we ought to be quite certain of the conditions and that we should lay down those conditions.
I suggest the adoption of the Amendment in the interests of the Minister of Health himself, because I know very well what may happen if these conditions are not properly laid down. The Minister of Health may be bidden by all and sundry to alter the conditions, and all sorts of people will be on his doorstep during the summer vacation in order to get him to relax, alter, or modify these proposals in some way or other. The Minister of Health was very indiscreet when he told the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that none of the districts where he happens to reside—
§ Sir K. WOOD
The right hon. Gentleman said that the one district which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs graces with his residence would not have any advantage under this proposal. In fact, he said that they were so wealthy in that particular district that they did not deserve to receive any extra financial assistance. I have no doubt that he said it after very careful investigation. What happened? Directly the right hon. Gentleman let that out, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was up in arms. He said that he was amazed to hear anything like that, and he immediately began—and he devoted the greater part of his speech to it—criticising and quarrelling with the tests which the right hon. Gentleman had laid down. He said that it was not a case of poverty; it was the reluctance of authorities to build houses in the rural areas, and the authorities should be dealt with. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman had not read the Bill, but he said that it was because of reluctance and ho wished that there had not been a test. As regards the test itself, he said that it was not altogether a con-elusive test, and it was a very difficult test to apply. First, he objected to tests altogether, then he said that they were not quite enough, and his final plea was that they ought generally to extend these tests altogether. If the right non. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs takes up that attitude, what is going to happen as far as other Members of Parliament whose areas will not receive any benefit under this proposal are concerned? They will all be in a queue at the Ministry of Health, and the Minister of Health, instead of having a well-earned holiday, will have to receive deputations all day long asking him to relax his conditions.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Apparently, I have more consideration for the right hon. Gentleman than has the hon. Member. I have some consideration for the arduous work and duties which appertain to the Minister of Health, and which, in the 258 case of the present Minister, are all the more difficult because of the very severe handicap which he has suffered owing to the undertakings he had given. His work has been doubled, because he has to be answering questions as to why he is unable to carry out his undertakings and promises. But what I am endeavouring to emphasise is that it is undesirable that a matter of this kind should be liable to pressure, especially in the present Parliament, because it may very well be that not the merits of the case but other methods will be advanced. Therefore, for all these reasons, we should have definitely set out in the Bill the exact conditions upon which local authorities shall be enabled to obtain their extra grants under this Bill. I do so in the interest of good housing itself. I do so in the interest of the local authorities, who should certainly know where they stand. I do so also in the interest of the Minister of Health himself, and in the interest of Parliament, who, I think, ought to keep proper and adequate control in such a ease.
§ Mr. ALBERY
I wish to support the Amendment, and principally on this account. In the history of housing during the last few years one cannot say that the houses constructed have eventually been occupied by the people for whom they were intended. From start to finish it has been one long story of disappointment to the people in this country who have been waiting for housing accommodation. The original houses which were erected under the Wheatley Act, it was hoped, were going to be occupied by workers who needed subsidising because they could not afford to pay the ordinary rents. Everyone knows that that, in fact, is not what has happened, and it is particularly desirable in the present Bill that we should take every possible step to make sure that this time the houses are put up of the kind which is intended, presumably, in this Bill, and that they should eventually be occupied by the people whom it is intended to benefit. It seems to me that that ought to be laid down in much greater detail in the Bill.
Personally, I am much concerned with what seems to be the Minister's intention that subsidies should be given only in what one might call the distressed agricultural areas. I put the point on Second Reading, but was not fortunate 259 enough to get a reply. I hope that on the present occasion when the Minister replies he will let us know what his views are on this subject. It would appear that in an area which is likely to qualify for subsidy, as the Bill is at present drawn, there will, in all probability, be a good deal of unemployment. On the other hand, an area which will not qualify is very likely to be an area where there is comparatively little unemployment. One of the great difficulties at the present moment is that where jobs are available in one district, men and women in the towns cannot get them, because there is no housing accommodation available at a rent which they could pay, although there may be housing accommodation available, and probably is, in the districts in which they are at present residing, but in which they are unable to get a job. Anyone who reads the country and local papers will realise at once what I mean. You will find any number of advertisements from people requiring jobs in agricultural districts, and one of the main reasons why many cannot get them is precisely because there is no housing accommodation available in those districts. I want to know what are the views of the Minister on that subject, and what his attitude is likely to be.
While I am not quite satisfied that the Schedule in itself will be sufficient, I hope, in any case, that it will be much more clearly laid down in the Bill exactly how it is intended to subsidise, whom it is intended to subsidise, and on what conditions. There was a good deal of complaint on the Second Reading of this Bill that some Housing Acts had not been much used. I do not believe that anything tends to prevent full advantage being taken of housing Acts of this kind so much as the lack of definite knowledge as to what the conditions are, and exactly what is to be done to obtain the subsidy which is offered. I hope that when the Minister replies he will deal with the point I have raised.
§ Captain GUNSTON
I am sure the Minister is very grateful to my right hon. Friend for moving this Amendment, because he said the other day he had only a certain amount of money to spend, and that if you spread it over other areas, you would lose the benefit of this 260 Measure. Therefore, he wanted to confine it to areas where it would be of the greatest benefit. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, unless we have such regulations in the Bill, the Minister of Health will be open to pressure from every Member in this Chamber. I can imagine the scene when the Minister of Health has to receive a deputation such as my right hon. Friend suggested, comprising the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) accompanied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I understand, resides in the same area. Perhaps the Minister, if he cannot accept this Amendment, will meet us by promising to put the Regulations before the House, because I realise that he has a certain amount of difficulty. In our proposals we have embodied nearly every suggestion he has made in his speeches.
The idea of this Bill is, of course, to help the agricultural labourers, and those in similar financial circumstances. That is embodied in these conditions, and we have tried to limit the cost of houses to £350. That is, of course, a reasonable figure, and though it is considerably in excess of that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters), I realise that in Scotland and some out-of-the-way areas there may be a difficulty, and the Minister would want power to deal with these special cases. But it is necessary in those Regulations that a sum be laid down, because we know that subsidies have always seemed to cause the cost of houses to rise, and it would be lamentable if we were to give a great blow to housing progress in this country.
It has been said, I think by the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth, that this is an emergency Measure with regard to rural houses, and we have got to attempt to get over the difficulty. Therefore, we have to use emergency Regulations, and I think it is necessary that those Regulations should be clearly laid down, so that rural authorities may realise by what methods you are meeting this emergency. By so doing, it will be of great advantage to the local authorities in carrying out the intention of the Minister himself.
§ Mr. HASLAM
I am very much concerned as to some of the conditions which the Minister may be contemplating mak- 261 ing in this Clause, and the condition about which I am most of all concerned is that of rent. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery) has pointed out, the housing story of the last 10 years has been one of perpetual disappointment, and I venture to say that of all the classes which have suffered that disappointment in regard to the provision of houses with public money, the rural population has suffered the greatest of all. It is not too much to say that until now there has hardly been a house erected in rural districts at a rent which the agricultural worker can afford to pay. If this is an emergency Measure, if this is a Measure specially designed in the interests of agricultural workers, surely that consideration of rent should be the prime consideration. The agricultural worker in the part I represent has been accustomed to pay, say, 3s. or 2s., or even 1s. 6d. as rent. Three shillings is the highest rent he can afford and is the rent allowed under the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act. There has been no house erected at such a rent as that. The Spilsby Rural District Council in my Division has recently erected working-class houses at an inclusive rent of 3s. 6d. This rural council has made long and continuous efforts to meet the housing demands, and this is the first house which they have been able to erect at that rent. I have not the figures with me, but it would astonish the Committee if I could give the number of applications for those houses. For every house there are 30 or 40 applications. There is a most grievous need in many rural districts for houses to be let at low rents.
We are assuming that agricultural wages will remain where they are, and I hope that they will. It will be deplorable if they did not, but, in view of the agricultural situation, and the difficulties with which the farmer is faced, in not being able to make a profit but only a loss on any of the main cereals, it is essential to consider the question of rent, because if, unfortunately, the wage of the agricultural worker should suffer a reduction, and there have been reductions in the wages of the agricultural workers, the rent which we may fix may prove too high. The farmer has to take steps not so much to reduce wages under the minimum level, but they are often unable to 262 give full employment to their men. They are obliged to stand a man off work when otherwise he would be on. They are obliged to reduce their expenses as much as possible, because they have not sufficient money. Therefore, the question of rent is of prime importance in any Measure designed to benefit the agricultural workers. The question of rent should come first, and it should be adjusted to the needs of each area. In some areas the rate is higher than in others. It is difficult to say that there should be a hard-and-fast limit, because that limit would not suit the lower paid areas. It has been suggested that there may be queues of people pressing the Minister during the Recess. I am not afraid to say that I should be one of them. In view of the housing conditions among those I represent, I should consider it to be my duty to press that houses should be erected at rents which the agricultural workers can afford to pay.
§ Mr. J. JONES
This afternoon the criminals have come to the repentant form. They tell us about the evils of housing in the rural districts. Who has been responsible for the housing conditions in the rural areas? Hon. Members on the opposite benches and their supporters have been in control of local administration in those areas. They have housed the people, and a condition of the housing has been such that the hearts and souls of the tenants should be part of the house, and that if they dared to hold an opinion of their own their name was "walker." One of the objects of the Bill, as I understand it, not being a lawyer, is that we desire to do something to remove from the agricultural worker the economic bondage which has been forced upon him. I was interested to hear the remarks of the last speaker. He said that in his district they had built one house.
§ Mr. HASLAM
No. I must correct the hon. Member. I did not say that we had built only one house. I said they had been able to erect houses, and there are several of them at 3s. 6d. per week rent.
§ Mr. JONES
One authority has built houses at 3s. 6d. a week rent. I can remember other authorities which have refused to build houses, even when they had an opportunity. They wanted to keep 263 the people in such a condition that they could not have housing accommodation unless on the conditions laid down by the people who control the accommodation. Therefore, there was nothing doing. I do not believe in subsidies. We have been subsidising the landlords too long. They have been drawing money from the State, and even under this Bill I believe that, in the last analysis, it will be the landlord who will get the advantage of any money the Government may provide. It is our duty to curb their knavish tricks. I live in an urban and industrial area, although I was born in a rural area. We know the clever tricks that they are able to perform, with the aid of the lawyers. We know how they can avoid every Act of Parliament. We know how they can get over restrictions and regulations.
There are two ways of opposing a Bill in this House. One is the direct way, with a determination to prevent the Bill from becoming law, and the other is to put in all sorts of impossible conditions. So far as this Bill was concerned I understood that we were all in favour of it. The principle was grand. We were all in favour of housing the rural worker, and I suppose we are in favour of warehousing the urban worker. When one goes into a rural district we see that the very people who say, with their tongues in their cheeks, that they are in favour of housing the rural workers put every obstacle in the way of the local authorities, to prevent the rural worker from being housed, because they want to keep them under their thumb. The rural worker must not express an opinion, or have any idea of his own. I can understand the smiles on the faces of hon. Members opposite. This Bill may not be as good as it ought to be, but it goes further than hon. Members opposite desire. I should like to make the people who own land in rural areas to prove their right to it. Let them produce their title deeds.
The hon. Member is getting a long way from the Amendment. He is discussing the Bill and not the Amendment.
The hon. Member must keep to the Amendment, which deals with the conditions and regulations under which assistance is to be granted to rural authorities.
§ Mr. JONES
The regulations are to suit people who do not believe in them. Regulations are made to dominate the lives of the people who ought to benefit, but they will not suit the party opposite. They want regulations to suit the landlords and the farmers. We want regulations to suit the common workers, the men who live upon the soil and who ought to be entrenched upon the soil, so that they will not come into the big towns and make conditions worse than they are. We want security of tenure for the workers on the soil, and if the Bill helps in that direction we shall support it for all we are worth. The Bill may not go as far as we would like, but it goes further than hon. Members opposite like. Hon. Members opposite have talked about the rents being too high. They had a chance of producing houses at cheap rents. They are friends of the owners of the land. They dominate the soil in the rural areas. Why have not they made the rents lower? Why have not they given the workers a chance of living more reasonable lives. Instead of bringing the rents down they have done their best to bring wages down to starvation level.
§ Mr. HASLAM
I must protest against the allegations of the hon. Member. I pointed out in my speech that there were houses rented to workers in my district at 2s., and even 1s. a week. The allegations of the hon. Member are without foundation, and, as a rural Member, I very much resent what he has said.
§ Mr. JONES
The hon. Member talks about houses at 1s. and 2s. a week rent. Will he give us the conditions under which those houses are let to the tenants? Let us have some of the retrictions. The hon. Member is talking about our restrictions. Let him tell us what are the restrictions that are put upon the people who are living in these houses which are rented at 1s. and 2s. 265 a week. Some of us have lived in that class of house when we were youngsters.
§ Mr. HASLAM
I have not the least hesitation in informing the hon. Member that the conditions under which the houses are let are the ordinary conditions which are customary in the neighbourhood. The workers get the advantage of the low rent.
§ Mr. JONES
I do not want to enter into an argument with the hon. Member. I come from a rural area and I know that one of the restrictions in that area was that if relatives visited you in one of those cottages they were breaking the regulations as soon as they dared to go into the cottage. Those regulations were made by the landlord. Relatives or friends could not be guests. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. HURD
The hon. Member's speech had nothing whatever to do with the Amendment. The Amendment seeks to put into the Clause certain regulations, and I would remind the hon. Member that those regulations were suggested by the Minister of Health. We think that it would be a good thing if they were in the Bill. It will be very useful to the local authorities to have the field of their operations set out clearly in this emergency Measure. The fact that it is an emergency Measure makes it the more 266 ncessary that the local authorities should know exactly what sort of operations they will be able to carry out within the scope of the Bill. This is a Bill designed to provide houses for agricultural workers. I hold in my hand a petition from my constituency, an agricultural area, which is signed by a High Court Judge and leading residents of the area. The burden of the petition is that the houses which have been put up have been houses which can only be let at a rental far beyond that which can be paid by an agricultural worker, and they point to the desirability of further steps being taken by Parliament. We should have been able to work the 1926 Act but for the speeches made in this House about doles to landlords, which went o my constituency and created so much political ill-feeling on the county council that application after application was turned away which otherwise would have been granted, and the agricultural workers would have been living in houses at a rent which they can pay. That was one of the greatest impediments to the successful working of the 1926 Act.
§ Mr. HURD
I hope these conditions will be put into the Bill. I am sanguine enough to believe that the right hon. Gentleman will favourably consider that rental shall be one of these conditions. It is no good putting in a figure like 4s. 6d. which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. They should be cottages of a rental of no more than 3s. a week which, as this petition says, is all that these people can manage to pay without denying themselves the necessities of life.
§ Mr. HURD
I am talking of the amount per week it would mean in addition to the rent. It is no good expecting this Bill to provide the kind of accommodation we desire for agricultural labourers if the rent is the figure now in the mind of the Minister. It is most desirable that local authorities should know how to 267 put the Bill into operation quickly and if these conditions are inserted they will know them. I hope the Minister of Health will revise his opinion so as to make the fullest possible use of the Bill in the shortest possible time.
§ Viscount WOLMER
There are many reasons why we want to have the conditions under which these cottages are to be built inserted in the Bill and one reason is that we should be able to discuss them seriatim and have an opportunity of amending them. I do not want to stress that point so much as to ask the Minister exactly the policy he intends to pursue in regard to these conditions. The wording of the Clause shows that the conditions by which the committee will be governed will be put in the form of a minute from the Minister to the committee, and in that minute he will put the conditions he has indicated in his speech. What is going to happen if he finds it difficult to support those conditions in face of facts which may be brought to his notice? I visualise this sort of thing occurring. When applications are made from rural district councils it will be found that the most acute housing shortage, as far as agricultural labourers are concerned, is not in those parishes which are purely rural, and where you have the least wealth and the greatest poverty, but in those parishes where there is a certain influx of people who work in the neighbouring town, or it may be who are week-enders.
One of the chief reasons why there is such a shortage of cottages for agricultural workers is that a large number of cottages which were built for agricultural labourers, and which until recent years have been occupied by them, have now been bought by men of very superior financial position. The advent of the motor car and bicycle has enabled people to come out of the towns and live in the surrounding villages, and these villages are all to be cut out of the Minister's conditions because there is, generally speaking, in such communities greater wealth than there is in a purely agricultural parish. Will the Minister tell us what he is going to do in a case like that? Is he going to enforce the Act of 1930 and tell these wealthy rural district 268 councils, with a population partly urban and partly agricultural, that they will have to build houses at 3s. a week rental for agricultural labourers without the special financial assistance given by the Bill? If he tries to force them to do this he will find the greatest opposition. These industrialists who live in these semi-agricultural villages really have very little touch with the agricultural labourers and have no sense of responsibility towards them, and they certainly will not see why they should be forced to build cottages and let them to a particular class in their district at a lower rent than to anybody else. If he does not do this then the only alternative is for the Minister to alter his instructions to the committee, and that, I suppose, is why he wants to keep the instructions out of the Bill. If he takes that course he will before long be in an impossible position.
We have to deal with marginal rural councils which are just outside the limits which the Minister has laid down, and in those districts a considerable number of agricultural labourers will have no prospect of getting the cottages they require unless he uses powers of the Act of 1930 or else relaxes his conditions. The Minister of Health must also remember that it is quite possible that the rural council may be in the constituency of some prominent supporter of the Government. It may be in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) or some other Member of the Liberal party, and when the monthly crisis is impending will not the right hon. Gentleman find his position very difficult? It will make the position of the supporter of the Government impossible in his own constituency, or the right hon. Gentleman will have to face the difficulty of enlarging his Regulations. Therefore, from the Minister's own point of view it would be far more satisfactory to put the conditions into the Bill, and we should then have an opportunity of discussing and, if necessary, amending them. They would then be the Minister's marching orders and would give him a firm answer to the enormous pressure which is bound to be put upon him on the various and numerous cases which will arise under the Bill.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
It may be advisable if at this stage I clear up a misapprehension which appears to be in the minds of some hon. Members. The Amendment does not deal with those matters which so far have been under discussion. The conditions to which the Amendment refers are the ordinary conditions which are arranged between the Treasury and the Department in connection with all housing Acts, and which are in the nature of a formal understanding on matters which are not of primary importance from the point of view of Members of this House. It would be an entirely new procedure in housing finance if this particular Amendment were adopted.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
It has been customary in almost all our post-War Acts of Parliament that the financial contributions which the Minister makes are made under conditions which are determined with the approval of the Treasury, and the only conditions which are peculiar to this Bill, as compared with previous Acts of Parliament, are, first, that the houses are to be let to agricultural workers or to persons of the same economic status, and, secondly, that the houses are to be completed by a certain date. These, however, are not the matters in which Members are really interested. Their primary interest is in the cost of the house and the rent of the house, and in the test of poverty which is to be applied. The right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) has shown a solicitous interest in me which I welcome very much indeed. It is good to know that the right hon. Gentleman cares so much about the work I am doing and about my standing in the House that he wants to be quite sure that I do not make any serious mistakes. He pats me on the head like a father patting his child and from the great heights of his longer experience tries to prevent me doing anything which may be injurious to mo. On the other hand, there may be a desire to cripple me in a way which none of my predecessors have been crippled. That may have been his motive. I do not know, but I assume that his earnest and fervent desire is to 270 keep me in the path of rectitude. He wishes to specify in detail the conditions which should apply, and he wants to see them in the Bill itself.
The right hon. Gentleman accused me of having made indefinite statements about these general directions. The language of an order could not be more specific than the language that I use about the general directions, and it does not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to accuse me of making indefinite statements, because I have heard a good many from him in my time in this House. The difficulty, when you lay down conditions so tightly drawn in an Act of Parliament, is that if you do wish in detail to amend them, you cannot do it without reference to Parliament and without further legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the cost of £350. I have explained that houses have already been built for less than that sum, and I hope that many more will be built for less. But you must have some guiding figure, and you must put it at a level which will not rule out the kind of case that might be envisaged. It may be that in parts of Scotland, where transport charges are very heavy indeed, the houses will cost £355. Are such houses to be ruled out because there is a Schedule in the Bill which shows that the cost is £5 higher than the Schedule terms? Obviously that would not be fair. Yet if you put that figure of £350 into the Bill, however hard the circumstances may be of certain rural areas, particularly in Scotland, if the houses cost more than that figure because of exceptional circumstances, they are to be ruled out.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the question of rent, 4s. 6d. is a guide rather than a final figure. As a matter of fact there are houses being let to-day, publicly assisted houses, where with rent and rates the charge on the tenant is less than 4s. 6d. Again I hope there will be far more of those rentals. But if there be areas where that rent can be paid—there are areas to-day where more than that rent is being paid by agricultural workers, a good many of them—there is no reason why they should not come up to that figure. It is not that £350 or 4s. 6d. is a definite normal standard. Both figures are intended as the maximum in the ordinary case, but if 271 you put a figure in the Bill, then under no circumstances can you approve any case of building where those conditions are not exactly fulfilled, however great the need might be.
We have been told that the rent ought to be 3s. a week. Well and good. I am not without hope that in some areas we may be able to get down to that figure. A good deal depends on the level of rates. The level of rates is not a responsibility of mine, but a responsibility of the Parliament that de-rated agricultural land. I cannot help that. The rates do vary and rents may vary, but I am satisfied that the 4s. 6d. is a relatively high figure, and that a good many houses may be built where the rent will be much lower than that. It may be true that 4s. 6d. is too high a rent to meet the real need of the agricultural worker. I am only saying that I happen to be the first person to try to get the rents down to that kind of figure, and for that I think we deserve a little credit.
Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the 1d. rate and the 5d. per head of population, and he talked about the formula. We heard a great deal about a formula in the late Parliament, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made many speeches about it. I made some myself. But my formula is at least a simple formula that the ordinary man in the street can understand. It is not in the least bit like the formula which was foisted on an unwilling country by the late Government. A 1d. rate yielding 5d. per head of the population is a formula, it is true, but it is perfectly simple, and, combined with the level of rates, does provide a reasonable test of poverty. But, as I pointed out on the Financial Resolution and on the Second Reading of this Bill, if you apply your poverty test stringently you may rule out the cases of hardship to which reference has been made in this House. As the Schedule is drawn a good many of these cases would, as a matter of fact, be outside the operation of this scheme.
There is the case to which I have referred, where the general rate is less than 10s. but where there are high special rates. In cases like that you want a little latitude to deal with the situation, because that is an element that deter- 272 mines the poverty of a particular area. There is the case of the local authority which cannot satisfy the test about the 5d. per head; but if it were made rigid and the local authority could only build on such conditions that the burden falling on the authority would become considerably in excess of the authority's normal contribution of £3 15s. per year, it would not do. In that case it is desirable that you should say, "Well, you may pay the £3 15s. You cannot pay any more. We want to be in a position to give you some assistance in order to limit the amount of your contribution to the normal amount of £3 15s." In those two classes of cases the hard and fast Schedule suggested by the right hon. Gentleman would not meet the situation, and cases of that kind would be excluded.
The right hon. Gentleman reminded the Committee of the words that I used about its being necessary to make slight adjustments, and he said, wagging his forefinger, that he hoped these were not meant to be major adjustments. It is quite certain that one could not make major adjustments in this Bill, that is to say, very substantial changes in the conditions, without coming to the House, and no Minister would ever dream of departing in principle from an Act of Parliament without consulting the House of Commons before he did it. The only reason for flexibility is that we are dealing in a new way with a problem, and it may be that adjustments will be needed.
Let me deal with one or two other points that have been raised. The right hon. Member for West Woolwich referred to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It may be that when I spoke of his county I was thinking of the county in which he appears to live most of the year, and that he was thinking of the county in which he was born and where no doubt he keeps his heart. There is all the difference between Survey and Carnarvon, and I still say that in the case of rich counties like Surrey, where the resources of local authorities are very substantial, there is not the same urgency for financial help from the State as there is in the county of Carnarvon.
§ Viscount WOLMER
What will the Minister do in those areas where the agricultural labourers have not got houses?
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I will deal with that subject in a moment. I was asked by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery) about the difficulty of the subsidy being confined to distressed rural districts, and of the volume of unemployment in certain areas, and the difficulties of the poverty qualification. That is a problem which I have not created. If a local area is impoverished and fulfils the general conditions which we have proposed, then of course it will get assistance, but if it is one of those semi-industrialised or semi-urbanised areas, it has resources, and I see no reason why we should be called upon out of this fund to provide rural cottages. Such an area is likely to be able to deal with the problem itself.
§ Mr. ALBERY
My point was not that you are providing cottages for a council. That is not the object. You are trying to provide cottages for the workers, and the most useful thing is to provide them in a district where men can get employment.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
This is not a scheme to provide houses for people where they can go and get work. It is a scheme to provide rural cottages so as to keep rural workers on the land in the rural areas.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The hon. Member is arriving at the position that in the rural areas there is really a shortage of employment and a surplus of houses. I understand the argument he was using, but it is one with which I do not agree. As to the position to-day in agricultural areas, the general view is that there is a need of new houses for the agricultural population which is still employed on the land. We have had references to the Housing (Rural Workers) Act of 1926, and a suggestion is made which has been made before but is astonishing. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd) says that because of speeches I have made and because of speeches of others on this side, his local authorities are so terrified that they have done nothing under the 1926 Act. I never believed that I should have had so much influence on the action of the authorities. If the local authorities had used the Housing 274 Act of 1926 to the full and had reconditioned "very rural cottage that could be reconditioned, they would still be left with a problem of building a certain number of new cottages in the rural areas. Therefore that argument is quite irrelevant during this discussion.
The Noble Lord raised the case of those authorities which are partly industrialised, that have resources and do not use their powers. He suggested that the great shortage is not in the truly rural areas. That is a matter of opinion. It may be true or not. It is true, of course, as I said during the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution, that the drive from the towns to the country has increased the pressure on the housing accommodation in the rural areas. I am not objecting to the week-ender; the more people can get out of London for the week-end the better for themselves and for London. But it has increased the pressure on the housing accommodation available. That problem, of course, is on the whole confined to the areas within easy reach of the big centres of population.
In so far as the week-ender has come and a place has become suburbanised, there are the default powers with which to deal with the problem. Local authorities may not like to have to provide cottages for the less fortunate of the people, but it is very necessary that they should do so, and in those cases I think the default powers will have to be used. The default powers are powers which ought not to be used without careful thought, and they ought not to be used on all local authorities up and down the country, but those powers are there to be used and will be used in the cases of local authorities who have resources and yet who flout the will of Parliament, because there is not the slightest doubt as to the desire of the House of Commons to deal with this problem.
The Noble Lord says that you may get what he called the case of "marginal" rural district councils. Last winter I administered £440,000 worth of public expenditure on schemes of work for the distressed areas, all the money being provided by the State and not a penny by local authorities, under conditions laid down by me without any right of the local authorities to avoid those conditions. There were borderland cases and 275 there were difficulties, but that money was spent and that work was carried out with practically no friction at all. If you define your conditions and the local authorities cannot fulfil them and they are not the kind of borderland cases that the House has in mind, I see no difficulty in keeping a stiff upper lip against them. Where you get your borderland cases, it may be that you are in an area in which a number of agricultural parishes will become eligible for the special subsidy. In so far as there are within this area of a rural district council agricultural parishes that do get a much higher subsidy, then, clearly, the rural district council is in a much better position to deal with these marginal cases, which fall outside this scheme, from its ordinary resources.
The Noble Lord ended on the note of the Minister's marching orders from which I assume that the party opposite desire to give me marching orders which are so tightly drawn that in no circumstances can they be altered. I submit that that is an unreasonable demand to make. It is prefectly true that, if you are going to spend this money, the House is entitled to know the general conditions under which it is to be distributed, but I think, for reasons which I have explained, that it would be unwise and not in the interests of rural housing if we were to define in the Bill—in the Schedule—the precise conditions which will have to apply, because no departure would then be possible except at the cost of further legislation. But I am prepared to consider, and, indeed, to move an Amendment at the appropriate point in Clause 1, to provide that we should proceed by Order and to lay the Order before the House with an opportunity for debate. That, I think, is reasonable, and to that extent I am prepared to go. But I would ask the Committee not to fetter me and not to hold up under this procedure, and even more by a later Amendment, the application of this Measure to housing in rural areas. I hope the Committee will accept the proposal that the Order shall be laid before the House of Commons with opportunities for debate, and, if so, I shall be very glad indeed to move that Amendment.
§ Mr. HASLAM
Do we understand from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that, 276 in those rural districts where they are required, a serious attempt will be made to produce houses for the rural worker at a rent of 3s. a week?
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The whole object of the scheme is to provide for the agricultural worker the cheapest cottage we can provide, and we say that we will keep down the cost as low as possible, and that, in cases of hardship, we will meet 100 per cent. of the loss. We can do no more.
§ Major ELLIOT
The Minister has made an important pronouncement, and we should like very much to know what the Scottish Minister thinks on the point. We have had no Scottish representative present at all. He has not been here to listen to the pronouncement of the Minister or to the rather astonishing statement that the Minister has been making in regard to Scotland, and, therefore, we are at a loss to know exactly what those statements are and whether he homologates—to use a Scottish word—the statement which the Minister has been making. The Minister's argument is that he objects to any order or regulations or to his hand being tied in any way.
§ Major ELLIOT
If the Minister will cast his mind back to a period where he was criticising the 1923 Act passed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain), he will remember the way in which he strove to tie up the Government with the regulations in the case of that Act. The regulations in regard to Clause 3 were very meticulous.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
That was entirely different. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston got, under the Act of 1923, financial powers which I should never dream of asking for myself.
§ Major ELLIOT
The Minister now is asking for powers to spend £2,000,000, as far as I can make out, entirely unfettered.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
No. I do not want to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but, under the Act of 1923, without any financial limit at all, or any kind of direction to be laid before the House, the Minister of Health specified 277 absolutely as to how that money was to be distributed to private builders. I have never asked for that.
§ Major ELLIOT
Really, the Minister seems not to remember the case or else to have utterly inverted in his mind the conditions under which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston got his money. This House laid down most prudently, the houses for which that money was to be spent—the size of the houses and the area of the houses. Everybody remembers those Debates except the Minister of Health. The Minister, in his Opposition days, was all for tying the hands of the Government of the day, and now he says: "Well, other Governments are not to be trusted, but my Government is to be trusted." [Interruption.] Let me take the policy of his Government as put in his own official report in regard to the very question of rents which we are now discussing. I have here the official report of his Government on the subject of rents, and it says, in regard to houses in rural areas in Scotland:The powers of the Department to secure the provision of houses where these are shown to be required are explicit, and having regard to the higher rate of subsidy available in rural areas the Department cannot accept such pleas as high building costs and low rents as good reasons for inaction in those areas. The adoption of simpler plans suited to conditions where fresh air and open spaces abound will lower costs; the low rents paid for existing defective houses are not always a true criterion of what the tenants will pay if provided with a good house. Experience has shown that new houses built to replace insanitary houses can be let at considerably higher rents.That is the official Government policy, and we desire some further assurance on that policy. Are higher rents the policy of the Government?
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Lady says "Oh, really," but can she get any other meaning out of the words "at considerably higher rents" than that the Minister intends, if houses are not built by a particular local authority, to put into operation these powers of default and to say: "You can get higher rents and you must, and shall, get higher rents for these houses."? There is the policy of the Government laid down. The words 278 "considerably higher rents" are the policy of the Government as it stands in their own official report, and we are entitled to know if that is the obiter dicta of the Minister. The Minister's position has been, as we understand it, that he accepted the Tudor Walters' position that these houses could be built for the sum of £300, and the hon. Member opposite was saying that they should be built for a lower figure. Now the Minister is talking about houses to be built at a cost of £500, which is the new limit which the Minister proposes. Does the Minister wonder that, when the right hon. Gentleman who is supposed to be the sole and only begetter of this Bill talks about houses being built at £300, and then the Minister gives a figure of £500, that we desire to have some greater accuracy and to take the words of the Statute and not the speeches of the Minister.
The Minister has said that these are to be exceptional cases. What area will not be able to prove that it is dealing with exceptional cases 1 The right hon. Gentleman says that this applies, in particular, to certain regions in Scotland, but there are regions in Wales which can make just as strong a case. The whole finance of the scheme has been abandoned. Therefore, when the Minister is talking of houses running up to £500—[Interruption]. I am only quoting the Minister's own words. The £500 was the Minister's statement and not ours. [Interruption.] The Minister will not deny that £500 was the figure mentioned. [Interruption.] It is no use the Parliamentary Secretary shaking her head. If the Minister shakes his head it is a different matter. Will the Minister deny that not 20 minutes ago he used the figure of £500?
§ Major ELLIOT
I am perfectly willing to put my recollection against the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] The Minister stated that in Scotland the price of houses might go up as high as £500.
§ Major ELLIOT
Of course, if the Minister assures me that he did not use that figure, I will accept his statement.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The hon. and gallant Member is really putting into my mouth words which I never used. I spoke of Scotland without mentioning the cost of housing in Scotland. I referred to a house costing £355 instead of £350 and being ruled out because of the extra £5. I am within the recollection of the Committee.
§ Major ELLIOT
I remember very well the passage which the Minister used, but I was distinctly under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman also used the illustration of a house running up to £500. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If the Minister did not use it, then I am perfectly willing to withdraw my statement, and I can go no further than that. But I do say that the whole of the Minister's argument has been in favour of a continuance of the vague and indefinite statements which he used in his speeches on the Bill rather than any phrase in a Statute. The Minister's whole argument has been that limitations are wrong, though that is directly contrary to his argument when he was fighting another Bill with regard to the size of houses for which a subsidy was to be given, in 1923. When the Minister takes a figure of £355 I am in a difficulty because there is no Scottish Minister present, but I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland would not deny that there are areas in Scotland where a house will cost at least £500 and that allowances to be given for one area will inevitably have to be given for others. You will thus embark upon what the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has described as the slippery slope of the marginal cases which all Scottish Members and Members in all parts of the Committee fought most keenly to avoid in the case of floor space under the Act of 1923.
Surely, the case for elasticity then in that case was as great as the case for elasticity is here, and yet the right hon. Gentleman then insisted on having written into the Statute the conditions upon which the Minister was to pay the subsidy and insisted that the elasticity was to be within the limits laid down by the House of Commons. The Minister now asks that that elasticity should not hold in his case, but that it should be spread wider than ever before, and he 280 supports that plea by arguments which would justify the removal of restrictions in every case in which a demand is made that a definite limit should be written into any Bill of this kind. The Minister's proposal remains. The phrases of the Minister in his speeches have no effect on limits laid down by Statute, and the proposal of the Minister to deal with the subject by regulation or order involves the desirability of giving the House of Commons an indication before hand of the lines upon which discussion is to take place when the order is finally laid before the House. If the Minister desires to proceed by taking the House of Commons along with him, it is urgently necessary that he should give the House of Commons some indication beforehand of the lines on which the discussion will proceed. The right hon. Gentleman is anxious that we should not spend too much solicitude upon his health or reputation, but I suggest, for his own sake, that he will find it, administratively, very desirable to give the House of Commons some such indication, otherwise we shall be enmeshed in administrative arguments making it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to proceed with the task with which he desires to get ahead, namely, the building of these rural houses.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
The Minister suggested in one part of his speech that this Amendment meant the adoption of an entirely new procedure, and I must confess that as a humble private Member I was rather startled to hear him say that in connection with other financial matters in relation to housing, conditions had been arranged on a formal basis as between the Ministry and the Treasury, and were not of importance to Members of the House. If that be so, I think it opportune that somebody should call the attention of the Committee to one of the important functions of the House of Commons, namely, the attempt—not an easy task—to regain some of the financial control which people in this country expect the House of Commons to assume. I commend this Amendment on the ground that at any rate it gives the House of Commons an opportunity of laying down the conditions upon which public money is to be expended. Under the Bill, the Minister of Health, on the recommendation of a committee appointed by him, 281 with the approval of the Treasury, is to be authorised to make special contributions towards the expense of rural housing. It seems not to be sound policy that this matter should be delegated to a committee which has no direct responsibility to the House of Commons.
There is another important matter which seems to have escaped the notice of hon. Members, arising out of the dreadful habit of legislating by reference. I am not quite sure whether, even yet, hon. Members appreciate the fact that we are really discussing sums of £250 in some cases and £268 in other cases, in respect of each house costing £350. The Minister said that it was not right that his hands should be tied too tightly in matter of this sort, and in ordinary circumstances it is quite right that there should be a certain amount of latitude, but here we are laying down, not an expenditure of £50 a house, but an expenditure of £250 and in some cases £268 towards each house costing £350. The claim has been made that this is the first attempt to provide rural houses at a rent within the capacity of the rural worker. With great respect, may I say that that is not so? In the 1924 Act special provision was made for rural housing because of the admitted increase in cost, and the additional difficulty which occupiers had in paying what would ordinarily be regarded as an economic rent. We had better face the fact that we are dealing with subsidies here, and since we are dealing with subsidies, surely the House of Commons ought to lay down the conditions on which the subsidy is to be granted.
In the case of the 1924 Act the subsidy amounted to £200. In 1926 we had the Rural Workers Act which was again an attempt to improve the conditions of rural housing, and, again in 1930, we had a Housing Act which provided for an additional £18 from county councils in respect of houses for agricultural workers. Now we are asked to pay another subsidy of £50. We are saying to these rural authorities, "In 1924 we offered you £200. In 1930 we gave you the option of having another £18. You did not build the houses as quickly as we thought you ought to build them and now we are offering you another £50, which makes a total of £268." If the House of Commons is going to expend public money to the extent of £268 in respect 282 of a house which the Minister says ought to cost not more than £350, then we ought to lay down specifically and definitely the conditions on which that subsidy is to be given. It is true that the Minister said' there would be cases where a house, for example, might cost £355, but it is up to the local authority to make arrangements for finding the difference and bringing the cost of the house down to £350.
I am not sure that I like all the suggestions embodied in the proposed Schedule. It is true that they have been taken from the Minister himself and, to that extent, they ought to be regarded as acceptable by him, but speaking for myself I am not sure as to all these conditions. The hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) asked a pertinent question on this subject from the Minister of Health. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to givedetailed calculations showing the net rent at which a house costing, all in, £350 can be let in an agricultural parish if built to-day under the 1924 Housing Act, and if given an additional subsidy of a present capital value of £50."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1931; col. 2253, Vol. 254.]The Minister in his reply expressed the hope that the rents could be less than 3s. 2d. When he introduced the Money Resolution the rent which he then mentioned was 3s. or 3s. 6d.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
Then when we came to the Second Reading of the Bill it was quite obvious that in the meantime the Minister had recognised the fact that a very important question was involved as regards rates, and we got to an inclusive figure of 4s. 6d. It is very important to the agricultural worker that he should know his total liability. It is no use saying to him, "You can have a house for 3s. and rates," if he then finds that he has to pay a much larger sum in rates than he anticipated. The Minister is to be commended upon making that change and bringing in an inclusive rate. To get back however to the answer which he gave to the hon. Member for Withington in the case of an additional subsidy of a capital value of £50, the Minister said that taking loan charges over a period of 60 years—not 40 years, as in the Financial Memorandum—and taking re- 283 pairs, contribution under the 1924 Act and the subsidy, the rent, before allowing for the equivalent of any rate contribution, would be 3s. 2d. Thus we have it officially that on the basis of a capital sum repayable over 60 years the rent would be 3s. 2d. I am not very much in favour of fixing a rent in the Bill in terms of a definite sum. I think that the rent ought to have some bearing on the agricultural wages. We have an Agricultural Wages Board under Act of Parliament and rent should be a percentage of the wages. The Minister said he would be prepared to move an Amendment at the end of the Schedule giving the House of Commons an opportunity of considering any orders made. I hope that, having regard to the very large sums involved in, this expenditure, the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to go further, and that the House will lay down the conditions on which this money is to be granted.
§ Mr. MARCH
I support the Minister in the attitude which he took in the statement that he has made. For the last two years the Members on the other side of the Committee have continually asked the Government what they are going to do for rural workers. Now that the Minister has tried to do something for them, all this opposition is being brought up against the Bill. We are told that we must have a rent that the agricultural worker can pay. I agree, but then the farmers will take advantage of it by reducing their wages. I want the Minister to make sure that he will see that the local authorities in the rural parishes build houses with the ordinary amenities. I should like to see the houses which are let at 1s. and 2s. a week to which hon. Members have referred, I have seen some rural houses during the last month. I was at East Hanningfield, South Hanningfield and West Hanningfield in Essex last Sunday, where I went to see a man who had moved from Poplar to have a smallholding. There are houses in those places with no sanitary accommodation, and the landlord has the impudence to collect rent for them. The people ought to be paid to live in them. I presume that that is what the shilling-a-week cottages are like.
284 If there are no proper sanitary arrangements and no water supply, the tenants often have to go a quarter of a mile to fetch water from a running stream. How nice and handy that is! I should like to see some hon. Members opposite having to go a quarter of a mile on Sunday before they can get a cup of tea. [Interruption.] But you say that that is suitable for agricultural workers. I say that it is not suitable. The agricultural workers in many of our rural parishes are housed worse than the governor's dogs or pigs. I went to a cottage in Graveley, not far from Stevenage. The backyard was not bigger than half the size of the Table in this Chamber, and there was no water or sanitary convenience. I hope that in the cottages for which the Minister will be responsible will have proper conveniences and amenities so as to avoid a lot of labour for the agricultural workers and their wives. I hope that the Minister will stick out for his price in the building of these cottages, for many of those that I saw last Sunday could never have cost £100 to build. I went into one place where the people could not use the upstairs rooms because they were afraid of the staircase. That is what they call cottages for agricultural workers. I want to see the Minister carry out this Bill so that houses which will be useful to the workers can be built. Rural workers will be glad to know that they have at last someone who will look after the amenities of their existence.
§ Mr. KEDWARD
I am against any fixed rent being put into the Bill, but I was very perturbed when the Minister mentioned that no rural parish will get help unless the rates exceed 10s. I have discussed it with my friends, and there is not a single agricultural parish which will come in under such a regulation. In rural parishes where there is no sewage scheme or water supply or any amenities, the rate cannot go up beyond 10s., and yet all these will be cut out. The rates in many of the rural parishes range from 5s. to 7s., and I do not know where the parishes are that are to be helped if you lay it down that the rate is to exceed 10s. before they can get any benefit at all. In 1931, owing to the fact that the county councils took over most of the highways and the burden of the Poor 285 Law, the rates in the rural parishes have dropped, and I hope that the Minister will not impose such restrictions as will cut out half the rural areas in England. Some of the most needy and some of those which are crying out for houses will be cut out, and if anything like that goes into this Bill, it will be a cumbersome and footling Measure which is not worth the time that the House is spending on it.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I was interested in what the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) said about providing houses with up-to-date requirements in rural areas. That means that rural areas that have no water supply will have to get a supply, and where they have no drainage scheme they will have to get one. With regard to the conditions referred to in the words which this Amendment proposes to leave out, what conditions does the Minister think he would apply on the recommendations of the Committee? If an area has put in a drainage scheme, it is liable for a drainage rate. In Scotland there are large areas with no drainage rates because there is on drainage scheme, and with no water rates because there is no water scheme. A water rate may be anything from 2s. 10d. to 3s. in the £, and the drainage rate 2s. in the £, so that if these schemes are carried out, you at once put up the rate by 5s. in the £. As the rates are paid half by the owner and half by the occupier, what effect will that have on the rental of the house?
If the rent is fixed at 4s. 6d., and another 2s. a week is put on in bringing the areas up to the standard of urban areas, I should like the Minister to tell us under what conditions, if he does not adopt this Amendment, he would take a recommendation from the committee under this Clause. The Minister said that we are asking him for an entirely new procedure here. I do not see any new departure in this Bill. It savours of the Addison Scheme, which provided money from the State and a penny in the £ or four-fifths of a penny in the £ from the locality. There is nothing new in it, and in asking him to drop these words, and to make a definite contribution to those areas that require it on the recommendation of the committee, we are asking him to do something that is only fair. The limit of the rate seems rather a big and complicated question; 286 but under what conditions will the Minister make a grant to these areas under Clause 1?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I would not have intervened had I not heard from the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Kedward) for the first time of one of the conditions which the Minister intends to impose before a grant is given by the Government. As I understand it, he does not propose to give any grant or subsidy for the building of any of these rural houses unless the poundage for the general rate levied for the year 1930 exceeds 9s. in the £. I should like to ask the Minister if that is true. If it is true, he can take it from me that this Bill will be absolutely useless for any of the parishes that I know in Scotland. Apparently, according to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, it will be the same in the parishes of Kent. I do not know who induced the right hon. Gentleman to put in a condition of this kind. I agree that the attitude he has generally adopted is right, and that there should be a certain amount of flexibility. I am quite against putting into the Bill conditions which it would be difficult to get altered, and I am alarmed at his intention of imposing a condition of this kind. If the right hon. Gentleman is genuinely anxious to improve the housing conditions in the rural districts, he will never do it by imposing such a condition, because he will never get unto the rural parishes which are genuinely affected. I would not like the Division to take place without knowing whether the right hon. Gentleman intends to insist on these conditions. If he does, he can take it from me—and I speak for Members of rural constituencies in all parts of the country—that this condition will absolutely rum the prospects of the Bill.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Westwood)
Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that in his own constituency, if a 10s. rate limit were applied to the benefit under this Bill—
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
May I draw his attention to the fact that in Ross and Cromarty rates vary from 10s. 9.92d. to 14s. 0.64d.? In the case of Scotland it will only be an 8s. rate, as against a 10s. rate in England, as there is a different 287 system of rating in England. If my information is correct, every area in Ross-shire will come in.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My information was quite the reverse. It was that the general rate throughout Scotland was about 9s. or 9s. 6d.—just under the 10s. If the information the hon. Member has given me now is true, I cannot complain so far as my constituency is concerned: but I am bound to accept the statements made by hon. Members representing rural constituencies in other parts of the country. In many rural parishes the rates are less than 10s., and if that is true the conditions imposed under this Bill will make it worse than useless.
§ Sir K. WOOD
We have had a useful and interesting discussion, because it has become clear that the Committee are in favour of the conditions and directions being made plain and certain, so as to avoid any misunderstanding. What difficulties may arise have been seen in what followed the preliminary statement of the Minister. Every Member at once inquired whether the areas in his constituency will be able to comply with the test as defined by the Minister, and where the areas do not comply then hon. Members have been up in arms and threaten the Minister with all sorts of consequences. As I told the Committee at the beginning of this Debate, the example of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will be followed by every Member unless the conditions and stipulations laid down are made perfectly plain. It was with the object of securing that object that I moved this Amendment, though I am not particular how it is achieved. I want to secure that Parliament shall have an opportunity of seeing the conditions and directions and of having an opportunity to challenge them if necessary.
That would meet the point of the hon. Members who have spoken from the Liberal benches, who, I may observe in passing, do not seem so pleased with this effort of the Government as they did at first sight. Seeing that the mainspring of this Measure came from the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, it is a little sad to see that it has produced such an unfortunate controversy between the two bodies who are propping up the 288 Government. At the end of his speech the Minister made an offer. He said he would lay before the House the directions which he proposed to give to the committee, and that, by means of an Amendment which he would move, an opportunity should be afforded to challenge the directions which he would give to the committee. I think that is an advance, but, as I have pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman, we want an opportunity to challenge not only the directions but the conditions. The words "conditions and directions" are both mentioned in the Bill, and the complaint of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Kedward) was largely directed to the conditions, and therefore we should have an opportunity of reviewing both directions and conditions. It may be that such a review will not be desired by the House, although there does not seem very much prospect of it. However, I understand the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to meet us to that extent. I admit that there are inconveniences in seeking to put these conditions into an Act of Parliament, and I agree that there must be a certain amount of flexibility, which can be secured by Regulations but would be difficult in an Act of Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman will give us an undertaking to move an Amendment which will cover directions and conditions I will not press my Amendment, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip) will not move his two Amendments dealing with Regulations.
There is one matter outstanding. I want it to be perfectly clear that the Minister of Health will make these regulations and directions at once. For instance, if we were able to leave this Bill in such a satisfactory condition to-day that there was no necessity to deal with it further on Report stage on Thursday, and if there was some measure of general agreement as to what could be done in another place I want the right hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance that these directions and conditions will be laid at once, so that, if necessary, we can immediately challenge them. I want the right hon. Gentleman to undertake to do that if there is a possibility of the legislation passing early and before we rise for the Summer Recess. If the right hon. Gentleman will agree to 289 that it will relieve us of a considerable amount of discussion, and add to the value and usefulness of the Bill.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I have been asked to give an assurance on the two points. The one point I propose to deal with by moving a new sub-section. As to the second point, I cannot forecast what may happen in another place. The right hon. Gentleman has greater influence there than I have, but if it is possible to have the Order laid before the Summer Recess I shall be very glad, though I cannot give a firm undertaking on that point, because of the proceedings in another place.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that the Minister shall not make any special contribution in respect of any rural district council unless he is satisfied that such council has taken steps to obtain the assistance provided by any previous enactment relating to the housing of rural workers and is, notwithstanding the assistance (if any) thus obtained, unable to provide adequate housing accommodation in the agricultural parishes of their district for such persons as are mentioned in this Sub-section.This Amendment is necessary on the grounds not only of economy but also of common sense. We are proposing to spend very large sums of public money on a very excellent object, and we ought to be sure that it is expended to the best possible advantage, and in the districts where it is most necessary. If any rural district council has been so remiss as not to avail itself of previous Acts of Parliament which offered assistance in the matter of housing rural workers the Minister ought to refuse the special grant under this Bill until he is satisfied that it has made full use of those other facilities. I do not mind confiding to the Committee that I had in mind chiefly the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, 1926, and I propose to say a few words on that subject, but this Amendment is not confined to that Act, applying also to the Act of 1930, the Act, of 1924 and the Conservative Housing Acts. The point for which I am contending is that before a local authority comes cap in hand for 290 this extra "dole" from the nation it ought to satisfy the Minister that it has already taken advantage of the various other Housing Acts.
How far this procedure is applicable to what might be done by local authorities under the Act of 1930 I would not care to dogmatise, in front of the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a much greater authority on that point than I am; but in the case of that Act even she might be able to think of directions in which this Amendment would be useful.
In the case of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, 1926, I am sure this Amendment is very necessary. That Act started under the great disadvantage that it was treated by hon. Members opposite and members of the Liberal party, and their supporters in the country, as a burning party question They did not treat it as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) has treated this Bill, as a non-party question. They fought it bitterly, and they made very violent speeches against it. The Minister for Health says that he is surprised to discover how much influence is ascribed to the violent speeches which he made in this House, but it is not the speeches that the Minister of Health made during the passage of the Bill that were directly responsible for the damage. What did present a very formidable difficulty against the smooth working of that Act was the fact that Liberal and Socialist members of local authorities—
I would remind the Noble Lord that the purpose of this Amendment is to limit the assistance to be given under this Bill to those local authorities who have availed themselves of existing housing enactments, but that does not entitle him to discuss at length the provisions of those enactments.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I submit that what I was saying was strictly in order. I was trying to point out that the Act of 1926 has never been properly worked in certain rural districts, and to explain to the Committee what I think is the reason for a very unfortunate result. The reason was, that that Act, I think quite unnecessarily, came into the cockpit of party politics, and was opposed as a matter of party politics by Socialists and Liberals in a 291 great many local authorities all over the country. The result is that those local authorities, not because of speeches which the present Minister of Health made in the House of Commons, but because of action taken in the local councils, have never worked that Act in the way that it was intended they should work it, and before we give those local authorities any more rural housing Acts, we ought to see that they take full advantage of the Acts that we have passed so recently, not only in the interests of the taxpayers but in the interests of the agricultural labourers themselves.
This Bill can only offer to the agricultural labourer, on an average, cottages which are to cost something in the neighbourhood of 4s. 6d. per week. That is what the Minister is aiming at. He explained that he did not wish to be tied down to any maximum or minimum figure, because the circumstances in different localities necessarily varied. The figure which he is aiming at—we recognise that he will be pleased if he can do it substantially cheaper—and which he himself has given us, is in the neighbourhood of 4s. 6d. a week. That is a very high minimum for agricultural workers in many parts of the country. Take the case of a man in Suffolk, where agricultural wages have fallen to 28s. per week. That is the fact you have to deal with, 28s. per week. A man with a wife and family is unable to afford a rent of anything like 4s. 6d. per week. In many cases, these men are only able to exist because they are paying rents of 1s. or 1s. 6d. per week for their cottages. Hon. Members have said that in a great many cases these cottages are very insanitary, are not really fit for human habitation, and are a disgrace. That is exactly the point of the Act of 1926. If you spend £100 in getting these houses healthy and sanitary, so that they may be let to the agricultural labourer at say 1s. 9d. or 2s. per week, you will be giving him something which will benefit him much more than a brand new house at 4s. 6d., which he cannot by any possibility afford.
The Minister of Health ought to use this Bill as a lever to insist that local authorities, wherever they can, put the Act of 1926 into operation. I am not at the present moment discussing cottages which are past repair. I admit that 292 there are a certain number of those, and the sooner they are pulled down the better. That is not true of the great majority. There is a very high percentage of agricultural cottages, let at very low rents, which can be made healthy and comfortable for a good deal less expenditure than it costs to build a new house. It is more economical and sensible to put a house which is healthy and comfortable within the reach of the agricultural labourer at a rent which he can afford, than anything you are able to offer him under this Bill. I hope very much that the Minister will accept this Amendment and that, in the administration of this Bill, he will adopt the policy that I have outlined. I would like to make a further appeal. I am quite sure that, in a great many cases, homes can actually be made more comfortable than new cottages would be. Poor people, just as much as the rich, are fond of their homes, and do not want to be turned out of them, if those homes can be put in a proper state of sanitation. They are fond of the places where they have lived all their lives, and which are infinitely more beautiful, in many cases, than a new house. It is a great mistake to think that working men do not appreciate beauty. They do, and just as much as anybody else, and to foist an ugly new house upon them, when beautiful old houses can be comfortable and healthy, is an insult. It all depends how far the old house is capable of repair, but I believe that my suggestion will affect the great majority of them. That is the policy upon which we ought to insist.
In view of the fact that the present Government have had to renew the Act of 1926, I sincerely hope that that Act will be in future entirely removed from the cockpit of party politics. This is a golden opportunity for the Government to show us that they do intend to work that Act properly, and to enforce it. I hope that where a local authority refuses to work that Act, the Government will see that it is a mistake to allow them to spend double the money on building a fewer number of houses to be let at rents which agricultural labourers cannot afford, and that the Government will say that those authorities will receive no assistance from this or any other Government till they have done what the Act of 1926 enabled them to do, that is, put 293 existing houses into a decent state of repair.
§ Captain CAZALET
I want to support the Amendment moved by my Noble Friend. We do not want this Bill to be used by certain local authorities as an excuse for getting out of their existing responsibilities. It is possible that some local authorities who have not done their duty under the 1926 Act will say, "We need not bother about it any more. We will apply under this new Act." Then they will be given fresh money by the generosity of the Minister of Health and, so far as they are concerned, the Act of 1926 will become nothing better than a dead letter. This Amendment will help the Minister. Apart from getting houses built, we ought to want to get houses built in the right district and see that the right people get into them. This Amendment will permit both those objects.
The Minister of Health the other night claimed credit for himself and his party. He said that they had made the 1926 Act more effective during the last two years than it was under the Conservative regime some years ago. We need not quarrel with him over that. The object is to get these houses improved, and we are as glad as anybody to see that more notice has been taken of the 1926 Act during the past few years, and that more rural houses have been improved. In some localities, the actual owners of the houses are not in an economic position to put even the 1926 Act into operation. No doubt the Minister will take that fact into consideration. Where local authorities have been determined to put the 1926 Act into operation, it has been of great benefit to the rural workers in the area. We believe that if this Amendment is included in the Bill, it will constitute a spur and an encouragement to local authorities further to extend the operation of the 1926 Act, thereby achieving the object that we desire, of bettering housing conditions for rural workers.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I also desire to support the Amendment. I want this Bill, when it is placed upon the Statute Book, to become supplementary, and not merely instead of the other Acts already on the Statute Book. We are calculating for 40,000 houses. Applications will 294 be received from at least 10,000 rural parishes, which will average four houses to a parish. That will not be by any means sufficient to meet the need for rural houses. Unless we make it possible for all the Acts to run together, and not run contrary to each other, we are not going to be successful in dealing with the question of housing rural workers. I should like to point out what has been done under the Act of 1926, in order to show to those hon. Members who were not present during the discussion on Friday last, that it is not a question of merely patching some old broken-down cottages. Speaking in another place, the representative of the Government, Lord Marley, when recommending the passing of the Bill extending the Act of 1926 for a further five years, indicated what had been done under that Act. Lord Marley pointed out that under the Act of 1926 there had been provided the very things for which hon. Members opposite have been asking this afternoon.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) has left the Committee, because I should have liked to inform him of what has been done under the Act of 1926, and then to ask him whether he thought that the authority in the district which he mentioned, where the cottages were in such very bad condition, having had the chance of putting those cottages into the condition which the Act of 1926 would have made possible, should now receive the same consideration as authorities which had really done their duty. As Lord Marley pointed out, the improvements made under the Act of 1926 consist of additional buildings, the putting in of water supplies—the very thing that the hon. Member for South Poplar complained was lacking—the building of sculleries, the putting in of baths and, where possible, w.c.'s, the repair of defective roofs and floors, and doing away where possible with dampness and with poorly constructed or damaged windows.
I do not think a stronger case could be put forward for bringing some pressure-to bear on local authorities to deal with the cottages in their districts under the Acts at present on the Statute Book. With four houses per parish you will not get very far, but, if you have four new houses in a parish plus 20 houses 295 reconditioned under the Act of 1926, that will be something of real value to the rural workers. If the Minister does not accept this Amendment, it will be evident that, although the Government have asked for the addition of another five years to the life of the Act of 1926, they have no real faith in it. I should like to see, in this matter, some drive behind the local authorities from the Ministry itself. The Minister stated that during the last two years there has Been an increase in the number of houses reconditioned, but I feel satisfied that if the Minister, instead of bringing so many Bills before the House on all sorts of subjects, would devote a little more time to driving ahead with the Bills already on the Statute Book, we should have a better record to show as regards housing. I hope that this Amendment will be accepted, because I am satisfied that, if we can get the two Acts running together, we shall make a substantial contribution to the solution of the problem of housing in the rural areas.
§ Mr. HURD
I think that this Amendment is on the right lines. We do not want to encourage inertia; on the contrary, we want to encourage local authorities when they have taken reasonable advantage of the legislation which Parliament has put within their power. I think there is no doubt that the Minister, if he were here, would come to the conclusion that the uses of the Act of 1926 are far more than he imagined when he made his first or his second speech. The Ministry has indicated very strongly in recent times that the Act of 1926 has potentialities of usefulness which he himself never realised, and is only now beginning to understand. I think that that is the feeling of himself, and I hope also of the Parliamentary Secretary, and it is certainly the feeling of those who have been concerned with the direct executive management of the Measure. There is one remark that ought to be made on this Amendment. The Amendment provides that:the Minister shall not make any special contribution in respect of any rural district council unless he is satisfied that such council has taken steps to obtain the assistance provided by any previous enactment.It has to be remembered, however, that the main housing authority under 296 the Act of 1926 is not the rural district council, but the county council. Therefore, the county council would not be touched by the Amendment; all that the Amendment would do would be to provide this stimulus for rural district councils who are working the Act. I think something like one-third of the operation of the Act is in the hands of rural district councils, and two-thirds in the hands of county councils. This Amendment has to be regarded in its limited application. It does not apply to county councils, who are the main housing authorities, but to rural district councils, and in that limited application I think it would be a most useful Amendment, especially in view of the renewal of the Act. It would create a feeling among local authorities who have the Act in operation—I wish they all had—that they ought to make the best of the position which Parliament intended them to occupy, and I think it would be an encouragement, not only to those authorities who have the working of the Act, but to others to cooperate with the county councils in obtaining the fullest possible effects from the Act of 1926.
I have in mind one rural district council in Shropshire which has made a magnificent success of the Act, and another in Wales which has done remarkably well, while the same can be said also of a number of districts in Scotland. But there are counties also which have done well. In the county of Devon, for instance, something like 600 houses have been reconditioned into excellent homes which are much appreciated by the rural workers, and which have cost the county rate less than one-sixth of a penny in the £. That has only been obtained by the hearty co-operation of the rural district councils, the district surveyors, and all those who have intimate local knowledge of each village and hamlet. If this Amendment is accepted, it will encourage that co-operation, and it will encourage rural district councils which have to house the poor to get on with the operation of such Acts as that of 1926, and also to co-operate in those cases where the county councils are the housing authorities. I think that the Committee would do well to accept the Amendment.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Miss Lawrence)
I want, first of all, to dispose of a misapprehension. Hon. Members have repeatedly spoken as if there were a standard rent, and were apparently under the impression that the Minister said so on the Second Reading of the Bill. May I recall to the Committee what the Minister did say on the Second Reading? He said:We have in mind houses at a maximum inclusive rent of 4s. 6d. per week; that is to say, rent, including rates. In some areas it is to be hoped that that sum may be substantially reduced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1931; col. 2443, Vol. 254.]It is a maximum sum of 4s. 6d. a week. I want hon. Members to consider, and I want the rural parishes to consider, how very wide—
§ Viscount WOLMER
Did not the Minister say also that in certain parishes in Scotland the costs might be increased owing to local difficulties?
§ Miss LAWRENCE
But not the rents; that is quite different. I do not know that I ought to answer for Scotland, but if you get a house, say on a moor, where the cost of transport is extortionate, you have to give a great deal more subsidy to that house; but the amount of the subsidy has nothing to do with the rent charged. The rents may be the same, but, where you have a very poor population and conditions of great expense, you would probably have to meet that cost by increasing the subsidy.
§ Mr. HURD
On a point of Order. This is all very interesting, but is it really relevant to the Amendment which we are discussing, the point of which is whether the Minister shall make any contribution in respect of any rural district council unless he is satisfied that such council has taken certain steps?
I think that, if the hon. Member had listened to the Debate, he would have heard it argued that in these areas it would be better to recondition existing houses than to build new houses to let at a rent of 4s. 6d. per week. I understood that the Minister was replying to that argument.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I thought I made it quite clear that our object was to get houses which would let at a maximum inclusive rent of 4s. 6d., and that we hoped 298 to reduce that sum in some areas. I want to remind hon. Members how widely different are the wages of agricultural workers in different parts of the Kingdom. In Suffolk, for instance, the minimum wage fixed by the local agricultural wages board for adult workers is 28s. per week, while in Lancashire it is 41s. Is it unjust to ask from a man whose wages are 41s. a rather higher contribution than from a man whose wages are 28s.? I think I have said enough to correct the mistake that has been made about wages, and enough, in quoting the diversity of wages, to show that a certain elasticity in rents is needed if this Act is to be administered with proper economy and substantial justice to the persons concerned.
The underlying fear in the minds of those who have spoken in favour of this Amendment is as to whether this supplementary Act is going to be a check upon our main housing proposals—whether it is going to induce workers not to apply the Act of 1930 and the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. [Interruption.] That was the argument—that we were giving this assistance in such a way as to discourage local authorities from making an effort of their own. We in the Ministry of Health share that anxiety and interest in the matter, and, if this supplementary Act were to mean that local authorities need not do their duty under the Act of 1930, or as much as they could under the Act of 1926, it would not be a very useful or happy contribution to the question. All these elaborate precautions with which we have hedged the Act around are meant to fence off the people who really cannot do the work from the people who can and will not. As has often been said, we have very strong powers with regard to people who can and will not, because we can build houses and put the cost of them on to the local rates.
I want to make two points. With regard, firstly, to the operation of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, there are large numbers of houses on which no owner would spend £100, or even £20. Although I had had some experience of urban housing when I went to the Ministry, I knew nothing about rural housing, but I have taken the opportunity of learning during the last two years, and I never found myself so really shocked as when 299 I went into some of these bad rural houses. There are, therefore, strict limits to reconditioning.
What does this Amendment say? It says that no authority shall get any money which has not taken steps to avail itself of previous Acts. But the whole point of this Bill is that there are places which are so poor that they cannot do anything. We have instances of places where a penny rate produces £48 for all the purposes of the rural district council, and it is really impossible for the local authorities in those places, without cruelly overburdening their finances, to make any progress with housing. This Amendment applies not only a test of good intentions but a test of richness. If you were to say that no one is to get help unless they have been able to spend money in housing, it would cut out these very poor authorities. With regard to urging local authorities to do their best in this matter, we do that day by day, and we have not been unsuccessful with the Housing (Rural Workers) Act by means of administration. We desire that, under the Acts both of 1926 and of 1930, every local authority that can shall do its best. To say that we are not to help the poor people who cannot help themselves unless they have already helped themselves—and that is what the Amendment says—would be to make the whole Act a silly piece of work which could not stand. [Interruption.] The words mean what they say—Unless "such council has taken steps to obtain the assistance provided." That means unless such council has put the money on to the rates. They cannot take steps to obtain the assistance of the Government unless they have made a very substantial contribution. They have to take steps to obtain assistance under the two contributory Acts.
§ Viscount WOLMER
To the Minister's satisfaction. It places the discretion in the hands of the Minister.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
If it comes to that, it comes to our considering whether the authorities can or will. "Steps to obtain assistance" means passing a resolution to build houses and to put money on to the rates. There is no other way in which you can get the assistance. It means that, or it means nothing. The Amendment really does not go forward 300 at all. I can assure hon. Members that the Minister is alive to the need of helping authorities which help themselves, and who will do their utmost, if necessary, by a full use of their powers.
§ Sir K. WOOD
We shall endeavour to meet you, Mr. Dunnico, by curtailing our discussion as much as possible on these Amendments, but the Parliamentary Secretary's speech was of such a character as to promote discussion. In the first place, I do not think she has read the Amendment, which is rather unfortunate in view of the fact that she has had to reply to it. In her preliminary remarks she dealt with wages and rents, and it will interest many Members to see in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow that she has expressed the opinion that an agricultural labourer with a wage of 41s. a week can well afford to pay a rent of 4s. 6d.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
My recollection is that the hon. Lady said that where there was a wide variation between wages, it was reasonable to expect that a man receiving a higher wage could pay a larger rent, but there were no figures.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. and learned Gentleman is right in the first part of his observations, but the hon. Lady descended to figures. She might have been wiser if she had stopped with that generality.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. and learned Gentleman, perhaps, did not hear the last part of the comparison. It was an endeavour to justify the charging of a rent of 4s. 6d. a week, and people who are in receipt of 41s. wages were given as instances of people who could afford to pay that rent. However, that is not in issue on the Amendment, but it illustrates the difficulty of endeavouring to adjust rents to wages, which is a very perilous course upon which to embark. Directly you begin to charge rents according to wages, you are entering into a sea of trouble and, if that is one of the proposals that are going to emanate from this Bill, it will be even more difficult and dangerous than I at first 301 anticipated. The hon. Lady also assured us that the Government were now quite sympathetic towards the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, that they regarded it as a useful addition to the housing legislation, and were endeavouring to get local authorities to work it as vigorously as possible. The party opposite did not merely say that they disliked the Act and that it was unworkable. They said it was a fraudulent Act. When you use language of that kind, not offering ordinary criticism but saying that money paid under it is paid under false pretences, we are right in pressing very strongly an Amendment of this kind.
All that we are asking the Committee to do is to insert a provision that the Minister shall not make any special contribution in respect of any rural district council unless he is satisfied that it has taken steps to obtain the assistance provided by previous enactments. Obviously, if there was a rural district council which, owing to financial stringency and lack of resources, had not put previous Acts into operation, the Minister would say they could not be expected to put them into operation. But this is a limited sum of money, and we say, Before you give it to a particular rural district council, when there are many other councils which are going to be refused, satisfy yourself that they have been a decent authority so far as housing is concerned because, although we have emphasised the Rural Housing Act, the Amendment is not confined to that Act. It will equally apply to a rural district council which has refused to put into operation the Wheatley Act or the other Act brought in by the Labour administration, although it was able to do so. We say, Do not give them this money until they give an undertaking that they are going to proceed vigorously with other Acts on the Statute Book. There will be a very large number of councils which will be dissatisfied and disappointed, because they will not receive the money under the Conditions laid down, and they will be doubly disappointed and dissatisfied if they see money given to a council which they know has not even put into operation existing Housing Acts, although able to do so. That is all that the Amendment means, and we must press it to a Division.
§ Mr. McENTEE
It appears to me that the object of the Amendment is to hamper the agricultural worker and prevent him from getting the houses that he might otherwise get. It may be true that in certain agricultural areas no great effort has been made by the local authorities to build houses and, because of that neglect, if there is neglect, of the authority, the Amendment is framed to punish not them but the agricultural labourers, and prevent them from getting houses. I hope the Minister will not encourage that kind of thing, whatever may be the fault of the rural authorities themselves. I suppose the object of the Bill is to provide houses at as reasonable a rent as possible. It appears to me that there will be more needed in these areas, because they have not been provided, and this is an Amendment which would make it still more difficult for the labourers to get houses. It may be said that the 1926 Act had certain advantages and certain disadvantages, but it appears to me unfair to make any comparison between it and the Act that we are discussing now. Whatever may have been the causes in the past, whether in regard to the 1924 Act, the 1926 Act or the 1930 Act or any other, the fact remains that houses have not been built in the agricultural areas. A consideration of the whole problem as it exists to-day is taking place, and we are considering a Bill which will give further opportunities to those districts which have not built houses, whatever may be the cause of their neglect or refusal in the past.
There is something else in the Bill which does not exist in the other Acts. The Minister has more power of compulsion under the Bill than under any other previous Acts under which houses might have been built. He can use that compulsion in more ways than one. I suggest that he could use it in this way in the case of councils which have neglected their duties. He can say that a larger contribution will be compelled from the rates and a smaller contribution will be given to them in extra grants over and above that which they might have obtained under the previous Acts. The Bill is introduced with the object of providing opportunities for agricultural labourers to live under reasonably decent conditions, and, at the same time, to give facilities to those rural district councils which have 303 not, for many reasons, been able to take advantage of previous Acts of Parliament, to take advantage of the extra facilities offered to them now to build houses for the agricultural workers in their areas. If there are authorities—and undoubtedly there will be—who, even under this Bill, will still refuse or neglect their opportunities, then the Minister will have power, and I shall be
§ very glad to see him take it, if necessary, to compel the rural councils which neglect their duties to build houses so that the people who suffer shall not be the agricultural labourers who live in those areas.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 152; Noes, 270.305
|Division No. 394.]||AYES.||[6.48 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Ford, Sir P. J.||Nall-Cain, A. R. N.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Atkinson, C.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Glyn, Major R. G. C||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gower, Sir Robert||Remer, John R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bracken, B.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Hanbury, C.||Savery, S. S.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Buchan, John||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Inskip, Sir Thomas||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thompson, Luke|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Latham, H. P. (Scarboro'& Whitby)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Train, J.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyan|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Long, Major Hon. Eric||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Macquisten, F. A.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Womersley, W. J.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Milne, Wardlaw-, J. S.|
|England, Colonel A.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fielden, E. B.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sir George Penny and Sir Victor|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Barnes, Alfred John||Brockway, A. Fenner|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Barr, James||Bromfield, William|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Bromley, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Brooke, W.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Brothers, M.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Benson, G.||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Birkett, W. Norman||Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)|
|Arnott, John||Blindell, James||Buchanan, G.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Burgess, F. G.|
|Ayles, Walter||Bowen, J. W.||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Cape, Thomas|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Broad, Francis Alfred||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kinley, J.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Chater, Daniel||Kirkwood, D.||Rlley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Knight, Holford||Rlley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Ritson, J.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lang, Gordon||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Romeril, H. G.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Compton, Joseph||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Rothschild, J. de|
|Cove, William G.||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Rowson, Guy|
|Cowan, D. M.||Lawrence, Susan||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Dallas, George||Lawther W. (Barnard Castle)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Leach, W.||Sandham, E.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Scott, James|
|Devl[...]n, Joseph||Lees, J.||Scurr, John|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Leonard, W.||Sexton, Sir James|
|Duncan, Charles||Lindley, Fred W.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Logan, David Gilbert||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Longbottom, A. W.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Longden, F.||Shield, George William|
|Egan, W. H.||Lunn, William||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Evans, Major Herbert (Gateshead)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Shinwell, E.|
|Foot, Isaac||McElwee, A.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||McEntee, V. L.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||McKinlay, A.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||MacLaren, Andrew||Sinkinson, George|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B.(Keighley)|
|Gill, T. H.||McShane, John James||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Gillett, George M.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Glassey, A. E.||Manning, E. L.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Mansfield, W.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gould, F.||March, S.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Marcus, M.||Sorensen, R.|
|Gray, Milner||Markham, S. F.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Marley, J.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Marshall, Fred||Strauss, G. R.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Mathers, George||Sullivan, J.|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Matters, L. W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Messer, Fred||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Middleton, G.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Millar, J. D.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Mills, J. E.||Tillett, Ben|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Milner, Major J.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hardie, David (Rutherglen)||Montague, Frederick||Toole, Joseph|
|Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Morley, Ralph||Tout, W. J.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Townend, A. E.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Haycock, A. W.||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Vaughan, David|
|Hayday, Arthur||Mort, D. L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Muff, G.||Walker, J.|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Muggeridge, H. T.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Murnin, Hugh||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Naylor, T. E.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Herriotts, J.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Hollman, P. C.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Palin, John Henry||Westwood, Joseph|
|Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Paling, Wilfrid||White, H. G.|
|Isaacs, George||Palmer, E. T.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Perry, S. F.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Phillips, Dr. Marlon||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Pole, Major D. G.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Potts, John S.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Price, M. P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Quibell, D. J. K.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Raynes, W. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Richards, R.||Mr. Hayes and Mr. William Whiteley.|
§ Captain CAZALET
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end, to insert the words: 306(2) The committee appointed under the foregoing Sub-section shall consist of not more than twelve persons of whom at least— 3077.0 p.m.
- (a) one shall be a woman;
- (b) one shall be a representative of the Treasury;
- (c) two shall be representatives of the County Councils' Association;
- (d) two shall be representatives of the rural district councils;
- (e) one shall be nominated by the Chartered Surveyors' Institution;
- (f) one shall be nominated by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England;
- (g) three shall have had experience of industry and commerce;
- (h) one shall be representative of farm workers."
This Amendment deals with the whole question of the constitution of the committee. We know that the committee is going to be a powerful committee. Its range of work is going to be varied, and, accordingly, upon its deliberations and decisions the efficacy and the results of this Bill will very largely depend. If we want a committee to do effective work, the smaller the committee the better. In fact, there is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman would really like a committee of one, and the one would probably consist of himself. He might possibly admit to certain conferences the Parliamentary Secretary. I rather think that if the formation of the committee were left to the Parliamentary Secretary, she would not even include the Minister. We believe in the constitution of the committee as proposed in the Amendment, though we are not absolutely tied to it. We are quite prepared to consider any reasonable proposal from whatever section it may come to alter the constitution of the committee, but we believe that the committee as proposed in this Amendment will form the basis of an efficient, businesslike body who will assist the Minister in putting the Act into operation. It really follows the suggestions which the Minister himself gave to us last Friday, when he said that he wanted to form a committee of some half dozen or so individuals. I believe that six is probably just the wrong number. We ought to have a committee of two or three, or, if you are going to include various classes, a committee of a dozen will be far more representative, efficient and effective than the representation proposed by the right hon. Gentleman 308 last Friday. In selecting these various representatives, we have, of course, borne in mind that you want a committee without any sectarial interests. I believe our selection would exclude Members of Parliament and definite representatives like civil servants. In fact, it is not a packed jury, but a business-like general committee consisting of members who will represent every section of the country interested in putting the Act into execution. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) will want some representative from her part of the world included, but if we begin to include special people to represent the interests of that part of the country from which the hon. Lady comes, we shall be setting a dangerous precedent, and every section of the community will want their specially selected representative to voice their views. I am certain that the hon. Lady herself, and those who support her on those benches, are quite sufficient in themselves to represent the point of view and interests of Wales without having any special representatives on this committee.
It will be agreed, I think, that the various members we have suggested are a reasonable selection. We first of all suggest that one member should be a woman. I do not know that it is really necessary that we should definitely select one woman as a representative, especially in these days of sex equality. It may well be that there may be more than one woman on the committee, but I know the women representatives of this House do feel that committees appointed by Ministers very often consist solely of men, and they want the specific suggestion that one member of this committee shall be a woman. I do not think that anyone would take exception to that, as in the country districts women may well represent the point of view of the rural workers which otherwise might go unrepresented. Secondly, there shall be one representative of the Treasury. That is in the interests of the taxpayers. We are dealing with a sum of £2,000,000, and I think the taxpayer has a legitimate right to be represented by one member on the committee. The next two selections in (c) and (d) are two representatives of the County Councils' Association 309 and two of the rural district councils. These are really following the suggestion of the Minister himself. The next two, in (e) and (f), are to be nominated one by the Chartered Surveyors' Institution and one by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. We feel that if 50,000 houses are going to be erected in various parts of the country in the next year, some regard should be paid to their architectural character. It might be that some local authority would not pay that attention which it ought to pay to the question of amenities, and therefore we make the suggestion.
We further propose that three of the members of the committee shall have had experience of industry and commerce. That suggestion was made by the Minister himself when he said he would probably add one or two business men of experience. Finally, we suggest that one member should be representative of farm workers. The reason for that is obvious. Farm workers are going to benefit from an Act of this sort, and I think they should have one representative on the committee to voice their views. In the Minister's suggestions, he desired to put on the committee a representative of the building interests. We believe that would be undesirable and would create a precedent which we should not like to see followed in other committees. After all, the building industry is most directly interested in this matter, perhaps, from the point of view of profits, and we cannot believe that among the three business men whom we suggest there will not be one who can represent the case of the builders from the purely practical and economic point of view.
We have selected this committee with one other point of view in mind, and it is this. The results of the work of this committee will no doubt be subjected to a good deal of criticism. We are well aware that the Minister can look after himself in regard to that, but there is not the slightest doubt that a large number of local authorities, whom the Minister has turned down, and to whom he will not give this grant to build rural cottages, will desire to know the reason why, and will no doubt ask their representatives in this House to put questions to the Minister and offer criticisms. We believe that if the Minister can say that the proposition was put up to this committee 310 on which every point of view was represented, it will assist him in replying to those criticisms which will, no doubt, be made from various parts of the country which have not benefited under the Act. In conclusion, I should like to say that if any hon. Member in any part of the Committee desires to change one of the representatives and to put forward a reasonable case, I am certain that if and my hon. Friends would be very willing to alter our Amendment to suit the individual request of that Member or section of the Committee. We believe that the members we have suggested in this Amendment will constitute an efficient and representative body, and that if the Minister accepts the Amendment it will greatly assist him in putting this Bill into efficient execution.
§ Captain GUNSTON
I rise to support the Amendment so ably moved by my hon. and gallant Friend. I think it is very necessary that we should lay down in this Bill the form of committee we want to see set up. I feel that in voicing that, I am voicing the views of the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters). The right hon. Gentleman made some very interesting speeches in this House in which he advocated a sort of housing board. I, personally, thought there was a lot to be said for the very ingenious proposals he put forward, but he has not succeeded in carrying the Government the whole way. If one may say so, he is really like an old farm hen I once possessed who sat on an addled egg and did not like it very much, though she was not going to give up her nest. We are trying to help the right hon. Gentleman by suggesting the sort of committee which, I think, ought to meet with his approval. It is a strictly business and utility committee. We have on it representatives of the various local authorities who have spent their lives in studying this question. We have also representatives of trade and industry.
I do not quite agree with my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, when he is against having a representative of the building trade on the committee. It does not seem wise to lay down that you must have a representative, but the building trade might easily be represented under (g), that is, one of the members who "have had experience of industry and commerce." We are asking the 311 Minister to put that in, because we think by saying that three members shall have had special experience of industry and commerce we are able to ensure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth should, at any rate, be a member of the committee. I rather hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health may take this opportunity of announcing to an expectant House whom he proposes to make chairman of the committee. I hope he will make the right hon. Gentleman chairman, because I believe then we may get a move on with the problem.
I should like to point out one of the great advantages of our Amendment is that under (f) we try to see that the rural amenities should be maintained. I am sure every member of the committee is most anxious that when these houses are built, whether under mass production or not, they shall be made with the stone of the countryside, and so we shall not see the eyesores we have seen in the past. At the same time that we want beauty, we also want utility, for no house is beautiful unless it performs the functions for which it is designed. Therefore, we have also suggested a representative of the agricultural workers who, of course, will know the sort of house that the agricultural labourer wants to live in. It is most important that there should be a representative of the agricultural workers, for the reason that in various parts of England you naturally want various types of houses. We had a very interesting speech on Friday from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), who said that in his part of the country nobody had any use for the parlour type of house, but would rather see one big room instead of two rooms. Then we had a speech from the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), who said in his part of the world they always wanted the parlour type of house, especially where there was a young daughter of 18 courting her young man.
The requirements vary in different parts of the country. If you have a practical person like a representative of the agricultural labourers on the committee, he will be able to discuss, when he travels about the country, the sort of house that the agricultural labourer in 312 each district would require. Therefore, I think it would be a great advantage to have him on the committee. We have put down in this Amendment all the types of people whom the Minister himself wants on the committee. I think the Minister will admit that all through to-day we have been most helpful in trying to safeguard and help him in making this Measure a success. There is one thing which I do not think we want, and that is a Departmental Committee of various officials. We do not want a sort of Ministry of Health Departmental Committee, though I pay tribute to the work they have done. If we are going to break fresh ground, we must have practical men who have spent considerable time in studying the special problem of rural housing. We, therefore, feel that if this committee is accepted, we shall at any rate have a practical body who, working under the guidance of a very able chairman, will be able to break fresh ground, and be of some use in getting erected these houses which we are all so desirous of seeing.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
The appointment of the Committee will be in the hands of the Minister. We think that it is better that this responsibility should not be placed upon him. Therefore, I support the Amendment, which seeks to state definitely in the Bill how the Committee should be constituted. One of the advantages of having a committee of that description set up would be that it would create a greater amount of confidence in the minds of those who have to make application. These Acts of Parliament depend very much upon the confidence which they inspire among the sections of the community that are affected. There would be a much greater amount of confidence if the committee were constituted as suggested in the Amendment. It is desirable that the responsibility of selecting the members of the committee should be removed from the Minister. The Amendment would give a guarantee that there would be more than one interest represented on the committee. It would place upon those most interested the onus for any action which might be taken by the Minister, on the advice of the committee.
There is one criticism which I would make of the Amendment, although it is not a vital one, and that is the reference 313 to the appointment of a woman. I have no objection to the appointment of a woman, in fact I advocate the appointment of a woman, but I do not think that it is wise that a woman should be on the committee simply because she is a woman. It would be better if she were appointed because of the special knowledge which she has as a woman. I should have preferred that the numbers mentioned in paragraphs (f) or (g) should have been increased by one, and that one should be a woman. It would be in the interests of the Minister to be relieved of the responsibility of appointing the committee and it would be in the interests of the Bill, by creating greater confidence, if the Amendment were accepted.
Miss LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Member for Thornbury (Captain Gunston) said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters) had been sitting on an addled egg. The egg is all right; it was the hatching that was not quite so good. I hope very much that the membership of the committee will not be increased to the extent proposed in the Amendment. We believe that if the Minister multiplies unnecessarily the members of the committee he will also multiply unnecessarily the difficulties and delays. Someone once said that the most efficient committee was a committee of two, with one always absent. Now that the right hon. Gentleman has definitely abandoned the idea of a housing dictator, more or less, and has decided upon a democratic representative body, it does leave the door open to Amendments such as this. Many hon. Members will agree that it is desirable to have a woman among the chosen representatives. In regard to many of the houses that have been built the accommodation would have been far more suitable and more adequate if a woman had been advising the architects. I look forward to the day when women will have established themselves upon their own merits and will have had added so much distinction not only to this profession but to many others, that it may be necessary in a future Act of Parliament to include a provision to ensure that one man shall be represented upon the Committee.
My chief complaint against the Government) in regard to this committee is that 314 while they have representatives from the county councils, the rural district councils, the building employers, the building trade workers, and the farm workers, they leave a nation unrepresented. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) raised this question last week on the Second Reading of the Bill and suggested that the Minister should appoint a separate committee for Wales. We have no Secretary of State for Wales to administer the Housing Acts. I hope that deficiency will be remedied in the immediate future. It has been suggested that if a separate committee of this kind were set up for Wales it would mean duplicating the work. It might very well occasion unnecessary and undue delay, and no doubt it might prejudice instead of serving the interests of Wales, but I would appeal most strongly to the Minister that adequate representation be given to Wales upon the committee. A representative from Wales would he an advantage in more than one sense. It would be of great advantage to other members of the committee to have their men who would be familiar with conditions which are so vastly different from the conditions which prevail in England.
It may be said that the conditions vary in different localities and that if you are going to give representation upon that basis you must increase the members of the committee still further, in order to include all those who might qualify under that head. It is not only a difference of conditions but it is a difference of civilisation. We have many black areas in Wales and we want to see the bad housing cleared from those areas. We also want to see the distinctive character of the Welsh countryside preserved. It is a very modest demand that I am making of the Minister. If he will only do what I suggest he will satisfy in some small measure the demand that is growing more insistent and more clamourous in the Principality every day that Wales in all legislation and upon all occasions should be treated as a national entity.
§ Captain RONALD HENDERSON
I rise to reinforce the arguments put forward in support of the Amendment. I hope that the Minister will, at any rate, give favourable consideration to the appointment of one member from the Society for the Preservation of Rural England. We have been accustomed 315 since the War to see the countryside speckled with a vast number of houses built under various housing schemes, referred to as council houses. Some of these houses are remarkable chiefly for their ugliness and smallness. On the other hand there are houses which are roomier and good looking. It has been my interest and to some extent my duty to inquire into many of these schemes, particularly into the cost, and the remarkable fact emerges that in regard to many of these small ugly houses in comparison with the good looking roomier houses it is not entirely a question of cost but a question of knowledge and taste which accounts for the success on the one hand and the failure on the other. We find that the houses of the small ugly type are denounced in the most vigorous terms by those who have to live in them, while the roomier, better designed houses cannot be spoken too well of by those who live in them. I should like to supplement what was said by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George). Once I had to go through a housing scheme of 1,200 houses which had been built in a rural part of England, and there was no room in any of the houses for a mangle or a pram. That showed lack of imagination. The scheme propounded in the Bill will apply to the whole of Great Britain and we do not want to witness the tragedy of red brick boxes being scattered about in stone-built Cotswold villages, which have a great beauty of their own. It will disfigure beautiful villages if such atrocities are to be permitted. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman's views may be on the rest of the Amendment, I hope that he will give sympathetic consideration to the suggestion that I have made.
§ Mr. E. D. SIMON
The Amendment raises the whole question of the constitution, the functions and the duties of the committee. We have had a large number of Housing Acts passed since the War and in none of them has there been a committee corresponding to the one now proposed in the Bill. Why is the committee included in the Bill? I have listened to the speeches and I have read the speech of the Minister and I have not been able to find any special reason why this committee is being introduced 316 into the Bill. When I look at the speeches delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters) I realise that there has been a strong agitation in the country, led by him, for a national housing council. Is this committee to have any relation to a national housing council? I hope the Minister will make clear what functions he has in mind for the committee to perform. The object of the national housing council is to put more drive into the building of houses and to give advice on such points as mass production, taking advantage of the best knowledge and, broadly speaking, to give a stimulus or drive on the one hand and to give central knowledge for the local authorities on the other. The Minister of Health has at his disposal better architectural and building knowledge than even the largest local authority can have and very much better than the smallest local authority can have. Perhaps the reason for the committee is to be found in the history of the housing efforts of the present Government. This is the third Housing Bill that they have introduced. The first one was introduced when they came into power. That increased the subsidy., but the effect was almost negligible. It did not increase the number of houses built under the Act of 1924. In the following year—
The CHAIRMAN (Sir Robert Young)
The Amendment is that "The committee appointed under the foregoing section shall consist of not more than 12 persons." The hon. Member is travelling wide of the Amendment.
§ Mr. SIMON
My argument is that a committee constituted in this way will be a hopeless failure if it is expected to do the kind of things which many of us hope that it is intended to do. I hope that the Minister will give us an explanation of the functions of the committee. If its object is what I hope it is and what I am trying to show is very important in the national interest, then I am going to say that it is wholly unsuitable for the purpose, but it is impossible to give the argument unless I am allowed to discuss the object of the Bill.
§ Mr. SIMON
In the 1930 Act there is no committee, the whole thing is done by the Minister. There again, perhaps owing to the absence of a committee, we have not seen a single house finished under that Act. Now the right hon. Gentleman brings in a third Bill by which he hopes to get 40,000 houses completed within 12 months, a very different record indeed from that of the 1930 Act, and one which we hope will be achieved. The reason why the Act of 1930 has not yet produced any houses is because there is no machinery for bringing pressure to bear on local authorities. In the case of the Board of Education they have their inspectors constantly going round the country, who are able to bring to the assistance of local authorities the knowledge of the central authority, and, further, they can always bring pressure to bear by withholding the grant. Neither of these opportunities are available to the Minister of Health. The Minister has visited Manchester on several occasions, but he has not pointed out how wrong Manchester is going. He generally partakes of a luncheon in the town hall and tells us how exceedingly well we are doing, but no pressure is brought to bear. Indeed, the Minister clearly cannot possibly bring pressure to bear in this way. He is the head of an enormous department and is only able to give a small portion of his time to the subject of housing. He has no local inspectors and, therefore, it is a matter which is necessarily left to the Civil Service.
I yield to no one in my admiration of the work done by the Civil Service, but it is difficult for the Civil Service to perform a great constructive job of this sort, and that is the reason, I understand, why my right hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth has pressed for a committee to be set up in order to bring pressure to bear on local authorities. I hope that this committee is set up for the purpose of bringing pressure to bear on local authorities. Indeed, I can see no other function which it can usefully perform. When speaking on the Financial Resolution the Minister of Health practically implied that it was to deal only with financial problems and to decide which authorities were suitable for the receipt of a grant and how much the grant was to be. That is the kind of 318 thing, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that the trained Civil Service can do a great deal better, but if we come to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on the Second Reading he took quite a different line. He said:That gives the committee power really to settle all the important questions and to see that houses are proceeded with as quickly as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1931; col. 2440, Vol. 254.]That is what we want, and if that is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, it is entirely satisfactory. When we come to the Bill we find that the committee is only mentioned in Clause 1, that is the Financial Clause, and omitted in Clause 2, where it is a question of building houses and where push and go is more important than on Clause 1. If the committee is for the purpose of putting some drive into the Bill, for really getting houses built quickly, then the Amendment is the worst thing possible. It proposes to set up a committee representing various interests. It is utterly impossible to put drive into any job with a committee of that sort, it can only cause trouble and delay, rather than acceleration. In connection with another Bill the Minister of Transport has laid it down that the committee to run the transport of London is to be a committee, not representing any interests but a committee of five persons appointed solely for their business qualifications. If the Minister of Health wants to get this job done I hope he will appoint a committee of the same kind, solely for their business qualifications and experience and not bother about it being representative of this district or that. If it is to be more effective than the Act of 1930, if it is to produce 40,000 houses in a year, you must have business men appointed solely for their qualifications.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
The life of the present Government is just one committee after another. They are continually asking Parliament to increase the number and form of committees. I wonder whether we are not wasting time by having so many, and whether we could not lump them all into one. I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), and it was rather illuminating to realise that she looks forward to the 319 time when the evolution of women will have come to such a pitch that one man will be able to control the whole lot. I have one criticism to make on the composition of this committee. Only four members will have a rural bias, whilst eight will have an urban bias, I do not see why this distinction is made. I welcome the nomination of a representative of the council for the preservation of rural England. I come from Lincolnshire, which is one of the few rural counties left. There are a few iron mines in the north-west of the county, but the rest is a perfect joy to those who come from urban districts and delight to spend their holidays near the seaside. I hope that the Minister of Health will encourage anything which prevents cottages which are unsuitable being erected in the countryside. There is nothing so horrible as to have a red brick house in unsuitable surroundings or to have stone cottages and alongside them some of the ugly modern dwellings. The time will come when this country will have to take this question into consideration, because there is not much real countryside left.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
We are rapidly becoming urbanised in a very ugly sense. I have the greatest doubt whether all this drive by the Minister will be a success. You should lean more on the county councils—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think this arises on the Amendment. Part of the Bill in the preceding paragraph says what the committee is to do; that relates to finance. We are now discussing what the composition of the committee should be.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I was coming to that. The committee, quite naturally, has to deal with finance, but I am not satisfied with the composition of the committee dealing with finance.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I have made my point. In the country districts we feel that the housing problem is not being efficiently tackled.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I am sorry that you will not allow me to refer to it, but what we want to know is whether we shall get more houses.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not what we are discussing. We are discussing the composition of the committee. That is not a matter of more houses.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
If I am not allowed to discuss the question as to whether the committee will increase the number of houses I will certainly avoid the point. As to the proposed composition of the committee, I should like to see more people selected from the purely rural areas instead of three who have had experience of industry and commerce. There are many members of the County Councils' Association who come from urban districts, and I should like to see it laid down that there should be more representatives from the rural districts.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
The most important point in this matter is the chairman of the committee, and I am rather surprised that no mention has yet been made of this point. It is absolutely essential that we should avoid any political patronage in connection with this committee. It would be a great pity if it was held out as a sort of reward for past or future political services.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have had a good many compliments from the other side, but I do not think that the Government are going to set up a committee merely for the purpose of getting me out of the way. There are a vast number who would like to do it, if they could, under the normal procedure of Parliament. The hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) thought that the committee should consist in some way or other of inspectors.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am glad that we have got away from the idea that any single member of the committee should come from the Ministry. That interruption makes it certain that the official 321 spokesman of the Liberal party wants to be sure that there is no civil servant on the committee. But that makes the Minister's position very difficult. Perhaps it is just as well, therefore, that the Leader of the Liberal party has come in to keep order. The Minister might find himself in real difficulty unless the whip was cracked or we did whatever we do in these emergencies. All of us were charmed, as usual, by the very interesting speech of the hon. Lady who represents Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George). She stood up for the Welsh Celtic fringe, but there are other Celtic fringes, and I should like to know where Scotland comes in.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
You may just as well have one committee to deal with the two countries. If it is essential that different localities should be well represented on the committee, the West country constituencies—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman should pay attention to the Amendment before the Committee. The Amendment proposes that a certain number of people, representatives of societies and others, should be members of the committee.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Yes, but you did permit it to be said that Wales should be represented, and I thought it also possible that we in the West Country might put in a claim for special representation if necessary. We are a very distinct unit in many ways. The suggestion was that one of the people on the committee should be from Wales, and I adjust my argument by saying that one should come from somewhere else. I am not very happy about this committee. The Amendment suggests a committee rather on the large side. In fact the committee would be much too large. Another thing which I intensely dislike is the growing habit of putting into Bills or Amendments proposals that a particular section of the community must be represented. I emphasised that point of view last night, and said that it rather tended to show the inferiority complex. For a committee of this kind there must be very many women of great capacity who would be eminently suited to serve, but the 322 time has gone by many years when it is necessary to say that a woman must be put on a particular committee. Then it is absolutely necessary that there should be Treasury representation on the committee. In normal times, when we have a strong Chancellor of the Exchequer, there is no need to have the Treasury particularly represented, but in these days, when we have a Chancellor who may always be got at by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and other people, it is essential to lay down quite clearly that there must be some representation of the Treasury. We have had many Chancellors of the Exchequer, some of whom looked after the national interest, but in this case it is essential that the Treasury should be strongly represented on the committee.
I strongly object to associations like the County Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association being represented, not because they are bad bodies or because I object in any way to the Associations, but because in a Bill of this kind, which sets up a committee to deal with local authorities, to say that certain representatives of the local authorities shall be on a committee is interfering unnecessarily with the Minister's power of appointment. It is obvious that we want on the committee some representative of the people who are to live in these houses, whether a woman or man is immaterial. We do not want anyone on the committee merely to represent the Preservation of Rural England. There are people who could represent that organisation and other interests, and some of the county councils' representatives would be quite adequate to represent the interests of rural England. They know the whole job very well, and that would enable us to cancel out some of the large number of urban people on this committee. Though I do not intend to vote against the Amendment, I do not think I can vote for it. Hon. Friends of mine naturally do not trust the Minister to carry out the operation of this Bill, but the present Minister will not be there for ever, and I hold that in legislation, when a committee of this kind is being appointed, it should not be on the basis of appointing particular people, but rather on the basis of giving the Minister power to select those people who are most 323 competent to carry out the wishes of the Ministry. I hope that the Minister of Health when he replies will give an assurance that the people who are appointed to any position on the committee will be appointed for their qualifications and knowledge and not for any political purpose.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
We have had from the hon. Member a speech not less illuminating than other speeches he has delivered in this House, and no more illuminating. At the end of it I am still not quite sure whether he is a supporter of the Amendment or not. Indeed, he has been the last of a series of speakers from the Opposition benches, none of whom has given unqualified blessing to the Amendment. That only shows the difficulty of allowing a Committee of the House to determine the personnel of a committee of this sort. We started off with a committee of 12, according to this Amendment. I would wish to add representatives of both sides in the building industry. That brings the committee to at least 14. There are other hon. Members who would wish to add representations of special parts of the country. If this discussion continues much longer we shall see the committee growing in size until it becomes like a mass meeting.
One thing is clear, and that is that if this body is to be effective it must not be a large body. Most of the type of persons suggested in the Amendment will find their way on to the committee, but I see no reason for specifying them in this particular way, and indeed I should object to classification under eight headings. It may well be that one person could represent either two different points of view or two different types of experience, or the type of experience and the knowledge of a particular part of the country. So far as it is possible one wants to combine experience with a view to getting the smallest possible committee, one which would be really workable. There is no intention to put civil servants on the committee. I will take the analogy of the Unemployment Grants Committee, which has been in existence for 10 or 11 years. There have been no directions from this House as to what was to be the precise personnel of that committee; that has been left to the Minister. After the 324 discussion to-night, I think the Committee will be safer to leave the constitution of this committee to me rather than to try to set it up themselves.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
It depends on how far I am in order in doing so. The question before the Committee is the constitution of this committee and not its functions.
§ Mr. ALBERY
May I ask whether it is not almost impossible for the Committee to determine the constitution of the committee before they know what it is to do?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Committee has already determined in the Clause which we have already passed what are to be the functions of the committee. Now we are dealing with the constitution of the committee, and that is all we are concerned with. If the hon. Member wanted to know what the committee is to do, he ought to have raised the matter earlier.
§ Mr. ALBERY
I understand we are discussing the personnel of the committee. It seems impossible to discuss adequately the personnel if we may not have any information as to what the committee is to do.
§ The CHAIRMAN
What the Committee has to do has already been dealt with in the early part of the Bill.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
On two occasions I have explained the functions of this committee. What we want is a qualified committee, qualified by knowledge of the problem and as small as can be produced in the circumstances, a committee that shall bring within its ambit all the necessary skill and experience. I hope the Committee will not press for the insertion of the Amendment in the Bill, but will leave it to the Government to appoint a committee that shall be as small as is practicable, widely representative of all kinds of interests concerned—I am not saying that in a narrow, sectarian sense—but which will not be something approaching a large representative assembly.
§ Major ELLIOT
I think I shall have to ask the right hon. Gentleman the 325 Minister of Health to recollect his previous pronouncement on this subject. I have for greater accuracy provided myself with a copy of what he actually said. This is what he said during the Debate upon the Financial Resolution:Before the Bill reaches its final stage I shall be pretty definite about the kind of committee this will be. But I prefer not to say anything about it now.You, Sir Robert, then intervened and the report proceeds:THE CHAIRMAN: Will the constitution of the committee be in the Bill?MR. GREENWOOD: It will be in the Bill.We are asking right hon. Gentlemen to implement this pledge. It is no use for the right hon. Gentleman to say that it will be very difficult. Then the report proceeds:THE CHAIRMAN: Then any question about it arises on the Bill and not here?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1931; col. 1999, Vol. 254.]That seems to be a definite Parliamentary pledge, that the Minister would put the constitution of the committee into the Bill. The Minister on the Second Reading Debate gave a general indication of what he would do. The Minister's committee, on his own showing, totals up to at least eight. He says there would be a representative from the rural district councils, a representative from the county council, a representative from the building trade employers, a representative from the building trade workers, a representative of the farm workers, one or two business men of experience and a chairman. We on this side have made one or two alterations, leaving out building trade employers and employés, but we think all the other categories should be found in the Bill. It is a little harsh for the right hon. Gentleman to say that we would produce a committee which would be in the nature of a circus. As between our proposal and the Minister's definition there is only a difference of between eight and twelve, and that makes a very poor circus. If the Minister desires us to alter our number, we shall be willing to discuss the matter with him, but after the definite pledge which he gave, in reply to the chairman of the committee, that the constitution of the committee would be in the Bill, it is not possible for the Minister to say now that it will not be in the Bill. That is as definite a breach of 326 an undertaking that one has ever encountered in Parliamentary practice.
I sympathise very much with the hon. Member for the Withington Division of Manchester (Mr. Simon). He put a point of real substance. He asked whether this was to be an executive committee or an advisory committee. He said we had failed to get houses under the 1930 Act, and I think there has been a lamentably slight output of houses from that Measure. The hon. Member for the Withington Division said he supported the scheme on the ground that there would be a powerful executive committee to supplement the activities of the Minister and the Department and the civil servants. But the committee, even as sketched out by the Minister himself, is a committee distinctively and highly advisory in its nature, and every single member of the committee is to be approved by the Treasury.
§ Mr. SIMON
May I remind the hon. and gallant Member of the words which were used in the Second Reading Debate by the Minister of Health? He said:That gives the committee power really to settle all the important questions and to see that the houses are proceeded with as quickly as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1931; col. 2440, Vol. 254.]
§ Major ELLIOT
But it is desirable to see, before we part with the Bill on the Committee stage, what the Minister really intends. We have drafted a committee according to the sketch which he has drawn up. The committee which the right hon. Gentleman has sketched out would be a committee representative of various constituent bodies and not executive in itself. We want a committee which shall be executive in itself. When we were setting up a committee in Scotland we set up the Scottish National Housing Committee which was definitely entrusted with the task of getting houses and which was not required to report to local authorities or to anybody else. But that quite clearly is not in the Minister's mind. I think the Minister on this occasion has not been as thorough as usual in implementing the promises which he gave. I beg of him to reconsider his previous statement in view of the definite assurance which he gave. Let him tell us whether this is to be an advisory or an executive committee. 327 If it is an executive committee, where does he expect to get his personnel? If the Minister would give an assurance that before the conclusion of the Committee stage he would be able to give an announcement of the actual personnel of the committee, or that before the Report stage he would put down an Amendment to outline the actual constitution of the committee, we would be glad to take it. But it is quite clear that he has given us no indication either as to the personnel or the constitution of the committee or the nature of its action.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Perhaps the Minister desires to explain the undertaking which he gave to put the constitution of the committee into the Bill and to state exactly what he meant when he answered in the affirmative the question of the Chairman during the Committee stage of the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
If I misled hon. Members I am very sorry for having done so, but I did not mean to put anything in the Bill of that character. I am also very sorry that it has not been possible to make any announcement of the names. It is very difficult to make any promise about that matter because, as hon. Members know, invitations have to be sent out and a certain amount of time must elapse before the replies are received. I certainly could not promise to make any such announcement before the Report stage, which, I understand, is to be taken on Thursday, but I think that before the Bill goes on the Statute Book hon. Members will know the precise membership of the committee.
§ Major ELLIOT
According to the timetable which has been indicated, all the remaining stages of this Bill in this House will be completed this week, the
§ Third Reading being, I understand, down for Friday. I do not know what will happen in another place but it is quite possible that no Amendments will be made in the Bill there, and we shall thus have parted with it finally on the Third Reading. Surely we must have some idea before then as to the personnel of the committee. Surely the Minister at least can announce the name of the chairman.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I think that certainly before the Third Reading I shall be in a position to announce the name of the chairman. I should like to be able to give the names of all the other members but I am more or less in the hands of those who have been invited, as to how quickly they reply and some of them may not accept.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Do I understand then that the right hon. Gentleman has sent out the invitation? I would like to emphasise that, as chairman of this committee, it will be necessary to have a stable resolute man who will have regard to the national interests and who is not liable to be influenced by the fluctuations of any wind that may blow from time to time. We want a man to whom the nation can look with confidence in a matter of this kind. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has anybody in his mind who will answer those requirements and possess those qualities but I need hardly impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of having a man who is not likely to be driven about by every changing wind.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 94; Noes, 248.331
|Division No. 395.]||AYES.||[8.18 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cobb, Sir Cyril||England, Colonel A.|
|Albery, Irving James||Colfox, Major William Philip||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Atkinson, C.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Dalkeith, Earl of||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxfd, Henley)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Thompson, Luke|
|Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Nall-Cain, A. R. N.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ramsbotham, H.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Train, J.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Remer, John R.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ross, Ronald D.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Salmon, Major I.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Llewellin, Major J. J.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Sir George Penny and Sir Victor|
|Long, Major Hon. Eric||Smithers, Waldron||Warrender.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gill, T. H.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gillett, George M.||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Glassey, A. E.||Longden, F.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gossling, A. G.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Gould, F.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||McElwee, A.|
|Arnott, John||Gray, Milner||McEntee, V. L.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||McKinlay, A.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Groves, Thomas E.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Barr, James||Grundy, Thomas W.||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||McShane, John James|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Manning, E. L.|
|Benson, G.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Mansfield, W.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Marcus, M.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hardie, David (Rutherglen)||Markham, S. F.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Marley, J.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Harris, Percy A.||Marshall, Fred|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mathers, George|
|Bromfield, William||Haycock, A. W.||Matters, L. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Hayday, Arthur||Maxton, James|
|Brooke, W.||Hayes, John Henry||Messer, Fred|
|Brothers, M.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Middleton, G.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Mills, J. E.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Herriotts, J.||Milner, Major J.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Montague, Frederick|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hoffman, P. C.||Morley, Ralph|
|Cape, Thomas||Horrabin, J. F.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Chater, Daniel||Isaacs, George||Mort, D. L.|
|Clarke, J. S.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Muff, G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Murnin, Hugh|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Compton, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)|
|Cove, William G.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Cowan, D. M.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kelly, W. T.||Palin, John Henry|
|Daggar, George||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kinley, J.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Kirkwood, D.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lang, Gordon||Perry, S. F.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Duncan, Charles||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Potts, John S.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lawrence, Susan||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Egan, W. H.||Leach, W||Richards, R.|
|Foot, Isaac||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham. Upton)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Lees, J.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Leonard, W.||Ritson, J.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Lindley, Fred W.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Rowson, Guy||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B.(Keighley)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Sanders, W. S.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Sandham, E.||Sorensen, R.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Sawyer, G. F.||Stamford, Thomas W.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Scott, James||Stephen, Campbell||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Scurr, John||Sullivan, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Sexton, Sir James||Sutton, J. E.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sherwood, G. H.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Shield, George William||Tinker, John Joseph||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Tout, W. J.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Shillaker, J. F.||Townend, A. E.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Shinwell, E.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Vaughan, David||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Viant, S. P.|
|Sinkinson, George||Walker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wallace, H. W.||Mr. Thurtle and Mr. Charleton.|
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor|
§ The following Amendments stood upon the Order Paper:
In page 2, line 16, at the end to insert the words:
(c) satisfy the Committee that the insufficiency of financial resources mentioned in the last preceding paragraph is not due to the wasteful and extravagant use of such resources."—[Mr. Womersley.]
In page 2, line 18, after the word "directions," to insert the words:
including directions as to the cost, size and material of the houses proposed to be built."—[Mr. Hurd.]
In page 2, line 20, at the end, to insert the words:
Provided that the cost of any house built with assistance provided under this Section shall not exceed three hundred and fifty pounds."—[Mr. Albery.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
I suggest to the Committee that on these Amendments we might have a general discussion.
§ Sir K. WOOD
We indicated to the Deputy-Chairman that we did not propose to have a lengthy discussion on these Amendments. The first Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) deals with an entirely different matter from the other Amendments. It seeks to enforce on the committee that where local authorities' resources are so depleted owing to wasteful and extravagant use of such resources, they shall not receive assistance under the Bill. The other Amendments are of a different character, and refer to the size, material, and cost of the houses. As the Minister knows, we are not seeking unduly to delay the Committee, but it may promote expedition if we took these matters separately.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I suggest that the other Amendments should run together, but that mine should be moved separately.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I beg to move, in page 2, line 16, at the end, to insert the words:(c) satisfy the Committee that the insufficiency of financial resources mentioned in the last-preceding paragraph is not due to the wasteful and extravagant use of such resources.Paragraph (b) of Sub-section (2) says that the local authorities have tosatisfy the committee that their financial resources are insufficient to enable them without assistance under this Section to make adequate provision in the agricultural parishes of their districts for meeting the need for houses for such persons as are mentioned in the preceding Sub-section.If my Amendment is accepted, it will go on to say that the local authorities must also satisfy the committee that the insufficiency of financial resources is not due to the wasteful and extravagant use of such resources. I would like to refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on the 10th July, where he says:It is necessary for the reasons already given, to establish a test of poverty. With a fixed sum of money the wider you spread it the thinner the results, and I am satisfied that there are rural councils which are well able to carry their responsibilities, whose financial resources are as high and in some cases higher than some urban districts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1931; col. 2440, Vol. 254.]The Minister went on to give illustrations of what he meant by districts that were well able to build these houses without 333 the extra assistance under the Bill. The Minister has stated twice during the Debates on this Measure that the test of poverty is to be whether a penny rate produces not more than 5d. per head of the population, and whether the rates of the district are over 10s. in the £. It is rather a curious test of poverty, and that is why I am so anxious that some distinction should be made between authorities who are in need and suffering from a lack of financial resources because of the real poverty of those in their district, as against authorities which are showing a high poundage' of rates but are showing that the penny does not produce more than 5d. simply because they have not husbanded their resources, but have gone in for extravagant schemes of all kinds.
Local authorities like individuals may be extravagant, or they may be frugal and conserve their resources. Under the formula laid down by the Minister, you are likely to find that those local authorities which have been careful in the spending of their money may be penalised under this Bill. We know that it is a tradition of the Scottish people and the Scottish parishes to be frugal. That was pointed out in the discussion, and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland assured the Committee that the Government had dropped the figure by 2s. for Scotland, so that an 8s. rate will qualify instead of the 10s. for England. It is evident, therefore, that the Minister realises that there is something in the argument that the frugal parishes should be encouraged, just as we ought to encourage the frugal individual, who is the best type of citizen. There are districts where they have misused public funds by various methods, into which I would not like to enter, because it would probably not be in order now, but we have had many notorious instances of that in urban areas which have been brought to our notice. I feel sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept this Amendment, because she knows from her experience at the Ministry the difficulty of dealing with extravagant local authorities which never have had money to take up any reform that her Department desires to put into operation. I know that the hon. Lady does not like formulas. She has declared on many occasions that she detested them. The same hand which drew up the formula to which she has objected on previous 334 occasions probably drew up this formula. If, however, we are to work on a formula, let it be a fair one to the local authorities.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I never claim to represent myself in this House. I have always claimed to represent my constituency of Grimsby, and I am proud of it.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I made a very bad mistake and I apologise to the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) is not as good a thought-reader as he is a politician, as I think I shall show when I have put forward some reasons why this Amendment should not be accepted. It is clear that the committee, in considering applications, will take into consideration all relevant circumstances, and if they find a black sheep among the authorities they will make the sort of inquiries that the Unemployment Grants Committee would make in a similar case. They will consider all the relevant circumstances, and that is a very right and proper thing to do; but it is another thing to make it a Parliamentary instruction that every local authority has to prove that it is a proper and responsible body to administer public funds. There would be 300 to 400 local authorities who would pass the test. The great bulk of them are very careful, very economical—almost too economical—and it seems hard because there may be, hero or there, a rural district council which is wasting its resources that a statutory obligation should be put on every rural district council to prove that it is ordinarily competent and honest in its administration. It might even seem a little offensive, as though Parliament had a reason to suspect these rural authorities. I think it would be better to leave this as one of the matters on which the committee can be trusted to exercise proper prudence and discretion, and I should be glad if, after that explanation, the hon. Member sees his way not to press his Amendment.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am afraid the Committee cannot be satisfied with the explanation which has been given by the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not know whether the Minister of Health, when 335 he returns, will agree with her statement. I know of no provision in the Bill which says that the committee are to inquire into all the relevant circumstances when a rural local authority applies for a grant. I doubt whether the Ministry of Health for a moment contemplates that the committee are to make a general inquiry into all the relevant circumstances, including the financial position of the authorities. I see the Secretary of State for Scotland is here. No doubt he is thinking this matter over. I very much doubt whether he contemplates that the local authorities in Scotland, when they appear before the appropriate committee, will have to prove all relevant circumstances in connection with their financial affairs. What the local authorities will have to do is to satisfy the commttee that they comply with the tests which, under an Amendment to be moved by the Minister a little later, will be laid down in the Bill. It would be an impossible task to ask the committee, before making a grant, to inquire into all the relevant financial circumstances of a rural local authority. If such a requirement were imposed on them, no grants under this Bill would mature for many months. There is only a limited sum of money available—£2,000,000—and if the terms on which it is distributed are widened so as to make it available for all sorts of rural authorities, the amounts of the grants for those participating will be so much the more restricted. Therefore, a choice has to be made among the rural authorities who are to receive this additional money. In our Amendment we say that at any rate one of the tests which the committee can apply, and upon which they shall satisfy themselves that a prima facie case has been made out, is whether the authority has been extravagant and wasteful with its resources.
Hon. Members opposite who are giving so much study to this proposal will agree with me that inasmuch as only a limited sum is available we ought to eliminate the authorities which have been guilty of wastefulness or extravagance, because if they are included it will mean that there is so much the less for local authorities which have been efficient and economical. If the committee say to a local authority, "According to the accounts 336 we have received, and comparing your position with that of neighbouring authorities, it appears to us that some explanation of your accounts is required, because it looks, prima facie, as though you have been extravagant or wasteful," then that authority will have to satisfy the committee on those points before it can expect to receive a grant. If it is not able to satisfy the Committee that it has exercised due care it will not mean that any agricultural workers will be deprived of a house, because that money will be available for other parts of the country.
§ Mr. LEES
Assuming that this local authority is held to have been guilty of extravagance, it must be borne in mind that there are agricultural labourers in that area who will be wanting houses, and is it suggested that they are to be deprived of the chance of getting houses because of the authority's extravagance?
§ Sir K. WOOD
The answer is that the system of local government in this country is built up on the principle that the people who are in a district must be responsible for the local authority taking charge of their affairs. If once you said that people are not to be responsible for the acts of their local authority, then local government in this country would be at an end. The proper course for the people who will undoubtedly be very seriously affected by this proposal is to take such steps as are open to them under our present system to change their local authority. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite seek to give the impression that this Amendment limits the sum of money which would be available for the housing of agricultural workers, but it is not so. All it would do would be to say that, if you put into power a local authority who have been extravagant or wasteful, then, like everyone else in life, you have to suffer the consequences. It does not deprive the agricultural worker of any sum of money, because, if there is less money for one local authority, there will be more money available for other parts of the country. If you agree that the particular area is not responsible for the acts of a wasteful local authority, which must be treated in the same fashion as a local authority which has acted wisely and well, then you begin 337 to tear up the system of local government in this country. You have only £2,000,000, and, if you limit your payments to a certain number of local authorities, then you should give the money, in the first instance, to those local authorities who have wisely and efficiently managed their affairs.
§ Mr. McSHANE
I propose to speak for a couple of minutes, in order to deal with one or two points that were raised by the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). The essence of this Amendment seems to be the novel one that rural authorities, of all authorities in the country, are, by implication, alleged to have spent too much money. That is a novel charge to bring against rural authorities. Assume that it were true, which we deny. If this Amendment were passed, the chief merit of such a local authority would be that it had not spent anything at all, particularly on housing, and the very authority that had spent nothing on housing, the meanest, and most parsimonious of all, would derive most money from the grant that is now being sanctioned.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Will the hon. Member allow me. He has evidently overlooked the fact that a local authority with only a 9s. 9d. in the £ rate would not build any houses at all.
§ Mr. McSHANE
We are discussing an Amendment, the essence of which is that none of this money shall be given to enable a rural authority to build houses
§ unless it can be shown that the authority has been most careful with the expenditure of its money, not merely with regard to housing but presumably in regard to other social services. If that is so, my main point is that the meanest and most parsimonious authority would do best.
§ Suppose, as a matter of fact, that there were to be inserted in this Bill an Amendment of the character of that which is proposed. What would happen then? One can imagine the interminable delays that would take place. Every social service run by that authority would be inquired into, investigated and inspected, to find out whether a shilling or half-a-crown had been overspent in one way or another. That would ultimately lead to such a ridiculous state of affairs that no houses would be built. If that is the intention of the right hon. Member for West Woolwich, he might as well say so. If this Amendment were passed, it would have the effect of preventing any rural housing whatsoever. My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Lees) intervened just now to put a point as to the position of rural authorities, but the right hon. Member for West Woolwich could only retort by a dissertation on the theory of local government. That will not build rural houses. I suggest very strongly that, if this Amendment be passed, it will prevent the building of rural houses.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 93; Noes, 253.341
|Division No. 396.]||AYES.||[8.50 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Dixey, A. C.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Albery, Irving James||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Atkinson, C.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Ganzoni, Sir John||Llewellin, Major J. J.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lockwood, Captain J. H.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Long, Major Hon. Eric|
|Bracken, B.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nall-Cain, A. R. N.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Hanbury, C.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Haslam, Henry C.||Remer, John R.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forlar)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hurd, Percy A.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Inskip, Sir Thomas||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Thomson,. Sir F.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Todd, Capt. A. J.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Smithers, Waldron||Train, J.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thompson, Luke||Wayland, Sir William A.||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Sir George Penny.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Groves, Thomas E.||Messer, Fred|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Middleton, G.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Millar, J. D.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mills, J. E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Milner, Major J.|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Montague, Frederick|
|Arnott, John||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Morgan Dr. H. B.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Morley, Ralph|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hardie, David (Rutherglen)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Ayles, Walter||Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Harris, Percy A.||Mort, D. L.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Muff, G.|
|Barr, James||Haycock, A. W.||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayday, Arthur||Murnin, Hugh|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Benson, G.||Herriotts, J.||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hirst, G. H. (York, W. R., Wentworth)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hoffman, P. C.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Horrabin, J. F.||Palin, John Henry.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Bromfield, William||Isaacs, George||Palmer, E. T.|
|Bromley, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Brooke, W.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Perry, S. F.|
|Brothers, M.||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Kelly, W. T.||Raynes, W. R.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Richards, R.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kinley, J.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Kirkwood, D.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Knight, Holford||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Chater, Daniel||Lang, Gordon||Ritson, J.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Rowson, Guy|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawrence, Susan||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Cove, William G.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cowan, D. M.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Leach, W.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Daggar, George||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Sandham, E.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lees, J.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leonard, W.||Scott James|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Scurr, John|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lindley, Fred W.||Sexton, Sir James|
|Duncan, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Longbottom, A. W.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Longden, F.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Shield, George William|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Egan, W. H.||McElwee, A.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|England, Colonel A.||McEntee, V. L.||Shinwell, E.|
|Foot, Isaac||McKinlay, A.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||MacLaren, Andrew||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith. N.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Sinkinson, George|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||McShane, John James||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)|
|Gill, T. H.||Manning, E. L.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Gillett, George M.||Mansfield, W.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Glassey, A. E.||Marcus, M.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gossling, A. G.||Markham, S. F.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Marley, J.||Sorensen, R.|
|Gray, Milner||Marshall, Fred||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Mathers, George||Stephen, Campbell|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Matters, L. W.||Sullivan, J.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Maxton, James||Sutton, J. E.|
|Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Wallace, H. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Watkins, F. C.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Tillett, Ben||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Wellock, Wilfred||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Toole, Joseph||Welsh, James (Paisley)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Tout, W. J.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Townend, A. E.||Westwood, Joseph||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Vaughan, David||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Viant, S. P.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Walker, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Hayes and Mr. Thurtle.|
§ Mr. HURD
I beg to move, in page 2, line 18, after the word "directions," to insert the words:including directions as to the cost, size and material of the houses proposed to be built.The Committee will notice that we have just passed that part of Clause 1 which provides that contributions may be made to such rural district councils as have fulfilled certain conditions. The second of these conditions is as to their financial resources, and we feel that some other conditions also should be in the mind of the committee before they decide these matters. One such condition is that set out in my Amendment, and another is, as set out in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery), that the cost of any such house built with assistance provided under this Clause shall not exceed £350. The Minister has intimated that these directions, as well as the conditions, will form the material of an Order which will be laid before the House, and, in moving this Amendment, I would ask him to explain to the Committee whether that Order will cover the matters referred to in these two Amendments. If so, it will greatly simplify our attitude on the two proposals. As I understand it, the Order is to be drafted by the Minister and submitted to the House, and we would like to know whether it will cover these two Amendments.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I have been called upon rather unexpectedly to speak on this Amendment. Certainly it is a very important one, because it asks the Minister, when he gives directions to the committee, to give directions regarding the cost, size and materials of the houses proposed to be built. I was surprised that no hon. Gentleman opposite rose to deal with this Amendment, because I thought, having regard to the previous utterances of hon. Members opposite, many of them would have desired to state their views as to 342 what should be the size of and the provisions in regard to the houses erected as a consequence of the extra financial contribution provided under this Bill. I remember that some years ago, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) and I had the privilege of introducing housing proposals in the House, one of the things which hon. Gentlemen opposite insisted on introducing into the text of the Bill was a provision as to the exact size and dimensions of the houses concerned. How is it that we hear nothing from hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to that question? Have they no longer any consideration for the amenities which are to be placed at the disposal of agricultural labourers under this Bill? Certainly, this is a matter which calls for the attention of the Committee.
I believe that the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) is associated very honourably and successfully with the building trade, and is one of those private builders who used to be despised, but for whom I, at any rate, have a great regard and admiration. He suggested the other day that a considerable case had been made out for the non-parlour house. I thought, when he said that, that things were indeed looking up so far as the Socialist party were concerned. Here we have a man, with great experience both of building cost and building accommodation, suggesting that, so far from specifying in the Act, as used to be the policy of the Socialist party in days gone by, that there must be a certain area, space, and number of rooms, he has the courage, and I commend it, to say that his experience of rural districts is such that, so far from suggesting parlour houses, he is of the opinion, which I think a good many people share, that in many houses the parlour is simply used on the Sabbath day, and not at all in others. The hon. Member quite rightly says in a good many cases, "Why go to all this cost in building these houses which con- 343 tain parlours and rooms of that kind?" That is a matter that certainly provoked discussion in the Committee. I have heard hon. Members opposite say they would die in the last ditch if a house was erected without a parlour. I remember when my right hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston put any such consideration before the Committee he was accused of building rabbit hutches for the workers, and other disagreeable descriptions were given of his proposals. Indeed, a change has come over the situation. There is a great deal of doubt as to what exactly the housing provision is going to be under these proposals, because an hon. Member behind me who is very experienced in these matters put this question to the Minister a week ago:May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, while he is on that point, if he will give the Committee some idea of the accommodation he expects this house to provide?The Minister replied:I do not want to standardise any kind of accommodation. It would have to be varying accommodation.Those are significant words. He does not want to have any standardisation, so changed is he in the office he now occupies. It was a voice from the Liberal benches that intervened:Sir J. TUDOR WALTERS: Probably a five-roomed house, with three bedrooms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1931; col. 1999, Vol. 254.]What is it going to be? We are asking in the Amendment that some directions shall be given by the responsible Minister as to the cost, size and materials of the new houses that are going to be erected. We ask that, because, no doubt, if the Minister has to give directions, hon. Members who may not be satisfied will be able to challenge him in the House. They will be able to say, "You have given directions which allow this committee very extreme latitude." If the right hon. Gentleman goes back on all he ever said on the question of accommodation, then, even if he has the support of a considerable number of hon. Members behind him, other hon. Members who do not agree with him will be able to challenge him and to say, "You have given such directions as to permit the committee to have all kinds of varying accommodation."
344 If that is so, we shall be satisfied. All we desire is that there shall be some Ministerial responsibility for the size of the houses. We shall then have an opportunity, having seen the directions that will be imposed as a duty on the Minister if the Amendment is carried, of calling him to account for any directions which he may give as to the accommodation that is to be afforded. That will be an excellent thing, because we shall be able to compare what he has said in the past with his performances to-day. We shall be able to recall how he accused hon. Members on this side, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston, of neglecting the needs of the people when he did not make provision for the full accommodation that was at that time desired by so many Members opposite. That gives us some opportunity of Parliamentary inquisition, and it may be that hon. Members opposite may also desire to avail themselves of that opportunity.
This is a very important Amendment, because it raises the question whether the Minister himself shall take any responsibility for the kind and the extent of the accommodation that is to be made available for the new houses that are to be erected as a consequence of the increased subsidy. Hon. Members opposite who have given consideration to the problem in the rural areas and have been so busy in the past in making their contributions to the Debates on the subject will not desire to remain silent tonight, and I am sure none of them will seek to avoid supporting this proposal in the Division Lobby, because, while their views may differ as to the kind of accommodation that is to be given, they would all agree that there should be some Ministerial responsibility in an important matter of this kind.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
This Amendment has not been moved with any amount of enthusiasm. I saw the right hon. Gentleman leap from his seat and look round to see whether anyone else was rising, and no one rose, and with his extraordinary powers of improvisation he has made one of his wonderful speeches. I believe, if any document were put into his hands, he could without any notice get up and make one of these eloquent speeches. I pay him that tribute. I am not saying his speeches are full of meat. I am not 345 saying they are always perfectly relevant, although with his artistry he keeps within the laws of order. What does his speech amount to? As I understand it, of the three points raised in these two Amendments, cost, size and material, his primary concern is with size. The size of the houses will be governed by the existing law. Within the limits of the existing law, the committee will determine the size of the houses.
It is brought up against me that we are to have houses of varying types. I see no reason for having precisely the same number of cubic feet in a house whatever the needs are. I am not ashamed of the 1930 Act and its provision for aged couples. They want a house of a smaller type than the normal family house. On the question of size, the Committee can be perfectly content. The limits are fixed by previous Acts of Parliament, and it is within those limits that the committee which is set up will operate. Therefore, the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, which the right hon. Gentleman in this Parliament has done his best to undermine, remains intact, and there will be houses of various kinds. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman has convinced anybody on this side that because my hon. Friend thinks that non-parlour houses are the most suitable, there is no need for parlour houses if they can be built. It must depend upon circumstances.
On the matter of materials, the right hon. Gentleman was significantly silent. Perhaps he has in mind those houses built of steel which were such a great success in this country, and perhaps he slurred over the question of materials, having in mind the inglorious experiment carried out in the building of steel houses by the late Government. About the cost he did not say very much. This and the following Amendment, which we are discussing together, deal specifically with the question of cost. I have dealt with that on several occasions. I explained to the Committee that last year local authorities built, I think, between 7,000 and 8,000 houses at a cost of less than £300 each. The sum of £350 has been suggested by me as a reasonable figure. I think that I can make the prophecy that in the vast majority of eases the cost of the houses built under the Act when it is on the 346 Statute Book will fall below the average of £350.
But one has to remember that these houses are being built specially for agricultural workers. They are not being built in hundreds at a time. They are not being built in districts which are necessarily close either to railway lines or to brickfields, and the question of transport may be a very important element in the cost of the houses. It is just possible that carriage of materials and so on in particular places may bring the figure a little above the £350. That is why, if we are to have the flexibility for which hon. Members on that side of the Committee have pleaded at every stage in the discussions on this Bill, I should not wish to see the figure of £350 in the Bill. Naturally, the Committee will desire to keep down the cost of the houses as low as possible, for the lower the cost the more houses will be built. Everybody in the Committee desires to see the maximum number of houses built. If hon. Members will look at the Bill they will see that this Amendment and the succeeding Amendment really do not fit in at all. Sub-section (2) deals with two points of primary importance. One is the date by which the schemes shall be submitted, and the other is the question of the financial position of local authorities, and to thrust into this Clause—
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Will the Minister read on, where it says distinctly thatthe Committee shall be guided by any general directions which may be given to them by the Minister.This is where the Amendment comes in—under the general directions.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
But there are other general considerations beside these. If these are to be emphasised, the other considerations might easily be ignored if the committee's mind is made up. It is obvious that if the committee is to deal with this thing from a broad, constructive point of view, it must have in mind all these considerations. It is inconceivable that any committee dealing with the problem of rural housing 347 should not consider the cost of the houses, the size of the houses needed, and the kind of materials of which the houses are to built. I can assure the Committee that the body which is to be set up will certainly bear those matters in mind, and I suggest that the Committee may well leave it as it stands now without intruding into this Sub-section three special conditions with regard to the other conditions, which must necessarily be taken into account as well as the conditions which are laid down in the two Amendments. I hope that the Committee will reject both this and the succeeding Amendment.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The Minister has made a really significant speech. I gather from what he has just told us that this committee is going to have an absolutely free hand in regard to the size of houses, the cost, and the materials of which they are to be built. The Minister does not regard it as in any way within his functions to give them general directions on those topics. The Parliamentary Secretary also told us on an earlier Amendment that when the committee had any application before it, it would consider all the relevant circumstances, including, I gathered from her, whether the local authority was of an extravagant nature or not—the sort of questions she told us the Unemployment Grants Committee would have to deal with. Therefore, it appears that this committee will be put into an exceedingly strong position. It will consider every relevant consideration—all the details in regard to cost, size and material—and the Minister, we are to understand, is going to give it no general or overriding directions upon these matters.
I am not going to say at once that that is necessarily the wrong way to set about dealing with the problem, but I ought to call the attention of the Committee to the consideration that, after all, the cost of these houses is being provided on the one hand by Parliament and on the other hand by the local authority. I should have thought, even with the most experienced and able committee in the world, those who pay the piper should be entitled to call the tune. If the Minister of Health, as the representative of the taxpayers, is to contribute so much money to the cost of 348 these houses, and the local authorities are to pay the remaining cost, surely the degree to which this committee should be entitled to dictate in regard to these details might possibly be more circumscribed. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it will be very difficult for him to lay down regulations in regard to materials, because when you are building cottages all over the country you have to take the local material, and such considerations as transport necessarily comes in.
But if I were the Minister of Health, I would put a ban upon diagonal asbestos tiles, because I think that they are an absolute eyesore. I hope that he will use his influence to prevent the use of materials which are an eyesore. Very often some of the most expensive materials are the ugliest. Your polished, bright red brick that looks like a pomegranate is one of the most costly types of brick, and it is also easily the ugliest. It is so well made that it wears, and after 20 years it looks brand new. I hope that the Minister will use his influence against the use of that type of brick, and will let us have "clamp" bricks which are harder and which harmonise with the weather more quickly, and, therefore, look much more beautiful, although they have the disadvantage, to a certain type of mind, that they are considerably cheaper than any other.
It is in that direction that I should have thought the Minister would have proceeded in regard to materials. If he tells us he has such implicit confidence in this committee that he is going to give them a perfectly free hand and nobody else is to interfere, I shall be interested to know who the members of the committee are to be? There have been rumours flying about in that direction and we should like to know if they are true. When you come to the size of the house, I think that is a matter about which the Minister should take Parliament more into his confidence. We had all the protestations from the Socialist party in regard to the Conservative Housing Bill, and at the last election we heard all about the size of houses, and what type of house the workmen were entitled to live in and that the Socialist party were going to give them, so we ought to know where the 349 Government stand in that matter and what type of house they consider fit for the agricultural labourer. We are not going to be told. The Minister is going to shelter himself behind the committee. I am not saying he is unwise, but he is certainly not as brave as he was when he sat on these benches.
I desire to ask only one question, and that is whether, in giving directions to this committee, the Minister will impress on them that British materials should be used in the building of the houses? I speak with some knowledge on this question, because in the constituency which I represent the best roofing material in the world is produced. We do know that in schemes promoted by local authorities in the past foreign roofing material of such a poor quality has been employed that houses have had to be reroofed within a period of three years. In the building of these houses public money is being spent, and I claim that the Minister has a perfect right to insist that British materials, which have proved to be superior in every way to foreign materials, should be used. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that there is a great depression in the slate industry to-day. This scheme will help to set that industry on its feet again provided the Minister will insist on the use of British materials.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I rise to support the contention of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. I quite agree about the quality of his Welsh slates, because I have just been having a big job done myself, and I stipulated for roofing materials of Welsh slate, because I know they are superior to foreign tiles. It is refreshing to find at last that we have a real recruit in the hon. and gallant Member. I can see him crossing that little Gangway when we have another discussion on the question of free imports. I am just as anxious on behalf of the constituency I represent that the Minister should stipulate that the materials to be used in the building of these houses shall be British, because there happens to be in my own town of Grimsby a considerable manufacturing business in doors and windows for houses. In that particular district, we do it by mass production, and the price is very 350 reasonable. I am very anxious indeed to see the Minister lay down stipulations that, in addition to Welsh slates for the roofs. British-made doors and windows shall be used. I hope he will lay it down also that local labour shall, as far as possible, be employed. If he does accept this Amendment, he will be able to stipulate that British material is to be used and will be able to deal with the question of local labour. There is no better man than the British carpenter to deal with the country cottage, for he knows all about it and it will not be so costly as if it were let out to a big contractor at a very large centre.
We have heard a great deal from the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters) about mass production in his speeches on the housing question. He was all out for mass production, but was not thinking about cottages in the country. In the widely scattered parishes in which these houses are required you cannot talk about mass production in respect of joinery and so on, and the more employment you can give to those in the localities the better. We must bear in mind that it has been said all along that the real incentive to go on with this scheme has been the provision of work for unemployed people in the building industry. We have heard from the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth and from the Government Front Bench that, in addition to providing for the needs of the public, we are going to provide work for some of the unemployed. Unless the Minister does stipulate that British material only shall be used, it is not the unemployed in this country he is going to assist, but unemployed in other countries. We ought not to vote public money for that purpose.
I am also desirous that this Amendment should be accepted because I want the Minister to have something to say about the size of the houses. It is true we want variation in different districts, but I hope, in view of what the Minister has said in the past when sitting on this side, he will not ignore the fact that the small type house is very much desired by many people in country districts and can be built at very small cost. You have the old couple and the old age pensioners who could be provided for far better and live in the country districts 351 where they have lived all their lives. The game type of house can be occupied by the newly-married couple, and later they can be removed to a larger type of house when the family comes along. It is better to provide half-a-dozen small-type houses than three of a very large type. We must have some directions from the Minister, because the number of houses to be built is limited. I think it was stated that the average throughout the country would be four houses per parish, and surely it is a right and proper thing that we should have four of the right type?
Although the Minister has told us he will not accept either of these two Amendments, I hope he will reconsider his position. As regards the price, I think the Minister is very foolish to let it go forth that it is possible that he will have to pay more than £350 per house. Once that does go forth, he can take it from me he will have to pay more. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) will bear me out in this for he is a man of experience, and I will take his word. Is it not a fact that when we have had big housing schemes before, and local authorities have put out contracts, we have had an immediate rise in price, not only for local authorities but private people? It is bound to follow. I do not blame the builders for trying to do the best for themselves, but we do not want to give the impression that the Minister is going to sanction anything in the way of an expensive article.
The right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth has told us that he has been responsible for an organisation that has built over 28,000 houses. Many years ago we had an experience in building houses in the Sheffield district. I do not want to see the same type of houses that were built in that district to be built under this Bill. The hon. Member for Brigg knows what I am talking about. I am not speaking of the last houses that were built but of the former houses. Do not let us have anything like that again. That is why I want the Minister to keep control. It would be far better to lay it down definitely and clearly that a house costing £350 is to be the limit. I am satisfied that if we do that, we shall get the houses that the Minister wants at that price The right hon. Member for Penryn and 352 Falmouth said that he could build houses at £600 a pair that are suitable for the people in rural areas. If he can do that, the Minister ought to lay it down that he is not going to be responsible for more than £350 per house, and he will get the houses for that money. If he does not do that, it may be that he will have to pay more. Every penny that he pays more will mean one of two things, either that there will be fewer houses built, because there is only a certain sum voted by the House, or we shall have to charge a much higher figure for rent. Rent is a very serious matter. I hope the Minister will reconsider his decision not to accept the Amendment.
§ Sir JOHN GILMOUR
As this Measure applies both to Scotland and England I am impelled to ask whether the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland takes the view that was expressed by the Minister of Health that the steel houses that were built were a disastrous experiment. We are discussing on this Amendment alternative methods of construction, and the Minister of Health has chosen to make a statement of a very derogatory nature on a particular method of construction. The fact remains, whether rightly or wrongly, that the main part of that experiment was carried out not under the jurisdiction of the Department in England but in Scotland, and 2,000 houses were produced for the occupation of the working classes under circumstances and at rents which compared very favourably with any of the other constructive methods at that time.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Yes, in rural areas. If the hon. Member chooses to go up the Highland line he will see examples in the rural areas. I am impelled to ask this question also. We hear a great deal at the present time about houses for agricultural labourers. I would ask the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland whether he really thinks that this proposal is going to deal in any single sense throughout Scotland with agricultural labourers. He knows as well as I do that, in fact, almost the entire housing propositions for the agricultural labourers in Scotland are tied houses, and are concerned with the particular farm on which the labourers work, and that whatever this Measure may do in 353 the rural areas it is going to deal in the main with those who are analogous to agricultural labourers. Do not let us delude ourselves and do not let this House be deluded into thinking that what we are doing to-night or any methods in the Amendments dealing with materials etc. we are dealing directly with the real agricultural labourer. It is not.
As to the question of cost, I would ask the Under-Secretary of State this question. It is true that at an earlier period of our discussion there was some difference of opinion as to whether the houses were to cost £300, £350 or £355. Has he and those who are responsible for the administration in Scotland in mind whether they will deal with houses over and above that figure, and if so what is the justification for it? Quite clearly there ought to be great freedom in the kind of material that is used. One knows of some houses in our Highland districts at the present time where the gable ends are built of local stone and the sides are filled in either by corrugated iron, plus timber, and in some cases with a form of reinforced concrete. There are a great variety of methods employed in the most outlying parts of our country, and the materials are supplied by the Department concerned. The House ought to have some idea whether these problems have been thought out, how far these are matters which are going to be left entirely to the committees, and to what extent the Minister responsible for carrying out these proposals is going to exercise any control. I should like to know, if judging by reports which I have read, and from my own personal knowledge of what has been the result of the experiments in the 2,000 steel houses in Scotland, whether it can be honestly said that they have not contributed towards the solution of the housing problem or that they were unsuitable or that as an alternative method they have not helped to solve part of the problem of housing in Scotland.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I certainly should not say that the provision of the 2,000 steel houses did not contribute in some way to dealing with the housing problem in Scotland. I was one of those who did not oppose the building of steel houses, but what I did object to—[An HON. MEMBER: "You made a mistake."] I 354 may have made a mistake, but if I did not make mistakes I should be the only individual who did not make one. I opposed the building of steel houses, not because they were steel houses but because the trade union conditions were not to be applied to them. I should be the last individual to make a claim that they have not contributed something towards helping to deal with the problem of housing in Scotland.
I come to the further point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. Will these proposals do anything to help the agricultural labourers in Scotland? My answer is, Yes. The limits of the Bill are not such that they apply only to agricultural labourers. The Title of the Bill is wide enough to enable us to deal not merely with agricultural labourers, who can benefit, but it will help some of those who work on farms at the present time and who, on evidence before the Department of Health, have applied for cottage houses built by the local authority and have been refused because they are living in the tied cottages, although they have no earthly possibility of getting out of those conditions. Despite the fact that they may have two or three sons or daughters who are working in other industries than agriculture, they are compelled to occupy under the existing conditions the tied cottages, because the local authorities in Scotland up to the present time have made no provision of any kind for the ordinary farm labourer, because it is considered that it is part of his conditions of occupation that he shall also be provided with a cottage.
A further point to which I wish to refer is whether we are going to limit the cost to £350. If I were to spend two hours in addressing the House I could not give any better arguments against the argument by which the right hon. Gentleman supported the Amendment, than the argument of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Amendment is to give direction as to the cost, size and materials of houses proposed to be built. No one knows better than my right hon. Friend that if we were to put a maximum of £350, so far as the provision of houses in the northern areas of Scotland is concerned, it would simply make the Bill impossible. I have here an estimate of the cost of 355 building houses in our northern counties, and I find that the minimum cost, having regard to the cost of transport and other conditions, is approximately £390 per house. The right hon. and gallant Member, when he was responsible for the administration of Scotland, approved houses at a cost of £500 each. That was not the fault of the local authority. The right hon. and gallant Member approved of the building of houses at that cost, and surely no one, and above all the right hon. and gallant Member, will suggest that we should limit the cost to £350 per house in the case of those houses which are built in the northern parts of Scotland. I agree that there may be various kinds of materials which may be more suitable for respective districts—
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I am not dealing with corrugated iron, but with the Amendment, and these interruptions do not help me to deal with the arguments of hon. Members opposite. I want to leave the fullest measure of freedom to the committee which is to be responsible for dealing with this matter so that they will get the best material available in the district at the cheapest possible price and give us the cheapest possible house; but the cost will not be less than £350.
§ Captain CAZALET
I want to correct a false impression as to the spirit in which this Amendment has been moved. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we were not anxious to intervene. We were straining at the leash to take part in the discussion, but we anticipated that as the Amendment was important the Minister of Health would immediately rise in order to reaffirm those sentiments which in former days he cast against the Conservative party because we were not prepared to build parlour houses in all parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman, however, tamely said that he had changed his mind and that to-day under this Bill any houses are suitable. We do not like the Minister of Health to leave everything entirely to the discretion of this committee. We want the committee to build every type of house, and we hope the right 356 hon. Gentleman will make it plain that no former words of condemnation are to influence the committee or the local authorities in this matter, and that every possible kind of house will be built according to the needs of each individual district.
It warmed the cockles of our hearts to hear an hon. Member from Wales plead the cause of British materials. He was probably doing so in order to advertise his own constituency. That seems to be a popular thing to do, so may I point out that in my own constituency there are quarries to-day with a great number of unemployed which produce excellent bath stone. In the old days many houses were built with this excellent material and I hope that in giving directions to the committee the right hon. Gentleman will emphasise the point that the product of the district should be used. In that way he will get the cheapest and best houses. The Minister of Health can give directions in regard to materials. In a certain London organisation a contract was held up because certain members of the local authority objected to Russian timber being used. I do not wish to start that difficult subject, but I am pointing out a pitfall in order that the right hon. Gentleman may avoid it. On almost every local authority there will be some individual who will say "Here is public money being spent, what materials are you going to use. Is it true that Russian timber and window-frames are going to be used? In that way contracts might be held up and the Minister would not be successful in getting the houses built in the desired time. If the right hon. Gentleman takes these matters into consideration he will expedite the working of the Bill.
§ Mr. ALBERY
I have an Amendment on the Paper to limit the cost of these houses to £350, but I understand that the discussion on cost is being taken on the present Amendment. I attach more importance to that part of the Amendment which concerns cost than to the other. This Bill is going to fail in its object unless it produces houses which are let-able at a rent within the reach of the poorest sections of the community. The rent of a house is going to depend on the cost, and if you are going to allow local authorities to run away on the question of cost you are going to raise the rent 357 and the whole object of the Bill will fail. I am entirely unimpressed by the right hon. Gentleman's remarks as to why there should be no limitation. He says that if you limit the building of houses in England at £350, you may be stopped from building houses in Scotland for £355. Already distinctions have been made between England and Scotland in this Bill and I have no objection to making another distinction. As far as England is concerned I am perfectly certain that you can build the houses required for £350, and the only way in which you can secure that they shall be let at a rental which the House desires is to limit the cost of building. On the debate on the Unemployment Insurance Bill the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters) said:Yon can build agricultural cottages now, all in, for £600 a pair, or £300 each. I think that is a very full price.That gives the right hon. Gentleman a margin of £50 with which to play, and that is quite enough. If he does not put in this limitation, it is certain, as other hon. Members have said, that the cost will be raised. It is a very important thing that a definite limit should be inserted with a view to limiting the rent. It will not only have an effect upon the designs which are submitted and upon the suggestions put forward, but it will also be calculated to have some effect upon the cost of building materials generally. As soon as it is known that these houses cannot be built except at a certain figure, that in itself will do a great deal to damp down any possible attempt to bolster up or increase the price of building materials.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
I would like to supplement the remarks of my hon. Friend who has just spoken. I agree with him that the second Amendment under consideration is really much more important than the first. It is much more capable of acceptance than the first. I can understand some of the objections of the Minister with regard to the first Amendment, but in regard to the second I think the right hon. Gentleman was much more concerned with the difficulties that he mentioned as to the initial cost of building the houses. I would remind the Minister once more of the statement that he made in answer to a question as to the rent which would be payable in respect of 358 houses costing £350, with a subsidy as in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has fixed the subsidy at £250 and the price of the house is £350. In answer to a question the Minister has said that the economic rent of that house, on the basis of the £250 subsidy, is to be 3s. 2d. a week exclusive of rates. That allows only 1s. 6d. per week for repairs, which in my judgment would, perhaps, be found inadequate. But take the Minister's own figure of 3s. 2d., and a sinking fund over a period of 60 years, and this inevitably arises: Any increase whatever in the basic price of £350 will have to be met by the agricultural workers.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the Amendment from that point of view, and not so much from the point of view which has been quite properly put, that it is well to have a maximum price. I know that one objection to the maximum price is that it always becomes the minimum price. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said that the minimum price for some houses in Scotland was £390; but that is no reason why the minimum price for England should be £390. Furthermore, if that were the case, then the basis upon which 40,000 houses are to be built is quite wrong. If the hon. Gentleman's statement is correct so far as the houses in Scotland are concerned, those houses are to cost not £350, but £390, and the Minister's statement with regard to the rent which is to be charged is utterly wrong. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that he will not have a minimum price, but that he will have a minimum rent. If there is to be a minimum rent there must be a minimum price.
§ Mr. SMITHERS
I understand that we are discussing the price of houses and the material of which houses should be built. Many prices have been mentioned, £300, £350 and £390. In all seriousness I can tell the Minister how to solve the whole problem. Some years ago, when the right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) was Minister of Health, he came to my division and was present at the opening of four cottages built under the Nash system. We have built several cottages of that type. They cost £250 each; they are five-roomed houses, and the best proof of 359 their efficiency and usefulness to the community is that the people who live in them like them. They are dry and warm, and they can be built by unskilled labour. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to take the question of these Nash houses seriously. Twenty or 30 local authorities have already adopted them. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to come down and see the houses. They have been up two or three years and are most satisfactory. The whole problem of rural housing can be solved if the right hon. Gentleman will come and look at these houses and use the great influence that he has as Minister of Health. Let me explain that neither Mr. Nash nor myself has any financial interest in the matter. We merely want to try to do a service to the country. I beg the Minister to come and see the houses with his experts, so that he can tell the people of England and of Scotland how to build cheaply and efficiently.
§ Mr. HASLAM
I wish briefly to support more particularly the Amendment relating to the limitation of price. I
§ have already submitted that the prime factor in the success of this undertaking is the rent, the production of a house at a rent which the agricultural worker can pay. That is something like 3s. a week. I was very disappointed with the replies of the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary on this question. It-is obvious that the only way in which a house can be produced at the right rent is to limit the cost. There is another very cogent argument in favour of limiting the cost, and that is to prevent the exploitation which has followed all previous housing schemes and which will surely follow this scheme, in the raising of the price of raw materials. The right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) has shown conclusively that the way to reduce the cost of houses is to give up subsidies altogether. That is a thing which we on this side regard as true—that to limit the cost of building is the only real way to keep down prices.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 102; Noes, 262.361
|Division No. 397.]||AYES.||[10.5 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Ganzoni, Sir John||O'Connor, T. J.|
|Albery, Irving James||Gilmour, Lt.-Col, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Penny, Sir George|
|Atkinson, C.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Baldwin, Ht. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Remer, John R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Hanbury, C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bracken, B.||Haslam, Henry C.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col Arthur P.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Christle, J. A.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Smithers, Waldron|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hurd, Percy A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Inskip, Sir Thomas||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Thompson, Luke|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Train, J.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davidson, Rt Hon. J. (Hertford)||Long, Major Hon. Eric||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Macquisten, F. A.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Fielden, E. B.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Nall-Cain, A. R. N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld)||Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain|
|Sir George Bowyer.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Alpass, J. H.||Arnott, John|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Ammon, Charles George||Aske, Sir Robert|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Angell, Sir Norman||Attlee, Clement Richard|
|Ayles, Walter||Herriotts, J.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Barr, James||Hoffman, P. C.||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Horrabin, J. F.||Potts, John S.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Isaacs, George||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Benson, G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Richards, R.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne)||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ritson, J.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Bromfield, William||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Bromley, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Brothers, M.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rothschild, J. de|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Kinley, J.||Rowson, Guy|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Kirkwood, D.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Knight, Holford||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Samuel Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Sandham, E.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Lawrence, Susan||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Scott, James|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Scurr, John|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leach, W.||Sexton, Sir James|
|Chater, Daniel||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Charke, J. S.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lees, J.||Shield, George William|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Leonard, W.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lindley, Fred W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Sinkinson, George|
|Cove, William G.||Logan, David Gilbert||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Cowan, D. M.||Longbottom, A. W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Longden, F.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Daggar, George||Lunn, William||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B.(Keighley)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McElwee, A||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||McEntee, V. L.||Sorensen, R.|
|Duncan, Charles||McKinlay, A.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Ede, James Chuter||MacLaren, Andrew||Stephen, Campbell|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Strauss, G. R.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Sullivan, J.|
|Egan, W. H.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Sutton, J. E.|
|England, Colonel A.||McShane, John James||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Evans, Major Herbert (Gateshead)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Foot, Isaac||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Manning, E. L.||Tillett, Ben|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Mansfield, W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Marcus, M.||Toole, Joseph|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Markham, S. F.||Tout, W. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Marley, J.||Townend, A. E.|
|Gill, T. H.||Marshall, Fred||Vaughan, David|
|Gillett, George M.||Mathers, George||Viant, S. P.|
|Glassey, A. E.||Matters, L. W.||Walker, J.|
|Gossling, A. G.||Maxton, James||Wallace, H. W.|
|Gould, F.||Messer, Fred||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Middleton, G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gray, Milner||Millar, J. D.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Mills, J. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Milner, Major J.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Montague, Frederick||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Morley, Ralph||White, H. G.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Mort, D. L.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Muff, G.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Muggeridge, H. T.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Murnin, Hugh||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hardie, David (Rutherglen)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Noel Baker, P. J.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Haycock, A. W.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Palin, John Henry.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Palmer, E. T.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Paling.|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Perry, S. F.|
§ Mr. ALBERY
I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that the cost of any house built with assistance provided under this Section shall not exceed three hundred and fifty pounds.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 101; Noes, 263.365
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, at the end, to insert the words:(3) The Minister shall cause any conditions laid down by him for the purposes of sub-section (1) of this Section and any directions given by him for the purposes of the last preceding Sub-section, to be laid forthwith before the Commons House of Parliament, and, if that House within the next twenty-one days on which the House has sat after any such conditions or directions are laid before it, resolves, that they shall be annulled, they shall cease to have effect, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder, or to the laying down or giving of fresh conditions or directions.Earlier in the discussion two proposals were put forward, one to define the conditions in the Schedule, and the other as to the Order requiring a Resolution 366 of the House of Commons; and an agreement has been reached as a result of which I move this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Order. I have said that I do not propose to select any further Amendments on this Clause, and that is final.
§ Mr. ALBERY
I would not in any way question your decision as to the selection of Amendments, but I do wish to submit to you that the Amendment concerning the rents of houses raises what many of us regard as the most important point in the whole of this Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Captain GUNSTON
Naturally, we all bow to your Ruling, but we do put great store by our Amendment about rents, and I hope the Minister, before we pass from this Clause, will be able to give us some indication as to the regulations to be made in regard to rents. Anyone who has followed these Debates will realise that Members of all parties are very anxious that we should make some provision for these houses to be let to agricultural labourers at a rent they can afford to pay. The agricultural labourer can afford very little, and as long as the Socialist Government remain in office, the less likely he will be able to afford it. The Amendment which I had intended to move would have provided that no house should be let to an agricultural labourer at a rent exceeding 4s. 6d. a week. I know that many hon. Members opposite as well as on this side—for this is quite a non-Party question—would say that 4s. 6d. a week is really too high a rent for an agricultural labourer. I quite agree. The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) made a speech in the House the other day in which she said:The Minister gave us a figure round about 3s. to 4s. 6d. inclusive of rates, but even that reduced figure would be a severe strain upon the resources of the agricultural workers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 10th July, 1931; col. 2472, Vol. 254.]I quite agree, and perhaps the Minister will tell us that it may be possible, at any rate in England, to lay down regulations that the rent shall not exceed 3s. 6d. a week. On 18th April, the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. Tudor Walters), in that tremendous oration which so astonished the House, the mathematics of which were so amazing that even the right hon. Gentleman the author of "Ninepence for Fourpence" turned green with envy, informed us that it was quite possible to build houses at £300 and let them at 3s. a week, inclusive of rates. We hoped that we might have some guidance from the Minister of Health concerning those figures. However, when the Minister came to speak last Friday, he told us that 368 he had in mind a figure of 4s. 6d. I had hoped that 4s. 6d. was really a maximum figure, and that, in the great majority of parishes, the rent would be less than 4s. 6d. per week. But the words of the Minister are not very encouraging. He said he had in mind houses at a maximum inclusive rent of 4s. 6d. per week, that is to say, rent including rates. In some areas, he said, it is hoped that the sum "may be substantially reduced." I hoped that he might have said that in some areas the rent might be 4s. 6d., hut that in the great majority of areas it would be about 3s.
In my Amendment, which was not called, I put down 4s. 6d. a week because it was the Minister's own figure, and, though I would have liked to see the figure of 3s. accepted, as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd), I understood that the Minister had put in 4s. 6d. a week probably because he was thinking of the difficulties of Scotland and, I believe, of Wales. In some remote parts of Wales and Scotland, where there is a difficulty of transport, houses may be considerably more expensive than in many parts of England. I hope when the Minister replies that he will tell us that 4s. 6d. a week will be included in the regulations which he intends to lay down, and that he has put it at 4s. 6d., so that it may include remote parts; but that in regard to agricultural areas in England, he hopes it may be a much lower figure.
The right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth, when he spoke in February, told us that, if his scheme were adopted, it would be possible to build 100,000 houses, and that, if that were done—I hope I am paraphrasing him aright—by building more houses, you could therefore build them considerably cheaper. It will be remembered that he made that speech in February, when he opposed the idea of a subsidy. Since that date, he has accepted the idea of a subsidy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth was not very gallant when he accused the Minister of helping to put whisky in his water. [Interruption.] I would not accuse anybody of so unselfish an act. I beg pardon—I meant putting water in his whisky. I cannot imagine anybody putting water in anybody's whisky. I cannot help think- 369 ing that the Minister of Health has persuaded the right hon. Gentleman to Imbibe a much more alarming drink, and that was the drink of a subsidy. Directly he persuaded the right hon. Gentleman to accept the idea of a subsidy, the right hon. Gentleman seems to have imbibed this intoxicating political beverage to such an extent that it affected his mathematics. When he spoke in February, he informed the House that it was possible to build 100,000 houses for nothing, but when he spoke last Friday, after having accepted the idea of a subsidy, he told us that it was possible, not to build 40,000 houses for nothing, but to make a profit on the deal.
I very much fear that, unless there is some regulation to limit the rent which will be asked of the agricultural labourer, the effect of the subsidy will be to put up the price of houses, and I rather think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn shares this fear, because, when he spoke in February, he proved that it would be possible to build 100,000 houses and bring the cost of building down, but when he spoke last week he was at pains to explain that the erection of 40,000 houses would not put the cost of housing up. The difference in his point of view as between February and to-day is that in the meantime he has accepted the theory of a subsidy.
What is the history of subsidies in this country? It is that, whenever a subsidy has been paid on houses, the cost of building has gone up. Surely, whether the hon. Lady agrees with that or not, she does not want to see the cost of building go up to-day. If by Regulation a limit were imposed on the rent that can be charged, it would act as an automatic brake on a rise in the cost of housing. My hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) pointed out the other day that whenever you have a great national pool, a gift from the State, everyone wants a finger in the pie. [Interruption.] I am glad that my hon. Friends opposite agree. Therefore, it is necessary to protect this money which the State is giving. If all the local authorities and all the builders know that there is to be a limit on the rent, that will in effect place a limit on the rise in the cost of housing. It would be lamentable if we were to give this new subsidy without an 370 assurance from the Minister that there will be a limit to the rent which can be charged to the agricultural worker. I have tried to make my point in a non-controversial way, and I am sure that hon. Members opposite are quite as anxious as we are that houses should be built which the agricultural labourer can afford. I agree that this becomes more difficult the longer this Government lasts, but, at the same time, we want to protect the agricultural labourer against a rise in the cost of housing owing to the subsidy, and I suggest that the only way in which that object can be achieved is by a Regulation placing a definite limit on the rent which the agricultural labourer will be compelled to pay.
§ Mr. HURD
I feel that we ought not to allow this Clause to pass from our control without some definite statement from the Minister on this vital question of rent. It is obvious that this question is at the basis of the success or failure of the Bill. I think that, as the Minister proceeds with the operation of this Measure, he will come more and more to the figure of 3s. per week for rent. It is the figure which the right hon. Member below the Gangway put into his speech, and, as we gather that his interest in this Measure is likely to continue, that is a particular reason for adopting such a figure. But there is another reason why we shoulid keep this figure in our minds, and that is that it is the figure which is associated with wage regulation in the case of the agricultural labourer. We know that the figure is low, but the wage also is low. We have our ideas as to the raising of that wage, though it would not be in order if I were to develop that point.
The next point is that 3s. is what may be called a normal rent figure as applied to agricultural labourers. They cannot pay more. The subsidy council houses that we have put up are only in a very few cases now occupied by agricultural workers. I made an informal census of a typical rural district in my constituency and I found that a third of the council houses are now occupied by agricultural labourers. Of that third, a good many are occupied by a father and a son, it may be a widower, or by two agricultural labourers living together. The genuine agricultural labourer has hardly been touched by the rural housing schemes which have hitherto passed through the 371 House. If the 1926 Act had been properly operated, a large part of the needs of agricultural labourers in regard to a low rent would have been satisfied. If the plans under this Clause are made on the basis of a higher rent than 3s., or thereabouts, you are really risking a repetition of the failure of previous Measures.
May I give a typical illustration from my own constituency? I have here a report of the vicars of three villages, in one of which a High Court Judge and other important people live. They say that most of the population are farm workers earning 30s. a week, and many are even poorer—old age pensioners, widowers, and people generally living on parish relief. They point out that the rural district council has done its best to meet the demand, but it is economically impossible for them to erect houses renting at less than 5s. 6d. a week, including rates. Their appeal to the Ministry is for labourers' cottages renting at not more than 3s. a week, which is all that these people can manage without denying themselves the absolute necessities of life. I ask the Minister to tell us, before the Clause leaves the Committee, that 3s. or thereabouts is the figure that is going to be kept in mind. The purpose of the Bill is to provide, by emergency means, houses for agricultural workers at rents which they can pay, and we say by the Amendments that we have striven to put into the Bill, that, if this emergency Measure is to achieve its purpose, something like a rental of 3s. a week must be in the Minister's mind, in his operation, of the Bill.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I remember the claim having been made that most of the houses that have been built in the rural areas since the War have been built by that much vaunted private enterprise of which hon. Members opposite are so very proud. I understand the case they are making now is that all that housing activity has failed because rents are so high that agricultural labourers cannot afford to pay them. Having permitted these high rents, I now find hon. Members opposite as the apostles of low rents for new houses. I am glad that that should be so, but it is impossible either to put into the Bill or to give a firm undertaking about rent in all circum- 372 stances in every part of the country. It would be most unwise to give such an undertaking. Desiring to take the House into my confidence, I gave the House a rough figure, which was to be a sort of guide as to what we have in mind. I have been criticised for putting it too high. On one occasion I called it 3s. and rates, and on other occasions I have called it 4s. 6d., inclusive of rates. But with inclusive rent or with the rent and rates, the sum is considerably below the prevailing rent, or rent and rates for new houses which have been built under post-War housing schemes.
One wants to get down to a rent which is within the means of the agricultural worker to pay, but the situation of agricultural labourers is not equally desperate in all parts of the country. There is a very wide variation in agricultural wages. There is the case quoted by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd), who spoke of two wage-earners in one family where the income would be very considerably above the income of many working-class households in industrial areas. It seems to be reasonable in cases like that, where wages are higher, that the rent should bear some sort of relation to the ability of the wage-earner to pay the rent. Therefore, one does not want to be tied to any maximum figure. The object which all of us have in mind is the same. It is a desire to get down to a minimum rent, the lowest that we can get, having regard to all the circumstances, for some of the worst paid and most badly housed section of the community. When one remembers that this is a scheme of house building which has to go on for several years, it is very difficult to put in an Act of Parliament a rent which is bound to operate over the whole of the period. I should have thought that the wisest thing to do was what has been done under previous housing Acts—not to put a definite figure into the Bill, but to leave it so as to get a rent as low as is compatible with reasonable houses, and in view of the circumstances of the case.
The Committee on the whole, I think, will agree that it will be a great mistake and the height of unwisdom to try to insert in the Bill a definite particular of this kind which will shackle the committee. There is a tendency, as hon. Members have suggested, for any figure like 373 that, instead of being a maximum holding down rents, to become the minimum standard rent, and in my opinion that would be the very thing which, as the hon. and gallant Member for Thornbury (Captain Gunston) pointed put, might actually increase it. I am not going over the whole ground again about the relation between subsidies and price, except to say that the history of the last two or three years disproves the view held by hon. Members on the other side. I can imagine that if you put a figure into the Bill, and advertised that figure widely, the tendency would be for housing costs to creep up to that particular level. If you deal with it through a committee which will take all the facts into account, I am satisfied that you will not only get lower costs but lower rents for the people whom this Bill is brought forward to assist.
§ Mr. ALBERY
I cannot say that the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman gives me the slightest satisfaction. He started by referring to former housing Bills and to what has been done on former occasions. What has been done on former occasions? The right hon. Gentleman and his friends opposite have gone to their constituencies, have fought general elections, and have promised their constituents cheap houses. They have passed housing Bills, and they have disappointed their constituents. There has not been passed so far a single housing Bill which has given cheap houses to the workers. What we want is not to get rents up, but to make quite sure that they do not go up beyond the figure which people can pay. When the Bill was brought in there appeared to be a new idea. At last hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to tackle the problem of the workers who received low wages and who for the last 10 years had been staring at thousands of houses which were going up without being able to pay the rent. What are you doing now? You are running away from the problem at the very beginning. It was perfectly possible for the Minister to put some figure in the Bill without the least danger, and, if he had done so, it would have been some real mark of his sincerity in this matter, but he has simply run away from the whole matter. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir J. 374 Tudor Walters) say? He quoted 3s. and in certain events 2s. 6d.
If only the Minister had been willing to put 3s. 6d. in the Bill, we might have believed in his sincerity. As it is, I begin to doubt whether he has any real intention of operating the Bill. He at least has a chance of doing something to fulfil the promises which hon. Gentlemen opposite have made up and down the country in the last 10 years. Here tonight they have a chance of implementing them, but they are running away from them. I very much regret that we had not a chance to divide on the Amendment upon this point, but, as we could not do it, then I mean to divide on the Clause if anyone will divide with me. I regard it as a test of the sincerity of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—whether there is going to be any guarantee as to what rents are to be, which is the main object of the Bill from the housing point of view? I intend to test it by going into the Division Lobby against this Clause.
§ Sir J. TUDOR WALTERS
I am in some considerable difficulty for I have refrained from intervening in the earlier stages of Debate. I thought the Committee had heard my views about houses ad nauseam, but the play that has been made with the speeches I have delivered in this House on previous occasions compels me to act as my own interpreter in so far as I may be in order in doing so on the Clause. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why hon. Gentlemen should imagine that the insertion of words in the Bill either about economic or uneconomic rents will, in fact, have the slightest influence as to whether we shall or shall not produce houses at a low rate.
§ Sir J. TUDOR WALTERS
It has not the slightest effect on it. How are we to produce cheap houses and what is the machinery by which it is to be done? It is that we propose for the first time to call in the aid of outside people, in the way of a committee, to set up a special organisation and to give close detailed attention to the planning and methods of construction to be adopted, to assist the local authorities in the Organisation of their cheap building cam- 375 paign and in this way to reduce the cost of producing houses to the lowest possible figure consistent with a decent standard of housing. That is the object and policy of the Committee. At the same time that is the only purpose for which this Measure is before Parliament. [Interruption.] I submit that the only way to do that, having started a new method, is not to fetter it by putting in absurd restrictions which, on the admission of hon. Members have proved ineffective in past Acts. We are starting de novo with a new outlook, a new policy, and a new determination. If the committee appointed under the supervision of the Minister of Health do not accomplish this purpose, disband them and assassinate them if you like, but do not make it impossible for them to accomplish their purpose by a lot of absurd and ridiculous restrictions.
I am satisfied that, if the right methods of production and organisation are adopted, the houses will be built at far below the figure of £350 a house. I have not altered my mind as regards the view that I expressed last February, that we ought to be able to get a house, inclusive of rates, at pretty nearly 2s. 6d. a week. On the average they ought not to exceed 3s. 6d. a week. Of course, there are exceptional and special cases. There are districts where a very small number of houses have to be built, where two here or four there may stand over a wide district, or where there are difficulties of transport, and where it may well be that the rent will run up to a maximum of 4s. or 4s. 6d., especially in areas where there are high rates. How absurd it would be to put in the limit of 3s., 3s. 6d., or 4s. There might be areas where houses were urgently needed and where the rent would have to be 4s. 7d., 4s, 8d., or 4s. 9d. a week. Is this a kindergarten school or is it a Committee of the House of Commons? Are we here to play spillikins across the Floor of the House, or are we here as a body of men who are really anxious to get something done for the agricultural community? If we are to do that, we must trust someone. If we are going a sea passage we must trust to the captain and the crew. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is the captain?"] The Minister of Health is the captain, and he is not 376 going to be interfered with by discharged seamen. I always endeavour to speak with moderation, but sometimes on this particular question my feelings get the better of me.
Like some hon. Members who have spoken I am tired of the continued promise of cheap houses for the working classes, which none of us have yet been able to fulfil. We need not go about distributing praise and blame, because if we do hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House will have to put on a white sheet in regard to the past. We have all failed up to the present, and I could give many reasons for it, reasons that would remove personal blame from both sides of the House. I yield to none in my admiration of the work done by the Conservative party under their Act of 1923 or to my hon. Friends on the other side for what has been done under the Act of 1924, but there are some things that neither of them has yet done. I want to see some of those defects remedied. I want to see, at long last, even though we have gone through a painful process in the meantime, a cheap house provided for the agricultural labourer, and I am satisfied that, if we address ourselves seriously to the question, it will be accomplished in the very near future.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DIXEY
I am entirely dissatisfied with the speech of the Minister of Health, and I hope that my hon. Friend will press the matter to a Division. I have never seen such sheer hypocrisy as that displayed by a Minister of the party opposite, in coming to this House and deliberately refusing to put in a Bill a proper protection for the most underpaid members of the community. The right hon. Gentleman on the platform has always stood for fair play for the workers. I have had the privilege of hearing him, but how does he act when he comes here? He and his followers behind him, when speaking in country areas have always been in favour of providing proper houses at cheap rents for the agricultural labourer, and they have the loyal support of the members of the Liberal party, who are also in favour of cheap rents for the agricultural labourer and a subsidy for building houses. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, leaning back and no doubt 377 feeling his position keenly, must appreciate, if his conscience will allow him to appreciate, that it is a very appropriate protection to have in this Bill an economic rent for the agricultural labourer. There is an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout the whole of the Debate. [Interruption.] Hon Members opposite can jeer, but that does not alter the fact that they have always told the people that rents can be brought down to a minimum. That is their policy, and it is the policy of the Liberal party. We have always taken up the position that it is right to give these things to the workers of this country if the country can afford it. Here we are supporting that policy. We are asking that the rural workers should have this extra £2,000,000, but we say that if you are going to give any benefit to these workers you must give that money to them so that the rent they pay is an economic rent. [Interruption.] Hon. Members might listen instead of jeering. It is quite easy to jeer, but they hate to hear their own promises falsified. [Interruption.]
The Minister of Health knows as well as I do that a large number of these so-called houses which he proposes to build under this subsidy will not go to the people for whom they are intended. No agricultural labourer in any part of the country can afford to pay 4s. 6d. rent out of his wages, and it is nonsense for hon. Members opposite to laugh. [Interruption.] I will tell them why they laugh. They laugh because at the moment they represent industrial Divisions. Hon. Members care nothing about what happens to the agricultural worker. If it was a question of something for the miners, and it was 3s. a week, they would take a different line entirely. It is a very cheap thing to jeer at us. Some of them will not be here in the next Parliament, and they know it. Their only desire is to pass legislation for the industrial districts, and in the case of industrial Measures they are prepared to pass anything.
The knowledge of health of the Minister of Health is very extensive. He is one of the most capable Ministers of the Crown, as those who have debated with him know. If he wants to be consistent he cannot refuse to give a guarantee in response to the request made from this 378 side. If he really wants to help the agricultural worker the right hon. Gentleman will give this subsidy, coupled with adequate protection, so that the rent charged will be a rent which the worker can afford to pay. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal benches in a typically Liberal speech, was satisfied with the Government's proposal, and I was astounded. If I have read one convincing speech by a Liberal Member it was the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he said that houses could be built for not more than £300 each. He suggested that the average rent for houses throughout the country should not he more than 2s. 6d. a week. If that is the view of such an authority as the right hon. Gentleman, surely it is a very proper thing for hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee to put forward a request for the proper protection of the rural worker.
§ Mr. EVERARD
I do not wish to detain the Committee long, but the Eleven o'clock Rule has been suspended, and I presume that the Government wish this matter to be discussed thoroughly. It is so unusual to be allowed to discuss matters after Eleven o'clock that on this occasion I must address the Committee on this topic. I would call attention to a remark which the Minister of Health made a few minutes ago, that private enterprise in regard to agricultural cottages meant high rents. If the right hon. Gentleman understood the agricultural problem at all he would know perfectly well that agricultural workers who live upon estates where the cottages have been built by private enterprise pay a far smaller rent than is charged for any cottages built by a public authority. It is solely because the present Government are piling increased burdens upon the landowners of this country by taxation, by land taxes and every other means in their power, that the landowners are prevented from producing cottages at 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. a week as they have done in the past.
It is ludicrous for the Minister to say that private enterprise has made rents higher in the agricultural districts for labourers. If he knows anything at all about those districts, he would know that the people who are living on the estates in the lands of the old 379 land-owning classes are paying lower rents than they will have to pay for the houses which he propose" to build. It is humbug to say that he is going to build houses. He is putting a new burden on the landowners and spending £2,000,000 when he is giving no pledge that the rents will be anything near to the rents now charged by the landowners. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Tudor Walters) who spoke for the Liberal party, and who has great knowledge of housing matters, referred to my friends as "discharged seamen." He put his great knowledge of housing before the electors of Sheffield, but he was discharged from Sheffield, and he went to Penryn and Falmouth, which is a fair sea voyage. Judging by the position which he and his hon. Friends are taking up, his next voyage will be even a longer one.
Under the old system, which I believe to be the right one, houses for agricultural workers are built on the estate within a reasonable distance of where the people work. I am a member of a rural district council, and I have always found that it is very difficult to select sites for building houses in agricultural parishes which are of any use to agricultural workers. They are nearly all far away from the farms where these people work. To be of any use those houses should be very near to the farms where the people are employed. That is another reason why I say that the old system is the best system, and infinitely better than what is now proposed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do not they do it?"] The landlords are prevented by hon. Members opposite from doing it. We have the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) who wishes to do away with landlords. The people who work on the land would infinitely prefer to live on estates under the landlords, in cottages for which they pay 1s. 6d. a week, than in the Socialist cottages for which they will have to pay 4s. 6d. I shall oppose the Clause, and, if my hon. Friend goes to a division, I shall tell with him.Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.