HC Deb 16 June 1931 vol 253 cc1708-14

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]


I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury whether he can arrange to give me an opportunity to discuss the Rent (Reduction and Control) Bill, of which I have been seeking to get a Second Reading for some time. In view of the importance of the Bill and the need for the reduction of the rents of so many of the poor people, I am drawing the attention of the House to the matter and asking for facilities for the passage of the Bill into law.

8.0 p.m.


I wish now to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a more proper form than on the previous occasion, whether he can inform the House of the attitude that the Government are prepared to take with regard to the Amendment which stood on the Order Paper to-day in relation to Clause 20, in the name of an hon. and learned Friend and myself. That Amendment was ruled out of order. It is now being put in as a new Clause, and can he inform the House what action the Government will take in regard to it?


The right hon. Gentleman has addressed to me a rather unusual question. I cannot state what the attitude of the Government is likely to be in regard to the Amendment that appeared on the Paper to-day, because that Amendment is now dead, but I understand from what the right hon. Gentleman said that a somewhat similar Amendment will be handed in to-night and will appear upon the Paper tomorrow. All that I can say at the moment is that, if the Amendment which was ruled out of order to-day had been debated in this House, the Government would have expressed its sympathy with it, but could not have accepted it in the form in which it appeared on the Paper, because I doubt if in that form it carried out even the wishes of those who handed it in, but, in regard to an Amendment embodying that principle, I may say that, if an opportunity arises for the discussion of the Amendment which is to appear on the Paper to-morrow, the Government will give it their sympathetic support, I will go further and say that if it is found, owing to the exigencies of Parliamentary time, that it is not possible for that Amendment to be reached and discussed, the Government will provide an opportunity for an Amendment of an analogous character.


In order that there should be no misunderstanding on this matter, the new Clause which is being put down will be to all intents and purposes identical with the Amendment which was on the Paper to-day, thought there may be some slight technical alteration. We gather from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that either that Amendment will be moved or the Government will move a similar Amendment, and that in either case the Bill will be amended in that sense before it reaches the Statute Book.


I only wish to offer one or two very brief comments upon the interesting scene which we have just witnessed. It has not been altogether a happy day for hon. and right hon. Members below the Gangway. First of all, they could not succeed in putting their Amendment in a form which was in order; then they could not succeed in putting a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at a time when it was in order; and now they have got a statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which I gather was still not entirely satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman who addressed us last. But a little earlier in the afternoon we were told by one of the hon. Members below the Gangway that the battle for Schedule A had been won, and we had been, therefore, anticipating with interest the complete surrender which was to be announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he made his statement. I do not know what other hon. Members will think of the bargain which appears to have been come to, but I must say that I should like to offer the Chancellor of the Exchequer my congratulations, because it appears to me that he has got away with the principle and that if the party below the Gangway have recovered some of the money, that is only temporary, and there is no guarantee to them that even that part of the money will not go after the rest.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I do not know about happy days, but the right hon. Gentleman is obviously whistling to keep up the courage of his followers. They had expected to celebrate a triumph to-night, and all that they will be able to celebrate is the triumph of commonsense between the two parties that together have a majority and can defeat all their wiles. Speaking for myself and, I believe, for some of my hon. Friends on this side, we thank the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) for his attitude this evening and for giving an opportunity to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to clear up the situation. I thank him—


On behalf of the Mayor and Corporation!

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY

I thank him for giving us an opportunity of hearing from the Chancellor just where we stand, and this every Member of the present House of Commons has a right to know. I will also say one other thing to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that is that I am very glad that he realises, when he has got the better of an opponent that it is as well to be generous and fair.


I regret that I was not here when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his statement, but I understood that he made it with that graciousness for which he is so famous. But that does not concern us at all. I am only concerned with the substance, and when the substance comes to be discussed on Monday, or whenever it is that we come to the new Clauses, we shall be quite prepared to defend the position which we have taken. In substance we are satisfied. We agree that it is a compromise, and a compromise does always involve that both parties should give away a certain amount. The whole of British politics is based upon compromise. It is a reconciliation of two principles which appear on paper to be quite irreconcilable, but where sensible people, who are anxious to avert some disastrous consequences—[Interruption.] I have never made any concealment that that will be my object, and that as far as I was concerned I was prepared to go as far as possible in order to avert what I should regard as a disaster. Therefore, when the time comes, I shall be perfectly prepared—[An HON. MEMBER: "For an election!"]—When the time comes, I shall be prepared for that, but that is not the time when hon. Members above the Gangway demand it, but the time when I think it will suit the country.

I frankly say that I am delighted that an arrangement has been effected. I make no concealment, not the slightest, of the fact that I was anxious for an arrangement. I did not make any concealment last week of my desire from that point of view. I am perfectly prepared to defend it on the Floor of the House when we come to examine it, and I do not propose to do so now, because it would be out of order and we could not go into the full particulars, but I am quite prepared to meet hon. Members in any part of the House to defend that arrangement when it comes to be discussed here. There is one point that I want to make perfectly clear, because I was not here. I dare say the Chancellor made it clear, but we are working under a Guillotine arrangement, and it is conceivable that when private Members move an Amendment of this kind the Debate on it might not be able to be held, but I want to make it clear that the Government undertake the responsibility, which they alone can, that the Amendment, such as it is, and the arrangement which has been come to, will be honoured.


The right hon. Gentleman would not have put that question if he had heard my statement, because my final words were that if, through the exigencies of Parliamentary business, it was found impossible that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman could be reached and discussed, the Government would provide an opportunity, either for that Amendment or for an analogous Amendment put in by the Government.


I want to ask the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) whether he is satisfied that the principle which he laid down in his speech at Edinburgh that there should not be two taxes will be satisfied by the Amendment which has been accepted by the Government.


Yes, quite satisfied.


May I also ask the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr Lloyd George) whether he made it clear in his speech in Edinburgh that he wished to come to some such agreement with the Government, and that he would not give way?


I rise to ask the Patronage Secretary if he will answer the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). Can he say whether he will take steps to have facilities given for the discussion of the Rent (Reduction and Control) Bill which is backed by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and other hon. Members, in view of the great need that something should be done for the working classes in connection with this question. I understand that some arrangement has been come to in regard to business and, without wishing to encroach on that arrangement, I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider whether the Government cannot provide an opportunity for the discussion of the whole question of rents in relation to the present conditions as regards decontrol, also the question of the rents of houses upon which the Government have paid subsidies, and other questions relating to housing. All these matters are of much greater urgency now than they were some time ago. Wages are falling and the cost of housing is going up, and the working classes are in a very awkward plight as a result. Therefore I ask the hon. Gentleman to try to arrange facilities for the discussion of what I regard as one of the most important subjects to which (his House can turn its attention at the present time.


I am extremely sorry that I cannot at the moment give any undertaking such as is asked for, but I can say this—that I shall use every possible endeavour in order to meet the requirements of my hon. Friend.

Adjourned accordingly at Sixteen Minutes after Eight o'Clock.