§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 5, to leave out lines 8 to 12.
I hope to adduce sufficient reasons for carrying the Amendment, which stands in my name and the names of hon. Friends behind me, in the Division 64 Lobby to-day. The purpose of the Amendment is to delete from the Bill Section 2 of the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act, 1920. The issue is rather complicated, but I will do my best to make our Amendment clear. The Section, when introduced, read:Notwithstanding anything contained in the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, it shall, subject to any conditions prescribed by the Secretary of State, be lawful at any time between six in the morning and ten in the evening, on any week-day other than Saturday, to employ women and young persons in shifts averaging for each shift not more than eight hours per day.When the provision was inserted in the 1920 Act, the Minister in charge—I think I am right, in saying he was a Conservative—made this statement, which will show the Committee one of the objections we have to the continuance of this provision:This Clause is new, but only to this extent, that we ask the sanction of the House to the continuance of conditions which had been adopted during the War, and under which women had been employed who could not have been employed under the Factory Acts.That is to say, were it not for the introduction of that Clause in the Act of 1920, the Factory Acts up to then would have precluded women being employed at all on What is called the two-shift system. The Minister then in charge made a further statement, and this will enlighten the Committee as to the reasons for inserting the Section to which we now object:I admit at once that there is no justification for seeking a continuance of War conditions in peace time, unless they can be shown to be advantageous to the people employed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1920; cols. 727–8, Vol. 130.]The test I want to put to the Committee this afternoon is whether it has been advantageous to women and young persons to be employed on the two-shift system in the factories of this country. Let it be remembered that the system only applies to women and young persons; it does not affect men at all. It is all the more important, therefore, that the Committee should cast a very critical eye on this provision.
Before I enter into any further arguments on this subject, it would be interesting to learn from the Home Office 65 how many of the Orders permitting the two-shift system have already been issued up-to-date, how many have lapsed, how many are still in operation, what industries are affected by such Orders, and how many workpeople are affected under the Orders now in existence? It would be helpful to the Committee to know exactly how many women and young persons are employed under this two-shift system. That would be germane to our arguments.
We shall be told, of course, that if the case I am trying to make holds good, why came it about that the last Labour Government did not take steps to remove this Clause in previous Expiring Laws Continuance Bills? We get that argument put to us on many occasions in this House, and I want to put that challenge in its right place at once by saying, that neither the first nor the second Labour Government had at any time a sufficient backing to carrying anything through this House. Consequently, it is an effective reply to that charge to say that both the first and second Labour Governments were always in a minority and had to compromise their principles at every turn if they wanted anything at all carried through this House.
Two points emerge very clearly from the issue with which I am dealing. The two-shift system came into operation during the War, and it is extraordinary that war conditions should be allowed to persist up to 1931 when in fact the Armistice was signed in 1918. I think that the continuance of this Clause is an injustice to the women and young persons of this country, as I shall endeavour to prove as I go along. A very strong point in favour of our Amendment—I am very pleased to see that lady Members of the House are taking an interest in what I am saying—is that when this provision became law in 1920 it was definitely stipulated in the Act that the two-shift system should end in five years from the passing of the Measure. If the law had taken its proper course the system should have been abolished in 1926, but it has been continued from year to year under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The sub-section of the Clause dealing with that point says:This Section shall remain in force for a period of five years from the commencement of this Act, and no longer.66 It is an extraordinary fact that an Act of Parliament passed in 1920 makes the definite provision that it shall last for five years and no longer, and yet in 1931 we find that this provision, which has been re-enacted from year to year, is again proposed to be continued in the Bill now before the Committee.
I want to carry my case a stage further by saying that the method of securing orders from the Home Office to apply the two-shift system in any factory or work shop is unsatisfactory and obnoxious to the trade unions. A ballot vote of the workpeople concerned must of course be taken and a majority in favour of the adoption of, the system must be shown before the employer can even make an application for an order. It has been proved beyond doubt that the ballot in some cases has been nothing but a force. If any workpeople give an indication of opposition the employer can at once find some excuse for dispensing with their services, thereby facilitating his obtaining of the order. The will of the employer therefore in practically every case is dominant, because he always has the power in his hands to find an excuse for dismissing any women or any body of women in his employ who object to the two-shift system. The trade unions have on all occasions opposed the system by all the means in their power, and the Home Secretary has received deputation after deputation asking him to allow this legal provision to lapse automatically, as was intended under the Act. Deputations have gone to the Home Office, I believe, from the Trades Union Congress on many occasions asking that the provision should lapse.
The Home Secretary has been asked, too, to make a provision that the wages paid under the two-shift system shall not be less than those paid for a normal working week of 48 hours. We have desired to make it clear, if possible, that before an Order was granted the Home Secretary should make it a condition that the wages of the workpeople employed under this system should not be less than would be the case if they were employed for a normal day within the provisions of the factory laws.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
On a point of Order. The Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member deals with a point later than a point which I should 67 like to raise. When we have disposed of the Amendment now before the Committee, shall we be allowed to go back to page 4?
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is no Amendment dealing with any point on page 4, but reference to it would be in order on the Question, "That this be the Schedule to the Bill." The hon. Member cannot, however, go to any great extent in criticising a particular item on that Question.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I do not wish to discuss your Ruling, but I rose at the same time as the hon. Member opposite, with the desire to put a point with reference to page 4. The Amendment now before the Committee takes us to page 5. However, you called the hon. Member. I thought that I should preserve my rights.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has no right to speak on an earlier part of the Schedule than that which is dealt with in an Amendment on the Paper until we come to the Question, "That this be the Schedule to the Bill." Directly the Schedule was put, I called the first Amendment of which I had notice.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I take it that I can make some small remarks on the Schedule, when the Question is put, "That this be the Schedule to the Bill."
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am not concerned with the point raised by the hon. Member. It seems to me that the Tory machine is a little out of joint and he had better repair it. I want to continue my argument. The Home Secretary has been asked to make it possible for the consent of the workpeople concerned to be obtained through their trade union, and he has stated again and again in response that he has no power to enforce such a provision. I feel sure that the Committee will agree with me when I say that if and when workpeople are approached, especially women and young persons, by an employer who tells them that he desires an order for the establishment of the two-shift system, and they are members of a trade union, the ballot vote ought to be conducted in conjunction with the trade union concerned instead of 68 being allowed to be dealt with by the employer and the workpeople alone. It would be much fairer if that suggestion were adopted, and I should be glad to hear from the Under-Secretary what he has to say on that point.
Strong objection is made also against a system which permits of an order being granted for an emergency, and when that emergency is over and the order has fallen into disuse the firm who obtained the order may reintroduce the system without consultation with the work-people concerned. The position is this. An employer secures an order from the Home Office, introduces the two-shift system and works it, say, for 12 months. Then it falls into disuse for two years. All that the employer has to do is to put the order into operation at the end of the two years period of disuse, as if nothing had happened. By that time he may have a new personnel in his factory who have never had a ballot vote taken of them as to whether they are willing that the two-shift system should be operated. We think that that is grossly unfair, and I should be glad if the Home Office would enlighten us as to any method of helping the workpeople out of this difficulty. If the two-shift system is to continue it is only fair that when the order has fallen into disuse for some time the original proceedings should be undertaken again and the workpeople should be consulted as in the first instance.
I said at the outset of my remarks that I should be challenged with the question why the Labour Government did not do what I am asking the present Government to do. There is another answer to that question. Deputations waited upon Mr. Clynes when he was Home Secretary, and his reply was very clear. He said that there had been no amending legislation of the Factory Acts for 25 years, that it was time to bring the factory laws up to date and that he intended to deal with this special provision in the new Factories Bill that was to come before the House. [Laughter.] An hon. Member opposite laughs, but I would say to him that if a Labour Government ever secures a majority such as the National Government have to-day there will be no delay in dealing with the Factories Bill.
§ Mr. DAVIES
They might do it by Order-in-Council—that would be very much easier. A precedent has been made by the present Government. Let me summarise the objections which trade unions covering women and young persons have to the continuance of the two-shift system. They object on the following grounds: That it, upsets family and social life, and that it increases the cost of providing cooked meals for members of the same family coming in at different hours of the day and night. That may not sound very terrible as a complaint, but I can assure hon. Members that if they lived in a working-class home they would find that it counts a great deal and that the family arrangements are upset entirely by the working of this system; That the hours of labour under the system are out of harmony with the working clay of other operatives living in the area and doing similar work; that the system has developed just in proportion to the necessity for its curtailment. It was instituted to meet an emergency. That emergency has long ago happily passed away. During the period of the War there was ample employment for everybody. Every man or woman who wanted work could find employment during the War, and this provision was then introduced. Strange as it may seem, there has been an extension of the system just in proportion to the increase of unemployment in the country. One factory in a town may adopt the two-shift system and work at top speed, making it impossible for another factory in the same town to find work at all. We say that that is not only unfair to the workpeople but that it gives an advantage to one employer over another. If inquiry were made it would probably be found that some employers are opposed to the system.
I now turn to a point which is much more important than anything that I have said. At the beginning of my remarks I said that we must put this provision to the test by its effect on the lives of the operatives. It is interesting therefore to note that the Industrial Fatigue Research Board, in a report dated February, 1928, states that: 70While day workers in specified factories lost 4.4 per cent. of their time, shift workers lost 6.5 per cent., and that there were more cases of faintness and disorders of the digestive organs among shiftworkers than among dayworkers.4.30 p.m.
The Committee ought to have some regard to the opinions of experts, sociologists and medical men, on this very important subject. Further, we object to the system because it is so easily abused by employers. The last annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops furnishes sufficient proof. I will read a word or two from that report. The Inspector is not connected with any political party. I believe that he is above political parties. His report is always worth reading. The quotations I will read will be found sufficient to condemn the system and to warrant the carrying of the Amendment which I am now moving. He states:That the workers have often secured the same wages for a shorter working week.He does not say that they have always done so. Being a civil servant, the Inspector knows exactly the correct word to drop into the right place. He proceeds to say something which proves my contention that it is very easy to abuse this provision:A failure was found at a factory in the Wakefield district where women and girls working on shifts had sometimes been employed outside the hours laid down. Legal proceedings were taken and convictions were recorded against the employers.That was very strong action to take. I do not think the Home Office would have taken legal action for the purposes of a conviction had the offence not been very serious.
§ Mr. DAVIES
1930. If hon. Members will follow me for a moment, they will hear something else that the report says:In the Eastern division"—that is the eastern division of the factories and workshops area—some firms started to work on the system without having first obtained an Order authorising them to do so. The explanation was that they knew the system had been adopted at other works in the neighbourhood, and did not realise that prior provision was required.71 If I needed to add to my argument, for the benefit of the lady hon. Members, I would ask attention to this:In one case the hours worked were from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.Let me ask hon. Members how they would like to have any relative of theirs, of 16 or 17 years of age, starting work at 4 o'clock in the morning, or reaching home at half-past 11 at night?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
The hon. Member seems to be giving the Committee the impression that those hours were worked as a consequence of the two-shift Order. If he will read the report of the Inspector of Factories and Workshops to the Committee, the Committee will understand that those hours were being worked illegally.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am entitled to use what arguments I can in favour of my Amendment. The hon. Gentleman will, I suppose, get up at a later stage to try and rebut what I have said. This is in the report. If he will allow me, I will read the latter end of the quotation:Proceedings were taken"—against the firm—and a substantial penalty inflicted.In spite of the fact that those hours were worked only in a single factory, my case is still proved that this two-shift system admits of more abuse by the employer than hardly anything else in factory legislation. It rather induces the employer to do these illegal acts. But suppose that the hours were from 6 a.m. to 2 in the afternoon. It is quite common, as is proved by the Inspector's own report, that some of the workpeople employed under the two-shift system live as far as 10 miles away from the factory. They have to commence work at 6 o'clock lo the morning, and they cannot do the 10 miles, I should think, in very much under half an hour. That means that they have to get up at about 5 o'clock in the morning. It is grossly unfair that this provision should still prevail, to hurry people to work in the morning for a two-shift system, when we have over 2,000,000 unemployed people waiting for work. It has a tendency to play off one employer against the other.
72 I wish to conclude on this note. If the two-shift system were abolished here and now, the country would not be a bit worse off to-morrow morning. Employers who have adopted the two-shift system worked for 50 or 60 years without it. The system has developed, and it has had a tendency to upset the customary regulations and rules of employment in factories and workshops. In some places, the number of hours that were worked, even in ordinary times, have been extended. I was very glad to see that one foreign Government, I think it was the Czechoslovakian Government, are proposing to pass a measure to prevent anybody working more than 44 hours a week, in order that the country may solve its unemployment problem. That is a proposal that ought to be discussed in this country. I object very strongly to this two-shift system being continued. It was an emergency provision, brought into being during the War. It was carried on after the War, although its abolition after the end of a period of five years was promised when the Bill was passed. I see no earthly reason why my Amendment should not be carried by an overwhelming majority.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I did not wish to break the thread of the hon. Member's argument, but, before he sits down, I shall be glad if he will say whether there has been any evidence from the women employed under the two-shift system that those women object to the system?
§ Mr. DAVIES
So far as my own trade union is concerned, yes. If the hon. Lady would like, I can let her see the evidence of my own trade union, which is involved in this problem.
§ Miss PICKFORD
This subject of the conditions and hours of employment of women and young persons is one that particularly interests me, because I served for a period of the War as a temporary inspector of factories under the Home Office, and I had ample opportunity of seeing for myself the working of the two-shift system. During this emergency, it was necessary for women and young children to work several hours over and above those permitted by the Factories and Workshops Act. It was also necessary for women who had to take the place of men to work at night, which is not permitted under the Factories and Workshops Act. It was necessary that the output of munitions and all other 73 things for the War should be increased, and as rapidly increased as possible. Special orders were therefore allowed, during that time, by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
The first experiments that were made in increasing output were made by the extension of the statutory hours. Although it is possible under that system, for a short time and by a spurt, to increase output, it is quite clear that long hours cannot be carried on for weeks and months, or even for months and years, without defeating their own ends. It soon became clear that the limit of endurance of the workers had been reached and that the normal period permitted under that Act, 12 hours, when extended to 14 and 16 hours, resulted, not in an increase, but in a diminution, of output. Experiments and researches were carried out by the officers of the Ministry of Munitions, and also by the inspectors of the factories, to discover what was the best method of getting the maximum output with the minimum of fatigue for the workers. Those experiments have since been continued by the Industrial Fatigue Research Board. They have shown quite conclusively that a day of eight or nine hours produces better results that a day of 12 hours, and that two shifts of from seven to eight hours give a better output than a long shift of from 12 to 14 hours, or extended even to 16. For continuous processet three eight-hour shifts are better than two 12-hour shifts. Not only is the output per hour greater on the shorter shift, but, where the worker is of more importance than the machine, the shorter shift produces absolutely a greater output than does a long shift. Furthermore, the incidence of accidents is always greater towards the end of a long period of employment, when, due to fatigue and overstrain, the attention of the worker is apt to wander.
As the Mover of this Amendment has said, this Act is a relic of D.O.R.A. It might even be described as "Dora's child." Instead of abusing it, as the Mover of the Amendment has done, I would rather describe it in the words of the Inspector of Factories and Workshops in his report for 1927:This, which was begun somewhat as an experiment in factory legislation, has proved useful and beneficial to employers and workers alike.74 I should believe in the sincerity of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite, in spite of the explanation which the Mover of the Amendment has given, if the protest had been continued year by year until this day. The protest against the two-shift system was a hardy annual during the years 1926, 1927 And 1928, but in 1929, that hardy annual withered and died.
It is worth while to consider why this Act is wanted, and also what is the alternative, suppose that it were not to be renewed. It is used by employers in two different ways, either as an emergency Measure or else as a regular system of work. In the first place, as an emergency Measure, it may be used when there has been a breakdown, owing to fire or accident, or in a case where one department of a factory has got behind and it is necessary for it to catch up with other departments. Probably the most important is when it is used to deal with a rush order.
We have seen with relief during these last weeks that there is a revival in the hosiery industry of Leicester, in the woollen industry of Yorkshire, and, last but not least, in the cotton industry of Lancashire. These are all textile trades, and the last two, even in this time of depression, are most important export trades. We have heard a good deal of the necessity of not injuring the export trade, of not putting any hindrances in its way. Therefore I think it is far better that employers should be able, by means of this Act, to take the fullest advantage of the slight boomlet in trade that there may be at present, and if possible to continue it. Suppose that they are not allowed to work two eight-hours shifts, as is allowed under this Act. What would they have to do? They would have to fall back on the hours now permitted under the Factories and Workshops Act for protected persons working in textile trades. Perhaps it is as well to remind the Committee what those hours are. They are 55½ hours a week, with a daily limit from Monday to Friday of 10 hours. I quite agree that those are not the hours which are usually worked in the textile trades. But in his report for 1929 the Chief Inspector of Factories says:In spite of the depression there has been a surprising amount of illegal employ- 75 ment. When a large order is received it has to be rushed through. In such cases it is thought worth while to take the risk of employing protected persons illegally on week-days or on Sundays. This has occurred even in textile factories.I admit that, while employers could take advantage of the two-shift system, there was no excuse whatever for such illegal employment, but if they were not allowed to do it, if they were debarred from doing it by this Amendment, there would be every excuse for employers occasionally working a little illegal overtime. It is essential that if possible the costs of British industry should be brought down. It is idle to pretend that overhead charges can be brought down so long as our factories and workshops and machinery are standing idle for 12 or 14 hours a day, while those of our competitors are running for 24 hours a day. Surely the only way to bring down the cost of production, to bring down these overhead charges without injury to the workers, is by the fullest and most scientific use of our machinery, and that can be done only if the shift system is allowed.
There is also the case of those factories and workshops which make use of the two day shifts as a permanent method of employment. Here may I take an example from the non-textile factories? Here the hours permitted, under the Factories and Workshops Act, are longer even than those permitted to the textile trades. They are a weekly total of 60 hours, exclusive of meal times, with a daily total of 10½ hours. These hours must be worked within definite limits, beginning either at 6 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m., or from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with on Saturdays the short day beginning either at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m., or beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m., or beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. As hon. Members know by experience it is a poor half holiday which begins at 4 in the afternoon. Long though those hours may be under the Factories and Workshops Act, they can be still further extended for certain trades and industries. Let me take one example, an extreme example I admit, but a very useful one for the purpose of illustration.
In the trades of fish curing and jam preserving it is perfectly legal under the Act for women and young persons over 76 14 years of age to work from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., beginning again, so far as the women are concerned—for the purposes of this Act a woman is a girl of 18 and over—at 6 a.m. next morning. The young persons have 10 hours rest allowed them, and if they work up to 10 p.m. they cannot begin again until 8 a.m. next morning. That was the practice which obtained in many fish curing and jam preserving establishments up to the War and up to the time when it was possible to turn over to the shift system, but since that time a very large number of employers have turned over to the two-shift system, and instead of working one set of workers, which included boys and girls only just over 14, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., they work two shifts, one beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m., and the other beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m.
I maintain that that is a far better and more humane and more economic system of working than going back to the long day of 16 hours. If Members of the Labour party want to go back to the bad old days, I do not. In those trades it will always be necessary to work extended hours, either by way of overtime or by means of shifts, because of the nature of the materials which are used. I do not think that hon. Members opposite, even in the regulated State which is their ideal, will find that it will be possible for them to control the movements of fish or the ripening of fruit. One heard a good deal from the Mover of the Amendment of the objections of the trade unions to this shift system. One heard very little, and only by way of parenthesis, of the objections of the women and girls concerned, who, as we all know, are usually not members of a union, particularly in the trades to which I have referred, where trade unionism is not strong and which therefore come under the Trade Boards Act. If we turn to the annual reports of the Inspectors of Factories, who have to make a statement every year as to the working of this Act, we find one of the women inspectors saying:In no case have I found real antipathy to the system on the part of the workers.And in the report for the next year there is this statement:Workers do not show any very decided general approval or disapproval of the 77 system. Some are enthusiastic about it, others indifferent; a few dislike it, but prefer it to being unemployed.That, I think, is a fair statement of the workers' attitude towards the Orders, and perhaps it is a fairer quotation than that which was made by the Mover of the Amendment when he spoke of the abuses of the shift system. It is said with regard to these Orders:The conditions of the Orders are on the whole very well observed, especially as regards employment.The only failure about it in this respect was the one which was instanced. I think, perhaps, that the quotation which the hon. Member used hardly gave a fair indication of the Chief Inspector's report. I hope I have shown that the two-shift system is in the interests of the workers concerned, and that the alternative of falling back upon these statutory hours permitted under the Factories and Workshops Act would be a reactionary step. That Act was passed 30 years ago. Since then there has been both a social and industrial revolution. There have been great changes in the status and condition of women, not only in what is permitted but in what they desire. If it were not so I should not be standing here. I think that that change in the position of women should be reflected in the position of women in industry. I am not one of those who think that the time is ripe to remove all protective legislation from women. I do not think that the workers in industry desire it, nor do I think that the economic position justifies it. But there should be modifications of this Act, and I cannot see why, under proper safeguards, women, if they desire it, should not be allowed to work on the shift system. As I have said, there has been an industrial revolution. Great changes have been brought about by scientific methods which, applied to factories and workshops, have brought fresh opportunities and fresh dangers. The Act of 1901 is in many respects out of date and obsolete for modern times.
We have heard much argument as to whether this Government has a mandate for Protection. Whether it has or not, I am sure that it has a mandate to bring a fiscal system that is now obsolete into conformity with the needs and the facts of to-day. I think that the Government would be failing in its duty as a. National Government if, after having brought that fiscal system up to date, it neglected to 78 bring up to date also the factory and workshop legislation which protects thousands of workers and regulates their lives. The time is ripe for a consolidating and amending Act. A Bill was introduced by the Conservative Government of 1922–23, but never got beyond a. First Reading. Another Bill was brought in by the Socialist Government of 1923–24, but though it got into print it did not go any further. When a Conservative Administration was returned in 1924 another consolidating and amending Bill was introduced. It got through some of its initial stages, but, unfortunately, owing to the pressure on Parliamentary time, it was not placed on the Statute Book.
I had the privilege of speaking to some Members of that House in a Committee room upstairs, and, perhaps it is not inappropriate that I should make my first speech here as a Member of the House of Commons, on a similar subject. I do not think that it will be possible for a consolidating and amending Measure to be brought in during the early stages of this Parliament. I think that this Parliament will be very busy during its next two or three Sessions in seeing that there is work for these factories to do, but, having secured that there is work for these factories, I say that the Government would be failing in their duty as a National Government if, before Parliament runs its allotted span, they did not also bring in a new consolidating and amending Measure dealing with factories legislation and bringing it more into conformity with modern practice and with the needs of to-day. But, until such an Act can be placed on the Statute Book, it will be necessary year by year to renew this Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act, 1920, to enable women and young persons to work under the shift system, because I am convinced that that system of working is not only in the interests of British industry, but is also in the best interests of these women and young persons on whose labour British industry so largely depends and whose help and safety should be one of the first concerns of any Government.
§ Mr. TINKER
The Committee will join with me, I am sure, in extending our sincere congratulations to the hon. Lady the Member for North Hammer-smith (Miss Pickford). When she began 79 her speech, I thought she was going to support our Amendment and I wish she had done so, because it could not have had a more able advocate. Her speech on this occasion is one to which she can look back with the consciousness of success. It should give her confidence for the future and we shall hope for further contributions from her to our Debates. If I, myself, could only think that I had done as well in my first effort as she has done, I should be very well pleased.
I support this Amendment on several grounds, but at the outset I may point out that those who are in favour of it are somewhat handicapped. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will urge that we on this side had the opportunity of making this alteration in the law and that we did not do so. I agree that this is a strong point. It may be argued that there is no use in our bringing forward this Amendment when we missed the opportunity ourselves of amending the law in this respect. Probably we were held up, however, in regard to this matter because we had hoped to get a wider Measure dealing with the whole subject. I had the honour of introducing an amending Bill relating to the Factories Acts, and we certainly had hopes of being able, not merely to adjust certain things which arose in War time, but to get a complete amendment of the law. We thought we would be able to do the whole thing properly, and therefore we neglected to remove this particular point from the Statute Book because we expected a comprehensive Measure. I give that explanation, but I do not put it forward as an excuse in any way designed to mitigate the force of the suggestion that we ourselves ought to have done this.
This afternoon we are asking the Committee to consider the fact that this was War time legislation, brought forward in time of emergency. It was thought that it could have been removed in 1920, but, on the ground that we had not then recovered from the effects of the War, we were asked to continue it for a further five years in the hope that by the end of that period we would have reached a normal position. We think that the time has now arrived for the removal of this legislation altogether. One reason is that the Chief Inspector's Report of 1930 80 has brought to notice the fact that the shift system has a more detrimental effect on the health of young people and women than the ordinary system of working.
§ Mr. TINKER
I cannot at the moment give the reference, but I shall do so later. The next point which I urge in favour of this Amendment is in regard to the method of getting these Orders. It is true that a ballot has to be taken of the people concerned, but I understand that the taking of the ballot is largely in the hands of the employers, and one knows that when an employer sets out to get a particular thing carried, he has methods and means of doing so and that the work-people really have not the opportunity which they ought to have of getting outside the influence of the employer. I urge that some method should be adopted other than the present method, and that the question of taking a ballot ought not to be left as it is at the present time.
Furthermore, these Orders can be renewed, even after a lapse of time. If an employer gets an Order of this kind from the Home Office and if for various reasons it is not operated, say, for a period of 12 months or two years, at the end of that period the employer can renew the Order without going to the Home Office. Probably there has been a change of personnel among the employés during that time, and I suggest that in such cases if it is desired to bring an Order into operation again, at least another ballot ought to be taken. It is not fair that people should be governed by an Order which was put into operation two years or 12 months previously, possibly when a different set of people were employed. If the hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to remove the existing provision from the Statute Book, he might make some amendment of the existing conditions, and I suggest as one alteration that once there is a break in the operation of an Order, the employer should not be able to renew it without sanction from the Home Office as in the 81 original stage. I hope he will consider that point even if he cannot go the whole way with us.
The hon. Lady the Member for North Hammersmith referred to the necessity of being able to make a push forward when orders for goods began to come in, but I would remind her that we have at present a vast number of unemployed and I suggest that, if new orders for goods do come into our factories, we ought to see that fresh hands are employed to deal with them. It may be said that they would only be taken on for a short time, but we want to see everybody getting a chance to work. If extra hands are required, why not take on additional workpeople and lessen unemployment even if only for the time being I Now that the 26 weeks provision in regard to transitional benefit has come into operation it is going to be very difficult for many people to get unemployment benefit. If the genuine unemployed, those who are not out of work through any fault of their own, could be re-employed for a certain time, they would have a chance later on of getting back to unemployment benefit if they found themselves out of work again later on, and it would also prove that we have a great number of people eagerly desirous of work and ready to take the first opportunity of getting it.
Under the shift system, employment cannot be extended in the way that we would desire and not many of the unemployed will get back to work under the conditions referred to by the hon. Lady if the shift system prevails. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will not hide himself behind references to the lapse which we made in this matter. If there is anything in the arguments which we have put forward, I ask him to consider them and to forget the suggestion that there is something which we ought to have done when we were in office. Let him remember that when we were in office, we had not the full opportunity of doing what we wanted to do. I put forward the points which I have mentioned in the hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider them on their merits and that he will concede what we are asking.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I am particularly anxious to speak on this Amendment, because it has been moved by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys 82 Davies), who happens to be one of my constituents, though I do not imagine that he voted for me at the last election. I was particularly interested in his speech because long before I heard him in the House of Commons, I heard him in Manchester on more than one occasion when I was acting in a professional capacity, and once I had the pleasure of cross-examining him. He always had the reputation of being a very logical man, so that when I heard him putting forward his reasons for the Amendment, I took particular notice of the one on which he laid the greatest stress. Unless I am mistaken, the one on which he based his argument was that this Act gave an opportunity, under the two-shift system, for the employer to do something illegal—in other words, that there had been instances in which employers were prosecuted because they broke the law. That is true, but I notice that he only gave one instance from the chief inspector's report. I am not sure whether that is the only instance in which an employer was prosecuted or whether there are others, and I am sorry that the hon. Member is not present at the moment.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I would like to know from him definitely whether there are other instances of prosecutions, and if so, how many. I take a particular interest in this matter because I have had to take part in cases of this kind, both for the prosecution and for the defence, not with regard to the two-shift system, but in instances where employers have contravened other regulations. There was one case in particular with regard to a laundry in Lancashire. In that instance I appeared on behalf of the employers, as of course I am bound to do, in my professional capacity, but in other instances I have appeared on behalf of the employés, so that I am in no way biassed regarding them. What I would like to know from the hon. Member for Westhoughton is, does his argument boil down to this, that because certain things are being done illegally by employers or by any persons for that matter, that the Act which is being contravened should be removed from the Statute Book? If so, his argument reduces itself to an absurdity.
83 For example, we have lately had a good many instances of people who abuse coal gas by using it to take their own lives. Would the hon. Member for Westhoughton suggest that, in order to prevent people committing this particular form of the crime of suicide, no one should be allowed to supply coal gas to a private house? I should not think for one moment that he would agree to carry his argument to that absurd length, and yet, as I listened to him, there seemed just as much logic in what he put forward as the strongest reason why Members on this side should support his Amendment as there would be if he suggested that coal gas should not be supplied to private houses because there was a danger of the inhabitants using it for illegal purposes. It struck me as being, not the strongest argument that he could put forward, but as indeed the weakest possible.
As I have taken notice of what Mr. Speaker said only a few days ago, to the effect that Members should be brief when they rise to speak, I will just say, in conclusion, that if the hon. Member for Westhoughton thinks he will persuade Members like myself to vote for his Amendment by such futile arguments as that which he quoted from the Chief Inspector's report, I am afraid that I cannot hold out any hope that I can possibly do so.
§ Mr. J. JONES
The hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), who has just sat down, talked about the futile propositions of my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). As it happened to be a maiden speech, of course we can excuse him. I want to congratulate him upon it. It was brief, bright, and brotherly. I would remind those who are opposed to the Amendment that they tried in the election to convince the electors of Great Britain that they were more interested in the unemployed than we were. They were able to get a mandate, as they call it, to deal with that problem from their special standpoint, and they secured a victory, on which I congratulate them. It is only a short-lived one, and our turn will come again. "Proudly we will rise in the field where we fell."
I want to remind hon. Members opposite that if there is one way of not deal- 84 ing with unemployment, it is to continue the system of increasing the hours of labour. The hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Miss Pickford), who also made a magnificent contribution to the Debate, must remember that we are not responsible for the long hours of labour that prevail in industry. We were not responsible for the original Factory Acts, although we have done our best to support the humane provisions contained in many of the Acts that have been passed in previous Parliaments. It is not our fault that we could not get through the kind of legislation that we desired. We had not enough people behind us in this House. We had enough against us, God knows, and if we had not a lot here against us, we had plenty up at the other end, who would see to it that their privileges and interests were not affected by anything that we did.
I live in a constituency consisting very largely of men, women, and young people who are working in the industries that the hon. Lady mentioned—food production, jam, and all that sort of thing. Some of these girls and women are out of employment, and in the rush for the Christmas orders the factories have been placed upon the double-shift system. The orders are now being carried through, and women and young people are being put off. I have had evidence given to me of these people going to the Employment Exchange to sign on for unemployment benefit, and they have been ordered to go off to Acton, which is about 15 miles from Silvertown. If they are successful in getting employment at Acton, at some other kind of industry than that to which they have been used, and they work under the two-shift system, it means that some of them will have to get all the way to Acton by six o'clock in the morning.
Would hon. Members opposite like their children—because they are only Children, from 14 to 18 years of age, who ought to be under some kind of parental control—to be ordered 15 miles from home and to be there at six in the morning, or to go on the second shift from two till 10 and to travel back after 10 at night? It is all very well to talk your theoretical economics, but I get down to practical economics and the home conditions of the working-class women and children whom 85 I represent. You may talk as much as you like about industry, but if industry is going to be built upon the overtaxed shoulders of young boys and girls, I say that industry is not worth preserving under such circumstances.
If you like to arrange it so that they shall not be disqualified from unemployment benefit if the fathers and mothers of these young people object to their children being sent those long distances from home, to be at work at six in the morning, there might be something to be said for it, but they are being deprived of their benefit if they refuse jobs long distances from home. What is the alternative if they do refuse? The father and mother have to keep their children, although they are old enough to go to work, and that means a tax on the parents, but it does not mean wages. It is an, increase in the cost of living, and there is nothing doing.
We support the Amendment, because we believe it to be better to have one shift of eight hours a day, employing more people than are now employed with two shifts and keeping a large number of men and women, and young people too, on the streets. Our Amendment is drawn up for that purpose, and we ask the Committee to support it in order to meet the abnormal circumstances. The reduction of the hours of labour is the most practical and immediate proposition for dealing with the problem of unemployment. At the Trades Union Congress and at the Labour Party Conference, resolutions were carried unanimously in favour of a still further reduction in the hours of labour, particularly in those industries which you used to call sheltered, but if we proposed that here, we know that we should be defeated before we started.
I would like to ask the hon. Lady a question regarding married women. What is happening to-day? They are being told they cannot have unemployment benefit, particularly in those cases where their husbands happen to be working. By order of this Government, married women are being disqualified all over the country, and what does that mean? Your sympathy for women workers does not seem to go very far, because you are telling the woman who is married and who is engaged in industry that Ale ought not 86 to be in it. She has to be disqualified, although she has been an insured person. She has to get out of it, so that you may reduce the figures, the figures in the Press or in the Government returns, but you do not reduce the figures in the streets. I suggest, therefore, that all this lip sympathy with the working men and women and young people of the country does not go very far.
We believe that this Amendment means the reduction of the hours of labour all round. A very large number of people would be employed if the Amendment were carried. We have heard something about the rush of orders that may come along when you introduce your new tariffs and they begin to operate. I hope they will. I am not an orthodox Free Trader; I am a trade unionist. I believe in protecting the worker, but I want to see him protected, and he is not being protected by the continuation of a system which was introduced for emergency works. We all know that these proposals for the two-shift system were brought in to meet an emergency. The men were going out to the Front and placing their bodies at the disposal of the State, and the women were called in to help when the men had left off. They went into the factories and workshops, and this emergency resolution was introduced for that purpose.
That emergency has disappeared. The trouble now is to find men employment, and the argument that women should be allowed to continue in industry while men are walking the streets is no argument whatever. If industry can be so organised that we can bring men back into employment, every man brought back into industry is a greater gain to the State than merely keeping women employed in the factories and workshops under present conditions. The hon. Lady who spoke just now knows as well as we do that we are not responsible for long hours. We organised to see that the hours were made shorter. We have always fought for shorter hours. I am proud to belong to the trade union that established the eight-hours day long before Parliament agreed to it. We fought for it, struck for it, and won it, and we are now out for a six-hours day. That is the lawyer's time—10 to 4. The hon. member for Withington knows that that 87 is true. He does six hours in the Law Courts, and comes down here for overtime.
§ Mr. JONES
You have to prepare beforehand, of course, but I have to get washed before I come here. The gas-worker has to get ready before he can start his shift. He has to catch a train to get down to the gasworks. People in my constituency have to walk many miles in some cases because the train accommodation is not very good. The tramway and omnibus accommodation—well, there is none; we cannot run the trams and omnibuses over that particular area, because there are no tramlines and no omnibus routes. No respectable people want to get there except the ordinary man who wants to work for his living. When the others come along they take a taxi or a motor-car.
When we are talking about hours of labour, we have to take into consideration the fact that to-day we have 2,000,000 unemployed, and you cannot get away from it. I do not care what fiscal system you introduce or what kind of economic policy you adopt, you are not going materially to reduce the number of unemployed in the country; and the National Government will go out of existence without having solved the problem. Therefore, I say that the Amendment might not accomplish all that we desire, but it would help us along the road. It would minimise unemployment and give a number of workpeople a chance of getting back to industry. On that ground, I support it.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Major SALMON
I am sure that the House was surprised when the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) said that he wanted to get down to practical economics, for I fail to see anything very practical in what he said. He first told us that it does not matter if you throw out the women so long as you employ the men, and then that a two-shift system necessarily means the employment of fewer people. That is an extraordinary argument. The object of the two-shift system is to lessen the hours of labour and not to increase them, and it certainly 88 finds more employment than the one-shift system. Hon. Members who say that it is a bad thing for employment have not studied the question to any extent. The speech of the Mover of the Amendment resolves itself into this. He said that if this is to continue, let the trade unions manage it, and that those who are not in the trade unions must come in if they want to go on with the two-shift system. In other words, he wants to treat this as a means of getting back to the trade union movement the numbers that, as he has suggested, they have lost recently.
To hon. Gentlemen who make speeches on unemployment and say that the two-shift system will accentuate it, I would say that unemployment cannot be cured by increasing overhead charges. The effect of trying to introduce a one-shift system in a factory that previously had a two-shift system is to increase the costs of production; and the consequence of that is to reduce employment instead of increasing it. The regulations which the Home Office have issued under the present Expiring Laws are quite sufficient for the protection of the employé. When the hon. Gentleman was asked to state whether there was a large number of complaints of abuse under this Section, all he could say was that his union had heard something about it. For two Parliaments the Socialist Government were in power, and if the complaints had been genuine, and if there had been a large number of them, I am sure that their Home Secretary would have brought the matter before the House. It is mere camouflage to suggest that they did not have a sufficient majority to carry any recommendations that they might have made to the House. Had the complaints been genuine, no one, to whatever party they belonged, would have allowed the employés to be exploited. Instead of being good for the unemployed, this Amendment will do an infinite amount of harm, and I hope that the Committee will reject it.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who moved this Amendment, spoke with his usual courtesy and clarity. I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House will be glad that, as providence in its inscrutable wisdom decreed that there should be any survivors among 89 hon. Members opposite, it decreed that the hon. Member should be one of them, so that he could take his position on the Front Bench as one of the flustered foster-mothers of the orphans of the storm. Among the many qualities which the hon. Member's speech displayed was his possession in an extraordinary degree of what I have heard described as a mind trained to forget, because the hon. Member forgot quite a lot. I respond to the appeal of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) not to hide myself behind the misdeeds of a preceding Government. I agree with him that the tu quoque form of argument is a two-edged sword, and that either a failure of the Labour Government to do something or the fact that it had followed a particularly foolish course is no argument in favour of a more reasonable Government adopting the same course. On the other hand, I would point out that though the desire of hon. Members opposite when in Opposition to attack a system which they supported in power is no argument in support of our following the same course, it is a complete exposure of the hollowness of the case they make against us.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton seemed to forget that both last year and the year before, the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who had to stand where I am standing now and resist the Amendment which I am resisting, were not Members of the Conservative party which follows the National Government, or of either of the Liberal sections which follow the National Government, nor even Members of that party which is now steaming rapidly away from our shores, but Members of the party opposite; and that they in the Debates last year and the year before have provided me with sufficient ammunition for the defence that I have to make this year. The hon. Member for Westhoughton has also forgotten something about himself. In 1928, the last year of the last Conservative Government, the hon. Member made a speech on an Amendment similar to the one he has moved to-day. He made it with equal sincerity, equal knowledge and with even more passion, and he ended with a peroration trusting that the House would show very definitely in the Division Lobby that they intended to abolish the provision once and for all.
90 When the next year came along, and an opportunity was given to redeem the pledge which the hon. Member had given, his party did not show very definitely in the Division Lobby that they intended to abolish this legislation. As a matter of fact, they did not show anything at all, because they never went into the Division Lobby. There was one short speech from the late Member for Rochdale in defence of the Amendment, and an even shorter speech from the Under-Secretary in defence of the existing provision, and without a Division, with no more speeches from hon. Members opposite, this iniquitous legislation, of which they complain to-day was riveted for another year on the shoulders of the workers whom they claim to represent. What is the difference between last year and this? It is the same Act that we are asking the House to continue. The administration of the Act has, throughout the years of its existence under Conservative and Labour Governments been always the same, except that I noticed that during the year in which the hon. Member for Westhoughton occupied the position that I now occupy, rather more Orders were issued than in the preceding or subsequent period. There has been no change in the Act or in the administration. There has been only one change, and that is the change of hon. Members opposite from this side of the House to that.
It is obvious that, like the Bourbons, they are unteachable, and that, despite the lessons of the past few months, they intend once again to follow their practice of denouncing in Opposition that which they continued when in power. The speeches of Mr. Clynes, the late Home Secretary, and Mr. Short, the late Under-Secretary, were, though short, so powerful in defence of this Measure, that I could content myself with quoting from them. When pressed in 1929 to repeal this provision, Mr. Clynes said:Forty thousand workers are directly and indirectly affected by it. To take the course suggested by the hon. Member would, however, tend seriously to dislocate industrial relations and impose real hardship upon a very large number of people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1929; col. 1370, Vol. 232.]Mr. Short said the next year:If the two-shift system was brought to an end this year, it would mean grave dislocation and would no doubt contribute 91 to the industrial depression."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1930; col. 2531, Vol. 245.]The circumstances which induced Mr. Clynes and Mr. Short—not the representatives of the hardfaced employers, but the representatives of the suffering poor—to give these answers in 1930 and 1929, still obtain, but can anyone pretend that the industrial emergency which they feared then is less today than it was two years ago, that the dislocation which their action would have caused two years ago is any less than the dislocation which would be caused to-day? I could content myself, were it not for courtesy to the hon. Members opposite, with resisting the Amendment upon those grounds and those grounds alone, but certain specific questions have been asked me by Members in all parts of the Committee, to which, I think, it would be only courteous that I should reply.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton asked me a number of questions, the answer to which he is, unfortunately, not in the House to receive. He justified part of his opposition to the continuance of the Measure this year and his allowing it to continue in previous years by the statement that the late Home Secretary made in regard to a Factory Bill, and he gave the impression that he had only allowed last year to escape his vigilance because he assumed that it would soon be included in the Factory Bill by a Socialist Government. We on this side of the House who were in the last Parliament know that Factory Bill of the Socialist Government; like summer it was always coming, and like summer it never came. The fact remains that in two and a-half years they passed 200 two-shift Orders and did not pass one Factory Bill. The hon. Member was perfectly content to allow the system to go on with merely that vague assurance.
With regard to that point, the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Miss Pickford), delighted the House with a maiden speech, which was not only full of information and knowledge, but, what is rarer, of wit. The hon. Lady, who was speaking with an assurance gained by a practical experience in these questions, asked with regard to the problem of factory legislation. She, however, did not 92 for obvious reasons press the point. She recognises, as all must recognise, that the Government can be in no position at the moment to make any announcement on that point. She recognised, too, that those who support the Government have been returned with, for the moment, one mandate and one only, in regard to factories, and that is to make their chimneys smoke and their wheels go round.
Then the hon. Member for Westhoughton criticised this Measure because, he said, it was continuing in an almost permanent state a Measure which was intended originally to be only of a temporary character. He pointed to the fact that the Measure was originally introduced for a period of only five years. It may be perfectly true that those who were responsible for introducing the Measure in 1920 took a view of our industrial future which was more optimistic than circumstances have since warranted; not only in this case, but in others, they did things which we, looking back and in the light of what has happened since, would rather had not been done. Are we in this Committee to consider the past or the present, the prophecies that men made in 1920 or the facts which we can see in 1931? If, as I believe, the facts in 1931 do not warrant, in the interests of employers and employed, our altering these provisions, what does it matter if people in 1920 thought that in five years' time the circumstances would have permitted it? Surely it is turning politics into a sort of political game if we are to ignore the realities of the present day in favour of past prophecies which have proved to be erroneous.
The hon. Member passed from that to what he claimed to be the most important part of his attack upon this Measure. He claimed that the methods under which it is operated are unsatisfactory. The answer to that is a very simple one. He pretended that the situation of the Labour party in the last two years, being a minority in numbers and with the delicate nature, perhaps, of alliances which may or may not have existed, precluded them from taking this bold step in Parliament; but that did not preclude them from taking any administrative action which they chose to take; and surely the fact that during the two years when we had a Labour Home Secretary the administration was continued without change is a sufficient proof that, in fact, 93 they believed the administration was properly carried out. The hon. Member for Leigh referred in particular to the question of how it was ascertained that a majority of workers in a factory were in favour of the proposal, and suggested that it was possible for the employer to put pressure upon the workpeople, so that in many cases their assent did not represent their true views. I am not sure that the hon. Member appreciates how that assent is not only obtained but verified. When the employer makes an application it is necessary for him to satisfy the Home Office that a majority of the workers assent, and for that purpose he has to obtain signatures or to prove the assent of that majority. As soon as the application is sent in, with that prima facie proof, a factory inspector is asked to make certain for himself, in private and without the presence of the employer, that the workers who gave that assent fully realise what it was, and to satisfy himself, also, that the assent was not obtained by any compulsion but expressed the real view of the workers.
§ Mr. STANLEY
If the numbers are large, the inspector would summon a meeting of the workers, but in many cases the number affected is not the total of the workers employed in the factory but only those engaged on a particular process to which the two-shift order will apply. In many cases, therefore, it is very few of the workers who are concerned, and it is quite easy for the inspector to interview them. I had a case before me the other day in which doubts were expressed whether there was a proper majority of the workers in support of an order, and in consequence a secret ballot was arranged. It was organised not by the employer but by the factory inspector, with the representatives of the workers to supervise it and to reassure their fellow-workers that the ballot was in order. The result of that ballot was to confirm the majority claimed for the assent.
The hon. Member also complained that the consent of the unions was not obtained before these two-shift orders could be put into operation. To claim that such assent should first be obtained is, from the point of view of the practicability of such a course, to ignore entirely 94 the circumstances in which such orders are usually required. In most cases they are wanted as a matter of great urgency, to meet some special industrial circumstance which has arisen. As the hon. Member will know, the applications are accompanied by frequent telegrams to the Home Office urging that they may be dealt with in the swiftest possible way. To insist that a previous application should have been made to the union, which might perhaps involve reference to some committee would impose an intolerable delay and in many cases largely nullify the advantage which this two-shift order gives. I believe the position was explained to the trades unions by my pre-predecessor in the last Government. Finally, the complaint was made that orders may be granted to meet a temporary emergency, but that afterwards they can be revived by the employer without any further application to the Home Office. The hon. Member for Westhoughton will realise that that is not a, matter of administration, that an alteration of that system would require legislation. The hon. Member for Leigh appealed to us, as softly as a sucking dove, just to amend the legislation in this small particular. I am sure he does not realise that to do so it would be necessary to leave the two-shift order out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. We cannot amend an Act which is included in the Schedules; it has to be continued unamended.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
Once the consent of the workers has been obtained for an order, are any steps taken by the Home Office to discover whether the workers are still in agreement with the operation of the order?
§ Mr. STANLEY
I was trying to explain that the Home Office would have no power to do so, or, if they did make the inquiry, they would be unable to act upon it, because it would require legislation to do so. I may say that, so far as I can ascertain, no official complaint whatsoever on this point has been received at the Home Office, and it appears that these Orders, although they may have been granted at an earlier period, still continue to receive the assent of the workers when they are put into operation. The point made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton regarding sickness arising under this two-shift system is not a very substantial one. 95 He bolstered it up as well as he could by quoting several carefully-elected extracts from a report on the two-shift order by the Industrial Fatigue Research Board, ignoring all those points which happened to be against his case. Therefore, I hope he will not mind if I, in my modest way, supplement his efforts by reading the first two lines of this report:No conclusive statistical evidence has been found of a greater amount of sickness on one system than the other.…When the statistics were grouped by departments it appeared that the total sickness of the departments on shift work was exactly the same as that of the departments on day work.Of factory B it was recorded:Only half as many days were lost through sickness by the shift workers as by the day workers.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Surely that would be a work of supererogation. I am sure the Committee would like to congratulate another hon. Member on an excellent maiden speech. The hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), who, I think, was addressing us for the first time, impressed even the hon. Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) with the lucidity of his argument, if not with the matter of it. In fact, he persuaded the hon. Member for Silvertown to make a reply. As usual that speech was full of humour and fun, and I can only find one criticism to make on it, and that is, "Why did he not make it last year?"
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The interjection by the hon. Member finally disposes, I should imagine, of whatever vestige of a case was made by the hon. Member for West-
§ houghton. The hon. Member for Silver-town stressed the usual point that these two-shift Orders make not for employment but for unemployment, that if we abandoned the system there would be employment for more people, but he overlooks the unusual circumstances in which such orders are granted. It often happens that a firm receives a sudden demand for a particular class of goods to be delivered within a certain period. They have not sufficient machinery to be able to execute that order if they work on the ordinary system, but, as the order is probably of an exceptional character, and there is no knowing whether it is likely to be repeated, they are not in a position to instal extra machinery. It is to meet cases such as that that these two-shift Orders are used, and I believe no other system would suit the circumstances so well. Finally, I hope that when the Division comes this Amendment will be resisted by the Committee—if a Division comes, because in view of the past history of the party opposite I can hardly believe that they will press their opposition to that length. My right hon. Friend who is responsible for this Measure will not take the responsibility of accepting this Amendment, which, in his view, as in the view of his predecessors, would work not to the benefit, but to the disadvantage of those who are employed, and would jeopardise the employment of at least 40,000 people. That would nullify, to a great extent, the small improvement we have observed during the past few weeks since the National Government took office, which is pledged to help industry. I think that the Committee would be well advised to reject this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 373; Noes, 33.99
|Division No. 15.]||AYES.||[6.2 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Atholl, Duchess of||Bernays, Robert|
|Agnew, Lieut-Com. P. G.||Atkinson, Cyrll||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. B.||Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Blaker, Sir Reginald|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Blindell, James|
|Allen, Maj. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd, W)||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Borodale, Viscount|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Balniel, Lord||Boulton, W. W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Bateman, A. L.||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'th, Centr'l)||Bracken, Brendan|
|Aske, Sir William Robert||Beit, Sir Altred L.||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Briant, Frank||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Mabane, William|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gledhill, Gilbert||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Glossop, C. W. H.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||McEwen, J. H. F.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Goldie, Noel B.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Buchan, John||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||McLean, Major Alan|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Gower, Sir Robert||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)|
|Burnett, John George||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||McLean, Dr. w. H. (Tradeston)|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Graves, Marjorle||Magnay, Thomas|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Maltland, Adam|
|Calne, G. R. Hall||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Grimston, R. V.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Marjorlbanks, Edward|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hales, Harold K.||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Meller, Richard James|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Mills, Sir Frederick|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Hanley, Dennis A.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Harris, Percy A.||Molson, A. Harold Elsdale|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hartington, Marquess of||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Clarke, Frank||Hartland, George A.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Authur P.||Munro, Patrick|
|Colville, Major David John||Hepworth, Joseph||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Herbert, George (Rotherham)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hillman, Dr. George B.||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Cooke, James D.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'td)|
|Copeland, Ida||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Hopkinson, Austin||Nunn, William|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Hornby, Frank||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Horobin, Ian M.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Cross, R. H.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Crossley, A. C.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Pearson, William G.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Peat, Charles U.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Penny, Sir George|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hurd, Percy A.||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Denville, Alfred||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Petherick, M.|
|Donner, P. W.||Inskip, Sir Thomas W. H.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Drewe, Cedric||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Jamieson, Douglas||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Janner, Barnett||Potter, John|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Jennings, Roland||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Duncan, James A.L.(Kensington, N.)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Dunglass, Lord||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Eales, John Frederick||Ker, J. Campbell||Purbrick, R.|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kimball, Lawrence||Raikes, Hector Victor Alpin|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Knebworth, Viscount||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Eimley, Viscount||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Ramsbotham, Herswald|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Ramsden, E.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Law, Sir Alfred||Rankin, Robert|
|Entwistle, Major Cyril Fullard||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Levy, Thomas||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Flanagan, W. H.||Lewis, Oswald||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Liddall, Walter S.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Remer, John R.|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tside)||Stevenson, James||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Russell, Richard John(Eddlsbury)||Stones, James||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Storey, Samuel||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Salmon, Major Isidore||Stourton, John J.||White, Henry Graham|
|Salt, Edward W.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Samuel, A. M.(Surrey, Farnham)||Summersby, Charles H.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Sutcliffe, Harold||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Samuel, Samuel(W'dsworth Putney)||Templeton, William P.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Wilson, Clyde T.(West Toxteth)|
|Savery, Samuel Servington||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Scone, Lord||Thomas, Major J. B. (King's Norton)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Selley, Harry R.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Thorp, Linton Theodore||Withers, Sir John James|
|Shaw, Helen B.(Lanark, Bothwell)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Todd, A. L. S.(Kingswinford)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Sinclair, maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Skelton, Archibald Noel||Train, John||Wood, Major M. McKenzie(Banff)|
|Smiles, Lieut-Col. Sir Walter D.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)||Turton, Robert Hugh||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Smithers, Waldron||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Somervell, Donald Bradley||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Somerville, Annesley A.(Windsor)||Wallace, John(Dunfermline)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Captain Sir George Bowyer and|
|Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Lord Erskine.|
|Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hicks, Ernest George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, William G.||Hirst, George Henry||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Groves, Thomas E.||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. Cordon Macdonald and Mr. John.|
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, in page 5, to leave out lines 13 to 16.
This Amendment concerns the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act. Hon. Members who were in the last Parliament will recollect that a very brisk discussion and close Division took place last year on the subject of the continuation of the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act, and the chief protagonists, I think, for bringing the Act to an end were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), whom I am pleased to see in his place, and, of course, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has now gone to another place. In my opinion, the Debate on that occasion was a very well contested one, and the weight of argument on each side was very even. A good deal was said at that time as to the effect of dyestuffs upon the textile industry, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen gave us a great deal of information as to what the feeling was in other sections, as of the cotton industry. I think that possibly there has been a certain amount of change of 100 opinion, but I am moving this Amendment in order to get some further information from the Government; I do not intend to press it to a Division.
The first point with regard to the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act is that it is an interesting example of what happens when you set up a vested interest. It is, perhaps, the best example, apart from that of sugar-beet, of how, if you once set up a vested interest with the idea that you are fostering a new industry, you find that you have to keep on Protection all the time. Originally, under this Measure, it was proposed to set up Protection for five years. Then it was made 10 years, and last year an extension was asked for just for one year more. Now it is to be carried on for still another year, and, in view of the Debate last year, I hope we shall hear why it is necessary to prolong this Act for a further year.
The protection given under the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act was a special form of protection, and, to my mind, a very much better one than the 101 rather curious experiments that are being introduced now by the President of the Board of Trade, because the Act did at least go some way towards recognising the need for the regulation of industry, it set up some kind of control in the dyestuffs industry, and it gave a certain representation to consumers. It did, therefore, approach a little way towards the Labour policy in this matter, but it did not go nearly far enough. In the first place, it did not make provision for complete control of the industry, so as to see that it was carried, on with the greatest possible efficiency.
The whole case for the Act was that it was necessary in this country to have a strong dyestuffs industry. Introduced shortly after the War, one of the points emphasised in connection with it was the importance of the chemical industries in case of war. It was also said that our great textile industries should not be dependent on the importation of dyes from abroad. Undoubtedly, the Act has created a strong dyestuffs industry, and something like 93 per cent. of the dyestuffs used is produced in this country. But there is still a very heavy importation, and it is noticeable that that importation of foreign dyes grows from year to year. Starting in 1921 at something over 2,500,000 lbs., by 1926 it had gone up to something like 4,250,000 lbs., by 1928 to 5,000,000 lbs., and by 1929 to nearly 6,000,000 lbs., while the number of licences granted has similarly gone up from about 5,000 to nearly 7,500.
What is the reason for that? It appears to be, according to the Debates on the subject, that the British dye producers are concentrating on a limited number of varieties. The complaint is made that this great industry has not developed a sufficient amount of variety, and hence the large amount of importation that still takes place, consisting, not of large consignments, but of numbers of different varieties of dyes. I want to hear from the representative of the Board of Trade what is being done to stimulate the dyestuffs industry in this country to produce a greater variety and range of dyes so as to satisfy fully the demands of the dye-using industries in this country.
The next thing that I should like to say is that, in taking this industry under some sort of Government protection, there should have been a greater amount 102 of Government control—control over prices, control over profits, control over wages. On the last occasion on which this matter was debated, a good deal of evidence was produced to show that the existence of this privileged position in the case of the dyestuffs industry had been prejudicial to the textile trade. We all know that the textile trade in Lancashire and Yorkshire, particularly in Lancashire, has been passing through a very hard time. It would be ridiculous to suggest that a hard time in Lancashire was due to the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act, but, on the other hand, it is noticeable that throughout this period, during which the cotton industry has been making losses, the dye industry has been making fairly steady profits—slightly declining towards the end, but fairly steady profits all the way through. In fact, in the earlier years of the Act the profits were very high, and they are still about 10 or 8 per cent.
It is possible that the fact of this industry being placed in a privileged position has enabled it to take advantage of the rest of the industry. I am bound to say that I have not a vast amount of sympathy for the rest of the textile industry, because it has obstinately refused to set its own house in order, but it is one of the disadvantages of dealing with industry in a piecemeal way that, if you undertake the protection of one part of industry, you set up there a sheltered industry, and it is quite possible for that branch of the industry to profiteer at the expense of the rest of the industry. When this subject was debated before, both in this House and in another place, it was suggested that there should be an inquiry, but it was said on the other side that there was no need for an inquiry, as we had plenty of information.
I should like to know a little more about the organisation of this industry. I think it is very important, whenever any form of Protection or advantage is given to an industry, that the State should get the utmost advantage to itself that is possible. I should like to know how much is really being done by this industry with regard to research. There was a great deal of argument on the last occasion to the effect that, if this Act was taken away, a large number of chemists would be put out of work. I should like to know how far this industry 103 is really assisting the research of the rest of the textile industry, and also what are the relations of the principal undertakings in the dyestuffs industry with foreign firms. Where you have one enormous undertaking, it is quite possible that, when this form of Protection is set up, an industry may shelter itself by agreements with its Continental rivals—agreements not to fight. They divide up the field—they produce a certain limited range, let us say, in this country, and they leave the rest to be produced by their foreign rivals, or, possibly, their foreign allies. I am not completely au fait with the details of the ramifications of the big firms in the chemical industry, but I understand that their relations with firms abroad are fairly close. If this Act is being carried on because it is essential for the nation that we should have an effective dye industry, we want to see that that purpose is not going to be defeated by any international financial arrangements.
I want to emphasise the fact that the Labour party's position in this matter is not one of being either for Protection or for Free Trade. We believe that industry has got to be organised, that importation has got to be controlled, and that this Act was a certain step in advance, but that it has not gone nearly far enough. We are not satisfied unless the State gets full advantage to itself and to the people of this country in return for the advantages which it bestows, and we consider that in every Act of this kind full provision should be made for the protection of the community as regards the efficiency of the industry and the protection of the consumer and of the conditions of the workers in the industry. While I have no doubt that the House will continue the Act for another year, I want to know from the Government whether, in the changed circumstances that have brought the principal objectors against this Act on to the benches of a Protectionist Government, the Measure is still considered as an example of the fostering of new industries for a limited period of time, or whether it has now become permanent; and I should also like to know whether there is any intention to have a full inquiry into the working of this Act, in order that we may see that this industry is 104 carried on with the fullest possible efficiency and the greatest possible advantage to the community.
§ Mr. RAMSDEN
I should like, before dealing with the Amendment itself, to reply to one or two of the observations which were made by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) in moving it. In the first place, he suggested that the textile industries deserved very little sympathy, because they had refused to put their house in order. Speaking as one who knows, at any rate, the wool textile industry of Yorkshire, which is the most important in the country, I wish to state that the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman is not accurate. The wool textile industry is willing, if it is given the opportunity, as it has been during the past few days, to do anything that may be necessary, not only to manufacture any goods that may be needed, but also to acquire and put into their factories any new machinery that may be needed.
As far as the Amendment is concerned, I am very glad to know that the hon. Gentleman is not going to press it to a Division. I should very much regret it if he were to do so. It would certainly inflict a very serious blow to a deserving industry if it were not to get the benefit of this particular Act. As the hon. Gentleman suggested that the dye manufacturers had had an advantage as regards price, perhaps I may be allowed to read a paragraph from a speech made to the Colour Users Association by Sir Henry Sutcliffe Smith, the president of that association, at its annual meeting in Manchester on 17th July last. I think that this should destroy the suggestion that British dyestuff manufacturers are getting any advantage as far as price is concerned. This is the paragraph to which I refer:Last year I suggested that the time had arrived for modification of the 1.75 times pre-War factor which guided the Committee when considering applications for licences to import dyestuffs on price grounds, and I am glad to state that, following the Government's announcement of the extension of the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act in January last, the factor ratio over pre-War was abolished. Under the new arrangement the British makers agreed with the Licensing Committee that licences should only be refused in those cases where British makers were prepared to supply equivalent products at similar prices to those quoted by foreign manufacturers so long as such prices were not dumping prices.105 I think this in itself should be quite sufficient proof that there is no truth in the statement that the manufacturers of dyestuffs are obtaining any advantage as far as price is concerned. The hon. Gentleman wished to know whether sufficient work was being done in research. I am glad he raised that question, because it is most important that research in the dyestuffs industry shall be conducted as satisfactorily here as it has been in any other country. If I read extracts from this speech by Sir Henry Sutcliffe Smith, of the Colour Users' Association—not the Colour Manufacturers' Association—they should satisfy the hon. Gentleman. He said:During the period under review, Chemical Industries Limited, have placed upon the market no fewer than 40 new colours fur the textile trade. Many of these are of marked importance and represent products in great demand formerly imported from abroad in large quantities. A few are entirely novel. New lines in colours for use in trades other than textiles have been developed. The research organisation of the leading British manufacturers continues to develop, both in the direction of the evolution and manufacturing of new products and in connection with problems concerning their application to textiles and other substances.The president of this association paid a very high tribute to the research work that is being done by British manufacturers, which he -claims is at least equal to that done by any foreign manufacturers. May I remind the Committee of the very great progress that has been made in the manufacture of dyestuffs since this Act originally came into operation In 1913 the production of dyestuffs totalled 9,114,130 lbs. In 1922, the first year after the Act came into operation, the total production amounted to 20,802,563 lbs., and in the year 1930, the last year for which we have figures available, the total production was 42,590,243 lbs., a very considerable increase, not only over 1913 but also over 1922. I am also glad to be able to say that, as the result of the help and encouragement given by the Dyestuffs Act, the export of dyestuffs has considerably increased. In 1913 the exports came to 2,434 tons, having a value of £177,246. In 1930 the export amounted to 5,381 tons, having a value of £884,974. This shows that production has increased, and also that the Dyestuffs Act has been able to fulfil another very severe test, and that 106 is to show that it helps the export trade as well.
May I say a word with regard to price? The Committee that dealt with imports had in their mind certain governing considerations with regard to the granting of licences. In 1922 they were prepared to prevent importation if British dyestuffs could be produced at a cost not exceeding three times the pre-War value. In 1926 this fell to two and a-half times, in 1927 it fell to two, and in 1929 to 1.73 times. Now, according to the first paragraph that I read from the report, British manufacturers are able to compete on equal terms in so far as a very large quantity of imports is concerned. I think this should be very satisfactory proof, not only that the dyestuffs manufacturers are capable of doing their work well, but also that the Dyestuffs Act has been of great benefit in reducing prices. I support this Measure very strongly because it is extremely necessary, but I hope during the course of the year it will be possible for the President of the Board of Trade to carry out an examination of the terms of the Act and determine whether it could not be amended so as to give even still greater benefits, not only to the manufacturers of dyestuffs but also to the users. I should very much like to see some arrangement made whereby there is a definite schedule of goods which we can make in this country and which some future Dyestuffs Act will prevent from being imported. At the same time other dyestuffs, which did not come into this particular schedule, would be placed on another list and could be imported without even the necessity of obtaining a licence. I throw this out as a suggestion, because I believe something on these lines would be found extremely acceptable and useful as far as the manufacturers of Yorkshire are concerned.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
I desire to call attention to one or two aspects of this matter in order to make our position clear. The old argument between the Free Trader and the Safeguarder is that Protection gives certain advantages to the producer and leaves the consumer entirely at his mercy. The Free Trader says the producer ought not to be protected unless the consumer is given some protection 107 against being exploited. The argument proceeded on a contest between the consumer and the producer for many years, and it was thought that one of the ways out of that difficulty was discovered when this Dyestuffs Board was set up, and a, licensing committee was established. It is true that, as a consequence of its activities, the industry has received considerable assistance, and an industry has come into existence which, perhaps, could not have done so in any other circumstances, and has given employment to a considerable number of workpeople and has made us less dependent upon other countries for its products. But our position has been that it is quite impossible for the benefits to the State to be preserved by a board upon which only consumers and producers are represented. It was thought that, by having a well-balanced board of that kind, where the consumers of dyestuffs could present their case and secure the importation of foreign dyes where it could be shown that the producers were not able to produce the required dye, they would be able to protect. themselves and the State against unnecessary and undesirable exploitation.
For some time the Dyestuffs Board was regarded by most modern thinkers upon the new fiscal policy as being a model of what a board ought to be. It would be an extremely foolish thing for the party for which I speak to say that we regard a board of this kind as the last word in import control. We do not consider that to have a board upon which the rival interests of producers and consumers are represented will provide the community with what we require. There are three representatives of the State upon this board, but even the presence of representatives of the State does not give us what we require unless the powers of the board are enlarged, because we envisage these import boards providing us with a larger measure of control over the anarchy of private enterprise than has hitherto existed. It has been for some time in my party a matter for doctrinal discussion, sometimes acrimonious and sometimes placid, that the time has come when the Labour party should depart from the barren controversy of Protection and Free Trade and try to insert some measure of intelligent State 108 direction into the organisation of trade by giving to certain interests and certain producers a concrete market, a safe market, a calculable market for their products in return for certain conditions that the State would then impose upon it. We believe that the trade between this nation and the rest of the world should be regularised and controlled. We believe there should be an element of calculability introduced into industry that does not now exist, and that the main defect of private enterprise, both in this and other industries, is that industries are producing entirely for an unknown market and are unable to make scientific preparations for production when they do not know either the quantity or the quality of the production they may have to produce for the market.
It may be said there is common ground between us and those who regard themselves as Safeguarders in that matter. As a matter of fact, there is not common ground at all, because all that the Safe-guarder wants to do is to build a wall around chaos. He does not control or direct the chaos. He does not scientifically organise it. He builds a wall around the jungle and imagines that that is control. We want to clear the jungle. We want to prevent the world division of labour from cutting across internal divisions of labour and introducing anarchy into the national economy. We think the way it can be accomplished is for the State to use this right to give licences and to circumscribe or extend the market in order to superimpose upon the beneficiary certain conditions which we think it is in the benefit of the State to impose. Therefore, we ask whether the time has now come when the Safeguarders, who have been speaking up and down the country persuading their constituents of the benefits that Safeguarding is going to give, should implement their promise. The promise they made is that provided employers can be given safeguarded markets and have protection against clumped goods, it was reasonable to suppose they would make their industry efficient. Indeed, the Safeguarder is anxious to prove himself a scientific Safe-guarder. We clearly recognise that it is foolish for us merely to go on Safeguarding and allowing them to exploit the consumers. We think that the workmen ought to be protected, and that if higher profits are obtained—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member is now getting a very long way from the Dyestuffs Act.
§ Mr. BEVAN
It is not my desire to broaden the Debate beyond its proper proportions, but, at least, I think, it is appropriate in a discussion of this kind, when we are considering giving another year's lease of life to powers of this kind, that we should be allowed to point out that the persons applying for those powers are not themselves attempting to make the best use of the powers for which they are asking. That is all I desire to do. I admit the difficulty of extending the Debate to include provisions which might require new legislation which is not before the House. It is extraordinarily difficult for us to make the point we wish to make, but I desire to emphasise that the State should be able to say to the safeguarded industry, in this case the dye industry: "We propose to give you these powers provided (a) you satisfy us that reasonable conditions of employment are given to the workmen; (b) that you are spending what you ought to spend upon research; and (c) that the general organisation of the industry is as efficient as is desirable in an expanding market," so that we may be able to exercise some control over those industries and get the benefit for the community that Safeguarding is supposed to give.
Hon. Members have come to this House now to implement the promises and make good the speeches of, for example, the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs in presenting the case for Safeguarding in agreeable terms and a charming manner. They have said that all these benefits can be conferred upon the workmen if only we give Protection to these industries. I rose, not for the purpose of extending the area of the discussion, but merely hoping to make it clear where this party stands with regard to this matter. The present legislation is good as far as it goes, but it is unambitious and it is barren and does not enable the State to bring private enterprise into something like scientific order, and at the same time leaves the implication that the private consumer of a product in balanced competition with the private producer of the product can, between them, by the balance of com- 110 bining forces, confer the benefits upon the community which the community think ought to be conferred upon them.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I do not wish to spoil the harmony of this discussion, nor am I going as far as to divide the Committee against this Clause of the Bill. I have a vivid recollection of another Debate on a similar Bill not quite 12 months ago—it was on 4th December—when the present Home Secretary drew swords with the present Secretary of State for the Dominions. We had a, Debate of gladiators when a very strong case was put up for dropping this particular Act out of the then Expiring Laws. The right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for the Dominions tried to controvert the right hon. Gentleman. The result was curious. It was one of the few occasions upon which the Government were defeated by a majority of something like 20. I do not for a moment suggest that the present House of Commons will follow the decision of that House of Commons. Feeling ran high. The House was divided.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong about the Government being defeated. It was in the House of Lords.
§ Mr. HARRIS
The hon. Member is right—it was in the House of Lords. The House of Lords intervened. I think that it was carried by a small majority. Later on the House decided to support the Upper House in its action. I was one of those naughty people who took the line that it was bad policy to continue this Act of Parliament in the Expiring Laws Bill. The original contract was that this great industry was to be given 10 years in which to make good. The promoters of the industry and those interested in it said at the time that if they had 10 years they would have ample opportunity to entrench themselves and put this country in a position to provide dyes at a reasonable price. We were told then in very strong terms that the industry was going through very lean times. Considerable handicaps were imposed by a system of licensing. The Committee will recollect that it was not a question of protection in the ordinary way of a tariff of the kind we have passed through the House under the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act subjecting the 111 articles to a high duty. It was the prohibition of the importation of certain dyes. In fact, all dyes are prohibited unless the users of the dyes can prove that they cannot get the necessary dyes from an English manufacturer. They have to go to a committee in order to get a licence. They have to prove their case, and if they cannot do so, they must necessarily buy their dyes from the English manufacturer.
I have a number of quotations by me, but I do not wish to trouble the Committee with them, because it is not suggested at the moment that we should destroy this Act of Parliament. It is well to remember that a very strong case was made against the licensing system, and a very small number of manufacturers both in the woollen industry and the cotton industry were able to show that they were handicapped in competition with foreign manufacturers by having to get permission from a committee to import a particular dye of which they were short. They were able to show that as a result many of our textile industries had been handicapped, and that some of them bad been unable to compete in what is known as the fancy trade, owing to the constant changing tastes of women for new dyes and new colours. The result has been that certain trades have been lost to this country. It may be argued that the situation has changed, because there is going to be no competition in textiles owing to the fact that in the next few months no clothes are to be imported into this country. The manufacturers have made their case not so much because of the home market but because of the world trade.
If we allow this Act of Parliament to slip through in November, 1931, it must not be thought that we have accepted the principle that the case for its continuation has been made out. On the contrary, I maintain that the argument which held good in 1930 still holds good in 1931. I am going to say something to hon. and right hon. Members sitting there. There is my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. I happened out of curiosity to look up the strong line he took in voting against the continuation of this Bill. As to the Home Secretary as representing the cotton industry, I assume that he has 112 not changed his point of view, and still thinks that this Act of Parliament handicaps the cotton trade, that it inconveniences the manufacturers in Darwen who are so badly hit, and that there is still a case, at any rate, for inquiry. If I recollect rightly—so many Bills are before the House at the present time that it is difficult to keep pace with them—a committee was set up. The late Government were very fond of committees. They had a weakness for committees. As a compromise, as a result of accepting the decision of the House of Lords, another committee was set up to inquire into the working of the Act. Although I am not particularly in love with committees, I suggest that a case has been made out for inquiry.
Are we to have this Act as a permanent Act of Parliament? Is it to go on for all time? Is this system of prohibition to be part of the law of our country in reference to an important raw material? Everybody knows that dyes are one of the essential raw materials of the cotton and woollen industries. If we are to have a real revival in our textile trade and are to face the business of trying to capture the foreign market, our English manufacturers must be placed under the very best and most advantageous conditions so that they can draw their materials from wherever they require them. Another aspect was pointed out in the Debate. It was suggested that there were agreements between the English manufacturers—the Imperial Chemical Industries and the manufacturers in Germany to limit the production of certain dyes. There was an agreement not to extend the list of dyes. We should like to know what has happened in the meantime. Has the agreement between Imperial Chemicals and the great Continental firm of dye producers been made good?
Before we pass this particular Clause in the Expiring Laws Bill and before we revive the Act for another 12 months, we ought to be assured that the subject is not going to be allowed to drift, but that there is going to be a real policy on the part of the Government. If we are to have this permanent legislation, if it is going to be continued for all time, it ought to be introduced in the form of another Act of Parliament with proper safeguards for dye users, and provision for inquiry into the working 113 of the licensing system. We ought to know exactly where the industry stands. I am going to assume that this is to be merely a 12 months breathing space for the new Government to introduce a constructive policy and to make up their mind where they stand, and to reconcile conflicting views. If hon. Members come to an agreement, then out of great minds will come a real constructive policy as a result of which this great industry may be put in its proper relation to the users of dyes, and the great staple textile trades, the cotton trades and the woollen trades, will know that they will have a free hand for the future and be able to develop their industry without unnecessary handicaps regarding the purchase of their raw material.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
The discussion has been very temperate, and my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment told the Committee that he did not intend to press it. That seemed to fill my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) with regret, for he is anxious, if he possibly can, to hunt the Government every day. But I am glad that my lion. Friend's wish is not to be fulfilled.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
Whatever the hon. Member's intentions maybe, he does not worry the Government at all. He tries to discover some new ditch in which to die every day, and to die publicly. The story of this Measure is perfectly well known to this House and the circumstances in which this Dyestuffs Act has come to be included in the Expiring Laws Bill are equally familiar. Before the War, the German State, with that clarity and determination of policy which was its characteristic, not only captured the whole dyestuffs industry in its own borders, but overwhelmed our native industry as well. During the War we became aware of the void we had allowed to appear in our economy, and found ourselves short of the dyestuffs necessary for colouring uniforms for our troops and for certain chemical necessities in the making of munitions. After the War, we resolved 114 that such a, situation should never recur and, after a period of trial and error, this Dyestuffs Act was passed. It established a licensing committee on which are represented three makers, five users, and three neutrals. That committee was to operate for 10 years and to control the importations of dyestuffs into this country. During the last 10 years it has done its work and, if we are to believe my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment, it has done its work exceedingly well. Whereas before the War we produced 9,000,000 lbs. of synthetic dyes, last year we produced 42,500,000 lbs.; whereas in 1913 we imported 33,000,000 lbs., last year we imported only 4,000,000 lbs. Despite that my hon. Friend complains that imports have recently increased, hut they have not increased to any considerable extent and, if they have, that in itself does away with the criticism that the textile industry is not obtaining the dyes it wants. The very fact that more licences, according to the statement of my hon. Friend, are being given demonstrates clearly that the textile industry is not being put to any privation.
The price has fallen and is now down practically to pre-War level. Our exports, on which my hon. Friend did not dwell, before the War were insignificant, but now total nearly 12,000,000 lbs. of a value of £879,000. The result of the working of the Act has been that, whereas we had a dyestuffs industry of mean proportions before the War, we now provide over 90 per cent. of our own requirements. There is employment in the industry for highly skilled men to the number of nearly 8,000. They are the repositories of secret processes of inestimable national value. Indirectly the trades created by this Dyestuffs Act have been numerous, and particularly is that so with regard to paints and medicinal products. Chemical engineering has also benefited considerably by providing the plant entailed in the development of the industry.
My hon. Friend asks about research. Owing to the predominance this industry has gained, it has been able to subsidise research and the study of chemistry not only in the universities but elsewhere. It might interest my hon. Friend to read a speech made at the last annual meeting 115 of the Colour Users' Association, which would give a complete reply to the question he asked. The chairman of that association (Sir Henry Sutcliffe Smith) said:The research organisation of the leading British makers continues to develop, both in the direction of the evolution and manufacture of new products and in connection with the problems of their application to textiles and other substances.If a dye user is satisfied with the progress made in research, surely my hon. Friend might admit to a like contentment.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
My hon. Friend asked what was being done about research. I noted his question, and I am endeavouring to answer him, but I cannot answer all his questions simultaneously. That is the result of the working of this Act. How does my hon. Friend describe it? He said that this is what happens when you create a vested interest. If this is what happens when you create a vested interest, then the more vested interests the better. If out of nothing you can create an industry of these dimensions and do beneficent work of this kind, I fail to see my hon. Friend's complaint that a vested interest has been created. Almost in the same breath he said that undoubtedly a strong industry had been established. Which direction does his criticism really take? Does he complain of the vested interest or of the creation of a strong industry?
I admit that there were certain imperfections in the operation of this Act, and my hon. Friend called attention to some of them. They were dwelt upon by the critics of the Act last year. I am glad to be able to inform the Committee that practically all these imperfections have been removed. One of the imperfections was the delay in the granting of licences. That has almost entirely been eliminated and licences are granted with great speed. Indeed, my hon. Friend was able to point to the increase in the number of licences granted. Of course, the reason why there has been an increase is because there is no impediment in the way of users in this country now in getting what they require from abroad, and admittedly foreign countries still provide a number of dyes which 116 we cannot get in this country. In the last year more discoveries have been made and the industry has been further perfected. On the question of price, which was also a ground for criticism last year, I must remind the Committee that the prices charged by the makers in this country are competitive prices. In no case are those prices greater than the world prices for the same commodity. Therefore, it would be untrue to say that the textile industry is bearing any undue burden.
"How", asked my hon. Friend, "is the industry being watched?" Another hon. Friend of mine, the Member for North Bradford (Mr. Ramsden) asked what changes would he made in the Act as the result of experience. A similar question was asked by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) in that very interesting speech which he made upon Labour policy in these matters. In his view, evidently, licence is better than liberty. The industry is being watched by the Dyestuffs Industry Development Committee, which is a body that has been in existence since the operation of the Act, and which is called together when any matters which may relevantly come under its purview arise.
That is the record of this industry. I am glad that my hon. Friend is not going to persist in an Amendment which would destroy it. It would be indeed a most improper thing to do at this moment, particularly when step by step all the flaws in the Act have been erased, more particularly because we have now in our national life entered into an era of conscious control. It would be a very sad thing if on attaining conscious control of our imports in other directions, we were to abandon control of this particular commodity. We should not be safe at this juncture in allowing the textile industry once again to become dependent upon foreign countries. This country having set out with a clear and conscious purpose in other matters to determine its own fate, it would be a very sorrowful thing if we were to abandon this Act, which has worked so fruitfully and so well that even my hon. Friend does not desire to press his Amendment.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member has not dealt with the point. The late Lord Melchett said that there were 10,000 117 varieties of dyes. The point I made was that the industry here was concentrating on a very small variety of dyes, and that industries here have to go abroad for a very large number.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
That simply is not the case. We provide in this country for 90 per cent. of the requirements of industry.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
It is a figure which speaks for itself as regards quantity. There are many varieties, as I confessed, which the British Dyestuffs industry cannot yet provide and does not provide, but, as regards the vast bulk of the requirements of British industry, these are met from our own resources. I may say that research is advancing very rapidly, and that the number of dyes which we cannot produce is diminishing every year.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
Is not the real position as regards the dyes we can produce and which we cannot produce entirely created by the patent position? Is it not true that up to a year and a-half ago the Germans held a certain range of controlling patents which stopped our manufacturers making any of the new dyestuffs at all? They did not even start making any of the new dyestuffs until a year and a-half ago when these patents were revoked.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I do not quite understand the point. Eeither what the hon. and learned Member says is true or it is not true. In either event, the Act remains justified.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Before I call on the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) to move his Amendment on the Order Paper—in page 6, line 6, column 3, at the end, to insert the words:except Sections two, three and four, and Sections two and three of amending Act 13 and 14 Geo. V., c. 32.I would ask him to move it down to the word "four."
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to move, in page 6, line 6, column 3, at the end, to insert the words:except Sections two, three and four.118 I shall move the other part of my Amendment later as a separate Amendment in a slightly different form, and having the same effect. My purpose, in moving this Amendment, is to withdraw from the owners of houses the right to charge the increase of 40 per cent., which was granted to them under the 1920 Act. The Committee will remember that this rent restriction legislation was initiated in the early part of the War, when certain owners of houses, taking advantage of the nation's necessities at that time, proceeded to raise rents. The Government, after considering the agitation which occurred in several parts of the country, came to the conclusion that some legislation was necessary, and the first Bent Restriction Act was passed, stabilising rents at the pre-war level. That stabilisation of rents remained until 1920, when, in response to agitation from other quarters, amending legislation was passed which entitled the landlords to increase rents up to a total of, roughly, 40 per cent. A certain proportion of that increase was on the ground of increased interest charges for mortgage, a certain proportion was for necessary repairs, and the other proportion I presume was in the nature of a gift to the landlords.
I have steadily held the view that those increases were not justifiable. Most of the houses were old houses that had been built many years before the War—10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 years before the War. The capital that had been originally invested in them had been paid to the investors time and time again. A very large proportion of them had no mortgage charges on them, and a big proportion of the landlords owning the houses never did any repairs to them. But a case was made out, and in the Coalition Parliament of 1918–22 the landlords were allowed to charge that increased rent. At that time the majority of the working classes were in a substantially better financial position than they had been in pre-War days, and there was not the resistance or hostility to the increases that there might have been under other-conditions. Since that time the increases have been maintained, but working-class conditions have become steadily worse, until now, with a diminished earning power, the majority of the members of the working class are having to face a very much higher rent than was cus- 119 tomary in pre-War days and the proportion that rent now bears in the working-class budget to the total expenditure is a higher proportion than ever before.
The original Rent Restrictions Act became necessary because of the War crisis, to protect the masses of the people from exploitation by those who owned their houses. We are now facing another crisis, which has been described by the Governmentalists as as serious a crisis in some respects as the War crisis. I believe that it is a crisis which will become worse. I take a very gloomy view of the prospects for the working classes of this country during the ensuing year. Already, by definite legislative enactment of this House, 3,000,000 unemployed people have had their standard of life very considerably reduced. A number of the lower paid civil servants have had their wage-earning power substantially reduced, and throughout the country the general tendency is for working-class wages to come down, while rents, protected by the legislation of this House, by the Act which is included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, are being maintained, by the authority of the Government, at a very high level; a level which puts a terrible strain on the ordinary working-class budget and which, if things get worse, will mean an intolerable burden that simply cannot be borne. The Government have called for all-round sacrifices. Everybody is to be prepared to give up something in order to carry the nation through its difficulties The purpose of our Amendment is to secure that those who earn their income from the ownership of houses shall have an opportunity of making their contribution to the common sacrifice. The Amendment has the effect of cutting out the increases permitted in the 1920 Act and throwing us back on the original Act of 1915, which stabilised rents at the pre-War level.
There have been sundry committees of inquiry into the rent question. The most recent one, set up by the late Labour Government, has reported in the last few months. The majority report is unsatisfactory. It seems to look at the whole problem through the eyes of the landlord. But the minority report, to which is appended the name of the hon. 120 Member for the Hamilton Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Duncan Graham) makes strong and definite recommendations towards the end which I am trying to achieve by the Amendment. It is somewhat difficult on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill to have a full and adequate discussion of this subject in all its ramifications, but that is not my fault. After the varying committees and the varying reports, one Government or another by this time could quite easily have come before the House with definite proposals for legislation to put this whole question of rents on a footing fitting the situation that now exists throughout the country. In the city of Glasgow and in my own Division I find that week after week not merely hundreds but thousands of people are being taken before the Rents Court by house agents, or factors, as we call them in the West of Scotland, charged with non-payment of rent, and falling into arrears. Seldom does the sheriff or the Judge grant eviction orders. Usually he makes an order for continuing the case or for certain fixed payments per week. He recognises that having regard to the income of the tenants and the rent of the house, it has been impossible for them to meet the charges demanded.
With reduced unemployment benefit, with means tests, with people cut out of unemployment benefit altogether, the position to-day is very bad, but the position has been pitiable for two or three years. No more pathetic spectacle is to be seen in the whole of our social economy than these hundreds of women attending these Courts in Glasgow every day, with their babies in their arms, struggling against the power of the law of the land to maintain a roof over their heads. If hon. Members could see some of the houses that they are struggling to maintain, and from which they are in terror of being evicted, they would realise to what depths human beings can fall in our existing social order. Not one of us would dream of having anyone in whom we were interested living in one of these houses for 24 hours, yet these women go to the Courts, with their hearts in their mouths, in order to keep these miserable houses, which most of us would regard as beneath contempt for any human being. I am sorry that the Government have not introduced legislation 121 to protect these people against exploitation at a time when they have introduced the speediest legislation to cut down their incomes.
I know that considerations of time are urged for neglect in these matters. By my Amendment I provide the Government with a very simple method, which consumes the minimum of Parliamentary time, for bringing about a measure of social justice. If a vote on this matter were taken on party lines, I have no doubt about the result, but I hope the Government will not make a vote necessary. I hope they will accept the Amendment, that they will take the view that, great as the nation's crisis may be, the right to a home is the elementary right of it citizen, that at the present level of rents a large proportion of the people cannot possibly maintain their homes, that the relief suggested by the Amendment would make it just possible for them in a large proportion of these cases to maintain themselves with a roof over their heads, that it would relieve tens of thousands of people from the very deep agony of mind that they are suffering, and, above all, it would not interfere with the successful balancing of the Budget, the restoration of the Gold Standard, or the proper balancing of our trade account.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has said that it is very difficult, indeed impossible, to discuss this question properly on the Amendment that he has brought forward. I shall confine myself to a very brief speech. This Amendment does not arise particularly out of the very distressed circumstances of the country to-day. It has been a contention of hon. Members opposite in Parliament after Parliament, irrespective of what was the rise in the cost of living or of what was the value of the pound. From 1920 onwards, hon. Gentlemen opposite have urged that, in the interests of the tenant, the landlord should get at least no more money than he got before the War. Therefore, the pictures drawn of the present situation, while I know they are relevant to this Amendment, are not the real causes. I have very great sympathy with the cases that the hon. Member for Bridgeton has brought forward, but there is no doubt that all maximum-price legislation suffers 122 from this drawback, that the maximum it sets up tends to become the minimum price charged by everybody. We all know that. If the hon. Member for Bridgeton had moved to abolish the Act altogether, he would have had very much stronger arguments behind him. There is no doubt that the operation of the Rent Restrictions Act to-day is tending to keep up rents in many cases, as well as to keep them down in certain others.
Hon. Members have said this kind of thing in Parliament after Parliament, and they know, and they must feel, that this policy of rent restriction on the one hand, and housing subsidy on the other, has solved nothing of the housing problem which lies at the root of the industrial trouble. Why go on, year after year, when you know that your policy is inadequate to meet the evils with which our country is faced, and when you know that rent restriction and subsidy do not provide a constructive housing policy? Why go on, year after year, serving your constituents in Glasgow with your hearts, but never with your heads?
What is the fundamental evil with which we are faced? It is that the wages paid, and the profits and interest earned, in the building industry are out of all proportion to the wages earned by the people who have to live in the houses built by the building industry, and to the interest which any houseowner who lets his house to a working-man may earn on his capital. We are faced with inefficiency or ineffectiveness in the building industry. I care not whether the fault is with employers or workers or manufacturers of building materials. I have no doubt that the fault lies with all of them. That is the evil with which the Government have to deal. What is the good of presenting the Government, on the threshold of office, with a proposal that they should merely go on with this temporary patchwork, to bind still tighter over the eyes of the country those twin blinkers of rent restriction and housing subsidy which prevent us from facing our problems as we should?
I appeal to the hon. Member for Bridgeton to demand from the Government, as we all demand—not to-day, but in due course—a constructive policy, covering the whole area of rents, a policy which will deal with the chief evils of 123 our situation. Let us not go on singing this old, old song, which we know is not an incantation to solve any of our problems, but is merely laying a flattering unction to our souls. What the people for whom the hon. Member for Bridgeton was speaking, want is a constructive building policy for the provision of new houses, and not merely a policy which will give them security of tenure in their present slums for all time, at a slightly lower rent. The greatest influence for the perpetuation of slums has been this Rent Restrictions Act which the hon. Member for Bridgeton wants to make more strict. Let us clear our minds, as, I assure the hon. Member for Bridgeton, we on this side of the House are quite prepared to do, and let us face the real, appalling problem of housing, as we hope this Government will face it in the months to come.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
The Noble Lord has made a speech which sounds very familiar, not because it has been previously uttered by him, but because it has very often been given, in essence, by the party opposite. His main argument was that houses are expensive to live in because the wages of building workers have been raised in the past few years. The Noble Lord knows that we are dealing with houses built before the War, and which were at that time let at an economic rent. The owners in question have had a fairly decent rental, having regard to the money spent in construction. There was a cessation of building during the War, because the men were away in very large numbers. Building workers, as well as workers in all industries, had to leave the country, and the dearth of houses became very serious indeed. During that dearth of houses, owners of property exploited the situation, and a ramp soon began in rents. There was a good deal of distress and disaffection, because men were abroad in all parts of the world, while their wives and children were being asked more money for the rents of the houses they lived in.
A Measure was passed which stabilised rent only for a time. In 1920, Parliament gave consent for rents to be raised to an aggregate of 40 per cent. on the standard rent, plus an allowance for repairs and mortgage charges. That 40 per cent. provision came into existence 124 almost concurrently with the time when wages began to fall. Wages, ever since 1920, have been falling regularly. In 1921, the first heavy attack on wages began. Almost as soon as the landlord had been given the legal power to demand 40 per cent. additional rent, the wages of the workers in several industries of the country were reduced by a sum of £10,000,000 a week, or £500,000,000 a year. This sum was taken from the wages of the working people, especially those engaged in the congested industrial areas, in the years 1921 and 1922. In every year since that time, with the exception, I believe, of only one year, wages have been cut, and cut, until to-day, almost 11 years after the Rent Restrictions Act was proposed, the annual amount of wages paid to the workers is down by no less than £700,000,000.
The wages of the workers have been cut down in many instances to figures no higher than the allowance paid to them in 1914. In actual income, large masses of the industrial population, mainly living in congested industrial areas, are receiving less weekly income than they were receiving before the War, and yet they have to pay that 40 per cent. additional rent for houses which were built 20, 30 or 40 years before the War, houses that have deteriorated, become very much dilapidated and are, in many instances, unfit for human habitation. Still the rents remain high, and the working people whose wages have been cut to a very low figure have to pay them and suffer in consequence. Large numbers of families, in every part of industrial Britain, have to go short of food and clothing every day, in order to pay the high rents exacted for houses of that description. There is no escape from the demand: "Pay your rent, or out you go into the street. Pay your rent. or the sheriff or the county court orders your eviction!" All over the country, men stand in daily and hourly fear of being turned out into the street with their small bits of furniture, eviction being a terror almost worse than starvation itself.
A man came to see me the other day, an ex-service man, and as fine a man as you could find anywhere in this country. I have known him intimately for the last 125 25 years, a fine type of British workman, well-built, and one wham I knew as a fellow workman in the pit, many years ago. No better workman was ever employed in this or any other country. When the War came, he conceived it to be his duty to join up in the first few days of the War. He was then a married man. He served for 4½ years in His Majesty's Forces, and he came back at the end of that time and resumed employment underground. That man has suffered a good deal in unemployment and low wages. He came to me a week or two ago, because, for the house in which he lives and which was rented at 5s. per week before the War, he is now called upon to pay 11s. per week. That is for living in the same house. What seems an illegal exaction has been demanded of him. In many cases, ignorance of the law has told to the disadvantage of the tenant, time and time again.
The man of whom I am speaking, in addition to having served his country and having shared the miseries of the mining population, has had the additional handicap this year of breaking a leg in a mining accident. He has been compelled to subsist on a small allowance of weekly compensation for six or seven months, while hisbone knit together again, and he was able to go back to his occupation. During the time be was unfit to go underground, his rent fell into arrears by 5s., if I remember aright. An order of the court went against him, and it is demanded that he shall not only pay the 11s. a week for a very old house, a house older than I am, 50 to 70 years old and a 5s. per week pre-War house, but that he shall pay 2s. per week of the arrears that accumulated during the period of his disability.
The appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) should receive a ready response. There is nothing inconsistent with being a Member of a National Government or party and acceptance of the Amendment. Indeed hon. Members opposite, if they claim to be supporters of a National Government, ought to have regard for the conditions in which so many of their fellow citizens find themselves. This burden of additional rent bears very heavily upon millions of people, some of whom are now receiving unemployment benefit at a reduced rate or are working short time or at greatly reduced wages. These 126 people call to us to give them fair play. If there is any justification for economy why not call upon the owners of house property to make their contributions to the task of bringing the country round again. By the Amendment we would remove all possibility of imposition by owners of property. There is a chance here to give relief where the boot pinches—relief which would mean justice to those who are now having a very hard time.
§ Mr. M. W. BEAUMONT
I do not need to spend much time in urging the Minister not to accept this Amendment. While the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) have put before the House a very tragic state of things and, as I know, what is in some cases a very real state of things, they have, as is so often the case, given us only one side of the picture. They talk about people deriving income from house property. The hon. Members are welcome to any that I get out of it after I have paid the charges on it. They have with great kindness offered the landlords a chance of contributing to the national emergency. But it is forgotten that the increase of expenditure after the War has fallen on landlords as much as on tenants. I know, none better, that there are cases of bad landlordism, cases of gross profiteering, cases of intolerable hardship on tenants, but I know also that there are cases of good landlordism which is thwarted by this very Act, which would be still more thwarted and housing conditions made incomparably worse if the Amendment were carried. I may be pardoned for saying that the majority of the landlords of this country—certainly it is true as far as rural landlords are concerned—honestly have tried to do their best with the houses on their estates. There are more of such landlords than the hon. Member for Bridgeton would lead the House to believe. They find themselves prevented by this Act from carrying out repairs which are aboslutely necessary. If they were deprived even of what the Act permits they would not only be out of pocket on the transaction, which the hon. Member would not mind so much, but they would not have the money to keep their houses in even the indifferent state of repair in which some of them now are.
127 Here is a type of case which is very common all over the country: It is the case of a working man, much the same sort of man as the hon. Member for Gower referred to, who after the War, on the understanding or the foolish belief in what was stated in this House, that the Rent Restrictions Act was to operate for only a short time, invested his savings in a house in which he intended to live. Of that house he cannot get possession. There are hundred of cases where the rent that is paid, even with the 40 per cent. increase, is less than what such a man has to pay for the miserable hovel in which he now has to live, while the tenant of the house that he has bought does not even try to get alternative accommodation. There are people who are reduced to poverty because by the time they have paid for the rent of their homes and the interest on the loan from a building society, the pittance left from the houses they have bought is totally insufficient to pay the charges they have to meet. At the same time tenants who live in these houses are getting wages or salaries out of all proportion to the rent they pay, and infinitely higher than the income of those who own the houses.
The real trouble with those who support this Amendment is that they cannot get away from the old cry of landlord v. tenant. When they deal with this question they seem to think anyone who becomes a tenant becomes at once a kind of perfect being, incapable of error, incapable of meannesses, incapable of bad habits, whatever his previous record may be, and that the minute a man becomes a landlord, even if he is a Socialist landland—there are such cases, and I believe it is a secret vice of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood)—he becomes a rapacious and brutal grinder of the faces of the poor, who exacts rent out of poverty-stricken tenants in order that he might indulge in luxuries at Monte Carlo or some such place. Of course it is not true. There are faults on both sides. There are very bad landlords who profiteer grossly. I know of revolting cases. I know of equally revolting cases on the other side. There are bad tenants just as there are bad landlords.
I appeal to the Government not to accept this partisan Amendment and one- 128 sided concoction, but to face up to the whole problem of rent and housing. In these days the voice of faction and violence is low. Hitherto this has been a purely party question and Governments have naturally been afraid of legislation, because they have known that there were very strong feelings about it, and that whatever legislation they proposed would receive opposition from the other side or their own side, and most likely from both. With a Parliament such as the present the Ministry of Health have an opportunity of going into the whole vexed question from an impartial point of view, with a realisation that there are faults on both sides and ills that have to be redressed, and that an Act which was introduced as a temporary Measure is naturally showing many defects after 11 or 12 years use. I hope that the whole question will be gone into again in an impartial, a kinder and a more far-seeing spirit, not with the idea of having a hit at the landlords or at the tenants, but with the idea of securing a condition of housing and rent which, though it will not satisfy the extremists, on either side, will at least remedy the grosser evils which exist to-day.
§ Mr. HICKS
The House of Commons, perhaps for the first time, has now within it representatives of the building industry on the employers', the architects', and the workmen's side, as well as representatives of those interested in building materials, and I am sure that we shall benefit by the contributions which the several hon. Members concerned will be able to make to our discussions of this problem. I see a master builder in front of me and there is one immediately behind me. I am a building trades worker, having worked as a bricklayer for a great number of years. Since the War I have taken part in nearly all the discussions between representatives of the Government and the building industry on the subject of house building. I have sat on committee after committee to consider the question of providing alternative methods of house building, in place of the use of brick and stone. We have tried many types of material. If we had an opportunity of a full dress Debate on the subject we should no doubt hear some very interesting facts as to the size of the problem, as to the work of the municipal authorities of England and Wales—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have listened to the hon. Member's introduction to his speech. The point before the Committee is not the problem of housing, but whether certain increases of rent are to continue.
§ Mr. HICKS
I wanted to show that the problem of house building has a direct bearing on rent. The problem of rent will never be solved until we get an adequate supply of houses. In providing houses we must have materials and labour for a particular job. If the State were willing, we have an abundance of capacity in the State, from the architect—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is again going outside my Ruling. He can refer to that subject in passing, but he cannot develop that argument on this occasion. He must confine himself to the question whether the increased rents of existing houses are to be permitted or not.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
May I then deal with the point that rent restrictions and housing subsidies have solved nothing. Rent restrictions and housing subsidies may not have solved the whole problem, but they have solved certain problems. If the workpeople are not able to pay an economic rent, it is because they do not get an economic wage. If they had an economic wage they would be able to pay an economic rent; the fact that they are not able to pay the rent, indicates pretty definitely that they have not the means of paying it. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) said with great passion that the building trade workers were responsible for a rate of wages which made the cost of house building relatively prohibitive. I hope that I shall not be regarded as going outside the Ruling of the Chair by referring to that question and I hope that other representatives of the industry who are here will also make their contributions upon it. The idea of building trade workers having high rates of wages is a figment of the imagination. Whatever may be the hourly rates, the conditions of the industry cannot be familiar to those who are responsible for the statement that high weekly wages are earned. We have to consider the casualisation of labour, the periods of labour, and the 130 fact that the length of time during which men are employed is determined by the size of the job. Men may be in the employment of a firm for a week or a fort, night and then have to leave that firm and go elsewhere, and most building trade workers have at least 12 different employers during the year.
§ Lord E. PERCY
May I point out to the hon. Member that I very carefully refrained from putting the blame for all cost of building and the high rents on the workers? I dealt with the question of interest and profits as well. In answering me, he has dealt with me very fairly up to now, but I ask him to bear in mind that I was not making any attack on wages alone.
§ Mr. HICKS
I am sure that it would be possible for me to deal with the Noble Lord's point as to wages if the Chair gave me an opportunity, of going into that question, but I would be again called to order, probably, if I were to attempt to deal with that or with the question of the amount of interest on borrowed money, which is one of the great factors in this matter and one of the most difficult. I wish, however, to point out that the problem at the present time is the problem of the conditions of people who are living in houses that have been decontrolled. Of course, as has been stated, all the controlled houses are pre-War houses. There has been no control of houses built since the War. The type and character of house which we find today provided as a habitation for working people, and in which they have to make their home, represent something far below what Parliament would declare to be the minimum necessary for proper accommodation.
The back-to-back houses in different parts of the country are abominable. Nearly 50 per cent. of workers houses today are two-bedroom houses, in which it is impossible to provide adequately for the separation of the sexes. I support the Amendment because of the conditions which would follow if control were taken off. Cases were reported last week-end to a conference of over 200 delegates in Manchester in which up to £20 was being demanded as key money in the Manchester and Salford districts. We had other cases of women being harassed by the service of blue notices, not necessarily summons, but notices on blue paper 131 which, to the uninitiated, would have a harassing effect. These papers gave the people notice to terminate the occupancy of their houses. Of course, the landlord did not fail to call for his rent as usual in the following week, and he said that a condition of staying on was that another 2s. a week should be paid.
An HON. MEMBER
I take it that when the hon. Member says that a further 2s. is being demanded, he means 2s. off the arrears and not 2s. added to the rent.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question of decontrolled houses does not arise in this Debate. This is a question of protection against increases of rent.
§ Mr. HICKS
I support the Amendment, because I do not believe that it will be possible for private enterprise to meet the housing requirements of the people of this country. I am perfectly confident, and I am sure that the master builders in this House would agree, that to provide the houses required for the working people of this country is outside their economic possibilities. When the Noble Lord refers to subsidies doing no good and rent restrictions doing no good, he should remember that houses of the type and character which private enterprise has built are totally unsuitable and are inadequate to meet the problem of housing supply. At the present time in the Manchester district there are over 5,000 building trade operatives unemployed and over 200,000 are unemployed in the country. All the manufacturers' yards are unemployed and the problem of housing is still to be dealt with.
132 The hon. Member for South Battersea (Mr. Selley) who was chairman of the London County Council Housing Committee, knows what the result of the Economy Act has been on housing in London alone. A sum of £4,000,000 was allocated for housing by the Tory majority on the London County Council, but that has now been cut down to only £1,500,000. Therefore I think we are entitled to ask that whatever protection is given, is given definitely to the people. I support the Amendment and I regret that I have not on this occasion an opportunity to develop those points in connection with housing which I would like to develop. The past efforts of private enterprise to house the people have been very ineffective and it should be remembered that all the slums which we have to-day, have been built, not by the Government, but by private enterprise, and if our present problem is left to private enterprise alone, without any national or state control we are going to have very bad results.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
I am sure that the Committee join with the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) in regretting that our rules of procedure prohibit a broad discussion of this grave problem. We always accept the words of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) as being uttered with genuine feeling, but I hope that on this occasion he will not press his Amendment to a Division for the reason explained by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who said that it could have no other effect except that of a bad piece of patchwork of a very temporary nature. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) supported the Amendment very warmly, but I could not help remembering that the last Government, of which the hon. Member was a supporter, had opportunities of introducing a similar Amendment in the Expiring Laws Bill. But in those days, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton knows, his Amendments were not taken into the bosom of those on the Front Bench of his own party. I warn him that, perhaps, the warmhearted support which he gets to-night in that quarter is not to be valued as highly as candid criticism.
The annual renewal of this Measure which makes necessary the moving of 133 this Amendment is extraordinarily unsatisfactory both for the Government who have to refuse to accept the Amendment and for those who move the Amendment, owing to the limitation of debate on the subject. The National Government have so many great and grave tasks before them that one wonders how they will tackle the problem which the Amendment endeavours, somewhat inadequately I fear, to deal with. The inclusion of this legislation in the Expiring Laws Bill is avoiding an issue which has to be tackled sooner or later. There have been on this question no less than three Acts and 10 committees, and each one has brought the question to a conclusion which is not satisfactory and no one has done very much to alleviate the problem. Everybody recognises that this problem of housing is probably at the root of our national troubles, and yet one finds that it is "nobody's child." According to the latest report of the inter-departmental committee, on page 15, the administration of the Act with which the Amendment deals is not vested in any Department of the Government.
The late Minister of Health, Mr. Greenwood, in dealing with this matter previously, said he had no administrative duty to perform in relation to the Act, that no information in the ordinary way of administration came into his Department regarding it, and that he was as much in the dark as any ordinary citizen. Then the Minister of Health in the National Government has to deal with an Amendment such as is moved to-night when our procedure leaves him entirely in the dark as to the actual effects in the country of the main Act with which the Amendment deals. The position with which this Amendment deals, namely, the increase of house rents, alongside of the other problems with which it would be out of order for me to deal, have assumed a new urgency since last year.
When I suggested to the hon. Member for Bridgeton just now that he could not rely always on the support of hon. Members above the Gangway here, he said, in an aside, "We have had an emergency since then." We have. Just as the question of tariffs will have to be altered by an emergency, so has this question been altered by a national emergency. There are more tenants on short time and out of work, there are higher insurance con- 134 tributions, the household budgets are tending to go up, and each one of those factors makes for dealing with this problem somewhat on the lines suggested by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings, as well as in ways with which it would be out of order to deal at this moment. At any rate, this Amendment brings up the vital urgency of the question which has to be tackled by the National Government. I do not think it is a Government of stand-stills. If we ever get our politics into two sections, the Haves and the Have-nots, instead a on different lines of political expression, then the whole principle of Parliamentary government may well go by the board.
There are hon. Members on all these benches who are representing great industrial areas which are vitally affected by the housing question, and we have to-day got something in the National Government without which neither the Conservative party nor any other party can succeed, namely, a great body of support from the trade unionists of this country. That has been given to us in no stinted measure, and it has been transferred from the members of the Socialist Parliamentary party to the benches around here, in spite of the dictates of the Trades Union Council. Such a proposal as this Amendment puts forward is fought over and discussed and considered by the trade unions of the country, and all our actions and our policy as a National Government have got to be on the lines of justifying the trust and support of that great body of men. That is why, although I cannot support the Amendment, I hope the Government, not content with committees and reports, will give serious consideration to a new line on this great problem, which is so vital to our national life.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I wish to protest, at the beginning of my speech, because there is no representative of the Scottish Office on the Government Bench. If there is one question in which all Scotland is interested, it is the rent question, yet we have no Member of the Government present representing the Scottish Office. It is a standing disgrace, especially as the question was raised by a Scottish Member and has been dealt with by his three colleagues.
135 I want to draw attention to the ferocious attack made by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) on us who sit on this bench, because we have determined to raise this question of the rents of working-class houses on every available occasion. His complaint is that we raised this question when we came here first in 1922, and that, therefore, it is not a new question. That is what he said, but his Lordship forgets that we live among these folk. We are still living among the folk among whom we lived before we were Members of Parliament. We see the conditions that prevail, and we know that those conditions are certainly worse than they were in 1922 and that every succeeding Government that has sat on those benches has in no way remedied those conditions. They have become worse, worse, worse, and they are worse to-day, not the same—I wish to God they were the same—as they were in 1922.
When you have men who have been drawing nothing but unemployment benefit and depending on that to maintain them and all their dependents, think what happens. There is no money to buy clothing, no money to buy furniture, everything continually being worn out and never renewed; and then we have a scion of the nobility—I wish he were here now—having the brass face to turn on us, he who never knew what it was to want anything, and to complain about us and say that our hearts are all right but that our heads are all wrong. He has got a cheek. His class has been in control in this country right down the ages, and it is his class, not the building industry or any other industry, that is responsible for the hellish conditions that the working class have got to live, and move, and have their being in to-day.
Let us turn now to the Amendment. Think of the very words, "rent restriction." Why do rents require restriction? It is because again of his class, the ruling class, which is sucking the life's blood out of the poorest section of the working class. I can remember well when these Acts were instituted. I can remember what brought them about. I can remember when we stopped work on the Clyde, when the War was on, when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and company discovered that he could not fight 136 the Germans and fight us, and he had to yield because we stopped work on the Clyde in 1915. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] You can call it a shame if you like, but when we stopped work they brought 400 people before the sheriff court to get power to evict them, and out of those 400 people, 281 had either a father or some other friend fighting in the fields of Flanders. That is what happened at that time, and we stopped work, and said, "If you are going to evict these people, you can go and fight the Germans, because we are going to make no more shells or battleships to enable you to carry on."
The Government of the day sent down, first of all, the great Lord Salisbury. I asked him what experience he had had of single apartments, and the only experience he had had was that he was born in Hatfield House, which has 300 odd rooms, but he was just born in one room because he could not be born in two rooms at one and the same time. That is all the experience the great Lord Salisbury had had. He went back to London, and they then sent up Lord Hunter, who went minutely into the question, with the result that he got evidence from us all, and came back and within 24 hours of Lord Hunter's arrival in London they drew up an Order-in-Council to the effect that for the duration of the War and six months afterwards there was to be no increase in rent. It was no kindness of the Coalition Government that passed that; it was because there were men and women who were determined that there should be no increase. There had been no increase in wages for the men who were fighting, or for the men who were making munitions.
After the War, the coupon election was fought, and the commander-in-chief at that time gave it out that there was to be no increase in rents. In my constituency they put up great bills: "Socialist lie nailed to the masthead; no increase in rents." That was in 1918. In 1919 the first increase was put on. They broke faith with the working-class. Then they got another 25 per cent. What was that for? The case was made out on behalf of the landlord—not the little twopenny-halfpenny landlord who owns the cottage next door; we are not dealing with him. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not"] Be- 137 cause we are dealing with the case of the orphan and widow. We are not dealing with the individual who owns thousands of houses, and if we could eradicate this terrible blot, it would be easy to assist the widow and orphan. The landlords got that increase in order to make good the repairs in the houses, because there had been no repairs done during the War. We find, however, that they did not do any repairs.
The next idea that struck them was that everybody else had got an increase, and they even singled me out, and said that the engineers had had an increase. Wages had all been increased double, and, it was asked, why should not the landlords—the factors as we call them in Scotland—also get an increase? It was not fair, they said, that they should not get a share of the swag. Some of thorn even used such language. At the time they were getting no increase in rent, we always had in the West of Scotland 100,000 houses unoccupied, more than 30,000 of which were in Glasgow alone. The landlords or factors of these houses had to pay occupying rates and owners' rates for them. All of them are now occupied, so that the factors to-day are the better off for the rents of those 100,000 houses than they were prior to getting any increase. In addition, the occupiers are now paying their share of the occupiers' taxes which the factor had to pay when the houses were unoccupied. All that is rolled into the coffers of the factors, so that they are very much better off than they were before they got the increase. Before they had any increase, the factors did the internal repairs. I can speak authoritatively for the West of Scotland. They used to whitewash and paint, particularly the kitchen, half way up. The tenant has now to do the repairs for himself. The repairs are of the most meagre character, as can be understood from the conditions of the poor people in their homes—slums and hovels as you call them. I do not care who visits them; they will be staggered to find how cosy and comfortable the tenants make them, how they guard them, and how they do all the repairs. They guard their homes with their very lives, and they try to keep them as well as they possibly can.
138 The factors know very well how the poor people do all they can to keep their property in good repair. I readily agree that all factors are not bad. When I went home this week-end, I had to try and save the Chairman of the Independent Labour party in my constituency from being evicted for arrears of rent, and I got the factor to agree to my request, as I had before on many occasions. All landlords are not bad either. We are not, however, dealing with the question of good will or bad will, but with a bad system, and we in this party are forced into the position of doing what we can to try and terminate that system. We do not believe, although we want all the work for the building trade that we can get, that if we had a thousand million houses in this country, that the workers would be any better off and would get the houses. Is there any shortage of food or of clothing? There is a superabundance of everything, but the workers do not get it. So disabuse your minds of the idea that, if there were plenty of houses, the workers would get them. They will not get houses until they have wages to pay for them. It is a wages question.
I hope the Committee will not turn us down and say "It is just those fellows from the Clyde again, seizing this opportunity to air their special grievances." This is a very serious matter. It does not apply only to the Clyde; it is just as I told the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that the rebel spirit that was abroad on the Clyde during the War was not peculiar to the Clyde. The love of liberty is innate in man, irrespective of colour or creed. It is our duty to bring forward this housing question irrespective of what the Labour party did. An opponent behind me has justly twitted us about it. The Labour Government did nothing, no more than the Tory party are doing, about the rents of the working-classes, and I want Parliament to understand that it cannot just put off this business with the remark of my Noble Friend "We have heard all that before. It is the old old story, and a Labour Government when it was in power did nothing." If you turn up the report, you will find the names of prominent Labour personalities who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) truly said, viewed 139 this question through landlord's eyes. It is a shame and a disgrace that our movement should have men and women who will append their signature to a report such as that, which tends to propagate and continue the awful conditions which prevail. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton draws my attention to the fact that the minority report again is signed by a Scotsman—by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). The Tory party should always remember that they can never get the better of the working-class movement. They may do what they like, and the workers may get driven back,, but they can never defeat the working-class; always someone will arise who will dare to stem the tide.
In going through the country to-day, and in reading the papers also, what do we find? That in every part of the country, not only in the industrial centres but in the countryside as well, this housing problem is the vexed question. We are having rent strikes all over the country. The Government may think they can shelter themselves behind the idea, "Oh, we have had all these things before and nothing happened," but I want to warn the Minister of Health, on behalf of the working-class throughout Britain, that this is the most dangerous question that the Government have yet touched. They can have the First Lord of the Admiralty, the President of the Board of Trade and all the high-falutin' statesmen on both sides of the House stating the case for and against., with the working-class looking on, but this is a question—
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
Is it permissible for hon. Members to applaud themselves repeatedly by clapping their hands?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I did not follow the point of the hon. Gentleman's interruption but, of course, we can count on a university representative saying something rude or something silly. This is a question affecting not only thousands but tens of thousands of as good men as the representatives of the universities. How dare they come here and interfere in this Debate when we are appealing for tens of thousands of men and women who are right up against it. The hon. Member's face and figure show that he 140 never knew what it was to do a day's work, the big, silly old man.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member knows that he must not interrupt, unless the hon. Member who is speaking gives way.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
All over Britain to day there are men and women on tenterhooks simply because they have been right up against it for years—not months—and find things getting harder and harder for them every day. They have managed to pinch their bodies by reducing their food or buying cheaper food, by doing without clothing, by doing without furniture, by doing without bedding, by doing without coal. There is not a man in this House who will dare deny that these are facts, andFacts are chiels which winna dingAn' downa be disputed.The people know there is one charge they have to meet, the rent, and they have met it. That is something they have to pay. They can scrimp themselves, they can starve their little children, but here is a charge they have to meet, and they have attempted to meet it. They have been doing it all these years, and they are just coming to breaking point.
This housing question is the weakest link in the chain of capitalism to-day, because we have got the whip hand—[Interruption.] The hon. Member should not interfere. There is an army of discontent, becoming greater and greater every day, and we hold the key to the situation. We do not wish to use it. We used it on the Clyde, locally, and if we are forced to it we will use it all over Great Britain. If we are forced to do it we will use that power all over Britain. We will tell the people that they do not require to pay any rent, and that all they have to do is to remain in their houses. If only one or two of them do that, they get evicted, but if they all do it they will succeed. All we need to do is to inculcate into the working classes that all they are required to do is to sit tight and pay no rent. At a time when everything is being increased in price these poor people have to pay that increased price for butter, sugar and tea, and whatever else they require for food and 141 clothing. They have to go to the shop to make those purchases, but they cannot go to a shop for half a pound of a house. They are in the houses; they are in possession, and all they have to do is to bind themselves together and say to the landlords: "If you are going to be unreasonable with us, and starve our women and children, we will pay no rent at all." In those circumstances, the whole of the police force in London or elsewhere could not put them out of their houses, and even the British Army could not do it.
I appeal to the Government to do something for these people. There are tens of thousands of men and women who are just at breaking point and do not know what to do, and they are just as good men as the best men in this House who have never done a day's work in their lives. We are not going to stand by and see these poor people crushed. We have suggested something which the National Government can do to justify their existence and, if they do not deal with the question let them beware of their fate, for the handwriting is on the wall.
§ Mr. BRIANT
I do not think a Measure of this kind is a good thing in normal times, but during the last 15 years we have not been experiencing normal times in the proper sense of the word, for there has never been sufficient housing accommodation for the people. I aim inclined to think the average landlord has never exacted a very high rent, and T should be willing to vote for a smaller decrease than is allowed by this Amendment, but I am afraid it would not be in order for me to propose it. My own experience in London is that the greatest scandal is not that connected with the direct landlord but with the person who rents the house and lets it out as furnished apartments.
§ Mr. BRIANT
I shall vote for this proposal, not because of the 25 per cent., hut because I think that the landlord ought to make a direct reduction from the rent in order to show the people that he is toeing the line. I have listened to the criticisms of hon. Members opposite, and I have heard something about the old, old story. The tragedy of this subject is that it is such an old story that it is 142 time we had a new one. I do not like to hear hon. Members speak in a humourous way upon a subject which is really a tragedy in this country, and that sort of talk shows an ignorance of the material facts. I do not believe that the National Government will achieve much success in this country until they tackle the housing problem.
My feeling is that this particular Measure does not do much for housing. There are hundreds and thousands of people in this country who, on account of the decreases in their salaries, are scarcely in a position to meet their rent. I have not said that some of the decreases are unnecessary, but the present rates do involve some hardships on the recipients. I think that we ought to take our stand on behalf of those who are not so fortunately placed as ourselves. I hope hon. Members will realise that this is so vital a matter that no word of humour is in its place in connection with what is, after all, a tragedy. We are now only dealing, with the fringe of this enormous problem. I came to this House with no prejudices on this subject, and the only pledge I gave was that I would support the National Government whenever I felt that I could do so. For these reasons, I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I cannot support the proposal of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), because I consider that it goes too far, and I doubt very much whether he would have brought it forward if be believed that it had a chance of being carried. The reduction he proposes is so drastic, and falls so heavily on such a large number of people whose appeal would, I am sure, excite a very ready response from him, that I think that if he succeeded in his Amendment he would have cause to regret it. The number of persons in a very small way of business who, before the War, used to invest their savings in working-class property, with the idea that they were making a safe provision for their widows and children, is so large that such a drastic reduction of their rentals would cause very great hardship, and would exact a sacrifice out of all proportion to their fair share of the national sacrifice.
I find myself still further removed front the position taken up by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), 143 who would like to see the Rent Restrictions Acts removed altogether. He, who, like all of us, only touched lightly on that aspect of the matter, belongs, I gather, to the school of thought which holds that the Rent Restrictions Acts are impeding the building of houses by private enterprise. There is an excellent answer to that suggestion in the admirable report of the Committee on the Rent Restrictions Acts, and it is very remarkable that that report should have received the unanimous signatures of all the members of the committee except one, the Scottish Member who has addressed this Committee, and who, I think, is responsible for the present Amendment. The members of the Committee were drawn from all three parties in the House, and that they should have been unanimous in their recommendations was remarkable.
I trust that the Rent Restrictions Acts which we are continuing under this Schedule will not be left for long totally undisturbed. That Committee emphasised the need for their Amendment in certain respects, because housing was being held up, not by the Acts themselves, but by defects in them. I would mention specially, though I know I must not enlarge upon them, the decontrol provisions of the Act of 1923. They are undoubtedly making it very difficult for the housing provided by local authorities to be used in the most economical and effective way. In many cases the houses built are too expensive, and are in neighbourhoods that do not suit those who most need housing relief—
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)
I am not sure to which provisions the hon. Lady is referring.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I am referring to the provisions of the Act of 1923 for the decontrol of houses. According to my experience on the Housing Committee of the Liverpool Corporation, it is found—
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I think I said that I was only going to touch upon it very lightly, as my reason for making a strong appeal to the Minister to lose no time in introducing an amending Measure. We are all out for the economical use of such 144 housing as is put up, and at present the process of transferring into new houses some of the tenents who could afford to pay the present Corporation rents is seriously held up, because, the moment we remove those tenants, if they are at present in controlled houses, into the Corporation houses, the houses become decontrolled.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that the hon. Lady has gone on long enough saying what she said herself she knew she must not say.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I would respectfully submit that, in arguing whether the Rent Restrictions Acts should be continued or not—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not the question before the Committee. The question before the Committee is whether these three Sections of this particular Act should stand or not.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I will leave that point, and will only make a last appeal to the Minister to introduce an amending Bill. If I might say so, another obstacle to the rationalisation of the whole housing problem lies in the lack of that admirable Town and Country Planning Bill which was introduced by the last Ministry, and which we are all anxiously awaiting.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I will try to do what few Members have been able to do up to the present, namely, to keep to the Amendment before the Committee, and to give some reasons why, in my opinion, the Amendment should be accepted. The extra rent that is being charged to-day to the tenants of controlled houses was, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and by the Mover of the Amendment, given for specific purposes. This increase of 25 per cent. has been allowed to landlords for carrying out repairs to their property; but, in another Act for which the same Government was responsible—the Addison Act—only 15 per cent. was allowed to local authorities for repairs. Apparently it was felt at that time that one set of people owning property, namely, the local authorities, 145 could keep their houses in repair for 15 per cent., while another set of people owning property, that is to say, private owners, should be allowed to charge 25 per cent. for repairs to their property.
Of course, at that time, most of the houses owned by private owners would be old property, whereas the houses which came into the ownership of local authorities were new property; but, if that were a reason for the difference at that time, it is rapidly passing away, because all of the houses of the Addison type which were built at that time have reached the stage when the necessity for repairs has become continuous. Nevertheless, local authorities are still only permitted to charge 15 per cent. in respect of repairs to those houses, whereas the private landlords are still permitted to charge 25 per cent. Moreover, in every case the local authority owning houses is compelled to execute the necessary repairs, whereas private owners very frequently do not execute the repairs at all, but still manage to draw the 25 per cent. I know that if the tenants were as well up in the law as no doubt most Members of the House of Commons are, there is a way by which they could compel the landlord to carry out the repairs, but every Member of the House is aware that most of these tenants, living in the poorest class of property, are without any knowledge of the means by which they can compel the landlord to carry out the repairs for which the Act allows him to charge an extra 25 per cent.
There is another reason why this Amendment should be accepted. At the time when the Act was passed, wages were relatively high as compared with the present time. Wages have been falling all the time, and not only have the tenants less money with which to pay the rent, but the actual repairs for which the increase, or part of it, was allowed, are costing the landlords very much less than they did at that time. The wages that they have to pay to the workmen executing the repairs are very much lower, and nowadays the price of the materials with which the repairs are executed is also very much lower. That is a very good reason for asking now that the increase which was allowed at that time should no longer be allowed, because the purpose for which it was 146 originally allowed has very largely passed away.
Some of us take an interest in the people in our constituencies. Every Sunday morning, and at many other times, I am there to be seen by people who desire to see me in regard to matters affecting their daily life. Some of the things that I most frequently come up against are questions arising out of rent restriction and notices that are served on tenants. I agree entirely that the average poor tenant has a very great horror of any piece of paper that happens to be blue in colour. If he gets a piece of blue paper, particularly if there is any printing on it, even if it is only the name and address of the agent for the property, and if it commences with "Take notice," he imagines that that means that he is to be put out of the property altogether. In addition, I frequently see those notices to quit, which can be bought very cheaply at any law stationers. Some landlords buy them in considerable quantities and use them for frightening their tenants regularly, until ultimately the tenant reaches such a mental state that he is glad to get out under almost any conditions, if it is possible to get out at all. Tenants are regularly harassed by a certain class of landlord with the deliberate object of making them desire to get out of the house so that the increase that the landlord desires may be put on when the house becomes decontrolled.
I would ask the Minister to give the Amendment that consideration which I think he, as a Member of the National Government, ought to give it. Probably the majority of the people whose cause we are pleading voted for the National Government, and I am certain that most of those who voted for them believed that their condition would be better than they were before they cast their votes, though I am not prepared to accept the statement that that belief was justified. However, if the Minister of Health and other Members of the Government can satisfy me that they will carry out the pledges they led the people to believe they were going to carry out, and will make their conditions generally better, I shall be the first to give them full credit for any improvement they can make. Here is a means by which a large number of the people who most need the assistance of the National Government 147 can be helped. These people are being taken to Court almost daily, certainly in every industrial constituency throughout the whole country, and they are being given time to pay or to get out. All of us who have experience of industrial constituencies know the terror of these people as a consequence of having these notices to quit, or orders of the Court that they mast get out by a certain date, nearly always because they are unable to pay the rent, and the rents, of course, are undoubtedly too high.
The conditions prevailing at present are not the same as the conditions that prevailed when the landlord was said to be entitled to the increase he got at the time the Act was carried. I hope the Minister will consult with the Prime Minister, who for the moment happens to have the support of Conservatives, Liberals and ex-Labour Members. He may not have that support long, and I know from personal contact with him in the past that, whatever he may feel now, he certainly professed to feel, and I believe did feel, very acutely for these tenants for whom we are pleading. If during the time that he still has the good will of the people who are able to give him the power to carry this out, in conjunction with the Minister of Health—these people trusted him and, having trusted him, have a right to expect from him some justification for the trust they placed in him—he can give this concession that we are asking for, it would be to the credit of the Government themselves, and, however much I may be opposed to the Government, I would certainly give them the fullest possible credit, even in public speeches outside, for the work that they had done. I hope the Minister will convey to the Prime Minister the very strong feeling that there is in the country in this matter and that the Government will grant the concession that is asked.
§ Mr. JANNER
too, like all who have spoken before me in the course of their maiden speeches, ask the indulgence of the Committee for the purpose of putting one or two points which, I hope, will be of some assistance to it in coming to a conclusion on this Amendment. We on these benches are aware of the serious difficulties and tribulations with which 148 those, who occupy houses for which they are not able to pay the rent, are confronted. We, too, feel that there is considerable need for every precaution to be taken in order that the lives of the families in our own immediate constituencies and throughout the length and breadth of the country, shall be made more happy, and shall also be made possible. I have had a considerable amount of experience in the Law Courts, and I have watched the progress of these Acts from day to day. I have seen how difficult it is for those who come before the judges to make not only a plea in the right direction but a sufficiently strong plea to persuade the plaintiffs who appear against them to ref rain from continuing proceedings under these Acts.
I agree with those who are promoting this Amendment, that it is of the highest importance that the people who are living in houses, many of which are in slum districts, should not be thrown out and should be given an opportunity of remaining, even under those conditions, as long as they possibly can, but I foresee in this Amendment a difficulty which, I am afraid, the mover has not quite appreciated. He asks us to delete Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Act of 1920. Those are the three Sections in the Act which deal specifically with the question of the allowed increases in rents, and I would respectfully point out to him and to those who are supporting him in this Amendment that if those three Sections are eliminated from the Act of 1920—that is the principal Act—he will be confronted with a difficulty in that when the Act refers to the 1915 Act, to which he wishes to throw the Measure back, it states that the whole of the 1915 Act shall be repealed. My submission to the Committee is that, if the whole of the 1915 Act is repealed, not only will the mover of the Amendment not be able to carry the point which he is bringing before the Committee, and so support those who are badly in need of his support, but he will eliminate the advantages which accrue even from the 1915 Act, and will not permit those who actually call most for the benefits of the Act to receive those benefits. The actual reference, if I may direct the attention of the Committee to this point, is in the "10 and 11 George 5, Chapter 17," and 149 the Section to which I refer is Section 19, which says:The enactments mentioned in the Second Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent specified in the third column of that Schedule.In the third column of that Schedule, when it refers to "5 and 6 George 5, Chapter 97," which is the 1915 Act, the extent of the repeal is the whole Act. I make the submission in the circumstances that if the Mover of the Amendment persists in asking the Committee to vote upon the Amendment, the result of his persistence will be that not only will he not succeed in protecting those—
§ Mr. MAXTON
The speech which the hon. Member is making is one which we usually expect from the Front Bench. He asked me for the loan of the Acts because he hoped he might be able to help me in the matter. Is this the attempt?
§ Mr. JANNER
I am doing my best to help my hon. Friend and to keep him from ruining the very matter he is trying to bring to the notice of the Committee. I ask the Committee to accept the version I am placing before the Committee, and I assure my hon. Friend that, knowing as I do the terrible conditions under which people live, and that, those conditions are responsible in many instances for the major portion of the distress, and for a very large proportion of the crime that exists in the country, I am anxious that something should be done in that direction. The benefit that has been derived—if I may respectfully put it that way without infringing upon my hon. Friend's susceptibilities—from the Debate which has taken place, will, I hope, result in the Government taking full notice of the desirability of dealing with the Acts as a whole in the future, so that the condition of those people who are concerned may he materially improved.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I wish to apologise to the hon. Member for interrupting. I had forgotten that he was delivering a maiden speech. My intervention, I am sure, was a compliment to him, because he was doing it with all the assurance of a very old Member.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
Let me voice, what, I am sure, is the feeling of the Committee, a word of congratulation to my 150 hon. Friend the Member for White-chapel (Mr. Janner) on a maiden speech to which we have listened with pleasure, and to which I have listened with particular pleasure because, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) pointed out, it dealt with some of the more intricate aspects of the legal questions involved. The bon. Member for Bridgeton will not be surprised to hear that the Government are unable to accept the Amendment. It would reduce the whole of our legislation on rent restriction to chaos. It would cause intolerable hardship upon a large class, particularly those who are mortgage owners. It would seriously prejudice whatever the future may be of the housing problem, and it would, in a word, be almost a frivolous way of dealing with this great and intricate problem.
I have listened to the Debate to-night with mingled feelings; in the first place, with real regret that we should not have been able to extend the sweep of our Debate over the whole of this interesting problem. I feel that we have been deprived of valuable assistance towards the solution of this problem, and of such knowledge, for instance, as is brought to our discussions by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) and others. It has been a matter for regret that the Rules of Order have thus limited our discussion. Nevertheless, on the other hand, there has been a feeling of a sense of relief that that should be so, because I cannot help thinking that a general Debate on the whole housing problem to-night would have been premature. It would have been premature, because, to put it very frankly, more time is needed for considering this problem in the light of changed events. An appeal has been made to me to-night by many Members of the Committee that the Government should give reconsideration to the whole of the housing problem and restate the broadest principles of the housing policy. That appeal, in general, I accept freely to-night. The Government are considering this matter, and will come to conclusions upon it.
Let me say this as regards the changes in the position. It is recognised that there is information now available, which has not hitherto been at least as clearly available, that all is not well with our 151 housing policy in one respect; that it has failed to provide an adequate supply of the lower class of houses to let for the wage-earners. That is recognised. In the second place, it is also recognised that owing to current financial conditions, if never before, it is now absolutely imperative that we should get full value, from the point of view of social development, for every penny of public money that we spend upon houses, and that reconsideration will be necessary for the whole problem in order to secure the absolute extortion, as it were, of full value for our public expenditure under the changed conditions. In approaching this problem, most certainly we shall respond to another appeal which has been made by an hon. Member to-night and which struck in me, at any rate, a very responsive chord, an appeal that we should not consider this problem in any light of class interest. That, indeed, is not the way towards any useful end in this problem or any other. We shall consider it in the single light of the interest of the whole community, in one of the greatest of all interests, an adequate housing supply, and, as a first aim to secure the housing accommodation that the nation needs and as incidental to that end, a fair deal to the landlord and a fair deal to the tenant. So much I may say without unduly transgressing the Rules of Order upon the wider issues that have been raised.
Let me turn to the actual issue raised in the Amendment. I am not sure that the hon. Member for Bridgeton realises how disastrous would be the consequences of his Amendment upon the interest of those whom he desires to serve. It would sweep away all restriction upon increased rent as well as the permission for increased rent. As regards the arguments of the hon. Member, there is only one point in his speech with which I have any quarrel and I will get it out of the way before I come to deal with the question of merits. I do not think he is fair when he speaks of the permitted increase in rent as if it were an extortion imposed on the country by the landlords taking advantage of the needs of the country in time of war. I think that is an unfair perversion of history. No, the permitted rent was nicely calculated in order to do fair justice at 152 the time to the definite rights of those who had invested funds in the building industry. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bridgeton speaks as if this were a gift on the part of the Government to the landlord. There was no gift to the landlord. The increase was 15 per cent. on the capital invested in order that at any rate those who had invested in this form of useful industrial development should not be put in a grossly worse position than those who had invested their money in other ways. Twenty-five per cent. was the permitted increase for repairs, and the real question in this Amendment is as to whether that 25 per cent. is or is not too great.
The hon. Member made the point that the repairs for which the increase was permitted were not done. If that be so, the tenant has adequate remedy. He has the remedy that he can obtain a certificate from the sanitary authorities that the house is not kept in reasonable repair and then he can refuse to pay the increased rent. I am particularly glad to refer to that protection of the tenant to-night, because it is a fact that it is not sufficiently known and it would be a useful work—and I would ask hon. Members to join with me in this useful task—to make that protection known to the tenants in order that there should be no imposition upon them by those who are allowed by law to put up the rents in order to do the repairs.
There is another aspect of the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Bridgeton which is based upon a widespread misconception. It is that part of the argument which we have heard in the speeches, not only of himself, but of other Members to-night, that the general conditions of the wage earners have altered so much for the worst since this allowance of 40 per cent. for increased rent was first established that, on that ground alone there should be a revision. Let me say that I desire, in view of the general consideration of the subject by the Government to which I have referred, to keep open every aspect of this question and not to prejudice it by premature judgments to-night. The case in support of the 25 per cent. at the present time has not perhaps been put in the whole of its strength to-night, and, in order that hon. Members should not make up 153 their minds prematurely on one side or the other, let me state some of the considerations which go to justify that 25 per cent. It may, indeed, be true that the general conditions of the wage earners have become worse since the 25 per cent. was first established. Nevertheless, at the present time the average increase of wage rates of employed persons in the classes concerned in this housing question is greater than the increase in the controlled permissive rent, and on the face of the figures there is no gross injustice in the maintenance of the 25 per cent. as part of the 40 per cent.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Is not the right hon. Gentleman losing sight of the fact that to-day there are 3,000,000 unemployed and that there was nothing like that then?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I am not in the least losing sight of that melancholy fact. It is freely recognised and taken into account. I have no quarrel with a single word said by the hon. Member for Bridgeton and by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) in describing some of those conditions, but I think it would be rash and improvident, in the interests of the very persons for whom they are speaking, to throw arbitrarily any additional burden of this sort from their shoulders on to those who alone can assist us in our housing problem and who happen to have capital invested in it. There can be no prudence in making a choice of that particular class of capital to bear additional burdens, because surely it stands to reason that the more you burden that particular form of investment the more you delay the day when you hope to see the solution of the problem of adequate housing accommodation? The hon. Member for Bridgeton has described in a manner which interested the Committee the conditions in the courts of Glasgow, but I reminded myself of this while he was speaking, that on his own description there really was an answer to his complaint against the law, because his own description showed that those persons who find themselves in the unfortunate position to which he referred can go to the courts and there find their protection and remedy. The courts of this country are not inequitable, and they are not harsh. They are not only 154 just, but they are merciful, and the answer to those who may have taken alarm at some of the scenes which the hon. Member has described is this, that the administration of this Act is not in the hands of the officials of local authorities and still less in the hands of the harsh and tyrannous Minister of Health; it is, in its application to the lives of the people, in the hands of the courts of justice, and they can be relied upon to avoid harshness and inequity.
Let me refer a little more in detail to what I may call the more arithmetical view of the justification of this figure of 25 per cent. for repairs, which, as a matter of fact, is what is attacked in this Amendment. Let me point out, first of all, the aspect of the law which I think has been last sight of in the speeches to which we Have listened. The law does not empower or enact that the landlord shall have a 40 per cent. increase. It does not guarantee him a 40 per cent. increase on the standard rate. All it does is to say that is the maximum he may charge. I know very well the strength of the argument advanced by my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), that the maximum is apt to become an absolute, fixed figure, used in all cases. Nevertheless, facts show and the experience of the country shows that in these eases that is not always so. In the depressed areas it is difficult to obtain the full increase and it is not, in fact, obtained.
It is true, as has been pointed out by one hon. Member, that there has been a fall in the price of materials and labour since this charge was first imposed. Against that I would state a consideration that has escaped attention in the Debate to-night, that the houses with which we are particularly concerned in this Amendment, the class of houses upon which the hon. Member for Bridgeton and the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs base their case, is that of the smallest letting houses, which are occupied by the least well off of the wage-earning classes. It is in the case of that class of house that the percentage of repairs is the highest. You have to set that off against the acknowledged fall in the cost of labour and material. The better class of houses are becoming more rapidly decontrolled. The existing system of control is applying more particularly to the class of house occupied by the least 155 well off of the wage earners, and it is as regards those that you require the biggest percentage of repairs. That has to be taken into account.
Under these conditions the Committee will not be surprised to learn that the Committee which was appointed by the late Government, and which had upon it, I think, a majority representation of those whose political views are not those of the present majority of the House, recommended unanimously, with the exception of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) that the permitted increase of rents was not too big. If hon. Members will study the arguments advanced by the Departmental Committee in support of that contention, they will find that there is really no answer to it. There is only one other circumstance to which I will refer in order to show haw strong is the argument for the maintenance of the 25 per cent. with respect to repairs and it is this, that the necessity for the repairs allowance increases with the age of the houses, and these houses which we are now considering are 17 years older than they were when the allowance was first made.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I should doubt it, because the houses have been controlled throughout the period. In those circumstances one cannot say that there is any exorbitant return to the owners. Since the houses are substantially older than they were when the allowance was first arrived at, that is another reason for supporting the maintenance of the allowance now. In these circumstances, I hope the Committee will say, first of all, that we cannot deal with the present system of rent restrictions by an abrupt and arbitrary interference of this sort with the conditions under the Rent Restrictions Acts. I should, however, like to give the undertaking to which I have referred that the whole matter will receive the prompt consideration of the Government, in view of the changed conditions of the time. I must ask the Committee to-night not to throw the whole of the administration into confusion by the acceptance of the Amendment, remembering in particular that upon the mainten- 156 ance of some allowance for repairs depends the ability of the landlord to make those repairs, and that if by a single stroke we cut off all the funds which they can have in order to keep the houses in repair the repairs will not be done and we shall be infinitely worsening the conditions of the occupants of the houses.
After listening to the Minister of Health I have very great pleasure in supporting the Amendment. If there is one thing that requires attention to-day it is the rents that people have been called upon to pay. One very important economist once said that to take one-tenth of a worker's income for housing left him on the right side, but that once his rent called for more than one-tenth of his income he was on the wrong side for the maintenance of himself and his family. I do not think that there is any matter that is placing such a great burden upon the workers as the rents they have to pay. The Amendment aims at property that was built before the War. The Minister of Health has stated that since the Act came into operation, nearly 12 years ago, these increases of rent have been going on in respect of houses that are 40, 50 and 60 years of age. Is it not fair to assume that the property affected by the 40 per cent. increase was already carrying a rent that was economic in its character before the War? Before the Act was passed it was admitted that there was a scarcity of houses. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that the normal rent of the property existing before the War was an economic rent, fixed at the discretion and liberty of the landlord, which gave a good return for his investment and allowed provision for reasonable repairs.
The Amendment calls attention to the fact that the increases were allowed under special circumstances which have now passed away. [HON. MEMBERS "No!"] I suggest very respectfully that, very largely, the conditions which brought about the concession of this Act have passed away, and that the general economic standard of the country and 157 of the wage earners have changed. I am surprised at hon. Members opposite wanting to continue the operation of a safeguard for property owners, cottage property very largely, which does not apply to any other industry. Other industries have had to take the risk of the conditions that have prevailed since the War. Here is an Act of Parliament that gives a guarantee to the property owners that they may continue to draw this money. Generally speaking, when once the wage-earner is called upon to pay more than one-tenth of his income towards providing shelter for himself and his family, he is on the wrong side economically, and cannot possibly carry on. What is the position now? Rents that were round about 5s. or 6s. per week, before the 40 per cent. increase was allowed, have now, with rates included, gone up as much as 7s. or 8s. a week, while wages have come down considerably. Is it fair to retain the protection of landlords, with their increased rents, while, ever since the Rent Restrictions Act was passed in the year 1920, wages have been decreasing? There is no question that needs the attention of Parliament more
§ than this one of the burden of rents that our working people are having to pay.
§ An hon. Member has said that the only way to deal with this matter is in a comprehensive way. He did not tell us what he meant. I suggest that the right way to deal with it is to support this Amendment, in the first instance. We have to start with the houses as they are now, in restriction and safeguarded, before we can expect to bring in houses in any other direction. One of the greatest gifts to the country would be for the present Government to consider the advisability of at once relieving tenants from the 40 per cent. increase, which can no longer be justified. If that could be be done, we should relieve a large amount of the privation and poverty that exists in the land. I consider that there is no further justification for allowing this 40 per cent. to continue. I trust that the Committee will support the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 40; Noes, 311.159
|Division No. 16.]||AYES.||[9.48 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Groves, Thomas E.||Maxton, James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Briant, Frank||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cape, Thomas||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hicks, Ernest George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, William G.||Hirst, George Henry||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||John, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Kirkwood.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Chotzner, Alfred James|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Borodale, Viscount||Christle, James Archibald|
|Albery, Irving James||Boulton, W. W.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Allen, Maj. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd,W)||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Clayton, Dr. George C.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Colville, Major David John|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Boyce, H. Leslie||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cooke, James D.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Copeland, Ida|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Craven-Ellis, William|
|Balille, Sir Adrian W. B.||Browne, Captain A. C.||Crooke, J. Smedley|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Burghley, Lord||Cross, R. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Burnett, John George||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard|
|Balniel, Lord||Caine, G. R. Hall||Culverwell, Cyrll Tom|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Curry, A. C.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Campbell-Johnston, Malcoln||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'th, Centr'l)||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Denville, Alfred|
|Bernays, Robert||Carver, Major William H.||Dickle, John P.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Cassels, James Dale||Donner, P. W.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Leckie, J. A.||Remer, John R.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Robinson, John Roland|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Levy, Thomas||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Eales, John Frederick||Liddall, Walter S.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tside)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Entwistle, Major Cyril Fullard||Mabane, William||Salt, Edward W.|
|Enskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||McEwen, J. H. F.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||McKeag, William||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Fermoy, Lord||McKle, John Hamilton||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Flanagan, W. H.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||McLean, Major Alan||Selley, Harry R.|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Magnay, Thomas||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Martin, Thomas B.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Soper, Richard|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John M.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Graves, Marjorie||Mills, Sir Frederick||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tt'd & Chlsw'k)||Stevenson, James|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Mitcheson, G. G.||Stones, James|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Molson, A. Harold Eisdale||Storey, Samuel|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Stourton, John J.|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Morgan, Robert H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Templeton, William P.|
|Harbord, Arthur||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hartland, George A.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Thomas, Major J. B. (King's Norton)|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Munro, Patrick||Thompson, Luke|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||North, Captain Edward T.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Nunn, William||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Herbert, George (Rotherham)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Train, John|
|Hillman, Dr. George B.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Hopkinson, Austin||Palmer, Francis Noel||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Patrick, Colin M.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Hornby, Frank||Pearson, William G.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Peat, Charles U.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Penny, Sir George||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Petherick, M.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bliston)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Plckford, Hon. Mary Ada||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Potter, John||White, Henry Graham|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas W. H.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Purbrick, R.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Jennings, Roland||Pybus, Percy John||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Raikes, Hector Victor Alpin||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ramsbotham, Herswald||Womersley, Walter James|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramsden, E.||Wood, Major M. McKenzie (Banff)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Rankin, Robert||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S?V?noaks)|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Rathbone, Eleanor||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Held, James S. C. (Stirling)||Commander Southby and Mr. Blindell.|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to move, in page 6, line 13, at the end, to insert the words:
This is a manuscript Amendment. The vote on the previous Amendment was very decisive, though I am not accepting it as final in any way. Possibly the figures on this Amendment will be substantially the same. The effect of the Amendment is to bring back into control, or to prevent passing out of control, houses that have either gone out or would in future go out of control. While there is still a very great scarcity of suitable house accommodation for the working classes, the purpose of the Amendment is not to leave the rent of these houses to the operation of supply and demand. Some speakers on the previous Amendment have shown that extravagant rents are being imposed on people. Without entering into the argument as to where the cost of living now stands compared with 1920, certainly tenants are facing an increased rent with a diminishing income. My desire is at least to make the present maximum rent that is being charged the maximum in future. For decontrolled houses rents are being charged even beyond what is permitted by present legislation.
(16) 13 & 14 Geo. V., c. 32. The Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act 1923. The whole Act except sections 2 and 3.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
As the hon. Member fairly pointed out, this Amendment really raises the deepest and widest issue of policy involved in the whole question of rent restriction—the question of control or no control. As I think he also realised, it raises that question in a manner that, if the Amendment were carried, would leave the whole structure of the Rent Restrictions Acts in ruins. For these reasons it is impossible to accept the Amendment. It will be sufficient, after what the hon. Member has said, if I repeat what I said on the previous Amendment, namely, that the whole of this matter is occupying the attention of the Government, and that pending the result of that reconsideration we ask the House to maintain the existing state of affairs.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The reply of the right hon. Gentleman is the reply which has been given by every Minister of 162 Health, on every occasion when this question has been raised since I entered the House of Commons. We have been solemnly assured on every such occasion that the Government of the day were seriously and earnestly considering the problem and that they would waste no time in dealing with it at an early date. The stereotyped reply has been given to-night and we are now asked to accept the Minister's assurance that the present Government are going to deal with the subject at an early date. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) who is now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, raised this point I think, twice or three times, and always got the same reply—the reply which we have heard to-night. It is no reply at all to the Amendment or to the points which my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has put so cogently and clearly.
On the first Amendment we were told that the landlords needed the 40 per cent. and that the 40 per cent. represented a fair balance between landlord and tenant. That argument does not apply in this case, because whatever case may be made out for a rent increase, is a strong case for bringing back all decontrolled houses into control. If the Minister's argument be correct, that the permitted increase strikes a fair balance, then why should he allow the decontrolled houses to be unfairly treated. If the 40 per cent. increase is fair between tenant and landlord, then the houses outside control must be unfairly treated now under the increases which are being imposed. It must also be remembered that the houses which are going out of control are just the houses for which competition is keenest. The Minister has said that in the case of small houses the cost of repairs is high and in the case of big houses it is less. I do not accept his view, but the problem in the big cities is that there is no great demand for large houses and the same hardship is not involved if they pass out of control, whereas in the case of small houses a serious hardship is involved, because the tenants are the poorest class of tenants.
The person who is going to occupy a big house has usually a choice of many houses, but the person who is going to occupy a small house is limited in his selection and is made the victim of gross abuse by increases of rent. Those from 163 the West of Scotland and from cities like Glasgow where the housing problem is acute, know the very high increases which are being taken from comparatively poor people. While the Committee rejected the previous Amendment, if it has any sense of justice, it ought to accept this Amendment because if a happy balance is struck in the permitted increase, then we ought to apply that balance to all the houses now outside control. We ought to see that nothing but the permitted increase is allowed to the landlords in those cases.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The Minister said that to accept this Amendment would leave the whole structure of the Rent Restrictions Acts in ruins. But those Acts operated before this decontrol came into force. It only came into force in 1923 and the Acts have been operating since 1919. They operated all right from 1919 to 1923, and there is no reason for saying that this Amendment would leave them in ruins. I ask the Minister now that we have shown the fallacy of his contention, to face the fact that the very poorest type of tenant is affected in this matter. I got the city assessor of Glasgow to take out figures for me as to how decontrol was affecting working-class houses and I find that in Glasgow, in the case of houses with an annual rental of £80, which are being decontrolled, the increase is 4 per cent., but in the case of houses of £10 a year rent—the Committee will have some idea of the type of house which has that rental and will know that they are occupied by the poorest of the poor and in many cases by unemployed people who have starvation staring them in the face—in that case, over and above the 48 per cent. which is the actual increase as it works out in Glasgow, another 50 per cent. has been added, making a total increase of nearly 100 per cent. on those houses. The taxes are proportionately increased so that these people are paying double the taxes as well as double the rent.
The Minister is here presented with a great opportunity to make a name for himself, not among the rich—he is well respected among them now—but among the poor, among the working class who are more important than the rich in this country. The working class who are the salt of the earth would honour and respect the right hon. Gentleman if he pro- 164 tected them in this matter. They are just waiting on a man to arise in this country who would have the courage to stand forth and say, "It is my duty to defend those who are not able to defend themselves." It is the most defenceless section of the community for whom we are appealing. We ask the Minister to give us this slight concession and if he does not, we intend to divide the Committee on the Amendment.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am very sorry we have not had a longer discussion on this Amendment, because it is much the most important Amendment. We shall vote for it because I think all of us feel that it deals more effectively with the poorer people than did the other Amendment. I want to say to my hon. Friends from the Clyde that East London can match anything that they have there, and that the poor people in the East End are suffering terribly just now because of the increase of rents and the lowering of wages. Anyone who has anything to do with them and who lives in a comfortable house must, I think, have some qualms of feeling at night when he goes home. I have numbers of these people coming to me—and my house is quite a decent one—on this question of rents, and what is going to happen during the winter, I do not know. We are going to vote now as a protest against that condition of things and against the refusal of the Government to allow us to amend the Rent Restrictions Acts in the manner proposed.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I hope that the hon. Members for Clydeside Divisions will not imagine that we are unnecessarily interfering with their prerogative. I happen to be an Irishman, representing an English constituency, and there have been times in this House when they have looked down their noses at those of us who belong to English constituencies who have dared to interfere in Scottish Debates. This is not a Scottish Debate, but it happens to be a human Debate, a matter that affects us all. I represent a constituency where we have the same problem in the same way. Of course, I know that in some of my comrades' constituencies they live in flats. We have flats to live in flats; that is to say, that rooms are to let, and families live in rooms, and rooms are let to families at. 5s. a time for every room.
165 I would like to know if the Government are really prepared to deal with the problem of housing. Are they prepared to say that no further increases shall be allowed, or are they prepared to give free opportunity and licence to owners of house property to increase rents still further? We want stabilisation in this question. The 40 per cent. increase—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The question of the 40 per cent. increase was dealt with under the previous Amendment, and it does not arise on this one.
§ Mr. JONES
I am not prepared to argue about the 40 per cent. I think the landlords ought never to have been allowed it, but the real position is that wages have gone down 50 per cent., but still the landlords are allowed to keep up the old prices. If the rents of houses are to be allowed to continue at the old rate, why should not wages continue at the old rate? No, we have to keep on keeping on. Wages are down, down, down, but the landlord is the tin god of capitalism. Oh, yes, and he looks it. I am supporting the Amendment because I believe that the time has arrived when a definite understanding should be reached. This is a National Government. It is supposed to represent all sections of the community, but we discover, so far as our Debates have developed, that it is not a National Government; it is a landlord and capitalist Government, supporting a policy of keeping the workers where they were. Rents are up and
wages down. That is where they have always been.
God bless the Squire and his relations,
And keep us in our proper stations.
This is a National Government with a few Socialist renegades thrown in. I support the Amendment because the problems of the East End of London are the same as the problems of our comrades on the Clydeside. We hope that we shall have another chance of reversing the situation. Then we shall put it on to you. We will make the landlords pay rents for their mansions. We will make the profiteers pay profits upon their profits. This National Government is a national insult. The more they go along with their policy the worse it will become and, before many moons are passed, we shall discover that this is the biggest fraud that has ever been perpetrated on this country. I am going to vote for the Amendment whatever may happen. There are some hon. Members on that side who will be sorry before six months are over that they ever joined that crowd. The 40 thieves are gentlemen by comparison, and Ali Baba is not present. He has gone to more congenial quarters, and he is trying to convince the people of India that what we would like them to do are the things they ought to do. So far as we are concerned, we will have nothing to do with them. Do all you can, do your damn'dest, and we will do our best.
§ Question put. "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 37: Noes, 306.169
|Division No. 17.]||AYES.||[10.25 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Edwards, Charles||Lonan, David Gilbert|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lunn, William|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Briant, Frank||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Buchanan, George||Halt, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Alien|
|Cape, Thomas||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hicks, Ernest George||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cove, William G.||Hirst, George Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||John, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lawson, John James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. McGovern and Mr. Kirkwood.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)|
|Albery, Irving James||Atholl, Duchess of||Balniel, Lord|
|Allen, Maj. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd, W)||Atkinson, Cyril||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Ballile, Sir Adrian W. B.||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Glossop, C. W. H.||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'th, Centr?l)||Gluckstein, Louis Halie||Mills, Sir Frederick|
|Bernays, Robert||Goldie, Noel B.||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tfd & Chisw'k)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Gower, Sir Robert||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Molson, A. Harold Elsdale|
|Borodale, Viscount.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Boulton, W. W.||Graves, Marjorie||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Griffith, F, Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hanley, Dennis A.||Munro, Patrick|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Harbord, Arthur||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Hartland, George A.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Burghley, Lord||Heligers, Captain F. F. A.||Nunn, William|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||O'Donovan, Dr. Willam James|
|Burnett, John George||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hepworth, Joseph||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Calne, G. R. Hall||Herbert, George (Rotherham)||Pearson, William G.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hillman, Dr. George B.||Peat, Charles U.|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Penny, Sir George|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hopkinson, Austin||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Hornby, Frank||Petherick, M.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Horobin, Ian M.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Howard, Tom Forrest||Potter, John|
|Choriton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Hudson, Capt. A.U.M.(Hackney, N.)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Pybus, Percy John|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ralkes, Hector Victor Alpln|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hurd, Percy A.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Colville, Major David John||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Inskip, Sir Thomas W. H.||Ramsbotham, Herswald|
|Cook, Thomas A.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ramsden, E.|
|Cooke, James D.||Jamieson, Douglas||Rankin, Robert|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jennings, Roland||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Copeland, Ida||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Remer, John R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Ker, J. Campbell||Robinson, John Roland|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Curry, A. C.||Kimball, Lawrence||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Denville, Alfred||Law, Sir Alfred||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Dickie, John P.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Russell,Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Donner, P. W.||Leckie, J. A.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Salt, Edward W.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Liddall, Walter S.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Llewellin, Major John J.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mabane, William||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Entwistle, Major Cyril Fullard||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||McEwen, J. H. F.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||McKeag, William||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||McKie, John Hamilton||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Fermoy, Lord||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Flanagan, W. H.||McLean, Major Alan||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Soper, Richard|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Magnay, Thomas||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Marjorlbanks, Edward||Stevenson, James|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Stones, James|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Martin, Thomas B.||Storey, Samuel|
|Stourton, John J.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Sutcliffe, Harold||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Templeton, William P.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Ward, Sarah Adelalde (Cannock)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Thompson, Luke||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Watt, Captain George Steven H.||Wood, Major M. McKenzie (Banff)|
|Thorp, Linton Theodore||Wedderburn,Henry James Scrymgeour||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)||Wells, Sydney Richard||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Train, John||White, Henry Graham||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|and Mr. Blindell.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this be the Second Schedule to the Bill."
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
Before we pass the Second Schedule, I want to put two questions, one to the Minister of Agriculture, and the other to the Secretary of State for Scotland. We have now come to the end of the Bill, and I wish to ask a question about the Grey Seals Protection Act, 1924. We were told last year that the other House was passing a Bill to relieve us of the necessity for continuing this Act any longer. I believe that that Measure did pass certain stages, and did come down to this House and went through Committee. I want to ask the Minister for Agriculture what he proposes to do now. Does he propose to introduce again the Bill which had to be dropped at the election, because I think the time has now come when we could have an agreed Bill? This matter has been settled in Committee and by discussions in the other House, and it is time we cleaned up this untidy system of carrying this Act forward year after year.
The other point to which I desire to draw attention is with regard to Section 2 of the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919. That, I suppose, is the Section which deals with land reclamation or drainage. I should like the Secretary of State to tell us what he proposes to do as a result of the recommendations of the Committee on Expiring Laws. I notice from the report of that committee that this point was raised before then, but no mention is made of the losses which the country has sustained under some part of the Act. I have turned up the trading accounts and balance sheets for the year 1929, which were printed on the 23rd January, 1931, and I find that, in the last year for which figures are given, each one of the 83 settlements under the Act showed a loss. The House ought to realise that we have lost, in 170 connection with the settlements under this Act, the stupendous sum of £1,400,000. The loss amounts to £100,000 or more in each year. I think that, before we pass this Schedule, we ought to have some assurance from the Secretary of State for Scotland that this constant leakage of money under the Act in question will cease.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Archibald Sinclair)
My hon. Friend did not give me notice that he intended to raise this particular matter, but I will give him the best reply that I can.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I was told that some points were going to be raised, but I did not know what they were. As regards the question of the grey seals, it is true that a Bill was discussed in this House and went to the other House, but it did not pass into law, and I am afraid that it must be regarded as to some extent a controversial Measure. If my hon. Friend is right in his suggestion that it might be possible to bring forward an agreed Bill, no doubt His Majesty's Government would be very glad to consider it.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I think the Bill to which I referred, since it has gone through Committee here, might be said to be an agreed Bill. I, certainly, would support it.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am afraid that there might be some difference between a Bill which my hon. Friend would support and one which would be generally agreed. The difficulty was that the Bill to which he has referred was regarded as a controversial Measure. There is a strong difference of opinion between those who wish to give the seals more protection and those who wish to give them less. As regards the land settle- 171 went provision to which my hon. Friend refers, I would point out that it is not the whole of that Act which is renewed by this Bill, but only Section 2, which refers to compulsory powers to acquire land for reclamation. I can assure my hon. Friend that no losses have been incurred under that Section, because it has not even been put into operation. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, as it is not in operation, there is no immediate cause for fear.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.