§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th December], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which makes no provision for the reduction of rents of working-class houses, fails to restore control to houses already decontrolled, and proposes to decontrol certain classes of houses at present under control.I listened to every speech that was delivered in the Debate yesterday, and there was one remark which fell from the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) with which I am in, whole-hearted agreement. He stated that this problem of the amount and the payment of rent by the working classes was one of greater importance than many of the problems to which we paid more attention. I was surprised in some ways yesterday to find that the official Opposition are not to divide against this Bill. I listened to their spokesmen to see why they are supporting it, at least on Second Reading, while reserving to themselves the right of moving Amendments 'on Committee stage. I know that the justification for that attitude is that the Bill controls working-class houses of Class "C," and that therefore it may be said to contain that much good and that it should be supported. Let me examine that argument. The Bill seeks to deal with four classes of houses and their tenants or occupiers. It deals first with Class "A" houses, occupied by those who may be described as the more comfortable section of the population; with Class "B" houses, for what the Minister described as the higher paid artisans and the lower middle class; with Class "C" houses, for working-class people and the poorer paid artisans; and, finally, it deals with the sub-tenants of those who are tenants direct from the landlord.
208 As regards three of those classes this Bill, from the Labour or working-class point of view, is reactionary. If one takes the Bill as a whole and does not examine it from the Conservative point of view, but purely from the view of the working-class or Labour movement, it is a reactionary Bill, and how Members who in the past have voted against Bills which have contained elements of good in them can allow to pass a Measure which seeks to attack great masses of the people, and which fails to remedy other working-class grievances, I fail to understand. I know that the Committee which was set up to deal with this problem was appointed by the Labour Government and I think I am not wrong in saying that the majority of its members were members of the Labour party. That Committee brought in a report from which one Member dissented, namely, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). Here may I say that in the case of all the rent committees on which he has served, and there are at least two that I know of, the hon. Member for Hamilton has always brought in a report of which he must now be justly proud. In his minority report in this instance he takes the view that we on these benches take to-day, namely, that the Committee failed to do its work properly when it did not recommend rent reductions, when it did not recommend that all houses now out of control should be brought back into control, and when it did not recommend that houses which A is proposed to pass out of control should remain under control.
Therefore, we take the view that, though it may be argued that the Bill does some form of good, its principles ought to be opposed. The Minister of Health left us in no doubt that the principles of the Bill cannot be amended. He said that, with one exception, he was accepting the recommendations of the Committee, which, it must he remembered, had a majority of Labour members, including a woman, now dead, who was the chief woman adviser of the Labour party. The Committee turned down rent reductions, and the bringing back under control of houses which had been decontrolled, and therefore the decision of the Minister to accept their recommendations means, in effect, that no matter what Amendment is moved from this side of the House the Bill will 209 not be substantially altered in its main functions and principles. To my mind, therefore, the principles of the Bill must be challenged. It is no answer to say that it contains a good point or two. That could be said of every Bill. No one in his senses would deny that the Act dealing with transitional payments was in some respects an improvement, but we voted against it. No one can deny that the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, introduced by the Conservatives, brought some benefits to large classes of the community, but we voted against it.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It was right to do so. It is unfair to lecture a new Member—I dislike being lectured myself—but when the hon. Member knows more about Parliamentary procedure he will understand the point. The Conservatives voted against the Wheatley scheme, although they admitted that it contained valuable points. One has to understand the purpose to be served in rejecting a Bill such as this. If it were rejected on a reasoned Amendment it would be an intimation to the Government from the House of Commons that in their view it did not meet the needs of the nation. If we are to serve the interests of the nation the Bill must be defeated, and the Government given instructions to bring in a new one. There was a classic example of such action by the House of Commons during my experience of Parliamentary life. A Conservative Government brought in a Measure concerning ex-soldiers and Civil Service appointments. It went a certain distance, but the Rouse defeated it, many Conservatives being among those who voted against it, That was a direct instruction to the Government that the Measure was regarded as mean and as not going far enough, and the Government had to introduce a new one.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I am saying that we in the Opposition, in the Labour party, have to make up our minds on this point: Does one good thing in the Bill outweigh every other wrong? If we who are opposing the Bill and have put down 210 a reasoned Amendment were to win, it would be a direct intimation to the Government that the Bill is regarded as a reactionary one in the main, and wrong in its draftsmanship and make up. Every Parliamentarian knows that it is for the Opposition to examine a Bill and, even if it contains one item that may be good, to ask the House to reject it on reasoned grounds. If we support these proposals, we vote not merely for the Bill, but for the Committee's report upon 'which the Bill has been drafted. That report stands for rents as they are now paid, for decontrol, and also for leaving out of control houses that should be brought back into control. Therefore, those who vote for this Measure will be voting for things which the House of Commons would do well to reject.
I propose to examine this Bill in closer detail than has yet been done. I will deal first with the question of rents. I quite understand the views of English Members on this question of housing. Those views have often been different in the case of Scottish and English Members of Parliament, and the views of the working people in the two countries on this problem have also been very different. The dwelling-house in Scotland is the tenement type and the English type is entirely different. In 1922, when I was a bay, a raw callow youth standing on St. Enoch's Station, knowing nothing about the institution at Westminster to which I was to come, the clamant demand of our people was for rents to be rigidly reduced and for control to be rigidly exercised. While English Members may be able to find excuses for this Measure, I can see no reason why Scottish Members should not reject it. If there is one demand—it is a right demand in regard to Scottish housing—it is that this cruel exploiting of the working people should cease. Housing seems to be the easiest thing upon which they can be exploited, and I know that this question is uppermost in the minds of the people of Scotland.
I now propose to examine the question of rent reduction. I heard the case against rent reduction stated yesterday by the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland. The increase allowed is 40 per cent., or, as the Minister of Health put it, 40 per cent. plus 10 per cent. in this country. In Scotland 211 it is 47½ per cent. plus 10 per cent. Forty per cent. was the percentage fixed, and of that 25 per cent. was given for repairs and 15 per cent. was allowed to the landlord because of the change in circumstances. It was stated yesterday that things are different from the time when the committee appointed by the Labour party signed their report. It almost makes me despair of politics as an honest thing when people make that statement. I would like to ask: If the Labour Government 18 months ago had brought in a Bill based upon the committee's report, would they still have kept rents at the same level, and would they have brought in the same proposals as those which are contained in the present Bill? Is the only thing which the Labour Members have against this proposal, a difference of 18 months 7 If that is their only objection, it is an argument for voting in favour of the Bill. It may be argued that things have got worse during that 18 months, but any reasonable man may argue that things, in some respects, have got better during that period. Once you adopt the 18 months' argument, and leave the principles alone, you are in a cul-de-sacthat leads to nowhere. It may be argued that 18 months ago there was a case against the committee's report, because there was not a sufficient number of houses being built. It may be argued that during that 18 months more houses were built owing, to some extent, to the Labour party's drive in housing, and in that way you come to the argument as to whether 18 months was a right or a wrong period. I dismiss that argument as having no fundamental connection with this Bill.
I will now deal with the increase in rent, and I will examine, first, the 25 per cent. which was given to the landlord because of the increase in the cost of repairs. The repairs were always to be done by the landlord, and the 25 per cent. was given to him because of the extra cost. Those repairs have now ceased to be done. I know it is true that the onus is placed upon the landlord to do certain statutory repairs which can be enforced by the local authorities. In the old days, as was well said last night by the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), in order to get their property let landlords had to do the repairs them- 212 selves, but that is not the case to-day. Necessary repairs which may be enforced by the local authorities are not done by the landlord in a great number of cases, but they are done by the tenants. The tenant, in many cases, is afraid to complain because he thinks it might do himself and his tenancy some harm. Anyone who reads the evidence will find that men like builders, painters, joiners, and those skilled in house construction actually do their own repairs in nine cases out of ten, although it is work which is rightly chargeable to the landlord. I know that is the case to-day in Scotland.
English Members know that in Scotland before the War there was a great boon in "spec building, to use a Scottish phrase. At that time you could get a house, and the landlord would paint it for you with ordinary paint, and varnish the doors, and put it into first-class condition. To-day the tenants have to do all that themselves, and, in spite of that fact, the landlord is not only allowed 15 per cent. increase on the rent, but he is also allowed an increase of 25 per cent. for repairs which he never carries out. The tenement problem is represented in Glasgow where people are herded together, and there the landlord does not carry out more than the barest necessities in the way of repairs. The tenant may go to the sanitary authority and represent that his house is in a bad state and needs painting. What happens? The official of the sanitary authority says, "I will have a coat of paint put upon it," but the standard which the courts of Scotland enforce is simply a coat of lime and water, and all that the landlord is called upon to do for human beings in Scotland is to put their habitations into the same state as a farmer puts his barn for cattle.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows quite well that that is all the law courts have enforced in regard to houses, and yet the landlords are given 25 per cent. increase of rent specifically for repairs which are either never carried out, or done in a meaner fashion than was ever the case before the war. That concession was given round about 1920 because at that time wages were high. That was true in 1920. Since then, wages have fallen considerably in the building trade. Wages have come toppling down each year regularly, and to-day, whatever force there might have been in the argu- 213 meat, the increase of wages has now rapidly diminished. There is another aspect. In the old days, landlords of property always carried as part of their business a percentage of unlet property. Every business man allows so much for loss, so much that he wipes out each year, and in the old days, before the war, each landlord carried so much property that was unlet. He had to meet the charges of the property by the rents on other property. But now every house is occupied, even among the poorest people, and to-day that loss, which was formerly chargeable to them, is turned into a gain. To-day the conditions which landlords had to face before the war are wiped out, and as a consequence, so far from his needing the increase, he is placed in a much more favourable position than ever he was before the war.
I come to another aspect. Has the property gained in value? There is a case for property built since the war, because there, it can be argued, wages and interest charges are higher. But is anyone going seriously to argue in this House that property is a commodity different from almost every other commodity with one exception—whisky? Every other commodity—clothes, food, anything you like, if you use it—and even whisky if you use it—goes down in value. It is said that people have put their money in this property. It is the one argument which the Tories have. After all, even when poor people put money into property, they are only entitled, even under the capitalist system, to get a return as long as they are rendering value for it, and even they put so much by for depreciation, recognising that there is a time when they have got all out of it which they are legitimately entitled to get out of it. Yet here are properties 40 to 70 years old. They have got from it all that they are legitimately entitled to get from it, and now they seek to get more than that to which they are legitimately entitled. "But," say my Friends of the Opposition and on both sides, more or less, "Why differentiate between house property and other commodities? You allow free-play of the market in other commodities." That is not quite true. The State, when it comes to a decision that a certain commodity is vital in the interest and for the well-being of the people, takes a different 214 view from that. Take, for instance, any human labour. It is quite true that in the market for human labour there is free-play, as far as men can make free-play to sell their labour as high as they can, while the employer purchases it as low as he can. But here again we intervene and say that that cannot be done in certain respects. We say about the civil servant that he cannot be allowed to take the ordinary strike action, that his labour is in a different category from the labour of other workmen. We say to the soldier and the naval man that their labour is in a different category. In regard to house property, the need for shelter, the Government ought to take the same line, that shelter is such a human consideration, such a vital thing to a community, that the ordinary free-play of ups and downs cannot be allowed as in other commodities.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Everyone knows that it takes a long time to plan a house, buy the ground and build the house. No one can say that there is any real comparison with food. But even there the Government have recognised the principle in certain conditions. They appointed a committee yesterday, true without powers, but nevertheless recognising the principle that even in food you cannot allow the free-play of the market to go on unchecked and uncontrolled. Therefore, even in that respect my hon. Friend who interjected must admit the point. I say that to-day wages have fallen. Take the War Loan. The interest on it has been reduced. The great bulk of War Loan investors have accepted the position, though many of them could have exploited the market to get higher interest; but they accepted the position, and took the lower interest. To-day, on a vital necessity equally as great as the War Loan for financing your country, while we ought to be asking the owners of property to accept the same sacrifice that we have asked from every other section of the community, this section is to be exempted from it.
There is a further aspect which must enter into view. There is the question of working class ability to pay. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), when speaking yesterday, was interrupted by an hon. Member. I do not 215 see him here. I intended to deal with his interruption about evictions. What is the actual position? Wages have come down. The hon. Member for Spenny-moor (Mr. Batey), speaking yesterday, said that the average wage of a miner in his district was less than £2 a week. A recent statistical publication showed that the average wage of a miner in Britain, including everything, was £2 6s. It is less to-day. It will be less, I am sorry to say, because of the industrial weakness of the men, who are in a terrible plight. The average wage of shipbuilding workmen ranges from £2 3s. But those are the wages of the men who are working, that is, as long as they work 52 weeks in a year. What about the wages of the men who are working six months and are idle six months? What about the wages of the man who is 12 months out of work? The real fact is that those who are occupying dwelling-houses to-day cannot pay the rents.
The Prime Minister ought to have regard to his word to poor people. It may be that he does not break it consciously, but he does not give it the full measure of thought that he gives to his international pledges. Standing at that Box, when pressed by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), he said that he was going into this question of rents; he thought that there was a case. Here you have wages down and unemployment benefit cut by 10 per cent. When we are told about the sanctity of contracts, take the Army reservists, for instance. A man entered into a contract under which he was to get a certain reserve pay, a solemn contract, a contract which he cannot break but which the Government break by reducing it 25 per cent. Then take the smashing of insurance contracts, a 10 per cent. reduction. Yet we are told to-day, when everybody is suffering the most awful reductions, that those who own houses, particularly those occupied by poor people, are not to suffer a reduction like other people. There can be no case made out for it.
Let me examine the facts. Why is Class "C" property to some extent exempt? There used to be an old colleague of mine in this House who was Minister of Health, John Wheatley, who said that the Socialist could always get anything Socialised that did not pay; 216 that if you could not make money out of it, the community would get it. He used as an illustration cemeteries. It is not for me to discuss another Bill which is to come before the House this week, but it is in order to make reference to it in so far as I can connect it with this Measure. That Bill is to deal with what is called working-class or slum property. Its purpose, even for the defence of the tenant, is to some extent illusory. The Government, I understand, are going on with an intensification of the building of slum or working-class houses. They are going to withdraw the Wheatley subsidy, and what will happen is that part of the savings of people is to be devoted to slum clearance. When that Measure come up, I hope to show the fallacy of it. What does that mean? It means that you are going to build new slum clearance houses, every one of which will be occupied by a Class "C" tenant. Therefore, if you intensify the building of Class "C" houses, that is, the slum clearance houses, you are by that very act rendering, to some extent, useless the provision that is claimed to be the only decent provision in the Bill.
Let any man with knowledge of the working classes—I do not care whether it is in Wales, Durham or Scotland—note the changed conditions of the last year. During the past year the one thing common throughout the country has been the terrible inability to pay rent. The means test, to a large extent, has taken the balance which enabled them to pay rent. To-day the ownership of Class "C" property in the poorer sections, particularly the slum areas, is not now in many respects, or it will cease to be, a paying proposition. I admit it. In the case of a large number of Class "C houses you can afford to keep them in control, because no more rent can be got for them. In the very poor tenement areas of Glasgow, even when a house has become decontrolled the fact is that you cannot get any more rent, because the people cannot pay it. Therefore, control is of little use in such cases. You are going to build these slum clearance houses and hand them over to a public body, because that class of tenant is ceasing to be a paying proposition. Take the case of Bristol. I saw the figures only the other week, and they show that in the last 12 months, on the 217 municipal estates and in the slum clearance property there, the increase of arrears has been alarming, particularly in the case of the slum clearance property. Why is that? It is because the poor cannot pay; and the cost of collecting is huge. The result is that that class of property is to be handed over to the municipalities, because it can no longer offer a profit.
It is held out as a great proposal in the Bill that it will afford a defence for the sub-tenant. Will it I That suggestion was riddled by a very able speech yesterday from the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mrs. Tate). I propose to examine it from another angle. Where are the sub-tenants? Most of them are in, comparatively speaking, larger houses, and, wherever they are, they are, I would not say always, but very largely, poor. One very remarkable thing about the poor is how decent they are to their fellow poor, and there is little exploitation in this matter, though I do not deny that there is some. I represent a terribly poor area, and it is remarkable how kind the poor are to one another there. If there is exploitation, it is in big houses that can be sub-divided into rooms and relet. There is no defence for these people in the present Bill. In Kensington, for instance, most of the sub-tenancies are in large houses which are to be decontrolled under the Bill, and therefore in those cases the Bill provides no defence for the sub-tenant, because, when the house is decontrolled, the subtenant is automatically decontrolled. The landlord simply increases the rent, the other fellow charges the sub-tenant, and between them they share the swag. It is true that in the case of Class "C" houses, which are to be controlled, the sub-tenant has a defence, because the landlord may take the tenant to court if he finds that exploitation is taking place, but it is in those cases that exploitation of the very poor is rarest; it is in the large, sub-divided house that it prevails most, and is most felt by working people.
As to the question of houses passing out of control, I should have thought that that in itself would have been sufficient to cause the Labour party to vote against this Measure, because, under it, large numbers of houses will pass out of control. The Bill is to come to an end in five years, At present, roughly speaking, about 40,000 Class "C" houses are 218 being decontrolled every year. That under the present Act, without amendment. In five years, that will mean less than 200,000, because the figure of 40,000, is perhaps, exaggerated, so that the very best that we shall get from the Bill is that 200,000 houses out of over 4,000,000 will remain controlled at the end of five years. Moreover, if a tenant leaves his house two days before the Bill becomes law, the house will be decontrolled, while if he leaves it one day after the Bill becomes law the house will remain controlled, and we shall still have the anomaly of one person paying a much higher rent than another for a similar house.
I should like to enter a plea also for the Class "B" house. It is a mistake to think that nowadays the Class "B" tenant is the Class "B" tenant of even two or three years ago. Everyone who knows the conditions of the past two years must have been aware, even before this report was issued, of the appalling condition of many men who previously occupied good posts, and are now reduced almost to beggary and penury. I know of a calico printing and dye works not far from where my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) lives, where, owing to rationalisation, a whole factory has been shut down, and men who were getting £7 and £8 a week, and had entered into good houses at that time on the strength of their earnings, are to-day having to live on their savings in a very small way. Their houses are to be decontrolled, and they are to be turned adrift into the open market to pay any rent that may be demanded.
When a house is decontrolled and the owner requires possession, he will not now need to prove that the tenant is in arrears with his rent, but only that he wishes to have possession, and he will get an order from the court for possession. That is a problem which has been omitted from this Bill, and a tenant who is in a house built since the War has no protection; it is only necessary to show that it is desirable that the tenant should be put out, and that the owner should get control of the house, in order to get an order for possession from the court. When a house is under control in the ordinary way, it is necessary to prove that there are arrears of rent, but to-day, once the house has passed out of control, 219 it is only necessary for the owner to show that he wants possession. At any rate, the decisions of the Scottish courts are to the effect that they cannot refuse a decree once the house is decontrolled and the owner asks for possession.
This Bill, viewed from any angle, seems to me to be a shockingly reactionary Measure, and, accordingly, we ask in our Amendment for its rejection. May I make a last appeal to the House? The other day we were discussing Scottish Home Rule, but the only two issues in Scotland that I know of at the moment are those of income and of houses. The problem with which we are faced at the moment throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, and of England also, is the working people's dread of losing their homes. Men and women can stand anything but that. They can stand suffering. I have seen men who went through, in the trenches, sufferings that I cannot describe, and came back hardened. I have seen men who could stand in a criminal dock and take five years from a judge, and take it without a quiver. I have seen the same men, when they were ordered from their houses, cry. I have seen women, who could stand up to anything, huddled together in a rent court, as numbers of them are every day. So great has the problem become in my native city that a court which used to sit three days a week now sits eight times a week, morning and afternoon, and there are not enough judges to get on with the work. Formerly an owner could get a decree within 10 days. To-day, so great is the congestion that he must wait a month.
The working classes are faced with this problem of rents every day with increasing severity. The Prime Minister has said that 2,000,000 are not likely to get work easily again even if trade becomes good—2,000,000 human souls. This Bill condemns them further. They had some hope that at least a Government that could reduce interest, a Government that could reduce unemployment benefit, a Government that could reduce wages, would surely be fair. Was it not a National Government? Poor people thought— they may have been wrong— that a great Prime Minister who was doing these things would be fair. Is there anybody who fought an election 220 as a Labour candidate that did not see poor people voting for the other candidate because, after all, they said, the Prime Minister would be fair, and, having done all these things, would attack the landlords also? Hopes were held out to them that by this Bill a decent equality of rents would be restored. But what has the Prime Minister done? He has broken his pledge, and I say that this Bill, viewed from a working-class angle, is merely another dead growth as far as the working classes are concerned. We ask members of all parties—Liberal, Tory or Labour—who feel that the great bulk of this Bill is bad from a working-class standpoint, and that it ought to be rejected and reintroduced, to vote with us to-night, and to say to the Government that they want a Rent Bill that will restore rents to the pre-war level, that will bring every home, both past and present, under control, and that will at least see that no working-class family in this country who cannot, owing to poverty, pay their rent, shall be evicted; in other words, a Bill which, while it cannot make them sure of everything in life, will ensure at least that, in this great wealthy country, every man will be secured a shelter for himself, for his wife, and, above all, for his bairns.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to second the Amendment.
My hon. Friend has not treated me very fairly in leaving me practically not one argument that, I think, needs to be adduced in favour of the rejection of the Bill. He has gone into it in the greatest detail, and I hope my hon. and right hon. Friends above the Gangway will see their way to oppose the Second Reading. This is an occasion when they ought to demonstrate their very deep resentment that the Government should have dared to produce such a Measure. In thinking over it, the thing that struck me most about the Bill as it actually appeared was the great simplicity of my hon. Friend and myself. In the early days of the National Government we pressed the Government to introduce its Rent Restriction Bill. Even we, who expected practically nothing from that Government, were simple enough to believe that it would contain some elements of relief for the working class from the stress and strain under which they were living. The 221 Bill, as we have now seen it, has proved how foolish we were, because I do not think the Minister will claim that the vast mass of the people of the country are in any way getting any relief in their daily life through anything that is contained in it.
My hon. Friend has shown quite fully how the case of the large house which is a fit subject for sub-division and subletting is not met at all. I came across the other type of sub-letting that goes on the other day, I think in Sheffield, where it has become a definite business for people with money to purchase large numbers of houses which are not quite at the demolition stage but very near it, divide them up and sub-let them to tenants. Presumably the business of exploitation will be stopped by these proposals. But where that sort of business has been carried on it was the easiest thing in the world to turn that sub-let house from an unfurnished into a furnished house. It could be done by spending a few shillings at a second-hand furniture store and, by so doing, the exploiting, rack-renting landlord makes himself clear of the provisions of rent restriction. This class of trader is not, in my view, engaged in a reputable trade. He is exploiting the poorest section of the people, who cannot afford to rent a whole house of their own, and taking advantage of them. There is no protection for them in this Bill at all.
The Government was returned in the main to balance the Budget and to try to restore the unfavourable trade balance. They were supposed to get the people back into employment. They have failed to do these things in any satisfactory or permanent way. Here was a thing that they could have done without imposing any additional charge on the Budget and without interfering in any way with the balance of foreign trade. It would have had absolutely no effect on the general national position, financial, commercial or industrial, but it would have been a tremendous relief for the working-classes on the whole, because the strain on the working man's wife of meeting this rent week after week is one which no person who is used to a regular income of a reasonable amount can possibly realise. For a woman with a small income to handle, and perhaps half-a-dozen children to look after, with urgent demands for the bare amount of food which will provide nutrition for the family, to keep 222 intact week after week the very large part of her income that is demanded by the landlord, in which the landlord is protected by the State, is a most terrible strain, and it is a tremendous testimony to the character of the majority of the women who are affected that, in spite of all the temptations to use the money for other purposes and take the risk involved of not being able to pay the rent week after week, out of their limited resources they put that money aside and retain it intact and hand it over to the landlord or his agent.
The Government, recognising the struggle and effort that the working-class population have in these days to live, could not even by a fractional amount impose a reduction on rents which are absolutely unjustifiable compared with other price levels. They could not say to these people, "We cannot give you your houses back at the pre-war level," which in my view was their just right. There is no justification now for a house built before the War being let at a higher rent after the War. If they could not go to that length, they could at least have made some reduction of the very heavy rental charges that the common people have to bear, and so have made their lives easier and given them some idea that they were not merely the tools of capitalistic exploitation to be driven down to starvation level. They could have done that without any danger to anyone except that the interests concerned would probably have been a bit restive. Every other section in the community has been asked to make some sacrifice, and the Government ought to have asked it of those whose incomes are derived from house-owning.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMIESON
We have listened to a, powerful speech by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I know how earnestly he feels about this matter. One could see that from his speech, and he has spoken to me about it outside the House, and I respect him for his feelings in the matter. But, when one comes to review the matter in a cooler and less vehement frame of mind, it is apparent not only that he disregards half-a-loaf as being better than no bread but that he wants both to have his cake and to eat it. He complains in one breath of the amount that has to be paid by tenants 223 and in another he complains of the shortage of houses and the conditions under which people are housed. It must be obvious that, if you reduce rents at this stage, you are going to prevent the building of the new houses that are required of more modern construction and with more modern equipment, and you are going to continue the shortage of houses for the working-classes that still exists. If he thinks that shortage should be met by houses being built by the local authorities, he is in no better case, because, unless the local authorities can get these houses let at an economic rent, the burden of the deficit will fall on the rates and be borne in very considerable part by the very poor working-class people who at present are having difficulties in paying their rents, because the result of an increase of rates will simply be that they will have to pay more for the houses that they occupy.
I know quite well, representing, as I do, an industrial constituency in the same city as the hon. Member for Gorbals, with what difficulty it is that some of these people meet their rent at present, and how often they are unable to meet it, and, representing a, constituency which is as to a large proportion composed of working-class houses, I should welcome any reduction in rent. But I see that any hope of that reduction can only come in two ways: first, by there being a more plentiful supply of houses, and, secondly, by a reduction in the city rates. When one comes to analyse the amount which, week by week or month by month, has to be paid by a tenant for his house, one finds that in Scotland, at any rate, a very large proportion of that amount never finds its way into the pocket of the landlord but is taken by the city and spent in social services, including public assistance.
I think probably by now the House is more or less familiar with the difference between the Scottish system of rating and valuation and that which prevails in England. I will mention one or two points. In Scotland, a proportion of the rates has to be paid by the owners. It varies in different districts. In Glasgow, it works out at something like five-sevenths, or rather as five is to seven. In calculating the amount of rent which will give the landlord a reasonable return, 224 he has to add to the amount which he would otherwise have been able to charge as rent the amount which he must pay in rates. On the amount which is so added a further sum has to be added for rates on the rates, because the property is assessed on the actual amount which the tenant has to pay. So that the rate-able value of property in Scotland comprises, not only the rent itself—that is to say, the amount which is to go into the pocket of the landlord—but rates on that amount, and, again, rates on the rates which he has to pay. In addition, the allowance which is paid for the cost of repairs is also included in the rateable value in Scotland. It is upon that enhanced rateable value that the tenant himself has to pay the occupier's rates.
I ask the House to consider how that has worked out under the Rent Restrictions Acts. Taking for convenience the figure of £100 as representing a reasonable rental which in pre-War times the landlord received in Scotland, he was permitted, in 1920, an increase of 40 per cent. But in respect of the different system of rating in Scotland he was also allowed a further percentage of 7½ it was 7½ per cent. in Glasgow. He was allowed a percentage to cover the increase in owner's rates between 1914 and 1920. So that at that time he was allowed to increase his rent from £100 to £147 10s. The increase in respect of additional rates was only up to 1920, because it was thought at that time that rates had reached their peak. The 7½ per cent. which was allowed in Glasgow has been far from sufficient to cover the increase of rates which has taken place since. The owner's rates in Glasgow last year were 5s. 2d. in the £. There has been some increase this year, but I have taken the figures of last year. Allowing for the difference between a 2s. 9d. rate in 1914 and a 5s. 2d. rate in 1931–32, we find that the actual increase in owners' rates on a rental of £147 10s. is £24 7s., leaving out of the increased rental to the owner, not 40 per cent. to meet the increased cost of repairs and the increased amount of interest which he has to pay upon his bond upon the property, and to allow some increase in rent, but a bare £23 or 23 per cent. I have given the Glasgow figures, because they are typical of the rest of 225 Scotland. In some cases the percentage works out at a little more; in other cases it works out at nothing; and in some districts in Lanarkshire it works out actually at a minus quantity. Therefore, it is apparent that under the previous Rent Restrictions Acts the landlord in Scotland is not getting the increase which, under the Act of 1920, it was expected that he would get. Not only is he not getting the increase, but he is not getting the amount which it was at that time thought that he should get in respect of the increased cost of repairs.
The bon. Member for Gorbals complained about repairs not being done. There may be some instances where repairs are not done. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) yesterday referred to certain streets in his constituency where panes of glass were broken. I am not sure that there is not a good deal in the proverb about people who live in glass-houses, as one has not only to consider whether one is a good landlord but also whether or not he has a good tenant. I go about in my constituency, and I do not find that there are many complaints about repairs not being done by the landlords. I have made inquiries to ascertain whether or not that is the case. Another point which the hon. Member for Gorbals made was that in pre-war days there were a number of empty houses in each tenement, and that, taking into account those empty houses, the landlord was getting a sufficient profit out of the houses which were let. He argued, from that point of view, that at present, when every house in a tenement is let, the landlord is in a better position and can well afford a reduction of rent. Every house in a tenement may be let, but does every tenant pay his rent?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I think that at the present time rents are paid far more regularly in Glasgow than they were before the War. It was then quite common to have what was called a "moonlight Hit." No one in a Glasgow tenement can now have a moonlight flit because there is no other place to which to go, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) will bear me out in that.
§ Mr. JAMIESON
I have never made one. The hon. Member for Gorbals spoke about the congestion of the sheriff's court in dealing with rents. He said that it takes weeks to get a decree and that the sheriffs could not undertake the work. Why? Because the tenants were in arrears of rent, and in many cases the arrears are not enforced at all. Therefore, any advantage which may be obtained by a landlord in having his property fully let is more than counterbalanced by the fact that in many cases he is unable to recover the rent. I wish to refer to the figures which were given by the Minister in his speech yesterday. He spoke about a house with a pre-War rent of £15, and showed that, with the owners' and occupiers' rates taken into account, the tenant of such a house now has to pay £30 4s. 9d., of which £15 6s. 5d. goes to the local authority in rates. That, I think, is sufficient in itself to show that a great deal of the difficulty which arises, at any rate, in Scotland, with regard to rents is not because the landlords are extortionate, but because the rates in the cities and in the counties are so high.
There are many disadvantages in the Scottish system of rating. Most of these are not germane to this Bill, but there is one disadvantage which is germane to it. The system causes endless friction between landlord and tenant. I recognise that there are great difficulties in the way of making an alteration and making the Scottish system the same as that in England, but I hope that at some time, and before long, that may be done. There is one suggestion which I wish to make at present and which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider before the Bill comes into operation. It ought not to be impossible for every landlord, at least once a year, to notify the tenant of every dwelling-house of the amount which he collects—because he collects in his rents both the owners' rates and the occupiers' rates—and how much of the total amount which he collects represents owners' rates and how much represents occupiers' rates. If that were done, it might tend, in the first place, to put a stop to municipal extravagance, but apart altogether from that, it would bring 227 home to the tenant that a large proportion of the sum which he is paying—more than half in the case which the right hon. Gentleman gave is not going into the pocket of an extortionate landlord, but is being taken by the local authority and spent for the benefit of the tenant and his fellow citizens. If that position were more widely known, I believe that we should have fewer complaints about the amount of rents payable in Scotland and fewer complaints about the matter raised from the benches opposite, and I hope that the House will reject the Amendment.
§ 4.58 p.m.
Mr. GURNEY BRAITHWAITE
Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), I have listened to every speech which has been delivered since the Minister rose to move the Second Reading yesterday afternoon, and, if this Debate has done nothing else, it has resulted in a very useful pooling of ideas upon the subject of rent—even more useful than the three days' Debate which we had a short time ago on the question of unemployment. I am sure of something else too, that, although the parliamentary stage is to be set to-morrow for a big occasion, when we are to have a very important Debate upon a vital and critical issue facing the country, however much interest is shown in that Debate by the constituents of most of us, even more interest is being shown in this Debate, which is a vital matter in the household budget, far more vital than an instalment of the American Debt may be in the national Budget.
I desire to offer some constructive criticism following upon the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Gorbals. I think we can establish common ground in this respect, that it is impossible to introduce rent restriction legislation in such a manner as to do injustice to no one. It is impossible, once the State intervenes in a matter like this, to be fair to everyone who is to come under the Bill and is to be affected by it. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), speaking in the Debate yesterday, said, I think with profound truth, that under the existing rent restriction legislation the bad landlord comes off better than the good landlord. Whatever we may do in this Bill, there 228 is bound to be some hardship inflicted on landlords as well as on tenants. The sub-letting provision, I take it, commands the support of all benches so long as it is made strong enough to deal with the abuse that we all know exists. We all know that there is great exploitation of poor people living in single rooms or in two rooms, but even there we may by this Bill inflict hardship and injustice upon some people. Referring to the part of the Bill dealing with sub-letting, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) took an example from the city of Sheffield, an example which I can bear out as one of the representatives of that city. I take it he was using it as an example only, and was not suggesting that there is more than an average dose of original sin among the people of Sheffield in this matter.
I think we could possibly compare favourably with the city of Glasgow. May I remind the hon. Member that there is in Sheffield a particular reason why there is an abnormally large number of sub-tenants. A Socialist council, with singular lack of foresight, built houses for working people at middle-class rents varying from 12s. to 18s. a week, with the result that these houses can only find economic tenants by being inhabited by Socialist councillors. That is the situation in Sheffield, but that is no reason why we should not endeavour to remove abuses which exist in this practice of sub-letting. If I may draw another parallel, whenever you have a big national undertaking injustice again creeps in, and that is a peg on which I wish to hang my criticism of this Bill.
When the Government carried through their conversion scheme, a great many humble people living on slender savings undoubtedly suffered hardship through the stampede for conversion which took place throughout the country. It is true they voluntarily submitted to that hardship for patriotic reasons, believing it the right thing to do to help the country. When the report on which this Bill is based was drawn up—a very able report if I may say so, as one who has studied it with some considerable care—it went into the conditions affecting the 40 per cent. increase in rentals very meticulously. Since that report was issued an event of vast importance has taken place 229 which in my view alters the whole situation. I mean the conversion scheme. That was intended to be a starting-handle to bring down the cost of the internal debt to the taxpayers of the country, to bring down the cost of financing contracts to the manufacturers, and the conversion scheme will have failed if it does not also act as a lever for reducing the rents of the working people of this country.
I believe, though I shall undoubtedly get into trouble for saying so from these benches, that the time has come when this 40 per cent. increase should be reduced by Statute. I have a reason, quite apart from the merits of the case, for holding that view. It is that when many of us fought very difficult seats on cuts a year ago, we justified those cuts to our constituents as being necessary in the national interest, or we should not have arrived here. But we all know, wherever we may sit in this House, that these cuts, necessary as they were, by decreasing the purchasing power of the people have in fact had an effect upon employment, and in many cases have had the effect of retarding the absorption into industry of people who were producing goods. If we are able to increase the purchasing power of these poor people, be it only by 1s. a week, which may seem a very small sum to Members of this House, it is a contribution which the House ought to make if it possibly can.
I was rather surprised at one statement which the Secretary of State for Scotland made when addressing the House yesterday. He said that because many of these houses are 17 years older than they were when rent restriction was introduced, that is a reason why the rent should be kept at 40 per cent. above what it was then. I should have thought the inverse was true. As in the Rent Restrictions Acts the necessary finance was provided for keeping these houses in repair, they should have been kept in proper condition, and to tell a man that the house he is living in is 17 years older and 17 years less serviceable than when this legislation was first introduced, seems to me to be hardly an argument in favour of keeping the rents up.
There is a further reason. Unemployment is infinitely more serious than it was two or three years ago. We have a very much greater number of unemployed 230 people living in these houses than we had then. While it is true that the purchasing value, in terms of the necessities of life, of unemployment benefit and transitional payments is the same to-day, in spite of the cut, as it was in 1929, and more than it was in 1924, that seems to me rather a debating point. We can all foresee the time, and in fact many hon. Members look forward to it, when there will be an increase in the price of commodities. There is bound to be an increase in the cost of some of these necessities of life, and to use that argument is hardly a relevant reason for maintaining rents at a high level. The duty of this House as I see it is to keep faith with the people who accepted these cuts and returned us here to support this National Government. There have been wage cuts in various industries. There have been cuts for miners and for cotton workers, and very savage cuts in many cases for the employés of co-operative societies. I was reading only the other day of notices of cuts ranging from 10 to 17 per cent. and affecting 16,000 employés in Scotland. There have been cuts even among the headquarters staff at Transport House.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I am sure the hon. Member does not want to make a wrong statement. It was only a request for a reduction in wages.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Will the hon. Member tell us what is the source of his information as to the cuts at Transport House?
The statement appeared in the Press, and, if it is incorrect, I am prepared to withdraw it, but it was widely circulated not very long ago that there had been a 5 per cent. cut at that august establishment. The fact that cuts have taken place over so wide an area is a reason why the Government should do all they can to bring about a reduction in these rents. We all know that to the extent of 25 per cent. this increase was to cover the cost of repairs, and I am bound to say that my experience has been that in too many 231 cases these repairs have not been carried out by the landlord. There is a legal redress for the tenant, we know, when the landlord fails to carry out repairs. But we know also, if we have any knowledge whatever of human nature, that if there is one thing these people are more terrified of doing than another it is taking the landlord to court. Even if they are successful in bringing the landlord to book, they know full well that if evil days should fall upon them, and if they have the misfortune to fall even 1s. behind in their dues, the landlord will retaliate and put them out into the street. When we remember that everything but rent has gone down, although I cannot go the whole of the road with the hon. Members opposite who I understand suggest that rents should be brought down to the pre-war level and the whole 40 per cent. swept away, I do feel that I am able to support the statement in the Minority Report over the name of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), who says:Again, my colleagues clearly admit that, as regards the 25 per cent. allowed for increased cost of repairs, there has been a substantial fall in the price of building materials and labour costs. Notwithstanding this admission they do not recommend any alteration.There would appear to have been no difference of opinion on that point that the cost of materials had fallen. That was in July, 1931, and the process has continued. The cost of materials is still falling. I would make an appeal to the Minister not to adopt too rigid an attitude over the details of this Bill when we get into Committee. I suggest it is peculiarly a Bill which Parliament should be allowed to shape so far as its details are concerned, and on which the private Member might be able to play his part in doing all he can to improve it and so help to turn out the best Bill we possibly can. If bon. Members on all benches act on the principle on which we who are elected to this House should act —the greatest good for the greatest number—while we know perfectly well that we are bound to make blunders and inflict hardships on this person and on that, for it is quite impossible to avoid it in legislation of this kind', and if we do our best to improve this Bill along the lines which I have suggested, then we shall have succeeded in enabling the 232 National Government to make its greatest national gesture by bringing a message of hope to those thousands of people who trusted it and sent it into power.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
The hon. Member who has just spoken has been thinking aloud. He has made one of those speeches which, coming from the Tory benches, are rare and refreshing. He recognises as much as we do on these benches that the question of rents is of vital importance to millions of people in this country. The great objection that we have on these benches to this Bill is that it apparently only contains one good point, and that point in itself may be not so good as it appears. That good point is that it brings under control what are called the Class "C" houses. So far as those houses are concerned we agree that the Bill is good, but my complaint against the Bill is that it leaves out many things which we would wish put in. We all know that the class of people who live in the "B" houses should also receive protection. Probably equally as much as any other class in the community the clerk class, the artisan class, the lower middle class, people who have been accustomed to salaries of anything from £6, £7 and up to £10 a week have had terrible reductions in their salaries, and have extreme difficulty to-day in meeting their liabilities. They are offered little or no protection in the Bill. Hon. Members generally and the Government will hear bitter complaints, particularly from the London suburbs, from this class of people, who are in the main the loyal supporters of the Government. We have a perfect case in which to ask that the people who live in the houses included in Class "B" should receive the same measure of protective control as the people in Class "C" houses.
The Minister put forward a point about the subtenants. There is no protection for the subtenants in this Bill. It is true that it is up to the landlord to take a certain course, and that the subtenant may do certain things, but in actual practice the position of the subtenant is that in many cases he has to live with the landlord, he has no desire to live a life of haggling, quarrelling and misery with the landlord and rather than do that, in the vast majority of cases, he allows the whole thing to go by default. One of the 233 main objections to the Bill is precisely the point which the hon. Member opposite has just put, namely, the question of keeping on the 40 per cent, increase. My experience in my own constituency, in the heart of the Midlands, in the Black Country, is that one of the bitterest grievances the tenants have is that not only have they to pay the 40 per cent, increase of rent, but that the landlord in the vast majority of cases refuses to carry out his obligations. It must be the common experience of hon. Members to hear that in spite of the fact that 40 per cent, increase is paid in rent the landlord or his agent or factor in many instances has not done a single stroke to better the house, to put a bit of paint on it or to do anything to keep it tidy for nearly 20 years,
The landlords had an excuse during the War that it was impossible to get labour. After the War the Rent Restrictions Act came along and the 40 per cent. increase of rent was allowed. Then the landlord said: "If it was not for this restriction, I could get 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. increase in rent. It is true that you pay me 40 per cent. increase, but I am not going to do anything for you. If you want anything done you must do it for yourselves. If you do not like that, I should be only too pleased if you would get out, so that I can let the house to someone else, for double the rent." Everywhere I go, particularly among the women in my constituency this same complaint is made. If the landlords find themselves unpopular, as they do, many of them have brought it upon themselves by not playing the game.
The Bill is based on the report of a committee, but the evidence that was taken before the committee is at least three years old. It is two and a-quarter years since the committee first met and 18 months since the committee reported. Therefore, we are right to point out that a very great deal of change has taken place during the interval. There have been drastic reductions in wages and interest rates, there has been a conversion loan, there has been a crisis, there has been a complete change in the circumstances of millions of people, and I am sure that if all these facts had been available before the committee at the time they sat, they would have recommended some reduction in the 40 per cent. increase of rent. It may be argued 234 that three years ago the standard of wages was considerably higher and that there was no particular hardship in the 40 per cent. If that argument was true then it is not true to-day.
The policy of the Government, which has been announced again and again, is that there should be a rise in wholesale prices, in commodity prices; in other words that there should be an increase in the cost of living. That has been expressed as the policy of the Government. Therefore, in a comparatively short time we shall be faced with this position, that we shall have a falling market so far as wages are concerned, the 40 per cent. increase of rent will remain precisely the same as it was 10, 12 or 14 years ago, and side by side with that there will be an increase in commodity prices which will still further put a burden upon those who are the least able to afford it. An increase in commodity prices will hit all classes of the community, not only the people who occupy the "C" class houses but those who occupy the "B" class houses, and there is good reason why the Government in Committee should be willing to make some concessions along the lines I have indicated.
At the bottom of all this, the Government would like to see control taken away altogether. If they could express the views of the landlord class behind them, they would allow control to cease. The reason why that cannot be done is because if they take control off altogether they could create a situation in the country, consequent upon the demands of the landlords, which would be very serious. It is not because the Government have any love for control even for the people in the Class "C" houses that they are keeping on control; it is a matter of expediency. Long before the five years period has expired there will be a definite revolt against rent. The proportion which is taken out of an ordinary workman's income for rent increases almost week by week. Let me give an instance from my own constituency. Twelve months ago the average wage was £2 a week. That was little enough, but there have since been cuts in wages which have reduced the average wage to 35s. or 36s. a week, but the same rent has to be paid that was paid previously. Two out of every five men in my constituency are unemployed. A 235 man who is living on transitional benefit or unemployment payment of 28s. to 32s. a week has to pay in rent 8s., 9s. or 10s. a week. When they have paid the rent they can only do it at the expense of the stomachs of their little children. That is simply a bare statement of the truth.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
The hon. Member must have a bit of sense about it. I am trying to impress upon the House a very serious matter. Take the position of a working man with a wage of 35s. or 36s. a week. He has to pay 10s. a week rent, which leaves him with 26s. to provide for his wife, himself, and four or five children, which is the usual family in the Black Country—food, clothing and everything else. The burden is far too much. What right have the landlords to say, when everybody else has had some reduction, either in their investment income, in salary, in wages or in other ways, that they should be a special class by themselves and that the increased rent they received 10 or 12 years ago, at a time when wages were considerably higher, and the cost of building material was considerably higher, should not be reduced. That is quite a reasonable statement. There was a case for some increase in rent owing to the rise in the cost of building materials and labour, but to-day that is not the position. I am informed that to-day the cost of building is not more than 25 per cent. compared with what it was.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I may be wrong. Without tying myself down to the exact figure, it is a fact that the cost of building materials and repairs has decreased very considerably during the last 12 or 18 months, and there is a case for reduction of rents. There must come a breaking point. Members of this House cannot come here, and in the sacred name of economy declare that wages must be reduced and still further reduced, that the country's necessities demand drastic reductions in wages and cost of production, and at the same time declare that rents must stand at the level at which they stood in 1919 and 1920. On 236 reflection every member of the House must realise that that is an impossible position. I am pleading not only for what might be called the manual class, but for the black-coated worker, the man who thinks, quite wrongly, that he is a bit above the level of the ordinary manual worker. He is a man who has embarked on certain responsibilities and is to be very hardly hit by this Bill. I hope that when the Bill reaches Committee and we move Amendments to cover the points that I have indicated, hon. Members on the Tory side will play a square game. If not, they will have to reckon with their constituents. The day of reckoning will come. This question of rents should receive the very earnest consideration of the Government, and I hope it is not too late for them to consider whether they cannot embody in the Bill the principle of the reduction of rents.
§ 5.33 p.m.
I would like to make one or two observations on the Bill, and to ask the Government one or two questions. I welcome the Bill from many points of view, and, like other hon. Members who have spoken, I am very glad indeed that Class "C" houses are not to be decontrolled, anyway in the next five years. The figures given yesterday by the Minister of Health showed the absolute necessity for this, as only 13 per cent. of the houses built since the War are of the type whose rents can be paid by the very poorest of our citizens. Of course, one of the great difficulties in London in connection with housing has been the enormous influx of new population that is always going on. I saw not long ago an interesting poster which showed that no fewer than 1,000,000 new people have come into London during the last 10 years. That is equivalent to the population of 10 cities the size of Oxford. Of course, if, when control is removed from "C" class houses in five years' time, the hopes expressed by the Minister are to be fulfilled and the supply of houses is to be found equal to the demand, it is absolutely necessary that all housing efforts should be co-ordinated. I hope very much that the Government will make a great drive now with slum clearance. This is a particularly good time for such a drive because,. as has been said by many hon. Members, there is a great fall in the cost of building and money is very cheap. We shall hear more 237 on this question, no doubt, in the Debate on the Housing Bill on Thursday. I am convinced that from every point of view the riddance of the slums would be the greatest economy that the Government could possibly undertake, besides removing a most terrible blot on our social life
. I only wish that the Bill was as simple and as easy to understand as was the Minister's speech yesterday, or that I could afford to give a copy of the Minister's speech to every one of my constituents. Unfortunately many of the newspapers had not sufficient space to print the whole of the Minister's speech. Judging by my postbag, which must be the same as that of many hon. Members, there are many misapprehensions as to what this Bill will or will not do. One of the most general of these misapprehensions is that recontrol will be allowed in the case of "C" houses that are already decontrolled. I am glad that the Minister has taken steps, apart from his speech of yesterday, to make clear that that is not the case, and that there will not be any recontrol of decontrolled "C" houses.
The other question which is causing great concern in my division and in other parts of London is with regard to "C" tenancies in "A" houses. Many people are under the misapprehension that when these come to be decontrolled as between landlord and tenant, the subtenancy will also become decontrolled. I gather from the Minister that that is not the case. I understand that where tenants have sublet all the subtenancies will remain controlled until they become vacant. As far as I could understand the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) just now, he did not think this was the case. Therefore, I should be very glad if the Minister would repeat his statement.
I would ask one question with regard to "A" houses. I understand that contracts entered into between landlords and tenants still hold good. For instance, if a landlord has contracted to let an "A" house to Mr. Smith until August or a certain date, with six months' notice, this holds good and will not be cancelled when this Bill comes into force. I would ask this question: There are many cases—I know of some in different parts of London —where the tenancy is weekly or monthly, and with no written provision or record 238 of what in fact was the agreement. I wonder what is the intention of the Government in this matter. Surely something will be done to prevent a landlord from demanding possession at 24 hours' notice, which would be very unfair.
I am extremely glad that repossession is to be made easier for the landlord. I am also glad of the new protection given under the Bill to subtenants against exorbitant rents. I do hope that everything will be done to give full publicity to these rights in the simplest possible form, by notice in the rent books. I see in Clause 8 of the Bill that the Minister may make regulations, but I would like an assurance that he will make those regulations, because I think that that is the only way in which many people can get to know about their rights, and not only that, but about their duties. The fact that the Bill is carrying out the recommendations of a departmental committee, which presented a report that was unanimous, except for one member, and that the committee comprised all phases of political opinion, is a sure proof that the Measure is in the interests of the great majority of the people of this country, and is in no way a piece of sectional legislation.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
I think that the Government will find that the Bill will give rise to widespread and serious social disquiet, for a reason which I will deal with in a few minutes. Before coming to that, let me confine myself to general considerations and not raise Committee points which can be more usefully dealt with elsewhere. I want to say a few words about the Amendment which has been moved with such feeling and power. I cannot support that Amendment, because in my opinion the Bill brings two considerable benefits to the working classes in the narrow sense in which my hon. Friends opposite use that description. On the one hand, by continuing for the considerable period of five years control over the rental of "C" houses the Bill is going to bring a measure of relief to very large numbers of people in poor circumstances who have been disturbed in mind for a long time as to what their position would be. In that respect I think the Bill is to be welcomed.
The second point is with regard to subletting. I have heard observations to- 239 day as if this scandal of sub-letting were confined to particular areas like Glasgow, or to a particular kind of action by a landlord who has bought some scrap furniture and transformed parts of Ms house into furnished accommodation, thus removing it from the operation of the Statute. The scandal of sub-letting is occurring in every division in the land, and particularly in London. The most serious scandal arises in the houses of tenants who are themselves protected under the Statutes, and who are charging exorbitant rents for single rooms in many cases. I know of a case in Hammersmith where the rent was 10s. a week, and there was a bedroom to let unfurnished in the upper part of a very small house. The woman who was receiving the protection of the Statute was actually asking 25s. a week for that room. Numerous cases of poor old age pensioners have been brought to my notice in different parts of the country. They have said, with tears, that out of their 10s. a week they were being charged 9s. a week for a single room in a small house, itself under the protection of the Statutes.
In certain respects I think the Bill is going to bring relief and justice to large numbers of these people. On the grounds which I have mentioned I welcome the Bill and cannot therefore support the Amendment which has been moved from the opposite benches. But in considering the effect of the provisions of the Bill I have in mind a description of "the working classes" far wider than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridge-ton (Mr. Maxton). He is always talking of "the working classes" as if that description could be restricted to manual workers. I would not venture on the spur of the moment to offer the House a compact definition of "working classes" but, speaking generally, I have always regarded workers as those who are dependent upon their own exertions for their livelihood in whatever part of society they are found. I exclude from that description those fortunate persons who are living on inherited or unearned wealth.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
Most certainly. The hon. Member with unusual rashness ventures to ask me whether I call myself a worker. Any sort of test that he can apply with reference to that description, I should pass with the greatest ease, as he can discover for himself. For the moment, I leave the matter there, with the general description which I have given, and which, I think, will be accepted on all sides of the House. But with regard to the first Clause of the Bill I ask the Solicitor-General carefully to weigh this consideration, which I offer with the greatest respect to the Government. I believe that the operation of this Clause is going to cause serious and widespread disquiet among men and women who are entitled to look to this Government for protection.
Frankly, I do not believe that it is fully realised in the country yet, but let the House consider that the control level of rate-able value in the London area is going to be reduced from £105 to £45 and that in the provinces from £78 to £35. Let hon. Members reflect upon the sort of person who will be brought within the Bill as a result of that serious reduction. You will have the better class of artisans, superior craftsmen, clerks, small professional men—your local doctor, your local solicitor, your local dentist—all brought within the ambit of the Bill. What is the position of these people My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton frequently speaks with compelling eloquence about the plight under present economic conditions of those to whom he applies the description of "the working classes" in the narrow sense. But does he not know of the plight of these unfortunate men and women to whom I refer'? At this moment many of them are at their wits' end. I raise this matter with all the more earnestness because I have already received a number of letters not from my own constituency alone but many from dwellers in London who are gravely disturbed and concerned as to their position under the proposals in Clause 1.
These people at this moment are under the heaviest weather economically. Their expenses are mounting up, they are struggling bravely to maintain themselves in the positions to which they have attained and they are confronted with increasing difficulties. These men and women are key figures in industry. 241 [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No one in this House apart from one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite believes that the key people in industry are the manual workers. The manual workers are working under direction and, while I have the greatest respect for all these classes, I say that as a matter of fact persons of the sort I have just indicated are the key persons in industry. Those people, in present circumstances, do not know which way to turn—
§ Mr. MAXTON
Does the hon. and learned Member suggest that the position of a panel doctor who is a working member of the medical profession, or that of a local lawyer or a teacher, is comparable with the position of an unemployed engineer?
§ Mr. KNIGHT
Curiously enough, my hon. Friend has taken exactly those cases which are parallel. I am within the recollection of the House when I say that I was speaking for a class which included engineers.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
The unemployed engineer who has managed to keep his house in the London area is very often living in a house which is rated at £45. In the provinces—in the city of Nottingham for instance—many people of that sort are living in £35 houses, and will be brought within the ambit of the Bill. say that that provision opens up an alarming prospect to large numbers of people who are seriously disturbed as to what their position will be if this Bill in its present form becomes an Act. am bound to say to the Government, "Is their's the quarter from which a proposal of that kind should come '1" These men and women in the constituencies never contemplated that the National Government was going to level this blow at them and, with great respect, I ask, What authority did the Government receive from the country last year to frame these proposals? "Large sections of the electorate of the better classes helped the Government on that occasion. Did those people suppose for a moment that this sort of proposal was going to be brought forward by this Government? Frankly, I think that the Government have misjudged their opportunity, and I hope that they will not regret it. My 242 belief is that, as the days go by and the true meaning of this Bill begins to percolate through the country, the people to whom I have referred who are brought within this Clause are going to talk very loudly. My desire is that this Government should do well, that it should go on doing better and better—
§ Mr. KNIGHT
Still hoping by all means, and I hope still more when I reflect on the only possible alternative to this Government.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I do not know whether my hon. Friend considers himself as a second alternative but he frightens me even more than the other alternative. As a practical person who wants to see the business of this country carried on energetically and gives what help he can to the only Administration which is, apparently, available, I would like to see this Government going from strength to strength and doing even better than it has done. I hope therefore that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will appreciate the spirit in which I am making these remarks. I am taking advantage of this opportunity of a free interchange of views in the House to say quite frankly that the Government ought to reconsider the position as far as Clause I of the Bill is concerned. I suggest to the Solicitor-General and to the Minister of Health that before the Committee stage they ought to give serious consideration to the question of limiting the operation of Clause 1 and of lifting decontrol up to the highest possible figure. Otherwise, I think that the Government will be open to grave criticism—criticism which, I, myself, would desire to avoid.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. MICHAEL BEAUMONT
The hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight)with the help of some of his hon. Friends opposite has been making rather a melodramatic attack on Clause 1 of the Bill which he has described as a deadly blow levelled at certain classes of people. He appears to forget that the. decontrol which Clause 1 extends, has been going on slowly for years. The only people who are going to be affected by it are those who have been in their houses 243 for 12 years or more. Otherwise those houses would have fallen vacant within the period provided for, and would have been decontrolled already, and I do not think that the menace as he represented it to be, is going to be so widespread or so serious as he would have the House believe.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I fastened on the observation made by the Minister of Health yesterday that half the houses in Class "B" the class, to which I referred, are decontrolled. It is just the experience of the tenants in the decontrolled houses which is frightening these people who now find themselves about to be brought up against the same menace.
§ Mr. BEAUMONT
I suggest that the hon. and learned Member is incorrect in his assumption, and that the people who are disturbed are those who do not realise that this has been happening for a considerable number of years. They have a mistaken idea, which some of the speeches we have heard this afternoon are apt to foster, that decontrol and increase of rent are synonymous. Anyone who has had dealings with property during the last 12 years knows that such is not the ease. Many hon. Members opposite would like to believe that it is the case but in fact it is not. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said and several other lion. Members left it to be implied, that the 40 per cent. which is now permitted as an addition to the pre-war rent ought to be removed owing to the sacrifices asked for by the Government from the tenants at the last election. The hon. Member said and other hon. Members implied that similar sacrifices had not been asked for from the landlord. But they have not attempted to prove that assertion. I say it in no spirit of complaint but merely to state the facts and to prevent a wrong impression getting abroad, that there is no class which has been asked to make or which has made such sacrifices as the property-owning class.
I will join with hon. Members opposite in restoring rents to the pre-war level when they introduce provisions for reducing rates and taxes and the cost of repairs and wages to pre-war levels. When they get all these things down to 244 go into the Lobby with them to reduce rents to pre-war level. But while taxation on property is higher than ever it was before, when there are more rules and more regulations than ever before and when greater difficulties are put in the way of property owners than ever before, I cannot support the view of hon. Members opposite in that respect. I must protest, too, against the way in which hon. Members opposite continually base their arguments on the assumption that the majority of landlords are bad landlords. They appear to assume that all tenants are perfect and all landlords bad. Of course it is not so. The average people of this country are pretty decent on the whole and that applies to landlords as well as to tenants. I know some jolly bad landlords and some jolly bad tenants but I know more of both who are very good. I appeal to hon. Members opposite to exercise a sense of proportion in considering these matters. Landlords have bad to bear the burden of greatly increased taxation and I do not think it reasonable that they should be asked to bear the burdens of the tenants as well. There may be other reasons for arguing against this 40 per cent, increase but to advance as a thesis that landlords ought to bear their tenants' contribution to the national Exchequer, as well as their own, is not reasonable.
I desire for a moment to turn to a totally different side of the question and to consider how the Bill will affect housing in the rural areas. The curse of the Rent Restrictions Acts, although in some measure the situation is improved by this Bill, but not as far as we should like to see it improved, is that the questions of possession and of rent have been mixed up. Control has insisted not only that the rent shall be limited, but that it shall be impossible for the landlord to obtain possession. This Bill, in one of its Clauses, gives the landlord a more reasonable chance of obtaining possession of his own house if he wants it, and so far that is all to the good, but it still, particularly with reference to the non-decontrol of Class "C" houses, puts the landlord of the controlled house in the position that he not only has to let his house at a limited rent, but he cannot get possession when he wants it. I cannot see, and I have never been able to see, what the logic of putting those two things 245 together is, and certainly what the logic of it will be when decontrol does not come with vacant possession. When decontrol and vacant possession came together there was something to be said for it, but if, as under this Bill, decontrol does not come by obtaining possession, I submit that there is no case for keeping the landlord out of possession of a house if he wants it, provided he is going to keep it at a reasonable rent.
Practically everybody will agree that it is reasonable that Class "C" houses shall continue in control as far as rent is concerned. I freely give hon. Members opposite that point, and I admit that there is serious danger of profiteering in the rents of what the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) described as the working classes, accepting his definition of that term, not that of the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham. There is that danger, and I equally appreciate that something must be done about it and that the continued control of Class "C" houses is not a bad way of dealing with it. But this is the point: If you are going to continue the system of refusing vacant possession to the owner while the house is controlled, you are going to do very serious harm to the re-conditioning of houses and the improvement of housing conditions in the rural areas.
As I said in this House in another connection the other day, the housing of the rural population, the agricultural labourers, is not and never has been an economic proposition. It has always been a question of providing them houses, and the house has been, in part, the wages of the man. By keeping control of the "C" class houses—and virtually all agricultural cottages come under that class— you are putting the landlord in the position that if a house becomes vacant he has three courses open to him. He may not at the moment have somebody else whom he wants to put in. It may be that he keeps that house as attached to a certain farm or for a certain purpose. It is not a tied cottage—and some of us are as strongly against tied cottages as hon. Members opposite—but he has to provide accommodation for the workers on that particular farm, and by custom that cottage is attached to that farm.
For some reason or other, temporarily possibly the farm is without a tenant. Under the Bill as it stands, the landlord 246 will be in this position, that he has either to keep that cottage vacant for an indefinite period of time, until it is wanted for the purposes of the farm, or he can occupy it himself, or he has got to put somebody in, who will stay there after the cottage is wanted again for the farm to which it is attached, and whom he cannot remove. Then, as to the re-conditioning, it often happens that you have two attached cottages, and they fall vacant together. It is not convenient to re-condition them or to improve them immediately. The landlord possibly wants to put somebody in until after the Budget or until for some other reason he knows what he can do with those cottages, and again he will be put in the position that, if he fills those houses, if he wants to wait for any reason or has anything he wants to do with them in the future, in the way of re-conditioning, he has either to leave them vacant till he is able to do that—and in these uncertain days it is very difficult to know when he can—or he has to fill them with tenants who may by their presence there put off the re-conditioning of the houses indefinitely.
I am going to make a suggestion to the Minister, which I hope he will consider very carefully before the Committee stage of the Rill. It is purely a suggestion, with nothing particularly sacred about the figure, but I suggest that below a certain low rental, I will say an annual value of £10, Class "C" houses, particularly in the rural areas, should become decontrolled except that the rental may not be raised above that figure. That is to say, that as far as rent is concerned, the houses will still be controlled, in that the rent cannot be raised above that figure, but that it will be possible for landlords in the rural areas to put people into those houses for a short time and to obtain vacant possession when they need it. Experience has shown that the present laws—and, I suppose, the law in future will be the same—do not give the good landlord a proper opportunity of obtaining possession.
With that suggestion and that criticism, I want to welcome the Bill as a courageous and constructive effort to deal with a very serious problem. I do not agree with those who say that it is ill-timed. I believe that this question of rent restriction has been a continuous 247 canker which has been damaging the housing question and seriously affecting for ill the housing, anyhow of the rural population, for years past. A constructive step towards this end is a good and a sound step, and I congratulate the Government on having had the courage to take it.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
It seems to me that during the whole course of this Debate the House has lost the immense significance of certain passages in the Minister's speech in introducing the Bill. The most significant part of that speech, to my mind, was that, having introduced a Bill to continue the control of certain classes of property for another five years, he announced at the same time that he was going to introduce another Bill this week which in its essence is a Bill to produce more houses of the same class. The significance of that juxtaposition of the two Bills is obvious. As anyone who has had any practical experience of housing will know, as long as he continues the control of any given class of house, not a single house of that class will ever be built in this country. That has been the experience in the past. The Minister pointed out that in the case of certain classes of house, a very large number have been built. The demands of people for that class of house were being met. Why? Because the degree of control was very small indeed. Then he pointed out that in the case of Class "C" houses practically none of them had been built. Again why? Because the control was very drastic in that particular case.
The right hon. Gentleman gave vent to another fallacy, which I think he himself must really know is a fallacy, when he suggested—I do not say that he said it in actual words—that if he were to order decontrol of the whole of a certain class of house, the rent of those houses would at once bound up. He must know perfectly well that that is not the case. The reason why the rents of decontrolled houses jump up, as they undoubtedly do, is simply that there are only a few houses decontrolled bit by bit, instead of the whole lot being decontrolled at one time. Everybody knows quite well that if decontrol were wiped out completely from the whole of the "C" class houses, the rise in rents would be hardly appreciable.
248 How could the landlords charge more rent? In most cases even the controlled rents are more than the tenants can afford to pay, and the fallacy to which I have referred springs from the view that what a landlord wants, if lie has working class property, is to see it empty. The only condition under which a landlord wishes to see his house empty is the condition which is set up by the control of rents. Under no other circumstances can any landlord wish to have a vacant house in his possession.
I have done my best, as the Americans say, to debunk the housing policy of the Government, but I am afraid it is absolutely useless. We have got into the habit of living on cant entirely. But those of us who have spent both money and time in the endeavour to house the working classes wish that sooner or later some Government of this country would see that they themselves are making the difficulty by this foolish interference with the ordinary laws of supply and demand, which apply just as much to Class "C" houses as they do to any other class of houses. I would, in conclusion, again impress upon the House that the introduction during this week of a Bill to produce more houses of the "C" class is an absolutely necessary consequence of the extension of the control of those houses for another five years, because the Minister and everybody who is most concerned knows very well that the extension of that control means that not a single "C" class house will be built until the expiration of those five years, except at the expense of the rest of the people.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
I have listened very attentively to nearly all the speeches that have been made on this Bill, and from every part of the House the general opinion has been expressed that there should be control of some kind. Some would have gone in for a lesser amount of control than the Bill provides, and others would have adopted more, but the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) alone believes in the decontrol of all houses. Having known the hon. Member for a considerable number of years, I am not surprised at that, because if he had found himself in agreement with any particular body of men in this House it would have been something new. The hon. Member for 249 Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who moved the Amendment, thought it right and proper to give us a lecture as to why we were not dividing against the Bill. He is perfectly entitled to do that, and we, on these benches, do not resent it. I hope however, he will take my words in reply in the same spirit as that in which we have taken his criticism of us. Everybody knows that the hon. Member for Gorbals and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), when they are advocating anything that is for the benefit of the working classes, do it always with zealousness, earnestness, and sincerity, and while there may be a difference of opinion between us as to the method of approach to this Bill, I suggest to them that we have as much sincerity, earnestness, and zeal as they have.
They believe that a direct Amendment against the Second Reading is the best course for them to take. They are entitled to think that. We think that the best course is to let the Bill have a Second Reading and then to put down Amendments on the Committee stage and try to induce the House to accept them with a view to improving the Bill. But, says the hon. Member for Gorbals, the Minister told us yesterday that he would not be prepared to accept any Amendments. If that be so, the same thing applies to the Amendment which we are discussing now. If the Minister will not accept Amendments to the Clauses of the Bill, it stands to reason that he will not accept this Amendment, which is a direct negative to the Second Reading. Therefore, we are all in the same boat. Neither my hon. Friends below the Gangway nor the Members who sit on these benches are satisfied with the Bill. While we are not satisfied with the contents of the Bill, we are less satisfied with the Bill because of what it does not contain. We consider that the recontrol of decontrolled houses ought to he given a great deal of consideration by the House. We hope that when an Amendment is put down for the recontrol of decontrolled houses, the Minister will not be so emphatic as he was yesterday. I notice that he said:The recontrol of that house would be a measure of frank confiscation, and the House could not for a moment contemplate that possibility."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 12th December, 1932; col. 55, Vol. 273.]I am not so sure that it would be confiscation. Is the Minister satisfied that the 250 people who have bought property lately have paid a higher price than the value of the property during the War? Assuming that they have, is it not a fact that, while these houses might be confiscated if there were recontrol, have the landlords not been exploiting the tenants during the time that they have been land-lords? Surely if it is right and fair for landlords to take advantage of decontrol to exploit the tenants, it cannot be wrong for the Government to put these houses under proper control again.
The Bill makes no provision for the reduction of rents. We on these benches believe that tile time has arrived when there ought to be some reduction. During the War in every class wages went up, and, owing to the circumstances of the times, were ever-increasing week by week. The 40 per cent. that was put on rents to meet the requirements of the landlords when control came into operation, was put on at a time when the wages of the building operatives were much higher than they are to-day, and when the cost of building materials was considerably higher. On those grounds alone we are entitled to say that, even if there is not a reduction in the standard rents, or if they are not returned to the pre-war level, there is a case for considerable reduction in the 40 per cent. that is allowed to the landlord for repairs. It is a well-known fact, and every Member who has addressed the House has expressed it fearlessly, that landlords have not used the 40 per cent. for the purpose for which it was intended. Repairs have not taken place, and time and time again in our various constituencies we are getting complaints about the lack of repairs to houses. I add my plea to that, made by Members of his own party that during the Committee stage the Minister will consider some reduction.
I want to draw the Minister's attention to Clause 2, where the rate-able value of Class "C" houses is dealt with. Sub-section (1) says:Subject as hereinafter provided, Section two of the Act of 1923 (which provides for the exclusion of dwelling-houses from the application of the principal Act in certain cases) shall not apply to any dwelling-house of which the rate-able value on the appointed day did not exceed "—in regard to Class "C" houses, £13. Suppose the local assessment committee makes a. re-assessment, which I under- 251 stand some of them are contemplating, and suppose they assess one of the £13 houses at a higher rate-able value, will that take the house out of Class "C"?
§ Mr. CAPE
I take it then, that after the appointed day any variation in the rate-able value will not be looked upon as any change in control or decontrol. Having got that point satisfactorily cleared up, I want to draw attention to Clause 2 (3), which says:For the purposes of this section it shall be the duty of the council of every county borough and of every county district to make and keep a register …I would like to know if the word "shall" means that the register is compulsory? I listened with attention to the hon. Lady the Member for West Willesden (Mrs. Tate) last night, and she put the same point. If councils are not to be compelled to keep this register, we all know that a large number of councils will not bother to take any action. I hope that the Minister will give that point consideration during the Committee stage. I want also to draw attention to paragraphs (a) and (b) of Sub-section (1) of Clause 3. There we find that among the considerations which shall guide the court in deciding whether to grant an ejectment order are:(a) the court has power so to do under the provisions set out in the First Schedule to this Act; or(b) the court is satisfied that suitable alternative accommodation is available for the tenant or will be available for him when the order or judgment takes effect.Then Sub-section (2) says:A certificate of the housing authority for the area in which the said dwelling-house is situated, certifying that the authority will provide suitable alternative accommodation for the tenant by a date specified in the certificate shall be conclusive evidence that suitable alternative accommodation will be available for him by that date.I am very dissatisfied with large portions of the First Schedule with regard to the manner in which certain landlords can get ejectment orders. I should like to know if Sub-section (2) means that the certificate of the housing authority as there mentioned means that a certificate must be given by the housing authority 252 in regard to a house owned by a private landlord or only in regard to a house owned by the authority itself? Suppose a private landlord takes a tenant to court, asks for an ejectment order, and says that he will provide alternative accommodation by a specified date. Does this Sub-section mean that the housing authority in that locality will have to provide a certificate to satisfy the court that the alternative accommodation will be found, or does it mean that that will only be done in regard to a house owned by the local authority?
With regard to sub-tenancies, the hon. Member for West Willesden made a very effective contribution to the Debate. She described some harrowing scenes that had come under her notice in her locality. I think that the House generally felt the situation very acutely. I can assure the hon. Lady that her experience has been undergone by the majority of Members of the House, particularly by the Members on these benches. Throughout the length and breadth of the land, in every city and town, and in practically every village, housing scandals exist, and they are a disgrace to a civilised country. While I admired the speech of the hon. Lady and agreed with practically everything that she said, I thought that she might have finished her fine speech by describing how these things are to be obviated. The only means of obviating these terrific scandals is by providing more houses at reasonable rents for the working classes, and, as an hon. Friend reminds me, by eliminating private enterprise. I have the same fear as the hen. Member for Gorbals that instead of there being more working-class houses of the "C" class as a result. of this Bill there will be fewer, and therefore these terrific scandals which have been described to us and of which we have read in the Press will increase.
We say quite frankly, and without hesitation, that a good case can be made out for a reduction of rents. An hon. Member for one of the Sheffield divisions and the hon. Member for Gorbals have pointed out that since the departmental committee issued their report wages have steadily decreased. I myself believe that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) was the one member of that committee who took the long view in this matter. He saw that the situation as it 253 was presented to them at the end of 1930 and the beginning of 1931, bad as it was, would steadily grow worse. In every State Department there has been a reduction of salaries; in every industry a reduction of wages has taken place, and still further reductions are contemplated. Even in the matter of War Loans there has been a reduction of interest. That being so, it would be interesting if the Minister would tell us how he justifies the retention of the 40 per cent, increase of rents which was adopted 16 or 18 years ago. Probably he will have reasons, but up to the present we have been too dull to perceive the justification.
To make this Bill as effective as it ought to be, and acceptable with graciousness by the tenant occupiers of houses, the Minister will have to accept a considerable number of Amendments. Not only ought Class "C" houses to remain controlled, but Class "A" and Class "B" houses also, because the majority of their occupiers have suffered considerable reductions in income, and therefore are less able to pay the rent. I know there will be a fear in the mind of the Minister—not that he is afraid to face any difficult situation—that he may give offence to some of the members and supporters of his own party, that is, the landlord class. I suggest that in making any law it is not the good men one has to consider but the bad men, and that the more stringent the law is against the bad men the better it is for the good men. We may just as well be honest and admit that in this country there are good landlords as well as bad ones, and the harsher we make this Measure the better chance we shall have of getting the bad landlord to toe the line and come into conformity with his fellows. The good landlord has nothing to fear from any Act of Parliament that may be passed, and in my opinion he does not fear anything.
In view of the fact that the Bill controls the house rather than the tenant, and makes certain provisions for dealing with the difficulty of sub-tenancies— though not by any means going as far as we should like, and omitting certain things which we believe ought to have been included to make the Bill of real value to the working classes—we shall not divide against the Second Reading, but we shall certainly put down Amendments dealing not only with the points raised by the different speakers from these 254 benches but with other points. I cannot speak for all my colleagues, but for my own part Amendments will not be put down with any desire to wreck the Bill, but to help, if I can, to make it a Measure worthy not only of the Minister but of all the Members of the House. I shall not put down Amendments in Committee for the sake of putting down Amendments, arid not engage in criticism for the sake of criticising; my object will be to try to make the Bill much better than it is to-day. I hope that in Committee the Minister will meet our Amendments in the same spirit, so that when the Bill becomes the law of the land every Member will be able to say he is prouder of the Bill and that all have contributed to make it worthy of the House and more fitted to deal with the situation as it affects the working classes.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL
The Government have nothing of which to complain with regard to the reception of this Bill. It is true that a certain element of discord has been introduced by the action of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) in moving an Amendment— in a speech which, if he will allow me to say so, was a very fine Parliamentary performance—but I cannot help thinking that his Amendment is designed rather as a Vote of Censure on the Opposition Front Bench rather than as a serious attempt to destroy a Bill which, even the hon. Member himself admits, contains one great benefit for the poorest class in this country.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I would like to say that if we could do it we would destroy the Bill. We should have put down this Amendment if the Labour party had been in office. In view of the composition of the committee on whose report this Bill is founded, we realise that there is really a Coalition to pass it. In our opinion, the Amendment is a Vote of Censure on the Bill, and on anybody who supports it, whether belonging to the Conservative party or the Labour party.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am going to deal fully with the Amendment later, but, meanwhile, I will deal with a number of suggestions—Committee points, but none the worse for that—which have been put forward. I shall not now discuss them in detail, but I think it will be convenient if I indicate 255 what the attitude of the Government towards some of them will be in Committee. In reply to what the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) said a moment ago, the Government will certainly welcome assistance from any quarter to make the Measure a workable one, as long as the main principles of the Bill are maintained. The hon. Member asked three specific questions with which I will deal at once. He asked in regard to Class "C" houses whether, if the rate-able value changed after what is called "the appointed day," that would affect the status of the house. The answer is, "No, it will not." May I, in passing, correct one little misapprehension which crept into his question The house £13 is not the only one which comes within what we call category "C." All those—all paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Clause 2 (1) are Class "C" houses; but the point is the status of the house as a Class "C" house—will be decided by the rate-able value on the appointed day. Then the hon. Member asks whether the local authority will be obliged to keep a register in which the landlord is to register the decontrol. The answer is, "Yes." The Bill says that it shall be the duty of the local authority to keep that register, and if they fail to do it they can be ordered by the Courts to keep the register. Next he asked, with regard to alternative accommodation, whether the certificate of the local authority would apply only to accommodation provided by the local authority. Again the answer to that is, "Yes." The Clause itself says:The certificate of the housing authorities certifying that the authority will provide suitable alternative accommodation.That does not mean that they would necessarily have to build it. If in any way they provide the accommodation and give a certificate, that certificate will be conclusive evidence of the availability of that accommodation. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the hon. and learned Member for South Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) asked questions as to the effect of the Bill on the holding up of improvement schemes. Everybody knows that at present very desirable improvements can be held up by one or more obstructive tenants. We think that 256 situation is dealt with by the provisions in the Bill with regard to alternative accommodation. The local authority can provide houses. The alternative accommodation need not be actually existing, it may be prospective as long as it is available by the required date, and the certificate of the local authority that housing will be available is conclusive. On that the owner will be able to regain possession, and having regained possession he can, of course, pull down the house. Therefore, in the case where everybody is agreed and the court is satisfied that the claim is just, we get this position: It is to the interest of the landlord to improve his property. It is to the interest of the local authority to provide alternative accommodation, because presumably the improvement of the landlord's property will improve its rate-able value, and although the tenant may not wish to be compelled to move, nevertheless, as long as the court is satisfied that at least as good accommodation is provided, everybody's interests are satisfied.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
Are we to understand that a council house will be deemed to be suitable accommodation if the rent of it is larger than the rent of the house that the man is paying for the house that he already occupies?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
If it comes within the alternative provisions of the Clause, it will nevertheless be suitable alternative accommodation. But I remind the hon. Member that all the time there is the overriding condition that the court must be satisfied?
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
May I make one comment upon that? A certificate given under Sub-section (2) of Clause 3 makes the local authority the judge as to what is or is not suitable accommodation, because its certificate is conclusive, and therefore the court cannot inquire into the details of it, whereas in the other parts of Clause 3 undoubtedly the county court judge is the sole judge as to whether the alternative accommodation is suitable or not.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
It is just that sort of thing that we shall have to thresh out in Committee. While that is true of the particular Clause, nevertheless the whole procedure is governed by 257 the words at the beginning of Clause 3, that the court has to consider a thing to be reasonable. That is the safeguard in regard to all these provisions.
The hon. Lady the Member for West Willesden (Mrs. Tate) raised a point in regard to overcrowding. She said that the new overcrowding provision in this Bill might be rendered useless by a landlord being induced to increase the number of sublettings, and therefore the amount of overcrowding by the 5 per cent. extra, which he gets in regard to each. So far as that is not coupled with any extortionate demands for rent, that is true. There is no provision in this Bill to deal with that. The 5 per cent. increase is not generally regarded as a bait or inducement to landlords to create subtenancies; it is regarded as the compensation of the landlord because of tenancies created by his tenants against his will. But as soon as overcrowding is coupled with the exaction of extortionate rents, there may be danger, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) and the hon. Member for North Kensington (Mr. J. Duncan), of collusion to that end between the landlord and the tenant. With regard to that, I answer that the Bill, coupled with the principal Act, does afford a remedy. First of all, the tenant has the right to get an apportionment of rent, and that at any rate, after the apportionment has been made, he is liable to a penalty for attempting to extort inordinate rents.
I would like to call attention to the fact, when it is said that there might be collusion between the landlord and the tenant, that if that may truly be said in any given case the landlord also may find himself liable to a penalty because the tenant is exacting extortionate rents. Hon. Members will remember that this Bill provides that it is compulsory for a tenant to inform his landlord of the rents that he is charging, and if the landlord went on allowing that to happen, it may be that he would be responsible just as much as the tenant. He would be liable for aiding and abetting the tenant to extort extravagant rents. The same thing is true in profiteering with furnished flats. There, again, under the principal Acts, there are provisions exacting penalties for profiteering in furnished lettings. I 258 will remind the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds), who raised this point, that in addition to penalties for profiteering in furnished lettings, the person who sublets furnished runs the risk, according to a recent decision, of losing the control of the house. It has been held that the effect of subletting furnished is to take the dwelling house altogether out of the scope of the Act.
§ Mrs. TATE
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman. I understand that a tenant can apply for an apportionment order. That point interested me very much, because it applies to the point which I raised in Clause 7 as to the setting up of the committees. Although the subtenant can apply for an apportionment order, the Inter-Departmental Committee admitted that, in the case of Mancheser houses, whereas there were 4,000 cases in which tenants might have applied for apportionment orders it was found that only 200 tenants had actually applied. If such a minute fraction of the tenants apply for apportionment orders, the provision becomes of little value.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The hon. Lady's criticisms are perfectly just. It is precisely for that reason that we are setting up powers for local authorities to give advice. It is exactly in this class of case that those powers which we are giving to the local authority will be so useful. I was just going to point out with regard to the rights of tenants of furnished lettings, where a profiteering rent is being exacted with regard to the rights of subtenants where extortionate rents are being demanded that could not possibly be justified by their proportion to the head rent, that the Advisory Committee to be set up by the local authorities can be extremely useful, also in regard to such things as the provision of alternative accommodation. They can defend the provisions of the Bill, which in themselves are perfectly good, from being rendered nugatory by the ignorance of those who are entitled to enforce them. With all respect to the hon. Member for East Newcastle (Sir R. Aske), I do not in the least agree that the setting up of these committees will he useless. Of course, they will not act, or purport to act, as a substitute for the Court of Appeal in deciding knotty problems and fine points that arise in the construction 259 of the Act. That is not their purpose. Their purpose is to safeguard the ignorant, and to enable them to realise what are their rights under the Act.
The hon. Lady the Member for West Willesden and the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham raised a point with regard to reconditioning. They said that there was nothing in this Bill to encourage a landlord to recondition his premises, as distinct from spending money on structural alterations on the one hand or on repairs on the other. That, again, is perfectly true. It is a very difficult subject. I may say that the Government are prepared to give careful consideration to any means that can be suggested to help property owners to spend money on reconditioning. If the hon. Lady has any suggestion which she could bring forward in Committee, it certainly will receive consideration.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys) asked a question in regard to alternative accommodation among agricultural houses. He asked whether the agricultural committee's certificate was conclusive. The answer to that is, that it is. The wording in the Bill is practically the same as in the former Act, and there has been a decision under that Act making the certificates conclusive. He also asked, with regard to Clause 2, Sub-section (2), whether that would apply to the obligation to register a house which had already been decontrolled, and whether it would apply in the case where the landlord himself was in occupation of the house. That Sub-section does not apply, except where the house is let at the time of the passing of the Act. Technical difficulties, into which I do -not intend to go at the present time, in the way of dealing with anything but the case of existing tenancies, has made it necessary to lay down this provision only in regard to houses which, at the moment when the Act comes into force, are actually let.
The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Llewellyn-Jones) asked why were we giving the Minister power to prescribe the form instead of putting the form into the Schedule to the Bill. The answer to that is that once before, Parliament put the only form which I think has hitherto been prescribed, into the Schedule to an earlier Act, and everybody knows what 260 the result was. The whole system, as it happened, went wrong. There was litigation that went to the House of Lords, and it became necessary to pass an amending Bill and to make it retrospective. In the circumstances we think that it would be better to allow the Minister to correct any mistakes which appear in the form. The hon. Member for Chippenham asked a very important question in regard to the rights of "C" class tenants, where the "C" dwelling house is contained within either an "A" or a "B" house. Several hon. Members have asked questions upon this point in one form or another. May 'therefore say what is intended to be brought about, and what I think is brought about, by the Bill? If there is a "C" house within either an "A" or a "B" house, the existing "C" tenant, as long as he stays there, is protected. If the "C" tenant gives up his tenancy, there is a difference, according as the house is or is not decontrolled. The Bill decontrols all "A" houses. Therefore, if the "C" tenant in an "A" house gives up, the "C" house becomes decontrolled with the rest of the house; similarly if the "C" house is part of a "B" house which has already been decontrolled. But if it is part of a "B" house which is still controlled, the giving up by the subtenant does not, as under the existing law, effect decontrol. The house stays exactly as it was.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
Suppose there is a "B" house of which the landlord has got every part except the "C" dwelling, which is within the "B" house; directly the tenant of the "C" dwelling goes out, the landlord of the "B" house would then be in control of the whole house. Would not that bring about decontrol?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
Yes, I admit that it would. If the original tenant is no longer there, the landlord and the subtenant are in direct relationship.
§ Mr. JAMES DUNCAN
Is it not, therefore, the fact that the pool which it is the object and intention of the Bill to maintain with regard to just over 4,000,000 houses, will, by the arrangement of the Clause which the Solicitor-General is now discussing, gradually be decreased?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I want to make it quite clear that this particular 261 element of decontrol applies only to a very limited class of case, and it can apply only where a "C" house has been effected by the tenant of the house subletting, without the will of the landlord. Only within that limited area can this particular point arise at all.
§ Mr. JANNER
Is it true to say that it is not only in the case where a subtenancy has arisen against the will of the landlord, but also in the case which has arisen with the consent of the landlord— a subtenancy created with the consent of the landlord. Is it not true that that will affect a large number of dwelling-houses in Class "C"?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I do not want to pin myself to the words "against the consent of the landlord." Let me say the subtenancy has been created by the tenant and not by the landlord. I cannot attempt to cover the whole of the various questions which have been raised. Let me now pass from these points to the Amendment.
§ Mr. CAPORN
May I ask whether in regard to reconditioning the Solicitor-General has considered Section 2 of the Act of 1920 which allows a percentage? Will it still apply?
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL
Of course that applies if I have got the right Section in mind, but that is not reconditioning in the way we were discussing it—that section refers to structural alterations. The type of reconditioning we were discussing is where there have been put in internal improvements such as bathrooms and sinks, not covered by that particular percentage, and not repairs in the ordinary sense of the word.
Now I come to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Gorbals. He moved the rejection of this Bill on three grounds which I propose, if I may, to deal with in the reverse order from that in which they appear on the Order Paper. He says that this Bill proposes to decontrol certain classes of houses which are at present under control. He says it fails to restore control to houses which are already decontrolled, and that it makes no provision for the reduction of rents of working-class houses. May I just recall to the House what are the classes of houses which are dealt with 262 by this Bill? I am dealing with that part of the Amendment which objects to the Bill because it decontrols certain houses at present under control. There are about 6,000,000 houses still under control, and these have been divided into three categories by the committee. I have listened attentively throughout the Debate, and I do not remember any Member objecting to this classification into these three classes of houses.
Now take the "C" class first. That represents more than two-thirds of the houses at present under control. With regard to these it is not merely proposed to maintain the existing control, but it is proposed to forbid any form of decontrol for the next five years. And yet the hon. Member for Bridgeton, when seconding the Amendment, said there was nothing in the Bill which was of any benefit to the vast majority of the working classes.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
It is not only the status quo. That is just where the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. The status quo is that these houses are now controlled, and may become decontrolled at any moment by vacant possession. What we are introducing is that they should remain controlled for five years, and how the change we are making can be said to be of no benefit to the working classes passes my comprehension. With regard to the next category "B" the existing law will apply, and that represents about one-fifth of the whole of the houses under control. It is only in Class "A," which represents about one-twelfth of the houses under control, that we are enacting that the Rent Restrictions Acts shall cease to apply. Will hon. Members be good enough to note that houses in that class are of a rate-able value in London of £45 and in the provinces £35? But in rental value they represent, in London, houses rented from 28s. to 36s. and in the country from 22s. to 27s. I invite hon. Members to consider whether it can justly be argued that there is any real shortage of that class of house.
Now let us see for a moment what are the reasons for distinguishing between these three classes of houses. Let it always be remembered that the restrictions im- 263 posed by the Rent Restrictions Acts are an artificial interference with the ordinary law of the landlord and tenant. Let us also remember that these Acts do not apply at all to any house built since 1919, nor to any old houses which have been decontrolled—and decontrol has been in force for the last nine years. With these considerations in mind, there ought to be two factors which, plainly, must be taken into consideration when you are considering what you are to do with any class of house. With regard to each class, surely it must be right in the first place to say, What is the comparison between the number of houses in that class which still remain controlled and the number which have either become decontrolled or have been newly built since 1919? There is no justification for prolonging control in a minority of cases. As the committee truly pointed out, if you continue control for the benefit of the minority you are injuring the majority of the tenants of houses in that category because, by restricting supply of that kind of house in the open market, you are artificially raising the prices.
The second factor must be this: You want to compare the rate at Which the new building is overtaking the decontrol of houses in any class, because if the new building is equal to, or in excess of, the number of houses which are being decontrolled there is, at any rate, reasonably plain evidence that private enterprise is filling the gap in that particular class, and there is no likelihood of the exaction of scarcity rents. If these are the right factors to take into account, may I recall how the matter stands with regard to the three categories? In Class "A" houses the decontrolled houses, and the new, exceed the number of houses left under control by about 50 per cent. and, at the same time, the new houses which have been built considerably exceed the number of houses which have been decontrolled. In Class "B" it is true that the number of houses which have been decontrolled, and the new houses, are slightly less in number than those which remain controlled. On the other hand, the new houses in that category exceed the number of houses decontrolled by three and one-third times. Now contrast these two positions with that which prevails in "C" houses. In that class the number of houses which still remain controlled exceeds by con- 264 siderably more than twice the number of houses decontrolled and the new houses; and not only so, but the number of new houses built is less than those which have been decontrolled.
Now, surely, in these circumstances there is a plain case to justify the Government tightening up restrictions in Class "C"; for taking them off altogether in Class "A" and leaving Class "B" as it is. That is what this Bill proposes. So much for the first ground on which the rejection of this Bill is moved. Then the hon. Member says that we have failed to restore control to houses which already have been decontrolled. May I point out that the hon. Member himself recognises that there is no conceivable justification for treating the house which has become decontrolled differently from the house which has been newly built. If, under the law which Parliament passed nine years ago, people have got back control of their houses on the faith of what Parliament has done, there is no more justification for changing their position than there is for changing the position of the man who has built a new house on the faith of Parliament having said that there will not be control of new houses. The two things are, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same. Whether you interfere with the one, or the other, or both, it must be obvious to all hon. Members that you would shatter at once the confidence of the building trade, and this retrospective legislation would have a most devastating effect. It would destroy for all time any hope of solving this problem by private enterprise. It would, in effect, be a most glaring piece of retrospective legislation. It would not even penalise those who have had the benefit of decontrol because, as has been pointed out, on the faith of the decontrol provisions which have been in operation now for nine years, property has changed hands and, because of decontrol, the value has to some extent been enhanced. It is the people who have paid the price, and not those who have received it who would be penalised by restrictive legislation. Estate Duty has also been levied by the Government on decontrolled property the value of which has gone up. All this is recognised quite plainly by the committee in their report. It is also recognised, and dealt with, in the Minority Report to which the hon. Member for Gorbals paid such close 265 adherence. There it is dealt with in one sentence, which I propose to quote. The answer suggested in the Minority Report to this argument, which I should have thought would have appealed to the sense of justice of anyone, is that:The comparatively few who have been trading in house property and who might suffer pecuniary loss would not, I am satisfied, come within the category of the working class in its truest sense.I understand what the working classes are, but I am not quite sure what is meant by the working classes in their truest sense. What I suspect is meant is that the working-class man—and this is one of the hardest cases with which we have to deal—who has bought a house in order that he may live in it, although he may not be able to get possession of it, has become a capitalist, and so is not a working-class man in the truest sense of the term. However that may be, I am bound to say that I hope it will be a very long time before any Measure is passed which would give effect to this argument and confiscate the property of a man as long as he is not a working-class man in the truest sense of the term. That is certainly not a principle to which the present Government are going to give effect.
I have still to deal with the last reason for which the hon. Member for Gorbals moves the rejection of the Bill. He says that the Bill makes no provision for the reduction of rents of working-class houses. I agree whole-heartedly with one thing that the hon. Member said, namely, that this is not a question of the difference between now and 18 months ago—it is a question of principle. I agree that it is a question of principle. If you take off the permitted increase of 40 per cent., or any part of it, you are going again to indulge in a glaring instance of retrospective legislation of a confiscatory kind. Again let it be remembered that, on the faith of these permitted increases, which have now been in force, I think, for 12 years, and possibly in the hope of decontrol in addition, countless sales have taken place. Let it be observed, also, that to take off the permitted increase now would hit hardest the best type of landlord—the man who has spent up to the hilt on the repairs for which he got his 25 per cent. He has spent that money in the hope of being able to recoup himself out of the 266 permitted increase, and it is now proposed that that permitted increase should be cut off.
That is not the only consideration. Let me remind hon. Members that this matter is being discussed in the light of the fact that we are taking the "A" houses out of the Rent Restriction Act altogether, whereas the Committee, perfectly justly, recognised that the cost of repairs in the case of the lower-class houses is much higher per house than in the case of the higher-class houses. I am not going into the details, but they made it perfectly plain that, although they agreed that, as the hon. Member for Gorbals has said, the cost of repairs had gone down, there was nothing in that fact which made the 25 per cent, for repairs excessive in the case of the Iower-class houses, so that there is really no justification on that ground for doing away with the permitted increases.
The real argument, however, which the hon. Member for Gorbals addressed to the House—and it is the argument which appears in the Minority Report—is the argument of working-class conditions generally, the condition of the unemployed, the 10 per cent. cut, the part-time employment, and the rest. These are the things which, the hon. Member said, made it impossible to go on with the permitted increases. I suggest to him that he has for the moment slipped into a confusion of thought. I have often heard him and the hon. Member for Bridgeton maintain the philosophy which is known as "work or maintenance." I have heard them maintain with great force that the working man is entitled to be employed, or that, if he is not employed, food, shelter and clothing are to be found for him. That is the argument. Yes, but they are to be found by the State. The whole resources of Supply and Ways and Means are to be brought to bear to raise, not only from people who happen to derive their income from house property, but from all the rest of the community, these benefits for those who are out of work. I have never heard the hon. Members, for example, suggest that the baker who supplies a loaf to an unemployed man is obliged to charge 40 per cent. less than the market price for it, or that the bootmaker who supplies a pair of boots to a man who is in part- 267 time employment is obliged to charge 20 per cent. less than the market price far those boots.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
Still less have I heard either hon. Member suggest that, because some bootmakers and some bakers supply bread and boots to unemployed people, therefore, they would be obliged to charge 40 per cent. less to all their customers. That, however, is what the hon. Member is proposing with regard to the landlord. His argument is that, because some tenants are unemployed, or only partly unemployed, therefore all landlords are to reduce their rents by 40 per cent.
§ Really, that will not do; hon. Members who are so persistent in urging this particular philosophy must also be consistent in its application. While, as I have said, no complaint can be made against the way in which the Bill has been received, I think it is true to say that the welcome which it has received generally from the House has been given because the Government have succeeded in steering the old ship Private Enterprise successfully between the rock of confiscation on the one hand and the whirlpool of profiteering on the other, and I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 326; Noes, 0.269
|Division No. 25.]||AYES.||[7.24 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Corn. P. G.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prstmth., S.)||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Fermoy, Lord|
|Albery, Irving James||Chalmers, John Rutherford||Flelden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)||Fleming, Edward Lascelles|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Christie, James Archibald||Forestler-Walker, Sir Leolln|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Atkinson, Cyrll||Colfox, Major William Philip||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Colman, N. C. D.||Gibson, Charles Granville|
|Balniel, Lord||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Conant, R. J. E.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Cooke, Douglas||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Cooper, A. Duff||Goff, Sir Park|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.).||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Craven-Ellis, William||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Greene, William P. C.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Crooke, J. Smedley||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'.W.)|
|Blindell, James||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Crossley, A. C.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Bossom A. C.||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Davison, sir William Henry||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Dickle, John P.||Hartland, George A.|
|Briant, Frank||Donner, P. W.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kennlngt'n)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Doran, Edward||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Duckworth, George A. V.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Dunglass, Lord||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Buchan, John||Eastwood, John Francis||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Eden, Robert Anthony||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)|
|Burnett, John George||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Elmley, Viscount||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Hopkinson, Austin|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G, (Burnley)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Hornby, Frank|
|Cassels, James Dale||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tfd & Chlsw'k)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Mitcheson, G. G.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Hume, Sir George Hop wood||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Scone, Lord|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Hunter. Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Hurd, Sir Percy||Moss, Captain H. J.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Munro, Patrick||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thnes)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Nathan, Major H. L.||Slater, John|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Nation, Brigadier-General J, J. H.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Janner, Barnett||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Smith Carington, Neville W.|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Nunn, William||Somervllle, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Palmer, Francis Noel||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Peat, Charles U.||Stevenson, James|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Penny, Sir George||Storey, Samuel|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Knebworth, Viscount||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Pike, Cecil F.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F,|
|Leckie, J. A.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Lass-Jones, John||Power, Sir John Cecil||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Laighton, Major B. E. P.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Templeton, William P.|
|Levy, Thomas||Pybus, Percy John||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lewis, Oswald||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Ramsden, E.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Locker-Lampson. Rt. Hn. G. (Wd.Gr'n)||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Train, John|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Rea, Walter Russell||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Vaughan-Morgan, sir Kenyon|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Mabane, William||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Mac Andrew. Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Remer, John R.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Robinson, John Roland||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Ropner, Colonel L.||White, Henry Graham|
|McLean, Major Alan||Rosbotham, S. T.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Robs, Ronald D.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot||Rosa Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Rothschild, James A. de||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Margesson, Capt. Henry David R-||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Salt, Edward W.||Commander Southby and Dr.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Morris-Jones.|
|Milne, Charles||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES.-|
|Mr Maxton and Mr. Buchanan.|
Motion made, and Question, "That this Schedule be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next, 1901 December.—[Sir Young.]