HC Deb 09 February 1933 vol 274 cc497-508

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 71A.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide for the reduction of the subsidies payable to local authorities in Scotland under Section two of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924,in certain cases, and in all other respects to bring to an end the power of the Department of Health for Scotland to grant subsidies under Sections one and three of the Housing, &c., Act, 1923, and the said Act of 1924; to enable the said Department to undertake to make contributions in certain cases towards losses sustained by local authorities under guarantees given by them for facilitating the provision of houses to be let to the working classes; and, for purposes connected with or incidental to the foresaid matters, it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament, of such sums as may become payable in pursuance of undertakings given by the Department of Health for Scotland, with the consent of the Treasury, under the said Act to reimburse to local authorities not more than one-half of any losses sustained by them under the terms of guarantees given to societies under paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of Section seventy-five of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925, where the advances whereof the repayment is guaranteed are made by the society for the purpose of enabling any of its members to build or acquire houses intended to be let to persons of the working classes and the Department is satisfied—

  1. (a) that the guarantee extends only to the principal of, and interest on, the amount by which the sum to be advanced by the society exceeds the sum which would normally be advanced by them without any such guarantee; and
  2. (b) that the liability of the local authority under the guarantee cannot be greater than two-thirds of that principal and interest."—[Mr. Hore-Belisha.]

11.5 p.m.


I do not want to detain the Committee unduly, but I wish to raise one or two points on the Financial Resolution. I am told that to some extent the Financial Resolution will limit what may be done in the Scottish Standing Committee. Once we pass the Financial Resolution we place a limitation upon the future action of both the Committee and this House. I want to raise the point which was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stevenson) to which the Minister did not reply. I do not blame him for not having replied to each particular point, but I ask for a reply on this question. He and all of us know that local authorities have made certain commitments and have bought land and made plans. At the request of past Governments they have submitted a detailed list of their requirements and the Government of the day made plans according to the recommendations of the local authorities. The authorities have bought land to accommodate more houses than they have actually built. I am not certain, despite what I have been advised, that the passing of the Financial Resolution will limit us, and I ask the Minister in charge to what extent he intends to allow for the present subsidy grant to local authorities where those authorities have made plans or any kind of arrangement for the building of houses in the future.

As far as I can see, the Financial Resolution definitely limits us. I should like to know whether, when the Financial Resolution has been carried, I shall be able to move an Amendment upstairs in the Scottish Standing Committee restoring the subsidy to all houses in respect of which local authorities have made commitments. As far as I see the Financial Resolution, its terms are very strict, and it is our intention—I can only speak for the small group with whom I am associated—as far as we can, to divide against it. This Resolution definitely lays down in its terms that, even where a local authority may have held out hopes to great masses of the people and where it has actually engaged itself in the purchase of land, if a house is not built by a certain time and the Treasury or the Scottish Board of Health has not given sanction for that house, then the Scottish Board of Health is not going in future to pay the subsidy on it. As far as I am concerned, this Financial Resolution will restrict us in Committee in moving an Amendment which would provide that the local authority should receive the subsidy for a house the plans of which were not submitted and were not approved by the Scottish Board of Health. I say that that is what this Resolution means in effect.

Those of us who represent the great City of Glasgow received from that Corporation this morning some representations of a serious kind. I never take my instructions, and never will, from the Glasgow Corporation, but I do want to say this: that where I find that the Glasgow Corporation, in the interests of its citizens, is making an earnest effort to have a problem solved or minimised, then I always feel it my duty to assist it in that desirable object The corporation has made a moderate request to us. It was asked some years ago by the Government of the day to submit its housing needs. In pursuance of that request it took a survey of the whole City of Glasgow; not merely, may I say, of slum clearance areas, but—and in this matter I want to reinforce most strongly all that the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) said on that matter— the problem of the terrible housing of our people is not confined to the slum clearance problem. Anything but; it would be easier and comparatively simple if it were. The corporation, in pursuance of their duties, and, I think—though I am not sure—acting in accordance with a request from the Secretary of State for Scotland, submitted their housing requirements and the provisions they intended to make for building. They set out on a policy of buying land; they set out on a policy of planning. Having done that, they come to this House and ask this House in a reasonable way that at least the Minister should grant the subsidy for every house that they have undertaken, and which the city thought that the area needed. On the basis of a businesslike project, they have made their plans and their works. But if this Resolution is passed, with my knowledge of Parliamentary procedure, the Committee stage will not be long, for the Resolution limits us almost entirely. It would be entirely wrong for this House to pass it without opposition and without the Government meeting the criticism of it.

I do not want to be accused of constantly arising to speak in opposition to Governments, but—and I hope that hon. Members of the Labour party will excuse me for saying it—for the last seven or eight weeks I have undergone a constant barrage of criticism, and I intend to say what I said here on the Rents Bill. We moved an Amendment and voted against that Bill because we thought it a bad Bill. Under Parliamentary procedure, when a Financial Resolution is moved, the Opposition should put down a reasoned Amendment; if the reasoned Amendment were carried, it would be an instruction to the Government to bring in a Bill based on the principles of that reasoned Amendment. The Labour party failed to vote against that Bill and I think rightly, reasoning as they reasoned. I do not think they meant to oppose the subsidy for the people, but that was the position they took up. That Bill was introduced in connection with housing. I represent one of the densest possible areas in the whole of Scotland, and only 150 new houses have been built in the place. [Laughter.] Yes, it may be laughable. It may be a laughing matter when I say that it is a dense area. I mean that it is dense in the sense of population. It may be that the character of the Parliamentary representative makes the place dense in another sense. Hon. Members are entitled to take that view. Housing Bills almost leave me cold. I addressed a huge meeting of 2,000 people, packed in a big hall, and not one of them had a decent suit of clothes. Every one of them was faced with shocking conditions, but the thing that concerned them was not so much the question of new homes, but how they could keep the miserable homes that they have already.

I stood in the Sheriff's Court last Friday for seven hours, fighting the local authority in regard to State-approved houses. People had been put out of the slums into these houses. It is the worst kind of torture. You give a woman a decent home, one that she had wanted; you raise her level, and then you give her no income to keep up that home. You treat her in a cruel fashion. Having raised her ambitions, you put her out. These Housing Bills leave me cold. The first thing you have to do with the masses of the poor people is to give them an income, something to live on—to give them a margin. We hear talk about 8s. 6d. rent. What is 27s. 3d. a week for three adults and two bairns? When they have to find 8s. 6d. for rent, when they have to pay their insurance and the cost of heating and lighting, what margin is left? One day's sickness, and they are in arrear; a month's sickness, and they are gone. They stand in the Sheriff Court. He is not bad, the Sheriff; I will be fair to him; but the law fixes 11s. a week instalments, and these people cannot pay. This Bill leaves the great problem untouched—the problem of providing an income for the masses of the people. One of my complaints in regard to the reduction of the subsidy is that, at a time when costs have become cheaper, and when the subsidy would have allowed the houses to be let on terms on which the rent could have been paid, you withdraw the subsidy. You withdraw it when it is becoming of real service to the poorest section of the community.

The problem for this House is the problem of trying to provide the where- withal on which the people can live. Ask any medical man who goes to working-class districts. If you increase the rent, as you are going to, it means that those people cannot get food. During the War the men lived in hovels in the trenches, but they were fed. Their manhood and stamina in many cases was never better, because the food was good. To-day, you may provide your good house or not, but, for God's sake, feed the people decently. It is no use giving men houses unless you give them food. We intend to vote against this Resolution. The Bill does not bring hope, where hope should be given. Since you say that these wretched creatures are human beings then give them a chance. The Bill gives them no chance at all; no hope. It is trifling with the problem. I urge the Under-Secretary, who is charged with the more immediate task of looking after the health of the people, to use his influence to get something done for the masses of the people. I stood at the recruiting office in Glasgow last week and saw men standing in queues ready to join the British Army. Everyone was poor, not one was well dressed. These are the men who will defend, and have defended the Empire, and having kept the Empire for you you are not prepared to feed them. It is a contemptible position for a Prime Minister who occupies his position through the halfpennies and pennies of poor people. It is a contemptible man leading a contemptible Government.

11.22 p.m.


I do not propose to say a word on the latter portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and still less to answer the illuminating phrase with which he ended his speech. I do not propose to say anything on the subject of rent and other topics, because that would be out of order. This is a Resolution dealing with a Money Bill. At the beginning of his speech the hon. Member asked me a specific question. In regard to local authorities—he spoke particularly of Glasgow—in 1930 they had imposed upon them the statutory duty of making a return of their proposed programme of housing for three years, and the hon. Member asked whether we would not extend the provision of the 1924 subsidy until the end of the three-year period. When you make any change in the law you must have a date, and whatever date you make will be arbitrary. The date we have selected in Scotland is the 16 December, and the test as to whether proposals should get the larger subsidy of £9 or not, is whether actual proposals were submitted to the Department, by that date; not that they had been passed. The date of passing depends on the actual work of the Department at the moment. What is required is, that the proposals should be submitted before that date, and a warning was given by way of a circular to local authorities of the necessity of putting in before the 16th December, any proposals they may have. In these circumstances it is not possible to extend the date. I think the House will agree that there is this further reason—


I must call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that this question of terminating or continuing the subsidy is not dealt with in the Resolution. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) raised the point in rather a different way, because he was putting forward the contention, to which he asked for a reply, that the Resolution did prevent him from moving Amendments of this kind to the subsidies. Now, in the way the Under-Secretary is explaining things, he is definitely dealing with a part of the Bill which is not dealt with in the Resolution.

11.26 p.m.


On a point of Order. This question is of high importance. The question which is in issue is whether the Government in the present Bill would see fit to include the commitments of 1930 as part of the continuing, that is to say, bring it under the exceptions put forward in Clause 2 of the Bill. It is there stated: Save for contributions which the Department may make to a local authority in accordance with the provisions of the preceding section no contributions shall be made by the Department under section one or section three of the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, or under the Act of 1924— (a) towards expenses incurred in providing any house unless it has been provided in pursuance of proposals submitted to the Department under the said Acts before the sixteenth day of December nineteen hundred and thirty-two; or certain other things. The question is whether if this Financial Resolution is passed there could be added to that exception another which would cover the Glasgow case. That is the point of Order. I confess I should be very disappointed if I were not allowed to discuss that question when Clause 2 comes before the Committee. I should feel very embarrassed to-night if without further consideration I had to vote against this Financial Resolution. But as I read the Financial Resolution it does not involve me in that embarrassment. The way in which it is expressed is as follows: That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide for the reduction of the subsidies payable to local authorities in Scotland under section two of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, in certain cases, and in all other respects to bring to an end the power of the Department of Health for Scotland to grant subsidies under section one and three of the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, and the said Act of 1924; to enable the said department to undertake to make contributions in certain cases. These cases are not defined or limited in the Financial Resolution. I take it, therefore, that although we pass the Financial Resolution we can add to these cases the exceptions which I should be prepared to move at present on behalf of Glasgow, which would be another of the "certain cases" and cannot be excluded by the Financial Resolution. The Under-Secretary has been arguing upon the merits of this question. I do not imagine that we have to reach the merits to-night. I hope not. If we have, I am afraid I must vote against the Financial Resolution. I would like your Ruling, Sir Dennis, upon that matter because the course which I have to take will be determined by the result.


Of course the right hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot give a Ruling now which will in any way bind whoever may be in the Chair in the Scottish Standing Committee on this Bill. But the point which he has raised is the exact point upon which I interrupted the Under-Secretary.


So I understood.


If the right hon. Gentleman will follow the Resolution on the Paper, I think he will see that the whole words down to the words in line 10, beginning "It is expedient" are entirely recitals. There is nothing operative in them. The only operative part is that it is expedient to authorise certain payments, and these payments are by way of reimbursement of one-half of certain losses which may be sustained under certain guarantees. Therefore, so far as this Resolution is concerned, it is only a Resolution to authorise the payment of moneys which may have to be paid as set out in the Resolution in that connection. The Resolution does not refer in any degree or in any way whatever to the question of existing subsidies, whether they are to be continued, discontinued or reduced, that being a matter which does not require a Financial Resolution at all. Therefore, I think, without giving a Ruling which would affect the Scottish Standing Committee, that the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied that, so far as I can rule on the point here, I am entirely in accord with the view which he has expressed.


I venture to hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will not pursue on this Financial Resolution a discussion on the merits of what would be my Amendment later.


The Under-Secretary gave way to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead before he completed his speech.


I think that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I interrupted the Under-Secretary in order to point out that the discussion of that matter could not take place on the Financial Resolution.


Surely it is not unusual for an hon. Member to be interrupted by the Chair and to have it pointed out to him that a certain part of his speech is not in order, but that is not generally taken as bringing the speech to a close.


In case there should seem to be any discourtesy on my part, all I would say is that, in view of your Ruling, Sir Dennis, it is entirely unnecessary, as it would be improper and out of order, for me to discuss the merits of the question raised by the Corporation of Glasgow and by the hon. Member for Gorbals. That is why I did not rise again after your Ruling.


It appears that the question mentioned by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and by the right hon. and learned Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Home), in which Glasgow is specially interested, can be raised later.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 161; Noes, 3.

Division No. 37.] AYES 11.35 p.m.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Davies, Maj. Geo, F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Kerr, Hamilton W.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Drewe, Cedric Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.
Albery, Irving James Duckworth, George A. V. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Leckie, J. A.
Apsley, Lord Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Leech, Dr. J. W.
Aske, Sir Robert William Eastwood, John Francis Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Atholl, Duchess of Elliston, Captain George Sampson Levy, Thomas
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Elmley, Viscount Lindsay, Noel Ker
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Llewellin, Major John J.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Lloyd, Geoffrey
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Mabane, William
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.) Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Mac Andrew. Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Fremantle, Sir Francis McCorquodale, M. S.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Gillett, Sir George Masterman MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Blindell, James Gluckstein, Louis Halle McKie, John Hamilton
Bossom, A. C. Goff, Sir Park Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Boulton, W. W. Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McLean, Major Sir Alan
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Greene, William P. C. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Broadbent, Colonel John Gunston, Captain D. W. Macmillan, Maurice Harold
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Guy, J. C. Morrison Magnay, Thomas
Buchan, John Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest
Burnett, John George Harbord, Arthur Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Hartland, George A. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Campbell-Johnston. Malcolm Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Marsden, Commander Arthur
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Holdsworth, Herbert Martin, Thomas B.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hornby, Frank Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Horns, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Merriman, Sir F. Boyd
Colman, N. C. D. Horobin, Ian M. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Colville, Lieut. Colonel J. Horsbrugh, Florence Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale
Cook, Thomas A. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Craven-Ellis William Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd) Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Jamleson, Douglas Moss, Captain H. J.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Muirhead, Major A. J.
Munro, Patrick Raid, William Allan (Derby) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald Remer, John R. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Robinson, John Roland Thompson, Luke
Normand, Wilfrid Guild Rose Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Nunn, William Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
O'Donovan, Dr. William James Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Ormiston, Thomas Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tslde) Train, John
Palmer, Francis Noel Salt, Edward W. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Pearson, William G. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Percy, Lord Eustace Scone, Lord Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Perkins, Walter R. D. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Petherick, M. Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness) Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n) Skelton, Archibald Noel Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
Potter, John Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Procter, Major Henry Adam Somervell, Donald Bradley Williams, Herbert G. (Coydon, S.)
Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L. Womersley, Walter James
Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Spencer, Captain Richard A. Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland) Worthington, Dr. John V.
Ramsden, Sir Eugene Stevenson, James
Rea, Walter Russell Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Storey, Samuel Sir Frederick Thomson and
Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Stourton, Hon. John J. Commander Southby.
Banfield, John William Tinker, John Joseph TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Maxton, James Mr. McGovern and Mr. Buchanan.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at a Quarter before Twelve o' Clock.