§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, after the word "houses," to insert the words:of not less than six hundred and twenty and not more than nine hundred and fifty superficial feet, and.My inspiration for this Amendment is the Act of 1923, which was fathered by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Minister of Health. I am always glad to pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his great work for housing as Lord Mayor of Birmingham and as Minister of Health. I always felt that he did his great work when he was Minister of Health. Although in this, that or the other way one may find fault with certain details, he nevertheless did a great constructive work. He had had intimate knowledge of housing needs and of the necessities of the great towns, during his experience in local administration, and he was assisted by the good advice of his Department and of the housing experts. I was on the Committee at the time with him when the 1923 Bill was upstairs, and when he devised his formula.
I suggest to the Committee—and most hon. Members will, I think, agree with me—that, if it is necessary to put figures into a Bill when you are dealing with the local authorities, it is even more necessary to do so when you are dealing with private enterprise which is to get public assistance, in however small an amount. The partnership of the State with the building societies and the private builder is to be small, but the very fact that public money is to be involved should make it necessary on the one hand to see that public money does not go to too large a house occupied by people quite above the poverty line, and, on the other hand, that it does not go to too small a house. The fault of many of the poorer districts of our great towns is that the houses are mean, badly planned and designed, and 290 quite unsuitable for their purpose, and, therefore, I have proposed this formula.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is going to give sympathetic consideration to another Amendment later on the Paper, but I think it would be more satisfactory to everyone concerned—and there are three, indeed four, partners in this matter—to have the figures specified in the Bill. In the first place, there is the State; secondly, there are the local authorities; thirdly, there are the building societies; and, fourthly, there is the builder. It would be just as well to know what kind of house is going to be sympathetically considered by the Department when schemes come before it for approval, and it is just as well to give a clear lead. I suggest that the matter would be solved once for all if we put the figures, as in the Act of 1923, in this new Act of 1933.
§ Mr. JANNER
I desire to support the Amendment which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend. I do not think that there is Very much to be added to what he has already said.
§ 9.17 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
As the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has rightly stated, there are certain other Amendments later on the Paper which cover something of the same ground, and on which we shall be able to meet the point of view which I think is also represented in this Amendment. If I ask the hon. Member not to press his Amendment, it is for the following reasons, which I think are adequate. In the first place, I think it is wrong, if we desire to promote activity, to impose any unnecessary regulations: Are the particular restrictions which the hon. Member would impose unnecessary? I think I can satisfy him that they are. In the first place, as regards the upper limit of 950 square feet, that is certainly far in advance of anything that is necessary for the provision of the sort of house that we want to provide—the small house let at a reasonable rent to the lower paid wage earner; and, that being so, it is not the type of house for which we want 291 this scheme to be used. It would be wrong to specify this upper limit in the Bill. Its inclusion would only give rise to unfounded anticipations of assistance for the provision of middle-class houses, which is not what these guarantees are intended for; they are intended for the provision of working-class houses.
As to the lower limit the answer is that it is unnecessary to provide a lower limit in this Clause because it is already provided in our legislation in a satisfactory and reasonable way. The point is already covered by Section 92 (2) of the Act of 1925, which provides, in the case of a two-storey house, a lower limit of 620 square feet, or, if the Minister is satisfied that the special circumstances of the area justify houses of smaller dimensions, of 570 square feet. That applies to every house which can be assisted by a local authority either by advance or by guarantee. Therefore, the main purpose of the Amendment is already secured in our legislation, and it would only produce confusion to introduce the repetition proposed. In these circumstances, I trust that the hon. Member will not find it necessary to press the Amendment.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
The Minister's speech was very interesting, but, to me at any rate, not at all satisfying, because the policy appears to be to stereotype the house at the lower level. I notice that the Minister said, in reference to what he calls the higher and the lower limits, that the higher limit is something to be discouraged, because, he says, such houses would be in the main occupied by middle-class people. I do not agree at all. The higher limit represents the level of building by local authorities for many years past in the case of what we call the parlour type of house. In effect, the Minister's policy is to encourage the building of as small houses as possible. Apparently, the highest standard that can be obtained in his judgment will be houses of a superficial area of 620 feet, and, in certain districts, 570 feet. I do not want to see that type of house encouraged as against a better class of house. I think the Minister would agree that the demand for houses by what may he called. if you like, the better paid artisan class, is not by any means satisfied, and is not likely to be satisfied 292 for many years. I think it could be successfully argued that the demand for houses by that class of people at the present time is just as great as it was four or five or six or seven years ago, and practically no inroad has been made in meeting that demand, which is almost, if not quite, as great as it was some years ago. This appears to me to be a definite attempt to lower the standard of houses to the smallest possible space in which a human being can be expected to live, and I hope that the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) will not agree to withdraw his Amendment, in view of the very serious statement that has been made by the Minister.
We are going to hand over all our housing to the building societies and speculative builders to make as much profit as they can out of the housing needs of the people. The Minister told us on a previous occasion that he does not believe that the building societies will be able to cater for the very poorest class of workers. If that be so, and I believe it to be very largely true, it appears obvious that that class of workman who is now getting a better class of house—the parlour type of house, as we have become used to calling it—is to be driven down to what we used to consider the lower standard or non-parlour type of house not exceeding about 620 superficial feet. That is a standard which I hope the House of Commons will not permit the Minister or anyone else to reimpose on the people of this country as a maximum. I shall oppose it as vigorously as I can both here and everywhere else. The figure of 620 superficial feet represents a reduction on the previous low standard, and we are now told that that is to become the highest standard that will be permitted. I hope that the House of Commons will not assent to that suggestion. I wish I could hope that the House, which talks to its people about its desire, as individuals, to raise the general standard of housing, will not submit to this general lowering of the standard to a figure which does not represent decent living accommodation, at any rate for a large family.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I wonder if I can save the Committee from what I believe would be an absolutely unreasonable and 293 meaningless Division. The position is that, so far as the lower limit of 620 square feet is concerned, that is already in the Bill. The Bill refers to Section 92 of the Act of 1925, which says that no house to which it applies shall be less than 620 feet. Therefore, this Amendment introduces nothing new into the Bill.
§ Mr. McENTEE
Does it not introduce into the Bill that that shall be practically the standardised size? The Minister said the larger 950 feet type would not be built.
§ Lord E. PERCY
No, not at all. If the Bill stands as it is, no one may, under the Act, build a house of less than 620 feet superficial area.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I think not. If hon. Members will look at the provisions of Section 92 they will see that 620 superficial feet, in the case of a two-storied house, is the minimum, and then there comes in the case of the structually separate and self-contained flat or one-storey house of 570 superficial feet. That is being calculated in accordance with the rules by the Minister, provided, if an authority or council in any particular case satisfies the Minister, and so on, he may determine in the case of a two-storied house to reduce it to 570 feet. That has been the position up to now. All you will really be doing if you pass this Amendment is to say that the houses shall not be larger than 950 superficial feet. You will be going into the Lobby in order to support a limitation on the size of the houses local authorities may build under this Bill, and you will be saying that they shall not be larger than a certain superficial area. That is a proposition which no one wants to go into the Lobby to support.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I hope the hon. Gentleman who has moved this Amendment will not accept the position laid down by the right hon. Gentleman. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself made an unanswerable case when he pointed out that his own suggestion was based on the minimum laid down by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when Minister of Health.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Noble Lord must not think that we are taken in by that kind of chaff. As a matter of fact, he has already admitted himself that it is possible, at the Minister's discretion, to cut the size down to 570 superficial feet in the case of a one-storied house.
§ Lord E. PERCY
When the hon. Gentleman says he is not going to be taken in by that kind of chaff, that seems to me rather an insulting remark. I was quoting from the Act to which he refers.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I did not mean to be at all discourteous to the Noble Lord. The point 1 was making was that the Minister, at his discretion, may make the one-storied house 570 feet and the two-storied house in certain cases. I remember very well some years ago my hon. Friend the Member for Spenny-moor (Mr. Batey) and other Members, asked for a subsidy for the homes of aged people in the North of England. It was all we could do to persuade the Minister of Health to give us a subsidy for houses round about 600 superficial feet. Now we have come to the stage when you have the possibility of having houses of 570 superficial feet. I take it that is about the size of the house laid down now for the aged people, so we have got now for a family a possible minimum that my hon. Friend laid down in his Bill for two aged people. I do not expect that Liberals are going to agree to a, proposal of this kind. A house of 620 superficial feet is low enough as a minimum. As the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has said, 620 superficial feet is in the Bill, and I take it he thinks that is the desirable minimum, but there is considerable doubt in the minds of hon. Members, as in the mind of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment. I take it that the Committee will agree that any doubt should be removed and that 620 feet is certainly a low enough minimum for working-class people or anyone else, with a family, to live in. Let us get into our minds what 620 superficial feet means. The figure has been pushed down stage by stage until we have got to the position that though we had to ask the Minister of Health to give us subsidies for our aged 295 miners' homes with a minimum space which was too small for our old people, yet that is practically the minimum space laid down in this Bill. I hope the hon. Member who moved the Amendment will stick to his guns, and refuse to compromise on the matter.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
We are practically abandoning altogether, except in one or two special instances, our social responsibility in regard to the housing of the working classes by State and municipalities and turning the matter over to private enterprise. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) that we should do everything we can to keep private enterprise up to the scratch. I cannot square the argument of the Minister with the argument of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Sir E. Percy). The Minister suggests that he does not want to accept this Amendment because it would be imposing what he calls unnneccessary restrictions in this Bill. He prefers to leave the matter hazy, indefinite and indecisive, and he does not wish to put in any unnecessary restrictions. The Noble Lord tells us that as far as the lower limit is concerned, this is already secured by the provisions of the Bill, but the Minister, in the course of his
§ remarks, said it was not at all likely that the houses which private enterprise would provide would be anything approximating to 950 superficial feet.
Sir H. YOUNG
Not quite that, but it is not the intention to make use of the guarantee for the provision of houses as big as that. Private enterprise may very likely provide those houses. I hope it will, but these are not the houses we desire to promote for social purposes, and for which the guarantee would be given.
§ Mr. BROWN
That does not seem to be any argument why the Minister should refuse to insert these figures in the Bill. The argument about unnecessary restrictions falls to the ground on the arguments that the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings has put before the Committee. Let us have something satisfactory, decisive, clear and definite. Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman accept this Amendment 7 It will not overload the Bill with any unnecessary restrictions. I feel that the hon. Baronet ought to stick to his guns and press the Amendment to a Division.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 44; Noes, 198.297
|Division No. 57.]||AYES.||[9.35 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'.W).||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Harris, Sir Percy||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||price, Gabriel|
|Buchanan, George||Janner, Barnett||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||White, Henry Graham|
|Curry, A. C.||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Uanelly)|
|Daggar, George||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McGovern, John||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Burghley, Lord|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie|
|Albery, Irving James||Blindell, James||Burnett. John George|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Borodale, Viscount||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Bossom, A. C.||Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley)|
|Applln. Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Carver, Major William H.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Casseis, James Dale|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold ((I. of Thanet)||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Browne, Captain A. C.||Christie, James Archibald|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Law, Sir Alfred||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Colfax, Major William Philip||Leckle, J. A.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecctesall)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Robinson, John Roland|
|Cooke, Douglas||Lees-Jones, John||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Leighton, Major B, E. P.||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Croom-Johnson, H. P.||Levy, Thomas||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Lewis, Oswald||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Liddall, Walter S.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llverp'l|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Salt, Edward W.|
|Denman, Hon. R, D.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Denville, Alfred||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Dickie, John P.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Conner, P. W,||McKie, John Hamilton||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Drewe, Cedric||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Scone, Lord|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||McLean, Dr. W. H, (Tradeston)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Magnay, Thomas||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Maitland, Adam||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Slater, John|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-ln-F.)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Meller, Richard James||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklchurst||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Somervell. Donald Bradley|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Milne, Charles||Somervllie, Annesley A (Windsor)|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Mitcheson, G. G.||Somerville, D. G. (Wlliesden, East)|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Glucksteln, Louis Halle||Morrison, William Shephard||Storey, Samuel|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Nail, Sir Joseph||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Greene, William P. C.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Templeton, William P.|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||North, Captain Edward T.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nunn, William||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Turton. Robert Hugh|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Palmer, Francis Noel||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Pearson, William G.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Percy, Lord Eustace||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hartland, George A.||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Wardlaw-Mline, Sir John S.|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n)||Petherick, M.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Peto, Geoffrey K. W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Wellt, Sydney Richard|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Potter, John||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Hornby, Frank||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Jackson, J. C. (Heywood ft Radcliffe)||Rankin, Robert||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Rathbone, Eleanor||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Ray, Sir William|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Raid, James S. C. (Stirling)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Mr. Womersley and Commander Southby.|
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 9, after the word "classes," to insert the words "at reasonable rents."
I appreciate the real difficulty of making these words operative, but we are embarking on a great new experiment, and we are going to come in as partners with builders and building societies to provide houses for what are generally described as people of the working-classes. I have taken considerable trouble to inquire how this machinery is going to operate. The private builder, as I understand it, will see a particular site in Kensington or in one of the provincial towns, half an acre or an acre of land, and will decide 298 to build houses of the character which we described in the discussion on another Amendment—houses of 620 or more feet. If the demand of middle-class people, clerks in banks and various sections of the community, is such that the supply is short, there is nothing to prevent those houses being let at £2 or even more. Take the Borough of Kensington, where there is real house planning. You cannot get housing accommodation for love or money. There is nothing to prevent a, builder in Kensington from getting public' assistance from the State in the form of a guarantee, and then letting his houses to the highest bidders, and the people for whom it was intended that the houses should be constructed would find the rents charged would be such that they, would be unable to pay them.
299 Therefore, it is reasonable to put into the Bill some words of the character suggested, and I believe that the words "at reasonable rents"—and I have taken legal advice from my hon. Friend the Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Janner)—are the best words which can be devised for the purpose. If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has better words, or if the Minister of Health is able to suggest something even beter, I shall be satisfied to substitute such words. If this Bill is really going to touch the fringe of the question, and if the machinery is to act as we require it to act, something of this kind of necessary.
I have been told by some people who have made an intensive study of the operations of the private builder that the ordinary builder, the builder of working-class houses, is not worthy of respect, and is sometimes called a jerry builder. But I would point out that he has not finance on a large scale to enable him to build houses to let. He has always been accustomed to build houses to sell. He is not in the financial position to embark upon the building of houses on a large scale to let unless he is able to get a very considerable return on his capital. He is generally a man of comparatively small means, and is accustomed to make his living by turning over his capital immediately. He builds half a dozen houses and sells them, and then proceeds to build more houses. In that way he gets a large return for his money and is able to keep his organisation constantly occupied. If he is going to operate in regard to this new kind of demand, the building of houses to let, something of this character will prevent him from profiteering. If we are to prevent exploitation with the aid of public money and the guarantee of local authorities and the Treasury, some such words as I suggest should be inserted. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept these words, at any rate, he will make clear to the Committee how he is going to operate the Clause and see to it that the houses really do go to the working classes.
§ 9.49 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
I quite understand the motive of the hon. Member in moving the Amendment, and I have given it 300 most careful consideration to see whether it is desirable, but I fear that the answer must be, that it is not really necessary, and further, that it is quite unworkable. The hon. Member properly asks me the process by which control will be exercised in order to see that the guarantee is not given in respect of houses to let at rents which make them of no use to the working classes. That, of course, will be the function of the local authority and of the Minister at the time at which the scheme is put up for the guarantee. They will then consider all the circumstances of the scheme, the type of houses to be built, the price of the houses, and the economic rent at which they can be let when completed. If they consider that all these things indicate that the rent of the house which is proposed under the scheme and the price which it will cost, are such as to provide a house which can be let at a reasonable rent to the working class, then the guarantee will be given. But if, at the critical period when the scheme is adjudged, the local authority and the Minister are not satisfied that the type of house is one to be let at a reasonable rent to the working class, the guarantee will not be given.
That is the process, as I envisage it, which gives the answer to the question of the hon. Member as to how the control will be exercised to secure houses being let at a reasonable rent. That being so, really all that the Amendment says is that the Minister will exercise his discretion and act reasonably. I suppose it is still the assumption of our legislation that the Ministers act reasonably on the whole, and to give protection to the Minister to act reasonably, without a definition of what reasonably might be, is not of very great utility. That is not the real objection to this Amendment. It goes a good deal deeper. If those words were to be inserted they would impose an obligation upon the Minister to control the rent that is impossible of execution. I am not arguing whether it is desirable or not, but stating the simple fact that it is impossible of execution. There is no unity, as it were, between the local authority and the Minister and this House. There is no connection by which they can review the rent. The only way in which this could be done would be by the establishment of a new office and staff, the cost of which would be considerable. Since it is not in the 301 essence of the scheme that there should be such control, this enormous expenditure should not be contemplated. The short reply is that the control which the hon. Member desires to see is effectively exercised when the Minister approves the scheme.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
Most of us on these benches, I think, will be very disappointed with the speech we have just heard from the Minister. As I understand the position, the next Amendment on the Paper will not be called. We have had very little definiteness about standards of housing and that kind of thing, and now, apparently, the question of rent is to be entirely uncontrolled. All the houses which will be built by private enterprise under the Bill will be outside the control of the Rent Restrictions Act. There will be no control with regard to the rents which can be charged, and here obviously is a field in which, in certain circumstances not difficult to visualise, there can be any amount of exploitation of the working class in areas where housing needs are pressing. It is most deplorable indeed that even the moderate words proposed to be inserted by the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) are not to be inserted. The Minister is apparently going to leave this matter to the free play of competition which he so greatly admires. He is going to leave the working classes more or less to their fate in regard to what may or may not happen in regard to the play of free competition. We on these benches feel that some provision, whereby the Minister would have some control over rents, ought to be inserted in the Bill. Consequently, we shall support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I share the disappointment of the last speaker at the Minister's reply. The point is one on which many of us feel very anxious. The right hon. Gentleman's reply, if I understood it correctly, amounts to this, that the control which we want to see exercised will be exercised by himself in conjunction with the local authority at the time when they give the guarantee to the building societies. Before the question goes to the Vote, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what control 302 there will be to see that the guarantee is carried out. He argued that he could not accept the Amendment, because there was no machinery to supervise the rents, or what happened to the houses after they had been put up. Suppose s, building society states, quite honestly, that it is its intention to put up houses to be let to the working classes, and that five years or so after the houses are put up the building society finds that letting is a very troublesome business and decides to sell the houses. What will be done in that case?
Sir H. YOUNG
Perhaps I can assist the hon. Lady. There is a specific: Amendment on the Order Paper dealing with that matter.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I am glad to hear that, but I should like to be sure that that specific Amendment ensures that not only will the house be a house to be let but that it shall be let at a, reasonable rent. How can that be ensured if, in the right hon. Gentleman's own words, he is not going to exercise any sort of oversight into the question of what the rent can be? The very case for this Amendment is proved by the unsatisfactory place in Acts of Parliament of phrases which are never defined and which are left to the local authority to interpret rightly. Some time ago I asked a question as to what was the definition put by the Ministry upon the phrase, "Housing of the working classes," which has been used in practically all the Housing Acts for the last 50 years. I was told that it had never been defined and that it had never been found necessary to define it, but that it was left to the local authorities.
Yet, by the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary to-day, one of the reasons for the subsidy being stopped is that the beautiful houses, as he termed them, which had been put up by the aid of the subsidy had not gone to the people who really required the subsidy. He said that they went to the cream of the working classes. I think he pitt it much too mildly. Many of the houses have not gone to the working classes at all, but to the middle classes. In one -Debate in the last Parliament a former Member of this House gave an instance which stuck in my mind, where the London County Council had in the same week accepted two tenants, a retired captain with an in- 303 come of £600 a year, and also two spinster school mistresses with joint incomes amounting to £700 a year, and had refused a man with a wife and three children, whose earnings were £4 a week. It is notorious that one of the things which has led to contempt in the country in regard to the working of the subsidy system is that there has not been control by the local authorities of the houses once they had been put up.
There has been no. attempt to make certain that the houses got into the hands of the people who required subsidised houses. It is very largely because that has gone wrong that the Ministry has now put an end to the subsidy system, yet in this Clause the Minister is going to be content with the least form of control, apparently exercised at the moment that the contract is entered into with the building society. We are not told the nature of the control. Is it to be definitely ensured that the houses are to be let and not sold and, if so, for what period? Is there any termination of the obligation to let and not to sell? In the second place, if the houses are let, is there any guarantee that they will be let at rents that will make them useful to the class of people defined by the Minister as the lower paid wage-earners?
§ 10 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I would not have risen to speak were it not for the fact that the right hon. Gentleman made reference to the impossibility of saying what control might be imposed upon the rents to be charged to tenants of these houses. I hope that the Government will find some method of coping with this matter. At a later stage the houses may either be sold or let to the highest bidder. I cannot see any reason why a formula cannot be obtained, a formula similar to the one which prevails in respect of the Increase of Rents and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts. We might very easily follow a similar wording for the purpose of control in respect of these houses as we do under those particular Acts.
Sir H. YOUNG
Perhaps I can help the hon. Member. There is a specific Amendment on the Order Paper to deal with that matter.
§ Mr. JANNER
If I can be assured that that Amendment is going to be taken, I 304 shall sit down, but if it is not the intention to call that Amendment, I should prefer to continue my remarks. May I ask if it is proposed to call that Amendment?
§ Mr. JANNER
It is the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee)—in page 2, line 9, after the word "classes," to insert the wordsat rents which do not exceed the rents which would be chargeable if the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts, 1920 to 192,5, applied to such houses.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is not my intention to call that Amendment as the present Amendment appears to me to cover a much wider ground.
§ Mr. JANNER
I understood that to be the case, and that is why I was referring to this particular method of coping with the position, when the right hon. Gentleman interrupted. It appears to me that a formula has been found. It is clear that the Increase of Rents Acts were introduced because it was realised that some kind of control must be put upon the amount of increase permitted in respect of the rents of houses. Why on earth when a grant is being given for the purpose of erecting houses a similar proviso should not be forthcoming to protect the tenants who are going to occupy those houses, I cannot say. It is obvious that it is possible to insert such a proviso, and it is equally obvious that it is not the intention of the Government nor of anybody else in this House to allow the Increase of Rents Acts to he dropped entirely. Consequently, if the Government were to regard the position in its proper light, they might accept some formula of that description. There is no reason why they should not say, so long as these Acts are in force, that the houses which are now being built shall come within the provisions of those Acts. It is the simplest thing in the world and requires no intricate formula. It could be easily worked, because one Act would cover all houses referred to in this Bill as well as houses covered by the Increase of Rents Act. If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept the Amendment I hope he will try and provide by some Amendment to the Bill for tenants to be 305 protected. I suggest that the easiest way would be to accept the decision of the House in respect of the Increase of Rents Act and make this simple remedy apply in both cases.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
By the interjection of the Minister of Health just now I rather gathered that he thought you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, would call the Amendment which stands in my name, and I rather imagined that he was favourably disposed towards it. However, as you have determined that my Amendment cannot be called I should like the Minister of Health to reconsider his decision on the present Amendment. Let me point out the contradiction in the policy of the Government in regard to rent restriction. In a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman introduced a few days ago he preserves control over the type of house which we are considering at the moment; the only houses which go out of control under that Bill are the larger types of house. The type of house which is to be preserved under the other Bill is not to be controlled at all under this Bill. That indicates one thing to me; that where local authorities are dealing with houses control of rents is to exist, but that where private enterprise is dealing with houses they are to be allowed to exploit the public as much as circumstances will permit.
Under the proposal a local builder may go to a. building society and say, "There is a great demand for houses in a certain locality, indeed, houses are so badly needed that the people there are ripe for exploitation. All you have to do is to enter into an agreement with me to finance a, scheme for the building of houses. When the scheme has been approved by the local authority you agree to a loan of 90 per cent. instead of 70 per cent. In regard to the 20 per cent. two-thirds will be guaranteed by the Government and the local authority, and the only extra risk you have is the 6⅔ per cent.; but in consideration of that the Ministry of Health is prepared to give you the power to exploit the tenants you can get up to the fullest extent. The real position is that there is a tremendous demand for houses and the people will be prepared to rent houses under almost any conditions." That is a serious position in which to leave tenants in congested areas, and some control should be 306 exercised, in the same way as it is exercised in regard to other houses. Why should a tenant living in a house be protected in his rent and a tenant who goes into one of the new houses not receive similar protection? There is no logic or reason in it.
The only excuse given by the Minister is that there is no machinery in existence. May I remind him that machinery does exist, and that it operates very well. If a local authority, through a public utility society, goes to the Minister with a scheme and the scheme is approved, it is approved under certain conditions; and one of the conditions is that before sanction is given the rent shall be determined and the local authority is compelled to insist on the carrying out of that condition. Is not that machinery available in this case 7 Why should not a local authority in this case have the control over rents which they exercise in regard to certain schemes? It is not a question of machinery, nor is it expensive. It is available; and could be extended. The Minister's statement is only an excuse for not imposing some form of control over rents. Why should tenants be exploited in this way The ordinary speculative builder who gets his money through building societies has only one consideration in mind. He does not go in for the building of houses because people need houses. No baker makes bread because people need food. They bake bread and sell bread because there is a profit in the making and selling of bread; and in the same way a builder enters into a contract solely because he can make a profit out of it. If we are good business men we run our business with the object of making as much profit as we can. That is the system to which the right hon. Gentleman gives his full support, and he is doing a fine service to builders and building societies in refusing to prevent them from exploiting the people to the full. They will thank him very much for it. But we shall take every opportunity to point out that this Government is really not what it professes to be, a National Government, but is a Government which passes a Bill to give further opportunities for an exploitation of the poorer people of the country.
The title of the Bill is wrong. It should be called a Housing Bill to enable builders and building societies to further 307 exploit the people of the country. That is apparently the main object of the Bill. The object certainly cannot be to give the people houses at reasonable rents, because the Minister has taken every opportuuity to show his desire to enable those people to exploit the tenants and has shown himself definitely opposed to the public interests and the interests of those who are least able to pay for decent housing accommodation. It is sheer rubbish to say that it is not possible to set up machinery. The machinery exists already, and could easily be put into operation if there were any desire to do so. The trouble is that the Minister has no such desire.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
I wish to join my voice to that of the hon. Baronet, my colleague in the representation of Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), in pressing this Amendment on the Minister. The Minister has twice, in interruptions, referred to an Amendment which covers the point intended to be covered by the Amendment under discussion, but he has not vouchsafed to tell the Committee to what Amendment on the Paper he refers. I find no Amendment on the Paper in the name of the Minister, and I am entirely in the dark as to what Amendment he has in mind. I ask the right hon. Gentleman now to be good enough to inform the Committee to what Amendment he has twice referred. If he will not condescend to do so—
Sir H. YOUNG
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will acquit me of any discourtesy. It takes a moment or two to look up the Amendment.
§ Major NATHAN
I would not for the world suggest any discourtesy on the part of the Minister. We all know him far too well to do that, but I gathered from his attitude that he was not going to reply to my question.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the middle of page 281 he will see an Amendment in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris).
§ Major NATHAN
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), but it was 308 the Minister's reply that I desired to have. The right hon. Gentleman's interruptions and references to an Amendment on the Paper was in any case irrelevant unless accompanied by the further statement that he proposed to accept that Amendment. The Bill provides in this Clause that a guarantee is to be given in respect of houses intended to be let or to be occupied by the working classes. The guarantee is to be given at the point of time when the contract is made, and may very well be long in anticipation of the point of time when the building is finished and ready to be let or sold. It may well happen that in perfect good faith both the Minister and the society will come to an arrangement under which the guarantee has to be given on the footing that at the time the arrangement is made the houses are to be let for occupation by persons of the working classes. But of course there is nothing in the Bill to give any guarantee that public funds will, in fact, only be used for the purpose of ensuring that these houses are let to persons of the working classes.
In the nature of things no such guarantee or definite undertaking to be fulfilled in all circumstances can either be given by the society or exacted by the Minister, because the future does not lie in the hands of the Minister or of the building society. But if there is prescribed in the Bill a figure for the rent, or an indication of how the rent is to be ascertained, that would ensure that the property cannot be used otherwise than for the purposes of letting, and, if the rent be, in the words of the hon. Baronet, "a reasonable rent," the demand by the working classes for houses at a reasonable rent is so great that, as far as anyone can form a judgment in anticipation of the event, the houses will not only be available for the working classes but actually occupied by the working classes. The Minister dismissed rather casually the phrase "reasonable rent" used by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green. I ask myself and I ask the Committee whether the Minister is fully justified in doing so. In the first place, what are the working classes for the purposes of this Act? I refer the Committee to the definition given in the Fifth Schedule to the Housing Act of 1925: 309The expression working class ' includes mechanics, artisans, labourers, and others working for wages, hawkers, costermongers, persons not working for wages‥‥and persons other than domestic servants whose income in any case does not exceed an average of three pounds a week.It is clear that in the contemplation of the legislature, broadly speaking, the houses that were to be supplied under the Housing Acts were houses for persons in the employments mentioned, with a general indication that it might be assumed that they were persons whose income on the average was £3 a week. That involves that the rent shall be a small rent. It involves that the rent shall be a "reasonable rent"—the term used in this Amendment—having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Will the hon. Member read the heading of the Fifth Schedule to the Housing Act of 1925 from, which he has quoted?
§ Major NATHAN
I am giving the definition used in that Housing Act, and I believe the Noble Lord has the document before him.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Yes, but the Fifth Schedule is headed:Provisions as to rehousing in case of displacement of persons of the working-class.
§ Major NATHAN
Do I understand the interruption of the Noble Lord to indicate that the definition of persons of the working class in the Bill which we are now considering is different from the statutory definition in the Housing Act of 1925?
§ Lord E. PERCY
As far as I know, the Fifth Schedule to the Act of 1925 is the only place in which any definition of working class is contained, and that is not a definition for the general purposes of that Act.
§ Major NATHAN
It is clear that the definition given in the Housing Act of 1925, in the Fifth Schedule, was given for the purposes of that Act.
§ Major NATHAN
It was given for the purposes which are indicated in the Fifth Schedule. But I challenge the Noble Lord to find, in the whole of the Housing Acts, any other definition of persons of 310 the working class. That is the only definition, and if it is any assurance to the Noble Lord, I have taken the trouble to search the Housing Acts to find if there was any other definition. Therefore, it may be assumed that, for the purposes of housing legislation, that is the definition which the Legislature has deliberately adopted. The hon. Baronet framed his Amendment "reasonable rents," and I must confess that it is not a phrase which at first sight I should have regarded as particularly happy, because it is notoriously difficult to define what is a reasonable rent. But I find very considerable assistance from a Circular issued by the Ministry of Health in relation to housing, where this very phrase is used. In Circular 520 the following phrases appear, and for the sake of saving time I put them, shortly, though I quote textually the relevant phrases. It was in relation to the Housing Act of 1924, and in this Circular it was laid down that the object of that Act was to enableprovision of houses to be made for letting at reasonable rents.That is the very phrase used by my hon. Friend. But the Circular does not leave the matter there. It goes on to define how a reasonable rent is to be ascertained, and it says that the first thing to be done is to determine what are to be regarded as the rents of ordinary working-class houses, which is to be ascertained according to the rules set out in the Appendix. If one refers to the Appendix, one finds there a set of rules, headed "Rules for determining the appropriate normal rent." In the face of this Circular, issued by the Minister's predecessor in the distinguished office which he now holds, and still in operation, as I understand it, I fail to understand what grounds he can have for refusing to adopt the Amendment of my hon. Friend in the actual terms in which it is proposed, for if my hon. Friend had, in framing his Amendment, sought a precedent, he would have found it in the Circular relating to housing to which I have referred, issued by the Ministry of Health itself.
§ 10.24 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
If I may answer the question put to me, the Amendment to which I referred was that relating to the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Re- 311 strictions) Acts, which had not yet been ruled out of order. The Amendment would, in the view of the Government, be of no assistance in the matter at all, for the reason that it seeks to apply to the standard of rents for these houses the rents which would be chargeable under the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts. No rents are affected by those Acts except the rents of houses which were in existence before the War, and the figure to which the present rents are restricted is determined by reference to pre-War rents. It is obvious that you cannot apply the standard rent in fixing the reasonable rent for new houses.
§ Mr. McENTEE
Is it not a fact that the appropriate normal rent is taken as the basis on which rents are fixed by the right hon. Gentleman's own Department?
Sir H. YOUNG
The hon. Member has not distinguished between normal rents and rents under the Rent Restrictions Acts.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
I only venture to rise again because of the Minister's reply to my question. The rules to which I was referring under Circular 520 do not in any way refer to the Rent Restrictions Acts. I appreciate the point made by the Minister there, and I do not think that the Amendment to which he referred can be applied to the circumstances of the present case. The Appendix of Circular 520 sets out rules in this way, however:The local authority shall obtain particulars of the current rents of working-class houses of all types erected in the district prior to 3rd August, 1914, in such numbers and proportion as are in their opinion fair and representative of all those houses in the district.Then it makes certain provisos, to which I need not refer, and goes on to say:The appropriate normal rent for each of the two classes of houses in the area, or in part of the area as the case may be, shall be the average rent payable in respect of the houses of that class of which particulars have been obtained.In other words, the Ministry relates reasonable rents of this kind back to the rents as they were in August 1914. Therefore, while I agree, the terms of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) are not appropriate, the 312 Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has precisely the same object by following out the procedure laid down in Circular 520, which has operated for some years past and still now operates.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I am disappointed but not surprised at the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman. When he introduced the Bill, he was determined to get back to private enterprise without any restrictions whatever. The only kind of limitation that there is in Clause 2 is that the houses to be built are to be intended to be let to the working classes. He has relented somewhat in regard to the size, and so on, of the houses to be built. His argument against this Amendment and against a subsequent Amendment is that they are unworkable. I think that it has been demonstrated clearly that under the Act of 1924 scores of thousands of houses are having their rents determined on the basis of pre-War rents plus the 40 per cent. allowed under the Rent Restrictions Acts. It is therefore possible to get something approximating the appropriate normal rent for the houses which are now to be built by private enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman told a long story and said that we would have to consider the price of the house and the circumstances of the case—vague phrases, like the Amendments he is prepared to accept in Committee—also the economic rent, and then, if we are satisfied with these things the Government and the local authorities will give the guarantee and the building societies will go ahead, and, at a further stage, the private builder will build the houses.
What is the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility? At a maximum 8s. per house, according to the Financial Memorandum on the Bill. He has no responsibility that matters. He has put forward to-night an Amendment enabling him to take certain steps with the approval of the Treasury. I suggest that the approval of the Treasury in respect of 8s. per house is not very much. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman's control over rents is utterly negligible. He would wish it to be so, and so would many hon. Members opposite. Their main desire is to get back to unrestricted private enterprise. We are to have certain Amendments which in practice amount to 313 nothing, but on the return that is to go to the speculator who builds houses there is to be no concession at all.
I do not approve very highly of the hon. Baronet's Amendment about reasonable rents. I do not know what reasonable rents are, and I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman has no view whatever about reasonable rents. They are the rents which a private builder can extract for the houses. I would have preferred something a little more definite. It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to let loose private enterprise in the building of houses, subject to very ill-defined conditions, without any restrictions whatever as regards rents, and he tells the Committee that he honestly believes that this is a method of solving the housing problem. I am sorry that we cannot debate our own Amendment, but we are bound to go into the Lobby behind the hon. Baronet in support of his Amendment to get some control of the rents to be charged by private enterprise.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) is unable to realise the conditions of private enterprise. It is true, as he says, that the Minister is resigning himself to the operations of private enterprise. We have made our choice and decided that building is now to be entrusted not to municipal enterprise with subsidies, but to private enterprise. Obviously there will be very little incentive to municipal authorities to build without subsidies. We have made that definite choice. It may be right or it may be wrong. In the opinion of hon. Members opposite it is wrong and in the opinion of us it is right. When a policy has been decided upon we must note the implications of it, and the implications are not merely the idea that private enterprise is going to plunder and to profiteer out of this business. That is guarded against in Clause 2, where the Minister and the local authorities may—it does not say must—guarantee, and they will only guarantee, presumably, in cases where they consider the scheme is justifiable.
The implication of private enterprise is that we must give it the very utmost encouragement. The minds of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends, 314 although I do not say it in any accusing spirit, have, since they were babies, been running on national, Socialistic, one might also say Communistic, lines, namely, forcing things into a rigid scheme. That is the absolute opposite of private enterprise, and therefore any criticism they make of private enterprise really fails to meet the case, for the very reason that the conditions of private enterprise, of freedom, are opposed to the whole basis of their ideas. They may be right. Their mentality we cannot understand, but their mentality may be right, although it brought this country to the brink of ruin in 1931.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) is wandering rather a long way from the subject of the Amendment.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I beg your pardon, Captain Bourne. It is quite clear that if you are to apply private enterprise to the solution of this problem, even if you start from the point of view of the Socialist party, you must encourage it everywhere you can. We are distinctly imposing conditions already in the Bill, and they are implicit in the Clause by the fact that the local authorities and the Minister, have to approve a scheme. That being the case, you are not encouraging the private builder. Hon. members on the other side who maintain—and I trust to their genuineness in maintaining—that they are anxious that we shall make a success of this new idea in housing for the sake of the people, must combine with us in being anxious not to clip the wings of private enterprise more than is absolutely necessary. Any question that you are to have a rigid rule as regards rents, or any rigid figures, is against the theory upon which we are working to-night.
Private enterprise is a very delicate matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] Hon. Members know perfectly well that when they are dealing with their own rents which they have to pay, and with the other disbursements from their pockets, private enterprise is most delicate. It is capable of the greatest possible achievements as well as of the greatest possible failures. I maintain that the wider we extend the opportunities conferred by this Clause, the more likely it is we 315 shall be able to do what hon. Members on both sides of the Committee must wish, that is, to make a success of the new scheme of housing.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
It is very entertaining that a very rigid trade unionist, a member of one of the most rigid trade unions in the country, should get up with such a defence of the system of free rents.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
On a point of personal explanation. May I say that I belong to no trade union, and that nothing is further from the thoughts of the medical profession than indulging in strikes?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
There are other things besides strikes, but I will not chaff the hon. Member any further upon that point. He belongs to one of the closest unions in the country; unfortunately it will not affiliate with the Trades Union Congress. The claims of private enterprise failed years ago. I f we are to judge as between free rents and controlled rents, we are entitled to look round the country and see what has been done in the way of housing in the last 100 years, first of all by private enterprise and secondly by municipal enterprise. I guarantee that any hon. Member who makes an investigation into the two systems and their results, will indubitably come down on the side of municipal enterprise. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] Indubitably. Hon. Members may take London alone, and I will guarantee that if they look at the matter in an unbiased way, for example at the London County Council building schemes and compare those schemes with the slum areas of London which were built under private enterprise, they will come indubitably to the conclusion that municipal enterprise is better if one wants decent housing conditions.
The hon. Member said that this very delicate flower can only be nurtured provided that you give the maximum of profit, and that, therefore, you have to see that there is no means of regulating the rents at all. This flower can only thrive in a soil which has for its nourishment—[An HON. MEMBER: "Liberty !"] —complete liberty to exploit. But that is not what we call liberty. Liberty has 316 two sides. There is the liberty of the person who has to live in the house, as well as the liberty of the person who owns the house, and we are anxious to give the person who lives in the house some liberty as well as the person who owns the house. The House of Commons has constantly stated, ever since the War, that where there is a shortage of houses, as there is now, you must control rents or there is no liberty. The hon. Member says that private enterprise cannot stand that type of liberty. It is only one particular type of liberty that it can stand—liberty for the landlord or the owner to charge as much rent as he can force out of the tenant. We do not believe that to be right, especially when it is not unaided private enterprise. Under this Bill, powers are being taken to assist private enterprise at the cost of the State. That is one of the objects of the Bill. Apparently, this delicate flower can stand the State assistance on the one band, but it cannot stand any State control of its profits on the other.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
May I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that, as I said, there is a general control through the Minister and the local authority having to consent, because they do not have to contribute?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
There is a general control, but there is very specific assistance, and that is the constant concomitant of private enterprise; it is always anxious and willing to take all it can, but it is never anxious or willing to give. In this case we believe that, if the State is going to be asked, as it is being asked, to shoulder some of the burden, those who constitute the State—the vast mass of them being tenants and not landlords—are entitled to say, "If we shoulder the burden of the expense, we make conditions," and one of those conditions, we believe, ought to be a reasonable rent. If private enterprise is so delicate that it cannot stand a reasonable rent, then the sooner it dies the better.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ Mr. CURRY
I want to ask the Minister one question before this discussion concludes. We have heard that the State has a general control, but, so far as I understand the Bill, the general control is only at the inception of the 317 proceedings—during the building of the houses; and those houses are to be built at the risk of State money or State credit. I would like to know from the Minister to what extent the control of the authority is going to live after the houses are built and occupied. Is there to be any control at all over the rents or over the ultimate destination of the houses? May the houses, having been built on the credit of the State, be sold in the market? May tenants who are unable to pay these uncontrolled rents be ejected; and what control has the State over these things?
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
I want to contradict the right hon. Gentleman who spoke with some confidence about municipal housing. If my experience counts, I know of houses that cost £1,100 to build that would be sold to-day for £300. It is futile to argue that, because houses have been built under municipal housing schemes with a subsidy in the last few years, that is any condemnation of houses built 50 or 100 years ago. I maintain that there can be no comparison and that, if the right hon. Gentleman had been sitting on the Treasury Bench at that time, he would not have put up houses of the standard we put up to-day. Progress has been made and there is a different outlook. In my judgment, it is totally unfair to compare those houses with houses built in the last few years.
As to the question whether those who build houses under this scheme are going to extort whatever they can get, I maintain that that also is an unfair argument. The building societies who will make the loans—the Bill will go through and we must argue on that basis—are not likely to risk their money on building houses to be let at rents too high for the people to afford to pay. These societies are run by business people. They are not going to give permission to build houses to be let at rents which the people cannot afford to pay. The guarantee that there 318 will be reasonable rent is the fact that all concerned have their money at stake. This is mere political propaganda to suggest that the people who build these houses will get a rent which the people cannot afford to pay. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. They cannot argue that the houses will be let at rents that people cannot afford to pay, and that it is extortionate. If they cannot let them, they will not be able to extort the rent.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I never said they would not be let because the rent would be too high. I said that they would extort the highest rent they could.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to realise that it is not possible for any private trader to dictate to the community as a community or as individuals what they should pay. Even with the low prices to-day, you cannot tell people what they must pay. That is decided by the people in their demand. I may remind him that there are such private schemes as Port Sunlight and the Welwyn Estate which compare very favourably with anything that municipal enterprise has done. The result of municipal enterprise has been to give people houses at a rent they cannot afford to pay, and in the City of Bradford with a. 5d. rate in addition. It is not fair to use this as an opportunity for mere Socialist propaganda and to compare municipal enterprise with private enterprise unless private enterprise is given a fair chance.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The hon. Member has waxed very wrathful about political propaganda, and I should like to give the Committee my experience. If he will come to Bow to-morrow, I will take him through streets and show him houses which have been decontrolled and show him the results of decontrol, where people are having to pay key money, sometimes as much as £10, in order to get any accommodation at all. There are hundreds of these houses in my division owned by people who never come near them but employ people to farm them out and squeeze as much as they can out of the unfortunate tenants. The hon. Member talks about a 5d. rate. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) knows 319 that a 5d. rate for building houses fit for people to live in saves a 5d. rate on the health services of any district in London.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes, necessarily so. I have heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman make similar statements himself and he knows perfectly well, if he knows anything at all, that bad housing and moral conditions create the necessity for the clinics and health services which have to be provided in slum areas. The hon. Member for Bradford, too, can come to Poplar and see where we have built by municipal enterprise homes that did cost £1,100. They cost that immediately after the War when the Government, instead of taking control of prices, shovelled out the money to contractors and others who became very rich out of it. It was not the fault of the municipalities but of those in control nationally, who did not control prices. [Interruption.] Addison or anyone else. Anyhow he was cheered and supported by die hon. Member's Friends until he saw the light and left them. It is sheer idiocy to use that as any argument against municipal building. The hon. Member talked about new methods that had come into private enterprise. I can take him to houses built within the last 20 years by private enterprise which are let at higher rents than those charged by the Poplar Borough Council or the London County Council though they do not compare at all with them. I can also show him rows of houses which would all fall down if you took one out of the middle. Many of them have not
§ been built 40 years. They are on made up land which has never properly settled.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am only tempted to do this because of the lecture we have received from the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth). These houses, which are at Hackney Wick, are a disgrace to any builder or any society that allowed them to be built. When you talk to me of private enterprise and what private enterprise has done, go and look at the back-to-back dwellings in your own city, and in the City of Leeds and the City of Birmingham, all of them built by private enterprise and by men who were not ashamed to squeeze extortionate rents out of the necessities of the very poorest of the community. They are being built to-day. A slum does not necessarily mean a narrow street. A slum is created by extortionate rents, when you squeeze people and pack families into one or two rooms because they cannot afford to pay more. I have listened to a good many Debates in this House, but this Debate taken part in by the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his assistant has more than convinced me that private enterprise as far as housing is concerned has neither a leg nor a brick to stand upon.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 44; Noes, 165.321
|Division No. 58.]||AYES.||[11.2 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield. John William||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffith, F. Kingaley (Middlesbro', W.)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Price, Gabriel|
|Buchanan, George||Hicks, Ernest George||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, William G.||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Daggar, George||Lunn, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L,||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McGovern, John||Sir Percy Harris and Mr. Curry.|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Balniel, Lord||Blindell, James|
|Albery, Irving James||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Borodale, Viscount|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Bossom, A. C.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M, (Hackney, N.)||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ray, Sir William|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Raid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Jackson, J. C. (Hey wood & Radcliffe)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T,||Jones, Sir O. W. H. (Moke New'gton)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Burghley, Lord||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Ker, j. Campbell||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Lamb, Sir Jaseph Quinton||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Carver, Major William H||Law, Sir Alfred||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Cassels, James Date||Law. Richard K, (Hull, S.W.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llverp'l)|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Sir Isldore|
|Christie, James Archibald||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Salt, Edward W.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Levy, Thomas||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Liddall, Walter S.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cooke, Douglas||Lindsay, Nool Ker||Sandarsan, Sir Prank Barnard|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Llewellin, Major John J.||Savory, Samuel Servington|
|Croom-Johnson, B. P.||Loutr, Captala J. de Vere||Scone, Lord|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Parttok)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Dormer, P. W.||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Drewe, Cedric||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradestat)||Smith, Sir Jonab W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Duncan, James A. U. (Kensington, N.)||Magnay, Thomas||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)|
|Edge, Sir William||Maitland, Adam||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Staoley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R||Storey, Samuel|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||May hew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Meller, Richard James||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Milne, Charles||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mitcheson, G. G.||Templeton. William P.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Marson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Moss, Captale H. J.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halls||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Nunn, William||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rt'd, N.)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Graves, MarJorle||Palmer, Francis Noel||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Pearson, William G.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Petherick, M||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Peto, Geoffrey K.(Wverh'pt'n, Bllston)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Potter, John||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Young. Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Hornby, Frank||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Islet)|
|Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Rankin, Robert||Commander Southby and Dr. Morris-Jones.|
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
We on this side of the Committee understood that although the Eleven o'Clock Rule has been suspended it was not proposed to finish the Bill to-night. That was our impression, and I should like to know how far the right hon. Gentleman proposes to go.
Sir H. YOUNG
There is a good deal of matter still on the Order Paper, but its nature is such that the Committee ought not to take any prolonged time in dealing with it. As a matter of fact, it is my intention to accept some of the Amendments, and others, to an onlooker, seem as if they may not be in order. Indeed, the points raised by the remaining Amendments are such that they may he dealt with in a comparatively short 322 time, and I think we may be able to finish them.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that any proposals made to the Minister under this Section shall—323 My object in moving this Amendment is to bring the 'Bill into line with the Acts of 1923 and 1924. I am showing my confidence in the right hon. Gentleman by giving him these large powers. We may criticise him, but I am satisfied that if he has these powers he will endeavour to see that not too many houses are built to the acre, that the principle of 12 per acre will be adhered to, except a very strong case is made to the contrary. Secondly, that he will see that the right type of house is provided for in any scheme which comes before him. The Amendment does not go quite as far as I should desire, but I think it does provide some security that this Bill will not repeat the disasters of the nineteenth century and perpetrate what the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) described as long roads of mean dull streets which disfigure most of our towns. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to accept the Amendment.
- (a) include such particulars as he may direct as to the number and type of the houses intended to be built or acquired and the approximate size of them measured in superficial feet; and
- (b) make provision for securing that, except in so far as the Minister may in any particular case dispense with the requirements of this paragraph, the number of such houses in relation to the area occupied or intended to be occupied by and in connection with them will not exceed the rate of 12 to the acre."
§ 11.16 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
The hon. Member's anticipations are correct. I propose to ask the Committee to accept this Amendment. The first part deals only with information which is necessary to enable the Minister to form a judgment of the nature of the application and quite appropriate for him to be entitled to receive as a statutory right. The second part deals in particular with the reenactment, as a standard, of the density of 12 houses to the acre, except in so far as the Minister may, in any particular case, dispense with that requirement. I have already told the House that it is not the policy of the Government, as a part of the new organisation of housing, to assent to any relaxation of the general standards of national housing. If that is so, I think it would be quite appropriate that we should signalise the fact by re-inserting this definite standard of 12 houses to the acre in the new Bill. Nevertheless, it is true to say that it is necessary that the Minister should have power in any particular case to make a relaxation of that standard. There are cases in which, in order to obtain the housing which the people require, it is necessary that the standard should be relaxed. Otherwise, the houses cannot be obtained at the rents 324 which people can pay. In spite of the relaxation of the standard a lay-out can be obtained which is proper, seemly and good.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, at the end, to add the words:and(c) make provision for securing that in the case of houses to be built a fair-wages clause which complies with the requirements of any Resolution of the House of Commons applicable to contracts of Government Departments and for the time being in force, is inserted in all contracts or agreements for advances between the society and its members, and in all contracts for the construction of the houses.I was very pleased to hear the Minister agree to accept the Amendment of the lion. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). I am encouraged to think that he will also agree to accept the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, which is a serious proposition and one which I think the Committee will be well advised to accept. Apparently there are no provisions in the Bill for fair wages to be recognised in the construction of the houses. The history of the struggle for a standard rate of wage is a very long one.
I hope that in this Bill we shall have some provision to carry out what has been the recognised practice in regard to the wages and conditions usually observed between good employers and trade unions, or, where there is no organisation, the wages and conditions applied by the best type of employer in a district. The old theory of long hours and low wages has proved uneconomic and has been found by experience to minimise the capacity for production and injure the health and physique of the workers. I hope that we shall take advantage of the experience gained in a great industrial country like ours and that in this legislation we shall recognise a principle which has been established for many years and has become a part of the fabric of our social and industrial life. As I hope that the Minister is not unwilling to give this proposal his consideration, I shall not at present go further into the arguments in favour of it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that it would be better, first to dispose of the 325 Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and, if it is accepted by the Committee, the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) can then move to add the words which he has indicated.
§ 11.22 p.m.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Perhaps the Committee will allow me to make a protest, even if it is only a solitary protest, against putting into the Bill words of the kind suggested by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). The first part of his Amendment provides that the Minister may direct that information shall be given in a certain form. Of course if the Minister has to approve of proposals, he can make that approval conditional on having the information submitted to him. The second part says that the Minister shall make provision for securing certain thingsexcept in so far as the Minister may in any particular case dispense with the requirements of this paragraph.I am not going to return to the argument about private enterprise. It may be efficient or inefficient. It may require the strictest control exercised by the law of the land and the Minister over all its operations. But to pursue the course of putting up a most imposing-looking and menacing paling and then saying, "My dear fellow, you need not mind. It is only cardboard and not wood after all" —that is a degrading business for this House to engage in and I protest against it.
§ 11.24 p.m.
§ Sir J. WALKER SMITH
I entirely agree with the protest which has just been made. There seems to be an almost insatiable desire to impose restrictions and to secure control and this Amendment represents a further endeavour to prevent anyone endeavouring to build any houses under this Clause. It is entirely unnecessary. I doubt if there will be very much done under the provisions of this Clause. Certainly, if there are many more efforts to impose additional control and further restrictions, the Clause will prove a complete fallacy. No one will do anything at all under it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member had better reserve these remarks until we come to the Question "That the Clause stand part."
Amendment agreed to.
§ 11.26 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, after the words last inserted, to insert the words:and(c) make provision for securing that in the case of houses to be built a fair-wages Clause which complies with the requirements of any Resolution of the House of Commons applicable to contracts of Government Departments, and for the time being in force, is inserted in all contracts or agreements for advances between the society and its members, and in all contracts for the construction of the houses.I will move that formally.
§ 11.26 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
On this matter of a fair wages clause, there is no intention at all on the part of the Government of making any breach in the defences of that clause or any departure from the principles accepted by the House, which, as we know, are embraced in a famous Resolution of the House. The question is of their proper adaptation to the actual business which we have now in contemplation. The wording of the Amendment presents difficulties, because it refers to contracts, and, as a matter of fact, in many cases there will be no contracts at all in which the fair wages clause can be inserted. It will simply be a case of the builder constructing houses for himself, so that we must look for some other method of doing what we want to do. Again, I would remind the Committee that it has never been the practice of this House to enact the insertion of the fair wages clause in contracts other than those made actually by public authorities. Here we have no contracts made actually by public authorities.
I have been looking to see what the precedents are for the way in which the clause is made as operative as possible under these conditions, and I find that the most appropriate precedent is in the Circular of the 2nd September, 1911. That is a Circular issued by the Local Government Board, in which the strongest possible emphasis was placed upon this clause and the strangest possible recommendation given to local 327 authorities to embody the clause in their contracts. I suggest to the hon. Member that, instead of dealing With the matter in the way proposed by the Amendment, which cannot be done on account of the absence of contracts, we should deal with it, on the precedent of that Circular, by my Making now the statement that I will address a, similar Circular to local authorities for the same purpose and to the same effect as the Circular of September, 1911, in order to exercise the best influence that can be exercised to maintain the operation of the fair wages clause.
§ 11.29 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
While thanking the Minister for saying what he has, I am hopeful that, before finally disposing of this matter, he will be able to agree to make it still further effective than it would be made by despatching the Circular, which is very important. There is the case which occurs to my mind Wherein a builder, in tin arrangement between himself and a building society, borrows the money and builds, and there is no Contract. It was to meet that case that the words of the Amendment Were specially designed. Unless, Something of this kind is done the best employers Will be greatly handicapped, and the work will go to the jerrybuilders Who, in the main, disregard the best conditions of labour. Unless provision is Made for the observance of fair wages and Conditions, the Minister will have diluted labour. that Means diluted houses, and the complaint as to
§ demarcation and bad workmanship will express itself in Many directions. We know the type of person who thinks that the building industry offers opportunities not offered by other industries. A man wins a cross-word puzzle and sets up as a builder, violating all the conditions that have been recognised in the industry. We want to eliminate that type of person. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will see his way clear to make the observance of the fair wages clause more certain than it will be by a circular to the authorities; for, however strong the moral appeal of a circular, it will not be sufficient.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
Would it not be possible between now and the Report stage to reconsider the wording of the Amendment There is a provision in an earlier Act similar to this, and am sure that, if the Minister agrees to the general principle behind the Amendment, he can easily frame a form of words that would Meet the situation. The issue of a circular is perhaps a good thing, but it does not bind anybody. It might be observed by builders of the best type, but unfortunately there is a set of people who cannot be trusted to do anything decent if there is a possibility of getting an extra shilling by doing otherwise. That is the type against whom we want to guard the good builder.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 34; Noes, 142.329
|Division No. 59.]||AYES.||[11.35 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar South.)||Grenfell David Rees (Glamorgan)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W.B., Normanton)||Price, Gabriel|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Batey, Joseph||Hieks, Ernest George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Sir Jonah W (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Lan'sbu'r'y, St. Hon. George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ognore)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Logah, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Crippe, Sir Stafford||Lunn, William|
|Daggar, George||McEntee, Valentine' L||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Davies, David E (Pontypridd)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr. Gordon Macdonald,|
|Edward's. Charles||Milner, Major James|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bossom, A.C.||Burghley, Lord|
|Albery, Irving Jambs||Bowyer Capt. Sir George. E. W.||But, Sir Alfred|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)|
|Balniel, Lord||Broadbent, Colonel John||Caporn, Arthur Cecil|
|Banks, Sir Robert Wiliam||Broadbent, C. E. R.||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Brawn Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Browne, Captain A. C.||Christie, James Archibald|
|Borodale, Viscount||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Colfox, Major William Phillp|
|Conant, a. J. E.||Leech, Dr. I. W.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Robinson, John Roland|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Levy, Thomas||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Liddall, Walter S.||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Donner, P. W.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Llewellin. Major John J.||Russell, Alexander Weil (Tynemouth)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vera||Salmon, Sir Isldore|
|Edge, Sir William||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Salt, Edward W.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||McKeag, William||Sandeman, sir A. N. Stewart|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Easenhigh, Reginald Clare||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|fielden, Edward Brocklchurst||Magnay, Thomas||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Fox, Sir Gilford||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Skalton, Archibald Noel|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Goldle, Noel B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Storey, Samuel|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mitcheson, G. G.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Graham, Sir F, Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Graves, Marjorie||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nunn, William||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Palmer, Francis Noel||Vaunhan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Pearson, William G.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hannon. Patrick Joseph Henry||Percy, Lord Eustace||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Heilgers, Captain F, F. A.||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P||Petherick, M.||Wills, Wilfrid O|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Wilton, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Hornby, Frank||Potter, John||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ramsay, T, B. W. (Western Isles)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Rankin, Robert||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ray, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Rea, Walter Russell||Sir Victor Warrender and Captain Austin Hudson.|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
§ 11.43 p.m.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, after the words last inserted, to insert the words:and(c) make provision for securing that the houses are or will be fitted with modern requirements and at least equal in hygienic standards to houses built in accordance with the provisions of the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, or the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924.The purpose of this Amendment is to try to maintain the standards which have already been set up ii municipal houses subsidised by the State. It is- necessary that some such words as these should be inserted because of what has already been said by the Minister. Apparently, apart from the minimum size of the houses, we have no guarantee about decent size, or density, after what has happened on the Amendment to which these words are to be added, and we have no guarantee on the question of rents. In the absence of all these real guarantees we feel that these words are necessary, in order that the amenities and hygienic standards of subsidised houses may be preserved in this adventure on which private enterprise is being 330 asked by the Government to embark. Those of us who have put down this Amendment, and all who sit on these benches, have in mind the preservation of certain standards which have come into existence relatively recently. We are thinking of certain kinds of interior fittings like cupboards and what are sometimes called dressers, of proper ventilation, decent skirting boards, picture rails, and so on. We do not want houses which are merely four brick walls, on some parts of which there is not even plastering. We want houses that are really worthy of the name. If we are merely going to turn this matter over to private enterprise in the way suggested by the Government, and to give that freedom in regard to the whole matter to which I have already referred in connection with size, density and rents, many of the things to which we have become accustomed are likely to go, and there is every reason to believe that other things will go too. Consequently, the insertion of some such words as these is necessary at this place.
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
We all want the best standard of houses that we, can get, 331 but I assure the hon. Member that the things of which he has spoken would not be covered by his Amendment. He has already all the things that it covers, with one exception. There is already provision for a minimum floor space, and on the question of density. The only other hygienic standard under the Acts of 1923 and 1924 is in relation to baths, and that we are going to discuss in a moment on the next Amendment.
§ 11.48 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether there is complete provision in the Bill so far as cubic air space is concerned. Sometimes, with a view to economy, the roof is brought down into the bedrooms instead of being kept out of them. You may have the standard floor space, but it is necessary also to have a guarantee as to the height of the ceilings on the ground floor and on the bedroom floor, so that the cubic air space may be maintained, and it appears to me that that point is not covered.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I ought to have warned the hon. Gentleman that I do not propose to call the next Amendment.
§ 11.49 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I have been struggling all the evening, on Clause 2, to get the spirit of the Act of 1923 into this Measure. I remember the tremendous fight that we had then for the very modest requirement of a fixed bath. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was in the House at that time, but we certainly converted the then Minister of Health, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the bath has become a sort of symbol of civilisation. It may be that some people regard baths as a luxury, but I regard them as a necessity. I want the Parliamentary Secretary, as a symbol of his administration at the Ministry of Health, to get baths into this Bill somehow or other, so that every house that comes into being under the Bill may have that very pleasant amenity, a real bath.
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the Minister was prepared to accept this Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think he said anything of the kind. Otherwise I should not have said what I said.
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
What I said was that hon. Gentlemen have already got nine-tenths of what they want. The only thing that they have not got is the bathroom. I agree that we should all like to see them provided everywhere, but there are cases where you cannot do it. I could give one case in a rural area where you could not give a bath, because, if you did, you would have no water to put into it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] In a rural area. Obviously, with such exceptions, these houses will have baths, because a local authority would not guarantee houses unless they are all of a decent standard and with a bath. In such exceptional cases in a rural area you cannot put in a bath, for if you do you cannot get water in it because there is no water laid on. That is why we cannot accept this Amendment in this form. As hon. Gentlemen have already got nine-tenths of what they want, I hope that they will not press the Amendment.
§ 11.52 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I really do not wish to describe a bathroom as a red herring, and our Amendment may be entirely wrong and may have no point, but I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary, by raising this question of the bath, is dealing with an entirely different point. It may be competent for him to argue that this Amendment is absurd and ridiculous and that by the good will of the Minister we have got nine-tenths of what we want, but there is nothing in this which deals with the question of baths. I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary is really not dealing with the Amendment at all, but is trying to prepudice the case for the next Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is now dealing with the question of water, and, in these circumstances, I must rule that the Parliamentary Secretary was in order, because in my opinion the insertion of a bath in most houses is in accordance with modern requirements.
§ 11.53 p.m.
§ Mr. LEVY
I only intervene because I think the Parliamentary Secretary has 333 admitted the inadequacy of the water supply. Therefore, I say that it is time that we had an adequate water supply in all these areas, whether for building or for any other purpose. It is not unreasonable to ask that we should have an adequate water supply and that the provision of bathrooms in any houses should not be ruled out because of the inadequacy of the water supply.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
The Parliamentary Secretary's argument is a most extraordinary one. It is that you cannot insert these words because there are areas in the country in rural districts in which, because there is an inadequate water supply, it would be of no use to fix baths in houses. The Clause to which this is an addition does not pretend to deal with rural areas at all. This is a. Bill to provide houses, not for agricultural labourers, but in urban districts. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) pointed out in his speech earlier in the afternoon, building societies in rural areas are unheard of, and nobody knows what they mean. There is not the slightest idea that building societies will be called upon to advance money for building, by private enterprise, houses to house the agricultural labourer. They cannot do it at a price at which agricultural labourers can hire the houses, and the intention of the Bill is not that houses should be provided under it for that purpose at all. The purpose of the Bill is that houses should be provided at approximately 12s. rent in urban areas where the whole question of the water supply is solved. There is a water supply and there is not the slightest reason why provision for a fixed bath should not be inserted in the Clause. I cannot believe there is a single Member of the 'Committee who thinks the hon. Gentleman's reason an adequate one. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) that we should as far as possible preserve the standard that this House set up in 1923 and 1924. There is not the slightest doubt that even during these 10 years a bathroom has become a genuine necessity and not, as it was to some extent in some areas, a luxury. Even in rural areas tenants are now asking their landlords to insert baths, having learnt from others and from their own experience that the possession of a bathroom is practically a neces- 334 sity of life. If the Minister will speak on the Amendment, I feel sure he will give us more satisfaction, because he must know that the Bill is not intended to apply to rural areas at all, and that in urban areas a fixed bath is an obvious necessity. To omit it from the Bill will tend to degrade the general standard of housing, which I am sure he wishes to preserve as much as any of us.
§ 11.59 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The Parliamentary Secretary is getting deeper and deeper into difficulties. He said nine-tenths of the difficulty had been met, the other tenth being the bath. That is his standard of values. Then we are told it will be all right because of the guarantees. I do not believe in the slightest degree in the effectiveness of the guarantees. This Bill will not work unless the private builder gets his way. The private builders' view of what the working class family needs is not the view of enlightened Members of this House. Master builders think houses 40 to the acre are excellent. They do not agree with the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Johnstone) that people need to wash themselves all over at one time.
There is an illustration of this point of view. It is a matter which has been fought out on the Floor of the House of Commons. If I remember rightly—I have not looked up the Debates—in the Housing Bill of 1923 we had a struggle to get a fixed bath. I remember that some of us who sat upon this side of the House then and many hon. Gentlemen who sat upon the opposite side fought against those who were very reluctant to admit the common right of mankind living in civilised dwellings to have a fixed bath. I did not agree with that view of the fixed bath at the time, and we know now that there are thousands of houses up and down the country where the fixed bath is put into the scullery or below the kitchen hearth, and, in some cases, even in an outhouse. In 1924 I remember that we kept the House very late one night, long after 11 o'clock, when an hon. Member, who is now a member of the House of Lords, fought the proposal that the fixed bath should be in a bathroom. A revolution! We kept the House for two hours debating the simple point as to whether the fixed bath should be in a bathroom. In 1924 335 we insisted upon getting rid of the abomination of a bathroom which was also a scullery, kitchen and a living room. It has been imposed since 1924 in the case of every house built under any kind of housing. Now we are to rely upon a guarantee. I suggest that this is not good enough. It is on record that the people who will build these houses and who will get the guarantees from the building societies—and I am bound to say that in this matter, as regards amenities, I do not trust either the building societies or the Minister, unless he gives us his word in writing in the Bill—will interfere with these amenities. I am bound to say that those things are now to go.
It is very reasonable to suggest that, if there is to be any shadow of a State or a municipal guarantee, or any kind of public recognition of the houses being built, they should conform to modern standards, one of the most elementary of them being the one-tenth of which the Parliamentary Secretary is in doubt. If there is any shadow of public responsibility the question, not merely of a fixed bath, but of a fixed bath in a bathroom, ought to be admitted in all houses. If that is not done, what will happen? The right hon. Gentleman has complained that he could not keep an eye on the
§ rents of all the houses built for all time. Is he going to keep an eye at all on the houses which are to be built? Of course, he is not, unless there is some legal sanction which will establish quite definitely that houses shall conform to a definite standard. I hope that the Committee will not agree to the proposition to leave to the whim of speculative builders, with company promoters in the background, through the Minister, the understandings and possible guarantees, and will not allow the particular abuse which the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Johnstone) has mentioned to assert itself. A fixed bath—and I would say in a bathroom—is an essential to civilised life. If the Amendment is rejected, however badly it may be worded, the Committee will have missed the point raised by the Parliamentary Secretary. I cannot think that this House, after the struggles in 1923 and 1924, even with this reversion to private enterprise, is going back. What was fought for in 1923 and 1924 ought to be good enough to-day and I hope that hon. Members will follow us into the Lobby in support of the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 40; Noes, 135.337
|Division No. 60.]||AYES.||[12.6 a.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield. John William||Harris, Sir Percy||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Sevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||Janner, Barnett||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Curry, A. C.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||He Entee, Valentine L.||Mr. Gordon Macdonald and Mr.|
|Greniell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McKeag, William||Duncan Graham.|
|Griffith, F. Klngsley (Middlesbro',W.)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut. Colonel||Browne, Captain A. C.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Donner, P. W.|
|Albery, Irving James||Burghley, Lord||Drewe, Cedric|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Burnett, John George||Duckworth, George A. V.|
|Balniel, Lord||Butt, Sir Alfred||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington. N.)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Carver, Major William H.||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Blindell, James||Castlereagh, Viscount||Fielden, Edward Brocktehurst|
|Borodale, Viscount||Chapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Fremantle, Sir FrancTs|
|Braithwalte. J. G. (Hillsborough)||Christie, James Archibald||Gluckstein, Louis Haile|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Collox, Major William Philip||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Brockleback, C. E. R.||Conant, R. J. E.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Cooks, Douglas||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Scone, Lord|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Nunn, William||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Palmer, Francis Noel||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney,N.)||Pearson, William G.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Perkins, Walter R. O.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Petherick, M.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Biltt'n)||Storey, Samuel|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Potter, John||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ramsay, T. B. w. (Western Isles)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Levy, Thomas||Rankin, Robert||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ray, Sir William||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, CJ||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Renwick. Major Gustav A.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Robinson, John Roland||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, s.)|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Ropner. Colonel L.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Range, Norah Cecil||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Magnay, Thomas||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llverp'l)||Young, Rt. Hon.Sir Hilton(S'v'noaks)|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Salt, Edward W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putner)||Major George Davies and Dr.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Morris-Jones.|
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.338
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 142; Noes, 25.339
§ use 3 (Citation and extent), ordered to stand part of the Bill.