HC Deb 28 February 1933 vol 275 cc339-45

Any proposal made by a local authority to the Minister for a guarantee under Section 2 of this Act shall provide that applicants with families shall have precedence in allocating houses, and no reimbursement shall be made under Section 2 of this Act unless such provision shall have been carried out.—[Sir P. Harris.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.22 a.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This proposed New Clause embodies an important principle, especially when we have to deal with private enterprise. The real struggle in housing matters is to provide houses for families. Unfortunately, it very often happens that, because of the conditions imposed by a landlord, houses are let to households without children. Everybody knows that there is a tendency to give preference to the small family or to applicants with no families. I appreciate that there might be administrative difficulties, but I hope that it may be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance that he has already worked out the possibility of making regulations to carry out the purpose that I have in mind.

My trouble is that I do not see that the Minister, under the present wording of the Bill, has any way of "following up" the houses. After they have been constructed and the building societies have given the financial assistance, the houses, as far as I can see, pass out of the ken of the Ministry of Health and of the local authorities. There is certainly no security in the wording of the Bill that applicants with families should occupy the houses, and the proposed New Clause is an attempt to provide such security. If I can get a promise from the Minister that there will be some kind of machinery for securing this purpose, I do not propose to press the Clause.

12.24 a.m.


I should like my final gesture to-night to be one of assent and not of dissent, but I am afraid that in this case I can only try to make what must, fundamentally, be a gesture of dissent as much like a gesture of assent as I can. Every hon. Member will sympathise with the intention of the hon. Baronet, which is that the houses ought to be as fully occupied as can be. He asks what assurance I can give him. I think the practical assurance that will be satisfactory to the hon. Baronet is that, in considering the conditions of the demand, and the nature of the satisfaction of the demand as specified in the application for guarantee, the Minister will look to the fulfilment of the purpose that the houses shall be as fully occupied as possible and that accommodation shall be found for large families. Unless these useful purposes are served by the houses that it is proposed to build under the guarantee, the assistance contained in the guarantee will not be provided. That is as far as it is possible to go, within the structure of the present Bill.

The proposed clause itself might be amended because, as the hon. Baronet proposes it, it renders itself liable to some of those strictures already cited by the Noble Lord, the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and it could not amount to anything practical in administration. In our administration it has been found impossible to impose a condition in the manner in which this clause suggests. A fortiori, it would be impossible to impose it in the case of the present Bill. That is the practical assurance that I can give the hon. Baronet as to the spirit of the administration.

12.27 a.m.


I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's spirit and his assurances. They are an indication to the Committee of the difference of principle between the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters, on the one hand, and some of us on these benches. There must be a certain standard of public honour and of public spirit in the building interests. The right hon. Gentleman, having to choose between housing being carried on under the eye of public authorities, and by private enterprise, chooses private enterprise, and then defends his position by saying, "Well, in view of the circumstances, I cannot guarantee that the houses will be let and will conform to certain standards, or that they shall be let to people of a particular kind." There is an administrative difficulty. Houses that were built by the local authorities under the Acts of 1923 and 1924, except those that were built for sale under the 1923 Act, remain under the public authority. It may be that they are not able to live up to the standards of 1924, but where there is a, sense of responsibility there is the endeavour to do so.

The right hon. Gentleman is going to give some guarantees at a small cost to his Department and to the Exchequer and is going to launch houses built by private enterprise. Once those houses are built, he is finished with them. It is that kind of thing that has been one of the causes of our difficulties to-day. Even if we agree that all the houses used to be built by private enterprise, it remains true that if they had been under effective public control the housing problem to-day would not be so serious as it is. The right hon. Gentleman is going to let loose this unrestricted private enterprise again, without any vestige of control. He tells the hon. Baronet that their intentions are the same. I cannot agree. Unless I misunderstood the hon. Baronet, he wants to see the houses fully occupied. One of the difficulties is that houses are much too fully occupied. There is no guarantee in this Bill that the houses are to be built in accordance with local requirements. You need a number of houses for aged persons; you need a number of small houses for those who prefer non-parlour houses, and who would prefer to spend their money on other luxuries. You need a number of houses for those who prefer parlour houses, and people with large families who desire a house of the maximum size allowed by the law. Under this Bill there is no guarantee that you are going to get any such thing at all.

Unless there is some kind of restriction, the chances are that the builders will build the smallest, cheapest and meanest type of house, knowing quite well that they will be able to let them to families much too large for houses of that kind. I know that there are difficulties in the way of administration, difficulties not created by those on this side of the House, but by the Minister who has sold the pass in this business. In spite of these difficulties, there ought to be some legislative provision that the smallest type of house is not going to be the standard type of house. There should be provision for houses of larger size. I hope that the hon. Baronet will stand by his Clause. The Minister having given away almost every vestige of control, we ought to stand by the principle of some kind of control by some public authority over the size and type of house.

12.32 a.m.


It is common form to express surprise and regret when the Minister refuses to accept a proposal which we want him to accept. I feel that I cannot conform to that tradition, because nothing would have surprised me more than if the Minister had said that he intended to accept this Clause. Every time that we have asked him for any security, or certainty, that the houses, which are to be built out of public money by private enterprise, should be used for the purposes we desire—that they should be used to provide housing for the poorer working classes, he has provided us with good intentions. He has the good intention to see that the people who ask for his assistance have the good intention to let the houses to these people, but when we ask for something more than intention he always tells us he has no machinery. He has made it perfectly clear—if we ever had any doubt we have so no longer—that private enterprise can say it intends to let the houses to working-class persons, but it is not even asked if it intends to let the houses at a reasonable rent. Private enterprise is only asked to express an intention, and if it changes that intention five minutes later it will be quite all right. Is it likely, therefore, that the Minister would have taken the more difficult step of accepting the principle put forward in this Clause, that private enterprise, having built a house, shall proceed to allocate that house by preference to people with families?

As the last speaker has said, it will be a troublesome Clause to carry out. I wish it were possible to carry out the principle. Of course we know that the actual result will be just the opposite. It is quite certain that these houses, built under a guarantee and with the aid of public funds, will be let on a definite principle which will be the opposite to that laid down in this Clause. Preference will be given to the couple of elderly spinsters, because private enterprise prefers such as these to the man with three, five or seven children who has that number of reasons for not paying his rent when unemployed. Private enterprise will seek the highest possible return in working under an Act which puts up barriers against indulging in that desire which some of us have. I would have been surprised if the right hon. Gentleman had given way on this Clause, because he has been so out of consonance with the atmosphere of these Acts. I do not believe that the control would have been anything more than a kind of sham, but I will vote for the Clause to assert my belief in the principle. There is a sort of poetic consistency in the last Division which we shall take to-night, because it shows us the flaws in this most detestable Measure.

12.38 a.m.


I agree with the new Clause, and I am surprised at the Minister rejecting it. I said at an earlier stage in the evening that the Bill is obviously an attempt to allow private enterprise to exploit the public, especially that section of the public least able to bear exploitation. Further, the rejection of this new Clause means that the Minister must know that the builders responsible for the letting of the houses will be able to choose their tenants and, naturally, they will choose those tenants best able to pay rent quite irrespective of whether they have families or not. The probability is, as has been said by the hon. Lady who has just spoken, that people who have large families—and the general rule is that people with large families are much more liable to be unable to pay their rents—will get little consideration from the owners of these new houses who are to receive public guarantees from the local authorities and His Majesty's Government.

The Minister has shown, in this regard and in all others, his keen desire to allow private enterprise to find a new field for making profit. Practically every vestige of public control, very essential for the welfare of the people, is to be lost. That means that all the efforts made by housing experts in recent years, and all those who desire to see the people of this country reasonably well housed, have been blocked. The Minister has driven us back to a state little in advance of that at the end of the War, when private enterprise gave us the slums which we possess to-day. Some time in the future, when we have other Rotherham election and some more General Elections, the people will come back to their senses and discover that the mistake they made at the last General Election is finding expression in the Bills which we are now considering. They will unfortunately be compelled to submit to that exploitation until an opportunity occurs for housing authorities, housing experts, and housing enthusiasts to rebuild the housing position that has been destroyed by the Minister in this Bill. I think that this Bill is—


The Clause only deals with the allotment of houses.


I am dealing with the allotment of houses under this Bill, and I regard it as one of its worst features. The Bill will prevent the people most in need of houses, those with large families, from getting houses, and it will enable the exploiters to exploit those people to a greater degree. At some future time those of us who have been serious in our attempt to get decent housing for the people to live in will be sorry that we have ever had a Minister and a Government that passed this Bill.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 30; Noes, 134.

Division No. 61.] AYES. [12.15 a.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Rankin, Robert
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Harris, Sir Percy Ratcliffe, Arthur
Albery, Irving James Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Ray. Sir William
Aske, Sir Robert William Holdsworth, Herbert Rea, Walter Russell
Balniel, Lord Horsbrugh. Florence Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney. N.) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.) Janner, Barnett Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Blindell, James Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Robinson, John Roland
Borodale, Viscount Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Ropner, Colonel L
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Ker, J. Campbell Runge, Norah Cecil
Broadbent, Colonel John Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Brocktebank, C. E. R. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Browne. Captain A. C. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llverp'l)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Salmon, Sir Isidore
Burghley, Lord Levy, Thomas Salt, Edward W.
Burnett, John George Liddall, Walter S. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Butt, Sir Alfred Lindsay, Noel Ker Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Llewellin, Major John J. Savery, Samuel Servington
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Scone, Lord
Carver, Major William H. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Castlereagh, Viscount MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Shaw. Captain William T. (Forfar)
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric McKeag, William Skelton, Archibald Noel
Christie, James Archibald McKie, John Hamilton Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)
Collox, Major William Philip McLean, Major Sir Alan Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Conant, R. J. E. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Cooke, Douglas Macmillan, Maurice Harold Storey, Samuel
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Magnay, Thomas Stourton, Hon. John J.
Curry, A. C. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Donner, P. W. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Drewe, Cedrlo Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Satellite, Harold
Duckworth, George A. V. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Titchfield. Major the Marquess of
Duncan. James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & ChisWk) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Eseenhigh, Reginald Clare Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Everard, W. Lindsay Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Wells, Sydney Richard
Flelden, Edward Brocklehurst Muirhead, Major A. J. Weymouth, Viscount
Fox, Sir Gilford Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Fremantle, Sir Francis Nunn, William Wills, Wilfrid D.
Gluckstein, Louis Halle O'Donovan, Dr. William James Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Goldie, Noel B. Palmer, Francis Noel Wise, Alfred R.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Pearson, William G. Womersley, Walter James
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'.W.) Perkins, Walter R. D. Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Petherick, M.
Gunston, Captain D. W. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n.Bllston) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Guy, J. C. Morrison Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Ralkes, Henry V. A. M. Major George Davies.
Hanley, Dennis A. Ramsay. T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Parkinson, John Allen
Banfield, John William Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Price, Gabriel
Sevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hicks, Ernest George Tinker, John Joseph
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cape, Thomas Lawson, John James Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Logan, David Gilbert
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lunn, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Daggar, George McEntee, Valentine L. Mr. Cordon Macdonald and Mr.
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Duncan Graham.
Edwards, Charles Miliner, Major James
Division No. 62.] AYES. [12.42 a.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Harris, Sir Percy Milner, Major James
Banfield, John William Hicks, Ernest George Nathan, Major H. L.
Brawn, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Holdsworth, Herbert Price, Gabriel
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Janner, Barnett Rathbone, Eleanor
Cripps, Sir Stafford Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Rea, Walter Russell
Daggar, George Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Tinker, John Joseph
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lawson, John James Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Edwards, Charles Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Greenwood, Rt. Han. Arthur McEntee, Valentine L.
Grenfell, David Reel (Glamorgan) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Griffith, F. Kingiley (Middlesbro', W.) Mander, Geoffrey le M. Mr. Cordon Macdonald and Mr. Duncan Graham.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Hartley, Dennis A. Ray, Sir William
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P, G. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Albery, Irving James Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Aske, Sir Robert William Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Balniel, Lord Horsbrugh, Florence Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Robinson, John Roland
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Ropnor, Colonel L.
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.) Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Runge, Norah Cecil
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Bilndell, James Ker, J. Campbell Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Kerr, Lieut.-Col, Charles (Montrose) Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Broadbent, Colonel John Leighton, Major B. E. P. Salmon, sir Isidore
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Salt, Edward W.
Browne, Captain A. C. Levy, Thomas Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Liddall, Walter S. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stowart
Burghley, Lord Lindsay, Noel Ker Savery, Samuel Servington
Burnett, John George Liewellin, Major John J. Scone, Lord
Butt, Sir Alferd Loder, Captain J. de Vers Shakespeare, Geoffrey H
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) MacAndrcw, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forlar)
Carver, Major William H. McKie, John Hamilton Skelton, Archibald Noel
Castlereagh, Viscount McLean, Major Sir Alan Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrowln-F.)
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leotric Macmillan, Maurice Harold Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Christie, James Archibald Magnay, Thomas Storey, Samuel
Conant, R. J E. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Stourton, Hon. John J.
Cooke, Douglas Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Copeland, Ida Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Milts, Major J. D. (New Forest) Sutcliffe, Harold
Drewe, Cedric Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Duckworth, George A. V. Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigk) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Muirhead, Major A. J. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Everard, W. Lindsay Nunn, William Wells, Sydney Richard
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst O'Donovan, Dr. William James Weymouth, Viscount
Fox, Sir Gifford Palmer, Francis Noel Wills, Wilfrid D.
Fremantle, Sir Francis Pearson, William G. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Perkins, Walter R. D. Wise, Alfred R.
Goldie, Noel B. Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bllston) Womersley, Walter James
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Pickford, Hon. -Mary Ada Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)
Guinness, Thomas L. E. S. Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.
Gunston, Captain D. W. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Guy, J. C. Morrison Rankin, Retail Lieut.-Colonel Sir Lambert Ward
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Ratcliffe, Arthur and Major George Davies.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday, and to be printed. [Bill 64.]