§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-JONES
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."
I want it to be clearly understood that this is not a fractious opposition nor is it the case, as has been stated in many quarters, that those hon. Members whose names are down to the Amendment opposing the Bill have been got at by private owners in various areas of the existing city boundaries. We oppose the Bill entirely on its merits, and for the 1187 reasons set down in the second Amendment which says:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which would enable the Corporation of Manchester to further expend the resources of the ratepayers upon adjacent rural areas whilst continuing to neglect the redevelopment of the central area of their district, and the rehousing of the overcrowded sections of the population.The Manchester Corporation say that by this Bill they are merely giving themselves a locus standi in opposing a Bill promoted by the Stockport Corporation. They say further that they do not want the area of Cheadle and Gatley, but immediately go on to give reasons why Manchester should have the area. In considering this Bill I think we are entitled to look at the reasons which the Manchester Corporation put forward as the basis of their case. All their reasons are based on the services which are at present rendered to the area of Cheadle and Gatley. In the first place, they say that they supply gas. The Manchester Corporation makes a profit of about 10 per cent. over and above the profit which it makes from the present citizens of Manchester. They are in receipt of a good income from a sound proposition. They also say that they supply this area with electricity. They do, but Cheadle and Gatley have the right, on giving notice, to get their electricity from the grid if they so desire, and I fail to see how Manchester can claim that they have a monopoly of the supply. They also say that they have agreed to take the sewage from this area. When the Manchester Corporation presented a Bill some time ago to acquire another area, Wythenshawe, a bargain was made with Cheadle and Gatley that if that area withdrew its opposition to the Manchester Bill Manchester would take the sewage.
They also say that they do the major portion of the transport between Manchester and Cheadle, but that reason does not hold water because the Manchester Corporation supplies 40 per cent., the North Western Omnibus Company 40 per cent., and the Stockport Omnibus Company 20 per cent. of the transport, and there is no doubt that the North Western Omnibus Company would have supplied much more of the transport if the Manchester Corporation had not opposed, before the Traffic Commissioners, licences 1188 being granted to private firms who for some time had been supplying the district with all the transport needed. There are in addition, of course, the railways. The corporation also make the point that they are supplying education and hospital treatment to residents in this area. They do the same thing for other areas which they have tried to absorb but where they have failed. On looking through all these services I do not think that Manchester can lay much claim to a very deep interest in this area, except from the point of view of getting a very good profit out of it.
What benefits are likely to accrue to Manchester if the area comes in? It is a well known fact that in every absorption by the Corporation of Manchester there has been no relief whatever to the ratepayers. On the contrary, extra chages have been put upon the citizens of Manchester and also upon the people of the areas which have been absorbed. Longer distances have had to be travelled by people going to and from their work, fares, of course, are thus greater, and working people have to spend more time in travelling and less time at home. They have been sent into areas where the cost of living is higher than it was in the areas from which they have been taken, with the result that although their needs have remained the same they have had less money to spend upon them. The Manchester Corporation also say that the only chance of extension is on the south side. That is true. They have tried on the north but this House has not permitted an extension in that direction. But while they say that the south is the only area where they can extend in the same breath they say that they do not want to extend. The reason for this is not at all clear, but there is no doubt that in spite of their assertion that they do not want the area of Cheadle and Gatley in actual fact they do, and that belief is given some credence by a statement in a letter written by the Town Clerk of Manchester to the Town Clerk of Stockport in which he suggested that if Stockport would withdraw their proposal in regard to Cheadle and Gatley, Manchester would do the same. A little further on in the letter there is a most significant sentence which reads:It may be in the future that circumstances will arise which will make it essential that a decision should be made.1189 That I think speaks for itself, and it will no doubt be much appreciated by Manchester if they can get Stockport out of the way, as then they would have a far clearer run of getting this area, which they say they do not want. Have they considered the wishes or the desires of residents in Gatley and Cheadle? If they are going to promote a Bill to take in the area the first decent thing to do is to ask the residents in the area whether they want to be absorbed or not. From the result of a poll which was held a short time ago, when over 90 per cent. of the residents polled, there was an overwhelming vote against joining either Manchester or Stockport. In this matter Manchester has acted in a high-handed way. They have abrogated to themselves the right to say who shall and who shall not absorb any other area without considering the interests of the citizens or the area which they hope to take in. If in fact they do not desire to take in this area one is bound to admit that they are acting like a dog in the manger; if we cannot have it we will take care that you do not get it.
What benefit are the residents of this small area going to get from absorption? Undoubtedly the rates will go up in Cheadle and Gatley. The difference in the rates to-day is about 5s. in the £. The value of existing property will be reduced, and the amenities of the area will not be considered. We have had experience of other areas in Manchester where the amenities have not been considered for a moment. Corporation property has been put up side by side with property which has been built by private individuals in areas where the amenities have been improved out of recognition by the industry of the individuals concerned, not by the corporation, and the result of putting up corporation houses alongside these dwellings has been that the value of such property has been materially reduced. I do not say for a moment that the working class should not have decent areas in which to live, I do not say that they ought not to go into residential areas, far from it, but I do say that there should be some demarkation between corporation houses and other houses which have been in existence in order to keep up the values which already exist and that corporation houses should not be put in alongside, immediately reducing the values all round.
1190 I know that we shall be told that we are in the wrong in opposing this Bill, because it has received the overwhelming support of the members of the Manchester City Council. But I have had correspondence with many who supported that Bill in the council and who now realise what it will mean if the Bill goes through. They are now against the Bill for which they originally voted. There is also opposition in Manchester from people who have not got votes. I am referring to members of huge concerns, limited companies, who by virtue of their companies being limited companies have not got votes. Their desires have not been considered in the least. They merely have to pay and to receive all the good things that are supposed to come from the corporation.
We shall be told probably that we are entering into a sort of political blackmail, that the Motion which originally stood in our name has nothing whatever to do with the extension and that we are trying to get something to which the Bill does not relate. I do not know who made the charge of political blackmail or bribery, but I do consider that the Manchester Corporation cannot throw bricks at us on that score. I mentioned earlier that in order to reduce the opposition of Wythenshawe to the Bill a bribe was given to Cheadle and Gatley in the form of offering that area to take all its sewage if it would drop its opposition. That opposition was dropped. Now we hear that the Manchester Corporation, which has got a Second Reading for its general powers Bill, has had to stoop to making an arrangement with some members who are against local option being granted to municipalities on the licensing of dog-racing tracks—an arrangement has been made with them whereby the Clause in the general powers Bill shall be struck out in exchange for the support of those members to the Manchester Corporation Extension Bill. If a Corporation has to stoop to such tactics in the promotion of the Bill it cannot have very much opinion of its own Bill and it has not very much of a case.
We say that the first duty of a municipality is to do right by its citizens and to supply services as economically as is possible, commensurate with efficiency, and we say that the Manchester Corpora- 1191 tion is not carrying out that duty. Vast areas in the City require redevelopment and reconstruction, but by a recent acquisition the more valuable built-up areas have been sadly neglected, and the more we increase the size of the City the more the central part of the City will be neglected. We say that for administrative purposes the City is quite big enough, and that instead of using the time and energy of the officials of the Council on the planning out of new areas and finding more jobs for more officials in still further areas, they should pay more attention to what they have already and make a good job of that.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Captain FULLER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am going to approach this question of the Second Reading of this Bill in my own way. I make no excuse for that. First I would like to deal with the surprise which has been expressed in some quarters that we Members who are opposing the Second Reading of the Bill should have taken the action that we have taken. We have been told in the Press and elsewhere that many people are shocked to see broken what they have called the old traditional continuity of practice, meaning by that, I suppose, that they are shocked to see that some Members of Parliament have refused, in this case at any rate, to take instructions from their own local authority. It seems to me that it would be a sad day for the country if this idea is to be fettered on to Members of Parliament, and if the freedom of opinion which we claim is not to be granted, not alone to us who have the honour of representing various divisions of Manchester, but to every other Member of this House. If such a course were followed it would mean nothing more than the establishment of an electoral college which, however relevant it might be to the establishment of a new Oriental Constitution, would be quite out of tune with the democratic ideas and practices which are still mercifully preserved to us in this country.
In regard to this Bill, I would say that ever since my first contact with the Ardwick Division of Manchester, which I have the honour to represent, I have been 1192 greatly concerned with the housing conditions in many parts of my constituency. I have from time to time with other hon. Members, without any fuss or show, endeavoured to find out what steps have been taken in the past, what steps are being taken and what steps are contemplated for the future, in regard to the conditions which prevail there. On 18th February of last year I wrote to the Town Clerk to ask him as to housing schemes, which would have a peculiar bearing on this problem, and of course I had in mind also the provision of work for the very large number of Manchester unemployed who were connected with the building industry. I was informed that certain schemes were in hand. They affected the Blackley Division and the Clayton Division which adjoins my own, but especially was the answer in regard to the Wythenshawe Estate, which attracts very few people from my constituency, for the simple reason that it is some miles away from the city, that the rents there are higher than these people can afford, and there are other incidental expenses which are too heavy for them to bear.
Following that, in March of last year I asked the Minister of Health a question in regard to slum clearance schemes. I asked him to state how many slum clearance schemes had been submitted by the Corporation of Manchester since 1922, how many had been completed, the number of houses affected, and whether any such schemes were then before him for approval. The answer I got was to the effect that one scheme affecting 199 houses had been completed, that in July, 1931, the corporation made a declaration that another area was a clearance area within the scope of Section 1 of the Housing Act, 1930, and that the corporation had not as yet submitted to him either clearance or compulsory purchase orders for dealing with this area. Following that I was attracted by an announcement which appeared in the "Daily Dispatch" of 6th April of last year, by the chairman of the Town Planning and Buildings Committee. Among other things he said:Two years ago the medical officer reported that there were 30,000 houses in Manchester below a reasonable standard which ought to be dealt with in the next 10 years. We have done nothing about it.In regard to that I again approached the Ministry of Health, and I received a reply, the relevant part of which I will read: 1193It is unfortunately true that much slum clearance work remains to be done in Manchester. I enclose copy of a recent circular, 1331, issued by the Minister about slum clearance. I am afraid that the responsibility for any failure to deal with unsatisfactory housing conditions in Manchester must lie with the city council. At no time has any obstacle been placed by the Minister in the way of their providing houses to meet the needs of persons of the working classes in their area, and I trust there will be the fullest co-operation of the city council in the policy laid down in the circular.Having been asked to support the present Bill I made further inquiries as to overcrowding, and the answer seems to me to be fairly conclusive. On 8th December last I asked the Minister to state what schemes, in addition to slum clearance schemes, had been submitted to him by the Manchester City Council for dealing with overcrowding in areas which were not necessarily slum areas but in which clearance would need to be carried out for the erection of more commodious buildings on the spot. The answer was that no definite schemes other than those which provided for the clearance of slum areas had been submitted. Later on in the month I had some correspondence with the Ministry in regard to representations which had been made to me from various people in the West Gorton area of my constituency, one of the clearance areas which the corporation is undertaking to clear, and I was informed that no application had been made then to the Ministry for a compulsory order.
I believe that three schemes are contemplated, and in the West Gorton area of my constituency one of the scheme affects some 400 houses. I am bound to say in all fairness that that scheme gives me a certain amount of personal gratification, and if the corporation, as they assure me is the case, intend to house the inhabitants on the spot in reasonable and respectable dwellings and intend to treat all parties concerned in this clearance with justice and equity, it will be a matter for congratulation to them, as far as I am concerned. But apart from this, no further move seems to be contemplated, in spite of the most sordid and distressing conditions under which many people live especially in the New Cross area of my division. I do not wish to weary the House with quotations, but I should like to give two which may help to indicate to hon. Members the conditions which prevail. I quote first from an extraordinarily 1194 interesting social study by a group of the Manchester University. This is what they have to say in relation to this area:There are no gardens or trees—nothing to relieve the deadly monotony and greyness of its mean streets—except perhaps the massive shapes of its gaunt factories and canals now black and strewn with rubbish. Plants will not grow in this district which owing to smoke"—I do not blame the Manchester City Council for that—receives only about 42 per cent. of the light received seven miles away. Small wonder that the infant mortality rate was 125 per thousand in 1928 as compared with a national average of 65.We are further told that many of these houses to which I have referred were built between 1740 and 1790. It seems high time that they were scheduled as ancient monuments rather than as unsatisfactory dwellings for the working class. The efforts of the people who are asked to live under these conditions have been most praiseworthy, as I myself can vouch and as this report testifies:It is wonderful how clean many of the houses are and what infinite trouble is taken to 'beautify' crumbling walls and defective woodwork.But there has been very little willingness on the part of the people to move from that area to other housing estates where accommodation has been available, and especially the Wythenshaw area, for the reasons which I have already indicated. Ever since I have been in a personal tough with this problem I have endeavoured to find out what has been done and what can be done to alleviate the lot of these people. I am bound to say that I do not consider the answers which I have received to my inquiries, both from the Ministry and the corporation, as in the slightest degree satisfactory, and that is one reason why I object to the Second Reading of the Bill. While a well-known hymn says:The soul in contemplation utters earnest prayer and long.Along comes the Bill which we are considering to-night for a further extension of the boundaries of the city of Manchester, and we have been urged to support it, almost at the eleventh hour, because, we are told, the city of Stockport is after the same area. It seems to me that in this case the spoils are to go to whoever is able to get there first. In the preliminary stages of the preparation of this Bill we have been studiously 1195 ignored, and I suggest that if the Manchester City Council objected to the City of Stockport Bill they could easily have approached us and asked us to object in the ordinary way. I consider that they would have been on much stronger ground had they done so. It is suggested as an argument in favour of the Bill that Manchester supplies gas and other services, and as a consequence has a right to the area. But the Bill is not being preferred on those grounds at all. We are told that it is preferred because the city of Stockport has a Bill asking for the inclusion of this area within their boundaries. For my part I am prepared to support the city of Manchester in the defence of its own interests, but that question does not arise on this Bill because the Manchester City Council have told us themselves that they would be satisfied with the status quo. I find it difficult to get away from the conclusion that the city of Manchester contemplates further development in this area in the future and a further extension of its own boundaries. The statement circulated in support of the Bill indicates that because paragraph 2 states:Except the southern part of the city, which is being rapidly developed, the city is already largely built up, and, as it is surrounded by built-up areas on all sides except the southern side, all future extension must take place in that direction.That paragraph seems to admit the intention of the corporation to use this area as a jumping off ground for further extension. It is because of this desire to extend; because I feel for the housing conditions of the people whom I represent and for whose relief the acquisition of this area will do nothing at all, and because there seems to be no other plan for them, that I object to the Bill. It seems to me that the situation and the outlook to-day are much as they were in 1894 when Frederic Harrison, in one of his charming essays, wrote of this problem as follows:Manchester (and others) have enlarged their boundaries so rapidly and so entirely under the dominant passion of turning over capital and increasing output, that beauty, dignity, culture, social life have been left to take care of themselves and the life of the labouring masses (for the well-to-do protect themselves by living outside, and reducing their city life to works and an office) is monotonous to all and to many almost bereft of physical comfort and moral elevation.1196 I do not want to perpetuate that state of affairs. The proposal for the acquisition of Cheadle and Gatley by Manchester passes this problem by on the other side. I submit that a city ought to be a place to dwell in and not a place from which men are anxious to escape, if they can find any other place to which they can escape. The problem, as I say has been passed by in these proposals. Those who undertake it can be certain that they will be unpopular. But I think they can be assured of this—that they will have earned the greatest reward which a man in public life can expect and one which he is entitled to cherish and that is the heartfelt thanks of the people on whose behalf he has laboured.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
We have heard two interesting speeches in opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill. I have only one criticism to make with regard to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment. He referred to the question of blackmail but did not make any specific charge. I very much regret that that line should have been taken without a specific and definite charge against somebody. I have been wondering for whom the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have been speaking. I know they represent divisions of Manchester but from their speeches one would gather that they were speaking for ratepayers in Cheshire. Apparently no representative of the Cheshire ratepayers is taking part in this Debate and in the absence of such a spokesman I can only assume that these hon. Members feel that they cannot allow the hardship, as they put it, caused to an urban district in Cheshire, to pass unchallenged.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
Be that as it may the argument so far seems to have been addressed to the interests of Cheshire rather than to the question which the Bill puts forward, namely, the extension of the City of Manchester. Personally I believe in local government. I am a Member for one of the divisions of Manchester 1197 but I do not represent the local government of Manchester. That is represented by the town council and the town council, which has a very large proportion, I believe a majority, of members who hold my political opinions, have put forward the proposition that this urban district council should be absorbed into the city. There was no opposition in the town council and as a representative of Manchester I feel that it would be unseemly of me to oppose the wishes of the ratepayers of Manchester as expressed in their own council chamber.
The proposal is that the City of Manchester should be allowed to absorb the urban district of Cheadle and Gatley. It is said that this urban district ought not to be absorbed, but apparently there is no reason why it should not be absorbed into some other city. If the time has come for the absorption of this urban district into one of the big cities adjacent to it, surely it is only right that that question should be settled after hearing evidence and cross-examination before a Committee upstairs. The whole question that is for consideration, all the pros and cons, all the arguments on one side and the other, should be threshed out before a Committee upstairs. The Corporation of Stockport Bill has had a Second Reading and, therefore, will go before a Committee upstairs, where the question will be argued out, where Cheshire can offer reasons against it, and where Stockport can put forward reasons in favour of the absorption, but Manchester would have no locus standi before that Committee, and I submit that when you have a locality lying between two great cities and the question is whether it should be absorbed by either, and if so by which, it would be very unfair that one of those big cities should be excluded from putting its case before the Committee. It is on that ground, and that ground only, that I would ask the House to deal with the question.
A good deal has been said in the two speeches that have been made with regard to housing in Manchester, and that is not in the Bill, but I should be very sorry if any hon. Member went away with the impression that Manchester had not been dealing with its housing problem. Manchester has spent over £13,000,000 recently in building 21,000 houses.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
Over a certain period; I am not sure what period. Since the Town Planning Act was passed recently, Manchester has taken up the question of town planning and has in preparation or under consideration the building of an additional 30,000 houses, 15,000 to be built within a few years. Whether the plans that have been approved by the town council are the best, or whether others could be produced which would be better, is a matter on which I have no knowledge, but I do not want hon. Members to go away with the impression that the Corporation of Manchester has been neglectful with regard to the question of housing.
I have only one other point to make. The question of Gatley and Cheadle being absorbed into one or the other is a question of which corporation supplies most of the services to that population. Manchester supplies electricity, Manchester supplies gas, Manchester supplies sewerage, or will do shortly, and Manchester supplies a very large number of things, such as hospitals, libraries, and educational facilities, which it is impossible for Stockport to supply. Therefore, there s a very great deal to be said in favour of Manchester having the preference in absorbing this urban district, if it is to be absorbed by either. I trust that the House will come to the decision that this is a matter for consideration by a Committee upstairs, which will be able to sift all the evidence, and then I am satisfied that it will come to a proper decision.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. S. HOPE
This is the first time that I have addressed the House, which will, I am sure, show me the indulgence which is always shown to hon. Members who are speaking for the first time. I rise as a Cheshire Member to support the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones). Under this Measure the Manchester Corporation proposes to extend its boundaries, not in the county in which it is situate, namely, the county of Lancaster, but in the neighbouring county of Chester, and I submit that such an extension should only be agreed upon in very exceptional circumstances, which certainly, in our view, do not exist in this case.
1199 What are the reasons put forward by the Corporation of Manchester for the introduction of this Measure? In the first place, they say that they need the district of Cheadle and Gatley for future development. In 1930 the Manchester Corporation acquired a part of the county of Chester which is now known as Wythenshaw, and which, along with Cheadle and Gatley, lies to the south of the city. A part of the Wythenshaw estate has been developed, but there is sufficient land left for any developments that may be deemed necessary in the future. It has been said that Wythenshaw is not a suitable district in which to erect working-class houses, not only because of the fact that those who reside there can hardly afford to pay the rents, but also because of the additional expense of going daily to their work in the City of Manchester, which is some six or seven miles away. If the district of Cheadle and Gatley is included, the position will be the same because it is about the same distance from the centre of the city.
A second reason put forward is that many Manchester people have now gone to reside in Cheadle and Gatley. I cannot see that that is any good reason for the extension of Manchester's boundaries, because probably those people are only too pleased to get out of the city. A third reason advanced is that the corporation are providing certain public services. They may provide those services, but they only provide them because they are paid for, and it is possible that they are making some profit out of the people who use them. We are also told that the Manchester Corporation provide travelling facilities for the people who live in Cheadle. I know of a private company which, before the Road Traffic Act came into operation, were willing to provide travelling facilities for the residents of Cheadle from that place to Manchester, but the Manchester Watch Committee refused to grant the company a licence to carry passengers out of the city although the company was prepared to give an undertaking not to pick up or set down passengers within the city area. The Manchester Corporation made it impossible for the company to give the residents of Cheadle travelling facilities which were very much desired by them. The Cheadle and Gatley Urban District 1200 Council were favourably disposed towards the company in question, and, in fact, granted the company a licence for the running of public service vehicles within their district. Again, the Manchester Corporation provide these facilities because it pays them to do so, and they would very much resent the suggestion that some other authority should be allowed to provide them in their place.
This Bill is being opposed by representatives of five of the divisions in the city of Manchester and I feel that they are taking a proper course. I doubt whether the Manchester Corporation have the support of their ratepayers in introducing this Bill. Some time ago the corporation promoted a Bill which, among other things, provided for the acquisition of further land at Wythenshawe by compulsory powers. A poll was taken and a very large majority of the Manchester ratepayers decided against such a proposal. What do the residents of Cheadle and Gatley think about this matter? My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley referred to the poll that has recently been taken in Cheadle. The figures are very interesting. The total number of local government electors in the urban district is 10,581. The total number of votes recorded was 9,735. The number of voting in favour of remaining as a urban district was 9,604; in favour of Manchester 89; and in favour of Stockport 42. There was 98.66 per cent. of the votes recorded in favour of remaining as a separate urban district. Of the figure of 10,581 electors, 528 had left the district at the time of the poll, and 75 had previously died, leaving a total effective local government electorate of 9,978.
That vote shows conclusively that the ratepayers of Cheadle very strongly resent the advances of the Manchester Corporation and are desirous of remaining as they are at present. They are satisfied with the efficient way in which the urban district council of Cheadle and Gatley is looking after their interests. I reside very near Cheadle, and from personal experience I know that the council is very progressive. I know of no council that has done more to improve the amenities of the district and to provide its ratepayers with such efficient services. The present council is composed of men who live in the district. They are proud of the district, and they 1201 love it. That spirit cannot continue if their district becomes part of a big city. Manchester Corporation, however, do not suggest that the district is not efficiently administered. The sole reason for the promotion of this Bill, they say, is that Stockport Corporation has brought forward a similar measure. Why should the Cheshire County Council and the Cheadle and Gatley Urban District Council be put to the expense of opposing two Bills? For my part, I can see no good or proper reason. The Manchester Corporation are responsible at the present time for the administration of an area which is far too extensive without any further additions, and if this Bill becomes law the representatives of the Cheadle and Gatley area will have little voice in the administration of their district. I submit that in considering a Bill of this kind, one should ascertain what is the best course to take in the interests of those who reside in the district affected. In this case, I submit that Cheadle and Gatley should be allowed to remain as a separate authority. That is the desire of the people, and in my opinion it is in their best interests. For these reasons, I support the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I feel sure that Members of all parties in the House will wish me to congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. S. Hope) on his very excellent speech, which was delivered with good temper, splendid diction and a generous vocabulary. We wish him well in taking part in our Debates in future. The Manchester Corporation have been able to do two or three things in promoting this Measure. First of all, they have divided the Tory party definitely, and, so far as I am concerned, that is all to the good. But they have done something else, and that is that for probably the first time in recent Parliamentary history we have had the remarkable spectacle of men representing a city failing in that local patriotism which is common to us all. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, a strong voice will not stop me speaking. I speak for myself as a Manchester man, and I am afraid that some of the gentlemen who are interrupting me know nothing at all about Manchester, except that they were 1202 elected to Parliament for the city at the last election. I have lived in the city for 25 years and had the honour of spending 10 very pleasant years as a member of the Manchester Council, and consequently I am happy to support this Bill.
Let me, however, put the case as I see it. First of all, Stockport Corporation produce a Bill and it secures a Second Reading. Under that Bill it proposes to extend its boundaries to include, among other districts, let it be remembered, the urban districts of Gatley and Cheadle. I suppose that if the Manchester Corporation had had the slightest hint that the Stockport Corporation were going to do that, they would have been in the field first. The Manchester Corporation is now put in this position, that unless it puts in a claim for these two urban districts it will have no standing at all in its opposition to the proposals of the Stockport Corporation.
We have the amazing spectacle to-night of hon. Members representing the city of Manchester standing up and suggesting that this House of Commons should not even allow this Bill a Second Reading and to be examined upstairs. I venture to say that if the House declines to allow this Bill to be examined in Committee upstairs it will be an act that is almost unprecedented. For that reason I want to support the Measure. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment made one or two observations with which I wish to deal. He is unwilling that suggestions should be made that this proposal emanates from property owners, and he disavowed association with that group of people. Let me remind him of the old Shakespearean saw—"He sometimes protesteth too much."
§ Mr. DAVIES
When I come to deal with the cost of land in slum clearance areas I shall be able to prove that property owning has something to do with the opposition to this Bill, and if the hon. Member wants to know it he had better get it here and now. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Manchester Corporation could have proceeded to do all that the hon. Member ever suggested 1203 in clearing their slum areas were it not for the price asked for the land by the property owners.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. Member will better understand when I tell him what it all means. When the Manchester Corporation proposed to clear the slums in Hulme the property owners asked the Corporation to pay as much as £9,000 per acre for the land. I ought to say that the whole of this issue to-night may be determined more or less on that proposition—that the property owners would compel the Corporation to pay £9,000 per acre for land.
§ Mr. CHORLTON
I protest against that. I have nothing to do with that in any way, and I represent the biggest area.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am not touched one bit by the protestations of hon. Members. This is a free assembly, and I can speak of what I know, and I think I know Manchester better than the hon. Member.
§ Mr. BAILEY
I would like to ask the hon. Member one question. Does he—or does he not—know that the opposition on the part of individual Members for Manchester is in any way inspired by the property owners? I was not concerned with that point. I was not speaking for the property owners. If he is making the suggestion that anyone of us is taking that fact into consideration in our opposition will he specify which Member or Members he makes it against?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I have never suggested that an hon. Member in this House was a property owner and that he was asking for this £9,000 per acre—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is not the point!"] What I have said is that the battle over this Bill in Manchester between the property owners and the corporation is known to all.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
I do protest against the hon. Member making these accusations. He has mentioned the Hulme clearance. I will deal with that, if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think the hon. Member ought to withdraw the suggestion that anyone in this Debate is actuated by motives relating to property owners.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I took down the remarks of the hon. Member. He said "property owners are behind this opposition." What I should like to know is, Does he say that any property owner is behind me?
§ Mr. DAVIES
Surely, it is a common thing in this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] It is a proper thing in this House to say what are the reasons why Bills are opposed in Parliament. I have seen railway companies opposing Bills, we as trade unionists have opposed Bills here, and if the property owners think that they have a good case against it they are entitled to oppose the Manchester Corporation Bill.
§ Sir J. NALL
Will the hon. Member take it from myself and from the others that we are in no way concerned with the property owners?
§ Mr. DAVIES
Yes. I never suggested it, and I accept that statement. The question concerning the Manchester Corporation in connection with slum clearance in Hulme is as stated the problem of the price of the land, after they have cleared it of slums.
§ Mr. DAVIES
If the hon. Member wants to pursue that point let me put this to him: How can anyone pay £9,000 per acre for a plot of land and build working-class dwellings on that land to be let at modest rents? Let us leave outside the question whether the property owners are behind this Amendment. It is a fact that no contractor would ever build houses for the working class on land which costs £9,000 per acre. I put that point without any spleen against the property owners. I am stating a simple fact. Let me put forward something else. We have to remember that the Manchester City Council were very nearly unanimous in support of this Bill. As an hon. Member has rightly said, the Conservative party are in control of the Manchester Corporation, and have been for years. Among all the political parties the only division on this Bill, strange as it may seem, is not between the several political parties on the Manchester City Council but between Conservative Members in this House of Commons representing the city. That is an astonishing 1205 feature, because, if I remember aright, the voting in favour of this Bill in the City Council was 106 for and 8 against. One cannot secure absolute unanimity on any body. We cannot get it here. Sometimes they cannot get it among the Tory party in the House of Commons; and I am certain they cannot get unanimity in the Liberal party—not in any one group of that party.
§ Mr. DAVIES
At the moment we are united. I ought to add that we are united to-night in favour of Manchester Corporation, and that is more than the Tory party can say about themselves. Let me pass on to another consideration. As I have said, I do not like this lack of patriotism among hon. Gentlemen who represent the City of Manchester. It is a new feature of Parliamentary life, so far as I can gather. I have noted in the past that when Members of Parliament have not liked what their Corporations have done in promoting Bills in this House they have at any rate remained silent. They have not come out into the open and opposed their Corporation or their township; but hon. Gentlemen to-night have gone beyond that. Not only have they opposed their own city, but they have actually championed the cause of Stockport against their own city—a most amazing spectacle indeed.
An hon. Member said something about taking people out into Cheshire to live when they ought to be housed near the centre of the town. Let me give him some figures. I do not know whether he has ever seen them. The Corporation of Manchester recently made a survey in regard to slum clearance. I am delighted that the Manchester Corporation has been able by this Bill to turn some of the most reactionary Tory Members of Parliament into champions of slum clearance and decent housing. One would have imagined that the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones) and the hon. and gallant Member for Ardwick (Captain Fuller) were pioneers of slum clearance and decent housing in this country. I hope that their spirit in that direction will not wane after this Debate. The hon. Member for Blackley made an extraordinary observation. This is what he said in effect: The more you extend the 1206 city boundary, the more you neglect the centre.
§ Mr. DAVIES
After the applause from the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Bailey) let me tell him that that is contrary to all the philosophies of Tory Imperialism, which has always said that the more you extend the Empire the more you improve the centre; that the pillars of the Empire at home will be best strengthened by extending it into foreign parts. The hon. Member must be a little more accurate in his political philosophy—if he has any at all.
I was going to give the House certain figures upon this point, because it is one of the issues upon which the House has to make a decision. As I stated, the corporation took a survey of Hulme. I will remind the House again of what was said by the hon. Member for Blackley, which was that the corporation should not extend its boundaries into Cheshire; that, in fact, the corporation had made a mistake already in going out to Wythenshaw, Cheshire, and that what they ought to have done was to clear the slum areas, pay £9,000 per acre for the land, and rehouse the people there, and then all would be well. I suppose that the hon. Member would not abolish a single public-house in doing so. I will now read the result of the Hulme survey taken by the corporation, and I should like hon. Members to follow the figures in order to see what would happen if the Hulme area were cleared. This document is headed:Particulars of certain principal wage-earners' places of employment based on the survey forms of the area.It states that 133 families would be nearer to the work of their principal wage-earner if rehoused on corporation estates; 87 families would be about the same distance from their employment on being rehoused on corporation estates; 21 families whose principal wage-earners were employed outside the city entirely, would, through distance, be unaffected either way. This set of figures will naturally interest hon. Gentlemen.
§ Mr. DAVIES
There are 160 families obtaining all their income from unemployment insurance, public assistance or 1207 pensions, to whom it would be no greater hardship if they were re-housed on prewar or post-war housing schemes. Those figures rebut the argument of the hon. Member for Blackley that people would be too far removed from their employment. The hon. Gentleman does not understand that, in all great cities, when you extend your boundaries for certain purposes you push some of your factories out as well. One big Manchester firm took its works out into Cheadle Hulme before the corporation started to build houses on some of its big estates in Cheshire.
I hope that hon. Members will have seen that their arguments are of no avail, and that they will do Manchester a very great disservice indeed in continuing their opposition to the Bill. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Ardwick that Members of Parliament ought to be entitled to say what they think, even against their own local authority, but I agree also with the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Fielden) that it is very inadvisable and unseemly that they should do so in public. One might have a quarrel at home, but it is very unseemly to take such differences out into the street. That is exactly what hon. Members have done in this Debate.
There is one thing that I hope they will not do; I sincerely trust, for the sake of decent local government, that they will allow this Bill to have its Second Reading so that it can go upstairs to be examined by the proper Committee. If Manchester Corporation cannot then prove its case, hon. Members will have won the day. I am satisfied that Manchester, which is hemmed in on all sides but one, has no chance of clearing its slums unless it secures power from Parliament to extend its boundaries still further out into Cheshire. We should not attempt to re-house the people on the basis of 40 or 50 houses to the acre. I hope that the majority in this House, whatever their opinion may be of the Bill, will at any rate give it a Second Reading, and let it be examined by the Committee upstairs.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. CHORLTON
I must begin by taking some exception to the remarks of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. 1208 Rhys Davies) about my knowledge of Manchester. I know that he has been in Manchester for a long time, but I think that originally, a number of years before that, he came from Wales, as we know by his flowery form of oratory. I am not saying that with any intention to give offence. I had the good fortune to be born near to Manchester, and for as many years as the hon. Member has known Manchester I have been in connection with the district about which I am going to speak, and to which I shall very largely confine my remarks. I am glad to learn that he agrees that hon. Members should be able to discuss these matters openly, even if they disagree with their own city. That is valuable, because I should be doing entirely wrong if I did not dissent when I thought that Manchester Corporation were doing wrong.
There has been a great tendency in modern times for cities to expand by ring development. I think it is an exaggerated tendency, without sufficient regard to the centre of the city or those parts lying near the centre of the city. Despite the extent of the majority of which we have heard, there is little doubt that councils are frequently led by extremists, who in another branch of politics are called dictators, and those councils are swung out of the courses which quiet and conservative people—I do not mean necessarily Conservative in politics—would take. This reaction in Manchester, speaking generally from my own knowledge, has arisen from an exaggerated tendency to go out into the country and build there without any regard to the working people who live in the city itself. I feel that we have an example of that in the present case, and that, even if we had no special conditions to consider such as those which were dealt with by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ardwick (Captain Fuller), it would still be proper to bring the subject before the House in order that this aspect of city development may be properly considered.
Manchester has all along been going in for this policy of expansion, but do those who are looking after the city really consider the state at which we have arrived in Lancashire? Do they really know their own minds in the course that they are taking? Are they taking account of the tremendous shrinkage in 1209 the cotton trade, and its immeasurable effect on Manchester? What force is there in trying to extend the city further when the future is so dark, and the chances of this great trade recovering are so remote? It seems to me that the whole of their efforts should be concentrated upon improving the districts already under their care, and particularly the poorer districts in the centre of the city itself. In some parts of Lancashire we already have the problem of a falling population, and all these public utilities and many of these extensions will be millstones around the necks of those who have been concerned with them. We have an example of that in Manchester in the great water scheme, and I think there is a great gasworks also. Those were built on the idea that we were all going to extend in Lancashire, but now we are brought up short, and I think that this is a case in which the Members for the city—those far-seeing Members who really understand the situation—would be guilty of a dereliction of duty if they did not bring the matter before the House as we are doing to-night.
I come now to my own particular case. My hon. and gallant Friend has dealt with the West Gorton area in his Division, and I now come to the case of Collyhurst. Collyhurst is the largest clearance area that has been scheduled in Manchester. It has 1,800 houses, and 2,019 families. A decree has gone forth to regard this area as a slum, and to turn practically half the people out of the district when re-housing takes place. I would ask my hon. Friend the Welsh-Manchester man to give his particular attention to this case, and to note that there is no question here of the property owners or landowners bargaining with the corporation. This is a clear case in which it is proposed to tear out from the city, and from my particular Division of the city, an area with a population almost equal to that of a small town, to split them up, to send half of them into any district where they can find houses that have been built, and to re-house the other half inside.
We have to remember that in all cases like this, where housing is thus disturbed and where a large proportion of the population are turned away, inevitably many of them return, and there is then over- 1210 crowding in the surrounding districts. It is therefore necessary, if there are occupations which cause people to live in these districts, to provide housing, because otherwise there is overcrowding after the clearance has been made. It has been said also that we represent vested interests, in the sense of property owners—that those property owners are behind us. I am surprised at the hon. Member for Westhoughton saying that. Speaking for myself, I do not know a single property owner in the district with which I am concerned. I know nothing about even their names. Nobody has ever said a word to me in that regard; I am acting purely on my own initiative for the benefit of the ordinary poor working people who live in the district, and the small shopkeepers who are going to be dispossessed; and I resent it very strongly that, because we have dared, if I may so put it, to stand up against this Bill, it should be said that we have been "got at" in that way.
As soon as this area was scheduled, I put myself in touch with the people whom I have mentioned; or rather, it took place the other way about, for many of them came to see me. At that time I thought that the only thing we could do, it having come as such a great surprise, was to register our position with the city council, who were good enough to accord us a hearing. I went on the deputation to them. It was a curious experience for me—and I have had a good many curious experiences. We went into the room, and the lights went out, but the Alderman who is the chairman of that particular committee told me to get on with it without the lights being on; so I had the peculiar experience of making my opening remarks to people whom I could not see and whom I did not know. They thought, I believe, that we were not making very good progress, and the lights went on again; and then—hon. Members will hardly believe it—as soon as I began to get into my stride the lights went out again. That was my first experience of the sympathetic way in which the city council were receiving our representations.
The essence generally of what was being put before them was that they should, in the arrangements made, endeavour to do the maximum amount of re-housing. Nobody was taking any line in the direction 1211 of resisting the clearance of a slum area, but it was urged that, for the benefit of the people who were in the area, there should be the maximum amount of re-housing. I am sorry to say, however, that in spite of our deputation very little progress has been made in that respect, and I would urge that a great deal more should be done. It is natural that we should expect, when the council concerned with the affairs of the city knows what is taking place in other parts of the world, and in our own country also, that we should get more attention, instead of the attention of the council being spent on getting this extension Bill. We also heard that another alderman had advised those concerned to send postcards to their Member asking him not to resist the Bill. So far, however, I have had no postcards, so evidently that has fallen flat.
I should like now, before proceeding to details, to make a personal reference. It came to me as a very severe blow to be told within a little over a year of my representing the Division that it was to be declared a slum, and the biggest slum in Manchester. Not a word was ever said to me. The feelings of the Member for the Division were not considered. I have walked about the district from end to end, I do not know every house but I know every street. What are you going to say to people when, without the slightest warning, they are told that it is proposed to make their district a slum? For over 25 years it was represented by a well-known Member of the Labour party, Mr. Clynes, and as soon as his back was turned they made it into a slum.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Does the hon. Member really suggest that the local authority should be asked to acquaint its Member of Parliament when it schedules a district as a slum?
§ Mr. CHORLTON
I think it is only courtesy. I think this was an unkind reflection upon the care that Mr. Clynes exercised in the 25 years that he represented the district. When this thing began, in my frequent journeys up and down the district I had a canvass made, apart from my own personal canvass, and here are some of the results. The general tendency of the inquiries made is that they are more than pleased that something is being done to represent their case. I am afraid there will be serious 1212 trouble when the notices to quit are served. Many of the occupants are prepared to resist the order and chance the consequences. They wish to live in the locality. If the attention of the city council had been concentrated on ascertaining the desires of the citizens in that area, better steps would have been taken. There is conclusive evidence that the inhabitants are almost unanimously opposed to the scheme in its present form.
Here are some of the cases. There are a husband and a wife both employed at works in the neighbourhood. To remove elsewhere would mean seeking other occupations. There are a widow and three children. It is impossible for that household to live elsewhere and retain their work. An ex-soldier named Butterworth has invested all his money in a shop. He has no other income of any kind. If the scheme goes through, he cannot see anything but public assistance. Compensation has been mentioned. I am determined to do all I can to see that they get something reasonable. If a shopkeeper depends on those living around him, and those people are taken away, it is impossible for him to go on. I have case after case of small shopkeepers and others showing how they are affected by this. I beg the city council to consider how much more they can do to help the re-housing question. I have several further examples of shopkeepers, including a small greengrocer, a tripe shop and a lady's outfitter. These are very hard cases.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
Is my hon. Friend complaining that the city council are doing too much re-housing or too little? How does he propose to re-house anyone unless he pulls down the house first in order to rebuild?
§ Mr. CHORLTON
I am trying to show that these people, if dispossessed and sent elsewhere, will lose their livelihood. The re-housing proposed is insufficient. These are all people who will be put out of work through it. I am trying to show how this area is neglected and attention is being given to outside areas. Here is another important point which shows 1213 how little consideration has been given. There are around the district, and in one or two cases within it, churches, and non-provided schools connected with them. They are affected in the sense that the population will fall by 40 per cent. How is it possible for them to be carried on? If the religious and school side of the re-housing question were tackled by the corporation, the present resistance to the order would be almost done away with. The suggested density in the Collyhurst area is 41.5. If the re-housing in that area were done properly, with proper concern for the people who live there, the ordinary householders and the small shopkeepers, and the churches and schools in the district, they ought to have 85 per cent. re-housed. When this question was likely to come on I made many trips on the Continent to different towns, Copenhagen, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Stuttgart, to see flat dwellings.
I am convinced that this work can be done, and the figure which I have mentioned achieved. There are special difficulties. There are the difficulties of cost, but, if Manchester takes pride in her achievements as she used to do, it does not seem at all impossible for her to overcome the difficulties which others have had to face. I have endeavoured to show that the attention of the corporation, as indicated by this Bill, is on the ends of the earth and that a portion of the city has been neglected. I have endeavoured to show that the poorer people, at any rate those in the Collyhurst district, have received no help or consideration, or we should have seen an entirely different way of tackling the problem from that which has been adopted. Until some fair and definite indications are given that the wishes of the people in these districts are to be considered, I shall consider it my bounden duty to oppose anything in the nature of the extension of the boundaries of the corporation of the city of Manchester.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. FLEMING
It is rather sad for me to find myself in the position of opposing our highly respected senior Member for the city of Manchester who represents the Exchange Division (Mr. Fielden), but I am afraid that on the question of the Extension Bill he has not been fully informed of the wishes of the people who, after all, will be most concerned with any extension of the boun- 1214 daries of the city of Manchester. I ask myself what is the reason for seeking to extend the present boundary of Manchester? The present boundary on the south side is the boundary of my division. It is the River Mersey, the natural boundary. It is the boundary line of the county of Lancashire, and I ask myself why there is this sudden urge on the part of the authorities of the city of Manchester to go over the natural boundary of Lancashire into the county of Cheshire? I think that anyone who seriously considers this matter would like to be furnished with some solid ground for wishing to go beyond that river. In the Bill itself, naturally there is nothing said as to why this desire is so strong. It merely says that it is expedient to alter and extend the boundaries of the city so as to include the urban district of Cheadle and Gatley. But the people of Manchester who are most concerned in this matter, that is, the ratepayers of Manchester, the business men who have eventually to foot the bill, would like to know more specifically why this sudden urge to go over the River Mersey.
There is a reason given in the Memorandum issued on behalf of the promoters of the Bill. The only reason given is that if Manchester had not promoted a Bill, Stockport would have been left alone in the field. That may be a sufficient reason in the opinion of the Manchester City authorities, but the ratepayers who have approached me want a stronger reason than that. They want something more than a mere dog-in-the-manger attitude as regards Stockport. If I am asked my personal opinion as regards the area which is sought to be included—Cheadle and Gatley—I say frankly that my preference, if that urban district council is to be absorbed, is to say let it be by Manchester. But when you come to look at it, as this House ought to look at it, from the point of view of why the extension is sought, and certainly from the point of view of those who are living in the area which the city of Manchester is seeking to include, there seems to me to be little case indeed for the extension, although I am personally very proud to think that Manchester has grown in the way she has grown in the past, and, when the time is opportune in the future, I hope to see Manchester growing greater still. The opinion of those who have approached me in my divi- 1215 sion—and they are people of substance in the city of Manchester, the people who pay rates in that city—is that the time is not opportune for this extension. This House ought to give some consideration to those people, in spite of the fact, as has been pointed out by more than one speaker in support of the Bill, that the majority of the city council are behind this Bill, as very often happens.
What do the ratepayers of Manchester think of this Bill? Some of them have written to those of us who are opposing the Bill, and some have approached us, but not one of them has said that we were doing anything wrong in opposing the Bill, not one in my case. All I have had consists of three stereotyped postcards, written in the same style as the postcards we received in thousands when we discussed the taking of a penny off the Beer Duty, asking me not to oppose the Bill. That is after it had been urged publicly on behalf of the promoters of the Bill that the citizens of Manchester should bombard their representatives who were opposing the Bill. What a bombardment. In my case three postcards. As to the people who sent those postcards I could gather nothing, except from the address, because I happen to know the locality very well, as to whether they were what I would call people of substance in the city, by which I mean large ratepayers. They certainly were not. On the other hand, I have a letter from a partner of a very big firm in Manchester connected with the most important industry in Lancashire, the cotton trade, and he puts his case on a broader basis.
That is why I take the stand I have taken as regards this Bill: we must at this time consider the question of the extension of Manchester, with perhaps its consequential increase of rates, on a bread-and-butter basis. These men engaged in the cotton trade in Lancashire cannot think of any further increase in the rates of Manchester. They are hoping and praying for, as all of us who live in Manchester or work there know very well, some decrease in the rates of Manchester to help their businesses. They dread the possibility of anything occurring through this Extension Bill to make those rates go up. If the promoters of the Bill can give me the assurance that by this extension which they seek to bring about in the boundaries of the City of 1216 Manchester there will certainly be a fall in the rates of the city, I shall instantly withdraw my opposition to this Bill.
There is another point of view. Hon. Members, like my hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Chorlton) speak of their own districts as regards slum clearance. I am making no attack whatever on the City of Manchester as regards its slum clearance. I admire the corporation for what they have done. I am going, however, to put before the House the views of some of those people who, through these slum clearances which are taking place, have been moved from certain areas, for example, the area that is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for the Hulme Division (Sir J. Nall), and have gone into a new housing estate in my own Division. They have spoken of the effects as regards clearance, and I am now able to give some particulars at first hand of those who have been removed to a better district. I want to make it clear that I am completely in favour, and always have been, of moving the working man from any slum area into a better area.
I admire the Manchester Corporation for what they have done and for what they are attempting to do. But I have come up against another phase of the problem of the transference of population with which, before I came to this House, I had not come into contact, and that is the man himself and his family. After they have been transferred from what is called a slum district to a better-class area, this has been the effect. These men tell me of cases where they are earning 38s., £2, or £2 5s. a week and, being moved so many miles further out from the centre of the city, they have to spend more in travelling expenses than before. In some instances their families have been transferred into my Division, and they tell me that the difference comes to as much as 6d. or 7d. a day. One man is earning 38s. a week, and when he asked me how he could possibly afford to pay these expenses, I was bound to agree that is was not possible. Nevertheless, I agree that it is better for the men, as is stated in a Memorandum on behalf of the supporters of this Bill, to move them into healthy surroundings. I agree with that, and I think that everybody does. But you are bound to consider at the present time, with unemployment as it is, with wages as they are, the extra cost to the 1217 man when you have moved him to this ideal area, this little paradise on the outskirts of Manchester.
If the idea of this extension of the city boundary of Manchester to take in Cheadle and Gatley is not for purposes of rehousing these people who are going to be displaced from other areas, for what on earth does the City of Manchester want that urban district council? Is it possible, as a legal friend suggested to me, that they are looking at the rateable value? It may be so. Surely the real basic reason for extending city boundaries ought to be, if it is not, the provision of greater space for the population within the old city boundary. I heard the suggestion—I do not know whether it was inspired or not—from my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies), who happens to be living in my division, that there was a possibility, once the population was moved—I take it he meant to Cheadle and Gatley—of the mills following to Cheadle and Gatley. I hope that suggestion becomes very well known in the district of Manchester, because, so far as the speakers have gone to-night, I think I am the only one, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Rushholme (Mr. Radford), who has lived in that area which is now the bone of contention between Stockport and Manchester. I have lived in Bramhall and have relatives still living in Cheadle, and I know it very well. Of one thing I am positive, that if the question of the extension of the city boundaries were left entirely to the inhabitants of Cheadle and Gatley, there would certainly be no extension on the part either of Manchester city or of Stockport borough.
I am certain of that because, when the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. S. Hope) gave the figures of the electorate as 10,000 odd, I do not think that all hon. Members of the House heard that the net electorate, after allowing for deaths and absent voters, was below 10,000—something like 9,000 odd—and that the actual numbers of electors who polled a few weeks ago on this question of being included in Manchester city or Stockport borough was 90 odd per cent. of the roll of electors. If you subtract from the roll those names which belong to people who are now dead and to absent voters, you must come to the conclusion to which I have come, that there 1218 was almost a 100 per cent. poll, as nearly as could be expected, against the extension of the Manchester city boundary or the Stockport borough boundary to include that urban district council.
On the other hand, as has been pointed out by the promoters of this Bill and their supporters, it is not my job to plead the case of the Urban District Council of Cheadle and Gatley. The hon. Member for Westhoughton actually used the phrase "local patriotism." I was so amazed to hear those words from my international Friend that I put them down. It is seen how other considerations cut across the course of politics. How many of my Labour Friends are supporting those working men who have shown quite clearly that they are opposed to the movement, though perhaps for nonsensical reasons and against the interests of their own health? From inquiries in which I have taken part I have found them bitterly opposed to being moved from those areas, but where are their Socialist friends, to support them? The defence is left to the Tories, at whom they scoff on grounds of Imperialism, saying that they are trying to make Manchester the centre of the universe.
We are now trying to keep Manchester within reasonable bounds. We certainly want Manchester to be developed, but we do not want it to develop on the lines of middle-age spread. We want to develop upwards. We know what can be done in the areas that are being cleared. We know what was done in Liverpool. We know what our Socialist friends told us when they came back from Vienna. There were pictures in the Manchester newspapers of the Karl Marx homes, which have been recently shelled. These pictures were shown to us so that we might see what was being done in Vienna for the working classes. What has been done there can be reasonably done on some of the sites that have been cleared in Manchester.
That would help the people in my division who have been forced to come into Withington, who have been taken two or three miles further from their work and put to the extra expense of travelling, besides the loss of time morning and night. One man put the matter to me in this way. He previously lived in Hulme, and he told me that whenever 1219 he got wet on his job he could run home and get a change. "Now," he said, "whether I am wet or not, in order to get home I have to travel in an omnibus, three miles." If the man had not mentioned that to me I should not have thought of that side of the housing problem.
I am in favour of schemes of rehousing and of putting people into the best surroundings, because it has always been my ambition to live as far as possible from the centre of a city. I hate cities and love to live out in the country. I would much sooner have the country lanes such as we have in Cheadle and Gatley than any of the broad arterial roads running through Manchester. The lanes of Cheadle and Gatley appeal to me. I recognise, however, that progress must take place, and I recognise also the benefit that accrues to the people who are removed from slum areas, but I think that Manchester should get down to this problem and rehouse the people in the cleared slum areas, instead of leaving those areas, as they are in some districts, derelict and an eyesore.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. RADFORD
My hon. Friends by their opposition to this Bill have created a position which is without precedent in my five years' experience of the House. It is unusual to object to the Second Reading of Bills of this kind, and when one sees six of the Conservative Members for the City of Manchester opposing the Bill and the other three, who are well enough to be present, supporting it, it assumes very much the appearance of a family quarrel. It must be embarrassing to the unwilling witnesses of such a family dispute. I am inclined to think that those of us who are supporting the Bill would have shown good generalship had we arranged for some hon. Member to get up and make a vitriolic attack on Manchester. That would probably have resulted, as very often happens in a family dispute, in reconciliation, and we should then have had the pleasing spectacle of my hon. Friends asking leave to withdraw their Amendment.
My hon. Friends put their Amendment on the Order Paper, but, when the Debate began, instead of moving it they moved the one standing in the name of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. 1220 Remer). I think we may take it that the terms of their Amendment, which is a much more detailed one, although they have not formally moved it, represent their objection to the Bill receiving a Second Reading. Their reasons, as stated in the Amendment, are:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which would enable the Corporation of Manchester to further expend the resources of the ratepayers upon adjacent rural areas whilst continuing to neglect the redevelopment of the central area of their district, and the rehousing of the overcrowded sections of the population.Therefore their objection to the Bill comes, broadly, under two heads: (1) They object to the city of Manchester squandering its money on the acquisition of this outlying area; and (2) that the city has failed to go ahead with housing within its present boundaries. A definite contradiction can be given to both those suggestions. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones), who moved the Motion, referred to the rates for Cheadle and Gatley being 5s. in the £ less than those in the city of Manchester. Other hon. Members who have spoken in opposition to the Bill have referred in sympathetic tones to the hard lot of the ratepayers of this small urban district when there is a possibility of them being devoured either by rapacious Manchester or rapacious Stockport. They cannot have it both ways.
If the Urban District Council of Cheadle and Gatley are so much more favourably placed from the rating point of view, then the Manchester Corporation, if it were allowed to absorb them, would only be expending its money in the same way that a young man might do if he were buying an engagement ring for an attractive and wealthy heiress. I agree with the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming) as to the wishes of the people of Cheadle and Gatley being considered. I lived in that area from the age of 3 months until I was thirty and if I still lived there I should be very anxious to be assured that the area would not be absorbed either by Manchester or Stockport. But does not my hon. Friend agree that if he is anxious that Cheadle and Gatley should be allowed to retain the independence for which their ratepayers voted by such an overwhelming majority—I think 98 per cent. voted that they should retain their independence—by granting a Second 1221 Reading to this Bill and thus enabling the Manchester Corporation to be represented on the Committee which is going to consider Stockport's application, would be the way to secure the probable safety of Cheadle and Gatley from absorption. To allow without opposition the Second Reading of the Stockport Corporation Bill and that they should be allowed to absorb Cheadle and Gatley and certain other areas adjacent thereto, and then to refuse a Second Reading to the Manchester Corporation Bill will take away the greatest safeguard of Cheadle and Gatley when the Committee upstairs considers the rival claims of Stockport and Manchester, or the claim of Cheadle and Gatley to remain outside both of them.
On the question of Manchester having failed to embark on the necessary house building schemes within its present boundaries for the rehousing of its population, the facts are absolutely to the contrary. As the hon. Member far the Exchange Division (Mr. Fielden) says—he did not give precise figures—Manchester during the last 14 years has done a tremendous amount of building within its present boundaries. Since the Housing Act of 1919 came into operation Manchester has built within its present boundaries 29,967 houses, 892 are now in course of erection, and in addition about 7,000 houses have been built by private enterprise, with financial assistance from the Manchester Corporation. The hon. and gallant Member for Ardwick (Captain Fuller) said that when he inquired of the Minister of Health, within the last year, what house building schemes Manchester was now undertaking, or had asked permission to undertake, the reply was that the number of houses was comparatively negligible The answer, of course, is that Manchester has already performed her housing duty. She has already built, or has assisted in financing, no less than 28,000 houses during the last 14 years, and, therefore, I am sure that hon. Members will be satisfied that the second part of the charge laid against the Manchester Corporation in the Amendment on the Order Paper absolutely falls to the ground.
It may be that the various services which Manchester claims she renders to the area of Cheadle and Gatley will be regarded by the Committee upstairs as an adequate justification for the absorp- 1222 tion of Cheadle and Gatley, but, at any rate, it is clear that as the corporation of Manchester does supply this area with gas, with electricity in bulk, attends to the whole of the sewage and the bulk of its transport, and also provides hospital and education facilities, she has as good a right to be considered when any question of absorption comes along as Stockport. In addition, the Manchester Corporation has a common boundary with Cheadle and Gatley for a distance of over 8,900 yards, whereas Stockport has only a common boundary with Cheadle and Gatley of 5,600 yards. In every direction it is clear that the case for Manchester is at any rate entitled to equal consideration with that of Stockport.
The hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming) referred to the difficulties of working men going to and from their work if they were moved to these other areas. His figures in that regard are absolutely groundless, otherwise why did the Manchester Corporation, on the 6th December, 1933, write to the Stockport Corporation agreeing to withdraw her claim to absorb Cheadle and Gatley if the Stockport Corporation would agree to the exclusion of Cheadle and Gatley from their scheme? Does that look as if Manchester had ulterior aims with regard to Cheadle and Gatley? No, Manchester was content to let Cheadle and Gatley remain as an urban district council, and would allow her to continue as such, but when she saw another municipality step in and attempt to absorb the area, only then did Manchester commence to promote the Bill which the House is now considering. I say with great respect that the House would do a grave injustice to the city of Manchester if, having granted without opposition a Second Reading to the Bill promoted by the Stockport Corporation, it declined to grant the same privilege to the Manchester Corporation.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. REMER
There is one aspect of this question which has not been touched upon, and that is the question of economy. I remember some 10 or 12 years ago learned counsel addressing the Committee upstairs for 29 days on a Bill to extend the borough of Birkenhead. This is an aspect of the problem which we must take into serious consideration. It was a Joint Committee of both Houses, with the Earl of Kintore as the chair- 1223 man, and as a result of a rider which the Committee passed an attempt was made to cut down the expenses of inquiries into extensions. In the first place the local inquiry has been cut out, and in the second, and far more important, an alteration was made in the Local Government Act of 1929 which provided expressly that within five years a county council had to make provisions as to the areas within their boundaries. In this particular case the Cheshire County Council have indicated their view that the area of Cheadle and Gatley should continue as an urban district. When the Stockport Corporation tried to incorporate the area in an extension Bill it was only then that the Manchester City Council suddenly promoted the Bill which we are now considering. If only on the grounds of economy I think we should prevent the Manchester Corporation wasting their ratepayers' money, as they will be doing by coming to this House, in legal expenses.
The hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford) has said that the Stockport Bill has already gone upstairs, therefore, why not allow the Manchester Bill to go up with it? There is a good reason why. The Cheshire County Council have said to Stockport, not to Manchester, that it is for Parliament to decide on the Stockport Bill, as Parliament has set up its procedure to deal with the matter. The case of Manchester was only thought of at a later date. Three or four years ago Manchester endeavoured to extend its boundaries over the River Mersey into the County of Cheshire, but Parliament threw out the Bill. Next year they came along again, and another Parliament gave them that extension. The hon. Member for the Exchange Division (Mr. Fielden) made a great cry about the town planning that the Manchester Corporation have undertaken. They attempted a grandiose scheme of town planning dealing with the Wythenshaw estate, and if it had not been for the intervention of the Minister of Health, who caused an inquiry to be made into the scheme, market gardeners who had been in that district for many years and who have supplied the Shude Hall market in Manchester, would have been turned out of their holdings without any compensation. That is what town planning 1224 by the Manchester City Corporation would have done but for the wise action of the Minister of Health.
I entirely agree with an hon. Friend who said that the River Mersey is the natural boundary for the City of Manchester. Though Manchester has unfortunately come over that boundary into the County of Cheshire, we should not allow it to do so any more. This is neither more nor less than a petty local quarrel between the Borough of Stockport and the City of Manchester. It is a petty quarrel which will go upstairs and cost the ratepayers of Manchester a great deal of money. I believe it is our duty to see that that spendthrift Council, as I feel it is, is stopped on its wayward path and is prevented from wasting the money of the ratepayers any longer in this way. I believe that this Bill coming to the House is a waste of Parliament's time and a waste of the ratepayers' money. I refer to the ratepayers not only of Manchester, but those of Cheadle and Gatley and Stockport, the Cheshire County Council and all the other people who are vitally interested. Therefore I beg the House not to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) seems to be for once rather keen on the question of economy. He says that a great deal of Parliamentary time is being or is likely to be wasted. I cannot help thinking that in one sense it is true that a certain amount of Parliamentary time has been wasted—time that could have been saved if the proper course had been taken with regard to this Bill. The hon. Member for Macclesfield seems to think that the position of Manchester in this matter is trivial. I do not intend to go into the merits beyond saying this: Manchester, as everyone knows, is in an area which is rapidly becoming enclosed. Its chances of expansion, as has been pointed out, are practically nil in every direction except the South, because the districts are already built up. No council which adequately looked after the interest of Manchester could stand idly by and see taken away those districts in which are its only chances of expansion. But that is not a matter that can be debated in this House by assertion and counter-assertion across 1225 the Floor. It is a matter which requires evidence, and to-night we have had a number of admirable instances of the sort of evidence that may be given. That evidence would be extremely valuable if it could be brought forward and examined into and cross-examined into, so that it could be sifted, and so that a committee may come to a judicial conclusion upon it.
All that has happened is that Stockport, having declared that it intends to jump a claim with regard to these areas, Manchester, which has a very large common boundary with these areas and supplies a great many services, naturally feels that in the interest of its own citizens it has a right to have its voice heard and its evidence taken by a Committee of this House when the matter is being considered. In order to get that opportunity it is essential that Manchester should bring before this House a Bill competing with that of Stockport. So far from its being a waste of money, it is an essential expenditure. There are some people who talk a great deal about economy. Some of their ideas of economy are mere cheeseparing. When a city is bound to incur expenditure for the purpose of preserving the amenities of its ratepayers, no one can say that that is wasteful expenditure. It is the truest economy, because it is looking forward to the future when the interests of its citizens may require development in an area. All of these are matters which must be dealt with upstairs.
All that those Members for Manchester who oppose this Bill are doing is trying to deprive their own citizens, and those who for better or worse are the people chosen to carry out the local administration of their own city, of an opportunity of having their voice heard on a matter which vitally and intimately concerns the welfare and the future of the city that they pretend to represent in this House. Then there is the other matter out of which those hon. Members seem to have got a certain amount of satisfaction. They have got out a quite considerable grouse against the city that they represent. I do not know what pleasure a man has in decrying his own constituency, but at any rate Members from Manchester seem to think that it is a pleasurable occupation.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
Frankly I do not think it is pleasurable to decry the government of one's own city.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
If it be the fact that the administration of Manchester is so bad, why on earth should that justify depriving Manchester of doing its duty for once? That is the line that some Members are taking. They say that Manchester is not housing its people within its own boundaries. But they all agree that Manchester must look to the future. One hon. Member, I think it was the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), seemed to think that the only way for Manchester to expand was to build higher and higher. I do not know. The clouds are quite near enough to the earth in Manchester from time to time without going further up into them. I should not think that that was a good way of expanding.
But, after all, how is this grouse with regard to housing germane to this Bill? It is simply an attempt on the part of some Manchester Members to say, "Well, you must rebuild, it is true, but you must rebuild in our constituency." Then one hon. Member spent a long time in pointing out the great difficulties that would be caused by turning out of their present houses the people who live in his constituency. But even if they are going to be re-housed in his constituency the re-housing cannot be done while those people are still living in the houses. I do not know where he proposes that they should live in the meantime. But how is that germane to the question, the sole question, whether Manchester's voice should be heard or not? That is the sole question at issue.
The other matters which have been raised in this Debate, such as the question of Manchester housing, might be made the subject of inquiry. They are important matters, but how on earth do they affect the question of Manchester protecting the interests of its own people by seeing that a possible chance of extension in the future is saved for its citizens? I fail to understand how housing has the smallest relation to it. In the old days we had on these extension questions inquiries up and down the country, and I agree with those who say 1227 that such inquiries very often led to a great deal of needless expense. They had to be followed, if the application in the original inquiry was successful, by Provisional Order Bills which had to go through Parliament and which caused further expense. We have done away with that type of inquiry, and we have prevented that expense. But if the procedure of the House is to be used to prevent Bills of this kind being examined by Committees of the House then there will be no examination at all in the future, and the time will come when there will be a demand that these matters should again be committed to inquiries in the country. Thus you will incur a large expenditure again which will be far worse than leaving these questions to Committees of the House.
My contention is that instead of doing democracy a service those who are supporting the Amendment are depriving democracy of its proper rights to have questions of public administration examined as they ought to be examined by Committees of this House. Some of those who now oppose this Bill have on other occasions taken a line with which I entirely agree, that Private Bills ought not to be opposed on Second Reading, unless some vital question of general principle is involved and that Bills which are based upon details ought to go to a Committee where the evidence can be examined and a judicial decision given on the questions involved. How hon. Members who have expressed those views from time to time can now try to prevent the operation of the very system which they have applauded astonishes me and gives me a profound distrust of their consistency or reliability in public affairs. I hope that the House will not continue this "grouse" upon matters which have nothing to do with the Bill, but that they will allow the Measure to go upstairs, so that questions which are vital to the people of Manchester may be properly investigated and a proper decision given upon them.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. THORP
As the Member for Nelson and Colne, I venture to put before the House what my constituency thinks about this Bill. There is, I think, an air of insincerity about this Debate. Apparently, the House is considering, not 1228 the merits or demerits of this Bill, but merely tactics of procedure which will enable the Manchester Corporation to be represented in Committee upstairs in their opposition to the Stockport Bill. With regard to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord), the House has long been aware that what Manchester says to-day the rest of the world says to-morrow, but his argument apparently is that what the Manchester City Council says to-day this House ought to say the same evening. I do not think the mere fact that the Manchester City Council has made up its mind, too late, that it wants to take over this property, is any reason why the House should afford it opportunities for standing in the way of the legitimate efforts of Stockport.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Norwood, who is, I believe, Recorder of Manchester, advanced the theory that as Manchester may want this property to-morrow, we ought to prevent Stockport getting it now. One could imagine a dishonest person saying, "I shall want that property to-morrow, therefore I propose to steal it to-day rather than afford anyone else the opportunity of taking it." It is true that Manchester may wish to extend. It would not be right at this juncture for me to attempt to prognosticate whether Manchester will have any need to extend in the future or not but it may happen before very long that Manchester will seek to contract rather than to expand. But I submit that the House itself is absolute on this question. The Committees upstairs merely provide a convenient procedure for the examination of details. Is Manchester afraid of submitting to this House the case that it would put upstairs? I have heard nothing in this Debate which has made out any case whatever with regard to the bona fides of Manchester's contention. As I say it would really appear that Manchester's position is simply this: "We may want this property to-morrow, therefore, nobody else is entitled to have it now." I think the City Corporation of Manchester have quite enough on their hands at this moment with regard to the difficulties in the cotton trade, and that they would be well advised to let Stockport proceed with its Bill and take in this area.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. LECKIE
As one not connected in any way with Manchester, I hope I may be pardoned if I barge into what looks very like a private fight. We have had Members from Manchester and district pro and con. on this question, and I hope I may be forgiven for adding a few words as one who is keenly interested in municipal development. One of the speakers to-night has said that there is an increasing tendency to extend the boundaries of our cities and towns. That is so; it is an irresistible tendency, and it would ill become this House to try to stop that tendency. We are living in new times. During the last 25 years motor transport has completely revolutionised our former ideas of what the limits of a town should be. The motor car and the omnibus have opened up the country round about the towns, and it is only right that under these conditions we should permit towns and cities to extend their boundaries in a reasonable way. Until recently nearly everyone lived in the town in which he or she worked, and that was the regular thing, but now everyone who can afford to run even the smallest car or a motor cycle is looking to get out into the country and the fresh air, and we must remember that the wage-earners, the small shopkeepers, and the foremen have as much right to the amenities of living in a country district as the wealthier members of the community. Therefore, I feel that the opposition to this Bill is unwise.
Most of the arguments against the Bill have been points that could very well be put in Committee—some of them very good points, but Committee points nevertheless—and I hope they will not influence hon. Members at this stage. It would be a great mistake for the House of Commons to stand in the way of progress in municipal development. We do not bind ourselves by giving the Bill a Second Reading in regard to any of the details. All that we do is to send it upstairs for detailed examination, and then, if we are not satisfied when it comes down for Third Reading, we can take such action as we consider best. Debates such as this, it seems to me, are stretching the Rules of the House with regard to Private Bills. Only a week or two ago we spent two hours and more on a similar subject, and to-night we are spending almost a whole evening on what 1230 is, after all, a parochial matter; and I do not think a discussion such as this redounds to the credit of the Mother of Parliaments. I hope the House will take a strong action to-night and by a large majority send the Bill upstairs for proper consideration, and so we shall get a considered verdict.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. BAILEY
Those of us Manchester Members who oppose this Bill are doing so after the most careful consideration and with a full sense of responsibility. I can only regret that there have not been more Members present to listen to our arguments, so that the vote, when taken, would reflect the merit of the arguments rather than other matters. It may possibly be a reason why this matter got so quickly through the Manchester City Corporation that a great many members of the corporation knew very little indeed about the question until after it had slipped through, and I say that with no disrespect to anyone. If this were a Bill in which there were any merits at all, we should all agree that it ought to go to a Committee for consideration, but it is a Bill which has no merits at all, in my submission, and which, of it is allowed to go up to a Committee, will be an encouragement to persons who ought not to be encouraged to carry on with a policy in regard to housing which has not got the citizens of Manchester behind it and to which as a whole they are opposed.
The whole case for the corporation was put, and put very well, from the benches where I should expect it to be put well, namely, from the Socialist Benches by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). He rejoiced in the Bill, and I can understand anyone with Socialistic leaning rejoicing in it. He twitted us, in passing, with a lack of local patriotism. As a matter of fact, local patriotism is all on the side of rejecting the Bill, because if you are a local patriot, you respect the local patriotism of others, and we who oppose the Bill respect the unanimous local patriotism of the inhabitants of Cheadle and Gatley Then he sought to teach us a lesson in Imperialism. He said it was a habit of Imperialism to extend, and he referred to our Empire. Wherever Imperialism expands, however, it gives self-government. That is what Cheadle and Gatley have got and what 1231 they ought not to have taken away, and, in considering which a Committee of the House of Commons ought not to waste its time.
What is the solid argument against this Bill? The Manchester City Council come forward and say: "We are simply putting this Bill forward as a dummy Bill in order to enable us to spend a great deal of the ratepayers' money to oppose Stockport." If that be their only motive, why did not they ask their Members of Parliament to oppose the Stockport Bill? They were as quiet as mice when that Bill was before the House. If they only wanted to oppose Stockport, why select the most expensive way of going to work and ask for a thing that they do not want because they do not want anybody else to have it? Why could not they have approached their own Members in common courtesy and have asked them to oppose the Stockport Bill? I admit that they would not have selected the present time for bringing forward these demands unless Stockport had done so, because they are unlikely to get them granted. It all rests on the fact that on the Manchester City Council there are a great many squandermaniacs who in no way represent the opinions of the citizens of Manchester who, on the last occasion when the citizens had a chance of judging their proposals, turned them down by a 10 to one vote. The working people of Manchester do not want to be turned from their homes and have to start in many cases in middle age away from where they work and have lived for many years, away from their friends, away from the schools where their children learn, and away from the churches where they worship. It is cruel and brutal, and in the case of Manchester absolutely unnecessary.
That is why we so strongly oppose this Bill. At Wythenshaw the rents are expensive and people are always appearing in the county court because they cannot pay them; the work is too far away; there are practically no factories about; there are unemployed people who cannot afford to go five or six miles into the city to find work; and a derelict area is being set up seven or eight miles away from the factories to please the grandiose ideas of certain members of the council and the officials of the Ministry of Health, who know nothing whatever about the 1232 real interest and the welfare of the people. It is because we who live among them do know that we are opposing this Bill. There is ample scope within the city, whose business is unfortunately contracting, to rehouse adequately in decent conditions the whole of its population. If you took a vote of the wretched people about whose destinies you are arbitrating as to what they want—and if democracy means anything it means that people should have a voice, especially as to where they should live—they would be overwhelmingly on the side of the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) in his fight to prevent them being driven like cattle from the homes in which they have lived all their lives.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton apparently gave himself and his party on the city council away. They believe in great garden cities and grandiose schemes with back gardens where all the rubbish will be chucked, where people will live away from their work. They will turn a decent residential area into slums—because that it what it will mean—instead of putting up houses nearer the work of the people. We have an extravagant enough council as it is; do not encourage them to be more extravagant. Give to the people what they want—flats near their work. If you do that you will be doing what the democracy in Manchester wants. Therefore, we ask that the House should not allow the time of the Committee to be wasted by long arguments from counsel and long consideration of a Bill which nobody in Manchester desires except the town clerk and certain misguided members of the corporation.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ The MINISTER OF HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)
I have felt some hesitation during this lively and interesting Debate as to whether it was possible for me to be of assistance to the House. Dangerous as is the situation of him who interferes between husband and wife, the situation of a Minister who interferes between a group of Manchester Members and the Corporation of Manchester on an issue which, as we have seen, so vitally affects the most intimate local circumstances of that city, may be even more dangerous. My duty is to offer the House such observations as I may upon the very unusual Debate which we have had to-night—full of interest but most un- 1233 usual; because it is unusual for the House to be asked, on the Second Reading of a Private Bill, to pass judgment upon what is obviously an uncomposed difference between a group of its own Members associated with a city and those responsible for the conduct of that city's local affairs. I am sure the House wishes very much that things might have been otherwise, and that some of the matters discussed with a certain amount of intensity to-night could have been composed in those preliminary stages which sometimes take place; but we are now left to give a decision as a House upon most interesting and in many respects most important matters which have been laid before us.
In this difficulty, I feel that what I can best do for the assistance of the House is to recall to our memories what I believe all will agree is the ruling principle which always guides the House on occasions of this sort—the consideration on Second Reading of an important Private Bill. I think that ruling principle is to ask ourselves: Is there any important question of public policy which will be decided "yea" or "nay" by passing the Second Reading of the Bill? If that be so, of course we must vote upon the Second Reading with that issue of public policy in our minds, and our votes must be decided accordingly; but if there be no great principle of public policy bound up with the Second Reading, then I think it is our habit, based upon very commonsense reasons, when such interesting matters of detailed controversy are discussed as have been discussed to-night, to say that this House, between the hours of half-past seven and eleven o'clock, has not time enough or evidence enough to arrive at a decision, that procedure by Committee is the right procedure and to refer the merits of the Bill to Committee upstairs.
I think that the Debate to-night has been rather an illustration of the wisdom of that procedure. I have felt that there was something rather unfortunate in our proceedings. We have heard strictures upon part of the administration of the great City of Manchester, and very able speeches in vindication of that administration have been made by the hon. Members for the Exchange Division (Mr. Fielden) and for the Rusholme Division (Mr. Radford). I am sure that they would be the first to agree with me that it is only the Corporation of Manchester who 1234 can adequately reply to the criticisms that we have heard to-night. If the House desires to obtain the full and adequate reply of the Corporation of Manchester, that reply can be obtained only in the procedure before the Committee. I am rather forced to the conclusion that if we reject the Bill and refuse to the Corporation of Manchester the full right of dealing before the Committee with matters that have been advanced in the Debate, we shall not be dealing with the situation quite satisfactorily to ourselves.
I am trespassing rather further upon the merits of the matter than I intended, but I would like to be allowed to say that I do not at all agree with many of the criticisms that have been advanced, sometimes in terms that I have surprised me, upon the administration of Manchester. I cannot think that the House will consent, by rejecting the Bill, to endorse the proposition of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) that the corporation of Manchester are a spendthrift body. Such words as those are not likely to be approved by this House. I reject them myself from my own experience of the administration of the city, and I believe that the House will be most reluctant, after such words have been used, to come to a judgment which does not allow the fullest ventilation of any matters that might be advanced in support of such a startling proposition.
Let me now examine the reasons that have been advanced for the rejection of the Second Reading. I desire, in a most impartial manner, to see whether anything has been advanced by way of such a general consideration of public policy as to make it right for the House to reject the Second Reading. I think that two reasons have been advanced. The first was the criticism by the hon. and gallant Member for Ardwick (Captain Fuller) of the administration of Manchester in respect of slum clearance. No cloud is without its silver lining, and I am most delighted that even a by-product of the Debate should have registered once more the profound interest taken by this House in the active conduct of that work. The hon. and gallant Member for Ardwick quite unintentionally did an injustice to the Corporation of Manchester in some of his observations, because in the facts which he quoted, he was dealing with a period before the initiation of the great effort which is now being undertaken by 1235 the corporation to bring the work of slum clearance into accord with what is required by the conditions of the city and by the intentions and the desires of the nation. Since those times to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, the Corporation of Manchester has made three Orders in respect of the Hulme area for the clearance of slums which will ensure the re-housing of 4,400 persons, and there are nine further Orders under the immediate consideration of the corporation, involving 15,700 persons in 3,600 houses. These areas have been declared since the period to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, and the whole programme of the Corporation of Manchester for dealing with these slums, as communicated to me and accepted by me, involves the very large effort represented by the clearance of no fewer than 15,000 houses in the course of the five years' duration of the slum clearance programme.
What other general public grounds have been advanced for the rejection of the Bill? I have followed most carefully the general public grounds put forward in the arguments against the Bill, in order to form my own judgment as to whether or not we were on grounds here which made it necessary to vote against the Second Reading, and in order to enable me to correct the general purport of the observations which I am now offering to the House. The second general ground which I have found in the arguments directed towards the rejection of the Bill has been that, as regards the matter of re-housing in Manchester, the corporation has not been sufficiently active in providing accommodation for the slum dwellers and others dispossessed on the site or in the neighbourhood of their original homes, and that it has followed a wrong policy in providing too much of its alternative accommodation at a distance from their original homes. Let us remember, again, that the House has not heard the technical evidence on this subject which it would desire to hear from those who are best acquainted with the conditions of Manchester. We have had extremely able speeches for the prosecution, but we have not yet heard the evidence for the defence.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
My hon. and learned Friend says that there is no evidence, but it would be a very curious proceeding in a court of law if counsel for the prosecution were allowed to forbid the defendant to call his witnesses. My hon. and learned Friend is much better acquainted with legal procedure than I am, but I am sure he will realise the force of my observation. Apart from the fact that the House has only heard one side of the case, I should like, if I may strike a personal note, to mention an impression that has been made upon me. We have had raised one of the most interesting, important and vital of the practical factors which underlie the whole housing problem of the country, namely, the question whether there shall be re-housing on the site or re-housing on the circumference, and what proportion should be kept between the two. That is a problem with which one lives day by day in the march forward in the provision of alternative accommodation to reduce slum clearance and overcrowding.
I know that there are some very special conditions in Manchester. I do not know enough about the situation to pass judgment upon the able arguments produced by Members who have urged their objections to the Bill on this basis, but I know that there is a most powerful case to be made upon that, and that the House, before passing judgment upon it, ought to hear the case that is made by the Corporation of Manchester. Hear the other side before you make up your mind.
I have been led a little aside from what I think is the relevant consideration. After all, if you take such questions of overwhelming interest as that of an adequate slum programme and that of policy as between re-housing on the site and re-housing elsewhere, what have those two questions to do with the decision on the Second Reading of the Bill? You are not deciding them by accepting or rejecting this Bill. It involves totally different issues. When we come down to earth, we realise that it only involves the question of the propriety and the desirability of the extension of the boundaries of one city or another over the adjacent areas. I listened with the closest attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones), who opened the case against the Bill, and who is, no 1237 doubt, looked upon by the House as representing the bedrock case against it. I followed his argument with the greatest interest. I thought to the onlooker it was full of force and most relevant, but he was arguing on such grounds as these that, when Manchester says the services as regards gas, sewage, electricity and transport ought to be extended from Manchester to Gatley, there are good, practical, local reasons to those who know all the circumstances. I said to myself, "I really cannot imagine an issue more characteristic of the sort of issue which ought to be left to a Committee to decide and which it is difficult for the House to decide. When we come down to the question of the merits of the Bill, may we not look at it a little from the outside and say to ourselves: "Here is precisely the sort of issue which this House has found so much difficulty in the past in adequately dealing with in the course of a Second Reading Debate that it has invented the Committee procedure to assist it in its deliberations?" I do not know if hon. Members are able to make up their minds on the rights and wrongs of a rating question by listening to a single speech, but I know that I should not be able to do so. We should probably all require to be allowed to cross-examine and ask questions before we could make up our minds.
My final observation, if I can be of any assistance to the House in deciding this question, would be this. We are confronted here with a decision as between Stockport and Manchester as to which should extend its boundaries over the area of Cheadle and Gatley. Apart from these interesting questions to which I have referred, there is the question that merits consideration of the local circumstances, the local services, the burden of local rates, and so on. This House has already passed the Second Reading of the Stockport Bill and sent it up to a Committee. If we now rejected the Manchester Bill and refused the Committee the opportunity of hearing the case of Manchester against the case of Stockport, we should be producing a rather ridiculous position. My hon. and learned Friends who took part in the Debate will realise that we are, unlike a court of law, hearing the case of the prosecution but denying the de- 1238 fendants a right to present the case on their side of the action. It is really an issue between the two, and I am inclined to think that, having sent the Stockport Bill to Committee, in justice to our own Committee and in order to enable them to perform the functions placed upon them, we ought to let the case for Manchester go forward also.
Regarding the wider issues which have been raised to-night, I would only say that I believe that an injustice, unintentionally, was done to the slum clearance effort of the city of Manchester in ignoring the intense effort which they have made in the last nine months. But the wider issues will not be decided by the Bill. These issues and particularly the issue between central re-housing and re-housing on the circumference, are questions of policy in which there are important local conditions which we ought to take into account. Personally, I am confident that the House will agree with me, and that they will not approve of any harsh strictures upon the conduct of the services of the Government of a great city when those strictures are based upon statements to which the party accused had no chance of making the full and adequate reply which it ought to have an opportunity of making.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Sir J. NALL
I would like to say, and I am sure my hon. Friends will agree with me, that we fully appreciate, and, in general, entirely agree with the general sentiments and principles which the Minister has just stated. It has been said in the course of this Debate that we were taking up the time of the House with a purely parochial matter—a sort of family quarrel—which ought to be settled upstairs. I venture to say that we have achieved much more than that, and the speech of the Minister has shown, if nothing else has shown, that we have raised, and purposely intended to raise, matters of first-class importance affecting the policy all over the country in this matter of re-housing the people.
The one point in the speech of my right hon. Friend with which I personally do not agree was that in which he said that Manchester has made tremendous efforts towards slum clearance. My view is—and a great many people in Manchester hold the same view—that all schemes for slum clearance are bound to break down unless 1239 the question of re-housing on the site or in the immediate locality is tackled on a proper basis. That is the great complaint we have against our city council, and it is on that aspect of the matter, that these proposals for slum clearance will inflict grievous hardship not only on the 4,400 people to whom my hon. Friend referred, but on many more thousands of people under the further schemes now under consideration, simply because a predominating majority of those people desire and have expressed their desire for re-housing in the locality to which they belong. It is the one fundamental point in the speech of my right hon. Friend with which I entirely disagree. Even the medical officer of health has admitted in public that when 200 houses were cleared in 1923 in a similar locality, not 25 per cent. of the people concerned availed themselves of the alternative accommodation in the housing estate which at that time was not as far away as the alternative accommodation which is being proposed in these present schemes.
I would mention one or two other matters to which I think we should reply. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) dealt vigorously with what he said, or implied, was a sort of property-owners' stunt. Our agitation on this matter of re-housing has nothing whatever to do with the property-owners' case. There is a property-owners' case which can be very strongly stated at the proper time, but that relates to the general law of the Housing Acts and has nothing to do with this Bill or with our attitude towards it. If my hon. Friend—if I may call him so—wants some authority to indicate that this matter of clearance schemes is neither a property-owners' stunt nor a political stunt, may I quote to him the words of a former hon. Member for the Gorton Division of Manchester, Mr. Compton, who two years ago, on 28th January, 1932, was good enough to come and speak in my Division, on the same platform as myself, on this very question, and who was reported as saying:The futility of slum clearance, if it means taking displaced people to housing estates miles away from their work, was stressed by Mr. Compton, who suggested the building of light, airy tenements on the Continental plan.1240 The hon. Member for Westhoughton at least will not question these words, reported in the "Daily Herald," a paper which he will regard as his political Bible, of a man who takes the same stand and says practically the same thing that we have been saying for the last three years on the matter of re-housing in Manchester. Perhaps he will appreciate that this is neither a property-owners' nor a Tory party stunt.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Will the hon. Member tell the House how it is possible to re-house the people on the site in view, when the corporation is called upon to pay £9,000 per acre for the land?
§ Sir J. NALL
That is the next point with which I have to deal. I am not fully acquainted with the negotiations that have gone on about the land, but I know that nothing like £9,000 has been asked for. The last I heard of it some weeks ago was that they were asking something like £5,000, to which were being added queer figures for the removal of gas-pipes, cables, drains and sewers which I suppose made up the aggregate about which the hon. Member was talking. As I say, I am not aware of the progress of the negotiations and do not know to what stage they have reached, but my recollection, on the last information I have, is that something like £5,000 is being asked for these sites. But whether that is right or not, the hon. Member did not say, and no one stating the corporation case has said, that there is ample provision in local law and general law for the compulsory acquisition of these sites. That is the whole trouble and the whole problem in this matter. They have drawn up an elaborate scheme for dealing with it—the Collyhurst scheme, but there is no kind of certainty that they will proceed with it.
I have said enough to show that the hon. Member for Westhoughton has been very badly misinformed on the question of re-housing on those sites. On the main question of this Bill, whether the city of Manchester should be extended into these councils' areas, I wish the House to observe that it is a matter of public policy. In days when the decentralisation of industry and of population is to be desired on every ground of social amenity and local economy, it cannot be right to go on extending the great urban areas. A halt must be called in that 1241 that extension. We have it in its worst form in the Wythenshaw Estate. In that case, having arranged to dump a large body of population at the far end of the estate, seven miles from the main part of Manchester, the corporation are now proceeding to subsidise local industry in order to find the people some work to do, because they know they cannot afford to travel to their work.
As soon as it is realised that it is a locality for industry, industrial organisers who want factory spaces need not go to the corporation for subsidies within the city, because they can get land far cheaper in the further part of Cheshire, with rates less than half the city rates—I mean the rural parts of Cheshire—and call upon that great reservoir of labour which Manchester will have dumped on the edge of the city, subsidised by the rates of the city. Can economic madness go further in crazy ideas of development? Let us have garden cities of the Letchworth and Welwyn type, by all means, but are the ratepayers of Poplar, Stepney and Shoreditch asked to subsidise the development of Welwyn or Letchworth? The thing is perfectly impossible. If this kind of clearance goes on, and if the old rateable—revenues for the old urban areas are abolished, who is ultimately to pay the bill for the exterior development of the fringe of the urban areas?
One thing that has astonished me more than any other in this Debate is that my hon. and learned Friend who holds the office of Recorder of Manchester should have seen fit to come to this House, holding the office that he does, and say that my friends and myself, by our action in raising a matter of first-class public importance in this way, give him cause to distrust our consistency as Members of this House. I am entitled to say that his action gives me cause to distrust his impartiality as a judge.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
What I said was, that those who have always preached what I think is a right doctrine, that a Second Reading should be given to Private Bills, should not turn round and take the other view on a matter of this kind.
§ Sir J. NALL
While I accept that correction by the hon. and learned Member, it does not alter the fact that, hold- 1242 ing a judicial office within the city, he has gone out of his way, he alone of all the hon. Members who have spoken against us, to use terms which were at least discourteous. I can only say that my friends and myself in raising this question as we have done desire to draw the attention of the House and the Government to the acute feeling which exists in our city on this matter, and having done so we are perfectly content to allow the Bill to take its normal course.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed.