§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 29, to leave out "and height."
In the very early stages of the Committee proceedings the Government were pressed to add the words, "and height" which were the subject of an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). When the Government accepted the Amendment, the Lord Advocate said:In view of the feeling of the Committee, which is that the point should be kept open for further consideration, the Government is prepared to accept the Amendment. I want to utter a warning, however, that that does not mean that the Government is conceding that cubic capacity should supersede superficial area as the test of the capacity of a room in respect of overcrowding."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee on Scottish Bills; 14th March, 1935, col. 149.]Although the question of whether the number permitted to sleep in a house should be increased because of the extra height of the ceilings was kept open for consideration, no Amendment with this object was moved, and it will be recollected that the basis of the standard adopted had relation to the floor area of the room. The Committee finally approved that basis and the words "and height" have, therefore, no relation to the factors on which the standard is based, and their retention is inappropriate.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
I think the Members of the Committee who followed the Debate will feel rather perturbed at the idea of the Minister withdrawing the concession which was given on the Committee stage. All the Members of the Committee who took part in that discussion backed up the Amendment which was moved by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). At first the Minister opposed the Amendment, but afterwards bowed to the feeling of the Committee and accepted it. It is true that the Lord Advocate warned the Committee that the fact that the Government accepted the Amendment did not mean that they were conceding the point that cubic capacity should supersede superficial area as the test in relation to overcrowding. That is true, but the Minister told us to-day that he accepted that Amendment in consideration of the moving of a later Amendment during 1752 the Committee stage. Since no such Amendment was moved, the Government consider it is now advisable to withdraw the Amendment which was accepted. Having accepted the Amendment under pressure of the Committee, who had shown themselves desirous of having the words added, it was the province if not the business of the Government to add the consequential words in other parts of the Bill, and not to come forward on the Report stage and say that because that has not been done by others the Government withdraw the concession. In doing so, they have taken by surprise those who were Members of the Committee.
The Amendment was accepted after long debate, in which a good number of Members took part. The matter was fully discussed and the reasons were fully given. The great majority of the Committee were agreeable to the idea of height being added, although some thought that this was not the proper place in which an Amendment in regard to height should be placed. Everyone who took part in the debate agreed that the height of a room ought to have consideration as well as floor space by those inspecting a dwelling-house with a view to condemning it or describing it as overcrowded. I trust that the Minister will reconsider the position now taken up by the Government. When the Lord Advocate accepted the Amendment in Committee, no protest was made from any part of the Committee, but the alteration was unanimously agreed to. The Government should have consulted those who were responsible for the Amendment and should have informed them that it was no longer possible to agree to the Amendment, which would be deleted on the Report stage. They should have told us their reasons. As it is, the word "height" appears as part of the body of the Bill, in Section 2 (1, b). It was the duty of the Government either to warn those who were responsible for the Amendment to put down the consequential Amendments or themselves to make those consequential Amendments which the Secretary of State for Scotland thinks ought to have been put down by some of us at a later stage.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
I was in favour of the words "and height" being put in on the Committee stage, as were most of 1753 us at that time, because we thought that when we came to the Schedule dealing with floor area we would move an Amendment in regard to height. We should not have been able to do that if the word "height" had not appeared earlier in the Bill. When we came to the Schedule, many of us came to the conclusion that it was better not to move any Amendment as to height. As the words "and height" do not appear anywhere else in the Bill I think they are unnecessary, since no Amendment was made to the Schedule. I am glad that the words are being withdrawn, as they are entirely unnecessary.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I am astonished at the action of the Scottish Office. I flattered myself in having obtained a concession from them when this Amendment was accepted, after the subject has been thoroughly debated. I would like the House to have an idea of what was in our minds when I moved the Amendment. I can well understand why a number of Members opposite are in favour of doing away with height. I would warn the Scottish Office that they are dealing a blow at the Bill by taking height out, because it will permit persons to continue to build camp-ceil houses in Scotland. It was with a view to abolishing camp-ceil houses that we had height put in. We have houses in Scotland which start at the front with a height of only four feet. They have a second storey of four feet, and then they run away to the roof with a height at the ridge of nine feet, also in the second storey. Instead of simply the roof, what are called attics are put in which do away with height. It is true that there is floor space, but there is no height.
It was to counteract that that the Amendment was moved, and I cannot understand for the life of me how the Secretary of State for Scotland has been carried away to such an extent. It was after due consideration and deep deliberation that the Department agreed to this going into the Bill. I do not know what forces have been at work, but the result will be a continuation of a scandalous state of housing, particularly in the rural districts of Scotland. They are a standing disgrace. Talk about the tied houses; 1754 in practically every case this is the kind of house that the tied houses consist of, where men have not a soul to call their own. In Scotland and in England, country servants and agricultural workers are terrified lest the farmer or the landlord should get to know how they have voted.
We thought we had converted the Scottish Office. We discussed the matter with all and sundry, including the officials of the Department, and our original Amendment was modified at the request of the Scottish Office. We agreed to the modification in order to get the substance of it into the Bill. The substance is in the Bill, but at this late hour, without giving us any warning and without considering us, the Government proposes to remove it. That would not be done to any other section of the House; I am forced to say that.Facts are chiels that winna ding,An' downa be disputed.The first intimation that we received was when we got our papers this morning, and we found that the Secretary of State for Scotland, evidently backed by the Under-Secretary, was going to take away the concession which they gave to us, and which would have been beneficial to the housing conditions of Scotland. No longer would attics have been permitted. This is where I get angry. I would not care if the men and women who support this idea would build that type of house and live in it themselves, but they would not, any more than I would; yet they are protecting the building of that type of house in Scotland.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
No, Sir. I have not forgotten Clause 7 by any means. We were very sorry, may I say, that the Under-Secretary was unable to be present with us in the Committee stage, but we are all glad to see him back here in his health and strength, so that we may wrestle with him to the best of our ability. If he had been present he would have heard all the different points brought out with regard to height. It was suggested that we should have height only and not area, and I pointed out at the time that we could have, as there is in Scotland, people living in chimneys with no area, or, at any rate, no floor space. If we had area, and floor space 1755 and height it would make it impossible to compel people to live in old chimney stacks.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Can the hon. Member tell us of any cases of people living in chimneys such as he has described?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
It would only be a rough dimension—12 feet in diameter. [Interruption.] I do not mean circumference. Evidently it is a low type of mentality with whom I am dealing in this House. I say that in all sincerity. When you are dealing with the housing of our race, they have as much right to good housing conditions as the English. I repudiate the idea at once, because there is no doubt that her Ladyship is quite satisfied that living in chimneys is not so very bad when they are 12 feet in diameter.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
It does not matter how you measure it; it is 12 feet. I am astonished at her Ladyship, because I have always given her credit for being above the average in intelligence, and I am sure that her education has not been neglected to the extent that she does not know that 12 feet in diameter means 12 feet all round, measuring it any way you like. But we are dealing here with a very serious situation. We are dealing with the housing conditions of the Scottish people, and not with Chinese or Indians, and it has been admitted—think of it; it is in cold print—that the housing conditions of our country are among the worst in Christendom. We had an Amendment carried to the effect that not only had the floor space to be of given dimensions, but the room had also to be of a given height.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The height at which we are building the rooms of houses in Scotland at the moment is from 8 feet 6 inches to 9 feet.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
Did the hon. Gentleman move any Amendment The only reason why I suggested that "height" should be taken out was because no Amendment was moved to say what height.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
That is begging the question. The fact remains that we want "height" kept in here. It is defined in Clause 7, but it is most important that we should have it inserted in Clause 2. The Committee, after discussing it far nearly a whole forenoon—Members of all parties, and even the women folk took part in it—agreed to height being inserted. I know that her Ladyship did not, but that is by the way. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) confirms the fact that the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) supported us. I expected that when women came into the House of Commons they would introduce a more humanitarian atmosphere, but they have done nothing of the kind. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to retain height here, as it is important that that should be done.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Jamieson)
I am sorry if the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) should have thought that he has been in any way misled by anything which the Government have done, but I think that his recollection of what took place in Committee is somewhat at fault, and that if he reconsiders what took place there he will find that he has not been misled in any way at all. It is true that he moved an Amendment on Clause 2 of the Bill which was accepted conditionally. My predecessor, in Committee, when accepting the Amendment, said:In view of the feeling of the Committee, which is that this point should be kept open for further consideration, the Government is prepared to accept the Amendment. I want to utter a warning, however, that that does not mean that the Government is conceding that cubic capacity should supersede superficial area as the test of the capacity of a room in respect of overcrowding."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT (Standing Committee on Scottish Bills), 14th March, 1935, col. 149.]The Amendment was accepted for two reasons, to keep the question open, but with a warning that the Government need not necessarily accept the principle of cubic capacity. The question of cubic 1757 capacity arose again on Clause 4—Clause 4 deals with houses of exceptional floor area and of an exceptional type—on an Amendment moved to delete "floor area" and to insert "cubic capacity" in its place. On that Amendment, the whole question of what should be the basis of capacity of a room was gone into very fully by the Committee. It was pointed out that in the best medical opinion the question of lateral rather than vertical room was what was of importance, and, as a result of the very full discussion in the Committee, the Amendment to substitute "cubic capacity" for "floor area" was finally withdrawn. It was perfectly apparent after that discussion that the feeling of the great majority of the Committee was that floor area was to be taken as the test and not cubic capacity. But floor area could not stand altogether alone as the question arose with regard to camp-cell houses, to which the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs has just referred. The question arose on Clause 7, Sub-section (4) with regard to the method to be adopted of measuring rooms by local authorities. It was then made clear by my right hon. Friend that the Department should have a wide general power to prescribe the manner in which the floor area should be calculated. Certain Amendments had been put down in the name, I think, of the hon. and learned Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stevenson) with regard to recesses and with regard to camp-ceil roofs—and the Committee again, after a full discussion, accepted the decision that the method of measurement in a room where there was a camp-ceil ceiling or recess or other things of that sort should be dealt with by regulations prescribed by the Department. From that time onward the question of height and cubic capacity was never raised, and no Amendment was moved on the Schedule, which was the appropriate place. I venture to say that no Amendment was moved because it was perfectly apparent that the Committee had, subject to prescribing with regard to floor area when there was a camp-cell ceiling and the like, accepted the principle that floor area and not height was the proper method of taking the measurement.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
May I ask the Lord Advocate in which part of Clause 7 he 1758 gets his power to take height into consideration in making any of these rules?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The Clause says:The Department shall prescribe the manner in which the floor area of a room is to be ascertained for the purposes of the First Schedule.If the hon. Member will refer to what took place in the Committee, he will see that this question of camp-cell ceilings and recesses was fully taken into account, and that my right hon. Friend stated that the Department would prescribe regulations which would deal with these matters.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The words of the discussion in Committee do not govern the actions of any local authority. It is what is done there, and, if you take out the word "height" from this part of the Bill, you take away the power to deal with this matter. We are not governed by the words used in Committee, but by the actual wording of the Bill, and the wording of the Bill when it becomes an Act will govern the action of local authorities. If you cut out the word "height" from the Bill at this stage, you will take away the power of any local authority to determine the height when they are issuing any orders under the Bill.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
All that Clause 7 (4) says is that the Department shall prescribe the manner in which the floor area is to be ascertained. There is nothing in that that gives power to prescribe the height. It does not deal with it at all. I feel very nervous about it, because the use of the word "height" is at least a direction to the Department and the local authority that height has something to do with a room. I suggest that something should be put in another part of the Bill which would not exclude height. The Debates may be referred to, and it may be said that the word "height" was going to be considered, but the Department deliberately took it out; therefore, the only consideration is the floor area, and, if the inhabitants have to come in on all fours, it is no business of the local authority what the height is. The right thing to do is to keep the word "height" in, and in another place to put in some Amendment which will show that height is to be a consideration. What people want for health is cubic space. Ten feet is about 1759 the right height for a room, but, unless we have some definition of height, we are going to get into trouble.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I think the Lord Advocate was right when he said that the attitude that he and his colleagues adopted in the Committee was due to the feeling of the Committee, but I am surprised that they have departed from the attitude that height is an important factor. I am not unmindful of the fact that what the Secretary of State called the lateral dimensions are of considerable importance and that you want to have as much space between people as possible, but that does not rule out the important question of height. It has been pointed out that something might be done by the Department in connection with Clause 7 (4). That Sub-section makes no provision for height, but confines those responsible for making the survey to the floor area. There is no provision in any by-laws operating for height to be taken into consideration although the authorities are of the opinion that height is one of the factors that requires consideration. Glasgow is favoured with an exceptionally able set of public officials functioning on the health side, and in their brochure to us they put forward the suggestion that the height of the ceiling provides an additional criterion for the computation of overcrowding. They look on it as something of importance. It was not because of lay opinion but because of expert opinion that the Labour Members in association put the Amendment down. The Association of County Councils suggest that the height of the ceilings should be included in the by-laws. In fact, they made a special note:The Department have held that provision as to the height of ceilings cannot be included in existing by-laws.The Sanitary Inspectors Association say that under existing statutes local authorities have no power to regulate the height of ceilings, and it is generally admitted that this power is long overdue. In view of those opinions culled from people who attend to these matters, they are entitled to have facilities to make a good job of what they undertake. The Secretary of State would do well to consider the appeal that has been made to him and to take the opportunity that presents itself to 1760 modify his attitude and make it conform to that of the Committee and those who have the duty of looking after the health of the people.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I do not intend to take part in any vote that may take place, but I suggest in all humility to the Secretary of State that he will have to reconsider this matter. I agree in the first place that the words dealing with height in the Clause in question now have no effect whatever in the Bill. They are absolute surplusage. They help nothing and guide no one and could not be regarded as giving any indication of the opinion of Parliament about anything. They do not affect Clause 7 (4) in any way. The only thing they indicate is that at some time or other some one thought of the question of height. They do nothing effective as the Bill now stands. They do not help in the interpretation of Clause 7 (4) and they do not affect it in the slightest.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Before the fright hon. Gentleman rides off in that highhanded fashion, he might tell us why it does not affect it in any way, because what he is saying, in effect, is that the Scottish Office, the whole of the brains that were employed when they accepted that Amendment of mine, are now null and void and that they should not have accepted it at all.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The Sub-section in which the word "height" occurs says:A dwelling-house shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be overcrowded at any time when the number of persons sleeping in the house is, in relation to the number and floor area and height of the rooms of which the house consists, in excess of the permitted number of persons as defined in the First Schedule to this Act.Therefore, this question of height refers only to what is found in the First Schedule. When you go to the First Schedule you find only number and floor area, and it has nothing at all to do with height, so it is obvious that the word "height" is completely ineffective in the position that it occupies in this Clause. But the House is not insensible to this question of height, as the Lord Advocate must have discovered by this time. I can find nothing else in the Bill which prescribes any question of height. I am certain that the Lord Advocate would never insist that the suggestion 1761 that he made in Committee could give the slightest help in interpreting the Subsection. If there is one thing that has been laid down by courts of law, it is that you can never use a remark that has been made in the course of a Debate in Parliament in interpreting a Statute. Clause 7 (4) does not give any power whatever to consider the question of height and, accordingly, we are left without any guidance at all. You ought to have something in the Bill saying that with a floor area of 110 square feet you must not have less than a certain height. Obviously, it is a totally different room according as you have a height of seven, eight, nine or 10 feet. There is all the difference in the world so far as providing the necessary air space for the people who are to live in it is concerned. I regret that the Lord Advocate rejects cubic space. I have no means of persuading him to alter his opinion on that, but, if he rejects it, when he is prescribing 110 square feet as the least area on which you can accommodate two persons he ought to say what the height of the room is. Without that, it seems to me that anything might happen. I would, with great humility, again suggest that this matter must be dealt with.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate has shown why the Government thought it well that we should delete the words "and height" in the first instance. I was under the impression that in Subsection (4) of Clause 7 the Department had power to prescribe the manner in which the floor area of a room should be computed, and that we could secure the object which all hon. Members are anxious to secure with regard to what you might call camp-ceiling. The Government are anxious to meet the point, and in another place we will move an Amendment to secure that any floor area with a roof above of less than a given height shall not be counted. I may be asked what is to be the given height, but I hope I shall not be pressed to name a particular dimension. The words which I would suggest should be moved in another place would read something like this:and the regulations may provide for the exclusion from computation, or for the bringing into computation at a reduced 1762 figure, of floor space at any part of the room which is of less than a specified height.I hope I have interpreted correctly the mind of the House on this point. Some Members are anxious that we should go further. We wish to secure that what are called camp-ceilings should be treated separately and differently, and although I am still informed that we have power in the matter under the Clause I have mentioned, I will give an undertaking to add the forms of words which I have suggested in another place. The House may realise that we are fully seized of the feelings which exist in the minds of hon. Members on this matter. I hope the hon. Member who moved this Amendment on the second or third day of the Committee stage will not think it any lack of courtesy on my part that I did not draw the attention of the Committee at a later stage to the fact that the Amendment which the Government had accepted on Clause 2 had repercussions on Schedule 1. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate has endeavoured to clear that out of the way, and I hope he has done so successfully. The last thing that I would desire to do would be to engage in sharp practice, or rushing, or going back on any decision taken by the Committee upstairs without informing hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman said that there would be different treatment meted out to campceil roofs. What does he mean by different treatment?
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I have in mind that floor area with a roof above of less than a given height should not be counted; that is, that the floor area of a part of a room with a very low ceiling above should not be counted.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
Purely on a question of interpretation, may I point out that if the right hon. Gentleman's intention is to include such words in Clause 7, it might be necessary to have operative words in Clause 2 which would cover height as well as floor area in order to show that floor area entitles one to take into account some element of height as well as merely floor area, which, as defined in Clause 2—because it is defined by reference to the First Schedule—is 1763 nothing but the number of square feet. Unless there is some indication in the operative part that in calculating that you can consider height, it will not be sufficient to introduce it into a later Clause. There must, in the operative part of Clause 2, be something which entitles you to consider the matter of height, which is going to be subsequently considered in the way suggested by the right hon. Gentleman in Clause 7. Whatever the words are, whether "and height," or "including height," in Clause 2, I suggest that there must be something there to show that when you come to floor area in Clause 2, you are entitled to take this element of height into account.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I am grateful for assistance in shaping this Bill from whatever quarter it may come, and I can assure my right hon. and learned Friend that we shall certainly look into that specific matter when the time arrives.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Since the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting a way out of the difficulty, and proposes to insert certain words in another place, may I suggest that the House has not got those words before it, and that therefore he should leave in the words "and height" in the meantime, until we are able to read the Debate to-morrow and see where we stand? If possible, he could delete these words in another place and insert the words which he suggests then. I think we would rather divide on this question than have these words deleted now.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I am in the hands of the House in this matter, but the words "and height" are really extraneous. I may be rather slow in coming to a decision on this point, but I am not anxious to run away from it. I want to meet the general desire of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has indicated to us that we may have to put in some further Amendment, in view of the undertaking I have given this evening. Perhaps the House will allow me, having given that undertaking, to consider whether the forms of words which I have read out will be sufficient. I would undertake that the question of the camp-ceiling shall be fully dealt with, and perhaps 1764 with that assurance the House might allow us to delete these words "and height." I may have been misinformed, but I was advised that what hon. Members generally desire was already implied. To make sure, however, I will see that words are inserted in the Act of Parliament so that from now onwards, in the housing conditions in Scotland, these points to which hon. and right hon. Members have drawn my attention will be secured. I will give this further undertaking, that when these regulations are drawn up, we will have regard to the general view of the House on this point.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Sir R. SMITH
The right hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) had some difficulty about taking out the words "and height". Would not the easiest way be to take out the words here and to define what you mean by floor area in your definition Clause 13, which is the definition Clause with regard to this part of the Bill? The Secretary of State said the height of the ceiling should not be less than a certain figure, but we want something more than that. We want to be assured that the highest part of the ceiling that may be in the room is also of a certain height as well.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
In view of the undertaking given by the Secretary of State, I will not further resist the Amendment at this stage.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Order. We must obey the Rules of the House. The hon. and learned Member has already spoken on this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.