§ 4.16 a.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, to leave out Sub-section (2).
I am moving this Amendment simply for the purpose of securing information. I am taken by surprise that it has been called. I have in mind parts of the Special Areas where there is low-lying land, caused by colliery workings, which has passed into the hands of the municipalities, and I want to ask the Minister of Labour whether the Commissioners have power to grant to the municipalities the means to deal with this land in their areas. Can they claim, and will the Commissioners recognise, their right to deal with this land in a similar capacity to what they would have if they were private individuals?
§ 4.18 a.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I beg to support the Amendment. We desire to ask the Minister to deal with certain areas that we have in mind. We have in mind par- 2126 ticularly the pit heaps it industrial centres, slag heaps from steelworks, and tips of other descriptions. These pit and slag heaps are eyesores. It is common to see them burning during the day and during the night, and when it is pouring with rain the rain runs off them and often runs into people's houses, carrying with it accumulations of dirt of all descriptions. It is common to see the children in these areas playing on these heaps, and we desire to draw the attention to the Minister of Labour to the matter. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) has been dealing with this question for many years. He has raised it many times on the Adjournment of the House, and has obtained no satisfaction. In regard to this matter we are reinforced by the comments of the Commissioner in his Third Report on the Special Areas. If the Minister looks at pages 46 and 47, he will find that the Commissioner recommended that what we are complaining about should be dealt with. For example, he states on page 46:Reference was made in paragraphs 68 and 69 of my Second Report to the policy adopted in regard to the clearance of sites. Many sites have been suggested to me as suitable for clearance, but it has been my policy only to approve schemes which were likely to lead directly or indirectly to the economic and industrial development of the Area. In the case of recognised or potential holiday resorts I have regarded this condition as covering the improvement of tourist facilities, and certain schemes which were likely to achieve this object have been assisted.We realise that the Commissioners have been restricted within narrow limits. We realise that a number of these Com- 2127 missioners have been big men, not only big in physique, but big in outlook. The very fact that they have published reports of this description has been an indication of the big outlook of a number of these Commissioners, and an indication that they themselves as individuals have desired that money should be provided to deal with this question. They have been limited because of the Special Areas Act which was passed in 1934. I want to ask hon. Members on the other side, why should these improvements be restricted to potential health resorts?
The particular Amendment before that Committee deals only with agricultural land, and not with health resorts.
I have already been very generous to the hon. Member. I do not think he can possibly construe agricultural land as covering health resorts.
§ Mr. Smith
This is no joke to us. This is a serious question, and the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) deserves great credit for the way he has dealt with it. It is true that we are dealing with agricultural land, but we desire to raise this point so that we can deal, not only with agricultural land, but with other areas that we are speaking about.
I am afraid that, even if this Amendment were carried, it would not have the effect that the hon. Member desires.
If the hon. Member wishes to raise that, he had better raise it on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.26 a.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
There are one or two points that I wish to put, because I do not understand how this Clause is intended to operate. The first Sub-section begins:notwithstanding the provisions of Sub-section (5) of Section one of the principal Act,and therefore there is the intention in the first Sub-section to do something which would otherwise be contrary to this provision. When one comes to the second Sub-section, these words are omitted. It is not that both these powers are to be notwithstanding the provision, but the powers in Sub-section (1) are to be notwithstanding while the powers in Sub-section (2) are not to be notwithstanding the provision. In other words, the provision of Sub-section (5) of Section I will still override any powers in Sub-section (2). That, I suggest, is how any court would construe this Sub-section where the second Sub-section omits words in the first Sub-section. A court would say that Parliament must have intended a different meaning to be given to the two Sub-sections in this respect, because in the one they have inserted it and in the other they have not. Had they desired those words to govern both Sub-sections, they would have put them in. I think that this must be clearly a matter of drafting. When one turns to Sub-section (5), where, on the one hand, it is going to be abrogated, various difficult questions arise. Let me just remind hon. Members of the contents of that Sub-section. I will read it, as they may not have it before them. It says:Subject to the provisions of this subsection, the functions of the Commissioners shall not include—(a) the carrying on of any undertaking for the purpose of gain, or the provision of financial assistance to any undertaking carried on for that purpose.That, presumably, would cover an agricultural undertaking as well as an industrial undertaking, especially in those cases where you have agriculture carried on by a company or firm and not by an individual. Then there is (b):the provision of financial assistance by way of grant or loan to any local authority.It proceeds: 2129Provided that the foregoing provisions of this sub-section shall not prevent the provision of financial assistance—(i) to any undertaking carried on with the primary object of providing means of livelihood for the persons engaged in the undertaking with a view to their establishment in a position of independence or partial independence of assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 2934, or under the enactments relating to the relief of the poor.In spite of the extremely sad stories we hear of farmers, I do not suppose that many of them would fall under the heading of that sub-section. Then there is paragraph (ii) of the proviso, which is in the following terms:by way of grant or loan to a local authority for the purpose of contributing towards the cost of any works for which no specific grant is payable by any Government Department, or towards the provision of small holdings or allotments.…By Sub-section (2) it is not intended to set aside the provisions of the original Sub-section (5) of Section 1 of the old Act. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but as I understand it the Commissioners could not contribute towards the expenditure incurred by local authorities as occupiers of land, though they could as regards other owners of land. If, on the other hand, it is intended to set aside or to give this power notwithstanding what appears in the provisions of Sub-section (5), is it intended that the words "owners or occupiers of agricultural land" should cover both local authorities and individual farmers? Taking cases like sewage farms and matters of that kind, would they be covered just as agricultural land would be, or would they be excluded? In the original scheme there was, in Sub-section (6) of Section I, this paragraph:The functions of the Commissioners shall extend to the initiation, organisation, prosecution and assistance of measures outside the areas specified in the first Schedule in so far as they are satisfied that such measures will afford employment or occupation for substantial numbers of persons from those areas.Supposing that under Sub-section (2) an application were made to the Commissioner to contribute towards the drainage of an agricultural area outside the area by virtue of Sub-section (6) of Section of the original Act, would the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the limiting words in this Sub-section:agricultural land in any special area,2130 would exclude the Commissioners from operating the powers of Sub-section 6 of Section 1 of the original Act? It is a very important point, because there may be a number of farms in an area which is just on the border. If you get the position where the farmer on one side is able to claim this assistance it may be, while his next-door neighbour, with precisely similar land, is unable to claim this assistance, you are going to set up the most acute form of competitive subsidy which can possibly be imagined. I venture to suggest that the whole conception of the Sub-section is really unfortunate in this respect. You are dealing here in this Sub-section with what is really an agricultural problem, a problem that would be dealt with properly by watersheds and by areas of an agricultural and geographical nature, but you are attempting to deal with it within the confines of areas determined entirely by industrial circumstances. Therefore, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that what this should have said is that, wherever the Commissioners find they can get employment for the people in the Special Areas by assisting an agricultural drainage scheme, whether inside or outside, they then shall have the power to give that assistance. They should be acting not on the improvement of the drainage of the Special Area, but the employment of the people in the Special Area, and the critical question is, "Will that particular bit of agricultural drainage give that employment, whether the farm is inside or outside a hypothetical boundary on the map, having regard to completely different circumstances altogether?" Therefore, I should be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman could explain precisely what is the effect on this Sub-section (2) of the instruction in Sub-section (5) of the original Act, and how far Sub-section (6) of Section 1 of the old Act gives any extension to these powers under Subsection (2). I cannot see at the moment that it does.
Thirdly, I would ask whether he will consider the re-drafting, in another place if necessary, of this Section, so as to make the benefit available for the people in the Special Areas wherever the particular agricultural land happens to be, so long as the Commissioner thinks that it is easily accessible. It is very important from the point of view of the local authorities that a hard-and-fast line should not be 2131 drawn at a particular area, but that latitude should be permitted to the Commissioner, so that he can take action at a convenient distance outside and that all these surrounding farms will be entitled to get equal benefit—if it be a benefit—from this scheme, whether they are within the limits or not.
§ 4.37 a.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I join with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) in asking the right hon. Gentleman to clear up the question of whether a Commissioner, by virtue of the powers vested in him by the principal Act, can use the provisions of the Sub-section to make grants and give assistance to areas which adjoin, but are not within, Special Areas. Presumably this provision has been inserted in the new Bill because the Commissioners have drawn the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a problem that has arisen, either in the area adjoining a Special Area or in the Areas themselves. In South Wales there is no agricultural land, if agricultural land is to be defined as land which has been cultivated, but I wonder whether the term is to be given a wider meaning so as to bring within its ambit the mountains which are a feature of Wales. We have a very grave problem in South Wales. The valleys are very narrow, the mountains are very steep, and the rivers rush down the mountain-side into these narrow valleys; and into these rivers or brooks there comes all the refuse which comes from the pits and the river bed fills up. We had a case five or six years ago where we came very near to a terrible tragedy in the Rhondda Valley, because the river overflowed and the houses, being built on the level of the river, became completely uninhabitable for a very long time. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in interpreting this Sub-section and defining the term "agricultural land," the definition or interpretation will be widened so as to permit its being made to apply to the Rhondda Valley and the other valleys, by which the problem of drainage there can be helped. The local authorities have not the funds to do it themselves. To a very large extent, when the problem became acute, it was met by private subscription. I want the Minister to say what is the interpretation to be given. We presume that the Sub-section is to 2132 deal with the problem of agricultural land which adjoins a Special Area. For example, the county, part of which I represent in this House, which is one of the main agricultural counties in South Wales, is not in a Special Area, but it adjoins a Special Area. Will that county of Carmarthen be able to qualify for grants under this Sub-section? And will the phrase "agricultural land" be so widely interpreted as to bring in moorland in Wales and secure a contribution towards meeting and trying to solve the drainage problem?
§ 4.40 a.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, I should like to ask that he will recognize that the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) has raised a question of very grave importance, which has required attention for a considerable time. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has read out the relevant Section in the original Act under which the Commissioner works, and it is well known that, not only is the Section there, but in actual practice the Commissioner has been very tightly held. Indeed, the only two cases I remember in which he has had permission to do anything in this direction were two cases that were particularly mentioned by the Minister himself during one of the stages of the Bill. It is a well known fact that areas differ as far as the coal-producing areas are concerned. As a matter of fact, in Durham it is quite a common thing for a pit heap to be in an agricultural field—so much so that sometimes the plough will almost come up to the edge of the heap. If I am not mistaken, there are places in the area mentioned by the hon. Member for Leigh in which you can stand among some of these hideous heaps and see agricultural land all round. In this area the land is pocked, as it were, with these heaps. Some of these heaps are naturally thrown up at the low end of the fields. That is quite natural, because the pit is usually sunk at the lowest point, and the heap very often cumbers the lower part of the ground. To that extent the heaps certainly do interfere with the drainage, and I do know of cases where they block the drainage.
I rise to point out the importance of this matter, because I am sure that hon. 2133 Members in all parts of the House, however much they may disagree with us about other things, will agree that the Commissioner ought to have power to deal with this kind of thing, net only from the point of view of utility, as laid down in the Act, but also from the point of view of amenities. There is really no need for the continuance of this kind of thing. In some places the heaps cumber up the land, and there are men all round who are only too eager to get to work to move them away. I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to pay close and serious attention to what my hon. Friends have asked, namely, that he should give a very broad interpretation of what agricultural land is. If he can possibly use this Sub-section for the purpose of getting rid of some of these hideous sights and making useful land, which will perform its proper work, then he should give the interpretation asked for.
§ 4.47 a.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
In speaking of this Clause on the Second Reading of the Bill, I rather think the Minister explained to the House that the Clause would place England on the same basis with regard to land drainage grants as Scotland is at present. In Scotland there are grants for field drainage and, I think, for open drainage, and there was in England the same provision up to 1931. But as regards the suggestion that this Clause will put England on the same basis as Scotland, I would like to suggest that the Minister was a little inaccurate in his statement that what it might do is to put the Special Areas on the same basis as Scotland. I only draw attention to that fact to reinforce the plea that has been made tonight that, from the point of view of land drainage, the Special Areas are defined in a quite unsuitable way. There may or may not be a good case for giving grants of public money for land drainage—I believe there is—but I do not see any logical reason whatever for confining them only to areas that happen to have been defined in regard to the unemployment problem, and in no sense with regard to the needs for drainage. There are areas contiguous to the Special Areas which are as greatly in need of land drainage as those areas themselves. In fact, very frequently the agricultural districts surrounding industrial districts are not less in need of land 2134 drainage. I can think of districts in the North, for instance, such as in Durham and Northumberland, in which there are enormous tracts of country contiguous to the Special Areas which could be improved, and which could give an enormous amount of employment to unskilled labour under skilled direction.
I would like to ask the Minister to explain exactly how the provisions referred to, and especially Sub-section (2), will in fact work. On the face of it, it seems a very illogical arrangement. As has been suggested already to-night, the only point of giving these grants in this particular way is to provide employment for the men in the Special Areas, and to confine them to land within the Special Areas does appear, to me at any rate, to be a quite unnecessary restriction. If you were to confine the restriction to the employment, that is to say, if the Commissioner could give grants for the drainage of land anywhere provided the men of the Special Areas got the employment, that would be a logical and reasonable arrangement. If it were possible for the Minister to reconsider this matter, I believe it would give very great satisfaction in a number of quarters. It has been brought to my notice that one branch of the National Farmers' Union, at any rate. have discussed this question somewhat fully, and there will undoubtedly be a considerable sense of injustice if the landowner or occupier on one side of a border rural district council's boundary may get substantial grants for the permanent improvement of his property, while the man on the immediately opposite side of that boundry finds himself unable to get any assistance. The Minister will say that there must be a boundary somewhere, but to choose these quite fortuitous boundaries will, I am sure, give rise to complaints. Not to limit exactly the boundaries, but to limit the extent of each particular provision by the capacity of transporting labour to the work, would be a logical and reasonable form of restriction, and, if the Minister could reconsider that, I should be very grateful.
§ 4.52 a.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
This Sub-section does not refer to schemes of land reclamation, such as the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has in mind. The Commissioner has power under the original Act for that purpose. This refers to field drainage. It is really a 2135 Clause to do a very small thing—[AN HON. MEMBER: "An important thing"]—it does not follow that a small thing is not important.
§ Mr. Lawson
The Commissioner only has power as regards land reclamation by permission of the Ministry.
§ Mr. Brown
That is the general power of the Act. The Commissioner has power, and we would not stand in his way if he attaches importance to the scheme, if it is not, of course, covered by a grant from some other Department. Perhaps I may explain how it arose. It arose through a visit paid by the Commissioner—not the present Commissioner—to the Cumberland area. It did not arise in the way in which the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. Roberts) put it. It arose really because, when field drainage is planned for economic development, in Scotland there is no obstacle in the way of a grant being given by the Scottish Department of Agriculture. There are no catchment boards for land drainage in Scotland. In England it is otherwise. The great bulk of land drainage in this country is done through highly organised catchment boards covering large areas. In Scotland it is possible for the Commissioner under the original Act to give grants for schemes which are not specifically undertaken by local authorities. The Commissioner is not able to give a grant for land drainage if the land is in the occupation of private owners. This arose only on the Cumberland side of the Border, because, the law being different, those who desired economic development in the Special Area in Cumberland in terms of field drainage found they could not get what their Scottish neighbours were able to get. Attention was called to this by the Commissioner, and he represented to the Government that he would like to have power to do on the Cumberland side of the Border what he has done on the Scottish side, namely, to assist schemes of field drainage, of which there are a small number. The amount in Scotland, as I think I informed the House on the Resolution, is not a large amount—about £8,000 a year—not a large sum at all. It was for that reason, and not for the reason of employment, that the Commissioner asked for power to do this. That is the sole purpose of Subsection (2).
2136 Let me now answer some of the questions that have been put. The point was raised as to whether the Commissioner could do this both inside and outside a Special Area under Sub-section (6) of Section 1 of the original Act. The answer is that I am advised that, if he thinks it necessary, to complete a scheme of drainage, to go outside the area, then he has power under Section 1 (6). I am equally advised that, if work is to be done outside the special area in terms of employment, it could not so be done. I understand that the difference in phraseology referred to by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) arises from the fact that it is not desired to give any general power to assist local authorities in that matter, and that is why the present Sub-section was drafted in the present way, because it was not intended to give power to assist local authorities. Sub-section (2) could not refer generally to Sub-section (5) of Section 1 of the original Act, but had to limit itself to saying—notwithstanding that the land is occupied for gain"—which is precisely the point put to the Government by the Commissioner in investigating this position in Cumberland.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) about the definition of the term "agricultural land." If he will turn to that interpretation Clause he will find that it is defined as having the same meaning as it has for the purpose of Part IV of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, and I understand, if I may give him the words, that it is a very wide definition. It reads as follows:The expression 'agricultural land' means any land used as arable, meadow or pasture ground only, land used for a plantation or a wood or for the growth of saleable underwood, land exceeding one-quarter of an acre used for the purpose of poultry farming, market gardens, nursery grounds, orchards or allotments, including allotment gardens within the meaning of the Allotments Act, 1922, but does not include land occupied together with a house as a park, gardens (other than as aforesaid) pleasure grounds, or land kept or preserved mainly or exclusively for purposes of sport or recreation, or land used as a racecourse.That is the definition, and it is a wide definition, of agricultural land. If Members will look at the definition of field drainage, they will find that it includes moorland. Clearance of sites is not a problem in this Sub-section. I cannot 2137 think that the Commissioner would wish to deprive Cumberland of this useful alteration of the law to enable him to do these things for the economic development of an area which may be held back because there was not sufficient field drainage.
§ 4.58 a.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
May I ask one thing? I think the Minister must have misunderstood what he has been told with reference to Sub-section (6). I am quite certain that, if he will read it again, he will see that he must have misunderstood it. Sub-section (6) lays down the conditions under which the functions of the Commissioner can extend to the organisation of assistance of measures outside the areas specified, in so far as he is satisfied that such measures will afford employment or occupation for substantial numbers of persons from those areas. He cannot deal with a little bit which is outside and not inside. That is not the criterion. It does not say that where a scheme is being carried out, and there is a small portion outside the area, the Commissioner may deal with that small portion outside the area. It is nothing of the sort. It says that, where the Commissioner says that a portion outside the area will give substantial employment inside the area, he can do that job outside the area. That is very important on this point, and I think it is most unfortunate that we have not got a Law Officer to deal with these various legal points. There is, I know, an hon. and learned Gentleman on the back benches, and he is doing his best, although he disagrees with other hon. Gentlemen. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will say it is not right to say that Sub-section (6) allows you to deal with small areas left over outside. I would ask him to put this matter specifically to the Law Officers and if, as I understand, what he has been instructed is not in accordance with the law, will he see that an alteration is made in Clause 2.
§ Mr. E. Brown
Really the misunderstanding is not mine. I had informed myself regarding this particular matter. There was an Amendment put down, which it has not been possible to discuss. When I went into the matter on that Amendment I found that what I have told the House was the accurate legal explana- 2138 tion. Clause 1 Sub-section (6) of the original Act is the general provision. This provision is not a general but a specific provision.
§ 5.2 a.m.
I was very pleased with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman as to the non-interference with the Scottish land drainage law. I have been very anxious regarding this Clause and I have re-read it very carefully. Without casting aspersions on any person, I was very glad that the discussion of this Clause coincided with your return to the Chair. The Minister in describing this as a small matter has missed entirely the complete looseness of the phrasing of the Clause. As a Scottish member I feel that, if this Clause is to operate on this side of the Border, then we would prefer to have this Clause. It is said that the Commissioners can subscribe towards any expenses incurred by owners or occupiers of agricultural land in any Special Area. We may have agriculturists who use their land for their own particular benefit and the expenses involved may be more than may reasonably be expected. This is very important for Scottish agriculturists and I hope the Secretary for Scotland may read my speech. If the Minister of Labour is becoming generous, we in Scotland should participate in that long sought generosity. I want to know what "any expenses" means. If an agriculturist in a Special Area brings into being a land drainage scheme and he gives his labour free beer and free meals, does that come in? We must be careful to see that the national funds are not wastefully used.
There is another point which seems to give those who participate in these schemes more freedom than has ever been given to industrialists or the working-class people in this country. It says that any expense will be granted in connection with the execution of works of field drainage. If a land drainage scheme is started the Commissioners have no guarantee that it will be executed. It is also said that "notwithstanding the land is occupied for the purpose of gain." I think we can agree that in an earlier Clause the Minister did make some attempt to see that the profits in industries, of factories, would be reasonable, but there is no indication in this Clause that the Minister, or Com- 2139 missioners, have to ascertain whether it is going to be of a reasonable kind or "may be as near". I admit that I am puzzled. I am chary to believe that the Minister of Labour has departed from his very careful, niggardly and tight policy. If these words mean what I have indicated, I am asking the Minister of Labour to see that in his new burst of generosity he includes Scotland.
§ 5.8 a.m.
§ Mr. Ritson
The Minister has mentioned another thing—that it is for economical development. Does the Minister not know that right across the Border, right from the Solway to beyond the borders of Northumberland, it would be economical development to drain the land by giving grants to local authorities or anyone else? There are thousands of tons of coal lost in that area. It was so wickedly undrained that we had men drowned in a colliery near where I was brought up. There are thousands of acres of land to drain, drainage would be economical. The question of drainage is more important than the Minister thinks. There is such a thing as deep arterial drainage, which must be carried beyond the Special Areas or it would not be completed. These works do find work for men and, so far as Northumberland is concerned, we can point to work you can carry out for economical development in that area. We did on one occasion move men right away from West Cumberland down to the Northumberland border and the men were glad of the work and it was an economic thing. I can assure the Minister it would be an economic development to carry out field drainage of any kind, but we would prefer deeper drainage first of all and sub-soil drainage later. You may find arterial drainage carried down to the Border and if there is no provision there then that would not be an economic development. I hope the Minister will look again into this matter.
§ 5.11 a.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
I understood that this Bill was to provide work for the unemployed. The Minister of Labour tells us that this drainage scheme is not to provide work for the unemployed but merely to help certain people to have their fields drained. If they do want to help the unemployed there is plenty of work for the unemployed in draining land. You have only 2140 to travel the country from one end to the other and there are miles and miles under water. I believe there was a Commission on Land Drainage and it was computed by them that by having a proper system of land drainage in this country it would mean work being found for 50,000 workers. The last speaker mentioned the position in Durham. There is plenty of land in Durham that requires draining and we know how pits are flooded. In one pit re-opened recently they can work only the top seam, as the rest is flooded. The Minister mentioned that in England there are catchment boards and I wonder what they are doing when we have had the flooding we have heard of recently.
§ Mr. Leslie
Supposing it applies only to the Special Areas as the previous speaker said, the place to look for is where the flow enters. I hope the Minister will take that point into consideration, and with the help of the Minister of Agriculture who has been taking such a keen interest in the Debate, that something will be done in this direction.
§ 5.14 a.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
Several speakers have referred to the moorlands on the Pennine Hills. I happen to live there and I know there are thousands of acres that could be valuable agricultural land if it could be drained. I understand from the Commissioner's Third Report that schemes have been submitted to the Minister of Agriculture. My point is that the Commissioner could not assist schemes that come under another Minister, and what I want to know is, does this Sub-section (2) of the Clause enable the Commissioner to pay to owners, including local authorities, money towards their field drainage and, if so, is that contribution limited or can the whole cost be borne by the Commissioner. I find on referring to the Third Report that the Commissioner says the Durham schemes have been examined and recommended for grant to the Minister of Agriculture—a grant of 75 per cent. The County Council represented that a larger grant should be made and the matter is still under consideration. In the meantime the work on these schemes cannot be commenced and we have in South West Durham the very 2141 type of man for this work. We cannot afford to pay 25 per cent. of the cost and I would like an assurance that something can be done under this Clause to eliminate the anomalies which have prevented field drainage being done in the past.
§ 5.17 a.m.
§ Mr. E. Dunn
I listened with a great deal of interest to the Minister giving his explanation to the House upon Sub-section (2) of this Clause, and I was surprised to hear him limit the effect of this Clause. I was under the impression that when we debated the Financial Resolution that the Clause would certainly have a wider interpretation than the Minister has given to it this morning. He will remember quite well that on that occasion I raised the question of land drainage as rather a major issue, and I pointed out how many thousands of acres of land were definitely waterlogged in the Midlands, in Yorkshire, and indeed in my own constituency, and when I heard the Minister give his interpretation it struck me very forcibly that the Clause had no wider interpretation than merely an application to individual farmers. I appreciate the point very much that individual farmers do stand to benefit under this Clause, but this Bill is not intended solely to help individual farmers or the agricultural industry. The Clause, as I understood it, was to assist unemployed people within the areas where land drainage is necessary.
Do I understand the Minister to say that the provision of this Sub-section would not apply to a local authority who were involved in the question of land drainage either for building sites or for development of any particular form they have in mind? The point is that a considerable number of building sites have been purchased and there is water coming from the uplands and at the moment is actually preventing the building of houses to relieve overcrowding. I appreciate that if this site had not been purchased by the local authority under this Clause the farmer would have been entitled to receive considerable financial aid. That is the interpretation, as I understand it. Do I, therefore, take it that because the local authority has purchased the land within the last twelve months and the site in certain sections is waterlogged, the local authority are not entitled to the 2142 benefit of this Clause? If that is the interpretation, then it seems to me that instead of this Clause being of any benefit for the men who are out of work that men who are unemployed at the present time will actually be kept out of work. I know that I have to be very careful under line 3 of the Sub-section "land in any Special Area."
§ Mr. Dunn
I do not know whether the hon. Member is entitled to give a Ruling which would be expected from the Chair. Surely the point is that the whole inference that one can draw from Clause 4 and other Clauses in the Bill is surely making a provision for big tracts of country where unemployment is prevailing equally as badly as it is in the Special Areas themselves. I have pointed out on previous occasions that we have parts of Yorkshire which are equally as badly affected by unemployment as any one of these areas which are referred to as Special Areas. Therefore, it seems to me that land drainage is a vital problem—indeed I put it as high as this that land drainage is surely wide enough to be interpreted as part of the defence of the country at the present time—and surely that problem of growing food and building houses is something which cannot be ruled out even in a Subsection of this kind. I hope that the Minister will put an interpretation that the areas to which I have called attention are areas which are entitled to benefit from this Sub-section. If not, one can only conclude that the spirit of Sub-section (2) is not in general harmony with that intention of the Bill. There are thousands of acres of land within the area I represent definitely waterlogged for the last quarter of a century and badly needing help of this kind. If the local authorities are not going to have any benefit under this Clause it seems to me that no individual agriculturist or farmer can possibly undertake a huge work of this kind. Surely in making this second appeal to the Minister we may ask that the interpretation of this Clause should be that it is to apply not merely to Special Areas but to big tracts of country which are waterlogged at the present time. Secondly, if the local authorities are called upon to undertake that work, they should receive the same benefit as an individual farmer may receive who is occupying the land for purposes of gain.
§ 5.26 a.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I regret very much that the hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Mr. Fyfe) is not now in the House, and has failed to persevere in his efforts to catch the eye of the Chair. A long and complicated technical legal argument was developed by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) to which no adequate reply by anyone skilled in the law has yet been given. The Minister did his little best with the subject, but I gather that he did not convince the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, and I am not sure that he carried with him on this occasion the hon. and learned Member for West Derby. I notice that there are many Ministers whose names are on the back of the Bill, and they might have been of help to us. I see that the hon. and learned Member for West Derby has now returned, and I hope that before the discussion on this Amendment ends we shall have the benefit of his opinion on the points raised by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol. I notice that the hon. and learned Member for West Derby paid him the compliment of taking copious notes while he was speaking, and I am quite sure that in the absence of die Law Officers of the Crown, and in the possibility that there may be a vacancy among the Law Officers of the Crown in the near future, it might be as well for the hon. and learned Gentleman to assist the Committee. The Attorney-General's name is on the back of the Bill, and I understand that he is in town to-night, if not in the House.
§ Mr. Ede
I am assured that he is and that he has been seen, and I think it is not treating the Committee with respect that a very complicated matter of this kind should be left to the lay experience of the Minister of Labour to explain to the House. I want to suggest to him that if he retains both these Sub-sections—
Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen
Since the hon. Member wants all this assistance, where are the four Socialist Members who have been going around in the Special Areas specially studying this problem?
§ Mr. Ede
I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) would have been of very great assistance on this point raised by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I am grateful to him for assisting me to get a little nearer the time when my train will be leaving, but I suggest his intervention is hardly relevant. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that really this Clause 4 should be made into two Clauses. There is no real connection between Sub-section (2) and Sub-section (1). That would have avoided the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol with regard to the different opening phraseology of the two Sub-sections. It is a great pity that when dealing with two subjects the Government did not put them into two separate Clauses. I am well aware that it will only require one Closure Motion to dispose of the two Sub-sections, whereas if they had been made into two Clauses, quite obviously the Chief Whip would have had to move the Closure on two occasions in order to get the two Clauses.
We are beginning to understand that the legislation of the Government is not decided by any conditions of high policy or by Cabinet decisions, but only by the convenience of the Patronage Secretary, which determines not merely the subjects but the manner in which they are incorporated in the Bills presented to us. I think the Chief Whip can hardly feel pleased with his performance to-night, and I suggest that as a gesture of good will towards the Committee he should now agree to advise the Minister of Labour to make Clause 4 as it stands into two Clauses and in that way do something to show that he does recognise that the Government, and especially the Chief Whip, owe something to the House and to the Committee.
§ 5.32 a.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I am not going to discuss field drainage in its broad sense, but my hon. Friends have had very long experience of land drainage in connection with catchment boards and what I want 2145 to ask is whether under this Sub-section grants made by the Commissioner will be limited to work within a special area, or would it be possible, seeing that the subject of the Clauses under this Bill deal with areas which are not Special Areas, for grants to be made for similar work elsewhere? I would like the Minister to give a definite assurance on that point because it may remove misapprehensions.
§ 5.33 a.m.
§ Mr. Barr
I would like to emphasise what fell from the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) in regard to the wide terms in which this Clause is drafted. It seems to be very wide and implies that grants might be given for the equipment which may be necessary in order to meet needs outside the Special Areas. I wish to emphasise that we desire an assurance that Scotland will get the same generous treatment under this Clause. We have a special land drainage Act of our own, and I would call attention to the fact that the Commissioner for the Special Areas in Scotland in both his reports—that issued for the period July to September, 1935, and in his final report—calls attention to the need of land development and particularly of drainage in what is a scheduled area in Lanarkshire itself—Carstairs and that portion of Lanarkshire. In the final report the Commissioner makes a special reference to the work of reclamation of waste land, and experiments in the more intensive use of land. He expresses the hope that if this experiment should be successful, plans relating to Scotland as a whole may be formulated for the largest possible programme of land reclamation and development.
I need refer only to one more of his recommendations, namely that in regard to arterial drainage schemes, in connection with which he says that following the extension, upon his recommendation, of the Land Drainage (Scotland) Act, r930, the Department of Agriculture for Scotland had completed plans and initiated a scheme designed to check flooding in the River Clyde in the Carstairs district of Lanarkshire. In and around my own area there are very large parts of the country that are subject to this flooding and the whole is a distressed area, and it seems to me that you have a field there for the fullest generosity in accordance with this Clause in regard to the 2146 Special Areas in Scotland. I feel strongly for my own constituency and ether parts of Lanarkshire in this respect, and I desire an assurance that these schemes will be carried forward and that these grants will be generously given to Scotland as a whole.
§ 5.38 a.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
I think it is rather disappointing, to those of us who expected something more out of this Bill which deals with such important subjects, to find ourselves reduced to quibbling and a legal technicality. The Minister himself, instead of advertising his Bill in a big way and making it look bigger than it was, as advertisers do, has deliberately gone out of his way to minimise it and make it look as small and ridiculous as possible. I want to concentrate upon the words of this Subsection. If this Bill is going to be of any immediate value, surely it should concentrate on immediate and substantial employment for as many people as possible? Yet the Minister himself has concentrated more on the insignificant implication of the wording and of what was promised, instead of concentrating on the amount of labour which could be given under the Sub-section. Surely it is a very poor confession for the Minister to make to this Committee that this Clause is intended and is worded in such a way as to mean that it would give the smallest amount of work possible on the smallest schemes imaginable. Under this Clause we could have any amount of employment, having regard to the tremendous tracts of undeveloped land for people from or within the Special Areas on land drainage and land development. It is all part of the same problem of agricultural production, which is the problem of the land, the most fundamental and the most important of all.
I know it will be out of order now, but I should like to register a protest against the neglect of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as a Special Area. I am very sorry we are not given wider scope to discuss the rural district areas, because after all we can limp along for a little while with industrial depressed areas but we cannot live for any length of time with agriculture as a depressed area. Where rural and industrial areas are situated side by side the prosperity of the one is the 2147 measure of prosperity of the other. The agricultural people find their market in the industrial centres, in the demand for their produce. When industrial districts are in poverty the market is smaller and the demand is less for agricultural produce. When poverty falls in the agricultural and rural districts there is a drift into the industrial areas, which magnifies and increases the problem of the industrial areas. If, instead of minimising and reducing this Clause and Subsection almost to ridicule, the Minister had magnified it and dealt with it in a big way, he might have helped to provide employment for many of those who have suffered from unemployment in the industrial depressed areas as well as other areas on work of first-rate national im-
§ portance in agriculture and land drainage. We do ask him now, although he does not listen, to interpret it as generously as possible.
§ 5.43 a.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I only wish to say that as this Sub-section is quite irrelevant to the Clause itself, and as it appears that another subsidy is intended to be paid to members of the farming community which, however advantageous it may be to them personally can have no special bearing on the special areas, we propose to divide against the Sub-section.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause".
§ The Committee divided. Ayes, 121; Noes, 45.2149
|Division No. 155.]||AYES.||[5.44 a.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Petherick, M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Goldie, N. B.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Allen, U.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Assheton, R.||Grimston, R. V.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hannah, I. C.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ross Taylor, w. (Woodbridge)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Harbord, A.||Salt, E. W.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Scott, Lord William|
|Brass, Sir W.||Holmes, J. S.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Burghley, Lord||Hopkinson, A.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Cary, R. A.||Joel, D. J. B.||Strauss, E A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Channon, H.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Leckie, J. A.||Sutclifle, H.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Liddall, W. S.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Loftus, P. C.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Turton, R. H.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||McKie, J. H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Doland, G. F.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wise, A. R.|
|Emery, J. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wragg, H.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff) S.)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Everard, W. L.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Patrick, C. M.||Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin and Captain Waterhouse.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Ede, J. C.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Barr, J,||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Lawson, J. J.|
|Batey, J.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Burke, W. A.||Frankel, D.||Macdonald, G, (Ince)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Daggar, G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)|
|Dalton, H.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Maxton, J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Jagger, J.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Dobbie, W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Potts, J.|
|Price, M. P.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Pritt, D. N.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Ritson, J.||Stephen, C.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Sextan, T. M.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Shinwell, E.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Tinker, J. J.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Groves.|
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 5.55 a.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
This Clause enables the Commissioner to make grants towards the making good of streets in any of these areas. I want the Minister to take serious note of the points which have been put concerning the first part of this Clause. I suppose that the Government, when they put in this Sub-section, in reality thought they were rendering a service to the Special Areas. The Minister assents, and to the average person outside the areas it would appear as though the Government were really making a contribution towards the problem, but I think the right hon. Gentleman could not have been under a delusion. I do not think anyone who knows what the facts are in these areas would think for a moment that this was a vital contribution. It may be possible to give a grant to a local authority and this is really making the position worse. You have local authorities with very heavy burdens at the present time. You have Merthyr. Even though they got a grant of five shillings through the block grant, I believe. That still leaves the rates at twenty shillings in the pound. Durham has as a matter of fact a rate of sixteen shillings. If the Commissioners were offering some parts of Wales a 75 per cent. grant for the making up of streets it would not be of use to those areas. It would be the same in Scotland and various other areas. I think the Commissioner offered a grant of something like 75 per cent.—or it may have been 80 per cent.—towards the new hospital to be built in Durham. The County Council pointed out that it would cost £30,000 a year in maintenance to run that hospital. What happens when the Commissioner gives 75 per cent. or 80 per cent. is in actual fact that instead of helping it only adds to the localities' financial obligations.
This Clause says that the Commissioner may make a grant towards any expenses incurred by the local authority. One of the things we have not had answered on this subject is whether it is possible for 2150 the Commissioner to make a 100 per cent. grant. If the Minister says "Yes" we would ask him whether it is contemplated in the really serious condition in some of the areas that the Commissioner is likely to make such a grant, because that is extremely necessary. It has been pointed out that in some of the areas the streets are in bad condition. It is a well known fact that the local authorities have not been able to carry out their duties. It is not only in respect of streets, but in almost every branch of their work that the local authorities have failed because they could not do the work on account of the shortage of finance. This Clause really looks important, but in fact it is simply window-dressing. It is part of the attempt by the Government to make this Bill look definitely more important than it is and to give it the appearance of doing something it does not do.
I would ask the Minister to make it quite clear what is the intention behind this Clause. Is it the intention that the Commissioner should make full 100 per cent. grants, and will he have complete freedom in that matter? As a matter of fact that second Sub-section is of far more value to the landlord than the first one is to the local authority. It allows grants to the landlord for the purpose of drainage, which may be of very great value to him. So we say that this particular Clause is not really of as much value as it looks, and so far as I am concerned I am not particular whether it is in the Bill or not. I want to make that quite clear to Members on the other side of the House. I think the milk will be about due now, but still we make no apology for keeping the Commitee up on this matter, because it is the last time we shall get an opportunity of discussing it. This Clause can work if the Minister can give a guarantee that the Commissioner will give 100 per cent., but I can assure the Committee that it is of no value if he gives us anything less than that.
§ 6.2 a.m.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
After listening to the Debate on this Clause to my mind the amount of money allocated for this 2151 purpose is meagre and totally inadequate. As stated in the memorandum accompanying the Financial Resolution, there is an amount of £250,000 for this particular class of work. In the area in which I live we have a local authority who are desirous of getting on with public street works, and who have made application to the Area Commissioner, asking him if he was prepared to help in this particular direction so that the authority would be able to get on with work long overdue. To their surprise, although it had been said that the Commissioners were willing to help in public street works, they were told that, as far as frontagers were concerned, as an authority they had to apply the means test. If a local authority are going to be tied up with regulations suggesting that before they can get on with the works that are so necessary they have to apply a means test to the frontagers concerned I am afraid, there will not be very much work done. Following that up, I would like to ask the Minister whether, if local authorities are desirous of getting on with this work, the amount of money set out in this memorandum, namely £250,000, is going to be allocated to this particular class of work. As I have already said, local authorities are deeply concerned over this matter and they are desirous of having a clear declaration from the Minister so that they can find out how far they can go in making up public streets. If their hands are going to be tied I am afraid there will not be much work done in this particular direction.
§ 6.6 a.m.
If I understand the Minister correctly it seems that this Clause is only to make provision for certain payments to be made to urban district councils and some borough councils in respect of roads other than roads which carry through traffic. It is characteristic of all the legislation we have had on the Special Areas that it is merely pettifogging and does not help very much. It is indeed an open and frank refusal on the part of the Government to accept one of the main recommendations made to them. If this had been done we should have relieved local authorities of many of the difficulties with which they have been confronted. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has told 2152 the Committee of his experience in Durham, where the Commissioner made an offer of approximately 85 per cent. for the purpose of building a hospital. He offered the grant and then the local authority was faced with the maintenance charge, and the charge was £35,000 a year. The service was needed, and the Commissioner recognised it, but the local authority could not accept the offer because they could not bear the administration cost. That is not the experience of Durham only; it is the experience of a number of other local authorities. The Glamorgan County Council accepted a grant in respect of the building of a hospital. I believe they got the 100 per cent. grant, but to cover the costs of administration they had to levy a charge equal to a sixpenny rate.
This Bill only prolongs the agony in these areas, and in the long run it will make the problem of dealing with the Special Areas much more difficult for the Government. Some day or other a Government will face the real problem of the Special Areas and deal with it in a comprehensive and effective manner. This Bill is only going part of the way. Reference has been made to Merthyr Tydvil. It is true that under the revision of the block grant formula the town receives relief amounting to five shillings in the pound. I notice that the town has only been able to pass on to the ratepayers three shillings out of that five shillings and the rest will be absorbed in the cost of ordinary administration. Despite this relief the rates in the pound will still approximate to 25 shillings. I think it is the highest rate in this country at the present time. This five shillings rating relief does not solve the rating problem of Merthyr, nor will this Clause solve that problem. This Clause goes part of the way, and that is my complaint against the Government in this Bill. This Clause is characteristic of the way in which they are dealing with the Special Areas.
A much more effective thing would be for the Commissioner to have power to take over all these excess burdens which arise and to bring the rates of Merthyr down to a level which conforms to the average of this country. If that were done we should not have reluctance on the part of some industrialists to go to Merthyr because rates are high. It would remove that issue. There is a 2153 number of suitable sites for industries, but we have beep told that industrialists do not go to Merthyr because rates are high. Why not take the necessary action to make those rates conform to the average of the country? Then we should give Merthyr a fair and equal opportunity with other districts to meet their problem. The Minister himself must feel very dissatisfied with measures of this kind. No Minister could bring a Clause of this kind before this Committee and at the same time feel convinced that it will do more than just touch the fringe of the problem. Time after time we discuss the Special Areas problem step by step, but still leaving the problem almost untouched. I ask the Minister and the Government to face this problem in a very different way. In years to come when we look back on the treatment of the Special Areas and see the slow, tardy action of the Government in dealing with them we shall recognise that we have wasted time and energy and, what is much worse, caused a lot of human suffering by a refusal to take effective action. Therefore, I want it to be placed on record that this Clause, doing so little, will not go very far towards solving the problem of the Special Areas.
§ 6.15 a.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I appeal to the Minister to consider the issues I want to raise. In Lancashire, South Wales and several other areas more and more pits are having to contend with flooding. The local authorities, the Miners' Federation and other organisations have done all they possibly can with a view to avoiding the effects of that flooding. Lancashire in particular is suffering from it. Mine after mine is having to close down, although experts say that if only attention had been paid to this question of flooding those pits would have been saved, mining would still have been taking place there, thousands of men would still have been employed and colliery proprietors would have been receiving a return on their money. I ask the Minister to try to get some form of co-operation between the owners and the Government in order to prevent flooding taking place to this extent. On page 3 of the Report I find that the Commissioner for the Special Areas made use of the following words under Clause 8: 2154Grants continue to be made to local authorities for sanitary and water services where such can be certified by the Minister of Health as being urgently necessary on grounds of public health.Therefore, I want to ask the Minister to consider what I am going to lay before him on the basis of what appears in the Commissioner's Report. I want to draw the attention of the Committee as a whole, and of the Minister in particular, to the long standing grievances in certain areas, legitimate and reasonable grievances, over slag heaps. Going about the country one cannot help being struck by these eyesores.
I really cannot see how this Clause, whether it stands part of the Bill or not, can affect the point which the hon. Member is trying to raise.
§ Mr. E. Smith
It states it under the principal Act the Minister may make a grant for any expense incurred by a local authority in any Special Area in the repair or improvement of streets. I am trying to show that the local authorities cannot deal with these streets and roads because of the menace of pits and slag-heaps. Often the streets cannot be used by vehicular traffic because of the dirt which has been brought down by the rain forming a barrier across them. Under this Clause it would be possible for the Minister to deal with these complaints. I have already pointed out that there are eye-sores which are observed by people as they travel past by train. During the war some of these were dealt with. In one or two areas German prisoners were put to work on these pit-tips. At a place called Fenton, with the co-operation of the local authorities good soil was put on the tips and beautiful roads were constructed. What was a pit-tip is now a beautiful park, nicely laid out in Spring, Summer and Autumn, with suitable vegetation. It is the admiration of everyone who visits that centre, and is no longer an eye-sore.
What could be done during the war could be done in peace time, particularly when the Minister and the Government are trying to assist the local authorities within the limits of this Bill, bad as it is. We want to get the maximum amount of good out of it, and I appeal to the Minister to put the broadest possible interpretation on this Clause in order to assist 2155 in this direction. A certain amount of work has already been done. On page 46 of the Report the Commissioner points out that in South Shields they have cleared a number of derelict sites at a cost of, approximately £80,000. I have had the privilege of visiting that place and it is a credit to everyone who has had anything to do with it, to the local authorities and to the Commissioner himself.
I do not see what that has to do with this Clause. The hon. Member was addressing himself to pit-tips and clearing them away in the interests of getting cleaner streets, but now he seems to have gone right away from streets altogether.
§ Mr. Lawson
One of the reasons for a site being cleared was that it could be cleared for roads and streets, and would not that come within the rules of Order?
§ Mr. Smith
I can recognise your difficulty, Captain Bourne, and I have no complaint to make. You intervened when I was just going to point out that not only have they cleared these areas but they have also built a beautiful promenade. I saw photographs the other day in a publication called "Town Planning." They showed what could be done if only the Minister and the area would cooperate to carry out such works and follow this fine example. It was because of this that I am drawing the Minister's attention to what appears in the Commissioners' Report.
The Commissioner also deals with the clearance of derelict sites in other areas, and points out that he had been restricted within very narrow limits. It is indicated by his phraseology that he desires to go further, but he is limited by the narrow interpretation put by the Minister upon the 1934 Act. I hope he will put a broader interpretation on the present Bill, so that what the Commissioner desires can really be carried out. As regards the clearance of derelict sites the Commissioner says that he has only been prepared to grant an allowance for that purpose where it has been possible to develop the sites as potential seaside resorts, as he has been so restricted. Why should 2156 this only take place in potential seaside resorts? Have the working people to go on living close to eyesores in the industrial centres? In the mining centres and steel centres, where there are these huge slag-heaps, it would be possible to build streets, parks, and promenades. Thousands of men and women who are working week after week cannot afford to go to seaside resorts and why should they not have beautiful parks instead of having to live among eyesores? They have cause to complain.
I speak on their behalf, on another matter. A few years ago I was speaking to a man who had been responsible for managing embassies in most of the big centres in the world. He said that while Berlin had its concrete roads running to the centre, Paris had its boulevards, New York had its Broadway and so on, London also had distinctive features which he admired more than those of any other capital in which he had lived. He did not say that because he was talking to an Englishman, for he was the type which would not care what we thought about what he said. He said he had been struck by the beautiful parks in London, which could be reached within a reasonably short time from any part of London—the Royal parks, St. James's Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent's Park, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. They are the admiration of all visitors to London, but w hat do we find? We find that the poor people in the Special Areas are having to pay a contribution towards the maintenance of these parks. The cost of upkeep falls not on the County of London or Westminster Council alone.
§ Mr. Smith
I am going to relate it to this Clause, and that will be clearly shown I have the opportunity of developing it. These parks are a charge on the Office of Works, and that means that instead of the County of London and the Westminster Council paying for the upkeep, the people living in the Special Areas are making the same contribution towards them as the people living in London. Therefore we say the time has arrived when the nation ought to be prepared to lay out beautiful parks in these other centres.
§ 6.31 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Elliot)
This seems to be a very popular Clause, and I am sure the Committee would wish to add it to the Bill. We have been urged to see that the Clause is expanded and that a liberal interpretation is given to it, and we shall do our best to see that that is done. The main anxiety seems to be for expedition under this Clause, but in fact we are anxious to get to work as soon as possible. I was asked one or two specific questions. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) asked what was the origin of this Clause. The origin was that the local authorities themselves asked for it, particularly the local authorities in Durham. The Minister was also asked whether he could guarantee to give 100 per cent. grants. Of course he cannot give that guarantee although grants of 100 per cent. have been made in some exceptional cases. In reply to the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart), more money could be allotted if necessary. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) was quite enthusiastic about the Clause—
§ Mr. Elliot
I dare say that is not enthusiasm. He said it was an advancement by steps towards a goal. I am sure that we admire the Parliamentary skill of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) in discussing a number of subjects which certainly touched on the fringes of this Clause, but I hope he will excuse me it, with my lesser Parliamentary skill, I do not follow him, in case I am not able to keep as well within the limits of order. The Committee is I am sure, anxious to add this Clause to the Bill and I will not stand in its way.
§ 6.33 a.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sure the Committee is more than delighted to have had the 2158 intervention of the Secretary of State for Scotland. We have, in fact been waiting for him for several hours, and I wondered how it was possible for him, having some experience of his temperament, to remain so quiet on the bench opposite. Now that he has awakened perhaps we may have the benefit of further interventions on his part. But let me disabuse his mind at once. There is not the slightest enthusiasm among my hon. Friends behind me for any part of the Clause.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman says that I have not been listening. I have been listening to every word spoken by my hon. Friends, and I am convinced that they do not regard this pittance—and I shall prove it before I sit down—to be of much value to the local authorities. Before the right hon. Gentleman intervened I was about to ask him to convey to his right hon. Friend whose absence I regret but understand in the circumstances the request to reconsider the first section of this Clause and on the Report stage to provide something more substantial. I still make that plea in the hope that it will be taken into account. In order to understand the full meaning of the Clause we must turn to the principal Act. For the convenience of Members I will read the pregnant Section. Under Section 5 we find that the functions of the Commissioners shall not include, among other things, the provision of financial assistance by way of grant or loan to any local authority. That was the position. It is the position now. No matter what the position was, how desolate, how devastating or how appalling to every sightseer, it was impossible, within the scope of the principal Act, to offer the least financial assistance. The Government recognised that that was an impossible situation, and after three years, during which we had many protests from local authorities as well as a definite expression of opinion from the Commissioner himself, the Government produce this small and pettyfogging proposal.
Perhaps the hon. Members will permit me to bring to their attention the statement of the Commissioner himself. This is what he said:During my visits to the Special Area in Durham I have been much impressed with the deplorable condition of a number of private back streets.2159 He added that their appearance was unkempt, that they were in a muddy and sometimes filthy condition, and that as a result people who had to use them brought dirt into the houses, making it almost impossible to keep them clean. He added:Many of these streets are little more than tracks which have never been taken over by the highway authority concerned.In the absence of maintenance they had lapsed into a shocking condition:The local authorities concerned are not prepared to accept the whole burden of liability, which is primarily the responsibility of the frontagers, nor even if they are willing to do so are they in a financial position to meet the cost.It was because the pressure was so insistent in relation to this matter that the Government have now produced this part of the Clause. If the Government had decided to fix a definite figure, some figure approximating to what is the necessary expenditure, even it it were not 100 per cent., that would be regarded as an act of grace. But, in fact, the whole matter still remains in the hands of the Commissioner. He may grant 20 per cent. if he cares, which, of course, would be impossible. The local authorities would not proceed with their work. He might even provide 50 per cent., or he might provide 75 or 85 per cent., and I venture the opinion that the Commissioner would hardly provide more than 85 per cent. An 85 per cent. grant, although apparently of some advantage in the very stringent financial circumstances of the local authorities concerned, would be of no value at all. Any Act which imposes further financial burdens on the local authorities prevents work of that kind being undertaken. I am sure I speak not only with the support of Members behind me who represent Special Areas, but of Members in all quarters of the Committee who represent areas where the local authorities are overburdened by the financial difficulties which have been created in recent years.
I no longer appeal to the Secretary for Scotland, because he seems to be fast asleep. His eyes are closed. He seems to be languishing. He is paying not the slightest attention—Not that I expect him to pay any atention to me. I had experience of him when I was in this House 2160 before. But this is not the time to discuss the right hon. Gentleman, although I would be happy to do so on some appropriate occasion. I appeal to the Committee in general in the hope that they will bring pressure to bear on the Government to do the appropriate thing in the circumstances and help these local authorities. This is not a revolutionary proposal. We are asking that a maximum figure—95 per cent. if you like—should be provided for in this Clause. That would be a reasonable figure to enable works of this kind to be undertaken. Whether the Government will respond favourably to our appeal I cannot say. I ask them to respond to this appeal, for unless they do this Clause will be of little value. Unless the Government are disposed to reconsider the matter I shall have the utmost pleasure in advising my friends to divide the Committee as a protest. I am sure we shall have the local authorities behind us. We are better acquainted with the opinion of the local authorities concerned than the Secretary for Scotland seems to be. We know of their difficulties and unless the Government respond to our appeal in a favourable fashion we shall have no alternative but to divide as a protest against the Governments parsimony.
§ 6.46 a.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I beg to move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I have been present during the whole of the proceedings on the Committee stage of this Bill and have not occupied one minute of the Committee's time. I have listened carefully, and we have reached a stage of the proceedings when the principal spokesman for the official Opposition has presented to the Committee his conclusion regarding an important Clause. At such a time, out of the five representatives of the Government that are on the Front bench, four are apparently asleep. I hear an hon. Member say that if they were not it would not make any difference, but it would make some difference to their appearance and we ought to have some regard to the decencies of appearance in the House of Commons. I hear applause from another hon. Member who a few minutes ago was out of the world. If he knew how he looks when he is asleep he would make tremendous efforts to keep awake. I looked around and there was 2161 apparently only one hon. Member, the representative of Chatham (Captain Plugge), who was taking an intelligent interest—and his constituency is at the furthest extreme from the Special Areas. I understand he is professionally interested in the broadcasting that goes on all night. That is, perhaps, why he appears before us at this hour as the only man fit to take an intelligent interest, and he, unfortunately, is not interested.
I have the greatest sympathy with that Patronage Secretary, as he knows, in the difficult work he has to perform in keeping the proceedings of the Committee moving along steadily to the timetable. But I think he has not any justification for keeping the Committee sitting at this hour on important business. It is business the country is interested in, and the country wants to read the Debate. The country has not an opportunity of reading a Debate which takes place at this time. I think that having made very substantial progress and having regard to the condition not only of the Members behind him hut to the condition of Ministers of the Crown sitting on the Treasury Bench, and to the obviously fagged condition in which he is himself, he should agree to the adjournment of the Debate. I have known him for years and I know that at this moment he is not at his best. In the course of another week or two there will be the Coronation festivities, and so on, in which he will be playing an important part. He ought to try to be looking his best at that time. He cannot look his best if he has many nights like this. He has made just as good progress as has ever been made with Government business at this stage of the Session. He is well on with every necessary part of the year's business, and it is just sheer cruelty to everybody concerned to ask the Committee to continue sitting. It may be he wants the discussion on this Bill to take place under conditions which will make that Debate a secret to the great body of people. I do take a decent part in the proceedings of this House. I hope I usually do it decently and I like to see the proceedings conducted in decency. But for the last two hours the work of the Committee has not been carried out in a decent and decorous fashion.
§ 6.50 a.m.
§ Mr. K. Griffith
I should like to add my plea to that so eloquently put by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). This is a matter of enormous importance to a very large number of people in the country. For myself I have been glad the galleries have been empty. I cannot think that it would have been a good thing or that it could have produced a good impression in the country if people could have seen the conditions under which this Debate has been carried on. I am not casting any blame on Ministers or Members, but there are limits to human endurance and I cannot believe that good legislation can be carried out with tired Ministers and exhausted Members. We owe it as a duty to the country on matters like this to work at our best, and look our best in conditions under which that can be done. There has been already a considerable amount of progress. The Amendments which have been debated have been Amendments largely moved from the Government side, and all sides of the Committee have had an opportunity of making their opinions known on a large part of the Bill. We shall shortly be approaching one or two very important Clauses of the Bill, and I think it would now be reasonable to ask that when we get to Clause 5 it should be taken when we are fresh. I hope and believe the Patronage Secretary will recognise the general feeling in the Committee.
§ 6.52 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)
It seems to me that the Mover of this Motion and the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken could not have been in the House on Monday night when the agreement to which we were working to-night was come to across the Floor of the House between myself and the right hon. Gentleman who leads for the Opposition. In all quarters of the House, except in the case of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), who warned me he would not be any party to an agreement and that this might take some time before it was disposed of, an agreement was come to that we should proceed and complete the Committee stage of this Bill after the Budget resolutions had been completed, and it was further agreed that it did not seem to be necessary that the House should sit unduly late. The 2163 hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said he had never known any good work done in the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning. I think his memory is a little short. I remember taking part not so long ago in a Debate on the Supplementary Estimates. There was a terrific Debate that night between the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir Stafford Cripps) and my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Agriculture. It was a first class Debate and there was no question of members being too tired to take part in it. The hon. Member made a complaint that my appearance is not what it should be. I do not wish to indulge in any personal remarks or comments upon his appearance. My view is that he looks just about the same now as he always does. I think he looks as if he was full of heart and good fight and able to do his best work. For these reasons I regret it is impossible for the Government to accept the Motion and we must proceed until the Committee stage is completed.
§ 6.55 a.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
For once I find myself entirely in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. We are just as full of fight now and just as ready to continue the Rebate. I should like to correct the right hon. Gentleman as regards the proceedings on Monday night, at the conclusion of the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition was very careful indeed not definitely to pledge himself as to subsequent proceedings. I think that will be within the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It is true that some conversations proceeded as regards the possibility of concluding the Debate on Monday at 11.30, and there was a kind of loose understanding that if at all possible, the subsequent proceedings might be confined to one Debate, however long it proceeded, but there was no more than that. I am bound to say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman that one incident occurred in the course of our proceedings in the early hours of the morning when he exercised his right to move the Closure at what we thought was an inappropriate moment. We do not feel disposed to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman if he uses the forces at his disposal, and we are ready to accept the challenge. I agree with 2164 him that I can hardly believe that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), after a few hours of debate has lost any of his remarkable faculties. I think he is capable of proceeding and of assisting hon. Members above the Gangway in standing up to the Government and carrying on this Debate so long as we are permitted to do so, having regard to the desire of the right hon. Gentleman to Closure us. I support the rejection of the motion.
§ 6.58 a.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
All my natural instincts are to take that course, but I know these all-night sittings. It is just silly. I have seen it dozens of times, but I say it is futile and silly. There are occasions when it has got to be done, but I am perfectly certain this is not one of them. If the proceedings go on I will certainly take my part and be in it to the end. I think it would be a better thing for the Committee if we did not go on. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) reported to me what took place in the so-called negotiations and there were two or three qualifications in it. First, that this Bill was to be started at a reasonable hour, or rather, that the Budget Debate was going to finish before the ordinary Parliamentary hour. But it went on to the ordinary time; there was full Parliamentary time taken up with the Budget. Secondly, there was no firm understanding that it was going to be finished on the one vote. As a matter of fact in the printed business for next week, in the business that the Patronage Secretary himself drafted, he makes an intimation of the continuation of this Measure.
§ Mr. Maxton
I have got it here and we will have it precise and accurate. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have a long experience of his way of arranging business. He does not say "Special Areas Bill, consideration of further stages". He says "Special Areas Bill, further consideration", and he says that because he does not know whether, on Monday, he will be doing Report stage, Third Reading or Committee stage, and that is why he uses that 2165 phraseology. If he had been going to have a Third Reading on Monday he would have put Third Reading down, as he does with other Measures, such as "Livestock Industry Bill, Third Reading", but on the Special Areas Bill he puts down "further consideration", because he has in his mind that he will be more than lucky if he finishes the Committee stage today. I ask him not to be hoity-toity and encourage hoity-toitiness on the part of his opposite number. In my experience, this is the first Leader of the Official Opposition to refuse to vote on an all-night sitting on a Motion to report Progress. I think it must be the first occasion when the Leader of the Opposition, who has been stone-walling all night, refused to make use of the report Progress vote. I can understand that it would be derogatory to his position if he deigned to vote for a Motion put forward by my hon. Friend (Mr. Stephen) and myself. While I regret very much having to go into the division lobby without him, my hon. Friend the member for Camlachie and myself will divide the Committee on this matter.
§ 7.4 a.m.
§ Captain Margesson
I do not want to interfere in this brotherly or step-brotherly matter which is going on, except to tell the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) that although he may think that he knows what was in my mind when I drafted this list, he is wrong. I put down "further consideration, and if there is time, other orders" for the reason that I could not put down "Third Reading" because there might have been a Report stage. It may have been that some hon. Member, perhaps the hon. Member for Bridgeton himself, could so convince the Government of the strength of his case that we should have found ourselves in a position where we should have had to accept an Amendment.
§ Captain Margesson
I could not put down "Report and Third Reading." This is a Bill founded on a Ways and Means Resolution and it could go only one stage at a time. It is a trivial point, but I thought that I must deal with it.
§ 7.6 a.m.
I am told that hon. Members above the Gangway are not going to support this Motion, and I hope that if they are not going to support the Motion they will not take up time afterwards in complaining that we are going on through the night in discussing this important Measure. I hope at least that the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) will get his colleagues, if they are not going to vote for the Motion, to go on with their claims about taking this Bill at this time. There have already been many objections made by hon. Members above the Gangway about it being taken at this hour.
§ Mr. Stephen
It is within the recollection of the Committee that a complaint has been made about taking this important Measure at this hour. If the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) has not heard it, it shows that he has been sleeping a good part of the time, or at least that is my impression. The complaint has been made with regard to this Measure. If hon. Members are going to take this bad advice and make this precedent, which I think is a most ridiculous precedent, then I suggest that the precedents should be for the good of the working classes of the country and for the development of liberty. There is a very real ground of complaint that this Measure should be discussed by hon. Members after the very long sitting we have had. I certainly will vote for the Motion to report Progress.
§ 7.9 a.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I would like to explain how it comes about that this Motion is being moved. During the absence of the right hon. Gentleman we were unfortunate to have the House left in charge of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He rose to the Debate and then collapsed on the Front Bench. So realistic was the sight of the Front Bench that I came to the conclusion that as we were dealing with the subject of streets they were trying to convince us they were on the Embankment. It was as the result of fellow-feeling, seeing the extreme distress of the Secretary of State for Scotland, that my hon. Friend was compelled to put forward the Motion. I agree with the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) that as far as 2167 we are concerned we have no hestitation or doubts regarding the proceedings. We are sorry that the straits of the Secretary of State for Scotland have led to this delay in the proceedings, but he must accept the entire responsibility, as long as he proceeds to look like someone down and out. He is getting lower and lower and unless he is careful he will fall off the Front Bench altogether. The longer he persists so to look I am afraid the more dilatory the proceedings will be. It looks—though one's eyes may be a little tired with the night's proceedings—as if at this moment there were two long ears of a donkey protruding from the Front Treasury Bench. I trust in these circumstances we shall feel none the less some compassion in our hearts for the circumstances which have so reduced what was once so fine a man to these straits. Our grief is as great as our sympathy but we feel still that if right hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to continue with a colleague in such a state, they must carry their responsibility themselves, and if the country has an opportunity of knowing of the state of the Treasury Front Bench it may possibly facilitate their removal.
§ 7.13 a.m.
I rise to support the official Opposition's attitude with regard to the Motion to report Progress. I should like to appeal to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen)
§ that, having taken up the stand we have taken against a very important piece of legislation, and having shown so conclusively that as an Opposition we are not going to take any part or parcel in this Bill, they should withdraw the Motion and leave the Opposition to carry out the work of showing up this Bill. I agree entirely with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) with regard to the cause of this Motion being made, and I want to assure him that as far as the Scottish Members are concerned, we are not worrying too much about the appearance of the Scottish Secretary. After careful scrutiny we now feel perfectly assured that if in the North of Scotland we lose that great attraction the Loch Ness monster, we will always have a very adequate substitute. Therefore I appeal to the hon. Members below the Gangway that, because of the great provocation we have had from the scenery before us and the lack of logical argument in support of the Bill which goes to the very roots of the poverty problem in Scotland, and because of the arrogant attitude of the Patronage Secretary himself, who has acted in a way unworthy of any adviser of the Government, they should withdraw their Motion and let the Opposition continue their work.
§ Question put "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 16; Noes, 111.2169
|Division No. 156.]||AYES.||[7.14 a.m.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maxton, J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Hail, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parkinson, J. A.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Stephen and Mr. Acland.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cary, R. A.||Emery, J. F.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Castlereagh, Viscount||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Channon, H.||Everard, W. L.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Assheton, R.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Furness, S. N.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Goldie, N. B.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Groves, T. E.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Dawson, Sir P.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Doland, G. F.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Burghley, Lord||Duncan, J. A. L.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Eckersley, P. T.||Harbord, A.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hopkinson, A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Patrick, C. M.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Peake, O.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Joel, D. J. B.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Petherick, M.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Leckie, J, A.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Raid, W. Allan (Derby)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Loftus, P. C.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Salt, E. W.||Wise, A. R.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wragg, H.|
|McKie, J. H.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Scott, Lord William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Sir James Blindell and Captain|
|Mathers, G.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Waterhouse.|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 7.23 a.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
May I ask a question of the Minister of Labour? I understand that he has ascertained that the view as regards the inter-action of Subsection (2) on Subsection (6) of Section I of the old Act is not exactly that which he mentioned in an earlier speech, and that, in fact, as I suggested Subsection (6) cannot operate on the subject-matter of Subsection (2). What I would ask him to do if he would be good enough, would be to consider whether some words could be inserted making it quite clear which it is, because at present, obviously, it is not clear which it is. I happened to spend yesterday arguing very much such a case in court, which could have been disposed of completely if clear words had been put in here, and I do ask him to see that whatever his meaning on this may be it is made abundantly clear in the final form of the Bill.
§ 7.25 a.m.
Mr. David Adams
I am sorry at this early hour to detain the Committee, but I rise for the purpose of obtaining information, and I propose to make an appeal to the Minister. May I say that Clause 4 expressly states that the Commissioner is authorised to make a grant towards any expenses incurred by a local authority in the repair or improvement of streets in any special area. I would like the Minister to note the word "improvement." In the constituency that I represent, Consett, there are probably more 2170 coal pits in use and out of use than in any other part of County Durham, and, as has been customary, there is the usual output of pit heaps to be seen almost contiguous to many of the streets in that constituency. Some of those pit heaps are above the thoroughfares, some are below, and some are just level with them. The great majority are burning pit heaps, emitting at different times flames, and pungent and poisonous sulphurous and other smoke. The result is that there is damage to many of the streets, particularly where the houses, owing to the pressure of land accommodation, are built contiguous to those burning heaps. The question of dealing with these has received the serious consideration of the local authorities in the area, and it has been brought to the attention of the Minister of Health primarily because the health of the community there is immediately seriously endangered.
Whether this Clause stays in or goes out will not enable the Commissioners to do anything about it.
I want to explain the position as I see it very shortly, that is that the presence of the burning pit heaps impairs the quality of the streets. Property is being depreciated by at least 25 per cent. due to the burning heaps. Under the Clause the Commissioner may be empowered to assist the local authority to extinguish these heaps, and I know of nothing that would improve the streets more. From the point of view of the local authorities, whose property in the streets is being damaged, and from the point of view of the occupants of the houses, whose houses and property inside, are damaged, it would be an improvement for which the people of the 2171 city would be everlastingly grateful. I want to ask whether the Minister does not agree that this might be a genuine case for an improvement.
§ 7.29 a.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I just want to ask the Minister one question on the first part of the Clause. I have listened to most of the debate all night, and this is the first word I have uttered. There is a matter that is in my mind, and it has not been raised in the debate, so I take the opportunity just to put a question to the Minister. It seems to me that Sub-section (1) of Clause 4, naturally follows the 1934 Act, where the 1934 Act provided for the beautifying of districts by the removal of slag-heaps at pit heads. Following on that, it seems to me, comes the repair of the streets. Will the Commissioner deal with the repair of the streets as he dealt with slag and pit heaps. The progress there has been far from satisfactory. Unemployed men are
§ engaged and provided with boots. The Commissioner gives them 9d. per day. In the matter of the streets will the Commissioner, when he contributes, do so not on this cheap system but on such a scale as to allow of the payment of a proper wage? There is nothing that annoys me more than the Commissioner taking liberties with men who do extremely hard work and are then being paid 9d. per day. I hope that we are not having this under the Clause. I would like an assurance that the Commissioner will pay the local authorities a sufficient sum to warrant them paying the men a decent and reasonable wage.
§ Captain Margesson rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 113; Noes, 45.2173
|Division No. 157.]||AYES.||7.31 a.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Peters, Dr, S. J.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Goldie, N. B.||Petherick, M.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Assheton, R.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Grimston, R. V.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hannah, I. C.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Salt, E. W.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Holmes, J. S.||Scott, Lord William|
|Burghley, Lord||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hopkinson, A.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Gary, R. A.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Joel, D. J. B.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Channon, H.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Priston)||Leckie, J. A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Liddall, W. S.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Loftus, P. C.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Turton, R. H.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Doland, G. F.||McKie, J. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wise, A. R.|
|Emery, J. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wragg, H.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Everard, W. L.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Patrick, C. M.||Sir James Blindell and Captain Waterhouse.|
|Furness, S. N.||Peake, O.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Burke, W. A.||Dobbie, W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Barr, J.||Daggar, G.||Ede, J. C.|
|Batey, J.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Edwards, Sir C. (Badwellty)|
|Frankel, D.||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Stephen, C.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Maxton, J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Parkinson, J. A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Jagger, J.||Potts, J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Pritt, D. N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Ritson, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Lawson, J. J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Shinwell, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Mr. Groves and Mr. Mathers.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee proceeded to a Division; Sir JAMES BLINDELL and Captain WATER-HOUSE were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but there being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the Noes the CHAIRMAN declared the Ayes had it.