HC Deb 03 March 1938 vol 332 cc1347-76

Amendment made: In page 5, line 7, leave out "rural," and insert "county."—[Brigadier-General Clifton Brown.]

6.21 p.m.

Mr. Price

I beg to move, in page 5, line 7, to leave out "are satisfied," and to insert "prove to the satisfaction of the Minister."

The object of this Amendment is to make the Clause somewhat less objectionable than it otherwise would be. Under the Clause, the rural district council may abrogate their powers to private persons; that is to say, private persons may become eligible to get the subsidy which otherwise would go to the district council. The object of the Amendment is to ensure that, if we retain this principle, to which personally I object, there should at least be satisfactory control by the Minister of Health himself. Under the Clause, the Minister is empowered to impose certain very desirable conditions—for instance, that the cottages shall be reserved for members of the agricultural population; that the rent shall not exceed a certain figure; and that the house shall be suitable in size and construction. My object is to widen this control so that a private person shall not be allowed to receive a subsidy under the Bill unless the Minister is satisfied that the rural district council is not in a position to provide the houses required. A great objection to the Clause is that certain district councils who are not enterprising in this matter might be inclined to leave the construction of houses to private persons, who would receive the subsidy. I wish to stop this gap, and, if the principle is to be allowed, to provide that the Minister himself shall decide that the district council is not in a position to provide the houses, and that, therefore, private persons should be allowed to get the subsidy. In other words, I desire to tighten up the provisions of the Clause, which in all other respects I find exceedingly objectionable.

6.26 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Bernays)

In the view of my right hon. Friend, this Amendment would make the whole procedure more complicated. Under the Clause as drafted, local authorities have to satisfy themselves, in the light of their own knowledge of local conditions, that there are special circumstances in which the building of houses by the method suggested is advisable, and my right hon. Friend thinks that this is eminently a case in which the proposal ought to be considered in the light of the knowledge which the local authorities themselves possess. If the Minister had to satisfy himself on these points, it would be likely to involve a measure of inquiry, which could only result in delay and expense incommensurate, in our judgment, with the fact that such proposals would in the majority of cases relate to a single house. The hon. Member has himself pointed out that conditions are to be imposed on a number of important issues. The reservation of the houses for the agricultural population, the level of the rents, and suitability of size and structure. My right hon. Friend is of opinion that, when these conditions have been satisfied, the decision on the individual proposal ought to be left to the local authority, in accordance with the practice adopted when grants were made available to private persons building houses under the Acts of 1923 and 1924. The proposal of the present Amendment seems to indicate a certain distrust of local authorities, which my right hon. Friend certainly does not share. For these reasons he is unable to accept the Amendment.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 205; Noes, 136.

Division No. 115.] AYES. [6.28 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Peters, Dr. S. J.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Entwistle, Sir C. F. Pilkington, R.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Errington, E. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Procter, Major H. A.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Fildes, Sir H. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Apsley, Lord Findlay, Sir E. Ramsbotham, H.
Asks, Sir R. W. Fleming, E. L. Ramsden, Sir E.
Assheton, R. Fremantle, Sir F. E. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Furness, S. N. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Fyfe, D. P. M. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley) Ropner, Colonel L.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Gower, Sir R. V. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Barrie, Sir C. C. Grant-Ferris, R. Rowlands, G.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Gridley, Sir A. B. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Beechman, N. A. Guinness, T. L. E. B Russell, Sir Alexander
Bennett, Sir E. N. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Bernays, R. H. Harbord, A. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Birchall, Sir J. D. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Salmon, Sir I.
Bird, Sir R. B. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Samuel, M. R. A.
Blair, Sir R. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Boothby, R. J. G. Hepworth, J. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Bossom, A. C. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Savery, Sir Servington
Boulton, W. W. Higgs, W. F. Selley, H. R.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Shakespeare, G. H.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Holdsworth, H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Holmes, J. S. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Bull, B. B. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Burton, Col. H. W. Horsbrugh, Florence Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Carver, Major W. H. Hurd, Sir P. A. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Keeling, E. H. Spens, W. P.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Storey, S.
Channon, H. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Christie, J. A. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Clarke, F. E. (Dartford) Leech, Sir J. W. Sutcliffe, H.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Lees-Jones, J. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Leighton, Major B. E. P. Tate, Mavis C.
Colfox, Major W. P. Levy, T. Titchfield, Marquess of
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J, Lewis, O. Touche, G. C.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Liddall, W. S. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Lipson, D. L. Turton, R. H.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Lloyd, G. W. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Craven-Ellis, W. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Critchley, A. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page McKie, J. H. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Crooks, Sir J. S. Macquisten, F. A. Wayland, Sir W. A
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Magnay, T. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Cross, R. H. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Crossley, A. C. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Crowder, J. F. E. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Cruddas, Col. B. Markham, S. F. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Withers, Sir J. J.
Dawson, Sir P. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Womersley, Sir W. J.
De Chair, S. S. Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Morgan, R. H. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Doland, G. F. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Wragg, H.
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Eastwood, J. F. Munro, P. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Eckersley, P. T. Nail, Sir J.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. O'Connor, Sir Terence J, Captain Dugdale and Mr.
Ellis, Sir G. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Grimston.
Elmley, Viscount Palmar, G. E. H.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.
Adams, D. (Consett) Banfield, J. W. Bevan, A.
Adamson, W. M. Barr, J. Bromfield, W.
Ammon, C. G. Batey, J. Brown, C. (Mansfield)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Quibell, D. J. K.
Buchanan, G. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Burke, W. A. Hollins, A. Ridley, G.
Cape, T. Hopkin, D. Riley, B.
Charleton, H. C. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Ritson, J.
Chater, D. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Cluse, W. S. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Cocks, F. S. Kelly, W. T. Seely, Sir H. M.
Cove, W. G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton, T. M.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Kirby, B. V. Shinwell, E.
Daggar, G. Kirkwood, D. Silkin, L.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Silverman, S. S.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lathan, G. Simpson, F. B.
Day, H. Lawson, J. J. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Dobbie, W. Leach, W. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lee, F. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees, (K'ly)
Ede, J. C. Leslie, J. R. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Logan, D. G. Sorensen, R. W.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Stephen, C.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. McEntee, V. La T. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Foot, D. M. McGhee, H. G. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Frankel, D. MacLaren, A. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Gardner, B. W. Maclean, N. Thorne, W.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Tinker, J. J.
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Marshall, F. Tomlinson, G.
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Mathers, G. Viant, S. P.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A Maxton, J. Walker, J.
Grenfell, D. R. Messer, F. Watkins, F. C.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Montague, F. Watson, W. McL.
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Westwood, J.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Muff, G. Wilkinson, Ellen
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Naylor, T. E. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Hardie, Agnes Parker, J. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Harris, Sir P. A. Parkinson, J. A. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Hayday, A. Pearson, A.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Price, M. P. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Groves.

6.37 p.m.

Major Mills

I beg to move, in page 5, line 8, to leave out "owing to special circumstances," and to insert "in any particular case."

My hon. Friends and I put this Amendment down because we think that the words in the Clause "special circumstances" add nothing to the safeguards contained later, but might be held to be intentionally limiting words and might incline an over-exact and over-scrupulous council to argue and haggle over what exactly constitutes "special circumstances," and decline an application because they failed to agree. Suppose, for instance, such a council got a request to build a single cottage on an isolated farm and they thought that they could not build there themselves, yet if they were asked to let the owner build there and receive the subsidy, they might say, "It is true that this is the only case we have before us now, but our district is large and we might get 20 or 30 other applications; we cannot, therefore, say that there are special circumstances." Through their desire to be scrupulous in carrying out the Act, they might refuse, and so defeat the intentions of the Clause. This is almost a drafting Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There are plenty of safeguards in the Clause. The council must first be satisfied that accommodation can be more conveniently provided by someone other than themselves, and then, subject to any conditions imposed by the Minister"— and I want to lay emphasis on that word "imposed"—they may, of their own free will, make such arrangements as seem good to them with the person who is going to provide the accommodation. Finally, the Minister has to be satisfied that arrangements made will carry out the intentions of the Clause.

We have already proved that similar words in a Statute can give rise to confusion. In the Section of the Road Traffic Act which deals with penalties for careless driving the words "special reasons" have been differently interpreted by different benches of magistrates; so much so, that, if my memory serves me rightly, the Home Office had to issue a special circular to magistrates dealing with that. My hon. Friends and I desire to insert "in any particular case," in order to make it clear that each case must be dealt with separately and on its merits. There is no question of passing or refusing to pass a general resolution that the council is satisfied; but when the council is satisfied in a particular case that private enterprise can more conveniently—and, indeed, more cheaply, as far as they are concerned—provide the required accommodation, all the safeguards set out in the Clause come into play, to carry out the intentions of the Government, which are: to provide good and suitable houses for the agricultural worker at a rent which he can afford to pay—and houses which will be kept in good repair. I think that this Amendment gets us back very close to the very practical views expressed in paragraph 24 of the second report of the Rural Housing Sub-Committee. Finally, I think that the wording we suggest will make it still more certain that those small commoners in the New Forest and the Forest of Dean, to whom my right hon. Friend referred in his Second Reading speech as possibly desiring to build for themselves, will, with the help of the subsidy, get the chance to fulfil their ambition.

Sir K. Wood

I am prepared to accept this Amendment.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I do not think the Committee can let the Minister get away with it like that. Are we to understand that he accepts all the arguments put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman? It is usual, when the Minister accepts an Amendment on which a reasoned speech has been made, to indicate on which of the reasons he bases his acceptance. On this side, we regard the whole of the Clause with the greatest misgivings, and our misgivings are increased by the alteration the Minister now proposes to accept. I do not envisage the kind of council meeting that the hon. and gallant Member has mentioned to us. I am thinking of the kind of rural district council which consists very largely of landowners: where these proposals for the building of cottages will not be brought forward after the rural council have considered the matter and decided that they cannot build, but where they are put up by the landowners straight away. The rural council will say: "If the landowner is prepared to do it, why should we trouble?" To put in the words "owing to special circumstances" seems to strengthen that point of view considerably. There must be some reason which makes the Minister so ready to accept the Amendment and I should like to know why he has preferred the form of words put forward by this simple soldier, instead of the form of words that the Government draftsmen have originally suggested. It is not usual to prefer military to civil wording in a housing Bill.

This Clause may lead, unless especial care is exercised, to a considerable increase in what we on this side regard as the evil of the tied cottage in various parts of England. The Minister, in his Second Reading speech, suggested that this was intended to deal with the case of stockmen and people of that kind, who it was desired should be housed on or near the farms where they work. That kind of case will be well covered by the phrase "owing to special circumstances." The alteration which has been made this afternoon seems to get as far away from the idea that it is only the stockmen for whom cottages are required, and we are entitled to a more expanded explanation on the part of the right hon. Gentleman before we allow this Amendment to pass.

6.46 p.m.

Mr. W. Roberts

I would like the Minister to explain a little more fully the intention of these words. He originally referred to the matter in his Second Reading speech, and we were to understand that it was only to be in exceptional circumstances that this Clause was to be used. I fear that the Amendment may weaken the Clause by opening the door in some areas where the rural district council, for many possible reasons, might prefer not to carry out its duties. It will be possible for it to put upon the landlord the whole duty of housing the rural population under this Measure. That would turn the provisions of the Bill not into provisions for providing for the district councils to house the rural population, but for giving the subsidy to landowners in the district. I should very much regret that. The Clause is vague enough as it is, and some of us would have liked to have found means of expanding and strengthening the phrase "special circumstances" rather than to sweep it away.

There is another Amendment on the Paper showing the tendency of certain hon. Members to remove that part of the Clause which makes it subject to cond- itions imposed by the Minister. If that Amendment were to be called and passed it would entirely change what we have been informed was the intention of this Clause. The Minister informed us in his Second Reading speech that this was to be an exceptional case. We are entitled, if the Minister accepts this Amendment, to ask him to consider the question of whether, and in what way, he would be able to prevent the district council from passing on the whole of the liability for carrying out this Measure. There are district councils which have been very slow indeed in carrying out their duties under the various Housing Acts, and if they can respond to any application made by local landowners merely by passing on the subsidy, I fear that the whole intention of this Clause will be misused.

6.49 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

If the hon. Gentleman will read the Clause with the Amendment suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend he will see that his apprehensions are not justified. It is a matter of interpretation, and I think that the insertion of the suggested phrase will prevent any such general determination as he has indicated. The Clause, as amended, will read: Where the council of a rural district are satisfied that in any particular case housing accommodation required for members of the agricultural population of the district"— and these are the operating words— could more conveniently be provided by some person other than the council, they may, subject to any conditions imposed by the Minister, make arrangements for the provision of such accommodation by that person. I pause there for a moment to observe that the insertion of these words will occasion no such apprehension either on one side or the other. My hon. and gallant Friend apprehended that there might be some general resolution passed by a local authority which would say that it would have nothing whatever to do with private enterprise. On the other hand, the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken apprehended a resolution being passed to hand it over to the private owner. Both these objections are removed by this Amendment because it lays the necessity upon the council to consider each case on its merits and not to deal with the matter in the general terms suggested in the Bill. There need be no apprehension either on the part of my hon. and gallant Friend, on the one hand, or of the hon. Gentleman on the other. The Amendment, for what it is worth, is to provide that each case shall be considered separately by the local authority.

6.51 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

It is just what I expected. This really does not mean anything—for what it is worth. It is a matter of no importance. I do not think that it is a matter of very much importance, but, on the whole, I prefer the words in the Bill rather than those of the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman is giving nothing away in this Amendment, but our objections still remain. If we are to have this method of dealing with the problem of rural housing, I would rather have it carried out where there were special circumstances, and I should like to see those circumstances defined. The right hon. Gentleman does not define them, and now he says, "in any particular case," without any special circumstances of any kind.

Captain Heilgers

Would the right hon. Gentleman define the special circumstances which are in his mind?

Mr. Greenwood

I do not want this Clause at all. I cannot conceive the special circumstances which would warrant the local authority farming out its responsibility to private enterprise. I am only saying that, if this method is to be chosen, there should be special circumstances which ought to be defined in the Bill. My argument is, that the words in the Bill, though not very acceptable to me, are more acceptable than the words "in any particular case" irrespective of circumstances, where the rural district council likes to farm out the provision of its cottages. The right hon. Gentleman either ought to make a real concession or stand by the terms of the Bill. He has been working on this Bill for weeks, perhaps for months, and has had the help of his legal advisers, and then, half a dozen hon. and gallant Members of this House, whose legal knowledge is unknown to me, put down an Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman considers to be better than the terms of his Bill. I hope that Members of the Committee will still prefer the words as originally drafted by the right hon. Gentleman rather than the words of the amateur draftsmen who-move the Amendment.

Mr. Turton

Surely, this is purely a drafting Amendment, and I ask the Committee to accept it on that ground. If we had a general resolution saying that all houses should be built by private enterprise, no one would be more unhappy than the right hon. Gentleman

the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood).

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 125; Noes, 208.

Division No. 116.] AYES. [6.57 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Hardie, Agnes Pritt, D. N.
Adams, D. (Consett) Harris, Sir P. A. Quibell, D. J. K.
Adamson, W. M. Hayday, A, Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Ammon, C. G. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Ridley, G.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Ritson, J.
Banfield, J. W. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Barr, J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Holdsworth, H. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Benson, G. Hollins, A. Seely, Sir H. M.
Bevan, A. Hopkin, D. Sexton, T. M.
Bromfield, W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Shinwell, E.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Silkin, L.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Simpson, F. B.
Buchanan, G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Burke, W. A. Kelly, W. T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cape, T. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Charleton, H. C. Kirby, B. V. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Chater, D. Kirkwood, D. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cluse, W. S. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Sorensen, R. W.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Lathan, G. Stephen, C.
Cocks, F. S. Lawson, J. J. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cove, W. G. Leach, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lee, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G. Leslie, J. R. Thorne, W.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Logan, D. G. Tinker, J. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Tomlinson, G.
Day, H. McEntee, V. La T. Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. McGhee, H. G. Walker, J.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) MacLaren, A. Watkins, F. C.
Ede, J. C. Maclean, N. Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Marshall, F. Westwood, J.
Foot, D. M. Maxton, J. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Frankel, D. Messer, F. Wilkinson, Ellen
Gardner, B. W. Montague, F. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Muff, G. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Parker, J Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Grenfell, D. R. Parkinson, J. A.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Pearson, A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Mr. Mathers and Mr. Groves.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Price, M. P.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Cox, H. B. Trevor
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Craven-Ellis, W.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Bull, B. B. Critchley, A.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Burton, Col. H. W. Croft, Brig.-Gen, Sir H. Page
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Butler, R. A. Crooke, Sir J. S.
Apsley, Lord Campbell, Sir E. T. Croom-Johnson, R. P.
Aske, Sir R. W. Carver, Major W. H. Cross, R. H.
Assheton, R. Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Crossley, A. C.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Crowder, J. F. E.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Cruddas, Col. B.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Davies, C. (Montgomery)
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Channon, H. Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Dawson, Sir P.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) De Chair, S. S.
Beechman, N. A. Christie, J. A. Denman, Hon. R. D.
Bennett, Sir E. N. Clarke, F. E. (Dartford) Doland, G. F.
Bernays, R. H. Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)
Birchall, Sir J. D. Clany, Sir Reginald Dugdate, Captain T. L.
Blair, Sir R. Colfox, Major W. P. Eastwood, J. F.
Boothby, R. J. G. Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Eckersley, P. T.
Bossom, A. C. Conant, Captain R. J. E. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E
Boulton, W. W. Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Ellis, Sir G.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Emmott, C. E. G. C.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Entwistle, Sir C F.
Errington, E. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Shakespeare, G. H.
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Rots) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A
Fildes, Sir H. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Findlay, Sir E. McKie, J. H. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Fleming, E. L. Macquisten, F. A. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Magnay, T. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Furness, S. N. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Spens, W. P.
Gower, Sir R. V. Markham, S. F. Storey, S.
Grant-Ferris, R. Marsden, Commander A. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Guinness, T. L. E. B. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R. Sutcliffe, H.
Harbord, A. Morgan, R. H. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Tate, Mavis C.
Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Titchfield, Marquess of
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Munro, P. Touche, G. C.
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Nail, Sir J. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Hepworth, J. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Turton, R. H.
Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Wakefield, W. W.
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Orr-Ewing, I. L. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Higgs, W. F. Palmer, G. E. H. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Peters, Dr. S. J. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Pilkington, R. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Holmes, J. S. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Procter, Major H. A. Wayland, Sir W. A
Horsbrugh, Florence Raikes, H. V. A. M. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Ramsbotham, H. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Hurd, Sir P. A. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Keeling, E. H. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Ropner, Colonel L. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Rosa Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Withers, Sir J. J.
Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Rowlands, G. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Leech, Sir J. W. Russell, Sir Alexander Wragg, H.
Lees-Jones, J. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Wright, Wing-commander J. A. C.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Lavy, T. Salmon, Sir I.
Lewis, O. Samuel, M. R. A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Liddall, W. S. Sanderson, Sir F. B. Mr. Grimston and Major Sir
Lipson, D. L. Savery, Sir Servington James Edmondson.
Lloyd, G. W. Selley, H. R.

Proposed words there inserted.

The Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne)

The next two Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart)—in page 5, line 10, leave out "of the district," and in line 11, after "person," insert "or body"—are both outside the scope of the Financial Resolution.

Amendment made: In page 5, line 30, leave out "district council," and insert "council of the county district."— [Brigadier-General Brown.]

Consequential Amendments made:

7.6 p.m.

Mr. W. Roberts

I beg to move, in page 6, line 11, at the end, to add: (2) Where a house provided under arrangements made in pursuance of this Section is let together with other land at a single rent, such proportion of that rent as the council of the county district may determine shall be deemed, for the purpose of paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) of this Section, to be the rent at which the house is let. This Amendment deals with a small point raised in the report of the advisory sub-committee. I do not suggest that it may have wide implications, but it may affect some people. Under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act there have been cases in which a house was improved and then let along with land, and the rent of the land and the house together were really a means of avoiding the restriction of the net rent laid down by the Council, that is to say, the joint rents were in exercise of what they should have been. The Amendment suggests that, where that may occur again, it shall be within the power of the district council to make a fair distribution of the rent as between the land and the house and so prevent the owner from allocating to the land an amount that is unreasonable, thereby disguising the increased rent of the house. I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for some advice I was given and, if he could explain a little further where a garden ends and a piece of land begins, I should be grateful. I understand that the definition of a house includes the garden, and in urban circumstances that does not raise difficulties, but in the country district, where gardens may be larger and may very easily become piece of land, I wonder just where the distinction is drawn. My Amendment will not affect a garden in any way. If I understand aright, the rent that is going to be fixed will include the garden, whatever that means. The Amendment is intended to deal only with land which is something more than a garden.

Mr. Bernays

In regard to the hon. Member's question, I must ask his indulgence and say that I will investigate and let him know. I hope that before the Report stage he will have had a satisfactory answer. With regard to the general Amendment, I am glad to be in a position to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

7.11 p.m.

Mr. Ede

We made it quite clear on the Second Reading that we very much object to this possible extension of the tied cottage system and this method of subsidising wages and continuing very unsatisfactory conditions in rural areas. Our objections to the Clause have not been reduced by the Amendment that was made to the first line, whereby this will now be applicable not merely to rural districts but to cottages for the agricultural population in non-county boroughs and urban districts. The proposals, as we see them, invite rural district councils, especially in those areas where they have not been hitherto very diligent in their work, to neglect their duty and to push it off on to the shoulders of landowners and others.

Brigadier-General Brown

It will provide houses.

Mr. Ede

I very much doubt if it will provide as many houses as would have been provided had the duty been left simply on the shoulders of the rural district councils. The only thing that the hon. and gallant Gentleman can really mean is that there are rural district councils which do not intend to carry out the Bill.

Brigadier-General Brown

Many rural district councils have not the money to do these things. If they can get landowners to give them something for nothing it seems absurd to prevent it.

Mr. Ede

I never expect anyone to give me something for nothing, least of all do I expect a landowner to give a rural or any other council something for nothing.

Brigadier-General Brown

My point is that the ratepayers get something for nothing.

Mr. Ede

I very much doubt whether they will. In any event, I share the views held by the Members of my party that the fewer people living in houses that go with their job the better. That is the chief reason why we oppose the Clause. We believe it would be a very great deal better for the rural economy of the country if fewer people lived in tied cottages, and to extend the principle as the result of a subsidy from Imperial funds in our view is very wrong. I hope the Committee will not accept the Clause. The views against it were explained very fully on the Second Reading by my right hon. Friend and others, and we intend to proceed to a Division to mark our disapproval of the methods proposed.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. De Chair

The remarks of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) may be very illuminating, but they do not confirm the Minister's idea of the operation of the Clause as expressed by him in answer to an interjection on the Financial Resolution. I asked: Why is it necessary to make the grant conditional upon the council's sanction, since the council will not contribute anything to it? It is conceivable that because of sheer prejudice against private enterprise, some member of a council might try to obstruct the building of houses in this way. Would it not be possible to make it a question purely for the Ministry? The Minister replied: That can be considered when we come to the Committee stage of the Bill. One of the reasons which has actuated us in including the provision concerning the sanction of the council is that the local authorities are responsible for the housing conditions in their areas, and therefore they should be in a position to survey the needs of their areas and to see what is required. Hon. Members opposite will perhaps be able to tell us whether local authorities will adopt an attitude of that kind and simply because they object to private enterprise, ignore the needs of the people. If they did so, it would be very unfair. The question whether, Parliament having passed this proposal, local authorities might endeavour to avoid the law and say that because they do not like private enterprise they will not give active co-operation, is one that I shall have to consider, but it can be dealt with when we reach the Committee stage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1938; col. 2125, Vol. 331.] Unfortunately, owing to the drafting of the Financial Resolution, I understand that the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), which would have provided for an appeal to the Minister, is not in order.

The Deputy-Chairman

On the Motion, "That the Clause stand part," the hon. Member cannot discuss an Amendment which was not selected because it was out of order.

Mr. De Chair

What I am pointing out is that in consequence of that Amendment being ruled out of order, the Minister has not been able to fulfil the pledge that he gave in the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution. If the Financial Resolution has been drafted so badly that the Minister cannot go back on it, it is very unfortunate, and I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to explain the position and tell us whether or not the Government stand by the promise made in answer to my interjection.

7.18 p.m.

Mr. Price

I do not think that hon. Members opposite realise the very strong feeling that there is on these benches in regard to this Clause. We feel that where private enterprise has failed to provide the necessary houses for the rural population, it is clearly a case where the public authority should intervene and provide them. Hon. Members opposite seem to want to have the best of both worlds. They want to allow private enterprise to remain in possession of the new houses and at the same time to get assistance out of taxpayers' money. That is an extraordinarily dangerous principle, and one which the Committee ought to reject. We on these benches take the greatest exception to it.

The hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier - General Brown) seems to think that this Clause is necessary in order to assist local authorities who are very poor and who, if they attempted to build houses under Clause 2, Would bring about a considerable rise in the rates. That, surely, is an argument in favour of even better and more generous provision from the State for those local authorities which are not able to provide houses, rather than handing over assistance to private enterprise so that they can do what they like with public money. It is an argument for going back to the Housing Act, 1931, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) which was slaughtered in the general economy campaign.

Coming to the Clause itself, the Minister said on the Second Reading that he hoped no one would desire to vote against the Bill on the ground that the new subsidy would be available for agricultural labourers to erect their own houses. He instanced certain districts and mentioned the New Forest, and my own constituency, the Forest of Dean. I am sorry to have to disillusion the Minister, if he thinks that by this means he is going to make a contribution towards rural houses so far as my constituency is concerned. It is true that a large number of persons in the Forest of Dean own their own houses and a very few may be assisted by this Clause, but from my knowledge of those persons they are not agricultural labourers, but miners and other persons engaged in industry. Therefore, this Clause, which is supposed to deal with the rural housing problem, will not deal with it at all so far as my constituency is concerned.

There are in my constituency rural district councils who have reconditioned houses with considerable success, but that is a very different think from saying that under this Clause you are going to provide houses for the countryside. In the rural part of my constituency I do not know of any agricultural labourer receiving from 34s. to 40s. a week who owns his own house. There are some smallholders who own their own houses, and they may possibly benefit, but they are very few. The only way in which the agricultural labourer on his present wages would be able to strike out and build his own house would be if he was lucky enough to win the Irish sweepstake. Therefore, the Government cannot claim to be providing anything reasonable towards solving the housing problem on the countryside by Clause 3. My hon. Friends are, therefore, justified in opposing the Clause.

The Minister said that the Clause would be very useful in providing accommodation for stockmen on isolated farms. I do not see how that applies in my district, but it may be particularly applicable to remote parts of Wales and Scotland. The obvious answer is that if the private owner cannot provide a house for the stockman, the local authority should do it. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Housing Advisory Committee and quoted from its report to the effect that local authorities will not always be able to erect houses in such a situation. They did not say why, and the Minister has not given any reason. I see no excuse, in the absence of any better reason, why local authorities cannot meet the housing needs of the lonely farms in regard to stockmen's houses. I hope the Committee will agree not to allow the Clause to stand part of the Bill.

7.25 p.m.

Colonel R. S. Clarke

The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said that he did not expect to get anything given to him by the landowners. He said that was his experience of local government. I believe he is a member of the Surrey County Council. I am a member of the East Sussex County Council, and my experience has been totally different from his. I have been constantly surprised at the generosity of landowners in giving pieces of land for road widening and selling sites for hospitals and public buildings at less than the market value. The hon. Member is, I believe, particularly interested in open spaces and will I think, know that the Hailsham planning scheme was made possible only by the generosity of landowners, who allowed their land to be sterilised without any cost to the county council and the rural district council. Such generosity is justification, if justification were needed, apart from the urgent need for houses for agricultural workers, for some help being given to rural landowners to get cottages built. In many directions they are put to considerable expense which they do not get back.

I have been speaking of amenities, and I should like to refer to many cases where landowners would have been very glad to sell part of an estate for building purposes and to use the money in putting farm buildings into good order, but in order not to spoil the countryside they have deferred doing that because it would have led to ribbon development, and now, under the Ribbon Development Act, they cannot do it. As a result, their property has been depreciated in value.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think we had better keep to the Clause before the Committee.

Colonel Clarke

I was only trying to justify these subsidies being given by stating the fact that rural landowners have in the past done a considerable amount for local government authorities out of their own pockets.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

As a member of the Lancashire County Council I have not been so fortunate as the hon. and gallant Member in finding landowners particularly anxious to give something for nothing. My experience has been that they were very good business men and expected, and invariably received, good value for that which they handed over. Especially has that been so in regard to land required by the county council. The more earnestly it was desired by the county council, the higher has been the price. In regard to the Clause, it seems to me that an additional subsidy is being given to a section of the community which has been pampered in the past. There is a feeling that anything we can do to assist the agricultural labourer, should be done. We on this side of the House are anxious to help the agricultural labourer, but to make provision whereby he will be called upon to live in what, to all intents and purposes, is a tied house, is a questionable advantage to the agricultural labourer.

We have heard something to-day about the agricultural labourer leaving the countryside, and it is now being argued that the reason for his so doing is that the housing accommodation is not satisfactory and that, therefore, if the landowner or the farmer is given a subsidy to enable him to build houses, the agricultural labourer will remain on the land. The fact is that if the agricultural labourer had been treated as he ought to have been treated, he would have been able to pay a rent for the house which people would have been prepared to build, and it seems to me that this is an attempt to retain the agricultural labourer in the very disadvantageous economic position in which he is to-day. The man with a small wage, living in a decent house that has been provided as the result of a subsidy, will be tied to that house, but his wage will not be improved, and the fact that the only guarantee there is that his economic standard is to be safeguarded is that the wages must be paid under the Agricultural Wages Regulation Act, 1934, does not amount to much.

Everybody who knows anything about the position of the agricultural worker knows that, although he is at an advantage to-day as compared with the period before that Act was passed, yet the wages that are being paid under the wages boards are anything but adequate, and the difficulty of organising the agricultural labourer makes it very difficult for him to obtain what we consider to be a reasonable minimum wage. Therefore we suggest that to attempt to fasten the agricultural labourer on the land by providing him with a tied house is not the way to solve the problem. Rather would it be disadvantageous than advantageous to him, and for that reason we propose to vote against this Clause.

7.32 p.m.

Captain Heilgers

I would remind the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) that whatever the wages of the agricultural worker may be, the tied house is always going to be cheaper for him. I believe that the agricultural worker is provided for adequately under Clause 2 of this Bill. Clause 3 does not deal with the agricultural worker so much; its purpose is not to assist the rural economics of the district, as the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) put it, but to assist agriculture, and the reason for doing that is that there is in this country a very greatly increased number of livestock at the present time. We have more cows, bullocks, sheep, pigs, and so forth, and all that big increase of stock means that more men are required to look after them, and you must have them living as near as possible to their animals. If they do not, it is a great hardship for them. For that reason, and because this Clause will assist agriculture, I think it ought to be supported to the fullest extent.

7.35 p.m.

Major Mills

A council may arrange for housing accommodation to be "provided by some person" other than themselves. Does the word "person" include a county council, if the county council already has power to build cottages for members of the agricultural population under some other Act, as, for instance, under Section 12 of the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act, 1919, or Section 12 of the Small Buildings and Allotments Act, 1926? I am not seeking to create a power to build by a county council, but if the power to build already exists, can use be made of this Clause, all necessary consents being given and all conditions being fulfilled? I am sorry the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) has no one in his forest who will benefit under this Bill, because it is not an agricultural population, but I am sure that he will rejoice to know that I have, in the New Forest, many small commoners who have a little bit of land, who make a living out of agriculture with the help of their forest rights, and who often have very old cottages in which they live. I feel sure that many of them will welcome this opportunity of getting a grant from the Government with which to build houses for themselves.

7.36 p.m.

Mr. Kelly

The hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers) urged the necessity for this Clause because of the increase in the numbers of cattle in this country and because of the necessity for those attending the cattle to live near their animals. That is surely not a justification for handing over to some private individual and giving him each year a subsidy for erecting houses for agricultural workers. That can well be done by the public authorities, and if it be that those rural councils find that it requires a larger authority than themselves, that surely is a matter for the Government to consider. To be handing out this subsidy and putting it into the pockets of those engaged in private enterprise at this time of day is to show that the Government intend to help their friends to add a little more this time to the much that they have been given in the past in other directions.

I hope this Clause will be defeated. Some of us are concerned with agriculture. We are engaged in a large way with it, and I can assure the Committee that we, as a public authority, have hundreds of cattle that our people have to look after, and that we make a success of it, making great profits each year, and that private enterprise has nothing to do with the rearing and selling of this cattle. I must not develop that point however. We would certainly never dream of handing over to private enterprise the construction of houses for our people in that connection. This is one more example of the attitude of the present Government, who, instead of helping the local councils and the public authorities, are prepared to help the landowners, to whom this Bill will be a godsend.

Mr. Turton

Do I understand from the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) that the Co-operatives are building no houses for their agricultural labourers?

Mr. Kelly

I am not referring to the Co-operatives, and the hon. Member for Thirsk (Mr. Turton), who is very jealous of the profits that the London County Council makes on its farming, knows very well that I was referring to that particular body. The council will build the houses for their own people and will not ask that the landowners of this country should be benefited by public money being put into their pockets.

7.39 p.m.

Sir William Wayland

It is delightful to see the interest which hon. Members opposite are taking in the fate of the agricultural labourer. To mention the very word "landlord" to hon. Members opposite is like hanging a bit of red rag before a bull. Presuming you were to do nothing to help the landlord to restore many of these cottages which are in a bad state of repair, and which he is absolutely unable to repair himself, the local authorities would have to build cottages as they have been built in my district, the rents of which, instead of being 3s. a week, are 7s. 9d. a week. They cannot be let at less than that, so that the local authority will be saving somewhere in the region of 6s. a week through the Government helping the owners of these tied cottages, which are absolutely necessary, with a few shillings a week to restore them to a proper state of repair. So far as Members on this side are concerned, I think we have absolutely knocked the bottom out of any of the so-called arguments of the party opposite.

7.41 p.m.

Mr. Bernays

Before I deal with the challenging attack which has been made on this Clause, I would like to deal with the rather technical point that was put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the New Forest (Major Mills). He asked whether the word "person" included county councils; who already have the power to build cottages for members of the agricultural population under some other Acts. The answer, I am advised, is "Yes. A corporate body, including a county council, is covered by the word 'person'." On the other hand, I must add that it would clearly not be right that Exchequer grants should be paid under two different Acts in respect of the same transaction, and in so far as a county council or other authority may be entitled to a grant under some other Act, it would obviously be necessary for my right hon. Friend to impose conditions under Clause 3 of this Bill excluding that case for a grant under the Bill.

Mr. Price

Can the hon. Member say whether the Land Settlement Association will become eligible for a grant?

Mr. Bernays

I think it would, but I would not like to say without further consideration. I am almost sure it would. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) said that we on this side did not realise the strength of feeling of hon. Members opposite on this Clause. I think we do realise it, but what we find difficult to do is to understand the reason for it. In our judgment the proposal to omit this Clause would gravely impair the value of the Bill and would, to some extent, interfere with the number of houses that might be built and the number of agricultural labourers who might be rehoused. We have the authority of the Housing Advisory Committee, which was not composed of Tory landlords. They were quite emphatic about this point. They said: In a comparatively small number of cases it may be necessary to build new houses on isolated farms for the accommodation of stock keepers. In view of their situation, such cottages will, we anticipate, only be suitable for the accommodation of the employés of the particular farm on which they are built. Therefore they envisaged, and we envisage in this Bill, that the number of such cases that will be dealt with will be relatively small, but our point is that it was recommended by the Housing Advisory Committee that in certain cases the local authority would not be able conveniently to undertake the erection of houses in such a situation to meet this relatively small need.

Mr. Morgan Jones

Has that report been made public?

Mr. Bernays

Yes, it has been out since December. To meet this relatively small need we suggest that a subsidy equal to the Exchequer subsidy which is to be paid to a local authority should be made available for private enterprise. That is the definite recommendation of the rural housing advisory committee. I have been asked why it is necessary to adopt this method in these rare cases. One reason is the distance and isolation of some of these farms. They are far away from the nearest brickworks and the cost of transport is heavy, and there is also the poverty of the rural district council itself. The principle of a subsidy to private enterprise, as hon. Members opposite like to call it is very well established. It occurs not merely in the 1923 Act, the Chamberlain Act, but also in the 1924 Act, the Wheatley Act, for which hon. Members opposite were responsible.

In the 1924 Act Exchequer subsidies were made available through local authorities to bodies or persons who were prepared to build houses subject to special conditions. There is a similar Clause in this Bill. It is difficult to see any difference except that the conditions we lay down are, in our opinion, more stringent than the conditions laid down in the Wheatley Act. The special conditions in the Wheatley Act were that the houses should be let and occupied by tenants who intend to reside therein, and that the rent charged should not exceed the rent charged by the local authority. The rent conditions in the present Bill are substantially stricter than those in the Wheatley Act because they limit the rent which can be charged to the level of agricultural rents. We believe that the present proposals impose stricter rental conditions and will ensure that the houses are for members of the agricultural population and are let at rents appropriate to them. It is indeed difficult to understand the opposition which our proposals have created. We are only doing what hon. Members opposite themselves did in 1924, and the only difference between us, I suggest, is that we are doing it a little more effectively and with more prudence than they did.

7.49 p.m.

Mr. Ridley

The innocent inability of the Parliamentary Secretary to understand successive speeches which have been made from this side of the Committee can hardly be due to those who have made the speeches, because the case has been put so simply that I should have imagined it was easy for any hon. Member to understand our position. The Bill proposes to allow local authorities in any particular case to transfer the subsidy of £10 per year for 40 years, which makes £400, to any particular farmer or landlord. That will be a very acceptable largesse to farmers who are in distress and to those who are not in distress; and it is done, as far as I can see, without any means test of any kind. It is not a fact that every farmer is on his knees or nearly in the bankruptcy court, or that every landlord is. But no matter what their standard of prosperity may be, they will have the advantage of this £400 through the local authority, and I would point out that they themselves may be members of the local authority which is to transfer the subsidy given under the Bill.

On the Second Reading of the Bill an hon. Member opposite explained just what this financial advantage would mean to him. He said that he employed a number of agricultural labourers, and housed as many of them as he could afford. He did not reveal the extent of his means, and presumably he will not reveal his means either to the local authority. But there was one poor fellow for whom a house could not be provided, and he said that the provisions of the Bill will enable him to build a house for this wandering agricultural labourer. There is to be no standard of need for the farmer or the landowner, and no kind of national control by the Minister or this House over the distribution of public funds by local authorities. I seriously suggest that in the absence of a means test, or even with a means test, it is wrong to hand over public money in this way without any sort of control. I think the Committee should pause as to whether we should allow the control of the distribution of these bounties and subsidies to be in the hands of local authorities to be distributed by farmers and landlords without regard to need, requirements or necessities, and in the absence of any evidence to show that the subsidy is really required.

7.53 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

Reference has again been made to the Wheatley Act, and I think it is necessary that something should be said about it. It is time that these references stopped. I happened to be an exceptionally close friend of the man who was responsible for the Wheatley Act, and when that Act was being prepared I took a certain part in the preparation of it. I was consulted on many questions. I was a sort of liaison between Mr. Wheatley and the building trade officials. When that Act was being prepared Mr. Wheatley was absolutely opposed to a single penny of public money being handed out to private individuals. But when he came to the later stages of the Bill he was faced with the fact that there was only a small minority behind the Labour Government, and he had to take note of the fact that concessions would have to be made if the Bill was to be got through. The forces arrayed against the Labour Government forced Mr. Wheatley to put this concession in the Act. It represents no principle for which he stood or for which the Labour party stands. It represents the power which existed at that time to force upon Mr. Wheatley and the Labour Government concessions which they would not have considered for a moment if they had had the necessary majority to carry through their own proposals.

If hon. Members will only read the speeches of Mr. Wheatley prior to the Act of 1924 they will find that one thing upon which he was adamant was that no public money should be used for private purposes. You put the agricultural labourer in a very difficult position. No man should be in a tied house; and nothing should be done to encourage the tied-house system. The argument has been used about costs. It is as difficult for a private individual to put up houses in these lonely parts as it is for the local council. The Committee, if it has any regard for the agricultural labourer, if it wants to see him a free man as far as is humanly possible, should not put him in a position where he is under the control of the farmer, with the landlord be-hand the farmer; in a position where with the least excuse they can get rid of him and throw him out of his house. We have seen too much of that already. No public money should go to private individuals and I ask hon. Members, on behalf of the agricultural labourers, apart from any question of a subsidy going to the landlords, to vote against the Clause.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 205; Noes, 114.

Division No. 117.] AYES. [7.58 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Clarke, F. E. (Dartford) Ellis, Sir G.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Emmott, C. E. G. C.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Clarry, Sir Reginald Errington, E.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Colfox, Major W. P. Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff. S.)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)
Apsley, Lord Conant, Captain R. J. E. Fildes, Sir H.
Aske, Sir R. W. Cook, Sir T. R. A. M, (Norfolk, N.) Findlay, Sir E.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Fleming, E. L.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Cox, H. B. Trevor Fox, Sir G. W. G.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Craven-Ellis, W. Fremantle, Sir F. E.
Balniel, Lord Critchley, A. Furness, S. N.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Fyfe, D. P. M.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Crooke, Sir J. S. Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Croom-Johnson, R. P. Gower, Sir R. V.
Beechman, N. A. Cross, R. H. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)
Bernays, R. H. Crossley, A. C. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Crowder, J. F. E. Gridley, Sir A. B.
Blair, Sir R. Cruddas, Col. B. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Bossom, A. C. Davidson, Viscountess Grimston, R. V.
Boulton, W. W. Davies, C. (Montgomery) Guinness, T. L. E. B.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Dawson, Sir P. Harbord, A.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) De Chair, S. S. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Denman, Hon. R. D. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Bull, B. B. Doland, G. F. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Burton, Col. H. W. Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Duncan, J. A. L. Hepworth, J.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Eastwood, J. F. Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)
Channon, H. Eckersley, P. T. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Edmondson, Major Sir J. Higgs, W. F.
Christie, J. A. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)
Holdsworth, H. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Holmes, J. S. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Spens, W. P.
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Horsbrugh, Florence Munro, P. Storey, S.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Nail, Sir J. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Hums, Sir G. H. O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Hurd, Sir P. A. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M F.
James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Peters, Dr. S. J. Sutcliffe, H.
Keeling, E. H. Pilkington, R. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Procter, Major H. A. Tate, Mavis C.
Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Raikes, H. V. A. M. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Lambert, Rt. Hon. G Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Titchfield, Marquess of
Leesh, Sir J. W. Ramsbotham, H. Touche, G. C.
Lees-Jones, J. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Turton, R. H.
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Wakefield, W. W.
Levy, T. Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Lewis, O. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Liddall, W. S. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Lindsay, K. M. Ropner, Colonel L. Warrender, Sir V.
Lipson, D. L. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Lloyd, G. W. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Rowlands, G. Wayland, Sir W. A
Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Russell, Sir Alexander Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
McKie, J. H. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Withers, Sir J. J.
Macquisten, F. A. Salmon, Sir I. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Magnay, T. Sanderson, Sir F. B. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Savery, Sir Servington Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Seely, Sir H. M. Wragg, H.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Shakespeare, G. H. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Markham, S. F. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Sinclair, Rt. Hon Sir A. (C'thn's) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Captain
Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe) Dugdale.
Morgan, R. H. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Adams, D. (Consett) Hayday, A. Price, M. P.
Ammon, C. G. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Quibell, D. J. K.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Ridley, G.
Banfield, J. W. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Ritson, J.
Barr, J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Batey, J. Hollins, A. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Hopkin, D. Sanders, W. S.
Benson, G. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Sexton, T. M.
Bevan, A. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Shinwell, E.
Broad, F. A. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Silkin, L.
Bromfield, W. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Simpson, F. B.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Kelly, W. T. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Buchanan, G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Burke, W. A. Kirby, B. V. Sorensen, R. W.
Cape, T. Kirkwood, D. Stephen, C.
Charleton, H. C. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cluse, W. S. Lawson, J. J. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Leach, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Cocks, F. S. Lee, F. Thorne, W.
Cove, W. G. Leslie, J. R. Thurtle, E.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Logan, D. G. Tinker, J. J.
Daggar, G. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Tomlinson, G.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) McEntee, V. La T. Viant, S. P.
Day, H. McGhee, H. G. Walkden, A. G.
Dobbie, W. MacLaren, A. Walker, J.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Maclean, N. Watkins, F. C.
Ede, J. C. MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Marshall, F. Westwood, J.
Frankel, D. Maxton, J. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Gallacher, W. Montague, F. Wilkinson, Ellen
Gardner, B. W. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Muff, G. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Nathan, Colonel H. L. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Grenfell, D. R. Parker, J. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Groves, T. E. Parkinson, J. A.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Pearson, A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hardie, Agnes Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.