HC Deb 03 March 1938 vol 332 cc1309-39

4.0 p.m.

The Chairman

The first two Amendments, which stand in the name of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills)—in page 1, line 9, after "completed," insert as regards housing accommodation mentioned in paragraph (a) of Sub-section (4) of this Section and in page 1, line 10, after "thirty-nine," insert and as regards other housing accommodation after the second day of February, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight appear to be one, and in that event they are out of order. The first Amendment by itself would be in order.

Major Hills

Under Sub-section (2) of Clause 10 the Minister has power to treat a house completed before a certain date as if it were a house completed after the beginning of the year 1939 notwithstanding that it was completed before the beginning of that year. Some local authorities have pushed forward with their housing schemes and may have signed contracts. I ask that those houses should not be excluded from the subsidy. Would not that subject be within the terms of the Financial Resolution?

The Chairman

The point of the proposal is that it would bring in more houses to earn the subsidy and would thus increase the charge. That is why it is out of order. The next two Amendments, in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) and the hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. R. Gibson) are outside the scope of this Bill.

4.2 p.m.

Sir Percy Hurd

I beg to move, in page 2, line 16, to leave out "urban," and to insert "county."

The Committee will realise the purpose of this Amendment. In Sub-section (3) of the Clause provision is made for an additional Exchequer contribution of £1 per house to be payable annually for 40 years for accommodation provided by non-county borough local authorities or urban district councils, where the Ministry is satisfied that because of certain exceptional circumstances the provision of the new accommodation would impose an undue burden on the borough or district. I want to put to the Minister the consideration that it is not alone in the two categories mentioned in the Clause, but also in rural districts, that there are exceptional circumstances and where there is an undue burden. We claim that it is only right and fair that this extra £1 should be allotted to them as well as to the two other categories. The right hon. Gentleman knows well how impoverished many rural districts are. We cannot see why the rural districts should be put in any worse position than the urban districts and non-county boroughs. We ask the Minister to give us a fair level of treatment in these exceptional circumstances and under this undue burden. I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is taking this course because the urban districts are more insistent or the rural districts more complacent. I believe that my right hon. Friend does desire to give us fair treatment and I ask him to look at the matter in that way.

We warmly appreciate in the rural districts what the Minister has done and is doing to aid us in filling the housing needs of these areas. I can say that he on his part warmly appreciates what is being done by local authorities. Last year he came down to the Rural District Councils' annual conference at Scarborough, a remarkable gathering of 600 to 700 delegates, two out of three of them non-official, performing perfectly voluntary service to the cause of the rural areas. My right hon. Friend then paid a warm tribute to the way in which the rural councils have come forward and assisted in meeting the housing needs of their areas. We ask him to remember that tribute and to give the rural district councils a fair chance of continuing to earn his good word.

There is a new keenness in the local government of rural areas, a new desire to meet the new needs arising on every hand. I know there are hon. Members who will say: "But look how laggard some of the rural councils are." I have heard of county councils being laggard; I could point to one or two who are very laggard, and to urban district councils, too. The rural district councils are making a serious and successful effort to meet the new needs of the time in a spirit of keenness. We ask that that spirit should not be damped down. In the main rents in the rural districts are substantially lower than those in the urban districts and non-county boroughs. In his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister made a remark which I cannot understand. He was talking of the exceptional cases, and said: Lastly, in connection with the exceptional cases which we are endeavouring to meet as regards the non-agricultural population in the rural districts, I am advised that under the financial arangements set out in Clause 1 it will be possible to provide cottages (A.3.) at a rent of 5s., with only the statutory rate contribution by the local authorities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1938; col. 1737. Vol. 331.] I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the information which reaches me. If this extra contribution, because of exceptional circumstances and the undue burden, is not made, the houses will not be made available, except by placing a very undue strain on the local authorities. Why should the ordinary rural worker in a village be thrust on one side because he does not happen to be labelled as an agricultural labourer? We know how essential to the life of a village these rural workers are, and we feel that they should not be put in a worse position than the agricultural worker. If we turn to the report of the sub-committee of the Ministry which dealt with rural housing, on page 6 we find that the purpose that that sub-committee had in view was to meet a serious shortage and to cancel the unfortunate effect of that shortage on the well-being and contentment of the rural population. The subcommittee was thinking of the whole rural population. On page 8 it is noted that when industrial workers come into a village from the towns where they have earned town wages, they need not come under these exceptional terms; but those for whom I am speaking are not industrial workers of that sort; they are village workers and are subject to the wage conditions which apply to agricultural labourers. The weekly minimum wage of the agricultural worker is 32s. These village workers are in much the same wage position.

On page 10 of the report to which I have referred the sub-committee consider that there should be a new subsidy which could conveniently take the form of making available for houses to meet general agricultural needs whatever contribution may be payable. In these circumstances I ask whether my right hon. Friend cannot reconsider this point. The rural district councils feel very strongly upon it. Forty-four of their branches have passed resolutions pointing out that if the extra contribution is not made they will be seriously harassed in their housing work. We ask for equity of treatment as between them and other local authorities.

4.10 p.m.

The Minister of Health (Sir Kingsley Wood)

My hon. Friend has put his case with strength and clarity, and I want at once to say that so far as the authorities of which he has spoken are concerned I do recognise the importance of their work. I was very glad indeed to go down to Scarborough to their annual conference, and if they have a conference next year at a suitable place I shall do my best to be there also. I have no doubt that these authorities are doing good work. I desire to support them in it, and the object of my visit to Scarborough was to encourage them to still further efforts, which I know they are keen to make. In this matter there is no reflection in any way upon the work of these local authorities, but the distinction which is being made in the Bill was due to my anxiety specially to assist what I described on the Second Reading of the Bill as a limited number of small urban districts where exceptional circumstances prevail, and I have suggested a special supplementary provision for such areas.

The conditions which I indicated were two—a general level of working-class rents substantially below those applicable to the working class in urban areas generally, and the very limited financial resources of these districts. I stated that in my judgment the number of districts that would satisfy these conditions was not large, and I gave as an instance of the cases I had in mind some small boroughs and urban districts in rural Wales, where new houses could not be provided at suitable rents without an undue burden being placed on the district. My hon. Friend has now suggested that that particular provision, which was intended for those few limited cases, should be further extended. My answer is that already a generous measure of financial assistance is being given by this Bill towards houses for the agricultural population, which of course may be expected to form a substantial proportion of the population of rural districts. In the case of those houses the measure of assistance afforded to rural district councils, in relation to the contribution made to the rates by the district council, is in no less a proportion than ten to one, compared with a normal contribution of two to one. That is not only a considerable assistance to a great majority of the persons for whom my hon. Friend is speaking, but it should be observed that this amount and proportion of the Exchequer contribution will be paid into the housing revenue account of the rural district council, and in that respect therefore the housing revenue account in fact will be substantially greater than that of other districts.

Sir P. Hurd

The councils say that it will be impossible to do what the right hon. Gentleman wishes without this extra contribution.

Sir K. Wood

Experience tells us that there are differences of opinion on this matter, and I hope that they will be cleared up quickly when the Bill is passed and it is seen what the exact financial implications are. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has been through the same experience as myself, and will agree with me that most careful consideration and investigation is given to these figures. The figures which I have presented to the Committee have been carefully examined and are generally on the cautious side. The contention of the hon. Member cannot be maintained, having regard to the considerable proportion of Exchequer contribution which is paid into the housing revenue account of the rural districts. For the reasons that I have given, I regret that I am unable to accept the Amendment.

Sir P. Hurd

In spite of the circumstances mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, these houses are not being provided at rents which the village workers can pay.

Sir K. Wood

I think that, as a result of the exceptional financial contributions that will be made, the hon. Member will see a considerable improvement in that direction.

4.17 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

I am bound to say, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that he has hardly answered the case put up by the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd), who always is a stalwart defender of the rural district councils. The point that he made has not been answered by the right hon. Gentleman. The talk about the agricultural workers and housing revenue does not meet the point. The hon. Member's argument is that under the general arrangement provided in the Clause, county districts other than urban districts are excluded. County districts even in rural areas are not populated wholly by agricultural workers. There is no agricultural parish in this country where the agricultural workers are in a vast majority. Who are the people living in these areas? It is not merely the farm workers who are living there but the lorry driver, the garage hand, the roadman, the railway worker, the employés of the little village factory, the local brewery, the local laundry, the local cement works, the local tannery and, it may be, the local jam factory. These workers have urbanised the area. There are rural district councils whose name is a misnomer, because they are predominantly industrial.

The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to deal with particular categories, but to say that when he has made provision for the agricultural worker he has provided all the housing revenue for the rural population, is entirely false. The right hon. Gentleman might have made a better attempt to deal with the hon. Member's case. I do not see eye to eye with the hon. Member on most matters, but here is a case for putting the rural district council on precisely the same footing as the urban authorities in Clause 1. If it is a case of rents, what areas are there more impoverished from that point of view than the rural areas? Agricultural workers are the most ill-paid workers. The second condition which the right hon. Gentleman emphasises is that of the undue burden on the districts. What poorer local authorities are there than the rural district councils, where sometimes a penny rate brings in only a few pounds? Surely, if there ever was a case it is the case made by the hon. Member, that this special assistance should not be provided only for non-county boroughs and urban districts, but for the rural district councils also. If the hon. Member carries the matter to a Division he will find me in the Lobby with himself.

4.20 p.m.

Mr. Ridley

A serious anomaly will arise if Clause 1 is allowed to go through without the Amendment. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has said, it is too readily assumed that rural district councils are really rural councils and cater exclusively for rural populations. While that may be true in general, it is far from being true in particular, and I would join in the appeal to the Minister that he should reconsider the matter. I would ask him to consider the circumstances of my own constituency which is covered almost entirely by two rural district councils, having within them only one urban authority. I do not know what proportion of the population in those areas would be regarded as being an agricultural community, but it would be a very small proportion. As to about nine or 10 to one the population covered by those two councils is a mining population. That being the case, within the provisions of the Bill as it stands both those rural district councils will be denied the advantage of the extra subsidy provided in Clause 1. They would be entitled if they were classed as urban district councils or as non-county boroughs, but they are denied it because they are rural district councils although they cover a similar population than that covered normally by an urban council.

Within the area covered by one of these rural district councils there is an urban authority, with a population of 8,000. They, presumably, will get the advantage of the provisions of this Clause. In the area round about that which is covered by the rural district councils, there is a small town with a population of 11,000, governed by a parish council, but the housing authority is the rural district council. Under the provisions of the Clause they will be denied the advantage of the extended subsidy. There we have the position of one small urban authority getting the benefit of the Clause and a larger rural district authority, with extended responsibility, being denied the benefit. The extension of the subsidy from £5 to £6 10s. would be within the discretion of the Minister even if the Amendment were accepted. There would be no danger of extravagance in accepting the Amendment but there would be a certainty that it would avoid the gross anomaly which will otherwise be created.

4.24 p.m.

Mr. Turton

I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider this matter between now and the Report stage. The points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) merit full consideration. It cannot be said that all rural districts are of a similar character. The difference between a rural district council in the North Riding and a rural district council in the West Riding of Yorkshire is greater than the difference between a non-county borough and an urban district council in Sussex. Within the area of a rural district council it often happens that there are non-agricultural workers, such as miners or low-paid industrial employés, who five in bad houses, and where overcrowding conditions exist. These people will not be helped by the Clause as it stands.

I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman is doing a good deal in Clause 2 for the rural district councils whose areas are really agricultural, and I am deeply grateful to him for that, but we cannot overlook the fact that many rural district councils have to administer areas which are not strictly rural. In my own division there is a rural district council within whose area there are comparatively few agricultural labourers. Many other hon. Members must have in their areas rural district councils the majority of which have very few agricultural labourers in their areas. Those districts will not need to put up houses purely for the agricultural population, as defined by Clause 2, but they have their problems of overcrowding and slum clearance. I do not ask my right hon. Friend to take any hurried action but I do ask him to give an undertaking that between now and the Report stage he will consider the matter further, especially in view of an Amendment down to Clause 2, which if accepted may cause a further problem under Clause 1.

4.28 p.m.

Mr. R. Acland

I support what has been said from the point of view of the purely rural area. There are areas which are rural in fact as well as in name where there are large numbers of people of the economic standing of the agricultural labourer. I have particularly in mind the man who works on the county roads and whose pay is only 1s. or so higher than that of the agricultural labourer, and I am wondering how the rural councils are to house these men. I support the appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter.

4.29 p.m.

Mr. James Griffiths

I support the Amendment, and if it goes to a Division I shall be glad to vote for it. The Minister said that he was guided by the representations made to him and the experience he had gathered from various parts of the country, including Wales. The counties which the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) and I represent present one of the gravest housing problems in the whole of Wales, and unless the Clause can be altered, the Minister will find that he will not be able to deal with the housing problems in those districts. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) is now conducted an investigation into the tuberculosis problem in South Wales, where the housing conditions in what are described as rural but what are often urban and semi-urban districts are such as to make us feel ashamed of them. Most of these areas are semi-urban. In my own constituency there are Llanelly and Llandilo rural districts, where the bulk of the inhabitants are miners and tinplate workers, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said, the name "rural" is a misnomer, because they are really urban districts. Therefore, I urge that to deny to these rural authorities which are really urban the advantages which urban authorities will get is not good for housing and is not equitable as between one authority and another.

I gather that a small urban authority in Wales will derive the increased subsidy but that a rural authority will not. Take Llanelly. If the urban council can prove that its burden is excessive, it can qualify for the higher subsidy, and we shall then have this anomaly in Wales, of an urban authority qualifying for the subsidy whose real burden will be less than that of the rural authority. Possibly the highest rate burden carried by any authority in Wales is in Llanelly, where the rate is 29s. 10d. in the £ in one parish, but because it is a rural council in name, it will be denied this extra subsidy, and because of the rate burden there it will not be able to get the full advantage of this provision, I therefore press the Minister to reconsider this point, and if he does not, I hope we shall go into the Lobby against him.

4.32 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Agnew

Although the Minister has said that he cannot accept this Amendment, I think a strong case has been made out why he should give further consideration to it before the Report stage. Under a subsequent list of Amendments which, it may be, he is going to accept, you will then have a situation where the agricultural worker, in whatever category of administrative area he happens to live, will be specially provided for under this Bill, but unless this Amendment is accepted, or something equivalent to it, you will have one particular category of persons penalised, namely, that class of worker who is not engaged in agriculture but who yet lives in a rural district. I have in my constituency a number of very small industries which are situated in actual rural surroundings. There are tin mines, which are right out in the country, and unless these workers, many of whom are not highly paid, are included in the scope of this provision, they will fare very unfavourably as compared with the agricultural workers who may be living alongside of them in the same village. I therefore hope the Minister will be able to give further consideration to this question.

4.34 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

As hon. Members have asked me to reconsider this matter before the Report stage, I will, of course, do so. I will give it careful consideration, but I would like to say that it shows the difficulty of meeting situations of this kind. I received a recommendation from my Advisory Committee, which directed my attention to the necessity of improving housing accommodation for agricultural workers, and the great object of the Government's proposal was in that direction. If hon. Members will look at the recommendations of the committee, they will see that they were expressly directed to that end, especially in paragraph 20 of the report, where they recommend that the subsidy should be given for the general needs of the agricultural population. That, I have endeavoured to do. There was no recommendation in the committee's report with regard to these small and difficult districts to which reference has been made this afternoon. I have received representations from other Members of the House, particularly from Wales and elsewhere, and there was no suggestion made in this connection in the report of the Advisory Committee.

Sir P. Hurd

Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the rural worker is not a member of the agricultural population?

Sir K. Wood

I am endeavouring to follow out what the committee recommended, and I hope hon. Members will observe the fate of anybody who tries to do that. I hope also they will observe that I am put in the position, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has no doubt been put in before now, of receiving claims from all parts of the Committee for the special assistance proposed to be given to particular areas only to be extended in one direction and another. Directly it is proposed, in any particular Bill, to meet special claims, obviously you must expect claims for everybody else to be met. I cannot promise more than that before the Report stage. I will reconsider what has been said, but I do hope the Committee will have regard to the considerations that I have put before them.

Sir P. Hurd

After what the Minister has said, I will not press the Amendment. I will trust to him.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.38 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

I beg to move, in page 3, line 33, at the beginning, to insert, "Subsection (2) of Section 89."

This is a purely drafting Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 3, line 34, leave out "of the principal Act."

In line 35, leave out "that," and insert "the principal."—[Sir K. Wood.]

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

4.39 p.m.

Mr. Robert Gibson

The policy of the Government, as stated by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health during the Committee stage of the Money Resolution, on 17th February, differs in material respects from the provisions of the Bill. That policy, as stated by him, was "to encourage cottages where possible," and, further that where that was not possible, in respect to land which cost £5,000 or more per acre, for example, in the centre of London, Liverpool, or Manchester, then he said, the Government reluctantly agree that, in the conditions, flats are necessary "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1938; col 2187; Vol. 331.] That seemed to state the policy of the Government fairly clearly, that where it was possible to build cottages, cottages should be built, and flats were relegated into an inferior position and were only to be recommended by the Government where cottages were not possible. The facts, as I have endeavoured to discover them by questions addressed to the Minister of Health, do not square with this policy. On Monday of this week I had an answer to a question that desired to elicit how many dwellings built or allocated since 1918, carrying State contributions or subsidies under any of the Housing Acts, were on developed sites costing various sums, those sums corresponding to the sums set out in the Schedule. The lowest group was of developed sites costing £1,500 to £4,000 per acre, rising up to sites costing sums in excess of the extraordinary figure of £30,000 per acre.

The answer that I received to that question showed that the information was available only for flats as from 1st January, 1936. In the case of flats for the abatement of overcrowding, there were no fewer than 1,589 flats approved where the sites cost from £1,500 to £4,000 per acre; there were no flats approved where the cost of the site was from £4,001 to £5,000; there were 281 flats where the site cost was from £5,001 to £6,000; 200 where the cost was from £6,001 to £8,000; and 139 where the site cost was from £8,001 to £10,000. Then there was a break up to sites costing £16,000 per acre; and only 22 flats were approved where the site cost was from £16,001 to £18,000 per acre, and only four where the cost was from £26,001 to £28,000. Taking these figures, I find that 71 per cent. of the flats for overcrowding were on sites costing from £1,500 to £4,000. That is rather important, because it shows that these flats are built on relatively cheap land, and, according to the present Bill, houses built on that land, that is, land costing from £1,500 to £4,000, would only qualify for a subsidy of £5 10s. per dwelling and not for the £11 which a flat is to receive.

The policy stated by the Parliamentary Secretary, the policy of cottages in preference to flats, is sound, popular, and inexpensive, for these houses are infinitely to be preferred to flats. They promote health, they are suitable for children, the gardens invite the people out from the houses on good days, to read the newspapers, or for the husband to potter about and look after weeds and so on, and they promote individuality and independence. They encourage child-bearing as well. With regard to the question of popularity, there can be no doubt that a house with a garden is the Englishman's castle, it is the pride of the Englishman and the envy of the Continent. They are now copying this type of dwelling on the Continent. It is certainly the admiration of Scotsmen as they wander south to see these houses with gardens for working people in contradistinction to the great tenements in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Greenock.

Why promote flats instead of houses? Take the matter of expense. I am informed on excellent technical authority that houses as compared with flats are inexpensive. Where a flat costs £150 per room, a cottage, I am told, costs £100 per room. Since flats are built in blocks the strength of the walls has to be considerably increased and that increases proportionately the cost of the room, whereas in the case of cottages which are low the walls do not require to be so strong and substantial. I ask, why throw money away on flats which are costly and unpopular and at the best are only second best? The general policy in Subsection (1) is a subsidy of £5 10s. for a house or flat, but Sub-section (2) introduces an exception, and the exception is where the cost of the site is expensive, and expensiveness starts where the cost of the site exceeds £1,500 per acre. I am told that just outside the centre of practically all the big towns in England land can be got at between £1,500 and £4,000 per acre for the purpose of building dwelling-houses. I am also told that building flats in blocks does not produce more houses per acre if the houses are built in the shape of tenements. In both cases from 35 to 40 flats or terraced houses can be obtained per acre. There is nothing to be gained so far as numbers are concerned.

But consider the difference between the subsidy of contribution as between flats and cottages for a site costing £1,500 to £4,000 per acre. If a house is built the subsidy is only £5 10s.; if it is a flat the subsidy is double. I ask what local authority, having regard to its duty to the ratepayers, will choose to build cottages which the Minister recommends so warmly? Surely the Bill ought to show visible evidence of his recommendation, but I find that the Bill gives a material advantage to the one thing which the Minister says he does not want. The monetary inducement to local authorities is to build flats, which the Minister deprecates, instead of houses, which he knows and states are the better. I ask, what defence has the right hon. Gentleman to offer for not giving a subsidy to houses as well as cottages on land up to £4,000 per acre?

I should like to get some further information on a point I put in a question last Monday. The answer dealt with flats for the abatement of overcrowding. As regards flats for rehousing persons displaced by slum clearance the Minister said that there were about 25,000 on the 1st January, 1936, and that about 22,000 of these were on sites costing £3,000 or more per acre. That hardly met the question I put, because I wanted to know how many flats there were on sites between £1,500 and £4,000 and how many on higher rates. I therefore should like the Minister to tell the Committee how many of these 22,000 houses are on sites costing less than £4,000 per acre, because the £4,000, from the point of view of my argument, is a crucial figure. Up to £4,000 there is this difference in the subsidy between houses and flats which is so material.

4.51 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris

This is a matter upon which I feel very strongly. I speak from some practical knowledge of the subject as a member of the London housing authority for 28 years and as the representative of a working-class district with which I have been associated for over 30 years. I can assure hon. Members that the people themselves feel very much on this question. Many people have told me that they prefer their dirty old houses and back gardens where they can keep a rabbit or two and some poultry, to the most lovely flat with a modern bathroom. They may be quite wrong, but that is their point of view, and after all we are a democratic assembly and have to consider the people for whom we are spending the money. I was responsible, I think, for clearing the first slum area in London. We cleared away some of the worst houses in dark courts in London and put up a beautiful new estate of houses with bathrooms. I went down to the place with a good deal of pride, expecting to get praise, but instead my old ladies greeted me with a great deal of abuse and told me to leave their houses alone. We have, of course, to get new ideas into their minds, but at the same time we do not want to make London like continental cities, a place entirely of flat dwellers. When you go into a continental town you see nice broad streets and big buildings and are duly impressed, but when you go inside you do not find the same individuality and independence whch is a characteristic of our English people and our London working man, which I hope will be a characteristic for all time to come.

It is, of course, more expensive to gut up flat dwellings because the walls have to be thicker, floors of concrete, every thing of strong construction and substantial against fire. On the other hand, the cottage has thinner walls and is much less costly per room to build. The problem is that when you clear away a slum the majority of the people want to live on the same spot, and although you plan your area properly you cannot get all the people back on the site in cottages, and you have to put some in block dwellings. I have seen plans where a certain number of cottages were included in a scheme for rehousing the people on the site, and I think the right hon. Gentleman might introduce more elasticity into the subsidy and satisfy the views of many people who are really concerned about the results of this beneficent housing legislation. I had thought of putting an Amendment on the Order Paper, but thinking it would be out of order I did not do so. I should be glad if the Financial Resolution can be amended—

The Chairman

I had better tell the hon. Member what the Question before the Committee is. The Question is "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Sir P. Harris

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to meet my point, because I do not think it will involve any extra expenditure to make the alteration.

Sir K. Wood

What alteration?

Sir P. Harris

To allow cottages on expensive sites in addition to flats. I think it is possible to do this without any extra cost to the taxpayer.

4.55 p.m.

Mr. Macquisten

The hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. R. Gibson) when he favoured cottages as against flats, struck a very appropriate note. In my opinion flats are an abomination. They are all very well if we were all pigeons, and could fly away, but they were never meant for human beings. That great despot Hitler is trying to abolish flats because he says that flats make Communists while cottages make individuals—and, incidentally, make good Conservatives. A cottage gives a man some personality, and any sensible Briton would sooner live in a little wooden shack of his own with a quarter of an acre than in the finest flat or hotel. Why should we perpetuate flats? Is it because land is a monopoly? How can you break the land monopoly? I will tell you; it is perfectly simple. Restore freedom of transport.

The Chairman

We are discussing the Housing (Financial Provisions) Bill.

Mr. Macquisten

I am trying to show how to avoid flats and build cottages and I say free road transport. But this House is rotten with railway directors who are strangling road transport.

The Chairman

The hon. and learned Member could not have understood what I meant. What he is saying is quite irrelevant.

Mr. Macquisten

I am dealing with the method of getting rid of big tenements. If road transport was free there would be no block tenements or flats, the people and their work would be dispersed all over the countryside. Road transport disperses the population throughout the country, railways condense it. Congestion of population by railways is the great modern evil.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

I wish to raise a point which is of great interest to many local auhorities in the Midlands. In Clause 1 of the Bill it is provided that subsidies shall be paid only for houses that are constructed after the beginning of 1939. The effect of that will be that those local authorities which have been constructing houses in the years between the passing of the Housing Act, 1935, and the end of 1938, will not be able to obtain any part of the subsidy payable under this Measure. Many local authorities in the Midlands, under the provisions of the Housing Act, 1935, completed their overcrowding survey promptly and expeditiously and proceeded to apply to the Minister for financial assistance to enable them to construct alternative accommodation. In many cases, those local authorities have already completed a number of houses, and more will be completed during this year.

In my own constituency, in the borough of Rowley Regis, the local authority have completed, or are in course of completing, 465 houses, and in the case of 175 of those houses, they have received, following an application to the Minister, a subsidy of £5 a house for 20 years, as against £5 10s. a house for 40 years, which will be payable under this Bill in respect of a house that is completed next year or thereafter. In the urban district of Brierley Hills, more than 200 houses have been, or are in course of being, erected, which will not count for subsidy under the provisions of this Bill. The consequence is that houses built during 1937 and 1938 will receive a subsidy of £5 a house for 20 years, whereas an identical house built by the same local authority in the year 1939 or thereafter will receive a subsidy of £5 10s. a house for 40 years. I suggest to the Minister that the effect of this will be to penalise those local authorities which have been most active in attempting to deal with overcrowding in their localities.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he visited Scarborough some years ago and enjoyed himself, and that he had a very warm welcome. I assure him that he would have a very warm welcome if he were to come to the Midlands, especially if between now and the Report stage he found it possible to bring these earlier-constructed houses within the provisions of this Measure. I believe that the Minister has as one of his chief ambitions the building of more houses during his term of office than were built during the terms of office of any of his predecessors. That is a very laudable ambition, but I hope he will remember that if he penalises local authorities which have shown themselves to be so anxious to carry out the reforms contained in various Housing Acts, passed not only by him but by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), he will not be as likely to secure their cooperation as he would be if he were, on reflection, to appreciate the strength of the case brought forward by these local authorities and, in that spirit of compromise and understanding which he has already shown this evening in regard to earlier Amendments, to find it possible between now and the Report stage to meet the local authorities in this matter.

5.5 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I had intended to confine myself to asking two questions which I have been requested by several municipalities to put to the Minister of Health, but after hearing the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. Gibson), two Scottish K.C.'s, I should not be representing the people whom I have been sent here to represent if I did not express a different point of view from that of the two hon. Members. Before dealing with their speeches, however, I will put to the Minister those two specific questions. In the first place, if the right hon. Gentleman will look at Sub-section (3) of this Clause, he will see the phrase: If the Minister thinks fit so to determine. The point I wish to raise is not a personal one, but one of principle. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is good policy, in such a Bill, to leave it to the Minister to determine matters in various ways. Ought not the position to be that when the Bill becomes an Act, the local authorities will know definitely where they stand with regard to these matters and not leave them to be determined by an individual as he may think fit. Secondly, at Question Time today, I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, and he replied that the matter referred to would be dealt with in an Amendment which would be called on this Bill. That Amendment, which was in the name of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), was ruled out of order by you, Sir Dennis. Therefore, will the Minister make a statement now in answer to the resolutions which he has received from a number of municipalities in order to encourage the relatively progressive municipalities which have already been building houses, but which will not benefit from this Bill unless some alteration is made?

With regard to the speeches of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Greenock and the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire, I admit that when I was younger I was very much prejudiced against flats. I had the privilege of going to a country where some blocks of flats were being built, and where opinions were asked with regard to the development that was taking place. I was in a group of 50 men and women most of whom admired the block of flats; but I had the courage to be critical of it. The reply which was made to me was that it was all right for idealists to speak as I had spoken, but that the problem was so serious that the building of blocks of flats was the only way of dealing with it. In spite of that experience, for many years afterwards I remained prejudiced against flats; but since I have been a Member of the House, it has been brought home to me more than ever before how serious the problem is. The problem of working-class housing accommodation, particularly in districts such as that where I was born and that which I represent, is so urgent, and the poor people have waited so long for decent accommodation, that they are now prepared to consider anything, within reason, in order that they may be taken away from the deplorable conditions in which they are living.

I have visited flats in the London area. Along the Chelsea Embankment, there are some flats; the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen live there. Those flats are luxury flats. What is good enough for those people is good enough for our people. When hon. Members talk in the way in which they have done this afternoon, I would remind them that, while it is all very well for people who are relatively well-shod, well-clad and well-housed to talk in that way, the problem of working-class accommodation is so urgent, the conditions in which our people have lived for many years are so deplorable, that flats must be built. I have seen in the Manchester districts reasonable flats which are the admiration of all progressive-minded people and an example of what can be done. I have spoken to the women who live in those flats, and have seen how their eyes have lighted up as the result of their having being taken out of the deplorable conditions in which they lived and put into those flats. I suggest that the Minister should continue with his policy and that what has been done in the Manchester district and other places should now be done in other areas, where suitable, in order that our people may have the benefit of living in modem conditions.

5.13 p.m.

Mr. Marshall

I wish to make one or two observations on flats. I welcome the new Schedule of Financial Provisions regarding flats which has been inserted in the Bill. In the past local authorities have been under grave disabilities in the building of flats, and I think this new Schedule will help them considerably. The only thing about which I am sorry is that the Minister has not increased the allowance in cases where the cost per acre of the site as developed is from £1,500 to £4,000, because I think a little more generosity would have been very acceptable and would have opened up possibilities for the local authorities to embark on the building of flats of some magnitude. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. R. Gibson) that if people could choose whether they would live in flats or cottages, they would undoubtedly prefer to live in cottages, but that does not meet the problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) said that flats have to be built. Let me refer to the case of a great industrial town where a considerable area has been cleared as the result of the demolition of slums. The land is not owned by the corporation, and it is impossible for private enterprise to provide flats and to let them at an economic rent. I have in mind an instance where a private company built a block of flats. I do not know how many they built to the acre. They built a huge block of flats and provided certain good amenities such as lifts and central heating, but they could not let the flats for less than 19s. a week and as far as the working man is concerned that is an impossible proposition. He cannot afford it. Unless authorities get substantial subsidies from the Government the flat proposition is impossible, and that is why I welcome these additional financial provisions.

Then, the question of the density of flats is exceedingly important. I agree with every word that was said by my hon. and learned Friend with regard to the desire of people to live in their own houses and have their own gardens and develop their own individuality. But I do not know how he visualises the building of cottages on expensive sites at 8 or 12 to the acre. That is an impossible economic proposition—of that there is no doubt. I think local authorities to-day are building flats at about 36 to 50 flats to the acre. They are not being allowed to spread out horizontally, so they have to go upwards. If you limit would-be builders to 12 cottages to the acre on expensive sites, no working man can pay an economic rent for a home of that kind. My hon. and learned Friend is inevitably forced into this position, that he would have to build long continuous rows of cottages. In fact he has to fill up the site with cottages, sooner or later, and in that way shall repeat the faults of the past. Therefore we are brought inevitably to this conclusion, that we must build flats in the centres of our cities if we are to have housing accommodation there at all.

I think there is a case for housing accommodation in the centres of the cities. I know the problem of filling expensive sites. You cannot even get industrialists to occupy them and local authorities sooner or later will have to face the redevelopment of these sites, in many cases with housing accommodation. Personally, I see no alternative to the building of flats and I would like to see them built. I think the ideal way of building flats is for the corporation or authority to clear about five acres and make a unit of that space. They have then to provide the necessary amenities such as a common garden or courtyard, and lifts and, possibly even a laundry and that kind of thing. If they do that, they can make a good job of it. I am not saying that even then the flats would be equal to the ordinary private single cottages but they represent the best that can be done in the circumstances. From a common-sense point of view, the authorities must try to make the best of the centres of our cities where all this demolition has taken place and if the Minister had given them a little more generous assistance on those lines they could have made a good job of it.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Duncan

I support the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) on the question of flats. I am all in favour of flats where it is necessary to build on valuable land. Naturally, I agree, any one would rather live in a cottage if it could be economically built. I rise, however, to give the Committee a concrete instance of how this Clause will work in my own constituency. I think it is a tribute to my right hon. Friend that he has worked out the details of the Schedule in such a way that it will have an effect of giving more money to those who are building flats, enabling them to provide more amenities and to reduce rents. A voluntary housing association in my constituency had prepared plans to build 45 flats but the work was not sufficiently advanced to warrant a subsidy under the 1930 Act. The plans were worked out, however, and the figures show that the subsidy payable from the Exchequer under the 1930 Act would be £917 a year and the rate contribution £168 a year or a total of £1,085 in respect of the 45 flats. Now my borough council is being asked next Tuesday to accept, and the committee concerned has recommended the acceptance of the alteration in the subsidy arrangements which is to take effect under this Clause. The effect is that instead of a contribution from the Exchequer of £917, there will be a contribution of £1,085 and a rate contribution of £540, making a total of £1,625 a year, an increase, compared with the existing Act, of £535 a year which this voluntary housing association will be able to use for increased amenities and also for reduction of rents. I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend for making it possible to help North Kensington in that way.

5.22 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

I think it would be worth while to add a word on the question of flats.

The Chairman

I am not complaining of the hon. Member, but it has just occurred to me to warn the Committee that I have been rather lax and must now be careful not to allow this to develop into a wide general Debate upon the question of flats. I give that warning to the hon. Member.

Mr. Silverman

I had no intention of engaging in a wide general debate. On the contrary, I intended to point out that the wide general debate has no application to what the Committee is concerned with, namely the purely technical question of how some local authorities are to deal with their slum clearance and overcrowding problems. The point I desire to make is that in a city like Liverpool if you were to debar the authority—I know it is not suggested—from trying to deal with the problem by building flats, then the City of Liverpool might as well scrap its slum clearance and overcrowding programmes for ever. Here you have in the heart of a great city and on the most valuable land the worst slums in this country. I say that without the slightest qualification or modification of any kind. The Liverpool-housing problem is worse than any other with which I am acquainted. The Liverpool Corporation has for the last quarter of a century been making thousands of pounds a year profit, after paying rates and other charges such as repairs and insurance out of houses that its own medical officer has condemned as not fit for human habitation. The medical officer gave a certificate which would have entitled the Corporation, if those houses belonged to a private landlord to confiscate the property of that landlord with no compensation beyond the site value.

I do not say that some progress is not being made but the only way progress can be made in these circumstances is by building blocks of flats of the modern type. The hon. Baronet the Member for South-East Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) told the Committee of his experience. He said he had been responsible for building a magnificent block of buildings and where he expected gratitude he got only curses and criticism. It is nice sometimes to know the other side of the question. I remember going to inspect a newly-built block of flats and being shown round by a tenant who had not been there for more than a week or two. She had come from one or two rooms in a broken-down slum house. She showed me from room to room in the flat, wandering about in a dream, quite unable to realise that she was there at all and that this little habitation was actually hers and not a dream of fairyland. She was unable to appreciate it, being almost delirious with happiness. That is different from the experience of the hon. Baronet. In Liverpool on these sites it is necessary to deal with casual dock labourers, most of them unemployed for most of the time. You could not take them to the suburbs and endeavour to give them small houses, because they would have to travel eight or nine miles twice a day to the Employment Exchange in order to sign on. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Twice a day?"] Really the hon. Member must remember I am dealing with my native city. Certainly there would be Employment Exchanges nearer to the outskirts but I am dealing with casual dock labourers who have to sign on at the docks and have to be available there twice a day. If you were to compel them to go to the outskirts the whole of their unemployment benefit would go in fares.

The Chairman

The hon. Member resisted temptation in one direction, but I am afraid he is now yielding to it in another.

Mr. Silverman

That is only another instance of how impossible it would be to do anything else in relief of overcrowding. The people have to be rehoused on the existing sites, and if they are overcrowded in their present dwellings, it means that you must have more dwellings at the same place, and the only way you can do that is to go higher into the air.

Mr. Quibell

It suits the landlords.

Mr. Silverman

I know, but it suits the people. It does not suit them as well as the cottage and a quarter acre each of which an hon. Member spoke earlier. But you cannot give thousands of people in the centre of Liverpool each a cottage and a quarter acre when some of the land costs £3,000,000 an acre.

Hon. Members

£3,000,000 an acre?

The Chairman

Even if it is that price, I must remind the hon. Gentleman that we cannot go into a discussion upon it now.

Mr. Silverman

I will speak to hon. Members privately about it if they like, but I can assure them that my figures are correct. There is considerable force in the argument with regard to an extra subsidy where the land is of greater value, but a warning must go with it. If there is a quicker way than another to enhance the value of land, it is to let the owner know in advance that the more valuable it is the greater the subsidy that will come from the Ministry when the local authority wishes to buy it. The question of the value of land in the centre of cities will have to be tackled. It is no use regarding the housing problem as though houses are built in the air. They are built on the land, and we cannot for ever go on attempting to deal with the problems of overcrowding and slums without addressing our minds to the underlying and fundamental problem of the value of the land on which rehousing is to take place. Neither the method suggested in the Bill nor the Amendment deals with that matter.

5.32 p.m.

Mr. David Adams

I oppose this Clause on the ground that it contains no special provision for the Special Areas, which find themselves with a heavy housing problem. I raised the matter when the Measure was before the House on Second Reading, and I was requested to do so by a representative conference in county Durham. I have just received a telegram from the Secretary, in which he points out that the overcrowding problem in Durham is too severe to be met by the reduced subsidy and expresses the hope that it will be possible to move an Amendment—which, I am advised, it is not possible to do—to deal with the special circumstances of county Durham. I will set out the position of that county in order that, if it be possible subsequently, the Minister may make some provision to deal with this almost unique situation. The Minister has been made aware of the position by a strong deputation which attended the Ministry last week, when we were promised sympathetic consideration, of which, so far, there has been no evidence. County Durham is faced with 40,000 overcrowded families and 10,000 families who are living in slum areas. It is a county of small houses, and rates to the extent of 90.5 per cent. are borne by them and the small shopkeepers. Industrial hereditaments bear only 7.6 owing to the operation of the Derating Act, while transport, which in many areas is a substantial asset to local authorities, bears only 1.7 per cent.

The Chairman

I am afraid that the hon. Member is about to make a speech which I cannot admit to be in order on this Clause. I must ask him to consider carefully what is in the Clause and to realise that it does not deal with the Special Areas but with more general housing problems.

Mr. Adams

I am giving an illustration why I cannot support the Clause and am trying to point out that it is because of the lack of provision for Special Areas.

The Chairman

The hon. Member may have very excellent reasons for wishing to vote against the Clause, but it does not necessarily follow that the exposition of his views and ideas is in order in a Debate on it.

Mr. Adams

I do not know whether I shall be in order in stating the effect of the reduced subsidy upon County Durham. The loss to the county will amount to £270,000 a year for 40 years. That is a situation which the county is unable to face. We are advised that if houses are to be built under this Measure the rentals will have to be increased by 2s. to 2s. 6d. per week. The financial situation in the county is such that at the beginning of this financial year the rates will have to be increased by 1s. 8d. in the £. There is a situation in that Special Area which must have special treatment, and in the name of the conference which represented all the authorities in the administrative county, I say that houses will not be built under this Measure in County Durham unless special financial facilities are granted to meet the remarkable situation in which the county finds itself.

5.38 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

In regard to the issue of flats as against houses, I would prefer to rest upon the statement which I made on-Second Reading, which I think received general acceptance. It was this: The Government's policy is that we shall continue to encourage the building of cottages where practicable and the building of flats where it is essential to provide rehousing accommodation in such places as the centres of large towns, and where it is impracticable and uneconomical to build cottages. In practice, therefore, the question of whether flats or cottages should be built on a particular site is determined by housing needs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1938; col. 1736, Vol. 331] I share the view that generally a cottage is preferable, but there are a number of places, such as Liverpool and London, where obviously flats must be built. Apart from other considerations that have been mentioned, one that occurs to me is that, especially in places like Liverpool, people must live near their work, and that, whatever transport there is, they cannot, owing to the nature of their work, be away for long periods from the places where they work. The Government naturally desire to encourage the wish to build cottages, but there are places, especially in big cities, where flats have to be built as well. I would like to answer a question put to me by one or two members with regard to the financial provision so far as the completion of houses is concerned. I stated on the Second Reading: Under the Act of 1936 financial assistance at the rates now in operation is provided for houses completed by 31st March, 1938, and in order to secure continuity of work I announced some months ago that the proposals to be laid before Parliament would include provision for payment of the present rates of subsidy for houses completed by 31st December, 1938, which was an extension of nine months…. Broadly, the arrangement proposed in the Bill is that houses completed not later than 31st December, 1938, will rank for subsidies fixed by the Acts of 1930 and 1935, and those finished after that date will rank for the subsidies fixed by this Bill. But the House will appreciate that certain transitional provisions are needed because of the change-over from one subsidy to another, and power is taken in Clause 10 to pay the subsidies for houses built in respect of the abatement of overcrowding or the general needs of the agricultural population included in contracts entered into after the introduction of the Bill, notwithstanding that the houses are finished before 31st December, 1938."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1938; cols. 1730–1, Vol. 331.] That is the provision in the Bill, and since then the matter has again been put to me in the case of a number—not a very large number—of authorities who have already proceeded with their overcrowding programme, and naturally they would like to have the extra subsidy which is being given in this Bill. I am afraid, however, that I cannot go beyond the provisions in the Clause. I am not decrying in any way the work that these authorities have done because they are proceeding so well with their overcrowding programmes. But I must remind hon. Members that in the case of nearly all those authorities they have a light slum clearance programme. They have not had to face the very heavy programme which many local authorities have had to face. It is because of their very heavy slum programme that many local authorities have had to concentrate on work under that programme. They have not been able on that account to proceed with their overcrowding programmes.

Mr. A. Henderson

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that an overcrowding programme involving the construction of 465 houses in a borough with a population of less than 50,000 is a light programme?

Sir K. Wood

I do not say that that is not the case, but I must rest my reply on this main principle. It is a material matter when one has to have regard to financial considerations and the claims of other local authorities. The provision in the Bill already represents a concession to local authorities by allowing an earlier date to operate for that one of the two subsidies where amalgamation represents an increase, because of the Exchequer contribution. The Amendment would admit for the new subsidy houses on which the local authorities commenced work on the basis of the existing Act long before they had any knowledge of a prospective increase in subsidies, and I think that I have gone as far as I can be reasonably expected to go in providing for the higher rate of subsidy to apply to houses for which contracts were signed after 2nd February.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

If that argument is sound, is it not equally sound that the Minister, on the other hand, is doing a wrong thing in cutting the slum clearance grants to local authorities which have been active?

Sir K. Wood

I think I have endeavoured to hold the balance pretty fairly in this matter. As regards the point of view which the hon. Member put, I think that I have met that in considerable measure by saying that the new subsidy shall apply to houses in respect of overcrowding which were included in contracts signed after the introduction of the Bill, and I regret that I cannot go further. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) drew attention to the words, If the Minister so determines. Those are words which are inserted solely with the object of requiring the Minister to see that the conditions in the Bill have been, in fact fulfilled, and I would give him and all the local authorities concerned the undertaking that I shall, without hesitation, put the Clause into operation when the conditions specified have not been complied with. That is a usual form of protection which is put in, and there is no intention on my part, nor would there be, I am sure, on the part of anyone who occupied my office, of interfering on any other grounds.

As to the conditions in the area which the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) has so much at heart, I think he will find, so far as the overcrowding programme in that area is concerned, that considerable extra financial assistance will be forthcoming, and that in respect of the two programmes which the local authorities contemplate the financial provisions will enable that very important part of the country to proceed with its housing operations. I would remind him that the area will get a considerable measure of assistance from the North Eastern Housing Association, to which many local authorities are looking. I hope that with these two measures of assistance there will be an improvement of housing conditions in the hon. Member's constituency.

Mr. David Adams

In short, nothing extra is to be done there.

Sir K. Wood

I do not like to enter into controversy with the hon. Member, who is always so fair, but there is an association there which is prepared to build houses on better terms, I think, than in any other part of the country and without the local authority having to make any demands upon the rates, and as I have so often urged upon him and his friends, both in the House and in the areas concerned, they would do well to turn for assistance to that association.

5.49 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman has not convinced my hon. Friend that the North Eastern Housing Association will furnish any answer to the problem. What is perfectly clear is that a large number of local authorities, not merely those on the north-east coast, are very much perturbed at the financial prospects which will confront them when this Bill is on the Statute Book. I do not want to enter into an elaborate statement about flats in contrast with houses. The right hon. Gentleman has made provision for both. Whether we like it or not we have to face the fact that if people in the large congested areas must, or prefer to, live near to their work then the provisions made for housing them must run on vertical lines rather than be spread out horizontally. If they prefer to give some of their leisure to travelling, and are prepared to face the transport charges, which I understood the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) wished to see abolished, they will spread out. It is clear, however, that we cannot now find any simple solution of the problem either on the lines of cottages or of flats, and it is the duty of local authorities to provide the type of housing accommodation which, on a balance of advantages, the people prefer. Some would prefer flats and others cottages.

I should like to return to the question of when the present subsidy for houses comes to an end. If one kind of subsidy is to be dropped in favour of another obviously there must be some fixed date, but in the present situation, with many local authorities in arrears with the programmes to which they are committed, a fair amount of time ought to be allowed them to complete those programmes, which have been approved by the right hon. Gentleman, before the reduced subsidy begins to operate. Seeing that he is cutting the subsidy so very substantially it would be only fair to those local authorities who have been pressing ahead with housing and have got commitments to allow them a longer time than he is prepared to give.

My last point concerns a subject which was raised on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd). At the end of that discussion the right hon. Gentleman rose with a seraphic smile, but it changed into a look of absolute bewilderment, and one felt there was a touch of emotion about him when he said that he wanted to convince the Committee that he really would look into this problem. I submit that there we have a very serious problem, and I warn the right hon. Gentleman that if he does not look into it a little more favourably his seraphic smile will not save him on Report stage. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled, if he chooses, as I did myself, to make provision for people in special categories, but he is not entitled to do this wangle on the housing revenue account by regarding certain of our rural authorities as operating in purely agricultural areas. That is wrong, and hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have expressed that view, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise the justice of the case of putting all authorities on the same footing as regards the additional grant in Sub-section (2). The difficulty will not be met by the provision that he is making, and he is doing grave injustice to those big authorities which suffer from the sort of limitations with which he has tried to deal.