HC Deb 29 March 1938 vol 333 cc1911-35
Mr. Elliot

I beg to move, in page 16, line 18, after "persons," to insert "of the working classes."

This and the following Amendment have been put down to meet the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) and others during the Committee stage of the Bill, that it might be possible for assistance to be given to persons who could perfectly well do without it, such as well-to-do farmers and others. I undertook to see whether I could meet that point, and I think that the Amendment meets it.

7.34 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government upon defining, at long last, "agricultural population" for the purposes of this Bill in such a way as to preclude from receiving subsidies under the Bill classes who, I am sure, no section of the House would intend to benefit. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that, on Second Reading, we begged of him to do this and pointed out that, as the Bill stood, a local authority could give subsidies to anybody who had not the remotest possible connection with agriculture, and that the working classes could be kept out. We tried to get him to widen the Measure to bring in rural workers, but he was precluded from doing that by the Title of the Bill. On Second Reading we tried to get him to exclude the wealthier members of the agricultural community, who ought not to receive public assistance in the way of housing subsidies at all. He declined to accede to the request, and on the Committee stage he could not see his way to do so. I am afraid that he persuaded the Committee not to agree to my Amendment, but I am glad that at long last he and the Government have decided on the steps they have now taken. I am sure that it will make the Bill a great deal more workable and that it will obviate a very great amount of friction and trouble in the villages of Scotland. Therefore, on behalf of my hon. Friends, I very gladly accept the proposal.

7.36 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

The Secretary of State for Scotland in Committee upstairs, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) says, used all his eloquence in order to persuade the Committee not to support the Amendment put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, but despite the efforts of the Secretary of State three of us remained impervious to his pleading and voted for the Amendment. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Kennedy) and myself held the fort for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling, who was not there. We are very pleased to know from the Secretary of State that we took the right attitude at that time, and that, instead of alhering to his own point of view, he has been won round to the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling and has accepted the Amendment.

7.37 p.m.

Mr. Mathers

The words which have fallen from the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) have caused me to rise to inquire of the Secretary of State whether the statement he made in Committee, that the words in Clause 1, at the top of page 2, referring to Part III of the Act of 1925, did not actually apply, or whether, alternatively, these words which he now seeks to put into the Bill are really necessary. He explained in Committee that these words were not actually necessary, because the position was governed and safeguarded by that part of the Clause to which I have made reference. I would like to know for my own satisfaction, as, I believe, would other hon. Members who accepted the very definite statement of the Secretary of State in Committee, what actually is the position, and whether these words are put in as an act of grace, or whether they are actually necessary from the legal point of view?

7.38 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

I can speak again only by leave of the House.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman says that he can speak only by leave of the House, but, being in charge of a Bill reported from a Standing Committee, he can speak more than once on the Report stage without asking for leave, and that also applies to the hon. Member who moves the Amendment.

Mr. Elliot

I apologise for my temporary lapse of memory with regard to the Rules of the House. As far as I know, the whole Bill is governed by Part III of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925, which gives power to provide houses for the working classes only. It was my contention upstairs, and it is still my contention, that it is not absolutely necessary to put these words into the Bill, and, therefore, I am afraid that I cannot accept all the praises which have been heaped upon me by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). At any rate we have brought the Bill into harmony with the views of all sides of the House, and I have no objection to putting in these words for defining the objects of the Bill and showing the legal effect of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendment made.

Mr. Elliot

I beg to move, in page 16, line 26, to leave out "as aforesaid."

This is a drafting Amendment

Amendment agreed to.

7.41 p.m.

Mr. Wedderburn

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

There have been very few substantial alterations in this Bill in Committee, and it will not be necessary for me to say more than a very few words in moving the Third Reading. On the Second Reading there was some criticism of Part I of the Bill on the ground that it was confined to rural areas and that the town councils were precluded from receiving the higher rate of subsidy in respect of agricultural workers within their boundaries. I am glad to say that in Committee it was possible to remove that differentiation, and the town councils who have members of the agricultural population within their areas will now be able to obtain the special subsidy to re-house them. In the case of large burghs, that is, burghs with a population of more than 20,000 persons, the definition of "agricultural population" is restricted to persons actually engaged in agriculture. It was agreed in Committee that that was a reasonable restriction, since in a large burgh the retired worker or the worker in an independent industry can be provided for under the local authority's general housing operations.

Both on the Second Reading and in Committee hon. Gentlemen opposite resisted the proposal to give grants to private owners for the replacement of unsatisfactory houses. But everybody agreed, I think, that in some districts in Scotland, and in certain geographical circumstances, it is necessary for farm servants to live on the farm, and I am sure that nobody would wish to do anything which would prevent them from getting better housing conditions. The Government accepted the view of the Housing Advisory Committee that wherever practicable farm servants should be housed off the farm, and the House will remember that in Clause 4 it is directed that local authorities shall not give a grant for replacement unless accommodation suitable to the requirements of the worker and his employment is not available in the locality and it is not practicable for the local authority to provide such accommodation under a general housing scheme. The main point of difference in the Committee was that hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that, in particular cases, local authorities should satisfy the Department that they could not provide the houses themselves. I agree that it is desirable that the Central Department should have general control over the administration of local authorities, but I am satisfied that Clause 4 is sufficient to give this control.

I think that if we were to have applications for grants for the replacement of tied houses brought before the Department, it would be bad administration and would lead to delay in getting agreement between the Central Department and the local authorities on the facts and merits of each case. It may be worth recording that on this Clause, as it originally stood, the owner receiving assistance to erect a new house might omit the provision of a bath if he could satisfy the Department that the provision of a bath was not reasonably practicable. The Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) asked me a question about it on Second Reading. In order to meet the views of many hon. Members, the Clause was amended to require the provision of a bath in every case.

I think there is only one other matter to which I need refer. My right hon. Friend and the Minister of Health propose this week to introduce a Bill extending the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts for a further period and making certain changes to increase the usefulness of their provisions, and I need hardly remind the House of the value of these Acts in dealing with rural housing problems in Scotland. Under their provisions works of improvement have already been completed in over 25,000 cottages, and works are on the way in another 5,000, and in addition to the usual circulars which will be sent to the local authorities, we are considering the issue of pamphlets explaining in simple, non-technical language, what can be done and what assistance can be obtained under both these Acts towards the improvement of rural housing.

7.47 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

I will not detain the House for more than a few moments, because we are all tired of the long discussions upon this Measure. I certainly am. I am sure that we have to some extent improved the Bill in its passage through this House and in the Standing Committee, but there is one essential principle of the Bill to which my hon. Friends and I take serious objection, and that is the provision of a subsidy to a private owner for the building of a new tied house to replace an old tied house. Here is a situation in which sums of money amounting to an annual subsidy of from £10 10s. to £15 may be given, over a period of 40 years, to a private individual to replace an existing derelict cottage or house upon his property. He may let that house on a contract of service to an employé on his farm, or the farmer may do it for him, and there is, as I understand it, an 87½ per cent. further subsidy in the way of derating on the value of that new building put upon the farm. If, in course of time, the landlord should dispose of his property, he will have received a considerable augmentation to its value, and he may dispose of it as he chooses.

What is happening here is this, that the proprietor or the farmer, housing his worker as a condition of service, may discharge that workman at the end of the hiring term, which would be in Scotland a six-monthly period. The farm worker goes, and there is no protection for him under the Rent Restrictions Acts or anything else. The proprietor has had added to his property a very considerable sum of money, and we, for our part, say that in the first place, so far as possible, there should be no tied houses whatever. We were prepared to admit that in exceptional cases, the cases of stockmen and so on, such houses might be necessary, but we said that where they were necessary and a private individual wanted to put them up, it ought to be at his own expense.

Mr. McKie

Is the right hon. Gentleman not confusing a tenant farmer with a landlord? If the occupier is the owner of the land, his argument holds good, but in many cases he is not.

Mr. Johnston

I agree. There are innumerable cases where the landowner is a separate person from the farmer, and there are innumerable cases where the farmer is also the landowner. What I was thinking of for the moment was the case where the landowner is a separate person from the farmer. The landowner, therefore, has his property improved if he gets a new building upon it at the public expense. If we are going to take a 40 years' subsidy at £15 per annum, if that is to be the subsidy to a private owner, there will be precious little left for anybody else, particularly if the owner is in some contractual way friendly with the local builder and so on and gets his prices fictitiously run up, as has been done in innumerable cases under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act.

Mr. Elliot

Is the right hon. Gentleman not confusing this a little with the local authorities' subsidy? The fact is that there is a lump-sum payment, which cannot come to more than £200. In Scotland, at any rate, the assistance to private individuals is given by a lump-sum subsidy.

Mr. Johnston

Has the right hon. Gentleman not taken power to give an annual sum?

Mr. Elliot


Mr. Johnston

Then the right hon. Gentleman is going to give a lump sum down in every case to a private individual in Scotland. I am talking of building a new house in place of an existing bad building, and I take it that the right hon. Gentleman will insist that in every case the private landlord is only to get a lump sum down, to a maximum of, say, £200. Then the landlord, to the extent of that £200, will have had his property added to in value, and in that case he will be the owner of the property, and he will charge the farmer something for it. [Interruption.] If a landlord's property is augmented in value and a new farmer comes along at the end of the existing lease, the landlord will add to the rent if he can get it from the new tenant. Of course he will. That has been the history of landlordism in Scotland for hundreds of years. The property is being added to in value. In addition to that, if my information is correct, and if I have read the Bill properly, 87½ per cent. of the local rates are going to be relieved on that property. Who bears that relief? The shopkeepers, the workers, and the other people who are getting no benefit under this Bill.

I would remind the Under-Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie), who seems to be supporting him, that 20 years ago a Royal Commission sat and examined this problem. There were men like Dr. Leslie Mackenzie and Sir William Younger on that Com- mission, who signed its report in 1917, and this is what they said: Local authorities should build such houses and let them to tenants. In any event we cannot believe that public sentiment will permit of public funds being used to erect houses whose occupation shall be in the absolute control of employers. That was 20 years ago, and they added: The public interest is served if proper housing for the workers is provided, but it cannot be expected to expend public funds in safeguarding an employer against a risk that every other employer must take. It is also only reasonable that the local authority should arrange the tenure of houses to suit the conditions of employment. I repeat that the tied house, the condition-of-service house, means this, that the worker does not have the full rights of citizenship, that he never has had them, and that he never can have them. I say that this is bad for the children. I have seen evidence showing that in the case of farmers who move from one district to another every so often, their children at the local schools cannot receive a proper education, because they are always on the move. It is bad for education and bad for everybody concerned. I conclude that we ought not, at this time of day, to be providing public money for private owners of property, that if a proprietor finds that a special condition of service on his farm requires a tied house, he ought to provide it, but that, so far as the public is concerned, we are willing to provide houses in the village with conditions of tenure the same as for every other class of worker, and that we should free the agricultural population from this last badge of servitude, the tied house.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Quibell

This Debate has disclosed a state of affairs that some of us on these benches find very surprising indeed, and while the Minister and others in all parts of the House have welcomed the Bill as necessary, particularly having regard to the conditions that obtain in the rural parts of Scotland, I am wondering what finally will be the result of it. If the housing programmes of the local authorities in Scotland already are unable to be carried out to the extent that the right hon. Gentleman would have liked, on account of the shortage of labour, what it will be like when you start to rebuild under this Act in the rural villages of Scotland, I cannot understand. It seems to me that, so far as the efficient working of this Bill is concerned, it depends very largely on our being able to mobilise more labour. I do not deny—in fact, I think it is long since due to the country villages—that houses should be built on the countryside, and when it is disclosed, as it has been in this Debate to-day, that some 29 per cent. of the cottages in the rural areas are entirely devoid of any sanitary accommodation whatever, all that I can say is that my Scottish friends must pardon me for interfering and reminding them that the local authorities in England have evidently done their business very much better than have the local authorities in Scotland, and that this condition of affairs is a very serious reflection on both the central Government and the local authorities in Scotland.

I shall be pleased if the Minister shows us what steps, if any, can be taken to remove the grievances which undoubtedly exist in Scotland. One of the weaknesses of this Measure is that it perpetuates the tied cottage system. We have tied cottages in England and most of us who have had experience of the system consider it one of the worst abominations in the life of the countryside. I cannot regard the inclusion of a Clause providing for a continuance of the tied cottage as otherwise than a danger to the liberty of the individual. The man who is tied to his cottage is, in nine cases out of 10, tied to his employer, and while there are enlightened employers who do not use the system in the way in which it was formerly used, I know of other cases in which it has been used in an abominable manner by farmers in certain parts of our country. The agricultural labourers, particularly those in organisations, are very much against it.

In regard to the hypothetical sums which have been mentioned as payments by way of assistance we are told that they may be £160, or £180 or £200 or indeed one-half the cost of the house—I suppose whichever is the most. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate they are on a graduated scale up to £200. The amount will vary in different districts. I cannot say anything about conditions of building in Scotland. I fancy that they vary from district to district but I cannot see why they should vary to the extent indicated by the Bill. There has been considerable discussion regarding prices of materials and I very largely share the view expressed by the Minister that the bigger the subsidy, the higher the prices of building materials seem to go. That has been my experience in connection with this trade and Scotland seems to have provided a particularly bad example of this tendency. The Ministry and the Government would do well to look into some of these increases which cannot, I think, be justified.

Let me give one practical example. In a certain town a fair-sized contract has been let for local bricks at the rate of 50s. per thousand. The gentleman who received that contract actually made a contract for bricks of superior quality, which had to be conveyed 100 miles, at 6s. 6d. per thousand less than the price in that town. He brought them from Peterborough—Fletton bricks—at 6s. 6d. per thousand less. While, as regards manufacturing costs, there may be some slight advantage in the fact that there is a different quality of clay at Fletton which requires less coal in the burning, it does not account for the tremendous difference in price. Then, the price of light castings in certain parts of the country is an abomination. I think if these things were properly examined by a committee, certain very interesting facts and figures might be produced. At one time bricks could be bought at 22s. 6d. per thousand or 30s. per thousand delivered to the job, they have now risen to three times that price. Labour only costs twice as much and clay the raw material has not increased at all.

One wonders whether that committee which inquired into building material prices has not been rather easily deceived, and whether the Government are not taken in by specious excuses for these increases. One can go through all the things which are used in the building trade and it will be found that the increases in these prices are reflected not only in the cost of housing but in the number of houses that the Ministry and the local authorities can afford to build. The fact has been disclosed that the increase in Scotland is disproportionate to the increase in other parts of the country. I hope the Minister will look into some of these cases of increased prices to see whether they are justified or not.

I welcome the Bill as making some provision for the agricultural workers. My only regret is that the agricultural labourer should always be regarded as being in a special category requiring [...] provision to be made for him. We [...] his poverty line. He is [...] below the ordinary level all the [...] We have always to provide him [...] special houses and special schemes [...] kind. Everything has to be [...] in his case—which simply means [...] he is being stabilised as the bottom [...] We have to pass special legislation [...] order that his conditions of life shall be stabilised at the lowest level as far as housing and nutrition are concerned. My view is that the one thing we ought to do for the agricultural labourer is to raise him to the level of the rest of the community. If we did that he would pay his own rent and would not want special housing legislation or subsidies either for himself or for his industry. What he wants is equality with the rest of the working people, and, until he gets it, we shall never rest content in the countryside.

8.9 p.m.

Sir A. Sinclair

I agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), with the Caithness Committee on the wages conditions of farm servants and with the advisory committee on rural housing in Scotland, that the tied house is an evil, but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling pointed out in his Second Reading speech, for people who are employed in certain agricultural occupations under the conditions in which agriculture is carried on in Scotland, tied houses are necessary. In Scotland, farms are more scattered than they are in England and there are even greater distances between the villages and for certain people in certain occupations such as that of looking after cattle it is necessary that they should be housed on the farm. The Under-Secretary in the Second Reading Debate, assured the House that every effort would be made, in the spirit of the reports of the departmental committees which I have quoted, to deal with this question. I hope that every effort will be made to cut down the tied house system to the lowest possible limit and that the local authorities will be encouraged to build as many houses as possible for farm servants, in order that as many as possible of those farm servants shall be free from the tied house system.

Apart from that, my principal objections are not to what is in the Measure but to what has been left out of it and it would be out of order to discuss those objections on the Third Reading. There is, however, one point in the Bill to which I raised objection on the Second Reading. I refer to the position of the landholder under this Measure. The Under-Secretary did not satisfy me about it in his Second Reading speech. Anybody who knows the position of the landholder in relation to compensation will understand my modest reluctance to undertake the task of amending the Bill in Committee in this respect, because extremely complicated legal considerations are involved. I regret that the Government have not seen their way to undertake that task and even now, I ask them to consider whether something cannot be done to meet the point in another place. Briefly, the position is this, that under the Bill there is no inducement to the landholder to scrap his old house and build a new one. The amount of the new grant which he will receive will probably not be more than one-third of the cost of a new house. It may be said that the old house will be a thoroughly bad house and that the amount of compensation which he would lose in respect of it would be very small, but such is not the case. The old house will, at any rate have a "stone and lime" value, and in many cases for houses which certainly would not be up to the standard laid down in the 1935 Act compensation as high as £150 is being given by the land court to landholders.

There is no inducement in this Measure therefore for the landholder to scrap his old house and lose his claim for compensation amounting to anything up to £150 and to embark upon the building of a new house with a subsidy of probably only £150 or at the most £200 under this Bill. The subsidy which he would receive would go back to the local authority and the rest of the money which the house would have cost, he would have had to borrow from the Department of Agriculture. He would have to repay that loan and would be left without any claim for compensation. Therefore the tendency of landholders in Scotland, faced with this Measure, will be to hang on to the old houses as long as possible and to refuse to make use of this Bill. It would be otherwise if there were arrangements by which the amount of the loan which the landholder would receive from the Department for the building of the house, could be scaled down in proportion to the value of the house to the incoming tenant, as ascertained by the land court. If that guarantee and that safeguard of the position of the landholder could be introduced, it would make this a much more useful Measure.

The other point about the Bill which I, in common with other hon. Members, regret is that it confines its benefits to the agricultural population and leaves out of its scope the fishermen and others who dwell in the country district. That however, only lends additional importance to what the Under-Secretary said about the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. I hope there will not be much delay in the introduction of that Measure. It is equally vital and fundamental if the housing problem in the country districts of Scotland is to be solved that there should be adequate provision for drainage and water supply. I agree with those who have spoken as to this Measure being a step in the right direction. The Government have certainly acted with promptitude. They only received the report last summer and the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary have shown their personal appreciation of the importance of the problem in the rural districts of Scotland. I hope that the Bill will exceed the expectations that I have formed of its success, and that it will fully come up to those which the Government entertain.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. McKie

I am very glad to have the opportunity of following my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) on this occasion. Earlier in the evening I found myself acting in collaboration with the junior Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot). Therefore, this evening I have been directly concerned with the last two vestiges of independent Liberalism in Scotland. I hope there is nothing wrong in that. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on his speech and on the hope he held out to us, in moving the Third Reading, that at a very early date the Secretary of State will submit proposals for certain departures in the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, 1930, which, may I say, was an [...] Measure, although passed by a [...] Government.

I hope my hon. Friend the [...] Secretary was thinking of the fears [...] I expressed on the Second Reading [...] garding certain people who would [...] seriously affected by the proposals in to Bill, and which fears may now in largemeasure be removed. The right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) went back over the old arguments about the evils of the tied house. He waxed very eloquent on the subject, and I had the temerity to interrupt him because I thought he was in some confusion of mind as to those who hold the responsibility for the people who are living in tied houses. He seemed to me to be visiting the iniquities of the tenant farmers upon the heads of the unfortunate landlords. He said, and it is true, that there are a great many owner-occupiers. The soil of Scotland—I am speaking from memory—is, I think, apportioned between the owner-occupiers and the landlords in something like the ratio of 40 and 60 per cent. From that statement of fact it will be realised that there are very many people who will be affected by the passage of this Measure who have no direct responsibility for the workers upon the soil.

On the Second Reading I expressed a fear regarding the financial position of some landlords, and I hope my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling will agree with me on that point. He said that any advances that might be made to the landlord under this Act would be in the nature of a dole, and that the landlord would be able to reap some immediate benefit. Surely, he must remember that there are many leases of 7, 14, and in some cases 15 years, running. There may be some cases of the old 19-year leases. I think I shall have the approval of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown) on that point.

Mr. J. Brown

On that point.

Mr. McKie

There may be some cases where the old 19-year leases hold good. Suppose a new lease has just been negotiated before this Measure becomes law, and the Owner has to undertake to replace a cottage by building or by reconditioning. In that case he may have to wait until the full term of the lease before he can get any direct benefit by way of increase in rent. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that the landlords are doing very well by way of rent at the present time? He must know that such a suggestion is preposterous. The local authorities in Scotland have been diligent and want to see proper housing accommodation provided either by building, re-conditioning or rebuilding, whether in the towns or in the country districts.

Mr. Quibell

Hear, hear.

Mr. McKie

I am glad to have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), whose intervention in a Scottish debate has rejoiced us very much. It is an undisputed fact that many of those unfortunate persons—I am not ashamed to use the word "unfortunate"—who own the land of Scotland find themselves in very deplorable financial circumstances. The right hon. Member for South Ayrshire corroborated that statement on Second Reading. Under legislation since the end of the War landowners have found themselves faced with increasing difficulty through the duties laid upon them of undertaking the reconstruction and reconditioning of many houses to which nothing had been done for years, and which were consequently in a condition unfit for human habitation. I pointed out on Second Reading that this class of person would be dealt a severe blow by being called upon to provide new houses such as are envisaged in this Bill. That is why I pleaded with the Under-Secretary to see whether the suggestion of the Advisory Committee, upon whose report this Bill is founded, could not be acted upon, namely, to increase the subsidy to those unfortunate persons who really are not in a position to provide accommodation for those who dwell upon the land. Hon. Members have spoken of the un-desirability of the tied house in itself, and the right hon. Member for Sutherland and Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) said that it was an inevitable evil. So it is. I agree with him. I hope he will agree with me that there are many agricultural workers in Scotland who would rather regret if they were to be dumped in what may be regarded as new colonies, erected on the lines which the right hon. Member for West Stirling would like to see adopted. I hope hon. Members above the Gangway will not take their opposition to the Measure into the Division Lobby. I am not sure that a great deal of building will be undertaken under these proposals; indeed, the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland suggested that there would not be very much building. I think local authorities and the bigger landowners in Scotland will prefer to proceed by way of reconditioning. If we are to have a Division, I shall go into the Lobby in support of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

8.27 p.m.

Mr. J. Brown

I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "upon this day six months."

I am not in love with the Amendment for the rejection because there are many things in the Bill which we want to see carried out, but the question of the tied house is one which, as a miner, I resent deeply. I am opposed to the principle of the tied house, whether it is in a mining village or on a farm. We recognise that in some of the northern parts of Scotland it is almost impossible to do what we would like to do with regard to the tied house. We agree that there are cases where it would be almost impossible to do otherwise than have the worker near to his scene of operations. The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) talks about colonies.

Mr. McKie

I used that expression for want of a better word. I meant just one or two cottages, which are not even villages.

Mr. Brown

In any case we are against the tied house system, and the only way in which we can show our resentment is by moving the rejection of a Bill which to some degree perpetuates the system. It has always been a wonder to me why the basic industry of this country, the one industry which we cannot do without, should be the worst paid industry in the country and should have so little respect paid to it. If we treated the farm workers as ordinary working men in ordinary trades and occupations we should not require any of the legislation we are passing now. This is the one industry which is indispensable in this or any other country, and it is the worst paid. We want the people on the land to be treated as ordinary citizens of the State and to be paid accordingly. The same thing applies to coal- mining, which I should say is the next industry in importance in the country. The miners are treated practically in the same way. If you lose your job with the manager you lose your house in many cases. Here we have these two industries, the most important industries in the country, which are not looked after as they should be. I move the Amendment for the rejection grudgingly because I do not want the Bill to be lost, but we must enter our protest in some way and the only way we can do so is by moving that the Bill be read this day six months.

8.32 p.m.

Mr. Barr

I do not propose to detain the House very long. I had the honour of serving on the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Industrial Classes, both rural and urban, which reported in 1917. In that report you will find very strong arguments, very emphatically put, against giving public money to private individuals in the way it has been done, and in the way it is proposed to be done in this Bill, although I agree there are many safeguards. The tied house in Scotland is not of a very high standard; indeed it is of a very poor standard. One of the great difficulties has been that the landowner was supposed to provide the building and the tenant farmer was supposed to do the small repairs. The farm servant was diffident in approaching the farmer, and the farmer was equally diffident in approaching the landlord. Consequently the tied house in many cases fell into a very bad condition indeed and nothing was done to improve it. The farm servant has also become a nomad, a wanderer. He is driven from one farm to another under the system of the feuing markets and under the system of the tied house. He is constantly kept moving about, and his children suffer in their education and otherwise.

It is true that there are cases where, because of the remoteness of the farm or for other reasons, there must be tied houses, but what we are concerned about to-night is that the exception should not be made the rule and that the necessity which exists in a few cases should not be made much more general that it need be. In this Bill the Government are perpetuating the tied-house system, although there is an opportunity, save in the exceptional cases which I have mentioned, to bring it to an end. One of the great watch- words of our time is security, and a great deal of legislation has gone through the House for the purpose of giving security of tenure, both in regard to the land and houses. In the Crofters Acts, security of tenure was written at the very forefront, and that security of tenure was given in the matter of housing as well as the crofts that were tilled. In 1915, there was a whole series of Acts, which we have been obliged recently to consider again, for housing control. Although it is true that the Government are decontrolling, or seeking to decontrol, a certain number of those houses, we are opposed to that form of decontrol, not only because it is likely to lead to an increase in rents, but to greater insecurity, to eviction—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)

The hon. Gentleman may not go into that question on the Third Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Barr

I am afraid that I have not made myself clear. I was not referring to that subject, save as an illustration of the value of giving security in housing. I will not pursue the matter further than to say that the present system, as far as tied housing is continued, gives insecurity in the matter of housing and does not allow the farm servant to come in full citizenship and full independence, simply because he has not security of tenure in housing. On those grounds, I support the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill.

8.38 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

I regret that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland strayed into the House, stayed a minute or two, and then strayed out again, because I wanted to inform him how bitterly disappointed many of my hon. Friends were by the speech which he made on this Bill. The Secretary of State knows very well the strong feeling which exists in many parts of the country on the subject of tied houses, and I regret that no indication has been given, either by the Under-Secretary or by the Minister, that an attempt will be made in the future to deal with this question from the point of view of the granting of the subsidy. It is unfortunate that none of the conditions with regard to tied houses that might well be applied to the giving of this subsidy are to be applied. The granting of the subsidy and tied houses could very well be related, in the same way as conditions are imposed when subsidies are granted in other cases. When subsidies are given to the shipping industry or to other industries, we generally insist on certain conditions existing within those industries; for instance, in the shipping industry, we insist on a certain percentage of British labour on the ships.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) said that the Scottish local authorities do not seem to be particularly active and do not seem to have done enough in the past with regard to tied houses. That has been one of the troubles. For a number of years the local authorities have been dominated by the landlords and the farmers, and very little progress has been made. It is up to the Secretary of State for Scotland, if he intends to do away with this evil, to see to it that the local authorities toe the line. At the present time, the Scottish local authorities are very anxious to deal with this problem, and I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that he has received many requests from Scottish authorities for assistance in this matter. I would inform the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) that it is not a question of establishing colonies in Scotland, but of reestablishing the village life and the freedom of the villages, which is the right of the people of the farming community. It is regrettable that money should be expended without there being any conditions regarding the abolition of this evil. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that it is not only a question of the tied house. The tied house means tied lives. The people who live in tied houses have to be careful; we know very well that tied houses lead to the repression—I do not think I am using too strong a word—of the political opinions of the people living in them, and that they are afraid to express themselves in the ballots that take place with regard to Scottish affairs.

I appeal to the Secretary of State, even at this late hour, to give us some assurance on this matter. There are many things in the Bill with which hon. Members on this side of the House are not entirely satisfied. The farming community is one of the most important sections of the people, and one of the most repressed sections, and the farm workers are living in the worst possible conditions. We hear of the beautiful cottages in the Highlands of Scotland and the Midlands of England, but young farm workers have described to me the cottages in which they live. They have said, "Certainly we have roses round the door, but when you walk inside, you are apt to bump your head on the ceiling, and if you climb up the rickety stairs, you are apt to see the sky above, because the roof is broken." Such houses are a disgrace. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) said—and I agree to some extent—that there are certain areas where it would be very difficult to establish the farm workers in a village, because they must be near their work. But there are thousands of tied houses in areas where they are completely unnecessary. In those areas, the local authorities could build decent houses, with the aid of the subsidy, and give the farm workers the community services, the life and the freedom to which they are entitled.

The hon. Member for Galloway referred to the question of establishing colonies. In many of the great industrial towns industry grew just as farming is growing, and the workers in those industries had transport services provided for them. There would be no great difficulty, even in the countryside, in establishing some sort of transport service which would enable a farm servant to have his home two or three miles away from the farm. There are many people in London who live farther from their employment than many farm servants would have to live if all the tied houses were done away with and they were housed in villages two or three miles away. There are people in industrial Scotland and industrial England living 10 and 20 miles away from their work and travelling to and fro by tubes and various other transport services. I appeal to the Secretary of State, if he is to reply to this Debate, to hold out some hope that the Government are alive to this problem, and that steps will be taken in the future to see that the farming community, one of the most important sections of our population, the people from whom the industrial workers derive many of their benefits, get the social services and amenities which other workers have enjoyed for so many years.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. Watson

Hon. Members opposite are supposed to be the special friends of agriculturists. They are not only interested in the farmers, but claim to be the special friends of the farm servants. It is not to be imagined that because we on this side are opposing the Third Reading of this Bill we are not interested in conditions in the countryside. We are, and always have been, although I must say that up to now we have got very little encouragement or support from those who live in the countryside. However, we are living in hope that by and by even the agricultural workers will recognise that in Labour candidates and Labour Members of Parliament they have good friends. We say that a farm servant has as much right to a good dwelling-house as any other worker. We do not look upon agricultural workers as among the lowest grades of workers. They are highly skilled workmen. If anyone imagines that agricultural work is not skilled work he can go and try it, and he will find that it is highly-skilled work indeed.

We are opposing the Third Reading of this Bill on certain specific grounds. One of them has been well discussed already, and that is the continuance of the tied-house system. We object to public money being handed over to private landowners to provide tied houses for their workers. The tied-house system has been a curse in Scottish agriculture, and in this Bill the Government perpetuate it. I hope that the Department of Health will take the advice which has been given from various quarters in the House and see that as little as possible of the subsidy for houses will go to private owners and as much as possible to local authorities. Those who will be dealing with the houses to be erected for farm workers will be the housing committees of the county councils, and they should see that as far as possible farm workers are congregated in little groups, where they can have some social life. With the transport which is available nowadays even in country districts there is less difficulty in the farm worker getting from one point to another if living some little distance from his work. We acknowledge that even under the best conditions there must be a number of houses—not many, two or three—for each farm within a short distance of the farm, and we agree to there being that limited number of tied houses, but I hope that the Secretary of State will have as few of these privately-owned tied houses as possible, and as many as possible of the houses for the agricultural population under the control of public bodies.

There is another reason for our opposition to the Measure. The Under-Secretary told us to-night that bath-rooms will be provided in the new houses for agricultural workers, but we have had no indication of what is to be done about providing a proper drainage system and an adequate water supply. The Government have been putting the cart before the horse. Instead of first installing the drainage and water supply they are providing the bath-room first and leaving over the provision of water and drainage. There is another point in the Under-Secretary's speech which I viewed in a different light, and that was his reference to the power which is given to large burghs which have agricultural land within their boundaries to provide houses for agricultural workers.

We welcome that part of the Measure, because within some of our large burghs there is a considerable area of agricultural land, in some cases there are many farms and many of the houses on those farms are in a very bad state. Rehousing is required even within an area of that nature, and I am pleased that the large burghs are to be in a position to house their agricultural population. The Under-Secretary took special pains to underline the fact that in the cities and the large burghs provision could be made only for those who were actively engaged in agriculture. In the county areas there is not that limited restriction, for they are entitled to provide not only for those who are engaged on the farms but for those who can claim to have some connection with agriculture. Even those engaged in subsidiary trades may claim a house in the county districts under this Measure, but inside the cities and large burghs only those actively engaged in agriculture can occupy a new house under the terms of this Bill. I welcome that provision because I was one of those who raised this matter at the beginning. In my constituency, although it consists of a group of burghs, there is one burgh with a large tract of arable land, and in that burgh there is need for new houses for the agricultural workers.

I have a great deal of sympathy with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown). It is regrettable that we have to oppose this Measure, but we do it in order to register our protest against public money being handed over to private individuals to provide houses that are not owned or controlled in any way by the local authorities. At the same time, it must not be thought that this party does not want to see the agricultural population housed

under better conditions. They are as much entitled to a decent standard of housing as any other section of the community, and we shall do everything we can to see that the agricultural population of Scotland is properly housed.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 78.

Division No. 151.] AYES. [8.59 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Hambro, A. V. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Hannah, I. C. Radford, E. A.
Allen. Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Ramsbotham, H.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Harbord, A. Ramsden, Sir E.
Aske, Sir R. W. Harris, Sir P. A. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Rayner, Major R. H.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Higgs, W. F. Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Birchall, Sir J. D. Hopkinson, A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Horsbrugh, Florence Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Brass, Sir W. Hunter, T. Ropner, Colonel L.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Hutchinson, G. C. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Bull, B. B. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gfn) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Carver, Major W. H. Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Salt, E. W.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Seely, Sir H. M.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Kimball, L. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Lamb, Sir J. Q. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Clydesdale, Marquess of Lees-Jones, J. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.) Leighton, Major B. E. P. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Crooke, Sir J. S. Liddall, W. S. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Lipson, D. L. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Cross, R. H. Llawellin, Colonel J. J. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Crowder, J. F. E. Loftus, P. C. Spears, Brigadier-General E L.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Spens, W. P.
Denville, Alfred MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Dodd, J. S. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) McKie, J. H. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Maclay, Hon. J. P. Tate, Mavis C.
Eastwood, J. F. Macquisten, F. A. Wakefield, W. W.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Ellis, Sir G. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Emery, J. F. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Fildes, Sir H. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Wells, S. R.
Findlay, Sir E. Munro, P. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Foot, D. M. Nall, Sir J. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Furness, S. N. Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Wise, A. R.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Owen, Major G. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Gower, Sir R. V. Peters, Dr. S. J. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Petherick, M.
Grimston, R. V. Pilkington, R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Plugge, Capt. L. F. Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and
Major Herbert.
Ammon, C. G. Daggar, G. Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Hopkin, D.
Barnes, A. J. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Jagger, J.
Barr, J. Dobbie, W. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Batay, J. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) John, W.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Ede, J. C. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.
Benson, G. Edwards, Sir G. (Bedwellty) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Bromfield, W. Gallacher, W. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Gardner, B. W. Lawson, J. J.
Buchanan, G. Gibson, R. (Greenock) Leach, W.
Burke, W. A. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Lee, F.
Cassells, T. Grenfell, D. R. Leslie, J. R.
Charleton, H. C. Hardie, Agnes Logan, D. G.
Chater, D. Hayday, A. McEntee, V. La T.
Cluse, W. S. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Maclean, N.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Marshall, F.
Maxton, J. Quibell, D. J. K. Tinker, J. J.
Messer, F. Ridley, G. Tomlinson, G.
Milner, Major J. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Viant, S. P.
Montague, F. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey) Watson, W. McL.
Muff, G. Sexton, T. M. Westwood, J.
Paling, W. Silverman, S. S. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Parker, J. Simpson, F. B. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Parkinson, J. A. Smith, E. (Stoke) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Pethick Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Stephen, C.
Prien, M. P. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Pritt, D. N. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.