HC Deb 31 May 1938 vol 336 cc1837-43
Mrs. Tate

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restrict the demolition of rural' cottages certified as reconditioned or subject to reconditioning, to amend the Housing Act, 1936, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid. The House will remember that under the Housing Act, 1936, local authorities are given power to order the demolition of houses unfit for human habitation, and incapable, with the expenditure of a reasonable sum of money, of being rendered so fit. Alternatively, if a local authority considers that all the houses in a certain area are unfit because of their being, in the words of the Act, "dangerous and injurious to the health of the inhabitants," they may declare it a "Clearance Area" and order the demolition of every house within the area. That gave local authorities valuable power to demolish slum dwellings, and all of us, irrespective of party, hoped and believed that the Act laid sure foundations for better housing for our people and would thus bring a measure of health and happiness to them.

When we considered Part 11, which deals with clearance areas, we envisaged, I think, slum dwellings and houses in such condition and surroundings as to make them really unfit for human habitation. In the countryside to-day a considerable number of cottages, often owner-occupied —sometimes of considerable architectural merit, and frequently in beautiful and healthful surroundings, which, with the expenditure of a comparatively small amount of money could be rendered desirable homes—are being destroyed in order that local authorities may obtain a generous Government grant towards re-housing the inhabitants in houses much less well built, of no architectural merit, in surroundings the beauty of which they have for ever disfigured, at rents the tenants can ill afford. An Act for which the Ministry of Health is responsible is thus causing acute unhappiness, and, what appears to some of us, wanton destruction.

The Bill I ask leave to introduce this afternoon is designed to allow of a little longer time and rather more thought being taken before a decision is reached to abolish cottages in rural surroundings, and to ensure that simple people know, before an inquiry, why it is that their homes are condemned. It amends the first and third Schedules to the Housing Act, 1936, and provides that the Minister shall not confirm any order comprising any house which is situate in an area of rural character in England and Wales, and is suitable for occupation by agricultural workers or persons of a similar economic position, unless he is satisfied that the owner has been enabled to submit for approval a list of works of improvement which he is willing, at his own expense, to undertake. If the local authority approves of the submitted list of repairs, etc., it shall issue to the owner of the house a certificate that the house is fit for human habitation and will remain so for a period of at least five years, provided it receives reasonable care and maintenance. The repairs and alterations must be carried out within three months.

Under the present law, a local authority can serve a notice of demolition on the owner of any cottage within an area which they have previously defined as a Clearance Area. The owner has no opportunity of submitting any plans for repairs or alterations, nor is he permitted to carry them out. All he can do is to object to the order. It is true that if he objects, an inquiry must be held, but it is held by the Ministry of Health, and presided over by one of the Ministry's inspectors. In other words, you can appeal only to the body which is interested in destroying the cottage and is urging local authorities to get on with these clearance schemes. Again, under the demolition order procedure, it is true that the owner has the right to appeal to the county court, but he must exercise this right within three weeks, and many small owners are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of such a remedy.

Clause 2, paragraph 3, of my Bill provides that, if the local authority is not satisfied with the list of repairs submitted by the owner, it must submit it to an independent area tribunal. If this tribunal agrees with the owner that these repairs will render the house fit for human habitation, the local authority must then issue a certificate as previously described, and no action for demolition can be taken during the period covered by the certificate. At present, under the clearance schemes, people are robbed of their homes with no right of appeal, even to a court of law. In a large number of cases, owners of cottages have been required by local authorities to execute costly alterations and repairs to their homes, and shortly afterwards have been ordered to demolish the houses at their own expense.

The Bill has the support of many influential societies in the country, including the National Farmers' Union, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the Federation of Women's Institutes, the

Tithe League, the Central Landowners' Association, and the Liberty Restoration League.

Mr. Tomlinson

I wish to oppose the Motion, for what I consider to be very good reasons. In the first place, if a Bill of this kind were accepted by the House I think it would undermine the Housing Act, the Slum Clearance Act and a great deal of what I consider to be really valuable work that has been done in the attempt to deal with this problem. In the second place I oppose the Motion because in my judgment the Bill seeks to set up for rural workers a standard of housing to which I have objected for quite a long time. It suggests that, because of their architectural value, houses may be suitable for rural workers to live in. On more than one occasion I have seen houses of this type, which the associations that the hon. Lady has mentioned as being favourable to this Bill have desired to keep in being because of their architectural and their economic value, but always with the object that it was the worker, and particularly the agricultural worker, who should be called upon to live in them. If this Bill is not challenged, and if by accident it should become an Act, it seems to me that we shall undermine an essential and necessary piece of work that was begun when the Slum Clearance Act was passed.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restrict the demolition of rural cottages certified as reconditioned or subject to reconditioning, to amend the Housing Act, 1936, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.

The House divided: Ayes, 210; Noes, 116.

Division No. 227.] AYES. [4.10 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Brown, Brig-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Crooke, Sir J. S.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Bullock, Capt. M. Groom-Johnson, R. P.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Butcher, H. W. Crowder, J. F. E.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's) Cartland, J. R. H. Cruddas, Col. B.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Carver, Major W. H. Davidson, Viscountess
Apsley, Lord Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)
Assheton, R. Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.) Davison, Sir W. H.
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) De la Bère, R.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Denman, Hon. R. D.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Channon, H. Denville, Alfred
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Doland, G. F.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Christie, J. A. Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)
Beechman, N. A. Clarry, Sir Reginald Dugdale, Captain T. L.
Beit, Sir A. L. Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Duggan, H. J.
Boothby, R. J. G. Colfox, Major W. P. Eastwood, J. F.
Bossom, A. C. Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Eckersley, P. T.
Boulton, W. W. Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Edmondson, Major Sir J.
Boyce, H. Leslie Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Emery, J. F.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Cox, H. B. Trevor Emmott, C. E. G. C.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Lewis, O. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Liddall, W. S. Rowlands, G.
Everard, W. L. Little, Sir E. Graham- Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Findlay, Sir E. Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Loftus, P. C. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Furness, S. N. Lyons, A. M. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Fyfe, D. P. M. M'Connell, Sir J. Salmon, Sir I.
Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Samuel, M. R. A.
Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Grant-Ferris, R. McKie, J. H. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Maclay, Hon. J. P. Sandys, E. D.
Grenfell, D. R Macnamara, Major J. R. J. Scott, Lord William
Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Magnay, T. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Maitland, A. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Hacking, Rt. Hon. O. H. Markham, S. F. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Hambro, A. V. Marsden, Commander A. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Mathers, G Smithers, Sir W.
Harbord, A. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Harvey, Sir G. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Spens, W. P.
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Mills, Major J. D. (Now Forest) Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Morgan, R. H. Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.
Hepworth, J. Morris, O T. (Cardiff, E.) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Higgs, W. F. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Munro, P. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Hopkinson, A. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Tasker, Sir R. I.
Horsbrugh, Florence Patrick, C. M. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Howitt, Dr. A. B. Perkins, W. R. D. Touche, G. C.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Petherick, M. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Hulbert, N. J. Pilkington, R. Turton, R. H.
Hurd, Sir P. A. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Walker-Smith, Sir J.
James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Procter, Major H. A. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Radford, E. A. Warrender, Sir V.
Keeling, E. H. Raikes, H. V. A. M. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Wells, S. R.
Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Ramsden, Sir E. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Rankin, Sir R. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Rawson, Sir Cooper Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Wise, A. R.
Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury) Withers, Sir J. J.
Leech, Sir J. W. Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Lees-Jones, J. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Leigh, Sir J. Ropner, Colonel L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Mrs. Tate and Commander Bower.
Adams, D. (Consett) Gallacher, W. MacLaren, A.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Gardner, B. W. Maclean, N.
Adamson, W. M. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Mander, G. le M.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Green, W. H. (Deptford) Marshall, F.
Ammon, C. G. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Maxton, J.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Milner, Major J.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Montague, F.
Banfield, J. W. Groves, T. E. Moreing, A. C.
Barnes, A. J. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Batey, J. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Muff, G.
Bellenger, F. J. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Naylor, T. E.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Hardie, Agnes Noel-Baker, P. J.
Benson, G. Harris, Sir P. A. Owen, Major G.
Bevan, A. Hayday, A. Parker, J
Broad, F, A. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Pearson, A.
Bromfield, W. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Poole, C. C.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Price, M. P.
Buchanan, G. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Pritt, D. N.
Burke, W. A. Hopkin, D. Ridley, G.
Cape, T. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Ritson, J.
Cluse, W. S. John, W. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Cove, W. G. Kelly, W. T. Rothschild, J. A. de
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)
Daggar, G. Kirby, B. V. Seely, Sir H. M.
Dalton, H. Lathan, G. Sexton, T. M.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Leonard, W. Shinwell, E.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Leslie, J. R. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Logan, D. G. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Day, H. Lunn, W. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Dobbie, W. McEntee, V. La T. Stephen, C.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) McGhee, H. G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwelity) McGovern, J. Stokes, R. R.
Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.) Watson, W. McL. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Thorne, W. Westwood, J. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Thurtle, E. White, H. Graham Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Tinker. J. J. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Viant, S. P. Wilkinson, Ellen TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Walkden, A. G. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore) Mr. Tomlinson and Mr. Ellis
Watkins, F. C. Williams, T. (Don Valley) Smith.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Tate, Mr. Guinness, Sir Joseph Lamb, Mr. Turton, Mr. Grenfell, Mr. Holds-worth, Mr. Alan Herbert, Mr. Bossom, Mr. Tree, Sir Arnold Wilson, Captain Sir Derrick Gunston, and Brigadier-General Clifton Brown.