§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law in Scotland with respect to the making of contributions out of the Exchequer and by local authorities in respect of housing accommodation provided for the working classes, and with respect to arrangements between local authorities and other persons for the provision of such housing accommodation, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid, it is
expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—
A. of such expenses as may he incurred by the Department of Health for Scotland (hereinafter referred to as "the Department") in making to any local authority—
(1) in respect of each new house completed after the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, which, with the approval of the Department, is provided by that authority by way of housing accommodation—
(2) where the Department are satisfied that by reason of—
(3) where the Department are satisfied that the total annual expenditure likely to be incurred by a local authority in providing such housing accommodation is substantially greater than the equivalent aforesaid, in consequence of the remoteness of the sites of any houses in which such accommodation is provided from centres of supply of building labour and material, and the impracticability of obtaining for such houses higher rents than are ordinarily payable by persons employed in agriculture or fishing or by persons of a like economic condition, in addition to the appropriate annual contribution aforesaid an annual contribution for forty years of such amount in respect of such of the houses so provided as may be sanctioned by the Treasury; and
(4) in respect of accommodation in a hostel which, in accordance with the provisions of the said Act of the present Session, is deemed to be a new house, an annual contribution for forty years of five pounds ten shillings; and
B. of such sums as may become payable by the Department by virtue of any provisions of the said Act of the present Session—
§ 12.29 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I do not make a statement in moving this Resolution, but rather, if right hon. Gentlemen or hon. Members have any points to raise, that I should reply to them. The Committee will recall that rather less than a week ago we debated the Bill fully, and this Money Resolution is necessary to provide the funds to implement the provisions of the Bill. I should prefer rather to answer any points which may be raised than to make a further statement just now. I think that the Committee may find that more convenient.
§ 12.30 a.m.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
We are in no way responsible for the very inconvenient hour at which this Resolution has been taken. I can quite appreciate the fact that the Government desire this Financial Resolution to be taken to-night so that they may be able to have the Committee stage taken on Thursday, as, if this housing is to proceed, we must have this Bill on the Statute Book before Christmas. But that does not absolve us, even at this late and inconvenient hour, from making one or two observations about what is in this Measure; I am afraid we cannot say a word about what is not in it. In the first place, may I utter my most respectful protest against the way in which this Financial Resolution has been drawn? It is so drawn that literally nothing of importance can be discussed, as far as Scottish housing is concerned. It is so drawn, as I understand it, that we have indications that the Amendment which we had put down on the Order Paper—to leave out lines 15 to 24 and to insert the words "for the working classes"—will be ruled out of order. It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we were told that now.
§ Mr. Johnston
We were simply asking in the Amendment that local authorities in Scotland should he given powers to build houses for the working classes, but, as this Financial Resolution is drawn, the local authorities in Scotland are limited as to the kind of emergencies for which they may build houses. They may build houses to house the displaced slum tenant and to meet overcrowding cases, or they 201 may build houses for redevelopment of areas; but they may not build houses to house young couples or to house old couples, nor may they build houses to meet the wishes and the convenience of the general population. This Resolution has been so drafted and designed that the known wishes of the local authorities in Scotland and the needs of our Scottish population, and, indeed, the known desires of hon. Members on both sides of the House from Scotland, cannot find expression in the Division Lobby. I recollect that some time this year, after a committee had sat on the matter and the sense of the House had been taken, the Prime Minister gave instructions to all the Departments that, in future, they were not to submit Money Resolutions so drafted and so designed as to prevent reasonable discussion in this House. I would draw your attention, Colonel Clifton Brown, to this experience which we are now going through as to the way in which these Financial Resolutions are already again being drafted.
In the course of the Second Reading Debate on the Bill the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary did not attempt to defend what I called the Shylock bargaining that the Treasury had imposed on them. What they did say was that however bad the bargain—which they had already said was a good bargain—and however bad the figures were, after all, the local authorities had accepted it. Indeed, I think the Under-Secretary said they had joyously accepted it; at any rate, "gladly" was a common word thrown at us. I expressed some considerable amazement that the local authorities, if they knew what they were doing, should have accepted this bargain. Aberdeen was one of the places mentioned as having joyously accepted the bargain, and the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) has given me a letter which he has received from a prominent councillor in Aberdeen who specifically denies that he or any of his friends have ever had, about the financial treatment of this Measure, any full details, at any rate until they read Press reports of our discussions on the Second Reading.
Be that as it may, we have again to draw the attention of this House and the country to the fact that in 1935 the present Government and the Treasury considered that the local authorities in Scot- 202 land ought to pay not more by local rate contribution than £3 5s. per house. That was their considered opinion in 1935 as to the amount which local authorities should pay from local rates to the housing pool. Under this Measure the local authorities will be compelled to pay £4. 10s for a three-apartment house, £4 15s. for a four-apartment house and £5 for a five-apartment house, so that there is a definite increase in the local rate burden. Then, when we come to 1942, it is specifically provided in this Measure that the local authorities' contribution is to be one-half what the State pays, that is, two to one is the ratio. That is the highest ratio that the local authorities have hitherto been asked to meet.
Are the local authorities able to pay this? Is it going to aid house building? Is it going to speed up house building? I submit that it is not. There are local authorities in Scotland where a penny rate produces the magnificent sum of £11 There is one local authority, New Galloway, where a penny rate brings in £11. There are other local authorities, such as Culross, Aberchirder and Inverary, where they raise £12 by a penny rate. One town, Rosehearty, raises £16, and there are towns in my constituency, such as the town of Kilsyth—which has done magnificently in housing and which has about the best housing record in Scotland for its size—which can raise only £162 by a penny rate. Now you are going to say to these local authorities that not only will you jump their local rate contribution from £3 5s., as at present for the overcrowded houses, to£4 10s. for a three-apartment house, but that in 1942 they are to pay more still, namely half the sum that the Treasury pays. I ventured on the Second Reading to submit to the Secretary of State some figures, estimates of my own, showing that in certain cases of redevelopment areas the local ratepayer will be asked for a contribution before 1942. He will be asked for a contribution per house of no less than £13 7s. 6d. per annum. I cannot for the life of me imagine where the great bargain is for local authorities. It is perfectly true that the Treasury is giving a larger subvention than in 1935, but the grant from the Treasury only covers, if it covers, increased costs of house building. The increased cost in Scotland between 1935 and now of a three-apartment dwelling—the official figures of the schemes 203 approved by the Department—show that the increased cost has been £147 per house. You give £3 15s. of an increase in Treasury grant. I submit that that only meets, if it meets, their interest charges on the increased cost of building between 1935 and now.
On this side of the House we desire to do nothing that would crab or render difficult in any way the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary to speed up house building in Scotland. The need is so appallingly great that we would accept almost anything, as indeed we indicated on Second Reading, in the way of additional powers, additional aids, to get our people out of the appalling housing conditions in which they live. But I do consider that the financial bargains which we are considering this morning, which the Treasury have imposed upon the Scottish Office and the Scottish Office have induced the local authorities to accept, are not bargains which will make for a speeding up of house building in Scotland, and when the local authorities discover what has been put over by this Measure, I am afraid there will be a certain amount of resentment.
On the Committee stage of this Measure upstairs, my hon. Friends and I will endeavour to get the local authorities' contribution somewhat reduced, and I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland may find it possible to accept some accommodation of our views in that respect. We shall do our utmost to persuade him to cut out from his Measure the provision which says that after 1942 the local authorities' contribution will be still further increased. I would beg him to consider between now and then whether he would not do something more to better the housing conditions of our common country. Would he not persuade his taskmasters at the Treasury to loosen the bonds and not impose upon local authorities burdens that they simply cannot bear, which financially they are unable to bear and which may have the result of slowing down house building and increasing overcrowding, because it is a fact that if the local authorities, as in Kilsyth, cannot build houses for young couples if they are given no grants to do it, these young couples when they get married will stay on with their parents, in their parents' 204 homes. So overcrowding will continue and develop, and I beg of the Secretary of State, even at this late hour, to inform us whether it is not possible so to amend the terms of this Financial Resolution as to enable the local authorities to build houses for young couples and for old.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) into the incidence of local authorities' and Treasury contributions, but I do wish for one moment to associate myself with the protest he has made about the form of this Money Resolution. This Money Resolution is a disgrace. I want to draw, in particular, attention to two features of the Resolution as it is on the Paper. First, as you, Sir, have already ruled, the Amendment which was set down in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling and other Members above the Gangway, is out of order, and of course any similar Amendment which may be introduced to the Bill in the Committee upstairs will also be out of order. That is to say, that although we determine the amount of subsidy which is to be payable in respect of each house, we shall be quite unable to make any alteration in the Committee as to the class of house in respect of which the subsidy may be paid.
When the Debate took place last week on the Second Reading of the Bill there were a number of hon. Gentlemen who drew attention to the gap in housing subsidies in Scotland at the present time, and pointed out that, although there is a subsidy for overcrowding, and although there is a subsidy for slum clearance, there is no subsidy for house building for other purposes than those two. There is no subsidy for houses built to meet the needs of young married couples, or the increasing population. That was a point made by members in all parts of the House. I am not now going to discuss whether it is a good or bad point, or whether we should have subsidies for that purpose. The point I want to make is that, as this Money Resolution is drafted, we shall be prevented from discussing that issue in the Committee upstairs. Any Amendment moved for that purpose—it is a matter of great interest to all Scottish Members at the present time—will be out of order according to the terms of this Resolution. The Resolution has been 205 quite deliberately drawn in order that that may be so.
I pass on to another feature of this Resolution. If you go a little further down, to Section A, Sub-section (2) you see the words:where the Department are satisfied that by reason ofand then there follow a number of conditions. Where any of these three conditions that are set out is held to have been satisfied, a higher subsidy may be given. That is, broadly speaking, the purpose of that particular paragraph. It might very well be that upstairs some hon. Member might wish to alter those conditions. He might wish to strike out one condition, say (c), which is:the costliness of the provision by a local authority of housing accommodation in tenements on a central site,and he might wish to put in some other provision. He might, for instance, wish to have a Clause in the Bill saying that if a local authority, owing to its geographical situation, had particularly high costs of building, it should be entitled to receive some additional assistance from the Treasury. Again, I am not discussing now whether it is right or wrong, but it would be a perfectly reasonable Amendment, and a perfectly proper point to raise in Committee. Yet again we shall be prevented from doing anything of the kind because of the form of this Money Resolution.
As the Committee are aware, we have frequently in the last two or three years had to consider the form of these Resolutions. It has been a long history. There were the protests made on the Special Areas Bill of 1934 and again on the Special Areas Bill of 1937. There were the observations made by Mr. Speaker in 1934 about the tendency of putting far too much detail in the Money Resolutions, when he said that in his view this tendency had really passed all proper limits. Then again there were the protests made, not only from this side of the House but from the other side as well. Particularly I remember a protest from the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when the Tithe Bill was before this House. As a result of all those protests we had a Select Committee on Money Resolutions. That Committee sat for a long time and produced its report. We had a long Debate in this House on the 206 report and we were told that two things were to be done. First of all, Money Resolutions in the case of Bills where the main purpose was the expenditure of money, would come after the Second Reading for the purpose that the Government would be able to take notice of what was said on Second Reading and frame their Resolution accordingly. That is not what has happened here. Here, the Money Resolution has been drafted so as to prevent Members raising in the Scottish Standing Committee points raised on Second Reading.
We were also told that circulars had been sent round the Departments and we were led to believe that the Treasury, or whoever was responsible for drafting these Resolutions, would mend their ways. But these steps have not made the slightest difference. This is not the first time we have had to raise this matter. There was the Money Resolution on the Herring Industry Bill, again drafted in unnecessary detail. This is not accidental and it is not necessary. It is done deliberately of set purpose to prevent hon. Members from raising perfectly legitimate Amendments in Committee. That is another example of the constant encroachments made on the rights of this House by the Executive of the day.
§ 12.52 a.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State say that he would prefer to answer the points raised in the discussion. I am hoping that in view of that promise I shall have better luck than I had with the Under-Secretary last Tuesday. I raised a specific point and I am going to raise it again in the hope that I shall get an answer from the Secretary of State. It is possible under this Money Resolution for an additional grant to be given to local authorities under certain circumstances. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) has just referred to certain circumstances in which the local authority may get an additional grant. I put the point as to whether the local authority in many areas would have the advantage of that grant, because in certain mining areas the local authorities have to undertake expenses in connection with their site which are not undertaken in other parts. It may be true in the centre of a city, where an area has been cleared and where, under this Measure, the local authority is given 207 power to erect tenements, that the cost may be a great deal more than normal, that under these circumstances this additional grant up to £15 a house will be given.
I want to ask the Secretary of State whether local authorities who have to buy the minerals in order to buy a safe site for building houses will have the benefit of this additional grant. Miners go out into the country areas, so that the county authorities are just as much interested in this matter as the burghal authorities are. I know burghal authorities which have had to purchase minerals, and consequently their expenses in connection with building programmes have been considerably increased. There is another very important point with regard to the grant which may be given to local authorities which are building in remote areas. Let us have a definition from the Secretary of State as to what a remote area is. Is the remote area to be confined to the Highland or crofting counties, or may it be in Galloway or Aberdeenshire and counties which are not in the Highlands? We know what building in remote areas is and we want to know whether these are covered by the Financial Resolution which we are discussing now. We make no apology for raising these points now. I would not have intervened in the Debate had the Under-Secretary made a note of the point which I made on Second Reading with regard to the local authorities which have to build in areas that are undermined and where very considerable additional expense has to be undertaken by the local authority in order to secure sites for building purposes.
§ 12.57 a.m.
§ Mr. Benn
I should like to add a word to what has been said about Money Resolutions. The House will remember that this matter was raised in the Debate on the Special Areas Act and that the Attorney-General, in the Debate, said:The Government realise the vital importance of the general issue.Then a committee was appointed, of which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was chairman, and afterwards the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), and they were assured that instructions had been given to the Treasury that Resolutions were to be drawn as flexibly as was consistent with 208 the fundamental principle of Standing Order 63. That committee recommended unanimously that the Financial Resolutions should be expressed in wider terms than in the Bill so as to permit amendments to the Bill which had for their object relaxation or extension of the provision and did not materially extend the charge. I submit that an opinion of that kind, coming from a committee of authority, really deserved some notice, but no notice whatever has been taken of this matter.
Therefore I would ask the Secretary of State whether he would kindly answer these questions: Was this Resolution drafted in the Scottish Office or was it sent to the Treasury counsel and, if so, were Lord Baldwin's instructions obeyed, namely, that the Resolution should be drafted with the maximum amount of flexibility as is consistent with Standing Order 63? I myself am an unbending supporter of Standing Order 63, but there is a great difference between the fundamental principle of Parliamentary Government and what amounts to taking a Bill and reprinting it in the form of this Financial Resolution. The House is entitled to know, and therefore I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us where this Bill was drafted and, if it was drafted by Treasury counsel, were they reminded of the pledge given by Lord Baldwin in this matter?
§ 1.0 a.m.
§ Mr. Colville
The right hon. Gentleman has criticised the method in which the Financial Resolution has been drawn. I can assure him that the points he has raised were, in fact, borne in mind when the Resolution was drawn up. He has asked where it was drawn up. He has had a good deal of experience as to the places in which such Resolutions first see the light of day. I can assure him that the Treasury, in consultation with the Scottish Office, have borne these points in mind.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) stressed certain aspects of the Bill to which he attached the very greatest importance. He was concerned about the rate of local authorities' contributions, and he went on to say that in his view certain parts of the country, owing to their low rateable value, had difficulty in getting contributions. He was concerned that after 1942 209 the ratio of local authority contributions to State subsidy was to be two to one. Neither of these points comes under the Resolution. We can discuss them in Committee. Of course I cannot give an indication of what my attitude will be in the Committee, but they are not tied up in the Resolution. I think he said it was so drawn that nothing of importance could be discussed. I think he will qualify that when he realises that one-quarter of his speech was taken up with those two points.
§ Mr. Johnston
What I said about local authorities' contributions was that these were points to which we should endeavour in the Committee stage to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to agree. But in so far as there was a universal demand to give power to the local authorities to build houses for young or old couples, we simply cannot. The Chair has said we cannot discuss it because of the terms of the Resolution.
§ Mr. Colville
I am coming to the question of young couples. The right hon. Gentleman prefaced his remarks by saying that nothing of importance could be discussed but he does attach importance to points in the Resolution itself. The Resolution is admittedly a long one, but the Bill is almost entirely a financial Measure, and is nearly all printed in italics. It is, in fact, a Measure for providing further State assistance for housing. Therefore the Resolution which provides the necessary authority for a Bill of this nature is necessarily rather long, and is drawn in more detail than in certain other cases. An attempt has been made to leave what latitude is possible. For example in Clause 1 (2) it is now proposed that additional subsidy for tenement buildings in central sites should be confined to large burghs but the Resolution leaves the matter open as regards that restriction.
Another point which was touched on by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) was that Clause 1 (2) (b) proposes that the additional subsidy for building in remote areas should not be payable in large burghs; but the Resolution does not contain that restriction. On the question of the young married couples I realise the importance that Members on all sides of the House attach to this question, but the Scottish overcrowding problem is so terribly serious that it is there that the 210 Government deliberately desire to direct the main drive of their housing policy. The surveys made by local authorities in 1931 showed that about 260,000 houses, or nearly one in every four in the country, were overcrowded. The percentage was over 22 compared with 3.8 in England. I do not think that is in dispute.
§ Mr. Colville
If you remember the shortage of building labour and the special difficulties in building houses, we have to give first attention to this dreadful question of overcrowding: but it does not follow that under the present arrangement no young married couples can be re-housed by the local authorities under State grants. If, for example, a young married couple are living in an overcrowded house, it would be competent for the local authority to give them a new house if their removal ends overcrowding in the existing house. In those circumstances Exchequer contributions would be payable.
I will go a little further and say I am impressed by what has been said on the question of young married couples. I shall consider what arrangements can be made administratively for securing that a small proportion of local authority houses falling vacant for re-letting should be made available for such couples. I should make it clear, however, that the local authorities will be expected to observe the requirements of Section 47 (2) of the 1935 Act, which says that a reasonable preference shall be given to persons occupying insanitary or overcrowded houses or who have large families, or who are otherwise living in unsatisfactory housing conditions. Subject to that, I propose to see what arrangements I can make in the direction indicated, which, I think, will be helpful.
One other point was raised by the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson). I am afraid I cannot satisfy him on his first point. We cannot include in this Bill a special new subsidy to deal with the extra cost of acquiring mineral support. I know he attaches importance to the point. I mentioned the other day that the question of mineral support is a very large one indeed, and goes outside the scope of the present measure. Since then I have been looking into the cost of the acquisition of the mineral support 211 to local authorities in Scotland, and I find it is not as severe as I had supposed. For example, calculated on a 40 year loan basis the cost per house in Fife is negligible. In Stirling County the cost is also negligible except for one case where it is about £1 9s. per house. In East Lothian it is £1 4s. to £2 7s. per house in particular schemes. In Lanarkshire, which I imagine is the area most affected, I find three schemes where the cost was negligible, two schemes where about £1 2s. 6d. was the extra charge, and two schemes of about £2 3s. per house, with one, the highest, where about £4 was the cost. In Lanarkshire, I find that only 15 per cent. of the houses built in 1937 and 1938 were included in schemes in which mineral support was a factor. In Stirlingshire, from 1932 to the present time, about 1,000 houses out of 2,500 have been built in schemes where mineral support was a factor, and the average cost per house on a 40-year basis for the 1,000 houses was about seven shillings per house. I do not attempt to assert it is no burden at all but it is not as severe as was indicated the other day. I cannot undertake to introduce a new and fresh subsidy for the purposes of dealing with this question at the present time.
§ Mr. Watson
I was not asking the right hon. Gentleman to introduce a new subsidy, but, where he had power under the Financial Resolution, to deal with local authorities who had to purchase minerals for the support of their sites; but in addition to" the minerals cost, will he note that local authorities have had to spend a considerable sum of money on new houses undermined and wrecked by new 212 workings? The burden is very considerable. In Cowdenbeath where I live new housing schemes have been wrecked by underground workings and the local authorities, in addition to purchasing minerals, have had considerable expenditure imposed upon them by the undermining and wrecking of new houses.
§ Mr. Colville
I think I might make it plain that it would not be competent to make payments in respect of this extra cost owing to mineral subsidence. There is another point which the hon. Member raised, namely, regarding remote districts, and as for this there is nothing in the Financial Resolution to tie down the definition of what a remote district is. We might in Committee usefully discuss that point which is an administrative point. I do not think I need say more on it at present. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that this is a Shylock's bargain, for, I think, the anxiety of the Scottish local authorities to see it passed into law upon 1st January shows it is a good bargain.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Monday evening, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at a Quarter after One o'Clock.