§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Major Milner in the Chair]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make fresh arrangements for the making of contributions, grants and loans in connection with the provision of housing accommodation; to provide for matters subordinate to that purpose; to amend the enactments which relate to the making of contributions in respect of housing accommodation; to amend the law relating to the housing accounts of local authorities; and to facilitate the provision of housing accommodation in the Isles of Scilly, it is expedient—
- A. To authorise, subject to the limitation hereinafter mentioned, the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Minister of Health in making to a local authority in respect of each new house provided by the authority, not more than sixty annual contributions, each of them not to exceed:—
- (1)sixteen pounds ten shillings; or
- (2) in the case of a house provided for the agricultural population, or a house pro vided by or in the exercise of the powers of the council of a county district which fulfils the conditions laid down by the said Act of the present Session with reference both to the rents obtainable from houses in the district and to the financial resources of the district, twenty-five pounds ten shillings; or
- (3) in the case of a house on a site (that is to say, a site as determined in accordance with the said Act of the present Session) the cost of which as developed exceeds: fifteen hundred pounds per acre, a sum rising from twenty-eight pounds ten shi lings where that cost is not more than four thousand pounds to thirty-five pounds five shillings where that cost is not more than twelve thousand pounds, and then increasing by one pound ten shillings for each additional two thousand pounds or part thereof; or
- (4) in the case of a flat in a block of flats which, as to the whole or any part thereof, is at least four storeys high and
464 which has had a lift installed therein, a sum determined in accordance with the last preceding paragraph plus seven pounds; each of the said contributions to be capable of being increased —
- (a)in the case of a house the cost of which is increased by expenses attributable to the acquisition of rights of support, or otherwise attributable to measures taken for securing protection against the consequences of a subsidence of the site, by not more than two pounds;
- (b)if the authority by whom or in the exercise of whose powers the house is pro vided fulfils the conditions laid down in the said Act with reference to the high level of the general rate and the financial burden of the authority in respect of housing, by not more than one-half of the contribution which the authority would otherwise be liable to make under the said Act in respect of the house.
- The said limitation is that no such contribution shall be payable in respect of any such house unless the house has been approved by the Minister for the purposes of the said Act of the present Session or has, on or after the third day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-four, been approved by the Minister for the purposes of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1938, or, if not so approved, is a house completed after the end of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine.
- B. To authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Minister in making, in respect of any house provided by a housing association other wise than in pursuance of arrangements made under section ninety-four of the Housing Act, 1936, being a house for the construction of which building operations began between the end of December, nineteen hundred and thirty- nine, and the passing of the said Act of the present Session —
- (a)the same contributions as would in the opinion of the Minister have been pay able by him if the house had been provided by the local authority of the area; and
- (b)in the case of a house likely to cause loss to the association, such"additional annual contributions as may be provided by the said Act of the present Session.
- C. To authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Minister attributable to any provisions of the said Act of the present Session —
- (1) relating to the provision of housing accommodation in government war buildings
- (2) increasing to fifteen pounds the contributions which may be paid by the Minister in respect of a house under section three of the said Act of 1938, and varying the conditions with which arrangements under that section are required to comply;
- (3)empowering the Minister to make contributions in respect of houses which have become vested in local authorities;
- (4)providing for grants by the Minister in respect of houses constructed otherwise than by traditional methods;
- (5)providing for grants by the Minister to housing associations established in pursuance of arrangements made by the Minister; and
- (6)providing for the making of contributions by the Minister in respect of housing accommodation in the Isles of Scilly.
- D. To authorise the issue of money out of the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of en abling the Minister to make loans to housing associations, so, however, that the total amount so issued, less any sums which have been repaid, shall not at any time exceed fifteen million pounds, and to extend the purposes for which advances may be made out of the said Fund under section one of the Building Materials and Housing Act, 1945.
- E To authorise the Treasury, in order to provide money to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of enabling the Minister to make such loans as aforesaid, to raise money in any manner in which they are authorised to raise money under the National Loans Act, 1939, and for that purpose to create and issue securities which shall be deemed for all purposes to have been created and issued under that Act.
- F. To authorise the payment into the Exchequer of all sums received by the Minister under the said Act of the present Session and any sums received by the Minister by way of interest on or repayment of any loan made out of money issued to him by the Treasury under the said Act, and to provide that any sums received by the Minister by way of interest on or repayment of any such loan and paid into the Exchequer shall be issued out of the Consolidated Fund at such times as the Treasury may direct and be applied, in so far as they represent principal, in redemption or repayment of debt, and, in so far as they represent interest, in the payment of interest which would otherwise be payable out of the permanent annual charge for the National Debt.
§ In this Resolution the expression ' house ' includes any part of a building, being a part which is occupied or intended to be occupied as a separate dwelling, and, in particular, includes a flat."— (King's Recommendation signified.)— [Mr. Aneurin Bevan.]
§ The following Amendments stood upon the Order Paper:
In line II, after the first "Authority "insert:
or to some person other than a local authority.
In line II, at end, insert
or by such person".
In line 70, at end, insert:
(4) providing for grants by the Minister in respect of houses of a limited value or size provided by any person.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
May I ask you, Major Milner, whether you intend to call any of the Amendments which are on the Paper in the names of my hon. Friends and myself?
§ The Chairman
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I do not propose to call any of the Amendments on the Order Paper. In my view, they are out of order.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
I was going to ask you, Major Milner, on what you based your decision that they were out of order, if you would be good enough to say so.
§ The Chairman
In my opinion the Amendments conflict with the King's Re-commendation, and it is for that reason that they are out of order.
§ Captain Crookshank
The purpose of the Resolution is to make certain grants and contributions. If I may with respect suggest, Major Milner, that you read the first paragraph of the Resolution you will find these words:to make fresh arrangements for the making of contributions grants and loans in connection with the provision of housing accommodation.That part is not limited at all and therefore the Amendments cannot have the effect of increasing charges, because there is no maximum put in the Resolution. I submit that it is in order to discuss the various uses to which the money can be put, within the purposes indicated by that part of the Resolution.
§ The Chairman
Hon. Members will appreciate that these Amendments would widen the categories entitled to grants. It is for that reason that I have ruled them out of order.
§ The Chairman
The Amendments propose to extend the grants to any other persons. Consequently that would ex-tend the categories, and might mean that there would have to be increases in the grants and hence an increased charge. This, of course, would be, as I have already said, in conflict with the King's Recommendation.
§ Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)
May I ask for your guidance on a point of Order, Major Milner? Is it in Order to ask the Chairman to give a reason for his Ruling? If so, it is well that it should be known for the future, for the sake of those who have as yet had little experience here.
§ The Chairman
The Committee will appreciate that it is not necessary for the Chairman to give reasons for his Rulings on points of Order, but reasons are given as a matter of courtesy.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
Is it in Order for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to go on arguing with the Chairman, once a Ruling has been given, and once you, Major Milner, have stated your reason for it?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
One reason why I thought I was fortunate to catch your eye, Major Milner, was that I could then speak on the main argument. I do not, however, wish to detain the Committee long. We have had a very friendly Debate today and there is no question on any side of causing unnecessary delay. But I would like to say how much I regret that this Money Resolution has been so closely drawn. I think many hon. Members feel strongly on this point. If the Money Resolution goes through in this form, many of those who are at present writing Amendments to the Bill will not be able to do anything about them. So long as we believe in free debate, I feel that it is important that these Money Resolutions should be framed in such a way as to give generous scope in debate to anyone who feels that he has a constructive contribution to make. I make no apology for repeating words used by the Prime Minister when in Opposition:I deemed it to be my duty as Leader of the Opposition to call attention to what I consider to be the danger of Members losing their privilege in this House …It is found, when a Bill comes forward in which they are interested, that the whole matter is dealt with in the Financial Resolution … and they cannot get their Amendments called."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1937; Vol. 321, c. 815 and 820.]Hon. Members will appreciate they cannot expect to be the Government of the day for ever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] At any rate, if they expect it, 468 I am afraid that they are in for a very sickening awakening. When they are on this side of the House, they will find themselves just as keen as we are in supporting the protest that these Financial Resolutions should be drawn more widely. I would only say before I close that at the end of the Debate on the Money Resolution in connection with the Bank of England Bill the Chancellor of the Exchequer used these words:This is a hybrid Bill and therefore a new stage is interposed … Had no Select Committee stage been interposed, it might strongly and powerfully have been argued that the Money Resolution was. too narrowly drawn."…[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 541.]In this Bill there is no intermediate stage. There is no Select Committee stage and therefore that consideration does not apply. I deeply regret that we cannot put forward some of the constructive proposals we should like to submit.
§ Major Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
There is one very important point which I wish with all sincerity to put before the Committee, and I shall be as brief as possible. I want to draw attention first of all to line 9 of this Resolution . which is:To authorise, subject to the limitation hereinafter mentioned.If we read further we see that the limitation is that no contribution shall be paid without the approval of the Minister. In my submission, that is far too wide. I consider that gives the Minister much too great a power indealing with these moneys. We are spending public-money. We are spending the money of my constituents and of other taxpayers and ratepayers and therefore I think that we are entitled to know how much that money is likely to be. I admit that it is very important and very necessary to spend the money, but that does not mean that we should do away with the normal custom of estimating what the cost is going to be. When I turn to the Memorandum on the Bill I find on page 4 the words:It is not possible to give an estimate at the present time of the total cost of the proposals in the Billand it goes on further to state:The number of new houses and flats which will attract Exchequer subsidy at the rates provided for in the Bill cannot yet be determined.In my opinion approximate estimates could and should be given before we con- 469 sider this Resolution. We have heard that the Socialists, when they get down to a problem of this sort, set out to make a plan. The Minister has said that he makes a plan with plannable material. If that is so, I see no reason why the estimates of the cost of this plan should not be put before the Committee on this Financial Resolution. It would enable the Committee and the country outside to criticise this expenditure. We have had other plans before the House — demobilisation was a good example — concerning which, as a result of discussion, a speed-up has been effected. A further point is that people who have no houses, and who want to plan ahead, would know when they are likely to get houses. I can see only one reason why the Minister does not give this estimate. It is that he would not be able to live up to it. The Minister said he would give all the information necessary. I ask him to live up to that promise now. Let him give us the information about the houses he is going to build over a number of years. I suggest that is necessary before we pass this Money Resolution. I suggest also that the right hon. Gentleman does not give it, because he has not the courage of his convictions. If he had, he would give us these figures. I submit that the Committee cannot accept the responsibility for a Financial Resolution of this kind, which is so widely drawn that it is almost a blank cheque. It is the same sort of thing that the Minister of Fuel and Power is trying to "get over "on the question of coal. I hope the Minister will consider this point
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
With regard to the speeches we have just heard, I think hon. Members opposite would be astonished if a Bill which is almost all money provisions, had a wider Financial Resolution than this. It is customary in Bills of this sort, which concern practically nothing else but money, to have the Financial Resolution narrowly drawn. In fact, if the Money Resolution had been more widely drawn, hon. Members opposite would have found it difficult, because they would not be able to move Amendments to increase the charge. This discussion is an ingenious way of trying to get a programme from me. I refuse, as I have already stated, to provide hon. Members with a programme. [HON. MEMBERS—"Why?"] Because a programme under such unpredictable circumstances, 470 would be no more reliable than the programmes produced by the last Government. I would rather have the houses on the ground than in the air, and if I did put an estimate in the Bill, the estimate would have to be the sky, because I should have to put it abnormally high. If I did not, and I exceeded the amount of money stated, I should have to come back for new powers; but the higher the figure in the Bill, the more houses we shall have. There is a direct relationship between the amount of money provided for in the Bill and the number of houses built. Therefore, so far from being apprehensive that they will be called upon to provide more money, hon. Members ought to be rather alarmed that perhaps they may not be asked to provide enough. It seems to me that hon. Members are getting themselves into a frightful tangle. There is no reason at all why an estimate should be put in. If I had put in an estimate — and one has never been put in a Bill of this sort before, because it is always impossible to know how many houses will be built and what sort—
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
Let me finish my point. If the hon. Member will look at the provisions of the Bill more closely he will see, as my hon. Friend explained in his speech this afternoon, that it may happen that a particular group of authorities, who are entitled to attract higher subsidy than some other authorities, would build more houses than the other authorities. How can I estimate how much they would cost? For instance, rural authorities may build more or less, urban authorities more or less, authorities in the distressed areas more or less, and the areas attracting the additional £ 2 per year for subsidy more or less houses. How on earth is it possible, therefore, to make an estimate? Expensive sites, flats or no flats, how many fiats per acre — all these factors are actually, even within the structure of the Bill itself, independent of any programme and quite unpredictable. Therefore, hon. Members who are asking me to put an estimate in the Bill are asking me to do a lot of loose guesswork which would have no relationship at all to objective realities.
§ Commander Galbraith
In view of the arguments the right hon. Gentleman has used, can he explain to the Committee how it comes about that the Secretary of State for Scotland in his Bill has managed to produce the very figures asked for, from this side of the Committee, which the Minister says he cannot give?
§ Mr. Bevan
I have not seen that Bill at the moment, but the Scots have always a greater sense of exactitude than the Welsh. At any rate, as far as I am concerned, I am unable to produce figures, 472 because they would have no relationship to reality, and I do not want to put guesswork into the Bill.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.