§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
On a point of Order. May we have your guidance, Mr. Speaker, before we proceed to this Bill? I understand intimation has already been given by the promoters of their intention to abandon all the operative Clauses with the exception of Clause8. That seems to be an arrangement come to between the promoters and the Minister of Health, and even Clause 8, as it stands in the Bill, is to be in a modified form. In that case, we would like to know what we are to Debate. It would seem that, if the majority of the Clauses of the Bill are to be withdrawn, we shall in fact be wasting time in debating it and that we shall be discussing matters which need never have been traversed. May we have your guidance?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is unusual for me to ask an hon. Member what he has to say. I know nothing, I can know nothing, of what is going to happen to the Bill. The interests concerned are entitled to withdraw or carry on with the Bill as they think fit. I cannot anticipate what may be the intention of the promoters or anyone else in regard to the Bill, and I cannot suggest what discussion should take place until some statement has been made.
§ Mr. Kinley (Bootle)
I want to make a point associated with that which has just been put to you, Mr. Speaker. We are presented here with what was deposited as a Bill. Since it was deposited, it has been completely altered, and now only seven lines of the original Bill remain. Is it in Order for us to waste our time on one Clause and call it a Bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
I would refer the hon. Member for Bootle to what I have said in answer to the hon. Member for Stock-port (Sir A. Gridley).
§ Wing-Commander Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
This seems a little unconstitutional. The promoters of the Bill have given notice to hon. Members of this House that they are going to withdraw the whole thing. If we proceed with Second Reading today, something entirely different will be substituted in Committee, because every operative Clause of the Bill is to be withdrawn.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It may save the time of the House considerably if I state now that the Bill has been reconsidered, arising from discussions which the County Council had with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. It is now proposed to proceed with Clause 8 only, and that Clause is being amended to enable the County Council to make financial contributions in respect of expenditures incurred or to be incurred by county districts, in the exercise of their statutory functions. The House will not, therefore, wish me to deal with the Clauses which it is proposed to withdraw on Committee stage.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
On a point of Order. May I bring to your notice, Mr. Speaker, the fact that I have just now been to the Vote Office to get a copy of this Private Bill, in order to see what is being discussed in the House? I have been informed that they have no such copy. May we have some information as to what is contained in this Bill, and whether it is identical with the other Bills? It seems to me very wrong that we should be debating a Bill, no copy of which is available to any hon. Member of this House.
§ Mr. Speaker
At present the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. McLeavy) is moving the Second Reading, and he is entitled to make his remarks as he thinks fit. I suggest that the House might listen and hear his arguments.
§ Mr. McLeavy
If I may comment on the point raised by the hon. and gallant 1941 Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower), I would say that I have obtained a copy of the Bill from the Vote Office outside this Chamber.
I submit that the Bill does not now raise any question of national policy, being confined purely to domestic financial problems within the family circle of the administrative county. I have read with some interest a circular letter which has been issued on behalf of the General Purposes Committee of the Association of Municipal Corporations, which advises Members not to withdraw their objections against this Bill. The two main points in the circular are that such powers as those now proposed should not be given, except by general legislation, that amended Clause 8 would give very extended powers to the county council, and that it is unreasonable and unfair to expect one county district to contribute to the execution of statutory powers in another county district, especially in regard to such matters as housing, and that the effects of the amended Clause might very well block future applications of the county borough councils for the extension of their boundaries.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
On a further point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in Order to refer to a Clause in this Bill when other hon. Members are not in a position to obtain a copy of the Bill in order to see what it is about?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am informed that extra copies will be supplied, and that it was because of the demand that the supply of copies ran short. The usual numbers were supplied. We cannot hold up proceedings because of that shortage.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I would like the House to give consideration to the objections to which I have referred, and to examine them in the light of the actual position. The most astonishing thing to me is that the General Purposes Committee of the A.M.C. do not appear to be up to date with their information on the powers vested in county councils, particularly in connection with public health and housing problems, and the increased powers and financial responsibilities which are proposed under the new Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Under the Public Health Acts the county councils are empowered to make grants 1942 in respect of sewerage and water schemes undertaken by county district councils., and to debit the cost to the general county rate.
Under the Housing Act, 1936, county councils have not only an obligation to make a contribution to the rural district councils towards agricultural houses of £1 per year over a period of 40 years, but they are empowered, under Section 115 (4), without prejudice to those provisions, to make, with the approval of the Minister of Health, a further annual contribution of such an amount and for such a period as may be authorised by the Minister. The Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill further extends the financial responsibilities of county councils by increasing their contributions to rural housing from £1 per house to 1 10s. What is more important is that it extends such contributions which had hitherto been confined to rural areas to county district councils described in the Bill, with a population of low ratepaying capacity. This means that inevitably the county rates must meet an increased expenditure in connection with the Minister's housing grants.
It is clear, therefore, that the point made by the General Purposes Committee of the A.M.C, namely, that it is unreasonable and unfair to expect one county district to contribute to the execution of statutory powers in another county district, reveals a lamentable lack of knowledge as to the existing practices. In fact, the case for the Bill is that such contributions are already made to county district councils, and will be increased, under the new Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, and that it would be beneficial to municipal boroughs and urban district areas to have some of the heavy financial expenditure involved in housing the population put upon the broader shoulders of the county rate.
The second point of objection by the A.M.C. is based upon the assumption that certain financial provisions, if granted, might well block future applications by county borough councils for extension of their boundaries. Personally, I should not be surprised if this was not the sole reason for objection on the part of the county boroughs. I do not accept the view that the passing of this Bill will in any way prejudice any scheme for extension of boundaries which may be 1943 placed before the Local Government Boundary Commission, as it is well understood that the Boundary Commissioners will be concerned and influenced by many factors other than those of housing needs. I would ask Members of the House to refer to Statutory Rules and Orders, dealing with Local Government, England and Wales, Alteration of Areas. Hon. Members will find, on page 3, in connection with the Schedule "General Principles" the following statement:Paragraph 1. The object of all alterations in status of local government authorities and of all alterations in the boundaries of local government areas is to ensure individually and collectively effective and convenient units of local government administration. This object is the governing principle by which the Commission are to be guided in exercising their functions under the Act.Paragraph 2 goes further. It reads as follows:In attaining this object all factors relevant to the areas under review should be considered by the Commission.''The following are some of the main factors placed in alphabetical order — I will read them because they are of importance in view of the claim made on behalf of the county boroughs:
I think it is well that the House should look into the heavy financial burdens which will fall upon county district councils if the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which has now passed its Second Reading, becomes law, particularly having regard to the case made out by the A.M.C., to which I have referred. For the information of the House, I will cite two cases which, I 1944 trust, will give a clear picture of the financial position in which the district councils may be placed.
- "(a) Community of interest.
- (b) Development, or anticipated development.
- (c)Economic and industrial characteristics.
- (d)Financial resources measured in relation to financial need, including in particular, but not exclusively, the average rateable value per head of population, rates raised per head of population and the estimated product of a given rate poundage.
- (e)Physical features including in particular, but not exclusively, suitable boundaries, means of communication and accessibility to administrative centres and centres of business and social life.
- (f) Population — size distribution and characteristics.
- (g) Record of administration by the local authorities concerned.
- (h) Size and shape of the areas,
- (i) Wishes of the inhabitants."
My first case is of a Lancashire urban district area situate on Merseyside. The council estimate that they will need to build 1,000 working class houses. Their financial resources are very small; in fact, a penny rate produces only 440. It is clear that upon the figures which have been supplied by the council's accountant, the balance of cost falling upon the local rates will be in the region of 10 per house, as against the annual rate fund contribution, stated in the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, of 5 10s. The rate poundage for these 1,000 houses will be approximately is. o½d., or a sum of 5,500. My second case is of a reasonable sized municipal borough also situate on Merseyside. It is an authority with which I have had many years of happy association. The average rateable value of council houses is 16. The local rate of 15s. 6d. is divided as follows: county council precept, 10s. 4d.; borough council, 5s. 2d. The rate received per annum, from each new council house built, is 12 8s., of which 8 5s. 4d. goes to the county council, the balance of 4 2s. 8d. being the share of the local authority. The local rate contribution per house per annum is 5 10s., and the loss per house per annum is 17s. 4d. This does not take into account the extra cost of providing for the normal public services for the tenants of the new houses.
Therefore, it will be seen that, if this Bill becomes law, the county council will be in a position to make an annual financial grant in such cases and will be able to spread the grant over the whole of the county rate. I should like briefly to refer to the urgency of the problem of re-location of population and industry. That question has been commented on in the Barlow Report. The magnitude of the problem in the Manchester area, affecting the counties of Cheshire and Lancashire, is shown by the survey prepared for the Manchester and District Regional Planning Committee. That estimate is that from 50,000 to 100,000 houses are required outside the Manchester and District Regional Area to accommodate "over spill." The problem for Cheshire and Lancashire is, however, still greater. There are other county boroughs besides 1945 Manchester and Salford which have "over spill" problems. For example, in the Merseyside area a planning scheme has been prepared in which the "over spill" population is estimated to be 256,000 persons, but additional provision is made for an increased population and diminished density. In dealing with the "over spill" population generally, the county district councils will be called upon to undertake the provision of houses, or the requisite services, such as roads and sewers, and many of these authorities will not have financial resources equal to the task.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I am referring to Clause 8, which allows the county council to give financial assistance to the county boroughs for the purposes which I am describing to the House.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
Will the hon. Member allow me? We have all been circularised[Interruption.]
§ Mr. McLeavy
I was saying that the Bill would enable the county council to provide them with the necessary financial assistance. I have dealt at some length with the financial provisions in regard to the county district councils. I speak with some personal knowledge of the deep desire of the Lancashire and Cheshire County Councils to co-operate with the Government and all concerned in the speedy provision of houses. Surely, that is one of the most important problems which confronts the nation today. It is of interest to be called that it is now three years since the Lancashire and Cheshire County Councils—
§ Mr. Kinley (Bootle)
On a point of Order. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that when you had not heard anything about the Bill, you were unable to give a ruling as to whether it was or was not in Order. Having heard that the Bill has been cast overboard, except for one Clause, that that Clause is also to be amended, and that no one knows in what way it is to be amended, may I be allowed to ask you whether it is in Order that the time of the House should be further wasted?
§ Mr. Speaker
I was in some doubt what the hon. Member was saying, but I thought he was expanding Clause 8 at 1946 rather great length. To what extent it can be altered has nothing to do with me. That is a matter for the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Hale
I asked the hon. Member to give way in order to find out what it is that he is moving. Surely, we are entitled to know whether the Bill is being moved, whether a Bill not before the House is being moved, or whether an agreement has been reached about something that is not in the Bill. The hon. Member has said that he is not going to refer to Clauses 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 or 10, because he said that these were being dropped, but he said he was going to refer to Clause 8 We have been circularised with what appears to be an official document, which says that Clause 8 will be amended and altered and will not be in the form in which it is in the Bill before the House. The result of that, in my submission, is that if there is anything before the House at all, it is a menu card with no items on the menu. If it is in Order, Mr. Speaker, may I refresh your memory with authorities which have been laid down in the past, including the Home Reservoirs Bill, 1849? [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but this is a very unusual proceeding, and it is very difficult to find something comparable without going back over a long time—almost into the Dark Ages. I submit that, on this authority, where a Private Bill, which has had to go through the Private Bill procedure to get authority, has been so altered and amended that it has ceased to be the original Bill, a Ruling should be given that it should be sent back to the examiners, or be withdrawn. I suggest that the proper proceeding, which has not been adopted here, is to place on the Order Paper an instruction to the Committee, to which this Bill will be referred, as an instruction from this House, that the Clauses are to be deleted, and I suggest that it is impossible for the hon. Member to move that we should refer to a Committee a Bill which. is not really before the House
§ Mr. Speaker
I confess that my memory does not go back to 1849. The hon. Member is moving this Bill, which is before the House. There are going to be future stages—Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading, and that Clause can be struck out and the House can deal with it later. At the moment, we have this Bill before us, and the hon. Member is entitled to make his case as he thinks fit.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I must say that one regards this question of local government authority as of vital importance to the well being of the country, and it is not a matter which we in this House can treat very lightly. It is an important matter to which we ought to give very serious consideration, and, if I am unduly long with the case I am putting forward, it is because I believe that all the facts should be fully placed before Parliament and that it is essential that we should know every particular point in favour of giving a Second Reading to this Bill. When the point of Order was raised, I was referring to the fact that it is now three years since the Lancashire and Cheshire County Councils agreed to discuss the "over spill" population problem with the Manchester, Stretford and Salford Councils. Negotiations have already taken place with representatives from those places on the question of dealing with "over spill" populations and relocation of industry. There is no doubt in my mind whatever that, without offending against the principles of good town planning, the greater part of the surplus population from the Manchester and district area could be accommodated within a radius of 20 miles of the northern boundaries of the County of Cheshire. Consultations have taken place with the county district councils directly concerned, with the three associations of Cheshire local authorities, and the Manchester, Salford and Stretford authorities have been informed that, subject to the county council being able to obtain the necessary power, they will be prepared to financially assist the county districts concerned.
At the time, considerable publicity was given to the Cheshire plan, and I would like to give to the House the views expressed by Councillor T. Nally, Chairman of the Manchester and District Regional Planning Committee and a member of the Manchester City Council. Referring to the Cheshire scheme, Councillor Nally said:It was a very great gesture on the part of Cheshire. It shows their realisation that re-planning can be carried out only by co-operation between all adjoining authorities, and is a step which may well be followed throughout the countryCommenting upon the proposals of Cheshire to build existing towns to reasonable-sized authorities, Councillor Nally said: 1948While Manchester favoured the establishment of satellite towns which would still belong to the parent city, there is a good deal to be said for the idea of bringing all existing towns in Cheshire up to the optimum size and providing new industries.These expressions of view, coming from a gentleman so closely associated with the housing and town planning schemes and one so well fitted to give an impartial opinion, cannot be lightly ignored by Parliament.
I entirely endorse the views of Councillor Nally and believe that "replanning can be carried out only by co-operation between all adjacent authorities." Both Lancashire and Cheshire county councils have offered such co-operation, but we cannot play our part in this great housing drive upon equal footing unless Parliament grants the financial powers which this Bill will provide.
I would like to make one final point. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear.''] I am glad that that remark receives the acclamation of the House. I believe—and I am prompted in that belief by many years of local government experience—that the time has arrived when county councils should be empowered, subject to the approval of the Minister of Health, to assist county district councils financially to discharge their normal functions. It seems tome to be regrettable that county boroughs should seek to deny powers to the county councils which they themselves enjoy. I am proud to think that three county councils have taken the step along the road towards co-operation with other authorities, which, in the words of Councillor Nally, "May well be followed throughout the country." It represents one of the most promising signs of the beginning of fruitful co-operative effort and should commend itself to this House.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
I beg to second the Motion.
I promise to do what I have made a custom of doing in this House and that is to speak briefly. I am interested in this Bill, and the other two Bills which are to be taken later, not because I come from Lancashire, Cheshire or Nottingham, but because I am deeply concerned about housing. I think that the test of this Government is going to be on the question of housing. The test of this Parliament is going to be on that question, and anything which is done by any section of the 1949 House to make housing difficult, will be judged in accordance with the facts. The Bill before the House is not in its complete form, and not in any amended form, but I want to refer specifically to Clause 8. Clause 8 gives a county council power, provided the Minister of Health agrees; it does not give it power without the Minister of Health giving sanction. We are not taking power away from a county borough or any other authority and passing it over to the county council. That is an entire misconception. The position is that there are county districts with a very low rate product, whose councils cannot undertake housing because of their low rate-raising ability. Under these Bills, the Lancashire, Cheshire and Nottingham county councils, if the Minister of Health agrees, could say to a county district, that they were prepared to assist it financially if it got on with its housing. If there is a Member in this House who obstructs housing for any reason at all, then he will be judged by the country.
I admit that there are valid objections to this Bill and that they ought to be faced. The first is that this Private Bill is giving to a certain county council powers not possessed by county councils generally. That is true, but it is also true of every Private Bill. There is not a county borough that has introduced a Private Bill into this House for any purpose except to get power which it did not otherwise possess. A county borough introduces a Private Bill because it has not the power to do a special job. There is no valid argument for opposing this Bill just because certain county councils, recognising their need, have asked for powers. The second objection, which I think is a valid one, is that if this thing is good, then it should not be good only for three county councils but ought to be national. That is a valid objection and I think the county councils concerned should recognise it, but it is not their fault that the nation has not done this. The only way the)' could do it was by promoting a Private Bill. If it is to be made general, so that all county councils get this power, then, as far as I can see, there would be no purpose in the Bill at all. That is the whole point.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
If the hon. Gentleman's argument is sound, and this Bill is necessary in the interests of housing, why is not the initiative taken 1950 by the Government and a Bill brought in covering the whole country?
§ Mr. Messer
That question should be addressed to the Government, and not to me or to the counties. I am not the Government, and that is a Government responsibility. In point of fact, what difference in principle is there in what is being asked for and what already exists? There might be, within the boundaries of an administrative county, an urban district which can only raise 200 by a penny rate. It is also possible to have within the boundaries of that county council a rural district that can raise three times that amount. Under the law as it exists, the county council is not merely empowered, but is compelled to contribute to rural housing. In principle, therefore, this Bill is asking no more than what already exists in regard to rural housing.
Lancashire has a deservedly good reputation for its high service. As a matter of fact its tuberculosis service is one of the finest in the country. Dr. Nissen Cox has organised a service there, which is a credit both to himself and the county he serves. He can organise treatment in sanatoria under the administration of that county, patients can be taken to them from all parts of the county, and thousands of pounds can be spent on them. Yet they can be discharged and sent back to the slums which gave them the disease because the county council has no power, authority or influence to get houses for the people who need them. If powers were granted it would be possible for the county council to agree with the county district, who would otherwise be unable to afford it, to, build houses, some of which could be specially allocated to those who, at present, may be living in circumstances which are certainly not helpful to their physical condition.
I promised not to speak for long, and I am going to keep my promise. I want this thing examined in the light of the needs of the people, and not in the light of the claims of county councils or county boroughs. The test should be whether it is going to help or hinder housing. If hon. Members can satisfy their consciences that by opposing this Bill they will be helping housing, then they should oppose it. But they should not oppose it if it means depriving anybody of the conditions which would lead to life, and 1951 the absence of which, might mean their death.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
Before the hon. Gentleman concludes, may I put this point? He said this Bill does not alter the law in any way. In fact, Clauses 3 and 4 alter the law in respect of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944.
§ Mr. Messer
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says he does not want to, but he has already done so, and he may get what pleasure he can out of it. It is understood that the operative Clause is Clause 8. Give us Clause 8, and we are prepared to concede the rest. We cannot do it now, but when the Bill has passed its Second Reading such Amendments as are required may be put down.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
We have had from the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. McLeavy) an excellent paper in favour of this Bill. I was wondering what was his association with Lancashire and Cheshire, and I thought he was going to develop a "War of the Roses." I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. I do so because the constituency which I have the honour to represent is in a peculiar position in that the River Mersey divides it, one half of the constituency being in the county of Lancashire and the other half in the county of Cheshire, so that we stand to be bombarded from the front and the flank. The county borough councils are very concerned about this Bill. The position of Stockport is this: At present there is an urgent need to provide accommodation for 27,000 persons. There is an immediate and pressing-problem, according to the latest information I have received from the town clerk, to deal with over 3,000 applications for houses, of which over 2,000 are from ex-Servicemen, most of whom have married during the war. In addition to that—and of this, I confess, I am a little ashamed—the medical officer of health has intimated that immediately it becomes practicable, he must consider making representations to the council for slum clearance action in respect of at least 3,000 houses which 1952 are now occupied," they are unfit for human habitation and are incapable of being made fit. In my post bag, now that so many Servicemen are coming back, I have had in recent weeks the most distressing letters from Servicemen who find it impossible to get anything like comfortable accommodation for themselves and their families.
A short time ago my county borough council, applying their minds to this urgent problem, made an application for a compulsory purchase order to acquire land just outside the borough, in the area of an adjacent urban district. That compulsory purchase order has been granted, and has for some time been awaiting the formal sanction of the Minister of Health. I do not know what is delaying it at the moment, because I believe all the procedure has been completed. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough, when he returns to his office, to inquire what is holding it up, as the local authority are anxious to get on with the scheme.
§ Sir A. Gridley
From information which I have with me, in respect of the Brinnington site—in the Brinnington urban district—a compulsory purchase order was made last month, but it is subject to confirmation by the Minister of Health.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give that matter his favourable consideration. We have had from the hon. Member for East Bradford a suggestion that the Boundary Commissioners need not do their job first. That seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. In the case of my constituency, the Boundary Commissioners will, no doubt, have to decide on the readjustment of boundaries here and there. From the commonsense point of view, I think that as Boundary Commissioners are appointed 1953 —and I understand they are to proceed with their work with all reasonable expedition—their work should precede that of the county councils, so that my county borough may take control of land which otherwise might come under the control of a county council within the next year. I do not think it is right that we in this House should pass a Bill which will put two or three county councils in a position entirely different from the position of other county councils. Why should these areas be treated differently from others?
I have heard no argument from the hon. Member for East Bradford or from the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) in justification of the granting of these powers. When you, Mr. Speaker, asked the hon. Member for East Bradford to which Clause he was addressing his remarks, and when he replied "Clause 8," I did not know whether he referred to the Clause 8 in the Bill or the Clause 8 which it is proposed to substitute. Until we see the proposed Clause it is difficult to discuss it; in fact, it is impossible. With Clause 8 as it now stands in the Bill, if the county council were of the opinion that the sewerage system, or some other public service in a borough, was not adequate, and they suggested to the smaller local authority or borough council that they should improve the service, the other councils which have already provided adequate services of that kind in their boroughs, will be called upon to contribute to the cost. [An Hon. Member: "They are now."] Only to a very limited extent. This Bill will widen the powers considerably.
For the reasons I have given, do not think this House should agree to this Bill receiving a Second Reading. So far, we do not really know what powers will be sought. This is not a party matter, and I believe the great majority of Members in this House are strongly opposed to it. I therefore urge the rejection of this Bill
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this stage. I should have thought the discussion had already gone very much further than the necessities of the case warrant. We are unused to having Private Bill legislation 1954 in the House of Commons; we are all a bit rusty about what happens in regard to it. However, it is by no means unusual. In fact, it was the practice that when Private Bills were promoted by local authorities, in order to try to save expense, and in order to try to reach a compromise, a considerable amount of negotiation took place, and all kinds of arrangements were made, which, as a matter of fact, were made known to the House on the Second Reading of the Bill. Therefore, there is nothing wrong in the form of proceeding that has been followed in regard to this Bill. What is wrong is that such long speeches had been made, with such small compromise. I propose to detain the House for a very few moments.
The issue before the House has been grossly exaggerated. Most of the Bill, as indicated, will be withdrawn and only Clause 8 will remain. Clause 8 is one of the subordinate Clauses of the Bill. The other Clauses of the Bill gave rise to very considerable controversy between county councils and county boroughs. That controversy forms the background of the existing Debate. It no longer forms the foreground, because it has fallen down. Those issues are not now before the House, because the promoters of the Bill have indicated that they do not wish to persist in it. I am telling the hon. Member now, and I am quite certain that his perceptions are so quick that the belatedness of the information will not interfere with his reception of it. The position is this. As has already been explained, at the moment county councils have a power, and, indeed, an obligation in regard to rural housing rates. Under the Bill now before the House, they will be called upon to make a contribution of 30 per house per year. The county councils already make contributions as to water and sewage, because it has been found necessary for good planning that they should do so. In many cases they also had to make a contribution in kind for infectious diseases' hospitals. Therefore, there are instances where the county rate already deals with services to which the country districts already make a contribution, so there is no real confusion here at all.
With the county council drawing its revenue from a wider area, and a wider planning area, it can make the appropriate contribution to needs of a particular 1955 part of the county although that particular part may already have made a contribution in its own right. There is no difficulty about it at all. I do not regard this as of fundamental importance. Nevertheless, if such powers are to be conferred upon these county councils, and if it is good to confer them, then it is good to confer them upon all county councils. This matter may as well be tidied up. Therefore, I propose to move an appropriate Amendment to the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in Committee, enabling county councils to apply the principle universally in schemes approved by the Ministry of Health. In those circumstances, I hope the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the Bill.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I thank the Minister for the statement he has made. With the permission of the House, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn