§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
I beg to move,That this House urges the necessity of immediate action to improve housing conditions in rural areas, both by means of new building and by reconditioning of existing houses.If I thought that to do so would be of any use, I should feel very much like asking for the indulgence of the House this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) had intended to move this Motion, and it was only late last night that we discovered that he was not well enough to be here. In fact, my right hon. Friend has joined the Minister of Health in a bout of ill-health, instead of engaging the right hon. Gentleman in wordy warfare on this subject across the Floor of the House. So it falls to me to move this Motion, which we have put down only for technical reasons. We thought that the time had come when the House would like to discuss this question of rural housing, but in view of the fact that such a Debate might impinge upon legislation it would have been out of Order on the Consolidated Fund Bill. Therefore, by arrangement, this Motion has been put down in order to widen the scope of the Debate, and for no other reason.
The Motion is almost platitudinous, of course, in its words. That is for the purpose of opening out the discussion. It urges the necessity of immediate action to improve housing conditions in rural areas, both by means of new building and by the reconditioning of existing houses. It is true that today one of the greatest needs which we suffer is the lack of accommodation in the countryside. I do not propose to include Scotland in anything I say, either in figures which I quote or in the points which I make. I think it is better that if Scotland is to be discussed in this aspect it should be done 1082 by some Scottish representative. But if we want a broad picture of the problem dealing merely with the rural aspect of housing, it is a fact that there are today some 60 rural administrative counties and 477 rural district authorities. If one studies these authorities it is quite clear that not all of them are what one would call "rural" in the real sense of the term. A great many are very mixed. For example, in the mining areas the problem for the local authority is more one of houses for miners than of houses for agricultural workers. The estimated number of inhabited houses in the rural areas is about 2,225,000, representing some 17 per cent. of the population. That is the broad picture of the situation as it is now.
What is required? It is perfectly clear, for one thing, that a great many of the existing houses in rural areas are bad and old. After all, the countryside has existed—[Interruption.] Certainly, agriculture is the oldest of all our industries, and without it we should be in a very sorry way. I do not intend, however, to discuss the woes of agriculture today, serious though they are at this moment. I think it is generally accepted that the agricultural industry requires not only to maintain the number of workers who are employed in it, but considerably to increase the inflow into the industry. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will agree with that statement. The figure has been put—and probably it is not very far wrong—that at least 100,000 more workers would be welcome as soon as they could be secured but, of course, part of the difficulty about bringing them into the countryside is the shortage of accommodation.
Another factor which has to be considered today is that in recent years agricultural wages have risen. They have reached a point—and this is made clear in a report with which I shall deal later on—at which many people believe that there is no longer a case for dealing with special rental arrangements for agricultural workers as such. The economic position of the workers has now been raised so that they can be considered in the same sort of way as anybody else who lives in a rural area and need not be, as the Hobhouse Report says, considered as a class apart. The first factor, then, is the need for more workers in rural areas; the second is that they can now pay 1083 economic rents. The third factor which we must bear in mind is the adverse effect of the existing Rent Restrictions Acts. I think everybody who studies this problem would agree with that.
A committee under the chairmanship of Lord Ridley reported on this subject early in 1945, and nothing has yet been done about it. A big argument—which I will not develop today—can be built up, and indeed is touched upon in the report on reconditioning, of the bad effects which the Rent Restrictions Acts, as they are now and in all their complications, have upon this problem of rural accommodation. That is the background, and those are the three factors to which I would particularly draw attention today.
On the other side of the picture, what has been done? What have the Government achieved in their 20 months of office? Page 3 of the January Housing Return gives the total figures of permanent houses built as 60,438 and the total number of temporary houses built as 83,719, but if one wishes to break up this figure to see what proportion has gone into the rural areas, one finds on pages 12 and 13 that out of a total provision of 13,133 permanent houses in the rural areas, 4,955 have been erected by local authorities, and 7,790—half as many again—by private enterprise during those 20 months. Of course, 13,000 permanent houses in 20 months in rural areas is nothing to be proud of. It is a very small figure indeed. Yet it must be admitted that the proportion that thee 13,000 has to the total is rather larger than one would probably expect on a purely population basis. I will be fair to the Ministry of Health to that extent and say that it is about five to six per cent, more than would be the population figure; but if one takes into account temporary housing, of course the grand total is very much against the rural areas. If one takes the number of temporary houses erected in the rural areas, which one finds on page 20 of this document, one finds that only 5,000 odd out of 83,000 have been erected. Therefore combining the temporary and permanent houses, we find that only 13 per cent. of the meagre number built by the Socialist Government in the last 20 months have gone into the areas administered by rural authorities, whereas the population in those areas is 17 per cent, of the total. I know no particular reason why tem- 1084 porary houses should not have gone into the rural areas just as much as permanent houses—
§ Captain Crookshank
Worse still is the regrettable fact that so far 191 rural authorities have not completed a single permanent house, and 34—or 7 per cent. of the total—have not even started building a permanent house. That shows a very serious position. I am sorry to trouble the House with so many figures, but they are necessary to give the picture of what is being done. Another figure I should mention is that out of the 13,000 or so permanent houses which have been built, only 607 have secured the special grants to make them available for agricultural workers—only 607 that can definitely be identified as destined for the use of agricultural workers.
I see that hon. Gentlemen have put down an Amendment in which they seek to call attention to what happened before the war. There again it is very difficult to identify what proportion of the houses built in the rural areas did in fact get occupied by agricultural workers, but of course vast numbers of houses were built in the rural areas between the wars—nearly 900,000, though there is no way of finding out how many were used by agricultural workers as contrasted with anybody else, except that any which were reconditioned under the reconditioning Acts were specifically used by agricultural workers. A figure of somewhere about 23,000 can be quoted there.
That is the position, and we would like to know what immediate steps the Government will take to improve it, because it is not good. So far from taking immediate steps to improve it, all the evidence I can get hold of is that they are cutting down the proposals which have already been made by rural authorities. Instead of letting even those go ahead as fast as they can, they are cutting them down. As to my own constituency, I have a cutting here from a local newspaper in an area which is completely rural except for about four or five villages where a certain number of people live who go into the town to work. There, the Government scheme to ration labour and materials has resulted in the Welton rural district council's quota of houses for those areas being cut down from 124, which they hoped to 1085 build, to 70. That is going on all over the country. That is not very encouraging for rural authorities, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to reassure us on this question.
A great deal of the trouble has possibly been that too many houses were started in too many areas, without a sufficient flow of building materials being guaranteed for them, and therefore there has had to be a check-back in order that at least some houses could be completed quickly, instead of having endless houses all over the place built only a few feet up. Possibly that is the way in which the whole scheme will be got on the rails again. I hope the Government will get the scheme on the rails. I am only sorry that it should have been derailed.
At the moment what my hon. Friends wish to stress, as I do too, is that as far as we can judge—the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland in his capacity as the Minister for Scotland will probably agree—we fear that there will be grave difficulties during the coming months, not only this year, but into next year and possibly the year after, on the whole of the question of food production in this country. Certainly the catastrophic damage first of all of the snow and the consequent large number of deaths in flocks and herds and livestock generally, and then the disastrous floods which have followed, makes the matter even more urgent than we had foreseen though we had thought there would be difficulties very soon in regard to the whole question of food production.
In order to get the maximum of production, it is quite obvious that we have to try to direct—perhaps, I should say "induce," for that is the technical word—to secure the greatest possible accretion to the agricultural population. One of the prime necessities is to find roofs for them. What can the Government do? Obviously one of the things it can do—and I am still not satisfied that they have sufficiently explored the problem—is to use the camps which still exist. The Government have let the aerodromes and military camps all over the country just go to wreck and ruin. First of all the doors are taken away. Then the windows are taken away. Then the equipment is taken away most mysteriously—of course, no doubt to the advantage of 1086 the takers-away. That accommodation could have been made use of, and it is still possible to make use of it.
I know that there are two in my own constituency which are being made use of to some extent, but a great number are not, and I am sure that is true of other places. I beg Ministers to look at this question to see whether they cannot get some form of temporary accommodation in that way.
The second thing I would ask is whether the Minister cannot pocket his pride and look at the ratio of four to one to which he has so long been wedded. The House will remember that he was asked on what grounds he had selected that proportion, and in March of last year, he said of the ratio:It certainly is not a figure based upon any strict statistical inquiry … but because it seems to me"—Because it seemed to him—to bear the proper relationship to the social situation of most of our people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1946; Vol. 420, C. 454.]As a matter of fact, some investigations were made before the war—made for quite another purpose—and in the test which was then taken it was found that something like 60 per cent. of the houses which were inhabited in the country were either owner-occupied or had been erected without subsidies. To bring it vividly before hon. Members, and bearing in mind that this is the first day of flat racing, I would say that before the war the proportion was three to two on the private builder and now it is four to one against him. I hope the Minister will look at the problem again, if not for the nation as a whole at least from the point of view of rural areas, because there are all sorts of outlying districts where a private builder, or a landlord instructing a private builder, might be able to build one or two cottages where it would not be so easy for the rural authorities to do it. There is a good deal of evidence that the Minister might get some increase there if he were not so stubbornly in favour of the four to one ratio. That is one thing which he could do, I submit.
Another thing he could do is to allow more labour for smaller houses. Here is a problem which is going to be universal, it is not necessarily a rural problem only. With the increase in the expectation of life there is a case for building quite small houses for single persons or old couples. 1087 In my constituency the local authority have been doing it for years. In that way they release accommodation which people would go on using if smaller houses were not provided. I had a case the other day where permission had been refused to build four bungalows with the object of housing three persons and one couple. If that had been done the four houses out of which they would have moved would have provided accommodation for something like 27 persons. The old people go on living in those houses, but would be satisfied to move into smaller houses. I do not know what the Minister can do about that, but I am trying to make suggestions to see whether we can get more agricultural workers in the rural areas, and those are two suggestions which do merit investigation.
§ Captain Crookshank
No, I am going to make my speech, because, as I said at the beginning, I am making it at short notice, and I am not prepared to be interrupted all the time. The Communist Party can make its own speech in its own time if it is lucky enough to be called. The third point I wish to put to the Minister concerns temporary houses. As I have pointed out, the proportion of temporary houses going into the rural areas is very small indeed, but there was one type which, as I understand it, was devised specifically for the rural areas and which appears in the Housing Return as the Airey rural house. Very few of them have been completed, and not many are under construction, but I understand that even so the Government have now altered the specification.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. John Edwards)
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman talking about permanent houses or temporary houses, because the Airey house is a permanent house?
§ Captain Crookshank
I was, as a matter of fact, talking about temporary houses, because I thought all those fancy names applied to temporary houses. I stand corrected and I apologise, but it does not alter my point. My point was that I understood that the specifications had been altered, and that, therefore, there is fresh delay in putting up those 1088 houses, and I have a case of one rural district in the county adjoining mine where 50 of these houses were ordered because the local authority were satisfied but the Ministry has cut the number down to only seven. That is not a very good idea.
I hope the Minister will look at these three specific points: The possibility of changing the ratio, the possibility of a changed attitude towards the erection of smaller houses, and the whole question of the Airey house as well as the question of diverting more temporary houses into the rural areas. This last suggestion was accepted as being wise policy in the case of the mining areas. The provision of more houses in the mining areas was one of the incentives which the Government said they would adopt in order to get more coal, and I do not see why the same argument should not be applicable to the rural areas in view of the approaching crisis in food production.
Having dealt with the erection of new houses, I would now say a few words about the reconditioning of houses, because here we have the advantage of the publication recently of the Report of the Hobhouse Committee which dealt with this problem. The history of this Committee is very strange and I do not understand the attitude of the Government towards it. The question of reconditioning houses was raised very early in this Parliament. In fact, in the Debate on the Address, as soon as the Government came into power, we had a discussion about it, and the Lord Privy Seal said on 17th August:We shall deal with the question of rural houses as part of the general housing campaign … I agree about reconditioning. It is vital. It is an immediate contribution. I say we must take it in our stride as part of the general housing programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th August, 1946; Vol. 413, c. 257.]Immediately after that the Hobhouse Committee was appointed. That was in September of that year. Its terms of reference were enlarged in October, and it produced an Interim Report as early as January last year, in which it was stated that apart from other considerations reconditioning was both necessary and urgent. That was reported to the Minister in January, but he did not disclose the receipt of the Report for over two months. Having told us on 28th March that he had received the Report it was not until the 1089 end of May that he said he was going to await the full Report before taking action. The Committee, which included three hon. Members of this House, went on with its labours and signed a Report on 25th September. There was a minority Report, a minority of one, signed on 12th October. Yet this Report did not see the light of day till 27th February. Why, I do not know, but I hope the Minister will give us an explanation, because here was something which was urgently wanted. It was a question of great importance to know whether or not it would be wise to recondition houses. The Committee, with one exception, came to the conclusion that it was necessary and desirable. It had come to that conclusion in its Interim Report as long ago as January, 1946, and Came to the same conclusion in its full Report of 25th September. We did not hear anything about it until February, and all we have been told so far is that the Minister hopes to announce his intentions before the end of this Session.
As the Report involves legislation, that means that nothing is going to be done this Session, yet the whole tenor of the Report is that it is not only possible to recondition but that reconditioning would be a considerable contribution to the solution of the housing difficulty. I do not put it too high—it would be a considerable contribution. The reason why the Committee say that is that after taking considerable evidence they have come to the conclusion that there is labour available for this purpose. In the housing problem as in other matters we are always up against shortages of labour and materials but this Committee have come definitely to the conclusion that there is labour available for this purpose. As one of their reasons for saying this they point out that the very small builder who exists in villages and small towns is not really equipped for taking on large housing contracts, but in the very nature of his experience he is conversant with the job of repairing and altering houses and, therefore, with the necessary help and encouragement he could go ahead with reconditioning and altering, although not prepared to take on contracts for new building. The evidence about this is to be found in paragraph 18 of the Report, and it seems to be conclusive as to the value of the contribution these small builders can make, particularly when it is remembered that the small builder—a man and 1090 his son, for example, or a man and his nephew—are to all intents and purposes immobile. If they live in a far away village, and I daresay that is the case in many places in Scotland, as it certainly is in the remoter parts of my constituency, they cannot be counted upon as being available to do their bit in building schemes in places 20, 30 or 40 miles away. Having found out from the evidence that the labour is available the Committee come down wholeheartedly in favour of full reconditioning.
Having put forward that argument, I will leave my hon. Friends to develop the point, but an argument which appeals to me is that by bringing these existing houses up to a higher standard it is possible to raise the general level of accommodation throughout the countryside. New houses are put there, and we will grant for the sake of argument that they are very good houses, but at the same time all those other houses exist there, some of them perhaps 20 years old, and not up to the modern standard, because we are improving all the time, but something could be done to bring them up to that standard. Other houses are older still and more needs to be done to them. Unless something is done all along the line to raise the standards of the houses which are already there, the people who live in them can never hope to get the amenities and improvements which are being provided in the modern houses erected for people exactly like themselves and on the same economic level. Therefore it is a matter of common justice between one citizen and another. If a reasonable way of doing this is devised, there is everything to be said for reconditioning and bringing up to standard as many houses as possible. The Committee argued the case so well that it is a pity to try to pick out one or two plums. Every Member will, I hope, do his best to read it for himself.
The purpose that we had in mind in putting forward this Motion was to ask what the Government intend to do about the present situation. Are the Government ready to announce a policy today? The Minister presumably received this Report some time in October, after the signature of the minority Report. He may have received it before then. One remembers that the minority Report was signed by an hon. Member who is not unknown to him. Surely by now, the 1091 Government ought to have come to a conclusion whether to go ahead with this matter or not. If they are going ahead, I ask them whether any steps are being taken to recondition houses, ahead of legislation. We know that administration, especially in regard to housing, can be stretched in many directions. I hope that we can have satisfactory answers to the questions which I have asked in this Debate. If we get them, the Debate will have been worth while.
Now I would like to recapitulate. We find that the Government have not done what they might have done in regard to housing in the rural areas. During the 20 months in which they have been in power the figures of housing completed have been tilted against the rural areas. On the other hand it is admitted that we must try to get into the rural areas as many people as we can in the interests of increasing the agricultural production. Some of those people might well be put into houses or camps for a short time to take the place of returning German prisoners of war. In the meantime, will the Government see to it that they ease their programme of permanent building by considering the development of smaller houses, wherever it can be shown that the smaller house will release accommodation in a larger house? Will the Government also announce their policy with regard to reconditioning? If they agree that reconditioning is the right line for the future, can they do anything by way of short-term administrative action to forestall legislation?
Those are the main questions which I have in mind to put to the Minister. I would again say how sorry I am that we should have initiated this Debate in the absence of the Minister of Health himself, but urgent problems cannot always wait. We did hope that by now the right hon. Gentleman would be well enough to be back with us. Certainly the Parliamentary Secretary is capable of dealing with the matters which I have put before him. Nothing that I have said today has been startlingly new. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It would have been new, if there had been some development, and if the Government had done something. When I say there is nothing startlingly new in it, I mean that my speech today is almost an echo of a speech which I made 12 months ago. Instead 1092 of the Government going into action on this matter, they have gone down very much since then, in this respect as in so many others.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I am sure that we all regret the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health from this Debate, and the cause of his absence. We shall miss his stimulating presence. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry will, I have no doubt, acquit himself with credit. I am also sorry that the right hon. Member who was to have opened the Debate for the Opposition is absent. But the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) is always able to fill any breach of any sort at the shortest notice.
The problem of rural housing is in many respects more acute than the problem of housing in the towns. It is generally recognised that less has been done to catch up with the neglect in the rural areas in the period between the two wars and there is in rural areas a relatively higher proportion of houses built before 1914, compared with the number in the towns. All those facts are very well known to hon. Members in every quarter of the House. We all know what appalling conditions prevail in the countryside, the slum villages, the great parts of the country districts, where the elementary conditions of good housing, water and sanitation do not exist, for instance in my own constituency, and where, in some cases, conveniences and amenities are absolutely primitive. In every village in the Island of Anglesey there are rotten houses which are thoroughly unhealthy to live in. And yet families of children are being brought up today in such dreadful and overcrowded conditions. It is very little wonder that in constituencies like mine maternal and child mortality rates are often as high as they ever have been, and sometimes higher than, in the most congested industrial areas of the country. Unfortunately also the tuberculosis rate has been alarmingly high, despite the fact that this is a very salubrious and healthy part of the world. I am sorry to have to say that although hovels of the kind which I am describing are well known in Scotland and rural England, they are even more common in rural Wales. Every report, every inquiry, that has been made, including the Hobhouse Report and that 1093 of my right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), has disclosed that rural housing in Wales is worse than in any other part of the United Kingdom.
Those conditions, as hon. Gentlemen opposite say in the Amendment which they have tabled, are the result of generations of neglect. There is no doubt of that. Latterly, however, much of it has been the result of the poverty of local authorities. That is a fact which must not be overlooked. Let lion. Members reflect that the product of a penny rate in my constituency or in Merioneth or Montgomery is just under £700. How is it possible, and how has it been possible, for any local authority to embark upon ambitious housing programmes with a narrow income of that size? I welcome the new subsidy provisions which the Government have brought in. They will assist local authorities very materially in the construction of new houses.
Rural housing has been an urgent social problem for many years. Now it has become something more. It has become an urgent problem of increasing and maintaining our food production. As such, it has become a matter of immediate and vital moment. We talk of the need for attracting new recruits into agriculture—150,000 prisoners of war will be leaving the countryside at the rate of 1,500 per month, and the rate will be greatly accelerated by the end of this year. Those prisoners of war have been living in camps. The Government are saying that to make up for the departure of these prisoners they need 80,000 more people in the industry this year. The Ministry of Agriculture said at an earlier date that they want 100,000 new permanent workers in the industry. Where are those people to live? Apart from the bad housing conditions, there is also an acute shortage of houses. Where are people coming into the industry to be put?
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
It will not he possible to attract 80,000 or 100,000 permanent recruits to the industry unless the Government provide them with decent houses in which to live. They will not be willing to live in the houses in which their forefathers and their fathers have lived.
I ask the Government, in view of a food situation which is becoming rapidly 1094 more critical, whether the same priority cannot be given to agricultural workers as has been rightly given to the miners in the matter of housing. I hope that before the Debate closes we may have a statement from the Government on that very vital matter. I recognise, as every hon. Member must, the hard facts of the situation and some of the difficulties with which the Minister of Health has had to contend in the last 20 months in facing the housing problem. We are up against exactly the same problems in rural as in urban areas. There is not only a shortage of labour, hut an increasing shortage of materials, which is becoming more crippling than the shortage of labour. These are the limiting factors. The fuel shortage has intensified the difficulties. There is no doubt whatever that that is the effect of it. Inevitably it will hold up housing progress. I very much doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman will reach the target which he has set out to achieve this year. I do not see how it can be done.
Let us look at the White Paper on the housing problem. It points out that the clay industries group — manufacturing bricks, clay tiles, drain pipes, the cement industry and the glass industry—requires the use of coal in very large quantities. The scope for economy of fuel in those industries is very small and the cut in their supplies of coal will have a directly proportional effect upon the volume of output. Those facts are indisputable. Therefore, I am convinced that we shall have to face the possibility that even the limited target set out in the White Paper will not be reached. There is also a serious shortage of timber. That is perhaps the worst bottleneck in the construction of houses. If we cannot increase the supply of timber this year, it will mean that there will be another serious brake on housing progress.
Where can we get increased supplies? Russia needs all her timber for reconstruction, and has very little, if any, left over for export. We are told that we shall be able to get some supplies from Germany. I wonder whether the Minister will be able to give us any information as to how far negotiations have gone on that. What about Yugoslavia and Rumania? What about the Baltic countries? Why should we not try to penetrate the iron curtain? If we simply sit back and say we cannot penetrate it, we have nobody to 1095 blame Out ourselves for our failure. I hope that we shall have some information as to the supplies we hope to get from those countries, or the negotiations which we may be conducting with them, with a view to increasing our timber supplies. What about our own supplies? Have we combed this country for timber? I hope we may be told about that. After all, the number of houses we shall build in the rural areas depends upon these things, and not upon the ratio of four to one between local authority and the private enterprise building. They all draw out of the same pool. I myself take a very different view from that of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough on this matter, because I feel that the great need of this country is for houses to be built by local authorities. That is the need which was least satisfied during the inter-war period. It is the need which most requires satisfying.
I would like to say one thing about the shortage of bricks. I believe that last year we were producing about half the number of bricks produced in 1939. Is all available capacity being utilised in this country? My reason for asking is that many months ago I wrote to the then Minister of Works and asked him whether he would consider reopening a small brick works in my constituency. The answer I got was that when there was a local demand for bricks they would reconsider opening it. When one takes into account the fact that there is quite a substantial programme for housing which has already been authorised and indeed begun in the Isle of Anglesey, it seems to be a fantastic answer, and absolutely out of touch with all reality. That was many months ago. The question has been considered and reconsidered, but the brickworks is still not opened. I hope we shall make use of all available capacity.
I would like to say a word as one of those who signed the Hobhouse Report on reconditioning. I have always thought that hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway have greatly exaggerated the importance of reconditioning. They have always spoken about it as though it were an instrument for revolutionising housing in the country side. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That was the impression they have always given me; they have shown a great deal more enthusiasm about it than about the building of new houses. On the other 1096 hand, I think it is also possible to underrate the usefulness of reconditioning. I think it could make quite an important contribution—I put it no higher than that—to the housing problem in rural areas and in the present shortage of materials and fuel, reconditioning, which uses far less of both, is of much greater urgency than it was when the report was first presented to the Minister. I do not agree, therefore, with hon. Gentlemen opposite when they suggest that this is a matter which could be postponed or dealt with at leisure when we have the labour for it.
I agree, and I think we all agree, that new housing must have first priority. There should be no doubt about that. The majority of the Hobhouse Committee, however, were equally convinced that there are small contractors in the villages and small towns, and that there is a reserve of labour, both unsuitable for building new houses but capable of useful employment on reconditioning work now, without any delay at all. We also were convinced that such reconditioning would provide additional accommodation. There is a good deal of confused thinking about reconditioning. There is the condemned house which is only fit to be scrapped, but there is also the old fashioned property which is good, very often substantial, which can be brought up to date, provided with modern conveniences and amenities, and made to compare reasonably with new cottages. I think myself that we cannot put too much emphasis on the need for establishing minimum standards if we are to have reconditioning, the minimum standards set out in the Hobhouse Report, which I think would be as acceptable to hon. Members opposite as it is to hon. Members on this side of the House. I do not believe that a single penny should be spent on adapting a house unless, at the end of reconditioning, it can provide a good, sound and healthy home.
There are, of course, objections. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) has on another occasion enumerated them. I understand those objections and very largely share them. But what is the alternative? I ask hon. Members opposite to face up quite frankly to that question. The Hobhouse Report said that there are at least 100,000 old fashioned houses in the countryside which could be brought up to a good standard. 1097 If those houses are not reconditioned, what will be the position? With the present shortages and the present slow progress in building new houses—and we must admit the slow progress—unless we recondition suitable houses in the countryside we shall in fact be condemning families to go on living in substandard houses for years. That is what we must face up to. I beg the Minister when he comes to reply to make a favourable announcement about the reconditioning recommendations of the Hobhouse Report. The problem of providing houses in rural areas is a social and national problem. I urge the Government to use every and any means at their disposal to cleanse the countryside of conditions which are a reproach to our civilisation.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Asterley Jones (Hitchin)
One of the most valuable contributions made towards alleviating the shortage of houses in rural districts so far has been the Airey house, and I should like to congratulate the Ministry and those others who are responsible, on the energy which they have shown in stimulating the production of this valuable type of building. There is however, one disadvantage from which it suffers at the present time. The Ministry has laid down that some, at any rate, of the internal walls of those houses shall be constructed of plaster board instead of something more substantial, and I get complaints from people, otherwise very pleased with the houses, who say that they have to treat them as though they were made of china. A little bit of heavy usage of the wall, and it is gone. It has been said to me that the only people who can afford to live in the plaster board houses are plaster saints, for if you do not behave carefully the wall goes through.
I understand that one of the objections to using something more substantial is cost, not only in money but in materials. I put it to the Minister that the present grant of £175 payable in respect of Airey houses is not sufficient for a rural authority, because they have very low rate products and simply cannot afford to bridge the gap which exists between the full cost of an Airey house—in proper condition, not plaster board condition—and the cost of an ordinary permanent house on which the subsidy is based. There is a further point on the cost of the Airey houses; is the Minister satisfied 1098 that tenders from contractors for their erection are in fact a true assessment of the cost? Is it not a fact that some contractors are nervous, not being familiar with what is involved, and are tendering rather high?
As has already been said by the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) the most immediate limitation on progress at the present moment, in rural areas in particular and in the country as a whole for that matter, is the timber supply. I think it is true to say that in housing we are at present faced with a series of limitations, some of which are more close to us than others. Even if we push back the timber limitation we shall soon come up against another, but I would like to ask the Minister what progress has been made towards cutting down the amount of timber required even further than it has been cut down already? At the moment I understand that about 1.6 standards, or something of that kind, are used in the construction of the ordinary type of house. Suppose concrete were used to a greater extent. I understand it is possible to cut down considerably the amount of timber used, for instance, on the first floor, by the use of concrete. There again one would very soon come up against a limitation on concrete, probably; it may not be quite so near to us as the timber limitation, but no doubt it exists. It is of course easy enough to suggest substitutes for all sorts of things, but it is very difficult to find a substitute which is not itself in short supply. Again, I take it that the objection to the use of concrete is the increased cost.
The next point I wish to make is this. In housing in the rural areas—I shall deal with reconditioning in a moment—I feel that we are not making sufficient use of local resources. Practically all the houses which were built in rural areas prior to the last few years have been built primarily of local materials, and the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey mentioned a very important point when she referred to her efforts to get one of her local brickworks opened. There is a brickworks in my neighbourhood, which I am perfectly certain could be used to stimulate the production of bricks, but I am told that one of the reasons why this is difficult is that the small brickworks, which very often employ only about half a dozen men, cannot as things are offer the conditions which the workers in the brickmaking industry 1099 are very rightly demanding. I think that is a matter in regard to which the Ministry ought to use every possible means to stimulate production. They should investigate the position and find some means of overcoming the difficulty. It is perfectly true that the bricks produced in small brickworks are rather more expensive than those which are mass produced; at the same time, when one considers how far it is necessary, in some parts of the country, to transport some of these bricks, I feel that we should probably not be much worse off, if we were to open up these local brickworks.
On the subject of reconditioning, it is already perfectly clear that timber is the closest limitation. I fully agree with the Hobhouse Committee, and with other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, that labour is available in a large part of the country—I do not say that it applies everywhere—in the form of small private firms, family concerns, who cannot, or perhaps will not, take on the responsibility of erecting a complete new house. Therefore, in a very large part of the country the labour is there. But I was somewhat surprised that the Hobhouse Committee should have fixed the estimate of the sum required thoroughly to recondition one of these cottages at £500. Admittedly, the conditions vary from place to place, and it is impossible to lay down a hard and fast rule. But I should have thought that more than £500 was needed in order to bring any of these old cottages up to modern standards, and I should certainly put the figure more in the region of £750, to achieve the result which the Hobhouse Committee lays down in very great detail.
The next point on the subject of reconditioning is that, unless we bring back into occupation a house which is so bad that it has had to go out of occupation, and as regards which it is very doubtful how far it is worth while reconditioning at all, we are not, in fact, increasing the total number of separate dwellings. Again, taking a very broad view of it, it is sometimes necessary to expend about half a standard of timber on reconditioning. When that has been done three times, it means that one new house has gone. I should like to make two points about this. Obviously, we must not interfere with the erection of new houses, but has the Ministry considered—and this 1100 is the point which I anticipated earlier on—the use of local materials, in particular, home-grown hard woods? A very large number of these cottages are built of local materials, and I am advised—I am not an expert on the matter—that it is possible to use local hard wood for reconditioning, and to use other materials which would not be satisfactory for and could not be used in new houses. As I say, I have taken some expert advice on this matter, and am advised that that is possible.
I am further advised that it is possible for the length of time taken to season these woods to be substantially reduced by the use of comparatively simple equipment, if only it was available. Surely the situation is so urgent that if it is possible by the introduction of new equipment to carry out quick drying of such wood, and if it is possible for this material to be used—and I see no reason why it should not be used—then that is one way of reconditioning without eating into the supplies of imported soft woods, which are needed for the erection of new houses.
The next limitation is in regard to fittings. I should like the Minister, when he replies, to say how far the demand for the installation of bathrooms and other sanitary conveniences can be met out of the existing supply of fittings. In dealing with this matter there is, of course, always the danger of sending good money after bad. I feel that, if we are going to do this thing, it is essential that we must make a good job of it, and not stop half way.
There is one other point I wish to make, and I do so with some reluctance, although I believe it is a matter which should be stressed. It concerns the question of the overlapping of Ministries at the regional level, particularly in their relationship with rural authorities. I had an instance brought to my notice yesterday in which, right at the start of a scheme, a rural authority sent to the Ministry of Health, and to the Ministry of Works as well—because I understand that they work together—all information regarding the pressure, type of copper, details of water ducts, the frequency in the electric current, and so on, and even the colour that it was proposed to paint the bungalows. Not long afterwards, the rural authorities received visits from various officials of the Ministry asking for this very same information. That sort 1101 of thing wastes the time of the very hardworking officials of a council. It wastes the time of the Ministry officials as well, and I hope that the Minister is going to insist on efficient administration at the regional level. Admittedly, he may have to work with a certain number of inexperienced people, but I think that the time has come when this machine should be settling down and working properly.
I have had other instances brought to my notice where the local authority has faithfully filled up its census return, and then, a short time later, has been asked for the information contained in that return. The officials of these rural authorities are, for the most part, extremely loyal and devoted public servants, and it is hurting some of them very considerably to find the Ministry, whether at a national or a regional level, coming down, quite unnecessarily as it appears to them, to get information which they have already. This practice has, I think, the technical name of "swanning," at least, that is what it used to be known as by staff officers, who did much the same thing in the Army. This practice on the part of civil servants may be perfectly justified, but it appears to the man on the spot to be "swanning" without any excuse at all. I hope that the Minister will tighten up his organisation so that only the essential things are asked for, that only the essential visits are made, and that the men on the spot will be left to get on with their work.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) began his speech by congratulating the Government on the energetic attitude they have taken up. I am afraid that I cannot do the same. In fact, it has always been rather astonishing to me why there has been so much delay in the introduction of a Measure to recondition houses when there has been so much agreement about it on the Government side. It started in the Debate on the Address, when the Prime Minister made reference to it, and hoped that it would soon come. Then there was the Debate on housing, which followed shortly afterwards, in which three hon. Members opposite referred to the question of reconditioning houses, and two of the three came out strongly in favour of it. Again, in November, 1946, in the course of a Debate in another place, Lord 1102 Quibell who, of course, is a supporter of the Government, made it perfectly clear that no preconceived ideas were going to prevent him from saying that the Housing (Rural Workers) Act should be reenacted. On the same occasion, Viscount Addison promised that it would not be very long before the Government made proposals to give help in this direction. That was in November, and the report was received in October. Now it is March. I cannot understand what the delay has been, and I hope that, when the Parliamentary Secretary replies, he will be able to tell us something. I also hope that it is not the illness of his chief which is causing him to hold off, because I think that in a good organisation, even if the commander-in-chief is away, the work ought still to go on.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who opened this Debate this afternoon, painted a wide picture of what is happening in rural housing today. For a few minutes this afternoon I want to paint a small picture of what is happening in a part of the country which I know very well, and which is also happening in many other parts of the country. In the rural district in which I live, there are only 129 houses, out of a total of 2,708, which are fit in all respects. There are 552 which require minor repairs, 1,395 which require repair, 387 capable of reconstruction, and 245 in respect of which it is impossible to do anything, and in a very large number of which people are still living. Since the war there have been four plus four new houses and five plus 24 under construction, and there are, approximately, 200 applicants for those houses. That is the picture of one small part of England, and a part on which the production of our food depends certainly as much as on any other part.
As regards reconditioning, there is one argument which I would put forward, quite apart from those already submitted, which appeared in the Hobhouse Report. It is that we should take particular care to do well by the agricultural workers who have stayed by the industry, have increased their output, and are bearing the whole thing on their shoulders at the moment. Very often they are the last people to get a new house. They may be living in a house which is just not too bad, the sort of house that could be recon- 1103 ditioned and made into a really decent dwelling. This question of reconditioning will affect them particularly. That is one of the reasons why I feel we should not neglect to bring in reconditioning at a very early moment.
I would now like to refer to repairs and patching. Very rightly, the Hobhouse Report separates the question of repairs and patching from reconditioning, but it is, nevertheless, an increasingly important commitment of our rural builders. In the part of the country in which my right hon. and gallant Friend and I live, we recently had a zonal conference. The chairman of that conference explained that the labour force used on the erection of new houses had increased from 33 per cent. in June, 1946, to 37 per cent. in December, 1946—a corresponding decrease of 17 per cent. in the number of men employed on repairs and maintenance. He said that this was encouraging progress, and had been achieved without creating unemployment. But I am not so sure. At the moment, and in present conditions, I do not think that that is encouraging progress, with 1,395 houses requiring repairs, and after a very heavy winter.
That conference took place in February of this year. We should give very careful consideration to the question of materials and labour for immediate, repairs. The rural district of which I am talking is allowed to grant only £900 a month of licences. Considering that that is in respect of all farms, farm buildings and houses, I think it is entirely insufficient. I am a little worried about the question of licensing on overall costs, because I do not think we can very well differentiate in those figures between the amount of labour used and the amount of materials used. For example, a friend of mine had a chimney broken off in a recent gale. He had to have it put on again. There was practically no material involved, but scaffolding had to be rigged, and he had to pay a high figure to get his chimney put back again. That is an example of a case in which the cost arose from labour and not from material. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us if he is satisfied that labour and material are properly balanced at the moment. I am not so sure that they are.
I would like to make two suggestions. The first deals with the immediate prob- 1104 lem of getting as many people as possible under cover—I put it no higher than that—at the earliest possible moment. I am certain that a strong directive from a high authority is required to direct all camps, aerodromes and Government establishments to take a certain proportion of people and rehouse them. As an ex-serving officer, I know very well that that would be resisted and I can imagine the arguments that would be used, but I know equally well that if the directive was strong and tough enough it could be done. Our houses were requisitioned in the war against Hitler, and I should have thought there was an argument for requisitioning some portion of those establishments to help us in the battle against famine.
It is not only the Service establishments to which I refer. In my constituency a large aerodrome has been taken over by the Ministry of Works, and the inside is like an Aladdin's cave. In it are kept all kinds of furniture and equipment, most of which is used in Government offices This place is used as a great dump. There are a number of them about the country, and they are used as dumps and collecting posts for all this furniture which is taken from one Government Department, which has perhaps been derequisitioned, and pushed off to another. I am certain that if a strong directive were given to that establishment, quite a lot of temporary accommodation could be offered to the people who so urgently need it. If during the process some of the furniture could also be taken out and distributed to the people who need it, that would also be a good thing.
I wish to refer again to the question of repairs. It is no good setting our eyes on the stars of tomorrow if we keep on tripping over the things of today. The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) referred with loathing to the hovels and houses which are in a deplorable state of repair in her constituency. I could not agree with her more, but we cannot just loathe them and leave them. We have a duty to see that the people living in those houses have something done for them now. If a person is living in a cottage where the wet is coming through, with rat holes, and in a filthy state, naturally he wants a better house, but when it rains, the first thing he wants is to have that house dry. I have been very much impressed 1105 by the arguments put forward from all sides of the House to the effect that it is not easy to put foreign labour into the mines. I think the House has accepted that principle, but I do not agree with it as regards the building and, in particular, the repairing trade.
In my constituency, before some of the houses which had been requisitioned by the Army were handed back, gangs of Italians were taken on to put them into a state of repair. I remember going into one of those houses one day, and when I opened the door I could not imagine what had happened because there was a noise far worse than any monkey house at any zoo. It was nearly as bad, though not quite so bad, as it is in this House when we discuss the Business for next week in our dignified manner on a Thursday. The noise was caused by a gang of Italians doing out the house, and they were doing it very well. In relation to this question of repairs, surely we can get some of the voluntary foreign skilled labour which exists both in the ranks of the German prisoners in this country, and particularly among those who are billeted—it is among those where we will find the volunteers—and also abroad in Europe. There are many Italians who want to come back to this country. Here is a job where we can employ them. I am talking about things which I understand. If I were allowed a certain number of Italian or other foreign workmen, I could do an enormous amount of concrete, of which at the moment there is no shortage—we are exporting cement—with green timber creosoted—and with things like that, and with men who could point brickwork. With a labour force of that description, I could patch up temporarily only, of course, many houses and make more comfortable many people in my constituency, and I could also put into a far better condition a great many of the farm buildings, many of which are almost falling down.
I wish to raise a cheer, on my own if necessary, for all the local government officers and their staffs in rural areas who are in the front line of the battle today. They are generally underpaid, nearly always overworked, they are worried by the Ministry, bothered by their local Members of Parliament, pressed by the councillors and importuned by the public, vet somehow or other they get on with the work. Of course, they have their faults, too. Nevertheless, I do not think there 1106 is any other country in the world which could produce men who get on with their job so honestly and so well as these men who work in remote rural districts. I would also like to pay my tribute to the thousands of people in this country who are living in desperately bad conditions, who are not complaining, and who manage to keep cheerful—how, I do not know—but who are hoping and hoping that we will get something done for them quickly.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. John Edwards)
I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I intervened at this stage, although I hope hon. Members will not mind if I leave some points of detail to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland when he replies. I am sure we all feel the absence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) who, I think, could have provided higher lights for this Debate than I am likely to do, or, for that matter, with all respect, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank). I suppose I ought to ask the indulgence of the House on this my first real occasion since I came into office. I feel a certain handicap in the absence of my chief, although I assure the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) that my right hon. Friend's absence does not mean in any sense that the Ministry of Health stops working. The work goes on.
§ Mr. Edwards
I should not like it to be thought that there is any difference of opinion between this side and the other side of the House on the matter of the care and attention which should be given to agriculture. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened this Debate referred to agriculture as the oldest of our industries. I almost interrupted him to say, "and the most neglected." I do not need to argue that, in view of the completely devastating figures for which I am greatly indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle. The figures that he gave of the area which he knows best, are enough to indict the 1107 governments of the past, so far as this Debate is concerned, at any rate. Those figures speak for themselves. They show neglect for which this Government are in no sense responsible, although the burden does fall upon the present Government.
We do not want today to argue in detail about what has happened in the past, but we should remember that the tasks which now confront us are, to some extent, created by the neglect of the past. All I want to say is that the Government are anxious to see that the maximum contribution is made towards the solution of the rural housing problem at the earliest possible moment. We recognise that progress in agriculture depends in no small measure on the provision of housing and other public services. We know that the future of agriculture depends upon the intensity with which we are able to service the agricultural areas. I noted what the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady M. Lloyd George) had to say, and I can assure hon. Members that we also appreciate that the maternity and child mortality rates and tuberculosis rates are directly related to housing conditions. Therefore, do not let us disagree in the sense of not recognising these problems. Do not let us disagree that they have got to be handled, but let us discuss whether the way in which the Government are handling this matter is the right way. Rural housing must be considered in the light of housing needs and the house building capacity of the country as a whole, and it must be recognised that one cannot deal with rural housing apart from the background of general housing. Labour and materials are not available for an unlimited amount of housing work. I noted what my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) said about the use of substitute materials, and I assure him that every effort is being made to provide substitutes, particularly for timber and steel. But whatever we do about substitutes, we have to face the hard economic problem that we have limited resources which we want to use for a number of different purposes.
Perhaps I may be allowed to remind the House that the Government decided that the first consideration in providing housing, both in the rural areas and in the rest of the country, must be that of need; that must be the overriding consideration. Therefore, the Government decided to con- 1108 centrate primarily on the erection of new houses to provide for those families who have no homes of their own. Such families must clearly have precedence over families who already have accommodation, even if such accommodation is not as satisfactory as one would wish. Here let me pray in aid a document that is not often referred to in this House. It is entitled "Looking ahead," being the report of a Conservative housing subcommittee, in the course of which the committee are at pains to say, when talking about reconditioning and conversion:Care must be taken that no such proposals shall be entertained unless their execution will effect true economy as compared with the building of new houses.I quote that with approval, because what one has to show is that the diversion of resources from our main objective of making new houses will not, in fact, increase the overall amount of accommodation. As long as there is a crying need for extra accommodation we cannot but accept the position that we must not go all out on any attempt to improve existing accommodation. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that we are only entitled to effect improvements in accommodation if the result is extra accommodation.
Now let me turn, continuing the general background picture, to say a few words about the programme for 1947 and the way in which it is being distributed in localities. I do not need to summarise the White Paper, with which I take it hon. Members are quite familiar. The housing programme for 1947 is a realistic programme, based on an estimate of the total amount of work on the construction of new houses which the Government think it reasonable to expect the building industry to carry out during the year. I do not deny that the weather and the fuel difficulties in the last few weeks will show their effects and we may find that the programme will have to be modified. But the programme was related, not to a hypothetical target, but to the actual facts of the amount of labour and materials likely to be available to do the job. The programme for Great Britain for 1947, after considering these factors, was set at 240,000 houses, of which 216,000 were to be in England and Wales. Already tenders have been approved for 235,000 houses in England and Wales; and the 216,000 which it is hoped to complete will, therefore, largely be among those 1109 houses in the tenders already approved. In rural areas, close on 41,000 permanent houses are already in tenders approved, and these represent—as the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough said; at least I think he talked of the houses completed, but the same thing is true of tenders—17 per cent. of the total. This is a fair percentage on a population basis, since approximately 17 per cent. of the population live in rural areas.
Now, in what ways can we help the rural areas particularly? The first thing—and I hope the House will bear with me if I labour this point—is that we cannot, I think, by and large, avoid using our building labour where it lies. I noted that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was talking about agricultural labour he used the word "direct," and he then corrected himself and used the word "induce." I think he will agree with me that we do not want to direct labour.
§ Mr. Edwards
Then we are agreed about it. That being so, if we do not want to direct labour we are in no position to move labour out of localities. I admit, quite frankly, that we cannot avoid, in some places, having labour which gives a higher labour proportion per house, or per unit of the population—whatever you like—by comparison with other areas. But, unless we are to have direction of labour, we must use the labour approximately where it lies. I stress that point, because it is of first importance.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
I should like to point out that labour is mobile in the country, and moves distances of 25 or 30 miles.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Every day building labourers are being moved from my home locality by motor a distance of 30 miles to London—from the country.
§ Mr. Edwards
Up to a point, labour can be moved within a particular area, but the right hon. Gentleman is merely confusing the issue. I am saying that, broadly speaking, the labour must be used where it lies—approximately, broadly speaking, in a general kind of way—and no talk of bus journeys which some people may make, even as much as 25 miles, 1110 invalidates my main point. Therefore, as I see it, bearing the practical issues in mind, all that we can do in trying to give genuine help to the rural districts is to see, within any locality, that the rural districts get their fair share of the labour that is going. That is the point I want to make. It is for precisely that purpose that we have arranged, all over the country, zonal conferences comprising convenient groups of local authorities, at which conferences the representatives of the appropriate Government Departments and of the localities are collating information as to building progress and building resources. In the light of the information available, it is hoped to secure agreement in advance with each local authority as to the number of houses they can reasonably hope to complete in 1947; and, at the same time, to bear in mind the need for continuity, so that sufficient tenders are let for the work to progress into the 1948 year. At these zonal conferences agricultural interests are fully covered. We have the Land Commissioner of the Ministry of Agriculture present at these zonal conferences, and we are genuinely trying to see that the rural authorities get a fair and adequate share of the building resources that are available.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough, talked rather as though the rural district councils' programmes were being cut down. But since he said nothing else, that may have left the impression that the rural district councils were the only people suffering cuts. I do not suppose he intended to leave that impression. But in so far as there are cuts—and there have been cuts, in order to bring the proposals of authorities into line with the available labour in their areas—these cuts, if we call them that, have been applied not only to rural districts but to all authorities. I am advised that at the zonal conferences which have so far been held, the rural authorities have obtained a fair and adequate share in the programme for the locality as a whole.
§ Mr. Edwards
We can argue on what is fair. Certainly I do not want anyone to think that rural district councils have been cut and other people have not, which I am sure is the impression that would have been left by what the right hon. and gallant Member himself said
1111 I now turn to a second side of this question, which is equally important. So far, I have tried to argue—if I might recapitulate—that in an area we must take the labour we have got; that within an area we have to try to secure a fair distribution as between the various authorities, and that the rural districts are given their fair share. Secondly, we have to try to see that the rural districts are given help by the provision of particular types of houses that require less labour than others. Mention has already been made of the Airey rural house. In order to assist rural authorities to increase the number of houses completed at an early date, a special system of prefabrication has been designed for the rural areas. The Airey rural house has been designed to be erected with the minimum of on-site labour. The method of construction is relatively simple and can be carried out, I am advised, by small local firms with very little special instruction. I think the house is a good looking house, which will fir into the country background. The design has been passed by the Fine Arts Commission. Inside the house is, I think, warm and generally comfortable. Units for 20,000 of these houses have been ordered by the Government, and already over 12,000 sets of components have been asked for by rural district councils and by urban districts of a rural character.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough referred to changes in specification. Changes have been made. They have been made for two purposes. First, to keep down the cost; and secondly, to economise in materials that were scarce. There were changes for those two purposes, and those changes in specification have now been finalised. This has not held up the building, as far as I am aware, because local authorities were allowed to go forward on the basis of the old specification. I think the rate of building of the Airey rural house is really determined by the rate at which local country builders will overcome their fear of novelties, and put in goad tenders for this type of house. In this case, we are actually in the position of having complete sets of components in stock at the present time, with no waiting list, and we could deliver more than we are delivering at this very moment. In the same way, we are trying to give very special help to rural districts by the pro- 1112 vision of the Swedish type house. Close on 5,000 of those were delivered, of which nearly 2,500 were allocated to rural district councils in England and Wales, the other 2,500 going to Scotland.
Finally, on the ways in which we are, in fact, trying to help, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman pointed out at the outset, not all rural districts are essentially rural in character. In many cases they may be industrial in character. So, in any event, whether a rural district is truly rural or not, we have the additional problem of trying to ensure that an adequate number of the houses that are actually built are occupied by agricultural workers. I think it is too soon yet to form any real estimate on that point. I would however, remind the House—and I think the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey referred to this point—that the Government did provide very special financial inducements under this head.
The higher rate of subsidy, I think, is so substantial that one can say to the hon. Lady, that at no time in the history of this country have rural district councils been given such handsome and generous terms to encourage them to provide houses, not only for all their people, but, particularly, for their agricultural workers. A subsidy of £25 10s. per annum for 60 years, with the rural district contribution as low as £1 10s., and a county council contribution of £10s., compared with the standard contribution of £16 10s. and a rate contribution of £5 10s. does show that there is a real financial inducement here to the local authorities to do their best to ensure that a sufficient number of the houses are occupied by agricultural workers. I am asked why they are not doing so. My answer is that, in the state that we are now in, with the houses under construction, and bearing in mind the fact that requests for grant under this head do not come in until the houses are occupied, I think it is far too soon to pass any final judgment on the results of the scheme.
May I turn to some of the specific points which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and other speakers have raised? The first point was about the use of camps. I would say, that any camps that are available, granted that they are suitable—there are degrees of suitability, as any one who has seen any of the camps knows—are being utilised for housing purposes. In 1113 January, 1947, there were nearly 14,000 families occupying accommodation in approximately 1,000 camps. I have not the figures showing the proportion in the rural areas, but I am advised that a good proportion were in the rural areas.
§ Commander Maitland
Would the hon. Gentleman consider the point which I made about seeing whether, in the camps at present occupied by soldiers and airmen and others, some accommodation could not be made available for the people who live in the vicinity?
§ Mr. Edwards
So far as my Department is concerned, we are constantly on the look-out for any accommodation that comes our way. The next point is that of the ratio of four to one. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave some betting figures which I did not quite follow. Ho will correct me if I am wrong, but I understood that they were designed to show that the proportion of private enterprise building between the wars was much higher than the proportion now. I think that is what he was saying when he used the words "three to one on, and four to one against," the precise significance of which I do not understand. I want to say to him that, if he is talking about rural housing, the less he says about this the better, because this document—the Hobhouse Report—which he quoted in aid gives the direct answer to this point. It says:The houses built by private enterprise were a very valuable contribution to the needs of the people who were able to buy their own houses, but they were largely occupied by urban workers or by retired people; and, with the exception of houses built by landowners for their own employees, they did not touch the special needs of rural areas for houses within the means of agricultural workers.In other words, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can say that private enterprise built houses, but he cannot go on to say that they built houses for agricultural workers. As to this four to one rule, do not let us forget, that the four are built by local authorities to let to those who are in the most urgent need. Do not let us forget, either, that we have made arrangements for local authorities to cooperate with local builders who can only build, may be, one or two houses, and who cannot tender for the larger groups of houses. Provided those houses are of suitable size and cost they can be—and, indeed, are being—purchased by local 1114 authorities to form part of their programmes. Small builders are also building for local authorities in accordance with mutually convenient arrangements; but I see no reason why we should depart at this stage from the four to one principle. For as long as the great need is for houses to let and not for houses to sell, then we must have the predominant proportion of our housing directed by the local authorities, and under their control, and at their disposal, and I cannot yield, in the slightest degree, to the suggestion that this four to one ratio should be altered.
The next point the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to was the subject of small houses. We are already building 160,000 temporary houses which have two bedrooms. It is true that the proportion of those in the rural areas is not as great as that in the urban areas. The main demand at present is for the three bedroom type of house; but we shall have more smaller and more larger—because the need for the larger houses is also there—when we get on further with our programme. For the time being we are doing what we can through the local authorities to encourage the transfer of families so as to have more accommodation available, whenever that is practicable.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Gentleman says they are making arrangements for the transfer from the larger houses to the smaller houses. Would he consider having the small families transferred to agricultural labourers' cottages, and leave the big houses, so that 15 or 20 families of agricultural workers could be housed in them?
§ Mr. Edwards
I would ask the hon. Gentleman to remember that, in these matters, we are not discussing compulsory powers. Here we are trying to arrange that the local authorities transfer families, particularly in the houses over which they have control; moving, for example, the widow or the aged couple from the three bedroom type of house into a smaller house, if one is available. We are not here concerned with the wider issues which the hon. Member raises.
I was asked why the temporary houses were not allocated to rural areas. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will accept this explanation, because I believe it to be completely valid. First of all, the type of house, the temporary house—not to be confused with the houses that I 1115 have mentioned—the type of temporary house was not so suitable for rural as for urban areas, particularly because it is small. Moreover, the temporary house needs more services, for instance gas, and or electricity, and in not every case were these services available in the country. The temporary houses were particularly suitable for blitzed areas where replacement of destroyed homes was very urgent. It was harder to secure speed and economy of construction in the rural districts than in the towns. Perhaps, I ought also to say that it is desirable that temporary houses, on the whole, should be built in sizable groups, and in the rural areas one does not often get the chance to put down a block of, say, fifty houses all at once.
Another point to which I must reply is one to which several Members have referred, the last Hobhouse Report. Members have asked particularly about the date of its publication. I will have a little to say about the Report in a moment; but on the specific point, I do want to say that there was no deliberate hold—up of publication. There is, as everybody knows, now a good deal of congestion in the printing of these things; it does take a long time to get reports printed; and it did happen to run into the fuel crisis at the beginning of the year. My right hon. Friend made a statement about the Report immediately it was published. I am sorry that I cannot today take the discussion of reconditioning any further than it was taken when my right hon. Friend announced his view of it at the time of its publication. I am sorry, but there is no option but for the House to accept this: the point of what my right hon. Friend said when the Report was published still stands. The Housing (Rural Workers) Acts expired in September, 1945 and were not renewed. The Minister at the time—the Government at the time—decided not to reintroduce reconditioning because of the necessity to devote all resources to new building.
I do not, at the moment, at any rate, take the view that one adds in any way to accommodation that is available if one diverts resources to reconditioning; nor do I accept the view that, even in the rural areas, there are unemployed resources which are not being used. I think that there are resources which are being used for repair work; and, possibly, it 1116 may be said that they could be used for reconditioning. I am not sure about that; but I do not accept the view that there are resources actually unemployed in the rural areas; and as long as there is a crying need for extra accommodation, then, I think, we must put that first. However, as far as reconditioning is concerned, I can only say—and what I say, I think, also goes for the Secretary of State—that we shall listen with care and attention to everything that is said during the course of this discussion, and that we hope that it will be possible for the Government to declare their intentions before the end of the Session.
§ Mr. Edwards
There is a Scottish report which has not yet appeared, and it is desirable for the two administrations to be in step in this regard; and, therefore, although I welcome the discussion, and shall take the greatest note of everything that is said, I am not able to advance on the statement that was made by my right hon. Friend, or take any other line today than that of insisting that, so far as we can see, we must devote our major efforts at the present time, to this business of providing new accommodation.
I am sorry if I am taking a rather long time, but there are two other points to which I must refer before I sit down. We must remember that the provision of houses alone is not enough. I was interested to see what some of my hon. Friends have put in the Amendment which is on the Paper. All too frequently in the past people have been satisfied to put up houses without seeing that they had proper services, either in the form of water supplies or in the form of proper sanitation. Now I can claim—I hope quite rightly—that, granted the shortages of men and materials, and the demands for housing, we are trying not only to put up houses in the countryside, but, also, to see that they are properly serviced.
Under the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act, 1944, we have received formal applications for grants from 190 local authorities in England and Wales for schemes estimated to cost nearly £21 million. Some 570 water supply schemes estimated to cost over £20 million, and 570 sewerage schemes estimated to cost over £21 million have 1117 already been submitted. It is important, not only that we should deal with rural housing, but that we should also provide for proper sanitation and water supply, and I think I have shown in this short summary, that the volume of work that the local authorities have done is very considerable.
§ Mr. Edwards
I have not got the full details, but, at the present time, in regard to water schemes, we have accepted schemes of a total cost of £2,300,000, affecting 802 parishes, which have been finally authorized, while others are under consideration at the present time.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
Do those figures cover the whole country, including Scotland?
§ Mr. Edwards
No. These figures are for England and Wales. No doubt, the Secretary of State will be able to give the Scottish figures.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman left an impression that the Government, and the Department for which I speak, have fallen down on their job. He implied that we have not done all that we could have done, and he suggested that we ought, within 20 months of taking office, to have achieved more. I very nearly interrupted him to ask him if he knew the figures for 20 months after the first world war, but what I do say to him—and perhaps he will listen—is this. I wonder if he knows that the rural district councils, in the 20 years between the wars, completed a total of 160,000 houses; and will he compare that with the 41,000 tenders already in tenders approved by rural district councils in 20 months since we took office? The truth of the matter is that the local authorities have played a magnificent part, and, for the first time in our experience, the rural district councils are now, almost 100 per cent., mobilised in this great housing drive. To suggest that we have fallen down on the job, which is, I know, what we must expect from the Opposition, is quite wrong. On the contrary, it is true that the rural district councils have achieved an enormous amount in this relatively short time, in a quite unprecedented way.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. York (Ripon)
I do not think the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken made 1118 a maiden speech to the House; it was a maiden speech as a Minister. I must congratulate him upon the facility with which he dealt with the more controversial side of his subject, but I cannot compliment him on the promise of help which he now offers to the rural areas. In point of fact, I gathered that where he was going to help the rural areas was in the direction of seeing, that labour in the localities would be fairly distributed—that is obvious—that the rural areas will get their fair share of labour—and I can hardly imagine that that will be of great importance—that his Department has designed an Airey house and provided some Swedish wooden houses, and, in addition, has provided a special subsidy for the agricultural workers, which, apparently, is being very sparingly used.
The whole of the help which is offered by the Parliamentary Secretary is being offered to the rural areas, but it does become increasingly obvious that this help is not being brought to the direct advantage of the agricultural workers, that the agricultural workers are in a small minority of those who are actually getting the houses, and that is the point to which I wish to address my remarks. I was gravely disturbed to hear the Minister use these words, and I took them down, because I do not wish to misrepresent him in any way:Rural housing must be considered in the light of the general housing conditions in the country, and of supplies of materials.I want to reinforce the plea made by the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady M. Lloyd George) that the position today is so desperate that we must, in fact, consider whether priorities are not necessary for the rural areas, as they are for the mining areas.
§ Mr. Edwards
I do not want to suggest in any way that special consideration would not be given to rural areas; in my statement, I said that we cannot talk about rural housing in isolation, but must consider the rural housing problem in the light of the general housing problem, and it does not mean any more than that.
§ Mr. York
I am very grateful to the Minister for that admission, but the hon. Gentleman did not allow that impression to go out from his speech, because he built up his remarks on the plea that the overriding consideration in the provision of houses was need, and, by that, 1119 I took it to mean individual need and not national need. The point I am making now is that the national need should come before the personal need, and, since I cannot take the Minister's intervention to mean that he is prepared to reconsider his attitude on that point, I take it that he merely means that he does not wish his general statement to be limited to any particular medium.
§ Mr. Edwards
I do not want anything I say to be interpreted as meaning that we are not giving special attention to the problem of the rural areas and not doing everything we can to push on the building of houses specifically for agricultural workers.
§ Mr. York
I am glad to hear that, and I think it is a valuable admission, and I therefore feel that, in my submission to the House, I shall have the support of the hon. Gentleman. Today, we know that we are suffering from a serious food shortage, and I feel that that food shortage is going to become increasingly grave over the next few years. I feel that in such a way as to make me certain that a very desperate situation has to be met by desperate remedies. The remedy which I am putting forward, along with the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey, is not one which is very easy to make, because all hon. Members for urban areas—and incidentally, my constituency has, perhaps, two-thirds of its electorate living in towns—when they see the pressing cases of hardship brought to their notice, hesitate before trying to alter the present system, whereby need is put first. I feel that the provision of food supplies for this country in the future is of more importance than the provision of homes for individuals, and, therefore, I am putting forward a plea for the reconsideration of the problem of special priority for agricultural workers over all other considerations.
We know that the American loan will provide food for us during the next year, and any charity which we may receive after that is a gamble. Let us, therefore, for once be prudent and take the only insurance policy which is available to us on the market today, and ensure, by the only available means, that our own food supplies are increased during 1948, 1949 and 1950. It is admitted that the main cause for worry, and the main 1120 barrier to increased production, at the moment, is the shortage of labour, and it is agreed that the way to attract labour to under-manned industries is to provide attractions and incentives in those industries. The mining areas have been so favoured already, and quite rightly so.
I am asking today that the agricultural areas should receive the same treatment in regard to that commodity, houses, which is most in short supply all over the country. If we are able to obtain, within the next year, an additional 50,000 houses for agricultural workers—and that is a possibility if a high-level decision is made—it will have a vast effect upon agricultural production for the next three years, and I suggest that a decision taken on that ground will produce increased production in 1948. Of course, along with that must go the provision of water and electricity, and, in this connection, much could be done if priorities were given for poles and insulators to be made available for rural schemes.
But I must go further than priority for housing, and I must ask—and I realise that this is an equally unpopular issue to put forward—that over a period of years, perhaps, and certainly for the next year or two, those houses which are being built in rural areas shall be allocated to agricultural workers alone. I am fully aware of the dangers of making such a request—the danger of arousing unpopularity for the industry—but again, I am certain that the estimate which has been made that only to per cent. of the houses provided in rural areas are being occupied by agricultural workers, makes this step essential. I go on from that to suggest that this proposal which I have made could be put into effect and could be accepted by the people of this country, including the urban dwellers, by a much better effort in public relations, and I think such an effort is necessary. The reasons for these priorities will have to be put forward to the townspeople, and we must accept the Prime Minister's conversion to our policy of putting first things first. If he does that, he must surely see that one of the first things to do is to increase the labour force of our most important industry. Food and coal are first in this dangerous time, and I strongly press on the Government the necessity of seeing that these two industries are given the chance to do their job.
1121 In the Hobhouse Committee Report on reconditioning, it is suggested that the grant should not be made solely on the grounds that the house is to be occupied by agricultural workers. I ask the Minister to consider, when he takes into consideration the whole Report—as apparently he is going to do—whether that provision is wise. On a longterm view, and without a food crisis, I would agree with the Hobhouse Committee. But, on the short-term view, if the Minister is going to introduce legislation to include the provision of widening the giving of a grant to all rural dwellers, that would be a mistake at the present time. I hope the Minister will suggest some condition in his new Bill which will hold up that provision, at any rate for a year or so.
The question of a ratio of four to one has been answered, not very convincingly, by the Parliamentary Secretary. His objection to allowing private enterprise to build more than the ratio of four to one, is that the houses they build are for sale. But, in the rural areas, there are a large number of people, farmers and landowners, who want to build houses for agricultural workers either to let, or for service cottages. I wish to press on him the urgency of taking away the restrictions on the issue of licences where someone other than the builder of the house is to occupy it.
§ Mr. Collins (Taunton)
Would the hon. Member say what particular restrictions he has in mind? Are there not already provisions for farmers' subsidies to build houses in that way?
§ Mr. York
No, they are restricted by the number of licences the rural district council can issue. I am asking that the rural district council should be given discretion not to follow closely the four to one ratio where the house for which the licence is asked is for letting, or for service cottages. I think the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) will agree that that is not an unreasonable request.
Where a private owner wishes to obtain a licence for a sub-standard small house, that licence should not be refused, as it has been in the past. The local owners can find opportunities for moving their retired people, and perhaps widows, and they can do it by agreement, without any unpleasantness to the tenant of those 1122 houses, perhaps better than the local authorities can do it. Where they wish to build these small houses, I strongly urge that they should be allowed to do so. Local offices of the Ministry of Works should be encouraged to give licences as freely as possible for reconditioning cottages. Whether there is a grant or not, we must argue another time. The Government have admitted that the food position is very bad. But, if they are prepared to reject the policy I put forward, they must be saying, first that the food supplies for 1948,-'49-'50 are assured, and secondly, that they have another policy to put forward. All I can say is that the food position, to my mind, is graver today than it has ever been throughout the war, and possibly throughout our history, and the Government's policy on housing has been kept secret up to date. I warn them that unless these steps are taken in the early part of 1947, the risks of a more serious food crisis than we believe is coming upon us, would be their responsibility. We on this side of the House have done all we can to warn them of it, and to suggest practical steps that they could take as their part in making that crisis less harmful to the country.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
I confess I hear with some impatience these complaints against the Government's policy over rural housing. One hon. Member opposite was good enough to recognise that we—as he put it—have a duty in this matter. The hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) indicated that his policy was putting first things first. So remarkably successful has been the policy of putting first things first in the part of the country which I represent, that it is full of large houses, which at present are empty, that those houses have water supplies, that the villages have no water supplies, and that, on a county investigation of working-class dwellings in the Kettering district, of those investigated no less than one third were unfit to live in and incapable of being made fit at any reasonable cost. I represent, in addition, the people who have had to live for very many years in such houses as well as their forebears, the Pytchley Hunt, and the Duke of Buccleuch. Pytchley happens to be one of the worst housed villages in the constituency and one where there is an undue proportion of houses—
§ Lord William Scott (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
Does the hon. and learned Member suggest that the Pytchley Hunt has anything to do with the Duke of Buccleuch?
§ Mr. Mitchison
I made no such suggestion. All I can say is that it seems to me a queer form of putting first things first and that in that, as in many other parts of rural England, we should find bad conditions as regards working class houses and the amount of available money represented by these large houses and the sporting facilities provided by the Pytchley and other hunts. I want to go a little further, I think the—
§ Lord William Scott
Will the hon. and learned Member, having made a rather unpleasant assertion, please explain to the House what connection he believes the Duke of Buccleuch has with the Pytchley Hunt?
§ Lord William Scott
A most unpleasant assertion has been made against my brother. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman either to withdraw it, or substantiate it.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have nothing either to withdraw or substantiate. May I assure the noble Lord that I have no intention of making any offensive reference to his relative—if that meets the case.
May I go a stage further, and consider for a moment what in my experience has been the result of the Government's housing activities in this same area. The right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) said that rural areas had not had their due proportion of houses which have been built. That in fact is incorrect if we take permanent houses. Of course it was perfectly true that the main use for the temporary prefabricated houses has been in urban areas and they have served the particular purpose of filling gaps in "blitzed" cities. They were quite obviously the type of house least likely to be used in rural areas. It will be found from the tables 1124 in the latest housing returns, that the proportion of permanent houses or permanent prefabricated houses actually put under construction and also the proportion completed in the rural areas bears a higher ratio to the total than does the rural population to the total population of the country. That is to say that, man for man, the rural areas have had rather more than their share of all permanent housing whether traditional or prefabricated.
Secondly, as regards the programme in which the rural houses have themselves had at least their fair share and indeed rather more, a very simple comparison can be made from the figures given by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough between what was done between the two wars and what has already been done by this Government. If he leaves the flat racing odds and gets on to steeple-chasing he will find some high jumps on the last two pages but one of the Housing Return. If he compares the figures of completed houses in those returns, he will find that already after the dislocation of six years of war, this Government have equalled in permanent houses, and much more than equalled in other forms of rehousing, the average of a year's building as stated by him in the interwar period. There surely can be no answer to that. If the total number of families rehoused is taken, the figure is absurdly higher, not only than what was done immediately after the last war, but than the average of all the prewar years.
There remains the point in the Hobhouse Report that the rural building between the wars was not building which met the needs of the agricultural worker. It was very largely building for weekenders, and only to a very small extent of the type of houses to let for agricultural workers that is required now. There is a suggestion in the Motion, and a similar suggestion was made in many speeches from benches opposite, that much more ought to be done by way of reconditioning. Both the majority Report and the minority Report of the Hobhouse Committee recognised the need for reconditioning. It is not correct to say that on that point there is a difference between them. But, I suggest that there must be certain conditions attached to reconditioning.
Here again I doubt if there is much difference between the two Reports of the Hobhouse Committee. The first of them 1125 must be that reconditioning must not interfere with the imperative need for new houses. There is the question of the use of the small builder. It is significant that at the end of the Hobhouse Report are the comments of various county councils on this matter. Northamptonshire and Warwickshire are similar counties; they differ on this point. Northamptonshire takes the view that there is definitely some labour available for reconditioning which cannot serve any other purpose. Warwickshire, on the contrary, considers that any labour available for reconditioning could also be used for building new houses.
The Ministry itself—I do not think that this has so far been stated—is not only encouraging the rural housing authorities to make full use of the small builder; it has given them rather elaborate directions how to do so, and has gone so far as to arrange for the issue of building licences, which are not to be included in the one-in-four ratio, and which are described in the Ministry's circular as U licences, solely for the purpose of seeing that none of that type of labour is left out of a job. One of the specific objects for which that type of labour can be used under a U licence, if it cannot be used for new housing, is the repair of farm buildings. Therefore, I beg leave to differ from the suggestion that has been made from the benches opposite that there can be, at this moment, labour suitable for farm building repairing and suitable for no other purpose, which any Government action has prevented from being used. The attention of the Ministry has now, in no less than three circulars, been directed to that one object.
That, I suggest, is one limiting of the conditions as to reconditioning. There is a second very important condition. An objection which has always been taken from these benches, and by many other people who would not necessarily agree with us on other points, about the Rural Workers Housing Acts, is twofold. First, I should at once state to the House that I am myself the owner of one or two tied cottages, and that I have myself used the Rural Workers Housing Acts in Scotland where, I believe, much more and more intelligent use has been made of those Acts than at any rate in some parts of England. Having said that, I still say that I find it a little hard to reconcile 1126 that with my conscience as an individual and still harder to reconcile with my Parliamentary viewpoint, that a private owner should receive benefit out of public funds without much more stringent conditions than are imposed by the Rural Workers Housing Acts. For that reason, I welcome the suggestion in the minority Report that such assistance should only be given, where it is necessary—that is to say, that these grants should not be a matter of course—and secondly, the suggestion in the minority Report that they should carry with them certain rights of pre-emption by the local authority with regard to these assisted cottages.
That is the first objection. The second is an even more serious one. I am not prepared to object to tied cottages in all circumstances and in all places, but I do say that the practice of tied cottages for the ordinary farm worker is quite wrong, that it ought never to have reached anything like the state it has reached in this country, and also that the number of tied cottages ought to be reduced, and in most cases, subject to certain exceptions, tied cottages should be abolished altogether. Certainly grants from public funds, whether national or local for the reconditioning of tied cottages ought not to be allowed. Therefore, I welcome the suggestion in the minority Report of the Hobhouse Committee that no assistance should be given for the reconditioning of tied cottages. I cannot believe it is right, and I find it hard to see how any moral case can be made out for it.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have read the whole Report rather carefully. This happens to be a matter which interests me greatly. One must be one's own judge on moral questions. The Hobhouse Committee is not there to tell me what is right but to make certain public recommendations, which it has made.
I would like to say one word more about reconditioning. It seems to me that reconditioning is not the same thing in most cases as repair, and there has been a tendency on the benches opposite to treat them as the same thing—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am very glad to hear that. It is obvious that repairs to the roof or drains are one thing and reconditioning another, although what is meant by reconditioning may in some cases be conveniently done with the 1127 repairs, as indeed the Hobhouse Committee suggests.
§ Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)
Will the hon. and learned Member agree that in all reconditioning, the plans have to be approved by the local sanitary surveyor, who will take good care to see that repairs are not included? If he does not do that in any case, he has not done his job properly.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I quite agree. That is reconditioning for the purpose of the Rural Workers Housing Acts, but the wording is so loosely used, that I was not sure whether it had been loosely used in this Motion. Certainly, references from the benches opposite have been to repairs and not to reconditioning, using that word in its ordinary sense.
The gross and flagrant lack of repairs in many villages is a matter which should be remedied. It is extremely urgent. I do not regard that as a matter which is the same as reconditioning. The difficulty is that in a great number of cases the landlord himself is unable, or refuses, to repair. I have known cases in my own constituency where a landlord has deliberately said to the tenant, "You have a Socialist Government in now. They had better do it." That is not the business of the Government, it is the business of the landlord. If there are holes in roofs, they ought never to have grown to the size to which they have now grown, and they ought immediately to be repaired. It should be perfectly clear that that is the obligation of rural landlords.
The hon. Member for Ripon suggested that some absolute priority ought to be given to agricultural workers in the provision of houses. All over Northamptonshire, there is a great deal of countryside which appears to contain purely agricultural villages. When one looks a little further, one finds that they are actually inhabited by boot and shoe makers and iron ore quarriers, who have to do their job in the country. They are entitled to decent housing just as much as the agricultural workers. More than that, they suffer, just as much as the agricultural workers do, from all the faults and omissions of the past. Therefore, this somewhat peculiar attempt to dislocate the whole rural economy is wrong in principle, and does not fit in with the 1128 facts. It would lead to a kind of countryside in which there are to be those actually engaged in agriculture, and no one else. I would be extremely sorry to see any such countryside in this country.
The life of the country will have to be built up with the same variety and complexity and at least similar amenities to those of towns. What we are dealing with is not merely housing of individuals, not merely a question of agriculture, but how we are to evolve a type of rural community to replace that type, which the changes in our national life have made completely out of date. The old village of the squire, the parson, the farmer, and those who work for them, has now disappeared, and I am not sorry. In its place we have to get a democratic village life, with the village group centring round the educational facilities of a rather larger village than some to which we have been accustomed, having a kind of amenity that is not wholly dependent on the larger town, having larger facilities for recreation, larger facilities for all the common life, multiple both in its amusements and in its occupations. It is in the hope of communities of that sort, that one welcomes the contribution which the Government have made to encourage decent housing by public local authorities in the villages of this country, which have been neglected for far too long by those whose human duty it was to make them into communities of that kind.
§ Mr. Assheton (City of London)
Would the hon. Member be so good as to correct a misapprehension which results from his speech? He made a comment which led Members on this side of the House at least to think that he had made a serious misrepresentation. He said that the village of Pytchley was in a very bad condition. I do not know anything about that. He also linked that up with the Duke of Buccleuch, who, I understand, owns no property whatever in the village of Pytchley.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have already said that I have no intention of taking his Grace as any more than a typical large landlord. I did not intend to make any personal attack on him. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right—certainly I know nothing to the contrary—in saying that the Duke of Buccleuch has no land in the village of Pytchley. He is, I believe, a good landlord.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
Various speakers opposite, including particularly the Parliamentary Secretary, tried to make it clear that the Government's policy for rural housing must of necessity be linked up with housing policy as a whole, for the whole country. That is obviously true, up to a point, but part of our case from this side of the House is that there is a special situation at the present time which threatens the country with peril in the next two or three years unless we immediately aid the bringing of men on to the land to take the place of the German prisoners, and fill up the gaps that are there. It is because of that fact that we wish to challenge the assertion that rural housing must necessarily receive only its fair and adequate share of the facilities that are available. "Fair and adequate" were the words used by the Parliamentary Secretary, as though, by claiming that the share which rural districts had had was fair and adequate, the matter was dismissed altogether. We are now faced by a position in which, unless rural housing is more than mathematically fair, and more than barely adequate, we shall not have the men on the land. That means we shall not have the food.
In my constituency, which is the Lonsdale Division of Lancashire, there is a special situation. I doubt if there is any Division in Lancashire where there is a Greater demand for houses. It is an old custom there for the bulk of the farm workers to live in the farm houses rather than in cottages. It is a custom of days gone by, and it imposes an extremely severe effort and labour upon the farmer's wife. I believe that in most parts of the country 80 per cent. of all the farm workers live in the farm houses. It is true to say that when a young farm worker gets married, when he is 21, it is very likely that he will leave the industry altogether because he cannot find anywhere to live.
I have one or two suggestions to make in my brief speech regarding ways in which some of these difficulties might be overcome. Before I do that, may I indicate my view about where houses should be placed? Nothing much has been said about that during this Debate. It is, naturally, the first thought that we should put country cottages in the village and, as far as possible, together, because that is economical and places them near the school, and so on. That, however, does 1130 not wholly meet the situation. The farms around the village very often are small farms and while it is true that cottages in the village will house labour for the farms near the village, many of the larger farms two or three miles away get no help at all. It may be said that we cannot make the children walk two or three miles to school. The alternative is to make the farm labourer walk two or three miles to work and he just will not do that if he can avoid it. He waits for a vacancy on a farm nearer to the village and then he leaves the more isolated farm.
I suggest that we must meet this situation. We must get cottages for farm workers on the bigger and more remote farms which may be two, three, or more miles from a village. We must put them in twos or threes, so sited that the occupants can work on adjoining farms. If need be, arrangements must he made to take children by bus to school, as is done already in many cases. Also, consultations should take place with the local agricultural committees to decide where to put the cottages. By that means the bigger farms, and farms which are remote from small centres of population, will be helped.
Why is it that housing has been held up? I do not want to speak for the whole country. Other hon. Members will speak for their own parts, but I know why it has been held up in my constituency. It is because of lack of labour and materials. Also, I am told, it is due to the fact that plans which the local authority think are finalised are then altered in some relatively unimportant detail by the Ministry of Health—either by the regional office or by the Ministry itself. Perfection is all right, but do not let us sacrifice the good for the best. If we can cut out even a delay of a week or two by taking a chance that the local authority will be all right, and if we stop fiddling so much in the Ministry, probably it will help to cut down some of the waste of time.
What can we do? One suggestion would lead me into a general argument which might not be in Order, but I will just touch upon it. It is the general argument in answer to the question, "What can we do to get more houses in rural areas?" We must work toward a better economic system in rural England. At present it does not pay a man to work on the land. He can get much better wages in the 1131 town. It does not pay a farmer to grow this and that, because the price is not high enough. It does not pay a landlord to build houses. The whole economy of rural England is based upon the assumption that the law of supply and demand has ceased to exist. That is not true. The only way to cure this ill, as in the case of most of our economic ills, is to bring the law of supply and demand to our aid so that it pays people to do the things which we want them to do in the national interest. I have no time to develop that argument, but I believe that it is the main solution towards which we should work. There is much history involved in our present situation.
Landlords should be encouraged to build. Wherever a landlord or a farmer-owner can build for the use of his own stockman or farm hand he ought to be given a licence at once without any question of whether it is on a ratio of four to one or 10 to one. The Government should make it pay people to do what they want as national policy. They should say to the landlord or the fanner, "If you are willing to build, for goodness sake come along and build. You shall have a licence; and thank you very much." Instead of making him fill in a million forms and then refusing to let him do it, the Government should bring to their aid the profit motive and the good will of these people. That is the way in which they will get something done. They should make it worth while. An hon. Member says: "We do not want a profit motive." We must have a profit motive. It is one of the most potent aids to help us overcome all the difficulties from which the nation suffers.
I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to cease making propaganda about the tied cottage. It may have helped them to win seats in the rural areas because they were able to create so much prejudice about it, but it will not help them very much in the future. Nor will the 20 years of Tory misrule appear so important as what they have done in the years while this Government have been in office. Here, I venture to think, is the essence of the matter about the tied cottage. The Government should encourage the man who owns land to build. The way to encourage him is to say that he can keep the cottage which he has built for the purpose of his land. 1132 If they take away that right from him by any legislation, whether it is the abolition of tied cottages or the kind of legislation that safeguards tenants in all dwelling-houses, at once they remove the whole purpose of the cottage from the point of view of the person who can be induced to build it. The Government should aid people in their difficulties instead of alienating them.
Where a cottage is built by an owner, it should be tied to the purpose of the land involved. Where it is built by a local authority, I still think that, at present, it should be tied to agriculture. In my own constituency two of the 10 cottages built two years ago, during the period of experimental building, are now occupied by officials of the Ministry of Health. Others are occupied by people not concerned with agriculture I agree with other hon. Members that we do not want our rural districts to be lop-sided or out of balance. We want all kinds of people to live in them, but if we are to get more men on the land we must tie the cottages to the land in the sense that we must make sure that agricultural workers are given preference and that cottages are not taken by others.
I wish to make one final small suggestion. There are many big farms in my part of the world, and maybe there are in others, which used to be occupied by four, five, or six farm workers whom the farmer and his wife looked after. They cannot get the numbers now and in some cases a whole wing of one of these big old-fashioned farm houses may be empty. A licence should readily be given in any case where the farmer or the landlord is willing to cut off a wing and to make it into a flat for his stockman or foreman. That is another way in which to secure an additional unit of housing. These are the only points I want to submit to the House. I end as I began by saying that unless the Government recognises that rural housing should have the first priority, I am sure that by 1948 we will have such a grievous shortage of food in this country that the whole of the people will suffer. For that reason, the Government must give absolute priority.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Robertson (Berwick and Haddington)
I hope the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the proposals which 1133 he has put forward, except to say that perhaps the points which he made have been tried and tested in the past history of rural areas. It is very largely because they have been tried and tested that we find the rural areas in such a deplorable state today. I would like to say a few words about the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who opened the Debate in the usual engaging way in which he always captures the interest of the House. At the end of his contribution he stated that he had said nothing new. I was hoping that perhaps he might have thought of the opportunities which he had in the past history of this House, when his party was in power, to make the type of speech which he made today in criticising the Government for lack of progress in this very vital housing question.
If that speech had been made, for example, at a time when there was plenty of material and labour available, we might not have found it necessary to be debating this topic of the lack of housing in rural areas today. I join with him, however, in giving credit to the importance of this Debate. Indeed, it would he very difficult to exaggerate the importance of this matter not only to the people who live in the countryside, but also to the economy of the country as a whole. The present state of rural housing is nothing new. As many hon. Members have said, it is the result of long years of neglect. We find in the rural areas today villages with insufficient water, lack of drainage, grossly inadequate provision for the removal of refuse, widespread absence of decent sanitary conveniences, and ramshackle, damp farm workers' houses over 100 years old.
This is one of the legacies which this Government have inherited from an age that is past, though perhaps some hon. Members opposite are rather reluctant to say goodbye to it. It is an age which this Government have been brought in to abolish or to supersede by something more in keeping with the spirit of our times. The question of housing is probably the greatest single factor which prevents people from finding useful employment in the countryside. The present need for workers in the agricultural areas is well known. I think it was the Minister of Agriculture who recently made a statement that something like 100,000 extra 1134 workers were required in the rural areas. I am bound to say, however, that no special concession has been made to any extent, so far as housing is concerned, to meet the needs of the people who want to find employment in the rural areas. I invite my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to give a little attention to certain areas in Scotland, particularly in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, where, very often, I discover cottages which are used exclusively by town dwellers for pleasure during the summer season. A considerable number of those cottages might be requisitioned and used for accommodation for the people who are producing food on the countryside.
The Government's agricultural policy is a sound policy but that policy will not be effective unless modern conveniences and amenities in the way of houses, transport, electricity and water are brought to the countryside. The Government's policy of grouping houses in the country areas is also a sound policy. Those new villages should have shopping facilities, adequate recreation facilities, village halls, etc. So far as reconditioning is concerned, hon. Members opposite have very frequently criticised the Government's abolition or suspension of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. That Act would not have been of any great benefit to us at the present time because many of the applications to recondition under that Act have not been fulfilled. The applications have been made and the Scottish Department of Health have approved them, but perhaps something like 1,000 applications have not been acted upon. There is, therefore, no point in making the case against the abolition of that Act when so many applications have not, as a matter of fact, been fulfilled.
As to the position of rural building in Scotland, I am profoundly dissatisfied with the lack of progress which has been made. It is extremely unsatisfactory. An analysis of the new building taken from the January Housing Return shows that only seven of the 33 counties in Scotland built any permanent houses at all during the last two years. These built between them only 140 permanent houses. Twenty-six counties built no permanent houses at all. Twenty-six counties did, however, succeed in building a number of temporary houses. 1135 Altogether 390 temporary houses were built. Four counties have only completed one temporary house each. The county which has the greatest record of house building in Scotland is Lanarkshire in West Scotland which succeeded in building 103 up to the end of January.
I would not like to lay the blame entirely on the local authorities because many rural local authorities have been handicapped by the fact that they have been waiting to proceed with water and drainage schemes, etc. I notice that the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) points to the Secretary of State for Scotland to indicate that the Secretary of State for Scotland is entirely responsible for this. That is really not the case. If we want to trace the history of this, we have to go back to the inadequate grant made under the Water Act by the previous Government.
Take the case of Berwickshire, which had a scheme for the introduction of a water and sewerage system before the war. The scheme has been before the Department of Health since 1939. The difficulty was, however, that it was quite impossible to carry out the scheme because of the fact that there was not enough in the way of a grant to proceed with it. However, sanction has now been given, and I want to thank the Secretary of State for Scotland for the expeditious manner in which he dealt with this when it was brought to his notice. Berwickshire has a shockingly large number of communities without any water supply whatever. But the county has now approval to proceed with a modified scheme. Nevertheless, out of the total programme of about 300 houses, only one temporary house has been built. That is an extremely unsatisfactory situation in a county in a part of Scotland which is badly in need of additional labour forces, particuarly for the agricultural industry.
There is a labour problem in Berwickshire. There is no unemployment so far as agriculture is concerned in the rural areas of East Lothian and Berwickshire which I represent, and there is a difficulty in getting labour to proced with farming and, at the same time, the preparation of sites, water schemes and so on. I have a suggestion to make to the Secretary of State for Scotland. We have at the present time in Scotland a considerable 1136 number of the Polish Forces who will be merging into the Resettlement Corps. It might be considered if some of those Polish people could be settled in the rural areas in camps where they could be used for civil engineering works and site preparation. They would then be on the spot in case of any emergency at harvest time and when potato lifting, for example, required additional labour.
This country has a rather lopsided economy in the sense that we have swollen populations in the cities which ought now to be directed to the countryside. The Government have an excellent opportunity of putting into reverse what used to be called "the drift from the land." We should now get people leaving the towns and going out to the countryside. I appeal to the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland to seize this opportunity while we have it and to go ahead with the building of houses in the rural areas in order that we may attract into the countryside the over-swollen populations of the towns. Miners, agricultural workers, fishermen, merchant seamen, transport workers and bricklayers are more important to the country today because they are producers of real wealth than the city clerk, the civil servant or even the lawyer.
To redress the balance of our national economy it is imperative that the Government should get more and more people back into productive employment by making it possible for them to find health-giving and useful employment on the land in both agriculture and forestry work. The first step in attracting the people from the over-populated towns is to provide adequate and modern houses in the countryside. When we fought the General Election one of the subjects we discussed was the building of a new Britain. It is with some considerable concern that I view the slowness on the part of certain people engaged in the building industry today. We shall not build the new Britain at the rate of 350 bricks a day. There must be some means by which we shall be able to get the building trade operative and the builder as well to co-ordinate their work in such a way that there is some incentive by which the houses can be built at a more rapid speed than they are going up at present.
It seems to me that payment by results is the logical solution to that problem. I 1137 cannot say whether this suggestion or a direct appeal to the workers engaged in the industry may have the best result. However, the Government will have to take some steps to overcome the slowness in the erection of houses, which is very largely due to the chaotic condition of the building industry under private ownership. The trades unions have responsibilities in this matter as well. I hope that the trade unions will co-operate with the Government in every way possible to see that the actual work of building is speeded up as far as possible. Let the trade unions, therefore, face up to their responsibilities to the nation as a whole. If the Government and the trade unions combine to do this, the dividend which will result from a happier and contented people following useful employment in the countryside, will be rich in the extreme.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
The House generally will agree with a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. Robertson), and we would particularly find ourselves in agreement on the need for speeding up house building. That is a matter which deserves the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government. We are today discussing rural housing. It has always seemed to me that housing shortcomings are much more obvious in the towns than they are in the country, and as a result of that there is a tendency to neglect the latter. That is a tendency which requires to be corrected. As the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) said today, conditions of overcrowding, lack of sanitation and lack of other conveniences are as prevalent in the country as they are in some of the worst slums in our towns. That tendency should be corrected at once. What we have to aim at is to see that the standards of housing in town and in country are raised simultaneously. To do, that is a matter of urgent and, indeed, of primary importance to the whole of our national economy, as the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington told us.
That we need to produce in our country today the greatest possible proportion of our food is altogether unchallenged. As my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) said, when the prisoners of war have returned to their own countries 1138 we shall be very short of the labour force that will be required for that purpose. Not only, therefore, have we to keep on the land those who are presently engaged on the land, but we have also to see that many more people are attracted to the service of the land. In the towns there are attractions which the country cannot offer, but I know many people in Scotland presently living in towns who would be very glad to live and work in the country if only adequate housing accommodation was available there.
In providing that housing accommodation, we fall short in two respects. There are in the first place insufficient houses, and in the second place the houses which do exist have not the conveniences which are available to people who dwell in the city. Until that balance is restored we shall not get an adequate number of people living on the land. So long as the balance remains as it is today there will aways be the danger that those on the land may move into the towns. It is essential, therefore, that the Government should concentrate on both these aspects. I do not believe that it would be possible to provide the number of new houses required in any reasonable period of time. These houses must, to a great extent, be scattered in twos and threes about the countryside. I do not think that building in villages is ever going to provide the answer to our problem in Scotland, and that is all the more reason why this matter should be tackled with energy, with resolution and with speed. If it is being tackled with resolution and energy today it is certainly not being tackled with the speed which we would desire.
In the meantime, while these new houses are being provided, every effort has to be made to improve existing conditions, not only in fairness to the rural population but also to give an indication that it is the Government's intention to make good these conditions at the earliest possible moment. We have before us the report of the Central Housing Advisory Committee on reconditioning in rural areas. I believe that that points the way, and I hope that in the interests of the whole of the country the Government will speedily implement those recommendations. Here I say with very great regret that the companion report of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee is not available to help us in our discussions. On 30th April last we were told that that 1139 report would be available shortly. On 3rd December we were told that the first part of it had gone to the printers in July, and that it would be published as a complete report in January. It is now nearly the end of March, and the report is not yet to hand. I would direct the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that the English report was signed on 25th September last and was published on 27th February. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough pointed out that the Minister of Health had been somewhat dilatory, but the Secretary of State for Scotland is lagging even further behind.
The Parliamentary Secretary tried in his speech to defend the dilatoriness in making these reports available by pointing out that it was very difficult to get reports printed in these days, but here I have the interim report of the Cost of Living Advisory Committee, which, I observe, was signed in London on 7th March and is today available in the Vote Office, so that that really is not a good explanation. The long delay on the part of both Ministers in publishing these very important reports seems to show that they are not very much interested in rural housing, or at best that they can see little need of urgency. In any event, it is extraordinarily unsatisfactory that we are unable to discuss the two reports together today. It does not speak very well for Government planning, or for that coordination between Departments which from Ministerial announcements we are led to expect but seldom experience.
Scottish Members on this side of the House have decided that it would be better for them, instead of participating in this Debate today, to await the issue of the Scottish report, particularly as many English Members desire to speak in the present Debate. They intend to take a later opportunity of discussing Scottish housing more fully when the report is available to them. But the English report does bear out in every detail the advice which has been tendered to the Government time and again from this side of the House, and not least by Scottish Members, ever since the autumn of 1945, when the Lord Privy Seal announced that the Housing (Rural Workers) Act was not to be continued. I have no doubt in my mind, particularly now that this report has been published, that the decision then 1140 taken by the Government was not taken on principle or on merit, but was a matter of vindictive spite, in the mistaken belief that it was going to hurt the landlords, but it has been made abundantly clear in the report that the hardship falls upon the tenant and not upon the landlord at all.
The tendency of the Government to concentrate on the building of urban houses is very well illustrated in the figures which appear in the Housing Return for Scotland dated 31st January this year. The total number of permanent houses which have been built, according to this document, is 5,874, but only 1,232 have been completed in the counties. That interesting comparison can be carried a little further. In some of our counties many of the population are employed in mining and in industry. I should say that the counties of Lanark, Ayr, Fife, Stirling and Dumbarton all come within that category. Of the 1,232 houses in the counties 793 were in the counties I have just mentioned. So we come to this conclusion, that out of the 5,874 permanent houses completed, only 439 are in areas which are predominantly agricultural and outside the industrial belt. The fact is that in the great agricultural counties of Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth, Argyle and Dumfries only 139 permanent houses have been completed. I wonder if the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), if he were here, would agree that that was fair. Certain it is that the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington was not satisfied with these figures. It is bad enough to know that although the Government, when they came into power, found 3,832 permanent houses actually in the course of erection, they have, after 18 months, been able to complete only 5,210, but it is far more serious when we realise that out of that number only 439 are in the agricultural areas of Scotland. That, to my mind, is a record of which even this Government ought to be ashamed, although the Parliamentary Secretary during his speech seemed to be satisfied with the progress that was being made.
So far as temporary housing is concerned, the position is very little better. Out of 13,351 houses which have been erected, only 1,702 are in predominantly agricultural areas. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that by one means or another he must correct those proportions if we are to get from agriculture the food which the 1141 country requires. I wonder whether he will tell us whether his policy in Scotland is the same as that which was indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary, that a preference would be granted to agricultural workers in regard to housing. In a written answer which the Minister of Health gave on 27th February, he said that the recommendations in this report wouldinvolve legislation and as the House is aware there will be no Parliamentary time for legislation this Session. However, the Government hope to be in a position to announce their intentions before the end of the Session."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1947; Vol. 433, c. 331.]I was very sorry indeed to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that in spite of having had time to study the report, he had not changed his mind. I trust that that is not also the view of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Reconditioning is urgent. It is vital. It is of far greater importance than the great bulk of the legislation which is presently before the House. I suggest that time must be found for it. If the right hon. Gentleman is not able to persuade his colleagues to find that time then other means must be found, as suggested by my right hon. and gallant Friend who opened the Debate. Why is there all this delay? Why is there delay in publishing the report? Why is there delay in getting legislation, or in taking some action to remedy the present situation? I begin to wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is waiting until all his water schemes have been completed and he is able to give us a piped water supply in all areas in the country.
Does he find that money allotted to him is sufficient for that purpose? If he finds that it is insufficient I would like to know what steps he has taken to obtain more. We know that in many of the country areas no indication has been received that any grant is forthcoming in regard to the water schemes that have been submtted to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman sure of what he says?
§ Commander Galbraith
I am perfectly sure of it. I have letters here that tell me that that is the correct position. Indeed, is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman in a written reply which he gave to a Question on 4th March, said 1142 that it was a fact? Did he not say that it had not been possibleon account of the limited amount of money available, to select water supply schemes submitted by the following local authorities, namely:The county councils of Ayr, Bute, Clackmannan, Dumfries, Dunbarton, Fife, Kinross, Kirkcudbright, Lanark, Midlothian, Moray, Nairn, Peebles, Perth, Renfrew, Roxburgh, Stirling, West Lothian. The town councils of Aberfeldy, Auchtermuchty, Duns, Eyemouth, Findochty, Grantown-on-Spey, Gatehouse of Fleet. Gove and Kilcreggan, Inverbervie, Lochgilphead, New Galloway, Rothes, Turriff, Stornoway, and the following water boards: The East Lothian Water Board, Stirlingshire and Falkirk Water Boards, The Airdrie Coat-bridge and District Water Board."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1947; Vol. 434, C. 31.]The right hon. Gentleman should remember a reply which he gave to the House as recently as 4th March.
I want the right hon. Gentleman to get a move on in this matter of finding the money that is necessary to carry out these schemes. If it is not found, much delay is caused by the holding up of those water schemes. Can it be that the delay is due to the Secretary of State not believing in reconditioning? Does he not believe that it can be successful? If that is so, let me remnd him of the many houses of distinction in this country which have been reconditioned again and again and that it has been proved beyond any matter of doubt that many of the old cottages of our country of substantial construction, built by craftsmen and suitable to our climate, can be modernised to provide not only good houses but also good homes.
In any event if that course is not to be authorised, are the rural community to be condemned, as the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady M. Lloyd George) said, for a generation at least to an inferior standard of housing than that which is enjoyed by their brothers arid sisters in the towns? Is the wife of the rural worker to go without those fitments and appliances which could be provided and to which she has an equal right with her urban sister? Surely it is not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, or even of the Government to condemn the rural worker to live in out-moded conditions while the world moves on, or to condemn the agricultural worker's wife to a drudgery which the right hon. Gentleman has often condemned as being unnecessary under modern conditions?
1143 I would say this to the right hon. Gentleman: We expect him in the first place to redress the balance in new building as between town and country, and to introduce legislation which will modernise existing buildings. He knows perfectly well from the English report that it will not interfere with labour. He knows that it is an economic and sound proposition and that, practically, it is inevitable. All that is lacking is the will to act. I hope therefore that the right hon. Gentleman will press his colleagues and will make them produce that will to act.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dumpleton (St. Albans)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:welcomes the steps which the Government has already taken to repair the consequences of many years of neglect in rural housing and urges the necessity of continuing action to improve water supplies, sanitation and housing conditions, by means of new building first, and. when conditions permit, by re-conditioning suitable existing houses for occupation on a tenancy by agricultural and other workers.I am sure that all Members welcome the initiative which the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) has shown in utilising this opportunity to raise the question of rural housing, indeed of housing in general. We have very much sympathy for the right hon. and gallant Member in that he had to open the Debate at very short notice, in the absence of his right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). The task which he had to undertake, was however, well within his power. Those of us who are less experienced in Debate envy the facility with which he carried out this task. The right hon. and gallant Member described his own Motion as platitudinous. Indeed, his speech was in keeping with his Motion, it was unexceptionable; but what is implied in the Motion, and in much of what has been said, is criticism of the Government for the way in which they are tackling the problem of the rural areas, calls for comment. It is right and reasonable for us, in looking at the Motion and in considering what has been said, to survey and weigh up the task which the Government have to tackle in respect of the problem of housing in the rural areas.
As has already been said by several other Members on the other side of the 1144 House, one must take into account not only shortages of labour, materials and components but also, if we are to survey the matter fairly, the legacy which the Government have inherited from the past. This is referred to in the opening words of the Amendment. There is no doubt that the six years of practical "standstill" in house building during the war have had a worse effect in the rural areas than in the urban areas. It is felt much more strongly there because of the accumulation of conditions, which have been described by many hon. Members in the Debate, as they existed in the years leading up to 1939.
In the urban areas one person in four lives in a house built since 1918, whereas in the rural areas it is one in 10, so that the greater number of people live in the very much older and obsolete property which we know exists in the rural areas. There are a lot of reasons for that situation. One reason is that, by and large, the rural district councils who have been the housing authorities have varied to a considerable extent in the enterprise and energy with which they have tackled housing in those inter-war years. On the whole, though there was this great variety, it cannot be claimed on their behalf that it was well done, with energy and with vigour.
Comparing them with the urban authorities, the present situation is that in the towns one family in eight is housed in a house provided by the municipal authorities, while in the rural areas one family in 13 is housed in a municipal house. One could take sample areas from different parts of the country to see how that comparison works out. For instance, in the Holland Division of Lincolnshire, one person in eight actually lives in a house provided in the inter-war years by the local authorities, whereas in Dorset, Devon and the Lindsey Division of Lincolnshire the proportion is less than one in 20. In the North Riding and Cumberland it is less than one in 35, in Herefordshire it is one in 100, and in Westmorland it is less than one in 100. This was borne out by the earlier report of the Hobhouse Committee published in 1944. That earlier report said that while the best councils had been exceedingly active, there were very many which did not have a good record. It said:At the other end of the scale we find rural district councils who have been almost entirely inactive in housing. There are 1145 several districts where no new houses have been built by the council since 1919. Complete inactivity is fortunately rare, but an attitude of complacency in housing matters is found in a number of rural districts.That was one of the reasons for these conditions of neglect which form a part of the problem the Government have to deal with at the moment. Another reason, which in these more recent months has been remedied, was of course the inadequate subsidies that were given to local authorities to enable them to tackle the problem in those areas. Then there was the unsatisfactory position in the prewar years regarding the inspection and maintenance of housing by the local authorities, which again is referred to in the earlier report of the Hobhouse Committee. While active councils carried out their inspections regularly, at least once in five years, inspecting all the houses in their district as a matter of routine and seeing that the repairs were carried out, there were others which proceeded at a rate which would take them round their district about once in 70 years. The earlier report said:We are satisfied that in a certain number of districts, which we should put at roughly 15 per cent. of the total, the local authorities have been content with far too low a standard of housing, both as regards the condition of the old and the number of the new ones that are required.So we have an accumulation of neglect and low standards and conditions. I think there is every justification for reviewing this past history of the rural housing position, although one realises the importance of facing the present situation and of "facing the future" in this matter. My hon. Friend has quoted from a document issued by the Conservative Party called "Looking Ahead." I am not concerned to argue what is the precise difference between "looking ahead" and "facing the future," but I am suggesting that in assessing the problems facing the Government one is entitled to look back and see what they have inherited from the past. I think one is also entitled to mention the responsibilities of many of our rural district councils, and their failure to be as active as they might have been in seeing that a high standard of repairs was maintained and proceeding with new building with much greater activity and vigour.
One should not at the same time omit the responsibilities borne by the county councils. They had special powers under 1146 Section 88 of the Housing Act of 1036, either by co-operation and agreement with the rural district councils or, in default, by stepping in and carrying out housing responsibilities. Again, the earlier Report of the Hobhouse Committee remarked that only a few of them seemed to have realised their responsibilities. A large proportion of the county councils appeared to have been content to receive a yearly report from their rural district councils and to leave it at that. That is part of the task with which the Government are dealing. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) in the housing Debate on 30th July last year made this extraordinary statement:As a result of the drive for houses in the inter-war years the problem of England and Wales … had practically been solved by September, 1939."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1946; Vol. 425, C. 788.]I submit that in view of the circumstances which he himself has mentioned this afternoon, and the conditions of some of the houses in our rural districts which have been referred to by many other speakers in this Debate, nothing could have been further from the facts of the situation than that statement.
The Parliamentary Secretary has given a very good account of his Ministry this afternoon in the description of the work being done in the light of the background of the whole rural situation and the availability of labour and materials. He has also dealt with the problem as a whole and the way in which the Ministry is seeking to help the rural areas by the additional weightage and advantage given to them by the extra subsidy. That will satisfy the country that everything that can be done is being done to press on with this question of providing new houses in the rural areas.
I would like finally to say a word or two on the subject of reconditioning, which has been referred to by many hon. Gentlemen opposite and is mentioned in the Amendment. I think it should be noted that the more recent report of the Hobhouse Committee, if hon. Members will look at paragraphs 13 and 14, admits that under the old Act, the Housing (Rural Workers) Act which lapsed in 1945, some of the reconditioning for which grants from public funds were made was not in fact satisfactory and amounted to very little more than patching up. I 1147 do not think that anyone would deny that as soon as conditions and the availability of materials and labour permit, as soon as it can be done without diverting valuable materials and labour from the first priority of providing new buildings, there is everything to be said for improving, by reconditioning, the standards of some of our rural houses.
I would refer to the Ministry of Health's Annual Report for 1934–35 on the question of reconditioning houses under that old Act which were really not suitable for reconditioning, and upon which public money ought not to have been spent. In that year, the Ministry of Health said that there were many country cottages, the reconditioning of which would merely serve to perpetuate living conditions which can no longer be tolerated. I submit that the time is not yet when reconditioning can be relied upon as a solution, or as a real contribution to the housing problem in the rural areas. The Hobhouse Report, after a very careful survey and the taking of evidence, estimates that in the countryside there are available some 100,000 houses, which it classifies as being reconditionable. A house that is reconditionable must be a house which has not yet reached the stage when it ought to be demolished, and which has a certain level of habitability.
But we have no evidence in the Hobhouse Report that those 100,000 houses will necessarily provide extra additional accommodation. If the accommodation is of a standard which is habitable, the chances are, in these days, except in one or two rare instances, perhaps, where there are buildings which might be converted, that it would not provide the additional required accommodation. In the main, where reconditioning has already taken place, it has not been to a satisfactory standard, and one wants to see the people who are compelled to live in such conditions given better standards as soon as possible. But I submit that there is no evidence in the Hobhouse Report that the reconditioning of these 100,000 houses would supply an appreciable amount of additional accommodation, which is what we badly want in the rural areas. Therefore, we ought to do nothing just yet which will draw away any material or labour needed for the provision of new houses.
1148 I know that reference has been made—and my own experience bears it out—to the availability in the villages of some labour which may not be available for the building of new houses because of the remoteness of the area and the immobility of that labour. But it is not only a question of labour and materials. One has to remember that, if the standards recommended in the Report are to be adopted, reconditioning would probably mean the adding of bathrooms or additional lavatory accommodation, and that the necessary baths and sanitary fittings would have to be drawn from the available pool, which is in very short supply, for the building of new houses. I submit that the question of reconditioning should only be considered—and I hope that the Government will only consider it—on certain conditions. First of all, it should not be encouraged until the materials and components are available without prejudice to new house building. Secondly, only those houses should be reconditioned which are of a fairly high standard, and the standard of reconditioning should be at least equal to that recommended in the Hobhouse Report, and a much better standard than that under the old Act, and, finally, that none of the houses that are requisitioned should remain as "tied" cottages.
Something has already been said about the evil of tied cottages. The hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) accused hon. Members on this side of the House of raising at the General Election a prejudice against the tied cottage. There is no need to raise any prejudice; the bitterness is already there, owing to the bitter experience which workers in the countryside have suffered. I will leave other hon. Members to deal with the "tied" cottage.
In conclusion, I want to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is going to reply, to answer just one question about the availability of Canadian cedar-wood houses. The fifth report of the Select Committee on Estimates referred, in paragraph 51, to the Canadian cedar-wood houses, and stated that a licence had been granted for 250 of them to be imported. It was stated in evidence that it would be possible to import 1,000 of these houses next year. The Parliamentary Secretary said something about the Swedish houses, 1149 and I should be glad if we could hear something about the Canadian cedar-wood houses.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I remind the House before I call the next hon. Member that a number of Members wish to speak in this Debate, and that there is not very much time? We used to do about four speeches an hour; now we are doing barely two and a half. Hon. Members do not seem to be able to concentrate as well as they used to do.
§ 7.37 P.m.
§ Mr. Collins (Taunton)
I beg to second the Amendment. I shall endeavour to bear in mind your injunction, Mr. Speaker. I think this Debate has been comparatively free from the kind of recriminations and harking back to the past which have characterised previous Debates on housing. I welcome that fact, and will try to keep my remarks on a similarly constructive level and to use comparisons only where they are necessary to illustrate the point. The people of this country are perfectly well aware where the main responsibility for the lack of houses lies. At the same time, this Government have accepted the responsibility for supplying houses, and it is a responsibility which they will discharge. I agree that the provision of houses in rural areas is one of vital importance. Its importance is emphasised today by the question of food supplies. But there is already evidence—I know that this is a fact—of the priority which is given by the Ministry to allocations of houses in rural areas. Examination of the zonal allocations now being made reveals that there is that priority. The question of houses actually completed, however, is, to some extent, influenced by the past, because, in many cases, local authorities have been slow starters.
There is one local authority in my own area who were slow starters, but who will, by the end of the year, have produced 126 new rural houses, that is, in a period of, say, two and a half years. But if one looked back at their previous record, one would find that they only produced 90 houses in the preceding 14 years. Therefore, it will be seen that they have got a move on to the extent of some five times their previous rate of building. Many more instances of that kind could be quoted. I think that the employment by the Government of the local authorities as 1150 their chosen instruments has been justified up to the hilt. One very encouraging sign has been the enthusiasm of members of local authorities to get the houses built. We are often told that only the profit motive will give that drive and incentive which will get the houses built, but anyone who reads the reports in local newspapers of council meetings will realise how keen are the authorities on their job. Indeed, they have infected hon. Members opposite with their enthusiasm. We have heard speeches today, including that of the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok, in which he urged the Government to do something on behalf of the housewife, emphasising the sufferings which we know only too well are being experienced. We welcome that enthusiasm, though, perhaps, with a faint regret that those speeches were not made even as late as 1935, when many more houses could have been built than actually were built.
It has been suggested that the rural district councils are not allocating a sufficient proportion of the houses to farm workers. I do not know what the position is all over the country, but I can assure the House that the authorities which I know are giving priority to farm workers, either by giving additional points because they are farm workers, or by allocating houses according to a slightly different system which gives preference to agricultural workers. However, it would be most unwise to give 100 per cent. allocation to farm workers as suggested by the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York), because it would completely ignore the fact that farm workers depend on other rural workers who must be housed. They depend on the people who build the houses and who, in turn, must be housed. One fact that has escaped notice is that 34,000 more regular workers have come on the land in the last 12 months, and they are already housed in one way or another. For the first time in recent years we have a Government which have stemmed the drift from the land and have started to turn the tide in the other direction. It was suggested by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) that we should change the ratio from four to one in the building of local authority and privately owned houses to six to four, or something like that, but I would remind the House that the giving of shorter odds in this way 1151 would mean much longer odds against the farm worker getting a house. Therefore, it would defeat the very object of getting more houses for farm workers. We must remember that with this Government, the farm worker and the miner is no longer the outsider that he has been with previous governments.
On the question of reconditioning I do not want to go over ground which has already been covered, but I submit that we cannot agree that houses should be reconditioned if that will take labour away from new building or if it will involve in new building less use of materials in short supply. There is confusion between minor repairs and reconditioning. There is an arrangement whereby elderly non-mobile workers in rural areas can be given a licence to build a new house, and the skill and possibly the materials required for a major reconditioning, which is what is recommended in the Hobhouse Report, are such that if those workers have that skill they can and should build a new house. The only justification for this kind of reconditioning would be if it could be shown that it could be done with a very minor amount of materials, and that there was in the area concerned no possibility of employing that labour immediately upon the construction of new houses.
I want to deal with a point which has received little attention during this Debate, but which is the overriding factor in the building of houses. It is not so much the labour problem. It is the question of materials. One of the major materials, timber, is a matter over which we have no immediate control, but I urge the Government to take every possible step to get any supplies of timber which may be available and suitable for houses. I think there are a number of building materials the production of which can be increased to a higher level than obtains at present. With regard to some of them, at least, I regret to observe a serious decline which I hope the Minister will be able to explain when he replies. It may be due to seasonal conditions or to exceptionally bad weather conditions, but this decline, in part, will be continued unless some special arrangement can be made with regard to fuel. I would refer to roofing tiles and bricks, such as the single-lap clay tile which is made and sold all over the country. During the war there was 1152 almost a complete closure of the kilns where these tiles were manufactured. The kilns have now been reopened and new labour has been introduced Men have been given a new skill, and production is considerably increased.
I notice that the production of roofing tiles has increased to nearly 3½ times, at the peak period, over 1945, although it has since dropped a bit. I understand that in one big kiln at Bridgwater they contemplate the necessity of closing down altogether because their realistic fuel allocation has been reduced to 33 1–3rd per cent. of normal. These people have gone to very considerable trouble, and have made a drive to increase this essential production which makes a very big saving in timber in the construction of roofs. The fact is that the fuel which they need is for the final process. It is not until these tiles are fired that they are finished, and a possible reduction of 20 per cent. in their fuel allocation means a drastic reduction in their output. I recognise the shortage of fuel, but if there is a possibility of getting a new realistic allocation of fuel I ask the Minister of Fuel and Power to give instructions to his regional officers to see that brick and tile makers who may be about to shut down their kilns, or who may have already done so, should be given an idea of their allocations for the future. There is a firm in Wellington in my Division where I understand a kiln will be allowed to go out this week which has not been out for 60 years. If it is unavoidable it is very regrettable, but if by some means of investigation, we can avoid letting that kiln go out, it would be disgraceful if it was not avoided, because the kilns must be kept going. We cannot let the men down in this way.
Mention has been made of the Airey house which is being produced at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Puriton, Bridgwater. I know the men there have not been given any information as to the target figures. They see these houses lying about in parts, and they believe they are not wanted. All sorts of tales of that kind get about, and that reduces effort They should be told the target. They should be made to know exactly where they stand. With regard to electric fittings, production has considerably increased, but the priority system is not working properly because we all know of houses which are ready except for a few 1153 small components. I saw some new houses in my division on Saturday. Ten more houses could have been opened that day but for the want of a little bracket to connect up the electric wiring outside. Matters of that kind require much more co-ordination. Then there is the question of the china clay waste concrete blocks. Many attractive houses have been built, and a lot more could be made with these blocks. At one works at St. Austell half a million of these blocks are lying about because there is nowhere to send them. They cost only half as much as Belgian imported bricks, and they are much more attractive. I hope the Minister will bear that point in mind.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I trust the hon. Gentleman realises that the production of china clay is now very precarious owing to the shortage of fuel. I hope the Minister will take due note of this fact, and will take the necessary action.
§ Mr. Collins
The same position obtains with bricks and tiles, but there are many in stock, according to my information. My last point is the vital one of water and sanitation. I am aware, as no doubt are other hon. Members, of housing which is being held up, and in some cases deliberately held up, by the local authority because they know that by the time those houses will be built there will be no water. It is a fantastic situation to read in local newspapers in the country, as I did in a Taunton newspaper a week ago, that in a month or two there will be a water famine, when practically half England is under water. That, unfortunately, is one of the major results of the miraculous unenterprise of the past. This problem needs tackling urgently. I was gratified to hear the Minister say that some £63 million worth of schemes had been submitted for water, drainage and sanitation. But then he very much depressed me, at any rate, by saying that of the £20 million worth of water schemes submitted only some £2 million worth had been accepted. I say that 10 per cent. is not nearly good enough, and I hope this will be treated as a matter of major urgency.
Last Saturday I saw a farmer in my own district, and he told me that they have a pipe water supply but have had no water on the farm for seven weeks; and for the last two or three months all the water for cattle has had to be taken out of a ditch, which will be empty in, possibly, 1154 two or three months' time. This is a matter of vital importance. The question of sanitation is not perhaps so urgent, and I do suggest that housing should never have been held back because main drainage may not be immediately available. Better a dry lavatory temporarily than to hold back a housing scheme. Too long have we had these justified complaints from people living in the country: "My lavatory and larder are next door to each other, and I have an open, leaking cesspool just outside my kitchen window." They are disgraceful things, which one can only imagine; and if the builders or so-called planners of those days—and fairly recent days, too—were sane, then they just did not care. That is the only thing one can assume. But that cannot be tolerated any longer. These are matters of considerable and overall urgency.
In spite of all the difficulties, I feel that something very considerable has been achieved in the rehousing of some one million people, in addition to the very heavy burden of war damage repairs. It is, indeed, a spectacular achievement. But "complacency" is not the order of the day. Every possible effort that can be made must be made in order to house adequately the people of this country. And I suggest that in that effort agricultural and rural houses must be given a top priority, every bit equal to that given to miners. We must maintain the high standards of building which are now being achieved in the countryside; standards of housing for people in the lower income groups, which were never even imagined a few years ago, with components and fittings which are suitable for any type of house. They are the standards we need, and they are the standards which are being provided by this Government. We must go for quantity while maintaining the quality; and let no effort be spared to produce the houses the people of this country need.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
When I first saw this Amendment on the Order Paper I had hopes that there was a certain section of the party opposite, even if the Members of it happened to sit on the back benches, prepared to stand up and tell the Government that they were not satisfied with what was being done as far as rural housing is concerned. I very much regret that we have had to 1155 listen to nothing but a mutual admiration society—the back benchers scratching the backs of the front benchers. I was particularly interested to hear the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton), who moved the Amendment, say that everything that can be done is being done to press on with rural housing. But just before he said that, he said that complacency in housing matters is found in a number of rural districts. I suggest that he is ignoring the beam in his own eye, and that that complacency of which he complains in a certain number of rural authorities is very evident today amongst supporters of the Government.
§ Mr. Dumpleton
When the hon. Member refers to the quotation which I read from the Hobhouse Report about complacency in certain rural areas, he will realise that I was referring to the description in that Report of some of the rural areas as they were before the war, and not at the present moment.
§ Mr. Hare
I understood the hon. Gentleman quoted that presumably with the object of saying that he agreed with it. I did not wish to misrepresent him in any way. I had a fear that the Parliamentary Secretary, and the other front bench speakers today, would, in fact, show the complacency which we have had to suffer today, because in the Debate last week on the redistribution of manpower I was astounded and horrified to see that the Minister of Agriculture introduced that very atmosphere when answering points which had been raised in connection with agriculture during the course of that Debate. I am sorry that that right hon. Gentleman has not found it possible to be present at this Debate, although I am glad his Parliamentary Secretary is with us. However, I feel that on a Debate of this importance to agriculture, we might have hoped to have had the presence of the Minister. Last week the Minister of Agriculture added to the general volume of praise which the Government front bench is getting from its supporters, when, in describing the functions and difficulties of the Minister of Health, he said:The Minister can provide the subsidy; he can do his best to provide the manpower; but it is the local authority which determines how many houses should be built, and how many are to be allocated for agricultural workers. As far as the Minister of Health is concerned, 1156 he has fulfilled his share of the bargain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 447.]There we have the Minister of Agriculture saying, in so many words, that he is entirely satisfied with what is being done; that he intends in no way to urge on his right hon. Friend that there are measures which could be taken to improve the supply of accommodation for the farming community.
What he said was a fallacy. It is wrong to suppose that, in fact, local authorities determine the number of houses they are able to put up. We all know that zonal conferences, as they are called, are going on today, at which local authorities are being told: "You may want to build 200 houses, but, in fact, you will be allowed to build 125 this year." Or maybe, as my hon. Friend remarks, very likely 50. The unfortunate local authority, with the best intentions in the world, thinks it can complete its original programme, and is told it has to reduce by so much. Why? Merely because the whole of the Government's housing programme is wholly lopsided, and the Government do not know what to do to get it back on an even keel.
The second fallacy enunciated by the Minister of Agriculture is the supposition that the Government are powerless to influence the proportion of houses to be allocated to agricultural workers by rural authorities. Surely, the Minister of Agriculture, if he feels that that is a good thing, has merely to persuade his Cabinet colleagues that it is a good thing, and it will be possible for the Government to direct the rural authorities to make a certain allocation of their new houses to agricultural workers?
What, in fact, is the record of the Minister of Health? We are sorry not to see him with us tonight. The first thing that he has done on taking office has been to repeal the Housing (Rural Workers) Act and to stop reconditioning during the past LS months. I should like to quote one short paragraph from an article in "The Times" of 17th March. "The Times" said:Evidence received from local authorities confirms the opinion that thorough reconditioning will provide modernised houses for about half the expenditure of labour and materials required for the same quantity of new houses. There is labour in the countryside able to do the work of reconditioning which is not available for building new houses. The small 1157 builder employing two or three men can well undertake the careful individual work required in reconditioning, although he cannot undertake new housing contracts. It is true also that many of the craftsmen in villages are more conversant with the repair of old buildings than the erection of new.I am not pretending that reconditioning is by any means the major part of the problem which faces the Government. What does horrify me is that the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health gets up and tells us today that, for far as he is concerned, he is completely prepared to ignore the advice of the Hobhouse Committee. Probably another two years will elapse before fresh legislation takes its place.
§ Mr. J. Edwards
I must point out that at no stage did I say anything that even remotely could be construed in that way.
§ Mr. Edwards
That is entirely different. The suggestion which the hon. Member made in the first instance was, that I categorically denied the validity of the Hobhouse Committee's Report. I did not say anything of the kind. I said the Government hoped to announce their intentions before the end of the Session. I should like the hon. Member to do justice to what I said, and not to make up words in his imagination.
§ Mr. Hare
I do not want to enter into a long argument with the hon. Gentleman: I do not wish to delay the House too long. But the point is that the Hobhouse Report made it absolutely clear that this is an urgent matter, and that urgent steps should be taken; and it is perfectly obvious that the hon. Gentleman has no intention of taking any urgent steps at all. There is the first piece of constructive help which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has given to the farming community. The second point is that he has, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) pointed out, stressed that the rural authorities are completing a larger proportion of new permanent houses than other local authorities In fact, the number of new 1158 permanent houses provided by local authorities for agricultural workers amounts to the insignificant figure of 600. We maintain that that is a totally inadequate number to fill the gap of what is really required.
The next thing that the right hon. Gentleman has done is to go on insisting on this four to one ratio. It is quite obvious that that four to one ratio this year is, in fact, going to go down to five to one, and that it is going to work more and more against the private individual who is prepared and willing to erect farm cottages to let to farm workers. These are the great contributions that the Minister of Health has rendered to the farmers, as far as improving their conditions of housing in the countryside is concerned.
What should be done? I should like, first, to join my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. York) by saying that for a limited period—and I would suggest three years—rural district councils should be directed to allocate a number of their new houses to agricultural workers. I would not agree with the proportion suggested by my hon. Friend. I would say that 50 per cent. of all new houses completed by rural district councils should be allocated to agricultural workers for the next three years. I say that because the points system on which the majority of local authority houses are allotted does, in fact, work against the agricultural worker. He is not receiving the priority that the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) said he is. The probability that he is not an ex-Service man puts the agricultural worker down ten points on the list. I am not suggesting that such a decision would not create hardship. I am not saying that the present system, all things being equal, is not fair. But the point is that we are about to face a really major crisis in agriculture, and we must be prepared to alter our existing priorities in the allotment of houses.
Next, I suggest that the regional planning officers really must pay more attention to local advice in the whole of this housing question. My hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) brought out this point well. I have two recent examples in my own constituency, where, although the rural district council and the county council have urged the regional planning officer at Cambridge to 1159 approve the selection of two certain sites for the construction of houses, the recommendations have been turned down on the general directive which that regional planning officer has from the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The sites were turned down on the basis that the communities for which they were to be built were too scattered for the necessary permission to be given. I am glad to say that in one case the decision has been reversed. But in areas like East Anglia, we do not have great numbers of large villages; and we have scattered parishes which are entirely devoted to farming. If the Minister's present policy of concentrating the vast majority of the new rural housing into large villages is continued, it means that a large proportion of the farmers in my part of the world, anyhow, will not be able to get new houses built for their workers by the local authorities.
The next point I do most urgently ask the Government to consider is the point which, I thought, was ably expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady M. Lloyd George). The hon. Lady said, in words far more eloquent than mine, that the Government must seriously consider treating the needs of the mining and agricultural workers, so far as housing is concerned, on an equal level. The Economic White Paper gave a certain lip service to that idea, although the recommendations about the mining workers were stressed in very much stronger terms than those concerning the agricultural workers. I strongly submit that farm workers deserve to get a large proportion of the prefabricated type of house out of the general pool, and that they should be treated in a similar way as the mining community. The final measure which I suggest the Government should take is that they should reintroduce legislation on the lines of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act and as quickly as possible. We are introducing foreign labour to help to solve our short-term labour problem, but we must not in this House for one moment take any other view but the view that the encouragement of more British labour into the agricultural industry is the only sound, long-term solution that will create a healthy agriculture in this country. A bad start has been made. Although a large number of men who were formerly in the Forces are now back at their farm- 1160 ing occupations as a result of demobilisation, we had hoped to get a considerable recruitment of new labour into agriculture from demobilised members of the Forces. It is true that the vocational training scheme, in which 54,428 men have taken part, has, on the whole, been a great success, but, out of that 54,000 who participated in this scheme, only 3,958 took the agricultural course. Considering the importance of agriculture in our present economic position, that is a very low figure indeed. It becomes even more serious when we realise that, out of the 3,958, only slightly more than 600 actually completed the course.
The only way in which we can get men back to the land, and in which we can prevent young people who are born in the countryside from continuing to drift into the towns, is to do what all hon. Members of this House want to see done, and that is, provide them with houses with the normal facilities of electricity, piped water supply and so on, which are available to the townsman. It is no use doing what so many hon. Members like to do—singing a song about the evils of the past. It is a present problem which we have to face, and on the success of the measures to deal with this problem, I believe the whole future of our country may depend.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Lambert (South Molton)
Nearly every hon. Member who has spoken on this side of the House has been concerned with our food situation during the next year or 18 months. I am surprised that no hon. Member on the opposite side has shown any concern at all about what the food situation will be during the coming year. I do not think I exaggerate the position when I say that we may well face starvation unless we can very drastically increase our output of food. It is probably for this reason that hon. Members of the party opposite appear to be so satisfied with the performance of the Government so far with regard to rural housing.
If I am not too optimistic, I would like to discuss for a few moments the question of the long-term provision of houses. Many hon. Members opposite are convinced that all new houses should be built near a village. I admit that that policy has great advantages, but I suggest that it 1161 would be an advantage if at least a proportion of the houses were built near where the men have to work.
§ Mr. Lambert
If we are going to build cottages, some should be built near where the men have to work. The first advantage is that the workman can go home for his midday dinner, and the next is that, if he is to look after stock, it is essential for him to tend them early in the morning and late in the evening. Often, he has to be there in the middle of the night. Cows have an awkward habit of calving in the small hours of the morning, and, unless a man lives close to his work, he cannot look after his stock properly, and, unless he does that, we cannot produce more milk and more meat, as we are urged to do at the present time.
§ Mr. Lambert
We want the houses built near the farms. I am not obsessed with the question of the tied cottage, which, like so many other things, seems to worry the hon. Member. After the last war, a few houses were built in rural areas. The Minister responsible has since gone to another place. Apparently, he lasted only a short time at the Ministry of Agriculture, owing to the very limited success of what he did in 1920 in trying to provide houses. One thing we find about his houses is that they are very rarely occupied by farm workers, and there would appear to be two reasons for this. First, the rent was too high when wages were low; and secondly, the occupiers of these houses were given no facilities for keeping pigs or poultry, and it is vital, to my way of thinking, that the countryman should be enabled to keep some livestock. If he is built a house away from the village, it is obvious that he can have more land. Thus he will be able to keep pigs, ducks and fowls, and possibly grow a few fruit trees, and nothing is better for a family than the feeling that they own something.
I was disappointed to hear that the Parliamentary Secretary was not going to do anything drastic at once about the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, because if we are going to get more food quickly, 1162 we must not neglect any opportunity to get more men back to the land, and we can best do this by improving their accommodation. In Devonshire, in the past, we have made great use of that Act. Two thousand houses during the interwar years, were modernised, and now there are a further 6,000 waiting to be done, and they are worth while doing. I hope that, if this Act is ever re-introduced, the rural district councils will be given the completest latitude. I deplore the way in which the present Government is gradually taking all power away from the rural district councils, while saying that they co-operate magnificently. I would like to point out that they are popularly-elected representatives of the people. They, if anyone, should have a knowledge of the requirements of the district. In my constituency there are four rural district councils, all keen to get on with the housing programme. Yet at every turn they have to get permission from Bristol. If they want to buy a building site, they have to send 10 copies of the plan of the site to various authorities. When they want to build houses, they have to send detailed plans for approval by the regional architect in Bristol. All that this official in Bristol does, is to reduce the nominal cost of the house, by specifying inferior materials, by reducing the outdoor and indoor fittings, such as built-in cupboards, kitchen dressers and outside water tanks. That is no saving, because, at some future date, all these fittings will have to be put into the house. I am told that the cost of Government and local authority staffs supervising housing is about £300 per house.
§ Mr. Lambert
A distinguished architect. I would like to be told by the Parliamentary Secretary that I am wrong. If I am incorrect, I would be very grateful if he could give an estimate of the figure. This detailed control from above, is only having the effect of delaying the building of houses.
The rural district council in the area in which I live in Devonshire were offered eight Swedish timber prefabricated houses. Knowing they could get no other houses, they jumped at the offer, and decided to put four in one village, and four in another. Then began a long corre- 1163 spondence with the regional office in Bristol. They could not get replies to letters, and eventually decided to send the surveyor to see the architect. He apparently was a busy man, and could not make an appointment for three weeks. The appointment was duly made, but, after a week, they were told that the appointment could not be fulfilled, because the regional architect was going on a holiday. Meanwhile, the wooden partitions of these houses had been dumped in fields. I went to see one lot of four houses. The only protection they had against the weather was torn balloon fabric, for which the council had to pay a rent of 30s. a week. This fabric was kept in position by stones, and branches, and gave little or no protection against the gales that came off Dartmoor, the rain, and the sun. I cannot help thinking that this form of "seasoning" did not improve the comfort of the houses.
I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to give rural district councils much more latitude, especially as they have shown that they are so willing to co-operate. I admit that there may be a few who are perhaps not so keen, but it is not worthwhile holding up the whole housing programme because one or two are not playing the game completely. Unless we can get more houses, especially in the countryside, we shall go short of food during the next two or three years, and, from the longterm point of view, the country can have no better investment than a prosperous, happy, and contented, peasant population.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South Western)
One advantage a Member has in sitting through a Debate like this, and being called on fairly late, is that he is able to sum up the trends of thought of hon. Members opposite. I have been surprised by two of these trends. In the first place, hon. Members opposite seemed very willing to blame the Government for any shortcomings on the part of the rural district councils. From my experience of rural district councils, I should say they are largely composed of Conservatives. If, therefore, there are shortcomings on the part of the district councils in the building of houses, hon. Members opposite ought to overcome that by giving the necessary advice to their friends in their constituencies as to how they can get on 1164 with the job. I have also noticed that not a single hon. Member opposite has breathed a word about a landlord or farmer providing a new house. As they represent the party which has been connected with the ownership of land, and as this Government have made special provision, by means of subsidy, for landowners and farmers to build new houses, without any restriction whatever—
§ Mr. Lambert
I have a case in my pocket. I did not mention it, because of shortness of time, but it is the case of a farmer not being allowed to build a house owing to restrictions.
§ Mr. Dye
I am not going into any particular case, but I am pointing out that nothing has been said since 3.30 p.m. today by any hon. Member about a farmer or landowner providing a new house. All they are asking for is that these same people should be allowed by means of Government grants to recondition houses which they already own. There never was a time in the history of this country when the owners of land and farmers were in such a beneficial position to provide new cottages for their people. When, therefore, hon. Members opposite speak of the shortcomings of rural district councils in this respect, they might well turn to their friends and ask why, if the district councils, which are largely composed of Conservatives, cannot get on with the job, the owners of the land do not step in and make good the deficiencies. There is nothing whereby a district council can withhold a licence or a permit from a farmer or owner whose plans are approved as suitable and prevent him from getting on with the task. They have equal priority with any district council in building cottages for farmworkers. In that respect they have a privilege enjoyed by no other class in the country. No other employer, or capitalist, is in that position today. Yet landowners have completely failed in that respect—
§ Mr. J. H. Hare
There seems to be complete divergence of opinion on a point of fact. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us whether the hon. Member is right?
§ Mr. Dye
Part of my time is spent as a rural district councillor, and part as a county councillor, dealing with these problems every week, as I have done for the past 14 or 15 years. From that 1165 experience, I know I am speaking the truth in this matter. I know that some of the most enlightened farmers in Norfolk are building cottages under the conditions laid down by the Minister, and are receiving subsidy in respect of that. If hon. Members opposite are sincere in their desire, and if their constituents are sincere in their desire, for a great step forward in rural housing, they have abundant means of getting on with the task.
Another thing on which there seems to be a difference of opinion is the question or reconditioning of cottages. It is no good trying to decide this on a basis of any abstract belief. It seems to me that we have to examine the problem of housing in rural Britain and decide what are the essential steps to be taken to meet it. There is no doubt that the first need is to meet the requirements of families who are without homes of their own, whether they are in village or town, whether they are agricultural workers or workers of any other industry. Those people, who are living with their "in-laws," most of them having been married in recent years, and who have one, two or three children, should have the first claim on the new houses, and it is the duty of rural district councils to provide them.
The second class for whom rural district councils should build are the new entrants required to go into agriculture. In neither of these two cases will reconditioning of cottages meet the case, unless the cottage happens to be empty. As there are few empty cottages there would seem to be little scope for reconditioning in that respect. The next class of people are those who are now living in the very worst cottages, which are insanitary, damp and without any amenities. Very few of those cottages can be suitable for reconditioning, and even if they can be classified as suitable, the families must be got out of them first. In my experience of the reconditioning of rural cottages the most satisfactory instances are those in which a pair of cottages have been turned into one. That reduces the number of separate dwellings, and before that kind of reconditioning can be undertaken there must be additional new houses. Therefore, on all counts, the Government must pursue, and get the district councils to pursue, the path of concentrating all available building labour and materials into the building of new houses.
1166 I do not know how long it will take the district councils to make up that leeway. There is, quite clearly, a difference in the speed with which the councils are getting on with their task in different parts of the country. Some hon. Members complain that their local authorities have hardly begun, but then, if the proportion of new houses being built is in relation to the population dwelling in the rural and urban districts, it means that if some councils are behind others are ahead. I happen to be in one of those localities where the rural district councils are well ahead of anything that they have ever done in the past. Hon. Members opposite complain of the scheme of allocating houses between the different authorities. Surely, the purpose of that is to see that one authority does not have permission to go to tender for more houses than it has building workers available to complete this year; to see that they do not poach on the grounds of their neighbours, but that all in the neighbourhood have a chance of obtaining the available building workers.
The authority of which I am a member, the Swaffham rural district council, is an authority which went into conference and came out with a greater number of houses than had previously been allocated to it, because it showed, by the number of contracts it had already entered into, and the number of building workers engaged on those contracts, it could reasonably be expected to complete a greater number of houses by the end of this year. If we compare the progress of this one local authority with what it did in the years between the wars, we find that up to 1940 this district council built a total of 230 council houses. It has already, since the war, completed 28 houses, which is a more rapid rate than that at which the council ever built in prewar years. But it is permitted to complete, up to the end of this year, an additional 160 houses, so that in about two to three years it will have built more houses, some of which are already started and well on the way, than in the whole of the 20 years between the wars. Why? Because it has taken every step open to it to speed on the task of building houses. Neighbouring local authorities have not made quite the same progress, yet the general position in Norfolk today is that the programmes before the district councils for completion this year are anything from 1167 three to ten times greater than they were in the average years before the war. So we can say that district councils are getting on with their task, that the Ministry is aiding those which are determined to get on, and that within a reasonable time we can expect the leeway to be made up.
But I wish to urge on the Minister that we must not fail in this task of housing. The people of rural England have turned their attention and their desires towards having their share of the new Britain. They have shaken off much of the apathy and indifference of the past; they now want to share in the advantages of really good housing conditions. The Government having carried through, in the Agriculture Bill, a sound agricultural policy which will give confidence and hope for the future, we now turn to those who live and work on the land and say, "We shall not let you down. We will not only go in for the ordinary traditionally built house, but will speed up, if necessary, by building methods and types other than the Airey house, the number of houses that can be made available in rural Britain either this year or next year."
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
I welcome the opportunity of taking part briefly in this Debate, not least because, in my maiden speech in this House, in the Debate on 17th August, 1945, to which reference has already been made, I stressed the need for rural housing and amenities. I did so at that early stage of this Parliament because it was a subject uppermost in the minds of a great many of my Hertfordshire constituents. That subject remains uppermost in their minds because of the unsatisfactory, slow progress made under the policy of the present Government. What is the problem with which we are faced in this matter? As I see it, the problem is really three-fold. First we have to extend and improve accommodation in the countryside in order to prevent any recurrence of that disastrous drift from the land in which 250,000 people left the countryside between the wars.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I will not reply to the interruption of the hon. Member for 1168 West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) as I have given a guarantee not to speak too long. I will merely content myself by saying that his interjection is of the low standard typical of all his interruptions in this House.
§ Mr Walker-Smith
The second problem is to provide accommodation for the additional workers who are required on the land today. That involves accommodation for the additional 39,000 workers envisaged in paragraph 128 of the Economic Survey for 1947. It involves, also, accommodation for those farm workers whom we hope will replace the 100,000 to 130,000 prisoners of war who are due to leave the country in the comparatively near future.
The third aspect of this problem is, in my view, a rather wider one. It is to give to the countryside as good housing and good amenities as can be found in the urban areas. This I consider to be a most important aspect of the problem. It is essential if we are to have a right social and economic balance in this country of ours. It is necessary that we should bring to the countryside as good housing and amenities as can be found in the towns in order to put the country people and country pursuits on at least an equality of regard with urban people and urban pursuits. We want to make the term, "a country cousin," a term of respect and even of envy instead of the amused and rather contemptuous indulgence with which it is regarded today.
The solution of this threefold problem demands the enlargement and improvement of rural housing both by new building and reconditioning. I entirely agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that we cannot sever the rural housing problem from the housing problem as a whole. It is true, as has been pointed out, that since the war the proportion of houses built in rural areas to the whole number has been slightly higher than the proportion of the rural population to the total population. On that I say that the whole housing situation, of which this is a part, is unsatisfactory and there is a greater need in the countryside on balance than there is elsewhere except, of course, in the blitzed areas of our towns and cities. Reference has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) 1169 to the speech of the Minister of Agriculture in which he said:As far as the Minister of Health is concerned, he has fulfilled his share of the bargain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 447.]I cannot agree that that is so. The responsibility of the Government is not so limited as the Minister appeared to imagine. The Government have voluntarily assumed responsibility in respect both of materials and of policy. It is true that the Minister of Health may divorce himself as an individual from responsibility for materials, but the Government cannot do that. I do not intend, in the limited time at my disposal, to go into the question of materials. I hope that in due course another opportunity may present itself. However, to say that the Government have fulfilled their share of the bargain is like a trainer saying to the boxer when he puts him in the ring, "I have tied one hand securely behind you. I have starved you for some time of the sustenance necessary to your strength. I have, however, given you my gracious permission to indulge in this hopeless contest. I have fulfilled my share. Now it is up to you. Go in and win." That is precisely the position which this detached attitude of the Government represents. The policy of one hand rendered useless arises from the Minister's insistence on his arbitrary ratio of four to one against private enterprise.
As far as the general application of that goes, I had a good deal to say in the Debate before the Easter Recess in 1946. Tonight I say that it is especially important in rural areas. Housing in rural areas is particularly a job for the small and medium builder. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that we must have regard to our house building capacity in our housing programme. I entirely endorse that view. I have been trying to impress two things on his right hon. Friend for nearly two years now. They are, first, that the building industry is, in essence, still an industry of small and medium men in spite of the fact that there are some very big figures in it; and second, that the Minister of Health has habitually assumed an interchangeability in the building industry which does not, in fact, exist. It is not, in practice, possible usefully to absorb the whole of the small and medium builders in the countryside into the complex machinery of contractual 1170 building. That is the real distinction which this House should have in mind. It is not the distinction trotted out of houses to let and houses to sell. It is the basic distinction in the composition and capabilities of the building industry. I found his right hon. Friend very stubborn on this. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary brings on open mind to the office which he now holds.
He referred to the point of houses for sale and houses for letting. I would remind him of the existence of Ministry of Health Circular 92 of 1946. If he has not yet met that in his Department, I strongly advise him to look it up in order that he may inform the House of the progress made by private builders building for sale to local authorities in the countryside. I referred just now to the composition of the building industry in support of my contention that the four to one ratio is not practical in putting to work the full resources of the building industry. On the Ministry of Works Census of Builders, which was taken during the war, though the figures are still substantially right for my present purpose, there were only 260 firms in the country employing over 500 men; there were 1,245 firms employing between ion and 499 men; 5,918 employing between 20 and 99 men; 16,012 employing between five and nineteen men; 31,761 employing between one and four men; and there were 31,718 firms employing no labour at all.
I think it is clear from that that there are large numbers of very small builders who cannot conceivably fit into the grandiose schemes of the Minister of Health. What is to happen to them under this fixed ratio? Are they to be condemned to inactivity merely for the sin of being small? If so, the right hon. Gentleman will be guilty of denying to the house-hungry people of this country the full resources of the building industry. What can these small men do? They can do two things. They can build houses in penny packets, not in great schemes, and they can recondition houses. They are admirably suited to both these purposes. They have local knowledge, they can command local resources, which have been referred to by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones), and they have a small nucleus of local labour. They can also do one further thing which is highly relevant in regard to the needs of agriculture. They can build houses in 1171 fairly isolated places in small numbers. They are more likely to do that than is a rural district council.
It has been suggested that hon. Members on this side of the House have not claimed that farmers or land owners are anxious to build houses for their workers. Of course, they are anxious, but they are pegged down by the ratio. They are anxious to do it and they can do it with the help of the Finance Act of 1945, and, if it is not a tied house, with the help of Section 13 of the 1946 Act. If they can get the necessary licences, they can do it—
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I regret that I cannot give way to the hon. Member, because I have promised to be very short. So far as reconditioning goes, the same considerations apply; only, if anything, more strongly. As is well known, the shortage of material is greater than the shortage of labour, and that is an argument for putting the small man on to the business of reconditioning.
I have some other figures regarding the houses put up by builders in the course of a year. I will not read those figures out in detail because of the shortage of time; but by comparing the two sets of figures which I have it is clear that there are a great number of builders in this country who build fewer than six houses a year on the average and many who do not build houses at all. It is right that those men should be employed on this work of reconditioning. That point is recognised in the evidence of the Ministry of Agriculture given before the Hobhouse Committee. The Report says on page 36:It is believed that such a programme would be without significant effect on schemes for the erection of new houses, because it can be carried out by small rural builders who are generally unsuitable, because of their size, for employment in new construction.Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture will pass that on to his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. Only one voice is raised in opposition to the Hobhouse Report on this question of reconditioning including privately owned houses and that is the voice of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). As far as that goes, the voice may be the 1172 voice of Jacob but the hand seems to be the hand of the right hon. Esau who is not with us today. A good deal of the phraseology there strikes me after a period of two years as very familiar indeed. The right hon. Gentleman passes for a strong man in the present Government and I hope he will show his strength in this to be even stronger than that of Samson, and that he will resist the advice given him, even though it comes from such a source.
In that maiden speech to which I referred I said that the housing of the people of this country was of infinitely more importance than party politics. I still believe that to be so, and I urge action upon the Government both in the building of new houses in the countryside and in the reconditioning of old ones so as to improve and extend accommodation. They must do this if the people of this country are not to become disappointed and disillusioned with the promises which were held out to them in 1945 by those who are now in power.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
The professed zeal of the party opposite for the provision of houses and more amenities in rural districts would carry greater weight if it were not so woefully belated. It was my good fortune to be a Member of this House in the Parliament of 1929 when the present Lord Privy Seal as the Minister of Health introduced a very important Measure to deal with the question we are debating. That Bill was described by the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady M. Lloyd George) in a felicitous maiden speech as a bold and comprehensive Measure for dealing with this important social problem. It set a target of 40,000 houses to be built within a few years. That target was practicable and realisable. What happened to the Act? Successive Tory Governments refused to operate it and it became a dead letter. We are to-day suffering from the indifference and the callous neglect of those Tory Governments to implement that important Act.
A little while ago the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) deplored the lack of housing and other amenities in the countryside and in his own constituency. The best answer I can give him is to quote a letter I received from a gentleman, by no means sympathetic to the Labour movement, who held a position of pre-eminence in education in Western 1173 England and who is not unknown to the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden. What did he say?I am now an old man. In going back to the country after many years, I can see how much worse the position is than it was 50 years ago.That confirms what I have said about indifference and neglect when the Tories had the opportunity and the power to deal with this question in an effective fashion.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) used a racing term. I will follow his example and say that the Tory Party are now running true to form. Their traditional policy has been to come out before every General Election as great reformers and also to be great reformers when they are in opposition, but when they have had the opportunity and the power to implement their promises, their enthusiasm has simply evaporated and they have begun to make excuses why they could not carry out the promises with which they had deluded the electors in times past.
What is the record of the present Government on this question? I submit, with all respect and despite everything which has been said on both sides of the House about difficulties, that it is a record of which the Government have no need to be ashamed. What are the figures? Up to 31st January this year 18,450 permanent and temporary houses have been built in rural districts and 32,864 are now under construction. No one will say—not even the Minister himself—that he is satisfied with the rate of progress. but compare this record with the miserable figure of 124 houses—mainly built for people who were able to buy them—in the first 12 months after the 1914–18 war—
§ Mr. Alpass
There is always that gibe. The Opposition have short memories but the people are not going to be fobbed off in the future as they have been in the past.
On the question of priorities I suggest that it would be most unwise on this point to interfere with the discretion of the local housing authorities, especially rural district councils. As my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye) has said, they are composed largely of land- 1174 Owners and farmers, and surely they are able to assess the needs of the people in their districts better than anyone outside. If the Government suggested dictating to them then they would be called dictators. We ought to trust them. In my constituency we have one or two district councils which certainly understand the needs of the people better than anyone in Whitehall or anywhere else. I suggest that the over-riding, dominant consideration in this matter should be human needs.
With regard to reconditioning, I suggest that the acid test of its efficacy is not what hon. Members may say, and not what landowners or farmers may wish, but what the people who have to live in those reconditioned houses feel about them. What does the organisation which speaks for the agricultural workers in the main say about it? I will quote briefly from their evidence to this sub-committee:We do not think that in the majority of cases accommodation is increased.They go on to point out that in many cases it has been decreased, and I have seen that in my own division.Comparatively few of the houses reconditioned have had water or electric light laid on, or baths or sanitation provided, as most of the cottages were situated"—and here is one of the snags in reconditioning—far from essential services and many far from village communities. Our fear is that the reconditioning of houses will require skilled labour at a time when skilled workers will be urgently needed for new buildings.What do the Association of Sanitary Inspectors say about it? The members of this Association are persons who are up against these problems in the country districts every day, and sometimes every hour of their lives, and they are in a position to speak with undoubted authority. They say:The Association feels strongly that the time is not opportune for such a scheme and emphasises the view already expressed that the present building force should be concentrated on the erection of the maximum number of new buildings.They go on to say:There has been a tendency in some quarters,and this I know is true, from my own experience,to retain cottages which had reached the end of their useful life.1175 My chief objection to this reconditioning is that it will perpetuate the unjust system of the tied cottage, and there is nothing which the agricultural workers resent more than that system, borne of bitter actual experience. I want to say that I object very strongly on principle and that as long as I am in public life I shall continue to object. I am accused of being bitter towards landlords. I am bitter towards the system of private land ownership, and want to see it overthrown as soon as possible, and will do all I possibly can to bring that about. I am opposed on principle to grants out of public funds to private landowners to put their property in order, an obligation and duty which they have neglected up to now.
I wish there were more time to develop some of the other arguments, but I agreed to speak for ten minutes only and I conclude by saying that the real remedy for dealing with houses needing reconditioning is for the local authorities to acquire them, where it is desirable and practicable, at their present value, put them in a fit state of habitation, and then let them to tenants under an ordinary tenancy agreement. With the Minister of Health, one of the finest Ministers of Health we have ever had, applying his energy, skill and statesmanship, and with the wholehearted co-operation of local authorities; and the building industry—and if they realise the need the building workers will put their backs into this job—I am certain that before this Government goes out of office it will have made a really substantial contribution to the solving of this most important question.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I would like to summarise the point of view of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House as to what requires to be done about rural housing. May I, as one who was associated with the two Hobhouse Reports which have been under discussion today, say on behalf of my colleagues on that committee, how much we appreciate the way in which the two reports have been cited as though they were—as I think they were—honest efforts on the basis of the evidence put before us to make constructive and helpful suggestions to improve the standard of housing in rural districts? The Parliamentary Secretary, as at present advised, is still unable to accept 1176 the view which was unanimously put forward by us. That view was to the effect that there is building labour available in the country districts for the reconditioning of houses, and that labour is not, for one reason or another, available for the building of new houses.
In a very important passage in his speech, the Parliamentary Secretary indicated that he continues to hold the view that that is not correct. He is at a great disadvantage. Hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the House felt that his speech was very lucid and a masterly exposition of the point of view of the Ministry which he represents. The Minister of Health expressed certain views at a time before the Hobhouse Committee had issued its report. In the absence of the Minister it would be quite wrong, of course, for the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the report which has been presented. We are all at a disadvantage because of the indisposition of the Minister, which we all very much regret. When the Government ask an impartial committee—our committee was impartial because it represented Members of all parties, and the dividing line which did take place was not on the line of party—to make a finding upon a matter of fact, it would be reasonable for the Government to accept the findings to which the committee have come. In spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary had said, the Hobhouse Committee accepted the outstanding importance of the building of a large number of new houses in the country districts. The first point which was referred to us was: Would reconditioning draw away labour from the building of new houses? Unanimously we came to the conclusion that there is labour in the country districts which is not available for the building of new houses and which could be used for reconditioning.
Last year the Government introduced their Housing (Financial Provisions) Bill, which was passed into law. Hon. Members on this side of the House criticised it on certain grounds, but they did say they were naturally most anxious that the maximum number of houses should be built and recognised that the Government were making a special effort in the case of housing in the rural districts. How is it turning out? It appears that under that Act 12,736 houses have been built in rural districts. Those are the last returns we have got. Of those, 5,007 were 1177 built by local authorities and 7,729 were built by private enterprise. I do not know whether we were at fault in criticising the Act on the ground that it gave a very much smaller subsidy to private enterprise, and that the balance was being tilted against private enterprise, but in spite of that fact it appears as though private enterprise has managed to do more than the local authorities, although it has had so much less assistance. Special provision was also made in the Act to ensure that local authorities which built houses which in fact were occupied by rural workers should receive a very large subsidy, namely, £28 10s. for 60 years. It represents the greatest generosity that has ever been shown to the rural districts in helping to find houses for agricultural workers, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen apposite have reproached us with the smaller contributions made by legislation promoted from this side of the House.
We find that, of the 5,007 houses built, this larger subsidy has been claimed in respect of only 607–607 out of 5,007. The Parliamentary Secretary explained quite correctly that this subsidy is a rather peculiar one. In the case of ordinary houses people are offered the subsidy by the Government before they build the houses, but this, what I may call the Section 3 subsidy, is only payable where, after the house has been built, it is in fact occupied by an agricultural worker. Local authorities have built 5,007 houses and have only claimed this large subsidy in respect of 607 of them. The local authorities have built the remaining houses without claiming the subsidy from the Government. That appears to me to mean that out of the 5,007 houses built in rural districts, only 607 are in fact being occupied by rural workers.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that there was no difference between the two sides of the House in our anxiety at the present time to do everything we can to assist agriculture, and I am sure that is so. Indeed, I have felt recently that there has been a great warming of feeling on the other side of the House towards agriculture; the great distress of the country makes it obviously very important that everything possible should be done, and I think the Government realise that. Therefore, when the Secretary of State for Scotland comes to reply he will perhaps explain to us how it comes about that, 1178 though these 5,007 houses have been built, the large subsidy payable in respect of occupation by agricultural workers has only been claimed in respect of 607. If the explanation is what I believe it to be, the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. York), that in the special predicament we are in some special effort should be made to make the houses available only for agricultural workers, would, surely, be very largely justified.
These figures seem to indicate that the Act of 1946 is not succeeding very well. I am going to suggest three reasons why it has failed. The first is planning limitation. It sounds all right to have your agricultural houses in the villages rather than out on the farms; but the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) explained the case of his own constituency in Lancashire where, I believe, there are very wide areas, and where farms are isolated from the villages. In the second place, there is this licensing, this one-four rule. As my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) pointed out, last year the Minister of Health said that this was only a sort of rough and ready calculation of what, in fact, the needs would be. I believe that the other reason why the Act of 1946 is not actually producing the houses for the agricultural workers is because this one-four rule, which is just a rule of thumb, is not working out satisfactorily. Thirdly, Section 13 (3) of the 1946 Act prevents the subsidy from being made available in the case of what is called the "tied cottage." I am not in the least afraid of facing the critics upon the subject. I called it doctrinaire prejudice in the last Debate, when the right hon. Gentleman was here, and I think, in fact, that that is proving to be the case.
If we are genuinely desirous of helping agriculture at the present time, we must really try to build a large number of houses for those people who are willing to work upon the land and who are going to be near their work. It is no use having a prejudice against the tied cottage and not to give assistance when the Act fails. But, in point of fact, we have not done the one thing necessary—built the houses in the places where they are required. What the Government have done in this, as in so many other matters, is that they have suspended the free play of economic forces, and have tried to sub- 1179 stitute planning. I am not against planning. Indeed, I have been criticised by some of my hon. Friends on this side for being almost a pink Socialist, because I believe in planning. But I believe in good planning, and what has undermined my faith in planning is that those who have spoken about it for so many years have not, in the last 20 months during which they have had the opportunity to put their ideas into practice, done what is necessary. When I look at hon. Members opposite I realise that it is not because it is impossible to plan, but because they are not very good at planning.
I have no hesitation in talking about tied cottages. I want more tied cottages, not fewer tied cottages. As long as we are in this difficult housing situation, I want to see the policy of the tied cottage greatly extended. In answer to a supplementary question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson), the Minister of Supply said that his Ministry had provided houses for men employed in the royal ordnance depots, and that when they cease to work in the ordnance depots they should no longer occupy the houses which have been built by the Government in order that the workers in those ordnance factories should live near their work. One of the troubles which has to be faced by the agricultural landlords is that in a small village there is the schoolmaster who has to be provided with a house, and there are the postmen and the constabulary who also have to be provided with houses. Why should not these public authorities provide their officials with houses and have them tied for whoever is performing those public functions? Why should the agricultural landlord be required to provide houses for those who are employed by the Government or by local authorities? Why should not the principle of the tied house which, after all, does not seem to have been a great hardship so far as vicarages and rectories are concerned during the last few centuries, be applied in the case of all these public functionaries? Apart from the neglect of the Hobhouse Report, there has also been the neglect of the Ridley Report. That was another impartial committee, representative of all parties, which was asked to deal with the question of rent restriction, and they came to the con- 1180 clusion that one of the main causes of bad agricultural housing is that the rents paid are not sufficient to enable the houses to be kept in order.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that the wages paid made it utterly impossible for the labourers to pay larger rents?
§ Mr. Molson
So far as the wages are concerned, when our committee reported in 1936, we took the view that the average wage at that time was 32s. 6d. a week, and we found that the agricultural labourer could pay 3s. rent and 2S. rates, making 5s. altogether. We found in 1943 that the wages were 65s. and that the labourer could pay 10s. or 11s. In 1947 the minimum wage has gone up very substantially; the average earnings have probably gone up to about 90s. a week, and a comparable increase in rents could perfectly well be paid by agricultural labourers.
§ Mr. Molson
If the hon. Gentleman, who interrupts me from a reclining posture, had read the Ridley Committee's Report, he would have found that their recommendation was that tribunals should be set up and should lay down a rent which should be proportionate to the quality and amount of the accommodation provided. That is the recommendation made, and that is the only way to deal equitably, fairly and on a sound economic basis with all these questions of rent restriction. After 20 months of office we still do not know the attitude of the Government upon this matter of rent restriction. I maintain that where a fair wage is paid to the agricultural labourer, a fair rent should also be paid for good accommodation, and until that principle is established we will never bring about a general improvement in the standard of agricultural housing.
I have dealt at some length with the matter of new houses, because the reproach has been brought against us that we are thinking all the time of reconditioning and not of new houses. We are anxious that there should be provision of a large number of good new houses, but it is plain that at the same time it is possible to improve the conditions of the existing houses. At the present time the first thing I ask of the Government is not to accept our Report and to re-introduce the grant, but to give a licence for re- 1181 conditioning to be carried out when a landlord wishes to do it. I bought a cottage when I bought my own house; I did not wish to be a slum landlord, and because there was no water laid on in the cottage I had plans prepared by an architect for reconditioning it. However, I could not get that done because under, not the last but a recent circular issued by the Ministry of Health all I could do was to have the minimum amount done, which would actually make the roof watertight. My tenant still cannot have water laid on, although it is quite nearby. That is the first thing I ask of the Government, that they withdraw that circular and enable those who are willing to do these things without asking for any grant, at any rate to carry out such improvement of their property. When that has been done there will perhaps be more justification than there is at the present time for the gibes which come from hon. Members opposite against landlords, some of whom are most anxious to carry out these improvements but are prevented by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health from doing what they want to do. The labour is available; that is a finding of fact.
§ Mr. Molson
The Parliamentary Secretary cannot accept that yet? When his right hon. Friend returns, let him ask, and then perhaps he will be able to accept it. Let me give one example which does not actually appear in our Report. There is a little town in South Devonshire, in which we found that the builders had come together and formed a syndicate, in order to be able to tender for the building of new houses. If they had not been able to form that syndicate they could not have undertaken the financial responsibility, nor could they have found the labour for building the new houses. If it had been several isolated villages instead of being a small town in South Devonshire, they could not have formed that syndicate, and, therefore, could not have tendered for the new houses. That was a most interesting example, I thought, which I wanted included in the Report in order to show that there are a number of people whose businesses are too small to enable them to undertake contracts for building new houses, but who are perfectly able and willing to accept the reconditioning of 1182 houses. Where it is of very great importance to resume reconditioning, what is the effect if that reconditioning is not resumed? It is that the old residents in the villages, those who are working on the land at the present time, will be the last to be given any decent housing conditions. There is the parable of the labourers in the vineyard: Those who come last will get preferential treatment.
The Ministry of Agriculture submitted some remarkable evidence to the Hobhouse Committee. Why the same evidence was not given to the Minister of Health before he discontinued the Housing (Rural Workers) Act one does not know, of course. Perhaps the Minister of Health was not willing to pay the same attention to the evidence that we were. They want 100,000 extra workers in the agricultural industry. Are they all to have new houses? And, at the same time, are all those who are at present living in country districts to be kept in cottages without modern amenities? Is that fair and reasonable? Are they likely to stay upon the land if that is the treatment they get? If there are a large number of new houses going up, surely, that will emphasise more than ever how difficult and unfavourable are the housing conditions under which they live?
I come to the question of the tied cottage. I wish to say something on behalf of certain members of the Hobhouse Committee who, I know, were opposed to the existence of such a thing as the tied cottage. Yet they signed this Report, and were in favour of the grant being made available for the reconditioning of tied cottages. Their reason was this. However strongly opposed they are to tied cottages, when they are on the Central Housing Advisory Committee their job is to do what they can to improve the general housing conditions of the people. If this grant were not to be made available to those people in tied cottages, for whom they have every sympathy because they have no security of tenure, it would mean that when a general improvement takes place in housing conditions elsewhere, it would be denied to those who are in tied cottages. However much they may—and do—deplore the existence of tied cottages, they took the view that, looking at it from the point of view of improving the general housing conditions of the country, it would be a monstrous piece of discrimina- 1183 tion against that particular category of people, if the general improvement they were aiming at were denied to those living in tied cottages. They were not influenced by the doctrinaire approach I attributed to the Minister of Health. The right hon. Gentleman nominated the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) to our Central Housing Advisory Committee, and she presented a dissenting report. Of course, it is entitled to careful, sympathetic consideration; but it is the dissenting report of one member, and all the other members of the committee, of all political views, took the contrary view. We shall await with interest the decision of the Minister of Health on this subject. I cannot believe that he will give excessive weight to the minority report, however weighty and influential may be its solitary signatory.
May I summarise what I have tried to say? We on this side of the House recognise that nothing must be done to interfere with the production of the maximum number of new houses; but we are unable to say, on the figures as given to us, that the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1946, is, in fact, working out very satisfactorily, or is, in fact, providing the houses for the agricultural workers who are in such great need of them. And, indeed, the country is in great need of agricultural workers. In the second place, most of us here, I think, believe that tied houses are necessary for the efficient working of farms, and for the maximum food production; but we do not wish that, because cottages are tied to those who are engaged in producing food, those people shall be denied the advantages of a grant for the reconditioning of their houses. In the third place, we believe that, as a result of the increased wages, agricultural workers are now able to pay something very much nearer to an economic rent for their houses, and we ask for the implementation of the recommendations of the Ridley Committee, which did, in fact, say that, where a landlord provides a good house, he should get a higher rent than he does if he provides a bad house. In the fourth place, we ask that, while everything possible is being done to provide new houses in agricultural districts, those who have lived there for a long time in unfavourable housing conditions shall not be denied an improvement in those conditions.
1184 I have undertaken to give the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland ample time to reply. I had intended to indulge in a little knockabout stuff with the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass)—to go back over the last w years, and to point out that the Socialist Wheatley Act of 1924 and the Greenwood Act of 1930 were, on the whole, rather ineffective in the rural districts. Hon. Gentlemen opposite draw their support from the towns and do not really understand rural constituencies. The Hobhouse Committee, in its first Report, did say that it was the Acts of 1935 and 1938 which made the most hopeful advance towards solving the rural housing problem in this country. I should be quite willing to advance that argument, but, tonight, we on this side of the House are far more anxious to try to make honest and constructive suggestions how hon. Gentlemen opposite, now that they are in office, can do something to bring about a great improvement in living conditions in the country, and, by so doing, help to promote the production of food at a time when this country stands more in need of strengthening the agricultural population than at any previous time in its history.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)
The high standard which was set by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) in opening the Debate has been maintained right to the end. There has been no attempt on either side of the House to make mere petty party points, but there has been an earnest desire to try to focus the attention of the House, and, through it, the attention of the people in the country, on the real need for dealing with what is a really serious problem. I entirely agree with what has been stated by more than one speaker in the Debate—that rural housing is just as important as urban housing—and I entirely agree with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) that we may well get in the rural areas, just as bad slums and as much overcrowding as in urban areas. I think it will be agreed on both sides of the House that, for two or three decades now, there have been two industries to which we have always turned in time of war or in time of real economic difficulty—agriculture and 1185 mining—and that neither received fair treatment, either in the way of industrial conditions, or, particularly, in the way of the provision of decent housing conditions for the workers. I think it will be agreed that anything seemed to be good enough for the agricultural worker in the past, and anything seemed to be good enough for the mining community.
I have lived in mining villages and in the rural areas, and I do know that the Party to which I belong is not responsible for the need for the reconditioning of the houses in our rural districts. The houses were there, without their water supplies; they were there, without the amenities which we now demand under modern conditions; and it is left to us now to try to solve a problem which was handed on to us and was one of our heritages when we took office. The hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) suggested that there was need for a publicity campaign to convince the people in the urban areas of the desperate position in the rural areas, so far as housing is concerned.
§ Mr. Westwood
I accept the correction for what it is worth; it means practically the same thing. All I was going to suggest was that a Debate of the kind in which we are engaged is one of the finest methods of calling the attention of the urban worker to the needs of the rural areas. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) used the word "reconditioning," and it has been used very much today. I do not like the word "reconditioning" in connection with housing. So much do I dislike it, that when I was responsible for setting up a sub-committee of the Housing Advisory Committee for Scotland, and giving them a remit—we use the word "remit," whereas in England the term "reference" is used—I never used the word "reconditioning" but the word "modernisation"—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is the same."] Oh no, there is a vast difference. Even with my limited knowledge of the English language, I know the difference between "reconditioning" and "modernisation." The remit to the Committee was to con- 1186 sider modernisation. I was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok if I believed in modernisation. I do. Apparently there is no dispute between us as to the need for modernisation. The only dispute between us is about who shall own the property after the money has been spent by the State in modernising it.
The hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), and several other hon. Members, suggested that it was not altogether advisable to concentrate on building houses for agricultural workers in the villages or existing communities, but that we should concentrate on building on the farms. May I remind the House that in recent times three committees have made reports in connection with the siting of houses for the agricultural population. Two of those committees dealt with England, and one with Scotland. The Scott Committee on Land Utilisation, and the Dudley Committee on the Design of Houses, were the English committees, and the sub-committee of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee, of which I was chairman, set up to deal with the distribution of 500,000 houses needed in Scotland, all considered this question of siting houses for the agricultural community. Their recommendations were that new agricultural cottages should, where possible, be sited near existing villages, and they emphasised the fact that it was of the greatest importance that the agricultural labourer and his family should enjoy the amenities of village life. If we are to attract back to the countryside that agricultural population which is so desirable, we have not only to build houses, but we have to see that amenities are provided for our agricultural population. The old idea that the agricultural labourer should always have to remain on a farm may not have been a bad one when there were no transport facilities such as we have today, but it is not altogether a good one now. The agricultural labourer wants to have something more in the way of amenities than has been his lot in the past. That cannot be achieved by the building of the isolated houses which have been advocated so much in the Debate today.
In dealing with amenities, and indeed with rural housing, we also have to see that there is an adequate water supply. I am sure that the Minister of Health for England is in just the same position as the Secretary of State for Scotland. There 1187 was need for the provision of an adequate proper piped water supply for our rural districts. Speaking for Scotland, I can say that we are now almost ready to distribute the £16,250,000—provided by the Coalition Government, I admit—to help in connection with Scottish rural water supplies. Fourteen counties have already been notified to get on with the job in accordance with the schemes which we have already approved. Percentages which are to be paid have not yet been definitely fixed, but the schemes have been provisionally approved. Incidentally, that will mean an expenditure of approximately £13 million for the development of rural water supplies in Scotland. I have no reason to apologise to this House for that bit of work which has been done for Scotland. If it will help my colleagues from Scotland, I would say that it was a good interpretation of the Goschen formula, because in that case I think that England received £15 million for its water supplies and drainage, and the Coalition Government enabled me to get away with £6,250,000 for Scotland. Why? Because our needs were so great, due to the fact that past Governments had not dealt with this vital problem. Therefore, it becomes my responsibility now to see that that £6,250,000 is fairly and wisely distributed as between water supplies and drainage in the rural areas in Scotland.
It was suggested, I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. Robertson), that there was a certain amount of delay in some cases, and that it was not due to the fault of the local authorities. That is perfectly true. Some local authorities, and I presume that this applies equally in England as in Scotland—and in Wales—could not get on with housing because, as I have already indicated, they had not the reasonable and adequate water supplies that were necessary. It is perfectly true that local authorities have had delays. We are trying to overcome that in relation to Berwick. Berwickshire happens to be one of the areas which is to get a grant out of this £6,250,000. Perhaps I might deal with another question which was put by the hon. and gallant Member for the Pollok Division. I agree at once that that will not be an adequate supply of finance to enable us to solve our problems. We are looking at this question at the present time. It will require fresh legis- 1188 lation, and that is being considered at the moment, so that as we face our work, so we shall be able to get finance.
I say quite frankly to the House that if I had £20 million instead of the £6,250,000, I would not be prepared to allocate the whole of that sum, because of the shortage of labour and materials. If we were to distribute more than we are distributing to local authorities at the present time all that would happen would be that excessive costs would have to be paid by the local authorities.
§ Mr. Gallacher
If any of these local authorities who are not sharing any part of this £6 million commence waterworks or drainage works, will not that prohibit them from getting consideration for this type of work in any further monies which the Minister gets?
§ Mr. Westwood
Speaking from the Scottish point of view, we have met the local authorities' associations and informed them that schemes must be approved before any grant can be given, but I am considering ways and means whereby we may be in a position later on to provide grants to enable the schemes to be proceeded with. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton) put a question in connection with the Canadian cedar-wood houses. The number for which import facilities have been given is 250 and no proposal has yet been put before us to increase that number. If a proposal is made it will receive sympathetic consideration.
To return to one or two of the points put by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok, it is perfectly true that overcrowding is as great in the country as it is in the towns. It is suggested that the Government must concentrate on the rural problem. A complaint was made at the delay in the publication of the Scottish Report on modernisation. If I remember rightly, the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok quoted another instance where there had been, shall I say, speed in the printing of a particular paper. No one knows better than my hon. and gallant Friend that the one which was printed so speedily was a Command Paper. Command Papers have a preference in printing. At Question time today I pointed out that there was another Command Paper in Scotland which had preference over the Report about which complaint has been made. Incidentally, sometimes my difficulties in 1189 getting printing done are a little more difficult in Scotland than in England. I prefer to have the delay and have the printing done in Glasgow than to send the order for printing to London. I do not think any of my Scottish colleagues on either side of the House will complain about that.
A word about what we are actually doing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If I had not dealt with the questions which were put there would have been complaints. Now I am being cheered for having dealt with the questions and because I ask for a little time in which to deal with some of the things which we are doing. Because of the urgent need to increase manpower in the agricultural industry, I have recently arranged for the production of 400 Weir steel houses and 200 Atholl houses for occupation by agricultural workers. I am receiving the full co-operation of the local authorities. In view of the importance of milk production and the urgent need for increasing the labour force in the industry, we are starting in the West and South-West districts. These 600 houses will be built in the counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Wigtown, Ayr, Lanark, Dumbarton, Renfrew and Stirling. These houses are intended for the exclusive occupation of agricultural workers working on farms. I was not satisfied that where we were building houses in rural areas the agricultural community were actually becoming the tenants of these houses. The 600 houses to which I have referred must be let to agricultural workers.
It is proposed to build them in small groups of eight to serve farms on sites which will be part of existing villages. There has been a suggestion that we should build them in ones and twos, but there is a difficulty there because with this type of house we must build four. I am willing to consider breaking them down to fours instead of eights, but I want to concentrate on building in the villages as far as I can. That does not, however, rule out building four houses near farms where they may be in a position to serve one or two farms. I place the greatest importance on the building of new houses in the country districts. Whatever decision may be reached about the modernisation of houses—and the Scottish Report will be available on 15th April—I hope to be in a position, as is the position with the Minister of Health, to make an announcement of the Govern- 1190 ment's policy before the end of the Session. Someone suggested that was in the month of October. That is not what is at the back my mind. I am hoping that the end of the Session will be about the end of July or the beginning of August. And that means that I have in mind that the decision will be announced towards the end of July—
§ Captain Crookshank
Towards the end of July. Does that mean, whether that turns out to be the end of the Session or not?
§ Mr. Westwood
I would hope to be in a position to make an announcement as to Government policy towards the end of July. I have tried in the limited time at my disposal to deal with questions raised in a United Kingdom Debate dealing with both England and Scotland. There is one thing this House can rest assured on. The agricultural community must get a fairer deal in the future than it has received in the past—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We must definitely see that housing conditions are better than they have been and that the two apartment house without amenities, water supplies and sanitary conveniences must only be remembered as a bitter black spot that was handed over to us by previous Governments—
§ Mr. Molson
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what the Government's intention is with regard to the report of the Ridley Committee on the question which I raised?
§ Mr. Westwood
I cannot say what the intention of the Government is as to the Ridley Report. That deals with rent restrictions—
§ Mr. Westwood
That is an even more intricate problem than the problem of dealing with the reconstruction or modernisation of our buildings, and I was concentrating on what the Government were proposing to do and saying that a statement of their policy would be made towards the end of July. I have nothing to add to what I have already said so far as these Reports are concerned.
§ Mr. Spence (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why the Cruden housing programme 1191 has been cut from 3,000 to 1,000 houses for this year?
§ Mr. Westwood
No, I could not in the time at my disposal. There is no time to deal with it in the few minutes left. I am quite willing, as I do in connection with other matters so far as Scotland is concerned, to see that the hon. Member who was raised this gets a reasoned reply.
§ Captain Crookshank
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he accepts the Motion which I moved or the Amend-
§ ment which has been moved thereto? He must know the answer to that one.
§ Mr. Westwood
I have a minute in which to deal with that. I prefer the Amendment to the Motion, and would be willing to accept that, if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite is willing to withdraw his Motion.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 100; Noes, 241.1193
|Division No. 113.]||AYES.||[10.0 p.m.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Haughton, S. G.||Nutting, Anthony|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hogg, Hon. Q||Prescott, Stanley|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Hollis, M. C.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hope, Lord J.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Howard, Hon. A||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bowen, R.||Hurd, A.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Snadden, W. M.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Jennings, R.||Spence, H. R.|
|Byers, Frank||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Carson, E.||Keeling, E. H.||Stuart, Rt. Han. J. (Moray)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Langford-Holt, J.||Teeling, William|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Legge, Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H, F. C.||Lipson, D. L.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O E||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V G (Penrith)||McCallum, Maj. D.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Drewe, C.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fox, Sir G.||Marples, A. E.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||York, C.|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Maude, J. C.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Molson, A. H. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Commander Agnew and|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Major Conant.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Crawley, A.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Daggar, G.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Daines, P.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Brawn, George (Belper)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Brown, T. J (Ince)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Attewell, H. C||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Burden, T. W.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Burke, W. A.||Diamond, J.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Callaghan, James||Dobbie, W.|
|Baird, J.||Carmichael, James||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Balfour, A.||Champion, A. J.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Chelwynd, G. R.||Dumpleton, C. W.|
|Barton, C.||Cocks, F. S.||Durbin, E. F. M.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Coldrick, W.||Dye, S.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Collick, P.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)|
|Berry, H.||Collins, V. J.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Bing, G. H. C||Colman, Miss G. M.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Cook, T. F.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Cooper, Wing-Cmdr. G.||Evans, John (Ogmore)|
|Boardman, H.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Corvedale, Viscount||Ewart, R.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Cove, W. G.||Fairhurst, F.|
|Farthing, W. J.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Follick, M.||Lindgren, G. S.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Foot, M. M.||Longden, F.||Scrensen, R. W.|
|Forman, J. J.||Lyne, A. W.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Foster, W. (Wigan)||McAdam, W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Stamford, W.|
|Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Steele, T.|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||McKinlay, A. S.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Gallacher, W.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Stress, Dr. B.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Gibbins, J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Silvester, G. O.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Marquand, H. A.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Mathers, G.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Mikardo, Ian||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mitchison, G. R.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Grierson, E.||Moody, A. S.||Thurtle, E.|
|Griffiths, O. (Rother Valley)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Tiffany, S.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Morley, R.||Timmons, J.|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Moyle, A.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Guy, W. H.||Murray, J. D||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hale, Leslie||Nally, W.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Hall, W. G.||Naylor, T. E.||Usborne, Henry|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Walker, G. H.|
|Harrison, d.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||O'Brien, T.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Oldfield, W. H.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Holman, P.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Watson, W. M.|
|Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)||Pargiter, G. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|House, G||Parkin, B. T.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Hoy, J.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hubbard, T.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Pearson, A.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Wilcock, Group-Capt C. A. B.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Porter, E. (Norwich)||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Irving, W. J.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pritt, D. N.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Janner, B.||Proctor, W. T.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Pursey, Cmdr. H||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Randall, H. E.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|John, W.||Rankin, J.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Richards, R.||Williamson, T|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Willis, E.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Keenan, W.||Scollan, T.||Woods, G. S.|
|Kenyan, C.||Sharp, Granville||Yates, V. F.|
|Key, C. W.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Kinley, J.||Shurmer, P.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Lang, G.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Layers, S.||Simmons, C. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Skinnard, F. W.||Mr. Snow and Mr. Popplewell|
§ Question put, "That the proposed words be there inserted."1194
§ The House divided: Ayes, 232; Noes, 93.1197
|Division No. 114.]||AYES.||[10.09 p.m.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Boardman, H.||Collins, V. J.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Bottomley, A. G.||Colman, Miss G. M.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Cook, T. F.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Cooper, Wing-Cmdr. G|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Corlett, Dr. J.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Corvedale, Viscount|
|Awbery, S. S.||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Cove, W. G.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Brown, George (Belper)||Crawley, A.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Daggar, G.|
|Baird, J.||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Daines, P.|
|Balfour, A.||Burden, T. W.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Burke, W. A.||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Barton, C.||Callaghan, James||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Carmichael, James||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Champion, A. J.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Berry, H.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Diamond, J.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Cocks, F. S.||Dobbie, W.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Coldrick, W.||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Collick, P||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Kenyon, C.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||Key, C. W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Dye, S.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Kinley, J.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Lang, G.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Lavers, S.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Ewart, R.||Lindgren, G. S.||Stamford, W.|
|Fairhurst, F.||Longden, F.||Steele, T.|
|Farthing, W. J.||Lyne, A. W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||McAdam, W.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Follick, M.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Foot, M. M.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Forman, J. C.||McKinlay, A. S||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Foster, W. (Wigan)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Gallacher, W.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S||Marquand, H. A.||Thomson, Rt Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Gibbins, J.||Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Thurtle, E.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mathers, G.||Tiffany, S.|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Mikardo, Ian||Titterington, M. R.|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Mitchison, G. R.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Moody, A. S.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Morgan, Dr. H. B||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morley, R.||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Grey, C. F.||Morris P. (Swansea, W.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Murray, J. D||Walker, G. H.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Nally, W.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Naylor, T. E.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Guy, W. H.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Watson, W. M.|
|Hale, Leslie||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Weitzman, D.|
|Hall, W. G.||O'Brien, T.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R||Oldfield, W. H.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Paling, Rt Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Pargiter, G. A.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Harrison, J.||Parkin, B. T||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Wilkes, L|
|Herbison, Miss M||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Holman, P||Pearson, A.||Williams, D J. (Neath)|
|Holmes, H E (Hemsworth)||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Williams, J. L (Kelvingrove)|
|House, G||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Hoy, J.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Williamson, T.|
|Hubbard, T.||Pritt, D. N.||Willis, E.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Proctor, W. T.||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen. N.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H||Woodburn, A.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Randall, H. E||Woods, G. S|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Rankin, J.||Yates, V. F|
|Janner, B.||Richards, R.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Jeger, Dr S. W (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Zilliacus, K.|
|John, W||Scollan, T.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Sharp, Granville||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Mr. Studholme and|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Lt.-Col. Thorpe.|
|Keenan, W||Shurmer, P.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Drewe, C.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Keeling, E. H.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lambert, Hon. G|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H|
|Bennett, Sir P||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Lipson, D. L.|
|Birch, Nigel||Fox, Sir G.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Lucas, Major Sir J.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Grimston, R. V.||McCallum, Maj. D.|
|Butler, Rt. Han. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Carson, E.||Hare, Hon. J. H (Woodbridge)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Haughton, S. G.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Clifton-Brawn, Lt.-Col. G||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow)||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Manningham-Buller, R. E|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hope, Lord J.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E||Howard, Hon. A||Marples, A. E.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Hurd, A.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hutchison, Lt -Cm. Clark (E'brgh W.)||Maude, J. C.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col A. V G (Penrith)||Hutchison, Col J R (Glasgow C)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Drayson, G. B||Jennings, R||Morrison, Maj. J G (Salisbury)|
|Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Spence, H. R.||While, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Nutting, Anthony||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Teeling, William||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U|
|Ramsay, Maj. S.||Thomas, J. P. L (Hereford)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Scott, Lord W.||Vane, W. M. F.||York, C.|
|Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Snadden, W. M.||Ward, Hon. G. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Spearman, A. C. M||Wheatley, Colonel M. J||Cmdr. Agnew and|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
That this House welcomes the steps which the Government has already taken to repair the consequences of many years of neglect in rural housing and urges the necessity of continuing action to improve water supplies, sanitation and housing conditions, by means of new building first, and, when conditions permit, by re-conditioning suitable existing houses for occupation on a tenancy by agricultural and other workers.