HC Deb 06 February 1951 vol 483 cc1611-9

In paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section ten of the principal Act for the words from "including" to "a tenant thereof" there shall be substituted the words "but so that such conditions shall not prohibit the occupation of the cottage by the owner thereof, by a tenant thereof, or by any person who is the employee of any such owner or tenant"— [Sir T. Dugdale.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir T. Dugdale

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The object of this new Clause is to amend the Hill Farming Act, 1946, and restore it to the original form in which it was introduced in this House in that year. The Committee will recollect that, during the Committee stage of the Bill in 1946, the Government introduced an Amendment which prevented an owner from receiving a grant for the improvement of the service cottage included in an improvement scheme. This Amendment was carried and added to the Bill, and it is now our purpose to make it possible for improvements to service cottages to qualify for a grant in any scheme under this Bill.

The Committee will appreciate that there has been much talk about this problem of the service cottage, and I think it is true to say that there has also been a great deal of confused thinking, which has made this problem the centre of keen political controversy, so much so that it is often overlooked that the service cottage is in no way confined to the agricultural industry or those who live on the land. The service cottage is a perfectly ordinary practice in a great many instances of our national life.

Just to give the Committee a few instances of occupiers of service cottages or tied houses, there are, to start with, the Prime Minister, and, following him, there are large numbers of tied houses or service cottages controlled by the Service Departments. Many local authorities are the owners of houses available only to their employees. There are many other examples which I could quote, but I do not wish to delay the Committee. Perhaps the best of all examples is supplied by what the Minister of Agriculture does in his day-to-day duties when he authorises the building of forestry cottages in order to promote an increased production of woodlands in our country. Naturally, these become tied cottages, and it is quite right that they should.

Finally, on this point, let us take an ordinary, average village in any part of our countryside, and consider how many tied cottages there are and the number of people who live there perfectly happily, without any political differences, until this particular question becomes a point of political controversy. Very often, the local parson lives in a tied house, and the local policeman and the local postman. Then there are the people to whom we are referring today—men engaged in agriculture—and, very often, the school teacher; and all of them go on living in complete harmony and contentment and never worry about this problem at all. I hope, therefore, that we can get away from this violent political point of view when we discuss this problem.

There is no dispute in the Committee about what we want to do under this Bill. It is to improve our cottages in the hill and upland areas. We not only want to improve existing ones, but we also want new ones built. As it exists at present, the law operates harshly on the small owner-occupier, and the Committee should consider that, in many cases, these farmers are not in a financial position to improve their cottages, and are precluded from including them in any improvement scheme, either under this Bill or under the Hill Farming Act as it exists at present.

Following upon this, the workers who live in these service cottages in upland areas are unable to benefit from the improved housing conditions which might have been possible if the service cottage had been included in the terms of this Bill. For all these reasons, we have thought it right to put down this new Clause, and we hope that the Government in their wisdom will accept it.

Mr. T. Williams

I am sure that the hon. Baronet the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) knows exactly what I am going to say before I say it. What I cannot understand is his suggestion that somebody is stirring up controversy. The hon. Baronet himself is the only one who is stirring up controversy; I am quite happy with the Bill as it is, quite happy with the legislation on the Statute Book. It is the hon. Baronet who, by putting down this new Clause, stirs up unnecessary controversy.

I am sure that he knows, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that to accept this new Clause would be quite contrary to Government policy. The principle that houses built or improved with the assistance of public funds should not be occupied as tied houses has been embodied in general housing legislation three or four times since 1946. It is embodied in the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1946, and in the Housing Act, 1949, and the Hill Farming Act (England and Wales) Regulations, 1948, made under Section 10 of the Hill Farming Act, also impose a similar condition. Similar regulations also apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It is unreasonable for hon. Gentlemen to suggest that, because a house is let on a tenancy basis, the owner is unable to get possession if he can prove that he requires the house for a person whom he now employs or is likely to employ if he can get possession of the cottage. It is known to every hon. Member that any such farmer or property owner can proceed to a county agricultural executive committee, and, if he can sustain his claim that he needs the house in order properly to cultivate his farm, he obtains a certificate with which he can proceed to court, and if the court in its wisdom feels that the greater hardship would be on the farmer or property owner, as the case may be, then, even without providing alternative accommodation, he can get possession of that cottage.

It has been suggested by those who want to stir up controversy that the fact that such a house is built with a Government 50 per cent. grant is a retarding influence on these improvement schemes in other words, that landowners will not advance an improvement scheme and apply for a Government grant of 50 per cent. unless they can have what is called a "tied" house. That is not true. There are not half a dozen cases in England and Wales where the person concerned has not proceeded with a scheme on the plea that he cannot have a tied cottage. After all, there is something in the Government's point of view with regard to a tied cottage or a tenancy.

I am not one of those who shout from the house tops about the abolition of this, that or the other; I recognise that on certain remote farms there must be some houses. I would not mind if they were all under tenancy terms if only we could provide the right sort of conditions for the workmen as well as for the employer, instead of the situation which this new Clause would give us where all the power would be in the hands of the employer and none in the hands of the employee. I think it is better that it should be a tenancy. Let the employee pay a reasonable rent and let him feel some sense of self-respect. But if, for one reason or another, he justifiably leaves the employment of a particular employer, then let the machinery which has been provided for the purpose be used while it exists—the certificate procedure and access to the court—since possession can always be obtained, or at least is very frequently obtained, without the provision of alternative accommodation.

Since no less than three or four Acts of Parliament have settled the issue so far as the Government are concerned, I do not think we could contemplate for a moment changing our minds in this small Bill, which, after all, is granting over a period of time some £28 million for certain parts of the farming industry. In all the circumstances, I hope that the hon. Baronet will not feel disposed to keep stirring up this controversy, but will withdraw the new Clause as quickly as possible.

Mr. Vane

I hope that because I want to speak to this proposed new Clause the right hon. Gentleman will not automatically accuse me of stirring up controversy, and I also hope that I shall not speak more heatedly than he has just spoken. But, earlier in the debate, he spoke of the experience he had had of the working of the Hill Farming Act, and said that we should bear that experience in mind. He also said that he is quite happy with the present building and improvement of farm cottages under that Act in the light of the experience gained.

7.15 p.m.

All I can say is that very small things must make him very happy because he wrote to me on 5th December last and told me that only seven houses had been completed in England and seven more in Wales under the Hill Farming Act. That is not the whole of the story, because there are more approved but not started, and Scotland has done better than both England and Wales. The total so far in England and Wales is only 14. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that 10 per cent. of the total estimated cost of all schemes was in respect of new cottages or improvement to farm workers' cottages. When we think that increased production of hill farming or of livestock rearing land depends on cottages, I do not think that is sufficient to make the Minister so happy.

Mr. T. Williams

The hon. Gentleman will not forget what I said earlier on and what I did not want to repeat at this late hour owing to the arrangement we have about the timetable. I said that the whole of the £4 million made available had been taken up. All I can be responsible for is the provision of the money. It is for the promoter of the scheme to decide whether he wants a house or not, so I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to charge either the Minister or the Government with any lack of house building under these improvement schemes.

Mr. Vane

I must repeat that the Minister appears to be perfectly happy that 14 new houses have been completed in England and Wales in the course of four years. I should have thought that on the merits of the case he might be prepared to review it. I was glad that he was perfectly frank about the certificate procedure, because, in fact, the occupier of a house built under the terms and conditions allowed has no security of tenure as, I think, was stated during the Committee stage of the Hill Farming Bill when the Government changed their mind.

Added to that, there is this other point. The large man with more capital can take the risk of building houses, even where he may not be able to obtain possession. But the small man, whose capital resources are very limited, is not in the position today to take such risks, and so, to some extent, the provision which makes the right hon. Gentleman so happy is one law for the richer and another for the poorer. I hope that he will look into the matter again, and will appreciate that it is nothing very revolutionary, that it is exactly the same system as that in his own Department, with not hundreds, but thousands of cottages built under similar conditions to those which he applies here.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 183 Noes, 200.

Division No. 29.] AYES [7.20 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Clyde, J. L. Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone)
Alport, C. J. M. Colegate, A. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)
Amery, J. (Preston, N.) Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Corbett, Lieut. -Col. U. (Ludlow) Gage, C. H.
Arbuthnot, John Graddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Cranborne, Viscount Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)
Baldock J. M. Crouch, R. F. Gates, Maj. E. E.
Baldwin, A. E. Crowder, Capt. John F. E (Finchley) Glyn, Sir R.
Banks, Col. C. Cuthbert, W. N Gomme-Duncan, Col. A
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S.) Granville, E. (Eye)
Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston) Davidson, Viscountess Gridley, Sir A.
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Davies, Nigel (Epping) Grimond, J.
Bennett, W. G. (Woodside) de Chair, S. Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)
Boles, Lt. -Col D. C. (Wells) Deedes, W. F. Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Digby, S. Wingfield Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Dodds-Parker, A. D. Harris, R. R. (Heston)
Braithwaite, Lt. -Comdr. J. G Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Browne, J. N. (Govan) Drewe, C Headlam, Lieut. -Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Dugdale, Maj Sir T. (Richmond) Heald, L. F.
Bullock, Capt. M. Duncan, Capt J. A L Hicks-Beach, Maj. W W
Burden, Squadron Leader F. A Duthie, W. S Higgs, J. M. C.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Carson, Hon. E. Elliot, Lieut. -Col. Rt. Hon Walter Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)
Channon, H. Fisher, Nigel Hirst, Geoffrey
Clarke, Col, R. S. (East Grinstead) Fort, R. Hollis, M. C.
Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.) Foster, J. G Hornsby-Smith, Miss F
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen) Stanley, Capt. Hon. R (N. Fylde)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Morrison, Maj. J G. (Salisbury) Stevens, G. P.
Hurd, A. R. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M
Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E Storey, S.
Hutchison, Lt. -Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Nabarro, G. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S)
Hylton-Foster, H. B. Nugent, G. R. H. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown) Nutting, Anthony Studholme, H. G.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Oakshott, H. D. Summers, G. S.
Lambert, Hon. G. Odey, G. W Sutcliffe, H.
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Teeling, William
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Thomas, J, P. L. (Hereford.)
Lindsay, Martin Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Thompson, K. P. (Walton)
Linstead, H. N. Pickthorn, K. Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon W.)
Llewellyn, D. Pitman, I. J. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Powell, J. Enoch Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Price, H. A (Lewisham, W) Tilney, John
Low, A. R. W. Profumo, J. D. Turton, R. H.
Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.) Raikes, H. V. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Rayner, Brigadier R Vane, W. M. F.
McCallum, Maj. D. Redmayne, M. Vosper, D. F.
Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh) Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) Wade, D. W.
Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Roberts, P. G. (Heeley) Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)
McKibbin, A. Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.) Walker-Smith, D. C.
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks) Ward, Hon. G R. (Worcester)
MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Roper, Sir H. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Ross, Sir R. D (Londonderry) Webbe, Sir H. (London)
Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Russell, R. S. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Ryder, Capt. R. E D Wills, G.
Manningham-Buller, R. E. Scott, Donald Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Marlowe, A. A. H. Smiles, Lt. -Col. Sir W. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Marples, A. E. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Wood, Hon. R
Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) York, C.
Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Snadden, W. McN.
Mellor, Sir J. Spearman, A C. M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Moore, Lt. -Col. Sir T. Spence, H R. (Aberdeenshire, W.) Major Conant and
Major Wheatley.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Johnson, James (Rugby)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Ewart, R. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)
Ayles, W. H. Fernyhough, E. Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Bacon, Miss A Field, Capt. W. J Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)
Balfour, A Finch, H. J Keenan, W.
Bartley, P Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Kenyon, C.
Benson, G. Follick, M. King, H. M.
Beswick, F. Foot, M. M. Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Blyton, W. R Forman, J. C. Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)
Boardman, H. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Lindgren, G. S.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M Freeman, J. (Watford) Lipton, Lt. -Col. M.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N Logan, D. G.
Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Gibson, C. W. Longden, F. (Small Heath)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Gilzean, A. MacColl, J. E.
Brown, George (Belper) Glanville, J. E. (Consett) McGhee, H. G.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale) McInnes, J.
Burke, W. A. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Grenfell, D. R. McLeavy, F.
Callaghan, James Grey, C. F. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Carmichael, James Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Castle, Mrs. B. A Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Champion, A. J. Gunter, R. J. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Chetwynd, G. R Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Mann, Mrs. J.
Clunie, J. Hale, J. (Rochdale) Manuel, A. C.
Cocks, F. S. Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.) Mellish, R. J.
Coldrick, W. Hamilton, W. W. Messer, F.
Collick, P. Hannan, W. Middleton, Mrs. L
Collindridge, F. Hardman, D. R. Mitchison, G. R.
Cooper, J. (Deptford) Hargreaves, A. Moeran, E. W.
Cove, W. G. Harrison, J. Moody, A. S.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hastings, Dr. Somerville Morgan, Dr. H. B
Crawley, A Hayman, F. H. Morley, R.
Cullen, Mrs. A Herbison, Miss M. Mort, D. L.
Daines, P. Hewitson, Capt. M Moyle, A.
Davies, A Edward (Stoke, N.) Hobson, C. R. Mulley, F. W
Davies. Harold (Leek) Holman, P. Murray, J. D.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Neal, H.
Deer, G. Hoy, J. Oldfield, W. H.
Delargy, H. J Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Oliver, G. H.
Diamond, J. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Padley, W. E.
Dodds, N. N Hynd, H. (Accrington) Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)
Donnelly, D. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Dye, S. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pannell, T. C
Ede, Rt. Hon J. C. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.) Pargiter, G. A
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N (Caerphilly) Jenkins, R. H Parker, J
Pearson, A. Snow, J. W. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Peart, T. F Sorensen, R. W. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Popplewell, E Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F. West, D. G.
Porter, G. Sparks, J. A Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Proctor, W. T Steele, T. White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)
Pryde, D J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E) White, H. (Derbyshire. N. E.)
Pursey, Commander H Strachey, Rt. Hon J. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Rankin, J Stross, Dr. B Wilkins, W. A.
Reid, W. (Camlachie) Sylvester, G. 0. Willey, F. T. (Sunderlard)
Richards, R. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Robens, A. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)
Royle, C Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)
Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Thurtle, Ernest Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Shurmer, P. L. E. Timmons, J. Yates, V F.
Silverman, J. (Erdington) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Silverman, S. S (Nelson) Usborne, Henry
Simmons, C. J Vernon, Maj. W. F TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Slater, J. Viant, S. P. Mr. Bowden and
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Wallace, H W Mr. Kenneth Robinson.