HC Deb 08 July 1952 vol 503 cc1157-269
Mr. Gibson

I beg to move, in page 3, line 23, at the end, to insert: Provided that without prejudice to the existing powers of the Minister under the said paragraph (d) no general consent shall be given under this subsection otherwise than by an order stating any conditions of the consent and no such order shall be made unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member will excuse me for a moment, there is another Amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) to line 23, which seeks to insert certain provisos. Is it possible to take these two together? I am in the hands of the hon. Members.

Mr. MacColl

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I think the point is rather a different one.

Mr. Gibson

We are now on the Clause which deals with the sale of houses. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that when a Minister gives his consent to schemes for the sale of houses he shall not do so until the draft of the Order has been laid before Parliament and approved by Resolution of each House.

This Amendment raises a matter of first-class importance. Not only does it deal with the question of the sale of houses—a general discussion of which I am afraid you would rule out of order, Mr. Speaker—but also the constitutional position under which at the present moment the Ministry of Health and Local Government administers the various housing laws by issuing circulars to local housing authorities giving advice and instruction, none of which have to be laid before this House and none of which can be prayed against in the House if hon. Members are opposed to them. I suggest that the issue which causes this to be raised is of such vital importance that we ought to have a new procedure for dealing with instructions issued by the Department.

At present any local housing authority can sell any of its houses if it likes provided that it gets the market price, "the best price" according to the wording of the Act. In other words, the Act applies to the municipal authorities in the case of municipal houses the same principles as are applied to any private landlord. There has been some suggestion that that is not quite the position, but in the Committee upstairs the Minister of Housing himself said: …but the whole purpose of subsection (1) is to remove the obligation to sell at market values….—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 21st May, 1952; c. 284.] The value at which the houses are to be sold is to be left to schemes prepared by the local housing authorities and accepted and endorsed by the Minister. We suggest that this is such a radical change in the financial relationships of local authorities—at any rate in relation to housing—that it ought not to be left merely to the issue of circulars by the Minister and to his agreement to schemes within the four walls of the Ministry without this House being consulted.

I do not suggest that there will be a large number of municipal houses sold. Already a large number of local housing authorities have indicated that they will not use the powers which this Bill gives them. That might just as well have been left out of the Bill because it had nothing to do with its main purpose, which is to increase the housing subsidy. The largest of our local authorities have said that they are unlikely ever to agree to the sale of municipal houses, either to tenants or to speculating housing societies or to building societies. However, I have no doubt that there will be some, and I have no doubt that a number of reactionary Conservative local authorities will jump at the opportunity of getting rid of some of their municipal houses under the plea that by so doing they will save some rate changes.

Discussions about this are going on now between the Minister and the local authorities associations and a circular is to be issued so we are told. That circular will apparently be a secret document, at any rate so far as hon. Members of this House are concerned. For 40 years I have been in close touch with what has happened in municipal life in and around London and in the south of England, but I have not seen the draft circular yet and, as far as I know, nobody else has seen it, at any rate on these benches.

I mention that because this matter was discussed upstairs in Standing Committee and I asked whether a copy of the circular would be laid on the Table before becoming operative. We want to see the terms and conditions, if there are to be any, upon which local authorities will sell municipal houses. The reply I received from the Parliamentary Secretary was that it will not be laid upon the Table though there may be a copy in the Library. Yet even that is to be done only after the circular has been discussed with 'the local government associations and some agreement reached.

That is not good enough. This House should not allow houses to be sold which have been built, not only with public money but subsidised by State funds, before it sees the conditions of any large scheme for sale and before that becomes operative. Therefore, I ask the House to accept this Amendment. It provides that a draft of any Order endorsing the sale of municipal houses, must be laid before this House before it is agreed and put into operation. That is a reasonable proposition to make.

I admit that in many ways it is a great change from the procedure under which local government housing in this country has been conducted in the many years during which public authorities have built houses, but we have never before had the proposition that municipal authorities should he compelled to sell houses at less than the proper price—in other words to give away monies which ought to go into the pocket of the local authority. I am sure that nobody on the Government benches would suggest that private owners of houses should be compelled by law to adopt that procedure. In fact, they believe the opposite. They think it is right that people engaged in business should be able to squeeze the market for the last possible penny.

7.0 p.m.

According to the party opposite, it is all right for all the big combines and for the monopolies, upon which the Monopolies Commission have reported, who think that making an enormous fortune is the greatest feat in life. But it is all wrong, apparently, when municipal houses, built with municipal money and with municipal energy, are to be sold. Then, these authorities are to be told, "You must not sell at the price which the houses will obtain in the market"—to use the words of the Act: at the best price … that can reasonably be obtained"— "but you must sell them at something a good deal less." I am not at all surprised that the Minister has been having some very lengthy discussions with the local government associations as to a circular which will embody the principles which are laid down in the Bill in its present form.

It would be unfair to the local authorities to do what the Bill suggests. If it is to be done, I suggest that the circular ought to be laid on the Table of the House, in the light of day, so that the House and the whole country can see the kind of jiggery pokery which. I suspect, is likely to go on in some parts of the country in connection with the sale of municipal houses.

Mr. Pannell

I beg to second the Amendment.

I want to refer to the difficulties that we are placed in. In speaking on Second Reading, I referred to the necessity for general Regulations and to the fact that the conditions of sale should not vary from region to region. Indeed, as Members of the Committee upstairs know, we pressed the Minister for the advice that he was going to give to local authorities in the circular.

We did have some information on that subject. I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary was interrupted 34 times when he attempted to convey it to us. He will notice if he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT that I was one of those who waited patiently to the end, and I cannot be associated with the irresponsible enthusiasm of my hon. Friends or with the fact that the hon. Gentleman was not man enough to stand his ground and give us the whole story.

We have been very interested in the circular. I believe that the Minister himself said he thought that by the time we reached this present stage, the matter would be common knowledge among local authority organisations and that we who were in touch with them would be in a position to deploy our arguments. But we are not, in fact, in that position. I am not accusing the Minister of bad faith. I may be wrong, or it may be that the local authorities are obstinate—I do not know.

Mr. H. Macmillan

Has the hon. Member seen the circular?

Mr. Pannell

I will come to that. I put down a Question today, and the Parliamentary Private Secretary informed me that he had sent copies to two of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, and I understood that I was entitled to a sight of it. But it is marked "Confidential," and presumably—we wish to observe propriety in this matter—I am not free to disclose to the House what is in it.

This raises a point of very great constitutional importance. I have part of the circular in my hand, but I shall not read out the general body of it. I shall read merely the general conditions on what the Minister means by "Confidential." I wonder whether the House approves of this. The right hon. Gentleman says: N.B. The confidential marking of this paper is not intended to prevent the usual range of circulation of Bill papers within an association— that is, the local authority association that we are discussing— but it is desirable that the precise minimum figures of extra costs establishing title to grant as outlined in paragraph 5 should not be made common knowledge and, in particular, should not be communicated to contractors in the building and civil engineering industry. That seems fair enough, but what I say is that at this stage, when we are laying down main principles, Members of Parliament are not in a position to debate the general conditions that are laid down for the local authorities. Bearing in mind the row that took place in the House last week, it seems to me as if the Minister is attempting to do a sort of "Alexander" in reverse.

When we were occupying the other side of the House, certain hon. Members opposite—the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) was one of them, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was another—were always taking us very much to task about delegated legislation. We used to have the late Lord Chief Justice and the new despotism quoted against us. This is very remarkable. This is not just an ordinary Bill that carries on a course of conduct to which we are accustomed. The selling of council houses is an abrupt departure from custom, and I suggest, therefore, that all the information should be before the House at the time.

One has only to consider the great variety of things that may arise in the selling of houses—questions about freehold and leasehold, the value at which a house should be sold, and which houses should be offered for sale. In addition, there is the general division, which the Minister laid down upstairs, by which he was to give a different basis for the selling of council houses that were built up to 1945 to those that were built after 1945. Because the Minister has hamstrung us by saying that this is a completely confidential matter, we are not in the position today to deploy our arguments, in the way that we are given to understand we should be allowed to do, before the Bill goes to another place.

I understand, as a result of a Question that I put down today—but of course, it was not reached—that it is the Minister's intention to release the circular to Members of the House on the same day that he releases it for publication to local authorities. I should not have thought that that was a good course. I agree that in the present day and age, with the multiplicity of statutes that come before us, a good deal of delegated legislation is necessary; but it is still necessary that the maximum amount of information should be before the House at the time that we consider these matters. I take it there is no difference of opinion on that with hon. Members opposite.

I do not say that we have been treated with scant discourtesy—I do not believe that the Minister intended to do that—but that we on this side believe that this is a matter of very high constitutional importance and that a circular is not sufficient. At least, it should be laid in a way that would give us subsequently or from time to time the right, if necessary, to speak against the Minister's Regulations.

The Minister has a tremendous advantage. In effect, he has let loose on the local authorities a circular laying down the terms and conditions in which the sale of council houses is to take place.

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

After discussion with local authority representatives.

Mr. Pannell

Not after, but during the discussion. Had it been after, there would have been something different. We had exactly the same position on Second Reading. The Minister gave us certain elements that went to make up the figure of the subsidy, but he did not give us all the elements. At that time, the basis of the subsidy was, presumably, confidential. I gave certain figures myself, but I should not have been free to give them without abuse of procedure had it not been that only the day before I found that those figures had crept into a professional journal. So, in effect, I was not divulging anything.

This sort of idea by which the Minister can negotiate with a set of local authorities' representatives and tell Parliament afterwards and that we can argue in a kind of rarefied atmosphere is completely fantastic. I hope that if the Amendment does nothing more it will at least ensure that there is a more sensible method adopted in the future.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), who moved the Amendment, appeared to be under an entire misapprehension as to its effect. He constantly said that if the Amendment were made, the Minister would be obliged to place before the House any Orders giving agreement to schemes when local authorities asked his consent for selling houses, and this Amendment would oblige him to seek the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Pannell

General consent.

Mr. Powell

I am going to draw the distinction which the hon. Member for Clapham failed to draw, and which I think is important. Under the existing Act the Minister can give consent in response to a proposal by a local authority. If this Amendment were carried there would be nothing to prevent the Minister giving consent to dozens or hundreds of schemes without coming anywhere near the House.

Mr. Gibson

Perhaps the hon. Member will also agree that houses for which consent for sale has been agreed under those conditions must be houses for which the best price obtainable is obtained.

Mr. Powell

That is not a consequence of this Amendment.

Mr. Gibson

I did not say that it was.

Mr. Powell

We are discussing the Amendment and not some other part of the Clause although as the hon. Member for Clapham did misrepresent—quite unintentionally—the effect of the Clause in regard to the best price, perhaps I should point out that the Clause as it stands does not compel a local authority to obtain less than the best price. It only enables the local authority to do so if it wishes to do so. Not to be obliged to do one thing is not the same as being compelled to do another. If I am not obliged to go to York, I am not com- pelled to remain in London. All that the Clause does is to remove the obligation to obtain the best price; it is still possible for local authorities to put up to the Minister schemes under which they would be obtaining the best price.

Mr. Gibson

I quoted from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee. The Minister said that the whole purpose of subsection (1) is to remove the obligation to sell at market values."—OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 21st May, 1952; c. 284.] If that is not intended to be put into operation, why put it in the Bill at all?

Mr. Powell

If one removes the obligation to sell at the market price one lays open the possibility of selling at any price up to and including the market price. The Minister's expression was entirely accurate. It removes an obligation but it does not, as the hon. Member for Clapham suggested, compel sale at some price below the market price.

Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)

Will the hon Member allow me—

Mr. Powell

I am anxious to pass from that point, because we are not strictly in order in dealing with it as it is not involved in the Amendment.

Mr. Thomas

Does the hon. Member imply, by making that point, that he agrees that a local authority should even have the power to sell a house at less than the best possible market price?

Mr. Powell


7.15 p.m.

Mr. Thomas

Does the hon. Member agree that the local authority should have the power almost to give houses away?

Mr. Powell

I certainly agree that, subject to the consent of the Minister, a local authority should not be obliged in present conditions, if it wants to sell a house and the sale is approved, to obtain the best market price.

If I may now return to the effect of the Amendment, which is not concerned with price, but which is concerned with the giving of permission, I think the House should be clear that this Amendment only deals with general consent. Even if it were carried, it would still be possible for the Minister to give consent to the sale of thousands of municipal houses without coming anywhere near this House.

Mr. Thomas

To make his contention perfectly clear, would the hon. Member indicate what existing powers he has in mind in making that statement?

Mr. Powell

Yes, they are the existing powers referred to in the Amendment itself and found in Section 79 and Section 86 of the Housing Act, 1936. A great point was made by the mover and seconder of the Amendment that the Minister's power under this Clause of giving consent and attaching conditions to the consent was really delegated legislation.

That, I submit, is a wrong use of the idea of delegated legislation. Delegated legislation occurs where the power to legislate is conferred by a statute upon a Minister. What is happening here, is that the statute itself gives the Minister the right in any particular case or generally to say whether or not he will give his consent and subject to what conditions he will give it.

If to do that is delegated legislation, I suggest that the previous Minister of Health, in making it known to local authorities generally that no consent would be forthcoming under Section 79 of the Housing Act, 1936, was indeed taking upon himself not merely to exercise delegated legislation but, in effect, to suspend or repeal the provisions of an Act of Parliament without coming to this House at all.

Mr. Albert Evans

May I point out that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) issued that circular he did add the proviso that he should only give consent under special circumstances.

Mr. Powell

On the contrary, he intimated that in existing conditions he was not prepared to entertain such propositions at all. In saying that, he was departing from the spirit and possibly even from the letter of a statute which bound him to consider each particular case and in each case to give or withold his consent.

Mr. Evans

To get the matter quite clear I think that if the hon. Member reads the terms of the circular again he will see that my right hon. Friend not only mentioned existing circumstances but also said, "except in particular cases."

Mr. Powell

Well, the hon. Member will at any rate agree it was a remarkable coincidence that in more than six years no single proposition was found to fulfil any such conditions.

Mr. Thomas

Is the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) implying or stating that the former Minister of Health actually violated the law of the land as it then existed in not giving consent as he thinks it ought to have been given?

Mr. Powell

I am saying that in issuing a general intimation to local authorities that he was not prepared to entertain applications under Section 79 of the Housing Act the previous Minister was not so much carrying out delegated legislation as in effect altering the intention of an Act of Parliament. That is my contention.

Mr. Thomas

But that statement—

Mr. Speaker

This may be very interesting, but it is rather wide of the purposes of the Amendment which we are discussing.

Mr. I. O. Thomas

On a point of order. I think that Members on this side of the House are certainly entitled to object to a Member making general statements and then proceeding to draw conclusions which in our opinion are in direct conflict with the actual facts of the case, unless, of course, when he draws those conclusions we are permitted to challenge them, or unless he is not allowed to proceed in making those statements.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that anything very objectionable has been said.

Mr. Powell

It will be within the knowledge of Members familiar with the Housing Acts that there are in existence numerous provisions of those Acts which give the Minister power to attach conditions to his consent to local authorities behaving in one way or another. To quote only one example, the advance of money for housing purposes under Section 91 of the 1936 Act may be consented to, subject to conditions.

It would be an impossible situation if the nature of those conditions, which are subject to changing circumstances, had to be defined in detail in regulations and had to be approved by both Houses. It is of the nature of administrative efficiency in all Measures like this that the Minister should be able, in consultation with the local authorities, to give them guidance. If, whenever he gives them guidance, he has to frame it in the legal terms of regulations and obtain the assent of Parliament, then that guidance will be much more inflexible and much more rarely given.

The circular-making practice of Ministers of Housing and Local Government is, in the experience of local government, a most valuable one. Its very informality enables the Minister to guide instead of direct. I hope, therefore, that we shall do nothing this evening to bring in rigidity and compulsion where flexibility and guidance are required.

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

I very much hope that the House will agree to this Amendment, which has been convincingly moved and seconded by my colleagues. I have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), and I am still not quite certain whether he has misunderstood the terms and the purpose of this Amendment or whether he understands it too well.

I represent a constituency adjoining his own, and I am very much concerned that I, along with other Members of Parliament, should know if any local authority in Great Britain is in a position or imagines itself to be in a position to sell council houses. I have the best opportunity of knowing of that situation if the matter has to be brought before this House. There is a broader issue involved—

Mr. Powell

Does the hon. Lady appreciate that this Amendment will not oblige the Minister to bring it before the House. Even if this Amendment is accepted the Wolverhampton Corporation could put up a scheme for selling 1,000 houses and consent could be given without the Minister coming near the House?

Miss Lee

In this matter we have to consider in the House of Commons the question of price as well of consent. What I am concerned about at the moment is not price, although it is very important that we shall have means of seeing that property that is being built by public subsidy is not sold below the market value.

To a Member representing a constituency like my own, which the hon. Member knows fairly well, it will be a very serious thing indeed if we find such a lopsided development of housing opportunity in Great Britain that some authorities feel that they can sell houses while others of us in an area like that of my own constituency, which caters predominantly for miners, still has a large list of miners waiting for homes.

As the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister know, the Cannock Urban District Council is a good, competent housing authority. I have received, in correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary, a statement, which is true, that it has an exceptional reputation for making the best possible use of its houses by encouraging changes of tenancy. We have been able to take maximum advantage of every licence we have been given and of local building materials and labour available to us by changing around tenancies in pre-war and post-war council houses.

If houses are sold it is reducing the pool from which these switches can be made according to family needs. It will be very serious indeed if important industrial areas such as some of us represent in this House find that while making a good job of their local allocations they are still in sore need of extra houses while the housing situation in other areas—usually areas of a more residential nature—is such that they find themselves so much in advance of our industrial areas that they can afford to sell houses.

We on this side of the House, as was made plain by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), when he was Minister of Health, and other Labour Minsters, have no objection in principle to the sale of council houses. We believe that in time we ought to have sufficient houses available for the families in this community to enable people all over Great Britain to have the choice of whether they wish to own their house or be tenants. But we still have to watch very carefully a situation in which some local authorities, very often in residential areas, may feel that they have been so favoured by circumstances, or if one cares to put it that way, so neglectful of other people whose needs are very great for a house to rent and cannot possibly afford to buy a house, that they are at one stage of development while we are tagging along behind them.

If there are to be any priorities and advantages they should go to the essential industrial areas. I am anxious that these matters, both in terms of price and consent, should be brought specifically before the House because at the moment we are not encouraging additional labour to be brought in from outside to any authority area because that adds to the price of the houses. But if we exhaust our local labour and local sources of material in essential industrial areas, and still find an urgent need it is far better, in the country's interests, that we should spend money and if need be pay additional subsidies to get the houses where they are most needed.

We have to consider not merely the maximum number of houses, but whether those houses are in the places where they are most needed and available for the people who most need them. Because there is still no general demand or market in this country for council houses to buy, and as we have not yet met the essential needs of working people who need houses to let, I am most anxious that the House should agree to this Amendment.

Mr. MacColl

The point which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) missed is the very important departure that this Clause makes in one of the fundamental sectors of good local government. It is perfectly true that under the 1936 Act the Minister has the power to give his consent to the sale of houses, but he has that power subject to the overriding condition in the Act that the sale must be at what is a recognised price, namely, the best possible price obtainable.

In other words, a safeguard was put in the Act to the effect that no local authority could sell an important asset, built and owned for the public, except at the best possible price. That is a principle that goes right through the whole of local government—not only in the field of housing, but through all the work of public bodies that are trustees for the ratepayers on whose behalf they administer what is held in common by the community. What the right hon. Gentleman is doing in this Clause is making a fundamental departure from that, in allowing sales at prices below the market price.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)

On a point of order. Is any of this really in order, in the sense that it is admitted all round that the Minister has the power to do this with particular consent; while this Amendment is to deal solely with general consent.

Mr. Speaker

I was waiting for the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) to develop his point. We have, of course, already passed lines 9 to 14 of this Clause, which really deals with the matter the hon. Member is discussing, but I thought that what he was saying was by way of preamble to something more relevant to the Amendment.

Mr. Sparks

Further to that point of order. You will notice, Mr. Speaker, of course, that the Amendment is worded: … no general consent shall be given under this subsection otherwise than by an order stating any conditions of the consent…. One of the conditions of the consent involves the fixing of a price, and, therefore, I do not see how we can discuss the question of general consent without at the same time having regard to the conditions which the Minister will attach to the consent, and the conditions bear a relationship to the price for which the Minister says the local authority may sell that house.

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Member misunderstands me. Subsection (1) of the Clause was debated a long time in Committee and was agreed to, and now at this stage of the consideration of the Bill we have passed it, and that is the subsection which allows the local authorities not to get the best price, and that is the point that, I thought, the hon. Member for Widnes was making, although, as I say, I thought he was making it by way of preamble to something more relevant to later parts of the Clause.

Mr. MacColl

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, if I have allowed to creep into my voice —partly because of certain physical limitations I am suffering from—any diminution of the point I was making, which was meant to be a factual statement of what had already been decided. We have decided to depart from the principle of the best price, and that is an entirely new departure, and it is that entirely new departure that justifies the suggestion that no conditions affecting price should be laid down except with the consent of Parliament.

We had in the 1936 Act a condition regulating the price enshrined in it. We want at least to have it enshrined in some Statutory Instrument open for examination by the House—as we do in the case of fixing the prices of all sorts of odd and miscellaneous things that come before us in the midnight hours in Prayers. Yet the sale of capital assets of the value of, perhaps, £1,500 or £2,000, at some price below the market price, is not considered sufficiently important to come before the House. That is the point which my hon. Friends have in mind, I think, in putting forward this Amendment, and their suggestion is—and it does seem to me, with respect, entirely reasonable—that the Minister should lay down a series of conditions.

We got into great difficulties upstairs because suddenly, in the middle of the discussion on this question, the Parliamentary Secretary arose to give us a resume of these very complicated conditions which was open to all sorts of comment and analysis. There was a complaint that he was interrupted. Of course he was interrupted, because what he was producing was something new, of which we could have known nothing at all from a perusal of the Bill, and which he produced suddenly out of the hat; and he told us, to our astonishment, that this was going around to the local authorities, although there was no way in which Parliament would be able to express an opinion as to whether it was a right and fair way of dealing with public money and public assets. Therefore, it seems to me very important and necessary a safeguard, one to which there can be no possible objection, that these conditions should be put down in a Statutory Instrument open to the normal process of Prayer in the House.

It may be perfectly true, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said, that these conditions could not in law govern the sale of an individual house on an individual consent, but one has for the sake of argument to make an assumption that any Minister of Housing and Local Government is an honest man, and I do not think any Minister is going to give a consent for the sale of a particular house on conditions which are in flat contradiction of those laid down in general and which are considered appropriate for the general line of council houses.

I understand that it would meet with your approval, Mr. Speaker, if I were, at the risk of boring the House, to develop the arguments which prompted me and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) to put down an Amendment to page 3, line 23, at the end, to insert: Provided that no general consent shall be given to any local authority or authorities until the Minister shall have approved a scheme prescribing—

  1. (a) the type of house to be sold,
  2. (b) the method of allocating to purchasers, and
  3. (c) the disposal of the proceeds of the sales.
It was meant really as an attempt to help the Minister, and to clarify for his benefit and for the benefit of the House what exactly is going to happen if the Bill is to work.

The present position under the existing law is. I think, quite clear. Any local authority can come to the Minister with an individual house and say, "We want to sell this house. Can we have your permission to do so?" The Minister, treating that particular case, can approve or disapprove. That is the existing position in the law. The discussion upstairs was a little bit confused on this point because the Minister, unfortunately, misread his brief, and at one stage rather confused the Committee into thinking that there was a possibility under the existing law of having a general consent. That, beyond all argument, I think, is not true.

There can be only particular consent for a particular house. The Minister does not like that, and he told us upstairs, and explained, that he did not like it, and he gave the reasons which, no doubt, he thought were perfectly adequate, and with which, even if one does not accept them, one can at least sympathise. He said there were not the means or the facilities to look at each house and decide whether it was a right case for consent. In the poetic way the Minister has of addressing us, he said: The issue would have to he sent to the Minister for decision. He is supposed to say, 'You cannot sell No. 2, Acacia Avenue, It must be No. 3, Acacia Avenue, where John lives—the boy who plays the cornet in the silver band.' I cannot take upon myself so intimate a knowledge of all that happens."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 27th May, 1952; c. 290.] So the Minister decides he is not able to deal with each individual house. He says, "Provided you can conform with certain conditions I am prepared to allow you to sell any of your houses or a certain proportion of your houses as the case may be"—in other words, a general consent to a particular authority. But then there is a third stage: it is to give a general consent to all authorities to sell council houses, and the one thing that I have been quite unable to discover is whether it is the Minister's intention to give a general consent to all authorities or whether it is his intention to give only consent to particular authorities. He said: I do not propose to give a general permission. I took that to mean that he was proposing to look at each authority. Later he said: …I must retain, as it is my duty to do, the power and the right to examine each scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 21st May, 1952; c. 249–50.] From that I rather gathered that it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to make each local authority put up a scheme showing exactly the conditions under which they would operate for the sale of houses and that he would say to each authority, "If you accept that scheme, then I am prepared to give you permission to sell your houses."

If I am correct in what I think the Minister intends to do, the purpose of my Amendment is to suggest certain matters which ought to go into a scheme of this character before it can possibly be safe for the right hon. Gentleman to give his permission. I have suggested three points which ought to be treated. They are all points which arose in the Committee and upon which the Minister implied that he would make regulations controlling them. In regard to any general consent we ought to see that these conditions are included in the scheme.

The first is the very important matter of the type of house which will be sold. Are these to be old houses sold to sitting tenants, or are they to be new houses? The Minister said about that: Of course, it is part of the proposal—an essential part of the proposal—that where any schemes are put up and approved"— again, apparently there is to be a scheme— the sale should take place to existing tenants. Later the Minister said: First, there are existing houses. There, of course, we shall insist, as part of an agreement to any scheme, that they shall only be sold to the tenants. Are we then to understand in regard to existing houses that only sitting tenants will be considered? If so, how will the Minister secure that unless he looks at the proposals which each individual authority puts up?

Later the Minister said: I should much prefer to leave it to cover all these forms of scheme, and in any particular scheme to reserve the right of the Minister and the duty to consider whether it is a good or a bad scheme. Again, apparently the Minister is going to look at each scheme and judge its merits. When my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) interrupted and asked: Does the Minister intend to approve or disapprove in every case? The right hon. Gentleman said: No, we shall come to that later, but there will be a general plan put up by a municipal authority.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 21st May, 1952; c. 267.] Again, each individual local authority will put up its plan, in which case there is no need for the Clause dealing with a general permission to authorities. All we required is a general permission to an authority.

The next point that arose was the method of allocating to purchasers. My hon. Friends and I feel very strongly that it should not be possible for people to jump the housing queue because they have the ready money with which to buy a house. We feel that the only people who should be eligible to buy a house are those whose position on the housing list would in any case justify their obtaining a house. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say in the Committee Stage that he would only approve sales to sitting tenants in the case of existing houses. He said: …if we are to operate in this way, we must lay down these considerations, such as the sale to a sitting tenant, or, in the case of new houses, to somebody taken from the housing list who might have been granted a private licence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 27th May, 1952; c. 307.] In other words, the right hon. Gentleman said that he would only allocate new houses to people already on the housing lists. I want to know whether that is to be included in any scheme which the Minister is to approve.

7.45 p.m.

The final point is what happens to the proceeds of the sale of houses. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), the right hon. Gentleman said: The point does not arise on this Clause, but the plan we are discussing is that the Minister must be satisfied that a reasonable credit is made to the housing revenue account on account of the sale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 21st May, 1952; c. 258.] That baffled me, and I hope the Minister will explain what it means. I do not pretend to be an accountant, but I thought that one of the things one learnt in one's cradle if one was going to be an accountant was not to confuse capital items and income items. The housing income account is a revenue account in which the proceeds from rents and subsidies are set off against the proceeds of the cost of management and the annual charges on the repairs funds and so on. How can one make payments into a revenue account out of the capital sales of the houses? It is a very confusing accounting procedure.

If the right hon. Gentleman is not going to put the money in the housing revenue account, where will he put it? Will the money be used for the relief of the general rate fund or will it be put into a suspense account to be set off against the cost of building other houses? It is an important point and one which may get local authorities into difficulties with the district auditor. The regulations controlling the setting up of suspense accounts are complicated and highly technical, and local authorities need firm advice on what to do with the money.

Before considering any consents to the sale of houses the Minister should be satisfied that these three points are clearly put in the plans submitted by local authorities. The type of house to be sold should be clearly stated and so should the type of person to whom it is to be sold; the limitation in the case of the old house should be the sitting tenant and in the case of the new house to people on the housing list who would otherwise be entitled to a private licence. The Minister must also satisfy himself that the proceeds of the sales will be used properly by the local authorities.

What alarms many of us about the procedure is that it is wide open to abuse. While most local authorities can be relied upon to administer their revenues and expenditures in a statesmanlike and honest way, there are opportunities under the scheme, if it is loosely administered, for houses to be sold under the counter at "knock-down" prices to people because they happen to be friends of the chairman of the housing committee. What is worse, the scheme is open to the suspicion that that sort of thing may happen, and there will be gossip and the suspicion will be spread by those who have not been lucky enough to get one of these houses.

If the Minister wants the proposal to work he must look at these details very carefully. He should come to us with a more clear-cut scheme than this and much more evidence that he has thought about the practical administrative problem.

Mr. R. Ewart (Sunderland, South)

In the Committee stage we were in the difficulty that the Minister advised us that he had not yet framed his proposals for advice and guidance to local authorities. He said that they would be distributed to local authorities in a circular and that the circular would lay down certain conditions. The difference in the position in the Committee stage and the position in which we are at the moment is that the Minister has drafted his circular. It is being supplied to certain hon. Members of this House under a confidential cover, and it cannot be discussed here.

Tonight, when this Bill departs from us after its Third Reading we shall be no wiser than we were in Committee as to the intentions of the Minister; although those intentions will be clearly defined in circular form for issue at some future date simultaneously to local authorities and to hon. Members. If that is so, and that point, which has already been made by at least two of my hon. Friends, has gone undisputed, we can only glean from the speeches by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Committee what might be laid down in this circular, this secret document, which has yet to be submitted to the local authorities, and which the right hon. Gentleman will arrange to make available in the Library at the same time as it is sent to the local authorities.

Clause 3 alters the position concerning the sale of houses to local authorities. It says that no longer must the best price or rent be obtained for the sale of houses or the sale of land, but that the Minister will give directions as to the future policy. When questioned on that matter, the Parliamentary Secretary made a statement to the Committee which rather belies the statement made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South West (Mr. Powell) tonight. The hon. Member, in effect, said that while Section 79 of the Housing Act will no longer obtain, local authorities can and may obtain any price up to the market value, or even the scarcity value of the house. But the Parliamentary Secretary when questioned on this matter, said: …there will be two categories of houses: those built before May, 1945, and those after—those built before May, 1945, when building costs were low and those after, where the building costs were inflated. In the case of those houses built, say before May, 1945—although the date has not finally been fixed—the price will be 'X' years purchase at the standard annual rate payable for the house immediately before the date of sale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 20th May, 1952; c. 229.] What the Parliamentary Secretary said, quite definitely, was that houses built before May, 1945, primarily pre-war houses, would be sold at a price of X years' purchase at the standard annual rent payable for the house immediately before the date of sale; and that will preclude local authorities from obtaining the price up to the market value for the scarcity value of the building. In the other category there would be the price of the annual cost obtaining at the time of building for houses built after May, 1945.

Are we to assume that in this private and confidential document which has been submitted to certain hon. Members of this House, and which will not become available to other hon. Members until it has been laid in the Library, the conditions laid down by the Parliamentary Secretary are the conditions which will be recommended in the guidance and advice by the Minister? That is the first question I would ask.

If that is so, then the price of the houses built pre-1945, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) will be a knock-down price. That will give the purchasers of such houses a great advantage over other members of the community who could obtain a licence, and who do not want to bear the actual cost, or the comparable cost, of such houses built before 1945, but who will get houses built at the expense of local authorities at the knockdown price of X years on the rental value immediately before the date of the sale of the house.

To continue our deductions as to the directions which may be given, it will seriously alter the present procedure of allocating local authority houses. At the present time the system throughout the country exercised by local authorities is to the effect that the greater the need of the applicants the greater priority will cover them. The Minister says, "I do not want that to obtain any longer. If a man is living in overcrowded conditions, or in slum conditions, that is not to be the only consideration that will get him a house through the local authority." In the Committee stage the Minister said he would determine that consideration should be given and houses sold to suitable persons taken from the housing list.

It does not necessarily follow that a person needs to have an urgent housing problem to get his name placed on the housing list. The very fact that he requires to occupy a local authority house is sufficient justification for his name to be placed on the list. Are we to assume from the statements made by the Minister to the Committee that any person having had his name appended to the housing list can purchase a house, if he can produce the necessary money; and is that to be to the detriment to those on the housing list not in the favourable position of being able to put down their deposit and purchase a house?

Is the existing priority system of allocation to be disregarded, because the Minister is anxious that certain houses either built for existing tenants or offered to existing tenants now, or houses, which have yet to be built, shall be sold to prospective buyers and that the qualification under such scheme as the Minister has in mind is that the method of jumping the housing queue will be according to the financial ability of the prospective occupier to purchase his own house?

The Minister has made himself perfectly clear on this matter. He said that there are three types of houses which may be sold—

Mr. Pannell

On a point of order. I wish to call your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the fact that there are not sufficient Members in the Chamber to form a quorum.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

That is out of order at this hour.

Mr. Ewart

There are three types of houses which may be sold. There are the existing houses and there the Minister was insistent, as part of an agreement to any scheme, that they shall be sold to the tenant. In principle, we have no objection to that. We have no objection to persons occupying their own houses. But we do object that during the housing shortage, houses owned by local authorities, and built for the specific purpose of meeting the most necessitous demand, shall be open for sale.

The Minister referred to existing houses which are vacant and new houses which are not yet occupied—that is, houses which are in the process of building but not yet allocated. This introduces an entirely new principle, compared with that envisaged in previous housing Acts. The practice then was that local authorities, having built their housing estates and having had them occupied by council tenants, could with the consent of the Minister designate a certain number of them as houses which could be purchased by the sitting tenants.

8.0 p.m.

The explanation of this principle by the Minister is that not only houses which are at present occupied might be open for purchase by the tenant, but houses which have not yet been built may be reserved for owner-occupation by persons who jump the housing queue and who are in a favourable position to purchase the houses. My local authority has a severe housing problem. There are at least 10,000 people on its housing list who want to occupy council houses. Of these 10,000 applicants many are living either in slum conditions or in overcrowded conditions.

These are people who simply cannot afford to purchase their own homes. They head the housing queue. These are the people who will be over-ridden, if the Minister's direction is put into operation by local authorities, by reason of the fact that certain people can afford to purchase their own houses.

A survey taken in Sunderland in 1946 showed that of 2,444 houses, 33.7 per cent. of the families were overcrowded and a further 11.7 per cent. were borderline cases. In a survey of 4,772 corporation houses taken at the same time showed that the houses were occupied by 5,872 families, of which 10.3 per cent. were overcrowded and 4.6 per cent. were borderline cases.

My authority look upon this as a most serious problem which has been inherited from previous Tory administrations. The local authority are jealous of the fact that they have ignored all representations made by their Tory opponents and the present Minister of Housing and Local Government that they should offer their houses for sale. They did that because in this humane and urgent problem there are 3,951 houses accommodating 9,108 families of 39,000 people who live in the worst slum areas of the town.

If the Minister's direction is that which he intimated during the Committee stage of the Bill then local authorities in a similar position to that at Sunderland will be in an invidious position. They will not be able completely to carry out their slum clearance programmes because, in the event of the Tory control of such houses, a Tory dominated administration could, and probably would, allocate sections of housing estates for sale, or build small housing estates for owner occupation. People living in slum conditions and in overcrowded houses would have to go to the back of the housing queue in preference to those with ability to purchase.

This is a thoroughly bad principle. It departs from the relevant section of the Act which gives safeguards in the purchase price of council houses. It extends the principle not only to sale at prices to be determined by the Minister, outside the consideration of the House of Commons, but it gives the right to local authorities to widen the ambit of their housing allocation to prospective occupiers of council houses. That is something at which no other Act of Parliament ever hinted.

It places local authorities with urgent and acute housing problems in the position of having to decide whether their present high priority system of allocation should continue. If they decide, as they should, that it ought to continue, that means in effect that they say to the Minister that they will not operate according to his directions and advice because it is advice given without any conscious knowledge of the facts which obtain in local authority areas such as Sunderland.

It is advice and direction given because the Minister does not understand the urgency of the problem with which he is tinkering in this Bill. Indeed, he himself said so, during the Committee stage. He said: It is one of our problems to get that variety of settlement and mixture of population, and it may even be desirable on an estate to have a few houses sold to the people whom we specially want to have there who are also in need." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 27th May, 1952; c. 307–8.] The Minister must know that the housing list is not comprised entirely of certain sections of the community. It is not comprised of people living only in slum conditions, but also of people living in overcrowded conditions under sub-housing standards.

That covers all sections of the community. It is a broad cross-section. One might get the bank clerk, the local government employee, the dustman, the miner, the shipyard worker and the chemical worker. As a matter of fact, one might get the bank manager, the local Co-op manager and the manager of the local multiple stores. If they have not got a reasonable standard of housing they can put their names on the housing list.

The Minister says, because he knows so little about the problems confronting local authorities, that he wants a new principle introduced with a cross-section of the community. He is not conscious of the fact that that cross-section of the community is already represented on the local authority housing lists. The Minister should get the remedy in his own hands. If he wants to give a direction that the economic rent should be paid by those above certain income levels, let him have the courage to make a suggestion to this House.

He has not had the courage to do so up to now, but his Parliamentary Secretary has gone into the country and has talked about an isolated case of a man with £3,000 a year—a civil servant I believe—who occupies a subsidised house. The Parliamentary Secretary has said, "We appeal to the citizenship of such people and ask them to offer to pay the economic rent."

There is one local authority in the North of England which has gone a little further than that. It has built certain types of houses where the economic rent obtains and where the housing list is sifted. When people come forward to make their claims for houses, if they do not qualify by virtue of their income to obtain a subsidised house, they are offered a non-subsidised house, and, if the Minister wants to make a condition of differential renting in housing, let him have the courage to come forward and suggest it.

Up to now, we have been entirely in the dark. We are dealing with a Bill on which the Minister has, in effect, said, "I am not going to tell the House of Commons what I intend to do. I have discussed the matter with the local authorities, I have produced a circular, and I have stated in that circular what my intentions are. That circular will go out to the local authorities after the House of Commons has given a Third Reading to the Bill, and, when the House of Commons, which is at present in the dark so far as my intentions are concerned, has given the Third Reading to the Bill, I will produce the circular and tell them what I am going to do."

That is most undemocratic, and it is most unworthy of the Minister that he should take up that position and treat the House of Commons with such contempt.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

I rise only to raise a point of interpretation. In the Amendment, we read that no general consent is to be given under this subsection. The words are "no general consent," and not "no consent." Under subsection (2), we read that the consent of the Minister may be given generally either to all local authorities or to any authority, and either in relation to all houses or to any house or houses.

It would appear to me that much depends upon the word "generally." Under this Bill, the Minister has power to grant consent to a particular authority in respect of certain houses, but, if the word "generally" applies to all these consents, then no consent can be given under this Bill which is not a general consent. If that is so, then, if the Amendment is carried, no consent can be given unless the draft is laid and approved by Resolutions of both Houses of Parliament.

In a case of a general scheme, I should favour the principle that it should be laid before Parliament before the consent is given by the Minister, but it seems to me that it will raise considerable complications if any consent under this Bill must, first of all, be laid before Parliament. Perhaps the Minister, in replying, will help me in interpreting that point?

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Sparks

The real point and purpose of the Amendment arises from the fact that we are about to substitute a new principle for one that has been established for a considerable period of time in regard to the powers of local authorities to dispose of their properties at the best possible price.

My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) touched upon this in the remarks which he made earlier. It has been a well-established principle that local authorities must obtain the best price for any property which they sell. Now, the Minister, in the first subsection of this Clause, is deliberately destroying this fundamental principle. What is he substituting in its place? He is substituting his own discretion, contained in the words which appear in subsection (2): the consent of the Minister may be given generally either to all local authorities or to any local authority or authorities and either in relation to all houses or to any house or houses, and may be given subject to such conditions as the Minister thinks expedient as to the price or rent to be obtained. Therefore, we are substituting for a well-established and understood principle something which is vague and ill-defined.

The object of the Amendment is to ensure that the Minister is not given power in this Clause to substitute for the best price a price which is too low, unreasonable and unjust, and which may lead to a great deal of profiteering in the sale of council houses on the part of those who purchase them from the local authorities.

We have not been able to get from the Minister any definite basis upon which, in giving consent to schemes for the sale of council houses, he will suggest a price at which the houses may be sold. It is quite true that, in the Standing Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary told us that the Minister had sent a circular to the national organisations of the local authorities making certain suggestions, but the Parliamentary Secretary, at column 229 of the Official Report of the Standing Committee, announced that the Minister was proposing, in lieu of the best price to be obtained, two other principles which would guide him in determining the price at which the local authority could sell a house.

One principle was that there should be 20 years' purchase at the standard annual rent of pre-1945 houses. The standard rent over 20 years would be taken as the basis for computing the price at which the Minister would agree that the house should be sold. For houses built since 1945, he proposed a different standard altogether. He proposed a standard of what he called the all-in cost to the local authority of providing the house. There is a grave anomaly between arriving at a ceiling price on the basis of 20 years' purchase at the standard annual rent and on the all-in cost of the house since 1945.

This principle, which it seems likely the Minister will approve, gives rise to the gravest consequences. Let me remind the House what it really means. A pre-war house built under the 1919 Act—and there are quite a lot of them—cost £1,200, which was the fairly general figure of the cost throughout much of the Greater London area. The net weekly rent was 18s. 6d., and, on the basis of 20 years' purchase, the Minister would lay down the figure of £960 at which the local authority could sell.

I know it is true that the Minister says that they may sell above that figure if they think fit, but, if that is the case, I do not see the necessity for his taking away the power from a local authority to obtain the best possible price. The mere fact that he takes the obligation to sell at price indicates that he them to sell the house higher figure than the lays down as the price this type.

But the point is that a three-bedroom, parlour-type house of that description is worth in the market today anything from £2,000 to £2,500. Yet here is the Minister telling the local authorities that the price which he lays down for such a house is £960. At the end of five years the purchaser can sell that house for anything from £2,000 to £2,500, which means that he can make £1,000 or £1,500 profit on it at the end of the pre-emption period.

It is all very well for the Minister to say that the local authority may sell the house at a higher figure than he himself lays down as the minimum figure. But in a matter of this kind there must be uniformity of practice among all local authorities. There will be many authorities who will take the Minister's figure, and he has no power to say to them that they must sell the house for a higher price than that. Many local authorities may be induced to sell a house which today is worth £2,500 for £960. There might be another local authority which will come along and say, "We will not sell the house for £960, but for £1,200 or £3,000."

That will mean that throughout the country we shall have local authorities adopting a varied basis for the sale of these dwellings, and all this irregularity will arise as a direct consequence of the Minister removing the fundamental principle of obtaining the best price which has been the basis adopted by local authorities in times past for the sale of such property.

The position becomes even worse in the case of a leasehold house. Supposing, for instance, that the Minister agrees to such a house being sold on the basis of a 99 years' purchase, that would mean that he would be telling the local authorities to charge not £960, but £760. In fixing figures of this description he is playing into the hands of people who may be disposed to have no regard for the interests of the local authorities and of the ratepayers in the borough, and who may be disposed to sell houses at less than their cost to the local authority and to give to the new owner of such properties the power to profiteer at the public expense.

We have put down this Amendment because we believe that the Minister is wrong in taking it upon himself to do what he thinks is expedient and not what this House thinks is expedient, to substitute a basis for assessing the price at which a council house shall be sold which we know does not do justice to the ratepayers associated with the authority selling the house and which will give rise to a great variety of selling prices among the different local authority areas, and will, at the same time, provide the opportunity for very serious profiteering at the end of the pre-emption period.

I feel that the House is entitled to know what the Minister is proposing to do in regard to this question of the selling price before we give our consent to any proposal, because unless there is the power to bring the Minister's proposals before the House we shall have no power over him at all, even though we may know what he is going to do. To suggest that it is in the best interest of the ratepayers and of the local authorities that he should tell such authorities to sell a £2,500 house for £960 is completely wrong. The mischief really lies in the fact that the Minister has removed the long-established and well-known principle whereby local authorities must obtain the best price for properties which they sell.

By removing that principle and substituting for it a basis which is unfair to the local authorities and to the ratepayers, and which, as I say, will give rise to the great danger and scandal of profiteering at the end of the pre-emption period is, I believe, quite wrong. Therefore, before the principle becomes effective, the House should know what precisely the Minister proposes to put in place of the principle he is removing that when selling their dwellings local authorities should obtain the best price for them.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Lindgren

We have had a very wide and fruitful discussion on this Amendment, and I am going to ask the Minister to be good enough to accept it. Before we go on to general matters, may I point out to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who graces our debates quite regularly and persistently, and who is a model to many of his colleagues who do not show an interest in local government matters, that the local government machine is an administrative machine which derives its authority from Parliament. Parliament makes the possibilties, and whether those possibilities are adopted or not depends upon the local authority concerned.

Even this Clause, to which we violently object, is one in which the Minister is not compelling local authorities to sell council houses; he is giving them the option to do so. The local government machine is in this way an administrative machine working within the framework of possibilities which Parliament creates for it.

The reason for our Amendment is that although local government works within these possibilities, in this problem of housing and housing finance a large sum of taxpayers' money has been used over a period of years, from the 1914–18 war, from the Addison Act of 1919, in creating a public asset. It is true, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said, that even before this Bill, Ministers of Health and of Local Government and Planning had power to sell council houses, but they were particular sales and there was a requirement, which was considered to he a good business proposition and a protection for public money, that public assets being sold should be sold at the best possible price.

Under the Bill, we are allowing local authorities to sell their public assets at other than the best possible price. The Minister is quite right to do that, because otherwise some local authorities might enter into the speculative market and become profiteers as big as any private landlord or estate agent. The Minister is protecting the public against exploitation by the local authorities.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Will my hon. Friend say how that is being done? If he looks at the Bill he will see that all it does is to repeal Section 79 (3) of the Act. It still leaves a council with full power to demand the best price or the best rent. Previously there was an obligation. Now local authorities can do it or not according to their own decision. The Minister is not getting rid of this power.

Mr. Lindgren

My hon. and learned Friend is always very generous in giving us the benefit of his legal advice and opinion. I am most grateful to him and I am certain that more often than not it is right. But I look upon this not from the point of view of what are the legal problems and legal possibilities, but from the point of view of one who has been engaged in local government, who knows how it operates and who knows that sometimes one cannot see the wood for the trees because there is a lawyer as clerk.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

That will not do. My hon. Friend was saying that the Minister had done something—namely, that he had removed the right of the local authority to insist upon the best rent or the best price. He has done nothing of the sort, and that is why I made the point.

Mr. Lindgren

My hon. and learned Friend and I may be at variance but, as I understand—and perhaps my hon. and learned Friend will give me the benefit of his further advice if I am incorrect—under existing legislation the local authority are required to obtain the best possible price when they sell. By this Bill the Minister is relieving them of that requirement; they are no longer required to do so.

We are to have the disposal of public assets which have been created by public money, and Parliament is to have no opportunity of saying whether or not the public welfare has been protected. I am sorry that for reasons of physical necessity I was out the Chamber during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) who, I understand, called attention to the general question of the confidential nature of the Minister's circular.

During discussions in the House today, and particularly in Committee upstairs, the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary were most courteous, most patient and most helpful. The Minister sent to both my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and I a copy of the circular which he proposes to send to local authorities. If I am repeating what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West I am sorry, but it is a fact that in Committee the Minister said that before we reached this stage there would have been discussions on the subject with local authorities. He said that if there were reactions against the circular by local authority associations, we should know, because hon. Members on both sides are associated with those associations, who are not slow to make their representations to hon. Members. That, from my point of view, was quite a reasonable and valid answer.

The point I am making is this: I am personally, as are many other hon. Members, associated with various local authority associations. I think that they have taken the circular which the Minister has sent to them as confidential, in the sense that they have not disclosed it to those in close association with them. The Urban District Councils' Association, for example, of which I am a vice-president but not an elected member of its executive, have not discussed it with me, although, no doubt, the elected members of the executive have discussed it. Therefore, apart from the actual local authority associations, who have apparently kept it confidential to that extent, many of us have had no idea of their reactions to it, and no one has had any idea whatever of the terms which the Minister is likely to make to these local authorities.

Mr. Pannell

Does it not go further than that? The Minister has sent a circular, as a matter of courtesy, to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). They know what is in the circular, but it is under the seal of confidence and, therefore, they cannot deploy their arguments—and neither can we—at this stage of the Bill as we intended we would. The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that if we knew the reactions of the local authorities, which we do know from time to time, we should have been able to deploy our arguments, but we cannot because the local authorities are bound by a pledge of confidence. My hon. Friend has seen the circular—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is not making a speech and he should put his point shortly. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) is in possession of the House.

Mr. Pannell

This is the kernel of the Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough, who was not in the Chamber at the time, and has just said so, quite unwittingly misinterpreted what was said.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member can make his point, but not make a speech which interrupts another speech.

Mr. Pannell

I put it to my hon. Friend very shortly that the mere giving of a circular to him places him at a considerable disadvantage. If he had not had it he might have speculated upon it, but having got it he dare not do so.

Mr. Lindgren

I think that is stretching the matter too far. I hope that I am not breaking a confidence when I say that, so far as the general intentions of that circular are concerned, I think that the Parliamentary Secretary, during the Committee stage, gave us what was near enough a general outline of what it was likely to be.

Mr. Albert Evans

On a point of order. Will you give us your guidance in this matter Mr. Deputy-Speaker? I understand that we are discussing a document which has been sent out by the Minister, a copy of which is in the hands of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren).

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We are not discussing any document sent out by the Minister; we are discussing an Amendment on the Order Paper.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Further to that point of order. It is quite true that we are discussing the Amendment on the Order Paper and nothing else, but in the course of discussion of the Amendment constant reference has been made by a number of speakers to a secret or confidential document which is alleged to have some bearing upon the argument. I do not know whether there is any precedent for a debate in the House of Commons being conducted on the basis of some Members having information from the Government which is relevant to the subject of the discussion which they are forbidden by some obligation of confidence to disclose to the rest of us.

Mr. Pannell

They are bound to have.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The point raised by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is not a point of order. What is before the House is the Amendment on the Order Paper.

Mr. Pannell

With very great respect to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would beg leave to disagree with it.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member may disagree with it, but he cannot challenge it, because I have made the Ruling.

Mr. Pannell

With very great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the Amendment before the House is for a procedure—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member may make his comment upon it, but it is not a point of order upon which I have to decide.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. Would it be in order to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you would accept a Motion to adjourn the debate in order to call attention to the fact that not all hon. Members are as well equipped as some are?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No, I cannot accept such a Motion.

Mr. Lindgren

I am sorry if I have put some hon. Members a little "offside."

Local government has been guided from time to time in its administration by circulars from the Minister. In general, day to day guidance of local authorities is a good method of administration, for it tends to a greater degree of uniformity and efficiency, and it has not been uncommon in the past for the usual courtesies to be extended between the two Front Benches about circulars—

Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)

On a point of order. I wish to submit to you, Mr. Morris Hopkins—[Laughter.] I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Hon. Members need not laugh: when they have been in here as long as I have they will probably make greater mistakes.

Mr. S. Silverman

They will be lucky if they do not.

Mr. Logan

We are discussing an Amendment and we are told definitely that there is a private document in existence which has a bearing on local government and the Clause with which we are dealing. I should like to know if there is any such document, and, if there is, whether it can be produced.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Logan

It is something that we want explained.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is a comment by the hon. Member, and not a point of order.

Mr. Lindgren

The general administration of the Clause should not be by that circular but by an Order placed before the House which gives the House an opportunity of expressing its point of view about the terms and conditions of the proposed sale of council houses.

Lieut. - Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Will my hon. Friend here and now seek release from the obligation of secrecy into which he has apparently entered in order to enable us to get on with the debate?

Mr. Lindgren

My hon. and gallant Friend can make that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. I believe that this has been done in one case and that the secrecy obligation has been withdrawn.

As to the purpose of the Amendment, we desire that there should be an opportunity for Parliamentary discussion and Parliamentary settlement of broad details concerning conditions of sale. The Opposition are not opposed to people owning their own houses. We are all in favour of it in so far as they can afford to do so.

During the inter-war years we planned and organised collective schemes of houses for letting and they were not desirable schemes in which to introduce individual owner-occupancy, and those houses form a pool available for those who are normally unable to afford to purchase or have not sufficient capital resources with which to maintain a good standard of repair once they have purchased a house. Maintenance and repair after purchase is as important in house ownership as is the original purchase.

There are Acts of Parliament already on the Statute Book, like the 1923 Chamberlain Act and the Act of 1936, which give local authorities an opportunity for tenant purchase schemes. As members of local authorities we on this side of the House, have, in fact, encouraged these schemes, and we should have no objection whatever to the Government encouraging local authorities to proceed with them as part of their housing activities. We have, however, to remember that we are concerned first with general priority for the housing of the people who are on the housing lists, and that that priority should be maintained.

8.45 p.m.

There is evidence that because of the general release of licences for building, local authorities are departing from the established priorities in this matter of house accommodation. A number of local authorities are giving a number of licences and are, in fact, advertising for persons who want licences to apply for them. There is no doubt that in certain instances housing needs are no longer real needs, and there is only the question of whether there is a desire for a licence to build a house.

I ask the Minister to accept this Amendment because we feel that Parliament should have an opportunity in this radical departure from the existing custom and because public money is involved of making general observations and improving the system.

Mr. H. Macmillan

We have had a long debate on this Amendment and I find myself, as one often does on Report stage, in some little difficulty because we have had to some extent a debate upon the Clause itself, to some extent a debate upon the Amendment immediately before the House, and in the case of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) who made an admirable speech, a debate upon an Amendment which he did not move. Between the Amendment that has been moved, the Amendment that has not been moved and the general principle underlying the Clause, we have had a wide debate, and I hope the House will acquit me of any discourtesy if I cannot go over the whole range of topics as one would do in Committee on the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill.

I was glad to notice the courteous and fair way in which the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) conducted his case, and I should be very sorry if he thought that anything I said or did in the previous stages in any way misled him. I was glad that both he and the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) agreed that, in principle, they had no objection to the sale of council houses. The hon. Lady thought that the time was not ripe; the hon. Gentleman thought perhaps that a special arrangement should be made, such as a special tenant purchase scheme. At any rate, there was no objection in principle.

The proposal for the sale of council houses to suitable persons, to existing tenants or to persons who can show the same housing need that they would show if they were given one of these private licences, which under all Administrations since the war have been given in varying proportions. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Ewart) who misrepresented, no doubt unintentionally, what the purpose was, which is clearly covered by what I have said.

Mr. Ewart

Allocating a house to a person who applies for a licence is a fundamentally different principle to allocating one to a person who qualifies by priority and by virtue of need.

Mr. Macmillan

The administration, both of my predecessors and of myself, is that council houses must not only go, but be seen to go, to people of comparable need. The only difference is in the proportion of the licences, and in the conditions underlying the granting of the licences.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

How can that principle be applied in the present instance?

Mr. Macmillan

Of course, my remark applies to the wider issues. I was saying that the hon. Member for Wellingborough and the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock are in agreement—although they do not agree upon all political subjects—that the sale of council houses in certain conditions can be a good thing. The hon. Lady said that the time was not ripe, which is perfectly arguable, but I do not agree with her that the time is not ripe. It would be foolish to say that in all parts of the country and in all kinds of localities conditions were equally suitable, but there may be places in which the time is ripe. I should like to leave to the local authorities themselves the judgment as to when that time has come. I do not believe it is universal, and that is where we differ. We do not differ on the principle but in the application of it.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The right hon. Gentleman says that the time is ripe in certain cases for the sale of houses. The sale of houses to whom?

Mr. Macmillan

I was coming to that point. I always thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman's profession was a rather leisurely affair, but he seems to show a little impatience. I am trying to show that our real difference is not one of principle but of application. I really must get on to the Amendment, but most of the discussion seems to have been about the Clause. It is worth remembering that what the Clause does, and what the House has now agreed to, is that the principal shall be that the local authority shall judge.

The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) said that I was going to compel local authorities to sell houses. I am sure he did not mean to say that, and that he was merely using a rhetorical expression. He is usually so careful. Nobody is going to do anything of the kind. Local authorities are to be allowed to use their judgment instead of the Minister's judgment. I will not do as my predecessors did—no doubt they thought they were doing right—and say that in no place at any time or in any conditions is it right. I am going to say, "It is for you to decide. I will give you the opportunity for making that decision."

Curiously enough, if I may say so in the presence of the great intellectuals, I believe in democracy and in local government. I know that the intellectuals on the other side have a great distrust of local government. The hon. Member for Widnes showed all through his speech that he had the greatest fear that everybody was going to do the most dreadful things unless we stopped them. I do not believe that.

Mr. MacColl

Surely the whole basis of British democracy has always been to recognise that the system generally behaves admirably, but to recognise also that a certain amount of original sin is liable to creep in and that it is desirable to have financial safeguards.

Mr. Macmillan

I know; we tend to think that it works admirably when they elect us and that it exhibits original sin when they elect our opponents.

I am not going to compel anybody to do anything, and I can reassure the hon. Member for Clapham. I am not going to compel the local authorities to sell any house below the full, profiteering, market price. What I am going to do is to say, "You shall decide, as time passes and things are developing, whether the conditions have arrived in your locality which my predecessors thought had not arrived anywhere." I pass it to them.

In doing so, I must make certain changes. The object of the words in Clause 3, which we have already passed, is to give the Minister the power to give his consent generally.

Mr. Gibson

It is important that we should be clear on what is being done. In the Standing Committee the Minister himself said: … but the whole purpose of subsection (1) is to remove the obligation to sell at market values …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 22nd May, 1952; c. 284.]

Mr. Macmillan

I am coming to that. There is a difference between compelling a man to do a thing and allowing him to do something. He is not compelled to sell at a knockout price, but the obligation to sell at the maximum scarcity price is taken off his shoulders. The hon. Gentleman must admit that it is a perfectly logical difference, and to say that I am compelling him to sell at an artificially low price is not a fair statement. However, this is already done, because the House has passed Clause 3 and we are now considering the modus operandi. We have agreed that the consent of the Minister must be given generally either to all local authorities or to any local authority— subject to such conditions as the Minister thinks expedient as to the price or rent to be obtained "— that is, in the case of the sale of a long leasehold. We have agreed to that. Now, if I may come to the Amendments, I will say a word in courtesy about the Amendment which was not moved but on which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes made a speech.

Mr. Speaker

I ought to say, in protection of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), that it was at my suggestion he introduced the question of his own Amendment, because I thought the two matters were so cognate that they could be discussed together.

Mr. Macmillan

I now pass to the Amendment moved formally and to the one close to it.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The Minister has just read material words, namely, that he has a discretion to make conditions in relation to "price or rent." It is true that the words "or otherwise" follow, but they add nothing whatever to what has gone before. Will the Minister say whether the Clause enables him to do anything more than to impose conditions relating only to price and rent?

Mr. Macmillan

It allows me to make conditions, but the object is to relieve an obligation which would prevent the sale of council houses because at present there is the obligation to obtain the maximum scarcity value.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

That is not the point.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a debate, not a cross-examination. Mr. Macmillan.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the practice of the House to ask the Minister, for the purpose of elucidation, for an explanation of the construction he puts upon a Clause which is under discussion?

Mr. Speaker

As long as the matter is kept within due bounds, but we must proceed. This is the Report stage of the Bill, not the Committee stage.

Mr. Macmillan

I think we have carried this on agreeably, and I am sure we shall go on doing so. Perhaps I may now develop what I want to say in answer to these points, and if there are further points I shall try to answer them. We have passed this Clause and we have now come to the proviso. There is a great difference between what is in the Clause and what is in the proviso. The proviso says that any of the instructions, the regulations, which are to be sent from the Minister to the local authorities giving them the broad outline of what they are to do, what is the minimum price they must obtain, how they are to calculate it, to what kind of people they are to sell—whether to the sitting tenants or not—all that should be put into an Order and that that Order should be not, as curiously enough was said by the mover of it, subject to being prayed against, but subject to the affirmative procedure; not to the negative procedure but to the more onerous or, as I would call it, the most important of all systems.

9.0 p.m.

The hon. Member referred to Prayers, but this would not even be one of those Orders which could be prayed against. It would be an Order which would not come into effect until it had an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. The general scheme which I was going to lay down in the circular would be done after the Order had been approved by both Houses.

I quite see that considerable arguments can be directed in favour of what is proposed, but I also think that there are considerable arguments against it. In this matter of the administration of what Parliament has already granted—the House has passed the Clause—to be within the full discretion of the Minister, there is a good deal to be said for the flexibility that can come from these circulars, which are capable, first, of being considered with those who have to operate them, which is quite a valuable practice, and second, of being altered from time to time and not being made too rigid.

The Parliamentary procedure of both Houses is a pretty heavy burden to impose, in addition to all the other work of Parliament, and tends to make an Order of this kind, once passed, more difficult to amend or to change as experience may show to be desirable. Therefore, as a matter purely of administration, it would be better to leave it to be operated, just as important matters are operated, as between the Minister and the local authorities.

Take, for instance, the question of the decision as to what should be the maximum proportion of private licences, whether the ratio is 1 to 5 or 1 to 1. There was no question that that huge issue was to be done by Order. It never has been done by Order. It is subject to Parliamentary debate and to the censure of the Minister, to be raised on a Supply Day or in any other method. If the House forms a view contrary to that of the Minister, the Minister would fall, and perhaps the Government also, just as they would on the Parliamentary affirmative Resolution. Considering that we have always had this practice, subject to Parliamentary control in the way I have described, I should think that I could ask the House in this matter to follow it.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the Minister consider that we would all have been in a much better position to judge the merits of his argument if we had all been in the same position as that in which two or three of us are: namely, to be placed in possession, as they have been, of the intentions of the Minister with regard to the advice which he contemplates giving to the local authorities?

Mr. Macmillan

I am coming to that. I am dealing with the point of procedure, and if I have made any breach of courtesy I hope I shall be acquitted.

I thought it would be useful if, apart from the broad statement made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the course of the debates as to the general line of our intentions—how we would try to fix the minimum prices that would have to be paid, and so on—that when I was in course of negotiating the precise form of it, I would do what, as the hon. Member for Wellingborough rightly said, is not an uncommon practice between Ministers and ex-Ministers and give him the detailed draft after I had got it to that point of agreement.

Unless a procedure of this kind was definitely decided upon, the House would not expect a draft normally to be put into the Library or to be made public before it had even been sent out. It is, of course, a common procedure, as a matter of good friendship between people who have held similar positions, to consult each other or to show the broad texts of a thing still in draft. That I have done, and that, I think, is well known to most of the organisations of the local authorities with whom we have been discussing the details for some time. With regard to the particular picture—

Mr. Silverman

Nobody objects for a moment to the continuance of what, as the right hon. Gentleman said, has always been the practice, and a very useful practice, between Ministers and ex-Ministers such as he has described. But he does not say, does he, that it has been a usual practice to do it at such a time and under the circumstances in which it was done here? If the Act were already in being and the right hon. Gentleman were proceeding in the way he wants to proceed under the Act, then no doubt it would be a matter of courtesy, but here it is being used to influence the question, not of what the right policy is, but whether or not this Amendment can be passed.

Mr. Macmillan

The hon. Member is a little too suspicious and takes a low view of human nature—

Mr. Silverman

Not at all.

Mr. Macmillan

This draft was done before the Amendment was on the paper and before I had reason to suppose that the matter of proceeding would be challenged. I thought there would be a debate and therefore sent this along before we had even seen the Amendment. But, to suggest that it was to stop the debate—

Mr. Silverman

I did not.

Mr. Macmillan

The hon. Member makes these suggestions and when one answers back he immediately withdraws them. He must not mind if occasionally —although it is contrary to my interest —I do oppose him. He is a good friend in the general line of politics in dividing his party, but in this matter I must support my hon. Friends.

The question is, shall we proceed by an Order which requires the affirmative system, or by an Order—it has not been here suggested but might be suggested—of the Prayer system, or shall we proceed by the method of allowing the powers which the House has already given under Clause 3 to the Minister to be operated by the well known practice of circulars to local authorities, leaving it to the House on Supply Day, on a Vote of Censure or any other recognised Parliamentary procedure, to call attention to what they may feel to be its weaknesses or faults, using the weapon according to the gravamen of the charge against the Minister? I do not think there is a great deal in it in practice, because I think that any of the methods of calling attention to the matter can be equally well applied, but, as a matter of administration and considering the time of the House, I hope that the hon. Member will be ready not to press the Amendment.

Mr. Pannell

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I remind him that his Parliamentary Secretary, under some difficulty, did attempt to tell the Committee upstairs the broad general line that the circular would take. Some of us pressed him to let us see it before Committee, but he indicated that he expected that we would be in a position to deploy our arguments in the light of our knowledge of the circular. We have not that knowledge and, with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, we rather resent it.

Mr. Macmillan

I feel very sorry—because the hon. Member for Leeds, West was such an agreeable colleague on the Committee—if this has worked out in that way, but this is a rather procedural Amendment. Had this been a discussion on the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill it would have been relevant to the circular, but the question is simply on which of the three methods we should proceed and which the House desires.

I now pass to the point so well put by the hon. Member for Widnes. As he rightly said, we had a rather complicated debate upstairs on all these matters, and I do not apologise for trying to say again what I tried to say then. The hon. Member has served a useful purpose in raising the matter again. If we had, as according to his Amendment, to say that no general consent should be given until the Minister approved a scheme with three separate provisos, we would introduce yet another complication. The scheme, he says, must state the type of house to be sold. I think that is really a matter more for the local authority than for anybody else if this is to work at all.

There is the question of the methods of allocation to the purchaser. While I can, and shall give, as my predecessors gave, general instructions, it is very important that the Minister should not interfere with any particular choice of tenants or the characters of tenants. That must be left to the local authority within the broad order given—

Mr. MacColl

Does that mean the Minister is going to stick to the formula about comparable need? It will be within the recollection of the House that there was a considerable argument about the implications of that between my right hon. Friends the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and the Minister not long ago. If the Privy Council disagree it is obviously not for me to argue, but it is a phrase which will create confusion if the right hon. Gentleman uses it.

Mr. Macmillan

If I might protect myself and fellow Privy Councillors, I would put it this way: We would try to have some kind of general system as is applied to licences generally. That is to say if there is a change, if we ever reach the point where no licensing system is necessary at all in the housing sphere, it will be ridiculous to have a need or other qualification in the sphere of sales. The two must be kept in balance.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Does that mean that the Minister is not going to prescribe as a condition that these houses could be sold to tenants?

Mr. Macmillan

There is some misunderstanding on the question of tenants. We should ask that existing houses should be sold to tenants. In the case of new houses coming into being conditions would be similar to those applying to private licences at the present time.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Under what provision has the Minister power to make such a condition?

Mr. Macmillan

First under "or other-j wise"; secondly under my general power.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The Minister has no such power under the Bill.

Mr. Macmillan

I come finally to the point of the disposal of the proceeds. The hon. Member for Widnes is quite right in his anxiety to see that local authorities do not muddle away the money or get away with it or put it to the wrong account. The revenue account is a technical way of putting it; some should go to the funding part of that account.

I will assure the hon. Member of one thing: one thing I have learned, if nothing else, in the few months I have occupied my position is how careful is the watch and scrutiny by the officers of the accounting and finance side of my Department. I do not think there will be any difficulty in drawing up appropriate schemes for the disposal of this money which will perfectly safeguard the interests of the ratepayers, the general probity and dignity of local government finance and the propriety of our national arrangements. Indeed, one might think sometimes that that aspect of administration is a little too tight, not that it is too loose or inefficiently administered.

I hope that the House will now come to this quite narrow point—by which of these three possible procedures, assuming that this thing is to be done at all, which it has been agreed shall be done, the plans are to be made—and that the House will reach a decision.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up the controversial issue which arises out of the circular? I understand that it has been issued to certain authorities and certain people. According to the statement which the Minister made in the Committee stage, he was not legally correct in issuing the circular at all to anyone until Parliament had passed the Act. This Measure is not yet an Act and I think, if it is the case that certain Members of this House have been furnished with the circular, that we

are entitled to have the same information if there is anything in it that can affect the administration of this Measure when it becomes an Act.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Macmillan

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he need have no fear. It is not an uncommon practice for a draft circular—and this is our draft, or the draft of a proposed circular which is the correct way of putting it—to be discussed with the leading authorities, on the understanding, of course, that the circular can be issued only when the Royal Assent has been given to the Bill.

Mr. Heath rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

On a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

There can be no point of order until the Question is put.

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 241; Noes, 215.

Division No. 194.] AYES [9.18 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L. Gridley, Sir Arnold
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Cole, Norman Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Alport, C. J. M. Colegate, W. A. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Harden, J. R. E.
Arbuthnot, John Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Hare, Hon. J. H.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Cooper-Key, E. M. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne) Harris, Reader (Helton)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr J. M Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E)
Baldwin, A. E. Crouch, R. F. Harvie-Watt, Sir George
Banks, Col. C. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hay, John
Barlow, Sir John Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Heath, Edward
Baxter, A B. Cuthbert, W. N Henderson, John (Cathead)
Beach, Maj Hicks Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S) Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Davidson, Viscountess Hill, Mrs. E. (Wylhenshawe)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) De la Bere, Sir Rupert Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Deedes, W. F. Hirst, Geoffrey
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Holland-Martin, C. J.
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Hollis, M. C.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Dormer, P. W. Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)
Birch, Nigel Drayson, G. B. Holt, A. F.
Bishop, F. P, Drewe, G. Hope, Lord John
Black, C. W Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T, (Richmond) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Bossom, A C. Duncan, Capt. J. A L. Howard, Greville (St. Ives)
Bowen, E R. Duthie, W. S. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Fell, A. Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.
Braine, B. R Finlay, Graeme Kurd, A. R.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col W H. Fisher, Nigel Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Hutchison, Lt -Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)
Brooman-White, R. C. Fraser, Sir Ian (Moreoambe& Lonsdale) Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.
Browne, Jack (Govan) Gage, C. H Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Galbraith, Cdr. T. D. (Pollok) Jennings, R.
Bullard, D. G. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Bullock, Capt. M. Gammans, L. D. Johnson-Hicks, 'Hon. L. W
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Kaberry, D.
Burden, F. F. A. Godber, J. B. Keeling, Sir Edward
Butcher, H W Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)
Gary, Sir Robert Gough, C. F. H. Lambert, Hon. G.
Clarke, Col Ralph (East Grinstead) Gower, H. R. Langford-Holt, J. A.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Graham, Sir Fergus Law, Rt. Hon. K.
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Nield, Basil (Chester) Snadden, W. MoN
Legh, P. R. (Petersfield) Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Soames, Capt. C
Linstead, H. N. Nugent, G. R. H. Spearman, A. C. M.
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Oakshott, H. D. Spence, H R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. O'Neill, Rt Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.) Stevens, G. P.
Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E)
Low, A. R. W. Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S) Partridge, E. Storey, S.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Strauss, Henry (Norwich. S)
McAdden, S. J. Perkins, W. R. D Summers, G. S.
MoCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Peto, Brig. C. H. M Sutoliffe, H.
Macdonald, Sir Peter (I of Wight) Peyton, J. W. W. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Piokthorn, K. W. M. Teeling, W.
McKibbin, A. J. Pilkington, Capt. R. A Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Pitman, I. J. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Maclay, Hon. John Powell, J. Enoch Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Thomton-Kemsley, Col C. N.
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Profumo, J. D. Tilney, John
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Raikes, H. V. Touche, Sir Gordon
Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries) Rayner, Brig. R. Turner, H. F. L.
Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Redmayne, M. Turton, R. H.
Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Remnant, Hon. P. Vane, W. M. F.
Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E. Ronton, D. L. M. Vaughan-Morgan, J K.
Markham, Major S. F. Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Wade, D. W.
Marlowe, A. A. H. Robertson, Sir David Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Marples, A. E. Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Walker-Smith, D C.
Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Robson-Brown, W. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton) Roper, Sir Harold Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Maude, Angus Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L C Russell, R. S. Watkinson, H. A.
Medlicott, Brig. F. Ryder, Capt R. E. D. Wellwood. W.
Mellor, Sir John Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale) Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Molson, A H. E. Scott, R. Donald Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Williams, Sir (Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Shepherd, William Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Mott'Radclyffe, C. E. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Wills, G.
Nabarro, G. D. N. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Nicholls, Harmar Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Wood, Hon. R.
Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Studholme and Mr. Vosper.
Adams, Richard Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)
Albu, A. H. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hamilton, W. W
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Daines, P. Hannan, W.
Alien, Scholefield (Crewe) Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hargreaves, A.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Davies, Harold (Leek) Hastings, S.
Attlee, Rt Hon. C. R. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hayman, F. H.
Bacon, Miss Alice de Freitas, Geoffrey Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)
Balfour, O. Deer, G. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Delargy, H. J. Herbison, Miss M.
Bartley, P. Dodds, N. N. Hobson, C. R.
Beattie, J. Donnelly, D. L. Holman, P
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Driberg, T. E. N. Houghton, Douglas
Bence, C. R. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hoy, J. H
Bern, Wedgwood Edelman, M. Hubbard, T. F.
Benson, G. Edwards, John (Brighouse) Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Beswick, F. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Van) Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bing, G. M. C. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Blackburn, F. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Blenkinsop, A. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
Blyton, W. R. Ewart, R Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A
Boardman, H. Fernyhough, E. Jeger, George (Goole)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Fienburgh, W. Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)
Bowles, F G. Follick, M. Johnson, James (Rugby)
Braddock, Mrs Elizabeth Foot, M. M. Jones, David (Hartlepool)
Brookway, A. F. Forman, J. C. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Keenan, W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Freeman, John (Watford) Kenyon, C.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Freeman, Peter (Newport) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Burke, W. A. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. King, Dr. H M.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Gibson, C. W, Kinley, J.
Carmichael, J. Gooch, E. G. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Champion, A. J. Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield) Lewis, Arthur
Chetwynd, G. R. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Lindgren, G. S
Clime, J. Grey, C. F. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M
Cooks, F. S. Griffiths, At. Hon. James (Llanetly) Logan, D. G.
Coldriclt, W. Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) MacColl, J. E.
Collick, P. H Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) McGhee, H. G.
Molnnes, J. Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
McKay, John (Waltsend) Price, Phillips (Gloucestershire, W.) Thomas, David (Aberdare)
McLeavy, F. Proctor, W. T. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Rankin, John Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Mainwaring, W. H Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Timmons, J.
Mann, Mrs. Jean Rhodes, H. Tomney, F.
Manuel, A. C. Richards, R. Turner-Samuels, M
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Mikardo, Ian Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Usborne, H. C.
Mitchison, G. R. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Viant, S. P.
Monslow, W. Ross, William Wallace, H. W.
Moody, A. S. Royle, C. Weitzman, D.
Morgan, Dr. H. a W. Schofield, S. (Barnsley) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Morley, R. Shackleton, E. A. A. Wells, William (Walsall)
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Short, E. W. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Mort, D. L. Shurmer, P. L. E. While, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E)
Moyle, A. Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wilkins, W. A.
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J Simmons, C. J (Brierley Hill) Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Oldfield, W. H. Slater, J. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Oliver, G. H. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Oswald, T. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S) Williams, Rt. Hon Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Padley, W. E. Snow, J. W. Williams, W. R. (Dreylsden)
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Sorensen, R. W. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S)
Pannell, Charles Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Pargiter, G. A. Sparks, J. A. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Parker, J Steele, T. Yates, V. F.
Paton, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Younger, Rt. Hon K
Peart, T. F. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Plummer, Sir Leslie Stross, Dr. Barnett TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Popplewell. E. Swingler, S. T. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.
Porter, G. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)

Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 216; Noes, 242.

Division No. 195.] AYES [9.27 p.m.
Adams, Richard Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)
Albu, A. H. Davies, Harold (Leek) Herbison, Miss M.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hobson, C. R
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) de Freitas, Geoffrey Holman, P.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Deer, G. Houghton, Douglas
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Delargy, H. J. Hoy, J. H.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Dodds, N. N. Hubbard, T F
Bacon, Miss Alice Donnelly, D. L. Hudson, James (Eating, N.)
Balfour, A. Driberg, T. E. N. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bartley, P. Edelman, M. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Beattie, J. Edwards, John (Brighouse) Irvine, A. J (Edge Hill)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Irving, W J. (Wood Green)
Bence, C. R. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Benn, Wedgwood Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Jeger, George (Goole)
Benson, G. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)
Beswick, F. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Johnson, James (Rugby)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Ewart, R. Jones, David (Hartlepool)
Bing, G. H. C. Fernyhough, E. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Blackburn, F. Fienburgh, W. Keenan, W.
Blenkinsop, A. Follick, M. Kenyon, C.
Blyton, W. R. Foot, M. M. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W
Boardman, H. Forman, J. C. King, Dr H. M
Bottomley, Rt. Won. A. G. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Kinley, J.
Bowles, F. G. Freeman, John (Watford) Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Freeman, Peter (Newport) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Brockway, A. F. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Lewis, Arthur
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Gibson, C. W. Lindgren, G. S.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Gooch, E. G. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Brawn, Thomas (Ince) Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Logan, D. G.
Burke, W. A. Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield) MacColl, J. E.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. McGhee, H G
Carmichael, J. Grey, C. F. McInnes, J
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Champion, A. J. Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) McLeavy, F.
Chetwynd, G. R. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Clunie, J. Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) Mainwaring, W. H.
Cocks, F. S. Hamilton, W. W. Mann, Mrs. Jean
Coldrick, W. Hannan, W. Manuel, A. C.
Collick, P. H. Hargreaves, A. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Mikardo, Ian
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hastings, S. Mitchison, G. R.
Dames, P. Hayman, F. H. Monslow, W.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.) Moody, A. S
Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Morley, R. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Timmons, J.
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Ross, William Tomney, F.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Royle, C. Turner-Samuels, M.
Mort, D. L. Schofield S. (Barnsley) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lymn
Moyle, A. Shackleton, E. A. A. Usborne, H. C.
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Shawoross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Viant, S. P.
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J Short, E. W. Wallace, H. W.
Oldfield, W. H. Shurmer, P. L. E. Weitzman, D.
Oliver, G. H. Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Well, Percy (Faversham)
Oswald, T. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wells, William (Walsall)
Padley, W. E. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Deame Valley) Slater, J. White, Mrs. Eirens (E. Flint)
Pannell, Charles Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Pargiter, G. A. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Parker, J. Snow, J. W. Wilkins, W. A.
Paton, J. Sorensen, R. W. Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Peart, T. F. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Plummer, Sir Leslie Sparks, J. A. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Popplewell, E. Steele, T. Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y.
Porter, G. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Stross, Dr. Barnett Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Proctor, W. T. Swingler, S. T. Woodburn, Rt. Won. A.
Rankin, John Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Yates, V. F.
Raid, Thomas (Swindon) Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Rhodes, H. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Richards, R. Thomas, George (Cardiff) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Robens, Rt. Hon. A Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.
Aitken, W. T. Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Cuthbert, W. N. Howard, Greville (St. Ives)
Alport, C. J. M. Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Davidson, Viscountess Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Arbuthnot, John Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) De la Bère, Sir Rupert Hurd, A. R.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Deedes, W. F. Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hutchison, LI.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.
Baldwin, A. E. Dormer, P. W. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Banks, Col. C. Drayson, G. B. Jennings, R.
Barlow, Sir John Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Baxter, A. B. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Johnson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Duthie, W. S. Kaberry, D.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Keeling, Sir Edward
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Fell, A. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.I Finlay, Graeme Lambert, Hon. G.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Fisher, Nigel Langford-Holt, J. A.
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H
Birch, Nigel Gage, C. H. Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)
Bishop, F. P. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Linstead, H. N.
Black, C. W. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E)
Bossom, A. C. Gammans, L. D. Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C
Bowen, E. R. George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Godber, J. B. Low, A. R. W.
Boyle, Sir Edward Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S)
Braine, B. R. Gough, C. F. H. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Gower, H. R. McAdden, S. J.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Graham, Sir Fergus McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
Brooman-White, R. C. Gridley, Sir Arnold Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Browne, Jack (Govan) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) McKibbin, A. J.
Bullard, D. G. Harden, J. R. E. McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bullock, Capt. M. Hare, Hon. J. H. Maclay, Hon. John
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Burden, F. F. A. Harris, Reader (Heston) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Butcher, H. W. Harvey, AirCdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Cary, Sir Robert Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Harvie-Watt, Sir George Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Hay, John Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L. Heath, Edward Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E
Cole, Norman Henderson, John (Cathcart) Markham, Major S. F.
Colegate, W. A. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Marlowe, A. A. H.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Marples, A. E.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hirst, Geoffrey Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthome) Holland-Martin, C. J. Maude, Angus
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hollis, M. C. Maydon, Li.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Medlicott, Brig. F.
Crouch, R. F. Holt, A. F. Mellor, Sir John
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hope, Lord John Molson, A. H. E.
Monckton, Rt. Hon Sir Walter Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Teeling, W.
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Robertson, Sir David Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Mott-Radclyffe. C. E. Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Nabarro, G. D. N. Robson-Brown, W Thorneyeroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Nicholls, Harmar Roper, Sir Harold Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Tilney, John
Nicholson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Russell, R. S. Touche, Sir Gordon
Nield, Basil (Chester) Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Turner, H. F. L.
Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale) Turton, R. H.
Nugent, G. R. H. Scott, R. Donald Vane, W. M. F.
Oakshott, H. D. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.) Shepherd, William Wade, D. W.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Walker-Smith, D. C.
Partridge, E. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Perkins, W. R. O. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Peto, Brig. C, H. M. Snadden, W. McN. Watkinson, H. A.
Peyton, J. W. W. Soames, Capt. C. Wellwood, W.
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Spearman, A. C. M. Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Pilkington, Capt. R A. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Pitman, I. J. Stevens, G. P. Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Powell, J. Enoch Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Wills, G.
Profumo, J. D. Storey, S. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Raikes, H. V. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) Wood, Hon. R.
Rayner, Brig. R. Studholme, H. G.
Redmayne, M. Summers, G. S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Remnant, Hon. P. Sutoliffe, H. Mr. Drewe and Mr. Vosper.
Renton, D. L. M. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Mr. Speaker

The Amendment of the hon. Member for widnes (Mr. MacColl) has already been discussed, but I invite him to move it formally if he so desires.

Amendment proposed: In page 3, line 23, at end, insert: Provided that no general consent shall be given to any local authority or authorities until the Minister shall have approved a scheme prescribing—

  1. (a) the type of house to be sold.

(b) the method of allocating to purchasers,and

(c) the disposal of the proceeds of the sales


Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 217;Noes, 243.

Division No. 196.] AYES [9.36 p.m.
Adams, Richard Chetwynd, G. R. Freeman, Peter (Newport)
Albu, A. H. Clunie, J. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.
Ailen, Arthur (Bosworth) Cooks, F. S. Gibson, C. W.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Coldrick, W. Gooch, E G.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Colliok, P. H. Greenwood, Anthony (Roesendale)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Corbet, Mrs. Freds Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Cove, W. G. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.
Bacon, Miss Alice Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Grey, C. F.
Balfour, A. Daines, P. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Bartley, P. Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Beattie, J. Davies, Harold (Leek) Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hamilton, W. W.
Bence, C. R. de Freitas, Geoffrey Hannan, W.
Bonn, Wedgwood Deer, G. Hargreaves, A.
Benson, G. Delargy, H. J. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)
Beswick, F. Dodds, N. N. Hastings, S.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Valet Donnelly, D. L. Hayman, F. H.
Bing, G. H. C. Driberg, T. E. N. Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)
Blackburn, F. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)
Blenkinsop, A. Edelman, M. Herbison, Miss M.
Blyton, W. R. Edwards, John (Brighouse) Hobson, C. R.
Boardman, H. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Holman, P.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Houghton. Douglas
Bowles, F. G. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Hoy, J. H.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Hubbard, T. F.
Brockway, A. F. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Ewart, R. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Fernyhough, E. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Fienburgh, W. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Burke, W. A. Follick, M. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Foot, M. M. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
Carmichael, J. Forman, J. C. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Jeger, George (Goole)
Champion, A. J. Freeman, John (Watford) Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)
Johnson, James (Rugby) Padley, W. E. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Pannell, Charles Stross, Dr. Barnett
Keenan, W. Pargiter, G. A. Swingler, S. T.
Kenyon, C. Parker, J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Paton, J. Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
King, Dr. H. M. Peart, T. F. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Kinley, J. Plummer, Sir Leslie Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Popplewell, E. Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Porter, G. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Lewis, Arthur Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Timmons, J.
Lindgren, G. S. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Tomney, F.
Upton, Lt.-Col. M. Proctor, W. T. Turner-Samuels, M.
Logan, D. G. Rankin, John Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
MacColl, J. E. Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Usborne, H. C.
McGhee, H. G. Rhodes, H. Viant, S. P.
McInnes, J. Richards, R. Wallace, H. W.
McKay, John (Wallsend) Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Weitzman, D.
McLeavy, F. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Paneras, N.) Wells, William (Walsall)
Mainwaring, W. H. Ross, William Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Mann, Mrs. Jean Royle, C. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Manuel, A. C. Schofield, S. (Barnsley) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Shackleton, E. A. A. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Mikardo, Ian Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Wigg, George
Mitchison, G. R. Short, E. W. Wilkins, W. A.
Monslow, W. Shurmer, P. L. E. Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Moody, A. S. Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (AbertiHery)
Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Morley, B Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'H'y)
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Slater, J. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Mort, D. L. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.) Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Moyle, A. Snow, J. W. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Sorensen, R. W. Yates, V. F.
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Oliver, G. H. Sparks, J. A.
Oswald, T. Steelc, T. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.
Aitken, W. T. Colegate, W. A. Hare, Hon. J. H.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Cooper, Son. Ldr. Albert Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)
Alport, C. J. M. Cooper-Key, E. M. Harris, Reader (Heston)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthome) Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Arbuthnot, John Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Harvie-Watt, Sir George
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Crouch, R. F. Hay, John
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Heath, Edward
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Norihwood) Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Baldwin, A. E. Cuthbert, W. N. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
Banks, Col. C. Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Barlow, Sir John Davidson, Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Baxter, A. B. Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hirst, Geoffrey
Beach, Maj. Hicks De la Bare, Sir Rupert Holland-Martin, C. J.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Deedes, W. F. Hollis, M. C.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Holt, A. F.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Donner, P. W. Hope, Lord John
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Drayson, G. B. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Drewe, G. Howard, Greville (St. Ives)
Birch, Nigel Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond) Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Bishop, F. P. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Black, C. W. Duthie, W. S. Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.
Bossom, A. C. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hurd, A. R.
Bowen, E. R. Fell, A. Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Finlay, Graeme Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Fisher, Nigel Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.
Braine, B. R. Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Jennings, R.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Gage, C. H. Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Brooman-White, R. C. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Poliok) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Browne, Jack (Govan) Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Kaberry, D.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Gammans, L. D. Keeling, Sir Edward
Billiard, D. G. George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)
Bullock, Capt. M. Godbar, J. B. Lambert, Hon. G.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Langford-Holt, J. A.
Burden, F. F. A. Gough, C F. H. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.
Butcher, H. W. Gower, H. R. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Cary, Sir Robert Graham, Sir Fergus Legh, P. R. (Petersfieid)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Gridley, Sir Arnold Linstead, H. N.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Cols, Norman Harden, J. R. E. Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)
Low, A. R. W. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Stevens, G. P.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Partridge, E. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
McAdden, S. J. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Perkins, W. R. D. Storey, S.
Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight) Pelo, Brig. C. H. M. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Peyton, J. W. W. Summers, G. S.
McKibbin, A. J. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Suteliffe, H.
MeKie, J. H. (Galloway) Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Maclay, Hon. John Pitman, I. J. Teeling, W.
Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Powell, J. Enoch Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W)
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Profumo, J. D. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries) Raikes, H. V. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Homcastle) Rayner, Brig. R. Tilney, John
Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Redmayne, M. Touche, Sir Gordon
Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E. Remnant, Hon. P. Turner, H. E. L.
Markham, Major S. F. Renton, D. L. M. Turton, R. H.
Marlowe, A. A. H. Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Vane, W. M. F.
Marples, A. E. Robertson, Sir David Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Vosper, D. F.
Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton) Robson-Brown, W. Wade, D. W.
Maude, Angus. Roper, Sir Harold Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Walker-Smith, D. C.
Medlicott, Brig. F. Russell, R. S. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Meltor, Sir John Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Molson, A. H. E. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Scott, R. Donald Watkinson, H. A.
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Wellwood, W.
Mott-Radolyffe, C. E. Shepherd, William Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Nabarro, G. D. N. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Nicholls, Harmar Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington) Wills, G.
Nield, Basil (Chester) Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Noble, Cmdr. A. H. p. Snadden, W. MoN. Wood, Hon. R.
Nugent, G. R. H. Soames, Capt. C.
Oakshott, H. D. Spearman, A. C. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.) Major Conant and Mr. Studholme.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Marples

I beg to move, in page 3, line 29, to leave out "four." and to insert "five."

We had a long and comprehensive discussion in Committee on this point and my right hon. Friend agreed to reconsider the matter before the Report stage. The Bill originally provided that the local authority should have the right of preemption for a period not exceeding four years on any house sold. During the Committee stage arguments were adduced in favour of a period of five, six, seven and even 10 years. After great thought, my right hon. Friend feels that the period during which local authorities shall have the right to buy back the house should be five years.

This is what my right hon. Friend calls the "motor car" Clause. It has one object only, and that is to make sure that the house is sold to a genuine purchaser; in other words, that no person shall be allowed to buy a house purely for speculative purposes. The question then arises: What period is required to prevent speculation? One has to balance two factors very carefully. One factor is what is fair to the local authority in preventing profiteering and the second is what is fair to the purchaser of the house. It is a matter of opinion and it is very difficult to decide, but my right hon. Friend has come to the conclusion that if a person buying a house is content to remain in it for five years it is clear that he has no intention of profiteering but desires to remain in the house owning it.

The period of four years was originally inserted because it followed precedent. The Socialists' 1945 Act, in regard to the granting of private licences, stipulated a period of four years before a person could sell the house which he had built. After consideration of the lengthy arguments in Committee my right hon. Friend came to the right view that the period should be slightly increased to five years. This is purely the narrow point about the period which it is necessary to insert in the Bill so that we can be absolutely certain that the person buying a property does so for the genuine purpose of owning it and not for what we conceive to be the wrong purpose of selling it for speculation.

Mr. Ewart

We very much appreciate the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary in moving this Amendment. He indicated that the arguments adduced in Committee by the Opposition have had some effect in encouraging the Minister to extend the period to five years. Perhaps the Minister will agree to a later Amendment in my name and the names of hon. Friends of mine which seeks to extend the pre-emption period to seven years. If I reiterated the arguments which have been put forward in favour of the five year period I should be making my case for seven years on good grounds.

In the debate on the last Amendment the right hon. Gentleman said that he was not prepared to reveal the conditions with regard to price under which he would advise local authorities to sell council houses, but he rather indicated that such houses, particularly those built before May, 1945, would be sold at an attractive price.

The Clause says that there shall be an attractive offer to sitting council tenants and to those who qualify for a licence to build, so that they may purchase their houses through the local authority. The purchasers would be buying at an attractive price in order to become the owner-occupiers of their own houses. That should be a sufficient inducement to the Minister to extend the proposed period from four years to seven, which would break down the argument about the position being sufficiently attractive to investors who wanted a turnover in a fairly reasonable time at a high profit. The housing programme will not be completed in seven years, or in 10 years, in my opinion. I am merely taking an indication from the report of my own local authority.

People who might be influenced to use the device of purchasing council houses now, in order to turn over a good profit in a reasonable time, would be put off if the period were extended to seven years, while the inducement to people who want to own and occupy council houses would be safeguarded. There is little doubt that intending purchasers would be prepared to enter into a covenant for seven years' occupation before pre-emption and resale to the local authority. I am speaking to the Minister's Amendment, but I hope that the point of the Amendment in my name and the names of my hon. Friends will be conceded.

Mr. Joseph T. Price (Westhoughton)

Like my hon. Friends, I heard with partial satisfaction the small concession which the Minister has decided to make to us on this matter. He and his Parliamentary Secretary are fully aware, from the protracted discussion in Committee, that on this side we take the most rooted objection to the whole idea underlying the Clause. If the Minister is sincere, and desires to do a practical job in putting forward a safeguard to eliminate speculation and keep the grasping hands of unruly people off council houses, I should have been satisfied if he had stopped the Clause at subsection (3, a) and had not added paragraph (b) which follows it. The intention and the practical purpose of the pre-emption period is to a large extent destroyed by that paragraph.

It may have escaped the attention of hon. Members, despite our long discussion upstairs, that whatever the period of pre-emption might be under the Clause for which a purchaser is precluded from reselling the house which he has bought admittedly at a knock-down price, the position is sufficiently safeguarded; but that the very next paragraph, (b), makes a qualification which destroys the intention of the first part of the Clause.

Let us suppose the type of local authority which would be disposed to begin to trade council houses, which we sincerely believe on this side to be a thoroughly reactionary, irresponsible and anti-social policy in any case. The type of authority which might enter into these transactions might be faced 12 months later with a request to repurchase the house because under paragraph (b)—

Mr. Speaker

I do not think we have reached that yet, and perhaps there will be a later opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to develop the argument which is he attempting to develop at this stage.

Mr. Price

I will restrict my remarks in deference to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, which I accept.

The intention of the Amendment is in the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, to restrict the activities of speculators. That is a wholly estimable idea to put forward if the machinery provided is in proper form to prevent speculators entering into this business. It might only, however, be operative for the period of five years if a house, after five years, can be sold at double the price under the special terms which local authorities have been asked to give for purchase.

We should prefer that the period were seven years instead of five for reasons which were fully ventilated in Committee upstairs. I should have thought that there was a type of authority who might very well refuse to repurchase a house in 12 months. If, in fact, a person who has bought a council house under those conditions were to go back to his local authority 12 months later and give them the option of buying it back for him and it was refused, then in one month this preventive Clause is inoperative and the man is free to sell the house at any price.

Mr. Powell

Not at any price. The hon. Member should read paragraph (a).

Mr. Price

I was not aware that back benchers answered questions which I was addressing to the Minister.

Mr. Powell

The easier ones.

Mr. Price

The hon. Member sat upstairs along with other Members of the House and I should have thought he was more closely familiar with the type of argument that has been used in the detailed examination of this matter. I do not think his intervention helps us very much at this stage.

In our opinion it would be far better, in view of the doubts existing in our minds and, indeed, which must have existed in the Minister's mind when he agreed to extend the period from four to five years, to give us the benefit of the longer period.

Mr. Wade

I welcome the proposal to increase the period from four to five years, but I doubt whether that is adequate, and I hope that the Minister will consider favourably extending it to seven years. May I very briefly give my reasons for expressing this view? Neither I nor my party are opposed to the main object of this Bill. It is a Bill which we support. My Liberal colleagues and I are wholeheartedly in favour of the private ownership of property, in particular the ownership of houses by owner-occupier.

I am aware that Members on both sides of the House have stated that they are in favour of the principle embodied in the Bill. For reasons which I need not go into now, I do not consider existing legislation adequate, but I think that Members on all sides will agree that we do not wish this Bill to benefit unintentionally the speculator.

10.0 p.m.

In considering that problem it would be a mistake to think only of the hypothetical case of the purchaser of a house who may be tempted to sell to a speculator shortly after his purchase. There is also the case of the man who, having purchased and resided in the house for four or five years, is then tempted to sell. As a result of subsection (1) of this Clause, I think rightly, the local authorities are not under an obligation to sell at a price which will include the false scarcity value; they are permitted to sell at some price less than that. A good deal has been said about selling houses much below the true value, but I think there has been some misunderstanding on that point. It is the scarcity value that the Minister has in mind.

Having passed that Clause, we must consider the effect. The time may come, perhaps in five years, when the owner of the house may be tempted to sell at a profit and that profit will not necessarily be wholly the result of improvements which he has made to the house. It may be due in part to the fact that he has been able to buy the house on favourable terms.

I recognise that at present there is a fall in the value of property, particularly of the more expensive houses. If that process continues, and if the housing programme is developed as one would wish it to be, it may be that in five years there will not be much likelihood of the purchaser of a house under the terms of this Bill selling it at a substantial profit. My own view is that the period of five years is really not adequate, and for the reasons I have given I hope that the Minister, even at this late hour, will accept the period of seven years instead of five years.

Mr. de Freitas

My hon. Friends and I believe that seven is preferable to five. The reasons have been well stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Ewart) and others. The Minister could save a Division on this Amendment if he would accept seven instead of five. Otherwise, I fear we must divide the House, not because we prefer four to five but because only by dividing on and defeating this Amendment will our own Amendment to substitute seven for four be in order.

For that reason, and in the confident knowledge that we have the Liberal Party with us, I ask the Minister to think again. If he does not give this concession of seven, we must divide the House.

Mr. Marples

I am grateful for the brevity with which the hon. Gentleman has wound up the debate from the Opposition benches.

Perhaps I may deal with one or two of the points which have been raised. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Ewart) spoke in reasoned terms, but was solely concerned with preventing a person getting a profit on re-sale. To some extent one must look at it from the point of view of the person going into the house. If a man is to be prevented for five years from realising more money than he paid for the house, subject to one or two minor additions and improvements he makes, surely he thinks several times before buying it? No one buying a house for speculative purposes has in mind a period of five years. If a man speculates, he wants a quick turnover.

Another fact which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South naturally did not take into account was that of an elderly purchaser. I am not referring to young men like the hon. Member for Sunderland, South or the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price). I say this because I have taken the precaution of finding out the dates of their birth. In the case of those two hon. Gentlemen it would not matter if they kept it for 10 years, because they are so young. To someone a little older, who wished to enjoy the house in middle age or later, five years is not an unreasonable period.

Mr. Sparks

It is a very great temptation if a man knows that he can buy a council house for a certain figure and at the end of five years—the pre-emption period—he can sell it and make £1,000 profit on it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is all very well, but on the basis of the Minister's suggested minimum price, that can be done. That is the danger.

Mr. Marples

The hon. Member's intervention was based on the hypothesis that a man would automatically make £1,000 if he sold the house. Had the hon. Member followed the property market recently, he would find that it was going down, and not up. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes. The property market certainly has gone down.

Another point was raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton. He said that the price is limited during the period of five years, whether the house is sold to the local authority or to a private person. Therefore, if during the five years the local authority said that they did not want to buy the house and the vendor sold it to someone else, he would be prevented by the Bill from making a profit and would have to sell at that figure, irrespective of who was the purchaser.

Mr. J. T. Price

Would the Minister explain exactly how he interprets the Clause, which governs the sort of conditions that he is now explaining? The hon. Gentleman maintains what his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said rather less courteously during an intervention in my speech, that the restricted price would apply during the whole of the preemption period of five years. This is what the Clause, with the proposed Amendment, would say: On the sale of a house in accordance with the said paragraph (d), a local authority may in any case, and shall if so required by the Minister, impose conditions— (a) limiting the price at which the house may be sold or the rent at which it may be let during any period not exceeding five years.… The Clause says "may" as far as the local authority is concerned, and "shall" only if the Minister so decides. This is a permissive Clause. There is nothing in the Bill which makes it obligatory upon anyone.

Mr. Marples

I agree with some of the points which the hon. Member has mentioned during his rather long intervention, but not with all of them. I pray in aid the evidence of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), who said that no Minister occupying the responsible position of my right hon. Friend would sanction anything which was a "racket." The Minister may—"shall," if he wants to— impose conditions limiting the price at which the house may be sold or the rent at which it may be let during any period not exceeding four years "— or "five years" if the Amendment is accepted— from the completion of the sale. Therefore, it does not matter who takes the house from the vendor, whether it is the local authority or a private person. The price to be charged will be limited if the Minister decides to limit it. There will not, therefore, be a question of profiteering in the sense that the hon. Member, when making his speech, inferred.

The hon. Member for Westhougaton said that he thought any council which was going to sell a house would be reactionary and thoroughly anti-social in policy. That conflicts to some extent with the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who said that his party were not against the sale of council houses in suitable circumstances and at suitable times. I think, therefore, that the bon. Member went a little far in describing in such a sweeping way the evils of the sale of council houses.

Mr. Price

We are not robots.

Mr. Marples

From what I have seen in the Press recently, that is a triumph of understatement.

I am fortified by the welcome given by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), who said that his colleagues supported him in welcoming die Bill, but I should have been more gratified had his colleagues been here to give weight to their enthusiasm. At any rate, I do not think the Liberals as a party opposed this principle.

It is a question of balancing. We have to balance on the one hand the evil of people trying to make a profit and, on the other hand, the period must not be too long to discourage a man from purchasing a house. If we really wanted to prevent speculation we might make the period 30 years. Then we would prevent speculation, but no one would ever buy the house.

Mr. Wade

Would the hon. Gentleman clear up this point? Does he take the view that a right of pre-emption would deter a tenant who wishes to be an owner-occupier from buying? Why would the period of pre-emption—the right of the local authority to buy back if and when the man wishes to sell—deter him from buying the house at all?

Mr. Marples

What would deter him would be the re-sale price of the house if it were limited in the period of time irrespective of to whom he sold, whether to the local authority or to a private individual. He could not get more money. He would only be interested as a vendor in what he received as a price and it does not matter who gives it to him so long as he gets the cash. What would deter him would be the Amendment, which says that for the period of five years he must not sell at a price greater than that laid down.

I hope that the House will accept this Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend, who has gone some way to meet the objections put forward in the Committee stage. Originally, it was four years. That followed the precedent set by the Opposition when they passed their original Act in 1945 and restricted private enterprise licences by providing that no person getting a private enterprise licence should sell at a figure greater than the figure in the licence for a period of four years. Then my right hon. Friend realised that there were objections and that perhaps five years would be better.

A further point which we must take into consideration is that the rate of house-building must be considered because if house building increases in rate and we can build sufficient houses it would make five years too long. That reflection may assist hon. Members opposite not to go into the Division Lobby against the Amendment.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry that the joint impetuosity of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and of the Parliamentary Secretary has prevented me from making these observations in time to elicit a reply from the Parliamentary Secretary, or with very much hope of persuading him, but I still feel bound to make them.

I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary and every other hon. Member except my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Hargreaves) have spoken about this as if it were a fixed period. It is nothing of the sort. This is a maximum period during which the local authority, with the consent of the Minister, may impose these restrictions. I should very much appreciate the objection to a long fixed period—

Mr. Marples

From the point of view of accuracy, I am quite certain that it will be within the recollection of the House, and the hon. and learned Member will find it when he reads HANSARD, that when I introduced the Amendment I said "for a period not exceeding."

Mr. Mitchison

I accept that and have not the least doubt that that is what the hon. Gentleman said when introducing the Amendment, but, when he was replying to the debate just now, he was speaking as though this were a fixed period. I absolutely fail to see the disadvantage to a local authority of putting on this very small restriction, because it is a very small restriction, for a period of seven years. After all, a period of seven years is very common in this kind of transaction. It is almost the standard period of short leases; it has a kind of history in all matters connected with houses.

If I might put the point on even more simple grounds to the Parliamentary Secretary, I would say that I observe that in the course of our debates that four, five, six, eight and 10 years have been suggested as the right period. While one accepts with some gratitude any extension of a period which is obviously too short, five instead of four is a bit stingy; if the Parliamentary Secretary had made it half and half the figure would have been seven.

10.15 p.m.

What is the real object to doing it now? No question of principle is involved in this, it is ordinary, common sense. Why not leave it, as the Tory Party so often says it does to the local authority to fix a sensible period? The Minister has power to give or refuse consent. Why tie the hands of the local authorities to five years? Why not let

them go up to seven years if they wish to do so?

This is a restriction which makes very little difference to the purchaser of the house, but it has a real and considerable effect in preventing speculation. The Parliamentary Secretary should remember that we are dealing with municipal property which has been sold, not necessarily at market prices. The object of removing the restriction that the best price possible should be obtained is to enable the municipalities to sell bargain lots of public property, which are obviously a temptation to anyone who has obtained them to re-sell them at a profit, and to anyone who is in the market to buy them a little more cheaply than he would get them in the ordinary course of things.

Surely, to prevent that kind of speculation, which we all want to prevent, there is no reason whatever to limit the period to what it would be with the very short increase which the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister have offered. Let the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary think again and take note of this suggestion, either here or in some other place. They cannot have given any deep or profound thought to the point. All they did was to make the smallest concession possible because one of their own friends had suggested six, eight or other years. Surely we might have a little more than that; and, in the generous spirit that comes over everybody at 10.18 p.m. on this particular day of the year, the Parliamentary Secretary will accept seven instead of five.

Question, "That 'four' stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Question put, "That 'five' be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 222; Noes, 204.

Division No. 197.] AYES [10.20 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Birch, Nigel Cary, Sir Robert
Alport, C. J. M. Bishop, F. P. Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Black, C. W. Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)
Arbuthnot, John Bossom, A. C. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Cole, Norman
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Boyle, Sir Edward Colegate, W. A.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bueks, Wycombe) Braine, B. R. Conant, Maj. R. J. E.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert
Baldwin, A. E. Brooman-White, R. C. Cooper-Key, E. M
Banks, Col. C. Browne, Jack (Govan) Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Baxter, A. B, Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hen. P. G. T. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C
Beach, Maj. Hicks Bullard, D. G. Crosthwaite-Eyra, Col. O. E.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Bullock, Capt. M. Crouch, R. F.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Burden, F. F. A. Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Butcher, H. W. Cuthbert, W. N.
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Lambert, Hon. G. Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
De la Bere, Sir Rupert Langford-Holt, J. A. Robertson, Sir David
Deedes, W. F. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Robson-Brown, W.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Legh, P. R. (Petersfield) Roper, Sir Harold
Donner, P. W. Linstead, H. N. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Drayson, G. B. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Russell, R. S.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Riohmond) Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.) Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Low, A. R. W. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Duthie, W. S. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Scott, R. Donald
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Fell, A. Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight) Shepherd, William
Finlay, Graeme Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Fisher, Nigel MoKibbin, A. J. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. MoKie, J. H. (Galloway) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Maolay, Hon. John Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Gage, C. H. Maoleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Snadden, W. McN.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Soames, Capt. C.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Spearman, A. C. M.
Gammans, L. D. Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries) Speir, R. M.
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Godber, J. B. Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Mannlngham-Buller, Sir R. E. Stevens, G. P.
Gough, C. F. H. Markham, Major S. F. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Gower, H. R. Marlowe, A. A. H. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Marples, A. E. Storey, S.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Harden, J. R. E. Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton) Studholme, H. G.
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Maude, Angus Summers, G. S.
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Sutoliffe, H.
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Medlieott, Brig. F. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Mellor, Sir John Teeling, W.
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Molson, A. H. E. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Hay, John Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Heath, Edward Morrison, John (Salisbury) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Nabarro, G. D. N. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Nicholls, Harmar Touohe, Sir Gordon
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Turner, H. E. L.
Hirst, Geoffrey Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Turton, R. H.
Holland-Martin, C. J. Nield, Basil (Chester) Vane, W. M. F.
Hollis, M. C. Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Hope, Lord John Nugent, G. R. H. Vosper, D. F.
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Oakshott, H. D. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Partridge, E. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Watkinson, H. A.
Hurd, A. R. Perkins, W. R. D. Wellwood, W.
Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Illord, N.) Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Peyton, J. W. W. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Pickthom, K. W. M. Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Pitman, I. J. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Powell, J. Enoch Wills, G.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Kaberry, D. Profumo, J. D. Wood, Hon. R.
Keeling, Sir Edward Raikes, H. V.
Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Renton, D. L. M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Drewe and Mr. Redmayne.
Adams, Richard Brockway, A. F. Dodds, N. N.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Donnelly, D. L.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Driberg, T. E. N.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Burke, W. A. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Atliee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Edwards, John (Brighouse)
Bacon, Miss Alice Carmichael, J. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Balfour, A. Champion, A. J. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Chapman, W. D. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Chetwynd, G. R. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)
Bence, C. R. Clunie, J. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)
Benn, Wedgwood Cocks, F. S Ewart, R.
Benson, G. Colliok, P. H. Fernyhough, E.
Beswick, F. Corbet, Mrs. Freda Fienburgh, W.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Cove, W. G. Follick, M.
Bing, G. H. C. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Foot, M. M.
Blackburn, F. Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Forman, J. C.
Blenkinsop, A. Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)
Blyton, W. R. Davies, Harold (Leek) Freeman, John (Watford)
Boardman, H. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Freeman, Peter (Newport)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. de Freitas, Geoffrey Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.
Bowen, E. R. Deer, G. Gibson, C. W.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Delargy, H. J. Gooch, E. G.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossertdale) Mainwaring, W. H. Slater, J.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) Mann, Mrs. Jean Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Manuel, A. C. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Grey, C. F. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Snow, J. W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mikardo, Ian Sorensen, R. W.
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mitchison, G. R. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Hall, Rt. Hon. Clenvil (Calne Valley) Monslow, W. Sparks, J. A.
Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) Moody, A. S. Steele, T.
Hamilton, W. W. Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Stewart, Miohael (Fulham, E.)
Hannan, W. Morley, R. Straehey, Rt. Hon. J.
Hargreaves, A. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Stress, Dr. Bamett
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Swingler, S. T.
Hastings, S. Mort, D. L. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Hayman, F. H. Moyle, A. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Herbison, Miss M. Oliver, G. H. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Hobson, C. R. Oswald, T. Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Holman, P. Padley, W. E. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Holt, A. F. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Timmons, J.
Houghton, Douglas Pannell, Charles Tomney, F.
Hoy, J. H. Pargiter, G. A. Turner-Samuels, M.
Hubbard, T. F. Parker, J. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Paton, J. Usbome, H. C.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pearson, A. Wade, D. W.
Hughes, Heotor (Aberdeen, N.) Pearl, T. F. Wallace, H. W.
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Plummer, Sir Leslie Weitzman, D.
Irving, W. J. (Wood GrBen) Porter, G. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Wells, William (Walsall)
Jeger, George (Goole) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Proctor, W. T. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Johnson, James (Rugby) Rankin, John White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Keenan, W. Rhodes, H. Wigg, George
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Richards, R. Wilkins, W. A.
King, Dr. H. M. Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Roberts, Goronwy (Carnarvonshire) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Lewis, Arthur Ross, William Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Lindgren, G. S. Royle, C. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Logan, D. G. Schofield, S. (Barnsley) Winterbottom. Ian (Nottingham, C.)
MacColl, J. E. Shackleton, E. A. A. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
McGhee, H. G. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Yates, V. F.
Melnnes, J. Short, E. W. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
McKay, John (Wallsend) Shurmer, P. L. E.
MoLeavy, F. Silverman, Julius (Erdington) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Holmes.
Mr. Marples

I beg to move, in page 3, line 30, after "purchaser," to insert: (including any successor in title of his and any person deriving title under him or any such successor). This Amendment arises as a result of discussions during the Committee stage. The matter was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). He raised the point whether the condition described in subsection (3, b), as amended in Committee, would operate against a successor in title of the original purchaser or against a mortgagee from him.

My right hon. Friend has been advised that there is no doubt in law that a covenant in a conveyance in the precise form of paragraph (b) would so operate. All doubt that this is the type of covenant that local authorities are being empowered to obtain and that the Minister can require them to obtain will be removed by the express provision to this effect.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Marples

I beg to move, in page 3, line 31, to leave out from "has," to "and," in line 32, and to insert: notified the authority of the proposed sale or letting and offered to resell or sell the house to them. 10.30 p.m.

Certain Members of the Opposition have taken the opportunity to put on the Order Paper Amendments to this Amendment. I hope that I shall be allowed to move the Amendment formally at this stage so that the argument may be developed.

This is just a further drafting Amendment put down after our discussion upstairs, and it is designed to obviate any possibility of the owner or mortgagee of a house sold by a local authority, having once offered to sell it to the local authority and having had that offer refused, selling or letting it at any time thereafter during the five-year period without making a fresh offer to sell it to the local authority.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Mr. Sparks

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, at the end, to add: at a price to be fixed by the District Valuer. This Amendment has some connection with a proposed Amendment of mine, in page 3, line 34, to leave out from "made," to the end of line 36, and with a further proposed Amendment of my hon. Friends in page 3, line 44, at the end, to insert a new subsection (5).

I do not propose to say very much on my Amendment because the main discussion on principle will come later, on the following Amendment. I should like, however, to draw the attention of the House to the words in subsection (3, b). This, of course, follows the conditions which the Minister may impose in regard to the re-purchase by the local authority of a house which was previously sold to the purchaser and the words are: … prescribing or providing for the determination of the price to be paid in the event of the acceptance of such an offer; We feel that it would be better if the price to be determined was a price to be fixed by the district valuer. It would overcome a lot of the difficulties that we have been discussing earlier on previous Amendments if the Minister would include in his conditions for the purchaser the determination by the district valuer of the price to be paid by the local authority in buying back the house.

Mr. Lindgren

I beg to second the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.

I do so briefly because the major discussion will come later. I do so in the hope that the Government will accept the Amendment to the proposed Amendment. I am afraid that hope will not be realised, but, at least, we do protect the position so far as the later stage of the discussion is concerned.

Mr. H. Macmillan

I think, perhaps, the broad principle would be better debated at a later stage, but so far as this Amendment to the proposed Amendment is concerned, it would bring in the district valuer when there is a question of the re-purchase of the house under the pre-emption provision. As the House has already decided that the district valuer is not to be used for the sale in the first instance, there does not seem any particular reason why he should be brought into the question of the re-purchase in the pre-emption provision because if the sale is to be made in accordance with the instructions or guidance I may give to local authorities there does not seem to be much reason why in the re-purchase the same principles should not apply.

The district valuer should not be introduced at one stage of the transaction and not at another. The reason we oppose this principle is that the district valuer may be a suitable person for determining the market value including the scarcity element in it, but we have decided that we are not going to use him for the original sale. We are going to have a different method of valuation and there is no reason for introducing the district valuer in the pre-emption provision. I hope that this Amendment to the proposed Amendment will not be pressed. The problem of sales can be discussed on a later Amendment.

Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)

I would draw the attention of the Minister to the point that the house may be altered between the time it is disposed of by the local authority and re-purchased. Whatever may be the conditions of sale that will be an element which will be a matter for arbitration. It would appear that the district valuer might be the most suitable person to decide the value of that particular improvement, and what amount the purchaser might reasonably expect to add to the price of the house apart from the normal conditions arising during the period it has been in occupation. It might be difficult to find some machinery of arbitration to deal with this complicated matter, but I am sure the district valuer might be the appropriate person to enable it to be quickly and amicably settled between the two parties. Would the Minister look at the matter from that angle?

Mr. Macmillan

Certainly I will look at it. There will have to be adjustments downwards or upwards, for depreciation or improvement during the period of occupation, and it was contemplated that that would be a matter for agreement between the parties. If there could not be an agreement any dispute would be determined by the Minister. I will look at the point again to see if the Minister might think fit to use the services of the district valuer to act as umpire, but we think that the narrow case of arguing about depreciation or improvement could rest with the ordinary administrative machinery.

Question put, "That those words be there added to the proposed Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 199; Noes, 224.

Division No. 198.] AYES [10.39 p.m.
Adams, Richard Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Paton, J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crawe) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Pearson, A.
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Pearl, T. F.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Bacon, Miss Alice Hamilton, W. W. Porter, G.
Balfour, A. Hannan, W. Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Hargreaves, A. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Proctor, W. T.
Bence, C. R. Hastings, S. Rankin, John
Benn, Wedgwood Hayman, F. H. Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Benson, G. Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.) Rhodes, H.
Beswick, F. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis) Richards, R.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Herbison, Miss M. Roberts, Rt. Hon. A.
Bing, G. H. C. Hobson, C. R. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Blackburn, F. Holman, P. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Blenkinsop, A. Holmes, Horace (Hemswarlh) Ross, William
Blyton, W. R. Houghton, Douglas Royle, C.
Boardman, H. Hoy, J. H. Schofieid, S. (Barnsley)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hubbard, T. F. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley
Brockway, A. F. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Short, E. W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Burke, W. A. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hid)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Slater, J.
Carmichael, J. Jeger, George (Goole) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Champion, A. J. Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Chapman, W. D. Johnson, James (Rugby) Snow, J. W.
Chetwynd, G. R. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Sorensen, R. W.
Clunie, J. Keenan, W. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Cocks, F. S. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Sparks, J. A.
Collick, P. H. King, Dr. H. M. Steele, T.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Lee, Frederick (Newton) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Cove, W. G. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lewis, Arthur Stross, Dr. Barnett
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lindgren, G. S. Swingler, S. T.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Logan, D. G. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) MacColl, J. E. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) McGhee, H. G. Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
de Freitas, Geoffrey McInnes, J. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Deer, G. McKay, John (Wallsend) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Delargy, H. J. McLeavy, F. Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Dodds, N. N. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Donnelly, D. L. Mainwaring, W. H. Timmons, J.
Driberg, T. E. N. Mann, Mrs. Jean Tomney, F.
Ede, Rl. Hon. J. C. Manuel, A. C. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Edwards, John (Brighouse) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H A. Usborne, H. C.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mellish, R. J. Wallace, H. W.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mikardo, Ian Weinman, D.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mitchison, G. R. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Monslow, W. Wells, William (Walsall)
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Moody, A. S. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Ewart, R. Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Fernyhough, E. Morley, R. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Fienburgh, W. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Follick, M. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Wilkins, W. A.
Foot, M. M. Mort, O. L. Witley, Octavius (Cleveland)
Forman, J. C. Moyle, A. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Freeman, John (Watford) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Oswald, T. Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Gibson. C. W. Padley, W. E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Gooch, E. G. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Vales, V. F.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Pannell, Charles Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield) Pargiter, G. A.
Grey, G. F. Parker, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr.Popplewell and Mr. George Wigg.
Aitken, W. T. Hare, Hon. J. H. Partridge, E.
Alport, C. J. M. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Harris, Ruder (Huston) Perkins, W. R. D.
Arbuthnot, John Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Peyton, J. W. W.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Harvie-Watt, Sir George Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Hay, John Pitman, I. J.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Heath, Edward Powell, J. Enoch
Baldwin, A. E. Henderson, John (Catheart) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Banks, Col. C. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Profumo, J. D.
Baxter, A. B. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythonshawe) Raikes, H. V.
Beaoh, Maj. Hioks Hlnchingbrooke, Viscount Rayner, Brig. R.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Hint, Geoffrey Redmayne, M.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Holland-Martin, C. J. Ronton, D. L. M.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, $.) Hollis, M. C. Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Bennett, William (Woodside) Holt, A. F. Robertson, Sir David
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Hope, Lord John Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Birch, Nigel Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Robson-Brown, W.
Bishop, F. P. Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Roper, Sir Harold
Black, C. W. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Bossont, A. C. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Russell, R. S.
Bowen, E. R. Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J. Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hurd, A. R. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Boyle, Sir Edward Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Scott, R. Donald
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Hyllon-Foster, H. B. H. Shepherd, William
Broomam-White, R. C. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Browne, Jack (Govan) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Bullard, D. G. Kaborry, D. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Bullock, Capt. M. Keeling, Sir Edward Snadden, W. McN.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Soames, Capt. C.
Burden, F. F. A. Lambert, Hon. G. Spearman, A. C. M.
Butcher, H. W. Langford-Holt, J. A. Speir, R. M.
Cary, Sir Robert Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Spent, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Legh, P. R. (Petersfield) Stevens, G. P.
Cole, Norman Lin stead, H. N. Stcwart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Colegate, W. A. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.) Storey, S.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Low, A. R. W. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Lucas, Sir Jooelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Summers, G. S.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Sutcliffe, H.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Teeling, W.
Crouch, R. F. McKibbin, A. J. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Cuthbert, W. N. MaoLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Thorneyoroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
De la Bare, Sir Rupert Maopherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries) Tilney, John
Deedes, W. F. Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Hornoastle) Touche, Sir Gordon
Dodds-Parker, A. O. Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Turner, H. F. L.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E McA. Markham, Major S. F. Turton, R. H.
Donner, P. W. Marlowa, A. A. H. Vane, W. M. F.
Drayson, G. B. Marples, A. E. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Vosper, D. F.
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton) Wade, D. W.
Duthie, W. S. Maude, Angus Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Fell, A. Medlioott, Brig. F. Ward, Hon. George (Woreester)
Finlay, Graeme Mellor, Sir John Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Fisher, Nigel Molson, A. H. E. Waterhouse, Capl. Rt. Hon. C.
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Watkinson, H. A.
Fraser, Sir Ian (Moreoambe & Lonsdale) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Wellwood, W.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Galbralth, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Nabarro, G. D. N. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Gammans, L. D. Nicholls, Harmar Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Nicholson, Godfrey (Famham) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Godber, J. B. Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Wills, G.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Nield, Basil (Chester) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gough, C. F. H. Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Wood, Hon. R.
Gower, H. R. Nugent, G. R. H.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Oakshott, H. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Mr. Drewe and Mr. Studholme.
Harden, J. R. E. Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)

Question put, and agreed to.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.
Mr. Lindgren

I beg to move, in page 3, line 33, to leave out "one month," and to insert "three months."

So far as local authorities are concerned, I agree that for the larger authorities, such as the county boroughs and perhaps some of the larger municipal authorities, where there is a tendency to give the officials a greater degree of authority and power than is the case with the smaller authorities, one month may be sufficient.

But normal local government procedure is for the council to meet monthly, when the reports of committees are received. To permit the right of refusal within one month would not allow the normal procedure of the council to operate. We ask for this longer period so that the smaller bodies shall have opportunity for discussion and decision.

Mr. Pargiter

I beg to second the Amendment.

It may be argued that three months is a long time. Of course in a democracy three months is not really a long period. Even in the case of the central Government one finds that one month is frequently a short time in which to get decisions from Ministers. So I see no reason why we should expect local authorities to work more quickly. I am not arguing that they should be encouraged to work slowly or to hold up decisions. In the majority of cases local authorities will be concerned to give a decision as quickly as possible. However in the vacation period it is customary for no committee meetings to be held by the majority of local authorities during the month of August.

Two months would be a reasonable compromise, if the Minister would accept that, but one month is too short. It must be borne in mind that this is a maximum period and, if it were increased to a more reasonable figure, it would be generally acceptable to local authorities and it would cause no great hardship or inconvenience to the person concerned.

The selling of a house requires a fair amount of consideration and therefore no undue harm would be caused by saying that local authorities in circumstances such as these should have two months at least. We ask for three, but, speaking for myself, I should be happy to see two months inserted.

Mr. Sparks

I am surprised that the Minister did not give favourable consideration to the discussion that we had in Standing Committee upon this point. If he wants to make it as difficult as possible for a local authority to repurchase a house within the pre-emption period, this is the way to do it. Before a house can be re-purchased by the local authority, the council has to give a decision. The officials of that local authority have no power to buy back property on their own initiative.

Most local authorities do not meet more frequently than once a month and, during the vacation period, they do not meet at all between July and September. Therefore, in a case like this the Minister must be reasonable. He knows quite well from the way we argued upstairs that in many cases it will be impossible for a local authority to give a specific undertaking within a month that they wish to re-purchase the property.

Supposing, for instance, an individual says to a local authority on 1st August, "I want to sell my house and I want to know your decision by 1st September." I doubt whether any local authorities meet in August. Therefore, the official will not be able to say, "Yes, the local authority will buy it back" because he will not have the authority. If he takes a chance on his own responsibility, the local authority may decide otherwise when it meets in September. Therefore it is impracticable for a local authority to give a decision within one month that they will re-purchase a house of this kind.

The Minister ought to give further consideration to this matter. If he thinks three months is too long, he ought to be prepared to compromise because one month is too short a period.

Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)

I should not have intervened if it had not been for the arrant nonsense to which I have just listened from the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks). Most local authorities have one of two arrangements. One is that the officials are given a broad directive within which they shall do this kind of thing. The other is that most of the larger local authorities have a system whereby they delegate responsibility to the chairmen of main committees during the recess periods, and the local authority committees are then required—it is mostly done without any difficulty—to confirm what the chairmen of the committees have done. Those are the normal, ordinary and accepted arrangements, and the problems over which the hon. Member has been tripping simply do not arise.

Mr. Pannell

I should like to know whether the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) has ever been on a local authority.

Mr. Thompson

Yes, for 15 years.

Mr. Pannell

I have been on four local authorities. The slipshod arrangements which have characterised the administration with which the hon. Gentleman has been associated are not the arrangements to which I have been used. We suffer in these debates from the fact that neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary had even a nodding acquaintance with local government before they took office.

A purchase under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act has normally to be recorded in the minutes of local authority finance committees, and most local authorities are rather tender on the subject. Many local authority standing orders expressly provide that there can be no negotiations during the summer vacation period, and no general power is given to chairmen.

I have been on the collective committees of local authority associations in my time and I do not think that my title to speak for local government in a representative capacity will be challenged by many hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not know any matter in which there is the indecent haste which is envisaged in the Bill. Even a proposal to erect a garage goes through the normal procedure, and all sorts of minor matters take a month or six weeks to get through.

We are concerned that no suspicion should rest on a local authority, especially where it has been given the power, without the assistance of the district valuer, to dispose of property below market price. When such powers are put into the hands of a local authority it is reasonable that it should be given adequate time so that the whole of the council shall have the opportunity of being aware of what is before it. We are legislating not only for good local authorities on whom no suspicion is likely to rest but also for the odd case where we want to ensure that there shall be no ground for suspicion under this machinery.

I should have thought that a good local authority man would have insisted not that we should always put the power in the hands of the chairmen of committees and not that we should give unfettered discretion to isolated officials to run the affairs of the council in regard to property deals, but that we should provide machinery to make it possible for property deals to pass through all the normal committee stages and come under the notice of the main body of the council itself. That is the fair, reasonable and democratic thing to do.

So little safeguard is envisaged in this matter, and, in view of the reluctance of the Minister to bring into this matter the district valuer and the independent official of the Inland Revenue, I should have thought this would have been one safeguard which would appeal to hon. Members opposite.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Marples

The hon. Members for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), Southall (Mr. Pargiter) and Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) have submitted their point of view alone, which is how this affects the local authorities. There are two parties to this transaction, the local authority and the man who is selling the house. Suppose a workman who owns what was a council house has to move suddenly from one part of the country to another because of re-armament. Has he to wait three months before he gets a decision that the local authority will buy?

The tendency nowadays is to consider that the citizen is there for the local authority, instead of the local authority being there for the citizen. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite must realise that the local authorities have a service to perform to the citizen. If a man wants to sell a house under this Bill, and the local authority does not buy it, and if he sells to someone else, he will not make any more money. He will receive only precisely the same amount as he would from the local authority. If the local authority cannot conduct it affairs to make a decision of detail in a month, that is wrong.

Mr. Sparks

How can it be done?

Mr. Marples

A business firm has a board of directors which settles policy. That policy and the principles laid down by the board of directors are administered every day. If the managing director of I.C.I. goes away, it does not mean the firm cannot sell chemicals.

Mr. Pannell

Is it public money?

Mr. Marples

Of course, it is public money. I.C.I. is a public company to which the public have subscribed money.

Mr. Sparks

It is nothing like a local authority.

Mr. Marples

We must bear in mind the local authority is there for the service of the citizens.

Mr. MacColl

The I.C.I. can build up hidden reserves from ample capital reserves, out of which it can buy. A small local authority is not allowed by law to do so. It may find it is faced with the problem of having to buy a house, representing 3d. or 4d. on the rates.

Mr. Marples

The question of reserves has nothing to do with efficiency. Policy can be laid down and I cannot believe all the members of the council will go away precisely the same time. It is possible for the council to delegate responsibility. I would ask the House to consider the case of the man who legitimately wants to sell his house to a local authority. It is not fair for hon. Members opposite, who have a great deal of local government experience, to simply plug away at the difficulties of the local authorities.

What about the difficulties of the man who tries to sell his house? I would urge the Opposition to withdraw this Amendment. My right hon. Friend has given great thought to this matter and thinks a month is sufficient. Selling a house is not all that easy. As some hon. Members on both sides know, it is a question of picking the psychological moment to sell, just as when one is wooing the opposite sex.

Mr. Pannell

What experience does the hon. Gentleman speak from?

Mr. Marples

I have read books on the subject, and I think my greatest claim to be able to speak is that I have, so far, managed to keep away from it. At any rate, I have some little knowledge of it.

There is a psychological moment when it is easy to sell a house. If a workman is moving from one part of the country to another, it is unreasonable to ask him to wait three months before the local authority makes up its mind whether or not it will buy.

Mr. Mitchison

I should like to refer to a point that was put to the Minister during the Committee stage. While I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having met a point of drafting, this matter is a lamentable instance of Ministerial obstinacy. I am talking not from local government experience, but about what happened when a provision like this was put in as regards interim development in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932.

A submarine has just been made with three watertight compartments, so I am told, and I rather assume that there are three watertight compartments in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry. There is housing, there is local government, and somewhere down at the bottom, so low that it cannot even be mentioned nowadays, is town and country planning.

A similar provision was written into that Act specifying a period of two months in connection with interim development orders. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) who is in his place, knows all about this kind of thing and what happened to that provision. The Government found that they had to qualify it in the next Act and to allow the time to be extended, and then they had to take the provision out altogether.

The fact of the matter was that local councils could not be certain of answering applications for leave for interim development within a period of two months. [Interruption.] I do not venture to say anything about the peculiar and remarkable methods of local government in Liverpool—I am sure that they lead to the most remarkable results; but I am bound to say that it is a most extraordinary state of affairs when the people who are elected by the inhabitants of the place, and who are responsible for the thing, say, "We have come to a policy decision—" which, I suppose, is either to sell or not to sell all the council houses—"and we now leave it to our officials to decide about any given house, whether it is to be bought or not when it is offered to them." It that is the sort of way in which local government is being carried on, far too much is being left by the elected and responsible councillors of Liverpool, or wherever it is, to the officials of the Corporation, and they are not fulfilling their public duty by taking that sort of line. They ought to decide a matter of this sort.

Mr. K. Thompson

I am sure that the hon. and learned Member would not wish deliberately to mispresent either what I said or what happens in Liverpool.

Mr. Sparks

The hon. Member said that just now.

Mr. Thompson

The fact is that in a large authority such as Liverpool, and in comparable large local authorities throughout the country, matters of policy are decided by the elected committee, and their administration is in the hands of principal officials, supervised by the chairman and deputy-chairman of the elected committee. It is a perfectly normal procedure, which enables the day to day business of a local authority of that size to be carried out. Without that system, day to day local authority work simply could not be carried out.

Mr. Mitchison

I have two comments to make on that. In those circumstances, it becomes completely inexplicable how it was that the local authorities were un- able to answer the town and country planning applications within a period of two months and, accordingly, the Section in the 1932 Act had to be amended. What was wrong once as regards two months is just as wrong now as regards one month. The Ministry ought to learn by experience. My second comment is that if that is the practice of local authorities, as stated by the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson)—and I note that my hon. Friends do not agree with him in the least—then it is a slack, wrong, and irresponsible practice in regard to this matter.

Mr. K. Thompson

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, I am anxious to help—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has spoken twice already.

Mr. J. T. Price

Surely the hon. Member for Walton and the Parliamentary Secretary have entirely overlooked the provisions of the 1933 Act. The mechanics of a transaction of this kind will first operate through a finance committee, and once the finance committee has been convened and has considered the application they have no powers under the Measure to spend money. They could not authorise a transaction of this kind, or give authority to any officials of the council to act in the transaction, without the approval of full council. The period is too short because of the ordinary procedure of finance committee and full council. The procedure could not be completed in the period.

Sir Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)

The councils have delegated powers that are commonly used in almost every case under the 1933 Act.

Mr. Pargiter

In the Local Government Act, 1933, it is expressly provided that before any money is spent there must be approval of an estimate from the Finance Committee.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Pannell

I beg to move, in page 3, line 44, at the end, to insert: (5) Not less than one month before the sale of a house under the said paragraph (d) the district valuer shall report to the local authority his estimate of the market value of the house on the basis of a sale by a willing seller to a willing buyer subject to such covenants and conditions as the local authority intend to impose and thereafter for one year the report shall be available for inspection in the office of the local authority by any local government elector for the area of the authority. This Amendment, as I see it, deals with when a house shall be sold back to the local authority. First, a word or two about the district valuer. The Minister seems to imply in every argument he puts to the House that district valuers are somehow used only for a different sort of valuation from that envisaged here. But it is not uncommon for local authorities to give general directions or general information to a district valuer as to the sort of valuation, bearing in mind certain hypotheses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Gentlemen may express surprise, but a local authority might very well have a project in mind in the ordinary course of their business when they envisage buying certain properties. They may have it in mind to ask for a valuation based, for example, upon vacant possession of property or upon sitting tenant considerations.

It is not uncommon for district valuers to give various types of valuation. We dealt with this extensively in road widening schemes and compulsory acquisition schemes in the days before the war when we envisaged over a period of time buying up certain blocks of property. Consequently, the local authority would want that information in order to arrive at a valuation of the total amount involved in the project. I do not think that the Minister is on a good point in assuming that the district valuer, who is an official of the Board of Inland Revenue, is not necessarily competent to make these sort of valuations.

11.15 p.m.

It will be well known that the district valuer was called on many times by local authorities during the war, sometimes when requisitioned property had fallen into their hands, and later they may have wanted to buy it because the owner had moved away. Bearing in mind that the district valuer has been brought in automatically in such cases one would have thought him a reasonable person for the Minister to employ. I understand it is not the Minister's intention to use him when it is a matter of selling to a sitting tenant, but, of course, there is the other end of this business and when the local authority buys back one can be reasonably sure they will do so on reasonable advice.

Hon. Gentlemen will agree that the reason why valuation has gone out of the hands of local authorities is that, broadly speaking, they have never acted with any proper sense of uniformity. That has been so much the case that, to quote the case of the county of Kent, it even had a county valuation committee and paid half the valuers' fees of all their 56 local authorities in order to have uniformity of valuation. I offer that as an example of the necessity of having valuation that is generally uniform.

We are now embarking on an idea whereby local authorities themselves shall have some voice in determining the value of property, and I doubt whether we shall get proper uniformity as between one and another, despite the directions of the Minister. The district valuer knows the district and knows more than one authority. He may know Leeds and its suburbs, or north-west Kent, or suburban Essex. Broadly speaking, he is not a local official, and I think it is reasonable that he should be called in rather than the matter left to the unfettered discretion of local authorities. We are all concerned to see that public money and property is disposed of in a way which is correct so that no scandal is brought up them. All of us who have been in local government have been keen about that, and I think this Amendment serves that end.

Mr. Pargiter

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do so for the good, old-fashioned legal reason that not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done. We do not know at this stage what sort of conditions the Minister is to impose for the operation of pre-emption, and so on, any more than we know anything about the conditions of sale, but what we are concerned about is that the local authorities will not lose, and that there will not be any suggestion that a local authority has given public money away.

The effect of the Amendment would be that there would be a reliable and impartial estimate of the value of the property under the conditions under which it was either sold or repurchased. If this were done, if a record of this kind were available, the members of the council—and I accept, of course, that it would not be the members of the council who would do the negotiating, but that it would be the officers of the council—would have an impartial guide as to how the decision was arrived at, and could see that it was a fair and just decision.

That would be particularly valuable in the case of improvements, and so on, if they were involved. There would be a record not only for the benefit of the council but for the benefit of the ratepayers, who could thus assure themselves that their interests had been properly looked after. I come back to my first point, that it is a question not only of doing justice but of letting it appear that justice is done, and I hope that the Amendment will commend itself to the Minister.

Mr. MacColl

I should have thought that this Amendment would have been one that essentially would have appealed to the Minister, because it does carry out the principle that he has been advocating so patiently throughout the discussion of this Bill, namely, that the local authorities should have discretion to meet a special case—in spite of a particular bargain. At the same time, it preserves the cleansing winds of publicity so that, at least, the ratepayers may know, as they are entitled to know, what is being done with their money.

The house is their own; it has been bought or built out of public funds; and it is now being sold, and is not being sold with the sanction of the best price. Therefore, it does seem wholly reasonable that there should be available for the local government elector who is interested to find out a comparison by which he may know precisely what is the loss which is falling on the local authority.

I have down an Amendment to the Amendment, in line 5, after "report," to insert: together with a statement of the price paid or to be paid to the local authority. Lest the fact that I have an Amendment down to the Amendment be quoted as being an example of Socialist disunity I should like to explain that my purpose in suggesting it is that it is important to see that not only the market price as assessed by the district valuer should be available for inspection but also that the price at which the house is actually sold should be available for inspection.

Of course, it will be a guide to the local authority, and a salutary warning to it, to know that the people to whom it is responsible, and to whom it will have to make an account at election time, will be able to find out precisely what is happening; and if there is any gross discrepancy between the prices it will be open to the council to explain how it was that the house was sold at a figure so much below the real value.

It will not in any way restrict them or interfere with the Minister's policy. What it will do is to ensure that everyone knows what the implications of that policy are and what it is costing the ratepayer in terms of loss on the sale of the house. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman if he thinks about it will consider this a reasonable and constructive amendment and will be prepared to accept it.

Mr. Sparks

I cannot understand why the Minister is opposed so much to the use of the district valuer in these particular cases, because his Ministry is adamant, in most cases where local authorities apply for loans for acquisition of property, that the district valuer should submit a certificate of the value of the particular property it is proposed to acquire. On the basis of that certificate the Minister makes up his mind whether he will give his consent to the local authority to acquire any property they may have in mind.

But why he should want to spurn the professional advice of the district valuer in cases like this I do not know. I think the right hon. Gentleman was wrong when he said just now that if the district valuer was employed all he would give would be the scarcity value. If the right hon. Gentleman would inquire a little more closely into the work of the district valuers he will see that they are not persons of one track minds. They are fully qualified valuers, whose values are based on all kinds of conditions. Obviously, in placing any value on property to be sold they will have to make allowances for any covenants or conditions the Minister might want to impose on the sale.

As this is a well-known practice insisted on by his Department in other respects, I cannot, as I have said, understand why he wants to leave the district valuer out of the calculations of the selling price of houses of this description. I can only come to one conclusion, and it is that the Minister fears that the district valuer's price will be so much in excess of the unreasonable figure he proposes to set as a minimum, and that has a closer relationship with previous Amendments we have discussed here tonight. After all, there must be some balance. The Minister admits that he will set a minimum. He knows it is too low, because he says that local authorities may sell for a higher figure. Could they not have the guidance of a professional man, who is used exclusively for the purpose, to get a fair and reasonable price at which a particular house, or block of houses, ought to be sold?

If the right hon. Gentleman tells local authorities that they may sell a house for so much and not less, or that they may charge more if they like, how can they decide whether they should charge more for a house than the Minister's minimum, unless they have some guidance from the district valuer, or a person who is in a position to be able to advise the authority about the relationship between a reasonable price and the figure the Minister gives?

The Minister leaves the local authorities completely in the dark in this matter, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) said, I feel that if local authorities are to be allowed to sell a council house at a ridiculously low figure, then the ratepayers ought to know what is the district valuer's assessment of a reasonable value for the house. That fact alone will be an inducement to the local authority to sell the house, if they want to, at a price which is fair and reasonable to the ratepayers as well as to the purchaser.

Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to have a look at the matter again, because there is something in our arguments, despite the fact that he does not seem inclined to accept them. If he makes further inquiries in his Department, he will find that his officials are most rigid in insisting that the district valuer, in practically all cases in which his Ministry has to give consent, shall make an assessment of the value of the property before the Minister may give his consent to acquisition.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Lindgren

I think the House will agree that this has been a pleasant interlude. We have, in fact, had a number of hon. Members with local government experience appreciating the value of the services of a professional man in association with local government. That is rather a different type of discussion from that we usually have at this time, when lawyers are often criticising their fellow lawyers, who have spent hours in drafting Acts of Parliament, and are attacking one another's wording. We have been discussing a problem of local government administration and local government hon. Members have appreciated the professional services of the district valuer.

May I bring the House back to the point which I think is most fundamental in this Amendment? There is a distinct cleavage between the two sides of the House on whether these houses ought to be sold or not. So far as the Government are concerned, we understand—indeed, the Minister has said it on behalf of the Government—that they want to make it easy for persons to buy these houses, and he has admitted, in the discussion on the earlier part of the Clause which we have just passed, that the reason why the best possible price is not being asked for is because if, in fact, it was asked, there would be no sale. Therefore, to enable a sale to be effected, it is being made on favourable terms to the purchaser.

First of all, one must point out that there are two factors, and the Parliamentary Secretary, during the Committee stage, told us that the basis of the sale of these houses was to be, in the case of the pre-1945 houses, x years' purchase on the rent of the house, ignoring rates, water charges and special charges, and, in the case of the post-1945 houses, the cost to the local authority of providing the house, taking into account the cost of the land.

So far as the post-1945 houses are concerned, the suggestion made by the Parliamentary Secretary is one we can readily understand, but let us look at the pre-1945 houses, which are the vast majority and which will be the most attractive proposition. Let us not prejudge the issue, but take account of the cost of these houses at about £1,500 to £1,700. Because of the dearer money policy of the Government, no ordinary working-class person will be able to afford the loan repayment and interest charges. Those people are therefore out of it, and this is the most attractive proposition at x years' purchase of these pre-1945 houses.

One of the problems of local government finance is that borrowing for land is over 80 years, for buildings 60 years, and for roads, drains and the rest 15 to 20 years. Here we have a rate fixed by a local authority of loan repayments over these periods, and, in addition, the local authority has the power—and the vast majority of local authorities have used it—to make a subsidy from the general rate fund in order that the general rents of council houses could be lowered. That was much more applicable in the pre-1945 days, or perhaps I might say the pre-1939 days, than it is even today.

So we have a house the rent of which has been subsidised by an extended loan repayment period, which has been subsidised by a rate charge, becoming x years' purchase. I do not think it would be an extravagant guess to say that it might be 20 years' purchase. Unfortunately, in local government finance, after 10, 15 or 20 years, even, on a 60 years' loan the local authority still has a large sum outstanding so far as the original loan on the house is concerned. So, on 20 years' purchase of a house 15 years old it is more than likely that the local authority will not get back the outstanding loan debt on the house. That means the local authority is going to suffer loss.

That may not be the intention of the Government, but we have not yet seen what protection there is for the ratepayer on the basis of there being insufficient amount on the basis of the formula cover the loan outstanding. So far as the use of the local rate fund as a backing for a loan for a purchase under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, look at the ridiculous position we are going to be in. We have a house secured by the community on the basis of the value of the rates available in the area, and secured by the local rate fund charge. It is then going to be handed back at a price which does not cover the loan repayment. Then the local authority is to lend the money again to purchase the house; and again it is to secure that house and the payments on it against the local rates.

This Amendment is intended to give the local authority an opportunity to be certain that it is not losing money, and that no unfair treatment between one ratepayer and another, and between one tenant and another, is being exercised. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will accept the suggestion we make in regard to the district valuer. The fact that the district valuer has established such amicable arrangements between local authorities, and that he is so acceptable to local authorities and to Government departments ought to make this Amendment easily acceptable.

Mr. H. Macmillan

This Amendment is perhaps the last which will come be- fore us tonight. Therefore, I would be very glad if I could accept it. That would have made an agreeable ending to what has been a controversial Bill, but one which has been argued with great knowledge by the Opposition and, I think I may say, with good temper on all sides.

When I saw the Amendment on the Order Paper I was a little puzzled as to its purpose, and in the course of the debate there was apparently some duality of purpose. Both the mover and the seconder of the Amendment asked why should we not make available to the local authorities the services of the district valuer in order to help them in the difficult calculations which they will have to make. The mover referred to the problem of depreciation and improvement which would be difficult to assess by some mathematical formula because it was not a question of fact but of valuation. But this Amendment does not deal with the re-purchase but with the sale of the house.

The hon. Gentleman who wound up the debate made clear what I thought was the real purpose behind the Amendment: not so much to make available the services of a useful officer for whom we have great respect and on whom we rely locally and nationally, but rather to get a set of calculations, not relating to the actual sale price, but ones which would be of interest and a possible method of assessing what, if any, would be the advantage gained by, let us say, a sitting tenant who, after 10 or 15 years of tenancy, was given the opportunity by a local authority, which thinks it wise to do so, to purchase his house.

The district valuer would have been a valuable person if we were going to sell upon the basis of a market value but, whether it is right or not, we have passed that part of the Bill. The House has decided that, if these sales are to take place at all, it is not desirable that the full scarcity value, or the market value, or arms-length value should be exacted. The House has decided that it should be done upon a different basis, and that will not call for these professional services because the minima will be laid down on easily ascertainable facts.

As the hon. Gentleman generously said, in the case of the new post-war house it will be just the fact of what it cost. There is no need to bring in this officer of the Inland Revenue to tell us what is the fact. If, as the hon. Gentleman said, the sale of the pre-war house were to be related to the event by multiplying it by so many years' purchase, that, again, is a matter of fact, and there is no need to bring in a calculation. Once the formula is laid down as the minimum which must be charged, there is no need for the services of a district valuer.

Mr. Sparks

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying to the local authority that the minima which he is laying down he will expect them to charge for the house? If, on the other hand, he is going to give them the power to sell at a higher figure than that minima, what formula is he going to advance to them to enable them to arrive at a fair and just addition?

Mr. Macmillan

We are to relieve the local authority of the statutory duty to sell it at the market price of today, including the scarcity value. If we were not going to do that, the district valuer would be a very useful officer to discover what was the scarcity value at the market price of the day.

11.45 p.m.

We do it quite differently. We say, "We give you authority to sell them but we have put in a minima to protect the proprieties, the ratepayers and everybody concerned," and we lay down what the minima should be, relieving them of the duty to charge a scarcity value. We could not wash it out and put nothing in its place, so we put in minima. I do not think that is a calculation which will require the sort of services which the district valuer can usefully give.

Its only purpose was hinted at in the speech of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), that if the district valuer calculated the scarcity value there would then be an opportunity of showing the advantage which had been given to the sitting tenant compared with what he would have had to pay had the full scarcity value been exacted from him. That might be an interesting calculation, but one might just as well say that I should lay before every tenant entering a council house the degree of subsidy being paid on the house—it is running at more than £700 per house—so that it should be clear to everybody. I do not think that that is necessary.

This is a simple affair. Some people do not want the houses sold at all, and that is a good argument, but if they are to be sold I think it has been generally agreed that they could not be sold—there would be no object in it and no hope of doing it—at the full scarcity value. Therefore, it is not an unreasonable course to remove the obligation to sell at the full scarcity value which, if it remained, would certainly be a useful thing for the district valuer to value, and to put in its place a minimum below which the local authority shall not sell the house. The compulsory use of the district valuer will not be of any use in calculating that.

I hope that with that explanation the House will feel that it is not necessary to press the Amendment as the main body of the Bill approving the general scheme has been passed.

Mr. MacColl

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "scarcity value"? He has used the phrase as if it were something objectively determined and something which everybody knew. The Amendment refers to the selling price in the case of a willing seller and a willing buyer, and a contract made by a willing seller and a willing buyer would not have in it that degree of compulsion which is generally implied by the "full scarcity value being extorted from the unfortunate purchaser" argument used in the past.

Mr. Macmillan

if the district valuer is not to value the market value, I do not see what intermediate valuation he is expected to make or what guidance the Amendment would give him. If it is to be done at all, the procedure we have adopted will be the best. The suggested procedure would merely add to the complications.

Amendment negatived.

11.49 p.m.

Mr. Marples

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

0 At this late hour, when public transport is likely to become more difficult to obtain, I am sure the House will not expect me to make a long speech. Throughout the stages of the Bill the debates have been conducted with the utmost good temper on both sides in spite of the deep differences of opinion on certain prin- ciples which exist between the two sides of the House. As in the case of all these Bills, especially to younger hon. Members, the debates on the Bill have been salutary. We have learned a great deal about the facts of local government and the sale of council houses, and we have acquired a degree of humility which comes to all of us when we discuss these matters at length, as we did in Committee and on the Report stage.

This Bill does three things, the most important of which is that it gives subsidies and continues them to local authorities to enable them to carry on with their housing programmes. My right hon. Friend has been criticised because some people have said the subsidies are too high. I would ask these people to remember that the Government came into power and had to operate a going concern from the technical point of view. The only instrument which could continue to build the houses was the local authority, and it would have been folly, when the interest rate of money was raised because the general economic health of the community required it, not to have increased the subsidies in such a manner as to enable the local authorities to continue their building programmes.

There was no option but to continue the same level of subsidy as in the past, bearing in mind the rate of interest. Otherwise, one would have disrupted the entire building machine. To those who say the subsidies are too low, I would point out that the local authorities' associations were satisfied and, the fact they are not too low, has been shown by the way local authorities have responded to the exhortations and administrative arrangements my right hon. Friend has made to increase house building. The rate of house building—the completion of houses, the starting of houses, and the number of houses under construction—has risen remarkably in these last few months. That shows the subsidy was not too low for the purpose my right hon. Friend has in mind. All in all, the balance of the rate of subsidy has been about right.

On the selling of houses, I would point out that we, on these benches, think that the person who wants a house should have a freedom of choice, whether he is a tenant or is going to be an owner. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. G. Lindgren), has subscribed to that view, I think, but differs as to whether this is the right time and whether the circumstances are appropriate. We met that point right through the passage of this Bill, by saying there is no compulsion on local authorities to sell houses. The initiative and inspiration will spring from them. They will not be dominated nor compelled to sell houses by the Minister.

If we accept the principle that council houses should be sold, it is right and proper the price should be one which is not a profiteers' price. With the safeguards which the House has decided in the Committee stage—the five year period when they cannot sell at too high a price, etc.—I think the finances of the local and municipal authorities are well protected. With these few words I commend this Bill and I hope that the Opposition will not divide against it.

11.53 p.m.

Mr. de Freitas

On the Second Reading of this Bill, we likened it to the contrast in the Tory Party, the contrast between good and evil. We said there is something good in Clause 1 and a great deal of evil in Clauses 2 and 3. The Minister, in the course of the Committee stage, was not very responsive to our arguments. Thus, we still find something good in Clause 1 and something evil in Clauses 2 and 3.

One of the difficulties in making a fresh, lively speech on Third Reading is that the Bill is very much the same as it was during its Second Reading. On nearly every point in Committee, we felt we had out-debated the Government but the Minister stood firm and with great style and eloquence said, "No." My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), who put some of our forceful arguments in poetry, drew only blank verse from the Minister: but it was a smooth and polished job.

The subsidies provided in Clause 1 do not fulfil the undertaking which the Minister gave in this House on 19th February to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop). We believe that the housing authorities are slowly, but surely, realising the severe penalty they have to pay for the dear money policy of the Government.

The Minister came to my constituency during the Election and said that he looked forward in this Parliament to much less legislation and much more administration. If the Bill is an example of the Government's legislation and their dear money policy an example of their administration, we look forward to much less of both.

I only hope that Clause 2 will not exist for too long. It is essentially Tory, and it is the kind of Toryism which sets aside so much of the good that has been done in the countryside of recent years by the co-operation between the unions of agricultural workers and the National Farmers' Union. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) intervened earlier to point out that the law of eviction today is recognised to be harsh but that the workers and farmers had got together and done much to mitigate the harshness of the law.

The Clause and the Amendment that we had today have been thrown into the Bill without consultation with the Union. The farmworkers see the Government as coming down heavily on the side of the farmers in a matter which in the countryside is a matter of high controversy. They see public money given to private owners to increase the number of tied cottages, which they regard as an injustice. The farmworker, after six years of a Labour Government, has come to expect a house not only as good as that of the city worker, but on terms as good as that of the city worker.

Clause 3 deals with the selling of houses. It is part of the Government's policy to sell houses now, and this policy could have most disastrous results on the position of people in the housing queue. As the "Manchester Guardian" pointed out as soon as the Government's policy was announced in November of last year, it could have two results. It could reduce the number of houses available for rent, because houses once sold would hardly ever again be offered for rent; and secondly, it could reduce the standard of housing accommodation, because many of the houses would come into the hands of owners who could not maintain them as the councils did.

The fact is that councils do not appear to be at all keen to sell these houses. The Parliamentary Secretary said—and he applied it to me—that in the Committee we were surrounded by Members who had had long experience in local government. I had a comparatively short experience of local government, and therefore I sat at the feet of wisdom to learn from my hon. Friends, one of whom had been on four councils and had considerable experience. Like the Minister, I learned a great deal.

One of the things we have learned, is by the much more simple method of sending out a questionnaire from the Labour Party headquarters. Of the first 250 councils who have replied to our questionnaire as to their attitude to selling houses, although three-quarters of them are Conservative, 136 are against selling and only 27 are in favour. The rest are undecided.

I emphasise that that questionnaire dealt with sale at present, because my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) mentioned it and it is common ground on this side of the House, we are not against selling as such. We are against selling at this time, just as we made it clear on Second Reading that we are in favour of tenants owning their own houses. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a new one."] If the hon. Member had been here on Second Reading, he would have heard me and many of my colleagues say, as we have said for years, that what we were against is the selling of the houses at present.

We are in favour of tenants owning their houses. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] As a result of six years of Labour Government there are more people owning their own houses in this country than ever before. It is very good and we say it is right. There are between 4 million and 5 million people owning the houses in which they live. [Interruption.] I will send the hon. Gentleman an extract from HANSARD. Probably I have spoken too loudly and woken up one or two Members.

Is this Bill good or bad? There is some good in it and there is a lot bad in it. The Minister was exceedingly stubborn in a most elegant way and we failed to improve Clauses 2 and 3. But we did not divide against the Bill on Second Reading and we shall not divide against it tonight. If it becomes law, it will depend on the way it is administered. We shall watch that with anxiety, because this Government has a poor record in administration.

12.2 a.m.

Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster)

The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has once again raised the question of Clause 2. I should not like it to be thought that agricultural Members on this side of the House are to let the Bill go without offering a vote of thanks to my right hon. Friend for having brought in Clause 2 and resurrecting something of great value to the agricultural industry.

This Clause brings in the return of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, which was allowed to lapse by the Socialist Party in 1946. That Act was of inestimable benefit to the workers in the countryside. I speak with some experience, because I have done up for myself and my clients 15 cottages under the old Act and men are now living in them in comfort, enjoying the benefits. The only benefit that has accrued to the owners is that they have more satisfied workers. Therefore, I thank my right hon. Friend for the Bill, and particularly for putting in an Amendment that will now make it impossible for the old gibe of eviction to be brought against landlords.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Brigadier Medlicott) argued for this eloquently in Committee, and I am glad that the result is that we now have this protection, to a certain extent, for the farm worker. I do not know whether it means that at the end of four weeks it will be necessary to go to the court, but for myself I would not mind if that were so. None of us likes summary eviction; in fact, few of us have ever had a case. I have been in the industry for many years and have never had a case myself.

The Members of the party opposite, who opposed Clause 2, maintained that there have been many cases of summary eviction. When they were challenged to bring forward these cases, they were not forthcoming. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) was challenged in Committee, and he said he would. I have in my possession a brief evidently prepared for Members opposite who wanted to speak on this Bill. There are about 15 cases quoted, obviously selected from all over England in an endeavour to find the worst cases. There is only one case of summary eviction on the list—the case of a man who worked on the farm only six weeks. I imagine there was some history at the back of that.

In other cases, a period of as much as two years intervened before eviction took place, so that all the gibes about summary eviction and being turned out at a moment's notice have no substance in fact, and if that is the best the opponents of this Clause can bring forward they have a very poor case.

Mr. Speaker

I have doubts about how far it is in order to go into the question of summary eviction on Third Reading. There is really very little about it in the Bill. There is one safeguard which does not seem enough to justify raising the whole question of eviction.

Mr. Pannell

May I point out, Sir, that in Committee we spent the whole of one morning on this matter? What the hon. Gentleman is now saying is highly controversial and not truthful. I am afraid that the debate will have to be very much extended if this line is pursued.

Mr. Speaker

On Third Reading we are strictly limited to what is in the Bill. This sort of discussion, although it may be alluded to, cannot be carried too far.

Mr. Baldwin

I do not know whether I am entitled to take up the point about what I was saying not being truthful, Sir. What I have said was quite truthful. Out of the 15 cases quoted in this document only one was a case of summary eviction.

Mr. Speaker

I think the position is that the hon. Gentleman has denied that, and I hope we can pass on now to what is in the Bill.

Mr. Baldwin

From the farming point of view we welcome this Bill, and particularly do we welcome the fact that we have now got this four weeks' notice in the Bill, which will do away from the old gibe of summary eviction used in the placards of the National Union of Agricultural Workers for many years. What they will use on their banners in future I do not know.

Mr. Mitchison

In view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, if I understand the hon. Gentleman rightly he has completely misunderstood the contents of the Bill. He is now saying that there can no longer be any question of eviction in this country except on a four weeks' notice. That is not in the Bill. There is nothing of that sort in the Bill.

Mr. Speaker

That is perfectly true. All the Bill does, even in its amended form on Report, is to provide a certain protection for the tenants of houses which have received assistance for reconditioning under this Bill, which is a very much narrower point than that of eviction from tied cottages. That is certainly out of order.

Mr. Baldwin

I was speaking of summary eviction under this Bill. Anyone who takes a grant under this Bill cannot have summary eviction. I think that is so and for what has been done we thank the right hon. Gentleman.

I regret that in the passage of this Bill in all its stages attempts have been made to stir up strife between the farmer and his worker. We are a fairly happy family, and we do not have this trouble. We regret these attempts to stir up strife in our industry. Hon. Gentlemen who have no connection with the industry should stick to their own industry, and not try to create strife and discord where none exists.

12.9 a.m.

Mr. Pargiter

I have been interested in the development of the argument of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin). First of all, he said that this Bill is welcomed by the farmers. One can always understand that. Farmers will always welcome public money being dished out to them, and this is another example of public money being dished out for property which they could well pay for themselves.

Mr. Baldwin

Would the hon. Gentleman refuse to let us do the same for the farm worker as is done for the tenants of the council houses, some of whom earn £1,000 a year?

Mr. Pargiter

If I were living in a private house in a town I would not be able to go to the Government and say that I wanted this money, except under certain conditions. Those conditions are that the house shall be available for normal letting at a rent already determined. Here, however, we are doing away with the start which we made in dealing with the tied cottage evil; we are doing away with relevant provisions of the 1949 Act, under which we decided that the tenancy of the house should be a normal tenancy. That was what the farming community objected to, because, presumably, they wanted to keep the tied cottages.

The hon. Gentleman said he was not aware of what will happen at the end of the four weeks. It seems to me obvious what will happen. Whereas farmers, in the past, have been in doubt whether or not they could evict, and have gone to the court, and whereas the farm workers may have been given some little protection for a limited period by the court, now the farmers will be able to say to tenants, "Here is the law. After the four weeks' notice, out you go." That, I think, is a fair conclusion to draw from the Bill. This is a retrograde step.

We have to accept the Bill because its main purpose—its ostensible purpose—is to deal with the question of subsidy. Elsewhere, a proposal of the mixed sort in this Bill would be called sharp practice—a proposal offering something desirable with so much that is objectionable. We have to accept the Bill, and cannot do other than accept it, because of Clause 1; but that does not alter our objection to much else in the Bill.

As to the question of the sale of houses, the Parliamentary Secretary said it was perfectly clear that there was no pressure on the local authorities to sell houses. On the face of it, that may be so. Nevertheless, the pressure is there—or will be there. I wonder how far this is the thin end of the Tory wedge. I wonder how long it will be—it will not be long, because we shall not have Tory Ministers for long—before they will be saying to local authorities, "The cost of subsidies is very high, and bears very heavily on your rates and the national Exchequer, but if you sell your houses you will be relieved of your subsidy rate charges and the Exchequer will be relieved, too, of its contributions."

That is how the pressure will come, and it seems to me that there will be ample scope for pressure to be applied in that way on local authorities, and that it may be that in the end the local authorities will be selling houses to whomsoever can afford to buy them, who will not necessarily be those with the greatest need of houses.

The Minister has refused to extend the pre-emption period to seven years, in spite of our wish to have that done. The effect of his refusal will be that at the end of five years, of the pre-emption period, a person will be perfectly free to do exactly as he likes, and to dispose of his house at a profit. I do not know what original covenants the local authorities will apply, or whether they will be carried out by heirs and successors. I do not know how all that will operate.

However, it seems to me that this sort of thing will happen under this Bill, that if a man, having bought a house, has to move to another place altogether because of his work—a change of job, for instance—but within the pre-emption period, after only four years, he will have to sell under the conditions; but the man who buys will have only a year to go before he can sell it at a profit.

That is my reading of the Bill. Preemption can operate only in respect of one person, or else over a period of five years for any number, and there will be people who will do very well out of it. That part of the Bill is extremely bad, because it will affect not only sitting tenants but new houses—the Minister has made that clear—and new houses will go to the people who can afford to buy them, not necessarily to the people having most need of them, and who cannot afford to buy them.

Let us take the case of two equal cases of housing needs. One person can afford to pay for a house, the other cannot afford to do so. What will be the position of the local authority? Some local authorities—at least the more reactionary of them—will show a tendency to sell to the person who is able to pay, which brings us back to the argument that the person with the purse will get the house, and the one without a purse will not. That is departing from the principle of local authorities providing houses to meet the needs of the people. These provisions are thoroughly bad, and I hope they will not be used often and to that extent that the Bill is inoperative in Clauses 2 and 3, it is a good Bill.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Lindgren

It is customary on Third Reading to congratulate the Minister on getting his Bill a stage nearer the Statute Book. We on this side of the House cannot do it on this Bill, but on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends I wish to say that we appreciate the courtesy of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, as well as their patience during what to them must have been a long and tedious Committee stage, which was extended by the detailed discussions we had, without much effect, on the various parts of the Bill.

We do not welcome the Bill because, first of all, it increases the subsidy both nationally and locally through the deliberate policy of Her Majesty's Government in increasing the price of money. Instead of preventing a steep rise in rent charged by local authorities, and therefore resulting in a claim for more wages, it permits an increase in the subsidy. We feel that the policy of cheaper money advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—and advanced very effectively—and which was appreciated by local authorities because it was a policy of providing services for the people rather than just using it as a commodity, is the one which is commendable to everyone.

A further unfortunate and retrograde feature of the Bill, which I am surprised Tory Members representing rural constituencies have not taken to heart at all, is the interference with the previous Government's policy of a preferential subsidy for rural areas. In this Bill the Minister is taking the right to withdraw or withhold the special subsidy for rural housing in certain circumstances, which means that those members of the rural community who were able to enjoy this subsidy at one time will not enjoy it now. It will make more difficulties for the rural district councils, and for those railwaymen, postal workers and others who live in rural communities. Because the Minister is given power under the Bill to withdraw the subsidy granted by previous Governments rural workers on rural wage structures will have to pay higher rents for their houses, and it is known that the wages structure in agri- culture determines the general wages structure in a number of other industries in these areas.

Rural district councils have used the subsidy for rural housing and made it available for other houses. They have pooled them, as was allowed under the 1936 Act, and it is true that workers not associated directly with agriculture have taken advantage of their local council pooling their accounts on what was normally intended as an agricultural subsidy.

On the sale of houses, I have said on a number of occasions, but it sometimes seems to be misunderstood, that we do not object to persons owning their own houses, but we do object to the sale of council houses. We much prefer the provisions enacted by previous Tory Governments in the 1923 and 1936 Acts, which provided for tenant purchase schemes, but which very few successive Tory Ministers, after being given the power in those Acts, have allowed the local councils to operate, and, in fact, there were more schemes approved under the 1923 Act than under that of 1936.

When it comes to the general question of the owner-occupier, we feel that a totally different type of scheme has to be conceived by the local authority, and that the 1936 Act is a much better medium for local authorities to help people to own their own houses, because they were provided for under schemes of collective management and making available a general pool of houses for renting.

The other point is that, although this Bill is an encouragement to people to buy their own houses, it is also, by the dearer money policy of the Government, making it impossible for them to do so. The rates of interest now being charged by local authorities under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, and the various Sections of the Housing Acts, and by the Public Works Loan Board, building societies, insurance companies or whatever source the money comes from, have increased to such an extent that the ordinary person will not now be able to afford the interest charges and loan repayments on 20 years' purchase of these houses.

While, on the one hand, the Bill makes it possible for houses to be purchased, it does not make this any easier for people to do it, because, in fact, they have to pay a greater rate of interest charges on the money they borrow. Although appreciating the conduct of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary in the handling of the Bill, and although we dislike the Bill, since Clause 1 includes the essential subsidy which was asked for by the local authorities, we do not intend to divide the House against it on Third Reading.

12.24 a.m.

Mr. H. Macmillan

When a Minister in charge of a Bill hears a leading Member of the Opposition saying that he does not propose to divide against the Third Reading, perhaps it is a little foolhardy for the Minister to step in, because he might in some way spoil that admirable sentiment.

I only do so because I want to thank both hon. Gentlemen for what they have said, and, particularly, for the courtesy which has been shown to me by them during the long progress of this Bill. I will not follow the hon. Gentleman into a discussion of cheap money. It is, of course, like brandy, in that it may have unfortunate effects if taken in too large quantities, and sometimes on those who find themselves in the nature of subscribers to the loans.

When the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) expressed his determination not to vote against the Bill, I was a little surprised, as he went on to deal with it Clause by Clause to say that each one was bad. He said that Clause 1 was a breach of an undertaking of mine—one cannot have anything worse than that—that Clause 2 was bad, that Clause 3 was bad, that Clause 4 did nothing in particular and that Clause 5 was mere definition. Yet he then decided not to vote against the Bill. On the same principle, having said that the Amendment which I accepted from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Brigadier Medlicott), did nothing but harm, the Opposition did not divide against it. After all these things, so late at night, it is perhaps better to leave the matter with the agreeable feeling that we have done a good job.

I would like to say one thing about the main part of the Bill, important as Clauses 2 and 3 are from different aspects. It is the subsidy part, which is the main reason for the Bill. I think I carried out exactly what I said I would. The local authorities think so. In the whole of the negotiations with the local authorities' organisations they were satisfied with the suggestions in Clause 1. There was no dissentient voice. The negotiations were carried on in a friendly manner, and no suggestion was made for carrying the further burden in any but the normal proportion between the Exchequer and the rates.

I am grateful for the help they gave me. What has happened since is that they have not shown any dissatisfaction with the terms on which they are asked to build houses. They have not said, "We will have no more of your allocations on these terms." They have said, "We like your instalments," and they are coming along for more and more. I am giving them more and more.

As for the story that fewer houses are to be built to let, I say that more will be built. More have been built in the last five months. This promises that, unless some sudden catastrophe overwhelms this country, this year there will be more houses built to let than have ever been built. I do not worry about that story, and I do not think that the local authorities are anxious about it. What they are anxious about is how they are to go further under the plans laid down by the Bill.

However, I am grateful that the Opposition are not going to divide against the Bill, and that, although it is bad, or almost entirely bad, there are little bits of goodness which encourage them not to press us further. I am also grateful for the personal courtesy and kindness shown to me, and I hope that in the conduct of other Bills I shall be fortunate enough to have similar Members on the Committee, and similar leaders on the Opposition benches.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.