HC Deb 16 October 1952 vol 505 cc468-91
Mr. J. Stuart

I beg to move, in page 6, line 34, at the end, to add: (2) In relation to a dwelling in respect of the provision or improvement of which an improvement grant has been made under section one hundred and eleven of the principal Act, being a dwelling which is for the time being occupied in pursuance of a contract of service by a member of the agricultural population, section one hundred and fourteen of that Act shall have effect as if there were included among the conditions specified in subsection (1) of that section the following condition, that is to say, that if the contract is determined—

  1. (a) by less than four weeks' notice given by the employer;
  2. (b) by dismissal of the employee without notice; or
  3. (c) by the death of either party;
the employer or his personal representative shall permit the employee (or, in the case of his death, any person residing with him at his death) to continue to occupy the dwelling free of charge from the determination of the contract until the expiration of a period of four weeks, beginning with the date on which the notice is given or, if the contract is determined otherwise than by notice, with the date on which it is determined. (3) In this section "occupied," means occupied otherwise than by a tenant, and "occupy" and "occupation" (except in relation to occupation by an employer), shall be construed accordingly. We have already had a discussion on Clause 3, dealing with the Amendment which is now before us, which merely brings this Clause into line with the Amendment with which we have already dealt in Clause 3 and which has been agreed to. I do not suppose that the Committee will wish to cover the same ground again. I must confess that I have nothing of any note or interest to add to what I said in moving the Amendment to Clause 3.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

From the point of view of the part of the country which I represent, this is a very important Clause, because it extends to the improvement of agricultural cottages what used to be done under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, 1936. The agricultural workers in my part of the world have been awaiting this for a very long time. Indeed, during the Summer Recess it was the one question which I was asked by farmers and farm workers alike—"When shall we get back the grants for the reconditioning of rural workers' cottages"? On behalf of the workers and farmers in my part of the world, I welcome the Clause most warmly and congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having included it in the Bill

There is, however, one difficulty. Section 111 of the 1950 Act applies certain restrictions to the amount of money which can be granted and imposes certain conditions under which a grant can be obtained. Section 111 (4, b) says that no application for an improvement grant can be entertained if the amount of expenditure on the improvement is less than £100 or more than £600. In other words if an application for an improvement to a cottage is to cost £610, then, under the Bill, the application cannot be entertained.

That figure may have been reasonable when the 1950 Act was passed, but the cost of reconditioning and of installing all those things about which the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) spoke earlier—a piped hot water supply, baths, added bedrooms—is today very often far more than £600. Those of us who are interested in this subject are very anxious that steps should be taken to remedy that state of affairs. Under the Act, the limit of the grant is 50 per cent. of £600—£300; that is the maximum which can be obtained.

There are various alternatives by which my right hon. Friend could put this right. He could leave the maximum grant at £300 but amend the Act so that there was no upper limit. In other words, if a farmer wanted to make a good job of a cottage, there should be no upper limit to his expenditure, although the upper limit to the grant would remain at £300. Or my right hon. Friend could take advantage of the proviso to Section III which says, briefly, .. that where, in a case falling within paragraph (a) of this sub-section, the amount of the expenses estimated to be incurred exceeds six hundred pounds or, as the case may be, the maximum amount for the time being prescribed … then the Secretary of State, by order——

Mr. Woodburn

On a point of order. I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman can help us, because some of us find it difficult to see how he relates this argument to Clause 6.

7.45 p.m.

Captain Duncan

Grants are being made under Section 111, and I am dealing with Section 111.

Mr. T. Fraser

We are not discussing the Act; we are discussing the Bill.

Captain Duncan

I agree, but what we are trying to do is to improve the Bill by making arrangements whereby the old Act will work. Under the proviso to which I have referred the Secretary of State has power, by prescription, to alter the upper limit of £600; and that is the second alternative which I offer to the Government—that he should by prescription, using one of the methods of prescribing detailed in the 1950 Act, prescribe a higher figure than £600

Mr. T. Fraser

On a point of order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is obviously satisfying his vanity and that of some of his near neighbours and hon. Friends by making a speech about Section 111 of the principal Act. I know that reference is made in Clause 6 to Section 114, but the only purpose of Clause 6 is to revoke provisions which were contained in Section 111. I submit with all humility that it is out of order to discuss the desirability of further legislation to improve Section 111 or any other Section of the 1950 Act.

Captain Duncan

Further to that point of order. If you will refer to Clause 6, Mr. Brown, you will see that it refers, first of all, to Section 114 of the Act. If you look at Section 114, you will see that it depends upon Section 111, which is also mentioned in Clause 6. I submit, therefore, that I am in order in making these remarks, which I now propose to draw to a close by asking the Secretary of State to make a statement about what he intends to do to deal with this real difficulty and, if possible, put it right.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I want for a few moments to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) in his plea that, under powers given by this Clause, the Secretary of State should by legislation raise the limit of £600. My hon. and gallant Friend has said quite truly that costs have so increased since this limit was imposed that there is every justification for raising the amount. There are very many cases in Scotland of two-roomed cottages which require modernisation and where it would be possible to install a bath and scullery within the limit of £600; but to bring them to a satisfactory standard in terms of modern sanitation byelaws and in terms of the wishes which have quite rightly been expressed by hon. Members opposite during the last few days, would cost somewhere between £800 and £900, and considerably more than that in inaccessible or remote areas.

I want, if I may, to give an example from my own constituency—an example which was brought to my notice only two weeks ago. There were three stone-built cottages, very solidly built in the old Scottish style, but hopelessly old-fashioned and requiring modernisation. It happened that the proprietor in that case could afford only £2,000 for their modernisation. He was quite prepared to spend that amount in modernising these three old cottages.

Mr. McNeil

In that case, had he been willing to spend that sum, would the owner have had a claim against his. Income Tax?

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I am not dealing with Income Tax; I am dealing with the Clause. But since the right hon. Gentleman has asked that question, I would say that probably the owner might have dealt with the matter under the ten years maintenance claim arrangement, if he had a maintenance claim. But that is not the point. The point I want to make is that here was a proprietor of three stone-built cottages which needed modernisation and who was prepared to spend £2,000 upon them. He obtained an estimate, and the estimate——

Mr. T. Fraser

On a point of order, Mr. Brown. The only thing Clause 6 does is to tie a house which was untied under the 1949 Act, and I submit that all this discussion is out of order.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Further to that point of order. The Clause varies the conditions applicable to cottages which are the subject of improvement grants, and it is under that that we ask that the conditions be varied. If I may continue with my example, here were three cottages with an estimate of £2,900, which was about £900——

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Tom Brown)

I am sorry to have to intervene, but I must ask the hon. Gentleman to discontinue unless he is prepared to confine his remarks to the matter which is before the Committee.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

With great respect, Mr. Brown, I should not have embarked on this unless I had taken the best possible advice, and my advice was that it was competent to discuss under the Clause the conditions imposed by Sections 114 and 111 of the principal Act. It is to those conditions that I am directing my remarks, and I hope that that is in order, for I understand it to be so.

The Temporary Chairman

I must again ask the hon. Member to confine his remarks to the Question before the Committee, which is, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

I am confining my remarks entirely to Clause 6 and saying that Clause 6 ought not to stand part of the Bill because it does not go far enough. I am directing the attention of the Committee to ways in which Clause 6 might be properly used by the powers which will be given under the Clause for raising the limit of the grant. I need not develop the point at great length. I merely express the hope that the Secretary of State will be prepared to make a statement, now if he is permitted to do so or else at some other time, which will meet the wishes expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend, which I cordially support.

Mr. T. Fraser

I am sorry, Mr. Brown, that I have to rise two or three times to draw your attention to the fact that hon. Members were out of order. I knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite were to make these speeches tonight, because there was a discussion behind closed doors a couple of nights ago when a promise was given that a reply would be made to the speeches which we have just heard if they could be made within the rules of order.

Captain Duncan

On a point of order, Mr. Brown. I knew nothing about the discussion two nights ago. I certainly was not present and I heard nothing about it.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Further to that point of order, I was not present and had no knowledge of the discussion.

Mr. T. Fraser

Perhaps it would help hon. Gentlemen if I gave them the number of the Committee Room where the discussion took place.

In the course of an appeal to you, Mr. Brown, I have already stated the sole purpose of Clause 6. Section 114 of the 1950 Act, taken from the 1949 Act which provided for grants for the improvement of certain houses, provided that any house which was improved by means of a grant under that Act would be occupied by an employee or a tenant but would not be a tied house. Clause 6 says to the owner of such a house, "The important condition attached to your grant has now been removed", and the Government are saying to the tenant, who is protected under the Rent Restriction Act, that the protection which he now enjoys is to be taken from him. This is a monstrous decision, and I sincerely hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will join me in the Division Lobby in opposing the Clause.

Mr. J. Stuart

I do not want to get out of order but I read the title of the Clause as: Variation of conditions applicable to dwelling in respect of which an improvement grant has been made. I was under the impression—although I was not present at any private meetings which have just been referred to—that this was the appropriate occasion for me to make a brief statement as to the Government's intentions about improvement grants. I hope I shall not be out of order in doing so, because this is a matter which, as my hon. Friends have said, has caused a great deal of disappointment in the past on this side of the House in that these improvement grants were not allowed unless a cottage became untied.

I do not want to go into all the details. We have considered it with great care, and in the interests of restoring to the agricultural population conditions which will be the best that we can achieve and getting houses brought up to modern standards and thereby helping to keep people in agriculture, the Government have decided to restore these grants. The grants were previously taken away from all houses unless they were untied.

With permission, I should like to make a brief statement. Hon. Members will recall that when improvement grants were introduced in 1949 a limit of £600 a house was placed on the cost of work which might, in the normal way of things, be approved for a grant. Applications over £600 a house could be approved only with the express consent of the Secretary of State.

During the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill a number of hon. Members represented that, in view of the increases in building costs since 1949, the time had come for the £600 limit to be raised or abolished, and I was urged to exercise my power to make regulations prescribing a higher limit. I received similar representations from a number of bodies in Scotland and, in particular, from the Association of County Councils and the Scottish Landowners' Federation.

The Government have considered those representations very carefully and have come to the conclusion that an increase in the limit is now justified. Accordingly, I propose to lay before Parliament in the next day or two regulations raising the limit from £600 to £800. At the same time the regulations will raise the lower limit, which is designed to discourage trivial applications, from £100 to £150. I feel sure that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Major Anstruther-Gray), my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Spence), my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, North and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan) and others who have made repeated representations on this subject will welcome this announcement.

The effect of the regulations will be that local authorities will now be in a position to deal with applications for grant for improvements costing between £150 and £800 without reference to the Secretary of State. Applications above the new limit may still be submitted by local authorities for the consent of the Secretary of State, and I shall continue to look sympathetically at any cases where there are special circumstances, such as remoteness, to justify the high cost.

I am satisfied that these alterations in the limits will encourage the wider use of the provisions of the 1950 Act for the improvement of existing houses, particularly in rural areas. I am authorised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to say that he proposes to make regulations to secure a similar increase in the limits of cost qualifying for improvement grants in England and Wales.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. McNeil

The right hon. Gentleman will not think me at all discourteous, I hope, if I compliment him upon the decision in his "extemporaneous" statement. I am quite willing to accept his assurance and that of hon. Gentlemen opposite that no meeting took place, that no arrangement was made, that no statement was prepared and that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) must have dreamt all of it. But the right hon. Gentleman has frequently confessed to the House and to the Committee his diffidence in speaking. He has excelled himself tonight, and I hope he will never go back on the high level which he has established tonight.

I want to suggest that it is a little unusual, to say the least of it, that he should announce a principle in this fashion, and that he should raise the limits of this expenditure on a Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill. I quite understand that the Secretary of State will have to come to the House with regulations. I am not quite clear in my mind at the moment what power we have in relation to those regulations, but I will satisfy myself on the subject. At any rate it will be completely competent to discuss those regulations then, and with great respect I very much doubt whether it is competent to introduce this extraneous statement at this stage of this Bill.

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

And at this late hour. It is disgraceful.

Mr. McNeil

I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan), but the point I am trying to make is that I doubt if it is competent for us to discuss this matter now.

The Chairman

I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland ought to have moved to report Progress. I did not know how long he was going to be, and I am to blame. I am very sorry.

Mr. McNeil

You can quite understand, Sir Charles, that I was not attempting to reproach you or the Chair in any way. I was suggesting that this was a carefully concealed plot and a discourtesy to the Committee, which I hasten to add is something of which the right hon. Gentleman is almost never guilty. He is most careful in his dealings with the House and the Committee, and I am sorry that, in my opinion, he has failed tonight in this respect; but the reason is quite plain. This is a miserable device because the Government did not want a discussion of any length. We will see whether we can amend that procedure when the regulations come before the House.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I am sure the Committee will acquit my right hon. Friend of any discourtesy through taking the opportunity at the earliest moment to acquaint the Committee of an important step which he proposes to take and which will have a bearing on the discussion which we are now having. It will, in fact, shorten discussion, and a Minister is always entitled to take any step which will shorten discussion and which, I venture to suggest, will commend itself to the majority of the Committee

Mr. McInnes

It was clumsy.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

Hon. Gentlemen opposite would have complained bitterly if this had been released to the Press, as it might easily have been, without the opportunity having been taken to make an announcement in Parliament.

Mr. McInnes

It was released last night.

Mr. J. Stuart

It was not.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) is really at fault.

Mr. McInnes

I know the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had nothing to do with it.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I only know I read the papers, and it was not in any of the papers which I read. Further, I did not take part in any discussion or plan to spring anything, but both I and my hon. Friends were most anxious that the out-of-date limit of £600 should be increased I think that, from all the arguments we have had, it is easy to see that building costs have increased considerably since the limits were laid down, and they have increased the movement——

Mr. T. Fraser

On a point of order. A few minutes ago, Sir Charles, you ex-pressed regret that you did not ask the Secretary of State to move to report Progress in order that the announcement he made might be in order. The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) seems now to be making a contribution which must be just as much out of order on the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill as that of the Secretary of State.

The Chairman

I think it would put the proceedings in order if I asked the Secretary of State for Scotland at this stage to move to report Progress and then we could have the discussion.

Mr. J. Stuart

I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I should just like to say that I did not consider that I was doing anything discourteous to the Committee in making the statement which I did. I maintain that if I had merely done this by regulations and then produced the regulations without making any announcement to the Committee, it would have been much more discourteous. I was, of course, pressed for some time to get this limit raised, and this is quite a normal and natural procedure.

No disclosure was made by me to anyone on this side of the Committee, but after the discussions with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government I thought that the right and proper thing—if I did it in the wrong way, I apologise to you, Sir Charles—was to inform the Committee of the Government's decision. There had to be a considered statement which had to be worked out in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and with the Treasury. I think I did the right thing in informing the Committee at the earliest possible moment of the decision of the Government to lay the regulations which have to be laid.

Mr. Woodburn rose——

The Chairman

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

While I was on my feet when this Motion was moved, I am willing to give way to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn), because I understand this is a new Motion.

The Chairman

This is a new Motion to put the proceedings in order; the debate was out of order on the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

If the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to speak immediately, I am willing to give way, though I merely want to say that I welcome the Motion which has been made. It certainly enables our discussion to be a little wider than it would have been under the narrower limits of the original Motion. I contend that I was in order in what I was saying, because it was a subject which my hon. Friends and I were about to raise in the debates on this Bill. The mere fact that the Secretary of State has given advance notice that the regulations will be laid and will come before the House will tend to shorten the debate, because we shall have a full opporunity later of considering the whole question, and no doubt these regulations will be prayed against if necessary.

In the meantime, I only want to say that the increase in building costs has made the previous limit of £600 quite irrelevant to the building position today, and it was most anomalous that if the figure of £600 was exceeded by even £5 it thereby took the whole transaction out of the provisions which Parliament made in the past for the better housing of the agricultural population. It is a good thing that this limit should be raised.

I do not think that the rise from £600 to £800 corresponds at all with the rise in building costs which has taken place since the £600 limit was originally laid down. It would have been of considerable advantage if the limit had been made even higher. Be that as it may, half a loaf is better than no bread, and this modest step taken by the Secretary of State will not throw the matter out of gear, taking into account the other provisions we are making.

I was also interested, incidentally, in the fact that we have reversed the usual practice, and that an important announcement concerning England was made by the Secretary of State for Scotland. On more than one occasion we have had important statements concerning Scotland made by the responsible Minister in England. The fact that both sides of the Border are keeping in step and that the limit which was out of date has been brought up to date seems to me to be something on which this Committee should congratulate itself. We certainly congratulate the Secretary of State and the Minister of Housing and Local Government on having arrived at this eminently sensible proposal.

Mr. McNeil

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made three points, to which I shall try to address myself shortly. He thinks that the increased limit is appropriate, and he has given the Committee some very interesting information. He has told the Committee in effect that building costs have gone up 33⅓ per cent. since Her Majesty's Government took office.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

Since 1949, since the limits were laid down.

Mr. McNeil

My recollection is that at the termination of the last Government there had been no application made by any representative Scottish body upon this subject. I am speaking from recollection. If I am wrong perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will tell me of one. He says that we need to raise this limit by 33⅓ per cent.

My second point is not that there is no necessity to raise this limit. That case must be agreed. There seems to be some confusion in the mind of the Government. If a burglar comes in and takes away £600, we do not expect the Government to take credit for making £800 available to the burglar the next time. We say that this introduction at this time means that greater assistance will be available to people with dwellings which were untied and now immediately revert to being tied dwellings. That is a point which the Government do not seem to understand.

As to the third point, I would be the last person to accuse the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland of designed discourtesy. Every quarter of the House would admit that he is a most courteous and considerate Minister of the Crown, yet he takes a curious course, in bringing this announcement to a Committee of the House. There would have been no difficulty in his employing the normal usages of the House of Commons by making an announcement after Questions, with the permission of the Chair, or by arranging with one of his hon. Friends to put down an approved Question. That is perfectly legitimate. Wherever the meeting took place, we feel that there undoubtedly was an agreed plan. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head. I am in a slightly difficult position because, by an accident, I know more than I might otherwise know about this matter, and I do not intend to tell the Committee.

Are hon. Gentlemen opposite going to sit solemnly shaking their heads and expecting the Committee to believe that in this strange place and in response to three strange speeches the Secretary of State gets up by accident and reads out a carefully prepared statement? I would never accuse the Secretary of State of such behaviour. It is his hon. Friends behind him with whom I am trying to get on nodding terms with the truth in this situation. Because it has been taken in this way we feel it is unusual and wrong, and we shall take such steps to give further consideration to this subject as we can and to decide what we shall do about it.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Normally I do not intervene in debates upon Scotland.

Mr. Manuel

Why not?

Mr. Ede

Because you, Sir Charles, once dropped a hint to me from the Chair as to my appropriate position on a Scottish day; but this is no longer a Scottish day. This is indeed becoming a United Kingdom night. An announcement has been made not merely on behalf of the Secretary of State for Scotland with regard to Scottish housing. The Secretary of State has assured us that he has had consultations with the Minister of Housing for England and Wales, and he makes a pronouncement on behalf of that Minister too.

Mr. Rankin

Where is he?

Mr. Ede

There is not a Minister associated with the Ministry of Housing here. We did have a fleeting visit from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. I do not know whether he had some pre-knowledge of what was going to happen. At any rate when he saw that trouble was blowing up he discreetly left. Having known the hon. Gentleman for a good many years I congratulate him on continuing the course he has always taken when trouble looks like blowing up.

As I understand the position, the Secretary of State proposes to submit a statutory instrument to the House of Commons dealing with the issue that has been raised. I assume there will have to be a separate, similar instrument for England and Wales, I gather that the right hon. Gentleman assents to that?

Mr. J. Stuart


Mr. Ede

Therefore, probably it is as well that we postpone anything we have to say on the merits of the matter until we get the statutory instrument before us.

In view of the way in which this matter has been raised, we ought to press that it shall be brought before the House at a time when it can be fully and adequately discussed and when everybody will have an ample opportunity of knowing what is going to happen. One could comment on the fact that the Secretary of State evidently knew that this statement was going to be asked for, that he came here well prepared, and that the Civil Service English of the document he read to us was so perfect that it was clear that it was not something which was vamped up since the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) got on his feet and surprised us all by trying to prove what has now been demonstrated was not the fact, namely, that his speech on Clause 6 was in order.

The whole discussion has arisen in such a way as to make people on this side of the Committee feel that this has been an attempt to get a pronouncement made in the way in which it would attract the minimum of attention. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) upon the speedy action he took to ensure that the irregularity of the proceedings should be made clear. I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friends will divide the Committee as a protest against this way of bringing English business before the Committee on an occasion when it is generally understood that the presence of English Members is not regarded as being very useful.

The Chairman

The Question is, "That I do report Progress"——

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

Surely we ought to have a reply from the Government to the very important speech which my right hon. Friend has made. I do not wish to intervene. I have taken no part in the debate but, like every Member for a British constituency, I am very concerned about this matter of housing costs. It is fantastic that when the overwhelming number of Members are at dinner, or are in the Library considering the very important matter that we have to discuss tonight, an announce-of this kind should be made, almost sub rosa, and that we should have to wait and read our papers tomorrow for this extraordinary announcement about the hopeless lack of control in the industry and the chaotic condition that prices have reached under a Tory Government.

I am surprised that the Minister should smile at that. I used to think that housing costs were expensive under a Labour Government when I compared them with pre-war figures. We thought the time was coming when prices would go down, but this sudden suggestion that prices have increased to this extent will invalidate almost every vital figure in the Budget proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

When one takes into account that this increase in prices is subject to increased interest rates that the Government have imposed arbitrarily, it is clear that the whole housing policy of the Government is put in jeopardy by this announcement. And the ground for the increase is that the costs of the industry have increased. I understand that in my absence the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) confirmed that from his own figures——

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

It would have been much better if the hon. Member had listened to what I said before commenting on it.

Mr. Hale

Of course it would have been better had I listened to what the Minister said, but the Minister did not have the normal courtesy to tell us that he was going to say it. The announcement was not made at the normal time. It was out of order. It did not arise on Clause 6. It was a mere question of obiter dicta. In that way an important Ministerial statement was made to an almost empty House only a few minutes ago. That is the reason, Sir Charles, why you have been asked to accept this Motion, and I am happy to think it may be voted upon.

Let us face the situation. We are confronted with the duty tonight of discussing later on a Bill which may involve the whole question of our relations with the friendly Republic of Eire and on which clearly there must be full discussion. We have another Committee stage before us involving not merely our relations and agreements with Finland but our future agreements with other States. It is at this time, with all that before us, that we are confronted with an intervention in a Scottish debate from which we Sassenachs as a matter of courtesy normally abstain.

I am bound to say, with the greatest deference and respect and amity towards my Scottish friends, that if it means that every English Member has to sit through every Scottish debate in future, it seems to me to be putting a rather heavy burden upon us, although no doubt it will result in some educational and oratorical——

Mr. McNeil

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the prospect alarms Scottish Members considerably. If right hon. Gentlemen are to make announcements about England in this Committee, think of our terror if English Ministers make announcements on behalf of Scotland in an English Committee.

Mr. Hale

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend, and I am sure he will symphasise with me when I say that if one contemplates the possibility of Scottish announcements being made early on a Monday or late on a Friday, it will introduce a new principle into our debates which may be a very serious matter.

It is not good enough for Her Majesty's Government to be represented here by three or four or five people, most of whom, with great respect, have no Ministerial relations with this subject, and for them to ask us to accept this announcement without protest. I should have thought that out of reasonable courtesy to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) there should be some answer and some elaboration of detail. It is only because of the absence of that answer that I have ventured to intervene for these few seconds.

If there is to be no answer I sincerely hope that my hon. Friends will continue this discussion until there is, because it is the duty of the House of Commons to see that we receive that respect from the Government Front Bench to which we are entitled, even if they are not able to give us adequate information or adequate explanation.

Mr. Ross

Quite apart from what I prefer to consider as the accidental discourtesy of the Government Front Bench in timing this announcement as they have, I think there is a serious question of governmental sharp practice arising here. Surely it is no accident that on this very Bill yesterday we were discussing the financial basis and calculations relating to the increase of the subsidies for housing. We were told then that the increased subsidies were related to the rise in the interest rates.

We are told tonight that this increase from £600 to £800 for improvement grants is related entirely to the rising costs of building. That shows quite openly how fantastically wrong are the calculations relating to subsidies. If there has been a 33⅓ per cent. rise in the actual costs of housing, why did the Joint Under-Secretary of State not meet the requests of the local authorities for increases in subsidies relating to those rises in costs?

I am perfectly sure that when we discussed this yesterday and put these very points that the Secretary of State for Scotland knew this announcement was to be made. I sincerely hope we shall vote on this.

Mr. J. Stuart

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I made the announcement on what I believed to be the appropriate Clause of the Bill. As to the other points, I hope the Committee will be satisfied with what I explained before, that regulations will be laid regarding this increase in grants both as affecting England and Scotland. In view of that, I hope the Committee will permit me to ask leave to withdraw the Motion to report Progress.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I am sorry I missed the original statement. May I ask one question? Have there been any discussions with the local authority associations on this matter, because normally that is what takes place and I have heard of no discussion with the English local authorities.

Mr. Stuart

I said originally that various representations had been made to the Government with regard to the desire for an increase.

Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)

I wish to add my protest to the procedure that has been adopted in this respect on an important financial commitment of the Government in relation to the repair of agricultural cottages. It is obvious from what has been stated by the Minister that there has been some collusion between the Government Front Bench and back benches to arrange to make this statement at this stage in the discussion of this Clause of the Bill. The statement has no fundamental relationship to this Bill as such. It would have had to be made as a pronouncement of Government policy even if this Bill had not been here. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you want to vote on this?"] We will have the vote on this very soon. I am just putting in my word of vehement objection to the procedure that has been adopted.

8.30 p.m.

The Government ought to be thoroughly ashamed and disgusted with themselves in adopting this procedure instead of being frank and honest enough to follow the accepted line of procedure when making important pronouncements of this kind on financial policy. After all, as has been said, it is not merely a question of Scottish agricultural cottages. The statement and its effects will apply to the whole of the financial arrangements throughout England and Wales as well as Scotland. In my opinion, these statements should have been made on behalf of the Government by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, followed by a statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to Scotland.

I rest content at this stage with registering my strong protest at the amateur way in which this matter has been dealt with. There is wide scope for a large part of the present occupants of the Government Front Bench to attend night-school instruction in local government administration.

The Chairman

Is it your pleasure that the Motion be withdrawn?

Mr. McNeil

Without protracting the debate, I think it better, in view of this unusual happening, that we should at any rate record our impatience and displeasure with this highly unusual but plainly calculated happening by voting.

Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 114; Noes, 141.

Division No. 238.] AYES [8.31 p.m.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hubbard, T. F. Pryde, D. J.
Bacon, Miss Alice Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Rankin, John
Balfour, A. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Bence, C. R. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rhodes, H.
Blackburn, F. Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Robens, Rt. Hon. A
Bowden, H. W. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brockway, A. F. Keenan, W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) King, Dr. H. M Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Kinley, J. Ross, William
Carmichael, J. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Royle, C.
Champion, A. J. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Clunie, J. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Short, E. W.
Collick, P. H. Lewis, Arthur Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) MacColl, J. E. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Cullen, Mrs. A. McInnes, J. Snow, J. W.
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) McKay, John (Wallsend) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, Harold (Leek) McLeavy, F. Sparks, J. A.
de Freitas, Geoffrey MacMillan, M. K (Western Isles) Steele, T.
Delargy, H. J. McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sylvester, G. O.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mann, Mrs. Jean Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Field, W. J. Manuel, A. C Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Forman, J. C. Mellish, R. J. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mitchison, G. R. Timmons, J.
Gibson, C. W. Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Viant, S. P.
Glanville, James Morley, R. Watkins, T. E.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Grey, C. F. Moyle, A. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Oswald, T. Wilkins, W. A.
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Padley, W. E. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Paget, R. T. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Hamilton, W. W. Pargiter, G. A. Woodburn, Rt. Hon A
Hannan, W. Paton, J. Yates, V. F.
Hargreaves, A. Poole, C. C. Younger, Rt. Hon. K
Hastings, S. Popplewell, E.
Hayman, F. H. Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hobson, C. R. Proctor, W. T. Mr. Holmes and Mr. Arthur Allen.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Davidson, Viscountess Holland-Martin, C. J
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J Deedes, W. F. Horobin, I. M.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Baker, P. A. D. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA Howard, Greville (St. Ives)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Donner, P. W. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Baldwin, A. E. Drayson, G. B. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Barber, Anthony Drewe, G. Hurd, A. R.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Thomas (Richmond) Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)
Bennett, William (Woodside) Duncan, Capt. J. A. L Hutchison, Lt.-Com, Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Birch, Nigel Duthie, W. S. Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.
Bishop, F. P. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Black, C. W. Fell, A. Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Boyle, Sir Edward Finlay, Graeme Lambert, Hon. G.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. W. H. Fisher, Nigel Lambton, Viscount
Brooman-White, R. C. Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.
Browne, Jack (Govan) Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Linstead, H. N.
Bullard, D. G. Garner-Evans, E. H. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Bullock, Capt. M. George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Llyod Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.)
Butcher, H. W. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Cary, Sir Robert Gower, H. R. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Graham, Sir Fergus Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Gridley, Sir Arnold McCallum, Major D.
Cole, Norman Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) McKibbin, A. J.
Cranborne, Viscount Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Heald, Sir Lionel Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Higgs, J. M. C. Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Crouch, R. F. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hirst, Geoffrey Markham, Major S. F.
Maude, Angus Remnant, Hon. P. Studholme, H. G.
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C Renton, R. L. M. Sutcliffe, H.
Mellor, Sir John Robertson, Sir David Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Roper, Sir Harold Turner, H. F. L.
Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Russell, R. S. Turton, R. H.
Nield, Basil (Chester) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Oakshott, H. D. Scott, R. Donald Wakefield Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W D. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Shepherd, William Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C
Osborne, C. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Wellwood, W.
Partridge, E. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) White, Baker (Canterbury)
Peyton, J. W. W. Snadden, W. McN. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Wills, G.
Powell, J. Enoch Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Storey, S.
Raikes, H. V. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Redmayne, M. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Mr. Vosper and Mr. Kaberry.

Question again proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. John MacLeod

I rise only to say that, in view of the announcement of the Secretary of State, we on this side of the Committee are now prepared to support the Government on this Clause.

Mr. Ross

The original Act of 1949, to which the right hon. Gentleman's announcement referred, applies to all houses throughout Scotland. This Clause applies only to agricultural houses. There are many local authorities through-

out Scotland who have never taken advantage of the power under the original Act. Will it be open to a local authority to take advantage of that power and apply it only to agricultural houses, or must they apply it to all the houses within their area?

Mr. J. Stuart

I think I am right in saying that it applies to all houses which qualify for improvement grants, but will correct that if I am wrong.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 141; Noes, 115.

Division No. 239.] AYES [8.42 p.m.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Fell, A. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Finlay, Graeme McCallum, Major D.
Baker, P. A. D. Fisher, Nigel Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Baldock, Ll.-Cmdr. J. M. Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. McKibbin, A. J.
Baldwin, A. E. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Barber, Anthony Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Garner-Evans, E. H. Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Bennett, William (Woodside) George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.
Birch, Nigel Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Markham, Major S. F.
Bishop, F. P. Gower, H. R. Maude, Angus
Black, C. W. Graham, Sir Fergus Maydon, Lt.-Comdr S. L. C
Boyle, Sir Edward Gridley, Sir Arnold Mellor, Sir John
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Brooman-White, R. C. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Browne, Jack (Govan) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Heald, Sir Lionel Nield, Basil (Chester)
Bullard, D. G. Higgs, J. M. C. Oakshott, H. D.
Bullock, Capt. M. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D
Butcher, H. W. Hirst, Geoffrey Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cary, Sir Robert Holland-Martin, C. J. Osborne, C.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Horobin, I. M. Partridge, E.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Peyton, J. W. W.
Cole, Norman Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Pilkington, Capt. R A
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Powell, J. Enoch
Cranborne, Viscount Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F C. Hurd, A. R. Raikes, H. V.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Redmayne, M.
Crouch, R. F. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Remnant, Hon. P
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hylton Foster, H. B. H. Renton, D. L. M.
Davidson, Viscountess Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Robertson, Sir David
Deedes, W. F. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lambert, Hon. G. Roper, Sir Harold
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA Lambton, Viscount Russell, R. S.
Donner, P. W. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W (Rochdale)
Drayson, G. B. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A H Scott, R. Donald
Drewe, G. Linstead, H. N. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Thomas (Richmond) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Shepherd, William
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Duthie, W. S. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Snadden, W. McN. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N. Wellwood, W.
Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Turner, H. F. L. White, Baker (Canterbury)
Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Turton, R. H. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Storey, S. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K. Wills, G.
Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) Vosper, D. F. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Sutcliffe, H. Ward, Mist I. (Tynemouth) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. Mr. Studholme and Mr. Kaberry.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Hubbard, T. F. Pryde, D. J.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Rankin, John
Bacon, Mils Alice Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Balfour, A. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rhodes, H
Bence, C. R. Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Blackburn, F. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bowdon, H. W Keenan, W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Brockway, A. F. King, Dr. H. M. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Kinley, J. Ross, William
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Royle, C.
Carmichael, J. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Champion, A. J Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Short, E. W.
Clunie, J. Lewis, Arthur Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Collick, P. H. MacColl, J. E Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) McInnes, J. Smith, Norman (Nottingham. S.)
Cullen, Mrs. A. McKay, John (Wallsend) Snow, J. W.
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) McLeavy, F. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, Harold (Leek) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Sparks, J. A.
de Freitas, Geoffrey. McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Steele, T.
Delargy, H. J. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mann, Mrs. Jean Sylvester, G. O.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Manuel, A. C. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Field, W. J. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Mellish, R. J. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Forman, J. C. Mitchison, G. R. Thomson, George (Dundee, E)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Morgan, Dr. H. B W. Timmons, J.
Gibson, C. W. Morley, R. Viant, S. P.
Glanville, James Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Watkins, T. E.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Moyle, A. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E)
Grey, C. F. Oswald, T Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Padley, W E Wilkins, W. A.
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Paget, R. T. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Pargiter, G. A Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Hamilton, W. W. Paton, J Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hargreaves, A. Poole, C. C Yates, V. F.
Hastings, S. Popplewell, E. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hayman, F. H. Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)
Hobson, C. R. Proctor, W. T. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Holmes and Mr. Hannan.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

8.45 p.m.