§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Two weeks ago, when introducing the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, I said that I thought it was the most complicated Measure which I had ever had to contemplate. This present Bill is, I am sure, the most important Bill for which I have had any responsibility, if one looks to the well-being and comfort of so many people who are still so desperately badly housed in Scotland, despite all that is now being done in the erection of new houses by the present Government.
Many buildings, as hon. Members know, cry out for demolition, and many for repair, where they are worthy of repair. It is, indeed, a great social problem, and I know that the Government are right in their decision to try to tackle this problem, however difficult it may be and whatever endeavours may be made to make political capital out of it by our opponents. Actually I consider that our political opponents should be grateful to us for endeavouring to tackle this very difficult problem, and I hope that some of them indeed are.
If I may refer very briefly to the past, it was the year 1919 which saw the beginning of State-aided housing in Scotland. Since then, successive Governments have devoted their attention, in the main, to the reduction of the housing shortage. Up to the present time, about 575,000 new houses have been built in Scotland. This represents about 38 per cent. of the total existing stock in the country. Apart from a short period in the 1930s, when some authorities, aided by subsidies, dealt with a few of the worst areas, no real progress has been made with the pulling down of slums and, in the main, the older parts of our towns and villages remain untouched.
Latterly, owing to rent restriction, the rise in the cost of repairs and rises in owner's rates, owners have been progressively less able to spend money on maintenance, with the result that today we are 1983 faced with an ever-growing problem of dilapidation which must be tackled before it is too late. It is the tenants who are the sufferers in this matter, and it is the tenants whom we are out to help. To achieve this objective, owners must be enabled to put their property into good and tenantable repair.
Housing which can be repaired is a very important national asset, and the Bill therefore proposes to assist the owners to undertake this work. In addition to this, the local authorities will be given new powers and financial assistance to deal with properties which either the owners themselves cannot repair or which can only be patched pending demolition.
In connection with this problem, it is of considerable interest to recall, very briefly, some words which were said when this House debated the Second Reading of the Rent Restriction Bill in 1920. That Bill was introduced in this House by one who was to be for many years a respected leader of the party opposite in another place. I refer to the late Lord Addison. He began by saying this:The House, I am sure, will agree that the subject which is to engage our attention today is one of singular difficulty and perplexity.I am sure we all agree with that. He went on to say:…vast numbers of existing houses are falling into disrepair, and consequently there is an inroad being made on the quality of our existing accommodation. It is therefore absolutely essential that we should secure, as far as we can, that houses already in existence should be kept in repair and be maintained in a habitable condition…It is necessary, therefore, in any legislation we bring forward, that provision shall be made for seeing that repairs are undertaken. We cannot, however, do that with any expectation of success unless we secure that those whose duty it is to carry them out have the wherewithal with which to do it. It is absolutely essential, notwithstanding its unpopularity, that we should increase the rentals so as to secure that houses are kept in proper repair."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1920; Vol. 129, c. 2223–2226.]I submit that, if anything, those words are more true today.
As it happens, the increase of rent which this Bill proposes is two-fifths, or 40 per cent., which, by pure coincidence is the sum of the main increases which were permitted in 1920. On this occasion, however, the increase is for repairs only, and is based entirely on the 1984 increase in the cost of repairs since 1939. The White Paper on Housing Policy explains that the proportion of the rent required in 1939 to maintain a house in repair amounted, on average, to about one-fifth. As its Report shows, the Hutson Committee found that, in 1939, day-to-day repairs took 17 per cent. of the rent, painter work 1 per cent., and special repairs 2 per cent., or 20 per cent. in all.
We are all aware of the rise which has taken place in the cost of repairs since 1939, and I presume that no one will seriously challenge the findings of the Hutson Committee in Scotland and the Girdwood Committee in England and Wales.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give me an opportunity of challenging that statement? I want to know whether it is true that the Hutson Committee sought information from local authorities but, when it was revealed that the information provided by the local authorities did not suit its purposes, it based its conclusions entirely on the evidence of the factors and property owners?
§ Mr. Stuart
I understand that the Hutson Committee based its conclusions on the best information which it could derive from various sources throughout the country.
Mr. Hector McNeil (Greenock)
No one will seek to accuse the Hutson Committee of being prejudiced in its conclusions, but my hon. Friend asked a very pointed question. Was the evidence offered by the Scottish local authorities—in relation to the percentage of their rents applied in repairs—accepted and embodied by the Committee in its conclusions? That is a simple question.
§ Mr. Stuart
I believe so. The Hutson Committee asked for evidence, took all the best evidence which it could obtain and, as a result of the figures with which it was supplied, it came to the conclusion, as did the Girdwood Committee in England, that, generally speaking, and taking it overall, the increase had been approximately three times. At any rate, repairs which cost one-fifth of the rents in 1939 now cost three-fifths, which is equal to a rise of 40 per cent.
The Government, therefore, believe that, under safeguards to which I shall 1985 come later, owners of controlled houses should be allowed to increase their rents by two-fifths and thereby be enabled to maintain their houses in what the law calls "good and tenantable repair." Accordingly, Clause 14 permits this increase of two-fifths in controlled rents. In view of the criticisms to which the Government may be subjected now and in the future, however, I should like to put it on record that the tenant is being asked to pay for this increase in the cost of repairs and no more. He is not being asked to pay anything towards the accumulated arrears, but merely towards the cost of the repairs which must be carried out in the periods to which I shall shortly refer. Further, this rent increase is subject to conditions—
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Does not the Secretary of State agree that the factors and property owners have already been paid for these accumulated arrears? Why should the tenants now be charged an addition?
§ Mr. Stuart
As far as I am aware, they were not. The tenant is not being asked to pay for the accumulated arrears, as the hon. Member will see later. He is being asked to pay this increase in order to deal with repairs now or in the future.
This rent increase is subject to conditions to ensure that the tenant does get the benefit, and that he need not pay the increase unless the house is in good repair. With regard to the conditions required to be fulfilled before an increase is justified, the owner must declare, in the first place, that the house is both fit for human habitation and in good and tenantable repair, and that he has incurred certain expenditure on repairs within a stated period, to which I shall refer again shortly.
With regard to fitness for human habitation, the first condition, this is defined broadly in the existing Housing Acts by reference to the extent to which a house by reason of disrepair or sanitary defects falls short of the building regulations in the district. This definition has never caused any real difficulty in Scotland, and we have had no representations on the subject from the local authorities, and I therefore think that in the present circumstances there are advantages in retaining 1986 this broad definition and in trusting the local authorities who are responsible for applying it.
§ Mr. J. C. Forman (Glasgow, Springburn)
Is it not the case that if the landlord carries out repairs either in the year previous to the passing of the Act or the three years, when he gets the certificate he need not carry through any more repairs.
§ Mr. Stuart
He has got to keep his house in repair in order to get the rent. However, I shall come to these conditions in a minute.
The second condition is "good and tenantable repair." That is the other condition that must be satisfied. This term has been in the rent Acts for years and has worked well since 1920. To sum up this rent increase section of the Bill, I say the whole purpose of the Bill is to give the owner that additional amount which he must have if he is to do the repair work that he did before 1939. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He did in many cases. Deterioration since 1939, at any rate, has been very much worse than previous to it. The purpose of the Bill is to enable the owner to do those repairs, and, in doing this, not to alter the respective obligations of the owner and occupier.
As to the expenditure test to which reference has just been made, briefly, in order to obtain the rent increase, the owner must show not only that his house is in good and tenantable repair and fit for human habitation, but that he has spent on repairs a specified sum within a specified period as laid down in the First Schedule to the Bill.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that the owner must "show" that? All the owner has to do is to write this into a letter. There is no showing.
We are on an important point here. The right hon. Gentleman said, if I understood him plainly, that the landlord was obliged to show, but, as my hon. Friend says, there is no obligation upon the landlord to show at all. The landlord is asked to make a written statement which does not conform to any 1987 procedure of evidence. It is simply an affirmation by the landlord. Is that the case?
§ Mr. Stuart
He has got to show whether he has spent the money. He could be asked to produce his accounts to show that he had. [HON. MEMBERS: "By the tenant."] If necessary, by the tenant.
§ Mr. Stuart
The owner cannot just demand an increase in rent unless he has spent money on repair. He must satisfy one or other of two tests. Admittedly, many owners have not been able to spend enough in the recent past, and therefore the test must also look to the future to meet such cases. The first of these tests is that an owner must show that in the 12 months before he can claim an increase in rent he has spent money on repairs at the full rate now required by the Government, that is to say, at the rate of three-fifths of the present rent.
Some owners—not many, perhaps—have spent sums on repairs and will thus have their houses in good repair when the Bill becomes law. They will qualify under the alternative test, which is that the owner will qualify for the increased rent if he can show that within two months of the passing of the Act he has spent on the average on repairs in the previous three years at the annual rate of two-fifths of the present rent—not three-fifths as in the first case, but two-fifths.
§ Mr. Stuart
Not three-fifths as in the previous case but two-fifths. Perhaps an example would help to simplify this test process. Take a house, for example, with a rent of £15. The increase of rent permitted equals £6, or two-fifths. That means that the new rent will be £21. To qualify for the increase, the owner must show under the first alternative that he has spent £9 in the previous 12 months; that is, three-fifths of the rent of £15. Or, if he claims immediately on the passing of the Bill—that is, under the second alternative—he must show that he has spent £18, which is two-fifths of the rent each year over the previous three years.
§ Mr. Stuart
Six-fifths in the three year period, which is two-fifths of the rent each year.
Clause 16 safeguards the position and the rights of the tenant, and these will be explained fully in the notice which the owner will have to serve on the tenant if he wishes to increase the rent. The tenant may challenge this increase on three different grounds: first, that the house is not in good repair; second, that the house is not fit for human habitation; third, that the owner has not spent the specified sum on repairs required in a given period, that is, the periods to which I have just referred.
In the first of such cases—that its say, not in good repair—the tenant goes to the local authority which, if it agrees, gives the tenant a certificate of disrepair which enables him to withhold the payment of the increase of rent until the repairs have been carried out. This procedure follows the existing practice under the Rent Acts.
§ Mr. Stuart
Under the second condition—not being fit for human habitation—the tenant obtains in this case a certificate from the local authority that this condition is not fulfilled and this enables the tenant to withhold the increase. Under the third condition—the spending of the specified sum within the given period—if the tenant disputes the amount spent under that expenditure test, he can go to the sheriff, and, if he is upheld by the sheriff, the increase does not take place. The foregoing provisions are framed so as to give full protection to the tenant. Under safeguards under three heads, he can refuse the increase.
Clauses 31 and 32 deal with the rating provisions, but, as hon. Members know, the Committee under Lord Sorn—to which reference has been made here before on more than one occasion—which is going into the rating and valuation 1989 system in Scotland, is sitting at the present time; and therefore in this respect our present proposals must merely hold the position, which will have to be reviewed after the report of Lord Sorn's Committee has been received; but in our view it is essential, if our main purpose of getting the repair work carried out is to be achieved, to secure that, even though it will be a temporary measure, the proposed repairs increase in rent is not so reduced by increases in the owner's rates as to make the scheme fail in its purpose and break down. This is of great importance to the success of the scheme, because it is this very factor of owner's rates which has rendered so many owners incapable of fulfilling their full obligations to their tenants. It is stated that in 1939 owner's rates equalled on an average a quarter of the rents, but today they account for anything from a third to a half of the rents.
Therefore, Clause 31 lays down that any increase in rents permitted under the Bill is not to be taken into account in determining the rateable value of the house. This means that both owner and occupier will continue paying rates on the present rateable value only and that the increase in rents does not affect the rateable value.
The tenant, as distinct from the owner, takes the additional rates, although not the additional payments.
§ Mr. Stuart
I shall come to that point in a moment. Clause 32 provides that owner's rates on controlled houses shall be limited to the poundage in force at the time when the Act begins to operate. For example, if the owner's rates in any area are 7s. 6d. in the pound—
§ Mr. Stuart
I am giving an example—in that case the owner will not pay, more than 7s. 6d. in the pound in any future year, even if the poundage goes up.
§ Mr. Stuart
If the rates go up, the local authority is empowered under the Bill to levy an additional rate—this is the right hon. Gentleman's point—on occupiers and on owners of property other than controlled houses. This is unavoidable if the 1990 loss from controlled houses is to be made up. It is obvious that it must be made up somehow. There seems to be no alternative if the repairs are to be carried out and if those who do the repairs are to have some guarantee that they will be left with the funds with which to do the work.
I have dealt with the part of the Bill concerned with the repair of houses by their owners. It is on this, to a great degree, that the success of the Government's proposals depends. It is only the unfit houses which owners will not or cannot put right that the local authorities will be empowered or assisted to deal with. Therefore, I now come to Part I of the Bill, which contains the provisions for dealing with unfit houses as outlined in paragraphs 27 to 32 of the White Paper.
These paragraphs explain the existing powers of local authorities to secure the repair of all houses by serving notices on the owners requiring them to carry out the necessary works, or, if need be, to carry out the works themselves for the owners at the owners' expense. The paragraphs also explain the powers of local authorities to secure demolition or closing of individual unfit houses and the clearance of in sanitary areas by compulsory purchase orders or clearance orders. It is the Government's intention to encourage local authorities to exercise these powers to the fullest degree possible and to resume slum clearance work as soon as local circumstances permit.
The first point I wish to stress is that the proposals in Part I are not a substitute for the demolition of bad houses. But, as I said during the debate on the Address, we must be realists in these matters and recognise that where the housing shortage is still acute houses which should be demolished will have to remain occupied for some time. In such circumstances, we must see that the living conditions are made as good as can be for the tenants, for whom I know all hon. Members have so much sympathy; that is to say, until such time as conditions make it possible to rehouse them. This is the purpose of Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill, which empower local authorities to postpone demolition and to purchase houses and carry out works on them to make the conditions as good as can be and tolerable for the time being.
1991 I ought perhaps to refer here to the distinction between the two Clauses. Under Clause 2, the houses handled are in clearance areas and they will in due course be demolished. Clause 3 not only empowers local authorities to patch a house, but, where the cost seems reasonable to the local authority, even though the owner could not do it, it enables the local authority to make the house fit. In certain cases where the structure is sound, the local authority may be able to improve the house and bring it up to modern standards at a cost substantially less than the cost of a new house. Clause 3 is drafted to give local authorities latitude in such cases.
With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's references to Clause 2, will he explain whether, if such properties are already embodied in a development plan for which he provides grants under the appropriate legislation, a grant made to a local authority under Clause 2 will be deducted from the grant given to the local authority under the town planning regulations?
§ Mr. Stuart
I believe that in such a case it would be a matter of patching as a temporary measure, but I should like to look into the point and give the right hon. Gentleman a definite answer later.
I am sorry if I misled the right hon. Gentleman. I am not talking about patching. I am talking about a property under Clause 2. There we might have something visualised under development already approved by the right hon. Gentleman. He would have made a grant towards the development. The regulation provides that such a grant is subject to eventual adjustment. Will he tell us whether the adjustment will take account of the Treasury contribution under Clause 2?
§ Mr. Stuart
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to answer that later. We could certainly deal with it during the Committee stage, when I have no doubt there will be a number of sittings. I will do my best then. I am not trying to evade the point. It is a matter which I should like to look into.
It is clear that in the cases under Clauses 2 and 3 to which I have referred, a local authority would not be likely to 1992 recover the expenditure incurred over any reasonable period from the rents charged after allowing for annual repairs, owner's rates and so on. Accordingly, Clause 4 provides for Exchequer contributions of £6 10s. per house for 15 years and for the Exchequer to meet 50 per cent. of the cost of acquisition at site values.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
That is not so. The Bill does not say that the Exchequer will meet 50 per cent. of the acquisition at site values. It merely provides that, for as long as the slum house is continued in occupation, there may be a payment of half the annual cost of acquiring the site value, on the assumption that the house has been built with money borrowed over a period of 60 years. If the house is continued in occupation for 10 years, the Exchequer contribution towards the cost of acquiring the land will have been one-twelfth instead of one-half.
§ Mr. Stuart
In Clause 4 (2, a) it is clearly stated:…an annual payment equal to one-half of the annual loan charges"—
§ Mr. Stuart
…referable to the cost of the purchase, payable for each financial year during the whole or part of which the house or any part of the house is used for housing purposes…This provides for 50 per cent. They are going to pay half only.
Of the loan charge, not of the cost. The right hon. Gentleman can stand there and look superior, but at any rate the House is entitled to an accurate explanation of the Bill.
§ Mr. Stuart
I am perfectly right in what I have stated. If I am wrong, we can deal with that matter later, there are always other occasions. I had a meeting with the local authority associations about the provisions of the Bill, and this was followed last month by a meeting between officials of local authorities and of my Department. At this latter meeting it was thought on both sides that these financial arrangements were reasonable, but I think that I should give the local authorities themselves time to consider their position more fully, and for this reason I do not propose to move the Money Resolution at this stage.
1993 We do not want to rush them in any way. [Laughter.] That is perfectly true. Hon. Members may laugh, but that is a fact. I was much struck at the meeting which I myself had with the local authorities by their very responsible and realistic attitude towards this problem, which was of a most helpful character. I am most grateful to the local authority associations for the high sense of duty which they displayed in dealing with this problem.
As landlords, the local authorities have always maintained high standards, and I was bound to admit to them that they would not relish becoming slum landlords themselves for a time. I think that I can say fairly that there was broad agreement that this was a problem which must be tackled in the national interest. While it will throw much administrative work on local authorities, as I realise, I think that it is fair to say that they realised that it was up to them to tackle their side of the problem and to help us in this matter.
I know that I have not dealt with all the details and provisions of the Bill and that there will be many Committee points raised at later stages. There are, however, two other Clauses to which I feel I should draw attention. Clause 10 deals with grants for improvements to existing houses. Up to date, not a great deal of use has been made of these grants. The Clause gives effect to the proposals contained in paragraph 25 of the White Paper and as a result of it, while improvement grants will remain at a maximum of £400, nevertheless even where the total cost of the work exceeds £800 the owner will still be able to obtain the £400 grant and to pay the difference above the £800 limit. Secondly, the owner may charge 8 per cent. instead of 6 per cent. on his own outlay by increased rent. This brings the rent increase into line with the Rent Acts as now operating. I believe that this will help to bring up to modern standards many houses which are good structurally but which lack modern amenities. I have good reason to believe that in various parts of Scotland this provision will be welcomed.
§ Mr. Stuart
It will certainly be welcomed by the people who live in the houses. The hon. Member does not agree with me, but I should like to repeat that 1994 this Bill is brought forward by the Government, in the interests of the tenants, to make housing conditions in this country better, pending rehousing.
In Clause 22—and I do not think that there will be any difference over this—we propose to remove from the scope of the Rent Acts certain houses which are at present controlled. Without going into details, I should mention that I am referring to houses belonging to on-profit-making bodies, such as housing associations and development corporations. The Government feel that these bodies should be treated on the same lines as local authorities as regards the management of houses and estates and the fixing of rents.
I would say, in conclusion, that our aim and object in promoting this important Measure is first and foremost to improve the position of the tenant and to retain a valuable national asset. I want to be quite frank and fair with the House about this matter. Our view is that, in order to repair bad houses, it is obviously necessary to provide the means or wherewithal to enable this to be done. That is a fact which cannot be contradicted. How it works out on balance is that in many cases there will be a very substantial advantage for something like an average increased rent of 2s. 6d. a week, and for this we hope to see the owners carry out their full obligations once again and make good arrears of repairs.
The local authorities have their obligations and increased responsibility. I hope that they will shoulder them, as I realise much depends upon them. The Government again are not shirking their share of this great responsibility. It is in the national interest that this problem should be tackled, and we are all undertaking our part in a real effort to preserve this national asset. Tenants have said to me in person, "We would pay a higher rent if we could get a better place to live in." That is not just an isolated case. We are all in this—tenants, owners, local authorities and the Government. I trust that we shall succeed.
§ 4.29 p.m.
Mr. Hector McNeil (Greenock)
I must confess that I have rarely found myself in such difficulties as I am in now. There is scarcely anyone in this House who is more reluctant to criticise the Secretary 1995 of State for Scotland than I am, and none of us will deny that this is a complicated Bill, but a little more is owed to the House than the understanding which the right hon. Gentleman displayed to us in his explanation of the Bill.
I want to cite four points upon which, I hope, I am completely wrong. The right hon. Gentleman told the House, unless I misunderstood him, that he was not going to move the Money Resolution because, although he believes the associations of local authorities to be satisfied with the financial provisions, he was going to give them more time. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the truth is that at least two of these organisations have not yet had time to meet as organisations to consider the financial provisions.
If that is the truth, it is a discourtesy to this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh.] It is certainly a discourtesy to this side of the House, because we are people who remain in close association with our local authority colleagues. [HON. MEMBERS: "So do we."] If hon. Members opposite are in close association with their local authority colleagues, then their immediate duty is to tell the right hon. Gentleman to take back his Bill and to find out what the local authorities think of the financial provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Stuart
I have been attacked on this. I told the House exactly what the position was: that we have had meetings with the local authorities and that I had every reason to think they were satisfied, but that in order not to rush matters I had decided not to move the Money Resolution now. That is the truth.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that on a previous housing Bill one of his colleagues had to admit subsequently that the local authorities had not been given time to discuss it. I put it to the Secretary of State, and he has not denied it, that at least two—and, for all I know, all three—of the Scottish associations of local authorities had not yet had time to meet and discuss the financial provisions of the Bill,
§ Mr. Stuart
As the right hon. Gentleman seems determined to pursue the point, I should like to say that I do not see any difference between any of us, because I am not moving the Money Resolution at this stage.
That may be a very satisfactory Parliamentary reply for the right hon. Gentleman, but it is not satisfactory to people on this side of the House. We want to know what is the considered conclusion of our local authority colleagues, who will have to operate the Bill, upon the provisions which are embodied in the Bill.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The right hon. Gentleman has accused us on this side of not being in close touch with the local authorities. I was in close consultation with the Treasurer of Glasgow Corporation only last night, and no suggestion was made from there that the Bill should be withdrawn.
The right hon. Gentleman may have been in close touch, as we are on this side of the House, with the Glasgow City Treasurer and City Chamberlain, but it was on the question of the equalisation of rates that the Counties of Cities have not yet met to consider the Bill.
I do not object to interventions if they are to the point, and I will give way immediately to the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) to let him say whether, in his conversations with the Chamberlain, the Chamberlain was able to tell him that the Counties of Cities had met as an association to consider the Bill.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman made a demand that the Bill should be withdrawn and claimed that that would meet the wishes of the local authorities. I was in close touch with the local authorities last night, and no such demand was ever made. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is not the point."] That is a complete answer to the right hon. Gentleman.
I am, as usual, indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for his ability to be loyal to his colleagues and still not tell an untruth. The truth is, as the right hon. Gentleman by inference has 1997 now admitted, that no matter whose the fault—I do not know whose fault it is—the Scottish local authority associations have not had an opporunity, as associations, to consider the Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Bill was printed in November."] The hon. Member need not tell me when the Bill was printed.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
The right hon. Gentleman says there has been a demand for the Bill to be withdrawn, but he now says that nobody has had time to consider it.
§ Mr. Maitland
Did not the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the local authorities wanted the Bill withdrawn?
The hon. Member had better be very careful, because his is one of the marginal constituencies, where he will be hounded and whipped with the Bill at every public meeting in the district.
§ Mr. Maitland
We on this side are proud that we are undertaking a great programme to clear the slums and rescue the people.
I do not know what will be the eventual attitude of the associations of Scottish local authorities to the Bill. It has been normal procedure—the right hon. Gentleman does not need to be told—and it is prudent behaviour to consult the local authorities and to give them every opportunity of coming to their deliberate conclusions and publicising their conclusions. That has not been done in the case of this Bill.
The second point which I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman concerns the ridiculous impression that he conveyed to the House about the Hutson Committee. He argued that the provision for the increase arose directly from the unanimous recommendation of the Hutson Committee. He was asked by my hon. Friend whether any other evidence had been presented by the local authorities. I should be doing the right hon. Gentleman an injustice if I said otherwise than that he evaded the question and admitted by inference that he did not know. That is a sad position. But now that the right hon. Gentleman should know—I imagine he has had time to consult his hon. and 1998 right hon. Friends—the House will be interested to know that there is no doubt about the answer. In paragraphs 27 and 29 of the Committee's Report, hon. Members will see that very different evidence was offered by local authorities and that the Committee expressly admitted that the evidence of the local authorities had disappointed them, and, therefore, they set it aside.
In paragraph 27, dealing with Glasgow Corporation, the Committee said:We were informed in explanation of this unusual evidence that before 1939 a very high standard of responsibility was accepted by the Corporation; abnormal expenditure was incurred in respect of such items as decoration, tiles, fittings, etc. Since the war the Corporation have accepted only the minimum responsibilities as landlords carrying out merely essential repairs. In these circumstances, we considered that the Corporation's evidence was not useful as a guide to the general situation.Why was it not useful? The reason is that the Corporation showed that since 1939 their liabilities had decreased, and not increased.
Dealing with the evidence of Dundee, Paisley and Glasgow, the Committee went on to say, in paragraph 29, that:we have been unable to utilise to any great extent what we had hoped would be one of our best sources of evidence.Of course, it was one of their best sources of evidence, because they were taking evidence from one of the largest, if not the largest, landlords in Scotland.
As my hon. Friend says, "in Britain." The evidence, which was offered with the usual care and backing ordinarily displayed by Glasgow Corporation, was not reconcilable with the conclusions which the Committee offered, no doubt in all sincerity. But the right hon. Gentleman had an over-riding obligation to the House to be honest in this regard when he was challenged upon it, and he was not honest.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
Is it not correct that the Hutson Committee was reviewing the costs of repairs and maintenance and had evidence from local authorities mostly on new houses over a period of 25 to 30 years, whereas the factors and others speaking for private owners were speaking of 150 years, which is very different?
The Glasgow Corporation, who had been acquiring and administering property, were giving evidence of property which dated back to the beginning of this century.
To go back to the beginning of the century is 53 years. The hon. Member must keep his arithmetic in check.
Glasgow Corporation were offering evidence from very long and extensive experience.
A third and more disturbing point was made by the right hon. Gentleman. He was challenged again as to what were the obligations upon a landlord or an agent in relation to repairs. I tried to assist him to get out of the mess. The right hon. Gentleman said that the owner was obliged to show that he had spent money. My hon. Friends are alarmed because he is not obliged to show. The obligation does not proceed beyond affirming or declining. Unusual as this provision is, there is no sanction to try to ensure that the affirmation is the truth.
If the right hon. Gentleman makes a mistake—though I am sure he never would—in his affirmation about Income Tax, the sanction is that if he does not tell the truth he may go to gaol. But what happens in this remarkable Bill? The sheriff descends from his bench and helps the landlord to put the matter right. That is precisely what the Bill says. He makes a correction in favour of the landlord.
The right hon. Gentleman should not pretend that that is a normal legal procedure of the landlord being required to show. I do not suggest that normally landlords will necessarily be dishonest. I suggest that if the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with as weak a provision as 2000 this, he has an obligation, when challenged, to explain why he takes such an unusual course in accepting such a weak provision.
The right hon. Gentleman twice went out of his way to try to insist that the motivation of the Bill was his, and the Government's, consideration for the tenant. If that is the truth, it can easily be put to test. There are in Glasgow this evening tens of thousands of would-be tenants looking at notice boards about 1,500 houses built for letting but denied for letting. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted to prove what he said—if he were at all anxious even to provide a reasonable ground for it—he would adopt such a Measure as the Labour Government had in mind. He would adopt a Bill similar to that which my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) offered to the House.
He would then prove whose friend he was—the friend of the tenant or the friend of the landlord. I need not say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he wants to make such a demonstration, if he wants to offer such a proof, then all the services of the Opposition are at his hand to facilitate the passage of such a Bill.
§ Mr. J. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
As this is a pertinent question which some of us pressed very strongly, is not it the case that the right hon. Gentleman failed to stop the sale of houses of this kind and that he and his officers were in antagonism to Members who raised this question in the party?
I am indebted to my hon. Friend for his usual help, but his statement is inaccurate. The hon. Gentleman knows—or if he does not know it is inexcusable; he ought to know—that the Government had in draft a Bill dealing with this subject.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
Does my right hon. Friend know that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) was in Australia at the time?
Whatever satisfaction the hon. Gentleman may find in his inaccurate recollection, it certainly is true that the Government had such a Bill in draft, and 2001 that, when my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West had substantially the same Bill as a private Member, the Government found no time to facilitate its passage.
I also think that the right hon. Gentleman was rather cavalier in his statements about the Part I of the Bill which deals with the slums which are to be found in all our main cities. I do not want to speak at length about this. Indeed, I have rather deserted my speech because I wanted to deal with the right hon. Gentleman's omissions. I do not want to take up too much time now. There are behind me hon. Members who are experienced on this subject and who feel passionately about it.
However, I cannot fail to comment upon the over-simplified fashion in which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with his hopes and their expression in Part I of the Bill. Again, I say that, for him, he was unusually sharp in dealing with my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) in this respect. We all knew that the Bill was right, but the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in his expression of what was intended. The Bill applies itself to a scheme under which the charges on the cost of acquisition are met. It would have been most interesting if the right hon. Gentleman had attempted to explain the basis upon which these calculations were made.
I suggest that the basis was a slavish and ill-judged adherence to the English intention about slums. The normal assumption about Treasury subsidy compared with local government subsidy is that the Treasury proportion should be three to one. I use the word "normal," because this unhappy Government in their last housing Measure departed from that assumption. If the Government contribution is set at £6 10s., the normal assumption would be that the local authority contribution should be £2 3s. 4d. That would give us a figure of £8 13s. 4d.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) is usually good at arithmetic and I am sure that he will keep a check. At 3½ per cent. on a 15-year period, the loan charges would be met by a payment of the amount I mentioned, to within a few shillings. Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that the 2002 Government are assuming that £100 per dwelling will be the required sum which was mentioned during the debate on the English Bill by the Minister of Works or the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
But I would not admit that £100 is likely to be the figure. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) was nearer the mark when he said that the Birmingham figure was £180. I would not admit that there is any close approximation between the experience of dealing with slum property in England and slum property in Scotland. In England that type of slum property is mainly of brick, but in Scotland it is not. I am told, whatever the phrase means, that normally these aged and compline houses are built of random rubble. At any rate, anyone who is familiar with this type of property knows that the amount of repairs in terms of a bad roof, deteriorating wood, and bulging walls, will not be looked at for 100 years. The figure in my part of the world is nearer £450 or £500.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)
I want to get this clear. When the right hon. Gentleman says £450 a house—
—is he talking of a tenement which perhaps contains nine or 10 homes? If so, and if he multiplied his £100 by nine, he would get more than that figure.
It may be high and I want to make it plain that I am not stating a figure within £50 or even £100. Even if I were 100 per cent. out, however, it would still be 150 per cent. higher than the sum provided in this Bill will meet. I say, therefore, that if my figure is correct, instead of the Government making a three-to-one contribution compared with the contribution of the local authority, what will happen is that the local authority, even if it is willing to undertake this burden, will be asked to make a five-to-one contribution compared with the Treasury contribution.
2003 Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will prove to be right in his expectation that the local authorities will like this provision, but it would have been much wiser and much more prudent to wait for their considered reflections upon this subject. My guess is that there will be few local authorities who will be able, upon these figures, to make any substantial attack, in the terms which the right hon. Gentleman offers, on the uninhabitable properties in the city and borough areas.
We on this side know that, apart altogether from the financial inadequacies of the Measure, many local authorities will resent, and will be greatly hurt by, the suggestion that they should be the custodians of the faults and mistakes, the miscalculations and perhaps deliberate impositions of private landlords in terms of these slums. We have served on local authorities—
The hon. and gallant Gentleman objects to demagogy. I remember that he gave us some demagogy a year ago in this House, but he was not on the side of the tenant. He said it was shocking that the Government would not provide for the shabbily treated landlord. Why then, should he object to our making plain the embarrassment and distrust of our colleagues in local government who have been asked to accept not Only the financial responsibility but the moral odium of being a custodian of these miserable hovels? Why? Because, in the words which the right hon. Gentleman offered us this afternoon, it is no longer reasonable to expect that a private owner will treat of these properties.
This is a curious kind of philosophy—that the private owner shall retain the properties as long as they are profitable and, when they become unprofitable, hand them over to public enterprise. It is a philosophy which we have seen peeping through in the attitude of the Government to coal and steel and transport. When they deal with houses, however, when they deal with homes, when they deal direct with so many ordinary people, they can be assured that there will be a vigorous and vehement 2004 reaction among ordinary, decent hardworking people towards this proposal.
I have tried to ask the right hon. Gentleman what would be his interpretation of this Bill in relation to development projects, perhaps already approved, which embody some of these subjects. It is difficult to try to understand that, but there is no difficulty in understanding the reluctance of the local authorities to undertake this burden, and there is no difficulty in understanding that if, as I anticipate, this is a thoroughly unattractive financial provision, there is no chance of this piece of deceit, this pretentious sloganising by the Government, being accepted as slum clearance.
Because I am over-running my time, and because others will speak, I shall not attempt to deal with the Clauses relating to improvement. I should like to say a word about the proposal to increase rent up to 40 per cent. in certain circumstances to which the right hon. Gentleman has, I suggest with great respect, addressed himself inadequately. It is plain that the tenant will carry the burden of proof. And it must be known to the right hon. Gentleman that at least two Committees, commenting upon this situation, have pointed out already that the tenant, either because he did not known or because he was afraid to use his powers, at any rate in the event did not offer objection to the behaviour of landlords in respect of the use of these powers embodied in previous Acts.
I have received, as I know some other hon. Members have, a carefully-written letter from a surprisingly aged man in the East of Scotland. He deals with great care with the history of a property over 80 years. He directs our attention to the figures, and proves beyond a doubt that in the period from 1920 onwards, in a group of 134houses, after, in his opinion, adequate repairs had been carried out, there was a surplus of £35 per house per annum in those years. He goes on to make another surprising calculation. He shows that not the rent but the increase of rent—which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, might by some fortuitous circumstance be at the rate of 40 per cent.—in that period had met four-fifths of the actual cost of construction of this group of tenement dwellings. Then he showed that the tenements were 100 years old and that therefore the actual capital 2005 value had already been discharged by two and a half times before the increase was granted.
Neither I nor any of my hon. or right hon. Friends will argue that that is a typical situation, but it is not an untypical situation. It may seem a bad kind of accountancy or banking, but it is a very understandable human reaction if the ordinary housewife, already over-pressed by this Government, says to herself, "Why should I agree to an increase on something that has already been paid for many times?" When, in addition, the right hon. Gentleman is unwilling to put the burden of proof on the landlord and when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coat bridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) has already displayed with great force, the repair may not be directly related to the dwelling at all, then, of course, these ordinary decent people, whose reactions are honest reactions and not complex reactions, will object fiercely to proposals of this kind.
Nor will they easily understand why, by a strange device and one which, as far as I know, is without precedent, the right hon. Gentleman is going to pass the burden of the landlord in respect of the rates in two instances right on to the rest of the community so that the municipal householder, the owner-occupier, the ratepayer outside this particular sector, will carry part of the burden of the owner who has already been exempted from the normal process of the law.
When a Bill is without sense it is sometimes possible to tidy that Bill up in Committee. When a Bill is also without conscience the best thing that can happen to it is that it should be withdrawn. I say in all honesty to the right hon. Gentleman that the only Clauses of this Bill which I expect could work are the most unjust Clauses—those that will convey the greatest benefit to the landlord, the Clauses which would make repairs available for the houses that least need repairs. If the right hon. Gentleman were to take the advice of my hon. and right hon. Friends who have been associated with local government, they would tell him that where this Bill can operate it can only operate unjustly, and they would tell him further that where a Bill is unjust it should not be attempted to be operated. So far as the justice of this Bill is concerned, several hon. Members 2006 will have to answer. We shall move the Amendment which is on the Order Paper and we shall divide the House.
§ Mr. Maitland
The right hon. Gentleman earlier suggested that I shall be whipped in my constituency. I was going to suggest that it is rather unwise to divide when the Bill will set the people free in Scotland and lead them to decent housing conditions.
The hon. Member must whistle very hard to keep up his courage, because he is going to be in very nice company. There will be the hon. Member, the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne), the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett), for whom I have great affection, and the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot). What a time they are going to have explaining to people that they are set free by paying 40 per cent. more rent for repairs that they cannot see. What a job they will have explaining to people that they will be taxed—because they are being taxed by a concealed subsidy—to support the landlords.
What a strange position for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have told the House that it is unjust to continue the food subsidies to find suddenly that it is just to have a new subsidy in favour of the landlord. What a position for those hard-faced and soft-headed right hon. Gentlemen who find it impossible to continue a subsidy on a child's school meal at the previous level but who are now going to raise a new subsidy for the landlord. Of course we shall divide against this Bill. There are some hon. Members opposite who have still a chance to save their seats and perhaps their consciences—and this Bill is without a conscience.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
I suppose it is appropriate that I should follow the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), because I think that I am one of those to whom he referred as being soft-headed and hard-faced. The right hon. Gentleman, of 2007 course, is a favourite of this House and of Scotland. We are all very proud of him. He is accustomed to a larger rostrum, where he has been able to display his frenitic enthusiasm in front of M. Vyshinsky and M. Molotov. His performance this afternoon has been right up to that style—the lighter notes, the heavier bludgeonings, the threats here and the cajoleries there. They are all part of the experience which one gets on the stage of the grand opera of the United Nations. The House is privileged that he should bring his mind to bear, rather reluctantly, on individual and local matters
The land of his birth is proud of the right hon. Gentleman, but he made a poor case today. It was a small case, out of keeping with the range and size of the problem with which the Government and the country are faced. Housing, for many tens of thousands of people, is in a deplorable state. It has been so for many years and there is nothing to be gained by holding an inquest on who is responsible. But if that question were asked I would say that there are some responsible who, in the last five or six years, could have done something but did not do very much.
Let us look at the record of a Government which, with unparalleled authority, with a majority of something like 200, used that power and authority to encroach upon agricultural land to build wherever they could build easily and without being particular whether they could build cheaply or not. Apparently there was no problem of slums and no problem of overcrowding in these islands. There were more subsidies for local authorities and more new houses, and if there was a chance of building new houses it was a case of, "Let us build them in Tory constituencies in order to shake the right hon. Gentlemen opposite if we can." That was the policy they followed. I commend this Bill to the House. It is an attack on bad housing conditions. We all agree about that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is the first Bill to attack bad housing conditions on two fronts.
§ Sir W. Darling
Hitherto, we have contented ourselves with building new houses, which, of course, was a vital contribution. But I suggest that however 2008 desirable that policy was—and it was certainly costly and popular—it was not fair to all citizens. Despite the not in considerable building achievements of the last Government and this Government, for many others there was continued misery in the houses in which they lived, with little hope of betterment in the immediate future. The aim of this Bill, if I understand rightly, following on the housing achievements of the Government, is not to socialise housing, which would be the wish of hon. Members opposite
§ Sir W. Darling
—but to conserve housing. I have yet to learn that there is anything wrong in conserving things which are worthwhile when one cannot find anything better.
Those who are opposing this Measure must formulate their policy as an alternative. If we are not to conserve these houses, which are a substantial part of the houses of the country, what is to happen to them? Are they to become worse and worse? Is it the policy of the Socialist Party that houses which are admittedly deteriorating are to continue to deteriorate? If that is so, they care little for the discomfort and miseries to which they are condemning millions in Scotland. This is a Conservative Measure, not a Socialist Measure. It is conserving an asset. It may not be a good asset, but we should conserve when we can. We shall improve where we can and demolish and rebuild in central areas. I am inclined to say that probably better results would have been achieved in the past by sub-divisions of the labour force.
In 1917, I note that 45 per cent. of the population of Scotland were living more than two in one room. That was the evidence given to the Royal Commission of that year. In 1936, the figure was down to 23 per cent. If we are throwing blame about from one side of the House to the other, it should be admitted that there has been a substantial improvement. That is only up to 1936.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member has raised a very interesting point. We agree that houses must be conserved, but is he aware that, by conserving houses, the number must automatically be reduced? They can only be improved by altering them in such a way as to reduce 2009 the accommodation. Would the hon. Member explain how the matter may be improved generally in that way?
§ Sir W. Darling
I believe that what the right hon. Member says is generally true. Improvements in existing tenements cannot be brought about very often except by making three flats into two. I agree with that view, but perhaps we have spent too much labour force and equipment on new houses rather than on reconditioning many old houses. Up to the war the improvement from 45 per cent. in 1917 to 23 per cent. in 1936 continued and it is still continuing. That was a great effort and because of that great effort I commend this Bill in view of the difficult problem of our housing needs.
There has been a considerable achievement. There have been 173,437 new houses built since the end of the war. Mainly, that is a local authority achievement. Something like 10 per cent. of the building was done by private enterprise. I feel that is a very useful and creditable result, but it was achieved at very great cost. It has put a very heavy burden indeed on the central Government and, indeed, a heavy burden on local authorities.
The right hon. Member for Greenock may have short experience of local government, but he knows that there is not a local authority in the country which is not harassed to death with the anxiety of housing burdens laid upon it. None of them can see six, 10, or 20 years ahead. The House of Commons should be discussing the problem of excessive building—from a financial point of view—which has arisen in the last 10 or 15 years. It lays a heavy burden on the individual who is not benefited at all.
In Scotland, it is said that we each have two houses—the one we live in and the one we provide by our neighbour. That is very nearly true. It is not a very happy position for a person living in a not very comfortable house, with four other families, to know that he is providing an excellent house for someone else living in a State subsidised house. It is not a comfortable thought for the man paying £15 a year for an admittedly deplorable house that many town councillors and Members of Parliament are living in subsidised houses for which he is paying a share. Injustice to the landlord has 2010 been commented upon, but what about the injustice to the ordinary citizen living in the condemned house?
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
If the hon. Member objects to a State subsidised house, does he object to housing the Royal Family in subsidised houses?
§ Sir W. Darling
I would not attempt to deal with Royal houses on this occasion. There may be another occasion when perhaps I shall address myself to that subject. It will be noted that on this debate, which deeply and passionately concerns the interests of the common people, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is for the better accommodation of our Royal Family. I congratulate him and hope he gets the reward he does not deserve, but which at least he appears to seek.
I was remarking that these new houses have been built at great cost to the central Government and the local authority; the central Government representing the taxpayer and the local authority the ratepayer. People pay for their own houses and also for a house in which they do not live and which often they do not have an opportunity even of admiring because, usually, they are in select areas and time cannot be found to go to see them.
This Bill broadens the whole of our housing policy and widens the opportunity for better housing for all. It offers a hope, which has been in no previous housing Measure brought before this House. The privileged State-aided tenant is no longer to be the sole privileged person in the community. If I am rightly informed, most of them are supporters of hon. Members opposite, who look after their interests. But now that privileged classis not to be the only privileged class because, under this Bill something is to be done for the underprivileged. The Bill proposes the achievement of better houses for those who cannot get new houses. Everyone in local government knows that there is a tremendous waiting list for new houses which, like the widow's cruse, never diminishes. This Bill brings the lamp of improvement to those who have no hope of getting a new house under a local authority scheme.
I did not hear from the right hon. Member for Greenock what the alternative is, but I have no doubt we shall 2011 hear later. The hope of getting new houses is for a relatively small number. I am anxious that it should have added to it people who will get better houses under this scheme. Partly that should be possible by paying more rent. I agree with my right hon. Friend that there are many persons who feel that, as the cost of living has gone up, they would sooner spend a little more money on having a better house than upon other things. I venture to say that I know as much about tenements of the character under review as do most hon. Members opposite. I know that for two reasons, first, because I have lived in them and, secondly, because I have lived longer than many of those hon. Members. For those two reasons I can speak with authority on this matter.
If, under this scheme, betterment follows the increase of rent, I am inclined to think—because the public are very good judges of value—that many persons will not mind paying. I believe that the Bill could not be supported unless tenants will get improved conditions for increased rent. That is the whole basis of the Bill. The Government would not bring forward a Bill which did not provide people with something more for paying something extra. It would be absurd and outrageous were that not so. It is only under Socialism that you pay more and get less.
What is all this bogy of rising rent? Local authorities have raised their rents. They have had to do so. There has been little outcry. If it is right for local authorities, as landlords, to raise rents to meet the increased cost of maintenance, and for other reasons, who shall deny that owners of private houses should not do the same? What is so special and sacrosanct about the character of the private landlord which causes him to have to bear this expense? Costs rise for everyone, but local authorities are allowed to raise their rents and private landlords are not. Why should the private landlord be the only martyr in the modern world? If local authorities are allowed to raise rents—and the Edinburgh authority has done so—
§ Sir W. Darling
In Edinburgh, the average standard rent was £21 7s. 11d. It is now £22 13s. They put up the rents by £1 5s. 1d., on an average. There was 2012 grumbling, of course, but there was no general objection to the rightness of the judgment of the local authorities in making an extra charge for extra things. In Ayrshire, in the Burgh of Ayr, the average rent was £21. It is now £25 7s. 7d.; it is up by £4 7s. 7d.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
May I point out that I do not represent Ayr Burgh at all? Ayr is represented by the hon. Gentleman who sits behind the hon. Member.
§ Sir W. Darling
I said the Burgh of Ayr. I will refresh my memory by repeating it. It was the Burgh of Ayr I referred to. They have raised the rents of their houses with other burghs in Scotland. I am well aware it is not represented by the Hon. Gentleman, whose egotism veers between Buckingham Palace and the Burgh of Ayr. I object to it being thought that I am attacking an hon. Member who is so interested in the housing of the Royal Family.
This increase of rents by local authorities is not enough. They have to make good deficiencies in the cost of maintenance. What are the costs of maintenance with which local authorities are faced which makes them raise the rents, in Ayr by £4 and in Edinburgh by £5—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not customary when attacks are made upon an hon. Member, that previous notice should be given? The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) is attacking the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), who is not here.
§ Sir W. Darling
I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will endeavour to restrain the hon. Member's passion for the Royal Family and his devotion to my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), which takes him far away 2013 from the cause of the poor. He is anxious to interrupt in order that I may pander to his somewhat inflated egotism., I shall not give way to him again.
§ Sir W. Darling
The point I intended to make was that the average increase in the rents of local authority houses in Scotland is marked. In Edinburgh, it amounts to £1 and in Ayr to £4. As the hon. Member makes it quite clear, this does not apply to specific houses but is the average over the whole housing range under the control of the local authority.
§ Sir W. Darling
The case I am endeavouring to make is that if local authorities are able to raise rents for one reason or another, for maintenance costs or the like—
§ Sir W. Darling
In my view, there is equal justification. If maintenance costs for corporation houses are considerable, they are also considerable for the private landlord. I think it proper that the labourer should be worthy of his hire. The difficulty is that there is some peculiar merit in the local authority and some peculiar demerit in the landlord. I cannot discriminate. I think most local authorities and landlords are in the same position. The difference between them is not very marked.
2014 Under this Bill it is possible to increase rents and I am not afraid of that. What I should be afraid of would be to continue indefinitely and hopelessly under the present conditions. I am not afraid to say, "If you are prepared to pay a nominal contribution towards the cost in order—
We all know that the hon. Gentleman is a great merchant. Will he assure the House that a 40 per cent. increase in the cost of those commodities which he sells with such great success would be advertised as a nominal increase?
§ Sir W. Darling
Nominal, surely, is in name only. Forty per cent. of £100 would be a very substantial sum of money and perhaps a person who could pay £100 could not pay £140. In normal circumstances a 40 per cent. Increase—
§ Sir W. Darling
The right hon. Member for Greenock considered my arithmetic was not good, but I am quite ready to follow the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). I repeat that a 40 per cent. increase is a nominal increase. I suggest that to pay 2s. 6d. more for the privilege of having a water closet—
§ Sir W. Darling
For an improvement of that category, that is in my opinion, a good bargain, and many thousands of, people will take advantage of it.
§ Sir W. Darling
Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman the experiment of Allied Iron founders, and the Federation of Associated Foundries.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Gentleman says it has nothing to do with it, but these two companies made a series of experiments. They purchased derelict tenements and restored them. In some cases, the advantages of improved sanitation and accommodation could be obtained—under this system it was not one house at a time, but a block of houses—for as little as 2s. 6d. per week—
§ Sir W. Darling
If the hon. Gentleman is in doubt he should study the experiment of Allied Iron founders and the Federation of Associated Foundries. The hon. Gentleman has no excuse for ignorance in this matter—
§ Mr. Manuel rose—
§ Sir W. Darling
No, I am not giving way again. Owing to the number of interruptions I have not been able to give the House the benefit of my extensive views—
§ Sir W. Darling
The frivolous and infantile objections from the other side of the House are unworthy of hon. Members who pretend to have an interest in these matters. This Bill deals with slums as they have never been dealt with before—[HON. MEMBERS: "It certainly does."] Yes, they are being dealt with. Under the previous Administration they were left alone and the people left to rotin them.
There is hope today for the people of the slums. It is not the lamp of Socialism that brings that hope. It is the ingenious, original and helpful scheme which my right hon. Friend has put forward. There are opportunities for improvements in the condition of existing houses, and this Bill is a great Bill in that respect. I would have thought that if hon. Gentlemen admired anything they would admire the intention of tackling this problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock, in a somewhat splenetic interruption, told my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) that he would be whipped and driven from his constituency.
§ Sir W. Darling
Let me draw the attention of the House to the fact that a Government which has no majority in Scotland—there are 35 Socialists, 35 Tories and one Liberal—has the courage to bring forward a Measure which will bring little but political odium, but they present it with confidence that it will do something for people which has never been done for them before.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark feels that the better housing of the people is something which is to be supported because it gives the people a chance of living decently, but according to the right hon. Gentleman he will be whipped and driven from his constituency. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite put it that way. I put my confidence in the common sense of the people of Britain.
This scheme will not be wholly successful. There will be a good deal of experimentation and disappointment, but it is looking forward to a great and noble idea which should not be discouraged in the slightest. We can amend the Bill, improve it, make the Financial Resolution stronger if that is possible, but do not let us despise it. It is the only thing which has been produced for six years which brings hope to the hopeless. The Opposition had their opportunity for six years, and they brought forward nothing.
It may be said that this is a poor thing, but if there is nothing else to be admired about the Bill we can say that this Government, with a majority of 18 in this House, and no majority in Scotland, dared to tackle what is looked upon as political dynamite, dared to seize with both hands a nettle that none dared look at before.
We have, in Scotland, a great history. I am reminded of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, who once said:He either fears his fate too much,Or his desserts are small,That will not put it to the touch,To gain or lose it all.This Bill seeks to gain much, but if we lose it all we are still possessed of our self-respect, for we have done something towards housing the Scots.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)
I do not want to spend very much time replying to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), 2017 because, obviously, the House would like to get back to the Bill. It was apparent that the hon. Gentleman knows very little about the matter; indeed, some of his statements bordered on the fantastic. To suggest that an increase of 8s. in the £ in rent is a nominal increase is carrying things too far. I am sure that if he, in the course of his business, were cutting prices by 8s. in the £ there would be big bills on his window announcing slashing reductions. I suppose it all depends on what line one is arguing.
The hon. Member mentioned the matter of the increase in rents, but he was not taking into consideration the latest increases. They were ignored altogether. So it can easily be seen how very little reliance can be placed upon what the hon. Gentleman was saying.
If I may turn to the Bill, because I think that is what we are here to discuss, I must say that I regret the fact that the Lord Advocate is not on the Government Front Bench. Very seldom do we have the privilege of his presence in the House. There are a lot of legal implications in the Bill and there are one or two questions which I should have liked to put. I would have been grateful had he been here to answer them.
We must remind ourselves that slums are not the production of half a dozen years. They have been created over a long period. If one examines the figures for 1939 it will be found that there were hundreds of houses in every constituency throughout Scotland which had been condemned as unfit for human habitation. That is undeniable. The figures are available in the Scottish Office, and they prove that slums existed long before the Labour Party came into power.
When the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South chides us about this matter he forgets his own interjection two years ago during a debate on the Scottish Housing Estimates, when he spoke about the neglect of Scotland for the past 25 years. That was what he said. That was about three years after the Labour Government came into power, so he was, in fact, indicting previous Tory Governments, who had done nothing to solve this problem or to provide new houses.
§ Sir W. Darling
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I think it would be better if he devoted himself to the Bill.
§ Mr. Hoy
All I was saying was that if the hon. Gentleman wanted to indict the Labour Government he should have remembered what he said. If he wants further proof let him look up a speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who had some complaint to make about Scottish housing as compared with English housing and made exactly the same complaint as his hon. Friend.
All I am saying is that the slums have not developed since 1945. They have been created by years and years of neglect, and, having reached this stage, all that this Bill seeks to do is to place the financial responsibility for repairs on the tenants and not on the landlords who have drawn the rents all these years. The Government's own White Paper speaks about the lack of repairs during the war and in the immediate post-war years. It says, in paragraph 8, that no repairs were carried out during those years, so it would be pertinent to ask whether during those years, the landlords accepted the payment of 40 per cent. that was expressly given for that particular purpose. One would think that there should be some explanation about that. Has the money been put into a sinking fund or has it just sunk?
The hon. Gentleman said 40 per cent. was given for that purpose. It was 25 per cent.
§ Mr. Hoy
Yes; 25 per cent. is correct. I beg the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's pardon. It was 25 per cent. during the period. I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that that does not affect the argument, which is, what happened to these sums of money which the Government say, in the White Paper, were not spent? Surely that is a pertinent question to ask, and I should 2019 be glad if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would provide the answer.
It is quite untrue to suggest that this Bill will provide more houses. It will not. It will not provide a single additional house. On the contrary, the possibility is that fewer houses will be built. Nevertheless, if we consider the matter from the slum property point of view, the first argument which we must put is that the Bill fails to provide even one extra penny for slum clearance. All it seeks to do is to perpetuate slums, because it makes provision for their retention for another 15 years. What, in my view, is even worse is that the many thousands of slums which have been condemned as unfit for human habitation are now being passed from the landlord to the local authority.
§ Mr. Hoy
It may be that the local authority, with a greater sense of decency than the old private enterprise, will attempt to improve these houses and to make it possible for people to live in them. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman accepts that argument. Nevertheless, the Bill is turning all these houses over to the local authority; the local authority is to become the owner after all these years during which the landlord has taken every possible penny out of them. The skeleton is to be handed to the local authority.
I have often heard the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South speak of the rate burden. This action will throw a great burden on to the local ratepayers, because I do not believe for a moment that the financial provisions incorporated in the Bill are adequate to deal with this situation. If we look at paragraph 32 of the White Paper we find what almost amounts to an admission of that fact by the Government themselves, because the White Paper says:With these contributions to augment rents, which will be fixed by the local authorities in the light of the standard of accommodation provided, it should be possible to carry out this programme without an undue burden on the rates.The Government, therefore, admit that there will be a considerable rate burden to be carried in respect of these properties and all they can do is to 2020 express a pious hope that that rate burden will not be too heavy.
It is true that, as distinct from the English Bill, this Bill does not lay down what constitutes a good state of repair. I was slightly surprised to hear the Secretary of State speak about the amount which was spent on the painting of slum houses. I question that very much. Certainly, in large sections of the City of Edinburgh and in Leith, where slums have been known for many years, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South will appreciate—vile slums, slums of the worst possible type, which should have been wiped out 50, 60 or 70 years ago—I cannot recall that a penny has been spent on painting these properties.
§ Mr. Hoy
I am talking about both external and internal painting. One of my hon. Friends reminds me that, internally, the tenants have done it. I should like to go further into the point, but a large number of hon. Members on both sides wish to speak.
I wanted also to argue the point of how it is to be decided and who will settle disputes about the repairs which have been carried out—disputes between owner and tenant; but I will leave that to some of my colleagues. All I suggest is that when he uses a figure of the kind used in his speech, the Secretary of State must know that it does not apply to these working-class tenants. Indeed, the question of what constitutes a good state of repair causes consternation even among the landlords themselves.
Let us consider what was said by the ex-city treasurer of Edinburgh, who is a very big house factor. He says this of the proposals:My frank opinion is that there will be some stupid situations arising from it. It will be extremely difficult to convince tenants that a £4 increase to a £10 rent is going to cover all repairs necessary to a house in a poorer class category.Yet the Secretary of State comes here, aided and abetted by his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South, to seek to convince us otherwise.
I turn now to the question of owners' rates, because this will constitute a problem. Under the proposals of this Bill, for 2021 the first time we are to have different types of rates, because the Bill will stabilise the owners' rates at their present level. It was rather naive of the Secretary of State this afternoon to say that the owner will not pay on the new increased rent. In other words, the tenant who is at present paying £35 in rent will have his rent increased to £50 but will not pay increased rates on the difference between £35 and £50. With all due respect to the Secretary of State, he must appreciate that even though the tenant does not carry the rates on the £15, he has to carry the extra rates on the £35 which he is at present paying. I am glad to see that the Under-Secretary agrees with that statement.
The owner-occupier, the occupier of business premises and the tenant will be expected to carry every increase of rates from now until some further action is taken. That is a plain statement of fact. Until further action is taken, every owner-occupier in Scotland and every tenant will have to carry the new increase in rates, if any.
§ Sir W. Darling rose—
§ Mr. Hoy
I have given way three times to the hon. Gentleman. I do not think I need give way again.
It goes even further than that. The Secretary of State seeks to prove to us that the landlord is a generous man, so he says, "If the rates are decreased the landlord will be willing to share the decrease with his tenant." That is the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman makes in the Bill. It is rather a back handed way of distributing largesse. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a great deal of trouble is coming to him not from council tenants but from every owner of a bungalow throughout Scotland. Every owner-occupier will want to know the justification.
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to take this action in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has appointed the Sorn Committee to go into the question of rating in Scotland. It is admitted on all sides that there are problems. Surely it was not right for the right hon. Gentle- 2022 man to anticipate the finding of that Committee and to seek to alter the rating system in what is supposed to be a Housing Bill. That is quite wrong and it will be resented. We have had the example of where the Government attempted to do the same thing with the judges and to create among them taxpayers who were distinct from the rest of the taxpayers. There was an overwhelming opinion against it, and the Government withdrew the Bill. Here, the Secretary of State is creating locally the very same position and it will not meet with the approval of the people of Scotland.
One of the worst features of the Bill is that in every case the onus appears to fall on the tenant. If the tenant feels that the house is not in a good state of repair, it is the tenant who has to prove that it is not. If the expenditure on repairs is doubted in any case, it is the tenant who has to doubt it. In every case, the tenant has to carry the proof and the landlord is not asked to prove anything at all unless charged with an offence. It is an important point: who is to pay the expense of these sheriff court cases? Does the Lord Advocate know? Could he tell us who will pay for them?
Even in cases where there is a dispute as to the repairs and the percentage increase which the tenant is to pay, who decides that? I understand that it is to be the sheriff, and rent increases, whether of 30 or 40 per cent., are also to be decided by the sheriff, who is to make an amicable settlement in any case that goes before the sheriff's court. This is why the Bill has become popularly known in Scotland as the "Landlord and Sheriff (Scotland) Bill." Who will pay for it? Neither the Lord Advocate nor the Secretary of State appears to be able to tell us.
I suggest that the whole onus is being thrown on the tenant, and I want to refer a little more specifically to Clause 15 (4), because I think we are entitled to expect an immediate reply from the Lord Advocate on this point. All the onus is being placed on the tenant, and this appears to go even much further, because subsection (4) says:The sheriff, if satisfied that any error or omission in any notice of increase is due to a bona fide mistake"—2023 and these mistakes could be as welcome as travellers—on the part of the landlord, shall have power to amend the notice by correcting any errors or supplying any omissions therein.This is all for the purpose of making the landlord's notice valid.
Is this a new departure, or can the Lord Advocate tell the House now whether, in fact, this provision is repeated from some other Act of Parliament, or whether it is a new creation and this is the first time it has appeared? Apparently the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot, and I therefore assume that this is the first time, having given him the opportunity to confirm or deny it. I think this subsection proves the point that this Bill is loaded against the tenant, and that, throughout the whole of it, the tenant has this responsibility placed upon his shoulders.
In view of that fact, surely that is an infringement of the law. Whether that view is right or not, I ask the Lord Advocate whether this is not a matter which ought to have been justified and brought to the attention of the House by the Secretary of State for Scotland when introducing the Bill? I suggest, in conclusion, that in view of all these deficiencies, this Bill will make no contribution to housing in Scotland, and that it would be much better if the Secretary of State, even at this late hour, were to withdraw it and, after consultation with the local authorities in Scotland, bring forward a new Bill.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The House is faced with a very great problem. I think we are all agreed that matters cannot be left where they are, and that is the premise with which I would start. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have made great play with destructive criticism. But we must have constructive proposals this afternoon. We are faced with a position in which, according to the views of their chief spokesman, the former Minister of Health, houses are falling into disrepair as fast as they are being built. That was the verdict of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). That may not be completely accurate; there may be a touch of hyperbole about it.
§ Mr. Elliot
In any case, there is a growing anxiety at present in regard to one of the great fixed assets of our country—the housing of the nation. We start from the fact that something must be done, that the situation cannot be left as it is.
The only suggestion made so far by the Opposition has been that this Bill should be withdrawn, though they have on previous occasions, and through their spokesmen, brought forward proposals to which I shall refer later. We on this side of the House say that it is not sufficient to build new houses in Scotland, but that the older houses must also be kept in repair. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) and everyone agrees. But the right hon. Gentleman brings forward no constructive proposal. We are entitled to ask that constructive proposals for dealing with this matter should be brought forward by those who object to the proposals we are making. It is not enough to say merely that something else should be done. Yet the only suggestion which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on that side have made so far is that the Bill should be withdrawn.
First of all, the present proposals were criticised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock. He placed in the forefront of his objections four complaints. He said first that the finance was wrong, that the financial provisions in the Bill were inadequate. He said that they had not received sufficient consideration from the local authorities, which had not had the time to give them due consideration. It seems to me that that argument has been completely met by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State by saying that he did not propose to move the Financial Resolution tonight. Therefore, the financial question is open for further consideration, and it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman's first point fails.
His second point was that my right hon. Friend did not fully argue the point—and this is the cardinal point in our consideration of this whole problem—that the cost of repairs had substantially increased, and, in particular, had increased to a figure comparable to that which is proposed in this Bill. The right 2025 hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock also complained that my right hon. Friend had not given a full account of the findings of the Hutson Committee. I think the right hon. Gentleman was not wholly just in his contention. He read out certain extracts from paragraphs in their Report. But, after all, the final findings of the Committee were that the cost of repairs had gone up by something like 40 per cent., and that was not a party Committee, but one of which local authority representatives were members. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Indeed, yes; the burgh surveyor of Paisley was a member. When we are dealing with-the cost of housing in a burgh I cannot imagine a better judge than the burgh surveyor, and we had the burgh surveyor of Paisley to consider the Paisley housing accounts. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was not representative."] Surely it is not suggested that the burgh surveyor of Paisley was falsifying his report, or that he did not know the state of the housing accounts of the burgh of Paisley?
No, the members of the Committee who made this finding included a past president of the Institute of Surveyors, the burgh surveyor of Paisley and an architect in private practice who had also served in the Ministry of Works during a previous portion of his career. It was a representative Committee of the highest authority, and I say that the remarks which it made as to the reasons why it did not include the local authority evidence are set out quite frankly in paragraph 79, in which it states:Unfortunately, the Corporations of Dundee and Paisley have no longer in their possession details of their 1939 expenditure and as a change in the standard of maintenance has taken place in Glasgow we have been unable to utilise to any great extent what we had hoped would be one of our best sources of evidence.I am glad that the right hon. Member for Greenock has returned. I was not attacking him, but I was certainly criticising him. I do not wish to repeat again what I said, except that he was a little unjust to my right hon. Friend in suggesting that my right hon. Friend had in some way minimised, or failed to present the whole bearing of the Hutson Report, in that the Report did not take into full account the evidence of the local authorities. I was pointing out that the Committee scrutinised these facts very carefully, and that it pointed out, in particular 2026 in regard to Glasgow, that owing to a change in the standards of maintenance, the evidence, as it says itself, was not able to be utilised to any great extent.
The main findings of these responsible persons were in fact that the cost of repairs had substantially increased, to a figure comparable to the figure proposed in the Bill. The same fact is borne out by the inquiry which has gone on in England. Nobody impugns in any way the technical competence or the professional honour of those who are responsible for these findings. So we pass on from point one, that the position is un satisfactory and that existing housing in Scotland is deteriorating, to point number two, that the cost of repairs has greatly increased. The Bill suggests—
§ Mr. T. Fraser
There is this point, though, that the year 1939 is of no consequence at all when we are looking at the cost of repairs today. The relation should surely be with the cost of repairs in 1920, when existing rents were fixed. In any case, this was an expert Committee, and no one wishes to impugn the honour or integrity of any of the three members of it, who made it quite clear that they reached their conclusions on the basis of evidence submitted by the property owners' federation.
§ Mr. Elliot
They reached their conclusions on the basis of all the evidence that they could obtain, and they made no suggestion at any point in their Report that they had been hindered or hampered by insufficiency of evidence upon which to base their conclusions. If these competent men had found their data insufficient, they would certainly have reported so.
In any case, it is unnecessary to rely only upon the experience of two or three technical men, looking into one particular problem. The fact that costs of this sort have increased, as every other kind of cost has, is common knowledge to everyone in this House, in every walk of life with which we have any connection. It is one of the reflections of the inflation which has gone on. One of the unfortunate features of our system is that apparently we cannot have full employment without continuing inflation, or continuing inflation without a gradual rise in costs in all the charges to which we are subject. The Bill is an attempt to bring the two things into harmony.
2027 The right hon. Member for Greenock went on further to say that he thought the Bill was unfair to the tenant and he queried the suggestion of my right hon. Friend that the landlord would at some point have to prove that he had incurred these extra costs. Indeed, he said, in a vigorous and admirable metaphor at one point, "The sheriff gets down off the bench and begins to assist the landlord." Well, what happens? The landlord has to bring forward a claim which he can justify in court. He will have to use his chartered accountant and his solicitor and will have to satisfy himself that, in the case of, let us say—[Interruption.] It is in the Bill that the landlord will have to justify his claim before the sheriff. I know that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) can justify anything for himself before any court of law. But if any one of us were brought before a court, I think we would do our best to obtain legal assistance before entering the court. I would myself.
The landlord may well have to employ a chartered accountant and a solicitor, to satisfy himself that he can justify a claim to have expended, let us say, 60 per cent. of the year's rental for the benefit of an individual house. He then serves notice on the tenant, who is in a position to appeal to the sheriff.
§ Mr. Elliot
The sheriff has to be satisfied, in which case he gives judgment accordingly. If not, if the sheriff considers that this claim is not justified or that the work which benefits the house has even been allocated on a wrong basis, the claim falls, and the expenditure, even though it be 59 per cent. falls also. The landlord gets no benefit from it whatsoever. The difficulty in which the landlord will be put will be considerable.
This is a very difficult problem which will require very close technical examination. I do not think that it is fair to suggest that the scales are weighted against one side or the other. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We shall have representations and hon. Members opposite also will have representations, from the property owners, who are to put their case before the courts, that the scales 2028 are weighted against them, just as we shall all have representations from the tenants saying that the scales are weighted against them.
It is for us as Members of Parliament to consider these things. In Committee we must decide which claim is more justified. Do not let us think that there is any simple formula by which we can dismiss this difficult problem, which requires close technical examination. The necessity for this examination has to be set against the background that Scotland's houses are falling down, and that something must be done to keep them up.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Would the right hon. Gentleman address himself to this very human problem? Suppose a rent increase of 3s. or 4s. is imposed upon a poor, humble tenant, who is faced with the prospect of either paying the increase or getting a solicitor and going to the sheriff. What is the tenant to do? I think if I were a tenant I would say what the vast majority of tenants will say, "I'd better pay the 4s. and not go to court."
§ Mr. Elliot
I give the hon. Member credit for something more than that. He would join an association, as he does in other walks of life. He would organise.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, he would not join a political party. He would have more sense. Much good it has done him. To argue that each individual case will be taken up by each individual tenant on each individual issue is not in correspondence with the facts. Heaven knows, we remember a former Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), when such cases were considered before, in the famous case of Kerr v. Bryde. Is it suggested that those two protagonists were merely private individuals going forward and asking for their case to come before the court? The whole of the political fortunes of the West of Scotland turned on that case, which was fought with all the resources of wide and far-reaching associations. If injustice were to arise under the Bill, it would be contested under such conditions.
The difficulty of having some judicial body before which these matters can be 2029 thrashed out is inseparable from the position in which we are now. The only other course would be to remove control altogether and to let the matter be settled by economic forces, but we all agree that during the present famine of houses that is impossible. If the matter cannot be settled by economic forces, it must be settled by some process of law. This Bill is the process of law we propose, and we ask what is the other process of law proposed from the other side of the House. We say that the right hon. Gentleman's case falls upon that point also.
The right hon. Gentleman says that one of the difficulties of the Secretary of State for Scotland might easily have been solved had he picked up a Bill which the right hon. Member's party had in draft for six years, and put it upon the Statute Book. It would be great presumption on our part to suggest that we with our imperfect knowledge should bring forward a Bill which after five years of gestation and cogitation the Labour Party had been unable to produce. In that, the hon. Gentleman does himself less than justice.
If the problem was so complex that in the whole of six years of power the party opposite was unable to solve it, then the right hon. Gentleman surely does us too much honour to propose that in present conditions we should perfect and bring forward his Bill. The office pigeonholes are repositories of many draft Bills, and none of us can claim credit for draft Bills which remained draft Bills during our whole tenure of office and which did not see the light of day.
The right hon. Gentleman is in a much more fortunate position than we were, in that he has had a draft Bill presented to this House.
§ Mr. Elliot
Yes, a draft Bill was presented, but not by the Government. A back-bencher's Bill was brought forward when there was no longer the responsibility of Government on the shoulders of those who brought it forward. I am asking what the right hon. Gentleman did when he occupied the great and noble office of Secretary of State for Scotland, and when he and his right hon. Friends had the Treasury at their command and the legislative machine in their power. Nothing was brought forward. Therefore, I do not think that he can claim credit for that Bill.
2030 The difficulty, of course, is that we have not only to maintain the existing houses—and for our proposals, I must say, the Hutson and the Girdwood Reports gave ample justification—but we have to do something about the slums. The difficulty of those of us with a constituency in which slum property is a great ingredient, and, in some cases, a major ingredient, is that we know that such properties cannot be improved by those who hold them at the present time, and cannot be pulled down because there is nowhere for the people to go.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite knows that well. He and I both know the constituency of Kelvingrove. In fact, we both share the credit, or the discredit, if one likes, of having been defeated in that constituency. The right hon. Gentleman knows better than most the problem of slum property in that constituency. There is one problem which I put to him again and again during his term of office, and one which, indeed, I have put before the present Government and other Governments. It is the problem of what is called the "Huts in the Park." The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are gas decontamination shelters in the middle of Kelvingrove Park which were hastily put into a state of habitation—I will not say of good tenantable repair—and these were his property—Government property. He was the landlord of what he calls these miserable hovels, which, indeed, they are. I remember one of my friends saying, "Well, the people in the middle are not so badly off because they have got doors. The two end ones have not."
§ Mr. Elliot
They were not bequeathed by anybody. They were built and occupied under the Labour Administration. They did not exist before. All that was done for the benefit of the unhappy tenants of these places was that their electric light was cut off. In those hovels sit, sleep and work men who go into the shipyards and build the finest ships in the world. They wire and fit those ships with every kind of equipment, and then come back to bunsen burners and small oil stoves. That was done under the aegis of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, backed by the Labour majority of the time.
2031 I do not excuse any Government for this. I have brought up this matter again and again, and I shall continue to do so. But it is an example of the difficulties in which we find ourselves when dealing with slum property in Glasgow.
§ Mr. Elliot
Indeed it has to do with this Bill. This property, like other property, suffers from a diversity of masters. It suffers because we cannot find whose responsibility it is. We cannot find upon whom the burden should fall.
§ Mr. Elliot
Here for the first time the duty is given to one recognisable authority to take over and to deal with these properties. Again, this is not a proposition which appeals to any of us. Naturally, every single one of us would prefer that these buildings should be pulled down and new houses built upon their sites. That, undoubtedly, is the only solution, but until we get a little more elbow room, and until, as the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) said, we get some more new houses, it is impossible to deal in the best way with many of the existing tenements, because it means a reduction and not an increase in the number of houses.
One cannot make three bad habitations into two passable habitations and thus improve the habitations which have been altered, without having someone on one's hands who had previously lived in the habitation in the middle. We certainly need to do that, but I think that for the first time we are beginning to get within sight of that small amount of elbow-room necessary to deal with these things. Let us make sure that they are dealt with. The Bill actually begins to deal with it.
The right hon. Gentleman gives an interesting interpretation of Part I of the Bill. These huts, as I remember them, were decontamination centres which, happily, were never brought into use, and which were subsequently occupied by squatters. Is the right hon. Gentleman arguing that this Bill will empower local authorities to 2032 deal with properties occupied by squatters and that a Government subvention will be available for the treatment of such property?
§ Mr. Elliot
I should certainly consider that it would enable local authorities to deal with property occupied by squatters. The question of finance has naturally not yet been settled, but I should certainly think that if the Bill dealt with such property, it would be possible for Government assistance to be obtained. It would fix the responsibility. I think that the lack of any responsible person upon whom one can call in the case of slum property is one of the greatest evils in the whole question of slums, especially the old slums in the centre of our city, which, as I say, have in some cases lost ownership altogether.
The tenants of some of these slum properties are paying no rent at all, but they would be only too willing to pay rent if they could find somebody who would put slates on the roof and glass in the windows and thus prevent the weather from coming in. They would not object to paying rent, but they do object to having no landlord to go to, and no one to whom they can appeal to give them tenantable and habitable properties in which to live. Here, at any rate, is a proposal by which that can be done. I know of no other way in which the problem can be met. Therefore, I say that the proposal is a good one.
The alternative proposal brought forward by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is that all houses should be taken over. I shall be interested to know if that is the official proposition of the party opposite. Is that the constructive alternative which the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up for the Opposition is to advance to the House? Is the proposal that is to be brought forward to night by the Labour Party that all houses should be taken over?
§ Mr. Elliot
All the houses of which we are talking now are rent-controlled houses. Is the proposal that all the rent-controlled houses should be taken over? I should be interested to know. If that is the proposal, let us hear it. All the houses would cease to be rent-controlled, 2033 for no local authority house is rent-controlled. All these houses fall out of rent control the moment they are taken over by the local authority. The Socialist proposal is that all houses in this country should be decontrolled and that the local authority should be given the terrific task, in addition to its other problems, of working out the correct rent basis for all existing rent-controlled houses as well as for its own houses. Frankly, I do not think that that is a proposal which would lead to any speedy improvement of the position of the tenants. I do not think it could be brought forward as a practicable alternative to the Bill we have before us. But if it is so, let us hear it.
Finally, I would say that the whole housing position is challenged; not challenged by one party or the other but by public opinion and by spokesmen, certainly not the monopoly of one party or the other. The right hon. Tom Johnston, a previous Secretary of State for Scotland, has challenged Parliament in the most uncompromising terms to handle this problem, to grapple with it, to do something and to do it swiftly because, as he says, the rate of deterioration is, in some ways, greater than the amount of new construction which we are undertaking. The challenge is to Parliament, not to one party or the other. Rent control and the various measures Parliament has taken have largely created this problem. It is for Parliament to unloosen this deadlock which has been created, and to find some method by which progress can be made.
This Bill does, at any rate, make a start. It makes constructive proposals by which the deadlock can be loosened. It is brought forward in harmony with proposals made by technical Committees such as the Hutson and other Committees, and in answer to challenges made by responsible men such as the right hon. Tom Johnston, and others both inside and outside this House. Here is, at any rate, a proposal for action. Let the House, on either side, say tonight that action should be taken.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. John Timmons (Bothwell)
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman, but to confine myself specifically to the effect this Bill will have on the local authorities and on those who have to pay rent and rates. The local 2034 authorities are the people who are going to carry the greater burden. The present Government's policy on this is consistent with the policy they have pursued since they came into office, passing off, within the steel industry and the transport industry, that part which is a burden to the industry, and handing over the best part to their friends under private enterprise. The very same set of circumstances prevails now. We are going to ask the local authorities to take over the slum property, but it is proposed to allow the landlords to continue with the good property, and to tell them, "We will give you an additional increase of 40 per cent."
A few weeks ago I asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many houses in the Lanarkshire County Council area were listed for demolition in 1939, and how many of them are still occupied. The answer was that up to 1939 there were 6,097 houses listed for demolition, but the Minister could not tell me the number still occupied. However, I can say that approximately 85 per cent. of these houses are still occupied. If those houses could not be made habitable at reasonable cost in 1939, what is the position today? That is what the local authorities are to be asked to take over, and they will be told, "You make these houses habitable." Does the Secretary of State really believe that £6 10s. a year for 15 years is going to meet anything like the cost of the burden to be thrown on the local authorities? It certainly will not do it.
Further, the White Paper stated that the Secretary of State could not, at this stage, estimate the cost involved to the local authorities in attempting to put these houses into some kind of habitable condition. That is a serious situation, and I say that financially the Government are passing the burden—and "passing the buck"—to the local authorities, which is rather typical of the present Government, and preserving the best in housing for their friends.
Let me give a typical instance. My grandmother was born about 150 years ago; the house is still in existence and I do not know how long it had been built before she was born. The house, which is in a very bad state, is one of 12 in the block. The landlord is continuing to draw rents for those houses but, as far 2035 as I am aware, he has spent nothing on repairs during the past 30 years. To anyone who wishes to have one of these houses the landlord states, quite specifically, "You can have the house, but you will carry out the repairs."
I know of young couples who, because of their desperate need to get a home of their own, have paid as much as £200—the whole of their savings—in trying to improve these houses for their own comfort. I should like to ask the Secretary of State whether, if it is reasonable to pay the landlords a 40 per cent. increase in rent to cover the cost of repairs, it is unreasonable to make some provision for refunding to such young couples the £200, or whatever sum they may have spent?
The Bill, as far as I can see, is one-sided, and in no way meets the situation. The £6s. 10s. which is provided to cover the cost of interest charges over a period of 15 years is not going to be sufficient and, furthermore, will mean imposing a greater burden on those occupying the property. A fortnight ago I was approached by a constituent in a residential area, a man who, politically, would be on the other side of the House, and who supports the other side. His rent is £90. He asked how he would be affected under this Bill, and I told him, "You will get a 40 per cent. increase in the rent." He said, "But my house does not need repair," and I told him, "That does not matter. According to the present Bill, you are going to pay an increase of 40 per cent.," and that is perfectly true.
In that residential area of Bothwell and in similar areas there are many supporters of the present Government who are complaining and "kicking over the traces." These people are living in houses the rents of which vary from £60 to£100. They will have to pay this 40 per cent. increase, and they are certainly grumbling about it. This man asked, "What is the answer to it?" I said, "It is your Government which is doing this, and it is for you to ask somebody else to find a solution."
I want to deal briefly with another aspect of the Bill which takes out of the rent control Scottish Special Housing Association houses. This is a difficult problem, particularly for miners. Some years ago we had to discuss this matter with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) 2036 when he was Secretary of State for Scotland. We transferred thousands of families from Lanarkshire into the Lothians, to Fife and to Ayrshire. They went into houses which were built by the Scottish Special Housing Association, and there was a jump in the rents from £5 to £10. I think the average increase in rents was about £9 when they went from Lanarkshire local authority houses into Scottish Special Housing Association houses.
The rents of those Scottish Special Housing Association houses are standing at approximately £25 today. Those rents will go up again when the 40 per cent. increase is passed on. In 1944 under the Housing (Scotland) Act, when Tom Johnston was Secretary of State, the life of the Scottish Special Housing Association was extended in order to assist the local authorities in their housing problems. It was stated that the rents charged would be comparable with those of the local authorities and that any loss accruing to the Scottish Special Housing Association would be borne by the Treasury. The Treasury have never met that situation.
In my area and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) we have many houses which were built by the Scottish Special Housing Association, and the variation in the rents is such that on one side of the street they are £33 and on the other side £25. Unless the Secretary of State intervenes, we shall get this additional increase of 40 per cent. on the rents of these houses, and this is going to widen the gap between local authority houses and Scottish Special Housing Association houses! These houses are occupied by people earning from £6 to £6 10s. a week and the rent is in the region of 25s. a week. If40 per cent. is added, how are the tenants going to meet such a situation? These are some of the problems with which this Bill does not deal.
Here is another situation with which the Bill does not deal. If the Secretary of State decides to go on with the Bill, I would ask him, in co-operation with the Lord Advocate, to try to provide for the irregularities which are going on in house letting. A fortnight ago there was brought to my notice a case for which I can vouch. There were 84 people 2037 wanting a house in Glasgow. It was in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. W. Reid). The house was available to the highest bidder. Before the house was occupied, the successful applicant had to put down £100 plus an additional £10 for a month's rent and rates in advance. A total of £110 had to be paid before he could get the key of the house. That is a general practice throughout the country. Young people whom I know tell me that when they go to look for a house they have to pay from £5 to £20 before they can get a key to the House, even an old "single end."
Much has been said this evening about slums. If the increase which the landlords got under the 1920 Act had been spent on improving and maintaining these houses instead of allowing them to drift into slums, we would not have the present situation. No matter how we try, this Bill will certainly not meet that situation. It ignores the position. It "passes the buck" and imposes a burden on the local authorities. Some local authorities are finding it more difficult than others. All depends on the extent to which they have to deal with slum property.
The Coal Board have more slum property than anyone else, in Lanarkshire at any rate. They have done little or nothing to maintain these houses. These houses were not built originally as homes. They were built at the beginning of the industrial revolution as shelters to keep the rain off the people who lived there and who had to go to work in the morning. There are thousands of these houses throughout the country. In Lanarkshire many of these houses have been offered to the county council and to the various local authorities, and the local authorities will not touch them under any consideration, quite justifiably.
I wish to deal also with the question of site values. Even in this Bill local authorities do not get adequate treatment in this respect. I agree with my right hon. and hon. Friends whose names appear to the Amendment to this Second Reading Motion that it would be wise to withdraw the Bill until a more tangible and better method of approach is found to deal with the problem.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett (Glasgow, Woodside)
Everyone agrees that the housing of the people is a national problem and that something must be done to stop the rapid deterioration and decay of houses which are at present occupied. The difference of opinion begins when we consider who should bear the cost. The Government say it should be the tenant. I wish to raise the question of the justice, equity and wisdom of placing the whole of the cost on the tenants of these houses.
In my opinion, every Government, through the Treasury, has been largely responsible for the present situation in which we find ourselves. If there is any single factor which has brought us to this present impasse, I would say that it is the action of successive Governments. They have taken enormous sums from property. For years they have said it was a decaying business—a business that required subsistence and sustenance—and yet they have continued to take 20 per cent. of the money out of property year after year, and they still intend to do so. Many properties would not be in such a bad condition had it not been for the Property Tax, which is an imposition.
A property in a very good district in Glasgow was abandoned in May of this year. It is surrounded by first-class properties, but when it was suddenly discovered that the roof required rejoisting and re-slating, the proprietors simply could not face the cost. This abandoned property is only 50 years old. The cost of renewing the roof is estimated at £800. We can understand how, in the spring of this year, it was utterly impossible to raise £800 on such a property. But during the past 10 years the Government have taken £980 from that property.
Another property in Glasgow is 67 years old. It is in good order, and the total rental at the moment is £520 per annum. The Property Tax is roughly £116 per annum. During the past 10 years the Government have taken over £800 from this property, and the credit balance at the end of 10 years is £60, so that the Government have taken £800 and the proprietor has been leftwith £60.
I suggest that this 40 per cent. increase should be taken from its proper source, and that the benefit should be given to the right persons. Is it right to say; 2039 "You require subsistence, sustenance and assistance. You are weak, and we intend to help you by allowing you to collect another 40 per cent., from which you will sustain yourself," and at the same time do nothing in respect of the revenue which is being taken from the property? The Property Tax must be paid, and it can be recovered only after 5 years. It is impossible for any man—private or public—to provide for maintenance under this scheme unless he dips his hand into his own pocket and, at the same time, pays the Government 20 per cent., which is roughly the extent of the Government's imposition on these properties.
How will this rise affect the people? It may be said that it is only a matter of 2s. 4d. or 2s. 6d. a week, or the price of two cigarettes a day. On a rental of £15 it represents an increase of £6, on £40 it means an increase of £16, and on £60 it means an increase of £24. One of my constituents—a retired man—pays a rent of £40. His income is £5 10s. a week. The Government propose to increase his rent by £16. That means that this man has to do without three weeks' income. He cannot possibly afford it.
Another of my constituents is a married man, who is retired, and whose daughter is staying in London. He pays a rent of £60 a year. The wife said to me, "How are we going to stand?" I said, "You will have an increase of £24." She said, "We simply cannot afford it. It is taking us all our time at the moment, on father's pension, to keep the house going. As a matter of fact, if it had been possible to get a smaller house we would have had one long ago."
Has any care been taken about people in this situation? There are thousands of them. There are hundreds in my own constituency. It is all very well to say, "It is only £24,"but these people cannot get another house. Has any provision been made to enable them to get another house? If they are 70 years of age—as is this woman—and have worked hard and brought up a family, and are doing their best, are they expected to take in boarders? This woman is not able to do so.
I suggest this solution. The Government must face the fact that they are taking revenue from old properties—and old properties, like old people, require 2040 assistance. They do not want something taken from them. The owner's rate on a £20 house, on the average, is about £4. That is £4 of the £8 which the Government are proposing to put on. If Property Tax were remitted it would give approximately £4 on a £20 rental. We are derating in the case of factories and land, and I consider that it would be a first-class financial proposition to derate these old properties in the city.
Every house left standing after 70 years is a financial asset. It ought to be a liability, because the people there should have been rehoused elsewhere, at a cost to the Government and the local ratepayer. In Glasgow that cost would average £75 per annum. Instead of costing the town and the Government £75 per annum, the people will be left where they are. If that is so, we ought to consider derating these properties of 40 years of age and over, and remitting 50 per cent. of the owner's taxes, because that would go back to the tenant.
At the moment, taxes in Glasgow are 7s. 11½d. in the £. We can call it 8s. On a £20 rental, if we were to give a 50 per cent. rebate, or if we were to derate the house, we would have 4s. from that source and 4s. from the other source making up the 8s. The tenants of these houses would still be required to pay something because, as has been shown by hon. Members opposite, the owners would have to pass on a percentage of the tax to the occupiers. So it would come to something. It might not be very much but it would be something.
What is a tenant in a house in Glasgow paying at the present time? We are told that all rates must come out of rentals. That is absolutely true. In Glasgow, at St. Mungo's Park, at the present time we find that the rate for housing and city improvements comes to 2s. 5½d. in the £. If one of those old and dilapidated houses were pulled down, it would mean that some extra money would have to be provided to rehouse the displaced people. Meantime, the owners and occupants of the other property, by the 40 per cent. increase, would be paying between them 2s. 5½d. in the £ to give someone else a first-class house somewhere else. I am thoroughly convinced that the people of Glasgow would be quite happy to pay a little more, if that were necessary, to give those people a suitable house.
2041 How much would it cost? That is the next question. I have gone into this very carefully, and my calculation is that to give a 50 per cent. rebate, or to derate those properties by 50 per cent., to reduce the owner's taxes by 50 per cent., would cost £500,000 per annum, which is 10d. in the £. It would mean 10d. in the £ all-round to give those people what we are suggesting. I am quite convinced that the people in the new housing schemes, the people in Kelvinside, Pollok shields and other parts of the city, would rather pay 10d. in the £ knowing those people were getting a just deal than feel that we were going to increase their rents by 40 per cent., and that they were still going to pay towards the subsidy to enable those people to continue to stay in those miserable hovels.
We have as a Government made a tremendous impression upon the housing problem, and it is for that very reason that the injustice of the proposed increase in rent will be accentuated in the years ahead. If we continue building houses in Glasgow at the rate of 7,000 per annum, it will mean a cost of between £50,000 and £60,000 per annum, in 10 years between £500,000 and £600,000, in Glasgow alone. In Scotland as a whole the figure will be over £1½ million per annum. I think what I have suggested is well worth the consideration of the Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have a suggestion to make to the House. A great number of hon. Members wish to speak. I imply no criticism whatsoever of the speeches we have heard up till now—excellent speeches; but there used to be a convention about Scottish days, which I well remember, and hon. Members did limit themselves in order to permit as many hon. Members as possible to speak, and if I make an appeal for that in respect of speeches in the future I do so only so that the interests of most hon. Members can be considered.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. William Reid (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I am very pleased to have an opportunity of following my colleague, the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett). I can assure him that his views meet with the support of most of us on this side of the House, and we sincerely trust that in consequence of those views he will be found in the 2042 Lobby tonight with us, voting for the rejection of this Bill.
I am one of those who took part in the agitation which started in the East End of Glasgow and resulted in the passing of the first Rent Restrictions Act, in 1915. I should like to point out, at the outset, what is not generally known. It was never the intention of any of the pioneers of that agitation that that first Rent Restrictions Act should remain on the Statute Book as long as it has done. It was looked upon as a wartime expedient, and should have been dealt with in a satisfactory manner when the First World War came to an end. What happened? The Coalition Government of 1920 came forward with a Bill that proved they were only shilly-shallying with the subject. They simply came forward, in 1920, with a Bill to increase the rents of those rent restricted houses by 47½ per cent.
The curse of that Act was that in it there were no penalty clauses. The majority of the owners of property in the City of Glasgow spent none of that money on the maintenance and repair of their properties, with the result that between 1920 and the present we find, in large areas in Glasgow, that even with the 40 per cent. that has now been proposed the owners will be quite unable to bring those houses into a state of repair that would make them fit for human habitation. At the end of the day most of those houses will require to be dealt with by the local authority.
We on this side of the House fully recognise the problem of disrepair of privately rented properties. Nevertheless, we oppose this Bill on two grounds. First, a flat rate of 40 per cent. increase will never solve the problem because that will never meet the expenditure of money required on the slum ridden areas in constituencies like my own in the East End of Glasgow. Secondly, the rates of all houses under the Rent Restrictions Acts are to be frozen.
What, exactly, does that mean? In the City of Glasgow 50 per cent. of the houses are under the Rent Acts. That means that if the owners' rates on 50 per cent. of the houses in Glasgow are frozen any increase in the rates will have to be paid by the other half of the community. What does that mean so far as local authority houses are concerned? If there 2043 is an increase in the rates not only will the local authority as owner have to pay the increase, but the tenants, as occupiers, will have to pay the increase, because the owners of those rent restricted houses are to have their rates frozen.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not with us, because there is another point with which I should like to deal very briefly. In the English Bill, which came before the House last week, the words "good repair" were very carefully defined in the following terms:' good repair,' in relation to any premises, means that having regard to the age, character and locality of the premises they are in good repair both as respects structure and as respects decorations;I am informed that the word "decoration" in that sense means interior decorations such as papering and painting. I am astonished that the Secretary of State has agreed to that being inserted in the English Bill and yet has not fought for the same concessions being made to tenants on the other side of the border. Indeed, I have always looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as a great Scottish patriot, but he has let me down very badly. May I remind the Lord Advocate, who is with us—
§ Mr. Reid
—that last week, in the City of Edinburgh, a number of misguided young men were brought before the court in Edinburgh and prosecuted by the Lord Advocate for a foolish attempt to blow up St. Andrew's House with dynamite. If the Secretary of State wishes to avoid anything of that kind happening in the future, then let him pay more attention to the citizens in his own land and see to it that they get the same concessions in a Bill of this kind as have been granted in the English Bill.
I want to put two questions to the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who, I presume, will reply to the debate.
In view of what the hon. Member has said about my right hon. Friend and the grievous feelings he has had of being let down by my right hon. Friend, may I point out that the law of Scotland has for many years interpreted what is meant by good and tenantable repair.
That may be, but it is well known that the courts have always ruled that it does not include decorations. What we are trying to do under the Bill is to make good the increase in the cost of repairs since 1939. If we were to include decorations it must be obvious to the hon. Member that the figure would have to be something more than 40 per cent., which, I think, would be too much.
§ Mr. Reid
I am very pleased that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has made that intervention. He says that the courts have always decided on a certain attitude, but here was a golden opportunity to overcome that difficulty by inserting a Clause in the Scottish Bill similar" to that in the English Bill.
I want to put two questions to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; and I hope we shall have a reply. Cases have been reported to me in Glasgow where houses became decontrolled during the period between the First World War and the Second World War. When these houses became decontrolled, the owners of the property increased the rents by 25 to 50 per cent.—indeed, one of my hon. Friends says the increase was even more. Will this 40 per cent. in the Bill be added to the rents of these tenants, taking no cognisance of the fact that their rents have already been increased by 25 to 50 per cent.? If the 40 per cent is added, there will be a continuation of the anomaly of two houses side by hide, one paying 25 to 50 per cent. more than the other because the matter has not been dealt with satisfactorily in this Bill.
At present, a house which has a rental of £70 will have that rental increased by 40 per cent. My second question to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is this: if the 40 per cent. is added to a rental of £70, does that automatically take the house out with the jurisdiction of the Rent Acts? I put that question privately to the Lord Advocate the other day and he frankly admitted that he did not know the answer.
I support the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill wholeheartedly, first, because I do not believe for one moment that the object which the Government have in view can be achieved by the Bill, and secondly because, with a 40 per cent. 2045 increase, many owners of slum properties will be unable to make their properties habitable. The properties will come back to the local authorities, and all the allowances which the local authorities get from the Government for putting them into a fit state of repair will never fully compensate them for the expenditure which they incur. That will, therefore, be an additional charge on the remaining ratepayers in Glasgow.
It seems to me that at the end of the day all houses under the Rent Acts will have to be taken over by the local authorities as a social service. That view was stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in the discussions on the English Bill. In practice, this Bill will prove unworkable. I know the question will be put to me, "If you take over all these houses operating under the Rent Acts, what about compensation?"
That question is very easily answered. If we ask any owner of property in Glasgow today who is operating his houses under the Rent Acts, "What profits are you making out of your property now?", he would say, "I am making no profits at all." I myself was offered 23 houses by an owner of property in the City of Edinburgh for the sum of one penny. If that gentleman receives 20 years' purchase, he will receive the handsome sum of 1s. 8d.
This is a bad Bill. No Amendment could ever be brought forward in Committee which would ever make it a good Bill. It will be with the greatest pleasure that I shall go into the Lobby tonight to vote for its rejection.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
I think that I should be out of order if I attempted to discuss an Amendment which has not been moved, and I thought that the hon. Member far Camlachie (Mr. W. Reid) was drawing near to the dangerous stage of discussing it. I shall not follow his remarks in detail beyond congratulating him on his financial dealings in house property in Edinburgh, which seemed to be on a pretty good scale.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
We must not discuss that.
2046 I am not pretending for a moment that this Bill is perfect. Many Committee points about it have been raised already. We shall discuss it at length upstairs, and I feel sure that by doing so it will come out of our deliberations a better Bill than it goes in. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has made it perfectly clear that he will consider fully and carefully all reasonable Amendments put forward. One thing that we can say definitely, in my humble opinion, is that this Bill is a step in the right direction. That is what matters. It is not a long way in the right direction, but it is getting on the right way. It is a very courageous Bill in these difficult days of financial restrictions.
Of course, the hon. Member for Camlachie has reiterated the official Opposition policy which is, as was clearly stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) on behalf of the Opposition, that all rent-controlled houses should ultimately be taken over by the local authorities. I think that there are about 7 million in Great Britain and roughly 750,000 in Scotland. That is presumably the remedy which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have for this situation. I wonder whether they have ever considered the dangers of that.
I know, of course, that it sounds an easy way of dealing with this problem, because they say that private landlords cannot compete with the local authorities. I presume that is the basis of the argument. But the tenant of the house at present rent-controlled and in the hands of a private landlord will certainly not look forward to seeing his rent go up under a local authority very much more than it possibly can do under this Bill, because that would be the effect of handing these houses over to local authorities, whose rents have already gone up, in many cases much more materially than would be possible under this Bill.
§ Mr. Manuel
Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman think that there is a great possibility that the rents would not go up under local authority control unless the houses were modernised to something comparable, so far as kitchenette, bathroom and other amenity accommodation are concerned, with similar local authority houses.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Neither does the hon. Gentleman know, because this is very much an hypothesis at this stage. The fact is that local authorities can put up their rents and they do take away from the tenant the right under the Rent Restriction Acts of security of tenure. That is a very valuable thing which the tenant has under a private landlord, and I think that the electors of this country are not going to forget that point.
If that is the official Opposition proposal in contradistinction to our proposals, I do not think that when they have had time to consider it they will find that is a very good proposal. The rage and fury of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) left me, I am afraid, very cold, because I do not believe his nature is to be. either raging or furious; but, I think he did less than justice to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I think that when he comes to realise what he said and reads it again in Hansard, he will not be very pleased at having said it.
I should like to say one thing in connection with slums. They are a ghastly sore on the face of our country. No one pretends that the landlords have been blameless in this matter in the past, but it is no good pretending that all landlords are bad. There are good, bad and indifferent landlords, just as there are good, bad and indifferent Members of Parliament. The good landlords have done an immense amount for the good of this country and the bad ones have let the side down, as always happens. But the faces of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite always light up with fiendish glee when a landlord is mentioned in this House or anywhere else.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Although the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) hardly looks like a fiend, it is only when the name "landlord" is mentioned that his visage like Nebuchadnezzar's changes. I suggest that it is an injustice to landlords as a whole 2048 to suggest that all of them are bad landlords. There are many excellent owners of property who, in circumstances of great difficulty, are doing their utmost to preserve their property. I think it is a terrible thing, bearing in mind that this Bill will tackle and does tackle the slum problem in its early stages, that this House should consider for one moment voting against it on Second Reading, because it is then going out to the country that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are voting against slum clearance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] That is the effect of a vote against this Bill.
I hope that my Scottish colleagues will not be led into that folly, as was the case on the English Bill. I hope so because I am perfectly convinced that they, just as much as my hon. Friends and myself, are as keen on slum clearance as we are. The Conservative and Unionist record on slum clearance is a magnificent one and, had it not been for the war intervening, the back of the problem would have been broken in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Manuel indicated dissent.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
It is no good the hon. Member shaking his head; that is so. I do not know whether the Amendment is to be moved or not. I could say many things about it as such, but I am not permitted to do so. I do, however, hope that second thoughts will show that it is not a good thing that hon. Members opposite, with their principles and well-meaning wishes to do their best for the people of this country, should give out to the country in effect that they were voting against slum clearance. I hope that they will give reconsideration to this matter before they vote tonight, because, if they vote against this Bill, I think that they will be acting against their principles.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. Forman (Glasgow, Springburn)
I rise to oppose this Bill. I think that it is a thoroughly bad Bill and that there are no financial provisions worth talking about in the Bill to carry through its objects. Before dealing with the general position, I should like to deal for a moment or two with the Scottish Special Housing Association.
I was a member of the Council of that Association for some years, and it was 2049 our job to proceed by trial and error in all house building. One will appreciate that to proceed by trial and error in house building is a much more costly business than building with bricks and mortar. So there is the danger in this Bill that there may be substantial increases in the rents of the Scottish Special Housing Association houses. At the present time those houses are controlled and administered by the Scottish Special Housing Association, but under this Bill there is provision for taking the Scottish Special Housing Association houses out with that control and putting them on the same basis as local authority houses. There will be the difference that, while the local authority houses have been built by traditional methods, because of the methods employed by the Scottish Special Housing Association there may be a greater increase in its rents. That is a matter on which we need clarification.
It is quite definite from Clause 22 of the Bill that, while its houses at present have controlled rents, the Scottish Special Housing Association intends to take them outwith the provisions of the Bill and to place them on the same basis as those of the local authorities. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies, he will give reasons why this change has to be made. He may say that the Scottish, Special Housing Association receives Exchequer grants and is a non-profit-making concern, but we want something more than this to ensure that the tenants have some safeguards when this change is made under the Bill.
Let me deal next with the amount of money that is available for slum clearance. In Glasgow, we have 100,000 unsatisfactory houses; 20,000 must be demolished right away and the other 80,000 will require very substantial repairs. There is little or no provision for carrying through this work. The local authority is asked, within 12 months or whatever period the Secretary of State may determine, to indicate its clearance area, but if in that area there are any houses that can be repaired, they will be in the very lowest category. This will impose a substantial financial burden upon the local authority. The present position, as far as housing and city improvements in Glasgow are concerned, is 2050 that the estimated net rateborne expenditure for this year is £1,596,000; and the present housing debt in Glasgow runs at about £99 million.
The Bill will impose further financial burdens on the City of Glasgow. I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of. State whether he believes that any substantial repairs will be carried out as far as the slums are concerned. The enlightened local authority will utilise its labour force first oh new houses. The second category will be the houses than can be repaired and put in reasonably good order. In the third category there will be the slum property, which in my opinion, will not receive the attention that should be devoted to it. The Bill will place on the local authority the administration of the worst types of houses, either in the cities or in the towns.
My only other point relates to the 40 per cent. increase. There is no obligation to ensure that when the money is spent—either three-fifths in the year prior to the notice being served, or six-fifths over the three years prior to the notice being served—a single item of internal repairs will be carried out. If a landlord can show that he has carried out repairs—for example, a new chimney head, the remedying of a fracture in the wall, new washing houses or any other repairs that he can spread over the houses—and can show the sum that he has spent on repairs, he can serve the notice. There is no obligation on the landlord to carry out any further repairs. The tenant, it is true, may pursue the matter, but he is always in the unfortunate position of having to prove that the landlord is not entitled to the 40 per cent. increase.
That is always a difficulty for any tenant, because he does not have access to the same advice as the landlord. It seems to me that there should be an onus of proof, not only that the house has been repaired on the basis of either one year or three years, but that the house is in a state of repair to warrant the increase in rental. I hope that the Secretary of State, because of the observations which have been made, not only from this side of the House but from his own benches also, will see the wisdom of withdrawing the Bill and giving to the local authorities a Bill that will assist them in this very difficult and serious problem.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Henderson (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I have listened with considerable interest to the greater part of the debate, but I regret that most of the speakers from the Opposition benches have put forward no counter constructive proposals. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy), who covered a fair amount of ground, stated that the Bill was over loaded against the tenant and made no contribution to the housing problem of Scotland. The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Timmons) quoted instances of people who were anxious to get a house from factors and landlords and had to pay them £25, £50 or £100 for the key. That is a very great reflection upon a section of the community—
§ Mr. Henderson
—who, over a long period, have made it possible for people to have a roof above their heads. While those instances may have occurred here and there, the party who offers the bribe is just as guilty as the party who takes it.
§ Mr. Henderson
Those were observations which might well have been unsaid.
The right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) talked about the miserable hovels in which people had to dwell. The Opposition were in power for six years, and during that time little or nothing was done to try to solve the problem of the slums. It is true that one or two alterations were made in the Rent Restrictions Acts, but, on the whole, the record of the Opposition is one of which they cannot possibly be proud.
What has emerged from the debate, however, is that while it is not mentioned in the Amendment, the Opposition are of opinion that all controlled houses should be handed over to the local authority. That, I believe, is a fair deduction from the arguments advanced from the other side of the House. Think what that means in the City of Glasgow. There are 84,000 houses controlled by the local authority and there are tens of thousands of uncontrolled houses. To hand them to the local authority would be to create a task quite beyond the Glasgow Corporation.
2052 I was making some inquiries about the housing accounts of Glasgow, and I find that for this financial year no less than £600,000 will be required for repairs alone. Add to this all those houses not within the control of the local authority and it will be seen that it is a gigantic and quite impossible task for the City of Glasgow's housing department.
We have heard a lot about slums, of which I am sure everyone in the House is thoroughly ashamed. But it is all wrong to suggest that the private landlords are responsible for all the slums in Scotland. That is simply fantastic. There are 84,000 houses owned by Glasgow Corporation, and each costs £7 10s. 6d. per annum for repairs. In one month alone £800 was spent on restoring windows in the various houses, and hon. Members who come from Glasgow, and particularly the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Mclnnes), knows how many houses which were beautiful homes 25 or 30 years ago have been almost brought down to slum level. Shrubs and trees have been uprooted, windows have been broken and interior fixtures pulled down and used for firewood.
Hon. Members opposite talk about slums being created by the landlords and property owners, but it is more than time that something was said about the burden of taxation upon the decent people in Glasgow to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of Corporation subsidised houses in the city. I am sorry that there is nothing in the Bill about houses for sale. There were two instances recently where about 2,500 houses could have been bought by people anxious to buy their own homes, and the Corporation relieved of their maintenance charge, but the Secretary of State for Scotland and his advisers thought that that was undesirable, and allowed them to be let through the local authority. Therefore, they still remain a burden for maintenance upon the ratepayers, for these houses are let at an uneconomic rent.
This Bill is a step in the right direction. It is not perfect—indeed, it is far from it—but to suggest that the only remedy is to vest all the controlled houses in the local authority is something which I cannot understand. Glasgow loan debt stands at £99 million, a great proportion of which is attributable to housing. At present, each year over £1 million is being 2053 lost in housing. Indeed, the finances of the housing department are getting into such a state as to be causing the greatest concern, and it may be that the day is not far off when commissioners will have to be sent to tidy up the financial position of that city. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members on the other side know that that is true.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am dealing only with the City of Glasgow, on the Corporation of which the hon. Member gave many years of useful service.
It has taken courage to introduce this Bill, which will be misunderstood. I know what will be said in every one of our constituencies, but as time goes on, and its full benefits begin to be appreciated by the electors, they will realise that we have done right, for, in the long run, it will be beneficial to the housing not only of Glasgow but of every part of Scotland.
§ 7.35 p.m.
Mr. James Mclnnes (Glasgow, Central)
The hon. Member for Cathcart(Mr. J. Henderson) indicated that I would perhaps agree with him in the somewhat reckless assertion that he made about the occupants of municipal houses in Glasgow turning these houses into slums.
I deliberately took note of the words which the hon. Member used, and he said that these houses were brought down to slum level. I want to repudiate emphatically any such suggestion and to defend to the utmost of my ability the tenants of corporation houses, because the statistics of Glasgow Corporation will reveal that of the houses examined by the medical officer of health, covering many thousands each year, more than 96 per cent. are kept in absolutely perfect condition.
The hon. Member commented on the expenditure by Glasgow of £600,000 per year for repairs. What is wrong with that? Glasgow has more municipal houses than any other local authority in Britain, and £600,000 was the figure set by the present Government a few months 2054 ago when they insisted that local authorities should put aside £8 per annum for the repair of houses.
§ Mr. Henderson
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that it is fair that people not occupying corporation houses in Glasgow should pay high rates, as they are doing, in order to keep in subsidised houses people who can pay an economic rent?
That would inveigle me into another argument, but the people in corporation houses have to pay a lot of money in order to meet the evils and disasters of people living in slum property. That amount far transcends anything that the slum people have to pay for subsidising corporation tenants.
Most hon. Gentlemen opposite have not applied themselves to the Bill in this debate. They have been content to exercise all their ingenuity and wit in trying to get us to offer constructive suggestions on the Bill. That is not so astute as may be assumed, because the obvious intention is that, if we put forward constructive suggestions, we should divert our attention from the weaknesses and failings of the Bill.
I want to apply my mind to the circumstances that we find in Scotland which have made it necessary to introduce a Bill of this kind. In Scotland today we have 324,000 houses that were built prior to 1855 and we have 283,000 houses that were built prior to 1880. In other words we have 617,000 houses that are anything between 73 and 100 and 120 and 150 years old. Indeed, almost half the population of Scotland are living in houses of that kind. That is a legacy of the past, and perhaps I can best describe these houses in the words of the Royal Commission of 1917—Monotonous rows of houses flung down without a vestige of planning or any effort to provide decent sanitation. Whole townships unfit for human habitation. Gross overcrowding and the huddling of the sexes together. Clotted masses of great slums in our Cities with congested backlands and ancient closes.In Scotland we still have 400,000 houses in that category, lacking water closets, lacking sanitary conveniences. These are in the main one-apartment and two-apartment houses. That is what the class opposite consider to be the type of house suitable for housing the working people of this country.
§ Major Sir Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, East)
Did the hon. Gentleman say "class opposite"? Is that in order, Mr. Speaker?
§ Sir G. Lloyd
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to use such an imputation as "the class opposite"? Is it not an insult?
In Scotland 22 per cent. of the population live under grossly over crowded conditions as against 38 per cent. in England and Wales. In Glasgow the overcrowding is 35 times greater than that in London, and despite the volume of post-war building, indeed despite the volume of house building since 1920, we have touched only the fringe of the problem that confronts us.
It is against that background that I genuinely and sincerely want to apply myself to the proposals contained in this Bill. I, like my colleagues here, recognise the urgency of dealing with the slums and with disrepair. Naturally I ask myself, are these proposals practical? Are they reasonable? Are they capable of alleviating the problem? What do I find? I find that in this modern age our approach to the problem is to tackle it, as Part I of the Bill says, by the "reconditioning of unfit houses." That was the approach to the problem 33 years ago and it proved a colossal failure. We approached the problem then precisely as the Government intend to do it today, and yet they know from bitter experience what eventuated from that approach.
I ask myself who will tackle the problem, the State, the landlord, the property owner or who? The local authority is the instrument for tackling the problem. It has to be done at public expense. The local authority has to accept the responsibility and, in the process of doing so, it accepts the odium of becoming a slum landlord. The property owners are relieved of all responsibility. They are given the more profitable property to repair, but there again it is at the expense of the public.
We are told that the reason for all this is that the factors and the property owners have asserted that, with the operation of Rent Restriction Acts, rents have 2056 been kept at far too low a level; that with the increased cost of wages and materials, with the continual rise of owner's rates, it is not possible to keep their houses in good and tenantable repair. They argue that of all the things in the family budget rent is the only thing that has not increased. I could dismiss that argument by retorting that in the years of depression and of mass unemployment between the two wars the only important item in the family budget that never came down was rent.
But let us examine the assertion of the factors and property owners. In 1920 they were given a 47½ per cent. increase. Of that, 15 per cent. was in respect of the increase of interest, 7½ per cent. in respect of owner's rates and 25 per cent. in respect of repairs. Let us look at what happened to that 47½ per cent. The 15 per cent. allowed in respect of interest was granted because at that time War Loan and gilt-edged securities were yielding a rate of interest of 5½ per cent. or 6 per cent., and it was unfair to penalise those who had invested their money in property. Everyone knows that in the 1930s gilt-edged securities and War Loan came tumbling down to 3 per cent., but the factors'15 per cent. did not come tumbling down. It has remained from 1920 right up to the present day.
Now as to the 7½ per cent. in respect of owner's rates, owner's rates in the City of Glasgow were 14s. 6d. in the £ in 1920 but they came tumbling down to 13s., 12s., 11s., and 10s., yet the factors still retained the 7½ per cent. It was not until almost 18 years after that rates started again to reach the level upon which this increase was based. Now I come to the 25 per cent. in respect of repairs. Does anyone deny that, while in 1920 the cost of building was admittedly high, in 1930 it was almost halved? Why, even in 1939 the cost of building was 2½ times less than the figure of 1920 on which the property owners received the 25 per cent. increase in rent.
One might ask what repairs were carried out? Do not accept anything coming from me on that score. Let me quote the Ridley Commission. Reporting in 1945, the Commission said:We have received a considerable volume of evidence to the effect that the permitted increase of 47½per cent. had not been applied for the purpose for which it was designed 2057 but had been regarded as an added increment to the landlord's income…There is evidence of a tendency among owners to look upon house property as an investment to give perpetual income without much expenditure on repairs or replacements.Every hon. Member must recognise that that is a true index of what took place. There was little or no repair.
The factors and property owners would not carry out repairs even under the Public Health Act, 1897, which provides that a local authority can compel an owner to carry out running repairs to choked drains, sinks and cisterns and jobs of that kind. In 1949 alone Glasgow Corporation served on property owners no fewer than 300,000 notices requiring repairs, a figure which is equal to almost twice the number of houses that we have, but the property owners did nothing about them.
In the light of that experience, I have to ask myself what assurance I can be given that the 40 per cent. increase provided for under this Bill will be legitimately expended on repairs and will not be put in the pockets of the mean and rapacious landlords. I know that hon. Members opposite will tell me that the Bill provides that the tenant can go to the local authority or to the sheriff, and that they will ask what further safeguards we want. That gag has worked before now, and it has worked too often.
What happened in the case of the 1920 increase? Again, I do not make a personal assertion but quote the observations of still another Government Commission. On this question of going to the sheriff or to the local authority to obtain certificates of disrepair the Marley Commission said in 1931:This machinery does not appear to be widely known or used. We have been told that most tenants either did not know of or are afraid to use this weapon, even in cases where it could hardly have failed to succeed.If that was the simplified machinery under the 1920 Act, what will happen under the complex machinery of the 1953 Bill?
Perhaps I ought not to speak of landlords in this way, because I have been rebuked already for that by the "Glasgow Herald," which said a few weeks ago:McInnes's observations are not surprising. He has long been in the habit of treating property owners as arch-enemies in the class war.2058 That is where I found the use of the word "class." It always amuses me that, whenever I or my colleagues attack the property owners, it is "class war," but of course the factors did not come to brief me in London in the way that they briefed the party opposite. They did not see us.
I believe that it was the honorary secretary of the Factors and Property Owners' Association, Murray McGregor, accompanied by one or two other individuals who had a meeting with Conservative Members for Scotland in one of the rooms upstairs.
§ Sir G. Lloyd
Is it not possible that the reason the interview took place with us was that those concerned knew well that the completely unbridled prejudice of hon. Members opposite would make it impossible to get justice?
I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Member has made those observations because I shall prove that not even the most reactionary Tory has any faith or trust in the property owners. In fact, in every Housing Bill introduced by the Conservative Party to deal with housing rents and repairs there have always been incorporated Clauses and machinery to protect the tenant against further exploitation by property owners. So even the Tories have no faith or confidence in their friends the property owners.
I have shown rather sketchily and briefly what has happened to the 47½ per cent. increase. But I do not want to stop there because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. W. Reid) has intimated, between 1920 and 1939 when houses came into vacant possession of the landlords and were decontrolled increased rents of 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 50 per cent. were imposed. That was another form of increase, but we are still not finished. There were two or three increases to come.
For many years now it has been the practice and ever-increasing tendency for property owners to impose increased rentals on small shopkeepers who have shops underneath tenement property. I should like to give an example to illustrate the magnitude of the problem and 2059 how rapidly it has developed. There are three small shops in Glasgow which in 1942 carried rent and rates amounting to £94. Today they are paying £253 in rent and rates. That is because small shopkeepers are not afforded the protection of the Rent Restrictions Acts and so, obviously, they are another source of revenue to subsidise the rents of tenement houses above the shops.
Then there are the attempts of property owners to evade the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) and other hon. Members representing Glasgow will be able to tell the House. Today, in the City of Glasgow, there are 1,500 houses which have been unoccupied for a long time, many of them for as long as nine or 12 months, in order that the owners can sell them and reap exorbitant prices and so have another source of revenue. So we find today that people who cannot afford to repair their property have received over this period the 47½ per cent. increase, plus the increase in rents imposed on houses that became decontrolled, the increase derived from small shopkeepers, and the profit from selling vacant houses.
Clause 1 of this Bill indicates that every local authority shall submit within one year proposals for dealing with houses which appear to it to be unfit for human habitation. If the City of Glasgow has to apply itself to that Clause of the Bill, it will be necessary for it to submit that no fewer than 91,000 houses in the city are unfit for human habitation. In accordance with the Act it can only render fit something like 2,000 houses per year. The right hon. Gentleman will have to wait 46 years before getting a final settlement from Glasgow. I do not know whether he will last that time in office. It may surprise hon. Members to know that a city like Glasgow can submit proposals in respect of only 2,000 such houses.
That is due to two difficulties the first of which is that of defining an unfit house within the terms of the Housing Acts. A house may lack internal water supply, it may lack inside conveniences, it may have no electric light, it may lack storage and cooking facilities and it may even be in a state of disrepair, but technically, according to the Acts, it cannot be classified as unfit. The other difficulty is the 2060 cumbersome machinery which the local authority has to observe. The district sanitary inspector inspects the potentially unfit house and reports on it. The divisional medical officer confirms it. Reports are made and notice is served on the owner, but if the local authority or the housing authority turns him down, the owner can go to the sheriff.
We have all that cumbersome machinery to go through. Is it not about time that we vested full power in the hands of local authority medical officers? Surely they can be trusted to determine what is and what is not an unfit house? Give them the full power, without these unnecessarily restrictive definitions and without any appeal by the owner. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, certainly. If we are serious in our endeavours to tackle the slum problem and the problem of clearance areas, obviously we cannot accelerate the approach to those problems unless we vest power in someone who can be trusted. I submit that the medical officer is the very person for a job of that kind.
I have only reached Clause 1 and my time is up, as I have to be fair to my colleagues who also wish to speak. I am satisfied that they will reveal to the House the defects and weaknesses of this Measure. They will reveal, as I hope I revealed, that this Bill is impracticable of operation, unreasonable in application, and will in no way mitigate the problem which confronts us. It is a property owners' charter, it is a lawyers' paradise and in its application to the tenant, to the working-class people of this country, it is vile, vicious and vindictive. I shall certainly vote against it.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
I must apologise to the Secretary of State for not hearing the whole of his speech, but I had to attend a Select Committee. I am happy to support my right hon. Friend in the efforts he is making to remove the slums from Scotland. The only comment I make on the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) is that he gave us such a moving, indeed harrowing, description of the City of Glasgow that he should be one of the first to welcome this first effort in 20 years to deal with the problem of which he complains.
2061 I am glad to be able to take part in this debate because, so far as I am aware, Glasgow has been the only place mentioned up to now.
§ Sir T. Moore
I have noticed a not unusual note running through the sentences of hon. Members opposite, a mixture of sour grapes and envy, with a kind of resentment, I suppose, against their own Front Bench leaders for never having had the courage or imagination to tackle such a complicated and unpopular subject as that with which the Bill deals. It is quite understandable, though possibly hon. Members opposite do not merit sympathy for that because they should be accustomed to disappointment with their own Front Bench by now.
In my examination of the Bill I find two strings which seem to have been left untied. I do not agree with the criticisms that have been offered; I think the Bill is an admirable one and constitutes a first step in this great and heroic effort. The first string concerns the owner. I shall not use the term "landlord" because, apparently, that word is rather more obscene in the ears of hon. Members opposite than "owner," but it means the same. There is the question of the owner who cannot afford to carry out the necessary repairs until he gets the increased rent to enable him to do so. That is the first point, the man who cannot afford to do what is obviously necessary and what he wants to do because he has not the capital behind him.
Then there is the question of the owner who has kept his property in a first-rate condition, but at an uneconomic rent—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name?"]—with the result that he has had to delve into his savings—
§ Sir T. Moore
I will put a case. The result is that on the property as a whole he has a yearly loss which has to be met out of personal savings. In regard to the first type of case, I gather from my interpretation of the Bill that the local authority—quaintly termed "public 2062 enterprise" by the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), which is rather a contradiction of terms—will carry out the repairs, and charge him, over a period of years, for what has been done, or accept whatever the owner can afford to pay. In that case, in effect, the local authority becomes a banker to the owner. I wonder when local authorities have been consulted about that, whether they agree to it, and whether in many cases, they will be able to carry out that job.
§ Sir T. Moore
—and we all put our own interpretation on it.
In the second type of case I should like an assurance, because I have such a case in my constituency. Two maiden ladies, left some house property by their father in the hope that it would provide a reasonable living for them for many years to come, have carried out repairs at an uneconomic rent all the years since they received the property. My right hon. Friend will know, because I have sent him the details, that the result is that these ladies have had an average annual loss of £40 which has had to come from their own personal savings.
That does not seem to be covered by the Bill. It may be that some hon. Members opposite may have found a Clause—
§ Mr. Carmichael
The hon. Member has been quoting the part of the Bill relating to repairs. Would he quote that part of the Bill, so that we might be quite clear what he is talking about?
§ Sir T. Moore
No, I do not intend to assist the hon. Gentleman. I have given an assurance to Mr. Speaker, in view of the request that he made to the House, to limit my speech. I hope that if the hon. Member gets the opportunity to speak he will do likewise, but he is not going to sidetrack me into entering into an argument with him for the purpose of wasting time.
With these two exceptions, I congratulate the Secretary of State and the Government on their imagination, and in 2063 finding a method, and their courage in applying it, and for tackling a problem which frightened the Socialist Government for six years. Of course, despite their knowledge and conviction that this Bill is necessary, the malicious and unscrupulous propaganda has gone out. I had a case only 10 days ago when—
§ Mr. Carmichael
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Would it be in order for me to go over to the hon. Gentleman and give him a copy of the Bill? I understand that he has not got a copy.
§ Sir T. Moore
I can save the hon. Gentleman the trouble. There are two copies here, my own and one provided by my hon. Friend.
I hope that hon. Members will restrain themselves and give the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to make his speech.
§ Sir T. Moore
The unscrupulous and malicious propaganda has begun to go out. Only about a fortnight ago my political opponent in my constituency was quoted as saying, "This Measure is to enable landlords to charge increased rents for repairs or renewals that have been carried out and paid for by the tenants themselves." That is, of course, a plain lie, and I hope that this debate will nail it.
The only other comment I should like to make, while again congratulating my right hon. Friend, is to express a feeling of sadness that the country must always wait for a Conservative Government to put things right.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. J. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) has made an excellent plea on behalf of the old widows, orphans and aunts who have inherited some property in his constituency and whom he thinks are affected by the Bill. But the hon. Member has not dealt to any extent with the Bill itself. Therefore, we may take it that his remarks on behalf of interested persons and his anxiety about the political effect of this Bill are driving him to 2064 make his explanations in the House and his attacks on all and sundry.
§ Mr. McGovern
We have been told that this is a Bill to assist the tenant. It was said earlier today that there are 35 Labour Members, 35 Conservative Members and one Liberal Member in Scotland. Labour had, I think, a majority of votes in Scotland at the last Election. Not one candidate in that country asked for the approval of the electors for any attempt to deal with this problem by raising rents or to deal with the decontrol of houses.
In fact, Lord Woolton, in the 1951 Election, in a pamphlet "Our Slogan—Cope and Care" said:A Conservative Government would care for the unfortunate, the sick and needy.Socialists are trying to frighten us by what might happen if we put in a Conservative Government.He referred toRumours that the Tories will cut the food subsidies,that they would "abolish rent control," which, surely, inferred that no rents would be raised because it was being said in the constituencies that the Tories were pledged to an increase in rents.
Lord Woolton added:There is not a word of truth in these charges.Here is the man who raised £1 million to fight the Election, a large amount of which was received from property owners and landlords. He gave a pledge on behalf of the Government on two outstanding issues—food subsidies and rent control.
We can take it, therefore, that a pledge was almost given by the Government that there would be no tackling of this problem by increasing rents. The Government are now bringing in a Measure without getting the sanction or approval of the country, and they are proceeding with a Bill that has been described as a landlords' Bill. I would describe it as a financial aid for landlords.
They attempt to surround it by a great deal of talk of repairs, but it is a straight 2065 40 per cent. increase to the landlords in rent, because anyone who has examined the Bill, and knows anything about repairs and house building, knows that it is the easiest thing in the world for landlords to show that they have expended a certain amount of money on the property that will justify them picking up the increase of 40 per cent. for all time.
Not only that. Here is a strange philosophy. People previously received a 47½ per cent. increase in rent, of which 25 per cent. was allocated for repairs. That money has not been expended on repairs and the exteriors of the properties have got into a dilapidated state. Now the landlords are to be rewarded because they have not carried out the repairs to the property.
We have heard a great deal of talk about the property owners he a city like Glasgow. Mark MacGregor comes to address the Conservative Members of the House and celebrates downstairs, with jubilation, the carrying out of the first stage—the English Bill. He says, "This is the first stage; next for Scotland"—the landlords' patriotic house factor, filled with fervour, internally and externally. He celebrates because he knows that the Government are compelled to move because of their paymasters in the country who make the right hon. Gentleman and his Government proceed along these lines.
We are told that properties in Glasgow and elsewhere are not paying. I deny that emphatically. I spent 27½ years in the building trade, going in and out of houses in Shettleston. For 15 or 16 years I was doing repairs to a large number of these properties. I remember one company, the City and Colonial Investment Property Trust, of which Mr. Tindall Rawyer was secretary. They were a group of businessmen who owned houses in which there were 120 tenants.
The original cost of these houses was £1,000 each, and after they were built the owners employed a valuer who valued them at £1,250 per tenement. This group then proceeded to borrow £1,000 on each property. That meant that they had no money invested in the property at all, or, in some cases, only as little as £50. The moneylender who is drawing, say, £45 for each £1,000 lent is the real owner. 2066 He has a good investment in the property and is getting a good return from it.
But the nominal owner still expects to get an income from the property in which he has scarcely a penny invested. It is outrageous that we should be catering for people of that kind, especially when we know that in the majority of cases the only value possessed by these tenements in Glasgow is the internal value created by the tenants. In thousands of cases the tenants have installed, at their own cost, electric light, baths, and tiled interiors in their kitchens. They have installed modern sinks and taps. Indeed, they have renovated the whole house, because not a single penny has been spent on it by the landlord.
In some cases the tenants have even renewed the doors and carried out all kinds of transformations, again entirely at their own expense. The landlords have put nothing at all into these tenements. They have scamped the work in lavatories and stair heads. Often there is no glass in the frames of the stair head windows. The landlords have not painted the window casings or the gutter and drainpipes. They have not renovated the roofs or the chimneys. They have simply pocketed the money given to them by way of increased rents, money which should have been expended on repairs. These are the people who have come along to this House, to meetings and to the House Factors' Association asking to be recouped for money which they have not spent on the properties.
During the war, these owners claimed that they could not get the men and materials with which to do the repairs, but the fact is that they simply will not do the work. They have scamped the work to such an extent that they have brought many of these properties into a dilapidated state. The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson), in his vicious attack on tenants, said that many tenants would turn good houses into slums within two years. But it is the landlords who have turned them into slums, because they have neglected to keep them in proper repair. There are of course some landlords who, in spite of all the difficulties, have systematically whitewashed landings and lavatories and painted pipes, window frames, and so forth, but the people who have invested 2067 money in these properties in the City of Glasgow are doing very well out of them.
I cannot understand the idea that the Tory Party have always got to be the people backing up landlords against tenants. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman, because he is being molested by the private owners; but he should send for the police and charge them with molesting. I think that is a crime in law. They are not only molesting, but almost blackmailing the Secretary of State for Scotland. They know how simple and generous he is. They say, "Here is a boy at the Scottish Office who will look after us. We have got the man we want there."
These individuals masquerade in need of charity and support. They are the people who denounce others for drawing National Assistance. They do that while looking for something for nothing for themselves. They make these attacks so that people will not see what they are up to when they make their demands on the Treasury.
No real protection can be given to tenants in respect of the 40 per cent. which it is proposed to hand over to the landlords. Of course, in some areas where local councils have built houses which cost three times more today than before the war, rents must go up. But my experience of the Glasgow municipal authority is that they carry out repairs without any hesitation.
I took a different attitude towards, for example, the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) during the term of office of the Labour Government. That was the Bill dealing with reconditioning. Under that Bill, it was possible to modernise a house and to turn single apartments into bathrooms with hot and cold water, and to put lavatories into old houses. But there is no means of doing that under this Bill. All that this Bill does is to prolong the existence of the slum and to give the landlord a 40 per cent. increase so long as the property exists. All that the landlord will do is to put a piece of sticky plaster here and there, and take the 40 per cent. increase in rent.
Everyone wants a good house, and if decent property could be reconditioned I would have nothing against that, or 2068 against the people paying a rent comparable with rents in the area for similar types of houses, but there may be a little Scottish Office talk about that 40 per cent. and this Bill is brought in to try to make the people believe that the Government are coming along, like Santa Claus, to give them something of benefit for Christmas. Santa Claus does not exist here; he does not exist in the Tory Party. It is Scrooge in the Scottish Office.
This Bill is destined to pay the price that has to be paid to the steel barons, the brewers and the road hauliers. They are all coming along in line for their cut, and the landlords and the house factors are coming for the rents. This is typical of a Tory Government. Their supporters have filled the coffers, assisted the Election candidates, given motor cars and huge donations, and now they have their men in they come forward holding a pistol, and say, "This is the price," while the victims are the working-class. This is a fraudulent practice and a fraudulent Bill, and I oppose it wholeheartedly.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (Angus, North and Mearns)
I am very glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), because I can tell him that I have never failed to advocate revision of the Rent Acts. I did so at my last election and I shall certainly continue to do so, although the Government have made a start. I would ask the House, is it better to say we will take on a problem and then fail to do so, or to see the need and, having seen it, to get on with the job? The hon. Gentleman's friends said they were going to revise the Rent Restrictions Acts, and they did not do anything about it. In 1949 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said:In the next Parliament…it is clear that the Rent Restrictions Acts will have to be dealt with.He was in the next Parliament—and what happened? In 1950 he said:I shall be delighted to review them. We all know they should be reviewed and at the earliest possible opportunity we shall review them.In 1951 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said much the same thing. He 2069 said that a Socialist Government would introduce "a general Measure dealing with the Rent Restrictions Acts." When the need was recognised by the other side and nothing was done about it, it does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to criticise this Government because they have had the political courage to tackle a question which ought to be dealt with as an all-party matter.
I think that the Government's courage in introducing this Bill has been immense, particularly when they have so small a majority in the House. I do not think I should be giving away any secret were I to say that, when the hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power, there was an all-party committee which used to meet to consider the desirability of amending the Rent Restrictions Acts. It was an unofficial committee attended by many hon. Members on the other side, all of whom 'recognised the need to make a start, on an all-party basis, on amending the Rent Acts.
Of course, when we got into power we found that they forgot all about that, and about all the things they told us when they were in power, and we have had to get on with the job alone. We have got on with the job, in the face of the kind of vehement political opposition which we have heard this afternoon, and I do think that it is immensely courageous of Her Majesty's Government and of the Secretary of State that they should have introduced this Measure at the present time.
I want to pay my tribute to the Joint Under-Secretary of State, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith). I have always regarded him as a hard worker, but I regard him now as an administrator who has brought the naval qualities of directness and of a shrewd appreciation of the situation to the solution of as intractable a political problem as any Government could wish to avoid. It is right that we should recognise that this Bill is possible only because of the spectacular progress which the Government have made in the housing drive. It could never have been introduced if the Government had not been so outstandingly successful in getting the new houses built.
I welcome this Bill in particular for two reasons; first of all, because it enables us to continue the clearance of the slums, which was interrupted because of 2070 the war, and secondly, because it makes a small beginning at straightening out the tangle of the Rent Restrictions Acts—a tangle which is recognised by hon. Members in all parts of the House.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Does the hon. Gentleman remember some of the names of the former members who served on the all-party committee?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Yes, I remember them very well indeed. I am not going to tell the hon. Member now, but I have got the papers and the minutes outside. I do not think he was one of the members. I do not think he is always a supporter of good causes, otherwise I am sure he would have been a member of that all-party committee.
I want to turn to the provisions of the Bill which deal with rent increases. I spoke in the Second Reading debate on the English Measure, and I asked why it was necessary to make an expenditure qualification before a rent increase could be made. I urged then that the only requirement would, in my view, be that the house was in good and tenantable repair and that it was not in other respects unfit for human habitation. I was moved to urge that because of my personal experience in England—not in Scotland—where I had had brought to my notice professionally a vast number of cases of properties, owned by individuals and by property companies, which had been kept in good order and which are still in good order but which, because of the necessity to prove an expenditure over the past 12 months or alternatively the past three years, were and will be unable to qualify for the rent increases.
I was fortified in my advocacy of that aspect of the matter by reading the White Paper on the Scottish Bill which in paragraphs 14 and 15 states that the qualification is that the house must be in or must be put into good repair and maintained in that condition. Paragraph 15 says:The increase in rent will be allowed only if the house is in good repair…There is nothing whatever in the White Paper which refers to qualifying expenditure before the rent increases can be made.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I do not know. The subject was first introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State soon after the White Paper was published. I do not know how it came in, but I have since learned why it came in. I must say that the reasons which have since been given have been very convincing to me. It came in for this reason. It has been pointed out—and I now come to one of the points made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern)—that an expenditure qualification is necessary because otherwise tenants who have maintained their houses in good order would be penalised.
I can see the force of the argument that, where a tenant has done work not only to the interior of the house but—as the hon. Member for Shettleston, with his wide experience, tells the House—to the exterior as well, to the window sashes, doors and so on, it would not be fair if there were not some kind of qualification that the owner should have spent a certain amount of money on the property before the rent increase could be made.
The second reason which has been urged to me—and again, I am convinced by it—is that it is desirable that the rent increases should be associated, in the mind of the tenant, with the arrival of the man with the ladder to do repairs to the house. There should be some association which he can understand between repairs being done and the increase in his rent. I find both these arguments convincing.
I approach this problem from a political point of view. Here are the Government, dependent upon a majority of 18. What would be the position if we allowed all owners of rent-restricted property in Scotland who claimed that their houses were in good and tenantable repair, and were not otherwise unfit for human habitation, to serve notices upon their tenants that, in four weeks' time, their rents would be increased by 40 per cent.?
I dare say the sanitary inspectors would be very much overworked. There would be a rush of people claiming that these conditions were not met. Secondly—and I can well believe this from the kind of speeches we have had from hon. Members opposite today—there would be a tremendous political agitation. Tenants' 2072 associations would be formed, and the flames would be fanned by the kind of speeches we have had from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) and other hon. Members opposite. There would be a great agitation throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.
I can well understand why the Government, dependent as they are upon a very slender majority, find it necessary to do something which, in my opinion, is not altogether justified—to make it a condition that there must be a qualifying expenditure before a rent increase can be made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] HON. MEMBERS opposite have not been very fair in one respect. Two of them—one being the hon. Member for Shettleston—have spoken as if the increases made in all cases were those of 40 per cent., plus the owner's rates supplement, in rent-restricted properties. It seemed to me that they spoke as if all rent-restricted properties had had their rents increased by 40 per cent., whereas the fact is that this increase applies only to the old controlled properties, that is to say, those properties which have not had their rents raised since 1920.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I shall give way if the right hon. Gentleman will tell me where I am wrong. There was an increase of 40 per cent., plus an addition to the owner's rates, between the years 1914 and 1919, but that increase applies only to about half of the existing rent-controlled properties in Scotland. Hon. Members opposite may not be intentionally misleading the House, but that rent increase does not apply to all rent-controlled properties.
§ Mr. Steele
Can the hon. Member explain how the rent of houses built after 1919 could be increased before they were built?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Houses that were built after 1920? Of course, they could. The rent that was fixed in 1919,provided that the ratable value was below £90, became the restricted rent, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. However, I do not want to be diverted on details, because these are points we can deal with in Committee.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Would the hon. Gentleman allow me, as a mere Englishman, with a great admiration for the inexorableness of Scottish logic, to ask this? Do I understand his argument is that if the country will give the Conservative Party a bigger majority, it will bring in a Bill which will be much more helpful to the landlords?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The right hon. Gentleman has no right to put any such construction upon anything I have said. Neither am I qualified to speak for the Government. I am a back-bencher with my own views about things, and I would not pretend that I can influence the Government of the day.
I think that in connection with these rent increases we have to bear in mind the object of the exercise, and the object of the exercise is not to help the landlords; it is not even to help the tenants; it is to see that properties are brought to and maintained in a proper state of repair. Bearing that in mind, there are some things we can look at in Committee so that we can help more houses to be brought within the ambit of these proposals. I fear at the moment, because of the expenditure qualification, that there will not be many houses brought in.
The first thing that we can do, I think, is this. If owners are to be allowed a 40 per cent. increase in rents, upon the basis of a three years' expenditure of so much, they have got to give notice within two months of the Bill becoming the law of the land. I think that we ought to look at that two months' period, because I do not think it is adequate. A great deal of work has to be gone through looking at the expenditure of the past three years, apportioning it between different houses and between, perhaps, different parts of the same house.
I am very glad that the Lord Advocate is here at the moment, because I think we shall want some help from him in the Committee stage. The unit, I think, ought to be the tenement and not the house. I am not at all clear whether that is so from my reading of the Bill. Expenditure on a house is expenditure very often on the roof, the main walls, foundations, and so on, and it may not necessarily be upon individual flats within the house. I admit this is in the nature of a Committee point, but I think we 2074 shall want to be clear about that, and I would hope that the unit that is taken under the Bill will be the tenement and not the house.
Third, we shall have to see, I am sure, that the cost of repairs can be averaged over the different properties. When, for instance, a contractor is brought in to do the outside painting of a row of terraced houses he quotes a price for the whole of the outside painting. He does not quote an individual price for painting this house, that house and the other one.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
When the hon. Gentleman, who will have his little jokes, has finished, I may be allowed to proceed. What we ought to see is that the cost of repairs can be averaged out over the properties concerned.
In conclusion, I say that this is a good Bill. I think the Government have had great courage in introducing it at the present time. I am sure we can improve it in Committee and I hope hon. Members opposite, in spite of the vitriolic way in which some have received it this afternoon, will help us in that task.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I hope the hon. Member for Angus, North and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the realms of fantasy about repairs which have been performed but which none of us has ever heard about or been able to discover in any of the types of homes throughout Scotland which we have been discussing. Since I have been in the House, I have never known the Tory benches to have so much timidity as they, have had today, nor known them to be so milk-and-water in their criticism of what was said from the Opposition benches. I have never known a Second Reading of any Bill in the House since I have been here in which less attention was paid to the Clauses and the principles outlined in the Bill.
Why is this so? Obviously many hon. Members opposite are not prepared publicly to justify what is contained in the Bill. In fact, we had one speech from the Government benches which completely repudiated all Clauses in the Bill. We have to recognise, therefore, that many hon. Members opposite appreciate 2075 that politically this will be a very bad Bill for them. How can it be otherwise? We do not see the Lord Advocate very often; he is making one of his fleeting appearances on the Front Bench. He nods his head.
§ Mr. Manuel
We do not know whether he is nodding or shaking, but I know that after the General Election, whether he nods his head or shakes it, he will not be here.
How can we arouse any enthusiasm, and how can the Government expect any enthusiasm among their supporters, when the main principle and feature of this Bill is that all the unfit property, all the property which has been listed by medical officers of health as no longer fit for human habitation is to be taken under the control of the local authorities? The local authorities have to take the complete onus for all that has been left by the private landlords, all the property which has not been repaired and which has been allowed to fall into a state of which everybody is ashamed.
I have had a long service with a local authority. We were proud of what we were doing, we were proud of our housing schemes, and of the architectural features of our housing schemes, and we certainly were not receptive to the idea that we should become the possessors of slums in our cities and towns. But we are being asked to become the possessors of these slums. Whether they like it or not, willy-nilly, the Scottish local authorities are to have that burden thrown upon them.
The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) said this is a courageous Bill. He said that if it had not been for the war the Tories would have had this whole problem of slums cleared up. He should be the last person to raise this issue. I was a member of a local authority in Ayrshire, and he was then, as he is now, the representative in this House of the Burgh of Ayr. Consider the work done by that gallant little Labour band serving in Ayr town council, in a minority, high-principled and ethically far above the Tories controlling that council. They were anxious to deal with the slums in Ayr but they could not 2076 get the Burgh Council to take one step towards removing the slums. They had to invoke the powers of the slum clearance Act in Scotland and bring a commission to Ayr, and after inspection the Ayr Town Council were forced by the Government to tackle this slum clearance problem. We should have no talk about the Tories clearing this mess up. That is history. What was said by the hon. Member for Ayr will not remove that history.
§ Mr. Manuel
The Act was that of the Labour Government and emanated from the Labour Party. The 1929 Labour minority Government at least managed to put that through. It is really too bad that the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) should come into this House, representing the area he does, and then get education from us to enable him to carry out his job.
The local authorities have been asked to take over the responsibilities of owners of unfit houses. In other words, they are to become the slum landlords; but the Press, in support of the Government, have indicated that this Bill is to be a crusade against the slums. That is just too bad. Actually, so far as unfit houses are concerned, the Government are going to perpetuate the slums. The instruction is for the local authorities to take over these unfit houses wherever they can, to patch them up and to give them an added life of 15 years—houses that the medical officers of health have said are unfit for human habitation. Therefore, we must not allow ourselves to believe that this is to be any crusade which will in any way sweep away the slums. It is going to keep the slums there and perpetuate them.
The intention is not to use and retain these houses for 15 years. It is that they should be patched up until such time as the local authorities consider necessary, and ultimately demolished. The 15 years comes in in connection with the grant.
§ Mr. Manuel
Fifteen years is mentioned in the Bill. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must really think over this again, because these houses will be up longer than 15 years because of the action 2077 of the Government. There will be, because of the patching-up policy, thousands and thousands of people engaged in building new houses withdrawn from the building of new houses. We shall have fewer new houses built and fewer opportunities of rehousing people from the slums and clearing the slums. Therefore, the slum houses will be used for a long period.
I want to speak about the financial help to the local authorities. I think that this is a hoax, too. I want the hon. and gallant Gentleman to answer this point. The local authorities are being told in the Bill that when they take over these unfit properties, at site value, I believe, they are to get half the annual loan charges of purchase over the period that the house so secured, or part of it, is occupied.
In Clause 4, line 30, it is indicated that the recoupment of the local authority must be based on the average of the loan over 60 years. I want the hon. and gallant Gentleman to clear up this point. Some people and some local authorities imagine that the loan charges will be paid to the local authorities for the acquisition for the full loan period of 60 years. While the local authority will take the capital commitment over 60 years, in many cases when it starts to tackle these jobs in the clearance areas the sites where the houses are now standing will not be built upon but will be left as open spaces. Much of that sort of thing will happen, and the loan charge will be an added burden to the local authority.
My next remarks regarding finance relate to the patching-up policy. The Bill proves up to the hilt that it can only be a patching-up policy. By Clause 4, when local authorities keep these slum houses in being for a further 15 years they are to secure £6 10s. a year from the Government provided that they themselves put £6 10s. a year to the patching-up of these slum houses. That makes £13 a year.
Do the Government Front Bench mean to say that the type of property which is in that category can be made wind- and waterproof for £13 a year? It is quite insufficient for the job. I have had some experience of these things, and this is what one discovers. The roof could not be slated for that figure. In addition, when the slates are taken off, one discovers that all the sarking has to be renewed, the joists have dry-rot in them. 2078 and the job piles up very easily to the order of £200.
There are other things apart from roof repairs. The gable end has been exposed to wind and rain, and to the sea if the house is on the coast, for 70 years. The job has to be tackled so that dampness does not creep through the whole building. Does anyone on the Government Front Bench suggest that a gable end could be repaired, repointed, roughcast and finished off for £13 a year? The suggestion is ridiculous. If a local authority attempts the task, it will run into debt on every house that it tackles.
Then there is the ordinary complaint that we get about this old type of building. Although it looks good structurally, it has never had a damp course. No matter what is done or how the walls are treated, dampness creeps up the walls in every room. If a local authority tries to tackle this by putting in the damp course that the house has never had, again it will run into hundreds of pounds of work for the house.
I know that the Government are not taking the Financial Resolution today, but I should like to have a reassurance that if the local authorities, who can submit accounts, make representations to prove what I have been saying, the Financial Resolution may be expanded so that something, at least, can be done and we do not hoax the people into thinking that we are doing something to keep their houses wind and waterproof when we shall be able to do nothing at all. Will the Joint Under-Secretary take heed of the local authority association representations when he gets them and enlarge the Money Resolution accordingly?
What is even worse is that Clause 6 asks the local authorities to open houses which have been closed and which in many cases are in bad positions and are damp and vermin-infested. Local authorities are being asked, or are given the power, to issue licences so that these houses may again be occupied by families who are in dire need of homes. This is a dreadful thing. It is something against which I fought in my own local authority, despite the fact that homeless people were on my doorstep seeking my help. But I did not give in on the issue.
The Government are making the local authorities the unfortunate victims of a 2079 housing shortage, for homeless people will be able to say to them, "The Government have given you this right to issue licences for houses which have been closed. We are homeless and have nowhere to go. We want to go into such houses." It is going to be a most difficult position for local authorities, and I repeat that this ought to be looked at again with a view to improvement.
Let us not forget that these are the very worst houses. The sanitary inspectors and medical officers of health to local authorities have stated that they are dangerous and would be injurious to the health of any children living in them. Despite that advice, the local authorities are being given the power to re-open that type of house as homes for people.
I want to correct the hon. Gentleman. The Bill does nothing of the kind. It does not authorise local authorities to issue new licences for such houses. If the hon. Member will look at Clause 6 (6) he will see that it revokes certain Defence Regulations which permit licences to be granted, and then it allows those licences to be continued for a period of three years. No new licences are to be granted, but they are licences which are in being today.
§ Mr. Manuel
It authorises the issue of licences for a further three years by the local authority in. order that families may occupy dwellings which medical officers of health have stated are injurious to health and unfit for human habitation.
I come to what is possibly a more important issue, and that is the raising of the investment value of houses. We have been speaking of houses which are unfit, and now we turn to houses which will remain with the private owner but whose value will increase. These are dealt with in Clauses 14, 15 and 16. The landlord is to get a repairs increase of two-fifths of the present rent, or 40 per cent. In other words, the £20 rent will become £28.
Many of these houses are 50 years old, and they are to have an increase in value. If any hon. Member opposite bought a car 50 years ago, it might have a museum price today but there certainly would have to be a 2080 depreciation allowance on its value. No one would suggest that at this stage it should have a 40 per cent. increase added to its price. But that is what it, is proposed to do with these old houses. Surely that is wrong reasoning, because there is no recognition of the profits that were made on these houses when they were good in their early lives.
This increase in value of these old dwellings arises solely from the need of the people for a home—because of the exigencies of a situation fraught with heart-burning and despair. I think it is heinous for the Government to take this sort of line, and as a local authority man I say it is the most objectionable thing I have encountered since I came into this House.
How do the landlords collect the 40 per cent.? The Government say these, houses are protected. First of all, the landlord is to serve a notice of repairs increase, and contained in that is a declaration that the landlord has spent three-fifths of the present rent in the previous 12 months. In other words, he must have spent £12 of that £20 rent I was talking about. Alternatively he can serve a notice of increase within two months of the passing of the Act if he has spent six-fifths of the rent over the previous three years—not each year, as the Secretary of State said.
The first thing we have to recognise is that the notification of a repairs increase and a declaration that he has carried out repairs to that value is not sufficient. Why? Why is not the onus a copy of accounts? I think it ought to be. Indeed, I would reverse this and make the landlord certify to the local authority that he had carried out that work and, after certification, instead of a disrepair certificate I would ask for a certificate of authorisation by the local authority before he could serve a notice of increase to the tenant. If we really want to protect the tenant, that would be a much better and easier way to do it.
Instead of that, the Government are putting the onus on the tenant and bringing in the sheriff court. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows as well as I do what will happen. We have the disrepair certificate in force now. There is an obligation on every landlord in Scotland who is taking rent that the house will be 2081 kept wind- and watertight, but the local authority cannot enforce that. We are trying. We are serving notices galore, but we cannot get it. What proof can the Minister give us that he will force the landlords to do it under this Bill?
There is another point in regard to this declaration to the tenant that the money has been spent. What is the onus on the owner who is a local builder or joiner? Is he to certify his own accounts? We all have building firms and joinery firms in our constituencies. Is the owner of the building firm which owns houses himself to be allowed to certify that he has spent the money and then to tell the tenant that he did it?
The information in the Schedule that the tenant will get repairs done to his house is misleading. The landlord does not need to do them at all. Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the First Schedule to the Bill make quite clear what can happen. For instance, paragraph 6 (1) says:For the purposes of this Schedule work which enured solely for the benefit of the dwelling-house shall be treated as having been carried out on the dwelling-house notwithstanding that the site of the work was not comprised in the dwelling-house.In fact, the work can be done off the site altogether. For instance, a drain can be renewed in a field adjacent to the house—the hon. and gallant Gentleman is laughing. I hope he has read the Bill?
§ Commander Galbraith indicated assent.
§ Mr. Manuel
If a drain is renewed which serves a tenement property off the site and outwith the curtilage of the house altogether, although the tenants do not see one bit of difference in the condition of their building they are all due to pay the 40 per cent. increase in rent for that drain which has been repaired in order to comply with the conditions of this Bill, whether the drain was necessary or not. Therefore, I think that we must look very carefully into that.
I want to question Clause 15 (4). This comes into operation after the tenant has received notice of the repairs increase and he finds that no repairs have been carried out to his home. He goes to the local authority and receives a certificate of disrepair after the local authority has examined his house. I do not know how many officials we shall have to create for this purpose or who is to pay the local 2082 authorities for that expense. If the tenant receives this repair certificate the landlord can take the tenant to the sheriff court, not to the rent tribunal which would have been handy and on which local people who know the local conditions serve. He goes to the sheriff court where possibly his case would have to wait a couple of years for a hearing.
If it so happens that a landlord makes a mistake in serving the notice or in giving an account of the money spent on repairs—it is a little like fraud, but it may happen by mistake—this is what Clause 15 (4) says will happen next:The sheriff, if satisfied that any error or omission in any notice of increase is due to a bona fide mistake on the part of the landlord, shall have power to amend the notice by correcting any errors or supplying any omissions therein which, if not corrected or supplied, would render the notice invalid, and may exercise the said power on such terms and conditions as respects arrears of rent or otherwise as appear to the sheriff to be just and reasonable; and a notice amended by virtue of this subsection shall have effect as a valid notice of increase served on such date, not earlier than the date of the amendment, as the sheriff may direct.This is a new service which we are creating for the landlords. The sheriff must correct their mistakes and make valid what would have been invalid if he had not corrected it. The error is to be corrected so that the landlord can have this 40 per cent. increase.
What position are we getting to that we are now allowing our Scottish law to be tampered with and tinkered about with like this? The Lord Advocate must have some responsibility for the fact that these legal things have been brought into the Bill. He must accept responsibility for the fact that we are now having a new kind of law in Scotland, serving only the landlords. Will the Lord Advocate tell us whether the same service is to be available for the tenant, when he takes the landlord to court, if the tenant has made errors and omissions? There is nothing in the Bill to say that the tenant can be helped. Tenants will be driven into a position where it will be difficult for them to do anything at all in a sheriff court to obtain redress.
§ Mr. Manuel
If the local authority grants a disrepair certificate the local authority causes the 40 per cent. not to 2083 be uplifted by the landlord. The land lord then takes the tenant to the sheriff court. I need only look at the hon. Gentleman who made such a moving speech today, the darling of South Edinburgh, the darling of the hardest set of Tories in Scotland, the greatest conglomeration of any landlords in Scotland. He is the darling because he protects their interests. He sees that they cream off as much as they can from the ordinary working people. After hearing him today, we have no dubiety about whom he acts for. He asked me something about some experiments in connection with housing by iron founders. I have not much knowledge of iron founders—
§ Sir W. Darling
Allied Iron Founders and the Federation of Associated Foundries; get the name right.
§ Mr. Manuel
They deal with iron and metals of that kind, but we are more used to brass, because we are continually seeing it opposite around the necks of hon. and gallant Members opposite who come before us with things of this kind. I think the hon. Member would agree that the ordinary decent, hard-working man or woman in Scotland, who is bringing up a family, rather than going to the sheriff court and suffering harassment and indignity—
§ Mr. Manuel
The indignity of going to the sheriff court. If the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan), in the class among which he moves, thinks it is not an indignity to be called before the court for rent, that is not the mind of ordinary working-class people.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
The hon. Member talks of the class among whom I move. Why is it that the class to which he is so proud to belong, and for which I have so much respect, has given me a 15,000 majority?
§ Mr. Manuel
In that hard Tory area of Perth and East Perthshire, I believe a really live Tory would get a 30,000 majority.
§ Mr. Speaker
These things are quite remote from the question before the House, and time is getting on.
§ Mr. Manuel
What I am trying to say is that the ordinary, decent hard-working family in Scotland do not like the harassment of being taken to the sheriff court because they will not pay a certain rent. They think it an indignity and I agree that it is an indignity.
When these cases arise, why is it not proposed by the Bill that the local authority should go to the sheriff court? The disrepair certificate which is being challenged is that of the local authority which has issued it after a proper inspection of the house by the responsible officer. Why allow the tenant to be subject to this procedure? If the tenant is to make any case when sued by the landlord, he will need to quote the local authority and to take as a witness the burgh surveyor, or sanitary inspector. Someone will have to pay for their day's loss of earnings. The tenant will have legal expenses and all that sort of thing.
The Bill will not operate fairly but is completely weighted against the tenant. Subsection (2) of Clause 16 says that if the landlordsatisfies the court that at the time when the certificate was given the dwelling-house was in good and tenantable repair the court shall annul the certificate and thereupon it shall be deemed never to have been in force.In other words, there is to be retrospective payment of the repairs increase. If the court is cluttered up with business it may be a very long time before the case is dealt with. If there is a flood of these cases, it may be a long time before a particular case is dealt with and it may be impossible for the tenant to make back payments. I suggest that the local rent tribunal and not the sheriff court should deal with these cases.
Clause 31 deals with the repairs increase which is not to be taken into account for valuation and rating. This is a hidden subsidy to rent-controlled property, and to a certain extent it is fictional. The rate paid will be higher for the occupiers on the lesser figure, and, if it counted for valuation, the rate would be less, of course, in the local authority area.
My last point is in connection with Clause 32. In my opinion, here is the greatest disturbance of principle. As an old local authority man, I think that this is the most objectionable feature of the 2085 Bill. It is certainly the greatest disturbance of principle. Owners' liabilities are to be limited to the amount paid as at the passing of the Act, and if the rate poundage after the passing of the Act is increased in any local authority area, it will not affect the owners. The increase will be paid solely by the occupiers and owner-occupiers in the area and also in East Perthshire. All occupiers and owner-occupiers will vote Labour after this.
If, however, the rates go down in any local authority area subsequent to the passing of the Act, the owners have to pay the lesser figure. The occupying tenant or owner-occupier is not allowed to recoup himself when the rates go down. The amount of rates collected from the owners is to be lowered just as if they were paying a normal share when rates go up; in other words, they are to have the best of both worlds.
I consider this to be a bad and despicable Bill. In the main, it is an attack upon the poorer and weaker sections of our people. This Tory Government are acting on behalf of their friends the landlords just as they have acted on behalf of the brewing interests whenever they have come to power. They have acted in the same way on behalf of the road hauliers. They have taken the most paying part of transport out of nationalisation and handed it back to their friends because of the services rendered by them at the General Election and because of the money they have received from them.
They are doing here for the landlords what they did for the steel interests. I deplore such acting in the interest of slum owners. I ask the Government to withdraw this Bill and to bring in something worth while. If they are not fit to bring in a Bill which will give local authorities some hope and which will really allow this question of housing to be treated as a social service, then they should make room for us so that we may do so.
Local authorities should be given help from a central Government fund in order to clear up the mess left by private enterprise in the past. That is the only way in which the matter can be tackled. It is no use tying the worst of the houses round the necks of local authorities and allowing the other houses to be used for the further extraction of money from 2086 people who, even before the 40 per cent. was put on, were paying more than they ought to have paid.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Brooman-White (Rutherglen)
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Central Ayshire (Mr. Manuel), who speaks with such long municipal experience behind him. I thought that, as always, his peroration was very eloquent, but that it lacked the conviction or depth of what he had to say when discussing the specific Clauses of the Billon which, no doubt, we shall hear more from him when we reach the Committee stage.
In the early part of his speech, the hon. Gentleman twitted us on this side of the House with being hesitant or coy in speaking in support of the principles of the Bill. I say to him and to hon. Gentlemen opposite that I should have been most ashamed of my own party if we had not brought in a Measure to deal with this problem, and I think that hon. Gentlemen would have been the first to reproach us about it.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
That point has already been dealt with, and I do not want to take up too much time. We said that we would deal with the Rent Restriction Acts, just as the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said that he would be pleased to deal with them. We are now dealing with them, which is more than the party opposite did.
In view of the general recognition, on both sides of the House, of the necessity to deal with this problem, I had hoped that the discussions would be centred on the question of houses versus decay rather than on trying to create a phoney war on landlord versus tenant, and that time would not be wasted here by building up a false picture of the Government's proposals, in setting up a caricature and then settling back into the congenial occupation of throwing mud at that caricature. Much of what the party opposite has said about the Bill are things they know to be a distortion of the facts, while their sounder points have been no more than Committee points. It is the intention of this Bill that the money paid in increased rents should be directed towards repairs. If there are Amendments in Committee to ensure that that can be more effectively 2087 done, I am sure that my right hon. Friend and everybody else will be most pleased to consider them.
I wish briefly to review the general principles of the Bill to say why I support it and to consider what the Opposition objections to the principles and specific proposals of the Bill can be. What are these objections? There is no difference between us on the need for something to be done, and done early. If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like these proposals, what is their alternative? That has been asked before. Seeking enlightment, I look at what they had to say about the problem in their last party policy statement. One point in that document, "Challenge to Britain," was thatLabour will, therefore, instruct all local authorities to submit schemes for gradually taking over and modernising blocks of rent-controlled properties within their areas.Does that mean the large-scale absorption of private property by the municipalities? Perhaps the Opposition spokesman who is to wind up their case will say. If that is so, what is the cost likely to be? The figure of £3,000 million was given by the Minister of Works for the country as a whole. If the properties are to be taken over at site value for the poorest and at a reasonable valuation in other cases I do not know what it is likely to amount to in Scotland. Perhaps we shall be told.
How is the money to be found? What are the administrative difficulties? Also, from the point of view of the tenant, if we start, as we do, from the knowledge that rents which are now being paid for these houses are not sufficient to keep the property in a decent state of repair, then the rents will have to go up in order to keep the houses in a decent state of repair. That will happen whether the municipality or anyone else is in possession. The money will have to be found out of the rents or the rates. In either case the tenant will have to pay an increased rent, whether it be imposed by the provisions of this Bill or by the municipality.
Then there is the slum clearance aspect. Hon. Members opposite accept the need for slum clearance. Naturally, they do not like the idea of municipal authorities taking over the houses and patching them 2088 up. No one does. But what is the alternative? They say, in "Challenge to Britain":Labour will not take over and repair, at heavy cost, properties which are really slums.Nobody imagines that the slum clearance problem will not take a considerable time to deal with, probably much longer than any of us would like it to take. During that time, are the houses to be left in their present state, or to be patched up? If they cannot be patched up under present arrangements is there any better proposal than the Government's for getting them patched up for the interim period during which unfortunate people will still have to live in them? If the Opposition have a better proposal let us hear it.
Then, "Challenge to Britain" states thatrents will be fixed by local authorities in relation to the rents they charge for their other properties.That point has already been dealt with. It means, in effect, that the houses will be removed from rent control and that the rents will have to be raised either by the municipalities, or by others if the present Bill stands.
The main objection from hon. Gentlemen opposite is not to the slum clearance side of the Government's proposals, but to the increase of rents of the controlled property. They say, "You can bale out the difficulty at one end, but we do not like your suggestion for stopping the leak at the other"—the proposal for stopping houses further falling into disrepair while those that are already slums are being cleared away. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has spoken of the bad heritage of the prewar days. We all know the condition of much of our Scottish housing. How far it was the landlords' fault is a matter which may be in dispute.
Lord Marley's Report stated that the increase in rents before the war had not been sufficient to enable repairs to be carried out on the same scale as before the First World War so, in that Socialist Report, it did not seem that landlords were getting too much between the wars. It may be that some of them neglected their job, but others, working under great difficulties, did well.
The immediate and essential fact is that more and more houses are falling 2089 into disrepair and the money has to be found to prevent this. That is one side of the problem, and the slum clearance programme is the other. How would hon. Gentlemen opposite do it? It can be done by taxation, rent, or rates. We know it cannot be done from the landlords' pockets, the abandoned properties themselves are sufficient proof of that and the findings of the Marley Report, whatever force or application they may have had at the time, certainly gain tremendous weight from the increase in repair costs since the time they were published. Therefore, it has to be rents, rates, or taxation. As I understand the present scheme, the Government say that the slum clearance side is to be divided between taxation and rates. Hon. Members can argue how that is to be allocated between the two; but that is a Committee point, not a criticism of the basic proposal.
On the repairs side, we have said that the money is to be raised from the tenants in increased rent, but that it must be put directly into repairs. Here again, suggestions can be made to tighten up such arrangements so as to ensure that that will effectively happen. The Government have indicated that they will welcome such suggestions, but, again, it is only a question of Committee points. What is the basic objection of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the principle of the Bill? Slum clearance we must have. That is to be paid for out of taxation and rates. Repairs we must have, and under the proposal repairs are to be paid for by an increase of rents. I am quite prepared to support these proposals, and I can assure the Member for Central Ayrshire that I should have no hesitation in supporting them in my own constituency or elsewhere.
§ Mr. Timmons
Would the hon. Gentleman care to go to Cambuslang, in his own constituency where the conditions are worse than in the Gorbals? If he goes there and says that I am sure he will get an answer.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
It is because of the conditions I saw in Cambuslang, in Bridgeton, and elsewhere that I welcome this attempt to deal with them. I would have been ashamed of the Government if they had done nothing about it.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I do not think that was the case.
Hon. Members opposite have said that these proposals do not go far enough. If that is the case, and is proved to be so by experience, then we or a subsequent Government will have to go further. We are at least trying to meet the problem. Hon. Gentleman opposite did not even try.
§ Mrs. Cullen
If these repairs had been done when they ought to have been done we should not have them to deal with today.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I agree. There is evidence in the Marley Report that landlords did not receive from the rents any superfluity of money between the wars. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite do not like the findings of Lord Marley, but I would remind hon. Members that it was a Socialist Commission which made those findings. But in any case, whatever the debate on the past, we are trying to deal with the problems of the present.
My next point relates to owners' rates. It seems to me to be reasonable that if the increase in rent is directed towards repairs, part of it should not be taken back into the municipality in the form of owners' rates; otherwise, there will have to be an additional increase. The object of this Bill is to find money for repairs. If part of that money goes to the payment of rates, there will not be the money available for repairs. If a municipality knows that extra money is required for rates, it ought to be found out of rate provisions. Furthermore, if, as is the case, a great burden is to be placed on the municipalities by slum clearance, it behoves local authorities to do what they can to see that no unnecessary burdens are placed on their finances in other directions.
We in Scotland have fallen behind the English practice in housing in many respects. Housing is worse in Scotland; our rating system is more complicated and less effective, and our general conditions are worse. I hope that we shall not fall behind England in municipal practice in the handling of rents of municipal houses.
I wish to mention a Report, which I found most interesting, of the Housing Management Sub-Committee of the 2091 Central Housing Advisory Committee. That deals, to a large extent, with differential rent schemes. I hope that it will receive consideration by the Department, and that, where possible, further steps will be taken to introduce such schemes in Scotland. Some Scottish authorities have them already, but the operation is not general in Scotland. The object is to ensure that municipal tenants with high incomes are not receiving subsidies paid for in large measure by people who are less fortunately placed than they are.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
The Report says that thesedifferential rent schemes are being operated by local authorities of different types and different political outlooks, and that any initial local opposition has soon faded away.It also says thatthe aim is to enable those who are hardest hit to pay less and to require those who can well afford it to pay more.That is a principle which should meet with approval on both sides of the House, and it should be extended as widely as possible.
A good deal of political heat has been engendered by hon. Members opposite. We are told that this Bill is politically disadvantageous to the Government. That may or may not be so. It depends on one's views of the standard of rational thought among the electorate. In any case, it would obviously be much simpler to the Government, if they had wanted to take political advantage, not to have introduced the Bill at this time but to have kept going with the present housing drive and for us all to have put the housing figures on the top of our election addresses. The fact that the Government have not done this is sufficient proof in itself that they are concerned more with the effective rehousing of the people of Scotland than with an immediate electoral advantage.
I hope that when we reach the Committee stage it will be met in the spirit not of arousing the maximum of animosity and misunderstanding, but of carrying out the most that we can achieve in a joint operation to overcome the social evil which is the greatest single cause of human suffering in Scotland 2092 today. It is in that spirit, and not by the mouthing of political slogans about "landlordism" that an approach should be made to these proposals which are before us today.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I promise to give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling shire (Mr. Woodburn) in a few moments, so that he can wind up this debate for the Opposition. I can, therefore, make only a fleeting reference to the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White). In his last few sentences he referred to the fact that it was the ability of this Government in achieving record housing figures that gave them courage now to devote their attention to a repairs programme. That is also paraphrasing some statements which were made in earlier speeches.
I believe it to be the other way about. It was because of promises made at a certain conference—promises which were very inconvenient, but which had to be kept—and because this Bill will now give the Government a reason, or an excuse, for cutting back on new houses. One of the real objections of the Government and those behind them is to be found in another reference made by the hon. Member for Rutherglen, in respect of council rents.
When the hon. Member was asking the Opposition for a statement of policy he forgot that it is the Government's policy which is on trial today, and not the policy of the Opposition. It is the profitability of the increase which will determine how much of these repairs will be done. This Bill signifies the long hoped for victory of property owners throughout Scotland. They were claiming, up to two years ago, that a rent increase should be theirs by right. Then they changed their tactics. Until two years ago they were claiming that they should have the right to look for increased profits, as well as some of their fellow investors. Other capitalists were making a profit two years ago, and they wanted to be allowed to do the same. Their plan, their attitude and their arguments have now changed.
Such an attempt to make a profit was too blatant for the public to swallow, so they camouflaged it. At that time most 2093 hon. Members received a document called "The Voice of the Press Demands Rent Reform." It is a very expensive publication. I can assure hon. Members that it is not a bad effort for impoverished landlords and factors. It contains stereo-blocks and cuttings from the Press, all purporting to show reasons why repairs should now be effected. The extract from the "Daily Mirror" of 15th July, 1952, is indicative of what hon. Members opposite really want. It shows what is the real objection—that nine out of 10 families will be housed at the expense of other people. It is the housing subsidies of local authorities which are really being criticised.
Because it is to be part of the Government's policy to divert materials and men into those fields their housing programme will go by default. It is true that they had to achieve it for at least one year, but that was not the impression left with the country at the time of the General Election. The impression was it would be 300,000 houses per year for some time to come, not for a single year. The property owners were put back a bit in the queue, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) earlier. The brewers and road haulage people had to come first. They wept crocodile tears over the poor tenants' predicament.
This is the answer to the hon. Member for Rutherglen. There was a Committee much later than the Marley Committee. The Ridley Committee also investigated and reported in 1945 on rent problems. It said:We may say that there is evidence of a tendency among some owners to look upon house property as an investment to give a perpetual income without much expenditure on repairs and replacements.Therein is our objection to this Bill. The owners and the Government are helping to shore up derelict properties, not because of the use they will be to the people, but because they are a source of investment to give a return on money. Indeed, unless it were for that they would have nothing to do with them at all. Therefore, Part I of the Bill, which purports to give assistance to the local authorities, is, in my opinion, a façade to cover up that which is happening under Part II of the Bill.
Time is pressing, and, unfortunately, I shall not be able to complete the remarks 2094 which I should humbly but dearly have loved to have made. Perhaps hon. Members will allow me to refer to what I said on another occasion when I had the honour of addressing this House, on 3rd July, 1952. I then said:Private investment of capital will never again be able to provide for the needs of our people in houses to let."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 657.]As has been said, housing must be made a social service.
I, too, must make reference to a relative of mine, a grandmother who lived in the same house in Springburn for over 50 years. She paid 30s. per month in rent for a room and kitchen house, £18 a year; that is about £900 for a room and a kitchen house over that period of years. She paid for the house three times over, yet it is still being rented today. It is that to which we object.
I want to refer to something said by the President of the National Federation of Property Owners, who is not too sure that even this increase will solve the problem. He is reported in the "Scotsman" of 4th November to have said, of the increase:'We are not satisfied with it as it is now, and we are certainly not satisfied with it as a long-term measure.'He said the Federation thought there should be some increase in rents linked with repairs as a short-term policy, and as a long-term policy there should be another addition that would enable the landlord to get a return which would be related to the present cost of living.Their present cost of living. What about the tenant's present cost of living? In the same way, the Secretary to the Edinburgh Property Owners' Association is objecting that the increase is not sufficient, and from their point of view it is not. It will not give them the incentive to do those repairs.
For those reasons, I shall go into the Lobby willingly to oppose this Bill and I hope, for the sake of the people of Scotland, that it will be defeated.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, whilst recognising the need to maintain and preserve our national stock of habitable houses and to employ our building resources to the best effect, declines to give 2095 a Second Reading to a Bill which proposes an increase of forty per cent. in rents to private landlords; contains no adequate provision to protect tenants from further exploitation; relieves certain owners of liability for increases in rates and transfers their liability to all other ratepayers, including tenants of local authority houses and owner-occupiers; and will result in perpetuating the slums in Scotland by providing for the retention in use of houses which local authority medical officers have condemned as being unfit for human habitation.In the first part of the Amendment, we state that we recognise and appreciate the housing problems in Scotland and the problem concerning the houses which were built prior to the new housing schemes of local authorities—what are called the controlled houses. We therefore are not opposing the Government merely because they suggest dealing with such houses.
Some hon. Members have asked me today to say what our policy is. We are not discussing what a Labour Government would do. We are discussing a Bill put before us by Her Majesty's Government. I am informed on reliable authority that it is expected to take many weeks to discuss this Bill, and if some hon. Members had their way and started to discuss also what we might do, then I am afraid there would be little possibility of this Bill reaching the Statute Book. We must therefore confine ourselves to dealing with what is before us and not discuss what my hon. Friends would like to see, which is a proper Labour proposal for dealing with houses. We are not the Government and we are therefore not in a position to put that proposal before the House. We must deal with the Bill put forward by the Secretary of State.
We oppose the Bill and ask the House to reject it for many reasons. Nothing has been produced today, and we have had no information, which would justify us in agreeing to an all-round 40 per cent. increase in the controlled rents in Scotland. No case has been made for it. If that increase of 40 per cent. is carried against our wishes, we nevertheless cannot agree to the provisions of the Bill which, in our view, do not adequately protect the tenant.
We see no equity in fixing a ceiling for owner's rates in respect of such houses and distributing their future liability over 2096 the tenants of local authority houses and over owner-occupiers of non-controlled houses. We are disturbed, and we believe local authorities are disturbed, by proposals which appear to compel local authorities to assume responsibilities from the landlords for the worst slums in the community.
May I first of all thank the Secretary of State for his announcement that he intends to postpone the Financial Resolution? We understand that local authority associations have not had an opportunity of discussing the Bill and deciding their attitude towards it, although I am informed by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) that he has had a telegram from the Fife County Council saying:Repairs and Rents Bill. Finance Committee of Fife County Council opposed to principles of Bill and request you to vote against it.That is a Conservative authority. When the county councils meet, I have no doubt they will want to put before the right hon. Gentleman their objections to the Bill, as stated here, if that is the general agreement of the County Councils' Association.
This evening we are discussing the principles of the Bill and I do not propose, therefore, to go into many of the detailed objections to it or even some of the detailed benefits of it, because at the moment we are called upon to decide whether we approve of the Bill in principle and, since we do not approve of the Bill in principle, there is no point in our discussing the details of a Bill which we trust the Government will take back. We hope that in its place they will bring forward a Bill which will deal with the problem properly.
This problem has been recognised for over 30 years. Let me admit right away that the difficulties of dealing with this comprehensive problem in Scotland are almost insoluble. Scottish houses range from miserable hovels, as described by many of my hon. Friends who have spoken today, to some houses, even tenements, which would be a credit to any nation in the world. We talk as if all houses and tenements in Scotland were slums. A great many houses, including tenements in the better-conditioned houses in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other towns, are quite splendid homes even to this day. Even though many of these 2097 houses have been in existence for 60 years, that does not mean that they have been allowed to deteriorate, and I think that the idea that all landlords have allowed their houses to deteriorate into slums is a slander on the landlords [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]. I would remind hon. Members opposite that my hon. Friends have never said so, and I am very glad to pay this tribute to the decent landlords who have maintained their houses throughout the years and who are not clamouring to get extra rents for slums, as friends of hon. Members opposite seem to want to do.
There is also the problem of the wide variation in the contributions made by tenants and owners of houses to local authorities for the maintenance of the city services. These vary enormously. If it is measured per head of the population, the differences are really fantastic between what one person has to pay compared with another.
The same happens with rents. Indeed, there is little relationship, as the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) said, between a family income and the rent that has to be paid. There are people with quite small incomes who, because they are fortunate in getting a new house, have to pay extraordinary rents compared with someone who was lucky enough to get a new house prior to the war. There are a great many variations even in rents of local authority houses. If we take the rent system throughout Scotland, no one could justify it in equity as between one citizen and another. There is hardly any section of society not up against some anomaly in regard to housing, rent and rate problems. Therefore, before this can be tackled we have to have a broad comprehensive solution.
This cannot be done piecemeal. The right hon. Gentleman has appointed the Sorn Committee to report on rates. One would have thought that that report would have been awaited before a comprehensive attempt was made to solve this problem. Housing is only one of the problems, and this particular aspect of housing is a very limited aspect of the whole housing problem. While it is a very big problem, we find this Bill rushed along to deal with one aspect of the problem, and we feel that it is a very unseemly, hasty rush, as some of my hon. Friends have said, to respond to the landlords' plea for more rent at any cost.
2098 There was no indication in the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland, or in any speech which I have read, about the nature, size and general aspect of this problem. Everyone assumes that houses are falling into decay. I do not believe that. I could take hon. Members to houses in Edinburgh and Glasgow which are not falling into decay—long rows of houses kept in goodorder—and, therefore, it is a fraud on us to suggest that these houses are falling into decay.
Many landlords have kept their houses in proper order with the rents which they are getting now, and there has been no indication to show us how these landlords are suffering in any way. Great numbers of these landlords, so far as I know, have made no complaint. In any case, the Secretary of State has not brought evidence to justify the 40 per cent. increase. This seems to us—and many of my hon. Friends have said so—to be the fourth dividend of the Tory Party to their friends to get their backing at the next election.
§ Mr. Woodburn
They have not got that dividend yet. There is no capitalist interest involved in the Forth Bridge, but once the capitalists are interested, then their supporters may come along.
The whole investigation of and approach to this problem suggests one purpose only for this Bill. The Secretary of State said that the purpose was the benefit of the tenants. In case we did not hear it the first time, he repeated it. He obviously did not feel very strongly about it. The whole approach suggests to us that it is not for the purpose of helping the tenants but for the purpose of helping the landlords, not to provide houses, but to ensure a profitable investment in houses for the financial investor in house property. That is borne out by the Report of the Sorn Committee, who said:We are of opinion that it is essential to remove this difficulty"—That is, the rates and other things—in order to restore confidence in Scottish house property as an investment.That says nothing about providing or repairing houses for the people, but it 2099 talks of having the investment. The Committee went on to say:This can be done in two ways: (a) permitting increases in rents; (b) limiting owners' rates.I am justified therefore, in assuming that that is the genesis of the Bill and that it is to secure houses as being a good investment for certain people who want to invest in houses. Our first and main objection to the Bill, therefore, is that it is conceived for a wrong purpose. It is conceived for the purpose of helping investors and not for dealing with the housing problem.
The proposed remedy is a 40 per cent. general increase in the rents of controlled houses. My party is categorically opposed to this proposal, and with reason. My hon. Friends have explained that in 1920 landlords were granted somewhat similar increases to carry out repairs, and they betrayed the trust that the House of Commons placed in them to carry out that job. Now we are being asked to repair their sins. While we realise that there are many honourable exceptions—the good state of many houses is proof that some landlords assume their responsibilities—we find it impossible to have any confidence in landlords as a class that can be trusted with this social responsibility. No case, therefore, has been made to justify a 40 per cent. increase.
It has been pointed out already, but it ought to be put on record, that the Ridley Committee, at page 25 of its Report, said:the permitted increase has not in all cases been applied to the purpose for which it was designed, but has been regarded as an added increment to the landlord's income…there is evidence of a tendency among some owners to look upon house property as an investment to give a perpetual income without much expenditure on repairs or replacement…This, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, must be an even surer investment than Consols, the Government stock.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Of course it is. People have lost money on Consols, but house property owners are to be sacred above all risks of the capitalist system. They must be absolutely guaranteed against all loss, and evidently theirs is the only property that does not deteriorate in value, 2100 It is not surprising, therefore, in view of its genesis, that the Bill is so framed that the landlord can make certain of getting the increased rents, but it will not be so easy for the tenant to make certain that the repairs are carried out.
Also in Part I of the Bill, local authorities are to relieve landlords of their moral responsibility for the creation of the worst slums. Any decent person who owns some of these places and continues to draw rent from them ought to be ashamed of himself for having any responsibility for them.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Many slums have been created within the last 30 years by neglect to do the repairs for which the landlords have been paid. We believe that in the rush to help the property owners, the Government have merely succeeded in creating new anomalies and injustices, without even a satisfactory remedy for those they have tackled.
Scottish rating is a problem. I am sure that some of my hon. Friends from England would be mystified if they tried to understand it. They will see from the Bill that local authorities in Scotland are to get £6 10s. for 15 years, but in the English Bill the figure is only £2 5s. for 15 years. Hon. Members will think that landlords or local authorities in Scotland are getting a lot more money than the English local authorities, but I am informed—perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will confirm this—that the capital sum involved is about £155 in both cases, and it is a question of dividing it over 15 years. In Scotland, however, the arrangement of covering the owner's rates is included and, therefore, the figure becomes £6 10s. to cover the same amount in Scotland as the £2 5s. covers in England. If that is the case, I think hon. Members from England will understand that the complication of the rating system is a headache no matter how we approach it. We agree that Scottish rates are a problem, and also that these old houses are a problem.
The Government have justified the 40 per cent. increase in their view by saying that the Committee that was appointed to examine costs for 1939 has reported that this is an appropriate increase, but why was the Committee asked to report 2101 only on increases compared with 1939? The previous increase covering costs was in 1920, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) said in his splendid speech, these were greatly reduced by 1939. The 1920 costs were reached only in 1943. The Committee that was appointed in 1945 to look into this question said:In subsequent years the cost of labour and materials fell substantially, but the increased rent permitted under the Act continued. It appears to us that in 1943 the cost of labour and materials had again risen approximately to the level prevailing in 1920.'So the increase compared with 1920 is not between 1939and 1953, but between 1943 and 1953. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman says that this Committee has told him about costs between 1939 and 1953, one can only assume that he wanted something to justify an increase of 40 per cent. and not one that was based really on increased costs. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman started out with the conception that he must have a 40 per cent. increase in the landlords' rents, and that some committee must provide a report that would justify the Government making such an increase, because the report of the Committee mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman is the only evidence which has been brought before us today.
Who are the property owners who have justified these proposals to the Government? Mr. Murray McGregor came to me when I was Secretary of State, and told me that houses in Glasgow were falling down, and that they were going to abandon the houses on which they were losing money. I said, "All right, bring me some facts and I shall be prepared to see the Glasgow Corporation and ask it what can be done to have the houses taken over and so relieve the landlords of their losses." I never heard of the facts I asked for; they were never given to me.
In spite of the fact that the landlords did not send me the information for which I asked, I took up the matter with the Glasgow Corporation. I was informed that on the only occasion when the Corporation sat down with the property owners to deal with this problem, the property owners discovered that their old houses were equal to the value of the new houses which had been completed 2102 the day before. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am exaggerating a little, but all that breeds distrust of the property owners, and, as has been shown, the Government themselves distrust them.
Why should tenants have to pay a rent increase for houses that they have kept in repair? I lived in a tenement for some time and I kept it in good repair. I am quite sure that that house is still kept in repair by the people who occupy it. But why should the landlord suddenly get an increase for repairs that he has never done and is never likely to do? Why should the tenant also pay an increase in rent if existing rents are sufficient?
I have got the accounts of one of the big building organisations in the West of Scotland, and, so far as the figures given to me show, it has got quite a substantial reserve in hand, and the rents that it has been drawing seem to me to be more than ample to justify paying for all repairs that require to be done. Moreover, it controls about 7,000 houses in Glasgow and a number in Edinburgh, for which the Government have paid subsidies. According to the right hon. Gentleman's letter to Western Here ditaments, they are going to be able to charge 40 per cent. on their houses. There is no evidence that Western Hereditaments are not doing quite well out of these houses without a 40 per cent. increase.
Therefore, we are justified in asking for some information that will justify this House in imposing any burden on tenants. Certainly no justification has been produced so far for allowing the people who are responsible for the present condition of slums simply to come along and collect money from the tenants to make up for their own sins of the past. So far as I know, many of these property owners show no signs of hardship.
I have already mentioned something to the credit of the landlords, and now I will mention something else. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen), who feels passionately about the housing situation in her area, has given me particulars of one house owner in the Gorbals who said to his tenants, "I really feel ashamed of these houses. I should like to take the two end houses and make them decent by turning the middle one 2103 into the necessary sanitary accommodation." This, incidentally, was a method suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot). The landlord did that and the tenants said, "We are willing to pay the extra rent." That has been done and my hon. Friend tells me that she is being approached by people from other houses of the same character who want the same thing done.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The point is that this was done under the Act passed by the Labour Government in 1949. I am not saying that the landlord is making a great deal of money out of the transaction, but he is clearing his conscience by not being responsible for degrading conditions and drawing money from the misery of other people. I understand that in Denny-Dunipace also the landlords are taking their duties seriously, improving and converting houses, getting rid of slums and making homes, and the tenants are willing to pay the increased rent.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) said, people are willing to pay an increased rent if they get value. The main criticism of this Bill is that it guarantees the rent to the landlord but it does not guarantee the value to the tenant. We are willing to help wherever there is a case which justifies help, but it has always been one of our principles that when people come for public money they must show justification for getting it. Similarly, if people are to come to defenceless tenants and ask for more rent, they must show justification.
The Bill fails to approach the complex problems involved with comprehensive proposals for a fair and equitable solution. That is our main criticism. Secondly, the Government in the Bill have not produced any adequate justification for increasing rents by 40 per cent. Thirdly, the Bill is conceived to achieve the wrong end. It is conceived to make housing a profitable investment instead of seeking the best way to improve and to preserve housing. The Government have subordinated the right purpose to preserve a discredited means.
This is not my opinion alone. In a speech in Edinburgh, Lord Balfour put 2104 the matter as clearly as anyone could. Sometimes hon. Gentlemen opposite are more easily persuaded if they hear something from the lips of their friends. Lord Balfour is a distinguished Scotsman who has worked in Scotland, who is the Chairman of the National Coal Board and is a member of the other House. He was addressing the Edinburgh and District Centre of the Institute of Bankers. Now bankers are interested in this question and the Hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South may have been there, because this is one of his activities. We all admire the multifarious activities of the hon. Gentleman and as a banker he will be interested in this report of what Lord Balfour said:The days of the era of private landlord and tenant—whether it be land or property—are numbered. I don't believe it can survive much longer….No longer tenable, he continued, was the old picture, skilfully painted"—He must have anticipated this debate—of the wealthy landlord lolling in luxury and living on the profits he was getting from his tenants. Those who believed that this picture was a true one were hiding their heads in the sand. Lord Balfour said he could not believe that the landlord-tenant relationship would survive for more than two generations at the most, and he was inclined to think that the alternative was that, with both houses and land, we should become a nation of owner-occupiers. We should have a happier country community if this was so. It would also be the answer of many of our housing problems.He did not know, however, how the change over from the present landlord-tenant relationship was to be brought about.
§ Mr. Woodburn
We do not object to owner-occupiers. We helped owner-occupiers. Indeed, one of our objections to this Bill is that the landlord's burden is to be transferred to the owner-occupier.
§ Mr. Elliot
Is the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the purchase of houses instead of the renting of them?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am not in favour of landlords getting houses sold at ransom prices by taking advantage of people who cannot find room in which to put their furniture.
It is dear that even in the opinion of Lord Balfour, and I am sure in the opinion of all hon. Members, there is no future and there should not be any moral future in housing as an investment. It 2105 has become a social service and it is 30 years since the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove and his friends recognised that it is quite impossible to house the people of this country on an investment basis. Moreover, when rents are such a hardship to families with small incomes, and rates are so high, one cannot make housing an investment without overburdening the people who become tenants.
We therefore take the view that housing in some way must be treated as a social service. We would certainly advocate that approach to a problem of this kind, but it must be done in a comprehensive way. We are not dealing with one aspect but with the entire housing problem. We made a beginning in 1949 when we dealt with the problem according to the labour and materials that were then available, and we should build on that beginning. We should go forward to a greater and more comprehensive policy for the rehousing of the people and the improvement of the houses in which they live at present.
§ 10.23 p.m.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)
This debate is typical of many of our Scottish debates in that there has been a great deal of outspoken criticism and many hard-hitting speeches. I do not think that anyone can possibly be accused of having endeavoured to pull punches in any way. Therefore, I think that we have had a lively, interesting, and enlightening and, on the whole, a very good debate and one in which many of us have found considerable enjoyment.
I am quite sure that we were all very glad indeed to see the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) back in his place and leading the Opposition once more. Whether that pleasure continued throughout his speech is, of course, a matter of individual taste. It is a general rule that as we get older we become more mellow, but if that is the general rule the right hon. Gentleman certainly appears to me to be an exception to it. As far as I can see, the older he becomes the more aggressive and assertive he gets.
I have known the right hon. Gentleman for 20 years and I remember very well that in the days when I first met him he put forward his arguments in such a gentle and persuasive manner that 2106 one would indeed be inclined to accept them. He spoke in those days like a dove. But there was nothing dovelike about the right hon. Member today. He has another peculiarity. It is that the weaker his case the more violent is his attack on his opponents. The House will have observed that by that test he certainly had a thin case today and well does the right hon. Member know it.
Apart from those matters, I was somewhat surprised to see that the name of the right hon. Member appeared on an Amendment which commences byrecognising the need to maintain and preserve our national stock of habitable houses.His conversion to that point of view must have been very sudden. It must have been something akin, almost, to the con version of St. Paul. The difference between the two is simply that, while St. Paul was on the road to Damascus—
—the right hon. Member was in full retreat from St. Andrew's House and his Ministerial responsibilities.
I say that because the recognition of this need to preserve habitable houses seemed only to have dawned on the right hon. Member in recent months. He was Secretary of State until two years ago and in 20 months, in that office he seemed to have no idea that our stock of habitable houses needed to be preserved. When my right hon. Friend became Secretary of State he found that no steps had been taken to ascertain the facts about controlled houses in Scotland and absolutely no facts or material with which he could deal had been collected. Therefore, he had to make inquiries and make a survey to ascertain the physical condition of controlled houses, and to collect factual, authentic, information as to the financial position of such property and set up a committee of experts—which has been referred to—to report on the increasing cost of building repairs since 1939.
Those essential inquiries delayed the introduction of this Measure by at least a year and that delay was due to the failure of the right hon. Member while in office to recognise the need to maintain and preserve our stock of habitable houses. Of course, it is very satisfactory 2107 to know that he realises the situation now. I was also astonished that the right hon. Member put his name to an Amendment which says that a Second Reading should not be given to the Bill because it was perpetuating the slums. The right hon. Member knows perfectly well that licences were in force while he was in office whereby people could continue to live in condemned houses. He knows perfectly well that he did not do away with the licences because those people had nowhere else to live. He knows that was the case then and is the case now. The charge I have to make against him in this connection is that he knew there was only one remedy. That was to go ahead with all speed in the building of more houses, but he proceeded on that matter very gingerly indeed.
The implication from this sentence in the Amendment is a censure on my right hon. Friend who is rapidly speeding the day when slum clearance can go ahead in real earnest by building many more houses than the right hon. Member succeeded in doing. I would ask the House to consider the records of the two right hon. Gentlemen. My right hon. Friend has, on an average built every month, since he came into office, 817 more houses than the right hon. Member while he was in office. My right hon. Friend has built 67,700 houses, 35,675 of them in the year which ended on 1st November. In the 24 months he has been in office he has built 27,700 more houses under his Administration than the right hon. Member for Greenock built in his 20 months of office.
I submit to the House that in the light of these figures it is the right hon. Member for Greenock who falls to be accused for perpetuating the slums and not my right hon. Friend, who is marching with all possible speed along the road to slum clearance, the same road along which the right hon. Member for Greenock is proceeding with such halting steps.
§ Mr. McNeil rose—
I want to get on.
The right hon. Member for Greenock seemed to imagine that my right hon. Friend was misleading the House in the matter of consultations with the local authority associations. I want to put the 2108 facts squarely on record. So far as the Government's proposals are concerned, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met the three local authority associations in Edinburgh on 23rd October, and the White Paper, the House will remember, was issued on 3rd November. Officials, and nominees of the associations met on the next day, that is, on 4th November, when the subsidies were discussed, and it was thought on both sides that the financial proposals were reasonable.
The local authority associations have had five clear weeks in which to consider the proposals and four weeks since the Bill was actually published. Surely, therefore, if they have not met independently, it is not the responsibility of my right hon. Friend. Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend has taken the initiative in arranging for a further meeting on Monday next. I hope that that clears up that point quite plainly.
The next misunderstanding which seemed to arise was in connection with the Hutson Committee. The right hon. Gentleman accused that Committee, as I understood, of disregarding the local authority evidence.
I suggested to the Secretary of State for Scotland that other evidence had been offered, and the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps quite understandably, did not seem to be aware of that at that point.
I want to deal with that point. Actually, the Committee disregarded nothing. The right hon. Gentleman quoted paragraph 29 of the Hutson Report. What that paragraph actually says is this:In requesting evidence from local authorities in respect of houses built prior to 1914…and then it goes on to say:Unfortunately, the Corporations of Dundee and Paisley have no longer in their possession details of their 1939 expenditure and as a change in the standard of maintenance has taken place in Glasgow we have been unable to utilise to any great extent what we had hoped would be one of our best sources of evidence.
I am reminding the House of what was said, but that does not mean that the Committee disregarded the evidence of Glasgow Corporation.
All right. Let the right hon. Gentleman sit quietly.
In so far as the inter-war houses were concerned—and the right hon. Gentleman did not quote this—I would refer the House to Appendices B and C of the Report, which has been in the Library for a considerable time. In those Appendices it will be seen that the day to day repairs increase for Dundee Corporation's inter-war houses was 197 per cent., for Glasgow Corporation, 207 per cent., and for all the local authority houses in Scotland, 173 per cent. That certainly goes a long way to prove that the Hutson Committee's findings were perfectly accurate and in accordance with the facts.
§ Mr. Woodburn
A point about these percentages. If landlords do not spend anything, one could have 1,000 per cent. and that would still be nothing.
That is a very wise observation.
I want to deal with one of the other points raised by the right hon. Member for Greenock and also by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). The right hon. Gentleman said that £100 per house was not enough. I want to tell the House that the figure of £155 which was quoted by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) is the correct figure which was taken for the purpose of this calculation. We never contemplated for one moment that local authorities would spend £450 on any house, because any house which needs such expenditure is not fit even to be patched up and should be pulled down at once.
I am indebted to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for his courtesy in supplying me with the figures, but it is more important to the House to know whether the figure applied to the Scottish stone house is the same as the figure applied to the English brick house.
I cannot remember the figure for England, but the figure is £155 in Scotland.
The hon. Members for Leith (Mr. Hoy) and Central Ayrshire raised a question about Clause 15 (4), dealing with rectification of errors and omissions. They 2110 were under the impression that it was a new provision loaded aginst the tenant. As a matter of fact, this is common form, and repeats exactly word for word the provision which appeared in Section 6 of the Act of 1923.
§ Mr. Hoy
I asked for information and it was not forthcoming at the time. I think it ought to be made clear that it was not included in any Scottish Bill before but was, in fact, a provision in the Mortgage Interest Restrictions (Continuance) Act, 1923, which applied to Great Britain, and was only applied to Scotland because of the application Section. This is the first time that it has appeared as a separate Clause in a Scottish housing Bill.
I said it was common form.
The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Timmons) and others were concerned about the Scottish Special Housing Association rents and decontrol. Let me inform them that the 40 per cent. increase will not apply, as they are being taken out of the Rent Acts. My right hon. Friend will consider what should be the future rent policy of the Scottish Special Housing Association after the Bill becomes law.
We had a very interesting and thoughtful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett). I want to assure him that my right hon. Friend sympathises with hard cases such as those to which he referred, but I myself think that his proposals are not practicable.
Then the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. W. Reid) asked if houses decontrolled between the wars, where the rent had been increased, would have to bear a further increase of 40 per cent. The answer is yes, but let me add that the information in the possession of my right hon. Friend from the local authority assessors is that an average rent increase on decontrol was less than 10 per cent. and in many areas was altogether negligible. Cases such as he mentioned must, indeed, be very rare. The hon. Gentleman put another question to me, 2111 and asked whether the 40 per cent. increase in the case of a rent of, say, £70 would take a house outwith rent control. The answer is no, because the rateable value remains at £70, and control depends on the rateable value.
A question was put to me by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Forman) who asked, if an owner spent the specified sum but not on internal repairs, whether he would get the rent increase. The answer is that if the house internally was in disrepair he would not qualify for the rent increase.
I should like to devote the rest of my time to making some comments on the Amendment, which begins as follows:That this House, whilst recognising the need to maintain and preserve our national stock of habitable houses…How that is to be done no one told us. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that we were not discussing the policy of the Labour Party, but it is only right that they should put forward some policy. The only suggestion that has been made—and it was not made from the Front Bench opposite, so far as I could understand—was that these houses should be taken over holus bolus by the local authorities. The House is entitled to know where the Opposition stand in regard to this matter.
This course was championed by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), and it was foreshadowed in the delightful booklet known as "Challenge to Britain." On the other hand, Scottish Labour Members do not seem to be quite so sure about it. I remember reading in the Press, a few days ago, of an interview they seemingly had after having interviewed my right hon. Friend on the question of a company which wanted to sell its houses. It was reported in the "Scotsman" of 23rd October that the Labour Group.fear that if permission to sell is granted in this case other companies will follow the example, and in time the only rented houses in Scotland would be owned by local authorities.There is evidently a fear that that is coming to pass. I would say that this proposal for the local authorities to take over all controlled houses is ill-conceived and unrealistic to a degree.
2112 The next point of the Amendment is in connection with theincrease of 40 per cent. in rents to private landlords.The first thing that strikes me about that is the reference to private landlords, from which I presume that if the local authorities were to increase their rents by 40 per cent. the party opposite would not raise any objection. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Anyway, that is the clear implication which I obtained from it. If the case is not clear why my right hon. Friend considers 40 per cent. to be the correct figure—and there have been many questions about it during the debate—I should like to remind the House of the result of the inquiries which he made.
It emerged from those inquiries that in 1939, to keep property in repair owners were required to spend one-fifth of their rent. That figure was confirmed by the Hutson Committee, which also found that between 1939 and 1952 the cost of repairs had increased by some 200 per cent., and it therefore follows that 60 per cent. of the existing rent is now required for repair purposes. In other words, the additional 40 per cent. which is provided in the Bill is exactly the equivalent of the increased cost of repairs.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had prepared his speech before he heard what I said about this. I made it quite clear that one of the committees on which he bases his authority said that the 1920 increases were reached again only in 1943, and not in 1939. Therefore, the 1939 figure must have been a false basis on which to base this increase.
The right hon. Gentleman may have one view and I may have another on this question. I said that for various reasons the 1939 basis was the correct one to take.
The argument has been put forward that all the Government are doing—and this has been said time and time again today—is to put money into the landlords' pockets, which, I presume, means that it is the intention of the Government to put landlords in as good or in a better position than they were in in 1939. I want to make it clear that this Bill takes into account only the increase in the cost of 2113 repairs. It takes no account of the increase in the owners' rates since 1939 which, in the four cities, have gone up, on the average, by 2s. in the £, or an equivalent of 10 per cent. of the rent. So, without taking into account the increase in the cost of management and insurance, the owner will be worse off to the extent of £10 in every £100 of rent. How that is putting money into the pockets of the landlords I do not quite understand, and I doubt whether even the most astute mathematician on the benches opposite does, either.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite really must tell us what their alternative to an increase of rent is. Are controlled houses simply to be allowed to deteriorate until they fall into complete disrepair? Or is the cost to be met by the taxpayers or the ratepayers? If it is to be the latter, we shall soon reach the rather ridiculous position where every one of us will be paying for everyone's rent except, of course, the poor owner-occupier, who will be contributing to all other rents and getting nothing in return.
I want to turn to the third point in the Amendment, which says that the Bill…contains no adequate provision to protect tenants from further exploitation….That seems to say that the tenants have already been exploited. Any reasonable person on those benches who knows the facts could not possibly accept that for one minute. I will give the House an example. I want to take the case of property which is owned by Glasgow Corporation, and which is outwith the Housing Acts.
The figures I have are for the year 1950 to 1951, I think, and they are figures that were prepared by the City Chamberlain of Glasgow, and all hon. Members knowing that very estimable gentleman, I think, will accept his figures. I want to remind the House, before I give these figures, that the cost of repairs and rates have increased since the year I have mentioned. Rents collected from those properties amounted to £5,219; owners' rates to £1,457; the cost of repairs was £3,208; commission and sundry charges were £613; Property Tax amounted to £1,124. That gives a total expenditure of £6,402 against rent of £5,219, or a loss of £1,183.
§ Mr. McInnes
Are those figures not in respect of properties taken over by the corporation which were in a terrible state of dilapidation and cost the corporation a very high figure for repairs?
I do not know that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let me quote the document. I am quoting from a paper which was read by the Depute Town Clerk of Glasgow, Mr. Gordon, "The Problem of Abandoned Properties." There are many properties in this same condition, and all that I am attempting to say is that these properties and many like them can be run only at a loss at the present time. What is interesting to note about those figures is that the amount spent on repairs was 61 per cent. of the rents, and that reflects the accuracy of what we have allowed for in this Bill.
I think it is only fair to point out that Property Tax might well have been set off against a maintenance claim, and if that had happened there would still have been a loss on those properties. So from that it would appear to me that at least some owners have been subsidising their tenants, which does not seem to be very like exploitation so far as those tenants are concerned.
I want to deal with the protection for the tenants in the future, which subject has been raised time and time again. The tenant's first protection lies in this fact: he will not, as has happened in the past, have the increase given for repairs swallowed up by increases in owners' rates. That is his first protection. His second protection is that if the landlord does not spend money on repairs according to the Hutson Committee, whose figures the House has had, his house must fall into disrepair and the tenant will be able to get from the local authority a certificate of disrepair.
It has been suggested that tenants will not know their rights. In that connection, I have to inform the House that the prescribed form of notice which the tenant will receive about the repairs increase will explain how and where he can get a certificate. If any owner deliberately runs the risk of the tenant getting a certificate of disrepair, he will run a very big financial risk indeed, because as soon as the certificate is granted he is liable to lose more than half his present income from the house. If the house has been 2115 continuously controlled since 1914—and the majority of our controlled houses in Scotland are in that position—the tenant will be able to withhold not only the increase of two-fifths granted under this Bill but also the increase of 40 per cent. granted in 1920. In other words, the owner will find himself left with the 1914 rent. That is not the only risk.
The hon. Member is in error on that point. There are believed to be 4,000 of these certificates in operation in Glasgow at the present time.
That is not the only risk the owner will run, for if the house falls into serious disrepair the local authority is empowered under existing law to serve a notice requiring him to carry out the necessary work to make it fit in all respects. If he does not comply, the local authority will be able to carry out the work itself and in certain cases under the Bill to acquire the houses at site value.
It is true that local authorities have hesitated to use this power in recent years because they realise that, with present rents, many owners simply could not carry out the necessary repairs, and in exactly the same way tenants in recent years may have been reluctant to seek a certificate of disrepair, but even now there are 4,000 of these certificates in force in Glasgow. In the new circumstances there is no reason to suppose that the tenants will not be able to exercise their rights as effectively as in the past.
I come to the part of the Amendment which deals with the relief of certain owners from liability for increase in rates and the transference of the liability to other ratepayers. I see there has been added to this part of the Amendment, to create a little prejudice, that it will affect the tenants of council houses and owner-occupiers.
It seems to me that it will affect all owners of property and all occupiers of property other than those in controlled houses.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
On a point of order. We cannot hear what the Minister is saying because of the chattering of his supporters.
I am grateful to the hon. Baronet. I will try to speak a little louder, so that he may still hear the words of wisdom which I am saying.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin) rose—
This part of the Amendment suggests that the existing law should not be changed and that owners should remain liable for any increased poundage in owners' rates. That appears to me to envisage one of two things: either owners, while remaining liable for increase in rates, should be allowed to increase their rents to set off any increased liability; or the sum granted in the Bill to meet repairs will become less than that necessary for that purpose whenever an increase in rates takes place. All I have to say on that is that in both these cases it would indeed be bad for the tenant.
I want to pass on, as my time is short, to the last statement made in this Amendment, and that is that it will result in perpetuating the slums in Scotlandby providing for the retention in use of houses which local authority medical officers have condemned as being unfit for human habitation.I honestly think that that part of the Amendment is the most stupid of all. What it really does is to charge the Government with a desire to perpetuate the slums, to depart from the course which was initiated by a Conservative Government in 1923. The Opposition know perfectly well that that is a charge that is absolutely without foundation, and that, in fact, what we are doing is to take up again with vigour the policy of slum clearance which our predecessors had to discontinue at the beginning of the war in 1939.
I say to the House that already comprehensive schemes have been prepared in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Paisley and elsewhere which my right hon. Friend is 2117 encouraging. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not under this Bill."] I am telling hon. Members that they have been prepared, and that my right hon. Friend is encouraging them by all the means in his power.
Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill lay down that unfit houses will be allowed to remain only where they cannot be demolished by reason of the fact that they must be continued as housing accommodation in the meantime. Whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may do if they were in power, we have no intention whatsoever of turning into the street the people who are in these houses.
It is an unjustifiable reflection on local authorities to suggest that they would exercise their powers to secure the demolition of houses under private ownership, but they would refuse to exercise their powers in respect of the same houses if they have become the owners of them.
I hope that I have dealt fully and faithfully with the Amendment. I hope that I have satisfied the House that it is utterly unreasonable and impracticable and in no way leads towards a solution of a very serious and urgent problem,
§ whose existence it has not sought to deny. Indeed, I am sorry that this Amendment was ever tabled at all. I should have hoped that confronted with a problem of long standing, on the solution of which the health and happiness of our people so much depend, we Scottish Members might have put aside our political rancour and joined together to work out an agreed solution.
§ In spite of everything that has been said today, I am absolutely convinced that the need for action is well understood by hon. Members opposite, and I have, therefore, a shrewd suspicion that this Amendment arises from a genuine feeling on their part that they themselves should have introduced this Measure. The fact is that they have completely misjudged the situation, and they imagined that no Government would have the courage to do what my right hon. Friend has done. I commend this Bill to the House as a practical step towards ensuring the preservation of a great national asset and providing better housing conditions for our people than they have ever hitherto enjoyed.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 304; Noes, 275.2121
|Division No. 14.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Allan. R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Brooman-White, R. C.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bullard, D. G.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Duthie, W. S.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Burden, F. F. A.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Erroll, F. J.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Campbell, Sir David||Fell, A.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Carr, Robert||Finlay, Graeme|
|Banks, Col. C.||Cary, Sir Robert||Fisher, Nigel|
|Barber, Anthony||Channon, H.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W)||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Fort, R.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Cole, Norman||Foster, John|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Colegate, W. A.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Gammans, L. D.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Birch, Nigel||Crouch, R. F.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Glover, D.|
|Black, C. W.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Godber, J. B.|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Cuthbert, W N.||Gomme-Duncan, Col A.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Davidson, Viscountess||Gower, H. R.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Deedes, W. F.||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Braine, B. R.||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||McAdden, S. J.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Grimond, J.||McCallum, Major D.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Russell, R. S.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Harden, J. R. E.||McKibbin, A. J.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Scott, R. Donald|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macolesfield)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Shepherd, William|
|Harvey. Ian (Harrow E.)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Hay, John||Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Heath, Edward||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Speir, R. M.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Marples, A. E.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maude, Angus||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Maudling, R.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Mellor, Sir John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hope, Lord John||Molson, A. H. E.||Storey, S.|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Summers, G. S.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Neave, Airey||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nicholls, Harmar||Teeling, W.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Nutting, Anthony||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Oakshott, H. D.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Odey, G. W.||Tilney, John|
|Jennings, R.||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Turton, R. H.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Kaberry, D.||Osborne, C.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Page, R. G.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Ward, Miss I (Tynemouth)|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Pitman, I. J.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Webbe, Sir H. (London &-Westminster)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Powell, J. Enoch||Wellwood, W.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Profumo, J. D.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Rayner, Brig. R.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Redmayne, M.||Wills, G.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Remnant, Hon. P.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Low, A. R. W.||Renton, D. L. M.||York, C.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Robertson, Sir David||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Bartley, P.||Bowles, F. G.|
|Adams, Richard||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth|
|Albu, A. H.||Bence, C. R.||Brockway, A. F.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Brook, Dryden (Halifax)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Benson, G.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Beswick, F.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Blackburn, F.||Burke, W. A.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blenkinsop, A.||Burton, Miss F. E.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Blyton, W. R.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)|
|Baird, J.||Boardman, H.||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Balfour, A.||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Carmichael, J.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Bowden, H. W.||Champion, A. J.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Janner, B.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Coldrick, W.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Rhodes, H.|
|Collick, P. H||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cove, W. G.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S)||Ross, William|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Royle, C.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Keenan, W||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Daines, P.||Kenyon, C.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||King, Dr. H. M.||Short, E. W.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kinley, J.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lewis, Arthur||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Lindgren, G. S.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Logan, D. G.||Snow, J. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edelman, M.||McGhee, H. G.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McGovern, J.||Steele, T.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McInnes, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McLeavy, F.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Stress, Dr. Barnett|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Follick, M.||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Foot, M. M.||Marquand, Rt. Hon H. A.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mason, Roy||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Mellish, R. J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Messer, Sir F.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mikardo, Ian||Thornton, E.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mitchison, G. R||Timmons, J.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Monslow, W.||Tomney, F.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moody, A. S.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Morley, R.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Grey, C. F.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mort, D. L.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moyle, A.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mulley, F. W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Hale, Leslie||Murray, J. D.||Weitzman, D.|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Nally, W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J||West, D. G.|
|Hannan, W.||O'Brien, T.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Hardy, E. A.||Oldfield, W. H.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hargreaves, A.||Oliver, G. H.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Orbach, M.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Hastings, S.||Oswald, T.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Paget, R. T.||Wigg, George|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Willey, F. T.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Pannell, Charles||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Pargiter, G. A.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Holman, P.||Parker, J.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Parkin, B. T.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Paton, J.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Hoy, J. H.||Peart, T. F.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Popplewell, E.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Porter, G.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Proctor, W. T.||Yates, V. F.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pryde, D. J.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Rankin, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Reeves, J.||Mr. Pearson and Mr. John Taylor.|
Question put, and agreed to.
|Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.|