§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).—[Queen's recommendation signified.]
§ [Sir CHARLES MAcANDREW in the Chair]
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
I beg to move,That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision for the clearance and redevelopment of areas of unfit housing accommodation, and for securing or promoting the reconditioning and maintenance of houses, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—The purpose of this Financial Resolution is a limited one. It is to authorise the payment of moneys in respect of one novel feature in the new attack now to be launched upon the problem of the slums. I wish to emphasise that point because there has been some misunderstanding on this necessarily rather complicated question. The cases in which what we have called "deferred demolition" or "patching" may be appropriate will be by no means universal; nor is this new provision intended in any way to delay the real work of slum clearance.
- (a) contributions in respect of houses purchased or held by local authorities for demolition but retained for temporary use for housing purposes, consisting of—
- (i) a contribution equal to one-half of the annual loan charges referable to the cost of purchase of each such house for each financial year in which any part of the house is used for housing purposes,
- (ii) a contribution equal to three pounds, or such other sum as the Minister of Housing and Local Government may determine, for each such house (or, in the case of a house containing more than one separate dwelling, equal to the said sum for each such dwelling) payable annually for a period of fifteen years.
- (b) any increase attributable to the said Act in the sums payable out of such moneys under section one hundred and seventy-three of the Housing Act, 1936, paragraph 5 of the Schedule to the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, Part II of the Housing Act, 1949, or Part I of the Local Government Act, 1948.
Before I come to the details of this Resolution, I ought to explain again the existing financial provisions applying to 1016 slum clearance. There is no ground at all for saying that the present provisions for slum clearance are less generous than before the war. On the contrary, they are more generous to the local authorities than at any time in our history.
Under the pre-war Acts of 1930 and 1938, there was no grant towards the clearance of the slums as such. There was a grant for new houses provided in replacement of slum houses. This grant under the Act of 1930 was, as hon. Members may recollect, calculated on the basis of the persons displaced. Broadly speaking, the balance of responsibility between the central Government and local government worked out at a ratio of three to one.
In 1938, this grant was replaced by another system of grants in respect of the house, not of the person. That resulted in a ratio of two to one. The present financial arrangement is on the basis of three to one and is calculated on the house, whatever its type, and not on the number of persons dealt with. But it is, in reality, more favourable to the local authorities than the mere ratio of three to one would suggest.
There are two reasons for this. In the first place, it is to be paid over a period of 60 years instead of a period of 40 years. That makes a considerable difference. Secondly, there have been very important and valuable provisions developed since the war which make available special payments in respect of expensive sites both for houses and flats. Perhaps I might add that since the present rate of subsidy was fixed, not quite 18 months ago, the cost of borrowing has fallen. Therefore, on a strictly actuarial basis, the subsidy of £26 14s. is really worth £2 more than when Parliament fixed it.
I have gone into a little detail about the financial arrangements for slum clearance proper in order to remove any misunderstanding. What we now hope to do, assisted by the provisions of Part I of the new Bill, is to start again with a new effort and a new enthusiasm the drive to demolish the slums. For that main purpose the present generous and really quite exceptional subsidy provisions remain as the chief financial instrument.
We have, however, and this was explained on Second Reading, been forced 1017 to recognise the fact that, with the best will in the world, some of our great cities will not be able to clear all their slums in five, 10 or even 15 years. What we are, therefore, suggesting as an experiment—it is an experiment—is to see whether some degree of "patching," as we have called it, should be undertaken to try to make life a little more tolerable for those who will have to wait in the queue for 10 or perhaps 15 years before there is any chance of their turn coming.
This is, no doubt—I say this frankly—uneconomic expenditure in the narrow sense of that word. I fully admit that, but I think it can be defended, and it is certainly put forward as an act of decency and Christian charity. On the other hand, if we are to do this it is very important—I am certain the local authorities will agree—that this expenditure should be of a modest kind and that local authorities should not be tempted to regard patching as a substitute for clearance.
It is for that reason that I do not think that in their interests or in the national interest the financial provisions should be made dangerously attractive. In saying that, I think I have the support of the best social reformers and the most progressive authorities. Nevertheless, we believe that in the special areas where the problem is a long-term one there is a place for this work in the setting of the larger plan for slum clearance.
To this end, we are asking the Committee, in this Resolution, to make a dual contribution. We are going to alter the law in the Bill itself and allow authorities to buy sites, including the houses, and to keep the houses for some time where they cannot clear them immediately. This is, as Members know, contrary to the present slum practice, for under the present law condemned houses must be pulled down at once.
We are going to give the local authorities a certain discretion in this matter, and we are therefore asking the Committee to provide to the local authorities, as part of the extra financial provision, half the annual loan charges on this novel and in a sense premature expenditure. I repeat—I propose to give them half of the loan charges during the period that the houses are, for one reason or another, left standing and not demolished. When the time comes when 1018 they are demolished and new houses are built on that or another site, the three-to-one subsidy—the main financial provision—comes into play and the cost of the site is taken into account in the calculation of the subsidy to be paid. That is the first contribution—half of the loan charges upon this buying ahead, as it were.
Secondly, we are asking Parliament to provide a further contribution in order to assist local authorities who, instead of pulling down houses in a clearance area immediately, decide, after consideration and putting forward their plan to us and talking it over, that it is necessary to retain some of them for temporary accommodation. This sum is payable in respect of every house so retained. I wish to emphasise this point. The method of calculation I will explain in a moment. The sum, as stated in the Resolution, is an annual payment of £3 for every house retained. It will be paid for 15 years. It is based upon the average calculation, and it will be paid whether the amount of work done is substantial or small, or even if no work is necessary at all. It will be paid on each house in the area.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
We on this side of the Committee would like some illumination about the words, "or such other sum." The local authorities may feel that, after having entered into the obligation, the sum can be reduced. Is it intended to reduce or to raise it? The language is rather ambiguous in that respect.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I shall come to that matter where it fits into the rather flexible character of the Resolution, to which I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has called attention. In that form it is rather unusual.
Broadly speaking, this contribution for the second half, for the patching of houses, is also calculated on a fifty-fifty basis. That is the reason the Bill provides for the payment by the local authority of an equal sum of £3 into their housing account. But there is this difference. What in reality happens is that the Government will pay £3 per unit, whatever the cost may actually prove to be, and the local authority will make what is really a bookkeeping transaction and credit its housing account with the sum of £3 whether it is actually needed 1019 or not. If the work can be done at a lower price, the Government subsidy will not be reduced, but there will be a balance to the benefit of the local authority upon its housing account.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I shall come to that. On the £3 system, so long as it goes on the Government pay £3 per house and the local authority credits £3 to its housing account. I was only saying that there is a difference in the two transactions. The local authority gets £3 cash and the other is credited. If the work can be done for £2 on average, it has a credit on its own housing revenue account. That is the difference between the character of the two transactions.
We have consulted the local authorities by the ordinary machinery which all Ministers have used, but of course I must take the full responsibility for the final decision. I first saw the local authorities and discussed this whole problem in general terms at a confidential meeting before the publication of the White Paper. I need not apologies for so doing, because by long tradition it is right that there should be confidential and friendly discussions between the representatives of the local authorities and the Minister of the day. But in addition, my officials on several occasions discussed with the officials of the local government associations all the details of the scheme, and I held another meeting on 10th December, when I informed them of the final proposals of the Government. Now, at the request of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, which I was glad we were able to meet, we have given certain further time, so there is no question of any rushing of the matter.
I take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the courtesy and understanding which representatives of local authority associations have always shown to me. I do not pretend that everyone is completely satisfied. I do not suppose everyone is ever completely satisfied as the result of any financial negotiation. Nevertheless, I think the scope and character of this rather special part of 1020 the wide problem is now understood and appreciated by all the authorities concerned.
Objection has been taken on two counts. First, that the basis of the calculation is a fifty-fifty grant and not a three-to-one grant, which of course applies over the wider field of house building. Secondly, that the figures on which the unit grants were based were unduly low. On the first I thought it right to stand firm for this reason. It is not because the sums at stake are very substantial. They are, indeed, negligible in the vast totals of annual expenditure upon house building over the whole field, and the very large subsidies involved, and the great contributions which will have to be made on the three-to-one basis which we are maintaining in the broad work of slum clearance. It is not purely for that reason. Compared with all that expenditure the loan charges on these demolition sites and even the cost of patching are of a minor order. But I think it is widely felt in local authority circles that, wherever it is possible without too heavy obligations, it would be wise from the local authority's point of view to welcome something like equal partnership with the central Government.
In recent years we have seen a steady whittling away of local authority functions and responsibilities, and I am alarmed that this process may go on. I believe that local government has a great deal to gain by accepting equal partnership, especially in a case like this where it does not cost them very much. Moreover, in this case, in my view, it is important to see that this expenditure is kept to the minimum. If too much is spent on patching up these houses as a temporary measure, local authorities may be tempted to keep them up too long. I think, therefore, that too high a ratio of Government grant would be a mistake.
However, with the sympathy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I have been ready to take a somewhat fluid view of the calculations as to the possible cost of patching. Therefore, to that extent there has been some whittling away of the fifty-fifty principle as it will apply. The idea is to pay a sum which will meet half the cost of writing off the capital used in bringing the house to a condition "adequate for the time being." Naturally, it is difficult to make a calculation 1021 of a precise kind. The contribution first mentioned to the local authority based on what seemed to us sound calculations from as much evidence as we could get—particularly from the Birmingham experiment—was 33s. After further discussion, I was led by argument to think that it should be 45s., and so it appeared when the Resolution was first put on paper. But after further discussion and listening to representations, the figure which I am now asking the Committee to agree to is £3. Although, as I have said, the principle of a fifty-fifty basis remains, in practice it may have been found to be somewhat diluted.
Nor should it be forgotten that the unit grant is payable on any house within the clearance area which, under Clause 2, is approved for deferred demolition. That will be paid whether any work needs to be done or not, and therefore houses already in a state "adequate for the time being" will certainly help to average out the others where a greater degree of work is necessary in order that they may meet the requirements. This is an experimental—
§ Mr. Macmillan
I was going to say that this is an experimental system and therefore I or my successor will review it and its working as soon as there is enough experience to make such a review worth while. We have not inserted any term of years in the Resolution. It may be two or three years. I doubt whether there would be sufficient work done before three years, or sufficient experience gained, to make such a review of much value. It is well understood between the Ministry and the local authorities that the review will take place just as soon as there is enough evidence of what has been happening to make such a review valuable. That will be the time, if amendment is necessary, to come again to Parliament. But I would add that the system is made even more flexible because the Resolution itself and the Bill 1022 give the Minister rather unusual powers. The Resolution authorises him to alter the rate of contribution without legislation, subject only to an affirmative Resolution of the Commons House of Parliament.
§ Mr. Macmillan
An Order. If the figure is found by agreement to require to go up or down, it is not necessary to go through the whole machinery of a Bill with all its complications; but the Minister can come to Parliament with an affirmative Resolution and say that it is felt that the sum ought to be £5 or £2 10s., or whatever it may be. It does not take away any powers from Parliament, but I think that it will be valuable to the local authorities and to us all, because to go through the whole machinery of a Bill in order to make an adjustment of this kind would take time. It does not take away and it does not add to the power of Parliament. To have a Bill would be a waste of Parliament's time. It is far more flexible and better that we should operate in this way.
Of course, the power of Parliament over the money must be kept, and it is kept by the affirmative Resolution. This procedure is not novel. It is followed in some of the other social services. In the case of the Assistance Board, variations can be made by affirmative Resolution. not by Bill.
§ Mr. Dalton
We are anxious to understand, because it is rather unusual, as the Minister says, in a Money Resolution to take power to increase later on, without a Bill but merely by the Minister's decision, subject to affirmative Resolution, the total amount to be spent. It is unusual, whether right or wrong. Can the Minister tell us where it is laid down that an affirmative Resolution is required, because that is not generally part of the machinery of a Money Resolution?
§ Mr. Macmillan
—without Parliamentary approval. I think that it will copy exactly what is done in the Assistance Board.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. If we think that the payments ought to be larger, we shall not have to go through the whole machinery of a Bill. A Resolution is put down and if the House agree then, for instance, the old age pension is raised by Resolution rather than by Bill. That is the purpose—to get a degree of flexibility in order to Implement the promise given that as soon as there is enough evidence there will be a review and whatever can be done will be done. That has the advantage that it gives far greater confidence to the local authorities.
One can often say, "We will do this." I am sure that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have found in the past that they would like to have a Bill but that there is no time or that the whole of the Parliamentary time-table has got very crowded and it is most difficult to have the Bill. This procedure gives much more confidence to local authorities because they know that, when the review is taken, it is a simple procedure for a change to be made by affirmative Resolution.
§ Mr. Bevan
This is so unusual a provision that I am sure the Committee will forgive me if before we have the general debate we try to get one or two points clear. Is it a fact that, after the local authority has incurred expenditure on houses, the Minister can, by Order, secure from the House of Commons a reduction in the annual rate of expenditure, because that is provided for in the Financial Resolution?
§ Mr. Macmillan
The Resolution says that, if it is decided after review that the rate should not be £3 but should be either less or more, it will not be necessary to have the procedure of a Bill because the change can be carried out by affirmative Resolution. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale hates any revolutionary experiment. He takes an orthodox and somewhat pedantic view of our procedure, but I must try, in spite of all temptation, to think that precedents can be made as well as followed.
I should like to emphasise that the scheme of patching cannot make bad houses into good houses, and it cannot even make bad houses into fair 1024 or moderate houses. It can never be tolerated, and ought not to be, where it is possible to destroy all the slums in a reasonable period of years. Therefore, the test is not the state of the houses but the condition of the city or area. There might be houses which it is proper to keep in a place where there is no hope of getting rid of all the slums for 50 years, which it would be absolutely wrong to patch and to keep in a city where the job can be done in four or five years.
The test is not the houses but the condition of the locality with which we have to deal. I emphasise that because I hope that, wherever they can, the authorities will do without the patching and will concentrate upon slum clearance and the other parts of the general scheme, which we are to discuss in the Bill, by which houses can be modernised or improved. I do not want local authorities to become slum landlords. I certainly do not want them to be happy about being slum landlords. It is only where there is nothing else to be done that I want them, with our assistance, to do something, however small, to improve the conditions and to bring some comfort to the people who have to live there for many years to come.
Apart from whether it is economic or whether there is a physical advantage—and it is a physical advantage if houses are made watertight, the roofs mended and something done—there is, and this has been proved by the Birmingham experiment, the imponderable but great moral advantage of making the people feel that somebody cares about them and that they are not altogether forgotten. If we were to make the grants too high, it would be really dangerous. The authorities might be tempted to regard this as a substitute for slum clearance. Secondly, even if they did not, the expenditure might reach a point which was not justifiable.
There is a further point, raised on Second Reading of the Bill, with which I should like to deal. I think that it was raised by the deputy Leader of the Opposition. What is to happen where the local authorities take over an area with a good deal of mixed property in it? The greater part may be slum houses bought at slum value, but there may be good houses, shops and factories. On the one 1025 hand, it is argued that if they are not allowed to take over the whole together with the slum houses they are deprived of the opportunity of making a profit; on the other hand, it is said that in purchasing them there is an extra burden for which the grant makes no sufficient provision.
I think that the real answer is that there is no cause for complaint on either ground. Sometimes additional property must ultimately be bought in order that the appropriate boundaries can be got for the redevelopment area. Yet it would be burdensome to hold that property too far in advance of redevelopment. In that case, there is no purpose in buying shops, factories or even sound houses until the time comes when the authority is ready to proceed with the whole scheme. When that happens, the cost of the acquisition of the sound houses, the shops or whatever it may be, will be taken into account in the additional subsidy above the normal housing subsidy for expensive sites. That will be the time when it will attract that subsidy; that is, if the local authority chooses to do that, but, after all. it may do the opposite.
If the local authority would like to acquire these individual properties—shops and factories inside the area—because they are profitable and it hopes out of the revenue to balance some of its expenditure, then its application will certainly be favourably entertained. It is true that these profit-making properties cannot be acquired under the same legislative procedure as that for slum houses. But authorities can act either under their local Act powers or under those of the Local Government Act, 1933, or under the planning powers. I shall certainly be prepared to assist them in cases of that kind.
There is only one further point that I want to make about the method that we have adopted. I have been asked why we take a fixed unit sum in the case of the houses as the basis of calculation and have not offered to pay a percentage of the actual loss or cost in the case of each house. It must be clear to hon. Members that if we tried to calculate exactly what was the cost of the individual houses we should run into an amount of accounting and correspondence between Whitehall and the local authorities which would make it quite intolerable. For the large number of small transactions some system of averaging is absolutely neces- 1026 sary.It is quite different in the case of the site itself. There we can make calculations on a single transaction and pay a 50 per cent. grant in respect of the loan charges.
I must add an apology to the Committee which I hope will be accepted. It was necessary to put the Resolution down again in slightly different terms because I was anxious that we should not get into the paradoxical situation of not making the grants in respect of the cities or boroughs which were pioneers in the undertaking before it was brought to the attention of the Government to be used as a model. By means of the slightly amended Resolution it is possible to include not only houses to be purchased but also houses already held, and that covers the Birmingham and other experiments.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say more about the basis upon which he has arrived at the figure of £3? What are the assumptions on which his calculation has been based? The information which I have received from the borough treasurer of West Ham is that it is a grossly inadequate figure. It may be that the assumptions are wholly irrelevant to the problems of my constituency.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The calculation was made on the basis of what we thought was the likely average cost per house with a 15-year period for amortisation, taking the average rent likely to be paid for the houses and making allowance for maintenance. This works out at 33s. However, the result on the same fifty-fifty basis taking a somewhat more favourable view of the transaction worked out at 60s.,which seems to me not to be a bad result. It results in our giving a larger amount in the experimental period than that indicated as necessary by the strict mathematical calculations on the assumptions which we adopted, but, knowing the uncertainties which there must be, I thought it wiser to give the somewhat larger amount and not worry too much if it proved to be a little more favourable to local authorities than it ought strictly to be on the fifty-fifty basis.
I hope that, in view of these explanations, the Committee will be prepared to grant the financial aid asked for in the Resolution. Its form is novel. It is 1027 flexible. The contribution is intended to assist the patching scheme which we hope will be useful in some cases but by no means universal. I believe that it provides assistance where it will be necessary in certain localities. It leaves unaltered the subsidy for slum clearance in general; there is still the three-to-one payment, for 60 years, with special regard to expensive sites. I hope the Committee will agree to the Resolution and will make this contribution as a modest but valuable addition to our general administrative machinery and armoury in the battle for social progress.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I intended to wait and speak a little later in the debate, but I am so astonished by the speech that we have just had from the Minister that I feel we ought to try to get some further enlightenment immediately.
The right hon. Gentleman has talked all the time in grandiloquent terms about the Government's attack on the slum problem. He must realise that there is nothing at all in the Bill about slums. We are not discussing slums. All that has happened is that the right hon. Gentleman hopes that the slum clearance which started some little time ago will be accelerated. We all hope that. There has been some slight slum clearance for the last three or four years, and as the new house building of the local authorities is run down by the Government, it is hoped that they will be able to take up more slum clearance. Although the right hon. Gentleman talks about a plan for the onslaught on slums, there is nothing about it in the Bill; it is just a piece of rhetoric.
What is new in the Bill, apart from the rents, is the proposal to salvage for a short period of years houses which might otherwise be demolished. I never saw a father look with more suspicion on his own child than the right hon. Gentleman showed to this proposal. He said that we must not make it dangerously attractive—I am sure local authorities will have a quiet smile to themselves when they read that—for local authorities to hold the houses and not demolish them. I have seen no enthusiasm among local authorities for the proposal, so it is not a question of its being dangerously attractive. 1028 What local authorities have been wondering is whether they ought to become slum holders at all and whether, if they are to become slum holders for a period of years, these financial proposals will not ruin them.
When the right hon. Gentleman regards himself as a revolutionary in Parliamentary procedure, I also allow myself a gentle smile. He is really one of the most disorderly Ministers I have ever encountered. Only a short time ago he stole a large sum of money without the consent of Parliament to carry out investigations into valuations, without telling anybody about it, and afterwards he said what a good thing it would be if that could always be done before a Bill was introduced. It would be an excellent thing for a financial dictator, without telling the House of Commons about it, to spend large sums of public money to find out whether his legislation would work or not before he introduced it.
That is what the right hon. Gentleman said the other day. What is the right hon. Gentleman saying now? In Clause 5 (3) of the amended Bill, the Minister has provided:If it appears to the Minister that the expenditure incurred as a whole by a local authority in the repair, improvement and maintenance of houses approved by the Minister for the purposes of this section is unduly low having regard to the amount of the contributions for the time being payable in respect of those houses under paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of this section, he may withhold the whole or any part of the contribution payable under that paragraph to that authority.The Minister called that flexible. I call it petty larceny. What happens, apparently, is that the local authority is tempted and exhorted by the Minister to acquire properties of this sort, and if the Minister thinks that it is not spending as much money on them as he thought it would, he can withhold the grant. He is not only frowning upon his child but also beginning to strangle it almost before it is born.
What local authority will incur expenditure with an unknown liability of that sort hanging over its head? As far as I understand it, the Minister may not only vary by Order subsequent payments but also reduce the contribution in respect of houses already acquired. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with that interpretation? We are dealing with the Money Resolution, and once we have passed it 1029 we shall find ourselves handicapped in Committee. Does he agree with the interpretation that he can by Order—it is a most exceptional provision—vary Treasury payments to local authorities in respect of schemes on which they will already have incurred expenditure? I should like to know the answer.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I did not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but perhaps it might be more convenient if I were to answer these two points now. If, under the Resolution system as a whole, the Minister, after the experimental period, were to decide that the sum was too high or too low—that the £3 ought to be £4 or that it ought to be £2, over the whole period generally—he would come to Parliament with an affirmative Resolution, and Parliament would either approve of a reduction as a whole or an increase as a whole; but, of course, any increase or reduction would apply only to houses approved for grant after the affirmative Resolution had been approved, and not to houses approved for grant during the period before the review was made. That is the first point.
The other point raised by the right hon. Gentleman refers to Clause 5 (3). Subsection (3) is merely a proviso which it is necessary to put in to prevent abuse. As this calculation is made on the houses of the whole area—and it is more convenient to do it like that—it is possible, of course, that a local authority will do nothing and will spend nothing over the whole number of, say, 500 houses. In that case, where no expenditure at all has been involved, we would say to the local authority "We are not going to give you a grant, because you had a scheme but you did not carry it out, and therefore we must have the reserve power to refuse."
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
On a point of order. I want to ask you, Sir Charles, whether the answer just given to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is in accordance with the Standing Orders and the procedure laid down?
§ The Chairman
I think it is rather doubtful, and I thank the hon. Gentleman. In Committee the debate is confined to the terms of the Resolution itself, and must not be extended to the related Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am bound to point out that, in point of fact, in dealing with the Financial Resolution we are trying to find out what it is that the local authorities are entitled to expect. As the right hon. Gentleman has already said, his proposals are highly flexible. If under the Bill the Minister can steal back from the local authorities what this Financial Resolution intends to give them, obviously the Bill is strictly related in the money sense to the Financial Resolution, because I can find nothing at all in subsection (3) of Clause 5 which bears the interpretation which the Minister has put upon it. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will be interested in this. I am perfectly ready to support the Minister when he is flexible, but when flexibility is earned to the point of deception it becomes rather serious.
The right hon. Gentleman has now contradicted himself. At the beginning the right hon. Gentleman said that he could not reduce the amounts paid except for those houses acquired after the Order was made; but the language of the subsection indicates that he may withhold—the whole or any part of the contributions"—and that is not the same thing at all. The Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the contribution in respect of local authorities which, having prepared schemes, have not gone on with them and have not incurred any expenditure at all. Superficially that would appear to be a perfectly reasonable proposition, but when the right hon. Gentleman goes on to say that any part of the contributions may be withheld, then that language can only have sense if the local authorities had indeed spent money and the right hon. Gentleman thought that their expenditure was not high enough to entitle them to the payment of £3.
If that interpretation is correct—and I submit that it is a reasonable interpretation—then the local authorities are encouraged under the Financial Resolution to believe that they would have £3 per year per house for 15 years, although the right hon. Gentleman or his successor may by Order reduce the £3 to some other figure. If that be correct—and I admit at once that this is such an original proposal that I may quite easily misinterpret it, and I hope that if I have the right hon. Gentleman will correct me immediately, because we ought not to have 1031 our debate conducted on a false premise—I ask the Committee to consider what local authority is going to incur expenditure when its commitments would be unknown. These proposals are doubtful, but they are now made dubious by these additional financial proposals, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make the position much clearer before we go on.
The second point I should like to make is this. I admit that the words "dubious" and "doubtful" may be regarded as synonymous, but there is always a certain odium of disreputability attaching to the former which I am not anxious to hand over to the right hon. Gentleman. It is, of course, common form, and we have had it on more than one occasion, that the local authorities ought not to have such large grants from central funds as to render them financially irresponsible in respect of particular schemes. That has always been regarded as a proper financial relationship between the central Government and the local authorities, and I do not dissent from it; but all the evidence that we have goes to show that the local authorities will not start carrying out this piece of Christian charity, as the right hon. Gentleman has now taken credit for it in three different speeches, unless they are satisfied that it will not ruin them.
Here they are being invited to acquire property and suspend its demolition. I myself must accept some measure of responsibility, because it was I who authorised the Birmingham scheme. I made the statute sufficiently flexible for that to be done at that time, although some people thought it had doubtful legality. At any rate, it was carried out, and with some measure of success; but I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he ought to make the position of the local authority much clearer.
I think that what the Minister should say is that, in order to be flexible, he will take power by Order to pay any larger amount that may be necessary, having regard to the expenditure of the local authority. In that case, local authorities would know where they are up to £3, because they would know that they would not get less than that. Administratively the Minister could always safeguard himself against having to pay too large sums of money from the Exchequer where the 1032 expenditure which had been incurred did not justify it, because the right hon. Gentleman has the power to refuse schemes. He can administratively control the extent of the scheme, and there is no need for him to imagine that the local authorities would get away with large sums of money, because as the schemes were sent in to him he could see how they progressed and could arrest them until he had obtained from Parliament reconsideration of the financial proposals.
It is not as if the Minister will be caught in the tight clamp of a statute, because he has power to do that. What I am urging upon the Committee and the Minister is that the local authorities themselves cannot be expected to increase their expenditure if their budgets are to be retrospectively upset by a Money Resolution of the House of Commons.
My next point is one of considerable substance. While it is perfectly correct that the local authorities should always have a financial interest in the efficiency and economy of their own enterprises, it is nevertheless a fact that special grant schemes of this sort will have to be considered in relation to the general burden of rate expenditure. In other words, if we have a particular scheme such as one for schools, slums or one like this proposal before us, where it is not wise to give a local authority 75 per cent. or 100 per cent. of the cost because the authority would have no interest in its efficiency, nevertheless the local authorities find themselves unable to continue with the special grant schemes because generally the expenditure is too high.
Therefore, it seems to me that if the local authorities are going to carry out these duties, they can do so only if the right hon. Gentleman contemplates a larger distribution of Government grant under the Equalization Fund. My hon. Friends would argue that even here the contribution is inadequate, and the right hon. Gentleman has confessed that he made two revisions in his original proposals, so that he cannot regard us as hypercritical if we think that his final solution is still on the frugal side. We think that he should give more. But if he is adamant in his decision that the grants are not to be higher than the present proposals, then I think he should carefully consider with the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether many local 1033 authorities will be in a position to start these schemes on any substantial scale.
In my part of the world, in Glamorganshire, Monmouth shire and Martyr Tidily, the rates in the £ are already mounting up to the level at which they were before the Equalisation Fund was formed. We are having resolutions from local authorities all over the country complaining about the increased rates. The main reason for the increase, of course, is expenditure on education. That is the heaviest single item that local authorities have to carry. It is sending rates in the £ up to as much as 27s. 6d. and 30s., and although it can be argued that in some of those cases rateable values are lower than the average in the country, nevertheless many of the properties are very old, in sanitary and unfit for human habitation, and to ask the occupants to pay higher rates is unreasonable.
If, therefore, local authorities are to incur additional expenditure under schemes of this sort, while I repeat that the schemes should retain the financial interest of the local authorities concerned, the Government should consider whether the assistance to the general rate ought not to be given earlier if local authorities are to do any of this work at all.
This is not strictly related to the proposals under the Measure, but what I am suggesting is that if the right hon. Gentleman hopes for any of these schemes to be carried out, he must put local authorities in a position to be able to undertake them. Otherwise his proposals will be abortive; they will never start. Particularly will they not start if the local authorities themselves are dubious, or doubtful, about their financial commitments under the proposals.
I know that many of my hon. Friends will be anxious to put before the Committee cases of particular local authorities. I beg the Committee not to permit the Minister to obtain this sort of Financial Resolution without asking from him much more candour than we had in his original statement. The Minister, I know, had difficulties with the Exchequer. Every spending Department has. I have had some myself. The Minister also is in a field where he has nothing at all to guide him, in estimating his expenditure, except the Birmingham 1034 scheme. Therefore, I admit that it is hard for him to go to the Exchequer with hard-and-fast estimates as to what may be conceded by them.
The right hon. Gentleman is perhaps entitled to congratulate himself on having managed to win from the Exchequer agreement to a proposal by which he can move the grant upwards by Order. That is the original nature of the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has won from the Treasury. I am not sure whether it is one that the House of Commons ought to be pleased about. It comes very near to taxation by Order. Hon. Members should realise that once the Order is placed on the Order Paper of the House of Commons, it cannot be varied. It is not embodied in a Bill, and it cannot be amended. All we can do is reject it or accept it, and I think the Chair will advise us that we would not be able to discuss the general provisions of the statute of which it would be the monetary expression. We would be confined to the Order itself. We would not even be able to discuss the administration of the right hon. Gentleman under this Bill when it becomes a statute. All we would be able to do is to say "yes" or "no" to the provisions of the Order, whether they move £3 upwards or downwards.
I do not know whether hon. Members on the opposite side of the House want to have the finances of the nation conducted in such a manner. Perhaps they do. The right hon. Gentleman regards himself as a financial revolutionary. I am beginning to be grateful to him for the precedents that he is setting. They will be extremely convenient. This is the third that he has given. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not complain in the future if a Labour Government extracts money from their pockets by a straightforward simple Order.
The right hon. Gentleman has some justification for his departure from convention because, as I say, he is here in an entirely strange field and he has got this concession from the Treasury. But he has paid too high a price for it. It is quite true that he can by Order make the £3 more, and that is where his victory lies; but his defeat lies in the confusion of mind which he creates as to whether the £3 will be less. I am wondering 1035 whether the unconventional victory that he has won with the Treasury will not completely destroy his Measure.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I do not see that there is any danger of that, because if the Order should be made in a downward way—which seems to me to be unlikely—it would not affect anything except schemes which have not yet been begun. It would not affect the Birmingham scheme. That would go on.
§ Mr. Macmillan
That is quite a separate provision for a special case. What I am dealing with is the general Order making the sum £3, £4 or £5 over the whole country. That is distinct from a special provision for some particular individual case. All I am saying is that if the Order were approved by the House for the amount to go down, it would not reduce the £3 in respect of schemes running for the past three years. It would not affect the past. It would affect the next set of schemes. Therefore, I do not see why it is such a great disadvantage to local authorities.
§ Mr. Bevan
I know it has not been put, but I have seen some funny things happen in Committee and I am putting in a claim that we might want to raise this point subsequently in Committee.
We have had from the right hon. Gentleman a very considerable amount of praise, which he has accorded to himself to the universal cheers of his hon. Friends behind him, about the nature of his original proposals. No doubt hon. Gentlemen will have noticed that he is in a much different mood tonight. He does not expect very much from these Orders. As 1036 a matter of fact, he thinks that the expenditure on them may be negligible. If the expenditure is negligible the amount of Christian charity will be very thin. The right hon. Gentleman is probably quite right. The good sense of the local authorities will rescue him from a very bad piece of legislation.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was very closely concerned with all these housing matters during the six years that he held office, and it must be a matter of intense satisfaction to him that now, in the year 1954, we really seem to be on the threshold of a renewal of the pre-war slum clearance drive.
There was one point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with which I felt myself in full accord. That was where he said that we must look at these matters against the general background of local government finance, and that we could not divorce them from other claims on the rate fund. There, surely, we are all in agreement. I sincerely trust that my right hon. Friend will, in due course, bring forward fresh proposals which will help local authorities to stop the annual rise in rates which is such a serious feature of the present situation.
The right hon. Gentleman says that local authorities are left in confusion by the present proposals. The confusion is in his own mind and not in theirs. I am a member of two local authorities and I have not been unfamiliar with the negotiations that have been going on. The point which has been worrying local authorities most is not by any means the one out of which the right hon. Gentleman fabricated the major portion of his speech this afternoon. Local authorities have read the Bill, and done so. I think, more carefully than he has. They are perfectly well aware that if any downward change in this figure of 60s.were made subsequently by Order it would not apply to property which they had purchased before the date of the Order, and. therefore, it would have no effect whatever on their existing commitments.
They are also fully aware that the only provision in the Bill by which the Minister can reduce the contribution he pays in respect of houses is related to cases where the actual expenditure of a 1037 local authority on repairs has appeared to be so unduly low as not to justify the payment of the full amount of the annual Exchequer grant. Everybody recognises that there may be disputes about what is "unduly low," but if there is any question of a local authority's expenditure being low in a particular case it cannot be argued that the reduction of the Government grant will cause it unexpected hardship. Whatever happens, that local authority is likely to be paying out less than in the normal case. My own expectation is that this is an exceptional instance, and I doubt whether that particular subsection will be greatly used.
The right hon. Gentleman said that any suggestion of the Bill to which this Money Resolution refers being a plan for a fresh onslaught on the slums was pure rhetoric. Today, we are discussing the financial arrangements which local authorities must have in mind when they are drawing up a clearance programme for the years ahead, a programme which they are to be instructed to complete and submit within 12 months.
It will be within the memory of most of us that it was precisely that procedure in the year 1933—not a legislative but an administrative procedure—which led to a greater clearance of slums in the six following years than ever before, so great that in those six years six times as many slum houses were demolished as had been pulled down in the previous 75 years. We all want to see what is going to happen. On this side of the House we shall give our fullest and most vigorous support to local authorities who use their powers and who seek to emulate in the coming years the rate of slum clearance which was in progress when it was so tragically interrupted by the war.
The issue that we are discussing today, the kernel of this Money Resolution, is a comparatively minor one. The big slum clearance effort will be with houses which can be purchased for clearance. The Money Resolution provides for cases in. I should have thought, a comparatively limited number of the larger cities and towns, where it will not be possible or thinkable that all the slums can be cleared quickly but where the slum clearance programme must include property which, in the nature of things, could not all be demolished within a short period of years. We all want that period to be 1038 shortened as much as possible and not drawn out.
This Money Resolution is drafted to implement the clear understanding which the Minister has conveyed to the Committee that the figures are experimental. None of us can tell exactly how this interesting new scheme will work out; we shall all want to look at it again in the light of experience. I am well aware that when the first figures were presented by the Minister the local authorities were very dissatisfied. Frankly, I am not surprised. Various things have occurred since then, all of which help me to give this Money Resolution in its present form my support.
One of them is that the amount of the annual grant has been raised from the initial much too low figure of 33s. a year, which was put forward in the first discussion with local authorities on 23rd October, to the present figure of 60s. which is in the Resolution? The second thing that helps me and gives me confidence is that, as my right hon. Friend has explained, the House of Commons will have power to review these figures and to make a fresh Order if the experience of the coming months and years proves that the present figure of 60s. is wrong, either too low or too high.
Mr. R. T. Puget (Northampton)
This is where the position seems a little difficult. If work is done on the basis of 60s. and if this figure turns out to be wholly inadequate, there is no power that I can see to recompense local authorities for the very bad bargain they have made. Therefore, will not every local authority wait for some other local authority to be the mug and try it?
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. and learned Gentleman is raising an interesting point, but he must beware of destroying the argument which his right hon. Friend has presented to the Committee. He is putting forward the case of the local authority which may get caught, but his right hon. Friend was indicating that no local authorities will proceed.
§ Mr. Brooke
That is certainly not the case. There are plenty of local authorities which know full well that these figures will be sufficiently suitable to enable them to go ahead.
§ Mr. Brooke
I take a very different view from that of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman, who, I think, did serve on a local authority many years ago, evidently holds the view that a local authority will not carry out its bounden and humanitarian duty unless it can make a profit. That is completely untrue. There are men and women, at any rate of my political outlook, on housing committees of local authorities who will go ahead with slum clearance because they know it is essential, even if they find that the figures are not so advantageous.
Mr. James McCall (Widnes)
It was the hon. Member's right hon. Friend who said that housing authorities would not carry out their slum clearance unless they were getting a large central grant. That, surely, is precisely the same as saying that they will be influenced by profit.
§ Mr. Brooke
I quite agree that every local authority should and will have a report from its treasurer on the financial implications of what it is doing, but local authorities on which my political friends are in the majority will not refuse to carry out what I say is a direct humanitarian duty because they feel that they ought to be getting 63s. instead of 60s.
The third development which I think should strengthen the decision of the Committee to support this Money Resolution is the Minister's declared intention of widening the definition of houses to which these grants are to apply. If, as some people have argued, these grants will only be payable in the case of very bad houses on which the maximum amount of money would have to be spent, then, clearly, that would support the argument of the Opposition that the figure was inadequate. But if I understand my right hon. Friend aright, he intends to include under Clause 1 of the Bill other houses which are not in a state of being unfit for human habitation. This £3 annual grant will, in fact, be averaged over the whole, and that is another reason why it now seems to me that we have arrived at a reasonable figure.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Would the hon. Member be good enough to indicate any provision in the Bill which applies this temporary occupation to anything but an unfit house?
§ Mr. Brooke
I am in some difficulty in answering a question which refers directly to the Bill when your predecessor, Sir Rhys, has ruled that such references would be out of order.
§ Mr. Mitchison
On a point of order. Surely, if the hon. Member is saying what is in the Bill, he should either say it correctly or not at all.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I think that at this stage he would not be in order in discussing the Bill at all.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Gentleman accused me just now of not understanding the Bill, but he is giving us some part of the Bill which is not there. Surely, if the hon. Member is entitled to argue that the £3 is adequate because there will be houses that local authorities will take over which will not require to have money spent on them, then that is strictly relevant to the question whether the £3 which is in the Money Resolution is adequate.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
As long as it is in the Money Resolution it is in order, but if the matter were extended to a debate on the Bill then that would be out of order.
§ Mr. Bevan
Further to that point of order. If it is argued that the £3 is adequate because there will be houses on which local authorities will not have to spend as much as £3, then, obviously, that should influence the Committee in deciding whether £3 is enough, in which case we ought to be told in what part of the Bill that argument is valid.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That does not seem to me to be a point of order at all. That refers to the Bill, and we can argue later on about that.
§ Mr. Brooke
Perhaps I shall not be cutting across your Ruling, Sir Rhys, if I recommend the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) to refer not to the Bill, but to the Standing Committee Amendment Paper.
§ Mr. Brooke
I certainly will not wish to do that. What we have to do today is to try to fix on a figure which will give local authorities the right sort of encouragement to operate this new legislation, designed to enable them to purchase houses for temporary maintenance pending subsequent demolition, without fixing it so high that they might be tempted not to patch, but wholly to recondition.
None of us can really say what the average cost will be. What we want to do is to put into the Bill a figure that, while capable of subsequent alteration in the light of experience, will meanwhile enable local authorities to go ahead.
I shall turn for a moment to the 50 per cent. grant in respect of site acquisition. I confess that I do not yet understand why it is 50 per cent., and I am certain that local authorities will note with interest my right hon. Friend's defence of 50 per cent. on the ground that it is a good thing that there should be an equal partnership. Some of his right hon. Friend's will hear that argument used against them in respect to some grants on other services which are at present less than 50 per cent.
I have been into this fairly closely, and it appears, on examination, that the cost of purchase will be small in relation to the other financial aspects of the matter with which this Money Resolution is concerned. Financially speaking, the big issue is not whether there is to be a 50 per cent. grant or a 75 per cent. grant in respect of site acquisition, but whether the 60s. annual grant for each house is right. I think that my right hon. Friend invited trouble for himself by originally putting forward a figure as low as 33s. He seems to have thought he was playing auction, and not contract.
The local authorities have successfully proved that 33s. was not going to be enough, and at their conferences and elsewhere proceeded to put up a dual argument. On the one hand, they argued that the average expense of patching a house would not be £140—which was the figure originally mentioned—but something more like £200. At the same time, they argued that this cost should be amortised, not over a period of 15 years as has been suggested by the Minister, but over a period of 10 years.
1042 Those two arguments to some extent cut across one another, because if one is to assume that these houses are to have a shorter average life than 15 years that, clearly, will diminish the average amount of money which should be spent on them. I therefore think that the local authorities were at fault in that part of the presentation of their case, just as I say, frankly, that I consider the Government were at fault in their original figure.
Having weighed up the matter—and I hope that I have convinced the Committee that I have tried to form an independent view on it, and have studied it as well as I can—Icome to the conclusion that it is right to go ahead with some such figure as 60s.,provided it is subject to review and alteration by Order if it is proved to be too high or too low. But I do beg the Committee to bear in mind that this is a minor part of the undertaking. The major part is clearance. What is really important with slum houses is not to patch them up, but to knock them down.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)
I hope that the Committee will bear with me if I devote myself almost entirely to the impact of this Money Resolution on the Southampton local authority.
I am instructed that there will be 2,000 houses in Southampton to be acquired and renovated within the terms of the Bill. On the basis of previous experience it is estimated that the average cost of the acquisition of the site value will be £75 per house, and, on the experience of the Birmingham experiment, it is estimated that the average cost of renovation per house will be £180. Having acquired and renovated the houses, the local council will be entitled to draw rents from them, and I imagine that 8s. a week would be a reasonable average rent.
If those estimates are correct we then get the following yearly figures in relation to each of the 2,000 houses. Estimated cost per house, loan charges on cost of acquisition,60 years annuity at 4 per cent.—£3 6s. 4d. Loan charges on cost of renovation,15 years annuity at 3½ per cent.—£15 12s. 7d. Normal repairs, management, etc., estimated by my borough treasurer at £12, making a total 1043 cost on each house of £30 18s. 11d. per year. Against that, receipts will be: average net rent at 8s. per week—£20 16s. per annum. Exchequer subsidy as proposed in the Money Resolution, 50 per cent. of loan charges on cost of acquisition for the period of temporary use—£1 13s. 2d., and the proposed unit grant of £3 a year for 15 years, making a total of £25 9s. 2d.
The annual deficit to the local council on each house will thus be approximately £5 10s. per house. With 2,000 houses the annual deficit to the borough council will be approximately £11,000 which, on the present rateable value of Southampton, amounts to nearly a 2d. rate. Even so, Southampton is rather fortunate as compared with many towns in the North Midlands, the North of England and in Lancashire. We only have 2,000 of such houses whereas in those other localities many thousands of houses are involved and the cost to the local authorities there will be proportionately greater.
In his opening speech the Minister said he thought that if he made too generous a grant for this work it might discourage the local authority from performing its proper function. I imagine that what is discouraging the local authorities from performing their proper functions at the present time is the fear of too highly rising rates. The rates in most county boroughs are bound to be increased this May because of increased interest charges and because sections of their employees have received wage and salary awards in respect of the increased cost of living. Only very few local authorities will not have to put up their rates from 6d. to 1s. in the £, and now this further charge is likely to fall upon them. I believe that it is the fear of increased rates rather than an undue generosity on the part of the Exchequer which is preventing local authorities from doing work which ought to be done.
The terms of the Money Resolution undoubtedly mean that when this work is carried out there will be an increase in the rates. I therefore hope that, in the very near future, the right hon. Gentleman will propose to modify the financial assistance he is at present suggesting, and to give the local authorities something a little more generous than the Resolution sets out.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
In the course of my remarks I shall deal with some of the calculations put before the Committee by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) but I want to take a somewhat wider ambit.
It has already been repeatedly emphasised that this Financial Resolution is concerned only indirectly with slum clearance and directly with its reverse, namely, with the deferment or suspension of slum clearance. When my right hon. Friend said that in this matter we had to keep a balance and be careful that we did not so weight the scales that the inducement to defer slum clearance might be excessive, it seemed to meet with some scepticism—perhaps I should say dubiety—on the benches opposite.
But, after all, we are here embodying into general legislation the results of a striking and successful experiment made by the City of Birmingham without these grants at all. It is by no means absurd, therefore, to say that in legislating for a system of grants we have to consider very seriously the danger of over-weighting equally with the danger of under-weighting the inducement to perform this sort of work.
Incidentally, as the Bill is drawn, hon. Members will have noticed that every increase which might be made in the unit grants provided in the Resolution would bring with it a corresponding increase in the payments to be made by the local authorities out of the rate fund.
Now let us consider these grants under the two distinct headings into which they fall; for I think that some confusion has arisen from attempting to combine the two types of grant. Let us consider, first, the grant in respect of the purchase price. That purchase price, although it is for the purchase of the house, will, in fact, only be the site value, because nothing above site value can be obtained for a house which, ex hypothesis, would otherwise be subject to a demolition order. Under this Financial Resolution the local authorities will get a grant equal to half the cost of the site. In most cases that will represent a net advantage as compared with the immediate demolition of the house as part of a slum clearance scheme.
1045 My right hon. Friend has reminded the Committee that the grants for the new houses which will replace the demolished slums take account of average or normal cost of the site. Not only will those grants be obtained in due course, but 50 per cent. of the cost of the site will have been provided by the Exchequer under this Resolution. In respect of the site, therefore, it is a definite net advantage to a local authority to retain a house in occupation for a period of time before proceeding to demolish and replace it. In considering the other grant provided by this Resolution—the unit grant per house—we have to bear that fact in mind.
The unit grant per house provided under the Resolution, as it is now before the Committee, is £3 per annum from the Exchequer, with £3 per annum from the rate fund. It has been assumed—and here I use the same figure as that of the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley)—that the usual rent for this type of house, certainly after patching, would be in the region of 8s. a week, or about £21 per annum.
The £21 in rent, plus the £6 in grant and from the rate fund, represent a sum of £27. Out of that £27 current repairs, maintenance and collection of rent has to be provided for. Once again, I accept the figure of the hon. Member for Itchen, namely, £12 per annum. Twelve pounds from £27 leaves us with £15 per annum available to the local authority for interest and amortisation on the cost of the patching work done to these houses, taken as a whole.
I am advised that £15 per annum over 15 years, at the current P.W.L.B. rate of interest, represents a capital sum of approximately £180: it is sufficient to amortise and pay interest on a capital sum of £180. It so happens that £180 is the average figure found to be necessary, per house, in the Birmingham scheme, so that, as an initial figure to write into the Financial Resolution, it seems that my right hon. Friend has now put before the Committee a very reasonable sum.
If it should be argued that £180 is lowish for restoring to reasonably habitable condition the type of house here envisaged, then I would remind the Committee that not every house in respect of 1046 which these grants will be payable will necessarily require the full expenditure, or, indeed, anything like it. I do not need to stray from the terms of the Resolution. If the Committee approves it, it will be authorising grants…in respect of houses purchased or held by local authorities for demolition but"—and these are the operative words—retained for temporary use for housing purposes….There is nothing in this Resolution which says that this grant shall be paid only if and when any work whatsoever is done upon the houses. So there is no need for me to refer to Clause 2 of the Bill in elaboration of what is already implicit in the Resolution.
In practice, local authorities will be able to afford in the maximum case a substantially higher capital sum than £180 for the patching of a house. If they have a reasonably large scheme, with a reasonably large variety of houses included in it, they should find that in cases where it is necessary they can go well above £180 in putting a house into a decently habitable condition. A good deal of play was made—particularly by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—with the wordssuch other sum as the Minister of Housing and Local Government may determinewhich are contained in the Resolution. It is obvious that "such other sum" may be either a higher or lower sum.
If it be a higher sum, the right hon. Member argues that it will be a vicious precedent, amounting to taxation by Order. This however has nothing whatever to do with taxation; this is concerned with the increase of a grant from one public authority to another. It is a payment for the benefit of the subject; and it is a general principle that, subject to the financial control of the House, there is no constitutional objection to such action for the benefit of the subject being taken by Order. I should be the first to vote against this Resolution if it permitted anything of the character of taxation by Order.
§ Mr. Powell
There is certainly no constitutional objection to the House being asked, by affirmative Resolution, to authorise a payment of money. Indeed, that is a common way in other contexts in which the House does vote money—by Resolution.
Most of the right hon. Member's strictures, however, referred to the case in which the alternative sum would be not greater but less than that stated in the Resolution.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Would it make any difference to the hon. Member's views if no sum at all were specified—if £3 was not mentioned, but it was simply left as "such sum as the Minister might propose"?
§ Mr. Powell
I should certainly think that the Government had been remiss in bringing forward a Bill apparently without any presumption of the type of grant which was necessary to begin with, just as I should consider them remiss if they presented to the House a Bill with a cast-iron figure written in and left themselves no space to manœuvre in a matter where, as the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale admitted, there is very little precedent upon which to go.
I want to deal with the other case, on which he laid greater stress—that in which the sum might be reduced. He seemed to be labouring under the impression—and it would be a serious matter if it were right—that the Minister by administrative action, or the House by affirmative Resolution—I am not referring to the Bill, but both those methods might be used to reduce the payment of grants—might prejudice a local authority after it had entered into the relevant commitment.
I think that upon mature consideration the right hon. Gentleman opposite will find that that stricture is not justified. He will find that such grants as the Minister can reduce by administrative order are only the unit grants for actual patching work. They do not refer to the cost of acquisition, which, of course, ex hypothesi, would have been incurred anyhow by the local authority. So there is no question, on that score, of the local authority incurring expenditure and the Minister then withdrawing the grant which the authority was entitled to assume.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. and learned Gentleman will probably notice the reference to paragraph (b) in Clause 5 (3), and if he will follow up that I think he will be satisfied. As regards the reduction of the grant by affirmative Resolution, hon. Members should have no difficulty in satisfying themselves that that will be only prospective in its effect and cannot be retrospective and that, therefore, no local authority can be damnified by a change in the terms of the grants which may in future be introduced.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Why does the hon. Gentleman say that? Is he making the assumption that the Bill will emerge from the Committee as it is now?
§ Mr. Powell
I am certainly assuming that hon. Members opposite would not seek to amend the Bill in such a way as to render local authorities liable to find themselves committed to expenditure on the assumption of a grant which the House could withhold from them. I am crediting the Opposition with that degree of insight and restraint, but I am doing nothing more.
I feel that when the size of the grants provided by this Resolution is worked out carefully, when the effect upon the finances of the authorities is weighed against whatever evidence we have at present from the Birmingham scheme and from the figures which up and down the country are generally agreed by the local authorities' financial experts, the Committee should be satisfied that for a first estimate these are the right figures and that the conditions by which the grant is hedged around in this Financial Resolution are not such as are likely to expose to embarrassment local authorities taking advantage of them.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
The only remark I would make in reply to the last few words of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is that there is not a finance officer anywhere in local government who would agree with him, and that the finance officers have submitted very cogent and detailed arguments in writing to the very contrary.
1049 The real bone of contention here is as to whether the moneys provided by this Money Resolution are sufficient to get the job done. The Minister has changed his mind twice, and each time raised the figure for repair and maintenance. He started off on the wrong basis. He made an assumption as to the costs that were likely to be incurred in acquisition and in repair and maintenance and added management cost and deducted from that rent and assumed that if on the resultant figure he gave half to the local authorities he would be doing a good thing.
For many years now local housing authorities have been in the habit of getting subsidies based on the principle of three to one, and in spite of that, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) said, the rate charge not only for houses but for other services is beginning to reach breaking point, and something will have to be done about it. I have tried once or twice to suggest the kind of thing that might be done to ease the burden.
It would not be in order, perhaps, to go over that now, but of the fact that the burden is there, there is no doubt, and if this Money Resolution adds to that burden it will make things very much more difficult for the housing authorities. I am not at all surprised, therefore, that about the only sentence the Minister used with which everybody agreed inside and outside Parliament was that in which he said no one was completely satisfied. Frankly, I do not see how anyone could be.
The actual cost of an experiment which we have seen already in Birmingham, and the experience that other local authorities have had in handling this kind of problem, shows that we must assume something like £200 a house if these old and dilapidated houses to which this Resolution mainly refers are to be put into a condition to enable them to continue to be used by human beings. I am told by reliable authorities that there are over 200,000 houses in London that were built before 1870. It means that practically the whole of these houses are in the category to be dealt with under the Clause of the Bill concerning old and dilapidated houses.
Anybody who has had experience of handling complaints from tenants knows the kind of thing from which these houses 1050 are likely to suffer—leaky roofs, very expensive to repair; window frames that do not fit, that are worn out; doors which do not fit; foundations that are slipping; lack of damp courses; things of that kind which have to be dealt with by the local authorities if the houses are to be patched up so as to keep rain and wind out.
We cannot do that in London for any house at anything like the figure that the Minister used in the basis of his calculations. The finance officers of the local authorities' associations say it should be at least £200. My view is that today this sort of work would cost very much more than £200. Yet all that this Resolution provides in the way of subsidies is a total of £45. That, theoretically, is meant to be half of the cost. So it is assumed we can patch these houses up and make them reasonably fit to live in for the next 10 or 15 years for about £90 each. Any owner-occupier in London could tell the Committee how untrue that is, especially in dealing with houses that are anything from 75 to 100 years old, which are the sorts of houses with which we shall be dealing in the great towns like London.
I suggest that the Committee ought not to let this Motion go because it will be so unfair to the local authorities that have to do the work, and that if we let it go the almost inevitable result will be that the Minister's suggestion that there might not be much done will come true. There will not be much done because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said, the rates are already reaching the position where even Socialist councils are beginning to scratch their heads over the problem of where to find the money to do the things we all agree ought to be done.
It seems to me, therefore, that it would be a good thing for the Minister to have second thoughts about this matter. He knows that nobody in the local government services is satisfied; none of the local government associations which have discussed this matter is satisfied that the amount which the Bill will provide will enable the authority to do this job of patching up for the next 10 or 15 years without incurring a very heavy extra charge on the local rates. Where those rates are already reaching the point of breaking, that means that the work will not be done unless the Minister later introduces some new proposals to increase 1051 the amount. It may be assumed that the provision whereby he is enabled to deal with the matter by Order is an acceptance of the fact that he expects to have to put more money in, but the danger is that that action will not be taken.
I therefore beg the House not to approve the Money Resolution. That may delay the Bill a little, but it need not delay it for long. I beg the House to reject this Resolution and to say, in effect, that the Minister must have another look at the problem and see whether the extremely reliable figures which have been produced by those who have spent their lives in local government service cannot be regarded as a true basis upon which to build up Treasury assistance to the local authorities who do this work. If he does that he will take a very important step in tackling the worst aspects of the housing problem in London.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
It will probably be completely out of order, Sir Rhys, but I think we ought not to neglect this opportunity of saying how pleased every hon. Member is to see you in the Chair after the distinction recently conferred upon you.
This debate has been somewhat unusual. I came to the House this week having read in all the newspapers that a most violent and vitriolic attack was to be made upon this Money Resolution. We were told that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) would open the attack upon us. Indeed, he has returned in very good form from his visit to the East. He is not the first person who has come back from Egypt showing a very adequate knowledge of how to make bricks without straw. The right hon. Gentleman gave a wonderful demonstration this afternoon of how to make a speech seeking to create some prejudice and some attack upon the Government out of very little material.
He tried to explain, or pretended to explain, that this Resolution would impose some very great burden upon local authorities. Unfortunately, he had been preceded by my right hon. Friend the Minister, who had explained very dearly, I thought, that this is only a very small aspect of the general slum clearance drive in which the Government are about 1052 to engage. When hon. Members like the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) and the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) give figures of how they expect their own local authorities to be affected and try to draw up all kinds of calculations showing that they will be vastly out of pocket, they neglect to inform either the Committee or themselves that what this Money Resolution seeks to do is merely to provide a little money not only from Exchequer sources but also from local authority funds to do the most urgent, and obviously only the most rudimentary, jobs of patching houses which must come down as soon as they can be fitted into the slum clearance programme.
I should have thought, if the amount of the Exchequer grant is to be so small, and if local authorities are so worried about being able to do the job with so small a grant, that that would be an inducement to them to pull these houses down as quickly as they can. I therefore think that my right hon. Friend has struck a very wise balance. He has avoided making these grants so attractive to local authorities as to create a serious risk that they will keep the houses in being and reasonably well maintained for a longer period than they ought. On the other hand, he has made the grants sufficiently unattractive to local authorities to make those authorities decide to go ahead with demolition as quickly as they conveniently can.
In common, I suppose, with practically all hon. Members, I have received representations from local authorities about the amount of the grants. The representations which I have received have been in connection with the rural areas; I have several rural district councils in my constituency and two urban district councils. I think the rural district councils have come to an entirely wrong conclusion about the scope of the provision which we are discussing today, because I imagine that this proposal will have to be implemented in only a comparatively small number of cases and then principally in the larger towns.
In those larger towns where there is a big slum clearance problem, and where the capacity and the resources of the local authority may not, here and now, be adequate to carry out the complete programme within the very few years which 1053 the Government envisaged, some provision of this kind—as in the Bill, supplemented by the Money Resolution—is necessary so that they can deal with that little part of the number of unfit houses which will have to be kept in being and occupied for a few years until their time for demolition comes.
I imagine that over most of the big towns in England and Wales we shall find, in the three years which the Minister has in mind as the period within which he wants to make his review, that local authorities will not have very much recourse to this Clause—and I am not referring to the details of the Clause—or to the grants which will be made in respect of it.
In the rural areas, about which I am now speaking, I think the position is even better, because, naturally, in the rural parts of the country we have very few clearance areas; they are an urban characteristic. We have, of course, the unfit house which is subject to a demolition order or which is a "candidate" for such an order. I think that in the rural areas there will be even less reason for local authorities to delay the demolition of such houses and therefore to have recourse to these Government grants.
To sum up, I think the Opposition, in making such a big play with this matter, have taken entirely the wrong line. I should have been far happier had they said that they had considered the matter carefully and had decided that this was an essential part of the important social experiment which is being undertaken by the Government. They may, of course—nodoubt in Committee they will—move Amendments to the Clause of the Bill which corresponds to this Money Resolution. Indeed, there are a number of things which I should have liked to discuss with the Minister, but I cannot do that now. Bearing in mind the comparative smallness of this question and the other grounds which I have mentioned, I should have thought the Opposition would have taken rather a different line from that which they have taken today.
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) here; for I, too, have examined the financial aspect of this point very carefully. I am not at all certain that any serious consequences from these provisions will ensue 1054 to local authorities. As I have said, the smallness of the grant—if it is claimed to be a small grant—will be an added inducement to local authorities to hurry up with the work of demolition. I believe we also should realise that local funds should make a proper contribution towards this work and that an unduly heavy proportion of the cost should not fall upon national funds. In the comparatively small number of cases which will be affected, I think that, on the whole, the provision will work very well. I therefore hope that the Committee will approve the Money Resolution and that we shall be enabled to get on to the consideration of the Bill and to see it on the Statute Book as quickly as possible.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
There is only one thing in the speech of the Minister for which I could not really forgive him. That was his remarks about the local authorities who ought to be proud that they were now being allowed to incur 50 per cent. of the cost. I thought that was rather like the argument of a seedy and improvident father raiding his son's money box to get the price of a drink and then exhorting the protesting boy to be proud that he was growing up and able to share in the family expenses. It does not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to preach to local authorities in that way and tell them that they ought to grow up when he is not going to give them a flexible income to enable them to undertake that responsibility.
He seems to be endeavouring in this way to put a wholly unfair financial obligation on the local authority. I think that in a way the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me when I say that I think it is a little impertinent for him and his hon. Friends to say to the local authorities, "If we give you too much money and make too generous an advance then you may not demolish these houses as quickly as they ought to be demolished." Why should not the boot be on the other foot? Why are we to assume that all the virtues and desires for progress rests on the central Government and not on the local government? The converse of that argument is true. If we demolish houses then the central Government's grant is going to be at a three-to-one ratio and if we maintain property we are keeping it at 50–50 ratio. Therefore, there is an incentive on the central Government to damp 1055 down the slum clearance and encourage patching in order to reduce the burden on central Government's funds.
That being so, I think that it ought to be assumed that local authorities have the desire to carry out their housing duties and to carry them out vigorously and well if they have the resources to do so. I had a little difficulty in following the rather theological background which the right hon. Gentleman gave to this Money Resolution. I had a little difficulty, in reading through the Money Resolution, to put it in this elevated spiritual context, but it seemed to me that the most appropriate theological comment is that the basic approach of the Government to this problem, as to most others, was:For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.The effect of this Resolution will be that those authorities who have a small slum clearance problem will be able to balance their books because they will not have a large number of slums to demolish and, therefore, the total size of their programme will be small. Because the total size of their programme will be small, they will not have recourse to patching and temporarily maintaining these houses and, therefore, they can carry out their programme without this great burden on their resources.
If their resources are those of a prosperous coastal resort or a large residential area their problem will be small, but in the large industrial areas, with a considerable amount of old property dating back 50 or 100 years, the local authority will have a large problem of slum clearance to deal with and, therefore, their rate of dealing with it will be slow. In that case they will have to use more of these facilities for temporary maintenance of property and the burden falling on their already impoverished resources will be proportionately greater. Therefore, it seems to me that this Financial Resolution is a deliberate discrimination against the poorer industrial area with low rateable value and a large slum clearance problem.
There is really a fallacy behind the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's approach to these financial questions. He is trying to work on a national average and trying to apply a national average 1056 to the individual situations of particular local authorities. As I think one of my hon. Friends has suggested, the national average may be a bit "phoney"—I think it probably is—but even assuming the figure of £3 a week taken over the country as a whole as being a fair one, it still will not be fair in the case of Individual authorities. In the first place, there are wide variations of cost in different parts of the country.
Therefore, a particular authority in a particular area with a particular number of old properties will not find the average works out over its area. It seems to me, in view of these difficulties, that it would have been wiser, if we are going to have an experiment, that rather than start with a unit grant we should have had a percentage grant to begin with until we see where we are and what is to be the size of the problem. Afterwards, if we want to, we might be able to apply a unit grant when we have some measurement of the size of the problem.
To start with, a unit grant of this sort seems to me to make the problem absolutely impossible of solution for a large number of local authorities. I will quote one particular example. We have had a speech by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), to whom this problem seemed to have no difficulty. I should like to put forward the position of a Metropolitan borough very near Hampstead. It so happens that in Paddington—I speak as a member of the Council and not as a representative of Paddington—we went in for the purchase of a large amount of property which had been due for redevelopment, not most of it slum property but most of it property coming under the overcrowding conditions of the 1936 Act and, therefore, not the very worst type of property.
I have not absolute figures to quote, but my guess would be that that property was costing us on an average about £25 a unit, that is a flat, tenement or whatever it is, year by year to maintain it. If that figure is to be characteristic of a number of boroughs which have particularly bad terraces of property, the proportion will not come out at anything like 50–50. In the case of Paddington, at a conservative estimate it will be something like seven to one against the local authority.
§ Mr. Powell
Surely the hon. Gentleman is confusing the two types of grant. The £25 is the amortisation and interest on the purchase price of that property. Now, 50 per cent. of that will be found by Government grant.
§ Mr. MacColl
I can only say for the sake of the ratepayers of Paddington that I wish I were confusing the grant, but I am not.
Amortisation charges are not heavy at all because often this property is the tag end of leasehold and is virtually given to us. I am quoting the figures of what it would cost the local authorities to keep this property in a tolerable state of repair, and I am not including any loan charges in my figures. Surely it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to go to some of the local authorities and not to take a national average and only negotiate with national associations, but to look at the problem facing a large number of individual authorities which will not be able to come anywhere near bearing the cost of doing this work if it is to be done.
I think—I may have misunderstood the position and, if so, I willingly withdraw—that the weakness of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was shown when he was talking about the Birmingham scheme. I understand that the Birmingham scheme comes more or less under town and country planning legislation and, therefore, it presumably includes a wide variety of property. With a wide variety of good and bad property, obviously the cost of the better property would be less on average than the cost of the poorer and slum property which would be more than the average, and on that basis the swings and the roundabouts would balance. If we are dealing with an area that is a clearance area under the Housing Acts, as we must if a house is in temporary occupation under the provisions of this Bill, that property is bound by the very definition of a clearance area to be poorer in quality than in an area under a town and country planning scheme.
Therefore, an average based on the experience of an authority functioning under town and country planning or analogous legislation is bound to be wholly irrelevant to the problems of an authority which is functioning under the Housing Acts and acquiring property 1058 which is unfit for human habitation, injurious to health and all the rest, under the clearance area procedure and maintaining it as temporary accommodation.
That is why the Minister condemned himself out of his own mouth in quoting the Birmingham figures as a justification for the fantastically low figure of £3. My experience may be unique, but all I can say from what I have seen in the two boroughs which I know—Widnes, which I represent, and Paddington, in which I am a member of the authority—is that they are not talking the same language as the right hon. Gentleman. They are talking, not in terms of £1 13s., £2 10s., or £3, but in terms of £15, £16 and £20 as the cost which must be met out of public funds. I beg the Minister, before he rivets this Financial Resolution down upon the scheme and kills the scheme as far as any practical value is concerned, to postpone the Resolution and to take into account the rates of individual authorities with particularly difficult problems.
It is no happiness whatsoever to a big industrial area to be told that some other area can solve the problem and that, therefore, the average is fair all over the country. It is the individual industrial area with an enormous inheritance of bad property which must somehow balance its books and find the rates with which to pay its expenses. The Minister ought to look at their problems and experience and base his financial provisions on a percentage grant.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I think we would all agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has blown sky high the arguments that have been put forward from the other side of the Committee. There are no more arguments, apparently, to be raised by hon. Members opposite on this vital subject for local authorities than those we have already heard. It is a matter of concern to all of us who have had representations from local authorities that this matter should be dismissed so lightheartedly by hon. Members on the other side.
Only last week-end I attended a conference of local authorities representing bodies throughout the North-East Coast. They made very strong representations 1059 with regard to the revised financial provisions which we are now discussing. They most strongly urged the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes has so clearly put before the Committee. They made the point, not that this is a matter in which local authorities will come out all square, as, apparently, hon. Members opposite seem to imagine; not even that it will cost the local authority a rate burden of 2d., which my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) mentioned as the fortunate position of his own area; they insist—they are probably right in their calculations—that this may well mean a rate burden of anything from 6d. to l0d. in the £ to many local authorities on the North-East Coast.
That shows how utterly lacking in any appreciation of the problems of industrial areas are hon. Members on the Government side. They have given voice to the suggestion that this is only a minor problem affecting merely a few local authorities. That is simply not true. I wonder whether any hon. Members opposite have had the opportunity, as I have had, of meeting many of the representatives of the local authorities, not only of the very large boroughs, with their enormous accumulated problems, but also the mining areas, with their terrible relics stretching over the mining areas of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham and Northumberland, to mention only a few. It is nonsense to suggest that only a few of these authorities are concerned with the financial provisions. The great bulk of them are affected, and for them these provisions are simply unworkable.
Let me mention a few of the authorities that have raised this matter with me. I regret that the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) is not present, because her area was one of the county boroughs which made strong representations at the recent conference which I attended. There is the question of areas like Gateshead, and mining areas all over County Durham. South Shields, for example, state that they have something like 15,000 houses in their area alone—more than half their total number of houses—which, they believe, will have to come under the operation of the Bill and the Financial Resolution. They say that the provisions which are being made are completely unworkable.
1060 The Minister told us in his speech that he had given special consideration to the Birmingham experience. As my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes pointed out, Birmingham's financial experience is based on the much wider powers that Birmingham possesses—and it is not for us to discuss now whether the Minister will make that possible throughout the country. But in the last issue of the "Municipal Journal," which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman would agree is the organ of a responsible body, to whom he sends his annual message of good wishes year by year, as Ministers in his position have done regularly, it is pointed out that the rents and repairs proposals may mean 6d. on the rates; that, again, is an average figure.
The "Municipal Journal" points out, by quotations from speeches which have been made and from contributions by Alderman Bradbeer, of Birmingham, that the experience of Birmingham suggests that the whole financial calculations on which the Minister has presumably based his revised offer of £3 are wide of the mark. The figures are set out in an article which the right hon. Gentleman must have had referred to him. If he has not seen it, I urge him to take the opportunity of withdrawing the Financial Resolution and giving these detailed figures further consideration, so that he can make proposals that come somewhere near to meeting the urgent needs of the great bulk of local authorities.
We have had to assume many of the figures that the right hon. Gentleman is proposing, because he has not told us yet what are his precise detailed assumptions; we simply have to guess them. There is his assumption, for example, that the average capital expenditure on reconditioning will be of the nature of £150 to £160. That, to begin with, is completely inaccurate. As some of my hon. Friends have mentioned, it is much more likely to be in the nature of £200. In addition, the figures on which the right hon. Gentleman may be basing his calculations which suggest that a rent of 8s. net per week can fairly be chargeable on this property, are very doubtful. After all, rent figures vary greatly, and they fluctuate also with the great variations in wage rates up and down the country.
§ Mr. Powell
Then why did the same "Municipal Journal" assume that 1061 figure of 8s. for rent in their previous calculations in their issue of 20th November, and why did the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants, in their December journal, use the same figure as being a fair one?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
For, I suppose, the same reason that the Minister finds that his calculations need revision, those who write in the "Municipal Journal" find that they need to make revisions. They have put down a more applicable figure of 7s. as one which, certainly in many parts of the country, much more fairly applies, which would, of course, mean a considerable change of the whole working out of the proposals.
We are very much in the dark on one aspect of the matter and we expected the right hon. Gentleman to give us some figures and to explain how he arrived at his offer of £3, because if he had done so then we might have been able to get on to the details of where he has gone wrong and try more effectively to put him right. I would agree with what my right hon. Friend said, that we cannot work upon any average figure at all. We must be able to deal with the special problems of many of these areas.
At the conference which I attended last week-end it was unanimously agreed by the local authorities that there must be a reversion to the proportion which they regard as the reasonable proportion of three to one; that there should be a revision of that figure and the annual payments made; and that a special additional sum should be made available for those areas where the heaviest burden has to be met. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is living in a completely different world if he thinks that the proposals he has made here are proposals which will enable the local authorities in many areas to touch what we are all agreed is an unpleasant task, which they do not want to carry out and for which there is no eagerness on their part. They are only eager to do the job of pulling the property down, though that cannot be tackled within a short time.
Many of them. I found, were wondering whether the proposals offered in this Financial Resolution were proposals that the Minister is contemplating applying in due course to other housing provisions. What the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon would certainly 1062 aggravate those fears. He said that the local authorities should be proud to accept a fifty-fifty relationship. Surely, if that is true, it means that the Minister also has in his mind the possibility of applying some similar relationship in other fields, too. I can assure him that that is the anxiety which his remarks have created, and I am sure that what he said will convince everybody on this side of the Committee, and, I hope, some hon. Members on the other side, that this Financial Resolution must be opposed.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I hope enough has been said by my hon. Friends, and particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) to convince the Minister that there are a number of local authorities to whom special considerations apply. In passing, I must say I am very glad to see the Minister giving so much personal attention to this matter. I can quite understand the Minister, in the calculations he is making and in his discussions with representatives of local authorities, taking a national view of the problem. He has no doubt had to work on averages, and as he said himself, he has had to work out a kind of hypothetical average case.
But it has now been abundantly revealed, and I hope it will be faced fully by the Minister, that there are a number of special areas where the problem of delayed demolition is particularly acute. There are areas of great concentration of population, particularly in some of the Metropolitan boroughs, one of which, Islington, I represent, where unfortunately the bulk of the property was built about 100 years ago. Therefore, there is a great deal of property which is ripe for demolition.
The Minister said in one part of his speech that he did not want the local authorities to use the powers they are being given under Part I of this Bill to avoid the much more important work of slum clearance. We all agree with that, but unfortunately it is the case that there are some boroughs which cannot proceed as rapidly as they would like with slum clearance and demolition. That is acutely the case in Islington. The Minister may be aware that in the borough of Islington there is a housing 1063 waiting list of some 15,000 families; there is a great degree of overcrowding; there are 14,000 basement rooms all being used for habitation which ought to have been condemned and closed a long time ago and where some 5,000 families are living. The housing problem is therefore particularly desperate in Islington, and it is impossible for the borough council to do slum clearance on a large scale because there are no sites available, and if there were, the problem of decanting adds to the existing demand for rehousing.
Local authorities such as Islington, would prefer to deal with slum clearance on a large scale if they could, but unfortunately there is nowhere in the borough where they can do it. They will find themselves compelled to fall back on deferred demolition; but to do this they must get adequate financial assistance. What grieves me about this Financial Resolution is that, when it was put down in its amended form by the Minister, it appeared to give some hope to local authorities situated in that special category that they would have some special treatment.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) pointed out, the actual terms of this Financial Resolution are something of a constitutional innovation. In terms they give power to the Government of the day to make grants of an unlimited amount without Parliamentary control. I myself have never seen before a Financial Resolution which places no upper limit on the amount which the Government may spend.
There is no question here of any reserve of Parliamentary control. Reference was made by the Minister to the fact that he might have a review in two or three years' time and come to Parliament for an affirmative Resolution to increase this amount from £3 to £4 or £5. If we look at the Financial Resolution as it stands, it gives the Minister power to make a contribution of £3or such other sum as the Minister of Housing and Local Government made determine for each such house….There is nothing there about an affirmative Resolution.
§ Mr. Fletcher
My right hon. Friend mentions subsection (4), but at the moment we are dealing with the Financial Resolution. It enables the Committee to consider certain Clauses of the Bill. But no one knows how that Bill will emerge from Committee. All one knows is that it will not emerge from Committee in the same form as that in which it is now. There are a hundred Amendments down, for the Minister himself invited constructive criticism of the Bill. Constructive criticism there will be, but this is not the moment to discuss the details of the Bill.
We can consider only the Financial Resolution, and it is within the terms of that Resolution that the Bill may be amended and varied in a multitude of ways. For myself, I am very glad that the Minister has made this innovation and has put down a Financial Resolution which, on the face of it, appears to me to give the maximum possible opportunity of amending the Bill in Committee. I think I must be right in saying that within the framework of this Resolution, which I would hope would pass but for the reason that the Minister has given, and if other reasons which I propose to indicate to him—
§ Mr. Fletcher
That depends on what the Minister says in reply to the remarks I am going to make. At the moment I am seeking to show that if one discounted the unfortunate remarks made by the Minister in moving this Financial Resolution, it would seem to give the Committee the maximum opportunity of making desirable Amendments to the Bill in Committee, because it appears to empower the Minister to increase the contribution of £3 by such sum as he may determine.
I appreciate that the Minister did not recommend the Financial Resolution to the Committee on that ground, and because of that I think there will be consternation amongst local authorities who read his speech. The right hon. Gentleman said that he has had many negotiations with local authorities in the past, and he told us something of what he said to them. The right hon. Gentleman told us how he first thought that 33s. would be an appropriate figure, then 45s., and now 60s. He has not told us the figures for which the local authorities 1065 were asking. He has not told us that at one of the conferences the local authorities thought that the appropriate figure would be nearer £12 or £13. No local authority will be satisfied with this figure, still less will those with the acute slum clearance and deferred demolition problems to which I have been referring.
When the Minister put down this revised Financial Resolution I, for one, was under the impression—apparently a mistaken one in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has now said—that he was seeking to give himself power to deal in a special way with local authorities who have particularly acute problems of slum clearance, slum demolition and deferred demolition. The average may be all right—I do not quarrel with that—but in arriving at an average it means that there are many local authorities in heavily concentrated areas, such as Islington where the houses were mainly built 100 years ago, with special problems. Unless they have substantially more than £3, the burden falling upon the rates will be intolerable. It is in areas like this that I should have thought the Minister would be anxious to see some of this work done.
We all agree that slums must be demolished where that can be done, but where unhappily thousands of people will be condemned for the next 10 or 15 years to live in slum or near-slum conditions, to live in basement dwellings that ought to have been demolished years ago, and where there are other conditions of an appalling nature, there it is essential in their interests—as the Minister said, as an act of Christian charity—that there should be a certain amount of patching. Some boroughs may have to do much more patching than others. No borough will want to do more patching or to make it last longer than is necessary. I do not think any local authority will want to spend undue sums on this work, but a good deal of expenditure is necessary if the Minister is to achieve the result he has set himself to achieve.
As my right hon. Friend said, why cannot the Minister even now amend this Financial Resolution in such a way that the £3 can be interpreted as a minimum? Why should not the Minister say that, if this Financial Resolution is passed, he will make the necessary Amendments in 1066 the Bill during the Committee stage to give himself the power to make special arrangements with certain local authorities? What would be wrong with that? Why should local authorities who have the most serious problem under Part I be penalised by having to impose an unduly heavy rate burden on their ratepayers? Why should there not be a minimum of £3 under this Financial Resolution? If it is passed as it stands, why should not the Minister say that he will make special arrangements with certain local authorities who can prove hardship and a case of grievance?
Until the Minister spoke today, I was under the impression that this was his intention, and I am sure that many local authorities thought that, too. Few could have thought that the right hon. Gentleman meant that he would wait two or three years before asking Parliament to revise the basic figure of £3. This problem cannot wait two or three years. If the Minister is serious in wanting local authorities to get on with the work, they must get on with it now, and to do that they must know that they will get an adequate contribution from the Exchequer. The Minister must by now be convinced that £3 a house is grossly inadequate in the case of a large number of local authorities. Then surely, within the cover of this Financial Resolution, he can make whatever Amendments are necessary in Clauses 6 and 7 to give himself latitude to increase the minimum of £3 in cases where it is necessary.
In urging that course on the Minister, I agree with everything which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said about the constitutional dubiety and sense of innovation that the Minister has shown. Yet the Financial Resolution is his proposal and it is so novel that, as I read it, it takes away normal Parliamentary control over finance. This problem of providing adequate housing accommodation for people who, until houses are built in densely populated areas, are condemned to live in in sanitary and unhealthy conditions, is so great that I think it would be justified. Therefore, I urge the Minister to say something to encourage the local authorities of the nature I have mentioned to get on with this work and to have some hope that the £3 may be regarded as a minimum.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I want to add my plea for the large industrial areas to the pleas made already by my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee. This is a very large problem we are discussing and I want respectfully to suggest that the Christian charity about which we have heard so much has in the past been so small that hon. Members opposite, and members of local authorities of the Conservative Party, created the problem about which we are speaking.
In Stoke-on-Trent, the division which I represent, the local authority has already drawn up its slum clearance programme for the next 10 years and it is faced with a problem of 12,000, not 2,000 houses. That is a colossal problem which will place a heavy burden on my local authority. Because of the planning of the Stoke-on-Trent Housing Committee, and because of the forethought and energy which a Labour-controlled council has put into its housing programme, this year we shall be top of the league of the county boroughs in our building record. During the last four months we have been able to start on some of our slum clearance programme. So when I am speaking on behalf of Stoke-on-Trent I am speaking for a local authority which has already begun to face its problems.
Having said that, may I say that the city treasurer does not join the ranks of those who are satisfied with the provisions made in the proposed Financial Resolution, but is most dissatisfied with them. For instance, in Stoke-on-Trent we have an added burden—a burden which will probably be a heavy one for many local authorities—in that when we start to patch up many of those houses which will have to be patched up during the next five, 10 or 15 years, we shall run across the difficulties created by mining subsidence. That may add a burden which will far exceed the suggested figure of £150 or £180. As has been suggested by some of the local authorities in the northeast of England who have put their case, that is one point which has not been taken into consideration at all.
There is another difficulty. My local authority area is one in which the rent is very low. The suggested figure of 8s., which has been mentioned in the calculations which have been made, will be very 1068 much lower in an area like that of Stoke-on-Trent. A figure of 7s. has also been suggested, but in my local authority area it is suggested that the figure may be even as low as 5s. or 5s. 6d. That means that the figure which has been used in the Minister's calculations will leave a local authority like that of Stoke-on-Trent with a very much greater debit than that of some other local authorities.
The Financial Resolution also shows that there has been no real estimate of what will be required to put a house in a state of repair and that there has been no consideration at all of the added burden which will fall upon many local authorities whose staffs have to be increased in order to make inquiries and to see that the necessary repairs are carried out. In addition, there is no suggestion that any consideration will be given to the local authorities which may be in a position of not recovering in rent the amount which they estimated when they first prepared their programme. That loss of rent will be a further charge on an expenditure which will have to fall on the corporation.
I therefore add my plea to the pleas already made for a reconsideration of this matter. I plead on behalf of a local authority like that of Stoke-on-Trent in whose area there is a very big problem connected with houses which are unfit for habitation because in the Industrial Revolution those houses were quickly thrown up, often in the midst of bad factories which had been equally quickly thrown up. I add my plea also on behalf of many hundreds of working men and women who will be condemned to live in these houses for the next 10 or 15 years while at the same time they are turning out some of the loveliest pottery in the world and are making a great contribution to the economy and productivity of the country. I therefore ask the Minister to look into the question of how far special consideration can be given to the problems of large industrial areas.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Wheeldon (Birmingham, Small Heath)
Although most of the points which I had wished to make have already been made by my hon. Friends, I want to emphasise that I consider, as I think every local authority considers, the Money Resolution attached to this 1069 Bill to be a most unjust one. It is particularly unjust and unfair in relation to the maintenance grant. At Question time yesterday, the Minister asked us to wait until today to obtain from him the figures on which this grant was to be based, but he was very reluctant to give information even today. He has given the Committee no indication at all of the figures which he finally accepted as the figures to form the basis of the grant. He said in effect, "After all, there is very little experience on which I can go."
That may be true, and that point was emphasised by hon. Members opposite, but in circumstances of that kind, was it not the proper and most appropriate thing to go to that one authority which has had the experience which the City of Birmingham has had? The scheme in Birmingham is, of course, not on all fours with the scheme under this Bill; nevertheless, in essentials there is information available there on which the Minister could have worked. Why has he not done so? Why has he ignored almost completely the facts which are available in Birmingham? Why has he not taken from Birmingham the advice of the largest local authority in this country outside London?
Let us look at the figures which comprise this total grant. First, for reconditioning expenditure a figure of £180 has been mentioned as the average cost in Birmingham. But that figure referred to two years ago. Contracts that have been made over the last 12 months show that the figure is now running at £195. What is more, the expressed opinion of the authority within the last few days is that a figure of £300 can be substantiated as the appropriate figure for expenditure on these houses under the Birmingham scheme; but, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), some of the houses which were taken over in Birmingham were much better houses than those which will be taken over under this Bill.
We had the advantage, therefore, in respect of some houses of being able to spend much less than the amount that will probably be required in respect of the majority of houses covered by this Bill. Yet our figure in Birmingham amounts to £200 at least. I know from personal experience on the local authority for some years, and particularly during the 1070 time when this scheme was in operation, that if one had then had regard in Birmingham to the type of house that would come within the limits of this Bill, in respect of very many of them a sum of £300 or £350 would be by no means low for the cost of reconditioning.
There we had a scheme comprising about 30,000 houses. We have dealt already with 26,000. Why could not the Minister have had regard to the experience of Birmingham when fixing the sum mentioned in the Money Resolution? I suggest that had he done so he would never have agreed to the sum of £3 per house per annum for 15 years which is provided. I believe that that figure is utterly inadequate, and I do not think that any local authority in the country will say otherwise. It will mean that every local authority will have an unfair burden to bear.
The second factor is in respect of repairs. Here again, we do not know what was in the Minister's mind. It has been suggested that the figure was £12. If that is the figure it is far too low. The figure of £12 is taken in respect of the calculation for the subsidy for ordinary houses, but these are quite different houses. I believe I am right in saying—although I have not checked it—that a figure of £15 was accepted as a repairs figure in respect of reconditioned houses.
Another factor in regard to the grant is rent, and in some respects that is the most important factor of all. We have no information from the Minister on the figure taken for a weekly net rent, but it is suggested that the figure is 8s. a week. Again, referring to the experience of Birmingham, I find that the average net rent was 6s. 5d. a week—much lower, of course, than 8s. In some authorities I would say that the rent figure would be much lower than the figure for Birmingham. Apart from London, I would say that the rents of working-class houses in Birmingham are probably higher than in the majority of local authority areas in this country.
The importance of this matter of rents was pointed out in that admirable paper presented to the conference of borough treasurers a few weeks ago by the city treasurer of Manchester and. I believe, by the borough treasurer of Acton. They 1071 pointed out that if the rent was overstated to the extent of 1s. a week, subsidies would be deficient by £212s. per house per annum. Therefore, the difference between 8s. and 6s. 5d. in Birmingham would mean £52,000 a year on that one item. It would mean a considerable item to some of the authorities where the majority of working-class property is from80 to 100 years old.
What are local authorities to do about that? If they are unable to maintain rents at a level which the Minister has accepted as part of the grant, it will upset their housing revenue accounts. Either the tenants or ordinary municipal houses will have a further burden placed upon them, or the rate fund will be compelled to make a correspondingly higher contribution. That is one way in which the deficiency can be met. There is an alternative and perhaps it is the one which the Minister has in mind. He can suggest to local authorities that they attempt to increase the rent of the houses taken over. We ought to be told whether that is the intention. If it is, I say it is a most unfair proposal, and it is something which I believe cannot possibly be justified.
These houses are by definition houses which are unfit for human habitation. Even when money has been spent on them, many will still be without a separate lavatory, without an inside water supply, without a bathroom, or a fixed bath of any kind. They are houses which hon. Members would never for a moment agree were desirable for themselves. Yet people may have lived in those conditions for nearly 40 years and the rent has been paid week by week, even the controlled rent, while in many instances not a penny was being spent on repairs except in cases in which the sanitary inspector and the local authority compelled money to be spent.
By reason of the way in which this rent factor is included in the grant, we are saying in effect that the moment some little patching by way of repairs is done, despite all those years these people are to be compelled to pay increased rent. If local authorities attempt to do that, not only will they meet with resistance from tenants, but the public will regard it as something which is intolerable and something which ought not to be applied. Yet, 1072 so long as the Minister refrains from giving us the information on which this calculation has been based, we have the right to infer that he has in mind that local authorities will increase the rents of those houses for the reasons I have mentioned.
I hope that even now the Minister will find it possible to make some alteration to his original proposal. If he does not do so, he will have against him—as I think he already knows—the views and strong opinions of practically every local authority in the country. It is wrong of hon. Members to suggest that, simply because grants are increased to local authorities, willy-nilly some irresponsibility on the part of those local authorities is to be expected. Generally speaking, members of local authorities have just as great a sense of responsibility in the spending of money as hon. Members of this Committee. These grants and this Money Resolution entirely fail to meet the situation as we know it to be.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I do not wish to detain the Committee for more than a moment or two, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) has already said in respect of Stoke some of the things I intended to say in respect of Oldham, which has a similar problem. I am sure that the Committee is very grateful for the very informed speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) and for the figures he has given us. They are of very great importance.
There is a very small point connected with Oldham on which I should like to ask a question at once while I have it in mind and I hope that it may be dealt with in the Minister's reply. In Oldham, unfortunately, we have many old houses of the back-to-back type. We have some streets in which back-to-back houses still exist in a condition not quite so intolerable as in some other cases. Where they are in good, short streets running parallel with other streets of back-to-back houses, it seems to me, expressing a casual view, that if one tried to save these houses at all—one does not like to save them, but Oldham has peculiar difficulties—there might be a question of turning two back-to-back houses into one. They are very small: 1073 they are not in a bad condition, and at comparatively small expense two inadequate back-to-back houses could be made into one adequate house. If that is done, does it qualify for two grants or for one? We have taken over two houses and made one. I hope that the Minister will say that that example would involve two houses and that there should be two grants.
I wish to deal with the main issue, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North, dealt with so ably and fully. Let us face the gravity of the situation. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) took office in 1945, local government in some Lancashire towns, in some of the over-populated industrial areas, was on the verge of complete breakdown. There is no question about that. So far as Oldham is concerned, the Exchequer equalisation grant means about 5s. in the £ on the rates. Nothing has caused such anxiety in local government circles in Oldham as the announcement some months ago that the right hon. Gentleman was looking at this figure and that some statement might be made.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
My hon. Friend will remember that other cities, such as Newcastle, do not get anything out of the Exchequer equalisation grant.
§ Mr. Hale
Newcastle have recently not behaved very well when they came to Lancashire. Some time ago they went to Wigan and found fault with the sanitary arrangements there. However, I am most anxious that my hon. Friend's constituency should have the benefit of any reforms that take place.
That really was the situation. I do not say that Oldham is the worst place in England so far as that situation is concerned. In many respects, it is one of the best. But so far as the housing situation is concerned, Oldham has this major problem. Let us look at its magnitude in relation to Oldham. There are about 40,000 houses there of which 10,000 are in such a state that the medical officer says that they should be demolished at once if they could be; but there is no sense in scheduling them for demolition when we cannot, for financial reasons, hope to do without houses which do not really rise to the 1074 standard of being fit for human habitation. We are building in Oldham about 400 new houses a year, so that, if we conducted a slum clearance scheme under the old laws and cleared all the houses that should be cleared, it would take us 25 years to build enough houses to accommodate the people whom we were going to clear out of the slums. That is the magnitude of the problem.
There is no hope of tackling the slum clearance problem on the lines one vaguely talked about in the years before the war, no hope of pulling down the houses which are unfit for human habitation, no hope of the sort of scheme that could make Oldham a happily and well-housed town. What did we do? We prepared such a limited slum clearance scheme as was within the bounds of practical politics today, in an era of inflation, of rising costs in local government circles. On that we have based the Oldham town planning scheme.
Oldham is badly in need of town planning. Few towns in England need it much more. Oldham has a worthwhile town planning scheme in which the whole town centre and orientation of the town is contemplated—its redevelopment and replanning. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are to scrap all that. If we are to say, "No, we are not going to demolish these houses now, we are going to keep them going by patching," the whole of one's town planning project needs complete revision, and town planning on modern lines becomes a matter of real difficulty.
I am not saying this in any sense of criticism. In the main, I have a good deal of sympathy with the proposals which the Minister puts forward for preserving the houses that have to be preserved. It is perfectly clear that these houses will have to be inhabited for years, in the exigencies of the present situation, whether or not they should be, and, that being so, it is a good thing that they should be inhabited in better condition than they would have been. That is the case for the particular measures in respect of which we are discussing a subsidy. It seems to me that if is a good enough case for the time being, looking at the magnitude of the problem.
I wish to look at Oldham's position. Many of my hon. Friends have already 1075 said—I will touch on it in passing—that the rate situation is a very grave one indeed. There have been considerable increases in wages in local authorities, a considerable rise in the cost of living and additional costs in respect of community services. There has been a deliberate, and I think quite monstrous, rise in interest rates on housing projects which will cause very considerable expenditure in the months to come and will mean a very considerable added burden on the rates.
There has been, under the aegis of the right hon. Gentleman, a considerable rise in building costs—an enormous rise, a fantastic and incredible rise in building costs. [An Hon. Member: "No."] Indeed yes, yes, yes. The evidence is there. [HON MEMBERS: "Where?"] In the figures which the Government publish and which we discuss in the House from time to time. The right hon. Gentleman made an announcement. In answer to questions, he has pointed to the very considerable rise in building costs. Of course, in relation to council houses he has masked it to some extent by reducing accommodation and amenities, cutting out cupboards and shelves here and there, cutting out extra lavatories, and so on.
§ Mr. Hale
I am glad that you did not say, Sir Charles, that I personally was getting a little wide. I am very conscious of that, and am taking stern personal measures to put it right.
That is the situation to which I should be out of order in referring. It exists, and in the light of that existing situation, I continue with my remarks. We are to get this £3 grant on the houses which will be scheduled for demolition but which will be preserved. Very properly, the Minister said, "You must go on with your slum clearance. You must not try to preserve houses which really are ripe for immediate demolition. Carry on with that also."
§ Mr. Hale
The pick of these 10,000 is no doubt better than those which are being demolished today.
1076 How is it to be done? We have never been told. Nobody says where the labour or the organisation is coming from to enable the town to build 400 new houses and provide building labour for repairs for several thousand more houses so that landlords can charge more rent, to enable the spending of £200 on some houses and to patch up the several thousand houses which we may decide to retain and at the same time meet the cost of demolishing the other houses. Who is to pay for it, and where is the money to come from?
One thing which I regard with some disquiet, particularly in an inflationary era, is the prognostications of civil servants about the cost of doing these things. I thought that my hon. Friendserred on the side of moderation in their estimates of the probable cost. Far be it from me to say anything derogatory to the building industry, in which I have some modest interest—a very unsuccessful one. I have had builders and plumbers in the house. I have to spend more time with my bank manager at the end of these operations than I do with the plumber. Costs really are rising to an extravagant extent.
Of course, we appreciate the efforts of the Birmingham authority in reconditioning houses. We appreciate the efforts of various private enterprise authorities in trying to show what can be done with houses with the application of intelligence and organisation. But, of course, these houses are picked houses; they do not choose unsuitable houses. It is very nice to be told that if a house has a suitable outhouse, this may be turned into a bathroom, and so add to the amenities of the house. But they do not say anything about houses where there is no suitable outhouse. The cost of doing such a thing in those houses would be fantastic and impossible. So I am saying in all seriousness that the situation is one of great gravity.
What can a corporation do when it is faced with this problem today? The cost of modern houses is getting intensely prohibitive. I do not understand economics and I do not know why it is inflationary to give an electrician 5s. a week extra but is not inflationary to put up rents by 5s.—[Interruption.] I thought I was saying something which was generally accepted but apparently the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) holds a different opinion.
§ Mr. Hale
I hope the hon. Member will have another look at the Financial Resolution, because if it is not, it is very serious and the Resolution obviously does not cover the operations of the Bill. That may be another reason for voting against it, because of its inadequacy.
However, there is the problem. We in Oldham are trying to build 400 more houses a year with all the new services in an area that was outside the borough a year or two ago. But many people are not getting the advantage of them at the moment. Many essential services are not being fully implemented in relation to the new estates. We have a programme on which we have embarked for the demolition of houses. Now, under the terms of this Resolution we have superimposed upon it proposals for the preservation, the taking over and the alteration of a very large number of houses which it is suggested can be preserved by this means.
If the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) are correct—and, as I have said, if they err at all it is on the side of moderation—the burden to local authorities will be wholly intolerable. They will be placed in a position in which they have to apply their own priorities as between slum clearance, new building, reconditioning and indeed, to some extent, as between the compulsory work they can still direct a private owner to do in respect of houses which have not been taken over. It is a fantastic situation and it seems to be wholly inadequate. I ask the right hon. Gentleman—not in any party sense at all—to consider these matters.
This is a Bill which has many merits and some grave demerits. Some parts I think abominable, and some represent, on the whole, about the best that can now be done. At least there are some reasonably constructive suggestions about clearing up the dreadful mess in which the Tories left us to carry on following the years of neglect before the war, years when they left us in a condition where Oldham was saved only by its depopulation. It was only because of the depopulation of Oldham that we have been able to face the problem at all. We 1078 were depopulated by the misery of unemployment.
There are now 10,000 houses which have to be allocated as between actual slums and reconditioned premises. It is all very well to say that it does not cost much to pull down a house, but every time we pull one down we have to build one in its place. That is the magnitude of the problem—10,000 houses out of a total of 40,000, one in four of every dwelling house in the town.
No community can bear such a burden without outside assistance. No town can carry it. In the last few months we have had proposals for special areas and special localities. We have had to make such proposals. I suggest that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) introduced his exchange equalisation procedure in 1945, he completely saved local government in those towns. But for that, we could not have gone on, and it is something of a tragedy that the large advances we had in Oldham were already absorbed by our obligations. But for that, the rates in Oldham would have gone up by another 5s. in the £, and now we are back again to the same position.
Anyone with a pencil and paper who starts to put down all the additional burdens thrust on a town, the additional responsibilities and weight of organisation, and the staffing necessary to deal with it, must see that this is now a severe and exacting moment in the history of local government in our over-populated industrial towns. It is a matter for earnest thought and most careful discussion, and we should consider taking exceptional measures in addition to increasing the basic sums provided by the Money Resolution.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I do not think that in recent years it has been customary for a Minister to wind up a debate on a Financial Resolution in every case, but I think the Committee will not feel I am taking up too much time if I try shortly to reply to some of the important points which have been raised on what is a very important Resolution. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will not think me discourteous if I do not take so wide a view of all that has been said as might otherwise 1079 have been possible, because we have an arrangement by which another Resolution must be taken, and one would like to see that done at an hour convenient to hon. Members representing Scottish constituents.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) asked me a number of questions, some of which he answered himself. I always like the speeches of the hon. Member, because they cover a very wide field. He is always fair, and certainly he was today. He was fair and moderate, and he suggested all kinds of interesting thoughts and purposes. Were I to follow him into the whole picture of what we are trying to do in the matter of slum clearance in general, and not confine myself to points arising out of this Resolution, I should be both out of order and perhaps discourteous to other hon. Members in that I should have less time to devote to the questions which they raised. I shall therefore confine myself to answering specifically a question, and the answer will be satisfactory to the hon. Member.
If two back-to-back houses were dealt with under this scheme and if they were made into one "patched" house, they would draw two subsidies. It would be left for the local authority to decide what and how large a family they should put into that accommodation. Such houses can, of course, be changed under quite a different scheme, but I am dealing now with this particular scheme.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
Would the Minister explain his use of the term "back-to-back"? Would that apply only to back-to-back houses which are actually back-to-back, or would it also apply to houses which are adjacent, next door to each other?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I would not like to be drawn into the realms of speculation, but I should say that "side-by-side" appears to have a different connotation from "back-to-back." But I will look into it. I can assure the hon. Member that this would be a unit grant and therefore would be payable in regard to the point he raised.
There is one thing about which I should like to thank the Committee as a whole. There has been a change of attitude. At the end of the Second Reading debate on the Bill the deputy Leader 1080 of the Opposition made a very bitter and wounding attack upon me which I felt all the more because I regard him as a considerable authority on these matters. He said that any conception of holding up slum clearance was abhorrent to him. He made a violent attack upon me for turning the local authorities into slum landlords. That attack has been repeated up and down the country as if I were a criminal asking them to do something wholly wrong.
What has happened in today's debate? There have been the most sympathetic speeches from almost every hon. Member saying that in the conditions we have to face it is pure hypocrisy to talk about slum landlords. Everybody knows that, although there are some cities which have no right to operate under this system and who ought to be able to clear their slums in a five-year period, there are others where it is a question either of doing something or of doing nothing at all. It is hypocrisy to say that deferred demolition and the measures proposed are wrong in principle.
Therefore, the most violent attack made upon the whole basis of these proposals only a few weeks ago has sunk, it has gone. The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) was most sympathetic. So far from attacking this proposal, he welcomed it. He said that it was overdue and he reproached me for the many years when nothing was done. But I have not been responsible for so long a time. I have a right, having been so violently attacked, to make my reply, and I say that the whole tempo has changed. In deed, now it is said that deferred demolition in the right circumstances, where there is no other way out—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might come nearer to the subject.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I will, of course, follow that Ruling. I am glad to be put right by so careful a follower of the rules of order as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). Having said that, and there being a general agreement that what this Resolution wants to do is a good thing, the only question which arises is whether the machine to do it is adequate for the purpose. The Resolution might have been attacked upon the ground which I was giving, but it was not. It has been attacked, not on the ground that it is not right to have deferred demolition, but on the ground that the financial proposal is not adequate to achieve what we want.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Surely the whole point of our argument has been that it is so wrong to make the local authority the main slum landlord without giving it authority to take over all the other property?
§ Mr. Macmillan
That was not the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) when he spoke on Second Reading. I have the speech here. I have not forgotten it. That point was completely thrown over by the right hon. Gentleman who is the other leader of the party. We must try to distinguish between the major and the minor prophets.
I come to purely financial questions. It is agreed now that this is a good thing to do. The hon. Member for Oldham, West admits that it is necessary. Is this the right method and is this the right sum? I do not think that there is much disagreement about the method. It was proposed by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) that we ought to have a percentage grant on each transaction, but if we were to deal with large numbers of houses and if we had to take £100 here, £50 there, £180 or £200, and get them all approved for a percentage grant, that would be unworkable.
§ Mr. MacColl
That was not what I meant. I suggested a percentage grant based on the expenditure of each authority. I was pleading that special problems should be considered separately.
§ Mr. Macmillan
If I were to make a different decision with a different rate of grant for every authority, I do not think 1082 that that would be a very satisfactory arrangement.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I think that we must have an average rate for the houses. There must be an average. The question is whether this calculation is right or wrong. There have been many arguments advanced, and they have been very different ones. The hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) accepted the average figure of £180, which was the figure he was given by his local authority. That was contradicted by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) who, I think, took a figure of £200. Other figures based upon those given by other hon. Gentlemen would have been far higher than that, and they do not seem to me to be in the spirit of this patching operation. They were practically rebuilding the houses—£500, £600 or £700 would have been required upon the basis of the figures given claiming grant.
It is really within the margin of £180 or £200 that we stand. On the same calculation as that of the hon. Member for Itchen, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), I thought conclusively, proved that the figure was right, if not generous, at £3. There have been variations in the argument, but they were taking broadly the same figure of £180 as an average.
Then there was an argument by the hon. Member for Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) who pointed out that he had been informed by the town clerk that if we were wrong by 1s. that would amount in a year to £2 12s. I made a rapid calculation and I agree that 52 times 1s. comes to £2 12s.
§ Mr. Wheeldon
The statement was made in an official paper to the A.M.C. conference by the city treasurer of Manchester.
§ Mr. Macmillan
And it is true, but it is not so overwhelmingly true as to amount to a revelation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale, at the end of his speech, very generously said to me—because we have had our battles—that in point of fact we are operating in unknown territory and there is very little to go by. We have to try to get the machine going and see how it goes. I have, more than anybody else, 1083 an interest that it should go, because I want it to go. So far as I have a reputation, I am pledging my reputation that it should go. The right hon. Gentleman asked how it was to be done. He asked that question every day two years ago about the new houses. He does not ask it now. We do not even have a Supply Day for a debate about housing. We have not had a debate for two years.
I do not want the figure to be so high that local authorities perhaps on the border-line, which have got something that could be done in five or six years, might say "We will patch them up; we will not bother to pull them down." I want them to aid the slum clearance drive, and to operate this patching scheme only when particular circumstances make it clear that it would be wholly unrealistic to say that they could pull down all the slum property in a few years. But I do not want that to be an excuse for patching in a place where the whole slum problem could be dealt with energetically in a five-year period.
The whole of my interest is that this should succeed, and I do not want to put the figure up too high so that it will have the effect that I do not want it to have. Perhaps my calculations are wrong. Perhaps it is £180, £190 or £150. What is the obvious thing to do? It is to get it started, to get the thing under way, to make a beginning and then to have a review in two or three years' time. The Bill will not be through for some months, and it will take time. A review before two years have passed would not be of much use. I, or my successor, will make it as soon as it will be of use, and then perhaps we shall see that we have made a wrong calculation.
§ I assure the Committee that it is in this spirit that I ask hon. Members to approve this Motion. It may not be quite enough, but I ask them to grant the sum of money so that at least we can make a start on the novel experiment in what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale very generously said to me was new and unexplored territory.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, will he deal with the argument of a number of my hon. Friends that the figure should be a minimum and that he should reserve power to increase it where special circumstances justify that action?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I was never quite sure from the arguments whether the proposal was constitutionally so bad that I ought not to have power to increase the figure or whether it was so sensible that I ought to have power to increase the figure. However, I do not think I should like to have the power, and it is certainly not granted in the Money Resolution. We can deal with this matter on the Bill, but it is not our intention that the Minister should make all kinds of special donations here and there. The correct thing to do is to run on this basis for a certain period and then have a general review to see whether any alteration is required. That is not an unreasonable proposal, and I believe local authorities will be prepared to start the adventure on that basis, all the more because, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, some of them have started without any assistance at all.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 291; Noes, 247.1087
|Division No. 20.]||AYES||[7.13 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bullard, D. G.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bennett, William (Woodside)||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Campbell, Sir David|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Birch, Nigel||Carr, Robert|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bishop, F. P.||Gary, Sir Robert|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Black, C. W.||Channon, H.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bossom, Sir A. C.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.|
|Barber, Anthony||Braine, B. R.||Cole, Norman|
|Barlow, Sir John||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Colegate, W. A.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Brooman-White, R. C.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hutchinson, James (Scotstoun)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Jennings, R.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Redmayne, M.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L W.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Kaberry, D.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kerr, H. W.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lambert, Hon. G.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lambton, Viscount||Robertson, Sir David|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Russell, R. S.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sirf T. (Richmond)||Lindsay, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Sholefield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D M.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Shepherd, William|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fell, A.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longden, Gilbert||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Low, A. R. W.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Spearman, A. C M.|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Speir, R. M.|
|Fort, R.||McAdden, S. J.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Foster, John||McCallum, Major D.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Stevens, G. P.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||McKibbin, A. J.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|Gammans, L. D.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Storey, S.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maclean, Fitzroy||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stuart,Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Glover, D.||Macleod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Godber, J. B.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Summers, G. S.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Maitland, Comdr, J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gwer, H. R.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Teeling, W.|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marples, A. E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maude, Angus||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Maudling, R.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N )||Mellor, Sir John||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Molson, A. H. E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Turton, R. H.|
|Harvie-Walt, Sir George||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hay, John||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hold, Sir Lionel||Neave, Airey||Vosper, D. F.|
|Heath, Edward||Nicholls, Harmer||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Walker-Smith,D. C.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nutting, Anthony||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Oakshott, H. D.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Odey, G. W.||Wellwood, W.|
|Holt, A. F.||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Hope, Lord John||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Hopkinson, Right Hon. Henry||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Osborne, C.||Wills, G.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Page, R. G.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Perkins, W. R. D.||York, C.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Peyton, J. W. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and Sir Cedric Drewe.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Adams, Richard||Hale, Leslie||Pargiter, G A.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Parker, J.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Allen, Sohelefield (Crewe)||Hamilton, W. W.||Paton, J.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Hannan, W.||Pearson, A.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Hardy, E. A.||Peart, T. F.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hargreaves, A.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Awbery, S. S.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hastings, S.||Porter, G.|
|Baird, J.||Hayman, F. H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Healey, Denis (Leeds S.E.)||Price, Phillips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Bartley, P.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Bence, C. R.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Rankin, John|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Hobson, C. R.||Reeves, J.|
|Benson, G.||Holman, P.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Beswick, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hoy, J. H.||Rhodes, H.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Richards, R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Boardman, H.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Ross, William|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Janner, B.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Short, E. W.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, 5.)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jones. T. W. (Merioneth)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Keenan, W.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Snow, J. W.|
|Clunie, J.||King, Dr. H. M.||Sorensen, R. W|
|Coldrick, W.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Collick, P. H.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Steele, T.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lewis, Arthur||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Lindgren, G. S.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Grossman, R. H. S.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Logan, D. G.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Daines, P.||MacColl, J. E.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Syvester, G. O.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||McGovern, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McInnes, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||McLeavy, F.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Deer, G.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thornton, E.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Tomney, F.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Manuel, A. C.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edelman, M.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mason, Roy||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon, Ness (Caerphilly)||Mayhew, C. P.||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mellish, R. J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Messer, Sir F.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mitchison, G. R.||West, D. G.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Monslow, W.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Moody, A. S.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Finch, H. J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Morley, R.||Whitely, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Follick, M.||Mort, D. L.||Wigg, George|
|Foot, M. M.||Moyle, A.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mulley, F. W.||Willey, F. T.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Murray, J. D.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Nally, W.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gibson, C. W.||O'Brien, T.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Glanville, James||Oliver, G. H.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Orbach, M.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Oswald, T.||Yates, V. F.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Padley, W. E.|
|Grey, C. F.||Paget, R. T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Mr. Holmes and Mr. Wallace.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Pannell, Charles|
§ Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.