§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I beg to move, in page 25, line 15, to leave out "whether made before or".
The purpose of the Amendment is to remove what we regard as an element of retrospective legislation embodied in the subsection as drafted. There the Secretary of State takes power to impose a rents scheme on a local authority if a default order has been made either before or after the Bill becomes an Act. Our contention all along has been that he has no such power at the moment and is, therefore, seeking to take a power before he is given it statutorily by the House.
I recall many occasions when particularly the legal gentry opposite have made violent and vehement speeches about retrospection. We had the spectre of Hitlerism and all kinds of things mentioned when the Labour Government introduced a retrospective element in certain legislation. We had ex-Ministers waxing eloquent about the dangers of retrospection.
In Committee and our proceedings yesterday the Under-Secretary told us that we did not know what retrospection meant, that we used it as a term of abuse. He then proceeded to tell us what retrospection meant I want to 668 put his words on the record again, otherwise I am sure nobody would believe that they were spoken by a Minister of the Crown. The hon. Gentleman said:Let me try to explain.We pricked up our ears hoping that we should get a lucid explanation of the meaning of retrospection legislation.It might seem sensible to suggest that it would be retrospective legislation to lay down that there should be no parking in certain streets where previously people had been accustomed to park their cars. If a person continues to park, he is fined for flouting the law. To avoid being fined, all he has to do is to stop parking."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 27th March, 1962, c. 1002.]
§ Mr. Hamilton
This is a Minister of the Crown explaining to the ignoramuses on this side what retrospection means. This is about the same kind of standard as that of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends at the Dispatch Box during Questions yesterday.
The Secretary of State is taking powers, not only here but elsewhere in the Bill, which are retrospective in effect, and we as Members of Parliament have every right to be suspicious of a Minister who takes powers before he is given them by the House—and that is what the Secretary of State is doing here. I see the hon. Gentleman shaking his head. It is no good his doing that. The Secretary of State has not got such powers as these at the moment, and the Secretary of State will be exercising them in the case of Dunbartonshire before he is given them by the House. Dunbartonshire is the only case involved at present.
We most violently object to the Secretary of State having power to make a rent scheme and to put up rents. There is no danger of his making a rents scheme in the case of Milngavie to reduce rents. It will all be in the other direction. If the hon. Gentleman is not going to accept the Amendment—I rather suspect that he will not, despite my persuasive powers—I suggest that he would sugar the pill somewhat if he would say that the provision is to be used and that the Government have in mind an atrocious, wicked rent scheme for Milngavie. If the hon. Gentleman will say that, I shall be pleased to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The only reason why I did not spring to the Box is that I have been accustomed to debate in Committee when we have had a great number of hon. Members springing up and sometimes I have been severely taken to task because I have risen too soon.
The effect of the Amendment, by deleting the words "whether made before or", would be to remove the power of the Secretary of State to apply a rent scheme in a supplementary order to a local authority which had been found in default as to rents and had had a default order made in respect of its rents before the commencement of the Act. That is what the hon. Gentleman is complaining about.
§ Clause 29 (1) provides that Where a local authority has been found in default on its rent-fixing obligations, the Secretary of State may make a rents scheme and apply it to the authority in a default order under Section 356 of the 1947 Act. Subsection (2) covers the case where a default order has been made that did not include a rents scheme and the local authority has failed to comply with the order. The Secretary of State can then make a rents scheme and direct the local authority to comply with it in a supplementary order.
§ By subsection (2) the Secretary of State can apply the rents scheme in a supplementary order, to a local authority in respect of which a default order was made before the commencement of the Act. The Amendment would allow him to make the supplementary order only where the original order was made after the passing of the Act.
§ The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) made the general point that to include the words which he proposes to leave out was an example of retrospective legislation., and he quoted an example which I still think a very clear instance of the Dunbartonshire case, if we can call it that.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman; but in Dunbartonshire the county council got into default.
I cannot accept the allegation of the hon. Gentleman. The object of Clause 29 670 is to provide machinery for dealing with a local authority which is found in default in its rent-fixing obligations. If any local authority has already been found in default and is still in default by the time the Bill becomes law, that is, if it has not taken the action necessary to put right its default, there is no question of retrospective legislation. The new Act will be dealing with a situation as it exists at the time, and not with anything which has happened in the past.
We think it right to make this clear and specific in the Bill by the inclusion of the words which the Opposition wish to omit. I cannot agree that there is anything improper about a provision of this kind.
The hon. Gentleman also suggested that only one default order on rents has been made—
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Member referred to Dunbartonshire, and that is why I am saying that this applies to only one local authority, Dunbartonshire. I am admitting that that is perfectly true, since it seems unlikely that there will be time for any further case of default to be established before the Bill becomes law. But, again, I cannot see that there is anything wrong with that—
§ Mr. Galbraith
If the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) will keep quiet, I can get on.
I have already been taken to task once for being too long. But I cannot make a speech in a short time and leave sufficient time for the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) to reply if the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire keeps on interrupting—especially when I cannot properly hear what he is saying.
§ Mr. Manuel
I will make the point. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that what he is doing is a shocking thing? 671 He is using the powers contained in the Bill before the Bill has become law, and when he has notified the Dunbartonshire local authority that it is to increase rents before a certain date in May. The hon. Gentleman has no power to do that. He is using the "Fuehrer" powers which are assumed in the Bill to try to frighten the local authority into taking action.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I do not think that there is anything shocking about this. It is entirely right and proper. The position regarding Dunbartonshire is that a public local inquiry was held—I hope that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire will pay attention to this—and a report was published which was highly critical of the council for having failed to do what was required of it under Section 73 (5) of the 1950 Act. Accordingly, after consultation with the local authority, the Secretary of State made a default order directing the authority to remedy the default. Since the default order was made the county council has increased its rents, but the average rent is still only 10s. 1¼d.
§ Mr. Galbraith
It is "parking a car" —it is half in and half out, but not sufficiently out. This does not seem to my right hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Galbraith
—sufficient to remedy the default. The position, therefore, is that the county council is still in default.
The local authority—this is an interesting point—is not contesting this and, having already had the time limit extended to 15th May next, has asked for a further extension to put the default right. My right hon. Friend has just informed the authority, however, that he is unable to agree to any further extension. Since the default order was originally made last April it cannot be said that the council has not had sufficient time to deal with the matter.
The House will see, therefore, that the Dunbartonshire County Council has been 672 given every opportunity to put its house in order and indeed, it still has ample time to do so. I cannot agree that it would be at all unreasonable that the council should, if it still persists in its default, fall within the provisions of Clause 29. This is not retrospective legislation in any sense of the word. The council still continues to be in error—
§ Mr. Ross
How can the hon. Gentleman judge this authority to be in default when the circumstances are completely changed from those which were pertaining at the time of the public inquiry which recommended the default? In this respect the hon. Gentleman is stepping aside from the law. What he is doing is utterly illegal. He is changing the law for the tyrannical convenience of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Not at all. There was a public inquiry and the local authority was found not to be carrying out its duty.
§ Mr. Galbraith
There was a consultation between the local authority and my right hon. Friend. The local authority did nothing—
§ Mr. Galbraith
The Secretary of State, therefore, put the authority in default, in the meantime, the authority has been trying to remedy that default. It has not yet succeeded in doing so. It is still in error, and if it continues to be in error when the Bill becomes law it will suffer the penalty for it.
§ Miss Herbison
What a shocking speech from the Under-Secretary of State. Hon. Members on this side of the House know that the Secretary of State is delighted to feel that he has Dunbartonshire in his hands, because he has every intention of using Dunbartonshire as an example so that the Government can impose high rents on every local authority in Scotland.
There are many other points which we should like to raise, but the Guillotine will be falling soon, so we shall vote immediately on this matter.
§ Question put, That "whether made before or" stand part of he Bill:—674
§ The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 160.675
|Division No. 154.]||AYES||[4.47 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Peel, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Percival, Ian|
|Barber, Anthony||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Barlow, Sir John||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Barter, John||Hendry, Forbes||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Batsford, Brian||Hiley, Joseph||Pott, Percivall|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Bell, Ronald||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Biffen, John||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pytn, Francis|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hocking, Philip N.||Ramsden, James|
|Bishop, F. P.||Holland, Philip||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hollingworth, John||Rees, Hugh|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hopkins, Alan||Renton, David|
|Box, Donald||Hornby, R. P.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hughes-Young, Michael||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Braine, Bernard||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)|
|Brewis, John||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Brooman-White, R.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Jackson, John||Russell, Ronald|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||James, David||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Buck, Antony||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Sharples, Richard|
|Bullard, Denys||Jennings, J. C.||Shaw, M.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Burden, F. A.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Smithers, Peter|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Kershaw, Anthony||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Leavey, J. A.||Stodart, J. A.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Collard, Richard||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cooper, A. E.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Cordeaux, Lt. Col. J. K.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Costain, A. P.||Longbottom, Charles||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Coulson, Michael||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||McLaren, Martin||Teeling, Sir William|
|Critchley, Julian||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)||Temple, John M.|
|Cunningham, Knox||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|d'Avigtlor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Maddan, Martin||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Doughty, Charles||Maginnis, John E.||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maitland, Sir John||Turner, Colin|
|Duncan, Sir James||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Eden, John||Marshall, Douglas||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Marten, Neil||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-uponTyne, N.)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Emery, Peter||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walder, David|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Walker, Peter|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mills, Stratton||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Miscampbell, N.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Foster, John||Montgomery, Fergus||Whitelaw, William|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Morrison, John||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Gammans, Lady||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Nabarro, Gerald||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Neave, Airey||Wise, A. R.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Goodhew, Victor||Noble, Michael||Woollam, John|
|Gower, Raymond||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Worsley, Marcus|
|Green, Alan||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. J. E. B. Hill and|
|Mr. Michael Hamilton.|
|Abse, Leo||Beaney, Alan||Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics., S. W.)|
|Albu, Austen||Benson, Sir George||Bowles, Frank|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Blackburn, F.||Boyden, James|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blyton, William||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Brockway, A. Fenner|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Houghton, Douglas||Peart, Frederick|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hoy, James H.||Pentland, Norman|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Callaghan, James||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Probert, Arthur|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hunter, A. E.||Randall, Harry|
|Chapman, Donald||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rankin, John|
|Cliffe, Michael||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Redhead, E. c.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Irving, Syndey (Dartford)||Reid, William|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Cronin, John||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Rhodes, H.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Jeger, George||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Darling, George||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Ross, William|
|Deer, George||Kelley, Richard||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dempsey, James||Kenyon, Clifford||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Diamond, John||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Dodds, Norman||King, Dr. Horace||Small, William|
|Driberg, Tom||Ledger, Ron||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Snow, Julian|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lever, L. M. (Ardwlck)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Evans, Albert||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Fernyhough, E.||Loughlin, Charles||Steele, Thomas|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stonehouse, John|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||McCann, John||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Forman, J. C.||MacColl, James||Swain, Thomas|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mclnnes, James||Swingler, Stephen|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McLeavy, Frank||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Ginsburg, David||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Timmons, John|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Grey, Charles||Manuel, Archie||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Marsh, Richard||Warbey, William|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Milne, Edward||Weitzman, David|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Monslow, Walter||Whitlock, William|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Moody, A. S.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hannan, William||Moyle, Arthur||Willey, Frederick|
|Harper, Joseph||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Oram, A. E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Healey, Denis||Oswald, Thomas||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis)||Owen, Will||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Paget, R. T.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Paton, John||Zillacus, K.|
|Holman, Percy||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Holt, Arthur||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Lawson and Mr. Ifor Davies|
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
In calling the second Amendment to page 26, in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), I should say that it would be convenient also to discuss the third Amendment in her name, in page 26, line 28 to leave out from "orders" to "shall" in line 30.
§ Mr. Ross
I am tempted to say:It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done",because before I finish this speech my head will be "bloody but unbowed". I assure the Leader of the House, whom we are glad to see present at this rather gory stage of our proceedings, that the voice of people in Scotland who are interested in housing will not be stilled by what is to happen at five o'clock.
§ This Amendment relates to one of the most vicious measures of bureaucratic convenience I have ever come across. It will apply supplementary orders, orders made consequent on default orders, whether before or after the Bill bringing in a rent scheme and claiming that a local authority is still in default. Before a local authority can be proclaimed in default there must be a public inquiry. Following that public inquiry there comes the order and the demand that the local authority should take action. The local authority which the Under-Secretary instanced in the debate we have just had has taken action twice, so the circumstances today are not the circumstances when a local inquiry said that it was in default.
§ For the Government to claim that by passing this convenient piece of legislation they are being fair, and that the 677 situation is the same, is the most monstrous piece of dictatorship we have ever seen, but it is typical of the whole of the Bill. There has been talk of local democracy, but we cannot talk of democracy at all in this connection because the Guillotine and democracy are incompatible companions. I sincerely hope that the people of Scotland will realise the difficulties which the Opposition have been under today. We are dealing with the most important matters which go to the very heart of local and national democracy. To do so in this way—a couple of speeches with no interruption and no debate, no discussion—is an absolute farce.
§ It being Five o'clock, Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee) were brought to a conclusion, pursuant to Orders.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We now move into what I hope will be the quieter waters of the Third Reading. After twenty-two stormy sittings in Committee and approximately eight hours on Report, this is very much to be welcomed, and I hope that after all the long discussions that we have had the beneficent intentions of this Bill are becoming clear, at least to the people of Scotland if not to hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The main purpose of the Bill is to introduce a new structure of housing subsidies which will take account of the varying needs and resources of different local authorities. It is clear that there is no longer a single housing problem in Scotland. As a result of the massive building programmes since the war, especially over the last decade under a Tory Government, instead of a general problem there are now a series of local, special problems, and some local authorities have much greater housing needs than others.
It does not necessarily follow that the local authorities with the greatest housing needs are the authorities with the greatest financial resources. So what the Bill proposes is that, instead of the old system of flat rate housing subsidies applying everywhere, there should now 678 be a system under which subsidies will be channelled to the authorities which need them most. In other words, what we are doing in the Bill is to redistribute the existing amount of subsidy assistance so that those authorities which need most will get more subsidy than under the present system, while, of course, as a corollary to this those authorities who need less will get less.
I do not propose to describe in detail the method by which the Bill achieves this redistribution of subsidy assistance, because that has been discussed and explained ad nauseam in Committee and on Report. What I will say, however, is this. I fully recognise that some local authorities which will get less assistance than before are not likely to welcome the effect of the Bill upon them. But it is implicit in any Measure which seeks to give extra help to the needy that those with the greater resources will receive less. We cannot get away from that basic fact. I think it is worth pointing out that at least one major authority which expects that it will qualify for only the lower rate of subsidy has indicated, nevertheless, that it recognises the principle of giving greater help to the needy—a principle which is at the root of this Bill.
Although some local authorities get less, the Bill is in no way an attempt to cut subsidies. On the contrary, as I have said many times before, the total amount of subsidy under the provisions of the Bill will increase compared with what would have been forthcoming under existing legislation. I wish that hon. Members opposite would try to grasp that and get it into their heads. From the violence of the Opposition to the subsidy proposals in the Bill, one might have almost have thought that the Bill was designed to cut subsidies, whereas, in fact, its object is to redistribute them and in the process over the years actually to increase the total. In fact, it will mean more and not less subsidies going to Scotland. That is the first and most important point to grasp about the Bill, and it is one which will certainly be accepted in Scotland even if the Opposition are incapable of doing do. [Interruption.]
So far I have spoken about the reallocation of subsidies in relation to 679 need. There is also power under the Bill to reduce subsidies. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite have argued that this power will be used to keep the Exchequer subsidy bill within its existing limits and perhaps even to reduce it. This is really carrying suspicion of the Government too far. As I have pointed out on many occasions, the power by order to reduce, terminate or curtail the duration of subsidies payable under the Bill is not new in principle in relation to houses approved after the date of the order. That power has existed for many years in housing legislation, and I do not see why hon. Members opposite should think that it is now likely to be used immediately or on a wide scale to reduce subsidies.
§ Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
While it may be true that this phraseology is contained in earlier Measures, does the Under-Secretary not realise that under the powers he is now seeking under Clause 29 he can so arrange matters that he can decide that there will be no need to make any subsidy to a local authority by virtue of the fact that it has been forced to increase rents to a figure beyond the capacity of the people to pay?
§ Mr. Galbraith
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my speech in my own way, we shall in due course come to Clause 29. We are not discussing Clause 29 just now.
We are discussing the power to alter subsidies, and I was saying that Chat power had existed for many years in housing legislation. I do not see why it should now suddenly be exciting hon. Members opposite. After all, if my right hon. Friend had wanted to reduce subsidies more or less straight away he could much more easily have proposed this openly in the Bill instead of going through all the rigmarole of introducing a new subsidy structure by legislation with the sole intention of proceeding immediately afterwards to alter the subsidies by order. One has only to state the argument to see how utterly preposterous are the suspicions of hon. Members opposite on this score.
There is, I recognise, one new feature of these powers in that at any time not less than ten years from the passing of 680 the Bill there are powers to reduce subsidies on houses already approved under the Bill. These powers will, however, be used—I give this assurance to the House as I have given it many times before—only if it appears, following consultations with the local authority associations, that so great a change had taken place in economic circumstances that a continuance of payments on the original scale for the remainder of the sixty-year period was no longer justified. Clearly it is quite impossible for me to forecast how or when my right hon. Friend might have to exercise these powers.
After all, no one in 1902 could possibly have forecast how world economic circumstances were going to alter by 1962. In exactly the same way, it is impossible to say now what may happen by the time we are a couple of decades into the twenty-first century. That is only common sense, and I would have thought that even hon. Members opposite might have been able to understand that. I can certainly give the assurance that my right hon. Friend has no intention at present of exercising this power. But it seems to him to be a wise precaution, in the light of the pace of economic change, which is a feature of modern life, to take this power so that if circumstances change radically subsidies can be altered to keep in step.
So much, then, for subsidies. I turn now to the second main feature of the Bill, which is the proposal to make available advances from the Exchequer to registered housing associations which are providing houses for letting at economic rents. This feature of the Bill is not in any way, as the Opposition suggest, a reflection on the immense contribution which local authorities have made to improving the housing situation in Scotland.
§ Miss Herbison
We are sick and tired of having it thrown at us that we are against this part of the Bill. We are not. We want every type of building in Scotland. The more houses, the better. What we think of this part of the Bill is that in the Government's real heart they know that it will not provide many houses in Scotland, but we want the few that it will provide.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Lady is nothing like as sick and tired of what 681 I say as I am of what she says. I said that this feature—
§ Mr. Manuel
On a point of order I want to make an appeal to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We are now on Third Reading. It will have to be a very curtailed debate, because we are working under the Guillotine. The perpetrator of it is sitting on the Government Front Bench. He should be thrown out of the Chamber.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Nothing has occurred which is out of order. Mr. Galbraith.
§ Mr. Manuel
Further to that point of order. How can you tell that it is not a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, unless you listen to it?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order, order. I heard what was going on in the Chamber. I ruled that nothing out of order had occurred and I called on the Under-Secretary to continue his speech.
§ Mr. Manuel
On a new point of order. I had not reached my point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I accept your right to rule, but I think that you should accept my right to state my point before ruling. My point was this. It is obvious that the Under-Secretary will make a long speech. We have heard enough of this twaddle and he should not be taking up time.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member has been a Member of this House long enough to know that what he has now said does not raise a point of order.
§ Mr. Galbraith
For the information of the hon. Member of Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), I can say that if I had not been interrupted my speech would have taken thirteen minutes. If it takes longer than that, the responsibility is on the hon. Gentleman's own shoulders.
I said that this feature of the Bill is not in any way a reflection on the immense contribution which local authorities have made to improving the 682 housing situation in Scotland. I pay tribute to them for this achievement. But at the same time as I encourage local authorities to continue with the good work, I believe that there is also an urgent need to stimulate further progress by private enterprise, particularly in house letting, so as to meet the needs of those who do not require subsidised housing accommodation.
I want to make it quite clear, however, that there is absolutely no intention of setting up house letting agencies in competition with the local authorities. Clearly, local authorities must remain the principal providers of subsidised houses to those who need them on financial grounds, and nothing in the Bill diminishes the vital rôle of local authorities in this sphere. The aim of the Exchequer advances to housing associations is to provide for a totally different, and as yet virtually unexplored, market, consisting of people who do not need subsidised accommodation and who are able and willing to pay an economic rent but who, for one reason or another, do not want to undertake the long-term responsibilities of owner-occupation. Up till now private enterprise has been backward in catering for this class of person.
We believe that the pump-priming operation envisaged in the Bill will show that the market for this type of accommodation is considerable and that private enterprise will be attracted back into providing houses for letting at economic rents. I am sure that this is most desirable, because local authorities will then be able to concentrate all their efforts on helping those who need subsidised accommodation.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
On a point of terminology. Why does the Under-Secretary keep saying "private enterprise", because these housing associations are non-profit-making and co-operative in character?
§ Mr. Galbraith
I do not want to explain that now. I went into it at considerable length in Committee. It is supposed to be a pump-priming operation to show that a market exists. When private enterprise sees that a market exists, it should come in and do the job which these housing associations with 683 the aid of an advance from the Government are starting to do.
Before I leave the subject of building by housing associations, I want to say something about the S.S.H.A. While the main function of the S.S.H.A. will be the building of houses to let in the areas of overspill receiving authorities, it is proposed that the Association should also participate in the schemes for direct Exchequer advances which I have just described and at the same time that it should be enabled to enter the field of housing improvement and conversion. I very much hope that the Association's work in these two new spheres will encourage other agencies to be equally adventurous; for there is tremendous scope here for a pioneering spirit. I want to make it clear that these are extensions of the Association's functions and that there will be no reduction in its normal rôle. The Association will continue to build in the local authority field in the same way as it does now. It will also, however, undertake new work in "providing houses to let at economic rents and in improving older property.
The third main feature of the Bill is contained in Clause 29. I agree that this Clause can be regarded as controversial in principle. I fully understand the arguments which hon. Members opposite have advanced against it, but I ask the House to try to see the Clause in perspective, because the fears expressed about its use have been exaggerated and, indeed, the whole purpose of the Clause has been partly misunderstood.
After all, all that Clause 29 does is to rectify a defect in the existing enforcement provisions where there has been default as to rents. As I explained in Committee, a rent scheme under the Clause would be made only in very exceptional circumstances indeed, and only where a local authority had been shown after a public inquiry to be in default as to its statutory duty on rents. No one regrets more than my right hon. Friend that it has been found necessary to write this power into the Bill. No one hopes more than he does that it will never have to be used.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
The Under-Secretary has just made a very important statement. He 684 has said, in effect, that no one regrets more than the Secretary of State for Scotland that this power is in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman has also said that his right hon. Friend hopes that he will not have to use this power. At present the Dunbarton County Council has asked the Secretary of State to allow this discussion to continue until October or November. The Secretary of State has refused. He insists on 15th May. As the county council has increased rents twice since its default was shown and if the Secretary of State is so anxious to see the thing done in the proper way and is unwilling to use this power, he could show this by indicating to the county council that he will give it until October or November to consider the matter further.
§ Mr. Galbraith
What I said was that nobody regretted more than my right hon. Friend that it has been found necessary to write this power into the Bill and no one hopes more than he that it will not have to be used. The point is that we have got to face facts. However regrettable it may be, the fact is that all local authorities do not always act properly—as the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) pointed out yesterday. He made a very interesting contribution to the debate.
The reports of the two recent rent inquiries used pretty strong terms. They referred to a "'travesty of good faith," and to "the exercise of a discretion for a wrongful end." Those are the phrases used in describing the way in which a local authority has behaved in relation to its rent-fixing obligations.
All that pointed to a situation that was far from being what it ought to have been, and my right hon. Friend felt that where a local authority had been acting this way, and where it had been shown that the existing provisions for enforcing rectification of a default were inadequate, he had no option but to strengthen the provisions for dealing with this exceptional type of case. That is exactly what Clause 29 does. As for the level of rents generally, Clause 29 can be used only to enforce the observation of existing statutory obligations. I would emphasise that these provisions, as at present enacted in Sections 71 and 73 of the 1950 Act, remain completely unchanged—
§ Mr. Steele rose—
§ Mr. Galbraith
Some horn. Members seem to complain because I speak too long while another hon. Member keeps on intervening.
The Dunbartonshire County Council has only itself to thank. It got into default, and if it is not prepared to get out of default I am afraid that it will suffer under the Bill—
§ Mr. Galbraith
I notice that the hon. Gentleman likes to keep on intervening, but he will soon have a perfectly good opportunity to intervene properly.
I thought that there was a fair measure of support on the other side of the Chamber for the proposition that local authorities ought not to exercise these functions in such a way as to fix rents that are unreasonably low. I would remind the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) that during the Second Reading debate he said:I do not advocate rents which are too low. I adhere to the principle of a reasonable rent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1961; Vol. 649, c. 1432.]
§ Mr. Galbraith
There is nothing wrong with it—it is excellent. If the hon. Gentleman really believes it, he must recognise that all Clause 29 does is to give my right hon. Friend powers to ensure that local authorities observe their obligations to review rents and to fix reasonable rents. It cannot be used to enforce unreasonably high rents. Indeed, as I explained yesterday, it could be used to prevent a local authority from charging unreasonably high rents.
Thus, the Clause is not an attack on local authority rents. It is merely a rectification of an omission in the existing powers for securing that local authorities observe their statutory duties. I am sure that that is something that every right-minded person wishes to see achieved, although anyone listening to the Opposition would gain a very different impression.
I have briefly described the main provisions of a Bill that is designed to help all forms of house building and to 686 grapple with the tremendous housing problem that still exists in Scotland, and I now ask the House to give this Measure its Third Reading.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
The Under-Secretary referred to the beneficent intention of the Bill. What a mockery! My hon. Friends and I regard this Bill of over 30 Clauses as having an evil and vile intent in almost every Clause. Because of the present circumstances I must be brief, but as the hon. Gentleman referred mainly to the subsidy provisions I, too, shall deal with them.
We are all well aware that ever since 1935 Secretaries of State have had power to reduce the amount of subsidies or the period during which they were payable, but the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that not on one single occasion in the intervening 27 years has any Government ever reduced the subsidies by Order. They have all preferred to introduce legislation for that purpose. That is the right, the proper and the decent method of approaching the problem. At least it gives Parliament the opportunity of adequately discussing, even amending, the proposals coming before it—
§ Mr. Hendry rose—
§ Mr. McInnes
The present Secretary of State, with his insatiable desire for dictatorial power, not only decides to reduce subsidies but, for the first time in the history of housing legislation, introduces a power to abolish them by way of Order. I shall not be sidetracked by the Under-Secretary's statement that subsidies will not be reduced for ten years. The fact is that in 1965, for example—and that is only three years away—the Secretary of State could, by Order, say that subsidies payable in relation to houses approved after that date would be less than provided for in the Bill. He has the power, of course, after 1st November, 1971, to reduce or abolish subsidies on all houses that have been approved since 1961.
What concerns me most is that this power to abolish subsidies, which is a major change of policy, is being undertaken by a method that denies this 687 House the opportunity of adequate discussion and restricts the right of hon. Members to amend any such proposal. As I have said, such a dictatorial power is unprecedented in the history of housing legislation—the more so since the power to reduce or abolish subsidies may apply to the whole of Scotland, or to any area in Scotland, or to any house in any area.
Why does the Secretary of State want to apply the power to abolish or reduce subsidies to a specific area or a certain type of house? He desires it because it will give him the chance of using it as a weapon against any local authority which may have a rent structure with which he violently disagrees. We all know that the Secretary of State already possesses all the powers that he requires to deal with local authorities who fail in their statutory obligations to deal with rents. We have discussed that matter today. However, I believe that the real problem in Scotland is not the question of rents but the failure to build a sufficient number of houses to deal with what is admittedly the greatest housing problem in Western Europe.
Not one house will be produced in Scotland as a result of this Bill. Scottish local authorities have over 200,000 people on their waiting lists. We still have 300,000 slum houses in Scotland. One-third of our houses are 82 years and more old. In addition, we have the great problem of trying to export 100,000 families from Glasgow. This is the problem—not rents—that presents to us a real challenge. One would have thought that with a problem of this kind we would have concentrated all our efforts and resources towards its solution.
What has been done? In 1953, new town authorities built 36,000 houses to meet this tremendous need. Last year they built only 19,000 houses—a reduction of almost 50 per cent. This is an appalling and disgraceful record. All these specious arguments which have been adduced from time to time by the Secretary of State cannot explain away the tragic decline in house building. They cannot stand the light of day. I have said that we have 300,000 slum houses. At the present rate of progress it will take 33 years before we get rid of our slums.
688 The Government's record in providing houses in Scotland is shocking. It is a record of bungling ineptitude and incompetence, and ought not to be tolerated.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) said that this Bill was evil and vile in intention in every Clause. I would point out that many of the Clauses actually increase the subsidy that is given to local authorities for building houses. I refer to such matters as incoming industry, housing associations, expensive sites and so on. What the Opposition really object to is that there should be differential rates of subsidy for local authorities based on a resourses test. Since the end of the war we have built in Scotland 450,000 houses—toy far the largest number under a Tory Government—
§ Mr. Brewis
The hon. Gentleman should know that when the Socialist Government were in power the rate of house building was going down.
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Gentleman is also surely aware that the increase in building after the Labour Government were in power has been admitted to have been made possible by the planning of the Socialist Government.
§ Mr. Brewis
It is very strange that the rate of building should have gone down while the Socialist Government were in power.
§ Mr. Brewis
There is a big housing problem in many areas such as Glasgow, but in other areas the bulk of the housing problem has now been met. For that reason I support the redistribution of subsidies, by which local authorities most in need can get a greater subsidy, rising from £24 to £32, and in some cases to as much as £56. We see that the rate of building of local authority houses is dropping, and so is the rate of building by housing associations which at the moment is insignificant. It is good to see that house building by new town corporations and private owners, on the other hand, is 689 increasing. But I think that this Bill will prime the pump not only for housing associations but also for local authorities, because those whose resources are inadequate will now get the bigger subsidy. That is quite irrespective of any rent system which may operate in the area of the local authority concerned.
I welcome the flexibility given by Clause 3 to the Secretary of State enabling him to alter the formula for determining which local authority gets which rate of subsidy. Not only can he reduce it, as hon. Members opposite have said, but he is given power to increase it if he thinks that a local authority needs a higher subsidy in order to do the job properly.
§ Mr. Brewis
In Clause 3.
I should now like to say a few words on Clause 4 which we did not have time to discuss in Standing Committee. This Clause gives an extra £12 for agricultural housing. This subsidy has been available in previous housing legislation, but in my opinion it has not been used as much as it should. Some time ago I asked a Question, the answer to which was that housing subsidies in Scotland amounted to nearly £20 million a year, but of this only £181,000 was attributable to subsidies for houses for agricultural workers—less than 1 per cent. In Scotland at least 5 per cent. of the population are engaged on the land, so that the agricultural worker is not getting a fair share of this subsidy. I should like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to consider this point and to ascertain why more use is not being made of the subsidy for agricultural workers houses in local authority areas.
I believe that one of the reasons is that there is a stipulation that such houses must have their own private water supply and sewerage arrangements before they can qualify for a subsidy. That is entirely wrong because main water supplies and main sewerage services are now being provided in the countryside, and it seems ridiculous that when local authorities build houses for the agricultural population they should not get the higher subsidy because there 690 happens to be a main water supply. I should like my hon. Friend to see whether he could arrange that better use is made of this subsidy.
§ Clause 11 provides help for housing associations. This is a very useful provision for priming the pump so that houses can be built by housing associations.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie) rose—
§ Mr. Brewis
I cannot give way as we are operating under the Guillotine procedure. In England and Wales since the end of the war 48,750 houses have been built by housing associations, compared with only 1,600 in Scotland, which is a very poor record.
It seems to me that there is no reason why the housing association movement should not flourish equally well in Scottish soil as in English soil. There are various types of housing associations. There is the do-it-yourself kind in which people build their houses in which they are to live. There is also the charitable kind.
In one case we are giving extra subsidies to housing associations to build houses for the aged, and it seems to me that many organisations, such as rotary clubs in towns throughout Scotland, could well form such housing associations to provide this sort of house for aged people with the help of a subsidy, and I hope that we shall see some movement like that which has developed in England and Wales.
There is also a great need for houses for young people who are prepared to pay an economic rent, but for some reason do not want to buy their own houses. I feel that the housing association movement could help such people.
§ Mr. Brewis
They are the people who work in Scotland for perhaps a year before going abroad. They do not want to buy a house.
§ Clause 25 brings in a new repairing code for Scotland. I am very much in favour of houses being repaired, but this Clause adds certain obligations for leases of less than seven years, which would apply to nearly all the leases in 691 Scotland. I think that this Clause may go a little too far, because the law of Scotland up to now has been adequate for dealing with the question of repairs as between the landlord and tenant, and there are certain things which can be done better by a tenant than by calling in the landlord to do them. I am thinking of minor decorative repairs, or repairs to a tap washer or something like that. If a landlord is called in on a number of occasions to do these small jobs, it leads to great expense. This consideration applies also to local authorities who are landlords.
§ To take an absurd example, it costs about £1 to get in a plumber to repair a tap washer.
§ Mr. Brewis
I am much obliged to the hon. Lady. If we remember that it costs 10s. 6d. to get a washer repaired, this would add about £25,000 to Glasgow Corporation's repair bill on its housing estates. This consideration also applies to houses with controlled remits, and the financial burden imposed on the proprietors of such houses will be heavier than it is now.
§ Clause 29, in certain circumstances, increases the Secretary of State's power, and when a local authority is in default enables him to impose a rent scheme. The present system is undoubtedly very cumbersome, but I think that under Section 169 of the 1950 Act my right hon. Friend could get round to very much the same effect. I hope that it will never be necessary for my right hon. Friend to use this power, but it must be remembered that there are about 20 local authorities in Scotland who have not reviewed their rents in the last five years. The extension of this power may well bring local councillors to their senses because, as the Toothill Committee's Report showed, many local authorities would be glad to get rid of their present rent policy but they are in difficulty in moving ahead to any marked extent on their own. In other words, they are frightened of the electors.
§ Generally, rents in rural areas are higher than those in the cities although the scale of wages in such areas is obviously very much lower. I think that 692 the low rent policy of Scotland is causing considerable misery and inconvenience to many people who want houses. I think that this Bill will do much to help. I think that it will provide more houses of the right type, and more houses in the right place, and I give the Bill my support.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Whatever our political differences, I am sure we all hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will soon be fully recovered in health and back amongst us. I should also like to acknowledge on behalf of us all his long period of service as Secretary of State. I believe that he has constituted a record for all time. I think that we ought, irrespective of our political points of view, to pay tribute to his commendable service.
I should like to consider the Bill from a different angle from that which has been referred to so far. It must be judged on four counts. First, whether it will make a substantial contribution to the housing of our people in Scotland. Secondly, whether it will make a substantial contribution to taking the whole question of housing out of the ambit of party politics. Thirdly, whether it will make a substantial contribution to a feeling of fairness among all sections of the community—those who are occupiers of local authorities' houses, those who are occupiers of privately owned houses and rent them, and those who axe owner-occupiers; in other words, whether it will make a substantial contribution to the equity of all those classes of people. Fourthly, whether it will make a substantial contribution to the great housing problem of the City of Glasgow. Will it establish a basis for utilising to the fullest extent the great building force that could be made available to cure the problem that exists in one of our most wonderful cities? Those are the four counts on which the Bill should be judged.
I think that it fails on all four. I have heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say that under a Labour Government sufficient houses were not built. Other hon. Members have said that under a Conservative Government sufficient houses were not 693 built. This year I have completed 30 years' of local government and Parliamentary service, and when I went to the local authority I went from a condemned house which had no water supply, and a dry outside lavatory. All water for domestic purposes had to be carried a hundred, yards.
When a demand was made to the Conservative-controlled local authority that it should build houses for people like me, we found that the council was diametrically opposed to such a thing being done, notwithstanding the simple fact that we had on the Statute Book at that time the Addison Act of 1919, the Wheatley Act of 1924, and the Johnson Act of 1930. The Conservative Party has been responsible for bringing the question of housing into the political arena, because the Government had the power to provide houses but did not use it.
The time has come to provide houses on the basis of equity and fairness to all sections of the community. Houses owned by local authorities, by the Scottish Special Housing Association, by private landlords, and by owner-occupiers should be treated on the same basis. I think that the rent of houses, irrespective of who owns them, should be based on the district valuation of the property. I do not think that the owner of private property should get an excessive rent for his property because there is a scarcity market. On the other hand, I do not think that a local authority should rent houses at a rent below the value of the property. But we may cause great injustice and hardship to certain sections of the community who may occupy privately owned or local authority houses.
Pending a better structure of the pensions scheme or a wages scheme for the country, we shall have to institute a rent rebate scheme, and such a scheme should not only be applied to local authority houses but should be applied to all houses, because the rents of all houses should be dealt with on the same basis. This Bill will not bring that about. If that were done, it presupposes that a system of rent control must be introduced, and I think that something in that direction is very desirable. By this suggestion, all privately owned and local authority houses, as I have indicated, 694 would have the same basic rents and would be entitled to the same basic rent rebate.
§ Mr. Brewis
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that houses should be rented at the gross annual value, as fixed by the assessor, subject to a rebate scheme?
§ Mr. Baxter
The rents of all properties should be based upon the valuations carried out by the district valuers under the recent Valuation Act, but,—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I think perhaps I should remind the House that we are on Third Reading and that it is in order to discuss only what is in the Bill and not what is outside it.
§ Mr. Baxter
I quite agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but a lot of the things I have mentioned have been spoken about by other Members, and I feel that we should look at the whole question in the light of trying to be equitable and fair to all sections of the community.
How does the Bill seek to bring about a basis of equity with regard to owner-occupiers of houses, who pay very high rates towards the local authority's housing accounts? Are we being fair in this Bill to that section of the community? I believe it was within the power of the Government to be fair to them, and I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will abolish the Schedule A Property Tax, so as to be fair to them.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but there is nothing to do with abolishing Schedule A in the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Baxter
I appreciate your point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I was trying to bring out the full picture. I will go on to the question of the present and future subsidies, which are dealt with in the Bill.
I think that this method of subsidising property has played its part in the past in providing houses, but it is now time it was stopped. Subsidies as a means of providing houses should cease to exist, and in their place should be a Special Loans Board whereby the Government could provide the money for the purpose at very low—in fact, nominal—rates of interest. Money lent to local authorities at nominal rates of interest would be much better than the subsidies 695 provided under this Bill. We are at the moment building houses costing roughly £2,000, and when we have paid back the excessive rates of interest at the end of sixty years we find that we have paid back between £7,000 and £8,000.
I do not think any Government should permit people to make money out of the provision of an essential service such as the housing of our people. From that point of view, if from no other, the whole question of the provision of houses for the people of Scotland should be looked at in a new light, but we do not seem to have in the present Government men who can have new ideas about overcoming the problem at the moment. They seem to me to be very ready to live in the past, but never to try to concoct something to overcome the difficulties of the present. However, I do not want to develop that theme.
There is another aspect of this matter that must be borne in mind, and that concerns the cost of land. Does this Bill do anything to restrain the excessive prices that are demanded of local authorities and private builders by way of land charges? I think that is a matter that should have been included in the Bill, because it has a great effect on the amount of rates which has to be paid by the tenant of a local authority or a privately built house, but it has not been tackled.
I should have liked to have said a lot more about this Bill, but there are many other hon. Members who wish to speak on this very important subject. I conclude by a reference to the city of Glasgow. In my opinion, it is a national disgrace that the city of Glasgow should have housing conditions which, probably, are the worst in Europe. If we go to West Berlin and see what has been done there, or if the people of Glasgow could go there and see it, they would be up in arms. This Bill will not cure that situation, and it is to try to cure it that I shall continue to raise my voice from time to time on this subject.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
I have on previous occasions followed the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter). I think that he always makes a thoughtful speech, be it on the agricultural industry or on housing. I 696 welcome the tribute, which I thought was a very generous one, which the hon. Gentleman paid to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and the hope which he expressed that he would soon be fit and well again. I should also like, particularly, perhaps in his absence, to say a word or two in tribute to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who has piloted the Bill—
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Gentleman voted for the Guillotine, and now he is taking up the time of the House.
§ Mr. Stodart
The more the hon. Gentleman interrupts, the longer I shall be.
My hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) has already made the point that I would have wished to make about subsidies and the channelling of them in cases of need. I am very glad that my hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, paid a tribute to the local authorities and their housing efforts. I very strongly believe that in Scotland at the moment there is great room and very great need for both local authority and private building under what is proposed in Clause 11.
One or two rather unkind things were said at one stage of the Committee proceedings about the drabness and dreariness of council houses in Scotland. I would merely say that, particularly in country areas, local authorities have done very much in the houses which they have built to raise the standards of the houses, and to raise our sights, particularly with regard to agricultural housing, and that they have done a remarkably good job of work.
Because I think there is room for both, I very much welcome Clause 11 which deals with the housing associations. This has been described rather variously by different hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire West, (Mr. Hendry) described it as the most imaginative experiment ever. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), on the other 697 hand, went perhaps to the other extreme when he said it wasa timid and puny effort."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 20th March, 1962; c. 881.]I dare say that, like the point I made yesterday, the answer lies somewhere in between.
However, I believe that there is scope in Scotland for building houses of this kind to Jet at economic rents. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), in his Second Reading speech, said such rents would have to be £4 a week. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. J. Robertson) in Committee, did not quite agree with that figure and he gave it as £3 10s. I would just repeat the point which I made one day in Committee on this subject, that when the Corporation of Edinburgh advertised houses to let at Swanston, on the south side, and Cramond, in my own constituency, there were over 200 people who, having inspected the houses, applied—over 200 of them—for 12 houses at rents which average £5 a week.
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Gentleman ought, in fairness, to say that those houses have certain historical and also local associations which give them an amenity value, or, to put it rather crudely, in Edinburgh a snob value which is worth quite a substantial part of that £5 a week. Certainly, the hon. Gentleman would not argue that many workers in Edinburgh applied for those houses at £5 a week.
§ Mr. Stodart
If only the hon. Gentleman had allowed me to say one more sentence. That is exactly what I was about to say, that one must allow an amenity value for those particular houses, but the hon. Gentleman, being renowned for the objectivity with which he looks at everything, I am sure would say that a fair amenity value is something between £1 and £1 10s. a week, which brings us back to the figure quoted by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton.
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Gentleman will know that those houses have associations with Robert Louis Stevenson.
§ Mr. Stodart
Hon. Gentlemen opposite, many of them, agree that there is a demand for houses to let at economic 698 rents. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) have expressed pride and satisfaction that their local authorities are building houses to let at economic rents, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) said that he believed that there will be a tendency for local authorities to build at economic rents and that this is bound to develop.
If they accept that this demand exists, then I cannot understand why so halfhearted a welcome has been given to this effort to get housing associations going. I really do not think that any Member opposite could say that it has been welcomed with open arms, this effort to get associations going to build houses to let at economic rents.
I think that the real reason for this half-heartedness was voiced very frankly by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), who, having followed his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central, who had welcomed the relevant Clause, expressed great misgivings and said, "Oh, no, I do not think that I can support my hon. Friend in this." He went on to say that the reason he did not like it was that he wanted people to be mixed up in their living environment—just as I often think he is mixed up in his own general outlook.
I must say that I thought that this advocacy, that people should all be mixed up in a community—
§ Mr. Stodart
—was rather cool coming from one who lives in the plush exclusiveness of Great King Street, Edinburgh, where there are probably more Lords in the vicinity—be they Law Lords or not—than anywhere else.
I should like to put to the House the proposition that if people wish to live on their own, or if they wish to live in a particular kind of house, we should allow them to do so and not compel them to become mixed up—
§ Mr. Stodart
—and that if a demand of this kind exists, let that demand be fostered. The fact that it does exist was 699 confirmed by that excellent newspaper, the Edinburgh Evening News—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—in a leading article. I am finding it difficult to elbow in on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn).
§ Mr. Stodart
This is what the leading article said:Post-war housing requirements have been, and are being, met in two ways—by the provision of local authority dwellings at subsidised rents, and by private enterprise building for owner-occupation. The middle course, private building for letting, has been at a standstill in Scotland for many years…. But there is cause for concern in a situation in which virtually the only way to get a modern house in Scotland is either to buy it or to rent it from a local authority. The need for a change of policy … has become apparent, for it cannot be denied that many people do not want Corporation houses, are not willing to buy, yet would be quite happy to pay a rent which, with rates, might come to as much as £5 a week for a good modern house—and it must not be forgotten that such a situation would have advantages in these days of increasing mobility of employment.I believe that the opinions given in that leader are sound and fair, and if the Bill did nothing else I believe that the setting up of these housing associations and the encouragement to do in Scotland what has not been done for so many years, the building of houses to let by private enterprise or housing associations, makes it merit acceptance.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Sir M. Galpern
The Secretary of State, in concluding his speech on Second Reading, said:I commend the Bill to the House in the belief that it will make a real contribution to the solution of the remaining housing problems in Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1961; Vol. 649, c. 1374.]That view and pious hope were expressed this afternoon by the Under-Secretary of State.
We on this side of the House would like the Bill if it would in some way achieve this laudable object of solving this urgent problem, but I regret to say, now that hon. Members on both sides have had an opportunity to examine the many thousands or perhaps millions of words spoken about the Bill since it was first put to us in November and to assess 700 just how far it will be possible for it to achieve its end, that it seems to me that it will not do any such thing.
I submit that the Measure is the victim of a misnomer and should have been called something like the "Housing (Abolition of Subsidies) (Scotland) Bill," because if there is one thing it sets out clearly to do it is to abolish subsidies. Clauses 8 and 29 form the kernel of the Measure and are purely financial. Clause 3 gives flexibility to the granting of subsidies—varying from £12 to £56—while Clause 8 gives power to abolish them. Thus, Clause 3 is supposed to give flexibility, Clause 8 will amend or reduce or, ultimately, abolish subsidies, and Clause 29 gives dictatorial new powers to the Secretary of State.
What particular interest has the Secretary of State in the rent structure of any local authority? After all, not long ago the Government amended the system of making grants to local authorities and replaced the percentage grant with the block grant for the purpose, they said at the time, of giving greater flexibility to local authorities to spend their money as they desired. That, the Government suggested, would stimulate the interest of the ratepayer in the method of the block grant expenditure.
On the same basis, if a local authority decides to charge a rent which is not acceptable to the Secretary of State, but which it regards as being reasonable, is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the people who live in the houses—not all municipal houses—are in a position either to reject or accept their local authority's policies at each annual municipal election? Surely, if the people in the area feel that the rent structure is not acceptable or is unfair to them they have the opportunity of "turfing out" the local authority, just as, when the opportunity presents itself, the electors will "turf out" the Government in the next General Election for the type of Housing Bill that they are attempting to foist on us. The local authority must fix its rent structure and if it has a greater rate contribution it must answer to its electors and take the appropriate action.
§ Sir M. Galpern
I do not know of such a situation. Therefore, it is none of the Secretary of State's business to be involved with the rent structure. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he already has powers. That is true. He already exercises them by calling on local authorities to review their rent structures. But now the right hon. Gentleman is going much further.
Did the Secretary of State not say that, as a result of the powers already possessed, he had been able to force or blackmail 100 local authorities to toe the line? Why, then, does he seek to take this further power? I believe that it is because of the power's close linkage with Clause 8, for the whole purpose of the Bill is quickly to abolish subsidies altogether. The Secretary of State has said that by this power, in conjunction with Clause 29, he will see that what he regards as reasonable rent structures will be operated by local authorities.
§ The question to which my hon. Friends require an answer is what amount of subsidy is intimately bound up with the income of a local authority in its housing revenue account? As I say, the whole purpose of the Bill is to see that the right hon. Gentleman can force that rent income as high as he possibly can, so that, at the earliest possible opportunity, he will say that he has justification for saying that the subsidy must, first, be reduced and. ultimately, abolished.
Time and again the Secretary of State has emphasised that my hon. Friends have not been trusting the Under-Secretary. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that trust of this kind must be mutual? It must be mutual between local authorities and the Secretary of State. On Second Reading, the right hon. Gentleman said:
… authorities are already required to charge rents that are reasonable, and after careful study we came to the conclusion that any formal elaboration of this requirement could not be relied upon to achieve its purpose".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1961; Vol. 649, c. 1371.]
§ Thus the right hon. Gentleman has no faith or trust in local authorities and he takes unto himself this power so that he can, from above, impose on them a rental which will enable him, ultimately, to abolish the subsidy.702
§ The Under-Secretary said quite truthfully—this was one of the few occasions when we were able to fish out the truth from him—that very likely some local authorities will not welcome the Bill. That is about the most honest thing that the hon. Gentleman has said. If they are not likely to welcome it what is likely to be their reaction? After all, if someone does not like something it is possible that he will take evasive action. In this case, local authorities could decide, as a result of the treatment and lack of trust that the right hon. Gentleman has placed in them, to take evasive action and not to continue with the building of houses
§ Then we were told that the right hon. Gentleman could have put in the Bill a definite proposal stating that he should have the power to abolish subsidies altogether. Naturally, the right hon. Gentleman is not so politically infantile as to put anything so specific in the Bill. The purpose of the Measure, however, is obvious, although the ultimate desire and intention is cloaked. When we put the whole jigsaw puzzle together we see the real purpose of the Bill. We join Clauses 8 and 29 and draw the true picture. The picture we get of the Government's intentions is far more honest than the one the Under-Secretary drew.
§ The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) thought that the Bill would help private building, not necessarily financially, but that it would, at any rate, encourage it. The hon. Gentleman said that it would act as a "pump primer" by showing what could be done by other organisations, and he hoped that the private builders would follow that lead and do something. I suggest that if the Government are anxious to see more houses built for letting by private enterprise they could have introduced a Clause saying that anyone building for private enterprise must allocate one half of the houses built for letting at reasonable rents. We know why they are not. It is said that the Bill will show them the way. I await with interest developments in that direction, but I regret to say that I expect very little contribution to house building from that source.
§ The entire Bill should never have been introduced. If its purpose is to encourage house building in Scotland, I cannot see that purpose ever being fulfilled as a result of its provisions. Having studied 703 the Bill with close interest and with deep concern, I cannot see a single provision in it which will lead to the addition of one new house, except as the result of cooperative effort in local municipal house building. The whole exercise and all the time we have spent on it will not fulfil any of the Under-Secretary of State's hopes.
§ I hope that we shall have an early opportunity of giving the electorate a chance to express its feeling about this method of dealing with finances and housing and, particularly—this is what we on this side of the House are so concerned about—about the eradication of our legacy of bad housing from years gone by. It is our hope on this side that we may be able to do something within our lifetime to give people decent homes.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Forbes Hendry
We are approaching the end of our consideration of the Bill. It has been a very long consideration. I have in my hand the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings in Committee, which runs to over 1,000 columns.
§ Mr. Hendry
I am aghast, after all that discussion, to hear a speech such as that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). I am the more amazed to have heard such a speech from one who was a chief magistrate of the City of Glasgow, which probably has a greater housing problem than is to be found anywhere else in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman obviously has not the faintest idea, after all our deliberations, of what the Bill is about. He said that it is a Bill to abolish subsidies. He does not seem to realise yet that in his own City of Glasgow it is a Bill which will increase subsidies, not reduce them.
The same applies to a great deal of Scotland. It applies to Aberdeenshire, the county which I have the honour to represent, to Lanarkshire, to Kirkcudbright, in the part of Scotland which my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) represents, and to many other parts. It is true that there are parts of Scotland where the subsidies 704 will be reduced, but what the Bill is designed to do, and will do most effectively, in a very ingenious way, is to give effect to what I have always thought was the good old Socialist principle of fair shares for all and to each according to his needs. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I stand corrected. I am not a Socialist, but I always understood that that was what was believed in by the party opposite. The Bill does precisely that.
The Bill provides a formula to determine whether a local authority is in great need of financial assistance or not. We discussed that formula ad nauseam in Committee, and I shall not refer to it further tonight. The effect is that a poor authority which requires financial assistance will have an increased subsidy and a wealthy authority which does not require so much will receive a reduced subsidy, but not, as the hon. Member for Shettleston suggested, no subsidy at all. In my view, the House must congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for having introduced a Bill which will bring about this most desirable state of affairs. On that ground alone, I commend it to the House. The House is also greatly indebted to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the way in which he has handled a Bill which has such a desirable object.
We have heard a great deal of criticism today about the power which the Secretary of State is taking powers by the Bill to reduce subsidies after a certain period. I have said twice already, and I say again now, that the House ought to know exactly what the position is. The Secretary of State is taking power to reduce or abolish subsidies after ten years if, at that time, he considers it to be necessary. Hon. Members opposite have tried to make out that this is a completely new power. I repeat that it is nothing like a new power. The greater part of it was contained in the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1950, a Socialist Act. A certain amount of research was done on this subject and it was found that it was the repetition of a power provided for in 1935. I subsequently found that this power was originally invented by the Socialist Government of 1924, who abolished subsidies in the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, by the procedure 705 introduced by none other than Mr. John Wheatley, the then Socialist Minister of Health.
§ Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)
The point requires a little time to explain. It is true that in 1924 the Government took the right to abolish subsidies if the local authorities did not carry out their work within a certain time. The purpose was to make local authorities get on with the job.
§ Mr. Hendry
I recommend to the hon. Member that he should read the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924. He will find that the reverse is true. The Minister took power to alter or abolish subsidies having regard to the expenses actually incurred by local authorities, and he took that power not after ten years, as this Bill provides, but after two years. In that Act, the retrospective provisions were very much more serious than they are here.
§ Mr. Hendry
If hon. Members do not know what the Minister's power was under the 1924 Act, they should look it up. He took power to abolish subsidies in respect of houses which had been approved, but had not been finished, so that the subsidy could have been abolished in respect of local authority houses eighteen months or so after approval was given.
§ Mr. Hendry
Any criticism of this Bill on that score is quite without foundation.
I do not want to make a long speech, but there are one or two points which I feel should be made before we conclude our consideration of the Bill. We have heard a great deal from the benches opposite about trusting or not trusting the local authorities. It seems that hon. Members opposite do not trust the local authorities when there is a Tory town council. We have heard a great deal of mistrust directed against a burgh called Milngavie, which is alleged—I do not agree—to charge rents which are too high. But there has not been a word of criticism from hon. Members opposite about the Council of Dunbarton which was letting modern council houses at 2s. 10d. a week. Nobody could support that for a moment.
706 What the Bill does is to give my right hon. Friend the power he should have had at that time to bring disciplinary action against a local authority behaving in that way. Further, if there are local authorities—which I do not admit—charging unreasonable rents, equally the Bill gives my right hon. Friend power to take disciplinary action against them. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and I am very glad that the Bill gives my right hon. Friend these powers, which he should have had long ago.
The Bill has many other desirable provisions regarding the provision of houses to let and many other matters, but I shall say no more about them now. After all the study we have devoted to it, I am convinced that the Bill gives local authorities and others in Scotland a first-class opportunity to get on with the job of bringing to an end our awful housing problem. It offers a real contribution to the solution of that problem in Scotland, and I commend it to the House.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
I shall not follow the red herrings which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) has drawn across the trail, but I must refer to one point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart). The hon. Gentleman said that we on this side of the House were half-hearted in support of housing associations. I remind the hon. Gentleman that during the Committee stage many of my hon. Friends and I repeatedly said that we would welcome any Measure which increased house building in Scotland, but that we did not consider that this Bill would do anything to increase the number of houses built in Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) said that the Bill should be called the "Housing (Scotland) (Abolition of Subsidies) Bill." I think that it should be called the "Housing (Scotland) (Rent Increases) Bill," because that is its primary purpose, not the purpose which the Under-Secretary of State gave, namely, to build more houses in Scotland. Earlier, the Minister said that the power to reduce subsidies already existed in legislation. If that were the 707 real intention of the Bill, the Government would have introduced a Bill to reduce subsidies at this stage which would have been much more easy than to introduce an order later. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not think that we on this side of the House are so naive as to believe that the Government would reduce subsidies by legislation on the eve of an election. Therefore, they propose to do it by what I regard as the rather underhand method of reducing subsidies by Statutory Instrument.
The Under-Secretary of State said that Clause 29 was controversial. We can agree with that. The Clause imposes a Scottish rent structure for the first time, in spite of the fact that the hon. Gentleman has stated on many occasions that it was the function of local authorities to fix rents. However, because a certain authority in Scotland had a rent structure with which the Secretary of State did not agree, he has given that authority notice that, unless it toes the line, he will impose a rent structure on it in the very near future. The significance of that is that, if and when a rent structure is imposed, every Scottish local authority which does not have a rent structure in line with the one imposed by the right hon. Gentleman will be technically in default in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman. Consequently, such authorities will have their rents increased.
No one who is aware of the appalling housing conditions which still exist in many Scottish towns can honestly and sincerely believe that the Bill is designed to meet the urgency of the problem. It is a Measure which is sinister in its intent and callous in its practical application to the needs of the thousands of homeless families in Scotland. A statement of the most profound truth is unexpectedly to be found in paragraph 3 of the White Paper, Housing in Scotland, where it is stated:The housing needs of Scotland are still very great …'The Government then proceed to force the Bill through the House. Its provisions will so perpetuate the present state of affairs that should we have another ten years of Toryism—I am certain that Scottish people will have the good sense to ensure that we do not—the same words in the White Paper will be even more appropriate in 1971.
708 The philosophy behind this Bill is neither new nor surprising. It is, in fact, contained in paragraph 9 of the White Paper, which might easily have been written by the Conservative Central Office rather than by a Department of the Scottish Office. Paragraph 9 states:Local authorities have no duty to meet all the housing needs of their areas….It is from this premise that the Government operate and force through a Measure which could hardly be more calculated to reduce the ability of local authorities to build houses.
We see the real purpose of the Bill in the first sentence of paragraph 8 of the White Paper, which reads:There is, therefore, an urgent need to stimulate further progress by private enterprise in Scotland….The provision of houses by private enterprise would be all right if it were being done in conjunction with a large local authority building programme, encouraged by a policy of low interest rates and substantial subsidies.
But in the circumstances which will operate under the Bill it is nothing short of a tragedy and offers no hope for those desperately in need of a house. This sentence in the White Paper illustrates once more the old story of the right hand not knowing what the left hand doeth. At the moment that the Government are expressing the urgency of stimulating private enterprise building in Scotland, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his credit squeeze in the past six months, has forced at least one big contractor in Kirkcaldy to curtail his speculative building programme. I am sure that that can be said for other parts of Scotland.
The demand to purchase new houses has declined in the past few months. Even prospective buyers in professional employment and well-paid and secure posts have been refused loans by building societies as a result of the actions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This confused Government will not allow local authorities to build houses for such people, nor will the Chancellor of the Exchequer permit them to secure a mortgage for a house.
Even in Kinghorn, in my constituency, where no local authority houses are 709 being built, a number of houses built for sale by private enterprise have been standing empty for several months despite the fact that many people in Kinghorn are waiting for accommodation. Only last week I had to interview several people in Kinghorn who were aggrieved that the municipality was not doing any building at the moment largely because of the inadequate subsidies, which will become even more inadequate once this Bill becomes an Act. Private enterprise building is merely touching the fringe of the housing problem in Scotland. Many people in the lower income groups are homeless or are living in overcrowded conditions or in unfit houses. For them, this Bill offers a very bleak prospect indeed.
During the Committee stage, I asked the Under-Secretary of State if he would amend a certain Clause so that when the new hospital in Kirkcaldy is completed the authority could build 90 houses to accommodate the special staff which will be required since the services of those people could not be obtained from among the existing population. The hon. Gentleman refused my request. In fact, he went further and said that he was sure that Kirkcaldy could quite easily accommodate those 90 people in the 8,000 houses in the area.
We can imagine what would happen if the municipality accommodated those 90 people, especially since in March this year about 600 people in Kirkcaldy were homeless. About 2,500 people, including people waiting to be married, living in over-crowded conditions or in unfit property, were on the waiting list. Since the marriage rate in that borough is in the region of 400 a year, one realises how preposterous it is to suggest that Kirkcaldy could accommodate those 90 people without an additional subsidy or grant from the Government.
As a result of the new subsidy structure proposed in the Bill, the accident of geography will make the acquisition of a new house beyond the bounds of possibility for many people. The matter will depend on whether the authority in the area in which they live qualifies for the higher or lower subsidy. It has been said that the new system of subsidies will help the poorer authorities and that lower subsidies will be paid to the richer 710 authorities. But the criterion by which the Government determine whether an authority is rich or poor is wrong.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West referred to the redistribution of subsidies on this basis and said that fair shares for all was a Socialist principle. That is quite true, but it depends on how one determines who are poor and who are rich and who are in need and who are not in need. Under the criterion envisaged in the Bill, it is certain that there will not be a fair determination as between poor and rich authorities. The whole basis of the new grant system in the Bill depends on an equality of valuation throughout the country. But it is clearly demonstrable that there is no such equality. Fifeshire as a whole has been assessed at a much higher value than, for example, Lanarkshire. This may seriously affect the grant position. It has already affected the Exchequer Equalisation Grant.
No one can logically argue that the gross annual value of municipal houses in Dunfermline or Kirkcaldy should be higher than in Aberdeen or Edinburgh, yet the figure on which the amount of subsidy to be paid will to some extent depend shows Kirkcaldy at £54, Edinburgh £48 and Aberdeen £46. Despite the high figure in Kirkcaldy, I believe that they will still qualify for the £32 subsidy initially.
The other arbitrary but key figure in the subsidy formula is the now famous or infamous £60. When the Secretary of State discovers that too many authorities are qualifying for subsidy, all he requires to do is simply to issue an Order increasing that figure to £70 or £80 and then bang goes the £32 subsidy for another group of local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman could quite easily go on with this procedure until no authority qualified at all.
In view of the time, I will curtail my remarks, because several hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I would not like to keep them out when they have points to make, but I should like to add that another part of my constituency will be penalised and will receive only £12 subsidy not because the authority is rich but because, unlike many local authorities, it has built a large number of houses under Labour legislation in the inter-war years. This 711 has given the authority a pool which will help it to some extent, but it will not help the authority to build houses at a £12 rate subsidy.
The Government have mised a first-class opportunity to give real hope to all those people who are on the housing waiting list in Scotland. The Under-Secretary ought to have scrapped this vindictive Measure and given us a Bill to encourage and assist local authorities to solve this terrible human problem.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Robertson
The Bill is not quite a private landlord's charter, but it is the prelude to it. It purports to lay the foundation for the solution of the problem of Scottish housing not by prodding local authorities to do more, but by encouraging private enterprise to build houses to let.
I am amazed to hear hon. Members opposite. Their faith in the ability of private enterprise is so naïve, so touching and so contrary to all the available evidence and all experience in Scottish housing. Private enterprise has stopped building houses to let in Scotland because it could not find people willing to pay the rent to enable it to make a profit. Today, it still cannot find enough people to make house building attractive to private enterprise.
It may well be that the subsidy Clauses, along with the powers sought by the Secretary of State in Clause 29, will achieve the object of raising rents. These Clauses and powers may well create conditions in which the Government will find it politically possible to do what the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) was seeking to do when he moved a new Clause yesterday. The impatience of property owners in Scotland was quite clearly reflected in Committee and in the House. They cannot wait the length of time involved under previous enactments to have decontrol put into operation.
The Bill, in effect, seeks to breach the whole concept of social housing. We are all aware that the most effective way of sustaining privilege and achieving social segregation is to ration by the purse. This is the favourite method of hon. Members opposite, and this is the purpose of the Bill. It outs across any 712 idea of determining housing priorities. Priority will be determined by the purse. I should like to give a timely warning. It is possible to reduce the demand for housing by pricing it out of the working-class market and putting it beyond the means of people to pay, but the ultimate effect will be felt in industry. It will create a pressure on industry which will be inflationary in its effect.
The major defect of the Bill, as we have said before, is that its policies relate to the problems of English housing and there is no point of similarity between the two countries in that respect. I am pleased, in a way, that we have finished with the Bill. It has been a depressing Measure. It offers neither a solution nor any hope of one. It is a measure of the Government's despair of ever tackling the housing problem. It has been a most depressing experience to sit in Committee and in the House listening to the stonewalling speeches of Government spokesmen and the lack of ideas.
§ Mr. Robertson
It has been a depressing experience to watch the passage of the Bill through Committee and the House. The only hope is that the people of Scotland will have learned a lesson and will have a change of Government quite quickly.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Miss Herbison
We are now coming to the end of the Bill. Today, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland demonstrated vividly the nature of his handling of the Bill throughout every stage of it. Continually, he put up his own Aunt Sallies and knocked them down. Continually, he stuck to a brief in which his civil servants had thought out points which we might raise, and when we did not raise them he did not have the gumption to leave those parts of the brief on one side.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry), who is not now in his place, spoke this evening in the final stage of the Bill. I am sure that he is overjoyed that we have reached the final stage, because he wanted us to get rid of the Bill, in his own words, so that we could go on to the Licensing (Scotland) Bill—"pubs" for Scottish people being of much greater interest to him than homes for our people.I feel"—713 and I am now quoting—that it"—that is, the Bill—will be received with general satisfaction by every local authority in Scotland, because it brings to an end a period of suspense which must have had some effect on their housing programmes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1946; Vol 420, c. 1794.]That was said on 19th March, 1946, when we, now on this side of the House, were introducing a Bill which raised subsidies so considerably, and it was said by a man who is now known as Lord Strath-clyde. I wish that his son, the Under-Secretary, had taken his advice and had learned from his father that where there is suspense about the amount of subsidies it leads to fewer and fewer houses being built.
The Bill does the opposite of ending any suspense. It ushers in an era of what we can only describe as tragic uncertainty for every local authority in Scotland, even for those which back benchers opposite say will have an increased subsidy of £32. There is no certainty even for those that they will continue to have that increased subsidy.
At this stage the Bill, except in one or two very minor matters, is exactly the same as the Government presented it to us. We are not at all surprised that it is almost exactly the same, because it illustrates very vividly the class prejudices of the Tory Government and the Tory Party. Anyone who has the least interest in Scottish housing will realise that this is a most glaring piece of class legislation.
The debates, ourtailed as they have been at every stage, have shown the antagonism of Front Bench Members and back-bench Members on the Government side towards the ordinary people and the antagonism that they have towards local authorities whose main desire is to provide housing for the majority of our people. Even more, it has demonstrated the desire of hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire. West (Mr. Hendry), to support the members of the property-owners association. The Clause which the hon. Member moved last night—
§ Mr. Hendry
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the hon. Lady the Member 714 for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) in order in speaking about something which is not in the Bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Lady is not speaking about the Clause at the moment. She is talking about something else—I do not quite know what.
§ Miss Herbison
I am speaking about a matter which is quite definitely in the Bill: I am speaking about the whole purpose of the Bill, and I am certain that that is in order, Sir.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West was, perhaps, braver than some of his hon. Friends, because he came clearly into the open last night. But my hon. Friends and I have no doubt that one of the chief purposes of many of the provisions in the Bill is to allow those same property owners to get higher rents for some of the shocking old properties in Scotland. There is no doubt whatever about it.
On this Bill, which is of such great importance to Scotland, the use of the Guillotine shows the arrogance of the Conservative Party and its determination to push a Measure through regardless of lack of discussion. Again, those are not my words. I have borrowed the words of the present Secretary of State for Scotland when he spoke on 3rd March. 1947, on a matter of nothing like the great importance of this.
§ Mr. Galbraith rose—
§ Miss Herbison
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I have only seven minutes left. Twenty per cent. of our time on Third Reading was taken by the Minister's Speech.
Throughout the consideration of the Bill, the Government's attitude towards local authorities has been one of extreme distrust. Their attitude has been, "You will do as we tell you, or else—". What a way to treat responsible men and women who give freely of their time and energy in the interest of the welfare of their communities!
The Bill is entitled "the Housing (Scotland) Bill." What a misnomer! It is a Treasury Bill. It has nothing to do with building houses in Scotland. It should never have been presented by any Secretary of State for Scotland who is worth his salt. It has been said, not only by my hon. Friends, but by the Minister of State, that the Scots are 715 the worst-housed people in the whole of Western Europe. This is a desperate disease which is afflicting Scotland, and it needs a desperate remedy, but the Bill will certainly not provide us with that remedy.
There are many figures which I could quote, but there is no time to do so. All I can say is that if we looked merely at the housing problem of Glasgow, the Bill would not do anything to help. Houses are what is needed by the thousands of people who are living in slums, by the 40,000 young people with children living in cramped quarters in single rooms as sub-tenants. The Bill will not provide any extra houses for those people.
§ Miss Herbison
I turn now to the subsidy question. We are told by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West that the Bill will provide a remedy. What have the Government decided? Faced with the outstanding problem of Scottish housing, they looked at what we are spending on subsidies. Any worth-while Secretary of State would have gone to the Government and said, "We need a bigger global sum for this purpose." But that is not what the present Secretary of State did. He said, "This is the global sum. So we will take money from some local authorities which still desperately need to build houses and give it to other local authority". Yet, at the same time, the Government find more than £80 million to give the Surtax payers. What an indictment!
§ My hon. Friends and I want to ensure that our Scottish people are decently housed. We would welcome any provision which would supply us with houses. Bu how many houses, at best, will be gained from this pump-priming—1,000? Many local authorities will be forced to continue to build the same number as at present, which is a very great reduction on what they built seven years ago.
§ We want to get rid of the slums and the single ends. We want the ordinary decent people of Scotland to be able to have a gracious way of living. The Bill will not help towards those ends. In this affluent democratic society under a Tory Government we cannot, apparently, afford the finance to deal with the shocking problem which faces us in Scotland.
§ We tried to help throughout the Committee stage. Hon. Members opposite agreed to subsidies for farmers without any discrimination at all, but there was not a word from them about interest rates. A sensible interest rate would be as good as a £75 subsidy a year on each house, but the policy of the Government, incompetent as they are—
§ It being Seven o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question necessary to bring the Proceedings on the Third Reading to a conclusion.
§ Question put. That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided; Ayes 212, Noes 157.719
|Division No. 155.]||AYES||[7.0 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Curran, Charles|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bryan, Paul||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Allason, James||Buck, Antony||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bullard, Denys||de Ferranti, Basil|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Barber, Anthony||Burden, F. A.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.|
|Batsford, Brian||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||du Cann, Edward|
|Bell, Ronald||Cary, Sir Robert||Duncan, Sir James|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Channon, H. P. G.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Biffen, John||Chichester-Clark, R.||Eden, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Elliott, R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Collard, Richard||Emery, Peter|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Cooper, A. E.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Box, Donald||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J.||Cordle, John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Corfield, F. V.||Foster, John|
|Braine, Bernard||Costain, A. P.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Brewis, John||Coulson, Michael||Freeth, Denzil|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Craddock, Sir Beresford||Gammans, Lady|
|Brooman-White, R.||Critchley, Julian||Gardner, Edward|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Cunningham, Knox||George, J. C. (Pollok)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Russell, Ronald|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||McLaren, Martin||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)||Sharples, Richard|
|Goodhew, Victor||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Shaw, M.|
|Gower, Raymond||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Shepherd, William|
|Green, Alan||Maddan, Martin||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maginnis, John E.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maitland, Sir John||Smithers, Peter|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Marshall, Douglas||Speir, Rupert|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr, S. L. C.||Stodart, J. A.|
|Hay, John||Mills, Stratton||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcoln|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Montgomery, Fergus||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hendry, Forbes||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Morrison, John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Nabarro, Gerald||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Holland, Philip||Neave, Airey||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hollingworth, John||Noble, Michael||Temple, John M.|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hopkins, Alan||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Panned, Norman (Kirkdale)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Turner, Colin|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Peel, John||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Percival, Ian||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Vaughan, Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|James, David||Pitt, Miss Edith||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pott, Percivall||Walder, David|
|Jennings, J. C.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Walker, Peter|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pym, Francis||Whitelaw, William|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Ramsden, James||Williams, Dudlay (Exeter)|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Rawlinson, Peter||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Rees, Hugh||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Renton, David||Wise, A. R.|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Lindsay, Sir Martin||Ridsdale, Julian||Woollam, John|
|Linstead, Sir Hugh||Rippon, Geoffrey||Worsley, Marcus|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Longbottom, Charles||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Mr. J. E. B. Hill and|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Mr. Michael Hamilton.|
|Abse, Leo||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Hunter, A. E.|
|Albu, Austen||Evans, Albert||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Baird, John||Fernyhough, E.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Fletcher, Eric||Irving, Sydney (Darttord)|
|Beaney, Alan||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Benson, Sir George||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas|
|Blackburn, F.||Forman, J. C.||Jeger, George|
|Blyton, William||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Galtskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bowles, Frank||George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Kelley, Richard|
|Boyden, James||Ginsburg, David||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Gourlay, Harry||King, Dr. Horace|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Greenwood, Anthony||Ledger, Ron|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Grey, Charles||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Callaghan, James||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Chapman, Donald||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Cronin, John||Hannan, William||McCann, John|
|Crosland, Anthony||Harper, Joseph||MacColl, James|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mclnnes, James|
|Darling, George||Hayman, F. H.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Healey, Denis||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Herbison, Miss Margaret||McLeavey, Frank|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Deer, George||Holman, Percy||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Dempsey, James||Holt, Arthur||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Diamond, John||Houghton, Douglas||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Hoy, James H.||Manuel, Archie|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Marsh, Richard|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Milne, Edward|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Reynolds, G. W.||Swingler, Stephen|
|Monslow, Walter||Rhodes, H.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Moody, A. S.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Moyle, Arthur||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Timmons, John|
|Oram, A. E.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Oswald, Thomas||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Ross, William||Warbey, William|
|Parker, John||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Paton, John||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Whitlock, William|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Willey, Frederick|
|Peart, Frederick||Small, William||Williams, LI. (Abertilliery)|
|Pentland, Norman||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Popplewell, Ernest||Sorensen, R. W.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Probert, Arthur||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Randall, Harry||Steele, Thomas||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Rankin, John||Stonehouse, John|
|Redhead, E. C.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Reid, William||Swain, Thomas||Mr. Lawson and Dr. Broughton|