§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ *LORD HYLTON
My Lords, in asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill, I hope I shall not be accused of arrogance in asserting that it deals with matters of an important character. My only regret is that the Bill is not in the hands of some Member of this House who could urge its merits with force and authority. Those who are in favour of the Bill have waited for some time to see if the Local Government Board could not be induced to introduce a measure dealing with these matters, and it is only finding themselves disappointed in that quarter that they have resolved to try what they can do with a private measure. I need hardly state that this Bill is of an entirely non-political character, and I hope that it may receive support from noble Lords on both sides of the House, many of whom are intimately acquainted with all the requirements and problems of local self-government, and some of whom, I think, will confess that there are certain blots in our present system, one of which—possibly not the least grave—this Bill aims at remedying.
I should like to say that the Bill is framed in no spirit of hostility whatever to district councils, nor to the enforcement of any by-laws considered necessary for proper sanitation—if you look at the Bill you will see that 11 no by-laws relating to sanitation or water-supply are touched by the Bill—they will remain just as they are at present. I will return to that point later, but I wish to make it perfectly clear at the first. I should also like to remove any latent suspicion there may be in the minds of any of your Lordships that the introduction of this Bill has been prompted or instigated in any way by circumstances connected with the case in which a certain learned Judge was some time ago defendant. That is not so. Dissatisfaction with these matters has been rife for some time past; dissatisfaction with building by-laws has been increasing, and I can assure your Lordships that this Bill had been printed and privately circulated among its supporters before the case of Mr. Justice Grantham had come before the public.
I suppose there can scarcely be two opinions as to the vital necessity to this country, and to the working classes in this country, of an adequate provision of good, well-built, sanitary, and inexpensive dwellings. The proper housing of the working classes, all persons who are experienced in these matters will agree, is the foundation stone upon which any measures must subsequently be imposed leading in any way to their material or moral improvement. It is a truism to say that good houses mean good tenants, and that most of the evils which philanthropists deplore arise, either directly or indirectly, from the working classes being crowded into insanitary houses, not up to the requirements of the present day. Other deplorable results arise in the country from this overcrowding. Young men, when they grow up, go away from the country to the already overcrowded cities; labour becomes scarce; agriculture and other rural trades suffer. It was stated in the very interesting Report of the Committee on Physical Deterioration that young men left the country because they could not get cottages, and that if a young man wanted to get married he was often obliged to leave because he could not get a home.
In these circumstances one would have supposed that both the Legislature and the Executive Government would 12 have done all in their power to promote the provision of a good supply of cottages. I do not forget—and your Lordships need not be reminded—that Housing Acts were passed in the years 1890 and 1900 under which district councils were enabled to buy land, to build cottages, to lease land for the building of cottages, and so on; but these Acts were permissive, and I believe that only two district councils out of something like 700 have taken advantage of them. Therefore, very little good has been done by that legislation. But this Bill does not aim at providing more cottage accommodation by municipal means; it rather seeks to encourage private enterprise, which, in my opinion, is far and away the best means of providing this accommodation. If the cottages are provided by municipal enterprise they have to be let at rents which, I believe, in ninety-nine instances out of 100, working men are unable to pay; and the general effect is to put up the rents all round the district. I do not look for that solution of the difficulty. I feel that it is by encouraging private enterprise, and by taking off the restrictions which private enterprise now feels itself shackled with, that we may arrive at a satisfactory solution.
Your Lordships will naturally ask, when you see a Bill dealing with building by-laws, how do the by-laws at the present moment affect building? To answer that question it is necessary to glance at the history of these by-laws. The history is not at all a long one, and I will endeavour, in the shortest way possible, to outline it. Your Lordships will remember that about thirty years ago Lord Beaconsfield uttered one of his oracular sentences, Sanitas sanitatum omnia sanitas, and a Public Health Bill was introduced into Parliament. It was a measure of great length. Whether post hoc or propter hoc, I do not know, but it passed through Parliament with very little discussion; and reference to Hansard will show that in another place the clauses relating to new buildings were not even discussed. In this House the Duke of Somerset of that day, who I have always understood was a very sagacious man, did express his fear that some of the clauses 13 would prove to be of a very harassing nature, and he pointed out, what I am afraid has proved to be the case, that some of the inspectors and surveyors who were to be appointed under the provisions of the Bill might be "very ignorant persons." But the late Lord Salisbury having retorted that "inspectors were the logical outcome or democratic government," the Bill passed. Out of its 333 clauses only two related to new buildings, but by those clauses the rural and urban sanitary authorities that were created by the Act were empowered to pass by-laws to regulate all future buildings; and then, by the Local Government Act, 1894, the rural and urban district councils, the heirs and successors of the rural and urban sanitary authorities, inherited the powers of their predecessors.
At the present day, out of some 700 district councils, 434, I believe, have had codes of building by-laws sanctioned. I contend that in many instances those codes make building, dear enough already, dearer still, and in certain cases they altogether put a check upon it. These by-laws are of a very heterogeneous character—they are not even the same in adjacent districts; but in most cases the only material that is allowed for the structure is brick or stone. In nearly all cases comparatively elaborate plans and sections of each floor of an intended new building have to be submitted to the district council. Not only that, but plans of the adjoining property, which may not happen to belong to the same owner, have to be deposited, as well as the level of the street in certain rural districts. If you wish to put up a cottage half a mile away from any other building—say in the centre of a wood—the building by-laws direct and insist that you shall give the level of the "street" facing the cottage, and even poultry-houses or summer-houses are only exempt under certain conditions. Then there are, in my humble opinion, totally unnecessary regulations in many of the building by-laws as to the exact mathematical relation of the window space to the floor space, and much extra expense is caused thereby.
In his last annual report Dr. Pierie, the medical officer of health of the 14 Guildford Rural District, pointed out, by a careful calculation, that the average cost of an average brick cottage in districts where they had by-laws was such that a higher rent of sixpence per week had to be charged for such cottage as compared with a similar type of cottage erected in non by-law districts. Now, sixpence a week to many persons may seem a very small sum, but 26s. a year is by no means a matter of indifference to a labouring man in the country. Some of these points connected with building by-laws are of so curious a nature that I think the late Mr. Hanbury, when he was Minister for Agriculture, was fully justified in stating, as he did at a public meeting, that he found the by-laws in many of the rural districts were of an "absurd" character. The responsibility for the imposition of these by-laws must rest, primarily I am afraid, with the Local Government Board. The work of the Local Government Board, no doubt, is heavy, and its officers, I dare say, are overtaxed; but I am afraid that in regard to the original building by-laws that were sanctioned by them for country districts they must have left the direction of the matter to some gentleman in the office who could have been very little acquainted with the requirements of rural life and probably had rarely travelled beyond the four mile cab radius.
On this point I should like to quote an extract from a letter addressed to me on November 7th, 1902, by Mr. Long, when President of the Local Government Board. My right hon. friend was kind enough to give me permission to quote the words in his letter. Mr. Long wrote thus—Until recently there was only one model form of by-laws, designed originally for towns, and it is no doubt the case that there are instances where a series based on this model is in force in a rural district.Can a stronger case be made out for reform than that stated by my right hon. friend? To Mr. Long, however, I most gladly give my humble praise—and I am sure your Lordships will award praise also—for having, when he was at the Local Government Board in May, 1903, brought out a new model code of building by-laws for rural districts 15 which is a vast improvement on those hitherto in force. But the mischief had been already done, because where building by-laws had been sanctioned in rural districts previous to that time neither the Local Government Board nor anybody else could force them to adopt a new code. A new code of building by-laws can only be adopted or sanctioned if the district council itself applies to the Local Government Board for permission to do so, and that is very seldom done.
Having endeavoured to state what is the history of the present building by-laws, I will now give your Lordships a few instances of what has been their practical effect, and what is the view taken by the public in regard to this matter. On April 2nd last an important conference was held at Guildford under the auspices of the National Housing Reform Council, and the chairman made use of these words—They were also pressing for something to be done in respect to the by-laws. What was required was a new set of by-laws which would give greater freedom of choice in regard to building materials, and especially to secure the provision with each cottage of a greater amount of light and air space, gardens, etc.and then he added—He had stumped the country denouncing the present by-laws.Lord Rosebery wrote a sympathetic letter to the chairman saying—He was convinced there was no more important subject in the range of our social politics.On January 16th this year, a meeting was held at the Surveyors' Institute, London, attended by many of the most eminent architects and surveyors of the day. A discussion took place, and was adjourned to two subsequent meetings, in which these gentlemen brought forward case after case of hardship which they had experienced in the course of their professional work in consequence of building by-laws. A few days afterwards—on January 21st—a letter appeared in The Times from Mr. Macdona, a Member of the other House of Parliament. He related how it had been his intention to import from France and rebuild in Lancashire or Cheshire a number of artistic villas, into the composition of which wood partly entered, and which 16 he had bought from the last Exhibition in Paris. At the last moment he found he was precluded by the building by-laws from putting up any new buildings into the composition of which wood entered, and this within a few miles of the famous old timbered halls in Cheshire and in Lancashire!
Another case which created notoriety at the time and was alluded to in the public Press was that in which a large, landowner in Sussex put up some bungalow cottages, one storey high, for some of the people employed on his estate. But as he used iron in the construction of the cottages—he said it was his intention subsequently to paint the iron—the district council sent their workpeople and actually demolished them, and the gentleman in question sent photographs to the illustrated papers of his poor demolished cottages. There was no fault found with the accommodation provided for the workpeople, nor with the sanitation or the water-supply, but they were demolished merely because the hide-bound building by-laws only allowed brick and stone to be used.
Then there is the case to which I referred just now, in which Mr. Justice Grantham figured. I will not enter into the merits of this case, but will point out to your Lordships what the public think of it. I believe that in every assize town that the learned Judge visited after his case had been heard he was presented with addresses from the grand juries congratulating him on the stand he had taken; and the grand jury at Cambridge Assizes thanked him for—The determination with which you have brought before the country the many and great obstacles thrown in the way of cottage-building in country districts by impracticable and unnecessary by-laws, and by the arbitrary way in which they are sometimes administered by those in authority.There was also a case in which the noble and gallant ex-Commander-in-Chief, Earl Roberts, put up a gardener's cottage in the grounds of his country residence near Ascot. One of the new patent materials was used in the erection of the cottage, and the moment it was finished the Rural District Council of Windsor ordered the noble Earl's prosecution because the structure did not exactly conform to the by-laws in the 17 matter of material. That was the only complaint, I believe, that they had against it. The noble Earl, determined not to be beaten, entered into communication with the Local Government Board on the subject. The Local Government Board sent down a special inspector, some words passed between that gentleman and the Windsor District Council, and the noble Earl heard no more of the prosecution, and the cottage has been inhabited, I believe, ever since.
The point I should like to urge upon your Lordships in this matter is this, that where a person in the position of Lord Roberts may successfully fight a rural district council, persons in a humbler position often give the matter up, or think the game not worth the candle; and I believe that in consequence a great number of cottages are not built in this country. I have other instances of the ridiculous nature of these by-laws, but I do not think I need go on with the list. I cannot, however, refrain from mentioning this. A landowner erected some very nice cottages of an extra ornamental character in a picturesque village on the Thames in order to harmonise with the surroundings. The district council, after the cottages had been finished, compelled him to remove the casement windows and substitute ordinary sash windows because the amount of light which the casement windows admitted per square inch was not conformable to the by-laws. Again, a friend of mine told me that a gentleman in Essex had built a new lodge for his house with a thatched roof, and that the local district council compelled him to remove the roof, although the lodge stood entirely by itself, and I suppose he had to put on hideous blue slates in its place. Under the present by-laws neither Westminster Hall nor the Tower of London could have been built.
The most striking proof of the absurdity of many of the present by-laws is this, that scores of district councils are continually winking at infractions of their own by-laws. In face of the grievances I have described, what is the attitude that district councils take up in reference to these matters? They take up one of two attitudes. The first atti- 18 tude is that they wink at infractions of their own by-laws. That, I may mention, is strictly an illegal thing to do, for it has been laid down by a decision in the King's Bench that any ratepayer may enforce a district council to carry out their own by-laws. In regard to this matter, let me quote what Mr. Elwes, a well-known architect, said at the surveyors' meeting to which I have already referred—His experience of rural district councils had been that 'approached in the right way' they would not object to reasonable infringements of their building by-laws.I think that to give district councils a dispensing power of that kind can only lead to jobbery, corruption, and favouritism. It enables them, when their friend Mr. Brown comes with some plan infringing the by-laws, to let him infringe them; but when Mr. Green, who may be somebody they have a grudge against, comes with a plan, they will not let him infringe them. I do not think your Lordships will consider that that dispensing power is a right power for district councils to possess.
That is one attitude they take up. Then there is another attitude which, if I may use a simile I heard the other day in a Committee-room of your Lordships' House, I will call the "pious Mussulman attitude." Here a district council sits down in silent adoration of its by-laws as of the Koran, and if anyone suggests a modification they say. "No, you cannot have this; it is not in the 'Book of Life.'" That is a very unfortunate attitude, but it is not an illegal attitude like the other one I have described, and when I say it is an unfortunate attitude I do not mean that it is unfortunate for landowners in the district, for landowners do not build cottages either for profit or for fun; it is an unfortunate attitude for the working-men, the potential occupiers of the cottages, who must remain in their already overcrowded dwellings.
Certain suggestions have been made for reforms in this matter. One suggestion is that districts should be divided into populous and non-populous areas, and that in the populous areas by-laws 19 of the urban type should obtain, and that in non-populous areas the by-laws should be those of a rural type. That is the policy which I think at the present moment the Local Government Board is urging on district councils. If it were possible to carry that out I do not say it might not be an advantageous idea; but I think it impossible to carry out for this reason, that district councils themselves most strongly object to anything which will divide up the unity of their administration. I know a case where this suggestion was made by the Local Government Board to a large rural district council, and the council unanimously refused to consider it. A second suggestion for reform that has been made is that appeal shall be possible from the decision of the district council in regard to by-laws, either to the county council or the local bench of magistrates. Like many of your Lordships, I am a member of a county council, and I think the tendency is for county councils to become rather overworked. There is the work of the sub-committees, and we have lately had practically the whole of elementary education put upon our shoulders, and in the future secondary education, too, will be placed on county councils. I do not think it would be an advantageous thing to put extra work on those bodies. As regards an appeal to the local bench I cannot, of course pretend that local benches are overworked, but I do not think that at this time of day the idea of an appeal from an elected body like a district council to a nominated body like a local bench of magistrates would be popular with the public.
There is a third course open, namely, for district councils themselves to apply to the Local Government Board to be allowed, where they have antiquated by-laws, to adopt the new model series. The difficulty there is this. District councils are not very fond of entering into negotiations, if they can help it, with the Local Government Board. It was pointed out to me that in the case of one district council the negotiations extended over two years before the Local Government Board sanctioned their original building by-laws, and they refused to put the whole business into 20 the melting-pot, and to throw the district into confusion in the matter of building, waiting perhaps another two years before the decision of the Local Government Board is given.
Rejecting this course, therefore, this Bill attempts to be general in its application and simple in its provisions. By Clause 2 we propose to exempt new buildings from by-laws in cases where sufficient space is provided round the building. This is a principle that has been recognised by the London Building Act, 1894. We only propose to extend it to the country. We think that the curtilage mentioned in the Bill will lead in nearly every instance to the provision of gardens. We think that the least expensive materials which ingenuity may suggest, and which are being experimented with at the present moment, will lead to cheaper cottages being built, and, as regards danger from fire, I have never heard of a case in which the windows of cottages are more than 12 feet from the ground. Many people will say. "I do not like a Bill of this kind; it will give encouragement to the jerry-builder." But I do not think the Bill will give encouragement to the jerry-builders. In my experience, the jerry-builder is in the habit of buying a plot of land and then cramming as many cottages in a row as he can squeeze on it, with little garden, if any at all; and this Bill will only give the benefits—if benefits there be—to those who build detached houses with sufficient space and area round them.
I admit, of course, that the Bill gives a measure of liberty. If your Lordships think that the liberty may degenerate into licence you will reject the Bill; but I hope, on the contrary, you will recognise the principle that the building trade, like any other trade, can only develop if restrictions are taken off it. It is impossible, of course, for me to predict that if the Bill passes a large number of new cottages will be erected to-morrow; but it will remove shackles and fetters which I venture to say are unnecessary, absurd, and ridiculous. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(Lord Hylton.)21
*LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNG-WORTH
My Lords, I hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading. It is very difficult for anyone to add to the arguments which have been so ably laid before the House by my noble friend in moving the Second Reading. There can be no doubt that the by-laws in question do put very serious difficulties in the way of housing labourers and those who work upon the land. It is the desire of all of us to bring people back to the land, and if sufficient labour is to be had to cultivate the land the labourers must be properly housed. Figures are often fallacious, and I do not propose to trouble the House with elaborate calculations; but I shall not be very short of the truth if I say that, generally speaking, it is difficult for any landowner, whoever he may be, to build what is called a double tenement cottage for less than a sum of £400. That varies, of course, according to locality, and anything at all ornate would be very much more. Possibly in some favoured districts the sum might be somewhat less.
If the cottages are to be inhabited by poor people you can only let them at small rents, and it would be impossible to charge a sum equivalent to 3 per cent. on the outlay. In addition to this, no sooner are the new cottages built than the rating authority proceeds to assess them, and the owner has to pay heavy rates in respect of them. This is just one of those cases which show up the great fallacy of the argument that rates are paid in rent, and that if rates increase the man who actually has to pay them can always recoup himself by increasing the rents, because in cases like this it is impossible to do so. It may be said that these things should not be looked at from a monetary point of view. That is all very well, and no doubt many people, if they can afford to do so, will take that liberal view; but I would point out that in many cases landowners are not a rich set of men. Here and there you may find very rich men, but most of them are poor. If a man is merely going to build one double cottage he may be able to pursue this excellent plan, but if he is obliged to build eight or ten cottages it becomes a serious matter into which 22 the commercial element must enter; and if the natural hardship of the situation is enhanced by building by-laws which add to the cost of material and construction, the difficulty of the unfortunate landowner who wishes to do well by his estate and to benefit his neighbour is increased until the last stage is worse than the first.
My noble friend does not seek in any way to encourage the building of in-sanitary houses or cottages, or in any way to permit what is commonly called "jerry-building." I think that so far as building by-laws provide for adequate sanitary accommodation, proper water-supply, and so forth, they are always to be commended; but there is no doubt they very often go too far and are unnecessary. In many cases they have been brought into being for no very particular purpose. It sometimes happens that a district council will decide that a measure ought to be put in force on no other ground than that a neighbouring council, probably from other reasons, has put it into force. These by-laws very often have a deleterious effect which is not intended, and are passed without very much thought. This is a rather difficult subject, and I do not wish to labour the point. The Bill deals with a good many details of a somewhat technical nature, but it is hoped that it will have the effect of relaxing the severe restrictions which often act to the detriment of a good cause. It is just possible that certain Amendments may be desirable in Committee, or that some further inquiry may be necessary; but I hope that sufficient has been said to induce your Lordships to give this well-meant measure a Second Reading.
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Kenyon, who is performing his military duties, I have been asked to draw attention to one or two clauses of the Bill, to give it, on behalf of my right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board, a sympathetic reception, and to assent to the Second Reading on the understanding that it should be referred to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House, whose discussions will be of the greatest advantage in the later stages 23 of the Bill. With regard to Clause 2, the object of which is to exempt buildings sufficiently isolated from the operation of existing and future building by-laws, the Local Government Board are entirely in sympathy with the idea of encouraging builders to erect detached houses by relaxing some of the by-laws which now stand in their way. I also attach the greatest importance to Clause 4, the object of which is to render exempted buildings subject to by-laws relating to sanitation. This Bill will in no way alter the by-laws now in existence with regard to sanitation. Clause 5, especially, raises a most important point—namely, whether five ratepayers shall have the power to appeal to the Local Government Board to override the decisions of a duly-elected body. That is a clause which the Local Government Board will have to take into their careful consideration, and it is one which, I think, must meet with ample discussion in the Select Committee. I understand that the noble Marquess is quite prepared to grant a Select Committee, and that he will facilitate its formation.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, I do not wish to introduce any rift into the harmony which seems to pervade the House with regard to this Bill. We all, I am sure, agree that it is very desirable that facilities should be given for the building of good and cheap cottages in rural districts, but it does not follow that we are prepared in any way to revolutionise the law or exempt any class of the community from the liability to obey it. It certainly does seem to me that there are points in the Bill which go rather far. If you boil down Clause 2, what does it come to? It comes to this, that in rural districts, in the case of isolated buildings, or buildings of which there are more than two together, the by-laws with regard to the Building Acts and Public Health Acts—always saving the very important Clause 4—are repealed altogether, and the builders of cottages under such circumstances are to be exempt from any of the conditions which apply elsewhere. I think the noble Lord who made such an excellent and interesting speech in moving the Second Reading of this Bill rather saw the difficulty of that particular point him- 24 self, because he told us very frankly that, as far as he could understand, the idea of the Local Government Board was, rather than to follow the methods of his Bill, to adopt a method by which different regulations should be in force for rural districts from those in force for urban districts. I think there is a great deal to be said for that. It is clear that in urban districts very different regulations are necessary, and that much stricter precautions must be taken from a sanitary point of view and also from the point of view of fire and so forth. Therefore I quite admit that different regulations for rural buildings should be encouraged.
Your Lordships will see, if you examine it, that Clause 2 of this Bill really means the repeal of existing regulations under the Public Health Acts, saving what is in Clause 4, so far as isolated buildings are concerned. I think that that is a matter which requires to be carefully considered, and it is one which I hope the Committee to which the Bill is to be referred will go into very closely indeed. I quite agree with Lord Wolverton's criticisms with regard to Clause 5. That clause seems to me a very strong order indeed. This is the position. A particular local authority, after consultation with, and acting largely on the advice of, the Local Government Board, prepares a set of by-laws, and then, if a certain number of people in that particular district are dissatisfied with the operation of those by-laws, the Local Government Board are to be empowered, on the motion of five inhabitants, to step in and upset the by-laws passed by an elected representative body, and altogether to nullify them.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
Quite so, and that makes the matter worse. Not only are the Local Government Board empowered to put aside the regulations made by the elected representative body, but they are empowered to make new ones which they may think more suitable, and substitute them for the by-laws decided upon by the local district council. It seems to me that that is 25 introducing an entirely new principle into our system of local government. I have every respect for, and confidence in, the Local Government Board, but I should be jealous of giving them such a power as that. Nor do I think it would be fair to our local representative bodies throughout the country. The Government propose to give this Bill a Second Reading, and refer the whole subject to a Select Committee. That is a course in which we on this side of the House most readily concur, and we shall offer no opposition to it.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, we entirely agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down in thinking that this subject is one which must be handled with great caution. It deals with a difficult and intricate matter, and although we fully realise the excellent objects with which the Bill has been introduced, although we feel that the Bill is, as the noble Lord who spoke second described it, a well-meant Bill, we desire to carefully guard ourselves against being supposed to accept the whole of the provisions which it contains. For example, Clause 5, to which my noble friend referred a moment ago, would certainly have the effect of imposing on the Local Government Board an extremely difficult and laborious duty, and I think we should examine it from that point of view before we make up our minds to pass it into law. With regard to Clause 2, the other clause specially singled out by my noble friend, I am under the impression, although I am not quite sure whether the words of the clause fully realise the intention of the promoters of the Bill, that what they intend is that isolated buildings should not be completely emancipated from the whole of the by-laws, but only from by-laws of a certain kind, notably those which deal with the question of structural solidity and precautions against fire. I do not gather, however, that it is at all intended that, because a building is isolated, it should therefore be emancipated as far as sanitary regulations are concerned.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
Clause 4 provides for that. But it would be quite 26 possible for a house to be built with its floor below the level of the ground, or for a cottage to be constructed out of turf.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I assume that in the substituted by-laws there would be precautions against that.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
These are precisely the kind of points; that require careful examination and consideration by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. I understand that the object of the promoters of the Bill is to steer a prudent course between the jerry-builder on the one hand and the pedants of constructional and sanitary science on the other. I think it is quite clear that it is the general feeling of the House that the Bill should be read a second time, and we, at any rate, do not intend to oppose it.
§ *LORD HYLTON
My Lords, if I may be permitted I should like to thank the House for the extremely kind manner in which the Bill has been received. I can assure the noble Lord opposite that his suspicions are not justified. The Bill does not seek to promote the building of cottages which are not fit for habitation. Those who erect these buildings must be given credit for desiring to build houses fit for habitation. The exemptions that are given as regards the material of which the cottages are constructed and so forth will be more than compensated for by the area which will necessarily be added to the cottages if they are to have the benefit of exemption. I would point out, in reply to what has been said on the subject, that Clause 5 does not actually empower the Local Government Board, upon the mere representation of any five ratepayers, to disallow by-laws where they are found unsuitable to the district; for there is a provision requiring the deposit of £50, which is intended to prevent frivolous objections being made. The noble Lord opposite spoke as if the Local Government Board would be permitted by this Bill to do away with by-laws that had 27 been passed by district councils and substitute their own, but the by-laws already in existence are not the creation of the district councils. District councils only have power to apply to the Local Government Board to give them a set of building by-laws. I am quite willing to accept the suggestion of His Majesty's Government that the Bill be read a second time and referred to a select Committee.
§ LORD STANMORE
My Lords, I only rise to say that being intimately connected with one of the districts to which the noble Lord who introduced this Bill has referred, I can bear my emphatic testimony to the fact that there is not the slightest exaggeration in the circumstances which he has related to the House; and, further, that what those of us who are interested in cottage-building in that part of the country chiefly feel as a grievance is the intolerable absurdity of making us build a single cottage in a field as if it were a house in a street in a town.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee."—(Lord Wolverton.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, before the Motion is put I should like to ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the House a Question on a technical point. It seems to us on this side of the House desirable that the reference to this Committee should be as wide as possible, and I should like to know whether the noble Marquess thinks, by referring the Bill as it stands to a Select Committee, it would be possible to deal with the question of rural housing and the by-laws applying to rural housing. If not, it may be advisable, perhaps, to widen the terms of reference, because it will be inconvenient when the Committee is appointed if it is found that it is not able to deal with the entire question of rural housing.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I confess I think it would be desirable that we should have time to consider the suggestion of my noble friend. I myself do not feel persuaded that it would be advantageous to extend the inquiry to be conducted by this particular 28 Committee to the whole question of the rural housing of the poorer class.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to. Bill referred to a Select Committee.