HL Deb 11 November 1909 vol 4 cc586-8

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether Dr. Darra Mair was instructed to report on the sanitary conditions of back-to-back houses in Halifax in 1908; whether he carried out his inspection in May, 1908; and whether His Majesty's Government will lay his Report upon the Table of the House. I think your Lordships will appreciate why I ask this Question at this moment. The Housing and Town Planning Bill will shortly come before us with an Amendment inserted by your Lordships on the subject of back-to-back houses disagreed with by the other House. When that Bill was taken in Committee in your Lordships' House there were no statistics available to show what was the sanitary condition of modern back-to-back houses; and Mr. Burns, when he moved the Second Reading in another place, gave no information whatever of an official character on that subject. He quoted from a book published in 1840 about back-to-back houses, from a leaflet issued by a society in London for the prevention of consumption, and from an undated Report. And when the Bill went back to the Commons be quoted some figures which were given by medical officers of health in Lancashire, I think notably with regard to Liverpool; but what he did not quote, and what has never been given to us, is the Report of Dr. Darra Mair, who was appointed to inquire specially into this matter. This gentleman was asked, as I am informed, to make his inspection in 1908, and he made it in May of that year; yet we have no information of what he said except from a report published in the Yorkshire Observer, according to which the Medical Officer of Health for Halifax stated that Dr. Darra Mair had selected certain back-to-back houses at Halifax as typical. He gave a table which showed that the death-rate for back-to-back houses was 13.3 and for through houses 15.6. From phthisis the death-rate for back-to-back houses was one, and for through houses 1.6. Therefore, the only official figures available are favourable to the back-to-back houses, which are being condemned by the Government. That being so, I ask His Majesty's Government to lay Dr. Darra Mair's Report on the Table. It might have been laid some time ago, but I can quite understand why it has been suppressed.


In reply to the noble Lord, I can only say that Dr. Darra Mair was instructed by the Local Government Board to make the investigation in question, but it was part of a very wide investigation, in the course of which he visited a considerable number of towns besides Halifax. It is quite true, as the noble Lord has said, that he began his investigations in 1908. The report is now in an advanced state of preparation, and when it is issued steps will be taken for presenting it to Parliament.


I should like to ask whether, as the whole question of back-to-back houses appears to be sub judice, the Local Government Board will go on with the provisions relating to it included in the Housing and Town Planning Bill.


I understand that negotiations are going on in regard to the Bill, but to what extent that particular question is under consideration I cannot say. Perhaps it would be better if the noble Lord waited until the Bill is again before this House.