§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.26
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
LORD SALTOUN moved to amend Clause 1—
1. Part III of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890 (in this Part of this Act referred to as the principal Act), shall, after the commencement of this Act, extend to and take effect in every urban or rural district, or other place for which it has not been adopted, as if it had been so adopted.
by leaving out the words "or rural" and the words "or other place." He said that the housing problem was not so acute in the country districts as in the towns. The conditions were entirely different. This was recognised in Section 55, subsection (1) of the principal Act, which made it imperative that the necessity for the adoption of that part of the Bill should be proved before a county council before the local rural authority could adopt it. The section was repealed by the Act of 1900, but very similar clauses were inserted in that Act which were now proposed to be repealed by this Brill. The essential differences between the ownership of houses in town and in rural districts should be taken into consideration. Houses were held in towns purely as a commercial investment, and from which the owner sought to get the best return he possibly could, while in rural districts landlords who held the working class houses held them not as a commercial investment, but very frequently more at a loss than a profit and as an adjunct to the equipment of an estate. Secondly, he would ask their Lordships to consider the difficulties of water and drainage schemes in the country as compared with the towns. Thirdly, the rating conditions were entirely different, and the rents from the houses in the rural districts were considerably lower than those in towns, and consequently there was a greater risk to the rates. When they considered these things he thought it must be evident that the provisions which had been inserted in former Acts requiring that the necessity should be proved before a county council before a rural authority could adopt Part III of the principal Act were even more necessary now owing to the greatly extended scope of this Bill and as a safeguard against the adoption of hasty schemes which might greatly embarrass a
rural district. The object of his Amendment was to give rural districts the power of adoption if they wished it instead of its being compulsory as this Bill would make it. If Part III was extended to every rural district on the application of four inhabitant householders, who need not even be direct ratepayers, they might force the Local Government Board to put into operation this Act and compel the rural authority to make a town planning scheme which would be a very serious burden to the rural authority.
In page 1, line 12, to leave out the words 'or rural' and to leave out the words 'or other place.'"—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ THE LORD STEWARD (EARL BEAUCHAMP) said it was perfectly true, as the noble Lord had said, that there was a great difference in the problem with regard to the housing question as between rural and urban districts. The Government had tried to recognise that difference throughout the Bill so that they could deal with at the same time rural or urban lands. The need for housing accommodation in the rural districts, he thought, was generally admitted, and most of their Lordships who had experience of the country districts knew there was an urgent need for more houses. The Report of the Select Committee of 1896 laid considerable emphasis upon that. The Amendment of the noble Lord, which proposed that the words "or rural" should be omitted from this clause, struck really at the root of the whole Bill. This was one of the main provisions of the Bill, that the Housing of the Working Classes Act should be applied to rural districts without the need of special legislation. He hoped the noble Lord would not press his Amendment. The Government recognised that there were strong objections held to various clauses in the Bill by noble Lords opposite, and His Majesty's Government hoped to accept some of the Amendments suggested by the Opposition and to move others themselves. The Government also hoped that the Bill would practically, at any rate in its main outline, retain the shape in which it was introduced to their Lordships' House and would eventually become law. But he did not know whether the noble Lord realised that the Amendment technically went a great deal further than the mover intended. In one of the schedules the sections of the original Act were repealed unless they were 28 enacted for other purposes in this Bill itself, and therefore it would be impossible for any rural area to adopt the provisions of the Act the sections of which had been repealed. It would be obvious, therefore, to their Lordships that the step which would be taken if the Amendment was adopted would be actually a retrograde one, putting the position in rural areas behind what it was in 1880. He was sure that that was not the intention of the noble Lord, and in those circumstances he hoped that he would not press the Amendment.
§ LORD SALTOUN said he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES put the Question, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said he wished, on this Question, to remind their Lordships of the very great importance of this clause. No one could appreciate the Bill properly who did not bear in mind the enormous change which this clause made in the existing law. At the present time under Part III housing schemes could not be forced upon any local authority. This clause made the scheme compulsory upon every local authority. Therefore when in later clauses they found that powers were given to the Local Government Board, their Lordships must always remember that it was not merely that they were giving the Local Government Board more powers, but they were giving powers to enforce Part III which up to the present time had not been compulsory upon any local authority. He merely made that remark because he was sure that unless their Lordships kept that in mind all through the Bill they would fail to appreciate the importance of it.
§ LORD HYLTON said that, although the Amendment to this clause had been withdrawn, he wished to say a few words in support of the views expressed by the noble Lord with regard to the need for these schemes in rural districts. The noble Earl who was in charge of the Bill had said that in rural districts there was more need for additional buildings and the further building of cottages than in the towns. It might be so in certain rural districts, but it was not, so in all rural districts. A rather curious circumstance had come to his know- 29 ledge with regard to this point. The Local Government Board not very long ago, if he was not misinformed, sent out a circular to rural district councils throughout the country asking them to report to the Board if there was a great lack of accommodation and a great lack of cottages for the working classes in their particular rural districts. The rural district with which he happened to be acquainted replied pointing out that after due inquiries of every kind they could not report to the Local Government Board that there was any need for further accommodation for the working classes in their district. He could not believe that that was a unique case in this country. He did not know whether the noble Earl would give them any further information about the inquiry that was made by the Local Government Board. He thought it would be rather germane to this point.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
2.—(1) A local authority may be authorised to purchase land compulsorily for the purposes of Part III of the principal Act, by means of an order submitted to the Local Government Board and confirmed by the Board in accordance with the First Schedule to this Act.
(2) The procedure under this section for the compulsory purchase of laud shall be substituted for the procedure for the same purpose under section one hundred and seventy-six of the Public Health Act, 1875, as applied by subsection (1) of section fifty-seven of the principal Act.
(3) A local authority may, with the consent of and subject to any conditions imposed by the Local Government Board, acquire land by agreement for the purposes of Part III of the principal Act, notwithstanding that the land is not immediately required for those purposes.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved an Amendment to dispense with the Local Government Board's confirmation of Orders submitted to them for the compulsory purchase of land for housing. He said this was one of a series of Amendments which he was going to propose in this clause and in the schedule, and he thought it would be convenient and save time if he explained the general meaning of his Amendments. First of all he would take the state of things which this clause, taken in connection with the First Schedule, proposed to introduce. If they would turn to the schedule they would see that where a local authority proposed to purchase land compulsorily under this Act they might submit to the Board an Order. Then in subsection (6), if within the
prescribed period—that was, the period prescribed by the Board—no objection was taken, or if it was withdrawn, it was provided that—
the Board shall, without further inquiry, confirm the order.
That meant that they gave it the force of an Act of Parliament. But if objection had been presented and had not been withdrawn the Board had to forthwith cause a public inquiry to be held. Then they received the report, and after considering the report they might then confirm the Order. And after the Order was confirmed, if their Lordships would look at subsection (2), they would see that it was final, that it took effect as if enacted in this Act. The words were—
and the confirmation by the Board shall be conclusive evidence that the requirements of this Act have been complied with, and that the order has been duly made and is within the powers of this Act.
That gave to the Local Government Board the most complete and the most absolute authority to make and to confirm an Order without any reference to Parliament. That was the effect of the clause which related to this subject. If they would return to his Amendment, which also must be read together with part of the schedule which it did not propose to repeal, they would see that it provided that if within the prescribed period no objection to the Order had been presented to the Board by persons interested in the land, or if every such objection had been withdrawn, the Board should, without further inquiry confirm the Order, either without modification or subject to modification. That was an unopposed Order. If they looked at subsection (4) of his proposed new subsections standing on the Paper, with regard to which he would say a word or two in a moment, they would see the requirement that that Order should be laid before Parliament. In the case of an Order to which objection had been taken, he proposed that the Board should appoint an impartial person, not in the employment of any Government Department, to hold a public inquiry, and if on considering his report it appeared to the Board that by reason of the extent or situation of any land proposed to be acquired compulsorily, or the purposes for which such land was used, or any other circumstance, the land ought not to be acquired compulsorily without the sanction of Parliament, the Order of the Board should
be provisional only and should not have effect unless confirmed by Parliament. Therefore his proposal with regard to an opposed Order was that it should be confirmed by Parliament. He now desired to call their Lordships' attention to subsection (4) of his Amendments, which provided that an Order other than a Provisional Order made by the Board under this section should come into force after it had lain on the Table for thirty days subject to an Address. That subsection, and indeed all this Amendment, was taken from the Port of London Bill to which His Majesty's Government acceded last year, and the object of subsection (4) was to meet particular cases. He thought he had now fully explained his Amendments as a whole, and their Lordships would understand that when he moved his first Amendment it was because of the proposals which were almost immediately going to follow.
In page 1, line 17, to leave out the words 'and confirmed by the Board.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he was much obliged to the noble Earl for having described his Amendments, because it was difficult to refer to one without referring to them all, and in a complicated case like this the course adopted was far the most convenient. The noble Earl had also described the effect of his Amendments and the proposals of His Majesty's Government in a way to which he could add nothing. He could only explain the reasons which had induced His Majesty's Government to put these particular provisions in the Bill, and why they preferred them to the Amendments proposed by the noble Earl. The course which His Majesty's Government suggested should be followed was the course which their Lordships had already agreed to in the Small Holdings Act. The noble Earl, on the contrary, was anxious that their Lordships should in this case follow the provisions of the Port of London Act. He would give one or two reasons to explain why His Majesty's Government preferred the procedure of the Small Holdings Act. In the first place it was cheaper; they thought it was more expeditious, and perhaps better suited for the particular cases with which this Act would deal. On the other hand, the procedure prescribed under the Port of London Act was long and expensive, and was more suitable in the case of the Port of London where the land was 32 frequently owned by persons with whom the Port of London Authority were in competition. Therefore in the matter of land the Port of London Authority was, as it were, one of the parties to the case. That was not so in this Bill. The Local Government Board was rather in the impartial position of an arbitrator. The Port of London Authority was anxious to acquire land in the neighbourhood, and would enter into competition with those people whom the Port of London Authority displaced. Therefore they were in no sense an impartial authority, and consequently it was quite right than an arbitrator should be appointed from outside. But here the Local Government Board were not parties to the case. That, he thought, made a considerable difference, and that was why it was unnecessary to call in a person not in the employ of any Government Department. It they began to call in an outside person they had to pay his expenses, which would necessarily add to the costs under this Bill. He asked their Lordships to consider for a moment what those expenses would be. When once they added the fee of an arbitrator of this kind to the expenses of such an inquiry, they had then added no inconsiderable sum to the expenses of the four or five acres which perhaps was all that the local authority was seeking to acquire.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said it need not be only four or five acres.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that beyond that explanation he was not sure that he need detain their Lordships longer. The point at issue between His Majesty's Government and these Amendments was clear. Their Lordships had agreed to a procedure in regard to another measure which the Government thought should be similar in this case, and he hoped their Lordships would allow this procedure to stand under this Bill.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said there would be no difference of opinion on either side of the House as to the desire that proceedings under this clause should be as far as possible cheap and efficient, and as rapid as might be in the circumstances of the case; and they ought to remember that this clause did not relate to what in his judgment was the more important proposal of Part I of this Bill— 33 namely, the making of orders by the Local Government Board on local authorities to do certain work—but related solely to procedure for the compulsory acquisition of land after such an order had been made. He could very well understand the reasons which induced His Majesty's Government to follow the procedure of the Small Holdings Act in this Bill. That procedure was carefully examined in Parliament, and might be said to have been the result of an agreement on both sides in both Houses. And so far as he was aware, excepting in one point, he thought it had proved satisfactory with regard to the acquisition of small holdings. That one point, to his mind, was a serious defect in the procedure, and that was the absence of any appeal from an Order of the Board of Agriculture to a Court of Law on a point of law. After all, Government Departments, however admirably conducted, were not infallible. They might in making an Order interpret the law in a wrong direction, and it was right that His Majesty's subjects should in all cases such as this have the protection of the Courts of Law. And therefore if the procedure proposed in this Bill, copied from the Small Holdings Act, was to remain, he trusted that His Majesty's Government would favourably consider some Amendment giving protection in those cases.
§ The noble Earl spoke of the acquisition of four or five acres, and referred to it as a comparatively small matter; but this part of the Bill applied, not only to rural districts, but to the largest towns in the country, and the purchase of four or five acres of land in London or Manchester or Birmingham would be a transaction of great magnitude, requiring a very great expenditure, and involving a very considerable price to be paid for the land required. He did not think it was reasonable that cases such as these should be dealt with precisely on the same lines as the acquisition of a few acres of land outside a country village. The matter was far more akin to the acquisition of land under the Port of London Act of last session than to the acquisition of land under the Small Holdings Act, and surely it was not unreasonable that the noble Earl below the Gangway should have suggested to their Lordships that that being so the procedure under the Port of London Act was more applicable than that under the Small Holdings Act. The noble 34 Earl opposite stated that in that case the Port Authority was one of the parties concerned, and therefore it was right that there should be a provision for an impartial arbitrator to be appointed in any matter of the kind. The noble Earl contended that in this case the Local Government Board was absolutely impartial, and that therefore no such provision would be required. But what was the position of the Local Government Board? It had made an Order compelling a local authority to carry out a scheme under Part III of the Housing and Working Classes Act, which enabled that authority to exercise compulsory powers for the purchase of land. It was an absolutely interested Board, because the great difficulty in this matter, as everybody knew, was the question of expense, and the Local Government Board could not but desire in carrying out its powers under this Bill to secure the land at the cheapest rate possible. Therefore it seemed to be almost as interested as the Port Authority under the Port of London Act. For these reasons he hoped His Majesty's Government might reconsider their opposition to the proposals of his noble friend, and that, at any rate if they felt it necessary to adhere to a simpler procedure in the case of the rural areas, they would afford to the owners of valuable land in the large cities in this country as great a protection as had been afforded in the case of the Port of London Act.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF CREWE)
The noble Viscount has stated his opinions with the most admirable moderation, as he always does, and one is naturally tempted to endeavour to meet him. At the same time, I do not think he has succeeded in establishing any real analogy between the position of the Local Government Board in this matter and the Port of London Authority acting under the Port of London Act. The noble Earl who introduced this Amendment confined himself to the simple statement that this was in the Port of London Act, and did not attempt, I think, to give any reason why it should be applied under this Bill.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I had not come to that yet. My reason for not stating so was because my Amendment followed.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble Viscount said that the Local Government Board were in a sense a party to the purchase of land in such a case. I confess that I cannot see that that is so in the slightest degree. The Board are not going to acquire the land. Except in the interests of general economy, there is no reason why they should care how much is paid for the land. They are not concerned in the local rate rising in consequence of an excessive price being paid. They are, I should have thought, in as impartial a position as any set of people can be who are called in to adjudicate upon a particular subject. I understand that the noble Viscount holds out the idea that some differential procedure might be introduced according as the value of the land to be taken is high or low.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
But I do not know that it would always work out exactly in a manner which the noble Viscount contemplates. We should be extremely unwilling to make any change in procedure of that kind, and I am afraid, therefore, we are bound to resist the Amendment of the noble Earl. Of course, we could consider before some later stage of the Bill whether it is possible to safeguard the interests of the vendor in certain cases, but I am afraid it can hardly be done in the manner which the noble Viscount suggests. I am afraid, therefore, we must resist at this stage the Amendment of the noble Earl.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND hoped His Majesty's Government would give their Lordships better reasons for resisting this proposal. What were the reasons? Their Lordships had not been informed. The noble Earl who had charge of the Bill told them it would be more expensive. Well, it would be very little more expensive. The noble Earl told them it would be slow. Well, he hoped their procedure was going to be slow when they were going to take other people's property compulsorily. This was not a matter which required any urgency. Any action 36 that was taken under Part III of the principal Act should be taken deliberately. There was no earthly object in hurrying the matter; and as far as expense was concerned, he had yet to learn that the expense would be great, although, of course, if it was really great that was, no doubt, a certain objection. Yet he could not help thinking that it was better for owners that the process of taking their property from them compulsorily should be a little more expensive, than that they should be left entirely at the mercy of a Government Department. He did not in the least agree that the Local Government Board had no interest in the matter. It was true it had no pecuniary interest, no interest which could be pointed to as a material consideration, but the Local Government Board, just like every other office, had the greatest interest in carrying out its schemes and its theories. They had seen how it was with the Small Holdings Act, how the Board of Agriculture had staked its reputation, or, at least, the Minister of Agriculture had staked as it were the credit of the Government, upon the large spread of small holdings. Was that not interest? And very much the same thing might happen under this Bill. He hoped his noble friend would not give way about this Amendment. He thought it was a most important point. As for differentiating between a rural or county borough, as had been spoken of, he would hesitate very much to recommend their Lordships to consider the interests of the larger of the rich owners of a town rather than the small owners in the country districts. He thought everyone should be defended in the possession of his property. It would not be difficult to show that in some instances the Small Holdings Act had not worked very successfully in the way of protecting owners from having their land taken from them at a lower rate than ought to have been paid. But at any rate in this matter he thought they should observe the principle that if a man's land was to be taken compulsorily it should only be done after a thoroughly impartial inquiry and by a slow process. He liked the process because it was slow, and he ventured to think that it ought to commend itself to the Committee.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said that His Majesty's Government could not consider the Amendment without seeing what it was to lead to, and the real difference 37 between the Government and the noble Earl was this. The noble Earl wished to secure an impartial inquiry. The Government, however, intended to send down some one from the Local Government Board who would not be in a position of impartiality. To insist upon that provision placed the landowners at the mercy of the Local Government Board.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (EARL CARRINGTON) pointed out that the procedure followed exactly that of the Small Holdings Act, which had been agreed to on both sides of the House. He thought he could fairly say that the wisdom of their Lordships in passing that Act had been demonstrated. It had been working smoothly and without friction, and there was only one county council in England which refused to act. In a period of fourteen months 44,000 acres had already been obtained by schemes and orders, and they received applications for about 1,000 acres a week. There were no cases of hardship as far as he could make out; and there had been only two cases of alleged hardship, which had been proved to be trumped up and bogus. He did not think, in the circumstances, there need be any apprehension in putting this Bill under the same procedure as the Small Holdings Act.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that the noble Earl had imported into the discussion a new feature altogether. As that had been done, Jet him state what a Judge had said with regard to a recent case in Norfolk. There was an occupier of two farms, one with heavy land, and the other with lighter land, and a compulsory Order was made, in spite of his opposition, acquiring the light land farm for small holdings. He sought before the Court to show that the Board of Agriculture had disregarded some provisions of the Act in confirming the Order. He went into Court, and what happened? He (Lord Camperdown) had an extract in his hand from the judgment of Mr. Justice Darling, delivered on the 12th July this year. The Judge said—
Here is a Public Department put in a position of absolute supremacy. Whatever the action of the farmer was who came to the Court asking for relief under the Order, the Court can only say that Parliament has enacted only last year that the Board of Agriculture, in acting as they had, should be no more impeachable than Parliament itself.
That was the exact position; and if their Lordships wanted to know how that was arrived at, let them look at the First Schedule, subsection (2), which provided that—
An Order when so confirmed shall become final and have effect as if enacted in this Act; and the confirmation by the Board shall be conclusive evidence that the requirements of this Act have been complied with, and that the Order has been duly made and is within the powers of this Act.
There they had the opinion of a Judge which showed that they had entirely taken away from the Courts of law any control whatever on any matter with regard to the Small Holdings Act. His case had been put so much better by Viscount St. Aldwyn and the Duke of Northumberland that he hesitated about saying even one word more, but when the noble Earl told him that the Port of London Act had no strict analogy to this Bill, he thought the noble Earl had hardly appreciated what he had pointed out in speaking on Clause 1, which placed compulsion upon all local authorities with regard to housing schemes, whether in town or country. It did not at all follow that three or five acres might be taken. It might be 100 or 200 acres. In cases of that sort, was the best way simply the way which they said was the cheapest? Had justice nothing to do with it? For that reason he thought that the procedure which they sanctioned with regard to the Small Holdings Act certainly did not apply in cases of great importance such as this.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am tempted to say a word with regard to this Amendment, because it seems to me to raise a question of principle of the first importance—a question of principle which runs all through the Bill now before us, and not only through this Bill but through many other Bills which we have to consider. In these days we are constantly offered legislation for the purpose of enabling houses or land—private property—to be taken away from the owners of such property for one purpose or another. Now nobody, I think, will be found to contend that there is anything unreasonable in depriving owners of their land or their property for some useful public purpose. The only question that does arise is what safeguards you are going to put in the way 39 of the arbitrary acquisition of such property; what precautions you are going to take that those who are deprived of it are adequately compensated for their loss. We are regarded by the noble Earl opposite as unduly apprehensive in regard to the wide powers which this Bill confers upon the Local Government Board. I can assure him that in that feeling, which is a widely prevalent feeling, no question of personal mistrust or suspicion enters. But what we do feel, and feel very strongly, is that these heads of Departments must from the very nature of things be not wholly disinterested and indifferent in the manner in which they deal with them. I go further. I think it is most desirable that a Minister in charge of legislation such as that we are now considering, or of legislation such as that embodied in the Small Holdings Act, should be more or less of an enthusiast in the cause which he has to champion. And I think, without disrespect to the noble Earl who presides over the Board of Agriculture, I do not think I should be doing him an injustice if I imputed to him a great deal of enthusiasm for the cause he so persistently advocates in this House and in the country. But that enthusiastic temperament does not always produce an absolutely judicial frame of mind, and our fear is that in these cases the Ministers who will have to give effect to the provisions of a Bill such as this will be carried away by that feeling of enthusiasm, and not only that, but the staff will become infected also with that temper of enthusiasm. Indeed I do not think it is altogether unfair to suggest that these gentlemen sometimes owe the official position which is given to them to the fact that they are enthusiasts and desire to make a success of the enterprise at no matter what cost. Therefore when the President of the Board of Agriculture comes to the Table and tells us that this Bill is on all-fours with the procedure under the Small Holdings Act, I am not in the least reassured. The subject-matter, moreover, is of an entirely different character. Under this Bill you may deal not merely with the acquisition of a few acres for villagers who desire to be provided with small holdings. You may deal with great schemes involving important interests in urban areas, and you may deal with them over the heads of great municipal bodies who are at present responsible for these matters. The noble Earl pointed out to us that in his opinion the procedure resorted to under 40 the Port of London Bill was not appropriate to the Bill on the Table. I must say I was not greatly convinced by the argument which the noble Earl produced. For example, I do not think he was entirely successful in showing that the procedure suggested by my noble friend Lord Camperdown would necessarily involve either great delay or great expense. We all of us desire to avoid delay or expense, but let me remind the Committee that the Act referred to is not the only precedent to which we have a right to refer. There are other Acts. For example, I am under the impression that under the London Building Act of 1894 the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act apply, and that you have a commission of three members who have to deal with disputed cases under that Act. But there is another case to which I should like to call the attention of the noble Earl. We have all of us seen a Bill which has not yet come to this House—the Development Bill. Now, as we understand the Development Bill, there may under that Bill arise cases in which private property is to be interfered with, as under this Bill, for some public purpose. What is proposed in the Development Bill is that the Lands Clauses Act shall apply, and that disputed cases of compensation are to be decided, not by an arbitrator appointed by a Government Department, but by the Lord Chief Justice—a very different provision. I must say that I hope my noble friend will insist upon his Amendment. It seems to me it is a duty that we owe to ourselves to include in this Bill some machinery which is more likely to inspire public confidence than that which it now contains, and I really venture to suggest to noble Lords opposite that it is not only due to Parliament and the public that this should be done. It seems to me fairer to the Minister who is at the head of a Department that he should be relieved of the tremendous responsibility of finally deciding in important cases of this kind. He may desire ever so keenly to be absolutely impartial, but after he has warmly espoused a cause, after he has, perhaps, conducted a heated controversy about a particular case, it is absolutely impossible that in the last resort, when he has to decide in a judicial capacity on the merits of that case, he should attract to himself that confidence which we should like to see all the heads of public Departments enjoy.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I must endeavour to explain how it is that His Majesty's Government cannot find themselves convinced by the arguments put forward from the other side of the House. I may say, first, that the noble Earl opposite, who is always fair, was really not quite correct when he said that Earl Carrington had imported a new element into the discussion when he referred to the matter of small holdings, because he was directly challenged on that point by the noble Duke opposite. The noble Marquess who has just sat down has stated clearly what is the fear noble Lords have under this Bill, and, as he said, under other Bills. He is afraid that the particular office concerned might become impregnated with enthusiasm for their measures and might not deal quite fairly with those whose property is to be taken, because they were anxious to see these measures work, and because of the natural enthusiasm with which a particular Minister may be inspired. I do not deny that in theory there are arguments which can be used in support of a view of that kind, but our fear, as I think I indicated on the Second Reading of this Bill, is of an opposite kind, and the rational course, I think, is to attempt to strike a balance between the two opposing dangers. We say that the danger of all these guarantees and safeguards is that you so hamper the conditions under which your Bill is to be carried out that you destroy thereby no small part of its usefulness. We have all known cases of Acts which have been passed with the utmost goodwill, and not without high hopes of their social value, but which for some reason have remained nugatory, and no proceedings have been taken under them. We are afraid, if all this safeguarding is overdone, that something of the kind will happen in this case. The noble Marquess, with his usual dialectical skill, has spoken of this Bill as though it dealt only with urban land of great value. Surely that is not so. We hope that a very large number of quite small transactions will take place under this Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Excuse me; my point was that not only small transactions, but very large transactions could take place under this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
That is quite true, but the noble Marquess only mentioned the very large-priced transactions. The noble Duke has spoken frankly from 42 the point of view of the owner of the land to be taken. He is quite entitled to do that, and we all agree that the interests of the owner ought to be safeguarded. The noble Duke says he does not mind the delay. It may be the case that a few months more or less may not be of great importance, though as a matter of fact, if it is a question of confirming a Provisional Order, the delay may in some cases reach a period of two years. But I set that aside. The real reason of all this is not so much the delay or the expense, except so far as it would prevent a transaction taking place at all. There is one person who is very often alluded to from the opposite Benches—but who has not been alluded to at all in this connection—the ratepayer. These local authorities, particularly the small authorities, are likely to be debarred from these transactions at all if the expenses are likely to be as great as suggested. We have to read this Amendment concurrently with other Amendments—for instance, that which permits, under the instruction of an outside arbitrator, the employment of counsel and expert witnesses. What is likely to happen? A district council wants to take from some rich and powerful landowner a small portion of land. They know that they may have to meet some of the extremely able and very costly counsel who adorn the rooms upstairs, and that all manner of expert valuers may be brought down from London to give evidence of the value of the land. What will be the result? They will not attempt the transaction at all. We ask you to realise the nature of our fears. It is not a question of a month or two or a question of a few pounds, but it is the dread which we have, the alarm which is caused in our minds, by not only this Amendment, but the whole series of Amendments, which, of course, it is in your Lordships' power to carry. We are afraid that the operations of the Bill will be so narrowed by these Amendments that although it may look very well, the greater part of its usefulness will disappear, and on these grounds we are bound to resist this Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY was sure that their Lordships must have been very interested at hearing the noble Earl put forward as one of the main objects which the Government had in promoting the Bill the interests of the ratepayers. Most of those who had read the Bill with 43 some care had come to the conclusion that the last person the Government had considered was the ratepayer; and indeed one of the most striking illustrations of that attitude of mind on the part of His Majesty's Government was that under the present Bill, as the noble Earl knew, in certain circumstances the county council was given authority to override the authority of a district council and to impose upon them the obligation of providing housing accommodation. Under the existing Act there were some very careful provisions laid down, among others that the county council were to have regard to the interests of the ratepayers in the coercive action which they took. Judging from what the noble Earl had just said, one would have expected to have found those conditions reproduced in the present Bill as limiting the action of the Local Government Board. But nothing of the kind. The Local Government Board was not called upon at any moment, from one end of the Bill to the other, to have regard to the interests of the ratepayer. The noble Earl had said that his noble friend, in proposing his Amendment, had overlooked the fact that the extra expense involved in procedure would debar the authority from exercising its powers under the Bill. The great difference between the proposal of the Government and the proposal of his noble friend had already been pointed out to them by the Lord Chief Justice. The great difference was that his noble friend proposed an impartial inquiry, whereas the Government proposed one which was not impartial. That was the only difference. There was no reason why one procedure should be more expensive than the other. In one there was to be a local inquiry, but in either case the Local Government Board had to take into consideration the result of that inquiry, and there was really no reason in the world why one procedure should be more expensive than the other. The noble Earl, feeling the weakness of his contention, had referred in a vague manner to other Amendments later in the Bill which their Lordships might or might not agree to; but so far as the Amendment before them was concerned, there was really no reason why the procedure contemplated by his noble friend should be more expensive than the other. There was one exception, and that was where the matters in dispute were of great importance. Then they ought to go before Parliament. Was that 44 unfair? Under his noble friend's proposal when the matter in dispute was of great importance, then the impartial person had to send it before Parliament. That was perfectly fair, because, ex hypothesi, they were not dealing with a small authority wishing to acquire a few acres of land, but with a large and important authority dealing with an important matter. There could be no reason in the world why, in the case of a large urban authority entering upon a large housing scheme, the matter should not go before Parliament. In a case of that kind, the small extra expense involved would be very properly involved, because of the importance of the consideration. Therefore, it seemed to him that the proposal of the Government was not sound, and he hoped his noble friend would succeed in inserting his Amendment in the Bill.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that noble Lords on his side of the House were put in rather a difficulty when such a speech as the one they had just listened to was made. He thought they were considering the general scheme of the noble Earl who himself suggested that it should be discussed on this occasion. The noble Marquess said that they had no right to refer to these other clauses which the noble Earl was the first to mention to their Lordships' House. Under those circumstances it put the Government side of the House in a considerable difficulty, and he thought if noble Lords opposite referred to certain clauses they should be allowed to do the same. The particular point upon which they were not agreed was the question of expense. It was not very difficult to show that the scheme provided by the noble Earl might lead to a very great deal more expense than the scheme provided by the Bill. The Bill before their Lordships simply provided for the Local Government Board, but the scheme of the noble Earl, which they were discussing, provided for an arbitrator who might hear expensive witnesses. In those circumstances it seemed to him quite obvious that the scheme of the noble Earl was considerably more expensive than the scheme of the Bill.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 112.45
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Birmingham, L. Bp.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Hereford, L. Bp.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Airedale, L.||Lochee, L.|
|Allendale, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Blyth, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||O'Hagan, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||St. Davids, L.|
|Eversley, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Glantawe, L.||Welby, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V.|
|Norfolk, D. [E. Marshal.]||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Ellenborough, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Waldegrave E. [Teller.]||Faber, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Westmorland, E.||Forester, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Wharncliffe, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Ailesbury, M.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Harris, L.|
|Bath, M.||Colville of Culross, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Bristol, M.||De Vesci, V.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Camden, M.||Falkland, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Falmouth, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Goschen, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Ludlow, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Hampden, V.||Manners, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Hardinge, V.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Carnwath, E.||Hill, V.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hood, V.||Newton, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Hutchinson V. (E. Donoughmore.)||North, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Iveagh, V.||Northcote, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Ridley, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.||Poltimore, L.|
|Derby, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Abinger, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Alverstone, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Howe, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Bagot, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Basing, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Belper, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Sandys, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Calthorpe, L||Seaton, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Clinton, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Colchester, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Morton, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Desborough, L.||Walsingham, L.|
|Stamford, E.||Digby, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Egerton, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN then moved the new subsections which he had previously outlined. He said that as their Lordships had been good enough to allow him to make an explanation of the general effect of his Amendments it would be unnecessary for him to trouble the Committee with many words. He would only just briefly say, for the information of Lord Crewe, that the subsections were taken from the Port of London Bill, and 46 they were taken for this reason, that the subject-matter of the Bill before them was much more nearly related to the subject-matter of the Port of London Bill than it was to the Small Holdings Act. He knew that as the Port of London Bill originally stood a different procedure was proposed; it was strongly opposed by counsel, and in the end the Joint Committee rejected the proposal which was made to them and substituted this proposal. It was for that reason he had inserted it.47
In page 1, line 18, after 'Act,' to insert the following new subsections:
(2) If within the period prescribed by the Board no objection to an Order under this section has been presented to the Board by a person interested in the land, or if every such objection has been withdrawn, the Board shall, without further inquiry, confirm the Order either without modification or subject to such modifications as they think fit, but if such an objection has been presented and has not been withdrawn the Board shall appoint an impartial person not in the employment of any Government Department to hold a public inquiry on their behalf in the locality in which the land is proposed to be acquired, and the local authority and all persons interested in the land, and such other persons, as the person holding the inquiry in his discretion thinks fit to allow, shall permitted to appear and be heard at the inquiry.
(3) If the person who held the inquiry reports, or if on considering his report, it appears to the Board that by reason of the extent or situation of any land proposed to be acquired compulsorily, or the purposes for which such land is used, or any other circumstances, the land ought not to be acquired compulsorily without the sanction of Parliament, the order of the Board shall be provisional only and shall not have effect unless confirmed by Parliament.
(4) An Order other than a Provisional Order made by the Board under this section shall come into force after it has lain for thirty days during the Session of Parliament on the table of both Houses of Parliament, unless either House during those thirty days presents an address to His Majesty against the Order, in which case no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, but without prejudice to the making of a new Order."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD CLINTON had an Amendment on the Paper to insert the following new sub-section—
(2) Land which has been acquired by the owners thereof under any local Act, Provisional Order, or Order having the powers of an Act of Parliament, shall not be authorised to be acquired compulsorily under this section except by a Provisional Order which shall not have effect unless it is confirmed by Parliament.
He had placed the Amendment on the Paper for the purpose of safeguarding land which had been acquired by the owners under any local Act or Provisional Order from being compulsorily taken away by a local authority, and also for the purpose of asking their Lordships to confirm the general principle that land acquired by sanction of Parliament ought not to be taken away at all except by a Provisional Order confirmed by Parliament. But at present he would not move his Amendment, because there was another Amendment down in Viscount St. Aldwyn's name which covered it.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to
3. Where a loan is made by the Public Works Loan Commissioners to a local authority for any purposes of the Housing Acts—
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN moved the omission of the words which restrict the benefits of the clause, including those of minimum rate of interest and period of repayment, to local authorities. He said the clause provided that loans might be made by the Public Works Loan Commissioners at the minimum rate allowed for the time being for loans out of the Local Loans Fund. It did not extend that favourable rate of interest to loans made to other persons who were also authorised by the existing law to borrow from the Public Works Loan Commissioners for the same purpose, but confined it to local authorities. Those persons included railway and dock and harbour companies, water companies, companies employing a considerable number of the working classes for whom accommodation might be required, and also owners of land and even leaseholders who had an interest of not less than fifty years. In the rural districts and in not a few urban districts, the cottages of the working classes had been supplied by private persons or companies, rather than by public authorities, and he believed any future provision was likely to be made in the same way. Why, then, should those persons not be allowed the same facilities as local authorities? He had asked on Second Reading why those favourable terms with regard to the rate of interest on loans should not have been extended to all who were authorised to borrow under existing Acts, and the only answer he received from the noble Earl the Leader of the House was that the Treasury had been lenient in one case and would not extend their leniency to another. He did not press the Amendment because it might be a matter 49 of privilege, but he raised it as an appeal to His Majesty's Government to reconsider their decision, which of course could be altered in another place. He was sure there could be no better public object than the provision of good housing accommodation for the working classes, and he could not understand why, when the Public Works Loan Commissioners were authorised to lend to all the parties he had named, just as they had been authorised to lend to the local authorities, the same rate of interest should not be charged to the persons named as to the local authorities. If that were done it surely would be in the interests of the cause they all had at heart.
In page 2, line 10, to leave out the words 'to a local authority.'"—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that the omission of the words "local authority" would enable the loans to be made to private individuals.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said it would apply to all those authorised by the existing law.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought that the main answer to the noble Viscount's Amendment was that the bulk of the loans under the section were secured at any rate mainly upon those particular dwellings in respect to which the money was advanced. He thought their Lordships would see that generally, with regard to the class of buildings that would be put up, it was not a very satisfactory security for a loan which would be spread over a period of eighty years. Of course, the case of local authorities stood upon a different basis, because they had other funds at their disposal which naturally were security for the repayment of the loans. But if they were not dealing with authorities of that kind, he thought it was not surprising that the Treasury had said that that was lending money to individuals as well as to societies without having security for the repayment of the money.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said they could require as much security as they liked, quite apart from the building.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.50
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clauses 4, 5, and 6 agreed to.
VISCOUNT MIDLETON had the following new clause on the Paper, to be inserted after Clause 6—
Any local authority in connection with the exercise by them of their powers under Part III of the principal Act, may, with the consent of the Local Government Board, and subject to such conditions (if any) as the Board may impose on giving their consent., dispense with any obligation of the local authority or any, other person to comply with any local Act, Provisional Order, or order having the effect of an Act, or any by-law, regulation, or other provision under whatever authority made, which is in operation in the area in which the local authority are exercising any of their powers under Part III of the principal Act, but nothing in this section shall confer upon any local authority power to dispense with the provisions of the London Building Acts, 1894 to 1905, or any Act amending the same, or any by-laws or regulations in force thereunder without the consent of the London County Council.
The object of the Amendment was, he explained, to facilitate the erection of houses for the working classes, and especially by the County Council of London. He felt in some difficulty about the clause as it had been placed upon the Paper. Those of their Lordships who had studied the Bill would have seen that under Clause 23 the Local Government Board sought to take powers in respect to Part I and Part II of the original Act which were identical with the power which he proposed to take under Part III by the suggested new clause. Again, under Clause 55 in the Town Planning Part more drastic provisions were proposed to be taken by the Local Government Board for overriding by-laws and Acts of Parliament than even were proposed in the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper. There were on that side of the House noble Lords who held, and he thought rightly held, that to give the Local Government, or any Government Department, the power of overriding either an Act of Parliament or a Provisional Order, was in itself an invasion of the usual practice of Parliament. It was highly desirable that anything which was done by Parliament, if it was to be abrogated, should be abrogated by Parliament. For these reasons, they were seeking to eliminate from Clause 23 and Clause 55 the provisions which would enable the Local Government Board to override anything except by-laws which they themselves had made.
§ He proposed, with the consent of their Lordships, to amend his proposed new clause by leaving out those parts of it which referred to Acts of Parliament and limiting it to those parts which referred to the abrogation of by-laws with the consent of the Local Government Board which by-laws they themselves had made or had sanctioned. He had handed to the Lord Chairman such an Amendment as, without troubling their Lordships to read it, would reduce the clause precisely within those limits. He desired in a few words to explain why it was absolutely necessary, if housing was to be cheap, and if housing was also to be in any way expeditious, they should adopt some system of that kind, and bring into line the wholly divergent by-laws which existed throughout the metropolis, and, he believed, equally in some of the provincial towns. At that moment the London County Council had large building schemes which were being carried on, and necessarily carried on, outside the limits of the county. He would not trouble their Lordships at that moment although he might have to do so later on with any description of the position in which they stood with regard to those schemes vis â vis the Local Government Board, but he might mention that they carried them on under the greatest possible difficulties. For instance, in Croydon they came across by-laws which forced them to have in the rear of any building of that character a space of 500 square feet. In Edmonton they could erect exactly the same building with a space in the rear of it of 150 square feet. He thought their Lordships would admit that it was highly undesirable, if houses were needed for the working classes in the neighbourhood of Croydon, that such a penalty should be exacted from the ratepayers, unless it was the opinion of the Local Government Board that such a penalty must be exacted.
§ Then, again, Croydon required exactly double the width of a party wall to that required in the Borough of Tottenham, and there were conflicting by-laws throughout these boroughs as to drainage, the width of streets, the making of roads, the distances between cross roads, and so on. All those questions came up at intervals, after a site had been bought. They came up at a moment when the thing had been entered into in the belief that without cost to the ratepayers the dwellings could 52 be provided; and it was discovered, after action bad been taken, that owing to a by-law which might be adopted or changed by the local authority at any moment with the consent of the Local Government Board, the buildings had a very large increased cost put upon them. He would not for a moment press their Lordships upon the point were it one of those small and isolated cases to which allusion had been made in the course of the debate that afternoon, but he must say for the London County Council that for good or ill they had spent during the last ten years £2,560,000 on working class dwellings, and having had experience in different parts of the country of the difficulties raised by by-laws, he thought they had some right to ask their Lordships' indulgence in the matter. If the Local Government Board for the special object of workmen's dwellings saw reason to relapse by-laws which it had made itself, those by-laws should be so relapsed, and the penalty which at present was laid upon the ratepayers should not be exacted from them.
After Clause 6 to insert the following new clause:
'Any local authority in connection with the exercise by them of their powers under Part III of the principal Act, may, with the consent of the Local Government Board, and subject to such conditions (if any) as the Board may impose on giving their consent, dispense with any obligation of the local authority or any other person to comply with any by-law, regulation, or other provision under whatever authority made, which is in operation in the area in which the local authority are exercising any of their powers under Part III of the principal Act, but nothing in this section shall confer upon any local authority power to dispense with the provisions of the London Building Acts, 1894 to 1905, or any Act amending the same, or any by-laws or regulations in force thereunder without the consent of the London County Council.'"—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP hoped the noble Viscount would forgive him if he confessed himself at some disadvantage in arguing on an Amendment which had been amended since the present sitting of the House began. A good many of the questions they were dealing with were somewhat technical, and when an Amendment which was already of a technical nature was altered in that way, a layman like himself was in a considerable difficulty. First of all, with regard to the particular case which the noble Viscount had in his mind of Totten- 53 ham, Tottenham would be a very proper case for a town planning scheme, and that would come under different conditions which would probably meet the case of the noble Viscount. There was one result of the Amendment, as amended, which he thought was not in the mind of the noble Viscount, and that was that it would give to the Local Government Board the supervision of all the plans of the London County Council, which the Local Government Board were not anxious to have. There was one further point. The noble Viscount argued that the Bill went a great deal too far in giving to the Local Government Board certain powers in the way of repealing Acts of Parliament and by-laws. When they came to argue those clauses they would remember with pleasure that the noble Viscount himself suggested in the original form of his Amendment that the County Council should have power to override those Acts of Parliament, with the sanction of the Local Government Board. So that the noble Viscount himself went a very great deal further than anything which was in the Bill at the present time. He would draw the attention of the noble Viscount, if he might, to an Amendment which he had himself put down as a subsequent clause to Clause 44. After Clause 44 there was an Amendment standing in his name, and it gave power to the Local Government Board to override these by-laws and other enactments when they were unreasonable, and that Amendment might, perhaps, meet the case which the noble Viscount had quite fairly put to the Committee. In any event, he would like to suggest to him that, in view of the fact that none of their Lordships had seen the noble Viscount's Amendment, as now moved, in print, it would be well to bring it up again on Report. He hoped, however, that the noble Viscount would be satisfied with the subsequent Amendment to which he had referred.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON admitted that the noble Earl's suggested new clause did make a considerable difference. He had obtained a copy of it, but he had not had time to consider it fully. He would, with their Lordships' permission, withdraw his Amendment now and bring it up again on Report if it should be found that the noble Earl's Amendment did not sufficiently cover his own.
§ LORD HYLTON said that the question 54 of these building by-laws was one upon which he had been twice successful in asking their Lordships' House to pass a Bill, although, unfortunately, the Bill had gone no further than that House. The difficulties and troubles caused by unnecessary by-laws in rural districts had been so evident to the House on the two occasions on which he had had the honour to bring the subject before them that he thought there was really very little opposition on either side, and he had ventured to look upon the subject for some time as a little ewe lamb of his own. He was delighted to now find that it had been "gobbled up" by the Front Benches on both sides, the noble Viscount and the noble Earl in charge of the Bill having both put down Amendments on the subject. He would be only too thankful if he found, as a result of the two Front Benches having taken the matter up, that the difficulties and troubles and inconsistencies in the present by-laws of rural districts should be in any way obviated without his further troubling on the subject. But he would like to say that the President of the Local Government Board, after his (Lord Hylton's) Bill on the matter passed the House a year or two ago, spoke most sympathetically on the subject, and promised, if an opportunity provided itself, to father the measure through the House of Commons. That opportunity did not arise, but in a discussion upon this Bill the other day some Amendment of the kind was put down, and the President of the Local Government Board again said that if something was moved in this House he would again endeavour to give his attention to it. He would not repeat the arguments he used when he brought the subject before the House on a former occasion, but if the Front Benches were good enough to take the subject up he would only be too delighted to see it passed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
7.—(1) The following paragraph shall be substituted for paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section seventy-four of the principal Act:—
(b) The improvements on which capital money arising under the Settled Land Act, 1882, may be expended, enumerated in section twenty-five of the said Act, and referred to in section thirty of the said Act, shall, in addition to cottages for labourers, farm servants, and artisans, whether employed on the settled land or not, include the provision of dwellings available for the working classes, either
by means of building new buildings or by means of the reconstruction, enlargement, or improvement of existing buildings, so as to make them available for the purpose, if that provision of dwellings is, in the opinion of the court, not injurious to the estate or is agreed to by the tenant for life and the trustees of the settlement.
(2) The provision by a tenant for life, at his own expense, of dwellings available for the working classes on any settled land, shall not in any case be deemed to be an injury to any interest in reversion or remainder in that land.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved an Amendment to provide that the powers conferred on a tenant for life by the clause should not be exercised by him without the previous approval in writing of the trustees of the settlement. He was not quite sure what the intention of His Majesty's Government was in respect to the subsection—subsection (2)—to which his Amendment related. They evidently had in their minds some case which had been brought to their notice in which a tenant for life had built cottages and afterwards been called in question, he supposed, by his trustees, or some one interested, for having violated the terms of the settlement, or destroyed the amenities of the place or its surroundings. He had no doubt he would hear from the noble Earl the particular kind of case they had in mind. Of course the general tendency of legislation in recent years had been to free the tenant for life as much as possible and he was now, notwithstanding any terms of the settlement, allowed to use capital moneys for the building of cottages to the full extent he wished. But this went a step further, and said that when he was intent upon building cottages he was not to be restrained in any way whatever by any consideration, and wherever he built cottages, even if he built them opposite the front door of his mansion, and destroyed the garden, he was not to be called in question. That seemed to him to carry the freedom of the tenant for life too far, and his Amendment was merely to limit it to the extent that if the tenant for life wished to be absolutely protected so that he could build cottages precisely where he thought fit, he must first get the consent of his trustees. It seemed to him to be a very moderate Amendment, and he hoped the Government would accept it.
In page 3, line 34, to leave out the words 'in any case,' and in line 35, after the word 'land' to insert the words 'provided that the powers con-
ferred upon a tenant for life by this subsection shall not be exercised by him without the previous approval in writing of the trustees of the settlement.'"—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he would not venture to accuse any noble Lord or landowner of doing anything so foolish as to build cottages opposite his front door. He thought the provisions of the clause were fairly simple in their intention. The idea was that they should simplify the matter and assist any tenant for life in building such cottages if he wished to do so. His own experience was that the less one had to deal with lawyers the better, and in the case before them the intervention of the trustees would, without any doubt, give an opportunity to the family lawyer to have something to say in the matter. No doubt the noble Marquess was afraid that some unwise tenant for life might erect needless dwellings on the estate which the man who succeeded afterwards would be obliged to keep in repair, but he did not think that that would be likely to happen. One reason why he thought it was not very likely to happen was that the tenant for life would have to spend his own money in the matter, and therefore he was not likely to waste, it needlessly, or spend it in the erection of unnecessary buildings.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE was of opinion that the words went too far. He had known cases where a malicious man, a tenant for life, had seriously injured the property by spending money needlessly, because he was unfriendly to those coming after him; and he thought that there ought to be some protection in regard to the estate itself.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH hoped the House would agree to the Amendment of the noble Marquess. It did seem to him that the protection of the trustees in such a case would be valuable. He believed there was a safeguard where it was proposed to spend capital money for the building of workmen's cottages, and that was that a scheme had to be submitted through the intermediary of the Board of Agriculture. It so happened that he himself had had to inquire into that very matter in a small case in which he was interested only that day, and he was told that it was in most cases obligatory for the scheme to be adopted.57
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, the question, of course, is not a very large one, and the whole point is whether it is more likely that a tenant for life would do the somewhat eccentric thing which the noble Lord opposite suggested—spend his own pocket money in order to annoy his heir—or whether it is more likely that trustees who do not take great interest in enterprise of this kind might not put obstruction in the way of a tenant for life who wished to improve his property in that respect. I think the latter would be more likely, and I should prefer the clause to stand as it is.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said he had no doubt there were philanthropic tenants for life, but he know one or two very malicious tenants for life, and he dared say most of their Lordships had a similar acquaintance. He did not see what objection there could be to the noble Marquess's Amendment; it was surely imposing no serious limitation.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he was not sure whether the noble Earl realised that the tenant for life would have to do it out of his own pocket, so that he would have to be a most extraordinarily malicious person if he did it.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN replied that he had known several people who were quite capable of doing a thing of that kind.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH pointed out that if there was no malicious intention the trustees would at once give their consent, because it would be a great improvement to the estate, and not done out of capital but out of the private money of the tenant for life. He could not conceive any reasonable trustees refusing their consent to that unless there was some malicious intention shown on the part of the tenant for life, and some desire to injure the estate thereby.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I agree with the noble Lord that reasonable trustees would not withhold their consent, but the question is whether there is not more likely to be unreasonable trustees than malicious tenants for life.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
9.—(1) If in any case it appears to the Local Government Board that the institution of legal proceedings is requisite or desirable with respect to any property applicable or required to be applied under any trusts for the provision of dwellings available for the working classes, or that the expediting of any such legal proceedings is requisite or desirable, the Board may certify the case to the Attorney-General, and the Attorney-General, if he thinks fit, shall institute any legal proceedings or intervene in any legal proceedings already instituted in such manner as he thinks proper under the circumstances.
(2) Before preparing any scheme with reference to property applicable or required to be applied under any trusts for the provision of dwellings available for the working classes the Court or body who are responsible for making the scheme shall communicate with the Local Government Board and receive and consider any recommendations made by the Board with reference to the proposed scheme.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND moved to delete the words "applicable or" ["desirable with respect to any property applicable or"]. He said he was not quite sure that he understood Clause 9; it was of rather a technical character, but as he read it it meant that supposing there was a trust of a large character covering diverse kinds of property, and there was property in the trust which was required to be applied to the provision of dwellings for the working classes, any other land which might be also under the same trust but about which nothing was said as to the provision of dwellings for the working classes might, by the action of the Local Government Board, be appropriated for that purpose. Surely those words were too wide, and he would move that the words "applicable or" should be left out.
In page 4, line 3, to leave out the words 'applicable or.'"—(The Duke of Northumberland.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that the matter had been considered by the Local Government Board, and in view of the objection which had been raised by the noble Duke they were willing to accept the Amendment.59
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 10:
§ Powers of enforcing Execution of Housing Acts.
§ 10.—(1) If after holding a local inquiry with reference to the matter, the Local Government Board are satisfied—
- (a) as respects any rural district on the complaint of the council of the county in which the district is situate, or of the parish council or parish meeting of any parish comprised in the district, or any four inhabitant householders of the district; or
- (b) as respects any county district not being a rural district on the application of the council of the county in which the district is situated, or of four inhabitant householders of the district; or
- (c) as respects the area of any other local authority on the application of four inhabitant householders of the area;
§ (2) Where an order originally made under this section on the council of a county district is not complied with by that council, the Local Government Board may, if they think fit, with the consent of the county council, instead of enforcing that order against the council of the county district, make an order directing the county council to carry out any works or do any other things which are mentioned in the original order for the purpose of remedying the default of the district council.
§ (3) Where the Board make an order under this section directing a county council to carry out any works or do any other thing the order may for the purpose of enabling the county council to give effect to the order apply any of the provisions of the Housing Acts or of section sixty-three of the Local Government Act, 1894, with such modifications or adaptations (if any) as appear necessary or expedient.
§ (4) Any order made by the Local Government Board under this section may be enforced by mandamus.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP moved to delete the words "If after holding a local inquiry with reference to the matter," from the beginning of Clause 10 and to substitute the words "Where a complaint is made to." The Amendments standing in his name to Clause 10 were really only of a drafting character. They were meant to make it perfectly clear—and all his Amendments hung together—that a local inquiry need not necessarily be held supposing that the information received was frivolous. That covered the case of another Amendment to Clause 12 to be moved by the noble Duke.60
In page 4, lines 19 and 20, to leave out the words 'if after holding a local inquiry with reference to the matter' and to insert the words 'Where a complaint is made to.'"—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ LORD HYLTON asked why the word "complaint" was used both in the Bill and in the Amendment. The ordinary words one would expect to find would be "Where an application is made," but the Government had used the words "Where a complaint is made." It had been put to him by persons entitled to respect that that might lead to confusion as to the law.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he did not think there was anything special in the point, but he would make inquiry, and if there was anything in it he would bring it up on Report.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP then moved the other drafting Amendments standing in his name to Clause 10.
§ On Question, drafting Amendments agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN had an Amendment on the Paper to omit the words "or any four inhabitant householders of the district." from paragraph (a) subsection (1). He intimated that he would not move his Amendment at this stage as the Amendment to be moved by Lord Clinton just below in page 4, line 34, to leave out "or Part III" would cover his point.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN moved to amend paragraph (a) of subsection (1) by leaving out "the district" and inserting "such parish." He merely wanted to ask why the phrase "the inhabitant householders of the district" was inserted in the clause instead of "the inhabitants of the parish." The words were "As respects any rural district on the complaint of the council of the county in which the district is situate, or of the parish council or parish meeting of any parish comprised in the district, or any four inhabitant householders of the district." It would seem to him to naturally follow that the words should be "inhabitants of the parish," but it was not a matter of any very great importance.61
In page 4, line 25, to leave out the words `the district' and to insert the words such parish.'"(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that if the noble Viscount would look at line 21 he would see the words "as respects any rural district." That was why "district" was put at the end of the Clause; it related back, just as in (c) the word was "area."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Drafting Amendments agreed to.
§ LORD CLINTON moved the omission of the words "or Part III," the effect being to take away from the Local Government Board the power to force any local authority by mandamus to embark on a housing scheme. Even if the Amendment were accepted it would, he said, leave the Local Government Board full powers over a local authority for the execution of Part I and Part II of the principal Act. Those two Parts dealt really with all the important public health matters in Housing Acts. They would enable the Local Government Board to force a local authority to deal with all the existing evils which were inseparable from unhealthy dwellings and insanitary areas. They would be able to force them to deal with plague spots of congested areas and destroy, remove, or reconstruct slum districts. He was bound to say that he believed with regard to those two Parts of the prinicipal Act that that power of the Local Government Board was absolutely necessary. It was given under the Act of 1903, and now it was strengthened by the larger powers of complaint and representation which were given to the local authorities and to the inhabitants. He believed it was necessary because the existence of these congested areas they all acknowledged and deplored, and he thought they were a proof that many local authorities were exceedingly apathetic in carrying out the duties placed upon them by former Acts of Parliament. It was, perhaps, rather a curious fact that slums existed in almost as great a degree as they did twenty years ago; and when it was shown by clear evidence that the need of action and of compelling power on the part of the Local Government Board over a local authority was really a necessity, however much they disagreed with the general idea of a Government Department compelling a popularly elected body to act contrary to its wishes, 62 he was bound to say they ought to extend the fullest power to a Government Department to deal with it.
§ The Government, he thought, had shown in their Bills that they were too ready to insert this power of mandamus with respect to local bodies. It was a principle which he believed was fundamentally wrong, and if carried to an extreme it was liable to make a farce of all local government. It could only be tolerated, in his opinion, if a really clear case was made out for its use. He believed that a clear case had been made for full powers with regard to Parts I and II. He did not wish to raise any objection to it in this section, but he thought the matter was quite different with regard to Part III. He had referred so much to Part II because he wanted, if he could, to draw a really broad distinction between the duties which fell on local authorities under Part II and the duties which would now fall upon them under Part III. In the former case the duties which the local authority had to carry out were duties which touched the health and the lives of the people in the localities under their charge. They were essentially local duties. But with regard to Part III, the dealing with housing schemes was certainly not a primary duty of a local authority. It was certainly not their first duty to suddenly embark on housing schemes or housing speculation; that was not a matter which affected public health in anything like the same degree as demolition or reconstruction schemes. It was really an extension of a very large measure of social reform which was not of local importance so much as of really national importance, and no evidence could be brought forward that local authorities had failed to carry out their duties in that respect, because up to the present Part III of the Act had been purely adoptive and local authorities had not been compelled to take it up at all.
§ He thought it was obvious that any housing scheme must be an expensive scheme, and must be a burden on the rates. They knew perfectly well that in building houses, at all events in rural districts, it was quite impossible to let them at a rent which would repay interest and sinking fund alone. He admitted fully that in urban districts rents were on a higher level than they were in rural districts. Local authorities had the increased powers of borrowing which were given them under the Act, and he under 63 stood that those powers would enable them to borrow money and pay off and set aside a sinking fund at the rate of three and a-quarter per cent. He admitted that there would be a better opportunity in urban districts than in rural districts, and he had no doubt that the President of the Local Government Board was perfectly justified on the Second Reading of the Bill in another place in showing that he could build and let a house at a rent which would repay interest and sinking fund. But it was well known to their Lordships that before a scheme could be self-supporting it was essential not only that one should be able to repay the interest and the sinking fund, but that one should be able to keep up one's buildings and do everything else that was necessary as a householder. First of all, obviously they had to keep the buildings in repair. He would like to say one word upon the percentage of cost of repairs. Formerly, under Schedule A of Income Tax, landowners were allowed sixteen per cent., roughly speaking one-sixth of the rent, as a reduction from their income for the cost of repairs. He was glad to say they knew, or had heard, that it had been acknowledged that landowners had been overtaxed in that respect, and there was to be an amendment put down in another place raising the limit of the cost of repairs to twenty-five per cent., or one-fourth. He understood that that was to be in special cases, but of course they did not know the details yet. He was sure, however, that landowners would be grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for that concession, and although it did not go as far as they thought necessary. at the same time he congratulated Lord Onslow and his association for the trouble taken and for the figures they collected and were able to put before the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But whether it was one-fifth or one-fourth, it was a very large item which had to come off the rent of the building.
In addition there were the rates, which added a large sum, and there was also the cost of insurance and the very large risk, which was a real and a certain risk with that class of houses, that there would be arrears of rent which it was impossible to collect. To give their Lordships some idea of what that amounted to he would like to say that in connection with another Bill which had been before their Lordships particulars of the amount
of arrears of rent of certain property were furnished to him from the City of Edinburgh which showed that in the case of houses let at £6 the average percentage of arrears was thirty-three per cent. of the rental, and in the case of houses let at £7 the average percentage was twenty-five per cent. of the rental. When they added all those items together it was perfectly obvious that a housing scheme carried on by a local authority could not be self-supporting. It was essential that it should be a very heavy burden upon the rates. They need have no doubt that the experiment would be a costly one, and he did not believe it was right that a Government Department, which had no responsibility whatever for the rates, should have the power of forcing upon a popularly elected body that which would amount to a large scheme of municipal trading at the cost of the rates without the approval of that local authority, and without the consent of the constituents who elected that local authority. If they took away from the Local Government Board the power of forcing local authorities to carry out housing schemes there remained some machinery in the Bill by which those housing duties could be carried out if the rural authority was remiss in its duty. Section 12 of the Bill provided that—
If the council of a county on the complaint of the parish council or parish meeting of any parish comprised in any rural district in the county, or of any four inhabitant householders of that district, after holding a local inquiry are satisfied that the rural district council have failed to exercise their powers under Part III of the principal Act in cases where those powers ought to have been exercised, the county council may resolve that the powers of the district council for the purposes of that Part be transferred to the county council.
That made the county council the judge of whether the schemes were required or whether they were necessary, and he personally believed the county council to be the proper authority in the matter because they were representative of the county and of the district, and they had also not only full knowledge of local requirements but had a certain responsibility for the rates. He thought it was more consonant with their ideas of local government that the county council should remain the chief authority in that respect. Of course, that section only referred to rural districts. But in order that some power should be brought in to force an urban district which was remiss in carrying out its duties in the same way as a rural district he had put Amendments
down to Clause 12 which he hoped would carry that out.
In page 4, line 34, to leave out or Part III.'"—(Lord Clinton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the practical effect of the Amendment, taken in conjunction with later Amendments, was to remove the authority of the Local Government Board with regard to Part III, and to substitute instead the action under Clause 12, in which case the county council would have authority both over the urban and the rural district councils. That was an alternative to the present scheme. Their Lordships knew that powers were given under Clause 12 already to deal with rural districts; by the Amendment of the noble Lord he would also put urban districts under the power of the county council. The town councils and also the urban district councils had both objected very strongly to the interposition of any authority between themselves and the Board, and by removing the urban district councils out of Clause 10 and putting them into Clause 12 they were left without any appeal to the Local Government Board. They preferred to be in direct communication with the Local Government Board. Where members of urban district councils had gathered together resolutions had been carried urging that no clause should be passed inserting any authority between themselves and the Local Government Board. He would further point out that there was no precedent to empower what was proposed by the Amendment. It would be taking a very strong step to put urban councils under the same power as rural councils. The County Councils Association might be against their proposal and desire that complaints should be to them as regards boroughs and urban districts; but as to smaller urban districts the Amendment of the noble Lord went much further. One effect of the Amendment would be that there would be no power to deal with default on the part of county boroughs at all; it would not apply to county boroughs; they would have to be mentioned separately. It was a very serious matter. His Majesty's Government thought the Bill as introduced provided better machinery, and he hoped their Lordships would allow the Bill to stand as it was.66
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY did not think the noble Earl realised the strength of the noble Lord's point. Was it to be agreed in that House that any local authority, however important it might be, was to be subject to the Local Government Board in a matter that involved very heavy expenditure of the ratepayers' money? It was not a case of bad dwellings, because that belonged to Parts I and II of the principal Act with which they were not dealing. They were dealing with cases under Part III, namely, that part of the principal Act which provided machinery for dealing with a new land scheme; and the question was whether important bodies like the county councils and county borough councils, elected expressly to protect the interests of ratepayers, were to be subject to a decree of the Local Government Board sitting in London as to how they were to expend the money of their constituents. It seemed to him to be a negation of local government as they understood it. It was astonishing to find the Liberal Party, which was so much in favour of representative self-government, proposing that representative bodies should have their decisions overridden by a Public Department in London. He did not think, whatever the fate of the noble Lord's Amendment might be, that their Lordships could assent to the extreme doctrine the Government had put forward. Therefore, even if the noble Lord did not press his Amendment it would be for their Lordships to consider the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Midleton, by which he would exempt from the operation of this Clause as affecting Part III of the Act the county councils and the great county boroughs. The noble Earl, in the speech he had just delivered, seemed to think that the county boroughs wanted control. Their Lordships could not assent to that. The noble Earl not only dealt with county boroughs, he also spoke of smaller urban constituencies. There was a recognised distinction between the two, and that distinction had been emphasised by Lord St. Aldwyn. In the face of that distinction he (Lord Salisbury) thought some of their Lordships could hardly support Lord Clinton in the Amendment he had laid before them. But although they could not go so far as to strike out "or Part III," it would need a certain amount of protection, and their Lordships would find on page 5 of the Paper an Amendment standing in 67 the name of Lord St. Aldwyn which proposed to re-instate the conditions which prevailed as to limiting the action of the county council under the existing Housing Acts in order to limit the action of the Local Government Board in respect of this Housing Act. That Amendment only dealt with rural districts. If Lord St. Aldwyn was prepared to extend it to small communities besides rural districts there would be sufficient protection, and then it would not be necessary to insist on so drastic an Amendment as that proposed by Lord Clinton. If they were not able to go with Lord Clinton on this Amendment it must be understood that they reserved the right to support the other Amendment in the form which he had ventured to mention.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND asked whether he understood the noble Earl to say that boroughs were willing to come under the authority of the Local Government Board. He understood that they objected strongly to the authority of the county councils; but did the noble Earl go so far as to say that they were willing to come under the other power?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I can answer the noble Duke in my reply to the noble Marquess. The first point of the noble Marquess's speech was directed against Clause 1 of the Bill. His objection was that Part III should be otherwise than adoptive. The particular question of whether Part III is compulsory is to be inquired into, but the point before your Lordships is the general question of compelling a local burden under Part III at all. Therefore it does not seem to be entirely relevant. I suggest that if the Amendment is not going to be pressed it would be better to reserve the discussion until the other Amendments are considered in due course. As regards the question of the noble Duke, I did not understand my noble friend behind me to say that county boroughs desired to come under the Local Government Board. All he said was that they strongly objected to come under the county council.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND said he saw from a document he had had placed in his hands that they also strongly objected to come under the Loral Government Board.68
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In page 4, line 35, after the word 'exercised,' to insert the words 'the Board may cause a public local inquiry to be held, and if after holding such an inquiry, the Board are satisfied that there has been such a failure on the part of the local authority.'"—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
*VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN moved the omission from the clause of the words "or, if the Board think fit, in any case where the authority in default is the council of a county district, the county council." He said this clause proposed in the first place that the complaint should be made by the county council that the council of a rural or urban district had not carried out the provisions of the law, and then that the Local Government Board on such complaint might make an order requiring the local authority to carry out the law. In line 37, other words were inserted which did not apply to the local authority at all. He did not quite understand what they meant. The words were—
The Board may declare the authority to be in default and may make an order directing that authority, or, if the Board think fit, in any case where the authority in default is the council of a county district, the county council.
What right had the Local Government Board, either as the law stood or as it would stand if the Bill passed in its present shape, to make an order directing a county council to carry out the law? The county council was not the local authority for the purposes of this Bill. A county council as a county council was not charged by Parliament with any duty at all, except so far as the duties imposed upon it by that section were concerned which depended on the council's complaint, application, or consent; and, also, any action under Clauses 11 and 12 of the Bill must be initiated by the county council or with the consent of the county council. Therefore he thought he was right in urging that neither the existing law nor the Bill imposed any obligation on a county council to carry out the Housing Acts. Then, he asked, what right had the Local Government Board to make an order on a county council to do it? He did not understand how those words had crept into the clause, and as he did not think the Local Government Board ought to have the right to make any such order on
a county council, he begged to move their omission.
In page 4, line 37, to leave out from the word 'authority' to the word 'within' in line 39."—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Local Government Board would prefer the words to remain in the clause, but as there was a good deal of feeling in regard to them, he would accept the Amendment.
§ LORD BELPER said he was very glad that the Government were willing to accept the noble Viscount's Amendment, which left out more words than his Amendment would deal with. His Amendment was that the county council could not be compelled to do that which was not one of their duties. He had no objection to the noble Viscount's Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN moved that before deciding that a local authority had failed to exercise their powers under Part III of the principal Act the Board should be satisfied that there was a necessity which was likely to be permanent for further housing accommodation for the working classes, that there was no probability that it would be otherwise provided, and that, having regard to the liability which would be incurred by the rates, it was prudent to undertake the provision. He stated that under the Act of 1890 it was provided that where a county council applied Part III of the Housing Act to a rural district it should only do so after having before it certain considerations, and having arrived at a conclusion upon them. Those considerations were practically what had been placed in the Amendment. That provision, when the Act of 1893 extended the powers of the county council in the matter, was reinstated, and it now stood as the law. The powers proposed by the clause to be conferred on the Local Government Board of making an order to compel a rural district council to provide this accommodation, of course, were far in excess of the powers granted by Parliament to the county councils in the matter of merely making Part III operative in a district. Therefore there was all the more reason for re-enacting a similar provision with 70 regard to the action of the Local Government Board in the matter. Before making the Order, which might be the cause of great expenditure, there should be considered whether accommodation should be provided, whether there was any probability that it would be otherwise provided, and whether it would be wise, having regard to the rates that it should be undertaken. Any one who knew the country knew many cases where, because of some particular trade or industry, dwellings had been built for the working classes, and perhaps within a few years, owing to the disappearance of the trade or industry, those buildings had become useless. They were bound, he thought, to provide by Statute that the Local Government Board should have before it precisely the same considerations as by the existing laws were before the county council prior to making orders,
In page 5, line 2, after the word 'default' to insert the words 'Before deciding that a local authority have failed to exercise their powers under Part III of the principal Act, the Board shall be satisfied that there is a necessity which is likely to be permanent for further accommodation for the housing of the working classes in such district, that there is no probability that the required accommodation will be otherwise provided, and that having regard to the liability which will be incurred by the rates, it is under all the circumstances prudent for the local authority to undertake the provision of such accommodation.'"—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that, although the Local Government Board were not prepared to accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount, he was very glad to see that there was really no difference between them. The necessities of the case were met by the provision that there should be a local inquiry. After the local inquiry it might be found that the local authority was in default in some cases, and that there were some cases in which they ought to have exercised their power. The Local Government Board would not say they ought to have exercised their power if there was no necessity for further accommodation, or there was a probability that further accommodation would be provided. But other points ought to be considered by the Board, and it was not necessary to lay emphasis on one or two points when they would have to consider others later on. There was really no point of difference between the noble Viscount and himself.71
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said the noble Earl had overlooked a very important point, and that was that the earlier Acts contained those directions, and if those directions were overlooked it would be said that the discretion of the Local Government Board was unfettered, and that they need not take them into consideration. The noble Earl quite agreed with the noble Viscount that they should be taken into consideration, and it would be safer that there should not be an omission of those directions, lest it should be said they were not to be considered.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I hope the House will not disregard the advice given us with the high authority of the Lord Chief Justice. Many of us were impressed by what was said by Lord Clinton, and I for one would not have dissociated myself from that proposal if I had not had reason to believe that it would be dealt with effectively in a later Amendment. The noble Earl tells us that the words proposed to be inserted by my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn are superfluous, because we may assume that through the local inquiries contemplated by the Bill safeguards will have been sufficiently provided. I am totally unconvinced by the arguments of the noble Earl. Let us consider what this clause is really going to do. We are going to allow a Government Department to coerce a local authority into the expenditure of large sums of money, sums which may be very large in some cases, and which may be, very likely would be, spent for unremunerative purposes. Is it not reasonable that we should safeguard that power by every means at our disposal, and is it not perfectly reasonable to insist that those considerations which under the existing law have to be taken into account before Part III of the principal Act can be applied should be duly considered and weighed by those who are responsible? I should be very sorry if, after the discussion that has taken place, we should allow ourselves to be satisfied merely by the assumption, for it is only an assumption, that these local inquiries will result in sufficient care being paid to considerations which seem to me absolutely essential.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Committee had had the advantage of an interposition by the Lord Chief Justice, and; as it did not appear to the noble and learned Lord 72 that there was any danger that the other considerations which were not mentioned in the Amendment would be overlooked, the Government would accept the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH, with a view to preventing irresponsible persons from setting in motion the machinery of the section, moved to enable the Local Government Board, before considering complaints or applications, to require the deposit of a sum to cover the costs. He believed it had been a matter of controversy whether four householders of a district should be allowed to initiate proceedings. It appeared that Part I of the Housing Act dealing with large improvements enabled twelve householders to initiate proceedings and provided for security for costs to be lodged. His Amendment would extend to the case where initiatory action was taken by four men, who sometimes might be very worthy men and who sometimes might be very unworthy, and it seemed a pity that a burden should be placed on the ratepayers' shoulders unless those four men gave security for costs. Should noble Lords think that the wording of the Amendment was too drastic or went too far he would be willing to substitute the word "may" for "shall." That would bring it into accordance with Section 40 of this Bill.
In page 5, line 2, after the word 'default,' to insert the following new subsection:
'(2) The Local Government Board, before considering any complaint or application which may be made to them under this section by inhabitant householders, shall require the complainants or applicants to deposit such sum to cover the costs of the proceeding as the Board direct.'"—(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that they could not expect that there would be many or any complaints on trivial grounds, and he should be sorry if anything were done which would deter people, even the very poorest, from making such complaints. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed. It was a case where the Local Government Board might be trusted to make sufficient preliminary examination of the complaint, and not incur any costs before they had satisfied themselves that the complaint was really based on some 73 substantial foundation, and was not entirely frivolous. They knew of instances where a permissive clause of that kind had a deterrent effect. The hope of the Board was that persons would not be deterred in making complaints if they were justified in so doing, and they would be frightened if they thought they might have to make this deposit. The very poor could not deposit such a sum.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN thought there was something to be said for the Amendment, but, on the other hand, it was quite certain to be said outside that it was an endeavour to prevent people complaining when they had a complaint.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH did not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON moved an Amendment providing that an Order of the Local Government Board under this clause relating to Part III of the principal Act should not take effect until a draft had been before both Houses of Parliament for thirty days; and if an address was presented against it, no further proceedings should be taken upon it. This was, he said, a provision of which advantage had been taken in many of these Acts. He urged that in view of the novelty of these proceedings and the feeling that was likely to be excited in different localities, there was no question that, even at the risk of a short delay, these Orders should be laid before Parliament.
In page 5, line 17, after the word 'expedient' to insert the following new subsection:
'(4) An order relating to Part III of the principal Act made by the Local Government Board under this section shall not take effect until a draft thereof has lain for thirty days during the session of Parliament on the Table of both Houses of Parliament, and, if either House during those thirty days presents an address to His Majesty against the draft, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, but without prejudice to the making of a new Draft Order.'"—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Government were quite unable to accept the Amendment. Their Lordships' House did not sit for several months in the year, and it would be a great inconvenience for local 74 authorities to incur the delay which might be caused by requiring orders to be laid before Parliament. He reminded the House that the Board would only take action under this section when a local authority was in default. This was another case in which the Local Government Board was acting purely as an administrative Department, and they might safely be left with full authority.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said there would be no delay so long as the present Government were in existence because their Lordships sat all the year round. He wanted to point out to the noble Earl what he was doing. The Local Government Board were to override an authority which had been elected to represent the ratepayers, and to order them to spend the rates in defiance of what they thought right, and the Government did not propose to give them any appeal from that whatever. The Local Government Board were to have absolute authority. When the noble Earl objected to Lord Clinton's Amendment, they expected that if those local authorities were to be kept under the Local Government Board in regard to Part III they should have an appeal of some sort or kind. That was highly desirable. When the noble Earl said the Local Government Board were only acting administratively, he supposed a schoolmaster only acted administratively when he flogged a boy. He should say they were acting not only administratively but judicially. The Local Government Board had to satisfy themselves that the local authority had failed to exercise their powers under Part II or Part III of the principal Act in cases where those powers ought to have been exercised. In whose opinion was that? It was in the opinion of the Local Government Board. Surely that was exercising judicial powers. They took upon themselves to decide that the local authority had not done what it ought to have done, and the noble Earl proposed that the unfortunate local authority was to have no appeal of any sort against them, but that the word of the Board was to be law. It seemed the most drastic power that ever was given.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND did not think that any delay that might be caused by laying an Order before 75 Parliament could really be regarded as a serious matter in the case of the erection of houses. If the state of things in a district was so bad that a few months delay would be a serious matter he was afraid this Bill would not do much good.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, has twitted us that as long as we occupy this Bench this House will always be sitting to receive these Orders for thirty days. That may be so; I cannot say. I am bound to say, having regularly attended the sittings of the House during the current session, that although I might be impressed by the burden of labour that has been put on the noble Earl I do not think noble Lords generally have so far found attendance at this House during this session a very onerous affair. The noble Earl and the noble Viscount who moved this Amendment think it necessary that there should be this safeguard with regard to the action of the Local Government Board, and my noble friend behind me pointed out that in the first place it would, or might, at any rate, carry with it considerable delay. That does not appeal to the noble Duke opposite, and in the particular instance he gave delay would not be so urgent as it might be in other particular parts of the Bill. At the same time if I were a workman wanting a house I should consider a delay of nine months or a year no light affair. But I attach more importance to the other set of considerations. What is the exact value of this appeal, if appeal it is to be? What is to happen? A particular district is found by the Local Government Board to be in default in this matter of housing. I quite agree with the noble Earl that that is in the nature of a judicial decision. Is it the proper appeal from a judicial decision that the Order should be on the Table of your Lordships' House? What possible means has this House of forming an opinion on the matter? Take a concrete case. A particular district in England or Scotland comes under this ban of the Local Government Board. By what conceivable means is the majority of your Lordships' House to find out, if the Order was on the Table, whether the Local Government Board has put a correct interpretation on the facts? I do not see that any protection is afforded. I can understand appeals which I should think very objectionable, but which would be of a serious character; but I confess I 76 do not see how these particular provisions would be of any value.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that if there were to be appeals allowed their Lordships would be well qualified to judge of them. He did not know there was not something in the noble Earl's argument. But an appeal of some sort he ventured to think there ought to be. If the appeal took the form of the Order lying on the Table of the House they all knew there was very little risk of Parliament interfering with the Executive; but, on the other hand, there was very great danger of the Executive interfering with Parliament, and that was occurring more frequently every year. He hardly remembered a case in which a Peer or a member of the other House had taken up those cases without having some really good ground to go upon. He thought the more responsible people in their Lordships' House were not likely to do so, and if any irresponsible people did so the thing was not very likely to succeed. It would be some protection. As the noble Earl had asked him a question, he would reply by asking the noble Earl one. Supposing the noble Viscount were not to insist on this appeal, would the noble Earl give the House an appeal against the Local Government Board, and, if so, what appeal would he give?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not think I indicated that in my opinion any appeal was necessary. I am given to understand that, under the Public Health Act, 1875, the Local Government Board have precisely these powers with regard to the default by a local authority in respect of water supply, and there is no appeal there.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
This brings to light the fundamental difference which divides us from the policy of noble Lords opposite. Their fundamental policy is to make the Government Departments omnipotent in these matters. Local authorities are to be overburdened, the Courts of Law are to be ousted, and Parliament is not to have an opportunity of expressing its opinion. In 77 this case we are considering the effect of withdrawing from the cognisance of Parliament matters not small or unimportant, but matters that may be of great importance, affecting large areas, affecting the expenditure of money, and affecting matters which we think we should have an opportunity of considering. The noble Earl, as I understand, raises two objections to the Amendment of my noble friend. He says, in the first place, the procedure would perhaps occasion delay, but I noticed he was not inclined to drive that argument home. He evidently realised that an argument founded on delay was not a very serious argument, and it cannot be a very serious argument. He began with the delay; if delay occurs at all it will probably take place at a season of the year when building operations are not likely to be pursued with much activity. Apart from that, which is the greater evil—that there should be a delay of a few weeks or months on the one hand, or that this matter of public importance should be dealt with over the heads of the public authorities and without any regard to the interests of the ratepayers? Therefore I do not think there is much importance to be attached to the delay that might occur. What
§ is the other argument? That Parliament is not a very appropriate court of appeal for a purpose of this kind, and that the mere laying of the scheme on the Table of the Houses of Parliament would not effectually protect the interests we desire to protect. But I can conceive no form of appeal more efficient than that the scheme should lie on the Table of the two Houses and be dealt with in the light of day. It is usual for great charitable schemes to lie on the Table of the Houses of Parliament for our consideration, and when we are told that local inquiry is sufficient to give us all we require may we not recur to that well known case—the Swansea case—when a local inquiry took place, where the Department ignored the result of the inquiry, and were taken to task for their conduct by a Court of Justice? I have heard nothing to convince me that the proposal of my noble friend is an unreasonable one. I hope he will press his Amendment, and I shall certainly go with him into the Lobby.
§ On Question?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 96; Not-Contents, 24.79
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Plymouth, E.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Stanhope, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Devonshire, D.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Digby, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Egerton, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Bath, M.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Faber, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Colville of Culross, V.||Forester, L.|
|Camden, M.||De Vesci, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Falkland, V.||Harris, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Falmouth, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Winchester, M,||Goschen, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Hampden, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Hill, V.||Manners, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hood, V.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Cawdor, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Iveagh, V.||Newton, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Ridley, V.||North, L.|
|Derby, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Poltimore, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Allerton, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Alverstone, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Bagot, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Basing, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Belper, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Lytton, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Calthorpe, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Morton, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Clinton, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Denman, L. [Teller.]|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Birmingham, L. Bp.||Haversham, L.|
|Hereford, L. Bp.||Marchamley, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||O'Hagan, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Airedale, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Allendale, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Blyth, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Weardale, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ [The sitting was suspended at 8 o'clock and resumed at 9.15.]
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON moved an Amendment to exclude from the scope of Clause 10 the London County Council or the council of any large borough. He said the Amendment raised in reality a question which was vital to the whole conduct of the Bill. In the course of a brief discussion before dinner their Lordships had had placed before them on several occasions a feeling which was strongly held on that side of the House and was also strongly held in the country—that it was an anomaly first to set to work to appoint representative authorities, and after having trusted them with powers for a very long period to suddenly arrive at the proposition that their authority and jurisdiction should be usurped by a Government Department. He had served long enough in Government Departments to hold the highest respect for the officials who conducted the business of those Departments, but at the same time he could not help feeling that whilst it would be perfectly reasonable in this country for the Secretary for the Colonies to assume the power of being not merely master in his own house, but of withdrawing his decisions from the authority of Parliament undoubtedly only for a time would a free hand be given. They had had quoted instances of how almost inevitably these matters worked when the uncontrolled authority of Ministers, however good, was put into contradistinction against the authority of Parliament from which such authority emanated, and to which they were bound to render an account; and he could not help thinking that in all the Departments which they had, with Presidents holding established ideas of the Constitution, this Department which was now set on foot was one of the greatest. He had been most anxious to avoid troubling their Lordships on a previous Amendment with the full force of the arguments which might have been brought to bear upon it, 80 because he knew that he should have to produce them on this Amendment, which he believed to be one of the most important. He did not suppose any member of that House who had not taken part in local government in one of our great towns or cities could realise the full force of what it was proposed to do by the Bill, even after the Amendment which had been passed au hour before.
§ He would take the case of the London County Council, an assembly which had not an exaggerated opinion of the decisions of their predecessors. The London County Council spent £2,650,000 upon the housing of the working classes under Part III of the original Act. When the present Council were elected the late Council had bought a very large estate in the North of London, an estate of between 400 and 500 acres of valuable land at a cost of some £400 per acre. They had acquired estates north south, east and west with a view to establishing a large number of municipal dwellings and lodging houses for the working classes. The election which was taken two and a-half years ago was decided mainly on the extravagance of the previous Council, based on the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that they had misinterpreted the views of the ratepayers of London, and an emphatic verdict was given in favour of economy. Upon that verdict the present Council undertook to act without the least desire to impede the legitimate demands for housing the people. There was no attempt to frustrate by sudden action the whole process of housing of the working classes, nor endeavour to reduce what had been done by their predecessors to failure by neglect to continue building on those sites, which, without that continuance, must have proved to be a failure from a pecuniary point of view. But it remained that the present Council were prepared to spend £800,000 in continuing or completing to a large extent some of the plans laid down whilst adding materially to the large number of empty 81 dwellings. He had been over sites where the London County Council were building in streets where private individuals had erected houses and were utterly unable to find a market for them because the London County Council could afford, with the ratepayers' money, to build the same class of houses and let them on better terms. Rows of houses built by private individuals remained empty, while the London County Council continued to build streets of houses in order, not to provide for existing needs, but to continue the policy laid down by their predecessors.
§ Up to the present moment the ratepayers had been able to express their own views, but now a totally different procedure was proposed. The President of the Local Government Board, of whom he spoke with the utmost respect, held strong views in the interest of those who had opposed the present London County Council which was elected by the votes of five millions of the population at the last election. He was at the Local Government Board and still held the views which stimulated those who had been displaced; his whole policy during the last two and a-half years had been to try and force upon the Council by every means in his power the continued expenditure of one and a-half million of the ratepayers' money which the ratepayers had decided they would not spend. In the Bill as it stood there was nothing to prevent four householders, who might include the butler and coachman of any two gentlemen, or anybody not necessarily paying rates, having it in their power to bring before the Local Government Board the necessity of carrying out the scheme of the previous Council, and the London County Council must appoint an inquiry and name an arbitrator to say whether he was satisfied that it was desirable to continue the old policy. What was the use of the whole principle of local self-government that had been established in this country if after the deliberate vote cast by a great mass of ratepayers, the opinion of one man, however honestly held, was allowed, without any appeal to their Lordships and only upon his ipse dixit, to overrule it? He did not believe that men would be content to spend the hours they had to spend in carrying out the unpaid functions connected with local government if at the last moment they were allowed to be overruled by a Government Department. They had spent many hours 82 in the London County Council, day after day, in considering how to cut down without loss to the ratepayers the scheme from two and a-half millions to one and a-half million, and any one who had to deal with the matter knew how difficult it had been in the past to do the best for those they represented. But under the present Bill all discretion disappeared and a local inquiry would be ordered to deal with the subject.
§ The point he desired to raise clearly was whether the system of the subordination of local authorities to the Local Government Board was to be carried, not merely in the case of London but also in the cases of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and other great authorities of the country. He did not personally like the system under which any local authority might be forced to carry out its sanitary duties, or be coerced from dealing with the funds of the ratepayers in an unwise manner. Whilst, however, he accepted the system in those respects he would be personally glad if the Local Government Board could not intervene in other matters of local government, because he thought that the ability of the ratepayers to spend money in their own discretion ought to be secured to them. If they were to make any distinction they should make it so that the public would overcome the private interest. One could conceive the cases of towns where a small group of individuals might control the whole town. They might have great powers on a small borough council and might be able to secure that the development of the town should be arrested; but it was impossible to attribute the same power to great municipalities like Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool, where there was no danger of anything of the sort.
§ As an instance of what occurred in London he would take the case of Woolwich. The Marquess of Lansdowne would remember what pressure was brought to bear upon the War Office when the population of Woolwich was largely increased and when during the war in South Africa the number of persons employed at Woolwich rose from 10,000 to 21,000. There was the greatest possible pressure put upon them to provide housing accommodation, but it was met by the War Office paving higher wages in order to enable men to come by tram or rail from a distance instead of over-stocking, to meet an emergency, the local market for housing 83 the people. That emergency only existed four or five years, and if during that period the Local Government Board had been called upon by four householders at Woolwich they would have built at the expanse of the ratepayers a large number of houses without hearing the argument that in five years time the demand for the extra housing accommodation would have entirely disappeared. What would have been the position now that the number of employés at Woolwich had been reduced from 21,000 to 8,000? The older houses would have been deserted in order that the more popular and newer houses might be taken. He maintained that the War Office adopted the right course in paying higher wages to bring workmen from a distance, and that the ratepayers were saved from an enormous sum being put into an unnecessary industry.
§ The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, would doubtless tell them that no one would be so foolish as to adopt any course but that which was pursued in the case of Woolwich, but they had heard some remarks about enthusiasm, and he was quite certain that if they looked upon this question without taking instances, but simply from the point of view of how it would be regarded by all those who had respect for our municipal representative system, they would feel that it was a vicious and retrograde system to in any way overcome the actual votes of the ratepayers by the opinion of any individual, however distinguished a representative of a Government Department he might be; and he would urge upon their Lordships to consider what was the fairest method in which they could limit the Bill. He did not believe for one moment that it would be considered reasonable to interfere with what had hitherto been an optional service and regulate the provision of workmen's dwellings, not because of the displacement of the population for public improvement, but apparently to provide fresh dwellings of a good character for a deserving class of persons. It would not be considered reasonable for that to be enforced in the case of large municipalities, however necessary it might be in small districts in which a small group of individuals might have special power of going against an Act of Parliament. The Amendment limited the scope to county boroughs, but as he did not wish to be tied to that, because perhaps the Govern- 84 ment oath might regard it as too wide and think that the great boroughs outside London would be sufficient, he proposed to put in the Amendment words providing that it related only to Part III of the principal Act, He hoped that he would not be unreasonable in thinking that if the Bill was to be applied to the whole of Great Britain—to the London County Council as well as the great boroughs—it would be an anomaly and create a great injustice.
In page 5, line 19, after the word 'mandamus' to insert the following new subsection:
'(5) For the purposes of this section so far as it relates to Part III of the principal Act, the expression 'local authority' shall not include the London County Council, or the council of any county borough.'"—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the noble Viscount had referred to the valuable work performed by the borough councils, but the main portion of his speech was really devoted to the London County Council. He was sure that no member of their Lordships' House would be anxious to underrate the valuable services which the London County Council had rendered to the citizens of that county, but the Amendment of the noble Viscount went a great deal further and included all county boroughs throughout the country. Lord Midleton was mistaken if he thought it was the intention or desire of the Local Government Board to usurp the functions laid upon the county boroughs and the London County Council by Parliament. Nothing would please the Local Government Board better than to feel that there was no necessity to take action under this section against either the London County Council or the county boroughs. But while they recognised that the Local Government Board would be most anxious not to take action, and that nothing would please them more than to feel that sufficient action had already been taken under the Act, the requirements of the working classes in their own areas had to be considered. The noble Viscount had referred to the case of Woolwich, and had spoken of them as enthusiasts. Just before dinner Lord St. Aldwyn, apparently on the suggestion he (Earl Beauchamp) had made, agreed to an Amendment which would exactly fit the case of Woolwich because it provided for the gyrations of the population. Viscount Midleton had characterised the proposal of the Bill to override the 85 wishes of the people as vicious and retrograde, and when other Bills came before the House he hoped the noble Viscount would remember that phrase because it was not unlikely to be quoted against him and his Party. In any case this Amendment went a great deal further than the Government could possibly accept, and he regretted that he could not agree on behalf of the Local Government Board to the insertion of the proposed new subsection.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN pointed out that although Earl Beauchamp had suggested that the argument of the noble Viscount was directed more to the London County Council than to the councils of county boroughs, his own speech did not touch the London County Council except so far as it referred to the Amendment which the Government were unable to accept. Reference had been made to the case of Woolwich, and he was sure the noble Earl would admit that it would have been absurd for the President of the Local Government Board to enforce his will on the London County Council under such circumstances. With regard to the metropolis, he could almost claim the assent of the Government to the proposal of the Amendment. But would they not go further and extend it to the great communities of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool, which held a peculiar and unique position among the municipalities of the country? Would it not be almost absurd for the President of the Local Government Board to dictate to the county council of these great communities what they should do with regard to the carrying out of Part III of the Act? He was of opinion that the noble Viscount had gone rather far in including all the county boroughs within the scope of his Amendment, but he hoped the Government might be disposed to agree to the Amendment if it was limited.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think we must all agree that there is—and I frankly admit it—a distinction which can fairly be drawn between such bodies as the London County Council and the small county boroughs which by the noble Viscount's Amendment would be included; but at the same time I am afraid there is a general difference of view between noble Lords opposite and ourselves on this 86 matter. With regard to the question of Part III being of the same nature as those sanitary Acts under which the Local Government Board have compulsory powers, the noble Viscount draws a sharp line. He will admit that in questions of sewage, water supply, and similar matters it might be necessary from time to time to use the compulsory powers of a Government Department obtained under the Public Health and other Acts. He probably knows there have been cases where these powers have been applied to county boroughs. Well in our view the case under Part III is of the same nature and quite as important in the public interest as those of other public bodies. There are very large numbers of people who regard sewage and water supply schemes as extravagancies and luxuries. There are in London thousands of people who consider a great system of drainage in the light of what they would call "utter rubbish," and say that after all people got on very well before and they did not die, and all these extravagant schemes are great nonsense. That would apply in a. still greater degree to this housing provision. I am not in a position to say what my right hon. friend will be able to do or whether he can do anything with regard to meeting the noble Viscount in this matter. As I understand it, Lord St. Aldwyn would be prepared to limit the application of the Amendment to London and some of the great cities which are in themselves counties, and he would advise the noble Viscount to withdraw that part of his Amendment which includes all borough counties. I will see that my right hon. friend is apprised of that before the Report stage, but I am afraid that I cannot give a definite answer at this moment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said it was a matter of regret to those sitting on that side of the House that the noble Earl could not speak more definitely as to what the Government would do to meet the Amendment of the noble Viscount. The noble Earl must recognise the weakness of the argument he had just addressed to the House. He had dwelt upon sanitary and other provisions that it had been found necessary to see carried out even in large urban communities by invoking the central authority; but the argument could not be put forward in this instance unless cases were produced in which there had been shown to be failure to provide sufficient ** 87 housing accommodation. The Bill had been considered for many months, and the Government must have had all the facts in their hands. Could they say that in great communities like Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham there was a great want of housing accommodation which the authorities had been unwilling to remedy? The Committee knew that in Birmingham great changes had been made in order to meet these requirements, and the same rule doubtless would apply to Manchester and Liverpool. Speaking for himself, he saw no choice but to put the Amendment in the Bill and if the Government did not agree to modify it as suggested by Lord St. Aldwyn let them provide their own modification.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that as he understood it the argument in favour of the Amendment was twofold. It was, in the first instance, that to give this power to the Local Government Board was wholly unnecessary bcause the excellent local bodies did the work already. That might be the case, but the time might arrive when the Local Government Board would be anxious to have the necessary power in order to hold it over those bodies who declined to act. The other part of the argument was that a system of mandamus was not one which could be employed against large local authorities duly elected by ratepayers and occupying an important position. He would remind noble Lords opposite that a system of mandamus was put by themselves into their own Education Act, and was a leading feature of their Defaulting Authorities Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I understand the noble Earl in charge of the Bill to say, in the first place, that the Local Government Board have no wish to usurp the functions of the larger urban municipalities, but he has just told us that what the Government desire to obtain is the power to hold over these large municipalities this departmental sword, which may fall upon their necks at any moment. That is exactly the point on which we join issue with the Government. In our view these larger urban municipal bodies may fairly claim to enjoy a certain amount of independence and I think we may claim, as the noble Earl who leads the House is quite ready to admit, there is a large distinction between the London County Council and the larger municipalities, and the smaller county councils. If that is so we surely might be 88 able to come to terms. The difference is inconsiderable, and I venture to suggest that the noble Earl might accept the Amendment with the qualifying words limiting it to Part III of the Bill, and give to these great municipal bodies to which we have delegated a large measure of self-government the advantages of that decentralisation which noble Lords opposite have most strenuously advocated.
§ Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.
11.—(1) Where it appears to the Local Government Board that a local authority have failed to perform their duty under the Housing Acts of carrying out an improvement scheme under Part I of the principal Act, or have failed to give effect to any order as respects an obstructive building, or to a reconstruction scheme, under Part II of that Act, or have failed to cause to be made the inspection of their district required by this Act, the Board may make an order requiring the local authority to remedy the default and to carry out any works or do any other things which are necessary for the purpose under the Housing Acts within a time fixed by the order.
(2) Any order made by the Local Government Board under this section may be enforced by mandamus.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON moved to add a proviso at the end of the first subsection, which provision, he said, was really brought forward in the interest of the progress of the Bill. At present it was not in the power of the Local Government Board by its own initiative to force any municipality beyond a certain strength, without reference to Parliament, to build houses under Part III of the Bill, although they had power of displacement in sanitary cases to force the erection of dwellings. The difficulty in which they were placed would be found if any great scheme were brought forward by the London County Council or by a large borough, either for railway or tramway purposes or for the building of a large bridge, because a large displacement of the population then necessarily occurred. The Local Government Board urged that the population must be replaced on or near to the site, but meanwhile by voluntary action much larger provision might be made within a distance of two or three miles to which those driven out might migrate. It would be found that when under a Government Order the houses on or ear the site were rebuilt no one went back, and very often the 89 houses were left vacant for a long period of time. What he asked by the Amendment was that in the case of any municipality that voluntarily entered upon a large scheme and possessed in the borough a large number of houses which practically gave the accommodation that was required, the Local Government Board should not then come forward and say that, although it was quite true that the accommodation was provided, two months had been lost in carrying out the scheme and the houses must be replaced. The Amendment had been very moderately drawn and he asked the Government to consider it. He believed it would not prevent any single individual obtaining housing accommodation whilst it would enable local bodies to voluntarily enter into schemes under Part III of the Bill—a course they could not at present pursue.
In page 5, line 30, after the word 'order,' to insert the words 'Provided that dwellings erected under Part III of the Housing Act, 1890, within one year of any Order of the Local Government Board under Part I of the said Act, or dwellings in course of being erected or to be erected, shall be regarded as the rehousing accommodation required to be provided in connection with the displacement on account of public improvements in any case in which the dwellings so erected are within a radius of three miles of the displacement.'"—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Government were unable to accept the Amendment, which really confused two different sets of circumstances. In the event of displacement of dwelling houses in connection with any scheme the London County Council or other authority concerned were bound to make provision for the people so displaced. That was one set of circumstances. But in addition there was the other set which related to dwellings to be erected more especially in connection with the Bill before the House. One set had little or nothing to do with the other. If houses were necessary for the working classes it was generally agreed that they ought to be built, and if there was displacement owing to some reconstruction scheme then houses ought to be erected for those people who were displaced. They, however, were quite a different set of people from those dealt with under re-housing, which was the object of the Bill. Supposing there were any unforeseen circumstances which rendered necessary some alternative scheme. There 90 were already provisions to meet special circumstances, and he ventured to submit that it would hardly be right to count upon the erection of houses which were being put up to meet one set of circumstances as being sufficient not only to re-house those displaced, but also to meet the original needs which the first scheme was intended to meet. As there already existed this special provision he hoped the noble Viscount would be satisfied and not press the motion.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON said that after the appeal which had been made he would not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12:
§ Drafting Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.
13.—(1) Where the council of a county are of opinion that for any reason it is expedient that the council should exercise, as respects any rural district in the county, any of the powers of a local authority under Part III of the principal Act, the council, after giving notice to the council of the district of their intention to do so, may apply to the Local Government Board for an order conferring such powers on them.
(2) Upon such an application being made the Board may make an order conferring on the county council as respects the rural district all or any of the powers of a local authority under Part III of the principal Act, and thereupon the provisions of the Housing Acts relating to those powers (including those enabling the Public Works Loans Commissioners to lend, and fixing the terms for which money may be lent and borrowed) shall apply as if the council were a local authority under Part III of the principal Act: Provided that the expanses incurred by the county council under any such order shall be defrayed as expenses for general county purposes.
(3) Where, under any such order, the county council have executed any works in a rural district they may transfer the works to the council of that district on such terms and subject to such conditions as may be agreed between them.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN moved an Amendment to the proviso requiring the county council to charge the expenses incurred in exercise of the powers over the whole county area. He proposed to add "unless after a local inquiry the county council are satisfied that it is just to limit the charge for the whole or part of the ex- 91 penses so incurred to the rural district or to some contributing place or places therein, in which case they may order that any such expenses shall be so charged." He submitted that it was only fair that the county council should have power to allocate the expenses over the area of the defaulting minor authority and not be required to spread them over the whole county.
In page 6, line 23, after the word 'purposes' to insert the words unless after a local inquiry the county council are satisfied that it is just to limit the charge for the whole or part of the expenses so incurred to the rural district or to some contributing place or places therein, in which case they may order that any such expenses shall be so charged.'''—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP hoped he might be able to make this complicated point clear. This was a case where a county council were anxious to take over the powers which now belonged to the rural district council. The position of His Majesty's Government in this case was that if the county council desired to take over those powers they ought to pay for it themselves. If the rural district council were in default then the Government were of opinion that the question as to who should pay or whether part of the expenses should be upon the rural district council which was in default was a matter which might fairly be argued. That was dealt with in a subsequent clause, but the present case was that where a county council rather intruded itself, was rather anxious to take over from the rural district council their powers, in those circumstances the Local Government Board thought that the county council should be expected to pay for the expenses which they incurred. There was a distinction between the cases of where the rural district council was in fault and of where the county council was merely taking over authority from the rural district council. A letter had reached the Local Government Board only that day from the Rural District Councils Association in which they said that they attached a great deal of importance to the proviso and were most anxious that the Amendment should not be carried as they felt that county councils would not be in a hurry to apply to the Local Government Board for wholesale transfer from the rural district councils where the rural district councils were not in default if they knew that the expense would have to be defrayed as part of the 92 general county expenses. They were anxious that the Amendment should not be accepted, and with that view the Local Government Board entirely concurred.
§ LORD BELPER thought it extremely likely that if the county council were compelled to raise a general rate in the county for the purpose of making an improvement in a rural district council's area, the proposal would not be carried on the county council because the representatives of the ratepayers on the council would not like to saddle their own districts with expenses which ought to be met by the area of the rural district for whose benefit those expenses were incurred. This Amendment was similar to one which they did their best to get inserted in the other House of Parliament, but which met with very scant support. He was bound to say he had heard no argument from the noble Earl in charge of the Bill why this proposal was unfair; why the expense which was to be incurred in a case where the Local Government Board approved of the county council taking over the duty of a rural district council should not fall upon the rural district council as it would do in the case where the rural district council spent the money itself. He believed the clause would be perfectly inoperative if left in its present state. He could not conceive that any county council would be able to pass a resolution to take over any powers, although they thought it was desirable and although the Local Government Board also thought it desirable, under the clause as it now stood. He could not conceive any case in which the representatives of the ratepayers of the rest of the county would submit to have thrown upon them an expense which ought to be borne by a locality.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said it was assumed that a county council were going to take upon themselves to discharge an office that they considered some district had neglected to discharge. What the Amendment suggested was that it should be charged upon the county rate unless after local inquiry the county council were satisfied that it was just to allocate the charge to the whole or part of the district where the expense had to be incurred. The point was whether or not the county council who had taken upon themselves to move in the matter and to discharge a duty which Ought to be discharged by the district, 93 should also have the right of saying that the defaulting district should pay. He had not heard a single argument why that was not a just provision. The powers were only optional on the county council. It was really in the interests of the working of the Bill, so that the proper work should be done and the proper charge put upon the district that ought to have done the work.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble and learned Lord does not draw a clear distinction between Clause 12 and Clause 13. It is undoubtedly true that if there is a default on the part of the district authority and if their powers under those circumstances are taken over by the county council, the charge ought to be, and will be, borne by the district. But here you have an entirely different case. The county council say they would like to take over the powers of a certain rural district in order to engage it in a building scheme. The Local Government Board may think the power will be well exercised, but the building scheme may be of an extent, once the powers are taken over, which includes more than the rural district requires for its own purposes, and under such circumstances it does seem to me that if the county council choose to embark on a large and in itself a most useful scheme which may serve a great deal more, in the case of some populous community than the rural district involved, the charge should be equally spread over the county. Otherwise, I can conceive of cases in which a county council would be able to execute a really considerable scheme in one corner of its area and to charge the whole upon an unfortunate district which might not want the scheme at all. It is necessary to draw a distinction between Clause 12 and Clause 13.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN did not understand the argument of the noble Earl. He seemed to suggest that the county council would in this case be doing something which would be very hard on the ratepayers of the local district, but he surely must have forgotten that something very much harder might be done by the President of the Local Government Board to the ratepayers of the district entirely against their will. Did His Majesty's Government really suppose that a county council would ever take over the duties unless it could charge the expenses incurred 94 upon the district if it were thought right to do so? If the noble Earl desired he would be quite willing to add to the Amendment "with the consent of the Local Government Board," so as to obviate any possible case of unfairness on the part of the county council to the district. But if the Government could not agree to the Amendment he could only say that he entirely concurred with the view that the clause would not work at all.
§ LORD WENLOCK was of opinion that the clause should disappear altogether. He could not imagine a county council placing itself in such a position as was portrayed in the clause, and so far as he could see it would be very much better if the Government would be good enough to jettison the whole of the clause. As the clause stood at present it was merely blocking up this part of the Bill.
§ Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD moved, after Clause 13, to insert a new clause that on the outside of every dwelling house subject to the operation of the Act there should be affixed by the owner, or, in the case of leasehold property, by the leaseholder, in a conspicuous position, the name and address of the owner or leaseholder, and also, if the house were let, the name and address of the landlord, and that any neglect of this requirement should render the owner or landlord liable to such fine as might be ordered by the Local Government Board. He said he had been moved to submit the clause by his own local and personal experience. He had on many occasions been led to the conviction by that experience that if such a clause as this were adopted it would effect almost automatically a very great improvement in a vast number of working-class cottages. In principle he could see no sort of objection to having houses so labled. Every farmer, and every one of their Lordships who might be a farmer, was expected to have his name on the farmer's cart, and he could see no reason in the nature of things why for the benefit of the public the name of the owner or leaseholder or landlord of a cottage should not be similarly made public. It would hardly 95 fail as a matter of general practice to stimulate the attention and the care given to those cottages by the various owners or leaseholders. The good landlord or good owner had nothing to fear from the action of such a clause. The law had no terrors to the righteous man. He did not suppose there was a single member of their Lordships' House who had any cottages in such a condition that he had any reason whatever for not having his name on the outside. The clause was really directed against an entirely different class—the negligent owner or the penurious owner, or, worst of all, the speculating owner. His conviction was that the clause simply by bringing these various classes into what might be called a beneficial and healthy publicity would automatically have a great effect in improving the condition of the whole class of cottages. He could not but feel that the healthy public opinion of the neighbourhood would by this simple requirement be brought directly to bear upon all that class of property, and it was for those reasons that he ventured to move the clause.
To insert the following new clause:
'On the outside of every dwelling-house subject to the operation of this Act there Shall be affixed by the owner, or in the case of leasehold property by the leaseholder, in a conspicuous position, the name and address of the owner or leaseholder, and also (if the house is let) the name and address of the landlord, as defined in this Act.
Any neglect of this requirement shall render the owner, or (if the house is let) the landlord, or in case of leasehold property the leaseholder, liable to such a fine as may be ordered by the Local Government Board.'"—(The Lord Bishop of Hereford.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said their Lordships would not be surprised that His Majesty's Government were unable to see their way to accept the clause. At the same time, all people who were interested in the question of housing reform were agreed that one of the most difficult things was to find out who really was the owner and who was responsible for a house in an insanitary condition, and there was no doubt at all but that the idea at the root of the Amendment was one which would be very warmly welcomed by a large number of people whose work lay especially in the more crowded districts of our great towns. But the right rev. Prelate had moved the Amendment in a form which left a good deal to the imagination. It was not quite clear who were to be deemed the "owner" and the "land- 96 lord." The terms were not especially defined. There was a further proposal that the Local Government Board should impose fines upon certain individuals. That was a new proposal in our legislation, and there was also the difficulty that if the Local Government Board were to determine what fine ought to be imposed they would be obliged to go into the circumstances of each case, and it would be quite impossible for the Local Government Board to do that. In those circumstances he hoped that the right rev. Prelate would not press the Amendment.
§ LORD NEWTON was rather surprised that the Amendment had been received with so little sympathy. It seemed to him one which was deserving of some support as illustrative of what he might call the incongruities of ownership. The Gun Club, which he believed was the headquarters of pigeon shooting, was the property of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and he had no doubt that the right rev. Prelate would regard that particular dwelling place as almost unfit for human habitation. But, oddly enough, the right rev. Prelate, being an Ecclesiastical Commissioner himself, was therefore in the position of landlord.
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD said it was for that reason, being an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, he inserted the word "leaseholder." The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were themselves landlords, and he believed the best of landlords, but much of their property was let on lease and they had no immediate power in such a case as that mentioned. His desire was, in the form in which he moved the clause, to restrict its operation to those who were personally and directly responsible. One part of the argument of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill was not quite clear to him. The noble Earl said that an objection to the clause was that they could not always find out who the owner or the leaseholder was, or that they could not do so without very great difficulty. If that were so, how was the law to be brought into operation at all? It must be possible to find the owner or no action could be taken in regard to houses. As he did not find that he had any very obvious support on either side of the House he would withdraw his proposal.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.97
§ Clause 14:
§ Contracts by Landlord in Letting Working Class Houses.
§ 14.—(1) In any contract made after the passing of this Act for letting for habitation by persons of the working classes a house or part of a house there shall be implied a condition that the house is at the commencement of the holding in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.
§ (2) In this section the expression "letting for habitation by persons of the working-classes" means the letting for habitation of a house or part of a house at a rent not exceeding:—
- (a) in the case of a house situate in the administrative county of London, forty pounds;
- (b) in the case of a house situate in a borough or urban district with a population according to the last census for the time being of fifty thousand or upwards, twenty-six pounds;
- (c) in the case of a house situate elsewhere, sixteen pounds.
§ LORD HYLTON moved to omit from subsection (1) the words "that the House is" and said that if the Amendment were carried and the words of a subsequent Amendment inserted, the subsection would read as follows, "In any contract made after the passing of this Act for letting for habitation by persons of the working-classes a house or part of a house there shall be implied a condition at the commencement of the holding that the house shall not be occupied unless or until it is in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation." The noble Earl in charge of the Bill was, of course, aware that all over the country cottage property came into hand at one time and another on the expiry of the life under old life-hold tenures, or on the expiry of a lease in the case of long leasehold tenures. Whenever such property came into hand the owners invariably found it in a very dilapidated condition, and only two alternatives might appear to be possible. One was that the owner should pull down the old dilapidated premises, and the other was that he should completely rebuild the premises. Such an alternative in these days would make it a little difficult for their Lordships to know where to turn, and the alternative of rebuilding dilapidated premises was not always easy to carry out. But, as a matter of fact, there was a third alternative, and it was that alternative which he was suggesting. What often happened was that where a person had been living for a number of years in an old dilapidated cottage that had come into hand, he went to the owner and said, "If you will give me a sufficiently long lease and allow me to continue to occupy the promises at a very 98 low rent, I will do repairs and make the house habitable, and I shall be glad to go on living there with my family." He could assure their Lordships that in a great many parts of the country that was not an imaginary case. If the clause stood as at present it would not be possible for owners to meet the wishes of their tenants in that way, because the clause said that no contracts should be made without the owner first putting the tenancy in proper repair. If the Amendment were carried the case would be met, because the words would be that the premises should not be occupied until they were put into a fit and proper condition.
In page 6, lines 31 and 32, to leave out the words 'that the house is.'"—(Lord Hylton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought there would probably be a good deal of sympathy with the case put by the noble Lord, but he did not think the noble Lord had remembered that one effect of the Amendment would be that a landlord who had made a contract with a person of the worknig-class to let him a house within the meaning of the clause would be under no obligation to make the house reasonably fit for human habitation in itself, and the tenant could not occupy it until it had been made fit. The position in such circumstances would really be rather unfair to the tenant, and there seemed to be no reason why an obligation which had existed since the passing of the Housing Act of 1885 should now be altered. He thought that perhaps the noble Lord, after hearing that consideration, which, possibly, was new to him, would withdraw his Amendment and consider whether some other form of words might not be introduced.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND asked whether it was very likely that a workman would take a house in such a state that he could not occupy it without any contract that he should put it in order or that the landlord should do so. He could not imagine a workingman being so foolish as to do that.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said the case the noble Lord had put had constantly come before him. Working people did, unfortunately, take such houses, and if an accident happened the landlord relied upon that house having been taken without any 99 covenant or condition that it should be in a proper condition. The Amendment would only prevent a man taking a house going into occupation until it was fit. What was desired was to stereotype the fact that where houses were let to the working-classes there should be an implied condition that they were in a reasonable state. It was very desirable that it should be clear, because there were constantly cases where men took premises for better or worse, although utterly unfit for habitation.
§ LORD CLINTON thought some consideration should be paid to the fact that these leases were very common in some parts of the country. A man took a dilapidated dwelling knowing that he had got to put it in a proper state of repair. He took it because he could get it at a very low rent. He did not want to argue whether the system was a good or a bad one—he dared say it was a very bad one—but there were tens of thousands of cases in this country. It was a perfectly well recognised system in the south-west of England. He did not wish for one moment to take away the liability of any landlord to put his houses in repair before he let the m, but they should not attempt to do away with the system by this clause which really was brought in for quite a different object.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think it is clear that two entirely separate sets of considerations have been raised. I think that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment will agree to the proposal not to move the Amendment as it stands, because it is evidently open to the objections raised, and if he thinks it desirable to bring in some words to meet the case of repairing leases under certain conditions, I have no doubt that my right hon. friend will consider before the Report stage what will be the best course.
§ LORD HYLTON said he was quite willing to defer the point until Report, but he would like to be allowed to say that he was moving this Amendment, not in the interests of landlords but in the interests of tenants, because in the case of the property he had described it was to the landlord's advantage in ninty-nine cases out of a hundred to pull down the cottages. He could assure the noble Earl that he was no enemy to this Bill. He only 100 wished to see it passed in a form which would do a maximum of good with as little injustice to everybody concerned as possible, and he hoped the noble Earl would accept his assurance that it was in the interests of a very large class of tenants of cottage property that he had brought forward this Amendment. It would enable men who had put by a little money and were anxious to take these repairing leases at a very low rent to do so. The landlord said, "I am not inclined to spend any money, but if you like to take this lease for a number of years at a very low rent you shall be allowed to do it." Under the clause as it stood they were going to make that absolutely illegal in future.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said it was perfectly easy to add a proviso to the clause to meet the noble Lord's wishes.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD CLINTON moved an Amendment to substitute the word "tenancy" for "holding." the word "holding" meant in ordinary understanding the subject held, and not that particular tenure. In all leases under the Agricultural Holdings Act the word "holding" meant the farm or the house which the tenant had.
In page 6, line 32, to leave out the word 'holding' and to insert the word 'tenancy.'"—(Lord Clinton.)
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to leave out subsection (2) of Clause 14. If their Lordships would look at the subsection they would see that the expression "letting for habitation by persons of the working classes" meant the letting for habitation of a house or part of a house at a rent not exceeding, in the case of a house in the administrative county of London, £40; in the case of a house in a borough or urban district, £26; and in the case of a house situated elsewhere, £16. It seemed to him very strange that they should define men of the working-classes, not by any- 101 thing in their occupation, but by the valuation of the house in which they lived. At the same time, there was nothing in the Bill which indicated who were the people for whom these houses were to be built. The Government appeared to have gone to work the wrong way. He thought what they ought to have done was to put in a definition of the working classes and leave the houses to look after themselves. But he did not wish to attribute to the Government any original sin which did not properly appertain to them, because he was bound to say that they were not the original sinners in this matter. The original sinners were the Government who passed the Act of 1890. He was rather curious to see how the sums £40, £26, and £16 were arrived at, and he thought he had discovered it. The limit of compound in London was £20, in other big towns in England £13, and in the country £8. His Majesty's Government had multiplied those figures by two—twice twenty was forty; twice thirteen, twenty-six; and twice eight, sixteen. Why the Government did not multiply by four or divide by two he did not know, but perhaps they would tell their Lordships. At the same time, it would be seen that if they defined a man of the working-class by the house in which he lived, they really did not define a man but only a house. There was nothing, for instance, to prevent the noble Earl in charge of the Bill or himself from living in the country in a house rented at £16, and he knew many good houses in the country at that figure. If the noble Earl or he rented such a house there, with the assistance of three other householders they would be able to call upon their neighbours to support a scheme to build houses. What their Lordships really ought to do was to leave out this subsection altogether, and then to add a definition of working-classes as he proposed to do on a later clause.
In Clause 14, to leave out subsection (2)."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he felt in some difficulty because Viscount St. Aldwyn had an Amendment which also dealt with this question, and he was not quite sure whether their Lordships would prefer to take the general discussion on the noble Viscount's Amendment, where it would be, 102 perhaps, a little more in order, or whether it should be taken on the Amendment of the noble Earl. The noble Earl and the noble Viscount evidently agreed in objecting to the terms of the Bill, although they did not agree as to the Amendment they wished to have inserted. Perhaps it would be for the general convenience of their Lordships to hear the whole case before deciding.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said he, had placed an Amendment on the Paper with regard to this clause, but he frankly admitted that he preferred his noble friend's Amendment to his own. The origin of this clause, for which he was afraid he was partly responsible, he being one of the original sinners of 1890, was simply this; that the limit of value in the compounding system was adopted in England as distinguishing the houses inhabited by the working-classes. Now, for some reason which he did not understand, except, no doubt, that rents had risen in the towns, the President of the Local Government Board had chosen to double that limit and define the houses occupied by the working-classes as houses in London of £40 rental, houses in other urban districts of £26 rental, and houses in the country of £16 rental. Their Lordships were probably acquainted with the rural districts of England, and to say that any person could properly be defined as a member of the working-classes who lived in a house in a country village at a rental of £16 was simply absurd. He thought a similar criticism, although not to so great an extent, might be applied to the rental proposed to be adopted with regard to urban districts. It would be far simpler to do what his noble friend proposed, i.e., to adopt a definition of the working-classes which already existed in the law, and which his noble friend simply proposed to incorporate in this Bill. What was the history of the clause as it stood in this Bill? This clause had never been considered in another place. It was not considered by the Standing Committee before whom the Bill went last year. It was inserted in the Bill when introduced by the President of the Local Government Board in the present session, and it was never considered at all in Committee. Yet this was the clause which was produced to their Lordships as a definite proposition from the House of Commons. He hoped their 103 Lordships would accept the Amendment of his noble friend.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH hoped their Lordships would accept the suggestion of the noble Viscount and strike out the clause. There was no doubt, as had already been suggested, that the clause would have the effect of doubling the number of compounders. He did not wish to argue by a side wind as to whether compounding was a good or a bad thing. As all their Lordships were aware, it was a thing about which there was a great deal to be said, and he, for his own part, thought an enormous amount could be said against it. But, without doubt, one effect of the clause would be to increase the system of compounding which so many thought to be deleterious. Perhaps he might be allowed to draw attention to an Amendment of his relating to line 36, with regard to the definition of rent. He did not know whether he was in order in speaking to an Amendment not exactly before their Lordships, but it was all part of the same question, and it might save time if he spoke to it now. His Amendment was in the nature of a drafting Amendment, and it referred to the rent of houses because, unless rent was specified as a rack rent, it would lead to a good deal of confusion, inasmuch as there were a number of large houses in London and elsewhere which were let at very low rents, sometimes as low as £10 or £20 a year, the balance being taken in premiums. Therefore, it would be better, he suggested, that the word "rack" should be inserted before "rent," which signified the rent of the full value of the house, otherwise there would be great danger of bringing houses under the purview of this clause which were not working class habitations at all.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP was afraid he had once more to say that it was impossible for His Majesty's Government to accept any of these Amendments, and that they would feel themselves obliged to ask their Lordships, if necessary, to divide upon this question. He thought it was obvious to any of their Lordships who had followed the discussion on this Bill that this particular provision was, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, one of the most important, and therefore they would be quite unable to agree to the Amendments. The noble Viscount had stated, 104 quite truly, what really was the determining factor with regard to the increase of the amounts. It was the fact that there had been a very marked increase in the rents of working-class dwellings, not only in London, but also in the provinces. He would give their Lordships some figures with regard to London. The average annual rental value of houses under £50 gross rental increased by about one-seventh between 1880 and 1900, and in some districts the increase was still greater. In St. Pancras and several other districts the increase was one-sixth, while in East London the rise was over one-fourth in Bethnal Green and as high as one-third in Stepney. In the provinces the increase was still greater. Thus, the average annual rental value of houses in Great Britain (excluding London) rented at £20 or less increased during the same period by more than twenty-five per cent., and the rise was continuous throughout this period. Taking all houses into consideration the actual increase in rent amounted to twenty-three per cent. during this period. That this increase was mainly due to the rise in the rents of working-class dwellings was shown by the fact that houses rented at £20 or under, though more in number than in 1880, were proportionately fewer in 1900. There were some figures extracted from the London County Council statistics which showed the average weekly rents of new working-class tenements in London and its neighbourhood. In Marylebone rent was 12s. 9½d. for four rooms to 19s. for six rooms; in Stepney from 11s. 5d. for four rooms to 18s. for six rooms; in Southwark, 10s. 7d. for four rooms to 18s. for six rooms; in Fulham 13s. 8d. for four rooms to 15s. 6d. (£40 a year) for six rooms; and in Acton 11s. 8¾d. for four rooms to 17s. for six rooms. The average for Central London was 10s. for four rooms to 17s. 5d. (£45a year) for six rooms. Therefore their Lordships would see that the figures proposed in the Bill were not extravagant. It was probably an open secret that His Majesty's Government had been much pressed to make the figures even higher than at present. In the opinion of the Government the figures proposed by the Bill were a reasonable compromise which they hoped their Lordships would be very unwilling to disturb.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN was afraid the noble Earl and he were rather 105 at cross purposes. This was a Bill for dwellings for the working-classes. The question, therefore, naturally was, Who were the working-classes? How did they ascertain who was a working man, except by defining him? He did not object at all to the figures which the noble Earl quoted. If the Amendment he proposed to move later were accepted the effect would be that while a working-class man would be defined, the value of the house would be left at any figure which was found desirable. The houses would be houses suitable for the working-classes. Perhaps he might say, for the information of their Lordships, that his definition of the working classes was the one in the Standing Orders of the House, and was the generally recognised definition of working-classes.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said that in any observations he might offer his sole object was to make the Bill a good one. He was greatly in sympathy with the object of the Bill, but he had not heard one word to suggest that the standard set up in this clause was the right one, and, having an intimate acquaintance with the suburbs of London, he did say that to take £40 as the standard of a house for the working-classes was an absurdity. There were thousands of clerks who could not be called working class men who lived in houses rented at £25 or £30 a year, and therefore he wanted to know why this standard in the clause should be adopted in preference to the definition of the noble Earl.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Here again we have two entirely separate questions to consider. The first is the noble Earl's proposal that a definition of working-classes as people who pursue certain occupations, and whose income does not rise above a certain amount, should be adopted in place of a rental basis. It is quite true that that definition is a well-known one; it is used in the Housing Act of 1902, with particular reference to the housing of persons displaced by public improvements. That is the only case I can recall at the moment in which it is used. Well, in that case, it is very easy to find out whether people fulfil those particular conditions. I think the noble Lord proposed to limit the provision of these houses to persons of 30s. a week. Supposing a man after becoming an 106 occupant of one of these houses receives 31s. or 32s.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN: Had we not better postpone that until we reach it?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I was under the impression that the noble Earl had nothing more to say, but I certainly will postpone it. I was speaking of the difficulty of dealing with this continuous operation of the particular kind of definition proposed by the noble Earl in order that the subsection might not be struck out, because, if it is struck out, we shall have no useful opportunity of discussing the particular terms of the noble Earl's further Amendment.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE
The noble Earl is only moving to leave out the last part of the clause, and not the whole clause.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
No. Perhaps he might remind the noble Earl what it was. He (Lord Camperdown) said that he was going to propose to insert the words "as defined by this Act," but he pointed out that the clause dealing with the definition would not be reached for some time, and that, therefore, as it was wiser not to count his chickens before they were hatched, he had better postpone these words until the Report stage. What the Committee were now on was his Amendment to strike out subsection (2) of Clause 14.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble Earl is perfectly correct; but instead of counting his chickens before they are hatched he is proceeding to break the eggs.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
It is obviously impossible to argue the case for the subsection if it is out of order to point out that there is no reasonable substitute 107 for it, because it must be a consideration when you are dealing with such a proposal to inquire whether there is anything else that can be reasonably put in its place, so that I do not think I have travelled outside the rules of order in your Lordships' House. What I have said so far is with regard to a substitute. Now as regards the question of rent, I was extremely surprised to hear the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice say that there are no workmen's dwelling in London, so far as he knows, or very few which are rented at £40.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE
I really did not say so. What I said was that £40 a year is no test, because I know numbers of single houses, occupied by clerks, which are rented at £25 or £30 a year—not £40.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I beg the noble and learned Lord's pardon. I have no doubt he is perfectly correct, but that does not alter the fact that there are a great many cases in London where persons have to pay 12s. or 15s. a week, the latter amount working out to about £40 a year. The idea that in rural districts there are no houses rented at £16 occupied by the working-classes is treated as preposterous. It is quite true, no doubt, that cottages owned by your Lordships may be rented at 2s. 6d. per week, and sometimes less, but if I were told that there were no workmen who pay 6s. or a little more for their houses, I confess I should be very greatly surprised. I venture to think, therefore, that so far as the figures of rent are concerned, the case of the noble Viscount is not supported by evidence. My noble friend Lord Beauchamp gave a series of figures as to the rents in London, some of which I think must have almost surprised noble Lords opposite. But if the Committee are determined that the principle of selection of classes of persons, instead of by the value of houses, shall be adopted, you will no doubt do so, but I very much doubt whether it is a wise system to adopt. I do not believe it would find favour as a rule with the people who own these houses. It is an infinitely more convenient classification for the landlord to know that houses of a particular rental are treated as working-class houses rather than to select houses with a particular class of inhabitant. I go further and say it does not seem reasonable that a house of this kind should not be occupied 108 by persons who do not come under the definition of the noble Earl, and I mention that merely in order to enforce the point that it is exceedingly difficult to arrive at any definition of the working classes in a matter of this kind which will not prove to be unfair to individuals. There are people of various other occupations, such as typists, and very small clerks in some cases, who might very properly be housed under these circumstances, and I know no argument against it. Therefore, under the circumstances, I do not think your Lordships would be acting wisely if you were to attempt to pin down these houses to a particular class of persons.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH moved an Amendment to subsection (2) so as to define the expression "letting for habitation by persons of the working-classes" as meaning letting at a "rack" rent not exceeding the amounts set forth in the subsection. He said this did not amount to very much more than a drafting Amendment. There were sometimes questions, for instance in London, where houses were not working-class houses at all but were let at very low rents with a premium, and unless "rack" rent was specified in the clause it might lead to confusion. His Amendment was really meant more for the avoidance of confusion than with any particular principle.
In page 6, line 36, after the third 'a,' insert the word 'rack.'"—(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Government were unable to accept this Amendment. In his previous speech he had referred to the question of compounding, and he was informed that that really did not arise under the present clause. Therefore, it was unnecessary for their Lordships to consider it in this connection. There was, he thought, sound reason for using the word "rent." It was the word used in Section 75 of the Housing Act of 1890, and this clause was only an extension of that. It was also used in Section 12 of the Housing Act of 1885. He thought there would be very real difficulty in particular cases in deciding what was, as a matter of fact, "rack" rent; and the substitution of a rather indefinite term, which would give rise to a good deal of 109 uncertainty, was, he thought, most undesirable in a clause dealing with contracts. He hoped the noble Lord would withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH said the only object of his Amendment was to avoid uncertainty, but it was not of such importance that he desired to press it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN moved an Amendment to provide that the definition of a working-class house in London should be a house at a rent not exceeding £30, instead of £40, as proposed in paragraph (a) of the subsection. This matter had been discussed at such length that he did not want to detain their Lordships on it, but as the Government could not accept the principle for which the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, contended, he hoped they might be able to accept some kind of reduction of the figures in the Bill. As he had reminded their Lordships, these figures had never been considered at all in another place, but were purely the suggestion of the President of the Local Government Board, and therefore it was perfectly competent for their Lordships to deal with them as they thought right without any reference to anything that had been decided elsewhere. He confessed he was not so cognisant with the rents in London and large towns as he was with those in the country, and his feeling was that the figure of £16 was quite excessive for the country districts. He would, however, move his first Amendment to substitute £30 for £40 in order to obtain some reply from His Majesty's Government as to their particular reason for taking this figure.
In page 6, line 38, to leave out the word 'forty' and to insert the word 'thirty.'"—(Viscount; St. Aldwyn.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought their Lordships would agree that whether these particular figures received or did not receive lengthy discussion in another place, in so far as they emanated, as the noble Viscount suggested, purely from the brain of the President of the Local Government Board they certainly came from a man particularly well acquainted with the circumstances of the working classes in this 110 country, and therefore deserved, prima facie, some attention from their Lordships. He was very sorry he could not give the noble Viscount more information than he had already given with regard to the rents of working-class tenements in London.
§ EARL CADOGAN asked whether the figures which the noble Earl had given referred to the rents of tenements, of houses, or of dwellings, because his noble friend and the Leader of the House had used these terms as if they were synonymous. Just now the noble Earl in charge of the Bill said these statistics were statistics of tenements, but when he first read them out he had alluded to them as rents of houses. He thought it well to clear this point up.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said these figures referred to the weekly rents of working-class houses in London, taken from the London County Council's statistics, and published, he believed, during the present year, although they referred to 1907.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he did not think they were, but he was sorry that he had not furnished himself with more figures for the satisfaction of the noble Viscount. If the noble Viscount would bring the matter up at a later stage, he would see he was well furnished with figures, dealing not only with weekly rents for London, but also for the provinces, and he would do his best to give the noble Viscount the information for which he sought.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN confessed that his principal object in this matter was to raise the question of the £16 limit in rural districts, and he would postpone the question regarding towns until Report, in order that the noble Earl might then be able to give some more information on the subject. He would therefore withdraw the present Amendment, and move to substitute £8 for £16.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN then moved that the definition under the section of a working-class house in rural districts should be a house at a rent not exceeding £8, instead of £16, the figure in the Bill.111
In page 7, line 5, to leave out the word 'sixteen' and to insert the word 'eight.'"—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ LORD SALTOUN hoped the noble Viscount would persist in the Amendment. It was a very important point, and he was certain that in the rural districts of Scot-
§ Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.
15.—(1) The last foregoing section shall as respects contracts to which that section applies take effect as if the condition implied by that section included an undertaking that the house shall, during the holding, be kept by the landlord in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.
(2) If it appears to the local authority within the meaning of Part II of the principal Act that
§ land there were no working-class houses at anything like £12 a year rental. There were very few over £4 and £8 would be amply sufficient.
§ On Question, whether the word proposed to be left out stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 82.111
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Kimberley, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Liverpool, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Hereford, L. Bp.||Pentland, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Airedale, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Allendale, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Blyth, L.||Welby, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Northbrook, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Onslow, E.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Plymouth, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Digby, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Egerton, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Forester, L.|
|Bath, M.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Bristol, M.||Colville of Culross, V.||Harris, L.|
|Camden, M.||De Vesci, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Falkland, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Falmouth, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Halifax, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Hill, V.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Camperdown, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Iveagh, V.||Newton, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Milner, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Ridley, V.||Poltimore, L.|
|Denbigh, E,||St. Aldwyn, V.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Derby, E.||St. Levan, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Abinger, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Alverstone, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Lichfield, E.||Bagot, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Basing, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Belper, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Walsingham, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ the undertaking implied by virtue of this section is not complied with in the case of any house to which it applies, the authority shall, if a closing order is not made with respect to the house, by written notice require the landlord, within a reasonable time, not being less than fourteen days, specified in the notice, to execute such works as the authority may specify in the notice as being necessary to make the house in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation.
§ (3) If the notice is not complied with the authority may, at the expiration of the time specified in the notice, do the work required to be done and recover the expenses incurred by them in so doing from the landlord as a civil debt in manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction 113 Acts, or, if they think fit, the authority may by order declare any such expenses to be payable by annual instalments within a period not exceeding that of the interest of the landlord in the house nor in any case five years, with interest at a rate not exceeding five pounds per cent. per annum until the whole amount is paid, and any such instalments or interest or any part thereof may be recovered from the landlord as a civil debt in manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts.
§ (4) A landlord may appeal to the Local Government Board against any notice requiring him to execute works under this section, and against any demand for the recovery of expenses from him under this section or order made with respect to those expenses under this section by the authority, by giving notice of appeal to the Board within fourteen days after the notice is received, or the demand or order is made, as the case may be, and no proceedings shall be taken in respect of such notice requiring works, order or demand, whilst the appeal is pending.
§ (5) In this section, the expression "landlord" means any person who lets the house under any contract referred to in this section, and includes his successors in title, and the expression "house" includes part of a house.
§ Sections forty-nine and fifty of the principal Act as amended by section thirteen of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1903 (which relate to the service of notices and the description of owner in proceedings), shall apply for the purposes of this section, with the substitution, where required, of the landlord for the owner of a dwelling-house.
§ (6)Any remedy given by this section for noncompliance with the undertaking implied by virtue of this section shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any other remedy available to the tenant against the landlord, either at common law or otherwise.
§ LORD CLINTON moved to amend subsection (1) by inserting, after the word "applies," the words "and in the absence of any express obligation whereby the tenant is bound to perform necessary repairs." He said that his object in putting down the Amendment was to guard against repairing leases being affected by the operation of the clause, but as he understood that they would probably be dealt with on Report he would not refer to them at this stage. He would, however, mention the case of ordinary farm tenancies where, as a matter of course, the tenant was now under an obligation to do certain repairs. He did not suppose for a moment that the clause was intended to apply to such tenancies, but from the wording of it he had no doubt that it would apply, particularly where the house was within the limit of value specified in a previous section. The cases he had in mind were those of tenancies in respect of which there was the ordinary clause in the lease that the tenant should keep his roof watertight and perform other repairs of a minor character, neglect of 114 which would in time make the house unfit for human habitation. If the noble Earl did not like the words of the Amendment perhaps he would agree to consider the matter and deal with it later.
In page 7, line 7, after the word 'applies' to insert the words 'and in the absence of any express obligation whereby the tenant is bound to perform necessary repairs.'"—(Lord Clinton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP understood the noble Lord to raise specifically the question of farm tenancies. He did not think it was the intention of the Local Government Board that farm tenancies should be considered under this section, and if the noble Lord would put down before Report an Amendment dealing specifically with tenancies of that description he thought it would be possible to deal with the matter more satisfactorily than they could possibly do. In connection with an Amendment which obviously included a good deal more than the noble Lord intended.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND wished to know how the clause would affect the letting of royalties. When a royalty owner let to a company of coalowners the right to work his minerals, the coalowners sometimes had handed over to them houses or cottages already built, and at other times they built houses themselves for their employés, which returned to the royalty owner at the termination of the lease or when the coal was exhausted. It appeared to him that under this clause the royalty owner might be forced to repair the houses of the colliery company. That would be a serious liability, and one that would never be contemplated when the colliery was let by the royalty owner.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP remarked that he was not an expert in these matters, but he thought that if the intention had been such as the noble Duke suggested the clause would have read "owner or landlord."
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND was afraid he could not accept as a satisfactory explanation what the noble Earl had said about "owner or landlord," because subsection (5) of the clause under discussion stated that "the expression 'landlord' means any person who lets 115 the house under any contract referred to in this section and includes his successors in title, and the expression 'house' includes part of a house." That was the definition of the person who let the house.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP still thought that the words of the clause met the case the noble Duke had mentioned, and that the owner would not be liable under the circumstances mentioned for the repairs. If, however, there was any serious fear that difficulties would arise in regard to such a matter he hoped the noble Duke would himself put down an Amendment that would in his opinion meet the case, and it would receive careful consideration.
§ LORD CLINTON asked if Earl Beauchamp would accept an Amendment dealing with the question of repairs if it covered only the case of farm tenancies.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP replied that he did not feel in a position to promise anything on the subject. What he had said was that in his opinion the question of farm tenancies was not one which was intended by the Local Government Board to be included in the clause. He opposed the Amendment as moved by Lord Clinton because it included a good deal more than farm tenancies. If the noble Lord would put an Amendment down relating only to farm tenancies it should receive the careful attention of the Government.
§ LORD HYLTON said that if their Lordships passed this clause without an Amendment such as that put down by his noble friend it would mean that they would revolutionise the system under which small cottage property was tenanted all over the country.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN did not think that Earl Beauchamp had brought forward any strong argument against the Amendment. Suppose a tenant had undertaken to do repairs, why should he not be liable to perform them? Why should they make the landlord liable for these repairs by Act of Parliament? They ought to have a better reason from the noble Earl why the Amendment should not be inserted before deciding not to press it.116
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP explained that he did not deal with the matter fully because he did not think the point was seriously pressed by Lord Clinton. He understood the question was likely to be more seriously raised on a subsequent part of the Bill. Viscount St. Aldwyn would see that Lord Clinton's Amendment enabled a landlord and tenant to contract themselves entirely out of the undertaking. That, of course, was an Amendment to which His Majesty's Government could not agree. The clause was really intended for the protection of a class of tenants very different from those referred to by the Duke of Northumberland and Lord Clinton. It was meant to cover the case of the class which was generally too poor and ignorant to be able to protect itself. If the Amendment were accepted it would practically make the clause of no effect in any place where houses were scarce and there was a great deal of competition for them. He was afraid it was only too true that there were persons who had no objection to living in houses which were in reality unfit for human habitation. They were only too ready, if they could get possession of a house, to undertake to perform the necessary repairs, and they did so without fully appreciating what that undertaking meant. The real objection the Government had to the Amendment, and it was one which he was afraid they could not get over, was that it would result in giving a very general power to landlords and tenants to contract themselves out of this particular clause.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN was rather at a loss to understand why the noble Earl objected to the Amendment. He had said that the Government were unwilling to allow landlord and tenant to contract themselves out of the Bill. As they knew, however, a working man might live in a house up to £40 a year. Was he a person unable to protect himself in any sort of way? Was he not able to undertake an obligation to perform necessary repairs? The truth was the Government were determined to do away with contract altogether and to manage the business by Act of Parliament. He thought, however, that they would find it very difficult, and that the business would be badly done. He did not understand at present why a man who was paying £40 for a house was not to be allowed to make a contract of any kind.117
§ THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY observed that the clause would operate against a certain class of small landlords who let hovels of any description for a very small sum and compelled the tenants to put them in repair. He knew of a few cases of that kind. The cottages were in the worst possible condition. They were occupied by indigent and dirty people, who did not keep them in repair. They paid one or two sovereigns a year to live in these hovels, and were satisfied to let the places get into any state of neglect. The clause would prevent those cottages being contracted out of the provisions of the Bill, and if only for that reason he thought it would be a good thing if the clause were allowed to remain as printed in the Bill.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN thought the best course, perhaps, would be for Lord Clinton not to press the Amendment now, but, as the Government had admitted that there were cases in respect of which exceptions might very properly be made, or, at any rate, that they would favourably consider proposals of the kind, that the matter should be brought up again on Report.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am quite willing to fall in with the course suggested by the noble Viscount opposite. What the Government want is to prevent any agreement between a landlord and tenant to create and maintain a slum. In my opinion, if the noble Lord's Amendment were accepted it would undoubtedly be possible to do that. It is true there may be cases, such as those mentioned by the noble Lord and also by the noble Duke, which need further consideration. I have no doubt that the Local Government Board will carefully consider what has been said before the Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH moved an Amendment at the end of the first subsection providing that "nothing herein contained shall make it obligatory on the landlord to remedy any defect caused by the act or default of the tenant or occupier, or any person for whom the tenant is as between himself and the landlord responsible." He said that Clause 15 made a very considerable alteration in the law, because it provided that in respect of houses within a rental value specified in Clause 14 118 the landlord should not only be responsible for the house being at the commencement of the tenancy in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation, but that his responsibility should continue throughout the whole of the tenancy. Under those circumstances it was only fair to guard against a contingency which was not at all unknown—namely, that of having a tenant who, either wilfully or by gross carelessness, did great damage to a house. It was not at all an uncommon thing for a tenant to let a house go out of such repair as he was supposed to keep it in, to fail to keep it clean, to remove floors or windows, and to play havoc generally with the place either by a wilful act or by failure to look properly after the premises. In that way the house was rendered unfit for human habitation, and it was done in such a way that the landlord could not possibly be held responsible for it. It was impossible for the landlord always to prevent damage being done in such a manner, and the object of the Amendment was to relieve him of responsibility in a contingency of that kind. He ventured to say that such a provision was necessary because unless there were some safeguard the clause would put into the hands of malicious people another weapon against the landlord. Malicious people might do great damage and might bring on the landlord, not only the cost of the repairs, but also of the initiation of proceedings by the local authority under the clause. He did not wish to take away from the landlord the obligation of keeping his house fit for human habitation as a general rule, but it must be evident that he should be guarded from the very serious danger he would run owing to the unfair position he would be placed in by a tenant who by gross carelessness or by wilful malice made his tenement unfit for human habitation. Such a very simple Amendment he thought ought to recommend itself to the notice of their Lordships.
In page 7, line 10, after the word 'habitation' to insert the words 'but nothing herein contained shall make it obligatory on the landlord to remedy any defect caused by the act or default of the tenant or occupier, or any person for whom the tenant is as between himself and the landlord responsible.'"—(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY regarded the Amendment as very important, more especially as it affected agricultural cottages. Landlords in the country only re- 119 ceived from £3 to £5 a year for cottages, and if this clause were passed he could not help thinking that rents would have to be put up all round. Landlords would have to spend a great deal of money on property of this class or else a good many cottages which were not in a thorough state of repair would have to be pulled down.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP very much regretted that the Government could not accept the Amendment as it stood. There was, however, an Amendment down, he believed, to Clause 17, in his name, which would to some extent penalise a tenant who treated his landlord's house with disrespect. He would remind the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment that there was one remedy which was always in the hands of the landlord. He could always give notice to a tenant, and as most of the cottages were held on weekly tenancies this would involve a speedy clearance of the objectionable occupier. Therefore if tenants were found to be neglecting a house in such a way that it was likley to become unfit for human habitation the landlord had the remedy in his own hands. He could turn out the man almost at once, and with a vigilant estate agent he did not think it was likely that a landlord would suffer any great damage from injury which might be accomplished by a tenant. He readily admitted that the Amendment which he intended to move at a later stage did not entirely cover the point. Their Lordships would know that there was a clause dealing with compensation to be paid to people who were turned out of their houses. The Amendment he proposed to move prevented those people who had treated their houses badly from receiving any compensation if they were removed, and he hoped that would be sufficient to meet the wishes of the noble Lord.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said that he and his noble freinds had not been able to find the Amendment referred to by the noble Earl.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I regret to say it is not on the Paper. My noble friend was mistaken in thinking that it had been put down.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said that, of course, noble Lords on that side accepted the noble Earl's statement regarding his intention to have the Amendment put on the Paper. But even if this ghostly 120 Amendment had appeared on the Paper he was not sure that it would have met the argument of his noble friend, because, as he understood it, all the Amendment would ensure was that when a tenant had been turned out and there was a claim for compensation it would be set off against any wilful damage he had committed. That was a very different point from the one they were now discussing. If a tenant rendered his house unfit for human habitation by his own default, it seemed very hard that the landlord should be held responsible. The remedy, said the noble Earl, was to turn the man out of his cottage. Did not the noble Earl see that there might be a very great deal of damage done before the man could be got rid of. Suppose the cottage was occupied by a drunken fellow who smashed all the windows and left the rooms undoubtedly unfit for human habitation. Was a landlord to be held responsible and to be called on to turn the tenant out of his holding? Perhaps by so doing he would cause great misery and distress to the wife and family. He could see possibilities of great hardships being caused in such cases, and he held that the landlord ought not to be made responsible for something which happened through no fault of his own. If the noble Earl could not accept the words of Lord Zouche perhaps he would give his noble friend a promise that the matter should be looked into at a later stage. That seemed to be only elementary justice.
§ THE EARL of CREWE
I quite agree that the case mentioned by the noble Marquess would be a hard one for the landlord, but the remedy of eviction which the noble Marquess thinks hard on the other side is not quite the only one that is available. What would happen supposing the landlord were not liable? Somebody would be liable, because the house bas to be put in repair. I suppose the tenant would be liable. As the Bill stands it is in the landlord's power to tell the tenant that if he does not put the place in repair at his own expense he will have to go. The effect in those circumstances would be the same as that which the noble Lord, I suppose, wishes to bring about—namely, to transfer the liability from landlord to tenant.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The landlord is liable, but he can give the tenant the choice 121 of quitting the tenement or doing the repairs. I think in the case put by the noble Marquess of a drunken man who breaks all the windows, it would be distinctly reasonable for the landlord to say, "I do not want to turn you out, but you must repair all the windows or go." The rural case has been mainly argued, but I should like to point out that in the minds of those who have drawn the Bill it is the urban case which is considered most important, and it is thought especially desirable to put this pressure upon landlords to look closely after their property in urban areas. I have no doubt the existence of this liability will make landlords look more carefully after their town property than has been the case hitherto.
§ LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH said that he was, of course, in their Lordships' hands. He felt rather a difficulty in dealing with the matter, because the noble Earl in charge of the Bill said that part of his case would be met by an Amendment he had put down to be moved later on, and it had turned out that the Amendment was not on the Paper. He thought this was a matter of extreme importance, because it was not only a question of making the tenant liable to do this or that, or, should there be any question of compensation, treating the amount of the damage as a set off against the compensation, but it was a question of freeing the landlord from a very unfair burden that might be laid on him. In regard to the point that the landlord might turn a man out of premises which had been misused, it did not follow that he could do so at once, because a house might be let on a longer term than a week. Of course, he did not know whether their Lordships gave him any support or not, but if they did he should be inclined, in the absence of any better way of dealing with the matter, to press the Amendment.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND trusted that the noble Lord would press the Amendment. The doctrine laid down by noble Lords opposite was a very serious one. They said it was to be made the law of the land that a tenant should be protected from the landlord, and that the landlord should have the duty of doing all the repairs. The noble Earl who led the House said that in case of wilful damage the landlord was to say to the tenant, "You are either not to take the protection which the law gives you, or you are to be evicted. The law says you 122 need not repair." When the Bill was going through the other House the attention of His Majesty's Government was called to this, and they said they did not think the tenant should repair. The landlord, therefore, was to tell the tenant that, unless he did that which the Government now said they would not enforce, he would evict the tenant. That was placing the landlord in a very false position, and he trusted the noble Lord would force the matter to a decision.
§ THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY desired to know where the hardship lay. If they let a house to a tenant and he destroyed the windows, they had a remedy against him at law for damaging the property. If the tenant did the same thing again, he could again be punished. Therefore he did not see where the hardships came in on the part of the landlord. He himself let a good many houses on repairing leases and a good many which he had to repair himself. He was thoroughly convinced that if a man did not fulfil his obligations they had the right to proceed against him by ordinary law and to compel him to do so.
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY pointed out that noble Lords on the Government Bench had not answered the Duke of Northumberland's question as to colliery cottages—that was to say, they had not stated whether the owner or the colliery people to whom he had leased the property were to be liable for keeping the cottages in repair. A very serious position would be created in the Midlands and the North of England where landowners had much colliery property if they were to be made liable for these repairs.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not know whether the noble Viscount was in the House, but I distinctly stated that as regards colliery houses I was going to confer with my right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH moved a lengthy Amendment, which he had put down at the request of the Permanent Benefit Building Society, and the proposal appeared to him so fair and reasonable that he had every hope the Government would accept it. He would like the Committee to bear in mind the remarks made by Lord 123 Zouche of Haryngworth on the previous Amendment, because they accurately represented what he proposed. The noble Earl the Leader of the House had told them it was desirable that landlords should look more closely after their property, and it was partly with that object that these Amendments had been suggested. He would refer their Lordships to subsection (3) of the Amendment, which provided that the landlord or the local authority or any other authorised person might at reasonable times enter any house for the purpose of viewing its condition. It was only fair that there should be a right of entry in these cases, because under the existing law once a house was let the landlord had no right of entry, unless it was specially agreed to. Clause 15 of the present Bill made no provision for entry, although they were imposing on the landlord the duty of keeping the tenement in a proper state of repair.
In page 7, line 10, after the word 'habitation' to insert:
'(2) In any contract made after the passing of this Act for letting for habitation by persons of the workingclasses a house or part of a house there shall be implied the following conditions—
(3) The landlord or the local authority, or any person authorised by him or them in writing, may at reasonable times of the day, on giving twenty-four hours notice in writing to the tenant or occupier, enter any house, premises, or building to which this section applies for the purpose of viewing the state and condition thereof.
(4) If it appears to the landlord or the local authority that the undertaking implied by virtue of this section is not complied with in the case of any house to which it applies, the landlord or the authority may, by written notice to the tenant or occupier, require such tenant or occupier, within a reasonable time, to comply with such conditions.
(5) If such notice is not complied with the landlord may at the expiration of the time specified in the notice do the work required to be done, and recover the expenses incurred by them in so doing from the tenant or occupier as a civil debt in the manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts.
(6)If the tenant or occupier fail to comply with the undertakings aforesaid, such tenant or occupier shall forfeit any remedy which he or she may,
have had against the landlord either at common law or otherwise arising out of the conditions implied on the part of the landlord.'"—(The Earl of Dartmouth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought the Committee would see that the policy which was suggested by the noble Earl in the Amendment was a considerable reversal of the policy expressed throughout the Bill. Under those circumstances the noble Earl could hardly expect that the Local Government Board would agree to insert the Amendment. If he might take only one part of it, he would refer to the last subsection, which stated that on a tenant failing to comply with an undertaking he should forfeit his remedy against the landlord at common law. This meant that in a great many cases tenants would be placed in a very unenviable and somewhat unfair position as regarded landlords.
§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH asked whether, if he omitted subsection (6), the Government would accept the other five subsections.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought the spirit of the Amendment was such that the Local Government Board would be unwilling to accept it at all. The fact of the matter was, there were a certain number of provisions here none of which were harmful but the accumulative effect of which was very considerable. He thought it only right to point out that the general effect of the lengthy Amendment was entirely out of harmony with the principles of the Bill. Therefore the Government were unable to accept it.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN could understand some of the reasons of the noble Earl for not accepting the Amendment as it stood, but he thought the Government might agree to subsection (3) giving the right to the landlord or his agent to view a house at any reasonable time. Surely it was only fair that the landlord, who was made responsible by the Bill for the repair of the premises, should be able at any time he chose to see what condition they were in. He thought that His Majesty's Government might agree to that subsection or to something like it.125
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think the one general argument which might be used is that the landlord is, as a rule, in a position where he would be able to insist in the form of a covenant on a great number of these provisions, whereas Clause 15 has been inserted in the Bill in the belief that there is a considerable class of tenants who are not in a position, either from poverty or ignorance, to make perfectly free contracts and to insist on provisions for their own protection. But, as the noble Earl has shown such an extraordinarily accommodating spirit, I may say that we will accept subsection (3) if he will not press the remainder.
§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH said he agreed most willingly to that.
§ On Question, subsection (3) of the Amendment agreed to.126
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee To-morrow.