§ House again in Committee (according to order).
§ Consideration of Clause 15 resumed.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH moved that the time given by the local authority to the landlord for executing the repairs which they thought necessary should be not less than twenty-eight days instead of not less than fourteen days. Clearly if a reasonable time was to be given, there did not appear to be any very great reason why they should put in any time at all; but under subsection (4) the landlord might appeal to the Local Government Board against any notice requiring him to execute 131 works under this section, and also against the cost of the work if it had been done by the local authority. In that case a period had been given to him in which to appeal, and possibly it had occurred to the person who drafted the clause that if the reasonable time in which the landlord had to execute these works was less than the time which was given him for appeal, he might be required to finish the work when he was still in a position to appeal to the Local Government Board as to whether he should do the work at all. Therefore, strictly speaking, whatever the time given, whether fourteen days as proposed in the clause or twenty-eight days as he proposed in his Amendment, it would obviously have to be a reasonable time plus the time given for appeal, because the person who had the right to appeal would be entitled to take that period during which he would consider whether he would appeal or not, and the time ought not to begin to run until the expiration of the time given for notice of appeal.
In page 7, line 16, to leave out 'fourteen' and to insert 'twenty-eight.'"—(Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.)
§ THE LORD STEWARD (EARL BEAUCHAMP) said that naturally the Local Government Board preferred the period of fourteen days which was put in the Bill after a great deal of consideration, but in this matter he would be glad to come to terms with the noble Lord, and, if he would agree, the Local Government Board would halve the difference, and accept twenty-one days instead of fourteen days.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH said he was happy to agree to what the noble Earl had proposed, and to accept twenty-one days instead of fourteen. He amended his Amendment accordingly.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ LORD SALTOUN moved to substitute the word "shall" for "may." He explained that this Amendment was merely to make it compulsory on the local authority when they gave notice to a landlord to execute repairs that they should specify the repairs which were necessary.132
In page 7, line 18, to leave out the word 'may' and to insert the word 'shall.'"—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP accepted the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD CLINTON moved a new subsection providing that if within twenty-eight days of the receipt of a notice calling on him to make certain repairs the landlord by written notice to the local authority declared his intention of closing the house a closing order should be deemed to have become operative. He said this section as it stood in the Bill provided that if the provisions of subsection (1) so far as keeping a house in repair during the tenancy was concerned was not complied with, the local authority might require the owner to execute such works as they might consider necessary to make the house in all respects fit for human habitation, and if the notice to the landlord was not complied with the local authority might execute the works themselves and charge the cost to the owner. In his opinion there should be given to the owner some power of alternative in the matter—that was to say, he should be allowed to close his house in preference to carrying out the repairs which the local authority imposed upon him. There were many occasions when a landlord would quite rightly prefer to close a house rather than reconstruct or improve it. He did not think there was anything to lead them to believe that any owner would ask for a closing order against his house if he could in any respects make it fit for human habitation; but he submitted that the land-lord should have the right of an alternative. It often happened in rural districts that a house was so old-fashioned and out of date that it would be impossible to make it conform with the demands of the local authority and present building requirements without going to an excessive cost. Another thing that often happened in rural districts was that a house was no longer required for the convenience of the district, and in these cases a landlord should have the power to close it rather than carry out the repairs. Unfortunately owing to the constant migration from the country to the towns which was going on here as in every other country in the world, and owing to the fact of industries being closed 133 down many existing houses were not required. Farms which had been arable farms were now being changed into pasture or grazing or dairy farms, and a number of cottages which were formerly occupied were not required. It would be a very considerable hardship that a local authority should be able to say in any of those cases that a landlord must put his house in repair and not be allowed to close it.
In page 7, line 19, after the word 'habitation' to insert the following new subsection:
'(3) Within twenty-eight days after the receipt of such notice the landlord may by written notice to the local authority declare his intention of closing the house for human habitation and thereupon a closing order shall be deemed to have become operative in respect of such house.'"—(Lord Clinton.)
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH, in supporting the Amendment, quoted a case which came under his own observation with regard to a very poor owner. This man was required to do certain repairs to his house. He had practically no money with which to do these repairs, and the surveyor who was ordering the repairs came to him (Lord Clifford) to ask him to join in a subscription to help this man to do his own repairs. Therefore it was quite possible that in many of these cases a very poor owner might be forced to do very expensive repairs to a very old and tumble-down house. In those cases it would certainly be a very great injustice to compel repairs to a house which might possibly be not worth repairing at all.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he was sorry that His Majesty's Government did not see their way to accept this Amendment, and he thought for a sufficient reason. It would be observed that this order would only come after certain things had happened. The clause made it the landlord's duty to keep a house in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation, and if a landlord failed to carry out that obligation, it scarcely seemed fair that he should be able to evade that obligation by closing the house after having neglected for some time to keep it in proper repair. There was this alternative always within the power of the landlord, that he could give notice to his tenant. In cases of property like this they were usually weekly tenants. Then the house would be automatically closed. If the local authority had reason to think that a landlord would take advantage of this on 134 any considerable scale in any district where houses were scarce, they would naturally hesitate to resort to the powers under this clause. A demolition order generally followed a closing order after three months.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH said he did not understand that the demolition order followed after three months. The Bill provided that the landlord should put the house into proper repair, or the local authority could do it at his expense.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I would regret to see any words in the Bill which would put it in the power of any landlord to evade the provisions of this clause altogether by falling back upon closing orders. On the other hand, I think my noble friend has mentioned a case in which a good deal of unnecessary hardship would be occasioned to the owner of cottage property. He cited the case of an old-fashioned worn-out tenement, which really was not worth repairing, or, indeed, was in such a state that no amount of repair would bring it up to the standard required by the Bill. It would be hard in a case of that kind if the owner were to be obliged to perpetuate the tenancies. But I gather that the suggestion of His Majesty's Government is that in all such cases the natural process which the owner would have to resort to would be that of giving notice to his tenant, and terminating his occupation in that manner. If that is the view of the Government, I do not know that my friend would gain very much by pressing his words.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND asked how the matter stood. Earl Beauchamp said the landlord had the power of turning out his tenant, but as he (the Duke of Northumberland) understood it, the landlord received an order to repair the house. Was he first of all to repair the house and then turn out the tenant, or was he to turn out his tenant and then repair the house? He did not see how the landlord was to escape from the order to repair the house, and that was the first difficulty.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF CREWE)
I think the case is not so difficult as the noble Duke seems to think. The point is this. A house has to be declared, and has to be, unfit for human habitation. That being so, the landlord has to make up his mind whether 135 he will repair it or close it. If he wants to close it his proper course is to give notice to the tenant to quit, and in that case he can do what he likes with the house. But if he will not make up his mind and leaves the house in the condition that it is unfit for human habitation, he will be forced to repair it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Then I understand that in a case of that kind the owner of the house would not be compelled to execute the repairs?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
He would have to make up his mind first. I agree with what the noble Marquess said at first.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
But if he does make up his mind that he does not think it worth his while to do the repairs, it will not be incumbent upon him to do them?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am assuming that, of course. It is only fair to add that this would practically only apply in cases of very short tenancy.
§ THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY pointed out that an order might be obtained from the magistrates declaring the house unfit for human habitation, and these people would have to be evicted. That was a very unpleasant position. That kind of thing had come under his notice as chairman of a rural district council. They gave notice to a landlord to do repairs, and he said:— "I will do the work, but am I to turn these people out?" They gave him time generally to turn them out, which probably was as soon as the landlord found another place for them to go to; but if they chose to get an order from a magistrate to say that the house was unfit for human habitation they could turn the people out at once, and then the house had to be repaired.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND pointed out that what the Bill said was this, that the authority should, if a closing order was 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 might specify. That was the order, and there was nothing in the Bill to say that that order should not be enforced if the landlord evicted his tenant. The landlord 136 would have to put the house in order. If Earl Beauchamp wished that that should not be so, he ought to put in words to make that plain.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought their Lordships would see that there was really no substantial difference between the Marquess of Lansdowne and the Lord Privy Seal, but at the same time they would see that it was quite impossible for a Bill of this kind to provide for every possible contingency. This Bill did not alter the ordinary common law. There was no reason to state every instance in which the common law was not altered, and this did not seem to be a special instance in which the obligation lay upon the Local Government Board to say that there was no alteration in the ordinary law. If they were to do that, this Bill would assume very gigantic proportions. There was no real doubt about the position. If a landlord chose to give notice to his tenant he could do it, and the result would be that the house would naturally be closed automatically.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY said that the position might be that a landlord had got an order to repair his cottage. He decided that sooner than repair it he would demolish it. He got an order and evicted his tenant; but the fact remained that although the tenant was evicted the order calling upon him to repair the cottage was still in existence.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said the landlord was also affected by the next subsection, which said that if the notice was not complied with the authority might, 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. There really was a case to be met there, and a very few words would meet it—namely, to give the landlord the option of saying, "I would rather close my house than do the repairs or be liable to pay to the local authority the cost of the repairs." That was the question. The questions of occupation and tenancy and notice to quit did not arise. Ought not the landlord to have the option of saying, "The man does not want to be turned out, but if you are going to order me to do the repairs, or make me pay for them if you do them, I prefer to close the house."
§ LORD HYLTON asked would not the 137 object Lord Alverstone had in his mind be met by the Government accepting Lord Clinton's Amendment. If their Lordships would look over subsection (2) of Clause 15 they would see that the Government themselves had put in the words, "If a closing order is not made with respect to the house." The Government had already admitted that such a thing could be done. Why should they not accept the Amendment?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said all that they required was an assurance from the Government, after they had heard the weighty opinion of Lord Alverstone and the intimation from the Leader of the House as to what was intended. They wanted an assurance that the Government would see that this was put right. It would shorten the discussion very much if they had that assurance.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am anxious that there should be no hardship, and I think I said it would be incumbent on the landlord to make up his mind whether he would proceed with the tenancy or decide to pull down the house.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
He ought to have that option at some time, and the Amendment allows him to continue that option for too long a time.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE
It is only a question of language. All the Amendment does is to give him an option of saying "I will close the house rather than do this."
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that in the circumstances the Government would not object to this being put in, although really the difference between them was very small. The point was whether a landlord should close the house before the expiration of the time which was given to him or afterwards.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.138
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved an Amendment to provide that the appeal allowed to the landlord under the clause should be, not to the "Local Government Board" but to the "County Court of the district." He said there were several decisions which could be made by a local authority in this Bill against which His Majesty's Government recognised that there ought to be a right of appeal. There were closing orders and demolition orders, there were decisions whether a closing order should be removed, questions whether an extension of time should be granted, and there were others, all of which were to be decided in the first instance by the local authority, but in regard to which, in nearly all of them, the Government recognised there ought to be a right of appeal by the owner or landlord. The question raised in his Amendment was whether the appeal which the Government provided was the right kind of appeal. They should consider the precise question about which an appeal was granted under this clause. The procedure was that a local authority first made up their minds that a particular house was not reasonably fit for human habitation, and thereupon they might give notice to the owner to repair the house. If the owner did not obey their notice they might repair the house themselves and charge the expense to the owner. Evidently the question upon which an appeal must be tried was whether the house was unfit or was not reasonably fit for human habitation. His point was whether the Local Government Board was the right court of appeal to determine such a question as that. He submitted it was not. In the first place they did not know under the Bill what procedure the Board would adopt in order to try such an appeal. As far as he knew they had no judicial procedure whatever at their command, and they had no training to arrive at a judicial opinion. In the second place, it was evident that these matters ought to be put through with as much despatch and with as little difficulty as the interests of justice would allow. Was it right that such small matters as the closing of a particular house in a provincial town should be sent up to London in order to be tried? Manifestly not. It was, therefore, clear that they ought, if possible, to provide some tribunal which would act with much greater rapidity than the Local Government Board could act.139
§ But what was more important than all was, could they consider that the Local Government Board was an impartial tribunal in a matter of this kind? It was evidently not an impartial tribunal, and he did not say that by way of criticism of the Board. The Board would, of course, be interested in seeing these schemes of housing reform pushed on all over the country. Inspired by the President of the Board, they would have all the enthusiasm of zealots in the matter of housing reform. He did not blame them in the least for that. Many noble Lords in that House were, in their private capacity, doing something in the same direction, and there was no more fascinating pursuit. He did not quarrel with the Local Government Board for having such a feeling, but this fact, it was evident, deprived them of the quality of impartiality, and unless the tribunal was impartial it might make very serious mistakes and commit very great injustice. He heard only the other day of a local authority who tried to force an owner to execute certain repairs in a cottage belonging to him. The authority said it was unfit for human habitation. What was the matter? There was a tiled shed outside the house which was not sealed underneath the tiles, and the authority said that that made the whole house unfit for human habitation. Their Lordships were also probably familiar with an instance of zeal somewhat outrunning judicial discretion in a matter of this sort in the great City of Birmingham. There had been in that city a tremendous and laudable effort towards housing reform, but, according to information which reached him occasionally, the demands made on landlords altogether outran any reasonable demand which ought to be made. In one case a landowner consulted an architect, and he put the estimate for the repairs at a sum of £300, but the Housing Committee thought it ought to cost £1,500. That showed the sort of difference of opinion there might be on a question of that kind. And although it was not the same Department, he might quote from his own experience of the Board of Agriculture. He was interested in preparing small holdings according to the behests of the noble Earl, but one of the difficulties they had was that the noble Earl's Office held a much more exalted view of what was suitable and fit for the habitation of small holders than the funds that his poor county could afford, 140 and it was only after a great deal of pressure that they were able to persuade the noble Earl that the counsels of perfection should be abated.
§ It was quite clear that in a question of this kind great injustice might be done unless a perfectly impartial mind was brought to bear upon this question. This difficulty had also been felt in regard to an analogous matter in the great metropolis in which they were now speaking. There they had a great Act called the London Building Act, and very difficult questions, not very different from the sort of questions which would have to be decided under this Bill, arose. There were questions of building lines or what constituted sufficient light and air for buildings, but those were not entrusted to a Government Department; there was an appeal to a special tribunal, appointed under the Act, of three gentlemen of distinction. That tribunal gave universal satisfaction, and constituted a great precedent for having a judicial body to determine appeals of this kind. When they came to consider what that judicial body ought to be, two alternatives presented themselves. There were the magistrates and there were the County Court Judges. The magistrates were the present Court of appeal under the principal Act, but it was said, and perhaps with some truth, that magistrates sitting on the Borough Benches were not altogether to be relied upon in matters of that kind. He did not desire to say anything disrespectful to the gentlemen of the Borough Benches, but they were sometimes so much interested in housing matters that it was not fair to throw upon them decisions of this kind. If they turned from Borough Benches to Quarter Sessions, the difficulty was that they only met four times a year, and in the interests of that rapidity which was requisite in these cases Quarter Sessions were not suitable. Therefore they were driven back on the other alternative, the County Court. He could not help thinking that the County Court was the most suitable for matters of this kind. The County Court jurisdiction existed as much for interpreting matters of contract as for anything else, and therefore it seemed to be precisely suitable for giving decisions on these matters. He was sure the Lord Chancellor would be the last person to say anything in derogation of the capacity of County Court Judges, for he had been responsible for a Bill in the present session which would have thrown far more 141 important duties upon the County Courts than those now proposed. He would remind their Lordships of the contrast in this Bill between the treatment of England and Scotland, attention to which had already been called on the Second Reading. It ought to be emphasised, for it was one of the most astonishing things in this wonderful Bill. In Scotland all these questions arose just as much as they arose in England, but when the Government wanted to provide an appeal in Scotland they did not go to the Local Government Board or any Government Department; they went to a judicial Court. In the present instance they went to the Sheriffs. He was not familiar with Scottish law or procedure, but he understood that a Sheriff corresponded in position and status to an English County Court Judge. Therefore, if he might use so vulgar a phrase, what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander. If a judicial appeal was necessary in Scotland, a judicial appeal was certainly necessary in England.
In page 7, line 33, to leave out the words 'Local Government Board,' and to insert the words 'County Court of the district.'"—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ *THE EARL OF MAYO said they had had to fight in Ireland for the right of appeal in many Bills brought to that House. The argument used by the Earl of Crewe was that the working of an Act was expedited by a Department dealing with it, and that it was cheaper. Were the people of the country to be ruled in compartments by Departments? It was all very well talking about the disinterestedness of officials in a Department, but what it amounted to was this, that in the case of an appeal the appellants had to appeal from one gentleman sitting in one room to another sitting in another room on the other side of the passage. They had had to fight that kind of thing in Irish Bills, and he hoped the noble Marquess would fight it with regard to this Bill. Scotland had been let off on this question, and had got the right of appeal. Well, Scotland was a very lucky country. It was now proposed in the Amendment to apply the same kind of Departmental appeal to England. Surely it was the right of an Englishman to appeal to the law of his country if he thought he was not rightly treated. As the Lord Chan- 142 cellor was going to speak he hoped that point would be cleared up for them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREBURN)
My Lords, there is an old saying, Boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem. In other words, every Judge ought to try and get as much authority, power, jurisdiction, and work for the other Judges as he could.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think it is. It is a fairly accurate paraphrase, at any rate. I do not know what view your Lordships have of the different questions under which all the circumstances, even the most trivial of your domestic or your public or civil life, are to be tried solemnly before some tribunal, some Court of law, and that no individual, unless he has judicial authority, is to be considered a suitable person to settle even the smallest matters. It must be very flattering to those who administer justice to think that their services are so much desired by people who, I think, would be much more comfortable without them. What is the subject matter of the appeal? We are all agreed that there should be an appeal. A local authority decides that some house or cottage is not fit for human habitation; or, having decided that, and having spent the money to put it right, the question is whether £20 or £18, or a smaller sum spent on making the house fit for human habitation, is to be recovered from the landlord. It might be £15 or even £30. Now, it is proposed by the noble Marquess that this matter should be treated by a County Court Judge as a trial, as a point of litigation.
The noble Marquess gave three reasons. First, he said that the procedure, which he described as a judicial procedure, was preferable to the report of a practical man sent down for the purpose. He has provided nothing in the way of procedure. We shall have to have Rules of Court, with solicitors, and, perhaps, expert witnesses called in regard to this particular shanty or building, and a solemn trial before a County Court Judge, lasting perhaps half a day or more, as to whether a particular house is unfit for human habitation, by reason, for example, of its having a shed outside, to follow the illustration which the noble Marquess gave. 143 Is it not driving it a little bit too far? Why is a Judge of the County Court more suited to decide that than anybody else? What does he know more than any one else about a house being fit for human habitation or not fit? He must take evidence, for you are making this a subject of a trial and litigation in the Courts. I do not deprecate litigation, but this is a Bill which, if overloaded by expense, will baffle the object which I believe the noble Marquess wishes to see carried out as much as any one—namely, to remove a great social evil. So much for the procedure. I am afraid if the noble Marquess persists, which I hope he will not, he will have to provide some code of procedure to enable County Court Judges to deal with this.
The next reason the noble Marquess gave was despatch. That, again, I take to be highly complimentary to the profession to which I have the honour to belong. The law's delays are no longer proverbial. It is the despatch which has become proverbial, and stimulates the noble Marquess in desiring a judicial decision instead of having a man sent down in the morning to look at a place and settle the affair in ten minutes and come back again in the afternoon. That is the state of dignity to which we have arrived. I have the greatest respect for County Court Judges, and had not the noble and learned Earl defeated me their jurisdiction would have been extended. But I must say that they have not the particular qualification for deciding whether a cottage is healthy or not; nor have they any excessive time for disposing of this kind of thing. There are a good many insanitary houses. Are these Judges to be sent about the country from their work to view these, and then have trials on the subject?
The third ground upon which the noble Marquess asked for support to his Amendment was that he wanted somebody who was impartial. There, again, I acknowledge the compliment. The County Court Judges are impartial. But are they the only people who are impartial? He spoke of the fiery enthusiasm of the present President of the Board, and suggested that, however comparatively dull the occupation of the officials might be, it would be kindled into enthusiasm by the proximity of the right hon. gentleman. Surely the noble Marquess knows that these things are 144 done constantly under another Act, to which I will refer, and they are just as much a matter of right as anything could be. Can you imagine any one getting unduly excited by being sent 100 miles off on the question as to whether a cottage is fit for human habitation? A duller or a more uninteresting and prosaic business I cannot imagine, and it is a business at the same time which is eminently suitable for a practical man. I am not suggesting that County Court Judges may not be practical in the legal way of weighing evidence and so forth if you have a trial, but I think this would be better done by a surveyor or an official sent down from the Board. It is said that these men are not impartial, but is this such a great matter that you are going to introduce all this legal paraphernalia? The last part of the noble Marquess's speech referred to the Sheriffs in Scotland. I am happy to be on ground with which I ought to be a little familiar. The Sheriff in Scotland, and my noble friend, Lord Camperdown, will bear me out, is a man who does about twice the work of a County Court Judge in England for half the salary.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If I were asked to characterise his position it would be in terms of sympathy, for it is really true, He does not merely the work of a stipendiary magistrate, but the county court work; he does the work of a Justice of the Peace also, and he has other functions, executive functions, and it is because he has these executive functions that I suppose he was put into this Bill. There was a case of a raid in the Highlands some time ago in which, I remember, a Sheriff, according to his legal duty, commanded the police, and marched with them, and I believe complaint was made that he distributed medals to them for their prowess in the course of their expedition. He is the head of the police, I believe, and has judicial and executive functions mixed, and that system prevails only because of the peculiar experience and the pacific attitude of the people among whom he lives. You must not take the Sheriff as being in the least degree parallel to an English County Court Judge. He is put into the Bill partly because in Scotland they have not got a Local Government Board.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Not the same as in England. The Sheriff is appointed partly because he is, in point of fact, an executive as well as a judicial officer. The real point is this. We want to keep this thing cheap in administration. We do not want to multiply its operations. It has been this which has caused the ruin of previous schemes of housing reform. Expense has killed the whole business, and though I am sure this Amendment is proposed with the very best motives by the noble Marquess, the real effect would be to increase the expense in regard to such a small matter. I think you may trust the Local Government Board and the officials to say whether a house is sanitary or not. They have already this power under Section 268 of the Public Health Act, 1875, which has been in force for thirty years. There is an appeal to the Local Government Board, and, as far as I know, no one has been aggrieved by the decisions in regard to recovering money with respect to private improvements, and the question whether those particular expenses are private improvement expenses or not. That kind of thing has been familiarly dealt with without objection. I hope your Lordships will not press this Amendment. If you do it will make the matter very much more expensive, and do a lot of harm to the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that the appeal of the Lord Chancellor brought him to his feet. It was perfectly true that the Sheriff was maid-of-all-work in Scotland. But was he so superior to the English County Court Judge? This work was done by the Sheriff in Scotland because the Sheriff was able to be impartial. But they would never make the people of England believe that a great Department so closely interested in the Government, and the head of the Department very often an enthusiast, could be quite as impartial? With regard to the question of expense, that, after all, was a very small matter. It was desirable to have cheapness, but in taking a man's property away from him justice was more important even than cheapness.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said the real analogy was Sections 32 to 34 of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, to which reference had often been made. 146 There, where orders were made, the appeal was to Quarter Sessions, and no steps could be taken until the appeal had been determined. The principle of the appeal to the Court had in kindred circumstances been recognised by the Legislature over and over again, and no question of delay or expense had been allowed to interfere with the right which all His Majesty's subjects had to have their property in such cases protected by a Court of law. He would call attention to the section to which the Lord Chancellor referred, Section 258 of the Public Health Act, which gave the right to memorialise the Local Government Board in cases in which a person was aggrieved by a decision as to private improvement expenses. That was the only jurisdiction given to the Local Government Board under that Act. It was true that that section had worked perfectly well, but he did not think there had been many cases.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said that they were of that limited class dealing with the cost of private improvements. The question was not whether the money should come out of the pocket of the landlord, but whether it should be put on the general body of ratepayers as against a particular body of ratepayers. There was no analogy in the present case where they were dealing with the particular rights of an individual whose property was being interfered with. Why was it that where an appeal to Quarter Sessions was allowed under one Act, nothing was put into this clause except an appeal to the Local Government Board? During the twelve years he was Attorney-General he had had a great deal of experience of the Local Government Board, and he submitted that it was not right in dealing with a matter of this kind, where the local authorities were acting either by the direction or with the consent of the Local Government Board, that the appeal should be to that Board. The Lord Chancellor had said that this could be done by a gentleman going down from London and would be done very expeditiously, but that was not business. What did they do now? The whole of England and Scotland was parcelled out, and, with great deference to noble Lords from Scotland, he held that there was a direct analogy between the jurisdiction 147 of the Sheriff in Scotland in these civil matters and the County Courts in England, and the amusing and interesting speech of the Lord Chancellor about a Sheriff going out into the Highlands with a body of police and suppressing a raid and giving medals to the police had nothing to do with the questions they were discussing, which was as to the jurisdiction which the Sheriff exercised with regard to appeals, and whether it was applicable to this Bill. He appealed to Viscount Wolverhampton who, he was sure, with his experience of County Courts, would see that if there was to be an appeal at all it ought to be to men who were in the locality. The expense in a County Court was far less than would be incurred in going to Quarter Sessions. Would the Government suggest some other tribunal? They on that side of the House felt that subjects of His Majesty had the right to the protection of the Court. That seemed to be the principle which ought to cover this, and unless some reason was given for departing from it they ought to adhere to it. Would the Government give them some other tribunal to appeal to? If they liked to set up some cheap tribunal well and good, but if they said "No, it must be the Local Government Board and nothing else," it seemed to him that the noble Marquess had made a case for the Amendment. The point was that they should have a cheap appeal to a legal tribunal, in which no barrister need be employed, and in which the introduction of expert witnesses would cost only a few pounds —they got no more in the County Courts. He was supporting the Amendment because in his judgment it was wrong that a Board sitting in an office should decide these questions between a local authority and an individual. An independent tribunal was asked for, and in default of a better one being suggested by His Majesty's Government he hoped the Committee would adopt the County Court.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I have really practically nothing to add to what was said by my friend behind me, because Lord Alverstone did not deal with the arguments advanced by my noble and learned friend, but confined himself to the general statement that in all cases where there was any question which might arise between a local authority and an individual there should be an appeal to a judicial tribunal. I think the noble 148 and learned Lord would have contributed more to the debate if he had attempted to meet the arguments advanced by the Lord Chancellor in respect to the peculiar unfitness of the County Courts, admirable institutions as they are, for the particular purposes required of them by this section. Lord Alverstone spoke in a vague and general way as though vast powers were being conferred on the Local Government Board under this section. What does the section deal with? It deals with the necessary conditions of keeping in repair certain classes of houses defined under this Act. As the Lord Chancellor pointed out, the questions which may arise under this section will very often be, and in the vast majority of cases are, of a small and unimportant character, and to say that if such a question arises it is necessary to call in all the majesty of a judicial tribunal I confess does not seem to me entirely reasonable. I believe if you were to ask the people who will be affected by this clause as it stands whether they would sooner have the question decided by a Local Government Board Inspector than be dragged before a County Court, with all the publicity involved in the face of their neighbours and all the comments which would arise in their small local newspapers, they would infinitely prefer the procedure proposed in the Bill quite apart from all questions of expense. Lord Alverstone said, "If you won't have a County Court, have something else." The noble Marquess who introduced this Amendment pointed out, with great clearness and absolute candour, the objections that might arise in some cases in allowing the county, or, even more, a Borough Bench to adjudicate on these questions. I agree with him. The Borough Benches do, no doubt, include a great number of people upon whom, as the noble Marquess pleasantly put it, it is not fair to place the burden of adjudicating on these matters, in which we presume they may be interested. No attempt has been made to prove that the County Court is a suitable body for this particular purpose. At any rate, no attempt has been made to answer the statements of the Lord Chancellor; and it does seem to be rather incumbent on the critics of the Bill to suggest some alternative course. I confess I do not see what alternative kind of appeal could be suggested, and I fear, therefore, that we must adhere to the proposals made in our clause, and we do so all the more confidently owing to the fact that we 149 do not consider that they have met with any damaging criticism whatever.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY said he had listened to the Lord Chancellor, but was bound to say that he had not heard the argument to which the noble Earl had just referred, which suggested that the County Court was not a fit tribunal to hear these appeals. No one knew better than the noble and learned Lord that questions such as the amount of repairs, whether or not they would make a place habitable, and so on, were questions which must constantly come before County Court Judges. To say that the County Court Judge was not a competent person—
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Earl, but it was not a question of the competency of the person; it was a question of the machinery.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY was afraid he did not understand what the machinery was. The question was whether or not this could go to the County Court. What question of machinery, or difficulty of machinery, arose? If there was an appeal, it was to a County Court in a particular district, and he was not aware of the necessity for any new rules of procedure. There were plenty of rules now, perhaps too many, with reference to the regulation of proceedings in County Courts, but he did not understand that the noble and learned Lord suggested any difficulty about procedure.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
All I said was that you would have to have, rules, or some machinery, provided in the Bill to enable a County Court Judge to try these appeals.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY said that, with the greatest possible respect, he did not follow what the Government really meant. There was no difficulty in saying under this Statute that there should be an appeal to the County Court. There were rules at present which regulated all appeals to the County Court, and he did not know anything which distinguished this from any other matter which went on appeal to the County Court. One would suppose there was something very mysterious about this question. The Lord Chancellor said it was not worth while going to a County Court, or any Court, over such a question. But if a person owed another sixpence, he could 150 go to the County Court and enforce his right there, and he had never yet heard that the procedure was so expensive as to prevent justice being done. He confessed he had not followed the argument which the Lord Chancellor presented on this matter. He regarded this as a far more serious matter than was applicable to this particular Amendment. He quite followed what Lord Alverstone had said with perfect propriety. This was a right which had been fought for over and over again in this country, the right of a person to have his property protected against any arbitrary act by the Government, and to have the matter fought out in a Court of Law. Even if there had been one or two small instances where it was not thought worth while to do this, that ought not to prevent these appeals going to a judicial tribunal instead of to a Government Department. He was bound to say that their late experience of Government Departments was not very favourable to the system of appeal now proposed by the Government.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY said that in the vast majority of cases the tribunal in the Bill would be sufficient, but what about the minority of cases? Those were also important. He did not see why landlords should not have the option of appealing to the Local Government Board or to a Court, as the noble Marquess suggested. There might be some inexpensive cases where the owner would be satisfied, but in the minority of cases there might be instances in which he would not consider that the Board was impartial, and he might like to have another tribunal to appeal to.
§ THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY said that in all these small cases the owner would shrink from the expenses of the County Court, and would consent to pay what he was told he had to pay. The County Court would cost money. As the Bill stood, in these cases the Local Government Board Inspector would go down and there would be no expense. By the Amendment they were defeating the object of the Bill. If it came to going before a County Court and fighting it in the open, the owner would merely shrug his shoulders and pay. Only the few cases really worth fighting would come before a County Court Judge. As a compromise he thought that either the Local Government Board or the County Court should be able to hear an appeal. They 151 could then let the owner decide under which king he chose to die.
§ The MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said, in reply to the noble Earl who had just spoken, he had received a letter from a body very much interested in this matter—an association of those who found it necessary to resist some of the more drastic152
§ methods in Birmingham—and they, far from agreeing with the Government, were enthusiastic for his Amendment.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 31; Not-contents, 119.151
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Glantawe, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Hereford, L. Bp.||Haversham, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Hemphill, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Lochee, L.|
|Allendale, L.||Mac Donnell, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Blyth, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||St. Davids, L.|
|Craven, E.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Sheffield, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Eversley, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Faber, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Verulam, E.||Forester, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Westmorland, E.||Hare, L.(E. Listowel.)|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Hindlip, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Hylton, L.|
|Bath, M.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Inverclyde, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Colville of Culross, V.||Kenmare, L (E. Kenmare.)|
|Camden, M.||De Vesci, V.||Kesteven, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Falkland, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Falmouth, V.||Ludlow, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Manners, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Halifax, V.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Cadogan, E.||Hampden, V.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Hill, V.||Newton, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Hood, V.||North, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Northcote, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Oriel, L (V. Massereene.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Iveagh, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Coventry, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.||Poltimore, L.|
|Derby, E.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Eldon, E.||Abinger, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Allerton, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Alverstone, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Avebury, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Howe, E.||Bagot, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Belper, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Sandys, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Calthorpe, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Lytton, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Somerhill, L (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Clinton, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Colchester, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Munster, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Templemore, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Desborough, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Digby, L.||Walsingham, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Egerton, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Stamford, E.||Ellenborough, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Elphinstone, L.|
§ Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said that his next Amendment, to leave out "Board" and insert "local authority" was not absolutely consequential; it provided for proper notice being given to a local authority.
In page 7, line 38, to leave out the word 'Board' and to insert the words local authority.' "—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, it is clearly not consequential, but there is more to be said than that, because the notice would have to be given to the local authority, but an appeal could not be entered in the County Court merely by giving notice to a local authority. A person desiring an appeal must make application to go through the ordinary County Court procedure. I think the noble Marquess will have to insert some provisions in order to fit in with his previous Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Consequential Amendment agreed to.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND moved to leave out subsection (5). He said this really raised a question which had been dealt with to some extent on the previous evening, but the expression "landlord" as defined here would lead to endless difficulty. He had already pointed out what the case would be with large collieries, and the noble Earl promised to consider that question. There were many other cases which would make a provision of this kind very awkward. Take the not uncommon case of a house or a set of houses being built and let out to an association, perhaps to a very wealthy association. It might not be a question of poverty at all, and the landlord perhaps had left to that association the maintenance of those houses. Why was the landlord to be liable for the repair of the houses if the association neglected its duty? Yet it seemed to him that the subsection would make the landlord liable in that way. The object which His Majesty's Government had in view—they 154 all sympathised with it—was to get hold of the landlord who let houses to men of straw, and then when those houses got out of repair shielded himself under a bogus contract with his tenant; but surely some words were required to except the cases he had mentioned, where there was a bona fide association, and where the person to whom the houses were let was perfectly able to keep them in repair. The landlord ought not to be liable in such a case. With regard to the expression "house" including "part of a house," what did that mean? Did it mean a tenement house, or a house let in flats. He was informed that houses in some parts of the country let in flats were considered to be tenement houses. That seemed to him to be rather a stretch of the term. The whole subsection required clearing up, and he thought it should be omitted here, and perhaps brought in in some other section.
In page 8, lines 1 to 10, to leave out subsection (5)."—(The Duke of Northumberland.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said there was no point of difference between the noble Duke and the Government. This section provided that the expression "landlord" meant any person who lets a house. It was quite obvious that the original owner was not involved, but it was the person who let the house who would become liable. If on further inquiry the noble Duke was not satisfied with what he understood to be the legal aspect of the case, perhaps the noble Duke would bring up something on Report.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE expressed the opinion that some further words were required. He thought the words "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," were rather too wide. He was sure the Government meant the same thing, but words were wanted to show that it was a letting for habitation by the working-classes.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he would certainly see that the matter was looked into. He had for the moment overlooked the noble Duke's second question. He thought that tenements would be included under this section.155
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to delete from subsection (6) the words "be in addition to and". He said this was merely a drafting Amendment, and the Government had accepted a similar Amendment on the Trade Boards Bill, thinking it made the matter clearer.
In page 8, 13, to leave out the words 'be in addition to and' and after the word 'not' insert the word 'be.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Local Government Board was not disposed to accept the Amendment in this case. He agreed that this clause was in the usual form, but Section 91 of the Act of 1890 said, "All powers shall be deemed to be in addition to and not in derogation of any other powers conferred by Act of Parliament." Section 341 of the Public Health Act, 1875, and Section 11 of the Public Health (Amendment) Act of 1897 referred to a somewhat similar case. The Local Government Board wanted to keep the words in.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that the Local Government Board were always glad to keep in any words which implied an addition of any sort. The difficulty arose from the fact that if they used the words "in addition to and not in derogation of," it might mean that a man could collect a debt or something of that sort twice over. One really had a certain suspicion of the Local Government Board. He would not, however, trouble their Lordships to divide upon the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.
16.—(1) The power of making and enforcing by laws under section ninety of the Public Health Act, 1875, and section ninety-four of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, with respect to houses or parts of houses which are let in lodgings or occupied by members of more than one family, shall, in the case of houses intended for the working classes, extend to the making and enforcing of by-laws imposing any duty (being a duty which may be imposed by the by-laws and which involves the execution of work) upon the owner within the meaning of the said Acts, in
addition to or in substitution for any other person having an interest in the premises, and prescribing the circumstances and conditions in and subject to which any such duty is to be discharged.
(2) For the purpose of discharging any duty so imposed the owner or other person may at all reasonable times enter upon any part of the premises, and section fifty-one of the principal Act shall apply as if for the reference to the provisions of Part II. of that Act there were substituted a reference to the provisions of such by-laws, and as if the person on whom such duty is imposed were the owner and any inmate of the premises were the occupier of a dwelling-house.
(3) Where an owner or other person has failed to execute any work which he has been required to execute under the by-laws, the local authority or sanitary authority, as the case may be, may, after giving to him not less than fourteen days' notice in writing, themselves execute the works and recover the costs and expenses, and for that purpose the provisions of subsection (3) of the last foregoing section, with respect to the execution of works and the recovery of expenses by local authorities, shall apply as if the owner or other person were the landlord and with such other adaptations as may be necessary.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH said his Amendment to this clause was somewhat of a technical nature, but he thought it was not an unimportant one. Under the Bill it seemed that the definition of an owner excluded all mortgagees and all lessees of terms under twenty-one years. Therefore a lessee under a repairing lease of seven or fourteen years could not be touched for the execution of works, and it seemed desirable that the responsibility of lessees should not be abrogated by an Act of Parliament without good reason. Of course, in a good many of these cases tenements which were occupied by the working-classes were in possession, so to speak, of several people. There was the original owner, or the ground landlord; there were sometimes mortgagees or a lessee, and the occupier had himself the responsibility of keeping the place in repair. The object of his Amendment was to secure that the person, although perhaps not the owner in the sense of being the ground landlord or the original owner of the premises, should not escape the responsibilities which he had undertaken to carry out.
In line 24, after the word 'owner' to insert the words 'or occupier.'"—(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP hoped he could persuade the noble Lord that the addition of the words proposed was not necessary. 157 If he would follow a line or two further in the Bill he would find the words, "in addition to or in substitution for any other person having an interest in the premises." It was clear the occupier was one of those persons who had an interest in the premises, and therefore the occupier was already covered by the words in the clause. This, again, was one of those matters in which there was no difference of principle. It was merely a matter of drafting, and he thought their Lordships would see that these words would not add anything to the strength of the Bill in view of the fact that the line he had read was sufficiently wide to cover the occupier.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT HILL moved an Amendment to provide that any notice requiring the execution of works under this clause should be served upon the owner or other person in writing. Under the Public Health Acts from 1875 to 1891 he believed there was a provision of this kind, that the owners should be served with notice, and he desired to know whether a sufficient notice was provided for in this Bill. If not, he would ask the noble Earl whether he would insert these words so as to make it perfectly clear that the owner was to receive this notice of the requirements to be executed.
In page 8, line 28, after the word 'discharged' to insert the words 'provided that in all cases where an owner or other person is required to execute any work under this section notice in writing thereof shall be forthwith served upon that owner or other person.'"—(Viscount Hill.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that the noble Viscount could rest satisfied that the owner or other person was already protected. It had been held by the High Court that any by-law which did not contain a provision of notice being given to a landlord was bad, and therefore it was already the law that notice of this kind must be given. But the model by-law drafted by the Local Government Board provided that no proceedings could be taken against the landlord until he had had that notice, and the Local Government Board always insisted upon a clause to that effect being inserted in by-laws. Clause 16 was not really intended to cover any very important points. It was inserted in order to meet a state of things 158 which arose in a London borough, in which an owner was ordered to effect certain repairs of a very small and not at all a serious character, but he claimed that he had no right of entry because of the terms of his agreement. The Court sustained the claim, and the object of this clause was to make it quite clear that the owner should at all times have a reasonable right of entry. He thought that the noble Viscount might rest satisfied with the statement that in the opinion of the Board the case was already covered by the existing law.
§ VISCOUNT HILL said he was quite satisfied with the explanation and asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH moved an Amendment in line 40 to provide that an owner or other person should have twenty-one days instead of fourteen days notice, as proposed in the clause, of the intention of a local authority to execute repairs and recover the costs.
In page 8, line 40, to leave out the word 'fourteen,' and to insert 'twenty-one.'"—(Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved an Amendment to make the appeal to the County Court, given in subsection (4) of the previous clause, operative, in regard to notices requiring execution of works or payment of expenses.
In page 9, line 3, after the word 'authorities,' to insert the words 'and the provisions of subsection (4) of the last foregoing section with respect to an appeal against any notice requiring the execution of works and any demand for the recovery of expenses under this section.'"—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said it was quite unnecessary to argue this matter again, but the provision was a little superfluous in this ease, as this clause would really apply to very minor matters, which would not involve the expenditure of any considerable sum of money. But if the noble Marquess pressed it, of course, after the recent discussion and the Division, the 159 Government would not object to the insertion of the Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURYsaid the by-laws might include a great number of matters, such as the number of persons living in a house, and so on.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP pointed out that the Amendment only referred to notice requiring the execution of works and any demand for the recovery of expenses under this section. The Amendment did not include anything dealing with the number of people living in the house.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 17:
§ Amendment of Procedure for Closing Orders and Demolition Orders.
§ 17.—(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority within the meaning of Part II of the principal Act to cause to be made from time to time inspection of their district, with a view to ascertain whether any dwelling-house therein is in a state so dangerous or injurious to health as to be unfit for human habitation, and for that purpose it shall be the duty of the local authority and of every officer of the local authority to comply with such regulations and to keep such records as may be prescribed by the Board, if on the representation of the medical officer of health, or of any officer of the authority, or information given, any dwelling-house appears to them to be in such a state.
§ (2) It shall be their duty to make an order prohibiting the use of the dwelling-house for human habitation (in this Act referred to as a closing order) until in the judgment of the local authority the dwelling-house is rendered fit for that purpose.
§ (3) Notice of a closing order shall be forthwith served on every owner of the dwelling-house in respect of which it is made, and any owner aggrieved by the order may appeal to the Local Government Board by giving notice of appeal to the Board within fourteen days after the order is served upon him.
§ (4) Where a closing order has become operative, the local authority shall serve notice of the order on every occupying tenant of the dwelling-house in respect of which the order is made, and within such period as is specified in the notice, not being less than seven days after the service of the notice, the, order shall be obeyed by him, and he and his family shall cease to inhabit the dwelling-house, and in default he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty shillings for every day during which the default continues.
§ (5) The local authority may make to every such tenant such reasonable allowance on account of his expenses in removing, as may be determined by the local authority with the consent of the owner of the dwelling-house, or if the owner 160 of the dwelling-house fails to consent to the sum determined by the local authority as may be fixed by a court of summary jurisdiction, and the amount of the said allowance shall be recoverable by the local authority from the owner of the dwelling-house as a civil debt in manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts.
§ (6) The local authority shall determine any closing order made by them if they are satisfied that the dwelling-house in respect of which it has been made has been rendered fit for human habitation.
§ If on the application of any owner of a dwelling-house, the local authority refuse to determine a closing order, the owner may appeal to the Local Government Board by giving notice of appeal to the Board within fourteen days after the application is refused.
§ (7) Where an appeal is made to the Local Government Board under this section the Local Government Board shall not dismiss the appeal without having first held a public local inquiry.
§ (8) A room habitually used as a sleeping place, the surface of the floor of which is more than three feet below the surface of the part of the street adjoining or nearest to the room, shall for the purposes of this section be deemed to be a dwelling-house so dangerous or injurious to health as to be unfit for human habitation, if the room either—
- (a) is not sufficiently protected against dampness, effluvia, or exhalation; or
- (b) is not sufficiently ventilated; or
- (c) is not in every part thereof at least seven feet in height from floor to ceiling; or
- (d) is not, to the extent of one foot at least in height, above the level of the surface of the part of the street adjoining or nearest to the room; or
- (e) has not one or more windows opening directly into the external air, with a total area clear of the sash frames equal to at least one-tenth of the floor area of the room, and so constructed that one half at least of each window of the room can be opened, the opening in each case extending to the top of the window; or
- (f) is not provided along the entire frontage thereof with an open area properly paved, at least four feet wide in every part thereof: Provided that in the area there may be placed steps necessary for access to the room and over and across the area there may be steps necessary for access to any buildings above the room, if the steps are so placed in each case as not to be over or across any external window.
§ The subsection shall not come into operation until the first day of July nineteen hundred and ten, and a closing order made in respect of any room to which this subsection applies shall not be treated as a closing order in respect of a dwelling-house for the purposes of the next succeeding section.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN desired to ask the noble Earl a question as to the extent of this clause. If he would look in the fourth line he would see the words "whether any dwelling-house therein is in a state so dangerous," and so on. Did that word "dwelling-house" extend to all dwelling-houses, or was it limited to dwelling-houses which were under Clause 14 of the Act? His reason for asking was 161 that in the debate on the Second Reading it had been said that it would very likely affect a good many of their servants' rooms, and that those rooms would be held to be unfit for human habitation. That had been called into question, and he asked for a correct interpretation of the term.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that the correct interpretation without any doubt was that it applied to all dwelling-houses and not merely to those in Clause 14.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD moved an Amendment to provide that instead of an inspection of houses being made "from time to time" it should be made at least triennially, and by the medical officer of health. He thought the words "from time to time" were far too vague to be really effective. They might mean almost anything. With a zealous or active district council they might mean an annual house to house inspection, but in the case of a negligent council, who from any cause was not very active or enthusiastic, the words might mean something very different. Therefore it was reasonable to fix some time which would ensure regular inspection. They were all agreed as to the importance of having something like a regular and continuous inspection and not a casual or haphazard inspection, varying simply with the character of the district council and their officers. It was where those bodies or individuals were not active or enthusiastic that it was of the first importance that the Statute should be explicit and lay upon them a reasonable call to do their duty regularly. With regard to the second part of his Amendment he felt it was of real importance that it should be explicitly made a part of the duty of medical officers of health to carry out this inspection if called upon. It seemed to be one of the weak spots in this Bill that the district councils and their officers were not very clearly dealt with. The Bill dealt quite distinctly with county councils and with the county council officers, but it seemed largely to leave the district councils and their officers alone. Whatever abuse was likely to arise would be brought about as a rule, not from any lack of vigilance on the part of county councils, but in the smaller rural district councils. The Bill would have been greatly improved, he thought, if more attention had been given to the district councils, and especially to the appointment of 162 medical officers of health under district councils, On that point he was glad to see in Clause 69 an Amendment proposed by Lord Harrowby, which would tend to make medical officers of health to district councils more independent than hitherto. It tended to paralyse an officer if he was only appointed by the year or for three years, and if at the end of three years, when the constitution of the council was changed, he might be turned out for somebody else. It was also certainly not to the advantage of any administration that such medical officers should be carrying on a private practice at the same time in their respective districts. For all these reasons he hoped their Lordships would be willing to lay explicitly on the medical officer of health to a district council the duty of carrying out the regular inspection of the houses in his district. With regard to the whole matter, perhaps he might be allowed to refer to Germany. There were a good many things in German administration which deserved their attention, and this matter of continuous inspection of dwelling-houses was one of them. In many of the German States continuous inspection was compulsory, and the rules were far more stringent than anything proposed in this Bill. In several of the States there were not only district inspectors, but a chief inspector whose duty it was to see that these continuous inspections were carried out, and to make an annual report on his own inspecting work, and on the work of all the sub-inspectors. He observed also that in some States they were even making provision for adding duly qualified women to assist in this inspection. If the Bill was to be worked efficiently in various districts—and he was thinking specially of his own district—it was very important to secure regularity of inspection. It was also important to secure, as far as might be, the independence of the medical officer, so that he should be outside all local interests, and he thought the medical officer should have the definite duty laid upon him of carrying out this inspection. For those reasons he moved his Amendment.
In page 9, line 10, to leave out from the words 'from time to time' and to insert the words 'at least triennially,' and after the word 'district' to insert the words 'by their medical officer of health.'"—(The lord Bishop of Hereford.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP was sorry to say that he found himself in an unfortunate position with regard to the Amendment of the right rev. Prelate. He was unable to accept it any more than the Amendment the right rev. Prelate moved on the previous night. In the first place, there was this to be said, that what was wanted was really a continuous inspection which should be efficient to make sure that all the houses were in a state of sanitary repair. That did not mean that every house should be inspected at exactly the same interval. Triennially would, perhaps, be too often for some houses, while for others it would not be frequent enough. In the case of the Bishop's palace at Hereford, triennially perhaps would be too often, but at the same time there might be cottages in his Lordship's diocese where triennial inspection would not be enough. What was wanted was not a perfunctory inspection every three years, but a more general and thorough inspection carried out according to the various needs of the different houses in different districts. With regard to the second part of the Amendment, the difficulty seemed to be that it would lay upon the medical officer himself the duty of making the actual inspection, which in a large matter of this kind would be really impracticable. The inspection ought to be made by the sanitary inspectors, acting under the medical officer, who would be called in before there was any serious question, and before any representation under Clause 17 was made to the local authority. But to lay the duty upon the medical officer himself would be impracticable.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD asked what provision there was in the Bill to ensure continuous inspection. The words "from time to time" were so vague that in some cases they practically meant hardly anything but continuous inspection?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think the answer to that is that the periods will undoubtedly vary according to the needs, and they will also vary, no doubt—and I quite admit that the right rev. Prelate may think this a damaging admission—according to the particular degree of energy which is possessed by various local authorities; but we do not think it is possible to place upon local authorities a stringent rule which it would be extremely difficult to draw up and even more difficult to enforce. We 164 think, therefore, that the words in the Bill are sufficient.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to leave out from subsection (1) the words "in a state so dangerous or injurious to health as to be." He said that if the clause was restricted to houses which were dangerous or injurious to health there might be many houses of that description occupied by very healthy inhabitants. In parts of the Highlands, for example, if the sanitary inspector did his duty, at least half of the houses there would be declared injurious to health. Yet from many of those houses there came out well-dressed and extremely healthy looking persons, and the proprietor would say, "how can the house be injurious to health when a healthy looking person of that kind has been living in it?" But he would leave it to the noble Earl to do what he liked with his Amendment.
In page 9, lines 11 and 12, to leave out the words 'in a state so dangerous or injurious to health as to be.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he was of opinion that the Amendment went a good deal further than the noble Earl intended it to do. The duty was to ascertain whether any house was unfit for human habitation, and a house might be unfit for human habitation because structually it was in a bad condition. It was not intended that the local authority under the Act should take such powers as to inspect the house from top to bottom in order to see whether or not it was in good order; that really would come under the Building Acts. He hoped that would satisfy the noble Earl.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH moved to include regulations requiring the keeping of records of insanitary habitations. The regulations which were prescribed from time to time by the Board would, of course include, among other things, the keeping of proper records of insanitary dwellings, and any compliance with such regulations would embrace the keeping of such records.165
In page 9, line 15, to leave out the words 'and to keep such' and to insert the words 'including regulations requiring the keeping of.'"—(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought the effect of the noble Lord's Amendment was as he had stated it, but he ventured to submit that in similar cases the Local Government Board were allowed to prescribe such things without reference to Parliament. The Local Government Board, for instance, made regulations prescribing the duties of various officers of the local authorities, not only under the Public Health Act but also under the Poor Law Acts, and those drafts were not required to be laid before Parliament. The term in the clause was that regulations would be made and that records might be prescribed. The idea of the Local Government Board was that those records were quite likely to vary according to the different places. In one district there would be one record, and in another district, the conditions being different, there would be another sort of record, and a considerable number of those records would be issued for use in various districts. It would be very inconvenient to lay records of that kind before Parliament, and in view of the fact that the Local Government Board already had power to issue similar regulations without recourse to Parliament, he ventured to hope their Lordships would agree to continue that power under the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Drafting Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD SALTOUN said his Amendment was really a very small matter, and he noticed it had already been provided for in Clause 15, subsection (2).
In page 9, line 23, after the word 'order ' to insert the words 'and a specification of such works as are, in the opinion of the local authority, necessary to render the dwelling-house fit for human habitation.'"—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP was sorry he could not agree with the noble Lord that the matter was a small one. Let them consider a case in which such a specification would be issued. The specifications would be sent out after the closing order, or 166 simultaneously with it. If the closing order was issued on the application of the local authority it would presumably be with regard to a house which ought to cease to be occupied altogether, and before making the order the local authority ought to have satisfied themselves that the case was not one which could be dealt with either under Clause 15 of the Bill, or under the nuisance provisions of the Public Health Act. The local authorities, he thought, would be very unwilling to have cast upon them, and their Lordships ought to be unwilling also to throw upon them, the duty of drawing up a series of specifications for houses which were in bad condition.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH moved to insert in subsection (3), after "owner," the words "or occupier." This Amendment did seem to him to be a reasonable one to suggest to their Lordships, because it dealt with an order which might be made to close a house that was unfit for occupation. After all, the occupier was the person chiefly interested in the matter, he was the person who lived in the house, and it was for his benefit that the closing order was made. He thought, therefore, that it was really only fair to the occupier that he should receive as much notice as was possible. In subsection (4) it was provided that "Where a closing order has become operative, the local authority shall serve notice of the order on every occupying tenant of the dwelling-house"; but he supposed there might be an interval between the closing order being made and its actually becoming operative. After all, it was a very simple point, but it did not seem to him quite fair that the occupier of the house who, as he had just said, was the person principally interested in the matter, should not have notice, as well as the owner of the house, that it was to be closed.
In page 9, line 24, after the word 'owner' to insert the words 'or occupier.'"—(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought their Lordships would see that the wording of the Amendment went rather further than was suggested in the words with which the noble Lord had supported it. Sup- 167 posing the words "or occupier" were inserted, it would then be possible to serve notice on the owner or the occupier. The owner was the person who ought to have notice, and not the occupier, and if the notice were served only upon the occupier, as would be possible under the Amendment, it would not reach the owner. Then there was the further point that if the owner's appeal was successful the house would not be closed at all, the order would not become necessary, and the occupier would have been disturbed in his mind unnecessarily. He used that argument because under similar circumstances when notice had been given to occupiers as well as to owners—he referred to certain procedure under the Public Health Acts—the occupiers immediately became very much disturbed in their minds and began to leave, and that was rather a hardship on the owner if the closing order did not afterwards become operative. He thought the suggestion of the noble Lord, that there would be a real grievance on the part of the occupier, was hardly borne out by the lengthy procedure under the section. First of all, notice of the closing order was given, then the closing order became operative, and then, finally, as their Lordships would see in subsection (4), when it had become operative, the local authority had to serve notice on every occupying tenant, who was then given not less than seven days to vacate the premises. He thought their Lordships might really be satisfied without the insertion of the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Drafting Amendments agreed to.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH formally moved to amend subsection (3) by omitting "fourteen days" and inserting the words "twenty-eight days."
In page 9, line 27, to leave out 'fourteen' and to insert twenty-eight.'"—(Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Government could not quite agree to the Amendment suggested. They were dealing with dwelling-houses which were unfit for human habitation, and he thought their Lordships would see at once that a closing order was only issued when the local authority 168 deemed a dwelling-house to be really unfit for human habitation. Under those circumstances he thought that to give a period of twenty-eight days was really unnecessary. It ought to be quite easy for the owner to make up his mind in fourteen days whether he wished to appeal, and a house which was presumably unfit for human habitation would be occupied all that time. In those circumstances, he hoped the noble Lord would allow the fourteen days to remain in the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH proposed that where a closing order had been made the minimum period in which a tenant should be compelled to quit his house should be fourteen, not seven days. He said that this Amendment was on a totally different footing, because where a dwelling-house had to be closed the tenant was forthwith without any warning called upon to make a sudden move. He was told that in seven days he must leave his house which had been declared to be uninhabitable. Some of their Lordships might have more intimate acquaintance than he had with the condition of this class of tenants, but it did seem to him that it might be very difficult for a tenant in seven days to find another habitation. In those circumstances, to give the unfortunate tenant only a week's notice of removal was too short, especially as, according to the explanation of the noble Earl, all knowledge of the fact that the house was about to be closed was withheld from him, because he would not have had the information that the closing order was in process of being appealed against.
In page 9, line 32, to leave out the word `seven' and to insert the word 'fourteen.'"—(Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that as the noble Lord had been good enough to give way with regard to his last Amendment, he had hoped that as the second Amendment was somewhat similar, he would also have given way upon it. Seven days was the limit under the existing law. They were dealing here with houses which were unfit for human habitation, not with tenants who were worthy of any special consideration. The sooner they were turned out of such houses the better. In 169 the Act of 1890, the period specified was "not less than seven days." The noble Lord would see that it was also "not less than seven days" in the Bill before them, and under those circumstances, he ventured to hope that their Lordships would agree to allow the clause to remain as it was.
§ LORD HYLTON did not think the noble Earl in charge of the Bill quite realised the difficulties in some parts of the country that working people laboured under in obtaining substitutes for the cottages which they were compelled to leave. The invariable excuse offered by tenants who did not leave was that they had been looking about for another cottage, and that they had been quite unable to find one, and as long as they could give that excuse it seemed to be considered a valid one. He thought that the period of seven days was too short.
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD said that in his experience of very many cases of really deserving poor people in some of the large towns—not the largest, although he dared say the same thing existed in the largest, but towns of 40,000 or 50,000 inhabitants—many of such people had found it practically impossible within, not seven days or fourteen days, but within six or eight or even ten weeks, to find any habitation whatever in certain places where there was a real scarcity of working class dwellings. If it was at all possible to extend the seven days to fourteen days, he would venture on that ground alone to ask the noble Earl if be could see his way to make the Act a little more merciful.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND was rather surprised to hear the noble Earl say that tenants who lived in houses which were unfit for human habitation were not deserving of sympathy. Did His Majesty's Government know so little of the conditions of the very people they were professing to try and better that they classed them as criminals because they happened to be living in houses which were unfit for human habitation? The great difficulty was that in many towns overcrowding was the rule, and not only overcrowding but overcrowding in houses which were unfit for human habitation, and there was nowhere else for those unfortunate people to go. It was all very well for His Majesty's Government to assume, in their superior knowledge, that a tenant knew that 170 his house was unfit for human habitation. He was sorry to say that a great many people in this world were brought up from their earliest days in houses which were unfit for human habitation, and never realised the fact that they were unfit, and they were going to put in a power to a local authority to turn those people out into the street, or into the workhouse, at seven days notice—people who, if he might be allowed to say so, were in many cases quite as respectable as those in much happier circumstances. A man was to be turned out although his work might lay close to where he dwelt in his insanitary house, and although there was no other unoccupied habitation within reach of his work. Supposing such a man had not very much margin, and was not able to buy a bicycle or to pay tram or train fares, why should he be put to the hardship of having to move perhaps a considerable distance away from where his work lay? Another case, which occurred to one at once, was where there might be sickness or invalids in the house. Why were they not to have more than seven days within which to find another habitation? The answer of the noble Earl would be that the clause said, "Not less than seven days." But he was going to entrust to the local authority the power of turning a man out at seven days, and it was only the discretion of the local authority that had to stand between the occupier and a very great hardship. He did not think they should be entrusted with a power quite so drastic as the noble Earl wished.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, this is not a very large question. It really is a question of what is the balance of humanity towards these unfortunate people. I do not think it strikes one as certain that to leave people in houses unfit for human habitation longer than you can help is of itself a particularly humane proceeding and therefore, I suppose we should all agree that the period ought to be made as short as possible. As my noble friend behind me pointed out, the existing law does include this provision of not less than seven days, and no one has quoted cases of special hardship that have arisen under it. It is also a material fact, as the noble Duke pointed out, that it is a minimum; it is not a fixed term. He objects to such a discretion being left to the local authority. I thought the order of the day was that all manner of discretion ought to be left to the local authority.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
However, I have no desire to contest this point, and if noble Lords like to make it fourteen days, I am content.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD CLINTON proposed that "a person shall not be convicted of an offence under this subsection if he shows that, having regard to his circumstances and means of livelihood, he has, after making all reasonable endeavours to secure other house accommodation, failed to do so." He hoped that as the previous Amendment had been accepted the noble Earl would be willing to accept his proviso also. Surely it did seem absurd to put into any Act of Parliament a clause suggesting that any working man should be fined such a sum as 20s: a day. Of course they knew the working men under the Bill were men presumably in receipt of large incomes because they might be inhabiting houses of £40 or £50 a year, and some of them, perhaps, might think it worth their while to pay an additional rent in the shape of a penalty of £1 a day solely for the privilege of living in an uninhabitable house. Was it fair to fine any working man 20s. a day, or to impose any penalty at all on him, for remaining in a house, not because he wanted to remain in it, but because he could not get out of it? He thought the noble Lord should give more consideration to cases where a man, really bona fide, could not possibly find a house elsewhere. It was possible, of course, in some cases that by leaving the district altogether a man might find a house elsewhere, but were they going to condemn him to give up his employment, and go into a district with which he was unacquainted, with a possibility of his having to go through some period of unemployment there? He really thought the noble Earl should venture to give some consideration to cases of that kind.
In page 9, line 36, after the word 'continues,' to insert the words provided that a person shall not be convicted of an offence under this subsection if he shows that having regard to his circumstances and means of livelihood, he has
after making all reasonable endeavours to secure other house accommodation failed to do so.'"—(Lord Clinton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought the fact that their Lordships had already agreed to make the term fourteen days instead of seven would have been an argument against going any further. The Amendment of the noble Lord went a very long way indeed. Supposing a tenant disobeyed the order to vacate a house which was condemned as unfit for human habitation, what was to happen? Was no limit to be put to the time the tenant might remain in the house? He was afraid that any argument to leave things in an Act of Parliament so that they might hang over the heads of the people concerned was not a very popular one in their Lordships' House, but he ventured to use it in this connection, and to say that if these tenants knew that they were liable to a penalty "not exceeding 20s. a day." they would be more anxious to find accommodation than if they knew they would merely have to satisfy the provisions of the Amendment. Their Lordships had already extended the existing law, which provided for not less than seven days; they had extended that in all cases to fourteen days, and he ventured, therefore, to deprecate an Amendment which would allow these people to live more than fourteen days in a house which was unfit for human habitation. Fourteen days was as long as they ought to allow them to remain.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think we ought not to lose sight of the fact that we are tightening up the existing law very considerably in these clauses, and it seems to me your Lordships may very well go a little out of your way in order to make it clear that we desire that the thus tightened-up law should be administered as humanely as possible. I cannot see why because we accepted one Amendment in that direction a few moments ago we should not accept another Amendment of the same kind now. If you look at the wording of my noble friend's Amendment you will see that under it the occupier is required to show that, having regard to his circumstances and means of livelihood, he has, after making all reasonable endeavours to secure other accommodation, failed to do so. That is really putting a very considerable burden of proof upon the occupier, and if he is able to convince the Court that the circumstances are such as are covered by the 173 words of my noble friend, I do think that Parliament might well indicate that in a case of the kind the penalty contemplated by this clause ought not to be enforced.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am afraid I cannot quite agree with the noble Marquess. What seems to be forgotten is the really great number of persons who have no objection whatever to living in these hopelessly insanitary surroundings. The noble Marquess says that a heavy burden of proof is placed on the tenant to show that he ought not to be convicted. What would happen would be that he would make an appeal ad misericordiam to the Court saying that he had tramped about the streets all day looking for a house and had found none. That would be the amount of proof which he would be able to give, and it is very difficult to see what other kind of proof he could give. I am afraid that the Amendment would operate as an encouragement to a very unsatisfactory class of tenant to make no real effort to find accommodation elsewhere, and the result would be that he would drag on for an indefinite period as an inmate of these insanitary premises. I am bound to say if anybody could show to the satisfaction of the Court that there was no accommodation in the neighbourhood at all, that would be an admirable reason for not convicting the man. But that is not quite the case. The sort of appeal which would be made, as I say, would be simply the statement that the man had wandered about trying to find rooms or a house and had not been able to find one. But if there was independent evidence, and if any one came forward after the manner of the right rev. Prelate and said there was no accommodation available, then I think it certainly would be a case for not imposing a penalty. The noble Lord's Amendment seems to me to go a great deal further than that.
§ LORD BELPER hardly thought the Amendment would do as it stood, because there was no limit of time mentioned in it. The tenant would make the plea in the first instance that he could not find other accommodation, and he would plead it again a fortnight afterwards, and perhaps again and again, and the result would be that the law would practically be set aside. It would be impossible to carry it out because there was this lax mode of action 174 which it appeared to him was encouraged by the noble Lord's Amendment. If the tenant could prove that there was a necessity for his having some short period in addition to the period already given, that might be a case in which it might be desirable to give an extension; but to insert a general Amendment without putting in any limit of time at all would simply be to encourage an evasion of the law.
§ LORD CLINTON was sorry he could not agree with the noble Earl. The case he had in mind was where a man could not get accommodation elsewhere. The noble Earl said that the tenant might make an appeal ad misericordiam, and say he had travelled about day after day and could not find a house. But that surely would not be accepted if it was not true; the local authority would know whether the man was able to get other accommodation or not. They were perfectly able to judge whether such an appeal was reasonable or not. Was it worth while putting in a penalty which they could not possibly enforce, whether it was £1 a day or 1s. a day, or less? With such a class of people it was impossible to enforce the penalty. But his main argument was that they must have more consideration for these people and give them a reasonable chance of remaining even in the worst houses rather than put them and their families into the street.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY said it appeared to him there was one view which His Majesty's Government had overlooked. He could quite understand what the noble Earl in charge of the Bill had said with reference to the continuance of the condition of things which it was desired to get rid of; but this was creating a criminal offence. When the noble Earl said that if the man could prove that there was no other accommodation available it would be a case for not imposing the penalty, he was condemning the clause, because the man ought to be convicted as the clause stood unless he could show and did show that he had not committed any offence. That was the whole point. The clause created a criminal offence in the first place, and although the man was able to prove that he was unable to obtain other accommodation and showed that he had done all he could to avoid that which was made the subject of the penalty, 175 if the Statute was allowed to stand as it did, no amount of appeal ad misericordiam would do, because he had committed an offence and must be convicted. It would be very hard in the event of a man not having intended to commit any offence, and not having committed any, that he should be convicted.
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD thought it his duty to say that from his experience he could not possibly support this Amendment. It was one thing to give a man a minimum time in which to find a house where accommodation was difficult to obtain, and quite a different thing to allow him to remain for an indefinite period in a house which was unfit for human habitation. They all had now and again to protect people against themselves and appear to be cruel in order to do them a kindness. He had known cases not of men, but of women, where it had become almost impossible to remove them from dwellings which really were a menace to the health of the neighbourhood, and where they themselves were in such a condition of health that their persons almost were a menace to health. He could not possibly support the Amendment because he thought it went just over the line, so to speak, of reasonable consideration for the very poor, while it placed other people in danger from conditions existing which were injurious to health.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND asked what was to happen supposing there was actually no accommodation to be obtained.
§ THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY said that in answer to the noble Duke's question he could give an illustration from his own personal experience. In his neighbourhood some time ago a house was declared to be not fit for habitation, and when the tenant was told to go he said he could not because he could not find any other place. The real reason that he could not find any other place was that he was such a disreputable man that nobody would take him as a tenant. His landlord at last got him out, and the end was that he went to the workhouse with his wife and family and remained there some years, which suited him "down to the ground." That was what happened eventually to most of the people who would not go out and said they could not find accommodation; they wanted to be 176 turned out into the street, because they could always find lodgings at the workhouse. That was a case where such a man could say that he had been going about and was unable to find accommodation, and he could get extension after extension.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND asked whether he was to take that as the answer of the Government to his question. Was it the Government's intention that these men should go to the workhouse? It seemed to be assumed that all people living in insanitary dwellings were dirty and disreputable. He might say that he knew several people who lived in houses which were insanitary who were by no means dirty. Perhaps he was putting it too strongly, but there were numbers of persons, unfortunately living in houses which were unfit for human habitation, and yet who were good respectable people. He was quite sure he would be borne out in that assertion by any one who knew the conditions in large towns amongst working people. Was it the intention of His Majesty's Government to turn those people into the workhouse if they could not find other accommodation? He understood the noble Earl who led the House to say that if the tenant could not find other accommodation he would have sympathy with him and do something for him, but the Bill did nothing for him. What was to happen if no accommodation could be found? Were the Government going to say that in that case this man was to go to the workhouse?
§ LORD HYLTON asked whether it was not the fact that the main objects of the Bill were firstly, to provide, if possible, new sanitary dwellings for the working classes, and, secondly, to close existing insanitary buildings. He thought the provision of new sanitary buildings ought to precede very largely the closing of insanitary ones, in order that the people who unfortunately lived in insanitary buildings might find accommodation in new sanitary ones. Meanwhile, until new sanitary buildings existed, which they all he was sure hoped to see existing largely within the next few years, considerable leniency should be shown to the unfortunate people living in the old insanitary dwellings in cases where they really could not find other suitable accommodation. The Amendment really seemed to him a merciful provision, and he hoped the Committee would pass it. Either the 177 noble Earl in charge of the Bill, or the noble Earl the Leader of the House, had just said that people who were living in insanitary buildings ought to take more time and trouble to find better accommodation, but he would point out that it was not very easy for working men who were away at their work all day to be running about looking for new houses. He had risen several times, and he felt he ought to apologise to the Committee for speaking so much on the question, but it was an important one, and he sincerely hoped the Amendment would be passed.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not think the noble Lord who has just sat down need apologise for having spoken again, because he has indicated what seems to me to be the common sense of this question. The noble Duke asked whether we were of opinion that all persons who had to leave insanitary dwellings ought to proceed at once to the workhouse.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND pointed out that he added if there was no other accommodation.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
If there was no other accommodation for them. Certainly not, my Lords. But, on the other hand, I can say that there are a number—and by no means a small number—of persons inhabiting dwellings who would be very much better in the workhouse, such persons as those mentioned by my noble friend behind me. What seems to me to be the common sense of the question is this. You must leave a certain discretion to the local authority. The noble Lord who has just sat down pointed out, as I think very truly, that where there was no accommodation the local authority ought to be less strict. I confess that until the provision of sanitary dwellings has been extended, which this Act is intended to facilitate, if it is really true in a given district that there are no houses available at all, the local authority will have to adopt for the time being a somewhat lower standard in its closing of houses. But I think we must leave that to the discretion of the local authority. It all points to the necessity for the provision of further dwellings in such extreme cases as those that have been mentioned, and for facilitating in every way the provision of new houses under this Bill. Until that is done, it appears to me that the course suggested by the noble Lord is the 178 only one to meet the case, but that does not at all involve, in my judgment, the acceptance of this Amendment, which, on the grounds mentioned by the right rev. Prelate, would open a very dangerous door to every sort of malingering and objectionable practice on the part of the very worst class of tenant.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said it seemed to him, with very great deference, that the speech of the noble Earl showed conclusively that some Amendment of the kind was necessary. He could not understand how it was that the Local Government Board had not considered that matter a little more carefully. Assuming an order to be made, they had thought fit to say that the occupier who stayed on was to be liable to a penalty not exceeding 20s. a day. But surely it ought to be some defence if the man proved that he had taken reasonable steps to try and find accommodation elsewhere having regard to his means and had failed to do so. In such a case he ought not to be made liable to pay a penalty.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My assumption was that if there really was no accommodation to be found anywhere near, the local authority would not make the closing order.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE pointed out that that was exactly why he thought the speech of the noble Earl really followed the Amendment. He could quote a score of cases in which, there being a prima facie offence committed, a defence had been by Statute allowed to be given in order to avoid the penalty. It did seem to him in the interests of those poor people, whom he could not regard as criminals, if a man could put forward a defence and prove that he was unable to find another house, that he ought not to be liable to any penalty at all.
§ LORD SHEFFIELD said if noble Lords were endeavouring to assume the functions of an earthly providence in an attempt to secure the well-being of everybody in the State they would find themselves surrounded by the difficulties which attended the workings of providence when undertaken by finite beings. It seemed to him that the community had a perfect right in the case of a man who refused to leave condemned premises on the ground that he 179 was unable to find other accommodation to protect themselves by insuring his removal from premises which were injurious not only to the occupier but to the community as a whole. He did not think noble Lords would deny that any community would be entitled to close up at once a water supply which was polluted and spreading enteric among those who were drinking it, even although the inhabitants of the place said they could not go anywhere else for their water; and he thought the community ought to have some effective power to remove the tenant and close a house which was admittedly unfit for human habitation, even although the occupier said he could find nowhere else to go. It was another question whether the necessary operation to get the man out should not be some simple mode of eviction such as a landlord would employ. A landlord was perfectly entitled to resume possession of his cottage although the only place the occupier might be able to go and live in might be twenty miles away. The rights of the community to protect itself ought to be as well secured as the rights of property. There might be a question as to what was the best method to select to get an occupant out of an insanitary dwelling; what was the most reasonable and fair and considerate method, but there must be some means of getting him out. Lord Belper and the right rev. Prelate had shown conclusively that if they accepted the Amendment a man might go on from month to month making the excuse that he could not find suitable accommodation, and never go out at all. The words of the Amendment were—"having regard to his circumstances and means of livelihood." Magistrates were much more indulgent now, naturally and properly so, than they used to be as to what was reasonable for the means of livelihood. He thought the matter had been somewhat complicated by what had fallen from the noble Lord who sat below him, because he did not think that the occupation of an insanitary house was necessarily accompanied by misconduct on the part of the occupier, or a low type of occupier. There were plenty of people unfortunately, hard-working and self-respecting people, who were forced to live in bad houses, and therefore they must not take it that the presumption was that a bad house necessarily involved a bad occupant. But they knew perfectly well that there were plenty of houses which for the welfare of the community ought to be closed and which the local authority did not 180 close, not because they did not consider they were a source of danger to the neighbourhood but for the reason that they did not know where the people could go to if they were to turn them into the streets. They had plenty of evidence on the Housing Commission of which Sir Charles Dilke was chairman to the effect that local authorities in many cases did not dare to close thoroughly unhealthy slums because there was no place for the people to go to. That operated as a matter of common sense with local authorities, but after a local authority, looking at all the circumstances, had made up their mind that a place was to be closed, they had no business on account of their sympathy for a hard case—and of course it was a hard case where a working man did not know where to turn for other accommodation—to risk the health of the rest of the community by allowing the man to remain in an insanitary dwelling. Although he agreed that necessary housing accommodation ought to be provided, he could not agree that it should be done by municipal enterprise. Miss Octavia Hill had given them the strongest evidence before the Commission to which he had referred that municipal effort paralysed local individual effort. However, they were bound, first of all, to consider the health of the locality and only secondarily the possible hardship upon an occupier through being compelled to leave his house.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said he felt a good deal of sympathy with the Amendment moved by Lord Clinton, but he also felt the force of the argument addressed to their Lordships by the noble Lord opposite. If a house was unfit for human habitation he really did not see how it was a kindness to the occupier of that house, or that it was right for the community, to allow the house to be continually occupied by anybody. He thought in a case of that kind the house ought to be closed, and though he quite admitted with his noble friend that there might be hard cases where it was impossible for the occupier to find accommodation elsewhere, yet he was afraid the Amendment would open the door to the constant excuse before the magistrates, "I cannot find another cottage, or another house," or whatever it might be; and the magistrate would find it extremely difficult to prove that that statement was not true. He therefore could not support the Amendment. But why could not the Govern- 181 ment be content with the ordinary process of ejectment, facilitated, if necessary, by some more rapid proceedings, and omit from the Bill the fine altogether? Why should they make a man who declined to go out of a house, of which, after all, he was the rightful tenant, when ordered to do so by the local authority, a criminal with the probability that if he was ordered to pay a fine of that description he would be unable to do so and would be sent to prison? He would ask the noble Earl who led the House to take a merciful view and omit the fine altogether, facilitating ejectment if necessary.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am bound to say I am impressed by what fell from my noble friend behind me, and also by what the noble Viscount opposite has said. No doubt there are other ways by which the result we desire can be obtained than by the imposition of this particular fine, and if noble Lords will allow me I will consult the authorities at the Local Government Board on the subject and see if some other form of penalty cannot be devised, and we might deal with the matter on a future occasion.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said he was much obliged to the noble Earl for that intimation.
§ LORD CLINTON, in withdrawing his Amendment, said that if nothing came of the noble Earl's suggestion, he reserved to himself the right to put down another Amendment after the same form, because he was confident that something ought to be done.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH moved an Amendment to provide that the expenses of the tenant in removing should not be paid if the uninhabitable condition of the house was due to his wilful act or default. He said it was notoriously the case that in the great majority of urban slum dwellings the unhealthy surroundings were due to the neglect of the tenants themselves. In some cases, of course, they had been distinctly traced to the fault of the owner, but in most cases they really were the fault of the tenant. Such tenants were perfectly reckless in their care of their dwellings, and very often treated them not only in a careless but in a malicious 182 way, and why should the community be saddled with the burden of giving compensation to such people? He also thought it worth mentioning that his Amendment was on all fours with an Amendment he had had the honour of moving the evening before, and which was carried without division. That Amendment was to the effect-that the landlord should not be held liable to remedy any defect caused by the act or default of the tenant or occupier, and although his present Amendment was not precisely in the same words it was practically on all fours with it.
In page 9, line 37, at the beginning of sub- section (5), to insert the words 'Unless the dwelling-house has been made unfit for habitation by the wilful act or default of the tenant or of any person for whom as between himself and the owner or landlord he is responsible.'"(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said he was very glad to accept the Amendment, which turned out to be a ghostly phantom of the night before. He thought that he had misled the House, because his impression was that the Amendment stood in his own name instead of that of Lord Zouche; and he was therefore very glad to accept it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Consequential Amendments agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN had an Amendment on the Paper to delete from paragraph (c) of subsection (8) the words "in every part thereof." He intimated that he did not propose to press this Amendment. His only reason for placing it on the Paper was that he thought there certainly might be many basement rooms which were seven feet in height through most of their area but which had a staircase or something of that kind, so that part of the area of the room would be less than seven feet. He did not, however, think it a very important point, and he did not desire to press it. But he wished to ask the consideration of the Government to the remaining proposals of the subsection. As he observed the other day, they were never considered by the House of Commons at all. They were not inserted in the Bill by the Standing Committee last year, and they were not discussed this year. If noble Lords would be good enough to look at paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (8) they would see 183 that they required a basement room to be sufficiently protected against dampness, effluvia, or exhalation, and to be sufficiently ventilated, and in every part at least seven feet in height if it was to be used after the first day of July next year as a sleeping place by any person. Those were perfectly proper provisions, and he believed with reasonable regulations they might be carried into effect. But then the clause went on to require certain very minute particulars with regard to the construction of such rooms. They must be one foot at least in height above the level of the surface of the part of the street adjoining or nearest to the room; and a room was to be considered injurious to health if it had not one or more windows opening directly into the external air, with a total area clear of the sash frames equal to at least one-tenth of the floor area of the room, and so constructed that one half at least of each window of the room could be opened, the opening in each case extending to the top of the window; or was not provided along the entire frontage thereof with an open area properly paved, at least four feet wide in every part thereof. Those were minute and particular regulations which he submitted ought not to form part of any Act of Parliament, but in so far as necessary ought to be enacted from time to time by by-laws to be framed by the local authority and to be approved by the Local Government Board. How could those provisions possibly be applied to many houses in London? He could instance a very well-known house which he had long dwelt in himself where the area was certainly not four feet wide in front of the basement windows; and if their Lordships chose to go into many parts of the older districts of London they would find, even in good and substantial houses, areas far more limited than was permitted by the clause. It must be remembered that the area space of a house was not a thing that could be altered at will by the owner, except by pulling down the house and rebuilding it. It would be impossible to meet such a requirement in many parts of London, except of course with very great inconvenience to the occupiers of the houses themselves. He believed that this was mainly a London question, because he was told by a very old member of the House of Commons, who was very well acquainted with the North of England, that this clause would be practically inoperative in the North of England because such rooms as it applied to did not exist there, and he sup- 184 posed also they would not exist in a rural district. But surely Parliament must consider what was possible to be done with a minimum of inconvenience to the persons concerned, and what he would suggest was that in accordance with an Amendment placed on the Paper by his noble friend the Earl of Camperdown the words in paragraphs (d), (e), and (f), should be omitted and these words inserted, "It shall be the duty of the local authority to define from time to time by by-laws, to be approved by the Local Government Board, the requirements necessary for sufficient ventilation or sufficient protection against dampness, effluvia, or exhalation." That would enable such regulations to be made from time to time by the local authorities as would meet the circumstances of the case in every part of the Kingdom, and the Local Government Board would have control over those regulations as to what was possible to be carried out. He ventured to suggest to their Lordships that that was a much more workmanlike way of dealing with the matter.
In page 10, line 26, to leave out the word 'in every part thereof.'"—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD said he would like to ask, before the noble Earl replied to that suggestion, whether those regulations were not almost precisely the regulations now in force for cellar dwellings in ordinary boroughs, with the exception that the area space for cellar dwellings as laid down by the Public Health Act of 1875 was two feet six inches, and that that had now been enlarged to four feet?
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said he would like to enforce what Viscount St. Aldwyn had said, by pointing out that in the Bill there was nothing to give any elasticity at all. These questions constantly came before him on appeal with regard to by-laws, and he constantly found that local authorities altered their by-laws so as to make them applicable to the particular district, and to the particular necessities of that district. It was just the case in which he had found from experience that the control of the Local Government Board was most useful, because when they had been obliged to hold that a by-law was either too stringent or not stringent enough the Local Govern 185 ment Board had always forced the local authority to frame something more in harmony with the real requirements of the case. He thought, therefore, that it would be wiser not to make a hard and fast line, and to give local authorities, subject to the control of the Local Government Board, power of fixing their own by-laws.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP agreed that the statement of the right rev. Prelate was accurate, and that the subsection did follow the Public Health Act of 1875, and also the Public Health Act of 1891. There were other paragraphs—(d), for instance—which were based on the last stringent requirements of the Public Health (London) Act. Section 72 of the Public Health Act, 1875, covered the further requirement of the subsection before them, so that it was not introducing in any way new principles entirely foreign to the legislation of this country. His Majesty's Government had had an opportunity of anticipating the suggestion of the noble Viscount opposite, and they had been able to confer upon the general subject of Amendments to the section as they appeared on the Paper. Of course, the Amendment which the noble Viscount had just suggested was one which did not come before the conference, but he hoped the suggestion he was going to make would really meet the case, and would be generally approved of by their Lordships. What they proposed to do was to ask the noble Viscount with regard to his particular Amendment to accept these words, that instead of "in every part thereof," there should be substituted the words "on an average." Then, with regard to the other Amendments, His Majesty's Government were prepared to accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount in page 10, line 32, to leave out from "air" to "and" in line 34, which would safeguard Downing-street for example, where the area was only three feet three inches wide. The further Amendment which they were prepared to accept was the one to leave out in page 10, at lines 39 and 40, "at least four feet wide in every part thereof," an Amendment also standing in the name of the noble Viscount. It was the hope of His Majesty's Government that those Amendments would really meet the case, and he ventured to say they went some way towards meeting the noble Lords opposite, and he hoped their Lordships would accept them and allow the rest of the subsection to stand.186
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN pointed out that the noble Earl had gone so far to meet him that he hardly liked to ask more, but, although he had on a first consideration of the matter placed the Amendments on the Paper to which the noble Earl had been so kind as to refer, he did feel, on further consideration, that the suggestion he had made that evening was a much more practicable one. It enabled the law not only to be relaxed, but also to be tightened, and as they progressed in sanitary science it was very desirable that there should be some power in local authorities to deal with improved conditions in matters of the kind.
§ LORD STANMORE said that although he quite agreed with the noble Viscount in thinking that the Amendment of the Earl of Camperdown would meet most of the case, yet that Amendment only proposed to come in after the clause which the noble Viscount, Lord St Aldwyn, proposed to leave out and which he thought it very desirable should be left out.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said that perhaps he had not made himself quite clear. What he meant was that the clause should be amended as proposed by his noble friend the Earl of Camperdown, and that the words he suggested should be substituted for the rest of the clause.
§ LORD STANMORE asked if the noble Viscount proposed to leave in the Bill the provision with regard to the seven feet.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN replied in the negative, and said the noble Earl opposite proposed to amend that in a way which was satisfactory to him.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to, and the words "on an average" substituted.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP pointed out that on a hasty look at the Amendment he saw they would be repeating in the Amendment foreshadowed by the noble Viscount the words which were already in line 33 of page 10. This was his first opportunity of looking at the Amendment, and at first appearance it seemed to him unnecessary that those words should be repeated. He thought there was no doubt that the noble Viscount and His Majesty's Government would be able to come to terms on the subject. The only question was as to the best way in which it could be effected.187
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES pointed out that the next Amendment before the Committee stood in the name of the Earl of Camperdown.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN asked whether it had not been discussed and settled.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I think it will save time if I say, in general terms, that we accept the principle of the noble Viscount's suggested Amendment, subject to our being able to examine its terms and bring the matter up on Report.
In page 10, line 27, to leave out from the word 'ceiling' to the word 'This' in line 5 on page 11."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
In page 10, line 27, to insert the following words: 'It shall be the duty of the local authority to define from time to time by by-laws to be approved by the Local Government Board the requirements necessary for sufficient ventilation or sufficient protection against dampness, effluvia, or exhalation.'"—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD NEWTON moved to insert words making a closing order by a local authority under a Local Act a compliance with the requirements of the clause. He said this was one of the Amendments which were intended to be moved in another place but that did not happen for reasons upon which he would not enlarge. It was a matter to which some importance was attached, and the object was to allow those municipalities which already possessed certain powers to continue to exercise those powers with regard to housing and sanitary improvements instead of having recourse to the provisions of the section. Although the Amendment was, he believed, supported generally by the Association of Municipal Corporations, he desired more particularly to draw attention to the case of Manchester. Manchester obtained a Waterworks and Improvement Act as far back as 1867, and since the year 1885, when the committee was formed for the purpose, great improvements had been carried out in that city, as would be judged from the fact that since the year of which he was speaking no fewer than 188 16,000 houses were condemned and 6,000 houses had disappeared altogether. The procedure of their Local Act was an extremely simple one, but he did not wish to enlarge upon it. Great improvements had been carried out in the city, the death-rate had been largely reduced, and there had been absolutely no friction in connection with it. The practice of the Corporation had been to deal with each case separately with the owner or the agent, as the case might be, and the result had been that although there was an appeal to Quarter Sessions there had been absolutely no litigation in connection with the Act. In the course of the discussion yesterday the opinion was expressed on both sides of the House that a certain amount of latitude ought to be allowed to these great Corporations, and he rather thought that the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, spoke of it as almost an insult to suggest that the Local Government Board should dictate, for instance, to the London County Council. That appeared to be the general opinion of the Committee. If these great municipalities had been negligent or apathetic in their conduct of municipal affairs there would be an excellent prima facie reason for altering the present course of procedure, but he did not gather that any such charge was made by anybody in their Lordships' House. In those municipalities every shade of political opinion was represented, and he believed, at all events so far as regarded the City of Manchester, that everybody was unanimous in desiring that the present arrangement should continue. The President of the Local Government Board was a fair-minded man, and he was quite sure he did not wish, to quote an expression made use of by the noble Earl opposite yesterday, to usurp the functions of those great municipalities, or to dictate a particular course of action to them. That being so, he ventured to hope that the noble Earl responsible for the Bill would favourably consider his Amendment.
In page 11, line 9, after the word 'section' to insert the words the making of a closing order by a local authority under the provisions of a Local Act shall be deemed a compliance with the requirements of this section.'"—(Lord Newton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP pointed out that it was only a matter of procedure, and a matter of general convenience. There 189 was no idea in anybody's mind of dictating to a municipality, important or otherwise, in the way suggested by the noble Lord. These Local Acts to which the noble Lord referred were very often old and sometimes rather obsolete in their provisions, and the idea was that it would be much better for those municipalities to act under this new Bill, which they hoped when it emerged from Parliament would contain the last word to be said on matters of the kind; and he thought there was a very great advantage to be gained to the whole country if the procedure was as far as possible unified throughout the Kingdom. If they interposed between the Bill and the municipalities and gave them the option of going under their Local Acts the procedure became a great deal more involved and complicated, and he really thought it would be much more to the convenience of those who dealt with such matters throughout the country to know that under the clause the procedure in every case would be exactly the same. It was a matter of so much convenience that he hoped the noble Lord would agree to the Bill standing as it was.
§ LORD NEWTON said he was painfully surprised to find that his noble friend opposite was so confirmed a bureaucrat. Surely His Majesty's Government did not think they were conferring a favour on the municipalities by their action. The Manchester Corporation were perfectly satisfied with what had happened in the past, and they would be worstened if this Bill were forced upon them.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
If Manchester were the only city that had an Act I dare say the noble Lord's argument would be a sound one, but unless he is prepared to say that he is acquainted with all the municipalities in this country, which I am sure cannot be the case even with him, he may perhaps admit that cases of the kind indicated by my noble friend may occur, in which some of the provisions of the Local Acts are so obsolete and so unsuited to the more advanced ideas which I frankly admit do obtain now-a-days on the subject, that it would be inconvenient to act upon them. I hope the noble Earl will not press his Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH, in moving the insertion of the new subsection set out in his Amendment, said that the matter was one of some importance, although he did not know what view their Lordships might take of it. His Amendment applied to the regulations laid down in Clause 17—that was to say, the regulations with regard to inspecting houses, keeping certain records of them, and so forth. At present it was not known what the regulations as drawn up by the Local Government Board were likely to be, and unless care was taken all the objectionable features of the original Clause 30 might be reproduced. It was, therefore, thought necessary that Parliament should have an opportunity of seeing, and, if necessary, criticising all regulations made under the powers proposed to be given, and if his Amendment was carried that object would be attained.
In page 11, line 9, after the word 'section to insert the following new subsection:
'(7) A draft of every regulation made by the Board under this section shall be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament for thirty days during the Session 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 any new draft regulations.'"—(Lord Zouche of Haryngworth.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP thought their Lordships would see in a moment that the Amendment hardly applied to what might occur under Clause 30. It would probably be more convenient to discuss a matter of that kind when they came to Clause 30. The Amendment before them simply said "A draft of every regulation made by the Board under this section," so that it only applied to what was in the section. He was afraid he must admit that he at first thought this was consequential upon the Amendment which the noble Lord had moved in subsection (1) of the clause. He ventured to hope that as their Lordships were content to reject that Amendment they would also reject the one now before them. It had a considerable bearing on the Amendment of the noble Viscount's which they had just accepted as to the various by-laws with regard to 191 sleeping rooms. Under Lord Zouche's proposed Amendment those by-laws would have to be brought before Parliament, which was not the intention of noble Lords behind him when they accepted the Amendment of the noble Viscount.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said he must add that it was not his intention that the by-laws should come under the Amendment which had just been moved, because they were not of the same importance as the matters dealt with in previous parts of the Bill.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH said that, after what had fallen from the noble Viscount and His Majesty's Government, he did not press his Amendment. At the same time he ventured to think the regulations dealing with these matters were of extreme importance, but whether they were of sufficient importance to be laid on the Table of their Lordships' House was another matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 18:
§ Drafting Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.
§ [The sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ Clauses 19 to 22 agreed to.
23.—(1) Section six of the principal Act (which relates to the contents of an improvement scheme) shall be read as if in subsection (1) the words "for sanitary purposes" were omitted in paragraph (a); and as if the following paragraphs were inserted at the end of that subsection:—
(e) may provide for any other matter (including the closing and diversion of highways) for which it seems expedient to make provision with a view to the improvement of the area or the general efficiency of the scheme; and
(f) may provide for giving to the local authority any powers which may be necessary to enable them properly to carry out the scheme and for dispensing so far as necessary with any obligation of the local authority or any other person to comply with any provision contained in 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.
(2) Provision may be made in a reconstruction scheme under Part II of the principal Act for any matters for which provision may be made in an improvement scheme made under Part I of that Act.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND moved to leave out subsection (f) and said this was one of the most striking provisions in this very remarkable Act. It enacted that an improvement scheme might provide for giving to the local authority any powers which might be necessary to enable them properly to carry out the scheme, and for dispensing so far as necessary with any obligation of the local authority or any other person to comply with any Local Act, Provisional Order, or Order. He would have thought it an elementary proposition that no Act could be contravened or repealed except by another Act. Parliament alone, surely, ought to have the right of appealing from its own Acts and Orders, and he did not know what safeguard any subject of His Majesty had if that was not the law of the land. They had always thought that as long as they understood the law of the land—which, by-the-way, very few of them did—they were protected by it. But under this subsection they would not only have to study the Statutes generally, but in addition have to find out whether—he did not quite know by whom, but he supposed the Local Government Board—permission had been given to the local authority to do something which was contrary to an Act of Parliament. He was not prepared to move any Amendment except that of deleting the whole paragraph, and he did not think the Bill would be very much the worse for that. If some modification of the law was required in this direction it should be accomplished by other means, and a provision should be made for Parliament repealing any Act.
In page 12, lines 38 to 41, and lines 1 to 5 on page 13, to leave out paragraph (f)."—(The Duke of Northumberland.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that paragraph (f) was really inserted with a view of meeting what had been found in practice to be a considerable difficulty, and a difficulty over which there need not be controversy between noble Lords opposite and themselves. It was a mere matter of technical difficulty. The areas dealt with under the improvement scheme to which 193 the clause referred were generally in the centre of towns, and many of the provisions of the last Act were intended to deal with the question of building on the outskirts; and therefore it was found impossible to clear an insanitary area in the best way and yet conform with by-laws and Acts as to the laying out of new streets. The case he had in mind was a case in Bradford, where it was found impossible to erect some tenement houses for the working-class, and it was necessary to procure a Provisional Order to amend the Local Act and remove the difficulty. No one had any objection, but having to get the Provisional Order meant considerable delay. He did not think that any one in that case would be in any way injured by the procedure proposed in this subsection. A small provision in a local Act might have the effect of hindering a very important improvement scheme, and that was the reason His Majesty's Government thought the provision in paragraph (f) might be approved.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN did not entirely follow the argument of the noble Earl. He could understand that there might be some minor details in which local Provisional Orders and Acts would conflict with a scheme which it was very desirable in the interests of everybody should be carried out; but the subsection to which the noble Duke had taken exception gave the local authority very much wider powers. If it were necessary, as it might be necessary, no doubt, to alter provisions contained in a Local Act or Provisional Order, Parliament ought to be aware of what was being done; and any improvement scheme, so far as it made an alteration in the existing law, should be laid before Parliament, with power to Parliament to object to or alter it if they thought it necessary.
§ LORD BELPER explained that Section 6 of the Act of 1890 provided that the improvement scheme of a local authority should be accompanied by maps, particulars and estimates, and—
- (a) may exclude any part of the area in respect of which an official representation is made, or include any neighbouring lands, if the local authority are of opinion that such exclusion is expedient or inclusion is necessary for making their scheme efficient; and
- (b) may provide for widening any existing approaches to the unhealthy area or otherwise for opening out the same for the purposes of ventilation or health; and
- (c) shall provide such dwelling accommodation, if any, for the working classes displaced by the scheme as is required to comply with this Act; and
- (d) shall provide for proper sanitary arrangements.
§ This clause proposed to add the two new paragraphs (e) and (f) which appeared in the clause. The last subsection was of the widest description possible, and the question was who was to decide as to what it would be necessary to do under the clause. That might be decided apparently by the Local Government Board, and they might do anything they liked under this subsection. If that were to be the position it was no use Parliament legislating, because any regulation or by-law made under an Act of Parliament could be overridden, and there would be no check of any sort or kind. The noble Earl said it was found in experience there were very difficult cases which they could not meet without making some provision which was not foreseen when the Act was passed. No exception would be taken if the noble Earl brought forward a further clause which provided that so long as no one objected they should have the power. But it was inconceivable that His Majesty's Government should bring forward a clause of this kind. There were ways of guarding themselves against this enormous power sought by the Local Government Board, and he suggested that words should be inserted providing for the exercise of the discretion of Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not know whether it would meet the case if the words "Local Act, Provisional Order" were omitted.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE said it would seem that the Order in question was made under the power of an existing Act. There should be some opportunity for checking the provision with regard to local Acts or Orders having the effect of an Act.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND asked, with regard to the further words in paragraph (f), "any by-law, regulation, or other provision under whatever authority made," whether, supposing there was a port in a town, the Local Government Board would be empowered to interfere with the port authority. It might be an authority that owed no allegiance to the Local Government Board. Were the Local 195 Government Board to have the right to abrogate by-laws and regulations made with an authority with which they had nothing to do, and over which they had no control? The whole clause would require far more guarding than the noble Earl seemed to think.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
As noble Lords opposite seem to object to the subsection, I think it would be better to let the matter stand over for further consideration.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 24:
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to omit Clause 24, which ran—
24.—(1) Paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2) of section five of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1903 (which limit the cases under which an order confirming an improvement scheme takes effect without confirmation by Parliament), shall cease to have effect.
(2) An order of the Local Government Board sanctioning a reconstruction scheme, and authorising the compulsory purchase of land for the purpose shall, notwithstanding anything in section thirty-nine of the principal Act, take effect without confirmation.
He said that of all the unintelligible clauses that appeared in the Bill this was the most unintelligible; in fact, he never looked at the Bill without a feeling of gratitude to the Lord Chancellor, because if it had not been for a Paper which the Lord Chancellor was so good as to have printed for their Lordships' use, it would have been absolutely impossible to understand not only this clause but a great many other clauses in the Bill. The word "limit," which appeared in subsection (1) of Clause 24, was absolutely incorrect, because, according to the explanatory paper provided by the Lord Chancellor, subsection (2) of Section 5, of the Act of 1903 provided that—
(2) The order of a confirming authority under subsection four of section eight of the principal Act, shall notwithstanding anything in that section take effect without confirmation by Parliament:—
Then followed the words—
- (a) if land is not proposed to be taken compulsorily; or
- (b) if, although land is proposed to be taken compulsorily, the confirming authority before making the order are satisfied that notice of the draft order has been served as required as respects a Provisional Order by subsection five of the said section eight, and also that the draft order has been published in the London Gazette, and that a petition against the draft order has not been presented to the confirming authority by any owner of land proposed to be taken compulsorily within two months after the date of the publication and the service of notice, or, having been so presented has been withdrawn.
To leave out Clause 24."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the clause was designed by His Majesty's Government with a view of assimilating proceedings for dealing with improvements and reconstruction schemes. But as their Lordships had shown such hostility to the clause and as it was so much the same as that in the principal Act, His Majesty's Government would not insist upon it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 25:
LORD BELPER moved to leave out Clause 25, which ran—
25.—(1) It shall be the duty of the local authority themselves to execute any improvement scheme under Part I of the principal Act, except so far as provision to the contrary is made in the confirming order, and except so far as they exercise any of the powers given to them in pursuance of the Housing Acts for enabling other persons to execute the scheme.
(2) So much of subsection (3) of section twelve of the principal Act (which relates to the execution of improvement schemes) as restricts the powers of the local authority to execute an improvement scheme shall cease to have effect.
He said he had given notice of the rejection of this clause because it seemed to him to indicate a change of policy which required some explanation from His Majesty's Government. The clause effected a reversal of the former policy of carrying out schemes by local authorities themselves.
The clause practically took the place of Clause 12, subsection (3), of the Act of 1890, which ran—
The local authority may also engage with any body of trustees, society, or person, to carry the whole or any part of such scheme into effect upon such terms as the local authority may think expedient.
But then it went on, and this was really the important enacting part of the clause—
The local authority shall not themselves, without the express approval of the confirming authority, undertake the rebuilding of the houses or the execution of any part of the scheme, except that they may take down any or all of the buildings upon the area, and clear the whole or any part thereof, and may lay out, form, pave, sewer, and complete all such streets upon the laud purchased by them as they may think fit, and all streets so laid out and completed shall thenceforth be public streets.
§ It was perfectly clear what the law was at present. The local authorities were not themselves enabled to do any of the work with regard to these schemes themselves, unless they were specially authorised by the confirming authority. The only thing they could do was the outside work of clearing away and arranging sewers and streets, as seemed desirable. The present clause was not a clause which modified that, but it started by putting in the forefront the, absolute authority of the local authority itself to execute any improvement scheme. As he had understood the policy of the Local Government Board, it was not to encourage especially small local authorities to carry out these schemes themselves, because in many cases they had not the staff or the knowledge to carry them out in an effective manner, and it was very likely to give rise to speculation and jobbery. Unfortunately throughout the whole of that Act large bodies such as the London County Council and the councils of the larger boroughs were treated in exactly the same way as rural and urban district councils, who were in many cases of small and unimportant character. He knew district councils in the Midland counties of England which were not bodies to whom they would be inclined to give large power with a view to building or carrying out these schemes. It was rather extraordinary that this clause proposed to sweep away all safeguards drawn in the former Act and made the local authority the absolute authority to carry out the scheme. He could not conceive a clause to be much worse drawn than this was. 199 It started by saying, "It shall be the duty of the local authority themselves to execute any improvement scheme under Part I." Then it went on to say, "except so far as provision to the contrary is made in the confirming order, and except so far as they exercise any of the powers given to them in pursuance of the Housing Act for enabling other persons to execute the scheme." Then the latter part of the clause practically did away with the veto upon their carrying out the scheme themselves which was in the former Act. His object in moving to omit the clause was to get an explanation of how the clause was drawn and of the extraordinary change of front to which he had called attention.
To leave out Clause 25."—(Lord Belper.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP quite admitted that on the face of it the clause made a very real and serious difference between what had been put in the previous Act and what was in the present Bill, and was the present policy of His Majesty's Government. But the facts were different from what appeared on the surface. The Housing Act of 1890 by Section 12 enacted that local authorities should not themselves "without the express approval of the confirming authority undertake," but it was the practice of the Local Government Board to give this approval. This clause therefore merely brought the previous law into conformity with what was the modern practice of the Local Government Board. The clause was not a very important one, and he thought the practice would not be altered if the clause was left out, but it was better that there should be a clause representing more exactly what was the present practice of the confirming authority, and it was for that object it was inserted.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON said there was very great difference between enabling the Local Government Board to dispense with an obligation and laying the obligation on a new body. The noble Lord had spoken on behalf of the smaller municipalities, but there ran through the whole of the Bill what appeared to be an attempt on the part of the Local Government Board to enforce matters which the ratepayers might determine to dispense with. In the case of small municipalities it would be impossible to have an organisation to carry out these provisions themselves, though they could 200 do it through a contractor. The London County Council and other municipalities had dispensed with the system of having a Works Department. He did not suggest jobbery or any attempt to use the Works Committee for work that was not desirable, but if a municipal authority engaged workmen it was not on a par with an ordinary contractor. An ordinary contractor discharged workmen when he did not want them; a municipality was told they should set an example and keep them on. In the case of the London County Council they have had a staff which could have done nearly five times the work they had had to do in the course of the last two or three years. It was highly undesirable to seek by Act of Parliament to impose on municipalities the very system which, after long trial, had been discarded because it was used, or was capable of being used, very largely for party purposes at the polls.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
It seems to me the noble Viscount hardly followed the question asked of the noble Earl behind me and the effect he gave of this Amendment. This clause involves an improvement scheme made under Part I. All that this clause does is to say that having, in the circumstances described in the principal Act, arrived at the conclusion that an important scheme is necessary, the local authority, if they cannot find anybody else to do it, must carry it out themselves.
§ LORD BELPER
It says it shall be the duty of the local authority to carry out the scheme in the first instance.
§ LORD BELPER
It does not say so. The clause says it shall be the duty of the local authority themselves to execute any improvement scheme.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
"Except so far as they exercise any powers given them in pursuance of the Housing Act, for enabling other persons to execute the scheme." That is to say, if they cannot find anybody else to do it they ought, having instituted this important scheme, to do it themselves. It seems to me a most reasonable thing, if an improvement scheme is necessary and the local authority cannot find other people to do the work, that they should do it themselves. Otherwise it means there must be 201 no improvement scheme. I confess it does not seem to me a heavy burden to place upon the local authority to find somebody to carry out these works which they have decided, after consideration of all the circumstances, and after representation has been made to them by a medical officer of health that a certain area is insanitary, to be necessary. How it can be said that this places any new burden on the local authority I do not see. All that this does is simply to stereotype what is the invariable practice when a local authority goes with a scheme to the Local Government Board.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH said the great objection to the clause seemed to be that it encouraged what was commonly known as municipal trading, whether that trading took the form of building or not. This question had been thoroughly debated by the great local authorities, especially by the County Council of London, where the practice had been in a great measure adopted. A great objection to municipal trading was that it interfered with the small trader, and put him to a great disadvantage. But the most serious objection was that it did not act in the interest of the ratepayers, because works that were carried on by local authorities were not conducted with that degree of economy that would be exercised if they were carried out privately. Parliament ought to consider the interests of the ratepayers. They really had not very much control over their own affairs, and he thought a clause like this placed them in a position of still greater disadvantage.
§ LORD BELPER did not know what the usual practice of the Local Government Board was, more than had been described by the noble Earl on the Front Bench. But he ventured to say that the clause laid it clown in the forefront that it was the duty of the local authority to carry out the work themselves. It did not say "If they cannot find anybody else to do it." It simply said "Except so far as provision to the contrary is made in the confirming order."
§ LORD BELPER said he would do so. The words were "Except so far as they exercise any of the powers given to them in pursuance of the Housing Acts for enabling other persons to execute the scheme." It 202 seemed to him a very extraordinary way of drafting a clause if they did not wish to change the policy of the Department. Why should they put in the forefront that it was the duty of the local authority to carry out the work themselves? It would have been very easy to say that the work should be carried out by themselves whenever the Local Government Board approved. That was not the phraseology of the Bill. Just as the noble Viscount on the Front Opposition Bench wished it struck out, speaking for the major authorities, he, speaking for the minor authorities, thought it was an extremely undesirable clause, because it would encourage those authorities in jobbing and building speculations. He would certainly insist on the Amendment.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP could not help thinking there was some confusion between two totally different things. First of all there was the duty of the local authority to execute the improvement scheme unless they exercised their powers for enabling other persons to execute the scheme. That did not mean anything more than that the other persons should have charge of the scheme, that they should manage it, instead of the local authority. That was one state of things. The noble Lord, Lord Zouche, he was afraid, thought that the words "the duty of the local authority to execute any improvement scheme" meant that they themselves should, through the means of a works department, engage in municipal trading. That seemed to him to be the noble Lord's fear, but that was not at all what was in the mind of His Majesty's Government in putting down the clause. The clause dealt really with the question of enabling the people to execute a scheme, not in the sense of themselves setting to work with bricks and mortar, but of a totally different body having charge of the scheme and carrying it out. There was nothing in the clause to prevent the local authority from employing a contractor, and if they employed a contractor they would still be carrying out the scheme themselves in the first part. He really thought that there was a confusion between the two things and that that had raised an opposition to the clause which it really did not deserve.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND thought the confusion was in the mind of the noble Earl himself. What the clause said was, "so much of subsection (3) of 203 Section 12 of the principal Act (which relates to the execution of improvement schemes) as restricts the powers of the local authority to execute an improvement scheme shall cease to have effect." What were the powers to execute the scheme in the Act of 1890? Under that Act the local authority might engage and so forth, but the local authority should not themselves, without the express approval of the confirming authority, undertake the re-building of houses. That was exactly what Lord Zouche referred to. Therefore it was the provision regarding the re-building of houses which was repealed by this clause.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
To build houses you have to obtain the leave of the Local Government Board, and, as my noble friend pointed out earlier in this discussion, leave is always given. I think your Lordships will agree that to refuse leave to one of the large local authorities mentioned, who, of their own volition, desire to execute the work, would be a very marked interference with the local liberty on the part of the Local Government Board. I confess I am rather surprised at the little storm which this in our view an extremely harmless clause has caused. Its only intention was to bring the law into conformity with the general practice. There is nothing new in it whatever.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY hoped the Government would be convinced by this discussion that they might carry legislation by reference a little too far. The noble Earl thought that although it seemed to have puzzled a good many noble Lords, many of whom were experts in reading Bills, yet it would be quite plain to the local authorities. He ventured to think that if the Bill went through with this clause in its present shape it would lead to any amount of misconception. The very first words of it were "It shall be the duty of the local authority to carry out certain schemes." Everybody would think it was their duty, and in the circumstances he thought the best thing their Lordships could do was to leave the clause out of the Bill. The noble Earl had said it made no difference and was only confirming the existing practice. If that were so, the noble Earl would not mind the clause being left out.204
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clauses 26 and 27 agreed to.
28. An improvement scheme under Part I of the principal Act may provide for any exceptions, restrictions, or modifications in the application of section twenty-two of the principal Act (which vests in the local authority pipes, sewers, and drains), and that section shall take effect subject to any such exceptions, restrictions, or modifications.
§ LORD MONK BRETTON moved to insert, after the word "modifications," the words "provided that nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of that section with respect to compensation." Section 22, referred to in the clause, provided that on the acquisition of land by a local authority rights of ways, and pipes, and the right to lay pipes should vest in the local authority. But there was a saving section in the clause which said that compensation should be paid to the owner. This clause—Clause 28—provided that exceptions, restrictions end modifications should be put into an improvement scheme. That might mean that the local authority which made the scheme might put in restrictions, exceptions, and modifications, one of which might be that they should not give compensation to the owner as they would do under the Act of 1890. As he did not think the local authority, even if it had the power, would be likely to except itself from giving compensation to the owner, he hoped the noble Earl would accept the Amendment.
In page 14, line 10, after the word 'modifications' to insert the words 'provided that nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of that section with respect to compensation.'"—(Lord Monk Bretton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that in the whole department of local government there was nothing so complex as the provisions which applied to pipes and sewers. He suggested that the noble Lord might allow him to bring up on Report a provisional Amendment to the clause in the sense that it should be restricted to cases in which the owner consented.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 28, 29 and 30 agreed to.205
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK moved to insert a new clause making it the duty of local authorities to keep a register of every dwelling-house to which the limitation as respected rateable value of Section 14 of the Act applied, containing particulars as to the situation, rated occupier, beneficial owner, name and address of freeholder, and rateable value. He said it would be readily understood that he did not very readily intervene in these discussions of experts, especially with a clause of a rather aggressive length. But he was led to put this clause down because he could not help thinking that here was a matter where they got rather past technicalities and to things upon which the ordinary citizen might form a judgment. The present Measure would, of course, in one way or another, constitute a very considerable epoch in the history of these matters. There had been a good deal of looking forward to it, and there would be a good deal of looking back upon it. He could not help believing that a very large number of people of all sorts, people with a practical intention, would see with great surprise and with no little regret that a measure of this kind went through without the introduction of what would really seem to be almost a first condition, and a quite harmless first condition, of the right treatment of these matters of ownership and of the discharge or the evasion of the responsibilities of ownership. He could hardly think that any one who was acquainted with the matter would say that it ought not to be a matter of simple open and public knowledge who owned different parts of the land of this or that rural district, or, what concerns many of, them more, this or that city. It seemed, to, him that it quite belonged to the character of our, whole system that there should be no secrecy, no mystery, and no evasion about a thing of that kind. And he was confirmed in this belief because a clause to this effect, since struck out, did pass through the Grand Committee, although circumstances, which it would perhaps be improper for him to dwell upon, prevented the matter from being afterwards discussed in another place. It did seem therefore, that this was a point which their Lordships' House ought hardly to pass by without notice. There appeared upon the Paper yesterday and the previous day an Amendment in the name of the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Birmingham, which had since disappeared 206 and was replaced by his clause. There was a difference between them in point of length, in point of complexity, and, if he might say so, in point of ambitiousness. In the Bishop of Birmingham's clause there was a provision for a general survey. There was no reference to any survey in his clause, but only to a register. There were also certain rather complicated provisions for giving effect to that proposal, and those had disappeared from his Amendment. On the other hand, it had been observed that there was already in existence in connection with valuation in many places a very great deal of the information which was desired; there were words in the clause which made all that existing material available, and it therefore would impose much less duty upon the local authority. He had a slight amount of real and first hand experience of these matters, and one of the things which had impressed itself most clearly upon his mind was the harm which was done by the existence of a number of small properties interlacing one another about which there was great obscurity as to the ownership. The owners were sometimes people at a distance with apparently no real interest. All that could be got was the name of the agent, and it was contrary to the public interest to have a large number of properties in a town of which they only knew that so-and-so was the agent. They knew the famous firm of Spender and Jorkins, and when the agent was Spender and when there was quite an unknown Jorkins behind there was the greatest difficulty in getting on with things that ought to be got on with. That last phrase was rather a vague one. It was intentionally vague. It was not always by any means with aggressive intentions towards the owner that this information was needed. The case was surely pretty common where the agent either because his one business was to get what he could out of the property or because he did not want to be bothered with the owner's interference, got the matter a great deal too much in his own hands. The owner, who might be a perfectly well-intentioned and upright man, did not know what was going on, did not know the condition the property had got into, and so forth. Therefore he had found that there would have been opportunities for quite healthy action on the part of citizens interested in such matters if they could have got to the owner, and could have pointed out to him what the con- 207 dition of his property was, and shown what effect it had upon a project to improve such and such a slum or small street. He ventured to say that the ancient system was open to very grave objections indeed. A good deal had been said about the danger of this Bill because it was always introducing the bureaucratic principle and placed too much power into the hands of local authorities. But certainly this Amendment would have no such effect. On the contrary the objection which he thought might be made from the Government Bench was that all the powers which it sought to complete were already in the hands of the authority, that the authority could obtain the information about the owner, and that the authority could keep in its pigeon holes a complete account. Then was it improper to say in this place, where they had necessarily to discuss the action of public bodies, that all authorities were not impeccable in these matters; that there were such things as apathetic authorities; and that there had been cases where the influence of a certain class of owner had been used, and used harmfully, behind the scenes upon the actual public authority. On the other hand, he ventured to say that this Amendment did not come under the objection which had been raised with regard to some proposals that it was hard upon owners, because here the kind of owners of whom they were thinking were not those whom any member of their Lordships' House would desire to shield, except in the case of those apathetic owners to whom he had credited good intentions but who exercised very little activity in regard to their property. They were thinking of the worst class, the more careless class, or the more objectionable class of owners. There was the absentee owner; there was the man who was irresponsible; there was the man who was too poor really to fulfil his obligations. It was only as to that kind of case that they would be acting. He believed he was speaking on behalf of a very large number of people when he said that this information ought to be known. Then it was argued that this, after all, constituted a hardship, because in this case or in that some charge grounded on public knowledge might, by some unscrupulous or malicious person, be brought against an owner at some critical moment. The owner might be a person who was standing in a political or municipal election, and it might be said of him that because of such and such houses of which it 208 was known he was the owner and where the occupiers were misconducting themselves this man was deserving of public discredit. He had set out the objection as it was one to which it was said that the House ought to attach a good deal of importance. It might be instanced that there were properties where the Ecclesiastical Commission were to blame through no fault of their own, the leaseholder here being apparently responsible for the very deplorable state of the properties; and he was told that there were cases in which. Bishops owned estates of the same kind. Although he could not act as judge of his right rev. Brethren, he thought that if such properties were in his possession, he would be quite prepared to stand the racket of the sort of risk involved in the Amendment. The distinction between owner and occupier would be sufficient to protect him from any but those occasional hardships which made bad law.
After Clause 30, to insert the following new clause:
(1) It shall be the duty of every county council, of the metropolitan borough councils, of every city and county borough council, and every urban and rural district council to cause a register to be kept of every dwelling-house to which the limitation as respects rateable value of section fourteen of this Act applies, and to cause to be registered in such register in a form to be provided by the Local Government Board the following particulars concerning every such dwelling house—
(2) The first register shall be completed within twelve months, and shall be revised every year thereafter; and a copy of such register in respect of every parish within the county or district shall be deposited with the clerk of the council, and shall be open to inspection within reasonable hours by any ratepayer within the county or district; any ratepayer within such county or district shall be entitled to take copies thereof or extracts there from without paying for the same: Provided that when in the district of any local authority the valuation list provided for by the Parochial Assesments Act, 1836, shall contain the same particulars as are required to be contained in the register contemplated by this section; a copy of the same in respect of any parish within the county or district shall, at the cost of the local authority, be deposited with the clerk of the council; and such deposit shall be deemed to be in compliance with so much of this section as provides that a register shall be made and kept.
When any local authority shall deposit a copy of the valuation list in lieu of making and keeping the register provided for by this section the same shall be deposited within twelve months after the passing of this Act, and a fresh copy of the valua-
tion list in force for the time being shall be deposited in the same manner every succeeding twelve months. The copy of such valuation list in respect of every parish within the county or district shall, when deposited, be open to inspection within reasonable hours by any ratepayer within the county or district, and any ratepayer within such county or district shall be entitled to take copies or extracts therefrom without paying for the same.'"—(The Lord Bishop of Southwark.)
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND thought it might expedite business if he stated that although he had given notice further on in the Bill of an Amendment which touched upon the same point he did not propose to move it. He had tried to bring about the desired change, but got no thanks from any one. His proposal was not "damned by faint praise," but unreservedly condemned.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that this Amendment which came from the Episcopal Bench the Government could not see their way to accept. He was aware that, speaking generally, the Government had not been able to accept Amendments from that quarter of the House, and he confessed that after the Second Reading speech of the most rev. Primate they had looked for some assistance from those Benches. But, with the exception of the Bishop of Wakefield, the proposals submitted by the Episcopal Bench were so extreme that a moderate Government like the present were unable to follow them. It was evident from what had been said by the Duke of Northumberland that not only were the Government unable to accept this Amendment, but it was unlikely that it would find acceptance in any other quarter of the House. Under those circumstances he would deal with the case quite briefly, and he might point out that a great deal of the information desired by the right rev. Prelate was already obtainable from the Valuation Lists. The only information not given there was the name and address of the freeholder when the freeholder and owner were different persons. To obtain that information would probably involve some considerable expense, exhaustive investigations of title, and additional machinery. There was in Clause 38 power given to the Board to inquire into circumstances which appeared to demand special investigation; that would be a means of procuring all information which they thought ought to be demanded, and that should be sufficient. Then under Clause 17 as now passed, there were a considerable number of provisions 210 which were not within the cognisance of the members of the House of Commons when Clause 30 was there considered, and the President of the Local Government Board hoped by Clause 17 to get a good deal of the information desired by the right rev. Prelate. In those circumstances he feared there was no chance of the Amendment being accepted, and he was unable to take the responsibility of advising the Committee to do so.
§ *THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY said the noble Earl had expressed a sense of disappointment at the manner in which the Bill had been received and that the Episcopal Bench had not helped the Government more in the matter. He was of opinion that the Bill was being carried through the House at a very reasonable rate and the main provisions which he had advocated in the former debate had been passed. Some of the Amendments which had been moved, although not openly welcomed by the Government, had been accepted without serious opposition. He entirely adhered to the satisfaction that he expressed in regard to the Bill on the Second Reading. He then was of opinion that the Bill was introduced with provisions of a satisfactory character and so far as he could see those substantial and beneficient provisions had not been seriously impaired by the present discussion. He confessed to a sense of disappointment in regard to the non-acceptance by the Government of the clause under discussion, especially after what had been stated on the previous night, when the Bishop of Hereford proposed an Amendment which the Government did not think it desirable to support. Speaking on behalf of the occupants of the Episcopal Benches and putting the case in the simplest form, he desired to make it impossible for any man in possession of vile, ill-used or ill-cared-for property to escape the fullest publicity and wholesome discipline which would follow the knowledge that he was the owner. He believed that to be a sound principle, and desired to emphasise the wish to see such knowledge available to everybody. That night for the first time the House had been given to understand that the Government took an opposite view, and proposed to shield from public knowledge those who might be the owners of public property of which they would be ashamed to confess themselves the owners, and to say that the agent 211 might be the only person whose name could be ascertained by the public interested in the matter. If that was the position of the Government, it would be for the Government to defend it in the House and in the country, but he confessed to a genuine feeling of great disappointment that such a principle should be laid down. He would be exceedingly sorry if the clause could not be added to the Bill with of course any such verbal Amendment as the technical advisers of the Government deemed necessary. The knowledge that the principle asserted in this Amendment was repudiated by the Government caused him both surprise and disappointment.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I am sure we must all regret the feeling of disappointment expressed by my noble friend behind me and the most rev. Primate. With regard to the most rev. Primate, I confess that I thought we should have had the support of some members of the Episcopal Bench in expressing the opinion that the meticulous regard of noble Lords opposite for safeguards and appeals has, even as far as we have gone, done a great deal to impair the usefulness of this Bill. The most rev. Primate does not think so. He approves of all the Amendments.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Then I gather that he thought no serious hardship would be inflicted to the Bill by the Amendments which have been made, and therefore we find ourselves holding a somewhat different position from the most rev. Primate. As regards this particular Amendment the most rev. Primate goes farther than the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, and says that his object is to pillory by publicity the person who is responsible for these unrepaired houses left in a deplorable condition. Now, my Lords, does the proposal really carry that into effect? What does the Amendment of the right rev. Prelate really do? It gives the situation and address of the house; it gives the rated occupier; the name and address of the beneficial owner, and the name and address of the freeholder. 212 Without knowing what are the terms of the contract existing between those parties, I defy any one to say who is the person morally responsible for the condition of any particular house. In one case it may be the freeholder; in another it may be the person who goes by the name of the owner; and again it may be the occupier. You place these people side by side; the public have no means of knowing who is the guilty party; and unless they are prepared to go into the most minute investigation as to title and other matters I do not see how you can hope to carry out what I admit is a most desirable result. We should all be glad to have the persons known as slum landlords brought into the light of day, but we must be careful when we are holding them up to public shame that they are the right people. I fail to see how the Amendment would ensure that. The power of obtaining information, except so far as the particular case where the freeholder and the owner are not one and the same is already given. The information can be obtained by access to the Valuation List, which is a very simple matter. Consequently I cannot agree with the right rev. Prelate that any real benefit would result from the adoption of this Amendment. I must respectfully protest against the imputation that we object to it because we are quite indifferent as to who are these people, and whether they, as owners of this inferior class of property, are subjected to the force of public opinion. That is not the case, but we do not think the Amendment would serve any public good, because we believe that the public authorities without exception throughout the country will carry out all the provisions of the Bill.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 31 agreed to.
32.—(1) The expenses incurred by a rural district council after the passing of this Act in the execution of part III of the principal Act shall be defrayed as general expenses of the council in the execution of the Public Health Acts, except so far as the Local Government Board on the application of the council declare that any such expenses are to be levied as special expenses charged on specified contributory places or as general expenses charged on specified contributory places in the district in such proportions as the district council may determine, to the exclusion of other parts of the district, and a rural district council may borrow for the purposes of Part III of the principal Act in like manner and subject
to the like conditions as for the purpose of defraying the above-mentioned general or special expenses.
(2) The district council shall give notice to the overseers of any contributory place proposed to be charged, of any apportionment made by them under this section, and the overseers if aggrieved by the apportionment may appeal to the Local Government Board by giving notice of appeal to the Board within twenty-one days after notice has been so given of the apportionment.
§ LORD CLINTON moved an Amendment to the effect that the expenses should be regarded as special in conformity with Section 65 of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890. He was aware that it might be said that in so far as the Amendment dealt with a question of rating it might be to some extent outside the cognisance of that House, but he made no apology for bringing it forward, because the clause effected so great a change that it should not be allowed to pass into law without the full effect being realised. It provided that the expenses incurred by a rural district council after the passing of this Bill in the execution of Part III of the principal Act should be defrayed as general expenses of the council in the execution of the Public Health Acts; but Section 65 of the Act under which they were working provided that all expenses incurred by a local authority for the purposes of the Act should be defrayed in the case of a rural council authority as special expenses incurred in execution of the Public Health Acts. It would be seen, therefore, that expenses treated as special under the old Act would under this Bill be treated as general expenses. The Public Health Acts provided that when a special assessment was made certain persons and land should be assessed only to one-fourth of their rateable value, and if this Bill changed the rate from special to general they would be assessed at their full value. That was a very great and important change, and ought to be realised before this section was passed.
In page 15, line 6, to leave out from the word 'defrayed' to the word 'and' in line 13, and to insert the words 'in accordance with section sixty-five of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890.'"—(Lord Clinton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said these questions of rating were not very easy to follow, but he hoped the House would not agree to the Amendment. Under the 214 present system the expenses incurred by any rural district council under Part III of the Bill, and levied on a special area, would be treated as special expenses unless the county council made them general, and this Bill proposed to make those expenses general unless the Local Government Board made some alteration in the matter. The general principle was one which, he thought, was accepted by Lord St. Aldwyn in regard to a somewhat similar matter. The opinion of the Government was that a matter of this kind did not affect a small special area only, but the whole of the area, and it was only fair that any expenses incurred should be borne by the area affected by the building scheme. Although it might be only a small parish or even a small part of a parish where the houses were erected, the scheme affected the larger area, and the Local Government Board thought it fair to ask them to bear the expenses. The Board, on the application of a rural district council, could make the cost chargeable on one or more parishes as special expenses, and would in that way relieve agricultural land to some extent.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said the matter was a very important one in practice, because it really regulated the taxation of the district, and might impose upon the whole of the district taxation which really ought to be borne by a particular area. It might further alter the whole amendment and incidence of taxation in certain cases to which the law now applied. He would prefer the Government to take the matter the other way. There might be cases where the expenses of providing workmen's dwellings might be for the benefit of the whole district, but he thought the expenditure would be primarily for the benefit of a portion of the district, and perhaps of one parish. If the law allowed those expenses to be charged on a particular area and at the same time allowed the Local Government Board on the recommendation of a district council, to spread the expenditure over the whole area, it would be a better proposal.
§ LORD BELPER said another important change made the Local Government Board arbiter instead of the county council in deciding as to how the expenses should be charged. If ever there was a case in which local representation on the 215 county council was of value in deciding a point of this sort, this surely was the case. It was obvious that the Board could only obtain the necessary information from a rural district or by sending down an official to inquire into the matter. The change called for some explanation, and he could only attribute it to the extreme jealousy on the part of the Local Government Board of county councils. If that were the only explanation forthcoming the law ought to be allowed to remain as it was, and the county councils should be left as arbiters. The proposal certainly required some further explanation from the Government.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
After what has fallen from my noble friend I can hardly expect him to believe me when I say we are not inspired in any way with jealousy of the county councils.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
But I should have thought that in this instance there was a reason for believing that the county councils would not be impartial in the matter.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Where it is a question of expenses being allocated to a particular district or the whole area it surely is a matter in which the county council becomes somewhat of a judge of its own case.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
; Clearly the council, which represents the whole county, so far as its individual members are concerned, is affected by the charge being spread over the whole area or allocated to a particular district.
§ LORD BELPER asserted that it would make no difference in the county council.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
So far, then, the noble Lord is perfectly right. But on the further questions raised by Viscount St. Aldwyn, I think there is something to be said for the point of view 216 which he advised—namely, that the charge should in ordinary cases be presumed to benefit a particular area rather than the whole area, and the exception should be taken in the reverse way to that provided by the Bill. If, therefore, the noble Lord will allow it, the Government will consider whether the form of the clause might be altered before the next stage of the Bill is taken.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 32 agreed to.
§ Clauses 33, 34 and 35 agreed to.
36.—(1) The assessment to Inhabited House Duty of any house occupied for the sole purpose of letting lodgings to persons of the working classes, at a charge of not exceeding sixpence a night for each person, shall be discharged by the Commissioners acting in the execution of the Acts relating to the Inhabited House Duties, upon the production of a certificate to the effect that the house is solely constructed and used to afford suitable accommodation for the lodgers, and that due provision is made for their sanitary requirements.
(2) The provisions of subsection (2) of Section 26 of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act, 1890, in relation to the certificate mentioned therein, shall, so far as applicable, apply to the certificate to be produced under this section.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON moved to leave out the word "sixpence" and to insert "one shilling." He did not know whether the Government saw any objection to the Amendment. Under the Act of 1903 houses of less than £20 gross annual value were exempt from inhabited house duty, and last year it was represented to the Government that lodging houses might be placed in the same category. It was then agreed to do so in cases where not more than sixpence a night was charged for each person. There were now a number of model lodging houses in the metropolis where beds were obtainable at a charge of sevenpence and eightpence, and those houses were excluded from the benefits of the concession made by the Government. He therefore suggested that the limit should be raised to ninepence or a shilling. It was impossible for the Amendment to be moved this year on the Report stage in the House of Commons; otherwise it would not have been necessary for him to have placed this Amendment on the Paper.217
In page 16, line 7, to leave out the word 'sixpence' and to insert the words 'one shilling.'"—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP regretted that the Government were unable to accept the Amendment, the effect of which would be to throw a charge upon the taxpayer. The present law exempted from Inhabited House Duty all separate houses and cottages under £20 annual value, and in the opinion of the Local Government Board there was no reason why in the case of houses above that amount of annual value particular exemption should be allowed. It was the opinion of the Treasury that the charge of sixpence per night would cover the ordinary common lodging house, and therefore they objected very much to any increase of the amount.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON pointed out that sixpence did not effect the object which the Government had in view. It was unfortunate that they should put into an Act of Parliament an undertaking which was not carried out.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 36, 37 and 38 agreed to.
§ Clause 39:
VISCOUNT HILL moved to amend Clause 39 so that it would read—
Where 'upon an application made by the local authorities concerned' the local Government Board are satisfied that it is expedient that any local authorities should act jointly for any purposes of the Housing Acts, either generally or in any special case, the Board may by order make provision for the purpose, and any provisions so made shall have the same effect as if they were contained in a provisional order made under Section 279 of the Public Health Act, 1875, for the formation of a united district.
He said the Government had in this case again set the cart before the horse; why, he failed to understand. Here the Local Government Board had first to be satisfied, and then asked the local authorities whether they would consent to the provision. Surely it would be better to leave it as in the present Act, and allow the authorities to say whether they were willing to join together, and then let the Local Government Board sign the order.
In page 17, line 13, after the word 'Where' to insert the words upon an application made by the local authorities concerned.'"—(Viscount Hill.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP suggested that the Amendment should read "upon application made by one of the local authorities concerned."
§ VISCOUNT HILL adopted the suggestion.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.
40.—(1) The procedure on any appeal under this Part of this Act to the Local Government Board shall be such as the Board may by rules determine, and on any such appeal the Board may make such order in the matter as they think equitable, and any order so made shall be binding and conclusive on all parties, and where the appeal is against any notice, order, or apportionment given or made by the local authority, the notice, order, or apportionment may be confirmed, varied, or quashed, as the Board think just.
(2) Any notice, order, or apportionment as respects which an appeal to the Local Government Board is given under this Part of this Act shall not become operative until either the time within which an appeal can be made under this Part of this Act has elapsed without an appeal being made, or in case an appeal is made, the appeal is determined or abandoned, and no work shall be done or proceedings taken under any such notice, order, or apportionment, until it becomes operative.
(3) The Local Government Board may before considering any appeal which may be made to them under this Part of this Act require the appellant to deposit such sum to cover the costs of the appeal as may be fixed by the rules made by them with reference to appeals.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved three drafting Amendments which he said were designed to provide the machinery for carrying out a previous Amendment which the Committee had accepted on his motion.
In page 17, line 22, after the word 'Act' to insert the words 'including costs' and to leave out the words 'the Local Government Board' and to insert the words 'a county court'; in line 23 to leave out Board' and to insert the words authority having power to make rules of practice under the County Courts Act, 1888; and in line 29 to leave out 'Board' and to insert 'court.'"(The Marquess of Salisbury).
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.219
§ LORD BELPER moved to add, at the end of subsection (1), the words "unless the High Court of Justice shall direct a case to be stated on a question of law on the application of one of the parties, such application to be made within six months of the decision of the Local Government Board." He was of opinion that on a question of law, if not on a question of fact, it was extremely desirable there should be an appeal from the decision of the Local Government Board. It was obvious that before the Board gave a decision they would probably consult their own legal officers. Consequently those who disputed the action of the Board were afforded no satisfaction in the knowledge that their appeal would go before the same law officers. The noble Earl the Leader of the House had said on the Second Reading of the Bill that it was not correct to say that the appeal went to one of the parties to the dispute. The only reason for his using the term "one of the parties" was that if the Board gave a decision on a question of law which was disputed by the authority upon whom the order was made there were, at all events, two parties to the dispute. He admitted that the Local Government Board had no personal interest in the matter but only tried to do their duty fairly in the circumstances that had arisen. But having given their decision practically by stating their opinion upon that question of law, it did seem necessary for the point to be carried to an independent authority. He did not understand whether that point was covered by any previous Amendment, but he wished to safeguard himself against the insertion in the Bill of words giving the appeal again to the Local Government Board on a question of law.
In page 17, line 29, after the word 'just' to insert the words "unless the High Court of Justice shall direct a case to be stated on a question of law on the application of one of the parties, such application to be made within six months of the decision of the Local Government Board.'"—(Lord Belper.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY pointed out that under the Bill the decision was to be left to the county council, and therefore the Amendment would not read with the Bill. There remained the principle whether there ought to be a further appeal to the High Court, and on that point he 220 did not desire to express any strong opinion. He had asked the Committee to give litigants the protection of a Court of Justice, and he was grateful for the granting of that concession. If the Committee thought a point of law on appeal should be taken to the High Court and the High Court was willing to take it, he certainly would not resist, although he did not urge that course of action.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH agreed that the Amendment was hardly necessary. As the Bill stood there was nothing but the opinion of the law officers of the Local Government Board to give any authority or decision upon a question of law, and as their opinion was not binding in any way it was obvious there was no real decision on a point of law which could be quoted. Now that the question of appeal came before a Judicial Court he saw no necessity for the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I hardly know whether it is necessary for the Government to interfere, because this matter has, to a great extent, been taken out of their hands. Whether an appeal is necessary on a point of law I do not feel called upon to express an opinion; but I may say that had the Bill retained its original shape I should have been prepared to admit that there was a strong case for appeal from the Local Government Board on points of law, although your Lordships doubtless know there are many cases of a legal character, such as appeals from auditors, in which the Board are accustomed to give decisions on points of law. However, it is hardly necessary to deal with the point any further, as the Bill has been altered.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said he liked a certain amount of law, but not too much of it. It appeared to him that the question was fully provided for in the Bill as it now stood, but if that did not prove to be the case, the subject of appeal would have to be re-considered.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 40, as amended, agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to insert a new clause after Clause 40. He said the title of the Bill was "A Bill to amend the Law relating to the Housing of 221 the Working-classes," and it seemed to him that there ought to be inserted in the Bill some clause showing who those persons were, and that the intention of the Bill was that the houses to be provided should be houses for the working-classes. For that purpose he moved to insert the new clause standing in his name.
After Clause 40, to insert the following new clause:
'41.—(1) In the administration of the Housing Acts regard shall be had to the needs of persons of the working class, and it shall be the duty of the local authority to secure, as far as possible, that dwelling accommodation provided under those Acts is occupied exclusively by persons of the working class.
(2) The local authority shall cause a list to be kept showing particulars of the accommodation comprised in every dwelling provided by them in the exercise of their powers and duties under the Housing Acts, whether let or unlet, and of the rent, and such list shall be open at all reasonable times and subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by the local authority to the inspection, without payment, of ratepayers in the area and of persons of the working class who desire to apply for dwelling accommodation provided by the local authority under the Housing Acts.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said that in the opinion of the Local Government Board this clause was not necessary for the purposes of the Bill, and they hoped their Lordships would not insist upon its being put in. In regard to the first subsection of the proposed clause, most people who had frequently to read Acts of Parliament generally suspected any clause in which the words "as far as possible" came in. They were exceedingly vague, and often went far to make the application of the clause very difficult indeed. He thought he might fairly remind the noble Earl that the local authority could only provide houses suitable for the working-classes and, therefore, it really did not seem to be necessary to indicate it more particularly in this clause. What the noble Earl desired to do was to see that this accommodation was occupied exclusively by persons of the working-classes. It placed a considerable duty upon the local authorities, and he was not quite sure that those authorities would always welcome that duty being placed upon them. Supposing a number of their houses were empty, which would be better—that they should remain empty until some members of the working-classes came along to fill them, or that anybody who wished to live in those houses 222 should be allowed to do so? There were, he believed, dwellings of this kind no great distance from their Lordships' House which were occupied by people other than members of the working classes, and he did not know that anybody was the worse for that. Then the second subsection of the proposed new clause dealt with the list. He was not quite sure what the object of the noble Earl was in wishing that that list should be kept. It was quite obvious that the local authorities would be only too anxious that their dwellings should be occupied and they would naturally keep a list so that anybody who wished to become a bona fide occupier could see the list. From the point of view of the ratepayers, the more substantial the tenant the more secure the rates would be, and, therefore, the better pleased the ordinary ratepayer would be. He imagined that the object of the noble Earl was that anybody who wished to do so could satisfy himself of the class of people living in these houses. That did not seem to be a particularly desirable position, or one that, in the, opinion of the Government, was at all required by the local authorities, who very probably would dislike to keep the register.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN was very glad to hear that the Government were anxious on behalf of the ratepayers, but their acts hitherto in connection with this Bill did not seem to him to imply that this regard expressed in words had any practical effect. With regard to the object of this Amendment, this Bill was, of course, intended for the benefit of the working-classes and of the working-classes only, and surely it could not be right that the rates should be spent in providing houses which would be occupied by persons other than the working-classes. If the contrary were to be the case, then the ratepayer had indeed terribly sad days before him. The ratepayer had been chastised with whips so far, but under this Bill their Lordships might depend he would be chastised with scorpions. He would like to call attention to the extent to which the so-called intention, as stated in the title, was actually carried out in the Bill itself. The only reference on that point in the Bill was in Clause 14. The houses there mentioned were to be occupied by anybody, and there was no reference to the working-classes at all. Therefore, if the title of the Bill were to correspond with the contents, it ought 223 not to be termed "A Bill to amend the law with relation to the housing of the working-classes," but it ought to be called "A Bill to amend the law with regard to the provision of houses of £40, £26 and £8," because there was no mention of the working-classes. In defence of the ratepayers it was most desirable that it should be stated in the Bill that it was intended for the housing of the working-classes and of the working-classes exclusively. With regard to the second subsection of the clause, if the noble Earl objected to it he did not mind leaving it out; but if they objected to every enactment which contained the words "as far as possible" they would object to one-third or one-fourth of all the enactments passed.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN hoped the noble Earl would not press any part of his Amendment, because he thought such provision was already made in the Bill as amended by their Lordships. If the noble Earl would recollect what happened on Clause 10, he would remember that they then inserted a proviso of his (Viscount St. Aldwyn's) to the effect that before they made any order for the construction of houses under this Act, the Local Government Board should be satisfied that there was necessity for further accommodation for the housing of the working-classes. While he did not think for a moment that of its own free will any local authority would provide houses under this Bill for any but the working-classes, the question was what would happen under the order of the Local Government Board? The Local Government Board were bound to consider whether accommodation for the working-classes, and for them only, was required, and therefore he did not think there was any real danger of what the noble Earl feared.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I also hope the noble Earl will not press his Amendment, although not precisely for the reason just given by the noble Viscount. The fear, I suppose, of the noble Earl has been that houses that existed in a particular area might possibly be occupied by persons of such position and means that they could not be described as belonging to the working-classes, and that in spite of the fact that those houses existed the local authority might be tempted to go in for a fresh building scheme. I do not think any local authority is likely to undertake such 224 an enterprise as that. I differ from the noble Viscount in the opinion which he appears to hold that the Local Government Board are likely to force such proceedings upon any local authority, and where I differ fundamentally from the noble Earl who moved the new clause is in the desire which he has to define a member of the working-classes as a particular kind of manual worker. The working-classes are not so defined in the previous Act. That I particularly value because I am quite certain that there are other classes of persons who ought to be housed, and who deserved to be housed, quite as much as those whom the noble Earl desires to include.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH thought that, if the ratepayers were put to the expense of providing this kind of accommodation, some attempt should be made to see that that money was being used for the advantage of the particular people for whom it was originally voted and spent. He thought the Amendment was an attempt to carry that out.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN could not agree with the Leader of the House that there were other persons besides the working-classes who had a right to be housed and who ought to be housed. He thought that to place upon the rates a charge for building houses for persons who had nothing to do with the working-classes was a course that was not right.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
What I said was that I do not limit the working-classes to particular kind of manual worker.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that was stating, in other words, exactly what he said. He quite admitted that he had forgotten the Amendment which was inserted on the motion of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn. That, of course, made a very considerable difference, and in the circumstances he did not propose to press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 41:
§ LORD SALTOUN moved to insert a new subsection. He said it was perfectly possible that land might be bought by a housing authority and be of no use to 225 them afterwards, but might be of great use to the original owner. He did not see why it should not be offered to the original owner, whether it was situate in a town or not.
In page 18, line 6, after the word 'Acts' to insert the following new subsection:
'(2) Sections 128 to 131 inclusive of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845 (relating to the right of pre-emption of superfluous lands) shall apply upon any sale of any lands acquired by a local authority for any of the purposes of the Housing Acts, notwithstanding any such lands are situate within a town, but, save as aforesaid, the provisions of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, with respect to the sale of superfluous lands shall not apply.'"—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act was an important measure which they ought not to amend without great cause and much consideration. The land laws of this country were already sufficiently complicated, and he would be very sorry to see any further complications introduced. The Government did not think the proposal of the noble Lord was particularly called for.
§ LORD CLINTON asked whether it was correct to say that this was an amendment of the Lands Clauses Act. It only provided that a particular clause which said that superfluous land should be offered first of all to the original owner and after that to the adjoining owner should apply to the Housing Act.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I understand that by the Act of 1845, when superfluous lands are to be sold they are to be offered first to the person from whom they were originally taken unless situated in a town. The change made by the noble Earl is to include lands situated in a town. To that extent I understand he proposes to amend the Lands Clauses Act.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 41 agreed to.
§ Clause 42:
§ LORD HYLTON moved an Amendment to prevent the Local Government Board dispensing with the service of notices. He could quite see that it might be right to give some latitude about the publication of advertisements, but where property 226 was subject to compulsory purchase he could not understand the circumstances under which the service of notice on persons interested should be dispensed with.
In page 18, line 14, to leave out the words or the service of notices.'"—(Lord Hylton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP said the principle of the clause was already recognised in measures which had passed both Houses of Parliament. It was recognised in Section 28 of the Act of 1890, which enabled the Board to dispense with these notices in certain cases. The effect of the clause now being discussed was simply to extend that principle to cases of the same nature arising under Part II or Part III. In similar cases the existing provision had been useful and no objection had been raised to it. He asked the noble Lord to look at subsection (3), which required that care should be taken by the Board to prevent the interests of any person being prejudiced by the dispensation. Did not the noble Lord think that sufficient safeguard?
§ LORD HYLTON said he had great respect for the present President of the Local Government Board, but many noble Lords felt that they did not want to put their property at the mercy of the Board. This was really a small matter, and he hoped the Government would agree to the Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY also hoped the Government would accept the Amendment. There were certain notices which might be dispensed with under the principal Act, but he did not see why there should be an extension of that principle in the present case. Either the notices were, or were not, of use. But surely it would be much wiser in the interests of the Government themselves to reassure public opinion and make people feel quite confident that they would receive due notice of any contemplated action by the Department affecting their interests. It was not very much to ask that they should have notice that something was going to be done which might be of certain injury to their interests. It might easily be that if a person felt confident that notice was going to be given, he would not make too many difficulties, but the idea that things 227 were going to be done without the knowledge of the owner would inspire him with a feeling of want of confidence, and that, probably, would be detrimental to the working of the Act.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Consequential Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.
43. Where under the Housing Acts, any scheme or order or any draft scheme or order is to be published in the London Gazette, or notice of any such scheme or order or draft scheme or order is to be given in the London Gazette, it shall be sufficient in lieu of such publication or notice to insert a notice giving short particulars of the scheme, order, or draft, and stating where copies thereof can be inspected or obtained in two local newspapers circulating in the area affected by the scheme, order, or draft, or to give notice thereof in such other manner as the Local Government Board determine.
§ LORD HYLTON moved to omit the last two lines of the clause, "or to give notice thereof in such other manner as the Local Government Board determine."
In page 18, to leave out lines 34 and 35."—(Lord Hylton.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP had rather hoped that the noble Lord, having got his way in regard to the other Amendment, would not have pressed this Amendment. The arguments of the Local Government Board were stronger even in this case than they were in the last. The object of Clause 43 was to save unnecessary expense and to make publication more effectual. The present system was open to two important objections. In the first place, the publication in extenso of this class of schemes was very expensive, and the publication in the London Gazette as was the present method, was not a useful way of informing the locality, as the London Gazette was not read by many private individuals. Therefore, Clause 43 provided that the advertisement notices should merely give short particulars of the scheme, order, or draft, and should state where copies could be seen. In the second place, it said that instead of the advertisement being in the London Gazette it should be in two local newspapers circulating in the area affected, or should be made by notice given in such 228 other manner as the Local Government Board might determine. Generally speaking, the Board would not wish to alter that method of publication, but would wish publication in the two local newspapers. But if there was only one local newspaper the Local Government Board, if the Amendment were carried, would find themselves in some difficulty. There was, therefore, good reason for leaving the Board some latitude.
§ LORD HYLTON said that under the painful circumstances of there being in any locality only one local newspaper he would not press his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 43 agreed to.
44. Notwithstanding anything in any local Act or by-law in force in any borough or district, it shall not be lawful to erect any back-to-back houses intended to be used as dwellings for the working-classes, and any such house commenced to be erected after the passing of this Act shall be deemed to be unfit for human habitation for the purposes of the provisions of the Housing Acts.
Provided that nothing in this section—
LORD MONK BRETTON moved an Amendment providing that nothing in the section should prevent the erection or use of houses placed back-to-back if the medical officer of health certified that they were constructed and arranged so as to secure effective ventilation. He said the object of his Amendment was to obviate difficulties in Leeds. Leeds had a number of these back-to-back houses, and had been confirmed in the building of them by three successive Acts of Parliament—in 1872, 1893, and 1905; and in the last year no objection was raised by the Local Government Board. This was a volte face in Parliament with regard to the question, and it was volte face taken without evidence. He need not go through the arguments in
favour of the Amendment, because they had been circulated to their Lordships in a Memorandum by the Corporation of Leeds. Leeds was one of the healthiest cities in the United Kingdom. It had risen lately in healthiness, and was now second only to the City of London. These back-to-back houses were extremely popular because they were cheap. He would like to say, with regard to this Amendment, that it did need some discussion in their Lordships' House because, though an Amendment was moved in another place to alter the clause, a vote was taken without any discussion at all. The President of the Local Government Board, in his speech on the Second Reading, devoted some time to arguments in favour of this clause. The right hon. gentleman quoted figures relating to the prevalence of consumption, but he (Lord Monk Bretton) could quote similar figures from the Corporation of Halifax which proved that phthisis was more prevalent in the through houses of the town than in the back-to-back houses. He would not recapitulate the arguments which were used by the right honourable gentleman, but he thought most of his arguments referred to back-to-back houses altogether—that was to say, back-to-back houses since the year 1840; and the medical authorities which he quoted were also, so far as he was aware, speaking of back-to-back houses as a whole and not of modern back-to-back houses. The arguments for the Amendment were, first, that the frontage in these modern back-to-back houses was larger than the frontage in the through houses. Secondly, there could not possibly be overcrowding in the back-to-back houses because they could only hold one family. Whatever might be the opinion of the Local Government Board, experts differed with regard to this matter. Sir Henry Littlejohn, who had given evidence against back-to-back houses before the Local Government Board, had since declared—
I am bound to say that my opinion with regard to back-to-back houses has been completely changed since I saw Leeds.
Sir Henry Littlejohn gave a number of reasons why back-to-back houses were better for the purpose of isolating infectious disease, and said their ventilation was no worse than that in tenements. There was other evidence in support of the Amendment which he would not quote. He saw on the Benches opposite Lord Airedale, who
had presented to their Lordships' House a petition on behalf of the building societies of Leeds against this clause. He (Lord Monk Bretton) thought there were ample powers in the Bill for dealing with bad back-to-back houses, or preventing their erection in the future, and he could not see why the Government should insert this particular clause with regard to back-to-back houses. If they distrusted the medical officer of health of a great corporation, why did they introduce into this Bill a clause which provided that that medical officer should be independent of the corporation? The important point with regard to back-to-back houses was this. These houses could be erected more cheaply and therefore could be let more cheaply; that was the reason why they were popular with the working-classes. It was the case, as he submitted was proved with considerable effect by experts, that they were not less sanitary than either tenements or through houses. Therefore by this clause the Government were enacting a law that hereafter the working men of these towns should pay two shillings a week more rent for houses which would not be more sanitary than those in which they were now living.
In page 19, lines 4 and 5, to leave out the words 'a house containing several tenements in which the tenements,' and to insert the word 'houses.'"—(Lord Monk Bretton.)
§ LORD AIREDALE said the powers which would be conferred under the Amendment were of very material importance to the City of Leeds, in which he had considerable interests, and he had presented to their Lordships the other day a petition in its favour from the Associated Building Societies of Leeds. These societies had an invested capital of nearly three millions. That money was formed of the savings of the artisans and middle class of Leeds, and was largely advanced upon working-class dwellings in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the City of Leeds there were advances on what were called back-to-back houses of something like three-quarters of a million of money. Under the Bill as it was now submitted it was sought to withdraw from the City of Leeds the power to build back-to-back houses. He had had some experience in the provision of houses for the working-classes in Leeds. In the early seventies he was associated 231 with gentlemen who sought to solve the question of providing for working men what were called through houses in contradistinction to back-to-back houses, the construction of which the Government were endeavouring under this Bill to discontinue. They built £20,000 worth of houses—through houses—for working men, which were sold individually to these men at a cost of something like £155. This was in the early seventies. Then arose a great disturbance in the cost of labour and building materials arising out of the Franco-German war. The result was that the houses which they had been building to sell to working men at the price of £155 rose in cost to something like £240, and he doubted if now they could build the same houses for less than £250. Their Lordships would see at once that that put a stop to the provision of through houses at a reasonable rent. The consequence was that the City of Leeds came to Parliament, and in the year 1893 this question was discussed before a Parliamentary Committee and a plan for back-to-back houses was approved by Parliament after full discussion. These back-to-back houses were built in blocks of eight, with a stipulated width of street and with a separation of fifteen feet from each block. That fifteen feet contained sanitary arrangements which caused the houses to be healthy and well ventilated, and with the provision of open streets no better house of a moderate cost could be provided for the working-classes. As advances of three-quarters of a million had been made on these back-to-back houses, there must be in existence houses of the value of one million sterling. If this Bill passed without amendment they would be obliged to discontinue the provision of these houses, and a very serious injury would be inflicted on the working-classes of Leeds. On the other hand, of through houses they had not hundreds, but thousands, at this moment unoccupied. If the Bill was passed in its present form the result would be that two families would go to live in one house. The provision offered by the Local Government Board was the provision of tenement houses. Tenement houses had been erected in Leeds and had proved most objectionable. There was the abominable common stair, and they were altogether unsuitable and were not accepted at all in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Back-to-back houses, however, were satisfactory to all. The statement he was 232 making was supported by the City Council of Leeds, and they asked Parliament to allow them to manage their own affairs. The party with which he had been so long associated were, he believed, distinguished for the advocacy of local management of local affairs; yet they were attempting to take this away from Leeds and to place in the hands of a Department in Whitehall the power of regulating the tenements of a great community with a population of something like half a million. He cordially supported the Amendment.
§ *LORD FABER said he had listened with great attention to the remarks of the mover of the Amendment and of the noble Lord opposite. He cordially agreed with those remarks. He had known the City of Leeds very intimately for more than forty years. There was no particular magic that he knew of with reference to the goodness or badness of back-to-back houses. The houses really relied on the sanitary arrangements of the immediate locality. If there was a block of six or eight back-to-back houses and there were large streets around those houses and other social amenities connected with them, they were quite in the front rank as regarded healthy residences. It did not follow that a back-to-back house as such should be absolutely condemned. Leeds had very many such houses, and Leeds was one of the six large cities in the United Kingdom, and was next to London in the healthiness of its population. The Corporation of Leeds wished to be permitted to continue to build back-to-back houses, and the large building societies of Yorkshire desired the continuance of such buildings. There was the safeguard of the medical officer's approval in regard to such houses, and he could not see for the life of him why in a Bill of this sort it should be held that back-to-back tenements, or flats, as they would be called in London, were salubrious, and that back-to-back houses were not salubrious. He would have thought that back-to-back houses were much more salubrious than back-to-back tenements. In all these circumstances he cordially supported the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX said that, in common with the noble Lords who had spoken, he had some knowledge of Leeds. He believed there was no doubt that with the modern arrangements of ventilation back-to-back houses could be quite as 233 well ventilated and quite as wholesome as other houses. There was no question at all as to what the feeling of the town of Leeds was in this matter, and he heartily supported the Amendment.
§ LORD ALLERTON said he knew a great deal about Leeds. Forty years ago he went on to the Corporation and therefore knew the work of that body and the care they took, and he thought it was rather a strong order after the Corporation of Leeds had obtained an Act of Parliament, after a searching investigation by a Committee, giving them the power to build these houses, that that power should be abrogated by a general Act of this kind. Leeds was very disturbed on this question, and he thought rightly so. It was a very large question, and he did not think that any justification could be found for taking away the power which Leeds possessed at the present time, unless it could be shown that these houses were not healthy. But the very opposite of that was the fact. The statistics showed that in the year 1893 Leeds stood fourth on the list as regarded death-rate; four years later it stood third; four years later still it stood second, and it had maintained that position since. Out of 17,000 houses built in Leeds between 1900 and 1909, nearly 10,000, roughly speaking, were hack-to-back houses. He had been inside hundreds of them, and he said unhesitatingly that there could be no justification for this clause on the ground of their being unhealthy or insanitary. In his opinion these houses, built as they were in Leeds with a paved street on both sides of them so that the streets could be washed and cleansed, were much more healthy to live in than the through houses which could be built for any such sum. Bet there was another point of view. By this clause the Government were doing the equivalent of reducing the wages of the working-class, because if they imposed upon them the additional cost which was represented by 2s. or 2s. 6d. a week, the difference between the rent of a through house and a back-to-back house, that was the equivalent of reducing wages, and that was of great consequence to Leeds. He did not think that any justification for this action could be shown. He thought this proposal had arisen entirely from a misapprehension of what these houses were. The attention of architects and of the Corporation and of the medical officer of health had for the last forty years, to his personal knowledge, been 234 directed to the great problem of how to provide a dwelling for a working man at a reasonable cost, and he believed they had found a solution of it in the houses that they provided. He hoped, therefore, their Lordships would support the Amendment.
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK did not think he would be quite honest if, after what had fallen from, noble Lords who represented Leeds, he did not say that at the time when he knew Leeds best there was certainly a strong opinion amongst those who cared most for sanitary reform against back-to-back houses. There was no doubt a great deal of controversy on the matter; but as far as he could judge the opinion of those who cared most about the public health, it was not the prevailing opinion that back-to-back houses were the best. Opinion was certainly very much divided. Noble Lords who had spoken knew a great deal better than he did what the present opinion of Leeds was, but ho thought it well that he should state that Leeds used to be sharply divided on this point.
EARL BEAUCHAMP said it was very curious that they should have had five noble Lords one after the other speaking in favour of back-to-back houses and every one of them from Leeds. He was much obliged to the right rev. Prelate, who was himself for some time Vicar of Leeds and had an intimate knowledge of the question, for the contradiction he had made, and which went some way, at any rate, towards putting a different point of view before their Lordships from that which had been presented by the other speakers. It was very curious that they should not have had from any other districts testimony in favour of back-to-back houses. He would have thought that it was notorious that if there was one thing upon which housing reformers were agreed up and down the country, it was that back-to-back houses were very undesirable. If any noble Lord took up the current literature published by those interested in housing reform, they would find that back-to-back houses were universally condemned; and there was this further to be said that, with the exception of Leeds, in almost every town the erection of houses of this kind was forbidden. He quite agreed that if their Lordships were disposed to allow back-to-back houses to be erected, probably the form adopted in Leeds was the best to be found; but he did not think that
that, after all, was a very great admission to make. When all was said and done, this clause only applied to future houses. It would in no way affect the security of the Leeds building societies or the houses which they possessed. It merely provided that in future houses of this kind were not to be erected except under certain conditions. The clause contained a proviso which ran—
Nothing in this section shall prevent the erection or use of a house containing several tenements in which the tenements are placed back to back, if the medical officer of health for the district certifies that the several tenements are so constructed and arranged as to secure effective ventilation of all habitable rooms in every tenement.
That did allow tenements of this kind to be erected if the medical officer of health was of opinion that that might safely be done. That seemed to him to be a provision which, taken by itself, really might be thought to qualify sufficiently the condemnation of back-to-back houses. He did not know that they need argue with the noble Lord behind him on the question of how far it was right to interfere with the discretion of localities in this matter, but he did not think there had ever been any objection to interfering with a locality when in the opinion of Parliament it was thought that that locality was taking any steps which might endanger the health of those who lived in that neighbourhood. In those circumstances he hoped the Committee would allow the clause to remain as it stood.
§ *LORD FABER said that since the right rev. Prelate was in Leeds a different state of things had obtained in regard to building back-to-back houses. These houses in Leeds were built in blocks of six and eight at a time, and were surrounded by large streets with plenty of air and plenty of space. It seemed to him that by this Bill it would not be lawful to continue to build back-to-back houses, though it would be lawful to continue to build back-to-back tenements. He could not see why if tenement houses were permitted to be built, houses should not be allowed to be built back to back.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I have no pretence whatever to speak as an expert upon this subject, but there is one point which must, I think, be obvious to us all. The great crux of this housing question is the difficulty of obtaining cheap 236 houses. It seems to me that we should hesitate to put a stop to any kind of house building which is especially calculated to solve that most difficult problem. It is claimed for these back-to-back houses that they can be built not only more cheaply, but much more cheaply, than houses built upon a different system. Then I find that in the Bill as it stands His Majesty's Government are quite ready to tolerate back-to-back tenements although they will not tolerate back-to-back houses, and it has not yet, I think, been quite sufficiently explained to us why that which is tolerable in the case of tenements is intolerable in the case of houses. This clause seems to be sufficiently safeguarded by the stipulation that the approval of the medical officer is to be required before buildings of this kind can be erected. The noble Earl who has charge of the Bill spoke rather facetiously of the amount of support which the Amendment had received from noble Lords connected with the City of Leeds, but I think it is very remarkable that this great weight of testimony from Leeds should have come before us this evening; and it is the fact, is it not, that Leeds has been building these houses with the sanction of Parliament. I think it was said by one of the speakers that no fewer than 10,000 houses of this description were at this moment in existence, and those who are familiar with the place and who are best able to speak give these houses a good character. I must say that in those circumstances it does seem to be a very strong order to vote against the Amendment of my noble friend, and if he goes to a Division I shall support him.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I confess that in my opinion this is a very difficult matter to decide. I am naturally biassed in favour of Leeds, which I know very well, and it is undoubtedly true that the death-rate of Leeds is exceedingly low, partly, I have no doubt, owing to the admirable habits of the people who inhabit the city, but so far that fact is a distinct testimony, I frankly admit, to the manner in which the citizens of Leeds are housed. On the other hand, you have the singular fact that it is Leeds, and Leeds alone, that puts in a plea for this particular kind of building. There are noble Lords here who know all about Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and London. Nobody in any one of those great cities asks for back-to-back houses, and I think the Committee must admit in all fairness that that does create a diffi- 237 cult and serious situation. As my noble friend behind me said, it is one of the first truisms of all housing reformers that the ordinary back-to-back house as largely built in many parts of England in past years is absolutely the worst kind of house that can be erected. That is the first commonplace of everybody who has written or spoken on the subject of housing reform. Against that we have this testimony of Leeds to the merits of this singular kind of back-to-back houses that obtain there. That, as I say, places us in a position of peculiar difficulty, for this reason. If Leeds stood alone, I should like, if it were possible—I am speaking only for myself—to add a schedule to the Bill excluding Leeds from the operation of this clause. But supposing the noble Lord's Amendment is passed, every borough and every district would be allowed to put up any kind of back-to-back houses if only the medical officer of the district would say they ought to be allowed to do so. That is a serious matter to face. I think we have already agreed that the medical officers of small districts and small boroughs may be subjected to no little pressure from those whose interests are involved. Yet that is what the acceptance of the Amendment will do. You practically say that a back-to-back house is not in itself an objectionable thing. If you say that, you go, I repeat, against the universal opinion of all housing reformers, and, therefore, although very regretfully, I am compelled to say that I cannot agree, although I admit the special circumstances of Leeds, and Leeds alone, to the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY said the noble Earl the Leader of the House had not answered one specific question that had been put to him—namely, why it should be right to tolerate tenements built back to back and refuse the same privilege in the case of houses.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Tenements are not built back to back. That is the case of a house containing several tenements in which the tenements are placed back to back. It is an entirely different matter from back-to-back houses.
§ VISCOUNT HILL said the housing question was a difficult one, and it was for that reason he was surprised that the Government did not see their way to accept the 238 Amendment. If they were going to impose a limit as to what kind of houses should be built, they would never get the Bill carried out to any advantage. Every locality should be given the right of using every possible means that lay in their power to build houses that were cheap and sanitary. In this clause it was proposed for the future to entirely prohibit back-to-back houses. The old back-to-back houses, he admitted, were not advantageous to the community, but that class of house had almost entirely disappeared, and under this Bill those that remained would be wiped out on account of their insanitary condition. The sanitary arrangements in back-to-back houses were infinitely better than in tenement houses. He had seen the back-to-back houses in Leeds. They were very attractive and he would say most healthy and sanitary. The reports from the medical officers were most favourable upon them, and he thought it would be a mistake in this Bill that the Government should in any way prevent architects in any part of the country from bringing forward a scheme of this kind, which, after all, had to be sanctioned by the Local Government Board. If the Board did not like the class of back-to-back houses submitted to them, they need not accept the scheme. If the Amendment were carried, it would give other parts of the country an opportunity of following the example of Leeds.
§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD said he had endeavoured to study this extremely difficult question to the best of his ability, and he thought he was right in saying that if the figures for the whole of England with regard to the relative health of the occupiers of back-to-back houses and that of the occupiers of through houses were before their Lordships, it could certainly be proved that the percentage of disease, taking the whole country over, was very much higher in back-to-back houses than in through houses. He had seen the houses in Leeds, and confessed that the question was a very difficult one indeed. The greater part of these houses were beautifully built and were so placed that in the majority of instances, at all events, fair ventilation was possible. Their Lordships would easily understand that when back-to-back houses were placed in groups of four, although they could not get through ventilation from front to back of the house, yet by a judicious opening of the windows they 239 could get through ventilation in a diagonal way. So far as he had been able to look into the question, he thought that by perpetuating back-to-back houses they were undoubtedly laying up for themselves in most of the great cities of this country a heritage which would afterwards come home with disastrous effect when public opinion on the housing problem was raised to a higher level that it had reached at the present time. With regard to the proviso to this section, the responsibility put on the medical officer of health was, he thought, much too heavy a responsibility to place upon a single individual in that position. He was appointed, in the first instance, by the municipality itself. Was it likely that in a place like Leeds, if the general opinion of the City Council was in favour of perpetuating back-to-back houses, there would ever be a medical officer of health who would not certify that the houses were capable of perfectly free ventilation? It was an unfair position in which to place the medical officer. While he admitted that the houses in Leeds were extremely attractive and were inhabited by a very good class of working people, he sometimes asked himself whether it was not the fact that the position of Leeds, like that of many other Yorkshire towns, was a singularly healthy one, surrounded by moors and fresh air, and that if from the first the other system of building had been persevered in the undoubtedly high state of health in the city might not have become still higher. He would support the Government if the Committee divided.
§ *LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH suggested a possible way out of the difficulty. It had been proved by noble Lords connected with Leeds, that it was possible, if back-to-back houses were built upon a certain plan, to erect them in such a way that there could be no objection on the score of health. If that was so, it seemed to him that if they gave the Local Government Board a discretion as to how such back-to-back houses were to be built they would get over a great deal of the objection. This would at any rate surmount the very obvious difficulty of the medical officer of health being brought into the controversy and having to decide the case.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND said he was so puzzled by the attitude of His Majesty's Government that he could 240 not help asking for a little more information. The right rev. Prelate who spoke last from the Episcopal Bench was perfectly right when he said that if the death-rate in houses built back to back was compared throughout the whole of the country with that in houses not built back to back, it would be found to be very much larger in the case of back-to-back houses, because it was notorious that back-to-back houses were originally built without any consideration to ventilation or to sanitary conditions at all. He was sorry to say he had some of them and he knew what they were like, and he knew how difficult it was to know how to deal with them. No one would defend such a system. There were two objections to back-to-back houses. One was that as they were ordinarily built through ventilation was impossible. The right rev. Prelate had said that by this method of back-to-back houses it was possible to get through ventilation. He did not quite follow what the right rev. Prelate meant when he spoke of diagonal ventilation, but the point remained that he admitted there was through ventilation. He had heard back-to-back houses denounced that evening from the Front Bench opposite in no measured terms, but he had not yet heard why His Majesty's Government allowed tenement houses to be built in the same way. The noble Earl the Leader of the House said it was not a permission to erect houses back to back, but tenements back to back. Where was the difference? The question was whether these back-to-back tenements were or were not wholesome, or whether they could be properly ventilated. Why did it appear easier to ventilate back-to-back tenements than it was to ventilate back-to-back houses? He had been looking at some of the plans of the houses erected at Leeds, and it appeared to him perfectly easy to build houses in exactly the same form but instead of giving a staircase to each house to put two houses together and let them have a common staircase. Then the houses would become tenements back to back. It seemed to him that the Government were going upon a wrong principle altogether. They seemed to think that there was the reverse of charm about back-to-back houses. The whole question depended upon ventilation. If they could secure ventilation in back-to-back houses, he saw no objection to them. If they could not, then they were excessively bad. Because nine-tenths of the back-to-back 241 houses had no through ventilation and were excessively bad, why should all back-to-back houses be condemned?
§ LORD MONK BRETTON said the right rev. Prelate had alluded to figures of back-to-back houses both ancient and modern. He (Lord Monk Bretton) only knew of one set of figures which compared. the present day back-to-back houses with present day through houses; that was the case of Halifax, and the result of that return was very much in favour of back-to-back houses as against through.
§ *THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY felt that the information that had come to them made it extremely difficult to know what line to take. He wondered whether it would be possible to adjourn the debate in order that the statistics might be looked further into. He did not think it was quite reasonable that they should be asked to reverse the matured opinion which had been arrived at for many years past as regarded the structure of old back-to-back houses or the desirability of building new ones on the mere evidence of the quite peculiar position at Leeds. In the first place, the houses at Leeds were all recently built; they were occupied mostly by young couples, and the death-rate was naturally lower than in the general community. The whole of the statistics required fully testing. If they decided this to-night, he ventured to hope it might come up again on Report, because he did not believe that the statistics had been tested as thoroughly as they ought to be as regards England as a whole, and it was surely possible that something could be arrived at which would not impose upon Leeds any great inconvenience and yet maintain the principles which had been supposed to be of the very element of sanitary science.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
In page 19, line 7, to leave out the words 'several tenements' and to insert the word 'houses'; and in line 9, to leave out the words 'in every tenement.'"—(Lord Monk Bretton.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 44, as amended, agreed to.242
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP moved the addition of a new clause. He said the Amendment had already been referred to in the course of the evening, and their Lordships knew the circumstances in which it had been put down. It was put down really to meet a case brought forward by Lord Hylton, and he hoped the noble Lord would be satisfied with the clause as it stood without the addition which stood on the Paper in his (Lord Hylton's) name. This clause was intended as an alternative to the clause of the noble Lord, and it was put down by him in pursuance of an undertaking which was given by the President of the Local Government Board on the Report stage of the Bill in the other House in connection with the new clause moved by Lord Robert Cecil.
After Clause 44, to insert the following new clause:
'45. If the Local Government Board are satisfied by local inquiry or otherwise that the erection of dwellings for the working-classes within any borough, urban, or rural district is unreasonably impeded in consequence of any by-laws with respect to new streets or buildings in force therein the Board may require the local authority to revoke such by-laws or to make such new by-laws as the Board may consider necessary for the removal of the impediment. If the local authority do not within three months after such requisition comply therewith, the Board may themselves revoke such by-laws, and make such new by-laws as they may consider necessary for the removal of the impediment, and such new by-laws shall have effect as if they had been duly made by the local authority and confirmed by the Board.'"—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ LORD HYLTON expressed his indebtedness to the noble Earl for the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee To-morrow.