§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee. read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, on behalf of the London County Council I beg to move the insertion of the new clause which stands in my name. The subject is 498 by no means a simple one, and if I can but make it clear to your Lordships I think the House will agree that the London County Council has a very strong case. Put briefly our case is this. We are desirous of acquiring the lands set out in the Schedule of this Provisional Orders Confirmation Bill and also in the Schedule of the Educational Board Provisional Orders Confirmation (London No. 2) Bill which stands next on the Paper. We desire to acquire these lands as sites for additional schools in London, and where it is proved that these lands are insanitary or can be described as slum areas we ask that we should be enabled to acquire them under the provisions of Part I of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, instead of under the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts. The effect of this alteration would he that where the arbitrators decide that the site is a slum area, the County Council should be able to purchase the site at a fair price instead of at the exorbitant price due to its overcrowded nature which they would have to pay under the Lands Clauses Act. As your Lordships know, slum property sometimes fetches an exorbitant price owing to its overcrowded nature and owing to the number of families living in each room. Under the Housing of the Working Classes Act we should be entitled to buy that property at the price which it would fetch if used for reasonable purposes—that is to say, if the houses were occupied by the number of people they ought to accommodate; and, further, we are allowed to deduct from that market price the cost of putting those buildings into habitable repair both structurally and for drainage purposes. The County Council would also be absolved from paying the ten per cent. extra allowance which would be due in respect of compulsory purchase.
Paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) of my proposed new clause virtually reproduce paragraphs (a) and (b) of Section 4 of the Housing of the Working Classes Act. 1890, and subsection (2) of my Amendment reproduces in substance subsection (2) of Section 21 of the Housing of the Working Classes Act. In other words, the whole of this new clause is already incorporated in a public Act of Parliament. I have only to add, in regard to the effect, of this clause and the result it would have, that the onus of proving that the property is a slum area would not lie with the present owners but with the County Council should your 499 Lordships agree to this Amendment being inserted in the Bill. Under these two Bills we require somewhere about fifty sites for different schools in London. Year by year the London County Council is continually coming to Parliament asking for leave to purchase sites for new schools, partly owing to the increase in population and partly to the reduction in the size of classes and the consequent reduction in accommodation of existing schools. It is obvious that it would be of great advantage to London if we were enabled in purchasing sites to get hold of slum property rather than to abolish good houses with which no fault could he found. As any of your Lordships know, the real difficulty in abolishing slum property is the exorbitant price that that property fetches in the market, and it was to meet that point that the Housing of the Working Classes Act was passed into law. Every one in this House, I think, will agree that the more we can clear away slum areas the better it will be for the people of this country. Under the Housing of the Working Classes Act the purchasing authority is, as a rule, compelled to re-house the people whom it displaces. Under my Amendment that would not be the case. But I would point out that where we buy property which cannot be described as slum property we are under no obligation whatever to re-house. Therefore the point I think, can fairly be made that we should not be compelled to re-house those displaced from slum property any more than we are compelled to re-house those displaced from non-slum property.
The London County Council has obtained a similar clause to this in a good many of its own private Bills—in the Kingsway and Aidwych Improvement Act, in the Rotherhithe Tunnel Act, and on eight other occasions. I think Parliament granted a clause of this character in practically all the London County Council Bills for purchasing land other than Education Bills, up to the year 1905. In 1907 and 1909 the Local Government Board objected to a clause of this character being put into County Council Private Bills. As a matter of fact, their objections were never discussed before a Committee of either House of Parliament, for the reason that objection was taken to the property to which the clauses would apply, and consequently when the property was withdrawn from the Bill this Amendment was also withdrawn as we had no 500 object in putting it in. But the Board of Education have consistently refused to put in a clause of this character in any of their Provisional Order Confirmation Bills, and owing to their decision it is impossible to debate the substance of the principle of this clause in Committee of either House of Parliament upstairs. If it were a Private Bill introduced by the London County Council the County Council could obviously put in the clause and then it would be for the Committee of either House of Parliament to strike it out if they thought fit, but as this is a Board of Education Bill we have no means of getting this Amendment put in except by appealing to your Lordships' House.
We have naturally approached the authorities as to the objections they find to this Amendment, and they have been several. On one occasion objection was taken that the proposal was sprung upon the present owners of property and that they had no chance of opposing this Amendment had they seen fit. We have met that case in the notice to owners informing them that we intended to apply for powers to compulsorily purchase their land. There is a clause put in stating at the same time most clearly that we also intended to apply for an Amendment of the nature of the one which I now propose to the House. That notice is dated December 1, 1911. Therefore the owners of property have had as much chance as they would have had if this had been put into a Private Bill to make any observations they choose upon this Amendment. Then the late Chairman of Committees of your Lordships' House, Lord Onslow, raised the objection, in an interview that he had with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the London County Council on July 12, 1910. that the sites that we proposed to apply this Amendment to were named in our Amendment, and that therefore it was really more or less blacklisting those sites before both Houses of Parliament. He went on to say that he had no objection to the clause if it was put in general terms. In this instance we have not named the sites to which it is proposed that this Amendment should apply, and therefore we have endeavoured to meet the views of the late Lord Chairman in that respect. Then last year the Local Government Board objected to its approval being found necessary before this clause was made to apply. Originally as this clause appeared 501 in a London County Council Private Bill it had not been thought necessary to put in that the Local Government Board should first approve. A Committee of the House of Commons suggested that that should be done, and therefore those words were added. But owing to the Local Government Board having since objected we have left out the words then inserted and as the proposed clause now stands it is riot necessary to ask for the leave of the Local Government Board. I think your Lordships will agree that the London County Council has done its utmost to meet the authorities in this matter, and the Council is prepared to accept any alteration in words or form that the Government may suggest if only it can manage to obtain the principle of this clause.
The last situation is this, that the Board of Education, in a letter to the London County Council, have refused to insert this clause on the plea that it is not a model clause in accordance with the undertaking given in the House of Commons in 1907. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote the undertaking then given. Answering a Question, Mr. McKenna said—The Board of Education are prepared on the request of the local education authority to insert in Provisional Order Confirmation Bills, where the circumstances, in the opinion of the Board, justify such a course, those clauses which, having been frequently inserted in Local Acts, are regarded in the practice of Parliament as model clauses.I venture to think that your Lordships will agree that no more vague undertaking could possibly have been given, and that it is aptly described as a policy of red-tape. After all, what the Board of Education apparently say is this, "We have never put this into our Bills before and therefore we are not going to do it now." Apparently they are going to support the procedure by which we are compelled to buy good house property and pull it down in order to provide sites for our new schools rather than that we should get hold of slum property and demolish it in order to secure the necessary land.
After all, if you pull down good house property the cost of purchase is fairly cheap, and that is where we should naturally turn; but I think everybody will agree that a school does not improve the value of the 502 property surrounding it. You get a lot of healthy children rushing out, of school into their playgrounds, and naturally they make a noise and objections are raised by neighbouring owners. That occurs wherever a school is placed. But there is this further point, that we reduce the rateable value of the surrounding district if a school is put in the middle of a really good area, whereas if we pull down slum buildings we not only get rid of an insanitary area but we provide a large and desirable open space in that neighbourhood in the shape of the school playground. We make it less a slum area and consequently more valuable. It may be argued that we are endeavouring to compulsorily purchase the land and then write down the price afterwards. That may be so or it may not but that is the law at present. When the County Council wished to acquire land, for instance, for the Aldwych Improvement or for the Rotherhithe Tunnel they were enabled to acquire it under those clauses; and in the same way if we wish to clear a slum area, as we are doing now, then we have been enabled to purchase the land at a lower price under the Housing of the Working Classes Act. Therefore if it is right in that case I maintain it is also right in cases where we require sites for educational purposes. We hear a good deal on public platforms from members of His Majesty's Government about their great concern as to the conditions under which the working classes live. Here appears to ate to be an extremely good way of putting some of that preaching into practice. This is, however, not a show Amendment, and therefore it is not good electioneering. I venture to say that, unless it is found that it contravenes the regulations of this or the other House of Parliament, if the Government refuse to accept an Amendment of this character it will be shown that all these protestations on their part are really only "window dressing" for electioneering purposes. As I said, this is not going to appeal to the electorate; but opposition to this Amendment means that you allow slum landlords, of whom I think nobody in this House approves, to stick out for a very high price, and you prevent the local authority from clearing areas which everybody will agree should be abolished as soon as possible. Really the Government would place themselves in the position of standing up for the slum landlord, not, in the way of protecting his property, but actually preventing the London County Council from 503 purchasing it at a fair price. That is all that the London County Council is asking to do. They are not proposing to run down the price inordinately, but they desire that the price which they pay for slum property should be the fair marketable value subject to the condition of its being put into fair marketable repair.
Here is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone—to provide sites for our schools and also do away with slum property. Every year we are purchasing a large number of sites. I could quote a case at this moment in which we are anxious to provide a site for a school in one of the boroughs of London. We have scheduled a good house property site—that is to say, one or two houses with large gardens behind. Very naturally the borough objects to our purchasing that property, and says it will reduce the rateable value of the surrounding district. The only alternative site is one in the middle of slum property, and the difference in price between those two sites is something like £10,000. The slum property is more desirable for the school; it is situated nearer to the working class population whose children will attend the school when built; but it is obvious that we cannot spend an extra £10,000 on schools all over the place in order to meet the borough councils to that extent in helping them to develop the property in their borough. If this Amendment meets with approval at your Lordships' hands we shall he enabled to get that slum property, not at the same price but at a price approximating to the good house property which we shall have otherwise to acquire. We shall rid that borough of those slums and secure a school in a position in which we require it. I have only to mention that there are something like 700,000 children attending the schools of London, and that we have now undertaken a scheme, which I think will meet with the approval of every member of this House, for reducing the number of children in each class-room to forty for older children and forty-eight for infants, to enable you to realise what an enormous amount of extra accommodation we shall require in ensuing years. This Amendment would be of great assistance to us in that work, and I trust that your Lordships will look favourably upon it, and that the Board of Education may make perhaps an eleventh hour repentance and allow this new clause to be added to their Bill.
Page 2, line 2, after ("purpose") insert the following new clause, viz.:
§ "Compensation in case of Insanitary Property.
".—(1) The Council may claim in any notice to treat for the purchase of any lands intended to be taken for the purposes of this Act—
(a) That the lands to which the notice refers are or comprise any houses, courts and alleys unfit for human habitation; or
(b) That the narrowness, closeness and had arrangement, or the bad condition of the streets and houses or groups of houses upon any such lands, or the want of light, air, ventilation or proper conveniences, or any other sanitary defects, or one or more of such causes, render any such lands or any buildings thereon prejudicial to the health of the inhabitants either of the buildings on the said lands or of the neighbouring buildings.
"(2) In the event of such claim then on the occasion of assessing the amount of compensation payable in respect of such lands the jury arbitrators or other authority settling the same shall determine whether such lands fall wholly or in part within any of the descriptions hereinbefore mentioned and if they determine that such lands do so fall then in assessing the compensation payable under this Act in respect of such lands evidence shall be receivable by them to prove:
(a) That the rental of any house or premises was enhanced by reason of the same being used for illegal purposes or being so overcrowded as to be dangerous or injurious to the health of the inmates; or
(b) That any house or premises are in a state of defective sanitation or are not in reasonably good repair; or
(c) That any house or premises are unfit and not reasonably capable of being made fit for human habitation;
and if they are satisfied by such evidence then the purchase money and compensation in respect of such lands shall he assessed according to the principles indicated in section twenty-one of the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890."—(Earl Stanhope.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGH MORE)
My Lords, I think it would probably be for the convenience of your Lordships if I state as briefly as I can the history of this matter as regards your Lordships' Committees for the last six or seven years, because it is to a considerable extent that history which impels me to recommend your Lordships not to agree to the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Earl, and in doing so I am sure he will acquit me at any rate of any desire for "window dressing." This matter has arisen in this way, and I think the fact explains why the noble Earl was able to quote precedents for the case that he submits to your Lordships to-day. 505 All his precedents—I am sure he would admit it quite frankly—are anterior to the year 1905, and I believe I am correct in saying that though this clause has been applied for several times by the London County Council since 1905 it has not been acceded to by your Lordships in any Bill which you have passed since that year.
That is explained in this way. It was about the year 1905 that your Lordships decided that all these Government Provisional Order Confirmation Bills should go through what is known as the Unopposed Committee. Such Bills had previously been examined by one of the officers of your Lordships' House. Under this new direction the Bills were examined in much more detail than before the year 1905, and as a result it was noticed that this clause, which was certainly opposed to the Private Bill practice of your Lordships' House, was being inserted by the Education Department in some of their Provisional Order Bills. This point was one of the first that was noticed. The object has been quite fairly stated by the noble Earl. The result would have been, if it had been allowed, that the London County Council would have been able to get a lower price fixed for the property they were purchasing, and possibly to get rid of the ten per cent. given in respect of compulsory purchase. This was done by adopting part of the procedure, but not the whole of the procedure, of the Housing Acts—by applying part of the procedure of the Housing Acts to the Lands Clauses Acts, a purpose for which the Housing Acts, I submit, were never intended. If public authorities desire to deal with insanitary property they have the machinery of the Housing Acts at their command and have plenty of powers for dealing with such property.
But what I wish particularly to urge upon your Lordships—and I find from the Minutes that have been kept in my Office that this is a point that weighed considerably with my predecessor, the late Lord Onslow—is that under the Housing Acts certain forms of procedure are prescribed which act fairly to the owner, who, after all, is entitled to justice even though he is a slum owner. They act fairly to him, and one of the fairest of those provisions is not embodied in the noble Earl's Amendment. When an authority like the London County Council desire to deal with what they consider an insanitary dwelling-house or area—"nuisance" is the term used, and a 506 house that is a nuisance is defined, among other things, as premises in such a state as to be a nuisance or injurious to health—they have to serve a notice on the owner, and the owner has this enormous advantage conferred upon him, that he is allowed to abate the nuisance himself. The Third Schedule of the Housing Act of 1890 provides that the authority shall, previous to taking proceedings, serve a notice on the owner calling upon him to abate the nuisance, and he has the chance of abating it and so nullifying any further proceedings against him. The proposed new clause which the noble Earl has moved to insert gives the owner, as I read it, no chance of abating the nuisance, because notice is served upon him when they are giving the notice of their intention to treat. I quite agree that the noble Earl has altered this clause so as to give the owner a hearing as to whether his property is a nuisance or not, but I cannot see under this clause that the noble Earl gives him power to abate the nuisance. The pistol is held at his head from the first. The property is to be taken away from him, and if it is in such a condition as to be a nuisance all the disadvantages of this clause are held over his head at once.
Your Lordships will, of course, realise that this is not merely a London question. If this clause is assented to to-day your Lordships will be laying down a precedent which will be adopted at once all over the Kingdom by local authorities in their anxiety to purchase property as cheaply as they can. And what will be the result? If adopted all over the country, instead of local authorities proceeding as fast as they can, as their duty is, with procedure for better housing under the Housing Acts, it will pay them better to sit still with folded hands, leaving the properties insanitary and profiting by their having done nothing if they think that they may require those properties in the more or less near future for a specific purpose. There are plenty of precedents for refusing a power such as this, and I think it would be most unfortunate if it were to be laid down as part of our general legislation that neglect of duties under the Housing Acts was to result to the advantage of local authorities in cases such as these. Therefore, my Lords, my advice, as at present advised, is that your Lordships should not agree to the insertion of this proposed new clause.
507 I would point out to your Lordships—a fact which I have no doubt will weigh with you much more than any advice I can give—that this clause was almost consistently asked for from the late Lord Onslow and equally consistently refused by him after the County Council's representatives had been fully heard. The decision has been consistently against them for the reasons that I have pointed out. The noble Earl quoted Mr. McKenna's undertaking. As I read it, that undertaking is the best possible argument against the insertion of this clause. His undertaking was that public Departments were always ready to agree to the insertion of those clauses which are regarded in the practice of Parliament as model clauses; but model clauses merely represent the established practice of Parliament, and the established practice of Parliament since this matter has been gone into much more carefully than it had hitherto been has been to refuse the insert on of this clause, and for that reason my advice to your Lordships to-day is not to agree to the noble Earl's Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I do not think anybody can have listened to the Lord Chairman without seeing that he desires to deal with this subject in the most fair and considerate manner. On the other hand, I confess that listening to his speech I could almost have imagined myself back to the time when the whole of the social legislation of the last thirty years was unpassed. I remember in the early days of the 1880 Parliament when a Housing Committee sat for two years under the Presidency of Sir Richard Cross on purpose to relieve the then Metropolitan Board of the difficulties which had arisen, to which effect was given in 1885, and nobody will say that the terms then agreed to by Parliament were in any way unfair or have worked unfairly to the owners of insanitary areas. What my noble friend opposite practically says is this. You are at liberty to go forward with a scheme for an insanitary area under certain conditions, but it would be fatal if a public authority had the advantage of using those same conditions to amend sanitary areas at a moment when it is forced to acquire property for some other public purpose. I really think, with great respect to the Lord. Chairman, that that contention is out of date.
I cannot put before your Lordships sufficiently strongly the situation in which you place a great public authority like the 508 London County Council by adopting the contention, having surrounded the proceedings with all the safeguards which are necessary to see that the owner of an insanitary area gets the fullest compensation for the real value of that which he has to give up, that that advantage must not be reaped for the public unless you go into the arena solely for the purpose of securing that slum area at an enormous expense. This is indeed an urgent matter at this moment. I was sitting in the London County Council only a few moments ago. There is before that Council at the present moment, at the instance of the Board of Education, a proposal to which after a long bargain the County Council is now disposed to agree—that the whole of the classes should be reduced as rapidly as may be from their present size to forty-eight for small children and forty for larger children, and in order to do that the London County Council has to spend a sum amounting to £600,000 a year for all time in addition to the education charges of London, and a very large amount of that goes on the purchase of sites in order to provide these additional buildings. We argue that when you have a public authority, by agreement with the Government, undertaking so great a work, they should not be bound to co into the market and pay sums which we know the owners of these areas are not entitled to in order to keep up the distinction laid down by my noble friend. A public authority when it is working for sanitary purposes has an advantage which is denied to it if it is working for educational purposes.
I cannot help feeling that all that my noble friend said as regards the careful examination of this subject makes it necessary that some tribunal which is not the same tribunal should try these subjects and hear evidence and decide whether you are to ask the greatest municipality in the world to put their ratepayers to so great a charge. My noble friend Lord Stanhope, in his admirable resumé of the position in which we are placed, did not give actual figures, but I have some figures before me with regard to a site at St. Pancras, where property of an unsatisfactory character has been purchased estimated to cost fifty per cent. more than a good property site of equal area. It is unreasonable that the County Council should have to clear away good houses when it has close by a space, where a lung is much needed for the poorer children in that neighbourhood and an 509 opportunity of clearing away an insanitary area. I know that in these matters we are in the other House in the hands of the Government, but I would earnestly ask the noble Earl the First Commissioner of Works, who will reply, to give the facts a fresh consideration and compare the procedure in these cases with that adopted by Parliament with regard to public purchases made on behalf of the War Office. Years ago those purchases used to be under the Lands Clauses Acts. Parliament at length intervened and took steps to enable the War Office, for purposes of defence, to obtain property on more favourable terms. I cannot help thinking, having regard to the large extent to which the existing unrest in the large cities of this country is the result of bad and crowded dwellings, that when this House has the opportunity of putting in force, as I think, an absolutely just procedure, one which has been in other respects found to work without any injustice to the owner, it would be well if we were to adopt this procedure in this case—one of the largest this]louse has ever had to consider—rather than entrench ourselves behind the antiquated precepts of the past
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will realise that we are discussing two different points to-day. First of all there is the general question whether the principle of this Amendment is a good one and whether it is such an Amendment as should be inserted in Bills of this kind. We have also been discussing the smaller point—namely, whether this particular Amendment should be inserted in this particular Bill. I will deal with those two points as wholly separate points. With regard to the actual merits of this Amendment His Majesty's Government are not without sympathy with the noble Earl who has moved it, but the noble Earl. I think, might be warned that attacks such as those which he made upon His Majesty's Government are not likely to secure for him any overwhelming measure of support in his endeavours. Apart from the partisan attack which he made, His Majesty's Government think that this is a matter which might very fairly be considered, and I suggest to your Lordships whether it might not become a matter for consideration, either by a Joint Committee of both Houses, or by a Select Committee of this House, or in such way as the noble 510 Earl may suggest, so that in future the matter of the general principle might, having been once discussed, be either admitted or refused in connection with these Bills. Then let me turn to the smaller question as to whether we ought to insert this Amendment in this particular Bill. On that I hope that your Lordships will follow the advice of the Lord Chairman. That is generally the course which this House takes in matters of this kind, and I venture to hope your Lordships will take it to-day. I do not base my opposition on any question of the merits of the Amendment, but on a matter of order. Your Lordships will see at once that it would be a very unusual step if in a Provisional Order Bill we were to insert a very far-reaching Amendment admitting a principle which has always been refused hitherto in Bills of this kind. That is the ground of my objection to-day to the insertion in this Bill of the noble Earl's Amendment. The last words of the noble Viscount opposite confirmed my objection, for he said this was one of the largest matters which the House has had to consider.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I agree. But is if wise to insert in a Provisional Order Bill an Amendment dealing with this question? We ought to settle the general principle in the way I have suggested, and then say whether or not this clause should be inserted in all Provisional Order Bills. We could not allow a county council to take advantage of the procedure in this House in order to create a precedent by those means. We think, as I have said, that this matter should be dealt with generally and as a matter of principle, and if the noble Earl will suggest to us any way in which he thinks it most desirable that the matter should be considered His Majesty's Government will be glad to take his suggestion into consideration and do their best to meet him.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I think those who listened to the opening statement of my noble friend behind me (Earl Stanhope) must have been impressed by the strength of the case which he laid before the House. I am bound, indeed, to say that when he sat down I found it difficult to conjecture what answer was going to be made to him. The 511 outline of the case is a simple one. The County Council are obliged to provide a large increase of school accommodation. They find it necessary to give fewer places in each school room, and they have, therefore, no choice but to provide additional schools. Then the question arises where are they to put these schools. Is it better that they should take for the purpose sites which are occupied by suitable and sanitary buildings, or is it, on the contrary, better in the interest of the locality that they should go to sites which are occupied by squalid and low-class buildings, and achieve the double purpose of providing the schools which they want and also getting rid of what we describe as slum areas? The advantages of placing the school in the slum area seem to me obvious. And then my noble friend adds to his argument this, that under the procedure under which he proposes the owners of these slum areas should be compensated, not on an artificially enhanced rent which they obtain by crowding a great number of people on a narrow site, but on the true value of the property if reasonably used; and he points out that this is the principle upon which compensation is paid under the Housing of the Working Classes Act. Up to that point the case does seem to me to be a very strong one indeed.
What is the argument in reply? My noble friend at the Table (the Lord Chairman) whose authority on these matters we always recognise, tells us that my noble friend who has charge of the Amendment applies only a portion of the procedure laid down by the Housing of the Working Classes Act and not that procedure in its complete form; and I think he also argues that if these slum areas are to be taken in hand at all it is proper that they should be taken in hand under the Housing Acts and not incidentally under a Bill of this kind. I will not say that those arguments are devoid of force, but I am bound to say that when you come to an operation of this magnitude—for the building operation contemplated by this Bill is a very large operation—it is a little technical to suggest that what would otherwise on the merits seem a most admirable proposal should be ruled out of order because it is an operation which ought to be conducted under a different Bill.
Then I noticed that the noble Earl at the Table told us that under the Housing of the Working Classes Act the owner of the slum property is given an opportunity of, 512 so to speak, setting his house in order and putting the property into a proper and sanitary condition. But am I quite wrong in believing that under the Amendment of my noble friend such an opportunity would not be altogether denied to the proprietor? I see that in cases falling under my noble friend's Amendment when the arbitrator determines that there is a case for compensation he is obliged, in assessing that compensation, to receive evidence to show that the houses or premises are unfit and not reasonably capable of being made fit for human habitation. Therefore I infer that my noble friend's proposal would only come into operation in cases which were so bad that there was no prospect whatever of the premises being rendered sanitary and fit to be occupied.
The real argument upon which we are asked not to insert this Amendment is that it is unusual and inconvenient to incorporate a principle of this importance in a Provisional Order Bill, and I dare say there is something in that. On a point of that kind I am ready to defer to the opinion of my noble friend at the Table. But what impressed me more than that was the attitude of the noble Earl opposite who spoke for the Government. I was glad to note from his remarks that he does not by any means meet the Amendment with what we sometimes call a blank non possumus. What I gathered from him was that he which my noble friend rested his case. I gathered from him that he is prepared to entertain a suggestion, or perhaps to make a suggestion himself, with the object of obtaining some kind of inquiry into this matter. If that is really what His Majesty's Government have to suggest, and if the noble Earl will, perhaps, communicate to the House in a moment what kind of inquiry he has in his mind, I should advise my noble friend who moved the Amendment to be content with having brought the question before the House and having obtained from His Majesty's Government something like an assurance that the point which he has raised—the importance of winch we must all of us recognise—is going to be seriously examined and dealt with at a future time. If the noble Earl will tell us whether we may infer from what he said that some investigation of this sort would be approved by His Majesty's Government, I should certainly not advise my noble friend to divide the House.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Something of that kind was certainly in my mind, but I did not indicate whether the inquiry ought to take the form of a Select Committee or a Joint Committee, but any suggestion of the kind which comes from the noble Earl we shall be glad to consider. When we look into the matter we shall find that a number of technical questions, like model clauses, will have to be considered, and I hope that we shall have the assistance of the noble Earl in the Chair. If the noble Earl opposite will consult with me privately we may agree upon the kind of investigation.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I should like to say that nobody would welcome more than I should the inquiry suggested by the noble Earl who has just sat down, and I would gladly take part in it and place whatever information I could at the disposal of the Committee. As to the point mentioned by the noble Marquess in regard to safeguarding the abatement power, that point had been present in my mind, and I think the fact that the subsections of the proposed new clause are alternative—the word "or" joins them, not "and"—confirms my view of their effect. However, that is one of those points which would obviously come before the Committee, and I will see that it is not lost sight of.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I shall be glad to fall in with the suggestion of the noble Earl the First Commissioner of Works. It is a considerable advance on the attitude which the Board of Education have shown in their correspondence with the London County Council. That correspondence constituted entirely a non possumus. As to the remark made by my noble relative about a partisan attack, I should like to say that I only suggested that if the Government refused to take in hand an Amendment of this kind it was obvious that the statements they made were not intended to be carried into effect, and were merely "window dressing." But if they intend to put their statements into practice then I gladly withdraw that remark.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Bill reported without amendment, and to be read 3a To-morrow.