HL Deb 12 August 1919 vol 36 cc824-6

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Crawford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[LORD DENMAN in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Extension of definition of agricultural labourer.

1.—(1) For the purposes of the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1883 to 1918, and this Act, the definition of the expression "agricultural labourer" in section ninety-three of the Irish Land Act, 1903, shall be extended so as to include—

  1. (a) any person (other than a domestic or menial servant) working for hire in a rural district whose average wages exceed two shillings and sixpence a day;
  2. (b) any person not working for hire, but working in a rural district at some trade or handicraft without employing any persons except members of his own family:
Provided that this section shall not apply to any person who is in occupation of more titan a quarter of an acre of land exclusive of any plot or garden let to him by the rural district council.


I do not propose to move to Clause 1 the Amendments on the Paper precisely as they stand. I have bad some communication with the members of the Government, and I understand that the position with regard to the Bill is that, although there are many points of view which might be regarded as objectionable, as these cottages were intended for the poorest class they think it undesirable to restrict the occupation of them in the case of any labourers even though they may be earning £3, or £4 a week, and they desire also to take in craftsmen who are not working for hire.

There is one important point in regard to this question of which account must be taken—namely, that in the past the lettings of these houses by the rural authorities has been in some cases of the most Scandalous description. Houses have been built which cost the ratepayers 5s. a week—they will cost them more in the future—and they have been let in some districts for 1s. a week, and let not to the poorest class, for whom we should all have sympathy, but in some cases to men who are notoriously earning not only 2s. 6d. a day but some of them as much as 10s. a day. I can give your Lordships a case—which I am prepared to give to the Law Officers of the Crown if they wish it—in which four men, father and three sons, were for three years earning £200 a year apiece—namely, £800 a year, at a neighbouring munition works and yet were living in a cottage provided by the municipality which cost the local authorities 5s. a week and which was let for only 1s. a week.

Now, after conferring with the responsible members of the Government, an Amendment has been suggested to me which at all events would have the effect, while admitting the class the Government desire to benefit, of giving the Local Government Board control over these cases, and more especially would enable them to veto the introduction into these cottages of persons who were never intended by Parliament to occupy them. I do not think that anyone can object to this Amendment which will carry out the entire intention of the Bill, and I sincerely hope that your Lordships will allow it to be inserted.

Amendment moved—

Clause 1, page 1, line 15, after ("that") insert: (1) The rents charged on any lettings to any such persons should not be less than shall be specially prescribed by rules of the Local Government Board; and (II) Any questions that may arise as to whether a person is a person to whom this section applies stall be determined by the Local Government Board, whose determination shall be final and conclusive; and (III)").—(Viscount Midleton.)


I am ready to accept this Amendment. I think it is probably a good thing, with this extension of housing, to give the Local Government Board a locus standi in examining these matters. I would however point out that in England we have no inquiry into the wages of those who are going to come under the new Housing Act; and if, as Lord Midleton suggests, people with good wages come under this Bill the same thing will obtain in England mid people with handsome wages will come under our scheme.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.