§ Amendments reported (according to Order):
§ Clause 1:
§ Duty of local authority to prepare housing schemes.
§ 1.—(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority within the meaning of Part III of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), to consider the needs of their area with respect to the provision of houses for the working classes, and within three months after the passing of this Act, and thereafter as often as occasion arises, or within three months after notice has been given to them by the Local Government Board, to prepare and submit to the Local Government Board a scheme for the exercise of their powers under the said Part III.
§ (2) A scheme under this section shall specify—
- (a) the approximate number and the nature of the houses to be provided by the local authority;
- (b) the approximate quantity of land to be acquired and the localities in which land is to be acquired;
- (c) the average number of houses per acre;
- (d) the time within which the scheme or any part thereof is to be carried into effect;
- (e) the total estimated cost of the scheme;
- (f) the estimated rent obtainable for each house or group of houses in the scheme;
- (g) the estimated economic deficit resulting from the scheme, and the portion of that deficit to be charged upon the rates;
§ (3) The Local Government Board may approve any such scheme or any part thereof without modification or subject to such modifications as they may think fit, and the scheme or part thereof when so approved shall be binding on the local authority; but if the Board consider the scheme inadequate they may refuse to approve 700 the scheme and require the authority to prepare and submit to them an adequate scheme within such time as they may fix, or they may approve the scheme or part thereof subject to the condition that the authority prepare and submit to them a further scheme within such time as they may fix:
§ Provided that local authorities in preparing, and the Local Government Board in approving any scheme shall take into account, and so far as possible, preserve existing erections of architectural, historic, or artistic interest, and shall have regard to the natural amenities of the locality.
§ (4) If the Local Government Board consider as respects any local authority that an occasion for the preparation of a new scheme has arisen they shall give notice to that effect to the local authority, and thereupon such an occasion shall be deemed to have arisen.
§ (5) Where the local authorities concerned or the Local Government Board are of opinion that a scheme should be made affecting the areas of two or more local authorities, such a scheme shall be prepared by the local authorities jointly and may provide for joint action being taken by those local authorities and for the apportionment amongst the authorities of any expenses incurred in carrying the scheme into effect, and for the purposes of this subsection "local authority" shall in any case where the consent of the Local Government Board consent, and subject to any conditions which the Board may prescribe, include a county council.
§ (6) Local authorities in preparing, and the Local Government Board in approving, schemes shall make inquiry respecting and take into account any proposals by other bodies and persons to provide housing accommodation.
§ (7) Where any proposals as to the provision of houses for the working classes have before the passing of this Act been submitted to the Local Government Board by a local authority and those proposals have been approved by the Board, either before or after the passing of this Act, the proposals may if the Board so direct be treated, for any of the purposes of this Act, as if they were a scheme submitted and approved under this section.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (2), to leave out paragraphs (e), (f) and (g). The noble and learned Lord said: Consequential on this proposal there is another Amendment on the Paper to insert, as a new subsection, at the end of subsection (3)—
(4) Before the Local Government Board finally approve a scheme, the local authority shall furnish to them estimates of the cost of the scheme and of the rents expected to be derived from the houses provided under the scheme.
I felt, up to the last moment, great hesitation as to whether I should ask your Lordships to reverse the decision reached so short a time ago, and reached after debate, but, forming the best view I could, it seems to me to be my duty to ask your Lordships at least to reconsider the decision which was then arrived at. I do it with a sense of gravity, because I hardly exaggerate
when I say that those who are responsible for making these proposals feel that the Amendment which was adopted during the Committee stage is of such a character and will have such an effect as to paralyse the attempt which is being made to meet this pressing national need.
§ After all, the Government have the responsibility of dealing with a situation of quite unexampled seriousness. Nobody else has that responsibility and, on behalf of the promoters of this Bill, it is my duty to tell your Lordships, and I do tell your Lordships, that in out view the usefulness of the Bill will be enormously reduced if the Amendment to which your Lordships assented in Committee is retained. Having regard to the view of your Lordships that the matter should go to the House of Commons and then come back here, I would gladly adopt that course even now—if that be the opinion of those who supported the Amendment—before any further pronouncement upon it by your Lordships, so that you should have the advantage of hearing the view of the House of Commons. If that be the sense of the House I shall not press my Amendment at all. But I am led to suppose that it may not be distasteful to your Lordships to reconsider the matter even at this stage.
When the Amendment was moved, in the name of Lord Downham, inserting these paragraphs, I opposed it on two main grounds—in the first place, that the acceptance of the Amendment would involve a most serious and fatal delay; and, in the second place, that any estimates of cost which the local authorities submit at the outset would, as a rule, be of no practical value, because they could not be based on detailed plans and specifications. The Amendment was carried in spite of those arguments. I am not sure that some noble Lords who supported it did not do so under some misapprehension of the real intentions of the Government. For example, my noble friend Lord Salisbury, referring to the provisions under the draft Regulations which empower the Local Government Board to reduce the Exchequer subsidy in the event of extravagance in construction, said—
That is the method of cheek which is proposed, but as I have shown, or tried to show, it will operate only after tin house is erected; and for the reason which I have explained, that the first fixing of the amount of Treasury contribution does not take place until after the houses are actually in existence and ready for letting.
While it is quite true that the amount of the subsidy will not be fixed till after the houses have been erected, it is by no means the case that this is the first occasion on which the Local Government Board can check the cost. The whole case which I. tried to snake plain was that the cost can only be properly checked if estimates based on detailed plans and specifications are before the Local Government Board, and this is simply impossible at the first stage. The cost is most carefully checked—it must, of course, be carefully checked—at each stage, in the light of estimates which are based not on mere assumptions but on detailed information, and the detailed estimates are minutely examined before the scheme is finally approved and before any sanction is given to the borrowing of money for the purposes of the scheme.
§ I attach great importance to one consideration. The original plan of the Bill is in accordance with the recommendation of the Finance Committee, which was appointed under the chairmanship of a most eminent accountant to supervise the financial aspect of the housing programme. A special finance official, assisted by an expert staff, has been appointed whose duty it is to examine every scheme from the financial standpoint in the initial stages. The Amendment will bring the Bill into line with the actual method of operation which has been recommended by the Finance Committee, and at the same time will secure those safeguards to which Lord Salisbury, Lord Downham, and others of your Lordships' House quite rightly attach importance. I hope, therefore, that this Amendment will commend itself to the House as a reasonable attempt to reconcile the views expressed by these noble Lords with the actual administrative machinery which has been devised after careful consideration by the Housing Department and the Finance Committee.
§ In ordinary circumstances I should not have asked your Lordships to revise a decision so lately given, but the circumstances are a little extraordinary. The imperious need for this Bill is conceded by everybody. Those responsible for it be-live that in the shape in which it left your Lordships' House in Committee it will involve a degree of delay which will defeat the fundamental objects we all have in view. I therefore earnestly ask your Lordships to consider favourably this 703 Amendment; adding that if those who think it is not quite respectful to ask that a decision so recently reached should be reversed, I should certainly not put this proposal to the test of a Division, but wait until your Lordships have had the advantage of ascertaining the considered opinion of the House of Commons upon your Amendment. I confess that I should regard it as a great advantage if it were possible for your Lordships to accept this Amendment.
Page 2, lines 4 to 9, leave out paragraphs (e), (f), and (g).—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD DOWNHAM
As the author of the Amendment (kindly moved for me by my noble friend opposite) to include paragraphs (e), (f) and (g), in the first clause of the Bill, I desire to say a few words in support of that Amendment. The noble and learned Lord was, I know, opposed to the Amendment from the very first. He said then, as he has said now, that if this Amendment is incorporated in the Bill it must involve considerable delay. I have never been impressed by that argument, and I am not impressed by it now.
At the same time if the Lord Chancellor says, speaking for the Department which, after all, has to carry out this great housing scheme, that the effect of this Amendment generally will be to delay schemes being put forward by local authorities I should have to consider seriously whether I should press the Amendment on your Lordships' notice; more especially as the noble and learned Lord has undoubtedly made a great and valuable concession in the direction in which all noble Lords were thinking when we argued the case before. But when he says with great authority that if this Amendment is included it will cause great delay in schemes being put forward, let me give him what is my own personal experience. The London County Council have recently put forward large housing schemes—to build 10,000 houses within two years, and another for building 19,000 houses on certain conditions within five years—and in doing so have not only stated the approximate number and the nature of the houses to be provided by the local authority, the approximate quantity of land to be acquired and the localities in which land is to be acquired, the average 704 number of houses per acre, the time within which the scheme or any part thereof is to be carried into effect, but we have also stated the total estimated cost of the scheme (something like £30,000,000), the estimated rent obtainable for each house or group of houses, and the estimated economic deficit resulting from the scheme. We have gone so far as to state the portion of that deficit which is likely to be charged on the rates. We have had no difficulty in doing this, and I have never seen why any difficulty should arise.
Where any local authority sets to work and goes so far as to pick out the land on which it is going to build, states the kind of houses which it is going to build (three-roomed, four-roomed or five-roomed houses), it is compelled by the original Bill to go as far as this, and states the average number of houses which it is intended to build per acre and the time within which the scheme or any part of it can be carried into effect; if you go as far as that you are almost bound to take into account the total estimated cost of the scheme. What did your Lordships ask in putting in this Amendment? Nothing but an estimate of the total cost of the scheme. The price of land is known, we have had much experience of what builders are likely to charge for erecting these houses, and we also know the estimated rent obtainable for each house or group of houses. The Ministry of Health have given us some guidance. They say you must look at houses of a similar kind in the neighbourhood and ascertain what kind of rent people are obtaining for them, and by that you must make the best estimate you can as to what rent you are likely to obtain from the houses you build.
I admit it is difficult, but we only ask for an estimate of the cost and then the estimated economic deficit resulting from the scheme. All that has been worked out by the London County Council on a far larger scale than is likely to be submitted by any other local authority. We are able to state the deficit which will result, and how it will result; and I am sorry to say that the average deficit on the whole of the 29,000 houses is likely to figure at nearly £36 a year each. We are able to state all these things. I cannot understand how the Minister of Health can be in a position to approve the schemes unless he knows the cost, or has an estimate of the total cost, an estimate of the rents 705 which are likely to be received, and unless he knows—and he is bound to protect the Treasury—what deficit is likely to arise.
Or is it this. That the Ministry of Health are going to order all local authorities to build houses at whatever cost. On the London County Council we were unformed by the Housing Board that we were not to inquire too particularly into the cost, that we were to build houses at any cost. I said "At any cost?" and the answer was, "Yes, you are to put down the foundations for 10,000 houses before Christmas. Never mind the cost, get on with the houses." If that is going to be the order of the Ministry of Health then there is no need to have any estimates at all. I will not take the responsibility of delaying the building of houses. The noble and learned Lord has, I admit, met me to a large extent. I would ask him whether he could not meet me a little further. He is willing to give to your Lordships this Amendment—Before the Local Government Board finally approve a scheme, the local authority shall furnish to them estimates of the cost of the scheme kind of the rents expected to be derived from the houses provided tinder the scheme.Will my noble and learned friend give me (g) as well—the estimated economic deficit resulting from the scheme. Why not? If you have made out your cost and your rents and all the deductions you will have to make by way of your sinking fund, for your returns, empties, and management. All these are matters of very easy calculation, and it is to my mind most important that the Ministry of Health should know, and we should know though the Ministry, what are going to be the deficits on these Schemes.
It is all very well for the local authorities to be told "What does the deficit matter to you: beyond the cost of a 1d. rate you will not be affected." We are not only here to protect the rate-payers, we ought also to protect the tax-payers and the Exchequer, and we ought to see that in carrying out these schemes we carry them out as economically as possible; and even if the total deficit falls upon the taxes instead of on the rates the local authorities ought to be just as much the guardian of the public purse of the tax-payer as of the purse of the rate-payer. How can we set up ourselves as champions of economy, how can we try to reduce the prices of the builders for erecting houses, if we are not 706 to be in a position to form any of these estimates? I still think that the Amendment which we carried was a most reasonable Amendment. I believe that on consideration it would commend itself to the House of Commons, but I am aware that my noble and learned friend has stated that this would paralyse the operations of the Ministry of Health and strike a fatal blow at the scheme of the Ministry of Health. If he states that upon his authority, I feel that we ought not to oppose him, but I will ask hint to reconsider the matter anti ace whether even now he will not go a little further and add (g) to ask each local authority before schemes are filially approved by the Local Government Board to put down the estimated economic deficit resulting from the scheme.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am glad that my noble friend does not find it necessary to resist this Amendment, and if I may say so I think he is right in the conclusion he has reached. I do take absolutely the responsibility which he attributed to me. In the opinion of all the responsible advisers of the Government his Amendment would introduce so much delay as greatly to jeopardise the primary object of the Bill. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his attitude, and he has asked me whether I will agree to the insertion of the original subsection (g) of his Amendment. I am not sure that the noble Lord does not sometimes forget that ail local authorities are not equipped with the trained, qualified technical advisers of the county council over which he presides with so much dignity. There are many bodies by no means so fortunate in this respect.
I ask the noble Lord to bear this in mind. I have given him all the substance for which he asks, and I do not think he should press me any further. In the consequential Amendment which I shall move at page 2, line 28—and I derive this suggestion front his speeches in Committee—I propose to insert as a new subsection: "(4) Before the Local Government Board filially approve a scheme, the local authority shall furnish to them, estimates of the cost of the scheme and of the rents expected to be derived from the houses provided under the scheme." The noble Lord knows that the staff of the Local Government Board, the moment they are given as they must be estimates 707 of the total cost of the scheme and of the rents expected to be derived from the houses, will be able to arrive at a very reliable economic estimate. I think that my noble friend, if he considers the matter, will come to the conclusion that I have very fairly met him.
I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord who is responsible for the Amendment ran away rather too soon after he had shown quite clearly that what has been done in the Bill could be done without substantial delay. We have most of us read in The Times the Report of the London County Council, setting forth in a very clear way what the cost will be and what the loss, and I want to lay stress upon this point on this Amendment. The noble Lord referred to recommendations issued and instructions given not in an Act of Parliament but by a Government Department., as to what was to be the basis of rental of these houses, having regard to the existing rentals of other houses of the same class. I do not admit for a moment that that is to be the basis of the rental of these new houses. They are going to cost a great deal more, and I believe I ant not wrong in saying that if you put the rentals on a commercial basis at about half of what they should be they would still be greatly in excess of the rentals which are now paid, especially as you must remember that rentals are now fixed by Act of Parliament, which prevents landlords raising them to an economic basis: and however much you may try to make the working man happy by subsidising his house at the expense of the taxes he will still have to pay more than at present.
But we are left in a region which is certain to lead to a great deal of discontent, resentment, and disaffection, because we have had statements by Ministers holding out hopes which will be contested as promises which bind Parliament and the country. For instance, we have been told that both now and hereafter the burden upon the rates is not to be more than a 1d. in the £. On the other hand we have been told by the same authority that when the five or seven years are up, during which the transitional or high cost will have passed away, this rent is to be put at such an amount as to lead to a commercial return upon the capital invested, the difference 708 being taken over by the State, and we are told that the State will require the local authorities to put the rents at such a figure as will secure the Central Government from further loss; but it seems to me that we are in great danger, if we submit the estimated economic deficit, that that will mean when things are stabilised, and it will be a question whether the Governmental Department which has to pass the plans has to pass them accepting the statement that the ultimate economic deficit is so much, or whether it will have to take into consideration the matters to which I have referred above.
We are threatened with this as a sort of emergency measure which we were told, as a kind of pistol at our heads, we must accept as it was presented or take the responsibility. I think it is the duty of Parliament to see that things are sound, and as to this expenditure we do not know where it will lead, because it is quite obvious when you begin to build very good houses with the expectation of letting them to what are known as the working classes at perhaps half the economic rent, and that is rather higher than these people are willing to pay, you will find it hard to exclude the lower middle class man, the clerk earning say £150 a year. He will ask why he should pay a higher rent and heavy taxes in order to give his neighbour a house at half the price. The whole thing is so mixed up at present that it is sure to lead to great heart burning and discussion when the Act comes to be put in force. I think the local authority, which builds the house and accepts plans even under Government supervision, ought to accept responsibility for bearing the loss. But whether' you do that or not, you ought to put it plainly in this Bill that you will force both sides to give full information. I deny that that would delay any scheme.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not propose to follow the noble Lord into a discussion of the financial provisions of the Bill. Your Lordships are aware that many have great doubts whether the economic position of the Bill is sound, but that really is not the point raised by the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The noble and learned Lord, I thought, spoke in very appropriate language of the respect due to your Lordships, and of his wish not to ask you to reverse what you did in 709 Committee on Report. I share entirely the view of the noble and learned Lord, and if it were a question of reversing what your Lordships did in Committee I should recommend such a course to the House with very great reluctance. But in truth that is not the case.
The Amendment which was passed nominally on my Motion, but really on behalf of my noble friend below the gangway, is not to be reversed in substance bat only to a limited extent. The greater part, or at all events that part of it to which I attribute importance, is re-enacted in the form of an Amendment by the Lord Chancellor. The truth is that there is no provision on the face of the Bill which would lead any one to suppose that any check was to be exercised over the proposals of the local authority until after the houses were erected, except those checks which were recited in this clause, and as the Bill reached us from the House of Commons it did not include any question of the expenditure which was involved. My noble friend below the gangway called attention to that, and said that if any particulars were to be furnished to the Local Government Board which were necessary before their consent was given, the expense which was involved was certainly in the first instance essential, and that is now conceded by the Government. It is a very great concession. Though I admit my noble friend has not got everything he asked, yet he has got the greater part of it, and in this imperfect world that is about as much as one could reasonably hope. I venture to suggest that your. Lordships would be well advised to accept the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY had an Amendment on the Paper, at the end of subsection (3), to insert "and in order to secure that houses proposed to be built or reconstructed by local authorities under the provisions of the Housing Acts, shall be of suitable architecture, and that the natural amenities of the locality shall not be unnecessarily injured, a local authority may, in accordance with regulations made by the Local Government Board under this Act, employ an architect who shall be selected from a panel of architects nominated by the Royal Institute of British Architects, to advise local authorities in the preparation of housing schemes."710
§ The noble Marquess said: The next Amendment standing in my name I will move in two or three sentences. Your Lordships will remember that on the Committee stage of the Bill I was fortunate enough to persuade the House to accept an Amendment of 'nine up to a certain point—that is, the Amendment which now stands in the Bill in line 24. It is a proviso which makes it possible for the Local Government Board or their representatives to consider the question of architectural and picturesque amentiy before they give their consent. The principle is conceded in the Amendment which the Government accepted upon the Committee stage, but there is no machinery for carrying the principle into effect. I therefore was anxious that the Government should accept certain machinery which was set forth in Committee stage. I was not able to persuade the Government at that moment. I think they had hardly had time honestly to consider the proposal and to appreciate it, but I hope I may be more fortunate on the present occasion.
I believe that I should be more likely to be successful with the Government if the terms in which I move this Amendment were slightly modified, and if I may I would move it not in the form as it is upon the Paper, but in the form I will now read to your Lordships. It comes in at exactly the same place, after "locality," and would read as follows—
and in order to secure that the houses proposed to be built under the scheme shall be of a suitable architecture, and that the natural amenities of the locality shall not be unnecessarily injured, the Local Government Board may, in any case where it appears to them that the character of the locality renders such a course expedient., require as a condition of their approval the employment by the local authority of an architect to be selected from a panel of architects nominated by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
I am rather similarly placed to my noble friend—namely, that as the Government cannot accept it in the form on which it is on the Paper, and as I cannot get all I ask, I shall be content to get a great deal. I am prepared to take it in the form that I have indicated if I have the assent of the House.
§ Honestly I tell the House that I should like to make it the ride, almost without exception, that local authorities should employ architects when they build these houses. I do not mean an architect of European repute. I do not mean a gentle 711 man who would expect and deserve a very high fee, but I do mean somebody who is trained to consider building from the point of view not merely of what is strictly useful but what is becoming also, for a greater disaster there could not be than that we should scatter over England and Wales 400,000 or 500,000 hideous cottages which will be a discredit to this country not only during our life time, but during the life times of our sons and grandsons at the very least. I should have liked to have provided that architects should be essential in every case. The words which I have read will not ensure that, but will only do it when the Local Government Board consider that the circumstances of the case are such as to require it. That is I admit a very great limitation, still if your Lordships are kind enough to let me put those words into the Bill it would go back to the House of Commons in that form and I should not be surprised if the House of Commons were to dot some of the i's, if I may use such a phrase. We should then have made the provision much more effective. I therefore move the words which I have read out.
Page 2, line 28, at end insert: ("and in order to secure that the houses proposed to be built under the scheme shall be of a suitable architecture, and that the natural amenities of the locality shall not be unnecessarily injured, the Local Government Board may, in any case where it appears to them that the character of the locality renders such a course expedient require as a condition of their approval the employment by the local authority of an architect to be selected from a panel of architects nominated by the Royal Institute of British Architects").—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It was pointed out in the discussion on Committee stage that the cost of these architects was to be a charge on the capital sum, and that being so, local authorities probably would be quite ready to incur that expenditure. No doubt the proposals made by the noble Marquess opposite do more specifically carry out what I may call the "buried" intention, and will insure some amenity among these numerous groups of houses to be built. The Government are quite ready to accept the noble Marquess's Amendment in its amended form.
I was rather surprised to hear the noble Marquess say that, following the example of the noble Lord below the gangway, as he could not get all he wanted he would be content to get 712 something. But he is asking for much more in his amended Amendment than he asked in the original one, because he is now, if the Local Government Board think it desirable, putting compulsion upon people who have to build and incur the expense. He has put "they may require them to employ an architect." Therefore there is no discretion left to them. The noble Marquess suggested that you should get a cheap architect, not a man at the top of his profession, but I think if any architect were to undertake to work for a local authority below the trade union rate, as I may call it—now 6 per cent.—he would be treated as a blackleg, if not worse, by the Royal Institute of British Architects. You are not going to get architects who will under-cut the recognised professional scale of remuneration. I should also like to ask what happens supposing you add by your picturesqueness at least £50 to the cost of each house.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Lord is under a complete delusion. It is not more expensive to build a beautiful building than an ugly one. It is a matter of how you do it.
I do not know whether the noble Marquess knows the picturesque cottages near his own house and others at a distance. There was a cheap architect to whom the noble Marquess referred, and I put myself into communication with him, and anything more gloomy looking than the cottages he designed I cannot imagine. People have referred to Port Sunlight. I believe the cottages built by Lord Leverhulme there have been from £150 to £200 dearer than other cottages which are plainly constructed. At any rate, a workman who takes a cottage, if begets good conveniences, a bath room and other things, will not like to pay an extra £1 a year or more for ornaments which will please the eye of the tourist.
The question is, Will this extra cost increase the economic rent, and will it fall on the nation? Is the nation to incur expense on these million cottages which are to be built merely in order to ensure picturesqueness? If the Government accept this Amendment, I suppose it will go through, but it is only another illustration of the reckless manner in which we incur any amount of expenditure, though 713 yesterday we were all in the gloomiest state, and talking about the country being on the verge of bankruptcy owing to reckless expenditure.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, at the end of subsection (3), to insert as a new subsection: "(4). Before the Local Government Board finally approve a scheme, the local authority shall furnish to them estimates of the cost of the scheme and of the rents expected to be derived from the houses provided under the scheme." The noble and learned Lord said: This Amendment needs no explanation, having regard to the discussion which has taken place. It will carry out the assurance which I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Downham.
Page 6, line 28, at end, insert the said subsection.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE moved, after subsection (3), to insert the following new subsection: "(4) Where it appears to the Local Government Board that in or in the neighbourhood of the area to which any such scheme relates, there are existing houses which from their situation or for any other reason are most suitable and are required for occupation by persons of the working classes employed in agriculture, but which are in fact occupied by persons not so employed, it shall be the duty of the Board to consider whether in determining the approximate number of houses proposed to be provided by the scheme, the local authority has had sufficient regard to the existence of such houses as aforesaid and to the demand for the same by persons of the working classes employed in agriculture."
§ The noble Lord said: I may remind your Lordships that I moved a similar Amendment on the Committee stage of the Bill, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack expressed considerable sympathy with the object at which I and others were aiming. He expressed doubt as to whether the Amendment was moved at the right place in the Bill, but suggested that it would receive sympathetic consideration at the hands of the Government before the Report stage. I may remind you that a rural area may be quite fully equipped 714 with the houses necessary for its normal industrial population, that is to say, in the main a population employed in agriculture, and yet at the expense of its local ratepayers may have a scheme forced upon it for the benefit of urban workers, miners, the employees of Government, or the local authority, or even well-to-do "weekenders," as I believe they are called—persons who are prepared to take picturesque rural cottages at some distance from the towns and occupy them at the week-ends only.
§ This operates as a very serious injustice not merely to the agricultural labourers, who should be placed for their work as nearly as possible in the vicinity of the farms upon which they work, but also to the unfortunate rate payers of those areas who may have to go to very considerable expense in providing for a population which is not normally there. We do not know what the future of our agricultural industry is destined to be, but it seems almost impossible to believe that, in any case, the agricultural labourer will be able to pay as high a rent as the employees of most urban industries. The arable area has considerably increased in the last two years, involving a large increase, for the time being at any rate, of the rural population. There is great scarcity of cottages in the rural districts, in consequence, and in those very areas we find a very large number of persons who are not rural workers at all, and who are occupying cottages which rightfully belong to those who work on the land.
Page 2, line 28, after subsection (3), insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Bledisloe.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
As my noble friend Lord Bledisloe stated, the Lord Chancellor expressed sympathy with the general object of the Amendment on the Committee stage. Time noble Lord has moved his Amendment in a considerably modified form, but, after all, what does the Amendment amount to? He says that in a particular locality several houses, which in his view ought to be occupied by the agricultural population, are inhabited by coal miners and others, or even by persons whom he describes with something of a touch of contempt as "week-enders." What does that amount to? It simply means that there are not sufficient cottages for the rural population. If that is so, that is not the last, but absolutely the 715 first consideration which would enter into the mind of the local authority in considering the general needs of the neighbourhood. It would mean there is a shortage of cottages, and that shortage of cottages it would be the first duty of the local authority to remedy.
What I suggest to my noble friend, therefore, is that he is only pushing an open door. He is, in a specific Amendment, directing the local authority to take into consideration one of the factors which it is already its duty to take into consideration. Is it wise to insert some specific administrative provision of this kind in the Bill? Because, if you lay stress upon a particular matter that ought to be considered by the local authority, then ought you not to enumerate all the considerations that would apply to the local authority? Is my noble friend really wise in picking out this particular one which must, as I say, be the first that comes into the mind of the local authority?
I suggest to my noble friend that it is hardly worth while pressing an Amendment of this kind. He knows the unwisdom of putting surplusage into a clause. Moreover, there is some doubt as to the actual words employed by my noble friend, whether the words in his Amendment "consider whether the local authority has had sufficient regard to the existence of such houses" would be in any sense really operative; because all that the Board do is to go to the local authority and ask them the question, and they would obviously be satisfied in this case with the reply. Therefore, while having every sympathy with the end aimed at my noble friend, I suggest that he really would not further his aim by pressing this Amendment, and perhaps lie will leave the general obligation of providing for the needs of the agricultural population on the local authority, where it now rests.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I feel it is a little difficult to justify the insertion of this provision in this particular place. I should have liked to have seen it in a different part of the Bill if the Bill had been from my point of view suitably framed. I do not want to delay the proceedings of the House on this Bill by further consideration of this Amendment. I can only hope that as the present Minister of Health is himself the son of a leading agriculturist lie will bear these considerations in mind.
§ Amendment, by leave withdrawn.716
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved, in subsection (5), to leave out from "jointly" to "and" in line 40 ["and for the purposes of this subsection"] and to insert "and the local authority of each area to which any part of any such joint scheme applies may, or, if the Local Government Board after giving the local authority an opportunity of being heard, so direct, shall carry out that part of the joint scheme." The noble Marquess said: It will not take me snore than a second or two to explain this Amendment to your Lordships—
Page 2, line 37, leave out from ("jointly") to (`"and") in line 40, and insert the said words.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 3, lines 1 and 2, leave out ("the consent of").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Power to authorise county council to act in place of local authority.
§ 3.—(1) Where the Local Government Board are satisfied that a local authority have failed or are not prepared to fulfil their obligations as to the preparation of schemes under this Act, or their obligations under any such scheme, or that for any other reason it is desirable that any such obligation should be performed by the county council instead of by the local authority, the Board, after considering the circumstances of the case and giving the local authority and the county council an opportunity of being heard, may, if they think fit, by order, transfer to the council of the county in which the district of the local authority is comprised the obligation to prepare and carry out a scheme, or to carry out in whole or in part the provisions of a scheme prepared by the local authority.
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY moved, in subsection (1), after "may" ["may, if they think fit"], to insert "with the consent of such county council." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to what seems to be the very unsatisfactory position of the county councils under this clause as it now stands. Your Lordships will remember that county councils have 717 only limited staffs with which to get through the large amount of work placed upon them, which work in the last few years has been much increased. In fact, the county councils at the present time have as much as they can possibly do to look after their county work. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that it is essential for the good working of local government in the counties that all the authorities in the county should work harmoniously together.
§ May I give your Lordships a case in point? Take the County Council of Nottinghamshire, of which I have the honour to be chairman. In that county there is the City of Nottingham, with a population of nearly 260,000. What would be the position of the county council if they were suddenly called upon under Clause 3 to "transfer to the council of the county in which the district of the local authority is comprised the obligation to prepare and carry out a scheme, or to carry out in whole or in part the provisions of a scheme prepared by the local authority"? It would be practically impossible for the county council to do it. I would ask your Lordships to consider what would be the feeling of the City of Nottingham if they had a scheme forced on them against their wish. There are other boroughs in the county consisting of 40,000 inhabitants, and some rural and urban districts with populations of over 20,000. The effect of this clause would be to try and force these matters on county councils and to create friction and ill-feeling in the whole of the county.
§ I am aware that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill may tell me that it is not likely that such a step would be taken by the. Local Government Board as to ask the county council to force a scheme upon such a large place as the City of Nottingham. But after all is said and done, although I know that the noble Lord would carry out his assurance to the full, an assurance of the noble Lord given in this House is a very different thing from an Act of Parliament. A great many of us have not that confidence in a bureaucracy to tempt us to leave words in an Act of Parliament which might give a bureaucracy greater power than we wish it to have. It seems to me that it would be very much better if the words I suggest were put in here. The county council, knowing the local feeling, would know its ability to do the work with its staff, 718 and certainly it would be most unfair to the ratepayers of the county to ask the council to increase its staff and thereby impose a greater rate on the county, in order to carry out schemes of this sort. If the local municipal or other authorities fail in carrying out the scheme surely it is the duty of the Local Government Board to force it on the various local authorities and not bring unnecessary and undeserved odium on the county councils by their having to do work outside their province.
Page 3, line 32, after ("may") insert ("with the consent of such county council").—(Viscount Galway.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I would submit to my noble friend that this Amendment is really unnecessary. In the first place I would merely allude to the case of Nottingham, to which the noble Viscount has referred. Nottingham is a county borough, and therefore that case would not apply in this instance. However much my noble friend may distrust bureaucracy, I suppose he will assume that bureaucrats like other people do not want to do things that are a trouble to themselves—that they would take probably the line of least resistance. Already in the clause they consult the county council before any such action is taken; and does my noble friend really suggest that, after they have consulted the county council and after the council have shown by every reasonable way that it is not really possible for them to undertake this work, the bureaucrats are going to say, "They shall do it"? What would be the result? The result would be that there would be another interminable delay, and in the end the Local Government Board would have to step in and do the work. The Ministry of Health would be entirely responsible for the delay, because they would have consulted the county council, heard the whole case, and then they would be acting directly in defiance of the reasonable views of the county council. The only other possible case one could imagine is that the county was acting unreasonably, and the plea of my noble friend is that the county council should, although it is acting unreasonably, be able to stop the building of houses. If it is reasonable the Ministry of Health, of course, would not intervene.
The county council could not stop the Local Government Board or the Ministry of Health going on with their work.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
No. That is precisely what I am pointing out. If they had good reasons for not doing it the Ministry of Health would say, "Very well, certainly we shall not call upon you to do it; we will do it ourselves." You must allow some degree of common sense to the Ministry of Health. My noble friend is really assuming that when it has been shown that the county council cannot reasonably undertake the duty nevertheless the Ministry of Health will force it upon them, cause another interminable delay, and then have to do the building of the houses itself. I submit that this Amendment is really unnecessary. We must assume the Bill to be carried out in a reasonable way.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 5:
§ Power to act in default of local authority under Parts I and II of principal Act.
§ 5. Without prejudice to any other powers for enforcing the provisions of the Housing Acts. where the Local Government Board are satisfied that any area within the district of a local authority is an area in respect of which the local authority ought to exercise their powers under Part I or Part II of the principal Act, the Board may by order require the local authority to make a scheme for the improvement of such area under Part I or under Part II of that Act and to do all things necessary under the Housing Acts for carrying into execution the scheme so made, and if the local authority fail within such time as may be prescribed by the order to make a scheme to the satisfaction of the Local Government Board, and to carry the scheme into execution, the Board may either authorise the county council to make and carry out a scheme, or themselves make and take such steps as may be necessary to carry out a scheme, and the provisions of the last two foregoing sections of this Act in regard to the powers of county councils and the Board, as the case may be, shall apply.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved to leave out, "authorise" and insert "by order empower."
Page 5, line 15, leave out ("authorise") and insert ("by order empower").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to720
§ Clause 7:
§ Power to recoup losses.
§ 7.—(1) If it appears to the Local Government Board that the carrying out by a local authority, or by a county council to whom the powers of a local authority have been transferred under this Act, of any scheme approved under section one of this Act, or the carrying out of a re-housing scheme in connection with a scheme made under Part I or Part II of the principal Act, including the acquisition, clearance, and development of land included in the last-mentioned scheme, and whether the re-housing will be effected on the area included in that scheme or elsewhere, or the carrying out of any scheme approved by the Board for the provision of houses for persons in the employment of or paid by a county council or a statutory committee thereof, has resulted or is likely to result in a loss, the Board shall, if the scheme is carried out within such period after the passing of this Act as may be specified by the Board with the consent of the Treasury, pay or undertake to pay to the local authority or county council out of the moneys provided by Parliament such part of the loss as may be determined to be so payable under regulations made by the Board with the approval of the Treasury, subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by those regulations.
§ (2) Such regulations shall provide that the amount of any annual payment to be made under this section shall—
- (a) in the case of a scheme carried out by a local authority, be determined on the basis of the estimated annual loss resulting from the carrying out of any scheme or schemes to which this section applies, subject to the deduction therefrom of a sum not exceeding the estimated annual produce of a rate of one penny in the pound levied in the area chargeable with the expenses of such scheme or schemes; and
- (b) in the case of a scheme for the provision of houses for persons in the employment of or paid by a county council, be an amount equivalent to thirty per centum of the annual loan charges as calculated in accordance with the regulations on the total capital expenditure incurred by the county council for the purposes of the scheme:
§ Provided that the regulations shall include provisions—
- (i) for the reduction of the amount of the annual payment in the event of a failure on the part of the local authority or county council to secure due economy in the carrying out and administration of a scheme or otherwise to comply with the conditions prescribed by the regulations;
- (ii) for the determination of the manner in which the produce of a rate of one penny in the pound shall be estimated; and
- (iii) for any adjustment which may be necessary in consequence of any difference between the estimated annual produce and the actual produce of the said rate of one penny in the pound.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (2) (b), after "council" where that word first occurs, to insert "or a statutory committee thereof." The noble and learned Lord said: This is consequential upon the insertion in the Committee stage of similar words in Clause 7, page 5, line 40. It is merely a matter of drafting.
Page 6, line 22, after (`"council") insert ("or a statutory committee thereof").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK had on the Paper an Amendment id subsection (2) (i), after "scheme," to insert "(including any deficiency of estimated income which the Local Government Board consider to be due to the insufficiency of the rents proposed to be charged by the local authority or county council)." The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is to ensure that the Local Government Board, in making regulations under the Act, shall make regulations to ensure that the houses erected by the local authority under a scheme are let at a reasonable and sufficient rent.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not know whether it would shorten the business to say that the Government are in sympathy with the object of this Amendment and are perfectly prepared to accept it, but suggest that another form would be more efficient and shorter. The suggestion of the Government is to insert, after the word "scheme" in line 31, the words "to charge sufficient rents," which I think entirely meets the point of the noble Earl. If he will be good enough to move the Amendment in that form, the Government will accept it at once.
THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
If the noble Viscount is of opinion that the words suggested will have the same effect, I am perfectly willing to accept them and to substitute them for the words I have in the Paper.
TEE LORD CHANCELLOR
The variation suggested by the noble Viscount will have the same effect which the noble Earl seeks to attain, and that effect will be obtained in a more satisfactory manner.
Page 6, One 31, after ("scheme"), insert ("to charge sufficient rents"),—(The Earl of Northbrook.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 8:
§ Borrowing powers of county councils in connection with the housing of their employees.
§ 8.—(1) Where money is borrowed by a county council for the purpose of the provision of houses for persons in the employment of or paid by the council or a statutory committee thereof, or of acquiring land for such houses, the maximum period for repayment shall be eighty years, and as respects money so borrowed eighty years shall be substituted for thirty years in subsection (5) of section sixty-nine of the Local Government Act, 1888.
§ (2) When a loan is made by the Public Works Loan Commissioners to county council for any such purposes as aforesaid, it shall be made on the same terms and conditions as a Joan to a local authority for the purposes of the Housing Acts.
§ (3) A county council shall have power and shall be deemed always to hare had power to provide houses for persons in the employment of or paid by the council or a statutory committee thereof, and for that purpose a county council may be authorised to acquire land in like manner as a. local authority may be authorised to acquire land for the purposes of Part III of the principal Act.
§ (4) In this section the expression "county council" shall include any such board or body as is mentioned in section seven of this Act.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved to leave out subsection (4) and to insert: "(4) This section shall apply to any such board or body as is mentioned in subsection (5) of section 7 of this Act in like manner as it applies to a county council, with the substitution of a reference to the provisions fixing the period within which such board or body is required to repay loans for the reference to subsection (5) of section 69 of the Local Government Act, 1888."
§ The noble and learned Lord said: This matter is extremely technical, but in effect the Amendment is merely a drafting Amendment. A number of boards and bodies are mentioned in Section 7 of the Act, but obviously it is only those boards and bodies mentioned in subsection (5) to which reference should be made in this place. The Lancashire Asylums Board and West Riding of Yorkshire Asylums Board will not borrow money under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1888, but under their- own special Acts—namely, the Lancashire County Lunatic Asylums Act and the West Riding of Yorkshire Lunatic Asylums Act. It 723 follows that in applying the provisions of Clause 8 to these bodies it is necessary to substitute the reference to their borrowing powers and special Acts for references to the borrowing powers of county councils under the Local Government Act.
Page 8, lines 8 to 10, leave out subsection (4) and insert the said new subsection.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 9:
§ Provisions as to assessment of compensation.
§ 9.—(1) Where land included in any scheme made or to be made under Part I or Part II of the principal Act (other than land included in such a scheme only for the purpose of making the scheme efficient and not on account of the sanitary condition of the premises thereon or of those premises being dangerous or prejudicial to health) is acquired compulsorily, the compensation to be paid for the land, including any buildings thereon, shall be the value at the time the valuation is made of the land as a site cleared of buildings and available for development in accordance with the requirements of the building by-laws for the time being in force in the district:
§ Provided that if the scheme requires that provision shall be made for the re housing of persons of the working classes on the land or part thereof when cleared, or that the land or a part thereof when cleared shall be laid out as an open space, and compensation payable to all persons interested in any land included in the scheme (other than as aforesaid) for their respective interests therein shall be reduced by an amount ascertained in accordance with the rules set forth in the First Schedule to this Act.
§ (2) The provisions of sections twenty-one and forty-one of the principal Act shall cease to apply as respects lands to which the provisions of this section apply, in so far as such first-mentioned provisions are inconsistent or in conflict with the provisions of this section.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY had on the Paper an Amendment, at the end of subsection (1), to insert: "but so that the compensation shall not be reduced in the case of any person in respect of his interest in the land unless it is shown that having regard to the alteration in the law by this Act affected, and in the existing conditions of the building trade he has had a reasonable opportunity of rendering the premises sanitary or suitable for habitation."
§ The noble Earl said: When this Bill was in Committee I moved the Amendment which now stands in my name on the Paper, and at that time my noble friend Lord. Downham also moved an Amendment, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in charge of the Bill asked that we should withdraw our Amendment 724 at that time, in order that the Government might have the opportunity of considering the clause. Now that the Bill has been reprinted and is before your Lordships' House, it is in exactly the same state in which it was when the Bill was in Committee, and I therefore beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that a considerable hardship is inflicted on those owners of slum property who cannot be blamed for the conditions now obtaining. No one can hold any brief for the owner of slum property, whether he be leaseholder or freeholder, but I confess that this Bill goes very far on the road towards confiscation in dealing with the owners of slums—certainly in dealing with the reversionary interest of the freeholder in regard to giving him compensation for the clearing away of slum property.
§ Apparently the system of assessment which is being adopted is totally different from that in any other. Bill with which the Government is dealing—for example, in the Acquisition of Land Bill. Another very important matter is that the landowner, whether he be an hereditary owner or an owner who has bought the land as a speculation, is not directly to blame for the shortage of houses which calls for this Bill. The foundation stone of that shortage, I do not mind saying here in your Lordships' House, though, perhaps, we do not wish to allude to these painful matters was the Finance Act of 1909 1910; and unfortunately, in 1914, the situation was still further aggravated by the war. That being so, I hope the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, will give this clause consideration before the Bill becomes law. It is true that Clause 28 of this Bill gives the freeholder power to enter upon the land and reconstruct the slums, but it gives him that power at a moment when it is practically useless on account of the difficulties in regard to labour and material. This fact the Government has fully admitted by proceeding to deal with the housing problem themselves by means of this Bill.
§ There is a further argument in favour of considering somewhat generously the position of the freeholder—namely, that he has frequently, indeed almost always, not been in a position, before this Bill, to enter upon the land at all. As long as the covenants were kept he was debarred from entering upon the land Moreover, there is another question which 725 those of your Lordships who know the East End of London, and London generally, will probably appreciate—namely, that the class of inhabitants has changed. Houses which were inhabited 50 or 100 years ago by a well-to-do class of persons have become occupied—I am sorry to say it is more and more the case year by year—by the undesirable alien, and the result is that that class of property has depreciated. The leaseholder has to get the rent as best he can, while the freeholder is unable to interfere. Therefore, although I do not want to detain your Lordships at this stage of the Bill, I venture to hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will consider the arguments in favour of giving some better terms to the owner of land for his dispossession.
§ There is only one further point which I should like to make. Take the case of two properties, side by side and say that each of them is valued, for the purpose of death duties, at £10,000. In the case of one, under this Bill, you first of all value the site clear of buildings—call that £2,000, reducing the £10,000 to £8,000. Further, suppose that under this Bill the land shall only be used as a site for working class dwellings or for open spaces, that reduces the value further, and, finally, you discover that the property which has been assessed at, and has actually paid death duties on, a value of £10,000, is worth only £3,000, which is a very considerable reduction, and that money has been lent on the land up to £6,000, or double the actual final value. In the case of the second property, which is valued at the same figure, £10,000, the landlord may enter upon that cleared site, erect factories or some other buildings, and so increase the value of his property. It is not always the fault of the landowner that his property is a slam property, and I would say in conclusion that I believe in many cases, where a landowner has been desirous of improving his property and pulling down houses, he has been asked by the local authorities not to reduce the number of houses, in order not to make the housing question more difficult. I hope, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will consider this Amendment and do something in regard to the matter before the Bill is passed.
Page 8, line 31, at end insert ("but so that the compensation shall not be reduced in the case of any person in respect of his interest in the land
unless it is shown that having regard to the alteration in the law by this Act effected, and in the existing conditions of the building trade he has had a reasonable opportunity of rendering the premises sanitary or suitable for habitation").—(The Earl of Malmesbury.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I would remind the noble Earl that this clause, as it stands in the Bill, is the result of a compromise between two schools. One school took the view that the full commercial value should be given for the value of the slum-land cleared of buildings while the other view, which is very strongly held in certain quarters, is that as this property has been so mismanaged, really all that should be given is the housing value of the land subject, of course, to the local by-laws. That would amount, in many cases, to a value considerably less than the commercial value. The clause, as I said, is really a compromise between those two views. That is to say, the ordinary case would be that the commercial value of land would be given to the land but in some cases, where houses for the working classes were built on a portion of the site, that value should be diminished by the difference between the housing value and the commercial value, and that difference should not be laid merely on that portion of the land where the houses were to be built but should be proportionately assessed or divided amongst the different owners in proportion to their holdings of different parts of the site.
I think some fear was expressed during the discussions in Committee that this would generally be done—that the local authority would desire to rebuild upon a site and that in some cases, possibly, they might not. The true value to the owner depended not so much on the value of the site itself as on the purpose for which the local authority thought the site ought to be used. I think I must infringe, to some extent, upon an Amendment to be moved by the Lord Chancellor on the same clause in which he proposes to put in the words "in the opinion of the Local Government Board it is necessary that provision should be made by the scheme." It is not, of course, the general intention, nor the intention at all, of the Ministry of Health that where these slums are cleared, houses for the working classes should be built upon them. It is, on the contrary, their desire that the houses should be built in other places and that the population in the slum portions of the town should 727 thereby be relieved. The matter is not left to the local authority. There may be some exceptions. There may be some cases where some of the people living in that particular area must be re-housed in that area because the necessities of their work make it desirable that they should not live far from their work. In those exceptional cases the Ministry of Health might modify its general policy, but this would only be done where the Ministry of Health itself, not the local authority, considers that it should be done.
Therefore these cases are exceptional, and, moreover, they are only done where the central authority thinks it really necessary they should be done. Is it therefore unreasonable in these cases that there should be some abatement of the full value of the land? What would happen if that was not done? It would mean that the local authority would have to bear the whole loss, and the difference between the housing and commercial values would be placed upon the ratepayers. My noble friend has argued in misericordiam of certain classes of owners. My noble friend alluded to a shortage of houses, and I ought to point out that this has nothing to do with the shortage of houses.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The noble Earl invoked the Act of 1909 and other causes. But t his is merely a question of keeping existing houses in proper repair for human habitation which, my noble friend will admit, is a totally different thing. When he pleads in misericordiam of the owners of this land, let him remember that in many cases the owners will benefit very heavily by the clearance which is effected by the local authority.
Another point is that they cannot improve their houses because they are let on long leases. The land is cleared not for their benefit, but because of the bad state in which the houses have got, and they immediately, perhaps, reap a large reward, because the difference between the housing value of the land and the value at which the property can be sold may be very considerable, so that, long before they have any right to expect it under the terms of the lease, they enter on a goodly inheritance. Therefore, there must be that consideration against the other consideration that certain owners 728 may, to a limited extent possibly, be penalised because they have not the right to enter on the land.
A further point which my noble friend made is this. He says that they may have power wider the Act to enter on the land and to do all that is needful to put the houses in a proper state of repair—why not suspend the operation of the clause until they have an opportunity of doing it themselves? I am afraid the Amendment of my noble friend is so indefinite in its proposals that it may defeat the whole object of the clause itself. May I take just one point? It does not disclose to whom it can be shown that the person in question had a reasonable opportunity of building. Secondly, what are these particular conditions which would, so to speak, mitigate the sentence? What high prices in the building trade would be held to be a mitigating circumstance? What are high prices? Would my noble friend suggest that high prices were any prices higher than those which prevailed before 1914? Or are they to be 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. greater? He will see that the actual framing of the Amendment, apart from the principle, makes the clause so indefinite that it would defeat its object.
I appeal to your Lordships on the broader grounds. It is the general policy, the declared policy, of the Local Government Board to build not on slum property but elsewhere; the commercial value of the land will be realised long before it would naturally be realised by the owner; and in some cases only will there be an abatement of the value because of the special conditions prevailing, and that this should fall on the owners rather than on the ratepayers. Taking all these considerations together I hope your Lordships will consider that the clause as it stands is not unreasonable and will maintain it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think the noble Viscount has quite done justice to my noble friend. I admit I have some difficulty in discussing this clause because I have never been able to understand the First Schedule.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I will explain it to the noble Marquess. If he finds any difficulty in understanding the First Schedule he cannot have applied his mind very strenuously to it or he would have understood it. All it means is this. If one-fifth of the particular land in question is to 729 be used for the houses of the working classes, to be assessed at its housing value, there will be a loss, say of £10,000, which will have to fall upon somebody. The suggestion in the Schedule is that the £10,000 should be spread equitably over the whole of the property, and therefore the owners of each fifth would have an abatement of £2,000 from the amount they would otherwise receive. In a particular area if you took one portion it would be rather hard that the whole of the cost should fall on the man who owned the particular land, and therefore the loss is spread equitably over the Whole.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. His explanation is much clearer than the Schedule. What, in fact, it means is, that any loss involved shall be "pooled" by the owners of the area in question. That, however, does not get rid of the difficulty because there might be two pieces of land subject to two different schemes, both of them slum property, and in the same position exactly. One would imagine, therefore, that the compensation in each case should be equal, yet in the one case, because it is an area to be devoted to rehousing the landowner would receive a much higher compensation than the other. That is inequitable as it stands, and that was the criticism with which we met the clause in committee.
The noble Viscount said that in some cases under this clause landowners would get an undue advantage, and he seemed to think he could set that off against any undue loss other landowners would incur. That does not appear to me to be a principle of justice. I have no wish that slum landlords should get an undue advantage. I do not want them to have any advantage at all, and it is no use saying that because one slum landlord gets an undue advantage the other slum landlord, who gets an undue loss should be content. I cannot think legislation on those lies is really satisfactory.
The real point of the Amendment is this. My noble friend says that the Government recognise that superior landowners are not in a position to put their property in proper order under the present law. The Government recognise this and they have a provision in the Bill to enable a landowner to do it. If that is recognised, is it not unjust that in an earlier clause in the Bill they should punish him for not doing 730 what they admit he cannot do? He cannot do it because, being the ground landowner, until the ground lease falls in he has practically no control over the property whatever. Your Lordships may think that the whole system of ground leases is bad. I am rather inclined to think that in its present form it is a bad system, but none of us are responsible for it, and from personal experience I know the great difficulty of dealing with large areas, which may be slum areas, in order to put them in proper order. There are some slums, I am sorry to say, on my own property, but I have no control over them and until the ground leases fall in I have no means of putting them in order. It is true there may be certain covenants which one might enforce, but any one who is familiar with these covenants knows that you cannot enforce them because the persons are so poor that they could not fulfil the covenants if you put them in force.
I think my noble friend has really established the case that there is a substantial injustice in the clause as it stands. How do the Government meet it? They say that only very rarely will the difficulty arise; that it will be very seldom you will require to re-house the population in these slum areas. I hope your Lordships will not think that I defend slums. I am far from doing so, and I do not think anybody should be entitled to compensation because of the slums themselves. That is common ground. Slums ex hypothesi condemned are not entitled to compensation. But when we come to the site it is different. The Government say that it would be very rare for re-housing to take place on these sites, and I suppose, if we were to pursue a really enlightened policy, it is true. The whole modern trend of housing policy is that re-housing should be centrifugal; that you should get re-housing not in the congested centre but in the circumference outside. Therefore the Government say that it will only happen rarely, and that only a certain number of landowners, and a limited number, will suffer under the clause. As the clause stands I do not think the number would necessarily be very limited because the schemes which the local authority might put forward may not pursue this enlightened centrifugal policy.
I understand we are to be asked to consider an Amendment of the Lord Chancellor's on this point which provides that the local authority shall not be a free agent 731 in the matter, and that the Local Government Board, or the Ministry of Health, shall sit over the local authority and see in the great majority of cases that this centrifugal policy is pursued. It is only with their consent that re-housing will take place on the old sites. I admit that is a concession because it makes the mischief at which the Amendment is directed a comparatively small one. I think my noble friend has established his case. Whether he thinks it right to press the Motion to a Division, having regard to the concession which the Government are prepared to grant, is a matter for him to decide. I will not discuss the actual Amendment of the Lord Chancellor now; it would be more fitting to do so when we reach it.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Earl has undoubtedly rendered considerable service by calling attention to what was an omission in the form of the Bill as originally drafted, but I share the hope expressed by previous speakers that he will not think it necessary to carry the matter to a Division, especially in view of a subsequent Amendment standing in my name. I might suggest an argument which may have some weight in leading him to that conclusion. I doubt greatly whether as drafted the Amendment would be practicable. Its vagueness would I think make it impossible. The noble Earl proposes, for instance, "that the compensation shall not be reduced in the case of any person in respect of his interest in the land unless it is shown." No Court of Law could construe that. Then he goes on: "and in the existing conditions of the building trade he has had a reasonable Opportunity." In the interests of useful draughtsmanship I think it would be necessary to define what was a "reasonable opportunity." I very much hope in these circumstances that the noble Earl will rest content with having called attention to this matter, especially in view of what I am about to move.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
With the leave of the House I am quite willing to withdraw my Amendment, and will do so unless any noble Lords wish to go to a Division. Personally, I am satisfied with the assurances given by the noble and learned Lord.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.732
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in the proviso to subsection (1), to leave out "the scheme requires that provision shall be made" and to insert "in the opinion of the Local Government Board it is necessary that provision should be made by the scheme." The noble and learned Lord said: This Amendment is that to which reference was made by the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, and by the Marquess of Salisbury. I think it will readily be understood that this Amendment if accepted will go some way towards removing the difficulties to which expression has already been given by several noble Lords. As Clause 9 stands it is true that the phraseology might suggest that the questions whether re-housing should or should not be ordered might depend upon the arbitrary authority of the local authority. Powerful arguments were addressed in Committee with the object of showing that any such arbitrary authority would be very unfair to the owners. I was impressed with those arguments. Of course as a matter of fact the question whether re-housing on the cleared site should or should not be required depends in the last resort on the Local Government Board requiring that a scheme be prepared, but the object of the Amendment is to call attention to that and make it quite clear. It has a further advantage that it gives statutory effect to what was the intention of the Government, namely, that persons displaced by a clearance scheme should be re-housed on a new site, and that re-housing on the cleared site should only be required when absolutely necessary. The noble Marquess was quite right when he said that the policy of the Government in this matter is on a centrifugal basis. I hope that the Amendment which I now propose may give reasonable assurance to those who felt and expressed apprehensions during the Committee debate.
Page 8, lines 23 and 24, leave out ("the scheme requires that provision shall be made") and insert ("in the opinion of the Local Government Board it is necessary that provision should be made by the scheme").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 12:
§ Additional powers as to acquisition of land and houses.
- (a) to acquire any houses or other buildings on the land proposed to be acquired as a site for the erection of houses for the working classes; and
- (b) to acquire any estate or interest in any houses which might be made suitable as houses for the working classes, together with any lands occupied with such houses;
§ (2) The purposes for which land may be acquired under Part III of the principal Act shall be deemed to include—
- (a) the lease or sale of the land, under the powers conferred by this Act, with a view to the erection thereon of houses for the working classes by persons other than the local authority; and
- (b) the lease or sale under the powers conferred by this Act of any part of the land acquired with a view to the use thereof for purposes which in the opinion of the local authority are necessary or desirable for or incidental to the development of the land as a building estate, including the provision, maintenance, and improvement of houses and gardens, factories, workshops, churches, places of recreation, and other works or buildings for or for the convenience of persons belonging to the working classes and other persons.
§ (3) Subject to the consent of the Local Government Board and to such conditions as the Board may prescribe, a local authority may for the purposes of Part III of the principal Act contract for the purchase by or lease to them of houses suitable for the working classes, whether built at the date of the contract or intended to be built thereafter.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection 2 (b), to leave out "churches" and to insert "places of worship." The noble and learned Lord said: This is a purely drafting amendment.
Page 11, line 3, leave out ("churches") and insert ("places of worship").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE had on the Paper an Amendment to insert, after Clause 12, the following new clause: "13. Where in rural districts the local authority requires land for housing; under this Act, and the land is occupied by a tenant for life, who is restricted in any manner from transferring the land in fee simple, but, apart from such restrictions, 734 would be willing to transfer the land without payment to the said authority, the tenant for life shall be entitled to transfer the land with or without payment of legal charges, and consents to such transfer, shall be deemed to have been duly given for the purpose of establishing the title of the said authority."
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not know whether the noble Marquess would be content, to move this Amendment on Clause 29. I understand that it would come in more conveniently there.
§ Clause 14:
§ Power to acquire water rights.
§ 14. A local authority or a county council may, notwithstanding anything in section three hundred and twenty-seven or section three hundred and thirsty-two of the Public Health Act, 1875, but subject to the provisions of section fifty-two of that Act, be authorised to abstract water from any river, stream, or lake, or the feeders thereof, whether within or without the district of the local authority or the county, for the purpose of affording a water supply for houses provided or to be provided under a scheme: made under the Housing Acts, and to do all such acts as may be necessary for affording a water supply to such houses, and to any houses or agricultural holdings that may be deprived of sufficient water supply by reason of such abstraction, in like manner and subject to the like restrictions as they may be authorised to acquire land for the purposes of the scheme: Provided that nothing shall be done hereunder to affect prejudicially the supply of the existing users of such water:
§ Provided that no local authority or county council shall be authorised under this section to abstract any water which any local authority, corporation, company, or person are empowered by Act of Parliament to impound, take or use for the purpose of supply within any area, or any water the abstraction of which would, in the opinion of the Local Government Board, injuriously affect the working or management of any canal or inland navigation.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved to leave out "and" ["for affording a water supply to such houses and"], and to insert "subject to a prior obligation of affording a sufficient supply of water." The noble and learned Lord said: The words, which it is proposed by this and the consequential Amendments to leave out were inserted on the Committee stage on an Amendment moved by Lord Ancaster. The Government on that occasion pointed out the objections to which the Amendment was open, and particularly that it gave statutory rights 735 to persons who at present have no such rights, and it might be added that the words "affect prejudicially" are so vague and so wide that I really think they might render, if construed in a Court of Law, the whole of the clause inoperative. The Amendments which I now propose on behalf of the Government have I hope got over the difficulty, and at the same time afford protection for existing users.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 11, line 37, leave out ("and") and insert ("subject to a prior obligation of affording a sufficient supply of water")
§ Page 11, line 38, leave out ("of sufficient water supply") and insert ("thereof")
§ Page 11, line 41, leave out from ("scheme") to the end of line 42.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
I think it is only right to say that I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord for the way in which he has met me on the question of water rights. There is one other aspect of the clause which I confess I do not quite understand. The clause as it stands protects the water supply at any house or agricultural holding, and there is no protection as far as I can make out for industrial undertakings. Perhaps this is not the right place or moment to raise this, but I think we ought to have some definite statement front the Government regarding industrial undertakings. Among the lakes of Scotland it would be easily possible to change the whole water-shed, and thereby deprive people using the water for industrial purposes of their water supply. I should like to hear from the noble and learned Lord if there is any clause which would prevent the local authority from doing something which would practically ruin a man who had a mill or other industrial undertaking dependent upon water supply. It seems to me important to consider this question in view of the Amendment which the noble and learned Lord has in the next clause.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think there is something in the contention of the noble Earl. It may not be convenient to discuss it now, but if the noble Earl will on Third Reading move words to cover industrial undertakings I will see if I can accept them.
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.736
§ Clause 15:
§ Powers of dealing with land acquired.
§ 15.—(1) Where a local authority have acquired or appropriated any land for the purposes of Part III of the principal Act, then, without prejudice to any of their other powers under that Act, the authority may—
- (a) lay out and construct public streets or roads and open spaces on the land;
- (b) with the consent of the Local Government Board sell or lease the land or part thereof to any person for the purpose and under the condition that that person will erect and maintain thereon such number of houses suitable for the working classes as may be fixed by the local authority in accordance with plans approved by them, and when necessary will lay out and construct public streets or roads and open spaces on the land, or will use the land for purposes which, in the opinion of the local authority, are necessary or desirable for or incidental to the development of the land as a building estate in accordance with plans approved by the local authority, including the provision, maintenance, and improvement of houses and gardens, and other works or buildings, for, or for the convenience of, persons belonging to the working classes and other persons.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, towards the end of subsection (1) (b), after "gardens" to insert "factories," workshops, places of worship, places of recreation." The noble and learned Lord said: This Amendment is consequential upon the insertion of similar words in Clause 12. Clause 12, as your Lordships will recollect, sets out the periods in which the local authority is empowered to acquire, and Clause 15 sets out the powers of the local authority.
Page 12, line 29, after ("gardens") insert ("factories, work-shops, places of worship, places of recreation").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
In regard to the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord that the noble Earl who spoke just now should on Third Reading move an Amendment to protect industrial undertakings, may I point out that the Standing Order having been suspended I am afraid that owing to the Rule of the House the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack is not a very practicable one, and to adopt it would mean a breach of the Rule.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Might I ask the noble Lord who knows the Rules very well, Is it not the case that if no objection is taken the noble Earl would be fully entitled to move his Amendment on Third Reading in spite of the fact of the suspension of Standing Order?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think that must be so. If the Amendment is moved and no objection is taken to it, the Amendment can be carried. I think the noble Lord will agree that that can be done if there is no objection.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have known that to be done, but by leave of the House only. I cannot say, however, that it is a breach of the Rule which ought to be very much encouraged. It is very dangerous to alter things on Third Reading when the last moment has arrived, and they cannot be altered afterwards. I have not had anything like the experience of my noble friend, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, but, as I say, I have known it to be done by leave of tile House.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
May I suggest that if it is to be done the words ought to be carefully arranged and settled before we come to the stage at which they will be moved.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
On this particular Amendment I should like to say that I regard with some apprehension this plan of specifying or attempting to specify all the purposes for which land or any other property may conceivably be put in the public interest. When you begin to try to specify you do not know where you will end. You are in danger of leaving out some purpose which would be just as useful as the purposes specified. It has occurred to me that in addition to factories, workshops, places of worship and places of recreation, many people would wish that you should add public baths and public libraries, and I should also say, having regard to our experience during the course of the war, you ought to add allotments. We discovered during the war how extremely difficult it was to obtain sufficient garden or allotment ground in the immediate neighbourhood of cottages where working people could cultivate it. I think that possibly on Third Reading the noble and learned Lord may devise some better method than this of framing this particular 738 clause because with due respect it cannot be regarded as artistic. It is quite clear that as originally drafted it was intended to apply to houses for habitation or similar purpose, and was never intended to apply originally to all these other purposes which the Lord Chancellor intends now to include. I very much fear that many of the usages that some of us would like to see included will be omitted if such words as these were inserted.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I understand from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that these words are really in effect only consequential on a certain Amendment which was introduced in Clause 12 of the Bill in committee. If my noble friend who has just sat down wished to alter this Amendment he would, if he were to be as logical as he always is in arguments before your Lordships, have to alter Clause 12 also. But as Clause 12 stands the local authority is allowed to acquire land for certain purposes, therefore they ought to be able to deal with it for those same purposes.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
In reply, may point out that, as regards the previous clause, Clause 12, that applies to schemes which are settled by the local authority itself. This particular clause applies to a case where the local authority is, in fact, parting with its land to a contractor or other person who will carry out the scheme according to his own plans. In the case of a local authority it is already open to them under sundry Acts of Parliament to provide all the amenities and facilities which are thought necessary nowadays for the working classes. If they part with their land to another person altogether, that other person is not compelled, even on the representation of the ratepayers, to provide these other conveniences, such as public baths, libraries and the like. I suggest therefore that it is even more important in this case than it was in the former that the words should be sufficiently comprehensive.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Marquess is really perfectly right. Clause 12 sets out the purposes for which the local authority are empowered to acquire. Now it is necessary to set up the powers of a local authority for dealing with the land when acquired.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.739
§ Clause 21:
§ Loans to private persons.
§ 21. During a period of two years from the passing of this Act, the money which may be advanced by the Public Works Loan Commissioners to any private person for the purpose of constructing houses for the working classes on the security of a mortgage of any land or dwellings solely may, if the Commissioners think fit and if the houses are constructed in accordance with plans approved by the Local Government Board, exceed the amount specified in subsection (2) of section sixty-seven of the principal Act, but shall not exceed seventy-five per centum of the value of the estate or interest in such land or dwellings proposed to be mortgaged, and advances may be made by instalments from time to time as the building of the houses on the land mortgaged progresses, so that the total of the advances do not at any time exceed the amount last mentioned, and a mortgage may accordingly be made to secure advances so to be made from time to time.
§ EARL STANHOPE, on behalf of Earl GREY, moved, after "solely," to insert "shall, in the case of persons being members of a buildingsociety incorporated under the Building Societies Act, 1874 to 1894, be advanced upon the most favourable terms the Treasury by regulation may permit, and".
§ The noble Earl said: This Amendment, which stands on the paper in the name of Earl Grey is intended to give effect to the scheme which he outlined in speaking on Clause 7 on the Committee stage. As the Bill stands, very little, if anything, is done for the great building societies of this country. Their funds are very large and have increased enormously during the war. They lend money out in order to build houses, and the sums so advanced are repaid by instalments. Of course, as these instalments are repaid, they are lent out again for the building of further houses. During the war building very largely stopped, and therefore the building societies had no opportunity of lending their money out again. The result has been that the repayments made to these societies have accumulated, and I understand that now they have something like £30,000,000 available for use in building houses. These societies are composed almost entirely of working men—the type of owner-occupier which every one of your Lordships, I am sure, wishes to see increased in numbers, and to assist in every possible way. Therefore, if we can help them by this Bill I think this Amendment will appeal to your Lordships.
§ What is proposed is that the tenant purchaser should advance 10 per cent. 740 of the cost of the house, that the building society should advance 40 per cent., and that that advance should be a first mortgage, which will be paid as to capital and interest by 15 annual instalments of 10 per cent. of the sum advanced; that the State should advance the remaining 50 per cent. on a second mortgage, and that this second mortgage should not receive any interest for 15 years, but, after that, the interest should be paid at the rate of 5 per cent. for 50 years, which will repay the Government loan, and it will not be an excessive charge on the occupier during the currency of the loan.
§ How it works out is this. If you take a house, say with a parlour, kitchen, scullery with bath, and three bedrooms, with cubic capacity of 10,125 feet, the cost at 1s. 3d. at cubic foot comes out at £632 16s. 3d. Under the scheme proposed by my noble friend the State would advance £253 2s. 6d., the building society £330, and the tenant purchaser £49 13s. The payments work out on these lines:—12s. 6d. per week to the building society for 15 years, by the end of which time their mortgage would have been repaid. Then, from the sixteenth to the sixty-fifth year the tenant would repay the State at the rate of 5s. per week,plus a small payment to recoup the local authority for purchasing the land and making it fit to build upon. The loss to the State for not getting any interest on the loan for 15 years comes out at a subsidy of £13 18s. 5d. a year for 15 years; whereas under the terms of the Bill it works out at a subsidy of £10 8s. 10d. for 50 years. Therefore, under this scheme the State will have to find a great deal less money than it does under the proposals of the Bill.
§ That, I think, to most of us is a very considerable advantage and the scheme has these additional advantages. In the first place, you will make use of these big building societies and their funds, which are available for this purpose, and you can employ them as agents for the State. They will be able to see that due economy is exercised in the building of these houses, and I see no reason why they should not be the agents of the State in collecting the rents after their own mortgages are paid off. It is obviously to the interest of the societies that the houses should 741 be built at the lowest possible cost, because they themselves have to find such a large part of the capital outlay.
§ Then, in addition, it enables building societies, to employ the small men in building these houses. Under the terms of the Bill I am afraid that very often we may find that the local authority has to make big contracts which will be taken by large employers of labour, and the little man will be left very often without a job. We have to get the largest number of houses built in the shortest possible time. We have therefore to employ, not only the large, but the small employer of labour, and it seems to me that this proposal has very great advantages.
§ The Amendment, as it stands on the Paper, is not complete. It will be necessary to move in another place certain other weds to give effect to the scheme which I have outlined. The whole of the Amendment will be as follows:—To insert, after "solely, ''shall, in the ease of persons being members of a building society incorporated under the Building Societies Acts, 1874 to 1894, be advanced upon the most favourable terms the Treasury by regulation may permit, and which shall include power to remit interest over a term of years not exceeding fifteen." When my noble friend talked about the scheme on the Committee Stage it met with a very favourable reception from the Lord Chancellor, who, of course, desired further time to consider the matter. I hope very strongly that His Majesty's Government may now be able to accept the Amendment.
Page 17, line 15, after ("solely") insert ("shall, in the case of persons being members of a building society incorporated under the Building Societies Acts, 1874 to 1894, be advanced upon the most favourable terms the Treasury by regulation may permit, and ").—(Earl Stanhope.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I desire to press very earnestly on the attention of His Majesty's Government the advantages of the Amendment which has been proposed by my noble friend. He has stated the case so fully and so clearly that it is quite unnecessary to go into the merits of the subject. I merely desire to say that I have received strong representations from some of those who are thoroughly entitled to speak on behalf of the class to be benefited, as we believe, by the insertion of some such Amendment as this—that is to say, the 742 very pick of the working classes in many parts of the country. We all know that the subscribers to building societies re present the solid type of British working man, and anything which can reasonably be done without undue loss to the community to encourage the admirable system of these societies surely ought to be done. My noble friend has clearly shown that, although the initial expense to the Government is somewhat greater than by the ordinary operations of the Bill, even after making the necessary discount for the complete absence receipts for the fifteen years, over the whole period there is a definite gain to the taxpayer in the procedure which is involved. It is true, no doubt, that all Amendments of this kind, involving changes in the pecuniary allocations of the provisions of the Bill, have to be moved here in truncated form, and in one sense are more suitable for introduction in another place. On the other hand, there are so many noble Lords here who are directly interested in the work of these and kindred societies—I am only sorry that my noble friend Lord Grey is unable to be present, although his place could not have been better filled than it has been by Lord Stanhope—that I am sure the House will feel that there is distinct propriety in our making a move in this direction.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
This Amendment has been strongly supported in general terms by the noble Marquess, and I suppose every one will assent to the general principle that it would be a great pity if these large sums of money which have been accumulated by the building societies during the last few years should not have an outlet in their proper duty of providing houses for the working-classes. My noble friend has described the method by which that money is usually used. He also discussed a rather intricate scheme by which the State might be to some extent a partner with the building societies in building these houses for the working-classes and allowing them to buy them.
I do not know whether all your Lordships have followed in detail the particulars of that scheme, and I am not quite clear, therefore, how far I ought to go into it. I understand that there are two forms of that scheme. The first, which was referred to by my noble friend, was that two-fifths of the money was lent by the Commissioners at first, they were to forego all 743 interest for the first fifteen years and that, at the end of that time, when the building society would have been paid off by the individual person repaying to the Treasury the interest and sinking fund on the three-fifths of the five-fifths, the State should step in and be the only creditor of the individual. I believe some objections were taken when that scheme was examined by the Treasury on the ground that they did not want to be in a position to find more money at that time; and as the building societies had a great deal of money there was some objection t) the scheme.
Then I think another suggestion was made, for which, I believe, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was responsible. My noble friend alluded to it but not in any specific terms. By that scheme the noble Marquess tried to avoid the difficulty which was felt by the Treasury of finding two-fifths of the money at such an early stage when they were finding so much money for other schemes. The suggestion then made was that the Treasury should in effect borrow two-fifths of the money from the building societies and pay 5 per cent. for it during the first fifteen years, that they should pay off the money at the end of fifteen years, and then, the building society having been entirely paid off, there would be only one relation established between the Government and the individual. Although that is described as being a loan of two-fifths of the money from the building societies to the Government, in effect it would be that the Government would be paying 5 per cent. to the individual in order to enable him to meet his liability to the building society. It was not clear, from the scheme as I saw it, what the security of the Government was to be after the first fifteen years. Although the interest and sinking fund repayments over the period were so calculated that the interest paid by the Government during the first fifteen years was included in them, it was not clear what the security of the Government would be.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It is not so stated in the scheme, but I am glad to hear that. There might be many variants of that particular scheme. The whole case rested, I understand, on the building society 744 getting its money repaid in fifteen years in order to be used for other purposes, Whether the Government is justified or not in coming in as a partner of the building society and assisting it to get the money repaid in fifteen years, is a matter on which at the present time I should not like to pronounce. First of all because, interesting as these schemes are, they are not really closely relevant, if I may say so, to the Amendment before your Lordships with which I want to deal. I would preface my remarks about this Amendment by saying that the Government would be ready at any time carefully to consider any scheme by which the building societies were enabled to make use of the large sums they have accumulated for this particular purpose; but the Amendment itself is a thing to which I would ask your Lordships to address your minds. The words are "After 'solely' insert shall, in the case of persons being members of a building society incorporated under the Building Societies Acts, 1874 to 1894, be advanced upon the most favourable terms the Treasury by regulation may permit, and'."
The clause generally, as at present drawn, applies to loans which may be advanced by the Public Works Loan Commissioners to private persons. The effect of the Amendment would be of a very limiting nature because it would limit the operation of the clause in the matter of loans advanced to persons who are members of a building society, and thus go far to cripple the clause. That I am sure is not the intention of my noble friend. Secondly, as to the terms on which the Commissioners may lend the money. Under Section 67 of the Act of 1890 the terms on which the Commissioners may lend money are from time to time determined by the Treasury. The insertion of these words would add nothing to the powers possessed by the Treasury, either in the matter of the loan or in the obligations of the Public Works Loan Commissioners; therefore I am afraid that the clause would be partly inoperative and partly dangerous. Consequently I hope that your Lordships will not press the Amendment. At the same time I wish to say everything that can be said of a sympathetic nature towards the idea represented by my noble friend, and to state the anxiety of the Government, perhaps at some later stage, to find some method of assisting the building societies in using their funds, and if they can do this they will be glad.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am sorry that my noble friend has not been able to go further in receiving this Amendment. Your Lordships will be aware that the great blemish on this Bill is that it crushes out all private enterprise. I yield to no one in desiring the passage of this Bill which I believe to be of vital importance; but it is a very severe criticism that it crushes out private enterprise.
So far does the Bill go in this respect that I am confident it cannot remain where it is. There must be an amending Statute. It is impossible to believe that the Government will be content to pass a law and to leave it the law, under which all the public utility societies with which we are familiar, the Garden City of Hampstead and all that, will be put an end to—I do not mean the Garden City itself, but the development of it—owing to the operation of the Bill. The whole of that great movement is over for the moment and, in addition to that, all the operations of the great building societies are put an end to by this Bill. That is a most serious indictment of the Bill, and I do think that the Government ought to have provided machinery under which these two great classes of building effort should be helped forward and maintained. But it is otherwise.
My noble friend Lord Stanhope comes forward, I admit at the last moment, and he says, "I have a scheme under which, at any rate, we can include the building societies. I have a plan which has been worked out by the building societies and which is entirely watertight as a financial operation." No doubt, as my noble friend opposite said, there are certain variants. He said that I had a variant. The difference between my plan, such as it is, and that of my noble friend is very slight. In any case, we ask that the Government should be responsible for two-fifths of the purchase money; but in one case my noble friend proposes that they should put down the capital, and in the other case I suggest, in order to avoid throwing an extra capital charge on the Treasury; that the Treasury should borrow capital and pay the interest on it. That is the only distinction. The money really comes out of the taxpayer's pocket in either case, but the difference is whether it should come as a lump sum or in a form carrying 5 per cent. interest for fifteen years. It is a perfectly watertight plan, and it is a plan under which 746 the Government would not spend so much money as they do if they operate through a local authority or a county council or a public utility society under the provisions of the Bill.
This is cheaper for the Government than any of these plans. That is to say, it does not throw a 30 per cent. charge on the undertaking as the Government plan does. What my noble friend really offers the Government is a more economical plan than theirs for producing the houses, and to do it by including in the building resources which are to be laid under contribution these great accumulated funds of the building societies, which are most valuable, not merely because of their money value but because of the great incentive they are to prudence and thrift in the working classes. That is the proposal. How does my noble friend propose to do it? He proposes to introduce into the clause words that will make it possible for the House of Commons, if they are willing, to put in the full scheme when the Bill goes back to another place. Under the practice of Parliament, unless we put in an Amendment of this kind, the House of Commons cannot deal with it any more, because, as your Lordships are aware, they cannot deal with any part of the Bill when it goes back to that House except those parts where we have inserted Amendments. Therefore, if we insert this Amendment, which is intended to be really little more than a colourless Amendment, then the House of Commons will have the whole field open to them and they can insert this scheme, to which I have ventured to refer and which my noble friend has described very clearly and in detail. They can insert it all.
The Government have lots of time between now and the consideration of the Lords' Amendments by the Commons to think the whole thing out and put it in perfect order. All we ask the Government to do is to let us open the door. I do not think the fears which my noble friend has, properly from his own point of view, expressed as to the drafting of the Amendment need trouble him, because it is only to be useful if the Commons agree to it; and if there are small faults in drafting the Commons will put them right. I suggest that the Government will be well advised to accept the Amendment and to keep the door open.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
One of the objections of the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill was that the Amendment would have a limiting effect on the application of the clause. I think the noble Viscount has been wrongly advised. All that the Amendment can do is to give exceptional and favourable terms to a particular class of possible investors in house property. The rest of the clause, if read carefully with the Amendment, will be found to apply to the other private builders or promoters exactly as the clause stands at present. I am quite sure the noble Viscount has been wrongly advised.
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
I had no opportunity, owing to illness, of taking part in the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill, and I am only induced to rise now by the speech made by my noble friend, the noble Marquess behind me. I can offer, from quarters in the Government itself, some confirmation of what he said just now. It bears so strongly on what he said that I desire your Lordships' permission to say a few words about it. I begin by asking this question—To whom and to what is the dearth of cottages at the present time very largely, if not mainly, due? Why, it is a fact that it is due, for the most part, to the legislation of 1909–1910, to the Budget of that day, which inflicted enormous injury upon the building trade of this country. And the Government were not without warning. The position was pressed on the Government at that time. I remember it perfectly well, and I have recently referred to the debate. I will quote as my witness Mr. Bonar Law, the present Leader of the House, who was then sitting on the opposite side of the House. What did he say? You will find it in the Report of the Second Reading of the Finance Bill in 1909, in Volume 6, column 330 of Hansard. What did he say then?—I say that most undoubtedly the effect of these proposals will be to injure, and injure permanently, the building trade in this country.Knowing that those were Mr. Bonar Law's views I cannot think that he has departed from a statement of that kind with all the information we have had at our disposal since then to confirm it, and which I am going to quote to the House directly. Therefore, that is another reason why your Lordships' House should pass this Amendment and give the House of 748 Commons another opportunity of reconsidering their opinion.
I said I would give some figures in support of Mr. Bonar Law's statement at that time. His statement was a warning and a prophecy which has been most literally fulfilled, as the House will agree in a moment when they have heard the figures that I shall set before them. Take the figures for the increase in the building of cottages for the last ten years. I have had figures taken out from Table 84 of the Fifty-fifth Report of the Inland Revenue, page 79—everybody can verify them for themselves—with the assistance of the very able Librarian of the House of Commons. What do I find? There was a great and steady increase in the building of houses for ten years amounting to something just short of 900,000. What happened the year after that Budget was passed? It fell to an increase of 10,000 houses, and it was directly owing to the hindrances which were put in the way of the building of houses at that time; the diminution was entirely owing to that legislation, and was predicted, not only by Mr. Bonar Law but by dozens of other speakers day after day in the House of Commons, at the time. I rather think my noble friend Lord Crawford was one of the speakers himself; no doubt he will remember it perfectly well.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I think I shared the view of the noble Viscount, but I venture to point out that it scarcely arises on this particular Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
I think it does. It arises out of what was said by a previous speaker. Still, if I am not out of order, I should like to say a few more words on this point. How many cottages do you want to build? I have read that the Government have ordered 800,000,000 bricks and 22,000,000 slates. We have never been told how many houses are required. And what is going to be the cost? We are entirely in the dark. We are entering upon a most enormous undertaking at a time, when as we were told by Lord Inchcape yesterday, one of the first considerations of Parliament and the country ought to be the most rigid economy. None of these great new Ministries should be continued, expenses should be cut down, and at least we ought to be informed what our liability will be in connection with all these great new schemes 749 that are now being put before the country day after day. Some day there will have to be a reckoning. The Government have been warned over and over again, and they will have to bear the responsiblity. Although I have only been able to attend, owing to illness, a portion of these debates, I have heard enough to make me feel that I should be wanting both in duty and in courage if I did not utter the most emphatic protest in my power against the policy which has been pursued, far too long now, of engaging the country in enormous expenses of every kind without giving us even an estimate of what we are making ourselves liable for.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I am advised that in adding the words "in any case" I shall meet the point raised by the noble Lord opposite. I will accept those words.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I have only two things to say. It is always a pleasure to listen to the noble Viscount, and I should not be so impolite as to imply, that his observations would have graced the Third Reading of the Bill. I want to make it quite clear that the Government view with great sympathy every attempt made to assist building societies, and they are anxious to tap the huge resources which are in time hands of these societies, and make it possible for them to use them. I have not had time to consider whether the additional words would meet the point, but even if the clause is no longer limited I am afraid nothing much could be done under it as the powers of the Commissioners are settled in the manner already stated, and this clause would have no effect upon them. It would be useless for me to pretend that by accepting the Amendment I should do any good to the building societies. It would hold out a suggestion which would have no issue in fact. I trust my noble friend will not press his Amendment. I should reiterate the anxiety of the Government to explore every path by which the funds of building societies could be utilised for the purpose.
§ On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON moved, after Clause 22, to insert the following new clause: "Any bricks or other building materials in the possession of a Government Department which are available for pur- 750 chase by a local authority for the erection or improvement of houses under the Housing Acts shall also be available for purchase on not less favourable terms by any owner of a house or building who enters into an agreement, with such security as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Local Government Board to use all building materials so purchased by him in the erection or improvement of houses for the working classes."
§ The noble Viscount said: I have put down this Amendment because I think the Government have not sufficiently considered the position of private owners after this Bill becomes law. Viscount Chaplin a few moments ago gave some startling figures with regard to the reduction in the number of houses built in this country before the war. We are in this position, that not only was there a considerable shortage before the war but that repairs have been made almost impassible during the war by the lack of labour and the difficulty of providing materials. What is going tobe the position of private owners, who did 95 per cent. of the whole of the work of providing houses up to the time of the war? What is going to be their position after They will have to compete with such a scheme as was never yet proposed by the Government for extending houses in every direction. They will have to compete, in obtaining workmen, with the sort of prices which the Government are now paying men whom they employ. In the Slough neighbourhood they have actually robbed the country, not merely of every technical man, but of all the labourers, who are themselves learning to assist in the construction of these buildings.
§ I wonder if the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill realises what the position of private owners will be in a few months from now. They will have the greatest difficulty in retaining any workmen. They will have to bid for all materials against municipalities and the Government, whose purses are practically bottomless for this purpose. It really will cause an absolute stoppage of all repairs, unless you make some arrangement for providing materials. I know with regard to labour it is impossible. No arrangement can be made. I myself have known what it is, even within the last few months, to be unable to obtain the most necessary materials. Not merely have the Government taken up a very large amount of the bricks of the country, but 751 I ask your Lordships to consider whether it is not likely that within a few Months practically the whole of the timber and lead and other supplies may be taken over by the Government. They may find it absolutely necessary to ration for the purpose of great schemes, and in that rationing the private owners will have no share of any kind.
§ There was an undertaking given earlier that the Government would do whatever they could in the matter, but Parliamentary undertakings do not hold good as against an Act of Parliament, and private owners should have their cases considered in the Bill. I cannot imagine anything which is more likely to bring odium on the private owners of this country than to make it clear that for five years to come they cannot attempt to do the duty which they want to do, and which they always have done, and which at no time has it been more necessary they should do than at the present time. I have figures before me this very morning of an estate with 300 houses, on which repairs have constantly been done, and at this moment the cost of labour, plus the cost of materials, will more than swallow the whole of the rents of those houses and leave the landlord with a deficit annually of several hundred pounds. Of course some landlords, like those in your Lordships' House, who have regarded their people as being a first charge on the estate, may be willing to go on losing money in that way; but we know that that cannot be the general effect and that these things must have a commercial basis. It is because I feel that without some such provision we shall do great injustice I ask your Lordships to insert this clause.
Page 18, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
I think that all your Lordships in considering this Bill must have recognised that nothing except the extreme urgency of the present situation would have rendered the Bill a wise and acceptable measure, because in truth it is going to strike a deadly blow against all private enterprise in building houses—a blow from which it appears to me that private enterprise may never recover. I think it is plain that the houses that will be built under this scheme cannot in many cases, and may not in any cases, be let at an economic rent. There will therefore 752 be state-aided competition with private effort, in which the public will be called upon to pay for the disadvantage with which the position is charged as against the private builder.
As I say, every one recognises that the urgent need of restoring, as far as we can, proper building accommodation for poorer people, is a matter of such essential and vital importance that people are prepared to sacrifice the strong feeling that they hold in favour of private and individual effort, in favour of State enterprise in this respect. But is there any reason why, if opportunity offers for private work, that they should be utterly restrained from getting the materials which will enable them to carry that effort into effect. This amendment, although I think its words may require some consideration, is really nothing but a provision which enables a private owner, if the local authority has access to building materials, to have access to the same materials on the same terms, for the purpose of carrying out the same work.
What I should very much like to know is what is the objection to such a proposal? The bricks are to be used in the erection or improvement of houses for the working classes. They will be used in connection with that work, subject to the heavy disadvantage to which I have already referred, and it does seem to me that it is an oversight in the Bill, as originally drawn, that some such provision was not introduced in the first instance. With regard to the Amendment, if the noble Viscount will permit me, I cannot help thinking that it might be modified advantageously in one or two respects. I do not think he intended that the whole benefit of this Amendment should be confined merely to the owners of houses or buildings. I think probably the owners of a site was intended to be included, because otherwise the only person who could use this Amendment would be the person who had already got a structure. I think if the owner of a site enters into an agreement, with the necessary security, he should be provided with materials for carrying out his own work.
There is no need that I can see to stifle or kill all private enterprise in this country. This Amendment does leave a very narrow door through which a few people will be able to enter. It does leave a way for private enterprise, and I hope that your Lordships will not close it. When the noble 753 Viscount referred to the losses occasioned to owners who desired to keep their property in proper repair, he forgot to mention that after paying for repairs they have the privilege of paying Income Tax at 6s. in the £ on money which they never receive.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount has moved an Amendment of very great importance at a very late stage in the history of the Bill. The Bill has been through all its stages in the House of Commons, it was debated at considerable length in this House on the Committee stage, and at the very last moment or almost at the last moment the noble Viscount has proposed an Amendment which in its present form I do not think anybody suggests can be adopted. It would be even difficult to construe by the means that one usually applies to Statutes. It says: "Any bricks (and so forth) in the possession of a Government Department which are available for purchase by a local authority … shall also be available for purchase on not less favourable terms by any" private owner of a house. Who is to decide whether, even if they are available for purchase by the local authority for the purpose, they can be made available for the same purpose by a private owner?
I should think the noble Viscount will agree that it would not be possible to accept an Amendment of this nature on a notice so short. At the present moment the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Munitions are placing orders for building materials, and elaborate discussions have taken place with the manufacturers. It really would dislocate the whole machinery if at this stage an Amendment of this kind were introduced into the Bill. There is after all a broad distinction of principle which I should have thought the noble and learned Lord (Lord Buckmaster) would have been the first to recognise in this matter. For good or for bad the structure of this Bill is such as to impose a duty upon the local authorities, and we have provided ourselves with ample powers for dealing with those who are in default.
As showing the reasonableness of the scheme of the Bill, I may point out that the local authorities who are in default can only be compelled to discharge their duties if in the first place the bricks and the building materials are placed at the disposition of those who are compelled by the Bill to build. It is not the scheme of the Bill 754 to compel private owners. If it were I should be most unwilling to assent to it. It is idle to suppose that the Government are out of sympathy with the object which underlies the Amendment of the noble Viscount. I can tell him that I hold in my hand at this moment a long list of recommendations and arrangements the sole object of which is to see that, so far as the public requirement permits of it, those owners who can produce reasonable evidence of their willingness and power to carry out building operations will be afforded every facility for doing so.
Let me assure the noble Viscount that the Government are most acutely alive to the vital importance that private enterprise in building should survive, and I will say this to the noble Viscount, that the Housing Department of the Ministry of Health have already formulated detailed proposals in the direction of enabling private owners, in the exceptional circumstances referred to in this Amendment, with materials of this class. I hope, therefore, that the noble Viscount will not think it reasonable at this late stage and under these circumstances to press this Amendment on the Government. I am quite sure, if he will place himself on my introduction in communication with the heads of the Housing Department of the Ministry of Health, he will see that everything that is reasonably possible, having regard to other needs, is being done.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I cannot help thinking that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack is scarcely fair to my noble friend Lord Midleton in complaining that this Amendment is introduced at a late stage of the Bill. It might, no doubt, have been introduced on the previous stage, but it is not uncommon in your Lordship' House for Amendments to be introduced on Report rather than on the Committee stage. It is not any satisfaction to us that His Majesty's Government want to read the Bill a third time to-day. That is their proposal, and it is done for their convenience. Therefore I confess that I can attach no importance whatever to the fact that this Amendment is being moved on Report rather than on Committee stage. My noble friend would no doubt have been glad if he could have moved it one stage sooner.
As regards the terms of the Amendment, my noble friend Lord Buckmaster called 755 attention to what is at any rate one omission from the purpose which the noble Viscount has been held to desire. The Amendment as it stands seems to deal rather with repairs than with the erection of new buildings, though it does not exclude the latter, because it indicates that materials should be available for purchase by the owner of a house for building, but does not mention the owner of a site. By simply adding the word "site" and saying "house or building site" the double purpose would thereby be served. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has said that it is a fact that although a definite obligation in the Bill rests upon the local authority, the owner of land is subject to no such necessity. He is not under compulsion, whereas the local authorities are. But I had always supposed that it was the definite desire of those responsible for the measure to encourage private enterprise in this purpose, and so far as I know that is what the local authorities are doing. When a scheme in a rural district is in preparation it is the general custom of the local authorities in the first instance, after the number of houses in a particular parish or area is decided upon, to ask the owner or owners of the land if he or they are willing to put them up themselves. That is a very reasonable course to pursue, but it ceases to be a reasonable course if the materials for the erection are not to be made available.
The noble and learned Lord has told us that although His Majesty's Government, for some reason which I do not quite apprehend, objects to the insertion of this provision in the Bill, yet by Regulation—the fashionable method now—they are prepared, apparently, to give the same, or at any rate similar, opportunities to those who are desirous of erecting houses themselves I cannot help wishing that statement, which of course we most fully accept from the noble and learned Lord, had been rather more specific. And again, perhaps, we might have complained that it is only made at the last moment, whereas it would have been important and interesting if we could have been apprised of this at an earlier stage of the Bill. Whether in the circumstances my noble friend desires to press his Amendment, of course, is purely a matter for himself. I am not called upon to give him advice on that one way or the other.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
If your Lordships will allow me, I will make two re- 756 marks. The first is that I fully recognise the justice of the criticism made by the noble and learned Lord behind me. Unquestionably a man who has a site ought to be treated on the same terms as a man who has a house or building, and I would ask the noble- and learned Lord's leave to insert words which will bring that about.
The second point is this. Circumstances justify pressing the Amendment. I cannot say that I was thoroughly frightened by the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who referred two or three times to the paramount importance of arming the local authorities with all that they require for this great work. I venture to say that there is an equally paramount importance that the whole of the private owners throughout the country should not be debarred from carrying out building and that is the position in which we are at this moment. Every word that fell from the noble and learned Lord stating the difficulties of the Government with the manufacturers shows how acute this scramble will be and how badly those who are private owners will come off for the next five or ten years in their desire to do their duty by their tenants. I therefore must ask your Lordships kindly to allow me to press the Amendment in the amended form, as follows:—Any bricks or other building materials in the possession of a Government Department which are available for purchase by a local authority for the erection or improvement of houses under the Housing Acts shall also be available for purchase on not less favourable terms by any owner of a house or building or site who enters into an agreement, with such security as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Local Government Board to use all building materals so purchased by him in the erection or improvement of houses for the working classes.
§ On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 23:
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The first Amendment which stands in my name to Clause 23 is to meet a point taken by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in the Committee stage.
Page 19, line 8, after ("local authority") insert ("or, on appeal, the Local Government Board").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.757
Page 19, line 29, leave out("pursuance of a scheme") and insert ("accordance with plans and specifications").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ clause 25:
§ Byelaws respecting houses divided into separate tenements.
§ (7) The annuity shall be of such amount and extend over such number of years as the county court may determine, but if either party are dissatisfied with the decision of the local authority the question of the amount and the duration of the annuity shall be determined by an arbitrator appointed by the President of the Surveyors Institution.
§ (8) Subsections (3) and (4) of section thirty-six and section thirty-seven of the principal Act, and section nineteen of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1909, shall apply to charging orders and annuities under this section in like manner as to charging orders and annuities under the said section thirty-six.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (7), to omit all words after "may determine." The noble and learned lord said: This is a consequential Amendment which is necessary on account of the change made in the Bill by my acceptance of Lord Bledisloe's Amendment substituting the county court for the local authority as the body which is empowered to relax the provisions of the Bill.
Page 23, leave out lines 1 to 4 inclusive.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The next Amendment, like the last, is consequential on the substitution c.): the County Court for the local authority.
Page 23, line 5, leave out ("Subsections (3) and (4)") and insert ("Subsection (3)").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 23, line 6, after ("thirty-seven") insert ("except subsection (4)")
§ Page 23, lines 16 and 17, leave out. ("by the local authority") and insert ("on the application of the local authority by the county court").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.758
§ VISCOUNT MIEDLETON moved, after Clause 25, to insert the following new clause:
§ "26.—(1) Where an undertaking carried on for profit is established in any locality after the passing of this Act, and the provision of additional houses for the working classes is necessitated in the locality of the undertaking by reason of the number of persons of the working classes who are or who are likely to be employed by the owner of the undertaking, any local authority within the meaning of Part III of the principal Act whose duties under that part of that. Act are affected by the establishment or carrying on of the undertaking may make an order requiring the owner of the undertaking to erect such number of houses suitable for the working classes as may be specified within such time as may be specified in the order, provided that within twenty-one days of the receipt of such order the owner may appeal to the Local Government Board as if the order was an order under Part I of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1909, and thereupon the provisions of that part of that Act relating to appeals to the Local Government Board shall have effect.
§ "(2) If the owner of an undertaking fails to comply with an order under this section, he may on the application of the local authority concerned, be restrained by the High Court of Justice from carrying on the undertaking in respect of which the Order was made."
§ The noble Viscount said: The question which I bring forward now is, I quite admit, open to the reproach of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that it was not brought forward at an earlier stage, but it is a great question of principle, and T earnestly hope that the Government may see their way to consider it. At the present moment you are laying the duty on the local authority to provide all accommodation which may be necessary within their districts. In other words you are going to put a burden on the ratepayers which unless all these houses are let at the highest economic rents must be a very heavy one. This is not an amendment which is in any way on behalf of capital. If anything, it is open to the reproach that it is putting a burden upon capital, but I think from the point of view of all those who are dependent on this Act for their houses that it is probably one of the most necessary proposals which have yet been put forward.
§ What is the present position? Any commercial firm or any commercial individual may comeinto any place and buy a piece of land and erect a factory which requires for its working 100, 500, 5,000, or more individuals. There is no obligation whatever to build a single house or to make any provision of ally description for housing all those persons whom they call into the 759 locality for their own profit and advantage. Parliament has recognised indirectly the liability of those who dispossess members of the working-class to re-house them. No railway company is ever allowed to extend itself over a large piece of land occupied by houses without buying and erecting an equivalent number of houses. That has been the law, and it has kept back some of the largest terminal improvements in London for many years. Then again your Lordships will recollect how much criticism has been directed lately against the owners of collieries because the houses which they control, and which they have put up in places where there did not exist a demand for housing before, have been (it is contended) inadequate to the needs of the population.
§ In order that I may show that this is really a case of the most onerous description on the ratepayers I will take two instances. This Bill does not apply to Ireland but the application of the principle will no doubt come before us in the Irish Bill. About three or four years ago Mr. Ford, who was born in the county of Cork, wishing, I believe, to do a great service to the county of his birth, made up his mind to erect a factory for motors of all descriptions on a very extended scale in Cork itself. He began the buildings. They were to have included 10,000 workmen. When they were partially completed and work had begun to a small extent Mr. Ford was stopped by the Government, who were unable to allow him to continue to use the material. which was necessary during the war. Whether these buildings are to be continued now or not I do not know. I have heard it said that the circumstances of labour in the district do not encourage Mr. Ford to pursue his original scheme.
§ But your Lordships will see that it is a very curious instance. Had there been no war Mr. Ford would have gone on with the erection of the building. Simultaneously the municipal authority would under this Bill have seen that their existing accommodation must be improved by provision for at least 8,000 out of the 10,000 workmen. For there are not many empty houses. They would have begun to build, and then, if Mr. Ford changed his mind, as he has a perfect right to do and put the buildings up on a far smaller scale, those houses would have been there, the charge would have been on the municipal authority, and Mr. Ford withdraws his factory, 760 or limits it to one-fifth or one-tenth of the size he intended, and the municipal authorities are left with the accommodation and all the expenditure which they need never have provided.
§ That is not a fanciful picture. Look at what is going on at Slough just now. I am not going to argue the case which was put before us the other night. But the fact remains that some 4,000 workmen have been employed. Those who are employed there now are going from London at a special expense, which I believe very nearly doubles their wages, for special trains and the like to take them there. They must have houses in the district. I am informed that the amount which the local authority will have to borrow to house those men unless the Government do it themselves will amount to something like £700,000, and will be more than double the ratable value of the district.
§ I cannot see, and I do not think your Lordships will see, any reason why in these cases, where a factory on a vast scale is to be started for gain the capitalist who puts it up should not have the responsibility of bearing the loss to such degree as may be necessary for housing the individuals he is going to employ. No one would wish, of course, not to use the resources of the district to the largest extent; no one wishes to put an undue strain on men who are public-spirited enough to push great enterprises; but now that it is recognised that it is no longer a question for a private individual but a question for the district—seeing that the districts have no choice whatever as to whether this large factory is to be established amongst them—I suggest that it is absolutely necessary in the interests of the labouring classes, in the interests of the ratepayers, and in the interests of public peace, that you should not lay this excessive burden on those who have no choice whatever in the matter.
§ There is only one other point of view that I wish to lay before your Lordships. Does any one suppose that municipal authorities will be in a hurry to incur this enormous expenditure to please some private individual or individuals who wish to establish a factory amongst them? It will be a matter in which all the powers of the Local Government Board will be brought to bear, every avenue of escape will be taken to avoid burdening themselves to this unusual degree. Therefore, instead of pushing the object of the Bill I believe, 761 in the absence of this proviso, that in the eases which of all others must appeal to the sympathy of all persons—the cases of those who are anxious for employment but who cannot obtain decent housing—this Clause ought to be considered most favourably by the Government. I would urge upon them that if they themselves would only go into the figures, if they would only consider what the misfortune has been in the colliery districts of an insufficient attention to these very points, they would see, whether it is late or whether it is early in the Bill, that it is most important for this proviso to have a place.
After Clause 25, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Midleton.)
I am entirely in sympathy with the extremely socialistic proposal of the noble Viscount; but I would like to point out that the matter is not quite so simple in fact as he apparently thinks. Choosing one of the illustrations to which he himself referred I should like to ask him in the first instance whether this clause is intended to apply to the Government? Because he has given you as an instance the condition of housing at Slough. In common with some other of your Lordships, it has been our duty to consider that question recently, and we there find that there is introduced into a sparse agricultural district a very large demand for labour and no corresponding provision for housing is made by the owner of the factory. This clause ought to apply to that if it is to be effective.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I cannot see any reason why the Government should be exempt from that which affects private employers. Having been responsible for Woolwich for a long period, I find the greatest difficulty in reconciling the attitude of the Government towards housing to the number of persons employed there.
I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, and I think it would be impossible for the Government to enforce such a condition on private owners if they did not observe it themselves. Much as I am in sympathy with this proposal, and much as I think public opinion is in sympathy with proposals of this kind, the actual difficulties are so great that I think any clause intending to enforce it would have 762 to be carefully considered by a Select Committee, drafted by lawyers, and drafted after evidence from those who have experience of what actually obtains.
We are, perhaps, a little too apt in dealing with things of this kind to think of business men like Ford, or Lever Brothers, or any big people of that sort, who have plenty of capital behind them, and who, if they decide to plant down a factory on a particular site, are in a position if necessary at the same time to put up the housing. But that is not the way all industries start by any means. There are a great many industries which, starting so to speak from their beginnings, could not possibly start at all if this obligation were imposed upon them to this extent. Let me give as an example the firm of Rolls-Royce, now a wealthy firm, when it first went to Derby. They were probably not in the financial position to find the housing, nor in fact did they employ anything like the number of men they now employ. And you also have cases, quite usual cases and eases which have really made for the welfare of the country and for the growth of industry in this country, where people start some new process, or some new way of doing something, and start it on a small scale, perhaps with twenty men or with fifty men, and then the factory gradually grows as does the necessity for accommodation. Now, it would be really impossible in the case of a demand for, say, fifty men, to say it had affected the demand for housing in the neighbourhood if it were a reasonably populous one, and if you impose a clause in these terms it will be almost ineffective.
I see that the local authorities are apparently to be the judges; because the words of this clause are that any local authority whose duties under that part of the Act are affected by the establishment of the undertaking can make an order. Apparently the local authorities themselves are to decide whether they are affected. In simple, clear cases like big works employing 1,000 men, or if you like 500 men—or 500 to 5,000—planted down in a new locality, it is easy for the local authority to say that their duties are affected. But in intermediate cases it would be difficulty; and if you leave it entirely to the local authority injustice may be done in some cases. I think this is a clause which it would be impossible for the House to accept or to insert in the Bill at this stage, because the subject is a really difficult and technical one.
I think that most of us are in sympathy with the idea underlying this clause, but there are one or two more criticisms I should like to bring forward to show that it is difficult to introduce it now. In the first place, the clause is limited to the establishment of an undertaking for profit after the passing of the Act. But supposing a certain works were established before the passing of the Act and then doubled in size, it would have been extended after the passing of the Act. Then in rural districts the introduction of a very small industry, which might require only about ten houses, would be felt entirely to upset the balance of housing and accommodation in that little parish. Take, again, a great railway company. A railway company is a well established undertaking for profit. Suppose they developed large sidings and shunting stations, as the North Eastern Railway propose to do at Northallerton. They might bring an enormous population there, but it would be an established undertaking before the passing of the Act. I do not think that this thing can be considered now on a clause like this, but must be brought up independently.
§ LORD DOWNHAM
I agree with some of the criticisms which have been passed, but I hope the Government will express a very deep practical sympathy with the object of this clause and will themselves—they can do it if they like in another place—frame another and better clause which will at all events give us the hope that the owners of large factories, and railways, and collieries, which necessitate an enormous increase of houses in localities, themselves shall have the obligation put upon them to build those houses.
I say this with all the more emphasis because my noble friend who is now in charge of the Bill knows perfectly well that the Government are offering very special financial facilities to public utility societies. It is possible for collieries and for the owners of factories to turn themselves into public utility societies; and if they do that they will get a substantial financial grant, I think it is 30 per cent. on all the annual charges on the loans which will have to be raised for the purpose of housing, and I believe, if the Government were to revise the rules and Regulations which they have put forward in order to encourage public utility societies, if they were to be a little more generous than they 764 are at present, that they would get an immense amount of building done by the public utility societies; they would get it done better, and they would get it done by those who, in my opinion, ought to do it. It is perfectly possible for the large collieries and large factory owners to put a certain amount of capital into public utility societies. They ought to be content with a small percentage on that portion of the capital which is invested for the purpose of housing their own employees. Surely it is more fair, if any loss occurs, that it should fall on them rather than on the rates of the agricultural community whose area has been invaded by some big factory owner or someone of that kind.
My noble friend, in answer to a question just now, said it was his intention that the Government should come under the clause, so that where the Government employ a great many men and, by so doing, necessitate a large provision of houses, they should also come within the operation of the clause. Let me point out that the words are "an undertaking carried on for profit." We have not yet discovered the Government carrying on anything for profit. Although my noble friend wishes to include the Government in this clause, he has singularly failed, when he confines its operation to undertakings which are carried on for profit. I am certain that, if we want to solve the housing problem, we should do more than we have done at present to encourage public utility societies and lay a far greater obligation on railway companies, colliery companies and factory owners to do their fair share in housing those from whose labour they derive their profits.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
This is a very interesting Amendment, which has been moved with great force by my noble friend opposite. My noble friend realises, of course, as much as anybody, that this is a very large and very serious new principle to introduce at this stage of the Bill. It is very far-reaching, because it affects not only housing but all new industries that may be set up in this country. I think it has a wider application than has been suggested by some noble Lords. One noble Lord suggested that some industries began and grew into larger ones and it was difficult to tell at what stage fresh buildings should be introduced. The words of the Amendment are "an undertaking carried on for profit." My noble friend Lord 765 Downham has been speaking as if all these undertakings were large manufacturing undertakings, but these words affect anybody who is carrying on any undertaking for profit. If a shopkeeper comes into a town and employs a certain number of employees and his retail business becomes prosperous, his is an undertaking carried on for profit. Is it really suggested that the duty should be laid upon all such people to undertake to put up buildings for their employees? It certainly is a matter which would have to be very thoroughly considered and very carefully guarded.
There are many other considerations which come in also. I understand that the duty put upon these undertakings would be to build houses, not for other people but for their own employees. If this were so I would suggest to your Lordships that considerable difficulties would arise with trade unions and working classes, because these houses would be described as "tied" houses and I think they would be "tied" houses. That is to say, if houses were put up by each undertaking, it would be hard to suggest that they should be used for any other purpose than that of the undertaking. What would happen? Take the case of the representative workmen in the town. Should these houses be put up by the business or factory or by the local authority? If they were put up by the local authority they would be open to anybody to take, but is they were put up by a particular industry or business they would, in effect, be tied to that particular industry or business. Though my noble friend did not mention that consideration, I am sure he had it in mind. I think it is one which should be well weighed before any general, far-reaching obligation of this kind is put upon business.
I think, too, that there is another point of view from which you can regard the matter. It is not very easy to get capital now for fresh industries. Does my noble friend suggest, when it is very important that you should get every sort of employment, when a large number of people are unemployed, that you should suddenly put this fresh burden on all industries which commence? They would have to raise more capital and it is difficult to know how much. It is not at all easy, when you are setting up a business, to know the number of employees you are going to employ, or what the development will be, or even whether yours is going to be a prosperous 766 undertaking or not. I mention these points to show the great difficulties of detail which do circulate around what otherwise might be the attractive proposal of my noble friend.
Let me put another point also. The judge in these cases, I understand, is to be the local authority. The local authority has to spend on these buildings as much as a penny rate. Is the local authority, therefore, to say to these industries, "We are not going to build the houses, but you shall build the houses, because if we build them we shall have to pay a penny rate, though it is true that everything above a penny rate will be borne by the State"? Would the industry think it a fair thing that the local authority should be the judge, when the local authority gains, anyhow to the extent of this penny rate, by placing the duty on someone else? What I am afraid of is that you would get more delay in the building of houses by local authorities. There would be a long wrangle between the business that was starting and the local authority the local authority aiming to cast the burden on the business and the business trying to prove that it ought to be cast on the local authority.
My noble friend omits to state that when the business is started and, therefore, houses are to be built, there is a fresh rateable value on which the local authority can charge. Then there is another point, to which I think reference was made. It is, perhaps, a drafting point, but it is worth considering. You may have a new business competing with an old business and on that new business is cast the duty of building fresh houses, but the existing business, which doubles or trebles its business, does not come apparently within the Amendment. What unfairness that would engender, what heart burning and difficulty would be created between the local authorities and these different businesses. There is a further point with which I would like to deal. It is perhaps a drafting point, but in subsection (2) the sanction supplied by my noble friend is a very severe one—If the owner of an undertaking fails to comply with an order under this section, he may … be restrained by the High Court of Justice from carrying on the undertaking.That is surely very drastic. Because a sufficient number of houses have not been built the business may be actually sus 767 pended. That would be a very great blow, not only to the business but to the men employed in the business. But that is the only sanction suggested by the Amendment for carrying out the operation of the clause.
Perhaps I have said enough already to indicate that there are very great difficulties surrounding the application of the principle which my noble friend wishes to enforce. I do not in the least wish to take up an unsympathetic attitude towards the general principle, the socialistic principle as it has been described, and, indeed, the Government undertake that in any future legislation on the subject they will carefully consider the suggestion made by my noble friend. The position he takes up may grow rather more important in the future—in five or six years time—than in the next three years, because during that period the Government subsidy is given, and therefore the question will be of less immediate importance. If I give an undertaking to the noble Viscount that the Government will carefully and sympathetically consider the proposal with a view to future legislation he will agree that I have gone as far as it is possible to do upon his Amendment, especially when the great difficulties of carrying it into practical effect are considered. I hope he will not press his Amendment.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I confess that this time I have a certain sympathy with the complaint of the Government that this proposal only comes forward at this stage of the Bill. I am sure Lord Midleton will agree that the subject is one of such far-reaching importance that it would have been far better if it could have been fully considered in Committee. At the same time the proposal is one which the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, indicates inspires no little sympathy. It is most easy to imagine, and not difficult to quote, actual instances of hardships which may occur owing to the sudden incursion into quiet districts of new industries in the manner described by Lord Midleton of the Ford works at Cork. But whether it is possible to proceed precisely in the way my noble friend proposes, I confess I somewhat doubt. I was impressed by what fell from Lord Downham with regard to the advantage of employing public utility societies, and that great industrial enterprises should work through these societies to a greater 768 extent than they do. That I hope will be a system which will spread, and I trust also that local authorities, town councils, and urban district councils, will also attempt as far as possible to work through public utility societies with the aid of their experienced advice rather than depend entirely on their own local officials.
There is no doubt that the main objection which will be taken by many to a proposal of this kind is that which Lord Peel describes—namely, the creation of a number of tied houses. That is an objection which would be largely felt by those who have a right to speak for labour, and it is a very real difficulty. In the case of collieries the collieries, we know, depend almost entirely upon tied houses. I have known some cases to the contrary. I remember being told of a colliery which had no houses attached to it at all, and the men employed had to walk about a mile or a mile and-a-half to the neighbouring town, with the result that when times were good on a wet day very likely 20 or 25 per cent. of the men did not turn up. Therefore it is necessary in certain industries.
My noble friend Lord Downham mentioned railway companies and the obligation resting upon them. I live in the immediate neighbourhood of what is, I believe, the largest railway colony in the country. There are 7,000 or 8,000 men employed at the railway shops and they are entirely housed by the railway company. The same thing, I imagine, holds good both at Derby and Swindon, but there may be cases in which railway companies have not entirely looked after the housing of their employees. As the noble Viscount has pointed out, the proposal goes a great deal further than that, and although some of the difficulties which have been suggested, for example those contingent to the use of the single phrase "undertaking carried on for profit," could be removed, yet I feel that these difficulties are so considerable, both in number and in magnitude, that it is hardly to be expected the Government could accept the Amendment as it appears on the Paper. I wish myself that it could have been accepted in some form, merely on the ground that an opportunity would have been given for a discussion of the whole subject in another place, an opportunity which, of course, will not arise if the Amendment is rejected altogether. I confess in its present form I should myself find some difficulty in supporting it.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
After what has fallen from various noble Lords I do not wish to press the Amendment, but I am afraid the Government will find, unless they take up the subject in some form or another, that very grave consequences will follow in certain districts, and especially in regard to the immense charge upon the ratepayers.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 26:
§ Power to authorise conversion of a house into several tenements.
§ 26. Where it is proved to the satisfaction of the county court on an application by the local authority or the lessee of a house that, owing to changes in the character of the neighbourhood in which such house is situate, the house cannot readily be let as a single tenement but could readily be let for occupation if converted into two or more tenements, and that the provisions of the lease do not admit of such conversion, the court, after giving any person entitled to any interest in the house an opportunity of being heard, may vary the terms of the lease so as to enable the house to be so converted subject to such conditions and upon such terms as the court may think just.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The Amendments on Clause 26 carry out the obligation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer undertook to meet in Committee stage. The effect of them is that whereas the Bill refers only to the provisions on restricted covenants (Lord Dynevor's Amendment referred to the restricted covenants of the estate on which the houses are situated) words are introduced to give effect to the wider obligation which the Lord Chancellor said he would accept. One of the Amendments deals with the case mentioned by Lord Sheffield, where there are covenants which apply to the leases of the whole estate, and it is to meet such a case that instead of using the words "entitled to any interest in the house," the word "interested" is substituted. I think that meets the case.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 23, line 38, leave out ("the lessee of") and insert ("any person interested in")
§ Page 24, line 2, after ("that") insert ("by reason of")
§ Page 24, line 3, leave out (" do not admit of such conversion ") and insert (" or of any restrictive covenant affecting the house or otherwise such conversion is prohibited or restricted")
§ Page 24, lines 4 and 5, leave out ("entitled to any interest in the house") and insert ("interested")
§ Page 24, line 6, after ("lease") insert ("or other instrument imposing the prohibition or restriction").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.770
§ LORD DYNEVOR
I should like to express my grateful thanks for the way in which the Government have met the points that were raised.
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved to insert the following new clause:
28. In the case of houses intended or used for occupation by the working classes, the name and address of the medical officer of health for the district and of the landlord or other person who is directly responsible for keeping the house in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation shall be inscribed in every rent book or where a rent book is not used, shall be delivered in writing to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy and before any rent is demanded or collected; and if any person demands or collects any rent in contravention of the provisions of this section he shall in respect of each offence be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding forty shillings.
§ The noble Marquess said: I do not know whether the Government intend to accept this Amendment. As I ventured to point out in Committee, it is directed to giving poor people who live in houses the knowledge necessary to vindicate their rights. I do not think there can be any doubt that there ought to be this remedy, and the only objection, or the principal objection, taken by the Government in Committee was that I had not inserted any sanction in case what was prescribed by the Amendment was not carried out. That omission has been remedied in the present Amendment, and I provide a fine in case of non-compliance.
I hope the Government will stop me the moment they are convinced, and I cannot help thinking that can be done. I hold in my hand a number of cases of the opinions of various public bodies and social workers in all parts of London, and they all agree that some such words are absolutely required. May I read the view of a social worker of great experience in Pimlico and Fulham—
People have no idea to whom to apply for repairs. They have a vague idea that the [a great landlord in that district] is responsible, but have no idea where to End him! They accuse him of all sorts of things from smoking chimneys to leaking roofs. They often do not know the landlord to whom they pay their rent. A man comes round with a book and their payments are entered. This man has no responsibility beyond collecting rents. He stands at the door, receives money and does nothing more—
Very unsatisfactory from the point of view of the occupier. Then a Superintendent of Peabody Buildings "thinks that it would
have the effect of bringing agents and persons responsible up to the mark." Here are the opinions of some clergy. I do not know that all your Lordships have the great regard for the clergy which I have, but you will all recognise that they have great knowledge of the difficulties and sufferings of the poor. They say—
Press the amendment all you can, it would be of great help to social visitors who could help people to get repairs done if the landlord was known. It would also help enormously in the matter of houses of ill-fame. These houses are sub-let at a high rent because the landlords can shield themselves. The bringing home of responsibility would be a great thing.
I do not think I need trouble your Lordships any more. The point is that these small occupiers should know in the first place the name and address of the landlord against whom they have rights for landlord's repairs, and secondly, that they should know the name and address of the medical officer of health, because it is his business to put the sanitary law in force. Those are two provisions which should be legibly inscribed upon every rent book or corresponding paper, and I think it would be of great value, if your Lordships are good enough to consent.
After Clause 27, insert the said new clause.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I earnestly hope that your Lordships will consent to this Amendment. I have been brought in contact with this matter for many years, and again and again efforts on the part of the tenants and on the part of those who even more than the tenants have the tenants' interests at heart, are defeated by the impossibility of ascertaining the names of the persons who are really responsible. The tenant is not capable of understanding his rights and does not often readily understand the advice which is given to him. Every day this difficulty is cropping up, and I venture to hope that your Lordships will introduce this Amendment. We wanted it years ago in regard to another Bill. I believe it is absolutely necessary if we are to carry on the work of this Bill with efficiency.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
I desire most earnestly to support this Amendment. There is nothing more pitiable than the complete ignorance of the poorer people 772 of this country of the rights which they possess. The amount of unjustifiable oppression to which they are subjected by unscrupulous people, who impose upon that ignorance, is only known to those whose privilege it has been to know some thing of the wants and needs of the poorer people. One thing that we need beyond everything else is to introduce into these houses some knowledge of the laws of health, and we want to avoid people thinking that every person in authority is their foe. You want, if you possibly can, and I think you can secure it, sympathetic consideration by the Medical Officer, who will be ready to understand their needs, point out to them the mischiefs from which they are suffering, and the ways by which they can be remedied, and I think it would be of the utmost importance that it should be possible for them to know at once to whom to go in case of difficulty. If that were done I feel sure the assistance of the Medical Officer would be of immense service in improving the healthy condition of the houses in which these people live. The houses are often made insanitary through their own carelessness, and ignorance as to how they are to be dealt with.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, the Amendment of the noble Marquess has been supported not only by him but by others far more strongly than it was on the Committee stage. The noble Marquess has fortified himself by placing a penalty in the Clause. The absence of that penalty was one of the reasons why the Government thought less of the Amendment than they otherwise might have done. Another reason why the Government was a little afraid of putting this proposal in the Bill was that it might not be operative.
It was difficult to see how this duty was to be laid upon the Rent Collector, of supplying this information in writing when no rent books were used, and it was thought also that it might be difficult, where rents were collected week by week, to prove that this piece of writing, giving the name of the landlord, had not been presented to the tenant. Moreover, I do not think it is quite clear that it is really the duty of the landlord to supply the tenant with the name of the Medical Officer. It would rather seem to be the duty of the local authority. It does not seem to be one of the necessary duties of ownership, to my mind.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
May I say that I think no good landlord would object to doing such a thing. Why should he? Why should he possibly object? Any one of us would be only too delighted to do it. It is only in case of reluctance on the part of some careless landlords. We do not legislate for careless landlords—at any rate we do not legislate to save them.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Before adopting an Amendment of this sort you have to consider it on wider grounds than that, and consider whether it is a duty which should be placed upon the landlord. I was suggesting that there was doubt whether it was one of the duties which ought to be fairly cast upon the landlord. If noble Lords are of opinion that an Amendment of this kind will do a great deal of good, or be of value, I do not wish to offer any opposition. All I wish to say is that I have some doubt whether it will do the good that noble Lords think.
THE EARL OF MEATH
Perhaps I may be permitted to say that it has already been proved a success, because Miss Octavia Hill carried out these very principles with very great success.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 29:
§ Extension of Powers under Settled Land Act, 1882.
§ 29. The powers conferred upon a tenant for life by the Settled Land Acts, 1882 to 1890, shall include the following further powers:—
- (a) A power to make a grant in fee simple or absolutely, or a lease for any term of years, for a nominal price or rent or for less than the best price or rent which could be obtained for the purpose of the erection thereon of dwellings for the working classes or the provision of gardens to be held in connection therewith. Provided that no more than two acres shall be granted as a site for such dwellings or gardens in any one parish without payment of the full price or rent for the excess, except under an order of the court;
- (b) A power, where money is required for the provision of dwellings available for the working classes, to raise the money on mortgage of the settled land or of any part thereof by conveyance of the foe simple or other the estate subject to the settlement or by creation of a term of years in the settled land or any part thereof or otherwise, and the money so raised shall be capital money for that purpose and may be paid or applied accordingly.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE moved in paragraph (a), after "Provided that no more than two acres," to insert "in the case of land situate in an urban district, or ten acres in the case of land situate in a rural district." The noble Marquess said: I am grateful to the noble Viscount opposite for giving me an opportunity of speaking on this clause. I think that most of your Lordships will agree that Clause 29 is one of the most important in the Bill. It is an extension of the powers under the Settled Land Act of 1882 which a good many of us remember. If it had not been for the Act passed in the second year of one of Mr. Gladstone's Governments I do not think there would have been many of us here, anyhow as tenants for life. This clause is an improvement on that. It gives tenants for life the power to make a grant in fee simple or absolutely, or a lease for any term of years, for a nominal price or rent. A nominal price is I believe the same as a peppercorn rent. It practically means giving the land. There is a proviso "that no more than two acres shall be granted as a site for such dwelling or gardens in any one parish without payment of the full price or rent for the excess, except under an order of the Court."
§ With the sanction of the noble Viscount opposite, I propose to ask your Lordships to accept an Amendment as regards rural land only. I do not venture to interfere at all with urban property. The House will see that not more than two acres can be granted. Two acres really are not enough in rural districts. Let me if I may give one example. I have a parish in the north of the County of Bucks. There are about thirty or thirty-five cottages on it. As a tenant for life we have no property at all except in land. I have done the best I could and built eight or ten cottages and a school and school-mistress's house, but there are twenty cottages which are certainly over 200 years old. They have been patched up and made wind and watertight, but they are not what cottages ought to be on the land. I have done the best I could, and I can do no more. I am one of those persons who cannot of himself help himself. But fortunately the local authority comes in and says "We are prepared to build you twenty cottages, and we want to know what price you will be good enough to ask for the land, and in what position you will be good enough to allow these cottages to be built?" I at once said, 775 what I think every one in the House would have said, to the local authority, "For God's sake get those cottages up as quickly as you possibly can. You can have as much land as you want, and where you want it." It means practically rebuilding the village, and taking an obligation off my shoulders which I am unable to discharge.
§ Under the Bill I think you are not to put more than eight cottages on an acre in rural districts. Really you ought not to have more than four per acre, for every cottage ought to have a quarter of an acre of land. That would involve au expense of about £200, but you cannot build twenty cottages under present conditions for less than £8,000 or £9,000. Therefore I think it is only right that if an obligation is taken off the landlord's shoulders he ought in equity to give the land free. I should have liked this to have gone a great deal further. I should have liked to have made it an obligation for the landlord to have to do it, but naturally there would have been some difficulty in carrying that out, and so I propose this Amendment.
Page 26, line 5, after ("acres") insert ("in the case of land situate in an urban district, or ten acres in the case of land situate in a rural district").—(The Marquess of Lincolnshire.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 35:
§ Application of Act to New Forest.
§ 35. The provision of houses under the Housing Acts, 1890 to 1919, shall be deemed to be a local sanitary requirement for the purpose of the New Forest (Sale of Lands for Public Purposes) Act, 1902.
§ THE EARL OF MEATH moved, at the end of the clause, to insert "provided that the total area of land being part of the New Forest which may be sold or let for the provision of houses shall not exceed twenty acres. "The noble Earl said: In moving the Amendment in my name I have the honour to represent the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society, the Kyrle Society, the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty, and the Society for the Promotion 776 of Nature Reserves. I need not say that those societies, as I am myself, are all greatly in favour of the Bill before your Lordships' House. We recognise the necessity of building large numbers of houses especially for the working classes, and my Amendment does not in the least desire to limit that number of houses built.
§ What I want to know is whether it is absolutely necessary to do what Clause 35 suggests. This Clause was put in when the Bill was in Committee and I believe it was inserted at the instigation of the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, who I think is Chairman of the Hampshire County Council. The clause which was inserted (Clause 35) runs as follows:—"The provision of houses under the Housing Acts, 1890 to 1919, shall be deemed to be a local sanitary requirement for the purpose of the New Forest (Sale of Lands for Public Purposes) Act, 1902." Your Lordships will notice that under this clause there is no limit whatever, if it be passed without any Amendment, to the extent which the local authority can claim for a sanitary requirement.
§ What is the new authority? I need not at this hour go into its history. Every school child knows that the New Forest is of very ancient date, and was a hunting forest of the King in which there was a lamentable and tragic occurrence that impressed itself upon the minds of everybody. This is the largest open space that we have in the United Kingdom. At one time it was of excessive size, but gradually has been diminished. Even at this date, however, its extent is 128,000 acres, which, curiously enough, is almost the same as the extent of Greater London. Of those 128,000 acres almost half—that is to say 65,000 acres—can be built upon at this moment. There are 20,000 acres which belong to the Crown. Of course, they are to be purchased. And the remainder out of the 65,000 is possibly to be built over by purchase, owing to the fact that there are ancient rights which cannot be infringed with regard to enclosures. That leaves us with 63,000 acres of waste land. Why should the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, and why should the Government accept the clause which empowers buildings to be erected upon these 63,000 acres when there are 65,000 acres which can be purchased by the County Council of Hampshire or anybody else?777
§ Who wants the land? We are told, though it is not in the Bill, that the Hampshire County Council want it for certain menders of roads. That is a very legitimate demand. How many menders of roads are there? If they had three acres and a cow I suppose that would be considered enough for each man. I suppose there are about half-a-dozen; that would be eighteen acres. Supposing there are more, these organisations do not in the least want to limit it. We only want to know. The general public are not going to build houses all over the New Forest.
§ How is the New Forest regulated? In 1877 there was an Act passed by Parliament to preserve the New Forest. The open wastes in the New Forest are managed by a Court of six elective and one official verderer. Section 8 of the Act of 1877 provides that the ornamental woods and trees in the forest shall be preserved and that the forest shall remain open and unenclosed. I wish to draw your attention to that. The one exception was that the Act gave the Crown power to enclose and plant 20,000 acres of the open lands in the New Forest, of which the area under enclosures is not to exceed 16,000 acres at any one time.
§ There have been two other attempts to get hold of this magnificent national park. America has its national park; Canada has its national park. We have nothing except the New Forest. I do think that Parliament would not desire to go back upon the Act of 1877 and permit any large enclosure of such a magnificent open space as the New Forest. There was an attempt made to build in 1902. It was defeated. There was a second attempt made in 1909, and our organisations defeated it again. Now this is a third attempt under the plea of sanitation, but sanitation for what? They already have powers to arrange for sewage, and therefore that cannot be it. What is it they want to do? We understand that it is for these road-makers. By all means let the road-makers have houses, and as much land as is necessary. But we believe that twenty acres ought to be amply sufficient for this purpose.
§ I hope that your Lordships will not permit the Act of 1877 to be overridden or the special clauses which were put in the Act of 1909 which prevent the land being built over without the consent of Parliament. I would also point out that the New Forest is the home of the largest 778 and most successful group of small-holders to be found in England, whose success has been mainly due to their rights to turn out stock to graze upon the forest wastes. These rights alone enable the raising of the famous New Forest ponies, and it would be a calamity if they were interfered with.
Page 27, line 20, at end insert ("provided that the total area of land being part of the New Forest which may be sold or let for the provision of houses shall not exceed twenty acres").—(The Earl of Meath.)
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD ERNLE)
I quite recognise that an area like the New Forest, when it is passing out of public control, should be most jealously safeguarded. I think the noble and learned Lord opposite raised the point when this Clause was first introduced. I pointed out that there were certain safeguards in the Act of 1902 which protected the rights of the public against undue encroachment. But at the same time I realise, as the noble Lord has put it, that bodies interested in the preservation of the New Forest may be alarmed at the indefiniteness of this proposal. There are obvious objections to putting in an acreage limit. If you put in an acreage limit you are, on the one hand, perhaps obliged to put in a covering figure. It is quite impossible to foresee the future requirements of the local authority. On the other hand, if you do put in a covering figure, you may be misunderstood, and it may be supposed that your intention is to utilise the land up to the limit of those figures.
But I should be prepared to accept an acreage limit. I feel that we ought to try and allay any public feeling on this subject. The real purpose of the clause is that where lack of housing can be established, and where there is no other suitable land outside this area available without undue expense, and where the particular site is suitable; both as to extent and situation, and where the local authority has further obtained the consent of the President of the Board of Agriculture, who is the custodian of common rights, that up to the limit of—I should like to say—forty acres the Commissioners shall have power to sell. When I say forty acres it is quite impossible for us to foresee at this present moment whether one of the local authorities in the Forest may not be compelled to come to us for consent to apply to the Local Govern- 779 ment Board to try and satisfy these requirements. I do not think that for years to come such an area as forty acres can be used, and any part of that area would only be used if it could be established that there was no other suitable land available outside that area. I hope that with that limitation the noble Lord will be satisfied.
THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
As I am responsible for the insertion of this clause in the Bill, may I say I think the noble Earl is needlessly alarmed as to what might be the result of this clause, if passed in its present form. The noble Earl has pointed out that a large part of the New Forest is woodland and heather and is very thinly populated, and obviously in those districts no houses would be required.
Perhaps I may explain that I originally put down an Amendment so as to enable the local authority to acquire a limited area, limiting that area to twenty acres in the New Forest. I did that because I happen to be chairman of the Hampshire County Council, and, somewhat selfishly perhaps, I looked merely to the interests of the county council in order to provide a sufficient acreage for erecting houses for our roadmen, our constables, and other persons in our employment. The noble Lord asked how many roadmen will be put in the Forest? We propose to build 240 cottages for roadmen in the county area, but perhaps only half-a-dozen will be necessary to be built in the forest. Many of our main roads traverse that large district. It is very desirable that these roadmen should be housed in close proximity to their work, and in many cases the only land available is in the possession of the Crown.
At the present moment our roadmen have to live where they can, sometimes at a considerable distance from their work which is uneconomic for the work of the county council, or they have to take houses which might be occupied by other persons, or take lodgings which produces overcrowding. I put in the words "twenty acres" because I believe twenty acres would be sufficient for the purposes of the county council. Representations were made to me that the local authorities under the Bill—that is, the urban and rural district councils, might also require land for housing purposes, not in those wild parts but in the neighbourhood of large villages and small towns where there may be a need. In those cases, again, sometimes the only land 780 suitable and available would be Crown land, which cannot now be taken owing to the Act to which the noble Lord has referred which empowers the Commissioner of Woods to sell that land only for sanitary purposes. I therefore hope that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment will be prepared to accept the suggestion made by Lord Ernie just now, and to limit the amount which the Commissioner of Woods and Forests will be emplowered to sell up to forty acres. That, I believe, would be sufficient for the purpose.
The noble Lord has pointed out the vast extent of the New Forest. I do not think that anyone can seriously suggest that the abstraction of forty acres from an area of something between 80,000 and 90,000 acres can possibly be said in any way to prejudice the interests of the commoners. These schemes which will have to be submitted to the Commissioner of Woods and Forests; there will have to be a local inquiry, and they will have to be approved by the Local Government Board, and I think we can rely upon it that both those Departments, before they grant permission for the scheme to go through and the land to be sold, will satisfy themselves, first, that the interests of the commoners will not be prejudiced, and, second, that the houses shall be placed in such positions and shall be of such a character as in no way to destroy the natural beauty of the landscape.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, those of us who are interested in the preservation of open spaces, above all of spaces of such extent and beauty as the New Forest, are obliged to the President of the Board of Agriculture for the sympathetic spirit in which he has received the suggestion that has come from my noble friend, Lord Meath. Personally, I also feel the force of what has been said by the noble Earl who has just sat down. As those of your Lordships who are acquainted with the New Forest know, there are very large stretches of open country, covered mostly with heath, sometimes with swamp, and sometimes with fir and other trees, where it is difficulty to find any place for a road-maker to live and attend to his duties; and if he could be in a place where if any accident occurred help could be given—because there are large solitary tracts in the Forest—it is very desirable that the cottages should be erected in such places. Therefore I feel the force of the argument 781 used by the noble Earl on behalf of the Hampshire County Council.
But when we come to the question of the local urban and sanitary authorities the position is very different; because the villages and the small towns are on the outskirts of the Forest or in places where there are enclosures. There are very considerable enclosures—amounting I think, to something like 45,000 acres—inside the general ambit of the Forest, and there it is almost impossible to acquire land by purchase. On the outskirts land could be had. Therefore I do not feel that there is any very strong case on behalf of the local urban and sanitary authorities who live along the Forest. I should have thought that the space for which the Hampshire County Council have asked, twenty acres ought to be sufficient; and I should have been glad if the President of the Board of Agriculture could have seen his way to stop at the twenty acres for which an undoubted case has been made out. Your Lordships will remember that we are dealing here with an open space which is unique not only in England but in Europe; there is no piece of sylvan scenery in all Europe comparable with the New Forest, and that is why we should be careful to see that no harm is done to it Here we are departing from the principle which Parliament has previously laid down t hat the open spaces of the Forest should be considered sacred; and when you set up a precedent, especially when you depart from the practice of Parliament hitherto, you ought to be very careful indeed; and I feel that this new precedent ought to be kept within the narrowest possible limits.
Let me take this opportunity of saying that I hope the President of the Board of Agriculture will look upon the right of supervision, or veto, which is vested in him as being a very important part of his functions. That is not the only case by any means in which large open spaces, great commons, and forests, have been threatened by local authorities, who are by no means always enlightened bodies, and who are too much tempted to infringe on the rights of the people generally for the sake of getting land cheaper than they would otherwise get it. Consequently I hope that the Board of Agriculture will take a very serious view of their responsibilities and will restrain all these attempts to be "penny wise and pound foolish" to get land a little cheaper, while sacrificing the 782 interests of the commoners and of the general public who find in these great open spaces one of the simplest and best methods of recreation and enjoyment.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
This subject was considered by the Verderers of the New Forest (of whom I am one) last Monday week. No objection was raised at that Court to the insertion of some such clause as is now proposed by Lord Ernie. As a matter of fact, we were frightened at any unlimited acreage; but I would suggest to the Government and to my noble friend Lord Meath that, if we split the difference between the twenty acres and the forty acres and call it thirty acres, all objection will be removed. In reply to Lord Bryce, I would say that not only do the county council want land for their road men and police, but others also want land for their men. Many roads are district roads, and they are just as much isolated as the county roads.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
I am sorry if I appear to be aloe to æesthetic considerations, but it surprises me that the President of the Board of Agriculture should express satisfaction at so small an area as forty acres out of something like 63,000 acres available, in view of the provisions of the Forestry Bill which has recently been introduced into this House. I live on the borders of the Forest of Dean, and I am bound to say—I am sure the noble Lord opposite will agree, because he knows the district—that the housing conditions in that more populated area, under Government control, are by no means a credit to the Governments of the past. The houses are huddled together, and are the result of personal efforts which have had no sympathy whatever from the Government of the country. If it is a fact that you are going to re-establish afforestation in this country, that you are going to have a large number of persons employed not merely in the forests but in forest nurseries and in woodland industries, surely there is a prospect of your requiring far larger accommodation for the local population than you have required in the past. At the same time, if you are only now thinking of road men and other employees of the county council, you are not taking full account of the possible developments of the Royal Forest and the possible requirements of a much larger housing accommodation in the future than is in contemplation at present.
§ VISCOUNT HARCOURT
It is only the speech which has just been delivered that induces me, as one who has lived for a great many years in the New Forest, to explain to him that he is treating the New Forest as if it were all Crown land and there was no other land available. As a matter of fact, throughout the Forest, there are distributed large manors with private land which offer plenty of opportunities for acquiring the land which is required for other purposes. Around Lyndhurst and Ringwood there is any quantity of private land. I myself feel that twenty acres is an ample amount for the Crown to take out of the Forest. In fact, I think it is too much. If they want other buildings for forestry purposes I think they had better go to some of the private land which is comprised within the New Forest. I do not know whether my noble friend sitting on this side is acquainted with much of the land of the New Forest. I hope, if he is not, or if he is, that he will give little encouragement to the Government to try experiments in planting a large part of the land which was stated in evidence before the Royal Commission to be land which would starve a Scotch fir.
§ LORD ERNLE
I should like to plead to the House for the limit at least of thirty acres. That I would be prepared to accept. I take the decision of the verderers who really know the Forest better than any other body of men and who tell us that in addition to what is wanted by the Hampshire County Council, there are the requirements of their own road men and local authorities These thirty acres would be a reasonable compromise and would, at the same time, safeguard the interests of the Forest. I would agree to the motion of the noble Earl if he will alter the twenty acres into thirty.
§ LORD GAINFORD
Would it meet the Government if other words were added to the effect that land would only be taken if no other suitable land in the immediate neighbourhood was available?
THE EARL OF MEATH
Personally I am very grateful to Lord Ernle for the sympathetic way in which he has spoken Although I must bow to the decision of the 784 House and of the noble Lord in regard to the thirty acres, still I should like to say that I look upon this as a very dangerous precedent. I am afraid that you will find county councils and local bodies looking out for commons and saying, "A certain amount of land was given for building in the New Forest, and we do not see why the Hampshire County Council should be the only one to receive land free."
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The question is that these words shall be added—" provided that the total area of land being part of the New Forest which may be sold or let for the provision of houses shall not exceed thirty acres."
§ On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 39:
Page 29, line 25, leave out ("be deemed to have") and insert ("have the like effect as if it had").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 40:
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY had on the Paper an Amendment to insert in the proviso, after "and the Board," the words, "before giving their approval shall consult the council of the county within whose area the land is situate and." The noble Marquess said: I do not propose to move this Amendment, and I think Lord Strachie would be content if I moved the Amendment to Clause 41 which really covers the same ground, and which, I believe, the Government are willing to accept.
§ Clause 41:
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY: I beg to move to add the following new subsection:
(2) Subsection (2) of section fifty-six of the Act of 1909 shall have effect as if the following paragraph were added thereto:
'For securing that the council of the county in which any land proposed to be included in a town planning scheme is situated (1) shall be furnished with a notice of any proposal to prepare or adopt such a scheme and with a copy of the draft scheme before the scheme is made, and (2) shall be entitled to be heard at any public local inquiry held by the Local Government Board in regard to the scheme.'
Page 31, line 22, insert the said new sub-section.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 44:
§ Power of Local Government Board to require town planning scheme.
§ 44.—(1) Where the Local Government Board are satisfied that a town planning scheme ought to be made by a local authority, the Board may by order require the local authority to prepare and submit for their approval such a scheme, and if the scheme is approved by the Board to do all things necessary for enforcing the observance of the scheme or any provisions thereof effectively, and for executing any works which, under the scheme or under Part II of the Act of 1909, the authority is required to execute.
§ (2) Any order made by the Local Government Board under this section shall have the same effect as a resolution of the local authority deciding to prepare a town planning scheme in respect of the area in regard to which the order is made.
§ (3) If the local authority fail to prepare a scheme to the satisfaction of the Board within such time as may be prescribed by the order, or to enforce the observance of the scheme or any provisions thereof effectively, or to execute any such works as aforesaid, the Board may either authorise the county council to act, or may themselves act, in the place and at the expense of the local authority.
§ LORD DOWNHAM moved to leave out Clause 44. The noble Lord said: On the Committee stage of the Bill I moved to omit this clause. I did not persist in the Amendment because some hope was held out by my noble and learned friend in charge of the Bill that he would put certain safeguards into the clause which might be satisfactory to the local authorities. My noble and learned friend has put down certain Amendments and I would like to know from him, or my noble friend, Viscount Peel, who is in charge of the Bill at the present moment, whether he intends to accept the proviso which is put down in the name of my noble friend, Lord Islington, and myself. If the Government could see their way to accept that proviso, it would relieve me of the obligation that I feel of going to a Division on the omission of the clause. I put down the Amendment partly because the clause was not in the original Bill and that this is not really a town planning Bill. The main object of the Bill is to get local authorities to build houses as soon as possible, to convert old houses so that they may be used by the working-classes, and to improve generally the dwellings of the working-classes. I said then, and I say now, that I ant no enemy of a system of town planning.786
§ I should like your Lordships to look at the Bill. If you look at Clauses 40 and 41 you will see that, when this Bill is passed, any local authority can, by merely passing a resolution, prepare or adopt a town planning scheme, or it can adopt any town planning scheme which has been proposed by all or any of the owners of any land with respect to which the local authority are themselves by this Bill authorised to prepare a scheme. And if they do voluntarily so adopt a town planning scheme, the Local Government Board can make Regulations that will secure that the local authority, after passing such a resolution, shall proceed with all reasonable speed with the preparation or adoption of the town planning scheme. Therefore, there is ample power in the Bill already for any local authority merely by resolution to adopt a town planning scheme. I have no doubt a great many local authorities will do so. I hope they will, and this clause makes it compulsory on all local authorities to adopt a town planning scheme, without any local inquiry being held and without any financial aid at all from the Exchequer. The Government forces an expensive town planning scheme on any local authority without giving a farthing towards the expenses, although the local authority might already be burdened with an exceedingly heavy rate and might point out that the particular scheme which the Government wanted to force upon them was exceedingly expensive, and might lead to a 1s. or even a 2s. rate.
§ I am glad to find that the Lord Chancellor has put clown an Amendment to meet me on the subject of the local inquiry. He is willing there shall be a local inquiry before action is taken by the Government to force the local authority to adopt a town planning scheme. That is something. The Lord Chancellor has also put down another Amendment to limit the kind of land to which a town planning scheme can be applied; to land which alone could be the subject of town planning under the Town Planning Act of 1909. That Act defines this land as land fit for development as building land, but which is not yet built over. I do not think those two Amendments deprive this clause of its very drastic and compulsory nature, and I do not think we ought to apply it to our local authorities.
§ We ought to do everything we can to encourage local authorities to apply their 787 staffs, and their administrative powers, to building new houses. That is what we have to do. We can have more drastic town planning clauses hereafter. There will be plenty of time for them I deprecate this new idea of the Government that they must always be coercing local authorities instead of presuading them After all, local authorities are elected by the people to do certain things They are the trustees for the ratepayers of the locality, and you ought to prove a very grave case of default against a local authority before coming down and saying, "notwithstanding you have an intimate knowledge of your locality. a very heavy rate, and difficulty in raising money yet we are going to force you to adopt a very expensive town planning scheme as we think we know a great deal better than you do what is suitable for your area. You must either carry out the scheme or we shall carry it out for you, and put the whole of the expenses upon you."
§ I have had a document sent to me by those who are enthusiastic about town planning schemes. I share their enthusiasm. It states that in France a law has been passed by which all local authorities will have to put in force some town planning scheme. If you will read that law you will see that the Government, whenever they are going to compel local authorities to make plans of that kind, also give very substantial financial assistance. There is nothing in this clause about substantial financial assistance. The whole of the expense is to fall upon the local authority. I think we ought at least to insist that we have the proviso standing in the name of Lord Islington put into the Bill. If that proviso is carried, by which both Houses of Parliament will have some veto whenever a Department of the State forces an expensive town planning scheme on a local authority, then, perhaps, we may allow this clause to go up to another place. I think it is better, unless we put in the safeguard of the proviso, that the clause should be omitted.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I really think that my noble friend is rather unreasonable in moving to omit Clause 44. We had a long discussion on two clauses on the Committee Stage—on the clause which refers to the method by which the State can put compulsion on the local authority which does not make a town planning scheme where it ought to do; and on the clause which 788 made it compulsory on every local authority to produce a scheme. After a long discussion the Lord Chancellor agreed that he would omit the first clause. That was in the nature of a compromise, or arrangement, but immediately that compromise is made my noble friend on the Report stage wishes to do away with the compromise, and omit the other clause as well. I ask your Lordships not to agree to an arrangement of that kind. We have already given away one clause. My noble friend is really insatiable and now says the Government must give away the other. The Lord Chancellor has put down two Amendments which have altered the situation. There is the one relating to land included under the Act of 1909, and the other with regard to the establishment of a local inquiry, when there will be full opportunity for the local authority to state its case.
As was pointed out when the Bill was in Committee there already exists in the Act of 1909 the power to coerce a local authority under the power of mandamus. We are not introducing a new principle at all in coercing a local authority, but we are introducing a new method—allowing the central authority to proceed to make the scheme itself if the local authority will not do so. Under these circumstances I ask the House not to support the Amendment. I really think my noble friend has been fairly met in every way possible and reasonable. If he really takes away this final power from the State, what will happen? We shall only be thrown back on the old and cumbrous method of mandamus.
This is a time when great new building schemes are being put forward. If there had been proper town planning schemes put forward and carried out during the last forty years Bills like the present one would have been unnecessary. Surely we are not going to fall into the same mistake again. The bulk of local authorities do their duty well, but when there are cases of local authorities who are not doing their duty, who are not preparing schemes, but allowing the same difficulties to spring up which have sprung up in the last forty years, the cause of such misery and trouble, there ought to be a final power in the State to enforce it upon a local authority if it is not doing its duty. I shall have to offer the most firm resistance to this proposal. I shall be sorry if the noble Lord thinks it necessary to divide 789 upon it. The Government have done all they can to meet him, especially by the two Amendments of the Lord Chancellor.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hope that Lord Downham will not press this Amendment. In my humble judgment, having been a student of this subject for many years, it is really necessary that town planning should have a great forward movement. I am sure there is a strong feeling in the country to that effect, and I know there is a strong feeling in another place. People have a right to expect that the towns in which they live should be properly planned and organised and if there is to be anything in the idea that after the war we should have our local administration on better lines than it was before, I think this Question stands in the forefront. There ought to be some means of saying in the interests of the community that where a local authority neglects its duty there should be some machinery by which that should be corrected. I should be sorry to see this clause disappear from the Bill.
I want to ask a question, though not with any idea of opposing Clause 44. I want to ask this—Does the Town Planning Act provide for schemes of town planning for districts which are not urban councils but merely parts of a rural district council, because it seems to me it is very important that when a town begins to grow, and has the first rudiments of population, somebody, either the district or the county council, should have power to make a town planning scheme.
§ LORD DOWNHAM
I have no desire to press my Amendment to a Division. I raised it in the form of omitting the clause in order to draw attention to the inadequacy of the safeguards which had been inserted. Grateful though I am for those. I shall certainly divide unless the proviso which we have put down to the Bill is accepted.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The next three Amendments are intended to carry out the undertaking given by the Lord Chancellor in Committee.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 32, line 7, after ("satisfied") insert ("after holding a public local inquiry")
§ Page 32, line 9, after the first ("authority") insert ("as respects any land in regard to which a town-planning scheme may be made under the Act of 1909")
§ Page 32, line 24, leave out ("authorise") and insert ("by order empower").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved, in subsection (3) to leave out "either authorise the county council to act or may" and later in the clause to insert other words. The noble Marquess said. I believe the Government are willing to accept this Amendment, It is designed to prevent any possibility that the county council should be called upon to act in default, in the place of a large urban authority. That would naturally produce friction, and I do not think it is intended by the Government. It is quite right that the county council should be called upon to act in default of a small borough or urban district, but not, in the ease of a large urban authority. The Amendment is designed to confine the possible action of the county council either to rural authorities or to small urban authorities, the limits of which are fixed by a great number of Statutes as 10,000 in the case of boroughs and 20,000 in the case of urban districts.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 32, line 24, leave out ("either authorise the county council to act or may")
§ Page 32, line 25, after the second ("act") insert ("or in the case of a borough the population of which is less than 10,000, or of an urban district the population of which is less than 20,000, may, if the Board think fit by order, empower the county council to act").—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I think the Lord Chancellor gave an undertaking on this matter, and I think the Amendment of the noble Marquess is rather more generous, and I therefore accept it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD ISLINGTON moved, at the end of the clause, to insert:
Provided that before exercising powers conferred by the provisions of this subsection, the Board shall make an Order specifying the action they propose to take thereunder, and shall publish notice of such last-mentioned Order in the 'London or Edinburgh Gazette,' as the case may be, and if within twenty-one days from the date of such publication, any person or authority
interested objects in the prescribed manner, a draft of such Order shall be laid before each House of Parliament for a period of not less than thirty days during the session of Parliament, and if either of those Houses before the expiration of those thirty days presents an address to His Majesty against the draft or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon without prejudice to the making of any new draft. Order.
§ The noble Lord said: I ask the Government to give this Amendment favourable consideration, because I feel that the Amendment relating to public inquiry, while it undoubtedly strengthens the position of the local authority to a considerable degree as compared with what it was in the original Bill, does not really protect the local authorities sufficiently. In moving this Amendment I desire to express in the most emphatic terms that I do so in no sense in hostility to the town planning movement as such. The reason why I am anxious to see full protection given to local authorities is, and I am sure all noble Lords will share my view, that the conditions under which we are living to-day will probably deteriorate more and more, and anything which is to be imposed arbitrarily by the central authority, which will add to the expenditure of local authorities, should only be done when the whole public are satisfied there is a real necessity.
§ I will explain as briefly as possible what my Amendment means, and the justification which I venture to think that I have for moving it. Clause 44, sub-clause (1), enables the Local Government Board to make an Order requiring the local authority to prepare and submit a scheme for approval. If the local authority carry this out, then the whole matter is finished and the scheme proceeds, but if the local authority object, as they undoubtedly will, perhaps in the majority of cases, then the powers of sub-clause (3) are naturally invoked, and they are very drastic powers, as you will observe. I am advised that this will necessitate a second Order by the Board dealing with the action embodied in the sub-clause, and this is the one that I venture to suggest should be laid before both Houses of Parliament for the period suggested in my Amendment. Its insertion in the Gazette gives the opportunity for full publicity, while the laying on the Table gives opportunity for any objection to be raised.
§ I would ask my noble friend to bear this well in mind in answering me—and I 792 hope he will give me a favourable answer—that this proviso is to be found in the 1909 Act, in Section 54, subsection (4), where the Local Government Board are empowered to authorise a local authority to prepare schemes. Here it is implied that the central authority takes the initiative. In that case authorisation is suggested, and any one who reads carefully that section of the Act will see that it really implies initiation on the part of the local authority to the central body. In this case the central board requires the local authority to do it. Therefore I venture to suggest that if this proviso was embodied in the 1909 Act, as it is in Section 54, there is a stronger case for it to be included in this Bill.
§ I do not think it is necessary for me to argue this case further. It has been argued in debate already to-day, and was argued the other day in Committee, but before these schemes are enforced upon any local authorities in the years to come it should only be done in the first place after full inquiry has been made, and should only be in the second place after full opportunity for objection has been advanced from any representative body. I would also once more repeat, what I regard as a very important aspect of this problem of housing and town planning, that with the further drastic reform of by-laws in recent years, and the reduction of houses upon an acre from a very large number to a very modest one, the actual by-laws of housing as enforced in this Act come very close to what a few years ago would have been regarded as a town-planning scheme. As therefore the reform of housing conditions goes forward, as I am glad to see it has with lightning speed in the last few years, to that extent correspondingly the importance of town planning must recede. I beg to move.
Page 32, line 26, after ("authority") insert the said proviso.—(Lord Islington.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am very sorry that I am not in a position to accept my noble friend's Amendment, and I should like to say why. He stated that there should be no enforcement of a scheme of this kind first of all until full inquiry has taken place. By the Amendment which the House has already accepted that inquiry will take place. Therefore the first condition is met, and no scheme will be enforced until every one has had an opportunity of stating 793 what they feel on the subject. The noble Lord also said that owing to the improved conditions and regulations in the matter of the number of houses per acre and so on, the necessity for town-planning schemes had been to some extent diminished. I think there is some truth in that statement, but the necessity is by no means abolished, because it is quite clear that all these questions of roads and arterial communication are just as important in a town-planning scheme as every they were.
The Amendment of my noble friend is that before any of these Orders are enforced the intervention of Parliament should take place. His Amendment on that subject is very elaborate: "A draft of such Order should be laid before each House of Parliament for a period of not less than thirty days during the session of Parliament." And there are to be addresses, so that after the local inquiry, and between the making of the final Order by the Central Government, you refer the matter as it were back to Parliament, and Parliament has to intervene, or may intervene if it likes. I submit that this is an administrative matter which ought not to be brought before Parliament. If you confuse Parliament with matters that are purely administrative you take it away from its proper duty. I submit further that there will be unnecessary delay if this Amendment be adopted. You must leave the final decision to the Ministry of Health which has the duty of deciding whether in a particular case, after inquiry, the local authority has done its duty. That should be the final decision. I ask your Lordships not to introduce a further elaborate procedure which can only make for considerable delay.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
Before the Question is put, I would like to remind my noble friend that I am only asking for the same proviso to be put into this Bill as was put in the Act of 1909. The Lord Chancellor in the course of the debate in Committee the other day said he would be only too ready to place these safeguards into the Bill which are already in the Act of 1909.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be suspended—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Viscount Peel.)794
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships more than a few moments, but as this is the last occasion we shall have I want to say a very few words. I was, for causes wholly outside my control, unable to be here when the Second Reading was moved and carried, and was obliged to leave to another Bishop the task which lie amply discharged of welcoming this as a measure not of convenience merely but a measure of paramount necessity from our point of view, not for physical well-being only but for the moral and religious wellbeing of the whole community.
Since then the discussions which have taken place in this House about a great many details—economic, municipal, industrial, sanitary, architectural—have been admirably carried through by noble Lords who have made themselves familiar with the whole subject, led by my noble friend Lord Salisbury, who has for so many years both in public affairs and personally identified himself with all that makes for the better housing of the people of the country. We have been ready to leave that in the hands of those who are amply qualified to deal with it. But before the Bill finally leaves us may I be allowed to reiterate the sense which those for whom I speak have of the vital necessity of this matter in relation to all that makes for the higher well-being of the English people. The statistics which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack gave on the Second Reading of this Bill as to the condition of housing at this moment in the country were of a sort to satisfy any one who looked at them not merely as to the advantage or expediency of this Bill, but as to the need there was to go forward on such lines without an hour's delay.
It is not merely difficult at this moment, it is simply impossible, for a large number of people in this country to rise to the level to which their own aspirations would lead them, because of the conditions in which they are housed, and this Bill will go far to make better conditions possible. The housing question must come first. It is a mere mockery to urge a great many of the other things that we are constantly urging, unless the housing conditions are first ameliorated. Of course, it must cost a great deal of money, as do all our improvements—so does our education, so do our industrial reforms, so do questions connected with physical health. This also will 795 cost a great deal of money, but without it we cannot go forward on any of these other lines, and we regard it, not merely as something that we are anxious to obtain, but as something that it is imperatively necessary that we should carry through as rapidly as may be, cost what it may.
The parish clergy of this country have perhaps as large an opportunity as any body of men of helping to give effect to the provisions of this Bill, of helping to open people's eyes to what is happening and of stimulating local and central interest in the matter. We have in our Convocation of the Clergy especially thrown our strength into commending this Bill, and all that it carries with it, as something that belongs to the moral and religious life of the country. So far as my influence goes, and the influence, I am sure, of every Bishop on the Bench, I can assure your Lordships not merely that it will be used in trying to help the clergy to give encouragement and assistance, but that they will throw their strength into it and try and make effective the provisions that we are building up. It is a responsibility which properly belongs to us, and we wish the Bill with all our hearts God-speed.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a.
Clause 14, page 11, line 37, after ("holdings") insert ("or other premises").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.