§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD MARLEY
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of the Housing (Rural Authorities) Bill, which is a serious contribution to the legislation of the country, I propose to detain your Lordships for as brief a time as possible. The object of the Bill is to superimpose on existing Housing Acts an emergency drive to secure power for the erection of houses in the poorest of rural areas up to a number somwhere in the neigh- 981 bourhood of 40,000. I may say in this connection that the extent of the need of houses in rural areas is really as yet an unexplored field, but we propose to provide in this Bill for up to something like 40,000 houses. Conditions in rural areas as regards housing are really, in many cases, very bad.
It was my lot as a Parliamentary candidate in a rural division for many years to come in contact with a considerable number of bad housing conditions. I do not propose to weary your Lordships with examples, save, perhaps, one or two which will remind your Lordships of cases of which you are all aware. I remember a group of small cottages which I visited once, built near an old windmill. The inhabitants had to walk 200 yards for their water and there was no means of getting rid of their rubbish—not even dumping in the County of Surrey. The latrines and privies were outside—20 or 30 yards from the houses—and were common to all these houses. That state of affairs was quite indefensible. I came across another case which is rather interesting and I might perhaps quote it to your Lordships. There was a meeting of the rural district council where I lived in Hampshire and the surveyor reported that he had inspected a fowl house which had been converted into a dwelling and for which the owner was charging the tenant 12s. 6d. a week rent. One of the members of the council asked "How much a perch?" The surveyor explained that the tenant was a tubercular case and required fresh air, but that the fowl house which had been so converted was quite unfit for human habitation.
I am not saying that these cases are in any way universal or even common. Nevertheless, there are thousands and perhaps more cases in which housing conditions are extremely bad in the country. It is not only a question of comfort, but it is also a question of health and morality. As regards health, there was an interesting article published a year or two ago by a doctor who was formerly County Medical Officer for Hampshire, in which he wrote:The hygiene of the rural worker is the hygiene of the home. For the average rural worker, life consists of work and home, and nothing much besides. Housing therefore is to him a matter of supreme importance. In practice we find, in rural homes, sordid 982 poverty at its worst, a hopelessly dull existence, with dark depression in its most deadly form.In the past, several Acts of Parliament have helped to deal with the situation in rural areas. The Acts of 1919 and 1923 provided a number of houses, but the rents, generally speaking, were too high, and very few were let to agricultural workers. It is a fact that while many houses have been built by private enterprise they are mainly for sale and therefore not of use to agricultural workers.
The 1924 Act first recognised the special rural need by an increased subsidy for agricultural parishes. The idea was that thereby rents would be reduced for the agricultural workers. The subsidy originally was £9 in urban areas and £12 10s. in rural areas. That was reduced in 1927 to the level which is still maintained—£7 10s. in urban areas and £11 in rural areas. These houses were intended to be let at the normal local rent, but it was arranged that if that entailed a payment from the local rates of more than £3 15s. each year, then the proper normal local rent could be increased to the economic rent—£3 15s. being a maximum charge on the rates. There was very fair success under the 1924 Act. Some 40,000 houses were built in rural district council areas in England and Wales under that Act.
Under the Local Government Act. 1929, a rather unexpected difficulty arose as regards rural district councils because, owing to the derating of agricultural land, the ratepaying sources in those rural areas were often considerably reduced. The housing responsibility of the rural areas was not transferred to the county councils, and in consequence the rural district councils since then have felt somewhat doubtful and have been unwilling, broadly speaking, to undertake fresh rating responsibility in connection with housing. I may say in that connection that in more than 200 rural district councils in England and Wales, a penny rate produces less than £100.
We then come to the Act of 1930, under which county councils have a new responsibility. They were given direct responsibility for housing in rural districts, and the power and duty were added to assist financially in rural 983 housing. They had the duty to provide an additional £1 a year for houses occupied by agricultural workers and, of course, they had power to give grants beyond £1 if they felt able to do so, and to provide subsidies for houses other than those occupied solely by agricultural workers. This was a new task for county councils and, when we take into account the bad housing conditions which exist in rural areas, the poverty of many rural district councils and the low wages and rents common in rural areas, I think your Lordships will agree that it is not surprising that a slow start has been made in rural housing. The present Bill is designed to make a quicker start in rural areas.
I should like also to mention to your Lordships the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, 1926, which your Lordships agreed to extend for a further five years a few weeks ago. Under that Act, as I then reminded your Lordships, the number of houses reconditioned had been—
§ LORD MARLEY
The actual number reconditioned was 3,377 in England and 4,579 in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Templemore, reminded me that I mentioned the figure of 11,000. I said the number approved for reconditioning and not actually finished was 11,000; the number finished is the figure I have given. Had England and Wales proceeded to recondition houses at the same rate as Scotland, then instead of 3,377 we should have had some 45,000 reconditioned. That is not entirely due to supineness on the part of rural areas in England, but rather to the very bad housing conditions in Scotland.
The actual present position of rural housing is, broadly speaking, as follows. Since the War 410,000 houses have been built in rural areas, of which 84,000 were built by local authorities mainly for letting and the rest mainly for sale. Of that 84,000, 40,000 were built under the Act of 1924. The position, therefore, is not bad as regards the number of houses built in rural areas; but when we come to the houses built for the rural working class population the position is far from good. In fact, it is serious. The reason for that is that, in the first place, many rural 984 district council areas are really urban in character. For example, the Durham coalfield is almost entirely rural districts, whereas the South Wales coalfield is almost entirely urban districts, so that we get precisely similar conditions in the one case in rural and in the other in urban districts. I have the example of the rural district of Houghton-le-Spring, in which there are fourteen parishes, only one of which is agricultural, the remainder being urban in character. Further south we have a case in Surrey, in a rural district where there are twelve parishes, only one of which is agricultural, the remainder being urban.
In the second place, houses built in rural districts that are urban in character are not houses built for agricultural workers and people of like economic status. Further, there has been a good deal of building for the overflow from towns, and that casts additional pressure on existing houses in the countryside. Finally, as I have said before, low wages and low rent for agricultural workers mean that there has been little incentive to cater for that class of inhabitant. The average local authority rents are well above the normal rent which agricultural workers are in the habit of paying, and are able to pay. I may say further that of the 40,000 houses built under the Act of 1924 by rural district councils, only 18,000 are actually in agricultural parishes as defined under that Act. I need hardly remind your Lordships that the definition of "agricultural parishes" under that Act, which has been continued in the Bill that we are discussing, is that the net annual value of the agricultural land shall be greater than 25 per cent. of the total net annual value, and that the population shall be less than 50 per 100 acres. Out of those 18,000 houses, a recent statistical survey has shown that only one-third are occupied by persons engaged directly in agricultural employment.
That is a picture of the present position, and it will explain to your Lordships why it is necessary to bring in the present Bill. This Bill authorises special assistance to those rural district councils that are unable by reason of their financial position to meet the needs of housing for agricultural workers and people whose 985 economic condition is substantially the same. Additional assistance will be given only on the recommendation of a strong Advisory Committee. The new grant will be given as an addition to the existing Government subsidy under the Act of 1924, which, as I reminded your Lordships, is £11 for rural houses for a period of forty years. That should have the effect of reducing the rate commitments of the less well-off rural district councils, and of reducing the rent that will have to be paid by the occupier of the cottage.
The new grant will be limited to a total capital value of £2,000,000, and this is approximately equal to £112,000 a year. That can be divided up, and an average of approximately £50 per house will be provided for the 40,000 houses which I mentioned to your Lordships, £50 capital value being equivalent to an approximate average of £3 per year per house. In some the grant may be smaller, where the need is less, and in others it may be larger. I may add that 80/91 go to England, and 11/91 to Scotland. I understand that this is the normal basis of proportioning money grants between Scotland and England, and I have no doubt the Scottish Office take care that their share is adequate.
The rents which the Committee may recommend on these houses are somewhat complex. I do not propose to weary your Lordships by working out the details, but I personally worked out a considerable number of possible arrangements when I was considering my remarks on this Bill and, broadly speaking, the rent should be about 2s. 6d. a week to 3s. 6d. a week, exclusive of rates. In a better off district which is able to contribute its share of £3 15s., which, I need hardly remind your Lordships, is reduced to £2 15s. in the case of agricultural workers, the other £1 being borne as a duty by the county council, possibly the new subsidy for houses need not be more than £1 or 30s. a year. In other areas it may be above the £3 average, and in such eases it would be quite possible to arrange for a reduced rate of payment—a reduction of from £2 15s., which is the normal under the 1924 Act, to 10s. or 15s., which would be of great help to the rural district council, which by reason of poverty has been unable to provide for these cottages. In such cases the rent might not be more than 2s. 6d., or even in certain cases a little less.
986 The Advisory Committee, which will advise on the whole of these grants, will be appointed by the Minister, with the approval of the Treasury. I need hardly say that in Scotland there will be a separate Committee, in which the Treasury also has a finger in the pie, to be appointed by the Department of Health for Scotland. The Committee consists of Sir Tudor Walters, M.P., as Chairman, and the members will be drawn from, among others, the rural district councils, the county councils, building employers, building trade operatives, farm workers, three or four business men of experience, and a representative of Wales. One at least of these members will be a woman. I need hardly remind your Lordships again that this is only a temporary Committee and, therefore, it will dissolve as soon as its work is done within the next few months. The duties of the Committee will be to receive and consider applications from eligible rural district councils. It will then make recommendations, after consideration of all the circumstances, including poverty, as to the number and type of houses to receive this special assistance, as to the date by which the houses must be completed—that is in order that we may speed up building—as to the rents to be charged for various groups of houses, and as to the amount of special grant which may be given for each of these various groups.
The directions given to this Advisory Committee, and the conditions under which grants are to be made, have to be laid before the House of Commons before they become operative. The rural district councils which will be eligible are those which show that their financial resources are insufficient for making adequate provision, without help, and in this connection the poverty test is first of all that the product of a penny rate in the rural district concerned must be less than 5d. per head of the population.
§ LORD MARLEY
You take the total product of the penny rate and divide that by the number of people in the district, and the quotient must be less than 5d. per head. The other condition is that the general district rate must be more than 10s. in the £. It is believed that that is the best index of the resources of a rural district. It is also known 987 that the figures are generous; that is to say, many of the areas which fall within those two limits will really be able to provide a good deal of their housing fund themselves. That is why I gave your Lordships those varying figures a few moments ago, in which, instead of the whole £3 15s. being provided by the district council, it might in certain circumstances be considerably reduced.
These definitions will actually include between three and four hundred of the 650 rural district councils in England and Wales. Rural districts vary enormously in their wealth, and I thought that your Lordships would care to have one or two examples. I have an example in Wales of a rural district council where the general rate is 12s. in the £, where the product of a penny rate is only £79, and where the rates necessary to build 100 houses would need to be an additional 5d. in the £. Again, I have another in Surrey, where the general rate is 7s. 6d., where the product of a penny rate is £900, and where the cost of building 100 houses would be under ½d. addition to the rates. Those are types of variations which go to show the difficulty of building in the rural areas. In Scotland the conditions are slightly different, in that the whole county is involved, and there, instead of taking a penny rate we take four-fifths of a penny, because in Scotland part of the rent includes a portion of the rates. I have here examples in Scotland. The product of four-fifths of a penny rate would in Orkney be £65, in Selkirk £75, in Lanarkshire £5,814, and in Ayrshire over £2,000. Again in Scotland the contribution from the rates is higher than in England—£4 10s. instead of £3 15s. and the cost of building 100 houses would be £450 per annum. Therefore your Lordships can estimate how much would have to be added to the rates where the product of four-fifths of a penny rate is only £65, in order to build 100 houses.
There is no desire and no intention to let off rich rural district councils who are able to build for themselves. The Minister has power under Sections 35 and 36 of the Act of 1930 to compel defaulting councils to build. The present Bill is for councils who by reason of poverty are unable to build themselves. Further, only rural district councils will be eligible for this grant which actually in- 988 clude agricultural districts under the definitions which I have already given to the House. In order to qualify for the grant, the rural district council must make application by November 30 of this year, and the houses, to be able to qualify for the grant, must be completed by the date which the Committee lay down. Finally, let me remind your Lordships that the measure will give homes to large numbers of agricultural workers and their families; it will also give employment to a considerable number of building trade operatives and others; it will save the Unemployment Insurance Fund many millions of pounds, and will add to its income; it will bring better health and more comfort to thousands of workers in this country; it will ease toil and create more happiness, and encourage living in the country instead of over-populating the towns; and it will add to the wealth of the country, not only in the material sense of building more houses but, what is of even greater value, in providing better moral and physical equipment for our future citizens who people the countryside. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Marley.)
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, after the very interesting and clear speech of the noble Lord I should be surprised if any noble Lord objected to the Second Reading. Certainly for my part I should not do so, and the only criticism I am going to make of the Bill is that it might go further in some directions. We shall all agree with the noble Lord that in these days, unhappily, the agricultural labourer is not as well housed as he ought to be, but the difficulty has arisen to a very large extent, both in respect to the improvement of existing houses and the building of more houses, because the landlord, who in the old days used to take great pride in housing his labourers in the best possible way, is not now, owing to Death Duties and other circumstances, in a position to make such an expenditure on his cottages as he did in the past. We all know that cottages are a dead loss to us as landlords at the present moment, owing largely to the very heavy rates upon them.
I was going to ask the noble Lord whether it would not be possible to give some further assistance under the Act 989 passed by the late Government, the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. That Act has been put into force in very few counties. I am quite aware that Devon has done a great deal in this matter. I believe they have spent something like £40,000 on the conditioning of agricultural labourers' cottages. I know from personal experience that that Act can be used with very great advantage, with comparatively small expense either to the county council, the landowner, or the Government. It is often very easy, by spending a comparatively small sum, to add a third bedroom. So many cottages in rural districts at the present time have only two bedrooms, and I think in these days no cottage ought to have less than three bedrooms.
I cannot help thinking that one of the reasons why county councils have not exercised their powers under that Act is that the rates are very heavy, and during the present agricultural depression the county councils are very shy indeed of increasing the rates at all. I would make one suggestion—namely, whether it would be possible that in the future the county councils should be relieved entirely of their contribution of one-third of the cost, and that the Government should contribute two-thirds, leaving the landlord to contribute one-third? If that is not practicable, it would be something if the county councils were entirely relieved of making a contribution and the Government paid half the cost from Imperial sources, the landlord having to pay the other half. Of course, the landlord must pay his fair share. Some people say that this is going to be of great advantage to landlords. I believe a certain number of landlords consider it a distinct disadvantage that they should come under this Act, because for twenty years the landlord has to pledge himself that the cottage will only be let to rural workers, and the rent is not to exceed that which can be paid out of the ordinary agricultural labourer's wages, that is to say, practically 3s. a week.
Then I have another suggestion to make to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill. As he is of course aware, the rural district councils at present, under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, do not have much to do with this matter unless the county councils are ready to delegate their powers to them. My suggestion is that before a rural district council re- 990 ceives money under this Bill, it should satisfy the authority which makes the grant that it has taken advantage of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, or asked the county council to delegate its powers to them under that Act. I think that ought to be a condition, because I believe that more can be done under that Act than by building entirely new cottages. I speak with experience, and I say without fear of contradiction that the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, if properly applied by the rural district councils who are anxious to have these powers, would be an effective way of dealing with this matter. In conclusion may I say I am very glad to see that so much is being done under this Bill to improve the conditions of agricultural labourers in this country.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
My Lords, as recently as last November an attempt was made by the present Government to ignore your Lordships' House, and to institute single-Chamber Government. I refer to the Colonial Naval Defence Bill, which was before your Lordships' House last November. Part of Clause 3 of that Bill read as follows:any such expenses may be so paid, if, and so far as, the Commons House of Parliament hereafter think fit to make provision by Resolution for that purpose.I drew the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Passfield, to that and he was good enough on Report to move an Amendment, which made the clause read:any such expenses may be so paid, if, and so far as, Parliament hereafter thinks fit.Exactly the same sort of attempt is being made in this Bill.
If your Lordships will look at Clause 1 (4) you will see that it is in these terms:The Minister shall cause any conditions laid down by him for the purposes of subsection (1) of this section, and any directions given by him for the purposes of the last preceding subsection, to be laid forthwith before the Commons House of Parliament, and, if that House within the next twenty-one days on which the House has sat after any such conditions or directions are laid before it, resolves that they shall he annulled, they shall cease to have effect but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder, or to the laying down or giving of fresh conditions or directions.991 Having pointed this out, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Marley, in Committee, will put this matter right, as the noble Lord, Lord Passfield, did in the Colonial Naval Defence Bill.
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, I shall detain the House for a very few minutes, because the noble Lord who introduced this Bill gave us a very full account of it, and I think answered many questions which your Lordships might have been inclined to ask. I was rather gratified to hear in his closing sentences that he spoke of the enormous revolution which a Bill of this kind was going to introduce into our rural life. I confess when I looked at the Bill I had not imagined that the results were going to be quite so far-reaching. According to the noble Lord the Bill is going to restore life to the countryside, to deal with unemployment, and to bestow a number of blessings of that kind. If the expenditure of £2,000,000 over a certain period on houses is going to have this beneficent effect I should certainly welcome the Bill very much. I also perhaps may congratulate the Government that in these penurious days they have £2,000,000 to spare to spend on rural housing.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, that the series of measures dealing with rural housing has unfortunately become necessary because of the heavy burden of taxation, which has borne so hardly upon rural landlords during the last few years, that they have not been able to look after the housing of their labourers in the way they have done in the past. Unfortunately we have got into such an evil circle of subsidies for housing, and so very intricate is the story of those subsidies, that I think we are apt to forget that a very good case can be made out for saying that the more subsidies you have the higher does the cost of houses rise. That is a large matter into which I do not wish to go this evening, but I should like to ask the noble Lord a few questions as to the working of this Bill. I dare say it is my fault but I am not very clear as to how this money is to be distributed. Is this Committee to be the sole judge of the particular rural district councils who are to have funds allotted to them? Then, with regard to the selection of the particular necessitous districts, I have no doubt the noble Lord and his advisers have arrived 992 at a very good method of deciding what are necessitous districts. There has been a good deal of investigation into the matter in the past and it has not been very easy, I think, to decide or to judge as between one necessitous district and another.
I may congratulate the Government in that I understand when the Bill was first introduced into another place there were practically no conditions or regulations concerning the method by which this money was to be distributed, but as the result of its passage through another place a number of conditions and regulations, I will not say were introduced but are going to be introduced. The Minister himself is going to make regulations—is he not?—as to the conditions on which these grants are to be given or administered. I should be very glad to know from the noble Lord when those regulations are to be issued. It might be very convenient if they could be issued before the House rises for the Recess in order that there may be some opportunity of criticising them. I think the noble Lord said that all the applications for money have to be sent in by the beginning of November or a very early date and it will probably be rather difficult to criticise the regulations at a later stage. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will be able to tell us that they will be laid on the Table before the House rises for the Recess.
There is another point which perhaps he could tell me about. I congratulate him on having secured the services of Sir Tudor Walters as Chairman of this Committee. I understand that Sir Tudor was the inspirer of the policy of the Government in this respect, and it is very fitting that the man who inspired the policy should be the principal agent in trying to carry it out. Again, the noble Lord told us that certain bodies and so forth were to be represented on this Committee. I imagine they have been selected and nominated already. I should be very much obliged to the noble Lord if he would tell us what the composition of that Committee now is. He said something about the rents of the houses and as to whether they are to be 2s. 6d. or 3s. 6d., and the rates and so on. He said something also about 993 the cost of the houses. I do not know whether any limit is to be put on the cost of the houses, or whether that is to be left entirely to the rural districts themselves, or whether the Committee is to lay down any regulations regarding particular rural districts as a condition of the grant that may be made to them. I should be very touch obliged if the noble Lord would give me an answer on those particular points. As to the general conditions in the Bill and so on, I certainly do not wish at this stage to offer any opposition to the Second Reading.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I understand that these committees will not be set up in Scotland. Will the county councils still deal with the matter? I hope so, because the committees are going to be very extravagant, though the county councils are pretty bad.
§ LORD MARLEY
My Lords, I propose to deal very briefly with the questions that have been raised. I have, first of All, to thank your Lordships for the very kind and sympathetic way in which this measure has been received. The noble Lord, Lord Strachie, asked about the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. I ought, perhaps, to explain to him that that has very gradually speeded up the number of houses that have been reconditioned. For instance, in this country in 1928 only forty-four houses were reconditioned. That gradually increased to 790 in the next year, to 1,080 in the year after, and to 1,455 in the year ending March 31, 1931. So that, here has been a gradual speeding up, especially in the last eighteen months. It is the policy of the Government to press as far as possible the speeding up of work under that Act. I entirely agree that three bedrooms are essential for growing families, but I do not think they are essential for older couples. I also want to remind the noble Lord that we have just extended that Act for five years so that the time for the revision of the Act will hardly be reached before 1936. Nevertheless, I will, of course, convey to the Minister the suggestions he put forward in connection with the alterations. The point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie, is of course a Committee point and it will be within his competence to bring it up on Committee if he feels it is of sufficient importance.
994 The noble Earl, Lord Peel, asked how the money is to be distributed. These grants will be available, of course, for the Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee will distribute them according to the need of the councils concerned. That is to say, they will examine the poverty of a council, the number of bad houses and the number of agricultural workers and persons of like economic position, the amount of the rates and the product of a penny rate in its district. All those points will lead the Committee to differentiate as to the amounts they are able to recommend and the relative needs of the councils concerned.
§ LORD MARLEY
I fancy the first step will be an application by the rural district to the Committee. Then the Committee will either accept the information provided by the rural district council or will put further questions to the council to elucidate the local position and to provide the comparative figures whereby the Committee can judge of the relative demands of the various rural districts. That is the kind of line that will be taken. Of course if it came to a sort of impasse where there was equal poverty in a large number of rural districts, it might be necessary to make local inquiries; but it is not anticipated that will be necessary.
As to the issue of the regulations, I am very sorry that I do not know when they will be laid on the Table, but I will convey to the Minister the suggestion that they shall be laid as soon as possible. I am sure it will be his desire to have that done at the very earliest moment in order that the Committee may prepare its plans for getting to work.
§ LORD MARLEY
I do not know, but I will convey the suggestion that it should be done. I can assure the noble Earl that I will do my best to see that the matter is expedited. With regard to the composition of the Committee, I gave a list of the organisations from which the members will be drawn—the rural district councils, the county councils, the building employers, the building trade operatives, the farm workers, business men of experience and a representative of Wales. 995 I mentioned also that one of those members would be a woman, but I cannot give the names. As regards the Chairman, I may say that he has not been selected as being the putative partial father of this scheme, but as being a member of another place who has very great experience in the matter of building houses and it is felt that his experience will be extremely valuable as Chairman of that Committee. As regards the cost—
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, the noble Lord will forgive the interruption, but I meant to ask a further question though I admit that I did not. It is with regard to confining these houses to agricultural workers. We know what has happened in the past with reference to that. I see that the Bill says agricultural workers and persons of "substantially the same" "economic condition." May I assume that the agricultural workers proper will have the preference for these houses?
§ LORD MARLEY
There is not the slightest doubt about that. The Committee will take into account that factor as one of very great importance in determining the amount of the grant and the distribution of the grant. It is essential for agricultural workers and those of like economic condition to come in in that connection. With regard to the cost of the houses it has been estimated that the average cost of these houses will be in the neighbourhood of £350, but it is believed—and the experience of Sir Tudor Walters will help in this matter—that that cost may be able to be materially reduced. If that is the case, then the grants can naturally be larger or more widely distributed; and that will be one of the factors for the Committee to consider in any advice they give to the county councils concerned.
With regard to the rents, I do not quite understand the difficulty. Perhaps I did not make myself clear upon this matter of rents. The rents of these houses are based first of all on the economic cost expressed as a capital figure at to-day's value, or an annual payment over 40 years. That economic rent is reduced first by the value of the £11 subsidy under the 1924 Act. That is capitalised at £200 today. Then there is the £1 grant by the county council to cottages inhabited by agricultural 996 workers. That is capitalised to-day at £18. Next there is the £2 15s. which is capitalised at something in the neighbourhood of £45 to £50—that is the balance of the contribution payable by the rural district in which the cottages are put up. These added together will leave a sum which has to be met by that portion of the rent payable by the agricultural labourer who occupies the cottage—that portion of the rent he pays which is not for repairs—and that portion, therefore, after deducting the amount for repairs, becomes a portion which we can capitalise. Perhaps I have not made that point clear. Suppose the total outgoings exclusive of rates were, say, 3s. Then, approximately, 1s. or 1s. 3d. or 1s. 6d. might be taken as the cost of repairs each year. That would leave about 1s. 6d. as the annual payment which we could capitalise and express as a present-day capital sum towards the capital cost of the houses. Then we can say that so much of this balance due will be paid in the form of rent by the tenant of the house, and so much will be the contribution from the Bill, which I hope your Lordships will shortly make into an Act. I hope that that makes the question of rents quite clear.
Finally, may I say that I do not think this Bill is going to revolutionise the countryside. I did not mean to claim that, but what I did try to claim was that it would give employment, and, however small the employment given, I am sure every member of your Lordships' House will welcome that contribution towards dealing with the unemployment problem. Moreover, it will provide far greater comfort, happiness and welfare to something like 40,000 families, and in a countryside in which the number of families is falling and not rising, and in which conditions are very difficult, I am quite sure the noble Earl, Lord Peel, will agree that this is a considerable contribution to happiness and comfort in that area.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
Will the noble Lord answer my question as to whether these committees will be set up in Scotland or whether the county councils administer the grant?
§ LORD MARLEY
No, there will be a separate Committee for Scotland. I cannot give the composition of that Com- 997 mittee, which will be appointed, after consultation with the Treasury, by the Department for Scotland. I do not know who the Chairman will be, and I do not know who the members will be, but I have no doubt the Committee will be composed on similar lines to those of the Advisory Committee for England and Wales.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.