HL Deb 17 July 1935 vol 98 cc493-8

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Viscount Halifax, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a—(Viscount Gage.)


My Lords, of course it is obviously useless to say anything at this hour with so few noble Lords in the House, but I do not want to let this Bill be read a third time without giving it, shall I say, a good kick, although we wish the Bill well. This Bill is a confession of failure on the part of the Government. I will not say more than that. The Act of 1924 I believe abolished subsidies, and now we have to reintroduce them. We, on these Benches, strongly object to the standard of overcrowding set out in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who, I am sorry to see, is not now in his place, certainly did a great deal to improve matters, but I would like to make a formal protest against this standard of overcrowding. With regard to the clause giving power to local authorities to hand over housing schemes to housing associations, I would like to point out that under this Bill apparently they cannot regain control. Under the Scottish Bill they can. I have seen no real argument why a thing which is right in Scotland is wrong in England and Wales. I have been told on fairly good authority that the big local authorities much prefer the 1930 Act. It is much more workable than this Bill. Although I wish this Bill well, I do not think it will be really workable by local authorities.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.

Clause 20:

Extension of power of local authority to acquire houses and other buildings for housing purposes.

(5) Where a local authority acquire a house or other building, which can be made suitable as a dwelling-house for the working classes, or an estate or interest in such a house or other building, they shall forthwith proceed to secure the alteration, enlargement, repair or improvement of the house or building, either by themselves executing any necessary works, or by leasing or selling it to some person subject to conditions for securing that he will alter, enlarge, repair or improve it.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, in subsection (5), before "alter," to insert "forthwith" The noble Viscount said: My Lords, if it is thought necessary, as it appears to be by this clause, that a local authority who acquire houses and land shall forthwith set to work to carry out certain works, then surely, a fortiori, if they sell or let it to some other person, that other person should also be bound to do the work forthwith. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 2, after ("will") insert ("forthwith").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, I quite agree with the noble Viscount's contention, but I cannot agree that the interpretation which he places on the wording of this clause is correct. I am informed by legal advisers that the words "forthwith proceed to secure the alteration," and so on, govern the action of a local authority whether they do it by themselves or lease out the duty to some other person. But I should like to point out that they would, in leasing the house, normally put in a specific date by which the repairs should be completed. I think that the noble Viscount, as a lawyer, would probably know better than I that to include a definite date of that kind in a lease would be preferable to including the word "forthwith," which in a lease has a somewhat vague meaning. Anyhow, it is perfectly clear that the local authority will be compelled, so far as the wording of the clause goes, to apply the same expedition to a lease under which these operations would be conducted as if they were doing the repairs themselves.


My Lords, I cannot quite agree with my noble friend, because he says that a date will be put in. There is nothing to force the local authority to put a date in. They may not wish to carry out these works forthwith, and they may have a fellow-feeling with the person to whom they sell or let. But there does not seem much good in pressing the point, so I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25:

Power to establish Housing Management Commissions.

25.—(1) Where it appears to a local authority to be expedient that a Housing Management Commission should be established with a view to the transfer to and the performance by the Commission of all or any of the functions of the authority under the enactments relating to housing with respect. to the management, regulation and control, and the repair and maintenance, of working-class houses and other buildings or land provided in connection with such houses, the authority shall prepare and submit to the Minister a scheme making provision for the establishment of the Commission, and for the incorporation thereof, under the name of the Housing Management Commission with the addition of the name of the district of the local authority, with perpetual succession and a common seal, and power to hold land for the purposes of their constitution without licence in mortmain.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, in subsection (1), after "repair," to insert "alteration, enlargement, improvement." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, if your Lordships will look at Clause 20, page 17, line 18, you will see that there are certain distinctions made between altering, enlarging, repairing or improving. Surely, if it is necessary in that place, it is as necessary, or more prudent, to have the words included throughout the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 23, line 35, after ("repair"), insert ("alteration, enlargement, improvement")—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, I should like to point out that the two clauses to which the noble Lord has referred, 20 and 25, refer to different matters. The clause the noble Lord seeks to amend refers to Housing Management Commissions, and it is not intended that they should be given these extended functions. The functions of the Housing Management Commission are rather, as is stated in the clause, to effect repairs; it is not contemplated that they should have these extended powers of improving and enlarging houses. I hope that with that explanation the noble Viscount will be satisfied.


Force majeure, in this case!

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26:

Definition of housing association.

26. For references in the Act of 1925 and in the Act of 1930 to a public utility society there shall be substituted references to a "housing association," that is to say any society, body of trustees or company established for the purpose of, or amongst whose objects or powers are included those of, constructing, improving or managing, or facilitating or encouraging the construction or improvement of, houses for the working classes, being a society, company or body of trustees who do not, trade for profit or whose constitution or rules prohibit the issue of any capital with interest or dividend exceeding the rate for the time being prescribed by the Treasury, whether with or without differentiation as between share and loan capital.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, after "constructing," to insert "repairing, altering, enlarging." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the same sort of arguments apply here. I do not know whether my noble friend is prepared to accept them, and to save time I formally move.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 14, after ("constructing"), insert. ("repairing, altering, enlarging").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, I do not want the noble Lord to place force majeure in this immense majority which we had over him to-night, but I must point out to him that this is the reverse of the argument which he was advancing on the last Amendment. This Amendment refers to housing associations, which are quite different from Housing Management Commissions. Indeed, they have very different powers, which are already defined in the clause. We are advised that the words which the noble Lord suggested are already covered in Clause 26. He will observe them in line 14: "constructing, improving or managing, or facilitating or encouraging the construction or improvement of, houses for the working classes." We maintain that there will hardly ever be an occasion where a society, whose objects include repairing, altering or enlarging working-class houses, will not also include in them construction, improving or managing. We think that would be an impossible situation, and we think that the housing associations will discover powers in the clause to give them all that is necessary.


I am certainly not going to press it, but I hope that no difficulty will arise!

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I beg to move, That this Bill do now pass. I only wish to refer to the remarks of the noble Earl: I think that probably every point he made was answered in Committee.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Viscount Gage.)


If I may say so, I do not think they were answered.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.