HL Deb 17 May 1938 vol 109 cc32-69

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[LORD STANMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Exchequer contributions towards expenses of accommodation for agricultural population.

(3) A contribution under this section shall be of such amount not being less than ten pounds ten shillings as the Department may with the sanction of the Treasury determine, payable annually for a period of forty years in respect of each house provided with the approval of the Department; and in determining the amount of the contribution so payable by them the Department shall take into consideration the cost of providing the house, the rent which it will be practicable to obtain therefor, the expenditure already incurred and to be incurred by the local authority under the enactments relating to housing, and the general financial resources of the local authority: Provided that the amount of the contribution payable in respect of any house shall not exceed fifteen pounds unless the Department are satisfied that the annual expenditure likely to be incurred by the local authority in respect of the house is, in consequence of the remoteness of the site thereof from centres of supply of building labour and material, substantially greater than the equivalent of nineteen pounds ten shillings per annum for forty years.

LORD SALTOUN moved, in the proviso in subsection (3), after "material," to insert "or through the difficulty of providing water or drainage outfall." The noble Lord said: Before moving the Amendment which stands in my name I should like, if I may be allowed to do so, to congratulate His Majesty's Government very warmly upon the appointment of the new Secretary of State for Scotland. From what I know of the reputation he bears among all classes in all parts of Scotland I feel quite confident that the accession of the right honourable gentleman to that office will be a source of strength to the Government, and acceptable to Scotland. I offer him my very sincere congratulations. In regard to the Amendment, its object is to allow the Department to make extra grants to local authorities where the difficulty of providing water or drainage outfall is a very material portion of the cost of a house. It would not be difficult to satisfy the Department that in the case of many single houses or groups of houses the cost of providing water or the cost of providing drainage outfall might very greatly exceed the cost of conveying material from any part of Scotland to any other part. I am afraid that the Department of Health have quite under-estimated the difficulties occasioned by water shortage in some parts of Scotland, and for that reason I have put down this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 36 after ("material") insert ("or through the difficulty of providing water or drainage outfall,").—(Lord Saltoun.)


However much one may sympathise with the motive which prompted the noble Lord to put down this Amendment, I am afraid we cannot accept it, for two very good reasons. First of all, the Amendment relates only to the Exchequer subsidy for houses built by local authorities. The effect of the Amendment would be to empower the Department of Health to give a higher Exchequer subsidy than £15, not merely for houses which are costly because of the remoteness of the site from supplies of building labour and material, but also for houses which are costly because of the difficulty of providing a water supply and drainage. But my real difficulty is that the Amendment appears to be out of order, since the Financial Resolution relating to the Bill authorises the payment of additional subsidy only where the annual expenditure on a house is substantially increased, in the words of the clause, "in consequence of the remoteness of the site thereof from centres of supply of building labour and material." In view of that fact, I think. the noble Lord will realise that we, cannot possibly accept the Amendment.


I do not wish to press my Amendment, though I think the difficulty is a serious one. With your Lordships' leave I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Schemes for replacing unsatisfactory houses.

(3) No assistance under this section shall be given in respect of any house unless— (a) the application for assistance is made to the local authority within five years after the passing of this Act; (c) the house contains a watercloset, a scullery with a sink and drainage therefor, a fixed bath in a bathroom and such other conveniences as may be specified in the scheme of assistance: Provided that where it is not reasonably practicable to provide a watercloset, the local authority may, with the approval of the Department, and subject to such conditions as the Department may impose, dispense with the provision thereof.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR moved, in paragraph (a) of subsection (3), to leave out "five" and insert "ten." The noble Marquess said: To this Amendment I attach a good deal of importance because I am anxious that when the Bill is in operation its provisions shall be observed. Part I provides for no maximum period for which it shall be in force. Part II lays down by subsection (3) (a) of this clause that the assistance is only given to the local authority if application is made within five years after the passing of the measure. The past week has been sufficient to impress upon all your Lordships, and many others besides, that the country is going through a very heavy and serious expenditure on national defence. In order that that money and that defence may be provided it is necessary to take a great deal of labour and money for the most important task which the Government in their wisdom—as I think, rightly—think it absolutely necessary to place upon the nation at the present time. It is obvious that until the desired programme of national defence is completed, everybody will have to put forward his best efforts towards providing the essentials of national security. Already costs have gone up immensely. Already labour is almost impossible to secure. Already what labour is available in country districts is being taken for aerodromes and the like, and what is not going to aerodromes is going to factories in order to provide the means of defence.

In other words, supposing we give the defence scheme three years at least to get properly completed—and I doubt whether it will not take a great deal longer—that would only leave two years in which people could obtain the material and labour to carry out the provisions of Part II of this Bill. It is obvious that it would be impossible to realise anything like what is the intention of this Bill in two years' time. I am sure your Lordships will agree that to pass legislation which is going to be honoured more in the breach than in the observance is not a good practice. I feel that at least ten years should be given from the passing of this Bill, which presumably will be before this Session closes—therefore 1938—to allow the schemes to be carried out as suggested in Part II. I am perfectly certain that five years is quite inadequate if not impossible. With these few words I commend the Amendment to your Lordships' favourable consideration.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line leave out ("five") and insert ("ten").—(The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.)


I should like in a few words to support my noble friend's Amendment. Most of your Lordships are well aware of how difficult it is to obtain labour for any building work at the present time. The difficulty in Scotland, with its small population, is far greater than it is in England, and those of us who have lost a slate from our houses very often have good reason to congratulate ourselves on the personal friendship which we have with the various builders and contractors in the district whereby we get it put right when no money that we could offer would enable us to have such a repair effected. If the Bill is a good Bill for five years—and I give the Government every credit for believing it is—then surely it is a good Bill for ten years. No one is more willing than I am to acknowledge the real need for improved housing conditions in the country, and it is only fair to proprietors that they should have a reasonable time in which to make the improvements which the Government desire to see effected.


The effect of this Amendment, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, would be to extend from five years to ten years the period within which grants may be given to private owners to erect new houses under Part II of this Bill. At present the only arrangement made for the contribution is confined to the period of five years after the passing of the measure. The Report of the Scottish Advisory Committee on Rural Housing recommended that the period for the giving of grants should be five years, and I am not in a position here this afternoon to alter that provision; but perhaps I may give the noble Marquess and the noble Lord who supported him this word of comfort. The Housing (Rural Workers) Act of 1926 originally provided for the giving of grants for five years only, but that period has been extended by subsequent Acts and is still continuing. In these circumstances I hope noble Lords wil see that this Amendment is not only impossible but not really necessary.


I will not say it is not necessary. I cannot agree to that; but I would be quite willing to withdraw this Amendment if the noble Lord in charge of the Bill would undertake on the Report stage to say that the Government would favourably consider an extension of the time when this period expires. If he would undertake to say something about that on the Report stage, I would be quite prepared to withdraw the Amendment.


Here, again, the noble Marquess has placed me in a somewhat difficult position. I should be very glad to give him that assurance, were it possible, on the Report stage, but he will realise that by so doing I should be pledging the Government of five years hence, about which I know nothing and the complexion of which I cannot foretell. In these circumstances I do not think I should be justified in following his advice.


I had hoped that the noble Lord would say that he would consult with the new Secretary of State for Scotland on this point.


I will gladly do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR had given Notice of Amendments, in paragraph (c) of subsection (3), to insert "and" after "therefor" and to leave out "and such other conveniences as may be specified in the scheme of assistance." The noble Marquess said: I understand the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, is anxious to move his Amendment to line 18, and I am not quite sure whether I can postpone the moving of my first Amendment on line 17 and take that and my Amendment on line 18 together. Perhaps I should formally move this first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 17, after ("therefor") insert ("and").—(The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.)


I quite agree with the noble Marquess's suggestion to take this Amendment and his other Amendment together. If he would agree to withdraw this Amendment, we could have the discussion on the Amendment to page 6, line 18, when the whole matter will come under review.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD SALTOUN moved, in paragraph (c) of subsection (3), after "bathroom," to insert "or facilities for personal ablution in a separate room." The noble Lord said: I propose to save your Lordships' time by saying what I have to say in favour of this Amendment and my next Amendment together, because although the two Amendments are quite separate, the arguments for them are practically parallel, and I do not suppose your Lordships wish to hear them a second time. The Bill insists on the provision of a fixed bath in the bathroom, and the whole object of this Amendment is to urge the danger of the provision as it stands without an alternative and, in particular, where sources of water are limited. As far as I know—some other noble Lords may know better—there are only four methods of heating water for a bath. You can have a copper and you can syphon the water from the copper or take it out by hand by a dipper, or you can heat the water by a geyser—and you can get oil geysers—or you can do it with a donkey or by means of a tank behind the kitchen range. By all these methods excepting the copper you get a tap discharging directly into the bath. A copper is an excellent method for heating a small bath—it is sufficiently economical and speedy—but not for a fixed bath where you require a great deal of water. We must remember that a fixed bath in a bathroom requires fifteen to twenty gallons of water. Therefore in that case a copper is of very little use, because it is very slow and for that reason will not readily be used. Geysers again are very easily damaged, and as the expense for the damaged geyser will fall upon the proprietor, I do not think the proprietor would be well advised to instal a geyser.

There are also strong reasons, which will occur to most of your Lordships, against the use of a donkey in a cottar house. It would be extravagant and expensive and a nuisance. If any noble Lord doubts that I think I can establish the point to his satisfaction. We are driven therefore to consider the installation of a heating tank behind the kitchen range. If you have to do that—that is, if you are going to instal hot water at all—you have to remember that you double the consumption of coal by the occupant of the house, so that in place of four tons of coal a year he will use eight, and that whether he uses a bath or not. Most of your Lordships are aware that in a hot water system of that kind the water acts as a radiator and is kept hot by the use of the fire whether the hot water is required for use or not. I am aware that the Bill says nothing about hot water; it only speaks of a fixed bath in a bathroom. If there is no hot water the bath will not be used. I do not think anybody can be in any doubt about that. I certainly should not use it myself, and I think I know most of what there is to be known about washing in cold water and under difficult circumstances.

I am perfectly certain that a large fixed bath is useless for this purpose. The bath will not be used and the Government have not contended that it will; on the contrary; but my noble friend Lord Hutchison did say that the cottar's wife would warm the water for the bath in the kettle. When the noble Lord said that I thought he was laughing at me, but no. The argument was used in another place, and so one must treat it seriously. In all the cottar houses of Angus, which the noble Lord knows very well, I doubt if you would find a single kettle in a cottar's house that holds more than a gallon of water. I will be quite generous and will give him twelve pints. The other day I had to instal a big bath in my own house. I got what I believe was the smallest big bath made in the market; in fact it was so small that the seller remonstrated with me for buying it because he said it was not in keeping with my dignity. My dignity is greater than it was when I was young, but I hope my dignity is not too large to enable me to get into a small bath. But the point I am making is that the noble Lord's twelve-pint kettle will give you an average of one-third of an inch of water in the bottom of the small big bath. It is inconceivable that that is really a solution of the difficulty.

It is a very serious matter and I want to persuade the Government to take it seriously. The waste pipe that leads to a drain from a fixed bath must be trapped. The U piece which leads away from the bath is the trap, and the water that is left after every bath in this piece stops up the pipe and prevents effluvium from the drain getting into the house. I maintain that the air that rises into the house from such a source is dangerous to health. I was going to wait for the noble Lord to reply and to say what I have to say afterwards, because I believe he is prepared to contend that such a trap is not essential for a big bath. I think that any of your Lordships who ever had a scullery trap can have very few doubts upon the subject, but as a matter of fact it has been suggested to me that I am in error and I realise that if the Department is prepared to say that a big bath does not require a trap a private person has very little chance of maintaining the contrary, so that with your Lordships' permission I will call as a witness on my side the London County Council.

On page 6 of the London County Council's By-laws concerning drainage, Section no, subsection 1 (e) deals with ventilation of waste pipes, and waste pipes are defined as pipes leading away from bathrooms, sculleries and the like. This subsection goes on to say: In order to preserve the seal of the trap of any such fitment such trap shall be ventilated wherever necessary by a ventilating pipe carried to such a position as to prevent any nuisance or injury or danger to health arising from the emission of foul air from such pipe. Now we have to remember that the County Council waste-pipe drainage does not flow directly into the sewers. It is simply bathroom waste-pipe drainage. I want to stress the words to preserve the seal of the trap to prevent any nuisance or injury or danger to health arising from the emission of foul air from such pipe. The by-law of the London County Council is not a chatty document. They do not indulge in explanations as a rule. They just say what has to be. Rut the delusion that effluvium from a bath or a scullery drain is not dangerous to health is so widespread and common that on this point the London County Council have broken their usual reticence and condescended to give an explanation.

That merely deals with the danger of installing big baths without an arrangement for a supply of hot water, and your Lordships will observe that of the two Amendments to which I am referring one deals with the provision that makes a big bath in a bathroom obligatory, and the other deals with the case where it is not considered necessary to provide a water closet which uses a gallon every time it is used, although the Bill still insists on the provision of a bathroom which uses fifteen gallons every time. If the bath is not used—and I think we all realise that there is very little chance that it will be used unless hot water is provided—the trap will evaporate. After all the trap of a bath is very small—a few cubic centimetres. It does not take long to evaporate. In the case of the first Amendment, if my Amendment is not accepted you may get effluvium from the sewage drain as well as from the bathroom working back into the house. In the second case you will at least get effluvium from the bath, and in either case I maintain that both are injurious to health. That more or less deals with the danger of installing big baths without arrangements for a supply of hot water.

But, also, there are many districts in which there is a water shortage of a very pronounced kind and where economy in the use of water is absolutely essential. If you consider the extent to which a big bath taking fifteen or twenty gallons of water at a time will deprive neighbours of their share of the only water available, I think your Lordships will see that the Bill provides a fertile source of bad blood and discontent. If there is a house with two or three other houses near, and there is a big bath in it, no occupier of the other houses will believe that the occupier of that house is not getting more than his fair share of the water available. Farm servants are not patient. They are quick to express resentment when they feel it. There are many other points that I could urge, but I think I have said enough to establish my case and I do not think it is unreasonable to ask for a little elasticity particularly when subsection (7) gives a local authority an absolute whip hand. If they do not like a proposed scheme they can turn it down under subsection (7).

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 18, alter ("bathroom") insert ("or facilities for personal ablution in a separate room").—(Lord Saltoun.)


I take it to be the wish of your Lordships that I should deal not only with this Amendment but with the later Amendment to this clause in the noble Lord's name on the next page of the Amendment Paper. I must confess that when this matter was first discussed I found myself in considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, on this point. But then I discovered that both he and I—I anyhow and I think I may say he also—did not quite understand the point of view which had been put forward elsewhere by the Secretary of State. Before I come to the arguments which I wish to put I may in passing point out to the noble Lord that the terms of the Amendment we are now discussing are so drawn that they would allow an owner to satisfy the requirements of this clause by providing a wash-hand basin in a bedroom. That I know is not the noble Lord's intention, and I quite agree that it is not a valid argument for refusing the Amendment.

Apart, however, from the question whether the wording of the Amendment would carry out the noble Lord's intention, the Amendment is open to objection on merits. In the first place, in Standing Committee in another place the Government themselves amended the Bill to require the provision of a fixed bath in a bathroom in all houses erected with grants under Part II of this Bill. Secondly, it is clear that whatever amount of water is available just as much or even more use of it can be made in a fixed bath as in a waterproof room. If the amount of water were very limited it would be possible, I am told, to stand up in the bath and pour water over oneself from a basin. Thirdly, the only saving which the provision of a waterproof room, as suggested by the noble Lord on Second Reading, would effect would be, in money, some £4 or £5 for the fixed bath. Against this would have to be reckoned the additional cost of water-proofing the walls and the door which, although not considerable, would be something in the nature of £1 or so, I assume. So far as drainage is concerned nothing would be gained by substituting a waterproof room for a fixed bath. This suggestion of the noble Lord is an interesting and in some ways a rather attractive one. As he is aware, I have taken some trouble to go into this subject with all the experts in charge of the Bill to see whether we could not come to some agreement. I am sorry to have to tell him and your Lordships that we failed and that the wording of the Bill is better; but I hope to show your Lordships that to a very large degree there is agreement between the wording of the Bill and what I think is the noble Lord's intention.

In another place the Secretary of State was pressed to require both a water closet and a fixed bath in a bathroom. The decision to require a fixed bath in a bathroom in all new houses was a compromise. That compromise was not merely a concession made there to the Labour Party, but what the Secretary of State thought was reasonable to require all owners to provide in new houses was a fixed bath. The decision to require a fixed bath was reached after the Secretary of State had fully considered the point and consulted his technical advisers. There was an interval of some five days between the first and second days of the discussion and then this compromise was reached. What the Government had in mind—and what I should like the noble Lord to note particularly—is something not necessarily connected with hot and cold water taps, but merely a bath of the inexpensive type provided in working-class houses with some method of draining off the water. The important point is that there must be some method of draining off the water. The Secretary of State said in Standing Committee: What is most important is that there shall be a drain for the effluent to run out. The labour involved is not in filling the bath, but in emptying it, and if you can run the effluent off, it is very much easier … My point is the provision of something for emptying the bath.

I am informed also that it is not necessary to provide a septic tank for a bath. On some soils all that is necessary is to lead the water to an open field drain; on other soils the water may have to be led to a ditch or watercourse. The engineers of the Department have satisfied me that such water will not and cannot create a nuisance. In any event some way of disposing of bath water must be provided even though the bath be taken in a tin tub. The fact that the bath water runs down a drain instead of being emptied over the ground does not create a nuisance.

With regard to the question of heating, to which the noble Lord referred, it was not of course the intention of the Government, as I have already said, that there should be a bath and bathroom in what one may call the luxurious sense with a hot water supply always at hand. It is not necessary to have a constant hot water system, which we recognise would involve considerable fuel consumption and cost to the occupier of the house. If a small copper be provided, then I am informed it can be lighted up one night and a small quantity of fuel will heat enough water to a sufficient temperature to enable the person who intends to take a bath, by a judicious mixture of hot and cold water, to obtain a reasonable bath without undue exertion or expense. I will not trouble your Lordships with the figures which have been given me showing the amount of hot water required for this purpose and the temperature to which it has to be heated to produce the desired results. It is, of course, obviously a matter of common sense.

With regard to the other side of the question, to which the noble Lord did not refer so much but which I gather will be referred to on the consideration of a subsequent Amendment standing in the name of the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen—the question of water shortage—the Government recognise, of course, that there may be dry periods when it would not be possible to use these baths. That is a common-sense point of view which has to be recognised, particularly in a year like this when we have been going through a period of drought. The Government have no intention of laying down, when a bathroom has been put into a house, how often a bath is to be taken. It is assumed that the owner or occupier, the farmer or farm servant, whoever it is, will have sufficient common sense to realise the times and periods during which, owing to water shortage, it will be impossible to heat water and use it for the purpose of bathing, but in that case no harm will be done to the installation even if there is a lack of water. Those are the principal points which I need put before your Lordships at this stage. The disagreement between the Government and the noble Lord is not, I think, nearly so great as it appears to be on paper. I take it that the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, in making his suggestion for a peculiar pattern of, may I call it wash-house, as he has done, is merely putting in other words the intention of the Government in laying down that a bath-house with a fixed bath must be fitted in these houses before they get their grant.


I am extraordinarily interested in what the noble Lord has just said. As far as I gather, the main point of the Government is that there should be drainage. The Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, provides for drainage. In fact, I have had the great advantage of seeing one of these rooms with facilities for personal ablution, and they contain drains essentially, otherwise you could not get rid of the water. I was rather surprised to hear the noble Lord say that the Government were not thinking so much of hot water being necessary for this fixed bath. I should rather like to know whether the intention of the Department, when they come to administer this Bill, is to insist upon a cold water tap for the bath. I am afraid I must on that question find myself in a very small minority. I presume that the noble Lords who have spoken say that they do not like the idea of a cold bath. To my mind that is a necessary operation every morning! At the same time, I do not quite see why a fixed bath is the only thing necessary to enable a drainage to be taken therefrom.

Again, the noble Lord suggested that it was more trouble to take a basin and pour it over you. On the other hand, when there is a shortage of water it takes far less trouble. You will not take the trouble to pour fifteen gallons over you from a basin when there is a shortage of water. But if there is a means of filling your bath with fifteen gallons, you do not have to take trouble. By using your fifteen gallons when there is water, or when you think there is water, you are exhausting the supply of water in a drought sooner than you would if you did not have the fifteen-gallon bath. That is an extraordinarily important matter to bear in mind in rural areas. Your Lordships will realise that it is simple enough in a thickly-populated area to take water into houses which are grouped, because the cost over all is far less per house than where you have one house per hundred acres. The cost of all this water legislation in the depth of the country is enormous. Sometimes the providing of water to a single cottar house costs more than putting a bad house into thorough repair. In fact, I have my own experience of that, but you are not going to get a grant for it—not if I know the Department.

It is a very large order to lay down definitely that there is to be a fixed bathroom in every hou5e built under this Bill. It will take a lot of water. Moreover, I rather disagree with the noble Lord's advisers that this water drainage is going to be quite safe. I say with considerable confidence that a dry wet-system is much more dangerous to health than a poorly-kept dry-system. I presume that the Department of Health, which is responsible for health as well as for houses, do not want unhealthy houses. The curious thing is that the houses which people in these days are so fond of declaring to be absolutely insanitary contain people who have never had a day's illness until after they are ninety years old. There cannot be very much wrong with the "unhealthy" atmosphere if people live to ninety years in these houses. I quite agree that what we can do to improve them we should do, but let us bear in mind the economic side. You can spend thousands of pounds per house in the country, much more than in the town, on account of the enormous distances over which you have to bring water. Then, when you have brought it, very often you find that you have not sufficient, or that the sanitary authority comes and says: "Your water is not pure drinking-water, therefore you cannot have it." Water supply is far fuller of difficulties than the average person who lives in the town can possibly realise unless he has experience of administering water under rural conditions.

Therefore I hope that, as the noble Lord in charge of the Bill has spoken so sympathetically, he will bring these points before the new Secretary of State—whom I should like to join with my noble friend in congratulating on his appointment, and in giving a very hearty welcome. These Amendments, moved on the day after he has been made Secretary of State, are not intended to be a burden to him, but were down on the Paper before we ever knew that he was going to be Secretary of State. May I very earnestly ask the noble Lord to take into consideration whether he cannot find some other words than "a fixed bath"? The smallest fixed bath takes a great deal of water, and there is not the water there. I know it only too well. I have had plenty of administration of water, both in town and in the country. The difficulty of finding water in the country is far greater in proportion to the available supplies than it is in the town; therefore you have to be much more careful what you lay down as a minimum requirement under an Act of Parliament.


I think there is even less difference between myself and the Government than the noble Lord has suggested. In fact I might have taken a lot of what my noble friend said to support my own case. He suggested that the "facilities for personal ablution in a separate room" might cover a wash-hand basin. Section 18 (1) (d) contains the words "facilities for personal ablution." Am I to understand that that is just a wash-hand basin? I chose the words that the Bill itself used, but I am perfectly ready to take any other words that the noble Lord is willing to suggest. With regard to the fixed bath in the bathroom against a waterproof room, I do not urge any particular substitute system. The only reason why I mentioned a waterproof room on the Second Reading was to show that I have studied this question with a view to making better conditions for housing in Scotland, and I have been content to risk some money in doing so, which I think gives me some title to speak on the subject. The point that I make is a point which was not contested by the noble Lord. I said that if you have a fixed bath which is not used, the water evaporates in the trap, and you get direct communication between the drain and the living room. That room is always being used, especially by the wives, and with all due deference to the Government it is the wives whom we want to consider.

The noble Lord says that it only concerns a bath, which is not a source of danger. Here we have the Minister of Health for Scotland at variance with the London County Council. Indeed I think the Department is at variance with all the authorities. The difficulty is what is said by the Government in debate in another place. I know that is the difficulty, and what I would suggest to the noble Lord is that he should allow me to withdraw these two Amendments now, and that he should arrange for a conference with the Secretary of State and himself, of course, and those honourable gentlemen who criticised this Bill in the House of Commons. Let us have a round-table talk on this subject, because I am perfectly certain that they and the Government are as keen and ardent as I am for the health of the population of Scotland, and for the comfort and convenience of the country population. I am perfectly certain that if such a conference took place, and I might be allowed to prepare an Amendment and, if necessary, bring it up in a modified form at a later stage, it would be the best thing that we could do. We have this absolute contradiction between the Department of Health for Scotland on the one side and the London County Council and a great number of authorities on the other, and I think we should take time to thrash the matter out.


I am afraid I have not followed the discussion very closely in another place, but there is a method which I have adopted in certain cottages in Scotland. I do not know how far it is applicable to these houses. It is a method which I used a great deal in my early youth. I provide not a fixed bath, but a movable full-length bath, which, when not in use, can be hung on the wall to dry, or can quite easily be taken out of doors to be emptied. I should have thought that it would be undesirable to refuse a grant on the ground that while provision of that sort could be made, the law says that it must be a fixed bath. I wonder whether the noble Lord would consider the introduction of a form of words to make it clear that providing a room with a movable bath was sufficient—whether that would not be the best way out of this difficulty.


Before I come to the last suggestion, made by the noble Marquess, I feel I ought just to refer once again to the question which I was asked by Lord Aberdeen. I think he asked whether we were contemplating taps for hot and cold water, and I think I am right in saying that it is not contemplated. What the late Secretary of State had in mind was the provision of a bath, fixed, I admit, in a room in which ablutions could be performed. The position which arose before that may not be clear to your Lordships, and I think it is worth while reminding you that a fight was taking place between the parties concerned with this question. It was agreed to drop the provision of water closets in these houses, but the Secretary of State wished to keep the bath at all costs. Therefore he agreed to drop the water closet, but insisted on keeping the bath there, so that arrangements could be made for a person to have a bath.

I have dealt with the water shortage, and so forth, but there is one other point. We are now dealing with the provision of new houses, and it will always be possible, and be the ideal, I think, to build these new houses wherever water is available in sufficient quantities. I also want to emphasize once again the importance which the Secretary of State attaches to the provision of drainage from this bathroom or wash-house. He repeatedly said that it was essential to get the water out of the room in question. Lord Saltoun has raised again the question of drainage, and I will certainly look into the point which he raised. I should like, quite frankly, to adopt his suggestion to this extent. If he will withdraw his Amendment now, between now and the Report stage he and I, if it can be arranged, will consult with the new Secretary of State about all the points which have been discussed this afternoon, including the new and somewhat novel suggestion of Lord Lothian. Then, if we have not reached a satisfactory solution, he can put down his Amendment again on the Report stage, and I can give him all the latest information from the best sources available.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord for adopting my suggestion, and will withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR moved, in paragraph (c) of subsection (3), to leave out "and such other conveniences as may be specified in the scheme of assistance." The noble Marquess said: The object of this Amendment is to prevent the use of the wide and vague words contained in paragraph (c), under which assistance is not permitted to be given unless a house contains "such other conveniences as may be specified in the scheme of assistance." Words of this nature are very difficult of interpretation, more especially when the local authority is riot compelled to give assistance which is outside the scheme, as I understand it. The words might be taken to include not merely a hand pump but a semi-rotary pump, or they might include a reservoir or a windmill, the cost of which would be entirely prohibitive, and in any case would be an uneconomic proposition.

In this connection the word "may" in the proviso in paragraph (c) is important, because if the local authority declines to exercise its power to dispense with the provisions, the aggrieved party would have no appeal. This clause provides by subsection (1) that a local authority may give assistance. The argument is some—times put forward that the expression "may" in an Act of Parliament is the same as "shall." It certainly cannot apply in this case. I do not know whether the noble Lord in charge of the Bill would dispute that argument, but attention may be drawn to the opening words of this clause which run: A local authority may, and if so required by the Department shall, submit to the Department a scheme … I think your Lordships will agree that the Bill must be read as a whole. It is quite clear from those words that where it is intended to impose a statutory requirement on a local authority to take certain steps the language for the purpose is clear and unambiguous. In other words, I want to make it quite clear that there shall be no doubt what the local authority may do, what the owner may do, and what the Department may require.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 18, leave out ("and such other conveniences as may be specified in the scheme of assistance").—(The Marquess of Aberdeen and Ternair.)


I will, if I may, when replying to this Amendment also refer back in passing to the noble Marquess's previous Amendment on page 6, line 17, after "therefor" to insert "and." Clause 4 (3) (c) proposes to confer on local authorities the power to specify in their schemes of assistance for the erection of new houses by private persons certain conveniences which must be provided in the new houses. These conveniences would be additional to the water closet, scullery, sink and bath which are specifically mentioned in Clause 4 (3) (c). The object of the two Amendments is, I gather, to deprive local authorities of this power to specify additional conveniences. What, if any, additional conveniences ought to be specified will be a matter for local authorities themselves to decide, but in the model scheme of assistance which the Department sent to local authorities on April 18 the following conveniences were mentioned: a coal house or fuel store, a ventilated larder, facilities for washing and drying clothes, adequate press accommodation, and facilities for cooking food. These things are merely what any reasonable person who was building a new house would provide, and it is not intended that the power to specify additional conveniences should do more than enable local authorities to see that certain fittings are provided in any house for which a grant is being given. Local authorities are not likely to put any unreasonable requirements in their schemes under this power. Perhaps the noble Marquess will be prepared to withdraw his Amendment if I give him this further undertaking, that I have the personal assurance of the Secretary of State that in approving schemes of assistance he will see that no unduly expensive or elaborate conveniences are specified.


That is really what I want. I am much obliged to the noble Lord, and I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR moved, in the proviso in paragraph (c) of subsection (3), after "practicable," to insert "without undue expenditure." The noble Marquess said: This Amendment is to prevent the repetition of words. Paragraph (c) refers to "a watercloset, a scullery with a sink and drainage therefor" and the proviso goes on to say that: where it is not reasonably practicable to provide a watercloset, the local authority may, with the approval of the Department, and subject to such conditions as the Department may impose, dispense with the provision thereof. My intention is that they may also dispense with the other subjects mentioned in paragraph (c).

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 21, after ("practicable") insert ("without undue expenditure.")—(The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.)


The words "without undue expenditure" would limit the words "reasonably practicable" to a question of expenditure, which I think would be unfortunate, because the question of water is quite as important as the question of expenditure, as I am sure my noble friend would acknowledge.


I am sorry I spoke on one only of my two Amendments to this proviso. It was the next Amendment that spoke on—to leave out "a water-closet" and insert "the conveniences specified in this paragraph." It is of course essential that we should be protected from undue expenditure. The moment you bring in a plumber the expenditure goes up. In the country it is even more expensive than in the town.


I think the noble Marquess will see that his Amendment is really unnecessary. Its effect would be to give a specific direction to the local authority and the Department to consider the question of expense in deciding whether it is reasonably practicable to provide a water closet. The words "reasonably practicable" have always been interpreted as including considerations of expense. There is no reason to believe that local authorities will not so interpret them and an undertaking can readily be given that the Secretary of State will draw the attention of local authorities to the point and will himself in any cases which come before his Department see that this interpretation is maintained.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR had on the Paper an Amendment in the proviso in paragraph (c) of subsection (3), to leave out "a water-closet" and insert "the conveniences specified in this paragraph." The noble Marquess said: I have dealt with this Amendment in what I said before.


This point has already been dealt with, and I do not think the noble Marquess wants to speak again.


In the circumstances I will not move it.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 11 agreed to.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR moved to insert the following new clause after Clause 11:

Power to local authority to make advances.

"12.—(1) A local authority may advance to the owner of any house which the owner has erected or has undertaken to erect, under the Housing (Scotland) Acts, 1925 to 1935, or this Act such proportion of the cost of erection of such house including the provision or improvement of water supply and drainage for such house as may be agreed to by the local authority.

(2)The advance shall not exceed ninety per cent, of such amount or amounts as the local authority are satisfied has or have been expended by the owner on the house as afore said under deduction of any assistance given by the local authority.

(3)The advance may be for such period not exceeding thirty years and repayable by an annuity during that period of such amount as may be agreed upon between the local authority and the owner.

(4) The advance shall be secured by a charging order which it shall be competent for the local authority to make in favour of themselves over the house after notice has been given by the local authority to any person holding bonds or other securities for loans over the estate on which such house is situated, for the amount of the annuity agreed upon and the provisions of Sections twenty-one and twenty-two of the Act of 1925 shall, subject to the necessary modifications apply to a charging order so made in like manner as they apply to a charging order made in favour of an owner."

The noble Marquess said: This is perhaps the most important Amendment that I have put down on the Paper. I am going to take it for granted that your Lordships have read it. A charging order in connection with housing legislation is not a new thing. Under the Act of 1925, if a local authority ordered the owner of a house to execute certain works, it could, on the works being completed, give him a charging order in favour of itself. Clause 11 which we have just passed extends this principle a little further. It enables the local authority that has carried repairs or improvements on a defective house, in default of the owner, to make the same kind of charging order in favour of itself. The proposed clause adopts and extends this principle. It enables the local authority to lend to the owner of the house ninety per cent, of the cost of the work which he has to bear himself, and to make in favour of itself a charging order over the house in priority of existing mortgages. Owing to the national desire to improve the standard of rural housing, and the Government's determination to effect this object, a very heavy burden is going to be thrown on local authorities and the owners of agricultural estates. It is these two who will have to bear the costs, and the greater the share the private owner can shoulder the lighter will be the burden thrown on the local authority. There are few estates which are not encumbered, and it will not be easy for a private owner to raise the money, particularly in view of the high cost of building. It will be of great help to him if he can borrow the money on easy terms and pay off the debt by means of an annuity.

The schemes outlined in the Amendment would be of much more help to a proprietor in connection with the reconstruction and improvement of existing houses under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, but this cannot be effected under this Bill. This Bill deals with the erection of new houses to replace houses which are condemned. The maximum grant for a four-roomed house is £200. A new house of this size, with modern conveniences, cannot be erected in rural areas at the present time at less than a cost of £600, which leaves the proprietor to find £400 towards the erection of a tied farm cottage, from which, your Lordships will note, he receives no rent. If a proprietor has a dozen cottages to be dealt with, the weight of the burden is obvious. It would be a great help to him if he could borrow ninety per cent, of the sum he has to put up himself from the local authority which will already have passed the plans. It will not cost the local authority or the ratepayers anything, as the annuity which the proprietor will have to pay will cover the whole cost that the local authority has incurred in borrowing the money to make the loan. The Government may say, "Why not borrow from the Lands Improvement Company?" Obtaining loans from this Company in Scotland is cumbrous and expensive. Advertisement of the loan in local newspapers is required. The Company employ their own experts to pass the plans and to inspect, and the local authority also have to do that, and they charge a fee. All this trouble and expense for a small loan will be saved if the plan outlined in the new clause is adopted.

Of course objections may be raised by the local authority that the security of the house itself is not sufficient. I would say, in reply to that, that it is not obligatory on the local authority. They need only lend money on the security of the house which would be, by itself, a lettable or saleable subject. There would be little, difficulty in letting or selling the house owing to the scarcity of houses in most rural areas. The loan is only for ninety per cent, of the balance of the cost after deduction of the grant, and the debt would be liquidated in, say, twenty or thirty years. The debt would be therefore always decreasing. As regards existing bondholders, if they had to sell a farm with modern farm cottages it would be much more easily realised than one with dilapidated houses lacking modern conveniences. If it is considered that the small house is not sufficient security, one might suggest that a prior charge could cover the farm on which the new house is situated, but it certainly should not cover the whole of the estate. This is only an extension of Clause n to allow the owner to do what Clause n allows the local authority to do. I would stress the point that the more the local authority can be relieved of the expense by sharing it with the owner, the greater advantage to the locality in which the estate is situated. For these reasons, and for others which I could adumbrate, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 11 insert the said new clause.—(The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.)


I am sorry to speak so much, but there is a point on this Amendment, as I understand it, which I should like to make clear. As I understand the law of Scotland, any charge upon a heritable subject must rank after the charge of the bondholder. What I mean is this. If you have to put up a cottage, one of the difficulties in borrowing the money to do so is that the land is probably already subject to a bond, which has possibly been raised to pay Estate Duty or something like that. You cannot go and raise money to build that cottage because there is already a first charge upon it. Now if you do succeed in getting the money and building that cottage, no charge upon that cottage can take precedence of the charge that already exists by the bondholders, because your cottage is heritable and becomes part of the security for the heritable bond. To alter that I think would require an alteration of a very large number of Acts of Parliament and a change in the Common Law of Scotland. But I do submit that what this Amendment puts forward is something much more simple. It puts forward this, that that cottage when built shall be subject to a charge from the possessor (whoever he may be) to the local authority, and, in view of the condition of housing in the country districts of Scotland, which must be the condition for many years to come, I do not think there is any doubt that the local authority could get that charge readily paid whether the bondholders had entered into possession or not. It is that view of the Amendment that I should like to support.


I also should like to support this Amendment, but from a point of view other than those expressed by my noble friends Lord Aberdeen and Lord Saltoun. The noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, stated that as the Bill stands the expenses may be incurred by the local authority and be recoverable from the proprietor. On the other hand, his Amendment will allow the proprietors to make the alterations or to build these new cottages themselves. I can conceive of a number of proprietors in Scotland who would be able, with their own resources, to build these cottages, and even be called upon by the local authorities to bear the cost of the cottages which the local authorities had built under this Bill, but I also can conceive of a great many others—and probably they will far outnumber the rich landlords—who would not be able to face up to this Clause n as it now stands, and would find great relief in the Amendment which has been proposed by my noble friend. I therefore sincerely hope that the Government will see their way to adopt this Amendment, and so enable the landlords who do desire to carry out the provisions of this measure and to see their people properly housed, and housed according to the modern standard, to do it. Without such an Amendment as has been proposed by my noble friend, I do not see how many of them will be able to do it.


This proposal was brought forward with the support of every organisation in Scotland which has to do with the housing of agricultural workers. The county councils are in favour of it, the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture is very keen about it, and landowners who are anxious to improve their houses and are unable to do so for want of funds also wish the Government to accept this Amendment. As your Lordships are aware, much progress has been made in the rural counties of Scotland in recent years, especially in those counties where the county councils have made full use of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, but there are many cases, unfortunately, where owners of estates or farms are not able to take advantage of that Act, even with the assistance of a grant. As was said just now, this Amendment is even more important under the other Bill, but it is very important that the principle of the Amendment should somehow be se- cured in both Bills. I know there are a number of legal and technical difficulties, but there have been a number of conferences in Scotland on this subject, and I believe, even though it is felt in some quarters that the proposal is not absolutely satisfactory, it is the most satisfactory solution that has been devised, and I hope the legal advisers of the Government will not advise that it should not be accepted. If the Government cannot meet the difficulty in this way I do not know in what other way the Scottish Office can overcome it. I do feel that the acceptance of this proposal is the easiest way to get out of the difficulty.


I should like to add a word to emphasize the importance of the Government accepting this Amendment. I think there can be no doubt that without it, the solution of this problem will be a very long affair. If people are to be left to their own resources without financial help the measure will, to a large extent, remain a dead letter. I would like to point out that, if it is accepted, it will help all concerned very considerably. First of all, those farm servants on the estates of the less wealthy landowners will get the housing that we all think they should have, and secondly the farmers—and I would like particularly to emphasize this point—if they are on an estate where this housing cannot be carried out, will suffer a very great hardship. In fact at the present time we already have a problem arising in the countryside. Farmers are already finding that if this improved housing has not been provided their farm servants are going off to those neighbouring farms where the accommodation has been provided. The result is that certain farms are going to suffer because the farmers cannot get the right type of men to come to them, and they cannot keep their good men. Farmers, therefore, are up against a very difficult problem, and both they and the Government will gain if this Amendment is adopted.

The Government will in fact gain in a much greater degree because the value of the farms throughout the country will be kept up. If the present position is continued over a long period a great many farms that have not the advantage of the housing are bound to depreciate in value considerably, so that the Government, if they can help landowners by giving financial assistance, will help themselves also by keeping up the value of the farms. I think that this Amendment is probably the best one in the circumstances, because if you are going to give help I think it is the cheapest way in which the help can be given. The local authority knows the value of the farm. Reference has been made to going to societies in Edinburgh to get a new valuation, but I think the best assistance can be given by the local authority which is in touch with local conditions.


I recognise fully the importance of the speeches which your Lordships have heard from noble Lords who speak with authority for the different parts of Scotland from which they come. I wish I was in a position to agree with them and accept this clause. My difficulty is that first of all I am not sure whether noble Lords realise that subsections (1), (2) and (3) of this proposed new clause are unnecessary. I am informed that local authorities already have power under Section 75 of the Housing (Scotland) Act of 1925 to make loans for the erection of new houses, and it is clear that under Section 75 they could make loans for houses erected with grants under Part II of this Bill. The only part of the new clause which is not covered by the existing law is subsection (4).

The object of this subsection (4) apparently is to allow a local authority who have given a loan for the erection of a new house to agree with the borrower that the loan shall be repaid by a fixed annuity and, after giving notice to any persons holding bonds over the estate on which the house is situated, to make a charging order over the new house for the amount of the annuity. The effect of that charging order would be that the annuity would be a charge on the house ranking prior to all existing and future charges with certain specified exceptions such as feu-duties, charges for the recovery of expenses under the Public Health (Scotland) Act and charges created by Acts authorising advances of public money. In passing I would inform the noble Marquess that I am told that in no case could this subsection be accepted in its present form because the drafting is defective. But the difficulty which prevents the Government from accepting this pro- posed new clause goes far deeper than that. The proposals in the clause were put to the Secretary of State last year. In consultation with the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General he considered them very carefully. Meetings were held with the Scottish Land and Property Federation, with the Association of County Councils and other interested parties to discuss the proposals, but unfortunately it was not possible for these three bodies to reach agreement on what they wanted.

Although I gather from noble Lords who have spoken that some measure of agreement appears to have been reached now, I am informed that the Association of County Councils do not agree to the exact wording of this clause, although they are as anxious as anybody else to do something to meet this difficult situation. In particular the Scottish Land and Property Federation proposed that the prior charge should be imposed on the house alone, whereas the Association of County Councils desired that the charge should be imposed on the whole estate or on the whole farm. Another point of disagreement was that the Scottish Agricultural Securities Corporation could not consistently with their legal duties agree to the imposition of a charge ranking prior to their loans, whereas the Association of County Councils felt that the charge must rank prior to loans made by the Corporation. The subsection proposes that notice should be given to existing bondholders, but it does not indicate when the notice is to be given or what action existing bondholders may take following on the notice. If the proposal were adopted it would be essential for the protection of the legitimate rights of existing members to provide a complicated code of provisions for advertisement and notice to existing lenders on the lines of the Improvement of Land Act, 1864. Further, unless it is proposed that existing bondholders are to have a complete veto on the creation of charging orders, it would be necessary, I am informed, to provide for some kind of tribunal to determine when a charging order would and when it would not injure the interests of those bondholders.

To sum up this extremely difficult and complicated situation, the objections which the Government have to this proposal may be stated in three sentences. In the first place, from the point of view of mere mechanism, the formulation of an Amendment presents exceptional difficulty which has not yet been solved. Secondly, from the point of view of reconciling other legitimate interests who would be affected by what is proposed, serious difficulties have been encountered and these have not been solved. Thirdly, I am informed that even if these difficulties could be solved acceptance of the Amendment might lead to exactly the opposite result of what is intended, because the interested parties themselves might be compelled to call up existing charges. All that I can give by way of assurance to those noble Lords who are in favour of this Amendment is to say that the Government are continuing and will continue to examine the problem anxiously. I cannot give any undertaking that anything can be done with this particular Bill, although of course, if any new development arises between now and a later stage of the Bill I should be prepared to reconsider that last statement. It looks at present as if it would be impossible to reach agreement between the various parties concerned in time to get the necessary Amendment made in this Bill. For those reasons, therefore, I am afraid the Government must refuse to accept this proposed new clause.


There was one point raised by the noble Lord which, frankly, I do not understand, and that was with reference to notice given to any existing bondholders. Surely there is nothing in this proposed clause which prevents bondholders asking for their money, not on the next, but on the next succeeding term day. As long as it is made clear that notice must be given to a bondholder before the works are proceeded with it seems to me that the bondholder's action in the matter would provide an acid test whether the house was actually required and whether that particular loan was really required and whether there was improvement to the propery or not. It seems to me that as all these parties are in agreement something should be done, and I hope that during the passage of this Bill a formula may be found.


May I ask the noble Lord to bear in mind in any further consideration of this proposal that the Association of County Councils and the Scottish Land and Property Federation are in agreement as to the prior security? That prior security should be over the whole subject of the bond, but not, as I think the noble Lord said, over the whole estate.


I said that was one of the objections raised beforehand.


May I say that the reply of the noble Lord struck me as being very disappointing. He talked about three reasons why the Government could not accept this Amendment. One was the question of mechanism, one was the question of getting the agreement of interested parties, and the third, which, if I may say so with respect, I thought was rather peculiar, was that there would be danger that the owners of the estate would find themselves in the position of having the bond called up if this procedure were put into effect. The position, surely, is one of very general agreement. We have heard that the county councils and other interests are agreed as to the desirability of this very beneficent provision. We should be justifiably disappointed if the Government could not put the necessary impetus into these talks and arrangements to get this matter arranged within the compass of the Bill. The noble Lord says that the Government are continuing to do what they can. I will only express the hope that they will actively take a lead to get composed whatever small measure of disagreement may remain, in time to be able to insert a new clause at a later stage.


Frankly, I am very disappointed with the reception given to this new clause by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, all the more so because it has received so much support from my fellow-countrymen, of whom all those who have spoken know what they are talking about. Perhaps I did not make it clear enough that, since the Government Departments have had their conferences with the parties who have been mentioned, those parties have come very much closer together. I understand that they are all, more or less, now willing to accept this new clause, which has been re-drafted in order to meet all the different points that were raised by the parties and by the Government Departments. I am therefore encouraged to ask the noble Lord to give the same sympathetic reply to me as he gave to the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, on his second Amendment—namely, that he will ask the new Secretary of State to meet the parties at a round-table conference and see whether we cannot hammer out something before Report stage. It would be an extraordinary pity to lose an occasion like this when the parties are much nearer than they were. If they meet the Government, I think a new clause can probably be drafted to meet all objections.

I am not going to claim that this present clause is perfect in draftsmanship or in legal terms. It has, however, been drafted with great care, and if the attention which its promoters desire can be put into satisfactory language with the help of the Government Departments concerned, I hope the noble Lord will ask me to withdraw it only on the under-Standing that there shall be a conference of all the parties with the Government in order that we may not lose this valuable occasion of putting in a most useful piece of legislation, which is urgently required. It is all the more required on account of the great expenditure which is involved and which, by the intention of the clause, will be repaid without any cost at all to the local authority. If the noble Lord can give me that undertaking, I will willingly withdraw the clause with a view to putting down an agreed clause on the Report stage.


In answer to Lord Balfour of Burleigh, I will confess to him that this is a complicated matter which requires for its proper elucidation a greater amount of legal knowledge and practice than I have. It may, however, be some source of comfort to him if I assure him that I went into this question fairly carefully with the Lord Advocate before coming down to the House, and I have endeavoured to give your Lordships the opinions which the Lord Advocate expressed to me at that conference. I realise that we have listened to a volume of opinion, speaking for various parts of Scotland, which no Government should overlook. I equally think it would be unfair to the Government to say "No" to the offer which the noble Marquess has just made. I am not sure of the reception my proposal will receive when I take it up to the new Secretary of State, but I have no doubt that I shall be able to persuade him to have some such conference as that which the noble Marquess has suggested, so that if any solution of this difficulty can be found between now and the Report stage, we can take the necessary action with that in view. I must, however, inform your Lordships that at four o'clock this afternoon all the information at my disposal went to show that there was no agreement between the various parties referred to in this clause. If it transpires that within the last few days agreement has been reached, or if any other line is proposed by the Secretary of State and those present at the conference, that will give us the opportunity of taking the necessary steps to put the matter right on the Report stage. If the noble Marquess, therefore, will withdraw the Amendment, I will do my best to see that the conference is arranged.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord, and I willingly accept his suggestion and beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12:

Interpretation and amendment of 60 & 61 Viet. c. 38, s. 125.

12.—(1) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that for the purposes of Section one hundred and twenty-five of the Public Health (Scotland) Act. 1897, a house shall be deemed to be without a proper supply of wholesome water if in any case in which it is reasonably practicable to introduce such supply into the house, such supply has not been so introduced.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR moved, after "practicable," to insert "without undue expenditure." The noble Marquess said: This is the same Amendment as I put down to Clause 4. The intention of Clause 12 is to provide that a house shall be deemed to be without a proper supply of wholesome water if in any case in which it is reasonably practicable to introduce such supply into the house, such supply has not been so introduced. It is quite obvious that a thing may be quite reasonably practicable at an enormous cost. If the noble Lord will give me the same undertaking as he gave me with regard to Clause 4, I shall be content to withdraw the Amendment. It must, however, be understood that when you deal with water, expenditure is always practicable if you have enough money to spend, but that does not make the proposition an economic one. If we can be assured that people will not be asked to spend enormous sums on a thing which is practicable when it is unreasonable, I will be content to withdraw the Amendment, but I should like that assurance.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 19, after ("practicable") insert ("without undue expenditure").— (The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.)


While assuring the noble Marquess first of all that this Amendment is unnecessary, I can give him the further assurance which he requires. In the interpretation of Section 125 of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897, it is for the Sheriff to decide what is reasonably practicable, and no Court of Law would hold that it was reasonably practicable to introduce water supplies if undue expenditure were involved. I am also informed that no case is known in which the words "reasonably practicable" have been held to exclude questions of expense. The noble Marquess should therefore feel quite happy about this Amendment.


On that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13:

Amendment of s. 20 of Act of 1925.

13. Any watercloset provided under Section twenty of the Act of 1925 shall, where it is reasonably practicable, be provided inside the dwelling-house or part thereof for which it is provided, or where that is not reasonably practicable, in a position readily accessible therefrom.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR moved, after "practicable," to insert "without undue expenditure." The noble Marquess said: This is the same Amendment, but it is slightly different. Here the words "without undue expenditure" are necessary, for it might be "reasonably practicable without undue expenditure" to provide a watercloset in a position "readily accessible therefrom," but it might be quite impossible to provide one inside without undue expenditure. I do not know whether the noble Lord sees my point.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 26, after ("practicable") insert ("without undue expenditure").—(The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.)


This Amendment is unnecessary, I understand, for the same reason as that which I have already given to the noble Marquess. Perhaps in this case I can make out an even stronger and clearer case, which may satisfy him, because I understand that Section 20 (2) of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925, provides that any question which may arise under this section as to what is reasonably practicable shall be determined summarily by the Sheriff, who shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the expenses involved, and his decision shall be final. It would be better, I think, if the noble Marquess would take my assurance that that, as in the last case, makes it absolutely unnecessary for him to put in these words. I hope, therefore, that he will not press this Amendment either.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clauses 14 to 17 agreed to.

Clause 18:

By-laws relating to accommodation for agricultural workers.

18.—(1) Within six months of the passing of this Act or within such longer period as the Department may allow, a local authority shall make, with respect to bothies, chaumers and similar premises which are used for the accommodation of agricultural workers and are not part of a farmhouse, by-laws regarding any of the following matters, that is to say:— (i) such other matters as the Department may from time to time prescribe: Provided that, if a local authority show to the satisfaction of the Department that it is unnecessary to make by-laws under this section, the Department may dispense with the making of such by-laws.

LORD SALTOUN moved, in subsection (1), after "premises," where that words first occurs, to insert "constructed under Parts I and II of this Act, and." The noble Lord said: The Amendment which stands in my name on this clause was originally put down in sheer puzzle- ment, because some of your Lordships may remember there was considerable difference of opinion between the Government and myself, on the Second Reading, as to the interpretation of this clause. The Amendment was put down in order to elicit from the Government a clear exposition of the clause. I do not think, from conversations which I have had since the Second Reading, that there is any real misunderstanding at the present moment on this clause. I think it is a clause empowering local authorities to make regulations governing all the existing bothies and chaumers in Scotland. This is a very drastic clause, and if these regulations are made in conformity with the standard set up in Parts I and II of the Bill, and I have reason to think they will be, it means that practically every bothie and chaumer in Scotland will be condemned, and the position is that every unmarried man in Scotland who works on a farm will be living in a condemned house. In another place it was said by the Secretary of State, speaking on this subject, that it was his desire to do away with all the chaumers in Scotland, and he then went on to refer alternatively to chaumers and bothies as if they were the same thing, when, as your Lordships know, they are two utterly different things.

He went on to say that he wished to substitute for them cottages. It is all very well to talk about cottages, but an unmarried man cannot live in the farmhouse, because there is not room, and he would not like it. He cannot live with the married farm servants in their houses, because it would not suit, as your Lordships will realise. What is a single man going to do with a cottage? He will not have time to grow woodbine round his windows, and to keep three or four rooms clean. He must be in a chaumer or bothie, unless the Government are going to get a great expansion of "universal aunts" to keep house for the unmarried farm servant. It has taken me some time to consider what Amendment could be made to the clause, and I am quite clear that the Amendment which I have on the Paper is not the proper one. Therefore I want to ask leave to withdraw it and also to ask the Government to give us time before the next stage of the Bill, in order that we can consider Clause 18 as closely as may be, and in order to enable me to consider what Amendment ought to be made in the clause. As a matter of procedure, perhaps I ought to move the Amendment and ask the noble Lord to reply, although I do not wish to press the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 39, after ("premises") insert ("constructed under Parts I and II of this Act, and",)—(Lord Saltoun.)


I am very glad the noble Lord has moved this Amendment, and I am equally glad he intends to withdraw it, because I think it will enable us to discover what he wanted in putting it down. He and I have had some private conversations about this point, and I thought I had assured him then, but I think it will be much the simplest course if we now agree to wait until the Report stage before doing anything more about this clause. It will give me time to talk over the matter with the noble Lord and see exactly what he wants. I only ask him, on his part, to arrange for his Amendment to be put down again, if he wishes to do so, on the Report stage, as early as possible, so that we shall have time to look into it and agree on a solution of the problem, which appears to worry him and about which I am not quite clear at this moment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR moved, in paragraph (i) of subsection (1), to leave out "the Department may from time to time prescribe," and insert "may be necessary to safeguard health and safety." The noble Marquess said: The object of this Amendment is to limit the unduly wide language of paragraph (i), "such other matters as the Department may from time to time prescribe." There are an enormous number of things, (a) to (h), which the Department may prescribe, and notwithstanding all those they want to take powers in "such other matters as the Department may from time to time prescribe." There was quite a discussion on this paragraph in another place, where objections were taken to giving the Department such un-controlled powers. One member said that what puzzled him, if it was necessary to have paragraph (i), was why it should be necessary to have all the other paragraphs. It still puzzles me. It would have been much simpler to provide that the Department should be able to prescribe what by-laws it pleased, and that would have been much shorter and have had precisely the same effect. It is unfortunately true that Parliament allowed in the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925, similar words to become law. This precedent will, of course, be quoted against me, but it is no real argument for the enactment of vague and general powers in any Bill, even although it is going to be applied to Scotland.

The mover of the Amendment to omit paragraph (i) in another place, after the reply of the late Secretary of State for Scotland, suggested the words "such other precautions as may be necessary to safeguard the health and safety of those living in the dwellings," to which suggestion the late Secretary of State for Scotland replied that if the honourable member in question, Mr. Foot, placed some such Amendment on the Order Paper he would consider it. The Scottish Office have had plenty of notice of my Amendment—they have had sixteen days—and I very much hope that it may be accepted.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 17, leave out ("the Department may from time to time prescribe"), and insert ("may be necessary to safeguard health and safety").—(The Marquess of Aberdeen and Ternair.)


Clause 18 of the Bill specifies various matters about which by-laws applying to bothies and chaumers may be made. It is impossible to be sure in advance that the matters specified cover all the points on which it may be desirable to make by-laws, and the clause therefore gives the Department power to prescribe additional matters. Any additional matters would have to be prescribed by regulations which, under Section 45 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1930, would have to be laid before each House of Parliament. This secures to Parliament control over all the matters to be included in the by-laws. The effect of the Amendment would be to withdraw from the Department the power to prescribe additional matters regarding which local authorities may make by-laws and to give local authorities a general power to make by-laws on any matter covered by the very general words "necessary to safeguard health or safety." A further effect of the Amendment would be to dispense with the Parliamentary control which is secured by the requirement that any regulations made by the Department must be laid before Parliament. I am sure it is not the intention of the noble Marquess to achieve that in his Amendment. He has referred to what took place in a stage of the discussion of this Bill elsewhere, but I think the short answer to what he said is that all regulations prescribing additional matters will have to be laid before Parliament, and it is most important that we should retain that control. That would not be the case if we were to accept his Amendment, and I hope that he will not press it.


If it is a fact that all these regulations are to be laid before each House of Parliament I agree that my Amendment is not necessary. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedules agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.