§ LORD ADDISON rose to call attention to the necessity for making progress with the provision of houses for agricultural workers; arid to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subject of the Motion standing in my name is very modestly expressed, but it relates to a matter of first-rate importance so far as agriculture is concerned. Some considerable time ago we were informed that as a start the Government proposed to build 3,000 houses for agricultural workers, and all of us who are in close touch with the needs of the situation were very glad. There has been no difficulty at all, so far as I am aware, in local councils making up their minds that they want the small allocation of houses which are appointed to their areas. They have, I believe, always consulted the war agricultural executive committees and on that side of the matter there has been no delay. I suppose that the figure of 3,000 was chosen because the Government felt that in war conditions they could not spare any more labour and materials for the present. The noble Lord, Lord Beaver-brook, has a Motion on the Paper proposing 30,000 and nobody would rejoice more than I if that Motion could be accepted.
§ I gather that the real reason for the small number proposed is the stringency of supply of labour and materials during the war period, and that being so we accept what we can get with pleasure. But it is of vital importance that this matter should be dealt with in the right way and that we should approach it in a manner that will not lead us into future difficulties. As to the magnitude of the need there is no sort of question. Whether it will be decided in the future that we should have 300,000 or 400,000 decent cottages to restore the countryside, I do not know, but I think the figure will be nearer these than either 3,000 or 318 30,000. The method which has been adopted has been that the Ministry of Health has sent to local authorities plans of the types of houses proposed and invited the local authorities to obtain tenders from local builders for building the houses, subject to their being assisted, I believe, by the Ministry of Works in respect of the supplies of fittings and certain other things, subject of course to their being given the necessary priorities for material, and subject also to the consideration that there will be additional but undefined costs arising out of the application of the Essential Works Order and the scarcity of labour.
§ I do not propose this afternoon to spend much time in commenting on the plans, although I have seen some very free and liberal comments upon them. I do not know who is responsible for the plans for non-parlour houses. All I have to say is that whoever was responsible did not know much about the farm labourer, because if there is one thing above all others that is acceptable and necessary in the farm labourer's house it is a decent kitchen. The farm labourer's wife wants a decent kitchen and plenty of room for the wash-up and that sort of thing. The kitchen is the centre of her home. I see that in three types of what is called the non-parlour dwelling there is one which has a kitchen 8 ft. 9 ins. by 9 ft. 7 ins. There is a living-room, so-called, 16 ft. by 11 ft. There is another type with a kitchen 10 ft. 6 ins. by 6 ft. 9 ins., the 6 ft. 9 ins., I rather think, being intruded upon by certain protuberances, as the result of which the amount of free working space is even more restricted. Another one is 9 ft. 4 ins. by 8 ft. 2 ins. I would like to hear the acidulated comments of a decent farm labourer's wife on these apartments.
§ I do not expect that many local authorities will choose these types. I have looked at the plans, and I can see that in many respects there are things which many of us would welcome. But I wondered when I looked at the plans what designers meant by what is called the "living-room." There is a kitchen 11 ft. long by 6 ft. 10 ins. wide into which protuberances such as I have mentioned project 2 ft. 6 ins., leaving a working space of about 4 ft., but there is a living-room 17 ft. by 11 ft. and a parlour 11 ft. by 10 ft. There needs to be a sitting-room in these 319 houses in which the children can do their homework. One wants agricultural labourers to have decent houses—as good houses as anybody else; but I do not quite see what use is going to be made of these two rooms. I am sure that this is a matter to which further thought ought to be devoted. What will actually happen in these two rooms other than the kitchen? But I am going to refrain from saying more on this subject at the moment because I wish to fix your Lordships' attention on a matter which is much more important than the plans as they stand.
§ That is the method which is proposed for dealing with this matter. It is suggested that the local authorities shall invite builders to send in tenders, and I see that in another place the Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Miss Horsbrugh, was asked whether local authorities had been given any guidance as to the expected cost of these houses. The representative of the Ministry said that they had better wait to see the tenders. She was asked whether there were pre-costing people in her Department and she said that they could give a forecast but had better not do that "until we see the prices in the tenders." In reply to another question she said: "We cannot say the cost before the tenders come in." In other words, these plans have been sent out to local authorities all over the country without any guidance as to what the anticipated approved cost is going to be. I am going to say a word in a minute as to what I think it is going to be. At all events that is the method proposed.
§ Now what is the position, at the present moment, of the ordinary country builder? The Ministry of Labour, for no doubt very sound military reasons, have called up a very large percentage of the labour from the building trade in this country; in the little district where I live they have called up everybody except one man. He is not very fit physically, and I suppose that is the reason why he has not been called up too. At all events these workers have been called up very largely, and country builders have little or no labour. Nor have they any materials. They would, of course, naturally apply to the Department of the noble Lord opposite for the materials, and no doubt their requests would be met if their tenders were accepted, but I do not expect that 320 they would have a very close and intimate knowledge of the prices of the materials. Then in addition there is the cost of fittings and so forth, as to which, I imagine, they are even more in the dark. On the basis of these problematical conditions—first as to shortage of labour, which is certain, second as to the unknown cost and the difficulty of the transport of materials, and third as to the unknown cost of fittings—they are asked to send in a price. What would any sensible person do in such circumstances? Of course he would send in a price that would cover him against risks, and no one would blame him for doing so. In other words, you may fully expect that the tenders will be pretty high.
§ But when the tender has been sent in, under existing conditions it will be shooting in the dark. At the best there must be additional costs to be incurred which would have to be added on to the tender prices. There will be the cost, very likely, so far as local authorities are concerned, of the land. Some authorities already possess the land, others will have to acquire it; they will have to acquire land and footpaths and so on. Then there is the cost of the fittings, and the unknown cost of moving labour, perhaps a long way. This last may be a very considerable item. All of these things will have to be added to the cost. I have taken some pains in trying to ascertain what one of the more popular types, or rather one of the least criticized types, of these non-parlour houses, is likely to cost. I will give your Lordships what I consider is an under-estimate. I do not think that we shall get estimates of much less than £900 to £950. To that will have to be added the cost of fittings, the cost of land, if not already acquired, and the entirely problematical cost which will arise owing to labour difficulties. Those two items of cost—fittings, and the costs under the Essential Works Order—are likely to be not less than £80 to £100 each, and that will bring the cost of a house up to about £1,100. I think that we can anticipate that, having regard to the conditions under which the local builder is compelled to tender, the price of a house of this kind, at the start, will be round about £1,100.
§ Against that, there will be the subsidy of £12 a year for forty years, and the grant from the Ministry of Agriculture of £150. If you take those two contributions into account, the rent of these cottages—which, 321 I ask your Lordships to bear in mind, are for agricultural labourers—works out in this way, that in a cheap district the rent and rates for a house costing £1,000 will be 13s. 4d. a week, for a house costing £1,050 they will be 14s. 2d., and for a house costing £1,100 they will be 15s. a week. That is where it is proposed to start. I wonder what the agricultural labourer will say when he finds this out. Agricultural labourers, like everybody else, ought to have wages which will enable them to pay a proper rent for the houses in which they live. That is the only self-respecting basis on which to work. It will play havoc with agriculture if at the start—and I emphasize the words, "at the start"—the agricultural labourer is faced with a rent—if it is to be an economic rent—of 13s. to 15s. a week.
§ Let me presume to give some of my own painful recollections. I was responsible for housing at the end of the last war, and in 1919 we were daily confronted with a demand in the newspapers to get on with the provision of houses. They were expected to be produced like rabbits out of a hat, or to grow up like mushrooms in a night. The clamour for houses was terrific. In the early days of 1919, the tenders carne in at from £600 to £650. I suffered under the system—I was a consenting party to it, so that I take full responsibility—whereby the costs were not controlled. The powers which we had under the Munitions Act and similar legislation were not applied to this industry, and I must accept responsibility, at all events for a considerable time, for trying to go on without these powers, and in particular for continuing to try to go on when I had applied for these powers and not been given them. It was my responsibility, and, in common language, it was my funeral. Why was it my funeral? Because, owing to lack of control, in 1921 prices crept up to £850, to £900, and in 1921 they soared up to £1,000, and even a little higher in some cases. What happened? I was regarded as the "squandermaniac." I was denounced as a "squandermaniac," and a great deal of mud was thrown at me. I had to endure it, and I have never regretted that I resigned, because, with proper methods of control, the work could have been done.
§ I do not mind about that. What I am pointing out is that when houses reached a price of £1,000 to £1,200 apiece, the 322 fact that it obliterated me for the time being is a mere detail; the point is that housing was stopped. It stopped houses being built. Yet that is where you are proposing to begin! You are proposing to begin with the system which spelt disaster to our enterprise after two years of effort. I hope that the Government will think again before adopting this method, because this method will mean that we are heading for the abyss. The magnitude of the demand for building after the war is almost unthinkable. Apart entirely from our towns, and from all that is necessary for replanning, the enormous amount of building which agriculture—which I confess is nearest to my heart—will require, not only for cottages but for farm buildings and other purposes, is prodigious. The whole building industry, as we see from the White Paper which has been supplied to us, will have to be enormously enlarged, and will have to be controlled with regard to training and other matters in order to cope with even a part of the demand. It is imperative, therefore, that this effort should be started on the right lines. To see that that is done is, if the noble Lord opposite will allow me to say so, the responsibility of the Minister of Works. It is his job. There is in front of his Ministry the most prodigious job which has ever confronted any such Ministry in our history. It must be approached in the same spirit and with the same methods as have been adopted to produce our requirements for war. It will be just as big as the task of providing for war.
§ I do implore the Government not to make the mistake which we made last time. I implore them not to repeat the errors of the past, because, if they do, there will be no houses for agricultural labourers. We must have someone with powers similar to those given by the Munitions Act to control costs, and to direct and manage the whole constructional enterprise. Every local builder will be wanted; they will not be standing idle. It will be for the Minister of Works to mobilize all the help he can get in every locality, and even then he will not be able to cover the whole need. There will be room for all. When you ask men—and I am not blaming them at all—to contract in the dark you necessarily exaggerate prices. I shall never forget an interview I had myself in 1916 with the great makers of shells. They had 323 contracted on a similar basis and they were quite sincere in saying that to cover their likely risks, etc., 20s. or thereabouts was a fair price for an 18-pounder shell. And it was, with the risks unknown and undefined. But as soon as we adopted a method for supplying material and controlling our machinery and methods they produced them in unlimited quantities for 12s. 6d. And a similar method will have to be adopted here, and the Minister opposite, I suggest, should be made responsible for the whole thing. I do not need to suggest to him, with his great ability and experience the method of approach. At all events one thing I am sure of: the method adopted at present is completely wrong. I put this Motion on the Paper knowing as I do that the methods proposed may lead to these houses, required most urgently, costing a sum which will prejudice the whole effort. This prejudice we must not risk in the interests of the vital necessities with which we are called upon to deal. I beg to move.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK, who had given Notice that he would urge His Majesty's Government to provide forthwith 30,000 houses for agricultural workers, and move for Papers, said: My Lords, like my noble friend who has just spoken, I am interested in quantity, not quality. Quality can be left to the Ministry of Works, but quantity is something that deeply concerns this House. I am also interested in numbers, and not in costs. The Ministry should be able to look after the costs, but the numbers certainly concern us. It is my object to get 30,000 farm labourers' cottages. Three thousand are conceded, but it must be said that 3,000 is a dim and fading hope for the harvest of 1943. But it is my desire to step up production, both for the 3,000 cottages which have been conceded and also for enlarged plans. I know very well, and others do, that the difficulty at the bottom is labour, and labour only. My noble friend Lord Portal must acknowledge that there is plenty and plenty of material, material of every type required for these cottages. I do not hear a denial from him, so I will conclude that it is admitted that the only bottleneck is labour.324
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Timber! My noble friend is building houses and not making very much use of timber, so timber would only be a method of dodging the issue, not really facing it. Where does the labour go? The labour goes at present to the Air Ministry and to the War Office, and to some of the Supply Ministries. The plea also is "war work." That is the justification that is offered for diverting the labour to the War Office and the Air Ministry. Both these Ministries have building departments of their own. They decide on their own projects, and they carry them out without reference to my noble friend Lord Portal or any other Department. And of course their decisions are always lavish, always considerable. They build many runways and plenty and plenty of huts. There seem to be huts for everybody but the agricultural labourer. But the cottages represent war work just as much as the huts for the ground staffs, and the agricultural labourers are just as much entitled to consideration as the ground staffs in the Army or in the Air Force.
There is need of increased agricultural production. That is the object of all of us, and it would be very easy to provide increased agricultural production now. There would be no difficulty at all in producing enough milk for our purposes—and by milk I mean not only liquid milk but butter and cheese. Another 500,000,000 gallons of milk would give us all our necessities in butter and cheese, and noble Lords know what that would mean in limiting imports and confining the use of ships. It only involves bringing second-rate pasture into use, and also reseeding rough grazing land, of which I am told there is as much as 5,000,000 acres. It would not require an increase of war agricultural committee staffs. May I point out that these war agricultural committees are increasing their staffs almost as rapidly as any war service? In the last three months they have advertised for employees representing £50,000 annual expenditure in salaries. They have probably got as many as 20,000 typists—so I am told. At last we are discovering that they have another policy, and the policy is "every cow its own typist." When we see these things being perpetrated by irresponsible committees we realize that we must bring an end to farming bureaucracy if we are to do justice to the agricultural labourers 325 —and the agricultural labourers require justice.
There is no welfare work for them. There is plenty of welfare work for the Ministries engaged in supply, but none for the agricultural labourers. There are no canteens for them at all. There is no food paid for by the Ministry, as in the case of some of the Supply Ministries, and there are no hostels at all. There are plenty of developments of one sort and another for those who produce bombs and bombshells, but no benefits for those who produce the food for those who produce the bombs and the bombshells. Repairs and maintenance are another abuse. Repairs and maintenance are a simple and easy situation when it comes to a Service Ministry or a Supply Ministry. There are no factories and no hostels for the Supply Departments and for the Services that are wanting repairs and maintenance. These are all got up in splendid condition. But there are plenty of agricultural cottages—just as much a part of the war production of this country as any of the Service or supply hostels—all over the country that are in a disgraceful condition, many of them quite unfit for human habitation. So I say that the Government, and particularly the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Health, have made a complete failure so far as providing cottages for the agricultural industry is concerned. And why this failure? I got a message yesterday from a friend who sits in another place and the message he sent me was this: "You are speaking to-morrow on agricultural cottages. The failure is no fault of poor old Ernie, but the fault of the Building Priority Committee who will not let him have labour or material to go ahead." That is the message sent to me by one of his own friends.
At the same time my noble friend Lord Winterton is tussling with them in another place. The answer Lord Winterton got on the last occasion was that he always spoke loudest when he had just been asleep. The accusation of being asleep should be directed against the Minister of Health rather than against Lord Winterton. In fact some people would not object, I am sure, to being described as "The Sleeping Beauty." We might refer to the Minister of Health as "The Sleeping Beauty" who wants waking up. He shows no capacity 326 for this job. Are there any cottages yet? We were promised that cottages would be begun in April. Have any cottages been brought into production so far? Is any construction going on? No. Any plans yet? Yes. The Minister has a plan. It might be called the Edinburgh plan. I know about his plan from reading his speech at Edinburgh. In that speech at Edinburgh he said: "We must do the work"—you might think that that meant agricultural cottages, but it is not so—"We must do the work to answer the question"—you might think the question concerned cottages—"We must do the work to answer the question now being asked about after the war." It is rather a complicated story, but there it is.
When I was a very young man I was what was called a "drummer"—perhaps not the same thing as in the Army. That is the term in my native Province which is applied to those who have goods to sell and who travel up and down the countryside selling their wares. In my drummer experience we were divided into two classes—the substantial drummer and the intangible drummer. The substantial drummer sold flour, potatoes, shoes, matches, and so on, and the intangible drummer sold fire insurance, life assurance, bonds, and other like wares. Those of us who were selling intangible things were called "blue-sky drummers." I look upon the Minister of Health as the "blue-sky" Minister, but I am bound to say there are six Ministries involved in his bit of blue sky. There is Agriculture, which decides that the cottages are wanted; there is Health, which provides the plans; Works, which provides design and supply: Town Planning, which looks after the sites; the Scottish Office, the same; and Production, which is responsible for allocation. That makes six Ministries altogether for a three-roomed cottage, or two Ministers for each room!
Needless to say, the Ministry of Health produces these plans through a Committee. I do not like Committees. I do not like Committee work; but this Committee must have produced some good plans because the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, was Chairman of it. A Committee can sometimes be good if there is a good Chairman, and I am sure the noble Earl would be a good Chairman. I positively dislike Committee government. I 327 do not object to post-war plans; I am in favour of them. I do not object to planning generally; I think it is very good. But I do look with abhorrence upon the present system of government by Committee which is responsible for so much delay and procrastination in the plans and projects we wish to launch. There is an old Spanish proverb which says that when follies are to be committed there is need for many companions. That adequately describes the present Committee system. We have had all this before—all this and heaven too! There was a blue-sky Ministry in the last war, and that blue-sky Ministry set up altogether ninety-one Committees on post-war matters. This war there are two blue-sky Ministries, and I am bound to tell you they have only set up fifty Committees. They have only got half to work, but as there are two Ministries this time instead of one, perhaps we shall not be long.
I am quite determined that I am not going to be left all alone in the world—quite determined—so I have produced a post-war programme. It is not mine, but it is one to which I subscribe, and I want to give this programme to the House in the hope that it will find a great deal of favour. Here it is:—First, build 75,000 cottages now, not 30,000, and another 50,000 directly the war is over. Only by satisfying the demand for agricultural cottages can you secure the satisfactory future development of agriculture. Second, fix a minimum price for wheat and oats. Third, abolish the deer forest and put in hand extensive new measures for drainage. Fourth, legislate to secure the extermination of pests. Bring in an eighteen years' programme of afforestation to make us self-sufficient in time to provide for three years of war. Fifth, increase home-grown food supplies over and above the level of war production; settle men and women on the land after the war, and investigate how these projects are to be carried out by setting up a series of special Committees. Your Lordships laugh at my wanting to adopt this programme. It is the 1918 blue-print which I have just read. It is the 1918 programme of the blue-sky Ministry of that day. Why bother about Committees now? Why not adopt the same findings as those Committees and put them into effect? Needless to say, I am looking forward anxiously to the answer from the Government to this plea of mine for 328 30,000 cottages. I do not want to censure the Government—far from it; I have no such object. I merely wish to show the Government how earnestly and anxiously the House desires a programme of 30,000 cottages in the hope that something will be done.
I am quite willing to divide the House if that will go further in representing to the Government the desires of your Lordships. I would invite the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, to support me if he were here to-day, but in his absence I appeal to my noble friend Lord Mottistone. The last time I raised the subject the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said we could not censure the Government for doing too little; but at the same time there was a Division in the House of Commons in which the Government were censured for promising too little after the war, not for doing too little during the war. The Liberal Party divided, and nine voted against the Government and seven for them. The nine were the "have-nots" and the seven were the "haves". It was the old division between the "haves" and the "have-nots"—those who were in office in the Government and those who were not. That was for the Government failing to promise to do too much after the war. I beg of them to support me if we come to a Division pressing the Government to do something during the war. I appeal to the Socialists, and in making that appeal to them I do not hope for a very great deal. In fact I think the result will be that if a Division comes to pass they will all take the 4.45 train instead of the 6.10.
Nevertheless I appeal to them and I am going to appeal also to the Bishops' Bench. The most reverend Prelate the Archbishop of York, who I regret to say is not present to-day and it pains me deeply to see that he is not here, said a short time ago when he spoke on this subject that the 3,000 cottages were but a feeble token payment. I would appeal to the Bishops' Bench, to those who are here in the absence of the most reverend Prelate, to help me to take up a collection—a collection of names in the Division Lobby. I would appeal also to the High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland if he were here, but as he is not present I would appeal on the record of his illustrious ancestor the Marquess of Montrose who wrote these lines: 329Or if committees thou erectAnd go on such a score,I'll laugh and sing at thy neglectAnd never love thee more.Lastly, I appeal to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and also to my noble friend Lord Bledisloe. I would appeal to them because they were both Chairmen of a Committee in the last war that asked for 75,000 houses during the war for agricultural labourers and 50,000 after the war. I am only asking for 30,000 instead of 75,000, and I am not asking for anything after the war at all. I would appeal on the findings of that Committee to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, to support my Motion for 30,000 houses. If he will not make it 30,000 I will take ten per cent. off his figure of 75,000. My noble friend Lord I3ledisloc will regret he is not here to-day to support this very modest plea of mine. My noble friend Lord Addison has described his Motion as a modest Motion. My plea is indeed a modest one, to request that we may have as many as 30,000 agricultural Cottages and that we may have them now.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords I want to intervene in this debate for a few moments in order to emphasize a point which has already been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addison—namely, the question of the design and standard of the cottages to which the noble Lord drawing the attention of the Government to-day. I have been a member of the Central Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Health since its formation and, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has just indicated, I was appointed by the present Minister to the Chairmanship of the Design Sub-Committee about a year ago when he first set up that Sub-Committee. This Commitee has been engaged during that period on a consideration of the design, plan, lay-out and standards of construction and equipment of future dwellings for the people throughout the country, in order to submit recommendations and plans to the Minister which will be embodied in a final Report during the course of the next few months.
The Committee has invited written and oral evidence from a very comprehensive list of authorities, individuals and associations, calculated to give the best and most knowledgeable opinions on these questions. This mass of evidence has been carefully sifted, co-ordinated and epitomized. It covers a very wide field of knowledge and 330 interest, both professional and amateur, in housing matters in England and Wales. A similar Committee has been set up in respect of Scotland with which my Committee has been in close consultation. We have also been working in close consultation and collaboration with the various study Committees of the Ministry of Works concerned with design, structure and installation. A representative of that Ministry has been present at all our Committee meetings and at most of the various panels which we have set up to deal with the various aspects of our terms of reference.
I am not going to weary your Lordships with the details of evidence which have been submitted to us. Indeed, since we have only sent forward three or four interim Reports to the Minister for his confidential information and have not yet submitted our final Report it would be highly improper for me to do so. But this I can tell your Lordships, because it is important and it has a bearing on this subject, that the evidence which we have had before us has thrown up the fact that there is a hundred per cent. demand for an increase in the maximum floor areas and in the size of rooms, particularly the third bedroom, over those prescribed in past Housing Acts and Ministerial Memoranda and a very general demand for improved amenities to the dwellings of the future, particularly in regard to kitchen equipment, bathing, washing and sanitary facilities and storage accommodation. I have been rather surprised to hear to-day from Lord Addison an attack on the inadequacy of the area of these rooms because I rather expected to come here and meet the suggestion that they were too large.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
As a matter of fact the current trend of demand which came out very clearly in our evidence was for a smaller kitchen and a larger living-room. That is what the modem up-to-date housewife wants and we have to plan for the young generation. What was emphasized 100 per cent. in our evidence was the demand for a smaller completely equipped kitchen and a larger living-room. People to-day object to cooking in the living-room. I can only say that I have very distinguished architects on my Committee who have been working in close collaboration with the 331 Ministry of Health architects and all these questions have been very carefully gone into.
In regard to what the noble Lord said about the size of the non-parlour type of house, I have the figures here of the floor areas. The three types admitted by the Ministry have a total floor area of 1,036 square feet in one instance, 1,036 in another, and 985 in another; whereas the total floor area of the pre-war non-parlour type ran from 767 to 790 square feet plus 50 square feet for outbuilding. The noble Lord will therefore see that the plans submitted by my Committee are very much larger than those which were embodied in their previous plans. There is no doubt whatever in the minds of those who are authorities on housing matters that dwellings built in the interwar years are proving to be inadequate both in space and equipment for the growing needs of the people, and that a higher standard is essential if we are to keep pace with the modern outlook and ideals that now obtain. This is particularly true I think in the case of rural housing where the outlook of the agricultural worker has been widened to an even greater extent than is the case with the urban worker, by the accessibility of all those amenities of modern life which were previously denied to them.
It must be remembered also that the existing rural cottages have been built in the main for agricultural workers in receipt of an average wage of 30s. a week. Now the agricultural minimum wage for an ordinary farm worker is £3 a week and a cattle man and men with special qualifications—the type for which I understand these particular cottages are being built—receive a wage of £3 15s. to £4 a week and even more. In face of the national pledge for an adequate agricultural policy in the future these standards of wages are likely to be maintained and even improved. In spite of the increased cost of many commodities these workers are definitely better off, and if improved accommodation is demanded and expected these agricultural workers are able to pay for it in the form of rent and it should be provided. Otherwise, no doubt, they and particularly their womenfolk, will become dissatisfied with the amenities provided and will drift away to the towns to the great detriment 332 of the future of agriculture. Your Lordships may remember that at the end of the last war recommendations in respect of house design were submitted to the Government by the Tudor Walters Committee, and there can be no doubt that the standards recommended by that Committee were whittled down by exactly the same type of argument and antagonism which we are likely to meet to-day. I believe the Government of that day made a very great mistake in giving way to the hostility of the few and sacrificing the demands of the many, and that the housing ship was very largely spoiled at the end for the sake of a ha'porth of tar. If the present Government or any Government which succeeds them commit the same error the result will be still more serious. I believe the Government will be very wrong if they do not demonstrate determination to safeguard a proper standard in respect of all houses built in war-time.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Would the noble Earl, before he leaves the subject of the recommendations of this Committee, tell us—if it is not confidential—whether they recommend what in the view of many people is the most important thing of all in rural houses, that is a water supply for each cottage? Do the Committee recommend that there should be a piped water supply for all cottages?
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
I do not want to anticipate what my Committee will embody in their Report, but they have given serious consideration to this matter and they have deep sympathy with the idea that there should be a supply of running water to all rural cottages where it is possible for that to be done. As I was saying, certain things such as flat roofs and concrete floors may be inevitable in war-time, but the prospective tenants are entitled at least to the compensating advantages of a higher standard of amenity and space. I have read lately in the Press articles by members of Parliament and others—I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, is one of them—defending Nissen huts and pre-fabricated houses for agricultural workers in place of the cottages now proposed. It is surely very wrong to confuse the issue and compare cottages which have been incorporated for 333 generations in the countryside with temporary erections set up to house war workers and members of the Fighting Services, which I trust will be swept away at the earliest possible moment after their war-time use has been completed. These cottages are meant to house not only the agricultural worker but his family also, and it surely cannot be seriously suggested that we should house children and old people in Nissen huts, or that pre-fabricated houses should become a permanent adornment of the English countryside.
It is clear that it is going to be a costly business to build cottages in war-time, and it is clear also that the number that can be built is limited not only by financial considerations but by the availability of material and labour. It will follow that special financial arrangements, whether by subsidy or otherwise, will have to be made in respect of them as well as in respect of dwellings built in the immediate post-war years, even taking into consideration the ability of tenants, generally speaking, to pay a higher rent. But I believe that close Government control continued after the war will avoid a great many of the troubles which the noble Lord, Lord Addison, suffered from and about which we have heard from him to-day. In any case it seems to me rather pointless to discuss these tenders and make prophecies in regard to them until they have been closely examined item by item by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
The noble Lord says it has nothing to do with him, but at any rate closely examined by the Minister of Health and the six other Ministries which have something to do with it. A problem of that kind must not be allowed to be detrimental to the provision and maintenance of a higher standard of space and amenity. When we are spending £15,000,000 a day on the war effort it does seem to be begging the question to deny to 3,000 agricultural workers, for the sake of an extra £50 or so per cottage, a very necessary bathroom or an outhouse in which to store a bicycle and garden tools. Obviously it will take some time after hostilities have ended to mobilize to the full our resources in materials and labour for what I hope will 334 be the biggest housing drive this country has ever seen. Until that has been done it is obvious that we cannot really hope to build economically or organize the building industry on sound lines. When that time does come our national genius and everything we have must be utilized in order to achieve a cheap but high standard building programme, and I endorse every word which the noble Lord, Lord Addison, has said in that respect. Most industrialists know very well what miracles of cheapness can be achieved by standardization, mass production and organization on scientific lines. I believe that the building industry has a great deal to learn in that respect, and that other countries have been ahead of us in the past in the development and adaptation of new methods and materials in building and equipment. But a start must be made before that day comes. Indeed, a very fine start has already been made in planning, and a start is being made in actual building.
Right from the very start, then, let there be no weakening or backsliding about those standards which the English people deserve and have a right to expect. The slogan of "homes for heroes" became a travesty at the end of the last war on account of the antagonism of those who were neither sufficiently courageous nor sufficiently clever to tackle the problems which o needed courage and brains in plenty. I am not referring, of course, to the noble Lord, Lord Addison. I am referring to the antagonists who bore him down. The consequence was that our people were condemned to live in slums for another generation to the great detriment of national health, well-being and happiness. This time the war has ranged over the whole field of the population. There are many more heroes. They have all been proved heroes in the fierce fire of war. The courage shown by this country and the cheerful sacrifices made exceed all reckoning. I repeat, my Lords, that if the people of this country are let down again the consequences will, I believe, be fatal. Therefore let all those responsible for their welfare spare no effort to give them that one thing without which their happiness cannot be assured—namely, decent and adequate homes to live in, with a standard which they themselves regard, and regard rightly, as the very minimum.
§ VISCOUNT COWDRAY
My Lords, I know that it is usual to thank the mover of a Motion for having done so, and I am sure that noble Lords are as grateful as usual in this case. But I feel a personal sense of gratitude to Lord Addison for giving me the opportunity of addressing your Lordships for the first time on a subject of which I feel I may have a fair knowledge. I do not think that the need for more agricultural cottages, nor indeed the need for repairs to, and modernization of, existing cottages, can be a matter of controversy either in your Lordships' House or elsewhere. That I think has been amply shown in the debate to-day. Before the war there was already a great shortage of housing accommodation, and with the increased activities of the agricultural industry, to which must be added the not inconsiderable demands for housing by those who are normally town dwellers, it is undeniable that the efficient working of agriculture is being seriously prejudiced by the lack of cottages for the workers. It is therefore a very welcome fact that the Government now feel able to construct some new cottages, even though the number so far visualized of 3,000 is only a token quantity.
I do not wish to suggest how many naughts should be added to the 3,000 which it is proposed to build, for I feel that that is a matter of priority upon which I am not competent to pass judgment, but I would like to draw your Lordships' attention to the relative merits of constructing new cottages and repairing and modernizing existing cottages. In the first place, can we be sure that the type of cottage which it is proposed to build is the most suitable? I was able to look at the plans of the proposed cottages, and I must say that I thought they were the most excellent designs and that they constituted something which we ought all to aim at achieving. In regard to the matter of the small kitchen, I think I am right in saying that in many cases the plans for the cottage which showed a small kitchen, did not provide for a scullery, nor had the kitchen a proper flue. In fact what we see on the plan as a kitchen and living-room is really the old scullery and kitchen with their names altered. As I said I think we ought all to aim at achieving cottages such as this, but none the less I wonder if it is feasible now to build these relatively luxurious cottages, with their two w.c's, when there are so many hundreds of thou- 336 sands of existing cottages that require modernization and repair so very badly. Lord Addison mentioned a figure of £1,100 as being the cost of a house. I had heard a figure of £1,200. On March 18 Lord Portal said in this House that the cost of building cottages had risen by 80 per cent. This means that the equivalent cost of these cottages previously would have been £700. Now £700 would have been a very exorbitant price for a cottage before the war. I suggest, therefore, that the token cottage is of rather too extravagant a type, and that this is a case of trying to run before we have learnt to walk.
I am not one of those who think that the rural worker is happier in the old-fashioned type of cottage that he is used to. Indeed it has been my ambition to give modern conveniences—piped water supply, electricity, w.c's, bathrooms and so on—to all the considerable number of cottages for which I am responsible both in Scotland and in England. It is perhaps for this reason that I feel that not all of the very limited quantity of the labour that is available should be completely taken up with the new cottages when so many of these old cottages are crying out for repairs. The Housing (Rural Workers) Act was renewed in recent months. Before the war this was a very useful Act which, as many of your Lordships will know, gave a grant of two-thirds of the cost—limited to £100—for the modernization of a cottage, although even then the maximum grant of £100 was rather too low to make such modernization an economic proposition. Since the war, and in spite of the renewal of the Act, it has become virtually defunct, although there may be a few hundreds or perhaps a few thousands of cottages dealt with annually under the Act. Up till recently I believe the Ministry of Health directed the county authorities that they were not to consider applications for grants under the Act unless there was to be a definite increase of accommodation, and while the way this was interpreted depended on the enthusiasm of county councils for the scheme, on the whole there has not been much encouragement for those who wished to modernize their cottages under the Act.
It was therefore with great satisfaction that I learnt last week that at the beginning of April the Ministry of Health circularized county authorities to the effect that they should consider applica- 337 tions for grants more sympathetically. But again the emphasis was on increased accommodation. Whilst I cannot but agree that that must be the first consideration, it seems to me that the other cottages ought not to be completely forgotten, particularly if the inhabitants are to see rising up around them these fine new cottages. In practice a lot depends on how the county authorities interpret the directive from the Ministry, for it is well known that whilst some authorities do all they can to encourage the use of the Act others are less enthusiastic, and I suggest that those county authorities that fall behind in the number of applications for grants which they forward to the Ministry should be suitably stirred up.
Before I sit down there is one other matter upon which I should like to touch, although it may perhaps be thought more suitable for the post-war period rather than the present time—that is the matter of cottage rents. Under the Rent Restrictions Act a cottage, or indeed a small house, cannot be let at a rent in excess of the existing rent. I would not for one moment advocate derestricting cottages either now or in the period after the war. If that were done rents would undoubtedly rise to fantastic heights which could not be tolerated. My plea is that the Act should be amended in such a way that the maximum rent should bear some relation to economic facts and to the relative advantages of the houses. At present the standard rent of the cottage depends on what it has previously been let at, and bears no relation to the state of modernization of the cottage nor indeed to the rating assessment, and not even, in some cases, to the Schedule A assessment. Thus, and particularly so in the case of cottages let inclusive of rates, it can and it does often happen that the net rent—that is to say, the rent after deducting the cost of rates and the cost of Schedule A tax—becomes a minus quantity before allowing anything for repairs. In such circumstances, it is obviously impossible for most owners to keep their cottages in a good state of repair, let alone modernize them.
My suggestion is that the maximum rent which may be charged should be adjusted so as to bear some relation to the state of repair of the cottage. For example, if it were thought right that a three-room house without any modern 338 convenience should have a maximum rent of 4s., then, if there were an extra room, that might be worth another 1s. a week, a piped water supply should be worth 1s., electricity supply would be worth 1s., a bathroom 1s. a week and a w.c. would be worth 1s. a week. Thus although the rent of a three-room cottage without any modern conveniences would be only 4s. a week, the rent of a four-room cottage, with all modern conveniences, would be 9s. a week. If something on those lines were agreed to, and if the maximum grant under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act was raised from £100 to £150, or even £200, there would be a real incentive for cottage owners to put their cottage property into a good state of repair, and those who live in these cottages would be very much more comfortable, without having to pay an unreasonable rent.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, it is my very happy duty to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Cowdray, on his maiden speech. I am sure that I voice the feelings of you all when I express the hope that he will often be able to join in our debates and give us, on such questions as rural housing and agriculture, the benefit of the experience which he has derived from his own properties. I should like also to say how pleased I am that the opportunity has been given to us by the noble Lords, Lord Addison and Lord Beaverbrook, to have this debate, because I feel that the 3,000 houses which have been promised by the Government are probably regarded as a very much greater achievement than in fact they are or are even intended to be. The noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has asked for 30,000 houses, and it appeared at one time as though he were acting as a good auctioneer, and would be prepared to go to almost any height in the number of houses he wanted. I am not going to compete in his auction, but I should like to say that, when these 3,000 houses are spread all over the country, it will mean an infinitesimal number in any rural district and parish.
The noble Lord, Lord Addison, has referred to the question of the cost, and I should like to give an experience of my own with regard to the cost of reconditioning. Lord Addison mentioned as the probable cost of these houses, and I share his view that some estimated cost ought to be laid down by the Ministry. At 339 the moment I am reconditioning some farm buildings and putting up a new cowshed on a certain farm, and my architect gives me an approximate cost before I put the specifications out for tender. I feel that it should have been possible to give rural district councils some idea of what the cost should be. But it is true, as Lord Addison has said, that the cost will be very high. I have recently been getting estimates for the cost of reconditioning and improving certain cottages. In the case of one cottage, where the roof was going to be raised and an extension made—I do not think that the work will be done now, owing to the cost—one estimate which I had gave the figure of £864. I admit that that was a high figure, but the fact is that builders have not the materials and the labour, and so do not want the work. I think this particular builder gave a high figure so as to have no chance of being given the work of reconditioning the house.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, said that he was interested in quantity, but that he would leave quality to the noble Lord, Lord Portal. It seems, however, that a number of Ministries is interested. There seem to be six Ministries concerned or, as the noble Lord said, two Ministries for each room! I am not sure, therefore, whether quality will have to be looked after by the noble Lord, Lord Portal, or by one of the other Ministers; but I do feel that quality is very important. I is no good putting up permanent cottages of bad quality all over the country. If it is preferred to put up a number of huts, then let the huts be put up, and let people live in them for the time being; but I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, in hoping that these huts will be removed when once we have won the war.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, told us of a message he had had from a friend of his in another place, to say that the lack of cottages or the lack of "getting a move on" was "not the fault of poor old Ernie." I wondered which "Ernie" he meant because, as noble Lords will realize, there are two "Ernies" in His Majesty's Government, and both of them are largely responsible for the problem which we are now discussing. I do not know the Minister of Labour and National Service well enough to call him "Ernie"; but in fact he is almost more responsible for the position of affairs than 340 our right honourable friend the Minister of Health, because labour is really responsible for threequarters of the costs mentioned by my noble friend Lord Addison, and labour is the most difficult part of the problem of building or reconditioning rural cottages.
I should like to suggest, therefore, that the priority—if I may use that blessed word "priority"—for building labour for erecting these new cottages or for reconditioning old cottages be moved up. Small builders all over the country cannot compete either in building new cottages or in repairing or improving old ones with the larger firms, because they have no labour. In many cases, unfortunately, the little man who runs the firm has no labour left except himself. I sometimes go round, where repairs are being done, and say: "I am sorry that you cannot get on more quickly, because I want to put a new worker in this cottage." Then I am told: "I have no one except myself; all my people have been called up, so what can I do?" That is happening all over the country. These little firms cannot now estimate for new cottages, although in pre-war days in many cases their estimate would have been much lower than that of a bigger firm, because the man works himself and has not big overheads. These small firms are almost driven out of existence; indeed many have been driven out of existence already. I should therefore like to make a plea on their behalf to the Minister of Labour and National Service, and ask him to take a more sympathetic view before calling up the men employed by these small firms, and to make it possible for some of the men who have been called up, but are not in the Ai category, to be returned to them so that they may carry on with their Work.
That raises another point, a point concerned with estate management. It is very difficult to carry on one's ordinary repairs on estates nowadays because so many of the estate repairs staff have been called up. I have experienced this myself, and on one considerable property which I have I have now got one man where I used to have six, and if I had not fought very hard he would have gone too, a long time ago.
I was very glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Cowdray, talk about a reasonable rent and give his opinion that 341 the Rent Restrictions Act, which allows one to increase the rent so much above a certain datum figure, should be altered so that cottages could be let at proper rents according to their amenities. I was going to suggest before I heard the noble Viscount's words that the maximum rent which any agricultural labourer should pay for a cottage with amenities would be in the neighbourhood of 10s. a week, including rates, so my figure is almost the same as the figure of 9s. put forward by the noble Viscount. I agree with him that the rent allowed to be charged should depend on the amenities of the cottages—namely, bathroom, w.c., electric light, and so on. Perhaps it may be possible in future to have a small system of central heating, or perhaps electric heating, in a group of cottages.
The chief point I wish to bring out this afternoon is that if the number of new cottages is going to be increased beyond the 3,000 which we are at present debating, it will be necessary to bring in the ordinary landowner or the ordinary farmer or the ordinary builder, in addition to the local authorities. Between the Great War of 1914–18 and the present war 1,179,000 houses were built by local authorities, but 3,059,000 houses were built by private enterprise; that is three houses were built by private enterprise for every one built by the Government or local authorities. That is the figure for the period between the two wars, and I would like to make a plea that the ordinary landowner or the ordinary farmer should have the same benefits of subsidy and annual payment, even now during the war, which the local authorities are going to enjoy. I think that if the number of 3,000 is to be greatly increased it will be absolutely necessary to rope in private enterprise as well as State enterprise. I am by no means so biased that I do not think there is a function for State enterprise in many fields, but this problem is so urgent that both private enterprise and State enterprise should be employed.
On the question of the amenities of cottages there is one detail of cost which rises very steeply when cottages are not built actually in the village or in pairs or fours, and that is drainage. It is very necessary in my view that cottages should have a water supply; in fact, I do not think anyone will quarrel with me when I say that that is the first priority—even 342 before electricity or gas. The question of water supply is a very much more expensive business than just laying on a pipe and putting in a tap. If you have a w.c. you have to have your cesspool and drainage and so on, and if there is no main drainage, as is usually the case, you have to have a separate drainage for each pair of cottages, and that brings up the cost. But it does not make a water supply any the less necessary.
Arising out of that, I particularly want farmers and landowners to be able to build these cottages, because many of them should be built near the farms and not necessarily all in the villages. I know that in the past this matter of the tied house, as it is called, has sometimes been regarded as a political battle cry. In theory it is very nice to be able to say that tied cottages should be abolished. But where you have an outlying farm, and that farm has stock and horses, you must have your cowman or your horseman living in the cottage which goes with the farm and which is a tied house. If that cowman or horseman has to go because he is inefficient, or if he wishes to leave because he does not like the farmer, you cannot build another new house for the next cowman or the next horseman, and have a sort of avenue of houses for ex-cowmen and ex-horsemen living in them. They have to go somewhere else, and therefore in my view the tied cottage is very necessary, especially near farms, for certain members of the farmer's staff. I hope that the political antagonism to the tied house will not prevent some of these new cottages being built, either by landowners or farmers, near the farms themselves, because it is absolutely necessary, particularly for cowmen in these days—and cows do not always calve in the daytime—to live near the farmhouse.
There is another point about the appearance of these cottages. I am sorry to say that council houses in the villages have almost always been the ugliest and most unattractive houses in the whole village. If one is motoring about the country and asks how to get to a certain place through a village, one is told, "You go up to those ugly council houses and turn right." And it is a fact that the material that has been used is in many instances awful. In the beautiful village of Broadway, in the stone country of the Cotswolds, houses were put up with red roofs. You have these hideous council 343 houses all over the country. I am not sure that the new edition is going to be any better than the old. I do not know what are the materials or the actual colourings, but I must confess I do not like the flat roof variety I see in the papers. I do not think that type fits in at all well with the English landscape. I would like to make this plea: the building material of the county should be used, and cottages should be of stone in stone counties and of brick in brick counties, whether they are built by local councils, landowners or farmers.
I do not intend to stand longer between your Lordships and the Leader of the House and I sincerely hope that his reply will be very hopeful and very helpful to us. But there is one point of difficulty, particularly after the war, which I should like to bring to your notice, and that is the difficulty which landowners will have in reconditioning houses or building new houses out of their ordinary finances after the war. In their maintenance claim—and this is rather a technical detail but one with which many of your Lordships will be well acquainted—you assess the taxation under Schedule A on your property in any one year on the average expenditure of the last five years preceding; in other words, on the last five years up to the fifth of April of the year before. During the war many fewer repairs have been able to be carried out than were carried out before the war and at the present time the taxation which the landowner pays is not so high as it will be at a similar rate in the pound in the years immediately after the war. If the war lasts for five years then the five preceding years will all have been war years and the expenditure on repairs will have been very low.
That is just the time when the landowner will want all his surplus resources for reconditioning or improving his houses or even building new ones. That is just the time when his taxation will be at its highest. I should therefore like to suggest either that the average expenditure for the last few years before the war should be taken as the average, and the landowner be taxed on that in those years after the war, in the same way as, I believe, E.P.T. operates to some extent, or that the landowner should be given the option of putting his exact expenditure 344 in each of the five years after the war against his actual rents, so that he only has to pay tax on the income he receives in those first few years. This concession is already in operation in the case of a new owner taking over an estate which has not previously had a maintenance claim. Some of your Lordships may not realize why that is so important, and may regard it as a technical detail which I should not have mentioned to-day, but I assure the House that this will be most important in the years after the war, and therefore do not apologize for having brought it up. These are all the points I wish to mention. I hope once more we shall have a satisfactory answer from the Leader of the House, and feel sure we are all most grateful to Lord Addison and Lord Beaver-brook for having initiated this debate.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, Lord Addison addressed himself largely to the methods by which he hoped to see achieved the aim of this debate. Lord Beaverbrook, on the other hand, addressed himself more particularly to the means by which he hoped to see carried out the policy which he has so emphatically recommended to the House and to the country. I ask the indulgence of your Lordships for a few minutes because, like the majority of the House, I feel intensely on this subject, and believe it may be helpful to the debate if some additional members support the demand which is made in the Motion so that the Leader of the House may know the strength of feeling which is behind the proposition. I am particularly grateful to Lord Beaverbrook for his speech and for the humour and buoyancy which he puts into his contributions, which add so much to the atmosphere of the House. He again criticized what he called "government by Committee," which he has been so persistently condemning, and he reminded us that in this case there were six Ministries concerned. Unfortunately, Lord Portal's horse fell, so we have only five runners left.
Lord Beaverbrook emphasized two points to which I wish to make reference. First, there is no lack of materials in the country. He emphasized that the only danger was one of labour. Lord Brocket made an appeal on behalf of the small contractor, believing that there are scattered through the country the means of achieving much of the programme that is being urged. 345 That is what I wish to support because I believe there is under-employment in many directions which could be mobilized. I would remind the House that in this drive for increased production we must remember there are many industries which are subject to the distressing experience of progressively diminishing employment. It is very hard to convince workers to put a bigger effort into whatever they are doing when they see, each succeeding month, a reduction in the demand for what they are producing. The result is that these appeals for increased production sometimes fall on discouraged ears. The other point arises from the increase in agricultural production. The sort of programme of post-war agricultural policy recommended by members of your Lordships' House and debated here, foreshadows an agricultural production after the war on a much larger scale than before, and suggests that agriculture is going to be as much a feature of our national policy as, presumably, armaments production and the maintenance of adequate Fighting Forces. If that is so, the provision of agricultural houses is justified on a scale never contemplated at the time when the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was a member of a Committee recommending 75,000 cottages because at that time we were not committed to what we are now committed to.
That brings me to the second point I particularly want to make. It came up in Lord Dudley's speech. We are very glad that the noble Earl should have come here and made his contribution, speaking with the authority of the Chairman of the Committee and giving guidance to the House on this subject. In the course of his remarks he spoke with disparagement, which I regretted very much to hear, of the usefulness of pre-fabricated houses. It is notorious that in the early stages of the war, in the erection of buildings, there was an insufficient conservation of critical materials such as timber. If, instead of the vast numbers of wooden huts and buildings, which have been put up for war purposes, there had been substituted buildings made of concrete and other domestic materials, there would have been a saving of those essential materials for cottages for agricultural workers of which it is represented there is now an insufficiency. That is why these reinforced concrete buildings, which are available now 346 in forms that can be put up, taken down, and removed quickly, should be used much more widely.
I make an appeal on behalf of these prefabricated buildings, which technically are known as of cellular construction. I purposely refrain from mentioning the name of the main organization which is making them because that would be an improper recommendation in Parliament, but those members of the House who have seen these buildings realize how quickly they can be put up, how useful are their qualities, and how economical in the consumption of materials and labour is their character. I am impressed to learn that, the construction being entirely dry, it is possible to occupy the buildings as soon as the decoration has been finished. As an example, I am told that six men could erect a three-roomed bungalow in a matter of two or three days. Lord Dudley disparagingly suggested that it would be a shame to desecrate the countryside by putting up these temporary buildings. I hope the leader of the House in his reply will deal with the question of temporary buildings. We are not in the habit in this country of building houses with a basement or cellar, as is customary in Canada and the United States, on foundations which would be available for a permanent building. It might be possible to have some arrangement whereby buildings put up in the interests of immediate construction might later be taken down. I would endorse what Lord Mottistone emphasized that buildings should in all cases have water when they are put up.
I was very glad indeed to hear the intervention of the noble Viscount, Lord Cowdray. I am sure all members of the House will have admired his first intervention in debate and particularly to see the way in which he bears so stoically the marks of the furnace of war. I am sure I shall have the support of the House in expressing admiration for the way in which he linked sound common sense with fluency in the remarks that he addressed to us, and we hope those remarks are but an earnest of the long and useful contributions that he will make in future to debates in this House. He speaks with the authority of the owner of a large acreage of property and of a model landowner who has given an example of how property should be kept up. His contribution to this debate is a particularly fortunate one. I would refer specially to his 347 remark that more attention should be paid to the repair and alteration of existing cottages. I endorse that plea. I am also grateful to him for reminding the House of the importance in the future, particularly in the case of agricultural houses, of providing a supply of electricity. This should come from the wider use of electricity that we hope will follow from the proposals for the unification of electricity distribution throughout the country. We hope the agricultural community is not going any longer to suffer the misfortune of being neglected by those electricity undertakings which, while picking up the plums of distribution, refrained, not unnaturally perhaps, from assuming the costly burdens of rural transmissions. I speak with optimism when I say that I hope the Leader of the House will tell us something that will implement the wishes of the supporters of this Resolution, but if he does not do so I shall share what I believe must be the feelings of many in this House that if Lord Beaver-brook decides to divide the House he will get large support. Rather than that should happen I trust the Leader of the House will be able to give us an assurance that the Government mean business in this matter.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, the discussion this afternoon has disclosed aspects of the problem of the construction of 3,000 cottages which may not be without their influences upon the problems of housing generally, and it is only because of my interest in housing generally that I intervene to make a few observations. May I first of all say, however, that the real problem which is exercising minds outside your Lordships' House is that, whether the number of cottages is to be 3,000 or 30,000 or 75,000, and whatever their size is to be and whatever their amenities are to be, no cottages are yet being built, and that fact has given rise to considerable disappointment? There is a feeling upon which I hope the Leader of the House will be able to make a definite statement, that what is delaying the commencement of the building of these 3,000 cottages is a squabble between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works, a kind of proceedings Brown versus Portal with Bevin intervening; and I think it would be a serious circumstance if in fact the commencement of the building of these 3,000 cottages so urgently needed 348 was being held up because two Government Departments failed to agree as to their respective spheres of influence and of activity.
I was very disturbed, as I am sure many of your Lordships must have been, at the figures of estimated costs of these cottages given by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition. If these cottages are to be token cottages I certainly hope that the costs will not be token costs, because if we are going to contemplate a cottage in a rural area costing £1,100 one is a little terrified even to estimate what a cottage in an urban area or a block of flats in a city is going to cost after the war. The estimates given by my noble friend Lord Addison do not appear to include any charge for drainage work nor any charge for road work. It may well be that in connexion with these cottages, which I gather will not be put up in any large numbers but may be put up singly or in twos or threes, no considerable road work will be necessary, but there will be an element of road work and road work is not an inexpensive item in the construction of houses or of cottages.
My noble friend Lord Addison referred to the spiral of costs following the last war. He was in fact quite modest in the figures he gave of what some working-class dwellings cost after the last war. In 1921 certain local authorities were paying upwards of £1,250 for a working-class house and that was at a time when the datum line, if I may use that phrase, was much lower than the estimated costs of these cottages. Nothing can be more fatal to a satisfactory rural housing plan in this country than that costs should get out of hand, because sooner or later it will be necessary to put the brake on and the only effect of putting on the brake then would be diminished activity in housing. I know of local authorities who after 1921, had to pay contractors not to build houses they had contracted to build because prices had got out of hand and housing was for some time shut down by the Government. I would like to make one suggestion to my noble friend Lord Portal, the Minister of Works. Surely in asking for tenders for these cottages in a number of rural districts—
§ LORD LATHAM
Then I will ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House whether, when a number of builders scattered in the various districts in which these cottages are to be erected are asked to tender, all of them then have to look round to see where they can buy baths and fittings of various types, cisterns, chains and all the other fittings which go into a cottage, and then ask for a price for the supply of half a dozen of this or a dozen of that. Surely the proper method to pursue would be the method pursued in the making of munitions. These fittings should be bought in bulk through one or other of the Ministries and supplied to the builders as a free issue of material. That can be easily done, and say so with confidence because the London County Council has followed that procedure for a number of years. Certain fittings and equipment are bought by the Council and supplied to the builders working for the Council, even though those builders may be working through other contractors. I suggest that that should be done because otherwise one can understand, there will be those high estimated costs which the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has spoken about. It seems to me that window frames and doors, which are more or less standard, and which are not made worse either with regard to utility or amenity by being standard, should be bought in bulk, and then distributed in the numbers which may be required by a man building one cottage or two or three cottages.
Some comment was made by the noble Lord, Lord Brocket, about ugly cottages. I agree, but ugly structures are not confined to the rural districts if I may say so with every respect and with no personal reflection upon the noble Lord, Lord Brocket, when people get artistic about housing requirements they should remember the results of the practice of economy. Most of the ugliness in houses and other accommodation provided by local authorities has been an imposed ugliness, imposed by the economy of the Government supported by the economy of the people. Those of us who went through that dreadful time in 1931 know what damage was done, by the practice of insensate economy at that time to Social Services, including housing, as the result of trying to solve a problem which arose from abundance by the practice of scarcity. 350 Local authorities can build attractive cottages and houses and blocks of flats provided they are not restricted by too great an insistence upon economy. It is not beyond the wit of local authorities to be artistic, but local authorities are seldom forgiven for being artistic if being artistic adds a few more pence in the pound to the rates.
Finally, may I say that I hope your Lordships will not accept the noble Lord, Lord Barnby's view about pre-fabricated buildings? There is a good deal of nonsense being talked about pre-fabrication. It only needs an idea to be put forward in another country for it to be accepted here without adequate examination. I should hesitate myself before contemplating any wide use in normal circumstances of pre-fabricated buildings for houses and cottages. Some of us are not without experience of the experimental dwellings put up after the last war. Some of them have stood up very well, but others have manifested defects which must not be allowed to recur. Prefabricated buildings can suffer from the same defects as can sometimes prefabricated speeches.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE) (Lord Cecil)
My Lords, this debate, which has centred round the Government's proposal to construct 3,000 agricultural houses, has raised, I think, two distinct issues which are inter-related but are not identical. First there is the group of questions raised by the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Addison. Those questions are very important, but they are to a certain extent limited questions. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, explained at the beginning of his speech that he did not question the decision of His Majesty's Government to build 3,000 houses. He recognized the difficulty in providing more owing to the present very abnormal conditions. As I understand it, he is concerned not so much with the scope of the scheme as the details of the scheme; that is to say, with questions of design and particularly questions of cost. He wants to know what is the present position and how the scheme is progressing. I hope I have interpreted him correctly.
§ LORD ADDISON
If that is the noble Viscount's interpretation perhaps he would add the method which the Government propose to apply in obtaining these houses.
I meant that to be covered when I said the noble Lord wanted to know how the scheme was progressing. I shall be very glad to give your Lordships' House such information as I can on these various aspects of the scheme, for I agree with noble Lords who have spoken in thinking that they are very important, not merely in respect to the present but the future as well. I should say in passing that His Majesty's Government fully recognize, as I expect the House as a whole recognizes, that all these are questions upon which differing views may be held. They are to a certain extent matters of opinion—often expert opinion, but matters of opinion. I should add that the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, of design and cost are clearly dependent upon each other. You cannot look at these matters in completely watertight compartments.
First of all, I would like to deal with the question of design. It has been suggested in this debate and also outside your Lordships' House that the designs are unsuitable in various respects for the purpose for which they are intended. There have been criticisms of upstairs bathrooms and water closets, criticisms of concrete floors, criticisms in particular of the inclusion of parlours in some of the designs and criticisms about the size of kitchens. These also are all questions on which differing views can be held. I think it is only fair to my right honourable friend the Minister of Health that I should tell your Lordships what was the procedure he adopted in deciding on these plans. It has been suggested—I do not think in this debate but certainly outside this House—that my right honourable friend neglected the experience of those in touch with rural conditions. That certainly was not his intention. On the contrary, the plans sent to local authorities included a number recommended by the sub-committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee presided over by my noble friend the Earl of Dudley. The noble Earl has himself intervened in this debate and given to your Lordships the benefit of his experience. Whether or not all noble Lords entirely agree with my noble friend, it is clear that he and those experts associated with him went into the matter with the utmost care and with the highest motives.
352 The sub-committee included among its members women with special knowledge of rural life, and I think I am right in saying took evidence from bodies representing housewives. It is, I suggest, almost impossible to design standard types of agricultural cottages entirely suitable for every part of this country. In different parts there are different conditions and differences of tradition. The people of this country are very conservative, if not always in politics at any rate in their ways, and they like what they are used to. The plans which were submitted to the local authorities were not intended in any way to be imposed upon them. They were subject to modification in the light of local conditions, and they were so recognized by the authorities concerned. When these plans have been considered and if necessary modified, they will, as the House knows, be submitted with the tenders to the Ministry of Health.
I would at this stage say a word about water supply. It is merely this. The importance of water supply has been very much stressed by several noble Lords to-day, and we all agree that a piped water supply is immensely important. Nobody with any practical knowledge of the countryside would suppose that a piped water supply can be put into every cottage in the country at the present time. But it is the object of the Government and of everybody else concerned that this should ultimately be done, and they will proceed towards that end as rapidly as is practicable. I would not like to go any further than that, for the House is well aware of the great practical difficulties that exist at the present time.
In the plans submitted to local authorities there were certain features which have been included to meet specific wartime needs. Into this category comes the proposal for parlours, which has been subjected to unfavourable comments, I think by Lord Addison himself, to-day. He asked what was the purpose of the parlours. I will give him the answer.
§ LORD ADDISON
The parlours and the living-rooms. I do not want to interrupt, but I think it is very important to make this point. You will see in these plans that there is a place called the parlour, a place called the living-room and a place called the kitchen.
I quite understand. He raised the question of having a parlour in addition to the living-room. What is the purpose of it? This, as I have said, is a war-time scheme, and the purpose of these designs is to provide accommodation for as many agricultural workers as possible. My right honourable friends the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture put their heads together, and came to the conclusion that the inclusion of a parlour offered greater possibilities for the accommodation of lodgers, and in particular of members of the Women's Land Army, who are so much needed on the land at the present time. That I understand was the reason why the Ministry of Health recommended parlour types to the local authorities. Of course, it must be a matter for consideration when the present national emergency is over, and the main problem of agricultural housing can be tackled after the war, how far this parlour type may be regarded as most economic and convenient. The point I would make is that it is recommended now to meet the special needs of the present abnormal war situation.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, if I may be permitted, I would like to emphasize that the desire for a parlour type of house was shown to be very widespread in the evidence which was put before the Committee. I think that if my noble friend Lord Addison was an agricultural worker with, say, six children, he would jolly soon know, as head of the family, the reason why a parlour is needed apart from the living-room. He would want somewhere of the kind to retire to occasionally for a little peace and quiet. Or again, if his elder daughter was courting at the time, she would no doubt feel the need for a separate parlour.
My Lords, I was not pre-judging the post-war position. I was saying that parlours had been included in these particular houses mainly for the reasons I have stated. The same war-time reasons account for the proposal to build concrete floors and concrete staircases. Nobody likes concrete floors and 354 concrete staircases. The Ministers concerned do not like them. I am certain that the local authorities do not like them. I do not believe that the people who will live in the houses are going to like them. They are expensive and rather uncomfortable, and the only reason that they are included in these plans is, as the House knows, that the requisite amount of timber was not available for these things and they accordingly had to be built of concrete. Otherwise the houses could not be completed. There is no doubt, in those circumstances, what the decision had to be. It may not be the decision which any of us would have preferred; but it was inevitable in the circumstances.
Finally, I come to the vexed question of cost. It is round this I think that most of the criticism of the scheme has centred. The view has been expressed—I think it was expressed by Lord Addison to-day—that the cost of these new houses would be prohibitive; that they would set an entirely uneconomic standard for post-war agricultural houses. That clearly would be deplorable. We should none of us wish to see that. One of our main aims at the present time surely must be to put agricultural housing on an economic basis. That, unhappily, has not been possible in the past owing to the low level of agricultural wages. But the recent increases in these wages, which have been mentioned to-day, should enable this to be done after the war without hardship to the agricultural labourers and their families.
It is certainly not the intention of His Majesty's Government either to prejudice the future or to perpetuate the evils of the past, and consideration has been given by the Ministers concerned to this aspect. Take the case of the parlour house. Before the war the cost of a parlour house was about £510. A house based on the specifications now recommended for a house of rather larger size, and with rather better outbuildings, would probably have cost about £550 on a pre-war basis. The economic rent of a house which cost £550 would be about 10s. a week. Similar considerations would apply to non-parlour houses. It is extremely difficult to assess exactly the increase in the cost of buildings which must result from the abnormal conditions of war, and no doubt in present circumstances there are likely to be material local variations as between one district and another. Clearly, as I think the 355 noble Earl, Lord Dudley, said in his speech, it is not to be expected that houses which are built now will be a strictly economic proposition. This is essentially a war-time scheme, framed in abnormal conditions to meet abnormal o needs. But what is important—and I think that I shall find myself at one with Lord Addison here—is that the type of house which is built now shall not set generally standards which cannot be maintained after the war. That, I think, is the main point.
My right honourable friend the Minister of Health hopes and believes that it will be possible with the present plan to avoid this; but he will be in a better position to judge when tenders come in from the local authorities to the Ministry of Health. It may be, as Lord Addison and others have said, that the costs will prove to be too high. In that case, of course, the position must be reconsidered, and, if necessary, the plans must be modified. I understood my noble friend Lord Addison to suggest that it would have been wiser if His Majesty's Government had removed the building of these houses from the control of the local authorities and put it in the hands of a Government Department—for instance, in the hands of my noble friend Lord Portal. No doubt, there are arguments in favour of such a course. On the other hand, as I think that your Lordships will agree, over-centralization is equally open to considerable dangers. How often in this House in the past have we been told that Whitehall government fails to take account of local conditions!
The record of the local authorities in building between the two wars has not been an unworthy one, as is very well known to your Lordships. They have built upwards of a million houses in twenty years, and, after the first two years, once they had found their feet, they built at a cost which compared favourably with the cost of those built by other agencies. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Addison, has said, strong arguments may surely be advanced for giving the local authorities an opportunity of showing their mettle on this occasion. But I freely admit that it may well be, as Lord Addison has suggested, that in present circumstances the task may be too great a one for them. There will be difficulties about material and about labour, 356 as the noble Lord, Lord Brocket, said, which it may be beyond their power to surmount. In that case, the Government may have to step in and take over. The Government are keeping an absolutely open mind on that matter. We shall at any rate know very soon, so I understand, what the position is, and the Government are fully determined that there shall be no undue delay.
I think that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Latham, was a little unfair when he suggested that there has been delay due to differences between the various Departments concerned. I know of no such differences, nor, I believe, does my noble friend Lord Portal. The time which has been taken has been occupied by a careful consideration of the nature of the needs by the Committee over which the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, presided, and by other similar examinations. As I said earlier, the tenders areh expected to come in to the Ministry of Health within the next few weeks. The test will be whether in war-time the building industry can produce houses, with the amenities which your Lordships would probably expect, and at a satisfactory cost. It is upon that basis, and upon that basis alone, that the final decision of the Government on this scheme will be taken.
There is one other point, which perhaps does not bear quite directly on the scheme for 3,000 houses, to which I should like to refer. It was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Cowdray. I should like to say, as other noble Lords have already said, how immensely we appreciated the noble Viscount's maiden speech. It was a remarkable performance, because it was extremely well delivered and full of common sense. He made a very substantial contribution to an important debate. In the course of his speech, the noble Viscount asked whether it would not be better to repair old cottages rather than to build new ones. I appreciate that strong arguments can be used in favour of the course which he recommended, but I think that the decisive point is that new cottages provide additional accommodation, and they provide additional accommodation in the areas where it is most needed. I think that that must decide us in favour of the new houses. I understood the noble Viscount to suggest that the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts were defunct. That is not the case. It is quite 357 possible for private owners to obtain grants under these Acts at the present time, and I understand that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, who is himself a landowner, has reconditioned eight cottages under this scheme. The practical possibility of doing so, however, depends on the availability of labour and materials in the area concerned. In this connexion, the noble Lord, Lord Brocket, said that labour should be given a higher priority than it has at present. That is a question which perhaps I may be allowed to leave until I come to deal later with the points raised by my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook, because I think that it belongs to that aspect of this rather tangled subject. There were some other most valuable practical points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. He will perhaps forgive me if I do not go into them now, but I can assure him that I shall bring them to the notice of the Ministers concerned. So much for the aspects of this question which have been directly raised by the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Addison.
I come now to the second issue, the issue raised by the Motion standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. That is a Motion of wider scope. The noble Lord, as he himself said, is not concerned with sordid details of design and cost; they do not bother him at all. What he is concerned about is numbers; his concern is with quantity, not quality.
What interests him is quantity; he wants to see more houses. He questions the adequacy of this scheme as a whole. "Is the Government programme of 3,000 houses," he says, "the best that can be done? Cannot more be built without damage to the war effort?" That issue was raised by the noble Lord about six weeks ago, on March 18, and he has raised it again to-day. It is, as he himself recognized quite frankly in his speech, entirely a question of labour, of whether more labour can be spared for this purpose at the present time. So far as the ultimate objective of Government policy is concerned, there is really no difference between His Majesty's Government and the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, and all 358 the other noble Lords in this House. We all want to see more houses built for agricultural workers, as I think was explained by my noble friend Lord Portal on March 18 last. He said that the Government envisage in the future a programme of building which includes 300,000 houses for agricultural workers. That is a much more ambitious programme even than that envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, this afternoon. The only issue between us is as to how many can be built now, and that, as I have said, is a question of man-power.
The materials for 30,000 cottages are as the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, said, no doubt available. There are sufficient bricks; there is sufficient cement. There is, it is true, a shortage of timber, but I have no doubt that some other material could be devised. That is not beyond the wit of man. What is lacking is labour. I thought my noble friend dismissed this difficulty rather lightly. He said in effect: "Why not take it from the Armed Forces, why not take it from the war industries?" He mentioned the Air Force and the War Department The problem is not so easy as the noble Lord would have us think. The resources of man-power in this country are at present stretched as they have never been stretched before. The whole nation is mobilized, and we are fighting for our lives. We are maintaining a great Army, a great Navy and a great Air Force, all of them engaged in active operations. That I believe is something which no other country at the present time is doing on the same scale. It is a very remarkable feat. But it has only been achieved by stretching ourselves to the utmost.
We have to supply these great Forces with the implements of war; we have to build the ships to take the implements of war where they are needed; we have to find the workmen for the other essential industries, to provide ourselves with the necessities of life, and to maintain our export trade to enable us to buy the things that we need at the present time. Only a certain number of men in such circumstances can possibly be allocated to the building industry, and of these, as the House knows, a large number are already employed on military construction of an essential character and on such other work as the repair of "blitzed" buildings— which in itself may help to release accommodation in the countryside. To say, as 359 the noble Lord has said this afternoon, that it ought to be possible, almost easy, to divert, in addition, men to build 30,000 agricultural houses is surely to ignore hard unpleasant but unavoidable facts. Lord Beaverbrook in recent debates has pressed for the use of man-power for other purposes—a Second Front in Europe, the supply of arms to Russia and so on—aims in regard to which we are all in agreement with him. But I would say to him that the sort of proposal he has put forward today, however good it may be in itself, will not increase the chances of achieving those other objects.
The whole question is that of balancing our national requirements. I can assure both him and your Lordships that a main aim of His Majesty's Government is so to allocate labour as to strike a fair balance between conflicting national needs. The Cabinet, as the noble Lord himself knows, spend much time themselves in deciding between the various claims of the various industries upon our man-power. The noble Lord suggested that the blame should attach to the Building Priorities Committee. Committees are a King Charles's head with the noble Lord: whenever any subject is raised he refers to the question of Committees. But it is not the Building Priorities Committee which must take this responsibility; it is the War Cabinet—the War Cabinet, which is in itself a Committee, but a very high-class Committee indeed. If it is not found possible to build more than 3,000 agricultural houses at the present time, that is because there is greater need for the labour elsewhere. This is a very simple reason but a very true reason, and in this matter, I suggest to your Lordships, the War Cabinet, who are alone in possession of the facts, must be the best judges. Their duty is so to direct our man-power that it will bring the people of this country most rapidly through our present troubles. That duty, whatever temporary sacrifices it involves for agriculture or other sections of the community, they are determined to perform. They would be unworthy of the confidence of this country if they took any other course.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will agree that we have had a most interesting and very valuable debate, and in conclusion I 360 would only like to say in reference to a remark which fell from the Leader of the House that I myself, not knowing the facts, not being a member of that high-class Committee to which he referred, do not feel that I am in a position to argue the wisdom or unwisdom of their deciding that they can only supply enough labour for 3,000 cottages. I wish it were 30,000 but, not knowing the facts, I cannot express any opinion. But as to the other gravamen of the case I do know the facts. They are know to us all, and it is because of these facts that I was very relieved to hear the noble Viscount say that the mind of His Majesty's Government was still open if the result of the tenders to be received convinced them that a revision of the method which had hitherto been adopted was necessary That is very comforting to hear.
I deliberately decided, after thought, to mention prices that I had heard talked about. Of course, one is often open to the charge that that only encourages people to quote that kind of price, but I think the danger is too serious to be diverted by such' a retort. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said that the kind of house I described would cost before the war about £500 to £550. Under the present system I am afraid the prospect is that that figure will be doubled, and my interest and that of my noble friends is that the whole housing effort should not be prejudiced at the start by a price level which would prejudice the whole thing and in the end deprive us of the houses we want. That is the danger to which I was trying to call attention.
I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, will never accuse me of wishing to trim down the essentials of decency in housing requirements. I suffered too much myself in fighting the battle to be open to that suggestion. I would like to pay tribute, as others have done, to the splendid work which he and his Committee rendered. I must say the idea of taking in a land girl did not commend itself to me when I asked a question about a parlour and a living-room and a kitchen. It is interesting, but I am not sure it is very convincing. There are one or two other points that I would like to ask the noble Viscount to refer to his colleague. We want to make sure that when these houses are being built for agricultural workers, they will not be snapped up by week-enders. That is 361 very important. I myself, for my sins, am the Chairman, on the first Monday in every month, of another Committee, and we have to hear applications for the possession of cottages under the Rent Restrictions Act. Yesterday I was listening to some cases of this kind, and in every case that came before us the house built for a farm worker was in the occupation of an urban tenant, going to and fro from London. Two cases were of people working in a town, and in two other cases the people one might fairly describe as weekenders—perhaps "evacuees" would be a better description. At all events the houses were not occupied by farm workers. It is very important that we should see that houses which are built for farm workers are made available to farm workers. Another thing is that in order to secure a greater reduction of costs—I ask the noble Lord to represent this to his colleagues—the rate of interest should be kept very low, as happily it is during the war, and that the sinking fund period, the period of the subsidy, should be extended to sixty years instead of forty. That would very much diminish the burden. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
My Lords, this debate has been very interesting. Debates always end with a declaration by the mover that the debate has been interesting and useful; but nothing else ever happens. I am in some difficulty this afternoon. I am much obliged to Lord Barnby for his support, but the noble Marquess (Lord Salisbury) has not said anything about that Committee which recommended that 75,000 houses be built. The Bishop's Bench has done nothing to support me, and my noble friends in the Liberal Party have not had a word to say in support of my desire to go to a Division. My noble friend Lord South-wood, proprietor of that brilliant paper, Ideal Homes, has had nothing to say either. My appeal to the High Commissioner for the Church of Scotland remains unanswered. So I shall not press my Motion.
I wish to add a few words only. The message sent to me by a friend of the Minister of Health stated that the delay was due to a Committee—the Priorities Committee. That was the message sent to me. I did not attack the Minister. The delay was due to the Committee, so I accepted the advice and made the case 362 against the Committee. I would not have thought of mentioning Committees at all if I did not think it was absolutely necessary. Furthermore, I want to say one word about the War Cabinet. It is indeed a high-class Committee, but it has not got any spirit of understanding of agriculture; it really has not. That is a pity. This House is capable of dealing with agricultural issues. Of that there can be no doubt. My noble friend Lord Sherwood told me that 500 years ago there were only sixteen Peers. Now there are at least 600 Conservative Peers, and all those of ancient lineage have been lifted up to high place by the agricultural labourers—every one of them. The new element that has come in might be regarded as the labourers' revolt! I would have expected these 600 noble Lords to show a great deal more sympathy with the agricultural labourer than they have shown instead of coming to this House and talking of scenery and scenic effects. Some of these labourers have to cycle fifteen or twenty miles to their work, and you cannot expect them to pay much attention to the scenery. It is the duty and responsibility of this House to look after the interests of the class for which I speak to-day.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.