§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Morrison.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]
§ Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9:
§ Grants to persons other than local authorities for improvement of housing accommodation
(3) Before approving an application under this section for an improvement grant the local authority shall satisfy themselves as to the following requirements, that is to say,
(a) that, as respects dwellings to he provided by means of the improvement works, the dwellings will provide satisfactory housing accommodation for a period of not less than thirty years from the completion of the works, and, as respects dwellings to be improved by means of the improvement works, the dwellings as so improved will provide such accommodation for a period of not less than thirty years from the completion of the works;
§ Provided that
THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved, in subsection (3) to add to the proviso:
("(iii) (a) if in relation to any dwelling the Secretary of State (after consultation with the Agricultural Executive Committee and District Wages Committee having jurisdiction within the area in which such dwelling is situate) certifies that such dwelling is necessary foil the proper and efficient carrying on of an agricultural holding, the provisions of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section eleven of this Act shall not apply with respect to such dwelling during such period as such certificate continues in force;
(b) any certificate granted by the Secretary of State as aforesaid may be revoked by him if he is of opinion that the dwelling to which it relates is no longer necessary for the proper and efficient carrying on of the said agricultural holding but before any such certificate is revoked the Secretary of State shall consider any representations made to him by the owner of the dwelling or by the tenant of the said holding;
(c) where any such certificate granted by the Secretary of State is revoked as aforesaid the owner of the dwelling to which the certificate related shall within a period of three months pay to the local authority the like amount as would become payable to them under subsection (2) of section eleven of this Act in the event of a breach at the date of the revocation of the certificate of any of the conditions specified in subsection (1) of the said section and in the event of the owner failing to pay such amount as aforesaid the provisions of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section eleven of this Act shall extend and apply to the dwelling in like manner as they would have applied if in the absence of a certificate from the Secret try of State an improvement grant had been made in respect of the dwelling.
§ The noble Earl said: I think it is always one of the purposes of this House to endeavour to reconcile elements in the political life of this country which it is difficult to bring together. We have on the one side an urgent requirement in agriculture while on the other side we have existing political exigencies which are divergent. The object of this Amendment is to endeavour to reconcile and draw together those two points. First of all, I should like to say that a measure of tied houses is absolutely necessary. I challenge the noble Lord to give any reliable or authoritative source that would deny that in some cases tied houses are necessary. On the other hand, there is the present political view (shall I say?) largely held by town dwellers who question whether the tied house should be allowed to continue, at least to the extent that it does at the present time.
May I submit my point to the noble Lord in this way? I believe that His Majesty's Government will agree with me. There are undoubtedly cases where tied houses must remain, and it may be there are other cases in which they can be dispensed with. It is to meet precisely that position that I put forward this Amendment to your Lordships this afternoon. May I take the first point, lest it should be thought, from any authoritative reports, that tied houses in Scotland are not an urgent necessity? May I take, first of all, the Report by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee who have heard a great deal of evidence on this point? They say in paragraph 277 (i):
A certain number of houses are required as a rule on farms in order to secure that a worker or workers are readily available. In such circumstances no objection can be taken where farmers or landlords build houses for such workers on the farm and as tied houses.
Secondly, I turn to the Philip Report on Milk Services, and in paragraph 81 I find this sentence:
In the case of housing at the farm, in certain circumstances—for example, where there is no adjacent community—the building of some new tied houses or the modernisation of existing ones, if any are available, would seem to be necessary.
I now turn to the Scottish Women's Rural Institutes, where, at the annual general meeting of the Central Council on April 28, 1949, it was resolved:
That the provisions of the Housing (Scotland) Bill now under consideration be altered to allow agricultural landlords, including farmers, to obtain grant-aid for modernising rural houses, without having to give up their claim to keep these houses tied for their workers.
Those are pretty powerful opinions from a wide variety of sources. What is the difficulty at the present time? It is this: that certain criticisms of tied houses have been made by the Farm Servants' Union. No one would seek in any way to disparage the importance of that organisation. It is the major bargaining organisation in Scotland now, but it is fair to say—and these figures have not been contradicted in public—that its membership consists of 11,000 men and women, out of a total population who might be eligible for membership of some 90,000. I do not seek in any way to undermine its importance. All I say is that the figures indicate that the Union does not enjoy the full support which it might have. But even this body, who have criticised tied houses, are still unable to say that in some cases they are not necessary. I refer to a report in the Scotsman of March 2 which said that:
Mr. Alexander Ewen, Secretary of the section, said they were not pressing for the complete abolition of the tied cottage, which in some instances might be essential.
So I think there is evidence of an urgent requirement. There is no doubt about that. No one can possibly deny it. I should like to put this further point. If tied cottages cannot be assisted in some measure, who suffers? It is not the landlord it is not the farm tenant. It is the farm worker, because he is the man who does not get his bath water.
§ This Amendment itself endeavours to reconcile the Secretary of State's difficulty in the case of a disagreement between the Farm Servants' Union and the 536 National Farmers' Union, for there are cases—and no one can deny it—where tied houses are necessary and unavoidable. In other cases perhaps they are not. The compromise suggested—we are often said to be very uncompromising in Scotland, but I think it is a compromise —is that the matter be left entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State. On the advice of the agricultural executive committee he may certify that in certain circumstances a tied house is necessary. In such circumstances a grant can be made, but it is open to the Secretary of State at any time, if he wishes, to refuse to use this power. It is open to him to say: "I will not use it for twelve months." or "I will not use it under certain agreements," or "I will not use it in any circumstances." He has the power in the event of agreement being reached between the Farm Servants' Union on the one hand and the National Farmers' Union on the other. He can use this power without the necessity of further legislation.
§ I would add only that these houses are urgently required in the drive for the production of food. The present difficulty in agriculture is primarily the shortage of man-power, and the provision of better houses is the surest and most obvious way in which man-power can be attracted. I submit, further, that we in Scotland have a particularly strong case. There are many cases of isolated farms which it is essential should be maintained at a proper level, and that can be done only by men who are working on the farm. In the circumstances I ask the noble Lord, with confidence, to consider this Amendment, the principle of which has not been examined, I think, either in this House or in another place since the discussion of this Bill, or the English Bill. I feel it is an Amendment which the noble Lord could meet without giving away his principle, and leave the matter entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 12, at end insert the said new proviso.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ LORD POLWARTH
I should like to say one or two words in support of my noble friend, and particularly to emphasise why it is that we consider that the question of the service cottage is of 537 much greater importance in Scotland than it is in England. My noble friend has said that we have a great many more remote cottages where it is essential to have men in charge of stock. I believe it extends further than that. In England the basis of the farming community is the village, and in most parts of the country the farms are scattered around the villages and workers can live in the villages and work with equal ease at any one of a number of farms. In Scotland the village as such virtually does not exist. The normal community is centred on perhaps a school, a church and a post office at some point half way up a valley, and the farms are spread out in a long string up and down that valley. In those circumstances it is impossible for workers to be housed centrally and have adequate access to one or more of the farms.
I do not want to go into the relative advantages or disadvantages of the tied cottage. The point at issue here is simply, shall those cottages be eligible for an improvement grant or shall they not? The Secretary of State for Scotland has expressed his view. He has said that he is powerless to move in this matter until he has the agreement: of the Scottish Farm Servants' Union. What is the objection of the Scottish Farm Servants' Union? It is simply that to give grants for the reconditioning of tied houses is to give money to private owners. That is their objection to tied houses being included in the Bill. In all seriousness, what can the owner gain from a grant of this sort? In the first place, he will receive only 50 per cent. of the amount he spends, and I think it is perfectly clear that, even taking the maximum of £600 which he is eligible to receive as a grant, any gain he might receive in increased rent for the farm as a whole would be more than offset by the increased costs of maintenance and up-keep resulting from the improvement. Again, I do not think there can be any possibility of the owner making a capital profit as a result of the grant, because once he has been given an improvement grant he is bound to retain the farm for a minimum of twenty years, and if he should sell it within that period he is obliged to repay the grant to the local authority. Therefore in that case, too, he cannot conceivably make a profit. The only advantage the owner can receive is the satisfaction of seeing his estate in proper order and the workers on his 538 tenants' farms properly housed. I do not think noble Lords opposite or their colleagues in another place would wish to deprive even a landlord of that pleasure.
The question is simply one of public policy—namely, are we or are we not to spend the money on reconditioning these houses? It is understood that two of the major parts of this Government's policy are, first, to see that everybody in this country has a decent home and, secondly, to give every encouragement to farmers to obtain maximum food production. If the Government maintain their present attitude to the giving of grants for reconditioning service cottages, it cuts right across those two major items in their policy. If they maintain that attitude they will not be able to rely on the good will of the farming community. Feeling on this matter in Scotland is very strong. They will also endanger food production for the sake of a political view which had its origin long ago, it may be rightly or wrongly, and whose greatest advocates now are those who, I would venture to say, have the least experience of agriculture and of country life. We have moved this Amendment in no light manner and we ask His Majesty's Government to consider it very seriously We have gone half way to meet thein—in fact we have gone more than half way—and it will be of the greatest satisfaction to the farming community in Scotland if they can see their way to meet us on this common ground.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
The case for this Amendment has been ably, fully and emphatically put by my two noble friends who have spoken, but perhaps may add a few words to supplement it and to reinforce the point which was so well brought out by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, when he asked who was going to suffer if this compromise were not accepted. It is the key men in agriculture who are going to suffer. As the noble Earl pointed out, it is admitted by three specific bodies who have inquired into the question that some tied cottages are required for agriculture. For whom are those houses required? They are required for the key men—the grieves, the herdsmen, the shepherds and those who must be on the spot to look after the place and in case of emergency. It is impossible for a herdsman to live away from the farm, because he can never tell when a 539 case of illness may arise or when a cow may calve and help may be required. Similarly, other stockmen must be near their posts. For that reason it must be admitted that some tied houses are required. If so, why should those workers who are to live in these tied houses not be entitled to have the best house that they can get. Why should the Government refuse to give aid and assistance for the reconditioning of houses to bring them up to proper standards?
A third point which I think has not been brought out to-day is that in Scotland most farms have a certain number of houses which are fairly good houses but are not up to modern requirements. By the judicious expenditure of a little money, those houses can he brought up to modern standards. May I give your Lordships an illustration from the work done by the County Council of Fife in the period when the Housing (Rural Workers) Act was in force? During that period, which ended on June 30, 1945, 2,856 houses for agricultural workers in the County of Fife were reconditioned on a grant from the State at a cost of approximately £100 each, making a total cost of £278,452. Of those houses, 235 were owner-occupied, and they received a grant of £22,000 odd, leaving 2,621 houses for which the landlord received the grant and supplemented the reconditioning, the grant in those cases amounting to £255,604. I have given the Committee those figures because I feel that, taken as they are from the records of work in a progressive county in Scotland, they show that the position is appreciated by the local authorities. They also indicate clearly that a determination is shown by the local authority in question to undertake the responsibility which is thrown upon them. The net result is that at the cost of some £100 per house to the Exchequer, or to the rates, over 2,800 houses were reconditioned in that county.
That was work well worth doing. But it has now entirely stopped as the result of the action of the Government. The only possibility for future improvement lies in the grant available for the building of new houses. But why should a new house be built at large expense when there is already on a farm a house which, with moderate expenditure, could be put 540 into good repair and brought up to date? It is for those reasons that I would add any weight I can to the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and I hope that the Government, if they are really sincere in their declaration and intention—the Secretary of State and others responsible have declared over and over again that they wish to do something for the housing of agricultural workers—will take this compromise Amendment into careful and sympathetic consideration.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
Arguments in support of this Amendment have been put forward so ably by noble Lords who have already spoken that it is with diffidence that I venture to add anything. But I would ask to be allowed to say a few words to reinforce what has been said. Before the war, progress in the modernisation of farm cottages and rural housing generally in Scotland was very good; it was going on at an increasingly rapid rate and the modernisation was constantly being brought to a higher standard. Since the war, under the present Government, modernisation has been almost at a standstill. There has been official discouragement, amounting almost to prevention, and even the repair of rural housing has been carried on with difficulty in face of discouragement. There have been many deputations to the Secretary of State and other Ministers in Scotland on this subject, but on all occasions we have been told—to a certain extent quite rightly—that the provision of new houses was more important, that we must be patient and wait our turn. But it was always held out to us that, before the end of this Parliament, the Government hoped they would be able to do something to increase again the rate of modernisation of these houses. The opportunity arises to-day.
The Government have boasted a great deal about the numbers of new houses which are going up in Scotland, but they do not seem to take into account the deterioration which has been going on all this time, and which is causing a serious offset in the total number of houses available. If the Government reject this Amendment to-day, they will be ignoring the advice of those who are most concerned in agriculture and those 541 who have most experience and responsibility in the provision of buildings and administration generally. It has already been stated that the principal benefit will accrue to the occupants of the houses. But there will also he substantial benefit to local authorities, in that they will not have to build new houses—often in out of the way places—at very great expense, to take the place of those which could now be modernised.
I think the assistance which could be given to food production needs to be still further emphasised. There is no doubt whatever that in the campaign for increased food production, which still lies in front of us, the improvement of these houses on farms in Scotland now is one of the matters which should come first; and if it is accorded priority a great deal of help will be given in the development of the land and the increasing of production. I would like to emphasise again that the object of the owners is the provision of better houses for people on the land and assistance to food production. I believe that all of us who come from Scotland know from experience that there are a great many farm workers, estate workers, woodmen and rural workers generally who prefer a good estate house at a low rent. This also applies to retired workers and those who want to retire and who are unable to get houses elsewhere. If something is not done quickly to improve what houses can still be improved, the deterioration will continue and there will be fewer houses available for those who want to retire and live in them or for those who wish to use them now.
There are a great many other points which could be stressed in favour of this Amendment, but I do not think your Lordships would wish to hear them today from me. I would only say in conclusion that even if the Government do nothing the responsibility on the landowners remains, and we, as landowners, as well as playing our own part to the best of our abilities, must do our utmost to encourage others to do everything they possibly can for the improvement of these houses at the earliest possible moment.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON
May I say at the outset of my remarks that we have listened to four excellent speeches de- 542 livered with a sincere desire to effect what I might call a last-minute compromise and so avoid a deadlock which has existed during the whole of the time that this Bill has been going through another place—and the Bill has had a rather prolonged stay in another place. I would like to pay my tribute to the noble Earl who has put down this Amendment for the effort which he has made to seek a way out of what I think—though I am not sure—he described as a deadlock between the farmers' union and the farm-workers' organisation. May I say straight away that I have no authority at all—noble Lords opposite will understand what I mean—to accept this Amendment. I will give some of the reasons which prevent my accepting it, but that does not I hope prevent me from paying my tribute to the excellent and reasonable manner in which the Amendment has been put forward.
The noble Earl, Lord Elgin, asked whether anyone would deny that some tied houses are required. I certainly would not deny it; I do not know about other people. But I respectfully suggest that that is net the issue. The issue which we are discussing is simply whether public money should be spent in improving tied houses which, after they have been improved at public cost, will still remain tied houses. That is the issue around which this Amendment revolves. Putting it in other words, the object of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, is to admit a limited class of cottages to improvement grants which are given to other houses which are not tied cottages. I would say, incidentally, that I am advised that the Amendment has been put down in the wrong place, and that actually it should be a proviso to Clause 12 (1) (b) which relates to conditions of grants.
§ LORD MORRISON
I anticipated that. I am not trying to lure the noble Earl into moving this Amendment from one clause to another, because apart from that there are certain administrative difficulties. Even on these I need not take up the time of the House, because if all these difficulties could be overcome, the Secretary of State still cannot see his way to authorise me to accept this Amendment.
543 As noble Lords who have read the lengthy debates in another place will know, the attitude which the Secretary of State has taken is that the arguments for and against service cottages, while he thinks they have been exaggerated by both sides, are such that he could not set himself up as an arbiter on this matter. The Scottish Farm Servants' Union are not opposed to the owner spending his own money on the improvement of a service cottage—I am quoting the opinion of the Scottish Farm Servants' Union. I repeat it again because I do not want to he misunderstood. Someone has said that a man who knows only one side of a question does not know even that. I am trying to give the Committee the opinion of the Scottish Farm Servants' Union as communicated to me. The Scottish Farm Servants' Union are not opposed to the owner spending his own money on the improvement of a service cottage if it is worth improving, but they have objections in principle to public money being spent on such cottages, whether these are necessary for efficient farming or not.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
Is the revenue for that expenditure to come from industry or where?
§ LORD MORRISON
I am afraid I can only refer the noble Duke to the Scottish Farm Servants' Union for an answer to that question. I am trying to give their side of the case and to prove, I hope successfully, why the Secretary of State has not come down on one side or the other in this discussion. The Secretary of State has discussed the whole question with both the farmers and the Union, and he has told both parties that until they can resolve their views he is unable to intervene with any useful action. I am advised that so far they have been unable to do so. That being so, the Secretary of State cannot see his way to force on the farm workers even a limited system of grants from public funds which, through their Union, they say they do not want. I have already paid my tribute to the noble Earl for his constructive Amendment which, although I am sure he will not agree with me, I regard as a form of compromise, and I have explained the reasons why, apart from certain administrative reasons into 544 which I need not go, because they are not of major importance, I cannot accept it. I repeat, that I have no authority to accept the Amendment and I am afraid the noble Earl must do what he thinks best in the circumstances.
§ 5.5 p.m.
I am sure your Lordships will sympathise with the noble Lord who has just spoken in his wrestling with a distasteful issue. In face of the absolute shortage of houses in Scotland at the present time, particularly in rural areas, I think your Lordships will feel that it is very unfortunate that this compromise suggestion cannot be accepted. It is made with the best will in the world to try to compose differences between the Farmers' Union and the Farm Servants' Union in a manner which might be acceptable to both sides and which would certainly he to the advantage of the country. The noble Lord has said that in certain circumstances tied houses might be necessary.
If this Amendment is accepted, the Secretary of State, advised as he is by a most competent Department, will be able to see whether certain tied cottages are necessary for the efficient running of a farm. There can be no abuse. If the landlord should abuse the certificate and put his butler or gamekeeper into the house, the certificate could be revoked and the landlord called upon to repay. It seems to me a watertight arrangement which should commend itself to both parties. The truth is that the parties have had little time to consider this question, as it has been rather rushed on us just before the Recess. I know that the noble Lord is not to blame for this. It took a long time in the Scottish Grand Committee and it comes to us in the last hot days of July, when there has been little time for consideration, not only in this House but outside. The contesting Parties, who have gone into a deadlock over this, would be well advised to sit down calmly and consider this suggestion. I hope your Lordships will see your way to go further with this Amendment. It makes the Secretary of State judge whether or not a particular cottage is necessary.
I have one other further reflection to make. It would seem that unless the 545 Amendment is accepted, the owner of property such as this is likely to be heavily penalised, because on the Second Reading of the Bill the noble Lord said, in reply to a question I raised, that property which qualified for grant under the Bill would be exempted from the development charge under the Town and Country Planning Act. That is a most important admission. It is an admission of the difficulty which is likely to hold up improvement, that the development charge has to be waived in order to get that improvement. If the Bill is not altered in this way the owner of a service cottage may well not only not receive a grant but may also have to pay development charge on the improvement to his cottage. Many agricultural workers will be compelled to live in less comfortable quarters than they might have if the Amendment were accepted. I do not wish to labour the point. The noble Lord might have wished to do something for us, but it is evident that he is not in a position to do so. I trust that the Secretary of State will place this issue before the contesting parties and see whether, even at this late hour, a compromise cannot be effected.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is a very bold Englishman who intervenes in a Scottish debate, and I certainly do not intend to do so at any length. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he cannot persuade the Secretary of State to consider this matter further. He could not have had a more modest Amendment than this. All that it says is, that after consultation with the agricultural executive committee and district wages committee, the Minister may certify that a cottage is necessary for the proper and efficient carrying on of an agricultural holding. He need not say it. He can exercise his own judgment. It is impossible to argue that in no circumstances is a cottage essential to an agricultural holding. Everybody knows that a cottage is essential to a holding. It is not open to doubt at all. If it is found that a cottage is being used for another purpose, the Secretary of State is empowered to revoke his permission immediately, and then the owner has to repay the money expended by the State in respect of his property. I cannot conceive a more reasonable Amendment.
546 I was not quite clear as to the position of the noble Lord about tied cottages. The impression I received was that he thought that tied cottages were sometimes necessary but that on the whole the Government thought they were not. I am not certain about that. Undoubtedly the Government agree to the principle of tied cottages in the case of forestry, and I think in the case of the railways and the mines. It is only in the agricultural industry that this "great moral principle" is invoked, that cottages should not be tied. I do not think they represent any large opinion in the country, except those who are actuated by rather old prejudices in the matter.
I was rather shocked by the excuse which the noble Lord gave (it is not his excuse, and I do not blame him; it is the Government's excuse) that the Scottish Farm Servants' Union were against assistance for tied cottages. In any case, as the noble Earl, Lore Selkirk, said, the Union represents only about one in eight of the farm workers in Scotland, which is a very small proportion. Even assuming that to be the fact, is it really a matter on which the Scottish Farm Servants' Union should have an absolute veto? Would the Government apply that to housing generally? Would they say: "It is merely a matter between the landlord and tenant, and it has nothing to do with us"? If they used that argument, I think they would be blown out of the country. Why do they use that argument here? I think the only reason is because it is the only argument they have against it.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison, agreed that this is a constructive Amendment. And it is a constructive Amendment in every sense of the word. It is an Amendment to enable farm workers to live under decent conditions. It is all very well for the Scottish Farm Servants' Union to say: "Let the man spend his own money." What has happened to the man's money at the present moment? He has been mulcted to the extent of about 18s. or 19s. in the pound by the Government. Is he expected to have the same amount to spend for these purposes as he had before? I do not think bodies like the Scottish Farm Servants' Union consider the position. I do not want them to take the side of the landlord, but they should consider the Position objectively. For all those reasons I think there is a 547 very strong case for this limited and reasonable Amendment. I would beg the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, to see whether he cannot get the Minister to consider the matter further. If he honestly believes he cannot do that, we shall understand his position, and we will proceed to a Division. This is not a matter we can allow to pass without expressing our view. If the noble Lord thinks he can persuade the Minister to consider it further, no doubt he will let us know.
§ LORD MORRISON
There are three points which the noble Marquess raised to which I would like to reply. The first is that in regard to tied cottages. I repeat that, in my own personal opinion, some tied cottages are necessary. From recent visits I have made to Scotland I cannot conceive how, for instance, in some of the sheep farming areas it would be possible for a farmer to continue unless the cottage where the shepherd lived was a tied cottage belonging to the farmer. However, I do not want noble Lords to draw any distinction between my views and the views of the Government, because I have reason to believe that the Secretary of State for Scotland, at any rate, holds the same view as I do, that some tied cottages are necessary. The noble Marquess raised the question of why we should pay any attention to the Scottish Farm Servants' Union.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I did not ask why you should pay any attention to them; I asked why you should govern your policy by their view. That is a very different thing.
§ LORD MORRISON
That is the point with which I shall endeavour to deal. Ever since I have been made, to some extent, the spokesman on Scottish affairs in your Lordships' House, one of the points that has struck me is that since the war the whole question of Scottish agriculture has been lifted completely out of Party politics; that has been one of the issues that have been discussed not on strict Party lines. I have met nobody in Scotland who wishes to put Scottish agricultural affairs back into the cockpit of Party politics. Therefore, I assume that is the reason why the Secretary of State for Scotland is not taking sides in this matter, one way or the other. 548 He says: "Here is a dispute that has arisen between two sides. I refuse to come into it. I will do what I can to help them to come to a decision and resolve this quarrel. Up to now I have been unsuccessful. Therefore this Bill does not make the position any worse or any better; it is leaving it as it was." I realise, as everybody here does, that this difference of opinion has arisen at a somewhat unfortunate time, inasmuch as this is the tail end before the Recess. These matters come up suddenly, and some of them require perhaps longer study than we have time to give to them. I can only say that in the limited time that has been at my disposal since this Amendment appeared on the Paper, I have been unable to convince those responsible for Government policy in Scotland that this would be a desirable Amendment. In those circumstances, the noble Marquess will understand that I have no authority to accept the Amendment, and what the Opposition propose to do about it is their business, not mine.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison, has not offered to take this matter back in any form. I would like to clear up one or two points. This Amendment appeared on the Paper the day after the Second Reading. I could not have put it down earlier. The noble Lord referred, secondly, to the wording of the Amendment. Things are done a little hurriedly at this stage of the Session, but, after all, there is the other place, where no doubt the wording could be put right. Thirdly, the noble Lord said that the Secretary of State did not want to intervene. I should have thought that his job was to govern. It is not a question of getting one side or the other to come to a decision, but of his making a decision. But even if he does not want to make a decision, he need not do so under this Amendment; he can state openly that he refuses to act under it. But the moment the problem is resolved he can proceed without further legislation. The noble Lord said that he wants to keep this matter out of Party politics. I also would like to keep it out of Party politics. But who has brought it into politics? It is really no more than a small minority who, I suggest with great respect, are probably affiliated to the Labour Party. I submit to your Lordships that this Amendment is both urgent 549 and right. We suffered badly in Scotland when the Housing (Rural Workers) Act was repealed, and I feel that now is the time to get back something that we lost before.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 10 [Amounts, and payment, of improvement grants]:
Page 8, line 42, after ("executing") insert ("the"). —(Lord Morrison.)
§ Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 11 to 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 15 [Provisions as to further improvement grants]:
Page 14, line 14, leave out from ("occasion") to the first ("of") in line 20 and insert ("the condition as to rent applicable by reason of the giving of assistance on the last occasion shall be deemed to be the condition as to rent also by reason").—(Lord Morrison.)
§ Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 16 to 18 agreed to.550
§ On Question, Whether the said proviso shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 44; Not-Contents, 14.549
|Exeter, M.||Long, V.||Grantley, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Maugham, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Templewood, V.||Llewellin, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Luke, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Altrincham L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Audley, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Baden-Powell, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Carrington, L. [Teller.]||Sandhurst, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Cherwell, L.||Schuster, L|
|Selkirk, E.||Clydesmuir, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Allenby, V.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Teviot, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Tweedsmuin, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Wakehurst, L.|
|Hailsham, V.||Gifford, L.||Waleran, L|
|Jowitt, V. [L. Chancellor.)||Darwen, L.||Pakenham, L.|
|Holden. L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Huntingdon, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L. [Teller.]||Quibell, L.|
|Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Chorley, L. [Teller.]||Morrison, L.||Winster, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD POLWARTH moved, after Clause 18 to insert tile following new clause:
§ Agricultural leases to continue in force notwithstanding payment of grant under section nine.
§ " . The lease of an agricultural holding shall not be deemed to live been brought to an end nor varied and accordingly neither the landlord nor the tenant of the holding shall be entitled to bring proceedings to terminate or vary the terms of the lease by reason only of the fact that (following the acceptance by the landlord of a grant under the terms of section nine of this Act) there has been attached to a dwelling let as part of the holding a condition that such dwelling shall not be occupied except by the owner thereof or a tenant."
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Selkirk. Its object is to elicit an explanation from the noble Lord. Last year wt: passed the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, and under Sections 29 and 30 of that Act the landlord may be directed to renew or provide fixed equipment to conform with the rules of good estate management. I do not know whether it is the case, but it occurs to me that under these sections a tenant might go to the agricultural executive 551 committee and say: "One of my cottages has not proper sanitary arrangements, and in order for it to conform to the rules of good estate management I want you to direct my landlord to have it improved." The committee may require the landlord to have it improved. Assuming that the landlord accepted a grant under this Bill for the improvement, it would be necessary for him to untie the house concerned, in which case it would cease to be a service cottage. In such a case the landlord might be in breach of the terms of his lease with the tenant, because the tenant has taken the farm as it stands—that is, with the cottages on a tied basis. We want to make it quite clear that if this eventuality comes about there will be no breach of the lease and, therefore, no question of having to renew it. I would like some explanation from the noble Lord. I beg to move.
After Clause 18 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Polwarth.)
§ LORD MORRISON
I hope to satisfy the noble Lord with the explanation which I shall give. I was under the impression that his Amendment was based on Section 16 of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948. Under that Act, as he has indicated, substantial alterations might be made in leases of agricultural holdings without the consent of either or both the parties thereto. In consequence, it was considered desirable that the making of such alterations should not be treated as a ground for terminating the lease. But in this particular Bill the case is wholly different.
In the case of a tied cottage and the tenant of a farm, application for an improvement grant may be made either by the landlord or by the tenant farmer, if not less than thirty years of the lease remains unexpired. If it is the tenant who wishes to reconstruct the cottage with the aid of an improvement grant, it may be that such a substantial alteration of the property is not within his rights under the lease unless he has the owner's consent. But in any case the improvement to the cottage would constitute an improvement within Part II of the First Schedule of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1923, as amended by the 552 Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, and the tenant would not be entitled to compensation therefore unless he did it with the concurrence of his landlord. On the other hand, if the owner proposes to do the improvements he would not be entitled to interfere with the property subject to the lease without the tenant's consent. In either case, therefore, the party wishing to do the improvement would have to obtain the other party's consent, which would be given on such terms, in variation of lease or otherwise, as might be agreed. It follows that there will be no question of a variation of a lease without the assent of both parties and still less of the lease being brought to an end. There is therefore no case for any such provision as is proposed in the Amendment. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord may decide not to proceed with his Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Lord said there was no case for the provision proposed, but I do not think the point is fully covered. May I put this case quite simply? At the present time improvements to cottages cannot take place if they remain tied; they must first be untied. A tenant farmer does not want his cottage untied, but he cannot have it improved unless it is untied. He is therefore in the position that by not agreeing with the landlord he may prevent the untying of a cottage and thus prevent improvements being made to it. The noble Lord may say that that is a narrow case. I would not like to say whether it is narrow or not, but it is a case which could be helped by a provision of this nature. I know the noble Lord's position, and I could wish that his explanation had been more comprehensible to me. I regret to say that it was not entirely comprehensible to me, but I am grateful for what he has said.
§ LORD MORRISON
The only answer I can give is that being in a compromising mood I will withdraw the words "no case" and say "some case." But there is an overwhelming case against this Amendment, and that is why I am unable to accept it.
§ LORD POLWARTH
I thank the noble Lord for his reply. I feel we are at cross-purposes, because I am not convinced that the direction to improve in 553 Sections 29 and 30 comes quite within the purview of his brief. It may be better that he and I should have a talk afterwards, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 19 to 31 agreed to.
§ Clause 32:
§ Power of local authorities to provide board and laundry facilities
§ (2) A local authority may make such reasonable charges for meals provided by them by virtue of this section and to persons availing themselves of laundry facilities or services so provided as the authority may determine.
§ LORD POLWARTH had down two Amendments to subsection (2), of which the first was to omit "may" and insert "shall." The noble Lord said: With the permission of the Committee, I should like to take these two Amendments together. This clause gives local authorities power to provide facilities for board and laundry in connection with their housing schemes. I said on Second Reading that I felt it was desirable that these subsidiary activities should be run on a business basis and that there should be no question of undercutting other people in these trades by the use of subsidies out of the rates. The noble Lord quite properly agreed that that was the case. We should feel happier if there were something in the Bill to this effect, and we propose that the charges to be made by the local authorities should be sufficient to meet their outgoings on these services, and that if it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State that any local authority is not making such charges as will meet all these expenses, then it will be open to the Secretary of State to require an alteration in the charges or that the activities shall be stopped altogether. That is the object of this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 26, line 38, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Lord Polwarth.)
§ LORD MORRISON
I said on Second Reading that it was the intention of the Government that the provision of these facilities and services should be self-supporting and not a charge on public funds. The difference between the noble Lord and myself is a very small one. 554 He says that he would like this put into the Statute, but I feel it is better to leave it as it is, with the very firm assurance that has been given. I hope I shall be able to convert the noble Lord to my point of view. We are, anxious not to increase central control over local authority administration, particularly in matters of detail. The noble Lord's Amendment would require detailed central examination of revenue accounts for each individual block of flats or hostels in which meals or laundry facilities were provided. I suggest, therefore, that his Amendment is a long way from Conservative policy as eloquently announced last week-end. It would be difficult for the Secretary of State to prescribe by Order a particular period over which local authorities should balance their accounts for providing these services. We are all, on both sides, agreed that the services should be self-supporting, but local authorities may take a little time in making them pay. There is also the possibility of unexpected expenditure for repairs and replacements of plant. The circumstances of individual hostels and blocks of flats are so varied that it would be unfair to put anything in the Bill that would make it a duty of local authorities to balance their trading accounts over any particular period.
I would also draw the noble Lord's attention to the fact that local authorities are spending their own ratepayers' money and must be expected to look after the interests of their rateprayers in what are, relatively speaking, very small financial operations. I do not know whether the noble Lord has in mind the words of the Civic Restaurants Act, 1947, but the comparison is not entirely appropriate. Civic restaurants are for the use of the public at large and compete with other restaurants open to the general public. The meals and laundry services mentioned in this Bill are only for the residents of hostels and blocks of flats where commercial enterprise is not providing or cannot provide the necessary services. Everything points to a strong administrative direction on the matter to local authorities. I hope that what I have said may have satisfied the noble Lord.
§ LORD POLWARTH
Obviously, this is not a point on which we ought to go any further. I am grateful for what the noble Lord says and for the assurance he has given. I believe it is the case 555 that the net results of operations under these headings will be shown in the borough or county accounts for the year. That being so, perhaps we can leave it to the local ratepayers. In my part of the world the ratepayers are fairly zealous in this matter and will express their opinion if, in fact, losses are incurred.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 32 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ First Schedule [Amendments of the Housing (Scotland) Acts, 1925 to 1946, deleting references to the working classes]:
Page 36, line 13, column 2, after ("substituted") insert ("the").—(Lord Morrison.)
§ On Question. Amendment agreed to.
§ First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining Schedules agreed to.
§ House Resumed by the Lord Chancellor.
§ Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of July 13), Bill reported with Amendments; Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.