I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words" persons or bodies of persons," and to insert instead thereof the words" local authority or public utility society."
It seems a very late hour at which to begin the Committee stage of this Bill, and I would like to observe that if some of us had our way this House would meet not later than 12 o'clock in the day. However, I do not know that I need talk on this Amendment at great length, because we discussed it on Monday, and also a week last Friday, but we want to insert these words because we are opposed to the principle contained in the Clause. We believe the workers of the country as a whole are opposed to the principle of subsidising private individuals. The Bricklayers' Association have passed resolutions opposing this principle, and we oppose it chiefly because we do not believe it will produce the houses that are so much needed to-day. We believe that houses built by private speculators are only built for selling, and they will not build houses to let or to rent, because it will be impossible to get an economic rent, notwithstanding the subsidy that the Government propose to give, and believing they can only build houses to sell, I think it is reasonable to think they will build only two or three here and there, and then see how they can get them off, so that there will be no big building project in force anywhere. We think that if the Government had turned their attention to the weaknesses in the Housing Act already passed, and which have been made apparent in the course of the few months since it has been on the Statute Book, we should be very much nearer getting houses than under the scheme proposed in this Bill.
Some say that this will be all right in the rural areas. I do not agree with that, because, as far as my knowledge of rural areas goes, there are even fewer people prepared or able to buy houses in rural areas than in the urban areas. I venture to think there are very few workers in the urban areas who will be able to pay the price for houses which they will cost under present conditions. It has been said that if a man is at work he has no time to make money, and there is a good deal of truth in that. Very few people of the working classes will be able to buy houses even if they are erected. I think this stands in the way of the local authorities, who, to my mind, are the proper people, and the only people, who will be able to build houses in the numbers required. I was opposed to public utility societies before, on the ground of my belief that public money should not be handed over to be administered by public authorities; but there is something to be said for the public utility societies, because I venture to think that in that way twenty, thirty, fifty, or possibly 100 men would get together and form such a society and build that number of houses; but I do not know anyone in the country who is in favour of the work being done by private individuals. I have had a letter from an urban authority in my Constituency, which proposes, or did propose, to build—I do not know whether the question of the seven years has prevented them, but I think it has caused them to halt and consider—they intended to build 1,000 houses, and they asked me to oppose this scheme, because they believe it will be a hindrance to housing in this country. It is for that reason that I have put down this Amendment. I think it right to say that, if it is not agreed, to, we shall have to go to a Division, because the first Clause of this Bill cuts at the very root of what we consider to be a right principle. We think the subsidy should go only to public authorities, and we take in the public utility societies because they were recognised in the Act which has already been passed only a few months ago.
With great respect, I think it would have been more appropriate if the hon. Gentleman had voted against the Second Reading of the Bill. This Amendment really strikes at the very root of the Bill. If this Amendment were carried, it would mean that the grants here proposed would only be available for local authorities or public utility societies, whereas the whole object of this scheme is to enlist the aid of private individuals. The local authorities will be financed and assisted in other ways to a very generous extent, and public utility societies also will be financed under another Clause of the Bill. It is also provided, and I am sure rightly, that you cannot doubly finance any one house. If you finance the building of a house by the public utility society scheme, you should not also finance the building of that same house by a subsidy, but if this Amendment were carried it would have that effect. I think the whole of this question turns on whether we do or do not want to carry into effect the principle of the Bill which was accepted on the Second Reading, namely, that we should endeavour to bring in the aid of persons, or bodies of persons, other than local authorities or public utility societies. The opinion of the House manifestly was that we should. The Second Reading was carried without a division, and to discuss this Amendment further would only be to repeat a Second Reading debate. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot accept the Amendment.
Mr. TYSON WILSON:
I am sorry that a division was not taken on the Second Reading of the Bill. This Amendment means that, if a man, or more than one man, put up 10 houses, so long as they comply with the conditions and regulations that are made by the Minister of Health, they are entitled to £150 per house. I differ from my hon. Friend (Mr. Edwards) as regards the selling of those houses. I believe that in urban districts they would be sold as quickly as they are put up. That means that a house erected, it may be, for £450, will probably be sold for £600, that is to say, at a profit of £150 on the erection of the house. On the top of that the Government propose to give 2150. What is wanted is a reduction in the cost of the materials required for the building of houses, not a subsidy to the builder. I am not certain whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that one of the biggest societies connected with the building trade has determined to insist upon payment of full wages for all time lost through weather.
I was trying to show that the adoption of this Amendment would be in the best interests of the community. At any rate, if the Amendment is accepted and the local authorities are even subsidised twice over, the money paid to the local authorities would go into the pockets of the whole of the ratepayers of the district in which the houses are erected, whereas if the money is paid to individuals it goes into the pockets of those individuals. Therefore it is bad economy to subsidise in the way the Government propose. I believe that more houses would be got if the right hon. Gentleman would accept this Amendment than if the private builder were subsidised. The local authorities can employ the private builder to erect the houses. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do in that case? Is he going to subsidise the private builder, or is he only going to pay the local authority under the provisions of the Act which has already been passed?
If the local authority gets the subsidy the private builder will have to put the house up at a contract price. If this Amendment were adopted more houses would be produced than under the Bill, and it would be sounder finance.
I understand that the object of this Bill is to get houses. As one who knows something about municipal authorities, it strikes me that private builders can get the work done more quickly than municipal authorities, and also more cheaply, and therefore, as we want houses quickly and cheaply, I oppose the Amendment.
I hope this Amendment will not be accepted. The great need to-day is that houses shall be put up quickly. In my own district people are prepared to build, and there are people who will buy the houses. The object of this Bill is to get houses built quickly by private enterprise, and passed over to those who are waiting to occupy them. Already in the Cardiff area arrangements have been made to build twelve houses, and there are buyers for those twelve houses now.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I agree with this Amendment, but the question, unfortunately, was settled on the Second Reading, and therefore I do not propose to traverse the subject again; but I may suggest to my hon. Friend (Mr. Edwards) that, if he and those with whom he is associated had supported my Friends and
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "for the working classes" ["constructing houses for the working classes"].
This Bill does not pretend to be a Bill for the working classes only, and my reason for moving that these words be left out is on account of the conditions
If you deal with double-tenement houses as two houses, and are going to give,£300 for them, I am inclined to think that that is a much better plum than was contemplated. I would point out that that is a favourite way of building houses round the suburbs of London, in the form of two self-contained flats, and it has very great advantages, in that it would allow a great many more families to be housed at less expense to the State.
You may put it in that way, but many of us would be delighted to live in some of those flats, and if the working classes are not satisfied with them they will be satisfied with nothing that is at the back of my mind. I have brought this Amendment forward at this early stage, as I saw no other place in which I could bring in these figures. I press upon the Minister that it would be an advantage to the community and to those people who want houses to enlarge materially this figure of 1,250 feet, so as to give an opportunity of erecting these large double houses. The double-tenement houses come to 2,014 feet, or 1,007 feet on each floor. If the Minister will say that they will be dealt with as two houses, I have nothing more to say, and shall be very pleased to have his assurance on that point.
I quite agree that this was the most appropriate place to raise the question which my hon. Friend has raised. The limit set in the White Paper is, however, the limit which I am advised we ought fairly to set to any class of house which comes within the intentions of Parliament in dealing with this matter. I find, as we found in the Committee stage, that it is much easier to define a house than it is to define a tenant, and in the Regulations nothing is said to lead anyone to suppose that we are attempting to limit the operation of the Section. We naturally fell back on the definition as to the type of house, and that is why the method indicated in the White Paper has been adopted. It would not apply to houses with more than four bedrooms and a certain superficial content. In the case of double houses, or two flats one above the other, I am advised that they would be treated as two houses, and the superficial area of each taken. It is quite clear that all kinds of modifications will have to be dealt with in a practical fashion. Clearly that would not be one house. I should be very reluctant to raise the limits now for any one house above those which have been laid down. If that were done, there would be no limit as to how far you could go, and I think it would defeat the object of Parliament and would not be in accordance with the views of the House when it passed the Second Reading. I will consider the very practical point raised by my hon. Friend, but I am not prepared to raise the limit for the class of house to which this subsidy should be applied.
I did not gather whether the right hon. Gentleman was going to consider the deletion of these words. I support the Amendment, for reasons quite different from those which inspired the hon. Member who moved it. I do not know that I entirely agree with his reasons, but I put down a manuscript Amendment to delete these words, not knowing that the hon. Member's Amendment was on the Paper. Under the Regulations in the White Paper—which will become statutory Regulations—this grant cannot be given in respect of any house which has more than four bedrooms or of which the superficial content exceeds 1,250 feet. That entirely meets the views of those who desire, as we all do, that houses for the working classes shall be built under this Bill. When these Rules become statutory, this grant can only apply to working-class houses. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, agrees to that. If that is so, one asks, What is the advantage of putting in these words, if you once admit, as everyone must, that this grant can only be given to working-class houses? There is never any advantage, on principle, in putting unnecessary words into an Act of Parliament. It is dangerous and always undesirable. I suggest that any builder who puts up a house and applies for the grant under this Clause is impliedly undertaking that he will not let the house to anyone who is not a member of the working classes. My right hon. Friend shakes his head, but it is obvious that the builder is impliedly undertaking, and he takes the grant on the understanding, that he will not let the house except for occupation by a member of the working classes.
I would ask what is in the hon. Member's mind. Would he say that a widow living on a pension or some such allowance was not a member of the working classes, and was excluded?
My right hon. Friend only illustrates the difficulty to which I am drawing the attention of the Committee. I could not have asked for a happier illustration of the difficulty created by these words which arc quite unnecessary. It is an admirable illustration. Let me give him another. Would the Committee desire to exclude a poor curate who is, perhaps, earning £120 or £150 a year, or an officer's widow with a pension of £150? It is not desirable to exclude those persons, and if the grant can only be given for a four-roomed house, why put in those words? They will only lead to litigation and are bound to cause trouble and anxiety, not only to the general community, but to the builders. I do trust that my right hon. Friend will realise that he is thoroughly protected without these words and that there is grave danger in inserting them.
I think the statement of the right hon. Gentleman should not pass without some reference to the con- cession he has made with regard to the houses upon which this subsidy is to be paid. If I understand him rightly, it is intended to grant this subsidy not only upon self-contained houses but on houses containing flats, and to regard each flat as a separate house. That is a very serious statement, and I should not be surprised if in the course of this Debate that is not the statement that will receive the most attention from the public in the morning. It means that the Government are not only going to subsidise houses, but the very worst class of houses to the very greatest extent. I come from a city where there is a very large number of these flats, and nothing more desolate can be imagined than the condition produced by them. Every effort has been made in the city which I represent to break away from them and get into the direction of self-contained houses. Yet, the principle conceded by the right hon. Gentleman tonight will have the very reverse tendency. There is no reason also why houses should stop with two flats. The inducement will be to build houses with three flats or more. That means that you are going to defeat the whole. object of the Bill, or, rather, the larger Bill, which limited the number of houses per acre in order to do away with congestion. This new principle entirely reverses that policy, and it will tend to the erection of a type of house which I think most of us hoped would disappear. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some further explanation that will relieve the apprehension of every house reformer in this country.
It might be assumed from what the hon. Member said that we were looking forward to the provision of tenement dwellings, whereas everyone knows that we are endeavouring to promote the provision of proper self-contained dwellings. At the same time, we know very well that our citizens do not all live in the green fields.
Let us deal with the facts of life. We have in the County of London a number of proposals by the county council itself, in some cases by the city council and by borough councils, where in consequence of people having to be near their work we have to agree to the provision of a certain number of tenement dwellings, which we secure shall be of a very good type. We do know that as a matter of fact, under the conditions of life in great centres of population, you are in various places compelled to accept that type of provision. It is so, and we have to deal with it. The hon. and gallant Member may rest assured that we have no intention to depart from our old policy, but there may be cases in which we would agree to the erection of two-storeyed flats, and I would ask him not to put hypothetical questions as to what we should do in such cases. Where such cases occur one would not be tied too definitely at this stage. The various conditions will have to be modified in particular cases. The only guide we could accept would be the contents of each separate dwelling. I do not think you can expect any other standard. How that will have to be qualified in the case of tenement dwellings will have to be carefully considered, but there is no doubt that in some instances very good cases will be put forward for the erection of suitable tenement dwellings. Therefore, we must not rule them out of consideration. But I have no doubt that the vast majority of proposals under this Bill, as they are now all over the country, will be for separate houses of an approved type.
It must be that the accommodation is provided, but I think the effect will be that there is a double subsidy, one for each flat. That is the first time this instruction has been given to the building trade. It is subsidising the building trade with a vengeance, and giving encouragement to the building of flats. That is one of the types of dwellings that the working class are not in favour of. It is one of the types of dwellings that no section of this Committee will look upon in a favourable light. Here there is a deliberate case of giving encouragement to that type of building. There is not a shadow of doubt that it will be more profitable for the building trade to build that type of dwelling if they are going to get a double subsidy.
In our opinion this is an undesirable type of dwelling that we are discussing now. You have intimated that a double subsidy will be paid if the accommodation is provided on both flats. I am sorry that the Minister of Health has given way on this point. We thoroughly dislike this principle of subsidies in any shape or form, but this suggestion is making the thing far worse. I hope the Minister will see his way to change his mind again on this point. We cannot consent to it. It will be against the principle of the Bill to give the subsidy for a large number of flats.
I think we are all agreed that the building of flats on a big scale would be contrary to the best interests of the working classes, but we cannot have absolute uniformity of construction all over the country. We want to provide what the people do really want, and it is often forgotten that there must be variety. The conditions of the people show great variety. Some wish to live near their work in the towns. Others wish to go further a field, and to get self-contained houses with a little garden. That cannot be done in every case. There must be a certain amount of liberty. It seems to me that the real protection is the right which is retained by the Minister only to grant the subsidy when he has approved of the plans. If, in a particular case, it is proved to him that it is desirable that two or more dwellings should be built together and he agrees to that. I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite would not wish to prevent that. I ask the Minister to give them an assurance—I understand he has given it already—that the construction of tenement houses is not going to be encouraged.
We really want to get this discussion on practical lines. We do not want to fight unnecessarily. The building of a pair of cottages is quite a common thing in the country, and there should be the £300 subsidy where that is done. And the same thing should be done in the town. It may be desirable to build one on the top, or one by the side of another. [An HON. MEMBER: "One foundation for both!"] We should see that the people get what is wanted. Why not, if we get what is wanted? This provides for a little variety where the Minister thinks it is desirable. The hon. Member near me has just said that these words, "for the working classes," were quite unnecessary. They would create a limitation which is not in the White Paper. I would suggest that the hon. Gentleman should leave these words out.
The Regulations have been issued, and there is nothing in them about tenements or flats. There are cases, even in London, like the pairs of cottages, two houses side by side or two cottages one above the other. If it is desirable to make provision for houses of that description, I think we may wait to consider it when the proposal is made. But it is quite clear that the subsidy will not be paid to such an extent that a person erecting buildings of that particular type will get more than he would for building an ordinary house. The subsidy will be graded on the basis of the living accommodation. A distinction will not be made so that one would get an advantage over the builder of an ordinary house. [An HON. MEMBER: "He said a 'double subsidy.'"] If he did say "a double subsidy," he also said there would not be a larger sum paid, according to the Regulations, for that class of dwelling. The builder would not get twice as much, but probably a smaller sum. Therefore there is no point in that; the grant for each flat would be a grant for the house.
The whole idea of the Bill is that we are to provide houses fit for heroes to live in. There are these tenement houses in all the large towns, and they are not what the people want. You have them in London, and I know them. How is it possible to live a human life in the flats of London? I lived near Leeds, and I know that the flats and tenement houses in that city are a disgrace, and some of them are opposite the parish church. Such tenemented houses should not be allowed under the Bill.
Is it in order to discuss tenemented houses because an hon. Member has suggested that a two-flatted cottage is two houses? Is it in order to discuss whether a tenement is not a house of a different character?
The discussion arose in the Debate on the Amendment before the Committee to leave out certain words, and for that reason it would not be in my power to prevent further references to it. At the same time, I am considering how far I ought to allow it to go on and how soon I could bring the discussion back to the actual words of the Amendment.
I do not think I can take such a wide view as that. I hope the general discussion is coming to an end. I think the Committee thoroughly understand the Amendment. I hope it will not be necessary to prolong the discussion on it, otherwise, if there is any further tendency to prolong the whole discussion on the lines of the tenement flats, I shall have to rule more strictly on the words of the Amendment?
The statement which I understood you to make was that the subsidy would be given in the case of flats where they were self-contained. I am afraid that this is likely to encourage local authorities in urban areas to adopt it. Many large towns have housing schemes, and permission has been given to them to go outside their areas to buy land for these houses, to build separate houses, and, to extend. their boundaries. This is extending the lungs of these cities, and to-night we are to be told that perhaps such schemes may be dropped, and the idea adopted of going up into the air with houses in the districts in which these people live. I sincerely hope that will not be encouraged for one moment; if people are going to be urged to build separate houses, separate cottages, and separate homes for the people; if we are going to house them properly. I am astonished that, at this stage, we are to see a complete surrender of everything we had hoped we should get in the shape of houses in the present Parliament.
There has been no departure from policy of any sort or kind. We have done more in the last six months to promote the provision of improved separate dwellings in this country than has ever been done before. We have no intention of departing from this policy. What I said was that there might be cases—and I believe there have been cases—in centres like London where flats might have to be provided. Where that happens some form of subsidy would have to be calculated, and it would be fairly calculated, actually on the basis of each unit of accommodation, and it must be so calculated as not to place a premium upon any undesirable class of accommodation. We propose to pursue our policy, and not the reactionary policy proposed by my hon. Friend. It was never suggested by any remark I made, and, so far as the words are concerned, I quite agree that the matter is really safeguarded by the class of houses to which we allow the subsidy to apply. It may be immaterial whether the words are here or not.
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. If the flats are to be built, two flats under one roof, how will they be counted so far as houses on the land are concerned? I understand that, under the housing scheme, so many houses are to be placed upon an acre of land, or upon a certain area of land. If we are to count one of these double flats as one house, and presuming you are allowed to build twelve houses to an acre, I take it that, if you build six of these flat houses you are only to be allowed to have six houses on the acre, because you cannot crowd the land with these double flats simply to put the people in. I can understand that we must have the lungs round these houses. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether these flats will be counted as two houses, so far as houses are counted per acre of land?
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I wish the right hon. Gentleman could give us a little more guidance on this question of flats. I understood that so far no question had arisen under the Act as to the possibility, of any sanction being given to flats. I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman as to whether the Grant should, or should not, be made to cover a, flat and come before tins House, and whether the House can express au opinion on this question? Reference has been made to the White Paper. I should like to ask when this White Paper will come before the House, or when the House will have any say on the, conditions shown there? The Paymaster-General made reference to the experts at the Ministry of Health. We have the greatest respect for experts, but I respectfully submit that a question of principle as to whether or not a subsidy should be granted to tenement houses is one that should be settled by this House and not by the most experienced experts in housing. Experts differ considerably on this question. I wish to join in the chorus of protest against the type of flats being perpetrated. They are injurious in the best interests of the health of the people who have to live there.
Mr. T. WILSON:
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. I understood him to say that the subsidy, such as would be paid in the case of flats, would be paid on the basis of the cost of the flats. Am I to understand that the Minister of Health is going to take the basis of payment for subsidies from the payment of these different flats contained in a house towards the cost of the erection of the flats?
Question put, "That the words 'for the working classes' stand part of the Clause."
|Division No. 149.]||AYES.||[1.30 a.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hen. Francis Dyke||Hirst, G. H.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Inskip, T. W. H.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Lunn, William||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Bentinck, Lt.-Col. Lord H. Cavendish-||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Newbould, A. E.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Robertson, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rose, Frank H.||Davison and Mr. Tyson Wilson|
|Hanna, G. B.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gilbert, James Daniel||Parker, James|
|Alien, Colonel William James||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Parry, Lt.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Atkey, A. R.||Glyn, Major R.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Goff, Sir Park||Pickering, Col. Emil W.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Pinkham, Lt.-Colonel Charles|
|Bell, Lt.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Gwynne, R. S.||Pratt, John William|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Hailwood, A.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Betterton, H. B.||Harmsworth, Cecil B.(Luton, Beds.)||Raw, Lt.-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. D. P.||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Ramer, J. B.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, James Fitzalen (Sheffield)||Roundell, Lt.-Colonel R. F.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Bruton, Sir J.||Howard, Major S. G.||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Jephcott, A. R.||Seager, Sir William|
|Buckley, Lt.-Colonel A.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Seddon, James|
|Carr, W. T.||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Casey, T. W.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Child, Brig.-General Sir Hill||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish University)||Lorden, John William||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Sykes, Sir C. (Huddersfield)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Lynn, R. J.||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Macmaster, Donald||Terrell, Capt R. (Henley, Oxford)|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Malone, Colonel C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Moles, Thomas||Thorpe. Captain John Henry|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Walters. Sir John Tudor|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander H.||Morden, Colonel H. Grant||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Dixon, Captain H.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.|
|Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark)||Mosley, Oswald||Whitla, Sir William|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander||Murray, Hen. G. (St. Rollox)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Forrest, W.||Nall, Major Joseph||Wills. Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C.||Neal, Arthur||Young, Lt.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Nelson, R. F. W. R.|
|Gange, E. S.||Norton-Griffiths, Lt.-Colonel Sir J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||F. Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word"houses" ["in respect of houses"] to insert the words
(a) in respect of which application has been made to the Minister before their construction is begun and the Minister has agreed that grants under this Section shall be made in respect thereof if the other provisions of this Sub-section are complied with.
I move this Amendment in order to try to get the Government to explain what exactly is going to happen under this Grant of £15,000,000. I do not see myself how it is going to work, and I hope the Government will be able to explain one or two difficulties. Under Clause 2 the Government have power to expend £15,000,000 in grants of £150 each—that means about 100,000 houses—and my point is this: I suppose the builders will begin laying down their foundations almost immediately in the hope of earning the grant, and it is quite conceivable that the foundations of these houses, and, in fact, the houses themselves, will be in excess of the number of 100,000. When the builder has finished his house, or half-finished it, and comes to the Minister for a grant, the Minister may say, "I am very sorry, but we have expended already the £15,000,000 which was allowed us by Act of Parliament, and I cannot give you anything." Surely the builder ought to know, before he starts building a house under this Act, whether he is really going to get the grant or not! Surely it is very unfair that builders should set about building houses believing they are going to get the grant and find, on finishing the houses, that the £15,000,000 has been already expended and that they will get nothing at all! The Amendment I have put down has been put down with the object of meeting that difficulty. It ensures that before starting to build a house a builder may be able to find out from the Minister whether he will gel a grant or not. I take it that the machinery would be that the Minister would keep a very exact account of the number of premises he had given grants to, and the amount of money he had already expended, and when he had got to the end of his £15,000,000 he would tell any other builder that came to him that the sum was exhausted. I have not heard this point made before on this Bill, and I should very much like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman thinks about it.
As my hon. Friend recognises, this is a question of administration rather than of legislation, and the procedure we propose would be this: A person proposing to build a house has to submit his plans to the local authority in any case, and he would be advised that his plans would be passed, and a certificate given for the payment of the subsidy, on the conditions being complied with. He would be notified by the local authority of those conditions, and the certificate would be given him when the plans were passed. He, therefore, would not build a house and then be uncertain as to whether he was going to get the subsidy. I am afraid that people would not be likely to begin under these circumstances; they would want to know whether they were oil were not going to get the subsidy, and that would have to be settled when the plans were passed. I wish I could think that more than the number of houses would be applied for and built within the time stated. It would be a great relief to the housing situation. I am afraid, however, that I am not quite so sanguine, but the point is quite an easy one to meet. Every local authority has, in its scheme, provided a programme of the requirements of its area, and we have worked out for every area what will be the annual housing requirements. Now that the surveys have come in we are able to know at any time what the requirements are in any area, and, therefore, it is a simple matter of administration to inform authorities of the limits as to numbers which apply to them. The returns come to us monthly, and will, if necessary, come more frequently, and therefore we shall know at any time what progress is being made, and it will be easy to keep within the allocation which we have provisionally made. We shall know a long time beforehand whether an authority is approaching the limit of its programme or going beyond it, so that, as a matter of practical administration, there really will be no difficulty such as my hon. Friend suggests. It is very important, of course, that the arrangements should be such that, when a person's plans are passed, he should be informed of the conditions which he has to comply with, in order to get his certificate entitling him to payment of the subsidy, when the House is passed in accordance with the provisions of this Clause.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "houses." ["Grants under this section shall be made only in respect of houses—"], to insert the words,"(a) which, when erected, are not withheld from occupation until they are sold."
The primary object of this Amendment is to prevent the builder from erecting houses, and, having secured the dole, holding the houses and not allowing them to be occupied, in order to take advantage of a rise in the selling price of the houses. That has been illustrated even with regard to houses that have been unoccupied during recent times. A great number of landlords have withheld houses from occupation, by reason of the fact that they can secure from persons applying for them a bonus, and, as I see nothing in the provisions of this Bill which deals with that point, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment.
I do not myself think that the contingency forecasted by my hon. Friend is at all likely to arise. I think that, except in the case of people who build for themselves or for definite parties, the house, where any uncertainty exists, will not be built until the man thinks he is going to be able to sell it. Therefore I think it extremely unlikely that houses would be held up in the way suggested, but, if it does seem likely to arise, I should be quite prepared to consider it when it arises. I should like to see a. few tens of thousands of houses erected first, and then I think it will be time to consider such an eventuality, if it occurs, rather than to impose a number of detailed conditions at this stage.
There are all kinds of legal questions that would be raised. There is plenty of time to consider it, and I hope my hon. Friend will not press it now, but will let us get on with the business, rather than impose conditions which will frighten people and which they will not be able to understand.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that this is being done. In my own town of Barnard Castle, two exactly similar houses were sold. One was sold empty, and brought over £900, while the other went for something under £500. That shows what can be done by people who are willing to keep people out of houses for the sake of getting money. These houses were built for £250 or £300 originally. I do hope the Minister will accept this Amendment, because, after all, it is essential that some protection should be given.
I quite agree as to that, but it is impossible to do it in this way. I shall, however, be prepared to consider it as the case arises. In the meantime I hope that the measure will not be shackled with conditions which, as I have said, people might be afraid of and might not understand.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word" houses" ["in respect of houses"], to insert the words, "the letting of which is placed in the hands of the local authority of the area in which the houses are situated."
The object of this is to protect the working classes. If, as we believe, the private builders will build to sell and not to let, then it appears to me that it will only be people who are comparatively rich who will be able to buy these subsidised houses. I do not think that is the intention of the Bill; the intention is that houses should be built for the working classes. If this Amendment were accepted, and the letting was in the hands of the local authorities, they would be the people who would have the information as to who needed the houses most. They would know exactly where the worst conditions of overcrowding were and where it ought to be relieved first. We propose this Amendment with the object of relieving overcrowding where it exists in the worst form, and we say that only the local authorities are the people who know that, and not the people who build the houses.
I do not quite follow my hon. Friend as to how the fact that the letting was in the hands of the local authorities would deal with the question of overcrowding. The important thing is the number of houses available. That is what we want to obtain. I would suggest that my hon. Friend is really seeking to defeat the whole principle of the Bill which we accepted on the Second Reading. It is quite evident that no person or persons would undertake the building of these houses if when they built them somebody else was to deal with them. Nobody would start business on those terms. Therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment. Having accepted the principle of the Bill, I must try to make it work.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word" houses" ["in respect of houses"], to insert the words
(a) In respect of which an undertaking is given that the rental, exclusive of the rates and taxes ordinarily borne by the tenant, shall not exceed thirty pounds per annum for a period of twenty years after completion.
I think that is a very plain Amendment, and does not need arguing. If the rent is not limited there is no guarantee that it will not go up by leaps and bounds until the working classes will be unable to pay. We propose in this to limit it to £30 per annum, that is over 11s. a week. Surely that is a very decent rent, and I think it is safe to say that for twenty years at least we shall be in the same abnormal
state of housing as we are to-day. We are not going to get these thousands of houses which are talked about. I look forward to many years when we shall be in the same position as to-day.
I am surprised that my hon. Friend, a distinguished member of the Labour party, should be guilty of such false economics. I always understood that it was one of his principles that people ought to receive sufficient wages to enable them to pay an economic rent for the houses in which they lived. If you accept any other principle it is bad both for wages and housing. To stereotype rent for twenty years, as this would do, would be to kill the whole provision of houses. I am afraid I must keep to first principles, and, if wages are not enough to pay an adequate rent, wages should be put up until they are enough. That is the proper principle and, therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment.
Mr. T. WILSON:
If a guarantee were given that the people who are to live in these houses would have a wage to enable them to pay anything from 18s. to 25s. a week rent we might be satisfied, but we know that that will not be so, and it is not going to deal with the question of overcrowding at all. What will happen is that on account of the rent when the houses are erected two families will live in a house where only one family should live. I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way now to limit the rent to be charged for the houses he will, before the Bill becomes law, make a statement saying what rent it is intended should be charged.
The Minister of Health has told us that if the wages of the working classes are not sufficient to pay an economic rent wages ought to go up. Generally speaking, I could agree with that dictum if we found it easy to get wages up, but our difficulty up to the present has been that we have been unable to get wages up to enable the working classes of the country to pay a rent in excess of the sum mentioned in the Amendment. I do not know if the Minister for Health would be in a position to assist us to get our wages up to the point that would enable us to meet a higher rent than £30 a year, but I know that what has happened up to the present has been that when the working classes have taken extreme steps in order to get their wages increased we have generally found that the same men who are giving such a cordial assent to the right hon. Gentleman's statement that we should get wages up are very much against the working classes taking any extreme step of the sort. The sum mentioned in the Amendment is a very reasonable one. Wages will have to rise to a much higher figure than they are today if the working classes are to be able to pay a higher rent than £30. My hon. Friend is quite right when he says that this difficulty of housing accommodation will not pass away as quickly as some members of the Committee seem to imagine. The shortage of houses will be with us for years to come, and the working classes of the country will find themselves in a difficulty in securing adequate accommodation. The Minister of Health would be well advised to have a proviso of this kind in the Bill. It would stop the rent of houses being rushed up to an extreme figure. If no condition of this kind is imposed there is no doubt that after a certain time rents will rise, possibly to an extent that would be far beyond what the working classes could meet from the limited wages they have been able to secure.
I hope my hon. Friends opposite will regard this Bill in a slightly less suspicious manner. There is a good deal of sympathy on both sides of the House with regard to the apprehensions as to the use to which the houses will be put, but my hon. Friend seems to be in the position of a man who wants to get to the other side of a river but will not jump for fear of getting wet. If we get the houses, conditions will cure themselves. If my hon. Friends would be a little less suspicious and a little more sanguine as to the future, I am confident we will make progress.
I take it that the object of this Bill is to get houses. If the Amendment is carried we will not get houses, and for that reason I am opposed to it. It is easier to get wages up than to get houses up. I hope the hon. Member will try to get houses up, and then he will get wages up.
Mr. J. JONES:
I have listened to an economic Daniel come to judgment. We have been sitting all through the Debates, and have been told that the great difficulty is to build houses at a rent which the working-classes can pay, or can afford to pay. That is the great stumbling-block, and yet, when it is proposed to fix a limit of rent, we are told it is economic nonsense and unjustified.
These people will not build houses because we cannot pay the rent they demand. It is a matter of L.s.d. with them, not a question of housing. All these arguments make us more determined to carry out our policy. Houses ought to be built for people to live in, not for people to draw rent from. We have conceded something to you; we cannot give much more. You have taken nearly all we have got. We have conceded something; we are willing to go up to £30 a year. The time may come when you may be glad to compromise with us on something less than. £30 a year, and when we shall object to pay you anything. We will only agree then to pay you something less than £30 a year. At present we are prepared to be generous, and we suggest that the ordinary working man, even the skilled worker, the highest class, if he pays £30 a year rent, is making a considerable inroad upon his income. I live in a flat which is suitable for me—flats for flats. I live in one of those desirable houses. [Interruption.] Some hon. Members cannot be humorous even if they try.
In the East End of London, take the casual worker, one of those at the docks; he is lucky if he gets 36s. a week in normal times. In the schemes already debated we cannot give him a house at an economic rent of less than 15s. a week. That is the rent according to the Housing Bill now being debated. Where is an ordinary casual labourer going to find 15s. a week for rent in normal times? You may talk about the necessity of better housing, but what is a rent like that going to lead to? You have got to house the people, but this will lead to overcrowding in order to pay the rent. Although tins may be a limitation, some limitation of rent is necessary. That is admitted, if the individual private builder is to build the houses. It is the duty of the people to build houses for themselves if the individual does not build. That is why we ask for some limitation of the rent.
I think the limit of a maximum is likely to become a minimum in every case. If you put this figure into the Act of Parliament, everybody who builds a house will think he is going to get £30 a year for it. What has happened in the agricultural districts? The wages boards fix the rent for a cottage at 3s. a week, and now 11s. is suggested by the Labour party. Nobody expects that the builder is going to get 11s. a week in the agricultural districts. To put a figure like this for rents of a particular type of house in the Act of Parliament, and not to deal with the whole question of rent and what an economic rent ought to be, is absolutely detrimental to the whole principle of the Bill, apart from any advantage that might result. I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment.
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), after the word "houses" ["in respect of houses"] to insert the words
(a) which are built in areas where the local authority has not at the date of the passing of this Act submitted a scheme for the housing of the working classes in accordance with the Housing Acts, 1890–1919, or where such a scheme has been submitted the construction of which is certified by the local authority of the area as not likely to interfere with the ratified completion of the scheme submitted.
The principal object of moving this Amendment if the principle of the subsidy is to stand, is to show that it is essential that the local authorities should be protected from the absorption of labour and material by the private builders, who would be getting a subsidy, which would be detrimental in its effect to housing schemes carried out by the local authorities under the powers in connection with the Housing Acts of 1890–1919. If the Government opposes the Amendment it will mean that the private builder will produce houses at any cost or any rent, assisted by the subsidy, while the local authority, with its schemes at a reasonable rent, will be left in the lurch. The 1919 Act. will be really repealed and the local authorities will not be able to get the labour or the materials they want while the builders will rush to get these necessaries and the labour. It must be obvious that the local authorities should be given some protection.
I do not think the hon. Member or the House clearly understands what would be the effect of this Amendment. There are 1,800 local authorities concerned, and it would mean that these houses are only to be built either in the areas which have not yet submitted schemes—the backward authorities—or have built one or two houses, or where the authority is not likely to interfere with the scheme. The hon. Member drew a picture, wholly inaccurate, of the way in which people are flocking to the contractors. I may say that we have the Joint Industrial Council on Building Construction and everything is being done to increase the supplies to the local authorities. I see no reason for accepting the Amendment. Does my hon. Friend want any houses or not? If he does not, well then, let him do this kind of thing. What is the good of trying to exclude a considerable number of areas from the operations of the Bill; the houses are wanted everywhere?
The purpose of this Amendment is to limit the areas to which this Bill applies. I say with great respect that at present the shortage of houses is so great that if we are going to use this Bill at all we must have the houses where they are wanted. Therefore to limit the areas serves no useful purpose, and curtails very widely the operations of the Bill.
I want the members of this Committee clearly to understand that the Amendments that stand in the name of my hon. Friend and myself are not put down for the purpose of delaying the building of houses. We are as anxious for houses to be built as any member of the Committee. As a matter of fact, many of us were agitating for houses of a superior class to be built for the working classes in the country long before some members of this Committee knew anything about houses at all. I see my hon. Friend the Minister of Health for Scotland shakes his head. The trade union movement in Scotland was agitating for building houses long before he knew that there was a housing problem in Scotland, and the same thing broadly and generally applies all over the country. Our only anxiety in putting forward these Amendments is that we might have the houses provided under proper conditions. We do not disguise from the Minister of Health and the other members of the Committee that we are strongly opposed to public money being given to private individuals for putting up houses. We believe that if public money is to be expended in the provision of houses it should be done through the local authorities, and through the local authorities alone. If the Central Government of the country is going to spend money on the provision of houses, those houses should remain the property of the people, and should not pass into the hands of private individuals. Hence the reason for some of the Amendments. It is not the case that we desire to prevent the building of houses. We wish to assist in the building of houses by every means.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2, a), to leave out the words "comply with the conditions as to construction prescribed by the Minister," and to insert instead thereof the words
are in general accordance with the conditions as to the average number of houses per acre and the standards of construction prescribed by the Minister for the guidance of local authorities carrying schemes into effect under Section one of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1916.
I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to accept this Amendment. The reason I hope he will do so will be found quite clearly in the speech of the hon. Member, the Paymaster-General, which he made on Monday night. He told us that
It was then decided that we should lay those standards for houses. I am proud of those standards. I did my part in assisting to frame them. I regard the little work I did in that direction as the best work I have ever done in public life. I would never do anything, or take any steps, that would undo that work, or lower the high standard, or make it possible for us to revert to the old haphazard and chaotic methods of the past."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1919, col. 1037.]
If that means anything it means that you are going to insist that the new houses that have been built by private builders under this Bill shall not be inferior in quality to the standard of the houses that are to be built by the local authority. In this connection I think that the Minister
of Health, speaking yesterday, about the way public money is being spent, said that if a proper standard is maintained it applies equally to the houses that are being built with public assistance by the local authorities and to the houses that are being built by private builders with the subsidy. The Amendment I move is drafted quite widely; it is not meticulous; it does not wish to tie down to petty details, but it does include the main points of the standard that must be built under this subsidy, and the limitation in the number of houses, the number agreed, and the standard of construction prescribed by the Minister. I do not wish to tie the public builder down as to bylaws under the particular local authority. I want to leave it so that the standards considered good enough by the Minister of Health shall be allowed to prevail, and that we should not be absolutely tied down by some very meticulous by-laws. The reason why it is important to have this in the Bill is because there is a great deal of loose talking going on, both outside and inside the House. I take the speech of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Sir R. Thomas) last night. He said, "Any sort of house is better than no house at all." That is only half true. If he had said, "Any sort of temporary dwelling is better than nothing at all, "I should say that there was something in it. But if you are going to build houses that are going to last forty or fifty years or more, you have got to set a higher standard than we have had hitherto. If you are going to have houses they must be good houses. It is no use spending public or private money on bad houses. If you want temporary dwellings to overcome the serious emergency such as we are in, do not think that they are houses. They are not houses; they are merely temporary makeshifts; and the sooner we get rid of them the better, and get proper houses in their place. It is absolutely essential that it should be put clearly in the Bill that there is to be no relaxation of the standard, which I am perfectly certain that this House and all housing reformers in the country want to see maintained—the new post-war standard throughout the county. The two main points to get into the Bill are the limitation of the number of houses per acre, and the general recognition standard that the privately-built houses should be the same as those to be built by the local authorities.
I find myself in agreement with all the aims of my hon. and gallant Friend, and the Manual which we have issued for the guidance of local authorities is sufficient proof of our desires and intentions. As he says, we want to keep up the standard, and, I think, to improve the general standard; it is the general desire of all persons. I have considered very carefully his Amendment and a number of other Amendments which follow on the Paper, right down to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Inskip), and two or three others which really relate to the same topic, with an honest desire to see how far I can accept them, remembering that in the case of local authorities we have laid down our standards in our Manual, and that we have recognised, in the case of the local authorities, that you must interpret them in a common-sense manner. This Amendment ties things up in a way which I think must be undesirable and impossible in working. At the same time. we want to have a good standard, and if my hon. Friend and those who are associated with him will listen, I will read the Clause as it would appear after the inclusion of two Amendments:
Grants will be made under this Section only in respect of houses which comply with the conditions prescribed by the Minister and are in material accordance with the conditions as to the number of houses per acre and the standards of structural stability and sanitation approved by the Minister in the case of any scheme carried out by the local authority under Section one of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919.
That means that you get a good standard of sanitation and stability, and that you do not allow them to be crowded on the land. It meets all that is required in a practical way, a way we can administer with fairness. I will read it again. [The words were repeated.]
I do not mind whether it is "material" or "general." It is quite immaterial to me. I thought the word "material" was the better word for the purpose, but I do not mind if you have "general."
I am very glad to accept the right hon. Gentleman's alternative words, and thank him for the way he has met me. I should rather like to see these alternative words in print, and if I might safeguard myself on the Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment now and consider it again then.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2, a), after the word "to" ["with the conditions as to"], to insert the words "situation and."
I should like to be satisfied on this question. I notice that the provisions of the White Paper, which hitherto has been regarded as the standard, for the houses to be subsidised vary very considerably from the Manual. I understand that in substance the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept the conditions of that Manual, issued under the July Act of this year, and that the Amendment he had suggested should be put clown, would require a similar standard for houses receiving the subsidy. In the White Paper there is no reference whatever to bathrooms.
That point can be raised later.
Amendments made: In Sub-section (2, a), leave out the words "as to construction."
After the word "Minister" ["prescribed by the Minister"], insert the words
and are in material accordance with the conditions as to the number of houses per acre and the standards of structural stability and sanitation approved by the Minister in the case of any schema carried out by a local authority under Section one of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919."—[Dr. Addison.]
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I only sug- gested that the Amendment be put down after reading the White Paper, which I am again glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman has practically thrown over, because that contains most inadequate safeguards for health, and the fact that he has accepted the other Amendment based on the Manual raises the standard of the subsidised houses to that which had been approved in the Manual for the local authority, and on that understanding I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I beg to move, in Sub-sectivon (2 c), to leave out the word "twelve" ["within twelve months"], and to insert instead thereof the word "six." That would make Sub-section (2) read, "construction begun within six months of the passing of this Act."
Hon. Members will notice that the Clause goes on to say that they must be completed within twelve months, with an option of extension for a further three months if the Minister allows it. I submit that it is impossible to finish a house within twelve months if it is not started within six months of the passing of the Act. The whole purpose of this Act is to get on as quickly as possible with housing. Having admitted the subsidy, we are all anxious that as many houses should be put up as possible, and as quickly as possible, and it is surely desirable that the time should be made six months rather than twelve months, in view of the fact that it would be impossible to finish the houses in twelve months if they are not begun within six months.
I think this would seriously curtail the facilities for building houses under this Act. Allowing for the necessary time to get matters started, only about four months would be left, and it would be impossible to begin every house by the 1st June. Therefore we have had to devise conditions in respect of houses that may not be completed for certificate at the end of the twelve months, and that is better than saying they must be done by a certain date. The effect of this Amendment would be to shut out the very best time of the year.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2 c), after the word "Act" ["begun within twelve months after the passing of this Act"], to insert the words "or within six months after the passing of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919."
The object is to bring within the scope of the Bill houses begun since the passing of the main Act in July. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that it is very inconsistent to exclude from the benefits and advantages of this Bill houses which have been built or begun under that Act. I have heard of cases where this result will accrue, and a situation has arisen in which it would actually pay those who have begun houses, and spent a certain amount of money on them, to scrap what they have done and start afresh in order to get the subsidy under this Bill. Obviously it would be very undesirable to encourage that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) put the point quite clearly on the Second Reading when he said:
I think there is a case for people who have already begun to build under exactly these conditions, and who have not waited to be offered a subsidy. Under proper safeguards they should not be deprived of assistance, and I hope my right hon. Friend will reconsider that question.
It is in order to bring in that class of case under this Bill that I move this Amendment, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.
I am quite certain that if I accepted this I should have to go further still. People who have begun to build houses have, I suggest, done so because for some reason or other it was worth while. The object of the Bill is to get additional houses, and therefore I do not think it really is reasonable to expect me to ante-date in any way the operation of the Act. I would not mind, however, including houses begun up to the 1st December, 1919. I would go as far as that, but to date it back would be impossible, and would defeat the object, which is to get additional houses.
I see the force of the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty. He is prepared to concede the principle, and put it back to the 1st December, but that really would do practically nothing. This applies largely—in fact, I think mainly—to rural areas, where people have seen how very grievous is the need of houses; and, having begun to build houses for labourers on rural estates, where they will be let at a low rent of about 3s. a week, and for the purpose of providing, to the national benefit, houses for workmen, I think it is very hard that they should be deprived of this assistance if the work has been begun since the original Act was passed. I think that, as my right hon. Friend is already prepared to go back to the 1st December, it would be only reasonable and fair that he should go back to the earlier date suggested by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, and thus link up this Bill with the previous Act, of which, after all, it is only an amending measure. I think there ought, as I suggested on the Second Reading, to be safeguards, but that the Minister, where he thinks the circumstances justify it, should give the subsidy in the cases referred to by my hon. Friend.
I find myself so much in accord with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) that, opposed as I am to subsidies, I think this is a case in which I would agree to subsidise those persons who had had the pluck to start building before there was any mention of such assistance. If the subsidy were limited to people of that kind I would support it.
It is almost cynical—although the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health is the last person in the world to be cynical—to say that, as these people have begun to build houses, and the only object is to induce people to build houses, they are not to benefit by the Grant. I had a letter only to-day from a man who is trying to erect cottages in a rural district on the borders of Essex and Hertfordshire where houses are very much needed, and he is struggling with shortage of materials and continual increases in cost. He cannot keep his workmen together because he cannot get materials, and he will not be able to get this subsidy unless the right hon. Gentleman accepts this Amendment, which, I submit, is reasonable, dealing, as it does, with the operation of the principal Act.
I am very sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment. There must be a line drawn somewhere, and if I put the line back there would still be a few hard cases of people who came in before, and so it would go on. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, with his great experience of administration, would not like to tackle it himself. I think the only practical and businesslike way is to take a date, and not to ante-date it. I was inclined to go as far as the 1st December, but the course of this Debate shows me what will happen, and that it would be impossible.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2, c), to leave out the words "not exceeding three months."
I hope the right hon Gentleman will be able to see his way to accept this Amendment. Supposing a strike takes place, or for any other reason a man is not able to complete a house, I do not see why you should not give the Minister discretion to add any period necessary for completion, so long as it is not the fault of the man who has built the house.
I recognise the importance of this matter, and it has been represented to me by other hon. Members. I would rather like to take power to deal with special cases by two Amendments. I think there will certainly be cases in which twelve months may not be enough. That would land us in the middle of next winter. Our object is to get houses built, and I should propose to insert four months instead of three. The point of my hon. Friend is that there may be a strike or a prolonged frost or difficulties in transport, or various other things over which a man could have no control. In those circumstances it would be hard to penalise him. Therefore I suggest that the word "four" [months] should be substituted for "three." Further, after the words "twelve months" in the next paragraph of the Sub-section I should propose to insert the words "unless the Minister is satisfied that the failure to complete the house within that period is due to circumstances over which the person constructing the house had no control." That would enable him to escape the loss of the subsidy in these special cases.
I have two Amendments down on somewhat the same lines. I suggest that the three months should be extended to six, and further that a pro- portionate reduction of the grant should be made only if a house is not completed within a period of fifteen months. Do I understand the Minister to suggest that the three months should be altered to four months?
The difficulty I am in is the very difficulty the Minister has raised. The next two months are not good for building. Then, if you take twelve months, you are landed into November and December of next year. You have practically two winters in the twelve months. Even the four months suggested by the Minister is not sufficient. If you are to subsidise people, surely it is reasonable to give them a reasonable time to carry out the work. You have great difficulty at present with material. Anyone interested in the building trade knows that at the present time you cannot get building material, and particularly you cannot get it in proper sequence. You are nearly always hung up. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to consider whether he cannot extend the period to fifteen months before any proportionate reduction of grant will be made.
The words suggested by the Minister would be much better inserted at the end of the proviso providing for the payment of the subsidy in the case of houses built within twelve months after the passing of the Act, and not after the proviso allowing for a. proportionate reduction. That would really cover the case, because the delay might occur through strikes or delays in transport. The difficulty is that here is a cast-iron rule which no one can alter without a fresh Act of Parliament. We are not living in ordinary times, and there ought to be power in the Minister to extend the period if the delay is caused through no fault of the individual. In this ease one party to the contract is sure of his consideration, namely, the house, and the other party to the contract might be deprived of his consideration—the subsidy—through no fault of his own. That does not seem right, and it seems to me that it will largely prevent people starting the building of houses at all. I would not like to undertake to build a house if I knew that the subsidy was dependent on the completion of the house within twelve months and that the Minister might be unable to fulfil his contract through no fault of mine.
I cannot decide on the point now, but I will carefully consider it. I am anxious that we should not give anybody an excuse for delaying operations, and I will look into it with that object and leave it for the Report stage. I am afraid that if we extend the period of twelve months there may be a possibility of extending it to sixteen or eighteen months as a general rule.
I think it would be a possibility. A person might start building when it was a physical impossibility to complete it in the time. I want to make them start as soon as possible. The Amendment is quite bonâ fide, but if I accepted it now I would qualify it with a reduction of the subsidy; however, I would not like to accept it without further consideration, because it might delay the commencement of building.
I would point out that nobody can build a house except on a certificate granted by the Minister. Obviously he would only grant it in view of a particular date. If the house had been begun and through no fault of the person who was building it could not be completed, he would be entitled to some consideration. I am sure the Minister would not grant a certificate if there was not a reasonable expectation that the house would be completed within the time. There would be no delay caused, for it would not be the fault of the man who was building the house. If he did not complete it in a reasonable time, he would not be given the subsidy.
Mr. T. WILSON:
I am afraid there might be a case of a house which would not be completed in a certain time. That would happen under this Bill, and the excuse would be given that the builder could not get workmen. They cannot get workmen now. Then others might start to build more houses than they were capable of erecting. The foundations would be put in and at a certain stage they would say they could not get the men and they could not complete them. I hope the Minister will not make any further concession.
I have also an Amendment about the subsidy, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments made: In Sub-section (2,c), leave out the word "three, "["not exceeding three months"], and insert instead thereof the word "four."
After the word "months" ["the said period of twelve months"], insert the words
unless the Minister is satisfied that the failure to complete the house within that period is due to circumstances over which the person constructing the house has no control."—[Dr. Addison.]
I beg to move, in Subsection (2, c), after the word "months" ["the said period of twelve months"], to insert the words
and provided that no grant shall be made in respect of any house which shall be erected on a site acquired after the passing of this Act if, in the opinion of the Minister, the consideration paid for the site was in excess of the value that could have been realised in the open market by a willing on the date of the passing of this Act.
I am moving this Amendment purely as a business proposition. I think it is common ground that the effect of the Bill will be to enable people to build who otherwise would not build. Thus the demand for land will be increased, and the value of the land and the price of it will be increased. I do not think the Government wants to increase the price of the land against the local authorities by the provision of Government money. Nor does anyone in the Committee desire that. The landowner is entitled to the increase in the value of his land as well as the owner of any other commodity. But it is not part of the purpose of this Bill to bring about a situation in which, by the granting of money to private individuals, the price of land is raised to the local authorities who have to pay more. Unless a provision of this kind is inserted that will be the effect. Some of the local authorities have proposed to acquire land in their areas, which is partially developed. Under this Amendment they will not go into the market against a limited number of buyers of land. Other buyers will be brought in against them, and these people will get the assistance of public money. Local authorities may have desired such land for the purpose of tidying up their towns, and therefore they want this undeveloped land. They would have to bid against people who had the assistance of this public money. That is exactly the state of things. During the last week or two I had an opportunity of addressing a meeting of surveyors in one
of our towns on this Bill, and one of them was an agent to a landowner and he said that up to the present they had been told there was no market for building land; there was nobody in the market for building sites except the local authorities, and the land was being sold at a low rate. The effect of the subsidies, he said, would be to increase the value of the land, and they should be able to get a higher price. I am quite sure the Government does not desire to bring about that state of things by the Grant of £15,000,000 of public money to private individuals. They would be able to give higher figures for the land than they otherwise would have given. There is nothing in the Amendment to impose any artificial figure as the value of the land. Under the Amendment the market value of the land would be obtained, whatever that value is to-day. The Amendment provides that, "No grant shall be made in respect of any house which shall be erected on a site acquired after the passing of this Act if, in the opinion of the Minister, the consideration paid for the site was in excess of the value that could have been realised in the open market by a willing seller on the date of the passing of this Act."
I am afraid that I cannot consider the Amendment at all favourably. We have now nearly 7,000 site applications which have to be sanctioned by the Government and the valuer. But this has already been dealt with. There will be 20,000 different sites as to which, under the Amendment, I have got to satisfy myself—and how I am to do it I do not quite know—" that the consideration paid for the site was in excess of the value that could have been realised in the open market by a willing seller on the date of the passing of the Act." And it might be half an acre of land. With great respect to my hon. and gallant Friend, I do not think that is a fair proposition at all. We want to get the houses quickly. So long as I get houses of the right standard I shall have to pay the subsidy. We shall save no money by this proposal. There would be no public saving at all in any way, and it would be an enormously costly piece of administration. I do not know what, staff would be required, but I am certain it would require some hundreds of people to carry it out.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman does not quite do him self justice in his reply. He betrays a very considerable amount of ignorance in the way he is carrying on at present. He can carry out the procedure of my Amendment without adding a single member to his staff.
If the hon. Member will allow me to proceed, I think I can convince him of that fact. At present the right hon. Gentleman has very wisely availed himself, in respect to the purchase of land by public authorities, of the services of the Valuation Department. I think I am correct in saying that his staff has not been increased—or to a very small extent only—except by the transfer of members of the Valuation Department to his staff.
The amount of correspondence that would be required, and is required now, to aid the land valuers is enormous. The appeals and objections are enormous, and I do not believe for one minute that you are going to save sixpence to the public. You will delay the getting of houses. I really do understand what I am doing.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that no single one of these sites can be transferred without coming under the notice of the Valuation Department! It would be the simplest matter for the district valuer to give to the right hon. Gentleman a statement, without involving any of the clerical assistance he speaks of. With regard to not saving anything from the public money, if the effect of this subsidy is to raise the whole value of the land acquired by the local authority and by the private individuals, that would be a very considerable expenditure of public money. I think that the right hon. Gentleman does not quite appreciate to the full extent the opposition that exists to the payment of these subsidies on the part of hon. Members near me, who represent a large number of the working classes in this country who will have to use these houses. If there is an impression that the main effect of this subsidy will be to increase the cost in the price of all land, and thereby make houses more expensive, I think that supposition is correct.
With great respect to my hon. and gallant Friend, I must say that there is nothing of subsidy in this point at all. The land which is now being dealt with is land is the centre of a town, or in close proximity to a town. The proposal will impose an intolerable burden, and will not bring the remotest advantage in any shape or form.
I am astonished that the hon. and gallant Member should have thought fit to make three speeches in support of his Amendment. I never in my life heard of an Amendment which was so unnecessary and so likely to deter the building of houses. Let me point out to the Committee what the proposal of the hon. Member is. According to his Amendment the Minister is to decide. According to his speech the decision rests upon the District Valuer and not upon the Minister at all. If a decision has to be taken it must be a decision of the Minister, and, if so, it is equally obvious that it will entail all that work and trouble and expense of which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has spoken. Let me ask hon. Members how long they think all this will take. Within twelve months the foundations of these houses must be erected, they must be built, and I want to know how long it is going to take for the questions to be decided? Does the hon. and gallant Member really want houses at all? [HON. MEMBERS"No!"] Or is he endeavouring to wreck the scheme, because if he really wants houses I would ask him to consider the matter.
If the hon. Member means by that that he cannot answer the question without making a speech, my answer to his question is in the negative, because I do not desire him to make another speech. But I am entitled to ask him to consider whether he really thinks he is expediting building by a proposal of this sort. A builder may buy land for thirty, forty or fifty houses with the grave risk that when he has bought it and committed himself some Minister is going to say: "You have paid a price which is above the market price." If he thinks that is going to encourage the builder, I think he had better go and consult once more that strange body of surveyors with whom he was speaking the other night.
I think this Amendment will be largely unnecessary. There will be very little land purchased. It will be persons owning estates or owning land who will put houses or cottages upon them. Therefore the difficulty will arise only in a very few cases. The Amendment is unnecessary, and would keep a lot of people from building even on land that they have already got.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
The purpose of the Amendment is that the whole £150 should go to the tenant, the occupier of the house, and that none of it should go to the landlord through any accretion of land value due to the passing of this particular Bill. Land in the centre of towns, owing to the inability of ordinary builders to build, and owing to the local authority not being prepared to pay high prices, is not getting the price that has been asked for it in the past. The purpose of this Amendment is that this Bill should not give an accretion of value to the land, and should not put into the pocket of the landlord a value which apart from the passing of the Act it would never have had. With regard to what the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. H. Smith) said about its being a ridiculous proposition, under the Bill the Minister is every day acting on the advice of the valuers in giving his decision, and he could do it equally well under the Clause the hon. and gallant Member has proposed.
I think the hon. Members opposite have learned nothing from the Finance Act of 1909. That Act did a great deal with regard to the taxing of increment of land, and but for the passing of that Act we would not be sitting here this morning dealing with the question of houses. That Act is really at the bottom of the whole trouble.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2, c), after the word "months" ["the said period of twelve months"], to insert the words
and provided that no grant shall be made in respect of any house where the wages paid and conditions of employment do not comply with the provisions of the Fair-Wages Clauses in Government contracts.
The purpose of this Amendment, again, is to provide that the£150 should go to the benefit of the person who is to occupy the house and the labour of those employed on it. In all Government contracts and in all contracts made by the local authorities under the main Act this Clause has to be put in, and I do not think that in these enlightened days any argument is required in support of the contention that the Fair-
Wages Clause ought to be put in a contract where public money is expended. It is put into every agreement for the building of houses by the local authorities, and it is only right and reasonable to ask that these houses, subsidised by public money, should have the same safeguard put in.
This is another Amendment which would mean a great deal of administrative work, arid is not asked for. In the present condition of the building trade, and with all these thousands of houses being built, where will the cases arise where it will not be possible for the workers to obtain proper conditions, and to get good wages? I do not believe those cases will exist. We have always secured that the district rates of wages shall be observed, but this will mean that in every case I have got to have a certificate from somebody or other that the wages were paid and the conditions of employment observed. We ought to leave this to the proper machinery of the trade. Surely it is not fair to ask us to set up an elaborate organisation to get this done elsewhere? That would be only paralysing the work. With the shortage of labour that exists it is only fair to suggest that these houses will be built under as good conditions as any other houses, and I have no doubt the trades unions will see after that, and they are quite competent to do so. And there is this practical point, that a large number of these houses will be built by small village builders—the type of man who employs, perhaps, his son or his nephew, and works himself. I will consider whether it would be practicable to get a statutory declaration attached, but I do not think that is in the least necessary. I am perfectly certain the trades union organisations, with whom we are in the closest working association, will see to that. If anything is necessary to secure proper observation of these working conditions I will support it, but to impose on me the statutory obligation of doing this for every house will shatter the whole scheme. I do not want the houses built under improper conditions; and I will do everything I can to see that proper conditions are observed, but that is quite different from asking me to accept this.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "Minister" ["and if the Minister is satisfied"], to insert the words "after hearing and considering any statement of the local authority."
I submit that this is a reasonable, common-sense Amendment, free from all suspicion or any limiting ideas such as we have been charged with before. The Clause permits the Minister to grant a certificate to a man who has built a house, if the local authority has refused it. I cannot conceive that any Minister would grant a certificate when the local authority has refused it, and I cannot conceive that any local authority would withhold a certificate, either at present or for many years to come, unless there was some very good reason.
What my hon. Friend wants is obviously and necessarily included in the procedure which must be followed. The Minister must be satisfied, and, therefore, he must have something which will satisfy him. If he is applied to for a certificate which the local authority has refused, he must, in. order to be satisfied, have the two statements before him.
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), after the word "conditions" ["comply with those conditions"], to insert the words
Provided that, as regards the administrative county of London, the Minister shall not prescribe any conditions inconsistent with the provisions of any building by-laws in force in the county except after consultation with the London County Council on the general question of the relaxation of such provisions in connection with housing schemes.
I think this Amendment clearly explains itself. I would only mention that similar protection was given to the London County Council by the Housing Act of this year, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be willing to give the same protection in this Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (4), to add the words "which in the case of the county of London shall be the London County Council."
The London County Council is the authority under the Act of 1890, but under the Housing Act of this year the borough councils are made the authorities within their boroughs, so far as regards the provision of housing within the Metropolitan boroughs. The question, therefore, is as to which authority is to be the authority for the purposes of this Bill. I do not think both the central authority and the local authority can act, and I suggest, having regard to the necessity for uniformity of control and action throughout the country, that it is desirable that the central authority should act in this case. The London County Council is the Building Act authority, and it would certainly seem as though it ought to exercise the powers under this Bill, or that, at any rate, it ought to be made clear who will exercise those powers.
This is a very important Amendment, and I should like to consider it and bring up an Amendment for discussion on the Report stage. There are certain Sections of the Bill under which the county council must be the authority, but there are one or two others. I will bring up an Amendment for the Report stage which will meet the point.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
In my opinion, and in that of hon. Members with whom I am associated, this Clause is bad in principle, and we do not think that it will have the effect that the right hon. Gentleman thinks it will have. We do not think he is going to get the houses by the subsidies which this Clause authorises. There has been trouble with the Employers' Association and the Workmen's Association—
In common fairness to myself, I must say that it is only right to expect that the hon. Member should inform himself of the facts. What I know is in his mind is a question of certain gentlemen not coming to a meeting to which they were invited—not a meeting with me, but with somebody else—a meeting which has not yet been held. They came to see me to discuss the matter with me. That shows the kind of relation in which we stand—the friendliest possible relation. They came to me to discuss this question of a future meeting, the date for which has not yet arrived. There has never been any question of their not wishing to meet me. Statements of that kind do a great deal to interfere with the progress of housing.
The right hon. Gentleman makes inquiries and he has to accept the statement given to him. He is aware that two of the big unions at any rate are considering already whether they shall make demands with regard to their share of the subsidy; that is that they shall be paid full wages for all time lost owing to weather and shortage of material. It is very probable indeed that steps will be taken in connection with the building of subsidised houses which will really interfere with the building of houses. Strikes have been going on in the building trade for many weeks now, and there is no country where workmen in the building trade come out more readily than in Ireland. I do say the right hon. Gentleman is not going to get the houses he expects, and what is more, the houses which are to be erected in the first instance are not houses which will be good houses. The right hon. Gentleman has already suggested a reduction in the strength of cement and mortar used in the erection of the houses. He has also suggested, in order to reduce the cost of the houses, that the skirting should be three inches deep. Any practical builder knows that houses built under those conditions will not be comfortable houses. They are not houses that will be a credit to the building trade. Therefore, I say that the Government is not setting about the building of houses in the right way. Other schemes have been submitted to the Minister which have been turned down. I appeal to him at the eleventh hour to consider whether he should proceed with the Bill or not.
We ought to have that quite clear. If I can get an assurance that it will be done in the Regulations, I will not take up the time of the Committee. If the White Paper is to be the form of the Regulations, they will require considerable enlargement. When we have the Regulations set out, I hope it will be made quite clear what standard is to be maintained.
Employment at which they can earn wages, and we say that in the last event the State is entitled to find employment. I did not intend to depart from the discussion of the Bill until the interjection was made from the other side. Our fundamental objection to the Bill has been strengthened by the concession granted by the Minister of Health to an hon. Member in the earlier part of the evening, when he intimated that under certain conditions it will be possible for a double subsidy to be paid for one building.
We do not intend to go over that ground again. I think the position was made perfectly clear in our former discussion. That has strengthened our fundamental opposition to the Bill, and if my hon. Friend who has moved the rejection of Clause 1 cares to carry his objection into the Division Lobby I shall join him.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I should like to be clear that these subsidised houses will not merely be as strongly built as the houses under the Manual, but that the height of the rooms, cubic capacity, and general conditions will be equal. Under the impression that that was so, I withdrew Amendments which I had down, and I should like to be quite satisfied on that point, and that the miserable conditions put forward in the White Paper will be scrapped.
There is always an idea that two-bedroomed houses are enough for young married couples, but we know that things happen which involve the use of three bedrooms. When we are subsidising, I do not think it would be wise to subsidise any house with less than three bedrooms.
It is clear that the superficial area of the accommodation is very important, and I indicated before that it is an essential condition of the grant. I do not agree with my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. T. Thomson). You must give us credit for a reasonable modicum of sincerity. We propose to have a reasonable standard of housing accommodation.
I think there is something of this kind in the Manual. I think that is the effect of the figures that are taken. We have not taken inhabitant capacity but have taken superficial area, because that was the better basis. I would like to consider the point which has been raised. We want to get a small percentage of the local authorities to build two bedroom houses because we find a shortage of houses of that kind. That would assist many people. We would only allow a small percentage. I will consider that. I am sympathetic with the view which has been expressed that no subsidies should be granted except on lower scales for the smaller houses. But I would not like to make any promise now, in view of the promise which has been made to local authorities.
I will look into it. The word "construction" does not include sanitation, although it is an important point. I thought the other words were better. It will be given for habitable floor areas. That is the test. We thought that this was better from all points of view.
We have heard a lot about sanitation, and I do not think that the Department should agree to a lower standard of house. That, however, is part of the problem. We quite understand that the Minister is working under great pressure, and that he only accepted this Clause because the emergency justified it. We have to consider the feeling which exists against the principle of a subsidy, and though we want a standard house it is very difficult to define it. I quite agree that we are all anxious to get the highest possible standard of house.
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hirst, G. H.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle; E.)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Newbould, A. E.||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Richardson, R. (Houghton)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Robertson, J.|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Royce, William Stapleton||Tyson Wilson and Mr. Lunn|
|Grundy, T. W.|