I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out the words "Sections one and three off."
The purpose of this Amendment is to extend the whole of the Act of 1923 for the period mentioned in Clause 1 and not merely Sections 1 and 3 which are mentioned find great difficulty in understanding what is the object of the restriction to Sections 1 and 3, leaving Sections 2 and 5—which are most affected by my Amendment—to lapse at the period originally mentioned in the Act of 1923. I find particular difficulty in understanding that, when I find that Clause 2 provides for certain Amendments to Section 2 of the Act of 1923. It appears to me that it reduces the whole matter to nonsense, because, if Section 2 of the Act of 1923 is to come to an end in 1926 and Sections 1 and 3 are to go on until 1939, the provision in Clause 2 for the Amendment of Section 2 of the Act of 1923 appears to me meaningless or that it will become meaningless when Section 2 of the Act of 1923 lapses, as it apparently does, in 1926.
My reasons for desiring that, if any part of the Act of 1923 is extended in duration, the whole of it shall be extended, are that the conditions of the Act of 1923, which apply particularly to the assistance given by local authorities to methods of housing other than by the local authorities themselves, shall continue as long and as nearly as may be on the same basis as the conditions prescribed by this Bill during the whole period of duration of this Bill. Section 2 is the one which deals with the conditions of the Act of 1923 under which a local authority may assist housing schemes and the building of houses other than by themselves, and Section 5, which is an absolutely vital Section unless building by means other than those of the local authority is to come to an end altogether, is the Section which provides that the local authority may make advances to persons wishing to build or to acquire their own houses. Although, personally, I do not think that any success either in the Act of 1923 or in this Bill is very likely to be arrived at by means of houses built with a subsidy out of public funds—my own view is that a quite different system ought to be adopted—nevertheless, if this system is going to be adopted and extended as this Bill proposes to adopt and extend it in spite of the failure in the past, I think it ought to be adopted and extended equally for everybody concerned, and it ought not to come to an end for one class of person in 1926 and go on for another class of person until 1939.
I am advised that this Amendment is quite unnecessary, and, indeed, in some respects, it would have a contrary effect to the one the hon. Member seeks to attain. The Act of 1923 may be taken as being in two sections: one section is permanent and the other is limited in duration. Time previsions in this Bill extend the temporary provisions of the 1923 Act, bur they leave the permanent provision, they are. If we upset that arrangement the result will be to limit to fifteen years duration the conditions of the Treasury subsidy. For these reasons, and with the assurance that the Amendment is net necessary for the purpose of ensuring thy continuation of provisions, I hope the hon. and learned Member will not press the Amendment.
I have no doubt that what the right hen. Gentleman Las said is perfectly correct with regard to Clause 2, but with regard to Clause 5 (Advances of Money), it states specifically that the local authority may at any time before the 1st October, 1920, advance money, and unless this Clause remains applicable that power will automatically lapse.
As I read the Bill, if we leave out this Section and extend Sections 1 and 3 to a later year it will automatically mean that the provisions as to houses referred to in Section 2 of the Housing Act, 1923, will come to an end in 1925. I understand that the. Schedule does not refer to Clause 2 at all. This Clause is vital to those who are engaged in the production of houses for personal occupation. All the houses being built at the present time out of public funds by the local authorities are being built under Section 2 of the Act of 1923, and if that Section does not remain in force, those houses will cease to receive any benefit as from the 1st October, 1925.
I beg to move in page 1, line 13, to leave out from the word "Minister" to the word "and" in line 15.
The Committee will remember that in the 1923 Act the date 1st October, 1925, was inserted as the date by which processes to receive subsidies should be completed. There is no doubt that was regarded as a matter which would be reconsidered in the light of the experience of the working of the Act. But in this Bill, for some reason which is certainly not obvious to anyone less well-informed than the Minister of Health, the date inserted is the 1st October, 1939. Anyone familiar with the transactions which have taken place between the various parties responsible for devising this Bill would find it difficult to know why 1939 has been put in. Presumably it was intended to be put into the Bill at a time when 1939 was the subject of agreement as to mutual guarantees to be given by both sides as to what the Minister would do and as to what the building industry would do over the whole of that period. But we have over and over again been told that no guarantees are given on either side, and that what was intended to be the subject of guarantees is merely the subject of pious hopes. Therefore, I do not see what useful purpose will be served by retaining these particular words in the Bill, and I propose to perform the operation of removing the appendix from the Clause. Perhaps I may call the attention of the Committee, which is no doubt well informed, to what is the reason for this date. It appears for the first time in the Housing (Financial Provisions) Memorandum, in which the Minister said that the subsidy would be continued for twenty years if the houses were completed before the 1st October, 1929, subject to any revision which might be made from time to time in the amount of the subsidy owing to changed conditions. The revision of the contributions is provided for in Clause 5 of this Bill.
Yes, according to the Resolution, it is 15 years if the houses are completed before the 1st October, 1939, they will be subject to any revision made from time to time of the amount of the subsidy owing to changed conditions. The appearance of that provision in the form of Clause 5 really has the effect of putting a Clause into the Bill in these terms:
Nothing in this Bill as to any date shall have effect at ail after 1927, notwithstanding any explicit conditions to the contrary.
I can only look on the ample powers which the Minister proposes to confer upon himself as a small relic of his intention to give some further assurance to the building industry which was required by them in order to enable them to give the assurance that they would allow the additional labour to be brought into the industry which would have to absorbed if it was not to be thrown on the unemployed market. The position is that these pledges are certainly not given in explicit terms by the Minister, because Clause 2 puts him in the position, after 1927, of doing anything he likes with the amount of the subsidy or the period of the subsidy. I think it most undesirable that Parliament should include in the Bill powers which will enable any succeeding generation of electors, or of people concerned in the building industry, to say that Parliament held out words intended to be a pledge of something to continue for a period of 15 years unless, indeed, that is the intention of Parliament. But it is quite obvious it is not the intention of Parliament. We have had repeated statements from the Minister that he will reconsider the whole position in 1927, and I therefore suggest that this provision is
not only innocuous but also pernicious and fraudulent, because possibly in three or four years' time, or at some future date, the Clause, if read in conjunction with the statement of the Minister contained in the Memorandum to the Financial Provisions Resolution, or in the report of the building industry where they refer to the assurances they require, will be taken as justifying a charge of breach of faith against Parliament. I hope that the Minister, in the interests of candour and in order to have an Act of Parliament which contains no more words than are necessary to give effect to its real object, will agree to the omission of these words.
I hope the Minister of Health will see his way, in the interests of truth and accuracy, to have these words deleted. Anyone who has followed the course which the Minister has adopted with reference to his guarantee to the trade up to the year 1939, has followed a most interesting performance. We have had many opportunities, it is true, of putting questions to the right hon. Gentleman as to the exact arrangement that he has in fact made, but I must say, quite plainly, that the right hon. Gentleman has not been particularly anxious to give really straight replies to the questions which have been asked of him. The whole question has been in effect—Has the Minister made any arrangements of a definite character either with the local authorities or with the building trade? What is the position so far as the local authorities are concerned, as far as one can ascertain it from the information which the Minister of Health has given to us? The Minister went to the local authorities and presented his proposals to them, and one of the proposals which he presented to them was this long period for house-building. We have seen a good many pamphlets and statements up and down the country about 2½ million houses, and all the rest of it, within a certain time. What did the local authorities say directly they saw this proposal? They came unanimously to the conclusion that they would have nothing at all to do with it. The first condition that they laid down was that at any time, and for any reason, they should be permitted to case building, that there should be no question of any appeal to the Minister of Health, that there should be no question of any reference to an independent tribunal as to whether they should go on or not; they reserved absolutely to themselves the right to stop building at any time.
Most people, confronted with such a dilemma, would have thought that at any rate the period of guarantee had gone, because—I think to amazement even of the local authorities themselves—the Minister of Health said: "Oh, yes, I gladly accept that condition. I agree to what you say; you shall be able to stop building at any time you like." Having regard to the agreement at which he had arrived, and having regard to the fact that the Minister had already pledged himself to the trade that he was going on for this extended period, one would have expected, in ordinary negotiations and in the usual conditions of life, that he would have gone back to the trade and said to them: " My dear friends, I am sorry to tell you that the local authorities have now taken the line that they are going to cease building whenever they like, and in these circumstances I am sorry to say that, if I am to be candid with you, there is really no guarantee in this business at all"; because he might very well have pointed out to them "I cannot compel the local authorities to build, and I certainly cannot compel the private builder to build."
As I understand, however, the Minister of Health has taken no such step. He has not been near the building trade since he had that interview with the local authorities. He has, as I understand, left them very severely alone and in the House to-day, when the Minister was asked about this question, and the Parliamentary Secretary endeavoured to give a reply, I was informed, "Oh, but we have had no protests from this body, and certain of the operatives have said that they are enthusiastically in favour of the Minister of Health's proposals." I venture to say that that is a most unsatisfactory arrangement. Certainly, if it satisfies the Minister, it ought not to satisfy this Committee. We are asked in this Clause this afternoon, as I venture to think, to make a pretence, because there is no doubt that there is no form of guarantee of any kind. I venture to say that there is not a Member of the House who, in his private affairs, would allow matters of business of this kind to remain in this state, and then afterwards say he has got a guarantee of this kind. Therefore, I venture to think it would be better if we did not hold out in this Measure something that is not actually accomplished and is not right and true. For that reason, as well as the other reasons I have ventured to enumerate, I think it would be in the best interests of everyone—of the Minister of Health and of building up and down the country—that these words should be deleted, and, therefore, I have much pleasure in supporting my hon. and learned Friend in this important Amendment.
I think the arguments of the two hon. Members who have addressed tin; Committee on this Amendment would have been stronger but for the fact that they only rest on a temporary basis. The principle of my Bill on this point differs from that of the 1923 Act only in degree. The 1923 Act provided for building for two years, which, in the very nature of things, served no useful purpose. This Bill provides for a programme of 15 years, which will serve a useful purpose, and the strange feature of the Amendment is that it proposes to leave the building programme in the Bill permanent, and capable of going far beyond 15 years, instead of limiting it to 13 years as I propose. It is quite easy to make fun, by playful words, with a very serious subject., but I submit that a scheme to solve the housing problem of this country deserves the most serious consideration that can be given to it by this Committee. The period of 15 years was inserted in the Bill because it was part of my agreement with the building industry. As I have more than once informed the House, I went to the industry and asked them why their labour was leaving the country, and why, notwithstanding all the efforts of the House of Commons, houses were not being delivered in adequate numbers. They told me that it was due to the instability of the industry, and that, if I would do something to stabilise the industry, it would be the first step in enabling it to deliver to the country the necessary houses.
I asked them what period they wanted and they mentioned 15 years, and, as I have stated in other speeches, I said to the industry, "I am prepared to ask Parliament to give you a guarantee of 15 years' employment to the extent of a limited number of houses, on condition that you, in return, undertake to deliver to the country the houses according to a certain programme." They agreed. The reason for their insisting upon it is that people who are going to put capital into say, brickworks, want sonic assurance that there will be a market for the bricks over a reasonable period, and workers, if they are to be enthusiastic in augmenting the labour in the industry, want some assurance that they will, not within two years from now, have the unemployment and consequent emigration to which they have been accustomed in the past. I would submit that the vast majority of Members of the House, if they vote according to their conscience, will be delighted to assure the building industry that, if it succeeds in delivering houses to this country in accordance with this programme, Parliament, speaking in the name of the State, will be prepared for 15 years to accept the houses.
There is only one word that I want to say on this point, because it would be possible on this point to open up a big Second Reading discussion on the whole Bill, which is the very last thing I desire to do. I want rather to get on with the Committee stage. We have had several Second Reading discussions already. On the narrow point at issue, I think the hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol (Sir T. Inskip) omitted to mention the fact that this period of 15 wears was put into the Financial Resolution, which was accepted from the Committee by the whole House without any Amendments being suggested from the benches opposite, and against which none of the Members opposite—
If my recollection is at fault, I apologise, but certainly there was no suggestion of omitting the date " 1939 " without any limitation of any sort whatever, which is the effect of the hon. and learned Member's Amendment. If his Amendment were carried, you could, as far as I can see, go on subsidising houses at the rate of £9 a year for the rest of the natural life of the British Empire, which is certainly not the desire of the majority of Members of the House. I generally admire, with great respect, the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir Kingsley Wood), but I think in this case—[An HON. MEMBER: "He never makes any'"] Oh, yes, he makes the best points of almost any Member of the House, especially when dealing with Government evictions; but in this ease I do not think his point is a real one. It is obvious that the House could not bind the municipalities to build for 15 years. There was never any suggestion of that, nor is there any in this Bill. The suggestion is that this House will bind itself, through its Resolution, if the conditions are, carried out, to give this amount of money, for better or worse, for the building of houses which are now needed, and obviously needed.
The hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol called attention to Clause 5, on which we have certain Amendments, which we shall press -upon the attention of the Minister, by which the programme could be broken. All those Amendments depend on the fact of the houses not being delivered. If the houses are not being delivered, we have a right to break the programme, or to ask any Minister of Health who happens to be in that position to break the programme. The Minister advanced last April, and it was accepted by those on the Front Bench opposite as well as by those on this Bench, the idea of encouraging the building industry on some sort of continuous programme, without which there is no possibility of any large recruitment of craftsmen in the building trade. Therefore, I very much hope that, in the interests of time and sanity, the hon. and learned Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment.
Sir WILLIAM JOYNSON HICKS:
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman) is always amusing. He, who is so openly sincere and so plausibly right, tells its that we need only wait until we reach Clause 5, when he and his Friends are going to suggest various Amendments, but he does not tell us—
He has told us that he is going to propose certain Amendments which are on the Paper, but he did not go on to tell us what we all know to be the fact, namely, that he will run away from them—he has not the slightest—
May I ask why the right hon. Baronet knows the fact that I shall run away from them? The only Members I know who have run away from their Amendments have been Members on that side.
I do not want to bandy words with the right hon. Gentleman, but it is curious that there was a very vital Amendment to this Bill down in the names of two or three of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues, and some of us, being of a confiding turn of mind, said, "This is a good Amendment, and we will add our names to it"; but their names disappeared during the night—they "folded their tents and silently faded away." Let me deal with a man who is sincere, with a man who believes in this Bill—the Minister of Health himself. The suggestion has been made that we are going to raise a Second Reading Debate. I am not going to raise a Second Reading Debate, but I want, In ask the Minister for a little clearer information than we have been able to net about what is really the fundamental basis of the whole Bill, namely, the so-called "treaty" with the building trade. We are entitled to know. We have now got the right hon. Gentleman, if he will allow me to say so, in a place from which he cannot escape, and he must defend his Bill Clause by Clause. If he says that this is not the right Clause, and will tell us upon which Clause or Amendment he will make a full disclosure as to the treaty, I will postpone my remarks until later on. But I think this is a convenient time, and the more so because the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the point himself, namely, the 15 year agreement with the building trade, over and over again. In the Second Reading Debate, and in the Debate on the Financial Resolution, he called it a treaty with the building trade—and the building trade is getting, if I may say so, rather anxious about this treaty. They are not quite so satisfied as they were a month ago, when the right hon. Gentleman made his first statement about guarantees and treaties with the building trade. They are not quite so satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman is so innocent as they thought he was; they are rather beginning to feel that he has landed them much in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme tried to land us.
Yes, that is rather my character. But now where is the treaty? What is there to bind the Government, the House of Commons, or anybody, after two and a half years, to have any further building programme at all? What guarantee is there as to the action of the building trade? Some of them may go on building, and some may not. Is a plebiscite to be taken of the building trade? Is a part of it to be penalised because another part does not carry out its so-called treaty with the right hon. Gentleman? Is it a treaty that the whole building trade is to give so many houses during the first two and a half years, and that if, in one corner of England, in one county, or in one town, they do not produce their quota, the whole treaty is to be destroyed? That is what we want to know. He has taken in this Bill over and over again the right to say that if the scheduled number of houses is not completed year by year he may close the deal with the building trade.
I want to ask another question. Supposing the building trade says, "We are here. We have got the material, we have got the bricks, we have got the workmen, we are ready to go on," but the local authorities in half of England are not working under the Bill. When I come to another portion of the Bill I will give the figures? which were given in the other House last night as to the way in which the local authorities are still going on and are preferring to go on dealing with my right lion. Friend's Act of last year rather than under the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. The Bill is not a subsidy towards house building. It is a dole in favour of rent. It is no subsidy whatever to the house-builders. It does not put anything in the pockets of the local authorities. For every penny he gives the local authorities he is going to give them a reduction in rent.
Our Act gave them a direct subsidy towards the cost of building. Therefore building will be cheaper for them under our Act than under the Bill. I entirely concur in the encomiums passed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme on the cleverness of my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). My right hon. Friend referred to the resolution passed by the local authorities:
We claim the right to build or not to build as we like.
The London County Council are the largest building authority in the Kingdom. If they are to carry out their proportion of housing under the provisions of this Bill, they will have to raise something like £10,000,000 of new money on the money market every year. Suppose they say: "We cannot go on doing it. It is crippling our finance and our credit in financial circles in London. We are not prepared to do anything like it. It means a great increase of our rates and we are not prepared to place the enormous burden on the ratepayers." Suppose the authority of Manchester or Liverpool or any other town Says; "On the whole we prefer the Chamberlain Act. We are not going on with the new Act at all, and the right hon. Gentleman has given us permission not to go on." Where is the treaty"? Where is the guarantee to the building trade? The building trade wants to know where it stands. If they are to put up new works, start new brickfields and the manufacture of various articles used in the course of building they want continuity, and there is no continuity whatever under the provisions of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says he will stabilise the industry and they will provide the labour if they get a 15 years' guarantee. They have not got it under the provisions of the Bill or under any statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. Here and now is the quite definite time for the right hon. Gentleman or one of his colleagues to state publicly to the House and to the world what exact guarantee there is to the building trade and what he proposes to do in the event of the local authorities net working his Act and not erecting houses under it. I asked him in a previous Debate what he was going to do, and this is what he said:
I want to say that no one in the course of the negotiations contemplated finch a situation.
Perhaps they did not, but I contemplate it now, and I ask him what he proposes to do. It is no good telling me that when he was negotiating with the local authorities no one contemplated that they would not build. No one knew what a rotten Bill this was. They had not realised the difficulties—financial, material, labour and otherwise. Now they are beginning to realise it and they want to know. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say:
Our feeling is in the Ministry, and I am sure it will be shared by the House, that the local authorities are enthusiastically in favour of building houses.
We cannot legislate on the right hon. Gentleman's feeling. The building trade is not prepared to go on relying on his feeling that the local authorities will build. I pressed him before and I press him again to say what the treaty is with the building trade and how he is going to guarantee to the building trade that they will have their continuity in case some areas do not build, and secondly, what he is going to do to get the house if the local authorities do not go on under the provisions of the Bill.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON:
The right hon. Gentleman has pictured a number of imaginary difficulties which he foresaw as being possible to arise. If he had been present at the annual meeting of the Municipal Associations the other day he would hare come to rather a different conclusion as to their attitude towards this Measure. They welcomed it because it was in a large degree the response to requests they had been putting up to various Governments during the last few years. He himself, when he was at the Ministry, had many representations made to him from various local authorities that they would get on with houses if only they had greater assistance from the State in order to relieve them from the heavy burden which would otherwise be placed upon them. Therefore I suggest that his fears are groundless, and throughout the country there is a very real and genuine desire on the part of local authorities to get on and build houses to let on the terms which have been offered by the Government. If the Bill had gone further than it does no one would have been more scathing in his criticism than the right hon. Gentleman. If it had provided that under all circumstances the houses must be built, irrespective of price and of any conditions whatever, no one would have been more severe in his condemnation of what he would call a supreme act of folly. Surely common sense must enter into the matter, and we do not want to have what took place under the 1919 Bill when houses which began at £300 or £400 ended at £1,300 or £1,400 a house. We can learn something surely even from the follies of a Coalition, It is essential that you should have the determination of Parliament expressed that they are prepared to go on with this long-run policy.
I desire to add one word in answer to the questions which were put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks). I understand the point put is this. He was foreseeing the possibility of the local authorities saying, "We prefer to build houses under the Chamberlain Act rather than under this Bill," and he foresaw the difficulty that if the houses were not built under this Bill there will be no guarantee because there would be a termination presumably of the obligation or guarantee given by this House. I think he has not really looked at Clause 4. There are certain conditions under which the Minister can put an end to the obligation to make contribution, and that arises in the case of houses falling short of the number which we set out in the Schedule. The conditions arise if in fact the Minister and the Board are satisfied that the total number of houses have not been completed in the two years last preceding and in respect of which contributions are payable. Contributions are payable either under this Bill or under the Chamberlain Act, and if therefore the houses are built in accordance with the numbers specified in the Schedule under either of the Acts there is no power in the Minister to put an end to it.
I understood when I put the point the right hon. Gentleman agreed with me. If he puts "not at all," let me suggest this to him. Does he think this country would tolerate the position of the local authorities when we offer them material and labour, simply turning round and saying, "We will not build"? Of course, if we pre-suppose the possibility of this House or the country tolerating that, there is no guarantee possible. Let me summarise the guarantee in a sentence. I suggest if is the finest guarantee, a Minister has ever offered, and the only possible one. It is this. He has gone to the building trade and said, "You provide the houses and we will see that the contributions are given. All you have to do is to give us the houses you have undertaken to give. We then guarantee that you shall get the money." What better guarantee could be offered? The time of the Committee would be very usefully occupied to-day or to-morrow if any right hon. Gentleman would suggest any guarantee which an honest Minister might give to the trade better than the one we offer. We are so satisfied that ours in a good guarantee that I should be only too glad to get the voice of the country to tell us whether they think it is. The other point the right hon. Gentleman put forward is this. Supposing the local authority says, "We will not build under your Bill or under the Chamberlain Act. We will not build at all." The only possible way I can imagine under which that possibility could be dealt with would be to pass an entirely new Act of Parliament to deal with local authorities who behaved in that way. The building industry offers them the men, and we are going to see that they get the material, and, if they wilt not build, this Bill certainly does not provide a method to compel them.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, first of all, perhaps on the narrow ground that there ought certainly not to be any very definite time limit to houses being built under the Bill because, if it is supported by the majority of Members and it is proved to be a good Bill, the longer it goes on the better. But on other grounds I would ask him to delete these words because I think the more words are deleted from the Bill the better it will be. In fact, I should like to see the whole of the words of the Bill deleted. The right hon. Gentleman said he had to promise the trade a sort of security of tenure, that it is the great object of this Bill, and I cannot under stand hon. Members opposite not having the same object. We have often heard them say that, when any subsidy is given to one trade, all other trades—
I was certainly keeping within order in this discussion, because it is important that when we, representing the taxpayers, are subsidising an industry like this, we should try to remember what effect that subsidy will have upon other industries, plenty of which would be very glad indeed to have security of tenure. Therefore, I say we should accept this Amendment, and not put in any time limit, because the more we bring forward these proposals, the more we talk about them, the longer do we delay the time when houses will be built. I have just as much interest in the building of houses of other people as any hon. Member on the other side of the House. The only difference is, that instead of talking so much about them, I began to build them, and if hon. Members had built as many in 1930, I question whether there would have been any need for this Bill or for the Bill of 1923. It is just because we are introducing fresh proposals, and the industry does not know what its future is going to be, that there is greater delay than ever. People in the building trade do not know from one year to another what they have got to do. Therefore, they are insecure, and so long as that insecurity of feeling is there, so long will the building of houses be delayed.
I venture to put another point, of view in regard to this proposal. I take the view that it is very dangerous for this House to give to the building trade a guarantee of any kind for any long period. So far as the Minister has replied, he has not answered either of the questions put to him by my hon, Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). My hon. Friend put two questions to him, and, first of all, he said how could he give a guarantee if the local authorities refused to build? The Attorney-General answered that in a somewhat plausible manner, but he really did not answer the question. The point I wish to put to the Minister is this. He entirely rules out the fact that it may be possible in the period which we are discussing, namely, 15 years, very much to reduce the cost of building houses; but it may be that when scientific knowledge and management are applied to the construction of houses, we may again get back to a cost of 6d. per cubic foot, which was the cost pre-War.
I venture to suggest to the hon. Member that that is entirely beside the point. The point I was endeavouring to make was that, if scientific knowledge and development are applied to house building, there is no reason why the construction of houses should not be reduced in the same way as is the cost of construction of any mechanical appliances. The other day we saw in the Press that Lord Weir has a scheme for greatly reducing the cost of houses. It may be that in that scheme we shall be enabled to produce houses without employing any of the present building labour at all, and we may be enabled to produce houses without drawing upon Imperial and local funds in order to let them at an economic rent, and at a rent which persons can afford to pay. It is for that reason that I think it is extraordinarily dangerous for this House to give a guarantee, which will not be carried out if science is able to produce a house more cheaply and more efficiently than the present methods permit. I suggest that at some future date, if, perhaps, another Minister is sitting in the place of my right hon. Friend, if it could be proved that this subsidy was entirely unnecessary, whatever promise might have been given by this House this Session, a future House of Commons would not carry it out, because the country would not allow millions and millions of public money to be given as an unnecessary subsidy to the building trade.
I think, therefore, the Minister would be well advised to delete these words, because it may be that in the future either he, or some other Minister who may be in his place, will be confronted by these words, and it will be put to him that he is under a moral obligation to go on paying unnecessary subsidies, when the necessity for the payment of those subsidies has been removed. I do not think his Bill would be in any way weakened by removing these words, for the reason that, whatever guarantee the Minister proposes to give, it is entirely controlled by the law of supply and demand. The law of supply and demand is such that, if it is profitable to build houses, the material and the labour will in time be provided. Therefore, the only guarantee that any Minister can give is to say that he has made an analysis of the position, and he honestly believes that 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 houses are required, and it is that requirement which will necessarily bring the labour and the material to fulfil the demand, which is a guarantee of continuity of employment in the building trade. It is quite obvious that if the Minister has greatly over-estimated the number of houses that are required, there will not be the demand. The demand from local authorities will necessarily fall as soon as the demand has been fulfilled, and, therefore, any guarantee he may give is perfectly valueless so long as it is not closely associated with the actual demand. For that reason, I think the Minister would be well advised in his own interest, in the interest of the country, and in the interest of his Bill, not to include words which can at some future date be held up to him in the sense that the Minister and this House have a moral obligation to fulfil to the building trade which will not be fulfilled.
I am in some difficulty in understanding the exact position of hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite. When the Resolution was before the House, an Amendment was proposed on the other side limiting the period within which the houses were to be completed. Now they propose to remove the limitation altogether, and, apparently, the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. W. Greenwood) desires this Amendment to be carried, although he voted before in an exactly opposite direction. I can understand perfectly well the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite putting forward this Amendment for the purpose of obtaining information, but if it is effective, it will really extend the operation of the Minister's proposal, and instead of limiting the subsidy proposals for the period up to 1939, they would go on so long as the conditions were fulfilled. The question of guarantee seems to be rather futile, because as one listened to the statement of the Minister, apparently, there is no treaty at all. It is a misuse of the term to describe the arrangement with the builders on the one hand, and the local authorities on the other, as a treaty at all.
What is the value of a so-called statutory guarantee? It is absolutely worthless. We have had experience of that. Hon. Members will remember the guarantee under the Agriculture Act. There Parliament bound itself. It gave a statutory pledge that four years' notice was to be given before the guarantee was to be inoperative. Members in all parts of the House, except half a dozen Liberals, voted for it; yet within six months of the guarantee becoming operative, the Act was repealed. The Labour party supported both the Act and the repeal of the Act. The only people who voted against the original Act were half a dozen Liberal Members. [An HON. MEMBER: "Only half a dozen?"] Yes, but they were righteous men. I have used that illustration, because that was not only a guarantee by the Government, but a guarantee by Parliament. This is not a guarantee by the Government or Parliament on its own behalf, but a guarantee that local authorities are to do something, though there is no power taken in this Bill to see that local authorities are going to do it. Dr. Addison went better than that. I am sorry the horn. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) is not here, because he was closely associated with Dr. Addison in those days. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary, and in those days was initiated into all the mysteries of the Ministry of Health. Dr. Addison took powers under the Act of 1919 to step in if the local authorities failed, but there are no such powers here.
Before we ask him whether he is going to use them, we want to know whether the Government are agreed, because the Attorney-General made a statement a few minutes ago to the effect that these powers did not exist. Under those circumstances, I may be pardoned if I say that there is an inconsistency.
That is the whole point. The whole point and the whole argument under the Addison scheme was power for the State to step in and compel the local authorities to do it. Did it operate in that way? Dr. Addison never believed that the Ministry of Health was going to build houses itself. He believed that by putting the provision into the Act it would force the local authorities to do that. When the Attorney-General definitely stated that there was no power to force local authorities to build houses, I assumed that there was no such power, and I am entitled to point out that there is some inconsistency between the declarations of the Minister of Health and the Attorney-General.
The point is, that the guarantee is absolutely valueless, and the Minister of Health knows it is valueless. The experience of the Addison Act shows that it is valueless, and, still more, the experience of the Agriculture Act shows that it is valueless. In these circumstances, the building trade have no guarantee. The local authorities are under no obligation. All this is window dressing. It is all for a leaflet in the country; that is all. [Interruption.] I am merely pointing out the facts. I want people to see that it is window dressing. It is important that we should know it. If there was a guarantee, it might be of some value to the people who lend money, because it would indicate that the Ministry of Health meant to guarantee that interest would continue to be payable on loans for a period of 15 years.
I do not dis agree with the general tenour of the remarks of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), indeed, there is a great deal in them, but is he right in taking the view that the removal of "1939" from the Bill will mean that Parliament will be liable for this subsidy for all time?
That means that the position of this House would be worsened by the omission of "1939." I do not think it would. There is a bargain, or the Minister thinks there is a bargain, by which he hopes to get houses, and there are four parties to that bargain—the State, the local authorities, the builders, and the operatives. As far as I can see, the only one of these four parties to the bargain who is bound and who will be bound if these words are left in is the State. The local authorities are not bound. The builders are not bound. They, naturally, believe that if they build houses up to a certain proportion all will be well for them. As the House knows perfectly well, the greatest difficulty as regards the operatives is the provision of labour. One is left aghast at the credulity of the Minister if he thinks that he will get the he uses built by the number of men who are in the trade now, or who will be provided by reason of the bargain that he thinks he has made.
In regard to the Amendment, I do think it is desirable to bring the Bill into accord with the true facts of the situation. It is very undesirable, and it will be misleading, certainly, to the public and those who are expecting to get the houses, if the Minister holds out the idea that the State is going to bind itself to go on with this bargain until 1939, when the other three parties to the alleged bargain are not bound at all to go on. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will think it desirable to bring the Clause into accord with the facts, and I think he docs realise that, after the statement he has had to make during the last few weeks in regard to the so-called bargain.
I think it will be agreed by almost all hon. Members that the essence of this Bill is to get more labour into the trade, and that the only practical way of getting more labour into the trade was some such treaty as this, and for some such period as 15 years. If the right hon. Gentleman is successful in getting the building trade to make such an arrangement that they will provide one apprentice for every three craftsmen within the next year or two, he will have accomplished a very big thing in connection with housing. Most housing reformers who have gone into this matter will agree that a treaty on these lines was a necessary basis to getting more men into the building trade. The whole point is as to whether the treaty is drawn up on the best lines and whether all the parties are reasonably bound by it. The opinion has been expressed that there is no guarantee on the part of Parliament. It seems to me that if the building trade do their part and produce these apprentices and the prices do not increase, there is such a moral guarantee on this Government, or on any succeeding Government, to carry out the treaty that I do not see how they could depart from it.
That seems to me an entirely different thing. The absolute necessity for houses is recognised by all parties, and if they can be got in this way there is a reasonable moral guarantee which must be observed. As regards the local authorities, I have had some experience, and I have no doubt that if the local authorities can build under this Bill, they will build. Everybody knows that they will build. The moral guarantee is there.
It seems to me that Parliament is reasonably bound by this Treaty. Parliament is absolutely bound for three years, but the building trade is only bound by the Building Trade Report, and there are several conditions in that Report that are not, apparently, embodied in the Housing Bill. In the first place, the building trade asked for a definite and continuous building programme for 15 years. Do they accept this Bill as being a definite and continuous building programme for 15 years? It is as definite and continuous as Parliament can make it, but it is important to get the building trade to say that they will accept it arid will take the necessary steps for augmentation of labour if the Bill passes. In the second place, the building trade asked for a statutory committee with very wide powers. There is nothing about that statutory committee in this Bill. There are other conditions in the Building Trade Report which are not contained in this Bill, and it seems to me very important to know whether the Bill has been submitted to the building trade.
I was glad to hear that this afternoon, in response to a question, that certain trade unions were enthusiastically in favour of working under the Bill, but the Committee is entitled to some assurance that this Bill has been submitted to the leaders of the building trade unions, particularly the bricklayers' and the plasterers' trade unions, and that they have said that, as far as they are concerned, they think that this Bill reasonably meets the requirements set forth in the Building Trade Report and that they will, if it passes into law in its present form, do everything in their power to see that the Bill is made a success, that the necessary augmentation of labour is achieved, and that there shall be at least one apprentice to every three craftsmen in the trade.
I think hon. Members are chasing a wild goose in expecting the Minister to put something into the Bill which he cannot put in. I want to bring before the Committee an alternative suggestion, and perhaps the hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment will amend his Amendment on the lines I suggest. Instead of starting with a guarantee for 15 years, which I know—because I am intimately connected with the industry—has already produced an awful strike in the building trade, I suggest that we should give a guarantee for three years, to be renewed every three years provided the building trade carry out their part of the bargain. Instead of starting with a guarantee for 15 years and relying upon other people to carry out a bargain, which they are not prepared to do at the moment, it would be much better to adopt the course I suggest. The Mover of the Amendment suggests leaving out "1939." The objection to that course from this side is that it leaves it open for any Minister to continue for an indefinite period to give these subsidies. We should offer the trade a guarantee so long as houses are required. We should offer a guarantee for three years, with the undertaking to renew the guarantee every three years provided they give us the quantity of houses under the Schedule.
The question of guarantee is of vital importance to the Bill and to the -building trade. It is vital that the building trade should know what they have to rely upon. The Attorney-General and hon. Members below the Gangway opposite seen to regard this Clause as a definite, binding guarantee upon the House of Commons, but the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) made it plain that it could not be any more a binding guarantee than was the guarantee under the Agriculture Act. I want to make it perfectly clear on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side that it is no more binding guarantee upon Parliament than was the Agriculture Bill guarantee a guarantee in regard to food. Everybody knows that that is the case and that it must be the case. There may be a new House of Commons, which may take an entirely different point of view from that taken by the present Minister of Health. I hope it will, and that it will do it quickly. When that happens the right hon. Gentleman could not possibly attempt to bind a future House of Commons in regard to further guarantees under this particular Bill.
In regard to the local authorities, a further point was suggested by the inter vention of the right hon. Gentleman and his remark as to the power under the 1919 Act. The right hon. Gentleman is precluded by his own act from putting any pressure upon the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there was a conference of local authorities on the 8th May of this year at which certain resolutions were passed with regard to this Bill and sent to the right hon. Gentleman. An answer was circulated on the 14th May setting out these resolutions. One resolution said:
That, in currying out nay building programme under the proposed legislation the local authority should retain full power to fix the number of houses winch it will build in any period …. and also full power at its discretion to suspend building operations for any reason whatever at any time, and that such suspension should not involve the imposition of any burden upon the rates or other penalty.
That was a resolution of the local authorities of the country, passed by a very large majority. The Minister of
Health concurred. He replied, through his secretary:
The Minister concurs … in those paragraphs—.
The Minister concurs generally in these paragraphs, and in particular appreciates fully—.
Does he now say that he does not concur in that resolution? Here is a resolution sent by the local authorities of the country, claiming the right to suspend building at any moment. They receive a reply from the Minister. Does he now say that, when he used the word "generally," he did not mean that he fully concurred? Perhaps he has forgotten what he added, after using the word "generally." He said:
The Minister concurs generally in these paragraphs and in particular appreciates fully the importance of leaving unimpaired the autonomy of local authorities under the Housing Act of 1923.
Does the right hon. Gentleman stand by that paragraph? It is true that in reading it I happened to omit the word "generally," but he had forgotten the words:
In particular the importance of leaving unimpaired the autonomy of the local authorities under the Act of 1923.
The local authorities claim under the Resolution the right to suspend the building at any time, for any reason, without any penalty on the part of the right hon, Gentleman. If he says, "All I have is a general agreement with you, but I mean to keep up my powers under the Act of 1919 and to make things difficult for you," he ought to have said it to the local authorities. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he stands by that letter or whether he wishes to be at liberty to penalise any local anthority which may not wish to go on with building under the Act of 1923? I do not want a statement from the Attorney-General. I want a statement from the Minister himself. In the circumstances, on behalf of Parliament itself, and on behalf of tin building trade who are interested, I shall ask my hon. and learned Friend to carry his Motion to A Division.
I admire the mock: solemnity with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) submits to the Committee that he has discovered an inconsistency between my letter to the local authorities and the Bill before the Committee. He, in error, omitted the word "generally," but, in omitting the word, he altered the whole character of the letter. The words are:
The Minister concurs Generally in these Paragraphs, and in particular appreciates fully the importance of leaving unimpaired the autonomy of local authorities under the Housing Act of 1923.
I can inform the Committee that I have agreed, and the local authorities have agreed, as to what the understanding between us is. It was that all our artillery should be directed towards reducing costs, and that when costs showed a tendency to rise the local authorities should be free to suspend building, and in the reply which I made I wished to make it perfectly clear that I was not intending to repeal any of the powers which, the Minister of Health possessed under the Act of 1919.
Under the Act of 1919 I wanted to differentiate between a local authority which suspends building for an honest and reasonable purpose, and a reactionary local authority which does not want to build houses at all. We were considering here the case of the honest local authority. Let me say that, as far as my knowledge and experience go, members of local authorities of all parties are among the most enthusiastic advocates of housing in this country, and I have never anticipated any difficulty in inducing local authorities, taking them in the mass, to build if we can devise means of ensuring a supply of the necessary men and material and any financial assistance which the circumstances require. We had, under the Act of 1919, special provisions for dealing with the special case of reactionary local authorities who are still under the political influence of some of the most prominent Members opposite. That power was taken in the Act of 1918, and in the letter which laid it down that I was leaving unimpaired the autonomy of the local authori- ties under the Housing Act of 1923 my right hon. Friend attempts to suggest that I had promised the local authorities to repeal the powers which exist under the Act of 1919. [HON. MEMBERS: No!"]
With regard to the other point the right hon. Gentleman says, "Put me in power and, no matter what happens, I am prepared to break this down." Nothing will give me greater pleasure than to have that question submitted to the electors of this country, and when an election takes place, let it be early or late, I will take good care to remind the electors of this country that, assuming that we have got the necessary men and the necessary material, and that our Bill is proceeding smoothly with the aid of the advantageous contribution of the scientists referred to by the hon. Member who spoke from the Back Benches on the other side, notwithstanding that and our shameful housing conditions, which exist particularly in the big centres of the country, the leader of a political party is appealing for power to use it in the House of Commons to put an end to our building programme. As to the power to give any guarantee which would bind the House of Commons, I have sufficient confidence in the political sagacity of my fellow citizens to say that they will guarantee that while that promise remains binding on the Conservative party it will never dominate this House.
I must say a word on the electioneering speech to which we have just listened. The right hon. Gentleman has been betrayed, by considerations which no doubt have been present to his mind during the last few days, into revealing what use he hopes to make of this Bill. I must bring him back to the important point which was raised by my right hon. Friend. The discrepancy to which he called attention was not a discrepancy between his letter to the local authorities and the Bill, but a discrepancy between his letter to the local authorities and what the right hon. Gentleman has
been endeavouring to read into the Bill. He takes the words which my hon. and learned Friend proposes to leave out and says that they constitute a guarantee to the building trade, and that that is his part of the bargain in return for which the building trade are going to give him certain other things. We feel it our duty to point out that these words do not and cannot constitute any guarantee whatever to the building trade.
It is not a question of reactionary local authorities. I leave that to the Minister. He can use the powers of the Act of 1919 against any authority which is demonstrably reactionary. At any rate I am not going to press that. But I put it to the Committee that it is not difficult to conceive of many cases in which authorities, which are neither reactionary nor unwilling to build, find themselves unable to do so under this Act in consequence of a rise of prices or in consequence of the burden upon the rates. Suppose that, owing to any causes, a local authority finds that it can no longer borrow money at a rate of interest which it can afford to pay, suppose that the cost of the house has gone up so much that the rents which, according to the proposals of the Bill, will have to be charged to the tenants are more than the tenants can afford to pay, surely that local authority is going to be entitled to say, We must stop until prices go down or until interest goes down." The right hon. Gentleman admits that. Then, where is the guarantee? It is plain that there is no guarantee. What we are going to a division upon is to give a solemn warning to the building trade, or anybody else who may think that these words will constitute a binding guarantee, that they do not and cannot constitue any such guarantee and must not be read as such by anyone.
|Division No. 156.]||AYES.||[5.43 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Baker, Walter||Bondfield, Margaret|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Barclay, R. Noton||Bonwick, A.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Broad, F. A.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Barnes, A.||Bromfield, William|
|Alden, Percy||Batey, Joseph||Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro)||Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Bruton, Sir James|
|Alstead, R.||Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Buchanan, G.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Black, J. W.||Buckle, J.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W.Derby)||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Clarke, A.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Climie, R.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Royle, C.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F, W. (Bradford, E.)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Compton, Joseph||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Scurr, John|
|Cove, W. G.||Kedward, R. M.||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sexton, James|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Kenyon, Barnet||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Kirkwood, D.||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lansbury, George||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Laverack, F. J.||Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withingtn.)|
|Dickie, Captain J. P.||Law, A.||Simpson, J, Hope|
|Dickson, T.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Smillie, Robert|
|Dodds, S. R.||Lawson, John James||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Duckworth, John||Leach, W.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Dukes, C.||Lessing, E.||Smith, W. R (Norwich)|
|Duncan, C.||Linfield, F. C.||Snell, Harry|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Livingstone, A. M.||Spence, R.|
|Dunnico, H.||Lowth, T.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lunn, William||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, South)|
|Egan, W. H.||McCrae, Sir George||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Starmer, Sir Charles|
|Falconer, J.||McEntee, V. L.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Finney, V. H.||Macfadyen, E.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Mackinder, W.||Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Franklin, L. B.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Sullivan, J.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Madan, H.||Sutton, J E.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||March, S.||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Marley, James||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Gillett, George M.||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kincardine, E.)||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Gosling, Harry||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, plaistow)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maxton, James||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Greenall, T.||Middleton, G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Millar, J. D.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mills, J. E.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mitchell, R.M.(Perth & Kinross, Perth)||Tout, W J.|
|Groves, T.||Mond, H.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Montague, Frederick||Turner, Ben|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Morel, E. D.||Turner-samuels|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Morris, R. H.||Varley, Frark B.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Viant, S. P.|
|Harbord, Arthur||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Vivian, H.|
|Hardie, George D.||Mosley, Oswald||Wallhead Richard C.|
|Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Warne, G. H.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Murray, Robert||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermllne)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Naylor, T. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Hastings, Sir Patrick||Nichol, Robert||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Oliver, George Harold||Welsh, J. C.|
|Haycock, A. W.||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)||Westwood, J.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Paling, W.||Wheatley Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Palmer, E. T.||Whiteley, W;.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Perry, S. F.||Wignall, James|
|Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Phillipps, Vivian||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, Dr J. H (Llanelly)|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)||Potts, John S.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Hindle, F.||Raffan, P. W.||Williams, Lt-Col. T.S.B.(Kenningtn.)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Raffety, F. W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hobhouse, A. L.||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Rathbone, Hugh H.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Raynes, W. R.||Windsor, Walter|
|Hogge, James Myles||Rea, W. Russell||Wintringham Margaret|
|Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Rendall, A.||Woodwark, Lieut-Colonel G. G.|
|Hudson, J. H.||Richards, R.||Wright, W.|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le Spring.)||Young Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Ritson, J.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Jewson, Dorothea||Robertson, T. A.||Mr. Frederick Hall and Mr. Allen|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)||Parkinson.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Becker, Harry|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M.S.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Beckett, Sir Gervase|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)|
|Berry, Sir George||Gates, Percy||Philipson, Mabel|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Pielou, D. P.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Bourne, Robert Croft||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Raine, W.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Rawlinson Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Remnant, Sir James|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Harland, A.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Hartington, Marquess of||Ropner, Major L.|
|Burman, J. B.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Savery, S. S.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth,S.)||Hood, Sir Joseph||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, North)||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Stanley, Lord|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F, S.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jephcott, A. R.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Thomson, Sir W.Mitchell-(Croydon,S.)|
|Cope, Major William||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Lamb, J. Q.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Lane-Fox, George R.||Waddington, R.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lorimer, H. D.||Wells, S. R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Weston, John Wakefield|
|Davies, Maj. Geo.F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||McLean, Major A.||Wheler, Lieut-Col. Granville C. H.|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Meller, R. J.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Elliot, Walter E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Elveden, Viscount||Newton, Sir D. G. C, (Cambridge)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ferguson, H.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Lieut.-Colonel Roundell and Major|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Pease, William Edwin||Sir Harry Barnston.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 19, at the end, to insert the words
Provided that a proposal for the provision of (twenty-five or more) houses under this Act shall not be approved, nor shall any provision be made towards any expenses incurred by a local authority, or by a society, body of trustees, or company in such case unless or until the Minister is satisfied that the carrying out of the proposal or any part of it will not be prejudicial to any town-planning scheme required to be prepared or executed under the Town Planning Acts, 1909 and 1919, or any other Act amending those Acts.
This is a proposal which means that any scheme submitted to the Ministry shall not be prejudicial to any town planning scheme that is about to be proposed. I do not think that it is necessary to speak at length on the advisability of town planning proposals. The object of the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1909 was stated definitely to be the securing of proper sanitary conditions, amenity and
convenience in connection with the laying out and use of the land and of any neighbouring land. It will be understood that this is the natural and logical development of our conception of housing. The first conception of housing was that it referred simply to the house itself. That was embodied in the Acts from 1874 onwards. The second conception was that housing involved the lay-out of a scheme of housing, the relation of houses to each other. That was involved in the last few Housing Acts since 1909. A third requirement is that we want to impress upon the public generally, and to insist on legislation providing that, housing shall comply with the condition that it shall have regard to the neighbouring lands and the part that the scheme is to play in the general community around it. It is absolutely essential that future housing developments are not a blot on the landscape and do not create slums. It is difficult enough to deal with existing
slums, as the Minister knows. When we are voting for a gigantic development of housing, for heaven's sake let us see that we do not develop more slums. My Amendment is designed to help the Minister.
How does the matter of town planning rest at the present time? Originally it was voluntary for local authorities to prepare town planning schemes for any part of their area which was likely to be available for development purposes. Under the 1919 Act it became compulsory on local authorities to prepare such a scheme and to submit it before the year 1923. In the Act of last year that period was extended to the year 1929. Therefore it now becomes compulsory on any and every local authority to submit such a scheme by 1929. If I had had in view the obstruction of this Bill I should have said that it would be necessary to insist that any such scheme should include town planning or be part of a town planning scheme. That is dealt with in an Amendment which is to be submitted by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) and the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. MacFadyen) on Clause 3. That would apply only to houses under the special conditions required as a qualification for the, grant under this Bill. I propose this Amendment to apply to all schemes of houses over and above 25 houses, that is to say, to any considerable scheme of any kind. I propose the Amendment at this stage in order to apply it to all the houses. But I do not detail it as a definite town planning scheme that is required six years in advance. I recognise that many authorities—most authorities I fear—are not in a position now to declare their town planning schemes. I wish that they were. I am afraid that they are backward, and that they do not realise the importance of the matter.
The present may not be a fitting time to insist on these town planning schemes being put forward. I recognise that it might definitely delay the provision of houses, or give an excuse for delay, if we were to say to the local authority, "You must submit your town planning scheme before you submit your request to the Ministry for the subsidy under this Bill." I have, therefore, worded my Amendment in a more generous and
lenient way. This is not a fanciful proposal. It is a necessary proposal at the present time. It is necessary simply in general terms. That is shown again and again Let me quote the opinion of a body that has perhaps been most interested in the wider provision of houses under garden city and town planning schemes. The "Garden City and Town Planning Magazine" says:
It is proposed to buy up open spaces and agricultural land in the county, or just outside, including tome of the richest agricultural land in the neighbourhood, and to build houses there at an enormous cost for additional transport and for years to continue the incoherence of London development.
That is the danger we have before us. It has been confirmed by a meeting of the Executive of this Association, which said that we ought to go rather further to secure good site planning in the case of all schemes. That has been neglected in previous schemes. What has been the result? No attention was given to this point until 1919. Some of the open lands were then available for ring roads or railways round London, but they were taken up for housing schemes. These particular routes must now be abandoned and the ring roads taken further out. That must be of interest to the Minister of Transport. I ask the right, hon. Gentleman if he will consult the 2-inch Survey map which hangs in his office and just ascertain the facts—the difficulties that have arisen at Sudbury, at Wimbledon and at Ilford, each in turn. There schemes have been developed and they are blocking ring road development. That could be avoided by very simple and natural attention to the mere outlines of a town-planning scheme. It is not a question of roads only. The provision of playgrounds is affected in the same way. Over and over again it has been found impossible to develop playgrounds in the immediate vicinity of schemes simply because those schemes have been carried out regardless of the use of the land alongside the site. I had an instance brought to my notice only the other day in which a development scheme blocked the prevision which otherwise would have been made for a Jewish burial ground in the East End of London. They proposed to go out to the salubrious district of Barnet in South Hertfordshire in order to carry out the cemetery scheme
and it was allowed by the Minister, but as a matter of fact it has fallen through since. It was, however, defeated in the first instance at Tottenham because of the lay-out of one of these schemes. Perhaps they were right if they had a development scheme to avoid a cemetery, but cemeteries have to be put somewhere, and one of the things to be decided in connection with these schemes is where cemeteries and other obnoxious things are to be placed. One of the advantages attaching to the check in building in 1921 was that time was given to develop town-planning schemes and for the adjustment of schemes to other requirements in the same localities.
If the Amendment be passed it will have this advantage, that the Ministry will have to satisfy themselves in general that a particular proposal is not prejudicial to the whole lay-out. They will have to decide as to how much or how little proof they will require in advance of a town-planning scheme in order to satisfy themselves, and the inclusion of this provision in the Bill will call the attention of all those who promote building schemes—local authorities, building societies and others, including those engaged in private enterprise schemes—to the basic necessity of having regard to the future general development and the needs of the community whether they propose to build 25 houses or thousands of houses in a locality. I feel confident. I have the sympathy of the Minister and of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee for this Amendment.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
The hon. and gallant. Member has referred to an Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. MacFadyen) and myself which aims at the same result as his own Amendment. Whatever words may be employed I am sire the Minister is in sympathy with the object of the hon. and gallant Member. It is obvious that when we are sanctioning this huge expenditure of public money for the erection of 2,500,000 houses there should be intelligent anticipation of town-planning needs, and it would be folly to spend all or any part of this huge sum on schemes which would afterwards stand in the way of the reasonable development of our towns. I appeal to the Minister, if he has not the powers already, to take powers under this Bill whereby he can hold up schemes to ensure that they shall not prejudice future development. We know that a locality sometimes looks only to its own particular needs and has not the wider vision, and the Minister, in exercising such a power as I have indicated, would have the authority to say that such schemes must be carried out with regard to the wider interests of the community. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept these words I ask him to devise other words to accomplish an object which I think every Member of the Committee has at heart.
I desire to support the hon. and gallant Member for St. Alban's (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), and the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson), in the hope they have expressed that the Minister will find it possible to accept some form of words which will allow of building schemes being planned and co-ordinated, instead of being carried out simply according to the wishes of each particular locality without reference to the adjoining local authorities. I can see every argument in favour of planning and co-ordination, and I can see no argument against it.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 1, after the word "proposal," to insert the words "by a local authority."
I desire to have these words inserted, otherwise the Amendment will cut across the field of private enterprise. Taking the country as a whole, there may be hundreds of small builders buying land with the intention of building, perhaps, 30 houses each, and these will be hampered if they are required to go to the local authority or to the Ministry of Health so as to work into a comprehensive scheme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I have spent part of my life in town planning, and I am in favour of town planning, but we are now discussing a Housing Bill and not a Town Planning Bill. I quite agree that where a local authority sets out to build blocks of houses in thousands, a town-planning proposal ought to be submitted and approved of by the Ministry, but when we make this Amendment apply to proposals for the erection of 25 houses or more by any person in my submission it will ruin any prospect of private builders building to any extent.
I wish to express my sympathy with the object of the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), and the others who have spoken, but may I remind the Committee of how we stand in regard to this matter? There is no obligation at all on a rural district authority to prepare a town-planning scheme. There is no obligation on an urban authority with less than 20,000 population. There is an obligation on urban authorities with populations over that figure, but the Act of 1923 extended the period during which they might prepare schemes until the beginning of 1929. If we were to adopt the Amendment which is proposed, or any variety of it, we could not have it brought into force in any area excepting one controlled by an authority which had already adopted a town-planning scheme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because, as has been pointed out, we might in our anxiety to get the very best, retard the erection of houses, but if it will satisfy the promoters of the Amendment, as I hope it will, I will undertake, as Minister of Health, first of all, to draw the attention of the local authorities to the tremendous importance of the object underlying the Amendment, namely, that in the rebuilding of such a large part of the country particular care should be taken to see that the lay-out will he creditable to the country. If in the circumstances I have described and with the sympathy I have expressed, I can find any words before the Report stage to promote the object in view, then I will direct my attention to finding them.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to find words to put in, because the mere fact of this point being mentioned in the Measure itself will be of extraordinary value. A Measure of this description will have to be studied and worked out by all the local authorities in the country, and it will have great effect as propaganda. It is a good thing to put into it points which will have the effect of drawing the attention of local authorities to the object which Parliament had in view, even though the enforcement of that object by Act of Parliament may be a difficult matter. I quite understand it may be difficult for the Ministry to enforce what my hon. Friends have in view in every case, but I do not see that it need hold up the housing campaign. Surely the Ministry is in close touch with what every important local authority is doing in the matter of housing, and even where town planning schemes have not been formally submitted, the officials of the Ministry must know the intentions and the programmes of the important local authorities in this respect. From their knowledge and experience they ought to know where a difficulty is likely to arise, and nothing would be easier than for the Ministry to call the attention of surrounding local authorities to the housing scheme of a particular authority where difficulty was likely to arise and by conference or mutual arrangement a had lay-out could be avoided. I think that is the procedure which my hon. Friends have in view, and I hope the Minister will take what powers he can to give effect to what I believe is the universal wish in the Committee.
I desire to emphasise what the Noble Lord has said. We are all, including the Minister, anxious to deal with this subject, and to examine very carefully the Amendment so eloquently moved by the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle). Were it not that I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee, I think I could show some objections to it as it stands. I was in part responsible for the Town Planning Act of 1909, which was not the success we had anticipated, but I agree that we should ask the Minister to find words to carry out the general wish of the Committee, or to examine any words which anyone in the Committee may be able to put on the Paper before the Report stage to meet the case. In the circumstances, I think we should close with the offer which the right hon. Gentleman has made.
I have an Amendment down on Clause 3 in regard to this matter, but I do not propose to move that Amendment in view of the sympathetic reply which the Minister has given, and I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman very sincerely for that reply. I would like to ask him to go just a little further. What we want is a scheme for the re-planning of England, and I venture to suggest that the powers now possessed lay the Minister are hardly adequate. I should like to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman, if possible, an assurance that he will set up in the near future at least a strong Departmental Committee to examine the whole question of town planning with a view to the co-ordination of regional and other schemes.
I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), after the announcement of the Minister, not to press his Amendment, but I want to emphasise, and I am sure the whole Committee realises, the necessity of the Minister doing his utmost to find some words to put in the Bill dealing with this question. It is not often that I offer a Minister of this Government further powers, but here I am offering him further powers, and I am sure that his great Department will use those powers well. It is not yet quite sure that we have arrived at the best of all proposals with regard either to town planning or the provision of houses. This Bill is to run for another 15 years, if it is successful, and it may be that during that time many great improvements will be made in the construction and design of houses and in the lay-out of villages. I am strongly in favour of what are called satellite towns being provided in large numbers outside our great towns, so as to allow a large band of country space between the town and the satellite towns. I believe that that is one of the greatest possibilities for the spreading of our population and getting rid of the slums in our great towns. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he will consider sending out a circular to the local authorities on this question, but we want him to go further, and to consider with his advisers whether he cannot suggest words in the Bill. I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for St. Albans, who is an authority on town planning, will he only too pleased to confer with the Minister, and evolve, if possible, a satisfactory form of words. In the circumstances, I would ask him not to press his Amendment to a Division, hut to hold it over till the Report stage, when I hope the Minister will he able to give us a Clause.
I want to be quite clear on this point, and I do not want to buy a pig in a poke, and to be let off with a mere circular to the local authorities. I have served local authorities in two capacities, both as chairman and as medical officer of health, and I know that the amount of attention given by local authorities depends on the amount of pressure that stands behind them. I know it is easy for a Ministerial Department to shovel in Ministerial circulars by the dozen, and to get no results at all, except to be able to brandish them in the House of Commons and say: "This is what we have done." That is why I want some definite powers put in this Bill, but in deference, in rather doubtful deference, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks), and on the understanding strictly that there will be a very definite provision put in on the Report stage, I will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Before the Amendment is withdrawn, I should like to say that there are many of us in this House, and I think outside, who are not by any means sure that a sudden influx of these small brick properties is going to settle the question of housing for England. Changes in the habits of living—and in that respect human nature is more capricious than in anything else—are sure to occur, and what is it that produces the slums in our great cities? It is the production in far too great quantities of houses of a peculiar sort, of which people in another generation get tired, and so they sink to base uses and become slums. I hope the anticipation of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health will never be brought into actuality—I mean, that we shall be settled with 2,500,000 of these houses—and I think that in some way or another the right hon. Gentleman should pledge to us that he will not merely proceed blindly with the production and the endless reduplication of these little boxes, but that he will look ahead and, as one hon. Member said, plan for the whole of England. That is what is wanted, and not this reproduction of endless types of the same kind of houses, which will be discarded by a new generation, and rightly dis- carded. As I have pointed out before in this House, just look how completely we have changed our habits of life within a few years. A hundred years ago in Scotland people lived in 13 or 14-storey houses, without what we should think even the necessary sanitary arrangements, but 100 years, even 30 years, have changed the habits of our housing, and where now we require a bathroom in every little house, 30 or 40 years ago it was not even put into many of the best houses. Let not the right hon. Gentleman proceed too rapidly with multiplying these new-fashioned houses, in regard to which the one thing of which we can be certain is that they will be discarded and disliked by our grandchildren.
The Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson)—
In page 1, line 25, at the end, to add new Sub-section.
(3) In Sub-section (2) of the said Section one, one thousand and fifty superficial feet shall be substituted for nine hundred and fifty superficial feet, and nine hundred and eighty superficial feet shall be substituted for eight hundred and eighty superficial feet"—
is out of order.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
As you have ruled my Amendment out of order, Mr. Entwistle, may I ask the Minister whether it is possible for him in the break periods which he will have power to make later on, to provide for a reconsideration of the standard size of house which he is continuing for 15 years by this Clause? If it is impossible for us under the Financial Resolution to modify the size, I would like to ask the Minister whether it is possible to put anything in the Bill Which would permit of the reconsideration of the size when he has to reconsider the general financial position three years hence. Otherwise, we are stereotyping for 15 years to come the miserably inadequate size provided for in the 1923 Act. I do not want to repeat the various arguments that might be used in favour of the larger size, but I would submit to the Minister that in the negotiations with the local authorities there has been a very considerable difference of opinion as to whether the size in the 1923 Act, which is continued in this Bill, is really satisfactory, and I would like to ask him whether he is satisfied in the light of later information, that this miserable size for which he provides is really the size that he wants houses to be built in the next 50 years. If he is not satisfied on that point, will he put into a subsequent Clause a provision whereby he or the House can revise that limit, say, three years hence? I think the Minister should give the Committee some assurance on this question.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay some attention to what the hon. Member for West Middles brough (Mr. Thomson), has said, even if it be only on personal grounds, because no one has been more faithful in supporting the Minister of Health than has the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough. I can recall almost every Bill that has been in this House from the time the right hon. Gentleman began and I have never known the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough put up a finger against anything that has been suggested by the right, hon. Gentleman and his Government. Therefore, I really do hope, on that ground alone, that attention will be paid to the hon. Member's remarks. I have known the hon. Member for some time, and he has never deviated from this object of his to increase the size of these houses, and I must say that I am surprised, having regard to all the things that he has said in the House, that he could see his way to support the Second Reading of this Bill and vote for the Financial Resolution. No doubt, he will be o able to reconcile his views and his acts to the satisfaction of his constituents, but, apart from that, I was one of those, and I think there were several Members or this side also, who did take exception to the size, and, for myself, personally, I would like to have seen it increased. I must say that it would not give me much satisfaction or even hope if the right hon. Gentleman made a promise as to what should happen in three years' time, but if it be a satisfaction to the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough, well and good. I hope the Minister of Health will take the personal ground which I have mentioned into account.
I hope I may be allowed to say something on this question, and that is that I am in entire agreement with the Minister of Health in holding on to the 950 feet, because he has to cater for people who cannot afford to rent large houses, but I want to suggest as a compromise that I think it ought to be a logical conclusion that the smaller subsidy of £75 permitted under this Bill to private enterprise shall apply to houses of 1,050 feet, so as to differentiate between, the larger and smaller subsidies in respect to area.
My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) called attention to the great change that has taken place in public opinion during the last 100 years, but I can draw attention to a much more remarkable change of opinion, and that is the change that has taken place in the opinion of the Labour party during the last 12 months. A year ago, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) was piloting his Housing Bill through this House, we were held up to contumely and scorn by the present Minister of Health on this specific point of the size of the houses that we were providing under that Bill. All the vitriol of the Clyde was poured on the heads of Unionist Ministers and Members, night after night and week after week. We were told that we were heartless, and inhuman, and selfish, that we had never lived in such houses ourselves, and that we were unfit to legislate for the people if we really believed that people could live in such houses. Yet now the right hon. Gentleman himself, when he is faced with the housing problem, not only proposes to continue the houses of the size laid down by my right hon. Friend, but he has taken care to tie this House up with a Financial Resolution so that no proposal can be made that the size of these houses should be increased. Surely that is a very remarkable conversion, indeed. After we have witnessed such a change in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman himself and of his supporters in the Labour party, I do not think we need despair of converting them to anything at all. But Perhaps the Committee will allow me to draw attention to this fact, that we have now a patent admission from the Labour party that their chief and fundamental objection to my right hon. Friend's Bill of 1923 has fallen to the ground. If they admit that it is plain it was wise and right, and they are following it.
May I remind the Committee, in reply to what has been said about the pouring of vitriol, that that process succeeded in effecting a remarkable conversion, which was the conversion of the Bill, and not the conversion of the Labour party. The Bill upon which I poured my denunciation was a Bill having a house with a maximum of 850 ft. The pouring of that vitriol expanded that 850 ft. to 950 ft., and it is that expanded Bill which is being pushed through now.
I am told, 816 or 817 superficial feet. Now I want to say a word about the question put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson). I am advised there will be nothing to prevent the size of the house being revised when we are considering the subsidy terms in 1927. Whether it would be possible to insert words to that effect in the Bill which is now before the House, I am not quite certain, but, as I am advised. in any ease the words are unnecessary. There is no doubt that between now and 1927 we will do very well if we erect all the 950 feet houses which we would erect if there was no maximum at all, so that no great injury can be done in the course of the three years. I hope that that explanation will satisfy the lofty ideal, I say so in all sincerity, of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough.
I am very glad to hear the statement of the Minister as to the possibility of enlarging the size of the houses. I am not at all concerned about the average size, but what I am concerned about is the very real feeling in the minds of many thousands of people in the country who have the possibility of getting larger houses. Round about Rugby there are many districts where the feeling is very strong and that was shown to me at the last election. Much discussion seems to suggest that the whole of Britain is centred in Glasgow and the Clyde but, at the last election more questions were put to me about these larger-sized houses than any other single problem. I am very glad to welcome the statement of the Minister that there may be a possibility of enlargement in 1927.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY:
As it would appear that the pouring of a little vitriol upon the Bill of last year resulted in an increase of the size of those houses, which the right hon. Gentleman called rabbit hutches, from 850 to 950 feet, I could wish that he would pour a little more upon his own Bill, and so carry still further the size of the houses, and not stereotype the present size. I can only speak as one amongst many Members who represent local authorities when I say that we are very anxious to build larger houses, if possible. I know that the Chairman of the Housing Committee of my own borough has felt great difficulty in the way of building houses that were really satisfactory. If the right hon. Gentleman brought in a proposal—and the Committee considered it, without regard to party—for this is not a party matter—to meet this desire to build better houses, I feel quite sure that the country would he very satisfied, especially if the Minister is enabled, before this Bill reaches its final stage, to put words into the Bill which will make it clear that he is not stereotyping for 15 years this type of houses as the largest possible house.
As I understand it, the Minister has just said that he might be able, at one of the three yearly periods, in view of the circumstances that then exist, to modify the size of the houses for which subsidies are to be granted. I should ask him whether this could be done without a new Act of Parliament? If he says that it can be so done without a new Act of Parliament, can he refer me to words in this Bill which will enable him to do it?
May I also put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, as to whether it would not be possible to arrange, in regard to the subsidy, some sort of sliding scale so that where the local authorities, owing to the peculiar circumstances of their neighbourhood, do wish to build larger houses, they shall be able to build them with the reduced subsidy?
I should like to say in reply to the question put to me by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) that what would be required would be legislative provision. What is standing in the way is the agreement with the local authorities. When that agreement expires so far as this particular point is concerned, and when we come to review, in the light of the then existing circumstances, what the subsidy is to be for the next period, that would be a favourable opportunity for reconsidering the size of the houses.
My question was only directed to this: I say that when the conditions arise under which the right hon. Gentleman may agree with the local authorities to alter the subsidy that there is power for him to make an Order, which needs to be approved by Parliament, whereby the subsidy can be altered, but in the Clause which lays that down there is no provision for altering the size of the houses.
Something has been said about the pouring of vitriol, but the success of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health in enlarging the houses to 950 feet seems to have brought about a condition more of honey than of vitriol. I do want to note quite clearly that under the Money Resolution and under the provisions of this Bill there is no power whatever to alter the size of the houses. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) is, I think, quite correct. No new Minister of Health, even if the matter were approved by this House, could possibly do without another Money Resolution and another Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, we understand, is going, as he threatened a little while ago, to have a housing campaign in the country.
Sir W. JOYNSON-HIKS:
A campaign far the vilification of the Tories and the Liberals and all their works! Is he going to make it a part, of his campaign to have larger houses than 950 feet? We want to know, and it is right that he should tell us. Is he going to introduce, if he has the opportunity, into this Bill words to increase the size of the houses? I should like to ask quite definitely before he starts his campaign. What guarantee is he able to give that he will be in a position to enlarge the size of the houses? The right hon. Gentleman is fond of stating what he is going to do, and I think we in the House of Commons, quite respectfully, may ask for first knowledge of what he is going to do.
In view of the very confident predictions as to the Parliamentary success of his own party which the right hon. Baronet is making from the benches opposite, I rather think that it would be far more interesting to know what he is going to do. I would suggest to the right hon. Baronet and to the Minister that there is no difficulty presented here because, when the time comes for revising the subsidy, whoever is Minister of Health has merely got to introduce an Estimate for the purpose of giving a subsidy to houses of 1,020 feet, and that Estimate, when passed, becomes an Act of Parliament and modifies any Act that may be on the Statute Book, and consequently gives the necessary authority to increase the size.