I beg to move, in page 3, line 34, to leave out from the word "undertake" to the word "that" in line 35.
The effect of the Amendment would be that the special conditions which are laid down in this Clause would be accepted by the local authority, and the intervention of the Minister would not be required for the purpose of laying down the method by which the undertaking should be given. There is a further Amendment on the Paper to leave out the same words and to insert instead thereof the words
in accordance with rules made by the Minister and approved by the Treasury.
That Amendment is in the name of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts). The object of my Amendment is to diminish central control. So far as I understand the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member opposite, its object is rather to increase central control. The reason I suggest that the Committee should omit these words, first of all, is that the conditions as laid down in the Clause are perfectly clear, and it is altogether unnecessary for the Minister to intervene in the matter at all. What the local authorities are required to do in the terms of the Statute is so clearly laid down that the intervention of the Minister seems to me to be quite gratuitous. Furthermore, if hon. Members will look at the conditions, it will be observed that there is provision in at least three of the conditions for the intervention of the Minister himself. First of all, in paragraph (c), which deals with restrictions upon sale, there is a provision for the consent of the Minister, which may be absolute or subject to such special considerations as the Minister may think proper. Then, in paragraph (d), there is, in relation to the Fair Wages
Clause, a reference to a form prescribed by the Minister; and, to take paragraph (e), there is a phrase,
At the appropriate normal rents
which is interpreted in Sub-section (3), and in Sub-section (3), again, there is a reference to rules prescribed by the Minister. It seems to me, therefore, that if you take the four special conditions with the Sub-section, interpreting the third one, the Minister has sufficient control without these words at all, and it is because I regard the intervention of the Minister, under these circumstances, as unnecessary, that I move the Amendment.
I am sure that the hon. Member will agree with me that in dealing with large sums of money it is very important that we should observe the rules of careful consideration, and I can contemplate the speech which he would have delivered had the Clause not contained the words which we propose.
The object of the control by the Minister is not to enhance the status of that personality, but to obtain something in the nature of uniformity in administration. Here we have stated that we want to know what is the undertaking, and we want something in the, nature of uniformity. The local authority will want to know the nature of the undertaking which the Minister expects them to give. The control of the Minister would be unnecessary if he were not responsible for the fund, but I am afraid, so long as you are spending large sums of public money, you will require something in the nature of control. The next Amendment goes in exactly the opposite direction. It wants to establish even further control, and, although it seeks to control the Department for which I am now responsible, I think it is not altogether unreasonable, and I have no serious objection to it, because, where public money is concerned, it is perfectly reasonable that the Treasury should have the right to approve the rules that are laid down. Therefore, if the hon. Member can favour the Committee by not pressing his Amendment, I will accept the next Amendment if that will satisfy the Committee.
I really want to know what the Minister contemplates. The words as they stood were
in such manner as the Minister may require.
I want to know what was contemplated when these words were put into the Clause. As the Clause stands, there are certain conditions perfectly clearly laid down. The local authority either accepts these conditions or it does not. If it accepts them, then the form in which it accepts them is a matter of indifference, and 1 do not see what rules the right hon. Gentleman could lay down to strengthen the matter. I prefer to have these matters in the Statute and not to leave them to departmental action. These conditions are either adequate or inadequate. If the right hon. Gentleman requires some further protection for the public purse, that protection should be contained in the Statute and should not be left to departmental action. I would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, now that he is going to accept the words suggested by the hon. Member for Hereford, to indicate what is the nature of the rules which he has in view. What rules does he conceive to be necessary in order, first, to lay down what the undertaking shall be, and, secondly, to hold the local authorities to their bargain? In my view, if you take the Clause as it stands without these words, you have clearly the conditions and a means on the part of the Minister of enforcing the undertaking. I should like to know in what respect either the form of the Bill or the alternative form which he now accepts is going to strengthen it.
Let us take Clause 2—
Where in pursuance of proposals approved by the Minister.
These proposals undoubtedly are intended to contain particulars of the houses. Before the right hon. Gentleman approves
of the proposals, he must know what the houses are. Here we are dealing almost exclusively with the conditions of the tenure and the rents of the houses, and it seems to me quite unnecessary, as he has in the original proposal the detail of the houses, to put this further in the rules which he has in view.
If I say a few words on this Amendment, it will be unnecessary for me to say anything on the Amendment which follows. I feel, from the point of view of the local authority as well as the point of view of the Minister, that they will want to know definitely what sort of agreement they will have to enter into, and they will certainly want an undertaking which goes into much more detail than the Sub-section. Therefore, it will be incumbent upon the Minister to prepare some rules which will ensure a common form of agreement which all local authorities will be able to see, and so that they will know exactly what that form of agreement will be. We have not asked the Minister to lay his rules on the Table of the House, because we say the general lines are set out in the Bill. It is a question of working out the details which the local authorities will desire to know. We have in our Amendment put in the provision that these agreements shall be supervised by the Treasury. That is why, so far as I am concerned, I shall oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member, on the understanding that the Minister will accept the Amendment in my name.
I think that what the hon. Member is really aiming at will be attained if the Minister accept the next Amendment. The objection that I have to the Bill, as it stands, is that it seems to me that it is overloaded with an immense mass of detail. Whenever a case arose either under this or another Clause in which the local authority wanted to act in a certain way then special appli- cation would have to be sent in by that local authority to the Ministry, and if there is anything likely to overburden a Housing Act it is that spirit of bureaucracy of which complaint has so often been made in connection with past Acts. I think the insertion of these words would enable the Minister to draw up a form under which the local authorities might make their applications. It would be easy to lay down a specific form for such applications and then if the application is made on that form and contains all the necessary particulars the Minister would be able to accept it out of hand without going into further details.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 36, at the end, to insert the words
(a) that the materials required for the construction of such houses may be purchased in the cheapest market wherever situate.
I am urged to move this Amendment by the fact that the Report of the Building Trade Committee, on which this Bill is largely founded, lays it down that, in the opinion of the Committee, it is extremely desirable, in the national interest, that no foreign manufactured goods should be used on houses built under a Government subsidy. There is not an hon. Member of this House who is not perfectly well aware that previous housing schemes have broken down very largely because of the rise in prices of materials required for the carrying out of the schemes. It is essential, if a scheme is to be a success, that there should be an adequate provision of cheap material, and that is impossible if the building trade of this country is to be granted a complete monopoly of the supply of building materials. I am aware that the Minister, while he has not agreed with this proposal, has not very strongly condemned it, but I should be more happy in my own mind if there were inserted in the Bill itself a provision that materials should be brought from any place where they can be purchased at the cheapest rate, provided they are suitable materials. I recollect last year making a speech on this particular subject. I Was looking at it only to-day, and I was struck with surprise at the large amount of common sense contained in the remarks which I addressed to the late Minister of Health. I cannot say that I found a very sympathetic hearing at that time, but I have great hope that the present Minister of Health may look upon my proposal with a kindlier eye. It is evident, if we are to have an adequate supply of houses, that there must be an adequate supply of cheap material.
If the Noble Lord will inquire, he will find that cheap labour does not always go with cheap material. If hon. Members will look at the Report of the Committee on Trusts, which sat some years ago, they will find on two or three pages of that Report a definite statement that foreign competition goes a considerable distance towards warding off and preventing the evil effects of trade competition. I think that statement will be found particularly in the Minority Report. It will also be found in a Report submitted for the consideration of the Committee by Mr. John Hilton, who declared that there was ample evidence to show that foreign competition acted as a check against combinations in a trade to raise prices unduly.
That there are combinations dealing with building materials, no one will deny. Later on in the same Report will be found a long list of materials used in building, some of which are uncontrolled, some being partially controlled and some entirely controlled. Among the entirely controlled will be found earthenware pipes, sanitary earthenware and lead pipes, Portland cement and wrought iron tubes and boilers, and as a result of the control there is an absolute monopoly given to the building material manufacturers of this country in these articles which are required for building houses under this scheme. However much hon. Members opposite may be in favour of a protective tariff, I think they would be unwilling to grant a monopoly which can only have the effect of ruining the housing scheme which they have said they are anxious to assist to the best of their ability. I very much fear that with this paragraph in the Report of the Building Trade Committee on the scheme they have in their mind's eye a beautiful vision of years of monopoly for themselves in these materials. Although, as I say, I have no doubt whatever that the Minister will do whatever he can to counter that plan, I should be very much happier, and I am sure all those on this side would be, if there were some provision—not necessarily the provision I and my Friends recommend in this Amendment—made by the Minister of Health in the Bill to allow of materials coming from abroad, and not restrict them to monopolies of manufacturers.
I wish to assure the hon. Member that I am in perfect and whole-hearted sympathy with the object of this Amendment. As, however, the Amendment, as it appears on the Order Paper, will require some redrafting, 1 do not propose to accept it, but if the hon. Gentleman will withdraw it, and allow the subject to be discussed on a new Clause, which stands in the name of the right hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman), I will consider this point on that new Clause, which, I think, will be more comprehensive.
Sir BEDDOE REES:
I beg to move, in page 4, line 1, after the word "thereof," to insert the words "or carry on any trade or business therein."
I think the Minister might accept this Amendment. The whole object is to prevent cottages erected under this Bill being used for ordinary trade purposes. Possibly I can explain what I want by giving an illustration. I recently had occasion to take an interest; in s. large block of houses, and, some time after the houses were built, to our amazement we found at least 50 of them were being used as small shop premises, doing considerable damage to legitimate tradesmen in the vicinity. We have heard a large amount of argument in favour of parlour houses. Surely, if parlours are erected, they should be used for domestic purposes rather than be turned into small shops. I think some words of this sort ought to be put in the Bill to prevent parlours being turned into small shop premises, to the detriment of the people living in those cottages, to the detriment, I think, of the housing scheme, and, certainly, to the detriment of the tradespeople in the vicinity.
I am sure the Committee will not expect me, after my emphatic declaration in favour of the principles of Free Trade, to veer right round and adopt Protection. I cannot accept this Amendment, because I am afraid—at any rate, I hope—that for some years to come the Ministry of Health will be wholly engaged, and will not have time to look after all the women who are selling ginger-beer and Woodbines in the houses erected by the local authorities. I hope my hon. Friend will not ask me to violate my economic conscience by accepting this Amendment.
It seems to me there is a little more in the Amendment than this. This is a question as to whether you are going to allow people to carry on business in subsidised houses. I think that if people are to carry on business in competition with others, they are not entitled to carry on that business in a house rented under State subsidised conditions. It is unfair to other people. If it were not a question of State subsidy, I would agree with the Free Trade principle, but we are dealing with subsidised houses, and while the whole case for the Bill is that there are a certain number of people too poor to pay an economic rent for a decent house, there should not so any case for allowing them to carry on business in a house subsidised by the State. It is unfair to other people whose houses are not so subsidised, and I submit that the right hon. Gentleman has not considered all the implications of the Amendment.
The hon. Member has raised an important point. Consider for a moment the difficult position of one of these tenants in an agricultural cottage with a large piece of land attached, if he had to eat all the produce he grew. He could not keep ducks. He could not even keep a patient ox if he wanted to. I live in a country district where many of the cottages are partly used for trade. There are the local cobbler, the local wheelwright, and so forth, and to put a provision of this sort in a Bill of this nature—
That is just what I do not want—to put people under the local authority. I am a little more in favour of freedom than hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are everlastingly trying in this and other Bills to fasten restrictions on people. If we are going to have a Bill of this kind, and spend a large amount of money in providing houses for the people at a cheap rent, do let us have as few restrictions as possible. Let the tenants live in their houses, and carry on their little businesses, and do their best to earn a decent living.
There is another point of view. In many of these small towns, as well as in agricultural districts, you will find a dressmaker, usually poor, carrying on her work. Are we going to forbid that necessary work to be done? Then, shoe-making is often carried on in cottages, and if this Amendment be accepted, it will be within the power of local authorities and landlords to prevent that kind of thing being done. I sincerely hope the Committee will not agree to this Amendment.
I am very sorry to intervene again, but I wish to point out that the London County Council, which is at present controlled by the party of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, lays this down as a condition in the housing estates at the present moment. I know of a casein the last few days of a window cleaner who was keeping a ladder in his house, and was prevented from doing so by the Conservative party in the London County Council.
Sir B. REES:
I wanted to bring the local authority under the same Regulation as the public utility society. Whenever the Public Works Loans Board issue a loan to any public utility society, they put in the condition that the cottage shall be used for domestic purposes only. The local authority will have power to grant permission in certain cases, and I fail to see any hardship whatever.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 3, at the end, to insert the words,
provided that such consent shall not be unreasonably withheld.
What my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), on whose behalf I move this Amendment, proposes to do is simply to bring the relations of landlord and tenant, where the landlord is the local authority, and the tenant is a tenant under this Bin, on the same lines as an ordinary landlord and an ordinary tenant. In practically every lease or agreement of tenancy—in fact, I am not sure it is not compulsory now under the new property law—this Clause is now to be found, that consent for under-letting, not only the whole of the house, but part of it, is not to be unreasonably withheld. It simply provides that, in a case where the local authority are thought to have taken
rather a hard view of the circumstances, it would come to be a question as to whether or not they had been reasonable or unreasonable in exercising their authority. I would point out that this does not take the matter out of the purview of the rest of the Bill. The rest of the Bill would govern the conditions of letting. It would simply be that in the case of a mere question of letting or subletting, even a room in a house, the tenant might have the safeguard of the local authority being required to act reasonably in giving their decision on the point.
The conditions suggested by the hon. Member are not quite the same. If this Amendment were accepted, any person could challenge the local authority and say that consent had been unreasonably withheld, and could take the matter to the Courts. I cannot think that, under the circumstances for which we are providing by this Act, it is desirable that we should put in anything which would encourage litigation. On the contrary, I am quite sure that this House would desire to keep the arrangements as simple as possible and to put this matter in the hands of the local authority. It is difficult to conceive that the local authority would unreasonably withhold consent. It would not be in their real interest to do so. I suggest that the Clause would be much better without the addition of the words suggested.
I am very sorry that the hon. Member has not seen his way to accept this Amendment. Why is the Minister trying to put in this paragraph (b)? The Clause does not represent anything more than is the usual practice of any local authority, in so far as it is their duty to sec that their housing is not overcrowded. By putting in the paragraph (b), you are putting an extra obligation on the local authority to tighten up its rules so as to prevent any family living in the house of a local authority from letting any rooms to lodgers, or doing anything with a spare room of the house which might put the tenant in a better position to pay his rent. What we want in matters like this is flexibility. We do not want the housing which is done by local authorities to be more tied up with landlords' restrictions than the housing provided by a private landlord. Take the case of London. Over the greater part of London, in regard to every house that is being let by a private landlord, there is the implied understanding that lodgers may be taken in, and lodgers are being taken in everywhere. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are!"]
That has, I admit, produced a good deal of undesirable consequences. There has been overcrowding. What is wanted is a rather tighter hand kept over the number of lodgers taken in in relation to the space; But to go to the other extreme and to tell local authorities that they must try, as far as they possibly can, to prevent their tenants from taking in lodgers, is most unreasonable. Flexibility is desired, and I hope the Committee will endeavour to give the greatest amount of flexibility by accepting this Amendment.
I urge the Minister to accept this Amendment. Speaking from my own experience, I do not think that it is at all safe to say that local authorities will not be unreasonable. My experience is that you very soon get into a state of affairs where they say, "We never do this," or "We never do that." It is most important that the tenant should be able to have resort to the aid of the County Court Judge, if necessary. I am not in the least impressed with the remark that we do not want to create litigation. In one sense every Act of Parliament, every method of stopping abuse, is encouraging litigation, because you have to go to the Courts to enforce it. I do see a really serious danger of certain local authorities acting unreasonably. Some local authorities get a strong political tendency one way or another. You might have one local authority objecting to aristocrats as lodgers, or you might have another which would fear that the lodgers that were going to be taken in would be Communists. In the general interests the Minister ought to accept this very reasonable Amendment.
There is only one point in this Amendment, and it has nothing to do with taking in pr not taking in lodgers. It is the sort of Amendment which, as an old hand, I have had to resist in seven or eight Acts of Parliament for which I have been more or less responsible. This does not alter the reasonable-ness or unreasonableness of the local authority. I do not think that a Communist would have very much chance in any Court if he said he wanted the house for the purpose of Communism. I have always protested against legislation which adds unnecessarily to litigation and increases the fees which are obtainable by lawyers. If you cannot trust to the reasonableness of the local authority in dealing with this matter, then you had better throw the Bill away altogether. If we can trust the local authorities and the Ministry of Health we ought to do so. I urge the Minister not to accept the Amendment.
I think that the consent of the Minister of Health to this reasonable Amendment has been unreasonably withheld. If we adopt this Amendment, the local authorities will know that the person to whom the Clause refers has redress, and they will not be so unreasonable as they might be if they knew that the person has no redress. I can imagine a large amount of spite and pettiness coming into this matter, but if the local authority knew that in such circumstances their action might be shown to be an unreasonable refusal, and that the person concerned has the right of redress, the chances are that the local authority will not be unreasonable. This is a preventive Amendment. If the Amendment is in the Bill, the chance is that less injustice will be done than if the- Amendment is not there. As a rule where a discretion is allowed as a kind of final judgment, there ought to be some saving Clause like this.
The argument really in favour of this Amendment was the speech of the right hon. Member for Rusholme, (Mr. Masterman). If I may say so, he lives in the dark ages when he was a Minister, and now he comes forward as an apostle of bureaucracy of the narrowest kind. These houses are usually let by some official. We all know what happens. This Amendment is intended to get at the officials of the local authority. It is not the wise, elected representatives of the people who settle this matter; it is the officials of the local authority, and unless we have words of this kind, which are words of warning, we shall get all kinds of back-stair influence brought to play. In the interests of freedom and in the interests of fair play, it is only right that the private citizen should be able to take the great and almighty local authority into the Court. Why should the local authority always be immune? I hope that my hon. Friend will go to a Division on this Amendment, and that it will get considerable support.
I hope that the Committee will not desire to vote upon this Amendment, because there is a real objection to it which hitherto has not been mentioned. The whole object of this Bill is that these houses should be let to the working classes at very low rents. This expression, "such consent shall not be reasonably withheld,' is very well known in law, and it would be of necessity enforced by the Courts. A person might enter into an agreement with a local authority to take a house at a perfectly proper rent, the sort of rent that is anticipated in the Art, and once he got into possession, he might, next day, under the old rule, be able to sublet the house at a rent which is entirely opposed to the whole principle of the Act, taking a tenant who would pay him an exorbitant rent—the very thin a which this Bill was devised to prevent. Fie would then be able to go to the Court, and say, "I have a tenant who is eminently desirable. He is a person who will pay three or four times the rent that I am paying." And the Court would have no option. The Court would have to say, "There is no reason why this tenant should not be accepted. He is a responsible tenant: he is paying a much better rent—and is able to pay a much better rent."
There might be all sorts of things that would arise, under which the Court would have no option except to prevent the operation of this Act in its real intention. If it was merely a question of flexibility I would raise no objection, but the real objection is much greater. If this phrase which is thoroughly well known in the Courts is accepted, every Judge will know that it is binding upon him, and there will be nothing in the world to prevent a person going to a local authority, taking one of these houses at the moderate, rent which the Bill is intended to ensure, and the very next day sub-letting it to another person, avoiding all responsibility under the Bill, and then saying to the local authority, "It is the decision of the Court that I can sub-let. You cannot withhold consent. This tenant is in every way satisfactory." If this Amendment were accepted it would go a long way to defeat the whole object of the Bill, which is that these houses shall go to the working classes at reasonable rents. I trust that the Committee will not feel that this Amendment is intended merely to give flexibility. It is most important and most vital that the Committee should not pass this Amendment under the idea that it is of small importance. None of the observations made in support of the Amendment has really touched the question at issue, which is one of great importance.
That goes to the whole root of the matter. Directly the local authority have made the arrangement of tenancy with such a tenant, they cannot get rid of him because he wants to sub-let. The next day he may say, "It is true I am your tenant, but I have an offer to sub-let, and I come to you for your permission, and you do not give it to me, which is unreasonable. I can go to the Court and say that I have a very suitable tenant. You cannot refuse me."
Would the Court not be justified in saying that the authorities had very good reason to withhold their consent if a man was to get an exorbitant rent or to extort key money or a fine from some poor person?
A fallacy lies at the root of the opposition to the Amendment. These are not long tenancies, but weekly tenancies. You cannot let a weekly tenancy on a premium, or sub-let it. As these are weekly tenancies, the local authority can terminate them at the end of a week. Unless the Minister says that he intends to create long tenancies, to grant leases, the speech of the learned Attorney-General has no relevance to the Bill. There is nothing whatever in the Bill about it. Ordinary working-class houses have been let on weekly tenancies from time immemorial, and they will continue to be so let. We move this Amendment in order to give greater elasticity and in order to deal with the question logically. The Attorney-General has referred to the tenant who would get a large amount of key money or a large additional rent. Why, there will be 2,500,000 of these tenants if the Bill is the success that the Minister hopes it to be! There will be lots of houses to let. We wish to raise the question whether a man is to be prevented by the autocracy of any local authority from having any lodgers in his house.
Anyone who knows the conditions throughout the country knows that in an enormous number of working-class houses lodgers are taken. Many working-class families prefer to have a lodger. They get a fair rent from him and often almost as much rent as they pay for the whole house. The wife of the house gives a certain amount of help in looking after, say, a young man lodger. If the young men of the country are not able to get these lodgings where else are they to live? The Minister does not intend to provide houses for all the single men of the country. This Bill will give an autocracy to the local authority to make all kinds of rules, which will prevent the tenant of one of these houses from letting, not merely the house, but a single room in it. It happens that when I was Minister of Health, I found that certain local authorities had, in regard to houses built with public money, made orders forbidding any of the tenants from taking in lodgers. The consequence was that many elderly people without children were unable to avail themselves of the houses, because they would have been able to pay the rent only by subletting a surplus room or surplus rooms.
I know that the hon. Gentleman is a great authority on housing in Manchester, but I ask him to realise this: I went over many of these houses which had three bedrooms. Unless there was a family of children the tenant could nearly always provide one bedroom as accommodation for a lodger. Why should he not do so? Such a tenant is often obliged to let a room or rooms in order to pay the rent. He confers a public benefit on the community by finding room where these young men can live. This is not merely the legal question that the Attorney-General seems to suggest. I agree with him that it is an important question. A suggestion was made the other day that the Minister of Health should leave certain questions to the free vote of the House. In spite of the speech made by the Minister yesterday, I cannot imagine that if this Amendment were carried against him he would fling the whole country into the turmoil of a General Election. I do not think that we can have a General Election on the question whether the local authorities should act reasonably or unreasonably. That being so, every hon. Member opposite can vote according to his conscience and be satisfied that his action will not have any disastrous effect. In any event, we propose to ask the House to express its views on this Amendment.
I hope that the Committee will reject the Amendment. As a, member of a local authority, and as one who has sat on a Housing Sub-Committee to consider applications for sub-tenancies, my experience teaches me that it is a great advantage for the local authority to have control. There are many considerations with which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) has not dealt. In the building of State houses the Ministry only allows 15 per cent. of the net rent for repairs, and, if the houses are let out in a manner not intended by their design, the question of repairs and maintenance allowance by the Ministry becomes a great consideration for local authorities. Therefore, each local authority, in considering the question of tenancies, has to take into consideration several things which are of importance in regard to the subsidy scheme. There is another consideration which the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten. There is still a scarcity of houses, and if the local authority has not discretion to determine whether a sub-tenant shall go in or not, and on what terms he shall go in, we shall have inflated rents. In our experience we have them already. We have cases of people tenanting a house of five rooms at 25s. a week, and subletting one room at 22s. 6d. a week. If the Amendment were carried, the local authority would not have the right to prevent such a thing being done. There are to-day many people occupying upstair apartments which are not designed for such occupation. In such cases there is a danger that repairs and renewals will far exceed the sum allocated for the purpose by the Ministry. My experience is that it is essential that the Housing Committee in each district should have absolute authority over the terms of tenancy, and that failing that, there is a danger of the whole scheme being ruined.
I hope that this question will not create even a division in the Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman's sole desire is to protect the liberty of a family to take in a lodger in suitable circumstances, I do not think that the Government have the slightest objection. But surely, in order to preserve that liberty, we are not going to throw the door open to all the abuses that might be associated with the acceptance of this Amendment. If it will satisfy the Committee to protect the liberty of the tenant, to give reasonable treatment to the tenant to the extent desired by the right hon. Gentleman, I can promise to take steps on the Report stage to give that protection to that extent.
I think that the Minister has met us to a very large extent. The object in view might be accomplished by leaving out of the Clause the words "or any parts thereof." There are several other questions being left over for the Report stage, but I am prepared to ask my hon. Friend to withdraw this Amendment in order that the matter may be fully considered on Report, on the understanding that the Minister will endeavour so to frame the Clause as to meet the case of the man who wants to let one or more rooms to a lodger without the necessity of that man having to go to the local authority.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 4, to leave out paragraph (c).
This Amendment has rather an interesting history. It was put down originally by the right hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman), supported by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson). Their names remained attached to it for many days. A few days ago I and some of my friends attached our names to the Amendment. Forthwith the names of the original Members disappeared.
We shall be very interested to hear an explanation of the disappearance, if the right hon. Member for Rusholme deigns to give it. The main purpose in moving this Amendment is to secure a general discussion at the outset before we deal in detail with this very important Sub-section, with regard to which there are many Amendments on the Paper. We wish to discuss, first of all, the general principle. An Amendment to leave out the paragraph, I assume, will allow us to travel rather wide in our discussion. First, I ask the Minister to be good enough to explain to us exactly what his idea is with regard to the position of the owner-occupier. Some of us look upon it as a matter of very great importance that the owner-occupier should be encouraged. I will give one reason why we look with apprehension at the idea of 2,500,000 houses belonging to local authorities being let by those local authorities to tenants direct. From those 2,500,000 houses there would be a tremendous lot of political pressure and influence that could be brought by the tenants upon their landlords, the local authorities. That would bring a very undesirable aspect into municipal life. On this paragraph there are several other Amendments to be moved. I have tried to browse among the Amendments, but I have found it very difficult to ascertain exactly what is proposed by the Members whose names are attached to the Amendments.
As far as I can see, the intention of the Minister in this part of the Bill is that there shall be a general bias against sales by local authorities. I think that possibly a general discussion upon the Sub-section may throw some light upon the views of all sections of the Committee upon this very important question, and probably save a great deal of time in discussing detailed Amendments afterwards. It is with that object of getting a general discussion, rather than with the object of pressing this Amendment, that I beg to move the Amendment.
I can assure the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) that we do not object when he adds his name to our good Amendments, nor do we object, but we welcome his support in the Lobby when we go into the Lobby to carry these Amendments—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]—as we have done frequently during this Session. If he will devote his conspicuous intelligence to a more complete study of the subject, on which he has very rightly raised a general discussion, he will see that we have put down Amendments which do make possible the idea which we have both in common and which may commend themselves to the whole of this Committee. If the Amendment of the hon. Member were carried, then, under the terms of the Bill as it stands, there would be no conceivable possibility in any circumstances of ever selling one of these municipal houses. All the conditions would be covered entirely by paragraphs (a), (b) and (d), none of which permit the sale of houses, and though paragraph (c), in its present form, does not meet the desire of the majority of the Committee, or even, I believe, of the Minister himself, yet, as it stands, it does allow at least a loophole, and there is a possibility, with a friendly Minister of Health in charge, of a municipal authority getting some of these houses sold to the occupier. Omit paragraph (c), and that possibility would disappear. Therefore, without consequential Amendments this Amendment would be an absurd proposition.
I do suggest two points. The first is that I do not believe that there is any conspicuous party in the Committee who wish to prevent the municipal authorities from soiling these houses in a certain proportion, especially to the occupier, and we wish to have it put into the Bill, as it were, in a way opposite to that in which it is put in paragraph (c) so that municipal authorities would be able to sell these houses under regulations. On the other hand everyone, I think, will agree that it will be a profound mistake merely to say that the municipal authorities shall sell these houses as they please without regulation. The result would be a renewal of something like what was known as "the ramp" which followed the Addison scheme of 1919. The municipal authorities could sell houses at a profit, after getting a State subsidy, to people who could buy them and then sell them to other people at a profit, and so there was a kind of extraction of money from the whole community, giving great advantage to speculative persons and profiteers who had no right to such advantage at all.
Therefore in our reasoned Amendment we realise that the Minister of Health must have some control as to the regulations under which such houses shall be sold. Therefore we have in our Amendment put down the conditions under which we think local authorities should be compelled to sell houses, and also the conditions under which the Minister of Health should sanction them. We are not committed to the actual words but this is the general system which we want to call to the attention of the Committee and the Minister of Health:
That the local authority shall be empowered to sell the houses subject to such stipulations as the Minister thinks fit "—
and then it goes on the words of the Clause
including if the Minister thinks fit stipulations for the reduction of the amount for the curtailment of the duration of any contribution payable by the Minister in respect of the house, or for both reduction and curtailment.
To that we add an Amendment which has been very much pressed for by the municipal corporations and which stands in the name of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) to add the words
but so nevertheless that the contribution in respect of any house sold before the expiration of a period of twenty years from the date when that contribution first became payable shall not be reduced below an amount of six pounds payable annually for the remainder of that period.
That is to maintain the principle of the Chamberlain Act of last year as far as sale is concerned. If, in substance, these two things are put into the Bill local authorities will be able to sell houses under conditions, as I hope in the main if not exclusively, to the occupying tenants. I have had the experience, which I suppose is that of every Mem-
ber of the Committee who has taken any active part in this matter, of receiving, if not thousands, at least hundreds, of letters from men all over the country asking that an Amendment shall be put into the Bill enabling them to buy the houses on conditions. None of them are in love with being municipal tenants, and many municipal authorities are not in love with being landlords, and if municipal authorities can have houses built, and sell them on conditions which should be workable to tenants, to the extent of from 20,000 to 40,000 a year, it will be doing an incredible good to the people of this country and making the Bill much more popular in the country. This is one of the vital questions on which the unpopularity of the Bill at present is most apparent.
On the other hand, I do not want to decide, and it would be impossible in the discussion of this subject to decide, in the Bill what should be the conditions which the Minister of Health should lay down. We must trust whoever is Minister of Health with those conditions, and that he would hold the balance between the local authorities and would-be purchasers. The Minister of Health would, of course, be challengeable in the House of Commons, and I know of no better safeguard. By such means as, that we should preserve the scheme of last year of making men owner-occupiers. We should enable municipal authorities that do not want to take charge of a large number of houses as landlords to pass those houses on to occuying owners without loss to the State, as I think, and without the ramp of 1919, and we should be permitting a very large number of people, who at present have saved up small amounts of money or are enabled to obtain, as many of the tenants are, collateral security for their repayment, to do what they desire to do above all other things, that is not to become municipal tenants but to own the houses in which they live. I am sorry to have detained the Committee on this subject, but as a result of discussing this Clause and disposing of it as a whole, as my right hon. Friend opposite has said, I hope very much that something will come from the Government side of the House, supporting us in the, idea that this will be a benefit.
I entirely concur with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I think that one of the main blots on the Bill is that it practically does away with the possibility of private ownership. The Bill sets out quite frankly to create a huge mass of municipal tenants. I cannot blame the right hon. Gentleman for framing the Bill in that form, as it is according to the tenets of his political faith, except that in one unguarded moment he made a speech in this House in favour of occupying ownership. Though it is not in accordance with the political views of the right hon. Gentleman that a large extension of occupying ownership should take place, there is a very large demand throughout the country for the possibility of men being able to own their own houses. If you are going to build a largo number of houses for the purposes of letting them at uneconomical rents to occupying tenants, as this Bill proposes to do, surely the other class of the community, those, who desire to own their houses, are entitled to similar consideration at the hands of the Government.
I am assuming that there is a large number of people, say a million or so, who would prefer to be the tenants of a municipal authority rather than own their houses, but I am certain that even hon. Members opposite will agree with me when I say that there is an equally large number of men who would prefer, if they could get the assistance of the State, to be the owners of their houses rather than the tenants of the municipal authorities. It is that spirit, that desire for ownership, which has led to the formation and the growth and the wonderful success of the building societies throughout this land. Those building societies arose from the desire of the people of this country to own their own houses. If that is so, why should we, when we are going to spend this enormous sum of money, running to hundreds of millions sterling, put the whole of it into the pockets of tenants of the country and allow no benefit at all under the provisions of this Act to the men who desire to own houses?
The Minister of Health said, either on the Second Heading or in one of the previous Debates, that he did not in any way penalise house ownership under the provisions of this Bill. Technically that is correct. He does not alter the provisions, I think I am right in saying, of the Act of 1923. But surely everybody will see that it would be very difficult, and very unfair, to expect a man to build his own house on a subsidy of £75, when others are building on a subsidy of £240, which is roughly the capital value of the subsidy given under this Bill. There are in Lancashire—of which I had some political knowledge—thousands of houses which have been built by working men with the assistance of building societies, some of them with the assistance of public money advanced under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, which are not now occupied, and could not be occupied, by the owner. There are many such men, and it is a very fine thing in the history of this country that there should be so great an incentive to thrift in the hands of many of our people. It is a form of investment which many of the working classes prefer even to Consols. Many of them own one, two, three or four houses which they have built themselves. In one of them they live, and the other one, two, or three they let to tenants. Why should the Committee object to that? Why should the Government not encourage industry and thrift of that kind? It makes the basis of a contented country.
Quite frankly I would like, if it were possible, to transform this Bill into a large measure for the assistance of owner-occupiers throughout the country, but it is impossible to do so within the terms of the Financial Resolution. The Bill is so drawn that I cannot make those alterations which I should like to make. On the other hand, I see no objection at all—unless the right hon. Gentleman himself says it is impossible—to the Minister's reconsideration of this very grave and definite decision in the Bill not to permit of any of these houses ever being sold. We want to encourage local authorities to sell. There is another reason in the finance of the Bill. The local authorities, if the Bill is a success, will have to borrow from £80,000,000 to £100,000,000 a year in order to get these houses built within 15 years. Instead of locking up all that public money in municipally-owned houses, would it not be better to turn some of it over: to sell some of the houses, year by year, and so economise enormously on the financial position, ease the situation for the local authorities, and add to the number of owner-occupiers throughout the land. There is only one other point to which I call the attention of the Committee. Under the Act of last year private enterprise, which, roughly speaking, is the building of houses by owner-occupiers or by owners for the purpose of sale to another occupier—as distinct from the municipality which builds for the purpose of letting only—is responsible for two-thirds of the houses built up to the present. What does that mean? The figures up to date of the applications approved by the Minister under that Act show, for private ownership, 96,685 houses. I do not want on this Amendment to insist on the success of the scheme of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain), but I give that figure to the Committee as showing conclusively that there is in this country a great demand for houses to be built for purposes other than letting by municipal authorities.
I do not say that they are all occupier-owners. There are, of course, many built for occupying ownership and some for private landlords to own and to let. But that is where I think the future of this housing question can best be provided for, namely, by encouraging that form of private enterprise and to get the houses built, partly for owner occupation and partly for the owner to let. I do not believe in this vast extension of municipally-owned houses. I have come to the conclusion, very largely for reasons given by one of the hon. Members opposite, that you are putting quite an improper power in the hands of 2,500,000 tenants in this country as against their landlords, who will be the municipal authorities. I do not wish to make any suggestion, but one does know that in a large town with 20,000 or 30,000, or, in the case of London, many more thousands of houses in the hands of one municipal authority, certain situations may arise. We know the past of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister himself in regard to this matter. Supposing a rent strike were to be started in one of the great municipalities—in Glasgow, if you like—and supposing the right hon. Gentleman was out of a job, was no longer Minister of Health, and he went up to Glasgow, I will not say to ferment, but to organise that strike. It would be much more serious if there were 50,000 houses belonging to the municipality than if they were houses spread over different ownerships, and it is to be o remembered that all these houses would be occupied by the voters-—the electors of that particular municipality.
The hon. Member suggests that the Minister's occupation would then be gone as there would be no reason for a rent strike. But those same tenants would be able quite improperly to exercise an influence in regard to the management and control of these houses, and hon. Members opposite, in their hearts, do not think that is a right position for a municipal authority to occupy. My hon. Friend who moved the omission of Clause 3 said he did so in order to obtain the views of the Minister on the whole question of house ownership. I have said what I have to say on the subject. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to give us such encouragement as he can, and to tell us his views. If he can, in any way, encraft on to his Bill a better scheme of house ownership, such a scheme will go a long way towards making the Bill more acceptable to the whole country.
. I am always sorry to have to use this platform for party purposes, but the right hon. Baronet seems to find it one of the joys of life to keep putting me into a corner. He has drawn a picture of the dreadful state of society which might exist if local authorities were the owners of the houses of the electors. Somehow or other he seems to think that the people of this country only want a reasonable opportunity in order to become scoundrels, and that if you put them in a position where they can avoid their moral obligations, they will take advantage of it immediately and show what rascals they are. I do not know why they do not exercise those instincts in the case of gas, or water, or trams, or electricity, or the various things which they obtain from the municipalities to-day. Why do they not go and strike against payment for those services?
They might be cut off, but if we remember all the people who use electricity and the fact that there are only a few officials to cut off the supply, then I suggest that if all the people were such scoundrels as the right hon. Baronet would seem to indicate, it might be some other things that would be cut off. Perhaps I had better use this platform for educational instead of propaganda purposes because I find a complete misunderstanding of the public objects of those of us who claim to be Socialists. Can the right hon. Baronet or anyone else in this Committee tell me of any responsible Socialist in this country who has laid it down as a violation of his ideal of society that a man should own the house he occupies? Think of the state of society contemplated by the right hon. Baronet As was remarked by an hon. Member behind me it was one in which everyone would own a house and have three houses to let.
The right hon. Baronet seems to think that we ought to direct our public policy towards that end. We have no objection to the occupier of a house owning a house, but we have an objection to the profit-making ownership of a house occupied by another person, and if you produce a large section of the community unable to own the houses they occupy, then we prefer collective ownership through the municipality or non-profit making ownership through the building society or the public utility society to the form of ownership contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman under which a person will have three or four houses by means of which he can exploit the necessities of his poorer brother. I do not see that anyone in the Committee, who is not out to protect exploitation, can have any objection to that policy. Therefore I have no objection at all to making in my Bill the fullest reasonable provision that I can make for the occupier of a "house becoming the owner of that house. Indeed, I think it is not only a matter of having no objection, but I would be prepared to go further than many Members on the other side of the Committee in providing facilities, financial and other- wise, whereby people would have opportunities if they so desired of owning the houses which they occupy, instead of occupying houses owned for profit-making purposes by other people.
The higher subsidy in this case is given for the benefit of those who have to rent houses. The right hon. Baronet asks why should a man who has to occupy a rented house have a subsidy of roughly £240 while the man who has to own his house only receives a subsidy of £100. For exactly the same reason as that by which a man receives £100 and another man receives nothing at all. We have drifted into a state of society in which it is necessary, in the interests of public health, to assist millions of our people to get out of conditions of slumdom. That and that only is the justification for the subsidy. If the Committee thinks we have not in the Bill provided for the municipality passing on a house to an occupier who wishes to own it, then I am prepared to make certain Amendments in the Bill. As I think I have said before, I do not want to say a word against the private builder who is building for sale, but I have also said before that I think the probable purchaser of a house, the man who has probably through years of strenuous saving accumulated a few hundreds, would be safer in the hands of the municipality in buying his house than in buying it from the profit-making speculator. I do not think any one suggests that while we are getting houses for what I shall call the Chamberlain subsidy of £6 for 20 years that we should offer to pay a larger subsidy on the houses sold to occupiers by local authorities. I am quite sure that if hon. Members opposite would examine that, they would say that if you adopted that course, apart from the other objections to it, you would make it quite impossible for the other people to sell the house at all. Therefore, the Amendment I propose to insert is this, or words to this effect, and I think myself it meets the whole case:
(c) that if the local authority sell or (save by such lettings as aforesaid) otherwise dispose of the houses, the sale or disposal shall not be completed except upon and subject to such stipulations as the Minister thinks proper, including, if the Minister thinks fit, stipulations for the reduction of the amount or the curtailment of the duration of any contribution payable by the Minister in respect of the house, or for both reduc-
tion and curtailment; but so nevertheless that the contribution in respect of any house sold before the expiration of a period of 20 years from the date when that contribution first became payable shall not be reduced below the amount of the contribution (if any) which would be payable if the house had not been subject to special conditions.
That means in essence that facilities will be provided for the sale of the house, but on terms that will not be any better financially than if the occupier had purchased his house as he would purchase it now under the 1923 Act. I think that meets the views that have been expressed from all parts of the House, and I can assure the Committee again that it is in complete harmony with the Government's policy.
Of course, the words which the right hon. Gentleman has read out are not such as we can express a final opinion upon, when we have only just heard them for the first time, and I am afraid that, even if I were to have them in front of me, I could not give a considered judgment upon them, without considering them a little further. But I welcome very heartily the effort which I believe the right hon. Gentleman is making to meet the views of those, forming, I am quite sure, the great majority of this House, who believe in owner-occupiership, and desire to see it established as a general principle in dealing with the housing question. I remember that on a previous occasion, when I was quoting some figures of the operations of the Birmingham Municipal Bank in advancing money to the people who desired to buy houses for their own use and occupation, the right hon. Gentleman rather pooh-poohed my figures. He said they had a waiting list of something like 19,000 people, and that what I had brought forward as evidence of what was going on was but a drop in the bucket, and no contribution to the question. I have taken the trouble just recently to make some further inquiries as to what is going on, and I would like to tell the Committee what the result is, because I think it is extremely encouraging from the point of view of those of us who believe, as my right hon. Friend says, that it is in the extension of this system that we shall make most progress in dealing with the housing problem.
The number of people who have, through the operations of this savings bank, bought their own houses in Birmingham must not be compared with the number who have made applications for houses, but it must be compared with the number of houses that have actually been disposed of, whether by selling or by letting, on the part of the municipal corporation. Out of a total of about 1,800 houses that they have had through their hands, nearly 25 per cent. have actually been sold through the operations of this bank, and it is a very interesting fact that, under the system there employed, under which the purchaser has to put down £50 of his own money for a £300 house, the remaining £250 being advanced to him by the bank and the corporation, of these people it is found that they are nearly all real working men; that is to say, that the black-coated man—the clerk, who has to observe a higher standard of living—has never been able to save enough to put up the £50 required, but the working man, the artizan, is the man who is able, apparently, to find the necessary £50, and who forms the great bulk of those who have hitherto been able to buy their houses in this way. If anything like that proportion could be kept up, if you could get something like 22½ per cent. of the people who occupy these houses purchasing them, it is obvious that it would be making a great contribution to the subject, and not by any means the negligible one which the right hon. Gentleman rather seemed to suggest. It appears to me that in trying to insert provisions for the sale of houses into a Bill constructed upon the principles of the one we are now debating, we will have to take very great care that we are not using this very largely increased subsidy, which the right hon. Gentleman is proposing for a particular purpose, to enable part even of that increased subsidy to go into the pockets either of the person who buys the house or of the local authority.
If there were a free opportunity for a purchaser to buy a house at the capital cost of the house less the capital equivalent of the increased subsidy, that is to say, less the £240, he would be buying that house far below its actual value, and if he were able to sell it to somebody else, he could make a profit which might amount to a very considerable sum. If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, as from the date of the purchase the contribution from the Exchequer shall be reduced, even that would still give an advantage to this house as compared with the house Which has only received a subsidy under the Act of last year from the very beginning, and I think that some attention will have to be given to the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment to make quite certain that he is not creating here a class of house which can be sold at a cheaper rate than the houses that were built under the Act of last year, at the expense of the taxpayers, because it is not necessary to give this big subsidy for the purpose of obtaining purchasers for these houses. It may be necessary to give it for houses to be let, but not for houses which are going to be sold, and, therefore, it is very necessary, in trying to put this new idea into this Bill, which has been framed with such very different ideas, that we should examine that particular point with the utmost care. That, of course, we shall have an opportunity of doing when we see the right hon. Gentleman's words on the Paper, and we shall no doubt be able to deal with them on the Report stage if we feel then that it is necessary to amend them.
I would draw attention to the Amendment as read out by the Minister of Health, which seems to be absolutely colourless, and I should imagine that when an Amendment of that character gets down to the local authorities, it will be difficult for them to appreciate it. As far as I can understand, it contains no really practical policy on the part of the Ministry as to providing for the owner-occupier, and I want to suggest that this question of making a contribution to the owner-occupier is a question of the utmost importance. The right hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) has quoted the experience of Birmingham, but I venture to suggest that there are very few working men who can provide £50 or the £100 referred to by the Minister, and I do not hesitate to make the statement that the percentage of working men to-day who have £50 or £100 for this purpose is really a negligible quantity. I have tried in my constituency to take some interest in this matter, and I called a meeting in order to place before our people the question of owner-tenancy, and to see how far it would be possible under the 1923 Act to put them in a position to own their own houses. It was a very large and a very enthusiastic meeting, but the proportion of men who could put down even £50 was not 10 per cent. of those who were present.
It seems to me that, having regard to the general acceptance of the view that it is a most desirable thing, from the social standpoint, to do everything possible to provide for the tenant the ownership of his house, and having regard to the fact that the financial proposals of this Bill are exceptional in every respect, some exceptional measures should be provided in order that facilities of the easiest possible character should be given to a man to become the owner of his house. I want to suggest to the Committee that, if you have got a man of good character, a thrifty man, he should be given every encouragement, and if you could, by some exceptional help in the way, say, of a sinking fund, enable him to buy his house, you would be doing a good thing. Suppose the rent of a house is ten shillings, and you have a thrifty man, of good character, who says, "Give me the opportunity by a sinking fund, a small amount added to the rent, of purchasing the house ultimately," I think that man should be encouraged. The effect on that man would be to make him a better citizen and that he would take a greater pride in his home than if he was simply a tenant of the State or of the local authority. Is that a bad thing or is it a good thing? Is it or is it not desirable for the Minister of Health, with the great possibilities that he has under this Bill, when Parliament and the country are disposed to be generous, to be prepared to so a long way to see the people well housed and contented? If you establish ownership of that character, what happens? You stimulate trade. As soon as a man is secure in his ownership the fear of being turned out by the landlord is gone. He takes a greater interest in his home, and he turns and says to his wife: "Mary, we must begin to make the house nice. This is our house; we must have some new furniture; we have got to get it." They are going to take care of the house. A man will sacrifice a great deal in order to keep his house. I do want to suggest that this is a matter the final details of which it ought not to be beyond the wit of man to devise. I say, if hon. Members in all parts of the Committee would really look upon this with sympathy—and I am sure there is sympathy—that there is no hope they can give which is more likely to carry through a great scheme of social reform than this.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has told the Committee that he is going to do what he can to facilitate the acquisition of houses by owner-occupiers, and that he is going to prevent houses being purchased by wicked people, who desire to let them to someone else. The right hon. Gentleman rebuked us for regarding the inhabitants of this country as potential scoundrels. I myself have never been able to understand why he should regard a certain section of those who are able to save a little as potential scoundrels. However, the question I have risen to ask is this: How, on earth, if he is going to do the one can he avoid doing the other? If he is going to give facilities to enable men to buy houses in which they can live—I presume he means that these men should be entitled to buy and own a house and to have sole possession of it—he cannot prevent them letting their houses to somebody else. What guarantee against that has the Minister got? What guarantee can he have that the man who buys his house this year may not be obliged to go to another locality next year, and, therefore, have to let his house? Therefore, it is absolutely impossible for the Minister to confine this right of purchase to the owner-occupier.
What he is really doing by the concession he is making—if it amounts to anything at all—is to scrap the principle of the Bill, which was municipal ownership—not to let the houses be purchased: the people were to live in them themselves, and not let to other people. I am perfectly confident that once the situation is realised in the country, the people who build houses under his Act will very soon get rid of them, and I think the Minister will probably make a financial loss. The municipalities which built houses under the Addison scheme are now, in a great many cases anxious to get rid of them, and I think are only deterred by fear that heavy financial loss would be shown in the transaction. I have listened to the words of the right hon. Gentleman, but I have not been able to discover anything in them which would prevent—this is the point I am trying to make—what I say. I trust the point will be considered by the right hon. Gentleman. I shall be glad if he can tell us any means by which he is going to prevent people who have bought houses to live in themselves letting them to other people.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
So far as I can follow the new paragraph foreshadowed by the Minister, it appears very closely to correspond with the series of Amendments down in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman) and other hon. Members on this side. Perhaps it is desirable that we should see the whole of the words in the Bill itself before expressing a final opinion; but I should like to ask the Minister whether he proposes to move them as an Amendment? Will not the Motion before the Committee have to be negatived, so that they can be embodied in the Clause.
And then substitute for paragraph (c) the words that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, in order that we may see them embodied in the Bill as it will leave the Committee. Two or three hon. Gentlemen who have recently spoken suggest by their speeches that the Amendment of the Minister of Health is a reversal of the policy foreshadowed in the Bill. I submit, with great respect 1o the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), that already, in paragraph (c) as it stands, there is a right to sell, and the chief alteration the Minister, as I understand it, is making, is that instead of putting that right in a negative sense he is putting it now in a positive sense. To that extent, I think it is a considerable advantage. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) that the conditions and stipulations which the Minister is making to prevent that ramp of profiteering in house property, which undoubtedly took place in 1918, are very essential. Therefore, it is that, whilst this permission is given, restrictions and safeguards should be put in which will prevent a ramp taking place such as ha-s taken place before.
My hon. Friend, I am sure, will be willing to withdraw this Amendment, so that the proposed Clause may be inserted in the Bill in order that we may have ample time to consider it between now and Report. Whilst we accept the principle of the Amendment, we must have time to consider it in detail, reserving to ourselves the right to put down any Amendments on the Report stage.
Sir B. REES:
May I say one word, for I want to call attention to one point? It seems to me that the conditions we are now discussing will not only apply to local authorities, but in this Sub-section, as in Sub-section (2) of the Clause, they are made to apply to houses built by public utility societies, body of trustees, or companies. If so, I think the Minister will have to be very careful in the amount that is to be given; otherwise, you are going to spike the very foundation of the public utility societies and other bodies who are doing very useful work. Voluntary societies, building societies, and other corporations are doing very excellent work, and, if the right hon. Gentleman is going to limit their power considerably, it will be impossible to carry on in future. 1 should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General to make it quite clear that the words proposed for the new paragraph will not have the effect of interfering with the right of public utility societies which they now have under this Bill.
I understand that it is the desire of the Committee that paragraph (c) in its present form shall disappear and shall be replaced by a new paragraph which has been suggested by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and which he has read out to the Committee. I should be glad if the new words could be inserted at once, but that cannot be done. It is desirable that Members of the Committee should have the opportunity of examining the proposed new paragraph.
Before leave to withdraw is given, I desire to call the attention of the Attorney-General to the inconsistency between this paragraph and paragraph (a). If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will look at paragraph (a) he will see that the first condition says quite specifically "that the houses shall be let." In paragraph (c) it is provided that they may be sold. Something should be done to make the two paragraphs consistent.
It is as follows:
(c) That if the local authority sell or (save by such lettings as aforesaid) otherwise dispose of the houses the sale or disposal shall not be completed except upon and subject to such stipulations as the Minister thinks proper, including if the Minister thinks fit stipulations for the reduction of the amount or the curtailment of the duration of any contribution payable by the Minister in respect of the house, or for both reduction and curtailment; but so nevertheless that the contribution in respect of any house sold before the expiration of a period of 20 years from the date when that contribution first became payable shall not for reduced below the amount of the contribution (if any) which would be payable if the house had not been subject to special conditions.
I cannot permit any further discussion. Either the Amendment must be withdrawn or not. Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Roberts) be withdrawn?
The reason we are dealing with this Clause piecemeal is to enable hon. Members to be able to see what the Amendment means and then discuss it. We cannot discuss it word by word, and it can best be done; by leaving it to the Report stage. I hope hon. Members will assist the Minister as far as they can in this matter.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I beg to move, in page 4, line 13, at the end to insert the words
but so nevertheless that the contribution in respect of any house sold before the expiration of a period of twenty years from the date when that contribution first became payable shall not be reduced below an amount of six pounds payable annually for the remainder of that period.
These words are quite in keeping with the proposal which has been made by the Minister.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words
an amount of six pounds payable annually for the remainder of that period,
and to insert instead thereof the words
the amount of the contribution (if any) which would be payable if the house had not been subject to special conditions.
I beg to move, in page 4, lines 14 and 15, to leave out the words "a form prescribed by the Minister," and to insert instead thereof the words
the form for the time being prescribed for Government contract by Resolution of the House of Commons.
This Amendment is a very simple and a short one, and it deals with the Fair Wages Clause. As proposed in the Bill, the Minister is the sole arbiter as to what the Fair Wages Clause means in any contracts entered into by the local authorities for the building of these houses. I think the Minister will be likely to accept this Amendment, or adopt some other words whereby the form of this Fair Wages Clause should be settled beforehand, and it should be taken out of the hands of the Minister to draft the Clause according to the views of the particular Minister for the time being. I think it should be in the form of Government contracts settled some lime ago by this House. If there be any objection to that, it might be advisable between now and the Report stage for the Government to prepare the draft of a Fair Wages Clause and put it in the Schedule. I think the House will agree that this is a matter of considerable importance, and possibly the Minister will be glad to have this temptation taken from him.
We are prepared to accept the contention of the hon. Member, but the actual words he proposes will need alteration, because no form of contract is prescribed by Resolution of the House of Commons. I think his purpose will be met if we leave out the words "in accordance with a form prescribed by the Minister."
This is a most important Amendment, and I want to propose an Amendment to it because I think it is a most dangerous thing to provide for bringing this question of the Fair Wages Clause before the House of Commons. I would like the words " all contracts by local authorities" inserted in order to avoid discussions in the House about the Fair Wages Clause.
I beg to move, in page 5, lines 14 and 15, to leave out the words "in accordance with a form prescribed by the Minister" and to insert instead thereof the words
which complies with the requirements of any Resolution of the House of Commons applicable to the contracts of Government Departments and for the time being in force.
I must persist in asking the Committee not to accept any arrangement whereby this question will always be under consideration on the Floor of the House. I am the last person to quarrel about a Fair Wages Clause, but we ought to keep it out of this House, and, if we limit it to contracts given out by local authorities, I think it would be much better, and 1 should like to move to limit this Amendment by inserting the words "in all contracts by local authorities."
I beg to move, in page 4, line 17, at the end, to insert the words
that the cost shall not exceed ten shillings and sixpence per foot super of contained area unless otherwise provided by an Order made by the Minister and the Scottish Board of Health under this Act.
I am confident that the objective of this Amendment has the approval of all parties in the House. It is to prevent this scheme from being frustrated in all its best features by inflation, and it limits, therefore, the houses upon which the subsidy proposed in the Bill might be given to
those the cost of which does not exceed 10s. 6d. per foot super. With regard to the principle of the Bill, I feel certain that the Minister appreciates as keenly as I do the importance of restraining increase in cost if his Bill is to produce good results. I have here the opinion of a very eminent authority in regard to the possible effects of inflation. That authority says:
But if all difficulties are successfully overcome, there will still remain the problem of stabilising prices. The housing scheme of the Government is based upon the assumption that prices will remain at their present level. If they rise, and the cost of houses is thereby increased, considerably, the financial basis of the scheme will be upset, and it will probably collapse, with terrible consequences.
That is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I desire to help the right hon. Gentleman in preventing prices from rising to such a degree as to bring about those terrible consequences. The right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, may say that it can be left to him to deal with this matter by administration. I suggest that it would help him much more to say quite clearly in advance to all the interests concerned that we will not permit the hundreds of millions of money involved in this Measure to be so handled as to lead to a permanent burden, and a very heavy burden at that, upon the whole community. This proposal brings in all interests from the start, and gives notice in advance of the intention of the House of Commons. It is rather comparable with the new form of brake for motor-cars. I think you have one brake on each wheel, and it brings it up sharp. I desire to bring about the same effect in regard to all the interests concerned in building. There is, first of all, the architect. He will know in advance, if he is called upon to produce a scheme for 100 or 200 houses for a council, that it is no use his bringing before that council a scheme which does not comply with this maximum in regard to cost, and, therefore, from the very beginning you impress upon the architect the importance of studying economy in design.
Then you go on to the tender. Every builder will know, when he is invited to tender for these houses for a municipality or any public authority, that, if his tender exceeds this amount, it will be futile, for it will take the houses out of the Act. The operatives will be conscious of the same thing. If they are thinking of demanding a substantial share of this generosity of the House, they will appreciate that demanding an extravagant payment in the shape of wages on such houses as are involved in this scheme will result in taking the houses out of the scheme itself, and that, therefore, their demand in regard to those houses will be futile. It will be the same with merchants or manufacturers of materials. I think it is wise, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is wise, to give notice of this in advance, because, already, the prospect of the distribution of these hundreds of millions has had a bad effect upon the prices of materials and labour. Already a rise has begun. I suggest that we should let it be known at the earliest possible moment that the House of Commons does not intend this money to be used under such inflationary conditions.
Further, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that such a principle throws upon the industry as a whole the importance of thinking out ways of economy within its limits. There is nothing more detrimental to any industry than to feel that it can achieve its object at the public expense without having serious regard for economy within itself. I believe the way that I suggest, of putting a maximum beyond which we will not permit the costs to go, will be of great value to the right hon. Gentleman in carrying out his scheme. In this connection I want to say quite plainly that the building trade is one of the great trades in the country that has not yet applied itself seriously to giving back to the public, in return for the increasing payments made to it, real value for those payments. As the House knows, in that industry what is called payment by results, or anything approaching payment by results, has been fought for quite a number of years, until for a great part of the industry it is excluded. I regard a system of employment which goes on giving increased money payments regardless of the return to the community for those payments as a bad system, and one which, in the long run, leads to the deterioration of the industry itself.
I am conscious of all the objections. I know the question from both sides The first strike in which. I came out in London, now over 30 years ago, was n, perfectly justifiable strike, because the employers were trying to beat down piece-work rates, owing to the fact that the men were earning what they thought to be too large an income. [Interruption.]. Surely, hon. Members will allow me to proceed. This is the only place where these things can be said with effect, and it is time we said it to the building industry as a whole. An hon. Member says. "They always do it." May I remind him that in most of the great industries of the country payment by results has been accepted? You have it in the shoe trade, in the cotton trade, and, I believe, in the mining industry. What we have to enforce is that, if this goes on in a great industry like that, it is the other industries that have to pay the piper. It is a mistake to assume that the real employers are these so-called associations of men who call themselves employers. The real employers, finally, are you and I. We employ each other. That is the plain English of it, and this inflation of cost, regardless of what it brings back to the community as a whole, is, in my view, wrong.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that my proposal will help him in facing the industry and calling upon them to consider the matter particularly in connection with this scheme. I can quite understand the sentimental objection to doing this for ordinary capitalistic enterprises. I can quite understand their saying. "We are not going out of our way to add to the profits of the ordinary capitalist." But when the right hon. Gentleman is engaged in trying to provide 2,500,000 houses, most of which will be required for the poorest in the land, for those who are living in slums, for those who are badly ho used, I say that an industry, whether on the workmen's or on the employers' side, that will not coma forward and abandon every policy and every part of its policy that leads to restriction of production of that commodity, is anti-social in the worst sense of the word. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has a great opportunity of using this limitation to approach them and ask them in the correct spirit to see whether they cannot take a step of that kind. With regard to the figure itself, I would urge, first of all, that that figure
has been arrived at as a result of practical experience, and also as a result of the Memorandum put forward in the Report submitted to the right hon. Gentleman by the Association of Builders and the Association of Operativies—the Report that we all know so well. It will be remembered that the paragraph at the bottom of page 9 of that Report says:
The Committee has given careful consideration to cost, and, as a result of careful examination, is of opinion that houses are being built to-day at the lowest possible cost. In its judgment, taking the costs of labour and material as current on 1st March last, houses from 850 to 950 feet super of contained area, based on the Schedule as supplied by the Ministry of Health, should, under normal circumstances, not exceed in cost from x to y per square foot.
Ten shillings and sixpence per foot super, for 950 feet, is £498, or £2 short of the £500 house about which the right hon. Gentleman is frequently talking.
Yes, at 10s. 6d. per foot for the 950-foot house. There is a note at the bottom of this document stating that x and y indicate information conveyed confidentially to the Minister of Health, and the Minister has not seen his way yet to give the House those figures, I do not desire to press him; I want to help him on this. If he feels that some public interests might be placed in jeopardy by presenting any figures to this House, by all means let him withhold them. I have done the best I can in the circumstances. I conclude that this means 10s. 6d., and I know from experience that that figure is not far wrong. I have here a communication which has been passed on to me only within the last few days from one of the biggest authorities in this country, who is putting up a large number of houses under various schemes, and he tells me this:
In confirmation of our conversation on Wednesday last, I send you the following particulars. The latest contracts give the following figures:
A.3, 820 square feet, 10s. 5d. per square foot.
B.3, 950 square feet, 10s. per square foot.
It will be seen, therefore, that I am hovering on the right figure within a trifle, as far as these facts are concerned. My correspondent goes on to say:
I am sure that on to-day's prices these figures would be increased by sit least 5 per cent.
That would mean that the 10s. on the 950-foot house would become my figure of 10s. 6d. I do not, however, press the right hon. Gentleman to limit himself absolutely to my figure of 10s, 6d. What I do desire him to do is to tell us in what better way he can prevent this wild inflation from taking place, for I assure him from my own knowledge of the industry that it has already begun. Some hon. Members may say "profiteering." A good deal of this is quite impersonal and beyond personal control. If hon. Members were in the enterprise themselves they would know that it is not due to any special degree of original sin on the part of the individuals that this thing happens. It happens through the play of quite impersonal forces. I can show you things that happen day by day of that character, and if by my Amendment you prevent the free play of those forces which will inflate prices, you give notice to all concerned that inflation will not be tolerated and from this moment onwards the whole industry, the architects, merchants, builders and the operatives, will know that beyond a certain point it will not be tolerated, and when your brickmaker comes into the office to make a deal on bricks, or the tile maker to make a deal with tiles, he knows that he is restricted within this limit. If he is not restricted I defy the right hon. Gentleman by all the profiteering committees he sets up from one end of Great Britain to the other, to stop the free play of these prices. If you have five or six builders running after a- particular brick, bidding for it, offering high prices for it, there is no profiteering committee you can appoint that is going to restrain the increase of the price.
That applies to labour as well. If I were a bricklayer, and employers were on my doorstep day by day begging me to work for them, one offering 1s. an hour, another 1s. 6d., and a third 2s., would you suggest that I was antisocial because I took the 2s. in preference to the 1s.?
The hon. Member is not entitled to make that observation. I have said these things are very largely impersonal, and very often the result of forces beyond individual control. May I ask the hon. Member what I said and when I said it that bears that out?
I do not want to be unfair, and I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member, but he clearly said the time has arrived when the piece-workers in the building trade had got to come into this work.
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for speaking what is in his mind. I certainly never intended to say anything of the sort. What I said was that this was one industry and so far as its method of administration was concerned in relation to industry as a whole, it had not yet put itself into line in regard to organisation so that the remuneration that it drew for the services it rendered was not measured, as it was in most industries, by the product it handed over. I went on to say that the industries employed each other, and when you are giving the workers in a particular industry money tokens what you are really giving them is a lien on some portion of the national production in goods and services—clothing, food, and things of that sort. It is wrong in principle to continue with a particular industry giving them a lien on the sum total of national services and goods without putting them on a basis of remuneration, like coal, cotton, and other industries, and insure that they bring to the common stock something proportionate to the stock they take away. The industry is not on that basis at present. In the long run it is the less well organised, the woman with inadequate means, the worker with a small wage and a big family who is not able to be here in this House or to exercise power and pressure in politics or in economics, who will pay for any violent inflation that takes place.
I am in the heartiest agreement with the object aimed at by the Mover of the Amendment. I am fully conscious of the fact that there can be no possible success for the housing scheme which is being promoted by this Bill if anything like the rise in prices occurs that took place under the Addison scheme. If I thought for a moment that the Amendment would assist me in the slightest, I would gladly embrace it, but I am afraid it will have exactly the opposite effect. The hon. Member told us that a 950-foot house, at 10s. 6d., would cost £498, without including the land or the development. Is anyone with a knowledge of the building industry and the class of houses for which we are here asking prepared to say that these houses are worth that money?
I am putting a question to the House and to the country. The idea that these houses cannot be produced for less than £550 is most absurd. If the building industry were organised, as it has now an opportunity of organising itself, with an assured market for manufacturers, for builders, and with guaranteed employment to the workers, it ought to be able to produce these houses—I will not put a figure on it, but for substantially less, than £500. To suggest to the building industry that any figure in that neighbourhood is justified after we have given them the guarantee and the assistance provided for in the Bill would, I think, be unfair to the country, because whether you agree with the policy of the Bill or not, whether you believe in its success or not, all our forces in the country should be directed to bringing down the cost of house building to a reasonable level. To allow a higher price to be paid for the building of a house would not be the moans of producing one house more. You do not get any more houses because you allow the price of the houses to go up, and if you suggest that this 10s. 6d. is a reasonable price, indeed that the Minister might go beyond it, that will be putting a most dangerous suggestion in the minds of these people. As a matter of fact, you cannot get uniformity in house-building prices. The cost of building a house in one district to-day differs sometimes by £100 from the cost of building the same house in a different neighbourhood. I cannot always ascertain the cause of the discrepancy, but the discrepancy is there. Everyone who has had any experience in the administration of the Ministry of Health knows it perfectly well. Even to-day, when I am sorry to admit prices are much higher than anyone in the House thinks they should be, we are getting houses built at less than the price mentioned.
The hon. Member himself quoted figures down to 10s., and I am sure if I went into the books of the Ministry of Health I should be able to produce much lower figures If you put 10s. 6d. into the Bill, what will happen? If we set the building industry going, as we must do with the shortage of labour and of materials at the outset, under the most favourable circumstances of this scheme we shall have local contractors whose hands are full of work, and they will be asked to quote for an additional job. It is true the architect will tell the contractors they are not to exceed 10s. 6d. without the approval of the Minister of Health, but that will convey to them, even though their hands are full doing 9s. 6d. work, that they may, not only legitimately, but quite reasonably, and in accordance with the views of the House of Commons, quote 10s. 6d. for the other job which they do not care whether they get or not at that particular moment. They can afford to wait. Their men and their plant are all employed. They will say, "Let us put in 10s. 6d. If we get the job well and good, it can wait, and it will be a nice handsome profit when we reach it. If we do not get it, it is all the same. We can get on with the work we have." I want to say to the building industry and the country that while I am at the Ministry of Health, I am not going to pass schemes where the price is put up. We are not going to have these high prices, and I am prepared to stake the chances of my scheme on that. I do not say that, in certain circumstances, we would not exceed 10s. 6d., but take London, where costs are always high. It is doubtful at any time whether you can get houses for this figure.
If the houses that a-re now occupied in London were erected between 1906 and 1914 for 10½d. a foot, someone must be making a huge profit out of the rents that are now charged. I want the Committee to treat this matter seriously. I am not looking at it from the point of view of the Bill at all. The last thing the House of Commons should do is to try to regulate prices to suit rising costs We want to turn our attention to bringing these costs down. You could by this Amendment stop building in London altogether, and at the same time put up the general price of building by the passing of this Amendment alone. You cannot direct local authorities that 10s. 6d. would not be an unreasonable- cost. I hope that the Committee will take it from me that, while I am at the Ministry of Health, prices will not be allowed to rise. People will be told to wait until the prices come down. If we make that perfectly clear to the building industry, I think it will do more to keep down prices than by putting in the figure of 10s. 6d.
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has given any answer at all to my hon. Friend. What does his answer amount to? It amounts to this, that the figure of 10s. 6d. is higher than he thinks is reasonable. That can be very easily put right by putting in a lower figure in this Amendment. All that the hon. Gentleman and those who support this Amendment are saying is that Parliament should fix a figure beyond which the cost of houses should not be allowed to go without the sanction of the Minister of Health. We are arming the Minister of Health with additional powers. We are strengthening his hand. We are trying to set up a limit which cannot be exceeded except by a special procedure—still a perfectly feasible procedure. I am very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that £500 for the houses contemplated in this Bill is a ridi- culous sum. I heartily agree with him. I know of houses at the present moment as good as those contemplated in this Bill being built for a very much less sum than that—for between £350 and £400. I am perfectly certain that the cost could be brought down. It could be easily done by the acceptance of this Amendment. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman put in 9s. 6d. instead of 10s. 6d.? Why does he not put in 8s. 6d.? He says he wants to keep costs down, but he refuses to take the powers given to him by this Amendment. The Amendment would strengthen his hand enormously.
The right hon. Gentleman says he is not going to sanction schemes if he considers the cost is too high. I am very glad to have that assurance, but I think it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to give the House of Commons some sort of indication as to what he considers is the right cost of houses. It is no good for him to say, "Give me a blank cheque; give me a free hand; I will look after the taxpayers' money" I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has given us any reason why we should have that confidence in him or his administration. On the contrary, he has taken power to expend £1,000,000,000 of the taxpayers' money in subsidising the building industry—because that is what this Bill is, nothing more or less.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that we were not going to get more houses that way. We are not going to get more houses by paying more money for them. The only thing that can bring more houses is more men and more materials. Therefore, we are assisting the production of houses if we can keep costs down. I regard this Amendment as the touchstone of the right hon. Gentleman's sincerity. If he is really out to get cheap houses for the people and to prevent a building ramp, he will accept this Amendment, with such lower figure as he, with his experience and his knowledge of the Ministry of Health, is prepared to put before the Committee. It is perfectly certain that the Committee would not object, in fact would welcome, a lower figure than that advanced by the hon. Member. The Amendment proposed may require alteration. There is no reason why the Order contemplated by it should not be confined to London or to some district where particular conditions prevail. What we do ask is that Parliament should declare that a limit must be put to the building ramp; otherwise, what happened under the Addison scheme will happen to this scheme. In fact, it has already happened. It commenced on the day the right hon. Gentleman took office. Prices have been rising, the difficulties of providing cheap houses have been increasing, and the solution of the housing problem is further off to-day than it was when the right hon. Gentleman went to the Ministry of Health. What the hon. Member (Mr. Vivian) who moved this Amendment said is perfectly true. It is the poorest people in the country who are going to suffer from this unrestricted price of houses.
Yes, they always suffer, and they will suffer a good deal from the result of the legislation of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Tim hon. Gentleman will find that out perhaps. It is very unjust and unfair that agricultural labourers, whose wages are 25s. a week or even less, should be taxed in order that the building industry may draw wages of £4 a week and more, and in order that the building employers or building materials merchants should make great profits. The poorest classes of the community make their contributions to the taxation of this country, and taxation falls heavier on them than on anyone. Everyone is going to be taxed to find, directly or indirectly, this £1,000,000,000. We in the House of Commons offer the Minister a weapon, the only weapon, by which he can keep prices down, and he refuses it.
I want to speak for a very few minutes on this Amendment, and to congratulate the Minister on his brave words about prices. Unfortunately, my Observation on the question has been that since the Minister came into office his only activities seem to have resulted in a quick rise of prices and a total stoppage of any schemes for building houses. When we find, as the hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has stated, a weapon has been put into his hands, he gives us fair words, but he refuses to take and use the weapon.
I say there has been a total stoppage of new schemes for building houses. Since the Minister came before the country with this scheme for huge subsidies and doles for the building trade, there has been a total stoppage of the, new schemes that were being produced under the 1923 Housing Act. I want, if I may, in considering this Amendment, to recommend to the Minister the very wise words of one of the greatest statesmen that this country ever produced, a statesman who did, without doles or extravagance for the people of Egypt, something that I should like to think that Members of the present Government would do for our people in England. He based his statemanship, from his own writings, upon two things. He said: "There are hundreds of schemes put before me for the benefit of the people of Egypt. No doubt a great majority of them would have done the people of Egypt good. "But," he asked first, "what will they cost?" and, secondly, "Where is the money to come from? These two great principles of statesmanship seem totally absent from the purview of the present Government and, particularly, from that of the present Minister of Health. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] It was Lord Cromer. I thought all my Friends on the left would have known.
I do not propose to trespass on the time of the Committee again, but I would like to remind the Committee, if I may, and if my hon. Friends on my left are able ever to give a fair hearing, that the Minister sometimes seems to have a very delightful and charming habit of thinking aloud. When he thinks aloud, he tells us what is in his mind. I remember that he thought aloud and told us that if he had his way he would delete the last penny of interest from the people who lend money for building houses. I want very seriously to bring before him this fact, that in my own town we are not going to need anything like as many houses as are assumed, the reason being that our own working people have £23,000,000 in the three great building societies which work in Bradford.
I am sorry, Sir, if I went a little astray. I was only appealing to the- Minister on his plea for economy in building prices. I wanted to try and prove that the only road to economy was a, very different thing from giving huge doles to any particular trade. The road to economy is, I think, that the working people themselves should own their own houses. The Minister, on another occasion when he was thinking aloud, told us that the huge charges of this Housing Bill are only going to cost the nation 10 per cent. of the drink bill. I am quoting the Minister's own word. If that statement of the Minister be true, surely it would be a sounder policy, instead of having to put forward Amendments like this, to reduce the prices which should be paid for building houses, for the Minister to get people who want houses to take the very good advice which he and his Friends so often give. [HON. MEMBERS: "To stop drinking?"] Only 10 per cent. less. Do not say that my proposal compels the working man never to have a glass of beer!
I am sorry, Sir, if I have trespassed. I will not go on any longer. I do not make this speech with the intention of obstructing the Bill, and I am sorry if I have wandered outside the terms of the Amendment. I would1 like to make one prophecy before I sit down, and that is this: This Bill, even with the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Vivian) will be a failure. Without the Amendment, it will be a, disastrous failure, and, when it has failed, as we all know it will fail, we and the public generally will not call the Members on these benches patient oxen any more. I do not like bending my neck to the yoke of the patient oxen. But they will think about this House more in the terms of those animals who rushed to destruction in the old biblical days.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD:
I interjected during the right hon. Gentleman's speech some remarks as to the cost of houses before a certain period, and I think the Minister will find that, excluding the land and developments in the process of building which have been referred to, my statement is correct.
I think I can point out a plan by which houses could be built much more cheaply than they are at the present time. Since subsidies have been given, and since these great schemes have been undertaken by municipalities, there has been a rigid exclusion of the old cottage builder throughout the country. That man gets no facilities at the present time, although he is the man who really knows how to build these cottages. The municipalities put great schemes before the Minister, who either accepts or rejects them. If they are accepted then contracts are asked for, and inasmuch as the contractor usually has to give huge security before the municipality will enter into a contract with him, the work falls into the hands of big capitalist combines. These are the only type of contractors you now have for Government subsidy houses under present conditions. You have not the man who really understands cottage building. The difference between cottage building and the building of ordinary business premises is very considerable, and the man who may be an expert in the one may know absolutely nothing about the other. Then again yon have not the type of employer who is accustomed to this class of building. The big contractor does not employ the old cottage builder, the actual workman, the bricklayer or plasterer who has always done that class of work, but he engages men used to putting up huge buildings, and who know nothing whatever of this class of building. There is not the slightest doubt that if we would give facilities to the actual workmen who in the past built these cottages, and made them weekly payments to cover the wages of the men they employ, the municipality taking care to see that the work is done correctly and that the proper materials are used—if only you could get back to those conditions and give these workmen a chance of erecting the houses necessary for the working classes you would instantly save hundred of thousands of pounds of the amount you are now pro- posing to spend. Unfortunately the whole business is now concentrated in a few hands. If there were opportunities for the old builder of cottage property to come into his own again—
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is in order on this Amendment in discussing any suggestion as to the way in which houses might be built. The only point is whether there should or should not be a certain limitation of cost.
The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) in arguing in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Vivian) was also arguing in favour of a fixed price for the building of these houses. But yesterday we had from the same bench arguments in favour of utilising every scientific method possible for the purpose of bringing down the cost of houses, and it was suggested that that cost might be brought down by utilising scientific methods of building.
The danger is always that the maximum will become the minimum. 1 think the* Minister is quite right in refusing to accept the Amendment in the form in which it has been put. We are now defiling with the prices of houses, and it is a remarkable thing that the prices should be as they are at the present time. I should like hon. Members to compare the prices to-day with those which obtained under the Addison scheme or the Chamberlain scheme. I remember the time 20 years ago, when I was connected with the building industry as an employer. I know a little bit about the methods adopted and the prices that were then being paid. We could then get cottages built at 5d. per cubic foot. I do not think to-day you would get the same type of cottage and the same quality of work and material for less than 15d. per cubic foot. It cannot be suggested that wages have increased in that time cent. per cent., and certainly if you take the case of a brick the price of the raw material for that is the same as it was before the War. The hon. Gentleman who spoke just now talked of anti-social forces making for high prices against the welfare of the community. I agree with him that such forces ought to be scotched and killed. But in the present organisation of industry the anti-social force would be totally foreign to the whole conception on which modern history is based to-day.
The Noble Lord opposite talked of the burden that was going to be placed on the poorest of the poor by the amount of money to be raised for building these houses. The poor always do bear the burden. They always have done so. If there are any patient oxen in this country it is the poor. There is a good deal of sympathy expressed by hon. Members opposite with regard to the poorest of the poor having to meet the charges entailed by these houses. Might not a good deal of that sympathy be extended to them in regard to the burdens they have to bear in connection with our enormous national debt?
My attention was distracted for the moment, but I may remind the hon. Member that what we are now discussing is whether any limit shall be placed in the Bill, and I cannot permit any discussion outside that.
hon. Gentleman will not yield to the blandishments of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but that he will be prepared to take advantage of all the powers he can get from this Committee for the purpose of dealing with profiteering in that drastic way which our experience during the War showed it can be dealt with.
In view of the extremely sympathetic reply of the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBEKS: "Oh!"]—I am quite prepared to be a patient ox if I can be of use. I may say I was agreeably surprised to hear from my right hon. Friend that he really hopes and believes that, apart from the special situation of London, which I appreciate—I think he is perfectly right—and in view of the definite pledge he gave to the Committee that he would devote himself to securing that the cost shall not only not rise, but shall decrease, and the possibility that this maximum may tend to become a minimum in some quarters, and in view of the recorded words of the right hon. Gentleman on the Floor of this House, and that we have a declaration of his policy—I say that in no unfriendly spirit—I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
The Committee will remember that the Minister of Health said, on the Second Reading of this Bill, that he intended to supplement this Bill by another Measure controlling the price of material, and I think we ought to have a Clause that the cost shall not exceed the average price for similar cottages ruling in January, 1924.
|Division No. 162.]||AYES.||[7.35 p.m.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Calne, Gordon Hall||Deans, Richard Storry|
|Ballour, George (Hampstead)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Duckworth, John|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt.R. (Prtsmth.S)||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Elveden, Viscount|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Clarry, Reginald George||England, Colonel A.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Ferguson, H.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Cope, Major William||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davidson Major-General Sir J. H.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hall, Lieut-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Burman, J. B.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Harland, A.||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, South)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Meller, R. J.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Stanley, Lord|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, North)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Pennefather, Sir John||Thomson, Sir W.Mitchell-(Croydon,S.)|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Philipson, Mabel||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Ralne, W.||Wells, S. R.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Reid, D, D. (County Down)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Remer, J. R.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Lane-Fox, George R.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Savery, S. S.|
|Lord, Walter Greaves-||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Shepperson, E, W.||Viscount Wolmer and Marquess of Titchfield.|
|MacDonald, R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Gillett, George M.||Lunn, William|
|Acland, Rt, Hon. Francis Dyke||Gorman, William||McCrae, Sir George|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Gosling, Harry||McEntee, V. L.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Macfadyen, E.|
|Alden, Percy||Greenall, T.||Mackinder, W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Alstead, R.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maden, H.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Groves, T.||March, S.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Grundy, T. W.||Marley, James|
|Ayles, W. H.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Baker, Walter||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Maxton, James|
|Banton, G.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Harbison, Thomas James S.||Middleton, G.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Harbord, Arthur||Millar, J. D.|
|Barnes, A.||Hardie, George D.||Mitchell, R. M.(Perth & Kinross,Perth)|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Montague, Frederick|
|Black, J. W.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Morris, R. H.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Bonwick, A.||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Haycock, A. W.||Morse, W. E.|
|Briant, Frank||Hayday, Arthur||Moulton Major Fletcher|
|Broad, F. A.||Hayes, John Henry||Muir, John W.|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Murray, Robert|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, W. W.(Middlesex,Enfield)||Murrell, Frank|
|Buckle, J.||Hillary, A. E.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hindle, F.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Hobhouse, A. L.||Nichol, Robert|
|Church, Major A. G.||Hodge, Lieut. Col. J. P. (Preston)||Nixon, H.|
|Clarke, A.||Hoffman, P. C.||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Climie, R.||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Oliver, George Harold|
|Cluse, W. S.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Owen, Major G.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hudson, J. H.||Paling, W.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Isaacs, G. A.||Palmer, E, T.|
|Crittall, V. G.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Perry. S. F.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jewson, Dorothea||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W,|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Dickie, Captain J, P.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Potts, John S.|
|Dickson, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Purcell, A. A.|
|Dukes, C.||Jowitt, w. A. (The Hartlepools)||Raffan, P. W.|
|Duncan, C.||Keens, T.||Raffety. F. W.|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Ramage. Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Dunnico, H.||Kenyon, Barnet||Raynes, W. R.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kirkwood, D.||Rea, W. Russell|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Lansbury, George||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Laverack, F. J.||Rees, sir Beddoe|
|Falconer, J.||Law, A.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Franklin, L. B.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Richardson, R, (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lawson, John James||Ritson, J.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Leach, W.||Roberts, Rt Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Lessing, E.||Robertson, T. A.|
|Gates, Percy||Linfield, F. C.||Robinson. S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Livingstone, A. M.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Lowth, T.||Romeril, H, G.|
|Ropner, Major L,||Stewart J. (St. Rollox)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Royle, C.||Sturrock, J. Leng||Westwood, J.|
|Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Sullivan, J.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Sutton, J. E.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Scurr, John||Tattersall, J. L.||Whiteley, W.|
|Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)||Terrington, Lady||Wignall, James|
|Sexton, James||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sherwood, George Henry||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thornton, Maxwell R.||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kennington)|
|Simon, E. D.(Manchester,Withington)||Thurtle, E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Simpson, J. Hope||Tinker, John Joseph||Willison, H.|
|Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Tout, W. J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Smillie, Robert||Turner, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Turner-Samuels, M.||Windsor, Walter|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Varley, Frank B.||Wintringham. Margaret|
|Snell, Harry||Viant, S. P.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||Vivian, H.||Wright, W.|
|Spence, R.||Wallhead, Richard C.||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Spero, Dr. G. E.||Warne, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Starmer, Sir Charles||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Mr Frederick Hall and Mr. John Robertson.|
|Stephen, Campbell||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
I beg to move, in page 4, line 17, at the end, to insert the words
(e) that the dimensions of all bricks used in building the houses shall be nine inches by four and a half inches by three and a half inches in size.
The Committee will remember that I obtained leave, by the unique majority of one, to bring in a Bill to standardise bricks used in houses subsidised by the State, and I hope the Committee will support me in carrying this Amendment. I venture to claim, that so long as we have a housing problem, we shall have a brick problem; and sooner or later, if Parliament continues to subsidise house building, it will have to begin—I do not say it is going to stop at bricks—standardising material for the sake of economy, and, although I could offer a good many suggestions for standardising other things, I do feel perfectly convinced we are quite safe in standardising bricks.
Yes, and I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will do his best to whip up his friends to support this Amendment. At the present time, 90 per cent. of the bricks used in house building are what are commonly known as common clay-fired wire-cut bricks. I am the last person to want to interfere with private manufacture, and I do not want to interfere with the dimensions of channel stock brick, but I am concerned with the 90 per cent. of common clay-fired wire-cut bricks. This Amendment would not in any way affect brick-making plant for wire-cut bricks, which are made by simply setting certain wires a certain distance apart, so that they can be cut either 3½, 3 or 2¾ inches thick. There will be no alteration needed in regard to machinery. Before the War, these common bricks were made all over the country 3 inches to 3⅛ inches thick. It has been found in practice that the 3-inch brick is the handiest brick that any man can handle. The price of these bricks before the War was one-third or one-fourth their present price. In those days the brickmakers made the brick 3⅛ inches thick, for this reason, that the architects had a clause in their specification that certain things such as bricks, timber, etc., should be of certain size. Therefore, the brickmakers made the bricks an eighth of an inch thicker than the 3-inch brick in order to be able to come within the terms of the specification. The bricks were therefore always 3⅛ inch thick.
One thousand of these bricks always produced 11 yards square of 9-inch wall, with the result that architects or builders in preparing their estimates of cost knew exactly how many square yards of brickwork they were going to get out of 1,000 bricks, and they fixed their prices accordingly at certain definite figures. During the War the brickmakers, like other tradesmen, formed themselves into a ring or combine, and raised the price of the goods they supplied, with the result that bricks that cost 25s. per Thousand before the War were raised to as high as five guineas per thousand in 1919. In addition to raising the pries, they reduced the size from 4½ inches wide to 4¼ inches and from 3⅛ inches to 2¾ inches thick, with the result that the cost of brick- work, both in material and labour, was increased. The bricklayers did not lay more bricks because they were reduced in size.
I should like to give my own personal experience. In 1919–20 I was the architect for the erection of 20 factories in Manchester, the one-storey weaving shed type of factory, and brickwork was the chief thing. After fixing the contract with the builders at a certain scheduled rate of price for brickwork, labour and material, this alteration in the size of bricks meant that my clients immediately became liable for 15 per cent. more increase in cost. [An HON. MEMBER: "All the better for you!"] It ought to be reckoned in my favour that I am now proposing something which would tell against my own interests. The result was, that the cost of the brickwork through the action of the combine became very heavy. I do not want to interfere with private enterprise and private business, but so long as Parliament is committing itself to a programme of house building and is responsible for such a heavy percentage of cost spread over 40 years, it is right to say that if we cannot control prices we intend to see that no such thing occurs again in regard to the size of bricks, if the programme under this Bill is put into operation.
I hope that hon. Members will appreciate the fact that because of the experience I had in 1919 I want to warn the Committee that as soon as this Housing Bill becomes law and contracts are given out for hundreds of thousands of cottages all over the country brick-makers will immediately reduce the size of bricks. The Minister is to attempt to control prices by a subsequent Bill, and if he does not control the dimensions of bricks and other materials, but particularly bricks, the manufacturers will immediately reduce the size, and in that way inflate the cost. Not that they would gain very much for themselves, but simply because they are, determined to sell as many thousand bricks per cottage as possible and to make as many pound notes as possible. I hope that the Minister will give me some assurance that he will accept the Amendment. If he thinks fit, I would be prepared to reduce the sizes if he thinks the sizes in my Amendment too big. What I want is a standard of dimensions. Many thousands of millions of bricks will be required for these cottages and my Amendment would mean a very considerable saving. Indeed, this is the first Amendment which if it be carried will save the State some money.
It has been part of my policy all through this Bill to protect private enterprise, and the House has treated me so kindly, I might almost say generously, that it would be most unjust if I were to depart from that policy now. Even if I were inclined to do so, and if I could see some merit in the Amendment I would draw the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that it would be quite unworkable. We are dealing with the conditions that the local authority has to undertake. What does he ask the local authorities to undertake? He asks them to undertake that the dimensions of bricks used in building the houses shall be 9 inches by 4½ inches by 3½ inches. It would be totally impracticable for, say, Shrewsbury, to guarantee the size of bricks that would be used by a local authority in Monmouth.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 19, to leave out from the word "not" to the word "houses" in line 23, and to insert instead thereof the words
exceed the rents, generally paid for the time being in the area of the local authority for houses of similar size, type and amenity.
This Amendment raises an exceedingly vital principle. Hitherto, in building these municipal houses there has been general agreement as to the level of rents at which they should be let. The principle has been that the rents should be, as far as possible, the same as the rents of pre-War houses of equivalent accommodation, so that any tenant who is prepared to pay a certain amount of rent
will get the same kind of accommodation, whether he gets a pre-War house, an Addison house, or a. Chamberlain house. That is the principle that has been universally accepted. It is just possible that it has not been completely carried out, because for what is called "amenity" in many districts too large a charge has been made. In some districts the rents of these houses are higher than the rents of equivalent pre-War houses, on account of more being charged for amenity and more being charged for rates. Apart from that, the principle has been accepted of one level of accommodation, one level of rent.
In this Bill that principle has been completely departed from. The Minister of Health has said several times that what he is aiming at is to let better houses at the rent of smaller houses. That is a totally new principle, and it is expressed in words which are extremely difficult to understand—
That the rents charged in respect of the houses shall not in the aggregate exceed the total amount of the rents that would be payable if the houses were let at the appropriate normal rents charged in respect of working-class houses erected prior to the third day of August, nineteen hundred and fourteen.
That does not say in respect of what working-class houses.
Nor what are working-class houses. If what the right hon. Gentleman says, and what was said in the negotiations with the local authorities, is, that the intention is that these houses shall be let at the rent average of working-class houses in any given locality before the War, what is the position? Take the case of Manchester. Some 75 per cent. of the pre-War houses in Manchester were only of the two-bedroom type. In order to right that, the Manchester local authority is building almost exclusively three-bedroomed houses. If this Clause passes, it means that these three-bedroomed houses are to be let at, approximately, the vents of the pre-War two-bedroomed houses. That is, giving a better house for the rent of the worse pre-War house. The right hon. Gentleman has said so often in his speeches that he wants to let these houses to the poorest section of the community, and this Clause, no doubt, is drafted for that purpose, but the striking thing about the right hon. Gentleman's speeches on this matter is that he never refers to figures.
What are the rents of these houses going to be? It seems to me absolutely essential if we are to understand what this Clause means that we should consider at what rent the subsidy allowed in this Bill will enable these houses to be let. It is agreed that the cost is to be £500, although in the great cities you cannot build an A3 house for £500 at the present time. Assuming that you build the house for £500, the economic rent of that house, without any subsidy, works out at 13s., calculating interest at 5 per cent. The subsidy allowed under the 1923 Act is equivalent to 3s. a week, enabling us to let that type of house at 10s. per week net. The extra subsidy allowed in this Bill is equivalent to 1s. 6d. a week, bringing the rent down to 8s. 6d. net. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will deny those figures. That means that 8s. 6d. per week is the lowest net rent at which a £500 house can be let with the full subsidy under this Bill. To that you must, of course, add rates. The rates on this house in Manchester amount approximately to 5s., so that the gross rent is 15s. We are letting these houses at 15s. Under the right hon. Gentleman's Bill we shall be able to let them at 13s. 6d. per week.
That is what this Bill in fact enables us to do with the £500 house. My figures may be wrong. They are wrong in one sense, because I do not think that we can build for £500. They are based, moreover, on 5 per cent. interest, and the local authorities are going to have such enormous sums to borrow in the next 15 years that the rate of interest is more likely to go up than down. So that the rent is likely to ho 13s. 6d. My figures are also based on a sum for repairs, agreed by the City Treasurers, of £6 per annum per house. 8s. 6d. per week, plus rates, making 13s. 6d., is the lowest rent at which these houses can be let. What does that mean in Manchester? We are building Chamberlain houses, and we shall continue to build exactly the same houses on the same estate. We are now letting at 15s. a week to people of the artisan classes. According to the recent census 96 per cent. of our tenants are artisans and clerks, members, I presume, of the working class, but the richest members of the working class. The houses are let to them, and, so far as we can tell, there is an unlimited demand for similar houses at the present rent of 15s. from members of the same class. The right hon. Gentleman proposes that we shall go on building similar houses on the same estate, to let, not at 15s., but at 13s. 6d. The new houses may be next door to those already built or on the other side of the same street.
The first question that arises is, what will the tenants of the Chamberlain houses say when they find that similar houses are being let at 1s. 6d. a week less? That is an impossible situation. The local authorities in their negotiations with the Minister laid great stress on this, and said, "If you are going to give us this extra subsidy, which we welcome, we shall be forced to reduce the rents of the Addison and Chamberlain houses. Will you meet us on that point and bear the cost?" Hitherto the right hon. Gentleman has not given any answer to that question. If he is going to force local authorities to let these new houses at a lower rent, it seems only fair to ask that he should help the local authorities, to bring down the rents of the other houses to the same level. That is assuming that he does not accept the Amendment. If my figures are correct, it is fairly clear that when the right hon. Gentleman talks about the 1923 Act having housed the rich and of his being about to house the poorer section—when you realise that that means that under the old Act we let houses at 15s. and under his Act we are to let them at 13s. 6d.—it is really rather an exaggeration to say that in the one case it is the housing of the rich and in the other the housing of the poorest section of the community. The only people who can afford these houses with the full subsidy are the richest sections of the working class, those whose incomes are between £200 and £300 a year. If it is the case that the rents of working class houses are too high, the natural thing is to give a subsidy to all working class houses and bring the rents down. To reduce the rents by 1s. a week would mean £20,000,000 a year. I presume that if the right hon. Gentleman has considered that, he has found the Chancellor of the Exchequer not very sympathetic.
If it is out of the question financially, which it obviously is, surely the next thing to do is to say, "If we are to subsidise and give a dole to certain sections of the working classes, which are the classes which need it most?" Surely it ought to be given to the classes that need it most, and I should have thought that they were the poorest—those now living in slums. There would be a good case for giving some extra subsidy to them. There is another class which deserves help, the tenants who have large families of dependent children. The artisan with a large family requires practically the whole of his income for food and clothing and can afford only a very moderate rent. Just at the time when he needs a large house most he cannot afford it. Those are the two classes amongst the working class in regard to whom there is a strong ca6e for giving some extra subsidy. But what does the right hon. Gentleman do? He does nothing for the slum dweller and nothing for the parents with large numbers of dependent children, for they are just the people who cannot afford these expensive houses. What he does is to say: "I will take the tenant who can afford a 15s. house, and I will give him a dole of 1s. 6d. That 1s. 6d. shall be partly on the taxes and partly on the rates."
Every single householder throughout the country will have to pay more in order to help the specially privileged tenants to be created under this Bill. That includes, not only the rich, who pay their share, but the Blum-dweller and the casual labourer. Every slum-dweller will have to pay a little bit extra in order that these artisans shall get a dole of 1s. 6d. on their rents. That is most extraordinary. It is a deliberate creation of a privileged class. It is a deliberate creation of inequality and injustice, and a deliberate taxation of the whole community, including the poorest, in order to create this privileged class. The original proposal of the right hon. Gentleman or of the Prime Minister was that he wanted to build these £500 houses and let them at 9s. a week, including rates. That was the
proposal first made to the municipalities. The proposal was that the rents should average 9s. To average 9s. would mean, not a total of £34,000,000 on the rates and taxes, but exactly double that amount, namely, £68,000,000. In view of that fact, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman abandoned his idea. But if you can let these houses at 9s. would not the absurdity of letting houses, as they are now let, at 15s., and of suddenly building a number of similar houses to be let at 9s., be more patent than ever? How are you to select the particular tenants for these privileged houses? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not think that I have spoken strongly about this scheme. May I quote what was said in one of our leading newspapers the other day about the selection of these tenants? They referred to "this publicly-financed lottery,"
This fundamentally corrupt vote-catching and demoralising subsidy.
That was not in the "Morning Post," but in a leading morning newspaper which has supported hon. Members above the Gangway more than any other paper. I refer to the; "Manchester Guardian." Those are stronger words than I would have been inclined to use. If my Amendment wore adopted, it would bring the Clause back practically to the Clause that we have had in previous Acts except that it gives the local authorities full power to use the whole of the subsidy. It does not reduce the subsidy or necessarily the amount to be paid by the local authorities. They can let the houses at the lowest possible rents they can afford. But it does not force them to let the houses at lower rents than similar houses already existing. I have an Amendment later on, suggesting that any surplus subsidy might very usefully be given, not indiscriminately to every tenant, but to those particular tenants who have large families of dependent children. In that way this subsidy, instead of creating a privileged class of tenant, selected in a way that no one has yet been able to suggest, would do some real good to the children of the next generation, that is, those of the largest families who particularly need this subsidy.
I do not for a moment doubt the strong feeling and honest motive which actuate the hon. Member, because I have noticed for some time in the Press that he has been very energetically propagating this idea. But I want to make it quite clear to the House that the Amendment would strike a blow at the very heart of the Bill. I want to reason with the House on this matter, and to show how essential this scheme of rents is to the success of the Bill. It is important from two points of view. I have noticed in the discussions on the Bill that many hon. Members, instead of taking a comprehensive view of the scheme and trying to understand how one portion fits into another, are apt to deal with it partially and in sections, and to be honestly misled and to mislead their hearers. An instance of that occurred yesterday, when the right hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain), who is probably the greatest authority on this subject in the House, told us in so many words that he saw no connection between the anticipated advent of new materials and big business men into the building industry and the launching of this scheme. If the hon. Member will consider the question from my point of view, he will see that the one is the natural result of the other. What was the position that I had to deal with when I set out to find a way out of the present housing situation? I had first of all to find a market for the houses. Before> you can find a producer of the houses you have to find a market for the houses; there must be some evidence when the houses are being produced that there are people prepared to take them.
I want hon. Members to do me the favour of trying to follow this closely. I want them to accept this as a fact. However many people you have in this country who can afford to buy, you have a large number who cannot afford to buy. That is not putting it too high. There is no use finding a manufacturer who can produce houses unless you find means by which these people can take houses. In the old days the means employed was to get an investor of capital who would take the houses from the builders and let them, if possible, at a profit to the people who require them. In other words you had to get an investor in houses, not merely a producer of houses, not merely a manufacturer of buildings, but a class of people who would sink their capital in the letting of houses. Everyone will agree that that type of man has gone We may disagree as to why. Hon. Members opposite might say that socialist agitators drove him away. We might say that the increase in the cost of production and various economic causes have driven him away, but whatever the cause of his going, there is almost unanimous agreement that he has gone.
Nor can I find any section of the community who hopes for his early return. I have put it, as I have said already in this House, to every deputation of local authorities in connection with houses that came to the Ministry of Health, including the municipal corporations, as to whether there was any sign in their locality of the investor of money for houses for letting purposes, for profit, returning, and in every case they said that there was not the slightest sign of his coming back. The very first thing I had to do was to find a market for the houses to be occupied by these people. If the investor has gone the only alternative I could find, apart from the State, which I think was out of the question, was the local authority. I had to get the local authority to take the place of the old investor in working-class houses, to get the local authority to be a party to the finance terms with which we had to deal. When I met them I found a reluctance, natural when we remember that at the moment we are in the course of a transition from one order of society to another. It is going on too slowly some of us think, but undoubtedly it is going on, and the general hope in this country is that it can be expedited sufficiently to keep pace with the developments of our industry, and to prevent anything like a violent disturbance. That is the hope of all of us.
Most of these local authority representatives find themselves dominated by ideas from the generation from which we are emerging, so naturally they had a reluctance to take over the place of the old investor. Many of them still say, perhaps not the authorities, but members of the authorities, "This is not the business of a local authority. The State should not interfere; the local authority should not interfere. It should be left to the operation of private enterprise." But the local authorities as a whole do not take that view. As I said yesterday, and I am always pleased to say it, my experience from the first day I entered public life goes in the direction of enabling me to say—and people who have had to deal from practical experience with public representatives on local authorities will bear me out—that whatever may be their party political views, they become, from sheer experience in their handling of this problem, enthusiastic housing reformers. But when I spoke to them in connection with this Bill they said in effect, "We are not prepared to take over all housing, but we are prepared to take over some housing." That, at any rate, helped to give me my market. Here was the local authority who would take over the housing of a certain section of the community, here was private enterprise still to deal with another section of the community.
But my market was essential for two reasons. The first mason was to attract to the building industry, if I might respectfully say so to those who are in it to-day, a bigger type of mind, a bigger conception of industrial organising. It was necessary to give some hope of getting to the newer methods of construction to which the right hon. Member referred yesterday, and it is the natural result of our having guaranteed a market, for those materials and products that, as is well known, you have today, as you had not even three months ago, a large number of the best business men in this country turning their attention to the cheap production of working-class houses. It was necessary to get that market, to widen the circle of people who would have access to the houses. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment has pointed out that under the Addison scheme in particular and under the Chamberlain scheme to some extent you had these houses let at fairly high rents. I think that he will agree that they are let at rents which a large number of the working classes of this country cannot afford to pay. I do not want to say anything that will be disputed, but it will not be disputed that they are beyond the reach of the working classes.
Many members of local authorities, my own local authority among others, have said, "We would not mind taking up the housing of the artisan class, but we do object to being saddled with the housing of people who could well afford to look after themselves. The people who can afford to pay a high rent, or to purchase their houses themselves." To get my market I have to widen my circle. I have to bring into my circle as many as possible of those people who cannot afford to pay high rents or to purchase their houses. So I set out, for this reason, to get my first subsidy in order to make the houses accessible to a larger section of the community. It may be that I have not widened the circle sufficiently, but I have widened it as far as hon. Members will permit me, and as far as the country in its present frame of mind would tolerate my doing.
I confess frankly to hon. Members, I have frequently said in my speeches, particularly on this question, that I do not come to you with prepared speeches to throw off to conceal my thoughts. I think aloud, and why should I not do so? I honestly tell you that, if I had the power, I would bring the whole of the people within my circle, in order to widen the circle, in order to make the market for the people which it is essential to get to bring now ideas into the industry and to give me the houses at a lower price. I wanted to widen the circle for another reason—a better reason, a nobler reason, and a reason which appeals more to my heart. I wanted to bring healthy housing within reach of a larger number of people, I shudder at the very conception of society which says that housing conditions, so essential in the life of a child, are to be, determined by the accumulations of wealth of the parents or the guardians of the child. I would like to make healthy housing conditions the inheritance of every child born in Britain. Just think that if a man is a successful burglar or a successful brothel-keeper, then the children of that man, because of his having accumulated some wealth, inherit healthy conditions, but if he is a man who has served his country well by giving useful industrial service, he only receives, because of the economic methods by which we fix incomes, 40s., 50s., or 60s. a week in return for those services. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or 30s.!"] I am reminded that he may receive even as low as 30s., and the children of that useful man are to be denied access to those healthy houses; are to be crippled physically and mentally, and are to be condemned by economic conditions to be wastrels, and to go through this world deprived of all the joys of life. On the other hand, the children of the successful brothel-keeper or the successful burglar are entitled by the laws of society to the higher things in life.
I wanted to end all that as far as I possibly could so I said to the local authorities: "I am prepared to give you the higher rate of subsidy but the condition of giving you that subsidy is that you will spend it as far as it will go in the furtherence of the objects I have in view." If the Committee were to carry this Amendment they would be making a gift to the local authorities. If we are simply going back, as this Amendment proposes to go back, to the practice of giving whatever houses may be available to the people who have the most wealth, then the local authorities in my belief can get in the market to-day a rent for these houses which would not require a subsidy at all. There is no doubt about that, and why we should give them the larger subsidy, designed for special purposes, and then proceed in the course of the Bill to relieve them of the obligation of performing the purposes which we ask them to perform I Cannot understand and I think to do so would not be justifiable.
May I come now to one or two of the statements made by the hon. Member in regard to the manner of fixing rents. No doubt the words may be somewhat ambiguous to the lay mind, but lawyers, in framing words, particularly those dealing with a scheme like this, have to aim at the utmost exactitude and not at the comfort of the reader of the words. If you have, as the hon. Member pointed out, to take as your objective the rents being paid to-day by working-class tenants in particular localities, in some places where the conditions are good, the wages high, the houses good and the rents high, the benefit, will not be so great. In other districts where the conditions are bad and where the rents have in the past been low, the benefit will be greater. In other words, the poorer districts will benefit more than the richer districts. The Bill lays it down that the local authority may charge different rents for different sizes of houses—say, the parlour houses and the non-parlour houses—but in addition to that, they may charge different rents for houses of the same type in different localities within the same area. In London, for example, there are some districts where the non-parlour houses would justify a higher rent than the parlour houses would be expected to bring in another part of London.
The hon. Member spoke about 5 per cent. interest. I do not know about the administration of Manchester, but if Manchester has been paying 5 per cent. then I should say that it is not financially the best administered corporation in the country, because the rate of interest over the whole country is substantially less than 5 per cent. The hon. Member referred to the rents which might be charged. I have never been able to follow the hon. Member's figures. I may be wrong, but I have seen many financial statements on housing from him, and I say, with all deference and with all humility, I have never been able to follow him. I have asked my advisers at the Ministry, who have probably access to as much information as any set of people in this country, what would be the average rent, rates inclusive, in England and Wales, of a house costing £475 all in. I think it will be admitted that £475 is enough, and I think it is more than enough, to pay for these houses. They tell me that the inclusive rent—the average over the whole country—of a £475 house would be 9s. 5d.
There were certain other questions put to me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"] I cannot give hon. Members any more than the information at my disposal. I have nothing to conceal in the matter, and if the rents are higher, I have nothing to be ashamed of. If the rents were 20s. a week, or if I could bring them down by the figure put by the hon. Member of 1s. 6d. a week, it would only show that was the best I could do, and if anyone else can do better, then I will help him to do it. There is no reason why anyone should say that, because I cannot do everything, therefore I should not do anything.
In order to clear this matter up, may I ask is not the figure of 9s. 5d. which the right hon. Gentleman gave just now the figure of the rent after deducting the subsidy?
Oh, yes. Let me take another point, and I think a very pertinent point, raised by the hon. Member who preceded me. He said that under the 1923 Act we had erected a certain number of houses for which the local authority had only the smallest subsidy. He says if these houses are to compete with the new houses the rents will have to be brought down and the local authority will lose and then, asks the hon. Member, what are you going to do with the local authority? He is quite right in saying that the local authorities did raise that point when they interviewed me. I told them that when the loss was proved I would be very pleased to do anything that was in my power to help them, but may I show how little it can possibly be? This Bill is retrospective for houses, the contracts for which were placed on and after 1st February, and this problem applies only to houses built for letting purposes. I suppose I should not be putting it too low if I said that the total number of houses that would be affected by this consideration would not exceed 10,000 for the whole country, and we are thinking of a scheme of 2,500,000 houses! Let me deal, in almost my last word, with the argument that we are creating a privileged few. Surely that argument comes late in the day, and comes, surprisingly, from benches occupied by people who have been reformers in this country. Can you tell me of a single reform—I do not know that there is one—which has not benefited a certain section of the people at the expense of another section? We have free elementary education in this country. We tax our bachelors to educate the children.
Yes, we tax our bachelors to educate the children of the country, and, indeed, the whole principle on which we carry on social reform in this country must in its very essence begin, unless you begin by giving it to everybody, by giving it to all the people to whom you can afford to give it. While it is perfectly true, here, again, that we cannot build these houses at lower rents for everyone who needs them, surely that is not a conclusive argument why we should not begin to give them to all the people to whom we can afford to give them. My hon. Friend, if he has proved anything, has proved that I have not gone far enough. I assure him that I would like to go further, and I hope the day is not far distant when this country, even from a business point of view, if not from a humanitarian point of view, and if not from a patriotic point of view, will see that it is good, sound business to give healthy housing accommodation to every child born into this land.
I am sure the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. E. Simon), who moved this Amendment, must feel himself rewarded for having done so, if only for the sake of the speech to which we have just listened from the Minister of Health. I confess that I like the right hon. Gentleman best when he is thinking aloud, when he gives us, as he did just now, a picture of the way in which his mind has worked. It is a picture, I think he will allow me to say, of an honest but a misguided mind, the mind of a man who has sincere ideals and a most earnest desire to put right evils which he clearly sees, as all of us do, of course, to be around us, but who has not seen the problem in all its aspects, and who has missed out of his purview, as I think, some important and vital parts of it. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is living largely in a world of delusion. He has a delusion about the effect of the proposals he is making. He suggested that I was quite beside the mark when I failed to see any connection between his proposals and the turning of mechanical and commercial minds to the problem of producing a cheap house. He imagines that the one is the direct result of the other, but I can assure him he is entirely mistaken about that. What is really turning the mind of people to the problem of producing a cheap house is the conviction, which has been growing on them for some time, but which has now become firmly established after seeing the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, that it is impossible to get sufficient skilled labour, and to get that labour applied to the problem of producing houses, a/t any reasonable cost whatever. I now come to the particular Amendment before us
I only wish to say that, as far as I am concerned, I do not think it is reasonable of hon. Members to suggest that I was taking up time in going outside the Amendment, when I was merely answering the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment had, I thought, put his finger upon some very serious difficulties, and I am bound to say that the Minister in his reply, interesting and charming as it was in many respects, gave no answer to, and found no solution of, the difficulties to which the hon. Member alluded. I am not going to make any calculations as to what would be the particular rents which would be appropriate to the figures which are named as the cost. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's figures. He says that under the paragraph, which is, I think, paragraph (e), dealing with the way in which the rents are to be fixed— and I am bound to say it is very difficult to follow the wording of that paragraph—the rents are to be the ordinary rents that the tenants are now paying, whom he would expect to get the now houses. The local authorities are, then, under these proposals, to be allowed to charge different rents for different classes of houses, and even different rents for the same class of houses in the same locality. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] That is what I understood him to say.
I did not mean that under this provision local authorities would be entitled to charge different rents for the same class of houses in the same locality, but in different localities within the area.
Within the area. But they have one thing in common that is, they will be let at rents which will be lower than the houses of the same type and size in the same locality, namely, those already erected under the Act of last year or before. The effect of that must be, as the hon. Member pointed out, that the rent of the older houses is going to come down. I desire to press the right hon. Gentleman a little bit further on this point. He said that he had made a calculation, and that not more than 10,000 houses at the outset would be affected. That excludes the Addison houses. I am certainly glad to hear him say so definitely that, if the rent of the Addison houses came down, the loss would not fall upon the local authority. I thought that insufficiency of rent charged was one of the causes which would cause the loss to fall upon the local authority. I am rather surprised to hear the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman has given. In spite of this, however, I feel some doubt in my mind as to its correctness—whether, if the rents of the Addison houses come down, the loss would not fall upon the local authorities.
Apart from that, however, there are the 10,000 houses. The right hon. Gentleman asked: "What are they compared with the two and a half millions?" But the 10,000 houses are on the ground. The two and a half millions are in the air! The 10,000 houses have been let, and the local authorities who have built them are receiving rents from them. Take the case of the small district councils who have built a limited number of houses in their district, and who have still got another small number to build. It may be only a few houses. They mean a lot to those district councils where, perhaps, it may be, a penny rate is only worth a few hundreds per year. They do want to have a very much more definite assurance from the right hon. Gentleman than they have had to-night as to any loss accruing. He may perhaps say that before he can say anything on this point he has to overcome the scruples of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am informed that the scruples of the Chancellor are exceedingly difficult to get over. The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, knows that the Association of Municipal Corporations did not take a light view of this matter, for they went on to say, at one of their gatherings, that they must insist on an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he would make up to them any loss they might suffer owing to his scheme.
If you are going to build houses of the same type and size, in a particular district, or on a particular site, and if you are going to charge very different rents for them, and are going to put very different classes of people into them, then you are going to have trouble—trouble with the people who are already in the existing houses and who will resent the intrusion of people of a very different standard to themselves. They will resist having to live alongside of them, and, as they would say, lover the tone of the district, I am not saving this in any unkindly spirit, but any hon. Member opposite, who know? human nature, will know that I am speaking the perfect truth. I could give a case not very far from here where a Labour council protested against precisely that type of house proposed to be put up by the London County Council in their neighbourhood, the suggestion being that people would come from the East End of London to live in the houses.
These are practical difficulties that are likely to trip up this scheme, and the local authorities are going to be faced by serious difficulties when they put the scheme into operation. I confess I should have liked to hear from the right hon. Gentleman something not so picturesque but much more concrete as to exactly how the scheme was going to work. I should like to have heard from him as to the sort of differences he anticipates are going to exist between the new houses and the old when they are placed side by side, and how he thinks he is going to get over the difficulties that I have pointed out. That, to my mind, would have been more satisfactory, because it would have shown that he had really thought out the genuine difficulties and obstacles of his scheme, and which are likely to wreck it, despite any amount of good will on the part of the local authorities or anybody else.
I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this Amendment, if it were carried, would wreck the Bill. I think it would go to the whole root principle of the Bill. But I think the principle of the Bill is wrong. I voted against the Bill on Second Reading. I dare say I shall vote against it on Third Reading. But I am not going to try to kill the Bill by voting for an Amendment, or by a side wind under the guise of an Amendment, which would kill the whole thing. If it is impossible to fix the rents of these houses at the rents of the houses which are being built under the Act of last year then you do not want a subsidy. You cannot mix up the two things in that sort of way. Either you must have a smaller subsidy as before, or the larger subsidy and bring the rent down to the appropriate figure.
I am sorry to find myself in entire disagreement with the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon). I think his Amendment will, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Chamberlain) says, have the effect of practically killing the Bill. What is it we are all striving to do? What is it we all have in our minds to achieve? Is it not this, gradually to bring down the rent of the houses of the working classes somehow or other even to pre-War rents. We have at the present time by our Rent Restrictions Act fixed a limit upon the rent going beyond a certain figure. Are we Liberals to ask that a limit, a minimum rate, shall be fixed in order that certain localities may prevent for all time to fall in rents. Is that to be the policy of my hon. Friends below the Gangway? If that is their policy then I disassociate myself from it, and this Amendment tends in that direction. To be consistent we should have to prevent any house being built at a lower price than £500, and we should have to prevent anything in the nature of a reduction in the rates. We all have knowledge that there will have to be some sacrifices, and sacrifices will be made by the wealthier classes of investors when such a large amount of money is required for these houses.
For as the rate of interest goes up, the capital value of your investment falls, and your fortune is reduced in value, but people will be glad to make sacrifices if they can once do away with what has been a grievance and trouble in regard to this problem. We have by some means or another to reach a point when we have sufficient houses at rents which can be paid based on economic principles to enable us to do without the Rent Restrictions Act altogether. I feel definitely that an Amendment of this kind will have the effect of preventing the tenants getting the benefit of lower or cheaper houses. The number of houses, let by the municipal authorities at higher rents, and I take the figures given by the Minister, may not be very large even then but if we can substantially reduce rents it will set the standard for a new state of things, and we shall come somewhere near pre-War economic rents. It is for that reason that I would urge my hon. Friend, after having made his protest, and after having shown the grievance of one side, to consider the other side, and withdraw his Amendment.
I regret that my hon. Friend who has just spoken has thought fit to condemn the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Mr. Simon). If the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Franklin) had understood this question exactly as it stands, I do not think he would have made the criticisms which he has made. We want to ascertain exactly how the rents are to be fixed. I have read this Clause again and again, and I say candidly that I do not understand what it means. The Minister of Health spoke about the difficulties experienced by the lay mind. I confess that I have given some time to legal interpretation in my life time, but I do not know what the definition is of "appropriate normal rent." I am quite prepared to say that there is no other hon. Member of the Committee who knows what that means. If there is any hon. Member who knows, I shall be glad if he will stand up and explain it to the Committee. Certainly, the Minister of Health has not done so, and I notice that the Attorney-General is not here. I want to find out a little about it, and that is why this Amendment has been put down. What my hon. Friend has proposed in this Amendment provides a definite standard whereby houses are to be rented, and the Clause puts forward no standard at all. This Clause says, "the rent normally charged in the area of the local authority in the case of working-class houses erected prior to the third day of August, 1914." What are working-class houses? There is no definition of what is a working-class house. What is it? We have had Bills for the housing of the working classes, but in none of them have we had a definition of a working-class house. Is it to be the rent now charged for those houses, or is it to be the rent charged at the" time the new houses are built? If it is to be the rent charged now, and that is to go on during the period of the duration of this Act, then we are simply stereotyping the 40 per cent. increase provided for under the Rent Restrictions Act. The rent now charged for working-class houses is based upon the standard of rents in 1914 plus 40 per cent. Consequently, I find the Minister of Health in a strange position. If this is to be stereotyped for 40 years, I find him now, in conjunction with his colleagues representing Glasgow, stereotyping an increase of rent which he promised at the last General Election to have removed.
I would remind the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and his colleagues in the representation of Glasgow that they promised at the last General Election that they were going to put an end to the 40 per cent. increase under the Rent Restrictions Act, and we know that a Bill was introduced for that purpose. Now we find the Minister of Health and the hon. Member for Bridge-ton supporting a Clause which will stereotype this 40 per cent. increase for a period of 40 years. That is what the Bill does. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] If hon. Members can get the Attorney-General to say that I am wrong I shall be pleased. [Interruption.] Hon. Members cannot stand anything being said that they do not like. Either my interpretation is a right one or it is not, and if any hon. Member who interrupts me can show it is wrong I am quite prepared to withdraw anything I have said. My hon. Friend the Member for Withington asked the Minister of Health to say what his proposal means While the right hon. Gentleman indulged in a great deal of noble sentiment about the poor of this country, he could say nothing about the meaning of his own Clause. He did not say whether his Clause meant that the 40 per cent. was to be stereotyped under this Bill. That would not have been so good for his constituents as the noble sentiments which he expressed.
We have really a clear issue here, namely, whether this Bill is going to be a statutory stereotyping of the 40 per cent. increase under the Rent Restrictions Act. It is as well that the electors of Glasgow should know whether it is or not. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or Penistone!"] Yes or Penistone, although it was not an issue there. If it becomes an issue there I shall be prepared to face it. The hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart) is on the Front Bench, and perhaps he will be able to give an interpretation on this point, but if he is not, I hope the Attorney-General, before we part from this Clause, will tell us exactly what is the Government view. In my view, the rent normally charged in the area of a local authority for these working-class houses erected prior to the 3rd August, 1914, means now the rent charged under the Rent Restrictions Act. That rent is normally charged now by law. [Interruption.] It is normal at the time of the Act being passed. If the hon. Member would hold his tongues he would not expose his ignorance. The Bill as it stands says
is normally charged.
That means the usual charge at the present time for a working-class house. "Normal" means "usual," and the word "is" refers to the present time. Consequently, the meaning is that the standard is the standard in the Rent Restrictions Act, and if that be the case, the next question that arises is, is this going to be the standard continuously throughout the whole period during which houses are to be built under this Bill. This Clause makes no provision for that. We have to deal with the Clause as it stands, and in the circumstances I maintain that the only meaning is that not only have the houses now being built to be rented at these rents, but also that all the houses built in the 15 years during which houses are to be built are to be rented at the same rent. There is no provision for altering it. If the Minister wants to provide for periodical alterations, it is not provided for in this Clause as it stands.
The break of three years does not deal with rent at all, but affects the continuance of the building scheme. We are dealing here with the definition of the appropriate normal rent, and there is no provision for altering this standard. The standard is laid down as the rent normally charged for pre-War working-class houses. If I am wrong, it will be quite possible for the hon. Gentleman to tell me whether he contemplates the continuance of those Acts. If he does not, we might have an alteration; we might have these houses let on an economic basis before the end of the period; but there is no indication, in the Clause as it stands, that the idea of my hon. Friend who spoke last is to be fulfilled, that we are going to return to the normal economic rent. This Clause anticipates the fixing of the rents during the whole period of the operation of the Bill on an arbitrary basis on this principle, in accordance with rules laid down by the Minister. In these circumstances, I suggest that it is an unfortunate basis, and I hope that before the Bill goes through we shall have a more satisfactory standard.
I rise for the purpose of making one correction in something that the Minister has said, in order to make the matter quite clear, and also for the purpose of making one remark on another point that has not yet been raised. The Minister said that at the moment the number of houses, other than Addison houses, on which the local authority would stand to lose by a reduction of rents consequent upon this Clause, was 10,000. That, I suppose, means that the Minister is under the impression that he had only approved 10,000 houses under the Chamberlain Act before the 1st February last. It is those houses which are now built that are not to be entitled to the new subsidy. He had done, however, nothing of the kind. He had approved, on paper, over 90,000 by that date; but as I suppose it is not the ones approved on paper that are to be taken for the purposes of this Bill, but the ones approved and definitely arranged for, which have been contracted for, and for which undertakings have been given by the local authorities; but they were not 10,000, but 51,000. I really think the Committee has a right to expect that Ministers will be rather more accurate than that in their figures, when they are dealing with such a very important point as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood has shown this to be.
That is by way of correction. Then there is one phrase in this curious paragraph which has not been mentioned—the phrase "in the aggregate." What does "in the aggregate" mean? Does it mean that the local authority at any time is to lump together all the houses it has built, and say that, as long as the aggregate rent of all those houses, divided by the number of houses, comes out at the average normal rent, whatever that may be, then it does not matter what is the rent of a particular house—that within that aggregate you may have one house at as high a rent as 25s. and another as low as 6s.; that, as long as they are in the aggregate, or, as ordinary people would say, on the average, the normal rent of the surrounding houses, then any rent may be charged for any particular house? If that be so—I am merely asking for information—then what houses are the local authority in the aggregate to lump together? Is it to hump in simply the houses built under this Act—the houses under special conditions—or is it to lump in all the municipal houses built in its area and strike an average of the whole?
Does "aggregate" mean one of these things or is it the latest legal way of naming a rent inclusive of rates? Does it mean that the rent inclusive of rates is to be the average normal rent of the surrounding houses? It is no use the Minister telling us that the best lawyers have been on the job, and that, therefore, it is really all right. As the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) has said, we do not want only noble sentiments. We want to know what this Clause means. Up to date the impression left upon my mind is that the Minister knows as little what this Clause means as we do, and I am quite sure the Parliamentary Secretary knows as little as I do what the words "in the aggregate" mean.
If one looks at this Amendment, one finds that the name of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) is attached to it, but his speech and the speech of the Mover were entirely different. I rather gathered that the hon. Member for Penistone was running away from the attitude taken up by the Mover of the Amendment. Undoubtedly, the Mover of the Amendment wants the rents of the 1924 houses, to be built under the new Act, to be exactly the same as those of the 1923 and the 1919 houses.
I think it was suggested that the only practicable way was to make the rents similar. The hon. Member for Penistone runs away from that, and wants to argue that in this Bill the Minister ought to have included an Amendment to the Rent Restrictions Act. That, however, as I understand it, is not the intention of the Bill. The intention of the Bill is to get, houses and let them to the working classes in they districts where they are built, and if it is carried more or less in its present form it will have that effect.
I want to get back to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment. He said that in Manchester the only saving in this extra subsidy would be 1s. 6d. per week. The Minister has pointed out that he never can follow any figures the hon. Member uses when he is discussing the housing scheme. I am in a somewhat similar position. I think he is wrong, and I think I can prove him to be wrong. I have here an actual estate which is being built at present under the Chamberlain scheme. The number of houses is 30, of which 18 are four-roomed and 12 three-roomed houses. The average cost works out at £440 all in. The town chamberlain of the town has worked out the charges on the basis of 60 years' repayment. He has worked out the interest for 60 years. He has worked out the feu duties. We are not buying the houses. We are paying an annual feu duty. He has worked out the owners' rates. He has worked out the repairs at 15 per cent. on the rent, bringing out a total expenditure of £970 13s. 4d. That is the total annual rent for the houses. The present rent is, on the average, £25 all in. The rates are 8s. in the £, making a rent of £35. Under the scheme of the Bill the houses could be rented, not at £25, but at £19 on the average. Thirty houses at £19 gives £575. The grant of £9 per house under the scheme gives you £270. The local authority grant of £4 10s. gives £135, bringing out an interest of £980, as against £970 13s. 4d. The rents are £19 on the average. If you add the rates, £19 added to £7 12s. gives you a total rent of £26 12s. all in, or roughly 10s. a week. The rent and rates just now for the houses are 13s. 7d. a week. Under the Bill it would be 10s., giving you a saving per week, not of 1s. 6d. but of 3s. 7d. There is a concrete ease that I put before the Committee, and in my view the Minister is more or less carrying out the promise made by the Prime Minister at the opening of Parliament.
Mr. RAMSAY MUIR:
There is one aspect of this Clause, and the Amendment to it, to which I think we ought to direct our attention a little more closely than we have done. This Clause is drafted as an instruction to local authorities as to the principles on which they are to fix the rents of houses. It is not only an instruction. It is a condition of their receiving any subsidies that they shall fix the rent in accordance with this. We feel that it is really indispensable that a Clause so important and so vital to the working of the whole housing scheme should be framed in such terms that it shall be unmistakably clear and that everyone shall understand what are intended to be the principles upon which the rents of houses are fixed under this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you going to vote for the Amendment?"] The main purpose of the Amendment, in favour of which I shall vote if it goes to a Division, is primarily to elicit some clear definition as to what the right hon. Gentleman has described as the very heart of the Bill. We submit that the Bill is intolerable as it stands, and unintelligible. The standard laid down by the local authorities is to be the standard normal rent of working-class houses. What local authority can possibly decide what is meant by a working-class house? Furthermore, the principle that underlies this Amendment is not necessarily that we should stick to the rents in vogue at the present moment, but that whatever we do, we should do our best to get uniformity of rents. I think there is no escape from the validity of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Withington as to the sense of injustice that will be created by the giving of the special privilege of lower rents to a class which, after all, is already well enough off to pay a reasonable rent. It is not the poorest class that can or will be helped by such a rent as this. The main conclusion to which I come is, that this central and vital Clause is so drafted that it will set every local authority in the country at loggerheads among themselves and with one another, and with the Minister of Health, and that it will produce among the various classes of the working community a resentment, intense and growing, as the number of the privileged persons to whom these houses are granted is increased.
The hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) cited a Clause in this Bill which may have a very extraordinary effect. The idea of it apparently is not to judge house by house, but to judge group by groups, and, therefore, if this Clause were passed in the way in which it is framed, you will have to take 50 houses built under this Bill as compared with 50 houses let at a rent which was normal before the 3rd August, 1914, and the rents which will be payable if the houses were let at the "appropriate normal rent." Therefore, if you have 50 houses which were erected before the 3rd August, 1914, which were let at rentals that in the aggregate came to £650 at 10s. a week, then you are to let the houses under this scheme at and about an aggregate which will come to £650. You could get that perfectly easily by letting five houses purposing to charge £100 for five of them, £18 a year for one of them, and £3 a year for 44 of them. In that way you would get £650 for the 50 houses, and would be acting within the letter of the Clause, if you did it.
You might not easily get £100 for the first-named houses, but you would get any number of people to compete for the 44 houses to be let at £3 a year, and the result is that the Minister of Health will achieve his purpose of subsidising those people at the expense of the rest of the community. [Interruption.] I should have thought that what the Minister of Health really wanted to do was to see that these houses were let at a reasonable and normal rent, and if he wants to do that, then the Amendment which has been moved will achieve that end. Under those circumstances, quite apart from the interests of justice, and in the interests of trying to get a Clause into the Act of Parliament which will be reasonable, I think it is far better to vote for the Amendment than for the Clause as it stands.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I submit that the origin of this Clause arises in the practical difficulties that have arisen in many local authorities, especially in industrial areas, to get the rents from their tenants of the houses which were put up under the 1919 and 1923 Acts. The experience of many local authorities is that the amount charged the community of the subsidised houses has been altogether out of proportion to the actual cost arising through the larger space or the additional rooms, and I submit that out of those difficulties the Clause as arisen in the present Bill to enable local authorities to let houses under the 1924 Act at a lesser figure than the pre-War rentals would otherwise have justified. I submit the difficulty has arisen in the differentiation which, apparently, arises between the rent to be charged under the Addison houses and the rents to be charged under the 1923 Act houses. I want to put to the Minister the necessity of meeting the request of the Association of Municipal Corporations, that if there is a loss through the necessity of making these rents of smaller houses of the same level, he should take steps to put into his Bill the necessary Clause in order to relieve the authorities of this extra charge. That would do away with the main difficulties raised by the hon. Member for Withington, who objects to the creation of a privileged class. It is foreign to the ideas of justice, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, when the time comes, to look with favour and accept the Amendment put down as a new Clause on behalf of the Municipal Corporations Association which makes it clear the reduction in rent which would follow from making the rent the same for the class of house. Therefore I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to make it quite clear that as far as a reduction in rent has to take place in order to equalise the rent charges for various classes of houses the locality will not be penalised, as it otherwise would be, as regards the 1923 houses. I submit whether the figure is £10,000 or £80,000 it is only right that the Minister should relieve the local authorities of the loss which otherwise they would sustain in the reduction of rents which is bound to take place. You cannot have a privileged class. You must have the same level for all rents for the same class of houses. I hope the Minister will be able to meet us on that point. With regard to the question of subsidies for rent it is too late in the day to quarrel with that. We have been paying these subsidies for some years and we have found that the poorest of the poor, although they need it most, have not been getting the advantage of the State money voted for that purpose. It is only right that in the Bill care should be taken that those whose need is the greatest should get their fair share of the assistance granted from the public purse.
I wish to deal with one point which was constantly reiterated in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle). The greater part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was a statement to the effect that Section (3) of Clause 3 really amounted to a stereotyping of rents on the basis of existing rents under the Rent Restriction Act. There is nothing in the Clause that would lead a layman to believe that that was the case The rent to be charged is the appropriate normal rent; it is the rent normally charged in the area for working-class houses at the time. The hon. and learned Gentleman emphasised the word "is," which he informed the Committee referred to the present year, and he said that next year if the appropriate normal rent is not the same as it is to-day because of an alteration in the Rent Restriction Act, then that will be the rent to which the local authorities will have to have regard when determining what, for the purposes of this Act, will be the appropriate normal rent.
The appropriate normal rent at any time will be the average working-class rent at that time for pre-war houses. I now propose to deal with the question raised by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). The Noble Lord attempted a correction. I am sorry he is not here, because I want to correct his correction. When my right hon. Friend referred to 10,000 houses provided for before 1st February last he was referring to houses being built by local authorities which would come within the operation of this Bill. It is perfectly true, as the Noble Lord stated, that 51,000 houses had been arranged for, but the vast majority of those houses were houses to be built by private builders for sale, and they therefore would not come within the scope of the present Bill.
The Noble Lord asked for an explanation of the term "in the aggregate." I do not think that should present any special difficulty. Let the hon. Member assume that a town has a scheme for building 200 houses. The meaning of the phrase is that the total rent charged for the 200 houses shall not be more than the rent charged for 200 working-class houses before the War. Clearly in a scheme of that sort you will have houses of different sizes, and different rents will have to be charged. There is no attempt here to lay down a standard rent dependent upon whether the house is of three bedrooms, or with or without a parlour. You have to get at a rough approximation the equivalent of the existing rent for pre-War houses, and therefore it is necessary to take the estate as a whole, and to compare the total rents from that estate.
If there is a larger demand for the more expensive houses, will not building in that area automatically come to an end as soon as the demand for the cheaper type of houses is satisfied?
Anybody who is familiar with the subject knows there would be different classes of houses. There may be an alteration in the demand for different houses, but that does not affect my argument. If it be that there are 200 houses of the larger size, then, the aggregate rent will still have to be no more than the aggregate rent of 200 working-houses built before the War.
Take the illustration of 200 houses, let at 10s. per week. The aggregate rents from them would be £5,200 a year. What is to prevent the landlord saying, "I will for one house charge £5,001 per year"—
Assuming that the aggregate rents of the 200 houses is £5,200 a year, what is there to prevent the authority saying we will charge £5,001 a, year for one house—which, of course, they will never get—and for the other 199 houses we will only charge £1? The aggregate will still be £5,200.
Chiefly common sense. [An HON. MEMBER: "Let us have a proper answer!"] You cannot give a reasonable answer to an unreasonable question. I should like to say a word or two about the speech of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. R. Muir) and his reference to privileged persons. [Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Rochdale several times referred to privileged persons. That, I think, is not a fair way of putting what we have in view in this Bill When the Act of last year was passed enabling persons to purchase houses with the assistance of a Government subsidy, there was never any argument used that they were privileged persons. In this Bill we are dealing in the aggregate, over 15 years, with a programme for 2,500,000 houses. It is preposterous to regard the people who will occupy those houses as a small group of privileged persons. What we are attempting to do is to fill a gap that has never been filled before, and to do it in a way that is reasonable. Because a large number of working people have to pay too high rents for very poor houses is no reason why, under a housing scheme, assisted by public money, those who occupy the houses should be fined, so to speak because of the misfortune of their fellows. I ask the hon. Member for Rochdale to believe that, if it were within our power to give all people in this country decent houses to live in at reasonable rents, we should be glad to do so. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) pressed with great sincerity the claims of his Amendment. That hardly arises here, but should be dealt with on Clause 5, and I hope he will wait until the discussion on that Clause takes place, when my right hon. Friend will give it careful consideration. As the Debate has been going on a good long time, and we have not made as yet very substantial progress, I hope I may ask the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) whether he is prepared to withdraw his Amendment.
The hon. Member, in reply to a question which I put twice to him during the course of his speech, said he would answer later on. I put the question to him whether, in contemplation of Sub-section (3), the appropriate normal rent was to be revised every year.
I want to make an appeal to the Minister of Health. He has characterised my Amendment as a vital or wrecking Amendment—I forget the exact words—and I want to say that it is not intended to be anything o£ the sort. I am, and I believe everyone on these benches is, just as anxious as he is to get houses built for every single child born in this country to have a chance of growing up in the best possible surroundings. I venture to think I Have devoted as much time to work on housing in the last four years as anyone here. This is an Amendment honestly moved, because I believe it is the best way of working towards the object we all, I believe, have in common. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that, under my Amendment, part of the subsidy might not be necessary, and might be pocketed by the local authorities. That is the last thing I desire. Every penny of the subsidy available ought to go to the tenant, but not necessarily to every tenant. My only object is to give the local authorities freedom to use the money available under this Bill in such a way as to be of the greatest advantage to those for whom they build houses. If the object can be better secured by other words, will the right hon. Gentleman see if he can produce another form of words by the Report stage?
Right through the discussion we have seen the same attitude taken up by hon. Members opposite. On practically every Amendment the first two or three speakers opposite breathe fire and thunder. Then one or two try to find a loophole for the Minister, and finally withdraw every Amendment. I do not know why they put the Amendments on the Paper. The point to which I should like to address myself is the point put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves Lord). He put a reasonable question to the Minister, and the Parliamentary Secretary in reply said that it was an unreasonable question. It is not unreasonable; it is a perfectly reasonable question. An exorbitant figure might be put upon some houses and a ridiculous figure put upon some; other houses. I want to get a reply from the Minister or from the Parliamentary Secretary, if he will condescend to address himself seriously to the point, as to what there is in the Bill to prevent such a thing happening. That is a serious and legitimate question, to which he has failed to give a reply. He said that he wants to provide a decent house at a decent rent. Every hon. Member wants to do that, but when my hon. and learned Friend puts a serious question he is unable to get an answer. As the Parliamentary Secretary has failed to answer, I would ask the Minister to give an answer.
I rise to acknowledge the spirit displayed in the remarks of the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon). I appreciate the spirit that prompted him to move the Amendment, but I can assure him and my assurance has been confirmed by the right hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain), that whatever be his intention in moving the Amendment it undoubtedly strikes a fatal blow at the Bill. He does not want to do that. If any other way can be found to achieve the object he has in view, without interfering in this way with the method of fixing rent, I should be very pleased if we can find it. Under the circumstances, I hope that he will not press his Amendment.
|Division No. 163.]||AYES.||[9.59 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Alden, Percy||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Haycock, A. W.||Owen, Major G.|
|Alstead, R.||Hayday, Arthur||Paling, W.|
|Amman, Charles George||Hayes, John Henry||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Perry, S. F.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Henderson, W, W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Baker, Walter||Hillary, A. E.||Potts, John S.|
|Banton, G.||Hindle, F.||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Hobhouse, A. L.||Raffan, P. W.|
|Barnes, A.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Raffety, F. W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hoffman, P. C.||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Black, J. W.||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Raynes, W. R.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Rea, W. Russell|
|Bonwick, A.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hudson, J. H.||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Briant, Frank||Isaacs, G. A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Ritson, J.|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jewson, Dorothea||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Buchanan, G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Robertson, T. A.|
|Buckie, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool,W.Derby)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Charleton. H. C.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Clarke, A.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Royle, C.|
|Climie, R.||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Keens, T.||Scurr, John|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sexton, James|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenyon, Barnet||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kirkwood, D.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington,N.)||Lansbury, George||Simon, E. D.(Manchester,Withington)|
|Crittall, V. G.||Laverack, F. J.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Law, A.||Smillie, Robert|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lawson, John James||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Dickie, Captain J. P.||Leach, W.||Snell. Harry|
|Dickson, T.||Lessing, E.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Dodds, S. R.||Linfield, P. C.||Spence, R.|
|Duckworth, John||Livingstone, A. M.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lowth, T.||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, South)|
|Dukes, C.||Lunn, William||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Duncan, C.||McCrae, Sir George||Starmer, Sir Charles|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Dunnico, H.||McEntee, V. L.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Mackinder, W.||Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Stranger, Innes Harold|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|England, Colonel A.||Maden, H.||Sullivan, J.|
|Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Sunlight, J.|
|Franklin, L. B.||March, S.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Marley, James||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Terrington, Lady|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Maxton, James||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Gillett. George M.||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Thurtle, E.|
|Gorman, William||Middleton, G.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gosling, Harry||Millar, J. D.||Tout, W. J.|
|Greenall, T.||Mills, J. E.||Turner, Ben|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Montague, Frederick||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morris, R. H.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Viant, S. P.|
|Groves, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Vivian, H.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Morse, W. E.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Muir, John W.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Harbison, Thomas James S.||Murray, Robert||Welsh, J. C.|
|Harbord, Arthur||Murrell, Frank||Westwood, J.|
|Hardle, George D.||Naylor, T. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Nichol, Robert||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Nixon, H.||Whiteley, W.|
|Wignall, James||Willison, H.||Wright, W.|
|Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Windsor, Walter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kennington)||Wintringham, Margaret||Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Warne.|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Gates. Percy||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas.C.)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Philipson, Mabel|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Pielou, D. P.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Rankin, James S.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Remer, J. R.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harland, A.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bourne, Robert Croft||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Savery, S. S.|
|Burman, J. B.||Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, North)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Jephcott, A. R.||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt.R. (Prtsmth.S)||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lamb, J. Q.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Collox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cope, Major William||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen. South)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Thomson, Sir W.Mitchell-(Croydon,S.)|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Lumley, L. R.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Mac Donald, R.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Deans, Richard Storry||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Elliot, Walter E.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Elveden, Viscount||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ferguson, H.||Pennefather, Sir John||Captain Viscount Curzon and Sir Kingsley Wood.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Division No. 164.]||AYES.||[10.8 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cove, W. G.||Groves, T.|
|Alden, Percy||Crittall, V. G.||Grundy, T. W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Darbishire, Charles W.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)|
|Alstead, R.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Dickie, Captain J. P.||Harbison, Thomas James S.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Dickson, T.||Harbord, Arthur|
|Baker, Walter||Dodds, S. R.||Hardie, George D.|
|Banton, G.||Dukes, C.||Harms worth Hon. E. C. (Kent)|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Duncan, C.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Barnes, A.||Dunnico, H.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Batey, Joseph||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hastings, Sir Patrick|
|Black, J. W.||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Haycock, A. W.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bonwick, A.||Fletcher, Lieut. Com. R. T. H.||Hayes, John Henry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Franklin, L. B.||Henderson. A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Briant, Frank||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Broad, F. A.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Henderson. W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Gavan- Duffy, Thomas||Hillary, A. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Hobhouse, A. L.|
|Buchanan, G.||Gibbins, Joseph||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)|
|Buckle, J.||Gillett, George M.||Hoffman, P. C,|
|Cape, Thomas||Gorman, William||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Gosling, Harry||Hudson, J. H.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Greenall, T.||Isaacs, G. A.|
|Clarke, A.||Greenwood, A, (Nelson and Colne)||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)|
|Climie, R.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis||Jewson, Dorothea|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Murrell, Frank||Sullivan, J.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Naylor, T. E.||Sunlight, J.|
|Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool,W. Derby)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Nichol, Robert||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Nixon, H.||Terrington, Lady|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||O'Grady, Captain James||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Keens, T.||Oliver, George Harold||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Owen, Major G.||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Paling, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Perry, S. F.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Lansbury, George||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Tout, W. J.|
|Laverack, F. J.||Phillipps, Vivian||Turner, Ben|
|Law, A.||Potts, John S.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Raffan, P. W.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Lawson, John James||Raffety, F. W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Leach, W.||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Vivian, H.|
|Lessing, E.||Raynes, W. R.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Linfield, F C.||Rea, W. Russell||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Lowth, T.||Ritson, J.||Warne, G. H.|
|Lunn, William||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|McCrae, Sir George||Robertson, T. A.||Welsh, J. C.|
|McEntee, V. L.||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)||Westwood, J.|
|Mackinder, W.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Romeril, H. G.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Maden, H.||Rose, Frank H.||Whiteley, W.|
|Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Royle, C.||Wignall, James|
|March, S.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Marley, James||Scrymgeour, E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Scurr, John||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Sexton, James||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kenningtn)|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Sherwood, George Henry||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Maxton, James||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Willison, H.|
|Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Smillie, Robert||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Middleton, G.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Millar, J. D.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Windsor, Walter|
|Mills, J. E.||Snell, Harry||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Montague, Frederick||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Morris, R. H.||Spence, R.||Wright, W.|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Morse, W. E.||Stephen, Campbell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Moulton, Major Fletcher||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. John|
|Muir, John W.||Stranger, Innes Harold||Robertson.|
|Murray, Robert||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Alnsworth, Captain Charles||Ferguson, H.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W.(Glas.C)||Forestier-Walker, L.||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gates, Percy||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vanslttart||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pielou, D. P.|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Harland, A.||Rankin, James S.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Burman, J. B.||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Remer, J. R.|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S.)||Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, North)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Jephcott, A. R.||Savery, S. S.|
|Cope, Major William||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cowan, Sir Win. Henry (Islington,N.)||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Lamb, J. O.||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, South)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Starmer, Sir Charles|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lumley, L. R.||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Deans, Richard Storry||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||MacDonald, R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Duckworth, John||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Elvedon, Viscount||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|England, Colonel A.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Fade, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Meller, R. J.||Thomson, Sir W.Mitchell-(Croydon,S.)|
|Tichfield, Major the Marquess of||Wells, S. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Captain Viscount Curzon and Lieut.-|
|Ward, Lt. Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)||Wise, Sir Fredric||Colonel Sir Joseph Nall.|
|Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
I beg to move in page 4, line 25, to leave out the words "the expenses," and to insert instead thereof the words "the estimated annual expenses to be."
This Amendment will, I think, cover the points raised by later Amendments, and it will cover the points referred to in the next two Amendments. As this Amendment is in the nature of a drafting Amendment intended to make the meaning of the Bill clearer than it was, I hope that the Committee will accept it.
I think the Committee should know why these words are being left out. I can understand the words "the provision of the houses." There might be expenses in connection with houses, but not expenses relating to building. I do not object to the Amendment, but I think we should know why the change is being made.
I think that the Committee should receive a fuller explanation of these points. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary should come here with a properly prepared brief in order to explain what these Amendments mean, and, in the absence of a proper explanation, I think this matter should be left over to be dealt with on the Report stage.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 29, to leave out the words "not less than."
We desire to leave out these words for this comparatively simple reason. We desire to fix the period at 40 years, and, therefore, these words will have to be eliminated. We desire the period to be neither more nor less than 40 years, but just 40 years.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I beg to move, in page 4, line 30, to leave out the words "and then", and to insert instead thereof the words
or in the case of houses affected by any Order made by the Minister and the Scottish Board of Health which decreases the amount of the contributions payable or curtails the period for which such contributions are to be payable an amount equivalent to such proportion of the four pounds ten shillings a year payable for a period of forty years as the amount find period of the contributions when so decreased or curtailed bears to the amount and period of the contributions as fixed by this Act, and then in either case.
The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that when, as a result of the triennial re-estimates of the expenses incurred in connection with these schemes, the sum of £9 is reduced, there shall be a proportionate reduction in the amount of £4 10s. provided by the local authority. Obviously it is only fair that where there is a reduction in the tot al sum contributed out of public funds that, reduction should be equally divided as between the amount from the rates and the amount from the taxes. I move this Amendment on behalf of the Municipal Corporations Association.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 31, at the end, to insert a new paragraph—
(f) that, subject to the limitations laid down in paragraph (e) as to the rent
chargeable in the aggregate, the local authority shall where practicable discriminate between the rental charged to occupiers having children living with and dependent on thorn and those without such dependent children in such a way as to lower the rent charged to occupiers with such children, in proportion to their number.
The object of this Amendment is to direct local authorities, where practicable, in administering the subsidy given under this Bill, to give a preference to those cases where there are large numbers of children dependent on the parents. The right hem. Gentleman said the other day that he wanted, if possible, these houses to be left to the people who built them, which was not possible for the best kind of houses under the 1923 Act. I think he is wrong in that. If you take a bricklayer who has no children, he is perfectly able to afford to live in one of the 15s. houses to which I refer. As soon as he has three or four dependent children, he comes to the time when it becomes important to have a three-bedroomed house, and he suddenly finds he cannot afford it. The paradox of the housing situation in this country is that the parents of young children, just those who most need a good-sized, well-situated and, if possible, well-planned house with garden, are the very ones who cannot afford it. May I illustrate that by looking at the position in Manchester? Manchester we hove a great majority of only two-bedroomed houses, and for that reason we are building nothing but three-bedroomed houses now, and I think every local authority in the country is doing the same. Every local authority begins by passing resolutions, saying that they will let these houses and give preference to tenants with large families, but I believe every local authority has had the experience that there is any number of applicants with large families, but that when it comes to paying the rent they are just those who cannot afford it. The result is that three-bed roomed houses are being-occupied by people with no children, and those with large families are still crowded in the pre-War two-bedroomed houses, a situation which everyone will admit is absurd, and which we ought to remedy, if we can.
In Manchester, so anxious were we to afford proper accommodation for large families, that we built a number of houses with four bedrooms, but we were incapable of finding working-class people with large families who could live in them, so that there are more than half of them occupied now by families who could house their children perfectly well in two-bedroomed houses. That is what is happening under the present system. Hon. Members who are members of housing committees or anyone who has had experience of the kind can state that that is what is happening all over the country.
The Minister of Health has proposed increased subsidies, which as I tried to show, amount to 1s. 6d. per week per house. I did my best to follow the figures given by an hon. Member below the gangway, but I regret that I could not. The figures, however, are perfectly simple. The present value of the increased subsidy given by the right hon. Gentleman, £80, means, in effect, £4 a year, which is 1s. 6d. a week. That spread over the weekly tenants is going to do very little for them, but if you leave the matter to the local authority, as proposed by my resolution, for the money to be given where the need is greatest, to families of three, four and five children, then you would be doing something for the next generation. You would be taking a step to give these children a fair chance of growing up in good houses, rather than crowding them into two-roomed houses. I appeal to the House to give a serious consideration to this Amendment, and to pass it.
I am sorry to oppose this Amendment. One of the strongest criticisms against the private house owner to-day is because of his indisposition to provide housing accommodation for a family, especially where there is a large family. While I cannot, for several reasons, accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Withington, one of which is that it would involve such an amount of investigation that I rim satisfied no local authority would operate the provision—and I question whether the hon. Gentleman himself would like to pursue all the investigation suggested by his Amendment—while, I say that, I may add that there is an Amendment on the Paper lower down which I think, with some alteration, will make it that reasonable preference will be given to large families.
I put this point of Order for this reason: On the last Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Withington he ran away when it came to a Division. I acted as a Teller, and hon. Members having spoken one way, voted another. It is for that reason that I put the question whether it is in order for hon. Members to continue to move Amendments which they do not intend to press?
I do not quite understand the right hon. Gentleman. It is not only that reasonable preference should be given in the case of large families, but that they should be given some other preference. That is the object of the Amendment—to enable the local authority, if it thinks well, to discriminate in the rent. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept that.
I ask the hon. Member who moved this Amendment not to withdraw it, because I think it raises a point of great importance and substance. The Amendment the Minister has proposed means nothing whatever, and merely expresses a pious opinion, while the proposal before the Committee not only expresses a pious wish, but lays down some means of carrying it into effect. Therefore, I appeal to the hon. Member opposite to carry his Amendment to a Division, and I feel certain in all parts of the Committee there will be found a large number of hon. Members in sympathy with his proposal.
For once in a way I find myself in some measure of agreement with hon. Gentlemen opposite. The words which the Minister of Health wishes to substitute for this Amendment are very vague in another direction. The right hon. Gentleman talks now about a preference being given to those with large families. They might all be children or grown up. [Laughter.] My hon. Friends opposite, of course, are the children of somebody, but I sometimes doubt if they are all grown up. I think all sections of the Committee are anxious to give preference to the families of young children. [Laughter.] I mean families consisting of young children. I know the House can only understand language of the simplest character, but may I make it plain by saying we wish to give a preference to families consisting of young children of school age and younger.
I think the Amendment, which has been moved is somewhat vague, but it is certainly an improvement on the words suggested by the Minister. This is an attempt to adjust rents according to the ability of the heads of families to pay, a principle with which I am in complete sympathy, but which, nevertheless, is undiluted Socialism. This is a Socialist Bill, and I do not think this Amendment is out of harmony with the declared intentions of the Minister of Health, and for these reasons I ask him to reconsider the advisability of accepting it. It may need clarifying, but that can be done by introducing certain words on Report. For these reasons I shall vote for this Amendment.
I do hope the Committee will not, in any moment of hasty excitement, rush into the Lobby in support of the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon). This Amendment opens up an enormously large question. If we are once going to consider the size of families in dealing with rents, where are we going to stop? We know that many earnest social reformers advocate that wages should be regulated by the size of families, and we know that hon. Members opposite—I think quite rightly—are opposed to that proposal. I think the Minister of Health is perfectly right in saying that the administrative difficulties o in the way of this proposal would be enormous, and that the local authorities would not willingly accept this task and although this Amendment may appeal to many sentimentalists, yet, from the point of view of reasonable practical politics, it is quite impossible, and certainly is not an Amendment that should be dealt with in a discussion of half an hour late in the evening.
I support this Amendment, which I think is on very good lines. We know that there has been a great deal of discrimination in the past so far as the proprietors of houses are concerned, in actually giving preference to those who are without families, and complaints have been made about that stipulation many a time. The point raised by this Amendment is one that ought to be very heartily supported from the Labour Benches. The objection that is taken with regard to investigation is not at all a serious one, because, as matters stand now, an adjudication does proceed on the part of house proprietors who investigate the circumstances of those who desire to come into these new houses, and all sorts of questions are asked of those who apply for them. If we cannot see our way to meet a case of this kind, it seems to me that we are losing a very valuable opportunity of helping those struggling people with families whom the Minister of Health would naturally have in view. We need not worry at all about the question of discrimination, because that process is going on at present. This is a far more substantial Amendment than it might be thought to be, and, in spite of any little difficulties that there may be in regard to it, I feel that the M