I should like to say one word on this Amendment, not so much to resist the Government's agreement with it, as to get some explanation from the Minister. I have had the pleasure of reading the Debate on this Amendment in the other House, and I very much commend it to hon. Members on both sides of this House, in connection with the question who are members of the working classes and who are not. One brilliant orator asserted with horror that some of the Chamberlain houses were being let to, among others, a sanitary inspector and a clerk, and, apparently, this was, to his mind, a violation of any idea that they should be let to the working classes. He does not seem to realise that clerks are not only members of the working classes, but are probably, in many respects, the worst paid of all members of the working classes. Therefore, we ought to have a definite assurance from the Minister, which I am sure he is prepared to give, that in the administration in regard to these houses the term "working classes" will not exclude what another facetious Member of the other House called "the black-coated brigade." That clerks, with their miserable salaries, should be taxed for these houses, and yet be forbidden to live in them, is, I am sure, against the intention of the whole of this House. Another Member of the other House—the Marquess of Salisbury—asserted, curiously enough, that these houses—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] Can I refer to the OFFICIAL REPORT? This is rather an important point, from the administrative point of view.
It was asserted in the other House that these houses should not be let to parsons and people of that description. I wish to protest, firstly, against any idea that parsons are not members of the working classes, and, secondly, because, as the House knows, the majority of parsons are paid less than the municipal dustman. I should like, therefore, to have an assurance from the Minister of Health that, in accepting this Amendment of the Lords, he does not mean what the Lords mean by this Amendment, but that, in the administration of the Measure, all people who work shall be included in the working classes, and that those who need these houses shall receive them.
I desire to say a word on this Amendment, because the other House are not the only people who are under a misconception with regard to the meaning of the term "working classes." I very well remember, when this Bill was first introduced, that the intention of the Measure was, apparently, to give an advantage to certain members of the working classes, but it will be observed that the acceptance of this Amendment by the Government will allow these houses to be let by local authorities to members of the working classes in general. That is perfectly correct, because the original suggestion of the Government, under which they were going to allow, we will say, people belonging to the poorer community to have the advantage of these houses, has completely gone. As has now been revealed by the Minister of Health, with the rents which will inevitably have to be charged for these houses, it will be utterly impossible, for instance, for poor people who live in the slums, or even for people of what we may call the lower working classes, to pay the rents which are demanded. Therefore, the Government are perfectly right in accepting this Amendment, because undoubtedly, so far as regards allowing any of these new houses to go only to a section, and the poorer section, of the working classes, that ideal may be completely dismissed. I hope that when the Minister of Health makes the tour, which I understand he is going to make during the Vacation, for the purpose of explaining this Bill, he will explain to the people that the rents of these houses will be very little, if any, less than those which have been charged for what are called the Chamberlain houses. There is very little difference indeed. In fact, so far as London is concerned, and so far as the lower members of the working class—to use that phrase not in any critical spirit—are concerned, there will be no advantage whatever to them from this proposal.
When this matter was discussed on a previous Housing Bill, I remember very well, Mr. Speaker, your predecessor saying that, so far as definition of the working classes was concerned, anyone was entitled to come within that definition, from the Speaker downwards or upwards, as one cared to regard it. That is not my observation; it was an observation, which I remember very well, of Mr. Speaker Lowther. It is perfectly true that there is no such definition in any of the housing Acts, in spite of the statement in the other House that there was a definition of the term "working classes." There is no definition in any of the recent Housing Acts of what working classes are, and the local authorities have full discretion in the matter. I would call the attention of hon. Members opposite to the fact that the Minister of Health has not sought to lay any imposition on the local authorities as to the class of people who should occupy these houses. I should have thought, after all the speeches that I have heard from the Minister in this House, some relevant and some irrelevant, that, at any rate, some condition would have been laid down—some income limit might have been suggested, for instance—but there is nothing of the sort. I can anticipate the speeches that may be made by some hon. Members opposite, and it is very important, in view of the fact that we are' going away very shortly, that the country should clearly understand that, with this Amendment in the Bill, the local authorities are free to let these houses to any members of the working classes to whom they desire to let them, and, secondly, that, under the financial provisions of the Bill, it will be quite impossible for the poorer members of the working classes to obtain any advantage from the right hon. Gentleman's proposals.
I only rise for the purpose of asking whether we are not to have some explanation as to why the Government are accepting this Amendment? What is the object of these words, and what meaning do the Government attach to the words "members of the working classes"? Is anyone who has ever done any work a member of the working classes? Are shopkeepers, or clergymen, or teachers, members of the working classes? Are all professional men members of the working classes? Again, are people who have worked, but who have ceased to work, members of the working classes? I really do not know what meaning to attach to these words, and I may say that throughout my political life I have always, or almost always, avoided the use of the term, as I think that in its common usage it conveys a meaning which I do not regard as a desirable one. It is not a distinction between one man and another; it is not a class distinction. Most of the people of this country are working at something or other. Are they, therefore, all members of the working classes? I think it would be much better if the House rejected this Amendment, which I hold to be meaningless, and I hope we shall be allowed to divide—I do not see what harm it can do—on the question of rejecting the Minister's proposal to agree with the Lords in this Amendment; or, perhaps, he will withdraw the Motion if he finds the sense of the House against including these words, which I regard as conveying an invidious distinction and as having no real meaning except one of prejudice.
The purpose of the Amendment made in another place was, I think, a commendable one. I understand that those who took part in the Debate in the other House were very much perturbed about the possibility of houses being let by local authorities as week-end cottages to people who might be described as well-to-do. That is not the intention of Members of this House, but houses of that kind have been subsidised under previous Acts, and I understand that that was the reason why in the other House these words were inserted. Our view is that they might well be accepted. I think we might rely upon the common sense and judgment of the local authorities as to who would be regarded as working-class people.
—as serious a question, at least, as that of my hon. Friend? If the Law Officers of the Crown were consulted, would they say that this would prevent, say, pensioners or ex-service men, who are not working-class people, from receiving these houses? If it would, had we not better throw out this Amendment?
I understand that no person who would be able to occupy such a house would be deprived of it as a consequence of the acceptance of the Amendment. After all, this is one of the conditions with which local authorities must comply, and it must be left to the judgment of local authorities.
In so far as these people now occupy working-class houses, they would still be working-class people, and I take it that a local authority would have regard to the class of people now occupying houses of the kind the rents of which are going to be taken for the purpose of computing rents of the new houses. I can assure the House there is no danger in limiting the letting of the houses by accepting this Amendment, but there would seem to be a possible danger of cottages being erected by a local authority, and let purely for weekend purposes.
I should like to ask the Government if they will alter their view and disagree with the Amendment which was moved by a friend of mine in another place. If hon. Members will look at the definition of "working class" in the Consolidation Bill which has just come down to us, it is a very limited one—
Working class includes mechanics, artizans, labourers and others working for wages, hawkers, costermongers, persons not working for wages but working at some trade or handicraft without employing others except members of their families, and persons other than domestic servants whose income in any case does not exceed an average of £3 a week.
The Bill frequently uses the expression "working-class houses." It would be better if we could leave it at that, and not seek to impose upon it the particular Amendment which has been suggested here.
There are three Amendments here. The first I should accept if certain other words were inserted. May I make clear what the effect will be. We are dealing with paragraph (e) of Clause 3, and the words I propose to insert are at the beginning of the paragraph, "That the total amount of the," so that the line will read:
That the total amount of the rents charged in respect of the houses shall not exceed the total amount of the rents that will be payable if the houses were let at the appropriate normal rents.
If that were agreed to, I should accept the Lords Amendment striking out the words "in the aggregate."
On a point of Order. You, Sir, have ruled that these are privileged Amendments. Therefore, surely the first thing that is necessary is that the House should waive its privilege. If these Amendments are put in by the House of Lords on their own initiative I should be very strongly opposed to our waiving the ancient privileges of the House of Commons on any occasion whatever, and if you are going to put that I should vote against it unless it is necessary for the carrying out of some definite premise which the Minister has made to the House, in which case we should have to give way. I should like to ask the Minister whether it is necessary in order to carry out a promise, and, if not, I should resist in every possible way the waiving of the privilege of the House of Commons.
I am a little in the dark as to what is happening. The Minister just now moved a new Amendment of his own to insert the words, "the total amount of." That does not appear to have been withdrawn and he has now moved to disagree with the Lords. [Interruption.] Then we must assume we are now discussing the disagreement with the Lords Amendment.
On a point of Order. If we are going to plead privi lege, is it necessary for the House to disagree with the Lords Amendment. The Amendment dies the moment the House of Commons pleads privilege. If the Minister wishes to agree with the Lords Amendment he suggests that the House waive its privilege and moves to agree with the Amendment, but if he wishes to disagree with it, all he does is to plead privilege, and there is an end of the matter.
All you can do, Sir, is to advise or warn the House of the matter of privilege. It is for the House to deal with it. That is the way it is always done. The question is whether you agree or disagree.
Was not the case quoted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite one in which, if sufficient vigilance has been shown, it would have been possible for some Member of the House to have moved to agree with the Lords Amendment, but unhappily such vigilance was not shown, so the matter went by default, and it must not create a precedent, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman?
I am not a constitutional lawyer, but the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) raised this question of privilege on the Unemployment Insurance Bill, and, so far as I can remember, the Speaker said all that could have been done was at the right moment to move that the House waive its privilege. That has not been done to-day, and I suggest that, these being privileged Amendments, we have nothing to do but to pass on to those which are not privileged.
I consulted Mr. Speaker before he left, and the ruling I am giving I think would meet with his approval. If I remember correctly, we were dealing on the occasion referred to with a financial question relating to the Parliament Act. In the case of a privileged Amendment it is for the Minister to move to agree or to disagree, the House having been warned.
I do not think we need pursue the question of Order further, though I rather resent the suggestion of lack of vigilance on the part of the Front Bench. To-day my hon. Friend is very wide awake, but I am not sure whether he was the other night. We look to him to guide us in all these matters. No one understands what the words of this Amendment mean. It was put down by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Greene), but was not selected by the Chairman. Anyone who has read the Debates in the Lords will not, I think, be any wiser for the explanation given by a certain Noble Lord of what it means. Let us ascertain from the Minister what it means. Does it mean that a municipality may build 20 houses and let some of them at 5s. a week and some at 15s., so as to make an average of 10s.? That might be possible under the Clause as it stands. We have never been able to find out what the real idea of the Minister is. No doubt he has something at the back of his mind, probably very clever, but he should at least tell us what it means. What is going to be done under the provisions of this Bill if these words are left in?
I rise to support this Amendment. I understand that it is the intention of the Minister of Health that the local authority will be in a position to build houses of different types and in different localities within the area, and that the local authority will be entitled to charge different rents for these houses. Take an area where the appropriate normal rent is, say, 8s. The local authority will then be able to build three types of houses and rent them at, say, 10s., 8s. and 6s., providing that the rents of all these houses when added together and divided by the number of houses works out at 8s. I take that to be the intention of this Sub-section. In that event, I hold that these words "in the aggregate'' and the following words will hamper the Act very much in its working. They would bring building to an absolute standstill in certain circumstances. Supposing there was an area with a fairly well-to-do working-class population, and the people wanted houses of the 10s. type. When the demand for the cheaper type of dwelling has been satisfied it would be impossible to build houses to be charged for at a higher rent. That is obvious. You would have people going to the local authority and asking for a 10s. house, and the local authority would be willing and able to build and let that type of house but they would have to say to the prospective tenants, "We would like to build for you and to rent to you the house you require, but the law will not allow us. The only remedy is to import another poor family into this area to ask for a 6s. house, or you must take a house not as good as you want in a locality where you do not wish to reside."
For these reasons the words "in the aggregate" ought to be left out, in order that each type a house may be charged at a rent comparable to that charged for a similar house built during or before 1914. It is not laid down, as far as I can see, that this interpretation, which I believe to be the interpretation of the Ministry, is to be the one adopted by the local authority. It might well be that the local authority would charge people better off a higher rent than their poorer neighbours. They might be able to say to a family earning, say, £8 a week, You can afford to pay an economic rent and the economic rent for this house is £1." The family would have to take that house at £1 a week, which would automatically enable the local authority to let three other similar houses at 4s. a week, making the rents "in the aggregate'' 32s. a week for the four houses, or four times 8s. For these reasons, I support the Amendment.
On a point of Order. We are discussing an Amendment which you, Mr. Speaker, have declared to be one of privilege. I submit that we ought not to consider the merits of an Amendment in the usual way where an announcement has been made from the Chair that the Amendment is privileged, until we have decided that we wish to waive the question of privilege.
When the House is informed by the Chair that an Amendment is a privileged Amendment, it does not, ipso facto, prevent debate. If the Minister move to disagree with the Lords, and privilege is assigned as the reason, that is the reason that will be sent to the Lords for disagreeing. But the fact of privilege being declared does not prevent the House from discussing the matter, and even deciding in a contrary sense. If the House decide in a contrary sense it, therefore, waives privilege.
Whether this be a question of privilege or not, I want the Minister of Health to explain what "privilege" means in this respect. We are entitled to some reason from him as to why he disagrees with this Amendment, which seems to me to be a reasonable Amendment. The paragraph says that
The rents charged.… shall not in the aggregate exceed the total amount of the tents that will be payable if the houses were let at the appropriate normal rents charged in respect of working-class houses.''
The Lords have inserted as an Amendment that the houses referred to are to be houses "of similar size, type and
amenity." Are there to be rents charged in respect of working-class houses of the two-roomed type in a slum, or working-class houses of the Addison type or working-class houses of the non-parlour Chamberlain type or the parlour house of the Chamberlain type? I think the Lords are right in this Amendment. There must be something with which you can compare these houses. The rents are to be the same as those charged in respect of working-class houses, according to this paragraph, but we know that there are various gradations of size and condition in working-class houses. If the rents are to be appropriate to those charged for similar working-class houses, then I could understand it. This Amendment would make it applicable to houses similar in size and similar in type. That would be something to go on, and something which would give a comparison.
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman, who does not seem to have been so diligent in attendance in Committee as we would have liked, that this Amendment is merely the re-insertion of an Amendment which was rejected by a very large majority and after a very long discussion, in which the case from both sides was put. It is now re-inserted by the Lords, and the reinsertion of it is a violation of the ancient privileges of the House of Commons. I do not think it is any use arguing the merits under the circumstances. The House of Commons has made up its mind on the matter. The Debate in the House of Lords resulted in 40 out of 700 Members of the House of Lords voting down the deliberate derision of this Chamber. Under these circumstances, I would appeal to hon. Members, even though they may have supported this Amendment on the previous occasion, to support the Government in rejecting this encroachment on our privileges.
As my right hon Friend has accused the right hon. Gentleman of not being diligent in attendance when this matter was debated in Committee, may I say that if my right hon. Friend himself had listened a little more carefully when this matter was discussed for two hours he would have known that at the end of the discussion the Minister of Health, in Committee, was good enough to promise that he would consider what he would do on Report stage to meet the views of those hon. Members who supported the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman did nothing whatever on the Report stage, and now, thanks to the action of another place, we have an opportunity of considering the matter again and of knowing that the Minister of Health is not going to do anything to meet the views of those who supported the Amendment. I abstained from voting on the matter, simply on account of the promise of the Minister of Health, and hoping that he would do something to meet us on the Report stage. As he did nothing whatever to meet us, my views on the matter are entirely unchanged. I have had an opportunity of consulting a large number of housing experts and financial experts, and they all agree with the views I stated as to the unsoundness of this Clause. I sincerely hope that the House will insist on agreeing with the Lords in their Amendment.
The proposal of the Bill, as it stands, is that certain privileged tenants shall be selected for these houses, not the poorest people, because there is not the least chance of any of the poorer section of the working classes getting one of these houses in the urban districts. The rent in Manchester will be about 13s. 6d., even with the full subsidy. The people who will get the houses will be artisans, clerks, and other members of the working classes of whom we have heard—the upper section of the working classes. The proposal is to give a dole of 1s. 6d. a week to this upper section of the working classes, and in return for that the taxpayer is to be asked to pay an additional burden of £11,000,000 a year. There is no pretence that we are going to get one single extra house through this extra dole. The building trade never asked for it, the trade unions never asked for it, and the employers in the building trade have explicitly repudiated it and have said that this extra dole will demoralise the building trade. There is no chance of getting an extra bricklayer or an extra house through this dole, while as regards the poorer section of the people who live in the slums, they cannot get into these houses, although they will have to pay their share towards giving this dole to those who are a great deal better off than themselves. That is why I regard this as one of the most vicious forms of dole that has ever been suggested in a Bill before this House. I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to do anything of the kind, and I trust that he will realise that it will work out in the way I have stated. I hope we shall agree with the Lords in their Amendment in this case.
This is perhaps the most vital Amendment that the Lords have sent to us. It goes to the very root of the Bill, and I do not think we shall be acting improperly in saying something about it. I fully agree with what the hon. Member has just said. The Minister of Health will remember that when this Amendment was moved in Committee the right hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) stated that if it was carried it would destroy the Bill. It would undoubtedly do so. The whole conception of the Minister of Health is that in this Bill, somehow or other, he is going to set up a different class of tenant, paying a different rent and, presumably, occupying practically the same kind of house as his neighbour may be occupying. It places the local authorities who will have to administer the Act almost in an impossible position. When the Minister of Health gave his definition of the principles of the Bill he admitted that the Bill permitted local authorities to charge different rents for the same class of house in different localities within the same area.
It is true that Amendment, if carried, would destroy the Bill. I think that the course of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken would have been to vote against this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has now got to this stage that within a few hours, if this Amendment is not carried, he will get his Bill. So far as I am concerned I am not going to put any obstacle in the way of his getting his Bill. We have stated our objections. Let the right hon. Gentleman proceed. This Bill will have to be tested like every other Bill by the number of houses he will get. I hope that he is content to accept that test. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) said the other day that if this House had been allowed a free vote it would have rejected this Bill. There is no doubt about that. If this Amendment were carried it would be another way of defeating the Bill. I prefer at this stage, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) stated in the Committee stage, to defeat this Bill in a straightforward fashion. The right hon. Gentleman has got his Bill to a certain stage. I think that he had better get on with it and get the houses if he can. For that reason I think that we had better disagree with the Amendment of the House of Lords and let the right hon. Gentleman proceed with his scheme.
I differ regretfully from what my hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) has said from his experience in Manchester, but the privileged tenant is not a national case. In the rural districts if houses are built under this Bill the tenants will be the tenants occupying the present houses who are paying rents of 2s. or 2s. 6d. a week. The rents under this Bill will be 5s. or 6s. and the privilege is the other way. The only possible chance, if one objected to the principle of the Bill, was to reject the Bill, and we came to the conclusion on balance that the right thing to do was to give the Minister his chance.
I would suggest that the case might be met by using the words "similar cost" instead of "similar size, type and amenity." It seems to me that the whole reason for this Bill as drawn by the Minister has been the greatly increased cost of building, and, if the cost of building can be reduced materially to pre-War level, there would be no necessity then to subsidise the other section of the community which, as the whole of the Debates in this House show, is almost an impossibility so far as equality of conditions is concerned. The Minister himself knows that it would be extraordinarily difficult to benefit those classes which he wishes most to benefit, and it appears to me that if the words "similar cost" were substituted for "similar size, type and amenity," it would mean that when the cost of living had come down the conditions which the Lords wish to embody in their Amendment would be obtained, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, there is considerable hope of reducing the cost of building in the near future to something like the pre-War level.
I would appeal to the House to let me get this Bill through now, because I want to get it to the House of Lords this evening. Otherwise I would not make such an appeal, I do not know that I need go carefully into the arguments which have been dealt with before. I have been asked what would be the comparison. The comparison would be with the rents which are now being paid by the working classes. In some districts where you have a comfortable section of the working classes located, and where the houses are good and the rents high, they would get very little relief from this Bill. In such a locality the method of fixing the rent would be very near what it would be if the Amendment of the House of Lords were accepted, but where you have the poorer section of the workers located and the houses are worse and the rents are low, then, until you have provided decent houses for these people at the lower rents, that method could not be adopted. The whole policy of the Bill is to give least help to those who need it least and most help to those who need it most.
I do not think, even after all the discussion to which the right hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman) has referred, that the House really understands what this Bill means. The Minister of Health says that this would wreck his Bill, but the words which he himself has put in in Sub-section (3) of Clause 3 are
provided that different rents may be so determined to be the appropriate normal rents as respects different classes of houses.
What is a different class of house unless it is a house of a different size or type? They are the same thing. What I am not sure about is that we are not facing this matter with mystification, that the Minister of Health does not like to say that he is going to take pre-War rents plus 40 per cent. and the Addison and Chamberlain houses as the standard for all the houses which he is going to build under this Bill, but, in effect, he is doing it by the words of his Bill, only he does not want to say it so clearly as the House of Lords want to say it in the Amendment, and as the hon. Member for Withington wants to say it. I am not at all sure that we are not being mystified by the right hon. Gentleman, and I have come by a slightly different route to the same conclusion as the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). This is the most important point to put to the
House. I have come to the same conclusion that the whole of the machinery for fixing rents, by which the Minister may lay down rules by which the local authority are to fix the initial rent for the houses, is really useless for the purpose of determining those rents.
It would be all right if the Bill were going to be unsuccessful. If the Bill were only going to succeed in building a certain number of houses, say, the number built under the Addison Act, every local authority would have a situation somewhat similar to that under the Addison Act and they would fix high rents, but the object of the Bill is to add 25 per cent. to the houses of this country. Even if the Bill is only to be partially successful—I do not think it is going to be successful at all—I am convinced that you cannot add as much as 10 per cent. to the houses of this country, in the first eight years of this Bill, without bringing a slump in the rents of the most of them, and whatever rent the local authorities are going to fix to-day they will have to reduce the rents as they have had to do already in the case of the Addison houses. Local authorities may fix these rents high or low now, but the rents will have to be reduced in the future if the Bill is successful, and if the Bill is successful it means that the local authorities will have to bear a burden on the rates for every house built, far in excess of the £4 10s. per house. If the Bill is successful it is going to mean a general reduction in the rents, and it is going to bankrupt the local authorities. For that reason any consideration of this Amendment is useless, and I think that we had better let the thing go.
If it be true, as the hon. Member has alleged, that this Amendment destroys the principle of the Bill, it can only be on the ground of its unintelligibility, because I defy anybody to extract from the words of the Bill or from the explanations which the Minister has given us this afternoon any other tangible meaning of any kind, and it seems to me that if these words are, as the hon. Member for West Woolwich says, going to knock the bottom out of the Bill it can only be because there is no bottom to knock. The words as they stand appear to me to have no definite meaning. We are told that the rent charged shall not in the aggregate exceed the total amount of the rents that would be payable. I understand that that means that you are to lump together all the rents which would be payable for all the houses that you were going to build, and then you are to compare them with the total of the rents charged which may vary as much as you like among themselves.
But then what you are comparing is the rent that would be payable if the houses were let at the appropriate normal rents charged in respect of working-class houses, and the appropriate normal rents charged in respect of working-class houses are things which vary in every district to an extent, especially when you have no definition of what the working classes are, and no definition of a class which includes every possible variety of person earning every possible variety of salary and paying every possible variety of rent for their houses. It means that there is no possible means by which you can rely on any particular meaning for the words.
paying the appropriate normal rents charged in respect of working-class houses.
You are in exactly the same difficulty in respect of the definition in Sub-section (3) of the same Section. It simply means nothing, and if it is suggested as I understand the Minister has suggested, that you are only going to get a very much lower rent for the houses than you otherwise would, on the ground that you were going to compare it with the rents of houses of a different type and of an inferior character, then the only result would be that immediately you are going to exceed the £4 10s. subsidy, which the local authority has got to give in addition to the £9 or £12 subsidy which the State is going to give, and immediately there fore you are going to get to a position in which you are not going to be able to let these houses at a rent comparable with that of the normal working-class house which may be defined as being a house of very inferior character, occupied by a person paying a very inferior rent. You are in this dilemma, that you have got to give quite a different interpretation to this Clause, namely, the interpretation put in the Amendment of the House of Lords. You cannot let it at the rent you are talking about without immediately exceeding the £4 10s. subsidy. In my opinion the Bill as it stands with this Clause means nothing at all, and a meaning can only be given to it by the adoption of this Amendment.
I cannot help thinking that sometimes even legal minds stray. I have had some seventeen years' experience on a housing committee. We have had to consider these problems almost every day. The practice is year by year to consider the aggregate rates, and on the basis of those rates to charge rents for the new houses erected. That is the only way in which you can get tenants for the new houses. They are not going to pay exorbitantly high rents for new or subsidised houses; their wages will not allow them to do so. What the Minister is proposing is the only way for meeting this particular question.
The housing committee of the London County Council, dominated by the Conservative party, accepted these proposals, and have not asked us to move any Amendments. The question has been considered in great detail by their officials, and the Chairman of the Advisory Committee representing the local authorities was the Conservative chairman of the housing committee of the London County Council. Hon. Members are making a mountain out of a molehill.
The Attorney-General, on the Report stage, gave an assurance that the Government would reconsider carefully these special Clauses with reference to the question whether they would prevent public utility societies from acting as they have acted hitherto, i.e., allowing their houses to be gradually bought by tenants. I want an assurance that the Government are advised that this paragraph as it will stand after the word "reasonable" is inserted and other Amendments are made in this part of the Bill, will not prevent public utility societies operating in that way.