New Clause. — (Regulation.)

Orders of the Day — Housing Bill. – in the House of Commons on 17th May 1935.

Alert me about debates like this

(1) No contributions shall be made under section thirty thirty-one, or thirty two of this Act unless the Minister is satisfied that the accommodation to be provided will be in conformity with regulations to be made by him specifying minimum standards of equipment and amenity.

(2) Regulations made by the Minister under this section shall not come into force until approved by resolutions of both Houses of Parliament.—[Dr. Addison.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.14 a.m.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It will be seen that the Clause requires that, as a condition of granting the assistance available under the Bill, the Minister shall prescribe that the houses which the provision is assisting shall be of a satisfactory character. There is nothing new in the proposal, and the absence of it from the Bill is very regrettable. My hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) gave some particulars to the House some time ago showing what may happen unless proper control is given over the provision of materials of which a house is composed. It will be remembered that several years ago there was an all-party committee of au expert kind under the late Sir Tudor Walters which presented a very complete and acceptable report. It was accepted at that time by the Ministry, and, I believe, very largely observed by local authorities throughout the country. In this particular case, we are contemplating a very important and extensive departure from what has hitherto prevailed. Previously the provision of flats has been limited under these conditions, but under the present Bill it is contemplated that they will be provided on a very large scale. Therefore, it is of special importance that the Minister should secure that the accommodation and the equipment of the flats are of a decent minimum standard.

We are not asking for any conditions to be inserted in the Bill but simply asking that the Minister of Health, with such advice as is readily available to him, shall issue regulations and prescribe a minimum standard. I cannot think that it would be reasonable to object to that proposal. I am sure that it will be necessary to adopt such a course otherwise we shall have recurrring difficulties in time to come unless proper safeguards are taken in advance. For example, the question of light is of first importance. The matter of ventilation is also a governing consideration. Unless we provide here and now that this extensive provision of flats shall be of a lay-out that will make proper security for light, ventilation and other necessary matters of that kind we may be participating in the erection of what will before very long become slums again. We want to make sure that that is not so.

In some areas, as the Minister well knows from the records of his own Department, it is very necessary to secure that the equipment of the houses is of a decent standard. There should be proper provision for a kitchen sink, where the woman of the house can perform essential domestic duties for the comfort of the home. The same consideration applies to the provision of a bath. Later on, in pursuance of a promise which he gave in Committee, the Minister has a proposal on the Order Paper for the provision of a fixed bath and a proper bathroom. What applies to a bath ought to apply to the kitchen sink and to proper accommodation for washing up, and such like. Then there is the question of the size and height of rooms. In the case of flats it may well be that some of the rooms will not be as big as we would like them to be. There is all the more reason why when there is a temptation to make the rooms smaller that there should be provision in the Bill enabling the Minister to secure that at least a minimum standard is observed.

The argument which applies to the internal equipment applies with equal force to the materials. On this matter my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich East is better qualified to speak than I am. We know what a temptation there is to put second-rate, shoddy material into houses. It is just as necessary to have protection in regard to the materials of which the house is built as it is to have proper provision for the lay-out and general amenities of the house. I hope that the Minister will take care that he prescribes such standards as he will be proud of afterwards and which will justify the considerable expenditure of public money that he contemplates will arise under the Bill.

11.21 a.m.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

This new Clause ought to be read with Clause 24, which I believe aims at something of the same kind. The whole purpose of the establishment of an advisory committee, which has for so long been urged by the numerous housing organisations that have sprung up during the last 10 years, is to achieve decent standards and good sound planning. In great cities like London, where they have many years of accumulated experience as the result of past mistakes and experiments, there are very fine standards both of exterior design and interior construction. That applies not only to block dwellings, but to cottage estates, but particularly to block dwellings. I do not know how far the right hon. Gentleman visualises the utilisation of Clause 31 and whether he has in his mind in many great provincial towns the provision of a great number of block dwellings. Generally I think we can say that among the public, particularly the working class, there is a very natural and very proper antipathy to living in block dwellings. On the Continent, in Germany in particular, the flat dwelling habit has been general for 30 or 40 years, but the old phrase that "An Englishman's home is his castle" represents the attitude of the ordinary British citizen towards his home. He likes to be self-contained. He likes to feel that his front door is his own and that he does not share it with anybody else. By the special grant given in the Bill we are going to give special inducement to local authorities to build block dwellings in order to provide accommodation for persons who must live in the centre of the town or near their work. Some of us are afraid that the local authorities may create those awful barrack dwellings which to a great extent explain the proper prejudice of the public against block dwellings.

I do not suppose that the right hon. Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) attaches great importance to the form of his Clause, but I think the Minister and his Department must become more active partners not merely in handing out public money but in securing that that money is properly spent in the good planning and construction of these dwellings, through proper regulations. The point to which I attach more importance than anything else in regard to block dwellings is proper spacing between the buildings. It has been advocated in the Press and by many housing reformers that we should go in for those 10 block buildings, skyscrapers as they are sometimes called, which are so common in America and on the Continent. Frankly, in principle, I am opposed to such buildings, but if they are to be allowed I hope that the Minister will lay down very strict and severe regulations as to the distance between the dwellings, the amount of light and air and open space provided and the general construction. Obviously, provision must be made for lifts. Lifts are very difficult things to manage in working class dwellings. Unless there is very careful supervision and a porter always in attendance the large child population in working class dwellings may lead to accidents and all sorts of troubles.

Local authorities should be required to utilise the services of a qualified architect. I do not make that suggestion in the interests of architects but to secure good design, good planning, and lay-out in the matter of block dwellings and housing estates generally. The Minister having decided to leave the employment of an architect to the discretion of the local authority a Clause of this kind is all the more necessary. It is important that the Minister should prevent local-authorities putting up those badly planned buildings we have seen in the past and prevent bad planning of estates. It is remarkable, travelling about the country, the tremendous variety of quality there is between one area and another. Just after the war model plans and an excellent manual were available for local authorities, but when public money is concerned, when we are partners with local authorities, we have a direct responsibility to see that the money is properly spent. In an effort to secure cheapness, which is desirable and important and not to be ignored, because the question of rent is vital in this matter, we do not want to lay out estates on such lines that in a few years' time they will be out of date and unsatisfactory. That is the kind of work the Department of Health should do if full advantage is to be made of this Bill.

The criticism I make is that the department of the right hon. Gentleman has been too much of a passenger in the boat, they have not pulled their weight, in the past. It has sometimes been suggested that they have been an obstruction. I visualise a department of health which in the matter of housing will give a lead to local authorities, will provide the services of the best architects, town planners and experts, so that when local authorities set to work on their redevelopment plans, and the reconstruction of the bad areas in our towns and urban districts, they will be able to work on the right lines. London will be able to vie with Vienna, which has done such interesting things in the past. That can only be brought about by a unification and centralisation of this problem in the department and the issue of suitable regulations.

11.29 a.m.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

I want to put one practical point before the Committee, and that is, to ask what will be the practical effect of introducing Ministerial regulations for one particular class of house which is to be built as compared with other classes of houses which are going up. The suggestion is that there shall be more precise regulations for houses which are to be built under this Bill than for the general run of houses which are being built all over the country. The quality of houses is regulated by by-laws in the various local authorities. There is some standardisation in the model by-laws issued by the Ministry of Health, but you cannot standardise conditions because they vary in each locality. Some say that the Ministry of Health have been too precise and that the by-laws are restricted, others that they do not go far enough. It is suggested that there should be one code for houses all over the country. That might be necessary if the by-laws are not adequate. What is the position with regard to by-laws for new houses? In theory, probably in practice also, the plans of houses have to be submitted to the local authorities who are also responsible for seeing that they are properly built. Many builders, however, manage to get through these bylaws, and many houses are not built properly.

The question is whether we should have a new code of regulations for one set of houses or whether we can propose any scheme for improving the by-laws all over the country, in order to tone up not simply the building of houses under this Bill but the building of all houses. I cannot see that it is advisable that the Ministry of Health should dictate to the whole country by a general code. You will get out of the system which has served us well in the past, by which local authorities are encouraged to have an interest in the quality of the houses they construct. If we can improve local government it is better to have the bylaws brought up to the mark by ministerial inspection rather than to introduce a general code. There is also the question of town planning regulations. Obviously, in view of the increasing height which buildings are now assuming, we must have regard to the space between houses, and so on. Again, that at present is provided for by the town planning. We all know the appalling discrepancy between the nominal ideal in town planning and the actuality. We know that there has been a very great delay in the adoption of town plans. But that does not mean that we are to lay down a new code at the centre for these houses. What we want to do is to reinforce the existing provisions of the law, both as regards town planning and building by-laws. I hope that the Minister will not accept the Amendment, but that in his reply he will say that his department are really hoping practically and helpfully and not contentiously to persuade the local authorities to get a move on as regards by-laws, and in seeing that they are observed, and also with regard to town planning in seeing that it is properly enforced and made effective.

11.37 a.m.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

One gets used to these statements by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle). He has just stated that he hopes the Minister will not accept this Amendment. I do not know whether the hon. Member has read the Amendment or not. It asks for minimum standards of equipment and amenities. Knowing the profession of the hon. Member, one would expect that at least he would ask that the minimum standards of equipment and amenities should be given to the people of this land.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

What are bylaws except a minimum standard? I quite agree that we must have a minimum standard and see that it is observed.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

We want this Amendment passed so that there will be minimum equipment and standards all over the country. I expect that there are rural as well as urban districts in the division of St. Albans. Clause 30 of the Bill is mainly for cities fiats. Clause 31 is mainly for urban districts. I do not think that the Minister is going to get many houses in urban areas as a result of the passing of this Bill. The financial burdens that are put upon those districts by the Bill will prevent a tremendous number of urban district councils from attempting to build any houses at all, but if they do build houses we ask that the minimum amenities and equipment shall be provided. Some of us here knew in our younger years what it was to have practically no amenities at all. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) has asked that there should be sinks put into the houses so that the people will be able to wash, etc., and that there shall be hot and cold water. In my own home there were 10 of us besides my father and mother. If any of us wanted hot water it had to be boiled on the fire in a small set-pot. If the hon. Member for St. Albans had had experience of that kind of thing, he would have supported the Amendment. When I came from the pit I had often to wait a couple of hours before I could get a wash. I had to wait for my father, then for one brother and for another brother. It was often five-thirty or six o'clock before I could get rid of the pit muck, because I could not get it off with cold water. Yet hon. Members say, "Do not accept this Amendment." Yesterday they were thrusting down the Minister's throat something that they said he should accept nationally. Hot and cold water in houses are necessary things to-day.

Clause 32 deals largely with agricultural areas, but the financial burdens put on the local authorities are such that I do not think they will be able to bear them. I know urban districts in my own constituency which to-day are paying 16 pence in the pound as house subvention. If those districts put up other houses under this Clause the Minister may make a grant if he thinks fit for a maximum number of years. The maximum number of years is half the maximum number under Clause 30.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member is now going beyond the new Clause we are discussing, which deals only with the regulations to be made before contributions are made by the Minister.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

I thought I was getting off the track, and I thank you for pulling me back. I hope that the Minister, with the amount of money that will be expended, will see that the amenities for which we ask are provided.

11.43 a.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington

In view of the remarks of the last speaker I must say that if he would inquire about the by-laws in the different districts he would find that there is confusion enough already. This new Clause would simply make new regulations for a new class of house. I am fully in sympathy with most of what has been said by the hon. Member regarding the difficulties he had to face in his younger day, but I must say that as regards houses being built in certain parts of the country under the present by-laws there is no doubt that in some cases the work is being scimped and defects are being passed over. In cases into which I inquired I found it was not the fault of the by-laws but purely the personal fault of the inspector, who was not doing his job properly. That is what we have found out in more than one instance around Manchester when inquiries have been made. I am opposed to the multiplication of regulations for the new types of houses. I would much rather have some system of perfect model bylaws, if such are possible, to be adopted universally.

11.45 a.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

All of us will agree that the misery and discomfort suffered by the people to-day is due largely to the houses in which they have to live. That is agreed upon because the Government themselves are promoting this Bill largely for the purpose of removing overcrowded and slum dwellings. Most Members will appreciate the fact that you cannot provide houses fit to live in, unless the building materials used are of such a quality as to ensure that the house will last for a substantial number of years. A good house ought to last for at least 70 or 100 years but there are persons in these days who believe that we ought to put up, not only houses but schools, designed to last just sufficiently long to meet new ideas about these matters and that these structures should be destroyed as soon as some further new ideas arise. But I am afraid we could not keep up a continuous process of removal and of dealing with what might seem to be prospective slums in that way. We should require a very large area in which to do it, particularly with cottage property and ordinary dwellings, whatever may be said in regard to schools.

By this new Clause we are trying to make doubly certain that the houses to be built under the Bill will be of a proper standard as to structure and amenities. I had the pleasure on Sunday last of taking one of my colleagues over a pithead bath in one of the valleys in my constituency. I am pleased to say that pithead baths are being established in most of the coalfields. My colleague asked me whether there were many baths in the houses in that valley and I had to admit that while 300 persons were using the pithead bath about 70 per cent. of the houses had no baths at all. That percentage or perhaps a higher percentage could probably be applied to all mining communities in this country.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) was speaking I noticed that the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) smiled rather satirically at a reference to my hon. Friend's experiences as a collier. My hon. Friend said that in his young days when he came home from the pit he had to wait in a queue with his brothers and his father for an opportunity to remove the filth which he had collected in the mine. Many of us on these benches have had similar experiences. I had 12 years' experience of mine working and I know what it is to have a bath in what is called a tub, that is half a barrel, in a kitchen with all the other members of the household proceeding about their ordinary household duties. My own brother has to go through that experience now. I say that in this age such a thing ought not to be tolerated. We cannot remove the blemishes of the past but we can take care that the houses which are being built to-day are substantially constructed and have certain amenities.

I think it ought to be agreed, definitely, that no houses should be built of less than a certain cubic capacity. It would appear to day that in the interests of cheapness we are bringing down the standard height of ceilings from 8 feet 6 inches first to 8 feet and then to 7 feet six inches. We are also permitting house builders to interfere with the standard cubic space by bringing down the slope of the house so as to affect the size of the bedrooms. These things are being permitted from day to day. There is far more exploitation in housing than in anything else in this country. Housing is essential to the happiness of this realm and yet we permit jerry builders to pursue their activities before our very eyes. We do it knowingly and we ought to endeavour, when the opportunity of a Measure such as this is available, to insert provisions which will enable local authorities to prevent the kind of thing I have indicated. Within a mile of my own residence the county authority has made a by pass road to enable traffic to avoid the old county town and we have speculative builders purchasing alignments on that road—

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

On a point of Order. As this new Clause only relates to contributions made to local authorities in respect of houses constructed by them, is it in Order to refer to houses not constructed by local authorities?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I understood that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) was referring to houses constructed by local authorities.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

No, Sir, by speculative builders.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

I was using an illustration. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) endeavours at all times to support his points by illustrations, sometimes of a very peculiar nature, and he sometimes makes grimaces when other hon. Members are speaking. The point which I was making was that the local authorities at present have not the power to prevent speculative building unless they have in the past made by-laws for that specific purpose. A previous speaker referred to the multi- plicity of by-laws. I agree but in many instances local authorities have not applied to the Ministry to have by-laws made in order to prevent certain things. We hope that the Minister will accept this new Clause. I have plenty of evidence here in support of it if I desired to occupy the time of the House. Information has been placed before me within recent months by the plasterers' society which indicates what is happening but I am sure the Minister is acquainted with what is going on in this respect. We ought to endeavour to prevent any person or authority constructing houses without first ensuring that those houses will last reasonably well. If we at first assess the needs which are implied by this Bill and then decide upon the class of house to be built, its length of life and its amenities, we would assure to the inhabitants of this country, at least a measure of happiness and comfort. We ask the Minister to accept our proposal as a means to that end.

11.54 a.m.

Photo of Mr Alfred Bossom Mr Alfred Bossom , Maidstone

I think there are one or two conditions connected with these regulations which need attention. This Bill is designed to produce houses and it is going to cause the expenditure of a vast amount of public money. Yet it does not include a single provision tending towards a reduction in the cost of building. We know that all other similar industries during the last 20 or 30 years have made considerable reductions in their costs whereas the costs of building can hardly be said to have changed at all. The Minister approves of by-laws which are made by public authorities but as he said yesterday, in answer to a question, there are some 1,500 of these authorities. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman realises that among the approved regulations there are great variations and that a builder may use, for instance, a piece of wood of a certain strength in one piece, whereas it is necessary to have wood of quite a different strength in another place. In the case of bricks also the right hon. Gentleman has approved of one standard of strength in one place and an entirely different standard of strength in another place.

If you go along the Edgware Road, you will find that the fire-proofing re- quired in the steel work in a large block of flats built with steel frame is under an entirely different set of regulations from the fire-proofing which is required on the other side of the same road. As regards plumbing, there were some flats built by a firm under the Lambeth Borough Council, and the Minister's Department said they had done a very satisfactory job, but when the same architect wanted to use the same system of plumbing at Heston and Isleworth, the Department refused to allow him to do so. These are anomalies, and it is time these anomalies were ended. Here we have an expenditure that represents anything from £25,000,000 to £50,000,000 over the next five to ten years for building houses, and it is not a matter of laws but of putting bricks on bricks and putting timber together. There is no effort made in this country to reduce the costs of building, which it is obvious can be done, because other industries are doing it. The motor industry has cut its costs tremendously, as we all know, and the building engineers are quite as good as the motor engineers.

Why cannot we have some form of uniformity in this matter? There is no excuse for not having it, because it has been a crying need for years. Then, with regard to new materials, there is a Vote under the Board of Trade made every year to the National Building Research Station. That station looks into the quality of materials, and if it approves them, it gives a very good account of them, but if it does not, it says so. But what is the good of that now? When it has made a statement about a particular material, you have to go to 1,500 other authorities to get the opportunity of using that material. It is time consideration was given to these matters in order to help reduce the costs of building. It has been done in other parts of the world. Why do we have to lag behind in this matter here? I do not think it is appropriate for the Minister to accept this Clause. I think this is not the place to put it, because it is too big a subject to change in this one Clause in a Housing Bill, but I think the Minister should make this one of the very first matters for consideration by the Advisory Committee when they come into being.

11.57 a.m.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

If the Minister cannot accept the words of the actual Clause that we are discussing, I hope at least that he will give serious consideration to the point which it raises. I think the Minister's Department itself might give a little more consideration to the regulations that it issues from time to time, issued mainly, I think, on account of what it regards as the need for economy, and that it should amend them in an upward direction so far as amenities are concerned. The standard which is now permitted by the Ministry of Health is considerably lower than the standard that would have been permitted, say, 10 years ago, and I do not think anybody has a greater responsibility in that regard than has the Minister himself.

All of us who are members of local authorities know the difficulties that we have had during the last 10 years, and more especially during the last four years, in getting sanction from the Ministry of Health for building houses with reasonable amenities. Each time that we have gone to the Minister on deputations, as many of us have, and each time the Ministry was written to and the plans were sent forward, we were told that we must cut out this, that, and the other, and ultimately the house resulting would be in such a condition that it would be practically a slum almost at the beginning of its existence. In my own area, when we put our people into houses that were well constructed, so far as the Ministry would permit us to construct them well, they had amenities that were admitted to be necessary by the Ministry of five, six, or ten years ago, but since this Government particularly came into office, the standard of amenities that local authorities have been permitted to adopt has been very much lower than the standard of a few years ago. The reason that we have been given is that the Ministry thinks that greater cheapness ought to be introduced into the building of houses.

The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom) referred to something to which I have drawn attention on more than one occasion, namely, the difference in the organisation of the motor industry, for example, as compared with the building industry. I think I have said it in this House before, but anybody who knows the two industries will agree that you can buy a motor car to-day twice as good for half the cost that you could before the War, but if you want to buy a house to-day, it costs you twice as much for a house that is only half as good as you could buy before the War. If that be so, there appears to me to be something wrong in the building industry, and the method of reducing costs that has been adopted by the Ministry appears to me to be wrong. It would be out of order to discuss the means by which I think building costs could be reduced without destroying the amenities as they have been destroyed by the policy adopted by the Ministry in recent years.

It has been said before that you cannot get reasonably good amenities into a house if the material itself is bad, and the Ministry of Health is well aware that the standard of materials and of fittings that are put into most of the houses for which subsidy is paid to-day is below a reasonably decent standard. I have seen fittings put into houses in recent years by contractors that no Member of this House would tolerate for a moment in his own house, and if he were building a house for his chauffeur, or gardener, or gatekeeper on his estate, he would not tolerate for a moment the standard of fittings that are put, into houses for which the nation is paying subsidy to-day. The Minister must, I think, agree that that is wrong, and he ought to agree, I think, that after all, if you expect a nation of people physically, mentally, and even morally strong, they ought to have a standard set by the Ministry which is responsible for the payment of subsidies for the houses in which those people live such as will enable them to live a decent life. It may be argued, and with truth, that the houses that we are building are better than the slums out of which many of these people are coming, but that is hardly a sufficiently good argument to justify the conditions that exist to day.

I have seen houses recently built for a local authority by a contractor in the county of Bedford in which the timber—and I speak as one who has some knowledge of timber—is of the kind that is known in the trade as "wrack", timber that would not be used by a decent boxmaker for the packing of goods. I have seen some of those houses sold to the tenants after they were built by the local authority, and everybody who knew any- thing about houses knew that it was simply a swindle on the poor persons who were buying them. We had a plea by the last speaker for uniformity. I hope we shall not get standard type houses, as we get certain standard type cars, built in every district and for everybody. We want something like uniformity in the standard of material and fittings. This new Clause is an attempt to induce the Minister to set up a reasonably high standard which we are entitled to expect. Local by-laws vary greatly, and it has been said by the Minister that the local authorities have plenty of power if they like to use it, but the fact remains that they do not use it. If even such powers as they have were used we should get a much better standard of housing that we are getting where the subsidy is paid. The by-laws vary so much in different parts of the country as to make them almost a joke.

Builders, architects and all those associated with building, especially the people who supply materials, are well aware of the districts in which they can sell shoddy material and of the districts where they cannot. Knowing that, they do in fact sell such materials in those areas where there is a laxity of supervision, and houses which really become a disgrace to the district are sold to people. I would have liked to say something about the jerry-built houses I have seen recently erected for speculative purposes, but I think it would be outside the object of this new Clause. I hope, however, that the Minister will raise his own standard, because he is largely responsible for the reduction in the standard in recent years. We have heard a good deal from Ministers about turning the corner towards prosperity. I do not admit that we have turned the corner, but, if we have, one of the things which the Government should do to show the public that it is true is to enable local authorities to get back to a standard which is somewhere near decency. Baths, fittings and other amenities have been reduced in standard, and the result is a definitely bad house.

12.8 p.m.


I welcome both the matter of this Debate and the spirit in which it has proceeded. On this occasion matters have been raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite and in all parts of the House which should be raised on the occasion of the passage of a great measure of housing reform, and an opportunity has been given for a statement which should be expected from the Minister of Health upon such an occasion. We have seen in all parts of the Committee a sense of the urgency of securing a better housing standard, and that is the spirit which underlies the great effort in which we are now concerned and which is further confirmed by the Bill. It seemed to me as if there had not been so much a gradual increase in our housing standards as an awakening to a consciousness that the old housing standards were intolerable, and that it is necessary to secure for every citizen a reasonable minimum in respect of the amenities of his home, such as air, light, privacy and those amenities which have been described by various Members in the Debate to-day. I entirely accept the view put forward from all parts of the Committee that it is the function of the Ministry of Health to act as the guardian and guide of the building of the country and of the health and social services in regard to securing better housing standards. I directly traverse the statement of the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) that there has been any deliberate reduction of those standards by the policy of the Ministry of Health. I attribute what he has described rather to the natural sense of restriction which comes when one has to come into contact with the central Department, whose function is to see that houses are provided at rents within the means of those who have to live in them and to consider other essential considerations.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

Is it not a fact that the Department has cut out cupboards and many other amenities which the Department allowed a few years ago?


That is certainly not the case.


That is a statement which I directly traverse. I find myself in complete agreement with the objects set forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) and the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and other hon. Members. I think that it is right when we are looking forward to certain novel departures in house building that a Minister should, as it were, cover the bare bones of the Bill before the House with flesh and blood by giving a description of how it is intended to carry out the Bill in actual policy. What principally concerned these and other hon. Members was the prospect of an increase in the building of flats. I entirely agree that when we contemplate, as I think we must from the facts of the case, an increase in the building of blocks of flats, we must take the greatest care as regards our standards in order to avoid the errors that we made owing to lack of foresight, and to some degree to lack of knowledge, in the inception of flat building in our great cities. Let me relieve some of the fears that have been expressed by saying that there can be no question of the encouragement by the Ministry of the building of skyscrapers. They are not necessary and would be most undesirable in most of our cities.

Photo of Mr Fielding West Mr Fielding West , Hammersmith North

What height does the right hon. Gentleman contemplate?


Like an elephant that is more easily recognised than defined. The hon. Member will find in the Bill that the minimum height of a flat is three storeys in order to qualify for a subsidy. That gives the order of the class of building which we have in contemplation. I contemplate three and four storeys as normal, and occasionally five storeys, but I should regard six storeys as abnormal. There should be a definite reluctance to go as high as six unless it is absolutely necessary. The problem would be immensely simplified if we could only solve the problem of the lift in order to make it an economic possibility. Unfortunately that has not yet been solved, although we are hard at work upon it. We must be ready with the most modern forms of construction as soon as the Bill is passed, and for that purpose we have had a committee of experts sitting for some time at the Ministry of Health, which, I hope, will be ready to report on a standard of flats embodying the most modern improvements in design ready for the use of local authorities and others as soon as powers under the Bill are available.

Let me say again that it will be our object to see that the greatest possible attention is paid to the appropriate use of sites. The chief error in flat construc- tion in the past has been, first of all, bad buildings and the lack of air and light. Those two great blessings of life have been immensely improved by modern design and it will be our aim to develop open-air plots of ground with space for green gardens and trees. Such will be the line of policy in that regard, but let me add this, in order to make clear what are the intentions in the Bill. It is not, as is sometimes suggested, the general policy of this Bill to exercise any pressure or preference for flat construction. If that impression is due to the form of the financial provisions of the Bill, it is an erroneous impression. The intention and policy under the Bill will be completely realist, with a view to seeing how much of each of the forms of construction is needed to deal with overcrowding, so as to provide the maximum appropriate accommodation at the minimum cost, with the greatest convenience to the population, and then to adopt scheme, both in relation to flats and cottages, for the best good of the population concerned. The scheme is completely realist, and no preference or prejudice is shown in favour of one kind of construction or another.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

As the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to deal with that point, does not the Pact of flats being specially mentioned in Clause 30 automatically entitle them to this subsidy? Does not that suggest to local authorities that they will be sure of a subsidy for flats, but not sure of the subsidy under Clause 31 for cottages? There is that general impression abroad.


That was just the inference against which I was rather cautioning the House. The subsidy for flats is automatic, because it is beyond doubt that the subsidy for flat building will be required in all cases. The subsidy for cottage building is not automatic, because certainly it will not be required in all cases, and it is right that the need for it in particular cases should be established.

I come to the actual words of the proposed Clause. The Clause is really unnecessary in view of the existing provisions, which possibly may not be quite clear upon the surface of the Bill. In the first place, a great deal of the supervision over size, design and so on of the buildings erected by local authori- ties in order to get a subsidy under the Bill will be exercised in the future as in the past by the steady process of administrative supervision, and no regulations are necessary for that purpose. The approval of subsidies to local authorities by the enforcement of proper standards is a day-to-day process at the Ministry. To some extent those standards in their main outline, are contained in present legislation, and that legislation is incorporated in this Bill, though it is not perfectly obvious. The legislation incorporated is Section 37 of the Act of 1930, and is incorporated by Clause 93 (2) of the present Bill. The provisions in the Act of 1930 which are incorporated relate to standards which were laid down as regards the size of the buildings by reference to the Act of 1925, and as regards the standard of accommodation, which is higher than the penal standard, that is in Section 37 (2) of the Act of 1930, which is also incorporated in this Bill. We thus have two bases as to size and standard of accommodation secured in this Bill.

As to the further idea in the proposed Clause with regard to regulations to be made by the Minister, I think the practical point of view, with which we should agree, has been put by Members who have referred to the by-law system as being preferable in this matter to the system of cast-iron regulations laid down by the Minister for the whole country. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom), the hon. Member for West Walthamstow and some other hon. Members who referred to the imperfections of the by-law system. Some of the imperfections, as has been pointed out, are due to failures of administration, and most of the cases referred to are, I think, cases of bad material having been passed, and so on. The hon. Member for Maidstone also referred to the anomalies in the by-laws. I do not for a moment think there are such great anomalies. There is a constant process of revision and improvement of by-laws going on through the by-law department of the Ministry of Health in order to obtain uniformity and avoid anomalies. Its model by-laws have been largely adopted by local authorities. In that way we attain constant approximation to the ideal of uniformity with due elasticity in local services. But we do not always absolutely attain the ideal, and anomalies do occur. I am afraid that that is the price we pay for our system of local government, local autonomy and independence, which, however, on the other side, has very great advantages.

There were two other matters, I think, raised in Debate about which I should like to say a special word, because they are of great significance. The first is the emphasis which has quite rightly been laid by some of the speakers upon the hope of there being schemes under the Bill to increase activity in planning. I absolutely agree. I would put it higher than the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), and would say that the brightest hopes under this Bill will fade unless we attain a far-sighted relation of plans under the Bill to town planning schemes. Redevelopment schemes cannot be effective unless they are related to the idea of what the future of a town as a whole is to be, and are worked out on a definite plan. That is not only lip-service on my part. The idea is incorporated in the Bill in Clause 14, Sub-section (2), dealing with the preparation of a redevelopment plan, where it states that the local authority shall have regard to the provisions of any planning scheme or proposed planning scheme relating to the defined area or land in the neighbourhood of it.

One last matter, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone in the discussions in Committee, concerns the need for standardisation. We must always look to the other side of the account, not only the enforcement of standards which are in accordance with our awakened conscience but the provision of accommodation, according to those standards, at the lowest price at which it can be provided so as to impose as small a burden as may be on the budget of the wage-earners who occupy the houses. The brightest hopes for a reduction of costs and a resulting reduction in rents lie in this direction. Our building industry, in common, I think, with the building industry of other countries, has still progress to make in the direction of the simplification of parts and the standardisation of materials. I am not advocating a soulless uniformity in the type of building. It would be a sorry day for the future of our country if the cottage homes of England were to be rebuilt only upon a sealed pattern issued from Whitehall. How much do the spirit and beauty of our land not depend upon the relation of the cottage home to the type of landscape in which it is built, and the intelligent use of the material which is cheapest and most readily available, and we must guard ourselves against being supposed to advocate a soulless uniformity.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

How far are the local authorities carrying out that idea? Are they not responsible for much of the ugly building?


How far the local authorities are making use of their planning powers raises a wide question.

Photo of Mr Alfred Bossom Mr Alfred Bossom , Maidstone

Is the Minister going to insist that those who design these cottages to accord with their surroundings shall be trained architects?


With very great ingenuity the hon. Member always seeks to carry the object which is dear to his heart a step forward; but that is a question which we must leave to be discussed as a separate issue. He knows that I am as strong an advocate as he is of the employment of architects in the designing of these cottages, but a reasonable standardisation in those parts which can be standardised without producing soulless uniformity is our brightest hope for a reduction of costs in the future. There is another bright hope which I am sure will at once suggest itself to hon. Members, and that is the organisation of the supply of materials and the grouping of orders. In this direction there must be a continual progress towards higher standards. The new Advisory Committee will, I hope, prove valuable in helping us to secure these ends, and the points I have just dealt with will be among the first subjects which will be referred to them. I believe that the practical experience of that Committee will prove useful in securing a direct line of progress. I believe I have dealt with all the points raised in the discussion, and I have welcomed the opportunity to point, out what the policy of our administration is to be under the present Bill. I hope I may have gone some way towards satisfying the right hon. Gentleman that the actual Clause which he has proposed is not necessary and would, indeed, be disadvantageous. In view of the under- takings I have given and the policy I have outlined to the House I trust he will see his way to withdraw the Clause.

Photo of Mr Alan Chorlton Mr Alan Chorlton , Manchester Platting

May I ask whether there are any engineers on the Advisory Committee?

12.30 p.m.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I do not want to impose on the good will of the House by making a further speech on the subject, but I crave permission to make some observations on the references to previous Acts which the Minister has made, because I gather that he regards them as a sufficient reason for not accepting this Clause.


I am afraid I did not make myself clear. I said that we laid down a basis only as regards the size of the house and the standard of accommodation, and that for the rest we shall rely on the by-laws.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I do not wish to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. The point I am making that whilst we agree with the excellent speech which he made in support of the Clause, and are disappointed that he did not accept it, it is our duty to point out the distinction between the position taken up by the Minister and the provisions of those Acts. The Minister referred to Section 37 of the Act of 1930, which states that the Ministry will only make grants, save in special circumstances, to houses complying with certain provisions in the Act of 1923. When I turn to the provisions of the previous Act I find that they require a certain minimum standard of surface area for two-storeyed houses and a certain minimum for one-storeyed houses; and there is also a provision about a house with two bedrooms providing accommodation for four people. In the Act of 1923 there is a provision, which the Minister himself is willing to adopt in this Bill, stipulating that there should be a fixed bath in a bathroom. Otherwise the conditions are identical. There is nothing in the Acts to which the Minister referred to secure the standard of amenities which is asked for in this new Clause. All that is provided in those two Acts is that there shall be a certain floor space for a certain number of persons. I accept what he is doing in that matter, but this proposal goes farther than that, being concerned with light, air and other amenities such as the Minister said were so necessary, and such as, I am sure, could be easily obtained, without any hard uniformity and without embarrassing him in the least, if he were to accept this Clause, and I sincerely hope that even now he will be able to do so.

12.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

I also rise to appeal to the Minister, after his very excellent speech, to consider whether he can accept this Clause or something similar. The arguments that he has tendered are definitely in the direction of the insertion of a Clause of this description. I would point out that the real basis on which he is building the Bill will be highly prejudiced unless there is such a Clause. We are asking the House and the country to accept a Bill which is to remove existing overcrowding, but overcrowding is directly dependent upon the amenities that exist in the houses which are to be provided. It may very easily be that a house of one size has entirely different opportunities for removing overcrowding from a house of precisely the same size which has other amenities attached to it. For example, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) referred to the tremendous difficulties which exist in the mining areas. I am fully acquainted with those difficulties, and I have come into contact with them for a large number of years. If you are to have a house without proper bath accommodation, the accommodation which is available to relieve overcrowding in that house will not be as great as it would be if there were a proper bath, because the bath is put in the middle of the kitchen and disturbs the ordinary amenities for the rest of the family. That has been done now for a large number of years. The whole household is disturbed because there is no place in which to move or sleep. Not only is the sleep of the adults disturbed, but that of the children, who have to remain awake in order that people who are coming from the pits may have a proper opportunity to get clean.

That is one illustration of the highly essential factors that must be taken into consideration before we can dispose of the matter of overcrowding. Other considerations will occur readily to the minds of other hon. Members; one is cupboard accommodation. Why should not every house have proper cupboard accommodation for every member of the family. The other side of the matter is, as we have been told by the right hon. Gentleman, that Acts exist and provide an opportunity for building in such a way as will satisfy the requirements of everybody in dealing with overcrowding. What are the facts? Do the local authorities observe a standard in every case, and is that standard up to the standard which we or any reasonable person would require? There is need of uniformity in these matters. Satisfactory standards ought to be set, and they should not necessarily be minimum standards or a definite standard of only one kind; there may be three or four standards which are the minimum standards for the building of houses to comply with the requirements of the Bill. It is not enough to say that advice shall be given there must be something more, a compulsion upon the authorities to see that the advice which is given to them shall be accepted and that they shall act accordingly. I hope before the matter is finally disposed of that there will be a definite standard in this regard.

I am very concerned about the question of rents. I know that we must keep the houses upon a rental basis which the working man will be able to pay. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom) has made suggestions which would render it much more possible to build houses at a low rental than under a haphazard scheme which would lead certain local authorities—not all in London where, to a certain extent, arrangements have been made which would lend themselves to the proposal I am making—not to comply with the advice. This matter calls for attention, but not in a new Bill, because it is the fundamental basis of the present Bill that overcrowding should be done away with. It is as important that the amenities in the houses should be of such a nature, as to relieve overcrowding and to build houses for that purpose.

12.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Strauss Mr Edward Strauss , Southwark North

I believe every hon. Member who cares for the future of municipal house building will have been very disappointed at the speech made by the Minister of Health.

Photo of Mr Edward Strauss Mr Edward Strauss , Southwark North

If they were not, they would have been if they had realised how negative and unsatisfactory the speech was. The Minister expressed sympathy with the purpose of the proposed new Clause and said it was to be his policy to implement it as far as possible, but he refused to take any practical step to carry out its purpose, which is to make sure that, in all future housebuilding under local authorities and under the Bill, a proper minimum of equipment and amenity should be obtained. As a certain amount of public money will be spent in this matter, it is the duty of the Minister and the House to see that that public money is not spent in bad and unsuitable houses which will be regretted 10 years afterwards by everybody. A great many houses which are put up by local authorities and public utility societies who claim Government grants are most unsatisfactory, and should never have been built. It is with the object of preventing in a practical way such a development in the future that the new Clause is proposed.

The Minister expressed sympathy, but what steps did he suggest to implement the proposal? First of all, he said that plans which were prepared by the local authorities will have to be passed by the Ministry and the Ministry will thereby be able to have a certain control. That is an unsatisfactory way of dealing with the matter. Unless there be definite regulations to begin with so that every local authority can see them and understand them, the authorties will prepare their plans according to their own views and send them to the Ministry, and the Ministry will then have to have a long argument and a discussion, and bad feeling will be aroused between the Ministry and the local authority in almost every case. There will be a waste of time and probably an unsatisfactory compromise in the end. Surely it is a very foolish and pointless way of proceeding. The other method which the Minister suggested was to use the provisions of the Act of 1930 contained in the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) has already pointed out that they really do not touch the case. They are a very small and minimum requirement in regard to floor space which do not touch the amenity question at all.

The Minister mentioned a third way of dealing with the situation. It is rather suspicious that he has a number of ways to meet the request that has been put forward. If he had had one certain way his reply would have been more convincing. His third method, which is equally useless, is that of by-laws. Is it suggested that by-laws are to be changed immediately throughout the country in order, not only to deal with building materials, and so on, but to provide amenities in the houses? The Minister suggested the adoption of the model bylaws which the Ministry have prepared, but, if all authorities adopted them tomorrow, they would not cover the question of the amenities which all of us think should be incorporated in every municipal house. I will not say that all the wisdom in regard to flat-building resides in the London County Council, but I suggest that the London County Council have had very much more experience in this matter than any other body in the country, if only on account of the fact that they have built more flats and their problem has been very much greater. As a result of their experience, they have had to change their practice considerably, and even to-day, when metropolitan boroughs in London or public utility societies come along with plans which they think highly desirable, and want the county council to pass them in order to get a rate subsidy from the county council, it is found time after time that those plans are quite inconsistent with proper house-building. The county council, consequently, have laid down certain minimum standards of amenity—not all-inclusive; there are many more which could be incorporated—without which no metropolitan borough council or public utility society in London can obtain a rate grant from the county council.

I will quote a few of these obviously commonsense requirements. One is that, where no shops are incorporated in a block of flats, the flats should be laid back a certain distance from the street. That is an amenity for the people living in the flats and for the neighbourhood generally. Then a certain minimum of floor space is laid down, both for living rooms and for bedrooms. And among other requirements there is one with regard to drying arrangements, which cannot possibly be covered by a by-law. In respect of every block of flats to be built, it is laid down that, if there is not provision out of doors, in a part properly screened from the public, for drying clothes, there must be incorporated somewhere in the building, usually on the top floor, proper provision for drying clothes for the people living in the building. That is the sort of standard of amenity which we maintain, and which I think every Member in the House to-day will agree, should be included in any plan of building flats. Further requirements are that hot water should be readily available to every flat in the building, and that there should be properly approved means for refuse disposal.

Unless these matters—and I have only indicated some of them—are definitely laid down by the Ministry of Health in regulations, it is certain that the local authorities, through absence of experience in this matter, will not be fully seized of all the relevant facts, and their plans will not include these various matters. Our suggestion is that, to make the matter certain and to make it impossible for new houses to be built which will be likely to become slums again in 50 years' time, regulations should be made by the Ministry and approved by this House, and no Government subsidy should be paid to the authority that builds houses in defiance of them. It is no use saying that the Minister is sympathetic towards this idea. I am sure he is. No one could help being sympathetic towards it. It will be a simple matter for him to accept the proposed new Clause. I do not think he criticises its wording, but if he does we are willing to alter it. Here is a weapon which will enable him to see that houses are put up with a proper minimum of amenities and equipment. We are not asking that all houses should be standardised, and the Minister has refused to agree to that—

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

Would the London County Council like to be overruled by the Ministry of Health with regulations applying all over the country?

Photo of Mr Edward Strauss Mr Edward Strauss , Southwark North

Most certainly. My view is that we are building flats of a higher standard than is reached in any other part of the country, but I should be the first to say that, if the London County Council were building flats which did not come up to a proper minimum standard approved by the House of Commons, the House has every right, and indeed it would be its duty, to say to the London County Council, as much as to any other authority, "Improve the standard of your flats." Therefore, I regret that the Minister is not prepared to accept this Clause, and that, as a result of his refusal to accept it, it will be possible to build new flats not coming up to the standard of requirements which every Member of the House believes to be necessary, and local authorities, with the help of the Government, will be building houses which in 50 years, or it may be 25 years, will become new slums. The House ought not to allow public money to be spent unless it is certain that it is going to be spent for a good purpose, and it is our duty to lay down at least a minimum standard in the matter of house-building before we allow any houses to be built with the help of the public purse. I regret the action of the Minister.

12.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

I should like to bring to the notice of the supporters of the proposed new Clause a point which has not yet been mentioned. All Members in that quarter of the House are very interested in promoting re-housing, re-development and slum clearance as quickly as possible. If this Clause were accepted, the Minister would have to lay down regulations for the whole country. We may all desire a certain increase of uniformity, because the regulations in many parts of the country are chaotic; but it is impossible to have complete uniformity, and, before the Minister can bring in fresh regulations, many months, if not years, of negotiations will be required with the different local authorities which at present have different by-laws and regulations. It may be two years before any Minister of Health is in a position to issue his regulations and put them before both Houses of Parliament. If the House and the party supporting this Clause are so anxious to get on with de-crowding, re-housing and re-development, would it not be unwise, by accepting this Clause, to make it impossible for the Exchequer to give any contribution unless and until the regulations envisaged in the Clause have been accepted by both Houses of Parliament?

12.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

I am very sorry that the Minister has not seen fit to accept the proposed new Clause. We must bear in mind the fact that the primary purpose of the Bill is to deal with over-crowding, and the most important of its aspects relate to the re-housing of people on the old sites. The Minister is trying to influence local authorities in the direction of building large tenement dwellings on sites hitherto occupied by over-crowded buildings. He is giving a far more generous grant in respect of people who will be re-housed in tenements on expensive sites than in respect of people who are to be re-housed in cottages. By his financial inducements he is trying to persuade local authorities to re-house their over-crowded population in flats.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

He has definitely denied that.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

I am only taking the terms of the Bill. Surely the House is aware that the Exchequer subsidy to be paid in respect of tenements is much larger and much more definite in its application than the grants that are to be paid to local authorities who re-house off the site in cottages, where the grant is very and slum clearance as quickly as possible small. The right hon. Gentleman's speeches only prove my point; and I accept his point of view that if overcrowding is to be dealt with, and people will not spread outwards, they must spread upwards. I accept that. What I am saying is that this is going to lead the local authorities to embark on experiments in house building of an entirely new kind. There are not half-a-dozen authorities in the country who have had any experience whatever of tenement buildings. The only authority with very large experience is the London County Council, which has consistently built flats and large blocks of dwellings because that was the only way of dealing with the problem. They have had to evolve a standard and they have had to evolve a new technique.

Building regulations applicable to cottages are one thing, and building regulations applicable to large blocks of tenement flats are an entirely different thing. Here the local authorities are to be invited to embark on proposals for dealing with over-crowding very largely by building blocks of flats, of which they have had no experience whatever in the past. It seems to me that we ought to avoid the painful experiences we have had with regard to the standards in the building of cottages. Before our postwar legislation there were no national standards. Such standards as applied were those operated under local bylaws. To-day there are building by-laws which are 30 and 40 years old, which have never been repealed and which are a scandal. In fact, these by-laws have not operated in the post-war years because in one series of Housing Acts after another, beginning with that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) in 1919, the State itself, as a condition of the grant of subsidy, has insisted on the fulfilment of certain standards.

When the last adventure of the Minister of Health in housing legislation was before the House he did propose—though he was persuaded to change his mind—to scrap all these standards and to allow private enterprise to revert to its welter of local by-laws and varying standards all over the country. It seems to me that where the expenditure of a very considerable amount of public money is involved, and where the local authorities are undertaking experiments on new lines where they have very little experience to guide them, the right hon. Gentleman ought to insist on certain standards. And indeed he has done. There is an Amendment to deal with the provision of baths. That is a recognition of the principle for which we are contending. There the Minister is saying that because public money is to be spent on dealing with this overcrowdng problem and the re-housing of the people, one of the conditions of the receipt of Exchequer assistance shall be the provision of a bath. If that is necessary in that particular case, what is the argument against the right hon. Gentleman saying that in undertaking this new and very precarious job local authorities shall be guided as to the standards they have to fulfil?

Anybody who has had experience of the housing problem knows that when one is dealing with large blocks of flats, five, six or seven storeys high, it is a very different problem from dealing with the building of small cottage houses. The majority of the small cottage houses which exist to-day have been built by builders who could not possibly under-take the building of flats because they do not know how to do it. Now that we are making this new departure and before the local authorities make mistakes—as numbers of them probably will—and to ensure that the new tenements put up will not be condemned by public opinion in a short space of time, I am asking the Minister to establish standards that can be discussed by this House and made the basis on which we shall proceed in future. Does anybody in this country want to repeat the experience of the Glasgow tenements? I am sure that nobody does. The City of Glasgow is not proud of them to-day—and we therefore need a standard. When we suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that we ought to have sufficient space between blocks of flats to enable the sun in the middle of winter to enter the flats on the ground floor, that was refused. If we are not going to do that and if we permit flats to be built where the sun does not enter except perhaps during part of the year, we shall build flats for which the right hon. Gentleman will stand condemned ten years from now.

I submit that we really must have standards of this kind. We have not imposed the kind of standards. We are leaving it to the Minister's advisers, in consultation with large authorities like the London County Council who have experience in this matter, to produce a sort of code to which the local authorities will be expected to subscribe as the condition of their grants. I submit that this is a very reasonable demand. I submit further that if it is not met now, it will confront some future Minister of Health with a very serious problem. I think it is a great mistake not to mobilise the knowledge of Members of all parties in this House—Members for instance, like the hon. Member for South Battersea (Mr. Selley) who understands so well the problem of flat building in London—together with all the knowledge of the Minister's department, for devising standards which can be sent out to local authorities as regulations which they must obey, as a condition of embarking on a new programme of building to deal with overcrowding.

1.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harry Selley Mr Harry Selley , Battersea South

I am only intervening at this point to deal with a point raised by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in reference to the attraction offered to local authorities to build flats rather than cottages. I think that when local authorities go into the details and know as much about it as the right hon. Gentleman gives me credit for knowing, they will prefer cottages without a subsidy rather than flats with a subsidy. There are one or two points which have been overlooked. I think that the Minister in grappling with this problem has realised that people want to be rehoused as near as possible to the former homes from which they are being displaced; and to do that in the crowded centres it will be necessary to rehouse them in flats, and not in cottages. The reason, as far as I understand it, why the Minister has offered this extra subsidy for the flat is that if you take the unit of the habitable room you will find that to build a five-storey block of dwellings, the unit of cost works out at something like £150 per habitable room; whereas in the cottage the cost falls to something like £100 per habitable room. The cost of the site on a cottage estate is a mere bagatelle compared with the cost of the site where you have to rebuild in a central area. I cannot imagine any local authority in the country—and I can certainly vouch for London—which would undertake the building of large blocks of tenement flats unless they were advised by the very best architects. I cannot imagine anyone going haphazard and attempting to build, in what has been termed a jerry sort of manner, blocks of this sort. We have a Minister and his Department who will see to it that the proper amenities are there before they will grant a licence or subsidy on these buildings.

I cannot understand hon. Members of the House to-day criticising every building that has been put up by a local authority in this country, and I should not like it to go out that all that we have done during the last 15 or 20 years has been to create potential slums. I do not know what has been done in every part of the country, but I challenge that criticism by what has been done by the great authority on which I have had the privilege of serving for many years. A water service in every flat let at an all-in rent of 10s. a week, with hot and cold water laid on in every part of the building, may be very necessary in a mining district, but I would remind hon. Members when they are talking about these amenities that I was brought up where there was not a bath in the town. We have lifted our standards, and to come at this point and ask to increase the amenities to such an extent where we are dealing with a population not touched at by what we have at the present time is asking for chaos rather than progress.

1.7 p.m.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

I want to make a suggestion which I think would have the effect of accomplishing the very important and necessary purpose aimed at by the Clause in a simpler form, and might obviate some of the difficulties. It is true that the effect of the Minister considering a standard of amenities to be extended all over the country by one set of regulations might result in perhaps too cast-iron a system with not enough allowance for differentiating needs. If the Clause were in a rather simpler form it might merely require the Minister to be satisfied that the proposed buildings conformed to a reasonable standard of amenities. It would enable the Minister and his Department with their great experience to satisfy themselves that the standard was a reasonable one, but it would not mean that all flats would have to conform to the same set of regulations. As a member for the last 25 years of the local housing authority which has had the biggest experience of flat building with the exception of London, I can confirm all that has been said as to the danger of inexperienced authorities putting up buildings which are inadequate and sometimes unnecessarily expensive, because they have not found a way of avoiding the difficulties. Some of the Liverpool flats put up some years ago involved expenditure out of rates and taxes in equal parts in order to let at 12s. 6d. a week, but some of the flats which we are now building have been cut down in expense so that they are not very much more expensive than cottages. That shows the advantage when you have gained long experience and know how to minimise costs.

I regret that so much encouragement is being given in the Bill to flat building. Local authorities are apt to fall into the temptation of putting up flats in excess of what is really necessary because they are tempted to do it by a very large subsidy, and a great deal of pressure is put upon them by people on the spot for all kinds or reasons, some of which have very indirect relation to the real merits of the buildings as compared with cottages. For example, very often the local representatives in the area from which the slum dweller is to be removed does not want his voters to be removed to some outer area, and the people in

the outer area do not want to receive those voters. I know of instances where decisions of the Housing Committee in Liverpool have been very much influenced. We have labour represented in a slum dwellings' quarter—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

The hon. Member is now going far beyond anything that can be done under the proposed new Clause.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

I will leave the rest of my argument to the imagination of the House.

Question, put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 192.

Division No. 202.]AYES.[1.12 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Greenwood, Rt. Hon. ArthurParkinson, John Allen
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherGrenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)Rathbone, Eleanor
Attlee, Clement RichardGriffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Banfield, John WilliamGriffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Batey, JosephGrundy, Thomas W.Thorn, William James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Harris, Sir PercyTinker, John Joseph
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Janner, BarnettWest, F. R.
Daggar, GeorgeJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Dobbie, WilliamLawson, John JamesWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Edward, CharlesLunn, WilliamWilliams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee)McEntee, Valentine L.
Gardner, Benjamin WalterMainwaring, William HenryTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Owen, Major GoronwyMr. Groves and Mr. Paling.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)Claries, FrankHaslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.Clarry, Reginald GeorgeHeilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)Clayton, Sir ChristopherHerbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Cobb, Sir CyrilHope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Horobin, Ian M.
Assheton, RalphConant, R. J. E.Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Atholl, Duchess ofCooke, DouglasHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Bailey, Eric Alfred GeorgeCourtauld, Major John SewellHudson, Robert Spear (Southport)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyCraven-Ellis, WilliamHume, Sir George Hopwood
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)
Balniel, LordCrookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)Iveagh, Countess of
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Dalkeith, Earl ofJackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Barrie, Sir Charles CouparDavies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Jesson, Major Thomas E.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)Denman, Hon. R. O.Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.Ker, J. Campbell
Beit, Sir Alfred L.Doran, EdwardKerr, Hamilton W.
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanDuckworth, George A. V.Knox, Sir Alfred
Bossom, A. C.Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
Boulton, W. W.Eden, Rt. Hon. AnthonyLeekie, J. A.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Ellis, Sir R. GeoffreyLees-Jones, John
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)Elmley, ViscountLewis, Oswald
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeEmrys-Evans, P. V.Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)
Broadbent, Colonel JohnFleming, Edward LasceliesLister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Fox, Sir GiffordLlewellin, Major John J.
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Fraser, Captain Sir IanLlewellyn-Jones, Frederick
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Fremantle, Sir FrancisLoder, Captain J. de Vero
Burnett, John GeorgeGillett, Sir George MastermanLovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Campbell, Sir Edward Tasweil (Brmly)Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnLoftus, Pierce C.
Caporn, Arthur CecilGlossop, C. W. H.Mabane, William
Castlereagh, ViscountGoff, Sir ParkMcCorquodale, M. S.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Goldie, Noel B.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)Gower, Sir RobertMcLean, Major Sir Alan
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Grimston, R. V.Macquisten, Frederick Alexander
Chorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricHacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.Maitland, Adam
Margesson, Capt Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)Sudden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Martin, Thomas B.Reid, William Allan (Derby)Sutcliffe, Harold
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel JohnRemer, John R.Tate, Mavis Constance
Mellor, Sir J. S. P.Robinson, John RolandTaylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Mills, Sir Frederick (Layton, E.)Rosbotham, Sir ThomasThomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Ross, Ronald D.Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)Thorp, Linton Theodore
Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. EyresRuggles-Brise, Colonel Sir EdwardTufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)
Moreing, Adrian C.Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Rutherford, John (Edmonton)Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Morrison, William ShepherdRutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Munro, PatrickSalt, Edward W.Watt, Major George Steven H.
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney)Wells, Sydney Richard
North, Edward T.Savery, ServingtonWhiteside, Borras Noel H.
Nunn, WilliamSelley, Harry R.Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Penny, Sir GeorgeSimon, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnWills, Wilfrid D.
Percy, Lord EustaceSmiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Petherick, M.Somervell, Sir DonaldWinterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)Wise, Alfred R.
Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n)Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.Withers, Sir John James
Pike, Cecil F.Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.Womersley, Sir Walter
Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.Spens, William PatrickWood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Power, Sir John CecilStanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)Worthington, Dr. John V.
Pownall, Sir AsshetonStewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Raikes, Henry V. A. M.Stones, James
Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)Strauss, Edward A.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isle)Strickland, Captain W. F.Sir Victor Warrender and Mr. Blindell.