Clause 2. — (Definition of overcrowding.)

Orders of the Day — Housing Bill. – in the House of Commons on 20th May 1935.

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4.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, after "time," to insert: if any person sleeping in the house must sleep in other than a bedroom or. I hope that this Amendment will receive the same sympathetic reception that was given to the Clause just withdrawn. My hon. Friends and I regard this Amendment as one of the utmost importance. On the Second Reading of the Bill I drew attention to this problem, and, if I may, I would like to refer to the words which I then used: The right hon. Gentleman is now leading his crusade against overcrowding…He has established standards of over crowding. It is a very bold man who will put standards into black and white. I am not nearly so cautious as the right hon. Gentleman, but I should be a little wary about establishing standards of overcrowding, because the public will get it into their minds that people who are living under conditions slightly better than the First Schedule of the Bill lays down are not overcrowded. That would be a monstrous thing for the people of this country to believe. I think it is clear that the standards of the right hon. Gentleman are much too low….There may be difficulties in dealing with this problem, and I think it is bound to take time, but the right hon. Gentleman's standards as regards overcrowding are not standards which are tolerable in the twentieth century. He contemplates as a normal thing that living rooms should be used as bedrooms. I can never agree to that. I think it is wrong."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1935; col. 389, Vol. 297.] I return to this question on the Report stage, because it is of fundamental importance to this House now to rectify what I regard as one of the weaknesses of the Bill. I do not want to be unduly controversial on this Amendment, but the right hon. Gentleman has not been quite consistent. He has admitted, or is going to admit presently, that it is most desirable that for the dwellings built under this Bill, when it becomes law, a bath room should be provided, but on Friday we used what sweet reasonableness we could command to ask him to establish more general standards with regard to the specifications and amenities to be provided under the various Clauses of the Bill. In his wisdom, he refused to accept our Amendment, although I am quite satisfied that hon. Members on all sides of the House would have been prepared, had the Minister given them encouragement, to have supported us in accepting our Amendment. I do hope that the House will be prepared to accept at least this standard.

The right hon. Gentleman is going to establish, for the first time, a legal standard in an Act of Parliament dealing with housing. You can do that with regard to the minimum and the maximum size of house on which you are prepared to expend Exchequer money, but nobody has been able to define in specific terms exactly what is a slum. We have approached nearer and nearer to a definition as time has passed. The Act of 1930 tightened up a little further the definition of a slum, but it is still very difficult to define a slum in precise legal terms. There is a danger, because, once you have done it, if the standard of housing is just a little bit over the standard of that definition, the public conscience is salved and people feel happy. That is also the danger of putting into the Bill a specific standard in regard to over crowding; either it is too low or it is too high. It may be too high for immediate application. Those who have had to deal with these problems know that it is not always possible to attain in the first month or in the first year or two the standard one would like.

I know the case against accepting our Amendment. It is a simple Amendment to make it clear that we do not regard it as normal for people to sleep year by year in living rooms. I have heard an hon. Member say that he lived in a bed-sitting room when this House was in Session. I could live in a bed-sitting room, and so could all of us. The hon. Member who says that does not live in a bed-sitting room with a number of other people who are using the room as a living room for 52 weeks in the year. He uses it on four days a week, when the House is sitting. I am not complaining about that, because it is quite reasonable. We were told that there would be difficulty if people visited houses during week-ends. Sometimes when I am speaking during the week-end, the only way I can be accommodated with my comrades is with a bed in a sitting room. I am not complaining about that, because that is an accidental occasion. I am not complaining if a mother-in-law comes to spend a week with her son-in-law or daughter-in-law and has to sleep in the sitting room or in the living room. Those things are not normal.

The only other argument that has been adduced against the Amendment is that, in the largest cities, and particularly in London, the idea—I do not want to use the word "ideal"—and the standard could not be immediately applied. That is probably true. I give my friends on the London County Council credit for grappling with the problem in the hope of solving it in a satisfactory manner. If certain areas are not able to live up to a standard for the time being, that is no reason why we should anchor the whole country to a lower standard. The position could be satisfactorily dealt with by dispensation, or by power given to the Minister for a limited period of time to waive the restriction in regard to persons sleeping in living rooms. That would be a complete answer to the case against the Amendment.

The case for the Amendment is much stronger. I have dealt with the difficulty of establishing a legal standard. The further difficulty is that, unless we insist now that people shall not be required, in ordinary circumstances, to sleep in living rooms, we shall be heading for the creation of new slums. Moreover, we shall saddle the community, during the next 10 or 20 years, with a very large number of houses—I am taking into account the decline in the birth-rate—which will be too small, according to the standards of 20 years hence. Once built, these houses and tenements will have to accommodate two generations of our citizens, and, if we build an enormous number of houses of so small a size that it becomes normal for people to have to sleep in living rooms, the community will be saddled with dwelling-houses which the public conscience 10 years hence will regard as a disgrace. If we have to break two houses into one or make two flats into one, the community will be faced with a charge which will lie at the door of this Government, unless the Government have sufficient wisdom to see the danger in the course upon which they are embarked.

There is another argument. Once you establish a standard in an Act of Parliament, even though it be a minimum standard, it tends to become the normal, if not the maximum. My hon. Friends on this side of the House have always been opposed, especially during the last 25 or 30 years, to putting minimum figures of wages into an Act of Parliament. They know that the figures tend to become the general standard. It is dangerous to say that people are not overcrowded if they can sleep in living rooms in small dwelling-houses. The effect of that new sanction from Parliament, never given before in an Act of Parliament, would be to establish standards which might be followed by private builders or, I am grieved to say, by a number of corporations. We may find the more parsimonious, or the more hard-pressed, local authorities saying that a house is not overcrowded if built down to the scale set out in the Act of 1935. The result of the new standard may well be that, after a 17-year period of steady improvement in housing standards in this country, there will be a degradation of the general standards of house building. On those grounds, I hope that the House will accept the Amendment, which we regard as eminently reasonable.

Hon. Members who have never had to live under conditions such as those of people who are now overcrowded, may think that it is rather fun to sleep in a sitting room one night a week, and rather amusing to sleep in a very large bed-sitting room for four nights a week. We are not dealing with circumstances of that kind, but with working people, and with a type of house in which there is only one living room, and not even a parlour, and where the whole of the domestic life of the family is lived; where tae cooking is done, a good deal of the washing and ironing are done, the feeding is done and the family conversation is carried on; where father sits and smokes his pipe and mother does her knitting; where children play around the hearth in almost all circumstances, in a relatively small room where people have been living all day. After the hour when everybody else decides to go to bed, some unfortunate person has to sleep in the fetid atmosphere, probably tobacco smoke laden from father's navy cut. That may be a growing person or a young child, a student in a secondary school or any other member of the family, who can never go to bed until all the household has retired. That is an intolerable state of affairs. It is not a matter of mere sentiment, but one which affects the health, vitality and standards of morality of the people. The right hon. Gentleman may tell me of cases where that will have to continue for a time; I am not unreasonable, I can understand that, but to put, as specific terms in an Act of Parliament, standards which commit this House to regarding conditions of that kind as normal will be wrong, and the House will be ashamed of doing so.

We have had our differences on the Bill. There have been occasions in Committee when my hon. Friends and I have supported the Minister, and even on Report stage when we have not opposed him. There have also been a number of occasions when we have been bound to oppose him. In this case, I believe hon. Members on all sides of the House will agree that the Minister would be well advised to accept the Amendment, because he is opening a new chapter in the establishment of standards of overcrowding. I would beg hon. Members who understand housing conditions in their areas to have regard to the fact that in my native county, and in the adjoining county, it is regarded as a disgrace for any member of the family to have to sleep in a living room. In York shire and Lancashire, nobody ever sleeps in a living room or a sitting room except in case of grave illness or of visitors staying for a short time. People in the north of England will regard this new standard as objectionable, and rightly so. I should be sorry if we accepted it as the ordinary standard, and I hope that hon. Members will support us and thereby do something to save the House of Commons from great discredit.

4.30 p.m.

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

This matter is really the keystone of the Bill. The whole purpose of the Bill, the whole justification for its introduction, is to deal with overcrowding, and I think that anyone who has given any attention to the problem will recognise the difficulty of finding appropriate words to define what overcrowding is. A great number of people who have studied the problem have contended that it would be wiser to have no definition, but to leave the matter to the discretion of the local authorities and allow them to make their own bylaws. Rightly or wrongly, however—and I do not criticise the right hon. Gentleman in this—it has been decided that there should be a definition. The right hon. Gentleman is taking his courage in two hands. It is his pride and boast that here for the first time in an Act of Parliament there is a definition of overcrowding, and an attempt is to be made to apply it universally throughout the country—a most difficult thing to do. A similar attempt in the case of unemployment relief broke down because of the difficulty of applying universal minimum standards of relief to the whole nation, especially in relation to rents. However, these words are to be the guide to local authorities throughout the land, not only for the towns but for the rural areas, not only for big cities like London, but for the provincial towns.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) rather approached the problem from the point of view of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and he emphasised the danger of houses being built to this low standard. But that is not the problem in London. In the houses which are now being built, whether by private enterprise or by local authorities, proper provision is always made for living rooms, and usually a parlour is included as well. There is a different problem in London, and not only in London, but throughout the Metropolitan area. It is a mistake to think that it is by any means limited to the County of London; it occurs in all those suburban dormitory areas which have sprung up during the last few years around London. The problem there is that houses originally built for one family are being divided up for use by two, three, or even four families. That is going on under our very noses, even in good neighbourhoods—aristocratic districts like Paddington, Westminster and Kensington—owing to the fact that suitable accommodation has not been constructed on a large scale for the working classes in the last 10 years since the War. The landlord is not always the criminal. Probably he is quite willing, and indeed would prefer, that one of the rooms should be allocated for use as a living room, but owing to the pressure of population, the shortage of accommodation, and, still more serious, the high rents, it is a general practice among the working class in large parts of London to use the living room as a bedroom. I agree that there is nothing very serious in the use of a parlour for sleeping purposes. Very often it is a room that is only used for social purposes or for great occasions, but, in my constituency particularly, the living room, where food is cooked and where the whole life of the home is carried on, very commonly contains a bed and is used for sleeping purposes as well.

It has been argued that, although the standard set by the Amendment is a right one, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to enforce it in London. There is such a tremendous leeway to be made up, and there is still such a great and growing shortage of accommodation in some parts of London, that these standards are almost impossible of immediate attainment, and therefore, it is said, we should be satisfied with the standard laid down by the right hon. Gentleman. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill give large powers of exemption, and, whatever the standard may be, it will not be possible to achieve it immediately—it must be a matter of time, and must depend on the local authorities' activity in building houses. I understand the purpose of the Amendment to be that, if an Act of Parliament is to contain a standard which is to be recognised as indicating that there is no overcrowding, it should be a reason- able one which people have a right to demand, and I say that the present standard provided in the Bill is, according to all housing authorities, too low.

I have on the Paper an Amendment, which I moved in Committee, suggesting an alteration in the Schedule, which might provide a means of achieving our purpose, but the right hon. Gentleman up to the present has resisted any alteration in the Schedule. If the Schedule is not to be altered, I think that the Act itself should contain something better as a recognised standard than is at present provided in the Bill. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman and the House that this country, to its credit, has been looked up to hitherto as the country above all that has laid down the right standards at which to aim, and it is not right that we should allow it to be suggested that in this Bill, in 1935, we are lowering the standards which have been recognised under the Public Health Acts as indicating absence of overcrowding. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment attaches special importance to its wording, and, if the Minister is prepared to find some better definition, I would suggest that he might very well give way. The standard provided in the Clause as it stands at present is far too low.

4.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

There is this to be said about a general standard for the whole country, that it is apt to be too low in one district while it may very well be too high in another. I do not think that the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. R. Strauss), for example, would suggest that this standard is too low for London in present circumstances. My real reason for rising, however, was to draw the attention of the House to one of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). He was speaking about the undoubted fact that people in the North, in Lancashire and Yorkshire, do not sleep in kitchens, though in London they do. I quite agree, and I was worried about kitchens being included. I asked a question on that point in Committee, and received 'a most specific assurance from the I'4inister that, in districts where a particular type of living room was in variably used as a living room and not as a bedroom, that type of room would be left out of the Schedule. [HON. MEM- BERS: "It cannot be."] I would like to ask again for a reassurance from the Minister that, in districts where people are not accustomed to sleeping in the kitchen, the kitchen will not in fact be included in the number of rooms in the house for the purpose of the survey. I think that that is the point.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

Every room is included.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

I do not think the hon. Member has looked at Clause 12—

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

I have looked at all the Clauses.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

Then I suggest that he should look again at Clause 12. If he does, I think lie will see that Clause 12 should be read in conjunction with the Clause that we are now discussing. It says: 'Room' does not include any room of a type not normally used in the locality either as a living room or as a bedroom.

Photo of Mr John Wilmot Mr John Wilmot , Fulham East

Surely the hon. Member will agree that in that sort of locality that sort of room is in fact ordinarily used as a living room.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

Yes; I think I am wrong on that point.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

Is it not the case that in Yorkshire and Lancashire the living room is generally the kitchen?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

Yes, I agree; I think I am wrong on that point, and I apologise. I feel that the Minister did intend to give me an assurance when he replied to the question that I specially put to him in Committee. He said: Let me take up here the point made by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Crossley) as regards kitchens in the North. He said that there should be proper elasticity to deal with that matter in the Bill. As a matter of fact, elasticity is provided for the purpose which he has in mind, namely, to deal with the cases in which local housing habits are strongly ingrained in the people of a particular locality. Clause 11 provides that the definition of 'room' is not to include any room of o, type not normally used in the locality either as a living room or as a bedroom. I would ask if the Minister could give me some assurance—


Would my hon. Friend read the next sentence?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Oldham

Yes. He went on to say: A type of kitchen which is not norm ally used as a bedroom or a sitting-room is not to be counted as a room 'under the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 19th February, 1935; col. 59.] I confess, however, that that does not meet the point which I intended to raise, and did raise, in Committee, and which I raise again now. In a kitchen, the average floor space, I believe, is about20 square feet. The average space covered by furniture is about 45 square feet, and, if there is a bed in it, the aver age space covered by the bed is about 30 square feet. That does not allow much additional space. The room can only be cleaned in the morning, and altogether it is not a very sanitary arrangement. It may be necessary in London, but there again I would ask the Minister whether he could not compromise in districts where the inclusion of a kitchen will really help to destroy the intention of the Bill, and whether he could not specifically exclude kitchens from the rooms to be included in the First Schedule? I apologise to the House for having made a serious mistake in the first part of my speech, but I did not intend in any way to minimise the point I wished to bring forward.

4.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

It will be generally agreed that it would be very easy to introduce into the Bill a definition of overcrowding which would make the Bill unworkable, and I have no desire, in supporting the Amendment, to introduce a definition which would in any way slow down the effort to deal with this matter. I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Crossley) that we in Lancashire view the question possibly differently from what seems to be the view of London Members. We consider that a house is overcrowded if any room other than a bedroom is used for sleeping. I could give cases to-day of hundreds of houses in my division which are over crowded where no one is sleeping in any room but bedrooms. The Minister, if he visited my division as he has visited other divisions and gone through slum areas, would agree that a goodly number of the houses were overcrowded, but no one in those houses sleeps in a room other than a bedroom. To suggest to people that because they have an additional child some member of the family should sleep in the kitchen or the living room would be looked upon as treating them very unworthily. It is from that point of view that I want the Minister to deal with the question.

I realise his difficulty. He is bound to apply his definition to some areas for the time being. I do not expect him to say that he will accept the Amendment as it stands on the Order Paper, but, in his desire to deal effectively and expeditiously with overcrowding, he should have some regard for the habits of people in the North of England. If he would say here and now that, in areas where they had never known such a thing as having to sleep in rooms other than bedrooms as a normal habit, he would make provision in this Bill to meet their case, I should, speaking for myself, feel that I had been well met. I agree that in London the habit is for people to sleep in rooms other than bedrooms, but even in London it is a bad habit which ought not to be encouraged, especially by the Minister of Health. We ought not to encourage any habit in London or outside which endangers health, and I am sure that he would agree that sleeping in a living room as a normal habit does endanger health. As habits vary throughout the country, will he not provide for the position to be dealt with in the Bill in the way we suggest, so that sleeping in living rooms shall not be imposed upon people in areas where the practice has never been known?

4.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harry Selley Mr Harry Selley , Battersea South

I cannot speak of the North although I know the country pretty well, but I was hoping that hon. Members would have regarded this Bill as a housing charter and would have recognised that for the first time a Minister has had the courage to come to the House of Commons and lay down a standard of overcrowding. The problem of London is a very difficult one. A lot of working-class people, particularly in London, are living in what one might almost call houses handed down by more fortunate neighbours. Houses in certain areas in London become worn out The habits of the locality change, and the houses gradually go down the scale and become slums. When our suits of clothes come to the end of their life and get on to the scarecrows in the fields we regard them as finished with, but it is not so with houses. You pass them down to your poor relations. Houses round the Islington and Finsbury districts and in the different parts of London which were built to accommodate a different class of person are now slums with which we have to deal.

What is the first problem that will confront those who are called upon to carry out this great work? They will have to find the measure of their job, and that task is to be put upon the borough councils. The borough councils will have to make a survey in each of the areas that are to come under review. In doing so, they will for the first time find the weight of population that can be carried in the houses within their area. The next thing is that either the borough council or the county council will have to find the additional accommodation to meet the overburden of population. Hon. Members above the Gangway say: "Let the Minister accept the Amendment and everything will be all right."

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

Oh, no, I have not said that. I do not accept the standards at all. I hope that I did not lead the House to believe that if this Amendment were accepted the remaining standards would be all right. That is far from the truth.

Photo of Mr Harry Selley Mr Harry Selley , Battersea South

We will progress in stages. Let us accept that the fact is, as the Minister says, to set up a standard of two persons per habitable room. If we are to impose anything in the nature of the present Amendment that no one should sleep in a kitchen or what is known as a kitchen, or what had at one time been a dressing room you would have to say to the unfortunate workman in the tenement house that he must have another room for his family. The first obligation that would be put upon him would be an increase in rent. I beg of hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that we are dealing with this problem in the transition stage, and that it is a very difficult one. If you say to a workman who is occupying two or three rooms in a tenement house that his family is of such a size that he must have additional rooms, you will put an intolerable burden upon him.

I have inquired into many cases in London. In one particular area I know of an eight-roomed house which was originally built to accommodate one family. The weight of population there, if we take the Minister's standard to-day, will be 16 persons, no matter how they may be distributed. In that house to-day there are 32 persons. It is not a rent problem. The sum of 73s. a week is being charged as the rent for those eight rooms. [An HON. MEMBER: "Scandalous!"] I agree that it is scandalous, and I would like to sweep it away at once, but do not let us try and cramp the Minister in what he is attempting to do by putting in an impossible standard. He has done a great thing for housing and for the public conscience in that we are not going to tolerate more than two persons in one habitable room.

There is another point. Hon. Members speak about the living room and say that persons could not sleep in the living room. What are we going to do? Are we to set up a board of inspectors to go into all these houses and see how the people distribute themselves at night? No, we have to fight shy of that sort of thing. If we set up our standard we must, to use a very common expression, leave it to the people to sort themselves out. This Bill is a move forward. I agree with hon. Members of the Opposition every time that we should increase our standards as and when opportunity presents itself until we have cleared out this grave scandal of overcrowding, but at present I suggest that we have gone as far as we can reasonably go.

4.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

We have had so many interesting discussions on this housing standard that, although we may not agree with each other's case, I think that we have begun to appreciate it. I begin by directing the House to the point which was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), that this is the first Bill that in fact lays down a standard, and it is a very great gain. The object of the Amendment is simple. It seeks to lay down the rule that a particular room shall be treated in a particular way. A living room shall not be slept in. There are two ways of dealing with the housing standard, and they are fundamentally opposite. You can either lay down rules governing the occupation of a particular room, or you can choose the method in the Bill of fixing the maximum number of persons which can inhabit a particular house, having regard to the number or the size of rooms in the house. Those two methods are fundamentally different. I suggest to the House that the method which we have chosen is the right one. If you try and say that any particular room must be kept for a living room, it follows, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Battersea (Mr. Selley) pointed out, that a horde of inspectors would immediately be required by the housing authority. A question was asked whether, under the Bill, the Minister or I was going round at night to make sure that no living room had any bed in it, but we have chosen the far simpler way of fixing a maximum number in respect of a particular house of a particular size. How that number of people live in the house is no concern of ours; if they all like to sleep in the same bed, then good luck to them. All we say is that in relation to that particular house we will not allow that number to be exceeded, and we fix the number in relation to a minimum standard of tolerability. That is the first point.

The second point is that, having established a principle, we now fix a maximum number for the house of a particular size. Everybody knows the meaning of the Manchester housing standard. That standard, broadly speaking, is that you exclude one room as a living room, and allow 2½ persons per bedroom. If hon. Members will look at the First Schedule and take the houses of over two rooms they will find that we have aimed at achieving the Manchester standard. For instance, for a three-roomed house, we deduct one room assuming it to be a living room. That leaves two rooms, and twice 2½ is five, which is the permitted number, assuming that the rooms are all of the normal size. The same applies with regard to four rooms. You deduct one room, and three times 2½ is 7½. So that under our system we have achieved the Manchester standard with-out putting upon ourselves the duty of a meticulous inspection, which would break down the whole scheme. Hon. Members must realise the sheer impossibility of enforcing the principle of the Amendment, in all dwellings of under three rooms. In one or two-roomed houses it would be quite impossible to enforce the standard enjoined by the Amendment at all. According to the housing census there are at least 260,000 families of one or two persons in one family at present living in single rooms, so that they would have to seek accommodation elsewhere.

I want to emphasise this point. Several hon. Members have spoken as if the Minister of Health was insisting upon people sleeping in the living room. Of course, that is a travesty of the truth. Nobody is compelled to sleep in a living room if he does not want to do so. No doubt the habits which obtain in the North will remain; and the habit in the South, where in certain circumstances of housing a bed is put in the living room for a boy or girl, will go on. But surely the right hon. Gentleman is forgetting the main purpose of this Bill, which is to set a penal standard and not an ideal housing standard. We have never contemplated an ideal standard in this Bill. When we are dealing with the provision of new houses the housing standard we work on under this Bill is Section 37 of the 1930 Act, which was a standard generally accepted. Nothing in this penal standard affects that provision. Let hon. Members get that clear. In the provision of fresh accommodation the standard that obtains is the standard of Section 37 of the 1930 Act, which is a bedroom standard. But when you are dealing with a criminal offence in respect of over crowding it is obvious that you have to choose a standard that is reasonable and one that can be enforced. If you do any thing else, the whole conception of a standard and the enforcement of the standard breaks down.

The hon. Member for Oldham asked a question as to what was to be the position of the kitchen under what is now Clause 12. We realise that in many parts of the country the kitchen, being small, will not be counted as a room at all. That is the position in very many areas. There are other parts of the country where the kitchen is very large and is used as a living room. Under Clause 12 the local authority has the right to exclude a room—in considering how many rooms there are in the house—if it is not normally used either as a living room or as a sleeping room. But over and above that, whether used as a living room or not, the kitchen, if under 50 feet square, is excluded altogether. I do want to re-emphasise the heart of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by saying that we were writing a new chapter in housing history. Do not let us start that by writing the last chapter. If we write the last chapter and fix an ideal housing standard, the whole basis of this Bill will break down.

5.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

The Parliamentary Secretary told us just now that in this Bill we were writing a new chapter in the history of housing. When I listened to the earlier part of his remarks, if I may say so without offence, I wondered whether he was supplying ideas for a new film for the next election, because he has not done justice to the Amendment as put forward by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). It is perfectly true that in this Bill we are making the house the unit for the standard of the definition of overcrowding. How is that going to work out in practice? Will it meet with some measure of success? The right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary have said that it would do so. In the definition laid down in this Clause and in subsequent chapters you take a four-roomed house and you permit seven and a half people to live in that four-roomed house; that is to say seven adults and one child between the age of one and 10 years.

What will that mean in practice? In dealing with overcrowding, particularly in the industrial districts of the North, you have to remember that you are dealing with property which has been in existence for 60 and in some cases 80 or 100 years. You have two rooms "up" and two rooms "down." Of the two rooms downstairs one is regarded as a living room and is often called the kitchen, while the other downstairs room is called "the room." What is called the kitchen in some parts of Yorkshire would be the ordinary room that the people live in, where in one corner you have the tap and the sink. What you call "the room" is the place where they have a suite of furniture, the room which other people might call the parlour. Under the definition laid down in this Bill you permit in a house of that size seven adults and one child between the age of one and 10 years. You might have the father and mother sleeping in one bedroom—and I hope nobody will suggest that some other person should sleep in that room—and in the other bedroom you might have five adults, three sons and two daughters; and yet that house would not be regarded as overcrowded under this Bill.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

If the hon. Member is talking about houses in the North—the "one up and one down" type, or the "two up and two down" type—he will find that the permitted number of persons he mentions, seven for a four-roomed house, will often be reduced because the size of the rooms will come under Table II of the Annex to the First Schedule. If so the permitted number of seven will be reduced.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

Under the First Schedule, it is stated that seven and a-half people can live in a four-roomed house. I think the hon. Gentleman had better answer "yea" or "nay" whether my interpretation of this Clause is correct. I submit that under this Schedule in an ordinary four-roomed house with two rooms up and two down seven adults and one child will be permitted to live without that house being described as overcrowded. The effect of having seven adults in a house with only two ordinary bedrooms is that if you have the father and mother in one bedroom you have two or three beds in the other room; or you compel the people to use one of the downstair rooms as a bedroom. I do not know how many Members have had experience of overcrowded housing conditions, but I had 17 years of lodgings, and I think I know just a little bit about how working-class people live. So far as we are concerned on these benches, I am bound to say that we—and particularly those Members representing the industrial North—cannot be a party to the definition of overcrowding which compels people to sleep in a room ordinarily used as a living room. I want Members of all parties to face up to this question, not in any party spirit but from the ordinary human and social standpoint. After all, people living in these overcrowded conditions do not live in such conditions from choice.

It used to be the practice when a pit was sunk in our locality to get houses up as quickly as possible without any regard to decent standards and overcrowding. That had to be put up with because there were not any other better houses in the district, and the wage earners could not afford to pay decent rents. I want hon. Members to reflect on what is the position in a house where you have people sleeping in the ordinary living room. Have not the children of these people as much right to have some room in which to do their homework and study as have the children of people in better economic circumstances? And what is the position where you have a young man or a young woman at work coming home to a place where there is a bed in the living room. The effect of that is to drive them out of the house as quickly as possible. You could not sit and read a book with a bed in the place; and young men and women have been compelled to go out and seek entertainment elsewhere because of these overcrowding conditions. We have a right to have it inserted in this definition that one room shall be regarded as a living room.

There is another angle to the problem. Do hon. Members realise what the position is when someone has to sleep in a living room? Take the case of such a house when there are two lads working on the afternoon shift at the pit. They have to go home and get rid of their pit dirt in the room where there is a bed, and the person who is going to sleep in that bed in the living room cannot go to sleep until the other people have cleared out. I submit to the House that we shall be laying down a standard which is far too low if we accept this definition, and I do earnestly hope that Members will help in supporting the Amendment.

The Parliamentary Secretary made some reference to the Manchester standard. I am pleased that he did so. When this matter was being discussed in Committee, we were told by the Minister of Health that this definition of overcrowding was arrived at after very careful and prolonged discussion with all the local authorities of the country and their medical officers. I submit that when the Parliamentary Secretary made reference to the Manchester standard he ought at least to have made reference to the circular sent out to the Members of the Committee by the medical officer of health for Manchester. If he had done that, it would have been found that in that circular letter, dated 14th February, there is the strongest possible opposition to this definition and the letter urges that there should be at least one room defined as a living room. There is also another aspect of this matter. In this country, unfortunately, we have not yet seen fit to establish in many localities a sufficient number of maternity homes; and because of that many confinements take place in the ordinary dwelling-houses. And in the circular letter sent by the medical officer of health for Manchester this fact is commented on, and I think the extract is worth reading because it justifies what we have in mind in putting forward this Amendment. The letter says: Ordinary decency and privacy are with difficulty obtainable if a living room is also used as a bedroom. As an illustration of this, I would refer to a report prepared by me on the conditions in which confinements occur in working-class houses in Manchester. This report is in my Annual Report for 1926, pages 244 to 248, where it is shown that privacy for confinement was not possible in 54 per cent. of the 1,000 confinements investigated. I want hon. Members of all parties to reflect on what this definition means and to ask them whether they cannot agree to the exclusion of at least one room which shall be regarded as the living room. As far as the position in London is concerned, it may be that there are difficulties to face which other local authorities have not to face in the same way. But I do submit to the right hon. Gentleman that he would be doing a good turn to housing progress if he would be less rigid in his insistence on accepting this definition and would agree to the Amendment, which only says that a room ordinarily used as a living room shall be excluded from the definition of overcrowding. I hope sincerely that we shall carry our Amendment. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), in Committee, mentioned that he lived occasionally in a bed-sitting room.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

I mentioned the case of a bed-sitting room, but I did not say that I was living in one.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

The difference between a bed-sitting room and an ordinary dwelling-house is that the person who uses the bed-sitting room does not usually live there; he sleeps there and goes out early next morning. In those circumstances the bed-sitting room can be very convenient, but in the ordinary dwelling-house under the housing conditions in industrial districts the woman is almost a slave if the sitting room is used as a bedroom and she has to do all her washing, baking and the hundred and one things of the household there. We ought to see to it that the room used as a living room shall be excluded from the definition of overcrowding.

5.16 p.m.

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

The speech of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) seemed to prove a great deal more than he intended. My difficulty about the Debate is that a case has been made out for the exclusion of one room in certain circumstances, but in the case of the two up and two down house dealt with by the hon. Member for Normanton, the effect of the Amendment would be that the house would be overcrowded if it contained a man, his wife, a daughter of 14 and a son of 11, because the daughter and the son could not sleep in the same bedroom. Presumably, one of them would have to sleep in the kitchen or the living room downstairs. That would be impossible under the Amendment. Its effect in the case that I have quoted would be that either the daughter or the son must sleep in the living room, because they could not sleep together in a room upstairs.

Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

I am afraid that the Noble Lord's experience of housing has not been in working-class practice. There are occasions when the father has to sleep with the son in order to economise bedroom space.

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

I am talking about this Bill, and as I read it, plus the Amendment which the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has moved, it would make that house overcrowded with four people in it. I would ask for confirmation of that view, but so far as I can see that is the fact. Therefore, the Amendment clearly will not do. I should like to ask the Minister whether it is impossible, where local custom requires it, to withdraw one room as the living room in the house for the purpose of assessing the space.

5.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

The Government were right in refusing to accept the Amendment. We are setting up penal consequences under this Bill for the owner and the occupier, and, if the Amendment were inserted, the effect would be to alter the condition of the house as it was used by a particular tenant. That is to say, if the tenant brought in enough furniture for three living rooms, he might have only one bedroom in a four-roomed house. There is no definition in the Amendment how one constitutes a room other than a bedroom. The normal way in the ordinary course of life is by the different kind of furniture that is brought into the room. You can alter the condition of a house from having one living room, to having, say, two living rooms or possibly three living rooms by the kind of furniture that the tenant brings into the room. So far as I know there is no other way in which you can turn a room in a house from a living room into a bedroom. Therefore, it is clear that this Amendment is not such as should go into a Statute of this kind.

The second point is that, whatever anybody may say, the Amendment clearly prohibits any of the working classes from living in what is termed a bed-sitting room. That would make one law for the rich and one for the poor, because the rich man living in the west-end would be able to live in his bed-sitting room but if a person lived in a working class area he would be liable as an occupier to penalties under the Act, for living in a room which was used other than as a bedroom. If that is not too absurd for words, I do not know what is. It is clear that the Government are fully justified in refusing to accept the Amendment. I take the same view as the Parliamentary Secretary that when you are starting a new penal code—people are going to be brought into the courts, and I hope that they will be if they contravene the Statute—you must start lower than you may ultimately hope to get. I hope that eventually we shall be able to tighten up the Act by excluding certainly one sitting room in the house, but if you are starting this new penal code for owners and occupiers it is well to start on the low side rather than the high.

In the case quoted by the Noble Lord it is clear that those four people would not be allowed to live in that house unless the suggestion of the hon. Member for Normanton was carried out. In that four-roomed house there were two bedrooms and two living rooms, occupied by a husband and wife and a boy and girl over the ages when they could sleep in the same room. If the two downstairs rooms were living rooms in accordance with the Amendment, the only way in which that family of four could live in the house would be by the husband and son sleeping in one room and the wife and daughter in the other. I think—I do not know how many hon. Members will agree with me—that it is far better for the husband and wife to have one bedroom and the daughter perhaps an upstairs room and the son one of the living rooms downstairs.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

Sleep downstairs in the living room?

Photo of Mr John Llewellin Mr John Llewellin , Uxbridge

The hon. Member talks as if it were impossible to live on the ground floor. He seems to disregard the fact that there are a very large number of bungalows in this country and that a very large number of people of all classes are happy and contented in living on the ground floor. It is better that the son should have to sleep in what might be the parlour rather than the husband and the son should have to sleep in one room and the wife and daughter in the other. If the Amendment were accepted they would have to sleep in the two rooms upstairs. Therefore, the Government have done right in asking the House to reject the Amendment.

5.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Banfield Mr John Banfield , Wednesbury

We have just listened to one of those complacent speeches which cause me from time to time to be very sorry for the state of mind of hon. Members who apparently know nothing about the practical application of the thing that they put before the House. This is a question which should by no means be dealt with flippantly. If hon. Members desire to represent the working-class people in their constituencies they ought to attempt to find out what the lives and habits of working-class people are. It makes me feel most indignant when I hear hon. Members declare: "You can have a bed in the sitting room; you can have a bed in the parlour." How would the hon. and gallant Member like his daughter to come home with a friend and to go into the sitting room and find that there was a bed in the room? The purpose of the room is destroyed in that way. This sort of thing makes me feel from time to time that there is a feel- ing in this House that any sort of measure is good enough for working people to put up with.

I was hoping that this Bill was a real attempt to deal with the question of over crowding. I represent a midland constituency and the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Williams) knows that constituency as well as I do. No one knows better than the hon. Member what would happen if he went into that constituency and said: "We have just passed a new and glorious chapter in our housing legislature, a Bill to prevent over crowding, and the result of it is that you are now to use your front rooms as bed rooms." What would the people of Wednesbury say to that? They would say: "Herbert, we do not think very much of you after that." The standard laid down in the Bill begins primarily with the conditions which exist in London. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was a step in the right direction that- a standard was being laid down. To impose the housing conditions of London upon the towns and cities of the provinces is altogether wrong. I have lived in a London borough for the last 20 years, not because I wanted to do so but because I was compelled to do so by economic circumstances. I know something about London life and housing. It is an astonishing fact that in the borough of Fulham, where I live, 50 per cent. of the deaths occur in public institutions. There is no room for them to die at home.

Hon. Members declare: "It is all right. Why should not people have a bed in the sitting room?" Why should they not have a bed in the kitchen, let them use all their rooms. The women in Stafford shire used to call that pigging together. There is no decency or comfort in it.

We are dealing with a Bill to prevent overcrowding. I spoke to the medical officer of health for Wednesbury with regard to it, and he declared that the standards in the Bill are considerably lower than those which at present obtain throughout the Black Country, and that it will be difficult to schedule thousands of houses as being overcrowded under its terms although they are overcrowded. I know the difficulties of housing in London, but to lay down a standard for London and apply it to the provinces is altogether wrong. I heard the Parliamentary Secretary make a most eloquent speech on housing. He swept me away with him. He declared that nothing would stand more to the credit of the Government than their attempt to deal with housing and overcrowding. If there is to be anything to the credit of the Government in this matter, it must be along lines which will bring decency and comfort inside working-class homes. It is all very well for the Noble Lord to talk about four-roomed houses. I was brought up in one, a little kitchen, a little parlour, the holy of holies, containing a round table, some books, with the Bible in the centre, and the childrens' hymn books. Does the Noble Lord mean that such a room, the treasure of the wife, should be turned into a bedroom?

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

I did not advocate turning it into a bedroom. My question was whether hon. Members opposite really meant what would be the effect of the Amendment, that four, father and mother, daughter and son, may not live in the house. That is the effect of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Banfield Mr John Banfield , Wednesbury

I see no reason why father and mother and daughter and son should not live in that house without it being overcrowded.

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

They could not under the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Banfield Mr John Banfield , Wednesbury

The Noble Lord quoted the age of the son as 14 years and the daughter as 11 years. I have been in many houses of this kind. I have known a daughter and son in one bedroom divided by a curtain.

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

That is forbidden by the Bill. That is my point.

Photo of Mr John Banfield Mr John Banfield , Wednesbury

I was endeavouring to tell the Noble Lord what I have seen in my experience. I have known cases when father and son have had to sleep together and mother and daughter, but more than anything else I am more concerned whether the operation of the Bill will make the position of overcrowding better not worse. Some of the standards prevailing in provincial towns and cities are such that the Bill will be unworkable in many instances. I admit that it is better to start on a low standard, but I object to the bad conditions of the London area being taken as the standard and applied to the provinces. There may be objections as to how the Amendment would work, but it would be a bad thing if we went to these most respectable people, decent housewives, people who are proud of their homes although they are small, who treasure their front room and take a pride in their household gods, and told them it did not matter; they must use it as a bedroom. The argument about the amount of furniture brought in three rooms as sitting rooms and furniture only for one bedroom is a bad argument. That does not happen. There is difficulty enough in getting houses properly furnished and working people do not do silly things like that. They only buy the furniture they want, and to suggest that they would deliberately fill three rooms out of four with furniture for sit ting rooms and furnish one bedroom is absurd. I make an appeal to the Minister. We believe that he wants to do the best, he can for the working people and to make the Bill one which will be of some use and help and comfort to them. Is it not possible for him to raise the standards as far as areas outside London are concerned? Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that the normal housing conditions in the Midlands and the North and to the south of London are altogether different to those in the London area, and it should not be beyond the wit of the Minister to meet the objections which have been raised, supported as they are by the medical officers of health in the local areas.

5.42 p.m.

Photo of Sir George Gillett Sir George Gillett , Finsbury

Like other hon. Members, I fully recognise the claims of the working people of this country to the best housing accommodation that can be provided, but looking at the Amendment from a London point of view, and as a representative of one of the most densely populated areas, it is impossible to support it. The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. R. Strauss) when this question was before the Committee upstairs said that even on the standards in the Bill the London County Council would find it difficult to get rid of the overcrowded conditions in the London area. The problem in London is one of tremendous difficulty. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) has given us some of his experiences, and I must say that they are exceedingly mild. When I heard him referring to the conditions in his own constituency, I felt that if we could transfer some of the people of Finsbury to that area they would be very thankful to live under the conditions he has described.

There is one point which has not been mentioned so far. What will my constituents say to me if I support the Amendment, which means that they will have to use two or three more rooms as sleeping rooms. If I go to them and say that they are to be removed because of the new standards in the Bill, what are they going to say to me? They may say that they will not be able to provide four or five rooms as required under the new standards. How is the increased amount of rent, which they will have to pay, to be met? What is that going to mean to many of these families? One room in Finsbury costs 5s. or 6s., and what are two extra rooms going to mean to a working man and his wife and family? I remember going on one occasion to a new block of dwellings put up by the borough council and interviewing the wife of a railwayman who had moved into one of these flats. That had a large family, and she complained to me of the proportion of her husband's wages which had to go by way of rent. That is my difficulty to-day. If I support the Amendment I do not know what it will mean to many of these people. We have no idea what it will really mean to a man in the proportion of his wages which will have to be paid in rent. You may make the condition of that family worse if you divert so much of the man's inadequate wage, which I agree is inadequate in many instances, to rent, in order to get a better standard of housing. I think it is absolutely impossible to support the Amendment and agree entirely that we do want to provide the best housing conditions possible.

5.49 p.m.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

I had no intention of taking part in the Debate until the speech of the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) and the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin). I am one of those who have great admiration for the Minister of Health and his work for housing, and I have no desire in this Debate to try to use any arguments for the purpose of scoring a point. But I do suggest that the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge has not the slightest idea of how working people are housed. Perhaps the House will for give me if I mention my own case, and I need not go any further. Up to the age of 15 I was brought up in a house which had one room downstairs and two rooms upstairs. There were six of us in the family. We would have been allowed to occupy that house under this Bill—two under ten years of age, two above, and father and mother. In that room downstairs, call it kitchen or whatever you like, all the cooking and all the washing were done, and six persons breathed what little oxygen they could get. Then the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge tells me that that is a satisfactory housing standard for the working people of this country. I am not suggesting that the Minister of Health thinks so too. I do not believe he does. But I do say that you cannot expect to rear healthy people under such conditions.

I would have liked to have seen a provision in the Bill that no living room should be taken into consideration when assessing the necessary accommodation for sleeping purposes. I hope I shall be forgiven for that personal illustration, but I know what it is for four children and a father and mother to exist under such conditions. That was 30 years ago. Now, with all the progress that the world has made since then, when the social conscience of the people is aroused as it has never been aroused before, for an hon. Member to ask us to accept as the minimum standard conditions which we then had to endure, is not worthy of this House. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the Manchester standard. Let it be quite clear to the House that no one believing in the Manchester standard would agree that this is a better standard. I know that there are different ways of calculating what is meant, but at least the Manchester standard, so far as I understand it, does mean that people are not asked to sleep in living rooms. Spending money as we are on health services of every kind, to expect a healthy nation to be reared by sleeping in rooms where six people have been breathing all day long, in rooms where cooking has taken place, where washing has been done, and everything else that is necessary in a house has been done, shows a total ignorance of the needs of the time. As I have said, I have a great admiration for all that the Minister of Health is attempting in order to improve housing. I pay him that tribute sincerely. But I suggest that he would make this Bill a much better Bill if he would limit the accommodation for sleeping to rooms other than living rooms.

5.50 p.m.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

Having listened to the whole Debate since the Amendment was moved with characteristic force by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), I am impressed with the seriousness of certain considerations that arise from it. The hon. Member who has just spoken has said what so many feel on this side of the House—that we and the country owe a debt of gratitude to the Minister of Health for the continuous and determined attack which he has made upon the bad housing conditions that still exist, and we would assure him of our whole-hearted support in his effort. But without falling too much for sentiment on the one side or giving too little regard to the logic on the other side, I do join in the plea to the Minister to consider whether some steps can be taken by him before this matter leaves him finally, to give effect to the enforcement of a higher standard.

We all take a great deal of pride in the fact that for the first time the Government are attempting to attack overcrowding, to define overcrowding, to eliminate it, and to establish a minimum standard from which improvement can spring. We all know that when you prescribe, in circumstances of this nature, something which you say is a minimum, it is very apt to be accepted with complacency as a satisfactory maximum. That is the very thing which I for one want to avoid. I would like to see in every house of every family a real sufficiency of every modern appliance and convenience and assistance. When it is said that we in this House seem to think that anything is good enough for working people, I characterise that as sheer and utter nonsense. In these days of science and progress in relieving drudgery we ought in any legislation to mobilise all those forces for the welfare of the people as a whole whom we are to house.

The first basis of a contented nation must be a nation well housed. It is wholly wrong to say that this Bill seeks to secure that people shall sleep in kitchens. It does not seek anything of the kind. The Bill establishes a certain minimum, but at the same time it permits sleeping in a living room where people have been living all day. That is the kind of thing that I for one would like to see abolished. But we have to realise that, the difficulties are acute. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that there were over 250,000 people living as single families in bed-sitting rooms. Some of these may not be open to the same criticism. Certain of them are not what we desire to see, and it is an undesirable position which was attacked at great length by one hon. Member opposite. He spoke of the condition of affairs that must arise when one or two young people desire to utilise the kitchen and are almost forced out of this room because it has to become sleeping accommodation for someone else.

We ought to do all we can, in the new conception of housing which the Government have brought about, to see that home life is an invitation to the young people of a house to take a pride in their home, and for those who own the home to take a still further pride in the establishment. It would be unfortunate if we were to say that this Bill, which may be a housing charter, may pass with one black spot which will allow the existence of such a state of affairs as that mentioned by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth). To accept the Amendment as drawn would bring about very great difficulties. The Amendment might be absolutely impracticable. It is all very well to try to criticise any proposal by saying, "I want to see something better, a much better standard for those who live in these circumstances." We all want to see that. But we have to remember that there would be a very great responsibility upon any one of us if, because of some idea in our minds, we hindered the Minister in the progress of his work. I fail to see how it is possible, by the Amendment as worded, so to arrange that you can at once dispossess from their dwellings those thousands of single-family tenants in single rooms, which you would have to do to remedy the real evil at which we aim, and how you could prohibit any person at any time from utilising a kitchen for sleeping accommodation. It would mean an inquisition almost nightly at every house. Someone would have to enter each one of the rooms, each one of the kitchens and living rooms in order to see whether on a particular night anyone was about to utilise that room for sleeping accommodation.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

I do not think that any one, whatever he may think of the amenities of bungalow residences or of the advantages of some ground-floor tenancies, can dispose of the matter as readily as that, and say, "It is all very well to sleep in a bungalow and on the ground floor and, therefore, there is nothing wrong in sleeping in a kitchen." Of course there is nothing wrong in sleeping on the ground floor as such. The difficulty is that we are going to pass a Measure in which we lay down as a minimum something which might be adopted with complacency as a satisfactory maximum. I would like to see that possibility taken away by this Bill for all time. I would like, if it were practicable, to ensure full amenities for the housing of all the people, both in sleeping rooms and independent living rooms.

On the other hand, we must not allow sentiment to obscure the logical consequences of this Amendment as it is drafted. But I would like to think, now that we have for the first time a Government which has the courage to direct its energies to ridding the country of the evil of overcrowding, that we are laying down a proper standard in these matters. I hope therefore that the Minister will give fresh consideration to the question of the standard which is to be adopted, and that the Bill may be improved in the one respect in which I think it needs improvement. It was said by an hon. Member earlier that this was a matter which ought to be considered free from any party bias. I think it has been so considered. Time and time again in dealing with these housing matters the Minister has shown himself to be mindful only of the public considerations involved. Giving full regard to those considerations, in this instance, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to frame an Amendment which will deal satisfactorily with this point but will have none of the unfortunate repercussions which might be expected to follow from the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield.

6.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Strauss Mr Edward Strauss , Southwark North

I wish to answer certain points which have been advanced by various Members on this Amendment, and particularly to deal with the argument of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir G. Gillett) who was good enough to quote a statement which I made in Committee on the matter. He advanced the argument that a very difficult situation would arise in London if this Amendment were carried I agree that if the Amendment were incorporated in the Bill and applied to London, an impossible situation for London would arise. At the same time I suggest that to look at this matter solely as it Concerns London is to take a parochial point of view on a very important question. The situation in London is unique. The overcrowding conditions in London are worse than they are elsewhere in the country. I do not wish to be controversial or to go into the reasons for that state of things. Plainly, one of the reasons is that there has not been sufficient re-housing—that sufficient new houses have not been built during the last 10 years—but I do not pursue the matter any further than that. But are the particularly bad conditions in London to be made a reason for bringing the rest of the country down to the London standard? I suggest that the rest of the country ought not to be penalised by the bad conditions in London, and my proposal is that the Amendment should be carried and the London area exempted from it under Clause 4. I do not think this House ought to agree to laying down for the whole country a minimum which everyone agrees is undesirable and which may become a standard. I submit to those hon. Members who are concerned about conditions in London that we ought to look rather further afield, that we ought not to consider London only but the country as a whole, and that we ought to accept the Amendment as it appears on the paper on the understanding that London would have to be exempted.

6.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Cleary Mr Joseph Cleary , Liverpool Wavertree

I readily appreciate the difficulties of London Members, but I am bound to point out that London is not Great Britain, and that those who represent other parts of the country have a duty to their own constituencies. I find it more difficult to appreciate the anxiety of other hon. Members who have cited exceptional cases and instances in order to justify their opposition to the Amendment. Two main arguments have been advanced. The first was brought forward by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and his argument has, I think, been met. I think he would find, as regards the case mentioned by him, that that is quite a common occurrence in many towns and cities in this country, and that, even in the circumstances which he detailed, there would be no contravention of the standards which it is sought to establish in the Bill. It may not be an ideal way, but if it is a case of choosing the lesser of two evils that is certainly no compliment to the Bill.

The other argument has been that of the bed-sitting room. Is that a fair argument or is it a justifiable manner of trying to find a flaw in the Amendment? A bed-sitting room of the kind which has been described by some hon. Members is not, during the time when it is converted into a sitting room, used by all kinds of people for general purposes during the day. It is almost entirely monopolised by the one particular person concerned. That can scarcely be regarded as an argument against the Amendment. Then the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that there was no compulsion in this matter. I am aware that the Bill does not seek to lay it down that living rooms should be used as bedrooms. It merely permits living rooms under certain conditions to be used as sleeping rooms, but we are opposed to that proposal. The Under-Secretary in emphasising the fact that there was no compulsion gave us a remarkable alternative. He was magnanimous enough to suggest that even 16 people in a house could all sleep in the one bed. That statement however does not do justice to the Parliamentary Secretary, or to the Government, or to the Measure before the House and it is fortunate that it does not.

It is remarkable that while we are discussing a Clause of this character the local authorities are endeavouring to deal with the problem of density under town planning schemes, and are seeking to ensure that only a certain number of houses shall be built to a certain space, in order to avoid the danger of the creation of further slums. To my mind by this Clause we are setting up again the old problem and creating slums, by herding the people together in confined spaces. We are seeking to give legal sanction to a standard which certainly would not be tolerated in the North, and we have no right to give any kind of legal sanction to what is unacceptable to the great majority of the people. Take the case of local authorities like my own Who have built model tenements and flats, in connection with which any suggestion of a living-room being used as a bedroom would not be considered for a moment. Is this Clause going to be an encouragement to such local authorities who have built model flats as an example to the country? Even as it is, these kitchens or parlours as the case may be, often have to accommodate bicycles and perambulators, and I have even seen them accommodating coffins. Is it to be suggested that people should be asked to sleep in such rooms? This is a question of going back and of setting a standard which is unacceptable in great areas of this country. We on these benches therefore must demand that if we are going to set up any standard—which is in itself dangerous—for working-class life and conditions we must have a standard more commensurate with the ideas of the days in which we live.

Photo of Mr Cecil Pike Mr Cecil Pike , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Does the hon. Member apply his requirements to cripples who are unable to get upstairs?


Another exceptional case, to justify opposition to the Amendment.

6.10 p.m.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

Although there may be objections of an important kind to the wording of the Amendment the Minister must recognise that in all quarters of the House there is deep sympathy with its intention. I think that even the case cited by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings was not advanced by him as an objection to the principle of the Amendment but rather as a particular instance of the application of the arithmetical calculation. I understood from the Noble Lord and from other hon. Members opposite that they would be glad if a way could be found of excluding from the calculation, in any area where it was practicable, at least one room normally used as a living room. There is no doubt I think that that is the general sentiment of the House. This is no mere party matter and I am sure that with a little ingenuity the point of difficulty which has been raised could be got over by the use of Clause 4 to deal with exceptional cases. I think it would be an affront to the people to allow the proposal as it stands in the Clause to be accepted and described as a standard in the rural areas and throughout large parts of the country. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept our Amendment, I would offer one or two suggestions as to possible ways of meeting the general purpose which I have outlined. For example, in the First Schedule in Table 1 he could insert some such words as. Where a house, apart from one room normally used as a living room consists of," etc. That would specifically exclude the kind of confusion mentioned by the Noble Lord. It would mean that at least one room normally used as a living room did not enter into the calculation. That would be a perfectly practicable proposition. Then, it would be possible to make provision in Clause 4 for excluding from the operation of the Schedule in that respect any areas which, for good reasons presented by the local authorities, were regarded as suitable for exemption for a term of years, or as the case might be. It is provided in Clause 4 that exemptions to the general intention can be dealt with—and I am sure that the general intention of the House in this case is as I have indicated.

There is one other consideration which has not yet been presented to the right hon. Gentleman but which is just as important as any of the others mentioned so far. If this definition is to stand, it prevents the Bill from giving any real help in the rural areas. Assistance in the rural areas is confined to cases of established overcrowding. In the case of the development areas in the towns, a scheme may be operated where the houses are either overcrowded or unfit. In the rural areas it is limited to cases of proved overcrowding. If you apply the present calculation in the Schedule to cottages in the villages and rural areas, I undertake to say that not one dilapidated cottage in 10 will be found to be technically overcrowded. That is one of the chief objec- tions in my mind to keeping the Bill as it is and not providing for the exclusion of one room normally used as a living room. If that exclusion were provided for, many of these dilapidated cottages would become technically overcrowded, as they are now actually overcrowded for practical purposes. One of the chief objections to the Bill from my point of view is that it leaves out of account any possibility of giving assistance in the case of the vast majority of rural cottages. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not shut his mind to trying to meet what is, I am sure, the general sense of the House in this matter.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

Is the right hon. Gentleman not going to reply at all? It is very discourteous.


The right hon. Gentleman will surely acquit me of the charge of discourtesy. A substantial reply was made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who dealt with the matter very fully. I should be most unwilling, of course, to leave unanswered what the right hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member has said.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I think it is a gross discourtesy to the House of Commons.

6.16 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

I have sat here since practically three o'clock, and I did not intend to speak on this Amendment, but now that the Minister has refused to reply to the right hon. Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison), I feel bound to have a few words. I am sorry the Parliamentary Secretary is not in his place, because I remember that when he spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill on either the 30th or the 31st January, he stated that his life depended upon this Bill, and that if there was any chopping or changing about it, the possibilities were that the Government would lose a very efficient Parliamentary Secretary. If he did not say it in those words, that is what he meant, and he threatened to resign, at about 10 minutes to 11 one night, and the Government held their breath, thinking they were going to collapse because of this threat. To-day the Parliamentary Secretary has twisted on a threepenny bit in this House. When any Amendments are put forward from this side, the Government feel it their bounden duty bitterly to oppose them, but Amendments have been accepted, and additional Schedules added to the Bill, from the other side.

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

We are dealing now with a specific Amendment.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

The Parliamentary Secretary said that this was the first Bill that laid down standards, and I wrote down, "And what standards." I have worked it out for the benefit of hon. Members opposite, including the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), that under the Schedule on page 68, where it deals with houses with five rooms, it will be possible that not, until 17 persons are living in such a. house is there any overcrowding. Then they say that this is a Bill to prevent overcrowding.

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

This Amendment deals specifically with people not sleeping in the living room.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

If persons are sleeping anywhere in those five rooms—

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but the Amendment now before us would not affect the number who might sleep in a house; it does not exclude the living-room from coming into the assessment. It only says that after you have got 17 people in the house, you may not put one of them in the living-room.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

The Bill does not say that.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

The Amendment says that any person sleeping in the house must sleep in other than the living-room. We say that the Bill at present will permit that there shall be no overcrowding in a five-room house until there are 17 people sleeping in it.

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

The hon. Member is not dealing with the Amendment, and if he does not do so, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.

6.20 p.m.


I do not want to leave the House under any sense of not having had a Government reply. I am in entire agreement with a great deal of what has been said by those who are moving the Amendment, both by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and by the right hon. Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison); and with what has been eloquently said by many Members of the House with such a close knowledge of what is essential for a proper standard of housing accommodation, the Government and, I believe, all my hon. Friends on this side are in cordial agreement. I agree that, according to an ideal housing standard, that room which is set apart as the living-room should not in normal circumstances he used as a bedroom, and according to any ideal standard to which we ought to be able practically to work, we ought to set before our eyes the goal that a living-room should not be used as a bed-room. I agree with that from the points of view of hygiene, morals, and amenities of life, but I want to bring out afresh—it was brought out, I thought, most clearly in the speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—just what we are after at the present time in this Bill.

It is true, as was said by one of my hon. Friends, that it is a gross misrepresentation to say that the present Bill obliges people to sleep in the sitting-room. Nothing could be a more fantastic perversion of the truth. The direct effect of this Bill will be to relieve thousands of persons who have been obliged to sleep in the sitting-room from that necessity. All the new housing accommodation into which the overcrowded are to go is governed by the re-housing Section of the Act of 1930, which is incorporated in this Bill, so that every change that is made under the Bill will be a change made in the re-housing standard, which is very familiar to those who know Section 37 of

the Act of 1930. All the actual movements of families, all the new developments under this Bill, will be based on the re-housing standard, which takes no account of the living-room at all. What we are doing in this Bill is saying, "Here is a standard below which conditions are so intolerable that it is a crime against, the law to allow them to continue"; and that must be lower than the re-housing standard, which is a standard towards which we are working. This is a standard which we 'are leaving behind; the other is a standard towards which we are working.

The House will believe me when I say that the deliberations given to this matter have included a, most careful examination into the conditions of the country as a whole, and not into conditions in London only. Our conclusions have been arrived at in consultation with the associations of local authorities and with many representatives of medical officers of health, and they have been arrived at as the best we can practically enforce in the near future. As regards Yorkshire, to which a good deal of prominence has been given—I speak of Yorkshire as a typical case where sleeping downstairs is particularly disliked—this Bill does not affect that situation at all in the wrong direction. Nobody in those districts will have to sleep in the living-room because of this Bill. On the contrary, thousands of people will have their accommodation improved by reason of this Bill.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided, Ayes, 60; Noes, 266.

Division No. 205.]AYES.[6.29 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherGreenwood, Rt. Hon. ArthurMaxton, James
Banfield, John WilliamGrenfell. David Rees (Glamorgan)Paling, Wilfred
Batey, JosephGriffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)Parkinson, John Allen
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)Pickering, Ernest H
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Grundy, Thomas W.Rathbone, Eleanor
Buchanan, GeorgeHall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Rea, Walter Russell
Cleary, J. J.Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHarris, Sir PercySamuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Cove, William G.Holdsworth, HerbertSmith, Tom (Normanton)
Cripps, Sir StaffordJanner, BarnettStrauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Daggar, GeorgeJenkins, Sir WilliamTinker, John Joseph
Dobbie, WilliamJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Wedgwood. Rt. Hon. Josiah
Edwards. CharlesLansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWhite, Henry Graham
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)Lawson, John JamesWilliams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Logan, David GilbertWilliams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee)Lunn, WilliamWilmot, John
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Gardner, Benjamin WalterMcEntee, Valentine L.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)Mainwaring, William HenryMr. John and Mr. Groves.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut-ColonelGilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnMargesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)Gluckstein, Louis HalleMarsden, Commander Arthur
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.Martin, Thomas B.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)Goodman, Colonel Albert W.Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Gower, Sir RobertMayhew, Lieut-Colonel John
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Granville, EdgarMeller, Sir Richard James (Mitcham)
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamGrattan-Doyle, Sir NicholasMellor, Sir J. S. P.
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick WolfeGreene, William P. C.Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
Atholl, Duchess ofGrenfell, E. C. (City of London)Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Bailey, Eric Alfred GeorgeGretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnMitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGrimston, R. V.Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.Moreing, Adrian C.
Balniel, LordGunston, Captain D. W.Morgan, Robert H.
Barrie, Sir Charles CouparHales, Harold K.Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve CampbellHamilton, Sir George (Ilford)Morrison, William Shephard
Beit, Sir Alfred L.Hammersley, Samuel S.Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Bernays, RobertHanbury, CecilMunro, Patrick
Blindell, JamesHartington, Marquess ofNall, Sir Joseph
Bossom, A. C.Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n)Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Boulton, W. W.Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartHeilgers, Captain F. F. A.Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Bower, Commander Robert TattonHenderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)Orr Ewing, J. L.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.Pearson, William G.
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)Peat, Charles U.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John WallerPenny, Sir George
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamHope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)Perkins, Walter R. D.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeHorobin. Ian M.Petherick, M
Broadbent, Colonel JohnHorsbrugh, FlorencePeto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Howard, Tom ForrestPike, Cecil F.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Pownall, Sir Assheton
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Butt, Sir AlfredHume, Sir George HopwoodRamsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Cadogan, Hon. EdwardHunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Caporn, Arthur CecilHunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerRemer, John R.
Carver, Major William H.Hurst, Sir Gerald B.Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Iveagh, Countess ofRickards, George William
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.Ropner, Colonel L.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Joel, Dudley J. BarnatoRoss Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. (Birm., W)Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Ker, J. CampbellRunciman. Rt. Hon. Walter
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)Runge, Norah Cecil
Chorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricKerr, Hamilton W.Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Clarke, FrankKeyes, Admiral Sir RogerRussell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Clarry, Reginald GeorgeKimball, LawrenceSalt, Edward W.
Clayton, Sir ChristopherLamb. Sir Joseph QuintonSamuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Cobb, Sir CyrilLambert, Rt. Hon. GeorgeSamuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Latham, Sir Herbert PaulSanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Colman, N. C. D.Leckie, J. A.Selley, Harry R.
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.Leech, Dr. J. W.Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Conant, R. J. E.Lees-Jones, JohnShaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Cooks, DouglasLeighton, Major B. E. P.Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Copeland, IdaLennox-Boyd, A. T.Somervell, Sir Donald
Courthope, Colonel Sir George LLewis, OswaldSomerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)Liddall, Walter S.Soper, Richard
Cross, R. H.Lindsay, Noel KerSouthby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardLister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.Llewellin, Major John J.Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)Lloyd, GeoffreySpender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd.Gr'n)Spens, William Patrick
Davison, Sir William HenryLocker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Denman, Hon. R. D.Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Dickie, John P.Loder, Captain J. de VereStones, James
Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. HerbertLoftus, Pierce C.Storey, Samuel
Doran, EdwardLovat-Fraser, James AlexanderStrickland, Captain W. F.
Drewe, CedricLumley, Captain Lawrence R.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Duckworth, George A. V.Lyons, Abraham MontaguSugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)Mabane, WilliamSummersby, Charles H.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. WalterMacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)Tate, Mavis Constance
Ellis, Sir R. GeoffreyMacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Eimley, ViscountMcCorquodale, M. S.Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Entwistle, Cyril FullardMcEwen, Captain J. H. F.Thompson, Sir Luke
Erskine-Bols, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)McKeag, WilliamThorp. Linton Theodore
Essenhigh, Reginald ClareMcKie, John HamiltonTouche, Gordon Cosmo
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)Maclay, Hon. Joseph PatonTufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Fleming, Edward LascellesMcLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)Turton, Robert Hugh
Fremantle, Sir FrancisMagnay, ThomasWallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Fuller, Captain A. G.Maitland, AdamWallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)
Galbraith, James Francis WallaceMakins, Brigadier-General ErnestWard, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Gillett, Sir George MastermanManningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)Worthington, Dr. John V.
Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.Willoughby de Eresby, LordYoung, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Waterhoue, Captain CharlesWilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Wells, Sydney RichardWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel GeorgeTELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Whiteside, Borras Noel H.Winterton, Rt. Hon. EarlSir Victor Warrender and Sir Walter Womersley.
Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)Withers, Sir John James

6.37 p.m.

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

I beg to move, in page 2, line 25, to leave out "ten," and to insert "seven."

The issue I am raising is simple and clear, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will meet us in the half-way house that we are suggesting. In Committee I suggested that children under five should count as half a unit. That is the standard laid down in the Census returns. The right hon. Gentleman, however, thought that that was too low. I am now suggesting that seven should be substituted for 10. In doing so I am on firm ground, because at the age of seven a child leaves the infant's school and goes into the ordinary elementary school. I suggest that in the admittedly low standard laid down in this Clause it is not reasonable to count a boy of nine or nine and a half or a girl of that age as half a unit, and expect them to share one room. With the ideas of morality in these days that is most undesirable, and it would not be taxing the local authorities too much to ask them to regard children over seven as a whole unit and a child under seven as half a unit.

6.39 p.m.

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

I beg to second the Amendment.

As far as I can understand the position, the anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman is to have a standard which is acceptable to the country, although it may not be the maximum standard which he himself would like to have inserted in the Bill. It will be agreed that in very many cases it is highly undesirable that a boy and a girl of 10 should occupy the same room. It may not be so in all cases, but one can easily bring to mind cases of youngsters about the age of 10 who ought not to occupy the same room, and the right hon. Gentleman might consider it advisable to protect such cases in which there might be injury caused by children of different sexes under 10 sleeping in a room where four youngsters might be sleeping at the same time. I ask him to accept the Amendment in the spirit in which it is meant. It is not intended in any way to be destructive; on the contrary, it is hoped that it is a constructive suggestion to help the cases we have in mind.

6.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

I appreciate the friendly spirit in which the Amendment is moved, but I am afraid that we cannot accept it. We have tried to incorporate in the Bill a standard of sex separation which is generally acceptable. The great majority of standards—for instance, the Manchester standard, the Dudley standard and the Census Housing standard—lay down 10 as a proper age for the separation of the sexes, while for Improvement Areas the age of separation is 14 years, and we do not think it right to start a new principle in this Bill.

6.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

I am not impressed by any local standards. The Manchester standard and other standards have been quoted more than once to-day. They are the standards of local authorities who, in existing circumstances, are not making legislation, but are bound by legislation to do something a little better than is normally operative in their district. In view of the fact that there has been a good deal of discussion with regard to the adequacy of the standard of overcrowding laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, it would not be unreasonable to begin the separation of the sexes at the age of seven. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that 10 had been generally accepted, but that does not apply to school life. Normally, in public elementary schools the separation of the sexes takes place at seven, and if the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to alter his general standard, it would at least ease the situation and improve the standard in one particular if he were to reduce the age of the half unit from 10 to seven. It would in many homes raise the standard a little higher. This is not a very fundamental or important Amendment, but it would be worth while in order to make a little more generous the standard which is laid down in the Bill.

Question put, "That the word 'ten' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 250; Noes, 56

Division No. 206.]AYES.[6.45 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelGrenfell, E. C. (City of London)Morrison, William Shephard
Adams, Samual Vyvyan T. (Leads, W.)Grimston, R. V.Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.Munro, Patrick
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Gunston, Captain D. W.Nall, Sir Joseph
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Hales, Harold K.Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)Nunn, William
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamHammersley, Samuel S.O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick WolfeHanbury, CecilOrr Ewing, I. L.
Balley, Eric Alfred GeorgeHartington, Marquess ofPearson, William G.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyHartland, George A.Peat, Charles U.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)Percy, Lord Eustace
Balniel, LordHaslam, Henry (Horncastle)Perkins, Walter R. D.
Barrie, Sir Charles CouparHaslam, Sir John (Bolton)Petherick, M.
Beit, Sir Alfred L.Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.Pike, Cecil F.
Bernays, RobertHenderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chetmsford)Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Blindell, JamesHeneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.Pybus, Sir John
Bossom, A. C.Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Boulton, W. W.Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John WallerRamsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartHope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)Ramsay, T. B W. (Western Isles)
Bower, Commander Robert TattonHorsbrugh, FlorenceReed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Howard, Tom ForrestRemer, John R.
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)Rickards, George William
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamHume, Sir George HopwoodRoberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard GeorgeHunter Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)Ropner, Colonel L.
Broadbent, Colonel JohnHunter. Capt. M. J. (Brigg)Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerRuggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Hurst, Sir Gerald B.Runge, Norah Cecil
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)Iveagh. Countess ofRussell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Cadogan, Hon. EdwardJoel, Dudley J. BarnatoRutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)Salt, Edward W.
Caporn, Arthur CecilKer, J. CampbellSamuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney)
Carver, Major William H.Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)Kerr, Hamilton W.Selley, Harry R.
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)Keyes, Admiral Sir RogerShakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Kimball, LawrenceSmith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Blrm., W)Lamb, Sir Joseph QuintonSomervell, Sir Donald
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Lambert, Rt. Hon. GeorgeSomerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Latham, Sir Herbert PaulSoper, Richard
Chorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricLeekie, J. A.Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Clarke, FrankLeech, Dr. J. W.Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Clarry, Reginald GeorgeLees-Jones, JohnSpencer, Captain Richard A.
Clayton, Sir ChristopherLeighton, Major B. E. P.Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Cobb, Sir CyrilLennox-Boyd, A. T.Spens, William Patrick
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Lewis, OswaldStewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Colman, N. C. D.Liddall, Walter S.Stones, James
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.Lindsay, Noel KerStorey, Samuel
Conant, R. J. E.Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-Strauss, Edward A.
Cooke, DouglasLlewellin, Major John J.Strickland, Captain W. F.
Copeland, IdaLloyd, GeoffreySueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Croom-Johnson, R. P.Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)Tate, Mavis Constance
Crossley, A. C.Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardLoder, Captain J. de VereTaylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Culverwell, Cyril TomLottus, Pierce C.Thomas. James P L. (Hereford)
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)Lovat-Fraser, James AlexanderThompson, Sir Luke
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.Thorp, Linton Theodore
Davison, Sir William HenryLyons, Abraham MontaguTouche, Gordon Cosmo
Denman, Hon. R. D.Mabane, WilliamTufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Dickie, John P.MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)Turton, Robert Hugh
Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. HerbertMacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Doran, EdwardMcEwen Captain J. H. F.Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)
Drewe, CedricMcKeag, WilliamWard, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Duckworth, George A. V.McKie, John HamiltonWard, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Ellis, Sir R. GeoffreyMacquisten, Frederick AlexanderWardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Eimley, ViscountMagnay, ThomasWaterhouse, Captain Charles
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Maitland, AdamWells, Sydney Richard
Entwistle, Cyril FullardMakins, Brigadier-General ErnestWhiteside, Borras Noel H.
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Essenhigh, Reginald ClareMargesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)Marsden, Commander ArthurWilloughby de Eresby, Lord
Fleming, Edward LascellesMartin, Thomas B.Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Fremantle, Sir FrancisMason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)Windsor-Clive. Lieut-Colonel George
Fuller, Captain A. G.Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel JohnWinterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Galbraith. James Francis WallaceMeller, Sir Richard James (Mitcham)Wise, Alfred R.
Gillett, Sir George MastermanMellor, Sir J. S. P.Withers, Sir John James
Gluckstein, Louis HalleMills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)Womersley, Sir Walter
Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Worthington, Dr. John V.
Goff, Sir ParkMitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W.Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Gower, Sir RobertMoreing, Adrian C.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Grattan-Doyle, Sir NicholasMorgan, Robert H.Sir George Penny and Sir Victor
Greene, William P. C.Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Warrender.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Greenwood, Rt. Hon. ArthurMallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherGrenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)Maxton, James
Banfield, John WilliamGriffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)Milner, Major James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)Paling, Wilfred
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Groves, Thomas E.Parkinson, John Allen
Buchanan, GeorgeGrundy, Thomas W.Rathbone, Eleanor
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cove, William G.Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Ztl'nd)Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cripps, Sir StaffordHarris, Sir PercyStrauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Dagger, GeorgeJenkins, Sir WilliamTinker, John Joseph
Dobbie, WilliamJohn, WilliamWedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Edwards, CharlesJones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)White, Henry Graham
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Lansbury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeWilliams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee)Lawson, John JamesWilmot, John
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)Lunn, WilliamWood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Gardner, Benjamin WalterMacdonald, Gordon (Ince)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)McEntee, Valentine L.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Mr. Walter Rea and Mr. Janner.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Mainwaring, William Henry