I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, after "materials," insert "including the cost of those materials."
This is an Amendment about which I am optimistic, and I hope that the right
hon. Gentleman will accept it without any heat being engendered in this Committee. It is in the nature of a drafting Amendment to clarify what I think is the intention of the Clause as viewed from both sides of the Committee. The Clause says:
If the Minister has purchased building materials consisting of structures ready for erection as houses.
That is to say that, if he has bought part of the permanent prefabricated house, that is the first part that has to be specified
before the Clause comes into play at all. It goes on about the Minister of Health
being satisfied that the cost of constructing houses from those materials.
It is arguable that all that can be taken into account in estimating the cost of constructing houses from those materials would be the cost of putting the purchased parts together. I do not think that that is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman or of the Government. I feel sure that if a Law Officer were here, he would confirm my argument that it is, to say the least, arguable that, from the drafting of this Clause—in the way the purchase of building materials is referred to in the first case, and the cost of constructing the houses from those materials in the second case—in estimating the cost of constructing the houses you do not include the cost of purchasing the parts to be constructed and put together. I feel sure that the intention is that the Minister of Health shall take into account all the costs of the permanent prefabricated houses and compare those costs with the cost of the traditional houses of a similar size. Believing that to be the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, we move to insert, after the word "materials," the words "including the cost of those materials," in order to put the matter absolutely beyond doubt. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, in this instance, depart from the argument that this has never been done before, and will, for once, accept an Amendment.
I have examined this matter very carefully and have consulted those who know much more about it than either the hon. Member or myself, and they assure me that the words of the Clause bear the construction which the hon. Member desires, and that an alteration is not necessary. If it were, I would immediately accede to it, but as I understand the Clause does exactly what the hon. Member wishes, I am sure that he will not wish to press this matter further.
The right hon. Gentleman has gone a long way towards satisfying us, but as one who has considered the Clause, I am bound to say that I still feel doubt about the advice he has received. It is difficult as a matter of ordinary English to state that the phrase, "cost of constructing 'A out of B in- cludes the original cost of B. That is really the point on which the right hon. Gentleman says he has been assured. I would like him to say that he would look at it again and take advice from the highest quarters available to the Government. We know that the intention is common; all we desire is to see that the Statute is clearly expressed.
I am prepared to consult with the authorities responsible and also with the right hon. and learned Gentleman to see whether these words bear the interpretation we commonly desire. If they do not, I shall be prepared to accept such an Amendment. But I am assured that the words bear the interpretation we all desire.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, leave out "substantially."
I move this Amendment for the purpose of eliciting from the Minister a declaration of policy upon a matter which particularly concerns the local authorities who must be engaged to a very large extent in the provision of housing accommodation in the future. The intention of this Clause, as I understand it, is to prevent the local authorities from being required to bear a greater burden by reason of the necessity of erecting prefabricated houses than they would have borne if it had been possible to supply the demand quickly by means of houses of traditional methods of construction. It is also, I understand, the intention of the Clause that the expenditure which the Minister of Works incurs should, in the end, be recouped from some source. Therefore, where the cost of prefabricated houses exceeds that of houses of the traditional system, the Minister of Health will come to the aid of the local authorities and make good the difference. That is only equitable. These houses may not be distributed in any even fashion throughout the country and one local authority might be required to have a very much larger proportion of them than another. If that was so and local authorities were reqiured to bear the excess cost, then it is clear that the burden might be distributed between them in a very uneven and inequitable fashion. Therefore, I would like to know whether, in my interpretation of this, the Minister will adhere to the principle, and that the word "substantially" is introduced here merely for the purpose of avoiding discussion about trivial sums of difference over which there might conceivably be an argument whether the prefabricated house was, or was not, of traditional construction.
The real assurance that the hon. Member can obtain is that it would be quite impossible for a Minister of Health to live agreeably with the local authorities if the Minister of Health tried any sharp practice. It is very difficult to give a definition of what ''substantially'' really means. It would be as difficult to give an interpretation, if I had used the word in a converse sense as saying "anything that is not trivial"; what does "trivial" mean? The fact of the matter is that it is not the intention of the Ministry of Health whether they supply wholly prefabricated houses or part prefabricated houses to the local authorities, to charge the local authorities if there is an excess, substantially, over the cost of traditional houses, and there has to be a little come and go in this matter.
I do not think there is any reason for apprehension. It really means we cannot have strict accounting and say we shall charge the local authority exactly what a particular prefabricated house cost and no more than that. The amount may be very small in excess, and we may have to even out the price in different parts of the country because the cost of prefabricating a particular house in certain parts of the country might be more or less than that of prefabricating the same kind of house in other parts of the country. It may be possible to even out the cost where the amount is not substantially in excess of the cost of a traditional house. But I can assure the hon. Member that it is not the intention of the Ministry of Health to land local authorities in difficulties in this matter, nor would any Minister of Health be able to live happily with local authorities if he did land them into difficulties.
I do not look at the Minister of Health with the suspicion of his hon. Friends behind him and I was very struck by the attitude of mind which the hon. Member for Battersea. North (Mr. Douglas) adopted towards his own Ministry. I felt there was really hardly any need as far as I was concerned—and I can only speak for myself—for the Minister to assure the Committee that the hon. Member need not expect any sharp practice from him. The right hon. Gentleman obviously thought it necessary to give that explanation, but I did not feel it was necessary. The Minister went on from that to deal with the position as between the Government and local authorities. I thought the right hon. Gentleman stated his case with his customary modesty. If there is a mutiny over this particular Amendment, I cannot promise to give support to the Minister in the Lobby, but I may perhaps be allowed to appeal to his followers not to carry it too far on this occasion, because I am convinced of what the Minister has said—that where a local authority is to put up those houses, the Ministry will, in all probability, do their best to carry out a fair bargain and give them compensation.
There are, of course, obvious difficulties which occur between one local authority and another. The putting up of these houses in a flat area is comparatively easy and not a very costly. proceeding, but in a hilly area, the difficulties are rather greater. While I come to the support of the Minister on this particular occasion—I cannot offer to do it very often—I think I can take it from him that he will have full regard to the position of authorities in areas where the local difficulties, owing to the contour of the land, are much worse than in other cases. Speaking for a local authority which has a very hilly area I welcome the assurance he has given and I hope the hon. Member for North Battersea who seems to have a suspicious mind on this matter, will not carry his suspicion too far, because, after all, he was returned to support this Government.
In spite of the observations to which the Committee has just listened, I am not going to be tempted into saying anything more than to thank the Minister for the assurance he has given, and which, indeed, I expected him to give. I am sure it will be very satisfying to the local authorities, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Before the Committee accords leave to the hon. Member to withdraw the Amendment, I would like the Minister to consider again whether the Statute would not be better drafted without this word. I always feel a little uncomfortable when the word "substantially" is in a Statute because no one knows what it means. There is a well known legal principle—De minimis non curat lex—and if any local authority raises a pettifogging point about a pound or thirty shillings or anything of that kind, the Minister can safely rest on that principle. But, if he is resting on something substantial, there is ground for great discussion on the meaning of that word and, without any collaboration with the hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Douglas), I felt that his Amendment was a sound Amendment as a matter of drafting. The statement of principle by the Minister of Health was entirely satisfactory to me because it is important that local authorities should not be dissuaded from housing activity by. reason of the heavy cost put on them.
As I understand his explanation, the Minister of Health, in interpreting the Statute, would take into account the position of the site, which is a matter of great importance in relation to rural housing. The remoteness of the site might add to the cost. If it is interpreted as the right hon. Gentleman stated, there is no objection, but the word "substantially" is not a satisfactory word to put in a Statute Book. One does not know what it means. One can look in the dictionary for the word "reasonably," and one finds that it would be unreasonable to define ''reasonably.'' While it is the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that we want, I would like to see a word in the Clause, which carries it into effect.
Hon. Members, I think, would find that their fears would be greater if the word were not in the Clause. If I take it out, the point would then be confined and I would have to charge local authorities exactly what that local authority would have to pay for a traditional house of the same size, and that would mean great disparity between local authorities, for instance, in rural areas. The word "substantially" is a necessary shock absorber. Therefore, I ask that hon. Members should not press the Amendment. What we desire to do is to iron out the variations in the cost of these prefabricated houses, so that they would be, over all, no higher than the cost of analogous houses of a particular type, but not in a particular area, on a precise and particular site. Take for example the term "traditional" house. How are you to define "traditional house"? It is not a measurement capable of exactitude any more than "substantial." We have to put in this word in order to indicate that the Ministry are not proposing to charge a particular authority, in whatever circumstances that authority may be, no matter how difficult it may be to put the house up, exactly what it would cost to put up a house traditionally. Therefore the word "substantial" acts as a cushion. I hope, with that explantaion, the Committee will allow the Amendment to be withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 12, after "cost," insert:
being prices which will not reduce the full cost of construction below the cost of constructing a house of a similar size by traditional methods.
Perhaps the next Amendment, in page 3, line 15, at end, insert:
but which are not less than the full cost of construction of houses of a similar size by traditional methods.
could be considered also as they are on the same point. They are related to something which has just been said by the Minister of Health. I found his last exposition of the advantage of the word "substantial" a little obscure. I entirely agree that it is not easy to ascertain in any particular case, what the cost of constructing houses of a similar size, by traditional methods, might be. For example, it might be desirable to build prefabricated houses on some site which would not have been used for traditional houses. But, broadly speaking, I read this Clause as having the intention, not that the Minister of Health should put into the Ministry of Works Fund sums larger
than those incurred by the fact that a particular local authority was having factory-made houses rather than normal houses, but that what should go into the Ministry of Works Fund is the extra expense caused to the community, and that the Minister's Vote was going to carry that extra burden by reason of the fact that, particularly in the early stages, factory-made houses would be likely to be more expensive than traditional houses. The intention is not that local authorities by reason of the fact that they were getting prefabricated houses—it will not be all local authorities that will get factory-made houses—should get an advantage over the position which would have been theirs if their houses had all been of the normal character.
Accordingly, these two Amendments—whether or not their drafting is entirely apt, and this is of course a matter which requires careful drafting—have the object of binding the Minister of Works to sell to local authorities at prices comparable with those which would fall upon them if they were buying or building houses of a traditional character. I do not want to impart any element of suspicion or unfriendly suggestion, but I should have thought it right for the Minister of Health and the Minister of Works to have some principle in this Clause as to the prices at which these factory-made houses are to be disposed of to local authorities. As things stand, there is simply a reference to arrangements made by the Minister of Works for selling under cost, and no indication of the principle on which that diminution of the figure below cost is to be made. No standard is set, and in substance I apprehend that the intention of both the Ministers must be that the local authority and the taxpayer in respect of that local authority, as far as the housing subsidy is concerned, should be in the same position with regard to the factory-made house as they would be with regard to a house of traditional character.
I did not quite follow all that the Minister of Health said with regard to ironing out and the cushion provided by the word "substantially." It is not, I imagine, the intention to ease the lot of particular authorities—poor rural authorities, for example—by this roundabout way of saying, "You are a poor authority, therefore you shall have prefabricated houses very much cheaper than it would cost you to build normal houses." That does not seem to be the right way to deal with any financial difficulty experienced by a poor authority. Those difficulties should be dealt with in another way. The working operation of the factory-made programme would surely be more satisfactory if a situation is arrived at whereby there is no bias in favour of the factory-made house over the traditional house, by reason of a financial consideration as between the local authority and the Treasury or the Ministry of Works. Accordingly, the purpose of these Amendments, the spirit of which I hope will be accepted, is that that principle should be explicit in the Bill when it finally passes into law. The principle is that the Minister of Works, either in selling building materials or making arrangements for the construction of houses, should endeavour, broadly, to arrive at a position in which he will get from the local authority the same figure that it would have cost them to build or to buy another type of house.
The Committee need not fear the consequences of the words used in the Bill. In the first place it is not the intention of the Government to supply prefabricated houses to local authorities below the cost of traditional houses of the same type. We should soon find ourselves in trouble with the Treasury if we attempted to do so. In other words, if the Ministry of Health made payment into the Ministry of Works Fund, the purpose of which would be not to enable the local authorities to get houses at the same cost as the traditional house, but to give the local authorities a concealed subsidy for the prefabricated house, we should soon get ourselves into very serious trouble. Furthermore, it would be a form of competition with traditional building that I would not desire to encourage, because it would not be a form of competition which the traditional building organisations would look upon with favour. At the same time, if prefabricated houses can be produced at less than the cost of traditional houses without any cost falling upon the Exchequer, then we cannot agree that any words should be used to prevent prefabricated houses from underselling traditional houses of the same type.
What we obviously must not do is to use this medium for the purpose of artificially reducing the cost of the prefabricated houses, where it is not made necessary by the additional cost of construction. In point of fact, we are perfectly clear as to what we are after in this matter. The whole purpose of it, of course, as I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate, is that the local authorities cannot be expected to engage in experiments of this sort, and therefore the Government must carry out the experiments for them. If those experiments cost more than the local authority would have to pay for the cost of a traditional house, then the Exchequer must bear the cost of the experimentation. It would, however, be deplorable if we were unable to make experiments of this sort, and I am quite certain that that is not the right hon. Gentleman's intention. Therefore, I will assume that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not desire to press this Amendment, and there is no difference between us, at least in regard to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in moving it.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, at end, add:
and shall lay before Parliament each quarter a statement showing the average amount paid by him per house and per set of such building materials.
This is one of the controversial Amendments. The Clause as it stands leaves the matter in this way, that differences which arise on the cost of constructing houses are to be paid into the account of the Ministry of Works, to such an extent as to ensure that the receipts of the Fund are no less than they would have been if the houses could have been sold without any loss at all. There have been unjustifiably acid comments on the experimental period with regard to temporary houses during the war—a time of very great difficulty, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
of Works at the time, would agree. These times are difficult, too, and we have heard of the very large number of schemes that have been investigated and the quite large number of schemes which are being proceeded with for factory made houses. It is right that there should be an investigation of a number of these schemes, but it is most desirable that, through lack of Parliamentary supervision, there should not be excessively long experimentation, and if there are any cases where there has been inefficiency, such as the giving of large orders at great prices without sufficient evidence to justify the giving of such orders, such matters should be brought before this House.
When reference was made to this in the Second Reading Debate, the Minister of Health said that matters of this kind could all be raised on his Vote at a later stage. I do not know whether other right hon. and hon. Members will agree with me, but my impression is that it is quite impossible to make a detailed investigation of the ventures, which may be most unwise in matters of this kind, on the Vote of the Minister. I thought the Minister would be far more ready than he showed himself to be on the Second Reading Debate to give the House, which is intensely interested both in the progress of housing and in the reduction of the cost of houses—which I understand the Members on the Government Front Bench are as anxious to see as we are—information at regular and frequent intervals as to the financial position with regard to these factory-made houses. Why should we not have what is suggested in this Amendment, that is, a statement of the average amount paid, over any period which the Minister feels convenient—we suggest three months—per house or per set of such building materials? The Clause itself is drawn in terms of building materials, consisting of structures ready for erection on the one hand, and of houses on the other.
The Minister was indignant at this request. I rather think on a previous occasion he called a request of this kind impudent. Whether he will call it impudent today, I have no idea. It is the sort of adjective that occurs to him, but my submission to the Committee is that we should not be content to leave this matter in complete obscurity as it will be, if this Amendment, or something on the same lines, is not included in the Bill. The metaphors which we used in the earlier discussion this afternoon were varied, but I am bound to say that the metaphor which seemed to me nearest the truth was that the Government are the chief executives of this national concern, and we are, as near as can be, the great body of the responsible trustees and directors of what is going forward. We want to know whether there is success in this factory-made programme, and we are intensely interested in there being no unnecessary loss, or anything wrong, so far as we can judge, with regard to the various types selected and with regard O design and material. I urge upon the Government to undertake a greater responsibility with regard to giving information to the House, than they have so far seemed disposed to do.
I think, if my recollection serves me correctly, the original request was for a statement of accounts. This is an entirely different matter, and I put it on a different footing. In point of fact, the adjective I used on a previous occasion with regard to accounts, would not be applicable to the request now made, and I would not be so infertile as to use the same adjective on different occasions. The fact of the matter is that the Amendment is unnecessary, because hon. Members in any part of the Committee can obtain this information any time they like by putting down a Question on the Order Paper.
I do not know what the noble Lord means by that. If an hon. Member puts on the Order Paper a Question asking for information, there is no denial of information, and I do not think he can suggest that there is. The point to which we ought to have regard in this matter is this: everybody knows that it is not possible to make a proper estimate of the advantages of prefabrication until we have had a sufficiently long run. The payments made by the Minister of Health to the Ministry of Works in the first instance for the first lot of houses might easily create a most unsatisfactory state of mind and people would say "There you are, the whole experiment has gone phut." As a matter of fact, I said the other night that it seemed to me that hon. Members opposite, when they had charge of this matter, were unduly frightened over the cost of a steel house. I wish they had gone on. I wish they had had the courage and had not been deterred, but had pursued their experiments. Had they done so, we would find ourselves in possession of a house which we could erect in great quantities all over the country. Instead of that, there was interference due to the fear that the original expenditure would create such an unfavourable opinion, that it might have nasty political consequences. The result is that today we have not got the houses that we might otherwise have.
So I would suggest to hon. Members, as the House of Commons and the country are deeply interested in trying as far as possible to supplement the traditional housing programme by the production of prefabricated houses, that we ought not to allow our judgment of the advantages of prefabricated houses to be determined by the cost in the initial stages. We shall find ourselves over and over again in that position on this question of prefabrication. I know that the dividing line between ardent experimentation and profligate extravagance may be very narrow in these cases. If we fail, we shall be accused of extravagance, but if we succeed we shall be praised for forethought. I seriously suggest that it is a; least as important for the nation to experiment in unconventional forms of house construction as it was essential to experiment in the building of bombers and submarines during the period of the war. I hope that in our whole approach to this matter we shall be sympathetic to the desire of trying to obtain unconventional methods of house construction.
I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the value of experiment, but I would ask whether it would not be wise to have progress reports during the currency of these experiments. After all, this House and the country want to know whether the experiments are developing well or not, and they will not be unfair about the initial cost. But they do want to know, and the method of question and answer does not quite meet that desire.
The difficulty is what sort of statement of accounts do the Committee require. The Amendment suggests that we should say, "We have produced 12,000 prefabricated houses with. 12,000 sets of materials." The expression "sets of materials" is hardly a happy one, but I appreciate the difficulties in phrasing these matters. The set of materials would, in this connotation presumably mean the whole set of the materials required to build a house and I would accept it in that interpretation. We should therefore say, '' Twelve thousand houses have been provided. We have paid a certain price, compared with the traditional building of the same sort, and the amount paid in to the Ministry of Works Fund is about £100 or £200 per house," or something of that sort. That is all hon. Members would get if I accepted the Amendment.
That is what I said. I mentioned the average amount that the Ministry of Health would pay into the Fund in respect of the houses provided for local authorities. That is to say, the houses have cost the country, say any figure you like, £1,200 per house, while the cost of building a traditional house of the same size would be £1,000 to the local authority. Therefore, the excess payment is £200 in each case, and the payment made by the Ministry of Health into the Fund in respect of each of those houses would be £200. That is all that would be obtained if I accepted the Amendment. There would be no difficulty at all in conveying that information in three sentences in answer to a Question. Why on earth it should be necessary to provide a statement about once a quarter I cannot understand. In any case, the point remains that the information cannot start to be given until the houses have actually been provided to the local authorities, because there would not be a house in existence, and no-one could have any information of this kind in the preparatory stages of providing prefabricated houses. None of the costs of experimentation would be in it at all, because you could not charge the whole cost of experimentation to the first delivery of prefabricated houses. Therefore the information given would be value- less and would convey an entirely wrong idea of the situation.
Personally, I am not asking that the whole of the cost of experimentation should be charged to any one particular batch of houses. The point is, is the experimental work that has been done on these houses bringing good results or not? That can only be found out by-stepping it up in stages, quarterly pictures on a comparative basis, which would give figures of some considerable value.
What the hon. Gentleman desires to obtain is all right, but he is not obtaining it by these ways. It is perfectly natural curiosity for the House to want to find out what is happening to experimentation in prefabrication.
There is no difficulty about the word "curiosity." It is natural that the House should want to know. The fact of the matter is that the Government would be delighted to give the information, but at what stage is it to be given? At the present time certain experiments are going on which may come to nothing at all. Indeed, I said on 15th October that we were not going to form any prophesies about what was happening in regard to factory produced houses because we are in an entirely new field. We do not know what may happen about it, and I am therefore not going to tie myself to any prophesies. Suppose we have produced a factory made house, and suppose after months of experimentation, false starts and re-adaptations, we have at last got a house coming off the production lines, and that house is being supplied to local authorities. Can hon. Members tell me how I am going to cost the first lot of houses?
Perhaps I can answer that question. Under the first part of the Clause, that is what the right hon. Gentleman is undertaking to do. Before he can give any subsidy at all, he has to determine that the cost of constructing permanent prefabricated houses from these materials substantially exceeds the cost of constructing permanent houses of a similar size. He has to make that calculation before he can give a subsidy at all.
No, the only sum I have to bear in mind in that matter is that of constructing traditional houses of the same size, and I supply these houses at the same price. The amount of the excess would have to be decided by relation to another account entirely. The amount of the excess on the first run may be prohibitive, but on 30,000 houses it might be comparatively small. I wish the noble Lord the Member for Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) would not make those gestures of incomprehension. We know that he does not comprehend but there is no reason why he should take us into his confidence. We do not mind telling the House at any time, because the House is entitled to know, what is the payment made by the Minister of Health into the Fund of the Ministry of Works in respect of prefabricated houses supplied to local authorities, and we shall do so, but I warn the House that they will not present the picture of what the cost of prefabrication is going to be to the Government in the long run. Therefore it seems to me that the Amendment is unnecessary.
If the Committee insist that the Amendment is necessary, I will have a look at it, but I do not want to accept these words at all. If the present Amendment is necessary, better words might be found. If we say we shall report to the House once a quarter, we shall have to decide which way we shall report. All the House will get will be a slip of paper stating, "The Ministry of Health has delivered to local authorities X number of houses at Y cost and paid into the Ministry of Works Fund so much." Hon. Members should be content to get this information even more frequently than once a quarter, if they wished, by putting down a Question on the Order Paper in the ordinary way.
I am sure that we are all concerned with the proposal of hon. Members opposite that we should get the cost of prefabricated houses at the very earliest moment. I think the Minister of Health has adequately replied to the Amendment. He is very ready to give the information. I am certain that the limitation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite is putting upon the period of the report is one which he would find, in practice to be very imperfect, and one which would not give him very much help. The Ministry of Works are going into business; there is no hon. Member on that side of the Committee who would expect, inside I2 months, to be able to give anything like a report of his activities if he went into business. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes."] Hon. Members know very well that they could not, and that they would need at least 12 months to build up an organisation. Although there has been some experience in the present case, obviously hon. Members are asking for a very short report. If they got their report it would be very imperfect, and I am certain that they would be very unhappy about the figures that were given. The Government would not be very happy about it either, because the figures would give an incomplete picture.
The Government are going into pre-fabrication, but we should try to remember that we have had many hundreds of years of house building, and that no country in the world knows more about house building than this country. We shall wish the Government luck in whatever they do about prefabrication, but we know that they are not going very far, and that as soon as the traditional ways and means of house-building are available again, the prefabrication of houses is finished, right away. We are not raising any opposition, whatever the Government do about it. Something may come out of the prefabrication inquiries which may help in certain standards being established here and there, and to that extent they may be useful; but the prefabrication of houses is a fabrication. There is no question about it at all. I do not know whether you would allow me, Mr. Beaumont, to say that I agree with the Minister of Health very strongly in one respect. It is very regrettable that the first efforts made with the Portal house were not allowed to proceed. They were the cheapest, the best, and the most economical. I am sure that was a great pity that we were not able to proceed along those lines.
The value of prefabricated houses is to give shelter, temporary shelter, for those in the community who are not able to get a traditional house. That is the whole value of the prefabricated house, which has never been thought of in any other way. I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite not to press the Amendment, because I am satisfied that three-monthly figures would give a very-imperfect national picture. It would be of no help except as propaganda, but it would be no use in regard to performance. The Minister of Health is on the right lines when he says that he will, at the right time, give the information which is available. It must be part of the picture and not the colour that hon. Members want or that they would like. It would be at the end of the period, when we have had the opportunity to measure this matter, and we shall be very glad to give it to hon. Members.
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. G. Hicks) has taken a wider scope than is covered by the Amendment, which deals with a short and simple point. I am a little confused by the answer of the right hon. Gentleman today. If I may say so without impudence, his answer rather lacked the clarity that most of his observations possessed. He began by saying that we can elicit all this information by Question, and that there was no reason for the Amendment to be incorporated in the Bill because it would be so easy to get the information by Question.
I assume that we should not be told, in answer to a Question, that we should get far more information next Spring than any Conservative Government had ever given. From saying that we should get if in answer to Questions, the Minister then went on to put forward reasons why it was really not in the public interest to give the information. He talked about the position after the first run being unsatisfactory, about the expenses being so high that people might be frightened and deterred. I feel quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence would be able to explain any events of that sort to the satisfaction of this Committee and of the people in the country, but that will not arise if this Amendment is accepted. This Amendment would only come into play when the Minister of Health had approved an arrangement with the Minister of Works for the subsidy on prefabricated permanent houses. As I read the Bill, that transfer of money cannot come into force at all until the cost of each per- manent prefabricated house has been assessed.
This Amendment, if adopted, could not result in any statement being made to the House of Commons until an arrangement had been approved by the Minister of Health for the payment of the subsidy. We do not oppose the expenditure of money on these prefabricated permanent houses, but we are surely quite entitled to ask that there should be a regular return showing the extent of the subsidy per house which the right hon. Gentleman has approved. Having listened to him, I am rather in doubt whether he is prepared to give that information and let the House know by how much he is subsidising each permanent prefabricated house, or set of building materials for it. If he is prepared to give that statement, I suggest that it-is convenient to have it coming up quarterly and not in answer to Questions which may be put at any time. A quarterly return would be a convenient form which would enable us to judge of the right hon. Gentleman's efficiency, by showing how much the subsidy decreased as time went on. The right hon. Gentleman did say that he was prepared to give the information asked for in this Amendment. If he is not able to accept the words on the Order Paper—perhaps they are not particularly skilfully drawn —I would ask him to give an assurance that the point will be further considered before the Report stage with a view to inserting a provision for a quarterly return of the information, which I understood he was prepared to give. It is all very well to say that we can get the information by Question and answer, but it is surely much more convenient to get it quarterly, when each statement can be compared with the statement issued the quarter before, instead of having to deal with the irregular periods which would be involved in answers to Questions. If the right hon. Gentleman could give that assurance, I am sure we could get on to the next Amendment fairly speedily.
It seems to me that we are making very heavy weather about a very small matter. Some hon. Members have perhaps had a longer experience of administration than I have, but I have had a long experience in the House and I have never known any Amendment accepted which wrote into a Statute a right which every Member has already got. Every Member has the right to obtain this information any day he likes by Question and answer—every week, every month, every quarter. Then what is the good of writing into the Statute a piece of constitutional redundancy? If the Amendment were accepted, and we had to provide this information once every quarter, that would not enable the Clerks at the Table to refuse a Question the day before. They would still have to accept it and the information would have to be given. I daresay there are Amendments of some substance on which hon. Members opposite wish to occupy the time of the Committee, but surely there can be no greater frivolity than to ask that a Statute should be enlarged, and words used, to write into it a piece of machinery which already exists in the constitutional relationship between the Executive and the House of- Commons. I do ask hon. Members to let us get on to something of real substance and not spend so much time on what, after all, is unimportant. Up to now we have been getting along very harmoniously and have made some progress. It really is inconsistent to allow a Bill to have a Second Reading without any Amendment being moved, and without a Division, and then to occupy the time of the Committee on a matter of this sort, which has no substance in it whatever. Furthermore, may I say that the method of reporting to the House is not defined. In what way are we to report to the House?
Hon. Members know very well that they have been moving Amendments which would have wrecked the Bill, and now they are holding the matter up on an Amendment which really has no content. If I may finish the sentence I was engaged on, there is no definition of how we should report to the House. Is a White Paper to be laid before the House? If a White Paper was laid before the House containing the information hon. Members ask for, it would be a White Paper of four lines, saying merely how many houses had been provided and how much had been paid for each house. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not? "] Really, I have never heard of such Parliamentary frivolity.
If the right hon. Gentleman says that this is a point of minor importance, I am exceedingly surprised that he should lose his temper about it. I do not think he will find that his hectic form of lecturing the Opposition will help him in his work. I say that, not because I think it is good for him not to get his own way in everything, but because I am interested in the workings of his mind. He told the Committee that the Amendment was trivial. He said that hon. Members have the right to get the information by Question and answer. At another stage in his speech he said that the information is so scanty that it is not worth giving to the House, but on another occasion he said that there was too much information and it was misleading, I am left in a complete fog as to what is really in his mind. He said that it was quite easy to get the information by Question and answer, and his colleague the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. George Hicks), in an attempt to be helpful, said he could not give the information at all. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep calm and give us one really good reason why this Amendment is unnecessary or harmful.
A quarter of an hour ago the right hon. Gentleman said he would consider this matter. Now he feels impatient and says the whole thing is trivial. I appreciate fully that there is a difficulty in defining the stage where experimentation ends and production begins. A house which, in its beginning, is an experimental house, or one of an experimental group becomes a house forming part of a local authority's housing estate. The cost of producing that house may have been very high at first, whereas an exactly similar house supplied to the housing authority six months later may cost much less. I see his difficulties in regard to the simple form of this Amendment. The average amount paid per house, if it covered many types of house, would not, I agree, be very illuminating. It may be that the Minister will not be forthcoming enough to suggest what would be a more appropriate form. I really think that his adverse comment, that a proposal that he should lay something before Parliament is inadequate because it does not specify whether it should be a White Paper or not, is as trivial as anything could be. I have never seen any reference whatever to a White Paper in a Statute, and I should have thought that he and those who help him with the drafting of his Bills could very easily put into proper form the phrase ''shall lay before Parliament."
I admit, however, that the actual form of this Amendment is not as satisfactory as I should wish, and I hope the Minister will return to his earlier mood and say that he will consider finding some more appropriate form under which to give information to the House on the progress of this very important project than would be afforded by Question and answer. No answer could be sufficiently detailed, and there would have to be a very substantial number of questions to deal with perhaps 30 different types of prefabricated house. [Interruption.] Might there not be 30 different types of prefabricated house in production, and being supplied to local authorities at very widely differing rates of subsidy at the same time? That sort of information could not be adequately dealt with by Question and answer; we do not want the Question hour occupied by ten Members, each putting down three Questions on three different types of prefabricated house. I hope the Minister will indicate that he is prepared to make periodical statements, in whatever form is convenient, with regard to the progress of this programme.
The effect of refusing this information in this form, and of constantly refusing to give details of houses, costs and everything else, will engender suspicion throughout the whole Committee and will only result in the right hon. Gentleman's private office being plagued with questions, week by week, by 50 or 60 hon. Members on this side of the House. The Government have taken away Private Members' time and the effect of that on the Adjournment half hour and on Question Time has been immediate. Likewise, the Minister's refusal to give the kind of information we ask for here will only result in his office being plagued with questions. Suspicion is created in all our minds, and the only way to allay it is to reply in a friendly fashion to the questions put by my right hon. Friend below me. This information will not entail a very great amount of preparation in the right hon. Gentleman's Department, although I do not argue that it will be very simple. As my right hon. Friend says there will be many types of house, and prices will tend to fluctuate according to conditions throughout the country. They may gradually come down every month, or every quarter as this information is required. A different set of prices for a variety of houses will be asked for, and it may well need a paper of some four or five pages instead of lines. But at no point do I think it will involve him in as much trouble as he will have if he creates this suspicion by refusing information, because that forces on us the duty of asking innumerable questions.
The noble Lord has talked about the suspicion that is in hon. Members' minds. It is nothing to the suspicion that is in the minds of hon. Members on this side about the game that is being played by hon. Members over there. I think it is time they stopped it. The people of this country, I do not care in what constituency, are not concerned with insufficient statements about the financial results of experiments; they are concerned with houses, and everything should be done to encourage the Minister to go ahead with the houses and not to play about with trivial matters of this kind.
I am disappointed at the way in which the Minister of Health is treating. this matter. I do not think he takes a sufficiently large view of his own responsibilities and importance. He is setting up —if I may speak in commercial terms to which perhaps he is unaccustomed—the largest house-building and house-supplying business that has ever existed in the world. He is asking for £100,000,000 worth of building materials. He must know that he cannot set up a business of this character without having the most elaborate statistics.
On a point of Order, Sir Charles. I respectfully submit that most of the arguments that have been advanced have been on the subject of a statement of accounts. There is no reference to that in the Amendment before the Committee, which reads:
and shall lay before Parliament each quarter a statement showing the average, amount paid by him per house and per set of such building materials.
There is no question of any such thing as an account of the kind the hon. Gentleman is describing. Most of the arguments from hon. Members opposite have been concerned with a full statement of the whole cost of prefabrication. That is not the Amendment before us.
To proceed with my argument, if we are to have State management of industry, it must carry with it all the complications of a very inferior system, the capitalist system, and the Minister of Health and other Ministers who undertake responsibilities of this sort will have to resort to tedious but essential book-keeping, and it is that tedious but essential book-keeping which the Committee is entitled to demand. I do not want to engage in the house-building trade, I am satisfied with the people who have done it in the past, but the right hon.
|Division No. 46.]||AYES.||[5.52 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Boothby, R.||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Aitken, Hon. M.||Bossom, A. C.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Bower, N.||Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J. G.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Cuthbert, W. N.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Darling, Sir W. Y.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Carson, E.||De la Bère, R.|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Clarke, Col. R. S.||Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.|
On a point of Order. May I respectfully submit that the capitalist system is not under consideration? I submit that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are entirely irrelevant, and that what is before the Committee at the moment is a precise and particular Amendment of the narrowest sort, and that we are not discussing the merits of the capitalist system, whether they exist or not.
I was under the impression that the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) was putting the claim that Parliament should be given the price per house.
I am grateful to you, Sir Charles, for defending me against such an experienced Parliamentarian as the Minister of Health. It may help his argument to interrupt a comparatively new Member twice, but he will not be able to get away from the logic of facts. If he cannot supply the Committee with intimate details down to the last screw, bolt and nut, he will not provide houses for this country.
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.||Luoas, Major Sir J.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Duthie, W. S.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Eccles, D. M.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Scott, Lord W.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Erroll, Col. F. J.||MacLeod, Capt. J.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Spence, Maj. H. R.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'br'ke)||Marsden, Comdr. A.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Maude, J. C.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Mellor, Sir J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hare, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Molson, A. H. E.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Haughton, Maj. S. G.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Holmes, Sir J. Stanley||Nicholson, G.||Turton, R. H.|
|Howard, Hon. A.||Nield, B.||Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)||Nutting, Anthony||Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. O.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Osborne, C.||Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Keeling, E. H.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Pickthorn, K.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Lambert, G.||Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.||York, C.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.||Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Lindsay, Lt.Col. M. (Solihull)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.).||Ramsay, Maj. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Mr. Drewe and Major Mott-Radclyffe.|
|Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)||Champion, A. J.||Foot, M. M.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Chater, D.||Forman, J. C.|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Foster, W. (Wigan)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Clitherow, R.||Freeman, P. (Newport)|
|Allighan, Garry||Cluse, W. S.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cobb, F. A.||Gallacher, W.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Cocks, F. S.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Coldrick, W.||Gilzean, A.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Collick, P.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Austin, H. L.||Collindridge, F.||Goodrich, H. E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Collins, V. J.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Cook, T. F.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Grey, C. F.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Grierson, E.|
|Barton, C.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Battley, J. R.||Corvedale, Viscount||Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Beattie, J. (Belfast, W.)||Cove, W. G.||Gunter, Capt. R. J.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A.||Guy, W. H.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Cunningham, P.||Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)|
|Benson, G.||Daggar, G.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Berry, H.||Daines, P.||Hamilton, Lt.-Col. R.|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Binns, J.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Haworth, J.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hicks, G.|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Holman, P.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Horabin, T. L.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Diamond, J.||House, G.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Dobbie, W.||Hoy, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Dodds, N. N.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Douglas, F. C. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Janner, B.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Dumpleton, C. W.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Dye, S.||John, W.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Buchanan, G.||Edelman, M.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Burden, T. W.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Jones, Maj. P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Burke, W. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Keenan, W.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Kenyon, C.|
|Callaghan, James||Ewart, R.||Key, C. W.|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Farthing, W. J.||King, E. M.|
|Kinley, J.||Paget, R. T.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Pargiter, G. A.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Lang, G.||Parker, J.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.|
|Lavers, S.||Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Leonard, W.||Pearson, A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Levy, B. W.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Perrins, W.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Lipson, D. L.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (E'b'gh, E.)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Poole, Major C. C. (Lichfield)||Thorneycroft, H.|
|Logan, D. G.||Popplewell, E.||Thurtle, E.|
|Longden, F.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Tiffany, S.|
|Lyne, A. W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tolley, L.|
|McAdam, W.||Pritt, D. N.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|McAllister, G.||Proctor, W. T.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Pryde, D. J.||Usborne, Henry|
|Mack, J. D.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Randall, H. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Ranger J.||Walkden, E.|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Rankin, J.||Walker, G. H.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col D. R||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|McLeavy, F.||Reevas, J.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|MacMillan, M. K.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Rhodes, H.||Watson, W. M.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Richards, R.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Weitzman, D.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Robens, A.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Mathers, G.||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.|
|Mayhew, Maj. C. P.||Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Medland, H. M.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Messer, F.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Wigg, G. E. C.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Royle, C.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Sargood, R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Scott-Elliot, W.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Monslow, W.||Segal, Sq. Ldr. S.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Montague, F.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Moody, A. S.||Shawcross, Cmdr. C. N. (Widnes)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.||Williamson, T.|
|Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Skinnard, F. W.||Willis, E.|
|Mort, D. L.||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Moyle, A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Murray, J. D.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Nally, W.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Woodburn, A.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Woods, G. S.|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Solley, L. J.||Yates, V. F.|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Sorensen, R. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Stamford, W.||Zilliacus, K.|
|O'Brien, T.||Steele, T.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Stewart, Capt. M. (Fulham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Orr, Sir J. Boyd||Strachey, J.||Mr. J. Henderson and Mr. Simmons.|
I wish briefly to raise one point and to ask a question of the Minister of Health. I think he will be in a position to give me the Assurance I want. This Clause is intended to deal entirely with house of the normal size and with what are called permanent house. I think it is conceivable that Clause 3 as drafted could be taken to apply to temporary house. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that none of the house that fall within the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act will be dealt with under the provisions of Clause 3.
It might be said that the aluminium house is a house of such a character that the cost of erection substantially exceeds the cost of erecting other houses by traditional methods. I should like an assurance from the Minister that the point has been, or will be, considered, because I cannot help feeling that it is most important that legislation which emerges from these many discussions on housing should be tidy and intelligible, and that no subsequent argument should arise as to whether any particular Clause applies to permanent and temporary houses, or the one or the other. This is particularly important, in my view, because I have heard rumours—and I hope there is no foundation for them—that, because the aluminium house is so expensive, its life is likely to be prolonged and that there may be some change suggested as to the duration of houses erected under the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act.
I am happy to give the assurance that the right hon. and learned Gentleman requires. This Clause does not relate in any sense, to temporary houses. That is dealt with under the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1944, and this Clause has no particular application at all.