Clause 1. — (Introduction of New Housing Subsidies.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th January 1956.

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3.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Blyton Mr William Blyton , Houghton-le-Spring

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, at the end to insert: (not being such a new dwelling as is mentioned in subsection (8) of this section).

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we take that in page 2, line 20, at the end add: (8) Contributions shall continue to be payable under the said section one, subsection (2)or subsection(3), as the case may be, in respect of any new dwelling, as regards which the following conditions are satisfied, that is to say that—

Photo of Mr William Blyton Mr William Blyton , Houghton-le-Spring

In this discussion, the basic industries of mining and agriculture are bound to be referred to a good deal. Those two industries are facing great difficulty in maintaining their present manpower, and the lack of recruits is, to say the least, appalling, and a danger to the nation. While I shall concern myself mainly with housing problems in the mining villages, the arguments apply equally to the housing situation in the agricultural areas. It must be apparent to the Minister that something must be done to get men into our mining and agricultural districts, and housing undoubtedly plays a big part in the retention of our present labour force. The provision of houses in the mining areas encourages miners who are redundant in certain areas to go to the mining development areas.

Mining manpower today is less than 699,000 and the number is still falling. In the expanding areas of the Midlands, where labour is so necessary, the constant complaint of the National Union of Mine-workers has been that the lack of houses has helped to retard recruitment. No miner redundant in one county will move to another unless he can get a house for his wife and family. Where that facility is not available, he enters another industry in his own area and so is lost to mining.

Nor can the National Coal Board be expected to do more than it is at present doing to provide houses. It has done its best, and it already has commitments which it should not be carrying. The Board cannot be expected to spend millions of pounds on importing coal and, in addition, build houses for miners. The Board has opened discussions on the industry's housing priority needs and one hoped that in this Bill at least a special allocation would be made to meet the difficulties not only in the mining development areas but in other mining areas.

In our opinion, this Clause does not go far enough. On 2nd September last, this whole question was raised with the N.U.M National Executive by our people in the Midlands, the Executive being strongly urged to take action to get houses provided in the Midland development areas. Shortly afterwards the N.U.M. passed the following resolution: That the N.C.B. be requested to join with the Union in an endeavour to press the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the local authorities to make more provision for housing miners and, where this was not possible, the Coal Industry Housing Association should be requested to endeavour to build more houses. The Coal Board, through its Director of Labour Relations, Mr. Sales, replied to that resolution on 31st October, 1955, and referred to a statement made by the then Lord Privy Seal on 20th July. 1955, when he said: We, as a Government, recognise the need for houses for miners in those districts where coal production can be expanded. We shall encourage that provision by dealing sympathetically with applications for extra allocations from local authorities who are willing to build more houses for this purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 497.] It will be noticed that the qualification is that the district must be one where coal production is expanding.

The letter goes on to say that the Government have opened discussions with the Coal Board and concludes: The Board appreciate your Union's interest in this matter. In the circumstances I have outlined, they do not feel that a joint approach to Ministers as suggested by your National Executive need be proceeded with at this stage, but are fortified in the knowledge of your Committee's support for the policy of securing increased local authority housing provision, in aid of the industry's manpower difficulties The Board goes on to say that, if necessary, it would join with the Union in pressing the point.

The N.U.M. feels that the policy enunciated by the Lord Privy Seal does not go far enough in the present difficult situation in the mining districts. The local authorities in the mining areas are also very much alarmed. This House must face the problem of attracting and retaining the necessary labour. That is very important. If we cannot get houses for those who would work in the pits, and cannot get houses for those already in the pits but living with their parents, the outlook will be very bad indeed. If we cannot get the miners then the balance of payments position will get worse, and we cannot maintain full employment if the manpower is not there to get the coal. That is the view of the National Union of Mineworkers and of the Coal Board.

The local authorities in these mining areas consider that they have had a very raw deal. In the old coalfields of Durham, South Wales, Northumberland and Scotland are to be found some of the worst housing conditions, left to us by the old coal owners in 1947. When they sunk their shafts in the last century the houses were built around the pithead, and in many places the pit heap extends to the back doors of the houses.

After nationalisation, the local authorities had not only to build houses for general needs but they had to deal with the terrible housing conditions of the mining community who were living in these old colliery houses. They had to consider this problem fairly, In nearly every case they decided, out of their allocation, to build both for general needs and slum clearance of old colliery houses. If they had used their allocations in recent years for building for general needs and had not attempted to clear up some of these bad houses left by the colliery owners, they would have been better off today. They would have had the subsidy for all the houses and would have used that subsidy for building for general needs, and now, under this Bill, they could have tackled the problem of the slums and would have got the subsidy for those houses.

The local authorities do not accept the Government's statement that houses to meet the needs of slum clearance and industrial development will make up for the loss of subsidy for houses to meet general needs. Slum clearance subsidies will not be given except to house people now living in slum properties. This means that no authority will be allowed to build houses to replace those already vacated.

In the large mining constituencies in particular, in County Durham, Northumberland, and Wales, the local authorities which have done their duty in the past in rehousing miners from the awful slum conditions left by the previous colliery owners are to be penalised, whereas those authorities which were not alive to their responsibilities are now to be able to build to clear the slums with a full subsidy. Each family which has left slum property and has been re-housed in the past few years has meant one house less in those areas to meet the general needs.

The least that the Government can do is to allow for these houses which have been built for slum clearance in the last few years so as to bring the number of houses up to what it would have been had these local authorities not tackled slum clearance in these mining areas. Failure to do this will penalise those local authorities which have used their allocations to ease the situation of the slum dweller and at the same time build for general needs.

I want to deal with another side of this problem. I should like to refer to houses constructed to meet the needs in Development Areas, and I should like to know whether the Government are concerned in preserving the existing communal life and traditions of the mining areas. Subsidies are proposed to be paid in respect of houses built to accommodate people who are coming into the Development Areas from outside.

This raises another large problem. Can we expect a local authority in an expanding area to provide accommodation for those coming into the area, when the needs of its own population are not being met? We have been pressed, as miners, to accept Italian labour. There is great opposition to this suggestion in the mining areas, particularly in those areas where labour is needed. No final decision has yet been taken, and if British labour cannot be obtained and the labour position gets worse, we may have to face a very difficult problem in our miners' lodges.

What will be the situation then? Are the sons of miners to be condemned to live with their parents or rent part of someone else's house because the local authorities are not given the necessary assistance to build for them? If the Italians are accepted, are we to have a situation in which young married miners have to live with their families while Italians obtain houses under this part of the Bill? Can we not imagine the immense difficulties of the local authorities when the local population see people from outside the area getting the houses while they themselves get none? The Government's proposals are a complete disregard of the social life of our mining villages and are an encouragement to the creation of social tensions which will be disastrous. The Government should make available the full subsidy for all industrial workers already in the areas, as well as for those coming in from outside.

Therefore, this Amendment has as its objective the reinstatement of the subsidy for those within the mining areas as well as for those coming from outside. If we are to keep our young men in this industry—and I may say that 3,000 or 4,000 have left to join the Army—they must have some hope of getting houses. We must ensure that the local authorities in these areas are not penalised for dealing with slum clearance.

If the Minister wants the necessary manpower in this industry, and if he wants to keep the men already in the industry, he should accept our Amendment. To fail to get the necessary manpower will result in a serious economic crisis in this country. The Minister can help both in this industry and in agriculture if he will accept this Amendment. The Minister may say that we are seeking special treatment for the agricultural and mining areas, but surely the special circumstances in these two great basic industries merit special treatment. Everything that can be done in every sphere of Government activity ought to be done to build up the manpower in these industries. To fail to do so will be dangerous to our economy in the years ahead.

I shall not deal with the burden of the loan charges, for some of my hon. Friends will no doubt deal with that matter. Nor will I deal with the abnormally high rents which will be paid for these houses in the future. The trade unions will have to deal with that matter in the wages field in the future. Increased wage demands are bound to come as this policy develops.

I have dealt with the problem only from the point of view of manpower and the local difficulties which I can foresee. The trade unions and the Coal Board are united in their endeavour to aid in the industry's manpower difficulties. By accepting the Amendment the Minister can play his part to help to solve these problems of manpower in these vital industries. I believe that not to do so will create social tensions in the areas, will most certainly further harden the men in their attitude to foreign labour, and above all will make it more difficult to keep the young men we now have and to bring others into the industry.

4.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

The Committee is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) for the clear way in which he has described the social implications of the Government's proposals. I can speak only from the point of view of someone who has not his experience of the industry but who represents one of the receiving areas in this big movement of miners from the old played-out areas to the new, developing and expanding areas of the industry.

During the Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) asked whether the special subsidy would be applicable to the mining industry, and the Minister's reply was quite emphatic. He said: The answer is, no. It is the normal duty and responsibility of a local authority to provide houses for the people who live in its area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1955; Vol. 546, c. 803.] I draw the Committee's attention to the last few words, "who live in its area." It seems to me that the Government have set their faces against the planning of housing as applied to an industry where these great movements are going on. I, personally, acquit the Minister of this, but I cannot help feeling that, politically speaking, his party has a bias against the miner. It is a bias which one senses when one reads in the Press the speeches of back bench Members of the Conservative Party. It is a bias originating, I think, from the fact that politically I cannot see the miners ever voting other than Labour—and for very good reasons, too, historically.

Since I see the Minister frowning, I call in evidence a speech by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch), to whom I gave warning that I would refer to this matter. At Devonport during September, on the subject of miners and their pay claims, he said, among other things: I think the most selfish workers in this country are the miners. Today, through their lack of efforts, we are having only 30 million tons of coal…instead of 50 million tons before the war…Millions of pounds have been spent on new machinery and equipment in the mines, providing baths and other amenities. For what effect? For less coal and to pay the miners £20 or £30. It will not be uninteresting to note that that speech was suppressed by the Press department of the Conservative Central Office. I am not surprised; they were probably wise. But I am of the opinion—and I can but speak for myself—that this is symptomatic of the general attitude of the Conservative back benchers, and I think that the effect of this attitude on the Minister is reflected in the way in which the Bill is being handled. For that reason I am very happy to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring.

At the receiving end, those of us who represent Midland divisions see a situation in which local authorities are confronted with problems which are virtually impossible to solve. Let us consider the effect on my own constituency of Lichfield and Tamworth and specifically the new and expanding area of Rugeley. A new pit, Lea Hall pit, is being sunk there, and already the Coal Industrial Housing Association has produced 705 houses to cope with the housing demand—but that is by no means a final answer to the problem. In addition, adjacent to the pit site is the new development of a big turbo-electric generating station which the local authority say will involve the employment of a further 500 men who, with their families, will have to be housed.

As my hon. Friend said, it is not just a question of finding accommodation for miners, their wives and their immediate families. Many of these miners, who are coming to the area from such constituencies as that of my hon. Friend, have sons and daughters of a marriageable age who are themselves demanding homes. I have often wondered whether the posi- tion had been made clear to them before they left their original homes and whether they had been told that there would be no Government provision entitling them to a special allocation of houses. It by no means stops there, because very probably there has been a local demand for light industries to absorb the young women into industry. These light industries have attracted key workers and others who, in turn, have demanded houses.

I think I can best exemplify this situation by saying that whereas, in 1952, the population in Rugeley was approximately 8,000, it now stands at 12,000 and is increasing. The rateable value is about £50,000 and the housing indebtedness stands at £760,000. Here we have an authority being increasingly loaded with an industrial population for which, under the present terms of the Bill, the Government are making no provision. If this is to go on, the increase in rentals will be substantial and will create the sort of friction to which my hon. Friend refers.

The same thing, although to a lesser extent, applies to Tamworth, the population of which includes a substantial element from the North Warwickshire field. There the local opinion is that this Bill will mean complete stagnation in local authority building.

Beyond this immediate question of providing houses for an incoming mining population and their families, the whole of the Midland area is bedevilled by the question of overspill, because the uncertainty of some of the major decanting authorities about overspill means that the receiving, smaller authorities on the periphery do not know how to plan. This Bill makes the position considerably worse.

I am of the opinion that the Amendment is justified on the ground that it must force the Government to realise that if in the national economic interest industrial communities are shifted and new industry is imposed on an area, they must take responsibility for the provision of houses without imposing further financial burdens on the existing residents.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , Rotherham

I want to support the Amendment and to raise the question of another of our fine basic industries. I must declare a vested interest on this occasion; I have recently been dealing with this very problem and am still dealing with it.

The steel industry is in the process of development, and it is very necessary that it should develop because it has a tremendous backlog of development to overtake. In the area in which I live, and in which I work part-time, we have 137 houses belonging to a steel corporation, built within a very few hundred yards of the point of production. This corporation is very anxious to rehouse these people, take down this property and develop so that it can produce more material and do work which, at present, it cannot do.

Land has been sought and the local authority has been approached, but the Government have come forward with the credit squeeze and are doing away with the subsidy so that the question arises whether that corporation, in addition to its development programme, can go ahead with its scheme for 137 houses in a decent part of the countryside adjacent to the works. The result is that it has to go slow to see what the position will be under this new Measure of the Government.

The word "development" should be more clearly defined; it should be made clear what is meant by "industrial development." I hope the Minister will tell us whether it means that steel corporations or companies seeking to modernise, getting every square foot of space available and in the process taking down property which should have been taken down long ago, will lose the subsidy which they might have had but for the declaration of the Government.

The steel industry does not make quite so much noise about this situation as the mining industry, but it is in exactly the same position. It is seeking to get young, efficient personnel to come into the industry and to stay in it. Unless guarantees can be given to young, able technicians that they, their wives and families, will be properly housed, the steel industry, in addition to the mining and agricultural industries, is bound to suffer. Good as the steel industry is and low as its prices are, the gap between our costs of production and those of Germany, Russia and other steel producing countries is decreasing.

The Minister knows something about the industry, as he was associated with it when at the Ministry of Supply. Knowing the need for this development, I hope he will tell us that corporations which are willing and ready to set up housing associations may benefit from the special subsidy as those developments are in the national and the international interest and that they will not be told that because of the credit squeeze and removal of subsidy their rehousing cannot go ahead.

Steel workers, like miners, would like to know whether the Government intend to see that every facility and financial advantage shall be given to their industry and to the mining and agricultural industries. Then we can bring about a situation in which we may house people at the lowest cost and in the best conditions to create the morale which will give the incentive to produce at the lowest cost and thus compete in world markets.

4.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Brown Mr Thomas Brown , Ince

I wish to support this Amendment very strongly. There are many problems facing the mining industry today, but two of those problems transcend all others. One is the difficulty of maintaining manpower in the industry and the other the difficulty of recruiting more miners. One obstacle to maintaining manpower in the industry is without question the problem of housing and one of the difficulties in getting recruits for the mines is the question of housing.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the National Coal Board has to do what private enterprise had to do—to go to districts where coal can be found. It cannot transfer the coal to districts where people live. In many districts where deep-mined production has been going on for many years the seams are becoming worked out. My division was purely a mining district—it has been giving deep-mined coal to Britain since 1546—but now in many parts of the division the seams are exhausted. Having exhausted the coal seams and sections which the Divine Creator gave us centuries ago, now, to earn their livelihood in coal pits, men have to go elsewhere. When they go elsewhere they find that houses are not provided for them and they reluctantly leave the industry.

These men cannot be expected to travel long distances. Local authorities are doing their best to provide accommodation for the inflow of miners to the districts where coal seams are situated and who come from the out-worked districts, but in view of this Bill local authorities will find that very difficult. In my judgment, the easier the Minister can make it for housing authorities to build houses the easier it will become for the Coal Board to maintain manpower and recruit manpower. If men can find a job near at hand we cannot get them to travel long distances.

Many miners have left the industry—who can blame them?—because of the long distances they have to travel to work. It might surprise the Committee when I say that in Lancashire there has not been a shaft sunk for more than 35 years. Now, three big development schemes are starting. One is in the St. Helens area, at Sutton Manor, one at Moseley Common—which is not quite a sinking, but what we call a stripping—and one at Bradford Colliery, Manchester, all development work which ought to have taken place years ago.

All these developments will require men, not only for the development, but when it is completed, as men will be required then to equip the coal faces. Therefore, I say that the easier the Minister can make it for local authorities and housing associations to supply houses for miners, the easier it will be for the Coal Board to recruit manpower.

I will give an illustration. In the White Moss pit at Bickerstaffe, near Skelmers-dale, where the pits have closed, many men travelled long distances in that area. They had to get up at five o'clock in the morning in order to reach the coal face by half-past seven. First, they have to board a bus to travel to the railway station from their homes, then go by train to a point near the colliery and then travel on another bus before they arrive at the pits. By the time they have reached the coal face they have been travelling—this is no exaggeration—for two-and-a-half hours or more. What businessman would allow his employees to travel so long before reaching the point of production?

But there is something further which is of vital importance from the point of view of production. When the men get to the pit they have to travel a mile-and-a-half. two miles or even three miles underground. How can we expect to maintain manpower in the pits when the men have to suffer these great inconveniences? Men have told me, when I have asked them to continue to work in the pits, "It is all right for you to talk, but how can you expect us to travel these long distances?" Although they are supposed to work an eight-hour day, they are away from home from five o'clock in the morning until five o'clock at night, in very many cases.

I ask the Minister to visualise what is happening in the mining areas. I know that he possesses a great deal of sympathy. It was his birthday yesterday, so surely he is feeling a little generous. It may be that he received a few birthday presents which have elevated and inspired him. Let us hope that his inspiration will be carried into these discussions and accept the Amendment. After all, he wishes to help the nation, and everyone who helps the mining industry, or the steel industry or the agriculture industry is helping the nation. I appeal to the Minister to see that serious consideration is given to this Amendment.

We feel keenly about this matter, because it is something that we have experienced and not something which we have read in text-books. Thirty years ago there were 80,000 men in the mining industry in Lancashire. Today, it is difficult to get 40,000, because of the closing of pits and the difficult travelling conditions. These travelling difficulties have come more forcibly to my notice during the last few months. When fog descends upon us in the winter months, many miners cannot get to the pits because there are no travelling facilities to enable them to proceed to their work.

Hon. Members opposite have expressed criticisms, but they do not understand the conditions. We cannot open up a pit in the same way as a factory gate and let the men in. They must be allowed to descend into the pit a few at a time. Man-winding ceases at seven o'clock, and if a man is not in the lamp room at ten minutes to seven, his lamp is stopped and he has to go back home. That is not his fault. It is the fault of the weather, over which neither he nor the Coal Board has any control. Obviously, we must provide accommodation for these men within easy travelling distance of the pit yard. We are not asking, as was done in bygone days, that houses be built in the pit yard. The miners are entitled to what little salubrious atmosphere we have in the mining areas and their houses should be sited accordingly. But we must make sure that they are within easy travelling distance of the pit.

There is nothing outrageous in this Amendment, nothing that will cost the Department much money. But in the interests of recruitment, of the men already in the industry and of coal production, it is the duty of the Minister to accept this Amendment if possible.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I do not rise now to curtail the debate, but merely to try to establish a sort of precedent. As the Minister knows, we have made certain arrangements about time, and it would, therefore, be convenient if the Minister found it possible to reply towards the middle of the section of the Bill with which we are now dealing rather than at the end, otherwise the debate will run into the forthcoming section. The sooner he replies the better we shall be pleased.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

If an arrangement has been made, may the rest of the Committee know what it is?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

An arrangement has been made by courtesy of the Opposition. The Opposition need not, in fact, make any arrangement at all. It lies with the Opposition to use the time at their disposal.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Like all hon. Members who have spoken so far in this debate, I represent a constituency under which coal is mined. The Committee will, therefore readily conceive that this problem is not likely to have been approached either without experience or without sympathy.

There are two distinct cases involved which, I think, it will be convenient for the Committee to consider separately. The first is the case of mining labour coming into a local housing authority's area from outside. The other is that of the demand for housing accommodation inside the local authority's area coming from the mining industry itself. I should like to take, first, the former of those two cases, namely, the movement into the area from outside of labour required to work in the mines in that area. Indeed, it was to that aspect of the case that the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) and the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) almost entirely directed their attention, and which, I believe, is the nub of the problem.

If the Committee will examine Clause 3 (3,d) of the Bill, they will find that the higher rate of subsidy, that is to say, an Exchequer subsidy of £24 per annum, is available, for a dwelling provided by a local authority for the accommodation of persons coming from outside the area of that authority in order to meet the urgent needs of the industry"— and then follow the conditions— where the dwelling has been so provided in accordance with arrangements approved by the Minister as being desirable by reason of special circumstances … 4.30 p.m.

Then, in the following subsection, there is the corresponding proviso, where a house is similarly provided by a development corporation. That paragraph of that subsection was designed mainly to meet this problem which has been under discussion today. My right hon. Friend, in the Second Reading debate, indicated that explicitly when he said: It is the coal mining industry that we have particularly in mind in including this provision in the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November 1955; Vol. 546, c. 802.] So that where an influx of labour required for the well-being of the coal mining industry into an area was in prospect then the houses provided to accommodate that influx of labour, subject, of course, to the conditions specified in that paragraph, would attract the higher subsidy.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

It is, of course, those conditions about which we are so suspicious. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but surely the provisions in Clause 3 are permissive? We are trying to impose an obligation on the Minister.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Yes; no doubt the exact wording of Clause 3 can be considered when we come to Clause 3. The point at the moment is that the object of that paragraph is to deal with an influx of labour duly certified as required for the mining industry from outside the area of the local housing authority. Where that requirement exists, then it will be met, and the higher rate of subsidy will be payable under that paragraph of Clause 3.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

The hon. Gentleman has referred to a part of that subsection, and one does not want to discuss it in detail at this stage, but he will notice that there have to be special conditions. Are we to take it that an influx of miners will be regarded as a special circumstance, and that an influx of steel workers will not be excluded?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

In considering this Amendment we are, of course, discussing an influx of miners, but the hon. and learned Member will observe that that paragraph is not drawn so as to refer specifically to miners, so it cannot exclude by its terms other forms of labour which may be required for the urgent needs of industry to move from one area to another.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Let us take, for example, a rural area, the rural authority being the housing authority. Do we understand that the hon. Gentleman, in referring to Clause 3 (3,d) means that if a number of people are required to be moved from one part of the rural area a considerable distance to another part of the rural area where new industrial development takes place, this provision would also apply?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

The right hon. Gentleman has now provided me with my transition from the first to the second of the two cases which we are considering.

Photo of Mr Thomas Brown Mr Thomas Brown , Ince

I am listening with great interest to the Parliamentary Secretary. Suppose a local authority starts a great housing scheme, including a number of miners' houses. What will be the position of the local authority having regard to the subsidy provisions of the Bill?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

I think we must beware of being drawn at this stage into consideration in detail of the wording of Clause 3 What I am establishing now is that there is provision later in the Bill for this problem so far as it concerns an influx of labour from outside for the needs of industry to be met.

I now consider the case of housing need inside a local housing authority's area which has to be met inside that local housing authority's area. Let us consider the case of a miner in that area falling under that case. He is, presumably, on the local authority's housing waiting list, he has, presumably, been graded according to his priority, in accordance with the local scheme, on that list.

Therefore, anything which we do to place in a special position a house provided for a tenant who is a miner will inevitably cut across the allocation of priorities by the local authority. There will be two applicants for a house in that local authority's area, with an equal housing need, and the preference will be available to the one and not to the other because the former is a miner. I cannot think that that is a result which the Committee would wish to produce.

In many cases, as the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) reminded the Committee, miners will be living in houses which are unfit, and the replacement of those unfit houses will, of course, attract the higher rate of subsidy, which is the object of the Bill. The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring suggested that in some way the incomer was, by the Bill as it stands, being placed at an advantage as compared with the local applicant for housing.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

We really cannot let pass that previous remark. There is no question of a higher rate of subsidy, but the question whether the existing subsidy of £22 1s. is to be kept on or not.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Higher than for general needs; higher than the subsidy which will be available under the Bill for general needs.

I turn to the point of the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring. If there were not this provision in the Bill to provide a higher subsidy for the house provided for an incoming applicant, for an applicant from outside, then, in the nature of things, there would be a great obstacle placed to a local authority's building houses for labour which has to be attracted to an area, and, therefore, if the same subsidy were provided internally as externally the whole purpose of attracting labour, upon which so much emphasis has rightly been placed by speeches in this debate, would be negatived.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

The Parliamentary Secretary speaks, as he always does, with very great lucidity, but who is to decide what are the urgent needs of industry? Is there any definition of the urgent needs of industry? What is to be the position in such a case as there was in Oldham a year or two ago, a case in which a housing estate is outside the borough? Is that "coming into the area" or is it not "coming into the area?" Who decides these things? What is the position? Is there any extra subsidy for miners' houses if the Coal Board closes the pit and the miners are obliged to seek other work? Who decides these things? Are they all to be left to the local authority only?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

I think the hon. Member's questions turn upon the interpretation and administration of Clause 3. At the moment, I am only concerned to show the Committee that that Clause provides, and is intended to provide, facilities for the attraction and accommodation of labour in areas in which that labour is required to live, and that if the Committee makes this Amendment it will negative those results by producing a situation in which the local housing authority will not only have no inducement but will have a positive deterrent from providing houses for newcomers. It is on those grounds that I advise the Committee not to accept this Amendment.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

It is very unfortunate indeed that the attendance in the Committee at the moment is so small, because we are now having a brilliant illustration of a complete breakdown of administration by the Government. I will try to show what I mean by that, and then perhaps some hon. Members opposite will not continue to giggle. We have in this Chamber discussed over and over again the very serious situation which has come about as a consequence of the fact that, following on many years of neglect, the mining industry is now not providing sufficient coal for the internal consumption of the country and for export.

Everybody will admit—in fact, it has been said over and over again by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer—that the price of importing coal is a very serious drain on the country as a whole, and that it would be an excellent thing if we had more coal. I remember my old friend, Mr. Ernest Bevin, saying that if he had been able to dispose of the same amount of export coal after the war as the party opposite were able to do before the war, the influence of our diplomacy would be enhanced very greatly indeed in the world. But as a consequence of the laissez fairemethods of the party opposite, and of the progressive poisoning of the mining industry for generations, we have not been able to get that coal from the pits, despite the fact that, with an ageing population, the output per miner has been raised.

The problem of the mining industry is not—and hon. Members ought to think about this with some sense of responsibility—merely the problem of increasing the efficiency of the miners. This has been done better in Britain than in any other part of Europe since the war. The problem in the industry is getting more bodies into the pits—[An HON. MEMBER: "Italians."] Even Italians have to have houses. If we brought in Italians, Poles or aboriginals we should still be faced with the problem of finding houses for special industrial needs. So that intervention is irrelevant. In fact, if Italians were brought in, the housing programme of the Government would collapse even more than it has because there would be more bodies to provide for, unless we intended to shove the Italians into hostels. The hon. Member's interruption was ridiculous.

We are speaking about the necessity of making further provision for industrial expansion, particularly in the mining industry, and we are trying to find out the relationship between the Government's present housing policy and those industrial needs. I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary that his first essay from the Government Front Bench has been to defend the necessity of Government intervention to correct the behaviour of free enterprise. We have listened to lectures from him over and over again about how everything would be all right if only we allowed private greed to operate without any intervention from the State. We have now had a defence of Clause 3 which has been put forward to try to modify the misbehaviour of private greed. I hope we shall have a number of other conversions from him, as we have had from his colleague who has now been transferred to the Ministry of Labour—his sparring partner, his "side-kick."

That is exactly what the hon. Gentleman is proposing. I remember, if I may be allowed to make a reminiscence, that when I was at the Ministry of Health we had a sharply increasing housing need in some mining areas where the capacity of the building industry was being used to the utmost. I want the hon. Gentleman to note this. There was not an additional mason, carpenter or plasterer to be found. Nevertheless, there was an expanding need for housing in some mining areas in Cannock and some parts of Durham—and how was it met?

4.45 p.m.

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman how it was met. I held a conference of the representatives of the local authorities concerned; and, despite their reluctance, persuaded them to take a large number of aluminium bungalows—permanent houses. They were at first resistant because they thought that they would look too much like temporary houses, and, in the second place, there was a traditional objection to having non-traditional types. Nevertheless, I prevailed upon them to do so, because only by providing non-conventional houses of that sort could we sharply increase the local housing accommodation, and because, as a result of the behaviour of hon. Members opposite, the building industry had expanded where it was not required and did not exist where it was required.

It did not exist in the North and the West, in Scotland and in the old industrial areas, because, under the beneficent operation of private enterprise, light industry had expanded in the South and the South-East and, therefore, there was plenty of speculation by builders ready to enjoy soldiers' gratuities. In the West and the North, the building industry was working to capacity, and the only way in which we could provide additional accommodation quickly was by unconvention housing. So we put up a very large number of aluminium bungalows—and excellent ones, too, which were much enjoyed by those who lived in them. That is what we had to do then.

What is the Minister proposing? He is now proposing that he himself should be the judge—and I want hon. Members opposite to listen to this very carefully, if they will do me the honour, because I prophesy very many difficulties. We shall have this again when we come to Clause 5. It is always a sound principle that a Minister ought to obtain from the House of Commons legislation which will limit, so far as possible, any exercise of arbitrary judgment by himself. There is nothing that brings the Administration more into conflict with public opinion than for a Minister appearing to be exercising discrimination as between different citizens. We shall find this again, as I have said, in Clause 5. The Minister, because of the ridiculous legislation which we are now having, has to meet special circumstances. He cannot get out of it and, therefore, he imposes upon himself the burden of determining what are those special circumstances.

I can see all kinds of quarrels between one local authority and another.

Photo of Mr Thomas Brown Mr Thomas Brown , Ince

And between industry and industry.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I can see all kinds of quarrels arising if the ipse dixitof the Minister has to determine this matter, and we have not an objective Parliamentary Statute, which we can discuss here. If it is across the road that a decision has to be made by pragmatic or empirical determinants we are bound to have trouble. In fact, one of the justifications for rigidity of legislation is that it is the most effective method of preventing the possibility of corruption in the Administration.

If the Minister can defend himself from behind his Statute, and say, "I will not do this, because I am not permitted by Parliament to do so" he can withstand all kinds of pressure, but if the Minister has deliberately deprived himself of that procedure, and if he asks Parliament that he himself shall decide it—and remember that we are dealing here with large sums of money—we [have the possibility of some industrialists having favours not granted to others.

We are considering an industrial expansion which might favour a particular company, not merely the Coal Board, not merely an institution not having a private interest. We are considering a number of companies in circumstances in which the provision of a number of houses would be a very considerable advantage against their rivals, it may be in the same industry. Here the Minister takes upon himself to decide the circumstances in which that decision is to be made.

Do hon. Members opposite think that that is good administration? If that kind of legislation becomes a practice, have hon. Members thought whether before long they will be able to protect British Administrations from serious charges of nepotism? I put that point—I do not want to over-emphasise it—for the serious consideration of hon. Members opposite.

I repeat that it has always been the tradition of Great Britain that Ministers must not be put in the position of having to exercise more discrimination than can possibly be avoided, because that discrimination in conditions of private enterprise might give an advantage to one person against another. Therefore, I consider that that device is clumsy and follows directly upon having reduced the subsidies, because with the existence of the subsidies it has been possible by cooperation between the Minister and the local authority to provide as sufficient additional housing accommodation as has been physically possible having regard to local building resources. I challenge anybody to deny that.

I was personally never enthusiastic about the Coal Board coming in to build houses. Neither are the miners, because we do not like tied houses at all. But where the Coal Board did come in it was very often in order to supplement local building resources by the use of large building contractors like McAlpine. Very often when we were able to secure information from the Coal Board as to where it was going to expand, it was possible to get the local housing authorities to co-operate. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary is hopelessly wrong when he states that we have to have one lot of houses with a higher housing subsidy and another lot with no housing subsidy at all in order to encourage local authorities to build houses and to secure the former houses. There is not the slightest piece of administrative evidence of that. All the evidence is the other way.

I come now to another point which, I hope, is of equal importance. It is not only essential that we should provide additional housing where there is local abnormal industrial expansion, but it is also necessary to prevent the seepage from the pits of miners who are already there. Hon. Members opposite seem to think that very unimportant indeed. There is hardly a Member representing a mining constituency who does not know of young men who have left the pits to obtain housing accommodation elsewhere. I wish hon. Members opposite would realise that in modern society it is necessary to plan something. Consideration must be given to the fact that long-term collective planning is necessary to provide the requirements of modern industry, because modern industry is not mobile as other industry was before.

We spend hundreds of millions of pounds building steelworks, and similar sums sinking and developing coal pits, and it is not possible to do that without some thought of Governmental direction for the consequent activities. It is this hard fact that hon. Members opposite will not learn. They still think that we are in the nineteenth century. They will not realise that in modern society all successful industrial enterprise is a marriage between economic adventure and State planning.

In the case of the mining industries, we are trying to find out from the Minister how his policy prevents men from leaving the pits. It is becoming a very much greater difficulty because of the fact that in the mining areas new industries are being established. In the old days the mining areas were industrially monolithic. One had hardly anyone living there except miners, a few railway-men and shop assistants, but now, quite properly, new industries are established, contiguous to the pits, producing light goods of various kinds. Consequently, there is very strong competition for the available labour and if it is possible for youngsters to get a house somewhere else there is no reason at all why they should go on living in the inhospitable conditions of some of the mining areas.

Therefore, I want to know from the Minister how his proposals prevent seepage from the pits—because they deliberately discourage local authorities from building houses. That is the intention of hon. Members opposite. They will not admit it but we know that local authorities have said so. Housing plans are running down all over the country. This strange Minister used language on Second Reading which I do not understand. He said: It is the normal duty and responsibility of a local authority to provide houses for the people who live in its area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 803.] Where is the Statute that imposes this duty on local authorities? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us?

Does the Conservative Minister of Housing and Local Government now say to all the local housing authorities with Conservative majorities that it is their normal duty to provide houses for their population? Does the Minister say that? Is that to go out in a Conservative leaflet? I should like to know. Is it now clear that a Conservative Minister of Housing and Local Government informs Conservative members of local authorities that, in his judgment, it is their normal duty to provide houses, despite the fact that no Government money is to be found? The Minister is talking nonsense. He is talking absolute rubbish.

The greatest difficulty about housing has been that it is a co-operation, a partnership, between the central authority and the local authority brought about by virtue of the fact that the central authority is prepared to finance and to assist the local authority to do the job.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The Minister is silent on the subject.

I ask any hon. Member how it comes about that the provision of houses, which may be a burden to local rates, is more of a duty to the local authority than it is to the central authority. Since when has the provision of housing, which may be a financial burden, been more of a duty for the local authority than for the Government? For many years local authorities built no houses at all. There were whole areas of the country, especially the very rural areas, where not a single house was built for centuries until we built them after the war. We had to provide special facilities for constructing houses in the rural areas, but this was regarded, not as the normal duty of the local authority; it was regarded as a social necessity which could be met successfully by the local authority with Government help.

5.0 p.m.

We want to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether, if it is the duty of the local authority to do so, he will tell us what powers he possesses to make the local authority do its duty if it does not do so? We know that there are these powers for public health, but I do not think there are any for housing. If a local authority says to the Ministry that it will not build the houses, I do not think that the Minister can compel it. What he could do under the powers of 1946 is to step in, establish a housing association and build the houses himself. At that time I asked the House for powers to do so, and those powers probably still exist, but I do not think that the Minister has the power to say to the local authority, "You ought to be building more houses and, if you do not do so, I shall have to do something about it. "If the local authority says to him," Mr. Minister, why should we build houses in this area which will be a burden upon the local rates because their cost is so great?"—as many have said already—what can he do?

This matter has been badly thought out. In listening to the catcalls of the yellow Press, and in yielding to pressure to bring about a reduction in housing subsidies from the centre, the Minister is dismantling a form of Government control and Government economic direction very much in the interests of the future economic life of the country. Therefore, we want to know from him how he proposes to try to marry his proposals to what may be the most important needs of British industry.

I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite not to imagine that the Government can make exhortations about greater production such as the Prime Minister made at Bradford the other day—what humbug it is, nauseating humbug, to talk about greater production and the necessity for Great Britain being viable—and then solemnly in the House of Commons, by a Bill of this description, to destroy the very powers necessary to assist that important process. The Government benches must think again in order to discover how they can relate housing policy to the industrial needs of the country.

Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent South

I appeal to the Minister to reconsider the reply made on his behalf by the Parliamentary Secretary. It is generally admitted that one of our most urgent economic needs is a great increase in the output of coal, and that the men working at the coal face are making the greatest contribution to our well-being of any section of the community.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) and I recently spent four hours down a pit. We were taken to the coal face. Anyone inclined to be critical of the miners ought to undergo a similar experience. Never in history did any section of our community more conscientiously give of their best than the men at the coal face. The miners' trade union is co-operating with the Coal Board, which is manned by men supported by officials who are striving to solve our immediate economic problem: how can coal output be increased?

If we accept that line of reasoning—and all well-informed people are bound to accept it—we can take the next step. It is now admitted that many of our coalfields are being worked out, so the immediate problem is to induce the men and their families there to agree to transfer to other areas where the industry is expanding. For instance, in our area millions of pounds are being sunk in new shafts and in modernising old pits. So our greatest problem is to induce men from other parts of the country to come to our area, where they are needed urgently. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd), from his own experience, will confirm practically every word I am saying. As a result of consulting the local mining officials on this problem we are told that the men are prepared to consider transferring, but are anxious about housing.

That is why I am appealing to the Minister to reconsider this matter before we are forced to go to a Division. I understood that there was no division between us on this issue of national policy. If that is so, we ought to do all we can to ease the transfer of men who are asked to leave worked-out pits for expanding areas.

I have said that we were taken to the coal face when we were down the pit. The manager, Mr. Bennett, introduced us to a number of men who had produced the greatest amount of coal. In reply to a question put to him, one of those men replied, "Yes, but I want a house worthy of my output and worthy of my family." I ask the Minister to prove to this Committee and to the mining industry that he desires to implement what we understood was agreed national policy in order to assist the miners in this difficulty.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I want to reinforce the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) to the Minister to reconsider this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary must know, from the district he represents, that what he said this afternoon will meet with the most hostile reception in the areas which are expected to build houses for mine workers coming from other parts of the country. In fact, the speech of the hon. Gentleman is an incitement to those local authorities to refuse to continue to cooperate with the coal industry in this policy, and I will tell him why.

Already, the members of those local authorities, such as the one I represent, consider that they have been double-crossed by the Government. Some years ago, under this Government, my local authority was persuaded to give up valuable sites in an area where we are chronically short of sites for housing incoming mine workers. As a contribution, we gave up 300 houses out of our allocation for workers coming in from other parts of the country, and we built houses on a 55 acre site.

The Minister knows very well that Newcastle-under-Lyme has complained about the difficulty of getting land for housing every year in the last five or six years. Owing to mining subsidence, slag heaps and marl works, we are always competing with agriculture to obtain the land which is available, because it is the only land on which houses can be built. Every plot of land to meet housing needs has to be fought over with representatives of agriculture. My local authority was persuaded to give a valuable site and to build a quantity of houses for incoming mine workers on the understanding that the people on the council's waiting list would continue to receive the same treatment in the form of Government subsidy, as in the past. The local representatives had to stand the unpopularity of allocating 300 houses to people coming from outside in preference to those on the council's priority list, local people who had a general housing need.

What is the situation now? It is one for which the local authority has no responsibility at all, that some of the people on the list cannot get houses on the same basis as that on which houses were being built previously because the Minister has decided to cut the subsidy. As a result of the Minister's deliberate policy, those people will receive houses at higher rents. Therefore, I say that the local authority has been double-crossed by the central Government in being persuaded to postpone the rehousing of local citizens, on the understanding that they would eventually be rehoused on the terms that existed at that time, in order that houses should be specially allocated to citizens coming from outside for the purposes of expanding industry.

That is one of the consequences of the Minister's policy, and it is a consequence which produces the utmost bitterness on the part of some members of local authorities. Perhaps the Minister is beginning to realise that because of the reception which some of his friends had from the Urban District Councils' Association. It is because many representatives of local authorities, naturally and rightly, feel that a very fast one has been put across them in this respect. The result is that they are not too favourably disposed to continue to co-operate in special schemes for housing people from outside their areas which mean that the people they have been elected to represent later meet less favourable conditions.

This afternoon the Parliamentary Secretary argued that the subsidy should not be continued for the housing of local mine workers because when the local authority representatives considered their waiting lists they would give preferential treatment to local mine workers if they were to obtain a subsidy for housing them as against those people on the list who were merely in the category of having a general housing need. Yet the Minister says that he is prepared to continue the subsidy in respect of those coming from outside whose labour is necessary for expanding industry. He is prepared to incite local authorities to discriminate in favour of those people but not in favour of local people who are required to work in the industry.

How does the right hon. Gentleman think that local authority representatives elected by the local mine workers who require houses will carry out a policy of deliberately discriminating in every way in favour of outside mine workers? Has he any knowledge at all of the situation? He must know that those representatives cannot do anything of the kind, for it would be completely undemocratic.

5.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary represents an area in the West Midlands where a great deal of labour is urgently required for coal mining and it can only be obtained if houses are built, and some of the houses must be occupied by people coming from other mining districts. There must be housing schemes for those people. The hon. Gentleman knows that the whole thing will break down if this policy is foisted on local authorities. I will not persuade any local authorities deliberately to discriminate in this way at the incitement of the Minister while deliberately neglecting the interests of the local mine workers needing houses whom they were elected to represent.

It is a fantastic policy to expect local authorities to carry out. It is impossible to conceive that it can be done unless the result is to be that for every mine worker coming from outside to man the pits a local mine worker is to be persuaded to leave the pits, for the local mine workers will be disgusted at such a policy of discrimination.

There are already sufficient difficulties in the reception areas about which the Minister should know. There are difficulties about the removal of families to strange parts of the country which they do not know, problems of providing amenities, and problems of differences between one coalfield and another, different working conditions, different conditions of pay sometimes, and different ways of working. There are already enough difficulties to be overcome in order to obtain a co-operative spirit on housing estates and in the pits in areas where large numbers of people are brought in from outside.

I know this because I have housing estates in my constituency which are occupied in the proportion of 50 per cent. of people coming from South Wales, Durham and Scotland and 50 per cent. local mine workers who have been in need of rehousing. All kinds of social and psychological problems arise in such cases. Yet the Minister is expecting to superimpose on them the problem of deliberate discrimination in favour of incoming mine workers because there will be subsidies for their houses but no subsidies for the houses of local mine workers.

The Parliamentary Secretary should know perfectly well that one of the problems in manning pits in the West Midlands is one which often exists within a local authority area. There are many areas in which the problem arises of having to shift men over a distance of 10 to 20 miles so that they can work at a different pit. Many hon. Members opposite know something about that. Yet the Minister is proposing that there shall be no encouragement to local authorities to build houses for miners who have to move within the same local authority area. It is not much encouragement to local authorities if they are asked deliberately to neglect the problem of manning pits by means of a shift population within their own district when the Government are going to the trouble and difficulty of encouraging schemes to shift men hundreds of miles across the country.

The principle cannot be applied and is unworkable. Local authorities in reception areas will not be able to work it for good democratic reasons. It will be totally unpalatable to their people, just as unpalatable as the Minister's whole policy was to the Urban District Councils' Association, and for exactly the same reason.

I trust that even on this limited point the Minister will think again, unless it is his policy to stop this housing altogether. If he really wishes to pursue a policy of housing in connection with industrial expansion, he must have a policy in which the principle of equal justice for all is embodied.

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

I should like to add my plea to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and to put the point of view of a woman—the miner's wife. The Minister, more than any other Minister outside the Treasury, has incensed the housewives who are living in bad conditions and who have been on waiting lists for many years and who now, because of the Bill, see their chances of having a house receding.

The miners are now to be told that if they leave their area and the work in, say, Doncaster rather than North Staffordshire, they might get a house, but that if they stay in their own area their chance will get less and less, because the local authority will be compelled to say that it cannot continue to build houses for people who stay in the district, because there is no subsidy. We have been told that the reason for giving the subsidy to incoming miners is that it will act as an incentive. If that is a logical argument, it should also be true that we need to provide decent houses as an incentive for those people who have worked in mining areas and lived in difficult conditions for a large number of years.

The Government are putting local authorities in an absolutely impossible position by refusing to consider the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I do not want to delay the debate. I know about the time-table, but will my hon. Friend apply her mind to the problem of Lancashire corporations, largely elected by cotton workers, which will now apparently be told that they cannot build houses for cotton workers but can build houses only at the remotest possibility of a practical rent with a certificate from the Coal Board that the houses are needed for industry? How will they do that?

Will she also apply her mind to the problem, posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), of the man working at the coal face with the highest output, who is not living in what is actually a slum cottage, but who will be asked to pay a higher rent?

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

That argument is perfectly valid and applies to all who are cotton workers, pottery workers, miners, or whoever they are. They are all doing a very necessary job in the production of essential commodities and are now being told that they cannot get houses unless they pay a higher rent than previously.

There is a peculiar difficulty in North Staffordshire. Latest statistics show that the incidence of pneumoconiosis is higher in North Staffordshire than in any other mining field. There we have literally hundreds of miners working at the face who will be told, even though their health may be impaired—not only through working in the mine, but because of their housing conditions—that their chances of getting houses will become less and less.

I therefore add my plea to that put by other hon. Members that the Minister will again look at this question and consider whether he could not make a concession in the interests of miners, no matter where they are, or from what area or country they come, and see whether the subsidy could not be given, whether or not they are incoming miners. If the policy of giving subsidies only for incoming miners is pursued, that will create a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction among men living in such areas. Imagine working at the face with a fellow from Doncaster who gets the subsidy while the North Staffordshire man does not, although he has worked in the pit in North Staffordshire for many years.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

He has to go to Doncaster.

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

There is no sense of British justice or of human understanding in that. There is a lack of understanding of the overall problem of the areas concerned.

More and more we need young men in the mines. The average age of miners is increasing and fewer young men are going to work in the pits. The Government are saying to the young men that they will not bother about their houses. Will that give young men any encouragement to work in the mines? Are the Government asking them to cut adrift from their families, to leave their associations, the churches or clubs to which they belong, to give up their interests, educational or otherwise—and miners have educational interests—the choirs to which many miners belong, and move to another area?

That is the psychological problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) referred. I ask the Minister to be sufficiently generous to say that he will have another look at the problem and give some encouragement to the miners living in the areas to which I have referred.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I should first like to answer one or two points raised by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). He asked where there was a duty laid upon local authorities to provide houses for the people. I should have thought that as a former Minister of Health who himself got a number of Measures on the Statute Book he would have known that it is in Section 71 of the Housing Act, 1936, where duties are imposed upon local authorities to provide houses where necessary for the working-classes. It is also in the Housing Act, 1949, which was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman himself, by which the limitation of "working-classes" was removed leaving a general duty upon local authorities to provide houses for the population in their areas, regardless of any particular class to which the people might belong.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

On behalf of my right hon. Friend who has been called away and will be back as soon as he can, may I ask whether, if there is this statutory obligation, as the Minister suggests, the right hon. Gentleman can give any instance where any local authority which failed to provide houses was called upon so to do by any Government? If it is a statutory obligation, then authorities which before the war failed to provide them should have been called upon so to do.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

It is to the credit of local authorities that they have lived up to their obligations and have provided houses to the utmost of their ability.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I apologise for not being here; I have been at another meeting. Does the Minister seriously suggest that in the inter-war years local authorities, in rural areas for example, really provided accommodation necessary for the working-class? I am sure no hon. Member opposite would agree with him.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

We are getting a very long way from an Amendment about houses for miners in discussing how local authorities discharged their general duties towards the populations in their areas between the wars. I could not follow the right hon. Gentleman to that extent. The right hon. Gentleman asked me where the duty existed and I pointed out that it lay in Section 71 of the Housing Act, 1936, as amended by the right hon. Gentleman's own Housing Act, 1949, in which the limitation on the working-class was removed.

5.30 p.m.

I really do not think that I can pursue the general point any further. I cannot see that it has any great relevance to the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman made another point which I should like to deal with in passing, though I do not think it is directly connected with this Amendment. He said that when he was Minister of Health he was faced with the problem of increasing the provision of houses in certain mining areas, where the building industry was already fully stretched. He resorted to the expedient of encouraging them to provide permanent aluminium bungalows. I understand that 15,000 of these were provided in all, and they were a useful addition to what the building industry could provide. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that any major contribution could be made by this sort of method at the present time. If he is, perhaps at another time he will develop that theory, and we will examine it.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I could add also that another 21,000 special fabricated houses were built in rural areas for agricultural workers. The serious point is that the only effective instrument in the hands of the Minister to get local authorities to co-operate with him is to be able to show them that he is helping them financially to meet the need.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I did everything I could to encourage the development and adoption by local authorities of permanent prefabricated houses. When he took over the responsibility from me in 1945 he already found at Alexandra Palace an exhibition of permanent prefabricated houses showing that we had made considerable progress in that direction. They were not steel houses, but all kinds of permanent prefabricated houses, some two storeyed. He got local authorities to adopt quite a considerable number of them, but did not acknowledge the copyright.

I do not blame him, but there it is. This is just to show we are in agreement that a useful contribution can be made by permanent prefabricated houses. I do not think it is relevant to this issue, because these houses attract subsidy in the same way as do traditional houses, provided they come up to the required standard. No one is keener than the right hon. Gentleman that sub-standard houses should not be built by local authorities.

The right hon. Gentleman criticised the discretion provided to the Minister in the Bill. I do not think that arises on this Amendment. It arises mainly when we come to the later Clauses, and I shall be happy to reply to the particular points raised. No doubt they will be raised again when we reach that part of the Bill. I do not want to duplicate the debate. So far as this Amendment is concerned there are two real issues. One is whether a higher subsidy should be given to encourage local authorities to build more houses for incoming miners. We are talking about miners, but, of course, the Bill does not specifically refer to miners.

Photo of Mr Thomas Brown Mr Thomas Brown , Ince

Use the words "industrial workers."

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I might anticipate what will have to be said later when we come to Clause 3. It will clarify the position in this debate if I give the explanation why we put into Clause 3 the reference to "special circumstances." There are two main qualifications. One is that it has to meet the urgent needs of industry, and the other is the reference to "special circumstances." The point really was that we did not want this additional subsidy to be available for any industry of any kind which might say that it had an urgent need. We had particularly in mind industries of national importance like the mining industry, and we did not want it to be possible for every industry which might have urgent need for itself, but might not be of national importance, to be able to qualify for the special provision under this Clause.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Does this mean that the corporation of the greatest cotton spinning town in the world will not be able to get extra subsidies for cotton workers because the Tory Government have produced unemployment in the cotton industry, but might be able, in special circumstances, to get extra subsidies for almost any other industry?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I never said anything of the sort.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

The Minister does not want to say it, but that is what he means.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I am not going to be drawn into discussing the cotton industry. Nothing I have said, and nothing in the Bill, would justify the hon. Member's deduction.

The second issue raised by the Amendment is whether a higher subsidy should be given for houses built for miners who already live in the area, thus giving them some priority over other people in the area. I will deal with the first point separately. The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) said earlier in the debate that the Government must make it possible for a local authority in a receiving area—these are not his exact words but I think a fair summary—to build houses for the incoming population without placing an additional burden on the existing residents. That was one of the most important points the hon. Member made in his speech. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said it was quite unnecessary to give this higher subsidy for houses for incoming miners as distinct from the provision for miners in general, whether incoming or whether already resident in the area. That is the whole purpose of this Amendment.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I should not like it to go out from this Committee that I ever said it was unnecessary to provide the additional subsidy. I said it was unnecessary to have a differential subsidy for incoming miners as against local miners in order to persuade local authorities to concentrate on incoming miners.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I accept that correction. The whole purpose of this provision is to deal precisely with the point made by the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth; that is to say, to enable a local authority to undertake an expansion of its housing programme for the purpose of accommodating incoming miners and work people for other important industries which we consider it might otherwise be deterred from doing by reason of the fact that this would place an additional burden on itself and on those already resident in the area. It is difficult to expect a local authority to accept a burden on behalf of its residents for the purpose of accommodating people coming in from outside. It is in order to create a greater readiness on the part of local authorities to undertake these expansion schemes that this additional subsidy is provided.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) said that this Bill will discourage local authorities from providing houses for miners moving into the area from outside. I cannot see how an increased subsidy for that purpose, as compared with that for houses provided for other purposes, can conceivably have the effect of discouraging local authorities from building more houses for that purpose.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

May I repeat to the Minister what I said? I said that it will discourage them for the precise reason that the Minister is asking them to discriminate against local miners. I think that the representatives in mining areas will be discouraged at being asked to discriminate against the local men and that they will refuse to operate this provision.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I cannot see that it will discourage them. It may have no effect on them, but I believe that it will encourage them. The fact that they are offered a higher subsidy cannot positively discourage them from doing what otherwise they would have done if the subsidy had been lower.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The Minister keeps talking about a higher subsidy. That is not true. What he is doing is cutting the subsidy for the local miners, and that will discourage them.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Before the hon. Gentleman gets so worked up I wish he would look at the Bill——

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

This Bill provides a higher subsidy for this particular purpose——

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Higher than the present subsidy. It is £24 compared with £22 1s. and that I regard as higher——

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

And a lower subsidy for the local miners.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

The hon. Gentleman interrupted me and said that I was wrong in saying that we were providing a higher subsidy for this purpose.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

The right hon. Gentleman is really playing with words. What, in fact, he is doing is making the subsidy of £22 1s. into a £24 subsidy by taking away the obligation of the local authority to make a rate subsidy, so that, in fact, he is reducing the subsidy. That is the intention of it. He is taking away the whole, so far as the other subsidy is concerned.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

The suggestion is that this will discourage local authorities. The argument was, first, that it is not a higher subsidy, and I pointed out that it is. It is £24 instead of £22 1s. Now the hon. Gentleman says that it is really a lower subsidy because the statutory obligation to make a rate contribution is removed. But it will not discourage local authorities. They can still make a rate contribution. They can make a higher rate contribution if they wish to do so, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent them from doing that. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that this provision can possibly act as a discouragement to local authorities to build more houses for incoming miners. When hon. Members think further about it, they will see the absurdity of making a contention of that kind.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister again, but this is a vital point. Is he unaware—and if he is, his Department is not—that many authorities considering overspill schemes have already cancelled their negotiations with other local authorities, because of changes in the subsidy. That applies to the L.C.C. schemes and to Birmingham.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Statistics and figures are only beginning to come in now, but from what I see of the applications which we are receiving from local authorities for the approval of tenders for new houses, there is nothing to justify the sweeping contentions made in this Committee, and in the House, that these changes in subsidy rates will result in local authorities stopping house building.

If what I read in the newspapers about the proceedings of an important conference of the party opposite over the weekend was correct, it appears that the party opposite also do not think that it is by any means impossible for local authorities to build houses even now with the reduced subsidies. If they had thought that it was not possible, obviously, they would not have recommended local authorities to go ahead with their house building.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

In order to make the point quite clear—because we are very anxious indeed that a great public service of this sort should not be mutilated more than it need be—may I say that what we have said, in effect, is that we do not think that those who badly need houses ought to be the first victims of the right hon. Gentleman's policy; and we are therefore advising local authorities to go on building houses, in the hope that someone better will soon succeed the right hon. Gentleman and change the policy.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I should like to reply to the right hon. Gentleman.

I think it is really the case that the party opposite saw that local authorities were, in fact, going to continue building houses, as they have always done, and that they would be well able to do so with the reduced subsidy. In order to get itself "on side" again, the party opposite thought it better to advise local authorities to do what in any case they were going to do.

5.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

Does the right hon. Gentleman take that view——

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

Order. I appeal to the Committee to conduct its business by debate and not merely by interruptions.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

With permission, Sir Rhys, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he takes a similar view about the resolution passed by the Urban District Council Association at its meeting on Friday last, at which some of his right hon. and hon. Friend's were present? The Association condemned the Government, and asked for the withdrawal of the Bill and that the right hon. Gentleman should receive a deputation seeking the withdrawal of the Bill.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

This seems to me to be going beyond the scope of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I do not wish to anticipate what I shall say when I receive the deputation. It seems to me that these matters are better discussed here. If the Bill is to be rejected, it is better that it should be rejected by the House of Commons rather than by an association of local authorities.

One hon. Gentleman—I think it was the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton)—said that there would be houses for Italians, but none for the local miners. I think that there is a misunderstanding about this matter. This higher subsidy for the provision of houses for incoming miners and others to meet the urgent needs of the industry, is intended to have the effect of increasing the number of houses built in the area. The purpose is not to induce local authorities to divert a certain number of houses to Italians or to other people. Incidentally, I do not think that the Italians will be flattered by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale coupling them with aborigines and others in his speech.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I did not couple them with aborigines.

Photo of Mr William Blyton Mr William Blyton , Houghton-le-Spring

Surely it is within the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman that we have been asked to accept Italians? The Italians will not live in tents. They will come into the development areas where they are needed; they will get houses, and the local miners will not.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

The only point I was trying to make clear—and I am glad that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has withdrawn his suggestion——

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

No, I did not make it.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Anyway, that he has removed any possibility of a misunderstanding in regard to that—if he looks at his speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow he will see that it is certainly open to that interpretation.

The point I was making was that the purpose of giving this higher subsidy is to encourage local authorities to build additional houses for the purpose of accommodating incoming miners and others to the area. I strongly resist the suggestion that the purpose of this subsidy is to induce local authorities to maintain their present level of house building in those areas and to divert houses from their own people to the people coming in from outside the area. That certainly is not our intention and we would certainly not introduce a provision for such a useless purpose.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

In spite of your objection to constant interruptions, Sir Rhys, they are merited. There is still a lack of understanding of what the Minister means when he talks about a higher subsidy. Does he mean a higher subsidy under the provisions of Clause 3? If so, all I can say is that we feel it is far too uncertain and leaves far too much to the discretion of the Minister.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I shall deal with the question of discretion when we come to Clause 3. I have said about four times what I mean by a higher subsidy. It is £24 as opposed to £22 1s. at present. [An HON. MEMBER: "Under the authority of what Clause?"] Under the authority of Parliament, in the Bill. It has been suggested that this higher subsidy, or the £22 existing subsidy, should be payable not only for houses provided for incoming miners but also for houses provided for miners already living in the area. That would be the effect of the Amendment. I have said on an earlier occasion, and I repeat now, that the Government feel that houses for all people living in the area must be treated as a single problem by the local authority, which has its statutory duties to provide houses for its people.

We must preserve the principle, which is adopted by all local authorities and is well understood by the people who are in need of houses, that, except where there is a town expansion or a new town, or where the circumstances are quite abnormal, houses are provided in accordance with the relative housing needs of the various families. I really cannot agree with the suggestion in the Amendment which, if it were adopted, would give a miner resident in some area the right to jump the housing queue over the head of his neighbour, whose housing need might be very much greater than his. That would be quite inconsistent with the principles which have governed local authorities' handling of housing problems. It would be unjust, and would cause an immense amount of irritation and sense of grievance. For that reason I feel unable to recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Having regard to the wholly unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, my hon. Friends are bound to divide in favour of the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 205, Noes 251.

Division No. 87.]AYES[5.52 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W.Hayman, F. H.Palmer, A. M. F.
Albu, A. H.Healey, DenisPannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)Parker, J.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Herbison, Miss M.Parkin, B. T.
Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)Hobson, C. R.Paton, J.
Anderson, FrankHolman, P.Pearson, A.
Bacon, Miss AliceHolmes, HoracePlummer, Sir Leslie
Bartley, P.Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)Popplewell, E.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)Howell, Denis (All Saints)Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Benson, G.Hubbard, T. F.Proctor, W. T.
Beswick, F.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Pryde, D. J.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Rankin, John
Blackburn, F.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Reeves, J.
Blenkinsop, A.Hunter, A. E.Rhodes, H.
Blyton, W. R.Hynd, J. B. (Attereliffe)Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Boardman, H.Irving, S. (Dartford)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)Janner, B.Ross, William
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethJay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Royle, C.
Brockway, A. F.Jeger, George (Goole)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Jones, David (The Hartlepools)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Thomas (Inoe)Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Burke, W. A.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Skeffington, A. M.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Callaghan, L. J.Kenyon, C.Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Carmichael, J.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Snow, J. W.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Ledger, R. J.Sorensen, R. W.
Champion, A. J.Lee, Frederick (Newton)Sparks, J. A.
Chapman, W. D.Lever, Leslie (Ardwiok)Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Chetwynd, G. R.Lewis, ArthurStones, W. (Consett)
Clunie, J.Lindgren, G. S.Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Coldrick, W.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)Logan, D. G.Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)Mabon, Dr. J. D.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Corbet, Mrs. FredaMaoColl, J. E.Swingler, S. T.
Cove, W. G.McGhee, H. G.Sylvester, G. O.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)McInnes, J.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Cronin, J. D.McKay, John (Wallsend)Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Daines, P.MoLeavy, FrankThomas, George (Cardiff)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Darling, George (Hillsborough)MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Thornton, E.
de Freitas, GeoffreyMahon, S.Timmons, J.
Dodds, N. N.Mainwaring, W. H.Tomney, F.
Dye, S.Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)Usborne, H. C.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Mallalleu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)Viant, S. P.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.Warbey, W. N.
Edwards, Robert (Bllston)Mason, RoyWeitzman, D.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Mayhew, C. P.Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Mellish, R. J.West, D. G.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Messer, Sir FWheeldon, W. E.
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)Mltohison, G. R..White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Fernyhough, E.Monslow, W.Wilkins, W. A.
Fienburgh, W.Moody, A. S.Willey, Frederick
Forman, J. C.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)Williams, David (Neath)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.Mort, D. L.Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tilery)
Gibson, C. W.Moss, R.Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Gooch, E. G.Moyle, AWilliams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Greenwood, AnthonyMulley, F. W.Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Grey, C. F.Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rather Valley)Oram, A. E.Winterbottom, Richard
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Orbach, M.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A
Griffiths, William (Exchange)Oswald, T.Yates, V. (Ladywood).
Hale, LeslieOwen, W. J.Zllliacus, K.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Padley, W. E.
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hastings, S.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and Mr. Deer.
NOES
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Atkins, H. E.Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)
Aitken, W. T.Baldoek, Lt.-Cmdr J. M.Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)
Alport, C. J. M.Baldwin, A. E.Bidgood, J. C.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Balniel, LordBirch, Rt. Hon. Nigel
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathooat (Tiverton)Barber, AnthonyBishop, F. P.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Barlow, Sir JohnBody, R. F.
Armstrong, C. W.Baxter, 8ir BeverleyBossom, Sir A. C.
Ashton, H.Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.Hirst, GeoffreyOrmsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Boyle, Sir EdwardHolland-Martin, C. J.Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)Holt, A. F.Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.Hope, Lord JohnPage, R. G.
Bryan, P.Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Horobln, Sir IanPartridge, E.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame FlorencePilkington, Capt. R. A.
Burden, F. F. A.Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Pitman, I. J.
Butcher, Sir HerbertHudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Pitt, Miss E. M.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(SaffronWalden)Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Pott, H. P.
Carr, RobertHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.Powell, J. Enoch
Cary, Sir RobertHughes-Young, M. H. C.Price, David (Eastleigh)
Channon, H.Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh. W.)Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Chichester-Clark, R.Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)Profumo, J. D.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Hyde, MontgomeryRaikes, Sir Victor
Cole, NormanIremonger, T. L.Ramsden, J. E.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. AlbertIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Rawlinson, Peter
Cooper-Key, E. M.Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Redmayne, M.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Jennings, J. C. (Burton)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Corfield, Capt. F. V.Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)Remnant, Hon. P.
Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Ronton, D. L. M.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Johnson, Erio (Blackley)Ridsdale, J. E.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)Rlppon, A. G. F.
Cunningham, KnoxJoynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Currle, G. B. H.Keegan, D.Robertson, Sir David
Dance, J. C. G.Kerby, Capt. H. B.Robson-Brown, W.
Davidson, ViscountessKerr, H. W.Roper, Sir Harold
Davies, Rt. Hon. Cloment (Montgomery)Kershaw, J. A.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
D'Avigdor-Goldunid, Sir HenryKirk, P. M.Russell, R. S.
Deedes, w. F.Lagden, C. W.Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Lambert, Hon, G.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Doughty, C. J. A.Lambton, viscountSharples, R. C.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)Lancaster, Col. C. G.Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Langford-Holt, J. A.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Duthie, W. S.Leavey, J. A.Soames, Capt. C.
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir DavidLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Spearman, A. C. M.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynLegh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Errington, Sir ErioLindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Erroll, F. J.Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)Stevens, Geoffrey
Fell, A.Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Finlay, GraemeLongden, GilbertStewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Fisher, NigelLucas, P.B.(Brentford & Chiswick)Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Fleteher-Cooke, C.Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughStorey, S.
Fort, R.Mackeson, Brig. Sir HarrySummers, G. S. (Aylesbury)
Freeth, D. K.MoKibbin, A. J.Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Garner-Evans, E. H.McLaughlin, Mrs. P.Teeling, W.
George, J. C. (Pollok)Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Godber, J. B.McLean, Nell (Inverness)Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir AlanMacleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Gower, H. R.Maepherson, Niall (Dumfries)Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Graham, Sir FergusMaddan, MartinThorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Grant, W. (Woodside)
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)Maltland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Hornoastle)Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Green, A.Maltland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Gresham Cooke, R.Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.Touche, Sir Gordon
Grimond, J.Markham, Major Sir FrankTurner, H. F. L.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)Marples, A. E.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Marshall, DouglasTweedsmuir, Lady
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Mathew, R.Vane, W. M. F.
Curden, HaroldMaudling, Rt. Hon. R.Vosper, D. F.
Hall, John (Wycombe)Mawby, R. L.Wade, D. W.
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Harris, Reader (Heston)Medlicott, Sir FrankWalker-Smith, D. C.
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.Wall, Major Patrick
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir WalterWard, Hon. George (Worcester)
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macolesfd)Moore, Sir ThomasWard, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Harvie-Watt, Sir GeorgeNabarro, G. D. N.Webbe, Sir H.
Hay, JohnNairn, D. L. 8.Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)
Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.Neave, AireyWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Heald, Rt. Hon. sir LionelNicholls, HarmarWilliams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Heath, EdwardNield, Basil (Chester)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Woollam, John Victor
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)Nugent, G. R. H.Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Hill, John (S. Norfolk)Oakshott, H. D.
Hlnehingbrooke, ViscountO'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Studholme and Mr. Wills.

Photo of Mr Charles Gibson Mr Charles Gibson , Wandsworth Clapham

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, at the end to insert: (not being such a dwelling as is mentioned in subsection (9) of this section).

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

This Amendment, the one that follows it in similar terms, the similar Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)——

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

On a point of order. I cannot hear a word of what you are saying, Sir Rhys, as there is so much row going on.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

—two Amendments in page 2, line 20, to add new subsections and a similar Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth to add a new subsection, may be all taken together.

Photo of Mr Charles Gibson Mr Charles Gibson , Wandsworth Clapham

The purpose of moving my Amendment is to secure a discussion about the special position of old-age pensioners and disabled persons. I hope that the Minister can be much more sympathetic in this case on behalf of these particularly hard-hit sections of the community than he was on the previous Amendment. Perhaps I might correct one error in the Minister's last speech when he referred to the weekend conference of some Labour people. That conference did not carry a resolution in favour of differential rents or rent rebates. It was composed of 900 men and women who were members of the——

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I hope that hon. Members will keep as nearly as possible to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Charles Gibson Mr Charles Gibson , Wandsworth Clapham

I should not have mentioned it but for the statement that the Minister made. The point is that the conference carried a resolution condemning the whole policy embodied in the Bill, and in much stronger language than that adopted by the Urban District Councils Association a few days ago. I thought it necessary to get that on the record, Sir Rhys, and I am much obliged to you.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

The hon. Gentleman is getting it on the record in the wrong place.

Photo of Mr Charles Gibson Mr Charles Gibson , Wandsworth Clapham

We ask the Minister to give very serious and sympathetic consideration to the suggestion in the Amendment that the subsidy should be retained for all houses, flats and bungalows built specially for old and disabled people. Ever since the war ended there has been great discussion in all places where people are interested in housing about the necessity to provide special houses for people who are retired from work and are living on their old-age pensions.

Many local authorities have built specially for these people. My own authority, the London County Council, has made some very fine experiments in building groups of bungalows for old people in the middle of large estates so that the old people are not entirely cut off from the community. Many other authorities have done the same. I have seen very fine examples in a village in Norfolk, a row of very fine cottages let to old people at low rents by taking advantage of the subsidies.

It will be a tragedy if, as the result of cutting the subsidy on general housing to £10 for a few months and ultimately abolishing it altogether, as the Minister has indicated is his intention, old people's special homes should no longer be built. I do not see how that could be avoided. Already such buildings are almost as expensive as two-storey houses. They require the same ground, by and large, the same roof materials, the same work on the roof and the same internal fittings. Indeed, there are special fittings in places like the bathroom. Anyone with ex-experience will agree that old people's homes are expensive to build.

Unless local authorities who want to build in this way can obtain a subsidy, the great danger is that this building will stop, not only because the houses are too expensive to build without a subsidy, but because the rents which would have to be charged to cover the building costs would be such as no old-age pensioner could afford. Already in some parts of London rents up to 25s. a week are being charged for one-bedroomed flats which were supposed to have been built especially for old people. I admit I can only find this illustration in areas controlled by Tory majorities. It is far too much to expect an old couple with only their pension to live on to pay the full rent for that accommodation and still live a decent life.

To reduce the housing subsidy would also stop what has been one of the most encouraging features of post-war housing. I was surprised to find that during the last three or four years there has been a steady increase in the proportion of dwellings built specially for old people. Page 9 of the last Report of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government shows that of the total number of local government dwellings consisting of one room 6·6 per cent. were provided for old people; in 1953 that figure had increased to 8·1 per cent., and in 1954 it was 9 per cent. Bearing in mind the increasing number of old-age pensioners we shall have in the next five or ten years, I doubt whether 9 per cent. will then be adequate to house them. I therefore want to encourage local authorities to continue this, one of the best forms of house-building we have accomplished since the end of the war.

We on this side took great pains when in office to encourage local authorities to build one-room flats and bungalows—by means of a partition or curtain the one room could be made into two—which provide special facilities at particularly low rents for old-age pensioners. Every member of a housing committee whom I meet now says that, with the rising cost of building, with the greatly increased cost which the raising of the interest rate will cause, and with the further increase of one-quarter per cent. announced during the last few days, it will be quite impossible to build this special type of dwelling and to let it at a rent which any old person living only on his pension can afford.

It is said that they can go to the National Assistance Board, but it is remarkable how few, comparatively, have done that. By no means all old-age pensioners will go to the National Assistance Board for that sort of help. They are too proud. In my own constituency I know of old couples who still think it is asking for charity to seek help in such matters. We should not seek to put them to that indignity, but should encourage local authorities to build houses specially for these people at suitably low rents.

There are also a number of very fine —I was going to say charitable—organisations providing this kind of house. One example is the Whiteley Village, built with money left by the Whiteleys; but there are others all over the country. I know of one housing trust in Plymouth, for instance, which was able to continue with its work only because it received the subsidy. Without both the State and the rate subsidy it would never have started its scheme, because at present building prices that trust could not have afforded the venture.

Much the same argument applies to disabled persons. In many dwellings there must be wider doors to enable disabled persons in wheeled chairs to get about, and all that adds to the building cost. Again, in such cases there must not be any steps approaching the front door, and that, too, may add to the building cost. In general, this Bill should not seek to do anything which will prejudice the building of this type of house for this type of person. In view of the sure fact that without the assistance of the subsidy—and, I hope, the full subsidy of £22—most local authorities will not be able to shoulder the financial consequences, I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

It is not sufficient to say the local authorities will go on building. Some of the Tory counties have already decided to do no more building, but I think that all of them are finding that, with the very great cost of building—which, in the next 1& months will be heavier because of the-Government's financial policy—it is impossible to build this kind of house and let it at a rent which the tenant cans reasonably be expected to pay. I plead very strongly that here there is a special case in which the Minister might allow local housing authorities to continue to build special bungalows, flats and other types of houses for disabled and old persons—provided that the authorities can show proper need—and be assisted by receipt of the full existing subsidy.

6.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

On a point of order, Sir Rhys. One of the Amendments which we are now discussing, standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) and others, refers to a proposed subsection (10) which refers to …an aged persons' group settlement; In the same names there is an Amendment to Clause 11, page 8, line 39, which seems to contain a definition of an "aged persons' group settlement." May I ask if it would be in order to refer to that definition in order to elucidate the Amendment now under discussion?

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I think that it would be in order to refer to it, because it would make clear what is meant by the present Amendment. It certainly would not be in order to debate it, but it could be referred to to make clear the meaning of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Sidney Dye Mr Sidney Dye , South West Norfolk

My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) has appealed to the Minister to give consideration to this particular aspect of the housing problem. That appeal has not been made from a party point of view. It is true that it is from this side that the Amendment is put forward, but I should have thought that it would have commended itself to all hon. Members.

What we are asking for is that the present rate of subsidy should, in the case of the first Amendment, be continued for any kind of accommodation that is specially provided for aged or disabled persons. In the second Amendment we are asking that the Minister should continue the present rate of subsidy for those schemes, such as are now being prepared in Norfolk, of aged persons' dwellings grouped around a warden's house, the warden living in the midst of the aged persons who occupy the dwellings and who are in need of minor supervision.

I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's Second Reading speech, and I have since read it. It seems to me that the grounds that he gave for introducing the Bill—namely, that there are some people living in council houses whose incomes do not warrant a subsidy of this kind being paid—do not apply to the Amendments which we are now discussing. Here we have people who, because of their age and infirmity, are in special need, and we are asking that the Minister shall give consideration to their case. We can appeal both to his heart and to his head—to his heart because it should stir anyone's heart to see provided grouped dwellings specially designed for old retired people who are no longer earning an income.

The question of the incomes of these people being out of proportion to the subsidy that the local authority will receive for providing those dwellings does not enter into the case at all; neither does the question of the more economic management of the local authorities housing estates. Here we have a straightforward question whether these local authorities should continue to build specially designed dwellings for old people and receive a subsidy at last year's current rate. If they can do that, there is every likelihood that they will go on doing so, to the advantage of our growing population of aged persons.

It is not a question of wanting to segregate aged persons in a special building or group. It is a question of the greater convenience of supervision and assistance for them, and the provision of those amenities which will assist them. Therefore, I should have thought that it would be a sound proposition for the Government to continue the present rate of subsidy as being the cheaper method of looking after these aged persons.

I hope that it will not be out of order if I refer to a statement made from the Government Front Bench this afternoon after Questions, in which the Minister of Health, speaking about the Guillebaud Report on the Health Service, mentioned the recommendation that in future the Ministry should give a grant of 50 per cent. for accommodation specially provided in county homes and hostels for aged persons. I do not want the day to come when all our aged people are gathered together in hostels or homes. It would be much better for them and much more in accordance with their desires if they could live as long as possible on their own, in their own homes, and it would be much cheaper for the community.

It would be better to continue the existing rate of subsidy to enable local authorities to build the bungalows or other suitably designed buildings so that the aged might continue to live in them, rather than to go ahead with the provision of large homes. That kind of accommodation is all right for people who need constant supervision day and night.

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, we have in Norfolk some of the best hostels of that character which have been provided since the end of the war. As the chairman of the welfare committee which has played a great part in providing these hostels, I know how they are appreciated, but we want this other development to continue. We have a scheme whereby the local housing authority is encouraged to provide suitable accommodation in grouped bungalows, with a house for a resident warden, and the county council makes an annual contribution to cover the cost of the warden's accommodation and such services as that warden renders to the people in the group. If this Bill is passed in its present form, it seems to me that that development will be stopped, and I am sure that would be wrong from the humanitarian and financial points of view.

Let me take the cost of building bungalows. My own district council, the Swaffham Rural District Council, is building bungalows suitable for old people, the one-bedroom bungalows costing £900 apiece and the two-bedroom bungalows costing £1,050 apiece. But when we have to build a large home to accommodate 30 or 40 old people and equip it, the capital cost per person is greater and the staff is so much greater. Therefore, the annual cost is much higher.

Many of these bungalows are now let at a rent of 8s., 9s. or 10s. a week, and the old-age pensioners can afford that. They may get some supplementary allowance from the Assistance Board, but if so it is comparatively small. We have a scheme for the benefit of aged people which I should not like to see brought to a halt at its present stage. As I have said, I am a member of the Swaffham Rural District Council, and, unfortunately, at its last meeting it decided to raise all their rents by approximately 25 per cent. The rents of the old people's one-bedroom bungalows which have been let at 8s. 6d. are to be raised to 10s. 6d. from the first week in April, and the rents of the two-bedroom bungalows which are now let at 10s. are to be raised to 12s. 6d. That decision has been made as a result of this Bill. The council has tried to outdo hon. Members opposite. It has decided to take that action because the Ministry are cutting down their subsidy and it has also decided to stop the rate fund contribution altogether, even to the old people's bungalows.

6.30 p.m.

The Council has made the decision, and the arguments were based entirely on the Bill. If other local authorities are to follow that example to raise the rents of these old people's bungalows, it will be solving no problem, because the old people will have to go somewhere else for the money with which to pay the rent. If it does not come from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in one direction it will in another.

I hope that no other housing authority will follow the example of the Swafham R.D.C. in this respect, because I think it has gone sadly wrong. In other respects, however, the Council has been doing a wonderful job in providing houses and bungalows to the extent to which it has provided them in the last ten years. It has been a shining example to the whole country and it has some of the finest bungalows and best houses, with all the amenities, which have been provided in our agricultural villages in Norfolk.

I am anxious to get the sympathetic ear of the Minister on this matter so that he may have a good look at the problem. If he does, I feel sure he will say that it is worth while continuing the subsidy to encourage local authorities to make this special provision for those who are not merely growing old but are growing infirm and, therefore, need assistance in their homes. We have the domestic help service, the nursing services and the medical services. I am sure that we shall be doing the right thing if we put as many people as possible in their own homes—homes specially designed for them—and give them the necessary assistance. That will be cheaper for the country and will bring more human happiness to the old people, and certainly to their neighbours and their relatives, who will be able to visit them.

It will then be possible to continue what has been a feature of village life, if not of town life—of neighbour helping neighbour and of the elderly helping the elderly. We encourage this through the old people's clubs, which meet in many cases weekly or fortnightly. At these meetings people talk not only about those who are present but also about those who are absent, inquire about their health and whether they can be visited. Old people then help each other.

That is voluntary work which is all to the good. I should have thought that we could agree that there is something in this Amendment quite different from any other Amendment. It should arouse no acrimonious discussion. With the growing number of elderly people in the country the best way of meeting their housing needs is still further to encourage local authorities to make this provision of bungalows and to encourage county councils to assist them and to co-operate in such schemes as those which I have outlined. I am sure that if the Minister will give it his support we can continue this good work to the credit of the nation.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I take the unusual course of intervening before the Government's reply on this occasion because I know that it is difficult for Ministers to retreat from decisions which they have taken after they have publicly expressed them. On this occasion I hope we shall get something from the Government rather different from that which we have had earlier.

I hope I shall not be accused of immodesty when I say that I have made a special study of this particular problem in the last seven or eight years. Let me make a confession. Although it was my own recommendation, nevertheless I am almost coming to the conclusion that we made a very great mistake in separating the Ministries of Health and of Housing, because the first consequence of doing so is that the housing policy of the Government is unrelated to the rest of their social policies. In other words, housing has been considered quantitatively in respect of the immediate burden placed upon the Treasury and is not being fitted into the general social context to which it belongs.

It is extremely unwise to regard houses merely as representing so much money. Housing is an essential social service, having all kinds of repercussions on all other social services. That is what we have been trying to say in connection with houses for miners. For example, I doubt very much whether, if housing had still been under the Ministry of Health and we had moved from discussing related problems in another room, or with one set of officers, and had then met another set of officers on the housing side, we should have completely forgotten what we had been discussing with the other 'Officers earlier. One of the great advantages of having the two Ministries together under one umbrella was that when we discussed the health aspects of the nation we discussed the housing aspects with almost the same officers and certainly the same Minister. One affected the other.

Now, unfortunately, that is not the case. For example, I doubt very much whether a Minister of Housing who was also a Minister of Health would have approved the lower standards of housing. All of us who have been brought up in working-class houses, very small houses, know very well that one of the greatest domestic problems is that of finding accommodation for the old people in the houses of their children. I remember being brought up in a home where the one spare room on the floor was occupied for many years by a sick uncle. We are all acquainted, too, with the fact that in the past it was normal for grandmother and grandfather to live out their lives in the homes of their children. That is all the more endurable if the home itself is sufficiently spacious.

The former Minister of Housing could, of course, congratulate himself, and did so on many occasions, upon producing a larger number of smaller houses. As a Housing Minister he could take pride in it because the chickens did not come home to roost in his Ministry; they came home to roost in the Ministry of Health, because it becomes impossible to look after the old people properly in such small houses. They quickly find their way as chronics into hospitals and cost the country, under the heading of the Ministry of Health, far more money than has been saved by the Ministry of Housing.

It is a typical example of a failure to consider housing in a proper context. I have been over these so-called People's Houses, and they are a disgrace. I know what the right hon. Gentleman's answer will be. He will say that a previous Labour Minister approved of the People's House. It has always been a curious kind of defence by the Conservative Party; they always defend themselves by imitating any mistake which we have made while never imitating any of our achievements.

To have built those houses in such numbers was a mistake. It requires only a little imaginative insight to see what a profound mistake it was, because no one who has studied this problem can but agree that the most obdurate, the most difficult, the most intimate, the most intractable of all problems in modern society is the care and treatment of old people.

We have a far larger proportion of the population in the higher age groups—they are being kept alive today, thank goodness, by antibiotics and better nutrition—than ever before. Some very reactionary people regard that as a disaster; it is always a disaster to keep anyone else's mother alive, but a good thing to keep your own mother alive. It is a fact that as a consequence of civilised attitudes we have succeeded in keeping people alive longer, but they are being kept alive at an age when they are much more expensive to look after. These Peoples' Houses were designed without any relationship at all to the sort of families which are living in them. That means that old people have to leave their children's houses and find accommodation elsewhere more quickly than if those houses were very spacious.

There has been a further difficulty. I hope that the Minister will listen to this, because he ought to consult the Minister of Health before he makes a final reply on this question. One of the difficulties about old folk is that their care is under the welfare authority and normally housing is provided by the housing authority. Old people have a habit of slipping from one Act to another. Sometimes they require medical care and then get well enough to look after themselves. So they become the responsibility of the housing authority. Then they become so ill that they have to go to hospital and become the responsibility of the hospital authorities and the Ministry of Health. We have a curious kind of triangular situation in which the old people find themselves, for short periods, under the care of three types of authority, the hospital authority, the local welfare authority—county or county borough—and the housing authority.

It is one of the most difficult of all administrative tasks to try to marry all these different functions together and try to harmonise these different statutory relationships. It has been accomplished in some instances with a remarkable success where, by co-operation between the welfare authority—where it is not the housing authority—and the housing authority, small group schemes have been established whereby certain communal services can be given to old people. While they are able to look after themselves generally they nevertheless require to have some attention—some house cleaning and things of that sort done for them. In other words, we have these old folk astride different authorities and under a different sort of statutory umbrella.

This is a problem of peculiar difficulty and delicacy and one in which the Minister cannot divest himself entirely of responsibility. Unless he is resilient and imaginative and discharges his housing functions in a way which enables the other functions to be discharged properly and economically, not only will the old people need to be looked after, but it will cost the State far more. I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will carefully consider his reply before he makes it. He told us this afternoon that one of the reasons for giving a higher subsidy in the case of the influx of industrial workers on an unusual scale is that that encourages authorities to build houses for those workers.

In other words, the right hon. Gentleman has admitted the principle that to get local authorities to build houses required in the national interest a financial inducement is necessary. Surely no one in this Committee will deny that in this case it is necessary to have a financial inducement to enable local authorities to look after old people properly. Here is a special class, here is a special need, here is a category of people which ought to awaken our lively sympathy and here obviously there is a field for Government action.

6.45 p.m.

I hope that the Minister will not give us just a Minister of Housing reply. We want something rather wider than that. I hope he will look at this problem not from a party point of view, because we all know old people and we all know this problem. The nation will expect the Government to approach it not merely from the point of view of an immediate saving to the Exchequer. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) pointed out, there may be an immediate saving under one heading whereas there would be a bigger need under another.

Modern geriatrics have shown beyond all shadow of doubt that the most important single thing to do with old people is to keep them active as long as possible. I know that that is not a point of view which will appeal to the Daily Mirror,but one does not expect scientific detachment from that organ. Nevertheless, a long study of this problem has shown that when people stop they tend to stale. Therefore, it is essential that they should be lively and active as long as it is possible for them to be so.

That is the reason I am against, and always have been against, putting old people into old people's colonies. As far back as 1945 I said that it is absolutely essential for old people to live in a social context in which the full panorama of life may go before their eyes day by day, where they can see babies in perambulators as well as coffins in hearses passing before their windows.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman realises what that means. It means that they must be accommodated in places where they can be active as long as possible and must live in surroundings where their interest is stimulated and, at the same time, where their growing needs are provided for even when those needs may not make it necessary for them to enter hospital. The longer they can be kept out of hospital, the better for themselves and the better for the nation as a whole. I do most earnestly hope that we shall have an answer from the right hon. Gentleman on this occasion which will show that he has taken the wider aspects of this matter into account.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has taken this Amendment as the text of a characteristic and wide-ranging essay on social policy with many points in which I think everyone in the Committee might well agree and, if I may respectfully say so, without which the Committee might have been the poorer.

He dealt with matters such as his reflections on the separation of the Ministries of Health and Housing and discussed the Dalton house. In the Amendment, however, we are dealing with a comparatively narrow proposal. It is the proposal that a higher subsidy than the general needs subsidy should be payable in respect of dwellings provided for aged persons.

The Government do not dissent from the importance of that provision and they welcome the increase, which was illustrated by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), in the percentage of houses of the general need provision which over the last few years has gone specifically to the aged. The question, however, with which the Committee is concerned is whether, in order that that work can be maintained, a special financial subsidy is necessary or desirable.

The main basis of such an argument must be—this point was made both by the hon. Member for Clapham and by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Southwest (Mr. Dye)—that on the whole, the economic circumstances of those who are no longer in employment tend to be less favourable than the average of the tenants of local authorities; and that, therefore, even if a local authority pools the subsidies received upon its existing and future houses, it may, if it has in the past provided a specially large number of dwellings for aged persons and continues to do so in the future, find itself in difficulties financially in regard to the rents which it places upon those dwellings.

In considering that proposition, we have to bear in mind the other side of the balance sheet, which is the cost in respect of such dwellings which falls upon the Housing Revenue Account. The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West gave figures which are in general line with experience in the country as a whole. He mentioned £900 and other figures up to £1,050 for the cost of providing an old persons' unit of accommodation. Those figures, I am informed, are around the average for this type of dwelling for the country as a whole.

Photo of Mr Sidney Dye Mr Sidney Dye , South West Norfolk

Outside the large towns.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Comparing average with average, they compare with about £1,650, which is the cost of the three-room house of the type now being built. So that the cost to the local authority of providing the old person's house is not more than, and may well be substantially less than two-thirds of, the cost of providing a house for an ordinary family. As the same subsidy has in the past been received upon the one-room bungalow and on the three-bedroom house and will be so received as long as the subsidy continues, the local authority receiving the same financial subsidy is spending less per family housed if it goes in for the provision of units of accommodation for the elderly.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Does the figure given by the hon. Gentleman include the price of the land?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Yes. The site is included in both cases.

Photo of Mr Sidney Dye Mr Sidney Dye , South West Norfolk

The figures I quoted were simply for the house or bungalow and did not include the site charges. The hon. Gentleman mentioned a figure of £1,600 for a three-bedroom house throughout the country. In our area it would be £1,400, so that we are building the smaller ones also cheaper than the rest of the country.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The Parliamentary Secretary will realise that especially in congested areas, old people's houses—bungalows, in particular—are much more costly because they occupy more land.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

It is true that per foot super or per room, the old person's dwelling will work out more expensive, but we have long discovered that in talking about housing need what we are dealing with is not individuals as such or foot super of accommodation; we are dealing with families. These old persons are individuals who are also, in the housing sense, families.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I do not want to interrupt too much, but the hon. Gentleman will realise that one of the reasons why there was difficulty in persuading local authorities to build houses for old people was that that did not provide the same number of persons with accommodation. There would be one old person or two old people, whereas another house, slightly more expensive, would house four, five or six people.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

That is true, but those old persons are families on the waiting list, and all hon. Members know from their constituency experience that it is just those families who provide sometimes the most intractable and the most pathetic challenge to the local housing authority. So that the fact remains that for housing families rehoused, the local authority has received the same subsidy but has incurred less expense where the house has been provided for an old person or for an old couple. And so there is at present, there has been and there will continue to be, a financial weighting in favour of the provision of this type of accommodation.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

My hon. Friend gives me exactly my next point.

I was going on to say that the Committee may nevertheless ask, granted that there is this financial advantage, whether. in this Bill, we should strengthen it further. Should we make this need one of the priorities along with the two main priorities which are enshrined in the Bill—overspill and slum clearance—and put it on an equal footing? That is really the matter of policy which is before the Committee.

When one sets out to concentrate upon a particular purpose and establishes to that end one or, at most, two priorities, for every additional purpose one brings in and treats on the same footing, one weakens one's chance of achieving the primary aim and reduces the speed with which it will be arrived at. Every additional form of need which, under the Bill, is given a special subsidy weakens the emphasis upon the main purposes of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

To place the emphasis on overspill and, above all, upon slum clearance.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the main purpose of the Bill is to cut housing subsidies?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Hon. Members have this afternoon been arguing the inducement which a subsidy offers to a local authority to meet a particular need. The Bill encourages and enables local authorities to concentrate upon meeting those two particular needs. That is among the main purposes of the Bill—indeed, it is the main purpose of the Bill. Every additional purpose that we bring in, every new priority which we put upon the same footing as slum clearance and overspill, weakens those original priorities and blunts and destroys the purpose of the Bill. The Committee has to decide whether it is serious about slum clearance and overspill being our main housing purposes at the present time. If it believes that they are, as the Government consider they should be, it will reject the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Is that the and, churlish way in which the Parliamentary Secretary is rejecting the arguments which have been advanced? I am quite certain that if the Committee had been full, the Parliamentary Secretary's reply would have been received with deep dissatisfaction on his side as well as on this side of the Committee.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I received it with deep dissatisfaction.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

I support the Amendment, and I hope that the Minister will reconsider the views which have been expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary and will give due weight to the views which have been expressed by all the other hon. and right hon. Members who have taken part in the debate so far. Once one accepts the view that the Bill is necessary owing to economic circumstances, it is clear that one must also accept the contention that the Minister must exercise caution in acceding to Amendments. I acknowledge that. I am not disputing that. However, I suggest that this is an exceptional case which deserves special consideration.

I do not propose to repeat the arguments which have already been put forward, but I suggest that the principle of special circumstances has been accepted in the Bill. Furthermore, in our welfare society the principle has been accepted of dealing with the circumstances of old people rather differently from others. I think that on those grounds the Minister would be justified in accepting the Amendment or, at any rate, its principle and purpose, even if they have to be expressed in other words and these proposed words are not precisely the right ones to use.

At present, the problem of housing elderly people is very grave. Some very valuable experiments have been carried out, and I think that the local authorities are to be congratulated on what they have done, but we are a long way from having solved this problem. Local authorities should be given every possible encouragement. The Amendment will provide them with some encouragement, and, therefore, I again appeal to the Minister to reconsider sympathetically the proposal contained therein.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I say straight away that I reject the Parliamentary Secretary's reason why this Amendment has to be rejected. I find in it an opportunity of trying to assist the small fixed income groups with whom I have very great sympathy, and with whom, I know, both my own party and hon. Gentlemen opposite are also greatly sympathetic. It is, of course, very difficult when one is only a back bencher to be able to obtain relevant figures about the housing of the aged, but I do know that if one discusses the problem with the local authorities one finds that they all feel that the financial provisions of the last Acts affecting local authority housing were not really conducive to building for the aged.

Certainly, in my part of the country, the North-East Coast—I cannot speak for other parts—there is a very considerable number of most imaginative schemes. Many local authorities there have built admirable bungalows for aged people, and run their schemes extremely well. However, in the main, the housing of the elderly has not been a priority in the housing needs of the country.

The Parliamentary Secretary's main argument was that if the Amendment were accepted it would weaken the purpose of the Bill. Personally, I feel that in political life it is always jam tomorrow but never jam today, and I am really very tired of that sort of approach which my hon. Friend adopted to problems which need solution. I myself am quite prepared to accept that the making of an additional responsibility by means of the Bill may weaken the Bill's original purpose; its purpose as debated on Second Reading, but I was very encouraged—and I want to make this point quite conclusively—by the fact that in his speech at Bradford the Prime Minister said that something would be done for the small fixed income groups who do not have large organisations to speak for them. I see in the Bill an opportunity of making a start with doing something for them, and I am very anxious that a start should be made.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government is a member of the Cabinet, and I challenge him to say whether, in discussing the proposals of the Bill with the Cabinet, he pointed out to those other Ministers that if we could give some small financial assistance to the local authorities particularly in respect of building houses for the elderly that would be a start in implementing the pledge that was given by the Prime Minister at Bradford. I apologise for having a rather croaky voice, but I am just recovering from laryngitis. My doctor said I could be here today to argue the case of the elderly, and so I am here.

It is most important that a start should be made at some time or another, and immediately if possible, with helping the small fixed income groups, and that their problems, the problems of those most affected by the high cost of living, should receive attention. When one talks to members of the Government, no matter which Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Prime Minister or the Minister of Housing and Local Government or the Minister of Health or the Leader of the House or any other, one is always told, "We should be delighted to help. We realise that these people are the worst hit of all sections of the community, because a great many people have had valuable assistance from Conservative policy. However, it is almost impossible to find any way of helping them."

If one asks the Chancellor of the Exchequer about helping people who have been relieved of paying Income Tax one is always told, "There is no means of helping them." Well, here is a means. We can prove here and now our reliability. We can prove that the pledges that we have made—as I said before, and I am going to rub it in—the pledge that was made by the Prime Minister at Bradford, can be started to be implemented.

I was very interested to receive a letter from one of the organisations that have done some valuable work in providing homes on a voluntary basis. This one has done valuable work in a small village in Kent. A man interested in it sent me a letter which he had received from the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who pointed out, in the usual Ministerial tones, which bore me to distraction, that, of course, it was quite possible for local authorities, under the new housing law, to continue to build for the aged. Of course it is. One knows that perfectly well. The point is: will they?

Looking at the history of what has been done in the last few years, I cannot see that any Minister of Housing and Local Government has even tried to give guidance in a big way to local authorities to get on with the housing of the elderly. That has never been done so far as I am aware. I should be delighted if my right hon. Friend could produce a circular or a letter or a report of a speech or of a conversation about that. I should be glad if he could produce the record of a deputation he had asked to come to him from the great municipal and county council associations to deal with this very important matter.

The people who can say the least get the least done for them, and that is what makes me so angry, especially in political life. If one can bring pressure to bear, then attention is paid to one, but if one is small and weak, and if it does not pay, then one lags behind in the race. As I said, the former Parliamentary Secretary gave this most extraordinary reply to that gentleman who wrote to him. My reply to him, which I sent also to the Minister himself, was to point out that I hoped that this was not going to be the attitude of the new Conservative Government after the last General Election.

I come from a politically tough part of the country. We do not vary very much in our political allegiances. We speak straightly and we speak decisively, but we do know what is fair, honourable and just, and when I read that letter of the former Parliamentary Secretary I thought to myself: well, could not we have just a little human kindness, just a little understanding of the problem?

I ask my right hon. Friend: has he discussed this matter from the point of view of the small fixed income groups? Is he making a start towards helping them, because I want action now? I know very well that, if this Bill goes on the Statute Book, in a few weeks' time or months' time or in the next Budget, when I ask the Chancellor what is to be done towards helping the small fixed income groups, the reply will come back, "Of course, nothing can be done on the housing front because that would require legislation, and the Parliamentary programme is full to the brim."

I am not prepared to accept that. This is the moment to act. I say straight away that I have written to the Prime Minister, and I have put to him the case of the small fixed income groups. He has promised me that he is examining it point by point, and I am expecting some result. [HON. MEMBERS: "What a hope!"] It is all very well for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to cheer and say "What a hope!" What a hope for the country if they got in. I have much more faith in my own party. I enjoy administering a little stimulus to my own party because I feel that the present Prime Minister, who, after all, comes from my area, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who represented Stockton for many years, understand the problems of my area. Therefore, I know that I have two sympathetic Ministers, but my belief is that the present Minister of Housing and Local Government has not yet had an opportunity of discussing the problem of the small fixed income groups with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

This is very important. One of the reasons for not dealing with the matter, apparently, and which is given in some of the extraordinary letters that go out from the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides, is that there is some difficulty about definition. My right hon. Friend will know with what glee I listened to the points which were raised about the difficulty of definition over industry coming into areas where industry was required. I thought to myself that, at any rate, he could not get me on that one, because it is much easier to define the housing need of an elderly person than it is to define the housing needs of industrialists wanting to come into special areas.

I may also tell my right hon. Friend that if I am not to get something for the housing needs of my elderly people, which I think is of paramount importance, I am not so interested in allowing other areas to have all this additional finance for which my area has to pay in taxation, because in my area I cannot get the Coal Board to build, with subsidy, a single house specially for the miners. It said that we were not an area which was expanding in coal production. My right hon. Friend has not a clue about what goes on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] When my right hon. Friend comes to my area everyone thinks that he is a most charming man. He goes round with a delightful smile, but he has never really got down to the heart of my constituency. I do not mind saying, in response to the cheers opposite, that neither do hon. Gentlemen know much about it.

7.15 p.m.

I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary, to whom I wish all the luck in the world, made his very platitudinous speech. He made it in a very delightful way. Of course, he now has to "toe the party line," and I wish him well, but I am sorry that his right hon. Friend put him up to give that answer before he had heard the kind of views which I am able to bring from my part of the country. There we are not anxious just to have a housing Bill which deals only with slum clearance, overspill and industry. After all, the Minister of Housing and Local Government has not been particularly successful—indeed, no Minister of Housing and Local Government has—in getting local authorities to build the kind of houses that they want.

Although I agree that it is most important to leave all these matters in the hands of the local authorities, I know that in my area we are interested in the small fixed income groups. Indeed, one of my local authorities—and we have about the average number of retired people—is very interested in how these people are to live in the future. I think we can bring them some hope.

I do not want my right hon. Friend to give me an answer today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes."] Oh, no. I want my right hon. Friend to get up and say that the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth has put up a case for the small fixed income groups, and that he will consult the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to whether this is not the opportunity to make a start. On my side, I will give him a pledge. I will see to it that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have all the ammunition about what my area wants for the small fixed income groups—and I can tell them that it wants a lot. On every occasion that I can, I make a speech on their behalf.

I have moved a few Ministers. I do not mean moved from office but moved to action, which is much more important. I say quite honestly to my right hon. Friend that he is making a great mistake and that he is letting the Conservative Party down. If he could give a straight answer tonight, and say, "I cannot persuade the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer," that would be a different matter, but up to the moment I am absolutely convinced that this has not been discussed at Cabinet level and, therefore, until it has been discussed at Cabinet level I do not think that he ought to turn this Amendment down.

I hope, therefore, that he will say that the Report stage of the Bill will be put off until the Prime Minister gets back, so that there may be reconsideration of the whole problem and the first step taken towards implementing our pledge to do something for the small fixed income groups.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

Many of us on this side of the Committee have been in some doubt as to who was chiefly responsible for the governmental changes over the last few months. Now we have it quite clearly from the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). I am sure, therefore, that in future her remarks will be treated with even more consideration and anxiety than perhaps they have been treated in the past. [An HON. MEMBER: "Petticoat Government."] I rise at this moment to give time for the Minister to give something more of an answer to the hon. Lady than that for which she has asked immediately.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, confronted with this attack from his own benches, will agree that this is clearly a matter which he must look at again. I am glad to see that there has been consultation about the Amendment. I hope that the Minister will be in a position to say that at least he is prepared to reconsider the matter between now and the Report stage, by which time he may be able to offer some more useful answer than was put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary.

The hon. Lady said that no Ministries have done anything in this matter, but in fact it was the constant endeavour of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and others who held responsibility in the old Ministry of Health to persuade local authorities to build more houses to meet this need. It is precisely for the reason which my right hon. Friend gave that more was not done. Local authorities felt that in building for old people they removed only one or two cases from their housing list as against the relief which they provided when they built larger houses. Those larger houses helped to remove large numbers of people from certain lists even though, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, the same number of what are officially termed "households" were involved.

I emphasise that point by recalling that today we have had the Report of the Guillebaud Committee dealing with the urgent problem of the health of the nation. On pages 264 and 265 of its Report that Committee urges that greater attention should be paid to the provision of houses for the care of old people. The fact is that unless more is done on the housing side for old people inevitably we shall have more and more old people going into hospitals when they should not be anywhere near a hospital. It is tragic that by looking at this matter far too narrowly the Minister of Housing and Local Government is endangering the position of the National Health Service and of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

My hon. Friend for Norfolk, Southwest (Mr. Dye) very rightly urged upon the Minister the importance of providing small schemes of grouped dwellings. He referred to the work which his own authority had done in the post. Again in reference to the anxiety of past Ministers in this respect, it should be pointed out that the Housing Act, 1949, made special provision for the housing of old people where various services were required to be provided. Those were brought within the scope of the Act in order to encourage local authorities to do this very thing.

I received word that one local authority, Andover Borough Council, had actually drawn up and obtained approval of plans to build a combination of some flatlets and a hostel for able-bodied old people on a central site where there were already the non-residential old people's club and other provisions. It was a highly desirable scheme and, because of its relation with welfare, the county council agreed to make a contribution. I understand, however, that unfortunately the borough council decided recently that it would have to withdraw the scheme because of the rate of interest on borrowed money. This was before the present proposals were first put before the country.

When one adds to the disability of this increased rate of interest the new penal provisions of this Bill, can there be any doubt that not only will this particular local authority have to withdraw an extremely valuable scheme in which social workers all over the country are interested, but so will other local authorities have to withdraw similar plans which they have been considering? I suggest that this is a high example of a narrow attitude towards a subject which must be approached on a much wider basis.

The last published report of the National Corporation for the Care of Old People, which has done much valuable work with a great deal of support from the Nuffield Trust, states that because of the need for family housing in post-war years the country has fallen behind in providing for old people. It goes on to say something which should not be missed. Although it is perfectly true, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale has said, that we need to build houses large enough to enable old and younger people to live together, we have also the problem that at the moment many old people are living alone in houses which are too large for them and which they would like to be able to leave.

The figures are really startling. Those quoted in the National Corporation's last Report are taken from the 1951 Census. They show that there is a staggering number of old people who continue to live in houses of six rooms, which are large compared with those in which many other families reside. There is no doubt at all that if there were sufficient provision of other accommodation to meet the needs of old people, many of these houses would be made available for the use of larger families. Therefore, from the point of view of economy to the Minister, which I should have thought would have interested him, it is clearly of value to be able to obtain this kind of transfer.

The matter that worries me is that, as a result of the policy which the Minister has adopted, we may very well find that old people may be forced out of accommodation which they can no longer afford into unsuitable homes. Therefore, I suggest that from all points of view this is a matter to which the Minister should give further consideration. It is not sufficient to have the rather cold answer of the Parliamentary Secretary to the very human and restrained appeal made to him by my right hon. Friend. We should now ask the Minister to realise that this is a wide social problem which requires to be examined from the point of view of health as well as from the narrow view of housing. We ask him to tell us that he will at least give this issue further consideration.

7.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I am sure that we all felt stimulated by the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). She said that she enjoyed administering a little stimulus to Ministers. All I can say is that, being at the receiving end, I also enjoyed it. It does not do us any harm. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for offering to support me in bringing pressure to bear on my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Cabinet as a whole. She also offered, which I did not welcome so warmly to give the Prime Minister some ammunition to use against me.

But be that as it may, I am sure that we all felt in listening to the speech of my hon. Friend and to the speeches made by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, that every one who spoke was activated by a sincere sympathy for the position of elderly and disabled people. I ask the Committee to believe that I am activated by feelings of sympathy no less than those which inspired the speeches made during the debate.

We all know the feelings of loneliness, difficulty and failing strength which afflict the older people, and we all want to do all that is reasonably possible, subject to our obligations to others as well, to relieve the difficulties of the aged and the disabled. We all agreed with the hon. Member for Norfolk, Southwest (Mr. Dye) when he said that old people are much happier and more healthy living in their own homes as long as they are able to do so.

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) also spoke in the same strain as other hon. Members about the importance of not overlooking the needs of the older people. He did, however, move on to a number of other subjects. Amongst other things, he said that he regretted the separation of Ministerial responsibility for health from the responsibility for housing, but, whether it was a right or wrong decision, it was one taken and given effect to by the Labour Government and not by the present Administration. It was carried out early in 1951, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman wants me to pursue that question.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Food and Agriculture have been combined. Why not Housing and Health?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

There is always an argument for combining all Government Departments, but then we have to divide them again to make them manageable. Incidentally, I remember the difficulty that the Labour Government had when they were formed in 1945, to decide how they were going to divide up Housing, Town and Country Planning and Health. They took so long to decide that I had to remain Minister of Works and a member of Mr. Attlee's Government for a whole ten days, while they decided how it was to be settled, and by whom I was to be relieved.

The right hon. Gentleman made a fresh attack on the People's Houses on the ground that they are too small. We had all that out on an earlier occasion. I do not see the relevance of this attack on this occasion, because we are now considering an Amendment the effect of which would be to encourage local authorities to build more small houses. It does not seem to me to be relevant.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The right hon. Gentleman is quite extraordinary. I do not think he listens to the debate, or, if he does, there is a curious lack of comprehension. I said that as a consequence of building houses so small that old people could not live with their children, we had to have more old people's houses.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Again that is not really relevant. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, these houses, although smaller as a whole, contain the same area of feet-super. The floor space and the living rooms are the same size as under the earlier standards. The difference between the People's House or, as my hon. Friend called it, the "Dalton House" is that economies have been effected not in the floor space of the living rooms, but in the staircases, store rooms, and things of that kind. I do not imagine that the right hon. Gentleman expected people to keep their grandmothers in the store room or on the staircase. The number of rooms and the floor space of the living rooms remain the same as they were under the earlier standards. I thought it was relevant to point out that the rooms are the same in number and the same size. The only thing reduced was the size of the staircases and outhouses, and they are not proper places in which to keep one's parents.

The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) said that the Amendment was desirable to ensure that old people could get good houses suited to their needs at reasonable rents. I submit to him that the question of rents really does not arise on the issue before us today. The higher rates of subsidy which the Bill provides for slum clearance are intended to encourage local authorities to allocate a larger proportion of their houses for the accommodation of families from slums and also in connection with over-spill and town expansion schemes. These higher subsidies are not intended to provide houses for this particular purpose at lower rents. Let us be quite clear about that—that is not the intention of the higher subsidies. I have spoken about that on an earlier occasion.

Local authorities will no doubt use their pool of subsidies from all sources to subsidise rents of all council houses in the way which may seem to them best in the light of local circumstances and in the light of the needs of their tenants. What I am pointing out is that the grant of higher subsidies for particular purposes, such as slum clearance, is designed to encourage local authorities to devote a higher proportion of the houses they build to the accommodation of people from slums but not necessarily to provide houses for those people at lower rents than the houses they provide for other people whose needs may be greater. It is not the Government's intention that a family rehoused from a slum dwelling should automatically be charged a rent which is £12 a year lower than another family that does not come from a slum dwelling but whose housing need may be just as urgent and whose financial need may be as great.

The same applies to houses for old people. I submit that the question of the rents to be paid by old people does not arise on this Amendment. Local authorities are at liberty to subsidise the rents of aged people to the extent that they think fit out of their general pool of subsidies. That is what they do and I have no doubt will continue to do. The only relevant issue arising on this Amendment is whether it is desirable to give an additional subsidy in order to encourage local authorities to devote a larger proportion of their building effort to the construction of dwellings for old people, in preference to the construction of dwellings for other sections of the community. I submit that there is no evidence that local authorities as a whole are neglecting the housing problems of the older people.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

My right hon. Friend has not put that quite accurately. The point is that the Amendment would enable local authorities to build for old people in addition. That would be quite possible were this Amendment accepted. It is not an alternative, but an addition, and would my right hon. Friend please address his answer to that point?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Having regard to the housing shortage which exists in most parts of the country, I think it will be found that local authorities are in fact building as many houses as they are able to do. A greater number of houses are going up than was the case a few years ago. Local authorities are building as many as they feel able to build. As the Committee knows, I have only recently abolished the allocation system, and therefore it is up to local authorities to decide how many houses they propose to build.

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that it had been difficult to persuade local authorities to devote a sufficient proportion of their house-building programmes to providing houses for aged persons. I think that was true in the past——

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I say that was true in the past, but I do not believe that is the position any longer. The right hon. Gentleman said, "At the beginning." I presume he means that while it was so at the beginning, it is not so now.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

It is very unequal in different parts of the country today. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman of that. If he made a survey, he would find that the provision of houses for old people, and for paraplegics in particular, is extremely unequal over the country.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Hear, hear. Produce the survey.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

So long as we believe in local government, and in local authorities running their own affairs and deciding their own problems, things are bound to vary. Short of deciding all these things in my Department in Whitehall, there is no way of avoiding a wide range and variety in these matters. Conditions are different in various parts of the country. Some years ago there was a lack of attention to the problem of the old people, but the position has changed greatly.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth said that she was not at all impressed with what local authorities had been doing for old people. But I think that she underrates the effort being put into the construction of this type of house. Of course, we do not know how many houses have been built specially for old people. We get information about the number of dwellings of different sizes. Up to 30th September, 1955, nearly 118,000 one-bedroom dwellings had been provided since the war, representing about 7½per cent. of the total number of local authority houses built during that period. In recent tenders, that is to say for the last quarter for which I have figures available, the quarter ended 30th September last, the proportion was over 11 per cent.

7.45 p.m.

We are concerned with the one-bedroom type of house built by local authorities, which is suitable for older people. I do not think it can be argued that 11 per cent. is an unreasonably small proportion. Were the Amendment adopted, it would undoubtedly tend to encourage local authorities to increase the proportion of houses built for old people at the expense of houses built for persons with families. Such further emphasis in the direction of one-bedroom houses would not be desirable, and, therefore, while I have just as much sympathy with the needs of the elderly people as have other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate, I do not think that it would be right to accept this Amendment.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I am bound to say that we are profoundly disappointed with that answer from the Minister. As I said earlier, I do not believe, even with his docile majority, that the Minister would be getting away with it if hon. Members opposite had listened to the debate, and in those circumstances we are bound to divide the Committee.

Photo of Mr Thomas Brown Mr Thomas Brown , Ince

I propose to detain the Committee for only a few minutes in order to express my dissatisfaction and regret at the refusal of the Minister to accept this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman said that local authorities could pay what subsidies they wished for old people's houses from the common pool. I deeply regret that a statement of that character should fall from the lips of a responsible Minister. In my judgment, the responsibility for the care of the aged population of this country falls fairly and squarely, or should do, on the finances of the country, and that we should not ask local authorities to contribute a certain proportion of their finances to provide for old people.

I do not doubt the honesty and integrity of the Minister. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have sympathy with the old people as he has. But I come from a county which is noted for its sayings. In Lancashire we have one saying, among others, which runs: Sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef. It is very sharp. I feel that the sympathetic approach of the Minister in this case is very sharp.

It would be a great pity if this Bill reached the Statute Book without the inclusion of this Amendment. I firmly believe that unless local authorities can get an additional subsidy, it will retard the progress in the race upon which they have entered. We have been at the job of providing homes and hostels for old people only for a matter of ten years. Looking back over those years, I think that we have done exceptionally well. But it would be a pity if any step taken by this Government retarded the progress of the race entered upon by local authorities. As one who is profoundly interested in the lot of the aged, I ask the Minister to have another look at this matter and see whether he can come forward with something more generous.

I want to say a word about the disabled in the industry in which I worked for 35½ years. There are many disabled people in it, and I am sorry to say that the numbers are increasing in one direction or another. Here again, local authorities ought to be in a position to make provision for those who are disabled in industry. If there is an industrial accident they should be able to say, "We will help you in the direction that is desirable." In the course of my speech during the Second Reading debate I mentioned that we are now trying to provide homes for them from our welfare fund, but we cannot provide homes for everybody. We feel profoundly that homes should be provided for those who are disabled in industry.

Therefore, there are two types of person to be considered: the aged and the disabled, both of whom want homes. Furthermore, I would remind the Minister—if he needs reminding—that when the present Lord Privy Seal occupied the responsible position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, he said that the Government were not unmindful of the needs of the ageing population of this country. If the Government are not unmindful, they will accept the Amendment and try to help the local authorities to make provision for the aged.

I have read the many reports that have been made by various organisations and institutions who are interested in the welfare of aged and, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), those reports call the attention of the Government, whether Conservative or Labour, to the fact that we have fallen far behind in the provision of homes for old people. Those reports, which have been compiled by men and women who are interested in this matter, ought not to be ignored. I beg the Minister to retract what he has just said and accept the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 208, Noes 240.

Division No. 88.]AYES[7.52 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W.Hannan, W.Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Albu, A. H.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Hastings, S.Palmer, A. M. F.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Hayman, F. H.Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Healey, DenisParker, J.
Anderson, FrankHenderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)Parkin, B. T.
Bacon, Miss AliceHerbison, Miss M.Paton, J.
Bartley, P.Hewitson, Capt. M.Pearson, A.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)Hobson, C. R.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Benson, G.Holman, P.Popplewell, E.
Beswick, F.Holt, A. F.Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)Proctor, W. T.
Blackburn, F.Howell, Denis (All Saints)Pryde, D. J.
Blenkinsop, A.Hubbard, T. F.Rankin, John
Blyton, W. R.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Reeves, J.
Boardman, H.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)Hunter, A. E.Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.}
Bowen, E. R. (Cardlgan)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethIrving, S. (Dartford)Ross, William
Brockway, A. F.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Royle, C.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Janner, B.Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Burke, W. A.Jeger, George (Goole)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn. & St. Pncs, S.)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Callaghan, L. J.Jones, David (The Hartlepools)Skeffington, A. M.
Carmiohael, J.Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Champion, A. J.Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Chapman, W. D.Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Soreneen, R. W.
Chetwynd, G. R.Kenyon, C.Sparks, J. A.
Clunie, J.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Coldrick, W.King, Dr. H. M.Stones, W. (Consett)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)Ledger, R. J.Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)Lee, Frederick (Newton)Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Corbet, Mrs. FredaLever, Harold (Cheetham)Swingler, S. T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)Sylvester, G. O.
Cronin, J. D.Lewis, ArthurTaylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Daines, P.Lindgren, G. S.Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Logan, D. G.Thornton, E.
Darling, George (Hillsborough)Mabon, Dr. J. D.Timmons, J.
Deer, G.MacColl, J. E.Tomney, F.
de Freitas, GeoffreyMcGhee, H. G.Usborne, H. C.
Delargy, H. J.Mclnnes, J.Viant, S. P.
Dodds, N. N.McKay, John (Wallsend)Wade, D. W.
Dye, S.McLeavy, FrankWeitzman, D.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Edelman, M.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Mahon, S.West, D. G.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Mainwaring, W. H.Wheeldon, W. E.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Mason, RoyWilkins, W. A.
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)Mayhew, C. P.Willey, Frederick
Fernyhough, E.Mellish, R. J.Williams, David (Neath)
Fienburgh, W.Mitchlson, G. R.Williams, Rev. Liywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Forman, J. C.Monslow, W.Willams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Moody, A. S.Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Gibson, C. W.Mort, D. L.Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Gooch, E. G.Moss, R.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Greenwood, AnthonyMoyle, A.Winterbottom, Richard
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Mulley, F. W.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Grey, C. F.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Oram, A. E.Zilliacus, K.
Griffiths, William (Exchange)Orbach, M.
Grimond, J.Oswald, T.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hale, LeslieOwen, W. J.Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Holmes.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Padley, W. E.
NOES
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Armstrong, C. W.Barlow, Sir John
Altken, W. T.Ashton, H.Baxter, Sir Beverley
Alport, C. J. M.Atkins, H. E.Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathooat (Tiverton)Baldwin, A. E.Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Balniel, LordBidgood, J. C.
Biggs-Davison, J. A.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountOrmsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelHirst, GeoffreyOrr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bishop, F. P.Holland-Martin, C. J.Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Body, R. F.Hope, Lord JohnPage, R. G.
Bossom, Sir A. C.Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Boyle, Sir EdwardHorobin, Sir IanPartridge, E.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame FlorencePilkington, Capt. R. A.
Brooman-White, R. C.Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Pitman, I. J.
Bryan, P.Howard, John (Test)Pitt, Miss E. M.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Pott, H. P.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Powell, J. Enoch
Burden, F. F. A.Hughes, Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.Price, David (Eastlelgh)
Butcher, Sir HerbertHughes-Young, M. H. C.Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)Profumo, J. D.
Carr, RobertHyde, MontgomeryRaikes, Sir Victor
Cary, Sir RobertIremonger, T. L.Ramsden, J. E.
Channon, H.Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Rawlinson, Peter
Chichester-Clark, R.Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Redmayne, M.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Jennings, J. C. (Burton)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cole, NormanJennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)Renton, D. L. M.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Ridsdale, J. E.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Johnson, Erio (Blackley)Rippon, A. G. F.
Corfield, Capt. F. V.Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Craddock, Beresford (Splethorne)Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Robertson, Sir David
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Kaberry, D.Robson-Brown, W.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Keegan, D.Roper, Sir Harold
Cunningham, KnoxKerby, Capt. H. B.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Currie, G. B. H,Kerr, H. W.Russell, R. S.
Dance, J. C. G.Kershaw, J. A.Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Davidson, ViscountessKirk, P. M.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
D'Avigdor-Coldsmid, Sir HenryLagden, G. w.Sharples, R. C.
Deedes, W. F.Lambert, Hon. G.Shepherd, William
Digby, Simon WingfieldLambton, ViscountSimon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Doughty, C. J. A.Langford-Holt, J. A.Spearman, A. C. M.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)Leavey, J. A.Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Stevens, Geoffrey
Duthie, W. S.Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir DavidLindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Errington, Sir ErioLloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Erroll, F. J.Longden, GlbertStorey, S.
Fell, A.Studholme, H. G.
Finlay, GraemeLuoas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)
Fisher, NigelLucas-Tooth, Sir HughSumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Fietcher-Cooke, C.Mackeson, Brig. Sir HarryTaylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Fort, R.MoKlbbln, A. J.Teeling, W.
Freeth, D. K.Mackle, J. H. (Galloway)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.McLaughlin, Mrs. P.Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Carner-Evans, E. H.Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
George, J. C. (Pollok)McLean, Neil (Inverness)Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Godber, J. B.Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)Thorneyoroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Gomme-Dunoan, Col. Sir AlanMacpherson, Niall (Dumfrles)Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Gough, C. F. H.Maddan, Martin
Cower, H. R.Maltland, Cdr. J.F.W. (Hornoastle)Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Touohe, Sir Gordon
Graham, Sir FergusMaitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)Turner, H. F. L.
Grant, W. (Woodside)Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)Markham, Major Sir FrankTweedsmulr, Lady
Green, A.Marples, A. E.Vane, W. M. F.
Gresham Cooke, R.Marshall, DouglasVosper, D. F.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)Mathew, R.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Crimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Maudllng, Rt. Hon. R.Walker-Smith, D. C.
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Mawby, R. L.Wall, Major Patrick
Gurden, HaroldMaydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Hall, John (Wyoombe)Medllcott, Sir FrankWebbe, Sir H.
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)
Harris, Reader (Heston)Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir WalterWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)Moore, Sir ThomasWilliams, H. Dudley (Exeter)
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macelesfd)Mott-Radolyffe, C. E.Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Nabarro, G. D. N.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hay, JohnNairn, D. L. S.Woollam, John Victor
Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.Neave, AireyYates, William (The Wrekin)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelNield, Basil (Chester)
Heath, EdwardNoble, Comdr. A. H. P.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.Nugent, G. R. H.Colonel J. H. Harrison and
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)Oakshott, H. D.Mr. Barber.
Hill, John (S. Norfolk)O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, at the end to insert: (not being such a new dwelling as is mentioned in subsection (12) of this section)

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

This Amendment may be taken together with the Amendments which follow in similar terms in the names of the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) and the hon. Member for Staly-bridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn), and the Amendment in page 2, line 20, in the name of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde to add a new subsection (14).

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

We have heard a plea on behalf of miners. I make a plea on behalf of another section of the community, the farm workers. Nothing should be done to discourage the building of houses for the agricultural population. Clause 4 allows the Minister to add at his discretion £9 to the normal £10 subsidy in respect of a house for the agricultural worker. That will be a total subsidy of £19, to be compared with the existing agricultural subsidy of £31 1s., of which £22 1s. will be payable on any council house. The extra amount is left to the discretion of the Minister. The object of the Amendment is to continue the existing subsidies in respect of housing for the agricultural population, instead of making the reductions contemplated in the Bill.

Workers are leaving the farms at an alarming rate. No fewer than 100,000 farm workers have left farms in six years and, to the consternation of many of us, others are still leaving farms at the rate of thousands a year. If doubt is cast upon the figures I have quoted, let me add that they were compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture. It is safe to quote them as being of a most authoritative character.

Why do men leave the farms? I agree that many do so because of the great increase in mechanisation. Perhaps the machine is to a certain extent displacing the man. Another reason is low wages. There is still about £3 per week difference between the average wage of the farm worker and that of the industrial worker. I subscribe to the view that many men also leave the farms of this country because of bad housing conditions and lack of amenities.

This is not the time to cut down the building of rural houses, but unless local authorities receive encouragement in the form of adequate subsidies such houses will not be built, and the few that may be built with the aid of the subsidies that the Bill provides will be put up at such a cost to the local authorities as to make the rents prohibitive to farm workers. I am surprised that a Bill of this kind comes from the present Government. I support the idea that lack of houses causes the drift from the land, but there is a great deal to be said for the argument that lack of houses makes the women begin to think and to urge their men into the towns. Bad housing is at the root of much social discontent.

I have been in local government work for a good many years. I have served not only upon the county council but upon rural and urban district councils, so I know the problems. Local authorities have done a great deal to remedy the housing position and they are still anxious to get on with the job of providing additional accommodation. Now comes the Bill with its proposals which will halt the building of houses in the villages.

I have been interested to learn that 1,500 houses are to be built for United States airmen and their families. More than 200 of these houses will go up in my division. Although I do not object to such a scheme, I fear that farm workers in need of houses may feel that they should come first. The average cost of these houses is given as £3,500 and they will be rented by the American Air Force. I understand that we are building the houses in return for tobacco worth £5,300,000. Again, I do not object to attempts being made to ease the housing position of Americans at present living here. Whilst they are our guests we should see that they are properly housed, and I do not think that American service men should be left to the mercies of some private landlords of a kind that I know. Nor, as a smoker myself, do I object to our bringing tobacco into the country.

I want, however, to link this up with the matter now before the Committee by pointing out that our farm workers make a great contribution to our economic stability and can do even more. Farm production has increased enormously since pre-war days and farm workers are now amongst the greatest dollar savers we have. Why not build houses for them and get the return in an increased production of the foodstuffs which we so badly need? Nevertheless, even if councils continue to build the houses, the rents charged will determine whether or not the farm workers will occupy them, and in all parts of the country I have discovered areas in which the farm workers occupying council houses are being treated in the same way as industrial workers.

A document issued by a rural district council in Leicestershire bears on the present position. It is a notice issued by that council to all its tenants. It reads: It has been decided…to discontinue the present method"— that is, the method of charging rents— and to require tenants to pay a full economic rent, leaving the subsidies available as necessary to grant rebates of rent to tenants with small incomes. To implement this arrangement I am instructed to give you notice terminating your present tenancy on the 1st January, 1956, and to offer you a new tenancy as from the 2nd January, 1956, at…30s. 6d. plus rates, making a total rent of 37s. 10d., compared with the present rent of 25s. 1d. A farm workers' wage up to Monday of this week was £6 7s. a week. Out of that this council asks him to pay 37s. 10d. in rent alone. It is true that as from Monday the farm worker got an increase of 8s. a week, but that increase is swallowed up in rent before he ever receives it. The letter goes on: The council will grant rebates from the new rents to those tenants least able to afford them… And with the letter there was a form which the tenants were asked to fill up.

I made sure by writing to him that the man from whom I received the form was a farm worker. He replied: I can assure you that I am a farm worker, and have worked for my present employer since taking the tenancy of this council house five years next June. I might also add that we pay exactly the same rent as everyone else, that is including all farm workers living in the area. That, Sir, we do not really mind, as we feel it helps in our endeavour to ask for a decent wage in comparison with other workers. Now we stand together on this latest issue with the council and mean to fight it all we can. We have already formed a committee composed of one man from every village. Perhaps we shall get somewhere, but I might add that we are fighting a Conservative majority council. It is as well that my friends in that part of rural Britain should remind those who rule the roost that the farm workers have a real grievance.

8.15 p.m.

I can fairly describe the document accompanying the letter as the most humiliating document which a tenant could be asked to fill up. For instance, it asks him to state: Your total gross wages for the past three months. I suppose they mean to alter the rent every three months. It is jolly hard luck if, because a farm worker has put in a lot of overtime in one period of three months, his rent should be increased in the next period of three months when he might do no overtime at all.

But the most obnoxious part of the document is this: (a Certificate from your employer must be attached showing your wages for that period before any deductions.) In other words, even when he has filled in the form the council does not believe him and he must send the certificate referred to.

Other information is asked for: Is your wife gainfully employed? State the names and dates of birth of your children living at home. State the names, relationship and ages of any other persons living at the house. Give full details of amount and source of income other than wages or payments by children and lodgers. I suppose that the tenant not only has to reveal what he gets in wages and overtime, what, if anything, his wife brings in—and perhaps what the poor old father or father-in-law living there brings in; he also has to disclose, I imagine, any savings in the Post Office Savings Bank. I suppose, also, that a disabled ex-Service man must state the amount of his pension. I do not think that I go too far when I refer to that as a most humiliating document. I do not say that such procedure is general; I merely point out that this came into my possession. When I asked the friend who handed it to me in Leicester," Will you not fill in the form and secure the rebate? "he replied," No, I will give it to you. You can do more good with it than I can. It is for that reason that I have read it to the Committee.

I appeal to the Minister to consider sympathetically the points I have made. I ask him to regard the peculiar needs of the farm workers in the way that they should be regarded, and to tell us why he should not allow the present subsidies to continue. If the Minister would only think again about this and allow councils to build houses for farm workers the return would be very great indeed, not merely in terms of the happiness and comfort of those so housed but in terms of the country's economic stability.

Photo of Mr Percy Wells Mr Percy Wells , Faversham

I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) has overstated his case, because this is indeed a very serious matter for agriculture. I had hoped that this Amendment would receive the support of some Members opposite, but, unfortunately, their benches are almost empty.

From time to time hon. Members opposite have told us that men were leaving agriculture not only because of wages, but because—and mainly because—of housing difficulties. We know that to be true. They are leaving the industry because of the lack of amenities in the countryside, and that reason has also been stated by the representatives of the National Farmers' Union on the Agricultural Wages Board when applications from the Agricultural Workers' Union for an increase in wages have been considered.

If one wants still further impartial reinforcement of this argument, I noticed in a recent issue of the Farmer and Stockbreederthat a Mr. John Young, a farmer in King's Lynn, Norfolk, said: There is another aspect of the labour question in need of a new approach: the status of the farm worker—The standard of housing has a good deal to do with it. Many jobs on a farm have to be done among dust and dirt, yet a vast number of dwellings have no bath or hot waiter system. Many have no electric light or satisfactory sanitary arrangements. Any other section of the community regards these things as part and parcel of modern living. It is hardly surprising that country women urge their sons to look beyond farm work for better prospects and amenities. That is absolutely true.

What will happen if this Amendment is rejected? As has already been said, thousands of agricultural workers are leaving the land yearly. It is frequently said that agricultural workers do not go on strike. But there has been a strike of agricultural workers for the last six years. They have been striking in the most effective way. They are striking by leaving the industry altogether; 110,000 of them have done it, and if that continues it will be disastrous.

If this Bill reaches the Statute Book in its present form and if this appeal to the Minister through this Amendment is ignored, the farmer who himself wants to build a house to accommodate a stockman, horseman, shepherd or someone whom it is necessary to have on the job to look after the stock, instead of getting for 40 years the £15 that he gets at present, will have to be satisfied with a £10 subsidy. That means an addition to the rent of the agricultural worker of about 1s. 11d. a week.

As the mover of the Amendment pointed out, since April of last year there has been a reduction in the subsidy for local authority houses from £35 14s. to £31 1s., and it is possible that it will be reduced to £19. The reduction may be even more, because the Bill says: If the Minister thinks fit so to determine he may give the extra £9. Therefore, if the Minister does not so determine, it may be as little as £10. But assuming that the subsidy is £19, we have a reduction of just over £12 a year which is equivalent to 4s. 7½d. a week in rent. This is in addition to the increases that must take place as a result of the increases in the loan charges.

Who is to meet this extra cost? My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North said that eventually it will fall upon the agricultural worker if he occupies a new house built under the new scheme and he will have to pay much more rent. As has already been said, the 8s. increase which the agricultural worker receives in his wages from Monday has already been absorbed in the increases which will take place as a result of the increased loan charges and the effects of this Bill.

How does the Minister suppose it is possible for those responsible for securing decent conditions for agricultural workers to ask the workers to restrain themselves from applying for further increases in wages? In addition—and this is much more important—how does the Minister of Agriculture think he is going to stop the drift from the land if this Amendment is not accepted?

I know it is said that much of the difficulty of increases in rents will be overcome if differential rating is put into operation. I am in agreement with the Chairman of the East Ashford Rural District Council Housing Committee, a friend of the former Parliamentary Secretary, who said: We can, we are told, apply differential rents, thereby making the well off pay so much that the 'profit' can be applied for the relief of the 'poorer' tenants. How many tenants in a truly agricultural village can pay the economic rent? We may have to use differential rents to get a balance in our housing revenue account, but they will be of no assistance at all if we embarked on building under the new conditions. There is little doubt that the Chancellor's decision has put an end to rural housing: perhaps for a time, for a very long time. In my own constituency, which is adjacent to the Ashford constituency, one sees in the local newspaper from time to time headlines such as these: Reduced subsidies hit rural housing. Swale R.D.C. to build for slum clearance only. Effect of subsidy cuts may force farm-workers to look for cheaper accommodation. I doubt whether the latter headline is correct. What farm-workers are really doing in that area is to look for another job.

In the same article to which I have referred the Chairman of the East Ashford Rural District Council Housing Committee said: Many rural councils had before the Budget been slowed down to the point of building only in the larger villages…In our case the rise in the interest rate on loans to 5 per cent. forced us into the decision less than two months ago, when we abandoned several schemes in our small purely farming villages…We did this because experience had shown us that the rents had already risen to a point when they were prohibitive to farm-worker tenants but conscious of our waiting list (still around the 200 mark) we still had until the Budget, a housing programme. My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment and I have spent more years than either of us cares to remember in trying to raise the standard of the agricultural worker and we know how difficult is this question of housing in the countryside. Although much has been done in recent years, not nearly enough has been done to enable us to secure for our people the conditions that we would like them to have.

My hon. Friend and I have appealed to the farm workers, particularly during the war, on the question of production. Since the war we have appealed to them again and have asked them to do their utmost to help to get the country out of its economic difficulties. No other body of workers has responded better than the agricultural workers. They have increased production to 56 per cent. above the pre-war figure, which is no mean achievement.

They are responsible for producing a tremendous amount to enable us to overcome our balance of trade difficulties each year. The value of imports from foreign countries which they have saved has been stated officially to be in the region of £400 million a year. That is no small achievement. It is because we know these things, and because we know that if the Amendment is not accepted the Bill will be disastrous from the point of view of agricultural production, that we ask the Minister and the Committee to accept the Amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Fred Blackburn Mr Fred Blackburn , Stalybridge and Hyde

It has been decided that my Amendment shall be taken in conjunction with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). I apologise to the Committee for taking for a few moments thoughts away from the problem of agricultural dwellings to a problem more nearly concerned with some of the urban areas.

Both my Amendment and that of my hon. Friend are linked with Section 3 of the 1946 Act, which deals with the special and standard amount of Exchequer contribution. Section 3 (1) of the 1946 Act makes special provision for agricultural dwellings. As has been pointed out, this Bill makes some provision for increased subsidy for agricultural dwellings under Clause 4, but there is no provision whatever for the type of local authority dwelling with which my Amendment is concerned. Whether that is by malice aforethought or by oversight, perhaps the Minister will tell us when he replies.

There is no reference in the Bill to the type of dwelling covered by Section 3 (2) of the 1946 Act. Perhaps I can best explain the problem by reading the relevant section. Subsection (1) deals with houses for the agricultural population. Subsection (2) states: Where the Minister is satisfied, on an application made to him by the council of a county district with respect to any house which the council have provided or intend to provide—

  • (b) that the average rent of houses in the district occupied by wage earning workers, or by persons whose economic condition is similar to that of wage earning workers, is, where the district is a borough or urban district, substantially less than the average rent of houses so occupied in non-county boroughs and urban districts in England generally, and, where the district is a rural district, substantially less than the average rent of houses so occupied in rural districts in England generally; and
  • (c)that when the amount of the expenditure incurred or to be incurred by the council of the county district under the enactments relating to housing is considered in relation to the financial resources of the district, the provision of the house with respect to which the application is made would impose an undue burden on the district, unless the standard amount of the annual exchequer contribution for the house is determined in accordance with this subsection;
then, if the Minister thinks fit so to determine, the standard amount of the annual exchequer contribution…shall…be the special standard amount;"

That has been entirely omitted from the Bill.

A month or two ago, before the Second Reading, the Dukinfield Council in my constituency, with the permission of the Minister, made application under Section 3 (2) of the 1946 Act with a view to reducing the rents of new council houses and easing the rate burden. I admit that the reply received was not very helpful, but it was with the permission of the Minister that application could be made.

Perhaps I should explain the reason for this application It is estimated that the average rent of working-class houses in the borough of Dukinfield is 6s. 10d. per week. It is quite obvious that that is much lower than the average for non-county boroughs and urban districts throughout the rest of the country. But for taking money from balances, the rate last year would have been 2s. in the £ more than the average rate for all the non-county boroughs in the country, and the housing rate is just about double the housing rate for all the non-county boroughs.

It may be said by the Minister that the sort of problem I have in mind is perhaps covered by Clause 5, but I think the Minister will agree that Clause 5 is extremely vague. I need only refer to the last part of the Clause, which says: In exercising his powers under this section the Minister shall have regard to any conditions which may be laid down by the Treasury. I wonder when we are likely to know what those conditions may be. Subsection (1, b) of the Clause says: that unless the Minister exercises his powers under this section that housing accommodation could not be provided without imposing an unreasonably heavy rate burden… From the figures I have given, I think it is quite clear that the rate burden is heavy in this case as compared with the non-county boroughs and urban districts generally.

I suppose that this matter could be considered under Clause 5, but if the Minister says that the type of problem with which I am concerned can be considered under that Clause, surely he should have no objection to making the position more definite either by accepting my Amendment or by putting teeth into Clause 5.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

I wish to return to the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. P. Wells), because I consider it to be of the very greatest importance.

As it stands, the Bill deals a savage blow at those rural district councils which, under very great difficulties, are trying to provide proper housing accommodation for the agricultural population. For various reasons it was not possible at the end of the war to proceed with housing schemes for agricultural workers in many rural areas, particularly in the more remote parts of the country. In addition, some rural district councils were reluctant to build houses under any circumstances; but, taking the majority of rural district councils, very real obstacles were in their way although they were anxious to provide houses for the agricultural population. We should remember that the needs of the countryside were as great as those of most of the towns because there had been no appreciable building by local authorities in the rural areas before the war.

Hon. Members may remember the inquiry conducted before the war by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). That inquiry shocked the country because it revealed appalling housing conditions in rural Wales. People were contracting tuber-culosis because of the conditions under which they were living. The grim fact is that in Anglesey today many people still live in houses which were condemned twenty years ago and still contract this disease because of housing conditions. I mention this to illustrate what little progress has been made in the rural areas and what a large backlog remains to be made up.

One of the biggest obstacles in Anglesey was the lack of a county water scheme. In this comparatively flat island county there was no provision for piped water to the farms and villages, and the absence of proper sewerage facilities has retarded the development of housing schemes. For about ten years, the Anglesey County Council has been developing a county water scheme and it is making very satisfactory progress. A scheme of that kind cannot, however, be completed overnight, and because there was no piped water and no sewerage in 1946, is the agricultural population of Anglesey now to be penalised? It is no fault of theirs that there was no sewerage scheme.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

The hon. Member is widening his argument beyond the scope of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

With respect, Sir Rhys, what I am trying to say is that shortly after the war it was impossible to proceed with housing schemes in the county because of the lack of piped water and sewerage and that, therefore, the local authorities were not able to build and take advantage of the subsidies. That is a valid argument and is, I submit, within the scope of the Amendment before the Committee. In any event, I do not propose to enlarge further upon it. That was the first obstacle which stood in our way, the lack of a county water scheme.

The second obstacle in the county was the lack of builders. Anglesey is an island in the north-west corner of Wales. One of the major difficulties in 1946 was to find builders who would tender on the necessary scale. For this reason, the building of houses in the agricultural districts for the agricultural population started late and the tempo was much slower in those areas than elsewhere. Is the area now to be penalised because of that? It is monstrous that for purely geographical reasons our people are to be deprived of the chance of obtaining proper housing conditions.

What will happen? My hon. Friends have mentioned the drift from the land. At this rate the agricultural workers will continue to leave the land, and who can blame them? They are leaving because of the lack of amenities, of which housing is the most important. In paragraph 58 of their White Paper on Rural Wales, the Government said that they intend to help the people of the Welsh countryside to achieve a higher standard of living and a greater sense of security… But this Bill, coupled with the Chancellor's message to local authorities, makes the future look very bleak indeed for our rural areas.

The Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate what great efforts are being made to try to rehabilitate the Welsh countryside. This Bill militates against those efforts. The Amendment tries to stop some of the rot which is setting in and I hope that the Government will have the sympathy and the common sense to accept it.

Photo of Sir Leslie Plummer Sir Leslie Plummer , Deptford

My hon. Friends who have spoken before me on the Amendment have stressed its importance, and I think that it is very important too. It is important enough to make a comment on the fact that there is not a single Conservative Member representing an agricultural constituency sitting on the benches opposite even though we are discussing the future of the housing of agricultural workers. But the absence of any representation of that kind on the Government benches does not belittle the importance of the Amendment.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

I think the hon. Member is mistaken. There is one Member here, at any rate.

8.45 p.m.

Photo of Sir Leslie Plummer Sir Leslie Plummer , Deptford

I accept the correction. I should like it on the record that, from among all the scores of Conservative Members who sit for rural constituencies, there is one present at this debate. I am obliged to the hon. Member for helping me to put that on the record.

I wish that the Money Resolution had not been drawn so narrowly that we cannot move an Amendment to increase the subsidy for agricultural workers' houses. The one inhibiting factor against a steady influx of labour into agriculture is the appalling housing conditions which still exist in the rural areas. All of us who live in the rural areas know this.

It is said by the protagonists of the Bill in the Committee and outside that the time has now arrived when it is quite proper and possible for the working people of the country to pay what is described as an economic rent, and there is adduced in proof of this argument the fact that wherever we go we can see in working class streets television aerials. In the village in which I live there is proportionately an equal number of television aerials, in relation to the number of houses to the number of television aerials in relation to the number of houses in the London constituency for which I sit, but that is no expression of great wealth or great prosperity among the people living in those rural houses. The fact is that television has come to relieve the tedium of living in the countryside, and it cannot be argued that because there are television aerials in the villages of this country the people——

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I cannot think that this is relevant to the question of the subsidy for rural housing.

Photo of Sir Leslie Plummer Sir Leslie Plummer , Deptford

With respect, Sir Rhys, I would suggest that the result of reducing the subsidy for agricultural houses is to increase the rents of the tenants of those houses, and the argument of the Government is that they can well afford to pay those increased rents. This argument has been adduced before, and it may be true, for all I know, of industrial workers. All I am saying is that it is utterly untrue of agricultural workers. The evidence adduced—in the shape of television aerials—that industrial workers can afford to pay increased rents is not evidence that the agricultural workers can. However, I submit to your Ruling, and I shall not pursue that argument any further.

This decision to reduce the subsidy for agricultural houses comes at a very difficult time indeed. Those of us who live in East Anglia are surrounded by American airfields, and we know, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) said, that the Government are now proposing to build houses for American airmen and their families. All of us in East Anglia know that the land is being surveyed, that the materials are ready for the building of houses far superior to anything that the rural local authorities are building for British workers. The idea has got around that those houses are to be let to American airmen and their families for £1 a year. I agree that that is a misconception of the situation, but at this day, when these things are going on and that notion has got around, to introduce legislation which means that the agricultural workers have to find more money for rent is a piece of mistiming that really is a quite significant one.

Through all the rural areas now the councils, almost all of them Tory, are deciding to cut the number of houses they will build. I refer the Parliamentary Secretary to yesterday's issue of the East Anglian Daily Times,which contains one of a series of articles surveying the plans for building in the rural areas of East Anglia, and which shows a quite significant cut in the building programme of almost every local authority. The figures show that there has been some diminution in the waiting lists but that the cut in the number of houses to be built is disproportionate to that diminution. How in these circumstances are we to maintain a vigorous and flourishing agriculture?

My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North knows better than anyone else that it is comparatively easy to get farm workers to look after machinery and to work five and a half days a week, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to get agricultural workers to work seven days a week, tending pigs, milking cows, and doing jobs of that kind. Many of them, by the nature of their occupation, have cottages down a muddy lane. What they require are houses on a hard road near the village, or in the village, and near a school.

At the moment, when British agriculture is facing a crisis, and at the moment when this nation is facing a balance of payment crisis, the Government come along to make it more difficult to supply the houses for agricultural workers. So we get, as it were, a double betrayal—a betrayal of agriculture and a betrayal of the tenant. There is now a direct incentive to the rural authorities which are not, to say the least of it, progressive, to stop or to curtail their building programmes. This will have effects which really are quite disturbing.

Finally, I want to say this. The agricultural community, when there was a return of a Tory Government, thought that one thing which would be done away with would be snooping and forms. It is quite clear, from what my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North said, that employers are to be asked to send in yet another form, certifying what the worker gets each week, so that he may have his rent assessed under some sort of differential rent scheme. That is a new kind of snooping. This is a new kind of form, and I have made it perfectly clear in the area in which I live and where I employ some 20 agricultural workers that I will give no information about their earnings or wages to anybody except the income tax collector. I hope that other employers will do the same.

I think that this is a more important Amendment than the one about miners' houses. I think that agricultural workers are the most important section of our community, and I shall do what I can to press upon the Government the realisation of what they are doing now through this Bill, and to tell the right hon. Gentleman that to refuse this Amendment is to make more difficult the lot both of the agricultural worker and the farmer.

Photo of Mr Victor Collins Mr Victor Collins , Shoreditch and Finsbury

I think that every hon. Member will accept three propositions, The first is that an increase in agricultural production would be the most important contribution that could be made to improving our balance of payments; the second is that the wages of agricultural workers, compared with those of other workers of equal skill, are too low, and the third is that one of the most important factors in the drift from the land, which we all deplore, is the lack of social amenities, particularly houses in the rural areas.

I do not think that these three points can be controverted, nor do I think that the Parliamentary Secretary or his right hon. Friend can deny that this part of the Bill, if the Government do not accept the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch), will be an added burden in the countryside and will have the direct effect of still further reducing agricultural production.

If that is true, and I believe it is, it will be sheer humbug for the Minister of Agriculture or, indeed, for any hon. Member opposite to talk about regretting the decline in the population of the countryside and promising to do something about it, if on an occasion like this, when they have the chance at least to help, or, shall I say, to avoid hindering the amenities of the countryside, they will not take it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dept-ford (Sir L. Plummer) has drawn attention to the fact that there is only one Conservative Member representing a rural or semi-rural area now sitting on the benches opposite. I once represented a rural area—the division of Taunton. About six Members of Parliament represent Somerset, all Conservatives, and not one of them is seated on the benches opposite today. I rather thought that that might be the case and, so that that area should not be entirely unrepresented in this debate on housing, I took the precaution of studying the local Press to ascertain the views of local authorities in those areas.

The former Member for Taunton has been translated to another place and presumably no voice on the other side of the Committee can be heard on behalf of Taunton today. I read in the local Taunton newspaper only a week ago that there was a local debate on this matter and a statement was made that as a result of the abolition of subsidies and of the imposition of higher interest rates the rent for a three-bedroomed council house would rise to 47s. 9d. per week, and we all know that some farm workers have reasonably large families. I am glad to see that at long last the Minister of Agriculture has come to his place on the Front Bench. I noticed a rather hurried consultation among the Whips a little while ago, and we are very glad tosee the Minister. He comes from the West Country and I am sure that he can confirm that what I am saying is true.

The increase of rent to 47s. 9d. per week represents a rise of 20s. 7d. Hon. Members opposite will say that we can have a differential rent scheme and that those who can afford it will pay a great deal more and those who cannot will pay less, but this increase of 20s. 7d. represents more than the subsidy. To bring the rent to a reasonable figure which the farm worker can afford will require a far bigger subsidy. The farm worker receives a minimum wage of £6 10s. a week after paying insurance. It will be argued that some farm workers drive tractors and work all the hours that God sends, but, nevertheless, a great many of them are on a minimum wage of about £6 10s. a week take-home pay.

The Minister is now creating a situation in which a farm worker of that kind will be asked to pay 47s. 9d. a week, or more than one-third of his income, in rent. It is quite impossible. It can only mean driving a further nail into the coffin of country life and driving good men away from the countryside because they cannot afford a decent house and because their wives and children will not stay in the country. I do not think that can be denied.

I should like to mention another neighbouring constituency in Somerset. I know that the hon. Member who represents that constituency will be very glad that I have raised the matter because he is a Government Whip and therefore cannot speak for himself. It is the constituency of Bridgwater, held with a comfortable Conservative majority. There is also a Conservative majority on Bridgwater Town Council. Quite recently, that town council passed a resolution, with only one dissentient, thoroughly condemning the proposals contained in this Bill. Although a majority of the members were Conservatives, they knew the very bad effect which the Bill would have on housing in the countryside. They knew that it would increase rents and curtail their housing activities, and, with that all but unanimous vote, they decided to join in a resolution passed by hundreds of local authorities, particularly in the rural areas, condemning the Bill. The two Somerset divisions, with big Tory majorities, which I have mentioned, condemned the Bill by bell, book and candle.

9.0 p.m.

I would mention just one more in Somerset, the Wells division, which is represented by an hon. and gallant Member who has a great interest in agriculture. Indeed, so great is his interest that he made a speech quite recently in his constituency when he proposed the toast of "Agriculture." He is reported as having said: If the farm workers' wages were increased, then at the next Price Review the cost of food would inevitably go up. This would immediately result in a round of fresh demands… He did not know the answer to the problem, but he hoped his audience would go home and think deeply about it. Perhaps then a solution would be found. In other words, he did not know the answer to the problem. He did not know what possibly could be done, but he felt that, after hearing him speak, if the audience went home and thought deeply about it they would find a solution. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the hon. and gallant Member now?"] He is not on the benches opposite. It might be that the solution the audience will find will be to turn him out at the next election and find some one who will know something about it. Perhaps the people of Taunton will give a lead in the matter in the by-election shortly.

The point is that he did not know what to do about the farm worker not getting enough wages, because if he did get a reasonable wage that would cause a rise in prices at the next Price Review. What is happening in his division is that the local authorities are becoming so concerned about the effects of the Bill that they are wondering what they are to do. I have here a report of the Glastonbury Urban District Council which is right in the heart of the Wells division. It has given consideration to this very matter and said that there must be a very substantial increase in rents. In particular, it discussed slum clearance, which is dealt with in the Bill. A worthy Alderman said that the council had a programme to demolish 50 houses at the rate of ten a year commencing with some in Grope Lane—50 houses to be demolished under slum clearance at the rate of ten a year for five years, and beginning in Grope Lane. What images that word conjures up—Grope Lane; one cannot imagine a better name.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

I think that the hon. Member is now departing from the subject of the agricultural house.

Photo of Mr Victor Collins Mr Victor Collins , Shoreditch and Finsbury

I am right on the agricultural house. This is Glastonbury, a rural area in the heart of Somerset where a high proportion of the residents are farm workers.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Carmarthen

Yes, but the Amendment does not deal with slum clearance.

Photo of Mr Victor Collins Mr Victor Collins , Shoreditch and Finsbury

In another half sentence, I come to the point. This was the programme. Another alderman said he did not see how they could proceed with the slum clearance programme because if they demolished these houses the adjacent property would fall down. In other words, if these houses were removed, the adjacent property would fall down. One can imagine how bad it is. It is the adjacent property I am talking about, because unless local authorities can have a reasonable subsidy to build houses for farm workers then it is manifestly impossible for them to proceed. That is the point.

If they cannot get on with the slum clearance programme, how can they get on with housing for agricultural workers. This is a very serious business. We have had Amendments moved today and at earlier stages because of its importance. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have thought that it seemed impossible for the Minister not to give way and make some concession. Some of the Amendments have been moved on the ground of sentiment, such as the homes for old people. This Amendment is based on the grounds of hard economic facts.

If we will not create conditions which will keep farm workers on the countryside we cannot maintain the production of food. That is an unanswerable statement. It is equally unanswerable that farm workers will not be able to pay the rents that will have to be demanded unless they have a substantial subsidy. Finally, it is unanswerable that the local authorities, whatever their good will in the matter, will become so discouraged by this kind of thing, so afraid that even if they built the houses they would not be able to let them at the rents demanded, that they will not in any case go on building.

I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary or his right hon. Friend will reply to this debate, but I hope that whoever replies will have the honesty to deal with those hard facts which I believe are unanswerable. If this Amendment is not accepted, let us have an answer to the points put forward, so that it will be clear that the Government have given one more example and have produced one more proof that they are not a bit interested in the agricultural production of this country.

Photo of Mr Sidney Dye Mr Sidney Dye , South West Norfolk

I support the Amendment because I think it vital to food production in this country. It has already been pointed out that one of the causes of the falling off in the number of men employed in agriculture is the lack of amenities, including decent housing. So often hon. Gentlemen opposite pay lip service to the idea that to retain men in agriculture, modern amenities, including decent housing, must be provided. I suppose that hardly one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite elected at the last General Election to represent rural constituencies did not promise that; did not say that they were in favour of building more houses to meet the needs of the agricultural industry.

It was pointed out a short while ago that although this subject was being debated, only one Conservative representing an agricultural constituency was in the Chamber—and that in the very week when the National Farmers' Union was holding its annual meeting in London. Hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to parade the fact to the farmers that what they say on their political platforms has nothing to do with what they do when they get to Westminster. They will not even attend a debate when matters relating to the welfare of their constituents are being discussed. I consider it an appalling fact that members of the party which is governing this country, where there are a hundred constituencies which are mainly agricultural, and which most wrongly and foolishly returned Tory representatives, do not even show themselves in this Chamber.

One unfortunate Member, the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Sir F. Medlicott), having recorded his vote in the last Division against a scheme for the housing of old people, comes into the Chamber now and tries to read something other than matters connected with this debate——

Photo of Sir Frank Medlicott Sir Frank Medlicott , Norfolk Central

May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman?

Photo of Mr Sidney Dye Mr Sidney Dye , South West Norfolk

Certainly. I wished to get the hon. Gentleman to his feet.

Photo of Sir Frank Medlicott Sir Frank Medlicott , Norfolk Central

I was reading the text of the Bill and the Amendment to which the hon. Gentleman is speaking.

Photo of Mr Sidney Dye Mr Sidney Dye , South West Norfolk

I am very glad that the hon. Member, who has just come into the Chamber again, is beginning to read something which has to do with the debate. The debate on this Amendment started an hour ago and we have now made the astounding discovery that not only do hon. Gentlemen opposite hardly ever attend when matters relating to agriculture are being debated but that, after a debate has been proceeding for so long, one of them begins to read something of what it is about. That is the position as we have it from the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central. Having had it drawn to his attention he immediately casts it on one side.

That is as far as he is going to be interested until it comes to voting, and then he will vote against the very things which he said he would do when he spoke to his electors at the General Election. He, with every other Tory candidate standing in Norfolk at the last Election, promised that he was going to attempt to accelerate the rate of house building for agricultural needs, yet when he is put to it he cannot, and does something entirely different.

It borders upon the dishonourable to say, when one is asking for votes during an Election campaign, that one will support agriculture by every means at one's disposal, and then fail to do so when it comes to the vital question of how we are to retain the agricultural population. It is a vital question. Four years of Tory Government have seen 81,000 men leave the land. Those are the 1st June returns quoted in the Statistical Digest for the four years from 1951 to 1955. For the last year they were greater—they were 24,000—but over the four years the average is just over 20,000. It is going up at an alarming rate, to 24,000 a year.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

Could the right hon. Gentleman further enlighten the Committee by telling us the number of men who left the land in the years 1945 to 1951?

Photo of Mr Sidney Dye Mr Sidney Dye , South West Norfolk

In the years 1945 to 1950 there was an increase in the number of those employed on the land. So, also, was there an increase in production every year. Because of the falling off in the number of people who are employed on the land—very largely because of this question of housing—we have now reached a position where there is a fall in the output of those classes of food which require personal attention. We can increase the production of such things as cereals where it is a question of mechanisation, but there is an appalling falling off in the number of fat cattle that were produced in the past year as compared with previous years.

Pig production is falling off alarmingly, and we are seeing the turn of the tide against agriculture. We cannot maintain production in agriculture unless we have skilled and interested people working on the farms. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite give lip service to agriculture at every Election and at every meeting to which they go. Here is a challenge to them: Do they, tonight, intend to do the same as they did to the poor old people, and say, "Not now. It is pie in the sky when you die"? Are they going to say the same about houses? There has been a falling off in the number of houses built for agricultural workers. Are they not going to be concerned about it?

I speak not only as the Member for South-West Norfolk, but as a member of the Swaffham Rural District Council. This council has already taken its decision for the next year; it is not going to build any houses for farm workers. It has limited its programme of new houses to 40 bungalows, and over the last eight years it has built an average of 70 houses a year. Therefore, 40 bungalows actually represent a cut of 50 per cent. in its programme, from the point of view of accommodation and of cost, with regard to the number of people that can be housed.

Other councils in Norfolk and in the Eastern Counties have already taken the decision to build no new houses in rural areas. We have, therefore, arrived at the position when rural districts—largely with Conservative majorities—have taken a decision not to build new houses because of the increasing cost of the houses, the cost of the loans, and the lowering of the subsidies. This must inevitably be reflected in the production of food in the next few years. If the credit squeeze which is going on results in unemployment in other industries there may be difficulties in agriculture too.

9.15 p.m.

This is a vital matter. On the previous Amendment the argument was not that the subsidy should be used to lower rents but that it should be an incentive to councils to build for old people. The object of this Amendment is to give an incentive to rural councils in agricultural England to attempt to arrest the drift and the flight from the land and to encourage people to stay there in decent homes.

If there is a Division on the Amendment with only a very small Government majority against it, it will be open to Government supporters, so far as their consciences and their constituencies are concerned—they may not have the one but they certainly have the other or they would not be here—in a period when by-elections are taking place in agricultural constituencies, to demonstrate to the people beyond any doubt that a party is in power which pays only lip-service to the problems and the aspirations of the agricultural community.

When the Conservative party is challenged, as it was not long ago by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), to do something about the provision of old people's bungalows by providing the incentive of a special subsidy, that party turned tail and its members flocked into the voting Lobbies, although the great mass of them had not heard a word of the debate. They will be called by the Whips to vote down any Measure that would benefit the farm workers. This benefit can be given in no better way than by the provision of decent modern houses.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) can remember with satisfaction that the attendance on the Tory benches rose by many hundreds per cent. while he was talking. It rose from three to its present number, at twenty minutes past nine. I wonder why Government supporters have come in now? [An HON. MEMBER: "To hear you."] In that case, I withdraw the compliment from my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West, and take it to myself.

My hon. Friend referred to a conference taking place not far from here this week and associated with agriculture. I noticed that one delegate there said that agriculture had never prospered under a Tory Government. I shall not argue that point, but we can say that the agricultural worker has never prospered under a Tory Government. A Government supporter seems to be smiling. I always thought that he and his party were the friends of the countryside, the people who are supposed to stand by rural England and the agricultural industry, yet during their period of office the countryside is being depopulated week after week, month after month, year after year. This Bill will aggravate that process to a very large etxent.

In an interjection earlier I referred to a conference which took place last Friday in the Central Hall, Westminster, when a very important local authority association passed a resolution condemning the present Government and asking for the withdrawal of this Bill. The president of that association is the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston), and a large number of its vice-presidents sit opposite. None of them is present now. Had they been present and so displayed their interest in that association's affairs they would have been able to confirm what I am about to say.

The speech which, at the conclusion of that conference, perhaps made all the difference to a large number of delegates, was made by a woman representing the Conservative council of a small country town. She said that she came from a dying community, from which the young men and women were moving into the bigger towns because of the greater opportunity of community life and decent living conditions. She then said, as a Conservative—and on behalf of those rural areas and those small towns I repeat what she said—that, if given legislative effect this Bill will mean that those dying towns will die more quickly, and the rural areas will be even more rapidly depopulated.

My constituency is two-thirds rural, and in the majority of its villages no local authority houses at all had been built until 1946. From 1919 to 1939 not a single council house was built in those villages. From 1945 to 1951 building went on apace, and although building has slackened off a little since 1951, houses are still being built. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there are comparatively few such houses in each village. Some villages have perhaps gone up to as many as 100 houses, but most vary from 20 to 40 houses.

If those villages are to be maintained houses are still needed, but how can the local authorities spread the cost over the existing houses? The Minister, in justifying this Bill, and classing agricultural and urban areas together, has said that if a local authority pools all its subsidies and spreads them over the new houses it builds the increased cost will not amount to very much, but there are hundreds and hundreds of villages in this country which have only a comparatively few houses. Are they to spread the cost over those few? What difference will that make?

The Minister has heard my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) give an instance of a means test taking place in a rural district—a means test which the Minister is encouraging throughout rural areas. That means test concerns the rent to be paid by the agricultural worker, but the agricultural worker is not the only person to be subsidised in rural areas. Is there a means test by the Minister of Agriculture with respect to the other subsidies which are paid to the farmer? There is a subsidy and no means test for the farmer, but there is a means test on rent for the farmworker.

The position is even worse than that. Among the problems of the rural areas are the financial difficulties of the rural district councils. These financial difficulties are aggravated by the fact that the whole of the agricultural industry is derated. No farmer has to justify by a means test that he is entitled to a subsidy in the form of paying no rates. Why is there this selection of putting a special penalty on the agricultural worker?

Can we wonder that the agricultural workers, with the penalty of having a worse wages structure and worse working conditions than the industrial worker, and then subjected to the indignity of a means test on rent, are drifting from the rural areas to the towns? Many of them are kept in the rural areas, in spite of having to put up with these conditions, because they like the countryside, they like working in the open air and because there still seems to be in the agricultural industry a degree of loyalty between employer and employee which does not seem to exist in the urban areas.

Photo of Mr William Yates Mr William Yates , The Wrekin

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to change that arrangement?

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

No, I want to improve the situation. What is to the everlasting credit of the Labour Government is that they took housing, water, sanitation and electricity to the rural areas which had until then been deprived of those amenities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is all very well hon. Members opposite saying "Oh," but whole rural areas were deprived of water, sanitation and electric light until the Labour Government came into power in 1945. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which areas?"] The areas of hon. Members opposite. Those areas are no different from my constituency in Northamptonshire, or Hertfordshire where I worked as a member of a local authority for many years. Of course, hon. Members opposite try to belittle these improvements. It is because of these conditions to which I have referred in rural areas that we on this side of the Committee think that this subsidy ought to be increased.

I referred just now to the difficulties of rural district council finance. Few people with any local government knowledge at all would deny that the rural district council, with its low rateable value and sparse population, has a very difficult job in providing a standard of service for its residents on the same basis as the urban authority. It is impossible for it to do so. Even in housing, the progress which was arranged between 1945 and 1951 was only possible because the 1946 Act enabled county councils to assist the rural district councils in meeting a subsidy charge. Over and above that, the financial resources of the rural district councils are not such that they could take on a heavy rate charge, if they desired to do so as could a county borough, municipal borough or urban district.

9.30 p.m.

On all counts, therefore, there is a special case for the acceptance of the Amendment—the difficulties of the agricultural industry, the general standard of wages in the rural areas, the desirability of maintaining an agricultural population and of giving as high a standard of housing as possible in the rural areas and the complete inability of a rural district council to provide housing on a normal rate charge basis. There is a special case for giving to the agricultural industry and to the rural district councils as its instrument in housing the opportunity of receiving this additional subsidy.

On his first day on the Front Bench the Parliamentary Secretary has not had very much opportunity to give anything away. We are getting towards the close of this day's proceedings, and I hope that on this occasion he will accept the Amendment or at least give some indication that he is prepared to help the rural district councils to maintain the provision of housing in the rural areas and to make a contribution towards maintaining the labour force in the agricultural industry. I hope he will see that the Government and local authorities combine to help the agricultural industry, which is so vital to the economic stability of the country.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

In considering the Amendment, I should like to remind the Committee of the background of the agricultural housing subsidy. Ever since the present system of subsidy was introduced in 1946, an additional £9 has been payable on top of the general standard amount, as it is technically called. Since the Act of 1952 that £9 has been payable—and I notice that specific attention is directed to the fact in the Amendment which we are considering with this Amendment—at the discretion of the Minister.

The reason for which that £9 supplement, if I may so call it, was introduced and was continued was to take account of the special difficulties and cost of constructing houses which can be encountered in the deep rural areas.

For example, my right hon. Friend's predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, said on 6th May, 1952, in Committee on the 1952 Housing Bill: There is still the great difficulty and problem of building houses at reasonable prices in many agricultural areas. There are great problems because very often a hillside has to be built on, or the locality is difficult, the sewerage difficult and those difficulties make a particular kind of scheme an expensive scheme."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, Standing Committee A,6th May, 1952; c. 59.] He might also have drawn attention to the extra costs of transporting materials and labour to a remote site which can also be encountered. It was to deal with all these peculiarities which attach to some housing sites in agricultural areas that the £9 supplement was devised and was continued until the present time.

That supplement is unaltered by the present Bill, for if hon. Members look at Clause 4 they will see that the £9 is still payable in addition to the new general needs subsidy. If the special conditions which differentiate the costs of houses under those rural circumstances from the general costs of house building have been reasonably met up to the present by the addition of £9 to the general subsidy, that remains true under the present Bill.

Photo of Mr George Lindgren Mr George Lindgren , Wellingborough

Surely the hon. Gentleman will admit that the subsidies were £35 10s., £31 10s. and are now £19. There is a lot of difference between £35 10s. and £19 when it comes to the effect on rents plus interest charges.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

I was going to deal with the broader question covered by the debate, but I wanted, first, to clear up the facts about this additional subsidy. It is not quite correct to regard the agricultural subsidy of £31 1s. as a single whole. It consists and has always consisted of the general standard amount, plus the £9 addition. The same £9 addition remains under this Bill and on the same conditions.

Of course, the general standard amount is being reduced by this Bill. The assumption which underlies that reduction of the general standard amount—my right hon. Friend has constantly reiterated this—is that local authorities generally will treat the subsidies which they receive on their existing and future houses as a pool which can be applied to all the houses in their ownership.

Here again we come to a point at which rural areas may be in a special position. There may be, and undoubtedly are, rural areas where the number of houses and to some extent the character of the population render inapplicable this system of pooling of subsidies, which we believe elsewhere will be satisfactory. This is by no means true of all rural districts. There are many rural district councils which have a large reservoir of pre-war and post-war houses, and a correspondingly large margin for manoeuvre in their pool of subsidies.

I pick out three examples of rural districts, one building at the rate of 40 or 50 houses a year, a Norfolk authority with which some hon. Members opposite will be more familiar than I am—Blo-field and Fleck. That authority is building at the rate of 50 houses a year and owns more than 1,500 houses, so that the pool of houses and the relevant pool of subsidies bear a large ratio to the increase of houses and costs over the next few years. Another rural district council is building at the rate of 140 or 150 a year and owns 2,600 houses. That is Chelmsford rural district. A third, Hitchin rural district, is building at the rate of 50 to 60 houses a year and owns more than 1,800 houses. Thus to treat all rural areas as a whole, and say that rural districts in general will not have a sufficient reservoir of existing houses would be misleading. We have to look at the individual case.

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

I think that the selection of examples quoted by the hon. Gentleman is rather unfortunate, particularly in the case of the first he quoted. When he spoke of the number of houses which Blofield and Flegg had built he could not have had in mind that that district borders on the City of Norwich and that some of those houses are for city workers.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Yes, indeed, the term "rural district" is in many respects and in many parts of the country misleading. For that reason it would be wrong for us to regard rural district councils all from one point of view, or to think that the rural district council, just because it is such, will have more difficulty than an urban district council or borough council in operating the new subsidy scheme.

Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly rural districts in which that does not apply, because hitherto small numbers only of houses have been built and those have been built mainly, if not entirely, for agricultural workers in the stricter sense of the term.

Some of the conditions in those areas were indicated by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). In those cases, undoubtedly, if the rural authority was merely left with the new general needs subsidy, however it pooled the subsidies available to it and however it worked a rent rebate scheme, it would be in the position either of charging unduly high rents or of imposing an undue burden upon its ratepayers.

It is to meet those cases that the Committee will find in Clause 5: Where the Minister if of opinion…

  1. (a) that there is urgent need for more housing accommodation which will only be met if that accommodation is provided by that authority; and
  2. (b) that unless the Minister exercises his powers under this section—"
that is, of increasing the subsidy— that housing accommodation could not be provided without imposing an unreasonably heavy rate burden or necessitating the charging of unreasonably high rents for that and other housing accommodation … then the higher rates of subsidy set out in that Clause are payable.

Wherever, therefore, the circumstances of a rural district council which is providing housing for the agricultural population are such that under the new subsidies, and with the agricultural supplement of £9, the result would still be either unreasonably high rents or an unreasonably heavy rate burden, the Bill provides the means in Clause 5 whereby that case can be met.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

I am coming to that. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) will not get away with it. He reminded the Committee that Clause 5 of the Bill not only deals, although it will probably primarily deal, with the agricultural areas concerned in this debate. It is not restricted to those areas; it deals also—as did Section 3 (2) of the 1946 Act, with county boroughs and county districts.

Photo of Mr Fred Blackburn Mr Fred Blackburn , Stalybridge and Hyde

Why is it necessary in Clause 4 to repeat something about the agricultural provisions while the provisions of Section 3 (2) of the 1946 Act are not repeated in any part of the Bill?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Because the purpose of Clause 4, as I have been trying to explain, is to retain intact the £9 supplement for agricultural housing. The purpose of Clause 5 is to deal with cases, whether rural or urban, where owing to local circumstances the effect of the Bill otherwise would be to produce unduly high rents or an unduly heavy rate burden.

Clause 5 replaces Section 3 (2) of the 1946 Act, to which the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde drew attention. In order to be covered by Section 3 (2) of the 1946 Act, it was necessary that two conditions should be fulfilled: first, that the average rent of houses in the area should be generally lower than in comparable areas throughout the country, and also that the prospective housing effort would impose an undue burden on the district. If hon. Members look at Clause 5, they will see that the Minister has a wider discretion. He does not need to be satisfied, as he needs to be under the 1946 Act, that the general level of rent is lower than in comparable areas throughout the country. So he has wider discretion now under Clause 5 than he had before.

9.45 p.m.

Section 3 of the old Act was entirely discretionary—something of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was complaining a little earlier, although he was the parent of that Act—for there stand the words in that Section 3: …if the Minister thinks fit so to determine… Here again we get the words, the Minister may direct. So, in both cases, there is a Ministerial discretion.

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde discovered a mare's-nest, for he drew the Committee's attention to Clause 5 (2): In exercising his powers under this section the Minister shall have regard to any conditions which may be laid down by the Treasury. This he thought to be very sinister, and he wanted to know what those conditions would be. If he had turned over the leaf in his copy of the 1946 Act he would have found exactly the same proviso, which is common form, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale says, attached to the provision which is now replaced. So we have in Clause 5 of the Bill a wider latitude allowed to the Minister than he possesses under the existing Acts to deal not only with the special case in rural areas but with any special case which may arise in any part of the country.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The hon. Member is making very much of the point that the Minister has wider powers. We are not now discussing Clause 5. We shall have to discuss it later. However, that, of course, is not really a defence, because wider power for the Minister in these cases can be a very grave defect.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Oh, no, the powers are wider only in this sense, that by Statute the Minister can cover a wider range of cases by this Clause than he could cover by the old Section.

Many hon. Members have referred to the often deplorable housing conditions under which agricultural workers live, but the Committee should realise what the relevance of that is to the Bill. Many of those deplorable houses in which agricultural workers live are unfit and fall under the slum clearance drive which is now on. They are dealt with by the Bill, as a slum clearance Bill, and they attract, like any other unfit houses, the subsidy for which provision is made in Clause 3 (3). Many more houses which are not unfit but are destitute of the necessary amenities will be dealt with, and ought to be dealt with, by the system of improvement grants, which is unaffected by the Bill.

Therefore, the Committee once again has to face this issue. The Bill as it stands deals with special hardship, special conditions, in rural and, indeed, in urban areas. It preserves the supplement which has been payable for the last almost ten years in respect of specially costly building operations in rural areas. Now the Committee must decide whether it wants to go further than that, to go beyond the deliberate, concentrated aim of the Bill, which is to remove unfit housing from the face of the country at the earliest time, whether it wants to spread subsidy widely instead of concentrating it. The Bill, while taking account of the real difficulties in the agricultural areas, is essentially a slum clearance Bill and an overspill Bill. I would ask the Committee to retain its character and its force as such by rejecting the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

The object of this Bill is to cut housing subsidies. The only "improvement" it proposes by way of slum clearance is to reduce by 15,000 houses a year the amount of slum clearance which, but for this Bill, would have been carried out by the local authorities, as they have intimated to the Minister. Indeed, the Government are sorely driven to it when all they can say in defence of their Bill is that its object is to promote slum clearance and to deal with overspill.

What are the facts? The facts are that the subsidy on houses occupied by agricultural workers—the total subsidy including the agricultural subsidy—is being cut by rather over £12 a year. That money is to be taken in order to save the country when a 30 per cent. tax on pots and pans has not been sufficient for the purpose—from whom? From the most underpaid category in the community at present, the agricultural worker, and it is to be taken out of his pocket and out of the hard-pressed finances of rural authorities by whom? By the friends of agriculture whom we see sitting on the benches opposite. That is what we are talking about tonight.

Let hon. Members opposite go through the countryside, anywhere in this country, not the suburbs of some big town where there happens to be a rural district, and look at the houses for themselves, if they have not already done so, and what will they find? They will find this—numbers of old houses not yet insanitary but obviously not fit by modern standards, not capable of condemnation but houses which ought to be improved. That is the first thing we find, and that is the legacy of generations of Tory land-

owners and Tory Governments before the war.

Next we find houses that have been built since 1945, where, in my own constituency as in others, water has been brought in since 1945, electricity has been brought in since 1945, and is still being brought in, because the nationalised electricity system is doing the job that private enterprise failed to do. That is what we find.

These improvements are now to be niggled at and taken away by this Tory Government, and the first step is cutting down of subsidies on the houses of those workers, and cutting down the finances of the rural authorities which have to look after them and which, if they are conscientious, want these improvements. This discreditable refusal of the Amendment is simply the first step in Tory economy and its niggling campaign, directed specifically against the rural workers, and I need hardly say that we shall divide in support of the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 204, Noes 246.

Division No. 89.]AYES[9.52 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W.Cronin, J. D.Hobson, C. R.
Albu, A. H.Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Holman, P.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Darling, George (Hillsborough)Holmes, Horace
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Deer, G.Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)
Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)de Freitas, GeoffreyHowell, Denis (All Saints)
Anderson, FrankDelargy, H. J.Hubbard, T. F.
Bacon, Miss AlicsDodds, N. N.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Bartley, P.Dye, S.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Benson, G.Edelman, M.Hunter, A. E.
Beswick, F.Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Blackburn, F.Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Irving, S. (Dartford)
Blenkinsop, A.Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Blyton, W. R.Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Janner, B.
Boardman, H.Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Fernyhough, E.Jeger, George (Goole)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)Fienburgh, W.Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethForman, J. C.Jones, David (The Hartlepools)
Brockway, A. F.Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Gibson, C. W.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Gooch, E. G.Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Burke, W. A.Greenwood, AnthonyJones, T, W. (Merioneth)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Kenyon, C.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Grey, C. F.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Callaghan, L. J.Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)King, Dr. H. M.
Carmichael, J.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Ledger, R. J.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Griffiths, William (Exchange)Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Champion, A. J.Hale, LeslieLever, Leslie (Ardwick)
Chapman, W. D.Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Lewis, Arthur
Chetwynd, G. R.Hannan, W.Lindgren, G. S.
Clunie, J.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)Logan, D. G.
Coldrick, W.Hastings, S.Mabon, Dr. J. D.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)Hayman, F. H.MacColl, J. E.
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)Healey, DenisMcGhee, H. G.
Corbet, Mrs. FredaHerbison, Miss M.McInnes, J.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hewitson, Capt. M.McKay, John (Wallsend)
McLeavy, FrankParkin, B. T.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Islet)Paton, J.Taylor, John (West Lothian)
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Plummer, Sir LeslieThomas, George (Cardiff)
Mahon, S.Popplewell, E.Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Mainwaring, W. H.Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)Thornton, E.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)Proctor, W. T.Timmons, J.
Mann, Mrs. JeanPryde, D. J.Tomney, F.
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.Rankin, JohnUsborne, H. C.
Mason, RoyReeves, J.Viant, S. P.
Mayhew, C. P.Rhodes, H.Weitzman, D.
Mellish, R. J.Robens, Rt. Hon. A.Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Mitchison, G. R.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Monslow, W.Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panoras, N.)West, D. G.
Moody, A. S.Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)Wheeldon, W. E.
Morris, Percy (Swansea) W.)Ross, WilliamWhite, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Mort, D. L.Royle, C.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Moss, R.Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Willey, Frederick
Mulley, F. W.Silverman, Julius (Aston)Williams, David (Neath)
Neal, Harold (Bolsover)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Simmons, C. J. (Brlerley Hill)Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
O'Brien, T.Skeffington, A. M.Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Oram, A. E.Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Orbach, M.Slater, J. (Sedgefield)Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Oswald, T.Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Owen, W. J.Snow, J. W.Winterbottom, Richard
Padley, W. E.Sparks, J. A.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)Stewart, Michael (Fulham)Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Stones, W. (Consett)Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Palmer, A. M. F.Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)Zilliacus, K.
Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)Swingler, S. T.
Parker, J.Sylvester, G. O.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Wilkins
NOES
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Dance, J. C. G.Holland-Martin, C. J.
Aitken, W. T.Davidson, ViscountessHolt, A. F.
Alport, C. J. M.D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHope, Lord John
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Deedes, W. F.Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Digby, Simon WingfieldHorobin, Sir Ian
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Doughty, C. J. A.Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence
Armstrong, C. W.Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Ashton, H.Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Howard, John (Test)
Atkins, H. E.Duthie, W. S.Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir DavidHudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Baldwin, A. E.Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynHughes, Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
Balniel, LordErrington, Sir EricHughes-Young, M. H. C.
Barber, AnthonyErroll, F. J.Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)
Barlow, Sir JohnFell, A.Hyde, Montgomery
Baxter, Sir BeverleyFinlay, GraemeIremonger, T. L.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Fisher, NigelIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Fletcher-Cooke, C.Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Fort, R.Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Bldgood, J. C.Freeth, D. K.Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)
Biggs-Davison, J. A.Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelGarner-Evans, E. H.Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Bishop, F. P.George, J. C. (Pollok)Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Body, R. F.Godber, J. B.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Bossom, Sir A. C.Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir AlanKaberry, D.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)Gough, C. F. H.Keegan, D.
Boyle, Sir EdwardGower, H. R.Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)Graham, Sir FergusKerr, H. W.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.Grant, W. (Woodside)
Brooman-White, R. C.Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)Kershaw, J. A.
Bryan, P.Green, A.Kirk, P. M.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Gresham Cooke, R.Lagden, G. W.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Grimond, J.Lambert, Hon. G.
Burden, F. F. A.Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)Lambton, Viscount
Butcher, Sir HerbertGrimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Langford-Holt, J. A.
Carr, RobertGurden, HaroldLeavey, J. A.
Cary, Sir RobertHall, John (Wycombe)Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Channon, H.Harris, Frederio (Croydon, N.W.)Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Chichester-Clark, R.Harris, Reader (Heston)Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)
Clarke, Brlg. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Cole, NormanHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Longden, Gilbert
Conant, Maj. Sir RogerHarvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macolesfd)Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Cooper-Key, E. M.Harvey, John (Walthamstok, E.)Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Hay, JohnMacdonald, Sir Peter
Corfield, Capt. F. V.Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Heath, EdwardMcKibbln, A, J.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)McLaughlin, Mrs. P.
Cunningham, KnoxHill, John (S. Norfolk)Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Currie, G. B. H.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountMcLean, Neil (Inverness)
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)Pitman, I. J.Storey, S.
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)Pitt, Miss E. M.Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfrles)Pott, H. P.Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Maddan, MartinPowell, J. EnochTaylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)Price, David (Eastlelgh)Teeling, W.
Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)Price, Henry (Lewlsham, W.)Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Mannlngham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.Profumo, J. D.Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Markham, Major Sir FrankRaikes, Sir VictorThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Marples, A. E.Ramsden, J. E.Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Marshall, DouglasRawlinson, PeterThorneycroft, Rt, Hon. P.
Mathew, R.Redmayne, M.Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.Rees-Davies, W. R.Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Mawby, R. L.Ronton, D. L. M.Touche, Sir Gordon
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.Rldsdale, J. E.Turner, H. F. L.
Medlicott, Sir FrankRippon, A. G. F.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Tweedsmuir, Lady
Moore, Sir ThomasRobertson, Sir DavidVane, W. M. F.
Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.Robson-Brown, W.Vosper, D. F.
Nabarro, G. D. N.Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Wade, D. W.
Nairn, D. L. S.Roper, Sir HaroldWakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Neave, AireyRopner, Col. Sir LeonardWalker-Smith, D. C.
Nield, Basil (Chester)Russell, R. S.Wall, Major Patrick
Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Nugent, G. R. H.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Oakshott, H. D.Shepherd, WilliamWebbe, Sir H.
O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Spearman, A. C. M.Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)Stanley, Capt. Hon. RichardWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Page, R. G.Stevens, GeoffreyWoollam, John Victor
Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Partridge, E.Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Pilkington, Capt. R. A.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Studholme and Mr. Legh.

Question put and agreed to.

It being after Ten o'clock,The CHAIRMANleft the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress: to sit again Tomorrow.