§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. BENJAMIN GARDNER
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is my privilege and good fortune to move the Second Reading, of this Bill. When the Ballot favoured me as it did, I knew that one subject of very great interest and importance to the workers of this country was the present state of the law with regard to house control and for that reason I chose to introduce this Measure. This Bill is frankly a tenants' Bill, just as openly a tenants' Bill as the last Bill—which became an Act—was a landlords' Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: No!"] I challenge hon. Members opposite to show me anything in the 1923 Act which favours the tenant. The wide effects of the 1923 Act are just being felt, and there is consternation and misery in many a home in this country in consequence of the operation of that Act. The first Clause of the present Bill proposes to extend control to 1928. As hon. Members know, the 1923 Act expires next year, and there is still a great shortage of houses. In fact, it is a question whether the supply of houses is as commensurate with the need of the community as the supply was when the last Act was passed, and control is still less to be dispensed with because no Government, not even a Labour Government with the boldest of building schemes, can hope to catch up with the housing shortage by 1925. The next Government after this Government probably will not do it, and for that, reason I desire to extend control.
The Bill also proposes to narrow the existing grounds on which an owner can obtain possession. At present there is really no limit to the owner's powers of obtaining possession. He may obtain possession if rent be owing. He may obtain possession if he can—not necessarily prove—but allege that a tenant is a nuisance. He can obtain possession if there be any misconduct; he can obtain possession if his son wants the house; or if he says his son wants the house; he can gain possession if his daughter wants the house; he can obtain possession if his sisters or his cousins or his aunts 2172 want the house. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish!"] It is not rubbish, because if anyone who is living with a landlord wants housing accommodation, it supplies a ground for obtaining possession. The landlord can also obtain possession if he wants the house for a man employed by him, or, if he has made a contract with a tenant into which the question of housing accommodation enters. Those powers are wide enough to enable the landlords to do almost anything, and the landlords are doing almost anything under this eviction law. Evictions are going on all over the country. Orders for evictions are being made all over the country, and hon. Members know without labouring the point what is going on in their own constituencies. The position as it concerns the tenant is appalling. One had almost better be a criminal than the tenant of a house if the landlord wants to obtain possession.
I know this House likes facts. I had a case brought to my notice in my own constituency, which I personally investigated last Monday evening. An old gentleman of eighty-one happens to live in a house which has been bought over his head. He has a wife and three adult daughters, but the landlord has obtained an order for possession against him. The landlord has only himself and his wife to consider, so that five people are being dispossessed to make room for two. That is not the worst feature. The old gentleman, at his age, could not face the stress and the nerve strain of going into court, and he employed a solicitor. The solicitor charged him five guineas and the landlord's bill of costs when it was presented to him was £19 8s. 6d. I do not know much about the law, but I fancy there must have been an attempt at extortion there, because when the bill was taxed the costs claimed by the landlord were reduced by half. The fact remains that this poor old man has lost possession of the house—he had to take to his bed as a result of the worry—and he has had to pay £15 less 9d., as well as losing the only roof he had to cover his head
I have a large correspondence concerning other cases from all parts of the country, and I had a letter yesterday from a tenant who had suffered in a similar manner complaining of having had to pay over £17. All those who have written to me protest that the law as it stands 2173 at present is unjust, and we are concerned in dealing with that problem. They are not satisfied with the law as it stands at present, and I argue that that makes a good case for amending the law.
The Bill proposes to take out all the grounds for obtaining possession which I have mentioned, except the ground that the landlord himself wants the house, and it retains the provision that he must in that case provide alternative accommodation. I want to narrow down the suffering and the misery that are being caused by people being evicted, as they are being evicted to-day, and the trouble is that when vacant possession is granted, nearly the whole purpose of obtaining possession is not because somebody wants accommodation, but because somebody wants to make more profit. Vacant possession is obtained, rents are doubled, or onerous conditions are laid upon the tenants, and I personally want to protect them. The Bill also proposes to reduce the 15 per cent. now allowed on standard rents to 10 per cent. I argue that that is justified by a fall in the cost of living. The percentage standing in the Act of 1920 was put there in reference to the figures obtaining at that time, and there has been a big fall in the cost of living since then.
I want to get the House to admit the principle that the cost of living figures apply to something else besides wages. If I can get that, it will be something established that has not been established before. In the case of the cost of living, it is an incontrovertible argument for some folk for a decrease in wages, and if that works in one case, I suggest that it should apply in the case of rent, because, after all, rent is the second largest item in the working class budget. Food you must have. You can cut it a little, and you can reduce the expenditure on food by going without sometimes. But in the matter of rent the figure is fixed. Whether the working people like it or not, they have to pay, and to pay weekly, and where there is unemployment, as there is so much at the present time, that bears very hardly upon the working people. Therefore, I suggest that as the working people who are employed are enduring lower wages, perhaps, some of them, for the benefit of the country, the landlords can bear a little reduction in 2174 their percentage also, for the sake of the country.
In regard to the repairs allowance, which stands at present at 25 per cent., the Bill proposes a reduction to 15 per cent., and I argue that that is justified by the condition of cottage property all over the country. It is notorious that, though the landlords draw the 25 per cent. without fail from the tenants, they do not execute the repairs they should do. There are plenty of houses, thousands and almost millions of houses, that have not been cleansed and re-decorated inside for 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12 years. Everybody on these benches, at any rate, knows that that, condition of affairs obtains, and therefore we argue that there should be some reduction in the repairs allowance. This shirking of their obligations was recognised last year, when the amending Act of 1923 was passed. It was recognised by the House, because they put into the 1923 Act the certificate section, under which, if a tenant can get a certificate from a local authority that the house is not in a habitable condition, that is a reason for refusing to pay the increase in rent, but everyone who knows anything about the position knows that this certificate section is a dead letter. The working people do not like going to court. Going to court means not only loss of time, but other expense, and consequently they avoid courts of law as much as ever they can.
In regard to the sanitary authorities, I speak as a member of a public authority for a good many years, and I know that the only standard is the Public Health Acts, under which there are two main things that a public authority can do. They can make landlords keep their roofs water-tight, and they can make them keep their drains in reasonable order, but outside that they can do very little. They can compel a landlord to cleanse a house when there has been contagious disease, and they can cause it to be cleansed when the population of a house has increased by thousands, when, in other words, the house is verminous. Therefore, there is a case for reducing the allowance for repairs until the landlords show more willingness to make the homes of the people really habitable. Not only do they draw the allowance for repairs, and do not do the repairs, but when they get, vacant possession of a house this kind of thing happens: They are going to have 2175 a new tenant, and they want, of course, to put the best face on affairs, and they proceed then to do up the house reasonably well, and one of the things the incoming tenants find nowadays is that while they are not charged a premium to go into the house, they are invited to pay for the repairs that have been done, so that the landlords get it both ways, and I suggest that this is a reasonable proposition under the conditions now existing.
There is also a Clause to allow of the varying of rent and rates. It has been found that the sliding scale does not always slide. The House, undoubtedly, in passing all the Acts that have been passed in connection with rent restriction, thought the scale would slide, but since I announced my intention of introducing this Bill, I have had several letters in which correspondents have told me that while their landlords did put the rent up, they have never put it down again, although rates have decreased in some cases by half, and, of course, the tenants being in a position in which they cannot defend themselves, these folks have borne this kind of thing, and have not complained. Now something else is happening. A court has decided that there is no obligation on a landlord to reduce the rent, but I have had two communications from tenants whose landlords did reduce the rent when the rates went down, and who are now putting the rent back again to the top figure, and at the same time demanding arrears for the period of time during which they had reduced the rent according to what they had thought was the law. It is, therefore, time that Parliament stepped in to prevent that sort of thing. The all-in rent and rates kind of house is inhabited by the poorest kind of people. The suffering, consequently, will fall once more on those who are least able to bear it, and I suggest that such a condition of affairs will not make for industrial peace.
The Bill also proposes to bring back into control all the houses included in the 1920 Act, and we want to do that in order to put an end, as far as possible, to the speculation that is now going on in the house-owning world. Decontrolled rents are double, but that is not the worst of it. People have written to me saying that when they have got into a place at a greatly increased rent, they have then 2176 had to submit to further increases, and I suggest that the only way in which that can be dealt with is to bring the houses that were originally controlled back into control. At the present moment we often hear the term "hold-up" used in connection with the dock dispute. There is a hold-up of cottage property all over the country. Figures were given last week showing that there were 118 houses vacant in West Ham, and they were being held-up either for sale or extortionate rents. That is not the worst case. Someone was good enough to bring me a cutting from the "Birming ham Mail" of the 31st January, in which it was stated that the Estates Committee of the City Council of Birmingham were making a report to the Council at the next meeting, in which it was disclosed that there were in Birmingham 646 empty houses up to and including £26 rateable value, and above £26 rateable value there were 314 houses, making a total of 960 houses held-up in that city. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] There is housing accommodation for 5,000 people at least, and that is a hold-up, I suggest, of a fairly substantial character. Anything that Parliament can do to prevent that would go towards easing the housing shortage, and the overcrowding in the country. I know I shall be told that these things should be left to the free-play of economic forces. I have had letters to that effect. One correspondent said:You do not control meat, fruit and vegetables. Why not, then, decontrol houses, and allow economic forces free play?The answer to that is that there are substitutes for meat, fruit and vegetables, but in this country there is no substitute for housing. If you try to camp-out in the streets, the police will be after you. If you try to camp-out in the country, the landlords will be after you. There is no substitute for housing, which is a vital necessity in this climate. Therefore, I suggest that you cannot give free-play to economic forces. If I wanted to aggrandise my party, I should say nothing about the free-play of economic forces, but would allow it to go on, because I know it is going to bring millions of converts to the Labour party. Free-play of economic forces means more money to some people and more misery and suffering to other people. If control be not extended, it means in the very near 2177 future that the pressure on the cheaper kinds of property is going to be terrific, because wages have gone down, and are not likely to go up again. If rents are increased, as they can be when the Act expires next year, then overcrowding is going to be something terrible, and the country as a whole is going to be put to greater expense for health purposes, and, besides, it will leave a mark on the generation that is beginning to grow up, and the children born in the next few years, a mark which they will bear all through their lives, so that, instead of our being a C3 nation, we shall become a C6 nation. I commend the Bill to the consideration of the House.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I beg to Second the Motion.
In supporting this Bill, which has been so ably moved by the previous speaker, I do so as a tenant, who, unfortunately, has suffered hardship which came his way owing to the Rent Restrictions Act, which compelled me as a tenant to pay the 25 per cent. increase allowed for repairs, which were never carried out. It meant increased rent, when there was a rent in the house which allowed water to come in. It was not put right until I was fortunate enough to get out, and the landlord allowed one of his own relatives, whose health was considered of more value than mine, to get in. I want, not only as a tenant, but as one who is pleading for the tenants, to support this Bill, because I make no apology for endorsing the statement that this is a tenants' Bill. Not only have I myself felt the injustice of the Rent Restrictions Act, but I know, as one going amongst the people who are mostly affected, or would be affected by, shall I say, the discontinuance of rent restriction, the difficulties under which many of these tenants will suffer. What was it that led to this legislation? It was the unpatriotic action of the landlords who, in 1915, because so many men were away, were prepared to evict the dependants of those men for the purpose of getting increased rent. I took part in the fight at that time, and many of my comrades took part in that fight, and I know what the result will be. These same landlords will have no scruple in taking advantage of the situation in 1925, when the present Act ceases to operate, to throw these men who came back on the streets. The Act of 1915 2178 allowed no increase of rent. It gave safeguards to the tenants, because the original occupiers, who were then occupying the trenches, were defending that property when the landlords in so many instances told them to go and defend their land, and then, when those men came back, were ready to evict them from the miserable hovels in which they were compelled to live, because previous Governments did not see that the necessary houses were built.
Therefore, I hope the House will unanimously agree to this Bill in the interest of fair-play to the tenant. An increase of 25 per cent. in the last Act was allowed for repairs. I have here a letter which I received, dated 19th February. Up to the present time, it says, the 25 per cent. has not been taken advantage of for repairs, but it is now going to be imposed, and the only repair carried out in the house in question was to make the door water-tight. They are going to charge the increase for merely making that particular house water-tight. I have been in houses where they are paying the full 25 per cent. increase for repairs, and if you remove the bed—I am not exaggerating—you can pinch the margarine off the table next door. I have been in houses—and again I am not exaggerating—where one nail hung two pictures belonging to two different tenants, and the full 25 per cent. has been charged in the way of increase for repairs so far as that house is concerned. Surely if anyone has to get an increase for repairs they ought to carry out the repairs necessary!
We were told in the last Bill which went through the House that the production of a certificate would be accepted by the County Court or the Sheriff in England or in Scotland respectively, as the case might be, and that that would allow them to get out of paying the 25 per cent. increase. May I just point out to the House that the getting of these certificates from the responsible, authorities is getting more and more difficult every day. I know of a house where a certificate was granted in 1922 to allow the tenant to get out of paying the 25 per cent. increase I visited that house in 1923. All that has been done to the house was to put four strips of wood around what was considered to be a cupboard. They did not put the door on, but because they had put 2179 four strips of wood around the cupboard the sanitary authority of the town of Hamilton refused to grant a certificate, as the necessary repairs had been carried out. No one can justify the state of affairs like that! No one can justify allowing the landlords to draw 25 per cent, for repairs which the landlords themselves do not intend to carry out! What is the real reason that this Bill is necessary? I suggest to this House that it is because of the shortage of houses. If there were no shortage of houses, if there were nine tenants for 10 houses instead of 12 tenants for eight houses—
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I am taking averages. If there were nine tenants for 10 houses instead of there being 12 tenants for eight houses landlords would not be in the position of charging the extortionate rents that they will do if the present Act ceases to operate in 1925. I know a case in the town I belong to—not the one I represent—where the result of the recent Act has been that when a house was vacated and that house was put up to auction for tenancy the result was not a 50 per cent. but a 150 per cent. increase in rent was got because of the competition for a place in which to live. May I give hon. Members a few facts to prove my point, even as a result of the provisions of the Housing Acts.
The Midlothian County Council and the Peebleshire County Council, part of which county I represent—and the whole of the other county which I represent—have not taken, advantage of the opportunities which could have come their way for building houses. There is a great scarcity. Only 92 houses have been built by the County Council of Midlothian, according to an answer I received yesterday, to meet the great house shortage. The county council of Peebles have not built a single house under the conditions offered by this House, conditions laid down to apply, if necessary, when building houses. That means that they have not done anything towards solving the great housing problem. If the present Act ceases to operate in 1925 there are going to be thousands of tenants in these two counties that are [...]ing to have their rents risen. Bad as the conditions may be in the industrial world I am going to suggest that it will mean semi-starvation for thousands of 2180 these people, who will be trying to meet the exorbitant charges made for rent.
The second reason is the bad housing conditions in Scotland. I also got a return from the House. With all due deference to English Members, may I suggest that they really do not know what bad housing is where we in Scotland come in. We know what bad housing is. Evidence of that is seen in the figures which I managed to get yesterday in the Return I asked for in connection with one and two apartment houses. The latest census returns show that in 1921 there were 124,367 houses of one apartment in Scotland. When I say one apartment, I mean one apartment. There is no scullery, but only one apartment. I am going to suggest that our people are the finest race and the finest people on the face of God's earth—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—and we do not measure Scotsmen or those who come from Scotland from the feet upwards! I am going to suggest that that race has housing conditions which makes it that they are housed worse than pigs. There is not an agriculturist—and we have heard a good deal from hon. Gentlemen opposite about agriculture, and I am ready to support real schemes for agriculture—there is not an agriculturist or anyone who deals with farming that would be prepared to house pigs in the conditions in which you compel us to house our people. You, at least, provide two places for the pigs, one in which the pigs can live and one in which it shall eat. So far as God's noblest creation, man, is concerned, 124,367 houses in which they live are only of one apartment. In some Of these apartments—and I have visited them—there are 12 individuals. These are the individuals who are going to be exploited more—a long way more—than even at the present time if you allow the present Rent Restrictions Act to be inoperative in 1925. The return which I got from the House shows that in Scotland there are 422,333 two-apartment houses. The percentage of one-apartment houses is 11[...]76, and of two-apartment houses 40[...]11.
May I suggest that these are the tenants that are going to be fleeced by the landlords. Bad as the housing conditions are, they have got to have some place for shelter, and they are compelled to accept these conditions; and until we are able to deal with the great housing 2181 problem—it cannot be dealt with in a day or two, or in the lifetime of this Parliament, and it may not be finished in the lifetime of the next Parliament—until, therefore, we have got houses it ought to be the duty of this House to guarantee that the people housed as they are shall not be exploited. We heard a good deal yesterday about the provision of warships. There was a considerable unanimity on benches opposite in relation to this matter. I am going to suggest that hon. Gentlemen who spoke and cheered yesterday in this connection should show a similar unanimity in seeking to remedy the hardships of which I speak. The dependants of those of whom I am speaking will have to man these ships of war. I want to plead for unanimity in connection with this Bill. It is necessary that we should do justice to and that we should help those who cannot help themselves because of the housing conditions of the present time. I do trust that when Mr. Speaker puts the usual formula, that the Bill be read a Second time we shall have absolute unanimity, that we shall have no Division, but that the Bill shall go forward as from the Front Bench, not as a party Bill, not only as a Government Bill, but as a Bill that has the unanimous support of all sections of the House, so as to do justice to the tenants and see that the landlords do not get the chance to exploit the conditions that are likely to arise in 1925 unless hon. Members agree to pass this Bill. It is, I suggest, so reasonable, so fair, and so just in seeking to give justice to those that hon. Gentlemen on the various benches have said they are as prepared to fight for as are we on this side of the House that it should go through unanimously.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House declines to proceed with the consideration of a Measure involving important alterations in an Act passed only last Session until a full inquiry has been held into the working of the Act and the nature and extent of any alterations which may be advisable.The Mover and Seconder of this Bill stated that it was a tenants' Bill, and that the Rent Restrictions Act of last year was a landlords' Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Those who to that cry out "hear, hear," would 2182 hardly say so had they studied the Act of 1923. The Seconder of the Bill stated that the 1923 Act contained no provision for the protection of the tenant. I believe that the Mover and Seconder are genuine in their desire to improve housing conditions, and do not want to shut their eyes to facts. I hope, therefore, they will not mind me pointing out that they have definitely taken no notice of Part II of the Act. Let me read one phrase which shows that instead of the Rent Restrictions Act coming to an end in 1925, and instead of being a pure landlords' Measure, it is quite the contrary. It is provided in Section 12 of the Act that Should it appear, after 1925, to the Court that proceedings for the eviction of the tenant or the recovery of the house are harsh or oppressive, or that exceptional hardship would be caused to the sitting tenant by the making or giving of an order for ejectment, the Court may refuse such an order or judgment or adjourn the application or suspend the execution.
Is that not deliberately in the interests of the tenant and against the interests of the grasping landlord? We have no desire in any way to diminish the general desire expressed by the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. B. Gardner), the hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood) and their friends to get as useful, kindly, and generous treatment as possible of all parties concerned in the housing question. On this subject we have to take a large view, but in all parties there are some who take a small view. On this side we wish to take a large view just as hon. Members opposite do. From our point of view, we inherit a very glorious tradition of work in regard to housing, because it was the Conservative Act of 1875 and the Housing Acts of 1888 and of 1899 which laid the foundations of housing work under the supervision of the medical officers of health. Therefore we have a glorious tradition to carry on.
We know the difficulties and the appalling hardships and the very great danger to the State of the present condition of housing, but we have to take a wide view. Without hesitation I think all who have studied the housing problem will agree that there is one main fact which goes to the root of the whole thing, and it is that we want more houses. All the hardships mentioned to-day would be abated if there were more houses, or if the supply of houses was equal or greater 2183 than the demand. At the present time the demand is far greater than the supply. Therefore we have all this trouble. I think we can get rid not only of this grievance but of many other larger grievances which have not been mentioned to-day by one sound statesmanlike Measure providing more houses. That is the central thesis of our opposition to this Bill.
This Measure is brought forward avowedly as a tenants' Bill. We want to recognise that, while supporting the main Measure, we have to take account of hardships involved during the transitional period. In the first place, there is the hardship of those tenants who have been made the basis of the arguments to-day, but that is only one side of the hardship. Are the Mover and Seconder of this Bill able to say clearly and definitely that they have received no letters from any of their constituents who are small property owners? Have they no knowledge of the hardships of small property owners in regard to this question? Do they not know, more especially in agricultural villages, that many houses and cottages are owned by small men and women who have put their savings into house property, and they are people of exactly the same class as those for whom hon. Gentlemen opposite are pleading to-day.
Many of these houses have been acquired by these people as a measure of their thrift. Hon. Members have argued that they desire to abolish the obstacles to thrift in regard to old age pensions, and yet they entirely neglect this form of thrift in regard to the housing problem. These are small people who very often, through no fault of their own, are the very worst landlords of the lot. They are people who have retired from business, and are living on the income of these small houses, and how can they afford to pay the interest on the mortgage, provide the money required for repairs, and do all the things you want them to do and get a living at the same time. They cannot do it. I think there is a very strong case to be made out for these people, and they appeal to all our sympathies. Over and over again they are mothers who have lost the breadwinner, like those people for whom we were pleading the other evening.
There is another set of hardships which appeal to all those who understand the 2184 housing problem, but I do not think it appeals generally to those on the opposite side of the House, and it is housing as a business. This may appear in the form of owners who are wealthy individuals reaping money from it, but as a general rule it is in the form of individual owners who receive very little money from their property, which has been my own experience in regard to a few cottages which I have to keep up. The same applies to utility societies and municipalities, but we are all agreed that the housing question has to be put upon its legs if we are to have an increased number of houses supplied, and that is the root of the whole problem. We have to consider how all these hardships can be wisely removed without interfering with the general statesmanlike Measure upon which we rely for solving this problem. In schools of economics rent restrictions are fundamentally wrong just as the restrictions on the price of meat would be wrong. The hon. Member said there are alternatives to meat but I do not know any that are palatable.
At the same time rent restrictions are wrong. But the War came along and the War said that whatever happens we must have rent restrictions. The country took up a line which was definitely to the advantage of the tenants and not to the advantage of the house owners. What was the result? There are other causes, but there is no doubt that rent restriction was among a considerable number of important contributory causes that stopped the provision of houses. Why? It is a business and business and rightful, not the excessive, profits were interfered with, and naturally people would no longer put their money into the building of houses. The small owners would not do so any more, indeed a good less, than the large ones. What our party did and what the late Minister of Health and his predecessors both in the last and previous Governments did, was, first of all, to say, "Let us have a sound inquiry into the state of the case, having regard not merely to the main object but also the secondary objects and the respective hardships concerned." The Coalition Government appointed a Departmental Committee in July, 1922, and those of us who went through the proceedings of that Committee know that we went into the subject thoroughly and considered it from all sides. It was done so thoroughly that 2185 the Committee continued not only during the remaining life of that Parliament but during the election period and the beginning of the last Parliament. It reported in February last year.
That was the right way for Parliament to tackle this question. We were not unanimous; in fact, I myself put in a Minority Report, and the hon. Members for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) and East Rhondda (Lieut.-Colonel Watts-Morgan), representing the Labour Benches on that Departmental Committee, also presented a Minority Report. I should like to know Why they are not in their places to-day supporting this Bill. They heard all the arguments on every side, and I believe they are not in their places supporting this Bill to-day for this reason. They fought for their side strongly, and, though they were mainly standing for the tenants, they recognised that we were standing for the provision of houses as well as for the elimination of hardships. They obtained a fairly general wide view of the situation, and they are not here to say that this Bill meets the case. I maintain that if they were here and that if we could get their views, they would say that this Bill does not really meet the case at the present time, but only one small part of it. After that, the late Government brought in their Bill firmly and soundly based on the different principles that have to be taken into consideration. It went through all its stages. The Standing Committee considered it fairly from every side, and the result was the Act of last year. It is an absolute libel to say that that Act was framed or carried through in the interest of the land-lords. Again and again we who were keen on housing, quite independently of individual interests, were able to triumph over the sectionalists who wanted to advance from one side or the other individual and personal interests. Again and again, the Labour party or those speaking on behalf of the tenants appealed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and again and again he met them by conciliatory Amendments to his own proposals. Again and again, they thanked him for the consideration which he had shown. It is a libel to say that the Bill was drawn up or finally framed in the interests of the landlords.
This Bill has been presented to us by an hon. Member who I recognise has a 2186 strong feeling for the hardships in the immediate surroundings with which he is concerned, and for people who have written to him from that particular point of view. But I maintain that neither he nor the Seconder have the wide view that is sound if you are going to take such radical steps which are proposed in this Bill to amend the Act passed last year. The question of reductions of rent obviously goes right to the root of the Measure which was passed last year. It may be right or it may be wrong, but it goes to the root of the wider scheme. How would a reduction of from 10 to 15 per cent. affect the keenness of people to promote the provision of houses? It may be right, but it would obviously at once cut away a great deal of the incentive for the provision of houses. The Mover said that the sanitary authorities cannot make landlords do anything except keep the roof and the drains watertight. I regret that the hon. Member has so little knowledge of the Act. As a medical officer, I have been able to get a great deal done by landlords negligent or ignorant of the condition of their cottages. Under the 1919 Act, sanitary authorities can compel landlords to do anything, practically speaking, that is required. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I say practically anything. There are exceptions. The hon. Member made another mistake. He said that the tenants cannot go to the Courts.
§ 12 N.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE:
The hon. Member said that the tenants will not go to the Courts as if their only redress were in Court.. The grievance was put before us in the Departmental Committee, and among my colleagues was a County Court Judge who yields to none in his solicitude and desire to give justice to the tenants. What was the result? A provision was inserted and now holds good by which a tenant can get redress by simply applying to the sanitary authority. The sanitary inspector is constantly going in and out of houses, and it is only the landlord who is compelled to go to the Court. I maintain that this is a partial Measure that appeals to one side of our sympathies. I would not like to suggest that we have not sympathies in that direction. There are, and there are bound to be, from time to time, necessities for Amendments of a law which deals with such an enor- 2187 mous problem on such a comprehensive scale in a matter so vital to the home life of the people. But is this the right way of dealing with any anomalies? We have an Act which took two Parliaments 14 months to get through by the most laborious and sound methods of examination and preparation. Is it a right thing now that we should have, on a private Member's Bill, introduced by two hon. Members who have not had a general acquaintance with the Parliamentary methods of dealing with housing, a series of commitments fired at us deliberately, as they say, from purely one point of view? I say that that is not the right way. The proper way is for the Government to take the matter in hand by an inquiry first of all. It would be a most serious matter if this agreement, which has had such a wonderful result already in stimulating house building, should so soon be torn up by the roots. Therefore, I say that we should not go further with this Measure until the Government has had an inquiry. The Government are not afraid of inquiries. They are promising inquiries and starting inquiries—businesslike inquiries—on all sorts of matters that are of less importance than this. If a reasonable case is made out we shall, by all means, help them to get through an amending Measure, but meanwhile we must keep up the confidence of the building industry in the settlement which is having such a good effect at present, and must refuse such a petty Measure as that which is at present before the House.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS:
I beg to second the Amendment.
Listening to this Debate, my mind goes back to the Debates of last Session in this House, and particularly in Committees, where, for many days, indeed for weeks, we fought over the very matters which are now included in the provisions of this Bill. We fought strenuously, earnestly, and sometimes, I might almost say, furiously, and I congratulate hon. Members opposite on their consistency. They are simply bringing forward that which they advocated, and were not successful in achieving, last year. At the same time, we should be guilty of inconsistency ourselves if we had not the courage to put forward again the same views that we put forward last time—and 2188 which I think the hon. Members opposite will give us the credit for holding honestly and sincerely—and we should only make ourselves futile in the eyes, not only of our friends, but of our opponents.
I want, first of all, to deal with the question on a wide basis, and to ask what was the main object of those who supported the Bill of 1923. I, for one, do not in any way repent of my action then—chiefly confined to sitting in solemn silence supporting my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain). As far as I could see, the object of that Measure was to do something to wards getting back to free trade in houses We feel that, until we can get back to free trade in houses, until we can give the building industry more confidence, we shall not be able to solve the housing problem. Only a very few days ago the Prime Minister said that what he wanted was confidence in all sections of the building industry, but I am afraid that this very Debate will do a great deal to destroy confidence in every section of that industry. The best way to get back to free trade in houses is to encourage new building. At the same time we recognise that the process must be slow and gradual, and that there must inevitably be, on one side or another, cases of hardship. We desire to make those cases of hardship as few as possible, and to limit the amount of hardship where that can possibly be done.
The methods by which this objective was to be attained by the Bills of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Ladywood—and I think we cannot look at the Rent Restrictions Bill alone, but must take it in conjunction with its twin Bill, the Housing Bill, brought in at practically the same time—the methods were gradually to obtain decontrol as houses become vacant, without any hardship to the sitting tenant, and to try and fix some date when people would know that control would cease. With regard to the question of date, I know that a good many of us consider that it is not a question of very great importance; it is a matter for inquiry. I do say, however, that, if we can agree upon something, we should get the date agreed and fixed, and then stick to it. Anything that helps to get rid of the gap between the economic rent of new houses and the rent of controlled houses—that gap which makes the building of new houses difficult, and increases 2189 the hardship and difficulty of dealing with property of any kind—would tend towards getting back to free trade in houses. Examining this Bill to see how it would tend to carry out the objective of the Bill of 1923, I come to the definite conclusion that it does nothing whatever towards carrying out that objective. On the contrary, it goes back a long way, and turns round in the absolutely opposite direction —a direction which must lead ultimately to definite control, and possibly to Rent Courts and other things that hon. Gentlemen opposite desire. Those who wish to see control continued, extended and strengthened, will support this Bill, but I feel sure that the Liberal stalwart champions of Free Trade—those somewhat decadent heirs of the doctrine of laissez faire—must be hound to vote against this Bill.
I want now to deal in detail with one or two of the most important provisions of the Bill, and to refer, first of all, to the very important matter of the adjustment of the conflicting claims of owners desiring occupation of their houses and tenants who are occupying those houses. There you have an equal amount of hardship on the one side and on the other. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I want just to give, if the House will allow me, one instance, which, as a matter of fact, is the only instance that has come before me when I have been sitting on the magisterial bench. It was an application for possession of a house. The owner of the house, his wife and his daughter, who was 15 or 16 years of age, were living in a house which had only one proper bedroom, and the daughter at that time, according to the evidence, was sleeping in something that might be called a cupboard. At the time that he was living in that house, this man owned eight houses, acquired with money that he had saved. He went over all those houses carefully, and selected one which had three bedrooms, and was occupied by a man and his wife without any children, and he gave notice to these people that he required the house for his own occupation. Is it not absolutely clear that in such a case the greater hardship was upon the owner who desired to occupy that house than upon his tenants whom he was asking to go? But everyone who has had any experience with regard to the difficulty of proving alternative accommodation would know that, if the 2190 owner had definitely to prove alternative accommodation, it would be a practical impossibility for him to do it.
The difficulty is the question of time. By the time he has run round and found a house and shown it to the tenant, and the tenant has looked at it and considered it —and he may take a very long time to consider, trying to delay matters—that house is snapped up. That has happened again and again, rendering the provision in regard to alternative accommodation quite useless for carrying out the object which a great many people had at heart, of enabling the owner to get possession of his house in such circumstances when he desired it for his own occupation. If the hon. Member who moved this Bill can prove that owners are getting hold of houses, not for the purposes which the Act contemplates, but for the ulterior purposes of selling them or letting them at higher rents—though I do not think that that is at all general—it is certainly a case wich should be dealt with by inquiry, and if it is occurring I should, personally, be prepared to support provisions to prevent it. We do not on this side wish in any way to help people who are trying to cheat under this Act. I remember that an hon. Member opposite made a remark upstairs last year which struck me very forcibly as one of the most kindly and commonsense things I have ever heard said in the House. He came from my native county of Yorkshire, and he said "90 per cent. of folks is decent folks, and tries to do the right thing." I believe they do. With regard to those who do not try to do the right thing, there is no-one on this side who would desire to defend or help them.
There is another point with regard to this question of alternative accommodation. I think hon. Members should remember that it is only those owners who were owners before July, 1922, that is over 18 months ago now, who have a right to get possession of houses for their own occupation and not persons who have purchased since, and I should imagine that most of those cases have worked themselves off or are working themselves off. Before this Act was passed I kept receiving a large number of letters from people who desired the occupation of their own houses. Lately, since the Bill was passed, I have practically heard nothing about it at all, and I never heard a word 2191 about it one way or the other during the recent Election, so I should imagine those have either been worked off or are working themselves off, because people know that a great many magistrates suspend orders for three months or so in order to give the tenants a real opportunity of looking round and seeing what they can do. All agriculturists say it is perfectly impossible for a farmer to carry on unless he is able to obtain for his own workers possession of the cottages which go with such farms. This Bill would make the difficulty of farmers in that way almost impossible. Another provision which hon. Members desire to strike out of the Act of 1922 is one I cannot possibly understand after all the declarations they have made with regard to doing justice to ex-service men. There were two provisions put in to enable the ex-service man who had given up his house to go to the War, and the ex-service man who, wanted part of a house, to get possession, and those two provisions are to be struck out by this Bill. The Bill is one of the very worst possible examples of legislation by reference. It takes a very long time to understand it.
The next point is with regard to the reduction of the increase of rent by 15 per cent., because that is what it comes to, and the hon. Member who moved it said he would be willing to take the test of the increased cost of living. That struck me as an argument entirely against his Bill. The increased cost of living figures are, as far as I know, 79. What the landlord is now allowed to have is 40 per cent. The hon. Member proposes that he shall only have 25 per cent., so even on his own test he is absolutely and entirely out of it. I wonder how many hon. Members opposite acting as leaders of men and trade unionists would be willing to accept 25 per cent. over prewar as being a proper and reasonable remuneration owing to the increased cost of living. That is putting repairs entirely out of the question. As a matter of fact, a great many of them, I know personally from the examination of accounts, are not receiving one farthing towards the increase in the cost of living. The Mover of the Amendment pointed out that, the big majority of property owners were not rich men. I should like to confirm that from my own experience. I was, up to three years ago, a practising lawyer. I 2192 dealt with a very large amount of sales and mortgages of property of this kind for other people and I know from the experience of those who came into my office that they were not rich people. Nearly all of them started working with their hands or were the widows of those who had started working with their hands and had been able to save up a bit of property and leave it to them.
Another point is that these property owners do not have the whole of the rent to live upon. The great majority of them live on what we used to call the margin—a favourite form of investment. They bought a house, borrowed two-thirds of the money, and on the margin were able to get 8, 9 per cent. or 10 per cent. for the money they were putting in. A man would buy a house for £600, borrow £400 on mortgage, put in his £200 of savings and live on the margin. That is the usual way in which it is done. I think if all the property in this country had to have a label whether it was free or pawned, the country would become labelled as one vast pawnshop. We will assume that the net rent, leaving mortgage interest out, is £100 that the owner is going to receive from a row of houses. He has to pay £65 in mortgage interest, which leaves a margin of £35. You are going to reduce his rental by 10 per cent., because that is what. 15 per cent. on the standard means, the reduction of the actual rent received now of 10 per cent. Therefore, from the £90 you take away £65, and that leaves him £25 as against £35. That is not a reduction of 10 per cent. or 15 per cent., but of over 30 per cent. that the Bill proposes to put on the vast number of people who are living on margin. I do not want to say anything which may seem in any way offensive to hon. Members opposite, but in politics we sometimes talk about bribes and I think when people talk about political bribes they use the word in a little more kindly and not so offensive a way as when we talk about commercial bribes. I think the Bill is put forward rather as window dressing, as an attempt at politically bribing one section of the community, not with their own money, not with the taxpayers' money, but with the money of one particular section of the community whom they are going to penalise in order to help another. It is Robin Hood over again. The amount involved must be a very large sum of 2193 money in this 10 per cent. reduction of practically 95 per cent. of the rent. I have not had time to look it up, but it must amount to a large sum of money.
May I say one word about Clause 4, which deals with the decision of the Law Courts with regard to the decrease of the rent when the rates go down. That decision has found out a defect in the provisions of the Act, and I can say quite clearly on behalf of everyone on this side of the House that we should willingly accept a one Clause Bill which would do away with that decision, in the same way as the House accepted a short Bill doing away with the similar decision in Scotland which was not expected, and with regard to this mistake which has been found out by the Courts, we would go as far as accepting the retrospective principle so that landlords should not benefit by this mistake, and then we should cry quits and find ourselves entirely square with the Minister of Health with regard to his Scottish Bill of last year. Also I have been told since I came into the House that the Property Owners' Association in London and Manchester has sent out circulars to all their members telling them not to take advantage of this technical mistake in the law and to play the game by their tenants in the matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are a respectable body of people."] They are as respectable as any other body of people. There may be some who think that because we may be prepared to consider the question of date, because we may be prepared to consider cases of real hardship, when they are proved, and because we may be prepared to accept Clause 4, we ought to accept this Bill as a whole, in order to put right those matters which we desire to put right. It is as though we were to allow ourselves to be subjected to a serious operation involving an abdominal section when the complaint might easily be cured by means of the homely pill. There is another argument and that is that we should allow the Bill to go upstairs to be dissected and operated upon in order that what is bad in the Bill may be cut out. That, to continue the simile, would be rather as though one had something wrong with one's hand, and we allowed our body to be cut off and dressed and put back into bed, while the rest of the body was carried away to the mortuary.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
This Bill raises a very great and an important issue. It involves a tremendous lot of money; it means retracing the steps that we took last year, which we thought at that time were right and which we still think to be right. We are perfectly prepared to submit the Act that we supported last year to any inquiry and any evidence, but we should be inconsistent, and our action would be futile, if we allowed the Second Reading of this Bill to go by without expressing our views.
§ Mr. HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
This is a Bill in which Members naturally take a deep interest, because it involves not only hundreds, but millions of our fellow countrymen. For that reason, I should like to address a few questions to the Minister of Health. It is rather astonishing to find a Measure of this importance brought forward as a private Member's Bill. If it had not been a question of such extreme urgency, I should have found great difficulty in voting for the Second Reading of the Bill, because it seems to me that the Government, and the Ministry of Health in particular, are evading their responsibilities. I should very much have preferred to have heard, on the one hand, the housing programme of the Government put forward, and, on the other hand. I should have preferred this new Rent Restriction Bill to have been brought forward as a Government Measure. As it is, what is happening is that the Government is putting upon the hon. Members the onus of voting against the Second Reading of the Bill without accepting the responsibility themselves for the proposals contained therein. Whether the Bill is right or wrong, it seems to me that that is not an attitude which should be adopted by His Majesty's Government on a question of such magnitude and importance. However, the Bill is here, and it has been moved and seconded in speeches to which we have paid great attention, and with which I am in considerable agreement.
The real point which underlies the question is that of urgency. Hon. Members opposite who have moved the rejection of the Bill have spoken at length, and with great vehemence, as to the conditions being the same now as they were last year. The conditions to-day are not the 2195 same as the conditions prevailing last year. The Bill of last year has been tried and found wanting. No one can accuse the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) of inconsistency if he votes for the Second Reading of this Bill. He knows, or he ought to know, although he proclaims his ignorance of the fact, that all over the country, and particularly in London and the suburbs of London, thousands of cases of eviction under the 1923 Act are taking place and have taken place. To-day, all over London and in the Home Counties—I do not know the details in other parts of England—thousands of families are waiting in the greatest anxiety for decisions of the County Court. It has become a matter of the utmost urgency, to which the attention of Parliament needs to be drawn, to which the attention of Parliament has been drawn, and to which the attention of Parliament will continue to be drawn if the Second Reading of the Bill is given to-day.
I listened with considerable attention to the speech of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle). He said a great deal about taking a broad view. I recall that in the Committee upstairs, in the last Parliament, in connection with the 1923 Act, he almost moved me to tears by the story of his being unable to get a house for his gardener. I wept for his unkept hedges and his un-weeded beds. He is quite right in saying that the question of houses is at the bottom of the necessity of Rent Restrictions Acts, but he is wrong if he thinks that the Act of 1923 has stimulated the building of houses. It has done nothing of the sort. The figures which have been disclosed in answer to questions have demonstrated that the building of houses has lagged behind in the most woeful manner and we shall have to depend in the future, and many of us thought so in the past, on municipal and Government enterprise in regard to the building of those houses which are a real necessity and are at the root of this question.
The first Clause of the Bill deals with extension of time. We have been told from the benches opposite that the extension of time is not particularly important. I could not help thinking that when the hon. Member for Hereford was upstairs in the Committee on the 1923 Act he must 2196 have thought that the question of time was important because, if I recollect correctly, the matter was debated for two whole days and a great deal was said on both sides as to the necessity of extending the provisions of the Act up to 1930 or 1928. I remember at the time, and I am surprised not to see it in the Bill, that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who is now Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs, stated that was the view of the Labour party that the provisions of the Bill should be extended to 1930. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Trevelyan Thomson), who is unfortunately not able to be here to-day, took the view that the extension to 1928 would meet the views of all sides, but the Government was unable to agree. However, I am very glad to see that repentance has come to the Conservative party, according to the hon. Member for Hereford, for they are apparently agreed that the question of time has ceased to be of importance and they will support the Bill in so far as it extends the working of the Act until 1928.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I did not say that., so far as I remember. I meant to say that that was a question which could be very well dealt with by the inquiry suggested in our Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
That is a matter of considerable concession by the hon. Member. I come now to Clause 2 which makes me attach real importance to this Measure, and will, I hope, be considered by the House so important as to insure a unanimous Vote for the Second Reading to-day. I will not refer particularly to paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) of Clause 2 although that and the following paragraph deal with cases in which great hardship has frequently been inflicted. It has come to my knowledge, as it has to that of many Members of this House, that the provision enabling landlords to obtain possession owing to the committing of a nuisance has been grossly abused in many cases. Nuisances, such as dirt in the hall or whatever it may be, have been magnified before the Court to such an extent in a great number of cases that orders have been obtained from the Court on evidence which was in reality very insufficient, and great hardship has been suffered by tenants in that way. The difference under this particular Bill is that 2197 the nuisance or conduct has to be repeated and that remonstrance has to be addressed by the landlord to the tenant, and no notice has to be taken by the tenant of the remonstrance. I think that that will meet the views of the House in every respect. I cannot think that even hon. Members opposite consider that the committing of one single nuisance, which may be entirely carelessness or may be almost unavoidable, is sufficient ground for a landlord to obtain an Order against his tenant.
The really important part of the Bill to my mind is paragraph (c) which is the portion that affects most people, and which will have the widest results, and which, when the, Bill goes into Committee, I dare say will be most formidably attacked. This paragraph deals with the obtaining of possession for the reasonable requirements of the landlord. Hon. Members will remember that under the 1923 Act the landlord is able to obtain possession without giving alternative accommodation when he requires the house not only for himself but also for an innumerable clan of relatives or followers. This is the, provision in the Act the abuse of which has led to the vast mass of indignation and remonstrance which has resulted in the drafting and introduction of this particular Bill. I do not want to go into this particular question. We are considering now the general principle of the Bill rather than its detail; but I know many cases, I might say hundreds of cases, in which the landlord has obtained an order from the Courts on the ground that he needs the house for a relative or servant in which it was indubitably established that the relative or servant could no more afford to live in that house than to live in Buckingham Palace. That has been constantly occurring before the Judges who know that they have no power in the matter.
While I am dealing with that aspect of the matter, may I say that I am sorry to see that there is no provision of the Bill on one particular point? I do not know whether the Law Officers of the Crown will he able to introduce some provision by which, when an order is obtained by a landlord under the 1923 Act or that Act as amended by this Bill, the costs shall not fall with such crushing weight on the dispossessed tenant. I know case after case in which the man or woman against 2198 whom the order has been obtained has had to pay as much as £15 or £20 costs although they were, after all, defendants pro forma who had committed no crime and were not bringing forward litigation on their own account, but were there simply because they were summoned there to protect their homes. I know a particular case in my own constituency in which a man with a wife and family was turned out on an order by the Court. He was a 'busman who was driven away 15 miles from his work. People acquainted with the conditions of 'busmen's work know what that means at the end of a long day. Not only that, but he was condemned to pay 20 guineas costs and was compelled to sell the whole of his furniture to do so. That is what is happening all over the country as a result of the 1923 Act, and it is a hardship which ought to be taken into account so that we may make some effort to reduce it.
A question which is becoming more and more acute is that of the man who has to live near his work. Anybody who studies the general question of the government of Greater London knows that more and more the working classes are being pushed out from London into the furthest possible suburbs. What are called the middle classes, who are so hard up, are more and more going into the workmen's houses and driving them out as a result of the 1923 Act, so that the workman has to pay a largely increased fare to go to his work, or has to find some method of returning home at night time when he is tired, such as a bicycle or even by walking, which renders him unfit for the next day's work, and in many cases ruins his health and is a source of the greatest hardship and annoyance to large classes of workmen all over Greater London. This particular provision of the Bill will do much to alleviate that hardship, as it provides that, the alternative accommoation shall be suitable to the means of the tenant and to the needs of the tenant and his family as regards extent, character and proximity to place of work. I notice that no provision is made for similarity of rent. That is a point which was raised frequently with considerable vehemence by the Labour party in the Debate on the last Act, and might very well be given effect to in this Bill. The hon. Member for St. Albans dealt with the elimination 2199 of paragraphs (f) and (g) in Sub-section (1) of the Act, dealing with ex-service men. I have not the slightest doubt that the promoters of the Bill, or the Government, if it takes over the working of the Bill, will agree to eliminate that particular Sub-section.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
It is quite clear that cases which arise under these particular paragraphs (f) and (g) are not of very frequent occurrence. I know cases, and I have had cases brought to me, of hardships of that sort, but I understand from authorities on these questions that these particular paragraphs, which deal with ex-service men, are not very frequently brought into play.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
That is not my information. Whether it is so or not, I cannot help thinking that the promoters of the Bill will agree, probably, to eliminate this particular Sub-section, at the price, I may say, of the support of a very large number of the Members of the Liberal party, and no doubt of Members of the Conservative party as well. That is the idea. Sub-section (2) of this Clause, which deals with the working of the Bill with regard to cases at present either sub judice or about to he brought or which have been brought and for which an Order has not been granted or has been granted and not executed is, in my opinion, a most invaluable provision; without it the Bill would lose half its point. All over the country orders have been made by County Court Judges, very often against their will—orders which they were unable to avoid making owing to the faulty wording of the Act, for which the hon. Member, for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) was to some extent responsible. Orders are being made at this moment all over the country, and thousands of families are waiting with breathless anxiety for the passing of this. Bill into law to enable them to save their homes. I refer in particular to the word "reasonable." I remember that both the late Minister of Health and the hon. Member for West Woolwich dilated at considerable length, both in Committee and on 2200 the Floor of this House, on the discretion of the County Court Judge. Unfortunately it has been found in practice that the County Court Judge has no discretion whatever in the matter of that word "reasonable."
§ Sir K. WOOD
The majority of County Court Judges have taken the interpretation of the Act which the hon. Member is good enough to say that I stated to the House when the matter was discussed. The great majority are using discretion and interpreting the Section in the sense which I indicated to the House.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I would not like to contradict the great authority of the hon. member, but I am certainly informed that the whole of the County Court Judges in the London area and in the home counties, who meet occasionally in order to be able to agree to a uniform reading of a particular Act, hold that in this case of "reasonable" all that has to occur is that the landlord has to produce a reasonable case for obtaining possession, but whether it is reasonable in the case of the tenant cannot be taken into account. The noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) may not believe me, but if he likes to ask any County Court Judge in the London area that is the answer he will get. I have that information, and at the present moment, on that very point, I am taking an appeal to the High Court, and paying for it on behalf of one of my constituents, in order to get a ruling from the High Court on that interpretation.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether he has ever put the question to a County Court Judge in the London area?
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I certainly have not, but I have asked people to do so. That is the answer I have got, and that is the answer I got in this particular case. I cannot argue at length with hon. Members, but that is the information I received, and information which the House will find to be correct.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
Could I assist the observations that the hon. Member is making as to the way the law applies? There has, as a matter of fact, been a County Court Judge's decision on 2201 the lines that the hon. Member is putting forward, and I do not think there can be any doubt upon the subject.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I do not, propose to [...]rgue that point any longer. It is not information which I have acquired without considerable trouble or considerable inquiry. I am prepared to believe it and I propose to assert it. We come now to the question of the actual rent. This is a question upon which I and many Members of the Liberal party have mid considerable misgiving. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill argued the question of the increase or reduction of rent on the figures of the cost of living. But, if he will forgive me saying so, the figures, surely, on which he should have based his argument are not the figures of the cost of living but the actual figures, easily obtainable, of the cost, of materials used in repairs, and the increase or decrease of wages in the trades which employ those materials. If he can produce a case founded on the figures I have suggested, he will have a stronger case to put before the Standing Committee. I am not any too clear as to whether the majority of landlords are now making immense profits. An hon. Member opposite said that the great majority of landlords in this country were small men or women. He was right. But at the same time there is no doubt that, whereas under the provisions of the present Act, the 20 per cent. was allowed for repairs, if it could, be definitely shown that the cost of repairs has largely fallen since 1920, it might be argued that there should be a reduction founded on the same basis.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
It was made perfectly clear in Committee that the 25 per cent. did not by any means reimburse the [...]oor house owner for the arrears as well as the existing charges made against We very much under-did it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member. At the same time he must have satisfied himself that the 25 per cent. would do. Regarding Clause 5, I think it is very necessary, because one of the chief difficulties that has arisen under the Act of 1923 has been the fact that empty houses of which the landlord has obtained possession are allowed to remain empty and the empty 2202 house goes out of the Act. We know that cupidity is not confined to one class or another. When it is said that the landlords are mostly small men, that does not imply that they are not sometimes actuated by reasons of cupidity. Where an inducement is held out to a landlord of this nature, it would be strange if he were not to take advantage of it, and there are many cases in which advantage has been taken of it to the detriment of the general well-being of the community. I do not like the way in which this Bill has been brought in. I believe it should have been a Government Measure, but I propose to vote for the Second Reading and do all I can to amend the provisions of the Bill in the directions which I think necessary. The question is one of the greatest possible urgency. There are thousands of families all over the country who are waiting in trembling for this Bill to become law—families whose roofs have been tort from them. In some cases there are families of three or four or five living in only two rooms, and these rooms have been deliberately taken from them by a land-lord without real necessity. That is happening in increasing numbers every day. Hon. Members who say they want inquiry know how long inquiries usually last. They know, if they have gone into this question, how important it is that some safeguards should be given to those people who are being turned out of their houses all over the country.
§ Mr. NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN
As the sponsor of the Act which has just undergone such denunciation, it is only right that I should say a few words about the Bill now before the House. No one can deny that this is a subject of most profound importance, because it touches one of the vital necessities of life, and it concerns the largest section of the community. It concerns the relations between landlord and tenant, which is always a controversial matter, and which tends to become highly acute when it is mixed up with political considerations. I do not suppose any Member of this House who has spent a long time and taken a great deal of trouble in carrying through an important piece of work, would desire to see that work torn up and destroyed within a few months of its accomplishment. I do not pretend that I should regard with. 2203 complacency any Amendment of the vital principle which lay at the root of the Rent Restrictions Act, 1923, but I hope the House will believe me when I say that no consideration of personal vanity would cause me to resist any proposition to make Amendments which investigation and experience has shown to be necessary even in an Act only passed last Session.
But I do wish to protest against the way this legislation is being brought before us today. In a matter of this importance that the Government should leave it to private Members, who cannot get access to the information at the disposal of the Minister of Health, to bring in a Bill of this kind—that the Government should evade their own responsibilities and should try to throw on other parties the odium of resisting what is admittedly a one-sided provision—seems to me to be wholly reprehensible. It is because I wish to protest against that, that I am going to support my hon. Friends in the Amendment. In framing the Act of 1923 and in conducting it through its various stages, the main idea I had all through was to try to escape at the earliest possible moment from control, provided that could be done with security to the tenant against oppressive or harsh treatment, or excessive hardship inflicted upon him, either by reason of ejection or the excessive raising of his rent. That was the main object of the Act. I knew that decontrol could not be got rid of by a stroke. I knew it must take time and even a very considerable time before it could really become effective, but I was very deeply impressed by the consideration that, while the necessity for control had arisen in consequence of the shortage of houses, the continued existence of control was the very thing that was causing shortage of houses.
Therefore while, taking the short view, I can quite understand that tenants would welcome many alterations in the Act of 1923, yet to those who believe, as we on this side of the House believe, that you will never get the free functioning of the various forces which used to provide houses for the people unless you free the industry as a whole from restriction, I think it is in the interests of the tenants themselves that you should get that decontrol as early 2204 as possible, subject to the considerations I have put forward just now. What I desired to establish was some sort of feeling of confidence among the people of the country that some time or another, even though it might be a long time, we were going definitely to get rid of all these controls and restrictions. The worst thing you can have is a constant succession of new legislation upsetting, amending, altering, extending the provisions which had been put forward a little time before in the hope that they would have been final. The very form of the 1923 Act was intended to give that confidence. It, provided for the extension of the 1920 Act and of what might he called full control—amended, it is true, in certain particulars upon the recommendations of the Onslow Committee—and then it provided for a period of partial control which actually took us up to the year 1930, which was the last year recommended in the Minority Report of the Onslow Committee by the Labour Members as the year in which all control should cease.
The Bill before us is an ill-digested Bill. It is not founded upon sound or solid evidence. It is simply a throwing together of anything which is thought would appeal to the tenants, and it cannot possibly form the basis of any sort of final settlement. The Prime Minister, on more than one occasion, has said that he desires that his Government should inspire confidence in the country. What an ironical commentary upon that statement! Here is a purely one-sided Measure brought forward without investigation, without preparation, without hearing both sides. There is hardly a single provision in it which would not be hotly disputed, and about which directly contrary opinions would not be held even by experts. These may be good party tactics—I dare say they are. In my constituency the majority of the electors are tenants, and I know very well that in resisting this Bill to the extent represented by this Amendment, I expose myself to accusations and to the cheapest and easiest kind of attack, but I am not prepared to buy my political security by keeping my mouth shut, or pretending to give my approval to Measures which I do not believe to be, in the long run, in the interests of my tenant voters. I shall look to them 2205 to give me credit for holding opinions and sticking to them whether they believe in those opinions or not. My attitude to-day is not that the Act of 1923 was perfect was perfect.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That is something different. What the hon. Member accused me of just now was saying that the Act was perfect. That I never said, and could not say of any Act which had been so frequently amended by the hon. Member's party. What I do say is that it was an honest and—though I, perhaps, should not say so—a courageous attempt to hold a fair balance between conflicting interests. I should not be at all surprised if, in regard to so difficult a subject—in a case where it was extremely difficult to predict what might happen, and where you had Acts interpreted by judges who sometimes take views which seem very contrary to the views which would be taken by a layman—things should happen which would make it necessary to amend the Act once more. But I say that when the Act is amended it should be amended in such a way as to be, if possible, a final settlement, and that we should not require another Act next year and another Act in the following year to keep on amending this legislation.
I should like to mention one or two provisions of the Bill which illustrate what I have been saying. First let me refer to Clause 4, which deals with rent. I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) that this is a necessary Clause, a Clause which will be welcomed on this side as well as on the other side of the House, and that the Amendment, which must, be made in the existing Act, should be retrospective so as to cover any possible advantage that may have been taken out of the decision of the Courts.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It is being appealed. Since, I observe that I have been attacked, not in the House to-day, but elsewhere, for what is called my gross 2206 carelessness in drafting, I wish to point out that this was not a new provision in the Act of 1923, but a provision continued from the Act of 1920, and it provides thatan amount not exceeding any increase in the amount for the time being payable by the landlord in respect of ratesmay be added to the rent. I confess I thought, at the time, that when the landlord was permitted to add to the rent an increase which was, for the time being, payable in respect of the rates, that must mean that when the rates came down he would have to reduce by a corresponding amount. I cannot understand how these words can be read to mean anything different. Naturally I will not presume to criticise the decision of the Divisional Court; yet I think I am justified in saying that the interpretation which I put upon those words, as well as expressing the original intention of the House, is not unjustifiable, and is one which would have been taken by nine people out of ten. With regard to the proposed extension from 1925 to 1928 of the period during which the Act of 1920, as amended, is to operate, undoubtedly the question of control is bound up essentially with the question of the existence of a sufficient number of houses to afford accommodation. When I introduced this provision I expressed the hope that by 1925 a considerable number of houses would have been built, which would have materially eased the housing situation, and enabled us to pass from the period of full control to that period of partial control which I have provided to last for another five years. It is possible that the period ought to be extended after June, 1925. It may be that the housing situation will not be as easy as I had anticipated, and certainly, if the Minister of Health is going to tear up my housing scheme, I think that very likely will be the case; but what I submit to the House is that it is too early yet to say whether the period ought to be extended, and, if it ought, for how long it ought to be extended. That is a question which ought not to be tackled at this moment, but it is one which should' remain open until you get nearer the time, and can ascertain better what the conditions are, and it should then be made the subject of careful inquiry, so that when this period of control is extended, if it be 2207 extended, it should be extended long enough to make it unnecessary to extend it again.
I would, in that connection, also point out that the three years which it is proposed to add to the period of full control are taken off the period of partial control. The second Part of the 1923 Act introduced some rather novel proposals. They were criticised, and not from one quarter of the House alone, when the Bill was under discussion, and a number of hon. Members expressed some doubt as to whether these provisions would work properly. I would never have proposed those provisions for a period of two years only. It certainly would not have been worth while to set up new machinery and to introduce those novel proposals for so short a time, and it certainly seems to me that if you are going to keep the date of final decontrol 1930, but to vary the proportions between the periods of full control and partial control, the whole subject will have to be reconsidered, and either you will have to put in a longer period of partial control, or else you will have to reconsider your proposals with regard to full control.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that that is so? Will he look at the first Section of Part II of the 1923 Act?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Section 12 is not interfered with, except that where the word "twenty-five" occurs, the word "twenty-eight" will be substituted by this Bill. That means to say, therefore, that the second Part of the Act will begin in 1928 instead of 1925. The effect of the Bill is to shorten the period of partial control from five years to two.
Then we come to the next point, namely, the question of reduction of rent. I remember that. I gave a great deal of consideration, when I was drafting the 1923 Act, to this subject of rent, and as to whether or not it was desirable to reduce the increase which had been permitted by the earlier Act, and I gave the House a number of reasons which had led me to the final conclusion that up to the end of the rather short period that I was considering, namely, to the middle of 1925, the rents should be left where they were. Some comments have been made by the hon. Member for East Willes 2208 den (Mr. H. Johnstone) upon this question of reduction of rent, and he has suggested that the reduction in the cost of repairs would justify a reduction in rent. I noticed that neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Bill put that as their ground at all. On the contrary, they both, I think, used the same argument, namely, that as the landlord did no repairs at all, the rents should be permanently cut down. I want to ask them whether they think that is really going to achieve their object.
After all, the object should be—whether it is, I do not know—to get the landlord to do his duty, and we did, in the 1923 Act, put in some provisions which the hon. Member who moved the Bill said are a dead letter, but which I remember the present President of the Board of Trade picked out as the one point in the Bill on which he could congratulate me, and which he said had been recommended by his own party. He hoped it would prove efficacious, but the hon. Member who moved the Bill showed from his description that he did not, understand the procedure, and I am wondering whether he is correct in saying that it is a dead letter.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
No. The hon. Member does not understand the Act. What I want particularly to draw the attention of hon. Members to is that if your object is to get these houses properly looked after—and I agree that that is the object that ought to be obtained—you are not going to get that by reducing the means which are at the disposal of the landlord, because in a very large number of cases it is want of means to-day which has prevented the landlord from carrying out repairs. I do not say in all cases—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member always speaks for the particular part of Scotland with which he is very closely acquainted. I do not pretend to have that intimate knowledge of that district which he has, and he may be quite right, but I am saying what I know to be true 2209 generally in this country, in England, and I repeat, though I cannot speak for all landlords, but I know from my own experience, that a great many of the cases are those where the people actually have not got the means. I remember being told by a medical officer of health that in 60 per Cent.—it was a long time ago—of the cases where he had to put into operation Part II of the 1890 Housing Act against landlords, the landlords were widows. It is perfectly obvious why. The husband had invested in property, and as long as he was earning money he was able to keep it in proper condition, but when he died, and left a widow, the earning power ceased. His money no longer came into the household, and she had no longer the resources which her husband would have had, had he still been alive. Hon. Members do not see the difference between what is in the Bill and what is in the Act. The Act endeavours to pick out the bad landlord and penalise him, by refusing to allow him to receive an increase of rent at all, if he has not done his duty. But what the Bill does is to say that all landlords, whether good or bad, shall be deprived of the rent, because certain landlords have not carried out their duty. That is not fair, it is not just, and it will not work.
What I suggest to the Minister of Health is that the proper way of dealing with this question is to have a full inquiry made as to what is going on under the 1923 Act. Let us have the facts—let us not have mere unsupported allegations—and, in the light of those facts, let us see what car be done, and do what we all agree should be done, and that is, to make the bad landlord do his duty, or else suffer for not doing it.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member will not expect me to give him a schedule, but I think the expression "in good tenantable repair" is very well understood, and if a landlord did that, a great many of the complaints that we get to-day would not be made. I can understand the point that he makes, but I 2210 think, where there is a sanitary authority which understands its business, it would have no difficulty in making a schedule of the repairs which should be carried out to any given house, which would satisfy the hon. Member, and enable the tenant to obtain his rights.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
With regard to the interpretation of "repairs," representations have been made that the word "repairs" is not defined to include the legitimate putting of a house in order. We made various proposals in 1923 on that question, but you turned them down.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The definition in the Act isFor the purposes of this Act, the expression 'repairs' means any repaire required for the purpose of keeping premises in good and tenantable repair.Really, I do not think it is for us to discuss now whether the local authorities are doing their duty or not. That is an administrative matter, and, no doubt, the Minister of Health can put pressure upon them if they are not doing so. I want to give another case. There is the question, which has given rise to a great deal of discussion, and, I think, to a great cleat of fear on the part of many tenants, in connection with the provision which enables a landlord, in certain circumstances, to get possession of his house for his own occupation or for the occupation of members of his family. There is a good deal of misunderstanding about that. The hon. Member who spoke last was quite incorrect in his statement of what the Act of 1923 provides. It surprises me all the more, because the hon. Member gave very close attention to it at the time it was going through the House of Commons, and I thought he was familiar with all its provisions; but when he said that, under that Act, the landlord, without providing alternative accommodation, could claim the house for himself and a whole tribe of relatives and dependants, I think he must have forgotten what the Act says. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are doing it now."] I think if hon. Members have followed closely the words I have used, they will have to agree with what I have said.
We must not have loose speaking in this matter, because it is a very complicated and a very difficult one, and people are 2211 very apt to make statements which are not in accord with the provisions of the Act itself. If the hon. Member for East. Willesden will look at Section 4, Subsection (1), paragraph IV, he will see that the landlord has only not got to provide alternative accommodation in the case where he requires the house as a residence for himself or for any son or daughter of his over 18 years of age. It does not include the case of the employé, in which case alternative accommodation has got to be provided. [An HON. MEMBER: "If the right hon. Gentleman will read the Section, he will find he is wrong."] Perhaps the hon. Member is looking at the wrong place, but I do not think it is fair to the House to continue to argue what are not matters of opinion, but matters of fact, and I would prefer to leave hon. Members to look at the Act, where I think they will find that what I have said is correct. As to the morality of this question, those who were in the House last year will recollect that, on the Second Reading of the Bill, I said there was no subject upon which [...] had more letters than that of the landlord who had bought a house in the genuine belief that he was going to get occupation of it, and then found himself deprived of that occupation by the Rent Restrictions Act, and although it is very easy to make out some hard cases of people who have been turned out in order to make way for landlords to come in, yet I do beg hon. Members not to lose sight of the fact that there have been equally hard cases the other way.
I gave instances myself in the House. I gave one where the rightful owners, four in number, were living in two rooms, while the tenants, two in number, were living in six rooms. I gave an instance of, I think, an ex-service man, who complained that while he had been sleeping on a concrete floor in Germany, his tenants had been sleeping on feather beds at home, and four people in the owner's family were deprived of their rooms, which were occupied by a childless couple. No doubt there were hundreds of other cases at the time, in which, really, the circumstances of the landlords were far more deserving of compassion than those of the tenants. The hon. Member shakes his head. He will not hear that any landlord is ever more hardly treated than a tenant, but, remember, many of 2212 these tenants were not only occupying houses that did not belong to them, but they were subletting rooms, and making handsome profits.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Here we have an hon. Member defending profiteers. I am surprised at him. It shows the extent of his prejudice. I pass from that, and I want to say that, in my opinion, it is not merely the shortcomings of the existing Act, or the way in which it has been used in a different manner from what it was intended by its author. I think, if you are going to legislate again upon rent restrictions, you ought to inquire into circumstances that go a little wider than that. Take, for instance, this same question of sub-letting. I am sure there is a tremendous lot of profiteering going on to-day that ought to he stopped. I am sure there are many houses in London, and not very far from here, not only the smallest, but 8 and 10-roomed houses, where, I am told, the average rent asked for an unfurnished room is 25s. a week, and I know there are many cases where much higher rents have been asked. What is the reason of that? These rooms must come under the Act; they must be controlled. Under the Act, not more than 10 per cent. increase is allowed for sub-tenancies. I cannot but believe that such rents as are being asked, and obtained, to-day for unfurnished rooms, are wholly illegal. I should like an inquiry to see whether that Section is a dead letter, and, if so, why and what is the proper remedy? I do ask the Minister of Health, when he conies to reply this afternoon, to give us some enlightenment as to what is going to be the attitude of the Government towards the whole subject of rent restrictions. If they are going, as the Prime Minister said, to appeal to everybody to go out with hope, for security and confidence based on good will, and to be just and worthy of respect, they must not confine themselves to a merely partisan or one-sided view of the ease. Let them be worthy of those words of the Prime Minister. Let them try to make a really fair and just settlement of this matter. Let them not be afraid, if they are going to meddle with it at all, to meddle with every part that wants further reform, and if, after full inquiry, 2213 further Amendments are shown to be necessary, no one will welcome a new Measure more than I.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Mr. A. Greenwood)
I had hoped to hear some arguments to justify the inquiry which hon. Members opposite think necessary before promoting further legislation. So far as I have followed hon. Members they have failed, and in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lady-wood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) we had no argument adduced why, before proceeding to legislation, there should be an inquiry. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) spoke of tenants playing for delay and delaying in order to keep the landlords out of their rights. I am driven to believe that the proposal for an inquiry is a proposal to secure delay in any alteration of the law.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
The hon. Gentleman may take it from us that there is no such opposition, and that, inasmuch as the Dock Strike inquiry and other similar inquiries only took a few days, there is no reason why there should in this case be any delay.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The dock strike inquiry was on a simple question. We have been told by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have great knowledge, that this question of rent restriction is a very difficult and complex one. If we entered upon any inquiry, and if we are to examine all the facts of which, one assumes, hon. Members opposite are not aware, it is going to be a matter of many months.
§ Lieut. - Colonel FREMANTLE
The last inquiry only took six weeks. There is no need for many months.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
Six weeks for a previous inquiry, but before that many, many thousands of cases of injustice had been committed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am referring now to the new question of evictions. There are a very large number of cases which have rendered the situation under the Rent Acts more complex than it was before. This seems to me to be a new method of legislation. We have passed through all its stages this week a Bill to abolish the gap, a Bill which met with the approval of hon. Members opposite, 2214 without any suggestion that this was a question that should be inquired into. Is it going to be the policy of hon. Members opposite that, whatever Bill is introduced by hon. Members on this side of the House, a Motion is to be put down for an inquiry? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, it is not."] I welcome this new-found zeal for knowledge on the part of hon. Members. I wish they had pursued that policy a little earlier, for they have not always based their legislation on knowledge. I suggest that legislation is going to he almost impossible in this House if on every conceivable subject, and more particularly on questions with which hon. Members opposite must have considerable knowledge—if they are performing their duty—we shall be put to the, trouble, expense, and delay of an inquiry.
So far as this particular question goes, the need for inquiry does not, I think, exist in view of the returns of the inquiry referred to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. The new fact, the greatest new fact, is the fact of the evictions of which there is a good deal of common knowledge amongst Members of this House. The speeches of hon. Members go to show that they are quite convinced themselves that there is no need for inquiry. Their speeches have been, it seems to me, one long list of criticisms of the Bill. They have made up their minds on it, and their speeches and criticisms seem to me to dispose of their own Amendment that a full inquiry is necessary. Moreover, the only part of, the Bill, so far as I understand it, with which there is any sympathy on the part of hon. Members opposite is that part of the Bill that might not yet be necessary. I refer to the Clause dealing with the reduction of rents when rates are altered. There is a case now before the Courts, and, therefore, it is hardly a proper question for legislation at the moment, but it may be shown later as a result of the appeal now pending that the Clause is unnecessary. As regards the rest of the Bill I take it lion. Members opposite are opposed to the Bill. The question is not a question for inquiry. What is the position?
The position really is this: that when this question was before the House last year hon. Members on this side, including Members below the Gangway, were to- 2215 gether in a minority, and hon. Members now on the opposite side were in a majority. Notwithstanding the efforts made by hon. Members now on this side of the House to make the Bill a fair Bill— I am sure that it was their desire—the Bill was forced through by the power of the majority which the Government possessed. That situation is now changed. Hon. Members on this side of the House—quite rightly—wish, not merely in the interests of the tenants, but in the broad national interest, to revise legislation which they regarded, to use the phrase of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as "ill-digested" and, they would say, unfair.
§ Lord E. PERCY
This is the material point: The hon. Gentleman says that inquiry is not neded because there has already been an exhaustive inquiry. May I point to him that in Clause 2, Sub-section (1), paragraph (c), which is of a most important character, is diametrically opposed not only to the Majority Report of the Onslow Committee, but the Minority Report. The minority of the Onslow Committee said the 1920 Act should not be materially changed.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The Noble Lord is really adding to the strength of my case. There is no conflict between the facts. The conflict is a conflict of policy.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that the Labour Party is going diametrically opposite to the two Labour Members who signed the Minority Report. [HON. MEMBERS" What does that matter?"]
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
Surely hon. Members of this House and of the Party here are entitled to their opinion! It is a matter of choice, not for an inquiry into the facts, or the operation of the existing law; the difference between the two sides is a difference of policy. Hon. Members opposite do not, when they bring forward an Amendment to say the House should decline to proceed with a Bill, say that it is a tenant's Measure, or a partial Measure according to all the facts to which reference has been made. They come forward with a Motion which hardly suggests or explains the real objection of hon. Members opposite. I do not wish to speak of the merits of the 2216 Bill. But it is quite clear that hon. Members on this side of the House, and, I believe, also hon. Members below the Gangway, are dissatisfied with the policy of the last Rent Restrictions Act, and will utilise all opportunities they possess of emending that legislation. Personally, I believe that legislation on this subject ought to be introduced. I regard it as an urgent question and not as a matter for inquiry, and so far as I am concerned I shall vote for the Bill. No doubt hon. Members will want to see this Measure altered, and they may desire to add some new Clauses to it. Others may wish to amend existing Clauses, but I feel sure that there is need for legislation because the Measures passed by the last Government did not face and deal with the problems which have arisen during the history of Rent Restrictions Acts. We have to face this question now with a little more regard to the interests of the tenants than the last Act actually did. In saying that I am not pleading for one class against another, but for a Measure that will do justice to a very large number of people in this country. After the policies on this subject which have been adopted for over five years by previous Housing Bills, these poor people are still at the mercy of a housing shortage, and this is inevitable until we on this side succeed in removing that shortage.
§ Sir CHARLES WILSON
I may say at once that I am opposed to this Bill. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading spoke in a very moderate manner; but I cannot say the same for the hon. Member who followed him, whose speech contained many inaccuracies and in particular he found fault with the present situation because there were thousands of single-roomed dwellings. On that score I agree with him, but the difficulty is that the present attitude of hon. Members opposite is going to perpetuate that system of single dwellings in Scotland. Can any hon. Member opposite point out to me how this Bill is going to meet that difficulty? As a matter of fact, it will not touch that question at all, nor will it touch many other questions which hang on the shortage of houses. We all know how that shortage has been brought about, and I want to face the question honestly. Whereas both parties are aiming at the same thing, hon. Members opposite fail to realise that the methods they 2217 are adopting are making a solution of the problem impossible.
They are wedded to the same blunder which was made by the Finance Act, 1910. At that time there were from 6,000 to 9,000 empty houses in Leeds, and they helped to keep down the rents, and that cannot be said to be in the interests of the landlords. After the passing of the Act which I have just mentioned, by one fell swoop the situation was altered and the building of cottages stopped. On this subject I know what I am talking about, for I have sat on Committees dealing with the housing problem for 30 years, and I know that what I have said about the blunder of the Finance Act, 1910, was the main cause of our present day difficulties. We want to get on with the housing question. We want to concentrate on the provision of more houses, and I want to ask the two hon. Members representing the Government on the Front Bench to make their colleagues who are absent take a little more interest in this question themselves. This subject cannot be dealt with effectively in a private Member's Bill. It is an important question which ought to be taken up by the Government. The Parliamentary Secretary appears to ridicule the idea of a committee of inquiry, but I wonder if he has counted the number of inquiries which his own Government have already set up. As a matter of fact we are being governed by committees of inquiry, in other words by a Soviet procedure.
§ Sir C. WILSON
Then that is a compliment to my accuracy. I wish to apply myself to the difficulties of the situation. I want to inform the House what happened with regard to the building of several thousand cottages undertaken by the City of Leeds. Acting under pressure an application was made to the Government to reduce the rents which stood at 9s. and 10s. per week, according to the varying size of the houses. What did the Government do? In this matter I think we are entitled to see where the consistency comes in, and what the Government really wish to do for these people. They consented to reduce the rents by 6d. a week. I am now telling hon. Members opposite something which they did not know, and 2218 that is what was done by the present Government in January last.
Is there any consistency between that position and the position set up by their attempts to deal with private cottages and private owners? The rents of such cottages are to be confiscated to much greater extent, and that will not do. It will not suit the country and it will not suit anybody. There is much loose and foolish talk about the profits made by those who own cottages. I happen to own a few myself, and I will tell the House some of the difficulties which owners have to face. I am not prepared to admit the sense of going in for general legislation on a mere individual case, but as individual cases have been referred to I will refer to my own. I have worked probably as hard as any Member of this House opposite for 50 years, and I have acquired a few cottages. May I say that my position is that my tenants will not leave me, and They do not want to leave. I hear a good deal of loose and foolish talk outside as well as inside this House as to the profits to be made out of cottage property, but I challenge any hon. Member to show that he can make more than 4 per cent. interest on his money.
With regard to the land, under the old conditions landlords were content with an average of 2½ per cent., and they did not increase their rents to their tenants. What has happened to them? You broke up their estates, and now when new owners want an economic return for their money you produce a state of things in which the last stage is worse than the first. It is also worse for the farmer. I am an owner of cottages, a farmer and a good many other things besides. I am not going to say that there are not bad houses, but I also want to say that there are bad tenants. There are tenants whom you can put into palaces and they will turn them into slums. Personally, I think it is necessary that there should be an inquiry into these matters. There is no need to take up any length of time by an inquiry, and it is only a question of dealing fairly all round with these interested in the problem. Until you get rid of this silly notion of taxing land values you will never get on with this housing problem at all, because you are really doing exactly what was done by the Finance Act, 1910, that is, you are frightening everybody 2219 away from the provision of houses when they are wishful to get back to the provision of houses. Some say that there are none being built. That is not true. What did the Finance Act do? It made a difficulty, not only for tenants, but for everybody. Professional men engaged in dealing with land and buildings were practically thrown out of business. Large numbers were hurt by that foolish and ill-conceived Measure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are committed to the taxation of land values. Let them get rid of it. It was a blunder patent to everybody who will think, and the perpetuation of it a second time will not help to do what hon. Members and I want to do, namely, to provide more houses. If hon. Gentlemen can see their way to say that they will consider this and all other property as a sacred matter, and act upon it, then they will get somebody to put their money in houses. That is the underlying consideration of the whole position.
Hon. Members are aiming at that which I am aiming, and I give them full credit for it, but by their method they will ruin the position. We must get back to private building if this question is to be settled. I hope that I am not overstating the case. I have had years of experience of it. Immediately after the War, when housing seemed to be bad, I supported in the City Council of Leeds the purchase of a large quantity of land in order to set to work to build houses as fast as we could. This matter is not going to be settled in the next 10 years unless there is a better spirit all round. I am in favour of improving the lot of the tenants, and especially of those people who have no houses to go to. Respectable peple come to me and say, "We want to get married, but we cannot get a place to live in for love or money," and I know it is true. An hon. Member said something about the next generation not being able to bear certain demands; but there will not be any next generation unless we do something to meet this demand. [interruption.] I do not know whether there is a fog on the Thames or not, but I cannot proceed if there is a fog-horn sounding in this House. I am trying to apply myself, honestly, to the difficulties of the situation, but it is not very easy for a new Member to carry on in face of foolish opposition of that description.
2220 With regard to this question of rents, if, as I have pointed out, the Government are willing to despoil owners, whether small or large, to the extent suggested, ought they not to be ready to make reductions in rent of more than 6d. per week. We, in Leeds, have not to find the money for that reduction. We are limited to finding a penny rate, and every penny of rent that is reduced increases the amount to be found by the Government. Until we get back to free trade in houses, we shall not, and cannot, settle this question. I do not care what differences of opinion there are in this House. I am trying to get down to the hard facts, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that the Government will have to take this matter in hand, and not leave it to a private Member. They will have to meet the very point that I mentioned. They will have to try and bring the two sets of houses to an economic position. It will be difficult, and it will take time, but there is no case for the Government robbing the smallowner when it will not itself reduce rents. That is the point which I wish to make, and which I shall continue to snake, because it shows, as is also shown by that depleted bench opposite, that they take very little interest in the question, and that the whole thing is a hollow sham.
§ 2 P.M.
§ Mr. SUNLIGHT
I beg the indulgence of the House, which I observe is so generously given to a new Member rising to speak for the first time. I had looked forward to offering my first contribution to the Debates in this House upon the much larger question of house building, because —and I hope the hon. Members will permit me to refer, in all humility, to the fact —I am the only Member of the House who is a practising architect engaged on the planning and building of houses. I am led to make my maiden attempt to-day because I am honestly convinced that the subject under discussion is inseparable from the larger issue of house building. I am reluctant to criticise this Bill, because one is so apt to be misrepresented in one's constitutency as lacking in sympathy with those people who are groaning under the anomalies of past Rent Restrictions Acts. I assure the mover and supporters of this Bill that I am in entire sympathy with the sentiment underlying it, and I would take this opportunity of paying a tribute 2221 to the patience of those people who are suffering from the defects of past legislation. If I criticise this Bill, I do so because its main object is to extend the time of protection practically indefinitely. I do so also in the very best interests of the people who are suffering, because I hold the view that the Rent Restrictions Acts from time to time enacted have been the biggest stimulant of the Government of the day to get on with the provision of new houses. I fear that this Bill will be a great inducement and invitation to any Government to postpone their utmost efforts until near the expiration of the period of the particular Rent Act.
A good deal has been said about the awful irritation and trouble caused to those people who are now either awaiting eviction, or threatened eviction. I entirely endorse the desire to bring about immediately some remedy for the benefit of those people, but I do plead that it ought to be separated from the two vital points in this Bill, namely, the extension of the time for so many years, and the reduction in the permitted rents. Personally, I would welcome a Rent Bill every 12 months, because, in my opinion, it would be the best agency for urging on the Government of the day, whatever Government may be in power, to provide more and more houses. I hold no brief for landlords, but I do know that even with the present 40 per cent increase house property does not pay. When people criticise landlords for not repairing their properties, I should like to quote a story which was told to me not long ago, bearing on the question of the cost of repairs. It is quite true that the owners of large estates and properties have their own men for doing repairs, but the small property owner is entirely in the hands—I do not want to be unkind and say of the trade union men, but, at any rate, of small repairers, who try in their own interests to make a substantial profit. I was told the story, which I will not vouch for, that a certain man called in a plumber to repair a burst, and he said, "Come and do it to-morrow and send me in the bill." When the bill was sent in the amount was £10. Next day he went to see the plumber, and said, "Here is £2," and the plumber said, "But I sent you in a bill for £10." "That is all very well,' said the other man, "but I am a retired plumber"; 2222 and the plumber said, "Very well, you want 10s. change.
If the supporters of this Bill can convince the House that 25 per cent. instead of 40 per cent. is adequate, I would urge that that margin should go to the benefit of another class of tenants who are groaning under exorbitant rents in post-War-built houses, and that the House should refrain from further supporting a well-protected class of tenants. At the present moment I am dealing with a very difficult case in my own constituency, that of a garden suburb built by a well-known firm of engineers for their own workpeople. In 1919 those cottages cost about £1,200 each, and they borrowed money at 6 or 6½ per cent. from the Public Works Loans Commissioners. Those tenants are at the present moment paying well over £1 a week out of a weekly wage of 60s., with no hope of reduction, and yet, close to them, protected tenants are benefiting by occupying houses of similar size at 10s. a week. By all means, if you are convinced that 25 per cent. is sufficient, take the 15 per cent. and give the benefit to those tenants who are living in public utility societies' or other post-War-built houses. I submit, however, that 40 per cent. is not excessive. During the War I paid 4 per cent. interest on mortgage money on property, and to-day I have to pay from 5 to 6 per cent. I know that many small property owners for whom I have acted are not benefiting by the Section under which they are entitled to collect this increase for repairs. If anyone benefits at all, it is the man who does the repairs. Further, it is, as I said at the beginning, a matter of providing more and more houses. I urge the Government to make this a Government Bill, and to defer bringing it before this House until the Minister of Health has disclosed his detailed plans for the provision of houses. I thank the House for their courteous hearing, and trust that on a future occasion, when I have the opportunity of addressing it on the wider subject of the Government's housing plans, I shall have an equally courteous hearing.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Before I begin, I should like to be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Sunlight.) on the very able maiden speech which he has just delivered, and to assure him that, if he always speaks as he has spoken to-day, the House will always 2223 listen to him very patiently. The Bill that we are discussing at the moment is termed the Rent Restrictions Bill. I want to ask the House why a Rent Restrictions Act is necessary. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lady-wood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) has said that, at any rate speaking for the part of the world that he represents, the landlords, generally speaking, are good, but that he could not stand for the landlords or factors in the part of the world from which I come. That was a great admission for him to make, because we have listened to him in this House and in Committee on this self-same question, and I still hold the same opinion that I stated when we were on the other side of the House, namely, that, on this rent question, from a tenant's point of view, the right hon. Gentleman is entirely ignorant. Therefore, it is a good thing for the British Empire that the people of this country, in their day and generation, had the wisdom to send him about his business and put another Minister of Health in his place. I think that that holds good as regards the entire change that has taken place in the political situation of our country. The country has sent men into power—not only into office, but into power—who will view all these ideas from an entirely new angle, and that will be for the good of our country and of the British Empire in general.
We have listened to speeches from both sides of the House to-day in reference to rent, but, as far as Scotland is concerned, every Labour Member is pledged, not to any increase in rent, but that the rents go back to the 1914 level. That is what we have been sent here for, and not for what is in this Bill. Scotland never agreed, and never will agree, under the present economic conditions, to any increase in rent. The hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) said that the shortage of houses is due to short rent. That was the sum total of his statement; and the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Sir C. Wilson)—that healthy, intelligent-looking chief who has just been talking—backed up that same statement. Of all the places in Great Britain, France or Ireland that anyone could stand and advocate about houses from this point of view, the last in that part of the world is Leeds, with its back-to-back houses. Yet they say we 2224 must have an increased rent in order that we may get more houses to encourage private enterprise. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury, in his maiden speech, stated that it was necessary in order to get profit, and that they must have a return for their money. But why should you have any profit out of the flesh and blood of the working man? Why should profit be made out of the homes of our people? Why should not our people have homes—never mind houses? I can remember a King's speech by the present King. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I am allowed. I have taken legal opinion, and the legal opinion I have taken is my own. He stated in one of his own speeches that what was wanted for Britain was not houses, but homes for the people. It is homes for the people that we want, and we who come from Scotland want you to understand that we have made up our minds, as far as it is humanly possible, to make it impossible for private individuals to own the homes of our people. We have made up our minds as far as we can to try to change public opinion so that private enterprise, not only in the building of houses, but in the owning of houses, will go out of Court. All who take any interest in the housing of the people of our country now admit that, as far as house building is concerned, private enterprise has miserably failed. Can you blame the Labour party for the slums of our great industrial centres? Who is responsible for the slums? You, Sir, from West Woolwich. It is those who have been in authority, those who have been the Government of this country, both nationally and locally, who are responsible for the slums of our great cities. Therefore we want to alter all that. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Bill wants to alter that."] I agree with the interrupter that this Bill would bring the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, but we Scotsmen are doing all we can in our day and generation to build a road—that is what our Prime Minister said, that this Government was not going to be able to usher in the Socialist Commonwealth, but we were going to try to a road that would reach that great high ideal, and everything that we do in this House is done with that as our guide in all our actions. [An HON. MEMBER: "Especially cruisers!"]
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I do not see how the cruisers come in, but it is better, speaking now as an engineer, that my fellow tradesmen should be employed building engines and equipping the Navy, men who are in the habit, not as the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. D. G. Somerville) said last night, of working to a hundredth part of an inch, but who are in the habit of working to a thousandth part of an inch. It is better that those men should be kept trained at their work instead of being able to make great highways and lose all the cunning they have learned in a lifetime practised at their own trade. So much for that. I mentioned what we had come from Scotland for in connection with the rents. We are very earnest about this, and I am going to try to make a case for it to the best of my ability, and I hope the House will give me a patient and attentive hearing. The conditions in England are quite different from those in Scotland. It is not possible for a poor person to own houses in Scotland, particularly on the Clyde. They are great tenements, four and five stories high. Our people are piled up, with the result that it takes tens of thousands of pounds to build those houses, and it is wealthy people, people worth money, who own those houses. This business about the poor widow and orphan cuts no ice on the Clyde.
They came down here, the reason being that the landlords and factors, when the youth of our country were out fighting at the War, raised the rents. They had the, power to raise the rents whenever they liked. This is a new idea of the Government interfering in what the rents will be. Why did they do it? Because the factors and landlords were imposing on the helplessness of the tenants. There is no doubt about that, and we on the Clyde told them "You are going to get no increase," we made such a noise that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who was then in power—I wish he were here to-day; he is away now enjoying himself and holding himself up, I expect, in order that he may be able to do big things: his day is past—had to institute an inquiry. Lord Hunter came down and held it. It finished up with the Rent Restrictions Act being put on the Statute 2226 Book, that for the duration of the War and six months afterwards there should be no increase in rent. Where is the right hon. Member for Birmingham now? Where are all those who tell us that the landlords and factors are a decent set of citizens in our country? Why had that restriction to be put on? Because they were robbers of the widow and the orphan. They were taking advantage of our country when our country was in peril. There is no doubt about that. We have always held that there was no justification for that increase in rent, because the houses had been built before 1914 and all the changes that had taken place as a result of the War did not affect those houses. Some of the houses had been built a hundred years before the War. We have thousands of them in Glasgow, and we have proof of that here, because the city assessor of Glasgow was in the gallery a moment ago. Then they came to Parliament and interviewed their friends. The friends of the landlord were then in power. That was the Coalition Government. The Liberals and the Tories are the friends of the landlord. The statement made by the representatives of the landlords and factors from Scotland was that owing to the War there had been no repairs done, because all the available men were taken away to the War, and the property was getting into a dilapidated state. They asked the Government to give them 25 per cent. increase to enable them to make those repairs. Let me tell the House, as a responsible citizen, that those repairs were not made. The landlords kept the 25 per cent. increase and pocketed it. My collagues here say that it was sheer theft. The whole increase has been sheer theft.
I had a letter this morning from my own constituency, telling me that because this Bill is before the House the landlords and the factors in Dumbarton are bringing the tenants before the Sheriff in batches of 50 in order that they may get the power to eject the people from their houses. That is what is going on in the land that we claim to be the land of the brave and the free. Our people are being terrorised, and we are expected to walk the floor here and behave like gentlemen. We are expected to behave as the Liberals and the Tories did when they were in power. The House can take it from me that the Labour party will never be a party to anything of the kind. They 2227 will show how it is possible to be gentle men from another point of view. They will show how it is possible for a man drawn from the [...]oins of the working classes to act as a gentleman. The best men who sit on the Front Bench are men who have been drawn from the [...]oins of the working classes. The men who have given the best account of themselves are not the men drawn from the middle classes but the men drawn directly from the working classes. It is because of that fact that our people in the country are looking to this House, believing that this Government will act as no other Government has ever acted, that it will act as a British Government and will pass Acts for the benefit of the British people, and not for a section of the British people.
How is it possible for men who do not know the terrible strain that is put upon the working classes to have any idea of their conditions, when they touch the question of rent? They know nothing about it, but our men on the Front Bench and the men who are responsible for this Bill, with all its drawbacks, do know something about it. It is not a Bill such as I would have liked. It is not a Bill such as Scotland would have backed, because Scotland is against any increase in rent and has made out a case against any increase in rent. We believe that good will come of this Bill. I hope that every section of the House will support the present Government, because this Government will stand between the powers that be and the terrible discontent that is bound to follow unless we get concessions. It rests with the Liberal and the Tory to say whether or not we shall be able to get these concessions. Do hon. Members know what it means to be taken up to the court, dreading that you may be evicted? I know what it is to stand in the court and to defend thousands of tenants. I have defended more people in the courts of Glasgow than all the lawyers in Glasgow put together. The Sheriffs in Glasgow gave to me, although I am an engineer, locus standi, both in the rent court and in the small debt court, in order to defend people who were not able to defend themselves.
It is because I know what my class have come through, and that the workpeople 2228 of this country are long suffering, that I speak as I do. But there is no doubt that there is an awakening taking place. Our people are taking courage. They are having faith in themselves, and that is why Labour is here to-day. That is why Labour is not the official Opposition, but is His Majesty's Government, and is on the best of terms with His Majesty at the moment. I hope that the House will support this Bill. It is not all that we would have wanted, but we know that we cannot get everything. Some of our opposition have come into Dumbarton and spoken in Dumbarton Town Hall. but if they would go to Dumbarton Sheriff Court, and see the hardy, intelligent race, some of whose blood they claim to have in their veins, being brought to that Court, and placed in the humiliating position in which they are placed, I am satisfied that, if they had been in my position defending those people, then what would go forth from this House would be a statement that evictions in this country would have to stop, and stop at once.
I hope that this Government, and the Minister of Health—there is nobody better able or who knows more about the position than he—will bring in a Measure at once doing away with that awful tragedy that is being enacted in our midst. While we all here are well fed, well clad, and well slept tens of thousands of our people, people on whom you are dependent for your votes, people on whom the British Empire depends for its power in the world, are at the moment living in terror of ejection. Therefore I appeal to the Minister of Health—I know him best of all the Cabinet, and he knows the conditions as well as I do—along with the rest of the Government to bring in a Measure at once. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was Prime Minister, he brought in Measures within 24 hours when it suited him during the War. In my opinion this is just as important as an invasion of the Germans, or any other people into our native land. The fact is that thousands of our people are living in dread of being thrown out of their homes. Think of what that means. That is worse even than losing your job. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that at the moment on the Clyde the landlords and factors have in their hands the power to eject tens of 2229 thousands of people. It is true that they are not putting it into force, but they are holding that power over the people's heads, keeping them in dread, and living in a perfect nightmare. What is the use of those people being part and parcel of the mightiest Empire on which the sun has ever shone? What does it matter to them whether we have a great Navy or a great Army, or whether we have a great Prime Minister or a Minister of Health, or anything else, unless all that greatness is applied to getting rid of the horrible conditions in which they live, move and have their being?
§ Mr. LAMB
I listened with very much pleasure to the speech just made by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) not that I agree with it—that is not the point—but it has been a most vigorous speech, and I believe that we can all say that that vigour is born of conviction. I do not propose to take up the time of the House for many minutes dealing with this question in its general aspect, because that matter has been dealt with so fully and ably by other speakers, but, though I have sat through the whole Debate, I have not heard it stated whether the Bill refers to rural areas. The Proposer of the Bill, in referring to the 1923 Act, enumerated some of those conditions in which possession of houses could be obtained. But the truth of the tale is not told until the whole is heard, and he stopped before he told you one part which is left out of this Bill which is in the 1923 Act and also of the 1920 Act, and which is of very great importance. He left out the reference to the cultivation of the soil. Nobody will disagree with me when I say that the cultivation of the soil of this or any other country is of the utmost importance to the residents in that country, no matter what class they may belong to. The Bill, as introduced, provides in Subsection (1), paragraph (c), that for paragraph (d) of Sub-section (1) of the Act of 1923 there shall be substituted the words:The dwelling-house is reasonably required by the landlord for occupation as a residence for himself"—and it stops there. But in the original Act it goes on to say:or for some person engaged in his whole time employment, or in the whole time employment of some tenant from him or with whom, conditional on housing accom- 2230 modation being provided, a contract for such employment has been entered into and (except as otherwise provided by this Subsection) the Court is satisfied that alternative accommodation is available.Under that Clause it is necessary to provide alternative accommodation, except as otherwise provided by this Section. That exception is found on the next page in paragraph (ii).Where the Court is satisfied by a certificate of the county agricultural committee or of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, pending the formation of such committee, that the dwelling-house is required by the landlord for the occupation of a person engaged on work necessary for the proper working of an agricultural holding, or with whom conditional on housing accommodation being provided, a contract for employment on such work has been entered into.That is a very important omission from this Bill, and one which will make it impossible, in some cases, for proper cultivation of the soil to be continued. I agree with the statement made by the Prime Minister some days ago with regard to the disadvantages of control. If there is one thing that agriculturists ask for it is that they should be left without control. But there are instances where control is necessary, and we can agree that in the present circumstances control of housing accommodation is necessary. Why? Because of a shortage. There is a very great deal of difference in the effects of that shortage upon the town population and upon the rural population. The provision of housing accommodation in the towns is inadequate because it is not economically sound to build houses now. In the country districts the provision of houses has never been a question of rent. The equipment of estates to enable the occupiers to produce food from the land has included not only the building of houses for the farmer, but also the provision of cottages for the farm worker. The shortage in the country is not due to the fact that there has been an increase in the purely agricultural population working on the land, because we know very well, unfortunately, that this population is decreasing.
But what do we find? Local authorities do not provide for their employés, and they have usurped the accommodation originally provided by the landlord to equip the land with cottages. They have in some cases taken over houses for the accommodation of men working on the 2231 rural roads. The county councils have not provided for the police, and they, too, have taken away cottages from the rural workers. The Government have not provided for postmen and other servants of the State. That is another drain on the legitimate housing accommodation of am rural worker. The effect of the housing shortage in the towns has been felt in the country, because those who have been unable to find reasonable accommodation in the towns have been compelled—I do not blame them, for the circumstances are beyond control—to go to the country by omnibus or rail or cycle, and to occupy in the rural areas cottages which were primarily intended for purely rural workers.
The hon. Member who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill, described it as a tenants' Bill. It may be from a town point of view, though I shall not argue that now. With the omission I have pointed out the Bill is certainly not a tenants' Bill in the country. There are many rural workers who are walking miles and miles from their cottages to their work, because it is impossible for them to obtain the accommodation which was provided for the man, whoever he might be, who had to do the work on a farm. It is not the fault of the man or of his employer. It is due to the fact that the house has been occupied by someone else, who cannot be got rid of unless we have the power which is given in the 1923 Act. If that power is taken away by the present Bill it will cause untold hardship to the workers themselves. You may have the case where two men exchange employers. You might then have two men walking perhaps three miles each to their work, though the work of one of the men might be adjacent to a cottage which should be available for him. That is an anomaly. I regret that the Seconder of the Bill allowed himself to make comparisons between the accommodation provided in the country for the housing of the people and the housing of pigs. I deprecate comparisons of that kind being made here or anywhere else. I know of no one living in the rural areas who wishes any resident to live in anything but a decent house. There is no advantage in making comparisons of that kind, from which one can make no satisfactory deduction.
2232 I cannot support this Bill without a definite assurance that the omission I have referred to is rectified I also believe that we ought to allow a longer time for the 1923 Act to operate, so as to see what are the genuine results of that Act. There are anomalies in the 1923 Act. I certainly think that where rent has been increased owing to the increase of rates, it ought to be made clear by someone very soon that when rates fall the rent must fall too, for that was what was intended, whatever the words of the Act might be. This Bill should be withdrawn and the Government at some near date should consider the question of bringing in a Bill amending, where necessary, and only where necessary, the 1920 and 1923 Acts. Let the matter be considered fully, not from one point of view only, but from the point of view of the country as a whole.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Wheatley)
A good deal has been said by Members on the other side of the House on the fact that this is a private Member's Bill for which the Government has not accepted responsibility. I think it would be a perfectly fair retort for me to make, that the Amendment asking the House to reject the Bill stands in the name of a private Member for the reason that the official leaders of the party were afraid to face, in the country, the responsibility for opposing the Measure now before the House. The Government's attitude towards the Measure is that it approves generally of the Bill, and hopes that it will get a Second Reading. The Government itself is not responsible for the Bill, and does not accept responsibility for it beyond what I have said. Let me state my own views, apart from the expression of the view of the Government. One of the things that must strike any impartial observer of this House is the completely different attitude of mind adopted towards any proposal that seeks to make a concession to the working class as compared to that adopted towards a proposal to somehow or other enrich any section of the wealthier classes.
If this were a proposal to confer some benefit on a company exploiting Egypt or India or anywhere else, if it were to benefit capitalistic adventurers by improving relations with foreign powers, if it dealt with any section of people but the working classes, then, on the other side of the House would be ranged the 2233 supporters of this proposal. Being, as it is, a proposal to benefit and protect the poor, we get all those learned objections and all those plausible appeals for its postponement. For instance, the Amendment asks us to postpone the Bill until an inquiry has been held into the conditions that have been created from the coming into operation of the Act for which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ladywood Division of Birmingham (Mr. N. Chamberlain) was responsible. If it were considered advisable to reduce the wages of the people who live in these houses, would anyone get up and say that that proposal should be postponed until we had a careful inquiry into the circumstances of the people who were to receive the wages and the ability of the other people to pay them? You would never dream of doing that. Here you want a postponement ostensibly in order to get an inquiry, but really because you know that postponement and inquiry, and the perpetuation of the present state of things would make it impracticable to introduce the policy that permeates the Bill now before the House. I think hon. and right hon. Members opposite might as well be perfectly honest in their attitude towards this Measure, and as to the fundamental differences between the views of that side of the House, and those who sit behind me.
The view of the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the 1923 Act was that you ought to remove control from house rent as early as possible, and the limit of possibility is the tolerance of the tenants. As soon as the tenants will agree, you ought to remove the control of rents, because he knows that the control of rents cannot produce the houses. He wants to deal with the matter from one point of view, I want to deal with it from another. He says, "Remove control of rents, and allow rents to soar. Make it possible for capital to flow into the housing industry; show the capital-owning section of the community that there is plenty of money in the business, and they will give you plenty of houses." He says, on the other hand, that, while you have control you are frightening off private enterprise, and therefore you will not get the houses. What is the fact? Anyone with a knowledge of housing conditions knows that it is not Socialists who have frightened private enterprise out of the 2234 business of providing houses. I do not think anyone will question the fact that no man to-day with ordinary business intelligence, and no legal or other gentleman responsible for advising a client, would advise that client to invest money in the provision of working-class houses. There are two aspects of this housing problem. There is the building of houses for people who can afford to purchase them, which is one way of providing houses for a limited section of the community. But you have probably three-fourths of the community whose economic circumstances are such that they depend for their accommodation on their ability to pay rent for a house. It is on the provision of houses for them that I wish to speak to the House. The days of private capital-owners investing their capital in houses to be rented to the working-classes have gone for ever.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I mean by working classes in this connection, not in all connections, people who cannot afford to own the houses they occupy. I think that will do as a rough and ready definition. I submit, again, that we need never expect people to invest money in that, for various reasons. It is not a Labour Government or a Socialist Government, or Socialist propaganda that has driven private enterprise out of this sphere. The thing that has happened here is happening in many other sections of industry. Private enterprise, in fixing wages, has still got private enterprise ideas. As you have an increase in the amount of goods produced, the wages of the workers are cheapened, and this makes it more and more difficult for the worker to pay the rents of houses that the medical profession state to be necessary to give him a decent standard of comfort.
We are not here dealing with a situation created by Socialism, nor are we imposing anything which is necessarily Socialistic or in the interests of Socialism. We are dealing here, as in most things, with the failure of private enterprise and the evils inseparable from that failure. If the inquiry demanded by the Amendment were granted we should be landed into this position—that as the days passed, 2235 there would be an ever increasing number of houses becoming decontrolled, and if you could carry on your inquiry for 12 months, at the end of the 12 months you would find there were almost as many houses decontrolled as those which remained controlled. Hon. Members opposite would then say "Why should you introduce legislation which would have the effect of imposing control again," and they would appeal, as they always do, to the divisions among the tenants created by their own policy. They would say to the half whose houses had been decontrolled, "Why worry yourselves supporting a Labour Government in trying to defend people who live in controlled houses? Why should they be a privileged few and enjoy advantages over you? You should allow them to get just what they allowed you to get." That is the condition of things which hon. Members opposite hope to realise by the postponement of this Bill and the creation of an inquiry, and their Amendment is not honest.
As a matter of fact, of all the defects of the Bill of which they have uttered such vigorous complaints, there is only one real defect from their point of view, and it is that the Bill reduces the rents of working-class houses. If that Clause were removed from the Bill the Second Reading would be given unanimously, and we should be told that all the other defects could be easily and finally remedied in the Committee room. We have been told that it is part and parcel of the policy of hon. Members opposite and is in accordancce with the fundamental principles of their leaders, that there should be free trade in houses, in other words, that we should allow private enterprise and the capitalist system and the law of supply and demand and all these other things to get full play. Do hon. Members ever pause to consider the consistency of what they advocate. They have just gone to the country against Free Trade; they have told the country that if it wants to run its affairs successfully it must abandon Free Trade and that only to the extent to which it abandons Free Trade can the country hope for succcess. [Interruption.] I have not gone to the country in defence of Free Trade nor in support of Protection, and I am perfectly free to judge between the two systems. But hon. Members 2236 opposite want Free Trade where the rich are likely to benefit by it, even though the poor are likely to suffer, and they want Protection where the rich are likely to benefit by it even though, again, the poor are likely to suffer. So their position is not that of Free Traders or Protectionists. They are really the protectors of the rich and the privileged.
I have already pointed out that we cannot dissociate the provision of houses from rent control. As a matter of fact, from the point of view of hon. Members themselves, from the point of view of people who desire anything like social stability, they are on the wrong course. Do you think it is in the interests of the people whom you defend that you should have social discontent and chaos in this country? You talk about getting confidence. You say you must give the country confidence. Why should you always mean by "the country" the few people for whom you speak? Why should not you include in "the country" that great toiling multitude on whom your clients and you depend? Why should you always leave them out of account? Why should not we try to give the masses of the people confidence? Why should not we make them feel that when Measures are to be discussed in this House, they will be discussed not from the point of view that has dominated this House in all the ages of the past, the class point of view, but that they can rely on this House, as an impartial committee of the nation, being prepared to see that all sections of the nation are treated equitably by those who dominate its affairs? You always think in terms of a small class. You have not yet shed your minds of the idea that the only way in which a country can be great is that you should have a small ruling class, with a great multitude perpetually in subjection. [HON. MEMBERS "Nonsense!"] At any rate, I have proved that you are not the gentlemanly party, because my hon. Friends gave you a respectful hearing.
I am saying that you cannot dissociate the question of rent control from the provision of houses. When the right hon. Member for the Ladywood Division presented his Housing Bill, he fixed the limit of that Bill at 1925, and it is to be noted that his Rent Act is fixed till exactly the same year. The Rent 2237 Restrictions Act expires in 1925, for all practical purposes, and the Housing Act of 1923 expires at the same time. He hoped that one of two things would have happened—either that the workers would submit to decontrol and higher rents, or that, by the operation of his Housing Act, he would have provided sufficient houses to enable all the tenants to have alternative accommodation, and thereby prevent rents going up. Neither has happened, and I do not think anyone, not even the most ardent supporter of the right hon. Gentleman's housing policy, believes that in 1925 you will have provided sufficient and surplus houses in this country. Neither do I think that anyone here will admit that the tenants are going quietly to submit to the increase of rents that will be necessary in order to bring private, profit-making, capitalist owners into the building industry, and so this Bill seeks, as between these two views, to provide a medium. Believing that the housing problem cannot be solved in 12 months, I have no doubt that when our housing policy is presented we will extend the 1923 Act for at least three years. We hope to do so. I do not think that, if that was all that we proposed to do, you would raise any strong objection to it. If you would raise no strong objection to its extension to 1928, and if these two things go together, does it, not follow logically that the Rent Restrictions Act should be continued for a further three years? I do not think, if that was all that was in the Bill, you would have any strong objection to it.
§ Mr. N. CHAMBERLAIN
Does the right hon. Gentleman anticipate that his Housing Bill, or the extension of the present Act, would provide sufficient houses by 1928 to give alternative accommodation to every tenant, in case he was required to leave his house by the landlord?
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
My view—and I am sure it will be shared by the right hon. Gentleman—is that the people of this country should have some little knowledge in advance of the conditions under which they are to carry on their business, and that when you have got to 1924, and realise that your anticipations for 1925 are not likely to be realised, you should give them reasonable notice, and state 2238 that it is going on until 1928. All I am submitting is that the proposal to extend this for a further three years is a perfectly reasonable proposal, with which hon. Members opposite can have no serious ground of quarrel; but, as I say, their real quarrel arises from the proposal to reduce rent. A good deal has been said about the justification for the suggestion that rent should be reduced, and a good deal of use has been made of that, in support of the inquiry. Will not the Committee upstairs be just as intelligent [...]Committee of inquiry as another? Cannot we draw representatives from all sections of this House capable of forming a just opinion as to whether or not a case can be made out for the reduction of rent? One of my hon. Friends reminds me that the promoters of the Bill will be in a minority on the Committee, and if Members opposite feel that a reduction of rent is not justified and, above all, if they have the courage of their convictions, they can prevent the reduction.
There has been a good deal of controversy about the question of repairs. My hon. Friends behind me say that repairs are not being done, and hon. Members opposite say that repairs are being done. Let me bring the House back to the exact provision of the Act. The 25 per cent. increase is not the amount which the landlord is expected to spend on repairs. It was allowed for the purpose of meeting the additional cost of repairs, and not the repairs themselves. It is quite a different thing, and I think it will be admitted, that where there is a house rented at £12, and £3 is added to it to meet the additional cost of repairs, during an exceptional emergency period, it is not unreasonable, when the conditions have somewhat abated, to send the Measure upstairs, and see whether the 25 per cent. allowance for additional cost is still necessary and justified. I would be prepared to say, from my knowledge of housing conditions, that if that were submitted to an impartial committee of experts, they would take off more than is proposed by this Bill. The noble Lord says, "Why not send it to a committee of experts?" Because my views, and the views of the Government, are fundamentally different from his. He believes that the country should be ruled by experts; I believe it should be ruled by representatives of the people.
2239 When you come to the 15 per cent. you get exactly the same thing. Part of it is to meet the higher rate of interest that prevailed at the time when the Measure was placed on the Statute Book. The rate of interest, I think, has fallen since those days. Perhaps that is a matter of regret to hon. and right hon. Members opposite. Again, part of it was for additional profit to be allowed to the owner in consideration, no doubt, of the higher cost of living to which the owner was subject. The cost of living has fallen. The constituents of the people behind me have had their wages reduced because it has fallen. Is it unreasonable, then, that we should say that there should be no privileged section of the community, but that this section, having an increase given in war-time at the expense of the tenants to meet the higher cost of living, should now have the matter looked into by a Committee in view of the fact that the cost of living has fallen? I appeal to the House to recognise that this is not at all an extreme Measure. There is no doubt that an excellent case could be made out for a much more drastic reform than is proposed in the Bill. If it is not presumptuous to advise hon. Members opposite, I should say this: that to make this slight concession to the great multitude who need it so much and have such an excellent, case would be good business for the nation. I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Sir THOMAS INSKIP
The right hon. Gentleman has taken a great deal of time in addressing to hon. Members on this side of the House a lecture as to their attitude towards the housing question. In almost the closing sentences of his speech he directed himself for a few minutes to the provisions of the Bill. He described the Bill as a very moderate Measure. A more immoderate speech in support of a moderate Measure I could not imagine. The right hon. Gentleman has this afternoon appeared in the guise with which we are more familiar than that in which he has lately appeared. This Bill is occupied with a subject which, if any subject could be, should be above a party point of view, party controversy, and personal recrimination. He addressed to us recriminations which were not only offensive, but intended to be offensive. 2240 [HON. MEMBERS "Oh, oh!"] If hon. Members opposite will listen to the reply which I desire to make I shall he much obliged to them. The Minister of Health, in terms which were evidently premeditated and intentional, described hon. Members on this side of the House as not honest in the attitude which they are taking up. He did not describe the views of opponents of the Bill as mistaken. He deliberately described the attitude which we are taking up as dishonest. If he wishes to withdraw I shall certainly give way.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I described the Amendment behind which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends are sheltering themselves as a dishonest Amendment.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
The right hon. Gentleman may have intended to say that. [HON. MEMBERS: "He said it."] He may have intended to, though I do not recognise very much the distinction between what he said and what he intended to say. I think if he refers to the report of his speech to-morrow he will see that he described us as not honest in this matter. Whether that accusation is based upon the terms of the Amendment or not is perfectly immaterial. If he thinks he supports his Bill by the contention that we are not honest in the matter, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the party with which I am associated is generally believed to represent the landed class in country districts. I would like to point out, moreover, that they are the one class who for generations have let their houses at an uneconomic rent. There are many landlords no doubt who are responsible for neglecting their proper duty towards their tenants, but broadly speaking the land owners in country districts are the class who have provided houses and let them at rents which bring in no return upon the capital invested, and when the right hon. Gentleman's trade unions and co-operative societies provide capital for the building of houses and let them at an uneconomic rent, only then will he be in a position to charge us with dishonesty in the provision of houses.
The heat which the right hon. Gentleman imported into this controversy was probably engendered in the course of the speech which was made by one of his 2241 colleagues from the benches behind him. We heard with interest the appeal made by the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) to his lately beloved brother not to forget the faith that is in him, and I may say that the right hon. Gentleman has responded like a brother. The most singular feature of this Debate has been the absence of any exposition of the principles on which this Bill has been prepared. The hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. H. Johnstone) appears to have information that this Bill was drafted by Sir Henry Slesser, and if I am mistaken on this point perhaps somebody will correct me. After the speech which has just been delivered I think we may reasonably conclude that this is a Government Measure. It is quite true that it has been put forward under the disguise of a private Member's proposal, but it really is a Government Measure, and in such a Bill we do expect some exposition of the principles on which the Government are proceeding.
The Opposition, when they were in office, produced and carried through a Bill which at any rate was conceived upon an intelligible principle. Hon. Members may hold that the principle was wrong, but at any rate it proceeded upon some principle. I give the Minister of Health credit, with the exception of one epithet, for not unfairly representing the principle upon which the 1923 Act was based, and the epithet I refer to is "soaring." Nevertheless the 1923 Act undoubtedly had a principle behind it. I would like to know what is the principle upon which this Bill is built. We have heard a good deal of denunciation from the right hon. Gentleman and from his colleagues on the back benches. We have heard many speeches based on an intimate knowledge of the sorrows connected with the deficiency of houses in all our great cities, and may I say that there is not an hon. Member on this side of the House who disagrees with the statements made as to the amount of sorrow and disease which are the result of the lack of provision of houses in this country, but what is the principle on which this Bill is produced? If we are to judge from the speeches which have been made in support of it, we might conclude that the object was to encourage the building of houses and to provide the accommodation which is so sadly needed.
2242 If the right hon. Gentleman had even directed himself to showing how this Bill is going to encourage the building of a single house he might have obtained some support from this side, but instead of doing that he has simply denounced us for not making proper provision for the lack of houses. He said not a word about the principle on which this Bill was based, except that in his concluding sentences he said that we were this afternoon the protectors of the rich and privileged and that our opposition to this Bill was based on that ground. Of course, any statement, even from the Front Bench, that the whole of our activities are inspired by a desire to oppress the poor and to protect the rich wins cheers from that side of the House. The hon. Member for Dumbarton referred to the fact that I had the temerity to speak in the Dumbarton Town Hall not very long ago. If the hon. Member will go and speak in the middle of my constituency and say that I am a protector of the rich and privileged against the poor, he will get the answer that he deserves.
Let us see what is the principle upon which this Bill is based. My right hon. Friend the late Minister of Health described this Bill as an ill-digested Measure. I will go a stage further back and say that it is an ill-cooked Measure. Perhaps that is the reason for its ill-digestion. There are a number of Clauses thrown together without any coherent principle at all so far as I can see, and, if Sir Henry Slesser really is the draftsman of the Bill, I have been trying to discover what instructions he received from the Minister of Health. Was he told, first of all, that he must draft a Bill to disfranchise the ex-service men as far as possible; next, that he must draft a Clause to enfranchise the profiteering tenant as much as possible; and, thirdly, to make the Bill a good mixture palatable to the Labour party by penalising the landlord as much as possible, all with the beneficent intention of providing houses for those who are so woefully lacking them at the present time? Those three points which I have mentioned may be found to cover every Clause in the Bill, except Clause 4, on which we are all in agreement, and the first Clause as to the extension of rent restriction. The Clauses which disenfranchise the ex-service men have already been repudiated by some 2243 hon. Members who are going to vote for the Second Reading. The Clauses to enfranchise the profiteering tenant are, I believe, abhorrent to everybody who knows the misery that has been caused by keeping selfish tenants in possession of accommodation which is greater than they require to the exclusion of owners of houses who are living in discomfort. Hon. Members opposite meet that assertion with sounds which I suppose are intended to represent disagreement with the facts. Almost as I entered the House, I received a letter from the poorest part of my constituency from a man who said, when he returned from the War, in May, 1919, he bought a house which is occupied by a man who has a salary of £350 a year and a son and daughter from 25 to 30 years in good situations. That man has retained possession of that house and used every artifice to defeat the landlord's occupation of his own premises with the result that for five years this ex-service man and his wife and family, including a daughter aged 13 years, and a son aged seven years have had to sleep [...]n one room. If any hon. Members doubt my assentions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not at all!"]—they are in a position to see the letter for themselves.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must insist that these interruptions be stopped. We must hear both sides of the case.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I shall be able to say what I have to say with much greater speed, and, perhaps, with more clarity, if hon. Members will listen to facts. But it is one of the unfortunate features of this housing controversy that, as soon as we begin to state facts which tend to throw doubt upon some of the obsessions which possess hon. Members opposite with regard to this question, we are met with objections to the production of the facts We have listened to hon. Members opposite, and give them full credit for what they said. I listened to the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. B. W. Gardner), and to the hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood), who seconded the Bill, and I have not the least doubt of the absolute truth and general accuracy of the statements they made as to the conditions in which thousands, almost millions, of our people are living. There is another side to this question. 2244 We want to get houses built. We think that this Bill will not do anything to get the houses built, nor will it do anything even to get houses repaired. What inducement is it going to be to a landlord to repair his house if you are going to cut down the allowance which he is to get out of the rent for keeping it in repair? You may penalise the landlord, but you will not encourage him to repair his house. Mention has been made of the number of evictions that are taking place as the result of the 1923 Act; but there are far more evictions taking place in some of our old cities, such as I know so well, because houses are out of repair and are subject to condemnation orders, than there are evictions as the result of the 1923 Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] It is so; I am stating what I know to be the fact, at any rate in one old city, where you may go along street after street and see houses that are under condemnation because they are not fit for human habitation; and persons are waiting to be evicted from that cause in greater numbers than evictions are waiting to be carried out in consequence of the 1923 Act.
If this Bill contained a single Clause which was likely to cause a single house to be built which is not likely to be built under the 1923 Act, I should regard it with the greatest possible sympathy; but it is inspired by a bitter anxiety as far as possible to make the ownership of houses uneconomic and, indeed, impossible. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs was perfectly honest about this. He said in his opening sentences, "We have made up our minds to make it impossible for private individuals to own the homes of the people." That is the policy of the Labour party. I cannot imagine anything that is more likely to cause despair in the hearts of those who are waiting for houses to be built, than the news that the Labour party are going to make it impossible for private enterprise to build them. We shall not be afraid to meet the Labour party in the constituencies if that is their policy—and it is their policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health was not quite on the same ground as the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs. He says that it is a fact to-day that private enterprise is no longer taking an interest in building houses.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman's facts are accurate. I think we all know places where private enterprise is building houses for persons who belong to what he describes as the working classes. But let us assume that he is right, and that private enterprise has given up any interest in building or owning houses. He says it is an accomplished fact. The hon. Member for Dumbarton says his object is to make it impossible, not that it is impossible now, but he is going to make it impossible by the policy of the Labour party. The right hon. Gentleman may have a magician's wand, he may be the fairy godmother that is going to make houses spring up like mushrooms for the working classes, but his hopes will be disappointed, if he is going to start on this hypothesis that no private person is to be allowed, as the hon. Member for Dumbarton says, to build or to own a house—[Interruption]—indeed he said it, and hon. Members who deny it were not present. He said it in terms, that it is the policy of the Labour party to make it impossible for a private individual to own houses.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I had not remembered to draw a distinction between Scotland and Wales. But I understood it was the Scottish Members that inspired and were the backbone of the Labour party. The Minister of Health himself is one of the Scottish Members, one of that band of brothers without whom the Socialist party would be powerless in the country, and who supply the ginger that inspires the Labour party. I have my hon. Friend's authority for saying it is the policy of the Socialist party, according to one of their leaders in Scotland, to make it impossible for any private person to own a single home of the people. We and the working classes are to be deprived of the power and the privilege of owning even a single house, and that will only happen when the policy of the hon. Member for Dumbarton and the Minister of Health is an accomplished fact. On this side of the House we shall do our best to make 2246 it possible and profitable for private persons to build and own houses.
May I say something more about the Bill? It is not only not going to do anything to get houses built, it is not only not going to do anything to get houses repaired, but it offends against a rule which I thought the Minister of Health cherished as one of his deepest convictions. The Bill is retrospective, and dreadfully retrospective. It proposes not only to suspend judgments which have already been given, but it proposes to give power to Judges to reverse their judgments which have already been given. Why does the Bill propose it? Because they do not like the 1923 Act, and they rejected the principle on which it is based. Hon. Members opposite affirm my reason. What did the right hon. Gentleman himself say, just a year ago, on 22nd February, 1923?You are undermining the authority of Parliament in the country, because again if the public understand that the legislation passed by this Government should in its results prove unsatisfactory to the success of this Government, its successors may not only cancel the legislation, but make the cancellation retrospective, and then people will cease to have the respect which I hope they have to-day for the Acts" of the British Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1923; col. 1321, Vol. 160.]What a champion of principle the right hon. Gentleman is, when crossing the Floor of the House should make him change his convictions in that manner. Have the Government deliberately adopted this Bill, with this retrospective provision in it, or is that one of the proposals which will be amended upstairs? I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman would have said on that matter, but I assume that the retrospective provision of the Bill represents the policy of the Government.
One last word about the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman described it as dishonest, because we suggest that we should go upstairs and explore the matters which a Committee might explore. He was wrong in saying that meant postponement. Such a Committee might sit and report within a fortnight or three weeks by ascertaining the facts that are in the possession of the Ministry of Health as to these matters. The Government might introduce their Bill before Easter upon the findings of the Committee, and carry it through all its 2247 stages probably, or possibly, with the unanimous approval of the House. Instead of that, the right hon. Gentleman suggests that we should go upstairs with this Bill. He described the House and the Committee as an impartial body to whom the Bill might be committed. Is it such an impartial body, when right hon. and hon. Members are going there with their obsessions and their prepossessions about the rights of individual ownership What hope is there of convincing hon. Members by argument after the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman treated the House this afternoon? We think that the information in the possession of the Ministry of Health might have afforded grounds upon which a Bill based upon a coherent principle might have been drafted and introduced, and might have won the support not only of the Government but of hon. Members on the benches below the Gangway opposite and of most, if not all, the hon. Members on these benches. The right hon. Gentleman prefers a different policy. He prefers to allow a Bill that has been drafted by the Government to be introduced into this House by a private Member, and tries to get it through on a Friday afternoon. Then he wishes to push it through Committee in the hope not of building houses but of catching votes. That is the principle which binds these Clauses together, indeed, the only principle in the Bill, and by it the right hon. Gentleman thinks to commend himself and his party to persons who are ill-equipped to withstand such appeals.
We shall, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, give him a steady support, without regard to party, in any proposals that he may lay before the House for the building of houses. We wish him, with all our hearts, success in any schemes that he may have with that object in view, and we shall support those schemes. Although we may find it necessary to criticise them, we shall give him an honest, whole-hearted support in the production of his schemes to increase the number of houses, but this Bill is in a different category, and this afternoon we are obliged to take up the attitude which is represented by the Amendment moved by my hon. Friends.
§ Sir ROBERT KAY
I have had the pleasure in recent days of listening to many maiden speeches by hon. Members 2248 who have asked for the indulgence of the House, and I have to ask that the same indulgence should be granted to me. I realise that my difficulties have not been decreased by the eloquent speech to which we have just listened. For a considerable time I have taken great personal interest in the subject which is before the House to-day. As a member of my own City Council and of its housing committee, I have been made aware of the great need in regard to housing in this country. As I listened to the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) and other speakers, I realised that in different localities conditions differ and that what applies to one district has no application to another. The experience which I have had in dealing with those who desire possession of a house and those who desire to retain it enables me, I believe, to see the position in a somewhat different light, and I do not think that the Bill before the House holds the balance fairly as between conflicting interests. I am prepared to vote for the Second Reading of the Measure, but I shall certainly hope that in Committee some of the Clauses will be considerably altered.
The main purpose of the Bill, to secure an extension of time, is one for which I shall vote readily, because I believe that it is in the best interests of the great majority of workers of this country that they should no longer be in doubt as to how long they may hope to retain possession of their houses. The overwhelming majority of those who are affected by the Rent Restrictions Acts are not affected by the Bill now before us, but as regards the smaller number who are affected by this Bill I think that it is not fair that this Bill should pass in its present form. We have not a very large, but still a certain body, of workers in this country who value very greatly the owning of the houses in which they live, and I do not think that anything should be done that would deprive those men of the possibility of obtaining possession of the houses which they have already purchased. The Act of 1923 has brought within a very narrow compass those who enjoy the exceptional privilege of being able to obtain possession of their houses without the provision of alternative accommodation, and I hope earnestly that the position will not be made worse, particularly with re- 2249 gard to ex-service men, to whom the last speaker referred.
I know personally of ex-service men who left their homes and served in the Army, who have not yet been able to obtain a house for their own occupation, and if this Measure is passed I see very little hope of their being able to obtain a house before 1928. The position with regard to alternative accommodation is that the alternative accommodation has to be available at the time that the matter is dealt with by the Court. Those who have experience of these cases know the difficulty of finding alternative accommodation and preserving it until such time as it can be submitted to the Court on the question of its suitability. I hope that, if alternative accommodation is still retained as a necessity, we may have some amendment which shall make it possible to bring before the Court the fact that the tenant had a chance of alternative accommodation, which he refused to accept. The position is that alternative accommodation may be obtained and refused by the tenant, and when it comes before the Court it is no longer available, and the landlord then has no chance. My own experience of the cases under the Act of 1923 leads me to say that possibly the criticism on the ground of unfairness and hardship would be removed with regard to those who have purchased their houses before June, 1922, if the conditions with regard to those purchasers were made the same as for those who have purchased later. The House knows that in the case of the former class the only question that has to be considered is whether the house is reasonably required by the owner for occupation by himself. If, in addition, the magistrates were able to consider whether greater hardship would be caused by refusing to grant an Order for possession than by granting it,
§ we might get rid of most of the objections against the Act of 1923.
§ I hope that Section (2, i) of the Act of 1923 will not be repealed. The fact that houses have been decontrolled is an advantage. Hitherto, whenever a house has become vacant, the owner has had only one course open to him, and that was to dispose of it. With the decontrol of houses that have come naturally into the possession of the landlord by the death of a tenant or some other cause, it has been possible for the landlord to let, and not to sell. I do not agree with extravagant rent. I know of landlords who have let such houses at ordinary rentals. But if that provision is altered, all houses which become vacant will immediately be put on the market and sold by the owner, and that would be a great disadvantage.
§ On the question of repairs many speakers have referred to the class of people who own the cottage houses of the country. From my own personal experience in a professional capacity during 30 years I agree with what has been said by many hon. Members, particularly on the other side of the House. The houses are not owned in large blocks by wealthy corporations but by comparatively poor people, and they have not the opportunity of getting repairs executed in the same way as the London County Council. My experience proves that the 25 per cent. which has been allowed for the additional cost of repairs has not covered that cost, and there has been no additional advantage to the owners by reason of that increase.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 249; Noes, 107.2253
|Division No. 7.]||AYES.||[4 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Chapple, Dr. William A.|
|Alden, Percy||Birkett, W. N.||Charleton, H. C.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Bondfield, Margaret||Clarke, A.|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Climle, R.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Brlant, Frank||Cluse, W. S.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Broad, F. A.||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Bromfield, William||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Compton, Joseph|
|Baker, W. J.||Brunner, Sir J.||Comyns-Carr, A. S.|
|Banton, G.||Buchanan, G.||Costello, L. W. J.|
|Barnes, A.||Buckle, J.||Cove, W. G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Caps, Thomas||Crittall, V. G.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Robertson. J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Dickson, T.||Kenyon, Barnet||Robertson, T. A.|
|Duckworth, John||Kirkwood, D.||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Lansbury, George||Romerli, H. G.|
|Dukes, C.||Laverack, F. J.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Duncan, C.||Law, A.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. G.|
|Dunnlco, H||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John James||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Egan, W. H.||Leach, W.||Scurr, John|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Lee, F.||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Entwistle, C. F.||Lessing, E.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Falconer, J.||Lindley, F. W.||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Finney, V. H.||Linfield, F. C.||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Franklin, L. B.||Livingstone, A. M.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Loverseed, J. F.||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Lowth, T.||Sitch. Charles H.|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||McCrae, Sir George||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Gillett. George M.||Mackinder, W.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Gosling, Harry||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Snell, Harry|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J,||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Madan, H.||Spence, R.|
|Greenall, T.||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||March, S.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Marley, James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees>|
|Groves, T.||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Stranger, Harold|
|Grundy, T. W.||Maxton, James||Sunlight, J.|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Meyler, Lieut-Colonel H. M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Middleton, G.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Mills, J. E.||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Mitchell R. M. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hardie, George D.||Montague, Frederick||Thorne, w. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Harney, E. A.||Morel, E. D.||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Morris, R. H.||Thurtle, E.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hastings, Sir Patrick||Morse, W. E.||Tout, W. J.|
|Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Mosley, Oswald||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Haycock, A. W.||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Muir, John W.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Murray, Robert||Viant, S. P.|
|Hemmerde, E. G.||Murrell, Frank||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Naylor, T. E.||Warne, G. H|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Nichol, Robert||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)||Nixon, H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt. Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Hillary, A E.||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Hindle, F.||O'Grady, Captain James||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Oliver, George Harold||Weir, L. M.|
|Hobhouse, A. L.||Owen, Major G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Paling, W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Palmer, E. T.||Whiteley, W.|
|Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wignall, James|
|Hogge, James Myles||Perry, S. F.||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Hudson, J. H.||Phillipps, Vivian||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Potts, John S.||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B. (Kenningtn.)|
|Jenkins. W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Pringle, W. M. R.||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Raffan, P. W.||Willison, H.|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Raffety, F. W.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silver-town)||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Windsor, Walter|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne)||Raynes, W. R.||Wood. Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Rea, W. Russell||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F.W. (Bradford, E)||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wright, W.|
|Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Rendall, A.||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Richards, R.|
|Kedward, R. M.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-[...]e-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Keens, T.||Ritson, J.||Mr. B. Gardner and Mr. McEntee-|
|Kennedy, T.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F.O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Clayton, G. C.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Cilve||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Calne, Gordon Hall||Cope, Major William|
|Becker, Harry||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingfon, N.)|
|Benn. Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert|
|Brass, Captain W.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Savery, S. S.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Lamb, J. Q.||Stanley, Lord|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Elveden, Viscount||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lumley, L. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||McLean, Major A.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|FitzRoy, Captain Rt. Hon. Edward A.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Meller, R. J.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of.|
|Gates, Percy||Milne. J. S. Wardlaw||Tryon, Rt. Hon George Clement|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. p.|
|Greaves-Lord, Walter||Nesbltt, Robert C.||Ward, Lt.-Col.A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Greene, W. p. Crawford||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wells, S. R.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Harland, A.||Pease, William Edwin||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Harvey, C. M.B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Penny, Frederick George||Wise, Sir Frederic|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Raw[...]lnson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Mary[...]ebone)||Ropner, Major L.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Samuel. A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Sir W. Davison and Viscount|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wolmer.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Questions."2254
§ The House divided: Ayes, 248; noes, 101.2255
|Division No. 8.]||AYES.||[4.12 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Alden, Percy||Entwistle, C. F.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Falconer, J.||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Finney, V. H.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Franklin, L. B.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leil (Camborne)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F.W. (Bradford, E.)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)|
|Baker, W. J.||Gillett, George M.||Kay, Sir R. Newbald|
|Banton, G.||Gosling, Harry||Kedward, R. M.|
|Barnes, A.||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Keens, T.|
|Batey, Joseph||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Kennedy, T.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Greenall, T.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Kenyon. Barnet|
|Birkett, W. N.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lansbury, George|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Groves, T.||Laverack, F. J.|
|Briant, Frank||Grundy, T. W.||Law, A.|
|Broad, F. A.||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)|
|Bromfield, William||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Lawson, John James|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Leach, W.|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lee, F.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hardie, George D.||Lessing, E.|
|Buckie, J.||Harney, E. A.||Lindley, F. W.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Linfield, F. C.|
|Cape, Thomas||Harris, Percy A.||Livingstone, A. M.|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Loverseed, J. F.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Lowth, T.|
|Clarke, A.||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Lunn, William|
|Climle, R.||Haycock, A. W.||McCrae, Sir George|
|Cluse, W. S.||Haydav. Arthur||Mac Donald, R.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hayes, John Henry||Mackinder, W.|
|C[...]llins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Compton, Joseph||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Madan, H.|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)||Mansel, Sir Courtenay|
|Cove, W. G.||Hillary, A. E.||March, S.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hindle, F.||Marley, James|
|Crittall, V. G.||Hirst, G. H.||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Hobhouse, A. L.||Maxton, James|
|Dickson, T.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col J. P. (Preston)||Meyler, Lieut-Colonel H. M.|
|Duckworth, John||Hoffman, P. C.||Middleton, G.|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Mills, J. E.|
|Dukes, C.||Hogge, James Myles||Mitchell, R. M. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Duncan, C.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Montague, Frederick|
|Dunnico, H.||Hudson, J. H.||Morel, E. D.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Isaacs, G. A.||Morris, R. H.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Egan, W. H.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Morse, W. E.||Robertson, T. A.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Mosley, Oswald||Romeril, H. G.||Tout, W. J.|
|Moulton, Major Fletcher||Royce, William Stapleton||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Muir, John W.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. I.). G.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Murray, Robert||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Murrell, Frank||Scrymgeour, E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Scurr, John||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Nichol, Robert||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)||Warne, G. H.|
|Nixon, H.||Sexton, James||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|O'Connor, Thomas P.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Sherwood, George Henry||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Oliver, George Harold||Shinwell, Emanuel||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Owen, Major G.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Weir, L. M.|
|Paling, W.||Simpson, J. Hope||Welsh, J. C.|
|Palmer, E. T.||Sitch, Charles H.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Whiteley, W.|
|Perry, S. F.||Smith, T. (Pontetract)||Wignall, James|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Phillipps, Vivian||Snell, Harry||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Phillip||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Potts, John S.||Spence, R.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Pringle, W. M. R.||Spero, Dr. G. E.||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B. (Kenningtn.)|
|Purcell, A. A.||Stamford, T. W.||Williams, Maj. A.S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Raffan, P. W.||Stephen, Campbell||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Raffety, F. W.||Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Willison, H.|
|Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Stranger, Harold||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Atterclifte)|
|Raynes, W. R.||Sunlight, J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Rea, W. Russell||Sutton, J. E.||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Rees, Capt. J. T (Devon, Barnstaple)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Rendall, A.||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)||Wright, W.|
|Richards, R.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-[...]e-Spring)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Ritson, J.||Thornton, Maxwell R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. F.O. (W. Bromwich)||Thurtle, E.||Mr. B. Gardner and Mr. McEntee.|
|Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||FitzRoy, Captain Rt. Hon. Edward A.||Pease, William Edwin|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Gates, Percy||Penny, Frederick George|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Baltour, George (Hampstead)||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Greaves-Lord, Walter||Rawlinson- Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Becker, Harry||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Harland, A.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Cilve||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Savery, S. S.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Stanley, Lord|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hood, Sir Joseph||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Huntingfield, Lord||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N (Ladywood)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Tryon, Rt. Hen. George Clement|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Cope, Major William||Lumley, L. R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||McLean, Major A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. steel-||Wise, Sir Frederic|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Cunllffe, Joseph Herbert||Meller, R. J.||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T,|
|Dixey, A. C.||Nesbitt, Robert C.|
|Elveden, Viscount||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle and Mr.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Lamb.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.2256
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Twenty - two Minutes after Four o'Clock until Monday next (25th February).