§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 10, to leave out the word "intended," and to insert instead thereof the words:for which a satisfactory guarantee has been given that they are.The object of this Amendment is to provide that, as soon as a builder has decided that houses which he is about to build are intended to be let to persons of the working classes, he shall show his good faith by giving a satisfactory guarantee to the building society, the local authority, and the State that the houses are so to be used. We know it is said that the way to Hell is paved with good intentions. I have no doubt that those builders who will go cap in hand to the local authorities and the building societies to get the necessary financial assistance will be inspired by good intentions, but, from what I know of the custom of the trade, the habit of private builders who build the cheaper kind of property is to turn over their money rapidly. Once the buildings are constructed, they sell them. It may be argued with some reason that, as long as the houses are built, it does not matter very much what becomes of them, but recent reports show that, as regards houses for sale, the supply is at present reasonable. As I understand it, the reason why the Minister is co-operating with the building societies is that the real problem is to get houses to let to the ordinary weekly wage earner who has comparatively low wages, and who cannot tackle the purchase of a house.
There is nothing in the Bill at present —I have read it very carefully, and it is very precise—to secure the future use of the houses when once they are constructed. They may be used for any purpose. They may be converted to commercial purposes, they may be sold, they may be let to any section of the community. I suppose the real guarantee, if I may use the word, that they will be let to the working classes is the character of the house—its size, quality and situation; but, in these hard times, when everyone is feeling economic pressure, middle-class people are rather inclined to 860 go in for cheaper accommodation, and in the great cities, especially in London, rents of middle-class property are so high that they are often only too glad to take advantage of what hitherto has been regarded as working-class property. Under a local authority there is a check that the houses will be let at reasonable rents. Under the pressure of public opinion, the elected representatives see that the rents are reasonable and of a character that the ordinary working man can pay. The pressure is still so serious that many men are prepared to pay far more than their wages would justify their paying, or than they can reasonably afford. In the report, published the other day, on a regional survey made by a society of very good people in the Manchester district, I came across the following statement, made by a woman to the inspector:We had to take the flat or nothing. There was no choice. But the rent leaves very little to feed the family. Poor people can't manage it without sacrificing food and clothes.The inspector went on to say:I know many poor people in this block who are going hungry to pay the rent.That is in a case in which the local authority provides accommodation. Supply and demand being what they are, unless we can get some guarantee that the people who build these houses 'are going to carry out what their scheme suggests, and that the houses will really be let at reasonable rents that ordinary working-class people can pay, we may find that State money—and this is the whole point of my Amendment—can be used to give guarantees to speculative builders to build houses which they will let to the highest bidder, or, alternatively, will sell or dispose of to anyone who is ready to buy.
I attach considerable importance to this Amendment. It may be said that it is difficult to operate, but I am credibly informed that it is not uncommon, in disposing of property for commercial purposes, to get some guarantee of this kind. Anyone who knows anything about business premises knows that it is the general custom to secure that the shop shall be confined or limited to one particular kind or character of trade. Is it not reasonable to ask, when the State is going into partnership for the first time with the private builder, that there 861 should be some guarantee that the houses should be confined, first to the working classes, and, secondly, to letting, and should not be available for sale. Here we are making a new departure. We are suggesting that the co-operation of local authorities is no longer wanted. The Parliamentary Secretary has waxed eloquent on private enterprise. The private builder, he says, without the competition of local authorities, will really now for the first time meet the demand. If words of this kind are introduced into the Bill, I think the public will, Anyhow, feel some assurance that the purpose of the Bill will not be defeated, and that the great need for the provision of decent houses at reasonable rents for the working-class population of our great towns will be met.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I beg to second the Amendment.
In my view, And I think it will be the view of the House, this Amendment ought to be considered as striking at the very root of the Bill. The Bill itself is perfectly clear, in its Preamble anyhow, although it becomes rather muddled later on. The Preamble says quite definitely that the object of the Bill is to enable the Ministerto make contributions in certain cases towards losses sustained by authorities under guarantees given by them for facilitating the provision of houses to be let to the working classes.There is no question there of any intention; it is purely and simply a statement of the fact that the object is to grant facilities for the erection of houses which are definitely to be let to the working classes. In these circumstances, I would ask the Minister to consider whether he cannot accept this reasonable Amendment. It contains nothing that is contradictory to the intention of the Bill. It contains, however, something substantial, for it amends a word which really upsets what was the intention of the Bill, and I think it should be clear to those who are promoting the Bill that these words should be inserted. It is for the purpose of providing houses for the working classes that we are considering this Bill. We asked at one stage that provision should be made whereby the rent to be charged in respect of these houses should be controlled in some manner or another, or that it should come within 862 the compass of the rents charged for houses which are to-day protected by the Rent Restriction Acts. We were told that that was not necessary, though to many of us it appeared to be very substantially necessary. If we cannot get a provision of that nature, at least we ought to be assured that the working classes will be given the opportunity of using these houses as tenants, and will not, as is bound to happen in many eases in the absence of such a provision, be compelled to purchase the houses.
As my hon. Friend has indicated, the builder is only human, and he may consider it advisable in his interests to sell the houses. Although his intentions at the commencement may have been perfectly honourable, and he may have been perfectly willing to build those houses for the purpose of letting, he may nevertheless find himself at a later stage desirous of selling the houses. His intention was a good one, but, unfortunately, he finds that it does not meet his desire at a, later stage, and he proceeds to sell the houses, or to let them to someone who is not a member of the working classes. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent him from doing that as long as he can honourably say that, at the time when he erected the houses, he really intended that they should be let to the working classes.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The hon. Member keeps repeating the expression "working classes." Will he tell us who they are?
§ Mr. JANNER
I have not introduced the term "working classes" into this matter. It is in earlier Statutes, and it is in this particular Bill, which I presume will also become a Statute. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us, when he replies, what exactly he means by the term "working classes"? My view is that it is generally understood what a member of the working classes is, and, if it is not understood, the poor fellow who is going to say that it was his intention to let his houses to the working classes is going to find himself in just as big a difficulty when he expresses his intention as he will be in at a later stage if he guarantees to let them to people who are members of the working classes.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must draw the attention of both hon. Members to the fact that the question of the definition of "working 863 classes" hardly comes within- this Amendment.
§ Mr. JANNER
I am afraid that my hon. Friend goaded me into saying a few words which I had not really intended to say. In these circumstances, I will proceed with the argument that I was going to put forward. We ask merely that this assurance should be given. The subsidy is going to be taken away. Many boroughs are very upset, with their intimate knowledge of the circumstances in their own districts, about this removal of an opportunity that was given for them to provide houses for the working classes. The working classes will continue to exist. No one is going to prevent that unless they find themselves in the unhappy state of being workless. They must be provided with accommodation. The object of the Bill is to provide them with that accommodation and there can be no reason at all why, in view of the Preamble to the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman should not accept an Amendment which merely carries into effect what he has indicated there as his intention.
§ 6.2 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
The hon. Member said, no doubt in a moment of inadvertence, that the Amendment struck at the very root of the Bill. I am sure he did not mean it, but I am his most grateful debtor, because undoubtedly it strikes at the root of a part of the Bill. I cannot imagine an Amendment which could have been more ingeniously framed to deprive the second Clause of any potential value whatever. If we desire to encourage the investment of capital and the devotion of enterprise and initiative to the supply of small houses to let to the working classes, which we all desire to see, we shall not promote that end by putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of their employment. It is a very great obstacle to the investment of private capital and the devotion of enterprise to this object if you impose upon the ownership of the security, which is the result of that investment, new and strange restrictions which have been entirely unknown to the law hitherto, and which one would hope would be unknown to the law in the future. I ask those who are acquainted with business conditions to imagine what 864 the emotions of any builder or investor would be if asked to produce houses subject to these restrictions. My first contention is that it would completely divert the stream of investment from this object or, if it did not, it would inevitably diminish the value of the security. By diminishing the value of the asset you would increase the return which the investor would expect from it. In other words, it would have a direct tendency to put up rents, and what we all want is to keep down rents.
But there is another and an even more conclusive argument against the Amendment. There are two safeguards against abuses of the sort to which the Proposer and Seconder have referred. The first is that under the Act the local authority is not to propose, and the Minister is not to accept, proposals for guarantees unless the houses are intended to be let to persons of the working class. It is at that time that the local authority and the Minister will consider all the circumstances of the case, and will only accept proposals for guarantees if they are of the sort that are reasonably and practically likely to fulfil the purposes which the Act has in mind. That is a practical guarantee, whatever lawyers may say. There is an even more important consideration. The whole danger that is feared by the two hon. Members is entirely illusory. The state of affairs that they fear cannot arise. They wish to guard against the use of the guarantee for houses that are not let but are in the possession of the owner-occupier. It is practically impossible for that state of affairs to arise. If the builder or the investor who has bought the house, sells it to an owner-occupier, he will pay off the mortgage. If he pays off the mortgage, the guarantee ceases and there is no more public liability upon the house. A sale cannot take place without the repayment of the guarantee unless the builder or the investor is willing to be left with a personal agreement making him liable for the mortgage without any security and, if he did that, he would be a born fool. The state of affairs which will arise will be that, whenever a house ceases in practice to be a house let, and becomes a house in the possession of the owner-occupier, the mortgage and the guarantee will lapse, so what harm is done? The house has been provided for an owner-occupier and 865 State, local authority and building society finance are set free to provide a fresh house. Is not that precisely what we all require to be done?
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The word "intended" is obviously open to criticism. Intended by whom? Intended by the builder of the house? Intended by the Minister? Intended only so far as the guarantee applies to the first builder of the house? The right hon. Gentleman speaks of a house being sold to an owner-occupier, but it may not be sold to an owner-occupier. It may be sold to another landlord who will let it, and all control is then gone. The amount of public control that we are getting for the subsidy is virtually negligible. Indeed it has been admitted now that, if the builder pays off the mortgage, the guarantee ceases and there is no public liability. One of the difficulties under which we are suffering to-day is that there are 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 houses where there has been no public liability at all. All that we are doing by this Clause is to revert to unrestricted private enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that, if the Amendment were accepted, it would destroy the second Clause. For that reason alone I am prepared to vote for it. I should be delighted if the second Clause were destroyed. Notice the argument that the right hon. Gentleman uses. "We are putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of those who wish to invest capital." We are not. The right hon. Gentleman is doing that. He is, by withdrawing all kinds of corporate assistance which have been given since 1919, discouraging the local authorities who, with assistance, could provide the necessary capital for carrying on the housing schemes that are necessary. He regards the Amendment as a great obstacle because he wants to get back at the earliest possible moment to free contract, of which he is the greatest exponent in the House.
He said that new and strange restrictions unknown to the law would be imposed. The State in times of emergency has imposed restrictions far greater than those asked for by the Amendment. It is essential that the houses that are to be built with the backing of the State shall be let to the working classes. That 866 is not asking for new powers. It is not asking for the powers that the new President of the United States is going to ask for in order to deal with an emergency, and this is as grave if not as large an emergency. It seems to me, therefore, no argument, that the right hon. Gentleman should say that this simple Amendment imposes new and strange restrictions. The argument has been used many times by the right hon. Gentleman and by many Members on both sides that the houses that have been built and let have been let to people who are not members of the working classes. As a matter of fact, they have passed into the hands of the lower middle classes and professional people. There is a great deal of truth in that and, as I understand it, the hon. Baronet would like to provide that under the guarantee houses shall be let only to persons of the working classes. There is no reason to believe that the houses built under the guarantee will be let to any different class of persons from those to whom Chamberlain and Wheatley houses have been let in the past, unless the right hon. Gentleman takes certain steps to ensure that that is so.
Under this Clause, with the power that the guarantee gives him, it would have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman, had he so chosen, to make the wording so definite that houses would have been let to members of the working class by imposing some limitation of rent. The right hon. Gentleman asks what harm has been done in Clause 2. I am sorry that I cannot tell him yet but if he lives long enough to hear it, I shall be able to tell him, say, two years from now. What we know is that the effect of Clause 2 as it stands without this Amendment will be that there can be no certainty, first that any houses are going to be built at all and, if they are built, that they might not pass outside the occupancy of members of the working classes. I should hope—though I am afraid it will not be so—that the House on this occasion will be prepared to support the Amendment—not a very large but a reasonable one in view of the circumstances.
§ Question put, "That the word 'intended' stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 257; Noes, 54.857
|Division No. 67.]||AYES.||[5.38 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Harris, Sir Percy||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hicks, Ernest George||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hint, George Henry||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Banfield, John William||Holdsworth, Herbert||Salter, Dr. Alfrad|
|Batey, Joseph||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Bernays, Robert||Janner, Barnett||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Thorne, William James|
|Cove. William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKentie (Banff)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'.W.)||Maxton, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James||Mr. C. Macdonald and Mr. T.|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen||Groves.|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Price, Gabriel|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Blindell. James|
|Albery, Irving James||Balniel, Lord||Boulton, W. W.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Buchan, John||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey division)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G||Ray, Sir William|
|Burnett, John George||Hopkinson, Austin||Remer, John R.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hornby, Frank||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Horobin, Ian M.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hume, sir George Hopwood||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Russell, Richard John (Edilsbury)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Ker, J. Campbell||Selley, Harry R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Knox, Sir Alfred||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Clarke, Frank||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Slater, John|
|Colfox, Ma|or William Philip||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lees-Jones, John||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Levy, Thomas||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lewis, Oswald||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Liddall, Walter S.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Steel-Maitland. Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Dickle, John P.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dower, P. W.||Mabane, William||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Mac Andrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Sugden. Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Dunglass, Lord||McKie, John Hamilton||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Thomson, sir Frederick Charles|
|Eillston, Captain George Sampson||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Eimley, Viscount||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Meller, Richard James||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Warrender. Sir Victor A. G.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Glliett, Sir George Masterman||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wedderburn,Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Moreing, Adrian C.||Weymouth, viscount|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Munro, Patrick||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Grimston, R. V.||Nunn, William||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||O'Connor, Terence James||Womersley, Walter James|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G.A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Hales, Harold K.||Patrick. Colin M.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Peat, Charles U.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'V'noaks)|
|Hammersley, Samuel S.||Penny, Sir George|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Petherick, M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)||Major George Davies and|
|Hartland, George A.||Pickford. Hon. Mary Ada||Commander Southby.|
|Division No. 68.]||AYES.||[6.15 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel VyvyanT. (Leeds, W.)||Faile, Sir Bertram G.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Agnaw, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Albery, Irving James||Fox, Sir Gifford||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Fremantle, Sir FrancTs||Munro, Patrick|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Glossop, C. W. H.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Nunn, William|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Glyn. Ma|or Raiph G. C.||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Patrick. Colin M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gower, Sir Robert||Pearson, William G.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Granville, Edgar||Peat, Charles U.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Petherick. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllston)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Grimston, R. V.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Hacking. Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Blindell, James||Hales, Harold K.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||pybus, Percy John|
|Bower, Lieut. Com. Robert Tatton||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hanbury, Cecil||Ramsay, T. B W. (Western Isles)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Braithwaite. J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hartland, George A.||Ray, Sir William|
|Brass Captain Sir William||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Remer, John R.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hellers, Captain F. F A.||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Brown. Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Brown. Brig. -Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Russell. Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Buchan, John||Hopkinson, Austin||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Buchan-Hepburn. P. G. T.||Hornby, Frank||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Burgin. Dr. Edward Leslie||Horobin, Ian M.||Samuel. Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Burnett, John George||Horsbrugh, Florence||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Howltt. Dr. Alfred B.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Campbell-Johnston. Malcolm||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Shaw Captain William T. (Fortar)|
|Caporn. Arthur Cecil||Inskip. Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Slater, John|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Ker, J. Campbell||Smiles, Lieut. Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Smith Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Smith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Kirkpatrick. William M.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Knight, Holford||Smithers, Waldron|
|Chapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Chapman, sir Samuel (Edinburgh,S.)||Leech. Dr. J. W.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Clarke, Frank||Lees-Jones, John||Soper, Richard|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Cobh, Sir Cyril||Lennox-Boyd. A. T.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Levy, Thomas||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Lewis Oswald||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Liddall, Walter S.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Lindsay. Noel Ker||Steel-Maitland, Ht. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cook. Thomas A.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Storey, Samuel|
|Cooke, Douglas||Lloyd. Geoffrey||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Cowan. D. M.||Lovat-Fraser. James Alexander||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||MacAndrew. Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Sugden. Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Crookshank. Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Sutcliffle, Harold|
|Davidson. Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Thomas. Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||McKie. John Hamilton||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Denman. Hon. R. D.||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Desoencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Magnay, Thomas||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Dickle, John P.||Making, Briqadier-General Ernest||Turton. Robert Hugh|
|Donner. P. W.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Vauqhan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Duckworth. George A. V.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Duqdale. Captain Thomas Lionel||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Wallace, John (Dunfermilne)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Ward. Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Elliot. Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Mills. Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Elliston. Captain George Sampson||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Eimley, Viscount||Motion. A. Hugh Eisdale||Watt. Captain George Steven H.|
|Emrys-Evans. P. V.||Moore-Brabazon. Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Entwistle. Cyril Fullard||Moreing, Adrian C.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Weymouth. Viscount|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|William, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wills, Wilfrid D.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingslay||Sir George Penny and Mr.|
|Wilton, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)||Worthington, Dr. John V.||Womersley.|
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Acland, Bt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Harris, Sir Percy||Price, Gabriel|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hicks, Ernest George||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Banfield, John William||Hirst, George Henry||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Batey, Joseph||Holdsworth, Herbert||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bernays, Robert||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Johnstons, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Cove. William G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood. Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Dobble, William||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Maxton, James|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Nathan, Major H. L.||Mr. Janner and Mr. Groves.|
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 35, at the end, to insert the words:Except where otherwise approved by the Minister on the recommendation of the local authority, every house to which this section applies shall be provided with a fixed bath.This is a very modest proposal. It has already appealed to one of the Ministers, and I hope that it will appeal equally to the Minister of Health and that he will justify his title as Minister of Health by accepting it. I frankly tell the House that I have taken the words of the Amendment out of the 1923 Act in which they were inserted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the minimum of what was required as the national standard of a civilised home. It is desired that this symbol of civilisation should be secured to every future house constructed either by private enterprise or by local authorities. I say advisedly, "either by private enterprise or by local authorities" because local authorities, under the Act of 1925, were automatically required to put in a fixed bath unless the Minister said to the contrary. Of course, where, owing to insufficient water supply in the neighbourhood of, say, a rural district, it was not practicable, the Minister could exempt a house from this requirement. But in the ordinary way, every house under this scheme automatically will be required to have a bath.
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should accept the Amendment. I observe that he has left the Parliamentary Secretary in charge. The Act 870 of 1923 was always known as the Chamberlain Act. Let this be known as the "Shakespeare bath," and he will go down for all time as the Minister who established, by Act of Parliament, the symbol of civilisation that a fixed bath should be provided in every working-class house. The Amendment cannot hurt the Bill. It will leave the right hon. Gentleman with power to exempt in necessary cases, and will do much to mollify some of the opposition to the Bill, which some people think is a reactionary Measure. At any rate, it will show that it is the object of the Government to set a good standard of what working-class accommodation should be.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I noticed the expression on the face of the Parliamentary Secretary when my hon. Friend was urging him to accept the Amendment, and I am induced by that fact to believe that he really desires to have the Amendment inserted. Whether the desire will be sufficiently strong to permit him to accept it, with possible pressure from without, I do not know, but I am sure that the House will consider that it is a very reasonable Amendment. We know the miserable conditions under which people have to live in some of the existing houses, and how those conditions are aggravated by the fact that there is not a fixed bath. There is no need for an hon. Member of this House to elaborate those difficulties, because any hon. Member who has taken the trouble to walk into some of the 871 houses and has seen the conditions will know very well that a fixed bath is a desirable asset in a house for the accommodation of members of the working class.
I hope that this will not be regarded in and way in the nature of a frivolous Amendment. On the contrary, the real use to which a bath can and should be put in working-class houses should commend itself to the Minister, and he should realise that the difficulties which have existed hitherto in houses where a fixed bath is not provided are sufficiently serious to allow him to insert the Amendment in the Bill. Hon. Members who have had the fortune or misfortune to visit houses in mining districts will know how essential the proposed proviso is for the benefit of the people who have to work underground. It is equally important for all other members of the working class. In those circumstances, I do not think that any further weight of argument is needed to convince, if not the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, the Members present that they ought to vote for an Amendment of this description.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Mr. Shakespeare)
I can assure the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Janner) that no one could consider this Amendment frivolous. If we do not accept it, it is not because it is frivolous, but because we think it is absolutely unnecessary. I cannot help feeling that the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) moved the Amendment with by-election eyes. He wants to be able to say: "I am the man who gave you a bath." I should like to associate my name with a new bath in every house, but I am mindful of the fact that a poet of my name might have said that "a bath in any other room would smell as sweet." The acceptance of this Amendment will make absolutely no difference to the provision of a bath. The point is, ought the matter to be left to the discretion of the Minister or should there be an express provision in the Bill? We say that it is far better to leave it to the discretion of the Minister.
872 I feel as strongly as the hon. Baronet, or as the hon. Member for Whitechapel, or as any other hon. Member that the provision of a bath in a working-class house is absolutely essential. Imagine what would happen in an urban area if a builder who was building several hundred houses went to the local authority for a guarantee and said: "I am building these houses, but there are no baths." Would the local authority give the guarantee? Of course, they would not. Would the building society give its guarantee? Of course, it would not. In regard to an urban area in my constituency or in any other constituency would the Minister give his guarantee in respect of houses where there was no bath? No. I suggest that this is one of those showy Amendments of which the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) spoke, which make no difference to the actual situation. Why should you pick out a bath? Why should you not insist on an Amendment saying that artificial light should be provided? Why not say that every house must have a sink?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
They would have intelligence to put in a sink but might not have intelligence enough to put in a. bath.
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has put his finger on the point as he often does. It is no more necessary to put down an Amendment that every house should have a bath than to put down an Amendment that every house should have a sink. Baths are essential under modern conditions. If houses from the point of view of a future tenant in an ordinary urban area were provided without baths—
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
I should be glad to know where they are doing it, except in a very rare case of a rural area where there is no water supply, and where if 873 you had a bath you would have nothing to put in it except coal. You can do two things under this Bill. You can either assume that common sense will prevail, or you can take the opposite view and tie it up with barbed wire or red tape and insist that everything should be put down in the Bill, such as the provision of sinks, baths, electric light, and so on. If you say that there must be a bath, a fixed bath, then I have no doubt that if we accepted that Amendment we might have another Amendment that there must be a fixed soap dish, and that not more than three people must use the bath at the same time. We say that one condition is essential, and that is that these houses shall be intended to be let to members of the working class. That is the only condition on which we insist. Any other restriction which is a matter of common sense is unnecessary, In point of fact a local authority, a building society, or the Minister in giving a guarantee will see to it that modern houses are up to the ordinary decent amenities of life. For these reasons, not because the Amendment is frivolous but because it is unnecessary, the Government ask the House not to accept it.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
I am astonished at the speech to which we have just listened, because at an earlier stage we brought forward an Amendment to secure, in general terms, the amenities of these houses which will be erected under the Bill, and the Parliamentary Secretary said that that Amendment was unnecessary, just as he has told us in more specific and definite terms that the present Amendment is unnecessary. He treated both Amendments in exactly the same way, on the assumption that all the houses that are going to be built under this Bill will necessarily have in them all the amenities which one has come to regard as necessary for the working classes in 20th century civilisation. We can find nothing in the Bill guaranteeing that set of conditions when these houses are erected. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that it is only in rural areas where there is no water supply that houses are erected nowadays without a fixed bath. I am afraid that he is wrong. He ought to make more exhaustive inquiries. I know of an urban district in 874 my own area where only a month ago plans were passed for houses in which there were to be no fixed baths. That was an urban district in the county of Nottingham.
If the Parliamentary Secretary does make inquiries he will find that in more places than one plans are submitted to the local authorities in which there is no provision for any fixed bath, and as the local by-laws probably make no provision to the contrary such houses are being built. We say most emphatically that where you are giving a State guarantee to the speculative builder who is to put up houses which the working classes are to inhabit, we have a right to say that that builder shall include a fixed bath, which is one of the most essential features of a house for the working class. The Parliamentary Secretary agrees with me on that matter. We want to be sure that when these houses are put up they will have baths in them. Nothing that the Parliamentary Secretary has said proves clearly to me that that will be the case. I hope the House will have no hesitation in supporting the Amendment.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
After listening to the Parliamentary Secretary hon. Members must feel convinced that there is something more in the opposition to the Amendment than the statement that it is not necessary to put these words in the Bill. If it is essential that every house should have a fixed bath, what harm could be done to the Bill by accepting the Amendment? I cannot understand the refusal. I know that there is 0 desire on the part of some directors of building societies—here I am speaking with absolute knowledge—that they should not have these words in the Bill, so that they will be able to leave out the provision of a bath. There can be no question about that. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was unnecessary to put in these words, and in the next breath he asked the House to give discretion to the Minister. Why should the Minister want discretion as to the necessity of a bath being provided? If the Parliamentary Secretary is consistent in his argument that a bath is necessary, I ask him to agree to put these words in the Bill. Then we shall be certain that a bath will be provided. It is not a mere question of the Minister 875 carrying out the Act. Certain conditions will have to be fulfilled before permission is given for the building of the houses. The present Minister of Health and the present Parliamentary Secretary will not occupy those position for ever. It may be Socialist Ministers who will occupy them. If this is a Bill under which houses are to be built, let us make certain that whoever occupies the Government Bench a fixed bath will be provided in the houses.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I associate myself with the Amendment, and I am astonished, as are other hon. Members, at the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary that the Amendment is not necessary. The experience that we have of working-class houses in this country is that 75 per cent. have not a bath. I am speaking of the way that private enterprise has catered for the working classes so far as baths are concerned. Now that we are getting back to relatively unrestricted private enterprise, where sometimes they will not have to get the sanction of the Ministry of Health as to building, the question of the provision of a fixed bath may not always come before the Minister for sanction. I have lived in houses with no bath accommodation. I heard the Parliamentary Secretary the other day refer to the fact that there were some parts of the country where water was not sufficient to fill a bath. In a climate like ours there are surely two or three chances a year of filling a bath. To use such an argument that there should not be a fixed bath under such conditions is preposterous. It should be the duty of the Minister of Health to arrange to convey water if it is not available, rather than the Parliamentary Secretary should say that people should not have a bath under those conditions.
Some hon. Members have referred to mining villages, where there has been no bath accommodation. I have been in those houses. I have seen the men come from their work. I have seen a man sitting in the tub while the woman has been preparing the food and the children have been playing about in the kitchen. I have seen them all in one room, with the man in the tub, and when he has got out of the tub other members of the family have had to sit in the tub. If we 876 pass this Amendment, we want to propose that not only should there be a fixed bath, but that there should be a bathroom. If in the Act of 1923 it was provided that there should be a bath, why in 1933 should there not he a bathroom? is it not decent where you have different members of the family, boys and girls, that there should be adequate opportunity for the members of the family to be able to have a bath without being in sight of each other? To resist such an Amendment as this indicates that there is an attitude of mind towards housing betterment that is not well for the working classes.
Reference has been made to the possibility that the present Minister of Health will not always be in that position. If this is the attitude of mind of the right hon. Gentleman towards this problem, I hope he will not be in his office very long. I suggest that we cannot allow a matter of this kind to go. We want to make quite sure that any house which receives any sort of subsidy or support from public money shall have a bath. We also want to have a fixed bath, and we also think that every house should be provided with a bathroom.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I must confess that I am still unconvinced by the arguments put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary. I am voicing the opinion of the whole body of medical officers of health throughout the country in saying that every house should have a bath. During the last 30 years the standard of housing has changed, and while it may be possible to reduce some of the standards to which we have grown accustomed since the War without doing any harm, a bath, and that means a fixed bath, is absolutely essential so far as public health is concerned. There is not a person connected with public health administration any where, official or unofficial, who does not agree that for the rising generation it is absolutely necessary that every house should have a bath. I do not say that it should necessarily be a fixed bath. I have filled my own tub with cold water and got into it, and enjoyed it. I think everyone should be able to get into a bath of cold water and soak. Some of us have grown up without a bathroom and have had to 877 put the bath in the cellar and in various other places, in the kitchen, or the scullery.
The essential thing is that a bath should be provided. It is all very well for officialdom to say that they will be provided. I have had a long experience of local authorities, I do not speak in the main of big municipal undertakings, but of the smaller councils, those who are not in the public eye, and it sometimes happens that things do slip through in certain circumstances, and I am afraid that unless it is clearly indicated that a bath must be provided this might slip through. Such a matter should not be left to local authorities. I have some experience as to their indulgence. I am speaking now of the smaller urban authorities, where there is not the same hold over the private builder as there is in the case of the large municipalities. I think the provision of a fixed bath—I do not go so far as to say bathroom—is necessary, and I hope the Government will reconsider their attitude.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
We welcome the support of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), and we hope that the Minister of Health will be impressed by his remarks. It is obvious that the inability of the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the Amendment indicates the standard of houses in which the working classes are to live. I disagree with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for St. Albans, but I do not desire to enter into an argument with him, except to say that he has not lived in houses of the kind which miners are obliged to occupy. One of the most disgraceful things in this country is the fact that 99 out of every 100 miners employed to-day are obliged to wash before the fire in the family kitchen. For more than 12 years I was obliged as a working miner to do that with the whole of my family in the kitchen, mother, father, and the other children. For more than 35 years my father was obliged to do the same. It is a standing disgrace, and if we have any ethical regard for our people it is something which we should not countenance for any length of time.
The Parliamentary Secretary has certainly shown enormous faith in private enterprise. He fails to appreciate the fact that there are jerry builders to-day 878 that there are people who will economise at the expense of the absolute necessities and amenities of the people, and I trust that having had an expression of opinion from his own side and from Liberal Members, as well as ourselves, he will realise the necessity of including the Amendment in the Bill. We consider the proposal absolutely essential not only for ethical purposes but for sanitary purposes also. I heard the reference of the Parliamentary Secretary to places where clean water does not exist. That, I say, is a standing reflection on the Ministry of Health, and ought to be remedied at once. There should be not only a bath but a bathroom as well. A large number of mothers, particularly in mining districts, are suffering from scalds from water which they had to lift on to the hob to boil in time for their husband's and sons to wash on their return from the mine. That is also something which calls for immediate attention. In South Wales a large number of our women-folk and their children have been scalded and are suffering from permanent injuries, because baths have not been installed in their homes. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will reflect and indicate to us that he is prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
I hope that the Amendment will be accepted. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said that he had extracted the wording of the Amendment from the 1923 Act. If it was in the 1923 Act, I see no reason why it should not be in the present Bill. It is not satisfactory to say that local authorities and the Minister of Health, or building societies, who are to be responsible for the financing of these schemes, would not accept a scheme unless there was provision for baths. I come from a working-class dwelling and I know that they have suffered considerably from a lack of bath accommodation. In view of the doubt as to whether baths will be provided under the Bill as it stands, I hope the Minister will accept the Amendment. I think the statement of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) that 99 per cent. of the miners of this country lack facilities for baths should be corrected. I agree that in a large number of miners' houses there is 879 no such accommodation, but in the vast majority of pits there are pithead baths provided.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member cannot have seen the returns from the Central Welfare Association as to the number of pithead baths that have been provided.
§ Mr. PIKE
If I said the majority, I withdraw that expression, but to a large degree these facilities do exist, and, in addition, on the large housing schemes which have been carried out in colliery districts during the past 10 years provision has been made for baths. I use this fact also as another reason why the Amendment should be accepted by the Government. A bath to-day is not only one of the necessary amenities of life; it is also a fact that a bath in a working-class dwelling gives an entirely new outlook not only for the parents but for the children as well. It gives them a new outlook on education. If a bath is installed and children are clean, they look upon life and the things of life in a much cleaner spirit than they would do when they lack these facilities. In view of the fact that the Amendment will not embarrass the Government, or prevent housing schemes being carried out according to the desires of the Minister of Health, and, further, that it will not prevent private enterprise providing the people of this country with a sufficient number of new houses at an economic price, I hope the Government will accept the proposal.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. SLATER
I should like to support the Amendment, and I hope that it will be pressed upon the Minister. I do rot propose to repeat the arguments that have been already used, but to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to something which I think he should really understand. The proposal in the Bill is in my view a retrograde step, and will bring about a, good deal of regret among one very live industry in this country. I refer to the sanitary industry. Professor Clay, dealing with unemployment, has pointed out clearly that one of our greatest tasks to-day is to create new industries, and to extend them, and he particularly mentioned the sanitary engineering industry in this country. Is 880 it right for the Minister of Health to give a licence to any locality, or to any builder, to omit this absolute necessity in the homes of working classes? I say that the right hon. Gentleman is going to create a great deal of trouble for himself hereafter from an employment point of view. We are fighting for our position in the world's markets, where we used to have a. primary position in the supply of sanitary wares. I make no excuse for saying this. I am in that business myself, and I say that His Majesty's Government ought to encourage this industry above everything else. We cannot encourage it on middle-class incomes or wealthy incomes, but we can encourage it, and make manufacturing possible, if it is based on a demand for bathrooms in working-class homes. That is how we shall get our power, not only to make sanitary wares cheaply in this country, but to meet competition abroad. It is because I realise the importance of employment in this country, and because I subscribe to everything said on both sides of the House, that I feel that the Minister of Health should accept this Amendment.
§ 7 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
We have had expressions of opinion from three sides of the House, and the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), looking at it from a new point of view, has given prominence to the subject of employment. I am not sure I could quite follow the argument of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), who gave us such interesting reminiscences. At first I thought he was prepared to have houses without baths, but his second thoughts were in favour of the acceptance of the Amendment. In view of the course which the Debate has taken, the Government will accept the Amendment. I confess that, as I listened to the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary, I thought that in common sense and prudence it eras entitled to prevail. His argument was that it was the accepted standard in decent house building that there should be a bath. He spoke of what we know and what is going to be done. With this, I may say, the Parliamentary Secretary entirely agrees. It was stated by me, on the Second Reading, that one of the principles of this new housing era was to be that the standard of national housing 881 was not to be relaxed with the assent of the Government.
If, in the opinion of the House, it is necessary in order to secure the particular results to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, to have a statutory provision with relation to baths, let us have it. It must be subject to the discretion of the Minister to remit the requirement in proper cases. The hon. Member who spoke last, referred to those cases, mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary, in which a bath is not possible. These cases do exist. I propose to accept the Amendment, subject to any necessary revision of the wording in another place.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, at the end, to add the words "in a bathroom."
I believe this is the first occasion on which we have had an Amendment of importance accepted. I am sure hon. Members of the House will welcome it. I should like the Minister to go a little further, because the Amendment permits a discretion which I do not wish to see. I do not agree that, because there is no
§ fixed water supply, there should be no fixed bath. I think that a fixed bath in a bath room should be provided. In 1924 we fought this out in the House. It has been accepted and operated for nine years. If private enterprise is to do this job properly, then it ought to provide a fixed bath in a bath-room. Seeing that the right hon. Gentleman has some doubts himself about this, and has agreed to accept the Amendment, I hope he will also accept what is now the law of the land and agree to these words being added.
§ 7.5 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is in the negative. I will approach the bath with him, but I will not enter the bathroom. I think we have done all that is practicable and sensible in accepting the Amendment. In going further we should go too far, and have too great a degree of elaboration.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added to the proposed Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 263.883
|Division No. 69.]||AYES.||[7.6 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks. Frederick Seymour||Hirst, George Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Dobbie, William||Lunn, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maxton, James||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Bracken, Brendan||Clarke, Frank|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Albery, Irving James||Broadbent, Colonel John||Colfox, Major William Philip|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Brown, Col. D.C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.|
|Balfour, George (Hampitead)||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Cooke, Douglas|
|Balniel, Lord||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burnett, John George||Cowan, D. M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burniey)||Craven-Ellis, William|
|Benn. Sir Arthur Shirley||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Crooke, J. Smedley|
|Bernays, Robert||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Boolie)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Bllndell, James||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Crossley, A. C.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)||Davison, Sir William Henry|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Denville, Alfred||Lees-Jones, John||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Donner, P. W.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Salt, Edward W.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Levy, Thomas||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.|||Lewis, Oswald||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Liddall, Walter S.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Eales, John Frederick||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Selley, Harry R.|
|Entwlstle, Cyril Fullard||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mabane, William||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Ford. Sir Patrick J.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Slater, John|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||McKie, John Hamilton||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Klnc'dine.C.)|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Gllmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Magnay, Thomas||Smithers, Waldron|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Soper, Richard|
|Goff, Sir Park||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Merriman. Sir F. Boyd||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Greaves-Lord. Sir Walter||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fyide)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Storey, Samuel|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hales, Harold K.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Sutcllffe, Harold|
|Hamilton. Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Munro, Patrick||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Nail, Sir Joseph||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Nicholson. Godfrey (Morpeth)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Haslam. Sir John (Bolton)||Nunn, William||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||O'Connor, Terence James||Turton. Robert Hugh|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Patrick, Colin M.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornseyt)|
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Pearson, William G.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Peat, Charles U.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Percy, Lord Eustace||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Hopkinson, Austin||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Hornby, Frank||Petherick, M.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Pike, Cecil F.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Pownall. Sir Assheton||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Hudson. Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Pybus, Percy John||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Hudson, Ian M.||Raikes, Henry V, A. M.||Whyte. Jardine Bell|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hume, Sir George nopwood||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Jackson, sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rankin, Robert||Wilton, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Rathbone, Eleanor||Windtor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Ray, Sir William||Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rea, Walter Russell||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Remer, John R.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough. E.)|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Knight, Holford||Runqe. Norah Cecil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Law. Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Sir George Penny and Mr.|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Russell, Richard John (Eddlsbury)||Womersley.|
§ Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.
§ 7.16 p.m.
Sir H. YOUNG
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
The Committee stage of the Bill has not lasted a long time, for the obvious reason that the provisions of the Bill are short and succinct. The purpose of the 884 Bill has clearly emerged in our discussion. The purpose is the adaptation of our housing policy to the changing needs of the time. It is an adaptation to what we all agree and know are the two chief housing needs of the nation, a better and fuller supply of small houses for the won-king classes, and a swifter and more efficient remedy for the deep-seated evil of the slums. The policy of the Bill on 885 that first matter has been clearly explained and clearly understood by the House. It is that we should take advantage of the changes in the times to restore to their normal activity those normal forces which alone throughout history have been adequate to provide humanity with its chief wants.
As to this matter of the provision of a sufficient number of small houses to be let to the working classes, if we look back at the recent history of housing we shall see without doubt that the system of subsidies has been substantially a failure. It has great successes in other directions to its credit. It has provided many fine housing estates; it has established new standards of housing. But for this urgent, this basic need for the supply of small houses to be let, the system of subsidy has failed. Now, after 14 years of operation, we still lack that essential supply. No doubt during the period during which subsidies have been in operation, we have, until recently, necessarily had a second best. Building costs have been such that it has been impossible to provide the supply of the smaller houses that we needed without subsidy, and so we have had to struggle and stagger along with the second best of the subsidy system imposed upon us by the height. of building costs.
But surely it stands to reason that an alert nation and Government should be on the watch to take the very first opportunity that occurs of passing on from that unsatisfactory second best to a more effective system. That is what this Bill proposes to do. We seize the opportunity of the fall in building costs and the great fall in the price of capital for investment to look forward to a more fertile and more productive epoch in housing, one in which those larger forces to supply our wants may be brought into play— forces which have been so long checked by the insuperable obstacle of the competition of subsidised houses. We clear a great obstacle from the path of supply, the obstacle of subsidised competition. We bring into play all those forces which, when they are allowed free play, make for the further reduction of costs. With these forces to help us we look forward with an optimism that I believe not to be unjustified, to a more fortunate and more successful epoch in the provision of this need.
886 We have a, second line behind the line of private enterprise. We release the forces of private capital and enterprise and initiative for our assistance by the abolition of subsidised competition. Behind that we still have a second line. We have the line of the local authorities, and their liability and duty still to attend to the housing needs of their localities. That remains in a manner that it is possible to encourage more freely in the future than in the past. We have established, in the course of these Debates, particularly on Second Reading, that it is within the possibility of local authorities, with building costs and the price of money at their present level, to provide houses at rents which are already within a few pence—3d., 4d. or 5d.—of the normal rent which was fixed as the ideal for the 1924 subsidies. We therefore can rely upon this force as our second line of defence.
A rumour spread that it was the intention of the Government and of the Ministry of Health deliberately to discourage the putting forward of schemes by local authorities for building without subsidy. In that there is not a word of truth. On the contrary we shall rely upon them as a second line of defence. Then there is the second Clause of the Bill, the building society scheme. As the House will remember, this has never been put forward by the Government as an essential part of its housing plan. It has been put forward as a valuable aid in the promotion of that free play of the forces of private enterprise which is in itself an essential part of the plan. It is a little practical step which may have great results. It is little because the guarantee and the State liability are small. The potential results are great because there can be no finer service that we can do for housing than to secure the services of the millions available in the hands of the building societies and to secure them at the rate at which the building societies have declared their willingness to lend them. I believe it to be an absolutely incontrovertible proposition that it would be impossible from any other source at the present time to obtain so free a supply of capital at such a low rate of interest. Further, this supply of capital which we have obtained is available in the hands of those who know how to use it, who are acquainted with the building 887 trade and know the housing need of the people.
Some doubt has been cast, in the course of our discussions, upon the willingness of the building societies to discharge their part under the plan put forward in Clause 2. There is no doubt at all of that. It is a plan put forward voluntarily by the building societies. It was their own suggestion. It was framed quite frankly by them to meet their own particular needs, which they believe are in accordance with the needs of the country. As a matter of fact it has been said by one speaker in the Debates that there are only three societies willing to fulfil the scheme. That is not so. I have been in touch with nine societies who are prepared to operate the scheme, and those nine societies have capital assets of the value of £ 150,000,000. The House will see therefore that we have enlisted powerful forces.
Let me refer to the review of the new conditions which is about to be undertaken by the committee appointed to-day. The committee is to review whether it is possible to make use of the services of public utility societies. It is to review the ideas which are in the air about a housing corporation on a large scale. It will review whether additional powers should be granted in that direction, subject to this condition: There is no question of replacing the direct subsidies which we to-day terminate, by any indirect subsidy. That would indeed be to have the worst of both worlds, to drive subsidies out of the door and let them come back by the window. Indirect subsidies would have an even more powerful effect than direct in discouraging private enterprise and there would be also a large loss of a weapon for the encouragement of municipal enterprise.
Let me turn from that aspect to the attendant aspects which have occupied much attention in the House. When I introduced this Bill I said that the occasion of this Bill was the occasion of a declaration of war by this House and by the nation against the slums. To-night I will give some further and more particular account of the plan of campaign by which that war is to be carried on. Since those expressions of mine upon Second Reading we have seen a remarkable demonstration of public opinion 888 upon this subject all over the country, an expression of public opinion so strong, so warm, as to leave no doubt at all in the minds of any what the resolution of the country is. The Press has declared war on the slums in a determined and effective way. There is a clear demand for action. What action is proposed?
It is no wonder that there should be a demand for action if we think of the history of the matter. It is 60 years since the first provision was made by Statute for slum clearance, and in all that 60 years the average annual rate of persons affected by the demolition of slums has been less than 3,000. It is 14 years since a subsidy was first devoted to the purpose of slum clearance, and in all those 14 years the number of houses affected by demolitions has been no more than 15,000, a few more than 1,000 a year. There has been no progress adequate to the evil. One is justified in saying that subsidies so far have succeeded only in scratching the surface of the evil of the slums.
The programme which I have now to announce has for its basis that there shall be no more delay, that we will stand no more trifling with this problem of thé slums. The action that is proposed is as follows: I propose forthwith as Minister of Health to call upon every local authority that is a housing authority to prepare a. survey of its area from the point of view of slums. I do not want to go too much into detail, but there are some circumstances as regards the survey and its consequences which I will mention to the House. I propose to call on every local authority that is a housing authority to follow up that fresh survey with a programme for the abolition of the slums which are revealed by the survey. As I say, I have no wish to go into details on this occasion, but I may give two particulars as regards these programmes. It will be suggested that in these programmes the areas shall be defined which can be dealt with by reconditioning and that as distinct from these, the area shall also be defined which can only be dealt with by the more radical remedy of clearance. We know that the worst of the evil can only be dealt with by clearance and not by re conditioning. We propose that the programmes which are to be prepared following the survey shall establish those two categories, 889 namely, areas for clearance and areas for re-conditioning.
Now we come to the essential. It will be suggested and required that the programme shall state the period within which each of these areas will be dealt with, that is the programmes shall definitely provide a date for the clearing of the clearance areas and the date at which re-conditioning shall be undertaken. It may be that the programme will also provide that where in a re-conditioning area the effects of re-conditioning are exhausted that area should become a clearance area.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a point of Order. The question often arises during a Debate of this character as to what is in order and what is not. The Minister is now making a statement of public policy which appears to me to be outside the scope of the Bill. I wish to know whether we should be allowed in the further stages of this Third Reading Debate to discuss the right hon. Gentleman's proposals?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I understood that the Minister was stating certain things which he proposed to do under the Bill. Of course, anything outside the scope of the Bill would be out of order. Perhaps the Minister will confirm me on the point that the matters with which he is dealing are not outside the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOSEPH NALL
Is it not the case that the clearances to which the Minister has referred can not be proceeded with unless the provisions of this Bill are proceeded with at the same time, and therefore the two matters are related.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Perhaps the Minister of Health will confirm me on that point, namely, that what he now proposes comes under the provisions of the Bill.
Sir H. YOUNG
It is the case, Mr. Speaker, that the action to which I am now referring would only be possible if this Bill were passed and is a necessary consequence of the Bill. As the House will remember, it has been necessary at different stages of the Bill to link up these matters and to have regard both to the question of the subsidy and also to the question of what is proposed as regards dealing with existing conditions.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am satisfied so long as I know that we shall be entitled to discuss these matters, but we very often have a position of some doubt arising on a point of this kind. It may be that there will be someone in the Chair who has not heard the previous discussion, and the question may arise subsequently of whether we are in order or not.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is a position that I am just as anxious to avoid as the right hon. Gentleman. It is for him, as it is for others, not to enter upon the discussion of matters which are not in order, but if hon. Members confine themselves to the discussion of actions which can only be taken if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, then that seems obviously to be quite in order.
§ Major MILNER
I submit that the Minister's statement is not in order. He is dealing with something which has never been mentioned before in these discussions. He states that he proposes, not as a consequence of the Bill but as an administrative decision, to call on local authorities to make surveys and draw up programmes about slum clearance. The Bill has no relation to slum clearance except indirectly in that the Minister has sought to justify doing away with the subsidy on one hand, by saying that, on the other hand, he proposes to urge certain action in regard to slum clearance. It is only in that sense that these matters are in any way related, and I submit that a new statement of policy at this stage of the proceedings is out of order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
As I understood the Minister's statement he was describing what he would be able to do under the Bill if it became an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
There is not a single word in the Bill which alters any of the provisions of the 1930 Act with regard to slums and indeed part of my case against the Third Reading of the Bill is that the right hon. Gentleman has been misleading the public by mixing these two things. It is very difficult for us if the Minister is to make new pronouncements of policy at this stage on matters which are irrelevant to the Bill before us.
§ Sir J. NALL
May I submit that we are now being asked to give a Third Reading to the Bill which proposes a great change in policy relating to the provision of houses. It seems essential that in the application of these proposals the Minister should have information before him as to conditions in different areas and that information he can only ascertain by making proper application to the local authorities in the manner indicated. Indeed I suggest that the House would not be in order in giving a Third Reading to the Bill unless it was assured that the Minister was taking proper steps to ascertain the need which the Bill is designed to meet.
§ Major MILNER
I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) is in error. This Bill deals with ordinary housing and not with slum clearance and the two things are not related.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I submit that the Minister's statement is relevant only to the question of slum clearance and that we are not dealing with slum clearance in this Bill at all. If the Minister has already the powers for doing what he has suggested then there is no necessity for bringing the matter before the House at all.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
Is there any reason why Members of the Opposition should object to this information being given by the Minister?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We do not object at all, but the point which I have raised is very relevant to anyone who follows these discussions as industriously as I do. Occasionally, we come, I will not say into conflict, but into discussion with the Chair, as to what is in order and what is not on these occasions. If you Mr. Speaker rule that we are entitled to discuss the Minister's statement broadly, I am quite satisfied and so are my hon. Friends.
Sir H. YOUNG
I should be quite unable to commend the Bill to the House or adduce the arguments which are relevant in favour of the Bill without being able either on Second Reading or Third Reading to deal with the consequences which must flow from the Bill. Those matters were dealt with on the Second Reading and I do not understand the anxiety of some hon. Members to limit 892 the discussion now. I perfectly understand, however, the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition who only wants to protect his own right of discussion but as to that I imagine he need not have any fear.
I was observing that there are two matters in connection with these programmes on which special emphasis will be laid; first, the distinction between clearance areas and reconditioning areas and secondly, the fixing of a definite period during which those areas will be dealt with. By means of such a time limit we shall secure for every dweller in the slums the assurance that within that limit of time he will see deliverance from the conditions under which he lives. That is the only means by which we can secure the ending of this evil. I am aware that there are in existence five-year programmes which were prepared under the Act of 1930. They are not sufficient for our present purposes because they were not drawn up with the specific object which we have in view, namely, the concentration of effort upon the ending of the slum. They were drawn up more in relation to the general provision of houses. They must therefore be replaced by these special provisions and programmes.
Such will be at the outset the part of the local authorities in the campaign which I am now sketching. The part of the Government will be no less direct and clear. Its first part will be the provision of the essential finance through the form of subsidy, such provision of finance as may be required from the Exchequer in order that the work may be proceeded with on an ordered plan and with the greatest possible speed and efficiency. We set no limit to the number of houses that may be thus dealt with. Every house which is unfit for human habitation ought to be dealt with as soon as possible and the quicker the better. That will not exhaust the active part of the Government in this plan of campaign. There will be other essential functions to be discharged by the Ministry.
There will be the essential function of the stimulation and assistance of the local authorities in the preparation of their surveys and programmes. That is, in the first place, the function of the general inspectors of the Ministry, but we have a certain weight of inertia to lift. A new start has to be made and I propose to 893 devote special assistance to the local authorities in the preparation of their surveys and programmes. I propose to do so by means of a flying squad of special experts from the Ministry whose function will be the stimulation of initiative where that stimulation is needed and the giving of technical assistance and advice in the preparation of those programmes. The point on which I dwell is that this work of the preparation and the carrying out of programmes will be required at the hands of the local authorities. There is ample power under the Act of 1930 for the Minister to ensure the carrying out of programmes prepared in consequence of the passage of this Bill. Under Section 52 he is enabled to order local inquiries to be held and, where satisfied after investigation that there has been failure on part of the local authority, he can make an Order declaring that authority in default and directing how and when that default should be remedied. But except in a very clear ease of ultimate need, there would be no putting into force of the powers of that Section. I look in another direction for the real sanction and force behind this fresh attack on the slums. I look to the irresistible force of public opinion to which I have already referred.
There will be three allies in this campaign. There will be the ally of public pinion. Of that we are sure. The voice of public opinion has been heard in an unmistakable manner of late, and Members of this House can do much in directing and concentrating that public opinion on the conditions of their own divisions. The second ally will be the Government, which will use its whole power and influence to carry out this programme. The third, and essential, ally is the local authorities themselves. I would express warm confidence, not only in the ability, but in the willing enthusiasm of the great bulk of the local authorities to join with the country and the Government in this campaign. They have given proof in the past of their readiness to do so, and I am confident that that readiness will be repeated and increased in the future. I am confident that it will not be necessary to use any of those sanctions and forms of compulsion to which I have referred in order to secure that the essential work shall be done. I am confident also that the local authorities will realise that there is no further 894 opportunity for postponement and delay, that the work has got to be done, and that it is the intention of the country and of the Government to see the work through.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The essence of this matter, of course, is finance, and I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government would provide the necessary finance. Does that mean that the cost will be borne by the Exchequer rather than by the local authorities?
Sir H. YOUNG
The necessary finance under the machinery of the Act of 1930; that is, the subsidies which are provided by that Act.
Sir H. YOUNG
£3 15s. per house, but the figures under that Act are as familiar to the right hon. Gentleman as to myself. The third partner will be the local authorities, whose willingness to join freely, and in free co-operation, in this campaign I do not doubt.
Sir H. YOUNG
No. There are many favouring circumstances which will assist the country and the Government in this campaign which now lies before us, and those are the favouring circumstances which are produced by the passage of this Bill. I believe that without the passage of this Bill any such effort would have been foredoomed to failure. Those circumstances are, first, the concentration of the energies of the local authorities upon this work of slum clearance, because it will only be by the work of slum clearance in future that they will be able to attract subsidies of public money for the purposes of the improvement of the housing conditions in their areas, and I am confident that, as good and reasonable authorities, as good and reasonable men, they will be eager and anxious to continue those forms of activity which will enable them to attract money from the Exchequer for the assistance of their areas.
§ Major MILNER
On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman has been referring for the last 10 minutes to slum clearance alone. He has referred to 895 Section 52. There is no Section 52 in this Measure, and he presumably referred, therefore, to the Act of 1930. He is urging local authorities—quite rightly, no doubt, at the proper time—to get on with the Act of 1930, but I submit that the whole of this statement is out of order now, that there is other urgent business before the House, and that it is not right that lie should be permitted to make that statement on the Third Reading of this Bill, a statement which I say, unhesitatingly, deserves a full day's debate, not merely the odd hour or two which we are likely to have tonight. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman should take an early opportunity of putting forward his proposals for pushing on with slum clearance, which in no direct sense arise under this Bill.
Sir H. YOUNG
I was engaged, when I was interrupted, in pointing out to the House that for a successful attack upon the slums we must have a concentration of the energies of the local authorities, which can only be obtained by the passage of this Bill. The matter, therefore, is not only relevant, it is vital to the Bill itself, and I am very sorry that the hon. and gallant Member has not yet found himself able to understand that fact. The next matter that I would refer to in this connection is the second essential, favourable condition for the success in this operation against the slums which I have described. That is the condition which enables us to pass this Bill, and it is the sharp fall in building costs and in the cost of money. The opportunity for one is the opportunity for the other. By taking advantage of the opportunity to pass the Bill, we set the forces produced by that opportunity free to assist us to clear the slums. The fall in the cost of building operations, their cheapness at the present moment, is the second circumstance that make a favourable condition to carry out this new programme of slum clearance.
One word as regards the review of the new conditions which will be produced by this Bill that is to be carried out by the Committee, the appointment of which I have announced this afternoon. That Committee will be dealing in particular with any fresh powers which it may be desirable to grant to local authorities in respect of re-conditioning slums, not 896 excluding the provision of financial help in order to assist those powers of reconditioning. That Committee will have a most important and valuable task to perform, in relation to the new era produced by this Bill, in order to decide upon what fresh powers it may be useful to add to the existing framework, but I desire to make it particularly clear that no such change in the framework is contemplated as need be looked upon by any local authority as any reason for postponing that survey and that programme to which I have already referred. The way is clear for an immediate start to be made upon the new campaign. I have described a very powerful engine for putting an end to the evil of the slums. In the past there has been a history of failure and disappointment in this respect, and that has been for this reason, I believe, above others, that there has been a divided responsibility, a responsibility divided as between local authorities and the central Government. By such means as I have described, we concentrate that responsibility, because the Government itself accepts the responsibility for undertaking to see this thing through.
Such are the principal reasons for which I commend this Bill to the House. I commend it to the House as inaugurating an era of greater hope in the meeting of one great need, namely, the provision of small houses for the working classes. I commend it to the House as inaugurating an era, not only of hope, but of assurance in dealing with another great need, namely, the abolition of the slum evil through those steps which I have to-night described. Too long has that last evil existed, too long has the slum acted as a radiating centre of disease, of disease not only of the body, but of the mind and of the social order. I believe that by securing the greater freedom and power which we shall obtain by the passage of this Measure to eliminate the final centre of that great evil, we shall indeed have achieved no small thing. It will be all the more to our credit if we succeed in achieving it at a time of difficulty, because the nation will finally judge us, not by success in times of prosperity, but by the courage and the foresight which are shown in bad times. Tonight we look to the resolution to make use of the opportunity given by this Bill 897 to convert our extremity into an opportunity for the achievement, upon which the Government is determined, of fixing a definite term to the slum evil, a great work in which we enlist the sympathy of the local authorities on the one hand and of the public opinion of the country on the other.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
The right hon. Gentleman's name will go down in history as that of the second Minister of Health who has conceived nothing constructive in the cause of the housing of the people. The first was the late Lord Melchett, who was given the rather difficult task of liquidating all responsibility under the Addison Act of 1919. His successor, a Conservative Minister of Health, was bound to reestablish the principle of public aid which his predecessor had overthrown, and there will come a successor of the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Health who will treat him as ignominiously as the late Lord Melchett was treated by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In this Bill there is not a single constructive proposal; not one word, not one comma, of the Bill deals either directly or indirectly with the question of slum clearance. There is only one idea in it, and that is not constructive—the idea of a return to the free play of economic forces, the free play of private enterprise. He has not even a friend on the Government Benches in favour of that policy to-day. He is a lone voice crying in the wilderness, using the language of a century ago—I have had to remind him of it before—a lingo unknown since the days of our great grandfathers. He alone stands for a return to private enterprise, and the only idea in his Bill is a return to private enterprise. In the long Title of the Bill we have its scope defined:to bring to an end the power of the Minister of Health to grant subsidies under (the Acts of 1923 and 1924) and to enable him to undertake to make contributions in curtain cases.From the day of the Second Reading of this Bill the right hon. Gentleman has been misleading this House and misleading the public. He 'has very carefully and 898 skilfully mixed the destructive provisions of this Bill with slum clearance. There is nothing whatever in agreement between ale two. He has asserted tonight, but not proved, that the solution of the housing problem is to leave the normal provision of houses to the free play of private enterprise, and to get local authorities to concentrate on what I can only call to-day the dirty work of slum clearance. There is no necessary connection of that kind between the two. On the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman talked of slum clearance, in the country he has talked of slum clearance, the Lord President of the Council made a moving speech in the country in favour of slum clearance, and the right hon. Gentleman comes back to-day on the Third Reading of this Bill, when we thought we were dealing with the rather narrow point of the Bill as it stands now, to tell us of his proposals. I do not call them new, because they arc not new. There is not a single suggestion that he is making except about another committee, and that is not new. Having suffered castigation about the appointment of new committees from hon. Members opposite when I sat on that side of the House, I cannot say that even his proposal for a committee is new.
It is no good the right hon. Gentleman working himself up into a frenzy to-day about slum clearance and saying, as he said in an earlier part of his speech, that there must be no more delay and no more trifling. The very day that the right hon. Gentleman took office he discouraged the local authorities, and he has pursued that policy persistently and deliberately for nearly 18 months. He has not said to them, "You are the people who might aid us in solving the housing problem." On the contrary, he has discouraged them—not one authority, but scores of authorities. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a five-year programme, which he said was not enough. There are scores of cases to prove that it was not too big and many local authorities to-day are not building up to the level of the five-year programme. The right hon. Gentleman has discouraged local authorities, he has knocked the heart out of them, and he has done everything he can to destroy municipal enterprise in housing; and now, after 18 months, he appeals to them with his hand on his bosom, and says, "We need the assist 899 ante of local authorities to help us in the solution of the problem of the slums."
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I can answer the hon. Gentleman in two ways. I did a good deal more than the right hon. Gentleman, and the situation to-day would have been a good deal better if I had been sitting where the Minister is now sitting. Where do we stand on this great question of slum clearance? What have we been offered? Not a new policy, but a committee. We are being offered reconditioning as a partial solution of the slum problem. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that that is only a partial, and, indeed, only a minor solution. Where houses are bad, reconditioning is bound to be a hopeless failure and it will not be an economic proposition. I am becoming a little tired, as one who has lived in a second-hand house, of this new policy of passing off the houses of the middle classes to the working classes, only to more of them—one middle-class house being handed over second hand, third hand and fourth hand to four or five working-class families. That kind of thing can be found within a mile of this House; hundreds of middle-class houses not good enough for the middle classes are now being cut into small sandwiches and divided up into working-class houses. If the most that the right hon. Gentleman can suggest, apart from this talk about surveys—which does not mean anything—is a committee to consider the possibility of reconditioning, the solution of this problem will not only be nil, but it will be worth less than nothing, and may possibly be disastrous.
If time permitted I should like to spend as great a proportion of my speech on irrelevancies as the Minister. He said very little about this Bill. He did not say a great deal about it on Second Reading, and to-night he has said even less. He is trying to cloud the negative character of this Bill by taking advantage of an Act of Parliament for which he was not responsible, and which he is going to supplement by another committee. I do not wish to pursue that question any further, but I wish the House to understand that the right hon. 900 Gentleman has not contributed one constructive idea to the solution of the slum problem. He has not altered the law in any way. The law is as the late Labour Government left it in 1931, and it is important that the country should know that, because the Press are giving the impression that the right hon. Gentleman is a kind of crusader in this matter. I remember the Minister of Mines when he was crusading with me. He has now changed sides and is crusading with the present Minister. This is not a new crusade that the right hon. Gentleman has undertaken. He has added no new power behind the movement for slum clearance. His only contribution is to deter local authorities for nearly 18 months, to reduce them to a state of hysteria and panic, and to discourage them from the work that they ought to have been doing.
A further reason which I have against the Bill is that it is a reversal of an established national policy at a most inopportune time. It has been said that houses can be built without subsidy. That may be true, but that does not answer the question whether they will be built at the lowest price. It does not answer the question whether under the provisions of this Bill houses will be provided for working-class families at the lowest cost and at rents which they can pay. I am certain that in certain areas, both urban and rural, particularly in rural areas, private enterprise will not fill the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with this point most ineffectively on the Committee stage last week. Private enterprise never has filled the bill. It has not done it effectively in the towns, and it certainly cannot do it in the semi-rural and rural areas; and we are to be left now solely with private enterprise, except, as the Minister admits, for the very difficult and the complicated business of slum clearance. When the building of working-class houses was a costly business, local authorities were allowed to do it. Now that the building of working-class houses appears to provide an opportunity for private profit, private enterprise is to be allowed to come in, and the difficult job of slum clearance is to be left to the local authorities. I can understand hon. Members opposite favouring a return to private enterprise in the building industry. That raises a question in which 901 there is a conflict of principle between hon. Members opposite and us.
Whatever might be the right solution, if the Minister thinks that private enterprise can solve this problem, we ought to have guarantees that it will solve it as well as municipal enterprise. That is a reasonable thing to ask. Ever since the War, we have gradually established under the power of the Minister a national housing standard which is as good as, and in most cases better than, the local building by-laws. We have established a national tradition under public auspices. Houses for the most part have been built by private contract, but under the auspices of the local authorities. If the right hon. Gentleman believes that private enterprise can do this job, surely the House is entitled to ask him to ensure that it will do the job as well as public enterprise has been doing it in the years since the War. A point on which I think there will be universal agreement in the House is that the standard of houses which have been built for working-class families since the War are infinitely higher than the standard before the War. That is all to the good. Having achieved that standard—it may be at very great public expense—we are entitled in this golden era of lower prices and lower rates of interest, about which we have heard so much, to ask that private enterprise shall live up to that standard. The right hon. Gentleman says that Clause 2 of the Bill is not important and is not essential. The point is, however, that he has in that Clause kept a shred of public control. That guarantee, even if it is worth only 8s. per house, gives him a locus standti, an authority in this matter, and it is reasonable to ask that he should use that authority to safeguard housing standards.
One of the difficulties that we had on Committee stage and again on Report stage of the Bill was the reluctance of the Minister to commit himself to anything. He has to-night, after speeches from all sides of the House, agreed to a, fixed bath, but even that concession does not appear as big as it did when hon. Gentlemen behind him cheered, because he still keeps his discretion. His discretion is worth nothing. If the housing problem of the people is to be treated seriously, there ought to be some kind of statutory authority, not merely the power, but the duty imposed on the 902 Minister to see that houses are built adequately according to modern standards. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the changing times in which we are living. Let him remember that there are changing standards in working-class life which have been embodied in scores of thousands of working-class homes. I fear that under the operation of this Bill we shall revert to the old period of unrestricted private enterprise, where the jerry builder and the speculator, careless of the interests of the people who live in their houses, will build the smallest and the meanest type of house because they themselves will not have to live in them. The master builders have expressed their view that this idea of building only 12 houses to the acre is a monstrous waste of land. They do not believe in providing for the people who are to be tenants of their houses the kind of amenities that they want for themselves and their families.
Without the restraining hand of the Minister I am satisfied that the effect of this Bill will be, within the next three years, to degrade the standard of working-class houses. For that reason alone I should be prepared to vote 'against the Bill. I would vote against every word in this Bill not with pleasure, but with sadness, because it seems to me that this is about the worst possible time to discourage local authorities and to expect that private enterprise, having had imposed on it these ideas of economy, will live up to anything like reasonable standards of working-class houses. The right hon. Gentleman in his final words spoke about cheap capital and low rates of interest, and said that out of this time of adversity we ought to make great progress, and that it would be all the more credit to us if we did. That is perfectly true, but if the right hon. Gentleman means business it is a complete reversal of the Government' policy.
If local authorities are to forge ahead, then the economy policy of the Government goes to pieces. If it does so I shall be delighted; but I should like to know whether, in making his new declaration about the slums, the right hon. Gentleman has been making a new declaration about economy, though I imagine not. I should say that his dearest ambition is to hand over the housing of the people to those who, in the generations before the War, failed to deal with it effectually. One 903 thing has been proved, and that is that the housing of the people is so fundamental to national interests that it cannot be left to the unrestricted play of private enterprise. It is so vital, not merely to physical wellbeing but to moral wellbeing, that there ought to be a Minister's hand upon the wheel. That hand the right hon. Gentleman is prepared, indeed he is anxious, to withdraw, in order that he can get back to an outworn creed which even members of his own Government do not to-day accept. With the Government accepting the principle of intervention in trade, whether through Regulations or tariffs, it has scrapped the old-fashioned ideas for which the right hon. Gentleman alone stands. On the ground that the right hon. Gentleman is really a relic from the past, and not speaking in terms of to-day, I hope this House, elected so lately as 1931, will be prepared with me to reject the Bill.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
Those with whom I am associated have handed in a reasoned Amendment to this Third Reading Motion, which naturally cannot be called upon. I make no complaint about that, and I will save the time of the House by not even reading it, partly because I understand that it is out of order, and if I were to read it it might be expected that I should frame my speech mainly upon it. I do not intend to do that but to follow definitely on lines which are in order, namely, the Bill, or those extensions naturally arising out of it which were dealt with by the Minister, by leave of the Speaker—I refer to slum clearance and reconditioning. I have been asked to speak on behalf of my party in this matter for what seem to them the good and sufficient reason that my name happens to begin with "A," and that when the party meeting decided that I should speak I chanced not to be present and had no opportunity of suggesting somebody who was better qualified, as at the time I was taking the chair at a meeting of the housing committee of my county council in Devonshire.
In preparation for my task I have read through the Debates on this Bill, and two points remain definitely in my mind. First of all there is admiration 904 for the skill, clarity, persuasiveness and good temper shown by the Minister of Health and the Under-Secretary in their conduct of the Bill. To make a practical point, noticing that the Minister of Health has sat continuously on the Treasury Bench for four and a half hours I shall not take it amiss if he thinks he will be better employed somewhere else than in listening to what I have to say. My second point is that in examining what I have to say I shall not more than I can help dispute the central principle of the Bill which is, of course, to abolish the main housing subsidy. I regard that as more or less settled, and at any rate pretty well everything that can be said about it has been said already. But I think we should not part, either temporarily or permanently, with the Wheatley Act without, in our minds at any rate, paying a tribute of respect and admiration to John Wheatley. His Act was a great personal achievement. It did what, at the time it was passed at any rate, by the admission of all of us, could not have been done in any other way. Many hundreds of thousands of people have good reason to bless his name for having helped to provide houses which otherwise would not have been built; and although this Bill is meant to bury his Act for good and all I would like to suggest, before we do that, and without prejudice to the question of its resurrection, that we ought to pay our tribute to the ardent and high-minded man who was its author.
Summing up the general results and effects of this Bill, however large may be the majorities here and in another place by which its remaining stages are to be affirmed there will remain anxiety, not only in the minds of its critics but among its supporters, on four main points. First, the question of how, and how quickly, reconditioning can be pressed forward in rural areas. Second, the speed of shun clearance, and in particular the re-housing of those whom slum clearance dispossesses. Third, whether the building societies will adequately perform the important role which this Bill assigns to them. Lastly, whether the machinery which will remain in our rural districts after the main Wheatley subsidies are swept away will provide adequately for the needs of agricultural workers and similar classes. The Minister in his statement just now referred to the fact 905 that the new survey which he is intending to have set up at once will cover the question of reconditioning, and he made it clear that it was only with the passing of this Bill that local authorities would be free to tackle it. So be it. If it had not been that even at this eleventh hour, he did include that matter, I am quite sure that the conscience of the House and the nation would have remained profoundly stirred by speeches such as the noble speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) on the Second Reading of this Bill. Nothing so far, until, perhaps, the statement of this evening, had set our minds at rest about it. It is a difficult problem, as is shown by the fact that it puzzled even my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who, I see, has taken the Minister's place, and whom I welcome. In the Debate on the Second Reading he looked the problem of reconditioning fairly and squarely in the face and passed it by on the other side. He referred to the necessity for reconditioning which had been urged, and said:
" I ask
At whose expense? At the expense of the State, the landlord, or the tenant? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1932; col. 649, Vol 273.]
I respectfully suggest that the Government could not possibly leave the matter there, with a large question mark appended to it. It is much too serious a matter. My knowledge such as it is is rural rather than urban and I want to make a suggestion concerning the Rural Reconditioning Act which is a special Act. The State and the ratepayers helped, but only under rather special conditions, only if the landlord will accept for at, any rate a long period—20 years I think—a considerably lower rate than would be legally enforceable or required under the Rent Restrictions Act. The acceptance of help for reconditioning would carry with it an obligation to keep rents low. It might be possible, not this evening and not perhaps by any Amendment to this Bill—I do not know whether it would be in order in another place—that reconditioning questions in our towns might follow that analogy. That analogy might be useful. Could not owners of bad property be offered help in putting them in order, if rents were effectively reduced and restricted, and, if they declined to agree to that, could they not be forced to recondition at their own expense? It would be a fair offer— 906 help from public funds if rents are kept really low, as is the case now in our country districts. Perhaps the survey which is to proceed will take a note of this. Notwithstanding all that is sometimes said in this House about houses owned by poor widows, I do not think that it will be hard, if that offer is made, to insist that reconditioning shall be done. Even the poorest people are forced to have sanitary and suitable premises if they carry on any business, and the business of house-letting is surely important.
r. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is going far beyond what is in the Bill.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
Your intervention was not wholly unexpected, and I admit its justice. My point is that this question of reconditioning, having been raised, must be very definitely pressed forward, even, if necessary, by using new powers in tackling the problem which the Minister now contemplates. I come to what will be more strictly in order, the question of slum clearance. That, we all know, is not only a problem of housing, from which it takes its difficulty, but it is a problem of livelihood. Slums exist mainly in the districts in which large pools of casual labour are required, as near the docks and the railway stations, and, as was recently well said, I think it was in the "New Statesman and Nation," until that sort of labour can be decasualised, it is no use to suggest to the Thames-side docker that he should go and live at Becontree, or to the Merseyside worker that he should go and live in one of the new housing estates provided by the Liverpool Corporation. That is one of the main difficulties that confronts the Minister in his rather newly-developed anxiety that this question should be fundamentally tackled. It is a problem, not of housing only, but if decasualisation and of transport.
It is not unfair to the Minister to call the attention of the House to the way in which the views of the Government on this matter have developed and improved in the course of these Debates. It is sometimes said that whatever the Government brings in is passed cut-and-dried, without any alteration. Here is a case, in regard to slum clearance, in which public opinion, expressed inside 907 and outside this House, has had a real effect upon the Government's mind. I find it difficult to agree with what was said by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) about the Governments slum-clearance proposals meaning nothing. I think that they are going to mean a very great deal. I am very glad that that part of the speech was declared to be in order. It was new, of course, and it was rather unexpected, but it was very much better to have a statement of that kind now than not at all; better late than never. It shows what I have felt in my practical acquaintance with this matter, that the inspectors in the Minister's Department are not now regarded as they used to be, and as some inspectors still are, as unreasonable, interfering people, who think that they know much better what ought to be done than people who have been devoting half n life-time to housing. Those inspectors are regarded as friends anxious to help.
I am very glad that the Minister has now announced that he intends to take advantage of that position to have definite plans made with the great municipal authorities for carrying through this job. I was glad that the Minister added that it would be done within a definite time. We know the difficulty of time. None of us expects that slum clearance can be done within one, two or three years. As the Minister said, it has dragged on for 50 or 60 years already. Cannot we take in a favourable light the recent statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we shall have great difficulty in unemployment for the next 10 years, and can we not make up our minds, as the Minister seemed inclined to do, that within that period, shorter, one hopes, the problem shall be tackled and put right? If we knew that for certain, and the Minister's statement this afternoon goes a long way in that direction, we should feel less uneasy about this Bill than some of us have hitherto done. It would do a good deal to lift these questions out of party politics, not only nationally, but locally, and that would be all to the good.
The Minister has at last realised that. He realises also that definite action is required with the local authorities. Until he said what he said this afternoon, I did not think that he realised quite so fully as some of us do who are actively 908 at work in the localities, the change that has come over local authorities in many districts in the last two years. In all authorities, so far as my experience goes, and I expect that the experience of other hon. Members on local authorities is much the same, there are two classes of people, those whose constant inclination it is to explain why things cannot be done, and those who have the power of showing how things can be done and of getting them done. Naturally, and perhaps inevitably—I am not blaming anybody— the economy crisis of nearly two years ago put on top the first class of people who do not wish to spend anything on anything. They were able to bring out into the light of day their constant desire to do little or nothing and to parade it as patriotism. If the statement of the Minister of Health means anything, it surely means that it is no longer patriotic to do as little as possible on our local authorities in this matter of slum clearance.
It will require more than speeches in this House to reverse the wheels and to convince our local authorities that that is so. The only way in which it can be done is by writing to the local authorities, as the Minister has now said he is going to do, and by sending his experts to confer with them: by mapping out areas and by having a definite programme year by year, until the task is done. It. is a very difficult thing to reverse large engines, and it will require all the effort that the Minister and his Department can put into it to persuade the local authorities that their duty now is something very different from what in so many quarters it has been represented to be for many months past. It will need very purposeful and constructive organic planning if they are to realise that, and we shall watch, and shall, I am sure in no spirit of distrust, want to have accounts from time to time of, the effect that the Minister's action is having on local authorities and how his plans are proceeding, and to have reports from time to time as to how this great work is going forward, as we all now hope, and most of us believe, it is going forward.
My third point arises directly out of Clause 2 of the Bill. It is as to whether the building societies will adequately perform the large role which the Bill 909 assigns to them. I cannot say much about that, because my right hon. Friend the Minister has done me the honour of asking me to serve on a committee which may shed a certain amount of light on that question. There has been some controversy about the Committee's terms of reference, and on that subject it would not be right for me to say anything, but, when I was asked to be a member of the Committee, it did not seem to me to be right that, if one of those who are pursuing the attitude of independence of the Government that we pursue were asked to help, in however small a degree and under however limited terms of reference, he should refuse, because independence in this House seems to me to have its duties as well as its rights.
I only want to make two points in that regard. I have tried, with the best will in the world, to see where that margin of 10 per cent. is to come from. These houses are not going to be bought, but are going to be leased, and the man who takes a lease will not want to "cash up" the 10 per cent. as a sort of premium before taking his house. That point is also puzzling people who have had a closer connection with the matter than I can claim to have had. The other point that I want to make is this: The terms of reference of that Committee are necessarily official terms, but can the Parliamentary Secretary, or whoever speaks on behalf of the Government before the Bill finally passes away from us, make a little clearer to us than it now is, what the Minister expects from the work of the Committee He must have anxieties about it, or he would not have asked us to help him; but it is difficult to gather from the terms of reference what his anxieties and his desires are.
I would like to know whether he expects, when the committee reports, that further legislation will be required. I know, of course, what the answer to that question will be, namely, that it depends upon what they report, and when they report, and what the state of Government business is at the time when they report. That, of course, is the proper, the correct and the inevitable official answer to a question of that kind. But it is always easy to give correct answers, and the Minister of Health always does it 910 supremely well; but, besides that admirable official side which he shows to the House, he has, as many of us know, an equally admirable human side, and we should be glad to see a little more of that. I know very well, from my own experience, how much more difficult and often injudicious it is to be human than to be official, but, if the Minister would permit himself to think aloud a little more about the really difficult matters ahead in this big new experiment that he is trying with the building societies, we should be glad. It would help public opinion to look forward to what might be coming, and we should like him, if he would trust himself a, little more, even more than we do at present, which is a great deal.
I come now to my last point, and that is the case of the rural districts. The Minister knows rural England and loves it, and I think I may claim that I do also, but I have, in the matter of housing, this small advantage over him, that, as chairman of my parish council in its capacity as a parochial committee acting for the district council, as a member of a district council which has done a great deal under the Wheatley Act, and as chairman of the Housing Sub-committee of my county council, I have had a certain amount of actual experience of the housing difficulties in the countryside which may not have come in the way of even the Minister himself. It has been said that the Wheatley Act did not help the agricultural worker, and that all that needs doing for him can now be done under the Reconditioning Act and the Slum Clearance Act. With respect, however, I would say that the Wheatley Act did help the agricultural worker, though, perhaps, not directly.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) gave a case the other day in which houses built under that Act were let at rents which would have been directly within the power of the agricultural worker to pay; but such instances are not common. What normally happened was that the Wheatley houses, let at rents of from 5s. or 6s. to 7s. or 8s., helped primarily the artisan, the postman, the pensioner, and people of that class—not the week-ender. The idea that Wheatley houses went to, week-enders is a myth, a pure invention. I do not believe that there is a single instance of it from one end of the country 911 to another; there have always been tenants more eligible than that. But, when the new council houses were occupied by that slightly superior class from the point of view of ability to pay rent, one of two things always happened instantaneously. I am speaking as regards a very large range of villages. Either bad overcrowding in the villages was mitigated owing to one of two families in a house clearing out and leaving it for the other family, or people of the agricultural worker class, or others who could not afford to pay higher rents than the agricultural worker can afford, moved into the houses out of which the better-off people had moved in order to go into the Wheatley houses. There was an instantaneous closing up, and an instantaneous bettering of housing all round, because it meant that the most insanitary houses ceased to be in demand, and possibly ceased even to be occupied at all—and a very good thing too. But, if it had not been for the progress with council houses, there would have been much less relief and much less improvement in the actual condition of housing for the agricultural worker than there actually has been.
The cutting short of the Wheatley Act will stop all that, and we shall be thrown back on reconditioning and on the Slum Clearance Act. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement about his plan under the Reconditioning Act. He said that he intended to rely more on district councils in some cases. His statement about relying on district councils for reconditioning was reported in some quarters as if it contemplated a universal and compulsory transfer of powers from the county council to the district councils, but I do not think that anything of that kind was contemplated at all. I think the Minister intends only to use district councils in suitable cases, where he is convinced that that would be the best way of getting some action taken; but his statement has caused doubt in some counties, like my own, where the county council is willing to work the Act as well as it can, and is working it to-day. I hope that that important matter may be cleared up, although it is only a small one.
Then I would say, let the Minister not hope too much from the action of district councils if and when he transfers 912 the present powers of the county council to them. Speaking for a county which I think, when I saw the last figures, had done about one-fifth of the whole work done in England and Wales under the Reconditioning Act, I believe that the reason why we have been able to do so much good in Devonshire has been primarily that we have a very competent and devoted county architect, with his staff, who not only, when he gets schemes, says quite clearly what must be done in order that public money shall be spent upon them, but, in addition, reviews the proposals put forward by the owner, and very often helps to show the owner how he can best do what lie proposes to do, even to the extent, frequently, of practically re-drawing the plans that have been submitted by some' small builder on the unaided ideas of the small owner. District councils cannot do that. They have not the skilled staffs. The surveyor may do his best, but he cannot give the same help as a really experienced architect can do, and neither can district councils maintain the same standard of what they require in order to earn the grant that the county councils can do. Our work in Devonshire is only popular because in each case we can make a good job of the house that is done, often requiring a great deal to be done—extra bedrooms, better sanitation and water supply and so on.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must warn the hon. Baronet again that he is not making a Third Reading speech.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
Perhaps I may be allowed a short reference to the Slum Clearance Act, upon which reliance is placed under the Bill to do a good deal of necessary work in rural districts. I know no department of housing work in which less will be done unless the Minister reverses the engines in the same way that he says he intends to reverse the engines with regard to slum clearance. That Act came at a time which proved unfortunate. It was very soon followed by the economic crisis of 1931. Our local authorities had only begun to get going when the necessity for economy, and stringent economy, arose. In my county only six out of 18 district councils have taken it up. They applied only in respect to 124 dwellings, of which only 47 were approved by the Ministry, and in only about two dozen cases has 913 anything been done. That was very likely necessary at the time, but if, as the Minister says, he welcomes action by the local authorities to clear slums in the towns he must also be prepared to welcome similar action in the country districts. I am simply saying the same thing for the country districts as he has said for the towns. He cannot leave things where they are. There must be definite circulars to district councils in the country, just as he intends to send them to the municipalities of the towns, inviting those who have not applied at all under the Act to apply and promising to review the cases that were rejected under the special financial stringency of 18 months ago. It comes to this. Will the same action of asking for active operation in slum clearance be taken in the country as was held out to us as being a definite part of the Minister's policy in the towns?
A statement was made by the Minister which rather horrified me in its implications. It was that there was not really any considerable need for new houses in rural districts because, judging from the figures that were available, the population is going down. That is the reason that he gave for what is the main purpose of the Bill so far as rural districts are concerned, namely, bringing the subsidy to an end. How much is that decline of our rural population due to bad housing? Cannot the tide be reversed by making better housing available? Can that be tackled satisfactorily only by these acts of reconditioning and slum clearance? The standard of housing has changed—not only the standard provided but the standard expected by the people who are going to live in the houses. The newer generation of young men and women in the last 20 years expect something better for themselves than they were brought up to. Sixty, 80 or 100 years ago cottages were built, as I know on my own estate, mainly with one consideration, and that was warmth. he newer generation seem not to mind about cold as much as the older people did. When you look at the silk stockings and the modest V, you perceive that cold is a secondary matter. But what the older generation did not seem to want so much is air and, above all, light. The newer cottages—the council cottages—now differ entirely from the older ones to which our fathers and grandfathers 914 were accustomed in the matter of light more perhaps than in anything else. The young men and women now growing up have got accustomed to light. They see it in their friends' houses in the towns and in the new council houses where their friends live.
If we are to repopulate the countryside, we must make sure that there shall be available for country workers houses of a different type from what they regard as the pretty, snug, sweet country cottages that they see as they whirl past in their motor cars and take no further real interest in. Houses of the kind that people now want in order that the country districts may be filled up will not be provided by reconditioning, by slum clearance or by private enterprise. The building societies do not operate outside urban areas at all so far as I have heard. I pray that the attitude that the Minister has expressed may not be the last word of this or any other Government. If it is, it will be a disaster to rural England. Rural England deserves better than that.
§ 8.54 p.m.
While I feel myself in sympathy with the main provisions of the Bill, I cannot disguise the fact, in spite of what the Minister has said, that I am still somewhat apprehensive with regard to the building by private enterprise of a sufficient number of the smaller houses to let at low rents. I realise that in different parts of the country some of these will be built, but I cannot persuade myself that very much will be done in this direction in big cities such as London, where land is extremely dear, and it is often far more profitable to use it for other purposes, and where there is a crying need for this type of accommodation. The theory on which the abolition of the subsidy is based seems to be sound enough, but, with regard to the really low-rented houses, I fear that the ordinary laws of supply and demand are to-day so complicated by outside factors, such as unemployment and poverty, that they may prove to operate far too slowly for our needs. We have to remember, that if the Rent Restrictions Acts are to cease in five years' time, a great deal of leeway will have to be made up unless decontrol is to bring hardship to many of our people. In the Circular which the Minister of Health issued soon after he 915 took office he showed that he was alive to this problem of the smaller type of houses. He concentrated upon their production by local authorities and received a certain amount of success. I think that many of us would be grateful if, in summing up this evening, the Parliamentary Secretary would give us some still further reassurance upon this matter, and also if he would indicate what course he will pursue if the desired type of small houses fails to materialise in sufficient numbers.
There is one word I should like to say with regard to slum clearance. Everyone in this House must rejoice in the enormous publicity which has been given to this matter up and down the country recently by speeches, by newspaper articles, and, above all, by broadcasts. The declaration of war upon the slums made by the Minister of Health seems to me to open a campaign in which every man and women in this country can unite. It will not be a war which can be won by pegging away. Pegging away in separate units has been the process ever since people first began to talk about slum clearance, which we heard to-night from the Minister was 60 years ago, and we know that this method has only advanced us a mere trench or two, and that, only on certain parts of the line.
I am very glad that the Minister has asked for a complete survey and programme with regard to slum clearance from every local authority. I look to the waging and the winning of this war for one of the biggest economies that the Government can possibly make. Few of us wish to see any of our social services reduced to the detriment of any section of the community, but who would not rejoice to see a reduction in Government expenditure if it were the result of the healthier conditions of the people, and the immense economy of good housing has been proved over and over again by fact and figure. I welcome very much indeed the appointment of the committee which the Minister has set up to-day, showing, as it does, that the Government are fully alive to every aspect of the housing problem. In supporting the Bill tonight, I look upon it only as the foundation of our future housing policy and in no way as a complete structure in itself.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) delivered an interesting speech, but it was hardly upon the lines I expected. I understood that the Liberal party were going to oppose the Government tooth and nail, but in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman there was not the vim one expected, probably it was because he might not have been present at the meeting. If I had been on the Government benches, I should have thought that the whole trend of his speech was more in praise of the Bill than against it. If this is a sample of the opposition of the Liberal party, they will have to become more full hearted than has been the case upon this Measure to-night. I dare say that they are retiring carefully and perhaps do not want to throw over their friends so badly at the outset, but it is a poor exhibition of the fight which I understood they intended to put up.
The Minister of Health, in dealing with the Bill—and I listened very carefully— did not seem to he very happy. He appeared to cover up his retreat by eulogising the Greenwood Act of 1930. Indeed, anybody listening to him who had not read the Bill but had read the Greenwood Act, would have thought that he was dealing with the Greenwood Act, that he was going to put greater pressure upon its application, and that, although it had been somewhat lax up to now, his job as Minister of Health was to see that its progress became greater. That seemed to be practically the object of a large part of his speech to-night. Whether it was because he wanted to obscure the real issue of the Bill or not, I do not know. The Bill tells us clearly that no contributions will be made in the future, apart from what is held to come under slum clearance. It means that for the future private enterprise will be given full opportunity in dealing with the housing problem of this country.
I understood the Minister to say that he was backed up by public opinion upon this matter. I should like to know what public opinion? The letters which I have received from my constituency, from every council, appeal to me to try and get the subsidy kept on. I have written to them asking if they have sent a communication to the Minister of Health, 917 and I have received an affirmative reply to the effect that they have made their protest to him as they have made it to me. Therefore, however the Minister of Health can say that he has public opinion behind him in putting a stop to the giving of the subsidy, I fail to see. I should be interested to know from the Minister, or from the Parliamentary Secretary, whence they get their public opinion?
Another point brought forward in speeches by the Minister of Health is that money is cheaper now and that because of that fact we shall get better houses, at rents almost equal to what obtains under municipalities. Is the Minister dealing fairly with the municipalities by taking from them, when money is cheaper, an opportunity of putting up the type of houses required by the people? Surely, if they were able to pass through the hard times when money was dear and were able to meet the situation in the manner they did, they are entitled to a further lease while money is cheaper and should be given an opportunity of dealing with the problem and enjoying the privileges now being given to private enterprise. The Minister is himself the last remnant standing for private enterprise. I do not think that on the whole of the Government Benches there is a man equal to the Minister of Health in taking a stand for private enterprise, and I believe that he is now determined to give, once and for all, a further opportunity to private enterprise. He thinks that here is their greatest chance. Everything is in their favour, cheap money, the Government is defending them, and every opportunity which can be given, is to be given to them by the Minister of Health.
We on these benches feel, after the experience which we have had, that housing by private enterprise has absolutely failed. We ought not at a time like this to allow the question to pass from our grasp. It is unfair to the House of Commons and to the people in the country to hand it back to a body of men who have already had an opportunity and have failed to provide for the necessities of the people. It is on these grounds that, as a last effort, we are raising our voices in protest. We know very well, as the House is at present constituted, that we shall not be able to suc- 918 ceed, but we should be lacking in our duty to the people we represent if we did not take a stand to-day and show our discontent. I trust that the Liberal Members will go into the Lobby with us, as I understand they will, so that we may give the greatest vote we can against the Third Reading of a Bill which cannot b a success but must be an absolute failur as time goes on.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Sir JONAH WALKER SMITH
I was a little surprised at the dissertation by the Minister upon the matter of slum clearance, because I have failed to observe any mention whatever of slum clearance in the Bill. I was not, however, particularly surprised at the terms in which he made his reference to slum clearance. I have become so accustomed to proclamations of that kind from that Box. Many times has that particular Front Bench laboured and a very ridiculous mouse has been born as a result of it. I thought that at first it must be an attempt on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to draw a, red herring across our path and to divert our attention from the possible practical effects of this Bill. I was not impressed with the fact that the Minister intends to have a survey, a programme and certain periods and dates prescribed, when various things will be done. There is nothing new in that. There have been many programmes and many surveys and extremely little has been done.
I was not impressed with the Minister's intention to use the big stick upon the local authorities in case, forsooth, they should not proceed with more diligence in slum clearance. The Minister has had that big stick in his hand for a considerable time and other Ministers before him have had the big stick, but nothing have they done in regard to it. I can only conclude that the dissertation must have been used for the purpose of letting it be inferred by the House that for the purpose of re-housing the dispossessed from the slums an enormous number of new houses will be required. The inference that we were presumbly asked to draw from the right hon. Gentleman's observations was that a large number of houses will be built. That is a matter on which I propose to offer a few observations. I am in entire agreement with the right hon. Member for Wakefield 919 (Mr. Greenwood) when he said that it is not quite so much a question of legislation or statutory powers for the purpose of producing houses as it is a question of energetic and effective administration. I have not noticed that the administration of housing by the Minister of Health has been particularly effective and energetic in the matter of producing houses. As far as it has been within the power of the present Minister to restrict the flow of houses under the Housing Acts, he has restricted it. He has restricted it to the extent of 50 per cent. compared with the number of houses that were approved during previous years. Compared with previous years the total is only half of what it was. That is an indication of the energy with which he applies himself to the production of houses.
He now proposes to use his flying squad, or whatever it may be, and he hopes that it will be efficient and effective. I could have wished that he had used it efficiently and effectively under the Housing Act which was passed in 1931, whereby it was anticipated that about 40,000 houses would be built within 12 months. I think the flying squad must have been in cold storage, for in 18 months there has been arranged to be built about 400 houses. I am at one with the right hon. Member for Wakefield when he says that this is very largely a question of effective administration, but I am not at one with him when he says that the housing standards are greatly endangered by this particular Measure. I do not think that in regard to such houses as may be built—I do not think there will be a great number built—the standards will be gravely affected, when it is remembered that those who may be sufficiently intrepid as to venture upon the building of houses under this particular Bill will first have to run the gamut of the building societies, who will have a great deal to say in regard to standards, then the gamut of the local authorities, and also the gamut of the Minister of Health. I do not think they will get through that filtration any houses of an unsatisfactory standard. If they happen to pass through that filtration, it must be borne in mind that the houses are not houses readily to be got off the hands of the builders or of the persons who may be responsible for providing the 920 houses. They are to be let and to be held as an investment. Unless the builder is extremely unwise he must remember that the houses must be made sufficiently attractive to attract tenants at decent rentals, and also sufficiently well built to prevent his being mulcted in very large subsequent costs. Therefore, the question of the standard of the houses will not be seriously affected.
The Minister relies upon various means for providing houses after having removed by Clause I subsidies of all kinds. He relies first upon private enterprise, secondly upon the local authorities, and thirdly upon private enterprise assisted by the building societies. I could have understood the right hon. Gentleman relying upon private enterprise if it had not been for the second Clause. I could have understood it if he had relied upon the first Clause and then said: "For the remainder, I rely enirely upon the free play of economic forces. I leave it entirely to private enterprise to build such houses and at such rents as they like, and if they make large profits, it will create competition." But he does not do that. He does not leave it to the free play of private enterprise. He now tells the whole world that he is setting up a committee who are going to consider a great number of questions, including the establishment of a National Housing Corporation, or something of that kind. Is that an encouragement to private enterprise? Not at all. Private enterprise will say: "We do not know what may come of this. We had better wait a bit, and see." By the provisions of Clause 2 he proposes to give certain guarantees. Those guarantees are to be from the State, from the local authorities and from money supposedly at a lower rate of interest on a very large percentage of the total valuation. Is that encouraging to private enterprise in the ordinary way? Not at all. Private enterprise will stand back and say: "We had better wait and see what is coming along."
If it is a question of opportunism, the right hon. Gentleman has judged well the time to get rid of subsidies. But he has deluded himself into the belief that the cost of houses at the present time represents the market value. They do not. The manner in which he gets his low costs is simplicity itself. It is a simple device. He carried it to extreme lengths in the 921 case of the Rural Workers Act, 1931. Instead of getting a large number of houses built he passed a comb through and through every application, and, naturally, he ultimately only approved a small number of houses. He takes the aggregate and deludes himself into the belief that the average cost is very low. Having deluded himself in this way and by juggling with these fantastic figures he comes to the conclusion that the average cost is this very low figure. It is absurd. His first line of defence fails.
His second line of defence is the local authorities. I do not know what the local authorities are going to say to him. I do not know what their reaction is going to be to the removal of the subsidy. They have been receiving this subsidy for years and have been supplying houses, now, through the Minister of Health, His Majesty's Government announce that it is to be taken away from them, that it is going to be scrapped. I am afraid that their reaction will be the reverse of what the right hon. Gentleman anticipates. It will certainly be so in the case of rural authorities. Rural authorities have had at their disposal £14 15s. by way of subsidy, and they have not been able to supply the goods. The whole of that has now gone, and the Minister of Health comes along with his big stick and says" get along with the work." Is it not absurd to think that he can have any possible success under arrangements of that kind? That disposes of his second line of defence.
His third line is the arrangement with the building societies. I am really perturbed in regard to this arrangement. My first fear is that building societies are really not seriously intended to operate this particular Clause of the Bill. I have no doubt that they will do so if they have heaps of money to spare and have Ho better use to which to put it but they are not in the least likely to do it if they can find any other outlet for their money. I do not suppose that they have any such enormous sums of money available. If they have gone carefully into the question of the valuation of their assets they will come to this unfortunate conclusion, that they have no enormous sums of money because the fact that prices have been falling rapidly will show that their assets are not particularly well secured.
922 They may believe that the flow of money will continue into their coffers. I quite agree that it has been flowing into the coffers of building societies for some years; but why has it been flowing there? It has not been coming from the class of person who was originally expected to make his investments in building societies. It has come from the capitalist class, who thought that it was a fairly safe and lucrative form of investment. They have put their money into building societies, not in shillings and pounds, but in thousands of pounds, up to £5,000. That is where the money has been coming from, simply because it was looked upon as good security. Furthermore, building societies have been able to pay fairly high rates of interest, comparatively high rates, and they have been able to do so because they made arrangements with the Inland Revenue whereby they have escaped about one-half of the normal Income Tax. Now the Inland Revenue people are alive to this, and they have made such alterations that building societies will have to pay twice the Income Tax which they have previously paid; with the consequence that money will not flow freely and rapidly into the coffers of building societies as it has done in the past.
Imagine, however, that these difficulties are overcome and that an intrepid developer decides to try his luck under this scheme. He purchases his land and prepares his scheme. He submits it to the building society. The building society may say," we will have nothing whatever to do with your scheme. We do not like the land; we do not like the plans; we do not like anything about it. We do not want to argue the point with you; there is no money for you." But they may think that there may be some money in it and tell the developer that the rate of interest is at such a rate. The developer may think that it is not quite so favourable as he anticipated. The society say," never mind, take it, or leave it." Then in regard to the question of valuation, the building society is bound to look into this matter as they intend to advance 90 per cent. of the money, whereas previously they have been accustomed to advance 70 per cent., on a rather good class of house to be occupied by the owner. They may say, "our security is not quite so good and we shall have to be much less optimistic 923 in making our valuation." Therefore, the valuation will be low and the developer will be disappointed.
If these difficulties are overcome and the developer decides to carry on, he goes to the local authority. The local authority is not pleased to see him. They will be either keen on housing or they will not be keen. If they are keen they will want to build the houses themselves and continue under some such arrangements as they have been working under in the past. Those authorities which are particularly keen on housing will not be particularly keen to give him the guarantee. He will find the cold shoulder there. And those local authorities which are not keen, there is no reason why they should enter into any such guarantee at all. Whether the developer goes to those authorities which are keen or to those which are not, he is going to get the cold shoulder just the same.
But suppose all these difficulties are surmounted, there is still another in the person of the Minister of Health. He goes into all these questions, into the number of houses to be erected per acre, into the superficial area, in feet and inches; he is going to fix paths, he is going into any mortal thing that he cares to inquire into. Is it conceivable that many houses will be built under arrangements of this kind? That is the whole idea of a Bill which the Minister of Health has introduced for his great attack upon slum clearance. He thinks that under this Measure he will get an enormous number of houses built. I do not agree with him. No one knows better than I what effective administration will do at any time. Under the administration of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer no less than 300,000 houses were built in one year, and they employed about 600,000 operatives. Now we are down to a miserable dribble. Much could be done with greater drive and greater administrative efficiency.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
No more formidable or devastating attack will be made upon the Bill than that which has just been made by the hon. Member for Barrow (Sir. T. Walker Smith), and it is all the more formidable and devastating because the hon. Member speaks with exceptional knowledge, experience and authority on 924 the subject. The grave and serious statement which the hon. Member has just made deserves the most serious attention of the House in considering its action upon this Bill. I take it for granted that the hon. Member for Barrow will show his courage and independence, will show that he is prepared to give practical expression, as far as an hon. Member can, to the sentiments he has just expressed, by going into the Lobby with those who will vote in opposition to the Third Reading. The statement made by the Minister in moving the Third Reading was a very important and remarkable statement. It neither depended upon nor emerged naturally from anything in the Bill before the House. Indeed, it could have been made equally well long before this Bill was ever introduced. As I followed his statement, the action he is proposing to take depends not upon the contents of the Bill but upon the provisions contained in the Housing Act, 1930. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman say he desired to give an assurance of deliverance to every dweller in the slums and desired to see every house unfit for human habitation dealt with, and the quicker the better; and when, last of all, he said that the Government accepted responsibility for seeing this through, I asked myself why, since the right hon. Gentleman has been Minister of Health from the autumn of 1931, we had to wait for this statement and this policy until the spring of 1933. As far as I can see, there is nothing lacking in the powers of the Minister that would not have enabled him to have made that statement when he first took office.
If, in contradistinction to the administration of the Government in general, the right hon. Gentleman really does propose to follow his words by definite, speedy and precise action, he may rely on Members in every part of this House to support him in carrying through his policy. But what is the policy and programme which the right hon. Gentleman placed before the House on the part of the Government? There is to be a survey. We need no Housing Bill of 1933 to enable him to call for that survey. There is to be an invitation to local authorities to produce a. programme for reconditioning and clearance. All that spade work might have been undertaken months ago and both the survey 925 and the programme could have been ready, complete and available so that immediate action could be taken now, were it not for the dilatoriness for which this Government have been so remarkable in every department of public life during the last 18 months. When it comes to action, what do the Government propose to do? The right hon. Gentleman said—and I took down his words—that the Government was the second element in this programme, the others being the local authorities and the force of public opinion. What do the Government propose to do? They propose to stimulate and assist the local authorities in the preparation of the survey and of their programme. Hon. Members desire to know from the Government whether they are going to stimulate and assist the local authorities in building the houses. On that point the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to an interjection, merely replied that the assistance to be given by the Government would be what the assistance had been for some years past. The subsidy would remain as under the 1930 Act and the Government, as far as action on their part was concerned in relation to the building of houses, proposed to do nothing more. I believe that the stimulus of any Government Department, if exercised with energy, may be a very valuable factor, but I should be far more interested to know what action the Government were themselves going to take.
I speak in this House as one who claims upon this subject to have knowledge only of London conditions. The proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman may, for all I know, be of some effect outside London. Upon that I express no opinion one way or the other. As far as London is concerned, I am satisfied that his proposals will he completely ineffective. I invite his attention to the position of such a borough as that which I have the honour to represent, Bethnal Green, which is on the outskirts of the City and one of the inner boroughs of East London. The local housing authority of Bethnal Green is the Bethnal Green Borough Council, but, as the local housing authority, that body has no jurisdiction outside the area of Bethnal Green. That borough is one of the most thickly congested in the country and I believe is the second or the 926 third most thickly populated and overcrowded in the country. There is, in Bethnal Green, and such areas as Bethnal Green in the inner circle of London boroughs, no elbow-room at all to deal with overcrowding and the removal of slums. It is largely a question of decanting, and there is no place in which the displaced population can be decanted within the area under the jurisdiction of the borough council of Bethnal Green. I am not speaking of large areas for decanting. I do not believe that I am using the language of exaggeration, and I certainly have no desire to do so, but I say that there are not half a dozen tenements or houses or rooms fit for habitation available for this purpose in the whole of the borough of Bethnal Green.
When you deal with the housing problem in such an area by way of reconditioning or slum clearance, you must, unless you are to displace the local population, try to find some place in which they can be housed while the work is being done. In Bethnal Green there is no such area. Unless the local park, one of the lungs of that over-populated, densely peopled district be absorbed for the purpose, there is literally no place in which arrangements can be made for the housing of the people during slum clearance and reconditioning unless the population is to be removed. If it is to be removed, it has to be removed outside the jurisdiction of the borough council of Bethnal Green, and they have no power to remove it outside their own area. Suppose the London County Council, which, to a certain extent, has powers concurrently with the local authority, were to provide provision for decanting them, it cannot provide it nearer than Becontree or Dagenham. That involves a time 'and transport problem, quite apart from the difficulty of the London County Council, or indeed its willingness to find accommodation for the displaced people.
I do not wish in anything I say to be purely destructive. I would make it clear to the Minister and the House that in my deliberate judgment, after making an examination of the matter over a period of years, I am satisfied that such a. Bill as this is quite useless for the purpose of relieving congestion or improving the conditions of those who live in such 927 an inner borough as Bethnal Green. But I suggest this to the Minister, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies may find it possible to deal with the matter: London presents an extraordinarily complex problem, and it is a problem quite different from that of any other part in the country. I suggest that just as a committee has been set up for various purposes in relation to housing this afternoon, so a special committee should be set up to examine the special problem of the reconditioning of houses and slum clearance in London, to deal comprehensively with the whole problem of London housing. It is not a simple problem. I am fully aware of the fact that the inquiry cannot be either simple or short, but it is mighty well worth undertaking, for upon a correct solution of the problem, if the beginnings of it are not delayed too long, depend the life and health and happiness not of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands, but of millions of our people living almost within a stone's throw of this House.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
It is a very extraordinary thing that hon. Gentlemen in their attacks on this Bill have entirely forgotten what has become so apparent to the public at large, not only at the present time, but for some years past, namely, that the efforts of local authorities in house building down the years since the first Act of 1919 have entirely failed to provide the kind of house that was wanted at the amount of rent that the people most in need of houses could afford to pay. I recollect getting up in this House in 1924 or 1925 and pointing out that in those days the administration of housing schemes by the local authorities was entirely futile to meet the most pressing needs even of that time. From that time onward the need has remained unmet year after year. Local authorities in which the Labour party have either predominated or have had a large share of the say, have been some of the worst in that administration, and some of the most extravagant in the application of public funds in this matter.
In no part of the country can this question be more acute than in the city of Manchester, part of which I represent. The Manchester Corporation have indeed constructed widespread and very attrac 928 tive housing estates, some of the most extravagantly planned and achieved in the whole of this sorry housing story—rents of 18s. and 25s. a week, as if such houses were any contribution for the type of people who for years have been paying 9s. or 10s. a week without any cost of transport to their homes. I was very glad that the Minister, in moving the Third Reading of the Bill, in spite of the protestations of the Labour party, who obviously did not want to hear what the Government intend to do, made it clear that this Bill is necessarily linked up with the major question of slum clearance, to which the public has lately become more alive. The whole sorry story of slum clearance, or the failure to proceed with it, has been largely due to the fact that, to use the words of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), "the local authorities would not do the dirty work." What are local authorities for if not to do the dirty work? That is their job. But on this housing question they have always failed to face up to the dirty work; they have gone on with the mild and pleasant job of building brand-new estates in open country, where no kind of problem presented itself, and where they occasionally have had demonstrations and exhibits of the latest thing in housing at the highest possible rent. They have neglected the dirty work, one of the prime duties of local authorities.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield told us that he personally objected to living in a second-hand house. It is an extraordinary thing that the Labour party should be very anxious to get back to the second-hand houses of Downing Street, and the right hon. Gentleman himself was very glad to come back to this House on a second-hand election, after losing his seat in the General Election. It would become the Labour party far more in their alleged representation of the working classes if they would drop the cant to which reference has been made, and decant for the time being, not the population of the crowded areas, but decant from the humbug which they have used on this subject.
On this matter of the clearance of so-called slum areas, what the House must realise is that it is impossible in many instances for local authorities to proceed with so-called clearances when there was no possibility of housing the population 929 elsewhere. That is what happened in Manchester. For over two years now that part of the city which I represent has been very considerably perturbed by proposals to clear an area of 1,000 houses, involving the summary dispersal of 4,000 people under the provisions of what is called the Greenwood Act— 4,000 people threatened with summary dispersal, with a loss of some £20,000 revenue per year to, the city rates, and the utter ruin of traders in the adjacent main streets. That scheme was solemnly passed by the Manchester City Council, put before the Ministry of Health for approval without any real effort being made to provide alternative accommodation, and in spite of the fact that a previous scheme which had been carried out in the same area resulted in a large tract of derelict land being left undeveloped for several years. It is undeveloped to this day.
Clearance schemes of that kind are of no use whatever unless accompanied by the active provision of dwellings in which the people concerned can afford to live. Schemes of that kind are of no use if they deal with one area of a city and have no regard to the needs of the rest of the locality. That is what has happened in Manchester and I was glad to hear the Minister say that he is going to insist on complete surveys of the areas of local authorities, and on a clear programme from each authority as to what is to be done as a result of that survey and that to that programme is to be attached a time schedule. That is essential. That was not done in the case of Manchester. The Corporation, willy-nilly, adopted a scheme for clearing 1,000 houses without any regard to the time to be occupied or the cost of dealing with the rest of the city's bad areas on the same lines, in spite of the fact that even in my own constituency and in some other parts of the city areas could be found in a far worse condition than the larger part of the area which they proposed to clear.
I suggest to the Minister that it would facilitate matters considerably if local authorities were instructed and guided as to the advantage of adopting schemes for areas which are not too large and which do not involve controversies as to whether 50 per cent. of the area and of the properties within the area are sufficiently bad to require this treatment. In Manchester nothing has been done during 930 all these years in the matter of clearance because the area scheduled has been too large and has included a large proportion of property in respect of which no case could be made out for demolition. If they had proceeded reasonably and properly with smaller areas—possibly with several areas containing really bad property— something might have been done provided the schemes were accompanied by adequate provision for housing the dispossessed people.
This Bill is indissolubly linked up with that problem. Under this Bill local authorities will no longer be able to fritter away their own and the State's resources in the provision of garden city villas for the well-to-do. The local authorities will now have to deal with the smaller and cheaper type of house and particularly they will have to direct their attention to the real business of clearing away the inferior dwellings in the poorer areas. Private enterprise will be called in to provide houses for those people who can afford to pay an economic rent and the building societies will be encouraged to build a smaller type of house within the limits that have been indicated. That is the obvious and proper conclusion to this long-drawn-out story of extravagance and waste which has accompanied public policy in housing down the last 10 years or so.
At long last when millions from the public purse have been dispersed in subsidising houses for those who can well afford to pay an economic rent—when the poorest people in my constituency are paying several pence a week through the local rates to subsidise houses in garden suburbs for those who can well afford to pay an economic rent—at long last that kind of thing is to be stopped. The extravagance of highbrow municipalities is to be curbed and they are to be directed to come down to the ground floor of bard facts and deal with things as they are. The Labour party know that they will no longer be able to gibe at the party to which I belong, if this Bill is carried into law, if private enterprise is restored to the place which it ought to occupy in the housing picture, and if local authorities are required to do their function and to look after the dirty work of cleaning up the areas which it is their job to adminster. It is high time that the local authorities realised their duties and got on with those duties 931 more effectively than they have done in the past.
I am not saying this from any unkind feeling towards the local authorities but I served upstairs for three years on Private Bill Committees and I say frankly after my experience of listening to the promotion of Bills by local authorities that I have never come across such incompetence and humbug as we find in the realm of local government. Let them get on with their proper job of looking after the poorer members of their communities and administering the Acts of Parliament which are there for their guidance. Let the Minister know that he has the support of this House in pressing for a proper survey of the clearance and housing requirements of our great cities. Certainly, in Manchester he will not be short of support in pressing for a common-sense, reasonable plan as against the wild and extravagant policy pursued in the past. Whatever may be the gibes of that futile and ineffective remnant of what was once called the Labour Government, let the Minister realise that it is not only Members of this House who support the present Government, so long as they deal sensibly with whatever topic may come up, but that a great volume of public opinion outside will support him and the Government in insisting upon the economic and common-sense administration of those public funds which it is right and proper to devote to this very acute and important problem.
§ 3 p.m.
§ ir GEORGE GILLETT
I am rather surprised that in to-day's Debate so few references have been made to the extraordinary changes in regard to the cost of building and interest charges which have so altered the situation since two years ago. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) spoke in a way which was rather surprising in view of those changes, because, without having due regard to them one cannot fully appreciate the importance of this Bill. If houses can be built without having to go to the Government or the local authorities for any kind of subsidy then I suppose no one in this House is anxious that a subsidy should be given. If a house can be provided without subsidy for the man who is paying 15s. a week why should not the fact be recognised? In 932 the case of the house for the man who pays 12s. a week, two years ago that house could not be provided without subsidy. To-day it can be provided without subsidy and I cannot see why we should not recognise the profound change which has taken place in house building because of the fall in building prices and in the cost of money, which can now be procured at a cheaper rate than was possible previously.
I have also been rather surprised that it has been taken for granted that because these subsidies are going to be removed, a large share of the building of working-class houses will necessarily be taken away from the municipal authorities. The London County Council 25 years ago, I remember, used to build houses on a purely economic basis, and at that time no one suggested that a subsidy should be given or considered it necessary, and surely many of the arguments to-day have been those of hon. Members who seem to have settled down to the idea that a subsidy is essential for the provision of working-class houses. Even if we recognise that the poorer among the working classes can only get a decent house if there is a subsidy, surely the changes that have taken place in the cost of building and in the price of money lower the rate of subsidy required. Therefore, if the Government are satisfied that, these changes having taken place, the removal of the subsidy will mean that houses can be built by private enterprise, I cannot see that there is any principle involved.
I represent a borough very similar to that of the hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) in respect to overcrowding. In fact, a few years ago the figures for overcrowding in my borough were the worst in the whole of London. The hon. and gallant Member asked what effect the changes proposed by the Government would have on the borough of Bethnal Green, and I ask the same question in regard to the borough of Finsbury, which I represent. When I look at the facilities that were given to the centre of London three years ago, I find that the London County Council was then building in certain areas outside the county of London, working-class houses to which some of those who lived in our constituencies were able to go and live. They were able to afford the fares, and they 933 were glad to go outside to live. We also had in Finsbury the advantage that came to the borough council of being able to erect some buildings with the subsidy which they received, but to a large extent vacant land in Finsbury has been covered.
With regard to slum property in Finsbury, however, I was talking the other day to a member of the London County Council, who was, and may be to-day is, the chairman of the housing committee of that body, and he spoke of two of the worst slums in Finsbury, which I have known for 30 or 40 years, and which for years have been scheduled by the London County Council for clearance. During all this period, when all these so-called advantages have been in the hands of the London County Council and the borough council, those slums have never been cleared. I therefore welcome the statement, of the Government and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to-day with regard to slum clearance. When the hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green asks why this was not done 18 months ago, surely he knows that many of the factors that have made it possible to-day were not in existence 18 months ago. The great financial schemes for converting the War Loan had not gone through, and the fall in the value of money had not taken place. Until you had got this change in the value of money you had not got to the position where you could approach the problem and say that subsidies were no longer required.
§ Major NATHAN
The change in the value of money has no relevance to my argument, which was that the survey and the programme, neither of which require money, could have been made, and might well have been made, and they would then have been ready by now, so that advantage might have been taken of the changed rates of money here and now.
§ Sir G. GILLETT
I do not think the hon. and gallant Member's explanation has cleared the position at all. Most hon. Members will agree that the subsidy will not be required to the same extent, and I agree that some hon. Members may say that to abolish the whole subsidy is too rapid and that it should have been reduced. That is quite open to argument, but. until you had got 934 that out of the way, you could not have concentrated upon the slum clearance schemes which the Government now propose. It is not always possible to see so far ahead as 18 months. For instance, we do not know the exact time when it is advisable to walk across the Floor of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "You walked across."] The hon. Member is wrong; I stayed on this side. As far as the borough of Finsbury is concerned, it seems to me that one great advantage is the concentration upon the slum clearance question. When this Measure was introduced, I interviewed one of the greatest authorities in London on the housing question, a man who is not connected with any political party whatsoever, and I asked him what effect it would have upon the borough that I represent. He assured me that, in his opinion, I would get for Finsbury more in the way of slum clearance than I could have got in any way under the existing subsidies. Therefore, it seems to me that the proposals of the Government are certainly well worth supporting by one who represents a division like Finsbury.
The hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green stated that there was no site on which you could build the houses that were required except the parks. I can only hope that the question of building on the parks will be investigated in connection with slum clearance. I do not say that it is advisable to build on the park suggested by the hon. and gallant Member, but it is quite a reasonable thing that in central London, where you have parks, you should build on one of these parks and then, in a general scheme of slum clearance, you should afterwards arrange that a new open space should be developed in some other division of London. One of the great difficulties in connection with our parks in London is that there are large numbers of open spaces in one part and densely populated areas, with hardly an open space at all, in another part. If in a slum clearance scheme you can rearrange the parks of London, I see no harm in it at all. There seems to me to be nothing sacred about a park, and that a piece of park might well be used in order to provide the necessary accommodation for those whom you may clear from your slums.
935 I hope that in this question, as in so many others, the very widest views will be taken, because unless that is done, I am certain we shall not make any headway. I welcome the proposals of the Government. I agree entirely that this question of the subsidy is an experiment to a certain extent, but I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has retained sufficient control over some of the schemes that are now before him to enable him to extend them, if it is found that at first private enterprise is too slow in stepping in to fill up the gap. I hope, at the same time, that the Government will keep a very careful eye upon the general building problem of some of our great centres. I do not know whether this committee, whose appointment I welcome, will consider the question of public utility corporations. I think it very likely, and I believe that in all probability it will be found that there are large sums of money available which such a corporation could use if required, and that possibly the formation of societies of this kind might help to coordinate the building of houses. I am sure that some body, at any rate in a great district like London, where there is an area which even the London County Council does not cover, with a control and a little oversight over the whole problem, is needed if we are to have schemes of building which will meet the needs of the people.
It is not alone a question of building of houses. There is interlinked with it the whole problem of traffic, and, unless we have some body of men who are to be responsible for where the houses are to be placed and how the workers are to find the necessary traffic facilities to get into the centre of London, we may simply drift into confusion. I do not see why the local authorities, working hand in hand with such a body, should not be able to control the extension of London. In that way we may find in the scheme which the Government have brought forward, that at long last a real attempt is being made to deal with the slum problem of London.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
This has been a most remarkable Third Reading Debate. When the Minister moved the Second Reading of the Bill, he devoted nine-tenths of his 936 speech to claiming credit for doing away with the subsidy, and onely one-tenth to mentioning incidentally that this was the occasion for pushing on with slum clearance. The principal claim he made for the Bill was that it would help on the general economy schemes of the Government. To-day, on Third Reading, the right hon. Gentleman reversed that position. He spent nine-tenths of his time in addressing himself to slum clearance, and said very little of the advantages which he claimed for the Bill on the previous occasion. That example appears to have been followed by the great majority of the speakers from the Government side of the House, including the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir D. Gillett), who still seems to be suffering from the effects of the dinner which I observe the Conservative party gave him the other night. We have also had a tirade from the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall), who, I am told by those who have sat in the House for a long time, has never on a previous occasion raised his voice in support of any provision which helped in the direction of clearing away slums in Manchester or anywhere else.
What is the reason for this remarkable change of front? When the right hon. Gentleman first brought forward this Bill, it was received with a chorus of disapproval from every housing authority in the country. Every architect of repute, every association which has to deal with housing, the Municipal Corporations Association, and many other bodies expressed in no uncertain terms their entire disapproval of the Bill and their belief in its absolute uselessness. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) made on Second Reading a most moving speech, and expressed himself, as other speakers who followed him did, as being profoundly disappointed with the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman had to make, and urged him to take some steps in the direction of dealing with the slum problem. These factors, among others, have made the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that his Bill was a complete failure, and that he had better change his direction and camouflage the whole situation by putting forward slum clearance in the forefront of his policy. Slum clearance does not appear in any sense in this Bill. All that appears is 937 the abolition of the subsidy, which has been condemned by housing authorities. Discussions in the House have had some effect on the right hon. Gentleman's policy.
It is a matter of congratulation to us on this side that he is to turn his attention to making use of the Act of 1930, which was passed in the teeth of a good deal of opposition from Conservative Members, and which has enabled the right hon. Gentleman to draw up his proposals for slum clearance. The discussions have also served another useful purpose. They have brought the right hon. Gentleman to heel in regard to cutting off the subsidy instantly on the 7th December, as he proposed in the first instance. He 'has now agreed, subject to the consent of Treasury, to deal on their merits with applications coining in after that date. That is a considerable advantage which has been gained by debate. Then to-day, under pressure from all parts of the House, he agreed to stipulate that a fixed bath should be placed in the houses approved under this Bill. He refused, however, to agree to that bath being placed in a bathroom, so that presumably baths will still have to be placed in cellars or outhouses or kitchens or in front of the hearth, where there will be little more privacy than exists to-day in the majority of working-class houses. The Bill is likely to prove a complete failure in the purpose for which it was introduced, and the right hon. Gentleman himself must recognise that because of the line that he took to-night in turning his attention for the most part to slum clearance, and in hardly dealing with the provisions of the Bill at all.
It will not produce the goods. It may produce some goods, but it will not produce goods with the proper amenities or under the conditions of workmanship and so on which are, in the belief of the great majority of Members, required. It will produce profits, no doubt, or some profits for those who take advantage of the proposals. It will certainly not produce houses at rents which those who want them can afford to pay, and in this I am supported by most housing authorities, including Sir Ernest Simon. An hon. Member who is a very good friend of mine rather unintentionally misled the House by indicating that building societies did not favour baths in houses. That might have 938 been said by a director of a building society, but it would be an injustice to building societies in general to say that they did not believe in baths. That point does not really affect building societies at all, because they make their advances on valuations, and a bath would be included in any such valuation.
I would put one or two questions with reference to building societies to the Parliamentary Secretary, if he is to reply. I see that some of these societies lend now to owner-occupiers in the London area at 5¼per cent. May we hope that the societies, in accordance with the promises or representations made to this House by the right hon. Gentleman, will be willing to lend at 4¼ per cent.—one per cent. less than the case of owner-occupiers? If they do, I certainly think that building societies will render a very useful service indeed. I feel confident that they are only likely to lend as sensible business men. If they can invest their money by lending it to owner-occupiers at 5 or 5¼ per cent. they are more likely to do so than to lend it under this Bill at 4¼ or 4» per cent. In view of the chorus of disapproval which this Bill has met with in all parts of the country and in this House, from every quarter of which has come criticism of one point or another, I submit that the House ought not to give it a Third Reading.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I would like to make a few remarks in respect of one or two points arising out of the Bill, though at one time I had intended to say a good deal about it, and I may add, should have kept those remarks more strictly to the Bill instead of matters of future legislation. There are one or two points to which the Minister ought to give attention. I trust the Minister is listening. In the City of Liverpool we have been able to buy property adjoining Lord Derby's estate and if we had developed that land we should have been able to put up many houses. If we stop house building some housing body or some speculative person will build on that particular estate. What I want to know is how the present Bill will meet a situation where 1,000 or 6,000 houses may be erected on a large site—where a satellite town may come into existence.
939 We are going to give building societies authority to build houses. This is no smiling matter. If hon. Members are smiling at my remarks I trust they will pay attention to the question of where we shall find ourselves under this legislation when the speculator comes' along to take matters out of the hands of the municipalities. We shall require churches, schools, baths, and libraries. I want to know whether uncontrolled power is to be given to these building societies and others in the matter of rentals and as regards churches and the possession of schools. Under present arrangements, when housing estates are being developed in our cities, we give to churches of all denominations the power of acquiring land for a church at about 5s. per yard. Is it to be the case that there will be no question of reversion back to the municipality, and that the church may be called upon to pay £2 or it may be 30s. a square yard?
I am putting these questions because I am interested in housing estates. No mention has been made about churches. The Minister has spoken about houses but he has told us nothing about the amenities that are requisite in housing estates. There is the question of shops, and of which shops will have the opportunity of preferential treatment over other shopping areas which are set up in a particular area. There is the question of whether increased rentals may be charged. I want to know these things in regard to the amenities that are going to make up the satellite towns, because that is presumably what will be the result in the outer areas of our cities when building takes place by the building societies. In regard to those obligations of churches, schools, baths, libraries and shops, apart from the houses, how are the Government going to deal with the question of site values, whether they are to be freehold or what they are to be? We have a right to know. The municipality will no longer be able to deal with these matters, and the Minister thinks that the enterprise of private individuals is going to meet the situation. I am convinced that the Bill is of no use whatever in regard to the housing of the people.
We were gratuitously insulted by the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall). I do not expect to get very much manners from Manchester. [Interruption.] No. 940 I put it the reverse way, rather. When I was reminded earlier by the Minister that he did not think that one of my colleagues on these benches had the mentality to understand the position and the questions raised in the Bill, I did not wonder that he wanted a moving bath in a house. lie reminded me of Diogenes in a tub. One would expect that a Minister would not gratuitously insult an hon. Member who was a Member of a learned profession. We expect insults, and we do not expect to get any thanks.
I am not here concerned whether we have insults or thanks in the British House of Commons; I am here to consider the questions that have been raised in regard to this Bill. We are told that under private enterprise we are to have cheaper houses. We were distinctly told by the Minister in the House a few days ago that rents would be dearer and that the subsidy had got to end. Our houses are to cost us more. I am not able to appreciate that the withdrawing of the subsidy is going to give us cheaper houses. I am wondering when we will achieve the alluring prospect in the outer part of our city of Liverpool, where the artisans and the middle-class who can pay the rentals are offered facilities outside the city, and whether our people who are located in a, congested area are to get the slum clearance which is forecast—and which has no right to be spoken of, because it is not before us to-night.
I am interested in housing conditions, because I know the difficulties. As one who has had something to do with housing in a locality, I ask the Minister how he is going to deal with the special problem of those properties which I have mentioned. I do not see any solution. I see, instead, a free gift to the private speculator to get any price he likes for the site of church, chapel, library, or baths, without any control by a Ministry or any interference because of this Bill. There will be no interference with those who are going to exploit people on questions of rental or site value. When we in Liverpool have purchased land which we could fully develop, so as to give, with the low rates of interest, facilities for the housing of our people, I think it is rather late in the day to give to private individuals the right of exploitation of those who have been able to secure sites and will have to surrender them when these private individuals come along. 941 The problems to which I have referred are problems which, I think ought to be answered, and I shall be pleased if the Minister will give an answer.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
My criticism of this Bill is that it will not produce housing, and I think that every Housing Bill ought to be judged by that test. So far as the small houses are concerned, under the Bill the rents must necessarily be higher than they otherwise would be. When the Minister states, as he did to-day and as he did on a previous occasion, that there is only a difference of a few coppers between the rent under these new conditions and the rent that prevailed under the old conditions, I would say, with all due respect, that either he does not know what he is talking about or he is endeavouring to mislead the House. The subsidy of £7 10s. a year represents 2s. 1d. per week. The Minister and his officials know that perfectly well, and there is no Member of the House who knows anything at all about housing and the value of the subsidy who would not agree with me that that approximately is the value of the subsidy to-day.
If that be so, how can the Minister or anyone else say that those people who at present cannot get houses at rents they can afford to pay will, after the subsidy, which is valued at 2s. 1d. per week, is taken away, be able or more likely to secure houses at reasonable rents? I should have been glad if some Member could have given me some indication of how that can be done, and I shall be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary, who appears to be going to reply, is able to tell the House how, after the withdrawal of the subsidy which was given to the local authority and passed on by them to the tenant in the form of reduced rent, and which is valued at 2s. 1d. per week, he or anyone else can say that it will be possible to let houses to tenants at a rent approximating to the rent that exists to-day. It is just sheer nonsense to talk, as the Minister and many others have in this Debate, about the fall in the prices of materials and in the rate of interest. Those conditions exist to-day, before the passing of the Bill, and they will exist to-morrow, immediately after the passing of the Bill, but the fact remains that the value of the 942 subsidy will be withdrawn, and, having been withdrawn, it must either be added to the rent, and consequently the rents must be higher, or it must be paid by somebody, and the only people that could pay it under the Bill would be either the builders themselves or the building societies. No one in his senses imagines that either of them is going to pay it, and everyone must know perfectly well that one of the main effects of the Bill will be to increase the rents of the people who get houses under the new conditions that the Bill sets up.
I was extremely interested in the conversion of the Minister to the principles of the 1930 Act. I have waited rather patiently for a couple of years in the hope that he would do something to put that Act into operation effectively, and the Minister to-day, it appeared to me for the purpose of covering up the ineffectiveness of this Bill, dealt with an Act of Parliament which he has had the opportunity of administering, if be desired to do so, for the past two years but which he and the Department have taken no steps whatever to put into effect. He knows it, the Parliamentary Secretary knows it, every official in his Department knows it, and every Member of the Government knows it. They have taken every possible opportunity to delay the Act, to put it back and to make it as ineffective as they could during the last two years, and this death-bed repentance of theirs and the promise to do something better in the future is rather late in the day.
After all, what is this new policy that he has declared? He says they are going to have an inquiry. He could have had an inquiry under the existing. law two years ago. That is not a new power under this Bill. He says, further, that they are going to ask the local authorities to have a programme. He could have done that two years ago. That is not a new power under the Bill. Then he says, "If they do not do this, we are going to come down upon them," in very much the same way as the Church comes down on the unfortunate people who live in foreign countries and do not live up to our standard of religious teaching. He is going to send them a tract, and tell them that they are very bad boys. He appears to imagine that the circular is going to stir them up. If they do not sumbit to the authority of the Ministry 943 on receiving and reading the tract, he is going to send a missionary to them in the form of an inspector from the Department. One of our troubles in regard to housing in the past has not been that we needed any of these tracts, or missionaries, but that we had too many of them, and were prevented from getting on with the job of housing both under the Slum and Clearance and other Acts by the multiplicity of tracts and inspectors, and people who held up very often by ridiculous inquiries the actual building of the houses. This Bill will not give any new houses as far as I can see. I am very much concerned also, as one who was sent here by a population almost entirely working class, to know to what extent the working classes who are going to build those houses are to be protected.
As a member of a local authority, I see that we are losing the subsidy. The local authorities are not only losing the subsidy themselves but, in addition, they are to be compelled to pay a subsidy to someone else, or to guarantee it in the event of loss. Why should we do it? Why should we be compelled by this Ministry to take up a guarantee to enable people to say that their profits in the future will be certain? We used to hear a good deal from the Minister himself about the risk that the capitalist class take, but that risk, as far as this Bill is concerned, has gone altogether. They are to take no risk in the future worth speaking of. The risk is to be taken by the municipality and the Government, who each take two-thirds of the extra 20 per cent. risk, and only 6⅔ is to be taken by the people who gain all the profit. There is to be no sharing of any proportion of profit if it arises. It is not suggested that the municipality shall take 6⅔ of the profit. We are only coming in if a loss is sustained. We shall have to bear the loss in the form of additional rates. We have far too many burdens to bear already. There is not a local authority in the country which will thank the Minister for adding the extra burden and the risk.
The Bill itself is bad in every respect. It gives no protection to working men, and takes away that which they have already under local authorities. It will add extra burdens upon the ratepayers in 944 the form of losses which they will have to bear, and it will put an extra burden upon the taxpayer in a similar way. It is private enterprise alone which can make a profit out of it at the expense of the public. The Bill will be carried, but ii will not fulfil its supposed purpose, which is the building of houses. It will fulfil its real purpose in the eyes of the Minister, which is, to enable private enterprise to exploit the public further and get larger profits than they otherwise would.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I rise to support the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). We are a little behind the schedule, but it only goes to indicate how very seriously Members of the House of Commons view the proposal to change entirely the methods which have recently been employed for house building. Our main reason for supporting the rejection of the Bill is that, instead of shouting" full steam ahead "as far as housing is concerned, the Bill puts the housing machinery into reverse gear. That is very definitely my feeling in regard to the Bill. That the machinery which we have built up with ever so much patience, care, anxiety and skill over the past 12 or 13 years should now drop into disuse, or be dealt with very gingerly, is a profound mistake in dealing with the housing problem. As all my hon. Friends have stated, and also the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker Smith) —and I congratulate him—who reinforced our arguments very substantially, we are now to have house building, as far as providing new houses are concerned apart from slum clearance, left in the hands of private enterprise. We shall be as pleased as the Minister will be happy if they are able to produce the houses, but we are satisfied in our own minds that private enterprise, particularly through the agencies which have been suggested, will be unequal to the task of providing the houses in anything like the number required.
The hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) asked the Minister to indicate, in the event of the houses not coming up to the number the Minister required, what steps they proposed to take. What do you think is the number that ought to be built by private enter 945 price? If we were to state that we should regard the production of 200,000 houses a year as not being a very big proportion of houses that should be built, but quite good, and if we had fewer than 100,000 houses being built by private enterprise, would the Minister then think that private enterprise was not equal to the task? If they built fewer than 50,000 houses in one year under the Bill, at what stage would the Minister regard private enterprise as not being equal to the task of providing the houses?
For the life of me, and this will be the only chance I shall have to explain my opinion, I am unable to see how the building societies can lend money cheap enough for the building of the houses. If the building societies are guaranteeing to their members 4 per cent. interest, without tax, and if it requires at least 1 per cent. for administration expenses, I cannot see how the building societies can lend money at 4 per cent. What right have we to ask people who invest their money in building societies to lend their money for housing, any more than we have a right to ask anyone else who invests money in materials or other things, or in the selling or conveyancing of land, to lend their money at a particularly cheap rate because they are connected with a certain organisation. There is no morality or righteousness in that. I am unable to see how the building societies can do it. I have never decried the building societies. I have said on many occasions that many people who own their own houses to-day would not have done so had it not been for the agency of the building societies. The societies have done very good work and there is plenty of scope for them to carry on without this proposal of the Government to scrap the whole of the machinery for house building, which we have built up over so many years, and put in its place something which has nothing definite about it. There has been no building society that has stated that it is coming in. There is no pledge in any way. We have to rely upon the word that they are willing to do so in response to the appeal that may be made to them.
The cost of building has been very substantially reduced. It has come down to such an extent that anyone who knowsanything about building would regard it now as being very economical. The Minister and the local authorities have done very 946 good work in that respect. Those of us who know how high prices have been responsible at certain times for the holding up of building activities have never failed to appreciate the efforts to bring costs down to as near an economic level as possible. It is possible to build cheaply without building shoddy. Cheap building need not necessarily be shoddy building. Cheapness is a relative term. We have relatively cheap building to-day. The standard of building has advanced very substantially and the quality has advanced also. When the hon. and gallant Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) was speaking I could not understand his mental approach to this problem. He referred to the statement about dirty work by the right hon. Member for Wakefield. The dirty work to which the right hon. Member for Wakefield referred were the slums that the municipalities had to clear. The municipalities have not been responsible for building the slums. The same sort of private enterprise that built the slums are now being handed the job again.
§ Sir J. NALL
What the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said was that he objected to the local authorities being called upon to do the dirty work of clearing the slums.
§ Mr. HICKS
The point was that the local authorities have this job to do. I am very sorry that it has not been done without them, but apparently private enterprise is unable to tackle the problem. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member refer to the type of houses built by municipal authorities. They are not the type which will degenerate into slums. It, would be as well if hon. Members would not endeavour to tackle 20th century problems with 19th century ideas. I submit that the standard of building has substantially advanced, and we should congratulate ourselves upon it, and do all we can to maintain the standard. I have grave apprehensions regarding the unrestricted form of private enterprise which is to have the job of erecting houses under this Bill. I am rather apprehensive as to the type of house we shall get. We want to give our people something more than a mere form of shelter from the blast. We should give them something substantial something in which they can take a pride. I am afraid that under this Bill the jerry 947 builders will get a great deal of the work. I am not afraid of the large building concerns, dozens of them who are members of the Employers' Association, who have many years' experience behind them and who know their job, but I am of those people who because they have won a crossword puzzle think it gives them an excuse to exploit the public as house builders. I am afraid that the jerry builder will come into this question. Take the type of house which he has built. It is generally a beautiful looking house, with pebble front or rough casting, but that is only a veneer to cover very shoddy work generally; the worst type of building.
§ Mr. HICKS
I should have thought houses built by direct labour did not require a clerk of works to exercise constant vigilance. In nearly every house built by private enterprise you were so afraid of the quality of the material not corning up to specification that you had to have a permanent policeman on the job, a clerk of works, to see that the quality of the timber used was up to specification and the proportion of sand to cement was correct. When the builder's labourer was asked what was the usual proportion he said, "fifty-fifty," one-half sand and the other half sand; but that on occasions it varied in the proportion of six to one, that is six of sand and one of water. I know something about the building trade and I have warned the House before that there is nothing which lends itself to greater adulteration than house building. The unrestricted competition which will go on, and the prices which will be imposed, will produce this kind of handicap, together with many other things.
Putty and paint cover an enormous number of sins in the jerry-builder's houses. Hon. Members should remember the sort of working-class houses that are often put up, and it would be a good thing if they could live in some of them. There are such points as the windows, the hinges on the doors and the screws. There is the quality of the slates and the number of nails that are put in the slates; and the question of the chimneys, the gables and so on. A clerk of the works is necessary if you want healthy 948 houses, with good damp-proof courses and good sanitary conditions, not damp-proof only from the bottom but from the top, which will prevent rain coming in and draughts and other defects. Unless you get this valuable machinery, which I am very anxious to preserve, that has been built up by firms of great repute available for the use of the country, then what an hon. Gentleman referred to the other night about nailing the skirting and picture railing into the gas pipe, will be repeated.
Another point is as to the labour in the building trade which has been made available as a consequence of the appeals of successive Governments for an increase in the personnel of the industry. We had the whole of the Press and the Government pleading with the building trade operatives to increase the personnel, and the result is to-day there are hundreds of thousands of them standing idle. Some 30 per cent. of them are unemployed, and a large proportion are underemployed. I am apprehensive as to whether the fair wage provision will apply. I made these proposals when we were in Committee, but was unable to get them acepted. The Minister told the House that he would do the best he could in the circumstances by sending out a circular about fair wages. I am very desirous that this should be in the hands of reputable builders and skilled labourers, working trade union hours, in order that they may be able to build the type of house which shall not be shoddy or adulterated, but fit for people to live in.
I am also very concerned about the question of the size of the houses. What right have we to-day, for the purpose of our own convenience, to agree to a type of house which in another 40 years may become slums and thus hand on to a successive generation the same kind of problem with which we are faced now? The Minister here is pleading for the tackling of the slums. So we all are for there are over 3,000,000 people living in them. Everyone is agreed that they must be tackled—every social writer, sanitary inspector, medical officer and social worker deplores the abominable condition of the slums, but while we are doing that, I hope we shall take very severe steps to see that we are not going to have in future the same kind of shoddy jerry-building which has 949 degenerated into slums. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) is nodding his head, and I am sure we shall get his support. We always do until we go to vote. He always gives us great encouragement in advocating these things and speaks with fluency in favour of them. He has a sort of progressive squint in his eye, but sees reaction when it comes to voting.
I want to see the widespread poverty in housing reviewed, and something more achieved than we are doing at present. Instead of reversing the engine of progress we ought to be getting up full speed so as to go straight ahead. I am sorry that the Minister has not availed himself of our practical proposals for amending the Bill. I am sorry that he has not accepted proposals to extend the period of the subsidy, and to take greater powers to himself where local authorities have made substantial progress in the purchase of land. I am sure that the problem as a whole is much bigger than this House yet realises. It certainly requires bigger and better treatment than this Bill provides. We are dissatisfied with the Bill. In our opinion it is reactionary in its general propositions, and we shall be obliged to vote against it.
§ 10.56 p.m.
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
Those who have sat through the Debate will agree that it has been the most useful and the most vital of all the discussions that we have had. I have been asked to answer innumerable questions, and I hope no one will accuse me of discourtesy if I do not now answer the old questions that have been put to me. I will answer the new questions that have been raised, in the order in which I have them here. The hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) referred to the problem of London, which is rather different from the problem of any other city. He talked about reconditioning. At this late hour I have not time to develop my argument at length, but I would say to the hon. and gallant Member that if he will pay a visit to Kensington he will see reconditioning going on there as well as it can be done. It is being done under the guidance of Lord Balfour of Burleigh. I invite him to spend a day there and to see the possibilities of reconditioning and of the improvement area. I wish the 950 authorities in London would explore more the improvement area procedure.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) brought a blast of ozone into our Debate, and- I welcomed his speech. It was not merely a sentimental contribution but the speech of a practical idealist. I know the area to which he referred. We shall welcome the hon. and gallant Gentleman's help, in co-operation with that of the Manchester Corporation, in resolving their difficulties. I had the opportunity lately of conferring with the Manchester authorities, and I am extremely hopeful that they, with the assistance of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, will be able to solve some of the difficult slum problems that have been worrying Manchester for so long. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) made a constructive speech and asked a number of questions. He asked who would pay the 10 per cent. under the guarantee. I presume that the investor will. If the builder is the investor, as on occasion he may be, the 10 per cent. will be his money. If not, the mortgage will be assigned from the builder to the investor, and the investor will take over the mortgage and need put up only 10 per cent. That is to say, if the house costs £360 the investor will take over the mortgage from the building society either direct or through the builder, who will assign it to him, and the investor need put up only £36, and then have the house. That is subject, of course, to the terms of the mortgage. He then spoke of reconditioning, and I am glad to recognise that in his county of Devon they had done more in that respect than in any other county. He said that that was largely due to the county architect, but I think that my right hon. Friend had as much to do with it as anyone. We are not compulsorily transferring powers from the county councils to the rural district councils, but in those cases where a county council is not operating a scheme and a rural council wishes to operate it, we shall assign powers to them. He also asked if we would take steps to galvanise the rural authorities in the matter of slum clearance as well as the urban authorities. I can assure him that we shall consider what is the best way of doing so, whether by circular or otherwise, but we are very anxious that the 951 rural authorities, together with the urban authorities, shall get a move on with this problem.
I was rather disappointed in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner). He spoke as though he were annoyed with us for having tackled the slum problem and did his best by raising points of Order to see that the problem was not discussed. I know the hon. and gallant Member's interest in the slum problem, but that was the impression which he conveyed to the House. Surely this is a bigger question than any point of Order, and any time which we can spend on the discussion of such a big problem is not wasted. He asked me what--if the rate of interest on a mortgage in London were 5¼ per cent.—would be the rate under our scheme. In that case it would be 4i per cent. or 1 per cent. below the current rate. The hon. Member for the Scotland division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) is to be congratulated on having raised a completely new point which was a rather difficult thing to do at the end of a Debate lasting over several days. He asked what about the satellite towns? He asked if private enterprise was to build 1,000 houses what we were going to do about the church, the chapel, the shop, the school. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or the public house."] The short answer is that now that the town planning measure has become law—and perhaps the hon. Member saw: the circular in this morning's paper—the local authority will have the right to schedule or zone the area and reserve certain sites for public offices, churches, and so forth.
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) asked how many houses private enterprise was going to build. The assurance which we have is that they will build enough houses to provide habitations for all those now on the unsatisfied lists of the local authorities. The chief point of his attack, however, is that he is afraid that under our scheme the standard of housing will deteriorate. I know that he is very anxious, as all of us are, to maintain the housing standard but he appears to fear that private enterprise will build the same sort of houses as were built 100 years ago. There is not a scintilla of justification for that 952 view, and not a shred of evidence to support it. There is all the force of enlightened public opinion, there are modern by-laws, the new Town and Country Planning Act, and if all these do not prove effective, there is the building societies' guarantee to ensure a satisfactory standard. I cannot imagine the surveyor of a building society guaranteeing any property which is below a decent standard. My feeling is that now that we have brought the building societies into it and their surveyors who have so much experience, the standard is more likely to improve than to deteriorate. Many hard things have been said about this Bill. The Leader of the Opposition said it was a revolution. When I was a boy I used to be told that the advance towards Socialism was the same thing as a revolution. We have gone a long way along the road towards Socialism if, when we suggest a healthy return to private enterprise, that is called a revolution. Anyhow, if it is a revolution, it is one which I can positively recommend to the House. Another criticism levelled against this Bill is that because the subsidy stops, therefore all building stops. The "Daily Herald" went so far, when the Bill came out, as to say:Already the disastrous policy by the Treasury has virtually building.A month later, however, on the 26th January, it said:
§ " NEW BUILDING BOOM PREDICTED FOR
§ Britain is on the way to a great building boom. This definite prediction ran now be made following the publication of Ministry of Labour figures showing that new building about to he undertaken exceeds in value the record figure of £ 19,000,000."
§ Then it goes on to show how this will happen, and how the plans of houses passed in the last three months of 1932 constituted a new record higher than the peak figure of 1929.
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
It may be journalism, but sometimes the cruel facts of truth escape even the vigilant pen of the sub-editor. In regard to slum clearance, I do not think that there is anybody in any part of the country who did not welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend that this problem of slum clearance was going to be put in the 953 forefront of our efforts. Not only are we going to call upon the local authorities for a survey and a programme, but we want a time-table of progress. The conditions are set fair and; favourable. There was no good doing these things until this Bill had passed the House. With the present cost of building and with the price of money what it is and the subsidy as high as it is, as I have said before in answer to questions, the subsidy under the 1930 Act is equal to a rent subsidy of 5s. a week. With that subsidy a house can now be let at 6s. or 7s. a week all-in, a new house, which should give a habitation to the poorest paid tenant in a slum area, and he can afford that rent.
I am sure that everyone rejoices that my right hon. Friend has made such a vital and vigorous statement, that we are going to press on with this question of slum clearance as it has never been tackled before. You can take two lines on slum clearance. You can say, "No, that is wrong. The only hope for the slum dweller is to go on building Wheatley houses." That is why some hon. Members opposite have criticised us. They say, "Get on with the Wheatley subsidy. That is the only way of clearing the slums." I suggest that if we kept on the Wheatley subsidy, the subsidy would be pooled with the subsidy under the 1919 and 1924 Acts, and instead of giving the advantage of cheap building and low rents to future tenants, that subsidy would be used to reduce the high rents under the Addison Act and the 1924 Act.
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
It is no good the hon. Gentleman saying "No," because at least three hon. Members behind him are nodding their heads and saying "Yes." You can either keep on the Wheatley subsidy, when the benefit might not accrue to the new tenant, but might be spread over the whole of the new construction after the War; or you
§ could do what my right hon. Friend set out to do—abolish the 1924 subsidy and so let private enterprise build the equivalent of the council houses, let the local authorities do what the right hon. Gentleman opposite calls the dirty work. In other words, you must articulate slum clearance with new construction. As long as there are slums, there will be slum dwellers. If you can abolish the slums and articulate slum clearance with new construction, there is a chance of making a dent in the slum problem in the next five years. As one who has taken a great interest in the subject, and who, during the Recess, took the opportunity of studying it wherever I could, I am profoundly convinced that the cessation of the 1924 subsidy is the necessary preliminary and condition precedent to a real forward drive in the attack on this problem. I cannot speak more plainly than that.
§ I think I have dealt with every point that has been raised. I do wish that we could take this question of slum clearance out of party politics. We will give the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) all the credit he wants. We have taken his Act, and we find it useful. We can make a tremendous administrative drive to see that local authorities do tackle the problem, but do not let us treat this as a party business. It does not matter two hoots who gets the credit as long as in the next five years a record number of people get out of the slums. I do not care two-pence who gets the credit. It will need the assistance of the local authorities, all the public opinion we can get and the influence of every Member if we are to-make any real inroads into this problem in the next five years. I look upon the votes against this Bill as direct votes against slum clearance.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 233; Noes, 66.957
|Division No. 70.]||AYES.||[11.13 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds,w.)||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. p. G.||Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George|
|Albery, Irving James||Blrchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Broadbent, Colonel John|
|Anstruther-Gray, W J.||Bllndell, James||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bossom, A. C.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Boulton, W. W.||Brown, Ernest (Lelth)|
|Balnlel, Lord||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Bralthwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. B.)||Burghley, Lord|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hornby, Frank||Pybus, Percy John|
|Burnett, John George||Horobln, Ian M.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Howltt, Dr. Alfred B.||Rankin, Robert|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Remer, John R.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Ross Taylor, Waiter (Woodbridge)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jamieson, Douglas||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Ker, J. Campbell||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Conant, Ft. J. E.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Salt, Edward W.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Copeland, Ida||Law, Sir Alfred||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Leckie, J. A.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Selley, Harry R.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Llddall, Walter S.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forlar)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Llewellin, Major John J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Smith, R. w. (Ab'rd'n & Klnc'dlne, C.)|
|Denman, Hon. R, D.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lymington, Viscount||Smithers, Waldron|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Dunglass, Lord||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Soper, Richard|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Elmley, Viscount||McKie, John Hamilton||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Emrys- Evans, P. V.||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Entwlstle, Cyril Fullard||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Magnay, Thomas||Storey, Samuel|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Ford. Sir Patrick J.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Martin, Thomas B.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Glllett, Sir George Masterman||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mills. Major J. D. (New Forest)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Glossop, C. W. H||Milne, Charles||Train, John|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mitcheson, G. G.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Goff, Sir Park||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Vaughan-M organ, Sir Kenyon|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'H'd, N.)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Greene, William P. C.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Munro, Patrick||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Nail, Sir Joseph||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nation. Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hales, Harold K.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Hamilton, Sir George (llord)||Nunn, William||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Hanbury, Cecil||O'Connor, Terence James||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Wills, Wllfrid D.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Patrick, Colin M.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Pearson. William G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hartland, George A.||Peat, Charles U.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Percy, Lord Eustace||Worthington. Dr. John V.|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Petherick, M||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllston)|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hills. Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Pike, Cecil F.||Sir George Penny and Lieut.-|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Hopkinson, Austin||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Dickie, John P.||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dobbie, William||Hicks, Ernest George|
|Banfield, John William||Edwards, Charles||Hirst, George Henry|
|Batey, Joseph||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Bemays, Robert||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Kirkwood, David|
|Cove, William G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'.W.)||Lawson, John James|
|Curry, A. C.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Daggar, George||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Lunn, William|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Rea, Walter Russell||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot||Rothschild, James A. de||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Salter, Dr, Alfred||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Maxton, James||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Mliner, Major James||Smith. Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Thorne, William James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Parkinson, John Allen||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. Groves.|
|Price, Gabriel||White, Henry Graham|
Resolution agreed to.