§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I beg to move, in page 1,line 13, at end, insert:from outside the United Kingdom when such materials and equipment will not be procurable in the quantities required and at times required from sources within the United Kingdom; and for purchasing building materials consisting of structures ready for erection as houses and permanent equipment for such houses.This Amendment raises the question of the limits upon the articles of association of the unlimited company which the Government are proposing to form. I recognise that it is inevitable, however desirable or undesirable it may be, that the Government should engage in bulk purchase for the goods required from overseas for houses. That is due to currency difficulties. I quite appreciate that if a number of possible purchasers were able to go into the oversea market there might be competition which would result in prices being lowered against us, and there is the danger, with Government purchasing, that one price only will be offered and the Government told that they can take it or leave it. None the less, speed is of vital 1921 importance in this matter, and it may be that greater speed will result from Government purchase overseas.
The case for bulk purchase is recognised in this Amendment, and also the case for the Government's purchase of articles required for permanent prefabricated houses, but, apart from those two categories, I suggest that the Government have not made out any case at all, so far, for purchase, as distinct from making arrangements for production and distribution. On the Second Reading of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works said that, over a very wide range, particularly of those items for which the Ministry of Supply was responsible, it would be necessary to place Government orders. He went on to make this statement:These orders may either take the form of direct bulk purchase or manufacture in Royal Ordnance Factories and resale by the Government, or they may take the form of what are called production agreements, under which the firms undertake to produce certain quantities of particular articles and the Government undertakes to indemnify the firms in respect of any goods unsold at the end of the period covered by the agreement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th Nov. 1945; Vol. 416, c. 905.]So the Government, obviously, are contemplating two different ways of operating, and I suggest that all that they want to achieve can, in fact, be secured—leaving on one side for the moment the permanent prefabricated houses and purchases from oversea—by this method which they themselves have indicated, of entering into production agreements, with provisions for price control and with provisions that the loss, if any, through non-sale of the articles produced, shall be borne by the Ministry of Works. If that is done, the only loss, as I see it, that will fall upon the taxpayer through the Ministry of Works will be if the Ministry of Works overestimate the demand for the goods for which they authorise production in this way. Contracts of this sort will not lead to any increase in the price of the articles due to the intervention of the Ministry of Works. If that form of production agreement is entered into, the manufacturer will supply direct to people requiring the goods, or to the building materials agents who hold the stocks for the actual builders. I ask hon. members to contrast that system, which the Minister of Works said he was considering adopting, with the other system 1922 of the purchase of goods produced in this country by the Ministry of Works. What is that going to result in, and what is it going to achieve? In itself, it will not achieve increased production, because increased production can be effected by using the powers contained in Subsection (1b). But it is bound to mean purchase by the Ministry of Works, and then there must be resale by the Ministry of Works. Looking at the financial side, is it not bound to mean that the ceiling price of the Ministry of Works is going to be considerably in excess of the price for which they bought the goods from the factory? The Ministry of Works have to cover themselves against the interest they have to pay to the Treasury on this £100 million, and, not only the expenses which they themselves incur, but the expenses which every other Ministry incurs in engaging in this Government big business?
It seems to me to follow that building materials purchase within the United Kingdom by the right hon. Gentleman opposite is going to carry an increased cost before it gets into the houses, an increased cost above that which that article would carry if the Minister merely entered into a production agreement of the sort that the right hon. Gentleman himself indicated. I ask the Minister to indicate when he thinks any instance of purchase within the home market is likely to be of advantage to the housing programme, leaving on one side, of course, the case of the permanent prefabricated houses and purchases from overseas covered by this Amendment. Quite apart from the financial grounds, I put this argument to the Minister as an argument against his Department engaging in wholesale purchase. If his Department becomes the owner of thousands and thousands of windows or other articles, these will have to be stored somewhere, and distributed throughout the country. Is that not likely to mean delay and duplication of effort in trying to get the goods on to the sites at the right time? The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt recollect the contribution which the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Captain Marples) made in the Second Reading Debate. I ask him seriously to consider that point, and to indicate today that he can accept this Amendment, because, as I see it, having read his Second Reading speech again most carefully, the right hon. Gen- 1923 tleman has not put forward any demand for bulk purchase of goods in this country which cannot be as adequately met by dealing with the problem under paragraph (b) of this Subsection.
This Amendment falls within a narrow compass. It deals only with the actual purchase of materials, and I do suggest, on the grounds I have put forward, that this Committee would be reluctant to grant the Minister powers of purchase unless the Minister can show conclusively that these powers of purchase, if exercised, will result in the quicker erection of houses at cheaper prices, and will do more than a production agreement, whereby the Minister guarantees that a certain number of goods will be sold, whereby the taxpayer bears the burden of the loss only if the Minister miscalculates and whereby the actual cost of the item, when it goes into the house, is not enhanced by the intervention of the Minister of Works.
§ The Minister of Works (Mr. Tomlinson)
I think anyone who read the Amendment before hearing the hon. Gentleman's speech would recognise that it had been put down as what I would call normally a "wrecking" Amendment. It just goes to the basis of the Bill itself, and seeks to prevent us doing all the things we were wanting to do. For that reason, if for no other, we could not of course, accept it. The hon. Member who moved it made the point that he was not seeking to interfere with our exercising bulk purchase outside the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, it is questionable whether we shall need to do any bulk purchasing from outside the United Kingdom. We do not need power—
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I was speaking of bulk purchases of materials. The purchase of materials from abroad can be financed in other ways. Timber, for instance, is bought for many other things besides houses. This Amendment would prevent us buying in bulk, and the hon. Member's argument is that we should be prevented from buying in bulk because we can by other means—by the system he outlined—arrive at the same result. He suggested that we should drop bulk purchase, and 1924 instead of using these powers should use production agreements guaranteeing production. I would point out that, if it is a question of saving money, guarantees under production agreements would require as much finance as bulk purchase. So if we look at this matter from the standpoint of whether or not there is going to be a loss, it seems to me that in either way we may be in danger of having to pay for the facilities we obtain.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am afraid I cannot have made my point clear. What I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say on Second Reading was that the loss which would fall on the Ministry of Works fund under a production agreement, would only be to the extent to which the Ministry of Works had overestimated the demand for particular parts.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
In that case the only loss there can be is to the extent to which the Ministry of Works have over-estimated the amount which has to be bought. That is a distinction without a difference. From the little I know about finance, I can see no real difference on the one hand between paying because you have bought too much, and giving on the other, a guarantee, and then not taking it all. The hon. Gentleman overlooks the fact that this Amendment would prevent us from financing, by way of purchase and resale, the production of building materials and components in Royal Ordnance factories. One of the objects of this Bill, as was stated on Second Reading, is to develop in certain areas these factories for the purpose of meeting our requirements. To give up that power would, I suggest, defeat one of the principal objects of the Bill.
§ Mr. Willink
In reference to the use of this power in the way suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, surely the Ministry will not buy from Royal Ordnance factories. There seems to be some confusion of thought. Would not anything produced in Royal Ordnance factories come not under paragraph (a) but under paragraph (b). That would be making arrangements for production, not for bulk purchase.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
It could be bought. From my short experience I know in- 1925 stances in which one Government Department has bought from another what it needs in order to carry out its particular function. It may also be necessary to buy in bulk so that prices may be equalised. If an industry is to develop all round, those firms which are less efficient than others will require to be paid a larger price in order to keep them going, and to bring them into line with those from whom the Government can buy things more cheaply owing to their greater efficiency. Yet their goods should be obtainable at the same price. For all these reasons, I think the Committee should reject the Amendment, and get on to other Amendments on the Paper which are intended to improve rather than to wreck the Bill.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I must confess I am a little disappointed at the Minister's reply. Either I did not make myself clear when I moved the Amendment or he has avoided—I do not suggest deliberately—answering the point I made. I quite appreciate that if he miscalculates badly, he may buy more than he requires under bulk purchase, and of course if he enters into production agreements he may guarantee the production of more goods than are in fact required. But the point I made on that—and the right hon. Gentleman I venture to say has not dealt with it at all—was that if he secures production agreements guaranteeing production, the only financial burden that will fall upon his fund will be in respect of the amount of goods unsold. Those are the very words he used in the course of the Second Reading debate. He then said that the only undertaking was to indemnify the firm in respect of any goods unsold at the end of the period covered by the agreement. Two points emerge from that. That loss is limited to the amount by which he overestimates.
In the case of production agreements, the articles that are produced are not saddled with any proportion of cost due to the intervention of the Ministry of Works. But when the Ministry of Works engage in bulk purchase before these parts are sold to the local authorities or to the contractors for the houses, they must have added to the purchase price something by way of interest for the Treasury and the expenses of the Ministry. It was on the contract between 1926 purchase which involves that increase in price on what is going into the house, and the production agreement where there is no increase of price on what is going into the house, that my argument was based. The right hon. Genleman has not dealt with that at all. With regard to the point about the Royal Ordnance factories, I suggest that, if there be any purchase and sale between two Government Departments it is really in the nature of an accounting transaction, and is not a genuine purchase and sale as contemplated by the first part of this Clause. I suggest that that function would come in well under production and distribution. As for his third point, about equalisation of price, I must confess I am not quite clear as to what he meant. One of the arguments in favour of bulk purchase of building materials seems to be. that he is going to fix a price of purchase from the manufacturers which will keep the inefficient firm in full production with an additional profit to the more efficient firms. Does he mean one flat rate of purchase price? If so, we ought to know about it and consider it with more care than the right hon. Gentleman has given to it. Or does he mean that he is going to buy at whatever price he can and then try to fix one price for resale? If that is what he is going to do, then again the resale price must take into account the two items I have mentioned, the expenses of his Ministry and the Ministry of Supply if it is engaged and any other Ministry, together with the repayment not only of the principal but of interest on this large sum which the right hon. Gentleman wants to have placed at his disposal.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to reply to these points, because he really has not replied to them at all in what he said just now. He dealt with this Amendment as if it were something quite different from what it is. He says he does not want this power of purchase from overseas. That was deliberately put into the Amendment, not because he might want it, but because the need for that was seen in the case of the purchase of prefabricated permanent houses. What is not justified is this wide power of purchase which may lead to delay in the production of houses, and not only that, but lead to every tenant of these houses having to pay something extra in rent.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."1928
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 92; Noes, 213.1929
|Division No. 40.]||AYES.||[3.43 p.m.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Harvey, Air-Cmdr. A. V.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Amory, Lt.-Col. D. H.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley||Price-While, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Howard, Hon. A.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Hurd, A.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Bower, N.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J. G.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Lindsay, Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Carson, E.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Channon, H.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Teeling, Flt.-Lieut. W.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Touche, G. C.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|De la Bère, R.||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield||Marsden, Comdr. A.||Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.|
|Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.||Marshall, Cmdr. D. (Bodmin)||White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Erroll, Col. F. J.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Nicholson, G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gammans, Capt, L. D.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Commander Agnew and|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Nutting, Anthony||Mr. Studholme.|
|Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Daines, P.||Holman, P.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, A. E. (Burslem)||Horabin, T. L.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||House, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Hoy, J.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Austin, H. L.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)|
|Ayrton-Gould, Mrs. B.||Deer, G.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jones, Mai. P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Diamond, J.||Keenan, W.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Dobbie, W.||Key, C. W.|
|Barton, C.||Dodds, N. N.||Kinley, J.|
|Battley, J. R.||Douglas, F. C. R.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Edelman, W.||Lang, G.|
|Benson, G.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Berry, H.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Lever, Fl. Off. N. H|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Ewart, R.||Levy, B. W.|
|Blackburn, Capt. A. R.||Farthing, W. J.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Foot, M. M.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Foster, W. (Wigan)||McAdam, W.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Freeman, Maj. J. (Walford)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Freeman, P. (Newport)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Gaitskell, H. T. N.||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||McLeavy, F.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Gilzean, A.||McNeil, H.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Goodrich, H. E.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Callaghan, James||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Grey, C. F.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Grierson, E.||Marquand, H. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Mathers, G.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Guy, W. H.||Maxton, J.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||Mayhew, Maj. C. P.|
|Collick, P.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Collins, V. J||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Haworth, J.||Monslow, W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Moody, A. S.|
|Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A.||Hicks, G.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Murray, J. D.||Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Walkden, E.|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Royle, C.||Walker, G. H.|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Scott-Elliot, W.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Skinnard, F. W.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W)||Weitzman, D.|
|Parker, J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Snow, Capt. J. W.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Sparks, J. A.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Pearson, A.||Stamford, W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Peart, Capt. T. F.||Stewart, Capt. M. (Fulham)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Perrins, W.||Stubbs, A. E.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Popplewell, E.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Porter, E. (Warrington)||Swingler, Capt. S.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Symonds, Maj. A. L.||Willis, E.|
|Pritt, D. N.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Randall, H. E.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Ranger, J.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Yates, V. F.|
|Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Reeves, J.||Thorneycroft, H.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Reid, T. (Swidon)||Thurtle, E.|
|Rhodes, H.||Tiffany, S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Tolley, L.||Mr. R. J. Taylor and|
|Robens, A||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.||Mr. Simmons.|
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
May I call your attention, Major Milner, to a point of Order which I ventured to raise before, namely, the slipshod way in which the Government Tellers announce the result of the Division?
§ Mr. McKie rose—
§ The Chairman
Will the hon. Gentleman please resume his seat. There is no point of Order in the matter which the hon. Member has raised on this and on a previous occasion. Mr. Willink.
§ Mr. Willink
I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, at end, insert:where existing and projected factory capacity is estimated to be insufficient to produce the quantity required at the dates required and where existing channels for distribution are inadequate for securing an even flow of such materials and equipment.This is an Amendment not to be described by any fair-minded person as a "wrecking" Amendment. That phrase disappointed me in the discussion on the previous Amendment, because in the Second Reading Debate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works, in marked contrast to the Minister of Health, gave my hon. Friends and myself the credit of desiring to make this Bill workable. The basis for this Amendment is partly the extreme vagueness of Subsection (1 b); and the Amendment is intended to limit and define the area within which the Minister of Works will be 1930 empowered by this Bill to make and carry out arrangements for the provision and distribution of materials or equipment. In the Second Reading Debate it was indicated—if I may take distribution first—that it was not the intention of the Government to submit a supplementary distribution system insofar as the present organisation is itself capable of meeting the need. In another part of the Second Reading Debate we were told we were to make no mistake that the Government were to go into the distributive trades in a large way. Consequently I am sure that neither this Committee nor the people as a whole have any idea what are the intentions of the Government in this field. These words are extremely wide. I agree that parts of the Bill must be wide in their language in order to allow for sufficient flexibility. Let us examine them for a moment. It is proposed that the Minister of Works should be given an unlimited function only defined by the words:(b) making and carrying out arrangements for the production and distribution of any such materials or equipment;I think it is common ground in all parts of the Committee, and it is certainly felt in every city and town and village of the country, that the basic difficulty in getting on with housing is shortage and mal-distribution of labour. The difficulty lies in building up the appropriate team, the balanced gang, for there pair and building of houses, and no doubt the same is true in the distributive trades. It was intended in the Debate, as I understood it, that the 1931 purpose of the Government was really precisely what is expressed in this Amendment, namely, that—if I may now quote the words of the Amendment—where existing and projected factory capacity is estimated to be insufficient to produce the quantity required at the dates required and where existing channels for distribution are inadequate for securing an even flow of such materials and equipment "—fresh arrangements can be made by the Minister of Works. It cannot, I imagine, be the intention of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, where they estimate that the existing and projected factory equipment is sufficient, or where they estimate that the existing channels for distribution are adequate to secure an even flow, that they should desire or plan for powers to intervene. Consequently, this Amendment is merely to safeguard the Minister against pressure to intervene where he, in fact, believes there is no need for his intervention.
There is one very grave risk with regard to this project if it is taken with a wide application. To build up, at a time of shortage of labour, at a time when existing and well tried businesses and organisations are finding that their prime difficulty is to get their staff, to build up at that very moment a subsidised, financially irresponsible organisation will do more than anything else, I believe, to hold up rapid progress. That is why I hope very much that the Government will be willing to be taken at their word—their word expressed in the Second Reading Debate—namely that this arrangement to intervene will only be undertaken where there is a satisfaction in their minds that either the factory's capacity or the existing channels for distribution are inadequate to the need. What is the use, where there is adequate factory capacity and plant, at a time when we know that the labour will not be sufficient for our purposes for many months to come, to build up fresh staffs, fresh organisations, with the result that the existing organisation and existing factory capacity will be starved, will not be producing up to capacity, and all the time there will be this rivalry? So this Amendment is devised for a practical end. It is devised to arrive at the mind of the Government. If it is not accepted, if it is challenged, it can only be, as I see it, on the doctrinaire basis that even where they think the capacity is adequate, even 1932 where the organisation is adequate to secure a sufficient and an even flow of the material, none the less, they want powers to set up their own organisation. If that is the attitude taken, then we and the country as a whole will know what are their intentions, but if, as I hope, they accept the view that I have expressed with regard to the intention and meaning of the Amendment, namely, that it is merely putting into words what the Minister said on the Second Reading Debate, we shall be exceedingly satisfied.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, may I put this question to him? Are we to understand that this Amendment has been designed for the express purpose of assisting the Minister over the difficulties with regard to housing?
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
I support the Amendment moved by my right hon. and learned Friend. The Minister of Works, rather surprisingly, described the first Amendment as a wrecking Amendment. I do not think he will be able to apply that language to an Amendment so manifestly designed to be helpful as the one to which I am now addressing myself. These words are designed to limit the action of the Minister in accordance with what apparently is the intention of the Government so far as it can be seen from the speeches in the Second Reading Debate, but it is because there is some obscurity in those speeches that it is thought that these words should be imported into the Bill. The Minister of Works, in moving the Second reading, while addressing himself to the question of distribution, said:It will, however, be necessary to supplement these arrangements by setting up a special distribution organisation.Then follows a statement that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to go into businessboth in the manufacture and in the distribution of building materials and components in a big way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November,1945; Vol. 416, c. 906.]1933 Those words, it seems to me, are to some extent qualified by the words of the Minister of Health on the Financial Resolution. He said:The point raised by the right hon. Gentleman about failure of distribution is entirely irrelevant. Normally speaking, in these circumstances the local contractors will be obtaining their materials through the building merchants "—That is to say, Major Milner, through the usual channels. In answer to an interjection by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Captain Marples), the Minister said again:As a general rule, the building contractor will be getting his materials from a retail builders merchant."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1945; Vol. 416? c. 1009–10.]Twice in that speech the Minister of Health emphasised that in the ordinary way the normal channels of distribution are to be preserved. This Amendment puts into the Bill the intention of preserving those normal channels of distribution where possible and puts into the Bill a Clause to limit Ministerial action to those cases where existing channels of distribution are inadequate for securing an even flow of materials and equipment. It seems to me that this is an Amendment the Government ought to accept, because it puts into language what is apparently their intention.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
Can the hon. and gallant Member say where the words used in the Amendment are to be found in the speeches made either by the Minister of Health or by the Minister of Works?
§ Lieut. - Colonel Walker - Smith
The words in the Amendment are put into the language of a Statute. I did not suggest they were the precise words that were used; they are a more elegant and literary and concise form of the words.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith
That is my opinion, and I hope it will be the opinion of the Committee. I am obliged to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) for the opportunity to show that we have done the Government this trifling service of interpreting their intentions and drafting an Amendment to insert them in the Bill, and I hope that in return for 1934 that trifling service the Minister will accept the Amendment.
§ Major Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
I support the Amendment. It seems to me there are three reasons why the Government might wish at the present time to set up manufacturing arrangements. The first is to supplement an inadequate supply. The second—which will no doubt be adduced by the right hon. Gentleman—is to supply labour in certain parts of the country where otherwise ordnance factories could not be used. The answer to that point might be, What is to prevent those ordnance factories being disposed of to private enterprise and used in that way? The third reason is what I might call "the question of confidence.", I quote the words of the Minister of Health when he said:and we want to make materials ourselves for the purpose of checking the cost of production in private concerns."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 1002.]I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a little astonishing that the Members on the Treasury Bench should expect confidence from private enterprise and yet not be prepared to give confidence to private enterprise. I cannot see why in this particular case they should wish to do so, nor can it possibly be to the advantage of anybody to do so. In that they could meet all requirements, except perhaps for temporary and prefabricated houses. That being so, any intrusion of the Ministry into the field, as my right hon. and learned Friend has already said, reduces their output, reduces the spread of their overheads and raises prices. Then along comes the Minister and says, "We must set up factories ourselves in order to check the price." In that case their own prices should, indeed, be lower, if they are intruding into the field and in that way raising the prices that have to be charged by private enterprise, but in fact it is most unlikely that they will be. I should like here again to raise a point which was raised on the Second Reading: how are they going to show that in fact they are making a profit in the same way as private enterprise will have to make a profit on that production?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to treat this Amendment 1935 seriously. There has been a certain amount of light-heartedness in the Debate so far. [Hon. Members: "From your side."] No, the laughs have come from the hon. Member's side, and I hope he and his friends will take their duties a little more seriously. The builders merchants industry quite rightly have anxiety, and after what my right hon. and learned Friend has said, I feel that if the Government cannot accept this Amendment they should at any rate explain very carefully why they cannot. This Amendment seeks to allow builders merchants, where they can function perfectly and with efficiency, to be permitted to do so, and therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make clear what are the intentions of His Majesty's Government and what lies behind their action. Is it the case that hon. Members on this side are right that the Government wish to injure the builders merchants? I do not hear any dissentient voices opposite as I mention that. Or is it that they only want to supplement them? If that is so, I think the right hon. Gentleman could accept the Amendment without in any way preventing his Bill from working. If he is not able to accept it may we please know the reason, so that builders merchants may know what their future is to be, and whether their fears are groundless or whether they are very real.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) suggests that we should not laugh, and at the same time suggests that I should accept an Amendment which cuts away the powers which we are seeking. I am afraid that I cannot live up to his desire that we should be serious all the time when such requests are being made. I was a little surprised, too, at the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved this Amendment suggesting that he did not like my reference to the previous Amendment as a "wrecking" one, because I am quite certain that he knew that the effect of that Amendment, if it had been carried, would have been to wreck the Bill. I would not put this Amendment in the same category. The first Amendment was intended to sink the boat out of hand. This Amendment is intended to make a little opening just below the water line. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is no doubt about 1936 it. That is what it is intended to do. And I am not surprised. I should have been surprised if an Amendment in this form had not been put down by hon. Gentlemen, otherwise I do not think they would have been doing their job. They are asking for assurances in given directions, but in addition they are seeking to make it statutory that there shall be no power to go beyond that. What they are asking the Government to do is to take sufficient power to do certain things only if private enterprise falls down, and they are putting it in such a way that private enterprise must go on for a long time before we can declare that it has fallen down.
§ Mr. Willink
May I call attention to the terms of the Amendment? The right hon. Gentleman will observe that we desire him to have this power where the existing factory capacity is "estimated to be insufficient "—estimated today, next week, at any time—but not where it is estimated to be sufficient.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Again I am afraid that my upbringing does not enable me to enter into these fine points of distinction. It comes to the same thing. When will that point be reached, and how often will the Minister have to determine whether or not existing and projected factory capacity is estimated to be insufficient? An hon. Member opposite suggested that there was sufficient capacity now. My right hon. and learned Friend made the same statement in his Second Reading speech. He read from a letter which had appeared in "The Times" that morning in which it was suggested that the capacity to produce 500,000 houses had been in existence before the war, and followed that up by suggesting that it was still there.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
It was not a question of equipment. It was suggested that there would be sufficient capacity—will that do?—for 500,000 houses. Therefore, in the terms of this Amendment as interpreted by the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, there is no necessity for the Government to enter into this field at all.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I would ask the Committee to consider the logic of the situation. I may be simple, but that is how it appeals to me. Make no mistake about it, we want this power, whether for production or for distribution, in order that we may exercise it, when necessary, to produce the things that are needed to produce the houses. I think it may be said, or could have been said at the beginning of the war, that there was sufficient capacity, if properly organised and used, to produce the munitions that were required. But the Government took powers to enter, in order themselves to produce the munitions that were needed. It was agreed on Second Reading that we should treat this matter as a military operation. I suggest that these powers will be needed, at any rate, in the immediate post war period, if that is to be accomplished. It is for that reason, without going through all the details that might be given as to the need for the use of them, that we want these powers. Moreover, we do not want them cut down, in the way which this Amendment would cut them down, if we are to do the job properly.
§ Mr. Bossom
Whether the Government make things or whether they are made in an individual capacity, there is only going to be the same number of men, whether they work in a new factory or an old one. If they work in an existing factory they can get to work more quickly than if they have to start in a new one to do the same operation. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts this Amendment, he will be helping the country to get houses more quickly; whereas if he starts off to make new places, he will certainly delay the getting of houses. For that reason I hope that he will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Richard Law (Kensington, South)
With the best will in the world, I find it rather difficult to follow the argument which the right hon. Gentleman used on this Amendment. He said, first, that it cuts right across what the Government were trying to do. He then went on to 1938 say that what the Government were trying to do was to take the necessary powers to get production, whether by Government arrangement or by private enterprise. It is the purpose of this Amendment to give him these necessary powers, and I cannot see why he objects to them, unless he wants powers which are unnecessary for the purpose he has in view. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would explain. The Amendment states, quite categorically, that where the Minister cannot get what he wants by normal methods, then he can use the powers for which he has asked. But he wants to use them even without the occasion, and that is what I find extremely difficult to understand. The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, realises, despite his badinage, that we on this side of the Committee are just as interested as he is in the matter of housing. I am sure that he realises that we, too, want to solve this problem, which is the crucial social problem of the day. 1 can assure him that we are not trying to limit his powers by this Amendment, unless he himself wants to use them unnecessarily. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have another think about this. If this Amendment does not give him the necessary powers, what is his definition of what is necessary? I think we should know that.
§ Captain Marples (Wallasey)
May I say a few words about the builders merchants? I want to know whether it is the right hon. Gentleman's intention to compete with builders' merchants, or to supplement their services. If he is going to compete with them, I want to point out to the Committee that an inefficient distribution service, sponsored and supported by the Government, could put out of business an existing and very efficient builders merchant. I have had a considerable number of letters, since the Second Reading Debate, on this point. I think that it is admitted in the building trade that builders merchants have in the past, for many reasons—and I stated some of them on Second Reading—given the industry an extremely efficient and smooth flow of materials, and a service which any Government Department would be very sorry to relinquish. They want to know whether they are to be put out of business. If that is the object, I think that the right hon. Gentleman ought to say so now. If it is not, if it is proposed merely to supplement them, then 1939 I cannot see any earthly reason why the Amendment should not be accepted.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I would never dream of accusing the right hon. Gentleman who is replying for the Government of being simple. I have watched him for a long time and listened to his speeches, and I am sure that beneath any apparent simplicity that he may have there is, as a rule, a very definite design. I was interested when he described what he thought was the intention of this Amendment. Naturally there is always a difference of definition as regards the intentions of an Amendment as between one side of the Committee and the other. It seems to me that we are dealing in this Bill with a condition which is serious almost beyond imagination for those who may not have been able to get accommodation, and from whom we receive many letters. I think that we might give each other the credit that our intentions are right, and I am assuming that the Government think they are right in their intentions here—but surely an Amendment of this kind would help the Government and also help in the building of houses?
There are two things to be considered. The first is that building should be speeded up, which is the intention of this Subsection of the Clause. Secondly, there is no reason, I think, for any of us not to wish to help the Government to get houses. I certainly wish to help in that respect. Let us then look at this Amendment, and what it does. As I understand it, it lays down the condition that the Government will have to give the schemes proper consideration. If the Government do not give them proper consideration, and put up schemes in this, that and the other place, may not their own position become very difficult should any of these schemes fail? If the schemes are haphazard, and break down, what will be the effect? The Government will not be able to say," We have considered this carefully," because they will have declared, by refusing this Amendment, that these schemes are not to be considered carefully. That is the only real meaning of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as far as I can understand it. If these schemes are to progress two things are necessary: One is materials, and the 1940 other is men. If you are going to set up places for manufacturing and distributing these materials without consideration, what is going to be the position of the men? We might, I think, be told. "Are men, without any consideration, to be put into these schemes in this way?" We have not been informed.
It is a difficult position, and it is very closely connected with this Amendment; and we say that the schemes themselves should have proper consideration, and the various factors connected with these schemes should also have consideration, because unless there is some thought about this matter it is going to be quite impossible to develop housing as quickly as we wish. For that reason, I say, that if the Government are not quite prepared this afternoon to accept the many reasonable arguments advanced in favour of the Amendment, consideration might be given to the matter between now and the Report stage. The right hon. Gentleman rather inferred that he had not any great legal skill to deal with the actual effect and purport of this Amendment. I am in the same position. I am not a lawyer, and at the moment I do not think there is any lawyer of any great eminence or judgment present—[Interruption.] I am speaking of someone who may not be able to come at the moment to help to explain it to the Government. We want to have this very clear. I see that the Government are looking more cheerful now, and I hope that means that, for once, they are going to accept an Amendment, especially after the very thin case they have been able to put up against this proposal.
§ Lieut.-Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)
The right hon. Gentleman in his reply said the Government wanted these powers so that they would be able to use them if necessary. It seems to me that the whole crux of the point of this Amendment is to attempt to define the importance of the word "necessary." When, in fact, is that necessity going to arise? I know that on several occasions the Government have said that they propose to use all methods—as all Members in this House would want them to do—to produce the houses so urgently needed. If, in fact, they are going to do that it would appear that necessity would only arise when existing methods of production have in fact been 1941 tried and found wanting. That is exactly what this Amendment tries to help us to decide. If the Government arc genuine in their intention only to use these powers when necessity has arisen, they must first have tried all the sources which the Amendment contemplates they shall try. Therefore, I maintain that if the Government have not got some hidden intention of using these powers long before existing methods have been tried to the full, they will accept this Amendment. The word "estimated" is most carefully used in the Amendment. The Amendment does not ask the Government to wait and continue to wait until existing methods have been tried and found wanting, but that if at any moment they are able to anticipate the probable production of existing methods and it can be reasonably shown that existing methods are going to fail, then the powers which they want to get under the Bill, and which this Amendment still allows, will be at their disposal.
§ Mr. Bowles
It would seem to me that this Amendment is a dangerous one for the Government to consider accepting at all. Should the Amendment as now drafted be accepted by the Government any court would find itself in very great difficulty over the words "factory capacity is estimated." Another complication is: Who is to do the estimating? [An Hon. Member: "The Minister."] It does not say so. During the war, the Home Secretary in the case of Regulation 18b had the complete right, if he were satisfied that a certain situation had arisen, to take certain action and no court would challenge what he did. In this case, we shall have endless litigation in the courts by various interested people anxious to produce materials who will be questioning almost weekly, I should think, the decision of the Minister whether the projected capacity for producing a particular material was sufficient or not.
Secondly, I think we must bear in mind that the Government have already, in Clause 1(1, a), visualised the purchase of building materials from the ordinary sources so long as that is possible. They will purchase building materials through the ordinary channels, providing the ordinary channels are in a position to supply the quantity desired. It is quite clear that so long as there are materials to be purchased they will purchase them in the ordinary way but, if they are not 1942 obtainable, they have power to produce them themselves. Therefore, so long as private enterprise pulls its weight and plays the game there will be no need for intervention, but some of us have reason to think that the Government are wise in taking this power untrammelled and unrestricted by the Amendment, which I think is designed to try to hinder the Government in carrying out their major plans for producing building materials.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Captain Marples
The hon. Member mentioned Clause 1 (1, a) concerning purchase, but he did not say anything about the distribution of those materials.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
In spite of the fears which the hon. Member who has just spoken has tried to put into our minds about the legal aspect of the drafting of the Amendment, I cannot understand why the Government insist on standing on their own Clause as it is, because once the weakness in the working of our own proposal has been made apparent, surely they should have been able to tell the Committee why they find it necessary to propose a course of action in carrying out a war operation—those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman—which most of us know is completely contrary to the course of action taken by the Government during the war to carry out what were in fact war operations. The right hon. Gentleman is proposing to do things which were found completely impracticable and most undesirable in regard to the production of war stores. If his Department is given the unlimited and undefined powers which are here in the words of the Bill as drafted, he will only be encouraging infinite delay in the production of the very materials which are most essential to housing.
We all know that, during the interim period of the swing-over from war production to peace production, there are many factories which are not and will not be for some months working to full 1943 capacity in the production of those commodities for which they are best suited—commodities, it may be, which they provided before the war or which they planned to provide after the war when released from the tentacles of Government control. During this interim period they are looking round for other work to do. How far does the right hon. Gentleman propose that he and his Ministry shall delve into the position of those factories and bring them into the possible or potential picture of production before he uses the powers given by the Bill as drafted? I wonder how far he would go. We know perfectly well the sort of thing that would be done. The Department would come along and say it must have some more of whatever it might be—door handles, baths or gas cookers—it would see that there was a great deal of pressure on that particular industry, that other industries were still busy on war stores which were being produced to be destroyed next day; the destroyers must be kept busy; and it would propose a new Government factory to make the things required. That is the sort of thing that might happen. That is the sort of thing that people who are not highly skilled in production work would be likely to do.
What happened during the war? In how many cases was it found necessary during the war to start direct Government factories to produce war stores, and in how many cases was it found far simpler to use existing private enterprises, adapting them and giving them orders to produce? I think that we on this side are perfectly justified in bringing the weakness of the drafting of this Subsection to the notice of the Committee, and in pressing the Minister very hard to reconsider this point. It is not, so far as I am concerned, a party matter, it is not a question of principle as between private enterprise and public enterprise. It is simply that as the Bill is drafted, it gives a free invitation to men of little experience in these matters to make a very bad mess of a very vital job that has got to be done for the people of this country.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
It seems to me that the argument of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is absolutely fallacious. What is he endeavouring to make out? That the Government, because they suddenly find themselves in a position 1944 where they cannot get the goods they require but could get them if they waited a little time, will frivolously embark on the construction of new State factories. He went on to inquire where, during the war, it had been necessary for the Government to establish State factories to produce the necessaries of war. I am surprised at that question. It must be perfectly obvious to anybody who knows anything about the Ministry of Supply that it was absolutely necessary to establish Government factories and that those factories were a great success.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I covered that in this way. I wanted the Committee to be given a fair picture, in which case they would see that only in a very small number of cases was it necessary for the Government to start factories of their own for specialised production. The hon. Gentleman will admit that the overwhelming majority of needs were met without that.
§ Mr. Stokes
That is precisely the reason why the Government should have the powers, but my hon. Friend says that the Government will use those powers frivolously. I have rarely listened to such nonsense. I agree that if one does not appreciate the capacity of the Government in power for the time being, one might doubt their ability to use those powers. I should certainly think like that if I were on the other side and the Tories were over here. But the fact of the matter is surely this—that no Government will embark on State manufacture if they can in fact get all they want at short notice out of existing productive capacity.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I do not want to interrupt again, but the hon. Gentleman has just denied that the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench propose to launch out on a vast scheme of industry. Is that really correct? Are we really to understand that? Does the hon. Gentleman really think that the needs for building materials and equipment are of the same highly specialised and temporary nature which forced the Government to set up their own factories for war supplies?
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. Gentleman is confusing the issue; it is quite a different matter. I do not know if hon. Gentlemen opposite know anything about the building trade rings. I have had some experience of them, and of all the iniquitous 1945 rings which ever existed, the rings in the building trade were the worst. I think the Government are perfectly right to take powers, and I myself hope that the amount of ginger provided by the resistance on the other side will bring about a proper realisation in some of the building trades that they must "go to it" and preduce the goods or, if they do not, we on this side of the House will take the necessary steps to provide what the people want—that is, good and sufficient equipment for the houses they need in the shortest possible time.
§ Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
I am afraid than an infinite capacity for suspicion exists in the minds and breasts of hon. Members opposite. I would remind them of the eloquent words of the Foreign Secretary, when he said that one of the best ways of removing suspicion was to put the cards on the table face upwards. I wish they would. For the life of me I cannot see what is wrong with this most reasonable Amendment.
§ Major Lloyd
There are none so blind as those who will not see. This is a perfectly reasonable Amendment and, if it were not for the atmosphere of suspicion on the other side, it would be treated with reasonable argument. As it is, all we have had from the right hon. Gentleman are arguments as to whether or not he is simple, how simple he is, whether he is as simple as he looks, or whether he looks more simple than he is. I am not concerned with arguments as to whether he is simple or not, and I do not believe he made any attempt to answer fully the argument put forward by right hon. and hon. Friends on this side.
It has been suggested that the motive behind this Amendment is one of sabotage. The right hon. Gentleman talked about a hole below the water line in order to sink the Bill. Another hon. Member opposite talked about a "most dangerous Amendment," and someone else suggested that it would involve endless litigation. Why this language of exaggeration and superlatives for this ordinary, harmless, reasonable Amendment? What is it? It simply says, Let the Government do what they plan and intend to do, what we have allowed them by passing the Second Reading to do, provided it is really necessary, provided 1946 in fact that existing plants, industries and firms are unable to do it because they have not got the capacity. If existing firms have the capacity, why should the Government want to butt in? Why should they want to take over what is obviously the job of existing firms? Why should they want to intervene in something which has never been the business of government before? That is all that this Amendment says. It says, Go ahead with the powers just so long as the capacity does not exist, but, when the capacity does exist, let the powers fade away. It is a perfectly reasonable Amendment, and I would urge the Government to have done with these suspicions; let them not look as simple as in fact they are, and accept the Amendment.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
I have sat throughout this Debate and listened to it with great interest. I have heard the big guns and the little guns on the other side all being turned on the Minister. Why? The Minister is no simpleton, and there has been no case stated that needs to worry him. I have been in this House for almost a quarter of a century, and ever since I came here we have been up against the situation of the Tories trying to keep us from getting on with housing. They are asking whether there is any necessity for all this. Certainly there is a necessity, and has been ever since the last war. We discovered that the weakest link in the capitalist system was the housing problem. Private enterprise demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was impossible for private enterprise to meet the demand for houses. [An Hon. Member: "Before the war?"] Yes, after the last war, with the result that the Government had to intervene. Lord Addison, who was then Dr. Addison, was put in charge. He was the man who instituted the idea that nothing less than a three-apartment house should be built in this country. It required an Act of Parliament to do that.
Private enterprise, which the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) came here to defend, resulted in the majority of the houses for the working class in this country being one-apartment houses. We had to come here and fight in order to get all that changed. 1947 That is the reason that we are two opposites who are facing one another today. Our Front Bench do not need to stand up to what is being said by the Opposition, because hon. Members opposite have made the poorest attempt I have ever heard an Opposition make since I came to this House. The Tories were in power for many years before the war, and they left us with this terrible problem, which we shall face. The citizens of Britain sent us here to do it, and I feel quite satisfied that this Labour Government will deliver the goods. There never was a Labour Government before which made the same attempt—and this Government are really making an attempt. That is why the Opposition are taking up the position they have done to day, because they realise that if this Government stand up to them, as they are now doing, then private enterprise—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is really making a Second Reading speech.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I can assure you, Mr. Beaumont, that I do not wish to cross swords with you. I am replying, and HANSARD will prove that I am replying, to speeches that have already been made, covering all the ground I have covered, and I have not covered as much ground as they have done. The Government are putting into action what they promised they would do, and the Opposition has set itself today, and made a poor attempt, to thwart their efforts.
The Minister of Works used a correct phrase when he said that the first Amendment was designed to wreck the Bill. I object if an Amendment?is put forward to wreck the Bill, That is the Opposition's business, but do not let them try to "kid" us that they are not doing so, and that that is not their intention when they say that their aim is to help the Minister. They may "kid" some who have not been here for as long as I have been, but so long as I am sitting here I will draw attention to their subtle moves. We are going to carry this through. We believe that private enterprise has served its day and generation, and we are seeing today another portion of our Socialism, which we shall carry through in this 1948 House of Commons. The Opposition can do their uttermost; we shall do our best to defeat them.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
As it is rapidly approaching tea time for the Government Front Bench, I shall make my remarks as brief as possible. I would like to say this in reply to—and I use the term deliberately—my hon. Friend opposite, because we admire his fiery nature, his stout heart and his incredible intellectual bewilderment; all these things which we admire make a composite and lovable whole: Does he think there is anybody on this side of the Committee who does not feel the awful tragedy of the housing problem, and who deliberately wants to sabotage or delay the building of houses? The experience which I have in my constituency is shared by every Member—soldiers with no place to live in, bombed-out people, four or five families in a house, disgraceful and heart-breaking conditions. How dare anybody, even a Scots man on the other sideߞ—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
On a point of Order. What has the speech which the hon. Member is making to do with this Amendment?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Further to that point of Order. What the hon. Member is now getting away with, is what I was stopped from doing.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The answer to that is that I allowed the hon. Member some latitude and I propose similarly to allow the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) a certain latitude, and then I shall ask him to remember to speak to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The hon. Member said he would put a question to me. Shall I be allowed to reply to the question?
§ Mr. Baxter
You are always courteous and patient, Mr. Beaumont, and I thank you. Once we are accused of delaying the building of houses we are entitled to make a reply. The hon. Member for 1949 Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) said he had never heard such nonsense in his life in speeches in this House. It is obvious he has never listened to his own speeches.
§ Mr. Baxter
We are discussing speeches at the moment. The hon. Member said that he never heard such nonsense as this, and then said in a voice of thunder, "Do the Opposition imagine that the Government intend to use these powers if they are not necessary?" That is the exact meaning of this Amendment. We want to make certain that the Government do not use these powers unless they are necessary. What does this Amendment say? If we were assured that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works was to remain Minister of Works then we would not mind giving him these immense powers, but there are constant and understandable rumours of a Government reshuffle. Even with a majority like this the Government had better be reshuffled fairly soon. At any rate, we are not certain that the right hon. Gentleman will remain Minister in charge, and there may very well be a successor who would use these powers to a far greater extent than would the right hon. Gentleman.
I protest against the way in which Bills are brought to this House. Again and again we are presented with a Clause, in respect of which the Government say, "Does anybody think we intend to use these powers?" In the Bank of England Bill, which looked very innocuous, a Clause was suddenly proposed which would have enabled the Government to send for information about any private account.
§ Mr. Neil Maclean (Glasgow, Govan)
Is it in Order for an hon. Member to raise the general question of various Bills being brought before the House, when he is supposed to be speaking on an Amendment?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Not before I have given my Ruling on the point of Order. I was hoping that the hon. Member was only using this argument as a matter of illustration, and that he did not intend to carry it any further.
§ Mr. Baxter
To apply my illustrations—and again I think you for your courtesy, Mr. Beaumont—there is a tendency these days to have Clauses and Subsections so drawn that the Opposition have to spend a great deal of time in trying to make them safe for democracy, and from being misused.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
On a point of Order. At what point in the discussion is the hon. Member to begin to develop his argument?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is not a point of Order. Interruptions on both sides are prolonging the Debate.
§ Mr. Baxter
I think that we on this side have made very few interruptions, but I have not been allowed to speak for two minutes without having to give way. I hope that the next point of Order will be a point of Order. What is the purpose of this Clause? To make arrangements for the production and distribution of any such materials or equipment, not if they are necessary, not if their supply by private enterprise is found insufficient. There is a charter for open competition with free enterprise. I am not certain that this Government will not utilise that. I believe we are seeing a show-down struggle between State control of everything and private enterprise. We say that the Government should have the honesty of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who says that private enterprise has had its day, and that they are going to do away with it.
This will cause immense disruption and fear in the building industry, the heart of which is already broken by the treatment of the Government. I should have liked to develop one or two other arguments, but I wish to end with this one. This Clause, in this form, is too blunt, the powers are too great. It implies blackmail, it implies misuse. The Amendment, in the words used by the hon. Member for Ipswich, says that it is not intended to use them unless it is necessary. Let the Government accept the Amendment and say, "We will use these powers if they are necessary; if, in the opinion of the Minister, they are necessary." In refusing to accept the Amendment the Government show no consideration for this Committee, or for the legitimate duties of the Opposition.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask the hon. Member a question? Has his attention been called to a pronouncement by one of the most eminent building contractors of the country that building enterprise is obstructed by the rings? That is what we are up against.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) has failed, in my submission, signally, to demonstrate in what way the Amendment will cure the position. If I might bring the mind of the Committee back to the subject of the Amendment I do so for the purposeߞ—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
If the hon. Member cares to look at this, he will find it is the Bill to which I am referring.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
If hon. Members look at this Clause, they will see that it is for the Minister to get production and distribution. Those are the two objectives of this Clause, production and distribution. In my submission, the Amendment has no relation whatever to that Clause at all, and if one directs one's attention to it, that becomes demonstrable at once. The Amendment, which is to come at the end of paragraph (b) dealing with production and distribution says that that is only to operatewhere existing and projected factory capacity "—not output, mark you—is estimated to be insufficient to produce," etc.That means that although you may have what is described as "existing and projected factory capacity," it does not necessarily follow that you are going to get output. As a matter of fact, if we take the history of some of these firms and some of these rings, we find that we are not going to get output unless it suits their purpose. Taking the Amendment even on that point, it has absolutely no relationship to the substantive object of this 1952 Clause at all. I invite the right hon. and learned Member who moved it to apply his well-known legal faculty to the language of the Amendment in the light of the purposes and terminology of the Clause. Then take the further words of the Amendment:to be insufficient to produce the quantity required at the dates required and where existing channels for distribution are inadequate.Not where they are refusing to work, mark you, but where the existing channels are inadequate. I cannot see what purpose this Amendment is going to serve except that of having a nuisance value. It has no pertinent application to the main Clause at all. Supposing this Amendment were accepted, what machinery is it proposed to set up to meet this situation. First, you have to decide whether the factory capacity is sufficient, or whether the means of distribution are sufficient. Then, having found that it is insufficient, you call upon the Minister, in the words of the Clause, "to carry out some arrangements." When is he going to carry out the arrangements, and how, if it is to be done on an emergency, or ad hoc basis? In my submission this Amendment is absolutely inconsequential. It has no relation to the purposes of the Clause and would not work, and therefore I ask the Committee to reject it out of hand.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Maryle bone)
The hon. Member has told the Committee that he sees no good purpose in this Amendment except as having "a nuisance value." I hope in a minute or two to be able to put arguments before the Committee which will show that the hon. Member is erroneous in his supposition. On both sides of the Committee we are anxious to get a move on with the building of houses. If there is one thing which will stop us getting a move on in building houses, it is a state of uncertainty and lack of confidence in the building trade generally. As I see it, this Amendment seeks to remove that uncertainty in the industry. Only in the last few days, I have talked with builders merchants who say that because of this uncertainty, they cannot plan ahead. There are certain developments taking place now for the production of materials advantageous to the building of houses and helpful to the building industry, but those developments are in a state of stagnation. They are frustrated because people do not know where they are. The building merchants 1953 are in a state of uncertainty; they cannot get ahead and plan their sales ahead because they do not know. That is why I say that the Amendment does serve a very valuable purpose in helping to remove some of the uncertainty which now exists.
§ Mr. Bowles
How would it remove the uncertainty? The builders would be in the same uncertainty under this Amendment.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
The hon. Member asks how would some of this uncertainty be removed. The answer, surely, is that if the producers, the builders' merchants, get on with the job, provide the goods-and so forth, they know they will be allowed to do the job, but under the present Clause there is no such safeguard. They do not know, and that is the whole substance of our complaint. I do hope the Minister will reconsider this Amendment. It is not meant to be a wrecking Amendment, or a blow under the belt. I hope the Minister will give some certainty to those who are just as anxious as he is to get on with building houses. The amendment is one of substance; it will help to remove uncertainty and recreate that confidence without which I do not think the building of houses will make that progress which we all wish to see.
§ Mr. Norman Bower (Harrow, West)
I think the speeches of the hon. Members for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) and Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) have made it absolutely clear that the only thing which inspires the Government in their refusal to accept this Amendment is suspicion and hatred of private enterprise and the doctrinaire outlook which they and their supporters adopt towards it—and, of course, they have to think of the attitude of their supporters. The hon. Member for Gloucester, who has just gone out, said that even if the capacity for producing these materials existed, there was no guarantee that the required quantity would be produced, but we know that before the war those concerned were willing to produce enough materials for 350,000 houses in a year, which is about three times the number we can expect in any one year under the method at present being employed. I suggest that the sole desire of the Government, as was said very truly by the hon. Member for Dumbarton, is to interfere with private enterprise in any way they can, to put a spoke 1954 in its wheel and see that it does not get an opportunity to operate effectively and efficiently. If they go on like this we are going to get overlapping and interruption which will falsify all the predictions made by the Minister the other day.
§ Mr. Manningham- Buller
We have had a fairly extensive and far-reaching Debate on this Amendment. The first Amendment was described, quite unjustifiably, as a wrecking Amendment. This one has been described as putting a small hole in the boat below the water line. But if the Minister goes on putting forward the sort of arguments we have heard and nothing more against reasoned Amendments, he will find, much to his surprise one of these days, that he has struck a mine which has upset the Government. I think that the mine which may upset the Government irretrievably is housing. When an Amendment is moved seeking to define and explain the powers he wants for arranging distribution and production, the Minister says it is a half wrecking Amendment. No reason at all is put for ward in support of his objections; then he goes on to say "make no mistake about it, we want this power." We on this side of the Committee know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members of the Government want every power they can get without putting forward any reason at all for getting it. We would be willing to give the Minister the powers for which he asked, if we had the slightest indication that it is going to result in more houses in less time. But no statement of that sort has been forthcoming and in the course of this Debate it has become apparent that the intention of the Government, judging by the statements of their sup porters, is to use this wide and unlimited power for embarking on the battle of nationalisation, against private enterpriseߞ—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
—without regard to the provision of homes for the people who want them That is the important point we should keep in mind in considering this Bill and this Amendment.
Why is it that the Government want power to make arrangements for distribution and for production where, ex hypothesi, existing arrangements are adequate, to fulfil an estimated demand? Of course the word "estimated" is in 1955 the Amendment, and obviously means estimated by the Minister, and no one else. He has to be the judge. He told us on Second Reading that he had an expert staff, some of whom were borrowed from the Ministry of Supply, going into what was required and making detailed estimates. He is obviously the man who is able to estimate what capacity now exists and to estimate what is planned. All we on this side say is that where you know you have sufficient factory capacity to produce what you want at the time it is wanted—which is a paraphrase of the wording of this Amendment—and if you are satisfied with that, then use it, and do not take up time now in constructing some Heath Robinson machinery which may not produce any good at all.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
If there was no cause for it, why is it that for years and years before the war we appealed to the Governments to get on with housing, and private enterprise failed miserably?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has got the oyster in the wrong place. I am afraid I must have been squeezing some of the lemon. The hon. Gentleman's facts are entirely incorrect. He must have read his history in a most extraordinary place.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am sorry that he has lived his life so wrongly. He has only to have regard to the figures of what private enterprise did in building before the war to see that his statement is untrue. Now let me go on with my argument on this Amendment, because the hon. Gentleman's interruption has no relation to this Amendment.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Neither has it any relation to what I said. Let me come to this Amendment. The point is a simple one, and we ought to have a clear answer. Do the Government intend to use the existing plant and factory capacity? I suggest that in the majority of cases the Government know that exist- 1956 ing factory capacity and plant is sufficient, except in a few instances, to provide what would be required in the way of building materials and components. Do the Government intend to use that, or to set up a completely rival organisation which is bound to cause delay and, in my view, is bound to cause increased costs to those who are going to live in the houses? That is an important point.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I am sorry to interrupt, but I am afraid I did not quite follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. I think he suggested just now—or if he did not suggest it, I think he will agree—that this Government will stand or fall upon, as much as anything, the success of this housing scheme. Is he going to suggest that we shall not use all the possibilities that are available?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am not seeking to suggest anything, except that we should have had from the Government a clear statement on what the Government intend to do, and we ought to have it. We ought to be told what they intend to do, because hon. Members opposite in their speeches have indicated that they intend to use the wide powers contained in this Clause for promoting nationalisation against private enterprise. If they do that, it is an abuse of the intentions of this Bill. I am putting this point in all seriousness to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I want him to say where he stands in this matter. Does he intend to use all the existing, planned and projected capacity, or does he intend to set up a rival organisation? If he intends to use all the capacity that now exists, which was the suggestion put forward by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, then there can be no reason for his rejection of the first part of this Amendment. With regard to the second part, the same point really arises, and I do suggest that we should not pass from this matter without getting from some member of the Government a reasoned argument in favour of the rejection. The only reasoned argument so far adduced is that, of course, of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels). I must admit that, while I am sorry the Solicitor-General was not here to say whether he agreed with the hon. Member for Gloucester, I was not very much impressed with his reasoning on the actual wording of the Amendment. Before this 1957 matter goes, if need be, to a Division—and that, of course, will depend on whether we get an answer from a member of the Government on the point—I do ask the right hon. Gentlemen opposite to be clear and detailed in their statements of their intentions under the wide powers at present contained in this Clause.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Perhaps it would be taken amiss if I were to refer to simplicity a second time, but I think one needs to develop that simplicity in order to live peaceably in this House. I think that all the intentions to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred were declared in the Bill itself. The Bill is described as:A Bill to make financial provision for the purpose of facilitating the production, equipment, repair, alteration and acquisition of houses and other buildings.That is the purpose of the Bill, and the Clause says:Making and carrying out arrangements for the production and distribution of any-such materials or equipmentas are required for that purpose. All the Amendment does is to safeguard, or seek to safeguard, the existing productive capacity and tie down the Government to a position in which they will not, in any circumstances, develop any new capacity or find any new method of distribution until all the present means have been exhausted.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
If it does not do that, what is the object in seeking to tie the Minister's hands? What is the object in seeking to decide in detail what the Minister shall or shall not do, if it is not intended that the Bill should do that? It seems to me that the whole argument boils down to the question, not of what the Minister is going to do, but what he is going to do that private enterprise could do? Private enterprise may not be in a position to give us all the materials we want at a given time and in a given place, even though the capacity in the country were great enough. It may be the duty of the Government to use these powers in order to see to it that the capacity is increased, so that the production of those materials to produce the houses is there.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me a moment? If he looks at the words of the Amendment, he will see: 1958Where existing and projected factory capacity is estimated to be insufficient to produce the quantity required at the dates required.That covers the point which he has just made.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
No, it does not say anything about the place where they should be required. It may be that the hon. Gentleman suggests that I should alter the Amendment after the Debate has taken place in order to cover all the points that other people are thinking about. The Clause as drafted, in the opinion of the Government, meets the requirements of the Government in order to carry out this work. It is for that reason that it was simply drawn. In this House less than a fortnight ago, I sat on these benches, and for a long time listened to first one and then another hon. Member asking that Bills should be brought to the House in simple language. I cannot think of anything simpler than that to give us the powers to do what we desire to do.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I have been listening to the arguments on this Debate, and I have been wondering whether I should give full support to this Amendment. When I heard the eloquent speeches in support of the Government from the back benches and below the Gangway, I really thought there might be something to be said against the Amendment. The Amendment might be better if, before the word "capacity," the word "output" were inserted so as to make it quite clear that we did include the capacity for output. Frankly, since I have listened to the second speech of the Minister, I can only say it is quite clear that either the Government and those who prepare their briefs have not understood the Amendment—which merely says that before carrying out these schemes they have to estimate them or think about them—or else, which seems to be more probable from the trend of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, they are deliberately laying it down that, in no circumstances, must a Socialist Government think or consider. I think that is probably why they object to this Amendment, because they will not think about things. They never have done so, and never will do so. Any lawyer of repute would not support them, and the real reason they dislike the Amendment is that all their schemes are put down without any thought or estimation.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."1961
|Division No. 41].||AYES.||[5.29 p.m.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley||Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Amory, Lt.-Col. D. H.||Howard, Hon. A.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hurd, A.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Renton, Maj. D.|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Keeling, E. H.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Bossom, A. C.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Bower, N.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Lindsay, Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull)||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Braithwaite, LI. Comdr. J. G.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Carson, E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Teeling, Fit.-Lieut. W.|
|De la Bere, R.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.||Marsden, Comdr. A.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)||Touche, G. C.|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Turton, R. H.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Maude, J. C.||Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Erroll, Col. F. J.||Mellor, Sir J.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.||Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Nicholson, G.||White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Nutting, Anthony||Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Hare, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. H. (Woodb'ge)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V.||Peto, Brig. C H. M.||Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Major Mott-Radelyffe and|
|Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)||Callaghan, James||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Ewart, R.|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||Chamberlain, R. A.||Farthing, W. J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Chater, D.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Clitherow, R.||Follick, M.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cluse, W. S.||Foot, M. M.|
|Austin, H. L.||Cobb, F. A.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Cocks, F. S.||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Collick, P.||Freeman, P. (Newport).|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Collindridge, F.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Collins, V. J.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Colman, Miss G. M.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Gilzean, A.|
|Bartlett, V.||Cove, W. G.||Goodrich, H. E.|
|Barton, C.||Crawley, Fit.-Lieut. A.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.|
|Battley, J. R.||Grossman, R. H. S.||Granville, E. (Eye)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Daggar, G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Daines, P.||Grey, C. F.|
|Berry, H.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Grierson, E.|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Guy, W. H.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Haire, Fit.-Lieut. J. (Wyoombe)|
|Bowden, Fig. Off. H. W.||Deer, G.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Diamond, J.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Dodds, N. N.||Haworth, J.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Douglas, F. C. R.||Hicks, G.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Dumpleton, C. W.||Holman, P.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Dye, S.||Horabin, T. L.|
|Burden, T. W.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||House, G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Edelman, M.||Hoy, J.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lhampton, W.)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Janner, B.||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Swingler, Capt. S.|
|John, W.||Oldfield, W. H.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.|
|Jones, D T. (Hartlepools)||Oliver, G. H.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Jones, Maj. P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Keenan, W.||Parker, J.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Key, C. W.||Parkin, Fit.-Lieut. B. T.||Thomas, I O. (Wrekin)|
|King, E. M.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Kinley, J.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Perrins, W.||Thorneycroft, H.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Thurtle, E.|
|Lang, G.||Popplewell, E.||Tiffany, S.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Tolley, L.|
|Levy, B. W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Pritt, D. N.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Randall, H. E.||Walkden, E.|
|Longden, F.||Ranger, J.||Walker, G. H.|
|McAdam, W.||Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Mack, J. D||Reeves, J.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|MacKay, J. (Wallsend)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Rhodes, H.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|McLeavy, F.||Robens, A.||Weilzman, D.|
|Macpherson, T. (Remford)||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Rogers, G. H. R.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Marquand, H. A.||Royle, C.||Wigg, Col. G. E. C.|
|Mathers, G.||Scott-Elliot, W.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Mayhew, Maj C. P||Simmons, C. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Skinnard, F. W.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Monslow, W.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Montague, F.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Willis, E.|
|Moody, A. S.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Yates, V. F.|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Sorensen, R. W.||Young Sir R. (Newton)|
|Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Sparks, J. A.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Murray, J. D.||Stamford, W.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Stewart, Capt. M. (Fulham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Stokes, R. R.||Mr. Pearson and|
|Mr J. Henderson.|
§ Mr. Willink
I beg to move, in page 1, line 17, after "of," insert:and at the request of.This Amendment will not need so prolonged a Debate as the one which has just been disposed of. The Committee will recall that the third heading under which the proposed functions of the Minister of Works are described is in these terms:Carrying out, on behalf of any local authority, work undertaken by the authority,in discharge, to put it in broad terms, of its housing functions. In the course of the Second Reading Debate, the Minister of Health uttered two sentences which, when I read them again, do not give me entire satisfaction, although I have no reason to believe that the intention with regard to his action, or the action of the Minister of Works, in replacement of local authority action is other than I personally would wish it to be. What the Minister of Health said was:It is not proposed in the Bill, nor is it the intention of the Government in any circumstances under the Bill to set aside the housing functions of any local authority. But 1962 what we do desire is to have powers to reinforce the building strength of any area where it needs to be reinforced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26 Nov., 1945; Vol. 416, c. 999.]When I see in the Bill, "carrying, out on behalf of any local authority," I read the words as being by no means clear, and by no means as necessarily excluding the Minister of Works from saying: "I will make up my mind as to the needs of the local authority and if the local authority wants to keep me out and says that it can do a particular job itself without my intervention, the Bill will give me power none the less to do that work on its behalf, whether it wants me to do it or not."
We shall shortly come on to discussing the range of operations of the housing work which can properly and usefully be entrusted to a central Government Department. The party of which I am a member has always, since Disraeli, who so described it, been the friend of local government. The housing function I personally regard as essentially local in its general character. I regard it as most 1963 important that we should not have our housing done by a Whitehall Department, except in situations of special emergency and in connection with housing of special characteristics. I saw, during the war, and after the bombing, examples of very considerable friction and dissatisfaction arising because work of the same character was being done by the Minister of Works and the local authority simultaneously. That is not a satisfactory situation, and if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health were free to speak his mind he would not dissent entirely from what I have said.
The Amendment is short and simple, and proposes that it should be made clear that the function being given to the Minister of Works, whatever that function may be—we will come to that on the next Amendment—should not be to act, as the Minister of Health said, in the way of setting aside the housing functions of the local authority. He should not say: "I see the need and the local authority does not see the need. I am going to step in and meet the need on behalf of the local authority." The situation I have described should be avoided. The meaning of the words "on behalf" should be made quite clear by the insertion of the words, "at the request of."
I have a serious apprehension of a bad situation arising if there is supervision of the 1,440 housing authorities—I think that is the number—requiring visitation by many officials of the Ministry of Works, and there should be a lack of tact and resultant friction and so forth. The Minister cannot see all these things himself, and he may find there has been delay, friction and dissatisfaction, except in cases where there has been a real agreement, and the local authority, after reviewing the matter, and very likely after consultation with his officers, has come to the conclusion that it will be wise to ask for his assistance. Where that has taken place, things should go smoothly, but if the Ministry of Works, with the flying squads which have been discussed to some extent and will be discussed further, is to be given a free range to go down and to carry out housing functions of any kind in the area of any local authority, on its behalf though against its will, I feel that we shall be passing an enactment which will do more harm than good.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I am in full agreement with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, except that I think the position is clear without inserting the words. The effect of the Amendment would be that where we finance from the Fund housing work that is done for a local authority by the Minister of Works, it should be done only at the request of the local authority. In fact, as matters stand, we could not finance any such work except at the request of the local authority. If the local authority defaults, for instance, the Housing Acts under which we carry out the work, provide that the powers of the local authority may be transferred by Order to the Minister of Health. If the Minister of Health then asks the Minister of Works to carry out the work, it would have to be paid for out of money that was found on his Vote. We should then be doing the work on his behalf, and not on behalf of the local authority. It would not therefore be operated in any case through the Fund under this Bill. It seems to me in these circumstances, the position being such as has been described, that without the insertion of the words, the position is safeguarded.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Willink
I must ask for a clarification of this point. I am not satisfied at the moment with the explanation that has been given, because what I was contemplating and was anxious about was not any position in which there had been a default. There are many default clauses with regard to the action of local authorities, and very seldom are they used and very difficult is it to use them. This Clause, as it stands, is in far wider terms than one would expect it to be if it merely dealt with that sort of situation. As I read this Clause, as it is drafted at present, the fund could be used in housing carried out by a local authority on behalf of the Minister of Works, long before there was any sign of default, merely because there had been a heavy blitz on the town, or something of that sort. The right hon. Gentleman has not the advantage of the advice of either of the Law Officers at the moment, but I hope he will at any rate consider the language and drafting of the Clause, because I understood from his opening remarks that he was entirely in sympathy with the spirit of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
If I find, on reflection, and also on consultation, that there is 1965 danger of the sort to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred, I will undertake to reconsider the matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Willink
I beg to move, in page 1, line 17, leave out from "authority," to end of Subsection, and insert:of an area which has suffered extensive war damage or in which the local authority has an inadequate staff or insufficient building labour, work undertaken by the authority in connection with the provision of prefabricated housing accommodation for the working classes.This is an Amendment of a more substantial character. The Minister of Works as I understand the spirit of the Bill—whatever arises on the drafting which we have just been considering—is going to carry out what I might call the housing functions of the local authorities, and we on this side of the Committee agree that, in present circumstances, it is right that he should have certain powers of that kind. The Minister of Health in the course of the Second Reading Debate indicated two main areas within which that supplementation of the power of the local authorities to discharge their heavy burden would take place. He indicated that there were the heavily blitzed areas, where the shortage was so great that there would be a strong case for some supplementation by means of what he described as flying squads. He also pointed to rural areas. There are certain rural areas in which during the war there had been very substantial changes and where there will, we hope, be a continued increase of population. There will also be, until the Local Government Boundary Commission has done its work, a very large number of small rural districts without the resources either of organisation or of local building labour sufficient to meet their needs.
On the other hand, I think anyone who considers the Minister's project of flying squads thoughtfully will realise that there are very substantial difficulties about the policy. I must say that I do not know how they are to be recruited. There were special squads of Ministry of Works engaged on war damage repairing during recent years. They were, I believe, more highly paid than ordinary building operatives. I should like to know, and I think the Committee would like to know, 1966 whether it is the Government's intention to induce or attract men from the building trades into their own special flying squads at extra and additional rates of pay. I think the vast majority of the building industry will want to work at or near their own homes in this post war period. Is it the intention of the Government to build up these flying squads by, direction, for here 1 note that we are not dealing with a period of two years after the end of the German war, which the. Coalition described as a period of national emergency; we are proposing to deal with a period of something more than 5½ years after the end of the German war.
What are the conditions and terms on which these flying, squads are to work? I have no doubt whatever that one of the major causes for high building costs at the moment lies in the special terms with regard to labour, and in particular building labour, which have come into existence by reason of war conditions: subsistence allowances, travelling allowances, uniformity agreements, and all those matters. In this connection I would like to draw attention to the building costs of one cottage which have gone up by120 per cent. as between 1938 and 1945, whereas the costs of the materials needed—and these figures come from the right hon. Gentleman's own lips—have only gone up by 72 per cent. It is the cost of labour which has caused this most embarrassing rise and everybody in this Committee should be determined to do his utmost to bring it down, if the country is to have the houses it wants, either to rent or to own. I repeat that major elements in the rise of prices have been the special terms, building allowances, subsistance allowances, travelling allowances and the like which have had to be paid to building operatives who were working away from their own homes.
§ Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)
In view of the point which has just been made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the percentage increase in building costs, and as the percentage increase for building trade workers has been nothing like 70 per cent., is he suggesting that the increase has been caused by malingering on the part of the workers in the industry?
§ Mr. Willink
I really do not know why the hon. Member should interrupt me on that point. I was not dealing with the 1967 operatives' hourly rates of wages, or anything of that kind. I was quoting to the Committee from figures, which have been given to us from the Government Front Bench, to prove that the major element in the cost of works has been the increased cost of labour. [Interruption.] No, I will not be involved in an argument as to the price of land because that is a question which can be raised at the appropriate moment. We are not now discussing it, but I could make a very good answer with regard to the price of land if it were relevant. To return to the subject, what do the Government really propose with regard to these flying squads? Is a large part of the building industry to be formed into flying squads? If so, what is the additional cost going to be? Every local authority, from my own experience, will consider that it has its own special need for the use of a flying squad. Is there any local authority in the whole country which would not feel itself justified in claiming a flying squad after these six years of shortage; and what authority would not be prepared to argue, and to believe quite honestly, that its own needs were exceptional? But the point that I want to get at is that if these flying squads are to be offered special terms, then every normal building firm will find that its craftsmen and labourers are going to be enticed away by the offer of higher rates of wages, or they may even be directed away by the Government so that they can build up their own flying squads to travel all over the country.
There are real and solid risks in this policy of flying squads if it is carried too far. They could easily give rise to friction and jealousy between one local authority and another, each thinking that its own needs ought to have priority over those of its neighbour. It occurs to my hon. Friends and myself that the real way to deal with the question of these flying squads being used by the local authority, which has suffered the normal shortage, from which the whole country is suffering, as opposed to the exceptional local authority which is in need of very special help, is to make it clear in the Bill. If it is not made clear, exaggerated hopes will be excited in local authorities. It is for that reason that I am prepared to accept the two categories 1968 to which the Minister of Health referred in the Second Reading Debate, that is, the categories of those in need of special assistance. We entirely agree that there will be cities and towns with special war damage where it would be justifiable to introduce flying squads. I think, too, that the rural districts where there is special need and where it is not so easy to get new building firms or where the labour is entirely insufficient, should have special help in the way of labour.
We hope that the Government will not insist on powers of this unlimited width, a width which would entitle the Minister of Works, if he got requests from local authorities, to direct away all the building labour in a neighbourhood. It might be argued that the country has given a mandate for certain types of nationalisation, but I do not know of any mandate for the nationalisation of the building industry. I hope that while accepting the idea which is in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, in the use of these flying squads for the interest of the community, we shall have an assurance from him that their use will not conflict with the needs of local labour in the district. In the case of areas which have suffered extensive war damage or where, through no fault of their own the local authority has insufficient organisation or labour to deal with its problem, we should like to see authorities in those instances have all the help that could possibly be given to them. And we should like to see prefabricated houses provided by special technically trained flying squads of the Ministry of Works.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hicks (Woolwich, East)
I would not have intervened in the Debate if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had had the courtesy to give way, when I rose a moment or two ago.
§ Mr. Hicks
It was on the question of the agreement—of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made rather "heavy weather"—by which building trade workers were transferred from one town to another. It has been a long established arrangement between employers and operatives that, whenever an operative was sent away from home to work for a contractor in another town, he should have his expenses paid. I 1969 take it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not regard that as unfair or improper. Whatever the extent of the flying squad may be, I do not know, but I favour the principle of the flying squad. In the Coalition Government we found it extremely useful; it rendered magnificent service in many parts of the country. In many parts of the country where the building personnel has been greatly reduced, and the damage has been heavy, it will be impossible for local people effectively to pull up the arrears, let alone meet the present needs. Therefore, there will be need to despatch men to certain parts of the country. But I am certain the natural desire of building workers will be to live as near their homes as possible now that the war is over and be able to deal with the building work in that way.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the question of materials and labour, and it appeared that labour was responsible for the very high cost. The building industry is very heavy at one end, and there are a lot of youths at the other; the ordinary balance in the industry as it was before the war is a very long way out. Young men who would normally be absorbed into the industry, provided they had an opportunity, would help to bring about a more favourable balance and help the economy of the industry generally. There was another point which he did not mention. Who would say that the cost of material has only gone up by 72 per cent.? Materials have to be conveyed from the place of manufacture to the site where they are used, and there is the cost of the transport that is needed. I do not know what additional costs there are on these things. I am certain that they have gone up, rightly and properly, but I do not think they have gone up out of proportion either one way or the other.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I would not have intervened in this discussion except for the very interesting speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks). I was interested to hear the hon. Member, who has the respect of many of us who have known him for a long time, describing the position of the building industry as being over balanced with old people at one end and young people at the other. That is really the true position, but, unfortunately, the whole trouble is that the people who come in between 1970 have been sent elsewhere and we cannot get them back. The hon. Gentleman forgot—I think it was a point he would have liked to have made—to remind the Committee of a very interesting incident which happened within a few hundred yards of this Chamber about six months ago, when it was proved how many bricks could be laid in an hour. It was a very interesting competition. I do not know whether the hon. Member lost his bet, but the number of bricks that can be laid in an hour have a bearing on the cost of building. I am not against flying squads. They have performed a very admirable purpose, but nothing is said about the position of men who want to build but are not allowed to build. I have continually asked the Government to release men from the shipyards, and they sometimes do. If we could speed up the release of building trade workers from the Services, it would enable the building squads to be made much more efficient.
I am waiting, naturally, to hear what the representative of the Government has to say about the Amendment before coming to any rash decision upon it. I am not accustomed to voting in this or that lobby, and I know that many hon. Gentlemen are in the same position. Could not the Government give a few details? The Amendment might do a great deal to help towards solving the building problem. The Government have been very hard on us so far, but I believe that the Amendment is excellent and the Government might do something to encourage us.
§ Mr. Williams
I am very reluctant to deal with interruptions. Very often when the two Front Benches agree, the thing is completely wrong from the point of view of the back-bencher. I always dislike being interrupted on these occasions. I ask the Government whether, in the widest interests of building, it would not be advisable to accept the Amendment, or something very near it. It would possibly be an improvement to the Bill as it now stands.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) said that flying squads had done very useful work during the war. I 1971 would remind him of one which came down to my constituency and of which, I am sure, he has a recollection. About 90 men came to convert a hostel on the top of the underground factory at Corsham which had been used for single workers. These 90 men set about changing the huts into married quarters. Lord Portal was then Minister of Works and this was considered an admirable experiment. The flying squad descended upon us, the ordinary builders were taken away to London, and 90 men were left to go on doing their job. I had to intervene because local builders did not like their own men being taken away while the Ministry of Works left 90 men on the job. The 90 men did not finish the job, but the cost of what they had done was found to have been more than the putting up of new houses, although they were only converting. The result of that was that we have not been able to get on with the conversion of houses into married quarters because of this precedent of the appalling cost of the flying squad, which has greatly retarded the temporary housing arrangements which might have been made.
The men who went from the provinces to the bomb damage in London, I suppose, could be called flying squads in their way. The money they earned in London, together with the allowances, which properly they should have for travelling and billeting, has turned out to be much higher than the rates they were earning in the provinces. I am not saying that is a good, or a bad thing, but the result is that the whole of the building workers in the provinces are wondering whether these rates are to continue, and whether they can have them after the war. You can get a man into the building squad by directing him. Suppose he comes out under Class B and you use the powers of direction and tell him to go into the flying squad. If he is directed there he can only have the normal pay. If, on the other hand, you get men into the flying squad by attraction, you must offer them more money than they would get by joining some firm in the neighbourhood of their homes. Whatever we do, the flying squad system must tend to push up the wages in the ordinary building industry. I am not saying if this is a bad or a good thing, but if the Committee desires to bring down the 1972 price of houses we have to be careful of the extent to which we use the system of flying squads. A flying squad man is bound to receive more money from living away from home and, therefore, he might continue in the flying squad. I ask the Government not to recruit men to the flying squads who want to work near their homes if there is work to do; and in what part of the country is there not work for them to do? Let them go and work near their homes. That would be more likely to get the houses put up and more likely to keep the cost down, and so I support the Amendment.
§ 6.15 p.m
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I would like to add a word on this matter and to the pressure already put on the Minister to define his intention more clearly. It would be extremely unwise if the impression were known that it was the intention of the Government to use flying squads to a degree which in itself would provide undoubtedly an added element of cost to the finished house and would also add to the obligation of housing the workers who were engaged on the actual building of houses. We have already had instances in some parts of the country of an influx of imported workers, and that has caused a very serious housing shortage. We might easily see that being developed in the realm of building where there were others awaiting houses, and they would be overcrowding the existing houses and the people there would be put to further inconvenience by the introduction of builders from outside the area who had no houses inside the area.
Whatever the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) may say, we are all agreed that the use of the flying squads for general building purposes is bound to add to the ultimate cost of building. The hon. Member is perfectly justified in asking that, where a man is sent away from home, he must draw allowances. It is a very long-established custom in the building industry. But we are concerned here, as the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) has said, with the ultimate cost of building. If we are going to develop this use of flying squads to a great degree, the total additional cost to the housing programme will be something which will be very embarrassing. Just now, I used the phrase "for general building purposes." What the hon. Member for East Woolwich might have 1973 said was that the flying squad principle is nothing new in the building industry at all. As a matter of fact, with the specialist type of sub-contractor, the flying squad is a very well-established practice, for plastering, joinery, plumbing and so on. Why was it?
I hope there will be no confusion on this matter, for the right hon. Gentleman may have been misled into thinking that flying squads could be used more widely because of the long established practice of sub-contractors using them in peace time. In war, they were used because they were particularly highly trained and efficient men in specific branches of the building trade industry. In spite of the fact that these men were paid higher rates of pay and were given lodging allowances and allowances for being away from home, by their employer—and it did not need State enterprise to introduce that system—such was their larger degree of efficiency that the job in the end was done more economically. That argument cannot be applied today to general building trade labour. It is quite a different issue today, and I hope that the Minister has not been misled into thinking that flying squad labour in general building can produce the same results in efficiency as were produced in peace time by these specialists and highly skilled men.
§ Mr. Hicks
The only point that I was making was that there are no extra higher rates of pay for flying squad men. Whatever it is they receive, it is in accordance with the rules agreed between the master builders and themselves in the locality. That is the particular point to remember—that their wages are no higher or lower—and that is provided in one of the regulations, Regulation 56 (A), and in other Regulations which provide that the wages are to be no higher or lower than those mutually agreed between the employers and the men. Whatever extra rates may be paid might have been related to overtime, but there is no question of giving them higher rates than they could get any other way, because it was all done in conformity with building trade practice.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I absolutely appreciate what the hon. Member says, and, if I said anything which implied that I was attacking a higher rate, or suggesting that a higher rate was paid than normally would have been paid, I would like to correct it. The hon. Member, however, 1974 will agree that, if the output of men in a flying squad is the same as the output would be of men who are in the area, obviously the ultimate cost would be greater. That is the great point. The only excuse for using flying squads by sub-contractors, before the war, in which cases they were highly trained specialists used to working in a team, was that they produced work more rapidly and thus the cost was not higher.
There is one other point which I would ask the Minister to consider very seriously indeed. There is no possible doubt, from our experience in this country over the last few months, that the greater element of local labour which can be employed on housing the more interest there is to that labour in getting on with the job. We cannot get away from it; it is a psychological problem. We have all seen difficulties in London and have seen how completely "browned off" men have become in carrying work to a certain stage and being moved to do it all over and over again. I ask the Minister to do nothing that would perpeuate the lack of interest of the workmen in their job or deter men from putting their best work into it. The great difficulty about the flying squad is the temptation imposed on the men by the fact that they never see the job finished. Work in flying squads means that men will only be able to carry their work so far and then they will be moved on to another job, and it is quite certain that that is not the best way to use building labour. A man likes to see the job finished, and, when he can do so, he is inclined to put his best into his work, and the chaps working with him like to carry the job through until they put up the Union Jack through the window. That is an angle of the problem which I would ask the Minister not to forget, and I invite him to consider this Amendment very carefully, and to consider whether, if he refuses this Amendment, he will not give an entirely wrong impression, not only to the local authorities, but to the building trade labour in this country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Derek Walker-Smith
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) has sought to defend the flying squads on the grounds of ߞ—
§ Mr. G. Porter
On a point of Order, Major Milner. Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman develops his speech, I 1975 want to ask whether the discussion is in accordance with the Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman. The purpose of the Amendment, so far as I can see, is only for determining the type of work that shall be done under certain conditions, and only in regard to that point, I suggest, ought any discussion to take place, and all this is entirely out of Order.
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
Perhaps the hon. Member will be good enough to leave questions of Order to the Chair.?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith
I would like to refer to the point made by the hon. Member for East Woolwich. As we know, he speaks with great expert knowledge and great fairness on matters dealing with the building industry. The hon. Member has stated that the wages to be paid for people employed other than in their own localities are governed by agreements entered into by the two sides in the industry, and that this is the pre war practice. That, of course, in essence, is true; but the point which I would like to put to the hon. Member and to the Government is that the employment of operatives outside their areas of living was comparatively rare in pre war days, and that, when they were so employed, it was generally on account of one or other of two reasons—either as technically skilled operatives employed by sub-contractors in the way referred to by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing), or as operatives who were part of a nucleus of labour which, as I think the hon. Member will agree, employers attracted around them in private enterprise building before the war. Normally, when a sub-contractor, for instance, in Bristol, got a contract in Hull, he would take with him some of that nucleus of labour; and the men went willingly for the payment obtaining in the area to which they were going, plus such travelling time and other allowances as were prescribed by the agreements entered into by the normal machinery of the industry.
It is in another way that we contemplate that flying squads will be used by the Minister under this Bill. These will be flying squads directed by the Minister. They will not be nuclei of labour attracted round any employer; and so, I submit, the Committee is bound to ask itself what are the inducements which are 1976 going to attract this labour to these flying squads. They can only be one of two inducements. They can be monetary, but the hon. Member for East Woolwich has already answered that point when he said that, under the Regulations, there will be no monetary inducement, because the men will be paid at the normal wages prevailing in the locality. The other inducement is that of direction; and, if it is objected that expenses may be incurred above what is necessary by the payment of extra wages to flying squads, how much more objectionable is it to contemplate that this provision regarding flying squads is going to lead to the perpetuation of the direction of labour in the building industry? I would like the Minister to address himself in his reply to this point. What is the inducement to be applied? If monetary, will he deal with the point which was put by the hon. Member for East Woolwich? And, if it is not, is it to be a principle of direction?
This Clause, as it stands, would allow the Minister to enter the field of traditional building for the housing of the working classes with direct labour, without any restriction either as to the area, or type of houses to be built, or alternative sources of building available. That is to give an "Open Sesame" to State building by direct labour in the field of housing; and I submit that that would be a great mistake. The experience of flying squads to date has been that, in their operations, they are expensive, uneconomical and unattractive to those engaged in them. Flying squads, at their best, are a juggling with the existing resources of labour and a camouflage of the real difficulty, which is the overall shortage of labour. This Clause was not defended on these grounds in the Second Reading Debate. So far as I can see, the particular Subsection with which we are dealing was not referred to by the Minister of Works at all in his speech in introducing this Bill. After criticisms had been made from these Benches of the possible sinister implication of this Clause, the Minister of Health addressed himself to answer those criticisms when he was winding up the Debate. It is true that the Minister of Health said that bulk purchase and direct labour were the principles—
§ The Chairman
The hon. and gallant Member is really making a Second Read- 1977 ing speech. He must address himself to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith
I apologise if I have transgressed. The point which I was about to make was that very Wide powers are given under this Clause as it stands, and that the Amendment, with which my name is associated, is designed to place upon those powers limitations not inconsistent with the grounds on which the Minister of Health defended the Clause in the Second Reading Debate. If I might very briefly continue that argument, the Minister of Health did defend this Clause on the grounds that it was required for rural areas, blitzed areas and areas with inadequate building labour. I could quote chapter and verse if necessary, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind the passage to which I am drawing his attention, in which the Minister did say that the powers were wanted for these limited purposes. There was no question of their being required for the wider purposes to which we take objection under this Clause. Therefore, I say that the limitations imported by this Amendment are limitations which ought to commend themselves to the Government, if the Government agree with what the Minister of Health said when he was winding up the Debate. I, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, because it simply imposes restrictions which, it is reasonable to assume from the speech of the Minister of Health, he would be willing to accept.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Porter (Warrington)
I have been a member of a local authority for a few years, and I have also been a member of the National Housing Committee organised by the Association of Municipal Corporations. In view of experience of housing questions under local authorities, the probabilities are that the Minister will not accept the Amendment. These are a few of the things we had to experience after the last war. In the town where I live the first council housing scheme was given to the local master builders, and we found ourselves in the unfortunate position that the master builders disagreed among themselves and took their bricklayers away to other jobs where they were able to make a greater profit. At that time we had a Conservative majority on the local council, and 1978 their leader was so disgusted with the state of affairs that he requested us to send a delegation to a town in the South of England. As a result of that it was decided to build houses by direct labour, and the result of that was a saving of £26 per house as compared with the last tender of private enterprise. At the end of the contract the Conservative Party decided that we should have no more schemes of direct labour. But when our next housing scheme got going our building inspectors had to report to us that the work was unsatisfactory and asked for it to be pulled down. It is rather funny that we had to employ building inspectors to see that private enterprise did the job properly.
§ Captain Marples
Would the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee who pays for the inspector who inspects the houses?
§ Captain Marples
May I correct the hon. Member? The fees of the district surveyor are paid by the private enterprise builders.
§ Mr. E. Porter
Whatever takes place in other parts of the country does not necessarily take place in Lancashire, and every housing authority, to protect the ratepayers, is compelled to appoint not only building inspectors but sanitary inspectors as well. I sincerely hope the Opposition's Amendment will not be pressed, because if it was accepted it would mean that local authorities would be left high and dry. If it is rejected a local authority can call on the Ministry of Works to send a flying squad if required. I happen to have been a trade union official, and my work took me on to most of the building works of all descriptions in Lancashire and the North of England. Since 1918, up to coming into this House, I have been chairman of the workers side of the clay industry and chairman of the Joint Industrial Council concerned with the making of bricks, tiles, etc. I claim to have some knowledge of the building industry, and I can state very definitely that the majority of bricks are made in the North of England. We have seen scamped work which has been a disgrace to the private builders of this country.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to have to intervene, but this is not a Debate on the advantages or disadvantages of 1979 direct labour. The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to the Amendment.
§ Mr. E. Porter
I will conclude by appealing once more to the Minister not to accept this Amendment under any circumstances, if he wants to see houses built as they ought to be built.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I had hoped, after I had given an assurance about the last Amendment, that this further Amendment would not have been moved. All the arguments that have been used have been devoted to showing that a Minister of Works who was anxious to do outrageous things might go here and there and do them by means of his flying squads. When I said, when the previous Amendment was withdrawn, that I would make sure that it would be at the request of the local authority, I was definitely referring to this type of work. The question of whether or not we have a mandate to set up flying squads and send them here or there does not arise. I do not think, however, that there is any doubt as to whether the Government's mandate enables them to utilise what they consider to be the best means of obtaining the most houses in the shortest possible time. I do not think anybody would question that. There has been a lot of argument as to whether or not flying squads are the best way of doing it, and we should need to be convinced that it was the best before adopting it.
I would however like to call the attention of the Committee to the purpose of the Bill, because it seems to me that we have been getting away from what it is intended to do. It is to make financial provision for these things. From what has been said it almost appears that, if this Amendment were accepted, it would limit the power of the Minister of Works to carry out this work at the request of the local authority. As a matter of fact the Minister of Works has the power now. He already has authority, at the request of any local authority, to go and build by direct labour, but he would have to recover the cost from the local authority. It seems strange to me, if it is desirable that he should build prefabricated houses, that it should not also be desirable for him to build traditional houses, if the local authority for some reason requests it. Therefore it is simply a question of how financial provision is to be made. I 1980 put it to the right hon. Gentleman that this Amendment should really be withdrawn. All these questions relating to flying squads and to the conditions under which people are called upon to work are questions of interest, but they are not of interest so far as this Amendment is concerned. I do not think they have any relation to the Amendment. I should be prepared to argue that it was necessary that special conditions should be set up; nobody believes that men can be moved, or asked to move from one part of the country to another to do a job, without receiving the expenses necessarily incurred by them in moving about and living away from home. The direction of labour does not come into it. Neither is it the intention of the Government to be so foolish as to set up flying squads to do work which others can do. We may be simple, or we may be taken for being simple, but I really think that we ought not to be treated as being quite so simple as would appear from some of the arguments put before the Committee.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
What would be the position, in regard to the direction of labour, of men coming out of the Forces? Could a man coming out of the Forces under Class B be directed to a flying squad?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
He would be in the same position whether he was sent to a flying squad or directed into another part of the building industry. If he was engaged in the building industry under direction, whether or not he was in a flying squad would have no relevance. In view of what I have already said, that the flying squad will be used at the request of local authorities, I really think the Amendment had better be withdrawn.
§ Mr. C. Williams
These flying squads have been sprung upon us rather suddenly today; will the Government take every opportunity to get men out of the Forces into the building industry as quickly as possible, apart from that?
§ Mr. Willink
I have received some slight satisfaction, though very slight from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I took comfort from the fact that he said that the Government would need to be convinced of the need in a particular case. If I could really accept in its fullness as an expression of the Government's intention his remark to the 1981 effect that it was not intended to set up flying squads to do work which someone else could do, I should of course be completely satisfied. The trouble is that we cannot help suspecting that it is the Government's intention in many directions to set up organisations to do work which somebody else can do.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I would not like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to take satisfaction from something I have not intended. I hope I did not mislead him when I said "something somebody else can do." I meant in a particular area.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Willink
I accept that. I understood that to be the intention of the right hon. Gentleman—that he was telling the Committee that it is not the intention of the Government to set up a flying squad to do work that either the local authority or the local building industry could do in that area. That would be of substantial satisfaction to those on this side of the Committee. However, I am not alone, I think, in feeling that the Minister has given us no information as to the extent to which what is admitted to be an expensive method is to be used, or indeed, as to the way in which that expense is ultimately to be borne. I understand that the more flying squads are used, the greater an uneconomical method will be in use, and the greater the burden falling upon the taxpayer. I feel strongly that we were right to probe this question because, after all, the Minister of Health in the Second Reading Debate told the House that the Bill had been drawn in order that the House might see… the way in which we propose to exercise the financial powers already possessed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November,1945; Vol. 46, c. 999.]So we were examining the manner in which these financial powers are to be used on behalf of local authorities. However, on the assurance that it is not the intention of the Government to set up flying squads to do work that some one else could do in the area in question, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I beg to move, in page 1 line 22, leave out "forty-seven," and insert "fifty."
1982 On second thoughts—and I think even a Government are right to have second thoughts on a Bill—we felt that 1947 was rather too early and as there should be a date, we are asking for the substitution of 1950 for 1947. The only effects of this which are of real importance are first, that we should not need to come to the House quite so soon for a survey as to whether or not it was necessary to extend the time; and secondly, that if we had not taken the £100 million by 1947 it would be necessary to do so and pay interest on carrying on an unnecessary balance. Since we are just as anxious as the Opposition—who have displayed great anxiety—that this Fund should" not be over-burdened, and that we should not show the losses which have been mentioned, we are anxious not to add to that burden unduly. We suggest, therefore, the substitution of 1950 for 1947 as the date at which no further advances shall be made.
§ Mr. Willink
This Amendment, though it only proposes to insert one word instead of another, is one of the most astonishing which has been brought forward. At the very least, surely I am entitled to say, never has there been a more conspicuous example of ill-thought-out legislation. The Second Reading of the Bill was taken last Monday, and we were most unduly pressed to take the Committee stage within a week, as a matter of very great importance, but so short a time as seven days ago the Government thought that two years was sufficient for the duration of this Bill. And not one single reference was there then to any thought in the mind of His Majesty's Government that the proper period was not that included in the Bill, on the back of which were the names of no fewer than five Ministers of the Crown. Yet for some reason—and the two reasons given are as follow: first, that two years was a bit too early; secondly, that It would be desirable not to be forced to come to the House quite so soon—this Amendment is introduced by the right hon. Gentleman.
I find it impossible to see any justification for this change at this moment. Why should the Government not come to the House as soon as they proposed to come to it seven days ago? Why should the House be put off and not know what the position is under these accounts until five 1983 years from now? One of the most conspicuous points with. regard to this is that, of course, by this Amendment the Government would postpone the termination of this account until after the next General Election, which seems a curious proposition, and my hon. Friends and myself are bound to take the view that perhaps there was discussion between the Minister of Health and his colleagues on his suggestion that the acute housing shortage would be finished in about two years, which he gave as his vague estimate in a Debate within the last three weeks. I think it must have been suggested to him, "You have not made many promises, but that was rather a rash one. It is going to be more like five years before, under your programme, we see much progress." So on this Bill, and I suppose on many others, we shall see a similar indication of a slowing up of the programme and a legacy to another Parliament to see what is the result of this curious unlimited company—as my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) described it, The Minister has given no reasons at all for this very sweeping change in the whole scope of the Bill, which he described as something which was needed in order that the Government might not report to the House as early as, a week ago, they proposed.
§ Mrs. Castle (Blackburn)
As the only person, I believe, who, during the Second Reading Debate on the Bill, referred to this question of the period during which advances could be made by the Treasury to the Minister of Works for the purposes of this Bill, I want to thank the Government for having listened to the advice I tendered to them then. I was concerned, when I saw the time limit fixed in the Bill, by the fact that it was obvious that the Government were not giving themselves time, not giving themselves elbow room, to get this Fund on to a self-financing basis. Now the idea, I understand, behind the proposition put forward was not that the activities visualised under this Bill would not be necessary after September, 1947, but that by that time the Fund might have got on to a basis on which, owing to the flow of income from the local authorities, advances would no longer be necessary. But the Fund would continue. Now the purpose of the Bill, as we have been discussing it tonight, is twofold: first, to finance the production 1984 of permanent, prefabricated houses; secondly, to finance the production and bulk purchase of the components for all types of permanent houses.
Accepting these purposes—as we on this side of the Committee do accept them, and we do not expect hon. Gentlemen opposite to accept them—it is quite obvious that you will not in two years have reached a situation in which your expansion will have ended and it will be possible to say that you can dispense with advances from the Treasury to finance the work you are trying to do. Take, for example, the permanent, prefabricated houses. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, have made it quite clear that they will encourage to the utmost experiments in prefabrication in the interests of the housing drive that we intend to embark upon. These experiments have not yet reached a very advanced stage, and I think their predecessors must accept some responsibility for that fact. I want to say this, that the private firms in this country and private individuals in this country who believe in prefabrication and its possibilities—who believe that its potentialities can be developed with encouragement, far further than they have yet been developed—will not thank hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite for trying to limit the amount of financial encouragement which the Government can give under this Bill to these experiments. I believe that by September, 1947, we shall only just have begun to reach fruition in the experimental technical work that must be done in the prefabrication of permanent homes, and it would be disastrous if those experiments were to be held up in any degree by the fact that a limit had been placed on the time during which advances could be made by the Treasury to the Minister of Works.
I am also very much concerned with the second purpose of this Bill—one which I believe to be of vital importance—namely, the bulk purchase and the production by the Government, where necessary, of the components of permanent traditional homes. Now our production of permanent housing is going to go on during the next few years at an accelerated rate. Month by month we shall see production exceeding the previous month's total, and therefore the outgoings on the purchasing of components is likely each month to 1985 exceed that of the previous month, and we shall need to have a little in hand in order that this encouragement can be given. I personally believe, and I know that local authorities in this country believe, that the intervention by the Government in the bulk purchase of the fitments of permanent traditional brick houses can play a vital part in bringing down building costs, and in speeding up the rate of production, and they are looking to my right hon. Friends to give them a dramatic lead in this direction. But as our permanent housing reaches its peak, we shall need to have enough finance behind the Government to enable them to engage upon this work.
Therefore, I welcome very much the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works. I had an Amendment of my own down upon the Order Paper, which I do not move because this Amendment substantially meets the point that I was trying to make. I urge that if we really have faith in the purposes of this Bill—and we on this side of the Committee stand behind it four-square—then we accept this Amendment advanced to? night as an example of a Government quite courageously and quite justly having intelligent second thoughts.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
I am sorry to disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) in regard to this Amendment. I cannot help feeling that he is not perhaps seized of the really practical side of the issue. I should have thought it was becoming increasingly obvious to all members of this Committee—and, indeed, to most of the country—that the number of houses which are to be built by the end of September, 1947, will not be sufficient to absorb anything like the £100 million for which this Bill provides. Now, if I might take the case of my own village, we very badly need Council houses there. Seven or eight months ago the land was bought by the local authority. It was surveyed and approved by the various and numerous Ministries concerned, and we were promised by our representative on the local authority that there would be 20 houses erected by 31st December of this year. So far, not one brick has been laid, not one turf has been lifted. The field is there, the approval is there, and that is all that is there. I am very sorry that 1986 the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) is not moving her Amendment, because from a practical point of view I think it would be far better not to limit this to 1950, but allow it to stretch to infinity. She has called upon the right hon. Gentleman to give a dramatic lead, but I fancy he will end up by supplying a quiet curtain. She has faith in the purpose of this Bill. So have we all. We have all great faith in its purpose, but we lack faith in its achievement; and it is for that reason, and purely practically, that I support this Amendment, because I think otherwise the Government will get themselves into a position of frustration and ridicule, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman realises.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
If I understood the Minister of Works rightly he said one reason why this Amendment was required was because the Government did not want to have to come to this House for authority.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I should have thought this was the proper place to come for authority. I presume the right hon. Gentleman and others sitting with him on the Government front bench are entitled to call themselves statesmen. I think wise statesmanship should have encouraged the Government on previous occasions, as on this, to make a concession to the Opposition, which they could safely do, by agreeing to a limited period of two years, in the full confidence that if they continued to justify the confidence of the country they could safely come back to Parliament in two years time and ask for an extension of these powers. Only a few days ago, when we were discussing the Finance Bill, it was necessary to point out that the Government did not propose to allow industrialists more than just one year in which to complete the very extensive change-over—in many cases—from war to normal peace conditions, and that while any losses they might incur during that 12 months would be borne by the E.P.T. cushion that would not be the case thereafter. Why should they concede to those who are in such difficulties a period of one year only, and then come arid ask to be given carte blanche for a period of five years for themselves, when, if they had any confidence in their scheme, they could 1987 rest assured they would find no difficulties facing them if they came back to ask for a further extension after two years? There has been more than one instance in which the Government might well have given way without any loss of face and with real statesmanship. It does pay sometimes to make a concession to the Opposition, when by so doing the Government really lose nothing. I urge the Government to give consideration to what I have said, and see whether they cannot meet us.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
May I in two or three minutes put as clearly as I can the point that is bewildering me and, I venture to say, will be bewildering those of us on both sides who have recently entered Parliament. I confess that it is depressing, to put it at its lowest, to think back, in spite of what we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman, to the drafting of this Bill. You think of the numbers of eminent assistants that are in the Ministry, you think of the right hon. Gentleman, you think of the great mistake that was made, apparently, by not asking the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) for her advice at at earlier stage—because if she is right it seems to me that what she said had an electric effect on the right hon. Gentleman. With all the paraphernalia of the Department martialled behind them the Government decided, for some very good reasons no doubt—they must have been good reasons—on the year 1947.It must have been most carefully selected. Then why this change within so short a period? The "new boys" on both sides of the Committee know that these things go through very quickly. These Bills are prepared, we see them, and here we are, in about a fortnight's time, trying to deal with these matters. What is it that has happened, that is what I long to know, since the Bill was drafted to cause the Government to make the year not1948 or 1949 but 1950? Why does it go to 1950? I beg the right hon. Gentleman to believe that there are many of us who attend faithfully and patiently to all that he says and all that his supporters say, but we come here expecting to have matters explained to us and why is it that suddenly this particular Amendment should come along without, in substance, any real explanation such as would satisfy anybody? An hon. Member can only say, "I was in the House tonight when 1988 the Government altered the date from 1947 to 1950 and the only reason given was that they thought, for some reason that is not given, that it would be wiser to put the, date at 1950." I call in aid the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, who clearly is not entirely satisfied, although she has not given reasons why she is not. She says the action of the Government has met her to some extent.
§ Mr. Maude
Substantially the Government have met her desire. That is fascinating, because if you look at her Amendment the years seem to pass into infinity. There was no sign of any end of the thing at all, but now the year 1950 substantially satisfies her. Whether 1949 would have satisfied her—who knows? She has never told us. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to take all of us into his confidence, his own supporters as well. It may be that they are in the secret, that they do know the reasons. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Then it may be that they are tired and do not want to know the reasons, but we do long to know why it is. Something has happened. One cannot help feeling that unless some good answer is given to satisfy us, Members on all sides may reflect in a day or two that perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) was right, and that this Amendment has got some not too attractive political reason behind it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
I do wish the right hon. Gentleman would really treat the Amendments which have been put down with serious consideration, and also the arguments which have been put against them, because we on this side of the Committee feel very strongly about them. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider this: On the Second Reading of the Bill many Members would have been prepared to accept for a limited period certain proposals, which they did not like. If, on the Committee stage, the period is not only increased but more than doubled, it seems to me—I do not wish to imply any unpleasant or sinister motive to the Government—that it is a way of stifling opposition to bring in some Amendment which would have been very seriously challenged if it had been in the Bill on the Second Reading. That could go on ad infinitum. What is to pre- 1989 vent a substantial Amendment being moved by one of the noble colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman in another place, which might very well add still further arguments to those which would have already been contested strongly on the Second Reading of the Bill.
For that reason, I think that the right hon. Gentleman on this occasion would add to the smoothness of the passage of this Bill if he could see his way to meeting to some extent the arguments put for-ward from this side of the Committee. I feel that Members of Parliament, of whatever party they may be, would not regard it as a sign of weakness for the Government to come back in two years time to the House of Commons to justify their action, and ask for further confidence. The only thing which will prevent that would be if—and I think it is a justifiable argument—some people thought that the Government introduced this because they feared that in two years time the whole thing would be in a mess, and that they would not get a Vote of Confidence. For that reason I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will really consider the serious arguments put forward my Members on this side of the Committee.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
I feel that this Amendment is a very unfortunate one from the Government's point of view. In addition to the reasons already put forward, if we look at the sum provided under the Bill the total amount shall not at any time exceed £100 million. Under the Bill, as it stands, there has been a limit up to 1947. That is extended in the Amendment to 1950, and I should have thought it would have been a greater stimulant to the building of houses, and all concerned with the provision of houses, if this were to remain at 1947 instead of being extended to 1950 as the Amendment proposes. Apart from the unfortunate fact of introducing an Amendment of this sort after a Second Reading Debate—and I agree with the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken about that—it encourages, by extending to 1950, a more lax view and a sense of less urgency about the building of houses than would have been the case had the date been left at 1947.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) says that she, and other hon. 1990 Members opposite, stand behind this Bill four square. There was one point that the hon. Lady mentioned, which I do not think was dealt with at all, either in the introduction of the Bill or the final speech of the Minister of Health. I think she did those on this side of the Committee an injustice when she said that we were trying to limit the amount of financial encouragement that could be given. I hope that I shall be able to satisfy her, if she will listen to me, that this is not the case at all. Let us get quite clear what the position is: under the Bill, the Government can borrow up to September, 1947, £100 million. They cannot borrow any sum as the Bill now stands after that date; but they can get all their £100 million by that date. The Bill does not provide that the £100 million shall cease to be used by or operated by the Minister of Works after that date. If you look at Clause 2 (4) you will sec:The Fund shall be closed at such a time after the end of September, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, as the Treasury may direct. …7.15 p.m.
So that means that the £100 million they borrow by September, 1947, can go on being used after that date, just as long as the right hon. Gentleman can get the Treasury's consent. It is not right in my view to say that our position to this Amendment is in any way seeking to limit the amount of financial encouragement that can be given. It is nothing of the sort. There is no Amendment before the Committee to increase the sum of £100 million. What the Government are now doing—let us appreciate the fact of what they are doing, and what the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn thinks they should do—is to take power to extend the borrowing period. The hon. Lady who stands four square behind the Government has, apparently, not the same confidence in the Government's prowess as the Minister of Health, who recently said that the back of the problem would be broken within two years, or words to that effect. Now the Minister of Works is saying that he must have up to 1950 to be able to borrow this £100 million. He says in effect, "It will not suffice for me to take all that money by 1947. You must give me further powers of overdrawing or borrowing. I must be able to borrow up to 1950." The hon. Lady is supported by 1991 the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith), who cannot support the Amendment, I think, for much the same reason as the hon. Lady, that she has no confidence in the Government being able to solve the housing problem in two or five years.
§ Mrs. Castle
If you increase the term of borrowing you increase the amount that can be borrowed, because it says in the Bill that the total amount shall not at any time exceed £100 million, but that is renewableߞ—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The total sum that can be borrowed is £100 million—the maximum overdraft is £100 million.
§ Mrs. Castle
At any time, not in all, but at any given time. Therefore, if you are extending the period to1950 you can, in fact, increase the amount you borrow.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I do not agree with the hon. Lady in her interpretation of that Clause of the Bill at all. As I read the Bill, the £100 million is the maximum that can be borrowed. I am confirmed in that view by what the right hon. Gentleman said on the Second Reading Debate. On that occasion he said:If it is found that the limit of £100 million is too low or that further advances after September, 1947, are required, the Government will have to come to Parliament and a convenient opportunity will be presented for reviewing the operations which have taken place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 908.]Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman, only a week later, thinks that two years time, if this Fund is not sufficient, will not be a convenient opportunity of reviewing its operations before Parliament? I think he said they would not need to come to the House so soon. I can say with some confidence that we should very much welcome an account of the operation of this Fund in two years time and, perhaps, before that, because we do not want to see any dilatoriness in the conduct of these affairs. I hope the Government will not fall down on the pledges they have given to cure the housing problem in so short a period as two years, but we have not the confidence in them which some hon. Members opposite have, nor, perhaps, have we the same 1992 lack of confidence as the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn who wants an unlimited period of time for borrowing this money and carrying on the programme.
In conclusion, I would ask the Minister to think this over again. With the majority he has behind him, he must be suffering from some degree of cold feet if he thinks that in two years time, if he has not achieved his object, he will not be able to get the further finance for his programme. Why is he so pessimistic about his chances in two years time? It may be said that he is more sensitive to criticism from the Benches behind him, than to criticism coming from this side. I appreciate that, even when the argument is not dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in winding up the Debate, but I suggest that, however attractive these arguments can be at first sight, they should be carefully examined by the right hon. Gentleman and he should be careful not to deprive Parliament—if he believes in democracy—ofan opportunity of considering his conduct and the conduct of his Ministry in regard to this fund, and also of considering whether it is right that there should be a further extension given after 1947.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith
On a point of Order, Can we be told whether, in this Bill, we are discussing one block of £100,000,000 or is theߞ—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman has not raised a point of Order. He is addressing a question to the Minister.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith
If I may put the question to the Minister, can we be told whether the sum under discussion is one clean block of £100,000,000, or whether, as has been suggested by the Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) it is £10,000,000 multiplied by x?
§ Question put, "That the word forty-seven stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 110; Noes, 256.1995
§ Question, 'That the word' fifty 'stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Sir W. Wakefield
Before we leave this Clause could the Minister explain whether he is proposing to make adequate arrangements so that the millions of houses which are to be erected under the Government housing programme will have really up to date scientific and efficient coal burning apparatus? In all parts of the Committee it will be agreed that at present there is a grave and unnecessary waste of fuel. I believe it has been reliably estimated that some 70 per cent.—
§ Sir W. Wakefield
In this Clause there is reference to "equipment for buildings." I am seeking to ask the Minister what steps the Government are to take to 1996 ensure that efficient grates will be supplied for the equipment of the millions of houses that are to go up. The point is that the Coal Utilisation Research Association and the Fuel Research Station have investigated this project very thoroughly to get efficient grates. They may cost more than the cheap, useless, inefficient grate. There may be a greater initial cost, but the saving of fuel may be very great and I want to know what plans—
§ The Chairman
I am sorry but the matter which the hon. Member is raising is not in Order. This is a money Clause and is far away from the point he is raising.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
If I had been allowed to develop my case, the whole purpose of it would have been to ask if the Minister is to give a subsidy or to give financial assistance for the provision of these efficient grates, or not. It may well be that these efficient grates will cost more initially, but by using them a great saving in fuel may take place. It may well be 1997 that a lot of the toil and sweat of the miners in getting up coal will not be sent into the sky, and that there will be less smoke about as a result of spending this money under this Bill.
§ The Chairman
I must ask the hon. Member not to pursue that line of argument. The question of fuel saving or smoke abatement does not arise on this Clause, and the hon. Member cannot pursue the point further.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
I naturally bow to your Ruling, Major Milner, but I have carefully studied this Clause. It seemed to me that this Clause dealt with the purchase of building materials and the payment for them, and I had thought that in raising this point here I was in Order. I do not know on what other part of the Bill I could raise it. I thought it was a proper and important matter and in the national interest.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
On a point of Order. May I draw your attention, Major Milner, to Clause 1 (b) under which the Minister can use this finance formaking and carrying out arrangements for the production and distribution of any such materials or equipment;that is, building materials? If you look at "building materials" as defined in Clause 9, it is a very wide term indeed. Under those terms is not my hon. Friend entitled to ask whether any part of this finance which the Minister is allowed to use for making arrangements for the production of various building materials is not to be used for research to secure the most efficient type of grate?
§ Sir W. Wakefield
Further to that point of Order. We have had statements from the Lord President of the Council and others that the fullest possible use is to be made by the Government of science and research. I am seeking an explanation as to whether full advantage will be taken of the results and science and research under this Bill? That is the point I wish to have explained.
§ The Chairman
The question put by the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) on fuel and burning grates is far too remote from this Clause. The question of bricks has nothing to do with grates.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Surely it is very difficult to draw the line between bricks and grates, particularly when we are dealing with all kinds of houses, traditional and prefabricated. Without being too persistent may I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) is in Order in asking whether finance to be used in regard to the production of materials for houses, is going to be used for research into and production of the most efficient type of grate. Surely it would be in Order—although I do not want to suggest anyone in the Committee should ask about it—that chimney pots might be discussed.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
In modern grates the building of bricks and the kind of draught required for economic burning are considered and bricks are used in the design of grates in a modern house. I will not take up the time of the Committeeߞ [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] This is a most important national consideration, whether they are going to pay 20 per cent. less for fuel. Surely we do not want them to pay more than they need. I want to ask the Minister whether he will pay attention to making it more efficient.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Inasmuch as the Ministry of Works have been encouraging this sort of inquiry and assisting to the extent that is possible in all our dealings as far as materials are concerned, we will take into consideration the type of materials the hon. Member has mentioned
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I know the Minister's Department has gone into this matter of doing research, and it is a fact that some of the modern grates require substantial alterations in the ordinary layout of the buildings. I want to know whether the Ministry is taking steps to see that new houses are designed so as to be able to take these modern grates. I believe one of the models his Department recommended is called a "space heater." They require special adaptation.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.