§ Mr. Lindgren
I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, after "may" to insert:at any time after the expiry of a period of two years beginning on the passing of this Act and thereafter.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
It may be for the convenience of the Committee also to consider the Amendment in page 2, line 21, after "may" to insert:at any time after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and fifty-six and thereafter.
§ Mr. Lindgren
That suggestion is quite acceptable to us, Sir Rhys. The Minister has said repeatedly during the discussions on Clause 1 that he has no desire to stop, prevent or hinder the procedure of housing for general needs. The effect of this Amendment is to prevent the Minister from altering the subsidy allowed in the Bill for a period of at least two years.
We all know that the hindering of development for housing needs is dependent very largely on whether or not local authorities have confidence in their being able to arrange programmes, even if they believe that, with the subsidy as it is in the Bill, they can proceed with such schemes. The most likely thing to hinder local authorities in proceeding with schemes is the inability to programme ahead with any degree of certainty.
We have had subsidies in regard to housing under various Bills for many years, and it has been understood by local authority associations that there should be discussions, generally yearly, as to the intentions of the Government, which in days gone by provided two-thirds of the subsidy, as to whether or not the subsidy was to continue in the form then provided. In that way local authorities have known with a degree of certainty when they started to make plans that they had a reasonable right to expect that when they come to fruition the local 806 authorities would receive the subsidy under the conditions in which they conceived their plans.
In housing subsidies, as in many other matters in local government and in industry and in all things associated with Parliament, under the Labour Government there was the greatest degree of stability that local authorities have ever known. During the whole of the time that local authorities were building houses at the request of the Labour Government the subsidy stood at the same figure from 1945 to 1951—the lifetime of the Labour Government. It stood then at the figure of £16 10s. from the central fund and £5 10s. from the local authority's rate fund, making a total subsidy of £22. Of course, when the Tory Government came in there was an immediate pay-off to the financiers, their friends, an increase in the interest rates and the raising of the subsidy because of the increased interest rates to £26 14s. from the central authority and £8 18s. from the local authority to the total of £35 12s. That was varied in April, 1955, to a subsidy of £22 Is. from the central authority and £7 7s. from the local authority, a total of £29 8s. That subsidy has been altered by the Bill in November, 1955, to £10.
The local authorities have said in no uncertain terms to the Minister that they require a greater degree of stability and the knowledge that they are likely to be able to prepare their plans with greater certainty for the future. The Minister has said that, although the Bill gives him the right to end the £10 subsidy at any time, he intends to carry it on for a year or two. We do not think that a casual phrase by the Minister—if I am being unkind in calling it a casual phrase, I will say a phrase used by the Minister in his Second Reading speech—is good enough, particularly in relation to this Government, for a local authority to take it as a guarantee that the subsidy is likely to remain at that figure for the length of 807 time that has been mentioned. Therefore, we desire by this Amendment to make it explicit that for at least two years, even at the miserable subsidy of £10, local authorities, looking at the plans for general housing need, will know at the time they set out to acquire sites, offer tenders and accept tenders that they will at least have that subsidy to assist them in their general housing accounts and their apportionment of the figure for rent.
§ Mr. A. Evans
I hope that the Minister will see the wisdom of the Amendment. He is taking the power completely to abolish the housing subsidy for general need. The Clause will enable him to reduce the subsidy, abolish it, or even to reduce the period for which the reduced subsidy shall be paid.
I think that everyone in the Committee and in local government generally will agree that the power which the Minister seeks to take in this Clause is considerable. It gives him power forthwith to cease the payment of subsidy on houses for general need. All that he has to do is to bring in an Order and lay it on the Table. From the date of that Order, the subsidy for general housing need will cease to operate. It is not necessary for him to give any warning to the local authorities. He can precipitately and suddenly cut off the subsidy entirely for general housing need.
§ Mr. Powellindicated dissent
§ Mr. Evans
The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. I know that in the Clause there is a provision that the Minister shall consult such local authority organisations as he thinks should be consulted. That is the only limitation upon the Minister's arbitrary power to abolish the housing subsidy for general need—the requirement that he shall consult with such local government associations as he deems suitable.
The Minister knows very well that when he last consulted the local authority associations his consultation was rather in the form of telling them what he intended to do. He said, "This is what I am going to do and you must accept it." No attempt was made to arrive at a reasonable arrangement with the local authorities. It was merely a question of the Minister meeting them and telling them 808 that he proposed to carry out certain things and, whether they liked them or not, they would have to accept them.
After that experience the local authorities do not value greatly the consultation which the Minister must have with them before he decides to abolish or reduce the housing subsidy for general need. The right hon. Gentleman should give them as much warning as possible of his intention to reduce or abolish the subsidy, if only for the sake of the smooth running of house building. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman desires to help the local authorities as much as possible within the terms of this Bill, because any Minister of Housing would wish to do so.
It would not be difficult for the Minister to give the local authorities such a warning because he will know in advance that the time will arrive when he will think it suitable to reduce or abolish the subsidy. His advisers will tell him and he will lay the Order upon the Table. Why will not the Minister give the local authorities the benefit of as much advance warning as possible? That is a reasonable request for us to make.
My hon. Friend has adduced all the arguments why the local authorities should not have their programmes suddenly interfered with and their plans disrupted by sudden changes in subsidy rates. I urge the Minister to do all he can to give as much notice as possible to the local authorities who have the difficult task of planning and building houses. If the right hon. Gentleman will only follow that sensible course, the local authorities will be grateful and slum clearance and building for general need will go forward.
Although the Amendment specifies two years, I am sure that my hon. Friends are not wedded to that period, but we ask the Minister to see what he can do to give the local authorities as much notice as possible.
§ Mr. Sparks
I support this Amendment, which is fair, but very moderate, because the minimum period should have been at least five years Indeed, the Clause should have been rejected because it aims a major blow at the housing programmes of local authorities. Despite the belief of the right hon. Gentleman that housing for general purposes will continue, he may find that it may not after 809 a year or two. The net result will be that housing for general purposes will be considerably less, if it is not completely extinguished. Therefore, this Amendment is a moderate one in proposing a period of only two years in which the right hon. Gentleman should not vary any further the rates of subsidies and should not carry out his threat to abolish all subsidies on housing for general purposes.
The Minister should realise that his announcement last November placed local authorities in great difficulty because they did not anticipate this fatal blow. When it came, it left in great difficulty a number of local authorities which had spent large sums of money on acquiring land and which had not at that date produced tenders for the Minister to approve. As a consequence they found themselves saddled with land upon which they expected to receive a full rate of subsidy. They now find that the reduced rate of subsidy applies and that, if they do not develop that land within twelve months, they run the risk of having no subsidies. So I feel that the; right hon. Gentleman should not rush this matter as he is. It is not the way to treat our great local authorities which are carrying out a responsible job for the State and doing a fine job of work for the people in providing housing accommodation.
The Amendment is intended to provide for a period of at least two years during which the local authorities can consolidate what they have already undertaken. If it is accepted, they can do this knowing that during the period of stability they can properly assess their financial commitments, and that any land which they have acquired can be developed within the two years to receive the benefit of what subsidy there is. The Amendment would also give them a period in which to make up their minds whether they can undertake further schemes for general housing, or to what extent they will have to run these down to meet the new circumstances.
In view of the modesty of this Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman should accept it as evidence of good faith towards the local authorities. It is desirable to give them this period in which to consolidate their plans in the knowledge that the subsidies will not be varied during that time.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
The Bill as drafted empowers the Minister to make an order under this Clause at a date prior to the date upon which the local authorities become relieved of their obligation to make contributions out of the general rate fund. The purpose of my Amendment, in page 2, line 21, is to draw attention to the fact that when the Bill was first published it was not known what would be the timetable of its progress. Yet the fact that the Minister was empowered to make an order reducing the subsidy before the local authorities were relieved of their obligation under Clause 8 is an illustration of the precipitate fashion in which the Minister proposes to proceed. Because his process is precipitate, I support the submissions on this point put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren).
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
My hon. Friends who have spoken in support of this Amendment have made a powerful general case for it. I wish to reinforce what they have said by drawing attention to a recent event in my own constituency which brings out forcibly the reason why it is extremely undesirable at present to do anything which may discourage local authorities from the provision of housing for general need. The Clause, as it now stands, would have that effect; the Amendment would at least mitigate the evil.
There is in my constituency a block of flats known as the Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, intended for, and used by, the families of men disabled in the service of their country in both world wars. It happens with all such foundations that from time to time a tenant dies leaving a widow who is normally expected to find accommodation elsewhere so that the flat can be made available to other ex-Service men. The number of men requiring, and who might profit by, such accommodation is always considerable.
The position of the widow presents the Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation with a problem of some delicacy. On the one hand, it does not wish to appear in the position of someone trying to evict the widow from what had been her home. On the other hand, it does not wish a flat intended for the use of a disabled ex-Service man and his family not to be so used for a long period.
811 During recent years the problem has been dealt with to some extent by the fact that the two local authorities concerned, the Fulham Borough Council and the London County Council, could cooperate in helping such widows to find accommodation. The size and severity of the problem facing the Foundation is thus in part determined by the extent to which the local authorities can provide housing for general need.
The situation recently has been that both local authorities have found it harder to make room for even a single extra case. The borough council is faced with the very severe problem of the rehousing of families from clearance areas. The L.C.C., proportionate to its resources, is faced with the same problem in almost the same degree. Both authorities are being obliged to say that it is extremely difficult for them to offer accommodation to anyone except families coming from clearance areas.
The borough council has been put almost entirely in that position and recent acts of Government policy on housing have not made it any easier for it to overcome its difficulties, and its apprehension is that if the Measure passes in its present form the difficulties of the local authority will become even greater. That means that the problem facing such a body as the Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation will become all the more acute because the possibility of widows finding accommodation elsewhere is being gradually reduced to nothing. If the Clause passes in its present form, that will represent another blow at such a prospect.
What has happened as a result of all this? The Foundation has recently sent a letter to all the widows, of whom there are nine, now living in Foundation flats, pointing out, with justification, that it has sought in the past to treat the problem sympathetically and not ungenerously by not exerting undue pressure on the widow to leave her flat and by foregoing any payment of rent during the first three months of widowhood. The Foundation now says that, while preserving that provision and not taking any rent during the first three months of widowhood, it will, after the period of widowhood has lasted twelve months, require that the standard rent for the flat, which is 14s. 6d. per 812 week, to be raised by 5s. per week, and after another three months by another 5s., and so on, until it finally reaches the alarming figure of 39s. 6d. per week.
That is the kind of situation which is being created because of the difficulty of local authorities in providing sufficient accommodation to meet general needs. It is a situation which will be rendered more acute if the Clause is passed in its present form. It is a situation which would be in some degree—I would not overstress it—mitigated if the Amendment, or something like it, were accepted. The purpose and effect of the Amendment would be to make it at any rate a little easier for local authorities to provide housing to meet general needs and would remove at least one of the discouragements to them in that process which now exists in the Bill.
I instance this as an individual example which brings home the need not to do anything discouraging the provision of housing for general needs. The Foundation's gesture in increasing the rent from 14s. 6d. to 39s. 6d. pec week cannot solve its problem.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry, Sir Rhys. I did not wish to do that. However. I submit that it is important when we are discussing a Bill of this kind, containing so much legal and administrative matter, that occasionally we should remind ourselves that behind that matter there lie a number of very personal and burning human problems. I hoped not to delay the Committee unduly in drawing attention to the one to which I have referred.
The Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation is making a gesture which cannot really solve its difficulties, because it cannot bring accommodation into existence by the device of raising the rent. The Minister might be able to help if he would not only look favourably at the Amendment but also reconsider much that is in the Bill. The action of the Foundation is really a gesture of despair, the kind of despair which is being created among local authorities and others responsible for providing housing by the policy of which the Bill and the Clause are part.
813 When this kind of problem is being created—I do not say that it is more than one of many examples which could be quoted—this is not the time to approve of a Clause which will add immediately to the insecurity and uncertainties of local authorities and make it ever harder for them to provide housing accommodation to meet general needs.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I support the Amendment and beg the Minister to accept it, not only for the reasons which have been given but because it seems to me that the Bill and, particularly, the Clause, which enable the Minister to abolish even the slum clearance subsidy, are not only making difficulties for local authorities but are in direct contradiction to the advice which the Minister's Department has been giving to local authorities.
One thing essential in connection with any kind of housing is that the local authority shall look two or three years ahead. It is impossible to imagine local authorities being able to deal with slums under this Measure without taking the-trouble to look several years ahead in the planning and programming of their work. In any case, it takes up to two years to complete the procedure under the slum clearance legislation. The Clause which we wish to amend gives the Minister power to abolish or reduce any housing subsidy for a house or a site even though the local authority may have been planning carefully for the last four or five years to do the work.
Reading through the Report of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for 1950–51 to 1954, I discovered that the policy of the Department—and a good policy it is—is to advise local authorities to look at least three years ahead. That means that local authorities are advised to commit themselves to heavy capital expenditure for at least three years ahead.
I should like to read to the Committee the advice given in page 6 of this very interesting Report. It says:A steady supply of sites for both local authority and private building is essential for continuity of house building. In the choice of a site, regard must be had not only to its physical suitability for building, and the availability of services; but also to the general proposals for the planning of the area and the settled Government policy of avoiding, so far as possible, encroachment on food- 814 producing land. In consequence, the selection of sites has sometimes been a long and difficult task, and local authorities were advised, as mentioned above, to plan their land purchase at least three years ahead.If we are to tell local authorities that they must plan their purchases of land at least three years ahead—they will have to buy it if only for slum clearance—it is unfair of the Minister to take powers to abolish or reduce the subsidy merely by bringing an Order to the House.
Local authorities are up in arms, as was evidenced by discussions a few days ago at a conference of urban district councils, when there was passed a resolution condemning the Bill. Local authorities are very worried and, if the Clause is unamended, it will mean that the Government are saying one thing in the Bill and another as administrators of the country's housing. That is inconsistent and I therefore urge the Committee to accept this very reasonable Amendment.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)
I want to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), because the Clause puts local authorities, especially those of any size, in an administratively impossible position. I hope that in replying to the debate the Minister will clarify his early remark—I think his actual words were "about a year or so"—and let us know precisely what is the Government's intention about taking advantage of the Clause and ending the housing subsidy, as, unfortunately, they intend to do.
Any large authority is already in considerable difficulties in planning ahead. Certainly, that applies to my authority, Birmingham Corporation. In consideration of the complexities of housing allocation and housing rents for priority cases and similar difficulties, one can see at once that the position is growing more acute. The uncertainty to which the Clause gives rise adds to those considerable difficulties.
From time to time we have difficulties caused through eviction. At no time can a local authority possibly be aware of the number of people to be evicted at one stroke of the pen in a county court and thereby added to the authority's housing register. It is a growing evil and bordering on the scandalous that each year thousands of families—hundreds in Birmingham—are added to the housing lists 815 of local authorities after a hearing of a minute or two in a county court, if the defendant has not been sufficiently fortunate to afford legal representation.
If local authorities could be told that they would have two years from today, or, even better, two years' notice from the time the Government decide, that would help the position. Local authorities have to consider not only the evicitions, but other priority cases which any local authority wants to house in accordance with its rebate scheme—particularly as all the time the Government are urging local authorities to adopt rebate schemes or something similar.
It so happens that in Birmingham we have a pool subsidies plan and we have more than 180 different rents for our municipal houses. It can be seen that unless we have adequate notice as to the Government's precise intentions about subsidies, municipal tenants in Birmingham will not be acquainted with their future rent position. Birmingham Corporation will not have an adequate opportunity to consider the new situation which the complete abolition of subsidies will create. The same, of course, applies up and down the country and especially to other large towns.
This is an extremely modest proposal. Its very moderation should commend it to the Minister, but it is absolutely essential on the grounds of logic, good planning and what is mechanically feasible in local government that the Amendment should be accepted and that local authorities should have two years' notice of the Government's intention to abolish the £10 subsidy.
I hope that for good local government and to ensure a good relationship between the central government and local authorities the Amendment will be carried—although we do not like the provisions of the Clause and, in fact, bitterly object to them. We should then at least give local authorities reasonable time to weigh the effect of the Clause upon subsidies and housing rents generally and to meet the situation in a sane and orderly manner.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
We have been discussing two Amendments. The first, which was moved by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), asks that no 816 reduction or abolition of subsidies shall take place for two years after the passing of the Bill. In support of that, the hon. Member for Wellingborough went over the history of the Labour Government's administration of housing subsidies. He prided himself on the fact that under the Labour Government there was the greatest degree of stability. He went on to say that subsidies stood at the same level during the six years of the Labour Government. That, of course, is quite true, but it is a most misleading statement.
§ Mr. Sandys
It very often is. It is a completely correct statement, but it is most misleading when advanced in support of the suggestion that the value of the subsidies provided throughout the period of the Labour Government was maintained. As we all know, the nominal value of the subsidies remained at the same level, but their real value progressively declined as the value of money declined with the galloping inflation that took place.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am saying that it is impossible to claim that the value of the subsidies was maintained. It was being progressively cut by the fall in the value of money. I am merely suggesting that this claim of the hon. Gentleman is an empty one.
The hon. Member for Islington, Southwest (Mr. A. Evans) and the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) both complained—I think this was the most important argument advanced—that under this Clause local authorities would receive no advance warning of any reduction in subsidy, and that that was not fair. Local authorities will get much more warning than was provided by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1946, which has been held up to us on different occasions as a model in these matters. I hope that in fairness the Committee will give due weight to the fact that, under this Bill, any reduction in the subsidies will apply only to houses for which tenders are approved after the date specified in the Order. That is to say, that 817 any cut in the subsidy, any future reduction will affect only houses which were not started at the date when the cut was made.
§ Mr. A. Evans
Will not the Minister agree that it would be impossible for him to apply a cut to houses for which tenders have been approved?
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Gentleman has greatly helped me, because in the 1946 Act the Minister is enabled to cut the subsidy without warning in respect of any house completed the day after the Order is made.
§ Mr. Sandys
We are talking about the provisions of this Bill. We can discuss what happened afterwards on another occasion, but at the moment we are discussing the powers to be given to the Minister.
§ Mr. Sparks
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to accept the precedent that he has told us about, and follow it in the next year or two?
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is referring to. [Laughter.] I am sorry, but I think this is pertinent. Hon. Members opposite complain that this Bill provides powers to cut the housing subsidies without proper warning—
§ Mr. Sandys
—but they are the very people who introduced the 1946 Housing Act which, as I have already said, provides powers for the Minister to cut the subsidies with immediate effect. The Order has to be affirmed by this House within 40 days and then takes effect immediately. Therefore, under the 1946 Act it was quite possible for a local authority to plan a house; obtain a tender, get it approved and go ahead with the building of the house on the assumption that it would receive a subsidy at a certain rate. Then, perhaps within a few days of the completion of the house, the authority might find that the subsidy had been reduced.
Those are the powers provided by the 1946 Act, in which it is stated:Subject to the provisions of this section, the Minister may from time to time by order provide in relation to new houses completed after such date…818 That is the point. It applied to the date of the completion of the house, whereas this Bill is much more reasonable and applies to the date when tenders are approved. Apart from the question of land, no authority can, under the provisions of this Bill, enter into a financial commitment in respect of the building of a house without knowing in advance what subsidy they will get. That was not possible under the 1946 Act.
Mr. David Weitzinan (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has quoted as a precedent something which was done by the Labour Government which he describes as wrong. Why should that be a justification for the right hon. Gentleman doing something wrong now?
§ Mr. Sandys
It is a justification for our putting it right. That is what we are doing. We are not repeating that wrong in this Bill; we are not providing that the Minister shall have power to change the subsidy in respect of houses completed after the date of the Order. We are providing that any change in the subsidy shall apply only to houses in respect of which a tender has not been approved before the Order is made.
§ Mr. Sandys
I think I have made myself clear on that point and that I need not go over the matter again. There is no doubt that this Bill gives far more warning than was provided under the 1946 Act.
§ Mr. Sandys
The provisions of that Act have been operated up to now, and are still operated. Our action is a vast improvement so far as local authorities are concerned.
§ Mr. A. Evans
Surely the Minister should address himself to the argument. He quotes the 1946 Act, but he will know that conditions then were different from conditions today. He will realise that in this Clause he is taking power to abolish the subsidies entirely, which is an unprecedented step. All we ask is that he should give fair warning. Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to the question of the lack of warning? Will he answer the point that, under the terms of 819 this Clause, local authorities are faced with the cessation or abolition of the subsidies?
§ Mr. Sandys
That is a point to which I was addressing myself. The last time he interrupted me the hon. Gentleman was very helpful. He gave me my cue and he must not complain if I dealt with the 1946 Act at length. He provoked me into doing so
§ Mr. Sandys
I think it is an absolutely overwhelming point and knocks the ground from under the feet of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is why they wish to get on to some other issue. The attitude of the party opposite today is very different from their attitude when they were in office, and approved the Clause to which I have referred. That was their own provision in the 1946 Act. They did not then want to postpone any reduction of subsidy for a period of two years, as is now proposed.
It is no use saying that this Bill provides that the subsidies can be abolished, and that the 1946 Act provided only that they could be reduced. It is possible to reduce a subsidy to a point where, so far as local authorities are concerned, it would make little difference whether it was reduced or abolished. There is no material difference between the powers provided under this Clause and those provided in the 1946 Act, except that the powers provided in this Clause give a much greater degree of flexibility. In other words, it is possible to reduce the subsidy in respect of certain categories of houses—and not necessarily the precise categories which appear in the Bill—without having to reduce the subsidies in respect of other categories.
I am sure that all hon. Members who wish to preserve a proper balance in this matter, and to ensure that local authorities shall receive subsidies where they are needed, recognise that only advantage can come from providing a measure of flexibility which will avoid the Minister being faced with the issue of reducing all subsidies or none. That tended to be the position, in certain respects, under the 1946 Act. In that case he could reduce only the precise categories defined in the Act—and the whole category or nothing 820 at all. That is the main difference between that Act and this Bill.
I do not know whether hon. Members are aware that the 1946 Act, besides providing power to reduce the subsidy with the little warning to which I have already referred, also imposed upon the Minister the duty of reviewing the position and reporting to Parliament whether a reduction was desirable. The first such review had to take place in December, 1946, namely, in the same year as that in which the Act was passed. That all showed a fairly good intention on the part of the Government to make quite sure that if any reductions were justified the opportunity would not be missed. [Interruption,] I am talking about the powers provided by the Bill. If the Committee stage is not concerned with a discussion of the terms of the Bill I do not know why we are meeting here. I know that it is uncomfortable for hon. Members opposite to have it pointed out to them how very much more reasonable are the provisions of the Bill than those of the 1946 Act—which is now in force—in the amount of warning given to local authorities.
§ Mr. Sandys
We have certainly not used the Bill, because it is not yet an Act of Parliament. Unlike the 1946 Act the Bill does not lay down any time limit within which the Minister must consider reducing the subsidy.
I have been asked about our intentions. The Committee knows that they are to abolish the £10 subsidy for general needs within a year or so.
§ Mr. Sandys
The English language is reasonably plain. I can say "within a year or more," if the hon. Member likes that better. Our intention is not to be too precise.
§ Mr. Sparks
Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman does not, in fact, intend to reduce the subsidy at all?
§ Mr. Sandys
That was not the meaning which I intended to convey. Our intention is to abolish the £10 subsidy 821 for general needs within a year or so, and the purpose of the Amendment is to make that impossible in less than two years. We believe that a certain amount of flexibility in all these matters is desirable. We want to see how things go. I am encouraged by the reactions of local authorities so far. I was very much encouraged by the reactions of the Labour Party Conference in St. Pancras a few days ago. It all gives me reasonable confidence that houses which are needed will go on being built quite satisfactorily with the reduced subsidy.
Since the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) would make it impossible for us to abolish or reduce the subsidies—I am speaking particularly of the £10 subsidy for general needs—within the two-year period mentioned in the Amendment, it would deprive us of the flexibility which we believe to be desirable, and for that reason I cannot possibly accept the Amendment.
A second Amendment, which will be voted upon after this one but which we have debated with it, would have the effect of preventing the Minister from making an Order to reduce or abolish any of the subsidies until after 31st March, 1956. As the Committee has seen, I have been literally leaning over backwards to meet the wishes of the party opposite. I have not put any wax in my ears, like Ulysses. I am prepared to listen to the siren songs of hon. Members opposite. As further evidence of my extreme reasonableness, I propose to advise the Committee to accept the Amendment which is to be moved by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine).
§ Mr. Mitchison
I congratulate the Minister upon accepting any Amendment, considering what he has been doing previously. It shows the beginnings of a repentance which I hope will develop. He will be the first to agree that that step he concurs in is a singularly small one. I am rather tired of this game of"1066 and all that"—or "1946 and all that." Whenever the Government have to justify some provision they get someone to hunt through the Statute Book to try to find another as like it as possible. I shall have very great pleasure in showing the Minister the quite clear distinction not between the language of the 1946 Act 822 and this Bill but between the circumstances in 1946 and those which obtain today.
In 1946 we had a Labour Government, pledged to build many houses, and obviously and seriously intending to do so.
§ Mr. Mitchison
They were in fact embarking, not very long after the end of the war, upon the most comprehensive housing programme that any Government had undertaken. In conjunction with that, they were granting subsidies upon a scale which no previous Government had ever allowed. That was the position in 1946. When everybody knows what is meant, and when everybody knows that the Government are going to carry out what they propose, surely there is some wisdom in taking power to withdraw a little if circumstances subsequently require it?
What is the position now? The Minister has told us—he told us again today and he has said it many times—that he proposes to cut the fundamental, general needs subsidy to nothing at the end of a year or so. That is what the Clause is about, and how it can be said that these provisions are being put forward in circumstances similar to those in 1946 passes my understanding. The Minister's intentions, as explained by him, are strictly dishonourable in this matter. As at present advised, he intends to diminish housing subsidies as far as he can. He is standing there, holding an axe over the heads of the local authorities.
All we are asking of him is that he should give them a little more time. He talks about "a year or so," yet his own Ministry has said that at least three years are required to make the plans. The Minister is refusing to give the local authorities two years' peace before starting to cut again. That is what the Amendment is about. It is not a question of a nice comparison of language between one Act and another, but of whether it is fair and reasonable to local authorities to hold this sort of threat over their heads, and not to give them time to settle down even with the greatly reduced subsidies proposed by the Bill.
Local authorities, big and small, have not the foggiest idea of their financial 823 situation. They have just had their rateable values completely altered. That is one of the disturbing factors in the position. All their housing programmes have been knocked over and their plans for local development thrown into confusion. If we want to watch a body of men who do not know where they are, let us look at the borough treasurers. There is no borough treasurer who knows the financial position of his authority, or has the faintest idea how to raise the money that it will require, or what the interest position may be in six months or a year. He is deprived of the stability that he has always had hitherto and is flung into a world of uncertainty where he does not know how to get his money, how much he wants, or how much he will get from the Government or for how long.
Recognising that local authorities have to plan ahead for a good deal more than six months, we ask the Minister at least to give them two years' peace to discover their financial position and what they can do in housing. No more reasonable request was ever made to a Minister. Not only do local authorities not know where they are; that is true also of the Government. Do the Government know their financial position? Have they the foggiest idea what their financial position will be in a year? They have told us that they will cut these subsidies to nothing in a year or two. What will the monetary position then be?
These matters have to be reckoned in money; we cannot make them reckonable in terms of beefsteak and bread. The element of money and of average earnings is always used in reckoning housing subsidies. Is it right for the Government to commit themselves and to say, "We shall do this in a year or so," and rush the local authorities, when the Government do not know what the rate of interest will be in a year, what money they will be able to give to the subsidy and, above all, what the needs of the local authorities will be in that respect? What will happen if the Minister finds that the costs of building go up steeply? He will wish he had not introduced the Bill, let alone reduced the subsidy.
He has committed himself already to reduction. We ask him "Take time. Take a moment to breathe. Let the local authorities have a reasonable period to get their 824 plans and finances in order." From that point of view, are two years too much? All of us who have read the Ministry's Report with the care that was devoted to it by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) think we should ask for three years and not two. Two years are not too much.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
My hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) will be very pleased to know that he has now been changed into a siren, and a successful one. It is evident that the Minister has decided to harden his heart against the Amendment which we are asking him to accept. He has said he is surprised at the willingness of local authorities to accept his proposals, but I have a letter from my local authority asking me carefully to watch this Clause and particularly this Amendment.
There is no doubt about the difference between the Bill and Act of 1946, which the Minister has cleverly brought into the debate. They show a difference of approach between the Government and ourselves towards subsidies. We have been told repeatedly by the Tory Party that it is against subsidies when they affect working-class people. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] We have only to see what the party did in relation to the cost of living to know whether that is rubbish or not.
The houses of working-class people will be prevented from being built, under the Bill. That is the intention of the Government. There is no doubt that local authority housing is already being slowed down as a result of the threat of the Bill. The last six months have seen a general slowing down because local authorities do not know where they stand. Housing for the general needs will be particularly affected.
My hon. Friend's have pointed out that local authorities cannot estimate what their general needs are likely to be. There are special cases, such as of eviction and tuberculosis, which come into general housing needs. I can think of special houses which are needed in areas like my own to relieve people whose houses are affected by mining subsidence. These people have to be put into a council house while the National Coal Board puts their houses into decent repair.
825 When a local authority seeks to employ architects, sanitary inspectors to deal with slum clearance, inspectors under the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, or people for the medical department or the technical colleges, it usually has to offer them housing accommodation. How can a local authority provide houses for these technicians or for cases of tuberculosis or eviction when they are confronted with uncertainty about the subsidy they will receive? When the Labour Government tried to build up their housing programme they were faced with high prices and shortage of labour and materials. In 1946 they endeavoured to make the building of schools and factories go alongside housing development.
Inflation today is not galloping; its speed is supersonic. Local authorities are uncertain about their development
§ programmes and how long the subsidy will remain or how far it will go. As the Minister has said, the proposal may mean that it will remain for two years or more, but some of us fear that it will remain for only a very short time. Local authorities are also faced with a great financial problem, and the Government's policy of increasing the interest rate has not helped them to decide what to do about houses.
§ I hope that the Minister will consider once more our request that for two years local authorities should know where they stand, and that for that period he will offer them some certainty and security, so that they can go ahead with their programmes.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 211, Noes 252.829
|Division No. 93.]||AYES||[7.1 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Anderson, Frank||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Balfour, A.||Fernyhough, E.||Ledger, R. J.|
|Bartley, P.||Fienburgh, W.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Finch, H. J.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Fletcher, Eric||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Forman, J. C.||Logan, D. G.|
|Benson, G.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mabon, Dr. J. D.|
|Beswick, F.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Sevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Gibson, C. W.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Blackburn, F.||Greenwood, Anthony||Mclnnes, J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Boardman, H.||Grey, C. F.||McLeavy, Frank|
|Buttomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Bowden, H, W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mahon, S.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hale, Leslie||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvll (Colne Valley)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)|
|Brock way, A. F.||Hamilton, W. W.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hannan, W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Mason, Roy|
|Burke, W. A.||Hastings, S.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hayman, F. H.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Messer, Sir F.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Herbison, Miss M.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Carmichael, J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mltchison, G. R.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Holman, P.||Moody, A. S.|
|Champion, A. J.||Houghton, Douglas||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Mort, D. L.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Moyle, A.|
|Clunie, J.||Hubbard, T. F.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hunter, A. E.||Oram, A. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Orbach, M.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oswald, T.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Owen, W. J.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Padley, W. E.|
|Daines, P.||Janner, B.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn&St.Pnos,S.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Dye, S.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Parker, J.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Paton, J.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Pearson, A.||Sheffington, A. M.||Weitzman, D.|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Probert, A. R.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||West, D. G.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Pryde, D. J.||Sparks, J. A.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Rankin, John||Steele, T.||Wigg, George|
|Reeves, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Reid, William||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Rhodes, H.||Stones, W. (Consett)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tilery)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. A.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Swingler, S. T.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Sylvester, G. O.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Taylor Bernard (Mansfield)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Ross, William||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Woodbum, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Royle, C.||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Thornton, E.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Short, E. W.||Timmons, J.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Usborne, H. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Holmes and Mr. Deer.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh,W.)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Drayson, G. B.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hyde, Montgomery|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Duthie, W. S.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Ashton, H.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Errington, Sir Eric||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Balniel, Lord||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Johnson, Erlc (Blackley)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Fell, A.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Barber, Anthony||Finlay, Graeme||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Fisher, Nigel||Kaberry, D.|
|Barter, John||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Keegan, D.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Fort, R.||Kerr, H. W.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Freeth, D. K.||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Kirk, P. M.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Gammans, L. D.||Lagden, G. W.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Glover, D.||Leavey, J. A.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Gough, C. F. H.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Gower, H. R.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Body, R. F.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Grant-Ferris.Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Green, A.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswlck)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Grimond, J.||Luoas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Bryan, P.||Gurtien, Harold||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A.(SaffronWalden)||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Carr, Robert||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn, Harold (Bromley)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Maddan, Martin|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Cole, Norman||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Heath, Edward||Marples, A. E.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hilt, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Mathew, R.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Crowder, Peter (Ruislip—Northwood)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Cunningham, Knox||Holt, A. F.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P,||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Howard, John (Test)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewlsham, N.)||Neave, Airey|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Franham)|
|Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Robertson, Sir David||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Roper, Sir Harold||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|O'Neill, Hn. Phellm (Co. Antrim, N.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Russell, R. S.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Osborne, C.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Page, R. G.||Sharpies, R. C.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Shepherd, William||Wade, D. W.|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M,||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Speir, R. M.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)||Watklnson, H. A.|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Pott, H. P.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Stevens, Geoffrey||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Price, David (Eastlelgh)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Profumo, J. D.||Storey, S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Raikes, Sir Victor||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Ramsden, J. E.||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Redmayne, M.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ridsdale, J. E.||Teeling, W.||Mr. Wills and Mr. Godber.|
Amendment made: In page 2, line 21, after "may" insert:
at any time after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and fifty-six and thereafter."—[Mr. A. J. Irvine.]
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, to leave out "or of the site of."
It will have been noticed that the Minister has shown some consideration for authorities who have already embarked upon housing projects to the extent of getting plans submitted and tenders accepted. It is regrettable that he has shown no consideration for those authorities which are in difficulties, usually because of the particular circumstances of their area, over the acquisition of sites. This is a process which takes a very long time and which needs consistency of policy and continuity of support from the Minister if the local authorities are to do their job.
The Committee has discussed, and this side of the Committee has put forward, a series of Amendments asking the Minister to make concessions to delay the operation of the Bill. We on this side have heard with sorrow that he has rejected one concession after another. In this Amendment we are touching on a subject on which he may feel inclined to make a concession, because the operation of his policy in this case works extremely unfairly between one type of local authority and another.
His general national policy is to slow down the building of council houses and the provision of housing accommodation for general need. In this case, either by 830 accident—at least, I hope it is by accident —or by design he has inflicted a particularly onerous burden on those local authorities whose areas are small and overcrowded and who need to acquire sites which are rare and extremely costly. It is on these two grounds that I am asking for this concession: first, there is the difficulty of finding sites in a borough as small and crowded, for instance, as the borough of Paddington, part of which i represent. Sites become available very rarely, and if they are available a most careful examination has to be made to find out, even if they appear to be suitable for house building or flat building, whether they will be satisfactory for schools and other amenities provided in the neighbourhood. Finding a housing site in a borough is a very different matter from selecting an area of land hitherto undeveloped which can be taken over in a rural area.
The second point I wish to make concerns the appalling cost of sites in areas of this kind. When a local authority has to pay from £50,000 to £75,000 an acre for land, it needs a long time to think it over and needs to be assured of the cooperation of the Ministry, just as the Ministry needs to be assured that it is a right and proper use of that land.
These preliminary processes which are the most important in the housing projects of boroughs like Paddington, are those which take the longest time and which need the most careful preparation. If we are to maintain any semblance of fairness between one type of local authority and another, boroughs like Paddington must 831 be assured that they will have the support of the Minister and the country as a whole in acquiring the sites, and acquiring them at a proper subsidised rate. After all, it is not entirely the fault of these boroughs that they are called upon to supply a service to the great cities. I have rarely failed, in debates on this Bill or any others connected with housing, to mention, in the hope of getting a reply from the Minister, the subject of the need for high building in Paddington. Of course, this is not only a Paddington problem; it is a national problem. We have to face the fact that great cities require the regular services of a large number of lower paid people to keep them going day and night, and it is nonsense, as a piece of social policy, to assume that we can go on building at a distance and transport these people back and forth every morning and night so that in the winter they never see the daylight and the fresh air in the country districts which they are supposed to be inhabiting.
Sooner or later this Government or the next, or this generation or the next, will have to face the need for new technological and architectural developments in the great cities to house the people who have to do the work of those cities. Here is an opportunity for the Minister to make something of a name for himself in backing these developments.
Technological progress now makes it possible to achieve a new style of high building which has been studied at great length. We have many such experts available who offer their services. Indeed, Paddington enjoys the services of an expert who has been sent all over Europe to study these developments; yet, under the operation of this Minister's policy, this expert is likely to become little more than a slum rent collector in the next few years, unless he is given the opportunity to use the knowledge which he has acquired. These developments cannot take place unless the Minister is prepared to offer help in acquiring the sites, unless he can give a guarantee of continuity and unless he accepts the community's responsibility for providing sites on reasonably equal terms between one housing authority and another. On these grounds, I hope that the Minister will see fit to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Powell
The effect of this Amendment would be to remove from the Bill the power of the Minister to reduce or 832 to terminate subsidies payable under Clause 6 in respect of expensive sites. I apologise for continuing the lessons on the 1946 Housing Act, which have just been given by my right hon. Friend, but I must draw attention to the fact that in the 1946 Act—which is the current Housing Act—the power equally exists to reduce not only the general standard rate of subsidy but also the rate of subsidy applicable to expensive sites. So, in that respect there is no innovation in the Bill.
It is quite true that the time at which it might be desirable to consider a reduction or abolition of the subsidy in regard to expensive sites will not necessarily be the same as that in regard to other subsidies in the Bill. The Committee will have seen that as Clause 2 is drafted the reduction or abolition can take place in respect of any or any selection of the subsidies provided by the Bill. Nevertheless, it is desirable that the power should be in the Bill.
The subsidy in respect of expensive sites includes an element related to the cost of the development of the site, including the foundation works. If there is a reduction in building costs generally those costs also, presumably, will be affected. But the main reason I put before the Committee is this: this is a Bill of which the two main objects are to achieve slum clearance and the expediting of overspill. If it succeeds in the second of those objects and if over the next few years we have real progress in decongestion of our great cities the necessity for encouraging building upon expensive sites on the scale provided for in this Bill may diminish.
§ Mr. Powell
If we are setting before ourselves an aim we must envisage the consequences of achieving or making progress towards that aim. If there is substantial progress towards decongestion not only in London but in great cities generally it may well follow that the necessity for this degree of encouragement to build on expensive sites may decline and it would be convenient to have the power to take action to that effect.
May I make a further point. This emphasises again that as Clause 2 is drawn the Minister has great flexibility in his use of the power to reduce and abolish and could do so in any combination of 833 circumstances, whether locally or in point of time. So the circumstances of areas which the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) has particularly in mind would not be ruled out of account in considering whether to make an Order under Clause 2.
§ Mr. Parkin
I was very anxious that the Minister's statement should not be interpreted as a policy of his Ministry showing a bias for overspill outwards and a complete rejection of overspill upwards. Would this not be a convenient moment for him to say that he is accepting the fact that overspill outwards is not the complete solution and that he recognises we have to build upwards? I hope that he will at the same time encourage both processes. The words he used rather gave the impression that he was rejecting high building and concentrating on spilling over to the countryside.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I found that about the most unconvincing Ministerial answer I have every heard. The hon. Gentleman must invent a new Government misstatement of policy. He goes on saying that this is a Bill to encourage slum clearance and overspill. It is nothing of the sort. It is a Bill to cut subsidies and all he has done is. in certain respects, to omit to cut them, with the final result that the total amount of slum clearance will be rather less than it was before but undoubtedly not the complete disappearance of slum clearance, as would be the case if he had treated it as he is treating general needs.
Having answered that one, not for the first time, and trusting that the hon. Gentleman will think of a new one next time, I will not repeat what has already been said about the 1946 Act. The circumstances were entirely different and the point now is that the Minister has told the country that he intends to cut the general needs subsidy in a year or so. But he has not said a word about cutting the subsidy on expensive sites. In the interests of Paddington and other places similarly situated in the middle of big towns, may I ask: does he really intend to do so? The answer so far was the usual Ministerial answer, "Well, it might be necessary to do it, so we will take the power."
I shall have something to say later about the whole of this Clause from that 834 point of view. If Parliament is asked for a power of this sort the Minister ought to be able to say more than, "I may need to do it if circumstances change sufficiently." Surely the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend ought either to be able to say, "We do need this power because we can see that we shall have to cut the expensive site subsidy"—I earnestly hope the Minister will not say that, he certainly has not said it so far —or,"Having thought the matter over we will confine ourselves to the powers we really need instead of taking a lot which we may or may not need."
It seems to me that the essential point about this expensive site subsidy is that it necessarily requires a lot more previous consideration, planning and negotiation than in the case of any ordinary site. In the nature of the case one is dealing with highly valuable land. One is dealing with land in the middle of big towns where, usually, there is not one but many interests to deal with. One has to consider not merely what is to be done on that particular site but the effect of what one is going to do on the housing, on the industry and on the general layout of the area for which one is responsible.
For all those reasons I should have thought that an expensive site subsidy was essentially one which required more than the stability that is given to the dwellings site. I beg the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman either to accept the Amendment or at least to say to us, "We had not really considered the particular problems of Paddington and such places before. We will think over this matter and see whether we really need the power we are taking here. If we find we do not really need it but only if something improbable happens—like the return of another Tory Government—we might use it." They could then come to Parliament again if and when they find this power is necessary.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, to leave out "the order" and to insert "this Act."
I think it would be convenient to consider at the same time my Amendments in lines 28, 30 and 41.
§ Mr. Irvine
This is in the nature of a drafting point and, as such, it is not without importance. As the Bill is worded, the Minister may make an orderin respect of…dwellings of any description specified in the order.This has the result that, on a strict view, it is open to the Minister to put all kinds of arbitrary descriptions in the order. I am sure that that is not his intention and is not likely to be the intention of any Minister for a long time to come, but as reference has been made to the desirability of getting the terms of the Bill correct and properly conveying the intentions of Parliament, it seems desirable that this loose wording and this opportunity of arbitrariness on the part of the Minister should be avoided.
As the Bill is drafted, it is open to the Minister to make an order reducing the subsidies for houses of any description specified in the order—it might be, for example, houses lived in by redheads or houses dwelt in by ex-Cabinet Ministers. He can make any kind of arbitrary and senseless description. I hope that the Government will desire to avoid this. It is a sloppy piece of draftsmanship.
I have no doubt that what is intended is that there shall be set out in the order the descriptive words describing particular categories of dwelling which are referred to elsewhere in the Bill. My Amendment? suggests that the best way of overcoming this difficulty is to provide that in the order the Minister should refer only to a specific class of dwelling in categories which are referred to and described elsewhere in the Bill and there appear. There may be other ways round the difficulty, but the difficulty is a real one.
I am grateful for the opportunity of raising the point. There are more important matters to be determined, and I raise the question because I have every hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will be good enough to consider the proposal and its merits. If I could be sure that they will do this, I would not desire to press the Amendment.
§ Mr. Powell
I suggest that the Clause is not drawn sloppily but is convenient for certain practical purposes. As the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) indicated, it enables the Minister, in the order which reduces or abolishes subsidy, to subdivide the categories specifically mentioned in the Act and to 836 reduce or abolish the subsidy in respect of part only of any of the descriptions specified in the Act.
I can say at once that the wording would not permit the Minister, as the hon. Member perhaps jocularly suggested, to discriminate against any class of tenant, because the words of the Clause aredwellings of any description specified in the order.Circumstances can readily be conceived in which power to subdivide descriptions would be useful. For example, the overspill subsidy may lose its relevance and utility in some parts of the country long before it does in other parts. It may, therefore, be convenient to narrow its operation to the areas where there is still a congestion problem.
To take the point made earlier by the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), we can look forward to progress in building techniques which will alter the cost factors in high buildings and thus alter the considerations upon which the expensive site subsidy in Clause 6 is constructed. Account could not be taken of those technical changes and of that technological progress unless there were the power to subdivide the description in Clause 6 in the making of an order reducing the subsidy.
§ Mr. Bevan
I do not quite follow. Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain further? He says that an order might be made de-limiting an area, but an overspill scheme has to be classified as such before it can attract subsidy. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's purposes would be met merely by refusing to consider a certain scheme as an overspill scheme. There is no need to limit the order to a particular part of the country to achieve that result.
§ Mr. Powell
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that administratively the operation of the relevant paragraphs of Clause 3 (3) could be limited. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there can be circumstances, of which I have given other examples, in which a subdivision of the category could be useful. As the House has, after all, to approve the order affirmatively, we can rely upon any future House of Commons to restrain a Minister from using this power in a discriminatory or unreasonable manner. I suggest, therefore, that 837 the Committee should not deprive itself of a potentially convenient form of drafting.
§ Mr. Mitchison
My next two Amendments, in page 2, lines 24 and 28, are intended to limit the Minister's powers under the Clause, in the one case by depriving him of the power to eliminate subsidies altogether, and in the other case by setting a time and quantity limit to the stages of reduction. The substantial point has already been put in the discussion on the first Amendment to the Clause and, in view of the Minister's declared attitude on that, I see no purpose in moving these Amendments.
§ Mrs. Freda Corbet (Peckham)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, at the end, to insert:Provided that no order shall be made by the Minister under this section in respect of dwellings provided by a local authority in the exercise of their powers to provide housing accommodation (or by a development corporation or housing association in pursuance of authorised arrangements with that local authority) and for the purpose of rehousing persons displaced in order to abate overcrowding.The purpose of the Amendment is to endeavour to put into the Bill some restraint upon the Minister, who may at some time or other decide to abolish the general subsidy in respect of a category of housing which is important in many areas of the country. I refer to the provision of housing for the purpose of mitigating overcrowding.
I know that an attempt has been made to retain the higher rate of subsidy for housing built for that purpose, but it has not been successful. My colleagues and I, therefore, are asking for much less. We are prepared to accept the lower rate of general housing subsidy for this essential purpose, and we are asking that the Minister shall at no time do away with that general subsidy for this purpose.
I plead my cause with some seriousness. Before the war, there were two categories of housing for which subsidies were payable. One was for slum clearance which the Minister, of course, is now treating with due respect. The other was for the relief of overcrowding. I regret to say that the same respect is not being 838 accorded to that part of the general housing problem of local authorities. It would be fair to say that in certain parts of the country the slum clearance problem is more serious than the problem of overcrowding, but London, for example, has perhaps a much smaller problem of slum clearance than is the case in some parts of the Provinces, yet nevertheless has an extraordinarily big problem of overcrowding.
We have been anxious to combat overcrowding since long before the war. It was not possible even in those days to-have a standard applied to overcrowding which would meet the requirements of the people, but during and since the war the whole matter has had to go by the board. The local authorities simply cannot insist upon their own and other landlords' properties being relieved of overcrowding.
I hope that the Minister, having seen the Amendment and realised its humble nature, will be prepared to give further consideration to it, if he has not already come to a decision, and will do something to reassure local authorities. The problem must be before the Ministry as before the local authorities, but the local authorities are afraid that at a convenient moment the subsidy will not be available when they want to get on with tackling the problem.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) has reminded the Committee that from 1935 until the outbreak of the war there were two types of subsidy running, as it were, in parallel—the subsidy directed to assist slum clearance and the subsidy directed to combat overcrowding. In this Bill, while a preferential position is accorded to the rehousing of persons from unfit houses, overcrowding falls to be dealt with as part of the general operations of local authorities for meeting general housing needs. The hon. Lady asks what is the reason for the difference of treatment.
In the first place, the scale of the two problems has altered very greatly since the 1935 Act first introduced a specific subsidy to assist in the relief of overcrowding. The survey which was carried out, following that Act, in 1936 showed that 340,000 dwellings were at that time overcrowded within the statutory definition. So far as can be adduced from the 1 per cent. sample of the 1951 Census, 839 the number of families then overcrowded in approximately the same degree—and I am advised that the degree is probably slightly less than the statutory definition of overcrowding—has fallen to 218,000.
Since then, of course, a further 1½million dwellings have been provided, so that it is reasonable to presume that the numbers of overcrowded families are now substantially lower than they were in 1951. Therefore, there is that first difference between the position as it stood 20 years ago and as it stands today—that the scale of overcrowding, its proportion in the general housing problem, is much less and that the figures afford reasonable hope that it is diminishing.
The second reason relates to the manner by which local housing authorities proceed in meeting the needs of their local areas. Most local authorities, in fact, take overcrowding heavily into account in the allocation of tenancies, and all have the power to do so. Therefore, local authorities, in allocating their houses today as they come off the production line, are directing their attention specifically to the diminution of overcrowding and, as long as they have priority lists and points of allocation, most of them will continue to do so.
On the other hand, they have not the same facilities for concentrating through the general housing waiting list upon the slum problem because, as hon. Members know, very often a family in a slum house will rank very low, even if it appears at all, on a local housing authority's list of priorities. Therefore, there is that logical justification for regarding the combating of overcrowding as part of the provision of the general housing needs while concentrating specifically upon the removal of unfit houses.
I ask the Committee also to take this point into account. While local authorities can voluntarily and usually do take overcrowding heavily into account in allocating their tenancies, if Parliament legislates on overcrowding and attaches subsidies and obligations to the relief of overcrowding it must do as it did in 1935, and make overcrowding a statutory offence. It is doubtful whether at the present time it would be practicable, or whether it would be helpful for local housing authorities, to do so.
840 Therefore, as the two hang together—the proceeding against overcrowding as an offence and the specifying of the relief of overcrowding as an object in a housing Bill—I feel that the Committee would be well advised to leave overcrowding to be dealt with, as it is being not unsuccessfully dealt with at present, by local authorities in the operation of their general housing powers while concentrating, as the Bill does, on the removal of unfit houses.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The Amendment is designed to deal with the question whether or not subsidies in aid of the relief of overcrowding should be reduced or eliminated. Very good reasons were put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) for that not being done. On the other hand, we had a full debate on the question of overcrowding on an Amendment to Clause 1, upon which the Parliamentary Secretary could very properly have made the speech which he has just made. It was quite in order for him to make it now as it would have been quite in order for him to have made it then. We won such a signal victory in the debate on overcrowding, though it failed to result in the Minister accepting the Amendment, that I should think it somewhat tedious to repeat the reasons which we gave then for giving a special place to subsidies for overcrowding.
§ Mrs. Corbet
I do not like to pursue this matter much further, because I appreciate that the Committee has spent some time on the subject. I appreciate the figures which the Parliamentary Secretary has given and I can understand how they have been arrived at. Nevertheless, I am well aware that there is now a great deal more overcrowding in certain respects. The census in taking account of the number of rooms in a house omits the other information, namely, that a family of four or five which has only one room is really overcrowded, although the house may not appear to be so as far as all the occupants in it are concerned.
The local authorities, if they are to deal with that problem, have to provide general housing. They may have to do it in the future without any subsidy at all. I assure the Minister that the picture is not nearly as rosy as the census makes it appear to be. I think that what we were anxious to do before the war, 841 namely, to make overcrowding an offence, should again be one of our objectives. I know that we want to get rid of unfit buildings, but we also want to get rid of overcrowded lettings both by public and private owners.
I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that before he does anything about abolishing the subsidy he will consult the local authorities on this point, so that he may obtain their views and see how he might possibly be able to assist them. If the Minister can give me that assurance I shall be very happy to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Sandys
I can, of course, give the hon. Lady the assurance, because consultation with the local authority associations is provided for in this Clause.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
I do not intend, Sir Charles, to move the Amendment in my name, in page 2, line 28, because it again raises the merits of the Bill, which we discussed at length on Clause 1. I do not think that I would be warranted in taking up the time of the Committee and, therefore, I desire not to move the Amendment.
§ Mr. MacColl
I beg to move, in page 2, line 41, at the end, to insert:or to any site, which is purchased or agreed to be purchased or in respect of which a compulsory purchase order is confirmed on or after that date.We have already had a fairly full discussion on the wider issue of including in this Clause the power to cancel or alter the site subsidy as opposed to the dwelling subsidy. Therefore, I am sure that it would be out of order to go over that ground again. The point which I want to make is much more a point of procedure. It is a very much narrower and perhaps more technical point than the more general issue of policy which the Committee has already decided.
I am still not really clear in my mind why we have the words:…or of the site of,…842 in line 22, which are not in the 1946 Act and which are a notable departure from that Act. But on the assumption that there is some good reason for keeping them in and that there is to be some action taken in regard to the site subsidies, apart from action in regard to the total subsidy on the dwellings, what I am pleading for, more or less, is further notice to the authorities of the Minister's intention.
Whatever may be the argument for saying that the change in the subsidy on the dwelling should take place on the acceptance of the tender or on the approval or the application for loan sanction or whatever may be the particular stage, all these stages in a housing operation are usually very much closer together than the acquisition of the site. The acquisition of the site takes place some considerable time before the final decisions are taken about construction and building, and before there can be any question of preparing specifications and going out to tender on the building.
I am suggesting that if the Minister intends suddenly to intervene and upset the Bill or alter in any material way the basis of the subsidy it is very hard on the more prudent authorities. Apparently, the Minister has never heard of the wise and the foolish virgins, or if he has heard of them he has by unilateral action decided to express his approval of the foolish virgins rather than of the wise. The wise authority plans many years ahead its housing porgramme and thinks, "In five years' time I shall want to develop this site. I had better start acquiring it, prepare a plan, get the sewers laid down, and so on."
In other words, the authority which does not live from hand to mouth, but tries to plan its capital expenditure and housing programme in a farsighted way will be far more badly caught by a change of policy on the part of the Minister under this Clause than the foolish council which goes about things in a slapdash way and suddenly decides, "Next year we must do something where we can," grabs a convenient piece of land which is very often not the best land available for quick development.
Therefore, any decision which the Minister makes to alter unilaterally the basis of agreement between the Minister and the local authority about the financial assistance which is to be given should 843 only apply in the case of land which is acquired after the date of that action being taken. That would seem to be an eminently reasonable point of view, and one that will encourage the wise and prudent authority, which I am sure is what the Minister wants to do. I hope it will be possible for him to accept an Amendment on this or on comparable, lines, which I am sure will work for the smoothness of the planning of housing. Even if the Minister is determined to do a great deal of damage to municipal housing, I am sure that within the field that is left he wants it to go as smoothy and efficiently as possible.
§ Mr. Powell
I do not wish, any more than the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), to go back over our lengthy debates of the King Charles's head of Section 16 of the 1946 Housing Act. I think that the Committee by now realises that a reduction of subsidy under that Section being attached to the completion of houses bit at a much later stage in the incubation of local authority houses than does the reduction under Clause 2, which is attached to the acceptance of a tender or estimate. So that although the much earlier date still, which the hon. Member has in mind, namely the acquisition of the site or even the preparation to acquire the site, is not covered by Clause 2, all the less was it covered by Section 16 of the 1946 Act which is the law at the moment.
The hon. Member has himself pointed out that the prudent local authority acquires land three years or more in advance of actually beginning building operations. To accept this Amendment would, therefore, mean that no alteration in the subsidies could become effective for at least three and possibly more years after the making of the Order.
§ Mr. Powell
Yes. The houses would not be built on the site for three or four or even more years after the making of the Order, the operation of which would be delayed by that amount of time, which is clearly quite out of keeping with my right hon. Friend's policy and with the intention underlying the Bill. But there is no need for local housing authorities to be anxious.
844 8.0 p.m.
Supposing the local housing authority has bought a site in advance of requirements and then decides, after reduction or abolition of the subsidy and, in view of the general housing situation in its area, that it does not want to use this for housing, the possession of that site is no burden on the ratepayers of that area because the site can be disposed of again. And as it has been bought, at most, at market value, it can presumably be disposed of again at market value. So there is no reason to think that authorities which acquire sites in good time can conceivably be exposed to risk by the fact that the subsidies are reduced or abolished after acquisition of those sites.
Therefore, I ask the Committee to reject an Amendment which, in effect, largely frustrates the intention of the Clause.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I must be getting unduly critical of the hon. Gentleman, but I find his replies more and more unconvincing. In this Clause the Minister has recognised the principle that, when the preparations for the building of the dwelling have reached a certain stage, he ought not to go back on what the local authorities, relying on the existing subsidies, have done. We can argue about whether the time limit is long enough; we can argue, of course, about the merits of the Clause; but there can be no dispute that something of the kind is necessary now for dwellings.
I am not going back to King Charles's head, but the 1946 Housing Act was introduced in entirely different circumstances. The Clause in question was very little used, and I find it the worst argument for a Measure which is proposed now in wholly different circumstances, and for a wholly different purpose, that there is a parallel in the Act of 1946. It seems to me to be proving that rabbits have four legs by saying that elephants have them. They are both animals but there are differences. Equally there are differences between the position in 1946 and the intentions of the Government at that time and the position now and the intentions of the Government today.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Of course they have, except those with myxomatosis, and I do not know what happens to them. If such a limit is necessary for dwellings, why is it not necessary for expensive sites? I do 845 not necessarily want to press the Minister to take the exact limit proposed in this Amendment, though it seems to me to be perfectly reasonable in the case of expensive sites, which is what we are talking about. However, I press him to think again before refusing to put in some limit on the expensive site subsidy. Otherwise the right hon. Gentleman will put the local authorities in an impossible position when they are negotiating about sites, when they may even have bought them or agreed to buy them.
I cannot resist the impression, not necessarily that someone has forgotten to put in a time limit about expensive sites, but that the point has not received careful consideration. This is not a very contentious matter, but it may make a great difference to some local authorities. So I ask the Minister whether he will not give the Committee an undertaking to reconsider the question of some time limit on the expensive sites in order to make it easier for local authorities to carry out their work. If legislation is to be introduced we are all anxious that this should be done with the minimum of unnecessary friction between the central government and local authorities.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am disappointed with the course taken by the discussion and the statements of the Minister on this Clause. I realise that the Clause raises the entire principle of the Bill, that in effect it is the second step, or the preparations for the second step, in what the Minister proposes to do. Therefore, to some extent, anything one says about it is repetition of the criticisms that were made on Second Reading.
On the other hand, the Minister is seeking comprehensive powers. The right hon. Gentleman may say that they were sought in 1946, but I have already given the answer that both the circumstances of the time, one year after the war, and the intentions of the Government were entirely different in those days. The Minister tells us he wants this Clause to enable him to reduce the general need subsidy to nothing in a year or so. From the refusal of our Amendments we have gathered he also wants it in order to make 846 certain other changes by way of reducing or eliminating other subsidies.
We have been told nothing definite about those further intentions. The Minister may be able to tell us tonight, but I regard it as constitutionally unsatisfactory if, when such a statement has been made, the Minister in charge of the Bill does not face the need for having a second Bill when the occasion arises, instead of taking general powers of this kind. The Minister could have done much of what is proposed in the Bill by administrative action. It would be out of place to go into details, but the right hon. Gentleman has recognised clearly the necessity for a Bill for making the present reductions in subsidies, and this constitutes a sweeping change not only as regards local authorities but as regards housing the people in this country who need houses, whether it is a general need or a particular one in connection with slum clearance, overcrowding, or whatever the ill may be.
The Minister has recognised that, and I should have thought that instead of taking these powers the right thing to do would be to come forward again, if and when the occasion arises, with a Bill either to reduce or, dare we hope, to restore the subsidies which will have been removed by this Bill. It would be unusual for the Minister to take power for the restoration of subsidies in this Bill, but in any case he has shut the door on that course. He has left open only the possibility of a reduction or elimination, and with a cynical attitude, in view of some of the protestations of the Government, he has refused even to contemplate the possibility that the country may be able to afford an increase in these subsidies in the future.
The Minister has said to the local authorities, "Whatever happens to the cost of building, however far inflation may go"—the existence of which everybody recognises and, certainly, the Tory Government—"I will not in any circumstances meet the real needs of local authorities by restoring the subsidies." A short time ago the Minister was taunting the Labour Government with maintaining housing subsidies at a given monetary figure in spite of the rise in prices. The rise in prices is here today. The rise in building costs is here today. The rise in prices is at least as acute as it was immediately after the war, and without the 847 good excuse for it then, that it was just after the war. The only reason for the present rise appears to be the persistent policy of the Tory Government.
Yet in spite of that rise in prices, in spite of that rise in building costs, the only thing that the Minister proposes to do is to cut still further the housing subsidies, to add to the cut already made by the increasing fall in the value of money the monetary cut which he proposes to put into effect in a year's time. We have been told singularly little about it. If the Minister is going to do any more than he has threatened to do, which is to eliminate the general needs subsidy—that is bad enough—he ought to tell us what sort of use he proposes to make of the Clause and when he proposes to make that use of it.
I am sorely disappointed that he has refused to leave the local authorities at peace and, that the Sword of Damocles will hang over their heads from the end of March. I am equally disappointed at the Minister's refusal to accept our Amendment which would have afforded some protection in the buying of expensive sites. The only Amendment which has been accepted has been a minor one, though the intention of all of them was to make the work of local authorities easier.
If that is the attitude in which the right hon. Gentleman persists, he must not be surprised if the definite hostility which the local authority associations have shown towards the Bill hitherto is maintained and even aggravated. I hope he will be able to give us an assurance that, in spite of having rejected the Amendments placed before him, he will at a later stage consider the questions of principle which have been raised and bring forward an Amendment on Report to meet those points. Failing that, we regard this as a very serious matter indeed. However, let us hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say.
§ Mr. Sparks
I support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in his opposition to the Clause, first of all, because it is a most reactionary Clause, and, secondly, because it sounds the death knell of housing for general needs by local authorities.
If we ask ourselves why the principle of subsidies was ever introduced into the building by local authorities of housing 848 accommodation for their people, the answer is that it was because private enterprise was unable to provide what was required. Private enterprise kept our people in slums, in insanitary dwellings and in hovels, and the housing problem of the country got worse and worse until even a Tory Government had to recognise that, if it wanted to stave off what might well have been a revolutionary situation aimed against the social conditions of the people, something had to be done to provide better housing accommodation.
Consequently, the Government were compelled to encourage local authorities to take over the work which private enterprise had completely failed to do for the simple reason that there was not enough money in it. If private enterprise cannot make a profit, it is not interested in supplying people with anything. Though people might be badly housed, private enterprise considered it of no concern unless it could make money out of it.
That situation applies today. I and other hon. Members representing constituencies in the Greater London area, and also in other large cities, know that private enterprise is completely unable to provide the necessary housing accommodation for our lower income groups. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to wages and salaries being higher than they were, but he very conveniently forgot to mention that the cost of living has also gone up considerably and is galloping forward every day as a result of the Government's policy. Despite the fact that wages have risen, we still have low income groups, and when we consider the purchasing power which even high wages provide, we can appreciate that the question of rent is a very important one. The purpose of paying a subsidy is to make it possible for people in the lower income groups to live in decent accommodation at rents which they can afford.
Earlier the Opposition moved an Amendment, which was rejected by the Minister, in an endeavour to continue the subsidies in areas of comprehensive development under the Town and Country Planning Acts. The answer of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary clearly showed that they did not understand the problem in the slightest degree. I believe that the passing of Clauses 1 849 and 2 will very largely sound the death-knell of good planning throughout the country. I believe that the position of most local authorities will be as follows. If they are expected to carry out the provisions of their development plan and they have people to be re-housed, the hon. Gentleman has said that it will be all right for them to re-house people who are in unfit slum houses, for which they will receive a subsidy, although they will not receive a subsidy for any other housing. That does not solve the problem. The problem is that as a rule in an area of comprehensive development the houses are old ones; they may not be slums technically, but they are not far from it. They may be low-rented old houses.
My constituency is carrying out part of its redevelopment plan and redeveloping an area of bad lay-out, there being poor housing mixed up with small industries. Many houses will be pulled down. People are paying 15s., £1, and in some cases 25s. per week for these houses. We hope to re-house these people somewhere else in the borough if we can find the land. If the subsidy goes, the economic rent of a three-roomed house will be £3 15s. per week. Thus these people will be expected to pay £2 per week more than their present rent. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that the £2 per week can be spread over all the other tenants living in the area. There is a limit beyond which one cannot go. The hon. Gentleman said that he was opposed to the pulling down of houses unless they really were slums. Apart from the technicalities, a local authority has to face the problem from the human point of view. How can it proceed to carry out its development plan knowing full well that a number of people will be displaced from homes for which they are paying perhaps 25s. per week and will be forced into a council flat at £3 15s. per week? As a consequence it will be found that the Bill will be a death blow to redevelopment under the development plans of the planning authorities.
I hope that the Committee will reject the Clause for those reasons and because it will throw into absolute chaos the housing schemes of local authorities. I do not for a moment accept the Minister's argument that because in the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) 850 Act, 1946, provision was made for the subsidies to be terminated without adequate notice that it can be included in this Act. That provision was never exercised. I do not know whether the Minister regarded it as a good thing or as a bad thing. He did not say. He evidently thinks that it is a good thing, because he has taken these powers. If it was a good thing, why is he trying to argue that it was bad?
In any case in 1946 the position was totally different from what it is now. We were not proposing to abolish housing subsidies. After the war when we were again starting our housing construction subsidies were very important, and I can easily understand the Government in those earlier years laying down such a provision because of the uncertainties that then existed. In 1946 there was no intention to reduce or abolish subsidies. Today the Minister is using that power to extinguish subsidies on housing for general purposes.
Whether or not the provision appeared in the 1946 Act, it is right and honourable to give local authorities at least a minimum period in which to think out their plans in the light of the provisions of the Bill and to arrange their finances to avoid a state of chaos in their housing programmes as a result of the uncertainty which must arise. I certainly did not see the point of the Parliamentary Secretary's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). It was a pretty weak argument to say that if a local authority bought a piece of land and found that it could not use it because it did not have the subsidy that it could sell the land.
A local authority cannot acquire land unless the right hon. Gentleman gives his approval and approves not only the purchase, but the purpose for which the land is acquired. He therefore has a moral responsibility when a local authority purchases land. He gives permission and sanctions the use of the land. In many cases in built-up areas it is anti-social to suggest that a local authority, having acquired a piece of land, should dispose of it for purposes other than housing.
In areas where there is plenty of land and where it can be bought without difficulty and where the price is reasonably low, this difficulty does not arise. But in 851 built-up areas where land values are very high and where there is a shortage of land it is most anti-social to suggest that local authorities should dispose of a valuable piece of land to anybody who likes to come along, instead of using it to meet housing needs. For that and other reasons which I have advanced, I hope that the Committee will reject the Clause. It is reactionary and certainly sounds the death knell of housing schemes for general purposes by the local authorities.
§ Mr. A. Evans
This is a dangerous Clause and I am sure that Her Majesty's Opposition will do its duty in going into the Lobby against it. If the House of Commons were to do its duty tonight it would refuse the wide powers which the Clause gives to the Minister. During our discussions on the Clause I have learned that the Minister proposes entirely to abolish the general subsidy in a period of "a year or so," to use his own words. At least, local authorities are now warned that the Minister proposes entirely to abolish the general housing subsidy within, say, 18 months. That local authorities should have received that warning is one gain from our discussions.
The Minister also mentioned that he did not propose to use the powers of abolition to abolish the subsidy on slum clearance and dwellings to replace slums. That was a rather significant submission, for it implied that the Clause gives him the power to abolish even the subsidy upon slum clearance and the provision of houses to take the place of slums cleared away. There is no doubt about that. The Minister even admitted that he was taking power to abolish the subsidy for slum clearance. Those powers are far too sweeping for any Minister to take, particularly the present Minister. With all respect, I do not believe that he really understands the fundamentals of our housing conditions and problems in this country.
Despite all the discouragement which the Bill will give to local authorities, I believe that those with Socialist majorities will, at any rate, continue to build as many houses as they can for the people who need them. In following their duty, councils will do all they can to build despite the handicaps, the reduction of 852 subsidies and their final abolition. Inevitably, under these financial conditions and with the increased price of money, rents of these dwellings, even with differential rent schemes, must rise.
In due course, before the normal term of the Government is concluded, the Government will find that the consequences of their action will come home to them, because higher rents will awaken the people to the mercenary attitude which the Government have adopted towards the rehousing of the people. I shall have very great pleasure in voting against the Clause.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
Since I understand from hon. Members opposite that they have already made up their minds to vote against this Clause, I do not think that I need waste very much time in attempting to convince them or to change their opinions. I was interested in a remark of the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) which was absolutely true but which has not been mentioned by any other hon. Member opposite. He said he supposed, that, despite the reductions in subsidy, local authorities would go on building all the houses they needed for their people—
§ Mr. Sandys
All the houses they can, and there is nothing to prevent them from building the houses they need—
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) both covered much the same ground in their speeches—I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman was somewhat more concise than his hon. Friend. They complained that this Bill provides the Minister with powers which are too extensive in order to reduce or abolish the subsidies. This Bill must be looked at against the background of the Government's policy regarding subsidies. It is part of that policy that the subsidy for general needs shall be abolished within a fairly short time.
§ Mr. Sandys
We believe that after a comparatively short transitional period, in which local authorities will have the opportunity to adjust themselves to the new conditions, it should be possible for the subsidy for general needs—now being reduced from £22 to £10—to be abolished altogether. It is against that policy that the provisions of the Bill must be viewed, and it is absurd to suggest that the Bill should not provide the powers needed to carry out this policy. Obviously, one of these powers is that of reducing and abolishing the subsidies.
I know hon. Members have made a distinction between the power to abolish the subsidy for general housing needs and the power to abolish subsidies for other purposes, such as slum clearance, overspill, new towns and so forth. At present the Government have no plans to reduce the subsidies for those purposes. But we cannot say that circumstances will no: justify some reduction at a future date, and in bringing in this new comprehensive Bill to replace the existing legislation on the subject, we feel it right to provide flexibility. The powers provided are subject to affirmative Resolution by the House of Commons, and so it is clear that Parliament retains control.
The 1946 Act did not provide any of the limitations asked for in the debates on the proposed Amendments to this Clause, and I see no good reason for introducing them here.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to tell the Committee that the Government have at present no plans for reducing any other subsidies than the general needs subsidy. If they have no such plans, is he sure that they ought to take the powers which they are taking to reduce those other subsidies, including the site subsidy, which we have been particularly discussing, and the subsidies for over-spill, new towns and others which he mentioned?
§ part in these debates would desire to have housing subsidy Bills introduced very frequently. As this legislation is being introduced, it seems desirable that it should provide for all circumstances which might arise. I cannot say that it will not be necessary or desirable to make changes in other subsidies at some future date. All I am saying is that we have no plans at present to do so. I think that it would be undesirable to leave any part of the structure rigidly fixed by legislation and incapable of adjustment by Order, subject to a Resolution and debate in the House, as has been the practice in regard to housing subsidies under previous legislation.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point, because I was criticised earlier, by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering when he said that the only thing which is provided for here is the power to reduce or to abolish. As hon. Members know well, legislation of this kind never provides the power to increase a charge. That is why the question of an increase just does not arise.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I recognise the point which the right hon. Gentleman has just made, but I deplore the taking of powers to this extent in these circumstances. If more is proposed, we ought at least to be told what it is, but if, as the right hon. Gentleman says—and, of course, I accept it—the Government have no present plans to reduce any other subsidies, they are asking altogether too much by taking these powers to do so in their present form. I am not impressed with the parallel that is sought to be drawn to the 1946 Act. For those reasons we propose to divide against the Clause.
§ Question put, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 251, Noes 205.857
|Division No. 94.]||AYES||[8.36 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Armstrong, C. W.||Barter, John|
|Aitken, W. T.||Ashton, H.||Baxter, Sir Beverley|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Atkins, H. E.||Beamish, Maj. Tufton|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Balniel, Lord||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Banks, Col. C.||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Barlow, Sir John||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chrch)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Blggs-Davison, J. A.||Heath, Edward||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Body, R. F.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Hlnohingbrooke, Viscount||Orr, Capt. L. P. 8.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Osborne, C.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A,||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Page, R. G.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Holt, A. F.||Panned, N. A. (Klrkdale)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hope, Lord John||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Brocman-White, R. C.||Homsby-Smith, Mist M. P.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Horobin, Sir Ian||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bryan, P.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Pitman, 1. J.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander C. E.||Howard, John (Test)||Pott, H. P.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(SaffronWalden)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Carr, Robert||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh,W.)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hutchison, James (Sootstoun)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hyde, Montgomery||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (pcrtsmth, W.)||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Redmayne, M.|
|Cole, Norman,||Iremonger, T. L.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Irvine, Bryant Codman (Rye)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Cunningham, Knox||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Russell, R. S.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kaberry, D.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Keegan, D.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Sharpies, R. C.|
|Davies,Rt.Hon.Clement(Montgomery)||Kerr, H. W.||Shepherd, William|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kirk, P. M.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Deedes, w. F.||Lagden, G. W.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Dlgby, Simon Wingfield||Lambert, Hon. G.||Speir, R. M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Leavey, J. A.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Legge-Bourke, Ma]. E. A. H.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, 8.)|
|Duthie, W. S||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Storey, S,|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lloyd, MaJ. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Errlngton, Sir Eric||Lloyd-George, Ma], Rt. Hon. G.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Fell, A.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Teeling, W.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Fisher, Nigel||McAdden, S. J.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Maodonald, Sir Peter||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Fort, R.||McKibbin, A. J.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Freeth, D. K.||Mackle, J. H. (Calloway)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Gammans, L. D.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield,W.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Maomillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Glover, D.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Maddan, Martin||Vosper, D. F.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Wade, D. W.|
|Gower, H. R,||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.(Nantwioh)||Marples, A. E.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Green, A.||Marshall, Douglas||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mathew, R.||Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Grimond, J.||Mawby, R. L.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, s.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Gurden, Harold||Molson, A. H. E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Woollam, John Victor|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Harris, Frederio (Croydon, N.W.)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nairn, D. L. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Neave, Airey||Mr. Godber and Mr. Barber.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hale, Leslie||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Hamilton, W. W.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hannan, W.||Parker, J.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Parkin B. T.|
|Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)||Hastings, S.||Paton, J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hayman, F. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Healey, Denis||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Balfour, A.||Herbison, Miss M.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Bartley, P.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Probert, A. R.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Holman, P.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Pryde, D. J.|
|Benson, G.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Rankin, John|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Reeves, J.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hoy, J. H.||Reid, William|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hubbard, T. F.||Rhodes, H.|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bowden, H. w. (Leicester, S.W.)||Hunter, A. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Ross, William|
|Brockway, A. F.||Janner, B.||Royie, C.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Short, E. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn &St.Pncs,S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Sorensen, R, W.|
|Champion, A. J.||King, Dr. H. M.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Lawson, G. M.||Steele, T.|
|Clunie, J.||Ledger, R. J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Coldrick, W.||Lee, Frederiok (Newton)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lindgren, G. S.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Logan, D. G.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Mabon, Dr. J. D.||Sylvester, G. 0.|
|Cronin, J. D.||MaoColl, J. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Daines, P.||Mclnnes, J.||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thornton, E.|
|Deer, G.||MoLeavy, Frank||Timmons, J.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Dodds, N. N.||Macpherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Usborne, H, C.|
|Dye, S.||Mahon, S.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mason, Roy||West, D. G.|
|Edwards, w. J. (Stepney)||Mayhew, C. P.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mellish, R. J.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mikardo, Ian||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mitohison, G. R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Moody, A. S.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Flenburgh, W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Finch, H. J.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Fletcher, Erlc||Moyle, A.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N,||Oliver, G. H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Oram, A. E.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Orbach, M.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Oswald, T.||rates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Grey, C. F,||Owen, W. J.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Padley, W. E.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Palmer, A. M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes|