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Housing Acts

Volume 65: debated on Monday 20 July 1914

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asked the President of the Board of Agriculture if he can state on what principle it was decided to borrow £3,000,000 for building houses in agricultural districts; and whether he expects to build with this sum sufficient cottages to make good the shortage which both he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated at 125,000 last year?

The estimate of £3,000,000 was necessarily conjectural, for it is impossible to foresee to what extent the building of cottages will be undertaken by authorised societies under the Bill, and to what extent the Board themselves will have to build. The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative; and I am not aware that I ever estimated the shortage of cottages at 125,000, but I hope that the sum named in the Bill will be sufficient to enable at any rate a substantial beginning to be made.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that 125,000 cottages were urgently needed, and as this Bill will only provide for about 15,000, when do the Government propose to build the other 110,000?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has had experience of building operations, and he knows perfectly well that we cannot start building 125,000 cottages right off. That does not alter the fact that there is a very great shortage in the country, and we must make a beginning some time.

Did not the right hon. Gentleman say last week that £3,000,000 was a maximum amount?

I said that the sum in the Bill would not exceed that, but there is no reason why the amount should not be extended if necessity arises.


asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether the houses to be built by the Government in agricultural districts, under the Housing Bill, are to be let at economic rents; and, if so, whether he can state what is an economic rent; and what he proposes is to take place in districts when the labourers cannot afford to pay an economic rent?


asked the President of the Board of Agriculture what percentage on the capital outlay he will consider an economic rent for cottages to be built under the provisions of the Housing Bill?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. A cottage let by the State at an economic rent will be let at such a rent as will be sufficient to pay interest on the capital expended and provide for other regular charges on the cottage. In those districts where the wages of labourers are insufficient to enable them to pay an economic rent, the Government's land proposals will provide means for raising their remuneration to the level of a fair living wage.

Will the Government's land proposals raise wages in time to enable men to pay economic rents?


asked whether it is intended by Clause 2 of the Housing Bill to give the Government power to house permanent employés of Government Departments or only men employed temporarily on contract work for the Government; and, if the former, whether the Government propose to build houses for postmen in places where a scarcity now exists?

The object of Clause 2 of the Bill is to provide dwelling accommodation for permanent employés of Government Departments, including postmen, where sufficient accommodation is not already available.

Are we to understand that the Bill will not apply to the temporary navvies who are at Rosyth now, where a great deal of overcrowding has been caused by the action of the Government?

That is obviously an Admiralty question, and I believe that the Admiralty representatives have already made a statement with regard to the contractors' employés.

Is the Bill, or is it not, to deal with the present difficulties at Rosyth?

I have answered the question quite clearly. It is to provide the necessary accommodation for the permanent employés.

Then why did the Prime Minister say the other day that it was necessary to pass the Housing Bill in order to deal with the difficulty at Rosyth?

That is with the object of dealing with the permanent operations. Many of the men who will be permanently employed at Rosyth will have to be provided for next year.


asked whether, under Clause 2 of the Housing Bill, it will be competent for the Commissioners of Woods to erect workmen's dwellings on Crown lands in the Forest of Dean, where there is a serious shortage of such dwellings and where the workpeople are the employés of Government lessees?

Clause 2 of the Housing Bill relates to the Local Government Board and the Commissioners of Works, and does not confer any powers upon the Commissioners of Woods. The latter Commissioners already have power, with the consent of the Treasury, to erect workmen's dwellings on Crown lands, in the Forest of Dean or elsewhere, if they think it desirable to do so, and whether such dwellings are intended for the use of workpeople who are employés of Government lessees or not. I have, as Commissioner of Woods, already offered land in the forest to local authorities on easy terms for building cottages, and am treating with public utility societies in a similar way.

Do the Government intend themselves to put up any cottages in the Forest of Dean or elsewhere?

We do not propose to do so at the present time. Until we see how many cottages are likely to be erected by local authorities and public utility societies I could not make a statement on the subject.

Do I understand that the Government are not prepared to accept the gifts of land which he said last week they probably would accept?


asked what provisions in the Housing Bill would deal with the case of urgent need for ninety-two cottages stated in the Report of a Local Government Board inquiry at present to exist in the sixty-nine parishes comprising the Horncastle rural district area, where the highest rent which the economic condition of the agricultural industry will allow is 3s. per week and the lowest cost of a labourer's cottage, with garden, is £200?

Clause 1 of the Bill would appear to be applicable to the district in question; I am not prepared to admit that the economic difficulties suggested by the hon. Gentleman are insuperable.


asked the Prime Minister whether the Government propose to take the Housing Bill in the present or in the next Session; and whether they propose to deal with the housing question in the towns and industrial districts or to confine themselves solely to the agricultural districts?

As regards the first part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to what I said on Friday last. As regards the second part, the Bill does not deal with urban housing except as may be provided for Government employés under Clause 2. I can make no statement as to the business of next Session.

Can the right hon. Gentleman not say whether the Government intend to deal with the question of urban housing?


asked the Prime Minister how it is proposed under the Government Housing Bill, bearing in mind that only £3,000,000 will be available for the provision of cottages by the Government in rural districts and the consequent sporadic and piecemeal treatment of the housing problem, to prevent irresistible political pressure being brought to bear upon the Government to erect cottages in certain districts and neglect others equally deserving of their sympathetic activities?

The Prime Minister has asked me to answer this question. The Government intend to supply the deficiency wherever it has arisen and is un-provided for, and the sum mentioned in the Bill is intended to enable a beginning to be made. I may add that the Board hope to have the assistance of public utility societies and of local committees, such as have already been set up in some counties by the Rural Housing Organisation Society, in the selection of the areas in which cottages are most urgently needed.


asked the Prime Minister whether the Government will consider the advisability of dividing the Housing Bill into two parts in order that the Clauses affecting the housing of employés at Rosyth may not be hampered in their passage into law by the contentious matter contained in other Clauses?

The Prime Minister has asked me to answer this question. The Government will be prepared, if necessary, to consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion after the Second Reading of the Bill, but they hope that no such necessity will arise.