Building Materials And Housing Bill
Considered in Committee.[ Progress, 3rd December.]
[Mr. Hubert Beaumont in the Chair]
Clause 2—(The Building Materials And Housing Fund)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 1, after "be," insert:
In moving this Amendment I think it is desirable, at the outset, to recall the position left as a result of the decision taken by the Committee last night. The Amendment which I moved yesterday, to the effect that the Minister should prepare his accounts within three months and not within a maximum of eight months, was rejected by the Committee. What, then, is the position arising at the stage which we have now reached? It is that the Minister of Works, going into this business of production and distribution in a big way as he has indicated, is under no obligation, as the Bill is at present drawn, to present or prepare any account except by 30th November following the end of any financial year in the five years during which he will be operating. That is a long period to ask Parliament to wait. Let us see what the Minister has to do. On or before 30th November following the expiration of the financial year all he has to do is to transmit his accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General, who shall examine and certify the accounts and lay copies, together with his report thereon, before Parliament. There have been examples during the war and, no doubt, earlier, when this process has been an exceedingly long one. It appears to my hon. Friends and myself that the Bill, as drawn, gives every likelihood that Parliament will be de- prived of any knowledge of the extent of the success or failure of this operation for a grossly unreasonable time. Accordingly, this Amendment and the next Amendment on the Paper—in line 3, leave out "copies thereof together with"—are intended to secure that after the termination of the eight months, during which the Minister has been drawing up his accounts, Parliament shall see the result. I can see no solid ground of objection to such a proposal. The accounts, we hope, will be correctly and intelligibly drawn up and in a fit state to be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Ought we not to see them at the same time as the Comptroller and Auditor-General? Ought we not to see them within eight months of the termination of the year's financial and other transactions? We suggest that this simultaneous presentation is desirable and that the accounts prepared under the subsection should be laid before Parliament and a copy thereof submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General who would then proceed to examine and certify them and make his report. In the case of the earlier Amendment, which proposed that the Minister should draw up his accounts within three months and not eight months, the only argument that was used to justify the refusal to accept the proposal was that it had never been done before. It is very difficult to check a negative statement of that kind, but apart from the difficulty of checking, an argument based on what is alleged to be precedent is most unsatisfactory. These operations are going to be extremely important. They may involve great loss to the community, to the taxpayers. All of us—I am sure I can include the right hon. Gentleman—are gravely disturbed about the cost of the operations which were conducted and, as far as I know are still being conducted by the right hon. Gentleman who was Minister of Aircraft Production, and is now President of the Board of Trade. I refer, of course, to the aluminium temporary houses of which about 55,000, I understand, are going to be made, each having an area of 600 square feet, at a cost very considerably in excess of the figure at which private enterprise is going to be allowed to build houses with 1,000 square feet floor area. If such things can take place under the encouragement of a Socialist Minister it is surely right that this House should see the effect of this trading and production function, which the Minister of Works is being given under this Bill. I have thought carefully about it and I can see no possible reason why the Minister's accounts should not be laid before Parliament at the same time as a copy is transmitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General? If that is done, we shall see in December of any year the effect of the Minister's operations during the 12 months ended in the preceding April. What reason can there be for asking Parliament to wait for an indefinite period, which, if previous experience is a guide, might well mean another 12 months, before seeing the result of the operations."laid before Parliament and a copy thereof."
I am sorry to have to begin again today, by saying "No" to an Amendment. It may surprise the right hon. and learned Gentleman if 1 use the same argument—though I do not see any reason why it should not be used as an argument—that that which was thought good enough by Parliament for a score of years before I came here, should remain in operation. It is not the only argument by any means, but if you are going to make a change there should be some very good reason for making it. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman asks the Committee to do is to depart from accepted Parliamentary procedure for all accounts of this kind. Once again I want to draw attention to the fact that this is not the first time the Government has done business, whether in a big way or a little way, and all Government accounts of this kind come before the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The question was raised yesterday whether or not the Treasury could be expected to live tip to its reputation when dealing with Ministry of Works accounts of this kind, and there now seems to be doubt as to the efficiency, or effectiveness, or purposefulness of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give some grounds for that statement.
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will let me finish my argument before he begins to question it. The Comptroller and Auditor General is an officer of Parliament, whose duty is to examine accounts, and to draw the attention of Parliament to any item requiring special attention. Yesterday, in the Committee we were told that no accounts would ever be submitted by a company, which could be taken as exemplary in this matter, until they had been audited. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman is asking is that before the auditor has seen the accounts and has gone through them, they should be presented to Parliament. If it is difficult sometimes, as hon. Members confessed yesterday, to understand Government finance, and if the Opposition were in earnest in wanting to spell out line by line the way in which we should make out the accounts of this particular Government undertaking, then I suggest that they would be ready to wait a little longer until the Comptroller and Auditor General, with his specific knowledge, had gone through the accounts. They could then confine themselves to things that needed special attention, and as a result the Committee would probably learn more from the accounts than if they had been presented to Parliament earlier. Whatever may be said, it does seem to me that it would be quite inappropriate for accounts to be presented to the House unaudited, at the same time as they are sent to the auditor. I do not know of a company in any part of the country which does that, and I do not see why the Government should be asked to depart from normal procedure simply because they are themselves undertaking a job.
If the right hon. Gentleman had not so ruthlessly destroyed the previous Amendment, which sought to reduce the period in which accounts are submitted, there might be a case for the argument he has now put forward. But I cannot accept his argument that because it was never done before, we are never to improve our ways. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was open to suggestions which led to progress and to improvement in machinery, and that he would give such a proposal careful thought. It seems to me that if the Government are going in for business in a big way, and if that business is going to be efficient, there is nothing for them to fear in the early publication of the accounts. If the right hon. Gentleman had only seen his way to be a little more friendly to the Amendment of my right hon and learned Friend, it might have done something to allay the great disturbance which now exists in the minds of many people who would otherwise not have suspected anything else inside this Bill. [Hon. Members: "What do you suspect now?"] I am only speaking for myself, but I do not see any desire on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to disclose to Parliament whether his actions have been successful or a failure, and whether they have led to efficiency or inefficiency in the conduct of the business. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not adopt a similar attitude towards every consideration put forward by hon. Members on this side of the Committee.
I would not have intervened in this matter had it not been for the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cocker-mouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower). He put forward no argument in justification of this Amendment. What, in effect, he told the Committee was that if the Minister had been a little more kindly and considerate, in all probability this absurd Amendment would not have been on the Order Paper at all. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved this Amendment said was this: Assuming that these accounts come before this House before they have been examined, audited and certified as correct by the Auditor-General, what would the real value of these accounts be to them? The first thing the right hon. and learned Gentleman would put to the Minister would be "Are you sure that these accounts are correct? Have they been properly audited, and have they been certified by the Department and by the officer who invariably issues a certificate of this kind before they are presented to the House?'' The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not give the remotest hint of the utter absurdity of piling figures of this kind on to the House, when nobody in the House would be in a position to say whether they were correct or incorrect. It looks as if this Amendment has been inspired more by a spirit of sheer cussed-ness, than by any intention of improving the Bill. I am forced to that conclusion by the completely negative contribution made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved it.
If I may address myself to the point made by the Minister and by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies), I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman relies upon a precedent suited to a more leisurely age than the present. The procedure on which he relies may have been suitable for the time in which it was fashioned, but those were not times in which this dynamic procedure of bulk purchase and State manufacture had been introduced. No one on this side of the Committee suggests that we should do away with the audit and examination by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Of course it is true that the Comptroller and Auditor General is an officer of Parliament, but what is suggested by this Amendment is that two processes should go on simultaneously: There should be an opportunity for, if you like, the amateur examination of these accounts quickly by the House, and also for the professional examination of these accounts by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The hon. Member for Merthyr suggested that these accounts could be of no value until they had been audited and certified by the Comptroller and Auditor General. It may well be that the Member knows his own Minister and the Government better than I do, but I would be the last to suggest that an account prepared by the Minister under the terms of Subsection (5) of this Clause would be of no value to the House until it had gone through the Comptroller and Auditor General. What we want is an early opportunity for the House to inspect these accounts and take exception to any patent matters of error, or whatever it may be. There will then be, concurrently, the professional examination by the Comptroller and Auditor General and a subsequent opportunity for the House to comment on any latent errors which this examination might bring to light. I submit that that is an eminently practical and democratic procedure which ought to be followed.
I am surprised at the argument put forward by the Minister of Works, on two grounds. The first is that he omitted to describe this as a wrecking Amendment, and the second, that he put forward an argument which, if it had come from the benches behind me, would have been met with howls of derision from the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman—the argument that we could not do this because it had never been done before— [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman's words arc recorded in Hansard and if I have not given the facts accurately, that will be clearly apparent in Hansard. But I listened with care to what he said, and I think that I am stating correctly its effect. He went on to say that the present practice should remain in operation. I suggest that that is a most unsatisfactory argument. I want to deal quite shortly with each of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman put forward, because this is a point of some substance. He said that this was not the first time that the Government had done business. With that we entirely agree, but it is the first time that the Government have said that they are going to engage in big business of this sort. We have—I am speaking from memory—some instances within our knowledge of the laying of accounts before Parliament, where a Government have been to some extent concerned in the conduct of business. We can look back and see whether the procedure which previously existed can really continue with regard to this big business. It is true that all accounts go before the Comptroller and Auditor General for his report and certificate; but are not these accounts correct when they are sent out by the Minister of Works to the Auditor General? Does the Auditor General fulfil the ordinary role of an accountant for a company?
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the purpose of an accountant of a company is to twist the figures?
I am not suggesting anything of the sort, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that I am not. I am suggesting that the analogy between the accounts of a company, and sending the accounts of Government business to the Auditor General is not quite correct, because surely the accounts are gone through by gentlemen with good qualifications before they leave the Ministry of Works. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not going to say that his accounts are not fit for inspection by him or anyone else, before they have been seen by the Auditor General? The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but in the case of the accounts of the British Overseas Airways Corporation has not something like—I am speaking from memory—eighteen months elapsed between the end of the financial year and the laying of these accounts before Parliament?We on this side of the Committee are interested in this matter, and interested to see how it gets on. 1 should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman—I do not want to cast any aspersions upon his efficiency—thinks this is going to be wonderful big business. We, on our side, have some doubts. We say that the matter should be put to the proof of these accounts and that we ought to see these accounts at the earliest possible moment. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he is right, why should not these accounts be laid, before they go to the Auditor-General, with the knowledge that we can see and judge from these accounts what the position is, and with the knowledge that within a few months we shall have the report of the Auditor-General to confirm our views, or otherwise or to draw different points to our attention? Why should not we see the figures when the accounts are completed? We may have to wait a full year before we get the accounts of the previous year's operation. Does that happen with a limited company? [Hon. Members: "Yes."] In war time it may be. I am under the impression that in peace time certain steps are taken with regard to delay in presentation of accounts. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to deal with this point in a cursory manner. If he brushes it on one side and says our proposal is a departure from precedent, and that it would be better to keep this matter quiet until some time has elapsed, that may give rise to suspicions that this Government enterprise is not in fact being so well conducted, as we on this side of the Committee hope it will be.
I would invite the mover of the Amendment to answer one question. When will there be laid before Parliament the accounts for the very large Government expenditure incurred under his jurisdiction at the Ministry of Health in the development of the Portal house?
The answer is that no money was spent on that account by the Ministry of Health.
It may be that the amount spent on the development of the Portal house did not fall upon the Vote of the Ministry of Health, but the development of that project was very largely in the joint hands of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was then the Minister of Health, and of the Minister of Works.
The hon. and gallant Member was not, if I remember aright, a Member of this House at the time of the Portal house. If he was he is under a complete misapprehension, because at the beginning the development of the Portal house was not within the joint jurisdiction of the Departments at all. If questions are raised about it now, I would like to know why questions were not raised at the time, or shortly afterwards. The gross abuse of the present Minister of Health in regard to this matter has no parallel, and was not anticipated during the last I8 months of the last Parliament after the original showing of the Portal house.
I would suggest that these observations are becoming rather irrelevant.
I will not keep this point under discussion much longer, but I should like to examine it in this way. The Amendment has been put forward with the utmost seriousness and plausibility from the other side, but what it amounts to is that in connection with this particular business Parliament is to have the opportunity to do everything twice. In the first place hon. Members opposite want the accounts unaudited and uncertified, and I think it is only right to suppose that they want them for some purpose. The purpose must be to examine them and ask questions upon them in this House. Then, when they have had a few months of that, the Comptroller and Auditor General will come forward with the audited accounts, and they will start all over again and do it twice. As a contribution to Parliamentary ups-and-downs I can understand it, but as an aid to building I cannot.One hon. and gallant Member opposite saw the folly of it, and so he developed it rather neatly by saying, although it is not in the words of the Amendment, that it would be understood that the first examination was to discover patent errors, and the second to discover latent errors, and then, I presume, after that they will want a Parliamentary inquiry to discover which were patent and which were latent. The whole thing is absurd. Why do they want this? Because they know the mess they made over the Portal house and think the present Government are as stupid as they were, or else it is because they want to waste time. Then they say that it is no argument for the right hon. Gentleman to claim that his method has worked perfectly well in the past. We on this side know that you can often do good by changes based upon previous experience, but they want a change from one single examination, to the lunatic business of two examinations, one for the patent errors and the other for those which are latent.
No doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman has made the case extremely clear to himself, though not to anybody else, by his method of digesting other people's arguments and then regurgitating them in a slightly different form and in a rather offensive manner. I want to put this point seriously to the right hon. Gentleman. We have never suggested that our Amendment proposes something entirely new which is never practised in private enterprise, and which it would be improper to introduce into our general form of procedure. I ask him whether it is not the case with every company, that its accounts are submitted to the directors before they are audited. After they have been submitted to the directors and examined and checked, then they are audited.If that is the case, and it is the case, it raises the whole question of the part which Parliament is to play in State enterprises. Now that the Government as a whole are indulging in State enterprise in production and distribution I am not sure whether the present structure for the Parliamentary control of expenditure is anything like equal to keeping pace with the activities of the Government. It may be that this Amendment does not go nearly far enough, and that we may have to consider at a later stage whether we ought not to sketch out some form of Special Committee procedure to examine the trading activities of the Government. It may be that the Parliamentary structure, which was designed at a time when Government activities in production were not in the picture at all, is not now sufficient, but during this intermediate period, until Parliament has designed some form of machinery, some form of consultative body, would it not be better to adopt this Amendment, because the Minister may find that method a particular protection to himself and his Department as the work goes on?
1 would like to answer one pointmade by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing). He said, rightly, that draft accounts are submitted to a board of directors prior to going to the auditor, but that is by no means analogous to the present situation, for the board of directors in this House of Commons will be sitting on the Government Front Bench. The Members on the other side will not be directors.
We maintain that Parliament as a whole is responsible.
:In point of fact the responsibility for every order will rest on the Government Front Bench, in exactly the same way as responsibility for the direction of a firm is with the directors. The directors, after the accounts have been audited, submit them to a general meeting of the shareholders.
Does not the final responsibility for every act of this House rest on this House?
I am quite prepared to admit that as a good House of Commons man, but the responsibility for what the Government do must rest on the Government. After the auditors had examined the accounts, they would then be submitted to the whole of the House, and the House must take responsibility for what it does in the same way as the mass of shareholders in a company will accept or reject their audited accounts.The hon. Member is asking too much in asking that draft accounts should be submitted to us. What would be the argument used by hon. Members opposite? It would be, "How do we know that these figures are not hiding something? How do we know that these accounts are correct? They have not been examined by anybody who is independent." Then the Government would get up and say, in the words of the hon. Member opposite, "We have on the staff of the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Health civil servants who are quite capable of submitting these accounts.'' But obviously they have an interest in things. Auditors must be those who have no such interest. The Auditor-General is independent. He would not be affected by what a Minister might say, as would be a civil servant who was auditing the accounts of his own Department. The Department would prepare the accounts and the House has a right to consider them when they have been certified as correct.
I wish to refer to the illustration which the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) has just given us. His analogy is not accurate. The Members of this House are not like the shareholders of a company. We have not put up the money. We have put up a reasonable proportion of it, but the money for this speculation—I do not think it is quite right to call it an investment—is put up by the community at large. Parliament are the board of directors, and the Government Front Bench is the collective managing director of the concern. The hon. Member has introduced into the picture a new building baron. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works will, no doubt, go down to history as one of the new building barons of the City of London.
We shall not be so barren as were Members opposite.
There is something far more serious than these illustrations, and that is the question of the responsibility of Parliament for the expenditure of this vast sum of money. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) was anxious to know-why these accounts were wanted. I have no hesitation, speaking for myself, in answering him. Why I want to see the accounts of this speculation at the earliest possible time is because I am one of those who are responsible for the voting of this vast sum of money, even though I may not wish it to be voted. It is the money of the taxpayers, and I want to know as quickly as possible how it is being spent, and I say that the House has a right to see these accounts as speedily as they can be prepared at the expiration of the year referred to in the Clause. Their auditing and their subsequent production in a final form is a different matter. In a speculation of this sort the very least that is due to us, having regard to our responsibilities, is that we should be able to examine the accounts as early as possible. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was by no means novel, not a new thing, for the Government to embark upon enterprise in industry. That may be so, but when in the past the Governments have sought to compete with public or private enterprise the results have been by no means such as to establish confidence in one's mind, and when the Government are embarking on such a wide undertaking as this the House has every right to an early presentation of the accounts.
The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) made a good deal of fun about our wishing to see two different sets of accounts. As a matter of fact I hope he will not see two different sets of accounts. I have never known it to be the duty of an auditor to change the figures in an account. That is not his business at all.
Surely the hon. and gallant Member will give way.
If the hon. and gallant Member does not give way, the hon. and learned Member cannot speak.
Will the hon. and learned Member let me finish?
On a point of Order. Is it not a rule of this House that when an hon. Member has been directly named in connection with something that he has said, and he wishes to say that he has been misrepresented, that the hon. Member who is speaking will give way to him?
No, it is entirely within the discretion of the hon. and gallant Member himself.
I will just say that he is not telling the truth.
I must ask the hon. and learned Member to withdraw that remark.
I will withdraw the statement that he was not telling the truth about me, and say that he was making a wholly inaccurate statement.
I do not flunk there is any need for all this heat on the part of the hon. and learned Member. All I said was that I understood him to make considerable play—and hon. Members can say whether I was right or wrong—about our examining two sets of accounts. [Interruption.]
On a point of Order. Is it right for an hon. Member to describe the hon. and gallant Member as a stubborn little fool?
I did not hear that remark.
I did not hear it either, but if the hon. and learned Member wishes to describe me in that way—
As the remark was not heard, may I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member now deals with the Amendment which is before the Committee?
It is hardly my fault.
I am not attributing blame to anyone. I simply asked the hon. and gallant Member if he would now confine himself to the Amendment.
I should never have departed from the Amendment had I not been interrupted, and rather rudely interrupted. I was saying that it is not an auditor's duty to alter figures in any account. His duty is to certify either that the account is correct, or otherwise. Therefore the accounts presented to us direct from the Department, will be exactly the same as the accounts we have had from the Auditor-General, but we will have a report with the second lot of accounts. It will be perfectly reasonable for us to comment on the first set of accounts, if there was anything in the report which drew our attention to other matters. We would be perfectly in order in dealing with that when it arose. All that we are asking is that we should have the result at the earliest possible moment. Surely the Minister wants to show how skilful his negotiations and operations have been? I think we have a right to know them. The analogy drawn between this House and a board of directors is not entirely correct. In this case the House are not the directors; they are the managers.
May I try to bring a gentle zephyr into the Committee on this rather turbulent afternoon? I welcome the presence of the Minister of Health. I feel grateful to him today, because he has recently helped me to dig the First Lord of the Admiralty out of the U.S. naval base at Exeter. Nevertheless, I must say this. Surely it must occur to Members on the other side of the Committee that to resist this Amendment is very foolish. I will tell the Committee why. Let us see whether there is not some reason. The Subsection says:
Where have we got to there? We have got to November next year. From remarks made by the President of the Board of Trade it can be seen that he is clearly aware of the extreme urgency of the national interest in trade in general. It is of vital importance that we should do our best in every direction, within the next three years. If, in fact, the two right hon. Gentlemen make a success of this—excellent. The nation will be pleased and delighted. But why should not hon. Members on all sides have the opportunity of watching, at the earliest possible moment, their success? I am assuming for one moment for the purposes of the argument that they succeed, that they have a tremendous success: Why on earth should the Minister not come with his accounts at the earliest reasonable moment, which will be about a year from now, instead of after another delay of a considerable period—because there will be a considerable delay after that date, before the accounts would reach Parliament? The impression I am trying to give is that if nothing of this nature is done, and if refuge is taken behind arguments such as have been given today and in that way a very considerable delay is achieved, it is open to any reasonable man of any or of no political persuasion, to say, "Why on earth will they not give way on a small matter like this? The Opposition have taken a chance. They will not be able to come down to the House and say 'We do not know whether these figures are right or wrong; you probably cooked them.' They begged for the figures themselves. Why not come down with the figures?" There can be no reason for resisting this Amendment unless there is a lurking feeling at the back of the right hon. Gentleman's mind, first of all that it is very much better not to bother about money at all. That I conceive to be wholly wrong, and it would not stand the test of argument or debate. If it is decided that the matter should be carefully controlled from a financial point of view, why not let us have the figures at the earliest possible opportunity? As far as precedent is concerned in such a matter as this, what happens in this House and in this country in the next three years will be without any precedent whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite should cheer immediately at that. They are determined, and we have heard again and again that they have come with a mandate, to do something epoch making. Is their silence now because, at the back of their minds there are a thousand and one things that are worrying them and their supporters? The right hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but I can assure hon. Members that all their supporters are not laughing. Every Member of this Committee knows quite well that the future prosperity of this country is by no means assured, and it is absolutely necessary, in the view of this side of the Committee, that proper steps should be taken to get into the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that accounting, and the rapid disclosure of figures which would show the progress of a vast experiment, should be his first consideration. I believe it sincerely and if others believe it, I cannot conceive why this thing should not be done? If the reasons advanced are the only two reasons, they are not sufficient, in these exceptional times. If there are other reasons let us have them. It is becoming a habit here for hon. Members, not merely on this side of the Committee, but Members on all sides, to ask right hon. Gentlemen many questions, to which there is no sort of answer whatever."Any account prepared under this Subsection shall, on or before the thirtieth day of November next following the expiration of the financial year in question …"
Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
Division No. 45.]
|Aitken, Hon. M.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Harvey, Air Comdre. A. V.||Osborne, C.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley||Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Howard, Hon. A.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hurd, A.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Boothby, R.||Jennings, R.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. J. R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Bower, N.||Keeling, E. H.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cmdr. J. G.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Shepherd, Lt. W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Lindsay, Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Carson, E.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Spence, Maj. H. R.|
|Corbett, Lieut. Col. U. (Ludlow)||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||McCallum, Maj. D.||Stoddart-Scott, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Teeling, Flt.-Lieut. W.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Marsden, Comdr. A.||Turton, R. H.|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)||Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Drewe, C.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Maude, j. C.||Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Mellor, Sir J.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Molson, A. H. E.||Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.|
|Erroll, Col. F. J.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.||York, C.|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Nicholson, G.||Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Nutting, Anthony||Commander Agnew and Mr. Studholme.|
|Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Daggar, G.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Daines, P.|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)|
|Allighan, Garry||Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Buchanan, G.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Burden, T. W.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Austin, H. L.||Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Awbery, S. S.||Callaghan, James||Diamond, J,|
|Ayles, W. H.||Chamberlain, R. A.||Dobbie, W.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Chater, D.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Douglas, F, C. R.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Clitherow, R.||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Bartlett, V.||Cluse, W. S.||Dumpleton, C. W.|
|Barton, C.||Cobb, F. A.||Durbin, E. F. M.|
|Beattie, J. (Belfast W.)||Cocks, F. S.||Dye, S.|
|Bechervaise, A, E.||Coldrick, W.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Benson, G.||Collick, P.||Edelman, M.|
|Berry, H.||Collindridge, F.||Edwards, A. (Middesbrough, E.)|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.||Collins, V. J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Colman, Miss G. M.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Binns, J.||Cook, T. F.||Farthing, W. J.|
|Blackburn, Capt. A. R.||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Foot, M. M.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Forman, J. C.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Corvedale, Viscount||Fraser, T. (Hamiton)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Cove, W. G.||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A||Freeman, P. (Newport)|
The Committee divided: Ayes, 138; Noes, 277.
|Gaitskell, H. T. N||MacMillan, M. K.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Gallacher, W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Gilzean, A.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mathers, G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Maxton, J.||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Mayhew, Maj. C. P.||Solley, L. J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Medland, H. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Messer, F.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Grey, C. F.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Grierson, E.||Mikardo, Ian||Stanford, W.|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mitchison, Maj. G. R||Steele, T.|
|Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)||Monslow, W.||Stewart, Capt. M. (Fulham)|
|Gunter, Capt. R. J.||Montague, F.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Hamilton, Lt.-Col. R.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Symonds, Maj. A. L.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Hardy, E. A.||Mort, D. L.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Moyle, A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Haworth, J.||Murray, J. D.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Nally, W.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Hicks, G.||Naylor, T. E.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (E'b'g'h, E.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Thorneycroft, H.|
|Holman, P.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Thurtle, E.|
|Horabin, T. L.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Tiffany, S.|
|House, G.||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Tolley, L.|
|Hoy, J.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Hubbard, T.||Oldfield, W. H.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Paget, R. T.||Usborne, Henry|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Parker, J.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Janner, B.||Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Viant, S. P.|
|John, W.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Walker, G. H.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Pearson, A.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Jones, Maj. P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Keenan, W.||Perrins, W.||Watson, W. M.|
|Kenyon, C.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Key, C. W.||Poole, Major C. C. (Lichfield)||Weitzman, D.|
|Kinley, J.||Popplewell, E.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||White, G. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Lang, G.||Pritt, D. N.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Lavers, S.||Proctor, W. T.||Wigg, Col. G. E. C.|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Pryde,D. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Leonard, W.||Randall, H. E.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Lever, Flying-Officer N. H.||Ranger, J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Levy, B. W.||Rankin, J.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Rees-Williams, Lt,-Col. D. R.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Reeves, J.||Williamson, T.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Willis, E.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Rhodes, H.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Logan, D. G.||Richards, R.||Wilson, J. H.|
|Longden, F.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Lyne, A. W.||Robens, A.||Woods, G. S.|
|McAdam, W.||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|McAllister, G.||Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)||Yates, V. F.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Mack, J. D.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Zilliacus, K.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Royle, C.|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—
|McKinlay, A. S.||Scott-Elliot, W.||Mr. R. J. Taylor and Captain Blenkinsop.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Segal, Sq.-Ldr. S.|
|McLeavy, F.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.|
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 3—(Payments Into Building Materials And Housing Fund By The Minister Of Health)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, after "materials," insert "including the cost of those materials."This is an Amendment about which I am optimistic, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it without any heat being engendered in this Committee. It is in the nature of a drafting Amendment to clarify what I think is the intention of the Clause as viewed from both sides of the Committee. The Clause says:
That is to say that, if he has bought part of the permanent prefabricated house, that is the first part that has to be specified before the Clause comes into play at all. It goes on about the Minister of Health"If the Minister has purchased building materials consisting of structures ready for erection as houses."
It is arguable that all that can be taken into account in estimating the cost of constructing houses from those materials would be the cost of putting the purchased parts together. I do not think that that is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman or of the Government. I feel sure that if a Law Officer were here, he would confirm my argument that it is, to say the least, arguable that, from the drafting of this Clause—in the way the purchase of building materials is referred to in the first case, and the cost of constructing the houses from those materials in the second case—in estimating the cost of constructing the houses you do not include the cost of purchasing the parts to be constructed and put together. I feel sure that the intention is that the Minister of Health shall take into account all the costs of the permanent prefabricated houses and compare those costs with the cost of the traditional houses of a similar size. Believing that to be the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, we move to insert, after the word "materials," the words "including the cost of those materials," in order to put the matter absolutely beyond doubt. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, in this instance, depart from the argument that this has never been done before, and will, for once, accept an Amendment."being satisfied that the cost of constructing houses from those materials."
I have examined this matter very carefully and have consulted those who know much more about it than either the hon. Member or myself, and they assure me that the words of the Clause bear the construction which the hon. Member desires, and that an alteration is not necessary. If it were, I would immediately accede to it, but as I understand the Clause does exactly what the hon. Member wishes, I am sure that he will not wish to press this matter further.
The right hon. Gentleman has gone a long way towards satisfying us, but as one who has considered the Clause, I am bound to say that I still feel doubt about the advice he has received. It is difficult as a matter of ordinary English to state that the phrase, "cost of constructing 'A out of B in- cludes the original cost of B. That is really the point on which the right hon. Gentleman says he has been assured. I would like him to say that he would look at it again and take advice from the highest quarters available to the Government. We know that the intention is common; all we desire is to see that the Statute is clearly expressed.
I am prepared to consult with the authorities responsible and also with the right hon. and learned Gentleman to see whether these words bear the interpretation we commonly desire. If they do not, I shall be prepared to accept such an Amendment. But I am assured that the words bear the interpretation we all desire.
In view of the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, leave out "substantially."I move this Amendment for the purpose of eliciting from the Minister a declaration of policy upon a matter which particularly concerns the local authorities who must be engaged to a very large extent in the provision of housing accommodation in the future. The intention of this Clause, as I understand it, is to prevent the local authorities from being required to bear a greater burden by reason of the necessity of erecting prefabricated houses than they would have borne if it had been possible to supply the demand quickly by means of houses of traditional methods of construction. It is also, I understand, the intention of the Clause that the expenditure which the Minister of Works incurs should, in the end, be recouped from some source. Therefore, where the cost of prefabricated houses exceeds that of houses of the traditional system, the Minister of Health will come to the aid of the local authorities and make good the difference. That is only equitable. These houses may not be distributed in any even fashion throughout the country and one local authority might be required to have a very much larger proportion of them than another. If that was so and local authorities were reqiured to bear the excess cost, then it is clear that the burden might be distributed between them in a very uneven and inequitable fashion. Therefore, I would like to know whether, in my interpretation of this, the Minister will adhere to the principle, and that the word "substantially" is introduced here merely for the purpose of avoiding discussion about trivial sums of difference over which there might conceivably be an argument whether the prefabricated house was, or was not, of traditional construction.
The real assurance that the hon. Member can obtain is that it would be quite impossible for a Minister of Health to live agreeably with the local authorities if the Minister of Health tried any sharp practice. It is very difficult to give a definition of what ''substantially'' really means. It would be as difficult to give an interpretation, if I had used the word in a converse sense as saying "anything that is not trivial"; what does "trivial" mean? The fact of the matter is that it is not the intention of the Ministry of Health whether they supply wholly prefabricated houses or part prefabricated houses to the local authorities, to charge the local authorities if there is an excess, substantially, over the cost of traditional houses, and there has to be a little come and go in this matter.I do not think there is any reason for apprehension. It really means we cannot have strict accounting and say we shall charge the local authority exactly what a particular prefabricated house cost and no more than that. The amount may be very small in excess, and we may have to even out the price in different parts of the country because the cost of prefabricating a particular house in certain parts of the country might be more or less than that of prefabricating the same kind of house in other parts of the country. It may be possible to even out the cost where the amount is not substantially in excess of the cost of a traditional house. But I can assure the hon. Member that it is not the intention of the Ministry of Health to land local authorities in difficulties in this matter, nor would any Minister of Health be able to live happily with local authorities if he did land them into difficulties.
I do not look at the Minister of Health with the suspicion of his hon. Friends behind him and I was very struck by the attitude of mind which the hon. Member for Battersea. North (Mr. Douglas) adopted towards his own Ministry. I felt there was really hardly any need as far as I was concerned—and I can only speak for myself—for the Minister to assure the Committee that the hon. Member need not expect any sharp practice from him. The right hon. Gentleman obviously thought it necessary to give that explanation, but I did not feel it was necessary. The Minister went on from that to deal with the position as between the Government and local authorities. I thought the right hon. Gentleman stated his case with his customary modesty. If there is a mutiny over this particular Amendment, I cannot promise to give support to the Minister in the Lobby, but I may perhaps be allowed to appeal to his followers not to carry it too far on this occasion, because I am convinced of what the Minister has said—that where a local authority is to put up those houses, the Ministry will, in all probability, do their best to carry out a fair bargain and give them compensation.There are, of course, obvious difficulties which occur between one local authority and another. The putting up of these houses in a flat area is comparatively easy and not a very costly. proceeding, but in a hilly area, the difficulties are rather greater. While I come to the support of the Minister on this particular occasion—I cannot offer to do it very often—I think I can take it from him that he will have full regard to the position of authorities in areas where the local difficulties, owing to the contour of the land, are much worse than in other cases. Speaking for a local authority which has a very hilly area I welcome the assurance he has given and I hope the hon. Member for North Battersea who seems to have a suspicious mind on this matter, will not carry his suspicion too far, because, after all, he was returned to support this Government.
In spite of the observations to which the Committee has just listened, I am not going to be tempted into saying anything more than to thank the Minister for the assurance he has given, and which, indeed, I expected him to give. I am sure it will be very satisfying to the local authorities, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Before the Committee accords leave to the hon. Member to withdraw the Amendment, I would like the Minister to consider again whether the Statute would not be better drafted without this word. I always feel a little uncomfortable when the word "substantially" is in a Statute because no one knows what it means. There is a well known legal principle—De minimis non curat lex—and if any local authority raises a pettifogging point about a pound or thirty shillings or anything of that kind, the Minister can safely rest on that principle. But, if he is resting on something substantial, there is ground for great discussion on the meaning of that word and, without any collaboration with the hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Douglas), I felt that his Amendment was a sound Amendment as a matter of drafting. The statement of principle by the Minister of Health was entirely satisfactory to me because it is important that local authorities should not be dissuaded from housing activity by. reason of the heavy cost put on them.
As I understand his explanation, the Minister of Health, in interpreting the Statute, would take into account the position of the site, which is a matter of great importance in relation to rural housing. The remoteness of the site might add to the cost. If it is interpreted as the right hon. Gentleman stated, there is no objection, but the word "substantially" is not a satisfactory word to put in a Statute Book. One does not know what it means. One can look in the dictionary for the word "reasonably," and one finds that it would be unreasonable to define ''reasonably.'' While it is the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that we want, I would like to see a word in the Clause, which carries it into effect.
The Minister used words, as have other hon. Members, which would seem to imply that this Clause only covers the cost of materials. As I read it, it covers the additional cost of construction. Would the Minister make that clear when he replies?
Hon. Members, I think, would find that their fears would be greater if the word were not in the Clause. If I take it out, the point would then be confined and I would have to charge local authorities exactly what that local authority would have to pay for a traditional house of the same size, and that would mean great disparity between local authorities, for instance, in rural areas. The word "substantially" is a necessary shock absorber. Therefore, I ask that hon. Members should not press the Amendment. What we desire to do is to iron out the variations in the cost of these prefabricated houses, so that they would be, over all, no higher than the cost of analogous houses of a particular type, but not in a particular area, on a precise and particular site. Take for example the term "traditional" house. How are you to define "traditional house"? It is not a measurement capable of exactitude any more than "substantial." We have to put in this word in order to indicate that the Ministry are not proposing to charge a particular authority, in whatever circumstances that authority may be, no matter how difficult it may be to put the house up, exactly what it would cost to put up a house traditionally. Therefore the word "substantial" acts as a cushion. I hope, with that explantaion, the Committee will allow the Amendment to be withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 12, after "cost," insert:
Perhaps the next Amendment, in page 3, line 15, at end, insert:"being prices which will not reduce the full cost of construction below the cost of constructing a house of a similar size by traditional methods."
could be considered also as they are on the same point. They are related to something which has just been said by the Minister of Health. I found his last exposition of the advantage of the word "substantial" a little obscure. I entirely agree that it is not easy to ascertain in any particular case, what the cost of constructing houses of a similar size, by traditional methods, might be. For example, it might be desirable to build prefabricated houses on some site which would not have been used for traditional houses. But, broadly speaking, I read this Clause as having the intention, not that the Minister of Health should put into the Ministry of Works Fund sums larger than those incurred by the fact that a particular local authority was having factory-made houses rather than normal houses, but that what should go into the Ministry of Works Fund is the extra expense caused to the community, and that the Minister's Vote was going to carry that extra burden by reason of the fact that, particularly in the early stages, factory-made houses would be likely to be more expensive than traditional houses. The intention is not that local authorities by reason of the fact that they were getting prefabricated houses—it will not be all local authorities that will get factory-made houses—should get an advantage over the position which would have been theirs if their houses had all been of the normal character. 5.0 p.m. Accordingly, these two Amendments—whether or not their drafting is entirely apt, and this is of course a matter which requires careful drafting—have the object of binding the Minister of Works to sell to local authorities at prices comparable with those which would fall upon them if they were buying or building houses of a traditional character. I do not want to impart any element of suspicion or unfriendly suggestion, but I should have thought it right for the Minister of Health and the Minister of Works to have some principle in this Clause as to the prices at which these factory-made houses are to be disposed of to local authorities. As things stand, there is simply a reference to arrangements made by the Minister of Works for selling under cost, and no indication of the principle on which that diminution of the figure below cost is to be made. No standard is set, and in substance I apprehend that the intention of both the Ministers must be that the local authority and the taxpayer in respect of that local authority, as far as the housing subsidy is concerned, should be in the same position with regard to the factory-made house as they would be with regard to a house of traditional character. I did not quite follow all that the Minister of Health said with regard to ironing out and the cushion provided by the word "substantially." It is not, I imagine, the intention to ease the lot of particular authorities—poor rural authorities, for example—by this roundabout way of saying, "You are a poor authority, therefore you shall have prefabricated houses very much cheaper than it would cost you to build normal houses." That does not seem to be the right way to deal with any financial difficulty experienced by a poor authority. Those difficulties should be dealt with in another way. The working operation of the factory-made programme would surely be more satisfactory if a situation is arrived at whereby there is no bias in favour of the factory-made house over the traditional house, by reason of a financial consideration as between the local authority and the Treasury or the Ministry of Works. Accordingly, the purpose of these Amendments, the spirit of which I hope will be accepted, is that that principle should be explicit in the Bill when it finally passes into law. The principle is that the Minister of Works, either in selling building materials or making arrangements for the construction of houses, should endeavour, broadly, to arrive at a position in which he will get from the local authority the same figure that it would have cost them to build or to buy another type of house."but which are not less than the full cost of construction of houses of a similar size by traditional methods."
The Committee need not fear the consequences of the words used in the Bill. In the first place it is not the intention of the Government to supply prefabricated houses to local authorities below the cost of traditional houses of the same type. We should soon find ourselves in trouble with the Treasury if we attempted to do so. In other words, if the Ministry of Health made payment into the Ministry of Works Fund, the purpose of which would be not to enable the local authorities to get houses at the same cost as the traditional house, but to give the local authorities a concealed subsidy for the prefabricated house, we should soon get ourselves into very serious trouble. Furthermore, it would be a form of competition with traditional building that I would not desire to encourage, because it would not be a form of competition which the traditional building organisations would look upon with favour. At the same time, if prefabricated houses can be produced at less than the cost of traditional houses without any cost falling upon the Exchequer, then we cannot agree that any words should be used to prevent prefabricated houses from underselling traditional houses of the same type.What we obviously must not do is to use this medium for the purpose of artificially reducing the cost of the prefabricated houses, where it is not made necessary by the additional cost of construction. In point of fact, we are perfectly clear as to what we are after in this matter. The whole purpose of it, of course, as I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate, is that the local authorities cannot be expected to engage in experiments of this sort, and therefore the Government must carry out the experiments for them. If those experiments cost more than the local authority would have to pay for the cost of a traditional house, then the Exchequer must bear the cost of the experimentation. It would, however, be deplorable if we were unable to make experiments of this sort, and I am quite certain that that is not the right hon. Gentleman's intention. Therefore, I will assume that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not desire to press this Amendment, and there is no difference between us, at least in regard to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in moving it.
The assurances of the Minister have been clear and entirely in line with what I understood the intention of the Clause to be. In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, at end, add:
This is one of the controversial Amendments. The Clause as it stands leaves the matter in this way, that differences which arise on the cost of constructing houses are to be paid into the account of the Ministry of Works, to such an extent as to ensure that the receipts of the Fund are no less than they would have been if the houses could have been sold without any loss at all. There have been unjustifiably acid comments on the experimental period with regard to temporary houses during the war—a time of very great difficulty, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Works at the time, would agree. These times are difficult, too, and we have heard of the very large number of schemes that have been investigated and the quite large number of schemes which are being proceeded with for factory made houses. It is right that there should be an investigation of a number of these schemes, but it is most desirable that, through lack of Parliamentary supervision, there should not be excessively long experimentation, and if there are any cases where there has been inefficiency, such as the giving of large orders at great prices without sufficient evidence to justify the giving of such orders, such matters should be brought before this House. When reference was made to this in the Second Reading Debate, the Minister of Health said that matters of this kind could all be raised on his Vote at a later stage. I do not know whether other right hon. and hon. Members will agree with me, but my impression is that it is quite impossible to make a detailed investigation of the ventures, which may be most unwise in matters of this kind, on the Vote of the Minister. I thought the Minister would be far more ready than he showed himself to be on the Second Reading Debate to give the House, which is intensely interested both in the progress of housing and in the reduction of the cost of houses—which I understand the Members on the Government Front Bench are as anxious to see as we are—information at regular and frequent intervals as to the financial position with regard to these factory-made houses. Why should we not have what is suggested in this Amendment, that is, a statement of the average amount paid, over any period which the Minister feels convenient—we suggest three months—per house or per set of such building materials? The Clause itself is drawn in terms of building materials, consisting of structures ready for erection on the one hand, and of houses on the other. The Minister was indignant at this request. I rather think on a previous occasion he called a request of this kind impudent. Whether he will call it impudent today, I have no idea. It is the sort of adjective that occurs to him, but my submission to the Committee is that we should not be content to leave this matter in complete obscurity as it will be, if this Amendment, or something on the same lines, is not included in the Bill. The metaphors which we used in the earlier discussion this afternoon were varied, but I am bound to say that the metaphor which seemed to me nearest the truth was that the Government are the chief executives of this national concern, and we are, as near as can be, the great body of the responsible trustees and directors of what is going forward. We want to know whether there is success in this factory-made programme, and we are intensely interested in there being no unnecessary loss, or anything wrong, so far as we can judge, with regard to the various types selected and with regard O design and material. I urge upon the Government to undertake a greater responsibility with regard to giving information to the House, than they have so far seemed disposed to do."and shall lay before Parliament each quarter a statement showing the average amount paid by him per house and per set of such building materials."
I think, if my recollection serves me correctly, the original request was for a statement of accounts. This is an entirely different matter, and I put it on a different footing. In point of fact, the adjective I used on a previous occasion with regard to accounts, would not be applicable to the request now made, and I would not be so infertile as to use the same adjective on different occasions. The fact of the matter is that the Amendment is unnecessary, because hon. Members in any part of the Committee can obtain this information any time they like by putting down a Question on the Order Paper.
The information would be denied.
I do not know what the noble Lord means by that. If an hon. Member puts on the Order Paper a Question asking for information, there is no denial of information, and I do not think he can suggest that there is. The point to which we ought to have regard in this matter is this: everybody knows that it is not possible to make a proper estimate of the advantages of prefabrication until we have had a sufficiently long run. The payments made by the Minister of Health to the Ministry of Works in the first instance for the first lot of houses might easily create a most unsatisfactory state of mind and people would say "There you are, the whole experiment has gone phut." As a matter of fact, I said the other night that it seemed to me that hon. Members opposite, when they had charge of this matter, were unduly frightened over the cost of a steel house. I wish they had gone on. I wish they had had the courage and had not been deterred, but had pursued their experiments. Had they done so, we would find ourselves in possession of a house which we could erect in great quantities all over the country. Instead of that, there was interference due to the fear that the original expenditure would create such an unfavourable opinion, that it might have nasty political consequences. The result is that today we have not got the houses that we might otherwise have.5.15 p.m. So I would suggest to hon. Members, as the House of Commons and the country are deeply interested in trying as far as possible to supplement the traditional housing programme by the production of prefabricated houses, that we ought not to allow our judgment of the advantages of prefabricated houses to be determined by the cost in the initial stages. We shall find ourselves over and over again in that position on this question of prefabrication. I know that the dividing line between ardent experimentation and profligate extravagance may be very narrow in these cases. If we fail, we shall be accused of extravagance, but if we succeed we shall be praised for forethought. I seriously suggest that it is a; least as important for the nation to experiment in unconventional forms of house construction as it was essential to experiment in the building of bombers and submarines during the period of the war. I hope that in our whole approach to this matter we shall be sympathetic to the desire of trying to obtain unconventional methods of house construction.
I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the value of experiment, but I would ask whether it would not be wise to have progress reports during the currency of these experiments. After all, this House and the country want to know whether the experiments are developing well or not, and they will not be unfair about the initial cost. But they do want to know, and the method of question and answer does not quite meet that desire.
The difficulty is what sort of statement of accounts do the Committee require. The Amendment suggests that we should say, "We have produced 12,000 prefabricated houses with. 12,000 sets of materials." The expression "sets of materials" is hardly a happy one, but I appreciate the difficulties in phrasing these matters. The set of materials would, in this connotation presumably mean the whole set of the materials required to build a house and I would accept it in that interpretation. We should therefore say, '' Twelve thousand houses have been provided. We have paid a certain price, compared with the traditional building of the same sort, and the amount paid in to the Ministry of Works Fund is about £100 or £200 per house," or something of that sort. That is all hon. Members would get if I accepted the Amendment.
Might I point out that those are really not the figures, and that is not the information, for which we are asking? We want to know the average amount paid per house and the extent to which the Minister is subsidising each house.
:That is what I said. I mentioned the average amount that the Ministry of Health would pay into the Fund in respect of the houses provided for local authorities. That is to say, the houses have cost the country, say any figure you like, £1,200 per house, while the cost of building a traditional house of the same size would be £1,000 to the local authority. Therefore, the excess payment is £200 in each case, and the payment made by the Ministry of Health into the Fund in respect of each of those houses would be £200. That is all that would be obtained if I accepted the Amendment. There would be no difficulty at all in conveying that information in three sentences in answer to a Question. Why on earth it should be necessary to provide a statement about once a quarter I cannot understand. In any case, the point remains that the information cannot start to be given until the houses have actually been provided to the local authorities, because there would not be a house in existence, and no-one could have any information of this kind in the preparatory stages of providing prefabricated houses. None of the costs of experimentation would be in it at all, because you could not charge the whole cost of experimentation to the first delivery of prefabricated houses. Therefore the information given would be value- less and would convey an entirely wrong idea of the situation.
Personally, I am not asking that the whole of the cost of experimentation should be charged to any one particular batch of houses. The point is, is the experimental work that has been done on these houses bringing good results or not? That can only be found out by-stepping it up in stages, quarterly pictures on a comparative basis, which would give figures of some considerable value.
What the hon. Gentleman desires to obtain is all right, but he is not obtaining it by these ways. It is perfectly natural curiosity for the House to want to find out what is happening to experimentation in prefabrication.
It is not merely curiosity.
There is no difficulty about the word "curiosity." It is natural that the House should want to know. The fact of the matter is that the Government would be delighted to give the information, but at what stage is it to be given? At the present time certain experiments are going on which may come to nothing at all. Indeed, I said on 15th October that we were not going to form any prophesies about what was happening in regard to factory produced houses because we are in an entirely new field. We do not know what may happen about it, and I am therefore not going to tie myself to any prophesies. Suppose we have produced a factory made house, and suppose after months of experimentation, false starts and re-adaptations, we have at last got a house coming off the production lines, and that house is being supplied to local authorities. Can hon. Members tell me how I am going to cost the first lot of houses?
Perhaps I can answer that question. Under the first part of the Clause, that is what the right hon. Gentleman is undertaking to do. Before he can give any subsidy at all, he has to determine that the cost of constructing permanent prefabricated houses from these materials substantially exceeds the cost of constructing permanent houses of a similar size. He has to make that calculation before he can give a subsidy at all.
No, the only sum I have to bear in mind in that matter is that of constructing traditional houses of the same size, and I supply these houses at the same price. The amount of the excess would have to be decided by relation to another account entirely. The amount of the excess on the first run may be prohibitive, but on 30,000 houses it might be comparatively small. I wish the noble Lord the Member for Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) would not make those gestures of incomprehension. We know that he does not comprehend but there is no reason why he should take us into his confidence. We do not mind telling the House at any time, because the House is entitled to know, what is the payment made by the Minister of Health into the Fund of the Ministry of Works in respect of prefabricated houses supplied to local authorities, and we shall do so, but I warn the House that they will not present the picture of what the cost of prefabrication is going to be to the Government in the long run. Therefore it seems to me that the Amendment is unnecessary.If the Committee insist that the Amendment is necessary, I will have a look at it, but I do not want to accept these words at all. If the present Amendment is necessary, better words might be found. If we say we shall report to the House once a quarter, we shall have to decide which way we shall report. All the House will get will be a slip of paper stating, "The Ministry of Health has delivered to local authorities X number of houses at Y cost and paid into the Ministry of Works Fund so much." Hon. Members should be content to get this information even more frequently than once a quarter, if they wished, by putting down a Question on the Order Paper in the ordinary way.
I am sure that we are all concerned with the proposal of hon. Members opposite that we should get the cost of prefabricated houses at the very earliest moment. I think the Minister of Health has adequately replied to the Amendment. He is very ready to give the information. I am certain that the limitation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite is putting upon the period of the report is one which he would find, in practice to be very imperfect, and one which would not give him very much help. The Ministry of Works are going into business; there is no hon. Member on that side of the Committee who would expect, inside I2 months, to be able to give anything like a report of his activities if he went into business. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes."] Hon. Members know very well that they could not, and that they would need at least 12 months to build up an organisation. Although there has been some experience in the present case, obviously hon. Members are asking for a very short report. If they got their report it would be very imperfect, and I am certain that they would be very unhappy about the figures that were given. The Government would not be very happy about it either, because the figures would give an incomplete picture.The Government are going into pre-fabrication, but we should try to remember that we have had many hundreds of years of house building, and that no country in the world knows more about house building than this country. We shall wish the Government luck in whatever they do about prefabrication, but we know that they are not going very far, and that as soon as the traditional ways and means of house-building are available again, the prefabrication of houses is finished, right away. We are not raising any opposition, whatever the Government do about it. Something may come out of the prefabrication inquiries which may help in certain standards being established here and there, and to that extent they may be useful; but the prefabrication of houses is a fabrication. There is no question about it at all. I do not know whether you would allow me, Mr. Beaumont, to say that I agree with the Minister of Health very strongly in one respect. It is very regrettable that the first efforts made with the Portal house were not allowed to proceed. They were the cheapest, the best, and the most economical. I am sure that was a great pity that we were not able to proceed along those lines. The value of prefabricated houses is to give shelter, temporary shelter, for those in the community who are not able to get a traditional house. That is the whole value of the prefabricated house, which has never been thought of in any other way. I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite not to press the Amendment, because I am satisfied that three-monthly figures would give a very-imperfect national picture. It would be of no help except as propaganda, but it would be no use in regard to performance. The Minister of Health is on the right lines when he says that he will, at the right time, give the information which is available. It must be part of the picture and not the colour that hon. Members want or that they would like. It would be at the end of the period, when we have had the opportunity to measure this matter, and we shall be very glad to give it to hon. Members.
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. G. Hicks) has taken a wider scope than is covered by the Amendment, which deals with a short and simple point. I am a little confused by the answer of the right hon. Gentleman today. If I may say so without impudence, his answer rather lacked the clarity that most of his observations possessed. He began by saying that we can elicit all this information by Question, and that there was no reason for the Amendment to be incorporated in the Bill because it would be so easy to get the information by Question.I assume that we should not be told, in answer to a Question, that we should get far more information next Spring than any Conservative Government had ever given. From saying that we should get if in answer to Questions, the Minister then went on to put forward reasons why it was really not in the public interest to give the information. He talked about the position after the first run being unsatisfactory, about the expenses being so high that people might be frightened and deterred. I feel quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence would be able to explain any events of that sort to the satisfaction of this Committee and of the people in the country, but that will not arise if this Amendment is accepted. This Amendment would only come into play when the Minister of Health had approved an arrangement with the Minister of Works for the subsidy on prefabricated permanent houses. As I read the Bill, that transfer of money cannot come into force at all until the cost of each per- manent prefabricated house has been assessed. 5.30 p.m. This Amendment, if adopted, could not result in any statement being made to the House of Commons until an arrangement had been approved by the Minister of Health for the payment of the subsidy. We do not oppose the expenditure of money on these prefabricated permanent houses, but we are surely quite entitled to ask that there should be a regular return showing the extent of the subsidy per house which the right hon. Gentleman has approved. Having listened to him, I am rather in doubt whether he is prepared to give that information and let the House know by how much he is subsidising each permanent prefabricated house, or set of building materials for it. If he is prepared to give that statement, I suggest that it-is convenient to have it coming up quarterly and not in answer to Questions which may be put at any time. A quarterly return would be a convenient form which would enable us to judge of the right hon. Gentleman's efficiency, by showing how much the subsidy decreased as time went on. The right hon. Gentleman did say that he was prepared to give the information asked for in this Amendment. If he is not able to accept the words on the Order Paper—perhaps they are not particularly skilfully drawn —I would ask him to give an assurance that the point will be further considered before the Report stage with a view to inserting a provision for a quarterly return of the information, which I understood he was prepared to give. It is all very well to say that we can get the information by Question and answer, but it is surely much more convenient to get it quarterly, when each statement can be compared with the statement issued the quarter before, instead of having to deal with the irregular periods which would be involved in answers to Questions. If the right hon. Gentleman could give that assurance, I am sure we could get on to the next Amendment fairly speedily.
It seems to me that we are making very heavy weather about a very small matter. Some hon. Members have perhaps had a longer experience of administration than I have, but I have had a long experience in the House and I have never known any Amendment accepted which wrote into a Statute a right which every Member has already got. Every Member has the right to obtain this information any day he likes by Question and answer—every week, every month, every quarter. Then what is the good of writing into the Statute a piece of constitutional redundancy? If the Amendment were accepted, and we had to provide this information once every quarter, that would not enable the Clerks at the Table to refuse a Question the day before. They would still have to accept it and the information would have to be given. I daresay there are Amendments of some substance on which hon. Members opposite wish to occupy the time of the Committee, but surely there can be no greater frivolity than to ask that a Statute should be enlarged, and words used, to write into it a piece of machinery which already exists in the constitutional relationship between the Executive and the House of- Commons. I do ask hon. Members to let us get on to something of real substance and not spend so much time on what, after all, is unimportant. Up to now we have been getting along very harmoniously and have made some progress. It really is inconsistent to allow a Bill to have a Second Reading without any Amendment being moved, and without a Division, and then to occupy the time of the Committee on a matter of this sort, which has no substance in it whatever. Furthermore, may I say that the method of reporting to the House is not defined. In what way are we to report to the House?
My right hon. Friend surely knows that in Committee we raise points of minor detail. We do not challenge the principles of the Bill.
Hon. Members know very well that they have been moving Amendments which would have wrecked the Bill, and now they are holding the matter up on an Amendment which really has no content. If I may finish the sentence I was engaged on, there is no definition of how we should report to the House. Is a White Paper to be laid before the House? If a White Paper was laid before the House containing the information hon. Members ask for, it would be a White Paper of four lines, saying merely how many houses had been provided and how much had been paid for each house. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not? "] Really, I have never heard of such Parliamentary frivolity.
If the right hon. Gentleman says that this is a point of minor importance, I am exceedingly surprised that he should lose his temper about it. I do not think he will find that his hectic form of lecturing the Opposition will help him in his work. I say that, not because I think it is good for him not to get his own way in everything, but because I am interested in the workings of his mind. He told the Committee that the Amendment was trivial. He said that hon. Members have the right to get the information by Question and answer. At another stage in his speech he said that the information is so scanty that it is not worth giving to the House, but on another occasion he said that there was too much information and it was misleading, I am left in a complete fog as to what is really in his mind. He said that it was quite easy to get the information by Question and answer, and his colleague the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. George Hicks), in an attempt to be helpful, said he could not give the information at all. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep calm and give us one really good reason why this Amendment is unnecessary or harmful.
A quarter of an hour ago the right hon. Gentleman said he would consider this matter. Now he feels impatient and says the whole thing is trivial. I appreciate fully that there is a difficulty in defining the stage where experimentation ends and production begins. A house which, in its beginning, is an experimental house, or one of an experimental group becomes a house forming part of a local authority's housing estate. The cost of producing that house may have been very high at first, whereas an exactly similar house supplied to the housing authority six months later may cost much less. I see his difficulties in regard to the simple form of this Amendment. The average amount paid per house, if it covered many types of house, would not, I agree, be very illuminating. It may be that the Minister will not be forthcoming enough to suggest what would be a more appropriate form. I really think that his adverse comment, that a proposal that he should lay something before Parliament is inadequate because it does not specify whether it should be a White Paper or not, is as trivial as anything could be. I have never seen any reference whatever to a White Paper in a Statute, and I should have thought that he and those who help him with the drafting of his Bills could very easily put into proper form the phrase ''shall lay before Parliament."I admit, however, that the actual form of this Amendment is not as satisfactory as I should wish, and I hope the Minister will return to his earlier mood and say that he will consider finding some more appropriate form under which to give information to the House on the progress of this very important project than would be afforded by Question and answer. No answer could be sufficiently detailed, and there would have to be a very substantial number of questions to deal with perhaps 30 different types of prefabricated house. [Interruption.] Might there not be 30 different types of prefabricated house in production, and being supplied to local authorities at very widely differing rates of subsidy at the same time? That sort of information could not be adequately dealt with by Question and answer; we do not want the Question hour occupied by ten Members, each putting down three Questions on three different types of prefabricated house. I hope the Minister will indicate that he is prepared to make periodical statements, in whatever form is convenient, with regard to the progress of this programme.
I do not know whether the Minister has thought of the effect on his private office, of his refusal to meet us and give us the information for which we ask.
The Noble Lord must not say that. The Ministry has not refused information.
In this form.
The fact is that the information in this form is wholly inadequate, and very much more information would be obtained by ordinary Question and answer.
The effect of refusing this information in this form, and of constantly refusing to give details of houses, costs and everything else, will engender suspicion throughout the whole Committee and will only result in the right hon. Gentleman's private office being plagued with questions, week by week, by 50 or 60 hon. Members on this side of the House. The Government have taken away Private Members' time and the effect of that on the Adjournment half hour and on Question Time has been immediate. Likewise, the Minister's refusal to give the kind of information we ask for here will only result in his office being plagued with questions. Suspicion is created in all our minds, and the only way to allay it is to reply in a friendly fashion to the questions put by my right hon. Friend below me. This information will not entail a very great amount of preparation in the right hon. Gentleman's Department, although I do not argue that it will be very simple. As my right hon. Friend says there will be many types of house, and prices will tend to fluctuate according to conditions throughout the country. They may gradually come down every month, or every quarter as this information is required. A different set of prices for a variety of houses will be asked for, and it may well need a paper of some four or five pages instead of lines. But at no point do I think it will involve him in as much trouble as he will have if he creates this suspicion by refusing information, because that forces on us the duty of asking innumerable questions.
The noble Lord has talked about the suspicion that is in hon. Members' minds. It is nothing to the suspicion that is in the minds of hon. Members on this side about the game that is being played by hon. Members over there. I think it is time they stopped it. The people of this country, I do not care in what constituency, are not concerned with insufficient statements about the financial results of experiments; they are concerned with houses, and everything should be done to encourage the Minister to go ahead with the houses and not to play about with trivial matters of this kind.
I am disappointed at the way in which the Minister of Health is treating. this matter. I do not think he takes a sufficiently large view of his own responsibilities and importance. He is setting up —if I may speak in commercial terms to which perhaps he is unaccustomed—the largest house-building and house-supplying business that has ever existed in the world. He is asking for £100,000,000 worth of building materials. He must know that he cannot set up a business of this character without having the most elaborate statistics.
On a point of Order, Sir Charles. I respectfully submit that most of the arguments that have been advanced have been on the subject of a statement of accounts. There is no reference to that in the Amendment before the Committee, which reads:
There is no question of any such thing as an account of the kind the hon. Gentleman is describing. Most of the arguments from hon. Members opposite have been concerned with a full statement of the whole cost of prefabrication. That is not the Amendment before us."and shall lay before Parliament each quarter a statement showing the average, amount paid by him per house and per set of such building materials."
I was happy to give way for that point of Order to be made. It is for you, Sir Charles, to decide whether or not it is a point of Order. I take it you do not admit it is a point of Order.
I think the Amendment before the Committee has been dealt with in a businesslike way.
To proceed with my argument, if we are to have State management of industry, it must carry with it all the complications of a very inferior system, the capitalist system, and the Minister of Health and other Ministers who undertake responsibilities of this sort will have to resort to tedious but essential book-keeping, and it is that tedious but essential book-keeping which the Committee is entitled to demand. I do not want to engage in the house-building trade, I am satisfied with the people who have done it in the past, but the right hon.
Division No. 46.]
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Boothby, R.||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Aitken, Hon. M.||Bossom, A. C.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Bower, N.||Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J. G.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Cuthbert, W. N.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Darling, Sir W. Y.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Carson, E.||De la Bère, R.|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Clarke, Col. R. S.||Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.|
Gentleman and the Government compel me, as a taxpayer and a Member of the House, to enter the business. If I am to enter it, I insist—
On a point of Order. May I respectfully submit that the capitalist system is not under consideration? I submit that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are entirely irrelevant, and that what is before the Committee at the moment is a precise and particular Amendment of the narrowest sort, and that we are not discussing the merits of the capitalist system, whether they exist or not.
I was under the impression that the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) was putting the claim that Parliament should be given the price per house.
No, he was not.
I was under the impression that his arguments were so directed, or I would have stopped him.
I am grateful to you, Sir Charles, for defending me against such an experienced Parliamentarian as the Minister of Health. It may help his argument to interrupt a comparatively new Member twice, but he will not be able to get away from the logic of facts. If he cannot supply the Committee with intimate details down to the last screw, bolt and nut, he will not provide houses for this country.
The hon. Member is now going beyond the Amendment.
If I am going too far, I am prepared to leave the field to the Minister of Health.
"That those words be there added."
The Committee divided: Ayes, I47; Noes, 297.
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.||Luoas, Major Sir J.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Duthie, W. S.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Eccles, D. M.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Scott, Lord W.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Erroll, Col. F. J.||MacLeod, Capt. J.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Spence, Maj. H. R.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'br'ke)||Marsden, Comdr. A.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Maude, J. C.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Mellor, Sir J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hare, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Molson, A. H. E.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Haughton, Maj. S. G.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Holmes, Sir J. Stanley||Nicholson, G.||Turton, R. H.|
|Howard, Hon. A.||Nield, B.||Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)||Nutting, Anthony||Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. O.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Osborne, C.||Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Keeling, E. H.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Pickthorn, K.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Lambert, G.||Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.||York, C.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.||Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Lindsay, Lt.Col. M. (Solihull)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.).||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Mr. Drewe and Major Mott-Radclyffe.|
|Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)||Champion, A. J.||Foot, M. M.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Chater, D.||Forman, J. C.|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Foster, W. (Wigan)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Clitherow, R.||Freeman, P. (Newport)|
|Allighan, Garry||Cluse, W. S.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cobb, F. A.||Gallacher, W.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Cocks, F. S.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Coldrick, W.||Gilzean, A.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Collick, P.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Austin, H. L.||Collindridge, F.||Goodrich, H. E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Collins, V. J.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Cook, T. F.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Grey, C. F.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Grierson, E.|
|Barton, C.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Battley, J. R.||Corvedale, Viscount||Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Beattie, J. (Belfast, W.)||Cove, W. G.||Gunter, Capt. R. J.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A.||Guy, W. H.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Cunningham, P.||Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)|
|Benson, G.||Daggar, G.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Berry, H.||Daines, P.||Hamilton, Lt.-Col. R.|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Binns, J.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Haworth, J.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hicks, G.|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Holman, P.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Horabin, T. L.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Diamond, J.||House, G.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Dobbie, W.||Hoy, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Dodds, N. N.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Douglas, F. C. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Janner, B.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Dumpleton, C. W.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Dye, S.||John, W.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Buchanan, G.||Edelman, M.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Burden, T. W.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Jones, Maj. P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Burke, W. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Keenan, W.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Kenyon, C.|
|Callaghan, James||Ewart, R.||Key, C. W.|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Farthing, W. J.||King, E. M.|
|Kinley, J.||Paget, R. T.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Pargiter, G. A.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Lang, G.||Parker, J.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.|
|Lavers, S.||Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Leonard, W.||Pearson, A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Levy, B. W.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Perrins, W.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Lipson, D. L.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (E'b'gh, E.)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Poole, Major C. C. (Lichfield)||Thorneycroft, H.|
|Logan, D. G.||Popplewell, E.||Thurtle, E.|
|Longden, F.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Tiffany, S.|
|Lyne, A. W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tolley, L.|
|McAdam, W.||Pritt, D. N.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|McAllister, G.||Proctor, W. T.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Pryde, D. J.||Usborne, Henry|
|Mack, J. D.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Randall, H. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Ranger J.||Walkden, E.|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Rankin, J.||Walker, G. H.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col D. R||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|McLeavy, F.||Reevas, J.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|MacMillan, M. K.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Rhodes, H.||Watson, W. M.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Richards, R.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Weitzman, D.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Robens, A.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Mathers, G.||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.|
|Mayhew, Maj. C. P.||Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Medland, H. M.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Messer, F.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Wigg, G. E. C.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Royle, C.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Sargood, R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Scott-Elliot, W.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Monslow, W.||Segal, Sq. Ldr. S.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Montague, F.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Moody, A. S.||Shawcross, Cmdr. C. N. (Widnes)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.||Williamson, T.|
|Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Skinnard, F. W.||Willis, E.|
|Mort, D. L.||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Moyle, A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Murray, J. D.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Nally, W.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Woodburn, A.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Woods, G. S.|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Solley, L. J.||Yates, V. F.|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Sorensen, R. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Stamford, W.||Zilliacus, K.|
|O'Brien, T.||Steele, T.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Stewart, Capt. M. (Fulham)|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Orr, Sir J. Boyd||Strachey, J.||Mr. J. Henderson and Mr. Simmons.|
Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".
I wish briefly to raise one point and to ask a question of the Minister of Health. I think he will be in a position to give me the Assurance I want. This Clause is intended to deal entirely with house of the normal size and with what are called permanent house. I think it is conceivable that Clause 3 as drafted could be taken to apply to temporary house. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that none of the house that fall within the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act will be dealt with under the provisions of Clause 3.It might be said that the aluminium house is a house of such a character that the cost of erection substantially exceeds the cost of erecting other houses by traditional methods. I should like an assurance from the Minister that the point has been, or will be, considered, because I cannot help feeling that it is most important that legislation which emerges from these many discussions on housing should be tidy and intelligible, and that no subsequent argument should arise as to whether any particular Clause applies to permanent and temporary houses, or the one or the other. This is particularly important, in my view, because I have heard rumours—and I hope there is no foundation for them—that, because the aluminium house is so expensive, its life is likely to be prolonged and that there may be some change suggested as to the duration of houses erected under the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act.
I am happy to give the assurance that the right hon. and learned Gentleman requires. This Clause does not relate in any sense, to temporary houses. That is dealt with under the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1944, and this Clause has no particular application at all.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill,
Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause5—(Increase Of Sums Available For Defraying Expenses Under 7 And 8, Geo 6, C 36)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I think the Committee might rightly ask for an explanation of this Clause. It will be noticed that, under this Clause, we are increasing the amount of money by some £50,000,000. I think there is no one in this Committee who would object to that increase. I think it may be necessary, but I would like some explanation of how the Government are working out these increases. Might I also ask the right hon. Gentleman—who is only too willing to be charming and obliging to me, as always—if he can give the Committee some assurance on whether this amount is sufficient? It would be a pity if he had to come here and ask us to increase the amount in a short time. If I have that assurance, perhaps it might be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have this Clause.
I hasten to reply to the hon. Gentleman. The purpose of the Clause is to provide the additional money necessary to finance the temporary housing programme, because that programme cost very much in excess of what was originally estimated. If the hon. Member wishes the Committee to penetrate into the reason why the temporary houses cost more than was estimated, I should be only too happy to do so, but I thought it was a subject from which hon. Members opposite would like to part as quickly as possible. If the Committee wish to examine this subject, I would find it quite delectable to do so.
I will not weary the Committee further, because the Committee might not think the subject was quite delectable, and the right hon. Gentleman might fall down again, as he has done once or twice before. For that reason, I thank him for his short explanation, which did not, however, cover the point whether he has got enough money for the future. I thank him very sincerely, and I am glad that, this time, he has not fallen down.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 6—(Extension Of Powers Of Local Authorities To Give Financial Assistance Towards Acquisition, Construction, Etc, Of Houses)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 31, at end, add:
This Clause deals with the amount that may be advanced by local authorities by way of financial assistance, either for the purchase of houses or for the erection of houses, and the object of the new Subsection which I am moving is to increase the limit laid down in the Clause of £1,200 to the sum of £1,300 in the case of London. It will be remembered that the amount which is in question here includes both the value of the house itself and that of the land upon which it stands, and, in view of the very heavy price of land in London, it is clear that a limit which is suitable for the rest of the country is not entirely suitable here. In selecting the figure contained in this Amendment, I have followed the precedent established by my right hon. Friend with regard to the licensing of private builders, in which case the figure for the rest of the country is a ceiling price of £1,200, but, in the case of London, this was increased to £1,300 for the reason which I have mentioned. I therefore seek to bring this provision into line with what is to be done by the Bill."(3) In relation to an advance or a guarantee in respect of any house in the administrative county of London this Section shall have effect as if for the words 'twelve hundred pounds' there were substituted the words 'thirteen hundred pounds."
I hope that, perhaps, we can get away from this Amendment quite quickly, because there are a number of Amendments with the same purport on the Order Paper and to which the names of hon. Members opposite are appended. I am entirely sympathetic with the purpose that lies behind this Amendment. I think, however, that the words are inappropriate, and even the association of £1,300 with the upward limit of building in the metropolitan area is not itself a happy association, because it might be that, before very long, private enterprise could build houses at a greater price than that and then the relationship between the two figures would not be made. If the hon. Member will withdraw his Amendment, I will consider the point at a later stage, and will consider putting in £1,300, or a higher figure for the country as a whole.
Yes, it includes Scotland. We are very anxious to enable people to acquire their own houses at reasonable rates of interest, and we are happy to extend the application of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act to houses of greater value, and, if that is satisfactory to the Committee, I shall be prepared, at a later stage, to introduce an Amendment with a higher figure applying to the country as a whole, including Scotland.
In view of the assurance the Minister has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
In view of what has been said by the Minister, I would not oppose the suggestion by the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Douglas), but, if any question does arise, contrary to what the Minister has said, in regard to some definition of another area in the country, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would give consideration to it. We had in mind the metropolitan area, but, if the Minister is prepared to deal with it over the whole country, the point will not arise.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 7—(Limitation Of Rent And Purchase Price Of Houses Constructed Under Certain Building Licences)
I beg to move, in page 5, line II, after "period," insert: "of four years beginning with the passing of this Act." This Amendment raises a point which I raised on the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a point of drafting, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to meet me with regard to it. Under Clause 7 (I), a limitation is imposed upon the price at which a house may be sold or the rent that may be charged for the letting of that house for a period of four years and not more from the passing of this Bill, and that, I think, is quite clear. But, when we come to Subsection (2), we see these words:
Under Subsection (2), the period referred to is not the period of [our years from the passing of the Bill, but the period for which the house is let. If we have a house let, after the commencement of the operation of this Bill, for a period of seven years, then, as T read the Bill, although we assume that the intention of the Government was that this part of the Bill would apply to the first four years of that lease, under the wording as it now stands, there is no doubt to my mind that the restriction would apply to the full period of the lease, that is to say, seven years. I appreciate that this is a somewhat technical matter, but I have considered this carefully, and it seems to me that the points need clarification. If the Minister's intention is that a lease for 21 years shall, throughout the whole period of that 21 years, be at a rent not exceeding the permitted rent, then I agree that Subsection (2) is ample for that purpose. But, if it be his intention, as I think it is, merely to put a ceiling on the rent for the first four years, then Subsection (2) is not apt for that purpose, and there should be inserted, after the word "period" in line II the words proposed in the Amendment. That would make it clear that the restriction was for that period of four years, even though the lease or agreement for a lease might be for a seven, 14 or 21 year period. I do not think there should be any controversy over this Amendment. It is a drafting point, but one of consider- able substance, because people ought to know where they stand when this Bill becomes law."(2) For the purposes of this Section a house shall be deemed to have been let at a rent in excess of the permitted rent if the total rent payable by the tenant in respect of any part of the period for which the house is let exceeds the total rent which would have been payable by him in respect of that part of the said period if the house had been let at the permitted rent."
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, there is one point in reference to this Amendment to which I would draw attention. In relation to this Subsection will he please take into consideration the very heavy sanctions which will apply? I do not think my hon. Friend was right in his interpretation of this Subsection.
I am exceedingly anxious, and I am quite sure that the Members of the Committee will be with me in this, that we should not permit anything to go into this Bill which would enable collusion to take place between a possible tenant and the landlord of houses of this kind which are indeed being built as a special privilege. These houses are in a very special category. They are built by licence, they are limited in price, they are intended to supplement the public building programme, and it would be exceedingly undesirable that there should arise anything like a black market in them, and that the purposes of the law should be thwarted by collusive action between tenant and landlord. If it were possible for a rent to be fixed at the restrictive level for four years, and for the lease to provide that at the end of that period a higher rent may be charged because then the house will be free, as is intended by the Bill, then there would appear at first sight to be nothing to prevent the landlord and the tenant from agreeing to a lease setting a much higher rent for a period at the expiration of the four years. Supposing, however, it was 21 years and that the permitted rent was £I a week. Then supposing the tenant says, "Yes, but at the end of 21 years I will pay you £2 a week for so many years," the effect would be that the landlord would have got away with it. The right way is to limit the lease to four years, and have a new lease at the end of that period. Although I appreciate the intention of the hon. Gentleman, I am desperately afraid that if I use the words he wishes me to use, we would establish a breach which I am sure he is as anxious as I am not to establish.
We appreciate that collusion must not be allowed to occur, but there is one point that occurs to me as being covered by this drafting, which I am sure is not meant. Suppose the landlord adopts the plan which the right hon. Gentleman suggested, namely, that he rents the house for four years and then makes arrangements before the four years have run out for the fifth year. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the drafting he will see that the offence lies in offering to let during the four years. It will be difficult to postpone the beginning of the negotiations in order to keep within the letter of the law until the four years have elapsed. I think we might find some way out if it were not "offers for sale" during the four years, but "with regard to" the four years.
I appreciate the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but is it really one of great substance? What hardship is being placed upon the landlord in this Subsection? Hon. Members opposite are being optimistic about the housing scheme in thinking that in four year's time we shall be in such a happy position that landlords will be looking for tenants, rather than tenants for landlords. Let us envisage the situation suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. A four years' lease has been obtained at a restricted rent and the period is coming to an end. The landlord, presumably, will be afraid that he cannot find a tenant to live in his house, and therefore he will want to start negotiations at once. On a strict interpretation, if he started negotiations before the end of the four years, and the tenant offered a higher rent than the permitted one, he might be committing an offence, but he would not do so if he waited a few days until the lease expired. Would he suffer any hardship by waiting for a week or a fort night? I should be happy to believe that in four years' time the housing situation will be so revolutionised that the landlord would be put in a disadvantageous position in relation to the tenant.
It seems that the right hon. Gentleman does not appreciate the point. The point is quite definitely that it is the tenant who wants to know what his future will be, and whether he will be able to continue to live in the house. It is not a question of hardship to the landlord, half as much as a case of hardship for the tenant.
No one on this side of the Committee, I am sure, is in favour of encouraging any sort of collusive arrangement which would defeat the object of this part of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that it is his intention, in order to stop any possible collusion, to make the period of control of rent apply for a longer period than four years, if the letting takes place after the passing of this Bill. He has also indicated that in his view the proper course is for the parties only to agree to a four years' lease, or for a lease for the period expiring at the end of four years from the passage of this Bill, and then entering into fresh negotiations as to the future let. I must concede that I think there is considerable force in that contention, and he did us credit in saying that he did not think we were trying to secure any advantage for those who wished to defeat his object. However, I would ask him—because I think it is an important point—to consider before the Report stage the position of two people, one of whom has occupied premises the lease of which is expiring at the end of the fourth period of a given year. In that case two people, perfectly bona fide, without any intention of defeating the Bill, want to come together to make arrangements for the future. I do not know whether some provision could be made for excluding, under a later Clause, negotiations which take place within, say, three months of the termination of the tenancy. That is a point which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look at, and if he will give an indication that he will do so, 1 will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 5, line 37, leave out "benefits secured by," and insert "consideration secured in."This is another drafting Amendment, but one of some difficulty to explain because I find it rather difficult to understand Subsection (5). It is a point to which I referred on the Second Reading. Under Subsection (3) clear provision is made for adding to the nominal sale a benefit which the vendor gets from the purchaser in addition to the recorded price. Under Subsection (4) there is a similar provision with regard to rent, and we do not quarrel with that at all because it is obviously right, if you are to make this effective, that any secret bargain has to be taken into account to see whether or not there is a sale above the permitted price, or a letting above the permitted rent. Those two Subsections are to me quite clear in their meaning. But when I come to Subsection (5) 1 begin to get confused. It says there:
that is clear enough but this is the part which confuses me a little—"In determining for the purposes of this Section the consideration for which a house has been sold or let, the court shall have regard to any transaction with which the sale or letting is associated"—
Either that adds to Subsections (4) and (3) or it does not. If it does not add to those previous Subsections to which I have referred, Subsection (5) is unnecessary. Presumably it is inserted there because it does add something, but there is apparently no relation between the possible benefits secured by the vendor' or the landlord and what the tenant or purchaser will have to pay under the contract for sale or letting. That is why we have put down on the Order Paper three Amendments which, Sir Charles, with the leave of the Committee, I thought might conveniently be taken together to save time, namely, the one I have just moved, and the next two Amendments on the Paper—in page 5, line 38, leave out "exceed," and insert "exceeds," and in line 38, leave out "they," and insert "it"—so that the Subsection would read:"and if it appears to the court that the benefits secured by that transaction to the vendor or lessor exceed what they would have been if the house had not been sold or let for the consideration for which it was in fact sold or let, that consideration shall be deemed to be increased by such sum as fairly represents the excess."
I think the word "consideration" makes the meaning clearer, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept these Amendments."and if it appears to the court that the consideration secured in that transaction to the vendor or lessor exceeds what it would have been if the house had not been sold or let."
There is no difference between us as to the intention of the Subsections in this matter. There is no difference of principle. It is merely a question of whether the language in the Bill is more appropriate than the language in the Amendments. Now I am advised that the language in the Bill is a better vehicle for what we intend than the language suggested by the hon. Gentleman in his Amendments. If his language were more appropriate, I would not hesitate to accept it, but I am informed that a great deal of confusion will be created if the term "consideration" is uniformly substituted for the term "benefit," because it is intended by us that the term "consideration" shall be the price and the term "benefit" applies to the cited considerations. By maintaining that distinction scrupulously throughout, intelligibility is given to the Bill. The term "consideration" is what in fact the person pays for the house; the term "benefit" is what may be obtained by the person who may have provided a sum of money—key money, premiums, or anything of that sort. It is intended to catch the two of them and that is the reason why this language has been used.6.30 p.m. It is a very complicated matter, as the hon. Member has said, but as there seems to be no difference at all between us, and we not only want to see that the actual legal price of the house is not exceeded, but no other consideration or benefit is obtained which would affect the intention of the law, the term "consideration" as applied to the one category and that of "benefit" as applied to the other is, I think, sufficient. I will have a look at this again because, as I say, there is no question of principle between us. It is purely a question of drafting and if I find that the purposes of the Bill are better secured by an alteration in the wording I shall be only too ready to have that alteration made. But I am certain that the hon. Member will also appreciate that if it is decided that the language at present used is the better vehicle, then we shall have to maintain it.
I am very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman will have a look at it again. I did listen to his explanation because, without it, I found myself unable to understand the Clause at all. I did not quite follow what he said about ''consideration." If he will look at Subsection (3) he will find that it say:
In the explanation he gave he said that that was to be a "benefit" and that "consideration" was to apply only to actual payment."Where a house is sold for a consideration which consists wholly or partly of something other than the payment of a money price for the house."
"Consideration" will be the whole thing. "Benefit" would be that part of the consideration which belongs to some form of payment, other than the direct payment.
I have listened with interest to the explanation of this rather difficult Subsection. Speaking as a lawyer I would say that the term ''consideration" has a fairly precise meaning which the word "benefit" lacks. The word "consideration" would not only have regard to the price, the nominal price of the contract but any ancillary bargain that might be attached to it and that is why as a lawyer I prefer the word "consideration" to the word "benefit" which has not such a precise legal meaning. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that he will consider this matter again and I beg to ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 6, line 4, at end, add:
This raises a point of principle on this Clause which is of considerable importance, in my view. Let us see what the Clause does already. It makes it an offence for anyone to let or sell a house at the price above that permitted in the licence. But as the Bill now stands, the tenant who has agreed to rent a house at a price above the permitted price, is not free from the legal obligation to go on paying that rent during the currency of the tenancy. In the same way, the man who has agreed to buy a house at a price above the permitted price, has to stand to his bargain and pay that excessive price notwithstanding the provisions of this Bill. Hon. Members will see that Subsection (7) says:"save and except that where a house is let, the rent for the period of four years from the passing of the Act shall be deemed to be the permitted rent and no more and where the house is sold, the price shall be deemed to be the permitted price and any sums overpaid by the lessee or purchaser shall be repaid to him by the lessor or vendor, and in default of repayment, recoverable at law."
Let me take for example the case where the sale of a house is above the permitted price. The vendor has committed an offence under this Measure; he is brought to the police court, he is convicted and he is fined and he can pay as a fine:''The commission of an offence under this Section shall not affect the title to any property or the operation of any contract."
That is to say, the Government are providing machinery whereby the State can take out of the vendor's pocket, the precise sum that the purchaser has paid into it, in excess of the permitted price, plus a fine of £100. The same consideration applies with regard to a lease of any period for more than the permitted rent. The tenant must go on paying. The landlord commits an offence and will have to pay that which he has obtained from the tenant and which he should not have obtained from him, plus whatever fine may be inflicted on him at conviction. That does not seem to me to afford the protection that I want to see given to the tenant, or to the purchaser of a house which is subject to a licensing condition, such as that envisaged in Subsection (I). I appreciate that there may be, in a few cases, some collusion between a tenant and the landlord, some collusion between a vendor and a purchaser, but what I suggest this Committee should see to is that the intentions behind the licence are adhered to, that the rent is kept at the permitted price notwithstanding the breach of the law by the vendor, and that the price for which a house is sold is limited to the permitted price. It is for that reason that we have put down this Amendment. If it is put in the Statute, its effect will be that the man who, either through ignorance of the law or by mistake, has been induced to enter into a bargain to rent premises, to which the licence attaches a condition of this sort—that that man, acting innocently and entering into that bargain, will be relieved from the burden of paying the excessive rent, and will have his obligation limited to paying the rent to which it is the intention that any occupant of the house should pay. That, it seems to me, would give the protection which this Committee should desire to be given to a lessee. It means that neither the landlord, nor indeed the Government nor the Crown, would secure any benefit out of a breach of the law. The landlord would not be getting any of the money from the tenant to pay the fine, and the landlord under the earlier provisions of the law may still be dealt with pretty severely. The same considerations apply to the sale and purchase of a house. In concluding my speech in support of this Amendment I would like to deal in advance with an argument which perhaps might be brought against it, namely, that this would enable a tenant or a purchaser who has entered into a collusive bargain with a vendor or lessor, to secure an advantage, because he would get into occupation of the house, and the tenant would get his rent reduced to the permitted level. I suppose there might be a few cases where that would happen, but I think that it is much more important to put into this Bill a power to reduce the rent to the permitted level, than to take excessive precautions against an occasionally collusive bargain.''such amount as will in the opinion of the court secure that he derives no benefit from the offence."
:I must resist this Amendment, because the language of the Clause has been carefully drawn so as to give rise to the protection that the hon. Member wishes to take away. It must be borne in mind again on this Amendment, that the houses that are being dealt with are in a special category, and that we need to protect the poorer members of the community from the richer members of the community. In most cases, houses of this kind are of the higher rented sort, and, ordinarily, the people who rent them or buy them, will be people of a knowledgeableclass. If they look at Clause 8 the Committee will see that there is a register in which each house appears, and that there is, in fact, no excuse for ignorance as to what the rent or the price of the house should be. There is no justification whatever for any person, whether he be the lessor or the purchaser of a house, to plead ignorance of whether the house belongs to that category or not. I ask the Committee not to make, here, a very wide breach in the provision.I appreciate the intention of the hon. Member. He wishes to protect the innocent person who has been caught, by an unscrupulous or even by an innocent lawyer, particularly if the house has changed hands. It is well known that where houses are sold that the genealogy of the house is carefully examined. If the house has been let, the appropriate rent is ascertainable. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not always."] It is ascertainable because it is registered. As a matter of fact the conditions under which these houses are being built, and let are the subject of regulation and therefore it seems to me that the language that the hon. Member wishes to use could actually become an escape for the purchaser who has entered into collusion with the landlord, or the seller, to pay a higher price for it than he ought to have done, and this would start a very considerable black market in these houses again. Of course, it is always possible where action is started in a case of this kind, and the action is actually in court, for the house to be re-rented and a new tenancy agreement put into a new lease. The terms of the new lease would be operative at once and that is what is happening in most cases. Where the rent is too high, the landlord would, of course, put himself right, and arrange a new tenancy agreement for a new lease on legal terms. No hardship would arise on that score. For these reasons I ask the Committee not to request the Government to impart language into this Bill at this stage, which takes away from us the power that we desire to use, to see that these houses remain in legitimate hands, for legitimate use, and are not the subject of black market speculation.
There are a great many Acts of Parliament of all kinds under which certain terms are declared to be illegal, but in practically every one of which I have ever heard—I cannot think of an exception—the bargain is no longer enforceable, and in most of them, the person who has paid too much is entitled to recover, or the person who has received too little is entitled to get the balance.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is assuming that the lessee is the victim. He may also be the culprit.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to leave it open to the court, I do not think we should take any exception to that. If he were to say that the court may remodel the agreement, and leave it to the court to say whether the equities of the situation call for a remodelling of the agreement or not, I think there would be a good deal to be said for that. But here is a law which is going to ensure that, for the sake of punishing a wrongful tenant who has induced a landlord to let to him, the innocent tenant who has unwittingly offered more than the legal price is deprived of all remedy. I can foresee the greatest possible difficulty. You get somebody who has unwittingly offered half as much again as the proper rent, and he is told by some of his friends, the next week, "You have offered far more than you should have done, and your landlord is going to have his money taken away from him in the shape of a fine." The tenant is going to pay the fine, because he is going to pay the money to the landlord, and the landlord is going to pay the money to the Exchequer. I can imagine an innocent tenant having a grievance, and I do not think it will do the administration of this Measure any good, if people with that kind of grievance, are going round the country. I see the point that there may be difficulty about making an absolute rule the other way, but if the right hon. Gentleman feels that, perhaps he would consider the point that the court should deal with the situation as to it may seem just.
Supposing the payment is made by an innocent tenant, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in that case, would that not be a payment by mistake, and would it not, in those circumstances, be recoverable? I can see one or two hon. Members of my own profession shaking their heads, but in my submission that would be the law.
If I went into the whole question of error in fact I could go on for a very long time and bore the Committee. I do not think that it is quite as easy as that.
Again, here we are not quarrelling with each other on a question of profound principle. We looked at this very carefully indeed, and hon. Members will recollect, these provisions were made when we were considering what we might do about the selling price of houses. We looked at this then to see whether we could not put up a fence to prevent the selling of houses becoming the subject of unscrupulous practices. I hope the Committee will not make any breaches in that today. I think that the tenant is being brought forward quite naturally, because he is the best case to plead in connection with the principle; but, nevertheless, there are cases of houses being bought and sold, as well as those which are tenanted, and most of these houses will be bought but not tenanted. The overwhelming majority of those which are being built at the present time are being built by contractors for immediate purchase. If the economic rents are already high, and a tenant comes along and pays a rent in excess of that given, it would be extraordinary if he did not find out something about it. I think, in those circumstances, the Committee ought not to ask me to lower the fence, or to make a small breach in it. I will look at the possibility of the court having power, because I think there is a point there. I cannot say here and now that it can be done, and hon. Members would not expect me to, but there is a point that the court may be able to look at all the surrounding circumstances. I will have it examined quite sincerely, with a view to putting it in the Bill if it proves to be practicable, and does not give rise to any evasions.
As the right hon. Gentleman has quite rightly said, there is really no issue between us on what we want to achieve in this Amendment. I am sure that he must acquit us of having any intention of making any breach in the wall which he is endeavouring to erect to secure that the permitted rent remains the permitted rent, and the price the permitted price. That is not our intention at all. I welcome his assurance that, without committing himself, he will look into the possibility of giving the court power, where the innocence of a tenant or purchaser is established, to avert the lease or sale contract. I think that would be a good provision, and that it could perhaps be incorporated in Clause 7 (I). I can understand the right hon. Gentleman saying that he could not at this moment commit himself to saying that that will be done, but I feel that it would be a good provision if it could be inserted. I am by no means as confident as the right hon. Gentleman appears to be, that there will not be innocent people on both sides who will make mistakes in regard to these houses. In those circumstances, I beg to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I should like to detain the Committee for a few moments to raise the question of how the Clause is to work in Scotland, with regard to conditions for permitted rent. The Committee will be aware that rent in Scotland includes the owner's rates. I want to find out how this is to be worked. As I understand it, the only just way to do it would be to start by saying "How much ought the owner to get to keep in his pocket after he has paid the rates?" That would be the rent in the English sense. Supposing the licensing authority were looking at the whole situation, they should surely start by saying, "The owner in this case ought to get £60 a year out of which to pay all his outgoings, interest on capital and all the other things"; and then they would have to say, "In order that the owner shall be able to get £60 a year, we must inquire what the owner's rates are, and fix the rent, in the Scottish house, at such a figure as will give £60 a year after the rates have been paid." Supposing the owner's rates were 6s. 8d. in the £—the tenant's of course would be higher—that would mean he would have to get a sum which after the deduction of 6s. 8d. in the £ leaves £60, and that would be £90. Therefore having said that £60 was a fair return to the owner, you say that the rent, in the Scottish sense, shall be £90. That is all right so long as the owner's rates remain stationary, but supposing, within the first two years, the owner's rates go up by £5 —and I am taking figures very close to what is actually happening in Glasgow. The rent remains at £90, but as a result of the rates going up by £5, the local authority is now claiming £35 from the owner, and the owner is left with only £55, whereas, when the licence was arranged, every one was agreed that the just return was £60.The best way out of this would be for the Government to bring forward the provisions of the Sorn Committee which was concurred in by Members of all parties, that this business of mounting owner's rates should come to an end, and that a ceiling should be put upon them. That cannot be done today or tomorrow. We have to provide for the situation until it is done. I would ask the hon. Gentleman, therefore, if he would consider making some provision in this Bill so that the permitted rent can be increased by an appropriate sum to make good the increase in the owner's rates during the period of four years. I thought of drafting something myself, but I was not quite sure what the method of working this would be. I therefore thought that it would be better to put the point to the hon. Gentleman, who knows the difficulty with regard to our rating system, and ask him whether he thought the point was a good one, and, if so, whether he would be good enough to do something to put it right before we reach the Report stage of this Bill.
I do not blame the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the slightest, but I only heard a short time ago that the point was to be raised. As he knows, the Scottish system of rating is very complicated. The usual English system of rating is that the tenant pays all the rates. Under the Scottish system, the rates work out at about 50 per cent, paid by owner and 50 per cent, by the tenant. The consequence is that we have the odd arrangement constantly happening of having rates upon rates. A distinguished civil servant in Scotland, Sir John Lamb, once' said that there was only one problem that would never be solved in Scotland and that was the problem of rating. The Sorn Committee to which the right hon and learned Gentleman referred reported in favour of a ceiling for owners' rates, but, so far, that has not become law. I can only undertake to look at the situation which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, that within the four years' period there may be an increase of rates. I see many difficulties in conceding his point by taking out one set of property for special treatment which would not apply to any other set of property. Do not forget that the owners of property claim the same justice for their property which is being built now, and if you start to concede it in this case, I shall immediately hear every other owner of property saying why not concede it throughout the country. If this alteration of law is to be made, I do not think that it should be made on this Bill. It ought to be done by a Rating Bill for Scotland. Without committing myself in any way, I will, however, undertake to examine the matter with my officials and see if anything can be done. If I were dealing with this matter in isolation I have no doubt that I could come to some solution, but the moment I suggested anything about owners' rates in this connection, I can see that difficulties would immediately crop up in other parts of the field.
I thank the hon. Member for his reply. In the circumstances I could not reasonably expect him to go any further, and I am obliged to him for what he has said.
There is another point which has been brought to my attention and which is worth raising, and although I have not been able to give the right hon. Gentleman notice of it I would ask him to consider it. We are dealing here with houses built under a licence, with a control of the sale price for a period of four years. We cannot tell now what will be the course of building prices over the next four years. One looks back to the unhappy period after the last war, which was marked by a lamentable rise in building costs, such as we hope the Government will be able to prevent. Indeed, we hope the period will be marked by a fall in costs. These licences may be granted by some local authorities for a number of houses which may, in fact, not be built for some time, and by the time they do come to be built the costs of building may have risen or fallen. I think these licences are issued by the local authorities under the authority of the Minister of Health. I imagine there is no doubt that the terms of a licence with respect to a house not yet sold or not yet let may be revoked and fresh terms put into it, because the permitted price or the rent fixed when the licence was granted might be quite inappropriate for a house the building of which started 18 months from now.
The answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that it will be extremely undesirable to have a large number of these licences suspended in the market and not operated. Therefore, if a licence is not taken up within a period—I forget what it is, but it is a perfectly reasonable period—it will lapse, and the applicant can come forward for a new licence.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 8—(Registration Of Conditions Imposed By Building Licences, And Duties Of Local Authorities)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I would ask for information upon one point in order to help me in explaining the Bill. I think the Clause is clear; it is for the purpose of registration, but I do want to know precisely who the "proper officer" is who is referred to in line 12 on page 6. We should know that, and also if there is to be a definite register to which the ordinary individual can refer and where it will be kept. Will it be kept by the local authority or by some Government Department? I ask this because without such information I should not be in a position to explain these things in my division, and my constituents are very interested in them. Further, we as Members ought to know where the register is to be, who is the "officer." and how he is appointed. That might save us having to write quite a number of letters to the Government in the future. I feel this would both help the Government and help hon. Members opposite who have had so many letters to write.
:The answer to the first question is that it is the local authority. The proper officer would be the clerk of the authority or any person appointed to perform these particular functions.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I can see the relief spreading over the faces of the hon. Members behind him. I only hope his explanation was adequate enough—it was not very full—to relieve their worst fears.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I am glad to be able to help again on this Clause. It is fairly clear, I think, but in paragraph Subsection (3, b) there occurs the word "de- mises." May I ask exactly what that means. It may be a Scottish expression, and some Scottish Law Officer might help us out, but I feel it is a word which can be used in more senses than one. I see the Home Secretary, and perhaps he might be able to tell us it the Minister of Health falls down. We ought to be in a position to explain all these things to our constituents.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that in these matters I share his uncertainty, but I am sure the Courts would not find any difficulty in interpreting this. It is difficult to say in this connection what the word "demises" means, but I think it means "alienate."
That does not carry us very much further. Could it have the connotation of "to let" or "to sell''? We are told, and I frankly believe it, that here we are doing something of very great importance and yet we have no real definition of one of the leading words. However, I must resign myself reluctantly to not getting the proper information because, after all, it is rather a tumbledown erection that I see opposite.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
CLAUSE 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 11—(Short Title And Extent)
I beg to move, in page 8, line 34, leave out Subsection(2).
This Amendment is moved in order to prepare the way for the proposed new Clause which is on the Paper.
I think the Clause is very much better with the words left in. I did understand what it meant, and though I cannot now discuss the next Clause I only say that I should very much regret to see the omission of the words of this Subsection:
I cannot understand why they should not extend to Northern Ireland. When the new Clause that is following is passed, Northern Ireland will come in under exactly the same conditions with respect to the rest of the Bill. It seems remarkable suddenly to change a Clause in this respect with absolutely no explanation."The provisions of this Act relating to the rent and purchase price of houses shall not extend to Northern Ireland."
The answer is that if the hon. Member is courageous enough to enter into conflict with Northern Ireland, I do not share his courage. It is done at the request of the Northern Ireland Parliament. It has become the practice to accede to their requests. We do it in this form, and I would plead with the hon. Member not to throw that very succulent apple of discord across the Floor of the Chamber.
I would not wish to throw the apple of discord into these proceedings. I would not do anything contrary to the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland because I have worked with them for a long time and I have real sympathy with them. As I have received some little satisfaction from the right hon. Gentleman—not very much—I assure him that my intentions are always peaceful and I am never likely to be quarrelsome as are some of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
New Clause—(Application To Northern Ireland)
(1) Sections three, five, six and eight of this Act shall not extend to Northern Ire land; and this Act shall, in its application to Northern Ireland, have effect as if paragraph (c) of Subsection (I) of Section one were omitted there from.
(2) In the application of this Act to Northern Ireland, Section seven thereof, and so much of Section nine thereof as relates to the said Section seven, shall be deemed for the purposes of Section six of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 (which relates to the power of the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make laws), to be provisions of an Act passed before the appointed day.—[ Mr. Bevan.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."It is not necessary for us to discuss the Clause at any length. It contains provisions which the Northern Ireland Parliament can itself amend if it so wishes. That is also common form. Unless a Statute which applies to Northern Ireland expressly states that Northern Ireland is able to amend or repeal it, it cannot do so, and that is the purpose of this Clause.
When we in Northern Ireland first saw the Bill we were rather surprised and our people set about trying to see whether they could not make some improvement in it. When the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health was on this side of the Committee, I often heard him make very severe strictures on Departments for legislating by reference. Now he is tied up in the same way himself. When I first read the Clause I said to myself, ''Whatever does this mean?'' I doubted whether any of the 640 Members of the House of Commons could have explained what it meant. Having gone into the question, I find it simply resolves itself in Northern Ireland being placed on a parity or equality with the rest of the country. We of course have to submit to the same taxes or disabilities, and when we have the opportunity of contributing our quota to the Imperial Parliament or Exchequer we do it in the same way as it is done over here. As we contribute £35,000,000 to the Exchequer every year, and as our voluntary contributions to the war effort amounted to upwards of £120,000,000 we think we are entitled to parity of treatment with that of Great Britain. That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman has done in this Clause and personally, and on behalf of Ulster Members and the Northern Ireland Government, I would like to convey our grateful thanks to him and to the Department responsible for making this improvement in the Bill.
I listened to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) with interest and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health himself will be gratified that his action in putting down an Amendment rather clumsily on a previous Clause did not cause discord and that we now know that the representatives of Northern Ireland have approved of this new Clause. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee in dealing with it, but it is a bad' case of legislation by reference and it is a great pity that more clarity was not shown earlier, when so much time could have been saved, especially if this had been an original Clause of the Bill. I regret that the Government should have thought it so unnecessary to get their original Bill right that they had to come at this time with a new Clause; it makes it difficult for us, who have a lot of work to do, to look after Amendments and to try to help the Government.
As the Member representing the constituency nearest to Northern Ireland I would like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) have said. While my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay was talking and complaining of this cumbrous new Clause being introduced by the Minister at this late hour in the day I thought I heard the Minister say—and he will correct me if I am wrong—that all legislation incorporated into Bills of this House with regard to Northern Ireland has been legislation by reference. Was I right in assuming that that was what the right hon. Gentleman said?
I must accept the information supplied by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Armagh, with his very long experience and knowledge of Ulster matters, and some 30 years in this House, in preference to what the Minister of Health indicated to the Committee a few moments ago. I protest very strongly indeed against the cumbrous nature of the Clause and this continual legislation by reference, which, as my hon. and gallant Friend reminded the Committee, the present Minister of Health himself continually attacked when he sat in the last Parliament. In the Parliament of 193I, when I first came into this House, I used to sit enthralled listening to the right hon. Gentleman attacking the Government of the day under Ramsay MacDonald. My only reason for rising was because, as I say, I represent the constituency in Great Britain nearest to Ulster and separated only by the narrow straits, from the constituency represented in this House by my hon. Friend the senior Member for Down (Dr. Little), who I am sorry is not here tonight, and by my hon. and gallant Friend the other Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles).
Would the hon. Member please come back to the Clause?
I was unaware that I had ever left it.
I was completely unaware that the hon. Member had ever been near it.
Had the senior Member for Down been here tonight, with his well known interest in Ulster affairs and his zealous care in protecting the interests of his own constituents, as a Northern Ireland Member he would have wanted particular information from the Minister about this Clause. I very much regret that the Minister was unable to give the information, and just slurred over it by saying that everyone could understand it, when not one single person in the Committee really knows what it is all about.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, to be considered Tomorrow, and to be printed.[Bill 44.]C
Electors And Jurors Money
"That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law relating to electoral registration and to voting at parliamentary and local government elections, to make provision with respect to jurors books, to amend the law relating to returning officers for Scottish constituencies, and to provide for matters connected with the purposes aforesaid, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—
(a)of one-half of the expenses of registration officers in Great Britain in performing their functions under that Act, including all proper and reasonable charges for trouble, care and attention in the performance of those functions and any costs incurred by such an officer as party to an appeal; (b)of one-half of any expenses properly incurred by the proper officer of a local authority in England or Wales in the performance of the functions of registration officers tinder the said Act, including reasonable charges for the proper officer's own trouble, care and attention in the performance of those functions and for the remuneration and expenses of any staff provided by the authority; (c)of any expenses properly incurred by registration officers in Northern Ireland in connection with their functions under the said Act, the said expenses to be calculated subject to the provisions of Subsection (2) of Section fifteen of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, as if they were registration expenses as denned for the purposes of that Section, and to include the expense, of any printing required in connection with the performance of those functions; and (d)of any sums paid by registration officers in Northern Ireland in respect of services performed and expenses incurred by overseers under the said Act."
Resolution agreed to.