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Volume 443: debated on Thursday 30 October 1947

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Farmworkers And Miners


asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the methods by which the decision to give the highest priority to houses for farmworkers will be implemented, and indicate the extent to which it will be necessary to expand the housing programmes of rural authorities.


asked the Minister of Health what form of undertaking regarding priority for mineworkers and agricultural workers must be given by local authorities to secure approval of new housing contracts.


asked the Minister of Health if he will advise Rural District Councils that farmworkers who have established the need for better accommodation should receive first consideration when the new houses to be erected in connection with the Government's new food drive, are available.

I am sending my hon. Friends copies of the circular already issued. No specific form of undertaking has been issued. Each case will be examined by my Department in the light of knowledge of the local circumstances.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have seen the circular to which he refers, and which will - undoubtedly achieve, in due course, the desired objective; but does not he think it possible for some immediate machinery to be set up to bring the farmworker and farmer into contact with the local authority so that immediate benefit may accrue from any houses that may now become available in the rural areas?

I believe that when the machinery now being set up is in full operation the farmworkers will be met, but I think it is necessary for this House to realise that ancillary industries in the rural areas are almost as important to farming as the farmworker himself.

Is the Minister aware that the terms of the circular, which most of us have probably seen, are still at variance with the promises held out by the Minister of Agriculture to the farming community, that priority of a high order will be given to the provision of houses for agricultural workers and miners?

I cannot accept that imputation, and I am quite certain that the National Farmers Union does not endorse it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the terms of the circular merely instruct local authorities to have regard to agricultural workers as well as other applicants? Anyone who thinks that those words are the equivalent, in the ordinary sense, of "high priority" should learn the English language.

The right hon. Gentleman, as usual, misinterprets the circular. We cannot accept that all questions of need should not be taken into account when selecting tenants. What we are saying is that special consideration should be given to the needs of the agricultural community.

Will my right hon. Friend assure that a measure of discretion shall still be left to local authorities to erect houses on a basis of need, and that the priority for agricultural workers and miners shall not be an absolute one?

Is it not a fact that this circular applies only to the allocation of tenancies and not to the building of houses, and is it not clear that it will throw into confusion the points scheme of rural districts and cause great disappointment in the countryside unless allied to a great expansion of rural building?

The hon. Gentleman had better arrange his differences with his right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson).

Was not the whole emphasis by the Minister of Agriculture on priority for rural workers' houses, and is it not a fact that what the Minister has said indicates quite clearly there is not to be a priority in houses but in selection?

Neither the Minister of Agriculture nor any Member of the Government has ever stated that there is absolute priority, but what has been stated is that conditions have been specially weighted in favour of the agricultural worker for whom there are special considerations. As the hon. Member knows very well, a mechanic in rural areas attending to rural machinery is doing agricultural work just as important as that of a field worker.


asked the Minister of health whether he intends to introduce before Christmas a Bill making provision for the improvement and reconditioning of houses occupied by agricultural workers.

What has happened to the legislation that the right hon. Gentleman promised on 31st July? Has that shared in the basic cut?

There was no promise that that legislation would be introduced this Session.

In that case, what happens to the promises and hopes held out by the right hon. Gentleman's colleague the Minister of Agriculture, to the farmers about providing increased accommodation?

In future the right hon. Gentleman had better furnish himself with the exact words used by my right hon. Friend—

Do we understand from the answer that the recommendations of the Hobhouse Report have been shelved completely for this Session?

The House can understand from the Gracious Speech that no provision is made for legislation for the reconditioning of cottages, the view of the Government being that if there were legislation for reconditioning rural cot-ages, it would be at the expense of new accommodation in the rural areas. We are anxious to get new houses built.

Does the Minister realise that either through ignorance or prejudice, the provision of housing accommodation in the rural districts is being much impeded by his decision?

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that he will give immense pleasure in rural areas if he will concentrate labour and materials on the building of new houses rather than using it for patching up old houses, many of which are completely outworn and should be demolished?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the view just expressed is not the view of those occupying cottages which should be reconditioned?

It is however the view of the vast majority of agricultural workers that they would rather live in new houses than the miserable houses you built for them.

Is it not a fact that the very insanitary condition of these houses is due to neglect in the past on the part of the Tory landlords who owned them?

In answering questions, will the right hon. Gentleman remember that Ministers of the Crown owe a duty of courtesy to all Members of Parliament irrespective of party.

Building Costs


asked the Minister of Health when the Committee appointed by him on 5th June, 1947, to keep under review the costs of house building will be making their recommendations.

This is a matter for the Committee to decide and I have no information on this subject at present.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a Committee of this nature will give news and not history, and that it will be no help to the trade at all unless the report is published.

I would not be as discourteous as the hon. Member in reflecting on the Committee.

Heating Services (Coal Charges)


asked the Minister of Health whether it is his intention that landlords who provide services such as central heating and hot water which require quantities of coal to premises which are rent controlled at 1939 prices, will be allowed to charge the recent statutory increased prices of coal to the tenants who enjoy the services provided by the consumption of the coal.

This would require legislation to amend the Rent Restrictions Acts, of which there is no early prospect.

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is fair and just that the landlord should be forced by the Minister of Fuel and Power to pay the increased price of coal whilst at the same time the tenant who consumes and enjoys the coal is not allowed to pay anything?

The practice is that where time is to be provided for legislation the question should be addressed to the Prime Minister or to the Leader of the House of Commons.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into account that the Ridley Committee made this point one of their highest priority recommendations?

I thought the hon. Gentleman was addressing the Question to the Government and not to the Ridley Committee.

Construction Programme


asked the Minister of Health what modifications in the housing programme he proposes to make; and if he will make a full statement.


asked the Minister of Health whether his new regulations to stop all new house building apply to the Stevenage satellite towns.

I would refer the hon. Members to the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Economic Affairs in the course of the Debate on the Address on 23rd October. I am sending the hon. Members a copy of the circular which was sent to local authorities today.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that when building recommences—it should be "commences" instead of "recommences"—it will be necessary to have a nucleus of trained workers, and unless a very much more comprehensive statement can be given to the public and to the trade there will simply not be a building industry to be called upon?

The hon. Gentleman has not yet seen the circular to which I have referred and I would advise a study of it before he reaches any conclusion. There are 350,000 houses already under construction and under contract and that will be sufficient to keep the building industry occupied for a little while to come. As he will have seen from the statement of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Economic Affairs, the whole position will be reviewed in the early summer of next year.

The hon. Member's question is mixed up a little bit, as the latter part of it should have been addressed to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why priority is given to the ill-advised Socialist Stevenage scheme and, if it has been given, will he also say, as regards farm cottages, why priority over them has been given to the Stevenage scheme? He has not answered my Question.

The hon. Gentleman has based his inquiries upon a number of assumptions which have no reference to reality either here or anywhere else.

On a point of Order. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you are aware that I did not expect to get a silk purse out of a sow's ear?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the provision of houses is a very essential capital expenditure?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the 350,000 houses of which he has spoken are permanent houses?

Will the Minister impress on his colleagues in the Cabinet that there should be no curtailment of the housing programme whatever else may happen, because it would cause widespread resentment and injury?

I am sure we are fully aware of that, especially as we have received endorsement from hon. Members on the other side.

Will the Minister tell the House whether or not he still adheres to the view he expressed to the House on 28th July that any reduction in the housing programme will gravely jeopardise national progress?

Rent Control (Legislation)


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act is due to expire at the end of the year, he will take steps to re-enact its provisions together with others designed to give tenants greater protection from eviction.


asked the Minister of Health if it is his intention to renew at the end of the year the Rent Tribunals Act; and if he will consider extending the provisions of the Act to cover unfurnished rooms and flats.

The Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, will, subject to the approval of Parliament of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, be continued in operation until the end of 1948, but the extension of its scope would require separate legislation for which no time is at present available.

Would it require a great deal of Parliamentary time to introduce a short, non-controversial Bill to strengthen this useful Act, and at the same time bring within its provisions the thousands of working class and middle class tenants of newly converted unfurnished flats and premises who at present enjoy no protection at all?

I am afraid a Bill is not made less controversial because it is shorter, and I am afraid that the Government cannot find time for this Bill at the present time. Had they been able to find time it would have been included in the Gracious Speech.


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the manner in which the purpose of the Rent Restriction Acts is being defeated by the demand for premiums, in some cases amounting to £200 for a flat; and will he consider immediate legislation whereby such demands shall be made illegal.

Such demands are in many cases illegal under the existing provisions of the Rent Restrictions Acts. There is no early prospect of the legislation which would be required to extend these provisions.

Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to give some consideration to the urgency of this matter, if possible, during this Session?

I have already said that matters concerning the legislation for this Session are for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Having regard to the fact that the Rent Restriction Acts have been described upon the highest judicial authority as a jungle of meaningless verbiage, will the right hon. Gentleman, even now, consider the preparation of a consolidating and amending Act which will turn them into something which expert lawyers can begin to understand?

I think the House will not find us far behind in preparing legislation to amend the Rent Restrictions Acts. The limiting factor is the availability of Parliamentary time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Acts already make illegal the payment of key-money or premiums, but we have the greatest difficulty in bringing cases to court because those who pay premiums will not come forward and say so?

Schemes, Lyme Regis (Local Labour)


Period.Local Authorities.Private Enterprise.
1st January, 1919 to 31st March, 1920576Subsidised.13930,000 (estimated)
Half-year ended 30th September 19202,9262,486
Year ended 30th September, 192147,65120,294

Application Lists


asked the Minister of Health whether he will give the number of applicants for houses on the list of each of the housing authorities in Nottinghamshire including the City of Nottingham together with the number of houses to help the Lyme Regis Borough Council to find the labour required for their permanent housing and electricity schemes, now that all prisoner-of-war labour has been withdrawn.

As the hon. Member has been informed, no local labour is at present available and the absence of suitable accommodation makes it difficult to import any. My officers, in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Works, both in London and in Dorset, are, however, continuing their efforts to secure more labour.

Is the Minister aware that these unfinished schemes have been held up for nearly three months and that there is a great risk of deterioration?

We cannot at the moment add to the amount of local labour available and I gather that the Opposition are not in favour of direction.



asked the Minister of Health how many houses were completed by local authorities in each of the years 1919 to 1924 inclusive; and how many working class houses were completed by private enterprise in the same years.

The exact figures cannot be given, but I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the figures which are available.

Following are the figures:

completed, building and authorised in each case.

I am sending my hon. Friend approximate figures which have been provided by the local authorities concerned. On the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the Monthly Housing Return.


asked the Minister of Health the number of applicants for houses on the list of each of the 17 largest cities and of the London County Council together with the number of houses completed, building and authorised in each case.

I regret that the information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. On the second part, I would refer my hon. Friend to the Monthly Housing Return.

It would be possible to obtain them from the local authorities concerned, but I am not anxious to give them, for the simple reason that they are by no means accurate. Many of the lists are entirely out-of-date, many of them have duplicated applications and in many instances individuals who have found other accommodation have not notified the authorities. Therefore, the lists are not reliable guides to the situation.


asked the Minister of Health whether he will give the total number of applicants for houses on the lists of local housing authorities in England and Wales.

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept a suggestion from me and circulate to each of the applicants a full statement of the various promises made by hon. Members opposite about housing?

It would be awfully difficult to select the applicants from the non-applicants, and an army of clerks would be required.

Police House, Kempston (Tenancy)


asked the Minister of Health whether it has been brought to his notice that the police authority in Bedfordshire is taking steps to secure the eviction from 63, Spring Road, Kempston, of ex-P.C. W. J. D. Martin, invalided from the constabulary as a result of an illness contracted during overseas war service for which he receives a small pension; and whether, in view of the grave hardship involved, he will arrange for this man's replacement to reside elsewhere until Mr. Martin and his family can be found alternative accommodation by the local authorities.

I have no responsibility for Questions relating to the tenancy of police houses. I understand Mr. Martin has applied to the Kempston Urban District Council for a council house and his application is being considered.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no Government Department will take responsibility for this or any similar case? Is not that a real disgrace?

It is no use Government Departments accepting responsibility if they cannot discharge it. If the counsel of the Opposition had been taken, there would be no houses to rent available for anybody.