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Clause 22—(Conditions To Be Observed With Respect To Dwellings)

Volume 465: debated on Monday 30 May 1949

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move in page 16, line 44, to leave out from first "the," to "or," and insert "owner."

This Amendment is put down because of the assurance which the Minister gave on Committee stage that he would deal with this point. As the Clause is drafted any dwelling which is receiving an improvement grant would have at all times to be occupied either by the applicant for the improvement grant or by a member of his family or by the tenant of the house in question. We feel that it would be unfair to confine this to a member of the family and for that reason we have put down the Amendment. Is there any particular reason why, if the original applicant for the grant had left the house to one of his kith or kin or had even sold the house, the benefit of the improvement grant should not pass to the subsequent purchaser if the house fell vacant in the meantime? There appears to be no valid reason why the purchaser of the improved house from the original applicant for the grant should not enjoy all the facilities which the original applicant enjoyed. As the Clause stands, it draws a quite unfair distinction between the two. For those reasons we wish to insert the word "owner" to cover either the owner by will or the owner by purchasing. The Minister, in a subsequent Amendment, has made it more restrictive by covering only the person to whom the property was bequeathed.

While in the majority of cases the word "owner" and "applicant" would in fact be synonymous, there would be a series of categories of different types of owner, for example, fee simple, 99 years' lease and a whole variety of owners whom we feel it would be unwise to include in the Bill. This is in fact a small point, but we think that we must retain the word "applicant," otherwise there would be no clear definition of the person.

The point at issue is that "owner" could be the man who purchased the house from the original owner who made the application. It is not confined to the person to whom he bequeaths his house by his will. Why should the purchaser of the house for which an improvement grant has been obtained be any less better off than the applicant?

We are dealing here with the occupier. Since the house is rented we do not mind who buys or sells the house. The point is that the owner or his relatives are going to be in occupation of the house and it is necessary to safeguard ourselves. In other parts of the Bill, it is made clear that where the house is sold and is not going to be rented then, of course, the development grant must be repaid.

This is rather an intricate point, and I think that it might repay a little further study. What we are afraid of is that it may arise that on some occasion the whole grant has to be repaid, and the whole process thereby slowed up. As the Minister says, the point is that the house should be let and kept available for letting, and the person who is the actual owner of the house is, to the Minister, a secondary point. So it is to us. What we fear is that the Clause does not exactly carry that out and that unless the owner was the original owner of the grant the conditions of this legislation would not apply.

I see the point made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I will certainly look at it again. I am quite clear in my mind that if there were a succession of owners it would not matter and would not affect the position of the grant so long as the house was let at the controlled rent.

On the undertaking that the Minister will look at this matter again, we may, I think, be satisfied. I am not sure that the words of the Clause could be held to mean what the Minister has said, that even though there was a succession of owners, so long as the house was kept available for letting, the conditions of the Act would continue to apply. That is a point which we desire to clarify, and as the Minister has undertaken to clarify it, and we accept his assurance that it is his desire that, if the Clause does not mean that, words shall be inserted to make it so read, I think that my hon. Friend may find it possible to withdraw the Amendment.

I am perfectly prepared to withdraw the Amendment. As the Clause is now drafted it reads:

"the dwelling shall, at all times at which it is not occupied by the applicant for the improvement grant.…"
The applicant for the improvement grant clearly means the man or woman who made the original application and not someone to whom that individual bequeathed the dwelling or sold it.

In view of the assurance which the Minister has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 16, line 45, after "family," to insert:

"or a person to whom the interest of the applicant in the dwelling has been devised by him."
This is an Amendment to carry out a promise made by my right hon. Friend in Committee. Where the owner who has received a grant under the Bill leaves a reconditioned or improved house by will, the person to whom the house is left would, under the Bill as it stands, have to repay the grant. My right hon. Friend agrees that in that case repayment should not be required, and this provision is made by the Amendment.

We welcome these words and would be glad if they were inserted in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 16, line 45, after "family" to insert "either (1)";"

Perhaps it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the following Amendment: in page 17, line 3, at the end, insert:

"or
(ii) be occupied under a contract of service."

I think they could be taken together, because we do not wish to delay the House. This is the first time that either the House or the Committee has had the opportunity of deciding sharply upon the issue whether a dwelling occupied in virtue of a contract of service should qualify for the improvement grant. The arguments which took place in a somewhat ragged fashion in Committee on various subpoints—such as whether a grant or a loan should be made, and later on whether it was possible to devise some code of conduct, such as a three months' notice to deal with the question of summary ejectment—never brought us sharply to the simple point: should a service cottage be able to come in all respects under the conditions of the Bill?

There is a conflict of opinion between the two sides which must be faced. Hon. Members opposite say that the conditions of the service cottage are so advantageous—I wish to state the position as fairly as I can—to the owner that anyone who has such a property should not be granted any form of public money to improve that dwelling. Our contention, quite shortly, is that, as the improvement will go to the tenant or the person who is in the cottage it is quite wrong for this House to withhold funds which would certainly improve the condition of the cottage, and therefore improve the condition of the person inhabiting the cottage. I hope the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) will agree that I have fairly stated the conflict between us, because at one point or another we have had long discussions on this.

I do not wish to delay the House, but I do wish to come to a decision upon this point, which is in some ways smaller than would warrant the enormous amount of heat and argument which has been directed upon it. Yet it is a point which is felt very keenly by both sides. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) has more than once spoken very strongly on the matter, and on her consideration of the question has put in a minority report of a very uncompromising nature; indeed, so uncompromising that she suggested that for such rural houses on which improvements were made a full economic rent should be charged. That is a very strong statement, but I am afraid rather out of the sphere of practical politics at the present time.

We on this side have felt the other viewpoint very strongly indeed, and considered that it would be a blot upon this Bill, which meets the general approval of the whole House—it was not divided against on Second Reading, and it will not be divided against on Third Reading—if it went through, removing those properties altogether from the operation of the Bill, for the Minister has emphasised more than once in relation to small cottage property in general that unless, not merely loan facilities but grant facilities are available such property will not be improved. Indeed, he vigorously opposed some of his hon. Friends who suggested that grants should not be made, and that the whole operation should be conducted by loans. The danger is—and the Minister said this also—that if these facilities are not granted in the case of ordinary cottage property, then ordinary cottage property will not be improved. He said, in effect: "I fear far more a shortage of applications than a rush of applications for the benefits of this Bill." That is what we fear, too.

It is not necessary to go over again the point as to the deserving nature of those who occupy these particular service cottages. They are admittedly the cream of the agricultural workers of this country; they are the key men of one kind or another—mostly stockmen, but some others as well. Therefore, both their competence and their necessity are admitted on all sides.

7.15 p.m.

I wish to ask the Minister to consider, apart from these arguments, the sort of position which he knows very well. Let him consider a small farm in Wales; let him consider his own country which, like my country, is more of a peasant country than the great nation of England, and where the mentality, the make-up of individuals is much more that to which one is accustomed in, say, French literature than in English literature, and where we can appreciate the intense application of the peasant to the soil, and the intense and corroding quarrels which often arise in those connections. Let him consider the position of a small farm in Wales whew a quarrel had arisen between the farmer and the shepherd or cowman; the nature of the quarrel was such that it was impossible to bring it before either the agricultural executive committee or the courts; it was one of those personal things which only a peasant can fully appreciate and understand; the sort of thing which makes a man perfectly capable of cutting off his nose to spite his face thereafter. Imagine these people unwillingly locked in propinquity for months, and indeed for years thereafter, simply because some quarrel had arisen from which neither side was willing to withdraw. In so far as that quarrel continued it would hold up production, because inside that cottage would be living one who would not co-operate in the work of the farm, and without whose co-operation the work of the farm could not satisfactorily proceed.

The right hon. Gentleman has recognised that position more than once in the case of furnished lodgings—more particularly lodgings shared with another person. He has recognised that to lock these two people together indefinitely is certain to bring about the greatest possible disadvantages. That is rather in the nature of the case we are thinking of, although the sharing of such premises is much more intimate than the sharing of ordinary lodgings or furnished apartments. People can continue to inhabit the same house, it may be for years, without speaking a word to each other. Even man and wife have been known to continue in a house for a period of years without interchanging even the most perfunctory remarks. But a Welsh or a Scottish farmer and his cowman or shepherd cannot carry on for months or years without ordinarily friendly relations between them. The ultimate point of resolving these things is when the man is told that friendly relations are no longer possible, that a new man will have to be got and new quarters will have to be obtained.

We have not yet come to the end of this long argument, and I do suggest that the Minister should think again on the subject. Only recently, in the last few days, I again saw a resolution from some conference or other complaining that the question of the tied cottage had not been resolved. We recognise that on this issue the Minister is under pressure from his own supporters, and that more than one Labour Party conference has passed a resolution very strongly against the whole idea of the tied cottage. But the Minister himself has pointed out that as far as he can see the tied cottage is indispensable for many years to come to the conduct of agriculture in our country. All he has said is that he does not find it possible for him ill present circumstances to make any grant towards the improvement of these cottages, that is to say that the person in a tied cottage is liable to all the disadvantages to which he is liable at present, and in addition liable to the disadvantage that his house may not be improved. That, we believe, is a deadlock which administration should not continue to contemplate. Our suggestion is that the tied cottage should also be made liable for grant under this legislation. We say that the onus of proof is on those who would refuse it, and for that reason we have set down the Amendment.

We have, indeed, discussed this in Committee at very great length. Every single combination, involution and permutation of the subject was considered, and eventually the Bill was restored to the House of Commons more or less as it went to the Committee in this respect. I should like to make it clear from the outset that we are not discussing tied cottages but improvement grants. Tied cottages are an entirely different matter. All we are saying in the Bill is this. It is not the Government that decides whether an improvement grant is to be paid on a service cottage but the owner of the cottage. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) put the cart before the horse, if I may use an agricultural metaphor appropriate to the circumstances.

All we have said is this. If the owner of a service cottage—I would rather speak of service cottages than tied cottages—says, "I am not going to apply for an improvement grant because if I do I have to create a tenancy, and if I do that I have no power of summary ejection," then at once we argue that the owner of a service cottage is putting the service cottage in the category of being a part of the hereditament, not of being a cottage in the ordinary sense of the term, and therefore not entitled to have an improvement grant upon it. He is saying that it is not a tenancy he wants but the right to put the occupant of the service cottage on the road overnight. He argues that he needs the occupancy of the cottage to get the farm work done efficiently.

If he is arguing in that way, what he is saying is that, so essential is the occupancy of the cottage by a person whom he selects for the pursuit of farming that he cannot have a tenant in the cottage possessing tenant rights no matter how rudimentary. But if he says that, I must regard his building as part of his farm buildings and not therefore as a cottage, a house or residence that ought to attract grants in the ordinary way. I suggest with all respect that that logic is impregnable. It is not therefore the Government or the Bill that denies improvement to the service cottage, but the owner of the service cottage who will not improve the cottage under the conditions of this grant because he wishes to retain the power of summary ejectment.

It is perfectly true that upstairs the Opposition put down an Amendment suggesting this power of summary ejectment should be modified by a three-month period and that at the end of three months the power of ejectment should be restored without any proceedings in the courts. We argued in reply, and we still argue it today, that within two, three or four months at the outside a farmer can get possession of the cottage now. He can proceed to the county agricultural executive committee for a certificate. In other words, he has to prove his case before his peers. He has to prove it before a representative of the men, a farmer and another person. He has to show that it is in the interests of his business to have possession of the cottage, and if he gets a certificate he can then go to the county court and in most cases get an order.

As a general rule, therefore, the possession of these cottages for agricultural purposes can be obtained within two, three or four months. Where the period is longer than that, it ought to be longer than that, because there the judge will have arbitrated that more hardship will fall upon the occupant of the cottage than upon the farmer, and therefore the period should be longer during which the occupant can look around for alternative accommodation. I should have thought that that is all a reasonable farmer would want. As a matter of fact, I have been told by many farmers that they do not want the power of summary ejectment, which is an arbitrary power they find too repugnant to exercise, and consequently they are prepared for some protection to be given to an occupant of a cottage.

Some of my hon. Friends argued that the farmer ought not to have the power to get an occupant out of a cottage at all unless alternative accommodation could be found. We have considered that right to be too substantial a denial of business efficiency to be permitted all over the country, because here we are speaking not only of agricultural but of all restricted tenancies in various parts of the country. It is quite easy to give an example of how embarrassing it would be. A local authority might employ a watchman over the sluice gates of a reservoir, and occupancy of a cottage in such an isolated place might be part of the work. If the watchman decided to give up his work, the local authority would be unable to find anyone at all, because the watchman could still sit in his cottage and the local authority would have to find alternative accommodation. There would be public hurt and public injury; this would be the exercise of an individual's right against the common good. That is why the Rent Restrictions Acts have always recognised the necessity of enabling people to get possession of houses where it is necessary for the carrying on of the business or profession.

The improvement grant cannot be paid in the case of a service cottage. There, I think, I am marching with enlightened opinion on both sides; the farmer who says, "All right, I will take the improvement grant because all I am losing is a right I do not want to exercise and I very rarely exercise. I am perfectly prepared to submit my case to the arbitration of my fellows."

The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned one case which he did not finish. The case he had in mind is where it might be difficult for the farmer or owner of the house to make his case before the county agricultural executive committee because the relationship between the farmer and the occupant of the cottage might not be due to contractual considerations but to subjective and emotional considerations. But not only could the farmer find the occupant of the cottage emotionally objectionable but the occupant could also find the farmer emotionally objectionable. The farm-worker could not get rid of the farmer. There is no reason why on these purely subjective grounds the farmer should be able to get rid of the farmworker.

When all is said and done, the farmer is responsible for the running of the holding and is answerable to the county agricultural executive committee, which the worker is not.

All the farmer would have to do in such a case would be to dismiss his worker and then go to the agricultural executive committee and get possession.

7.30 p.m.

The hon. Member is conjuring up a set of circumstances to make a case for which, on more general grounds, he and his hon. Friends have no case at all. I need hardly repeat the old adage, "Hard cases make bad law." I do not think that we can amend the whole of this Bill and expose thousands of agricultural workers to unnecessary hardship in order to deal with a few cases where emotional disturbance might arise out of physical propinquity. I think the case has been made abundantly for these provisions in the Bill which, I believe, will be welcomed by every enlightened landlord.

I am sorry to take up the time of the House but this is an extremely important matter, especially as it concerns agricultural districts. The Minister and Members on this side are so close together that it is a pity that we cannot bridge the gap. The Minister said that we had argued for a three months' tenancy and wanted summary ejection. I differ from that; I do not think that was argued at all. All we want is a reasonable opportunity to get possession of a cottage when a man gives up his job.

I do not wish to misrepresent the situation, nor do I wish it to be misunderstood. What the Opposition wanted was that the improvement grant should be paid upon a service cottage and that when a cottage had a grant of that sort the landlord, if he wished to get rid of the tenant, would have to give three months' notice, at the end of which the axe would fall.

I do not think that the words "summary ejection" were ever mentioned in the argument.

I think the difference is between the lawyer's use of the term "summary ejection" and the lay use of that term. The layman's idea is that it means throwing a man out overnight, neck and crop. The lawyer's point is that a man can recover possession of his property. The question whether it is done by violence or by any other means does not really arise in the legal connotation, although it does arise in the mind of the layman.

The proposition was that the owner of a service cottage should give up a right in return for an improvement grant. That right was the right to turn out his tenant. In return for an improvement grant the landlord would say to the tenant, "Here is three months' notice," and all the owner would have to do would be to sit back. At the end of three months he could put the tenant out, as he could at the beginning, without any processes of law. His right of summary ejectment would be restored at the end of the three months.

Speaking on behalf of the best farmers, I can say that we do not want the right of summary ejection. What we want was well illustrated by the Minister's point about the night watchman. When the night watchman gives up his job he has to give up his cottage. Similarly, when the shepherd gives up his job he should give up his cottage, but should continue in it until he can get somewhere else to live. We want men to remain on farms, carrying on their work, until they can find other accommodation.

That has nothing to do with what is now before the House. Ordinarily, the sensible workman, if he intended to leave his employment, would first look around for a house and then, when he had found it, would give notice to his employer. What the hon. Member wishes to achieve is, generally speaking, the case now.

We ask the Minister to protect us from the unreasonable workman; there is no difficulty with the reasonable workman. We want protection against the unreasonable workman who simply sits in his cottage and will not get another job. The gap between us is small. The Minister and the Minister of Agriculture both appreciate that we have to have service cottages. All we want is a means of protection, so that when a key man gives up his job he gives up his cottage. Farmers do not want to be left high and dry in the lambing season. I believe the position can be met, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has withstood the pressure from his own back benchers on this matter. Members opposite who delight in their prejudice against the landed estate owner will do a lot of harm to those who have to carry on farm work if they slightly hurt that landowner. It has been said that farm workers are in shackles. I do not believe that is true, but even if it is, the right hon. Gentleman should build council houses and give to men who feel that they are being intimidated, an opportunity of going into those houses. No farmer will take the risk of finding himself saddled with a man whom he cannot dismiss, and the cream of the farm workers will suffer because of the prejudice against the tied cottage.

We have already been reminded that service cottages apply to other than farm workers—that there are railway cottages, miners' cottages, and the like. Why is it that as one after another Member has intervened in the discussion today the Debate has got right back to the farm? It is because the problem does not affect miners and railwaymen and others who are doing vital jobs and have to live near to their work. It does not affect them because they have powerful trade union protection. The mines and the railways are nationalised. In other words, opinion in industrial areas is such that we are comfortable in our minds. We are not afraid of abuse: we know that our people, collectively, can protect themselves. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) said in Committee, and again today, that the same balance of power exists in the countryside, and that although there might be an unreasonable farmer and farm worker they cancelled each other out.

In the whole of Great Britain no widow of a poor miner could be thrown out of a colliery cottage even before the mines were nationalised. There was the powerful Miners' Union, and the men would not have tolerated that kind of behaviour. But that can happen in the English countryside. There are not a great number of ties, but in the countryside, if one is politically, economically, and socially weak, even although one is not victimised, not only a man, but his wife and children can have their nerves frayed by a feeling of insecurity.

The hon. Member shakes his head. At a recent election in my own constituency there was a farmer in a meeting who got up to ask the candidate how he earned his living. It was the whole atmosphere of the man which was suggestive. I am not saying that the hon. Member would behave that way, nor am I saying that that farmer was representative of the farming community, but we are not legislating here for kind and reasonable people. We are legislating for the special problem, which is a countryside problem. We are dealing with people who abuse their powers. I am still puzzled and astonished that the farmers of the countryside are not delighted that they cannot get public money unless they untie their cottages. It should be clearly understood that if they do untie their cottages and give the minimum protection, they will come into the scheme.

The Minister has only given us the minimum protection. He could not have given us less than he has done on this particular point. In fact, he has given us so little that I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Leominster, are not delighted that they can go back to the countryside and explain that there is no problem about this. All they have to explain is that if the service cottage is substandard, and if the employee is given a little bit of protection, then the owner comes within the provisions of the Bill. I hope that this Amendment will not be pressed. On the other hand, why should I say that I hope this Amendment will not be pressed, I would rather see it pressed to a Division, and then the Division Lobbies would show us where we stood in this respect.

The Minister said that the main point of this Amendment referred to improvement grants and was not a discussion on the merits or demerits of the service cottage system. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in a speech in Committee on this part of the Bill he referred to these agricultural cottages as pieces of social equipment, and something which, as far as possible, we should see were kept in a proper state. He was advancing the argument about pieces of social equipment against his hon. Friends who were asking that the grant should not be given when a service tenancy had been agreed to and entered into.

Also during his speech he commented that his logic was impeccable. I cannot see that I can understand the logic of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) that no grant should be given in a case where there is not 100 per cent. freedom from the tie or at least an offer of alternative accommodation. However, we have gone beyond that by the fact that the Minister says now that an improvement grant can be given in a case where possession can be obtained under the cottage certificate procedure, or by a certificate from the county agricultural executive committee. I do not think his logic is impeccable, but if it is, he should go a little further so that we can make a grant towards improving these pieces of social equipment wherever they are still in control of the landlord or under control of the agricultural committee.

7.45 p.m.

The Minister also said we wanted grants for cottages where the occupier could be thrown out on to the road overnight. He was fair enough later in his speech to remind the House that we moved an Amendment on the Committee stage to give an improvement grant only in the case of a cottage where agreement had been entered into by the occupier and the owner, and that three months' notice should be given. I was sorry that on that occasion the Minister could not accept the Amendment, because there is a genuine desire on both sides of the House, and between both parties in the industry to try to get some compromise on the question of these particular cottages. Here let me say that in spite of moving or supporting this Amendment many of us are appreciative of the effort that the Minister has made to meet us. There were rumours before this Bill appeared that the service cottage and tenancy were going to be excluded altogether from the Measure.

The Minister has made a gesture to meet us in so far as a grant can be obtained if a tenancy is entered into and a certificate obtained from the county agricultural executive committee before possession can be gained. That will meet the vast majority of cases in the more populous parts of the country, but it does not meet the difficulty of the more remote parts, where less labour is employed on the farm, and where there are just one or two key men. It is important that the farmer should retain control of these particular cottages. The Minister says that that is just the sort of case where the county agricultural executive committee would give a certificate. My right hon. and gallant Friend has already mentioned the sort of personal difference which may arise in those cases and, unless the agricultural executive committee are going to allow a divorce for temperamental incompatibility, it is difficult to see how the farmer can hand over this particular responsibility and control over these tied cottages.

Now that the farmers are doing so well and are in such a well-paid occupation, why cannot they themselves put their cottages in proper repair without seeking public funds?

I do not think I need answer that, because we had a very long discussion on it on the Committee stage, where it was pointed out to the Minister that a very large gap exists between the case of any farm building work and improvement, and the rent which can be charged under the Rent Restriction Acts. Indeed, in the case of the service cottage no rent at all is charged. The whole object of this Bill is to try to bridge that gap, and encourage people to carry out this work, without levying too high rents upon the occupiers. I do not wish to detain the House any longer, but we appreciate what the Minister has done to met us on this point, and I am only sorry that he could not come a little nearer so that this Bill would leave the House as a more or less agreed Measure on this particular point.

I expected that we were going to have a full-dress Debate on the question of the tied cottage. The Amendment from the opposite side of the House raises this question in its sharpest form. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) suggested that this Clause would be a blot on the Bill if it remained as drafted. It would be a much greater blot if the Amendment were accepted. I am pleased to note that the Minister has made a firm stand against the attempt by the Opposition to retain the power of summary ejection of agricultural workers. It is suggested by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) that the Opposition want to protect the rights of the farmer against the unreasonable workman. We want to protect the rights of the workman against the unreasonable farmer. To suggest, as has been done in the Committee, that there should be a three months' interregnum or delay before this power of summary ejection operated is simply to beg the question. What would the life of the agricultural worker and of his family be during the three months when the notice was in suspension?

Something has been said—and I did not know that it was possible to introduce it—about the power of the farmer to get a certificate from the agricultural committee. That is a right which no other owner of property possesses. No one else can go to any committee and get a certificate which waives the condition that there shall be alternative accommodation provided before possession is granted to the owner. We shall very much resent it if this power still remains.

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying what he has said. With a service occupancy, which is the arrangement which farmers generally have with their men, it is not necessary to get a certificate. Farmers can apply direct to the courts. The certificate is necessary when the farmer wants to bring into service occupancy a cottage which is let in some other way.

For many years I was a member of a committee which made an inspection of cottages to ascertain whether a certificate should be granted. It may be said that I have exaggerated the extent to which certificates have been granted under that special provision. The number last year was not 1,000, as I said, but 999. That is not a very great error. I hope that we shall show our determination to safeguard the rights and to protect liberties of the agricultural worker by refusing to continue this right of arbitrary ejection. I would remind the hon. Member for Leominster that although he himself would not operate this power in an unjust fashion there are many cases where farmers have gone to a house and turned the people out on to the verge without any notice whatever. It is the exercise of that unjust power which we are anxious shall not remain in the hands of anyone in the future. I hope that we shall show our very strong resentment against retaining this power of arbitrary ejection by defeating the Amendment, even if we have to go into the Lobby against it.

It is true that the Minister has gone some way to meet us, but I do not think I can say the same about the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass). I find it difficult to believe that the farming community in his part of the world are so different from the farming community anywhere else.

The Minister said that it was for the owner to decide whether to untie his cottage and obtain the grant. That is technically true. The right hon. Gentleman has obliged the owner to decide but it is the tenant who suffers. The right hon. Gentleman will know that under the old Housing (Rural Workers) Act owners reconditioned their cottages either with no financial return to themselves where the maximum wage-deduction was already made, or with a very small return—namely the difference between the actual deduction and the maximum permitted.

What the hon. Gentleman is really saying is that the landlord is prepared to do an injury to his tenant in order to retain a mediaeval right.

The right hon. Gentleman is doing an injury to a large number of occupants of tied cottages because of his political prejudices.

Why are the agricultural workers overwhelmingly against continuance of the tied cottage system?

The answer to the hon. Member is that they are not. I do not know how many agricultural workers in this country are living in what are called tied cottages, but the Ridley Report put the number a few years ago at 200,000. There must, therefore, be a considerable number of houses of this category. It is true that the owner can get a grant by untying his cottage. The right hon. Gentleman says that all that the owner has to do if he wants possession of his cottage is to go to the county agricultural committee and get a certificate, but only 50 per cent. of applications for certificates are successful. There are certain cases in which the certificate procedure must be totally inappropriate.

We all know examples of a farm worker who is efficient in his job, but either quarrels violently with everybody on the farm or drinks too much. In those circumstances the agricultural committee could not be asked to allow a certificate. We know of circumstances in which the tenant of a tied house makes life so unbearable for everybody else on the farm that the other employees say to the farmer, "Either this man goes or we all go." There are circumstances which cannot be dealt with by the certificate procedure. The right hon. Gentleman very properly said in Committee that occupancy of a house was sometimes a necessary part of the efficient operation of an industry, and also of services like education, and railways. That is correct.

The Government are probably the largest owners of tied cottages in England. The right hon. Gentleman knows that very well. He himself is the owner of tied cottages, through the Ministry of Health. He has asked for powers whereby local authorities can earmark a particular house for the district nurse in any particular area. How can the district nurse operate in any area without living in a house? Of course, she cannot. That cottage is part and parcel of the "social equipment."

If the district nurse gets married and leaves her job is she to be allowed to live in that house?

Certainly. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that what I have asked local authorities to do is to provide houses for the district nurse, and that if she ceases to be the district nurse she is to be put out on the road? All I would ask is that the local authorities provide another house. That is all.

8.0 p.m.

Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that public money should be spent on providing houses for district nurses, which everybody agrees are necessary, and if the nurse decides to give up nursing, can she still stay in the house earmarked for a district nurse?

I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will say that that applies to houses owned by the Forestry Commission and to those occupied by village constables.

All the time hon. Members are arguing as though the matter before the House were the issue of tied cottages. It is no such thing. It is whether the improvement grants should be withheld from one type of cottage or another. The issue of tied cottages is not dealt with in the Bill and is not before the House.

I agree entirely with the Minister. The general question of tied cottages is not before the House. The question is the conditions under which an improvement grant will be made. I therefore hope that for that reason and others hon. Members will be good enough to be brief and to the point.

I was only trying to argue the reason why an improvement grant should be made in respect of tied houses. I do not think I am going any wider on that argument that did the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). That was the argument to which I was addressing myself. I still think that the analogy of the policeman's house makes the right hon. Gentleman's argument totally illogical. Perhaps most illogical of all is the insertion in the Bill of the provision relating to a parsonage house. Is it the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the diocesan authorities will allow a parson who has given up the living to remain in a certain rectory which has received an improvement grant——

I do not think that question really arises in that form. The question is the condition under which a grant shall be made. I do not think that these illustrations of what happens to tied or semi-tied cottages really help the situation.

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I cannot find the Clause at the moment, but a parsonage house certainly does come within the terms of the Bill relating to improvement grants. That is referred to in a letter which I have from the Ministry on the subject.

That is an entirely different issue. The situation is that an improvement grant is paid upon a parsonage because the ecclesiastical authorities concerned could get possession of the parsonage by due process of law. It is a restricted process of law, or rather the rights of the tenant are restricted. That is an entirely different matter from an improvement grant being paid for a service cottage where no rights of any sort whatever exist.

I appreciate that the Minister finds himself in some difficulty in trying to keep to a logical argument. His argument so far has been that public money should not be given to an owner of a cottage where the occupancy of the cottage goes with the job. He made a most impassioned speech about that and about the home being broken up when the job finished. The hon. Member for Cannock said that it would not be possible for eviction orders to be carried out in respect of colliery cottages as they were in the case of farm cottages. She may remember that I recalled a case during Committee of a widow of a colliery company cashier who had lived in a colliery company's cottage for 30 years, and following the death of her husband, she was evicted by the Coal Board without being given sufficient time even to clear up her husband's affairs.

Although unfortunate cases occur in agriculture and in other industries creating hardships for certain individuals, we are certainly not asking for powers to enable us to cause unnecessary hardship to any of the farming community. All we are asking is that the 200,000 odd agricultural workers who are now living in tied houses should not be deprived through sheer political prejudice of having their houses improved at great benefit to themselves and no financial benefit to the owners.

I am rather surprised that the Debate has taken the turn it has done. The point at issue here is a very simple one. A house which is tied in the manner in which a cottage is tied today is not let in such a way that the tenant has any protection. Indeed, he is no tenant. I would point out to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) that he can be ejected without going to court and there is an end of the matter. It is no good arguing that an attempt to retain that right means anything else. It merely means what it says, and that is, that a right is left for the farmer, without giving any reason whatsoever, to turn out the person who is occupying the cottage. That is what the Opposition wish to retain.

No, the hon. Member is entirely wrong. We have said time and time again on the Floor of this House and upstairs that we do not want the right of summary ejection.

That is precisely what I am trying to point out. If the hon. Member does not want that, he has no right to support an Amendment which says that that is what is wanted. I hope that hon. Members opposite will understand what they are asking for because that is exactly what it means. If that does not mean that, I should like to know how they propose to change the position which exists at present.

Another matter raised was that of retaining people in a cottage if they happen to be a nuisance or an annoyance to adjoining tenants. That is provided for under existing legislation. If a person under a tenancy agreement is a nuisance or an annoyance and really causes trouble, one has only to satisfy the court that that is so. If what the Minister is arguing were to be brought into effect, one would only have to prove to the court that there was a nuisance or an annoyance to have the person turned out. In those circumstances, those who are supporting the Amendment because they believe that it does not mean that a person can be summarily turned out are making a mistake, and those who support the Amendment knowing what it means are asking that the right to throw a person and his family into the street should be retained.

Division No. 156.]

AYES

[8.10 p.m.

Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Fletcher, W. (Bury)Poole, D. B. S. (Osweslry)
Amory, D. HeathcoatFyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.Rayner, Brig. R.
Astor, Hon. M.Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)Renton, D.
Baldwin, A. E.Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Gomme-Duncan, Coi. A.Ropner, Col. L.
Birch, NigelHannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Boothby, R.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Sanderson, Sir F.
Bower, N.Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Smithers, Sir W.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Hope, Lord J.Spearman, A. C. M.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt-Col W.Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Lindsay, M. (Solihull)Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Butcher, H. W.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Sludholme, H. G.
Carson, E.Maclay, Hon. J. S.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Challen, C.Maitland, Comdr J. W.Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Channon, H.Manningham-Buller, R. E.Thonneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Clarke, Col. R. S.Marsden, Capt. A.Touche, G. C.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col G.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Turton, R. H.
Cole, T. L.Medlicott, Brigadier F.Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Mellor, Sir J.While, J. B. (Canterbury)
Darling, Sir W. Y.Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)Williams, Gerald (Tonbridgs)
Digby, Simon WingfieldMott-Radclyffe, C. E.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Neven-Spence, Sir B.Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Drewe, C.Nield, B. (Chester)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Odey, G. W.

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:

Duthie, W. S.Peto, Brig. C. H. M.Brigadier Mackeson and
Elliot, Lieul.-Col. Rt. Hon. WalterPickthorn, K.Colonel Wheatley.
Erroll, F. J.Ponsonby, Col. C. E.

NOES

Adams, Richard (Balham)Collins, V. J.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.
Albu, A. H.Corlett, Dr. J.Hannan, W. (Maryhill)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Cove, W. G.Hardy, E. A.
Allen, Scholafield (Crewe)Daggar, G.Harrison, J.
Alpass, J. H.Daines, P.Hastings, Dr. Somerville.
Attewell, H. C.Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Haworth, J.
Austin, H. LewisDavies, Edward (Burslem)Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Awbery, S. S.Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Herbison, Miss M.
Ayles, W. H.Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Hewitson, Capt. M.
Bacon, Miss A.Deer, G.Holman, P.
Baird, J.Delargy, H. J.Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)
Balfour, A.Diamond, J.Horabin, T. L.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Dodds, N. N.Houghton, A. L. N. D. (Sowerby)
Barstow, P. G.Driberg, T. E. N.Hoy, J.
Barton, C.Dumpleton, C. W.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Battley, J. R.Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Bechervaise, A. E.Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Benson, G.Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Isaacs, Rt. Hon G. A.
Berry, H.Evans, John (Ogmore)Janner, B.
Beswick, F.Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Bevan, Rl. Hon. A (Ebbw Vale)Ewarl, R.Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)
Binns, J.Fairhurst, F.Jenkins, R. H.
Blenkinsop, A.Farthing, W. J.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)
Boardman, H.Fennyhough, E.Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)
Bottomtey, A. G.Foot, M. M.Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.Forman, J. C.Keenan, W.
Bewen, R.Freeman, J. (Walford)Kendall, W. D.
Bramall, E. A.Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.Kenyon, C.
Brook, D. (Halifax)Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Key, Rt. Hon C. W.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Gibson, C. W.Kinley, J.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Gilzean, A.Kirby, B. V.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Glanville, J. E. (Consett)Lee, F. (Hulme)
Burden, T. W.Goodrich, H. E.Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Burke, W. A.Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Lewis, A W. J. (Upton)
Byers, FrankGrey, C. F.Lindgren, G. S.
Chamberlain, R. A.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Lipton, Lt.-Col M.
Champion, A. J.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)Longden, F.
Chetwynd, G. R.Guest, Dr. L. HadenLyne, A. W.
Cluse, W. S.Gunter, R. J.McAdam, W.
Cobb, F. A.Guy, W. H.McAllister, G.
Cocks, F. S.Hale, LeslieMcEntee, V. La T.
Celliek, P.Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvdMcGhee, H. G.

Question put, "That 'eigther (1):' be there inserted in Bill."

The House divided: Ayes. 79; Noes, 221.

Mack, J. D.Perter, G. (Leeds)Titterington, M. F.
McKay, J. (Walllsend)Pritt, D. N.Tolley, L.
McLeavy, F.Reeves, J.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Macpherson, T. (Romford)Reid, T. (Swindon)Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Mainwaring, W. H.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.Viant, S. P.
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)Walker, G. H.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Mellish, R. J.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Messer, F.Royle, C.Watkins, T. E.
Middleton, Mrs. L.Segal, Dr. S.Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Mitchison, G. R.Sharp, GranvilleWeitzman, D.
Moody, A. S.Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)West, D. G.
Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Shurmer, P.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, E.)Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Murray, J. D.Simmons, C. J.Wilkis, W. A.
Naylor, T. E.Skinnard, F. W.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Noal, H. (Claycross)Smith, C. (Colchester)Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)Smith, H. N. (Noningham, S.)Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Noel-Baker, Capt F. E. (Brentford)Snow, J. W.Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Oldfield, W. H.Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankWilliams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Oliver, G. H.Sparks, J. A.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Orbach, M.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Willis, E.
Paget, R. T.Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Paling, Rt Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)Stross, Dr. B.Wise, Major F. J.
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Sylvester, G. O.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Palmer, A. M. F.Symonds, A. L.Yates, V. F.
Parker, J.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Parkin, B. T.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Paton, J. (Norwich)Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:

Popplewell, E.Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)Mr. Pearson and Mr. Collindridge.
Porter, E. (Warrington)Thomas, John R. (Dover)