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Housing (Repairs And Rents) (Scotland) Bill

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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Order for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

3.41 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed.

That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 2, page 2, line 45; Clause 3, page 4, line 5; Clause 5, page 5, line 45; and of the new Clause (Limitation of liability of trustees, etc., for expenses of local authorities in certain cases) standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. James Stuart. —[Mr.]. Stuart.]

May I ask why it has been proposed that this Bill should be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House? Since it was dealt with by the Scottish Grand Committee, it seems to me that, if it has to be recommitted, it ought to be recommitted to that Committee.

It is quite in order to move the Motion which has been moved, and I shall put it to the House.

Could we have a reply from the Secretary of State for Scotland on this matter?

I understand that it is necessary to recommit the Bill in connection with the Amendments set out on the Order Paper. The same procedure was followed on a Bill of the same nature relating to England. I was under the impression that this was a perfectly normal procedure.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not run away from the point which has been put to him? We all agree that it is necessary to recommit the Bill to a Committee, but the point at issue is whether it should be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House or to the Scottish Grand Committee. We desire to know why the right hon. Gentleman has not suggested that, since the Bill has already been before the Scottish Grand Committee, it should be recommitted in respect of these Clauses to the Scottish Grand Committee.

As someone who is not a member of the Scottish Grand Committee, may I point out how very inconvenient it seems that this Bill, which affects Scotland, should be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House instead of to the Scottish Grand Committee, which obviously is much more fitted to deal with it than is a Committee of the whole House. I am sure that you would admit, Mr. Speaker, that it places hon. Members like myself in a difficulty if a Committee of the whole House is to examine a Scottish Bill, and I should have thought that it would have been simpler to deal with it in the Scottish Grand Committee. We have heard nothing from the Secretary of State to justify what seems to me to be a most remarkable, unprecedented and inconvenient procedure.

I wish to support the observations made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). It seems quite inconsistent and wrong that this Bill should be taken from one tribunal after being part heard and the hearing continued before another tribunal. It is as if a case in a court of law were partly heard by one learned judge and the rest of the hearing continued before another learned judge. The Scottish Grand Committee has dealt with the Bill up to the present and is fully qualified to deal with it. In my submission, it is not only illogical but entirely wrong to take the Bill from one jurisdiction and present it to another.

It is all very well for the Secretary of State to say that it is necessary to do this, but he did not explain why it is necessary. Is it being done under any Standing Order, any rule, or under any rule of logic? I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will take this matter in hand and see that it is dealt with in a more logical way and a way more in accordance with reason.

I wish to put two reasons for opposing the Motion which might appeal to the Secretary of State. The first is that this Bill contains many technical phrases and descriptions which English hon. Members do not understand. That also is the opinion of many English Members. I submit that it is a reason why the Bill should be recommitted to the Scottish Grand Committee. I see the Attorney-General present, but even he, with his vast knowledge of legal matters, would be rather diffident in trying to interpret technical Scottish terms.

The other reason is that this is a day when there should be no party strife. In the atmosphere of the Resolution we have just passed, it would be fitting and appropriate for the House to adjourn. That would be achieved if the Secretary of State would agree to recommit this Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee. The people in all parts of Scotland are loyal constituents; they regard today as a day of rejoicing; but the Government are marring it by this Bill, which is designed to increase rents by 40 per cent. I suggest to the Secretary of State that the noble and generous thing for him to do would be to agree to recommit the Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee.

No disrespect is meant or intended to the Scottish Grand Committee. All the Members of that Committee are Members of this House. It would have been possible—indeed it has happened with many Bills—to have taken this Bill in Committee of the whole House. If this Motion were agreed to, we would have a brief stage of recommittal followed by the Report stage and all hon. Members in the House would be entitled to take part in the proceedings. I cannot see that the fact that the Bill is dealt with in Committee of the whole House would exclude any hon. Member from Scotland from taking part in the proceedings.

If that argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman is in any way applicable, it was applicable when the right hon. Gentleman, we think rightly, moved that this Bill be considered in the Scottish Grand Committee. The only reason he gives for following the proposed procedure is that this procedure was adopted in relation to the English Bill.

May I suggest that this is common form when any Bill has been before a Standing Committee. It does not matter whether it happens to be the Scottish Grand Committee, but in the case of any Bill it is open to the Minister to move the recommittal of the Bill to a Committee of the whole House. The right hon. Member knows quite well that no Member of the Scottish Grand Committee is thereby debarred from putting a point in which his or her constituents are interested.

If the hon. Member will listen, he will see that he is quite wrong in saying that it is the Minister who recommits a Bill; it is this House which recommits a Bill. This House has already committed an intricate Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee and that Committee, frequently with the help of the Government, has had lengthy and patient discussions on this Bill.

The Bill will have tremendous effects for the Scottish people. Now, because the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) thinks it is common form—the Secretary of State was careful to say it was not common form—and because the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this would be the quickest way of disposing of the Bill—that is the only reason he has in his mind—we are asked to forgo all these complex discussions and to agree to very substantial changes in the Bill which, in the case of the Secretary of State's new Clause, is a very substantial Clause, closely related to the discussion which previously took place. In some part it is designed to meet the wishes of the Opposition, although I regret to say that it does not do so.

The right hon. Gentleman may not have meant to be disrespectful to the Scottish Grand Committee, he may not have meant to be disrespectful to the Scottish people, but the Scottish people will inevitably conclude that this is discourteous to them. Here is an organisation set up by the House, an organisation which has been thought, for most times of the year, most nearly to meet the wishes of the Scottish people and the wishes of the House. Just because the Government are a little short of time, or perhaps because some right hon. Gentleman is a little lacking in judgment, we are now asked, without any apology or explanation to revoke that procedure. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the new Clause and these Amendments would get a much quieter, more reasonable— [Laughter]—if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary thinks that of the Scottish Grand Committee he had better tell his—

No, I am laughing at you.

Certainly not, Mr. Speaker. I should have said that I was laughing at the right hon. Gentleman.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to be entertained by me at any time. I make no complaint if I entertain him, because it is quite plain that he has very little enter tainment in his present political office. But if the right hon. and gallant Gentle man is laughing at my conclusion, which I have offered to the House, that the Scottish Grand Committee would give this matter a more patient and more ex tended consideration, with a better under standing—

Well, let the House judge. Our patience, our ability to discuss things quietly, and sometimes at some length, is well known to everyone, and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that that is a weakness in the Scottish Grand Committee, he had better tell his constituents so. They will deal with him very directly upon that point.

It is because we feel so strongly, indeed so passionately, upon this point, that unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give some reason to us and to the Scottish people why he thinks the Scottish Grand Committee is an inappropriate body, or unable or lacking in competence to deal with this matter, we shall have to divide against the Government's Motion, which has been offered to cursorily and with so little explanation.

lam still waiting for the Secretary of State to give some reason why this—

The answer is that this is a perfectly normal process, and I shall certainly defend that to my constituents or to anybody else.

It is a perfectly normal process coming from a perfectly abnormal Secretary of State. We were led to believe that we were getting one day, which is very little, for the Report stage and Third Reading, but we now find that most of our time is to be taken up with something which the right hon. Gentleman should have done in Committee. One noted in Committee the right hon. Gentleman's reluctance to deal with Amendments either in the way of accepting or explaining them.

Here we are, at this stage, faced with four or five Amendments plus a complex new Clause, and we are told that they are to be dealt with by a Committee of the whole House. I want to know why the Bill is not to be committed once again to the Scottish Grand Committee. We have had no explanation at all from the Secretary of State, and I hope that we shall vote against the Motion.

It seems to me that in following this procedure the Secretary of State has broken a promise which, through the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary, he made to me in Committee. If he will look at the proceedings of the sixth sitting in Committee, he will find, as recorded in column 239, that he made a definite promise to reconsider, on Report, the matter which is the subject of an Amendment I have put down to the right hon. Gentleman's proposed Amendment to Clause 2, namely, in line 2, at the end, to insert "without delay." Now we find, when we come to what we understood would be the Report stage, that the Secretary of State is recommitting this Clause, and we find ourselves being asked to deal with it again in Committee. It seems to me that it is violating a distinct understanding which the right hon. Gentleman gave in Committee, and I hope he will have something to say about that matter.

If we had been given any valid reason for this action it could be understood, and, I think, appreciated and agreed to by hon. Members on this side of the House who sit for Scottish constituencies. If the Secretary of State had argued that the deliberations in the Standing Committee had been unduly protracted, that Members had been guilty of time wasting, there might have been some reason or some excuse for the Motion now before us.

I would remind the House that the comparable Bill for England and Wales was subject to a Guillotine and a timetable. On this Bill we agreed to avoid that unwelcome process, by mutual and sensible consent and arrangement. We took it to Standing Committee, and although the Committee stage was a long one, occupying 24 sittings spread over nine and a half weeks, nevertheless that was permissible and understandable in view of the fact that it is one of the most controversial Measures, indeed the most controversial Scottish Measure, to have come before the House in this Parliament.

We argued the matter out in Committee frankly and fully. I would again remind the Secretary of State that the Closure was formally moved on only six occasions, on four of which it was moved by the Opposition, in fact by myself, because I had cognisance of the arrangement, the tacit understanding, we had agreed upon, and I was anxious that we should adhere to the time-table to which we had agreed. In those circumstances we have co-operated as much as is reasonable on an unreasonable Bill of this description—as we regard it—and at this stage it is wrong that the Government should endeavour to force the Report and Third Reading stages through the whole House, which may involve a lengthy Sitting.

It would be much better for the Bill itself, for the interests of the people of Scotland and the interests and convenience of other Members of the House, if we were to take it in a slightly more leisurely and detailed manner in the proper atmosphere, in these circumstances, of a Standing Committee.

4.0 p.m.

It must be clear to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and those associated with him who have had all the toil and moil of the preceding stages of the discussion on this Bill, that we are certainly not in agreement with what it is proposed to do today. When one considers that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his advisers at the Scottish Office have had to alter their attitude to the Bill in many respects, there is a case for saying that this stage of the proceedings ought to be continued in the Scottish Grand Committee. They have had to put many Amendments on the Order Paper, and because of those Amendments, one would assume that the discussion would continue in the Scottish Grand Committee.

I was not able to be present in the Chamber all the time, because of another engagement, but so far as I have heard this discussion, it does not appear to me that the the Secretary of State has justified his course of action today. I heard him say that a similar procedure was adopted with regard to the English Bill, and, accordingly, he thinks that we should accept it for the Scottish Bill. Is that the only argument which the right hon. Gentleman can advance? Are Scottish Members placidly to accept it because the English Bill was hammered through in a certain way? I know the right hon. Gentleman has been in many ways divorced from Scotland and its beliefs for many years, but surely he should recognise that if he pursues the course he is now advocating he will not start the Report stage with the good will of the House.

In the Scottish Grand Committee the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed a large measure of good will. Although we argued keenly, there was no real obstruction, as such, to this Measure. Even the Prime Minister, on one occasion, expressed his satisfaction at the pace at which the discussions were proceeding in the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope the Secretary of State will consider that, and recognise that this protest is a genuine one. We do not like the course we are pursuing. It appears to me that we are inevitably being shoved into an all-night Sitting in order to get Scottish business transacted in a reasonable manner.

Will the Secretary of State tell my hon. and right hon. Friends why he is proposing to take this course? Is it because of shortage of time? Are the Government afraid that they will not get the Bill? Do not the Government wish to risk it again in the Scottish Grand Committee? We had intimate discussions in that Committee which were entered into by hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies. They voted for the Government on every occasion and I see that they are with us today. They will not enjoy the same sort of intimate ebb and flow of discussion as occurred in the Scottish Grand Committee.

I hope that the Secretary of State will recognise their complete loyalty during the early stages of our discussions and realise that he is now throwing away so much voting fodder, which I consider to be a disgraceful action on his part. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us a more reasonable and logical argument in favour of pursuing the course he now proposes to take instead of leaving the matter to the Scottish Grand Committee.

I sat through the meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee and experienced the great difficulty of securing definitions and explanations from the Lord Advocate on various matters. I now wish to ask whether we are to understand that if this Bill is committed to a Committee of the whole House we shall have to go through that process again for the benefit of English Members who may have little experience of Scottish law?

Will hon. Members representing English constituencies have to call upon the Lord Advocate time and again for an explanation of the terms used in order that they may be better able to judge the Amendments and the new Clause now on the Order Paper? If that is so, and remembering the great difficulty we had in the Committee in securing fulsome explanations from the Secretary of State, or the Joint Under-Secretaries or—even worse still—from the Lord Advocate, I can forsee tremendous difficulties arising. It took a long time to secure the necessary degree of lucidity for Scottish Members, and if we are to secure the same degree of lucidity for English Members, who may know little or nothing of Scottish law, I am afraid that our discussions will extend until tomorrow mid-day.

I think that it would be a great mistake to accept this Motion. I hope that hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies will resist it, and that the Bill will be recommitted to the Scottish Grand Committee. We could then have a Report stage in the House lasting for a day. We came here expecting that to happen, and I think we have been cheated. If hon. Members representing English constituencies are sufficiently interested to arrive at a decision upon these Amendments without full explanations of all the legal implications and effects of this Bill, I shall be very much surprised. If they do receive such explanations, the Scottish Members will have to sit quiet until all the English Members have been satisfied. We can then go on to debate the Amendments and the new Clause when the English Members feel themselves sufficiently equipped to come to a decision; but I cannot see that happening for a long time.

In the hope that the House will then be prepared to proceed, perhaps I had better say that, with the exception of the new Clause, the Amendments on the Order Paper are designed to meet points raised by hon. Members opposite—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Did the Secretary of State ask your permission to speak?

No, the right hon. Gentleman did not, but assumed that it would be granted. In any case, the right hon. Gentleman has moved a substantive Motion and he has a right to reply.

The Amendments are designed to meet points raised by hon. Members opposite. I do not think that any Minister, or anyone who has been a Minister, would wish to recommit a Bill if he could avoid doing so. But it is done in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House. It was not due to a desire on my part to recommit the Bill. I hope that we may make progress and that the House will now agree to proceed.

I am both shocked and disappointed at the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Government Amendments practically give us a new Bill altogether. I have considerable sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman for bringing the matter to the attention of the whole House, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) said in the Scottish Grand Committee, the right hon. Gentleman is like a certain bird which was left during the week-end with the cat. As the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said at the Dispatch Box earlier today, there were several "close shaves."

We can visualise that what the Secretary of State wants to bring into play is not the one or two of a majority which was all he was able to scramble together in the Grand Committee; he wants to bring into full play all his manpower in order to take a short cut, like a certain figure in John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress"—a short cut to the heaven of the landlords. The Paper today tells us sufficient to enable us to say that the people of Scotland would be very pleased if the Government would take back all the Bill and let us start all over again.

It is evident that the Government are afraid to send the Bill back to the Grand Committee. They are asking English, Welsh and Irish Members to discuss something which is particular to Scotland. I suggest that the Government should follow the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and recommit the Bill to the Grand Committee. We will go into the matter patiently. There is a hoodoo on the Bill, and it is doubtful whether it will become effective even though it be put on the Statute Book by force of votes. I appeal to the Government to give Scotland a fair deal and to send the Bill back to the Grand Committee where it can be discussed in detail.

I protest on behalf of my constituents, thousands of whom are subject to this thoroughly bad Bill. It has been said that the Government are rushing through legislation with indecent haste. I join with my colleagues in asking the Secretary of State to tell us why the Bill cannot be recommitted to the Grand Committee. It is apparent to the whole country that the Bill was in such bad shape that many Amendments were necessary to make it decent and respectable.

The situation today is that we are presented with new Clauses which it would take us the best part of two days to circumnavigate so that we could discover exactly what are the intentions of the Government. In addition, there are many Amendments in the name of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. Therefore, I suggest to the Secretary of State that he would be well advised to submit the Bill once again to the Scottish Grand Committee to give us an opportunity to make an attempt to digest the meaning of many of the new phrases which are to be introduced.

When we meet people in Scotland they want to know exactly what this legislation means and what the Government's intentions are. I plead with the Secretary of State to take, for once, some advice from the Opposition and to send the Bill back to the Grand Committee to give us the opportunity to consider the new Amendments so that we can assist the Government to make a bad Bill a little better. It is true that, on many occasions only because the Opposition brought forward good ideas, the Government have been able to put respectable legislation on the Statute Book. We ask the Government to recommit the Bill to the Grand Committee where it may be dealt with by people who understand Scottish legislation.

4.15 p.m.

I wish to support my right hon. and hon. Friends from Scotland in this matter. The new Clause—[Limitation of liability of trustees, &c, for expenses of local authorities in certain cases.]—is something quite beyond the comprehension of an Englishman. If we have to deal with it in Committee of the whole House, without the assurance that it has received the consideration of our Scottish colleagues, I must say that we shall take some time. I consulted my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) about two of the words in the Clause. I regret to say that he told me that while I pronounced one of them correctly as an Englishman, that was not the way in which a Scot would pronounce it.

There is a reference to "tutor" and to what I call "curator." They are people who, apparently, in Scotland in some way or other receive rents or are responsible for the receipt of rents. In view of my interpretation of the word "tutor," I should have liked to be able to consult the Educational Institute of Scotland to ascertain whether this is another way of imposing extraneous duties on members of the teaching profession—a matter which is greatly resented. I have not yet been able to get to the Scottish pronunciation of the word, but as far as "curator" is concerned I always thought that he was a person who looked after a museum, at any rate in England.

This is, clearly, one of those pieces of legislation which was purposely brought before us in two separate Bills because of the difference of wording that Englishmen and Scotsmen employ in their legal enactments. We are now to forgo the whole of the advantage of having this new Clause first considered by our Scottish colleagues. When I am told that this is a normal process, I would say that, after all, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) was the first Secretary of State for Scotland to act under the revised Standing Orders of the House which referred Bills for their Second Reading or Committee stage to the Scottish Grand Committee.

I should have thought that, after the experience we are having today, it would be worth while considering whether the normal procedure ought not to be that when a Bill has been to the Scottish Grand Committee it should go back there if it has to be recommitted, so that we could have a clean Bill which had been considered by Scottish Members, aided by a few Members from England and Northern Ireland. We could have the assurance that the Bill had received their attention and was at least the result of collective Scottish views. I sincerely hope that the course suggested will be followed.

I wish to support what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The English Bill was referred to a Standing Committee. Despite the fact that many questions were asked—there was little filibustering, or none at all—when we got the Measure back to the Floor of the House we had to have a Guillotine to get rid of legislation that was ill-digested, ill-conceived and ill-considered upstairs.

The Measure with which we are dealing today is a purely Scottish Bill which employs Scottish legal terms. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) is faced with many difficulties. He is a man of Welsh origin who became domiciled in Birmingham and was then chosen to represent a Scottish constituency. I understand that my hon. Friend almost had to learn the alphabet all over again. In order to represent the people of East Dunbartonshire, my hon. Friend felt it necessary for him to go and live in the constituency, and for him to have to live in that constituency is a very great hardship.

If the Government do not take the line suggested by the Opposition, they are making lobby-fodder for the English Members. The English Members really cannot take an intelligent part in the debate. If they offer any observations, they will merely give away the fact that they know nothing about the subject, or else they will have had briefs handed to them by Scotsmen who want them to filibuster. The English Members will be kept here to do no more than walk into the Lobbies to vote in Divisions on subjects about which they know nothing. We do not want that type of consideration given to a matter on the Floor of the House. The subject ought to have the leisurely, well-informed consideration which is given to Bills in Standing Committees.

I wonder whether the action which is being taken by the Government today might not be taken as a precedent in the case of the Town and Country Planning Bill which is now being considered by Standing Committee C. I am wondering whether, when the English Members on the Standing Committee have finished their deliberations on the Bill, Scottish hon. Members may not be reduced to lobby-fodder in the House on further proceedings of that Bill.

If there is anything at all in having a Scottish Standing Committee, and if it can be intelligently used—I sometimes have reason to doubt it—it seems to me that this is the sort of matter which should be considered by the Scottish Standing Committee and that the Committee stage ought not to be taken on the Floor of the House. I do not know whether there is a constitutional point in what I have said. There is, at any rate, a strong political point in that any method which would enable Scotsmen to mind their own business would be popular among other hon. Members on both sides of the House.

As an English Member representing an English constituency, I have been unimpressed by the arguments so far used by the Secretary of State. All that he has said is that it is normal to do what he is proposing to do. I do not know enough about these things to know whether it is normal or not, but I have formed the impression from the debate that it ought not to be normal to do what he is proposing to do. It is in conflict with the spirit of the Standing Order which set up the Standing Committee, and if it has been normal in the past, it should cease to be normal from now on. The whole purpose of the Standing Order is that Scotsmen should discuss their own business among themselves in their own curious jargon. At all events, it is curious jargon to Englishmen, Welshmen and Northern Irishmen.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect the Standing Order of which he is speaking? If he did, he might change his mind. It requires only 10 hon. Members to stand in their places and object in order to stop a Bill going to a Standing Committee. Therefore, what is all this talk about the sacrosanct manner in which Scottish Measures should be dealt with?

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell the House of any occasion on which 10 hon. Members have stood to oppose the Second Reading of a Scottish Bill being remitted to the Standing Committee?

Am I not correct in thinking that the Opposition recently objected to another Bill going upstairs and insisted on its being taken on the Floor of the House? Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) remember that? If he does, will he be good enough to apologise for the statement which he has made?

I am sorry to intervene between two Scotsmen, but this is just the sort of thing that ought to be going on in the Scottish Standing Committee. I have not understood any of it; it has been a very good example to prove that these things are much better settled in Standing Committee.

The Government really ought to spare hon. Members in a position such as I am from having to make decisions in the course of the proceedings on this Bill on matters which, unless they are explained to us at very great length, we shall not be able to understand. After all, non-Scottish Members are a majority of the House and our views ought to be regarded. The Government's proposal places a very grave imposition upon us and upon the Government. The Government will have to explain these things to us at considerable length, translating them all into the corresponding English legal terms.

The Secretary of State for Scotland anticipated that he would get the Motion through without any discussion. What has happened during the last hour ought to warn him about what will happen between now and breakfast time tomorrow.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) expressed some alarm about the pronunciation and meaning of certain words in Scotland and in England. I anticipate that in the course of the debate my right hon. Friend will ask for an explanation not of sentences or phrases but of words. We have all had experience of the Lord Advocate explaining things to us in the Scottish Standing Committee. Goodness knows what will happen when he tries to explain to English, Welsh and Northern Irish hon. Members the meaning of a word in Scotland compared with its meaning in England. We shall be no further forward after his explanation.

I should have thought that the Government would have been a little sensitive to the results of the local elections. This Measure is of interest to Scotland and to nobody else. We have machinery designed for the specific purpose of sending legislation of this nature to the Scottish Standing Committee, and yet we have the Government flying in the face of that machinery, deliberately determined to organise its English, Northern Irish and Welsh manpower to force through the House a Bill which is of no conceivable interest to those hon. Members.

It is going too far for the Secretary of State to expect the Opposition meekly to accept what he has proposed. I frankly warn him that if he is determined to pursue this course he can be prepared for a very long sitting indeed, because our Welsh and Irish colleagues, no less than our English colleagues, are going to be very meticulous and will insist upon having every word, phrase, sentence and paragraph explained to them in full and in detail.

Lest the House be in fluenced by the remarks made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scot land when he interrupted my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) I should like to make the point clear. The reference was to Standing Order No. 60, under which a Bill may be referred to the Scottish Standing Committee for consideration in relation to the principle of the Bill—

The hon. Member will tell me if I am wrong, but I believe that he has already spoken to the Motion.

If you so rule, Mr. Speaker, I must, of course, resume my seat, but when I first rose I merely asked a question. I do not know whether that is regarded as a speech. I think the OFFICIAL REPORT will show that my remarks were confined to asking the right hon. Gentleman why this Bill had been referred to a Committee of the whole House, but if that is a speech, I must not make the remarks that I wanted to make.

4.30 p.m.

Technically, of course, it is a speech, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman, with the leave of the House, could make the point he wishes to put.

May I ask the leave of the House to deal with a small point, which I regard as important, which was made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary? If I have that leave, may I say that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman pulled up my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) by saying that there was a Standing Order under which, if 10 hon. Members of the House rose in their places in objection, a Bill would not be referred to the Scottish Standing Committee. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was referring to Standing Order No. 60.

I do not want to weary the House by reading the Standing Order, but the position under it is that a Bill which has received a certificate from you, Mr. Speaker, certifying that it relates specifically and exclusively to Scotland, may be referred to the Scottish Standing Committee for consideration in relation to the principle of the Bill. Then the Bill will come back here, the Second Reading will be taken formally by the House on a Motion moved by the Government, and the House can then divide upon the Second Reading.

That Standing Order was introduced on the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), with the consent of the Opposition of those days, and agreed by the House, because it was considered desirable that, when we have a non-controversial and purely Scottish Measure, we should be able to have a discussion, on what is really the Second Reading stage of the Bill, by Scottish hon. Members, and should not weary the House with it at that stage. It always was the intention that, where there was a controversial Measure which related exclusively to Scotland, it should have its Second Reading here on the Floor of the House.

The Bill about which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said the Opposition had objected to its going to the Scottish

Division No. 95.]

AYES

[4.35 p.m.

Alport, C. J. M.Crouch, R. F.Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Crowder, Sir John (Finohley)Hornsby-Smith, Mist M. P.
Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Horobin, I. M.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florense
Arbulhnol, JohnDavidson, ViscountessHoward, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Deedes, W. F.Howard, Hon. Groville (St. Ives)
Astor, Hon. J. J.Digby, S. WingfieldHudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Dodds-Parker, A. D.Hurd, A. R.
Banks, Col. C.Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. MCAHutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)
Barlow, Sir JohnDoughty, C. J. A.Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.
Baxter, A. B.Douglas-Hamilton, Lord MalcolmIremonger, T. L.
Beach, Maj. HicksDuncan, Capt. J. A. L.Johnson, Erio (Blackley)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)Finlay, GraemeKerby, Capt. H. B
Bennett, William (Woodside)Fisher, NigelKerr, H. W.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. FLambert, Hon. G
Birch, NigelFlelcher-Cooke, C.Lambton, Viscount
Bishop, F. P.Fort, R.Langford-Holt, J. A.
Black, C. W.Foster, JohnLegge-Bourke, Mai. E. A. H.
Boothby, Sir R. J. C.Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Bossom, Sir A. C.Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)Lindsay, Martin
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)Linstead, Sir H. N.
Boyle, Sir EdwardGalbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. HGarner-Evans, E. H.Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Brooman-White, R. C.George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. LloydLucas, Sir Jooelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Browne, Jack (Govan)Glover, O.Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. TGodber, J. B.Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bullard, D. G.Gomme-Duncan, Col. AMcAddon, S. J.
Burden, F. F. A.Gough, C. F. H.McCorquodaie, Rt. Hon. M. S
Butcher, Sir HerbertGower, H. R.Macdonald, Sir Peter
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)Graham, Sir FergusMackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Campbell, Sir DavidGrimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Carr, RobertHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)Maclean, Fitzroy
Gary, Sir RobertHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W)Hay, JohnMaitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.Marlowe, A. A. H.
Cole, NormanHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMarples, A. E.
Colegate, W. A.Heath, EdwardMarshall, Douglas (Bodmis)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Maude, Angus
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. AlbertHinchingbrooke, ViscountMaudling, R.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Hirst, GeoffreyMaydon, Lt.-Comdr S. L C
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Holland-Martin, C. JMcdlicotl, Brig. F
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H F. CHope, Lord JohnMellor, Sir John

Standing Committee was the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill, which was seen to be a controversial and a major Measure. We said that we regarded it as a controversial and major Measure, and wanted to debate it on Second Reading on the Floor of the House and divide upon it. It was because of that fact that a Motion which had been put down by the Government without consulting the Opposition was later withdrawn by the Government. In the circumstances, I hope the House will not be unduly influenced by the intervention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State.

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 227; Noes, 196.

Molson, A. H. E.Remnant, Hon. P.Studholme, H. G.
Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir WalterRenton, D. L. M.Summers, G. S.
Moore, Sir ThomasRidsdale, J. E.Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Nabarro, G. D. N.Roberts, Peter (Heeley)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Neave, AireyRobertson, Sir DavidTeeling, W.
Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)Thomas, Rt. Hon.. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Nield, Basil (Chester)Roper, Sir HaroldThomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Nugent, G. Ft. H.Ropner, Col. Sir LeonardThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Oakshott, H. D.Russell. R. S.Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)Ryder, Capt. R. E. DTouche, Sir Gordon
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.Turner, H, F. L.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Savory, Prof. Sir DouglasTurton, R. H.
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)Scott, R. DonaldTweedsmuir, Lady
Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weslon-super-Mare)Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.Vane, W. M. F.
Page, R. G.Shepherd, WilliamVaughan-Morgan, J. K
Peake, Rt. Hon. 0.Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)Vosper, D. F.
Peto, Brig. C. H. MSmithers, Peter (Winchester)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Peyton, J. W. W.Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)Wall, P. H. B.
Pickthorn, K. W. M.Snadden, W. McN.Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Pilkington, Capt. R ASoames, Capt. C.Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Pitman, I. J.Spearman, A. C. M.Watkinson, H. A.
Pitt, Miss E. M.Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)Wellwood, W.
Powell, J. EnochSpens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)Stanley, Capt. Hon. RichardWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Prior-Palmer, Brig. 0. LStevens, G. P.Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Profumo, J. D.Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)Wills, G.
Raikes, Sir VictorStewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Ramsden, J. E.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Rayner, Brig. R.Storey, S.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Redmayne, M.Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)Mr. Robert Allan and Mr. Legh.
Rees-Davies, WStuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)

NOES

Acland, Sir RichardEvans, Edward (Lowestoft)Key, Rt. Hon. C. W
Albu, A. H.Finch, H. J.King, Dr. H. M.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)Kinley, J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Follick, M.Lawson, G. M.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)Foot, M. M.Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Lewis, Arthur
Bacon, Miss AliceGaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.Lindgren, G. S.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Gooch, E. G.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Logan, D. G.
Bence, C. R.Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)MacColl, J. E.
Benn, Hon. WedgwoodGrenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Mclnnes, J.
Bing, G. H. C.Grey, C. F.McKay, John (Wallsend)
Blackburn, F.Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)McLeavy, F.
Blenkinsop, A.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Blyton, w. RGrimond, J.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Bowden, H. WHale, LeslieMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Bowen, E. R.Halt, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Coine Valley)Mann, Mrs. Jean
Bowles, F. G.Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)Manuel, A. C.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Hamilton, W. W.Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Hannan, WMason, Roy
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hargreaves, A.Mellish, R. J
Burke, W. A.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)Messer, Sir F.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)Hastings, S.Mikardo, Ian
Callaghan, L. J.Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)Mitchison, G. R
Carmichael, J.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Moody, A. S
Champion, A. J.Herbison, Miss M.Morgan, Dr. H, B. W.
Chapman, W. D.Hobson, C. R.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)
Chetwynd, G. RHolman, P.Moyle, A.
Clunie, J.Holmes, HoraceMurray, J. D.
Coldrick, W.Holt, A. F.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Collick, P. H.Houghton, DouglasOliver, G. H.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hoy, J. H.Oswald, T.
Crosland, C. A. R.Hudson, James (Eating, N.)Padley, W. E.
Crossman, R. H. S.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Cullen, Mrs. A.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Palmer, A. M. F.
Daines, P.Hynd, H. (Aocrington)Parmell, Charles
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Hynd J. B. (Attercliffe)Pargiter, G. A
Darling, George (Hillsborough)Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)Parker, J.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)Isaacs, Rt. Hen G A.Parkin, B. T.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)Janner, B.Pearson, A.
Deer, G.Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Delargy, H. J.Jenkins, R. H. (Steohford)Popplewell, E.
Dodds, N. N.Johnson, James (Rugby)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwioh)Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)Proctor, W. T.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. CJones, David (Hartlepool)Pryde, D. J.
Edelman, M.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Pursey, Cmdr. H
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)Jones, T. W (Merioneth)Rankin, John
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)Keenan, WReeves, J.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Kenyon, C.Reid, Thomas (Swindon)

Reid, William (Camlachie)Sparks, J. A.Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Steele, T.White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.Willey, F. T.
Ross, WilliamSylvester, G. O.Williams, David (Neath)
Royle, C.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. ETaylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Short, E. W.Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Shurmer, P. L. E.Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)Willis, E. G
Silverman, Julius (Erdington)Tomney, F.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)Ungoed-Thomas, Sir LynnWinterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)Usborne, H. C.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Skeffington, A. M.Viant, S. P.Wyatt, W. L.
Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)Warbey, W. N.Yates, V. F.
Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford G.)
Snow, J. w.Weitzman, DTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Wilkins and Mr. John Taylor.

Question put accordingly.

Division No. 96.]

AYES

[4.42 p.m.

Alport, C. J. M.Fisher, NigelMacdonald, Sir Peter
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Fleetwood-Hesketh, R FMackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Fletcher-Cooke, CMaclay, Rt. Hon. John
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Fort, R.Maclean, Filzroy
Arbuthnot, JohnFoster, JohnMacpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Assheton, RL Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Astor, Hon. J. J.Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T D (Pollok)Marlowe, A. A. H.
Banks, Col. C.Galbraith, T. G. 0. (Hillhead)Marples, A. E
Barlow, Sir JohnGarner-Evans, E. H.Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Baxter, A. B.George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G LloydMaude, Angus
Beach, Maj. HicksGlover, D.Maudling, R.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Godber, J.Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Gomme-Duncan, Col AMedlicott, Brig. F.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)Gough, C. F. H.Mellor, Sir John
Bennett, William (Woodside)Gower, H. R.Molson, A. H. E.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Graham, Sir FergusMonckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter
Birch, NigelGrimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Moore, Sir Thomas
Bishop, F. PHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)Nabarro, G. D. N.
Black, C. W.Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Neave, Airey
Boothby, Sir R. J. G.Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Bossom, Sir A. C.Hay, JohnNicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.Nield, Basil (Chester)
Boyle, Sir EdwardHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelNugent, G. R. H.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. HHeath, EdwardOakshott, H. D.
Brooman-White, R. C.Henderson, John (Cathcart)O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Browne, Jack (Govan)Hinchingbrooke, ViscountOrmsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G THirst, GeoffreyOrr. Capt. L. P. S.
Bullard, D. G.Holland-Martin, C JOrr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Burden, F. F. A.Hope, Lord JohnOrr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)
Butcher, Sir HerbertHopkinson, Rt. Hon HenryPage, R. G.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Campbell, Sir DavidHorobin, I. M.Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Carr, RobertHorsbrugh, Rt. Hon. FlorencePeyton, J. W. W.
Cary, Sir RobertHoward, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Pitman, I. J.
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. LHurd, A. R.Pitt, Miss E. M.
Cote, NormanHutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)Powell, J. Enoch
Colegate, W. A.Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. MPrice, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Iremonger, T. L.Prior-Palmer, Brig. 0. L.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. AlbertJohnson, Eric (Blackley)Profumo, J. O.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)Raikes, Sir Victor
Craddock, Beresford (Speltnorne)Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. WRamsden, J. E.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Kerby, Capt. H, BRayner, Brig. R
Crouch, R. F.Kerr, H. W.Redmayne, M.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchiey)Lambert, Hon. G.Rees-Davies, W. R
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Lambton, ViscountRemnant, Hon. P
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Langford-Holt, J. A.Renton, D. L. M
Davidson, ViscountessLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Ridsdale, J. E.
Deedes, W. F.Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. TRoberts, Peter (Heeley)
Digby, S. WingfieldLindsay, MartinRobertson, Sir David
Dodds-Parker, A. DLimstead, Sir H. N.Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McALloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E)Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Doughty, C. J. A.Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.Roper, Sir Harold
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord MalcolmLucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)Russell, R. S.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughRyder, Capt. R. E. D
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.McAdden, S. J.Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Finlay, GraemeMcCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.Savory, Prof Sir Douglas

The House divided: Ayes, 228; Noes, 202.

Scott, R. DonaldStrauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)Vaughan-Morgan, J. K
Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)Vosper, D. F.
Shepherd, WilliamStudholme, H. G.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)Summers, G. S.Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marytebone)
Smithers, Peter (Winchester)Sutclifle, Sir HaroldWall, P. H. B.
Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)Ward, Miss* I. (Tynemouth)
Snadden, W. McN.Teeling, W.Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C
Soames, Capt. C.Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)Watkimson, H. A.
Spearman, A. C. M.Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)Wellwood, W.
Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Spans, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)Williams, Paul (Sunder land, S.)
Stanley, Capl. Hon. RichardThompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Stevens, G. P.Touche, Sir GordonWills, Gerald
Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)Turner, H. F. L.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)Turton, R. H.
Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.Tweedsmuir, LadyTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Storey, S.Vane, W. M. F.Mr. Robert Allan and Mr. Legli.

NOES

Acland, Sir RichardGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)Moyre, A.
Albu, A. H,Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Murray, J. D.
Alten, Arthur (Bosworth)Grimond, J.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)Hale, LeslieOliver, G. H.
Anderson, Frank (Wihitehaven)Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Oswald, T.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)Padley, W. E.
Bacon, Miss AliceHamilton, W. WPaling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Hannan, W.Palmer, A. M. F.
Ballenger, Rt. Hon. F. JHargreaves, A.Pannell, Charles
Bence, C. R.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)Pargiter, G. A.
Benn, Hon. WedgwoodHastings, S.Parker, J.
Benson, G.Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)Parkin, B. T.
Bing, G. H. C.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Pearson, A.
Blackburn, F.Herbison, Miss M.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Blenkinsop, A.Hobson, C. R.Popplewell, E.
Blyton, W. R.Holman, P,Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bowden, H. W.Holmes, HoraceProctor, W. T.
Bowen, E. R.Holt, A. F.Pryde, D. J.
Bowies, F. G.Houghton, DouglasPursey, Cmdr. H
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Hoy, J. H.Rankin, John
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Hudson, James (Eating, N.)Reeves, J.
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Burke, W. A.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Reid, William (Camlachie)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)Hynd, H. (Accrington)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Callaghan, L. J.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon),
Cermichael, J.Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panoras, N.)
Champion, A. J.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Chapman, W. D.Janner, B.Ross, William
Chetwynd, G R.Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Royle, C.
Clunie, J.Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)Shinwsll, Rt. Hon. E.
Coidriok, W.Johnson, James (Rugby)Short, E. W.
Collick, P. H.Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)Shurmer, P. L. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Jones, David (Hartlepool)Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Crosland, C. A. R.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Crossman, R. H. SJones, T. W. (Merioneth)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Cullen, Mrs. A.Keenan, W.Skeffington, A. M.
Dines, P.Kenyon, C.Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Key, Rt. Hon. C. WSlater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Darling, George (Hillsborough)King, Dr. H. M.Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)Kinley, J.Snow, J. W.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)Lawson, G. M.Sparks, J. A
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)Lee, Frederick (Newton)Steele, T.
Deer, G.Lewis, ArthurStrachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Delargy, H. J.Lindgren, G. S.Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Dodds, N. N.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)Logan, D. G.Sylvester, G. O.
Ede, Rt Hon. J. CMacColl, J. E.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Edelman, M.Mclnnes. J.Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)McKay, John (Wallsend)Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)McLeavy, F.Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.Tomney, F.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lyrnn
Finch, H. J.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Usborne, H. C.
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)Mann, Mrs. JeanViant, S. P.
Follick, M.Manuel, A. C.Warbey, W. N.
Foot, M. M.Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. AWebb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Forman, J. C.Mason, RoyWeitzman, D.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Mellisti, R. J.Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. NMesser, Sir F.White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Gooch, E. G.Mikardo, IanWhite, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Mitchison, G. RWhiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)Moody, A. SWigg, George
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. RMorgan, Dr. H. B. W.Wihcock, Group Capt. CAB
Grey. C. F.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, S)Willey. F T

Williams, David (Neath)Willis, E. G.Wyatl, W. L.
Williams, Ronald (Wigan)Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huylon)Yales, V. F.
Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'M'y)Winlerboltom, Richard (Brightside)
Williatm, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)Woodburn, Rl. Hon. A.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Wilkins and Mr. John Taylor.

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Clause 2—(Power Of Local Authorities To Retain For Temporary Occupation Certain Houses In Clearance Areas)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 45, to leave out the first "may" and to insert:

"where the demolition such a building is so postponed, shall."
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we take that in the name of the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin)—in line 2, at end, insert "without delay" —and the three in the name of my right hon. Friend one in page 2, line 45, and the others in page 4, line 5. I suggest that all the Amendments form one part.

That is quite true, but before we can take the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Tradeston we must first take that part of the Amendment of the Secretary of State which is to leave out the first "may."

Further to that, Sir Charles, during the Committee stage—on which, I understand, we are still engaged —the Amendment to which my name and that of other of my hon. Friends is subscribed was dealt with on its own. I fail to see why, after special consideration was promised, it should now be linked up with other Amendments not directly related to it.

The hon. Member put down as an Amendment to the Amendment in line 2, at the end to insert "without delay."

The point of my hon. Friend's remarks is that he objects to the suggestion made by the Joint Undersecretary that all the Amendments on page 2611 of the Order Paper shall be taken together, and you, Sir Charles, have suggested that we deal with the second Amendment, after dealing with the first part of the first Amendment.

The Amendment of the Secretary of State is first to leave out "may" and then to insert some words. The hon. Member for Tradeston cannot move his Amendment to the proposed Amendment until we have dealt with the Amendment to leave out the first "may."

These Amendments deal with different things. The first two deal with whether, at the end of Clause 2, the wording should be mandatory or permissive and the second Amendment deals with whether there should or should not be delay—whether the postponement should be a long or a short postponement. They are two different things. I understand that the proposition before the Committee at the moment is that all these five Amendments should be taken together, but, the third Amendment—in page 2, line 45, after the second "may," to insert, "in the opinion of the authority" deals with an entirely different question. It deals with the question of whether the Secretary of State should or should not be of a certain opinion.

There would be some ground for taking the two Amendments in page 4, line 5, together. They are on the point of whether it should be mandatory or permissive and they are of the same form. My respectful submission is that, the Amendment standing in the name of the Secretary of State in page 2, line 45 and that in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin), in line 2, are two separate and distinct things. The third Amendment is separate and distinct from both of them. I therefore submit that in logic and in common sense the three should be so taken that the arguments relevant to each of those three different topics can be adduced separately and Divisions, if necessary, taken on them separately.

I hope that the Committee will accept the Ruling you have given, Sir Charles. Before dealing with the other Amendments, we must dispose of the first. The others hinge on the acceptance or rejection of the Amendment in the name of She Secretary of State.

I think that the hon. Member did not state what I said. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Tradeston is to add words at the end of the Amendment in the name of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State's Amendment is a double one. It seeks to leave out a word and then to insert words. Before we can proceed to put words in we must deal with the first part of the Amendment, which is to leave out a word.

The Government Amendment is put down in implementation of an undertaking which I gave in the Standing Committee to see what could be done to strengthen the wording of this particular subsection. Its purpose is to make it clear that there is a definite obligation on local authorities to carry out such patching work as may from time to time be required.

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, at the end, to insert "without delay."

The point of this Amendment led to some discussion earlier in Standing Committee. It did so because we on this side of the Committee are considerably worried about the effects of this Clause, which governs those areas which are designated clearance areas but in which, for one reason or another, the local authority may decide to retain a particular dwelling house. Those of us who are familiar with these circumstances know that many of these dwelling houses are in a very serious state of disrepair, and because they may be retained in use for at least 15 years, and in some cases for even longer, we want to ensure that they will be put into a good condition from the point of view of tenantability.

5.0 p.m.

For that reason, in the Standing Committee I moved that the works to be carried out on a house to put it into a good state of repair should be carried out without delay. The Government promised to consider the matter and see what they could do to strengthen the Cause. They have gone one-third of the way. I suggested that the words to be added should be "shall without delay." The Government gave serious consideration to the matter and decided to adopt the word "shall," but not the words "without delay." They have, as I say, gone one-third of the road with me. [Interruption.] I shall deal with the words "without delay" in due course, if the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) will give me time. We have lots of time. The whole of the evening and perhaps the whole morning still lie in front of us. I have only reached the word "shall."

I wonder why, when the Government set out in my company, they left me after they had gone a third of the way. I do not know what the Joint Under-Secretary of State was thinking about. He was in good company, and I think he might have continued with me. This is an important Amendment to an important Clause, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman having started to accompany me, I do not want him to be distracted at any point of the journey by the Lord Advocate with whom he is conversing.

Now I come to the reason why I should like the words "without delay" incorporated in the proposed Amendment. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has strengthened the Clause to some extent, but I think that the omission of the words "without delay" creates a serious weakening of the action that the local authority may be able to take. On both sides of the Committee we agree that these houses must be dealt with, but it is quite clear that they will not be dealt with by the great housebuilding firms, who will be building new houses. This type of work will be relegated to the jobbing contractors.

My hon. Friend suggests that the direct labour departments might be able to deal with this work, but the trouble is that the direct labour departments are not a common feature of all local authorities. The progressive authorities, and particularly those under the control of Labour, have got direct labour departments, but it is not a common feature in all local authority administration, and, therefore, we cannot really depend upon it. In any event, I should hope that all those local authorities which have direct labour departments will be engaged in the construction of new houses.

I think that, in practice, we shall find that this sort of work will be handed over to the jobbing contractors, and the possibility is that if what we hope for still materialises, these jobbing contractors will have a great deal of work to do. Indeed, there is a danger that they may have too much work to do. Let me give an example. During our earlier Committee proceedings I referred to a dwelling in my constituency which comes within an area that will be redeveloped. Like many other buildings, this one is in an extreme state of disrepair. The job of putting it into habitable condition was given to a local jobbing contractor.

That was well over 12 months ago, and yet nothing has been done. The tenants are to suffer inconvenience and distress resulting from living in these conditions, and have to wait until a small tradesman finds the time to do the repairs. The local authority may be anxious enough to get ahead with the work. In many cases the owner of the property may be anxious to get ahead with the work, but the jobbing tradesman to whom the work is given may find it difficult to cope with all the jobs which have been assigned to him.

It is for that reason that I wish to see "without delay" incorporated in the Government Amendment. The inclusion of those words would bring to the attention of all concerned the continuing urgency of this job of rehabilitation. The danger is that after the job has been contracted out nothing further will result for quite a long time, whereas, if the Bill is fortified by the addition of the words "without delay" it will be possible to produce speedier action in the admittedly necessary rehabilitation of these areas. I am sure that the Joint Under-Secretary agrees that this work should not be held up, as it may be if the Bill contains merely permissive powers and not an obligation to see that the work is done without delay.

The Committee must recognise that this is a very important Amendment. Although the Secretary of State has gone a little way towards meeting our wishes the position is still woefully weak. We are dealing with slum houses which are still being inhabited by families and children of tender years, and we are discussing whether or not we should leave out the words "without delay."

I hope we shall take the matter a little further, because all the slums and unfit houses are not to be found in the huge aggregations of housing developments of the past in and around our big cities. I can take the Joint Under-Secretary to rural slums which are a disgrace to the countryside. Local authorities have listed many such dwelling for demolition in the future, but we know that although they have been so listed local authorities cannot put a closing and demolition order upon them because they are not building enough houses to rehouse those who have to live in them.

—he will see that the words "without delay" will apply to local authorities carrying out the works, and not demolishing the buildings.

If the right hon. and gallant Member will himself look at the Bill he will find that we are dealing with houses which local authorities want to demolish but which have to be kept in being for a further period because of the lack of accommodation. We are being very tender to the Government when we talk about these houses remaining in being merely for another 15 years, because the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that in Glasgow literally thousands of such houses will be occupied for an even longer period. He must recognise that if a house is due to be demolished but has to be kept in being for a further 15 years it is bound to need repair. It is literally a case of life and death to the families occupying these slums, and it is surely not too much to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to agree to the insertion of these two words.

5.15 p.m.

As I pointed out in the Standing Committee, if a child, born as this Bill becomes law, leaves school at 15 years of age, it will have spent the whole of its formative school and pre-school life in this horrible type of dwelling, and will have been subjected to the possibility of contracting tuberculosis and kindred diseases. Any Member of the House who approaches this question on its merits should agree that if a local authority decides that although a house ought to be demolished it shall be kept in being for a further 15 years, it ought to take the further decision that it will bring that house into as habitable a condition as possible without delay.

That is all the Amendment asks for. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for once more bringing this issue forward, because it is of special importance. I do not think that there is any more important provision which can be put into the Bill. The families living in these houses deserve our help, and if every Scottish Member is going to do his best for those of his constituents who have to live in these dwellings he should be helping us to get the Amendment accepted. I hope that we shall not be subjected to what we had to stand during the 24 sittings in Committee.

I then described this as a life and death issue, but while we were explaining to the Committee how our constituents were suffering we were not able to induce any hon. Member opposite to speak. I know that some hon. Members feel that it is not their job to submit a case when their Government are in power. They are so loyal that they regard it as their duty to get Bills steam-rollered through. It is as if they had taken some Trappist vow—

I am sorry, Sir Charles. I hope that we shall hear something on this subject from hon. Members opposite without delay.

Housing, especially this type of housing, almost literally drove me into public life, and it will drive the Government out of power, if not out of public life, if they do nothing about it. It is no smiling matter to the people who have to live in these slums. I hope that the Government will feel as sincere as I do in this matter and will accept the Amendment, in order to show local authorities that we are seized with the idea that if they decide to keep these houses in being they shall, without delay, do all the patching up work they possibly can to give the tenants a better chance of a better existence during the next 15 years.

The question is whether the legislation should in this respect be mandatory or permissive. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) in saying that it would be an advantage to this deliberative Assembly if the speeches on the other side were not mandatory but permissive, and if more hon. Members on the Government side would give the Committee the benefit of their—

I stopped the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) from pursuing that line just now, and I hope the hon. and learned Member will not pursue it.

May I just finish my sentence, Sir Charles?

I was going to say, the benefit of their wisdom, if any, in our consideration of the proposed Amendment and the Amendment to the proposed Amendment. I support both, though I could not support the Amendment by itself. With the Amendment by itself the Clause would become mandatory, and might force a local authority to postpone the demolition of poor, old decrepit houses and to attempt to patch up houses not capable of being patched up. That would be likely to happen. It is not a matter of a quid pro quo. It is a matter of common sense that if the legislation is to give this mandatory power it should put the local authority upon terms to exercise the mandatory power without delay.

It is the common case that this queer subsection requires amendment. One reads it twice and one sees that is so. It is a subsection of 16 lines but one sentence, and, therefore, it requires careful reading to see what it means and whether it is of real benefit or not. One thing is certain, that the Government's proposed Amendment itself will not improve the subsection. It requires our Amendment to it if it is to make the subsection really useful.

The subsection gives power to local authorities to retain for temporary accommodation certain houses in clearance areas. It has very objectionable features, which are concentrated in the last four lines, and it is to those four lines that the proposed Amendment, and the Amendment to the Amendment are directed. It relates to the carrying out of certain works. The Government agree that the carrying out should be mandatory and not permissive.

I do not want to trouble the Committee by reading the Clause, but I should like to refer, for the sake of clarity to the essential words:
"Notwithstanding"—

I think this speech is directed to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," rather than to the Amendment.

I bow to your Ruling, Sir Charles, but if you will allow me to finish my argument I think you will see that it is directed not to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," but to the Amendment and the Amendment to the Amendment. I would quote the beginning words:

"Notwithstanding anything …"
in certain circumstances—
"… a local authority by whom an area has been declared … to be a clearance area… may postpone for such period as may be determined by the authority the demolition of any building on land purchased by or belonging to the authority within that area …"
I quote those words to show that without the words "without delay" there may be excessive delay which will defeat the whole purpose of the Clause.

Therefore, I hope the Government will see the force of our case and accept these two words. After all, they are only two little words, and I hope the Government will accept these two little words to make the Clause reasonable as it ought to be.

The people affected by the Clause, and the proposed Amendment and the Amendment to the Amendment, are people who must be the concern of all Members of the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) made such a powerful plea for them that the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) was so interested that I could see him leaping to his feet in support. I welcome, therefore, the Amendment proposed by the Government which, I think, is in answer to the pleas made in Standing Committee.

Hon. Members on both sides appreciate the circumstances in which these people live, and every one of us can tell harrowing tales of the conditions of life in those houses. I am reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) that the Joint Under-Secretary of State himself can do so, and I remember a powerful description by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) of the conditions of constituents of his.

We must approach this matter with care and attention, and we must bear in mind that the local authorities will be reluctant to take these houses over. Many of them have no desire to take them over, and the powers contained in the Bill may not be sufficient to ensure that the Government's own intentions are carried out. It will be recalled that I put this to the Government in Standing Committee. In view of that, we welcome the Government's intention to insert "shall" in the Clause.

5.30 p.m.

I urge the Government to consider the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) to add the two words "without delay." It is not merely a question of asking the Government to insert these words. We want to give the people of Scotland a feeling that something will be done, and will be done without delay. The Government have accepted the responsibility of the Bill and of these proposals. In fact, they talk about "Operation Rescue." We argued earlier in Committee that having accepted responsibility, the Government ought to accept financial responsibility also, and we urged that the burden should not fall upon the local authorities.

The Government rejected that plea. They said, in effect, that their financial responsibility would be determined by the Bill; but the financial responsibility of local authorities is simply an unknown quantity. There is all the more reason, therefore, that the Government should accept our Amendment to emphasise that it anything is to be done, it should be done without delay.

The Government say, and the Bill states, that these provisions are for a temporary period. That is why we want the inclusion of "without delay." I am a little suspicious of the word "temporary" in this connection. Constituents of mine are living in temporary accommodation that was built after the 1914–18 war. Quite recently, the Lanarkshire County Council agreed to give certain tenants a reduction in rent in the houses in which they were living, because those houses were Army huts during the 1914–18 war. The people are still living in them, and because the tenants have looked after them so well the county council thought that they were entitled to a reduction in rent. That was temporary accommodation.

I am also suspicious of the word "temporary," because in the Civil Service it can mean a long time; it might even mean a lifetime. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) has some knowledge of this and, no doubt, will give the Committee more information than I am prepared to do. Furthermore, the approach of the Government and of the civil servants who advise them to the word "temporary" is very doubtful. We have heard of temporary civil servants—they are always temporary, and never get established.

It seems to me that this temporary accommodation will be in use for a long time and we ought to ensure that if something is to be done to make it habitable, it ought to be done without delay. I am sure that the Government will listen to the pleas put up from this side of the Committee and will insert these two words as showing that they are really honest and sincere in their intentions.

I support the proposed Amendment to the Secretary of State's Amendment. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, but it does not go far enough, and I think we ought to include the words "without delay." I venture to take part in the debate asking for the inclusion of these words, because in Edinburgh there are at present nearly 10,000 houses in a condition which would bring them within the provisions of the Bill. Obviously, if the whole of the town council's building resources were put to the replacement of these houses, they could not be replaced very quickly. Therefore, most of the houses will come within the provisions of the Clause.

It is only right that we should declare the priority that we think some houses should get, because there is likely to be great pressure on building materials. The Government are trying to expand their programme of house building, both by local authorities and by private builders. At the same time, we are told that Part II of the Bill will result in an enormous amount of repair work being done. If it does not, the Bill is meaningless.

With these great demands upon our building resources, surely we ought to declare that these houses should have a certain priority. We can only say that by including the words "without delay." We ought to give to the local authorities an indication that in our opinion the people living in these houses deserve to be treated much earlier than some of the other people who will make a call upon the country's building resources.

I suppose that if we were asked the question in our constituencies, we would reply that the people living in these areas were deserving of first call upon the nation's building resources. That being so, we ought to include the words "without delay." We would then make it quite clear to the local authorities, who will be responsible for this work, that the job must be got on with. It cannot be delayed because a local authority is building its own houses or other people are utilising the building resources for the purposes set out in Part II or for a variety of other purposes, such as building garages and the like. I hope that the Secretary of State will give the Amendment favourable consideration and will decide to accept it.

My hon. Friends on this side of the Committee have made their contributions to the debate with a deep sense of sincerity and in their belief that these two simple words are essential to the Bill. Our Amendment, except for the word "shall," which the right hon. Gentleman has conceded to us, is the Amendment which we moved in the Standing Committee. The right hon. Gentleman undertook on that occasion to consider it further, and it was on that understanding that we withdrew our Amendment.

We have spent almost 45 minutes discussing the two simple, innocuous words "without delay" and whether they should be inserted in the Clause. I must express very strong resentment at the filibustering of the Government on their own Bill. These 45 minutes could well have been saved had a Member of the Government indicated why these two words. could not be accepted.

It is strange that on a previous Amendment the Government should find it necessary on a vital matter of procedure to move the Closure but should allow discussion on these two words and continue their filibustering tactics for almost an hour. I am astonished at the Government's attitude. I hope that no attempt will be made during the rest of this evening's proceedings to move the Closure because of any attempt at filibustering from this side.

We have seen this afternoon the most outstanding example of filibustering that I have ever seen in the House. Neither the Secretary of State, the Joint Undersecretary, the Lord Advocate nor any Member of the Government Front Bench has thought fit to intercede on a very simple proposition of this kind. I shall listen with pleasure to the right hon. Gentleman trying to explain why the Government cannot accept these two simple words.

What is it we are asking for, and why is it we want these words inserted? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has a wealth of local government experience, as have most of my hon. Friends. It is essential and desirable that these words should be inserted because there is a variety of local authorities. There are reactionary local authorities, progressive local authorities, and those which are prepared to take the middle course. To safeguard ourselves against local authorities of such variety we ask that whatever may happen the tenants who are being compelled to remain in these houses ought not to suffer and that is why we are saying that the local authorities should proceed without delay to carry out such works.

It is in the interests of the tenants that the work should be proceeded with without delay. It has to be remembered that we are dealing with slums in clearance areas, and but for this Bill the local authorities would have demolished them without delay. In the process they would provide a proper standard of accommodation for the tenants. This Bill suggests that where local authorities have already declared an area to be a clearance area the houses on it shall be retained for a period of 15 years, and in the process they should be patched up and made as comfortable as possible.

Surely the Government cannot object to our asking for the patching process to be carried out without delay. I shall listen with interest to discover why the Government have been so docile and why so silent on this subject. Why have they allowed the Committee to discuss this simple matter for almost an hour without a reply from the Government? I hope that the Secretary of State will take advantage of the opportunity now open to him to let us know.

I am rather surprised at the remarks with which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) opened his speech, because if he had taken the trouble to listen to what I said on Second Reading—

I meant in the Standing Committee. If he had referred to the report of the proceedings of the Committee, he would have seen that I gave my reasons why, in my opinion, the Government could not accept the words "without delay." The column is 239 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, and the date is Thursday, 25th February last. The reason I gave then was that there would be a great number of these houses to be attended to and, therefore, it was quite impossible for them all to be attended to without delay. The thing is not physically possible.

If the hon. Gentleman will sit down for one moment, I will give way when I have finished this part of my argument. It would be impossible for all these houses to be dealt with at one and the same time.

I also pointed out that it was a grave reflection on the local authorities, and that reflection would be even greater now. I am astounded at the number of hon. Members opposite who call themselves good local authority men who now come forward with the suggestion that the local authorities, having a duty imposed upon them by the word "shall," would delay for one moment to carry out what is physically possible.

I am grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving way, but he must recognise that we on this side do not agree that all local authorities are good local authorities. The main point with which I want to deal is this. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying that the local authority, if it is not actually doing physical work, would not meet the purpose of our Amendment, but the purpose of our Amendment will be met if a local authority is taking action to get the physical work begun on these dwellings as soon as possible. We all know that a lot of administrative duties have to be performed before the actual work begins, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that, as well as any of us.

5.45 p.m.

I have pointed out the weaknesses of the Amendment. The first weakness is that it is physically impossible to carry out the work and the other is that this suggestion is a grave reflection on the local authorities. I made it perfectly plain during the Committee stage why I could not accept that part of the Amendment, and I went on to say that it was the wish of the Government that this Clause should be as strong as possible and that we would consider strengthening it. I see the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) is still here, and perhaps he will bear me out when I repeat the words I used then:

"I cannot promise that any wording we may find will meet the hon. Gentleman's wishes 100 per cent…"—(OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 25th February, 1954, c. 239.]
The Government have met it at least to the extent of 33⅓ per cent., which is a fairly good dividend in these days.

The Committee is grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Government for the admittedly small way they went to meet us and to meet the situation. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman offered two criticisms of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin). I think he will agree on reflection that neither of the criticisms is valid. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that our Amendment is a reflection upon local authorities. That comes a little odd from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seeing that he is a member of a Government which has taken away from the local authorities all powers on the subject of this Bill. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman seems a little disturbed about that.

I think that is pretty good coming from the right hon. Gentleman who was a member of a Government which took away from the control of local authorities such things as electricity, gas and transport, and also the administration of hospitals.

I should be delighted to reply to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but you have ruled, Sir Charles, that I cannot at this moment give the answers to his absurdities. I shall confine myself to the Amendment and give the answers on that subject.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman accused my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston of not properly considering the prestige of the local authorities. He said that this Amendment cast a great reflection upon them, but we should not forget that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate said during the Committee proceedings, as recorded in column 214, that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State could not give an undertaking that he would not use his powers to prevent local authorities pulling down the slum houses which they wanted to pull down. The right hon. Gentleman seems a little perplexed. I do not wonder. It is a most extraordinarily arrogant statement. I am sorry that he does not remember it.

The right hon. Gentleman must not get excited; he did say it.

It is to be found at column 214 and, if the right hon. Gentleman will listen to my argument, he will learn that the Government said to the local authority, "No, we shall decide which buildings you will be permitted to tear down." Falling inside that category are these properties which we are considering, and to which this Amendment is directed.

I suggest to you, Sir Charles, that it is odd for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the local authorities are not competent enough, not wise enough, not responsible enough to decide what buildings shall be allowed to stand; that we in our wisdom, having taken that decision, are to allow the local authorities to patch the buildings which we have forced them to acquire when the local authorities may have wanted to pull them down. If there is any reflection on the prestige of the local authorities, it is not conveyed by this Amendment but is conveyed by the cavalier fashion in which the right hon. Gentleman is forced to address him-self whenever he is carrying a landlord's brief, as he is at this stage.

The second point is that the right hon. Gentleman said that it would be impossible to expect the local authorities to carry out all these repairs at once. If that were the only interpretation of the Amendment, then my hon. Friend and myself, and every responsible person on this side of the Committee, would instantly agree with the right hon. Gentleman. But that is not what the Amendment says. It says in the simplest words we could use, and to which the right hon. Gentleman did not take objection in Committee, "Without delay." That does not mean immediately and simultaneously. If that is all that is worrying the right hon. Gentleman, he has the Lord Advocate to find a suitable form of words, which could be embodied in another place, to the effect that the local authorities shall be expected to do these things without delay but not all at once.

In moving this Amendment, my hon. Friend pointed out that there was this conflict between a limited building industry. We know that. We do not ask the local authorities to jeopardise their new housing programme by committing all their resources to repair these miserable buildings which they wanted to tear down. But we do not want to see the other part of the resources in a community devoted to buildings which could wait a little longer in the programme than these crumbling, miserable, unsanitary slums which the Government are forcing Scottish tenants to occupy.

Does the right hon. Gentleman really say that the Gov- ernment are forcing tenants to go on living in unsanitary buildings? Is that really his interpretation?

That is my interpretation of the words to which I have already drawn attention and which I begged the Government in Committee to let go. I asked the Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate to say that the Secretary of State would in no circumstances seek power or use power to prevent local authorities from pulling down slums which they wanted to pull down, and therefore to let people escape from these dreadful buildings. So that there is no ambiguity, this is what the Lord Advocate said:

"It would all depend on the circumstances. It is for that reason that the Secretary of State is anxious to maintain the power to modify, or not to modify, the proposals made."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 23 rd February, 1954; c. 214.]
The proposals relate to what buildings local authorities shall be forced to prop up instead of to tear down. Therefore my argument stands on the words of the Government. The Secretary of State, in all his power and compassion, will force Scottish people to live in houses which a local authority would want to tear down.

The right hon. Gentleman sits there muttering and spitting. I can understand his embarrassment and shame, but the answer is easy. If, as I believe, the right hon. Gentleman is utterly ashamed in his heart of these appalling powers, the remedy is available, but as long as the powers remain in the Bill, as long as those words of the Lord Advocate are there to read, this Committee and the Scottish people will know that this is how the Secretary of State is misusing the great powers of his office.

The hon. Gentleman can find refuge in such phrases as "very synthetic "—

I concede to the hon. Gentleman that frequently in debate both sides overstate the case, and I am no exception, but the hon. Gentleman knows this to be true, that there is no hon. Member of this Committee on either side who can be otherwise than ashamed of the depths to which the Secretary of State has dropped in obtaining these powers. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene?

Yes. The right hon. Gentleman did not see his hon. Friends behind him. If I may say so, the smirks on their faces agreed with my view that his indignation was very synthetic.

My hon. Friends are too close to these slums, and too many come from these slums, ever to smirk about them. I go on to make the related point. If the right hon. Gentleman is determined that he will retain the powers to order these things, and if, therefore, he places this burden alike upon the local authorities and upon the tenants, then surely it is reasonable that those tenants should be asked to carry no longer than is necessary the appalling discomfort and the actual threat to their health which many of these buildings impose.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that it is a temporary Measure. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) dealt with that point. We have all seen such buildings and dwellings. The hon. Member for Ruther-glen (Mr. Brooman-White), who no doubt will vote with us when we divide on this Amendment, drew the attention of the Government to temporary dwellings in his own area. We have all been partner to such mistakes and, knowing that, when we are given an opportunity of making certain that the mistake does not recur, that the misery is not revisited on people for a period of at least 15 years, perhaps indefinitely, surely we should take care, in terms of the local authority and in terms of the tenant, that the work is carried out without delay.

The right hon. Gentleman said that this was a reflection on local authorities. I confess that there are some local authorities whose eagerness to operate such powers to repair are doubtful. They are reactionary local authorities. You and I, Sir Charles, will be delighted that there are fewer of them today than there were a week ago, but, while any reactionary authorities remain, the Secretary of State must have power to deal with them.

6.0 p.m.

Perhaps we have not the right words. Perhaps the Amendment conveys the impression that it would be mandatory upon all local authorities to proceed at once, immediately and altogether. If there is any risk of that, by all means let us find another form of words and let the Government undertake that the Lord Advocate shall find it.

I thought that the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) would have taken the opportunity to say a word or two on the Amendment. That is why we suggested a little earlier that we might have had the opinions of hon. Members opposite. I certainly think that in the old days of the Labour Government the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) would have been only too ready to express his-views, and I am sorry that we have missed his contributions to this debate. However, we shall have to do without them. I hope that he will be changing his place to this side of the Chamber soon and will be ready to speak again in our debates.

The hon. Member for Rutherglen supported my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) in Standing Committee, when he spoke about the hutted camps in his constituency and wanted to know from the Secretary of State if the adoption of an Amendment meant that the huts would be pushed further back in the building list. I agree that he has some reason for thinking that that may happen, because I remember very old huts in the city of Edinburgh of the kind to which the hon. Member referred. They were used first as Army huts and then shifted from one part of the town to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr, Willis). There they stayed as eyesores for many years, with people attempting to prop up the floors so that they might live in them. These were cleared away just before the outbreak of the Second World War. We see, therefore, that the word "temporary" might mean anything at all.

Apparently the hon. Member for Rutherglen is not ready to make his contribution to this debate, and perhaps he would not object if I said a word on behalf of the people who live in these huts. I am sure that it will be agreed that it is well worth while the Committee spending some time in considering the position of these unfortunate people. I am rather surprised that the Joint Under-Secretary of State took the line that he followed this afternoon. Our debate was free, frank and friendly until he addressed the Committee. He certainly moved from the line which he took on a similar Amendment in Standing Committee, because then he went out of his way to pay a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston for his great co-operation in helping to achieve the smooth passage of the Bill through the Committee stage.

If the hon. Member is moving from the subject of the hutted camps, I should like to intervene to say that, having made my point in Committee upstairs, I saw no great merit in repeating it this afternoon. But I am pursuing my studies in the art of repetition throughout this debate.

I find that a little too naïve because, when he spoke in Committee upstairs, the hon. Member received no reply from the Government and we went on to the next Amendment. I am certain that if that is the line which the hon. Member proposes to take and that is all the sincerity that he places behind his argument, he was not entitled to a reply. One would have thought that if he had meant what he said he would have been present earlier in this Committee today to put his case and to ask for a reply from the Government.

First, I was in the Chamber and, secondly, the hon. Member seems to subscribe to the doctrine in "Alice in Wonderland" which laid down that what was said three times was true. I stated this once only, which I consider sufficient to establish its veracity.

That is a terribly poor excuse for the hon. Member to make. I saw him arrive and stand outside the Bar of the Committee a few minutes ago. I should have thought that when we started to discuss the Amendment he would have been here two hours ago, not to lead the attack, but to find out exactly what the Government are prepared to do. Apparently, he had no intention of contributing to the debate, because he did not come into the Committee to do so. I am sorry that the hon. Member should not be delighted with the assistance that I render to him, for while I use examples from his constituency, I know that there are many others throughout the country.

Is my hon. Friend aware that:

"Rug'len's wee roon red lums no longer reek briskly"?

It is true, as the Joint Undersecretary realises, that all this will cause considerable expense to the local authorities. We have to face that. The Government's White Paper stated that it was hoped that it would not place an unduly heavy burden upon local authorities. The Joint Under-Secretary should say more on this subject. We appreciate that where there are hundreds of houses one cannot expect local authorities to start repairing each house straight away. That could not be done, but if the people who occupy these houses are to go on occupying them they must have some assistance in making the houses decent. We do not like the Bill at all, but if we must have it, let us make the houses decent without delay.

The Joint Under-Secretary suggested that this job was physically impossible, that there were a great many houses to be attended to and that he could not ask the local authorities to get on with that job without delay. That will be a great consolation to the local authorities, but the people whom we are considering are the people who live in the houses. Let us recollect what kind of houses they are. They are at present subject to demolition orders. They are fit only for demolition in the eyes of the local authorities.

The Secretary of State referred in an earlier Amendment to
"where the demolition of such a building is so postponed, …"
to make it clear to which houses this argument of physical impossibility is applied, but what about the physical strain on the people who are living in these houses?

I know some of these houses in my own area and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) where mothers are finding it a physical impossibility to cope with things for very much longer. Does that physical impossibility not have any effect at all upon the Secretary of State or the Joint Under-Secretary?

The Joint Under-Secretary says that building resources are limited. Would it not be better to limit the effect of the Clause to those houses for which building resources are available to enable us to get on with them right away? It is the Secretary of State who is compelling local authorities to carry out this policy, whether they like it or not. To tell them how they shall cope with their housing problem—how many they shall take and everything else—and then not to pay some slight attention to the tenants who are affected, is not really good enough. What we are staging here is "Operation rescue "—rescue of the Government.

Yes, rescue the perishing landlords. But the Government and their supporters throughout the country have been saying that this Clause, and what they hope will come out of it, would lead to better housing conditions for people living in slums. They have been salving their consciences by this happy phrase and saying that it will do so much for the people in the slums. Yet here they are leaving a loophole whereby nothing will be done for an unlimited time.

The other objection the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made is that we should be interfering with the responsibilities of local authorities by laying it down that they should do this work by a certain time but that we should leave it to their discretion. I can understand his touchiness when he addressed those remarks to the Committee and why he was slightly irritated and angry. That was because it was the second time he has made this speech. He made the same speech on Thursday of last week in Edinburgh to the Unionist Party conference which was dealing with the subject of housing. The conference had a series of motions and resolutions all asking the Government to tell local authorities what to do about housing and rents. The right hon. Gentleman suggested to the conference that it should be left to the discretion of the local authorities, but the Tory conference in Scotland turned down the Joint Under-Secretary of State. Does he expect us to listen to him when he makes the same plea, dealing with an entirely different matter, a matter which materially affects the living conditions of people in slums?

Once again the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is entertained. The thought of people living in these slums, having been taken over by the local authorities and the local authority allowed a loophole whereby it does not require even to patch up the slums, is not something which should be the subject of laughter, even on the Treasury Bench. I sincerely hope that back benchers opposite will realise that they have certain responsibilities in this matter. We are only raising it again because the Government saw the force of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) on the original Committee stage; but they have not gone nearly far enough.

I think it absolutely shameful that this Government should condemn people to go on living in houses which are ready for demolition and to leave a loophole whereby a local authority, having taken over, need not do the slightest thing to make houses fit to continue as housing accommodation. If the Government do not accept the Amendment, will they accept some advice and just clear out?

6.15 p.m.

I did not intend to intervene, but, having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I am very worried about the implications of this Clause. I may not have heard him aright, but I understood him to say—and I hope the Secretary of State will give us an answer, because I at least want an answer—that the Secretary of State has power to modify a scheme submitted by a local authority.

Presuming that a local authority submits a scheme to the Secretary of State in which it proposes to patch up 100 houses, is the Secretary of State to say, "You shall demolish 90 and patch up only 10 because, in the Scottish Office, we know that there is not sufficient labour and material to patch them all"? Or, will he say, "No, you cannot take over the whole 100, but, as we can only repair without delay about 10, you must demolish the other 90 and build 90 new ones"? Will he not do that? Is it suggested that the Secretary of State, in using his power to modify a scheme, would say that, notwithstanding the fact that there is no raw material nor labour to do the job, and there may not be for three years, the local authority is to take over the whole 100 and repair only 10, leaving the other 90?

If that is the situation under this Bill, I am surprised, as I never thought it was so. I thought the idea of modifying was that if a local authority put in a scheme to take over 100 houses the Secretary of State would survey the situation and say, "We cannot allow this because in any reasonable time 10 only can be patched and we shall have to modify the scheme. Ninety must be demolished and 90 new houses built." Will the Secretary of State say that the local authority should take over the whole 100, although it may be nine years before they can be patched and people will have to continue living in them?

I was under the impression that when the local authority took over the houses they would be patched straight away, but now I gather the authority can take over the lot, whether they can be patched or not. If that is the case, my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) is quite right. The Government deliberately, through the powers taken by the Secretary of State to modify a scheme without any consideration of capacity to repair in a reasonable time, are condemning people to live in slum conditions for many years in houses which should be demolished. I hope that before we pass from the Amendment the Secretary of State will give an assurance that he will not give any local authority powers to take over a house which is scheduled to be demolished, unless it can be repaired in a very short time.

For nearly two hours the Government have been compelled to listen to a series of persuasive arguments to show that this rehabilitation of unfit houses is a job which should be carried out, and carried out without delay. That is the important aspect which we are seeking to impress on the Government. There is real danger if, while we agree that these conditions shall be remedied, there is no indication whatever as to what time limit is to operate. That makes the insertion of the words, "without delay" imperative.

I shall not repeat anything that has been said from this side of the Committee in the last two hours. I wish to make an appeal to the Secretary of State and to the Joint Under-Secretary. During the Committee stage the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary used these words, in replying to me:
"I appreciate what is in the hon. Gentleman's mind."
That is, he understood what I was saying; he admits it in the words which I have quoted from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings, so that there is no doubt as to the background against which he made that statement. I was saying that this work should be proceeded with without delay, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary understood that. He went further. He committed the Secretary of State, because he went on to say that what I was saying in moving my Amendment
"coincides with the desires of my right hon. Friend."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 25th February, 1954; c. 239.]
So we now know the position of the Government Front Bench. They understood what I was saying, and what I was saying coincided with the desires of the Secretary of State for Scotland. If that is the case, why has the right hon. Gentleman not put his desires into words? Why does he halt after he has gone a third of the way with us? Why does he not come the whole way and put his own desires into legislative form?

It may be that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) said, that the Secretary of State's desires —which were exactly the same as ours— are not properly embodied in the words which we have selected. In view of our failure, because of our lack of draftsmanship aid, etc.—we have not the machinery available to us—I pass the ball to the right hon. Gentleman and ask him to put those desires, which coincide with ours, into a properly drafted form.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that he wants the thing we want. Then why does he not do it? He has the power. If he really wants the thing we want, I ask him not to turn down this Amendment to his proposed Amendment today, but to reconsider the matter, and bring forward, on Report stage, a form of words which will enable him to do the thing which we want done, and, at the same time, the thing that he himself has admitted is his desire also. I make that plea to him now.

Question put, "That those words be there added to the proposed Amendment."

Division No 97.

AYES

[6.24 p.m.

Acland, Sir RichardHannan, W.Parker, J.
Adams, RichardHargreaves, A.Pearson, A.
Albu, A. H.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)Plummer, Sir Leslie
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Hastings, S.Popplewell, E.
Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)Hayman, F. H.Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Anderson, Frank (Wnitehaven)Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)Proctor, W. T
Awbery, S. S.Herbison, Miss M.Pryde, D. J.
Bacon, Miss AliceHobson, C. R.Pursey, Cmdr. H
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. JHolman, P.Rankin, John
Berne, C. R.Holmes, HoraceReeves, J.
Benn, Hon. WedgwoodHoughton, DouglasReid, Thomas (Switidon)
Benson, G.Hoy, J H.Reid, William (Camlachie)
Bing, G. H. C.Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Blackburn, F.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Blenkinsop, AHughes Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Blyton, W. R.Hynd, H. (Accrington)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Bowden, H. WIrving, W. J. (Wood Green)Ross, WilIiam
Bowles, F. G.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Royle, C.
Brockway, A. F.Janner, B.Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. TShort, E. W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. DJenkins, R. H. (Stechford)Shurmer, P. L. E
Brown, Thomas (Inca)Johnson, James (Rugby)Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Burke, W. A.Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S)Jones, David (Hartlepool)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Callaghan, L. J.Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Skeffinglon, A. M.
Carmichael, J.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Champion, A. JJones, T. W (Merioneth)Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Chapman, W D.Keenan, WSmith, Norman (Nottingham, S)
Clunie, J.Kenyon, CSnow, J. W.
Coldrick, WKey, Rt. Hon. C. WSorensen, R. W.
Collick, P. HKing, Dr H. M.Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank
Craddock, George (Bradford, S)Kinley, J.Steele, T.
Crosland, C. A. R.Lawson, G. M.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Crossman, R. H. SLee, Frederick (Newton)Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Cullen, Mrs. A.Lewis, ArthurSylvester, G. O
Daines, P.Lindgren, G. S.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mripeth)
Darling, George (Hillsborough)Logan, D. G.Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)MacColl J. E.Thomson, George (Dun lee E.)
Davies, Harold (Leek)McGovern, JTimmons, J
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)Molnnes, J.Tomney, F.
de Freitas, GeoffreyMcKay, John (Wallsend)Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Deer, G.McLeavy, F.Usborne, H. C.
Delargy, H. J.McNeil, Rt. Hon. HViant, S. P.
Dodds, N. N.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Warbey, W. N
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Webb, Fit. Hon. M. (Bradford, C)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Mann, Mrs. JeanWeitzman, D.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)Manuel, A. CWells, Percy (Favsrsham)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Marquand, Rt Hon H. AWest, D. G.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Mason, RoyWhite, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)Mellish, R. JWhite, Henry (Derbyshire N.E.)
Follick, M.Messer, Sir FWhiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Foot, M. M.Mitchison, G. RWigg, George
Forman, J. C.Moody, A. S.Wilcock, Group Capt. CAB
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Morgan, Dr. H B. WWilley, F T
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. NMoyle, A.Williams, David (Neath)
Gibson, C. W.Mulley, F. WWilliams, Ronald (Wigan)
Gooch, E. G.Murray, J. D.Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)Neal, Harold (Bolsover)Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. ROliver. G. HWillis, E. G
Grey, C. F.Oswald, T.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Padley, W. E.Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hale, LesliePaling, Will T (Dewsbury)Wyatt, W. L
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Coine Valley)Palmer, A. M. F.Yates, V. F.
Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)Pannell, Charles
Ham lion, W. WPargiter, G. ATELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Wilkins and Mr. John Taylor.

NOES

Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)Astor Hon. J. JSell, Philip (Bolton, E.)
Alport, C. J. M,Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J MBennett, F. M (Reading, N.)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Baldwin, A. E.Bennett, William (Woodside)
Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Banks, Col, C.Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J-Barlow, Sir JohnBishop, F P
Arbuthnot, JohnBaxter, A. B.Black, C. W
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Beach, Maj. HicksBoothby. Sir R J G

The Committee divided: Ayes, 199; Noes, 224.

Bowen, E. R.Horobin, I. M.Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt Hon. J AHoward, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L
Boyle, Sir EdwardHoward, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Profumo, J. D.
Bromley-Davenport, LI -Col. W HHudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Raikes, Sir Victor
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Ramsden, J. E.
Brooman-White, R. C.Hurd, A. RRayner, Brig. R.
Browne, Jack (Govan)Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)Redmayne, M.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Ho P G THutchison, James (Scotstoun)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bullard, D. G.Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.Remnant, Hon. P.
Burden, F. F. A.Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.Renton, D. L. M.
Campbell, Sir DavidIremonger, T. L.Ridsdale, J. E.
Carr, RobertJohnson, Eric (Blackley)Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Cary, Sir RobertJohnson, Howard (Kemptown)Robertson, Sir David
Channon, H.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Robinson, Roland (Blackpool. S.)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Kerby, Capt, H. B.Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)KERR. W.Roper, Sir Harold
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. LLambert, Hon. G.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Cole, NormanLambton, ViscountRussell, R. S.
Colegate, W. A.Langford-Holt, J. A.Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Conant, Maj. R. J. ELegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Cooper-Key, E. M.Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Scott, R. Donald
Craddoek, Beresford (Spirltnorne)Lindsay, MartinScott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Crouch, R. F.Linstead, Sir H. N.Shepherd, William
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip - Northwood)Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Deedes, W. F.Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)Snadden, W. McN.
Digby, S. WingfietdLucas-Tooth, Sir HughSoames, Capt. C
Dodds-Parker, A. D.McAdden, S. J.Spearman, A. C. M
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. SSpence, H. R. (Abe-deenshire, W)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord MalcolmMacdonald, Sir PeterSpens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.McKibbin, A. J.Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, Weil)Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)Stevens, G. P.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Maclay, Rt. Hon. JohnSteward, W. A. (Woolwich, W)
Finlay, GraemeMaclean, FitzroyStewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Fisher, NigelMacpherson, Niall (Dumfries)Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Fleetwood-Mesketh, R. FMaitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)Storey, S.
Fletoher-Cooke, CMaitland, Patrick (Lanark)Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S)
Fort, R.Manningham-Bulter, Sir R. E.Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Foster, JohnMarlowe, A. A. H.Studholmte, H. G
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Marples, A. E.Summers, G. S.
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)Maude, AngusSutcliffa, Sir Harold
Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)Maudling, R.Taylor, Sir Chrrles (Eastbourne')
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. CTesting, W.
Garner-Evans, E. H.Modlicott, Brig. F.Thomas, Leslie (Cantarbury)
Glover, D.Mellor, Sir JohnThomas, P. J. M. (Corrway)
Godber, J. B.Molson, A. H. E.Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. AMoore, Sir ThomasTouche, Sir Gordon
Gough, C. F. H.Nabarro, G. D. N.Turner, H. F. L.
Graham, Sir FergusNeave, AireyTurton, R. H.
Grimond, J.Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)Tweedsmuir, Lady
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)Vane, W M. F
Hall, John (Wycombe)Nield, Basil (Chester)Vaughan-Morgan, J K
Harris, Frederic -(Croydon, N.)Nugent, G. R. H.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W)
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Oakshott H. D.Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marvlebone)
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Maoclesfield)O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)Wall, P. H. B.
Harvie-Watt, Sir GeorgeOrmsby-Gore, Hon. W.Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Hay, JohnOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelOrr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N)Wellwood, W
Heath, EdwardOrr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E)
Henderson, John (Calhoart)Page, R. G.Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Higgs, J. M. C.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.WilIiams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPeto, Brig. C. H. MWills, Gerald
Hirst, GeoffreyPeyton, J. W. W.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Holland-Martin, C. JPickthorn, K. W. M.
Holt, A. F.Pilkington, Capt. R. A
Hope, Lord JohnPitman, I. J.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. HenryPitt, Miss E. M.Mr. Vosper and
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Powell, J. EnochMr. Richard Thompson.

Proposed words there inserted.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 45, after the second "may," to insert,

"in the opinion of the authority."
I think it would be convenient to discuss this Amendment together with the next two Amendments, in Clause 3, page 4, line 5, to leave out first "may," and insert "shall," and after second "may" insert,
"in the opinion of the authority."
The Amendment which I have proposed does to Clause 2 exactly what the two following Amendments do to Clause 3. It is in that relation that I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss the three Amendments together.

It would perhaps be helpful if I were to read the Clause, starting at line 45, as the words will appear if these Amendments are inserted:

"… and where the demolition of such a building is so postponed, shall carry out such works as may "—
and then we are putting in the words:
"in the opinion of the authority from time to time be required …"
As I said when moving the previous Amendment in Standing Committee, hon. Members opposite pressed us to strengthen these Clauses, and that is what we have done. We have now made it mandatory on local authorities to go ahead with works which they think are required from time to time. I hope that will meet with the approval of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I appreciate what has been said by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, but I think that the effect of introducing the words:

"in the opinion of the authority"
destroys the effect of the word "shall," which we have already inserted. As the Clause stood originally, it was permissive, but the introduction of the word "shall" made it mandatory. The introduction of these proposed words makes it mandatory only if in the opinion of the authority, it is proper that it should carry out those mandatory instructions. I suggest, therefore that what we have previously inserted will be destroyed by what it is proposed now to insert.

If I may put the problem in another way: by the introduction of the word "shall" we made it possible for the courts of law to determine whether or not a local authority had carried out the duty thrust upon it by this Clause by examining what work the local authority had done. But if we insert the words:
"in the opinion of the authority"
the courts will have to determine whether, in the opinion of the authority, the work should be done, which is quite a different question. In effect, this is turning an objective examination into a subjective one. I am sure that is not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman or the Government, and I suggest that they withdraw their proposed Amendments to insert those words. There is of course, no objection to the other Amendment. In fact we welcome it.

Surely the Government should show more courtesy to the House in this matter. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) has put a legal point to the Committee and where legal matters are in dispute we should have the presence of the Lord Advocate. He has been present on many occasions during our discussions this afternoon, but at the very moment when a legal point is advanced he disappears. There seems to me to be something discourteous about that. I am not sure whether a Motion to adjourn the House until we find the Lord Advocate would be in order, but at least we should have an answer to the point put by my hon. and learned Friend. The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) said that he had no intention of having any serious repetition; but we on this side get the same reply to our inquiries today as he got in the Scottish Standing Committee.

He got no reply. We press for a reply today. I am glad to note that the Lord Advocate has returned. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley put a point which requires legal elucidation. We argued for some time whether the word "shall" should be inserted. The point is that, in the view of my hon. and learned Friend, after the insertion of the word "shall" to which we have agreed, the Amendment now proposed would limit and nullify our earlier action.

I wish to give the Lord Advocate time to consider the matter. When he has considered it, I hope that he will be prepared to answer. I see that the Joint Under-Secretary is prepared to spring to his feet to give us an interim reply and I wait to hear it with some interest.

Of course we have considered the point. In the opinion of the Government these words are necessary, because the local authority must be resonsible for what repairs are to be done. The local authority is composed of people who will know how long they intend to retain the house, and therefore the extent of repairs which should be undertaken and everything else in relation to the building concerned.

I remind the Committee that it is the ratepayers' money that is involved, and in that respect the local authority is the responsible body. Though there may have been some legal argument put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I wonder how many tenants of a house which has become a local authority house will take the local authority to court. I wonder whether that is a practical proposition. In any case, the answer is that we have considered the point but that we feel the words are absolutely necessary for the reasons which I have given.

I hate to be repetitive, but I must say that the reply given by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not satisfy me—except that it satisfies me that he has not understood the point. I explained that the introduction of the word "shall" gave my hon. and right hon. Friends the impression that this was intended to be an imperative Clause. Indeed, I understood that that was what the Joint Under-Secretary said; but I now understand him to say that, while introducing the words in response to our invitation, he has deliberately modified the imperative "shall" by the introduction of these words.

6.45 p.m.

In my opinion—and I am subject to correction by the Lord Advocate—the introduction of the words, "in the opinion of the authority," gives effect to the word "shall" as if it were "may." Indeed, there is no difference between "may in the opinion of the authority," and, "shall in the opinion of the authority." I had explained that the test, if one left the word "shall," was objective, but with the Amendment the test is now subjective. If the word "shall" had stood alone, then in my opinion it would have been possible to go to court and to compel a local authority to show that it had carried out the work. With the Amendment that will be impossible. It will only be possible to go to the court to test the matter in this way: the court will ask itself, "Has the local authority, in the opinion of the local authority, carried out the work?" That is a different matter. I hope that now that the Lord Advocate has considered the matter we may have further elucidation.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. J. L. Clyde):I hesitate to rise, because my intervention may merely prolong a debate which seems to have arisen out of a misconception.

It may well confuse it as well. That depends on the capacity of those listening to understand what I am about to say.

In our view a local authority must be responsible for deciding what works are required. It is absolutely essential to put into the Clause the words, "in the opinion of the authority." It is the authority, and the authority alone, which should be master of the situation on the question of what is required. That is why the words are suggested, but once the local authority has made up its mind what work is required then we put an obligation upon it to carry out the work. Therefore, we use not the word "may" but the word "shall." I have put the point as clearly as I can, though it may not be intelligible to everybody.

Surely if we put in the words, "in the opinion of the authority" that means that the local authority cannot be challenged on anything that it does or does not do. If a local authority decides to do nothing in a case where a house requires something to be done to it, I can raise the matter in the House because as a result of the first Amendment there is a statutory duty on the local authority to do something. I can raise the matter with the Secretary of State and he can challenge the local authority for not having carried out the statute.

The statute, as a result of the first Amendment which we accepted, will make it clear that the local authority has to do something or the tenant can challenge it in the court. However, if we insert the words proposed now, we can be met with the reply from the Secretary of State for Scotland that the matter has been left to the local authority. If in their opinion nothing is to be done, whether that opinion is justified or not, and they decide that nothing is to be done, then the tenant has no come-back and Members of Parliament have no means of ensuring that the spirit of the Clause is put into operation.

The Lord Advocate has now made it perfectly clear that the Government are prepared to leave with the local authorities such a power as will override their own pious hopes that something should be done for the tenants. Is it the case that the local authority is able to do anything, and then, as a result of the words proposed to be inserted, nothing can be done about it despite the feeling of the tenant, the feeling of, probably, a minority of the town council and even the feeling of Members of Parliament? If that is the case, the Joint Under-Secretary is being less than open and frank with the Committee. He has changed "may" to "shall" as we wished, but he then seeks to negative that Amendment by inserting the proposed words.

In the 1949 Act we gave the local authorities permission to determine the grants which should be given for the repair or modernisation of homes. This point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) earlier during the Committee stage on this Bill. One local authority gave a full grant of 50 per cent, to all the applicants except a co-operative society, which made a similar application for a similar purpose but received a grant of only 25 per cent. The decision of the local authority could not be challenged.

Under the Clause as it is sought to amend it, it would appear that if a local authority decides that it will do nothing to a certain house, its opinion cannot be challenged. It would appear that there would be no power in the hands even of the Secretary of State to deal with a recalcitrant local authority, that even Parliament would have no power and that hon. Members would be unable to make complaints through the Secretary of State. I should be pleased to hear from the Lord Advocate whether or not the interpretation which I place on the Amendment is correct.

Might we have an answer? No one in the Committee knows where the Government stand in this matter. The Government themselves appear not to know.

We have asked that "shall" shall be substituted for "may." We have, therefore, said that, as Members of Parliament, we require that local authorities shall carry out certain works on houses which have been classified as unfit and are already liable for demolition. When Parliament says that a local authority or any other person shall do certain things and the local authority or other person does not do so, Parliament usually possesses a default power and can require the local authority or other person to do what has been laid down. No spokesman for the Government has told us whether the Secretary of State will be able to exercise such power.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) has called attention to the way the subsection will read if the proposed words are inserted, and has rightly suggested to the Committee that, if the local authority is to be the judge as to whether work is necessary to keep a house in a habitable state, it is nonsense for the Committee to write "shall" into the same line of the subsection. The Joint Under-Secretary and the Lord Advocate have spoken, but neither has really tried to shed any light on the matter. We are still entirely in the dark. The local authorities will also be left in the dark. Perhaps the Government wish it to be so. I see the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) shaking his head; apparently he does not agree with me. If he knows what the Government have in mind, I hope he will intervene and tell us, because it seems that not one of Her Majesty's Scottish Ministers can tell us.

If the hon. Member will look at Clause 4 (3), he will find the answer to the point which he has been making about the inability of Ministers to enforce the carrying out of works by local authorities. I suggest that he read his own Bill.

It is not my Bill. It is a Bill which I have been opposing for many months. It is a Bill which, clearly, the majority of the Scottish electors are opposing.

I hope that the hon. Member does not propose to embark upon a discussion of the Bill as a whole at this moment.

It appears that the English hon. Members are only going to prolong the discussion and that we ought to have agreed to recommit the Bill to the Scottish Standing Committee.

I do not wish to transgress your Ruling, Sir Rhys, and to initiate a discussion upon the Bill as a whole, but I wonder whether you would allow me to reply to the hon. Member for Henley. I cannot discuss Clause 4 (3), but I suggest that the hon. Member for Henley and Her Majesty's Ministers themselves have a look at subsection (3). They will find that it has absolutely nothing to do with the question under discussion.

The point has now been answered, and perhaps we might return to the Amendment.

Our difficulty before we had the intervention by the hon. Member for Henley lay in getting to know what the Government wish to secure by means of the provisions in the Clause and, in particular, by means of their Amendment. It seems to some of us to be meaningless to say that certain work shall be carried out by a local authority if it is required in the opinion of the local authority. That means that it cannot be mandatory upon the local authority to carry out the work. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley has found great difficulty in reconciling the Amendment with what already appears in the subsection. I must say that I find it quite impossible to reconcile these Amendments. Will the Government please tell us what they intend? What is their wish? How do they expect this Clause of the Bill to be administered?

7.0 p.m.

This is not a Clause to be administered by private landlords; it is a Clause to be administered by public authorities, including the great local authorities in Scotland. The local authorities have to carry out certain works on dilapidated slum houses, and, if we take the words of the subsection and the Amendments, they are to carry out such works as are required "in the opinion of the authority." The Government say that they "shall" carry out those works. The Government must tell us on which leg they stand. Is it mandatory on local authorities to patch up slum houses which they have taken over, or does it mean that they will merely patch up those houses when they feel inclined to do so?

Some of my hon. Friends say that it is a matter of opinion. It is because it is a matter of opinion, using the words of one of these Amendments, that it seems to us to be completely permissive for the local authority; while the Government have been trying to tell us that it is not completely permissive for the local authority to do as it thinks, but that it is required to carry out certain works. I hope that some Member of the Treasury Bench will tell us on which leg the Government are standing. Is it mandatory or is it permissive? If local authorities are required to carry out certain works and they do not, what action is to be taken? If the local authorities are not required to carry out certain works, will the Government tell us why they wish to write the word "shall" into this Clause?

I was rather amazed when I first read these Amendments, and that is why I made an intervention earlier suggesting that we would probably be confused by them. I am sorry that I am not intelligent enough to understand them, but I am an engineer, not a lawyer. When I saw these words, I immediately thought that the lawyers here seemed to have discovered something which we in mechanical engineering have been seeking for years—perpetual motion.

Here we are providing that the local authorities shall do something if, in their opinion, it ought to be done. Therefore, the local authority, who are the people who will have to do the job, are to be the judges whether or not they ought to do it. It is like telling one's young son to wash the back of his neck, if, in his opinion, it requires washing. I have never heard anything like this in all my life; it baffles me completely, and, while I am not a Lawyer, I think I could assure any English hon. Member that this is not really an example of Scottish law.

I have been here long enough and I have had many discussions with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston), to be almost convinced that this is not a general principle in Scottish law. It may be a general principle in the Scottish Conservative Party, but, judging by the evidence, they are not very skilled exponents of or practitioners in either Scottish law or perpetual motion.

I ask the Lord Advocate to give us an explanation of what is meant here. Will he make it clear to me, an engineer, that the local authorities will be compelled to do that job, and, on the point whether the job ought to be done or not, that there will be other judges to decide, and not the local authority?

I will make one other attempt to clarify the situation, if I can. I am asked whether the obligation in this Clause is mandatory or not. The answer is that it is mandatory. We are substituting the word "shall" for the word "may," but, of course, we have to decide what is to be mandatory and somebody has to determine what it is requisite to do with the particular house concerned.

We think that we are justified in en trusting to the local authorities the decision as to what, in any particular case, is required for rendering or keeping a house in a proper condition. Once that is determined, it is mandatory upon the local authority to carry out the work, and, of course, a default power is avail able if any local authority does not carry out the mandate which Parliament has imposed upon it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Those default powers are avail able in Section 129 of the 1950 Act—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not remain on his feet if the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not give way.

We cannot go on with this for ever. Default powers are available under Section 129 of the Act of 1950. If local authorities do not carry out the mandatory obligations imposed upon them by the Clause, the default powers could be used, but the Secretary of State has sufficient confidence in the local authorities in Scotland to believe that it will not be necessary to exercise them. He believes that, when obligations are imposed upon them, they will see to it that in their respective areas they will carry out the responsibilities which Parliament has placed upon them.

I am far from satisfied either with the explanation of the Lord Advocate or with the preliminary explanation of the Joint Under-Secretary, but, in view of the fact that we have a great many other Amendments to deal with, I suggest that my hon. and right hon. Friends should not press this matter further.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3—(Power Of Local Authorities To Purchase Houses Liable To Demolition Or Closing Orders)

Amendments made: In page 4, line 5, leave out first "may," and insert "shall."

In line 5, after second "may," insert:

"in the opinion of the authority."— [Mr. J. Stuart.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5—(Local Authorities' Contributions)

I beg to move, in page 5, line 45, at the end, to add:

(2) The Secretary of State may from time to time by order direct that the foregoing subsection shall have effect, in relation to houses approved by him for the purposes of the last foregoing section after the date on which the order comes into force, as if for the reference to an amount equal to the contributions so payable by the Secretary of State as aforesaid there were substituted a reference to an amount bearing such proportion to the said contributions as may be specified in the order.
An order of the Secretary of State under this subsection shall be of no effect until it is approved by a resolution of the Commons House of Parliament.
Under Clause 5, as drafted, a local authority which is receiving an Exchequer contribution under Clause 4 is required to make an equivalent contribution from the rates; that is to say, its contribution is 50 per cent, and the Exchequer contribution is 50 per cent. The Amendment I am now moving will enable the Secretary of State to vary these proportions by order, and I am moving it to meet views which have been expressed by hon. Members that there should be power to alter the ratio by order, rather than by going through the whole process of legislation. To be effective, the order would require to be approved by this House by affirmative Resolution.

I should make it clear that it is not contemplated that any action is necessary in the near future, but circumstances which are at present unforeseen may arise which would make it desirable to vary the ratio, and for that reason the Government decided to put down this Amendment. While I agree that there is no obligation upon us slavishly to follow in the footsteps of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, my right hon. Friend agreed, in dealing with a similar Bill for England and Wales, to put down an Amendment similar to this one when that Bill was reconsidered in Committee before the Report stage was commenced. That Amendment was accepted. I felt, therefore, that it probably would meet the views of many hon. Members to table a similar Amendment. I hope that it will be acceptable to the Committee.

The last part of the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland gave us rather a cold douche. At first he told us that the Amendment was put forward in order to meet arguments raised by my hon. Friends, but he finished by telling us that it was put forward because his right hon. Friend had made alterations in the English Bill. We are therefore not very clear about the purpose or the origin of the Amendment.

In any case, we have a further disappointment. In moving the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman has not deleted Clause 5 as at present drafted. Our objections were mainly to the fact that the proportion was quite wrong and that the local authorities considered that the proportion should be 1 to 3, as in all other housing grants. We seem to be following the pattern of Clause 4 to which the present Clause refers. Clause 4 starts by being very definite that £7 5s. is to be paid over 15 years. That sounds very promising, but we find that the first proviso says:
"Provided that the Secretary of State may from time to time by order direct that paragraph (b) of this subsection shall have effect, in relation to houses approved after the date on which the order comes into force, as if for the sum therein specified there were substituted such higher or lower sum as may be specified in the order."
We start with the declaration that the grant is to be £7 5s., then the Secretary of State reserves his right to make it what he likes.

We pass on to subsection (3), where again the Secretary of State takes power to alter contributions to a local authority. In fact, at the end of the subsection he may withhold the whole or any part of the contributions payable under that subsection to a local authority. We have never got satisfaction as to what this means. The Secretary of State has power not to pay anything to a local authority.

When we come to Clause 5, we get a curious situation. The local authority must pay an equal proportion to that which the Government pay. The Government, in Clause 4 (3), may withhold the whole of their contribution to the local authority, and the local authority's contribution in that event may be 50 per cent, of nothing. In other words, it will be allowed to spend nothing.

In the subsection now being moved, the Secretary of State introduces a new flexibility into Clause 5. If Clause 5 had been withdrawn and the Secretary of State had proposed a new Clause to give him power to make a proportionate grant according to what he specified in an order to be brought before the House, that would at least have given a promise that the local authorities could discuss the proportion with him in the future. He now tells us that the proposed new subsection means nothing at all, and that, although he is putting it forward, nothing is proposed to be done under it unless unforeseen circumstances arise. He has not told us what kind of circumstances may arise.

7.15 p.m.

Anyone who reads the Bill to find out the position of a local authority under it will be in a complete maze. To start with. Clause 4 gives a calculation that local authorities will get £7 5s. and then finishes by saying that they will not get £7 5s. In the next subsection we find that the local authorities may not get anything at all. Under Clause 5, local authorities are to pay the same contribution as the State, namely, 50 per cent., but in the new subsection they will be paid only according to the whim of the Secretary of State.

Are the Government going to pay the grant or not? What does the Amendment mean? Does it mean that the local authorities are to have a bigger proportion than 50 per cent., or that the Secretary of State will agree in future to the request of the local authorities that the grant under this Clause should be on the same 3-to-l basis as in all other housing legislation and not 50–50? The Secretary of State ought to give us more illumination on these matters. I do not know whether he has copied these provisions automatically from his right hon. Friend, but he ought to clarify the position for the local authorities before we pass from the Clause.

I listened most carefully to the Secretary of Stale when he was moving the Amendment. He did not tell us very much. Clause 5 is very short, and we must have regard to what is laid down in Clause 4. I do not know whether the Secretary of State is proposing the Amendment only because of what the Minister of Housing and Local Government did in the English Bill. If so, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee whether the English Bill contains provisions similar to Clause 4?

Clause 4 gives the Secretary of State all the power he is asking for in the Amendment. If we look at subsection (2) we see a proviso which reads:
Provided that the Secretary of State may from time to time by order direct that paragraph (b) of this subsection shall have effect, in relation to houses approved after the date on which the order comes into force, as if for the sum therein specified there were substituted such higher or lower sum as may be specified in the order.
Surely ample power is there either way, if things do not go how the Secretary of State envisages they should go.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to make headway with this matter, he ought to say that local authority expenditure may become so high that the proposed 50 per cent, proportion is not enough and that the purpose of the Amendment is to increase the Government's subsidy to local authorities; in other words, that the local authorities are to be given more than £7 5s. in subsidy from the Government. I really cannot understand the position. The right hon. Gentleman should tell us something more than just that, as the English Minister has put this provision in the English Bill, we should put it in the Scottish version.

What is the right hon. Gentleman's fear? Are the powers in Clause 4 not sufficient already? When the provision I have read out gives him permission to increase or lower, why does he need this further provision in Clause 5, which deals with the same thing? It is one thing to say that, due to rising costs and increased expenditure, he feels that local authorities tackling the problem realistically will be hard pressed and that he wants reserve powers to increase the Government's ratio to more than 50 per cent. But if it means that he wants the local authorities possibly to pay more when already under the provisions of the Bill they will be saddled with a fearsome burden, then we on this side have no sympathy with the Amendment.

A little further explanation is required of the Government here. As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has pointed out, local authorities must know how they stand financially in these matters. If in forcing local authorities into a task which to most of them is distasteful and fairly costly the Government said, "Do not worry; for 15 years we will give you £7 5s. for each house you patch up," and, in a further Clause," You will pay exactly the same as us," the local authorities would then know exactly their own financial obligations.

In Clause 4, however, the Government say that they will be able to vary up or down the amount they pay to the local authorities over the 15 years. From the point of view of the local authorities, that is uncertain enough—I am sure no businessman on the other side would like to be left in such a state of financial uncertainty—but now this Clause introduces something new.

In the original Clause the Government say to the local authorities, "You will pay the same as the Government. If the amount payable by the Government is £7 5s. then you will pay £7 5s." They now say that the Government are to have the power to vary, not what the Government pay, but the proportion that the local authority will pay. That is dictation with a will—and financial dictation. It could happen that, retaining the same general figure of £14 10s. as the annual expenditure on the upkeep of one house, under one Clause the Government could reduce its own contribution from £7 5s. to £6—

I have to start with some proposed figure and the amount is referred to in Clause 4 (2, b) of the Bill. The Government could reduce their own contribution to £6 but, under the subsection with which we are now dealing, they could compel the local authority to pay £8 10s. instead of £7 5s. The local authority is put in a very difficult position, and I think we should have from the Secretary of State an explanation of what he has in mind. If there is one thing about which burgh treasurers in Scotland are concerned, it is the money and where it is to come from. They are very grateful for increased contributions coming from the Exchequer, but here they can be financially dictated to.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State preaches to us and says, "Please leave the local authorities alone." He now says, "We want the power to dictate to the local authorities that they shall pay more than the 50 per cent, that the Government are paying." That can go on for 15 years. It will be 15 years of financial chaos. The only hope is that this Government will be out of office within 15 months and not 15 years.

I flattered myself that I understood the ramifications of this Bill, but I must now confess that the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed makes it more complex than ever it was before. I should like to know, for example, whether the Amendment will now cover houses compulsorily purchased by local authorities, those purchased by agreement, those already in the possession of local authorities under the Town and Country Planning Act—even those houses which have been gifted to local authorities. Does the proposed Amendment embrace all those houses, and the houses coming under the Act as a whole?

Will the proposed Amendment alter the basis of an annual payment equal to one half of the annual loan charges as distinct from the annual payment of the contributions of £7 5s. by the Government and by the local authority? If so, it will be a very serious matter for the local authority. It will be very difficult for a local authority to understand quite clearly what the financial implications of this Bill now are.

I should like to know how the Lord Advocate is able to square up the proposed Amendment with Clause 4 (3), which states:
"If it appears to the Secretary of State that the expenditure incurred as a whole by a local authority in carrying out works on houses approved by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this section is unduly low having regard to the amount of the contribution for the time being payable in respect of those houses under paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of this section, he may withhold the whole or any part of the contributions payable under that paragraph to that authority."
Clause 5, with the proposed Amendment, would read:
"as if for the reference to an amount equal to the contributions so payable by the Secretary of State as aforesaid there were substituted a reference to an amount bearing such proportion to the said contributions as may be specified in the order."
7.30 p.m.

The Secretary of State is taking right and power from every conceivable angle. He is to withhold, to alter, to substitute, to give an unknown contribution, he is going to put it up or down. He cannot play that sort of Jekyll and Hyde game with the local authorities, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to come clean. This Amendment makes this an insidious Clause. The right hon. Gentleman must come clean with the local authorities, and let them know precisely where they stand.

I ask the Minister to take back Clauses 4 and 5 for reconsideration. I do not know whether it is the Parliamentary draftsmen who are responsible for this. If it is, it is not to their credit. However, the right hon. Gentleman cannot escape responsibility on that score, and I ask him to take the Amendment back and redraft it, and bring it forward again on Report. I do so in the interests of the local authorities, and, indeed, in the interests of the Government themselves.

With further reference to what my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) has just said, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to read the preceding Clause, particularly the proviso to subsection (2). He will find that the idea that he seeks to introduce into this Clause is dealt with there. By proposing this new subsection he is introducing what, so far as this Clause is concerned, is a new idea, and he is thereby introducing into the administration of the Measure uncertainty, complication and complexity. He will make the Bill difficult to construe and difficult to administer.

By this new subsection he is providing for two sets of houses, two different types, one under subsection (1) and the other under subsection (2). In what circumstances, to use the language of the Amendment, are the houses to be "approved by him "? What rules are to be made for his approval? How is he to discriminate one set of houses from the other? Will not all this complication greatly increase the responsibilities of the local authorities and make it necessary for them to increase their staffs and increase their expenses and put an added and quite unnecessary burden on the ratepayers? I sincerely hope the Government will take the new Clause back and reconsider it, and send it to limbo.

The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) said that he hoped we would take the new Clause back, but I am dealing with an Amendment to Clause 5. There is no sinister motive connected with the Amendment whatsoever. I can assure the Committee of that. I am rather disappointed and surprised that it has received such a lukewarm reception. I had hoped it might have been accepted, because when the English Measure was recommitted and the Government moved a similar Amendment, the Opposition spokesman said:

"I take the opportunity of thanking—"
the Government—
"—for this concession to local authorities."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1954; Vol. 5,25, c. 2074.]
It was apparently something that was wanted.

I said, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, that we are not contemplating at this stage varying the ratio, which is 50–50. I said in moving the Amendment that unforeseen circumstances might occur which would make some alteration necessary or desirable. I am not aware of that at this stage. Parliamentary control is retained because any change can be made only by making an order and laying that order and getting an affirmative Resolution. That provision retains Parliamentary control. The short answer, therefore, to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) is that it would require legislation to vary the ratio in the Bill, and the object of the Amendment is to make it possible to vary the ratio by an order and affirmative Resolution. The Government have accepted the view that this is a simplification of procedure. It appeared to be one that was welcomed by the Opposition in connection with the English Bill. That was why I put down this Amendment. There is no sinister motive behind it.

I think the answer to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is that Parliamentary control is retained. The answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) is that Clause 4 enables the Secretary of State to increase the contribution of £7 5s. should it be desirable, but Clause 5 as it stands does not permit of any alteration in the ratio. There is nothing about this Amendment that need alarm anybody, and I hope the Committee will accept it.

I explained that if this Amendment had the purpose of setting the right hon. Gentleman free to consider the local authorities' desire that the ratio should be altered to 1 to 3 rather than 50–50, we should be prepared to accept it, and might even be prepared to welcome it. We are probably a little more cautious than our English colleagues in welcoming it. That is not because we think the right hon. Gentleman is full of sinister thoughts. Indeed, one of our difficulties is that we are not clear what he has in mind about the matter, or whether he has any thoughts of what will happen. When he moved the Amendment he appeared to have no purpose, except, perhaps, to obtain greater latitude to change his mind lest something should turn up that would require him to do so.

We are all in favour of the Secretary of State having power, but it would have been more satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to tell us a little more of what this is all about. After moving the Amendment he proceeded to explain that he had no knowledge of any circumstances in which the Amendment would come into force.

I think the Lord Advocate must agree that the people who have to work the Measure should be able to get some logic out of it. It may be that we Scots are a bit weak in insisting on there being any logic in it, when our English colleagues, perhaps, would not insist on it. They are prepared to accept what they regard as common sense, and hope that it will work out all right in the end. We are a little bit more realistic. The Lord Advocate is supposed to advise us on the legal aspects of the matter, and therefore I would ask him how the Clause can be reconciled with Clause 4 (3).

If 50–50 is the rule and remains the rule, how can the Secretary of State take away his 50 if the Clause says that payments must be 50–50 as between the local authority and the Secretary of State? If they are to be equal payments by both the local authority and the Secretary of State, how can this be reconciled with the power in subsection (3) of Clause 4 that after the local authority has spent its 50, the Secretary of State may take his 50 back again and withhold it? It seems to me quite irreconcilable.

I wish that the Secretary of State would try to get some sort of harmony in the Bill and some kind of pattern that local authorities can understand. There may be something wrong with my mind, but I cannot understand the Clause and I have not heard of any local authority which understands its position. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that he will make the Clause more flexible and bring it before the House, which is quite a good thing, but I should be more satisfied if he withdrew the Clause and left it for the Secretary of State to introduce an order saying what proportions were to be used in regard to these payments, and if he gave the assurance that this matter would be discussed with the local authorities and that if they showed good cause for altering the proportion, the right hon. Gentleman would be willing to consider it.

We do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has any sinister intentions—in fact, we are convinced by what he says that he has no intentions either sinister or otherwise; but it would be more satisfactory for the Committee, in agreeing to the Amendment, if Members knew that it had some purpose and that that purpose would be carried out.

I asked the Secretary of State whether the powers contained in Clause 4 were not sufficient without his Amendment to Clause 5, and the right hon. Gentleman replied that without the Amendment legislation would be necessary- But the portion of the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred states:

"An order of the Secretary of State under this subsection shall be of no effect until it is approved by a resolution of the Commons House of Parliament."
Clause 4 (4) states:
"An order of the Secretary of State under subsection (2) of this section shall be of no effect until it is approved by a resolution of the Commons House of Parliament."
That is exactly the same thing. The Secretary of State already has in Clause 4 what he said he did not have in Clause 5. The words which I have quoted are identical. The right hon. Gentleman cannot ride off in that way.

What is the explanation? I am sure that the Secretary of State did not deliberately fob me off, and must have overlooked these identical words. If he reads Clause 4 (4) and then the latter part of his Amendment, the words of which are identical, he will see that his reply was wrong and that the Amendment is quite unnecessary.

Will the Secretary of State answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) regarding the varying of the ratio, which applies not only to subsection (2, a) of Clause 4 but to subsection (2, b)?

I do not want to hide anything at all. We have passed Clause 4, in which the Secretary of State is enabled to increase the £7 5s. contribution.

To vary it. Clause 5 does not give the Secretary of State power to vary the amount which is to be paid— the 50–50 ratio in the Bill.

7.45 p.m.

The sole object of the Amendment is to enable the ratio—at present the 50–50, which is the figure decided on—to be varied should circumstances in the future make it desirable to do so without coming to the House for legislation. It is purely a simplification which, as I said, I hoped would be acceptable to the Committee.

I may be completely wrong, but I seem to be in fairly general company. When we discussed this matter in Standing Committee, the Joint Undersecretary replied. My recollection is that we were told that the power to vary, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred and which arises from Clause 4 (3), had to exist because there might come a time when circumstances had changed and the position had to be reviewed. The Committee were not very happy about that, I agree.

Possibly I am misunderstanding the right hon. Gentleman's intention. It may be that he is seeking to rid himself of that arbitrary power, and that he is proposing to substitute for that arbitrary power in Clause 4 this more limited power which, as he says, would rest on an Affirmative Resolution of the House. It is a little disturbing with this type of machinery that such an order would not be amendable, but would have to be accepted or rejected; but it might be argued that that was a step forward.

It may be that it would be the right hon. Gentleman's intention not to vary the situation and not in any way to place a greater burden upon the local authority without first coming to the House; but the right hon. Gentleman must explain why I and my hon. Friends are completely misunderstanding the situation and that if this is the only method he would use, he will take powers at a later stage to rid himself of the greater and overriding power. It is difficult to understand his argument.

Even if the right hon. Gentleman were able to meet us there, the difficulty would still exist that no local authority can plan if it does not know from year to year what financial burden it has to bear and what part is being shared by the Treasury. If the right hon. Gentleman would say that he does not contemplate any circumstance in which the ratio could be varied to the prejudice of the local authority, we would be taking a big step forward. To be fair to him, he seems to have that in mind and came near to saying it in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn).

The Secretary of State said clearly that in the later discussions with the local authorities he had carried them with him in the sense that they did not object to the ratio, although they might object to the basis of the calculation. It would be extremely unfortunate if now the right hon. Gentleman threw away that measure of good will which he secured by his negotiations subsequent to the Second Reading of the Bill.

Will he not, therefore, say that he will look again to see whether there is substance in the argument which I am offering, and which several of my hon. Friends share, that he seems to have two powers, one of which overrides the limited power, and that if there is anything in our suggestion he will find a revised form of words? If I am wrong in my understanding of the matter—and I am inclined to be honest and imagine that I am misunderstanding the situation—perhaps I can be corrected. Parliamentary draftsmen occasionally leave loopholes and the best of them produce ambiguities, but they do not produce a flat contradiction, so I am inclined to argue that I must be misunderstanding the situation.

Apart from that, now is the time for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he seeks this Amendment only so that the ratio may be varied to the benefit of the local authority and never to its disadvantage. If it could be to its disadvantage, we may have something to say about the previous Clause, but it would greatly facilitate the proceedings of the Committee and relieve many of the anxieties of local authorities if we could have from the right hon. Gentleman the assurance which we seek.

I can give this assurance to the right hon. Gentleman, that there is absolutely no intention of altering the present 50–50 ratio. That is not at the back of the Government's mind. What was proposed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government during the Committee stage of the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill was that the Government should have a more flexible implement to deal with such matters as this. I say there is no intention at the present time of altering the ratio, and I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance, if it is of any satisfaction to him and the Committee— we are anxious to proceed with the rest of this Bill—that there will be no alteration during the lifetime of the present Parliament and before a General Election has taken place.

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is now trying to pull my leg? Can anything more alarming to the local authorities in Scotland be imagined than to be solemnly told that this 15-year plan, this "Operation Rescue "on a massive scale is going to be valid only for an additional 2½years? Let us assume that it will be a year before plans are approved. That, I think, was the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman in Standing Committee. In those circumstances local authorities may not be able to start operations until the following year, that is to say, 1956. The undertaking which the right hon. Gentleman now gives could mean that the local authorities would never once hope to have this 50–50 ratio maintenance.

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman means that. He does not intend to inflict further hardship on the local authorities by reducing the ratio. But if he did not mean that, he must, to ease the mind of not only the Committee but also the local authorities, say that not for the next five, seven or 10 years does he contemplate varying the ratio adversely to the local authorities. Speaking for the Opposition, and indeed for the next most likely Government, I can say that we certainly would never use this machinery to prejudice the local authorities. If I can say that, surely the right hon. Gentleman, who no doubt has been contemplating the electoral results announced last week and assuming that they might apply to himself, can fairly say that there will be no change to the disadvantage of the local authorities.

As I have failed to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee with an Amendment which I thought was going to be acceptable, and because of the debate that has taken place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

I will be quite frank with the right hon. Gentleman. I am on my feet so that my hon. Friends may have an opportunity of considering whether the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw this Amendment is a wise one or whether we ought to press the Secretary of State and the Government to divide upon the issue. As I stand here at this Box, I am not at all clear in my mind which is the correct course to take.

What is it that the right hon. Gentleman argues? He argues that, because we have been concerned for the welfare of the local authorities and have been anxious to discover whether this Amendment could be used to their disadvantage, he should withdraw his Amendment. He is overwhelmed by the arguments which we have put forward. [HON. MEBMERS: "Oh."] There are only two explanations. One is that the right hon. Gentleman anticipated using this power to make an order so that the local authorities might be advantaged. If I had been in his position and that had been my intention, I would have said so to the Committee, and if he had said so my hon. and right hon. Friends would immediately have approved the intention. But it seems that the right hon. Gentleman is not able to give such an undertaking on behalf of the Government.

That means that this new ratio of 50–50 is the most the Government will do. It takes the place of the rate of 3 to 1 in favour of the Government and is the most the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to make. But he says to himself, "The opposition is so strong to this that I really will be in trouble with the local authorities over their interpretation of this Amendment, which might mean that their future was even less securely safeguarded. I think, therefore, that it is an advantage and a distinct score at the Opposition to withdraw this Amendment."

The right hon. Gentleman has asked leave to withdraw his Amendment, and I must now put the Question.

Is it not possible to argue whether the Amendment should be withdrawn or not?

The Secretary of State has done us a great disservice in suggesting that we have opposed his Amendment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I challenge any hon. Member on the other side of the Committee to show where we have opposed the Amendment. All we have asked for was an explanation of the Amendment and how we should reconcile it with the rest of the Clause. The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) and the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) plainly under stand this Amendment without any explanation at all. The Secretary of State has treated the Committee and the Opposition with great discourtesy—

I am not treating the Committee with discourtesy at all. I am endeavouring to please the Committee by withdrawing an Amendment which it does not seem to like.

The Committee has not raised the slightest objection to the Amendment. Indeed, I stated categorically that what we would regret was if the Secretary of State did not withdraw Clause 5 and bring in an Amendment with more flexibility, removing this 50–50 basis altogether. The Committee is quite entitled to ask the Secretary of State for an explanation as to the meaning of the Amendment. What are the purposes of this Amendment? The Secretary of State seems to be getting to the position where the slightest question makes him rattled. The other night we had more than two-hours debate because the right hon. Gentleman did not give us a simple explanation of the meaning of the word "Executives." That was on the Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Bill, and that debate went on for 2½ hours because the right hon. Gentleman would not, or could not, explain what was in the Bill.

I have never know a Bill to go through this House without explanations being given as required. We are entitled to ask for explanations, so that we may understand what is in the Bill. Now the Secretary of State introduces an Amendment and explains to us that there is nothing sinister about it. I have accepted his word on that, but, evidently, he has not made inquiry as to the purpose of the Amendment. I can see good purposes in it and I can see other purposes in it. At least it makes Clause 5 fit in with the variability of Clause 4, which can go up and down, backwards and forwards, all round the circle, and nobody knows where it will end. On the other hand, Clause 5 was so definite and decided that it made Clause 4 irrational. Therefore, this Amendment makes Clause 5 harmonise with Clause 4.

8.0 p.m.

But, Sir Rhys, it ought not to be for me to explain that to the Committee. It ought to be for the Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate. I do not know whether the Lord Advocate has studied this Bill at all. He never gives any explanations, he reiterates a phrase, and that is supposed to clear up something which it does not make clear, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not as lucid as we have a right to expect.

We on this side of the Committee are not lawyers. My hon. Friend has raised some legal points, but they have not been cleared up and we are entitled to know what Clauses mean. We have no intention of opposing this Amendment, but we are entitled to know what it means, what will be the effect on the local authorities, and the local authorities are entitled to know. So I put this direct question to the Secretary of State: If the local authorities can produce evidence to him that the 50–50 basis is not satisfactory, will this make it possible for him to consider that basis and, if necessary, bring in an order that alters the basis in accordance with his discussions with the local authorities?

Does the Secretary of State realise that he is holding himself and his Government up to the ridicule of the nation? First, he proposes this Amendment, then he adduces reasons to justify the Amendment which he hopes will satisfy the Committee, then, on being worsted in debate by the arguments adduced on this side of the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman says he will give an undertaking that there will be no legislation of this kind in this Parliament. Does he realise that he cannot give an undertaking for the next Parliament, that he cannot legislate for the next Parliament? Then, as a last resort, he changes once more and asks leave to withdraw the Amendment.

The Committee and the nation are entitled to know upon which of those three legs he stands because, like a Manxman, he seems to have three. First, the right hon. Gentleman proposes; then he gives an undertaking; then he asks leave to withdraw the Amendment. This is treating the Committee with disrespect. The Secretary of State is not entitled to do that. He was asked for an explanation in justification of the Amendment and then, with great pettiness, he said, "Very well, I will withdraw the Amendment." That is not the way to treat the Committee.

During my intervention I asked the Secretary of State at least six pointed questions. He replied to one of them and left the others unanswered. I shall repeat the one which concerns me vitally. Does the proposed Amendment to Clause 5 apply to Clause 4 (2, a)? As I understand the position it would apply technically. I am seriously perturbed at that and would gladly welcome the offer of the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw this Amendment, because it has far-reaching effects which I believe were never intended.

I can assure the hon. Member that there is no such intention and that this Amendment does not cover the contribution towards the cost of purchase under Clause 4 (2, a)

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause—(Limitation Of Liability Of Trustees, Etc, For Expenses Of Local Authorities In Certain Cases)

  • (1) Where in pursuance of any enactment (whether contained in a public general Act or in a local Act) a local authority seek to recover from any person as being the person for the time being entitled to receive, or Who would if the same were let be entitled to receive, the rents of any premises, being a house or a building which contains a house or a part of such a building, the expenses incurred by the authority in the execution of works in relation to the premises, then, if that person proves—
  • (a) that he is receiving the rents merely as trustee, factor, tutor, curator or agent for some other person, or as liquidator of a company; and
  • (b) that he has not, and since the date of the service on him of a demand for payment of the expenses aforesaid has not had, in his hands on behalf of that other person or, in the case of a liquidator of a company, on behalf of the creditors of the company sufficient funds, rents and other assets to discharge the whole demand of the authority;
  • his liability shall, notwithstanding anything in the said enactment, be limited to the total amount of the funds, rents and other assets which he has, or has had, in his hands as aforesaid.
  • (2) Nothing in the foregoing subsection shall prejudice or affect any right of a local authority to recover from any person other than such a trustee, factor, tutor, curator or agent or liquidator as aforesaid the whole or any part of any expenses recoverable by them in pursuance of any such enactment as afore said or otherwise.
  • (3) The proviso to subsection (3) of section eight of the principal Act shall cease to have effect.—[The Lord Advocate.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    The purpose of this Clause is to make clear the position of persons holding property including houses, in a fiduciary capacity, that is to say, holding them on behalf of some other persons. There was a recent decision in the Sheriff Court in Glasgow as a result of which, it is anticipated, were that decision to be left standing, that persons in a fiduciary capacity such as are covered by this Clause might be reluctant to act in that capacity in view of their possibly being made personally liable for expenses of works on the property.

    The effect of this Clause is to limit the liability of trustees and persons acting in a fiduciary capacity of that kind where a local authority, under statutory powers, carries out necessary works on house property and seeks to make trustees or persons in a fiduciary capacity personally liable for these expenses. The Clause would limit the liability of these persons to the total amount of the funds, rent or other assets in their hands as trustees, which appears to be a perfectly fair and reasonable limitation upon their liability. Certainly, it should remove the reluctance which the recent decision in the Sheriff Court might otherwise have upon people acting in a fiduciary capacity. The last thing we want to do is to prevent people from undertaking that task.

    The limitation in question has already been accepted in other Acts; for instance, the Water (Scotland) Act, 1946, has a similar limitation, the Housing Act, 1950, has a limitation of this kind, and there is a modified limitation in Section 58 of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1903. I feel that the justice of the limitation proposed in this new Clause will appeal to the Committee.

    We have all listened to the explanation of the Lord Advocate with great interest, and I feel sure that the Committee will have no difficulty in agreeing that the principle on this new Clause is generally acceptable.

    I would not have said anything about it had it not been that there is one point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not noticed, which may make the Clause less acceptable to the Committee. It is the provision that this Clause of limitation of liability shall apply to the liquidator of a company. That does not appear in the 1950 Act, to which the Lord Advocate referred. The Clause should not apply to a liquidator of a company, because there has recently occurred to several clever persons in the West of Scotland a method of getting rid of obligations which they would have as owners of dilapidated property.

    That method is to transfer the property for a nominal sum to a company. It is possible to float a company with a few pounds, or purely nominal capital. The property is transferred and the company then goes into liquidation, having no assets and indeed no purpose other than to receive this property. The result is that the liquidator simply says to the corporation, the superior or other person who, otherwise, would be entitled to come against the owners of the property, "I have no assets other than this bankrupt concern. You cannot proceed against me."

    It is possible under certain Acts, both public and private, to make such a liquidator liable not only for the property which has come into his hands but personally. I am sure that it is not the intention of the Government to permit this and I am informed that it has happened within the last year or two. I suggest to the Government that either they do not press the new Clause at the moment or, if they feel that that is asking too much, that they give an undertaking to delete all reference to a liquidator in paragraphs (a) and (b.) Then the Clause would apply, as Section 8 of the 1950 Act applies, to persons who are properly described as
    "… trustee, factor, tutor, curator or agent for some other person,…"
    and their liability would be limited to the funds which come into their hands. I feel that that would be agreeable to the Committee and if the Lord Advocate could give that undertaking I do not think that it would be necessary to spend any further time on the Clause.

    I believe that to exclude liquidators would be to create a very anomalous situation. A trustee in bankruptcy will have this limitation of liability and I see no justification in reason or logic for excluding a similar limitation in the case of a liquidator.

    Let us take the case, which the hon. and learned Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) figured, of a transfer of property for some nominal sum to a limited company which then goes into liquidation. Why, in those circumstances, should the liquidator be made personally liable? As the law stands, the very fact of his appointment as a liquidator would be enough to make him personally liable. The inevitable conclusion is that we shall not get reputable people undertaking the task of being a liquidator. It is far better to limit the liability of the liquidator, particularly in the case to which the hon. and learned Member referred, to the amount of the sums with which he intermits. We shall then have a case of this kind properly wound up by a reputable liquidator who will disclose and administer the situation.

    There will be methods available, and there are methods under the Companies Act, for bringing the real pirates to book in a case of that kind. We shall secure that if we have limited liability for the liquidator, because then we shall have a proper kind of liquidating, which we shall not have if we exclude this liability. Therefore, it seems to me that the Committee would be far better advised to put the liquidator in the same position as the trustee or some other person in a fiduciary capacity and give him the benefit of confining his liability to the amount of the funds.

    8.15 p.m.

    Under what Section of the Companies Act would it be possible to proceed against a director of a company of the kind that I have envisaged, or the liquidator? So far as I am aware, it would be quite impossible to proceed against these fraudulent companies, or the directors thereof.

    I am surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that the law of Scotland is so deficient that it cannot supply a remedy where there is a case of fraud. What happens in that case is that a reputable liquidator who undertakes the liquidation reports to the Crown Office in cases of fraud and those cases are then considered properly. If we do not have reputable liquidators undertaking the task the whole matter may not come to the light of day. If fraudulent activities of that kind are going on, it is far better that they should be disclosed and reported to the Crown Office where criminal proceedings, if necessary, are taken.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned fraud and I see how fraud can be dealt with, but under what Section of the Companies Act is it possible to proceed? I have a fair knowledge of the Act and have spent as long, if not a great deal longer, at the Crown Office than has the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I know of no case that can be dealt with under that Act where there is a transfer to a company and, to avoid liability, the company has gone into liquidation.

    I oppose the new Clause and I hope that the Government will take it back for reconsideration. I respectfully agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) on the soundness of the principle which it is sought to enshrine in the new Clause. I do not propose to enter into discussion about liquidators, beyond saying that I think that the Lord Advocate will find that liquidators are adequately protected without the Clause.

    I oppose the Clause on other grounds. I am against it, because I think that it will put local authorities into an intolerable position. It will place upon them a burden which will increase their expense and trouble. It will necessitate further law costs and increases of staff. Local authorities have quite enough to do without the added burdens which the Clause would place upon them. The new Clause is bad because it treats local authorities in an invidious way. It would be too difficult to administer and too expensive. Let us consider some of the burdens which the new Clause would place upon them.

    Would the hon. and learned Gentleman give way a moment? I am trying to follow him and I am having some difficulty. To which new Clause is he speaking?

    And that is what I am dealing with. I am sorry that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's mind is not sufficiently alert to realise what the Committee is discussing and what the arguments pro and con are. It is really not a matter for people like the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. It is more a matter for the learned Lord Advocate, who has been dealing with it up to the moment. I am at a loss to understand why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman intervenes to try to grapple with something which is beyond his comprehension.

    I was pointing to some of the difficulties that will confront local authorities if this new Clause passes. Take the first three lines:
    "Where in pursuance of any enactment (whether contained in a public general Act or in a local Act) a local authority seek to recover from any person as being the person for the time being entitled to receive."
    How is the local authority to find out what entitlement means? What is entitlement within the meaning of the third line of the Clause? How is that title to be established? Is it to be established by documents, or oral evidence and what tribunal is to establish it? This Clause should be rejected because it places too great a burden on the local authorities, it would increase their legal expenses, necessitate an increase in their staffs and their administration generally.

    I turn to line 3:
    "or who would if the same were let be entitled to receive, the rents of any premises, being a house or a building which contains a house or a part of such a building, the expenses incurred by the authority in the execution of works in relation to the premises, then, if that person proves—
    (a) that he is receiving the rents merely as trustee, factor, tutor, curator or agent for some other person, or as liquidator of a company;"
    How is he to prove that? That, again, would necessitate a great deal of proof and a great deal of evidence. Is it to be written evidence, or oral evidence and to the satisfaction of what tribunal? What tribunal is to hear and determine this and, when a tribunal has heard and determined it, will it be final and conclusive, or is there to be an appeal to some other tribunal? All this is opaque. It will place undue burdens and costs on the local authority. The Clause also states, under (b):
    "that he has not, and since the date of the service on him of a demand for payment of the expenses aforesaid has not had. in his hands on behalf of that other person or, in the case of a liquidator of a company, on behalf of the creditors of the company sufficient funds, rents and other assets to discharge the whole demand of the authority:"
    Who is to determine that? What evidence is to be adduced with regard to that? It does not even say who is to prove it, let alone who is to be satisfied with the proof. This is completely opaque.

    The Clause is quite unsatisfactory. It places an undue burden—[Laughter.]. It is all very well for right hon. Gentlemen opposite to laugh as if this were a comedy. It is no laughing matter for the tenants, the unfortunate people who will be victimised by this bad legislation. It is up to the Lord Advocate, or the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary, if he feels equal to it, now to explain to the satisfaction of the Committee what this Clause means and to satisfy the Committee that this is a just and proper Clause. I oppose it and shall vote against it if there is not a satisfactory explanation forthcoming.

    In layman's language I wish to support the contention of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston). My hon. Friend drew the attention of the Committee to a practice which has been going on, not only for two or three years, but for four or five years. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State knows of this matter.

    The deputy town clerk of Glasgow, Mr. Gordon, is an expert on these housing matters. He has produced a paper dealing with this point. In that paper Mr. Gardon says:
    "The term ' abandon' is used as a popular term. In law the owner cannot abandon a property, but the term is now freely used, and it is of interest to examine the different circumstances in which property is regarded as abandoned."
    He goes on to the specific point which is very relevant to what has been said:
    "The owner forms a private limited liability company with nominal capital, and conveys the property to the company. As the liability of a company is limited to its funds, when these funds are finished the property can be abandoned and there is no remedy of any avail against the company. This is the modern equivalent of the old idea of conveying to a man of straw."
    I am not a legal man, but, in trying to understand this with a layman's understanding, I suggest to the Lord Advocate that there is here something which has been going on for some years past, and it is an abuse of public responsibility. If the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley would help to rectify this matter and to place responsibility where it lies, I feel that the Committee would be obliged if further consideration were given to it.

    The Lord Advocate has heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) has said and the Lord Advocate, I am certain, is aware of properties in the City of Edinburgh about which there has already been some dispute and even court cases over the liability of the owner to meet repair charges.

    The owners attempt to get rid of them, and we have heard of the notorious case of one owner who wanted to sell a large tenement property to my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. W. Reid) for Id. One wonders what would be the position of the tenants in those circumstances if the capital involved in that propery were 1d.; who would pay for the repairs which had to be carried out and who would be held responsible for them? That is what perturbs me.

    8.30 p.m.

    The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary was just a little too hasty with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) because my hon. and learned Friend was asking a reasonable question. The Government have inserted into the Bill the provision that these repairs are to be undertaken on the considered opinion of the corporation. My hon. and learned Friend was asking a reasonable question. It was this.

    If the corporation decides that considerable repairs have to be made to property, and it then finds that after the people who were presumed to be owners or trustees, or whoever is mentioned in the new Clause have been charged up to their full responsibility, there still remains a large part of the account to be met, who then has to pay that sum? Is it the corporation, and if so, will that charge have to be met by the ratepayers? It would appear that that is the case. If it is not to be paid by the trustees, will it have to be met by the corporation, and in that case do the Government propose to make some added contribution to cover the corporation's liability?

    It may be that these things were not intended, or might not even happen, but these are questions which arise in one's mind as one discusses the new Clause. The Lord Advocate will wish to reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) about the questions he raised regarding responsibility or as to what action can be taken under the Companies Act. I should be grateful if, when doing so, the Lord Advocate would reply to the questions which I have just raised.

    It seems to me that in the world today, and more particularly in this country, the word "company" is coming into disrepute. I remember the long discussions we had on the Finance Bill about companies. It was quite clear then from the evidence brought forward that many companies were changing their names for the sole purpose of avoiding their Income Tax responsibilities.

    We on this side of the Committee agree with the principle embodied in the new Clause, but it widens the principle by bringing in "a company." I refer to the words:
    "or as liquidator of a company …"
    What is happening, by making an alteration in this way, is that, as has been clearly outlined by my hon. Friends the Members for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) and Leith (Mr. Hoy), it will be quite easy to form a company for the avoidance of this responsibility.

    The Government should be wary about the use of companies in that way. It is not so long ago that we read in the news- papers of a very prominent individual who had died and had only left, we were all amazed to learn, a sum of £600, entailing death duties of £18. I am sure the Committee remember that. It concerned a prominent Scotsman, a very noble Gentleman.

    My hon. Friend, who is an authority on the subject, says that he left two castles. That is perfectly true. When we examined what had happened, we realised that it was because he had formed a company.

    In this new Clause, we see the Governmentment not only condoning this avoidance of responsibility but encouraging it by the extension of that position in the new Clause. I am sure that all of us on this side of the Committee cannot agree to that being done. I hope that the Government will recognise their responsibility in this matter and will, in the proper place, make the alteration which is necessary.

    The offer of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) still stands. We would have been most anxious to assist the Government if they had based themselves on the provisions of Sections 7 and 8 of the principal Act. I will revert to that point in a few moments. In what I am saying I am not quoting my hon. and learned Friend. As I frequently explain to the Lord Advocate, I am no lawyer. I am puzzled by a point which no doubt the Lord Advocate will be able to answer.

    If the contention of the Lord Advocate were to pick up Section 8 (3) of the principal Act and add "liquidator," we could understand it; but the last words of this new Clause seek to repeal the provisions of Section 8 (3) of the principal Act. That subsection, on examination, proves to relate to a person having control of a house, and then follow the limitations. It will occur to the Committee that there is a tremendous jump not only in relation to the liquidator, but to the subjects treated, between the proviso as laid down in the principal Act, for which the Labour Government were responsible, and this new Clause, which does not deal exclusively with houses or with a certain class of people having responsibility exclusively for houses. It goes much wider; it states:
    "… the rents of any premises, being a … building which contains a house or a part of such a building, the expenses incurred by the authority in the execution of works in relation to the premises …"
    If we turn to the long Title of the Bill. which, I submit, quite clearly limits not only our deliberations, but the subject matter, there is no mention whatever of any type of property other than a house.

    As one who has always been very cautious about procedure, this seems to me to be an extraordinary jump. I should have thought that if the Long Title refers specifically to houses, then they must be exclusively the subject of the Bill. I am puzzled by what device the Lord Advocate has suddenly introduced another subject when the Long Title seems to me to exclude it. I do not expect the right hon. and learned Gentleman to answer on the spur of the moment, but I hope that he will tell us, because, unless I have misunderstood the subject, this is an interesting constitutional point.

    Even if the Lord Advocate could justify it, he would have great difficulty in persuading my hon. Friends that we shall deal with liquidators of any type of property by this curious back-door procedure. It would seem, from the intention of the Government, from the side heading of the Clause and from the preceding Sections in the principal Act, that we are dealing only with house property and with certain classes of people for whom the Committee will have every sympathy, and to whom my hon. and learned Friend drew attention.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed a little impatient. He explained to us that if a good liquidator took control, all would be well. But a good liquidator takes control of the situation meantime, without any help from this Clause. It is true that he will usually recommend a course which is in the interest of the community, but the good liquidator will not be made better by this Clause. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that where the good liquidator comes in, we may be certain that he responds to the needs of the community. We all know that. But my hon. Friends, who gave most alarming examples, are concerned about the bad liquidator.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not told us how the new Clause protects the local authorities at the expense of the bad liquidator. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may tell us that he has discovered powers by which he can prosecute the people. I hope that those powers always existed. I cannot see that any alteration here makes any difference to the right to prosecute. That has nothing to do with the question addressed to the Lord Advocate, which is, "Does he not agree that by this back door method of amendment—not to this Bill because this question goes much wider than that"—