HC Deb 04 July 1918 vol 107 cc1983-4

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £61,537, be granted to His. Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board for Scotland, and also Expenses in respect of Advances under the Housing Act, 1914."—[NOTE.—£20,000 has been voted on account.]


This is perhaps one of the most important Votes we have to discuss to-day, and I am sorry we have only reached it at this late hour. I pointed out in one of my earlier speeches to-day that one of the drawbacks of discussing Scottish Estimates is that we get so few opportunities of discussing very important matters, and we are forced to deal with them in the last hours of the Session. This Vote, though small in amount, so far as money is concerned, is very large in interest, so far as the needs of the people of Scotland are concerned. There are one or two items in the Estimate which suggest a change in policy which, I think, we should be entitled to discuss on this Motion. On page 116 there is a sum put down entitled "Additional staff for housing, £3,000," as against nothing in 1917–18. There is a further item down, under (B), "Travelling and subsistence; additional expenditure in connection with housing and advisory committee on the welfare of the blind, £2,500," as against nothing in 1917–18. It is rather futile in an empty House to discuss the problem of housing conditions in Scotland, even if that were altogether permissible on this Vote, but we should like some information from the Solicitor-General showing exactly how this question of housing now stands. We had a very elaborate Commission, which investigated the question of housing in Scotland, and it produced a Report which proved beyond any possible doubt that so far as Scotland was concerned, more than any other part of the United Kingdom, there was an enormous need for the community addressing itself to the question of providing decent houses for the people of Scotland.

In this Vote to-day there is a significant phrase, "Additional staff for housing, £3,000." I have heard it stated that certain arrangements are being made to set up a separate Department to provide separate accommodation for a staff to deal with the question of housing in Scotland. I do not know whether this is in the way of preparation for a scheme which will eventually result, but, at any rate, a beginning appears to have been made. Obviously, there is no question can concern us more seriously than this question of how far the people of Scotland should be housed properly and what provision can be made for assisting either local authorities or any other bodies concerned with the erection of suitable houses for the people. I will not now go into the questions which lie at the root of the housing problem, because it might not be in order, but I think we are entitled to know what steps the Local Government Board are prepared to take as a result of the very serious Report which has been issued to the people of Scotland on the question of housing. I should have thought that on this Vote more than on any other Vote discussed to-night, it was absolutely necessary—

Notice taken that forty Members were not present; Committee counted, and forty Members not being present, Mr. Deputy-Speaker resumed the Chair. House counted, and forty Members not being present, the House was adjourned at twenty minutes after Ten o'clock until Monday next, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 13th February.