§ 24. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,420,010, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1926, for Expenditure in respect of the Air Force Services."— [For Services included herein, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd August, 1925, cols. 1123–24.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I take it that we are debating the salary for the Secretary for Scotland, and I want—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
According to the Paper, the hon. Member wishes to raise some question connected with the police force. That comes on the third Resolution, and not on the first one. Perhaps it would be convenient for hon. Members who have not got the order of the Resolutions in their hands if I stated briefly what is that order. The first Resolution is one for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Secretary for Scotland and Subordinate Offices, Expenses under the inebriates Acts, Expenses under The Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, a Subsidy for Steamer Services to the Hebrides, and Grants in respect of Unemployment Schemes. The second Resolution is one for the Fishery Board for Scotland; the third is for Police; the fourth for Education; the fifth for the Scottish Board of Health, including Housing; and the sixth is for Agriculture. I think that is as far as we shall go, but we must take the Resolutions in that order.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Might I explain that I was wishful to raise a matter in 1188 connection with the police force, and the tyrannical conduct of the chief constable at Kilmarnock. I said I would raise it on the salary of the Secretary for Scot-Sand, because it appeared to me that this police question was a question of the administration of the office of the Secretary for Scotland.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That discussion should be taken on the Police Vote, No. 3 on the list, which I have read out to the House. It does not come under the general powers of the Secretary for Scotland. We must deal with that matter when it comes up.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
My point was this: that I was wishful to move a reduction in the salary of the Secretary for Scot land, to hear what he had to say in reply, and to test the feeling of the House in the matter.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Only one Vote can come on for the salary of the Secretary for Scotland, and we must keep to the rule of dealing with these Resolutions, and to the particular one before us.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I desire to put several questions to the right hon. Gentleman opposite relating to Scottish education—
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I thought, Mr. Speaker, that the whole question of the administration of Scottish education came within the scope of the Secretary for Scotland? Is he not responsible for the administration of the Education Office in Scotland?
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
On the point of Order. May I point out that the Secretary for Scotland is paid his salary entirely independent of the Education Office. Certainly he is Vice-President of the Council of Education, but for that office he receives no salary.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
On that same point of Order. Am I not in order in raising that portion of the work of the Secretary for Scotland in connection with the Vote for his salary? Is it not a fact that all questions of Scottish administration can only be raised in this House through the Secretary for Scotland?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is quite true that, in a sense, the Secretary for Scotland has supervision of all the various Departments, but matters which the hon. Member apparently desires to raise must be raised on the Vote for Education.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On that point of Order. I understood that on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary for Scotland one could raise anything that appertains to the work of the Scottish Office, to the Scottish Board of Health, etc. Is it not possible to call attention to the question of the Report issued by the Scottish Board of Health and to move a reduction of the salary, and there upon have a discussion on the whole of the Report issued from the Department?
§ Sir H. CRAIK
You can only move a reduction in respect of the Education Office by moving a reduction in the salary of the Permanent Secretary, and I think that in former days that was sometimes done.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We are going through a series of separate Votes. A matter concerned with a particular subject must be raised on that particular Vote, and not on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of Scotland.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On the question of the administration in Scotland and grants in connection with it. I have searched the Votes, and I cannot find any appropriate Vote to speak upon what I want to speak about, unless it comes under the general head of the salary of the Secretary for Scotland. There is the Scottish Board of Health. I cannot find anything where I can deal with that matter. I have got a Grant-in-Aid in connection with unemployment. I naturally thought that the only way I could raise the matter I want to raise was on the salary of the Secretary as such, and that, therefore, I was otherwise debarred.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Questions can be raised on the Minister's salary, where there is no other Vote specifically dealing with them.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I take it from the replies you have given, Mr. Speaker, as to the old Parliamentary 1190 rule, and the fact that the time allotted to the Scottish Estimates is sometimes so abbreviated that there may be no chance of reaching the other Votes.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Yes, but it is open to hon. Members to talk upon each subject as it comes up. The object of taking the Vote separately was to enable hon. Members to speak on each Vote.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
In order to allow my colleagues on these benches time to get to know exactly how they stand in this matter under what appears to be some new arangement, may I begin by asking a few questions in regard to the expenses in connection with the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899. Under this heading I find an item of £1,200 under F, on page 240 of these Scottish Estimates. I should like to ask the Secretary for Scotland as to what exactly this £1,200 covers? For example, does it cover what is paid in Edinburgh for services under this Private Legislature Procedure Act? We have the assurance of the Secretary for Scotland that the allowances paid are considerably different to the allowances paid to these same members of the Faculty of Advocates when they are operating here. For the past two months we have had a Bill, a Private Bill, connected with the City of Glasgow boundaries extension. This Bill was not taken under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act but was taken as a private Bill directly under this House. The expenses of this Bill have been very considerable indeed. I should like to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether the legal expenses incurred at Edinburgh under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act compare favourably with the expenses incurred under a Private Bill such as the Glasgow Corporation Bill to which I have referred. We know, for example, that some of these members of the Faculty of Advocates operating here in London get a fee down—a retainer as it is called—of from £750 to £1,000. We know that they get £40 a day in addition. I am glad to see the Chairman of that Committee just outside the precincts of the Chamber. I am sure he will be able to correct me if I am wrong in this matter, but the total expenses which the local authority in connection with this Bill have already incurred run to over £150,000. 1191 The procedure is not yet finished. The Bill has to go before the other House. Then these lawyers will be heard again, and it is quite probable that before we have ended there will have been an expenditure of something like £250,000.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I have some estimates here as to what the various local authorities are likely to be compelled to pay. I want to know from the Secretary for Scotland how these extraordinary charges compare with the charges under the Private Legislation (Scotland) Act, the expenses of which appear under the Vote which we are now discussing. I want to know whether members of the Faculty of Advocates when they are in Edinburgh charge £750 for a retainer and £40 a day, and, if not, why they charge more when operating in London than when operating in Scotland. I would like the right hon. Gentleman's guidance as to what steps we can take to ensure that Bills such as the Glasgow Corporation Bill will in future be examined in Glasgow and not in London, that wit nesses will be heard, not necessarily in Glasgow, but in the towns most vitally affected by the Bill, and that members of the Faculty of Advocates will be debarred from appearing as counsel in these cases. There are precedents for debarring them. The late Mr. Justice Sankey debarred them from appearing before the Coal Commission. We know that all the evidence taken on this Glasgow Corporation Extension Bill had already been prepared by the Town Clerks, the lawyers in the employment of the local authorities, and that all counsel had to do in London was to repeat like so many parrots the information that had been supplied to them by the skilled lawyers who were in attendance representing these local authorities.
I wish to know how it is that, in these days of extraordinarily high taxation, when areas like the Clyde are so heavily burdened by local taxation—that they find it difficult to sell their ship ping products abroad, the Government can justify an expenditure of anything up to £250,000 on a private Bill to extend the area of the City of Glasgow. How can anyone in any quarter of the House justify such 1192 a wanton waste of public money? I would like to have a definite assurance from the Secretary for Scotland that, so far as it lies in his power, never again will a local Bill be submitted to a Committee of this House, and be examined at Westminster by a Committee, not one of whom was a Scotsman who knew any thing about the boundaries he was sup posed to be discussing, and that never again will local authorities in Scotland be put to this extraordinary expenditure. I know that we have been debarred from discussing this question in detail, and debarred from giving a list of the expenses for some of these lawyers and witnesses — one witness charged 250 guineas for two hours. But I do think that we have never had in our history a better illustration of the urgent necessity for some kind of Scottish Home Rule. I look for an assurance from the Secretary for Scotland that never again shall we have the scandal of the past two months.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
I wish to put this point to you, Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that this is the last date on which we can discuss Scottish Estimates, and in view of the fact that there is a fairly large number of subjects on which my colleagues wish to speak, would it not be for the convenience of the House if we were to discuss the whole of these matters on the present Vote? I think that each of the Scottish Members would then be content to make one speech on the particular subject with which he wants to deal.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I see the difficulty that hon. Members are in, and am always anxious to meet their difficulties when I can. The House will understand that it is a departure from our rule in Supply to allow a general discussion on the Vote for the Salary of the Secretary for Scotland, and if it be the desire of the House to have such a general discussion. I am willing on this occasion that that should be done exceptionally. That will help Members out of their difficulty.
I want to thank you, on behalf of the Members of the House, for so kindly agreeing to the suggestion. As far as the Scottish Labour Members are concerned, they have entered into a self-denying ordinance to take up the time of the House for a quarter of an hour each only, and I now appeal to other Members of the House, Liberals and 1193 Conservatives, to follow that example. There are three points with which I wish to deal. I want to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether anything has been done to carry out the roughly drafted programme that the Labour party had in view with regard to the granting of transport facilities to our fishing population, and to our agricultural population, particularly on the north-west coast of Scotland and the islands of Scotland. If that programme had been carried out, it would have opened Scotland to the people of this country in a way that is not possible under existing conditions. It would have been a means of attracting to Scotland many of the visitors who now find their way to Switzerland and Italy and France.
In conjunction with my colleague, the Minister of Transport in the Labour Government, I considered a scheme involving the expenditure of £2,000,000 over a period of four years. That £2,000,000 would have been spent on making a road, either from Loch Inver to Lairg, or from Ullapool to Garve. That road would not only have provided the facilities I have mentioned, but at the same time it would have provided employment for a large number of our unemployed. The road was to be made wide enough, and with bridges wide enough, for a light railway to be laid alongside it later. There is plenty of water power in the vicinity for the electrification of such a light railway. We had also in view the making of a road from Tyndrum through Glencoe to Ballachulish and from North Ballachulish to Fort William, and a continuance of the road beyond Fort William, from Loch Lochy along Loch Ness in the direction of Inverness. In addition to that we had in view the finishing of a light railway, the progress of which had been stopped at the beginning of the War, from Conan to Cromarty. As my right hon. Friend knows, we also arranged, during the time that we were responsible for the Government of this country, for the re-surfacing of the road between Inverness and Perth.
Will the Secretary for Scotland tell us what has become of that programme? The programme had been put before the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government, and he had consented to the expenditure of the money. All that was required, so far as we were 1194 concerned, was to have the scheme completely analysed by the experts of the Transport Department. Is it true that the scheme has been entirely set aside, and that the present Government intend to spend only about £500,000 on patching the roads in Scotland? If that be so, it will mean that the difficulties of a large section of the Scottish people, in getting agricultural produce to the places where it can be advantageously sold, will continue, and it will mean also the continuance of other hardships and difficulties. It will also mean a continuance of the present difficulties in the way of our people being able to enjoy the magnificent scenery to be found in that part of Scot land, which with these facilities should prove a counter attraction to many of those who at present spend their money in Switzerland, Italy and France. A considerable deal of that money could be ex pended in the Scottish Highlands, where it would do a lot of good in resuscitating that part of the country.
I would also like to put this question, though if I am not in order I will not discuss it to any extent. Lord Montagu, in a letter to "The Times" the other day, suggested that there was a possibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer raiding the Road Fund and making it impossible to carry out the scheme the Labour Government put forward. I would like to know if there is any truth in that, because if there is, the Government will find them selves up against very powerful interests —local authorities, motoring businesses, and concerns of that sort.
On the question of Scottish education, I would like to know whether anything has been done with regard to the arrangements that I put in hand for a gradual reduction of the size of classes in day schools. I made arrangements for a gradual reduction until the classes were brought down to a certain maximum, that reduction being very important in my view if we are to get the best educational results for our people. I would also like to know what has been done with respect to continuation classes. They are a very important part of our educational system, and if we are to get the best results from those classes there will need to be corelation between the work of the day schools and evening classes. Another point is that if we are to maintain our industrial position amongst the nations of the world it is imperative that 1195 we should furnish the best technical education. This phase of our educational system ought to receive the close attention not only of the Department over which my hon. and gallant Friend resides but of every educational authority in the country.
The last point I wish to put, in keeping to the arrangement which we have come to, is our inquiry as to whether the demand for cured herrings which was manifest in the closing days of 1923 and during the greater part of 1924 has been maintained, or whether it is true, as I have heard at second hand, that the Scottish fishermen are again going through a very bad time? I have dealt as briefly as possible with the points I desire to put and I hope that before the Debate closes the Secretary for Scotland will be able to give us a satisfactory answer regarding them; and I will now give way to others in order to allow as many Members for Scottish constituencies as possible to have an opportunity of taking part in the Debate.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I understand there is an arrangement that there shall be a general discussion on this Vote, and I want to raise the question of Scottish education.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member was not in the House just now, I think, when I was appealed to—in view of certain arrangements that Scottish Members have made among themselves as to the order of Debate—not to insist on the usual rule in Supply. I have agreed to that proposal on the understanding that the House knows that it is to be regarded as a quite exceptional arrangement. Therefore, we can discuss education and the other subjects on this first Vote.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Thank you for your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I want to ask the Secretary for Scotland what provision is being made to give effect to the Education (Scotland) Act, 1918, in regard to the provision of free primary, intermediate, and secondary education. Section 6 of that Act gave 12 months' notice to education authorities to prepare, for submission to the Education Department, schemes for the adequate provision of primary, intermediate and secondary education in day schools without payment of fees. I submit that instead of our having that system in 1196 Scotland at the present time the exceptions provided for in that Act have become the rule. The Act says that adequate provision must be made for primary, intermediate and secondary education for all children who can benefit by these particular forms of education. There are many counties in Scotland to-day which have only fee-paying secondary schools, and I would like to know how many counties there are where the free provision consists only of a number of bursaries. I submit that all those schools ought to be free schools. If parents desire to pay fees for the education of their children, give them the opportunity to do so.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
The question is asked, "Would they do it?" How independent is the spirit of the Scottish people when it comes to a question of making such voluntary provision. As a member of an education authority I have always maintained that if those independent parents were given the right to send on a cheque to pay for the education of their children a very negligible number would do so; and in the case of my own county not a single parent has yet seen fit to send on the fees under this arrangement. That is due to the fact that we have an absolutely free system of education in our county. We gave effect to the provisions of the 1918 Act, and what we have done in the County of Fife ought, I submit, to be done in every other county in Scotland.
Next I would like to know what has been the result of the effort to reduce the maximum size of the classes. The ex-Secretary for Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) issued instructions that all classes were to be reduced at once to the maximum of 60 laid down by the Code, and that in four years' time the maximum size of classes was to be 50. So far as I am informed, there has not been the time to reduce the classes to the numbers they ought to be reduced to, and to a size which would be advantageous both from the point of view of the teachers and the children.
Another point is, What provision is being made in connection with the granting of the higher day school certificates?
1197 A circular was issued, Circular 60, I think, outlining proposals in connection with the grant of these certificates, and the benefits of that Circular ought to be coming the way of those who have a chance of qualifying for those particular certificates. On page 2 of Circular 60, paragraph 4 states that the curriculum must in all cases be specifically approved by the Department. How many authorities in Scotland have sent on their schemes, and how many have been approved? I would also like to know what arrangements are being undertaken to make this education available for all children in a county where there is only one centre at which the higher day school certificate is obtainable. I raise this question because a discussion has been carried on about this particular problem in a Scottish national newspaper. The County of Peebles, for instance, is making provision at one school only for those desirous of obtaining the higher day school certificates, which can be secured only after three years of the advanced division courses. Can those provisions be made available for all the children in the county who are able to benefit by that particular education? In paragraph 6 of the code that was issued we find that arrangements are made for side schools in thinly-populated districts where the number of pupils who can be brought together at one centre is less than 15, but I do not know of any provision being made for compelling local education authorities to pay the travelling expenses of anyone residing outwith the three-mile limit. I submit that education ceases to be free if parents are compelled, irrespective of their financial position, to pay the travelling expenses of their children simply because they happen to reside more than three miles from the centre where that education is provided. It is absolutely impossible to provide three years advanced division courses in the villages: it is economical to have one centre for the county as in the case of Peebles; but it is wrong to call upon parents in one part of the county who happen to be more than three miles from that particular centre to pay the travelling expenses of their children. It ought to be the duty of the education authority, irrespective of the financial position of the parents, and without inquiring into their individual circumstances, to pay the 1198 travelling expenses of the children in getting to a particular centre.
Further, I want to know what authorities have made the necessary arrangements for real continuation work with a view to the higher day school certificate being possible of attainment by those compelled to leave school after two years whose course has been completed in the day school. In the code I notice that there is a footnote which allows the child who has been compelled to leave school at 14 years of age, before the completion of the three years' course, to continue its education in the evening classes, having reached the same standard of educational efficiency that the child would have attained if it had been able to attend the day school for three years. I note that such a child is to have an opportunity of sitting for that certificate. There is only one way of making that possible to all children, and that is by correlating the continuation classes with the day school, thus making them a real continuation class education, and continuing the education which the children had been getting for two years in the day school, or a two years' course in the evening school. It must, however, be a continuation of the work in the day school, otherwise it would be impossible for any of these children to gain that hall-mark of a primary school efficiency which will now be known as the higher day school certificate. I want to know what arrangements have been made for having a real continuation school education given to all children who leave school at 14 years of age, and who are desirous of earning that certificate, to be in a position to earn it as speedily as possible.
The regulations have now been issued in connection with secondary schools and primary schools. In the code I have referred to dealing with primary and advanced primary classes and the advanced divisions of education, there has been no real code in operation since 1915. The result is that the education authorities cannot got on in the way some of them desire with their continuation class work until the new code of regulations has been issued. Therefore, I appeal to the Secretary for Scotland to use what influence he has with the Department to complete as speedily as possible the new code, and having issued the new code for secondary schools and primary schools and the ad- 1199 vanced divisions, to issue the code for evening continuation classes so that we may have a complete code.
I want to appeal to the Secretary for Scotland to use all his influence with the various education authorities to property equip their staffs, and provide the necessary accommodation as speedily is possible to give the maximum amount of technical education to the pupils who ate attending our more advanced classes in Scotland. I would also like to know if the right hon. Gentleman has completed the arrangement for the setting up of the Committee which he has promised for the purpose of inquiring into the whole problem of juvenile employment, and its relationship to education. The education authorities in Scotland are very anxious to know when that Committee is going to be set up. All those education authorities, and all those interested in education in Scotland are equally interested in the setting up of that Committee. I hope that, when the right hon. Gentleman does set up that Committee, he will see that two bodies get adequate representation, first of all, the education authorities themselves, and, secondly, I claim that organised labour ought to have adequate representation on that Committee. I trust it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to inform the House what success has attended his efforts in the setting up of that Committee which is of interest to the education authorities and to all those interested in the Labour movement, and in education generally in Scotland. I trust that every opportunity will be provided for promoting education in Scotland, and if this is done the Secretary for Scotland can rest assured that in all his labour to make the Scottish educational system the best in Europe ho will have the whole-hearted support of all hon. Members on these benches who are interested in providing an education that will make Scottish children the best citizens in the world.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I have no hesitation whatever in responding to the appeal which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) and I will confine my remarks within fifteen minutes because I fully realise that a large number of members of all parties 1200 desire to speak, in the first place I want to emphasise the appeal made by him to the Secretary for Scotland with regard to the need for the improvement of transport facilities in the Northern and Western Highlands. We in the Highlands feel that at a time when we are proposing to spend £ 10,000,000 in developing our East African Colonies, advancing loans to facilitate cotton development in the Soudan, and spending millions in Mesopotamia we should at the same time consider doing a little colonising and developing of the natural resources of our own land in the Highlands of Scotland. On the north and west coasts of Scotland the inhabitants are separated by many miles from the railway lines and the fishermen suffer greatly because they are unable to get their fish to the markets. If we had better means of transport and railway communication between the north and west of Scotland and the markets of the south, it would give these fishermen the incentive of finding a profitable market and they would with that enterprise which is characteristic of their race; and they would invest their money in the purchase of boats and gear and other fishing requisites if they could only be provided with proper facilities for bringing their fish to the market. If this were done they would be doing something to relieve unemployment by creating a demand for fishing tackle, and they would be bringing more fish to the market whereas now they are actually drifting into the towns and helping to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
Several Royal Commissions have been looking into this problem. As long ago as 1889 a Commission inquired into certain problems affecting the interests of the population of the Western Isles, and the chief point of the inquiry was in regard to the crofter fishermen and their need of communication with markets, and that Commission recommended that a new line of communication should be established between the west coast and the great towns of the south, between Lochinver and Cubrain. Here you have close upon 2,300 square miles, and 150 miles of coastline between Strane Ferry and Thurso, practically without any railway communication at all. On the 21st May, 1891, another committee of experts was appointed, and their report in 1201 every respect confirmed the report of the Commission which had been appointed two years before. After the War a third Commission was appointed, and they definitiely recommended that the railway terminus on the west coast should be Lochinver, and that another line of light railway should be constructed from Loch Lanford or Loch Michard to Lairg to tap the north coast along by Durness, Tongue, and Strathnever. Such a project is now being advocated by General Straud, the Managing Director of the Roadrail Company, and these are two principal schemes I would like to press upon the attention of the Secretary for Scotland. I would remind him that the construction of the Lichinver-Cubrian line has been recommended by three consecutive Royal Commissions or Committees of inquiry. The Lochinvar railway would tap the West Coast and the Loch Milard railway would tap the whole of the North Coast and the two between them would open up communication with all the fishing grounds around the West Coast and particularly the important fishing ground in the Minch. This would give an immediate return, it would give employment and open up a new source of supply of fish. It is almost impossible now to get cod and ling, and lobsters at a certain time of the year, sent to the market from these districts because the journey is so long and the fish could not possibly arrive at the market in good condition. I suggest that if the Secretary for Scotland would take up the schemes of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife has been speaking, he would perform an action which would redound to the credit of his Government and at the same time to the national advantage.
The next point I want to raise is the question of grants in lieu of rates, but if I were to suggest that the Crown should pay rates I should come under your ban, Mr. Speaker, on the ground that I was suggesting something that requires legislation. Perhaps I shall be allowed to say that I think, and the people in the Highlands think, that there is no reason why the Crown should not pay rates on Crown property just the same as private individuals, but until such legislation is passed, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to see that the rates paid ex gratia are paid in the same way and on the same basis as private individuals. I wish to 1202 mention two cases, one in Caithness at Doviery and one in Sutherland at Armadale, which I have brought to the notice of the Secretary for Scotland, and in reply he pointed out to me that there were certain conditions which the Crown had taken into consideration, and certain other factors which had influenced his judgment, and on the whole they thought it was not fair to expect them to pay what the local assessor thought they ought to pay. I suggest that surely you can trust to the impartiality and fair-mindedness of the local assessor that now at a time when the local authorities are so pressed in regard to raising rates to carry on local government the sums fixed by the local assessors ought to be paid.
The third point I want to deal with is the question of the closing of the Moray Firth, which is a very old controversy. At the present time foreign trawlers and Seine net fishermen can come in up to the three-mile limit. The Moray Firth is a great nursery of immature fish, and although the Secretary for Scotland will point out to me in reply that the number of the foreign trawlers concerned in these depredations is very small, a certain number of them do come in and they do a certain amount of damage, and because these foreign trawlers are allowed to come in, it frequently happens that when an English or Scottish trawler is prosecuted or a Seine net fisherman is had up in the Sheriff Court, they frequently plead that if they had only been on a foreign trawler they could not have been prosecuted for doing the same thing, and the natural sympathy of the Court results in sentences being inflicted which are insufficient to deter British trawlers. Therefore, if you do not exclude the foreign trawler you will not get these apparently harsh sentences imposed upon English and Scottish trawlers for their illegal depredations, because naturally there is sympathy for the man who because he is an Englishman or a Scotsman is held up for an offence for which a foreigner cannot be prosecuted. The Seine net fishing is also doing a great deal of damage in those waters. As recently as 1923, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor appointed a Committee, Lord Mackenzie's Committee on Trawling and Policing of Scottish Sea 1203 Fisheries and this is what they recommendedThat energetic measures be taken to secure the international recognition of the closure of the Moray Firth to trawling.Are those measures being taken now? I understand that there is a proposal being considered whereby trawlers should be excluded by international agreement from an area of water on the east side of the North Sea, because it a great nursing ground for plaice. I understand also that there is a question of giving way to the Norwegians about the four-mile limit which they claim, provided that our trawlers are allowed in certain Norwegian waters. If the Government do that without standing out strongly, as part of the bargain, for the closure of the Moray Firth—I dare say that other hon. Members will have something to say about the Clyde—they will be sacrificing the interests of the Scottish people. If they have an agreement with the Norwegians about the four-mile limit in Norway, or if they have an agreement to protect certain fishing grounds on the east side of the North Sea, I hope they will see that the great nursing ground in the Moray Firth is also protected.
Finally, I would like to say one word on the results of the national Scottish Agricultural Conference. I am not, of course, going to discuss those results in detail—there is not time—but I do want to apply to the right hon. Gentleman to give us an undertaking that he really does intend to put them promptly into force. They refer to various Reports, such as that of the Deer Forest Commission and the Game and Heather-Burning Committee, which are now reposing in the pigeon-holes of the Scottish Office in Whitehall. Are all these Reports going to be taken out of their pigeon-holes and acted upon promptly? The first recommendation which they make is with regard to drainage, and the second is with regard to liming. The winter is now nearly on us, and we shall want to know so as to send in our applications, whether there is going to be a larger grant, in view of the recommendations made, for drainage than we have had in recent years. This grant has been made under the unemployment scheme solely for the purpose of doing something to deal with unemployment. Now the Government 1204 have had a report from their own Conference which they appointed saying that for the sake of agriculture itself this scheme should be stimulated and pushed on. I do therefore appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to let us know now that we shall have a real endeavour made to carry out this first recommendation about drainage and the second recommendation about liming, which surely will entail the opening of lime kilns on Government property such as those about which I have asked the right hon. Gentleman some questions. These recommendations, at any rate, I hope, will be put promptly into force. I trust, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us a reply on these few-definite questions that I have put to him.
§ Colonel Sir ALEXANDER SPROT
We are discussing the Secretary for Scotland and his Department, and I wish to begin by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on carrying out the agricultural conference in our country. We have got ahead of England, at any rate, in this respect. We know that at the last Election it was put forward that an agricultural conference would be assembled, but in England the Minister, for certain reasons to which I need not do more than allude at the present time, has not been able to carry out his intention. Under these circumstances, it is all the more to the credit of the present Secretary for Scotland that he has been able to assemble a representative body of agriculturists in Scotland who have formulated and presented a very useful and satisfactory report which ought to help us, and I think Scottish Members of all parties ought to join with me in extending our congratulations to him upon what he has done. I associate myself with the words which fell from the hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), who adjured him to carry out in the near future, so far as he possibly can, the very excellent suggestions which have been made for the benefit of Scottish agriculture.
I have here a list of the various paragraphs and various subjects alluded to in the Report. They are 19 in number. The last of them, I am sorry to say, has passed out of our hands altogether. It is summer time. It is no use talking about that any more. But there 1205 remain 18 subjects, and I suggest that the Secretary for Scotland should take up these subjects one after the other until either by legislation, if I may venture such a word on this occasion, or by administration, he has carried out the very useful suggestions which have been made. I cannot in the limited time at my disposal go into all these 18 subjects, but I would like to say just a word or two about one or two of them. I am glad to see that in this agricultural report the reporters agree in a suggestion which has been in my mind for a long time with regard to the telephone service. I had intended to put this forward when we were on the Post Office Vote, but, unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity of doing so. The rural system of telephones has been of very great advantage to those who live in the country. I am on the telephone myself, and all my neighbours have joined the system, and they have found it extremely useful. It is serving to popularise the telephone among the rural population of Scotland.
There is one thing in which it falls short, and it. is mentioned in this Report, which is my excuse for bringing it forward here. The telephone ought to be put into the railway stations. In my case, the telephone goes down from the town, four or five miles, and actually passes the railway station. The poles and the wires are there, but there is no connection with the railway station. Some of our farmers have grumbled very much about this, and one of them has given up the telephone altogether in consequence. You want to know when your stock arrives, or when the truck which you have ordered for your beast is there ready, so that you may send your beast down to be sent off to the market. You want to be able to order trucks, and so forth, and to be in communication with the railway. I suggest, therefore, that this is a very good suggestion in the Scottish Agricultural Report.
Another matter of the same kind is the cash-on-delivery parcels post. That would be very useful indeed to us in the country. It would help us to dispose of our produce, and it would help the people who live in the towns to get agricultural produce cheaply. It is a very odd thing that such a system has been in existence for many years, 30 or 40 years, 1206 in India, and it works extremely well. But here in this country, for some extraordinary reason, our great Post Office has never been able to carry it out. When I was up station in India or perhaps out in the jungle, I used to see an advertisement, perhaps, of a book— I was a very great reader—and I used to order it by that means. It used to arrive wherever I was, the post office notified me that the parcel had arrived, and I used to send to the post office and pay the money, including a small fee, and that was transmitted to the person or shopkeeper who had sent it and who possibly might not have trusted a stranger if I had merely written asking for it to be sent to me. I am sure that the system would be of very great advantage in our agricultural life, and I am glad to see that it is recommended in the Agricultural Report.
There are other matters of greater importance. Foreign produce should all be marked so that people can know what they are buying. Foreign potatoes, among other articles, when they are foreign, should have some indication at the place where they are sold that they are foreign potatoes, in order that the buyer may know what he is buying. Then there is a very good paragraph in the Report with regard to the eradication of tuberculosis in cattle. That is a very important matter. I myself am the owner of a small herd of dairy cattle, and I have them tested from time to time. It is suggested here that every person, who is in possession of a cow which shows signs of tuberculosis, and that every veterinary surgeon, who is called in and finds signs of tuberculosis in a cow, should be bound to report it, and that the Department should take steps to have the animal examined, and, if necessary, slaughtered, with compensation to the owner. By so doing, in a short time, as has been done in other countries, this disease might be eliminated altogether from our dairy herds.
With regard to what are called maintenance claims under the Income Tax, the paragraph in the Report dealing with this makes a very useful suggestion. It will help the owners of property in the country and tenant farmers and enable them to have more money expended on the repair of buildings which are neces- 1207 sary to them. It is not right that the. upkeep of such buildings should be liable to Income Tax. Hating reform, too, is a very important subject for all who carry on their business in the country and I am glad that in this Report it is suggested that the parish system of rating should be assimilated to that in the counties. That has been suggested in regard to education and the poor-rate, and it ought to be carried out.
As to the importation of potatoes which are liable to bring in potato disease, that should be kept under control, and it should be the duty of the Board of Agriculture to take steps to deal with it and, if necessary, to prohibit the importation of such potatoes altogether. That is also in accordance with the suggestions of the Report. Another matter I would like to raise arises from the fact that we have had here a deputation from the professors and instructors in the agricultural colleges who complained about their salaries. A very large sum of money is set down for the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, and reading the details of the salaries there, there appears to me to be some overlapping. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will look into this matter, for it is not right that these people should receive inferior salaries. It was stated, I believe, that they were worse paid than the. teachers in the ordinary schools. Money is being paid for research, for instruction, and for education under separate heads in the Vote for the Secretary of Scotland, and I suggest that he should look into this matter and see if he cannot amalgamate some of the different offices, and so allow better salaries to be paid.
As to the Report of the Scottish Board of Health, I would like to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend upon the very excellent Report. It is a most exhaustive document, much more exhaustive than in former years and it makes a good handbook for anybody who wants to study social questions in Scotland. I recently brought to his notice the subject of emigration of people from Ireland, people who ultimately go upon the poor-rate. It is rather a remarkable thing that when that happens the Scottish parish becomes chargeable with those persons. If the Irishman comes from the North of Ireland the parish can obtain an 1208 order for his deportation to the parish to which he really belongs; but if he comes from the South of Ireland, from the Free State, that cannot be done. We are told that the Free State is treated as a British colony, or as a foreign country, and is on the same basis as Australia or New Zealand. We do not get many emigrants from Australia, and those who come to us are not very likely to go upon the poor-rate. But it does happen that people coming to us from the South of Ireland frequently go upon the poor-rate.
§ Mr. J. JONES
May I ask the hon. Member if he is aware that in the East End of London we have thousands of families to keep belonging to men who have gone to Australia, and from whom we cannot get a penny piece for their families?
§ Sir A. SPROT
I do not think it is very relevant. It does not very much concern the point I was attempting to deal with, which arises from the Irish Free State being now on the basis of a colony. This is rather a big question in the West of Scotland, because we are becoming more and more Irish every day than we were before. We are exposed to a very large immigration of Irish people. The matter has been alluded to in the Church assemblies and in various other local bodies in our country. It is a point of some substance, and some steps ought to be taken, or some agreement ought to be come to that such paupers ought to be deported to the country from which they come.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us who imports these people? Are they not imported by hundreds of thousands as cheap labour?
§ Sir A. SPROT
I do not know whether they are imported by anybody or whether they come of their own free will. In all probability they come of their own free will. They are there. I do not think that there are many Scotsmen who go to Ireland who are likely to go on the poor-rate, because we are a more frugal people perhaps than the Irish are. There the matter stands, however, and I submit 1209 it is a matter which requires some attention from those in authority, and the is my reason for mentioning it here.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I would like to speak on the transport of our country and its relation to the conditions of the working folk in Scotland. There is a steamer which sails betwixt the Kyle of Lochalsh and Stornoway. Her name is the "Sheila," and she belongs to Macbrayne and Co., and is almost three quarters of a century old. It is entirely out of date. I have travelled on it and seen hundreds of young women and young men all huddled together on a wild, stormy night with no shelter whatever. This steamer is subsidised by the Government through the Post Office. We have raised this question time and time again, and when we travel on the steamer everything is done to try to put us off and hoodwink us and make things appear as they realty are not. This is no laughing matter so far as the people in the Western Isles are concerned.
At this moment, when we on the Clyde are grasping for work, are desperate for work, we could build a dozen steamers of 1,000 tons burden. In my own constituency in Dumbarton we could give you half-a-dozen steamers within a year that would transform the whole of the West of Scotland. I need not tell the Secretary for Scotland, but I must tell the House, as I wish to appeal to them, that the west coast of Scotland is all cut up in lochs, easy of access from the sea, and by this means of transport, by small steamers of those dimensions, we would be able to open up the West of Scotland right up into the Highlands, and run communications with them from Glasgow, the great commercial centre of Scotland. I throw that out as a suggestion for the serious consideration of the Secretary for Scotland. It would not only assist the people in the Highlands of Scotland, but it would materially assist us shipbuilders on the Clyde. At present the very best blood is being driven out of our native land. Formerly, when there was plenty of work on the Clyde and shipbuilding was busy, the Western Islands and Highlands of Scotland were one of the most valuable assets of the country. We could tap those districts to bring new blood down to the Clyde. Now that the work on the Clyde has gone, 1210 the result is that those people, if they can possibly get the chance, are crossing the wild Atlantic sea or going away to Australia, away from our country entirely.
You talk about building up the great British Empire. The way to build up the Empire is to begin at home. Charity begins at home, though it is not to end at home. This is a way by which you could begin by opening up the Western Islands of Scotland by communication through ships that we in Glasgow could build. What do we find going on to-day in the Clyde Valley in the matter of transport? We find there a situation that is becoming of very serious dimensions. With the advent of the motor car we have the motor omnibus, and our roads were not laid down for motor traffic. Our roads are too narrow; even the new arterial roads that are being built are too narrow for the great number of motor omnibuses that are going on those roads. At the moment we have 41 companies bringing passengers into Glasgow every day. Surely that is private enterprise run riot. It is a very serious state of affairs, and will require very careful consideration.
No matter which of the great arteries of our city you care to traverse, you do so at the peril of your life. Take the road on which I am oftenest when I go home, the Tollcross, Addingston up to Hamilton. Within the last month or two we have had four persons killed. I am giving the Secretary for Scotland due notice that if this is going on, I am going to impeach him, because their blood is going to be on his head now that I have drawn his attention to the fact. There are dozens of omnibuses there, and you would think that you were on the streets of London. It is not only that, but they fly past schools and houses—not the houses of the description you have in England, but tenements, where there are hundreds of little children with nowhere else to play than six feet of pavement with those omnibuses flying past all the time. I would ask you, Sir John, to take serious cognisance of that fact.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
The hon. Member is not in Order in addressing the Minister direct. He must address the Chair.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the next point I wish to raise regarding the matter of omnibuses is that they pay nothing towards the upkeep of our roads. In the case of the Glasgow tramways, all the townships in and around the City of Glasgow were very anxious that the trams should come out into those townships. I know that, because I was on the Glasgow Tramways Committee when I was a councillor there. That was before the advent of the motor omnibuses. The Glasgow Corporation had to lay the rails, and has to keep up the roads for 18 inches on either side of the rails, but the omnibuses have to keep up nothing as far as the roads are concerned.
Another item to which I desire to draw attention is that those motor omnibuses are run by cheap labour—by boys and girls. The drivers are young men who are not paid a wage comparable with what we pay to our tramway drivers, and the conductors in most cases are girls. According to my experience that holds good right throughout the West of Scotland, and, in fact, my information now is that it holds good all over Scotland. That is a menace to the working class, and I do not need to tell the Secretary for Scotland that we on these benches represent the working class. I am here this afternoon voicing the sentiments of all the transport workers in Scotland as far as this matter is concerned, because they realise that there is a menace to their standard of life in this cheap labour of boys and girls employed on these omnibuses. The railwaymen realise perfectly well that, unless the Secretary for Scotland is prepared to do something that is within his power, this is a, menace to their wages. Look at the price that is being paid—an inefficient service, a service run without any consideration for the pedestrians who have to travel on the streets, or for anyone else. This brilliant idea of road transport is being exploited, like everything else. This is an outstanding instance of the exploitation of the ingenuity of our race. Instead of this motor transport being used for the benefit of the entire community, you have a few' individuals—some of them very influential Members of this House, Members of the Tory party who are chairmen of huge companies—who, not content with controlling the omnibuses, take control 1212 over the electrical supply in Scotland. Instead of all this ingenuity of our race being used to ameliorate the bad conditions that prevail—conditions of underfeeding and under-educatioin—it is seized upon by a few individuals who form a company and exploit it. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will take up this matter seriously, because it is a very serious one as far as we are concerned.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
Out of very sincere regard for the Secretary of Scotland, and out of sincere sympathy with him in the trying position in which he finds himself to-day, being under fire from so many quarters, I shall make my observations as brief, and my questions as few, as I possibly can. I wish, indeed, to touch only upon education in two of its aspects. During the past year, we have had a period of quietude in the discussion of educational matters, and that is all to the good, provided that it means a period of reasonable progress. I do not want to enter into that, but I associate myself entirely with the remarks of the hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood), and I hope the Secretary for Scotland will be able to tell us that the Department is taking definite steps towards securing a reduction in the size of classes and a reasonable amendment and extension of the continuation class code, and also towards making arrangements with regard to the day school certificates such as will give reasonable satisfaction to all concerned.
There is, however, one matter connected with our day schools in Scotland which appears to me to be of paramount importance, and that is the proportion between men and women engaged in our schools. For good or for ill, of recent years, the number of men has been steadily going down. The percentage now is very much smaller than it was, say, 20 years ago. I say that that is happening for good or for ill, but we ought to know for a certainty why it is happening, and whether we approve of it. I understand that the Scottish Education Department has appointed a Sub-Committee of the Consultative Committee to deal with this matter, and I should like to have from the Secretary for Scotland just in a word, when he replies, an assurance that that Sub-Committee is to take all possible steps to get at the reasons for the deficient supply of men, 1213 and also to hear whether they are taking steps to come to some reasonable conclusion, as to what the proportion of men and women engaged in our schools should be, and what is the appropriate work that each of the sexes should be called upon to perform. Those are questions which we must face and must answer if we are going to have a system of Scottish education that will be the admiration and, perhaps, the wonder, of Europe.
There was a time when the Scottish educational system was the wonder of the education of Europe. I am not sure that it can be said to be so now, but at any rate, with regard to the particular question I have put, I hope the Secretary for Scotland will see that the action of the Department is followed out to its logical conclusion, and that they will take steps to make sure that the best possible staffs, well-balanced as between the sexes, will be found in our Scottish schools. This matter of education is one upon which we cannot afford to indulge in any false economy. It is not a matter of building cruisers which may be obsolete almost before they are completed, and certainly will be obsolete in a very few years. In this matter of education we are really preparing what will be our first line of defence for the next 20, 30, 40, or 50 years. Therefore, I hope the Secretary for Scotland will do all that he possibly can to ensure that there is not only no backward movement in our educational system, but that there is at least reasonable progress.
There is a second point that I should like to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is in connection with our agricultural colleges, which are under the Scottish Board of Agriculture. I have had put into my hands a statement on behalf of the staffs of the various agricultural colleges in Scotland, and certainly, from the figures there given, no one could say that the rate of remuneration paid to the staffs is anything like adequate. This matter of the remuneration of the staffs in these colleges is not a new one; it has been, I understand brought before the Scottish Board of Agriculture for years past, but any decision with regard to it has been put off from time to time. The governors of these colleges are unanimous in their claim that the staffs should be better paid, but year after year has gone by, and nothing has been done. On behalf of the 1214 staffs of these colleges—I am only putting forward what has been given to me, without committing myself as to whether it is correct—it is stated that the refusal of their request has been largely on the ground that the Treasury object. At the same time they point out that no Treasury objection, apparently, has been made to the increase in the remuneration of the officials of the Board of Agriculture itself. That may be a very human reading, or misreading, of the facts of the case, but I trust that I shall have from the right hon. Gentleman at least a promise that this matter will be looked into. The Constable Committee have reported on it, and I should like to know that something is being done to give effect to their recommendations.
Those are the two questions that I would put to the right hon. Gentleman— firstly, whether steps are being taken to inquire into and come to some decision with regard to the proportion of men and women in our schools in Scotland; and, secondly, whether he will see that steps are taken to secure fair remuneration for the staffs of the agricultural colleges. I do not know very much about agriculture, but I am certain that there will be no advance in our national agricultural system unless we bring to bear upon it the science of these agricultural colleges, and, if the best work is to be obtained from the men and women engaged there, they must have a feeling that their work is appreciated and their services are duly rewarded.
§ Mr. SKELTON
The Debate to-day ranges over a very wide field, and, although there is only one topic on which I should like to say a word, I wish, before dealing with it, to add my word to what has just been said by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan), with regard to the question of the proper remuneration of the professors and others in the Scottish agricultural colleges. I know that this is a question with which the Secretary for Scotland has great sympathy, and I believe the trouble that has arisen is due to these learned gentlemen being, from the point of view of their salaries, neither fish, nor fowl, nor good red herring—to their not being in any way connected with an educational authority. The Scottish Board of Agriculture, with its may virtues and 1215 occasional faults, is not, I think, perhaps, the best body to decide what the salary of an educationist should be, and I would like to press the Secretary for Scotland to take the view that, in considering what the salaries of these gentlemen should be, he should not be guided entirely by the Board of Agriculture, but should see what equivalent salaries are paid by education authorities, whether university or national, for such work. In that way I think that probably an adequate salary could easily be paid to educationists whose work, from the point of view of the country life of Scotland, is of very great importance, and who, as I think is agreed by Scottish Members of all parties, are at present ludicrously underpaid.
I rose to draw the attention of the House for a moment to another question, which I have ventured to press upon the House before, namely, the question of rural housing in Scotland. I do not propose to enter into any long discussion of the particular problems connected with that question, but I would venture once again to urge the Secretary for Scotland that it is one of those questions which are vitally connected with the development of our rural life, that it has many difficulties and peculiarities of its own so far as farm servants and estate workers are concerned, that they probably need special and very generous treatment, and that the proper provision of houses for farm workers is one of those subjects which, unless we can solve, we cannot really even maintain our country population, far less add to it. Further, in my judgment it is one of those subjects which does not really very much brook delay. It is not a problem that can be solved in a year or 24 months. The proper provision of proper types of farm servants' cottages will not be an easy job. It is, therefore, even in a Parliament whose normal life, we hope, may be up to the full span, a question which should be looked into as early as possible.
We are all familiar with the enduring difficulties of space with which the improvement of town dwellings is concerned. The problem of slum areas and that type of problem is from a purely topographical point of view extraordinarily difficult to solve. There is no such difficulty connected with rural 1216 houses. In many ways it is a simpler problem because if you will tackle it you will find that some of the most difficult features you have in your crowded towns are absent. On the other hand, it requires a more generous outlook from the responsible authorities for a reason which I have often urged on the Secretary for Scotland in private, namely, that the kind of cottage for which no rent is received is one which obviously requires special treatment when you are going to deal with the way in which it is to be erected. The problem of the repair of rural cottages is also one of great importance. That problem does not, I think, arise very much in the towns. It is the provision of new houses that is urgently needed in the cities and towns. In the country districts much can be done by repair. If I pursued that line of inquiry further I should trench upon legislative questions, therefore I confine myself to urging the Secretary for Scotland, as I urged him at a very early-stage of the Session, not to forget the importance of the re-housing of the agricultural population, not to forget the economic, social and national questions that are involved in having the farm workers properly housed, and I urged him, as one who is not merely highly expert in agriculture but who has a real interest in it, as well as in Scotland, not to weary of well-doing in the matter, but to enable us in the next Session to know that the problem of the housing of farm servants is being considered, and is even approaching solution.
§ Mr. BARR
I desire to add my voice to those who have urged that the teachers, professors and lecturers in out agricultural colleges should receive a more worthy salary and be more generously treated. On these benches we pride ourselves that we have an advanced programme of education, and we desire to give worthy salaries to those who art engaged in it: and as one who is not remotely interested in agriculture, I would add my voice and my plea to those that have been already put forward. Just as the hon. Gentleman has just spoken of rural housing, so I wish to speak of housing in industrial areas and particularly as it is reflected in my own constituency, where there is a very acute problem. I take the census of 1921, and I find that, taking the 1217 whole of Scotland, 8.1 per cent. of the population are still living in single apartments. In Glasgow 12.8 per cent. are living in single apartments. We hear much of the evil housing conditions in Glasgow, but I find that in every respect if you include Glasgow you get a much better result for Lanarkshire than if you exclude it. There are no less than 17.3 per cent. of the population in Lanarkshire, excluding Glasgow, living in single compartments, and in my constituency no less than 19.2 per cent. So that almost one-fifth of the population in my constituency is still living in single compartments. If we extend the figures to take in those living either in one or two rooms, we find that for the whole of Scotland the figure is 47.4 per cent., for Glasgow 62.6 per cent. and for Lanarkshire 67.1 per cent. In my constituency no less than 72.3 per cent. of the whole population are living either in single apartments or in two-apartment houses. There are only 27.7 per cent. of the populations of the Borough of Motherwell and Wishaw that get beyond the but and ben. I take another way of estimating overcrowding. In England it is generally rated as overcrowding if people are living more than two to the room. In my constituency I have only 30.8 per cent. living not more than two to the room. We are obliged in Scotland to say it is not congestion if you have not more than three to the room because our rooms are 20 per cent. larger on the average than the rooms in England, and if I go forward to that I find I have 24.7 per cent. of the population in my area living in more than one and less than three per room. I pass to those living more than three and less than four; 20.4 per cent. of the population in my Borough are in that condition. When I pass on to reckon those living more than four to a room in my own constituency, there are no less than 24.1. The corresponding figures are 8.9 per cent. for the whole of Scotland, 11.5 per cent. for Glasgow and 22.9 per cent. for Lanarkshire.
Now I come to describe the kind of houses that we have. A report was issued three years ago or thereby by the medical officer of health for my own constituency, and he condemned right off 719 houses as unfit for human habitation and a danger to public health. I should like to know how far provision is being made for the replacing of these houses which are con- 1218 demned and those houses where they are living in such congested conditions. On 14th January last a report was issued by the chief inspector of the Scottish Board of Health for the constituency I represent. He only examined those houses which had not an inside water supply. Of these there were 989. He condemned 420 of them right off which were to be closed immediately; and another 114 which must be closed unless, without fail and instantly, various repairs were done. What was his general report on the condition of the houses? He described the property as dilapidated. He described the houses as in a deplorable condition with the roofs leaking. He described the walls as damp, many of them without plaster. He described paper being put on un-plastered walls just to give some show, windows that admitted no light or ventilation, floors that were under the level of the ground and full of holes. These were houses with no inside water supply. What kind of water supply does that Report reveal? We find in one place in that Report 18 houses dependent on one spigot, as we call it—one standpipe. We find another case where 35 houses are dependent on one spigot, two cases where there are 36 houses dependent on one spigot, one case where 40 houses are dependent on one spigot, and even one case where 45 houses have to depend on one spigot. There is no convenience of any kind, or only conveniences of the most elementary order. Many of those that there are are choked, and altogether out of order. Courts and entrances are described as in the most shocking condition in the matter of filth, with heaps of rubbish and human refuse. On page 5 of the Report the inspector says:I cannot understand how these buildings have been permitted to be occupied. The huts are not even suitable for housing animals, let alone human beings.There are various recommendations made, but without any very definite recommendation or one that carries us very far. He mentions slum clearance, better sanitary conditions, re-housing under the 1924 Act, a town planning scheme separating industrial from residential areas, and the putting up of semi-permanent buildings. I do not suppose we on these benches are very particular as to the form that is adopted or the Act that is put into operation, or whether it is mass production, so long as trade union 1219 rules are observed and so long as you give us houses that have comfort and some permanency. We are not wedded to any particular form.
The Report says definitely that the deficiency in housing is such that only heroic measures by the authorities and by the Minister can effect a change or supply the deficiency. I want to ask what heroic measures are being taken by the local authority or by the Minister himself. I notice at the meeting of various local authorities the other day he spoke about the slow progress that was being made, and the complacency of the authorities. He spoke in very plain language, so much so that the "Glasgow Herald" had the heading. "Sir John Gilmour hits out." We want him. to hit out, and we want the local authorities to hit out and to march out. I think he put the figure at 100,000 houses of a shortage in Scotland. Only 5,000 have been provided in the course of the year, and we can only expect about 9,000 in a full year.
What are the heroic measures that local authorities are undertaking and that the Scottish Board of Health and the Government will undertake? The responsibility in this matter rests largely, and will rest even more largely in the future, on the Government. Hon. Members opposite talk a lot, I know, about private enterprise, but private enterprise is a hopeless expedient in the conditions in which we are now. The Surveyors' Institution, in December, 1916, made a special report— you will find it in the Report of the Royal Commission on Housing—and they say while they must pay a tribute to private enterprise, and much as they could have wished to leave it still in the hands of private enterprise, yet such are the conditions now that only local authorities, backed by the Government, can deal with the situation. Mr. T. D. Wallis, one of their expert surveyors, four months afterwards said that much as he desired to pay a tribute to private enterprise, and could wish to leave it to private enterprise, it was now impossible. "The problem," he said, "was now too great to be tackled by private enterprise." "It Could only," he maintained, "be dealt with effectively by the nation with national funds."
I appeal to the Secretary for Scotland, and to the Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health, for a most 1220 drastic, far-reaching and comprehensive scheme of housing; for something which is not less than what you have in the 1924 Act being applied over the whole country. I am sure the Under-Secretary is well aware of the statement made by Dr. Chalmers, the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Glasgow, before the Royal Commission on Housing. He gave these striking figures. He took the case of boys who died between the ages of one and five years. In the one-roomed house the mortality of these boys was 40.56 per cent.; in the two-roomed house, 30.2: in the three-roomed house, 17.9; and in the four-room and upward house, 10.27. For every boy who died in a four-room and upward house, four boys died in the single-roomed house.
The second appeal I want to make is on higher ground. It is in the interests of decency and morality itself. Since I have been in this House I have heard Members opposite claiming the late Lord Shaftesbury as one of their Party. To speak plainly, and I hope without any offence, I do not think he had a good time among them in his lifetime. It is a case of persecuting the prophets, and then garnishing their tombs. But I think hon. Members opposite will agree with what he said. It was thatUntil the housing conditions are Christianised, all hope of moral and social improvement is utterly vain.I have heard people say that there is no harm in a single-roomed house, provided there is a young couple in it or an aged couple. It would be all very well if that were so, but let me give the House the last set of figures with which I shall trouble it. I think they are staggering. According to the last Census of 1921, the number of single-roomed houses with one occupant was 25,065; with two individuals the number was 27,399; with three individuals, 25,354; with four individuals, 18,967; with five occupants, 12,657; with six occupants, 7,714; with seven individuals, 4,005; with eight individuals, 1,965; and with nine occupants, 806. With over nine people living in a single-roomed house, there were no fewer than 435 houses, running up in one or two cases to 13 and 14 and 15 persons.
I make this appeal to the hon. Gentleman, and it is not only an appeal, it is a promise of support and strong support if he will go forward in the spirit he 1221 showed the other day for a drastic, far-reaching and comprehensive scheme in the interests of the health and morality of the people. We all admit that neither decency nor morality is possible under the conditions I have indicated. A great statesman, Mr. John Bright, said that we shouldrepose our policy on the impregnable foundations of Christian morality.I tell the right hon. Gentleman that if he will go forward in a far-reaching and comprehensive way, he will not only be laying firm and deep and strong, and building on the impregnable foundations of Christian morality, but he will be strengthening the very foundations of morality itself, in improving the housing conditions of this country.
§ Mr. JAMES STUART
The House, I am sure, will fully recognise the importance of this housing question, and the remarks of the hon. Member who has just sat down will not, I am sure, fall upon deaf ears. What I wish to do is to support the observations of the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) in regard to housing in rural districts. I am afraid that owing to the very serious nature of the housing problem in congested areas that the housing in rural areas is rather apt to be lost sight of, and for this reason I desire to impress on the Secretary for Scotland and the Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health the necessity of really trying to press forward with this problem and endeavouring within the next year or so to make sure that substantial progress is made. I recognise that there must be always very great difficulties in connection with any schemes for building in rural areas because of the scattered nature of the buildings required and the consequently increased cost. I have always thought that some suitable assistance could be given towards bringing up to date and improving the existing houses. I know that many of the existing houses have been built under very old methods and it may not be worth while, but there must be numerous houses which could be improved, to which additions could be made, to which the water supply might be improved, and which could be made, really adequate dwellings. This could be done at much less cost and expense than the building of new houses. I do not wish to enter into details on that subject, but I wish to bring the point 1222 forward because I do think that in rural areas this matter must receive further attention in the near future.
The agricultural conference in Scotland has already been referred to by previous speakers, and I hope that the numerous suggestions which the conference made will be carefully considered and not turned aside. There is no doubt that the conference, constituted as it was, was one whose opinions must bear great weight in the country generally. I know that the Government in the past have done a certain amount of work with regard to drainage, and I hope they may be able to see their way to give increased facilities in the future. The conference also made some proposals with regard to liming in various parts of the country, and I imagine that assistance for this purpose could be given on much the same lines as has been given for drainage works. At any rate, whatever nature the assistance may take, I hope the matter will be borne in mind, and, if possible, given effect to. There are other matters in regard to agriculture to which I should like to refer, but there is one which I should like to bring particularly to the notice of the Secretary for Scotland. No doubt he is already aware of it. It is with regard to the question of foreign imported malting barley. In many parts of the country we are able to grow as fine barley as can be imported from abroad, and as it is our object to do all we can to encourage agriculture generally and increase the arable acreage in the country, this matter of imported malting barley is one which is worthy of attention, in view of the large imports of foreign barley last year which caused farmers in Scotland to be left with considerable quantities of barley on their hands, which they were unable to get rid of and which meant a considerable loss to them.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
The hon. Member's suggestion would mean new legislation, and it is therefore out of Order.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. STUART
I only wish to refer to it. It is mentioned in the report of the Scottish Agricultural Conference; but of course I will pass on. The other question to which I desire to refer has also been mentioned in this House on several previous occasions. If it is with regard to the regulations which 1223 are at present in force with regard to double-dipping of sheep. I really think it is time some new regulations on this subject were brought into operation. At the present time certain local authorities in England appear to be making use of the powers which they possess in order to protect their own sheep farming industry, and the result is that they have been interfering with the free flow of sheep from the sheep farming areas in Scotland. Very serious hardship has been caused to sheep farmers in Scotland owing to the way in which these regulations are being enforced. At the present time I believe the whole of Scotland is included as an infected area. The greater part of Scotland is perfectly clean and should be scheduled as a clean area and the passage of sheep into England should be allowed without the operation of these regulations which have been the cause of so much trouble.
One other point to which I wish to draw attention is the subject of rural roads in Scotland. Repeated requests have been made that a definite grant should be made towards the upkeep of unclassified roads but nothing definite has been done as yet. I would urge that pressure should be brought to bear on the Treasury or the Chancellor of the Exchequer or whoever is responsible to ensure at the earliest possible date that a definite percentage of the Road Fund should be set aside for the upkeep of rural roads, instead of having the present system under which rural roads have received no assistance. The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) has dealt with various questions in reference to the fishing industry, and for that reason I will not go into them at present but I hope sincerely that full advantage will be taken by the Government of every opportunity for assisting in the marketing of the fish and the opening up of further markets for our catches abroad.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I desire to touch upon a question which has been referred to by question and answer in this House during the past two months, dealing with the discipline of the police force in Kilmarnock, and the alleged tyrannical conduct of the Chief Constable there over the men, and following from that I wish 1224 an answer from the Secretary for Scotland as to the point of view that he or his Department is likely to take up in putting in operation in Scotland in the police force the same provisions for control, or powers of revising decisions of the Chief Constable, as exist at present in England. The case which I have been raising is the case of two men who were dismissed from the Kilmarnock police force for alleged insubordination, and, as the Chief Constable subsequently tried to make out, for continual misconduct. From the series of answers to questions given by the Secretary for Scotland it is evident that he or I have been very badly misinformed as to the actual facts, because the information which I have seems to be entirely different from the information which he has, and I have, in addition to the information received from the two individuals in question, also signed statements from 20 of the police constables of Kilmarnock regarding certain of the allegations which these two dismissed constables made against the Chief Constable.
I feel certain that the Secretary for Scotland, taking all things into consideration, would be exercising his prerogative in deciding to have an inquiry into the whole question. I am not asking for any more. If the result of the inquiry upholds the decision of the Chief Constable, that settles the matter, but from what I can gather, I am certain that any inquiry that might be held into the conduct of the Chief Constable and the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of those two men would result in a very different finding from that which seems to be the situation to-day in Kilmarnock. In the questions which I have put, I have made distinctly the statement that the inference to be drawn from the dismissal of these men was that it was because they were acting as secretary and chairmen of the local Police Constables Board of the Scottish Police Federation. The Secretary for Scotland, in his reply to a supplementary question which I put to him, stated that that had nothing to do with it. I have the signed statements of the men themselves, which I am certain he has also, which were sent in the regular course through the Police Central Board, and I am certain that he has read the statement that it was because these men had been active in their capacity, as secretary and chairman of the Police Board, 1225 that they were dismissed, or that it is only since they became secretary and chairman of the Kilmarnock Police Board that the persecution of the Chief Constable, who prior to that had no fault to find with them, began, while since that time he has always been finding fault with them.
The Secretary for Scotland has this document through the Scottish Police Federation, and it contains the whole statement of the action of the chief constable towards the two men, and the charges which he made against them, and the manner in which he has conducted himself towards them ever since they became members of the Police Board. One point has led to another in this matter. The charge against the men is that one of them solicited a subscription from another constable who was fined for some dereliction of duty. The constable who was fined had left his beat after he performed his eight hours duty. He left his beat to report something which he had found wrong in the district which he was parading. He met his relief coming along, and told him that all was well, and then he went on to the office and reported what he had found wrong—a leaking hydrant. Because he had left his beat a few minutes before his relief arrived he was fined £2 odd.
The members of the force themselves thought the fine was rather severe for the kind of offence that, had been committed and spontaneously a number of these- men. went to the Secretary of the Police Board and offered money to him as a subscription to be handed over to the wife of the constable who had been fined. That was done with the result that the constable who received the money, who received the donations from the colleagues of the fined constable, was summarily dismissed, and the constable whose wife received the subscription was also dismissed. I submit that an offence of that character was too trivial to have practically the livelihood of two men taken away from them on account of it, even though they were guilty of going out and soliciting subscriptions personally. Everything has arisen since that, on the action of the chief constable accusing the men of insubordination or misconduct, when one of the men had a 5½ years record, and until the fine was inflicted had no mark against his character. That I suggest conflicts with the statement which the Secretary 1226 for Scotland must have received from the chief constable that both these constables were constantly being found fault with and constantly being warned for misconduct.
I challenge the Secretary for Scotland as to who made the statement, as to the medium through which that statement was made to this House, and I ask him to produce the charge sheets against these men in which any charge of misconduct has been entered against them by any sergeant, or inspector or the chief constable of Kilmarnock. Misconduct has never been committed by these two men. No charge has ever been placed before them. The Secretary for Scotland knows, or ought to know, the procedure that should be adopted by the superior officer who is making a charge of misconduct or insubordination against an individual constable. The police Regulations in operation in Scotland to-day state clearly that a written charge must disclose the offence against discipline, as defined in the code of offences against discipline of the force, with such details of time and place as will leave the accused under no misapprehension as to the offence with which he is charged. It is also provided that the written charge shall be entered on a form provided for the purpose, hereinafter referred to as the misconduct form, which shall be handed or sent as soon as practicable to the accused, who shall initial it to show that he has seen it, and, further, the decision of the chief constable shall be written on the misconduct form and at once notified to the accused, who shall write on the misconduct form an acknowledgment of his having had the decision.
Again I challenge the Secretary for Scotland to produce any misconduct form initialed by either of these two men, and endorsed by the chief constable, for any charge other than the charge for which these two men have been dismissed. The Secretary for Scotland stated in this House that one of these men had repeatedly been cautioned for misconduct. I want to know his authority for a statement such as that, which, publicly made, carries a great deal of weight against the individual against whom it has been made. The insinuation ought to be stated here publicly and in full. In consequence of that statement the 1227 chief constable's report, delivered to the Secretary for Scotland, and behind which the Secretary for Scotland sheltered himself, ceases to be confidential. The Chief Secretary claimed that it was confidential, but it is no longer confidential when the Secretary for Scotland alleges that one or other of these men has been guilty of repeated misconduct, and when a public statement of that kind is made in this House, based upon that report. Therefore, I demand the production of the chief constable's report in reference to these two men.
The Secretary for Scotland made one or two very bad slips—in my opinion and judging from information I have—in the replies to certain questions which I put on this subject. I asked him if the chief constable had not issued instructions that no constables were to be seen speaking, on or off duty, to either of the two dismissed constables and the reply was that an order had been issued that the constables were not to be seen "gossiping" to these men while on duty, but that nothing was said with regard to "gossiping" or speaking to them while off duty. Even in the police force in Kilmarnock where men have a certain amount of tyranny to face, as is evident from this case, I have been able to get information and I have here signed statements of 20 of the 34 constables. They state that Inspector MacPhie and Inspector Halliday gave this order to the men under their charge. The wording was different but the meaning was the same. Inspector MacPhie said that if the men were seen speaking to Moore or Hill—the dismissed constables—on or off duty "they knew what it meant." The statement made by Inspector Halliday was that if they were seen speaking to Moore or Hill, on or off duty, "they would be dealt with." Yet the chief constable sends down a report to the effect that constables are only forbidden to speak to the men while they were on duty. Now it appears he has summoned these men to come before him and told them they were only to regard it as a joke. That brings him under his own disciplinary code, for undue familiarity and joking with his own subordinate officers.
This is a serious matter for these two men, and it may be a serious matter for others. There is one other circumstance 1228 I wish to mention. A constable was on point duty and a lady went over to speak to him about something she had lost. She was engaged in conversation describing what she had lost, and the constable was taking down the particulars when the chief constable passed in a car. He afterwards sent for the constable, threatened him with dismissal, and accused him of speaking to a woman of the streets. The lady was the daughter of one of Kilmarnock's most esteemed citizens, and I wonder what the Kilmarnock citizen would say of the description given of his daughter by the chief constable. I have the signed statement of that constable here. There are other matters into which one might go, but I wish to quote only one, to show the inaccuracies of which the Secretary for Scotland has been guilty. I asked a question regarding a police constable who had been doing secretarial work for the constables' branch of the Police Federation, which, according to the statement made by the Secretary for Scotland himself, was entitled to use certain notepaper. This notepaper had been used and no fault had been found up to this time, when the chief constable accused this particular constable of stealing the notepaper, told him he was not capable of looking after the internal work of the station and ordered him outside. The reply to my question was:I understand the constable in question was using paper which is issued only for official purposes"—as I say, it had been used until this without any objection from the chief constable for the same work—instead of the paper supplied by the local authority for the use of the constables branch board, which is foolscap paper without a heading. As regards the second part of the question"—that the constable was immediately ordered outside the police station and put upon street duty—I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to his question last Tuesday, in which it was stated that the constable referred to was doing temporary duty in the office for another constable.How wonderful is the use which can be made of the English language in order to obscure facts? The constable in question was doing temporary duty for another constable at that particular moment in the afternoon, but, as a matter of fact, he was doing regular 1229 monthly duty inside the office in the forenoons at this period. The chief constable has worded his statement so as to obscure the fact that the man was employed doing inside work which was not of a temporary character, though he was doing temporary work at the exact moment when the chief constable ordered him out. I have that constable's signed statement also, that he was charged with theft and ordered out, and told it was better for him to resign from the force in his own interest and in the interest of the force.
These matters have had a great effect on the people of Kilmarnock, and I have had a large number of letters which indicate a desire that the question should be probed to the bottom in order to find who is wrong and who is right. Had this occurred in an English town, the local council would have been able to go into the matter, but because it occurred in Scotland there is no such power, and the Secretary for Scotland does not seem willing to rearrange matters in the police boroughs of Scotland so as to give the town council some control over the chief constables. The chief constables in Scotland can do anything they like without being called in question by the town councils. They can accuse a man of being insubordinate, they can do almost anything which they think fit under the disciplinary code, and the town council cannot question their action. That is not fair to the men, nor is it fair to the chief constables. Very few chief constables in Scotland will go out of their way and single out a man for persecution, but here and there you will find one man who takes umbrage against another man, and hounds that other man out of the force. I suggest that the Secretary for Scotland should go into the subject again and agree to an inquiry. The Trades Council of Kilmarnock, the magistrates of the town, the members of the town council, and the citizens are anxious to have the matter probed to the bottom, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take steps to enable these constables to clear themselves or alternatively give the chief constable an opportunity of showing them unworthy of the confidence which they claim.
§ Mr. FORD
I desire to congratulate the Secretary for Scotland on one matter in 1230 regard to which I am sure even the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) will join me in my congratulations, namely, on having at last secured a reasonable hour for beginning the discussion on the Scottish Estimates. Like most Members who were present, I was much moved by the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr). A number of interesting topics have been under discussion, but the hon. Member for Motherwell touched on a subject of the most vital importance, namely, the housing of the people in the congested districts and the slum areas. I think he was very fair. He gave, as we all give, credit to the Secretary of Scotland for taking up this matter in earnest and trying to achieve some betterment of housing conditions.
Whatever may be our theories of government, whatever we may regard as the ideal form of government in the past or in the future, we are faced with a very serious position which it is not easy to remedy right away. I need not go into the causes leading up to that position. We have congested areas and we have the shocking housing conditions which have been described as applying to many of our people. We have the difficulties of finding labour, materials and money, and we have the difficulty of discovering what we are going to do before we, can rebuild houses in those parts of the city where people prefer to live because of proximity to their work, and for other reasons. These are all great difficulties in the way of dealing with the problem. I am not going into the technicalities, partly because I am not greatly versed in the technicalities, but also because, even with my limited knowledge, to do so would occupy a long time. One thing which was brought forcibly to mind by the hon. Member for Motherwell was the question of the water supply to these houses. He pointed out that there were cases of 35 and as many as 45 houses with only one stand-pipe to supply water. Those interested in this question are sometimes a little discouraged by the vast-ness of any really comprehensive scheme of dealing with it, and are apt to overlook some of the alleviations which might be insisted upon. If this matter entails legislation, I am, of course, out of order, but if, as I think, administration would be sufficient, I am in order in asking that 1231 this one simple factor of water supply should be dealt with, Even supposing they are going to be condemned as soon as substitutes are found, or have been condemned, surely something ought to be done to put that matter right, so that, not 30, but two or three at the most would be able to get a reasonable water supply from one stand-pipe. It is a small matter, but it illustrates what I mean, that we must not, because we cannot immediately grapple with the whole problem satisfactorily, leave out of account these smaller alleviations that yet mean so much to the people who, through no fault of their own, but through the force of circumstances, are condemned at present to live in these dwellings.
I am certain that the Secretary for Scotland will give all these matters his most urgent attention and will do his Very best to solve them bit by bit, until finally the great problem with which we are confronted is itself solved. I would not go so far as the hon. Member for Motherwell and say that decency and morality are impossible under these conditions, because I think that there are people who, in spite of these appalling conditions, have preserved those qualities, but they certainly make it very difficult, and it is very discouraging. Without talking any cant, a reasonable standard of life— whether you call it morality, Christian or otherwise—and habits is essential to a people that claims to be, that has been, that is, and that we hope will yet be a great people such as ours. We must have better conditions, and I would conclude by saying that I can assure hon. Members opposite that we on this side of the House, Back Benchers, and, I am sure, Front Benchers even more than Back Benchers, are at one with them in wishing to strengthen the hands of the Secretary for Scotland to take his courage in his hands, whether for hitting out or for anything else, and to see that in his reign of office as Secretary for Scotland a tremendous advance is made in improving the housing conditions of our people.
§ Captain BENN
The discussion to-day of such important matters as housing and unemployment is, of course, relative to the administration exercised by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland, and we must not go beyond that into the realm of legislative possibilities. It 1232 is a significant thing that the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) represents the worst-housed town in Scotland, and it is also very significant and worthy of notice, especially by hon. Members opposite, and, I should say, especially by the Home Secretary, that the worst-housed town in Scotland was the only town in Scotland that ever returned a Communist to this House, an illustration of the well-known fact that it is bad conditions that breed extreme opinions. As regards unemployment, the remedial measures are dealt with in connection with legislative proposals, and are not specially applicable to the Scottish Office; but I am reminded, on looking at the Estimates, that the Secretary for Scotland has under his control the grant of loans to public bodies for the purpose of providing relief work.
Unfortunately, the division which I represent has a very large, and, I am afraid, an increasing measure of unemployment among its people, unemployment which is becoming the harder to bear as the years elapse and the small resources of those people become exhausted. I am reminded by page 251 of the Estimates of a controversy, with which the right hon. Gentleman is very familiar, as to the rate of grant which should be given to public authorities who are non-revenue-producing. It is an issue that he will recognise at once by its name, and it has special reference to my constituency, because we have a port and a dock board, and they are held to be a revenue-producing authority, although there is no private profit involved, and they are not in any ordinary sense of the word a profit-making undertaking, but they come under the category, I believe, still, in the view of the Scottish Office, of a revenue-producing undertaking, and therefore, in connection with some considerable works of improvement which they wish to put in hand for the Port of Leith, they are able to enjoy assistance only at the same rate as a profit-making undertaking. We have had this question out very many times with the right hon. Gentleman and with the Ministry of Transport, both under this Government and under their predecessors, but I mention it again in the hope that perhaps even now it may be possible to regard the Leith Dock Commission on a more favourable basis than that of a 1233 revenue - producing undertaking, which certainly, as I have said, in any ordinray sense of the word it is not.
Discussing many aspects of Scottish affairs, I wish to pass to another matter, that of work among juveniles. The Edinburgh Juvenile Organisations Committee, which is under the auspices of distinguished citizens of the capital, have written to me to say that they are not satisfied that a sufficient amount of the education money is set aside for the benefit of authorities conducting recreational work for juveniles, either through juvenile organisations committees or otherwise. Of course, the amount is fixed according to a fraction which is one of the set portions of our constitutional machinery between the two countries, and perhaps it might be urged that if the money is devoted to this purpose, it must be taken from some other purpose. At the same time, anybody who is familiar with social work in any of these crowded industrial districts cannot be ignorant of the great value of the work among adolescents, boys and girls, which is conducted by associations grouped together as these are into a juvenile organisations committee, and I would respectfully commend to the right hon. Gentleman the claims of this branch of social and educational work in the distribution of the Education Grant which is at his disposal.
That leads me to my third point, which has reference to the distribution of the Education Grant as between town and country. I believe that the chairman and some of the officials of the Edinburgh education authority had the intention of journeying to London had they known that an educational discussion was to take place here, but unfortunately it is not possible to know these things so long in advance, and even to-day I doubt whether that particular Vote will be reached, but I am given to understand that there is come feeling that the distribution of this money as between town and country is not satisfactory. It is perfectly obvious, of course, that the urban authorities have a rather heavier burden to bear in this regard than the rural authorities, and that they are much more likely to be called upon to provide meals, for example, for under-nourished children; their medical survey or such assistance as they may give will be heavier; their play centres will be more needed, or 1234 perhaps only needed in urban districts, and more expensive; and their attention to welfare, and particularly their care of defective children, will throw a heavier burden upon them. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, asking him whether he would be willing to set up some sort of inquiry as to the distribution of the money between town and country, and I should be extremely grateful to him if, before the end of the Debate, the Secretary for Scotland could see his way to give me an answer to the question as to whether it would not be possible to have some sort of inquiry, Departmental or otherwise, into the proportions in which the money is divided between the urban and rural authorities.
I have only one other point to mention, and that also is one that is familiar to the right hon. Gentleman—I mean in reference to the allotments money. This House at one time passed a Scottish Land Settlement Act, I think in 1919, recognising the excellent work that is done by allotment holders. Anyone who has been round the allotments, as many of us have, knows what an admirable type of work it is, how useful socially and physically, and, perhaps, morally, engagement on the land in their spare time is for people. Anyone who has seen that must be an admirer of the movement, and Parliament, recognising its value, in 1919 said that £4,000 a year was to be allotted in the Scottish Estimates for the promotion of this movement. Now, that figure appeared in the Estimates on one or two or, perhaps, three occasions, but the money was never granted, because the Scottish Office was not able, apparently, to decide exactly to what purpose it should be put, and as it was granted and then surrendered, according to the usual custom, in consequence, the item of £4,000 has disappeared from the Estimates this year, although the statutory obligation or permission—I am not sure that it is not an obligation—to provide it still stands in the Act of 1919. The Allotment Holders' Association first made representations to the right hon. Gentleman to ask whether that money could not be used to assist in the purchase of allotments, which is very difficult, especially in the neighbourhood of great cities, and the city councils of Glasgow and Edinburgh supported the application of the 1235 Allotment Holders' Association for the use of the money in that way.
With a view to stimulating the interest of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland in the matter, I introduced a Bill in this House under the Ten Minutes Rule, but I regret to say that, if not by his direction, perhaps with his assent, or at any rate hoping to win his good will, some of his hon. Friends persistently obstructed the progress of that Bill, even to a Second Reading. If we cannot have the money with which to buy ground for allotments, there is another suggestion. The Agricultural Conference went into the matter and decided that money should be provided for the equipment of allotments, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will consider that recommendation. I would suggest to him that, if the difficulties that he sees—and that there are many there is no doubt—about using the money for the purchase of allotments are insuperable, cannot he so far bow to the expressed will of Parliament as to see whether the £4,000 could not be made available for the equipment of allotments? At any rate, it would go much further in this direction than it would in the matter of purchase, and if he could see his way to reinstate the item in the Estimates, as intended by Parliament, and to use the money for the equipment of allotments, I think all hon. Members, especially urban Members, would say that he was doing something very much to the advantage of those who are engaged in a useful social employment. Those are the points that I would like to bring to the right hon. Gentleman's notice, and if he will deal with some of them and give me answers, I shall be very grateful.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
In the first place, I wish to refer to a case that has been submitted by the hon. Member for Dun-fermline (Mr. W. M. Watson), along with myself, to the right hon. Gentleman, a case in Leith, where a gentleman who has had a substantial standing in the place was put in the most unfortunate predicament by a conviction, which we still feel was unwarranted and unjustifiable. My personal view of that matter, though it is not urgent in the particular ease, is that there should be further elucidation, and I want to suggest now, in view of 1236 what has transpired in London and elsewhere in regard to cases of mistaken identity, and the steps that are being taken by the Government to investigate matters of this sort, that in Scotland we should have something of that nature done where instances of that kind arise. I am assured that in the Leith district there have been similar instances to that which we brought under the right hon. Gentleman's notice.
There is another matter arising on this Resolution, and that is the allowance for inebriates. I would like the right hon. Gentleman, when he is answering, to give us some information as to what is the position now in dealing with cases that are brought under that particular category. So far as my information and experience in my own constituency have gone, there is considerable difficulty in meeting cases of the kind because of the necessity for finding actual convictions for drunkenness and incapability before there can be a remittance made for treatment in these institutions. As my right hon. Friend is aware, there are circumstances in cases of the kind where the families are of a very respectable character, and do not want to take steps against their relatives so that they should be treated in such a fashion. I hold the view—and I believe it is fairly correct— that there is little or nothing doing in these circumstances. The question, therefore arises, what are we doing with the inebriates to-day? That product is still part of what some people in this House would call an industry of Scotland. The production of inebriates is considered to be an essential industry of the country. It is a great wastage, no doubt, in a great many ways, but somehow or other you must treat these cases.
Is it a matter of relegating them to some mental institution? Is it a case of having them treated under the parochial law, and putting them under examination and scrutiny for a certain period, and then, perhaps, releasing them? If you link that up with the other matters dealt with under Section 2, you have a question of police expenditure. If there are other such cases reaching the stage when yon would place them in the category of inebriates, they are, nevertheless, being subject to the control of the police. The question really is why should the Government be deliberately sustaining a system 1237 that is imposing such extraordinary duties upon the police? If it were not for that particular machinery which produces these results you would find that the police in the country would have comparatively little or nothing to do. It is known that there is a situation that has arisen municipally on the question of salaries and wages paid to the police staff. The question has arisen in this way. Some of the municipal authorities in Glasgow and elsewhere came together for the purpose of making representations that there should not be laid upon the authorities so heavy an embargo of expenditure in that particular direction. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, no doubt, recollect the conditions under which these salaries and allowances were granted under Lord Desborough's Report. This really arose from the fact that there was a strong uprising on the part of the body of the police to secure a union that would operate on the same basis as the other sections of the trade union movement throughout the country. The result was that a number of men were dismissed, and you have had that portion dealt with separately. In order, however, to avoid what the Government felt was an objectionable step being taken by the police, they, as it were, made a "deal" with the men. Consequently, it will be a difficult matter from the standpoint of justice, having made such a deal, to recede from any of the conditions which were then conceded in order to secure the position as it stands to-day.
The question of housing is the next one with which I want to deal, particularly that phase of it which has not yet been mentioned to-day, although my question and answer across the floor of the House recently had the effect of elucidating some of the points. At that time, I stated that there were 1,035 houses that were either on the way of being erected, or had reached the stage of being approved, or in come way or other were legitimately recognised as the total that were being held up because of the unfortunate dispute which apparently has never yet been thoroughly adjudicated upon, although reported upon by the Committee of Inquiry. Messrs. Weir had to do with these steel houses. It was said in the report that the craftsmen were being paid a standard wage of is. 2½. per hour, 1238 while the standard for engineers' labourers was 10½d. per hour. We know from those responsible for the engineering part of the trade union movement that the actual rates are Is. 8d. and Is. 3½d. respectively. That means a very considerable difference, which, by way of reply, was certainly the position taken up by the engineering union movement, who said that they could not agree to such substantial reductions being made upon the rates that they recognised as the standard rates for craftsmen and labourers.
The steel house produced and constructed by Messrs. Weir cost £460. That, with the subsidy, and the paying of the loan charges over 40 years, worked out as £21 18s. 6d. rental, exclusive of rates. The construction of a somewhat similar brick house is put at £450, or £10 less, which works out at a rental, under somewhat the same conditions, of £19 17s. 10d., a difference of £2. In view of these various questions, the leading municipal authorities have appointed a. representative committee to find out exactly what are the circumstances or conditions under which the hold-up has taken place. We still have the view that, as we think, unfortunately, there is a strong desire on the part of the Government to accelerate the production of steel houses. Notwithstanding contradictions, we have the view that it is this particular house constructed by Messrs. Weir that the Government have especially in view. If there is a strong anxiety on the part of the Government to see that houses are erected in. the interests of the people, why should there not be a frank recognition of the difficulties which have arisen, just as you have had to face the difficulties of the miners' dispute? There, undoubtedly, you had a larger scale of combination which, fortunately, made a very distinct impression upon the Government, with consequent remarkable steps taken in the situation.
Here, as we consider it on both sides of the House, is a great and important national matter, that of providing houses. From the 31st of May to the present time that hold-up has continued. The Government, while expressing their view, and while being dissatisfied and endeavouring to stimulate the municipal authorities to get at the job, are not facing S5CV0187P0I0624the difficulty with which the municipal authorities themselves are con- 1239 fronted. They cannot get over this essential difficulty to the workers themselves and the other interests, and they cannot go on until there has been a fair and frank recognition of these various troubles with which they are faced at the present time. We hope that the Secretary for Scotland will give us something more than has yet been done, and will express what is at the back of his mind and that of the Government concerning the situation in Scotland as regards housing.
At the same time, I would ask that he would also deal with the question as to the relationship between the production of inebriates, and others recognised as coming under that category, and the duties of the police in handling such cases before they have reached that category. That, in itself, is evidently a close relationship. There is the question of the police and the case of the prisoners who are also involved in Section 3, and also the relationship to this housing question, for make what houses you like under ordinary conditions, so long as you have this product associated with Scotland—and also with England and Wales—in which you are undermining the moral character, fibre, and make-up of the human family, you will find the direct and indirect result in the housing conditions. The Prime Minister, who is just leaving the House, will recollect paying a visit to the constituency which I and another colleague represent, and expressing, along with some of those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who accompanied him, his astonishment that there should be such landlords in Dundee, with such consciences, that they could actually retain the ownership of such buildings. If, however, there is no more effort than the Government have yet made to try to get down to the reason why we have not only in Dundee, but all over the country, men who can play upon the weaknesses of man kind and get in to the weak parts of the human armour that they can break down the defence, and will do it in order to make money—if the Government cannot face these vested interests, as the Prime Minister said he would do, then all that is done to accelerate the interests of Scotland will fall to the ground.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
Perhaps it might be convenient that I should now reply to some of the things said in the thirteen or fourteen speeches to which we have listened. I should like at the outset to say that I am glad to think that Scotland has had an opportunity of a second day's discussion of Scottish affairs. I would also note the very kindly tone of the criticism which has to-day characterised this Debate. I do not wish, on my side, to say anything which might be likely to raise feeling at all. I have, of course, to answer for my Department, or rather for my many departments, and to put up, on my own behalf, and on theirs, the best defence I can to the criticism which has been made. This Debate, I think, was opened by the senior hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) who asked me some questions referring to the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act. I would point out to him that the matter to which he referred is governed by legislation, and that, so far as I am concerned. I have no direct jurisdiction in the matter. He mentioned various points of expenditure in the Glasgow inquiry. Anyone who has taken any interest whatever in that case will agree with him that the expenditure has been large. But I may point out to him that under whatever system an inquiry of that kind be conducted, whether in Scotland under the rules of private procedure, or here, the main part of the expenditure lies upon the local authorities concerned.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not the local authorities are compelled to brief counsel if they appear before this Private Legislation Committee?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
No, I do not so understand it. But, whether the inquiry is held here or in Scotland, in any case, as the matter stands at present, it is governed by the Statute. The right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), who previously held the office I now hold, raised various questions with regard to transport facilities, particularly in the North-West of Scotland and in the matter of improving communications with the Western Isles. These are matters which have been raised also by other hon. Members. I should like to say that I am not aware of any £2,000,000 scheme which 1241 the late Government had carried so far that it was a matter which was likely to be carried into effect.. Whatever may be the case in regard to that, I would say that the present Government are very much alive to the necessity of improving, so far as it is possible, those communications. A great part of this problem is, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, a road problem, and indeed it becomes a question for very careful consideration as to how far, in addition to that road development, there should be either a light railway or a form of traction which has been referred to. These are all questions which must be carefully investigated.
In the meantime, let me say that a very large amount of money is being spent in Scotland upon the improvement of the Highlands. A sum of upwards of £500,000 has been allocated from the Road Fund for work on the great North. Road between Perth and Inverness, and a large section of that is being carried out. There is a further £500,000 for the improvement of the Western Glasgow-to-Inverness Road, and survey parties are now at work on those sections. There is the improvement of the Great North Road in Ross-shire and Sutherland as far as Bonar Bridge, and I believe that part will shortly be begun in the form of resurfacing work. This represents a very considerable programme, and will give, I hope, a large measure of employment to people in Scotland. With regard to that other part of the transport scheme to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, in regard to the Isles, it is no doubt a matter of providing shipping accommodation.
The questions of piers and harbours also comes into this matter. I have recently set up a Departmental Committee to inquire into and report to me upon the whole of this problem. It is not so easy as it may seem. We have no doubt a large and very important population upon the western seaboard of our country and on those Western Isles, but the hard fact remains that the amount of goods which can be carried out of those Isles is unfortunately small and not very lucrative, and one of the difficult problems which faces anyone who tries to improve those communications is that the services which have been provided are not remunerative. I cannot at this moment say 1242 what the extent of the recommendations may be which those investigating this question may put forward, but I think, on the whole, it is fairly clear that if it can be done it will be very desirable to improve the type of ship which goes to those outer Isles. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Boroughs (Mr. Kirkwood) made an appeal to me on the question of building steamers, which he pointed out the Clyde were well qualified to provide, and he talked about vessels of 1,000 tons. I am very well aware that the Clyde is well qualified to provide ships of an excellent character, and it may be that in the course of time we may go to the Clyde and ask them to provide something of that nature, but I wish to point out that to speak of a possibility of a ship of 1,000 tons going into some of the harbours on the West Coast of Scotland is, I am afraid, to talk of something that is not a very practicable idea. I am very sympathetic towards endeavouring to find some improvement in this matter.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the tourists' traffic and the likelihood of inducing people to go to those Western Isles rather than to spend their time in Switzerland or elsewhere. We have not been altogether neglectful of that idea, but I must point out that, whatever efforts we may make through employing the ready pen of the hon. Member for the Combined Universities, who has been recently on a tour in those districts and is going to endeavour to write in the Press of the beauties and glories of those districts, one must never forget that to induce tourists to go to those Islands we must at the same time have some hotel accommodation of a larger extent than exists at the present time. If either by those writings to which I have referred which have been circulated by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, or by this discussion in this House, the public attention could be drawn to the delightful variety which a visit to those districts affords, then perhaps some good might come of it.
The right hon. Gentleman then went on to put to me several question with regard to education. The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. West-wood) put at least eight different points to me upon this same problem. I find it not a little difficult to be able to carry in my mind or, indeed, upon my notes 1243 definite answers to the whole of those problems. The right hon. Gentleman was anxious to know how far we had proceeded with the question, in which he took a great interest, namely, the size of the classes, and in regard to which he stated that he had issued certain instructions when he was in office. Undoubtedly, that is a problem which has engaged the attention of the Education Department. As a result of the warning which was given a year ago, as I understand by the right hon. Gentleman, in the memorandum prefixed to the Regulations for the training of teachers, there has already been a substantial improvement, which the Department is doing all in its power to stimulate. There are areas which in 1924 had still a few classes over 60 on the roll that now have a clean slate, while in others a corresponding reduction has been effected or is in sight. The problem, as the House is doubtless aware, is in many cases due, not to a cause which can be remedied by a stroke of the pen, but to the lack of accommodation, which really implies building. In the case of the education authority within whose area by far the largest number of 60-classes are found, the Department have recently called for a special report from their inspectorate. This was duly transmitted to the authority. As a result, the authority has made provisions in its estimates for a substantial increase of staff as from the beginning of next year In conducting their inquiries, the Department have taken as a basis the number of pupils on the roll. This gave the formidable total of 720, of which as many as 447 were within the area of the authority referred to. I think hon. Members will see that this question is one which has not been lost sight of by the Department, and it will continue to receive their attention.
Both the right hon. Gentleman and the Member for Midlothian and Peebles asked me a question about the continuation classes and the issuing of a code. A new code has been drafted, and the draft will be submitted shortly to the education authorities for observation and criticism. It should be finally issued in ample time for the authorities to frame their schemes and policy for 1926–27. It will be found that it gives the fullest opportunity for the development of technical education to 1244 which more than one hon. Member has referred, and to the importance of which the department are very much alive. In this connection, I may add that it makes special reference to agriculture. I was also asked a question by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan) as to men and women teachers. The matter is now under consideration by the Advisory Council, and I understand that the remit to them is of such a character that it will make it quite possible for them to go into all the points which the hon. Member raised and to express an opinion on every aspect of the matter. The question of day school certificates was raised. Schemes have been approved in the case of 3G out of 37 education authorities, and a very large number of candidates have been presented from more than 360 schools. The work of assessment is not yet quite completed, but the Department estimate that the toal number of certificates awarded will be in the neighbourhood of 3,000. One exception, I understand, is Kinross, and no doubt the pupils there will travel to Dollar and into the country of Fife. Whereas in Peebles the education authority do not find it practicable to start more than a single school as an advanced division centre, they may pay the travelling expenses of the pupils to that centre, provided they have due regard to the circumstances of the parents. I recently introduced a Bill designed to remove this restriction, and I hope that at a later stage opportunity may be afforded for bringing it into operation.
I think the hon. Member also asked me about schemes under the Act of 1918. On the 13th January. 1920, education authorities were asked to make a formal statement on the organisation of education within their areas, and were at the same time informed that they might send in entirely new schemes if they desired; otherwise, the formal statement would, in the meantime, be accepted as the equivalent of the submission of a scheme. Any changes that have taken place since then have been in the direction of making more generous provision for secondary education, and cases in point where that has been so are in Dumfries and in Moray. Now I come to points raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair).
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves this subject, would he inform the House as to the setting up of a Committee to inquire into the employment of juveniles, to correlate the employment of juveniles with education?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
As the House is aware, such a Committee was set up for England, and I propose to set one up for Scotland. At the moment, I am not in a position to intimate the composition of that Committee, but I hope before very long to be able to make an announcement upon it, and will do so as soon as I can.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
What about the guarantee I asked for as to the representation of education authorities, and as to direct labour representation on it?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I shall be very glad to consider that. It is my intention that it shall be widely representative both of education and of the interest to which the hon. Member referred. On the whole question of education, I would like to say that it is my desire that it should be made available in every quarter of the country, and be made of the greatest use to all classes in the country. I recognise that more progress in education is essential, but I would say to those who are the best friends of education that they should be careful not to press too much for extravagant expenditure, because by that means they very often defeat what we all desire, steady progress. So far as we are concerned, and so far as the Department with which I am associated is concerned, we are most anxious to bring education within the reach of all classes of the community, and to carry out what I believe to be the views of Scottish Members, irrespective of party.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness referred to the question of improving transport, a subject which I have already dealt with. He touched also upon a question which affects the fishing industry very materially, the question of the Moray Firth. All I can say about that is that the Fishery Department is preparing as closely and as accurately as possible data and material which it is hoped to submit to the international body which deals with these fishery matters, in order that we may find some 1246 method of giving protection to the fishing beds in that area. That work will be pressed forward, and I hope the information may go before that body some time in the autumn. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Lanark (Sir A. Sprot) dealt with the subjects of the Agricultural Conference, the improvement of telephone service, and various other matters dealt with in that Report. I am very grateful to those who on that body carried out that inquiry, representative as they were of every class associated with agriculture; and, coming as they did to a unanimous finding, their recommendations must, of course, receive the most careful consideration of any Government. This Report will be carefully considered by the Government, and I do not doubt that in the autumn the Government may be able to announce, after consideration, some definite line of policy upon all these matters. I would only myself say that I recognise the paramount importance of drainage in Scotland if we are to increase the productivity of our land, and with drainage is bound to go a system of liming and manuring. With regard to the re-opening of lime kilns, which some hon. Members have pressed for, I am having a survey made by the Board of Agriculture, and I hope to obtain information which may lead to developments in that direction.
The hon. Member for East Perth (Mr. Skelton) referred to the problem of rural housing, which was touched upon also by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Stuart) and others. As has already been announced, the Government desire, in dealing with this great housing problem, to investigate more closely the slum problem and the problem of rural areas, and with reference to both it would be premature for me to say what their decision may be, but I trust, indeed I earnestly hope, that something of a practical nature to improve and stimulate housing in our country districts may be found possible. I recognise, as everyone does, the terrible problem which faces us in our great cities; but anyone living in the country must feel that there also many of the houses are not satisfactory. I agree with some of those who say that it might be possible to do something by repairing existing houses. That is an 1247 aspect which must be carefully considered, however, because it is also certain that some of the houses would not repay expenditure on them. I trust that at a later date I may be in a position to speak with more certainty upon that aspect of the problem.
Then I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr), who spoke of the housing conditions as he knows them in his district, and spoke with a note so serious that it could not be disregarded. I do not think that I, at least, can be accused of not treating this matter as one of great seriousness in Scotland. In the period in which I have been responsible for the office which deals with this matter, the more I have probed into the conditions the more I have realised the slow progress which has been made in dealing with this clamant problem, and the more certain I am that we must find some other methods than we have tried in the past if the problem is to be in any way overcome. I do not wish to say anything to-day which would preclude in any sense the very fullest co-operation of men and women of all classes in an endeavour to solve this problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) was, in his day, responsible for a housing policy in this country. He, no doubt, realises as fully as I do the difficulty which faces anyone in a public office in dealing with the problem. I met recently the local authorities of Scotland with a view to calling in their aid, and bringing out, if I could, any difficulties which they thought faced them and which the Government might reasonably be asked to remove.
What is the situation? It is that we have a shortage in regard to which I am well within the mark when I put it at 100,000 houses. You have to add to that the number of houses falling into disrepair every year, and as the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) and others have testified there are still many single-roomed houses in Scotland, and there are people living in these dens, because they cannot be described as anything else, under impossible and difficult; conditions, and in spite of that fact we are making, I regret to think, very slow progress. What then are the difficulties? I think I am not overstating the case 1248 when I say that the greatest difficulty is the shortage of building labour in Scotland.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, when he was dealing with this matter, called to his assistance the members of the great unions and the employers of building labour to confer with him. He asked for co-operation and for assistance, and he laid down as a broad kind of scheme that they should take into their ranks one apprentice to three skilled men. When the present Government took office together with the Minister of Health for England we met representatives of those same unions, and we made it perfectly plain to them, and I desire to do so again to-day, that all the undertakings given to them by the previous Government we were prepared to give, and the co-operation which they were prepared to give to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston and his Government the present Government asked for, and we said we should welcome it on the same terms and treat it with the same fairness as the previous Government.
So far as Scotland is concerned, I confess that I find great difficulty in thinking that any appreciable move has really been made to largely increase the pool of building labour. In any case, the figures which my Department submit to me show that there has been rather a decrease than an increase in the actual number of skilled operatives in Scotland, and after a year's experience of this system, instead of having more skilled people, we have rather less. I think that is a tragedy. What I wish to say to hon. Members, irrespective of party, and to the local authorities whom I met the other day, and to all whom it may concern, is surely there must be some means by which the pool of building labour can be increased. What is it that is preventing young men and boys coming into this industry and training themselves to be skilled artisans? What fundamental thing is it that is preventing parents from advising children when they leave school to go into this trade?
We all know that estimates have been made by one committee of inquiry after another as to the actual shortage of houses and the numbers that are required, and I do not think I am exaggerating when I put the shortage at 100.000, and I should 1249 add to that 10,000 houses per annum for the last four or five years. At the rate of building in Scotland for the last few years we are not appreciably overtaking this problem. That being the case, I would particularly ask hon. Members opposite to give us some kind of assistance in this matter, or at any rate to tell us in frank terms what is the real reason why there is not an expansion in what appears to an individual like me to be an occupation which is calling for people to come into it, which has a certainty of occupation not for two or three years but probably for 15 or 20 years before this problem is in any way overcome. That being so I would urge hon. Members to do everything they can to stimulate this work.
When I met the local authorities I put before them a plain proposition which was that in my judgment the conditions of the labour pool and the number of trained men available being what it is no appreciable progress could be made unless the local authorities adopted alternative methods of construction. I wish to say here in the plainest terms that at no time have I asked local authorities to bind themselves solely to any one single form of alternative method. We welcome any and every alternative method of house construction, providing it fulfils two fundamental conditions. One is that it is a suitable and adequate house for human habitation, and, secondly, that it should come within some bounds of reason as to the cost. I have been told on more than one occasion by local authorities that I and my Department are holding up houses because we are preventing the carrying out of certain schemes submitted to us. The high prices which some of these schemes involve, in my judgment, must be resisted unless we are going to see a repetition of the same continuous rise in prices which took place on a previous occasion. It is for that reason that we have definitely turned down certain schemes which we consider to be too expensive because the proposal is to erect houses outside the possibility of occupation by those for whom such houses are intended, and such a policy as that we cannot pursue.
The hon. Member for Dundee referred to Weir steel houses. On this point I do not wish to say more than that this type of house was most carefully 1250 investigated by a Committee set up by the Government, and that Committee reported that the Weir steel house was not only a suitable house, but that the terms of employment as indicated before them by the firm who was producing these houses were suitable terms. What happened? We found that one by one the more enterprising local authorities, finding the output of houses by ordinary methods somewhat slow and not meeting their requirements, boldly came into the open to make use of this alternative method. Afterwards we found that in the very area of which the hon. Member for Motherwell has spoken where these terrible conditions exist, the local authority entered into a contract to purchase 100 of these houses, and when this work was commenced, the workers and the masters engaged upon 300 brick houses in the district ceased operations. I confess that I do not think action of that kind is helpful to the solution of this problem nor is it justified by the circumstances of the case.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
Is it not a fact that the conditions for the building of the houses did not stipulate for a requisite capacity and duration of those houses, and is it not a fact that the brick houses guaranteed a duration of twice or three times the period of the steel houses, gave a cheaper rent and provided far move labour to relieve the unemployed?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I am not quarrelling about brick houses, but the main point is that you have to wait for a brick house for a very long time.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has just stated that over 300 brick houses are being held up on account of the trouble in regard to steel houses. Why not settle the difficulty about the steel houses, and then you will get on with the brick houses as well?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I would like hon. Members to realise that there is room in Scotland for all the brick and stone houses that the building operatives of Scotland are capable of building, and in addition for all the houses which any other method of construction can produce, whether they are Weir houses, Atholl steel houses, or the Glasgow Steel Roofing Company's houses. Hon. Members must realise that unless they can bring to me 1251 a larger number of operatives to build by the ordinary methods, it is no answer to me, or to the country, or to the people who want houses, or to those who are living under slum conditions, to say as they do that they do not approve of this or that trade union wage, or of this or that condition. That is what I wish the people of Scotland to realise. I am as willing and ready as anyone to try and find means by which these difficulties can be solved, but I do ask, and I have the right to ask, that my countrymen should realise what is the actual position, and while, as the local authorities said to me the other day, they are willing to try alternative methods, I have yet to see any real move made to put into operation that promise to use alternative methods, putting aside the Weir houses altogether. The hon. Member for Motherwell spoke with feeling about the conditions in his own district. I have visited not only Motherwell but almost every other part of my country, and I speak not only with feeling but with some heat when I find that there are some people ready to put difficulties in the way of every kind of method that is tried, instead of trying to give us assistance and help us.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I should be the last to decry the efforts which Dundee has been making, and when I visited Dundee T saw houses built under the previous Addison scheme which cost over £1,000 apiece. Does any hon. Member tell me that that is a class of house which they think is capable of being occupied by ordinary working men in Scotland? On the contrary, I say it is not, and the whole struggle we are up against to-day is the production of a larger number of houses, and you cannot produce the requisite number of houses with the labour which is available now by the present building methods. If you can increase the number of men—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
That kind of tiring was tried before. As a matter of fact it has a very immaterial bearing on this problem of house construction for the working classes. In any case the problem can be solved only by co-operation on the 1252 part of operatives, masters, the local authorities and the Government, and unless we can find some better method of increasing and encouraging this building, then, indeed, we are failing to do that which we all desire to do. I now turn to a problem which was put to me by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) with regard to a series of questions which he asked me in the House on the matter of discipline in the Kilmarnock Police Force. Any questions of discipline are at all times difficult, and I wish to make it quite clear to the hon. Member that in all this exchange of questions and answers, I have tried to secure the fullest information, and to go into all the details, both as submitted to me by him and as submitted by the chief constable. I must make it clear at the outset that as the law exists, in matters of discipline the chief constable, either in this force or in any other force in Scotland, is the sole person concerned.
With regard to the other questions of the hon. Gentleman, I can only say that the report from the chief constable is, and must be, a confidential report. But it was a perfectly frank and full report. His Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, who is well known to hon Members, visited this particular force on 6th May, a week after the dismissal of the two men in question. He went there for the ordinary annual inspection. After going into the evidence on the spot, he agreed with the line taken by the chief constable in dealing with these cases. The hon. Member said something just now about one of these constables having left his beat. That is a matter of discipline, and one which I must leave to be dealt with by the chief constable. But if, as the hon. Member admits, this man had left his beat before his time—
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I did not admit that. I said that he worked his eight hours' shift before he left his beat to report a leaking hydrant.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Undoubtedly, he had not given over the duty of his beat to a relieving constable, and the hon. Gentleman made that perfectly clear from what he said. That was a breach of discipline, and I think the chief constable would be justified in taking notice of it. If, in a matter of discipline, the chief constable thinks it right to fine any member of the force, it would be a 1253 perfectly impossible condition, in my judgment, that that fine, imposed for a specific purpose, should be met by contributions raised by other members of the force. Otherwise, the whole purpose of the fine falls. The hon. Gentleman spoke of one of these constables having been found fault with for having spoken to some lady on the street.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
That constable was on point duty, I understand. His duty was to supervise the passage of the traffic. He was observed as not doing so, and was found fault with for that reason.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Is a constable not supposed to take a complaint when any member of the public wishes to notify him of something that he wishes to have entered in the police records? Is a constable not supposed to reply and to put down the facts?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
If a man is on specific point duty his duty is to attend to that. If anyone comes up and asks him a question, he can refer the questioner to the office. If a constable is doing a particular job of directing traffic, whether in London or elsewhere, that is a matter of discipline, for the chief constable and not for me. Then there is the question of notepaper. The notepaper is supplied in the ordinary way, but quite properly it does not bear the stamp of the chief constable on the top of it. That is a thing which is well known. Indeed it would be frankly improper otherwise. That I am satisfied was well known to the individuals concerned, and that the infringement was in the use of that type of paper. The hon. Gentleman produced in the House what he called various requisitions signed by members of the police force and by others. This is a matter of discipline in which the chief constable has sole jurisdiction.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I see no reason to alter that specific provision at the moment. At any rate, any alteration of 1254 it would entail legislation. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the possibility of some right of appeal. The Desborough Committee, which reported in 1920, favoured an appeal to a judicial tribunal rather than to an elected body. I am quite willing to consider sympathetically the setting up of such a tribunal, if satisfactory arrangements could be made with regard to its nature and the scope of its procedure. That is a matter which I am quite willing carefully to investigate and consider.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
With regard to the other point, regarding the man from the police office, and the statement made in the House by the right hon. Gentleman that he was only on temporary work in the office, what has the right hon. Gentleman to say as to the fact that the man was actually there doing monthly work, that it was his month in the office, and that on that particular afternoon he was doing work for the man who took the work in the afternoon? He was in regular work.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
My information certainly was that he was not regularly employed in the office, and I believe that to be the case. That was the answer which I gave to the hon. Member.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
From the chief constable, of course, as it referred to the employment of the men under him. The hon. Member asked me whether I would grant an inquiry. In view of what I have said I do not think that that would be justified, and, indeed, although I have listened with respect to what the hon. Member has said regarding the circulars and letters and communications which he has received from responsible people, yet I would say that the town council are the authority who can and ought to deal with any question between themselves and the chief constable, and I do not find that that popularly elected body, as a body, is prepared to take other than a view which supports the action of the chief constable.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I am satisfied that I have seen no communication from that body asking for an inquiry.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
If the hon. Member can produce a demand from such a body I shall give it careful consideration, but I have received no communication, and in the circumstances I see no reason to take any action.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, the money which was provided in previous Estimates was earmarked for a special purpose, and the legal advice was that it was impossible to use it for such a purpose as the Allotment Holders' Association desired, namely, the purchase of land. It, therefore, was not available, and, not having been used in other ways, it has dropped out of the Estimates. This question of allotments is dealt with in the Agricultural Report, and it will receive careful consideration with all the other questions, when we come to formulate our policy upon that Report.
§ Captain BENN
Is it the right hon. Gentleman's intention to carry out what is mentioned in the Act of 1919, namely, that this sum shall reappear in the Estimates and be devoted to some purpose which meets with his approval?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I do not think there is anything in that Act which necessitates the reappearance of a sum of this kind. I am not at all antagonistic to allotments; quite the contrary. I have watched with interest the progress of legislation in England upon this subject. It proceeds on other lines than those suggested by the hon. and gallant Member. I am afraid that I cannot hold out any hope that this or any other sum can be procured for the purchase of allotments, but I will give the most careful and sympathetic consideration to this problem, because I am as anxious as other hon. Members to stimulate and assist allotment holding.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I am well aware of the difficulties which face those who are on the staff of these colleges, and, being very strongly impressed with the necessity of improving agricultural education, 1256 I hope it may be within my power to obtain rather better remuneration for some of the people attached to these colleges, and I am actively pursuing that problem now.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The right hon. Gentleman, almost in his opening sentence, referred to the friendly spirit that had so far characterised the Debate. I would frankly say that on this occasion, as on all others, he has made it very easy for his opponents to treat him with courtesy. There is one point, at any rate, on which, if it were proper to do so, I could congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, and that is the scope that exists in Scotland for exercising the most enthusiastic desire for social reform that can animate any man. I can say that, however much we may regret the existence of that scope. The outstanding social evil that concerns us, as he has again made quite clear, is, of course, the housing conditions in Scotland.
As is by this time well known to every Member of the House, the conditions of housing in Scotland are much inferior to the conditions in England, however far the English conditions may fall short of perfection. It is also well known that the death rate in Scotland, particularly among the young, is usually higher than it is in England. Most people will admit that there is very close connection between these two things. I had a letter the other day from a gentleman, who has given almost a life service to public health in Scotland, and who tells me that he has devoted a large part of his time in recent months to a study of why the infant mortality is usually higher than in England, and he has come to the conclusion that it is undoubtedly due to the inferior standard of Scottish housing accommodation. I do not intend to-night to attempt to describe these housing conditions. They have been described, especially in recent years, on many occasions more or less eloquently, and probably never more eloquently or effectively than they have been in the course of the present discussion by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr). I would like to impress this upon the representatives of the Government that, if it is admitted that you have a higher death rate in Scotland because of inferior housing conditions, 1257 you are putting a big tax on the patience of the Scottish people if you allow the cause of this higher mortality to exist for a year longer than is absolutely necessary.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, admitted that the rate of progress in the provision of the housing required, was unfortunately at present slow. I find from his Report that during 1924 only 4,384 houses were erected with State assistance in Scotland. The reasons he gives for that meagre output is that the local authorities in Scotland, with, I suppose, characteristic caution, were waiting for the Labour legislation which they expected would give them more generous assistance than was provided for them under the Act of 1923. The hope is expressed that, as 9,808 houses were under construction at the 31st December, we may reasonably expect a much larger output of houses during 1925. It is unnecessary for me to remind the right hon. Gentleman that even the larger number is quite insufficient to deal with the problem with which we are confronted in Scotland. I doubt very much whether an annual output of 9,000 houses would meet the ordinary depreciation of property that is going on, to say nothing about making good the admittedly serious shortage. We are asked, of course, and quite rightly asked, to consider the cause of this shortage in the output of houses, and the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech to-day, made an eloquent appeal to those of us on this side to use whatever influence we may have in removing what he regards as the sole cause of the shortage.
I find, however, when I read his Report, that he mentions as one of the chief difficulties the present high cost of building in Scotland. In support of that he tells us that during the 12 months he had reason to turn down applications from local authorities for 1,046 houses, because he could not approve of the prices that were being asked for these houses. I sympathise with him in the attitude that he adopted there, and if I had been in his place, I would have adopted the very same course. I cannot follow him when he attempts, starting from that point, to put the whole blame for present conditions on the shoulders of the building trade operatives of the country. We are 1258 told in the Report that the Inter-Departmental Committee which was appointed to investigate production costs and profits found it quite impossible to carry out their investigation. The right hon. Gentleman does not tell us why the Government have not sought to obtain from this House powers that would enable the Committee to carry out duties placed upon them, not by the Labour Government, but by the last Government, and duties that are vital to the solution of this problem. He tells us that they have no power to investigate production costs and profits, and he leaves it at that,, without making any proposals to obtain these powers. He referred to the 6teps that I took with regard to legislation. May I remind him that one of the steps which I proposed to take, and in which I was baffled and ultimately defeated by his Party, was to obtain power, not only to ascertain the costs of production, but to ascertain profits in production and to deal with the profiteers in production? I think it is perfectly reasonable for us on this side to say that, if the right hon. gentleman were as earnest in his legislation as he is in his speeches, then when he is confronted with this difficulty he would come to this friendly House and obtain from it the necessary legislation to enable him to pursue his policy.
He proceeds in another paragraph to tell us that the cost of materials, in his opinion or in the opinion of his Department, have not contributed substantially to the present high costs of building in Scotland, and he admits that neither has the increase that has taken place in the wages of the workers. There have been two increases of Ad. an hour, making Id. an hour—unfortunately, the workers still think in halfpennies and pennies, when dealing with their grievances. He admits that neither the increase in the cost of materials, as far as he can discover—and his powers are very limited—nor the wages of the workers is responsible to any substantial extent for the high prices that are asked for houses from the local authorities. If neither the cost of materials nor the wages of the workers is responsible, where are we to look for the cause of these high costs? So far as I know, there are only two other elements. One 1259 is in the finance and banking that contribute something to the high cost, but I think that in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the principal cause of these high costs, which he regards as unreasonable and which he has rejected, is to be found in the greed of the building contractors. If you get your problem narrowed down to that, it becomes one with which one may deal with comparative ease. If your contractors are clearly your exploiters, there is a way out of the difficulty. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman press the local authorities to do at least part of the work by direct labour? I know that in Scotland, unfortunately, the view still prevails that the advocacy of direct labour is Socialistic propaganda. But no such view prevails on this side of the Border. The Ministry of Health encourages local authorities to employ direct labour in England. They have found it very satisfactory. It is a check on the prices being charged by the building contractor. In the performance of a public duty in Glasgow, I made an appeal to the Corporation there to do some of their building by direct labour, in order that they might compare the cost of that method with the costs that were imposed upon them by the contractors.
I do not know any evidence that can be adduced in support of the view that direct labour is more costly so that you are taking no risk. So far as I know all the evidence is on the other side. I remember the Secretary for Scotland frankly admitting on a former occasion here that the Corporation of Glasgow had saved a considerable sum by the adoption of direct labour in the building of houses. If that was so, if you are taking no serious risk in it, why should not we press local authorities to adopt this course, at least partially? This is not a question of politics at all. As I said in a former discussion on this subject in this House, it is a matter of business. We are spending the taxpayers' money in subsidising the local authorities, and we are entitled to say to the local authorities, "You are not to use your influence in your respective councils to support a policy that will put profits in the pockets of your friends which come out of the contributions of the taxpayer. We, in return for this subsidy, are entitled to expect from 1260 you the very cheapest method of house construction, and you can only ascertain what is the cheapest method of house construction when you set side by side with the private contractor "—who is not only under suspicion but has been condemned by the right hon. Gentleman himself—" an alternative method of house-building that will enable you to test the prices that are being charged."
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the shortage of labour. It is so easy to throw the blame for the shortage of labour on the selfishness of the building operatives. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to pay some regard to the history of the present situation? Conditions as we find them do not arise spontaneously; they are the result of past conditions. What happened here was that the very insecurity of employment in the building industry drove the skilled workers of this country to foreign lands, and impressed the parents of the boys who might have become apprentices that this was not an industry into which they could send their sons with any reasonable prospect of regular employment. The right hon. Gentleman asked us why parents were not sending their children into this industry. That is why. He says that they have prospects now of 15 or 20 years' continuous employment, but have they? He himself admits that he stops building when costs get to a certain height. He has no power to prevent those costs from going up. The only way in which he can deal with the contractor is to stop building, and, in stopping building he is creating insecurity for the worker, and making him doubtful whether or not he will receive regular employment during the ensuing 12 months.
The building operative has seen building stopped under the Addison scheme, and slowing down at different times, and he is, naturally, afraid, because it is unnecessary for me to tell the right hon. Gentleman that what strikes the greatest-terror into the mind of a member of the working class is the fear of unemployment, and so he guards jealously and naturally the position he has, lest, in giving it away without ample security, he should jeopardise his chances of regular employment in the future. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is an insufficiency of labour, and I 1261 did, in the Act of 1924, as he has reminded the House, lay down a scheme for augmenting labour in the building industry. He tells us that the building trade operatives are not carrying out that scheme with the generosity that we would all desire, but, here again, may I remind him that the root cause of that reluctance to carry out generously that policy is the fear that the present Government will not continue to provide employment at the rate the Labour Government had laid down as essential in order to provide security for those engaged in the industry? If the right hon. Gentleman wants to get a generous flow of apprentices into the industry, I would advise him, if I may, to make a public announcement that for the next 15 years the Government are prepared to carry out their side of the bargain which I made with industry when dealing with the scheme last year, on condition that the building industry are prepared to carry out their part in the transaction.
But then, realising that shortage—and we all admit it—the right hon. Gentleman blames us for putting difficulties in the way of alternative methods of construction. I do not think the Government can claim much credit for their handling of this question of alternative methods of housing construction. I remember quite well, when I was promoting the Bill of 1924, the eloquent speeches that were made from this side, practically telling me that there was no need for such legislation, because within three months Lord Weir or someone else was going to be turning out houses by mass production methods in such huge quantities that the housing conditions of this country would be revolutionised, and there would be really no need for bricklayers or plasterers. The right hon. Gentleman has favoured me with information this afternoon as to the actual position now in Scotland with regard to these steel houses, and I find that to-day, 12 months after those eloquent promises were made, we have had contracts fixed or approved for 191 such houses in Scotland. It is so easy to blame the working class for all that. The right hon. Gentleman cites the conditions in the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire as evidence that it is the selfishness of the operatives that is responsible for all this. Why does not he say it is the selfishness of Lord Weir in insisting that the ordinary trade union building rates will not be 1262 paid for the houses that he is offering to the community? Lord Weir says: "You can have houses on my terms." The operatives say: "You may have houses on our terms." Is there anything to choose between them? Is not Lord Weir, who is insisting on his terms for his houses, just acting as selfishly—if we deal for the moment with the selfishness of it —as the operatives who say: "You can have our labour on our terms"?
If I cared, and had time, to go into it, I should have no difficulty in showing that, of course, there is no comparison between the position of the two, the working classes are fighting for a standard of living, and if they let that go they are letting down themselves and their children to greater poverty than they are enduring at present. But there is a much stronger case than that. We have three firms in Scotland, I understand, who are prepared to produce these houses, and two of these three firms are prepared to produce them on the terms asked by the building trade operatives. They have gone to the building trade operatives, and have come to us as members of the Labour party, and have said, "The building trade people are right; we agree that they are right, and we are prepared to pay the rates of wages that they are asking Lord Weir to pay. "If two of these three firms are prepared to accept the view of the operatives as reasonable, why does not the right hon. Gentleman encourage those two firms? Why does not he place his orders with them. Why should he be always harping on the difficulties that confront Lord Weir?
May I remind him, again, that his failure is even greater? No single local authority in Scotland, with the possible exception of Glasgow, could afford to place an order sufficiently large to enable these houses to be produced by mass production methods at the lowest cost. I think that, if I were in the right hon. Gentleman's place, I would realise that, and would go to the people who are prepared to pay the trade union rates of wages, and with whom there is no quarrel, and would endeavour to make terms with them. And the terms that I would offer would be that I would give them an order for a number of houses sufficient to enable them to produce those houses at bed-rock cost. I would then, I think, as the Secretary for Scotland, 1263 representing the Government, act as the wholesale merchant of these houses to various local authorities. If you did that you would get your houses at the very lowest cost and you would be in a position to encourage the local authorities to depart from the attitude they have taken up. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is a certain amount of reluctance on the part of the authorities to face these houses. As a matter of fact, they do not believe in them. They do not believe in their durability. They think they will be costly and will put an extraordinary and unseen burden on the local rates. I do not know how far that is due to technical advice or how far to inherent conservatism, but undoubtedly it is there. But I think local authorities are also guilty of this. I should like to support the right hon. Gentleman against them on this point. I do not think they have yet realised that the provision of working-class houses is a permanent obligation on them. I think they still regard the present state of affairs as being temporary and transient, and if they can only hold out for a year or two, private enterprise will come into the field and provide houses for letting, as it did in the past. Very few well informed people on any side of the House will agree with that, and I think the fact should be impressed on the local authorities that we have passed through that stage and, whether it is for good or not, in the future, working-class houses for letting purposes have to be provided mainly, almost solely, by local authorities for the people in their areas. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that view still prevails, and provides a difficulty with which we have to deal.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Is there not this much to be said for the local authority, that even now the prices of brick houses for which quotations have been taken is cheaper than the prices being asked by the Weir firm for their houses, and therefore are not the local authorities perfectly right in refusing to take on contracts for the dear class of houses, which, in addition, they believe to be inferior?
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Yes, but there is something in what the right hon. Gentleman says, that the requirements in every locality are such that the local authorities 1264 should accept all the houses they can get from the building industry, and as many more as they can get at a reasonable price and of fairly decent quality from any other firm which has an alternative method of construction. I do not wish to pursue it further than that.
There is another important point to which I want to refer. It is not merely true that we have a greater shortage of houses in Scotland, but it is admittedly true that we have a much lower standard of housing. One hon. Member has reminded us that in the West of Scotland two-thirds of our population live in houses of not more than two apartments. That is scarcely creditable to English people. I do not think anyone would medically justify these as suitable family homes. I can only say, as one who has come through that standard of housing, I am thoroughly convinced that if you were to take the population out of these houses for 12 months and put them in decent housing conditions, and at the end of the 12 months attempt to force them back into these conditions, there is not a power in this land that would succeed in carrying out that policy. That being the case, should it not be the policy of the Government to do something to raise the standard of housing? If our inferior Scottish standard is leading to a higher Scottish death rate why should we perpetuate a policy which leads to the destruction of human life? But that is exactly what the Government are doing. When the late Government was in office, its representatives laid it down to the local authorities that in all housing schemes submitted to the Scottish Board of Health at least 75 per cent. of the houses were required to be of more than two apartments. I find, in reading this Report, that the right hon. Gentleman has abandoned that position. He says he held out against the reactionary local authorities for a considerable time, but, ultimately, he had to give way to this extent, that he is now prepared to approve schemes of which 60 per cent. are two-apartment houses. In other words, the houses he is now approving, to be inhabited by the Scottish population half a century hence, are no better than the houses we are now condemning as unfit as family homes for the present Scottish population. That is a re- 1265 actionary step, that is not only discreditable to the Government but which, if pursued, as I hope it will not be, is bound to inflict permanent and serious injury on the health and character of the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. STEPHEN MITCHELL
I intervene in order to bring to the notice of the Secretary for Scotland a few points which occur to me in connection with the Board of Agriculture. Doubtless he is already considering them, because we all know that he has deeply at heart the interest of Scotland and of Scottish agriculture. I notice in the Report of the Scottish Conference on Agricultural Policy which has just been issued a considerable reference is made to tuberculosis in cows. Too much attention and too much research work cannot be done in this important subject. About 33 per cent. of the cows in this country are suffering from tuberculosis, which is a source of great danger to the human race. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is perfectly satisfied with the test for tuberculosis. He is a very distinguished and enthusiastic agriculturist and I am only an amateur, but I am not satisfied with it. The test for tuberculosis is briefly this. An animal receives an injection of tuberculin. Its temperature is taken every two hours for 36 hours. If it rises half a degree it is said to have reacted and failed to pass the test. Dishonest people can easily defeat this test and defeat the officials. It is perfectly simple for a man to get hold of a quantity of tuberculin and test the animal for a period prior to the official test and make his animals absolutely immune from the tuberculin test. The Scottish livestock breeder is of high moral standing, but there are black sheep in the purest of flocks. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether a reeve satisfactory test cannot be found.
I wish to refer to a disease which is very prevalent in Scotland in the last two years. It has cost the strawberry growers on Clydeside a great deal of money and it has cost the strawberry pickers and weeders many months' employment. I know one farmer in Lanarkshire who has lost 17 acres of strawberry plants on account of it, and if the House will realise that it costs about £70 to replant an acre of straw- 1266 berries, it will see at once what a serious loss this is to the farmer. Like most of our evils, this came from England—
§ Mr. MITCHELL
It is thought this disease is caused either by the eel worm or fungus, and I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us whether any definite cause has been found as to its origin. Let me just say a word about rural housing before I resume my seat. There is a great need in my own district, which is entirely rural, for the smaller type of house; that is, the two-compartment house. If a man is only earning a low wage—I have no desire to see him doing that—it is no use getting him the larger type of house, because he would only have to pay a high rent, and in order to pay for the high rent he would let the extra apartment. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will consider these few points which I have tried to put before him.
§ Mr. T. HENDERSON
I want to protest against the kind of action that is meted out to some of us who sit here day after day and do not get called, when other Members of the House can come in, rise in their places, and are immediately called by the Chair. Some of us are beginning to feel that a, protest will have to be made.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Yes, I understand. This Debate has now more or less developed into a discussion on the housing question in Scotland. I would like to have taken part in such a discussion, because I think I could have satisfied the Secretary for Scotland as to why the Government are unable to get young men to take up the building industry as a trade, and also satisfied him as to the reason why the building workers in Scotland refuse to build the Weir houses on the conditions laid down by Lord Weir. But that is not my purpose to-night. I know of no other constituency in Scotland whose claims to have houses are greater than my own, but I am not going to make even that an excuse for carrying on the Debate on that question. I want for a few moments to bring to 1267 the notice of the House the necessity, first of all, for an alteration in the method of compiling the Reports of the Fishery Board. There has been no discussion on the Vote which deals with the Estimates of the Fishery Board, because very few Members, if any, possess a copy of the 1924 Report. I happen to Rave one, and I happen also to have a copy of the 1923 Report, and I am going to ask the Undersecretary—I am not going to make any complaint about it—whether he would not consider, in compiling these Reports, of having something of a uniform character.
If you take the 1924 Report, it consists, mainly, of statistical tables, with marginal notes, giving a description of the results of the fishery for the year in the different ports, but it is impossible to compare the 1923 Report with the 1924 Report. There are no comparative tables. The 1923 Report is much the better from the point of view that it gives in formation under the head of "Marine superintendence." It gives those who are interested almost every detail of the work undertaken by the Fishery Board. It deals with illegal trawling, the number of convictions that have been recorded during the year, and i; also deals with the work of the cruisers belonging to the Department. In a very detailed manner it deals with every part of the work of the Fishery Board. But if you turn to the latest Report for the year 1924 you get no idea at all of what has been done during the year, and it is because of this defect that I am going to ask the Under-Secretary to explain, if he can, what has been done on the question of illegal trawling. We were told by the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) that we had very few foreign trawlers coming into the coast now. That may be true, but it is on record that in 1923 there were eight foreign trawlers in side the limit. In 1924 there is no record at all, and the peculiar thing about it is this: that in the Estimates presented to this House there is an estimate receipt of £500 for convictions that are likely to take place in the year 1925–6.
I ask the Under-Secretary to give us an idea as to why there is no information either in the Report for the year 1924 or in the Estimates now before Parliament as to the number of prosecutions for illegal trawling? In the 1923 Report, we were told that the average fine im- 1268 posed was £66 in each case. I think there were something like 29 prosecutions, and the fines averaged £66. I also ask the Under-Secretary to find out the opinion of local fishermen, who are just about non-existent now. If you were to go up the north-east cost of Scotland now after having been absent for some few years, you would find that the fishing villages are just about wiped out. There used to be a fleet in most of these villages five years ago; but there are only one or two boats in them now, and if you speak about the work of the Fishery Board in attempting to deal with the trawlers who come into the spawning beds, they simply laugh at you and say, "Yes, there is no doubt about it. It is perfectly true that trawlers have been convicted for getting inside the limit, and they have been fined, but for every fine imposed they have been inside the limit 50 times." From the profits made in going inside the limit, they can easily pay the fine of £66.
I wish now to call attention to some peculiarities in the Estimates. The Fishery Board have an expenditure amounting to something like £110,000. They are supposed to look after the development and improvement of the fishing industry, but I find from the Estimates that the expenditure for the actual development of the industry amounts to only £670. This is for the development of an industry which is as necessary to the big industrial centres of our country as it is to the fishing villages, because the people in the industrial towns look to getting good, wholesome, cheap food, and it is as much the duty of us who represent city constituencies to look after the fishing industry, as it is the duty of those who represent little seaport towns. I want to know why only £670 has been devoted to that purpose. If I am wrong in stating this the fault is not mine.
I understand that there are complications and it has not been made clear to the House what has been done with regard to the work of the Fishery Board as detailed in the Report for 1924. In this Estimate we are told that there will be increased receipts in 1925–26 which are estimated at £11,225. Surely you might have increased the expenditure for development by more than £670 if you are going to have increased receipts to the amount of £11,225, but you allow the amount to remain the same as it was in 1924–25. There is an item here of £246 1269 for sums recoverable in connection with the disposal of Admiralty drifters to ex-service men and the amount received for that was £5,000. I know you are not responsible for that but I want to know how many drifters there were.
On page 264 there is a peculiar item. An office superintendent and messenger receives £95 for 1925–26. In 1924–25 the same office superintendent and messenger received £130. Why the reduction? The explanatory note certainly does not explain it, because I find, according to what is stated here, that he has had his wages reduced because he is a naval pensioner, and his pension is taken into account when his wages are settled. Surely that is not what a good Government should do, at least a Government that is so anxious to look after the interests of ex-service men. I would like to know again why the messenger for cleaning the official apartments of the Board gets £104? Is it the same messenger as is mentioned above, the office superintendent and messenger, who gets the £95? Where does this £104 come from? I know that, there is a little bit of trouble. You were told that if you looked after the pence the pounds would take care of themselves, but this is a question of over £100, and I want an explanation as to who these messengers are, and how many of them are getting a share of that £104.
Then there are established and unestablished messengers who are also naval pensioners and the pension has been taken into consideration. That is very mean and contemptible. Still on page 264, under the heading of "Scientific Investigations," we find a scientific superintendent whose starting salary is £650 while his annual increase is £25. Last year he received £671. He is only entitled to an increase of £25, and he is receiving £697 which is £l more than he ought to receive. I want to know if this is a balance for overtime or do you estimate that in 1925–26 this scientific superintendent will be likely to be working extra, or where does that pound came in? Dealing with the question of the research steamer "Explorer," I find that the first officer starts with £276 with an annual increase of £6. Last year he received £270 and in 1925–26 he is to receive £296, which is an increase of £26.
I now come to that part of the Estimates which deals with illegal trawl- 1270 ing. On page 259, under heading B, I find this item, "Travelling and subsistence of the Board inspectors and officers and officers and men of the Board's cruisers attending criminal prosecutions," the sum being £2,175. What part of that sum is used for the purposes of officers or men attending criminal prosecutions? We are given no idea of the number of prosecutions which have taken place for illegal trawling, and I am anxious to find out what has been done in regard to this matter, because I believe until we stop illegal trawling there will be no betterment of the inshore fishing grounds of Scotland, and I believe this question to be so important that I am anxious to find out exactly what is being done. Neither here in the Estimate, nor in the Report, can we find out what has been done since 1923. We want to preserve this fishing industry. I have heard nice things said, and rightly said, about the mining population, and about the ex-service men —when they were in service—but I know of no body of men who have done more for this country than the hardy fishermen. There are none more brave, none more loyal, and I want to ask the Government: Are we going to be in earnest in stopping illegal trawling? I am told that fining is no use, and unless you are prepared to do something drastic against illegal trawling I am afraid things will be no better.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. COUPER
I rise to mention the matter of the subsidy payable in respect of the Hebridean steamer services. It is an admitted fact in the district which I represent that the service to the West Highlands is extremely defective and is detrimental to the interests of the trade of the West Highlands. It cannot be disputed that the fleet to which the subsidy is paid is one of the most obsolete in the country. Its oldest steamer is aged 81 years, and the- average of the fleet is over 40 years. An efficient service cannot be expected from steamers of that class, and I would like to ask the Secretary for Scotland to consider not only as Secretary for Scotland, but as a Scotsman—and I think that appeals to the majority in the House at the moment—as to whether we are getting value for our money in this subsidy. The service to the West Highlands is one of the most essential in Scotland, not only for the development of the land, 1271 which can only be served by a sea-service, but for the improvement, assistance and development of the people there, than whom no better have ever raised in these islands. Their numbers are gradually diminishing, and I believe their physique is deteriorating. Some may say that this is due to inferior housing, but deterioration either of plant or man follows on a want of modern services whereby they can be kept in touch with modern affairs. There are three areas from which the present island service can be run. There is first Oban, and there is Mallaig and Kyle. From Oban can be served the Lower Hebrides and Islay; from Mallaig can be served Mull and the Central Hebrides; and from Kyle can be served Skye and the Northern and Outer Hebrides. But these can only be served by regular services of steamers of a modern and up-to-date type. I believe reference has been made to the fact that there should be a larger class of boat. That may be so. I understand the size mentioned was 1,000 tons, but whether that referred to net tonnage, gross tonnage, or dead weight, I do not know. It means a great deal of difference. The principal thing to be considered is the size of the boat in length, breadth and depth, and the fact that she has a light draught, so that she can enter the harbours at present available, while the harbours which are not now available ought to receive such attention from the country and the Government as will enable them to be put into a condition in which trading can be done by steamers of the most modern class. It is required that these should be modern steamers, able to withstand all conditions of weather, and not requiring, as some of the present boats do, to lie up for three or four days waiting for the weather to moderate before making a passage, while being absolutely unfit to carry live-stock under such conditions. This is a point of importance in connection with the development of the West Coast of Scotland, and it has a reaction even upon the congestion in the cities, because at present people have no facilities for leaving the city and returning to it quickly, and as more of them remain in the city, the congestion becomes worse. I gathered that the last speaker was anxious to economise. I agree with 1272 him, and it is from the economical point of view that I raise the question of what benefit we are getting from the service to the West Highlands. We ought to see that we get full value for the subsidy we pay. The amount mentioned in the Estimate is £14,000, but I understand that is the sum paid in respect of the Hebridean service, and that the river steamers which serve from Glasgow down to Buteshire, also receive a subsidy. The total amount, I understand, including the £14,000, is about £40,000 a year. I suggest that some arrangement could be made with the railway companies to run steamers from their termini to these various areas on the same principle as railway companies run steamers to the Channel Islands and other points. The service would be carried out in an efficient manner with duly-equipped boats, and would develop the West Coast of Scotland, not only from a commercial point of view, but would induce a tourist traffic there, which is at present largely stopped because of the inconvenience in travelling to those places.
Mr. W. M. WATSON
I wish to mention one or two little matters which affect my own district particularly, but before doing so I must say that we have had a most interesting discussion this afternoon. It has ranged over a large number of subjects; from the very North of Scotland to the South, but it must have been a very interesting discussion because we have had a pretty large share of the time of the Prime Minister himself. I am sure that Scottish Members appreciate the attention which the Prime Minister has given to our discussion. I believe that he has a very warm side for Scotland and for Scottish affairs, and he has certainly given us a good share of his time during the discussion of the Scottish Estimates to-day. We have discussed transport in Scotland, a very important matter, but I do not propose to add anything to what has been said. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will do everything he possibly can to colonise our own Highlands. There is no reason for discussing the colonisation of the Empire when we are requiring colonisation within our own shores, and I hope that the appeal which has been made to the Secretary for Scotland will not have been made in vain.
Then we have discussed the most interesting question of Scottish education, 1273 a matter on which we pride ourselves, but a matter in which we require to make very great progress as well. Enough has been said during this discussion about the various local education authorities in Scotland, and the claim has been made by my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Peebles and South Midlothian (Mr. Westwood) that we have the honour to come from a county which claims to be the most progressive in educational matters.
I do not know what is the hon. Member's county, but, according to reports, the Gorbals Division of Glasgow, which he represents, is rather peculiar, and I am not particularly anxious to visit that part of our country. After all, the Kingdom of Fife is much more attractive than the Gorbals Division of Glasgow. I was going to say that our educationists in Scotland can have further examples of what can be done in the way of education if they will visit our county, and particularly the city that I have the honour to represent in this House. I think the Royal Burgh of Dunfermline can give points to any part of Scotland for providing educational facilities. Thanks to the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, we have been able to do a great deal in the direction of providing education that is not done in any other part of Scotland, so that when the Secretary for Scotland finds that he has a few millions that he does not know what to do with, educationally, he can come to Dunfermline, and we will show him how he run very usefully dispose of those odd millions.
I wish briefly to draw the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to one or two little matters. During his speech he referred to the fact that we had not enough skilled labour in the building trade, and he attributed the shortage of houses and the slow rate of building in Scotland to the fact that we had not sufficient trained men in the building trade. I do not know what is the case in other parts of the country, but in the county from which he and I come—because even the Secretary for Scotland comes from the ancient Kingdom of Fife—there are over 200 skilled building trade workers on the books of the Employment Exchanges who cannot find work in the building trade. Twelve months ago 1274 there were something like 90 unemployed in the building trade, but quite recently, within the last few months, over 200 men could not find employment in the building trade in the county of Fife, and I believe that we will have thousands all over Scotland who cannot find employment in that particular occupation. It may be true that that is due to the peculiar circumstances with which we have been faced in that county. I do not require to refer to the mining situation.
The uncertainty in the mining situation, and the increase of unemployment in the mining industry have been responsible for the stopping of a number of building schemes which were being undertaken by colliery companies. Under the Housing Acts, private employers and colliery companies have been building a certain number of houses, but, due to the change that has taken place in the mining industry during recent days, the colliery companies have stopped going on with their building schemes. As a matter of fact, I believe that quite a number of schemes are stopped, although they are only half completed. That is unfortunate, and I hope that the conditions will be such now as will encourage the colliery companies to go ahead with the building schemes that they have on hand, but it is the fact that a few weeks ago there were over 200 skilled building tradesmen out of work in that particular county.
There is just one other small point that I wish to make. I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will be able to use his influence with the Scottish National Housing Company or with the Admiralty to come to an understanding as to what is the position with regard to building at Rosyth. For some time past the education authority has been anxious to build a third school at Rosyth, but we do not know where to build the school, for the simple reason that we do not know where the new houses are proposed to be built. There are something like 200 or 300 tin shanties just outside the dockyard gates at Rosyth, which we are promised are to be demolished, and new houses are to be erected for the workers who are at present housed in these bungalows, as they are called. If you go to Dunfermline, you are referred to the Bungalow City at Rosyth, but the Bungalow City at Rosyth is just an old tin shanty place. But it is called a bungalow city. We 1275 have been promised that new houses should be built. They are to be put up somewhere at Rosyth. The education authority is at the moment uncertain as to where the houses have to be built, and consequently where they shall be able to build their new school. If the Secretary for Scotland can tell us where these houses are to be built so that the education authority can go ahead with their new school, and take steps to replace the tumble-down school at Rosyth, it will, undoubtedly, be a great advantage to all, and to the bricklayers in that particular part of our county.
There is another point to which I would wish to refer, and that is in regard to the burdens which are to be thrown upon the parish councils due to recent legislation which has been passed in connection with unemployment. It will have been notified that some of our parish councils have been increasing their rates by 6d. in the £ in anticipation of having further calls made upon them due to the change which has been made in connection with unemployment. A promise has been made in this House in regard to that particular point of the burdens on the parish councils, which, they think, really ought to be shouldered by the Minister of Labour. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will consider between now and when this change comes into operation what assistance he can give to the parish councils in Scotland, because this is undoubtedly a burden which no ratepayer feels that he ought to be called upon to bear. I have wished for the opportunity to bring these two or three various matters before the attention of the Secretary for Scotland, and I trust he will be able to give us some satisfaction.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
There are three items on page 253 of the Estimates to which I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. These items include agricultural education, agricultural research, and scientific research and experiment. The House will notice that for agricultural education there is a decrease this year of £597, while there is an increase for the second item, agricultural research of £21,416, and an increase for scientific research and experiment of £581, making altogether an increase of, roughly 1276 £32,000. As a Member representing a purely agricultural constituency I am absolutely in agreement with everything that can be done in these directions. I think that in the line of research lies the hope really for benefiting agriculture. I should like to make an appeal to the Secretary for Scotland not to abandon agricultural education and agricultural research, as they are both good, but if we are really to have that benefit from research which we might have we must see that its results are brought to the people for whom it is being got.
There are two sections of the agricultural community who need agricultural education; the grown-up section and the children. I should like, first of all, to speak of the education of farmers and smallholders, and as to how they may benefit by research. Up till now any attempt that has been made to bring the results of research to the notice and use of farmers has been by means of lectures and continuation classes. It is true that in many cases of which I know these have not proved entirely successful. At first there have been a fair number attending, and then gradually the attendance has dropped down. That, of course, might be due to two causes: due to the fact, probably, that the lecturer was not a good lecturer, or the syllabus was not a very good one. But there is one form of lecture which I think will appeal to every farmer, and that is one where you show him the results achieved. I have heard lectures given where the value of certain seeds was shown and of certain manures. That kind of lecture is likely to appeal to the farmer far more than other kind, and especially if he can actually see the seeds growing and the manure being used. I would, therefore, appeal to the Secretary for Scotland to give us more experimental farming plots. We have in our county an excellent farm for experiments, but the farm is situated about six miles from the villages, and it is almost impossible for people in the far away parts of the county to get over to see the results. What we want throughout all counties is experimental plots of the sort I have described where the people can see exactly what are the results. If these experimental plots are placed near a market town where the farmer, it may be, gets to once a week or once a fortnight, he will probably be able on going to market to see the results of 1277 these various seeds and soils. That is the first point that I want a put forward, that we should have more money spent on education for the rural farmer.
I desire to appeal, too, that something should be done in our educational system for the education of the children for rural life. At the present time the whole tendency of education is to educate the girls and the boys for urban life only. They are taught absolutely nothing about the country, but are really brought up as if they were intended to live in the cities. If we are going to have an agricultural population we really must train the children from their youth so that they will be quick to turn to agricultural work. Therefore, I appeal that in our schools we should have some means by which the children should begin with subjects that will help them when afterwards they take up their life-work. They should be trained for that work from the start. I know there are some educationists who would turn round and say that the subjects that are studied at school are all in the right direction, in the way of languages, and so on. My argument is that if they learned the technical work in the schools that they will afterwards pursue, if they were properly taught the use of their own English language, that there is really no need for foreign languages at all. Therefore I would appeal in that way that something should be done.
There is one other point to which I should like to refer in this matter of education, and that is this: We have a system of medical inspection in the schools. Our children are inspected when they go to school for a great many things, their ears, their hearing, their throat, and I forget how many more, but I should like to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether something could not be done to see that the children when they get to school or shortly after are examined as to their vision. This is not compulsory. I could give instances of children at school who, after they have been at school for some time, are considered rather stupid until it is found out after, it may be, they have been there for two or three years, that they could not see the blackboard at all. People who are not shortsighted themselves may perhaps not realise that such a child may not know that it cannot see as 1278 clearly as the others. I should like to ask the Secretary for Scotland if he could not see his way to induce the education authorities, for example, to have visual acuity placed on the list for inspection, and that it should be compulsory that the children should be examined on entering school or very shortly afterwards.
With regard to another question which has been mentioned to-day, the demand for smaller classes, we want smaller classes, but if you are going to reduce the size of the classes it should be the infant classes. If a child is properly trained, it is certainly important that it should be able, when it comes to the higher classes, to listen to a lecture and not require so much individual attention. What we want with our children is that they should have individual attention when they are young; then they will do far better. What happens in plenty of our schools to-day? In the infant classes, the teacher is unable to give individual attention and the children simply sit wasting time and suffering because they are kept indoors when they would be outside. If there is any reduction in the classes, it should take place in the infant classes rather than the others.
Another point is the development of the Western Highlands. It is suggested that the only way in which that can be done is by an increased subsidy for transport. I would like to point out that we have at the present time the means of transport though they may not be very good. If we are going to develop the Western Highlands, surely the first thing is to develop them along present roads. We have exactly the same conditions along the railways and at the ports at the present time. What we have to do, first of all, before spending more money subsidising other forms of transport, is to see that the land along the present railway lines is developed. What we want to do for the people of the Western Highlands is to show that that land can be worked up. I would like to bring those few points to the attention of the Secretary for Scotland, and I hope I may be excused for having taken up so much of the time of the House.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I rise to call attention to two small points, one briefly mentioned already by the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. W. M. Watson) and 1279 the other not raised yet at all. The first point is with regard to school accommodation I want to ask the Secretary for Scotland to consider the present conditions of schools, particularly in great cities like Glasgow, and see if they are sanitary, if they are well enough kept, and if they are performing the functions they were meant to perform. There are two or three schools, one in the division of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvin-grove (Captain Elliot), and I think there is a school in Anderston, in Washington Street, in the midst of an area terribly congested and with the noise morning, noon and night from adjacent works, making it almost impossible for any teacher to give sufficient attention. The school is not sufficiently well equipped. There is a second school I would like to refer to as an illustration, and that is a school on the south side of Glasgow known as Greenside School. That is situated right against the London, Midland and Scottish Railway main line. When we held a public meeting there during the election, we had to stop addressing our constituents because of the main line trains running right past the school. If that applies during an election meeting, it is a serious matter when young children are being taught. Those schools have outgrown their existing sanitary conditions. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will give some attention to the re-equipping of those schools. It may be argued against me that the shortage of building trade labour militates against the going on with the schools as rapidly as possible. I admit that is a fairly sound argument. But at least improvements could be carried out temporarily which would at least make the schools sufferable until new schools are built to take their places.
There is another point which affects the lives of the large industrial population, the point raised by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, namely, the rates of the parish councils in Scotland. This matter has assumed within recent weeks dimensions of greater importance. Last year we were under a different kind of Government, and, due to that Government's action, a Bill was introduced which had for its object the increasing of the relief to the able-bodied people unemployed. It also abolished the gaps. 1280 Every parish council of an industrial character in Scotland had a considerable relief granted to it in respect of future obligations. The heaviest rated parishes in Scotland were Bonhill and Govan. If I take Govan as typical, I find that in 1923 it cost that parish to pay able-bodied relief an average per week of £4,000. If I take the year 1924, when the abolition of the gap took place, I find that the average works out at £3,200. In the beginning of 1924 the amount was over £4,000 per week, but with the coming of the new Unemployment Insurance Act the amount paid by Govan in the last week of 1924 fell to £1,950, a net decrease of about £2,000 a week. That was in December, 1924. It cost £2,000 a week, that is in relief to the able-bodied poor. To-day Govan Parish Council are paying, due to the, new Regulations and restrictions of the present Minister of Labour, an amount that has risen in six months from £2,000 a week to £2,600 per week, or £600 per week more than they were paying in the beginning of this year. That is before the new Act operates. The Act will operate at the beginning of next month. That means that every area in Scotland of an industrial kind is going to be harder hit than ever. I find the Glasgow Parish Council have to-day a debt of close on £1,000,000. Govan have a debt of £650,000. Greenock Parish Council have almost as much as Govan. The heaviest hit are Bonhill, Greenock. Glasgow, Govan, and Edinburgh. Every one of those places is having the same burden placed upon it. When the new Act comes into operation you are going to force the decent unemployed on to the very poor, who are working and earning very little more than those who are idle, and ask them to bear the burden of keeping the other poor people. The reason I am anxious to raise it to-day is that recently a deputation visited the present Minister of Health asking him to deal with the problem in England. They were led by two or three Members, including the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Beckett), and the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), who urged on the Minister the necessity of dealing with the problem of overburdened areas. If my information is correct, they met the Prime Minister as well as the Minister of Health, and he agreed to set 1281 up some kind of Committee—I am not sure as to the definite form it is to take— to inquire into the burdens of local rating and the treatment of the able-bodied poor. I think the areas in England are no worse or no better than those in Scotland, and I am asking that the Secretary of Scotland should seriously consider this problem.
Our parish councils cannot go on. In Govan the parish council rates are 5s. 7d. in the £. Less than a penny car-ride from there we have Cathcart parish. People who earn their living in Glasgow, who draw their salaries from Glasgow, people like school teachers, who only the other week had public money granted to them to give them decent superannuation, are living in Cathcart, and although they draw their living from the citizens of Glasgow they are rated at only 5½d. as against 5s. 7d. in Govan. The parish of Govan is now so confined that there is no room to build new houses, and every new house built is outside its confines. Every year Govan parish becomes poorer because the better off people are moving to the new houses which the Secretary for Scotland and the local authorities are building outside its area. The district is becoming poorer and poorer, until the industries in the district and the poor people left in it cannot meet the obligations they have to carry. The parish councils cannot function and discharge their duties as they ought to. This question of the parish councils is one of first-class importance, and merits the consideration of the Secretary for Scotland, and I only hope he will take effective steps to see that the question is dealt with at an early date. I find the valuation of Govan remaining stationary while the valuation of Glasgow and other districts is increasing. When the valuation of areas increases it means that new property is being built, new houses erected, but Govan is practically remaining stationary because there are none, or comparatively few, places being built there. To ask the poor to keep the poor is indefensible. Because a man lives in Govan the burden of unemployment is not more his burden than the burden of people living in Kilmacolm. One of the reasons why shipbuilding has been ruined is to be found in the policy of reparations, getting ships from Germany. If that policy, pursued by the national 1282 Government has caused a slump in shipbuilding, surely it ought not to be left to the poor people in that area to bear the burden? As that slump was caused by a national decision the nation ought to carry the burden.
The last thing I want to mention is the interest that is charged for debts. Govan has to pay to the Goschen Committee interest of 5 per cent., and with her debt of £650,000 that represents almost 1s. in the £. Poor folk who lend money to the Post Office Savings Bank get only 2| per cent. interest, but when the same poor people go to borrow from the same Government they are called upon to pay 5 per cent. for their loans. In our areas we have never objected to repay money that has been borrowed, but surely if the Government cannot make the loans interest-free they can at least reduce the terrible load of interest which the heavily-burdened authorities are called upon to pay, and make concessions which will ease the burdens on those poor folk who are every day, I am afraid, becoming steadily poorer. If the Secretary for Scotland and the Under-Secretary can assist us in this direction they will have done something to contribute to the well-being of Scotland.
Mr. CLARK HUTCHISON
There has been a considerable amount of discussion on the question of transport in the West Highlands. I claim to know something about the West Highlands and it has occurred to me that the question of the Crinan Canal has not been touched upon. As hon. Members probably know, the Crinan Canal is almost 100 years old, and is a very awkward canal for ships to get through. There is a long series of small looks in the middle stretch of the canal, which detain vessels for an over-long period. It would be a great advantage to the transport of goods between the Outer Isles and Glasgow and Greenock and other places if a new canal were made, and it would provide very useful work at the present period of acute unemployment. Its use would save a hundred miles of more or less open sea, and it would abolish the necessity of transhipment into smaller vessels from those vessels which for reasons of draught and so on cannot get into various harbours. I am thinking as an instance, for the moment, of the Island of Islay steamer which starts from West 1283 Loch Tarbert, and which goes across to Gigha to Port Ellen and Port Askaig. A very small light-draught ship and a very short ship has to be used on account of the shallowness of the water in West Loch Tarbert and the difficulty of swinging. I believe the Canal would materially assist ships carrying goods to and from the West Highlands and drifters and the larger fishing craft in getting from Loch Fyne and the Clyde to the wider seas on the western side. This has been discussed for many years, and I think that under existing conditions, when unemployment is very rife, that it would be a sound piece of work if the Secretary for Scotland would consider the question of making a new canal in that district. This link between the Western Islands and the towns on the Firth of Clyde has been entirely neglected, and I wish to draw the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to this matter.
§ Captain ELLIOT (Parliamentary Under Secretary for Health, Scotland)
The regularity with which the 15 minutes' ration has been adhered to has been very general, save perhaps in the case of my right hon. Friend, but on an occasion when the salary of the Secretary for Scotland is under discussion I think the criminal is entitled to be heard in his own defence in answer to the multitude of charges which have been brought against him. Considering the general nature of the Debate, if it is not possible to increase the salary of the Secretary for Scotland, I do not think that even the hardest-hearted hon. Member would consider the necessity of reducing it at this moment. I find that the extent of the ground which has been covered ever since the Secretary for Scotland made his speech, and to which I shall have to make reply, is extensive, but I shall have to make my reply having regard to the amount of time at my disposal, which is very short. We had a very serious speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). We have had several other speeches of a very interesting and well-informed character from other parts of the House. I do not need to refer, except in passing, to the minor points of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tradeston (Mr. T. Henderson), who dealt with fishery questions and other points, 1284 ranging upwards from the amount paid to the messengers. He asked whether the office cleaner was the person who was mentioned under the heading of superintendent, and he also asked what we are doing to prevent illegal trawling up and down the coast of Scotland. With regard to fishery development, £670 was exactly the sum devoted to that purpose last year, and I find that that £670 is for the fostering of lobsters. All those of us who are attempting to develop tourist travelling in Scotland, know that a greater sum spent on the fostering of lobsters might add difficulties to the bathers in those places. On the more important question of dealing with the trawlers we have, as the Secretary for Scotland previously mentioned, had complaint as to the Report from the hon. Member for Tradeston, but that has been disposed of by the answer given to a private notice question earlier in the day. The difficulty with regard to the Fishery Report is simply that the two things are not comparable. The hon. Member who raised this question is comparing the Statistical Report of this year with the Fishery Report of last year. In another 10 days' time the Fishery Report will be out, and then the hon. Member can compare like with like, and he will find there the answer to many of the questions which he has been raising.
The prevention of illegal trawling has made very considerable progress, and we have succeeded in materially reducing not merely the cases which have been prosecuted, but even the number of complaints made, which leads us to believe that we are actually succeeding in cutting down the practice of illegal trawling; around our coast.
We have carried out the construction of two new auxiliary fast motor cruisers. One of these is a skimming boat capable of doing 33 knots an hour, and this has caused considerable complaint amongst the illegal trawlers who consider that it is not a very sporting thing for us to do to catch them in this way, and they say that they had no idea that we should launch a thing like that upon them. The result is that the old joke against the Board of Agriculture made by a gillie that if you could see the thing moving it would certainly not be the Board of Agriculture cannot be levelled against the Fisheries Board, which has embarked 1285 upon a very progressive and go-ahead policy. Even with regard to the location of shoals by aeroplanes, raised in previous years, this has been tried, though we have not been very successful in getting practical results from it.
The Fisheries Vote, the Education Vote, the Board of Agriculture Vote and the Housing Vote have all been touched upon since eight o'clock this evening, and it would be useless for anyone, and more particularly an Under-Secretary, to attempt to review the whole policy of the Scottish Office in relation to all these topics in the seven minutes which are now left before I shall have to sit down if I do not wish to talk my own Vote out. The policy of the Department with which I am more particularly concerned, the Board of Health, continues to be dominated by the shortage of housing, and the tremendous industrial depression under which the country is labouring just now. The question of the great shortage of houses has been dealt with already by the Secretary for Scotland, and it is not necessary for me to go into that question any further except to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, when he talked of the Secretary for Scotland accusing the building trade of not being willing to take more apprentices, was under a misapprehension. The point was not that the building trade were not taking sufficient apprentices, but that before the scheme of 1924 was introduced the number of apprentices working on Government housing schemes was greater than the proportion to which it is proposed to raise it by the operation of the 1924 scheme. The proportion of apprentices to skilled men is greater than it would be under the operation of the 1924 scheme, and we have already reached the maximum of relief we get in building trades by the bringing in of apprentices under the Wheatley scheme.
Thus, however successful that scheme, we cannot expect any great increase in the rate of building or building trade labour by its operation. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. W. M. Watson) stated that in his district there were 200 men unemployed: skilled men in the building trade. I say that there is no question of 200 men of this description being unemployed in the whole of Scotland because there are not more than 1286 40 or 50 registered as unemployed in the key skilled trades. It is useless to say there are a number of house painters unemployed when we are short of bricklayers and plasterers. It is useless to talk of men being unemployed in the ancillary trades as long as we have this tremendous bottle neck in the key trades with which we are mostly concerned.
The point was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston with regard to alternative methods that Lord Weir is just as obstinate as the building trade operatives. He is standing out for his conditions, and the right hon. Gentleman and the operatives are standing out for theirs. We have held, not one inquiry, but two inquiries, into the allegations that trade union methods were not being observed by the firm of G. and J. Weir. Not merely from a Government inquiry, but from a local authority inquiry, we have the report that trade union conditions are being observed by that firm. We have the signature, not of a capitalist, not of a Government nominee, but the signature of Mr. Cramp to that statement. It is useless for trade unionists to say that we are attempting to destroy the trade union movement when we have the signature of Mr. Cramp. I shall not at this moment recapitulate the Report of the Bradbury Committee on alternative methods of production. The signature of Mr. Cramp, I might add, however, was given with that of the other members, and there was no minority Report. We got his signature to a statement that trade union rules and regulations are being observed by Messrs. Weir in constructing the steel houses.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I am talking of the verdict given on the facts by a skilled trade unionist, who is quite as capable as any of us in this House of adjudicating upon the question of what is and what is not the limit of demarcation between one class of trade union work and another. When we have statements brought forward, as they have been brought forward by the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) as to the conditions in that area, and by the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), I do consider 1287 that this niggling desire to draw a line exactly here and exactly there is a little out of place when we are dealing with this open scandal, this running sore in Scotland, of which we have been told this afternoon.
Another question, brought forward by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), related to the difficulties into which local Government is thrown in Scotland by the continuing and deep industrial depression. We are keeping in close touch with the Ministry of Health upon this question of a Committee to examine the case of the distressed areas. This is a departmental Committee, and we shall keep in close touch with it. Any further steps that we can take to make sure that we in Scotland get at least as good conditions as England gets from any operations of this Committee, the Scottish Office may be relied upon to take. On the various points raised I have very briefly replied, and if I have failed in the limited time available to answer any questions put to me, I hope hon. Members will attribute it to the inexorable hands of the clock, rather than to lack of good will on my part.
§ It being Ten of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Questions, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in respect of Classes I to VII of the Civil Services Estimates, and of the Navy Estimate, the Army Estimates, the Air Estimates, the Revenue Departments Estimates, and other outstanding Resolutions severally.