HC Deb 03 March 1926 vol 192 cc1461-531

2. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £47,100, 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 Grants in respect of Police Expenditure and for a Grant-in-Aid of the Police Federation in Scotland."

First Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)

I think it might be convenient that I should say a few words at the outset of this Debate. When this Vote was last before the House, a number of questions were put to the Government on a subject which peculiarly affects the question of house-building in Scotland. I should like to say that, since the last Debate, I have had the opportunity of various conversations, not only with hon. Members belonging to this House, but also with the parties interested in this problem—with representatives both of the employers and the employed. I should like at the outset to say that I met the representatives particularly of the trade unionist movement, and that I received from them assurances that they desired in every way to facilitate the progress of house-building in Scotland. I am grateful for that assurance, and I accept it in the spirit in which it is made. Though these conversations which have taken place have up to the moment led to no definite conclusion, I do not think it can be said that it is impossible that such similar conversations might be re-opened. I, at least, am always willing to do anything I can to facilitate progress in this matter. I am speaking, not only for myself individually, but for the Government as a whole and, as I believe, for the great mass of the people of this country, irrespective of any party, when I say that our one and main concern is rapid progress in house construction by whatever method may be possible.

A good deal was said in these conversations, and something was said in this House, about rates of remuneration as far as they affected the labourer and the semi-skilled labourer in these concerns; and, while on the one side I must assert that in the contracts into which the National Housing Company of Scotland are entering there is inserted and will be inserted the Fair Wages Clause, I am bound, on the other hand, to say that in the judgment of the Government that Fair Wages Clause is properly inserted, and that it is being interpreted in the proper spirit. I have not taken the attitude that there was no possibility of some accommodation upon such matters as the rates of wages for the unskilled or semi-skilled operative engaged upon the production of these houses, nor do I think that anything which has passed up to the moment rules out the possibility of further consideration of that question. If, however, it is felt that over and above this the request must be pressed for full building trade rates and conditions, notwithstanding new methods and simplified processes deliberately adopted to avoid calling upon highly skilled building trade craftsmen and to give employment to other classes of men, then, in my judgment, a new difficulty is created. We should then be asked to go back upon the considered judgment of the Bradbury Committee's Report and, indeed, to adopt a policy which would be inconsistent with the principles of modern industrial development. I say that, because I want it to be clearly understood that, so far as we are concerned, our interpretation of the Bradbury Committee's Report makes it clear that new methods have been adopted, that they are capable of being put into operation by unskilled men, and that the essence of this scheme is that it should call upon a pool of industry which is not concerned in house-building by ordinary methods.

I can only add that we are faced to-day in Scotland with a problem of enormous magnitude, but we have at the present time sanctioned a scheme for the construction of anything between 13,000 and 15,000 houses, and that number may be materially increased. I venture to hope that nothing will be said in this Debate which will preclude the possibility of proceeding at the greatest possible speed with the development by ordinary building methods, nor, indeed, anything which would utterly close the door to further negotiations, if possible, upon the minor questions. Having listened with the greatest care, not only to the development of the Debate in this House, but to the conversations which have taken place outside this House, I cannot help saying that in my judgment, if a reasonable and helpful state of mind is adopted by the parties engaged in this problem, it is not beyond human conception that we may arrive at an arrangement which will be just and fair to the men who are employed in the production of these houses under these methods and which will give what the country demands, the rapid production of houses, the necessity for which is so clamant that it does not require reiteration on my part. I ask the House to give me this Vote. I ask it not in any party spirit. I do not speak in any manner inimical to the interests of any class or industry in this country, but I appeal to the common-sense of this House, and I appeal to the common-sense and for the support of the great mass of the people outside this House.


I venture to say, certainly for myself, that I welcome most cordially the tone of the speech to which we have just listened. Hon. Members who were present at the Debate on the Committee stage of this Vote will agree, I am sure, that what was done then was to state a case against what appeared to be the intentions of the Government at that time, to state a case not for the purpose of obstructing house building, but of getting complete agree- ment between the parties then in disagreement. My hon. Friends around me voted the money on the Committee stage for the purpose of giving an opportunity, between the Committee stage and Report stage, to the various sides, with, as we hoped, the good offices of the Secretary of State for Scotland, to come to an arrangement. I understand that in the interval the Secretary of State for Scotland has had communications with both sides separately, I think, and also together.


indicated assent.


Then that is right. We are all very glad that everybody has been co-operating to see whether an agreement can be come to. In stating the position we are in to-day, I do not propose to go into details. My hon. Friends who have been more at the point of battle than I have been may later on give details of the failure to come to an arrangement; but it is very important at a moment like this when everybody is striving to get these houses built with good will, that we should understand the sort of general, fundamental position that is taken up. This is no question of steel houses, or brick houses, or stone houses. We have expressed our views about them, but there is no Member of this House who will stand up and say that a matter of prejudice or taste or sentiment should stand in the way of building shelters for the people of Scotland. I have expressed my prejudices and my tastes. They have gone. We want houses. But it is really very hard to put a body of men like those with whom I have been co-operating in this horrible dilemma: "You want houses, everybody wants houses, but we are going to put you in the position of appearing to refuse houses because you are standing for certain customs and certain agreed standards of pay and conditions." I think that is a most unfortunate position in which to put any body of men, but that is the position so many of my friends, especially those outside the House, are in.


The doctors would not stand it.


I only propose now to see if we cannot have another little common push to end it, and to come to a complete agreement. We take our stand on two things—the Fair Wages Clause and the Bradbury Report. The Govern- ment say they take their stand on the Bradbury Report. So do I. Let us deal with the Bradbury Report first. As I say, I am only going to deal with general conditions and not with details. The Bradbury Report lays down two things, and not one. The Bradbury Report can only be carried out if both things are observed, and not only one.

What are the two things the Bradbury Report contains? First of all, that in the making of these houses a sort of new class of industry has been created. That is quite true. It says that that class has not yet been dealt with, has not yet been recognised; it is not within the engineering block of industry and not within the house-building block of industry; it is a new set of operations, and the Bradbury Report says this new set of operations must be organised, and must be the subject of consideration, and that wages and conditions should be established without association with either of the organised forms of labour which we know at the present time. I think that is quite clear. That is one of the conditions of the Bradbury Report. The other one is also essential, and it is, that when the wages and the conditions of that group are settled, they must be settled by collective bargaining, that it is not enough for a good employer or a bad employer—the question of the character of the employer does not enter into it—to say, "I will give you this wage or that wage." The wage may be high, it may be low, it may be satisfactory, it may be unsatisfactory, but if the Bradbury Report is to be carried out, that wage, whatever it is, must be the result of collective bargaining and of common agreement. I think that is quite clear. The second part is not fulfilled. Therefore, when the Secretary of State talks about new methods, we agree, but when he talks about pay, we rather disagree, because the pay has not been satisfactorily settled.

Take the Fair Wages Clause. Exactly the same point is involved there. The Government may put the Fair Wages Clause into its contract. Everybody who has administered the Fair Wages Clause knows perfectly well that the point of it lies in its application. Let us take the repairing of the fabric of this House. When such repairs take place, supposing the work is let out to contract, the Fair Wages Clause would be in the contract, and there would be no trouble about its application. We never have to raise the question of whether it is being applied or not, because before a mason lifts a hammer or a chisel he knows his scale of pay, he has his schedule of pay, which has been the subject of collective bargaining, and which is put automatically into operation. Here the Government are going to put the Fair Wages Clause into operation in respect of men whose status is still a disputed point. In order to make the Fair Wages Clause operative, in order to carry it out, the Government must first of all have collective bargaining, must have an agreement, not between Mr. A, the employer, and Messrs. B, C, D and E, his employés, but between Mr. A, the employer, and an organisation representing his employés.

Let us carry the matter a little bit further. I do not want to use words or to refer to categories of labour which might raise prejudice, but one section says, "This group of men belong to category A," another section says, "It does not, it belongs to category B." The House should remember that the contention of the Building: Trades Federation is that in so far as labour belongs to the building trade it should be paid building trades rates. I understand that that was made perfectly clear. Take the question of labourers. The argument is put up that if labourers are employed, it is quite right that they should be paid upon rates as paid to labourers in trades who themselves have declared that they are not concerned with this matter at all. Our contention is that the Fair Wages Clause can only be applied to those labourers doing building trades work if they are paid building trade labourers' wages; and, unless that is met, neither the Bradbury Report nor the Fair Wages Clause is carried out.

That is the position on what we might call the principle. Let us take the practical side of it. If all the houses were to be built by one firm, the firm with which there is a dispute—well, you could have your fight, and you could impose your agreement, and every man building a house under that scheme would be building under the same conditions. But that is not the situation. Half the contract is being given to one firm, and the other half divided equally between two other firms, and these other two firms are going to build under an agreement which the firm with the larger contract rejects. Let hon. Members use imagination. We shall have two houses, one on one side of the road and the other on the other side. No. 70 in a certain street will be built under conditions and under rates of wages lower than those applying to No. 71, on the other side of the road. The Duke of Atholl, in a very temperate and very impressive communication to the "Spectator" this week, points out what every employer and every man and woman of common sense knows is bound to happen, that either the employer has to reduce wages on No. 71 to the level of the wages on No. 70, or the workmen engaged on No. 70 will, sooner or later, strike in order to get the same wages as are being paid on No. 71. We cannot get out of that, and nobody who knows human nature will try to get out of it.

Therefore, what all sides of the House have to do, Conservatives, Liberals and Labour, is to get things levelled up so that Nos. 70 and 71 will be built under exactly the same conditions, and the men will enjoy the same conditions. That is our case. I never claim any virtue for this side that I do not give to the other side, but there is a little bit of difference between us in experience. Some of us have had experience that hon. Members opposite have not had, and they have had experience that we have not had, but there is this experience that we cannot get away from—you cannot satisfy, and you ought not to try to satisfy the claims of workmen in the settlement of a temporary wage by saying. "We will give you £2, £3 or £4 a week," without a guarantee, because the whole experience of the workmen is that only in so far as they get a good wage guaranteed by collective bargaining, a good wage settled by a signed agreement, can they feel at rest that that wage is going to last. Otherwise, it is a good wage one week, a reduction the next week, and there is always uncertainty. The working classes want security, and I hope hon. Members will now understand the position. It is not enough to say that the wages are good. This is going to be a long contract, and we want to secure that these wages will be guaranteed right through the contract and that the men will receive honest pay at a rate that will not be challenged.

Therefore if we cannot get the security we are seeking we shall have to take the only course we can take now by voting against this proposal on the Report stage. On the Committee stage our position was perfectly clear and it was then our duty to vote for the money in order that between the Committee stage and Report stage we might be able to negotiate the conditions. If those conditions are good then we have got all we want, but we must protest against any attempt to drive back again a great industry into accepting lower wages. I believe that steel houses have come to stay and mass production has come to stay. Therefore this is a critical moment, and if labour cannot win its point in regard to collective bargaining and obtaining a satisfactory standard of wages, then it has lost the battle. Therefore we have to see that collective bargaining is applied to the new conditions of labour under these contracts.

Lieut.-Colonel GADIE

The Leader of the Opposition gave an example in which he said that they could not agree to two different prices being paid for labour for the erection of house number 70 and house number 71. Do hon. Members opposite not know that that practice already applies to the building trade, and you frequently find workmen in A, B, and C areas working at different rates of pay?


I understand that there is no area divided by one settlement. Perhaps in one case 300 houses will be built and in another 200. It may be proposed that 100 houses of the 200 will be built under one set of conditions, and 50 others under two separate contracts may be built under different conditions, but the workmen will not accept that.


Like the two speakers who have initiated this Debate, I should like to see that the real issue is not obscured in any way. It is common ground that there is need for houses in Scotland. It is also common ground that workers in Scotland are living in shameful, horrible, murderous conditions, and it is no earthly use for hon. Members on either side of the House attempting to dispute that this state of things exists in Scotland. We have all seen the houses where the children are bitten by rats and which are infested by lice. We have seen houses with roofs in such a condition that men will not go on them in order to do the necessary repairs because their lives would be endangered. Therefore, in regard to these horrible conditions in Scotland, I think we are all on common ground. It is also common ground that there is need for alternative schemes of some kind to speed up house building. Our case against the Government is that, under cover of the national necessity for the building of houses in adequate quantities, the Government are, as the lawyers say, principiis criminis, because there is danger of an effort being made to reduce the standard of living of those engaged in the house-building industry, and I am going to prove it.

My reason for speaking this afternoon is that I have personally investigated the facts, and I hold in my possession documentary evidence which I will give to the House. I have here wages sheets, certificates from contractors, and telegrams from competitors with Lord Weir in this industry, and I ask hon. Members to weigh, well the evidence I shall put before them, because, if proper conditions are not insisted upon, serious political and economic results may follow. As the Leader of the Opposition said, 50 per cent. of this contract is going to the firm of G. and J. Weir, and the other 50 per cent. is being divided into two equal portions between the Atholl steel house firm and the Cowieson house firm. We are told that Lord Weir is signing the Fair Wages Clause, but he chooses to interpret that not as the building trade employes interpret it, not as the Trade Unions Congress interprets it, and not even as the building employers, who are Lord Weir's own competitors in alternative house building, interpret it. Lord Weir's firm is going to insist upon the rate of wages paid to the members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and he is not going to allow builders' rates to be paid, because he declares that it is not a builder's job, and I understand that the Government are supporting that contention. A very considerable atmosphere of hostility has been aroused in certain sections of the building industry because it is the common practice in certain sections of the newspaper Press to declare that those engaged in the building industry are a lazy lot, some of them laying one brick per week, and not even that if nobody is looking. It has become a commonplace that the workmen in the building trade work in an atmosphere of suspicion created by what has appeared in the Press, and it is often asserted that they get far too high wages for the kind of work they do.

Let us get down to the real facts of the case. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland either to confirm or dispute the statements I am going to make. Is it the case that the workers in the building trade of this country have not claimed, and do not claim, that the steel structural part of Weir houses is a building-trade job? Is it not the case that they have repeatedly said: "We do not claim that the new part of this work is a building-trade job at all"? Why has that statement not been made to hon. Members of this House? It has been repeatedly stated by deputation after deputation, and this has been clearly stated to Lord Weir and to the Government, and it has been asserted very clearly, as far as the building trade have access to the Press, that it has been agreed that the steel part of Weir houses has nothing to do with the building trade, that the wages paid to the steel workers is a matter for the workers and not for the building trade, and that they do not claim to interfere at all. These new houses are being built, and steel work is being put into them. We have seen them in Glasgow, and we have seen in the case of banks and other buildings steel erection going on, and there has been no trouble with the building trade. The building trade have never said, "That is our job," and the Government know very well that they have never claimed that. I never thought that I should ever be able to quote in this House from the Duke of Atholl, who has no sympathy with us. He was a prominent official in the Conservative party in Scotland. This is what the Duke of Atholl wrote to a Conservative newspaper, the "Spectator," last week: In justice to the building operatives, I wish to say that not the slightest obstacle has been put in the way of those firms who pay recognised rates to tradesmen employed on their own jobs, and the statement chat has been circulated that they are objecting to steel workers and erectors not being paid the wages of masons or bricklayers is entirely false. What they do object to is that men employed, for example, on carpenters' jobs, should be paid engineers' rates instead of carpenters' rates, thus striking at the very foundation of the protection given by the trade unions to workers in their own special trades. The statement has also been made and the opinion is widely held that the Atholl firm and the Cowieson firm are only paying in reality the same rate of wages as the Weir firm have been paying. I am in a position to prove that that is not true. I hold in my hand wages envelopes paid to labourers under the Atholl scheme last week, and I can give the names if the Secretary of State for Scotland disputes these facts. Here is the case of one man who worked 44 hours and was paid 1s. 3½d. per hour. I have another case where a man was also paid 1s. 3½d. per hour. All labourers are paid that rate, which is the building trade rate, on Atholl houses. I have here a statement which was sent to me by a contractor for the Atholl firm in which he says that the men employed as labourers on the Atholl steel houses are all paid 1s. 3½d. per hour. That is the rate for unskilled labour in the building trade, and that rate is paid in the case of Atholl houses.

Now what is the rate paid by the Weir firm on the opposite side of the road? Do the Weir firm pay 1s. 3¼d. per hour? No, they pay 10½d. per hour. I know it has been argued that this is not a building trade operation. A man on one side of the street takes a pick and shovel and digs a hole in the earth. He is working for the Atholl firm, and gets 1s. 3¼d. an hour. A man further up the street, with a similar pick and shovel, digs another hole. He is working on the foundations of a brick house, and he gets 1s. 3¼d. an hour. But another man, again with a similar pick and shovel, is digging a hole for a Weir house, and he gets 10½d. an hour. Is anyone going to dispute that in each case that work, done with the same kind of pick and the same kind of shovel, is the same job? And yet Lord Weir, up to now, has paid 10½d. per hour to the labourers on foundations—I am only dealing with foundations—and up to now has refused to pay any more, while his competitors in the industry, who are not associated with any wild men on these benches, but who are his Grace the Duke of Atholl and the Cowieson firm, are busily engaged in this new industry and are paying 1s. 3¼d. an hour. For the life of me I cannot see how any hon. Member in this House can justify the differentiation.

I have dealt with the unskilled labour; let me now come to what is called the skilled labour. In this case the Duke of Atholl and the Cowieson firm are paying 1s. 8d. per hour, while the Weir firm is paying 1s. 2½d. per hour. The labourers, who are working 44 hours per week—that is the normal number—are losing 4½d. per hour as between the two schemes. Hon. Members can calculate it out for themselves, and they will find that it means a reduction of 17s. 5d. per week to each labourer engaged on the job, and, in the case of the skilled men, at least that, and it may be a great deal more. I have said that the difference in the rates of wages paid to skilled men is the difference between 1s. 2½d. and 1s. 8d. If that be disputed, I have certificates here from the firm of Cowieson, from the Atholl firm, and from the firm of Brownlie, of Cambuslang, who have been doing the major portion of the work on the Atholl houses. I will read them out if the House wants proof that the rate of wages which they are paying is 1s. 8d. per hour, while the rate that is being paid to men who are doing the same class of work on the Weir house is 1s. 2½d.

What is the kind of work that they are doing? They are laying floors. Is not that a joiner's job? Since when has it ceased to be a joiner's job? The Atholl firm recognises it as a joiner's job, and pays 1s. 8d. The Weir firm say it is not a joiner's job; they say, "It is a labourer's job, and we will pay you 1s. 2½d." Since when has the laying on of a roof not been a skilled craftsman's job? The Atholl firm, for that work, pay 1s. 8d. an hour, and the Weir firm 1s. 2½d. It is the same thing with the hanging of doors and the building of partitions. That is obviously work for skilled craftsmen, and it has hitherto been universally recognised as such. For that work the Atholl and Cowieson firms pay 1s. 8d., while the Weir firm gets off, with the assent of the Government, at 1s. 2½d. The same thing applies to plumber's work and to slater's work—work that is definitely the work of skilled craftsmen. But along comes Lord Weir. He does not seek to negotiate, he does not say, "I have used the machinery that is already in existence as between employers and employés in the building industry to get a new scale or a new set of conditions arranged and agreed to"; but, over the heads of employers and workmen, over the heads of his competitors, the other manufacturers of alternative houses, he comes along and says, "I demand, I insist, I order," and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland carries out his instructions.

Let me give proofs of some of the assertions I have made, in case later on in the Debate the facts are disputed. Here is the statement of the firm of D. and R. Fulton, registered plumbers and sanitary engineers. They say that in the case of foundations, drains, plumbing work, the putting in of electrical cables, and so on—there are any number of other jobs which I need not mention— We hereby certify that all our workmen receive building trade wages and conditions. That is including all the labourers, who are paid 1s. 3¼d. per hour, and the workers in the other trades are paid the proper rates for their jobs. Again, I have a certificate from Messrs. Brownlie, of Cambuslang, that all the tradesmen and labourers employed on the Atholl steel houses for Messrs. William Beard-more and Co., of Dalmuir, are paid the building trade rates of wages, namely, 1s. 8d. per hour for craftsmen and 1s. 3¼d. per hour for labourers. Here also is a statement from the Cowieson firm, signed by Mr. F. D. Cowieson, the managing director: Dear Sir,—We beg to inform you that the labourers employed by us digging trenches, making and filling concrete, etc., in connection with our different contracts, are paid the recognised standard, in other words, 1s. 3¼d. per hour, and also that this rate will be paid to men engaged on similar work in connection with the proposed Government steel housing scheme. Finally, I have a statement from the Atholl firm, and if the right hon. Gentleman disputes it I will read out the letter. Does he dispute that the Atholl firm pay 1s. 8d. per hour to skilled men and 1s. 3¼d. per hour to labourers? I ask him for an answer. Does he dispute that, apart from steel erectors' work—which has not been claimed by the building trade—1s. 3¼d. per hour is paid to labourers and 1s. 8d. per hour to skilled craftsmen? I think we are entitled to an answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"] I make the statement that that is so, as against 10½d. and 1s. 2½d. in the case of Weir houses. I go further. I have spent long years in the Labour and Socialist movement, and have done a lot of historical research in the records of trade unions and so on, and I never before knew such a case as this, where a federation of unions went out of their way in order to get peace in the industry and to ensure that house-building should be carried on at the maximum rate of production, and where they have made such an offer as the Federation of Building Trade Employes have made to the Weir firm. It is almost incredible. They said to Lord Weir, "We will not insist that all the men who lay the floors and the roofs, who hang the windows and doors, and the men who do plumbing and electrical work shall be members of our union. We let you go and get your labour where you like; the only thing we insist upon is that the job shall carry the rate of wages." With that offer goes by the board all the clap-trap about the building trades seeking to preserve a close monopoly, and seeking to prevent an influx of new labour into the industry. So also disappears all the tripe—because it is nothing else—that it is the wicked building trade worker who is keeping back the production of houses. They have been ready to allow an influx of new labour, and to allow the Weir firm to employ as many unskilled men, as they call them, as they like on the job; the only thing they appeal for, the only thing they demand, the only thing they insist upon, and the only thing upon which this party will desert them at its peril, the only thing on which we will fight for them, is that the rate of wages for the job shall not be broken, and that the standard of living of the working classes shall not be lowered. The job must carry the rate.

One or two points more, and I have finished. In the contract that is being offered to the Atholl firm, it is insisted upon by the Government that only 10 per cent. of the labour employed shall be building trade labour—they have to go outside for the other 90 per cent. They cannot do it if the Government say that shipyard labour is to be regarded as building trade labour. There are 400 joiners idle in Glasgow, but the Duke of Atholl is not to be allowed to employ those joiners on his job; he is to be com- pelled to go to the Employment Exchange. He is to pick out 100 or 200 unemployed men—it may be clerks, or grocers' assistants, or lawyers, though I do not suppose there will be many of these last. He is to be compelled to go to the Employment Exchange and take what is called his unskilled labour from there; and then, in the shipyard, if you please, he is to take 100 unskilled men from the queue, and then he is to go back and sack 100 joiners, because he is not to be allowed to employ more than 10 per cent. of building trade labour.

I have said all that I intended to say. I trust that the Debate this afternoon will be confined directly to the real issue between the two sides of the House. The issue is whether, during this national emergency in regard to the building of houses, during this national emergency in regard to accommodation for out people, this House is going to support the Government in lending themselves to one employer, who has never made any secret of his hostility to the working-class organisations and to trade unionism—whether this House is going to lend itself to a lowering of the standard of life of the working classes and to a lowering of their purchasing power, or whether it is going to line up with decent employers like the Beardmore firm and the Cowieson firm, and prevent this inroad which Lord Weir, with the connivance and assistance of the Secretary of State for Scotland, is endeavouring to foist upon the people of this country.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question, in order to make the matter clear? Does the hon. Gentleman say that the figures of 10½d. And 1s. 3¼d. per hour are or are not the result of collective bargaining?


I say, in reply to that question, that, so far as the Duke of Atholl is concerned, it is the result of collective bargaining. If the hon. Member desires it, I will read out his letter.


I mean Lord Weir's figures.


Lord Weir insists that he will pay anything he likes. Up to now he has paid 10½d. per hour, which is the rate for what is called unskilled labour in the engineering industry. He has refused to pay the wage rate paid to labourers engaged in the building industry. The Duke of Atholl agrees to pay the rate paid in the building industry; Lord Weir refuses.

5.0 P.M.


The hon. Gentleman has not really answered my question, which was, does he regard the 10½d. or the 1s. 2½d. as a wage rate arrived at by collective bargaining or not? Because the Leader of the Opposition said it was not.


The Building Trades Federation arrived at the figure of 1s. 3¼d. by collective bargaining with, all the employers in the industry, and they have machinery for settling disputes with which Lord Weir will have nothing to do. He will not attend to put his own point of view, but stands outside and says, "I insist on my miserable 10½d."


I am sorry, but this is a vital question, and the hon. Member will not answer it.


I understand the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) is asking whether the 10½d. rate was arrived at by collective bargaining. That 10½d. rate is a rate arrived at by collective bargaining in the engineering industry, and Lord Weir now seeks to apply a wages rate applicable in the engineering industry to the building industry, in order to lower the wages paid in the building industry.


I am in the unfortunate position of opposing this Vote from a different point of view altogether from the one already expressed. I am opposed to the building of steel houses. I believe that as far as the West of Scotland is concerned, if there had been a proper organisation, steel houses would not have been necessary, and I am of the opinion that no real attempt has ever been made, particularly in the West of Scotland, to organise the building operatives and to make the best possible use of labour resources. I am also of the opinion that no attempt has been made to deal with the question of the supply of material. I would like the Secretary of State for Scotland to notice this. There has been in the town of Buckhaven since 1921 a population of just over 11,000, and there have been 550 houses built by the authorities, 100 private houses built for private owners, and there are now 300 under construction. That is in a community of 11,000 people. There has been no trouble at all between the employers and the operatives, and nothing has come in the way of providing either the material or the workers. But that is not all. In this little East coast community, the colliery owners have also been building, and there has never anything come in the way of providing the necessary houses for the employés in the collieries round about. But here in the city of Glasgow we have had a condition created mainly by the Governments that have been in existence since 1920, and the only real attempt that has been made was made when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) held the position of Minister of Health. He attempted to lay a plan by which a 15 years' programme should be entered into. The building trades operatives agreed to work it to the best of their ability. We know quite well that the present Government never viewed that particular method with favour, but have clone their beet to stop what I think would have been good results from the scheme laid down by the Member for Shettleston.

Here I want to put a straight question to the Secretary of State for Scoland or the Under-Secretary for Health. What guarantee was given to Lord Weir when he laid down the plant in that new factory for the building of steel houses? I remember quite well how it was started. It started with a Press campaign for the purpose of reducing the wages of the working class. It started with that fight against the conditions of the building employés. There must have been an assurance of some kind from the Government of the day before he would, according to the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. E. Mitchell), lay out £60,000 in the establishment of a factory for this purpose. We are entitled to know what assurance was given, and why, because we are told that already he has lost a considerable amount of money. In my opinion, the present Government, instead of assisting in the building of houses of the ordinary kind, are putting everything in the way of providing houses, so that Lord Weir may carry through his scheme of building steel houses for the working classes who do not want them. What are the facts of the case? When Lord Weir built his exhibition steel house, and when the people of Glasgow were invited to examine it, and when the building committee of the Glasgow Town Council took up the question of the steel house, they decided against it. It was not suitable, and they would have none of it. Then, when the Prime Minister came here on a Friday afternoon and told the House of Commons that he was giving a new subsidy up to £40 more than was being paid, even then the Glasgow authorities would not entertain the steel houses, and to-day there is most bitter opposition being shown by the city authorities in Glasgow against the building of steel houses. I object to steel houses because they are a waste of the taxpayers' money.

I want to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if this is a temporary house, or is the Leader of the Opposition right; and are we going to have steel houses as a feature of building in this country? Are we to take it that you are only going to build 200,000 houses, and when you have recouped Lord Weir for his capital expenditure you will give up the idea? I hope, if you carry this through, that it will be the last of the steel houses. When some of my colleagues on this side of the House refer to steel houses in Canada and the United States, I would call their attention to the fact that the life of the ordinary steel wire in the United States and Canada, compared with the life of steel wire in this country, is as 13 years to three. The atmosphere there has not the same effect upon steel or iron as in this country. At the end of five or seven years your steel houses will have become shanties and unfit for occupation. You have between the outer steel wall and the inner lining a space of four inches that will lend itself to the vermin coming into the house, and be a nesting place for vermin of all kinds. You cannot possibly keep them out, because the method of laying the floor will allow mice and rats to get through into that cavity much easier than in any other house.

I hope that hon. Members will understand the reason why we have not had building in Glasgow. Many hard things are being said about the local authorities in that city, but I want to point out the peculiar position in which Glasgow found itself. After 1912 we had an extension of the boundary of the city of Glasgow, and under that Act the Glasgow Corporation had agreed to build town halls in certain parts of the city, baths for the benefit of the people, and libraries. All that had to be undertaken after the War. You may call them luxury buildings, but even the libraries and towns halls would not have materially affected the amount of work. In the city of Glasgow since the War we have had more luxury building than in any other city I know. There have been picture houses, banks and luxury buildings of every conceivable kind. If we had been in earnest about our scheme, and as much in earnest as we were in winning the War, when, for the purpose of destroying life and property, all the ingenuity and the power of production of this country was used, why should we not put the same methods into work now and use all our power in the production of houses of the right kind, but not steel houses? On the east coast of Scotland, in Sheffield and in every part of the country, even Glasgow itself, we have built real houses cheaper and quicker than Lord Weir can build his steel houses. According to the "Sheffield Independent," there was a meeting in Sheffield of representatives of the Building Trades Employers' Association, and the chairman made this statement: Sheffield had got over the difficulties of the supply of labour and material and was ready to proceed with as many houses as the local authority could finance. We have got the men and the material, and we have been able to show that we can produce real houses considerably cheaper than steel houses. Why can we not do that in the city of Glasgow? It is because, in my opinion, we have given assurances and the Conservative Government have made pledges to Lord Weir that they would do all they possibly could to recompense him for the outlay he had made in 1921. No one can be more in earnest that I am as to the necessity for having houses, for I represent perhaps one of the most overcrowded constituencies in the city of Glasgow. I know quite well that the slum dwellers in my constituency are not going to occupy your steel houses. They will not be able to pay the rents of your steel houses, and not even the humblest among them will accept even a steel house unless the conditions are what have been asked for by my fellow Mem- bers on this side of the House. We are at least of this opinion that, if we are forced to accept steel houses, and if the Government are going to be behind Lord Weir in the building of these houses, it will not be to the interest of the lowly class in my Division, and it will not be their desire to bring down the conditions that our men have fought for for so many years.

Unless you are prepared to observe these conditions you are up against a position that will do more to stop house building than any act of any individual amongst the parties of the country. Your steel houses cannot possibly meet the climatic conditions of Scotland. There is not the slightest doubt about it. I would make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. You can work on people's imaginations at times. I ask him to consider the possibility of taking two rooms after they are completed by Lord Weir and engaging a scenic artist. In one of the rooms you might have a little arctic scenery—frost and snow and ice—and the tenants could go in there during the summer months. It would have a cool appearance. He could have in the other room, perhaps, the interior of a forge, or the glow of the sun in the summer time, and they could go in there in the winter and, in their imagination, think they were warm. Lord Weir's houses even now cannot keep out the outside atmospheric conditions, and the housewife has to wipe down the walls because of the condensation inside. These things are bound to continue, and I am opposing Weir houses because they are not fit for our people, because we deserve something better, and because I believe we could get something better if we were in earnest in organising all the resources at our command.

Captain A. HUDSON

I did not intend to take part in the Debate except for what fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston). I think he put the case extremely clearly, and certainly to me it is a very interesting case. But no one so far seems to have put the case as seen by a Member of Parliament who is not interested m the building trade but is trying to see both the point of view of the building trade operative and the point of view of Lord Weir. The whole object, as I see it, of these Weir houses is to try to find another source of supply which will not in any way tap the building industry, and to do that they are going to try to use the workmen who are employed in the engineering trade, and also the large number who could be employed in it but who are at present unemployed owing to the very depressed state of that industry. Lord Weir looks upon it in that light, and he says he can erect a steel house entirely by engineering methods and using the employés in the engineering trade unions. He wants to do that and not to touch the building unions. In doing that he says he will pay fair wages, but the wages he will pay are those of the engineering trade and not of the building trade. The 10½d. that has been mentioned as the pay of the unskilled labourer is, I believe, the trade union wage for unskilled labour. [HON. MEMBERS; "No!"] Surely it is the unskilled wage in the engineering industry. I believe the hon. Member himself said so.


My hon. Friend was making a comparative statement. No matter what kind of house is to be built, whether steel, brick or stone, certain foundations have to be dug all the same, with the same implements, doing the same job. It was for that that he quoted the figure.

Captain HUDSON

I was present when the hon. Member spoke, but I understood that 1s. 3¼d. was the wage for digging foundations of an unskilled man in the building industry. He then said the wage paid by Lord Weir for doing the same job was 10½d. The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) asked him afterwards if he could tell him what that wage represented, and where that 10½d. came from, and he then said it was the unskilled wage for an unskilled man doing any job, as far as I could gather, in the engineering industry. He was also asked if that had been got by means of collective bargaining, and I understood him to say that was so—collective bargaining within the Amalgamated Engineering Union.


I think the Amalgamated Engineering Union has never at any time in its long history, right up to this very afternoon, agreed upon any rate for what you term the unskilled, or, as I prefer to put it, the labourers' rate, and there is no agreement in the engineering industry. At present the rate that is paid is a rate that was imposed by the employers when they reduced wages 16s. a week two or three years ago.

Captain HUDSON

I still stick to what I think we on this side agree, that that particular rate would be the rate which an unskilled man doing a job in one of Lord Weir's shops—an engineering shop—would get. It is to me an extraordinary thing that so-called unskilled men should in all these different industries be paid entirely different rates, but I maintain that that is a job for the unions themselves to work out. If Lord Weir is making his endeavour, as I understand he is, to make and set up thousands of these houses by mass production, making use only of the engineering trade, he has a perfect right to pay the wages that are universal in the engineering trade, and to say that if a so-called unskilled man is to be used for digging the foundations, he shall be paid whatever the rate happens to be at that time in the engineering union. You might just as well say that motor cars have got to be paid according to the building trade rate. He says—and it is a perfectly logical point—these steel houses are separate entirely from the building industry. The building industry has plenty to do in building brick and stone houses, and he wants to make use of the engineering industry completely and not touch the building industry in any way whatsoever. It is a perfectly logical point of view, and I think every encouragement should be given so that he can do so. The engineering trade is suffering very severely from unemployment and want of order, and if he can build the whole house and put it up, making use of men who would otherwise be unemployed, I say let him do it. It is a brave and a novel experiment, which I think will succeed. People are always saying, "You have, on the one hand, numbers of unemployed men, and, on the other hand, you cannot get houses built. Why not put the unemployed on to building houses?" As far as I can see, that is what Lord Weir is trying to do, and I only hope he succeeds in this experiment.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman has just stated this is a novel experiment on the part of Lord Weir. The speech of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) on the last occasion we discussed this showed that it was no novel experiment with Lord Weir, who is an expert in smashing trade union rates and conditions. My colleague in the representation of Dundee has stated the case, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman admits, very clearly, and it stands out prominently as regards the fixed disparity of wages, and in such remarkable circumstances that we have yet to hear from the Secretary of State for Scotland an explanation of why there should be in the case of Lord Weir a derogation from the application of those principles and wage conditions which are already operated by those who are producing the other classes of houses. I am very glad that on this occasion the Labour party is as a whole facing this thing very straightforwardly. The conclusion of the Debate on the previous occasion left in the minds of some members of the Labour party, and evidently in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, the impression that some hope had been given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health that an adjustment would be made by Lord Weir. I expressed the view after that discussion, and when we had our interview with the right hon. Gentleman, that there would be no change in the attitude of Lord Weir. The position had been so impregnable from the standpoint of those who have in the Government supported him in this Department that I feel confident it was simply a matter of his lordship's own interpretation of the arrangement which gave the impression of a readjustment. It is evident that no readjustment is to be made, although we find the Secretary of Scotland has not, so far, sought to make any defence of the position taken up by Lord Weir.

The Leader of the Opposition has taken the point of view that this steel house business was inevitable and that nothing more could have been done. It stands to the credit of the former Minister of Health that his intention was to combat the building trusts. We know that some years ago they were so dealing with this national exigency as to exploit it for the purpose of enhancing their profits. Here is the practical situation to-day. The Government are backing the representatives of these capitalist concerns in seeking to make a substantial reduction in the wages of those who are employed in this work. On the other hand, in these most unfortunate circumstances with which the country was confronted, when the building trusts were profiting thereby, the party opposite made no attempt to grapple with the serious situation. Their duty would have been, if it were a matter of consistency, to have come down upon these building trusts and have made it imperative, by control, that the provision of houses, upon which we are all agreed, should proceed rapidly and with satisfaction to all concerned. That did not take place. It is to some extent unfortunate that the Government have cited to-day, as they did in the previous discussion, the connection that there was with the Labour Government in making some approval of steel houses.

The steel house is advocated in comparison with the brick house on the ground that it can be produced more rapidly. Brick houses could have been produced rapidly in order to meet the requirements of the public, at a difference of from £60 to £90 in the price of the steel house and the brick house. The difference of from £60 to £90 is the figure given by those who are best qualified to make a statement thereon. With regard to the prospects of the steel house as something that has come to stay, it is worth while to consider statements made by those who know all about these matters. In a declaration issued by the Building and Engineering Brick Trade Association it is stated: The internal linings of the steel houses are one or other of the patent boards nailed to wood studding or asbestos sheets, leaving a six-inch air space between the internal and external linings. If any of the internal sheeting is damaged (and the asbestos sheets are extremely brittle, so that damage is almost inevitable, especially where there are children) the whole sheet must be replaced, whereas damage to plastered walls is a local matter, easily remedied without disturbance to the surrounding work. All these boards and sheets in the steel house must be covered at their joints with fillets of wood, and to keep the cost down these must be as light as possible. Mischievous children might easily prise these strips off, and certain classes of tenant might even use them as firewood. These strips must be disturbed whenever a new board has to be replaced, and their presence increases the periodical bill for painting or scaling. Forty to fifty years is the period allowed for the average life of the steel house. The brick house would stand at least three times as long as that. There is rapid deterioration in the steel house. It is pointed out in the statement from which I have quoted that: A steel house congeries of to-day is the scrap-iron slum of to-morrow. We are often groaning about slums and about the necessity for the removal of slums. Here is an announcement from those who are qualified to speak respecting the steel house: It is almost certain that the necessary funds will not be expended to keep the houses in repair, and they will at once begin to deteriorate. So soon as this happens the property will depreciate, the class of tenant become lower and lower, sub-letting and overcrowding will begin, and a new slum will come into being. It is not difficult to picture the squalid dereliction. As the sheets become loose they will bang and rattle in the wind, as the inner linings become broken the cavities will be filled with refuse and afford a rich breeding-place for germs and vermin, and amongst this rusty wreckage a population will shiver in winter and sweat in summer. The pushing forward of steel houses all over the country is intended to give the impression that these houses are suitable for working-class people, following upon the experience in regard to wooden huts, which seem to be regarded as good enough for workaday people who are, at any rate, supposed to be content with them. Under these circumstances, the steel house is supposed to be a perfectly satisfactory provision. My contention is that the steel house is not a proper provision of accommodation for those who are the effective upbuilders of our country. The interests of the nation point to something entirely different. If we look at the other side of the picture, what about the magnificent mansions, what about those beautiful dwellings, the wonderful provision of large, commodious establishments, with spacious grounds and gardens and everything conducive to satisfaction? In these days, with our conceptions as to advancing science, art and literature, and our views as to the necessity for the defence of the Empire and that no money must be spared in that direction, the Government consents to an arrangement in which something is being put up in the form of steel boxes, and you are putting the people into them and shutting down the lid. God help the country if that is the conception of the right thing to do.


This discussion is being devoted to the merits of the Weir house. The critics have hopelessly overstated the case. In my own constituency, a Weir house has been occupied since the early days of last autumn, and the occupants have had to endure one of the coldest and longest spells of weather that we have had in Perthshire for many years. Despite that fact, they tell me most categorically that they found the Weir house perfectly satisfactory. To describe it as a steel box in which the unfortunate people are poured and the lid is then shut down, shows rather more rhetorical zeal than practical knowledge of the house.

The Leader of the Opposition, as I understood him, confined his criticism almost exclusively to the question whether or not there is in the case of the Weir contract a Fair Wages Clause, properly carried out by collective bargaining. It has been said categorically that there was no such collective bargaining. In the admirable and interesting speech made by the junior Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) I ask him whether in the case of two Weir figures of wages, namely, 10½d. an hour and 1s. 2½d. an hour, he regarded those wages as having been arrived at by collective bargaining. He did not answer my question, and for this reason, that I do not believe it is possible to maintain that these figures have not been arrived at by collective bargaining.


They have not.


One hon. Member at least says they have not. I understand that the men employed at these wages are members of the Engineering Union.




Take the figure of 1s. 2½d. per hour.


You have not been properly briefed.


I have not been briefed, nor am I in the habit of being briefed for discussions of this kind. Take the figure of 1s. 2½d. Is it not the case that the men who receive these wages are members of the Engineers' Union? Is it not the case that this is the recognised figure of an hourly wage arrived at by collective bargaining in that union? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I should be very glad to hear it clearly stated, not by way of answer to a question but in a speech by some hon. Member from the opposite side, that there is no collective bargaining in the case of the figure of 1s. 2d. per hour. I believe that there is. I have no doubt that that is so. That there has not been collective bargaining in regard to the Building Union is admitted, but that there has been collective bargaining in the relevant union, the Engineering Union, is equally clear. [HON. MEMBERS "No!"] It seems to me that one side of this question which is becoming more and more clear is that hon. Members opposite are concentrating on what is really a quarrel between two unions. As far as I understand it, there has been absolutely no opposition in the Engineers' Union.

The opposition to Lord Weir's scheme and his rates of pay come entirely from another union. More than one speaker on the other side has said that it is the duty of the Government in these circumstances to fix the rate of wages. That is not so. I cannot for a moment agree to the proposition that where two unions are at variance as to the amount to be paid for a particular piece of work—[HON. MEMBERS: "What unions?"] The Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Building Union. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Perhaps some hon. Member will rise and give proof of his statement. Where two unions are at variance—


They are not at variance.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

The hon. Member must listen sometimes.


On a point of Order. When an hon. Member makes a statement which is incorrect and he is corrected by hon. Members who know something about the matter, is it not courtesy on his part to accept the correction, instead of insisting in his ignorance that he is right?


Hon. Members will have ample opportunity in their speeches to make any necessary correction. They cannot contradict everything by interruptions.


If and when two unions are at variance—if I am wrong in that matter, as you have suggested, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, there will be ample opportunity for correction—I cannot accept the proposition that it is the duty of the Government to decide which union rate shall be paid.


Did they not do that in the wireless business?


That is not the question here. As a general proposition, it is unimaginable that it is the duty of the Government to settle a question as between two unions. It may well be that there should be some organisation to deal with the conflicting claims of two quarrelling unions.


There is.


Then let such an organisation be applied here.


May I assure the hon. Member that such an organisation exists, that such an organisation has decided the matter, and that the Amalgamated Engineering Union has agreed with the decision of the Trades Union Congress in this matter?


He does not know anything about it.


I am delighted to have elicited that information, but he still refuses to answer my repeated question as to whether the 1s. 2d. is not the result of collective bargaining. It seems clear that it has been arrived at by collective bargaining with the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I do not think there is very much doubt about it, but, if I am wrong, I shall no doubt be corrected. For the first time, however, we have been told that a super-organisation of the trade unions has decided that in the case of the Weir houses a wrong rate of wages is being paid. It is well that such a decision should be made by the trade union organisation, but it is perfectly hopeless and unsound to maintain that a decision should be made by the Government. I have expressed to the House the two views which I hold. The first view is that the statement that there has been collective bargaining is not incorrect, and it is only incorrect in the sense that there has been no collective bargaining with the Building Trades Union. The other view is that in that case it is not the job of the Government to settle the matter. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the ground of opposition now taken by the Leader of the Opposition, accompanied by remarks by hon. Members opposite that they are and always have been in favour of more houses, has narrowed the field of opposition very much, and the Debate has shown that even this restricted opposition is without any foundation whatever.


I want to ask the hon. Member just this one question. Does he consider it the duty of the Government to differentiate between two firms when one firm is paying as much as 17s. per week less than the other?


I do not think that question arises in this Debate. The question, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition, is whether or not there has been collective bargaining.


I have spent a good deal of my time in the building trade as a labourer, and after many long years we have reached the standard which now exists in that trade. It is not much, 1s. 3d. an hour for a labourer—and 6s. 8d. a letter for a lawyer, which sometimes does not take him more than five minutes to write. And yet lawyers get up here and with the greatest amount of ignorance talk upon subjects they do not know anything about.


On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member entitled to refer to the ignorance of my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Skelton). The hon. Member refers to a payment of 6s. 8d., when my hon. Friend is, in fact, a barrister and not a solicitor. The hon. Member opposite has therefore clearly demonstrated his own ignorance.


I am ready to apologise to the hon. Member for putting him on a grade lower than he really is. I thought he was a labourer just as I was a labourer in the building trade. We on this side of the House are not opposing any kind of house so long as it is a house fit for people to live in. What we are fighting for is a decent standard of life for the people who have to ercet these houses. Personally, I am opposed to tin houses. I do not believe my class ought to be compelled to live in a worse kind of house; they should have the best. We used to live in brick boxes with slate lids; now we are going to live in steel boxes with tin lids; but if those houses are to be built we ask that they should be built under the best possible conditions. Hon. Members opposite and Lord Weir put forward the argument of the engineering trade rate because they know that this highly skilled trade, one of the most highly skilled trades in the country, has been brought down to starvation rates. That is our interpretation of their attitude.

The Building Trade Union is in a more fortunate position. They have been able to establish something like reasonable conditions of employment, shorter hours, better wages—and hon. Member's opposite are all Protectionists. They used to tell us that if we wanted better wages, shorter hours, and better conditions of labour, we ought to protect our industries. Here is a protected industry, the demand is greater than the supply, and the workers in the building trade have secured their present conditions by agreement with their employers. That is what hon. Members opposite stand for. They are always saying, let the workman and the employer come together. They have done so in the building trade, and we have got our regional agreements all over Great Britain. We have a national board fixing the rate of wages, hours of labour, the conditions of employment and travelling pay, and we have now reached the point where we are trying to solve one of the great problems in the building trade, that is loss of time through conditions over which we have no control. Employers and workmen, coming together, are solving these problems. Hon. Members opposite agree with this. Then why do they want to introduce info the building of these houses conditions which are worse than those agreed to between employers and employed.

What they really want to do is to bring the building trade workmen down to the level of the engineering trade workers. The only argument advanced is that there has been an agreement by collective bargaining. I wonder whether Lord Weir in the days of the War, when we were very busy, when we were all waving the Union Jack in front of union jackasses—and I was one of them—would have proposed to reduce the wages of the engineers to their present level. Then we depended on the engineering workers for the production of goods required to beat the enemy, but since the War is over the engineering trade has been brought down to almost starvation rates. Here in London a skilled mechanic gets £2 18s. 6d. a week, and a builder's labourer 1s. 3d. an hour. A skilled mechanic gets less than a builder's labourer, and Lord Weir comes in with his little lot and says "I think I can take advantage of this situation and get my workers cheap, at 17s. 5d. a week less." Are you going to ask us to submit to that? You may have your brick or tin houses, but we are going to see that decent conditions are obtained for those who have to build them. The General Council of the Trade Union Congress has had this matter under consideration. The Amalgamated Engineering Union is part of it, and although it may be to the advantage of some of its members to work for lower wages, yet they have unanimously decided against the proposal. They are not going to be used as an instrument to reduce the rates of wages of their fellow workers in another industry. Lord Weir can build his houses, and you can have your houses if you come to an agreement with the general body of workers in the country.

Some of us are opposed to steel houses altogether on general grounds, not because we are opposed to Lord Weir or opposed to steel houses as such, but because the whole of our experience has led us to this conclusion, that they are not the kind of houses people should live in. Two ladies have volunteered, I believe, to live in them for a month. I have lived in one longer than that—I have been in gaol. I believe Mrs. Baldwin, the Prime Minister's noble lady, has volunteered to live in one for a month, and a lady member of our own Party has done the same—two months' hard labour. I do not object to them having this experience for a month, but it is not really a good test, because the people who will have to go to these houses will have to live in them all their lives. If they were good enough for other people then, of course, they would be good enough for us; but that is not the case. If they were movable, you might take them to the Riviera or to Switzerland, but we who have to live in them cannot move very far.

This Weir scheme may be all right so far as a rush proposition is concerned. You may describe them as brick boxes or tin boxes, but the first consideration we demand is that there shall be decent conditions for the workers in their construction. A sum of 10½d. an hour against 1s. 3d. is an impossible proposition. The building trade is against you; the whole trade movement is against you. If you bring down the building trade workers to the present level of the engineering trade workers it will mean that the engineering trade workers will go down to an even lower level than they are now, and then they will be in a condition in which it will be impossible for them to pay even for steel boxes. About 13s. 5d. is now being asked for a cottage in my own district and that is an impossible proposition having regard to the rate of wages. Therefore we demand, as a first condition, decent conditions of employment for the men who are going to build these houses.

6.0 P.M.


The point at issue to-night is one regarding the trade unions and rates of wages. Hon. Members opposite have adopted an hostile attitude to steel houses. They would have us believe that the steel house is inferior and unfit to live in; that there is something degrading in asking people to live in such houses. I want to meet that point. I have taken an interest in this question ever since steel houses were begun. I was probably the only Member who put in a paragraph in his Election address stating that in his opinion too many large houses and too many highly-rented houses were being built under the housing schemes then in force. My constitutents agreed with me, or, at any rate, the statement did not prevent my election being successful. I went to the Weir works at the very start and saw these houses being turned out. I saw that the preparation of these houses in mass production was an engineering operation. I saw several of the houses which have been erected as demonstration houses both in Scotland and in London. There are 100 Weir steel houses erected in my constituency. I have seen them during the process of erection and since they have been finished. The people occupying them have no complaints to make; they are thoroughly pleased with the houses, and they find them vastly superior to the houses which they occupied previously. In fact, there was only one complaint that I received the last time that I went there, and that complaint came from those who had not been successful in getting the houses allotted to them. It was the people who could not get the steel houses who were complaining, and not the people who were in the houses.

It is time that we heard the last of complaints in this House against steel houses. The steel house is quite a good house for a family to live in, and very much better than the places in which many of our people in Scotland were living in the slums. The Weir houses are good and they are suitable for the purpose for which they are intended. They can be quickly erected, and, so far as we are aware, they are likely to last for a sufficiently long time. Then we come to the question of the wages of those who erect the houses, and the trade union question. The fact is that, in Scotland, we have not sufficient workmen in the building trades by a long way to erect the houses which are wanted. That fact has been brought out again and again. There is a shortage of many thousands of houses in Scotland to-day, and it is a fact that if all the building labourers and builders were occupied continuously for 15 years they would not succeed in making up the shortage.


They would make it up in five years.


It is, therefore, necessary for us to have an alternative system of building, and we welcome these Weir houses as very suitable for the purpose for which they are required. Any one who objects to the erection of these houses is doing a great deal of harm in Scotland. We want the houses. We want to take the people out of their inferior dwellings and to start them in homes of their own. The sooner we can do that the better. Therefore, I say that anyone who is militating in any way or for any reason against the erection of these houses in Scotland is doing incalculable harm. I do not think that the trade unionists in the building trade are justified in their opposition. I cannot profess to know the rates of payment in the building trade, but it appears to me that it would not be possible for any alteration to take place in the rate of wages to workers on the Weir houses just now, because the arrangement has been made for their erection. We are being asked to sanction the erection of 2,000 of these houses. The Under-Secretary of Health for Scotland has gone into the figures and so has Lord Weir, and any alteration in the rate of wages, it appears to me, would vitiate the whole bargain and upset the contract that has been made to provide these houses. Anyone who takes it upon himself to oppose or obstruct the scheme which the Secretary of State for Scotland has so wisely undertaken is taking upon himself a very great responsibility, and he ought to justify his conscience in the matter. I have great pleasure in supporting the Secretary of State for Scotland in what he has undertaken. I think he has behaved with a great deal of strength and forethought. He has gone into the question very thoroughly, and the House ought to support him in what he is proposing to do, and give him the opportunity of erecting the houses which are so urgently required.


After listening to the Debate on this subject a few days age and again to-day, I remain convinced that it is a shadow fight. There are two situations which might be applied to the Government. One is that the Government are being dominated by Lord Weir, and the other is that the Government are using Lord Weir in an organised attempt to reduce the standard of working-class living in this country. There have been no arguments brought forward in favour of the scheme by the other side. It has been noticeable that those who have spoken from the other side are Members who have no practical experience or knowledge of the subject. That has been the whole trend of the speeches by lion Members opposite. The standard of housing that was promised after the War was something better than what we had experienced as a working class in this country. It was realised that to improve the standard of housing it was necessary to improve the standard of living and of wages, so that people could pay the rents of the new houses. Now the Government have gone right back upon that and have started what they call a system, whereby they are going not only to reduce the standard of the houses, but in the erection of these inferior houses they are seeking to reduce the earnings of those who will have to live in the houses.

The last speaker was very far at sea when he made reference to the number of building trade workers in Scotland. He does not seem to realise at ail that he is a member of a party which is in power. If the party which is in power had been anxious about getting houses built for the workers there would have been no talk by the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Prime Minister about a shortage of plasterers. There would be plenty of plasterers if the Government had desired to build working-class houses. They would have said that if there was to be any limitation of work the limitation should apply to banks and other buildings that were not intended for human occupation. The Government cannot do that because they are being dominated by private interests and not by the interests of the nation and of the people. We are told that this is an emergency scheme and a temporary thing. If I know anything about emergency schemes, they cost generally about half the price of the permanent thing. But there is nothing temporary about these prices. The houses are temporary in construction, but permanent as to price. To-day it has been stated that this kind of house has come to stay. I hope that that is untrue. I can imagine what it will be like to have all these stark things flung over the landscape. The houses have not come to stay. All that is necessary is that the people should have some prolonged experience of living in them, and not the experience of a few months only that some people have suggested. Let the Government wait for two years and they will get their reply.

Another statement made on behalf of Lord Weir's position was that this was a new industry, that Lord Weir with his great brain power had created a new industry. If Lord Weir had created a new industry he would have required to create new tools. If anyone knows the history of industry he knows that he can judge it by the tools that are used. This is not a new industry. Take the Weir house. Is there any indication of a new industry anywhere in it? The cutting of the steel sheets to the size required is not a new industry. The boring of the holes to take the nails is not a new industry. When you take the sheet away you are left with wood-work only, and for that bunch of timber you are paying the highest price that could be paid for any timber that you care to buy as a joiner's production. That is not a new industry. Imagine the Secretary of State for Scotland trying to get anyone to agree that by using a spade on this side of the road it was an old industry, and that by using a spade on the other side of the road it was a new industry. Of course the right hon. Gentleman is a Scotsman. He would not say that when speaking for himself, but he does say it in speaking for the Government.

I want to get the special attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to one matter. A part of my constituency has been chosen for the erection of some of these houses. We have heard pathetic tales in this House of the horrible conditions in Glasgow, where rats attack the children. We have also heard the statement that you cannot lift a man from dirty surroundings and put him in clean surroundings and expect him to change all at once. The site chosen for the houses in my constituency is up against a canal, so that rats at least are assured in these new dwellings. Had the Secretary of State for Scotland anything at all to do with the choosing of that site? Had he any investigation made by people who knew what they were doing? Does he realise that there is not a foundation upon which to build a house without digging down about 13 feet? Does he realise that it will be necessary to have concrete pillars right down through the ashes to the base? We have never been told who are to be the owners of these houses or what is to be the rent, or how the rent is to be fixed. Is it to be 5 per cent., 4 per cent. or 2 per cent. on the money? Who is going to fix the charge? Have costs of upkeep been fixed? Have the Government realised that in my constituency, where they are trying to put up these houses, there will be a heavy cost because there is no proper foundation; and is that to be reckoned as a cost against the firm which builds the houses, or is it to be a direct charge on the Government? If houses are built in this district to which I refer, the dwellers will be chiefly of the labouring class, and the question of rent is of great importance.

Over 20 years ago a number of gentlemen in Glasgow formed the Glasgow Dwelling House Company. They bought old buildings cheaply, because those buildings were infested with vermin—not the four-footed kind, but the smaller kind. They applied the knowledge and experience of architects and builders to the conversion of these buildings into dwellings where people could live under clean conditions. They were taught by the experience of people in the building trade, that in order to eliminate vermin it was necessary, wherever possible, to eliminate seams in the buildings in order to prevent the collection of dust. They did so, and they accomplished a great deal. Here we have the Weir house, and how many seams are there inside it? You have joints in the woodwork, and, though you may run a strip of beading or a plain strip round them, you have seams on every side to catch the dust. I mention the Glasgow Dwelling House Company to emphasise the fact that they did not deal with this matter as the present Government are doing. They took advantage of experience and knowledge which are always available and which can be bought if it is desired to make use of them. I suggest that no experienced man can have been consulted about the erection of these houses in my constituency. Had that been done, it would have been pointed out that their proximity to the canal increases the possibilities of vermin; that there is no proper drainage, and that the nature of the site will increase the expense. We are being told of the great economies which the Government can effect; yet, in this case within my own personal observation, they have not shown the slightest foresight or the slightest desire to take advantage of the knowledge which is available.

In regard to the question of wages, there has been no argument from the other side to justify the reduction of any man's wages, especially when that man is doing the same kind of work as that for which the higher wages are being paid. If the Government are going to carry out at least some of their own ideas, they should remember that every time they decrease purchasing power, either by reduction of wages or otherwise, they injure trade. Let me issue a word of warning as one who knows Glasgow and its trade unions very intimately. The Secretary of State for Scotland said he hoped they would be able to come to terms. Well, you are not going to come to terms by hoping, but by-doing, and what you have to do is to tell one man that he is not to be allowed to dominate either the trade union movement or the present Government. The conceit of some people, who go about thinking they are able to dominate the Government and the trade unions! But that type is going to have its swelling reduced, and it is going to be done in Glasgow. The Government are not going to get away with this matter by thinking that, because they have a big majority in this House, they can put the trade unions in the box. They cannot do so, and I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will see to it that more common sense is exercised in dealing with this matter.


I desire to put some questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland in reference to the company which is, I understand, being formed to carry out the scheme. I notice the explanatory note in the Vote is as follows: Advances to the Second Scottish National Housing Company (Housing Trust), Limited, towards the provision of share capital and otherwise towards the company's expenditure. What is the total capital of the company? Is the sum of £200,000 the total capital, or is there to be other capital supplied from other sources? The wording "towards the capital" suggests that other capital is being found elsewhere. I think it is also right that the House should have an opportunity of seeing the memorandum of articles of association of the company. During the previous Debate on this Estimate the Leader of the Opposition had a copy of that document, and raised several points upon it. I suggest that copies should be laid on the Table of the House or placed in the Library, where they can be inspected by hon. Members. We should also know who are the directors, what are their qualifications as directors, and who is chairman. Finally, the Secretary of State for Scotland should give us some information as to their remuneration. This is an entirely new departure, and it may be perfectly right. I am not in a position to criticise it until I have more details, and I therefore content myself at present with raising these points, and asking the right hon. Gentleman to give us the information which I have indicated.


I took no part in the previous Debate on this subject because I had hoped to learn all that was to be learned in regard to the Government's agreement with this housing company, and the three firms who are to build the houses. I wished also to find out how far they were going in regard to the conditions of employment in the erection of the houses. To me, this is not a question of several unions squabbling as to who is to do the work, or who is to have the highest pay. To me it is a question affecting the people of Scotland who want houses and are unable to obtain them. It is a question of how far the propositions of the Government are likely to satisfy the desires and the needs of these people. The alternative scheme of the so-called steel house seems to me a mockery of those people. I cannot see the necessity for any alternative scheme. The hon. baronet the Member for Northern Lanark (Sir A. Sprot) said there were not sufficient workers in the building trade in Scotland to solve this problem by ordinary methods within 15 years. I submit there are sufficient building trade operatives in Scotland, if they were employed entirely on the erection of houses for the people, to solve the problem not of the mere yearly requirements of the people, but also to take up the arrears of housing due to the War, and complete all schemes inside seven years.


indicated dissent.


The hon. Baronet may shake his head, but I feel certain that he does not know the number of building trade operatives in Scotland.


That is not the information given to us by the Scottish Board of Health.


Hon. Members opposite receive a lot of information from the Government and from other people on which they cannot depend, and which ultimately turns out to be wrong. I am giving information which I received from the Secretary of State for Scotland across the Floor of the House a fortnight ago. The Minister then said that in Scotland there were 69,000 building trade operatives, and of these only about 6,700 were engaged on housing schemes. The rest were employed in the building of cinemas, warehouses, banks, and luxury dwellings. Calculating the number of houses required in Scotland, I contend that by the application of the labour of the whole of these people—instead of only 10 per cent. of them as at present—to the building of houses for the people, you could solve the problem in seven years.


The hon. Member in aware that under the Addison Scheme there was a prohibition against luxury buildings, but that scheme has expired. That was only for a time and the time is past, and we must deal with the circumstances as we find them.


I am dealing with the circumstances as we find them, and the circumstances are unfortunate, not for the hon. Baronet or for me, but for the people who want houses. It is in order to help in getting out of the circumstances as we find them, that I am taking part in this Debate. It is true that the Addison scheme with its prohibitive clause has corns to an end, but what is to prevent the Government from bringing in a new prohibitive clause against luxury building? Why do they not prohibit luxury building instead of throwing bouquets at Lord Weir and giving him money for breaking up trade union rates? If they were interested more in the housing of the people and less in the bolstering up of trade union smashers in the engineering industry, we might have something done for housing in Scotland. I am glad, however, that the hon. Baronet is moving our way, and perhaps by the end of the Debate he will have come all the way, and will accompany us into the Division Lobby. He now practically admits that if there were a prohibitive clause, these operatives would be able to solve the housing difficulty. Why does he not use his influence with the Government to get them to adopt a prohibitive clause, and put all the building trade operatives on to the building of houses?

It is said there is not sufficient material, but there is sufficient material for those who are engaged on luxury buildings. There is the most expensive wood, stones and slates, the finest plumbing, the best sanitary arrangements, and ample material of every description for these purposes. There are offices which are 18 feet from ceiling to floor being made for people to work in during seven or eight hours each day, but the workman's wife has to live and work in a space of 8½ feet from floor to ceiling. She has to live there and spend 24 hours a day there. There is ample material, there is sufficient labour, and what is to prevent this Government, or any Government which may succeed it, from taking the material which is there to their hand, and the labour which is waiting to be used, and applying both to the housing problem? Private interests stand in the way. The hon. Baronet was speaking about the people from whom he had had complaints: only those who had not got steel houses were complaining. Has he received any complaints from any of his colleagues on those benches that they have not got steel houses? Are they complaining that they have not the opportunity of living in a steel house? You say they are good enough for your constituency.


The hon. Member will please remember to address the Chair.


The hon. Member is speaking of his constituency. They are good enough for the constituents of my colleague who represents Springburn, and good enough for my constituents in Govan, but they are not good enough for a Tory Member of Parliament. Why not? If those houses are such wonderful houses, as they seem to be from statements coming from Members on the other side, I should have expected a rush from Tory Members to occupy them, and leave their inferior dwellings for the working classes to come along and inhabit them. It is quite evident they are not likely to yield up any of their privileges. In this Debate we are having it laid down from the other side, or from those who have spoken, at any rate, that this is a question that affects the working class, that it is a working-class housing question, that it is a question of a quarrel between unions, that it is a question of rates of pay. The building trade workers, they say, are selfish; they will not allow the engineering workers to be employed upon these houses. Let me quote a statement by an individual who, as an hon. Member, occupied a place in the Tory party. It is a suitable answer to arguments put forward on the other side against the building trade operatives. What he said was: The building employés are fearful lest they—the steel houses—form the thin end of the wedge by which their wages may be decreased. This is chiefly owing to the attitude taken up by the makers of one particular type of light house, an attitude which has reacted detrimentally on the production of every other type of alternative methods of construction, even although the latter are paying track-union rates. In justice to the building operatives, not the slightest obstacle has been put in the way of those firms who pay recognised rates to tradesmen employed on their own job, and the statement that has been circulated that they are objecting to steel workers and erectors not being paid the wages of masons and bricklayers is entirely false. That statement comes, not from a Labour Member of Parliament, not from a bricklayer, not from a stonemason, not from a member or an official of any of the building trade unions. That statement was written by the Duke of Atholl, a Tory, an individual who used to be a member of the Tory party. He simply wipes out of account altogether every argument that has been put forward in this House to-day by hon. Members opposite. As far as I am concerned, at any rate, I see no reason for any alternative scheme of housing being brought before the people of this country. There is ample material, and there is a sufficiency of labour. All that is required is for the Government to have some courage, and to put a stop to the luxury building that is going on. The Secretary of State for Scotland, who represents a Glasgow Division, and who is frequently in Glasgow, knows perfectly well what is happening in the centre of that city. In the principal street of Glasgow, at two opposite corners, gigantic buildings are going up for banks, the finest of material, as I have said, being used, and building operatives being employed. Yet he has been telling this House that, because of the scarcity of labour in the building trade, and the scarcity of material, it is necessary for us to bring in steel and other alternative types of houses, and to get other labour to work it. His own figures, which he gave a fortnight ago, contradict entirely the statements he and his colleagues on the Front Bench have been saying for some time past.

What, I contend, the Government ought to do is to look upon this question as they stated it should be looked upon in the early period after the War, that housing was a national question, when hon. Members and right hon. Members on that side followed the lead of the right hon. Gentleman who was then Prime Minister, and who sits with the leaders of a disintegrated party, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). You agreed then that housing ought to be carried through as one of the most urgent problems that the Government then should tackle. Homes for heroes, houses by the hundreds of thousands, Addison schemes promulgated, the first duty of the Government was to provide suitable and comfortable housing for the people, and wipe the slums entirely out of existence! Seven years after that statement, this Government come forward and say, with their hands flung high to Heaven in despair, "We cannot provide the houses unless you agree to low wages, and accept steel houses." Really, for a Government to come forward in such a manner, shows how hopeless it is for this country to expect to be governed well by such a Government. Let them put into operation once again the prohibitive Clause that existed in previous schemes. Let them say, as this is a national problem, no luxury buildings shall be permitted until the houses have been built to accommodate the people. If they do that, all the trouble between Lord Weir and the building trade and the engineers will have vanished.

But if the Government go on grovelling before Lord Weir, accepting the ultimatum he has laid down, that he is not going to build houses unless the Government, and those prepared to work upon the scheme, accept the terms he has laid down—if the Government are going on those lines, they are riding for a fall. The right hon. Gentleman opposite smiles. Probably he thinks that with his 200 majority behind him, he is safe for another three-and-a-half years. The Coalition thought itself equally safe—and he was a member of it—but the Coalition vanished at one election. His own party vanished at a succeeding election, and came back only one-third of this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "And then what?"] By a forgery it came back by an alternative method—like the steel house—of running an election, with a 200 majority, but representing a minority of the electors of this country. On these Benches, and the Benches below the Gangway on this side, are the representatives of the majority of the electors who took the trouble to vote. On those Benches opposite are the representatives of the minority. I submit that this Government, even though they have a majority of 200 in this House, have no right to impose the conditions they are seeking to impose on the workers of this country at the behest of Lord Weir, and I suggest that the Secretary of State for Scotland takes back this Vote, reconsiders it, and brings it in with a statement to this House that Lord Weir and his company are not going to be permitted to do this, that is to say, if they do not accept my other suggestion about a prohibitive Clause regarding luxury buildings. But if they are wedded to the steel houses, if that be the highest to which their minds can soar in the housing of the working classes, let them at least say to Lord Weir, "You have got to observe fair conditions, not merely the Fair Wages Clause that was trotted out in the last Debate, but you have got to observe the best possible conditions for workers employed in the industry concerned," and that neither Lord Weir nor others are going to be allowed to use themselves as trade union smashers, and lowerers of the standard of life of the workers of this country.


The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) said at the end of his interesting speech that the issue before the House this evening was a question of wages, but, after all, the question to be put from the Chair is as to whether the House of Commons will vote a sum of £200,000 to the Government for the construction of houses in Scotland. For my part, I feel that the people of Scotland demand these houses, and that it is essential for all who have the interests of Scotland at heart, for all who feel the need of housing in Scotland, to support this Vote. At the same time, there was in the very earnest, serious and important speech by the junior Member for Dundee (Mr. T. Johnston) a great deal that has not been attempted to be answered by the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on the opposite side. I do not know, for example, if the hon. and gallant Member for North Lanarkshire (Sir A. Sprot) was in the House when the hon. Member for Dundee was speaking, because be certainly did not deal with what seemed to me to be the really important point put by the hon. Member for Dundee.

In the first place, the hon. and gallant Member for North Lanarkshire dealt with the numbers of workmen in the building trade, and he said they were quite inadequate to deal with the needs of the situation. But the hon. Member for Dundee made it clear that the building trade was prepared to welcome the employment of any number of men for this work, that they were not going to object to any number of outsiders employed by Messrs. Weir, or any other firm, on these houses, provided they got the rate for the job, and that, it seems to me, is the vital issue. It is a vital question upon which the House is entitled to a reply from the Secretary of State for Scotland or from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. There appears to have been a great deal of misrepresentation on the point. Is it the fact that the Building Trade Unions did consent to the employment of men outside their own unions provided they received the rates of wages for the job? That is a very important point.

Another important point is this. It is quite clear, surely, that the jobs upon which the men are being employed are not engineering jobs. Obviously, too, it cannot be contended that the work of a man digging a hole in the ground to receive the foundations for a Weir house is quite different from the work of a man, who is digging a similar hole in the ground for a brick house? Nor can it be argued that such work is more like engineering work than like building work. Obviously, it is fair that the men should be paid the same rates as are paid in the building trade. That is the point of view taken by the other two firms. I have not the slightest interest in the Duke of Atholl. Very much the reverse, or in his houses; but it does seem to me that these two firms have taken the fair and reasonable view of the case in determining to employ their men at building trade rates so long as they are doing building work. As the Leader of the Opposition said, you have these men employed undoubtedly—if it is not the case perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland will tell us—you have on the one hand men employed on building Weir houses, and on the other hand you have them building the Atholl and the Cowieson houses, it may be in the same street. Some of these men will be employed at the rates prevailing in the building trade, and some employed at the rates prevailing in the engineering trade. If that be so, then I agree with what the Duke of Atholl has said in the article in the "Spectator" which has been quoted this afternoon. The effect of doing otherwise than giving the same rates of pay to men employed on the same work would be to spoil, to destroy, the prospect of success of the scheme for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is asking to vote this money.

Therefore, I say, that while we ought to vote this money to-night, I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will take into consideration the arguments which have been advanced with so much force by hon. Members above the Gangway, if this scheme is to be a success. I believe that in voting for this scheme I am carrying out what are the wishes of the people of Scotland as a whole. I am quite certain that they want these houses, but they also want fair play as between both sides. If there is reason to suppose, on the one hand, that the building trade unions are using their monopoly powers to force up the rates and refusing to allow other men to come in to help the building of the houses; and if, on the other hand, the employers are using the necessities of the people of Scotland to obtain advantageous terms in carrying out their contracts, the people of Scotland will see that fair play is done, that these houses are built, and that fair wages are paid to every man employed in the work. The public will condemn whichever party it is that is trying to make profit out of this particular business.

There are one or two points about which I asked some questions when this scheme was originally announced in this House, some of which have been raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, in regard to the qualifications of the directors and so forth. There is one of these points which has not been mentioned to-day—perhaps it w-as by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie)—as to the rents to be paid. Are these rents going to be economic rents? Are they going to be rents sufficient to cover the whole cost of the scheme? If not, if there is going to be a loss on these houses, who is going to bear the loss? Is it going to fall upon the rates, or is it to come out of the Treasury? Presumably it cannot fall upon the company, because the company has no money except that which is provided by the Government. The company is a sort of capitalistic fig-leaf trying to disguise from the people of the country that this is an essay in Socialism.

There is one other point. I do feel that this scheme is acceptable to the people of Scotland as some solution of the problem, but the problem itself is far bigger than can be tackled by the building of 2,000 steel houses. We do, however, appreciate the motives behind, and the sincerity of the words that have fallen from the Prime Minister and the Secretary for Scotland. We feel that having put their hands to the plough they are committed to a serious endeavour to solve the housing problem in Scotland. We feel we ought to support them, and we wish them God-speed. After all, however, the tackling of this problem will need far more than 2,000 houses. I would add also one very important proviso. Scotland has need for housing schemes in the rural districts, which are not touched by this particular scheme. As was pointed out in 1917 by the Commission, the housing conditions of the people in rural districts are bad, and are responsible for forcing people into the towns, and, therefore, adding to the congestion and demand made upon the available housing there. Anything done to relieve the rural situation would not only react upon the rural areas but also inure to the benefit of the town situation. Therefore, I would, in supporting this Vote to-night, respectfully ask the Secretary of State to give us some assurance that he is really seriously considering the housing problem in its rural aspect; give us some definite assurance that this question is going to be seriously tackled. I should also ask him to give fair-play to the workers employed in these schemes.


In rising to express my views, I must confess that I do so with a certain degree of anxiety. The atmosphere that has been created by the friendly speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and the tone that has characterised discussion throughout, makes me tremble lest any incautious word of mine should disturb the harmony that has pre- valid. I can only promise to do my best to see the discussion through in the spirit that exists at the present moment. We have had, if I may say so respectfully, very little reply from Members on the Government side of the House to the excellent case in regard to wages and conditions that was presented first by the Leader of the Opposition, and, secondly, in an eminently capable manner by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston).

One of the points that was raised, and with which I should like to deal, was the question put by the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton). He put a question to us direct as to whether the figure of 1s. 2d. that has been mentioned in the Debate was not the result of collective bargaining. The point he was making was this: He said the Leader of the Opposition has only asked for collective bargaining and the terms that will be obtained by collective bargaining. He says Lord Weir is prepared to pay the figure of 1s. 2d. for the erection of these houses. If all the Opposition ask for is the figure produced by collective bargaining, is it not a fact that this 1s. 2d. is the product of bargaining between the employers and the workers in the engineering industry? I think that is a fair summary of the point made by the hon. Member. My reply to that is this: It is quite true that the 1s. 2d. per hour is the result of collective bargaining, but collective bargaining for work in the engineering industry. There is no connection whatever between the engineering industry and the erecting of Weir houses. The only connection between the two is Lord Weir. If I might put it another way, just to show the absurdity of the contention, let me remind hon. Members that Lord Weir is connected with another industry of national importance, that is the growing of beet. Suppose that the advocates of the claims of the workers in the beet industry were to come to this House and say: "We want the engineering rates in the beet industry because Lord Weir is an employer; we want the wages and conditions of engineering in the beet industry merely because they are rates and conditions obtained by collective bargaining in the engineering industry." I put it to hon. Members that the reason Lord Weir is paying the engineering wages and observing the engineering conditions is that the engineers work for lower wages and are subjected to worse con- ditions than the workers in the ordinary building industry.

7.0 P.M.

There is another point, and that is that there is no dispute between rival trade unions in this case. One hon. Member threw out the suggestion, if he did not make the direct assertion, that this was a dispute between the engineering unions and the Federation of Building Operatives, and that it was by no means the business of this House to determine disputes between rival trade unions. The Labour party did not rush into this controversy without having examined it in the most minute detail. Before the House rose for the Vacation last year the Labour party appointed a Committee to go into this very question, and to ascertain exactly the position. The Committee applied to the engineering union and invited them to meet the Committee, and explain how far they have any claim in determining the wages and conditions in the erection of these houses. Here is the letter which was received from the general secretary of the engineering union: Your letter of the 11th June has been considered by my executive council. In reply thereto, I am directed to state that we have no information that any of our members have been engaged in the assembly of parts of Weir houses. In view of which, my council have not had under consideration the rates of wages to be paid in connection with that work. In other words, if engineers are employed on this work, they are not employed because they are engineers—because there is no engineering at all in connection with the work—but just as tinkers or tailors or any other class of workman would be employed, in the erection of these houses. That, I think, disposes of the suggestion that because 1s. 2d. for skilled workers and 10¼d. for unskilled workers obtain in the engineering industry and have been acquiesced in—if they have been acquiesced in—therefore we should accept that as applying to the conditions in the building of houses.

I do not want, for it is unnecessary, to enter any further into the details of the claims which have been made on behalf of the building trade operatives in regard to this dispute. I want to devote the time which I shall occupy rather in making an appeal to the Government on quite other, and I hope, much higher, grounds. I am opposed to this policy very strongly, because it is a complete reversal of the present national policy, the present Government policy, with regard to house building. May I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Government whom he represents to remember that while we are dealing here with 2,000 houses, we require at least 200,000 houses in Scotland, and not to lose sight of the magnitude of the problem and the difficulties which confront us, when we are dealing with a particular question which may have an important bearing on the solution of that problem.

I cannot subscribe to the idea that these steel houses are likely to be a substitute for the kind of house in which we live today. I do not believe that they are anything more than costly decanting vessels When I was at the Ministry of Health I agreed to the erection of these houses. Had I remained at the Ministry of Health, I would have used my influence to have a certain number of these houses erected. I suppose I need hardly put in this claim, that if they had been erected under my auspices, the work would have had to be done according to the wages and conditions prevailing in the building industry. We never contemplated anything else. Indeed, I go further, and claim that when I was at the Ministry of Health I could have bought these houses cheaper than the Government are buying them to-day. At that time, when the price was under consideration, it was £300. I do not think I am betraying a confidence when I say that although Lord Weir told me that the initial price would be £360, within six months, or presumably when he had been given a sufficiently large order to allow the principles of mass production to operate in the reduction of costs, he would be able to supply the houses at £300 each, or less.

I said that I did not want to enter into discussion of the quality of these houses any more than was absolutely necessary to make my point on the broader question of national policy. If, to begin with, these houses were as good or as cheap as brick houses—I do not claim to have any technical knowledge that would make me a judge on the point of durability, but it may be that if these houses were as good and as cheap as other houses—we might take up the position that we have now finished with the ordinary building industry and can scrap our bricklayers, plasterers and joiners, and others; we can crack our fingers at them and defy them and take up a hostile attitude to them and crush them into subjection. But may I put this, particularly to my fellow Scottish Members.? If we have—and I do not think it will be disputed—the need for 200,000 houses in Scotland, and we must depend on the ordinary building industry to supply them, is it not worth while pausing to consider whether you should introduce an injurious atmosphere into that building industry upon which you must rely for a solution of a problem which is certainly, as the Secretary of State for Scotland put it, of the greatest possible social magnitude?

No authority, so far as I know, has claimed that these houses are as good as ordinary brick or stone houses. I have here a report submitted to the Corporation of Glasgow—not by Labour members, because we are not looking at this from the party point of view at all. I think I was one of the earliest to rise from this House and plead with all parties to take the housing problem out of the arena of party politics and to urge that we should apply our capacities nationally to the question of raising our people from the slums in which they are submerged and put them into a standard of housing that would be creditable to the country of which we are the public representatives. I do not depart to-night by one single step from the view that was behind the appeal I made to this House in that speech at least two years ago. The Director of Housing of the Glasgow Corporation has reported to the corporation that in his opinion the durability of a Weir house it not more than 30 years in all. I have the minutes of the corporation with me if anyone should dispute them, but I put it to you, as business people, that there are other considerations which would enable us to arrive at a conclusion, although, as has been truly said, you cannot give an absolutely accurate judgment until you have had some years of experience behind you in the occupancy of these houses.

We know what happens in the ordinary affairs of life. If a new thing is really good, it goes first to the rich. It is only to the poor that margarine is better than butter. If a thing is really good, it goes first to the rich. I put it to you, secondly, that if a proposition is sound you have no difficulty in finding the necessary capital for investment in the ownership of that commodity. Is it not a remarkable thing that no one has bought a steel house to live in, that no capitalist has taken it up as a subject of investment, and that no lawyer, so far as I know, has advised a client that on security of the building alone he should advance money for 30 years. T say that sound business minds do not take the view that these are houses equal in quality and in durability to the houses in which money is invested to-day. I think it is also necessary that we should take into consideration I how these houses compare in the cost with the ordinary brick and stone horses. I submit to all parties in the Hoi se that but for the extraordinarily high cost of building to-day this class of building would not have a look in.

Compare these houses with the houses produced at the extraordiarily high cost with which we are now familiar, and they have been so compared by the County Council of Lanark. That county council has made a comparison between the rents that require to be charged for these houses and the rents to be charged for houses of similar size made of brick and produced at present prices. They tell us that you require a rent of £3 11s. 10d. more for the steel house than is required for the brick house. I have seen a statement made out for the Corporation of Glasgow. After all, the fundamental appeal behind these houses is that you are going to take people out of the slums. Pictures have been painted of the conditions in which people live to-day, and we have been appealed to to recognise that any kind of house would be better than slums. We, on this side, agree with that, but do not let us lose sight of the facts of the situation.

The Corporation of Glasgow, with the characteristic caution of Scotsmen, have looked at the financial side of it, and the estimate of their officials is that the inclusive rent and rates of these houses in the City of Glasgow will be £32 15s. a year. I put it to you—and some of you are employers of labour—that if you are going to double the rents being paid by the poor, that is going to have a very great influence on the wages that will be required to be paid in the employment of these poor people, who are not being paid anything like what would allow them to pay £32 15s. to-day. If these houses are to be let at competitive rents, which I understand is the policy of the Government, then I suppose that in this area they will go to the people who are comparatively wealthy, and, after having been occupied for three or four years and having deteriorated, then, and only then, will they be available at much reduced rents—and at high Government losses—for the poor people for whom this appeal is made.

I make that point for this reason, that, as I said at the beginning, you are entering here on quite a new policy—on a destructive policy—in regard to the provisions of houses. The Prime Minister, in recent years, has made many eloquent appeals to us to try to create, and maintain, harmony between employers and workmen in this country. Many of us in all parts of the House have been moved by his appeals. I want to claim this for myself, that I was one of the first Ministers entrusted with the administration of the affairs of this country who made a serious, and to a large extent successful, attempt to give practical effect to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. When I went to the Ministry of Health I found the building industry in chaos. I found it had been depleted of its personnel throught the insecurity of employment and insecurity for decent working conditions.

There was a shortage of labour, particularly of skilled labour. I spent six months working harder, probably, than I have ever worked in my life to produce harmony and efficiency in the building industry. I brought together the employers and the employés, and I appealed to them, in the name of the nation, to co-operate harmoniously in the production of houses. I said to the building operatives "There is undoubtedly a shortage of building trade labour. I want you to agree to a policy of augmentation, a policy by which, through so many apprentices being accepted for so many journeymen we shall within a very short time have a larger fund of skilled labour, and I want you to agree to semi-skilled workers being brought into the industry." The building trade operatives responded in a manner which ought to get for them to-night the consideration of hon. Members on the other side of the House. I brought the employers and the workers together, and I said "It is on you that the nation must depend for houses, and I want co-operation between you as employers and employés."

I went ever further than that. I went to the manufacturers of building materials, and I said: "I recognise, as a person with some business knowledge, that the output of materials will always approximate to the demand for those materials. I recognise that, owing to the insecurity of the demand in the past, you have been afraid to put capital into the manufacture of building materials, but now I want you to come to the nation's assistance and put fresh capital in to give us additional materials and enable the building operatives and contractors to give us the necessary additional houses." The remarkable thing about it is this, that I think I can claim that I, a revolutionary Socialist, had the confidence of manufacturers, contractors and operatives to an extent unparalleled in the administration of the housing affairs of this country.

What has been the result of the policy? Let me quote to you, not a claim of mine, but an admission made by my successor as to the result of that policy within 12 months of its inception. In' 1925, 159,000 houses were erected in this country. When I was talking about 60,000 or 70,000 houses when piloting my Measure through this House, people said, "It is a dream. You will never get the building industry to give us that number of houses." But in this first year the building industry gave us a greater number of houses in England and Wales than was promised by the most optimistic representative of the industry during the negotiations with the Minister of Health. The right hon. Gentleman went further. He gives us a larger amount of credit for the work we did, and for those acknowledgments I thank him. Speaking in this House, on 18th December last, he said: We are moving faster now in this respect than at any other time in our history. … We have been extraordinarily successful in mobilising the forces of private enterprise. They are still acting like a rolling snowball, gathering up all the time more material and more labour. … Anything which shook the confidence of the industry in continued progress would, I think, be a great misfortune at this juncture; and my hopes will be that we may continue to maintain that confidence and increase the resources of the industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th December, 1925; cols. 1871–77, Vol. 189.] I say "Amen" to the hopes and prayers of the right hon. Gentleman. In the light of that statement and that appeal I ask the House to consider the step taken to-night. The happy result that we are rejoicing over here is due to the harmony and the confidence created in the building industry by the assurance that they were going to get honourable treatment from the representatives of the people of this country. As I said at the outset, here is a complete reversal of that policy. We are setting out now to reduce the standard of living in this essential industry.

I submit that the building industry is the most essential industry of the nation. We can get our food from foreigners, we can get our ships and our coal from abroad, but we depend for housing accommodation on the skill and capacity of the people of our own country. If that be admitted, and I do not think anyone will seriously dispute it, then I put it to the representatives of the Government that we ought to see that our most essential national industry is one that will attract the best services in the nation. I want us to have a building industry into which parents can send their boys in the confidence that they will get a decent standard of living, confident that they will obtain in that industry scope for the exercise of their talents in craftsmanship and in the production of beautiful work. I want them to think of the building industry as something that is the artist of the nation, something into which we should put our best. I want this House to depart from the idea that it is good, sound, national policy to embitter that industry, to disintegrate that industry, to drive from that industry to less essential fields of industry the youth of the country who are in search of a decent standard of living.

If that appeal be accepted in the spirit in which it is made to the Government to-night, I am sure they will pause twice before embarking on a struggle with this important industry on behalf of one man who is not essential in the production of houses. If Lord Weir were the only person who could add to our output of houses, I would say there might be a semblance of a case; but Lord Weir is by no means the most qualified person to produce the houses which we all desire to see produced. Take the announcement that has been made about the new company he has formed, a company with a nominal capital of £60,000. I have heard it stated publicly that most of the £60,000 has been already expended; but I put it to you people: What is the use of talking about national mass production with a capital of £60,000? The whole thing is petty and insignificant in the light of modern methods of mass production.

I have within the last half-hour had a statement put into my hands, which I understand is officially supported, that Sir William Beardmore and Co., Ltd., the firm with which the Duke of Atholl is associated, have a plant capable of producing 2,500 of these houses per annum. Why should we penalise the Duke of Atholl, who can produce two, three, four or five times the number of houses that Lord Weir can produce, when in showing that partisanship to Lord Weir we are going to produce chaos, embitterment and disintegration among the building operatives and employers of this country? A remark was made in the course of the discussion which I think was not fully appreciated on the other side of the House. I submit that the Conservative party should be the protectors of a high standard of wages and a high standard of conditions. If hon. Members opposite have any faith in their fundamental principles, that is the policy for which they should stand. I could understand the people who believe in free competition as a means of fixing wages and prices standing up for getting the houses in the cheapest markets and damning the consequences! If hon. Members opposite are Protectionists, if they appeal to the nation to protect them against the injurious influence of competition from abroad because the imported goods are the product of comparatively sweated labour—if they ask for protection on that ground, how can they deny these building operatives protection against the foreigner who is coming into their industry to reduce the standard of living?


I feel I am in somewhat of a difficulty in entering into this battle of giants which is taking place to-night upon this vexed question, and I ask protection from you, Sir, and the sympathy of the House, for a comparatively humble Member of the Government like myself who is facing such redoubtable bruisers as the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the former Minister of Health. I would not dare to deal with the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) were it not for the great and overpowering assistance I have received from him during the course of his own speech. His arguments seemed to me very powerful, but mutually contradictory. He said, "These houses are for the poor, for the lowest of the low. Why should our people be forced into them?" And then he said, "These houses are going to be let at rents so high that none of our people will be able to get into them, only the wealthy will be able to get into them." Further, he said, "These houses are too dear; they will not be sufficiently cheap until they are produced by the assistance of mass production." [An HON. MEMBER: "Debating society points!"] The hon. Member opposite does not seem to realise that Parliament is a debating society, that we are here to meet each other's arguments, and not simply to shout down our opponents, as is done by unruly Members in one part of the House or another.

Let me come to one of the more particular points which the right hon. Gentleman made. He spoke of his dealings with the building industry, and of the remarkable progress made, of the overwhelming rate of production of houses in this country, claiming it as a result of his policy. It is because of that claim that we are bringing forward this Estimate. It is because of the progress of housing in England that we in Scotland say, "We demand to bring our quota of houses up to some connection with the total which is being achieved in England." He spoke of an output of 125,000 houses, and quoted the testimony of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health as to the more rapid progress being made in housing in England and Wales. Let us come to a place we both know better than we know any part of England and Wales.

Let us take the figures for that same year in the city of Glasgow—not the figures of houses which it is alleged have been discouraged by the Board of Health, but the figures of the houses which were actually under construction when the year began, and let us see how many of them were finished at the end of the year. It has been said that we have been doing our best to discourage the building of houses in order to create a favourable atmosphere for the Weir scheme. I will take first the houses which had been commenced. Under the 1923 Act at the beginning of last year there were 734 houses under construction at Knights-wood, and at the end of the year there had been only 137 of that number completed. Of the 200 which were under construction at Merryflats only 104 were completed by the end of the year. In connection with the Shawlands scheme 150 houses were under construction, and by the end of the year not a single one had been completed. At Scotstoun 84 were under construction, and not one had been completed by the end of the year.

Under the Housing Act, 1924, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), the number under construction at West Craigton was 46, and by the end of the year not a single one had been completed. In the slum parishes at Hamilton Hill 380 were under construction at the beginning of the year, and not a single one had been completed by the end of the year. At Scotstoun 96 houses were under construction and not one was completed; and at Whitefield Road 114 were under construction and only 36 were completed. That is our explanation, and our excuse for this Vote, and it is not because of Lord Weir or the Duke of Atholl or any other Noble Lord or eminent gentleman that we come forward with this Estimate, but solely because of those figures which I have just read out to the House.


What was the reason for the non-completion?

Captain ELLIOT

Surely it is a matter alike for the workers and the contractors who had contracted to deliver the goods.


When the hon. and gallant Gentleman produces figures to clinch an argument, he ought to give the reasons for those figures.

Captain ELLIOT

If the hon. Member cannot read the reasons written on the face of those figures, he will not be convinced by anything I can say on the subject. That is the position with which we are faced. We are faced with this great delay, and we are not getting delivery of the goods. We have authorised this year the biggest building programme ever authorised in Scotland. There are 13,500 brick houses actually under construction, and we have authorised 17,000. In this way we have done more by deeds to prove our friendly attitude towards the building trades than any words could do coming from right hon. Gentlemen sitting on these benches. We claim that we are just as much interested in harmonious relations with the building trade as any other person in this House can be, and more than that, we have proved our friendship by the tremendous programme authorised to be carried out this year in Scotland. We say that when we are faced with figures like those in regard to the non-delivery of the goods, it is our duty to make use of any ancillary method to make sure we get the door keys at the end of the year in order that the poor tenants may move into the houses. I am dealing with the arguments advanced with great eloquence and great justice by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston at the end of his speech.


I am sure the hon. Member does not want to misrepresent my argument. The argument I used was not that they should not introduce alternative methods if housebuilding but that you should not use the introduction of these alternative methods to destroy the efficiency of the major producers of houses.

Captain ELLIOT

That is the next step in the argument. I may take it from that statement that now we are all agreed in this House that we are justified in turning to alternative methods. The hon. Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow (Mr. T. Henderson) delivered a most impassioned harangue, in which he declared that Weir houses were bad houses, and should not be introduced at all. I will now start from the point that hon. Members opposite agree now that steel houses are good houses, and I will leave them to deal with those hon. Members who differ with them on that point, and although we on this side may not be able to convince them, perhaps it will be possible for them to be convinced by the peaceful persuasion of members of their own party. I now come to the point made by the Leader of the Opposition, who brought forward a case which we have got to meet, and which I think we are able to meet. The right hon. Gentleman said we had got the Bradbury Report and the Fair Wages Clause, and he further said that he accepted the Bradbury Report and stood by the Fair Wages Clause. That is a very important admission, because now we have the right hon. Gentleman committing his party officially, and for the first time, to the acceptance of the Bradbury Report.


Not for the first time.

Captain ELLIOT

Then I will say that he is reinforcing his repeated declaration. I will now deal with the points arising out of that. The right hon. Gentleman says, "We admit that the Weir operations are a new set of operations, but we say that when the wages and conditions are settled they must be done by collective bargaining." I am speaking under a certain amount of difficulty, because, as the right hon. Gentleman knows from the declarations made by the Secretary of State for Scotland at the beginning of this Debate, he has not ceased since the Vote was carried unanimously by the Committee of this House to fulfil what he conceived to be the desire of the House, namely, to explore all the ways by which a settlement could be reached by agreement between the parties. As we know, the representatives of the building operatives desired to meet the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he met them, and the meeting was adjourned over the weekend. After that my right hon. Friend met them again, and at their request agreed to meet them again on Tuesday this week, and he did so.

All I can say is that, although these conversations have not yet resulted in a definite agreement, I see no reason why it should be impossible to arrive at an agreed conclusion. Nobody knows better than right hon. Gentlemen opposite how delicate negotiations may be ruined by the clumsy interference of some novice like myself. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are too modest."] Thai is an English attribute. This is the point. While these conversations are proceeding do not let us raise an atmosphere of hostility and recrimination now. I do not think I am going outside the recollection of the House in saying that one of the difficulties with which we are faced is that the atmosphere has grown more acrimonious instead of less as this Debate has gone on. We have been told that this is more a question of the unskilled man, but that is a subject for negotiation. If we are going to say that the assembly and construction of these houses is a craftsman's job involving craftsman's skill, and involving the introduction of craftsman's wages, then we come to a difficulty, and it is very hard to see how we can get over it.


May I ask the hon. and gallant Member if it is not the case that the Building Trades Federation have never claimed that steel erection WOFK is part of their craft, and therefore that should be regarded as quite outside the negotiations?

Captain ELLIOT

Let me quote from the document which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has accepted, and which has been reinforced in speeches made by Members of the Labour party. In the Report by a Court of Inquiry concerning steel houses, on page 18, paragraph 55, there appears the following statement: With regard to the stage of erection on the site, it is necessary to compare the process of erecting an ordinary house with the process of erecting the Weir house. The erection of the Weir house consists of the assembly of a number of standardised parts, carefully prepared in advance in such a way that they will fit together without adjustment, and without requiring the skill of specialised craftsmen. The bulk of the work can be done by men with no previous specialised skill. The same man may be employed at one moment on the erection of the wall sections, at another moment on placing into position the pipes or the wires for the lighting. The representative of the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives gave to us in his evidence a vivid description of the method of building the ordinary brick house, a complicated process involving the interlocking employment at different stages of different specialised skilled craftsmen and their mates. The adherence to the diversified forms of skill required to handle and to manipulate the various forms of more or less 'raw' material which are used in ordinary house building has led to the employment of these various classes. The process as described appears to us to be essentially different from that involved in the assembly of the Weir house. Just as in the development of many forms of mechanical engineering, the standardisation of house-parts by Messrs. Weir has reached the stage at which all that is required for the erection of the house is the assembly of standardised parts, prepared by mass production methods in the factory, of a character so simplified that there is no longer need to call for the skill of the craftsman. That is the Report signed by Mr. Cramp, and it is the Report accepted five minutes ago by the Leader of the Opposition in the name of his party as a whole. On that we do say we are entitled to claim, as regards the operations in the assembly of the house, that we think we can get over the difficulty about the skilled man and the rate paid to unskilled labour—the question which the right hon. Gentleman raised about house No. 70 being done at a different rate of wages from house No. 71. If we can get over that, will he back us in the application of paragraph 55 to the operations in which the assembling of the house are of a nature which do not involve specialised skilled craftsmanship, and, therefore, do not necessarily involve the pay which inevitably and properly attaches to the craftsman in the exercise of his skill?


The application of the paragraph by whom? Who is going to apply it? Who is going to agree to the application?

Captain ELLIOT

We hope that all parties will agree, and we are asking the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence in bringing pressure to bear upon the people involved who are at present objecting.


In accepting the Bradbury Report, I am not accepting all but one paragraph, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that that paragraph must be applied through the trade unions concerned.

Captain ELLIOT

The conditions under which the paragraph must be applied are laid down in paragraph 58, which says: The position of the workmen employed can, in our opinion, be fully safeguarded by their own trade unions, in consultation on matters in which the interests of the building trade proper appear to be affected with the building trade unions. I ask the House what else is the process I have described but that? Since the day on which this Vote was passed, we have been in consultation with the building trade unions. We have only parted from them this morning, when we were sitting in conference and going over and discussing these things, and seeing where adjustment might be a good thing and where it might be necessary. Those conversations have not finished yet. What right has the right hon. Gentleman, or anyone else, to say that we are not applying that paragraph, when we have only just finished one conversation with those representatives, and we see no reason why those conversations should not continue?


May I put a straight, definite question? Are the Government prepared to agree with that trade union about the prices that are to be paid under the description of that paragraph? That is the whole point.

Captain ELLIOT

Surely, to agree, but we must take the document which the right hon. Gentleman has accepted, and which says: In consultation on matters in which the interests of the building trade proper appear to be affected. Everyone knows what happens when you are consulting anyone. We all know the story of the man who went to ask his doctor—a member of my own trade union—for his opinion. As he went out, the doctor said, "That will be five guineas, please." "Oh," he asked, "What is that for?" "For my advice," replied the doctor. "Oh," he said, "but I am not taking your advice." At the moment we are in conversation with the various interests concerned. We are following out, not only in the letter but in the spirit, the recommendation given in the paragraph. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are talking about it!"] If the hon. Member knows any way of settling trade union questions other than by talking about them—[Interruption,] it seems to me that the hon. Member's ideas of agreement must be different from those of anyone else. We are engaged at this moment in working out these questions according to the recommendation of the Bradbury Report, and we say quite definitely that we are entitled, when we come into consultation with the interests concerned, that they in their turn should realise what has been stated in paragraph 55, namely, that there are a very large number of operations which have been standardised and simplified up to a point at which the skill of the skilled craftsman is not drawn upon.


I understand the building trades have agreed to that.

Captain ELLIOT

I am glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that they have agreed—


The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows perfectly well that in these conversations to which he has made reference the building trade representatives have admitted that.

Captain ELLIOT

I do not wish to broach any conversations which we have had,-because they have been conducted in confidence [An HON. MEMBER: "Why refer to them?"] I did not refer to them. On these matters an admission in principle is not the same thing as a definite, detailed agreement, and it is the fact that we have not yet arrived at a definite, detailed agreement that I am putting before the House as a reason why we should not have any atmosphere of recrimination, and why we should let this Vote go, so that we may get on with the discussions.

The only other point that has not been dealt with is the question of the competing firms. I think the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) dealt with that more thoroughly than any other hon. Member who has spoken, especially from the other-side. But, again, I regret to say, he does not seem to me to be fully informed of the facts of the situation. He says that the Duke of Atholl is limited to 10 per cent. of building trade labour. That, as we all know, has been a condition of all the alternative methods, right from the time when the Prime Minister made his first declaration on the subject at Glasgow, and, as he said, it is for a very-simple reason. Building trade labour has only completed 270 houses out of 1,800, so that it certainly seems to us that the machine is running under a greater load than it can properly deal with. The hon. Member for Dundee, however, says that the Duke cannot fulfil this condition unless he is allowed to use shipyard carpenters, shipyard plumbers, and so on. More than two months ago, however, we came to an agreement with the firm on that subject and agreed to let them use shipyard carpenters, shipyard plumbers, and shipyard painters, and that not one of those persons should be counted into the 10 per cent. when we were making up our accounts at the end of the year. That seems to me to indicate that the information which the hon. Gentleman has is not. perhaps, so full as he imagines it to be.

Again, he pointed out that the operations were the work of skilled craftsmen. He said that the laying of a floor is the work of a skilled craftsman, that the hanging of doors is the work of skilled craftsmen, and he went over the various operations one by one. Again I would refer him to paragraph 55 on page 18 of the Bradbury Report, which he has accepted. He will see that the very arguments which he went on to use prove the case up to the hilt.

In reference to the Atholl firm, the hon. Member quoted building trade sub-contractors one after another. He brought up the case of Mr. Fulton, a subcontractor, Mr. Brownlie, and numerous other sub-contractors who were engaged in carrying out special work on the Atholl house. That is exactly the case for the differentiation. If you have a man who is employing skilled craftsmen at skilled craftsmen's work, he has to pay skilled craftsmen's wages. If you have the Atholl firm employing, as it admittedly does employ, according to the evidence adduced by the hon. Gentleman himself, sub-contractors with skilled building operatives, they would not be observing the Fair Wages Clause unless they paid fair wages for the operations which they were carrying out. But we claim that in paragraph 55 it is made clear that these skilled operations do not form part of the assembly of the Weir house. On that paragraph we stand, and, since the right hon. Gentleman has accepted the Report, we claim the right to the unanimous support of the Whole House, including the party opposite.


Does that apply to the foundations?

Captain ELLIOT

Let us take the question of the foundations. Here, again, the hon. Member seems to be a little wide of the facts. He said that there would be no difficulty about the foundations if the full building trade rate of wages and building trade conditions were given. Why did we ask Messrs. Weir to move in the matter of the foundations at all? If the hon. Member will look at any of the records on this subject, he will find that that came about because, in the case of the Glasgow site, which was to be prepared by building trade labourers working under building trade conditions and receiving the build-trade rate of wages, the workers whom it was proposed to employ upon that site refused to prepare the foundations because it was suggested that Weir houses were subsequently to be erected on the work they had done.


Is it not the case that the labourers engaged on the foundations of the Weir house are paid 10½d. an hour, while those engaged on the foundations of the Atholl house are paid 1s. 3¼d.? That is a straight question.

Captain ELLIOT

Is it, or is it not, the case that the labourers who were to be engaged at the building trade rate of 1s. 3¼d. struck work, and refused to make the foundations because the houses were to be Weir houses? [Interruption.]


That is a Scottish way of doing it—answering one question with another. It is very clever.

Captain ELLIOT

I do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite think it is very clever when I give the facts dealing with any particular phase of the question under discussion. Let us proceed to the further point which the hon. Member suggested. Is it or is it not the fact, he asks, that there has been a rate of 10½d. paid by Messrs. Weir for making foundations? Again, that is not a fact; the rate that is being paid by Messrs. Weir is 1s.



Captain ELLIOT

That is a considerable difference. But, if we can cross that fence, if we can get over that difficulty, will the hon. Member then co-operate with us in solving the other problems on the question whether or not there is-craftsmen's work in the assembling and putting together of the Weir house?


Since the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks me a straight question, I will give him what he has not given me—a straight answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is this: For operations which the building trade em- ployers, the building trade employés, and all the competitors of Lord Weir, agree should be building operations, the building trade rates of wages should be paid.

Captain ELLIOT

If that is the hon. Member's definition of a straight answer, it seems to me that he would have difficulty in getting in behind a corkscrew. On the broad, general question at issue, it seems to me that we are much nearer a solution than would appear on the face of the Debate we have had this afternoon.


You are not helping.

8.0 P.M.

Captain ELLIOT

The right hon. Gentleman says we are not helping. Let us see how we are not helping. We have in the Bradbury Report an admission that craft skill is not an essential part of the assembling of the Weir house. I say that if we get that accepted, then the way is open for negotiations on the whole of the questions at issue. The questions at issue are not insoluble. Wider bridges have been built before, and there is no reason why we should not be able to come to an agreement in the case in dispute. We have had the most conciliatory declaration by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scot-

land. He has declared himself ready at any moment to proceed with these conversations.

We have gone three-fourths of the way towards solving the problem. One of the main difficulties—the difficulty of the unskilled labourer's wage—is exactly one of the questions upon which, it seems to me, it would be most easy to negotiate. If, with all these cards in our hands, we, as a whole, cannot come to a solution of this question, then it seems to me it will be a reproach to the collective statesmanship of the House of Commons. If we find ourselves incapable of making use of this opportunity which is given us, then we shall have done a very bad day's work for the people of Scotland. I finish my speech, as I finished on the last occasion, in claiming that this is a Measure sincerely devised for the furthering of housing in Scotland, and that, however one likes to put it, to delay that and to refuse the facilities asked for by the Government on the present Vote is a responsibility which I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to weigh twice and three times before they take it upon their shoulders.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 294; Noes, 124.

Division No. 61.] AYES. [8.2 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.
Albery, Irving James Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Cunliffe, Sir Herbert
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Burman, J. B. Curzon, Captain Viscount
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D. Dalkeith, Earl of
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W Butler, Sir Geoffrey Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Butt, Sir Alfred Davies, Dr. Vernon
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Balniel, Lord Cassels, J. D. Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Cautley, Sir Henry S. Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Dawson, Sir Philip
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Dean, Arthur Wellesley
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Eden, Captain Anthony
Bennett, A. J. Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Edmondson, Major A. J.
Berry, Sir George Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Edwards, John H. (Accrington)
Bethel, A. Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Elliot, Captain Walter E.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Chapman, Sir S. Elveden, Viscount
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Charteris, Brigadier-General J. England, Colonel A.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Christie, J. A. Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)
Blundell, F. N. Clarry, Reginald George Everard, W. Lindsay
Boothby, R. J. G. Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Fairfax, Captain J. G.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Cockerill, Brigadier-General G K. Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Bowater. Sir T. Vansittart Cohen, Major J. Brunei Fanshawe, Commander G. D.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Fenby, T. D.
Brass, Captain W. Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Fermoy, Lord
Brassey, Sir Leonard Cooper, A. Duff Fielden, E. B.
Briant, Frank Cope, Major William Ford, Sir P. J.
Briggs, J. Harold Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L. Forrest, W.
Briscoe, Richard George Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Foster, Sir Harry S.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Crawfurd, H. E. Gadie, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony
Galbraith, J. F. W. Loder, J. de V. Salmon, Major I.
Ganzoni, Sir John Looker, Herbert William Samuel, A M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Gates, Percy. Lord, Walter Greaves- Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Gee, Captain R. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Sandeman, A. Stewart
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Sanderson, Sir Frank
Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John Lumley, L. R. Sandon, Lord
Glyn, Major R. G. C. MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Goff, Sir Park Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Savery, S. S.
Gower, Sir Robert Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart) Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)
Grace, John MacIntyre, Ian Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Greene, W. P. Crawford McLean, Major A. Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Gretton, Colonel John Macmillan, Captain H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Grotrian, H. Brent. Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.(Bristol, N.) McNeill, Rt. Hon Ronald John Skelton, A. N.
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Macquisten, F. A. Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Gunston, Captain D. W. MacRobert, Alexander M. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Malone, Major P. B. Smithers, Waldron
Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Hammersley, S. S. Margesson, Captain D. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Harland, A. Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Meller, R. J. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Harrison, G. J. C. Merriman, F. B. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Hartington, Marquess of Meyer, Sir Frank Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Milne, J. S. Wardlaw Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Haslam, Henry C. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Hawke, John Anthony Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Henn, Sir Sydney H. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Tinne, J. A.
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Murchison, C. K. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Herbert, S. (York, N. R. Scar. & Wh'by) Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Hills, Major John Waller Neville, R. J. Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Waddington, R.
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Wallace, Captain D. E.
Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.) Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Holland, Sir Arthur Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Warrender, Sir Victor
Holt, Capt. H. P. Nuttall, Ellis Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Homan, C. W. J. O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh Watts, Dr. T.
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Oman, Sir Charles William C. Wells, S. R.
Hopkins, J. W. W. Owen, Major G. Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n) Perkins, Colonel E. K. White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple
Hume, Sir G. H. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Wiggins, William Martin
Hume-Williams. Sir W. Ellis Philipson, Mabel Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Hurd, Percy A. Pilcher, G. Williams, Com. C. (Devon. Torquay)
Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Preston, William Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Price. Major C. W. M. Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Jacob, A. E. Radford, E. A. Winby, Colonel L. P.
Jephcott, A. R. Raine, W. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Ramsden, E. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Rees, Sir Beddoe Wise. Sir Fredric
Kennedy, A. R (Preston) Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington) Withers, John James
Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Reid. D. D. (County Down) Wolmer, Viscount
Kindersley. Major Guy M. Remer, J. R. Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
King, Captain Henry Douglas Remnant, Sir James Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hythe)
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Rentoul, G. S. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Knox, Sir Alfred Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Wood, Sir S. Hill-(High Peak)
Lamb, J. Q. Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Lane Fox. Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stratford) Wragg, Herbert
Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Ropner, Major L. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Little, Dr. E. Graham Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Russell. Alexander West-(Tynemouth) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. F. C. Thomson and Captain Bowyer.
Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Rye, F. G.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Dunnico, H.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Cape. Thomas Gibbins, Joseph
Amnion, Charles George Charleton, H. C. Gosling, Harry
Attlee, Clement Richard Clowes, S. Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)-
Baker, Walter Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Greenall, T.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Compton, Joseph Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)
Barnes, A. Connolly, M. Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Batey, Joseph Cove, W. G. Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
Broad, F. A. Dalton, Hugh Groves. T.
Bromfield, William Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Grundy, T. W.
Bromley. J. Davies. Rhys John (Westhoughton) Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Day, Colonel Harry Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Buchanan, G. Dennison, R. Hardie, George D.
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Montague, Frederick Stamford, T. W.
Hastings, Sir Patrick Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Stephen, Campbell
Hayday, Arthur Oliver, George Harold Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Palin, John Henry Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Paling, W. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Hirst, G. H. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Thurtle, E.
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Tinker, John Joseph
Hudson, J. H. Huddersfield Ponsonby, Arthur Townend, A. E.
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Potts, John S. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
John, William (Rhondda, West) Purcell, A. A. Varley, Frank B.
Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Viant, S. P.
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Riley, Ben Wallhead, Richard C.
Jones. Morgan (Caerphilly) Robinson. W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland) Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Rose, Frank H. Warne, G. H.
Kelly, W. T. Saklatvala, Shapurji Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Kennedy, T. Scrymgeour, E. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Scurr, John Webb. Rt. Hon. Sidney
Kirkwood, D. Sexton, James Welsh, J. C.
Lansbury, George Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Lawson. John James Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Whiteley, W.
Lee, F. Shiels. Dr. Drummond Williams. T. (York, Don Valley)
Livingstone, A. M. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Lowth, T. Sitch, Charles H. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Lunn, William Slesser, Sir Henry H. Windsor, Walter
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley) Wright, W.
Mackinder, W Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Snell, Harry
MacNeill-Weir, L. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Hayes and Mr. Charles Edwards.
March, S. Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Maxton, James Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles

Resolutions agreed to.