Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, a sum, not exceeding £2,387,155, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Scottish Board of Health, including Grants and other Expenses in connection with Housing, Grants to Local Authorities, etc., in connection with Public Health Services, Grant-in-Aid of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, Grants-in-Aid in respect of Benefits and Expenses of Administration under the National Health Insurance Acts, certain Expenses in connection with the Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925, and certain Special Services."—[Note: £920,000 has been, voted on account.]
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
There is an important matter in connection with the health, the housing and the happiness of a large section of the people which I want to take the opportunity of raising upon the present Vote. There are thousands of our Scottish miners who are housed in dwellings belonging to the various colliery companies thoughout the Scottish coalfields who, because of certain circumstances which transpired in the course of last year, have been placed in a very great difficulty, and I should like, if we could, to have the assistance of the Secretary of State for Scotland with a view of getting, if possible, this problem solved with a minimum of sacrifice to that section of our people. In the course of last year, due to the stoppage in the mining industry, thousands of miners occupying houses belonging to the various colliery companies fell into arrears with the payment of their rent and rates. May I explain that the system of paying rent and rates, as far as that particular section of our people is concerned, is by a weekly payment 600 made in the name of rent and rates? That weekly payment is deducted, by arrangement between the colliery owners and ourselves, from the wages of the men who occupy those houses.
The stoppage to which I have referred lasted, as the Committee well knows, about seven months, and these weekly payments of rent and rates were not met. Consequently, that section of our people got into considerable debt with the colliery owners. When the stoppage ended, the representatives of the men had a meeting with the colliery owners and discussed this problem with them. It was suggested, to begin with, by the representatives of the men, that the colliery owners should agree, now that the stoppage was ended, and peace restored, to forgo their claim for payment of these arrears of rent and rates. This the colliery owners refused to do, but they were prepared to enter into an agreement with the representatives of the men to have the payment of the arrears of rent and rates spread over a considerable period of time, and, consequently, they suggested that the method by which these arrears could be paid off should be by deducting from the wages of the men rent and a half weekly. Eventually the representatives of the men agreed to that arrangement. Unfortunately, since the stoppage, many of the miners occupying houses belonging to the colliery companies have been unable to find employment. Owing to various causes, the colliery owners have not been able to employ as large a number of men as they formerly did.
I shall be told, during the course of the brief discussion that may arise on the particular point I am putting, that the men were largely to blame because of the stoppage of last year. That is a point with which I have already dealt in this House. I have pointed out to my fellow-members in a, former Debate that, even if there had been no stoppage in the coalfields last year, this was a difficulty we should have been meeting in due course. The chief reason the mine-owners, under present conditions, are unable to employ as many men as formerly is because of the competition which the mining industry is facing to-day. That is an aspect of the question which I cannot debate in detail.
601 The mining industry to-day is facing competition of a kind against which it has not had to contend before in its long history. There is the competition from oil, a wider application of electricity which in many instances is generated without the use of a single ounce of coal, and the development of coal fields in other parts of the world. The result is that these men are still on unemployment benefit and are not in a position to meet their obligations to the colliery owners as far as rent and rates are concerned. They are not able to implement the bargain made by their representatives for the payment of arrears to the extent of rent and a half being deducted weekly from their earnings. Consequently, more than a year's arrears of rent and rates are in many cases standing against these men, particularly the men who have been unfortunate enough up to the present time not to have found employment. The colliery owners are now taking legal action to recover arrears of rent and rates, more particularly in coal fields in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, the Lothians, Stirlingshire, Fifeshire, Clackmannon and Kinross. In a number of instances they have taken the men to court and have secured decrees for the arrears of rent, and in some instances decrees for the ejectment of the men from their homes.
In some of the districts we have met the representatives of the colliery owners and have endeavoured by negotiations to persuade them to stay their hand in regard to taking legal proceedings against that unfortunate section of our men. In certain instances, in my own district for one, some of the colliery owners have met us in the direction of staying their hand, but we recognise that, at best, any beneficial effect of negotiations of that kind can only be temporary, because if the present position in the coal trade is to prevail for any length of time, and there are numbers of men who take the view, rightly or wrongly, that it is likely to prevail for a considerable time to come, that is a burden which we cannot expect the coal trade will continue to carry for an indefinite period. Consequently the representatives of the mining districts in this House and the representatives of the Scottish Miners' National Union have discussed the problem with the Secretary of State for Scotland and some of his colleagues in the 602 Government with a view to getting whatever assistance we can from the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to overcome the difficulty.
It is a great problem. It is a problem that deserves the most careful consideration that it is possible for us to give to it. If large numbers of our people are to be threatened with eviction, or if the colliery owner is to carry proceedings a stage further than he has already done and to eject large numbers of our men, it will give rise to a very considerable amount of feeling not only among the mining population but other sections of people. Therefore, I thought it right to take this opportunity of bringing the matter again before the notice of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Government. We have explained the difficulty to the right hon. Gentleman, and he agreed to take the matter into consideration. If he has finished consideration of the problem we should be glad to hear any information which he can give to-day, or we should like to know whether he requires more time for consideration of the problem. I frankly admit that it is a big problem and one that requires very serious consideration by the right hon. Gentleman and everyone intimately connected with the mining industry. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us to-day what he can do to help us to overcome this great difficulty?
§ Mr. KIDD
I earnestly hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will be able to discover some means by which we can meet this difficulty, which was rightly and fairly stated by the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson). I have some anxiety about the reply of the right hon. Gentleman, because I fear that he will be hampered by want of power. We are asking him to intervene in a matter which is, strictly, a personal contract between the owner of the house and the tenant who occupies it; but I would ask him to remember that the circumstances are altogether very exceptional. I have had ease after case brought to my notice where there must be a positive feeling of torture in many a home at the end of every week. I am not going to discuss anything about the stoppage, except to say that this is one of the bitterest aspects of the bitter aftermath of the 603 stoppage. In my own mining districts it is quite common to find highly respected miners, men who have done good service, men whose savings were consumed by the stoppage, now faced with broken time and a broken wage, occupying a company's house, and in addition to the current rent there is deducted from the broken wage the whole or part of a week's back rent.
I have tried to devise means of modifying the difficulty for these people, and up to the present time, pending what the Secretary of State for Scotland may say, the only possible assistance I could recommend to these people was that they ought to pay the current rent and that with regard to the past rent they should, failing agreement, leave it to the arbitrament of the county sheriff to say in what instalments that back rent should be required. I am certain that the county Judge in every mining county has no notion to be ultra-sentimental or unduly generous, but recognising the exceptional circumstances there is hardly one county Judge in a mining county who would not be generous to the last point in fixing the instalments that ought to be paid for the back rent. But there remains this awkward difficulty even for the county sheriff, that under the Rents Act while there is security for the sitting tenant that security is entirely lost if the rent is not paid. I take it, subject to what the Lord Advocate says, that failure to pay the rent would create a condition which would justify, under the strict letter of the law, the eviction of the tenant.
I would ask the Secretary of State to apply his mind to this point. If the step which I suggest could be taken, of leaving the settlement of back rent to the arbitrament, and I hope the merciful and generous arbitrament of the sheriff of the county, in that case could there not be some modification of the Rents Act, so that so long as the current rent was paid and a very moderate instalment of back rent paid there would be no jeopardising of the security of the sitting tenant? I realise that not only the miner but the mineowner is suffering a good deal at the present time. Whoever is to be blamed, I do not think it can be the proprietor of the house. Both the proprietor and the tenant of the house are victims of 604 the calamity. Speaking from what experience I have had of my county, even if the Secretary of State could do nothing else than make a representation to the owners of the mines who are also the proprietors of miners' houses that some extended indulgence should be allowed with regard to the recovery of the arrears of rent, I can hardly doubt that the mine-owners would lend a very willing ear to that proposal. I take it that the miners' representatives, on the other hand, would clearly distinguish between the position of the man who remains at work in the mines and the position of the man who occupying a mineowner's house goes to another occupation. There are hosts of difficulties. To begin with, the miner may only leave the mine because the mine is not able to afford him anything approaching a living wage. He may most reluctantly leave the mine and go to other work, simply and solely for that reason. That presents a very difficult case. It can hardly be expected that the proprietor of the house, a house let to one of his own workers to begin with, should continue to let that house, to the exclusion, it may be, of some other worker, to the old tenant who has gone to other work and is allowed this privilege of paying by excessively moderate instalments the back rent.
I want to reinforce the views expressed by the right hon. Member for West Fife and the appeal which he made to the Secretary of State. I am conscious of the thorny nature of this subject and am well aware of the very difficult position of the Secretary of State and of the fact that he may entirely lack any power under the law to do what he might wish to do to help the miner. In that case I hope he will find it quite consistent with the dignity of his great office to take the other course and to make representations to the mineowners and the miners' representatives as I suggest.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not intend to elaborate the questions raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) and the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) with regard to miners' houses. It is an exceedingly important question, and any support which I can give in the manner suggested I shall gladly give. Nor do I wish to discuss the question of urban housing, though nobody who represent 605 any part of Scotland could fail to be other than alarmed at some of the statements which appeared in the very excellent Report issued by the Scottish Board of Health. I read with feelings of pain that part of it which refers to housing conditions in certain parts of Glasgow. I understand some of my hon. Friends who represent that city intend to raise that point. If it had not been so, I for one, though it is outwith the territory I represent, should have raised it myself. I do not believe any Member of this House has ever read a more pathetic or terrible description of housing conditions than that given in the Report this year by the Board of Health for Scotland. I, along with some of my colleagues, put some questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland upon it, and I do not know what action has been taken, but I am convinced that the Report has aroused great feeling in Scotland, and I should be glad to hear from him, and so would all Scottish Members, that something is being done to remedy conditions which are a disgrace to the 20th Century.
I am going to deal with the rural side of the housing problem. I understand I am entitled to do so, as the Scottish Board of Health have got under their supervision, the various housing grants, even the housing grant for the rural workers under the Act of last year. I was very glad to see my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State took the precaution to go to the capital of the Highlands to discuss that question with the eminently far-seeing local authorities up there, and I was glad to understand from the reports issued that one county that took a real live interest in this subject was the county which I have the honour to represent in this House. It is a good thing that the Under-Secretary of State, who has a first-class knowledge of this type of problem, should go to the various parts of Scotland to help the local authorities to understand what powers they have under this Act. It was a wise and just thing that the rural workers should be included in the Act, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is entitled to credit for including them.
The condition of rural housing in Scotland is a very serious one, and I have always noticed that it is not so much that you want new houses, though that 606 is a very essential thing, as that you want the old houses to be repaired. The great advantage of this new Act, as I understand it, is that not only are you entitled to get a grant-in-aid for the construction of new houses, but you are entitled to get what you do not get under the main Act, a grant for the repair of old houses which are in a bad state of repair. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to say whether the Under-Secretary of State is to pursue his propaganda and explain to the rural workers the advantages they get under this Act, and further to state what applications have already been received and what action has been taken generally. My hon. Friends who represent rural parts of Scotland will appreciate the importance of this, and they will also appreciate the fact that it takes a long time to get the local authorities to realise what benefits will accrue under an Act so recently passed. I think therefore that the Secretary of State for Scotland should take every step in his power to explain to local authorities what powers they have under the Act.
There is one aspect of the Report with which I should like to deal. I refer to that part of it which deals with the special Highlands and Islands Medical Service Fund. As the Committee will recollect, during the passing of the Insurance Act there was a provision made for the special conditions in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and I think it is right to state that the Scottish Board of Health have been very active in what they have been doing with regard to this particular part of the country. They have done a great deal of good, and the fund generally has been of very great assistance in those remote parts where the conditions are entirely different from those in any other part of the country. I notice that the Report says that the fund which is at present at the disposal of the Board of Health is still at the pre-War figure of £42,000, and that they themselves do not think that they will be able to cope with any new scheme unless and until there is a reconstitution of that fund. They confess, quite openly, on page 180 of their Report, as follows:In the meantime, until the fund is reconstituted, the assistance granted from it must be restricted to the services already in being, notwithstanding that the time seems ripe for a scheme of development in 607 the Highlands and Islands and for the introduction of a system of specialised services, for both of which there is great need in this part of the country.I need not tell the Committee how essential it is to have a first-class local hospital in the various parts of Scotland. At the present time, we have, for example, at Dingwall the Ross Memorial Hospital, and we are busy rebuilding and extending one of the finest institutions in the country, the Infirmary at Inverness. I am speaking subject to correction, but I do not know whether the Board of Health have taken so far an interest in the particular hospitals mentioned; though I believe they have realised the importance of having efficient local hospitals in the various parts of Scotland. They also see, and wisely see, that it is necessary to have specialised services. Nobody knows what a hero the ordinary Highland doctor is. Any man with a knowledge of the conditions in the Highlands and Islands knows the splendid work the Highland doctor performs. In the wildest storm, over bad roads, sometimes over arms of the sea, he goes at all hours of the day and night; very often for a miserable fee, to attend to the poorest people in the land, and I for one shall be glad to see any betterment of the conditions of his service. It is far too much to expect one single individual to be responsible for the welfare and the health of an entire community without some such assistance as can be given to him from a hospital as nearly situated to his work as possible. May I also ask the right hon. Gentleman if his attention has been drawn to the appeal made by the medical officers for consideration of the establishment of a superannuation fund? They regard themselves now as being in the State service, and, judging from the Report which I have just been reading, it is quite clear they have some claim to be so considered. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is considering their appeal.
There is another important point. It is often very difficult for the local doctor to get a suitable house. I see by my side the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton). I know that is a problem which affects his part of the country very much indeed. As a matter of fact, I think I am justified in saying that this very point was raised by his 608 predecessor, Mr. Cathcart Wason, and myself, when this was introduced as an Act of Parliament in 1911. The point was that the local doctor should be guaranteed a house or the site for a house in the remote parts where it is often difficult to get them. I am glad to see in any case that the Board of Health are still considering that point. Last year, as far as I can make out, they caused the erection of three houses for doctors in various parts of the country. That is the sort of thing that is well worth doing. There is nothing so important as to give the local doctor, the local schoolmaster, or the local minister some sense of stability in the very remote and rural parts in which they find themselves situated. Perhaps in the course of his reply my right hon. Friend will deal with this point. I do not intend at the present moment to raise any other point, but these are points which are of great importance to the people I represent.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
I rise for a very few moments to do my utmost to support the point of view put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) and the appeal made by him and by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd). We differ on both sides of the House as to the cause of the stoppage of the coal mining industry last year. I say without any offence at all that I believe the miners were misled last year, and they have been misled one way or another for many years, sometimes by their leaders, sometimes by politicians and by other people. We had a most disastrous stoppage last year, and there is bitterness. If that bitterness is going into the homes of the miners, with their wives and families, we shall have a feeling which we ought to do our utmost to prevent. Prevention is better than cure. If that bitterness goes into a man's home, it will not only affect the man and his wife but, more important still, it will affect the upbringing of his family, its clothing, food, and so on, and the future generations of our fellow citizens. I therefore ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if it will be possible for something to be done to communicate with the people who own the miners' houses, to see that the men do have easy terms for the repayment of their back rent, and that evictions shall not take place. I do not believe that a great deal of harshness is 609 now being displayed in dealing with this question. If there be harshness, it is only perhaps in a few places, and if so it will be far more easily dealt with. Everyone engaged in the coal mining industry, as well as the whole nation, wants to smooth over the difficulties and bitternesses of last year's stoppage. That is all I have to say, and I support the appeal made by the right hon. Member for West Fife and the hon. and learned Member for Linlithgow.
Mr. W. M. WATSON
I want to join with those right hon. and hon. Members who have raised this question of the rents which are owing to certain colliery companies by miners who were locked out last year and who have failed to find employment up to now. The right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) said that we have made private representations to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hope that the Secretary of State will be in a position to give some indication of the steps which the Government propose to take to get over this difficulty. Certainly, it is time when we should have some indication from the Government as to what they intend to do, because I can foresee, very shortly, a very serious time unless something is done quickly. In a few days, the House of Commons will have risen, and there may not be the same opportunity for ventilating this type of grievance as there has been during the past few months. There is just a chance, also, that the colliery companies may be preparing to put greater pressure on those who owe these rents than they have done up till now. As my right hon. Friend said, strong representations have been made by the National Union of Scottish Mining Workers to get the colliery owners to hold their hands. That has been going on for months, but there is no guarantee that the colliery companies will continue in that frame of mind very much longer.
We may have, before the House meets again, a very serious situation in the coalfields. This is not a matter which applies to a few individual miners, or to men who were miners prior to the lock-out of last year; it involves thousands of men who were employed in the mines before the stoppage and who have failed to find employment since, and are now beginning to face certain difficulties which they have not met up till now. Up till now, they 610 have been drawing unemployment benefit in cases where they have failed to find employment, but before long they will have to face trouble in that direction. They will be cut off by the Employment Exchanges, and will not be in a position to pay the current rent, let alone the arrears due to the stoppage of last year. That is undoubtedly a very serious situation. I would not care to say what may transpire if we have a dozen, a score or perhaps a hundred families in one particular area evicted at one time. We may find that more than the families which are involved may take action of a kind which may give the local authorities some trouble. It will be most unfortunate if such a situation arises because, in addition to the fact that there will be evictions, there is not sufficient housing accommodation available for those who may be evicted should the colliery companies go to that extreme.
Another situation has been created by the fact that owing to the number of men who have been in receipt of unemployment benefit and parish relief on account of unemployment, additional burdens have had to be borne by other ratepayers, because the local authorities during this year have had appeals made to them by many miners who have failed to find employment to be relieved of their rates. This process of relieving these individuals of their rates means that the other ratepayers have got to shoulder this additional burden. All these things are helping to create a very bad feeling in Scotland, and if, on top of that, we have wholesale evictions, I am afraid we may see a very serious situation indeed. I join with those who have already made an appeal from both sides of the Committee. Those who live in the mining areas know the dangers that lie ahead in those particular districts, especially where large numbers of men have no prospect of finding employment. There is no guarantee that during the course of this year those men will find employment in the mining industry. At the moment, they are occupying houses belonging to the colliery companies. In a few cases, they may have found employment outside, but the great bulk of these men are still going idle and likely to remain so for some considerable time. Until we see a vast improvement in the coal trade we cannot hope to see these men in a position to pay to the colliery companies the back 611 rent that accumulated last year. In view of all these things, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can give us some indication to-day that the Government will be able, if nothing more, to get the colliery companies to hold their hands until these men are in a position to pay the back rent due from them.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
Perhaps I may be permitted to reply at once to this single question, which was put to me originally by the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), and afterwards by other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. As the right hon. Gentleman indicated, he and others have been in communication with myself and other members of the Government on this problem. It is clear from what has been said to-day and from the language of those who have gone into this question, that it is a problem of no small magnitude. So far as my Office is concerned, I have conferred with those who are interested, both in this House and outside it, and I have called for and received elaborate and detailed reports as to the situation arising in various localities where this problem is clamant. All I can say to the Committee to-day is that the Government are fully alive to the difficulties and importance of this problem. The actual steps which one has been able to take have been, as I say, to confer with those on both sides in the industry, and it is only fair to say—as the right hon. Gentleman has already said—that in the main, and I think generally, the colliery owners and proprietors of colliery house property have acted with great consideration and have not pressed the men unduly. Cases that have been taken for eviction have, of course, to go through the ordinary channels before the Sheriff. One hon. Member asked that the Sheriff should have the deciding power, but that is, in fact, what is happening at the present time.
It is also clear that while, in a measure, some mitigation can be obtained by the arrangements which the right hon. Gentleman has indicated—by an agreement between the men's representatives and the colliery owners as to paying the arrears of rent—while that is true and is being carried into effect, and while we 612 may hope to see those arrears worked off in the course of time by those men who are in employment in the mines at present, it still leaves the more difficult problem of dealing with those men who have failed to find employment in the mines since the difficulties which have arisen. It is to that aspect of the problem that the Government have been and are addressing themselves at the present time. I can assure the Committee that that is a question for which we are striving, by every means in our power, to find a solution, but those who know most of this matter will agree that it is not a very simple thing to find a solution for some of those difficulties. I cannot say more to the Committee to-day than that we are doing our utmost to probe every avenue. While I can give no definite decision as to what we may be able to do, I would say to those interested in this problem on every side of the Committee, and indeed outside, that if they see any possible avenue of assistance which they can indicate, or method of advice which they can give, we shall be ready to listen to it, to explore it, and to consider it. I can assure the Committee that this is a question which is before the Government at the present time, and is receiving most careful consideration.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I was dealing with this one particular point. I thought, perhaps, that the Debate might flow on other lines.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMES STEWART
I appreciate, as fully as any hon. Member of the Committee, the difficulties with which the Government have to deal in regard to housing. I appreciate what they have done during this last year to accelerate the number of houses that are being built. Slightly less than 15,000 houses marks a distinct step in advance, but great as is what has been done in that respect, a great deal more must of necessity be done. The Royal Commission pointed out in 1917 that 121,000 houses were required to cope with the lack of housing accommodation for the people and, more than that, 114,000houses extra were needed to meet the 'housing conditions themselves. Since that time, there has only been 613 built altogether some 19,000 houses. That includes what has been done by State enterprise and what has been done by private enterprise, so that, taking the figure of 1924, namely, 20,000 houses being annually required, it shows that we are now at least 54,000 houses behind our programme to deal with the problem, according to the Royal Commission of 234,000 houses, and according to the local authorities in 1919 of 131,000 houses. Instead of progressing during this period, we have been going backwards all the time. I think that the Government, even as they have accelerated their programme to get 15,000 houses in 1926, could accelerate it still further by taking action which will compel local authorities who are slack to hasten their steps in making the provision that is absolutely necessary. There is one great fault to which the Government ought to give their attention. The Royal Commission declared against the further building of two-apartment houses. To-day these houses are being built and are gradually being extended. The Government are still allowing the two-roomed houses to be built. In Scotland over 50 per cent. of the houses are either of one apartment or of two apartments, and altogether the situation, so far as the standard of housing and increased accommodation is concerned, is not in my opinion being improved in the least degree.
In Glasgow, we have at the moment over 40,000 single-apartment houses occupied, and we have 114,000 room and kitchen houses occupied. In Glasgow, over 80 per cent. of the houses do not exceed three rooms. One and two apartment houses exist to the extent of over 66 per cent. of the total. In that respect progress is not being made to diminish this in the least degree. It cannot be claimed that it is the cost of the houses that is preventing the higher standard, and preventing us getting away from the single-apartment and two-apartment houses. The cost of the two-apartment house is £388, and of the three-apartment house, £362, a difference of £24, which would make a very slight increase in the rate that is necessary to make the difference. I believe I am supported by public opinion generally throughout the country, at least, by that public opinion which is alive to the disgrace in Scotland of the 614 standard of housing, in urging that action may be taken by the Government to change this state of affairs with regard to two-roomed houses. You have admitted yourselves according, to a reply which was made yesterday to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), that you are permitting by your State enterprise, the building of 7,200 room and kitchen houses, and I think the time has come when you should call a halt to this.
There are in Glasgow 277,000 people living in over-crowded conditions. If there is a single Englishman present—I do not see one—he would understand that overcrowding in Scotland is three persons per room, while in England it is only two persons per room, and yet in Glasgow alone there are 277,000 people living in excess of three per room. In the single apartments they range from four per room to as many as 12 per room, and in the room and kitchen houses, they range from six and seven to over 12 per house. That must produce results that are inimical to the welfare of the country, and it does not save you from spending money. You are spending money very freely, everywhere throughout Scotland, or in various parts of the country, in further extension of sanatoria and hospitals to deal with diseases. This overcrowding is illustrated by the fact that in a district in which I spent my very early infant days, there are 235 per thousand of the children born who die before they reach one year of age. Yet the standard for Glasgow was 107 per thousand. What are the diseases? They are respiratory diseases, tuberculosis in its various forms, measles and whooping cough. There the children are dying practically like flies. Through tuberculosis, three children die for one that dies in the well-to-do residential parts. Through measles, five die for one that dies in the well-to-do residential parts, and whooping cough causes as many as seven to die for one who dies in these other parts.
Does anyone think that you are going to escape the results of all this? You have to provide your child-welfare centres and your hospitals. There are thousands of children continuously pouring into and out of our infectious diseases hospitals, as a result of bad housing conditions. Every child is costing well over £1 a week and, in cases of 615 tuberculosis, about £2 a week. After you have cured them, you send them back to the conditions under which they have contracted those diseases. You have wasted your money, and then, after a short time, according to the statements which have been made to me by the medical officers, you get these children back once more to be treated for this sort of thing. This over-crowding is not a paying concern. It is producing a population that is inimical to the welfare of our country in every direction. Rickets, in the constituency that I have the honour to represent, are common. Anyone passing along the streets is bound to observe the considerable number of children and men and women, the results of the bad housing conditions, who are suffering from rickety conditions. According to the medical officer of Paisley, rickets is a consequence of poverty and bad environment, bad housing conditions, and you are allowing this overcrowding to go on and perpetuating this disease.
Even in your new houses, your people who have just come from the slums, to the extent of 28 per cent., are living in these houses under overcrowded conditions. They are bringing with them the very conditions that you have built these houses to remove. These people are ignorant in many cases; but we know better, and we are responsible because of our knowledge; and it is up to us and to every person in this House to redeem these conditions as speedily as possible. My charge against the Government is that in this respect they have failed in allowing these houses to go on. It may be true that the local authorities who control affairs at the moment are supine, and even hostile to an improved standard of housing, but I have yet to learn that the authority of the Board of Health of Scotland and its powers are so limited that they cannot use their power to deal with that recalcitrant body of local authorities. They have used it on other occasions when it was not so necessary as in this, and I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Under-Secretary, in replying to this discussion, will make it clear that the Government are determined, so far as the future is concerned, that no longer will they allow these conditions to obtain.
616 One point more. These people, in taking their poverty conditions into the new houses, are carrying with them the conditions which they suffered in their old dwellings. They are carrying verminous conditions with them, and all those carriers of disease enter into their new homes, and, because, through their poverty, they are not able to make provision for the new furniture and the clean beds that are necessary, we will be told in the near future that, because of their dirty habits and their inattention to personal cleanliness, they themselves are responsible for introducing these bad conditions into the new houses. So far as Glasgow is concerned, the problem grows worse and worse. When we investigated it in 1919, we discovered that there were 57,000 houses required immediately. To-day that has crept up until it is 107,000 houses. Cannot something be done to alter that kind of thing? The number of insanitary houses, according to the figures compiled in 1909 and 1910, were 13,000. That was 17 years ago. To-day, if we take the insanitary houses, despite your slum clearances, and your little efforts in that direction—which I am not disparaging and which I would not like to disparage although it is only a drop in a bucket—that number has increased to not less than 20,000 houses. When that is put into the common pool with regard to houses, you will see how rapidly and how extravagantly we are deteriorating in this direction.
There is one other matter to which want to refer, and that is the matter of farmed-out houses. We have a, considerable number of houses in Glasgow that are farmed out, and this is how it is done. A person takes a derelict property from the landlord, and becomes responsible for all the rent. The annual rental, as it appears in the Valuation Roll, that is paid for such properties at the moment, is over £7,000; but the rental that is charged to those to whom the property is sublet—the most helpless of people, the unemployed, the down and out, the people who for various reasons have lost their position in society—these people, through their poverty, are being compelled to pay £32,000 per annum as rent. Single apartments are let at from 10s. to 12s. per week—not per month—room-and-kitchen houses, so-called. Those who have not lived in them do 617 not realise what these houses are, but we who have served on public authorities and have taken our duties seriously, and those of us who have at some time or other in our lives been compelled to live under these conditions, know what this means. It means darkness and vileness of every description, and yet absolutely nothing is being done to deal with this situation.
I would ask the Government as early as possible to prevent these people from having to live in this degradation—I might use a stronger word, but it would be unparliamentary—and to, apply some compulsion in order that the rents they are charged may be reasonable. The people who live in these homes have no benefit under the Rent Acts; they are altogether outside the provisions of the Rent Acts, and there they are, helpless, with no one to give them consideration. The Medical Officers of the local authorities point out these things, but nobody, because it affects nobody, is concerned about altering the conditions. I might have gone on to say a great deal more with regard to housing and the health of the people, but other Members are desirous of speaking, and, perhaps of referring to the conditions in their districts. I hope, however, that I have said enough to call forth a sympathetic reply from those in charge, and a promise to deal with this condition which is the disgrace of Scotland.
Last year, when I had the privilege of visiting Australia, I discovered that the minimum condition of housing in Australia was a four-roomed house. Of the houses occupied by the working class, 53 per cent. were either four-roomed or five-roomed houses. It is a common thing in Australia for people of the working class to live in six or seven-roomed houses, and the rents are not so very different. In Adelaide, I saw a State housing scheme of 1,000 houses, built, not 40 to the acre, as they are being, or have been built in Glasgow by permission of the Government in the case of our housing scheme, but 4½ houses to the acre—nine houses to every two acres—the houses being of the bungalow type, with six rooms and all modern conveniences, and let at a rent of 19s. I visited every State in Australia, from Queensland to Tasmania. As I went on my travels, I 618 observed the children, and looked for signs of deterioration, but neither in the tropical part of Australia nor in the temperate part did I see during the whole of that visit one child suffering from rickets or showing signs of physical deterioration. With physical deterioration comes a deterioration of the intelligence; the one keeps company with the other; and it is a mistake to think that this country can survive with a poverty-striken people, pulled down through bad housing into a bad state of health and growing up stunted and dwarfed. If the time should come for a call to be made again, the C3 population will be there to a greater extent than ever, and, with a C3 population, you cannot hope to exist and you do not deserve to exist. We have the power; have we the will? If we have the will, we can accelerate the process of dealing with this problem and removing the terrible conditions that help to send me and others here to voice the complaints and the desires of a people who are dumb for themselves.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The last speaker on the other side made some references to the miners' stoppage, as if we had been discussing that or any of its effects to-day. It would seem, from the tone he adopted, that everyone who had led the miners had misled them, and we were led to believe that, if everything had been left in his hands, all would have been well with the workers. I want to refer to some questions which the Secretary of State for Scotland did not answer the last time I put them to him. I was told when I put them last time that he had not had time to get all the facts together, and I am hoping that to-day he will have got those facts, and will be able to give me an answer. If he will look at Volume 204 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, column 180, he will see a question that I put regarding the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. I asked what was taking place, and I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman can tell us now what, under this Act, which helps a man to become the owner of his own house, the Government have been doing in the way of encouraging local authorities, or whatever bodies work the Act, how many houses have been taken up, and in. what districts they are to be found; and whether he can give us any information at all now about the working of this Act.
619 Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman made a very serious statement so far as we in Scotland are concerned. He tried to make the House of Commons believe that the reason why Glasgow has one-roomed or two-roomed apartment houses is that there is a demand for those houses. The way in which he put the answer implied that the ideas of a great many people in the city of Glasgow did not rise above a one- or two-apartment house. Perhaps he did not wish to imply that, but that is what has gone out in the Press, and that is the impression created in the Scottish Press. I want at once to deny that statement. The ideal of housing in any of the strata of the citizens of Glasgow is higher than a one-roomed house or a two-roomed house; but the reason why you get the one-roomed house is that the wages or earnings are such that people cannot afford to pay the rent of a bigger house. Why should the poverty which is imposed upon these people be used to slur over the conditions under which they are by compulsion living to-day? I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will make this quite clear when he replies.
The right hon. Gentleman answered a question also in relation to the attendance of children in schools, as to the numbers in the classes. If the Secretary of State and those who assist him will watch the question of housing congestion and the size of classes in schools they will find—and I have had 15 years' experience in connection with education in Glasgow—that, whenever a school is in a congested area, you get a reflex of that congestion in the numbers in the classes in the school; you get the biggest classes where there is the biggest congestion of one or two-roomed houses. When we are dealing with the education question from the point of view of the size of classes, we are dealing with a housing problem. A housing problem lies to-day at the basis of the large classes that are to be found in these areas in Glasgow and other big cities. When we come to-night to the education section of these Estimates, one of my hon. Friends will deal in detail with the figures regarding the size of the classes. What I am trying to impress now upon the Secretary of State is that those in charge have always neglected this most tangible 620 relation between area congestion and school congestion.
There is one point more that I wish to make in relation to the educational side. It is no use a nation painting red and blue and advertising what it is spending on education unless at the same time you can prove to the nation whose money you take to spend—and we approve of it—that that money is being so spent that the children can absorb the financial effort made by the nation. Having, while I was engaged in that class of work, visited every school in Glasgow during every hour that they were in session, I was made to realise that, where you found a child being punished, a child that was in trouble with the school teacher, you always found that that child came from a home, so called, which was a one- or two-roomed apartment, where it was impossible for the mother, owing to the housing conditions, to get her children into the frame of mind necessary for attending school, and to give them the satisfaction that their stomachs desire in the morning, so as to leave them mentally free; because a child that has a craving for something to eat cannot concentrate, no matter how interesting the lesson may be. I speak now from personal experience on that point.
I will leave that, and come to the general question of housing. I put a question to the Secretary of State for Scotland some time ago, and I am hoping he does not presume that I forget when I put a question. I am presuming, too, that he does not forget either, and that, as he did not give the answer because he had not any information, he will not think I am pressing him too hard if I expect the answer now. I put a question in regard to houses built of materials other than brick, concrete or stone, and my question was in relation to the fires which had occurred in houses in Bo'ness called steel houses. I asked, but could not get an answer, what the specification was in regard to the supposed fireproof partitions. It is true that the Secretary of State said that he had got the report. Yes, but the report is no answer to the question I put. The report is the surveyor's report as to what took place, not as to whether the materials were fireproof or not. What I asked was, what was the specification? Did not that specification say that all these partitions 621 were to be so lined with asbestos as to render them fireproof? Of course, asbestos is not fireproof, as was found in the Bo'ness fire, when the asbestos burned and gave the houses colliwobbles. That is all that can happen when you get a fire inside a wooden house lined with asbestos. It is like a colliwobble. You get them like a concertina if you pour water on the outside shell when it is hot. But what I am after is the safety of the people who are compelled to live in such houses. I want to know whether the methods now adopted have been improved or whether the same conditions exist as in the house at Bo'ness or whether something is being done to prevent what happened there. The question I raised will be found in Volume 202, col. 1486. It does not seem to me a very unreasonable demand when a Member of the House asks what is being done in these houses other than brick, stone or concrete, because we have been told so many tales—I use the word without apologies—about what was going to happen, but every time I am in Scotland I visit the places where these houses are, and I am not blind.
I remember the first time I referred to that type of house and the statement I made in regard to what would happen under that mode of construction. That firm saw that what I said was true, and all the houses that have been built since are built with the sheet projecting over the foundation so that the water drips off. They did not write to acknowledge it because they were Scottish people, and I did not expect it. I should like to know whether these houses have been put up, how long they are up, and how they are getting on. The Under-Secretary said it would be a fine place for testing that type of house where they would be rain-washed and wind-swept. The Secretary for Scotland has a tremendous responsibility. He is not going to be excused because he represents the better housed part of Glasgow. The major portion of his constituents have no need to worry, because they can all get the houses they want, but that should not blind him to the other parts of the city. At every move that is made you meet a landlord. Every time we ask for a clearance we are met by a landlord, and if you clear a space of any kind the rents go up, because the 622 landlords say, "Look at the fine space," as if they had made it and paid for it. I should like the Secretary of State to be quite definite on this question. How are they going to take this type of landlord by the neck and tell him the citizens come first, and the landlords come last?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
This question of housing is a vexed question. I have put several questions in the last week or two regarding housing conditions in Clydebank, where we are up against the poverty problem. Clydebank has passed through a very bad period of unemployment for years. Within the last year or so trade has taken a turn, and now the council are very anxious to build houses, but the rate of interest for the money they have to borrow means high rents. Clydebank is essentially a working-class town. It is where the money is made, but not retained. I have appealed to the best of my ability, through questions, to the Scottish Office to help us out of this tight corner. The Speaker informed me that it was not a matter for question and answer, but should be debated at the proper time. This is the proper time. I hold the Secretary of State responsible for the health of my constituency in particular and of Scotland in general. How can people be healthy, happy and contented if they have nowhere to lay their heads? You read in the Bible how, over 2,000 years ago, He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and He said: "The birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man bath nowhere to lay His head." If He were in Scotland to-day He would find that there are thousands of people who have nowhere to lay their heads. No one has a right to draw salaries of thousands a year and to live in mansions when the people who make the money have nowhere to lay their heads. I took the matter up with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see if he would do something to assist my constituency, which has rendered yeoman service to the British Empire. I have a letter signed by him which I am sending on to the town council. It is the usual push-off, though not the hard, cast-iron, matter-of-fact reply we get from the Secretary of State. It is a lengthy reply, but it does not give us 623 the cash. I do not want anyone's smile of kindness. When we want money we want money, and we are not beggars. We are not coming here begging either to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or anyone else. We are only asking the rights of the people.
As I say, this is a poverty problem. If we had tens of thousands of houses empty the people would not be allowed to occupy them unless they could pay the rent for them. Is it because there is a scarcity of food in the West of Scotland that there are children starving? I went on a deputation to Edinburgh in the heart of the winter appealing on behalf of 700 children who were going to school in Dumbartonshire barefoot in such a winter as we have passed through. Was it because there is a shortage of boots? No. The shops are packed with boots. Never were there more boots, not only in Scotland but all over Great Britain. It is the same with clothes. It is not because there is a shortage of the necessaries and comforts of life. If we build houses, as long as the Tory Government are in power we shall be up against this same trouble. The housing conditions of Scotland are a standing disgrace to you.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay)
I must ask the hon. Member to address the Chair.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I hope you will not look at me severely, although it will make no difference to me. The right hon. Gentleman is here to-day for us to put him through it and you will not save him. He is responsible to our people and we are sent here to make his life miserable. We are sent here to roast him and toast him to the best of our ability, and that is what we are going to do. Housing in Scotland is a disgrace, and the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. We gleaned yesterday that in England they are not allowed to build two-apartment houses and we were told that in Scotland they are clamouring for them. The right hon. Gentleman had to admit that it was because the people cannot pay the rents. It is not because the Scottish mothers are not as good as English mothers. They are as good, every bit; yet the 624 infantile death rate is higher than in England. The Secretary of State and his understudy ought to think shame of themselves because they have done absolutely nothing to try to relieve housing conditions.
May I turn to another vexed question, that of unemployment? What has this Government done to relieve the strain of unemployment? I have travelled the length and breadth of Britain. I have addressed audiences all over England, Scotland, Wales, and even in Ireland, and nowhere do I see such sad faces, so many crushed men and women, as I see in Glasgow and in the West of Scotland, and in Newcastle. It was my fate a week ago to-morrow night to address two huge meetings in Newcastle, and there I saw just the same type of men and women, men and women who are starving, who have gone through years of starvation, underfed and underclothed. Terrible are the housing conditions. They are just the same as they are in Glasgow and in the West of Scotland.
To come to the question of unemployment, I want to tell the Committee that unemployment is worse in Scotland than it is in England. One would think that the powers that be have tried to do what they can to make it harder for our people in Scotland than it is for the people in England. Here are the conditions. It is the official statement gleaned from the Ministry of Labour:Unemployment to-day is considerably greater in Scotland than in England. This unsatisfactory state of national affairs is not a new development but has existed since the great slump in business which occurred in 1921, an aftermath of the Great War.For the week ending 19th April, 1926, according to the figures of the Ministry of Labour, the number of unemployed—
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
I am afraid I must call the hon. Member to order again, because this Vote has nothing whatever to do with unemployment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
On a point of Order. May I draw your attention to the fact that we are now discussing the Annual Report of the Scottish Board of Health, and that Chapter 16 of the Table of Contents has many references to employment 625 and unemployment, and I trust that you will allow my hon. Friend to proceed?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
We are discussing, as I understand it, everything covered by the Vote for the Scottish Board of Health.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
May I call your attention to the fact that in the Annual Report of the Scottish Board of Health for 1926, Chapter 16 of the Table of Contents has many references relating to unemployment and the general strike.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
I would like to hear what the Under-Secretary of State has to say on this point.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Major Elliot)
On that point, references are made to it in so far as it is affected by the Poor Law question. The question, as far as I understand it, that the hon. Member was discussing was a question which would fall under the Ministry of Labour Estimates. It is quite true to say that, as far as the Poor Law is concerned, these particular problems come under the Board, but the general state of unemployment has nothing whatever to do with the Vote.
§ Major ELLIOT
I was asked for an opinion on what was a technical matter contained in the Report. I have a perfect right to answer questions on technical matters arising out of the subject discussed by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
On a point of Order. I want the Under-Secretary to tell us whether the Scottish Board of Health is not responsible for relief work? Their failure to provide relief work has added to unemployment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Further to that point of Order. May I draw your attention to the fact that on page 274 of that Report there is a paragraph dealing with employment 626 during the general strike, a succeeding paragraph dealing with subsidiary unemployment, and so on, and I submit that if we are not going to be allowed to discuss unemployment under public health we are going to be put to considerable inconvenience.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
May I submit that the question of unemployment is fundamental to this Report? We cannot discuss any part of the Report without discussing that question. Take the question of housing. One question is a person's ability to pay rent. Rent cannot be paid unless employment is good. Take the questions of Poor Law and National Health Insurance. Take even the question of the Poor Law. The Board of Health insist on certain work being done. The whole question of unemployment runs right through this Report. Chapter 18 of the Report deals with Poor Law administration and with unemployment. In the summary, "Unemployment Workmen's Act, 1909; State-assisted schemes of relief work; poor relief during the coal mining dispute; the relief of destitute able-bodied unemployed." This is all dealing with unemployment, and it is a problem that cannot be separated. The Chair on a Report of this kind has in the past allowed the widest possible latitude in discussion.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. William Watson)
May I suggest that those are two totally different things? It is one thing to discuss unemployment, and another thing to seek to apportion blame for unemployment, or the failure to do things to mitigate unemployment, and discuss that. The hon. Member who had possession of the Committee, as I understood him, was discussing whether the Government or my right hon. Friend had done anything to mitigate unemployment. That, surely, is a question for general Debate on the Ministry of Labour Vote. In a discussion of this Vote, to try and apportion blame for the condition of unemployment is, I submit, entirely out of order.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
My ruling is, that the report which has been alluded to is not before the Committee. I further rule that while I should allow allusion to unemployment, I cannot possibly allow a general discussion on unemployment at this stage.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
On a point of Order. With regard to the details of the Vote, I take it, it will be in order to discuss the grants to parish councils in respect of poor relief, which shows an increase of £260,000?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
With your permission—we have to ask your permission—I want to tell you that you are the first Chairman who has even given a ruling like that on a Scottish day. This is again proof that the sooner we get Home Rule for Scotland the better. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Then why do you vote it down every time we bring it forward? You are only a lot of "cods." I was about to say that Scotland had 63 per cent. more unemployment than England, and I was going to give the figures, and it is evident I have disturbed the conscience of the Secretary of State for Scotland. That is quite evident, because the Under-Secretary was not very long in jumping to his feet. And the Lord Advocate, the last of all men in Great Britain, tries at that Box to enter the discussion and give us legal advice without being paid for it. It is the first time that that has happened in the history of Scotland. I have put questions time after time regarding the law, and the Under-Secretary once wrote to me telling me that w e could not get information on points of law because they required to be paid for it. That is what they say, but here the Lord Advocate comes forward. So that you see there are wheels within wheels working now. The reason that I brought in unemployment is because of the extraordinary amount of unemployment, and because, owing to the long period of years it has been in existence, it has undermined the health of the people of this country.
That is why, on this Health Vote, I considered it was permissible to bring forward this question, but you, Sir, have evidently received special training or instructions to put us down at the very first possible opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I will "order" as I like. [Interruption.] We are just ready to go over the top [Interruption.] 628 We will deal fairly with you, but if you start to put the screw on we will let You know we do not care one button for you. This is something that is of vital importance to us. The fate of our country hangs in the balance as far as this Vote is concerned. We see the awful housing conditions in Scotland. I know that the housing conditions of England are bad, but to-day we are dealing particularly with our native land. If it were India, Egypt, Russia, or any other country over the sea, the benches opposite would be filled, but because it is Scotland the benches are only scantily occupied. No one takes any interest in it, the reason being that the impression has been created that we get more than our share. Such is not the case. We do not get our share. We get more than our share of unemployment. All the proceeds of the taxation in Scotland come down to London. Everything comes to London, and we are stripped bare and do not get the share we ought to get. What do we find at the moment as the result of unemployment? We have appealed time and time again to the Secretary of State and to his office to help us. The ruling class say we are passing through a bad period. It has been a bad period ever since this Government came into office. Has the Secretary of State for Scotland done anything to assist the working classes of Scotland? Absolutely nothing. His Government have done nothing to assist the working classes of Scotland. What do we find? We find that our people are poorer. The wages paid are less than the wages paid in England. We find that our working folk are back below the standard they were before the War. Take the engineers. They are worse than they were before the War. In those days it was said that an engineer's rise was one farthing an hour. At this moment the employers in that trade are offering an increase in wages which works out at just about one farthing an hour, and, compared with the purchasing power before the War, it means that they are being offered one-eighth of a penny increase per hour. The Tories promised the engineers, when the War was over, that all was going to be better than well, that they were going to have a chance in life which they had never had before. Instead of that the engineers have been 629 cut down; they are in a worse position than they were before the War, and it, seems to me that the Secretary of State has no intention of doing anything to mitigate the terrible conditions which prevail. He is afraid to raise his voice in the Cabinet and put in a claim for Scotland. He should see that we get our fair share—and we are not getting it at the moment. If it was his own class, the rich class in Scotland, to whom the screw was being applied, I am satisfied that the representatives of Scotland in this Government would do their best to meet the case, but because it is the working classes, the poor people, they do nothing. Think of the illustration I gave to the hard and stony heart of the Secretary of State. I led a deputation of the educational authorities of Dumbarton, not Socialists, not Labour men, appealing for 700 school children, who, in the dead of winter, were going to school without boots, or shoes or stockings. Would that occur in London? No fear. But that is what is happening in our part of the world; and the Secretary of State is doing absolutely nothing. This Government has done nothing for Scotland, and it is therefore the duty of the people of Scotland to turn them out; they are absolutely no use to us.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I should like to draw attention to the statement made by the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday in connection with the housing problem. I am sure that he hardly realises to what he was committing himself when he gave permission for the erection of two-apartment houses. He defended it on the ground that there was a clamant demand for these houses. In the matter of housing we appear to have to abide by the dictum of the Secretary of State. At the present time some 62 per cent. of our people are living in houses of not more than two apartments, and the Secretary of State says there is a clamant demand for more of these two-apartment houses. Surely, if there is that percentage living in this kind of house, that is quite enough, and we should go in for building bigger and better houses and gradually raise the standard of living of our people. We have at the present time far too many of these small houses; our great need is to raise the standard of our people. We had the best return, so far as housing accommodation 630 is concerned, last year, but we have not yet got anywhere near meeting the needs of the situation. I feel that something ought to be done to quicken up public authorities in this matter. Even if I admitted that there was something in the demand for these small houses, if I look on page 48 of the Report of the Scottish Board of Health, I find that the only difference between a three-roomed house and a two-roomed house is £24. That is all the difference there is between a big house and the smaller house, and yet the Secretary of State wants us to believe that this is the only thing that is required in order to create a state of affluence in Scotland.
We have always met with great difficulties when erecting houses in the mining areas. We have to choose the site, and then get a report on the minerals lying underneath the site. These reports are obtained from the best qualified men we can get in Scotland. They tell us that there is mineral below but it will not pay to work it, and we are quite safe in going on with the erection of the houses. But, once the house is put up, then it is found that it will pay to work the minerals, and the local authorities are blackmailed. I have one place in mind in which the owner who had given the land for the houses had leased the minerals to somebody else, and the somebody else discovered that it would pay to work the mineral under the houses. He demanded a sum of £28 per house as blackmail for allowing them to stand. Apparently the Government have no hesitation in allowing public authorities to be blackmailed in this way, to the extent of £28 per house, but when it is a question Of a difference of £24 per house as between a three-roomed house and a two-roomed house, we are told that there is a clamant demand for the small house.
I desire to say one word on the question of unemployment, and in doing so I do not wish to transgress any ruling of the Chair. We are grieved with a larger measure of unemployment in Scotland than in any other part of the country, and we feel that public authorities, and the Scottish Board of Health, should do something to alleviate the conditions of the people. I would much rather pay a man for doing work than pay money for 631 doing nothing. I have always told our people that it is a very bad thing to get money in that way. I would much rather pay a man £3 a week for doing some work than pay him 30s. a week for doing no work at all. It is the duty of the Scottish Board of Health to inaugurate schemes of employment, and they should compel public authorities to prepare schemes, because in that way we shall be keeping the people fit for the time when they may be able to get permanent work. There is a lot of loose talk on the question of unemployment and relief. This Government, and previous Governments, have compelled public authorities in Scotland to pay relief to unemployed people, and during the last five years it has amounted to £5,370,415. That is something to think about. In five years we have paid to able-bodied persons a sum of over £5,000,000. We suggest that something should be done to lessen that amount, or that some profitable return should be secured for that expenditure. However, we are told that we have no right to discuss it. We shall be compelled to face that question some time or other.
Last Monday I put a question to the Secretary of State as to the number of unemployed there were in the County of Lanark. I was told that there were 12,711 miners unemployed. I should have been satisfied with that reply had I not known the working of the official mind too well, and I, therefore, asked them how many able-bodied people were unemployed in the county, and the answer I got was 21,000, with 45,000 dependants. That is a condition of affairs which is not at all satisfactory in any area, and something will have to be done to meet such a condition of unemployment. We are raising up a generation which has never worked, which does not know what work is. What they may turn out in the years to come I cannot tell. They may turn out to be aristocrats or they may turn out to be something else at the other end of the scale. Everybody should get a fair amount of work to do, good and steady work. The condition of the mining industry was also raised in connection with the non-payment of rent.
I should like to hear more of the human touch and more of the human note in the reply of the Secretary of State. The situation is becoming very bad, and 632 it may get worse. There is this other aspect of the question. A number of men who have not been working for years cannot pay their rent, and it is unfair to suggest that the owners of property should carry that burden, but with the amount of relief being given either through the bureau or the parish councils it is utterly impossible for rents to be paid. I hope the Secretary of State will devise some scheme for meeting that difficulty, or in a short time we shall be face to face with wholesale evictions. When that occurs everybody will be anxious to do something to prevent such evictions, but I think it is better to take action before that situation arises.
Another matter to which I wish to draw attention is the pollution of rivers. I was born in the country and have lived my life in the country, and I wish to see our rivers kept pure and clean. An unclean river tends to create disease on the banks of the river and near by. In this Report the officials of the Scottish Board of Health state they have discovered rivers which are in a bad state. There are two ways in which a river becomes impure. In the first place local authorities may discharge into the river sewage which has not been purified. The remedy for that state of affairs lies in the hands of the Scottish Board of Health, because no public authority ought to be allowed to poison streams in that way. The Board have the power to compel them to abstain from it if they have the will to do so. The other method of pollution is the worse way. Collieries or dye-works or some other factories may be erected near a river. The refuse from those places must not be discharged into this stream, but what do the owners do? They dam back their refuse for a time, and then, when the river is in flood some night, they open the sluices and everything goes into the river. Complaints have been made that local authorities have not prosecuted those people? I should like the Lord Advocate to think over this point. I understand that local authorities have not the power to prosecute under the law. I repeat that statement because I have very good authority for it. If the law is defective it is up to the Lord Advocate to get the law altered.
Now I want to give a little credit. I have been very much interested in the dreadful disease phthisis, and I am 633 pleased to notice that in 10 years the death rate has been reduced. That shows what can be done if we tackle the problem in the right way; but though we have made wonderful progress I still must complain of the fact that with 12,000 cases there are only 4,000 beds. There is only one way of dealing with phthisis, and that is to make a beginning in the homes of the people. The people afflicted must not be left in one-apartment or two-apartment houses; if they have to be left at home, they must be completely isolated. It is because we have not dealt with the homes of the people that we require so much hospital accommodation. In spite of the improvement in the situation, the hospital accommodation is not yet what it ought to be, and I hope that in the coming year the authorities will give some attention to that aspect of the question. I regret that we have to take the line we have taken in connection with Scottish affairs, but our opportunities are very limited. I sometimes think it would be much better for us if we had not the Board of Health in Edinburgh. We might get more done through dealing directly with the people at the top. Those persons, as a rule, try to practise the great virtue of thrift at the expense of the poor people, instead of insisting that the arrears of housing ought to be made up.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
In associating myself with the statements which have been made by my colleagues I want to direct the attention of the Committee to one other point which has not been dealt with so far. No one can read the Report of the Scottish Board of Health, dealing with a number of Scottish problems without feeling a mixture of sorrow, anguish and anger at the present condition of Scotland. Reference has been made by the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) and the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart) to the revelations in the Report of the terrible housing conditions in Glasgow. I do not want to add to those harrowing details, because everyone knows the conditions. When we first came to the House the conditions were not so very well known, but through constant propaganda in the Press, on the platform, and in the House of Commons much more attention has now been attracted to this problem. I am not 634 going to recite facts about child welfare in the Gorbals Division of Glasgow, which I represent. In its way, it is possibly the most poverty-stricken Division in the whole of the country; there is hardly one well-to-do person within its borders. For every four children who die in that Division, only one dies in the neighbouring ward of Cathcart, less than a mile away. That is not because the people in the Gorbals are Jews or Irish or Scots, or Roman Catholic, or Protestant, or of no religious belief at all. One thing that rich and poor, black and white, Catholic and Protestant have in common is the love of the parents for their children, and why we have this fearful death rate in our midst is not because the poor are more drunken than the rich, or love their children less than the rich, but because of the cruel housing conditions and the cruel poverty which are ever in our midst in the city of Glasgow.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has been complimented on the fact that more houses have been erected in Glasgow this year. But how far do they suffice to meet the problem? In the city of Glasgow fewer than 10,000 houses have been built since 1919. Even if 50,000 had been built it would not have solved the problem, because the people who are admittedly the worst housed are the poorest people, and although slum clearance schemes have been undertaken even the accommodation provided in that way is too dear for the pockets of the poorest of the people. In Scotland last year 35,000 adults able-bodied, destitute unemployed—with 83,000 dependants, were receiving Poor Law relief. The Secretary of State for Scotland issued a circular to the parish councils stating "You parish councils have been too generous to the unemployed. Some of you have come along and added 2s., 3s., 48., or 5s. to the 23s. a week which is the amount of the Employment Exchange money." The Secretary of State for Scotland, for whom some people think £2,000 a year is not sufficient, says to another man, just as good a man as he is, and to a woman, just as good a wife as his wife is, "This parish council, which has been adding 2s., 3s., or 4s. a week to the 23s., is doing wrong. It shall not be allowed to augment that 23s."
635 Figures, which I received in an answer to-day, show that in Peterhead Prison it costs £101 per annum, or 35s. a week, to keep one prisoner—not his wife, but himself alone. In Duke St. Prison it costs 30s., and in Barlinnie Prison 19s. a week, to keep a man. It costs 35s. a week to keep a criminal and an outcast in Peterhead Prison, but a man who is clean and of good character and keeps out of prison must keep himself and his wife on 23s. a week, according to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He builds slum clearance houses, and is complimented on the work. What is the rent asked for them? In the constituency in Glasgow represented by the Under-Secretary, the rent and rates of a slum clearance house amount at the lowest to 9s. a week. How is any man, however diligent, careful and frugal, to keep his wife and himself and pay such a rent as that out of 23s. a week?
The people cannot pay the rent and they are faced with two alternatives. In the first place, either they have to clear out and leave their new abode or starve, or take in lodgers, thus overcrowding the dwellings into which they have just been placed. Half of the occupants of slum clearance schemes in Glasgow are men whose average period of work during the last five years is certainly not more than one week in two. The lowest rent for these subsidised houses is £26 10s., and if you add the rates the least these poor people will have to pay will be 17s. per week for rent and rates. How many engineers can pay that rent out of their present earnings? How many engineers who have had the luck of steady work, earning £2 10s. or £2 15s. per week, can afford to pay a rent of that sort? The Secretary of State for Scotland can go on building houses, but unless with the building of those houses you do something to remedy the poverty of the people, how are they going to meet the rent which is charged? Unless this is done the mere problem of housing cannot be solved.
I know that the Under-Secretary may say that the Board of Health did not compel the parish council to make the scale in the case I have mentioned 23s. a week for a family, plus 2s. a week for each child, but I would like to know who set that standard. Is the Secretary of 636 State for Scotland going to withdraw that Regulation and allow the parish council to increase that allowance? The authorities I am speaking about have not yet come anywhere near the Chesterle-Street or the West Ham scale of expenditure. Some of these authorities put the scale up to 31s., in the case of a man with two children, and then the Secretary for Scotland issued a circular telling them that 31s. a week was too much and they would have to come down to 27s. or he would have to take steps to curtail their expenditure. I ascertained the other day by means of an answer from the Solicitor-General for Scotland that it costs 35s. a week to keep a boy in the Stranraer Reformatory. That is what is costs to maintain a criminal and I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is satisfied with a position in which it costs 35s. a week to maintain a criminal when a man and his wife with two children only receive 27s.
I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland is not going to be complacent about that position. It is not necessary for the Under-Secretary to reel off figures as to how many houses have been built and how many are going to be built. The proper thing to do is to face effectively this general problem of the poverty of the people. I might have raised the question of the blind population, and I am glad to say in this connection that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the local authorities are taking more active steps to deal with the blind population than was the case many years ago. I would like to ask what is happening to the older blind people who have nothing but a pension to live upon. In view of the important problems connected with Poor Law administration, housing, and the blind population, I think it is time that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Department became a great deal more active and insistent in trying to solve many of the terribly cruel problems affecting our native land.
§ Major ELLIOT
It is customary on an occasion like this to have a review, as far as possible, of the administration of Scotland during the period covered so far as it comes under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is true that, although many of the subjects raised fall under the direct administration 637 of my right hon. Friend, there are some subjects which do not come under his administration on this Vote, and I should be out of order in discussing them at the present moment. It is quite true, as the last speaker and many other speakers have said that all this comes down in the long run to the question of poverty. I think there is a general agreement upon the subject. But this is no place for a general statement as to the causes of that poverty. We must take the question line by line and letter by letter in order to see whether any particular definite things can be submitted to this House and see whether any definite arguments can be brought forward to controvert equally definite arguments put forward on the other side. I can assure the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) that there is no desire on our part to shirk the discussion of any question which he may raise. I think when the hon. Member for Dumbarton reads the OFFICIAL REPORT he will be ready to admit that he strayed somewhat from the mark in his speech. I know it is difficult for the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs to discuss what he wishes and to keep within the rules of Parliamentary order in the masterly manner of the hon. Member for Bridgeton. [interruption.] I am sure the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. Maxton) would find no difficulty in discussing any subject connected or unconnected with any particular subject before the House.
§ Major ELLIOT
If I am not in order in complimenting the hon. Member for Bridgeton on his Parliamentary skill then I claim it is an error I have fallen into in good company, because I have heard that compliment paid from higher sources than myself. Admitting as we all do that the question of poverty is at the root of all the problems of our modern industrialism and civilisation we come to the specific questions which have been raised this afternoon. Certain questions were raised by the hon. Member for Dumbarton with a fair amount of heat. Perhaps he will excuse me going into details upon some of the questions which he raised because they are subjects which I cannot reply to on this Vote. 638 The general question of trade depression which has been affecting Scotland for several years is one which has been dealt with on this Vote and upon which criticisms have been made throughout the Debate by hon. Members on both sides of the House. If we test this matter by statistics we find that there has been an increase in the health of the people a steady fall in sickness and an improvement in nearly all the great questions affected by the administration of Scotland. In regard to these matters we have been able to maintain our past standard and we have not gone back upon that standard even in the stress of deep industrial depression. I think that is a very remarkable thing and however much we all desire that things should be better we must recognise the fact that we have made some progress. I agree that this Debate should spur us on to make greater progress, but that progress has been made is undeniable, and it has been made in the face of the greatest difficulties.
When I find hon. Members reflecting upon the Board of Health it seems to me that it is quite appropriate for the responsible Minister to say that I do not think any more public spirited body of civil servants exist anywhere in this country. They have given their time unstintingly to the administration of Scottish affairs. In regard to some of the questions raised by the hon. Member, the Board of Health have no executive responsibility. The responsibility falls upon the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself and we shall not shirk the task of justifying our policy whenever the occasion arises. The Board of Health is not responsible for decisions of policy. The sole responsibility for policy rests with the Secretary of State and it is to him that such criticisms should be addressed.
I would like to give some figures dealing with tuberculosis. In 1926 the ordinary death-rate per 100,000 of the population in non-pulmonary cases fell. It was 34 in 1925 and 30 in 1926. The death-rate per 100,000 of the population from all forms of tuberculosis fell from 110 in 1925 to 99 in 1926. There were as compared with 1916, 1,744 fewer people died from pulmonary tuberculosis and 1,071 fewer from non-pulmonary tuberculosis; making a total of 2,815 fewer deaths 639 from tuberculosis in 1926, as compared with 1916. I think that is a most remark able figure. The number of beds definitely reserved for the treatment of tuberculosis is steadily rising, and we have now 4,339 beds, as compared with 4,170 at the end of 1925, an increase of 169 beds. The provision of tuberculosis beds is continuing and a number will come into use in relief of the problem in the course of the next few months or the next year.
As for infantile mortality, that also continues to fall. The infantile mortality was 83 per 1,000 or eight less than the rate in 1925 and nine less than the rate for the immediately preceding five years. and 13 less than the rate for the preceding 10 years. It is the lowest rate on record except that for 1923. That fact also is worth remembering considering that, last year, we had the tremendous depression in the coal trade and unemployment weighing on the country. The other question which it is necessary for us to review is that of housing. That question has been referred to by many speakers, and on that, I think I may say, that in the Board's Report we have not in any way ignored the desperate and appalling state of housing in many places in Scotland. It has not been our policy in any way to cover up that festering sore. Unless public opinion is continually reminded of the necessity of dealing with this problem there is danger that we may fall into what one hon. Member has described as a state of complacency. I think complacency is the last word that could be applied to the Secretary of State for Scotland in this regard. He has been untiring in his efforts to forward the solution of this problem and to bring the facts to the notice of the authorities, and he has taken steps of a very drastic kind on more than one occasion which have not always commended themselves to hon. Members opposite. What do the figures show? Last year we have the largest number of houses ever built in one year in Scotland, and we were able, for the first time, to do something towards catching up with the arrears as well as dealing with the current wastage. The figures show that this year, up to the end of June or perhaps the beginning of July, we have succeeded in building the whole of the year's requirements for Scotland, 640 and every house built from now to the end of the year will be a clear gain and will go towards the reduction of arrears. We have built practically 10,000 houses and 10,000 is given as the extreme figure for the year's wastage, so that every house from now until the end of December will go towards wiping out this shocking condition of which every Scotsman must be ashamed.
§ Major ELLIOT
It will be more if the hon. member and myself co-operate, instead of spending our time slinging controversy at each other across the Floor of the House.
§ Major ELLIOT
I have every hope—though it must be remembered that exigencies have to be allowed for—that we may be able to build another 6,000. We might hope for more than that, but I am not going to boast, because I know anything of that kind which is said here is taken down and will, next year, be used in evidence against me.
§ Major ELLIOT
That may be, but we have taken steps to see What can be done in that matter. As the hon. Member knows, the Government has itself promoted schemes of housing by alternative methods, not one of which has houses of less than the three-roomed, kitchenette-type. No house for which we are personally responsible is less than a three-roomed house. The steel houses, against which so many attacks have been made, have three rooms each, and it comes poorly from hon. Members who at times have expressed themselves very bitterly with regard to these houses, to launch unbridled denunciations of what are after all three-roomed houses when smaller houses have been permitted where they are erected by the traditional methods of construction. The only fault which has been alleged with regard to that is that perhaps too much attention has been paid to public opinion in Scotland. In Scotland the two-roomed houses have not been built by the Government. 7,000 two-roomed houses have been built by local authorities.
§ Major ELLIOT
Let me point out to the hon. Member that which he probably knows very well because he keeps up very closely to these matters, that his Government also gave the power to build these houses.
§ Major ELLIOT
It is well known that protests by back benchers are not taken too seriously by a Government unless the back benchers go to the extreme length of moving into the Division Lobby.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Member to let the Under-Secretary finish his observations. If he is still unsatisfied he can speak again.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I do not wish to interrupt but you are to understand, Mr. Chairman, that this is a matter in which two Scotsmen are concerned and an Englishman has no right to interfere.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The present position in that respect cannot be altered without legislation and cannot be discussed now.
§ Major ELLIOT
I deplore, as much as anyone, the condition of housing in Scotland, but I say that these two-roomed houses are of a different class to the houses of a previous generation. The new houses are undoubtedly superior in every way. They have water supply and sanitary accommodation, space, light and air. They are not the "but and bens" to which we have been accustomed, and it is necessary to take that fact into account. I have always felt deeply the point—which was raised by another hon. Member—that the poorest people are those for whom the least is being done. None of us can go to see a new housing scheme of beautiful villas with gardens and even garages and all the amenities and comforts of civilisation without reflecting that the people living in those 642 houses are being subsidised out of the taxes and the rates and are thus receiving assistance from the poorest of the poor, who, in many cases are not themselves receiving the advantages for which they are paying. That is a position which we have done our best to impress on local authorities—that they must deal with the people who are "down and out." The public landlord just like the private landlord prefers to build houses for the man with the long purse who can pay the rent. In a public administration we find that the public authority falls into exactly the same position as that indicated in the accusations made against private enterprise. This shows the clamant necessity of bringing down the cost of the houses. We must have houses at a cost which will bring them within the reach of the poorest.
That is a matter for co-operation on all sides, and recent quotations have shown that the price of houses can fall and that there is a margin within which prices can come down, without any question of the wages payable to those who are working at the erection of the houses being brought down. We have found on many occasions a striking drop between the price of the house on the first tender and the price of the house on the second tender when the objections of the Board of Health had been brought forward or when a certain amount of restriction has been employed. In all these things we have to use care. If you took off all the restrictions you would find the price soaring up. If you over-restrict you bring about delays and the number of houses produced is insufficient. All these are questions of administration, and in regard to all of them you have to proceed from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month without laying down any fixed or rigid principles which are going to tie your hands when dealing with these difficult problems.
Many specific questions were raised by Members in the course of the discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) in particular referred to rural housing and hoped that steps would be taken by personal propaganda to acquaint the members of rural local authorities with the powers which have been conferred in that respect. That has been done and we hope to be able to continue doing it. Nearly all the rural 643 local authorities have submitted schemes or have now got schemes in operation. We cannot yet say what is actually being done under those schemes, but a most hopeful and optimistic outlook prevailed among the local authorities at the Inverness Conference and they discussed not a rate of one penny but rates of threepence, fourpence and even fivepence for housing purposes in a way which I never heard rural authorities discuss that subject before. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the Highlands and islands Fund. That fund has an accumulating balance on which we are drawing to the extent of between £18,000 and £20,000 a year but by 1928 or 1929 that accumulated balance will have run out and then my right hon. Friend will be faced with the unpopular duty of approaching the Treasury with a request for special treatment for Scotland. His successful efforts in the past show that at least the Chancellor of the Exchequer has reason to believe that he is not the spineless invertebrate which hon. Members on the back benches opposite would have us believe him to be.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member from time to time is led into heated interjections which lead to his suspension from the service of the House for a certain length of time, and I have no doubt that these things have transpired during his temporary absence.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that there is any connection between the two occurrences?
§ Major ELLIOT
I would not go as far as that, but I would say that when the Secretary for Scotland is deprived of the necessity of arguing with the hon. Member he has more time to devote to arguing with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I would refer to two occasions, one when we got a very large sum for the steel housing scheme, for which no equivalent was given to England.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member not being admitted to Cabinet secrets does 644 not know how much argument goes on behind the scenes. I would point further to the special grant of a quarter of a million given to the parish councils of Scotland for poor relief—given to the very local authorities in regard to which the hon. Member for Gorbals was complaining—and in regard to which no equivalent was given to the much larger and, in some cases, as heavily hit local authorities in England.
§ Mr. T. HENDERSON
Is it not the fact that the reason of the first grant was that there was a pledge given by the late Mr. Bonar Law to Lord Weir in regard to steel houses?
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
Not at all, and even if that had been so what about the second grant for the steel houses to be found in the current estimates. Though it is probable that we shall not be able to carry out the whole of that programme owing to the delays and other causes—including a lack of support—we had a steel house programme of 1,000 which will now be reduced to a programme of 500—Yet that Vote in its turn was given solely and entirely to Scotland without any equivalent being given to England. As to the difficulties the Highlands and Islands Fund, the reconstitution of the fund referred to in the report on that subject will be the occasion on which the right hon. Gentleman approaches the Treasury for the increase of the sum to be given for the medical benefits of the Highlands and Islands.
MY predecessor, the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division (Mr. Stewart), devoted most of his speech to housing, with which I have dealt in my general remarks. While fully agreeing with him as to the high death rate in the more crowded areas, this aspect cannot be separated from the general aspect of the problem. You cannot take one item in the household and oudget say that that item is the salvation of the child or the housewife. The death rate is also co-related to the low rate of nourishment, which it itself one of the greatest problems that the sick person has. One finds in the case of the city represented 645 by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston)—a most overcrowded city—that even there infantile mortality is actually lower than it is in Aberdeen, which is exceptionally good in housing amongst the Scottish towns.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that the worse the housing of a city is the healthier the people are?
§ Major ELLIOT
I would certainly not make any such foolish suggestion, but you cannot say that infantile mortality is co-related to one factor alone, namely, that of housing, for it is co-related to a number of factors, all of which have to be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman got the figures of infantile mortality for the Blue Mountains?
§ Major ELLIOT
I was pointing out that the figures of mortality for Dundee, as a whole, are actually below those of Aberdeen as a whole, so that the figures for the Blue Mountains, however high they are, would actually injure his case instead of assisting it.
§ Mr. STEWART
The point I was trying to make was that with the housing conditions in the Rose Street district the rate was 235 per 1,000 of children born, and that the average for the city was 107 in that particular year, so that the rate in those districts remains practically steady. While I would not deny that poverty is a great factor, the fact remains that among people with a lower standard of life, as far as income is concerned, and who live in crowded houses, you find the standard of disease rate of every kind and the standard of mortality increase according to the badness of the housing, apart from other conditions.
§ Major ELLIOT
Naturally I do not wish to enter into too close an analysis—for this would not be the moment—of the bearing of respective factors on the disease rates of our city, but I would emphasise that there are other factors which have to be taken into consideration as well as housing factors, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will give me his support to that extent. In connection 646 with the question of dwellers in slum houses, there is the question, which the hon. Member himself instanced, of being able to buy furniture and clean linen. That is in itself sufficient to show that the factor of cash-in-hand must influence the infestation of the population and consequently render them liable to certain forms of disease. The hon. Member also suggested we should take steps to deal with farmed-out houses, but the more one examines that problem the more difficult it seems to be to take action to deal with it. That is a matter which the hon. Gentleman also looked into when he was in my position, and he was unable to find any practical scheme for dealing with it, and I have not myself so far. I am afraid in these things the only solution is to get sufficient houses to allow a spreading out of the people. When you do that it is probable that the problem will begin to solve itself, but a mere series of Regulations is not really going to get us out of the hole in which we are at present. We have got far more regulations than we can apply. The difficulty in applying them is that we have nowhere for the people to go if we knock down the insanitary death traps in their districts. We cannot deal sufficiently with these things by regulations. As long as you have three tenants to one house, so long will you get difficulties in overcrowding. The people put up with those conditions because they do not like to complain or lodge information.
The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) asked for the amount of money spent under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, and as to the advantage which has been taken of it. The figure given is £645,000, although, as my right hon. Friend said before, it would not be possible for him to give special reports on the number of dwellings because that would require inquiries from local authorities which he did not think would be justified in view of the many other duties imposed upon them. The hon. Member mentioned steel houses built in different parts of Scotland. All I have to say is that as far as I know they are giving full satisfaction. We have had no complaints whatever regarding these houses. We can, if desired, call for 647 special reports as to how they are standing the weather and how the tenants are getting on. I think we may take it that the tenant who is not satisfied with his house is generally quite ready to let the Government and the authorities know all about it.
Then the hon. Member referred to the Bo'ness fire. We have discussed at considerable length the question of this fire. It took place owing to a defective flue, and it might have taken place in any cottage. Reference has been made to the partition of asbestos, which though it might not take, fire, of course, might set light to inflammable material on the other side.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I should be glad to know whether anything has been done to prevent the use of the same materials and the same construction.
§ Major ELLIOT
We have certainly examined the houses in the light of the Bo'ness experience, which, as I said was due to a defective flue and grate. These things are being remedied and steps are being taken to see that they do not occur in future construction. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs(Mr. Kirkwood). There is nothing I should enjoy better than a real good set-to with him in discussing all the great problems which he raised, but I must restrain myself for we are only two and the rest of the Committee would be getting weary while we had this discussion. I shall therefore postpone it to another time when, if we do not have every word that we say reported, we may be able to thrash things out and get down to the problems. The hon. Member indulged, and intentionally as he said, in generalities, and he will not blame if I do not reply to them on this particular occasion. As regards the number of houses asked for by him, I do not like to mention the number of houses built by the Government which he supported when in power because that would lead us again into controversy but I am willing to say that we provided last year three times as many houses as were provided by the previous Government, while we hope to do better than that this year.
One important point was raised by the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Sullivan) 648 —the question of the pollution of rivers. A considerable grant has been made for investigation on that subject which is before a research committee. That subject is being taken over by the Lord President of the Council's Department, Lord Balfour himself, and that indicates that the Government thinks seriously on the matter, for I think he is the best man (I speak as a Scotsman), that the Government could get to consider the matter.
Lastly I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) who devoted a considerable portion of his speech to a denunciation of certain income figures as being suitable or unsuitable for a man with a family. Let me point out that this concerns the question of the unemployment insurance scale. It still remains perfectly possible for local authorities to supplement the scale in case of need or in case of proved necessity. We have in Scotland that which does not exist in any other parts, namely, the right of a person receiving relief to sue the authority if the authority is not providing him with adequate means—and that right remains. This is a question of the scale of unemployment relief, and that is not a thing in regard to which any single party in this country can lodge accusations against another Government, because it is a matter which has been considered by successive Governments and by committees composed of people not all of one political temper. These committees and Governments have not taken the steps for increasing the relief which seemed to be suggested by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The position is that many parishes, not in cases of proved necessity, but in the case of the general body of able-bodied unemployed, augment by a shilling or so up to 7s. or 8s. a week the maximum of the unemployment insurance. A circular was issued by the right hon. Gentleman recently, calling attention to the fact that the present insurance scale was sufficient and he practically refused borrowing powers to those who did not administer it and who came to borrow.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member is now coming to the very point. The local authority which administers its own resources has a degree of latitude, but the local authority who comes to the 649 general body of taxpayers must, obviously, reconsider the matter. The local authority which has exhausted the whole of its own resources must be expected to consider the case when it is applying for additional money from the rest of the country. It is impossible for us to avoid the conclusion to which we are driven by the position with which the country is temporarily faced. The load of poor relief has been augmented by a sort of snowballing process in the last year or two, and, in these circumstances, it is not only right but it is the duty of the central administration to call the attention of the local authorities to the scales which have been laid down for the unemployment insurance scheme, and not by one Government only.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There was one thing which the late Government did not do, and that was to lower the scale of Poor Law relief. We are not discussing whether the unemployment insurance scale is sufficient or not. What our Government did not do was to reduce the Poor Law relief, which is what you are doing. Do you think 27s. is sufficient for two children and a man and a woman—to keep them and to pay the rent?
§ Major ELLIOT
It is not a question of the sufficiency of scales of income. They may be below the scale which we should all desire. The question is how far the economic resources of the community will go, and I have pointed out that committees and Governments have considered this scale and have laid down its amount. We all know that one can cross-examine as to what one thinks is a sufficient income, and we can all give figures of the income which we consider sufficient, but we have got to cut our coat according to our cloth and consider the, resources of the nation. If higher rates are allowed in the great shipbuilding parishes, then, unfortunately, unemployment will not be relieved but will be increased, and the very object we have instead of being relieved will be
§ accentuated. These are hard facts which must be taken into account, for the burden of the rates is one of the most important factors in the unemployment situation.
§ Major ELLIOT
It is impossible to enter into a discussion of every factor relating to our modern life in a debate on the Scottish Board of Health Vote. I have tried to deal with the specific questions which have been raised, and I have touched on one or two of the general questions which should be present to our minds when we discuss Scottish affairs.
Severe and desperate as the deep depression has been which has weighed on the country, so far the country has not merely weathered the storm from the health point of view, but it is actually making progress. It is healthier this year than last year, and it was healthier last year than the year before. We have been able not merely to hold our position but to improve it, and so long as that position is maintained it is one of hope and not of despair for Scotland, and one which should encourage us to do more than we have done, in the full realisation that our efforts have had good results, that we are not in a hopeless battle, but that the efforts which we are making are effecting real improvement in the state of our people. No better praise or approbation could be asked for by anyone responsible for the Government of the country.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I do so, owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the Government's reply on the many points raised.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,387,055, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 96; Noes, 211.653
|Division No. 280.]||AYES||7.18 p.m|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Buchanan, G.||Dennison, R.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Charleton, H. C.||Duncan, C.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Clowes, S.||Dunnico, H.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Connolly, M.||Edge, Sir William|
|Baker, Walter||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Dalton, Hugh||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Forrest, W.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Davies, Evan(Ebbw Vale)||Gardner, J. P.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Day, Colonel Harry||Garro-jones Captain G. M.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Maxton, James||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gillett, George M.||Montague, Frederick||Stamford, T. W.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mosley, Oswald||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Murnin, H.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, W.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Groves, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Potts, John S.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Riley, Ben||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hardie, George D.||Ritson, J.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Hayes, John Henry||Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Viant, S. P.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Scurr, John||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Kelly, W. T.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Kennedy, T.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Westwood, J.|
|Lansbury, George||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Lawrence, Susan||Sitch, Charles H.||Windsor, Walter|
|Lee, F.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Lindley, F. W.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Lunn, William||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Snell, Harry||Mr-T. Henderson and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Dawson, Sir Philip||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Albery, Irving James||Dixey, A. C.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Long, Major Eric|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lougher, Lewis|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Elveden, Viscount||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset,Weston-s-M.)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Maclntyre, Ian|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||McLean, Major A.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fielden, E. B.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Bethel, A.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Fraser, Captain Ian||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mason, Lieut,-Col. Glyn K.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Grace, John||Meller, R. J.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Grant, Sir J. A.||Merriman, F. B.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Brown, Col. D. C.(N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hammersley, S. S.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Buchan, John||Hanbury, C.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Harland, A.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Harrison, G. J. C.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hawke, John Anthony||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Nicholson. Col. Rt. Hn.W.G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox, Univ.)||Hills, Major John Waller||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hilton, Cecil||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.SirJ.A.(Birm.,W.)||Hong, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Penny, Frederick George|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Holt, Captain H. P.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Horlick, Lieut.-Cotonel J. N.||Radford, E. A.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Ramsden, E.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hume, Sir G. H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Huntingfield, Lord||Remnant, Sir James|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hurd, Percy A.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Couper, J. B.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Craig, Sir Ernest(Chester, Crewe)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rye, F. G.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Jephcott, A. R.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Himpst'd)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Sandon, Lord||Styles, Captain H. W.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Wells, S. R.|
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ.,Belfst)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Smith, R. W. (aberd'n & Ktnc'dine,C.)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Smithers, Waldron||Tinne, J. A.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Sprot, Sir Alexander||Turton, sir Edmund Russborough||Withers, John James|
|Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Waddington, R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Wallace. Captain D. E.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Major Cope and Mr. F. C. Thomson.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.