Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,169,518, 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, 1930, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Health for Scotland, 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 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—£930,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Major Elliot)
In the first place, I should like to apologise to the Committee for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but, as is well known, he is in what might be called his constituency, the Kingdom of Scotland, performing important public duties there, not the least of which is that of receiving a deputation from the Labour party in Glasgow. Therefore, it falls to me to move these Estimates. We are asking for a sum of 2046 £3,240,000. I was looking up the figures for previous years, and I was interested to find that in 1923, when I had first the honour of bringing this Vote to the attention of the Committee, I moved for a sum of £2,493,000, so the Committee will see the very considerable increase which has taken place in these Estimates since that time. I also looked up the figures for the year in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson), the then Secretary for Scotland, who is now sitting opposite, had the honour of taking charge of these Estimates, and the figures in his year were £2,497,000 odd. It will be seen that the figures for these years, 1923 and 1924, are both under £2,500,000, whereas at present we are asking for no less a sum than £3,240,000.
It is obvious that it is necessary to make a case for asking the Committee to vote so considerable a sum of public money. In the first place, it is worth noting that these Estimates are up from last year about £260,000. To what do most of these payments go? The Committee will at once realise that the bulk of these payments go to the Housing Vote. A sum of nearly three-quarters of the increase, or about half the whole Vote, namely, £1,600,000, is on account of the Housing Vote, and it is a very interesting and important fact, this steady rise of the housing figures in the Votes of both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. There is, however, a substantial sum which is devoted to health expenditure. The health expenditure is of the order of preventive medicine, as far as we can make it so, although I have heard it argued from all sides of the House that the really preventive Vote is this heavy Vote for housing expenditure in Scotland. Are we getting a due return for this money?
Take the health services first. We have one or two main lines along which we can examine the health of the community, and one of them is infant mortality. The infant mortality figures are 86 per 1,000, and they are down from last year, when they were 89 per 1,000. They are down also from the year in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite held office, but he had bad luck in that year, because, owing to an epidemic, the figures were exceptionally 2047 high, but, taking them over a period of years, the figures for 10 years run out at about 92 per 1,000. We have the figure down to 86. Therefore, there is a very marked saving in infant life in Scotland. It is quite true that these figures are not by any means satisfactory. They are not satisfactory as compared with other countries in the British Empire, and they are not satisfactory as compared with England, but they do mark a very considerable reduction in the rate of infantile mortality and one upon which we must all congratulate ourselves. In short, these figures are the third best figures ever recorded in Scottish history, and although, as I say, they are not as good as they should be, there are only two occasions on which they have been surpassed in the whole statistical history of Scotland since these figures began to be collected.
In the case of the allied figures of maternal mortality, they remain high in Scotland, as they do in England and many of the highly civilised and well-to-do countries with a high standard of living. It does not seem that this high figure yields to an advance in the general prosperity of a country in the same way that the figure of infantile mortality seems to do. We are taking what steps can be taken to deal with it. We have had a special inquiry, and nearly all the recommendations that were made as a result have been carried into effect. Under the Act which was carried in 1927, it was arranged that every woman, whether in an area covered by a maternity and child welfare scheme or not, can have attention at the critical period of her life, the period of bearing a child. She can have attention provided for her, either by a competent midwife or a medical man, by giving due notice to the authorities. A very considerable improvement has been carried through in recent years in the facilities which are available for dealing with the big class of women's diseases at the moment when the woman is passing through a period of trouble and danger, and not for merely repairing the damage once it has been done.
One of the big factors in the health of the community is the factor of tuberculosis. In that, again, we have to register an interesting and steady ten- 2048 dency to decline. The death rate from tuberculosis last year was 99; this year it is 97. In 1924 it was 116. The decline, which has been marked from one year to another, still continues, and the attack which is being pressed home on tuberculosis in Scotland is yielding results. The figures are coming down, and we have every reason to hope that, with the continuance of the pressure, the figures will continue to yield. In this our figures compare very much better with the world figures than they do with maternal mortality. They compare well with the figures in England, and quite well with many of the figures even of the United States of America. Another angle from which we can examine the public health of the country is provided by the figures under the Health Insurance schemes. Under those schemes the tendency, to which the Board of Health in their reports have drawn attention, for the health benefit payments to increase, still remains marked. These figures are paralleled to some extent by the figures in England. The health benefit payments show a disquieting tendency to increase, to establish themselves at a higher level, and then to depart from this higher level in the direction of establishing a further high level. This requires the most careful attention from the Administration both now and in the future.
In the first four months of last year, the total cash benefit payments were £875,000; in the first four months of this year, the total was £981,000. It seems that the peak in the payments to women has been reached, but, as far as one can see, the increase in the payments to men still continues. More cases are referred to referees, and they have a great deal of work to do; already they have dealt with a greater number of cases than the whole number of cases submitted for the corresponding period a year ago. In spite of that, cases still remain to be examined. I think that this is not entirely a case for reproach on the health side, for there are social factors in connection with this expenditure as well.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am glad that that meets with the right hon. Gentleman's approval. For one reason or another, factors other than health have entered into this ascending line of figures, and 2049 consequently I do not think that we can examine it purely from the point of view of the health statistics of Scotland. On the side, therefore, of infantile mortality and tuberculosis, we can register an improvement in the health of the people of Scotland—a decline in disease, and on that I am sure that Members of the Committee will wish my right hon. Friend good luck and good fortune in the campaign, and will be more than willing to vote him the sum of money for which he now asks. Constructive work has been carried on in the examination of the causes of disease and the lines along which we should move in future, and on that question I would ask the Committee's attention to the very remarkable chapter on milk and the school child on page 116 of the Board of Health Tenth Annual Report. This is one of the most important public documents which has been issued for many years.
We were working on figures which had been obtained under more or less laboratory conditions and under highly specialised circumstances, which prove that a remarkable improvement in growth, both in height and weight, of school children, takes place by the addition of a relatively small amount of milk to their daily diet. We repeated these tests under ordinary conditions in Scotland among the ordinary school population and there we found that the ordinary school population, not the poor or the slum children, had a most striking improvement in their height, weight and physical condition—and, according to some accounts, even in their intelligence—over children who were not receiving this supplement to their diet. I do not know whether some of my hon. Friends opposite read this morning's "Times," where I ventured to give an account of some tests which nature had carried out for us in East Africa, under the same control as this test which was carried out in Scotland, namely, the control of the Nutrition Institute in Aberdeen. We were able to carry out a very large series of weighings and measurements of several thousands of natives in East Africa. We did these two things as part of a united group of investigation. There were two tribes living under similar conditions, one of which consumed a great deal of milk, and the other of which did not, and we were able, owing to a grant from the Empire Marketing 2050 Board, to carry out a survey of nature's test; while in the schools of Scotland we carried out a test in quasi-experimental conditions.
Both these tests give the same results. A remarkable improvement in health owing to the addition of a small amount of milk to the diet of the growing child, is now beyond a conjecture; it is an established fact, and it is for this Administration and the next, and for administrations for years after that, to decide what steps they are to take upon these remarkable figures. When we come to discuss some of the later Estimates, the Education Estimates and others, I shall have something to say about that, because it seems to me that here is a line along which progress may be made which would be much more effective than the simple conscripting of children into school for 10, 11 or 12 years. Let us be sure that we make the maximum use of the 10 years of the life of a child which we already take by compulsion before we determine on an extension of the period of compulsion into the later years of the child's life. If we are going in for maintenance grants, going in for improving the health of the child, let us be sure that we improve it at the time when it is most susceptible of improvement, that is, in the earlier years of life and not after having thrown the burden of the growing child on the family for 10 years of school life, before we extend that period and, for that purpose, bribe the family, in order to keep a growing boy out of the labour market, let us be sure that our improvements and our extension of administration are all for the benefit of the child and not for the hypothetical benefit of the labour market.
There are other lines along which progress is being made just now, and one of them is in constructive work towards the prevention of disease. Work is being carried out in the hospitals in connection with rickets and with tuberculosis, and there is a development which connects the surgeons and physicians in the Highlands and Islands with the hospitals and laboratories of our four great medical schools. We in Scotland are fortunate in having a close and intimate link between the Department of Health and the great voluntary hospitals, and the great medical teaching schools which are associated with those hospitals. Being a 2051 small country, it is easier for us to obtain touch than it is in the larger country south of the border. At any rate, it was possible for us to have our hospital administration dealt with in the Local Government Bill on lines which, I think, gave satisfaction both to the local authorities and to the voluntary hospitals and medical schools, which in future will need to be more closely associated than they have been in the past.
One of the great tasks of future administration, to be undertaken without any extension of legislation for, I think, some years to come, will be to make sure that full use is made of the Local Government Act, and of the possibilities of co-operation between the great municipal hospital system and the great voluntary hospital system, because although the Poor Law and the infectious diseases hospitals have very many more beds, nearly half of the expense is borne by the voluntary hospital system, and it must be far from the desire of any of us in any part of the House to discourage either the spontaneous movement of good will which the voluntary hospital system represents, or the great resources of intelligence and research which it enables the medical teaching profession to put at the service of the poorer members of the community. To paraphrase a phrase in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, our relations with voluntary hospitals continue friendly, and long may they continue to be so.
Now I pass to another branch of administration, and wish to deal with the fund for special facilities which are provided for the Highlands and Islands. The expenditure there runs up to about £68,000 per annum, and I think no more beneficent work is being done by any grant which this House sanctions than the work which is being done in the Highlands and Islands under the special fund provided for that purpose. It is possible for us to maintain really good and adequate—at any rate a centre of good and adequate—medical treatment in those remote districts which, but for this provision, would often have either to go without it or be satisfied with undoubtedly second-rate, and in some cases extremely second-rate medical services. We have gone into this matter with a desire to secure that there shall be within reasonable reach of all inhabitants 2052 of these remote centres medical and surgical provision not inferior to that which their fellow citizens enjoy in the great cities or the more populous counties of Scotland. I cannot say that that ideal has been entirely fulfilled, but it is at any rate coming towards fulfilment, and it is possible for us to hope that it will be fulfilled, and that no person, by reason simply of the distance which he is from the capital or from the industrial districts of Scotland, shall suffer in health or shall feel that the life of somebody near and dear to him has been jeopardised or lost through the absence of the necessary medical skill.
That fund, however, will require support and reinforcement, and it will be for the new Administration to ensure that support and reinforcement. It has been living on its savings for some time past. When we come back in June it will be my privilege to support a Government which is able to maintain and enlarge that provision, and I have no doubt whatever that that Government will be of the same complexion as the one which has so successfully dealt with so many of these problems in the past, but even if it be not so, I am certain that I shall still have the privilege of supporting a Government—
§ Major ELLIOT
—which will maintain this provision, because the problem of the Highlands and Islands is not a party problem. We have many acute subjects of controversy, and I may touch on some of them before my remarks are over, but in the case of the Highlands and Islands we are all agreed that it is desirable to make provision for these persons, without any party motive but from national considerations.
I come to pensions administration. The contributory pensions scheme has been put on the Statute Book within the life time of the present Government, and it already covers an enormous number of persons, both potentially and actually. I suppose that the pensions scheme must cover between two-thirds and three-quarters of the whole population of Scotland. The number of beneficiaries, the number of persons actually in receipt of pensions at the moment, totals 175,067, one for every 27 of the population. It is an impressive thought that of every 2053 100 people one meets in the street, 70 or 80 are covered by this pensions scheme, and every three of them are actually receiving benefit. Of every 100 persons whom we meet in Scotland—in the railway stations, in the factory, on the football ground, or elsewhere—three of them, taking a broad average, are actually receiving benefit under this contributory pensions scheme which we passed. It is true, of course, that a number of difficulties have arisen in connection with the administration, but when we remember that all the difficulties connected with the administration of that Act in the shape of complaints collected together from the whole of Scotland, all come on to one desk in the Board of Health in Edinburgh at the end of the day and from there go either to my right hon. Friend or myself, I am sure that hon. Members opposite, who have from time to time forwarded no small number of cases to us, will agree that it is remarkable to note how this great machine has been set up and has been gob into working order. It is now delivering the goods to the extent of 175,000 pensions in Scotland alone, while the amount of friction which has actually taken place has been very small.
It is quite true that there are anomalies, difficulties and cases of unequal incidence which must inevitably arise, but this great machine is functioning and all these people are receiving benefit. The size of this figure may best be judged by remembering the fact that there are 175,000 persons receiving benefit under this Act and only 92,000 under the rest of the old age pensions system altogether. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife is desirous of discussing the question of the Poor Law, but perhaps I may be allowed to point out that the number of persons on the Poor Law was 229,000 in 1924, 207,000 in 1925, 285,000 in 1926 (that is the year of the unfortunate crisis in the coalfield), 238,000 in 1927 and 223,000 in the present year. The latter figure at any rate is substantially lower than it was in the year 1924 for which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife was responsible.
§ Major ELLIOT
The administration of the Poor Law has become more advantageous to the poor persons than it was before. One fact alone shows that in the year of the great crisis in the coalfields the administration of the Poor Law in Scotland was strained, stressed and twisted, and, as it proved subsequently, the law was broken in favour of the miners who were involved in that dispute, and an Act of Parliament had to be passed legalising retrospectively the demands we had made on the Poor Law. I think that, in view of the circumstance, we took an exceedingly lenient view of the claims of the dependants of those involved in that dispute, that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell) will not suggest that we were actuated by harsh or unreasonable motives towards the poor people of Scotland.
With regard to the bulk of the Vote for housing, there is one most interesting feature. The Royal Commission on Housing which was set up in 1917 carefully investigated the figures relating to Scotland, and they reported a shortage of 121,430 houses. Since that time and mostly since the War, I ask the Committee to observe the following facts. We have completed in Scotland assisted houses to the number of 91,357 and unassisted houses to the number of 10,847. No less than 102,000 houses have been completed, and there are under construction another 14,900 houses. That makes a total of 117,000 houses either completed or under construction, and we have definitely contracted for building, although they have not been started, another 4,400 houses. This makes a total of 121,400 houses, a total which is remarkably near the 121,430 which the Royal Commission which sat in 1917 estimated was the housing shortage in Scotland Four years ago certainly none of us thought that we should have been able to get so far in that time as to provide 121,000 houses either completed, under construction, or definitely contracted for.
Of the total of 121,000 houses, 68,000 have been built within the lifetime of the present Government, and that is something for which the whole Committee may take credit. Undoubtedly, it is not the result merely of the efforts of one party or another. It is not the sole and unassisted result of the efforts of my right 2055 hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland or the party to which he belongs, but, at any rate, this result shows that we have not been obstructing housing. Out of 121,000 houses, 68,000 have been built during the regime of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and this proves that the Government have pressed on the system of providing houses by every means in their power, and if the country sends back again my right hon. Friend to carry on this beneficent work, I think we shall be able to press it forward with the same vigour in the future as we have done in the past.
I have just stated that this result is not due to the efforts of any single party. The Labour party passed the Act of 1924 under which a considerable number of houses have been built. Roughly speaking, about 30,000 have been built under the Chamberlain Act and 30,000 under the Wheatley Act. These figures are most intricate, and they can be dressed up in one form or another in order to support party claims, but the providing of the money for those houses has fallen upon the Budgets presented by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. A great expense in connection with the whole of the 1924 houses has fallen upon the Budgets for which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible and which have been presented from year to year. What is more, the financial proposals which were introduced into the Act of 1924 show a very much greater expenditure than under what is called the Chamberlain Act. Under the Chamberlain Act, 30,709 houses have produced a liability to the State in a capitalised form of £2,850,000, while 31,819 houses constructed under the Wheatley Act have produced a liability to the State of no less than £5,108,000 sterling. That shows not merely that the Unionist Budget has had to bear very heavy expenditure in regard to housing, but it has had to bear a very much heavier expenditure in regard to houses built under the Act which was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley).
My right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife may contend that there is still a big housing shortage to make up in Scotland, and we all agree as to that. This is not the end; it is the beginning. We have finished the first 100,000 and the 2056 second 100,000 has now to be started. But we have to deal with facts as we find them, and we have to deal with the ways and means of producing these houses. I have seen it stated that, in the face of this need for 100,000 more houses, we are reducing the housing subsidy. I do not know whether my hon. Friends who say that, have gone fully into the matter. We are not reducing the housing subsidy. The housing subsidy, even after the reduction intimated by my right hon. Friend, will be greater than the housing subsidy which was granted under the Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston. The reduction in the subsidy is £25, but the reduction in the price of a house is £43, so that the local authorities are better off under the proposals which we are making to them than they were under the proposals which were made to them by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston when he introduced his Bill in 1924.
That saving of £43 is no trivial matter. On 1,000 houses it amounts to £43,000, or more than a penny rate over the whole City of Glasgow, and on the 18,000 houses constructed last year it represents a saving of £778,000. These are savings which it is well worth while making. The reduction in the price of the house is a reduction which it is well worth the while of the House of Commons to welcome, because it is only by bringing down the price of a house that we can bring it within the reach of the lower-paid workers of this country. The whole of the housing contribution to the needs of the lower-paid workers of this country has come from the Measure introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health—the Act of 1923. The whole of the houses which have really made a difference to the life of the poor—the houses which have been built in replacement of the insanitary hovels which disgraced too many of our great cities, and, most of all, the City of Glasgow, which I myself represent and which my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) also represents—come from the 1923 Act. That is what has produced the real change in the centres of our great housing disasters which we inherited from the 19th century. The great changes in the real housing problems of Scotland, have come, and will continue to come, from the slum clearance proposals under 2057 the Act of 1923, and that is why I welcome whole-heartedly to-day the declarations which have recently been made in favour of a continued and intensified attack upon the slum and a desire to clear this reproach altogether from our present civilisation.
I have, perhaps, detained the Committee rather over-long, but on a previous occasion the Opposition rather reproached us for not making an introductory statement on the Education Estimates, and, therefore, I thought it desirable to make an introductory statement and to open up, it may be, a number of subjects for discussion. At any rate, there is the result. There is the 10th Annual Report of the Scottish Board of Health; there are our Estimates for next year. In these 10 years it has done a great work, and the new Department, if it can improve on that work, will have the good wishes of all sections of the House and of the Scottish Members. In the last four or five years new reinforcements have come down from the North, and many vigorous battles, have been waged here; but they have been waged with good temper and good humour. We are all serious, and we all seriously and sincerely desire the improvement of the health and prosperity of our people. We differ, on different sides of the House, as to the lines along which we should move in effecting this improvement, but I thank the whole Committee for the courtesy they have extended to me, not only now but on many previous occasions when we have been debating these matters, and I only hope that, on whichever side of the House I find myself sitting after 30th May, I shall be able to maintain the same equable temperament, even if a certain amount of keen antagonism is mingled with it, as hon. Members have maintained towards myself.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
In the unfortunate absence of the Secretary of State himself, who, as the Under-Secretary has already explained, is engaged on an important mission, the Committee has been given some very interesting information by the Under-Secretary regarding the year's Estimates for health and housing in Scotland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, in making his very interesting 2058 statement, took an admirable tone, although occasionally I thought he was rather optimistic, particularly when he was prophesying what was going to happen after the 30th of the present month. Evidently he has high hopes that he and his party are coming back to occupy the benches opposite again, but I think that some of us on this side have our own ideas as to who is going to occupy those benches.
With a number of the things that the Under-Secretary said we can all agree, as, for example, when he was referring to the excellent work of the Highlands and Islands Medical Fund, and remarking that it was a service which for the whole of its lifetime had been lifted outside ordinary political controversy. I think that everyone, no matter in what quarter of the House he may sit, will be prepared to do what he can to assist the continuance of that excellent service which is being rendered to the scattered population in that part of our country. I think we can also agree with the Under-Secretary when he says that, for the results which have been secured in regard to housing, the credit does not attach entirely to any particular party. I do not think that the present Administration claim the whole credit for it, any more than do any of the others that have been in office up to the present time. But, notwithstanding the fact that 121,600 houses have been built—
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not wish to over-claim; the 121,000 are houses built, building or contracted for.
§ 4.0 p.m.
I would like to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I think he anticipated being reminded, that there is still a very large shortage of houses in Scotland. Not only did the Royal Commission on Housing, in 1917, say that there was a shortage of 121,000 houses, but, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman may remember, they also said that, in addition to that, 10,000 new houses would be required annually in order to keep up the standard of housing in Scotland, and, if my memory serves me rightly, still another 10,000 in order to enable houses which were really uninhabitable to be taken down and replaced by habitable 2059 houses. So that, notwithstanding all that has been done, much more remains to be done before our people will be provided adequately with houses. Other points in the Under-Secretary's statement as to the health of the people I had better leave to my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels), who is better qualified, as a medical man, to deal with them. There are, however, two points in the statement to which I would like to draw attention. The Under-Secretary told us that the Health Insurance benefit payments under the National Health Insurance Act still showed a tendency to rise. He also said that maternal mortality is still higher in Scotland than in a number of other countries. I think that the same remark might apply to another aspect of the health of our people, and that infant mortality is still higher in Scotland than in some other countries, notwithstanding the reduction that, we are all pleased to know, has taken place.
It is just possible that the three things I have singled out may have some relation to the first things to which I wish to draw attention, and that is the failure of the Health Department to take the necessary steps to prevent the physical deterioration of a certain section of the Scottish people. I know that a number of causes are leading up to the poverty-striken condition in which a considerable section of the Scottish people find themselves to-day, but the chief causes are unemployment and the failure of the Department of Health to provide the unemployed with the necessary maintenance to keep them in fit physical condition. With us as a nation that problem is greater than the same problem in England and Wales. Proportionately there is a larger number of our people unemployed than in England and Wales. In a former Debate I gave the exact figures and if they are questioned I can give them again.
Those of us who are living and working among our people almost daily, see that section of our people steadily deteriorating physically, economically and, one might almost say, morally. Some of us are frequently in touch with the Employment Exchanges and have an opportunity of seeing the deterioration 2060 that is taking place. The reason for it is not far to seek. Take, by way of illustration, the case of an unemployed man with a wife and three children dependent upon him. If he is in receipt of Unemployment Insurance benefit, he has a weekly income of 28s. on which to maintain five persons. If he is getting parish relief—it was a very interesting figure that the Under-Secretary gave us, namely, that 223,000 people are in receipt of parish relief—he is the recipient of a similar amount. From that meagre income he has to find rent in many cases. I have here an interesting statement as to the average rents that have to be paid in various localities in Scotland. It shows that rent and rates range from 10s. to 16s. per week. When that is deducted from the amount of money paid to the unemployed person, or the person in receipt of parish relief, there is a mere pittance left for the family, on which pittance body and soul have to be kept together.
Some of us are continually appealing to owners of houses to show some clemency towards that unfortunate section of our people, because in many instances they find it impossible to meet such rents and rates. The standard of life of that section of our people is lower than is necessary to maintain an equal number of persons in any of our poor-houses in Scotland. One is surprised at the patient endurance with which the sufferings and trouble of the last few years have been borne by these people. It has at last touched the heart of the nation, so far as the unemployed miners are concerned, and I would take this opportunity of thanking those who have contributed towards the help of that section of the community. But the mining section represents only a portion of the population. There are other sections of our people who are in equally unfortunate circumstances. The fact that the national conscience has been touched has compelled the Government at last to do something, but it is an entirely inadequate method of dealing with a great problem; as a matter of fact it touches only the fringe of the problem.
As the Under-Secretary is so certain that the present Government are coming back after the General Election, I want him to tell us what the Government intend to do with this great problem. Up to now the Government have stood with 2061 folded arms, without a policy, with no vision at all, simply waiting for Providence or charity to do the work for them. The Prime Minister in some of his recent speeches has informed the country that the Government are not going to make rash or spectacular promises. Surely in a matter of life and death we are entitled to ask the Prime Minister, or as Scotsmen are entitled to ask the Under-Secretary of State as the representative of the Government to-day, to tell us what the Government intend to do in order that that section of our people may live in some degree of health and comfort. They are not living in any degree of comfort in existing circumstances. This is one of the first problems to which the Government ought to turn their attention.
The next point that I want to put to the Under-Secretary is, what does the Department intend to do to enable Scotland to get its fair share of the houses that are to be built with State assistance? Excellent as is the record for the past year, if the latest figures that I have are correct there is still a considerable leeway to be made up before there has been built in Scotland the number of houses that will compare fairly with the number built in England and Wales. The last figure I have carries me down to 1st October, 1928. Possibly the Under-Secretary has later figures, but according to my figures, in England and Wales there have been built 789,037 houses. If we had got our share we should have had at least 110,000 by 1st October, 1928. The Under-Secretary may be able to explain that a certain portion of the deficiency has been made up since then, but, as I say, if we had had 11–80ths we should have had 110,000 houses. If we consider the matter in terms of money there is almost a corresponding shortage. England and Wales had used for the building of houses, up to the date mentioned, £68,247,114. If we had got our 11–80ths, we should have had £9,383,714, whereas we had only £8,268,027, leaving a shortage of £1,115,687. I and my Scottish colleagues would like to be assured that if we are still lagging behind to some extent, as these figures would indicate, we are to continue to get the subsidy until we get a fair share of State-built houses to compare with England and Wales.
2062 Finally, I should like to ask what the Department propose to do to remedy the complaints of the Scottish farm servants. This matter has been the subject of correspondence between the Secretary of State and the officials of the Farm Servants' Union. In the course of these communications they pointed out that they had been endeavouring for years to get enforcement of the statutory provisions relating to housing and, in particular, of Section 40 of the 1919 Act, without result. It is true that, since that correspondence took place, they have had a meeting with the Secretary of the Scottish Health Department and the matter has been talked over but as yet, as far as I know, nothing of a concrete character has been done. I should like to know what they propose to do to have the housing of a very important section of the working classes attended to in a far better way than has been the case up to now. I hope these points will receive the right hon. Gentleman's attention, and that he may be able to give us more information regarding them.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
I am sure hon. Members have listened with great interest to the Under-Secretary's speech. While he, naturally, put his facts and figures in the most favourable light, he did observe a certain restraint in using his subject for electioneering purposes, and he is entitled to some commendation for that. Whether his example in that respect will be able to be followed on this side is another matter, because his speech represented a rather rosier picture of Scotland than many of us believe to be accurate. We are considering, as well as the Estimates, the Report of the Scottish Board of Health for the last year, and for the last time, and it is seemly to give a passing word of recognition of good work done and of regret that we have to say goodbye. It is now being replaced by a Department. We also have to say goodbye to two very able administrators, Sir Leslie Mackenzie and Sir James Leishman. Hon. Members on all sides of the Committee will be glad to be associated with a tribute to the efficiency and the conscientiousness of these two great Scotsmen, and of gratitude to them.
Although I do not like the departmental system, I think it is universal experience that the human element in 2063 administration is the most important. There are many bad systems of administration which are working well in this world because they are being worked by good people, and there are many good systems which are working badly because they are not being worked by good people. In view of the character of the new personnel—lay and medical—of the Department of Health, I believe there will be a real continuity of policy in regard to the purely public health side, and that, as long as this personnel remains, we shall continue to find the same interest and satisfaction in these public health features of the annual report that we have done in the past. I have always felt that, on the medical side, at any rate, the Board of Health has been progressive, and I can only hope that, whatever Government is in power, its policy in that respect will be vigorously backed up. There is reason to believe that some of the decisions of this Government have not been in line with the wishes of the medical personnel of the Board of Health.
I read with very great interest the 10 years' review of the work of the Board, and I should like to quote what it said on the first page:The statutory duties of the Board include the effective carrying out and co-ordination of measures conducive to the health of the people, including measures for the prevention and cure of disease, the initiation and direction of research, the treatment of physical and mental defects, the collection, preparation and publication of statistics and the training of persons for health services. Shortly after the Board was established, however, trade and industry began to suffer from the disorganisation of foreign markets, unemployment extended rapidly and the general prosperity of the country sustained a severe setback Accordingly the hopes that inspired the passage of the Scottish Board of Health Act were not destined to be fulfilled to the extent that Parliament probably had in mind.It goes on to speak about the fact that the public health expenditure was considerably curtailed and that many of the things it had hoped to carry out were not able to be gone on with. It continues:In the 10 years in which we have held office, therefore, the balance has had to be held between progressive proposals and the necessity for economy in expenditure.It is important that we should emphasize the fact that it is false economy 2064 to cut down public health expenditure. Bad housing, bad conditions of factories and workshops, lack of a comprehensive health insurance service and scarcity of hospital accommodation mean a loss of working time and less efficiency in industry. Part of the different outlook between us and hon. Members opposite lies in the special importance that we attach to the development of efficient local and national health services. The people who have good houses, with plenty of fresh air and perfect sanitation, who have good food and all the resources of medical and surgical skill at their command, are only affected in health by the general conditions of their town or city, particularly in regard to infectious disease, and even to that they have a considerable resisting power. To those, however, who live in crowded areas, in houses without light and fresh air, with primitive and communal sanitary arrangements, and dependent upon a dispensary and hospital out-patient health system, the municipal and national health services fill up something of the gap in the health facilities possessed by better-off people. The personnel of these national and local health services are really the specialists for those who cannot afford private specialists, and yet whose health as workers, apart altogether from humane considerations, is of the first importance to the nation. Therefore, in times of stringency many other things should be sacrificed before the public health services.
I am glad there is a belated interest being shown in the matter of slum clearances. I do not think any one denies that there is a number of difficulties in connection with this problem, but we are all agreed that never up to now have they been squarely faced, or has there been any serious attempt to deal with them. I am disappointed to find that, up to the end of last year, there have been only 11,371 houses provided for those previously living in these slum areas. That 11,000 for the whole of Scotland surely is a miserable contribution, and I am always wondering when the figures in the large towns are going to be seriously brought down. I understand that in Glasgow there are something like 30,000 or 40,000 one-roomed houses with families up to quite considerable numbers living in each. That is a huge national problem in itself, and 11,000 houses for the whole 2065 of Scotland means that only an infinitesimal proportion of the 40,000 in one town has been tackled. I notice that Dundee has been fortunate in having a private donor who has given a large amount of money for slum clearances, and the Report suggests that his example might be followed by wealthy people in other areas. We on this side do not like charity for essential services. I have no objection to and would commend voluntary effort supplementing the basic services, but where a thing is essential to life and health and a decent standard of living, it should be not a matter of chance and charity, but a matter of certainty for the humblest individual. Therefore, I would suggest that slum clearances are not suitable subjects for charity, but are matters for which the community must take full responsibility. It has been rather a weakness of this Government to shuffle off their responsibility on to the shoulders of the charitable public, and it is an undesirable practice.
I was glad of the comment in the Report on the importance of attention to children between the ages of two and five. That is now being increasingly realised and this party, at any rate, has stood for a long time for the provision of nursery schools. These are not so much schools in the ordinary sense of providing scholastic education, though they may provide facilities for implanting certain habits of discipline, but for children who otherwise might have to play in the gutter, and, mainly, for giving opportunity to remedy any physical defects from which they suffer. It is perfectly true, as the Report says, that school medical officers and other medical men are convinced that conditions, such as tonsils, adenoids and others, which are such a nuisance during ordinary school life and such a worry and anxiety to parents, could be best attended to at that period of life. If they were dealt with then, it would make a very great difference not only in regard to the waste of time later, but in the improvement of the health of the child right through. I am very glad that that has been recognised. There are 350,000 such children in Scotland, and only by a system of nursery schools can their problem, in my opinion, be tackled. I do not know what the position is in Scotland generally, but in Edinburgh plans have been adopted 2066 for the starting of one nursery school in the immediate future. I think that I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite that if he is sitting on the Opposition Benches in the next Parliament, a big programme for nursery schools will be in process of being put into active operation.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt very interestingly with the problem of maternal mortality, child welfare and infantile mortality, all of which subjects are more or less grouped together. I was glad to notice that in the Report Dr. Finlay's figures were given. I have given these figures in the House before, but they are so tremendously significant that I think they are well worth repeating, because I do not think that the importance of them has ever been realised. He found, in Edinburgh, in the four years from 1924 to 1927, and taking the average of the four years, that in the case of women who had ante-natal attention, the deaths in childbirth or immediately after were only three per thousand, whereas in the case of those who had no ante-natal attention, the figures were seven per thousand. If you take the year 1927 by itself, the figures are even more remarkable because there, amongst the women who had ante-natal attention, 2.4 per thousand births was the mortality rate, and in the case of those who had no ante-natal supervision, it was as high as 11.2 per thousand. It is quite true that these figures are limited, and that one cannot make a perfectly dogmatic conclusion as regards the degree of difference, but they do prove conclusively that there is a very marked difference in the deaths of mothers according to whether they have been getting attention before the actual confinement comes on or whether they have had their first medical supervision at the time of the onset of labour.
That emphasises the importance of ante-natal centres, and I would suggest that our ante-natal centres in Scotland are neither numerous nor good enough. In our large towns like Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere there is a certain number of ante-natal centres. They ought to be more numerous, and more convenient for the women, so that they can come to them without having to travel long distances. Many of them are not comfortable. Often a wait of considerable time is involved, and they ought to 2067 be made more comfortable. Others have no proper arrangements for privacy and for examination under suitable conditions. It must be recognised that working-class women are just as sensitive and have as much delicacy as the women of any other class of the population, and there is no doubt that in some cases the arrangements are not such as encourage sensitive women to attend. I should be glad if the Department would take an interest in this matter and urge upon local authorities which have antenatal centres that these centres should be such as would encourage the women to attend by ensuring comfort and privacy. Considerable pressure to start them ought to be brought to bear on these local authorities who have no antenatal centres at all—I think there are three—and on the others which have only very inadequate schemes, to improve them.
In view of the figures which have been supplied and which are well known, I think that the need is obvious. It is, perhaps, the one consideration in this connection upon which we can be perfectly confident. It is true, as the Under-Secretary of State said, that maternal mortality, unlike infantile mortality, and the general death rate, does not seem to have any direct relation to poverty. In some of the places where there is great poverty and the people are living in dirt and squalor, the figures are not nearly as bad as in places where the people are considerably better off. There is this one factor about which we are sure. Ante-natal supervision will save lives, and therefore it is up to us to see that every local authority in Scotland is well equipped to deal with it. I am sure we are glad to know that the figure for infantile mortality is down to 86, and that is satisfactory so far. We have always been higher than in England, and I think there is no question that this is due to the difference in housing. It is difficult sometimes to make our English colleagues realise the housing conditions under which many of our people live. I have no doubt that this is the secret of the difference between the figures in Scotland and in England.
In regard to tuberculosis, there is the same steady progress downwards, and I 2068 would like to see it greater. There, again, I am quite certain that it is a housing question. We are spending a great deal of money on sanatoria and the treatment of tuberculosis, and it is necessary, but the best medical authorities believe that if we had decent housing conditions, we could sweep away the whole problem of tuberculosis in a generation. It depends so much on housing, that one cannot emphasise the importance of housing too strongly. There is not much progress apparent in regard to venereal disease. We are in this difficulty, that we do not know whether it is decreasing or whether we are getting at all the cases that are occurring. We know from the number of people attending that there seems to be a definite increase in gonorrhoea, and that the evidence with regard to syphilis seems to be that that disease is not increasing. We do not know whether the increase in gonorrhoea simply means that more people are attending or whether there is an actual increase. Personally, I think, in regard to these diseases, which are so important and have so many implications, and which are costing local authorities and the country such a large amount of money, that, until we have some method such as was suggested in the Edinburgh Bill of dealing with this subject, we shall continue to have inadequate results from a very large national and local expenditure.
The medical inspection of school children is another subject of great importance. The Report brings out the fact that only every four years, or about three times in the school life of the child, is a child medically inspected. I think this is not enough. There should be a medical inspection of every child at least once a year. It would, of course, mean an increase in the staff, but it would be an ultimate economy. There is no doubt that if we attend to the physical side of the child and turn him or her out at the end of school life, not only well educated but also physically well equipped, we shall have done a good national service. I notice that the Under-Secretary of State seemed rather to suggest—I do not know whether this was one of the few electioneering touches—that the raising of the school age was not so important as concentrating on the time that we actually have at present and making the fullest 2069 use of it both in the educational and physical sense. I do not see that the two things are incompatible. We can do both. We must attend to the physical health of the children, and I agree with all that he said about that and about more physical exercise. I believe that only half an hour twice a week is given to this at the present time. I would rather see 10 minutes or a quarter-of-an-hour each day given to exercises rather than longer periods twice a week which really do not create the habit in the individual of taking exercise. I am quite sure that many Members of this House would have better figures than they have if in their youth they had been taught to have a certain daily amount of physical exercise. When you try to get middle-aged people or even younger people who have not been trained to it to take exercise because of increasing weight, you find that, though they may start, they cannot keep it up. Habit is well known to be an important thing in life, and we are all more or less slaves to it. I should be glad if more attention could be paid to systematic and daily exercises for the children to save them from our fate.
I would like to say a word on the milk experiment. We can quite honestly and sincerely congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State upon the interest which he has taken in this experiment, and, indeed, probably for the initiation of it. It is also a tribute to the usefulness of the Empire Marketing Board. The making of the two experiments, one in Scotland and one as far away as East Africa, was not only of scientific interest, but of great practical importance. I think that we should recognise the good work which Professor Leighton has done on this milk question. He is successfully encouraging the milk producers of Scotland to give a better and cleaner milk supply. There is one matter to which I should like to draw attention once again. It is in regard to the nomenclature of the graded milk. There is no question at the present time that the public are entirely misled as to what is the best quality of milk. They think that Grade A is the best quality of milk, whereas it is not. The certified milk is the best quality. The grading is not at all satisfactory. It does not seem to involve a very great change although, no doubt, there would be some inconvenience.
2070 I should be glad if the Under-Secretary would satisfy me in regard to a subject on which I find it difficult to get information, and that is the quality of the un-graded milk. I am glad to see that so many dairy keepers are taking up the supply of certified milk, and are trying to get their herds into good condition. A claim is made in the Report, and I have every reason to believe it, that every dairy cow in Scotland is inspected once a year, and that some are inspected as often as once a month. That shows great progress as compared with the position some years ago. I cannot, however, find out what is the percentage of tuberculous milk that is being sold as un-graded milk. A number of years ago, when large tests were made, it was found to be about 8 per cent., but to-day we do not know what the percentage is. Is the Under-Secretary satisfied also with the pasteurising of the milk in Scotland, which is satisfactory if it is done properly? In view of the fact that emphasis is being laid upon milk as a diet for children, it is all the more necessary that we should be sure that the milk may be safely given. Personally, I am not at all satisfied about a great deal of the ungraded milk, which is the cheapest milk and which is sold for consumption by the poorest children, who have the least resistance to disease. I would like to know whether the Department of Health have taken any steps to obtain samples of such milk and to subject them to bacteriological examination, and what is the result. We hear a great deal about dairy keepers being fined because there is not a proper butter fat content in their milk, but we very seldom hear of any prosecution for selling tuberculous milk. It should be made a serious crime to sell tuberculous milk which is going to bring upon children a very serious and unhappy condition.
The Under-Secretary spoke about the National Health Insurance scheme in Scotland. It is now well organised and working well. Sir James Leishman has certainly left an efficient machine, but it is far from giving a comprehensive and adequate medical service. Attention is called in the Report—it is to the credit of the Conservative party that they have published this in the Report—that the action taken under the Economy Act, 1926, by reducing the State grant, has greatly prejudiced the possibility of 2071 further services, such as dental, ophthalmic, and other special services, being given by a number of approved societies. Some of the approved societies are drawing on their invested funds, and many of them will probably be in a deficiency at the next valuation. That will prevent the payment of even the statutory benefit except by special provision, and it makes it impossible that we can look forward to their being able to give those other benefits which must be given before we can really call the service a national health service. This is a subject on which we get one of the greatest contrasts in class distinction between the medical services which are provided for well-to-do people and the medical services which are provided by the State, and which are supposed to be sufficient for ordinary people.
We have often discussed in this House the provision of specialist services. On the occasion of the Bill last year, we were told that the approved societies by their refusal to pool their resources, according to the suggestion of the Royal Commission, were the real offenders. I am not in a position to say who are the real offenders, but I do say that it is the duty of any Government to make its national health insurance system really comprehensive. They must see that the member who pays his contribution receives adequate health services, and has at his disposal every necessary medical and surgical aid. At present he is thrown back on the voluntary hospitals, which are overcrowded, which have not enough beds, and which are unable promptly to respond in many cases to the needs of health insurance patients. I echo the hope expressed by the Under-Secretary about the new hospital services under the Local Government Bill. That is, perhaps, the one section of the Local Government Bill that I was able to welcome. I think it will provide for a possible development of municipal services to supplement the voluntary services, and will make it possible for the ordinary citizen to obtain that specialised advice which is absolutely essential. Medicine has become so many-sided that the ordinary practitioner cannot expect and does not pretend to be an authority on all the branches of it, and it is only by hospital services or by specialist 2072 panels, or something of that sort that an adequate scheme can be carried out.
A good deal is said in the Report of the need for research. That is a subject in which members of the Labour party are partciularly interested. We are in favour of the full necessary provision of public funds for research purposes. Take the question of influenza, which every few years sweeps through the country and devastates it. We had a recent example in Glasgow of a very serious epidemic of influenza, which was followed in a large number of cases by pneumonia, resulting in a great many deaths. Our knowledge of influenza is limited, and research is badly needed in regard to that disease. Measles and whooping cough are very common diseases and not very seriously regarded by the public, and yet they are killing diseases, and we are not making any great progress in regard to them. This wealthy country, wealthy in spite of its misfortunes, spends on research something like £120,000 a year. We spend on armaments about £110,000,000, and many other large sums on other things not nearly so important as research. It would be a tremendous boon if by research we could save even a few hundred lives in Scotland every year. The Under-Secretary realises the importance of research. His milk experiment is a research experiment of very great value. These and laboratory experiments should be followed up, and I hope that whatever Government will be in power after the General Election, such research will be encouraged. It was understood that we were to have a Lister Institute in Edinburgh, which was to be the great Scottish centre of research. The site has been chosen and some of the money has been contributed, but the scheme seems to be hanging fire. The charitable people to whom the Government often looks, do not seem to be willing to give money for research purposes, at any rate in this case in Edinburgh.
The Under-Secretary spoke about nutrition in Scotland. I understand that one of my colleagues will deal with that subject and I do not want to duplicate remarks on it, but I did notice that in the section dealing with school children the report this year leaves out the figures of the standards of nutrition. I was disappointed at that, because the 2073 figures have been given, I think, every previous year. This year there is only a general remark that there is no evidence of undue malnutrition, I would like to know what is due malnutrition. If there is any malnutrition amongst the school Children, it is something which we should regard as very serious. If I remember correctly, in other years it was found that something like 30,000 children were under-nourished, and 1,000 or 2,000 were very much under-nourished. The figures on this subject ought to be given every year, because they are of great importance. I was glad to read about the milk tests in Kirkcudbrightshire and to note that the Under-Secretary is encouraging local authorities to pay attention to the milk question. If he will make it clear that the people who are giving milk to children must use certified milk or milk which has been effectively pasteurised, he will do a great additional service to the children of Scotland.
There are a number of other matters in regard to school children which I have not time to deal with to-day, but I would like to emphasise the importance of proper dental treatment. Most of the local authorities in Scotland have made some dental provision for school children, but there are two authorities which have made no such provision at all. We have been accustomed to hear the county of Argyllshire put forward as a very progressive county, by the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), who is not here to-day. I am sure that he will be sorry when he hears that Argyllshire is one of the places which has no dental service for school children. The county of Bute is the other authority. When the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire reads the OFFICIAL REPORT, if he has not already read the Report of the Board of Health, or if he hears through any other source that his county is so deficient in its attention to the school children, I hope that he, or his successor, will see that that condition is put right. The provision of eye treatment for children is also of great importance and is not adequate, but I do not want to go into details on these matters.
I was glad to hear the reference to the Highlands and Islands Funds. I have had an opportunity, in Orkney and Shetland of seeing the working of the 2074 Fund. There can be no question as to the tremendous value and necessity of the Fund. I hope that whatever Government is in power, proper provision will be made for that Fund, and it must be an increased provision. It has a certain bearing on the question of settlement. We are always considering the populating of the Highlands and Islands, and one of the most important considerations is for the people in these areas to feel that in case of illness they are able to get medical and nursing attendance. It is a great comfort when they know that owing to the facilities which these services provide they are freed from the anxiety, should any of their people fall ill, of having to take them many miles over land and sea in order to get proper medical attendance.
The Department of Health should, however, put pressure on those authorities in the North of Scotland which have not provided any child welfare and maternity services. The Report states that the Highlands and Islands Medical Services find a difficulty because of the lack of these local facilities, and I think strong pressure should be put upon every division in the country to provide them. I am glad also that the question of tuberculosis in the Highlands and Islands is being looked into. My own view is that a good deal of it is due to bad housing. It is rather a curious thing that there should be had housing under circumstances which suggest a happy and healthy life, free and open to all the breezes that blow, but some of these houses are very unhealthy. The housing of the cattle in winter also in some cases probably tends to induce tuberculosis. Whatever Government are in power they will, I hope, be increasingly responsive to the medical policy put forward by the Department of Health and do everything to see that our people are not only made better economically but also that they are given what is the foundation of all happiness—good health.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
No one on these benches will seek to withhold from the Under-Secretary of State general appreciation of his administrative capacity. It is not his administration to which we object; it is the policy of his 2075 Department, and since policy and administration are closely interwoven it becomes necessary to examine and analyse his administration in order to ascertain whether there are grounds for the optimism which he displayed in his speech this afternoon. I submit that there are no grounds for optimism. The Report of the Scottish Board of Health in respect of housing, poverty and unemployment, shows that if there is one thing which persists in Scotland to-day it is poverty. The mists of poverty are not being dissipated by anything for which this Government have been responsible. The Under-Secretary has ventured to tell the Committee that in Scotland many persons are in receipt of the relief afforded by Old Age Pensions, and other pension schemes, indeed, that in the streets of our various towns and villages you would find one out of every three persons in receipt of relief of that kind.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am glad the Under-Secretary has corrected me, but his correction assists my argument rather than his own case. He has said that the fact that three out of every 100 persons were recipients of the relief afforded by legislation passed in previous years was a most impressive sight. I would remind him of a still more impressive spectacle in Scotland at the present time. In spite of all the alleged ameliorative measures for which the present Government are responsible, one out of every 18 persons in Scotland is in receipt of Poor Law relief; one out of every 18 persons is a pauper. Compare that with the position in England and Wales and you find a marked contrast, a great disparity. In England and Wales one out of every 42 persons is similarly situated. Scotland is, therefore, in a most unfortunate plight as far as the amount of pauperism is concerned. The Under-Secretary has told us that there has been a diminution in respect of poor relief over the past four years, and he reminded us of the fact that in 1924 the number of persons receiving such relief was somewhat higher than the figures for the year covered by this Report.
2076 If we accept the figures in the Report it does not remove the blight of poverty in Scotland. It is still there. In fact, we find from the Report that because of restrictions which have been imposed—whether rightly or wrongly does not for the moment concern me—by his Department, owing to the policy of His Majesty's Government for which the Under-Secretary must hold himself equally culpable, parish councils have been precluded from offering relief to those who were formerly the recipient of their beneficence. It is not because poverty has diminished that there are fewer persons in receipt of poor relief now than there were in previous years, but because of the restrictions which have been imposed. I have no desire to make a bold assertion without substantiation and I invite the Under-Secretary to look at the Report of his own Department of Health. On page 325 there are a series of paragraphs relating to this particular matter. I find that one of the main points to which the attention of parish councils was directed was the necessity of a close scrutiny of the able-bodied cases which were in receipt of relief for long periods. That is one point. But it proceeds—I will quote the actual words in the Report—Complete failure to obtain employment over long periods would, therefore, appear to afford prima facie ground for suspecting that the person concerned has not been making reasonable efforts to find work.That is one restriction. It is an invitation to a moderate parish council in Scotland which would influence them in the wrong direction; certainly it would mean that they would boggle at paying relief if they could find means of avoiding it. Then the Report proceeds to put those who have been unemployed for long periods into various creeds and categories, and in a special chapter it refers to "the necessity"—again I quote the actual words of the Report:The necessity for special care in considering applications from young unmarried men and women.It speaks of the surplus industrial population and reminds us that this new social problem has to be faced. It invites these young unmarried men and women not to remain in districts where employment is not easily obtained, but to proceed elsewhere; in short, to leave the country. I will not discuss all the implications which arise from these quota- 2077 tions and the others which follow, but I do say to the Under-Secretary of State that he is not entitled to claim that the diminution in the figures is because poverty in Scotland is disappearing. The diminution in the figures is there because, while poverty persists, an attempt is being made to drive it underground. May I invite the attention of the Under-Secretary to the statement in the Report that there was a suspicion that certain persons have not been making reasonable efforts to find work? The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows the mining districts, as I do. He knows the unfortunate plight of many of our mining people. He also knows that in the steel and iron districts and in the shipbuilding centres there is not much opportunity of finding work. If a man in Glasgow transfers his industrial affections to Edinburgh, he is still as unfortunately situated in Edinburgh as he was in Glasgow. That is happening throughout Scotland, and a mere transference of labour from one part of Scotland to another in not solving this particular problem. What is happening in Scotland in respect of poverty is that it is being ironed out, distributed. There was a time when poverty was very intense in some parts of Scotland; it was in pockets; now we have it everywhere. There are districts where poverty in its most pathetic and tragic sense was unknown; now it is being experienced by all who reside in these districts. We have to direct attention to the persistence of poverty in Scotland and to the low standard of living which naturally and inevitably arises.
We are precluded from discussing possible legislation and must confine ourselves to aspects of administration, and, in that respect, I join issue with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who displayed such buoyancy regarding the condition of the health of the people of Scotland. Does he mean that the people are better nourished to-day? Is it his contention that the children are better nourished than formerly? I think there is too much talk about weights and measurements in connection with the question of the nutrition of children. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is an esteemed member of the medical profession and, no doubt, has modern views on medicine and cognate subjects. He believes that the right thing to do is to put a child on the 2078 weighing machine and subject it to all sorts of tests, and then decide that if it receives a certain amount of milk and other commodities with certain food values every day, all is well. But, while that amount of nourishment may be sufficient to maintain life in a child, it does no more than that. There is no margin for the future, and, in my opinion, it would be more advantageous to dispense with the weights and measurements aspect of the matter, and to put wages into the pockets of the child's parents so that they might give the child the nourishment which wages would provide. In some parts of Scotland it is true the children are managing to rub along, but their condition is yet far from satisfactory, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member does not imagine that we are going to content ourselves with the present state of affairs.
If there is cause for discontent to whom is it attributable? It is there because of the policy of His Majesty's Government. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman expressed the hope that his Government would come back again, I remarked sotto voce "God forbid" and I repeat those words now with even more fervour. The last thing which is likely to remove the poverty problem from Scotland is the return of another Tory Government, even for a short period. Scotland is being placed in the position of a poor relation. She is being pauperised and, in consequence, demoralised. Little hope is revealed by the passages in this Report, dealing with unemployment and trade depression, which admittedly exist in Scotland. What is to be done? What does the hon. and gallant Gentleman offer? Administration is quite effective, as far as he is concerned, but it is not sufficient. Is Scotland to remain for ever in the position of a poor relation receiving charity? That is not sufficient for our purpose, nor, I think, for the purpose of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
There is a passage in the Report which indicates what might be done. A reference is made to the closing down of the Palacerigg Farm Colony which was under the control of the Glasgow Parish Council. I believe that where you have people who may be described as unemployable—social outcasts who are ostracised in the industrial sense—it is de- 2079 sirable to put them at work which, if not remunerative, is profitable from the point of view of individual health and well-being. Why was this colony closed down? We are told it was because of lack of funds but surely it was in the power of the Department to provide the necessary funds to maintain this excellent colony. Unemployed people in Scotland are being censured in this Report for having been out of work too long, and are told that they ought to go elsewhere but it is the bounden duty of the Government to assist them, not merely with unemployment allowances, but by setting up labour colonies. I know of no more useful method, not merely of training these persons, but of giving them that self-respect which is so often necessary when a man has been a long time unemployed. It is too much to hope that anything will be done at this stage, but I hope the problem will be tackled on the lines I have indicated not long after the General Election has revealed its result.
I wish to raise one or two matters affecting my constituency. I am informed that a number of the men who have returned from the Canadian harvest are having demands made upon them for the refund of certain amounts received by them. The matter is one for the Scottish Health Department because I understand that when these men went to Canada they were under obligations to the parish councils in their areas. In one case I learn that a man is being asked to refund £22. It is impossible for a man who has been out of work for some time, and who has returned from Canada with nothing in his pocket, to do so, and I hope that these demands will be withdrawn at the earliest possible moment. That might well be done during the next few weeks while the hon. and gallant Gentleman remains a Member of the Government and can still undertake administrative functions.
Housing has been dealt with so effectively that I need say nothing on the general question, but some weeks ago I asked the Secretary of State about the housing conditions in the Broxburn area. I was told that many houses had been built there, but it transpired that the houses had been built in Bathgate which is nine miles away. The Secretary of 2080 State described it as "quite close" to the village of Broxburn but the right hon. Gentleman's geographical knowledge was not as accurate as the medical knowledge of the Under-Secretary. The need for housing in Broxburn is acute. Owing to industrial dislocation many persons have come there from the surrounding districts and the housing conditions generally are inadequate and unsatisfactory, and, in some instances, appalling. I am not altogether complaining of the attitude of the Department, except in this respect, that they ought to bring more pressure to bear on the county councils. County councils ought to be forced, as far as may be, to undertake work in connection with housing which hitherto they have failed to do.
I would also bring to the notice of the Under-Secretary the rents which are charged for council houses in the West Lothian area. He recently received a deputation from the council on the subject. They desired a reduction of the rents, but were informed that it was impracticable and impossible. Nevertheless, much difficulty is being experienced in obtaining the rents, because many of these council houses are occupied by unemployed miners. It is becoming an awkward problem, not merely for councils in my own constituency but for town councils throughout Scotland and I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give it his attention. The Under-Secretary tells us about all the pension claims that had been thrown at him recently. I am certain that he has been overwhelmed by such claims and that the Department is doing its best in the matter. I sympathise with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because I know something of administration and can understand his difficulties but there are difficulties on the other side as well, and a number of cases which I have sent in have not been dealt with as expeditiously as I, or the claimants, would like. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will expedite inquiries and decisions in these cases.
There is another matter with which perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to deal. It is in connection with some of the members of the crew of the steamship "Tuscania." The Committee is aware of the circumstances concerning the small-pox cases on that vessel and many of the seamen on their return to 2081 Glasgow were isolated under the regulations. Some, I think, have recently been liberated, but I am told that they have since been notified that they will not be taken into employment on any of the vessels in the port and their situation is very precarious. If they have complied with the Department's regulations that ought to suffice for all purposes and these men ought not to be prevented from obtaining employment. They ought to receive a clean bill of health and perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give the matter his attention as it affects quite a number of men.
This will be the last occasion on which we shall have the opportunity in this Parliament of dealing with this Vote. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will get his money to-day, and much good may it do him. Some of it will be used in the lifetime of this Government and some in the lifetime of the next Government. I do not pretend that the administration of the next Government, as far as the hon. and gallant Gentleman is concerned, will be any more efficient than the present administration, but I suggest that if and when a Labour Government comes into power the policy and plans which it will put before the House of Commons will give an impetus to the administration of this Department and will enable us to grapple at long last with the major problem in Scotland. That is not a problem of health alone, or of housing primarily, but one of deep-rooted and deep-seated poverty. Until that problem is settled it will be impossible for the hon. and gallant Gentleman, with such beneficent intentions as he has—and these are quite appreciated and recognised—or for the promoters of new ideas in medicine, in housing, and the like to do anything to improve the position of the Scottish people. It is the poverty problem which must receive first consideration, and it is that problem to which we shall devote our attention if and when a Government is formed by us.
§ Mr. CLARKE
The Under-Secretary has given an admirable review of the work of the Department during the past year, and I was particularly interested in his statement as to the experiments with school children and the supply of milk. I have followed those experiments for some time, and I cannot help wondering why such admirable work should 2082 be continued as an experiment only, and why it should not be made possible for all children, particularly the children of the unemployed, to receive a sufficient supply of milk. The nourishment, which has such admirable results on growing children, also shows its good effects in their physical condition in after years. One feels that if we had a more generous application of relief by our parish councils much of the present under-nourishment and low physique could be avoided, because women, with the extras which they would receive, would be able to provide the children with the sustenance which is so much needed. The matron of one of our big hospitals in Scotland told me quite definitely that more than 60 per cent. of the people who found their way into the medical department were there because of bad housing or under-feeding or malnutrition of some kind. What a tragedy is revealed by that statement! When I heard the Under-Secretary dealing with the problem of housing, I felt we would show greater wisdom if we made sure that no child should ever feel the want of necessary nourishment.
It is not, however, with that subject that I desire primarily to deal. In reviewing the work of the Department, the Under-Secretary dealt with housing, and, in accordance with the old axiom, "If you have nothing good to say, better say nothing at all," he made no mention of the housing conditions which are a scandal in the rural areas. I have had occasion to be in touch with the Scottish Farm Servants' Union, which unquestionably represents the great body of agricultural workers in Scotland. They have been inundated with grievous complaints as to the deplorable housing conditions, and reports have come in from every county in Scotland. As a result of their own investigation they have verified these complaints in every case, and the appalling conditions revealed are a reproach to our intelligence and cannot be justified by any Government in any circumstances.
Ten years ago an Act of Parliament was passed which made provision not only for the erection of new houses, but for the reconstruction of the present houses that obtain throughout our rural areas. It also made provision for a general and systematic examination by 2083 the sanitary officers in the various counties and that their reports should be submitted; and on careful inquiry of the representatives of the Farm Servants Union, they give me the assurance that on no occasion have they been able to verify, from statements made by the occupiers of these farm cottages, that at any time any investigation was made into the condition of the houses in their particular areas. The reports showed that there was a very serious state of affairs in these rural areas, and I can well understand the significance of that fact, because I myself lived for a considerable time in a single-apartment house, and also in an insanitary conditioned house, not from choice, but from necessity. I can understand all that it means, therefore, in the life of the women and children in these rural areas; and when we find in these reports that the roof leaks whenever there is any rain at all, that the walls are running with damp, and that in many cases the floors are of earth or of stone, we can appreciate the want of home comfort that is meant by such a condition. In my own district we have houses where they have no water supply without going outside for it. They have one of the ordinary middens, but no earth closets or water closets, and no sanitary conveniences at all. Anyone taking a walk on a summer night is compelled by the stench that arises from these middens right in front of people's doors to hold his nostrils until he gets a safe and comfortable distance past.
These things reflect the general conditions prevailing in the rural areas of Scotland. The inquiries elicited the fact that the housing conditions are worse to-day than they were 60 or 70 years ago in the rural areas of Scotland, and that 50 per cent. of those houses, in terms of the Acts of 1919 and 1925, are unfit for human habitation, while in some of the districts the reports say that the percentage rises to 90. Complaints came in by the hundreds, and can be verified. In many cases there was a totally inadequate supply of water, and the water was impure in many other cases. In many instances the women were compelled to carry water for their household from 80 to 150 yards, and we have the testimony given in several cases that water is conveyed past a number of these 2084 cottages in order to give a supply to a lawn tennis court some little distance away. It can easily be understood, therefore, how difficult it is to rear children under such circumstances, but no one who has not had the experience of it can appreciate all that it means, for instance, on an ordinary washing day, to a woman who has to carry every ounce of water for such a distance.
One marvels at the quietness of the farm servants who are compelled to live under such conditions. They have reported the matter time and again to the landlords, but nothing has been done. They have reported to the local authorities and to the sanitary inspectors, and while there is no fault to find with any of the reports of the sanitary inspectors, every case that they have investigated arising out of a complaint given to the Farm Servants' Union has been fully authenticated and verified by the reports submitted to the local authorities by the sanitary inspectors. Yet nothing has ever been done. No one can deny the fact that we are endeavouring to establish a better standard house for our working people, but surely, in the light of such a state of affairs as is reflected in those reports, that cannot have its application, by any process of reasoning, to the housing in the rural areas of Scotland.
Every effort has been made to get redress, but it is quite evident that the local authorities are not prepared to administer the law or to insist that the various Sections of the Acts of Parliament that would give relief to those compelled to live under these conditions should be put into operation. It is difficult to realise that on every occasion on which the local authorities have been in communication with a landlord they have respectfully asked him to put into operation the works that were necessary to put these houses into a sanitary condition, but in no case were they prepared to insist upon the work being done, and the consequence is that over a period of three-and-a-half to four years in no single instance has any local authority attempted to enforce the Sections of the Housing Acts that would mean so much to the housing conditions in Scotland. They have approached the Scottish Board of Health, and they have been treated courteously and have been 2085 listened to, but it was evident that they also were impotent, so far as bringing compulsion to bear upon those responsible was concerned.
As a final resort, they approached the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, for whatever reason—and I would rather he had been here to hear my statement—refused to agree to see a deputation from that responsible body, representing so admirably these men throughout the whole of Scotland. For reasons best known to himself, the right hon. Gentleman refused, and has refused up to the present moment, to grant them the necessary interview in order that they might state their case on behalf of the rural workers of Scotland. I hope, therefore, that the Under-Secretary will give us some explanation and some suggestion as to the possibilities of finding a way out of such a deplorable situation. I hope he will let us know if it is imperative that legislation will be necessary before compulsion can be brought to bear upon the landlords of these particular houses and, if so, why it is that during their period of office, when they have been in such a splendid position to give expression to what they believed was right, they have never taken the steps to bring in the necessary legislation.
§ Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I want to put a few questions to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who so ably represents the Scottish Office to-day, but, before doing so, I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland on the honour that is being done to him in our country, which is the reason for his not being present with us to-day. I want to ask what is to be done to our fisherfolk under the stress of circumstances which has met their profession at the present time. The unemployed in the Usher community are very numerous, and I understand that under this Vote money is being asked to improve the conditions of the unemployed. I think it is up to the Scottish Office to do something more than has been done in the past for these people. Some time ago I asked for money to be allotted for the provision of gear, for the production of new gear for the fishermen in the equipment of their fleet, which is so important, thereby employing additional men in that great 2086 profession. When the Scottish Estimates are being brought before this House, it is most important that every form of employment should be considered.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
Can the hon. and gallant Member show me how this question comes under the Estimate now before the Committee?
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I bow to your Ruling, but this question of the unemployed in Scotland is most important, and especially is it necessary that we should do everything we can to alleviate the condition of that community which I know so well. However, as this Vote does not particularly refer to these unfortunate people, I would like merely to record my hope that the Scottish Office will do something towards helping this very deserving population. I think a great deal more might be done by the Scottish Office in dealing with the health of the community, especially in the inspection of all kinds of commodities which the people consume. Under the recently passed Measure amending the Local Government Act, whereby burghs are put into the county areas, it is true that many of the burghs will go back in the inspection of those commodities. You have the county area coming in, which does not realise the importance of the burghs, and therefore special attention ought to be paid so that this inspection is carefully looked into in the large centres of population. I am talking largely of the inspection of things like milk, meat, and tinned goods. In many cases you have inferior articles put before the public and articles which are subject to adulteration. I have only to call attention to the various types of flours that are sold in the burghs of Scotland, and to point out that under the arrangement which the new, Act will bring into operation a good deal of harm may fee done to the close inspection which we have had in the past. The real difficulty has always been that this question of inspection has been so well done in the concise local areas of the burghs that it is bound to suffer when it is placed under the control of the larger areas of the counties.
The third question which I wish to bring to the notice of the Scottish Office is that of transportation, especially 2087 transportation between the burghs and the larger centres, which ought to be most carefully looked into.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I am sorry the Vote does not cover that point. I hope, in conclusion, that on the deathbed of the present Government something will be done for the fisherfolk in the burghs which I represent.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The Under-Secretary of State interested me deeply with the figures which he gave with regard to tuberculosis. He gave the figures for last year as 99 and for this year as 97, but it seemed to me that he was not quite so cheerful about the small reduction. I do not think anyone can be, but, in my view, we are tackling this subject in the wrong way. It could be illustrated best by picturing an area inundated with water and, instead of trying to build up the place where the water breaks in, you increase your pumping power, and if you are getting two gallons this year more than you were last year, you are doing well. I think the best medical opinion is to the effect that impoverishment of the individual life is at the basis of this disease. The Under-Secretary seemed to be very apprehensive in his remarks about the insurance payments in the case of men. He seemed to hesitate as to what might be the cause of the continuous increase in the case of men, but I think I can give him some light on that subject, because, if you investigate the cases that come through your own correspondence, you get some indication of what is taking place. My view is that the increase of these payments comes entirely from lack of nourishment. If you take the unemployed man who has been swept off the Employment Exchange, having exhausted his benefit, and who goes on to the able-bodied relief of the parish council, the whole tendency is for the man, who is the breadwinner of a family, to have his physical powers reduced by lack of proper nourishment. In order to prove this, before I left Glasgow last night, I went to an area where 25 cases such as this have been reported. It was no use going to the medical men, because I had been able to read their reports, and these gave only the bald statement 2088 of the condition of the men. I wanted to find the cause, so I went round to the butchers' shops and other shops supplying food in that area. The first butcher to whom I went had been in the shop for 38½ years. I told him what I wanted to know, and he said, "I was wondering for some time what was happening so far as drawings are concerned, and I find that women, mothers of large families, who in previous times used to buy one and a-half pounds of meat, were buying only half a pound and sometimes only a quarter pound." That is one of the causes of the increase which gave apprehension to the Under-Secretary.
I would ask him, next time he is in Glasgow, to come with me round the Candleriggs' quarter on a Friday or a Saturday night, and he will see queues of women and children outside certain shops waiting to get scraps. In my rounds yesterday I went to a fashionable shop, and asked if the manager would interview me, as it was a matter of public health. While I was waiting to see the manager, I saw on the counter one of those machines for slicing ham. The beginnings and ends are regarded as scraps, and while I was standing there, four little girls came in and each bought some of those scraps. One got a pennyworth, another twopennyworth, and a third threepennyworth. I do not say that there is anything wrong with the meat, but I am trying to get down to what is really underneath the statement made by the Under-Secretary to-day. It is simply a question of poverty, and you are taking no steps to get rid of it or to understand how widespread it is.
There is nothing in any city in Britain which can give the number of people who are in that state of semi-starvation. Every night in Glasgow you can see outside certain places queues of people waiting for burned or hard loaves, just as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and I saw them last Saturday night. Some strangers who passed on the way to the City Hall asked the reason for the queues, and when we explained I do not think that they were convinced, for they came from outside areas where they never see such a thing as these respectable people waiting on the off chance of getting something. When you see and understand the home of the working man, you find that the man is the first to sacri- 2089 fice himself on behalf of his children. I know men who have been two years out of work, and when they have got a job and a loan of 8s. in order to get food to take back on the first day, they leave it wrapped up on the table; they do not take it, but leave it for the children. Unless we get down to the causes of these things, we shall not stop what is costing the nation so much.
On the question of milk, long before the War, when I was on an education authority in Glasgow, we weighed and compared children, not as between East Africa and Scotland, but as between the East End and the West End of Glasgow. There is still on record the differences in height and weight as between the children in the working class area and those in the west end of Glasgow, where the wealthier class of people live. We established then, in 1908, the fact that the children, given the same opportunity, could on an average have the same height and weight and the same health. While it is a good thing to have these experiments to illustrate the benefit of milk, it is not a thing that was unknown, and when the Labour party in 1908 was trying to get something on these lines, the Conservative party in Glasgow opposed viciously, and in some cases brutally, the suggestion that we should do something for the children in the east end who were suffering from rickets and other things that come from wrong and insufficient food.
With regard to housing, when I explained in this House the structure of a steel house, I was insulted on every hand, and it was thought that my arguments could be killed by the erection of steel houses in any constituency. But they did not put up many. There are two big schemes in my constituency, and the people for whom the houses were built cannot afford to pay the rents. That is the question which has to be faced. The majority of mothers and fathers want to do their best for their families, and to get into a bigger house to give their children a chance, but they are up against the economic fact of the rent. Every day that I am in the Springburn area, I spend two hours interviewing people in connection with the rents of the new houses. We are being driven to the position that, while we are increasing the number of houses, we are 2090 getting back to the condition in which we were before. It is all very well talking about the number of houses that have been built, but the real measure of success in housing is the way in which you have been able to give to a community an improvement in housing on conditions and at prices which the people can meet.
In regard to adulteration and food inspection, I do not think that you can have more efficient men than the investigators, but I am sometimes suspicious that all that is reported is not always acted upon. I feel sometimes, when I see certain things in shops, that there is a certain latitude; it is not on the part of the inspector, but I think that he is sometimes prevented from being as strict as he would like to be. I hope that the Under-Secretary will always keep in mind the question of adulteration, because it is in this direction that a great deal of harm can be done to young children. With the increase in packet foods, where the public are deceived, not only in weight but generally in quality, there ought to be some measure of guarantee that whoever packs the goods should be required to stand by whatever guarantee is given on the packet.
§ Major ELLIOT
I note with appreciation and gratitude that the Opposition have not moved any reduction in the Estimate, and not even in the exiguous sum allowed for the Under-Secretary for his services.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am perfectly certain that if I got a salary in proportion to the number of houses built during my term of office, as compared with the number built during the term of office of hon. Members opposite, I should receive a salary which would be much more than my due. I shall do my best to meet the desire of the Committee for information on certain points. I shall not probably be able to meet all the points that have been raised, but I shall cover the field as far as possible, remembering that there are still several other Votes to come on this evening. The right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), after a pleasant and to some extent an 2091 unexpected tribute to this side of the Committee for their work on housing—
§ Major ELLIOT
That goes without saying. After that tribute the right hon. Gentleman turned to infantile mortality and dealt with the unsatisfactory position in regard to health insurance, and the high rate of cash payments in benefits which has established itself, and said that that might have some relation to the high rate of maternal mortality. I do not think that is so, because, as I have pointed out, and as the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) agreed, the rate of maternal mortality does not seem to yield to the influence of a higher standard of living as does the rate of infant mortality. We are taking steps to deal with both the high rate of infant mortality and the high rate of maternal mortality, and our expenditure in the current year is 50 per cent. greater than the expenditure for which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was responsible when he was Secretary of State. I am sure he will agree that that represents a very considerable improvement in the facilities available for dealing with these two aspects of the health of the people.
The right hon. Gentleman brought up the question of the failure of the Department to prevent deterioration in the physical condition of the people, and said that the Department had failed to provide adequate maintenance. He will recollect that the Department is not empowered to supply maintenance. It is upon the local authorities that the duty of providing maintenance falls. If that maintenance is inadequate there is, it is true, an appeal to the Department, but there has been no alteration in the practice which was followed in his own time, and I do not think any steps have been taken which are to the disadvantage of the poorer people in the administration since his time. He returned to the question of what the Government intended to do about unemployment in order to produce some degree of health and comfort for the people of Scotland. That might lead me into a discussion of new legislation, which would be out of order on this occasion, but I may say 2092 that we fully agree that the only remedy for the state of poverty in which too many of our fellow citizens in Scotland are placed is an improvement in the employment of the people, and all our efforts are bent towards bringing about that result. The Local Government Act, bringing about a relief of rates on productive industry, was specifically designed towards that end, and there are other measures which the Government have taken, such as safeguarding, which I would not be in order in discussing now, but it is interesting to see the remarkable diminution in the figures of pauperism in certain towns where the effect of this device has been most apparent.
§ Major ELLIOT
In Scotland. I should be glad to give my hon. Friend the figures for Greenock. The expenditure on out-relief to the outside able-bodied unemployed at the 15th June, 1927, amounted to £2,393 a week. In the week ending 15th December, 1927, it had gone down to £1,800, in the week ending 15th June, 1928, to £1,400, in the week ending 15th December, 1928, to 953, and in the week ending 15th April, 1929, it had fallen to £645. The action taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in altering the conditions of sugar imports into this country has undoubtedly had something to do with the restoration of one of the staple industries of Greenock and this remarkable reduction in the figures of the unemployed which I have shown.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend, but he will recognise that this is rather an important point. He has shown that there has been a diminution in the sums paid by the parish council towards the relief of unemployment. Can he give me figures showing the number of persons who have been relieved, and can he show by those figures that there has been a diminution in unemployment? So far he has only shown that there has been a diminution in the money spent by the parish council in the relief of unemployment.
§ Major ELLIOT
I quite agree that the figures are important. I do not think that I can at the moment let my hon. Friend know the actual number of per- 2093 sons relieved. I think the figures of expenditure on relief are in some ways a fairer index than the number of persons actually on the roll. One might make a great reduction in the number of persons on the roll, some of whom might be in receipt of only 1s. or 2s. a week, without having any large diminution in the rate of poverty in the district. I think the figures I have quoted fairly represent the weight of poverty in Greenock, and they certainly do indicate a great reduction in the burden of poverty which fell upon that town.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. and gallant Member knows that in Greenock there was a row over the question of the relief paid. He knows that some of my friends were put in prison for making protests against the drastic way in which the Greenock parish council were dealing with poor people. The point I want to get at is whether that reduction has been due to harsh administration by the parish council, or to a genuine diminution in the number of unemployed people.
§ Major ELLIOT
I quite agree that that question is very germane to the subject. I do not think the reduction is due to harsh administration of the law, because I can give him similar figures for one or two other burghs. There is, for example, the burgh of Paisley. In Paisley the payments amounted to £1,049 in the week ended 15th June, 1927, fell to £906 in December, 1927, fell to £620 in June, 1928, fell to £595 in December, 1928, and to £594 in April, 1929. I think it is obvious that the state of employment in Paisley improved as that fall went on.
§ Major ELLIOT
I agree that in the case of Paisley there is nothing like that tremendous fall from £2,393 to £645 which we saw at Greenock, and even there I do not claim that the whole of it is due to the improvement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget brought about in the position of the sugar refiners of Greenock, but a fall so remarkable indicates that at least a part of the lifting of the weight of unemployment has been due to the measures taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would not claim the whole of it as being due to those measures; nobody would say that 2094 he could dissect all the factors which affect the rise and fall of unemployment. I am sure the hon. Member will agree that the only satisfactory way to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of the persons within an area is to ensure a greater amount of employment in that area. That is the only final way in which the situation can be improved either in Scotland or anywhere else. In the figures I have quoted I was merely indicating that to us on this side of the House, at any rate, the steps which have been taken have had an influence, and a considerable influence, in improving employment in certain towns.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member is, of course, entitled to his opinion, but I do not think he will find it unanimously shared even on his own side of the House. I think nothing is more interesting in recent years than the remarkable modification of opinion which has come about on the opposite side of the House in regard to the effect of Safeguarding Duties of one kind or another.
§ Major ELLIOT
—and so I shall move away from that dangerous subject, like the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose Burghs (Sir R. Hutchison), who tried to bring into his speech practically everything in Heaven and earth, and has himself moved away before the reply was forthcoming. But to return to business. The right hon. Member for West Fife spoke of housing finance and asked whether we were paid our full eleven-eightieths of the amount which we are entitled to for housing in Scotland as compared with England. I think it is interesting to note that the Estimates for the current year show that we are about to draw, not merely our eleven-eightieths, but actually £89,693, more than our eleven-eightieths.
§ Major ELLIOT
I would not have spoken about it in public if I had not been challenged by the right hon. Gentleman. As I have been challenged, I must give the figures, though I hope the Treasury are not listening, and that this will not be reported. The right hon. Gentleman challenged me on the most vital subject that could possibly be brought up as regards Scotland, particularly with an election coming on, and that is the subject of finance. As I have been challenged, I must tell the Committee that we are drawing more than our proportionate share this year. As for the leeway, while there is a certain amount of leeway to be made up, we have received up to 90 per cent. of our allocation on the eleven-eightieths basis. It is true that that does not mean that we are getting the full ratio of the ration of houses. The number of houses is, I think, rather less than an eleven-eightieths proportion. That is due to the fact that Scottish local authorities took much greater advantage of the 1924 Act than did the English local authorities. The sum of money which has to be paid under the Wheatley Act is very much greater than the sum of money paid for houses under the Chamberlain Act. The right hon. Gentleman surely cannot blame the local authorities if they use his own party's Act more than they use the Chamberlain Act. They are drawing a larger amount of money, but I do not think they are producing quite the same number of houses for it.
Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Midlothian North (Mr. Clarke) raised the question of rural housing and, more particularly, the housing of farm servants. We have on the Statute Book a Housing (Rural Workers) Act under which, at last, we are beginning to make a certain amount of progress. Under that legislation we have dealt with some 1,700 houses, of which about 800, roughly speaking, have been completed and 800 are now under reconstruction. I admit that the number is not large, but it is actually larger than the number for the whole of England, and the local authorities in Scotland are, quite definitely, showing a much greater interest in this work as time goes on. The hon. Member for Midlothian asked particularly whether inspections were taking place and whether 2096 reports were received. We have carried out an inspection of 57,000 houses, of which 19,584 were in the counties, but I am unable to say what proportion were farm cottages, though a certain proportion were. But I frankly admit that we have been behindhand in dealing with farm servants' cottages—that is, not one section of this House but all sections of this House. The hon. Member's party when in power made no more rapid progress with this work than we have done. At any rate, we have done this—we have put on the Statute Book an Act which for the first time gives a definite vote of Treasury money towards the improvement of rural workers' houses, and, having done that, we are entitled to say to the local authorities—yes, and to the individuals—"These houses must be improved," and we intend to bring the utmost pressure to bear on both local authorities and individuals to see that they are brought up to a decent standard.
The hon. Member for North Midlothian asked whether further legislation would be necessary in this respect. My reply to that question is that the necessary legislation has already been passed by this House in the shape of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, which contains provision for dealing with many problems which were not fully debated during the passage of that Measure through this House. Certainly there is power under that Act for a defaulting authority to have such work as that which has been referred to carried out by another authority. Under the Local Government (Scotland) Act it will be possible thus to put a certain compulsion on the defaulting authorities. Up to the passing of that Measure there was no real power to deal with questions of this kind by compulsion, because the central authority did not possess the necessary machinery and could not deal with these things. The central authority has not the local touch and knowledge necessary in these matters and it was impossible for the central authorities to come into a town or small village and start building direct. With local authorities in close proximity to each other it is now possible for the central department to say "You are in default and we have machinery now to remedy that default." That is a provision of the Local Government (Scot- 2097 land) Act which will enable us in the future to deal with rural housing as it has never been dealt with in the past.
§ Mr. CLARKE
Why is it that no compulsion whatever has been used up to the present, in spite of the fact that local authorities possess powers to deal with this matter at the present time?
§ Major ELLIOT
Until we get the Royal Assent given to the Local Government Act it will be impossible for me to act in the name of the august Sovereign. The Local Government (Scotland) Bill is not yet a statute, and until it is, it is quite impossible for the Government to apply the power which we shall have once the Royal Assent is given to that Measure.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Does the Under-Secretary mean that a county council can exercise compulsory powers in another county area?
§ Major ELLIOT
One of the points which was debated most vigorously in the discussions on the Local Government (Scotland) Act was whether a local authority other than the normal authority should have a power of this kind and it does now possess that power under that Act.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am aware that that Act gives a county power to step in over the top of a defaulting small burgh, but it does not give anybody the power to step in over the top of a defaulting county.
§ Major ELLIOT
Surely the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) must have been asleep during some of the stages of the discussions of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill. The proposals which have taken final shape not only deal with the question of a county stepping in as against a burgh, but there are proposals in the Act for any local authority to step in as against another local authority.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
In the event of a county council refusing to recognise its obligations in regard to rural housing can the central department bring compulsion to bear on the defaulting county council in order to compel them to provide rural housing?
§ Major ELLIOT
Evidently I have not made myself quite clear on that point. The central department could not bring pressure to bear on the county council, 2098 but it could empower another local authority to step in and do the work.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Does that mean that if a county council refuses to undertake the obligations imposed upon it by legislation there is power to call in some other county council to undertake the work in another area over which it has no jurisdiction whatever?
§ Mr. CLARKE
In a case where a house requires to be reconstructed and the landlord refuses to carry out that work, will the local authority under the new Act have power to compel him to do so?
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not know if I have heard the question rightly. The landlord has not the power to compel the local authority to pay the money out of the rates.
§ Mr. CLARKE
No, it is the very opposite. If a house is found to be insanitary, and it is declared necessary that it shall be put into a proper state of repair, and the landlord refuses to do anything at all, what power have we to compel him to carry out the work? Suppose, in the case I have mentioned, that the burgh surveyor is approached, and he confirms the necessity for the house being reconstructed, and this view is also confirmed by the sanitary inspector, who makes a report to the local authority and even then the landlord does not do anything, is there any power to compel that local authority to take the necessary steps to deal with the matter and charge it up to the landlord? Up to the present the local authorities have not done that, and I want to know what power we have to compel them.
§ Major ELLIOT
The local authority has power to demolish the house, put in a closing order, and even to destroy the house The local authority certainly has power to intervene against the owner of an insanitary dwelling.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Do I understand that the position taken up by the Under-Secretary is that when the Local Government (Scotland) Bill becomes an Act we shall be in a position, with the new machinery provided, to bring pressure to bear upon local authorities to carry out 2099 such work as that which has been described?
§ Major ELLIOT
It is very difficult to debate two questions at the same time. I think it is now agreed that I have dealt with the point of the hon. Member for North Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) as to whether a local authority has compulsory powers in the cases which have been mentioned. A local authority could close a house altogether. I will now deal with the point which has been raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell). The powers that I have referred to are to be found in Section 34, Sub-section (1) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, which provides as follows:Where the Department of Health after a local inquiry are satisfied that the local authority of any area (in this section referred to as the 'defaulting authority') have failed to discharge their functions with respect to the provision of a water supply, or of sewers or drains, or with respect to housing, or have failed to discharge any other functions relating to public health, the Department may by order authorise any other local authority to discharge, for such period as the order may prescribe, the functions of the defaulting local authority which that authority have failed to discharge, and any expenses incurred by the other authority in so doing shall be a debt due by the defaulting authority to the other authority.That provision certainly gives the Central Department a power which it never had before.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Does that mean that if a county council defaults you can bring another county council to the rescue? That is a very important point, and it is one which has never been raised in the Debates on the Local Government (Scotland) Act. I think we ought to know exactly where we stand. Does that Section mean, for example, that if the West Lothian County Council refuses to deal with rural housing you can bring in a contiguous county council to deal with an area over which it has no control whatever?
§ Major ELLIOT
I have just read the Section of the Act and what it means. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to have grasped the size and the beauty of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, which we had to put through this House against their votes.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not object to the Under-Secretary giving de-rating and the Local Government (Scotland) Act a pat on the back. That is all it will ever get out of British politics, and I do not object to a little appreciation of that Act being shown before it is actually put into operation. I think it is a fact that when we were discussing the particular portion of the Act dealing with this point, what the Under-Secretary had in his mind, and what we had in our mind, was that the provision referred to was not intended to allow one county to compel another to do its job, but it merely dealt with the relationship between the county council and the smaller areas inside its own borders. I do not think there is any power in the Local Government (Scotland) Act to compel a county council which neglects important public services to carry them out any better now than has been the case in the past.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) is now explaining our Act, and he says that what I have stated was not in our minds at the time. The hon. Member says that what we really had in mind was the relationship between the county council and the smaller areas inside its own borders, but that is what I have flatly controverted. Now the hon. Member for Bridgeton says that the Local Government (Scotland) Act does not give that power, but the hon. Member is entirely and utterly mistaken, and he does not seem to grasp the strength, the power, or the purpose of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, and the effect that its words will have when that Act is placed on the Statute Book. That Act provides that any defaulting authority can have its powers in respect of certain definite functions taken over by another authority, and that bears out every word I have said. That is certainly one of the powers which the Government will possess in the future which it has not possessed up to the present time.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Does that mean that powers are now contained in the Local Government (Scotland) Act that wherever a county council or other body in charge of such matters as are contained in the Clause which has been read out to the Committee fails to do its duty, there is power to allow an outside council 2101 to come in and carry out the work? Does it mean that so far as questions affecting drainage and housing are concerned the whole of the powers concerned of the local authority in an area where these questions have been neglected can be compulsorily taken away from that local body and placed into the hands of another body with power to carry out the work which the defaulting authority had refused to do?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for Springburn seems to be asking the Minister a long list of questions.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I did not raise this question, but it is one that has great fundamental effects. Owing to the Guillotine, it was not discussed during the proceedings on the Bill, and it is only now that we are beginning to see the difficulties of trying to establish a logical relation between the Act which is on the Statute Book and the functioning of two bodies, the one of which intercepts the other as far as certain work is concerned. I think that what I have said is really the interpretation.
§ Major ELLIOT
We on this side are very much interested in all these interpretations which are being given by hon. Members opposite. They confuse our minds greatly, but we will wrestle with them and try to ignore the irrelevant points that have been raised. I have read from the Clause in the Bill, which will shortly become an Act, the powers which will enable another local authority to operate where a local authority is in default. Those powers were the subject of considerable debate in the House, and, because they were first taken by certain hon. Members as operating merely as between a burgh and a county, is no proof that a wider distinction was not intended. Hon. Members opposite cannot suggest that that distinction was made in the dark or under the Guillotine; it was made as a result of repeated debate in the House on more than one stage of the Bill, and as a result of representations made by local authorities themselves.
The point raised by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), as to its involving a certain amount of interference with local authorities, is surely beside the question altogether. It does 2102 not interfere with local authorities save in the case where a local authority is not doing what it is the purpose of all government to do, that is to say, functioning for the good of the people in its area. That question of the good of the people in its area must be the final criterion. If the local authority is not carrying out the work to the best good of the people in its area, if it is proved after local inquiry to be in default, some interference with its work is bound to take place, and, as I have said, you have in this Statute, for the first time, the machinery by which that interference and that redress of the balance for the good of the people in the locality can take place.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
This is the first time that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has given that interpretation.
§ Major ELLIOT
If I have to interpret, not only our Statute, but my own speech, to hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am afraid that the interpretation might go on for too long a time.
§ Major ELLIOT
If we were to begin discussing the matter over tea, we should never come back at all. Discussions that take place outside are always much more interesting than discussions which take place inside this Chamber. I hope I have proved to the satisfaction of hon. Members opposite that under the Statute there will be a power in the hands of the central Department which will render it possible to deal with certain cases of default such as have been brought before us this afternoon.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) brought forward certain questions which I am afraid would take me too long to discuss now. He raised the question of milk, and repeated the testimony which we have had from several quarters of the House as to the remarkable interest of the work of milk feeding in schools which has been carried out in Scotland. With regard to that, I would call the attention of hon. Members opposite to the fact that it is not simply a question of quantity, because the addition of a certain amount of biscuit did not produce the same improvement in 2103 health. It was a question of the quality as well as of the quantity of food of a certain kind, namely, milk, required to produce an improvement. The same amount of feeding capacity, the same number of calories, given in the form of biscuit, did not produce that improvement, and that, I think, is the great point of interest in these tests which have actually been made. The hon. Member also spoke of what we are doing to clean up the sources of milk supplies in the country. As regards cattle affected with tuberculosis, last year alone, the number of cattle slaughtered was 2,449. The process of cleaning up the cattle stocks of the country is going on, and that is bound to be reflected in an improvement in the health of those consuming the milk drawn from those animals. With the hon. Member's remarks as to the need for research, I think we shall all be in agreement. He asked for figures relating to the nutrition of school children. There is no increase in the number of children suffering from malnutrition as compared with last year; if there had been we should certainly have noted it.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell) revelled for a while in gloom; he said that there was no cause whatever for optimism. He said that poverty had not fallen, but that an attempt was being made to drive it underground. I think, however, that the figures which I gave for those areas in which the amount of relief in figures had definitely fallen showed that there was, in those areas at least, a very definite improvement. There are certain areas where no corresponding fall has taken place, but, undoubtedly, there has been a definite fall in the number of persons receiving Poor Law relief, and that definite fall is associated with a definite lessening of the burden of poverty in certain areas in Scotland. Over Scotland as a whole I cannot say that the progress has been as marked as we should like it to be, or that it has been marked at all in certain areas, where, in fact, no improvement has taken place—areas which, no doubt, the hon. Member has very closely in mind; but there are signs of improvement in the position in Scotland, and it is wantonly blinding ourselves to facts to say that there is no ground whatever for optimism. There are certain signs which show quite 2104 definitely that the full weight of the depression has passed from the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
What I said was that the Report itself does not give any ground for optimism, because it states quite distinctly that the situation is very serious. As regards the diminution in parish relief, I venture to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the restrictions which have been imposed on the parish councils have had something to do with that.
§ Major ELLIOT
No restrictions have been imposed. It is not possible for the central Government to impose restrictions on the parish councils to cut down maintenance under what is the statutory right of everyone in Scotland.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
You cut down the number of persons who may be recipients of relief, and you say so in the Report.
§ Major ELLIOT
We have circularised the local authorities from time to time, pointing out that persons who have not succeeded in obtaining any employment for a very long period should, prima facie, no longer receive out-door relief. I am sure that the hon. Member will agree with that, and that that is what he would do if he were in control of the administration.
§ Major ELLIOT
I can assure the hon. Member that that is not the case. This is a process which goes on from year to year. It is not a sudden thing which came in last year. The process of revising and recasting the lists goes on from time to time, and it will not come to an end under this Government, nor will it be stopped by the next Government, whatever the next Government may be. Then the hon. Member raised the question of the collection of debts from people who had returned from the Canadian harvesting scheme, and he made the very reasonable suggestion that a man with no money in his pocket could not reasonably be asked to repay money to the local authority. With that I agree, but I think the hon. Member will agree that, if the community has lent a man money, it is at least reasonable that the community should ask him, if he has money, to repay the loan. If he has no money he cannot repay it.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The assumption was that when these men returned they would have a substantial surplus in their pockets, and, that prediction having been falsified, I think the Government might well agree to allow the men to be liberated from their promise to pay.
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not think that every man has returned without money, and it is only reasonable, where a man has returned with money, that the community which has helped him in his hour of need should at least be able to ask him, if he has funds, to repay what was lent to him.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Was it not the case that those who went were really helping the community in its time of need, and not the other way round?
§ Major ELLIOT
There was a mutual accommodation going on, surely. I do not think it can be suggested that a person would go from here to the middle of Manitoba simply from a burning desire to help the community in its hour of need, and I am sure that the hon. Member would not suggest that. Such a person goes out in the hope of doing a little bit for himself as well, as most of us do when we go abroad, or take steps of that kind. The hon. Member for Linlithgow also raised the question of the rents of local authorities' houses. That is a difficulty of the landlord, and it is a difficulty which is felt by the State, when it is a landlord, just as much as by anyone else. The State, as the landlord, has to collect its rent, and many of us consider that it will be a much more grasping landlord than any from whom we have suffered in the past. It is interesting to hear the hon. Member's suggestion that the all-powerful and beneficent State is persecuting certain unhappy miners who are out of work and who cannot even pay their rent. It is a terrible outlook for the community to consider what would happen if the hon. Member had his way and all houses were under the control of this same grasping landlord.
The hon. Member also raised a point with regard to two members of the crew of the "Tuscania." In the case of these two men, the medical officer of health has given a clean bill of health, and there is nothing more that the health authority 2106 can do; it is simply a matter as to whether shipping firms do or do not employ these men. As far as the administration goes, the administration has finished with the case, but a great deal of attention has been directed to it, and no doubt that has produced a certain amount of panic and scare. It is, however, a fair assumption, as far as the administration is concerned, that, a clean bill of health having been given these men, there can be no objection of any kind to their being taken on.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) brought forward certain suggestions with regard to the relief of unemployment. I think that this is the first occasion on which any of those suggestions have been canvassed in this House, and it is unfortunate that not a single Member of that once great and powerful party remains in the Chamber even to hear them discussed. I think it would be unkind of me, in the circumstances, to go into the matter while neither the hon. and gallant Member nor any other Member of his party is present. The hon. Member for Springburn, coming back to the root of the question, said that it was all a matter of employment, and, undoubtedly, that is the great difficulty with which we are faced. I am not going into the question at length, as it would not be possible to do so on this occasion, but these remedial measures are as nothing compared with a revival in trade and improvement in employment whereby we shall be able to get people back into work. How that can be done is a matter for further discussion. We have made certain contributions, in the de-rating scheme and by other measures which have been taken by this Government, but which I cannot go into now. The fact remains, however, that a raising of the standard of living of the people of Scotland will solve many of the problems which we have been discussing this afternoon. The main object of any administration must be to produce an improvement in employment in Scotland, whereby people can be got back into productive work, and to realise that these remedial measures which we are discussing here take their proper place as ancillary to the efforts of the people them- 2107 selves. Given sufficient resources I firmly believe that the people themselves would be able to tackle nine-tenths of the problems we are discussing.
§ Question put, and agreed to.