Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,682,265, 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, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Health for Scotland; including Grants and other Expenses in connection with Housing, certain Grants to Local Authorities, etc., 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 Acts, and other Services."—[Note. —£1,150,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
In presenting Estimates for the Department of Health for Scotland amounting to £2,800,000 odd it would be possible to cover an immense range of subjects because it is the function of that Department to deal with a large and varied number of topics in connection with the Government of Scotland. Even to enumerate them would take some time: they include such matters as housing, town planning, health insurance, hospitals, medical services, and the special features of many of these services in their relation to the Highlands and Islands. I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that but for the fact that the Estimate for housing has increased by £140,000 the total estimates for the Department would show a decline of almost £40,000. Part of that decline is due to the National Health Insurance Grant but almost £8,000 of it is due to administrative economies.
The Department itself has cost just short of £8,000 less to run this year than 948 in the previous year, and that has been mainly, but not exclusively, caused by the fact that the staff has been reduced from the figure of 765 to the figure of 742, a reduction of 23. I am sure the Committee will be glad to know that of these 23 men who were dismissed from the Department, two who are surveyors, have entered into private practice with the best prospects of success; of the 10 who applied to the Employment Exchange for employment, nine have got into work; and we understand that of the balance the great majority have found places in private work. I say that, because anybody who is responsible for securing a reduction in the staff of an office must feel that it is all-important to know what is the fate of the men whom the exigencies of national economy make it necessary to cause to leave the public service. On the whole, I must say that I am not dissatisfied with the situation and with what has happened to the 23 men.
Of that great range of subjects to which I have referred, I propose to select a certain number of the most salient— many of them, I am glad to say, I think the Committee will regard as satisfactory, though one or two show undoubted features of anxiety—and leave to other hon. Members the duty of raising any particular question which I have omitted and in which they may be specially interested; and to such questions I hope I shall be able to give some answer which will be of value to those who raise them. Of the subjects which I would like to place before the Committee housing, I think the Committee will agree, remains of the greatest importance, and indeed it may be said that it is even more important this year than last, because the housing policy of the Government, both in England and in Scotland, has now materialised in two Acts of Parliament. It will be of interest to the Committee to indicate as well as I can at this early stage, because the Scottish Housing Bill became law only on the 18th May, the kind of tendencies and results that are already showing from the new legislation.
But let me first summarise the general situation with regard to housing dealt with in the report. Remembering that the report of the Department embraces a period up to 31st December, 1932, let me give the Committee one or two salient 949 figures of the housing situation then. Houses completed in 1932 amounted to 15,818—not the highest figure there has even been, but among the best figures. Even more important, however, are the houses which were under construction and approved but not begun at the same date, namely, 3lst December last—that is to say, all the other houses beyond those already completed—and there the figure is most interesting. The houses under construction and approved but not begun were at that date at the very high figure of 30,777, the highest figure which has been reached in Scotland since the Housing Acts were first passed into law, and indeed almost 4,000 higher than the previous record. I think the Committee will recognise that that is a very satisfactory figure, and it will explain to many Scottish Members what they see with their own eyes when they go to their constituencies, namely, the immense activity in housing and the immense pressure there is on various forms of housing materials.
Let me now give the Committee the figure of slum houses completed, and I lay emphasis on the figure for this reason. Stated on broad lines, the general policy of the Government with regard to housing has been that the local authorities, both in Scotland and in England, should concentrate upon slum clearance and that normal housing should be done by unassisted private enterprise, though guarantees should be given to building societies, with the exception that there is in Scotland one other subsidy, namely, the £3 subsidy for houses to be let to low wage-earners at rents not exceeding 6s. per week, or 6s. 6d at the utmost. It is all-important, now that we are in a period when the attention of the local authorities is to be concentrated upon slum clearance, to see how the matter of slum clearance stood at 31st December last, and what progress has been made in the five months which have elapsed since Scotland knew that that was the policy of the Government.
I will therefore rive the slum clearance houses which were completed by the end of 1932. They were 19,699. What has happened in the five months since? Tenders have been approved for a larger number of slum clearance houses than have ever been approved in a corresponding period in any year Slum clearance 950 began roughly in 1923. It was not until 1931 that the figure for tenders approved for this period of five months nearly reached the 2,000 limit; in 1932 they rose to 2,969; and for the first five months of this year that figure is 3,739. Therefore, in the first five months of this year, we have reached a figure 770 in advance of the corresponding period of last year, and a very much larger figure in advance of the year before that. I think those are satisfactory figures, because they show that the local authorities are concentrating upon slum clearance and are continuing the admirable efforts which I have repeatedly told the House and the Committee they have made in Scotland and are still constantly increasing the number of slum clearance houses which they propose to build.
Having made the point clear that the number of tenders approved for slum clearance houses for the first five months of 1933 are well in advance of any similar period, I will give the Committee figures which show how constantly since slum clearance was first begun the interest and efforts of Scottish local authorities in this vital branch of housing has increased. In the first year tenders were approved for 1,100; in the second year, 1,400; third year, 2,400; fourth year, 2,100; fifth year, 2,800; sixth year, 1,600; seventh year, 1,700; eighth year, 2,100; for 1931, 5,600; and for 1932, 8,300. Those figures show the valuable assistance of the 1930 Act and how fully the local authorities in Scotland are responding to the task of clearing the slums. Do not let it be supposed that that task is complete. We are all well aware that it is not, and no effort that my right hon. Friend and I and the Department are able to make to advance slum clearance will be left unmade. Any efforts we may make at the centre will not be taken on the whole with regard to unwilling authorities. We shall assist local authorities which have already shown that they are not unmindful of the need for clearing away slums.
The Committee will want to know about the £3 subsidy houses. It was freely prophesied in the Debates on the Housing Bill that the £3 subsidy would never be used. The Bill has been an Act for only just over a month. Already 104 £3 houses have been finally approved, applications are in for 668, and inquiries are going on about a larger figure which I 951 cannot give the Committee. I do not think that the Committee will have any cause for dissatisfaction that there should have been that number in the first month. When we recollect how strictly the houses of that type are confined to the low wage-earner, we can feel that we are dealing with one of the difficult problems of Scottish houses.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I do not think that it is outside the custom on the Estimates to discuss the whole situation. Indeed from a constitutional point of view we are dealing with money that is spent partly in this year, and although the report deals with a period up to last December, it is a useful peg on which to hang a discussion of the present position. I should be sorry to have the discussion on the money that the Committee is to be asked to vote for this year only about what happened last year.
I want to say a word on the subject of costs. The situation is satisfactory for we have constantly been reducing costs of houses in Scotland. I will give the average costs for all types of houses for 1932 and the average for the tenders approved for the first five months of this year. Even in that short time the fall in cost is considerable. For all types of houses for 1932, the average cost was £300, that is, builders' cost only. That average of £300 has fallen to £285 for the first five months of this year. Decreases to £232, £240, and £250 can be found over a wide range of towns. The figures justify the position we took up in the Debates on the Housing Bill, that there was a definite decline in the cost of houses. That is of interest again as bearing on the value of the £3 subsidy.
I will next deal with the question under the last Housing Act of private enterprise and the building society guarantee which was embodied in Section 3. My information must be in general terms. Fourteen building corporations have been formed, and I do not think that it would 952 be unfair to say that they probably involve the construction of some 4,000 houses. It must not be taken that the activities of these corporations will be confined to building houses to let under the guarantee, and I am not able to say at the moment what number of that rough estimate of 4,000 houses will be houses to let. The formation of those 14 corporations shows the extent to which private enterprise is rousing itself to the task. Private, or what is called speculative, building is still going ahead in spite of the disappearance of the subsidy to that form of housing. I think that I am justified in saying that, short as has been the period since the Government sketched out their new policy, there are clear and satisfactory indications that private enterprise is addressing itself to the task of supplying the working-class with houses.
I would like to say a word about the progress of reconditioning rural houses under the Acts of 1926 and 1931. At 31st December, 1931, that is a year and five months ago, 11,000 odd approvals had been given for the reconditioning of rural houses, and the completions amounted to 8,000 odd. At 31st March, 1933, which is the last date for which I have got statistics, that is some 15 months later, the approvals had increased from 11,000 to 14,500, that is 3,500 more, and the cottages in which the improvements were completed had increased from 8,000 to almost 12,000, namely, 11,908. That is to say, in those 15 months almost 3,500 new cottages had been approved or reconditioned, and in almost 4,000 the improvements had been completed. When you consider the comparatively small number of rural cottages, these figures are not unsatisfactory. I, myself, think that they are most satisfactory. They show that the activity which is going on under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts is still great, and anyone who has seen the difference between a cottage before it was improved and after it was improved, must realise what it means to Scottish rural life that almost 12,000 rural cottages had by the end of March undergone that improvement.
There is one last topic upon which I would like to touch with regard to houses. I spoke last year, and I have spoken on various occasions since, as to the necessity of the houses which have been built by subsidy being tenanted by people who 953 really are suitable to receive this assistance from the State, and I venture to recall to the Committee that the average State assistance given in the case of an Addison house amounts to 15s. 9d. a week, which is a very considerable contribution. Everyone knows the high class of house erected, and I think that public opinion is agreed that if Parliament has devoted immense time, a great deal of legislation, and large sums of money to the building of houses for working people, it is of vital importance that they should find tine right occupants. There are a great many propositions which receive general agreement, but when you come to apply them to individual cases, undoubtedly there are people who may feel that the shoe pinches, and I have seen indications in questions and answers, and, indeed, in a Debate on the Adjournment, that some Members were conscious of a certain pinch of the shoe when my right hon. Friend circularised the local authorities drawing their attention to the recommendations of the Consultative Committee which we had upon the subject, fortified as they were by the recommendations of the Lovat Committee. Let us see what is happening with regard to the means test. First of all, let me say what is the reaction of the local authorities to our original circular. Some immediately instituted inquiries, some have undertaken to apply the test in future cases, and some seem at present more doubtful. There are various degrees of virtue, but already the results show that the thing has been worth doing, and that not to do it would be a breach of duty on our part.
Let me take one or two examples. The Committee may remember that Aberdeen was the cause of some anxiety to some Members here, because the questionnaire on the subject of the incomes of the occupants of houses put before those occupants aroused at the time a certain amount of disturbance in that city. Well, that disturbance has been got over. We may hear something about it later on, but the fact is that, as a result of that questionnaire, 70 houses in Aberdeen have been left vacant by their tenants for the use of more suitable tenants. In all cases, I understand, tenants have been got and without reduced rent, moreover now, or presently 164 extra houses will produce a larger rent.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Does the hon. Gentleman mean by "more suitable tenants," people whose income is lower?
§ Mr. SKELTON
Yes, that is what I mean. In the case of 164 houses, the rents have been raised by figures between 25s. and £5. That is one example. It may be said that these are not very large increases, but it is important to realise that in the case of the vacated houses you have an immediate opportunity of putting into them overcrowded families, and that when you have an increased rent, you obtain, in the case of the Addison house, a definite, though small, reduction of the burden on the State, and in the case of a 1924 house a reduction of the local burden upon the rates contribution. These are results which, it may be said, are not spectacular, and will not give you money on a gigantic scale. But it seems to me that the first task of administration is to see that the intention of the law is carried out, and the second and not less important task of administration is to see that the money which Parliament supplies is spent to the best advantage.
I said a moment ago that all local authorities have not made exactly the same response. That is true. Some say they will take action immediately, some in the future, and some, with truth, say that their town is so small, and the number of houses built so few, that they know without any inquiries for this specific purpose that the tenants occupying them are suitable. But the fact is, I am satisfied with the start of this policy. I am satisfied that local authorities are anxious to help. I am satisfied that in this matter the local authorities of Scotland, and Scotland generally, are in favour of this effort to ensure that the houses built are properly used, and I desire to say to the Committee and to Scotland that any assistance the Department can give to local authorities in this work will be most fully given. I want to make it quite clear that the start has not been unfavourable, that we are convinced the policy is a right one, and that we are perfectly satisfied that it must be pursued in the interests of those people who ought to be in the houses which were built for them, or, alternatively, in the interest of the State where those people in houses could pay a higher rent, and to the interest of the locality which would benefit by a more full return for their money.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
In connection with Aberdeen, the hon. Gentleman has told us of 70 people who, I take it, have such incomes that they can get houses outside the subsidy scheme. Will he tell us the number of people in the Aberdeen subsidy scheme who cannot afford to pay the rent, and is there any intention to subsidise those people to a greater extent?
§ Mr. SKELTON
I think it would be better if I followed the course of my speech than attempt to answer those questions, and, indeed, I prefer to deal with that subject in my reply. To answer the questions adequately means rather a full statement.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I have certainly not got that information. I am concerned at the moment in seeing that suitable tenants get into the houses. The question of the rent which is to be paid by the suitable tenant is a question which, broadly speaking, is settled when the housing scheme is fixed, and I am unwilling to go into the details which an answer would involve. I would prefer now to deal, not with details, but with the general situation. I content myself with saying, on the subject of the means test, that I am satisfied that it is worth doing, that it should be done, and that we should assist the local authorities, and I have no doubt that, as the months go on, more and more local authorities will find that this result can be obtained without any alarming degree of friction or heat being engendered. I may add, as a matter of practical example, that I have noticed, although I will not give names or places, that there is already a slight tendency for people to slip out of those houses without any particular inquiry being instituted, and I should not be surprised, and I do not think the Committee would be, if it turned out that there are a good many people in Scotland in those houses who know that they should not be there. I leave the question of houses.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of the means test for houses, or before he comes to reply, seeing that he wants to get better posted in the details—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. Gentleman said distinctly that he would prefer to reply in detail later on. In order that he may be prepared with a reply later on, I want to put this point, which was raised by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) on the means test. The hon. Gentleman is taking up a certain line as far as those who are well off and can afford to come out of those houses and go to other houses. The question which arises, a far more serious one to us, is, What is to be done about those who are being evicted because they are not able to pay the rents of these new houses? Are you making any provision for them? Take the case of my own constituency, because it was that case and not the case of Glasgow which I raised with the Secretary of State for Scotland—
§ Mr. SKELTON
The hon. Member must realise that I am in the middle of putting the Estimates before the whole Committee, and while I am willing to give way to answer a question or two I am not inclined to allow my speech to take the form of a sandwich composed of, no doubt, very dry bread, with extremely stimulating meat provided by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) in the middle of it. I think I have the hon. Member's point, and if not I will take the opportunity of talking over the matter with him.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On a point of explanation. It is not my fault that I have only just arrived. I have come here from the Committee considering the Road and Rail Transport Bill. We sat all the morning, and then it was decided, at the behest of a Member of the Government, that we should meet from 2 to 4 p.m. That is why I was not here at the beginning. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to think that I was breaking into his speech.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I am much obliged to the hon. Member. I appreciate very much the courtesy which he has always shown to me over a long period of years, and I hope that when he occupies the position that I do—
§ Mr. SKELTON
—he will realise that there are a large number of topics to be dealt with, and that one is anxious to get on with the job, so that continuity of attention on the part of the Committee may not be broken. I shall take the opportunity of having a private discussion with my hon. Friend before I reply. I think I have dealt with the main topics connected with housing sufficiently to indicate to the Committee the general situation, though, as the Committee well know, the interest in it is endless, and we could spend many happy hours in its discussion.
The next topic with which I wish to deal is town planning. It is of importance, and I think satisfactory, that the City of Glasgow, with its environs, is now completely town planned, and that the City of Aberdeen, with a circle of the country extending over 96 square miles, has now got an admirable town planning scheme. I am not going into the merits of town planning, but I will say two things. One of the results of town planning in the case of Aberdeen has been that the banks of the Dee, from, I think, eight miles inland to Aberdeen, are preserved for all time as a beauty spot, and as affording an admirable entrance to that city whatever degree of development may come to it. Let me give an example of the necessity of town planning which came to my notice the other day, not in Scotland but in the South. Only last Saturday I was approaching the outskirts of a town and, about four miles away from it, came upon a small country house of the rather large villa type. Immediately behind it a private enterprise building scheme was putting up rows and rows of small houses. What was the result? The villa house was already up for sale. Inquiries convinced me that the value of that house to the owner had been reduced by many thousands of pounds; but the loss of value was not confined to the owner. It had a rateable value which was going down,. and when in fullness of time it comes to be valued for death duties it will have a value not of £5,000 or £6,000 but of only £1,800 or £2,000. In such a case the absence of proper planning means an absolutely unnecessary and a cruel loss of value not merely for the individual but for the State and for the locality. Therefore, it is a matter for congratulation that 958 the greatest city of Scotland, Glasgow, and the great city of Aberdeen, with certain of their surroundings, are fully town planned. The extension of town planning, although the full fruits of it are gathered only slowly, is most necessary in order that the future development of our country should be along right lines, that amenities should be preserved, and that values should not carelessly and ruthlessly be thrown away.
On the question of public health in Scotland, I cannot say that I am altogether satisfied with the figures which are before the Committee in the annual report. Here, I shall confine myself to the figures in the annual report, because they are the latest statistics before me. The question of human public health falls into three important divisions—maternal mortality, infantile mortality and infectious diseases. Maternal and infantile mortality are dealt with on pages 56 and 57 of the report. The figures for maternal mortality in 1932 show a slight rise, having gone up from 5.9 per thousand to 6.4. Fortunately, they are not higher than in the year before that, and some of the previous years, but the serious and remarkable thing about maternal mortality is that it has been increasing steadily ever since 1855. It is a most mysterious phenomenon, and I do not think it is confined to Scotland.
All I can say is that we are not being idle in the matter. We have had a close investigation into a number of fatal maternity cases but the doctors, our medical advisers and others who are skilled in this subject say that it is unwise to attempt to draw any final conclusions from the records of the fatal cases only, and that we must supplement them with the records of all cases. In the middle of December, 1932, we instituted an investigation, to extend over six months, into every case of child-birth in Scotland. That period has just closed, and when the results of that investigation are examined I believe that we shall have data more complete than exist elsewhere for the attempt to grapple still further with this most difficult and perplexing problem. Until we have put the new facts before the medical experts it is idle to attempt to say anything more about the subject.
The figures of infant mortality, too, I am sorry to say, show a slight rise, 959 though a very slight rise, over those of the previous year. The figures for 1932 are 86 per thousand, which is four per thousand above the figure for 1931 and I above the average of the last five years. When I made efforts to investigate this matter for myself, the most striking feature which presented itself to me was not the comparatively small rise over the previous year's figures, though that is undesirable, but the fact that for a long period of yeans Scottish infant mortality has been definitely higher than the English.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), with his knowledge of the weather, seems to be nearer the mark. At all events, the fact is that for a number of years the Scottish infantile mortality rate has been higher than the English, although for a previous period the English rate was higher than the Scottish. The difference has been in the nature of some 15 per thousand over a considerable period of years. What is interesting is that when one analyses the English figures one finds that, speaking broadly, infant mortality increases as one goes north, and that in Northumberland and Durham the figures of infant mortality are almost exactly comparable with the Scottish figures. When I made inquiries I found that the matter had been reviewed by Sir Leslie Mackenzie 10 years ago in a previous report by the Department, and the conclusion he came to, tentatively, was that there was some relation between climate and infantile mortality. The point that has been made, and it seems to have medical foundation, is that it is not the intensity of the climate but its variability that is the evil influence on the life of the very young. I was startled when I first saw the difference between the figures for England and Scotland, and then I was interested and not quite so disturbed when I found that the further north one went in England the nearer 960 one approximated to the conditions in Scotland. I throw the facts out to Members of the Committee, and I have indicated the various assumptions which can be made from them.
Next I come to infectious diseases, a subject not to be lightly disregarded. Apart from the effects which follow them and the deaths for which they are responsible, infectious diseases are the cause of an immense disturbance of family life and of education and a considerable increase of expenditure both private and public. The only feature with regard to infectious diseases to which I wish to draw attention is the disturbing one that last year we had an epidemic of scarlet fever in Scotland which brought up the cases from 18,000 to 28,000. That raises the question of whether we are doing all we can to emphasise the necessity of the prevention of disease as well as doing our best to cure it. There has been an immense amount of work in recent years on the question of immunisation. which is the making of people immune from various diseases by inoculation. I notice with satisfaction that when scarlet fever spread to Zetland the local authority took steps to make available to private practitioners means of immunising their patients. I believe that that was a valuable help in dealing with the epidemic. I do not think that medical opinion would say that we are fully aware of the range of diseases in which immunisation may be of assistance. The practice of immunisation is far advanced in the case of scarlet fever, but many people think it is also valuable in influenza and other diseases because of our expanding skill and knowledge upon the subject. I shall not attempt to give any answer upon that point, but the fact that you can have a sudden attack of such a disease as scarlet fever raging through Scotland in one year in such a way as to be thoroughly disturbing, raises the question of whether we can, in the matter of infectious diseases, do more in the way of prevention. I propose, so far as I can, to follow up this subject, and perhaps a future Under-Secretary, in a future year, may have more to say to the Committee on this interesting matter.
So much for measures connected with human health. I will now draw the attention of the Committee to an extremely 961 important function of the Department of Health connected with animal welfare. I refer to the inspections, one of which per annum is statutory, of the dairy herds of Scotland by veterinary officers. There are many counties who do not have one inspection, but three. The value of these inspections cannot be gainsaid. They result in an earlier detection of the tuberculous cow, and in an earlier elimination of the risk of infection therefrom. I wish publicly to express my thanks, the thanks of my right hon. Friend and of the Department, to those counties which have exceeded their statutory duty of one inspection. The Committee will see that if the veterinary officer goes round three times a year to each farm where there are cows, he thereby reduces the period during which a tuberculous cow may be giving milk, and the appearance of tuberculosis is noted at a very much earlier stage. I assure the Committee that no effort of mine will be wanting to see that the standard of this most valuable work is made as high as possible. For the benefit of those hon. Members who are particularly interested in agriculture, may I say that one of the ways in which the dairy industry, as a branch of our national agriculture, may most be helped, is by giving consumers a greater confidence in the purity of the produce. From that aspect, the increase and development of the system of dairy inspection is a matter of high importance, and I can hardly over-emphasise the hygienic and economic importance of this matter. Prevention is better than cure, and along the lines of preventive medicines our public health efforts may more and more have to be concentrated.
May I take this opportunity of reminding the Committee that my right hon. Friend announced some time ago that he was going to set up a committee to deal with public health services of Scotland, a question which originated in the report of another committee and is obviously one, of great importance. The House of Commons has had before it the terms of reference to the committee, which are:To review the existing health services of Scotland in the light of modern conditions and knowledge, and to make recommendations on any changes in policy and organisation that may be considered necessary for the promotion of efficiency and economy.I am now in a position to announce to the Committee what the personnel of the 962 proposed committee will be. We have been extremely fortunate in getting Sir John Dove-Wilson, a retired Judge, who was chairman of the Natal Supreme Court and more recently chairman of the Persistent Offenders' Committee, to take the chair of the committee. The other members will be:
Mr. Joseph Westwood, whom I need not identify because he was well known in this House and, speaking for myself, I much regret his absence.
- Mr. George Bonar, of Dundee.
- Dr. Brownlie, Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health.
- Mr. Ian Carmichael, a well-known local administrator in Lanarkshire.
- Professor Edward Cathcart, Professor of Physiology in Glasgow University.
- Dr. Robert Craig, of the Scottish section of the British Medical Association.
- Provost David Fisher, of Hawick.
- Professor Alexander Gray, Professor of Economics in Aberdeen University.
- Sir Andrew Grierson, Town Clerk of Edinburgh.
- Dr. John Jardine, of the Scottish Education Department.
- Dr. A. S. M. McGregor, Chief Medical Officer of Glasgow.
- Lady Leslie Mackenzie.
- Mr. W. Marshall, Clerk to the Scottish Association of Insurance Committees.
- Dr. Alexander Miles, a well-known Edinburgh surgeon.
- Bailie Violet Roberton, who is well known in Glasgow.
- Mr. J. M. Vallance, of the Department of Health for Scotland.
- Mrs. Chalmers Watson,
This Committee has a most important task to perform. I believe that the professional and public opinion of Scotland is looking forward with immense interest to the investigation that will proceed. I think that we may get, from the close investigations of this Committee, recommendations which will be of real and lasting value to the administration of the public health services of Scotland. I have dealt with these large topics— housing, town planning, and public health in its various aspects—and I do not want to go into detail now on the many large questions which are clustered round the question of public assistance. I will not go into the figures, but I will point out to the Committee that those figures are on pages 176 to 179 of the 963 Report. They are heavy and the increases in them have been considerable, but between January, 1933, and April, 1933, there has been an improvement in the unemployment figures in Scotland of 42,700. No doubt the Committee will analyse those figures in various ways, but it cannot be doubted that a certain important proportion of that very considerable figure of 42,700 must result in relieving the burden of the local authorities in regard to poor relief. Without exception of party, the Committee will be gratified to know what those figures show.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has just informed the House of the decrease in the numbers of unemployed in Scotland. Can he now give us the figures of any increase that may have taken place in the numbers of those in receipt of Poor Law relief?
§ Mr. SKELTON
I have already said that I did not want to weary the Committee with the figures. May I just make my speech in my own way? I said that the Committee would like to know that there had been a decrease in the number of unemployed in 1933. I made no attempt to go into details. I venture to say that it is a satisfactory figure, criticise it and whittle it down as you will, that as between January and April there has been that decrease of unemployment. Satisfactory, too, is the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health this afternoon, that a grant of £500,000 is to be given to the distressed areas for the current financial year. On the ordinary Goschen proportion Scotland will receive a little over £60,000 of that sum, and it will be a most welcome addition to the finances of the local authorities who receive it. I cannot at the moment say what the allocation of that £60,000 will be between the local authorities, but as soon as we know the House of Commons and the local authorities will be informed.
§ Mr. SKELTON
That is a question for a Cabinet Minister rather than for an 964 Under-Secretary. The House of Commons received that figure this afternoon of £500,000, and all I have to say is that, in the ordinary course of things, Scotland will receive £60,000. We are rather inclined to associate the immense nexus of social services which the Department supervises with the great towns. We feel so much the importance in these areas of better health provisions, pensions, poor relief and so on, but I am inclined to think that the great advance which has been made in these services in the last generation, or generation and a half, has had its widest and most complete effect in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Committee is well aware of the special services which are rendered there. Take the normal life of the crofter population—secure to some extent for their food requirements and in their housing and land, but scattered and living in isolated and difficult districts. There you will now find not only a pension coming in in many oases, but also a wide network of hospitals, doctors and nurses spreading all through the Highlands and Islands, where 30 years ago, it is not an exaggeration to say, such services were practically unknown. There are, of course, great improvements in the way of roads and transport. But if we try to assess the values of the development of the public health services which are grouped under the Department of Health, and consider in what part of Scotland those services have had the most profound effect, I would say that it is in those outlying, isolated, lonely and separated places, where there are difficulties from the nature of the geography and the nature of the social structure, that the efforts of at least a generation of parliaments of Scotsmen and Englishmen have had their greatest effect. Much remains to be done. I believe, and I think the Committee believes, most profoundly, that we must rely upon the welfare of the rural districts for the well-spring of national health and strength, and it is of profound importance that these services have been of such special advantage to, and have made such a difference in, the lives of these rural districts.
In my official position I have had the honour to be closely connected with the Scottish Department of Health for nearly two years. The Committee will realise from the report before them how varied 965 and onerous is the work which the Department does. I should not like to conclude without expressing my appreciation of the work of the staff. Their experience, wisdom and unceasing care, for which no trouble has been too great, have made from my point of view such responsibility as our constitution most properly places upon the shoulders of a Minister lighter than it would otherwise be, and I wish at the opening of the Debate, in which there will be many comments and some criticisms, as there must be in all Departmental activities— and I think the Committee would also like me to do so—to express my feeling of deep admiration and respect for the work of those who serve the Department.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr, DUNCAN GRAHAM
The Under-Secretary in an admirable speech has presented perhaps the best case that could be made for his Department during the past year. Respect for his work and his qualities is a matter of common agreement, and whatever I may have to say in the form of criticism will be from the same motive that animates the Under-Secretary and for the benefit of the country to which we both belong. The report, as usual, is a very well produced document. It is always a pleasure to read the report of the Department. Whether or not we agree with the comments in it is another matter. There are some things in this year's report with which I do not agree, but I am bound to say that each year the Department produce a document which is well worth the study of every Scotsman engaged in public life, whether in Parliament or in other directions.
The Under-Secretary covered a considerable amount of ground in his speech. In the first instance he dealt with the fact that the Department had to dispense with the services of 23 members of the staff. I do not know exactly what the actual work of the Department is, but in view of the fact that it is responsible for the administration of every phase of life in Scotland it seems to me that instead of having fewer members of its staff it ought to have more, especially in view of the statement made by the Under-Secretary as to the great progress made, particularly in housing. I must express my regret that it should have been found necessary, in the interests of what we 966 believe to be largely false economy, to reduce the number of the staff. The Under-Secretary expressed his regret for the necessity of reducing the staff and indicated his sympathy with those who had been displaced. I do not think that he said that they had all found work. If there is any possibility of those who are still idle being restored to their original positions in the Department, I hope that will be done.
The hon. Member dealt very largely with the housing question and, quite properly, claimed a considerable amount of credit for the progress that has been made in the provision of houses. It is not altogether pleasant sailing in that particular matter. I am interested in what appears in Appendix 2 on page 148 under what is described as "Summary of Proceedings" so far as housing is concerned. It is there stated that the total number of houses inspected during the last year was 87,903, in the counties 29,815 and in the burghs 58,088. Of that total the number unfit for human habitation in the counties was 4,973 and in the burghs 9,287. As I read it that means that at least one-sixth of the total houses inspected were admitted by the Department to be unfit for human habitation. I should like to know, and I think the Committee would like to know, the number of houses in Scotland as divided between the counties and the burghs. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will give the information in his reply. We believe, although I do not think it will be acceptable in all parts of the Committee, that the single and two-apartment houses are slums, no matter whether they are in town or in country. If there is not sufficient accommodation to enable the sexes to be separated and for the father and mother of the household to have a room to themselves, we believe on this side of the House that that house ought to be swept out of existence, and we shall not be satisfied with any report from the Department until that position has been secured. A house should contain at least three apartments. I feel sure that every Member of the Committee will agree with that view, as an individual, and I feel certain that no doctor worthy of the name could do other than describe the vast number of these one and two-apartment houses as wholly unfit for human habitation.
967 The Under-Secretary indicated that he was very much alarmed because of the increase in maternal and infantile mortality, and he said that he was not sure of the causes of that increased mortality. There are a number of causes, but the main cause is poverty. There has been an inquiry into mortality in different occupations and I have seen figures, although I have not them in my possession, where eminent medical authorities have stated that the infantile mortality rate was something like one-third in the middle classes of what it is in the ordinary working classes. In the occupation with which I am connected the mortality is as high as 260 per 1,000 in the mining villages compared with only 50 per 1,000 infantile mortality in the middle classes. I know a large number of mining centres in the industrial west of Scotland, and I am sure that while there has been fairly decent progress made, and I am willing to give due credit to the Department for the work they have done, there are large numbers of unsightly and absolutely uninhabitable houses still occupied by members of the mining and other working class communities. The reason why they occupy those houses is not because they have a liking for them but because they have not the means to pay a higher rent.
Some reference has been made to the means test being applied. I am sure that that is not going to get over the housing difficulty. Where you have a considerable number of empty houses, a big proportion will be houses owned by local authorities. A great number of houses owned by local authorities are occupied by tenants who are unable to pay the rents that are being demanded. It is no use for Members of the House or for the Department to slide over the point which the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) attempted to put. It is a very material point. I am not so sure that even a rent of 6s. is capable of being paid, in view of certain statements in the report of the Board of Health, with which I very strongly disagree, in which attention is drawn to the fact that in some areas too much money is being paid in unemployment relief. In the chapter dealing with the Poor Law, on page 139, there is some criticism with regard to the difficulties of the treatment of the poor in different areas. The sug- 968 gestion of the Department seems to be that some burghs and counties are allowing too much. Some of them are paying too little, and very much less than ought to be paid if any pretence is made by the local authorities of looking after the health and well-being of the people.
I said some months ago that one of the main reasons for the ill-health of our people was poverty, and that is true today. The Under-Secretary of State made some reference to an inquiry that has been held into infant mortality. He said that the increase had been mostly due to variable climatic conditions, and that the further North one went the higher the rate of mortality became. I suppose when you reach the North Pole you will not be able to live at all, and when you get to the Equator there will be no such thing as infant mortality. I hope that that is not a right description of the position, but I suggest that the further North you go, and particularly in the mining districts, the higher becomes the mortality. That is largely because of the poverty of those mining centres, because the people have too little to live upon, and because the housing conditions are not what they ought to be.
It would be impossible for a Member like myself to cover the ground in the same way as the Under-Secretary of State has done, and I am sure there are many Members who want to speak in this Debate. But before raising any new matter, I should like to draw attention to an element in the position which was not very fully explained by the Under-Secretary when he dealt with the question of poor relief or unemployment assistance. He patted himself on the chest and congratulated the Government on the fact that there had been a reduction of something like 43,000 in the number of the unemployed. The figures in the report itself do not give much cause for such a feeling of pleasure. I take from the report the following figures: In Clydebank, in 1931 the number of destitute able-bodied unemployed relieved amounted, taking the persons themselves and their dependants, to 3,600. In 1932, the number was 6,806, an increase of 88 per cent. during the last year. In Dumbarton, there was an increase of 67 per cent. In Port Glasgow, the increase was 80 per cent. In Falkirk, it was 61 per cent., in Glasgow 55 per cent., and in Hamilton 75 per cent. The average of 969 those six burghs is, roughly, 60 per cent. increase in the number of persons for whom the local authority has been held responsible.
That has had this effect: In Clydebank, the rate per pound for the payment of destitute able-bodied unemployed in 1931 was 10.ld., in 1932 it was 1s. 4.5d. In Dumbarton, it has risen from 7.3d. to 1s. 2.9d. In Port Glasgow, it has risen from 9.5d. to 1s. 2.7d. In Glasgow, it has risen from 8.5d. to 1s. 0.4d., and in Hamilton, from 9.6d. to 1s. 5.1d. These burghs, of which I have spoken, with the figures which are to be found in the report, are in the counties of Dumbarton, Renfrew and Lanark. In those counties I do not think there has been any decrease in the number of the unemployed, but, if anything, an increase during the last year. If this were only for the last year it would not be anything about which you need make a very strong case, but when I remind the Committee that so far as Lanark is concerned last year was only one of a continuing series of years since the end of the War. I am putting a case that justifies a very big percentage of the £60,000, if it comes at all, being given to those three counties. According to the report, the destitute able-bodied in 1931 had increased by fully 66 per cent. That is a very serious position so far as Scotland is concerned because, with the possible exception of certain parts of Wales, Scotland has been worse hit than any other part of the United Kingdom. From this side of the Committee we put forward a plea for a much more kindly attitude and for more generous treatment on the part of the Department to the claims made by the local authorities for relief, particularly in those localities to which I have referred.
I have had a communication from the local health insurance committees dealing with the question of the application of the new Act. I had an application from Hamilton Local Medical Panel Committee, which I handed over to the Under-Secretary of State, who is in charge of that particular branch of Scottish administration. I received a reply from the hon. Gentleman which is not at all satisfactory. I think that either the hon. Gentleman or the Secretary of State for Scotland ought to be prepared to raise this matter in the Cabinet, and at least try to get some agreement 970 reached by which medical benefit will be secured to those who are unemployed and who are threatened with the loss of medical benefit at the end of this year. I am sure the Under-Secretary of State himself is not quite so happy as he could wish about his reply. I and some of the other representatives of Lanarkshire in this House had a meeting with the county medical panel committee, which deals with these matters. There were present at that meeting representatives of different districts, and representatives of the doctors. Very strong feelings were expressed in regard to the proposed changes.
It will be generally agreed that if any part of the medical profession has made sacrifices during the last few years, it has been the doctors in the rural areas of the counties of Dumbarton, Renfrew and Lanark. I do not think that any more sacrifices should be asked from that particular section of the medical profession. I hope that the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary will try to get some arrangement come to by which the position under the present Act will be modified, so as at least to make secure that there shall be medical attendance, and that the State shall pay the cost of that attendance, in the case of men unfortunately unemployed. I sincerely hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give the Committee, which I am sure is as strongly interested in this matter as I am, some assurance that at least in regard to that particular complaint about the medical attendance of the unemployed some modification will be made, which will give satisfaction to the people in charge of this onerous work.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I wish to join with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) in congratulating the Under-Secretary of State on his clear elucidation of the Scottish Estimates and all their ramifications. The hon. Member for Hamilton began his speech with a complaint, after complimenting the Under-Secretary. His complaint was that the Board of Health was reducing its staff to the extent of some 23 persons. I think, on reflection, that the hon. Member will find he has made a mistake in grousing at those 23 people being dismissed. My great surprise is that there have not been hundreds of people dis- 971 missed by the Scottish Board of Health in these times. We all know that to deal with this great housing problem which, so far as the Scottish Board of Health is concerned, began in 1919, there were great additions to the staff, which had to examine, lay out and advise. Architects and surveyors were brought up from private enterprise, and they mopped up ex-town clerks and made them housing directors. These men have done their work very well and efficiently. But now, after something like 14 years' experience of housing, housing standards are pretty well settled. Plans can now be produced in the form of blue prints. For years architects have sat laboriously over their drawing-boards, and they have produced satisfactory plans which are now adopted all over the country. Therefore, my great surprise is that the staff has not been reduced by much more than 23. It is, however, some satisfaction to know that, as the Under-Secretary has told us, most of these people are finding jobs, and I am glad to know that they are doing so under private enterprise. Now that the Government which we on this side support is giving private enterprise a start in housing, there are lots of jobs that these men can go back to, and thereby relieve the ratepayers and the taxpayers considerably.
I must congratulate the Department of Health on this report. It is something of which I am sure they are proud, and of which we who support the Government are proud. There has not been such a report on the work of the Department for many years. During the two years that the late Government were in office, they produced something like 10,000 or 11,000 houses. Last year something like 16,000 houses were built, showing an increase of 50 per cent. on the number produced by the Labour Government, although hon. Members opposite have been "grousing" at the National Government for not getting on with housing. It is something that the supporters of the Government ought to be proud of.
§ Mr. TRAIN
It is one thing, at all events, and we will make the most of it. While complimenting the Department on this report, there are one or two criticisms that one might make upon it.
972 The first is in regard to the introduction, which, to a plain man like myself, is rather difficult to understand. On the first page of the introduction I find these words:It is now possible…to contemplate a definite reorientation of housing policy.That is a very fine word, and it is very commonly used. I do not know who was responsible for putting it into this report, but someone told me the other day that the meaning of this word "reorientation" was going East instead of West. If it means building no more houses in Glasgow and building more in Edinburgh, I do not agree with it. Further on in the report we find that it is the policy that is being altered in regard to housing, and I think one may say, on reflection, that it is time that the policy in regard to housing was altered. I see that in 1919, when the local authorities were asked to make a return of the number of houses required in Scotland to meet the deficit, they said that it was 131,000. From the report we find that there have been built since that period something like 160,000 houses, so that we have overtaken all the shortage in housing that was reported by the local authorities in 1919. The report, however, goes on to say, and rightly, that a number of houses go out of use every year; they become uninhabitable by the efflux of time, through decay. That number is put at something like 6,000. If we go on building at the rate that we did in 1932, namely, something like 16,000 houses a year, in two years we shall have overtaken all the shortage of houses reported by the local 'authorities, and shall have made up the number which go out of use by the ordinary process of decay after a life of, say, 100 years. That is the justification for this reorientation of policy. We have overcome the shortage, or, at least, we are within sight of doing so.
§ Mr. TRAIN
The hon. Member will have his chance later. There have been grave complaints from many, including the hon. Member for Hamilton, about the means test being part of the new policy of this Government in regard to housing. I would ask the hon. Member and his colleagues: Who introduced the means test in housing? Since I came into the House, one or two Housing Acts have 973 been passed, and I would direct the hon. Member's attention to one of them, which contains a formula with regard to the occupants of houses under that Act, which was passed by the Labour Government. It depends on the number in the family and so on, and upon the ability of the tenant to pay. Is not that a means test? I am not "grousing" about it; I rather admire it; I admire the pluck of the Government that brought it in, and I think it is right; but we find from this report that some of these three-apartment houses are let to people according to their ability to pay at rents of £4 per annum, because they cannot afford to pay more.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I am not referring to Lanark or Glasgow, or anywhere in particular; I am referring to the Fourth Annual Report of the Department of Health for Scotland, in which this statement will be found that there are houses let at £4 per annum. It is on page 18:The rent charged, for example, for a three-apartment house varies from as low as £4 to as high as £20 10s.
§ Mr. TRAIN
It does not matter where it is; it is a statement by the Department in their report, and they are responsible for it. That is the effect of the means test, that these people are getting houses at £4 per annum. I am not grumbling at it. I think it is right. If they cannot afford to pay the rent, they should nevertheless be properly housed in the interests of public health. But, when we come to the other side of the case, we find that since 1919 houses have been built at prices varying £l,000 down to £300. There were the Addison houses, the Chamberlain houses, the Wheatley houses, and the houses built under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act and all the various other Acts, and they are let at various rents according to what is agreed upon by the local houses. Now that we seem to have overcome the shortage of houses, I am all for the means test. I am with the Labour Government who introduced the means test in housing, giving people houses at £4 if they cannot pay more; but I would ask the man who can pay an economic rent to 974 do so, or, if he does not, to get out and leave the house to the man who cannot pay an economic rent. I give the Labour Government credit for bringing in the means test for housing, but I want to see it applied, not only to the man who cannot pay, but to the man who can pay. It is no use saying that it is an inquisition to ask a man to state his annual income or his weekly income if he wants to get one of these subsidised houses, because he is asking people who are perhaps worse housed than he is to pay part of his rent. Therefore, although this word "reorientation" may be a long one, if it means applying a decent means test to the man who can pay as well as to the man who cannot, I agree with it, and I do not see why my hon. Friends on the other side-should grumble, seeing that they were; the instigators of it.
I noticed that there were various points in the Under-Secretary's speech which the hon. Gentleman opposite did not pursue, and I will leave it at that, because I think they were very good points. With regard to the position of rural housing I am very dissatisfied, and have a "grouse" against the Government. I find, on looking at the report, that only £500 was spent under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act in 1932. I had the honour of being appointed by the late Labour Government to the Committee that allocated these houses. Altogether we allocated something like 600 houses, of which about 100 were in the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair). I wonder what they have been doing since then? They have only spent about £100. We were giving grants of £15, £20 and £25 a year, and yet all that has been spent this year on rural houses is £500, according to the report It may be that the rural people are taking the view that the rural areas are becoming depopulated, and according to the report that is true. Within the last 10 years the population of the landward portions has decreased by something like 90,000. On the other hand, in the burghal areas the population has increased by something like 50,000. Therefore, we have a shortage all over the country of something like 40,000 in 10 years. That, of course, makes one careful. On the other hand, we find in the statistics that within the last 100 years the density of the population occupying houses has been reduced by 2.5 per cent.
975 In 1822 it was something like 6.5 To-day it is about 4. Therefore, we need more houses for the people because there are not so many people occuping houses.
This should please hon. Members opposite, who have a great complaint against room and kitchen houses. There is nothing finer in Scotland for a newly married couple, or for an old couple without family, than a good comfortable room and kitchen house provided you can give them all the latest sanitary requirements. There, again, there is a great problem in connection with public health. We have been increasing the sanitary accommodation of houses from year to year, especially in the last 15 years since these various Housing Acts came in. What has the result been? We have had difficulties in rural areas for want of water supply. We have had difficulties because of the want of an outfall for sewage. Streams have been polluted. People are drawing water from wells. In order to promote better housing and better sanitation, it might be worth while to consider scrapping some of these artificial boundaries and dividing Scotland more according to the water shed and to the water supply that can be obtained. In my view you will never have complete and efficient housing of the people until we get to that stage.
The Under-Secretary referred to town planning. My mind goes back to a little over a year ago when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness was Secretary of State for Scotland. I said that Glasgow was completely town planned under the 1925 Act. The right hon. Baronet said I was misinformed. I am pleased to see from this report that Glasgow has been all town planned. There is not a square yard of ground that is not town planned under the 1925 Act. I see that Aberdeen is on a par with Glasgow. I trust it will be an example for many boroughs and counties to get on with town planning. Another point that was mentioned by the Under-Secretary is that of necessitous areas. There is no one in the House who does not feel very deeply the plight of these distressed areas. Unemployment has been rampant since 1921 and it is up to the Government to do something to relieve them. One is glad to know that there is some 976 prospect of this being done and the burden being spread. I congratulate the Under-Secretary and I wish the Government every success.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I should like to associate myself with the tribute that has been paid to the Under-Secretary for his masterly review of the Estimates of his Department. I should like also to associate myself with the tribute that he paid to his officials. Anyone who has had any connection with the Department must feel genuine admiration for the work that that loyal and devoted band of servants do for the people of Scotland. I am sure there is in the whole range of the Departments of State no more efficient and no happier Department than that over which the Under-Secretary presides with so much ability and courtesy to his fellow Members. I welcome the inquiry that has been set up into the health services. The terms of reference mention the word "economy" which if it means, as I hope it does, the extraction of the greatest amount of benefit from a given expenditure is to be applauded. In so far as it means greater efficiency and concentration of available resources and intelligence upon the problems of public health, it is to be welcomed. The very able report of the Department of Health shows clearly that there is a need for some such inquiry.
The Under-Secretary referred to the unsatisfactory and mysterious figures of maternal mortality. I should like to know what efforts are being made to get local authorities to improve their services. There is a reference in the report to proposals that are being submitted for the improvement of maternity services by local authorities, and the Committee would be interested if we could be given some idea of their scope and whether they are now being put into operation. We are very glad to hear that the inquiry of the Scientific Advisory Council into the conditions that tend to maternal mortality, and the relative importance of the various causative factors, is being continued and pressed forward, but I should like to ask why, in view of the seriousness of the problem, there is actually in the Estimates a reduction from £3,200 to £2,700 in the grant for the training of midwives and health visitors.
977 The figures of infant mortality also give cause for grave concern. The theory that it is connected in some way with climate is a very interesting one. Is this theory borne out by the known factors? The Under-Secretary gave us figures to illustrate it in England. Is it borne out by experience in other countries? Is it true in Scotland that, the further North you go, the greater the infant mortality? If the theory of the hon. Member who spoke for the Labour party is right, it would be the other way round. He thinks the reason why there is a higher rate of infant mortality in the North of England than in the South is because there is greater poverty and distress there. If that theory is correct, you would expect to find a higher rate of infant mortality in the South and West of Scotland than in the North, and it would be interesting if we could be given the figures for Scotland to compare with those for England and also, if possible, at some other time the figures for other countries in regard to infant mortality. I myself believe that in estimating the relative importance of the various causative factors of infant and maternal mortality and also, perhaps, in regard to resistance to infectious diseases, that diet will be found to be another factor of the greatest importance.
The Under-Secretary mentioned the veterinary service and the clinical inspection of cows in byres. I was glad to hear him pay a tribute to the local authorities which have the three inspections a year. It is a service of the utmost value, and it gives greater confidence in the milk supply from those localities than from others. The local authorities are, indeed, to be commended for their enterprise. At the same time, this question of cleaning up the milk supplies of the country is one of even wider and greater significance. There is no finer food for the people, and above all for the children, of the country than milk. The great experiments which were conducted on a large scale on 10,000 children in Lanarkshire alone by the Empire Marketing Board and certain Research Departments will be fresh in the memory of many hon. Members. They showed clearly that the physique and vitality of the children who received the ration of milk improved. You cannot really measure the intelli- 978 gence as between two groups of children, one fed on milk and the other on other foods, because intelligence may vary inside the group. What was clearly proved was that the physique of the children fed on milk improved and there was a great deal of evidence to show that their vitality improved. Many of the teachers who had these children under their charge said that those who were fed on milk were more difficult to control and showed greater liveliness than the others.
Therefore, it seems to me that an increase in the consumption of milk would be one of the best means of improving the diet of the people and of dealing with many of the other questions to which I have referred. To do that you must go to the root by such means as are now being successfully employed on a large group of farms in Ayrshire and eradicate tuberculosis. I hope that measures of that kind which would give an opportunity of immensely improving the physique of the nation and of strengthening its resistance to disease, and, at the same time, be of great benefit to agriculture, will seriously be considered by the Government. The West of Scotland College of Agriculture has estimated that if the people of this country drank only a quarter of a pint more milk per day we should require 100,000 more cows and 10,000 more people to look after them. If we drank as much as Sweden it is doubtful if there would be sufficient land in Scotland to carry the cows which would be required.
I wish to refer to the remarks which the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland made about the great benefit which had been derived from the Scottish Health Services by the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. We in the Highlands and Islands fully appreciate them. We are grateful to successive Governments which have developed the services which the Department of Health so ably administers. I do not hesitate to say that it is a good investment by the State in the Highlands of Scotland, and that it is one to which they, like every other part of Scotland, are entitled. These are great national services and should be available to men and women in the most remote and impoverished districts. This House has not only shown generosity but wisdom in making this investment in the High- 979 lands, and it has paid the nation well to give these services.
The Under-Secretary [...]lerred to the fact that the figures of unemployment had declined during the past five months in Scotland by 42,000, but it is very pertinent, though he rather waived aside the objection of the hon. Gentleman opposite, to consider whether it is a real reduction and how far it is affected by men being taken off the registers and put on to Poor Law relief. It would be interesting if the Under-Secretary, or whoever replies, can say how many men during the same period have gone on to Poor Law relief. What is the net total of the reduction in Scottish unemployment. I also wish to refer to the statement of the Under-Secretary, following upon the announcement made by the Minister of Health at Question time, that we in Scotland are to get £60,000 to aid the distressed areas. I am not clear, and I hope that the Secretary of State may be able to make it clear when he replies, that this amount will be sufficient to carry out the pledge which the Government gave to the House of Commons some three or four weeks ago, that the able-bodied unemployed would become a national charge. Can he give a clear undertaking and guarantee? I hope that he will be able to say that the sume of money available for Scotland will enable all the able-bodied unemployed there to cease to be a charge upon the local rates, and become a national charge.
I was glad to hear from the Under-Secretary, and in fact we read it in the report, about the progress being made in that most fundamental of all aspects of housing—the question of town and regional planning. The Act of last year only came into operation on the 1st April, and perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us if, in fact, schemes are actively in course of preparation, and whether he has any progress to report upon the operation of the Act. I cannot say that I listened altogether with satisfaction to the account which the Under-Secretary of State gave of the progress which is now being made in housing. It is quite true that the results up to now are such as must be satisfactory to every Member of this Committee, but it is not clear whether or not the departure which has been made so recently in policy will have the results 980 which the Government held out to us when the Housing Bill was under discussion a few weeks ago.
The Under-Secretary of State informs us that 14 building corporations have been formed. I think that really the only hope of getting very much advantage from the plan of operating through the building societies would be by means of a housing board or housing corporation to unify and co-ordinate the efforts of building societies, building contractors and local authorities all through Scotland. The so-called 14 building corporations are, I suppose, building contracting firms coming together and combining for the purpose of taking on building contracts. We are told that they will probably construct 4,000 houses in the coming year, many of which will not be built with the aid of the State guarantee under the new Act. If they are not built by the aid of that guarantee, I suppose that there will not be any guarantee whatever for the maintenance of the housing standards which we put into that Measure, and upon which the Department of Health can only insist provided that the building corporation ask to have the advantage of the guarantee.
The local authorities, it is true, have some control, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State may be able to tell us that he will use his influence with the local authorities to see, even where the guarantee is not asked, that the housing standards are maintained. It also reawakens the fear that these building societies and building corporations will tend to build, not where the need is greatest, or for the poorer classes of the population, or in the most distressed areas, but rather to go to the more prosperous areas and the better parts and build where they can get higher rents. The fact that municipal competition has been removed from the arena will help them in that. Therefore, I should like the Under-Secretary or the Secretary of State for Scotland, to give some indication of what the hon. Gentleman means when he says that a considerable number of these houses will not be built under the guarantee. Does it mean that the houses will not be built, as I am inclined to fear, where we are hoping that they will be built, and does it mean that there will be no real guarantee for the maintenance of the housing standards of the. people?
981 In the circular which was recently issued by the Department of Health the suggestion was made that local authorities should hold conferences with the building societies and corporations. Are such conferences now being held, and is progress being made on those lines, and, if so, can the Under-Secretary tell us what has been arranged about rents? Can he tell us whether any schemes have got to the stage at which it is possible to say at what rents the houses which are to be built by the building societies and building corporations will be let? With regard to the housing of the lower-paid wage-earners with the aid of the £3 subsidy, the Under-Secretary tells us that there are something like 100 houses being erected, and that there are some 600 applications for the subsidy. It is very difficult to tell from that what progress is being made, and we shall probably have to wait a few months before we are able to tell. I cannot help thinking that it is useless to point out to the local authorities, as they do in paragraph 20 of the circular of the Department of Health, that the value of the £3 subsidy is even greater than was the £9 subsidy in 1924. For the £9 subsidy in 1924 did not produce the houses at the rents required for the lower-paid workers. We want to be assured that the £3 subsidy will produce houses at the rent laid down in the Act of Parliament of 6s. a week.
The vital question is the cost of the houses. We were glad to hear the assurance of the Under-Secretary of State that the cost still continues to fall, although I saw in the newspapers a day or two ago an ominous reference to the fact that at the conclusion of this Debate the Secretary of State for Scotland was to leave for Glasgow in order to meet the makers of bricks and to discuss the recent rise in the price of bricks. Still, we are all the more grateful for the assurance of the Under-Secretary that the cost has fallen, and is still falling, though the figure he mentioned of £285 as builders' costs alone is a little higher than some of the figures he mentioned in the course of our Debates on the Housing Bill.
With regard to rural houses, the Under-Secretary tells us that in 15 months 3,50.0 new cottages have been approved for reconditioning, and that almost 4,000 improvements have been completed. Is it clear that increasing numbers of houses 982 are being brought forward for reconditioning? The many figures which I received in the Debates on the Housing Bill and in answer to questions which I put in this House indicated clearly that the tendency on the part of county councils was to contract their obligations under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, and that fewer houses, as the months passed, were being reconditioned,. The figures which the Under-Secretary quoted do not make it clear which way we are moving, and that is really the important point upon which the Committee will need to be satisfied. But more important still, he said nothing about the 8,690 insanitary houses which need to be replaced. He spoke only of the houses which should be reconditioned, but, according to the figures given in reply to a recent question there are 8,690 insanitary houses which need to be replaced, and, if he is going to reply to the Debate, I hope he will tell us what progress is being made in regard to this matter. In their circular the Department say that the immediate need, as regards rural houses, is not so much the provision of new houses as the improvement and reconditioning of existing houses, but there is a need for 8,690 houses to replace insanitary houses which have been condemned in county areas.
As regards the small burghs, I hope that he will tell us what is being done to help them. Their problem is extraordinarily difficult. In any of these small burghs you will find a number of houses condemned as unfit for habitation but the people, being house proud, although living in a house of poor fabric in wretched surroundings, endeavour to keep them as spick and span as possible. In many of these small burghs the cost of a house is not £280 but £380 and the rates are high. In one of them, particularly that of which I am thinking, they are 7s. 3d. in the £, and the yield of a penny rate is only £68. I hope the Under-Secretary will assure us that the difficulties of these small burghs are being very carefully considered.
But the question is, what is the main plan of campaign of the Government under the new powers they have obtained under the present Housing Act? When it was introduced we were told that its main purpose was to concentrate upon slum clearance; and it was unique among all Bills ever discussed in this 983 House that there was not one word in it about its main purpose. After all, it was no new departure in policy. The policy of the Government, when originally formed in 1931, and the policy put before the conference of local authorities which I addressed as Secretary of State in January of last year, was to concentrate upon slum clearance houses to relieve overcrowding. It is a policy which has yielded the 30,000 houses of which the Under-Secretary has spoken, 4,000 more than the greatest number ever recorded as being built in Scotland, and it was a policy which has yielded the 10,000 houses which have been approved, or were under construction' for slum clearance alone, at the beginning of January.
If this new policy is to be justified, it cannot be by showing that a similar number of houses are being built this year as last year, or by showing that a similar, or slightly greater, number of slum clearance houses are to be built in the coming year as compared with last year. We are entitled to see a very much greater number of slum clearance houses built as a result of the concentration of resources upon the slum clearance problem. The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) tried to persuade the Committee that the problem of housing was practically solved in Scotland, and that in another two years it would be done. I gave figures, which I will not repeat, on the recent housing Bill showing that if we maintained the rate of building 16,000 houses a year, which we had last year, we should solve the problem in six years. If you take the figures in the report of the Department you will find that the shortage of houses at the end of last year was 53,000. If you take their further figure of 6,100 houses, which are required to meet the needs of the population under the various heads which are explained in the report and to replace the wastage of houses, you will find that in five years it makes a total of 30,500.
That means that during the next five years there will be required to be built, to overtake the shortage and keep abreast of current needs, 83,000 houses. If that calculation, based on the figures given in the report, is correct, you would get in five years, at 16,000 houses a year, 80,000 houses, or within 3,000 of solving the housing problem of Scotland. Therefore, when I asked the Government, as 984 I did on the Second Reading of the Bill, to announce a five years' plan of operations for solving the housing problem, I was not making any exaggerated demand. It is not true to say that it can be solved in two years, but we can solve it in five years by a determined effort. My idea of a five years plan has been adopted by the English Minister of Health but not by the Scottish Department. It is not for me to discuss the announcement made by the Minister of Health that they are going to solve the problem in England in five years. I think it is quite out of the question, and I would never have suggested it as regards England and Wales, but I think that in Scotland we certainly could solve it in five years; and I am sorry to say that we seem to be lagging behind a little.
The Secretary of State made a speech the other day which was more remarkable for the satisfaction he expressed in regard to past achievements than for any clear indication of his plans for the future. Let me make my own position clear. I realise that it is a matter of Cabinet policy, but could not they persuade the Government to make this great effort now on the basis of cheap money? If they would tackle the housing problem in Scotland with a view to solving it in five years, they would have this Committee, the House of Commons and all local authorities in Scotland behind them. It would be in accordance with the policy declared by the Prime Minister in his conversations with Mr. Roosevelt, using the cheap money we have now to finance public works. It would provide us with permanent assets, which would raise the standards of life of the nation, and give an impetus to the industrial revival of Scotland which is so much needed at this moment. I hope that the last word of the Secretary of State has not been said in this somewhat jejune and belated circular issued during the last few weeks, but that we shall have a call to action in which he will be supported by men and women of all parties in this House and in local authorities in Scotland.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
In connection with the health problems which have arisen in Scotland among a large section of the people I desire to 985 call the attention of the Committee to the disgraceful conduct of the Secretary of State in refusing to meet a deputation of the people who desired to place before him a large number of anomalies which have resulted from the Government's economy scheme. I want to say at the outset that the Secretary of State was made aware six weeks ago of what is termed the hunger-march of unemployed men and women from various parts of Scotland, who were prepared to come before him with a number of demands and draw his attention to a number of anomalies arising in connection with health problems. I know that I am not at liberty to detail the schemes of work which were going to be proposed, but we desired the attention of the Secretary of State in order to place before him these anomalies. I am in a happier position that these unfortunate men and women, because I can come to the House of Commons and place before them these anomalies and injustices and ask for certain adjustments and modifications, and also that the administration should be more humane in many respects. When the Secretary of State was made aware that a body of men and women were asking to meet him in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, in order to place before him these problems, I think in all decency he might have been prepared to meet them and hear their complaints.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I think I must warn the hon. Member that the salary of the Secretary of State for Scotland is not now before the Committee, but, so far as he has any complaint to make against the right hon. Gentleman in the matter of housing or any other administration under the Department of Health, he is in order.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I am aware that the salary of the Secretary of State is not involved in this Vote, and we hope that before the evening is over an opportunity will be given, by a Division on his salary, to show our dissent from his conduct in connection with the administration of Poor Law relief, housing, child welfare and health services generally. I want to place before the Committee the case which, as one of the deputation, I placed 986 before the Department of Health in Edinburgh. I do not seek to take advantage of this opportunity to do anything more than present what I believe to be legitimate demands. I have said that the Secretary of State was made aware that a number of these problems would be discussed, and that men and women from all parts of Scotland were coming to Edinburgh to place before him their legitimate demands.
The Government recently passed a series of measures imposing economies which involve grave hardship on a large body of men, women and children in this country. A man who invents a new engine or a new machine is generally interested in its working, and has reports from day to day as to its effects, and the same thing ought to apply to the drastic economy measures passed by the Government. The members of the Government ought to be available to hear at first hand the evidence of the effects of their economies upon the health and well-being of the people. I suggest that Members of this Committee are not in a position to give the Government, at first hand,. details of the effects of these economies. Such information can only come directly from the men and women who are compelled to exist under these economy measures.
In this case the Secretary of State for Scotland might have been more tactful, more humane and more intelligent. Even from the representative or constitutional point of view, he ought to be available in Edinburgh to meet representative deputations of Scottish people who are prepared to place such evidence before him. But the curt note which was sent to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in connection with this matter bordered on the insulting in its character. It was a brief, curt refusal, and the right hon. Gentleman also knew that I was one of the deputation which proposed to meet him. A few weeks ago I was invited by the senior Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) to join him in a drawing-room at Edinburgh. No doubt, on that occasion my company would have been acceptable to the authorities of Edinburgh and the Scottish Office. When you associate with those who are in a drawing-room, it is all right, but when you associate with those who are in the gutter, you become an outlaw and an outcast, treated with contempt and ridicule 987 by all responsible sections of the Government of this country.
I must enter a very serious protest against the action of the public assistance authorities and others in Edinburgh. They dealt with the problems arising in connection with the Poor Law in what I believe is an illegal and is certainly a very high-handed manner. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Major Sir A. Sinclair) asked who the deputation represented. It was a deputation of the hunger marchers, a body of 1,000 men and women, all of whom, I believe, were unemployed with the exception of myself. These men and women believed that before there was any Governmental action to modify the cuts from which they had suffered it would be necessary to show that they had an organisation behind them and that there was a solid body of opinion, which was both modest and humane, in support of their demands. The organisation was the National Unemployed Workers Movement. In it there are Communists and men who belong to the same body as myself, namely, the Independent Labour party also men who belong to the Labour party, to the trade unions and to the co-operative societies. There are in it men of all parties and men of no party. There are in it Liberals and Tories who voted for the National Government. The deputation was representative and it desired to place before the right hon. Gentleman certain facts and certain proposals as to what they believed ought to be done, in order that they might have a little more decency and comfort in their lives.
The Secretary of State repeatedly refused to meet them, but when the men were on the march, they received from the Department of Health, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education telegrams offering to meet them and to discuss these questions with them in Edinburgh. Following on the refusal of the Secretary of State for Scotland to receive the deputation, to put up, robots at the last minute to hear the demands of these people—to put up men who could not give to the right hon. Gentleman first hand knowledge of the truth of the representations that were being made —was, in my opinion, disgraceful. Such action does not in my estimation repre- 988 sent the views of a large mass of the people of this country who believe that rich and poor alike have a right to be treated with common decency and to have their representations heard in the proper quarters. Action of that kind reduces the constitution of this country to a farce and tends to show working men and women that they have no opportunity of making effective representations to those in authority. The right hon. Gentleman may reply that his predecessor, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland also refused to meet such a deputation. He may say, and I do not know whether it is true or not, that the Labour Government refused to meet such a deputation, but I hope there is going to be an end of that sort of hiding behind the bush. I hope that men are going to stand on their own legs and defend their own actions without seeking to find previous decisions to reinforce their views.
When the present Secretary of State for Scotland was appointed, the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said that he believed the right hon. Gentleman to be a cold, cruel and callous man. In my own mind at that time I dissented from that view. I am always prepared to take people as I find them, and I was prepared to bide my time and to see how the right hon. Gentleman would turn out as Secretary of State. From my experience in connection with one or two smaller questions and on the larger issues concerning the health of our people, I have come to the conclusion, seriously on reflection, that the statement of the hon. Member for Gorbals was not an outrageous one, and that the Secretary of State is either a cold, cruel and callous man or is a man without courage and is afraid to make decisions that might not be popular in certain quarters.
This deputation which I have described went to Edinburgh and was heard at the Department of Health. I only propose to deal with some of the proposals which were put forward at that time. There was a question which had been agitating the minds of a considerable number of unemployed people who, by sickness or accident, are drawing money from the Poor Law. That was the question of the 7s. 6d. of National Health Insurance benefit to which they are entitled under the 1921 or 1922 Act for extra nourishment in the period during 989 which they are drawing Poor Law relief. That is a little extra to which they are entitled independent of the scales of benefit. In a number of districts that provision is not being operated, and I wish to ask the Secretary of State what he intends to do in that matter? In Glasgow that provision is being evaded in practically every case. In one or two places where we have made representations from time to time we have managed to get the authorities to put it into operation. If the Secretary of State is not prepared to see that the law is put into operation in that respect, he can only expect organised working-class opinion to believe that he is prepared to come down on areas where they are supposed to pay too high a scale—such as Coatbridge, where we understand there is a threat to put in Commissioners—and to refuse to take action in cases where the local authority pays on too low a scale or refuses to act up to its obligations.
There was also the question of medical benefit for the unemployed. Many of these people have been unemployed for a long period of time. They include young men who are thirsting for honest toil and who are anxious to get back a sense of manhood and a sense of decency. These people feel that everything is being gradually taken away from them. They now see their health benefits going and I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he intends to do in connection with the problem which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) has brought to his notice. I wish to direct his attention to another case. The Department of Health intervened when the Glasgow Corporation—a Tory corporation—decided unanimously last Christmas on the representation of various bodies in the city, to give the unemployed, for the sake of the children, a little extra during the Christmas and New Year weeks. It was proposed to give an additional 1s. 6d. a week for each child, but the Department of Health for Scotland declared it to be illegal. I challenge that decision. The Govan authority, prior to the taking over of public assistance by the Glasgow Corporation, paid this extra 1s. 6d. a week for a considerable time. Each week they had given 3s. 6d. for each child to those on able-bodied and Poor Law relief and not specially in connection with Christmas or New Year. Did the Secretary of State instruct the Department to inter- 990 vene and to refuse the extra allowance for that fortnight, which was proposed in order that the children of the unemployed might have a little more at a time when people go to excess in enjoyment in other quarters?
In Glasgow, in connection with Poor Law relief and with ordinary able-bodied relief on the Poor Law side, the authority has power from time to time to assist people who are in danger of eviction from their homes by giving what are termed rent grants. In Glasgow these are paid out of the ordinary Poor Law and public assistance relief. One of the demands made in Edinburgh was that these rent grants should be extended to other areas throughout Scotland; that the right hon. Gentleman should use what powers of persuasion he possesses and draw the attention of other authorities to the fact that these grants in Glasgow had been instrumental in saving, at very small cost, a considerable number of people who would otherwise have been evicted from their homes, thus adding to overcrowding in the city. It was suggested that other authorities might profit by the experience of Glasgow in this respect.
There is also the question of parish settlements, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman is taking note of all these points, because I would like definite answers to them. There has been too much evasion in connection with these matters. I have raised the question of parish settlements each year since I have been here, first under the Labour Government, who, at that time, were to convene area conferences with a view to getting some standardised benefit. Take the question of a widow residing in Glasgow and drawing Poor Law relief. She may be drawing for herself and two children the sum of 22s., but the Glasgow scale may be 32s. or 34s. There may be 10s. or 12s. difference between families placed in similar circumstances and living next door to one another. This parish settlement is a bugbear in connection with Poor Law relief, and I do not believe that it is any great advantage to any area in Scotland. I think the time has come, with the development of poverty and distress, when we might eliminate the idea of parish settlements entirely from Poor Law relief administration as we have eliminated it in regard to unemployment benefit. It does not affect a 991 tremendous number of people, but it is a great hardship to have half-a-dozen people in the same area all being paid on different scales. It is something that an enlightened society should not tolerate. Either that or the individual coming in from an outer area ought to be paid the scale of the new parish.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton says also that it is a considerable expense. I agree, and it is a worry as well to the Poor Law inspectors, because when an applicant makes application for, say, a pair of boots for a child at school, they cannot grant them without the consent of the outer parish. They can give them to the people in their own area at once, but when it comes to an outer area, they have to write, and there has to be a letter coming back, stating that the public assistance committee would not meet for a week, or in some cases, in the smaller areas, for a fortnight, and that therefore in due course they would let them know the decision. It may be that a month elapses before any decision is given, and here we have a child, during winter weather, having to go about with boots that cannot hold out the wet, or its mother being obliged to keep it away from school for that period. I suggest in all sincerity that while the representatives of the Scottish Office in the Government cannot bring about great modifications and changes in national policy, there are ways in which this trouble could be overcome and this anomaly wiped out.
The other demands that were put forward in Edinburgh I cannot touch upon, because they have to do with the Minister of Labour and the Board of Education, but schemes were placed before them that the Secretary of State for Scotland may analyse in order to see what is in them. In connection with the hunger march, on the Tuesday of that hunger march we found that 1,000 men and women were practically on the verge of being without food and were, to all intents land purposes, destitute. We went along to the representative of the public assistance department in Edinburgh, Mr. Douglas, who, I understand, is a deputy, and we asked him to accept from these 1,000 men and women applications for Poor Law relief, as they were then destitute. The officer stated that the town clerk was discussing the ques- 992 tion of the transport of the men, and he asked us to delay making the applications until later in the evening. When negotiations broke down, he refused those applications for Poor Law relief, and we had the position of 1,000 people being refused by the authorities any accommodation and being compelled to sleep in—
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in raising this question, and, if so, shall we be entitled to give the exact action which the local authorities took on this matter?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am in a little difficulty in this matter, because I am not familiar with the incident in question, but as I understood the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), he was complaining of an officer whom I understood to be an officer of the Scottish Board of Health. If that be the case, the hon. Member is in order, but he cannot make a complaint against the Corporation of Edinburgh on this occasion.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I can raise a complaint against a Poor Law official who refuses to take an application for Poor Law relief from destitute people, and I can ask the right hon. Gentleman to inquire into what I believe to be an illegal action. If the hon. Member opposite wants to say anything afterwards, I shall be delighted to listen to him. This officer stated that the town clerk had told him that there was a limit to what he might be expected to do and that he could not take applications that evening; and for 25 hours he refused to accept any application for Poor Law relief at all. I then rang up the Department of Health, and—
§ Mr. SKELTON
On a point of Order. If the hon. Member is still talking about the action of Mr. Douglas, I am informed that Mr. Douglas is an official of the Corporation of Edinburgh.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
Yes, but he is administering health, and while the Department of Health could not compel him to take action or to take the applications, they certainly did remind him of his duty.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
May a Member of the City of Edinburgh defend the 993 Corporation of the city if the Secretary of State is not in a position to do it officially?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)
Every hon. Member may rest assured that I will answer fully every criticism and every point of view at the proper time before the Debate closes this evening.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think I had better reply to the point of Order. As I understand the hon. Member for Shettleston, he is raising a complaint that the Scottish Department of Health have not inquired into an action of an official of the Corporation of Edinburgh, which, the hon. Member says, is not within the official's legal power. Whether that be right or not, the position of the official is not before the Committee, and I cannot say whether or not the official's action was in accordance with the law of Scotland, but I must say that the hon. Member is entitled to ask whether the Department of Health did investigate or will investigate the official's action.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
At the beginning of the Debate to-day it was understood that my salary would come under review and would be put from the Chair, and that all these matters would be fully debated by hon. Members and an opportunity given to me to reply. I rise for the purpose of asking whether it would not be convenient to the hon. Member and to his cause, and to the Committee generally, to give me an opportunity, on the Vote for my own salary, of refuting or replying to every argument that might be addressed to the Committee.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I am willing to be as fair as possible in connection with any legitimate attack. I wanted to deal with the question in connection with its effect upon public health and the demands that were made by this deputation in Edinburgh. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton will deal with the personal matter, I have no doubt, fairly effectively later on, and an opportunity will be given for the right hon. Gentleman to answer any criticisms, and I shall be delighted to hear any reply. I am speaking what 994 I believe to be the minds of those with whom I was associated in the march, and I am bound to express what I believe to be their opinion as well as my own opinion. I telephoned to the Department of Health and drew their attention to the fact that Mr. Douglas refused to accept applications for Poor Law relief from people who were destitute, and the Department told me that there was a duty on the public assistance officer to take applications from destitute people. They said that it did not exactly mean that they must deal with them in any way we desired, but they must take them and investigate them with a view to dealing with them, if the people were destitute. The Department of Health reminded me of that, but they said that they would ring up the public assistance officer and remind him of his duty.
They afterwards informed me, again by telephone, that they had notified Mr. Douglas that he must take these applications for Poor Law relief from destitute people, and that he had stated that the town clerk had instructed him that he did not require to take them, whereupon the departmental chief at the Department of Health informed him that the town clerk could not shoulder the responsibility, that he was the officer who had the responsibility, and that there was a case in point in Scotland where, on the refusal to take an application for Poor Law relief, the individual who desired to apply had died, and the public assistance officer had been placed in court on a charge of manslaughter. Immediately then they offered to take the applications for Poor Law relief, on being advised of their duty. I have no fault to find with the Department of Health, but—
§ Mr. McGOVERN
Last Tuesday, at a quarter to three, we informed them that the men and women were destitute, and at about the same hour or near 4 o'clock on the Wednesday they were prepared then to take the applications—a matter of 25 hours after they had been asked to accept the applications. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, after investigation—I do not expect a complete answer to-day—that he should, for future reference, give me his reply to what I believe to be an evasion of a public duty by one of the representatives 995 of the public assistance committees in Edinburgh. The Under-Secretary dealt with the report and elaborated the various statements in it in his usual genial way, but as one who is concerned with the welfare of the people of Scotland and in general with the people of the whole country, I cannot say that I am satisfied with this report from any angle.
I thought that the Under-Secretary took too much pride in believing that there had been a great step forward towards the solution of the housing problem. The dimensions of the housing problem can best be estimated if it is realised that in Glasgow, according to a reply to a question which I put last week, there are between 80,000 and 90,000 applications for houses in the Housing Department, and that it has been decided for a few months to stop taking further applications. I do not say that the whole of those who have made applications are houseless; a number are newly married people, but we have a certain section living in overcrowded conditions and others who have no houses. On a rough estimate, there are in Glasgow, 40,000 people who desire houses who are living in rooms and with friends where there are two or three families to one house. That is a scandalous state of affairs. When the National Government can say that they have a five-year plan and agree that there are in Scotland so many people living in overcroweded conditions and so many people who have no houses, and that 120,000 houses are required; and when they agree that the wastage and the ordinary increase in demand for houses bring that number up to 200,000 and they make plans for the erection of that number in five years, I will say that they are dealing with the problem in a statesmanlike and humane way. There is plenty of land, labour, materials and money, and everything that is required for the construction of houses, but the Government are not getting on with the job in the serious way that the problem demands.
We were told that in 1919 there was a shortage of something like 131,000 houses. In the 11 years up to 1930 134,717 were erected, so that only 3,000 odd more were erected in the 11 years than were required in 1919. That is not the way to deal with the situation. The 996 Under-Secretary, in reply to a question, informed me that the Health Committee of Glasgow have notified to the housing department 2,000 cases of families which contain one or two people suffering from tuberculosis. I had at my door on Monday night a father with eight children and one expected. If that child is born and lives, there will be 11 persons in a single-apartment house. One of the children was two years and eight months in a hospital, and was discharged almost uncured. A state of affairs of that description is bordering on an uncivilised state of the worst kind. Two thousand people are spreading that disease to other members of their families, and no serious attempt is being made to eliminate it. if the Government want to eliminate disease, there is an opportunity to help by taking these 2,000 families out of their overcrowded conditions. That should be done not only from the humane point of view, but from the point of view of economy, for it would prevent the piling up of a huge expenditure in years to come.
I know of another case of a woman living up three storeys in a single-apartment house who had her leg amputated because of tuberculosis. Her son is also in hospital with the disease. There are five children under 14 and the husband. For two and a-half years I have been trying to get that family a slum clearance house. The man is unemployed, and the woman is unable to come downstairs because of her condition. These cases can be multiplied throughout the industrial areas, and no serious attempt is being made to deal with them. While the Under-Secretary knows that that state of affairs exists, it is no use throwing out his chest in pride and telling the country that the problem is being dealt with in a serious way. The health committees, the housing committees and the sanitary committees of local authorities are co-operating in refusing to condemn uninhabitable houses because the housing departments have not the houses to give to the people. A great deal of further inquiry and more stimulus and power are required by the Secretary of State if this problem is to be overcome.
I want to deal with the question of the means test as applied to the tenants of houses. The Under-Secretary said that in Aberdeen 70 people, on the mere decision to apply the means test or to make 997 inquiries, vacated their houses, and that these houses would now be available for other persons with a greater right to them. There are Members of the Labour party and of the Scottish Socialist party and trade unions who agree to the application of the means test for housing. The Labour party are bound by the other means test and the Anomalies Act, for they have all along the line surrendered to capitalism without any adequate defence of the working-class. I could have understood them if they said that a man with £500 a year was not a fit subject for a subsidised house, but if the whole of the income coming into the home is to be taken into consideration, it is an outrageous thing. I might be prepared to exclude from these houses a man with an income of £500 a year, but I should only be prepared to agree to that if it was guaranteed that those who cannot pay the present rental through cuts in wages and salaries should have their rentals lowered. I live in a housing estate where there are over 2,000 tenants. I am pestered morning, noon and night when I am at home by people who want to get out of these houses because, owing to adverse circumstances, they are unable to meet their obligations. The type of four-apartment house that was built in 1923 cost £800 as against £400 to-day, and the money was borrowed then at 6 per cent. as against 4 per cent. to-day.
The cost of money, building and repairs has gone down considerably, and you are not entitled to expect the same return from the 1923 houses as you got when they were built. If I had a stock of goods in a warehouse, I could not keep them from 1923 until now and get 1923 prices. The position of a large number of people has gone down through their wages and family income having been reduced. If you fix a means test for the tenants, you may discover that a large proportion of the people will want to get out of the houses, and you will be left with houses which no other part of the population can afford to rent. This attempt to have the means test in connection with houses is madness. It is the National Government gone mad over the means test. No doubt they got the cue from the previous Labour Government how to do these things, but I suggest that they might modify their attitude and get rid of it. Antagonism will develop from a political point of view, for most of those who will be affected by 998 the means test are people who voted for the National Government.
The means test should be eliminated altogether, but if you are going to deal with it in a proper way, and deal with the man with too great an income, you must deal also with the man with too small an income. Not enough is being done in housing, and a large section of the people have no opportunity to live in a decent manner. A good house is a great thing in life, for the women and children have perforce to live most of their time in the home. I urge the Department to stimulate house building by every means in their power. Above all, I would urge it to see that something is done to relieve the position of overcrowded families and those who are unfortunate enough to have members in the family suffering from disease, such as tuberculosis.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Before I put the reduction, the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has made a serious charge against the Secretary of State for Scotland. I understand it is desired that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) should bring forward certain aspects of that charge which would not be in order on this Vote. I would suggest that it might be for the convenience of the Committee—I have no power to dictate to them—that the Secretary of State might answer the whole of the charge on the question of his salary, if the Committee will undertake to give the Secretary of State sufficient time in which to answer. It is not likely to be satisfactory if the Secretary of State replies to the half of the charge made by the hon. Member for Shettleston and, later on, has to reply to the other half of the charge, arising from the same occurrence, which is to be raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I leave the suggestion to the Committee that they should see that the Secretary of State is able to reply.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
It occurs to me that it would be very suitable if I had an opportunity to reply not only to the points put by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), but to any other points which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) might desire to put at a later stage. If the hon. Members agree with the suggestion made by 999 you, Captain Bourne, I shall be happy to fall into line with it.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The arrangement is perfectly satisfactory to me, but we all know that neither my hon. Friend nor I have complete control over how the Debate is going to run. There are many hon. Members who desire to take part in the discussion on this Health Vote, and there are others who wish to take part in the discussion on the Education Vote. It might quite well be that Eleven o'clock would be reached before there was an opportunity of dealing in any extended way with the question of the Minister's conduct in the reception of the hunger marchers, and his treatment of our own representation. If there were no time, I would add nothing to what has already been said by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and would content myself with merely having a Division on the salary question. On behalf of my hon. Friend I agree, so far as we are concerned. Without hampering the discussions of the Committee, we are prepared to allow the Secretary of State ample time.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think such an arrangement would generally be for the convenience of the Committee, but it can only be carried out by hon. Members, perhaps at some sacrifice to themselves, allowing sufficient time for the Secretary of State's salary to be discussed.
§ 7.4 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel C. MacANDREW
I should like, first of all, to associate myself with the congratulations given to the Under-Secretary of State for his very clear speech, and for his explanation of the report of the Department of Health. He dealt with the points very clearly indeed, but there are one or two matters I would like to bring to the notice of the Committee. Dealing with the maternity and child health services, the Under-Secretary of State explained how the health of the children varied as we went further North; how the tendency was, as we went further North, for health to be rather worse. That is very likely so, but I do not think it is an explanation of the fact that last year the infant mortality, at 86 per 1,000, is four above 1000 the rate for the previous year, and one above the average for the preceding five years. The increase is not very great, but. I think it is a serious matter, and something which wants to be taken into consideration immediately. What, to my mind, as a Glasgow Member, makes it more serious, is that, if one examines the position of the four cities, one sees that in 1932, as far as Glasgow was concerned, the rate compared with 1931 had risen from 104 to 112. Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen have a very much better showing than Glasgow, and I do hope that the Under-Secretary of State will use his influence to see what can be done with regard to infant mortality in Glasgow. One would have hoped that the figures, instead of getting larger, would have got smaller. The present position, therefore, is somewhat disappointing.
The other point I want to speak about is maternal mortality. The Under-Secretary said that it was a phenomenon. That is true, but it is very disappointing, when we look back over 30 years, and see from 1895 to 1904 that the rate was 4.6. It it worse. Last year it has risen to 6.4. The Scientific Advisory Committee will reach the end of its six months in the middle of this month, and they will be making their report soon. I hope the Under-Secretary will get their report put forward as soon as possible, because this is a matter which requires urgent attention. In the report we see that the corresponding rate for England and Wales was less than for Scotland. Whether maternal mortality, apparently like infant mortality, is governed by the colder weather and change of climate, I doubt. We have every reason to expect that maternal mortality in Scotland should be no greater than in England and Wales. I do hope that the Under-Secretary will give this matter his urgent attention. These two questions are of urgent and vital importance, and of great interest to the people of Scotland.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I wish to emphasise a point touched upon by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), and originally put by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), with reference to the benefits of the unemployed coming to an end under the National Health Insurance Act. That Act provides that persons after a period of 1001 continuous unemployment cease on 31st December to be entitled to medical benefit, although they will retain for two years further their rights with regard to pension. This is an important point, which raises a great deal of unrest in the city of Edinburgh. I believe it involves something like 20,000 people in Scotland, and 100,000 people all told. The cost of continuing this benefit would not amount to more than £12,000. I cannot speak of prospective legislation, but only of grievances. I wish to emphasise what has been said by the hon. Member for Hamilton and the hon. Member for Shettleston, that it seems in the interests of the well-being of the people unwise that these benefits should cease. It is very unfair on these poor people and, in the interests of the health of the community, they should not be cut off. I hope the Under-Secretary of State will make a note of this, and of the very strong feeling that something should be done to provide for these benefits being continued.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. BURNETT
I must confess that I cannot agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) or with the comments he made upon the report. My hon. Friend is to be very sincerely congratulated on the report, particularly upon the housing section of it. To be able to show that the number of houses completed during the year has increased by nearly 50 per cent. on the year before; that the houses under construction are nearly 60 per cent. ahead of what they were the year before; that the houses for which sanction has been given by the local authorities, and not yet commenced, are also nearly 50 per cent. ahead, must be an experience which does not very often fall to a Minister in submitting his report. That the tender prices have reached the lowest level since 1914 is also, I think, an encouraging sign. As to the cost of building, the Under-Secretary of State was able to say that the average cost of the houses had gone down from £300 to £280. With all that, and with the advantage of cheap money being available for building, the prospects before housing are much brighter now than they have been for some time.
Regarding the 1924 Act, I do not think I can go quite so far as the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) went when he said that we were rapidly catching up 1002 with the situation, and that within about three years we were likely to be in a position to overtake overcrowding and the mixture of sexes question. I think we are still a good long way from that, and the report bears out that view. It says that information furnished by the local authorities makes it clear that there is still, in most districts, a decided need for houses, apart from those houses needed to replace uninhabitable houses. I think I would put it at more than a decided need. I know best the circumstances in the area I represent, and there I learn from a report published yesterday that there are still 964 applicants on the waiting list for houses—all are either overcrowding or mixture of the sexes cases. There were still cases in which we had as many as 8½ adults and 6½ adults overcrowded, and something like 750 where there were three adults or fewer overcrowded. That is a serious matter, and raises the question, which has been considered by our local authority, whether the cut in the subsidy is not rather too drastic. It is satisfactory to know that with the £3 subsidy we are to have so many houses as my hon. Friend has already mentioned, but we want to know that the cost of building will not go up, that with this rush in slum clearance and in house building there may not be an increase in costs similar to that which came after the War. We do not want to ge beyond what we can do, and slum clearance is the most urgent matter.
A question which I did not intend to touch upon but which my hon. Friend raised concerns the means test. I stated my opinion on it on a former occasion on the Adjournment of the House, when I said that I was not in favour of people with large means occupying cheap houses at the expense either of the State or of the local rates; but I also said that I did not think that that was exactly the case which arose. The subsidy being paid for the house is a subsidy which had to be provided after the War in consequence of the very high building costs prevailing then. It went towards the high wages then paid and the cost of materials, and the people who are living in those houses are not getting more than they were getting in a pre-war house, except that they now have a bath room; but they get thin walls and frequently the houses are damp, and there have been many complaints about them. I do not 1003 want to pursue this matter further, because it has been more or less settled, but I thought at the time that the questionnaire in the form in which it was sent out was unwise, and that it was very unfortunate that notices of eviction were sent to all tenants who did not answer it immediately.
To raise a man's rent because he happens to be earning more money is wrong, I think, and in such a differentiation in rents a town council may find difficulties arising where a man and his neighbour are living in exactly similar houses and one is being charged £5 more than the other. If we go in for raising the rents of the people with larger incomes it may bring up the question of reducing rents when a person is out of employment. Anyway, it is an encouraging sign to see building going on. Small bungalows are now being occupied by the higher-paid workers. A large number of such bungalows are springing up. Each one sets a house free, that in turn sets free another house, and so the circulation goes on, and, by this process of decanting, overcrowding is being dealt with, though we have yet a long way to go.
The chief question which I wish to raise concerns the pensions of blind persons. Many subjects arise on the report of the Department of Health, and the welfare of the blind, which is dealt with in Chapter 11, is a very important question. I do not think we can realise fully the difficulties against which the blind have to struggle. Our sympathy goes out to them in large measure, and we knew something of their disabilities, of that curtain which seems to separate them from the occupations and amusements of the rest of mankind. But we know at the same time that there are persons who have been able to rise superior to their disablement. The names of many great men who were blind rise in our minds, like the poet Milton and, among musicians, Handel. In administrative work, too, many blind persons with a powerful personality have been able to raise themselves to high positions, which they have held with great distinction. That is a strong reason why we should do all we can towards training and providing technical education for the blind.
It is a wonderful work which is described in Chapter 11. The Consultative 1004 Council gives advice as to how training can best be provided and how employment can be found at the end of the training. This is a subject which is comparatively new. Before the War very little was done by either the State or the municipalities to help the blind It was the War, really, which first brought home to our people the magnitude of this problem, and made us realise our duties and responsibilities as citizens and as a nation. The training of disabled men, and particularly the noble work done at St. Dunstan's, opened the eyes of the public, and they saw that they had this duty not only towards blind soldiers but to blind people generally. For the most part blindness does not arise through the fault of the persons afflicted. In some cases they are blind because their parents married, although they should never have been allowed to marry. In other cases they are blind from neglect at birth, and in other cases blindness is the result of accident. A big responsibility rests upon the State to see that education is given to these people so that they may have a real chance in life. The question was first studied by the Departmental Committee in 1917, and it resulted in the Blind Persons Act of 1920, which provided on the one side that training should be given and on the other that if men were not capable of being trained or were over 50 years of age blind pensions should be given to them on the same conditions as old age pensions.
The question of blind pensions arises here. I notice that in the Estimates for the coming year there is a reduction in the grant which is to go to the National Health Insurance Fund from £663,000 to £634,000, a decrease of £29,000. I do not know whether that means that there has been a certain reduction in the grant. This is a matter on which I put some questions in the House a few days ago. I asked the number of awards and withdrawals of blind pensions which had been made in Scotland, and received figures which show that in the last year there was a reduction of 69 in the blind pensions awarded. In reply to another question I received information as regards appeals sent up from the pensions committees. In 1932 the number of appeals by the pension officer to the Department of Health for Scotland against the decisions of local committees to continue blind pensions was 39, and the Department dis- 1005 allowed the pensions in all those cases. As regards new claims, the number of appeals by the pension officer in 1932 was 59, and in 30 of those cases the Department allowed the pension and disallowed pensions in 26 cases. It would appear as though there had been some tightening up in connection with pension cases.
The definition of blindness is a very difficult one. It was considered by the Committee in 1917, and the definition of blind persons which was adopted there was:So blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential.In Chapter 11 of the report this year it states that up to 1931 a comparatively stable position had been reached and that in 1932 the Department were mainly concerned with matters bearing on the consolidation of the position gained. I do not very much care for the words, "consolidation of the position gained." It sounds as though we were consolidating against someone, which is not the case. But I would like to know whether there is a change of policy in this matter because there is no question that a large number of people have been cut off pension during the year. In Aberdeen, I am told, there were 20 appeals and 19 persons were cut off, and that in Dundee the pensions of 30 persons were discontinued.
I came across the case of a man whom I have known for two or three years. He was a blacksmith and had been drawing a blind pension. His panel doctor certified that he was unable to follow his usual occupation of a blacksmith because of loss of vision. In his right eye frontal vision is nil—he suffers from an affection of the vitreous—-and with his left eye he has no distant vision and can distinguish fingers only when they are held very close. Surely that man is not able to follow an occupation. His case was recommended by the local pensions committee. The committee consists of members of the town council, and also of employers and employés. I know that they consider these cases very carefully, and try to comply with the definition contained in the Act as closely as possible. I was a member of a committee and know that they endeavour to find out whether a man can do the work for which eyesight is essential. They see the applicant and examine him. As I have said, this case was recommended by the pensions committee, but it was refused.
1006 I have written to the Board of Health about it, and also to the Scottish Office, but I cannot get the case taken up. It is hard on a man that there should be no appeal from the medical board. He is examined by two doctors, who are the independent clinic, and from them there is practically no appeal. There is no further medical examination. The recommendation of the sub-committee of the 1917 committee was that there should be a medical assessor or inspector. It is contained in the report. There is no opportunity for this man, if he is turned down by the doctors, to have further medical examination. This is a matter which should be remedied, and I should like to have a reply from the Under-Secretary or whoever is to speak later for the Government. It seems hard that a man who has been drawing blind pension should be turned down and condemned, without any hope of reprieve, or any further medical examination.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I conceived it to be my duty yesterday to draw hon. Members' attention to the fact that no member of the Scottish Office had been present during the most important Debate that has taken place in this House this year, upon the subject of unemployment. It is my duty now to take this opportunity on behalf of my colleagues, who went as a deputation to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who very readily agreed to give us this day to discuss Scottish business, to pay our tribute to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to say that I think that the Secretary of State for Scotland made a very serious mistake in not receiving the hunger marchers in Edinburgh. Two years ago, I got the present Prime Minister to receive the unemployed at Downing Street. The conditions of these men and women are much worse to-day than they were two years ago, and they are getting worse as the days go by. Those who are organising the unemployed have tried every local authority in the districts to which they belong, and we have told those hunger marchers that the question is not a local one, but one that ought to be dealt with nationally.
Taking us at our word, the hunger marchers naturally went to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He turned them down. That was anything but a commendable act on his part, he who, in all 1007 our personal negotiations with him, has always been prepared to meet us if it was humanly possible. The fact that we obtained this day from him, when he had not received his Estimates, shows that. He said that he was not sure, but that if it was possible, and he got his Estimates, we should have our day. We got it. When he meets our requests in that fashion, it was not asking too much that he should see men and women who are right up against it in no uncertain fashion, and, as it was well put by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), are down in the gutter. As Robert Burns wrote:See yonder poor o'er-labour'd wight,So abject, mean, and vile,Who begs a brother of the earthTo give him leave to toil;And see his lordly fellow-wormThe poor petition spurn,Unmindful tho' a weepin' wifeAnd helpless offspring mourn.That is what the Secretary of State for Scotland did. He placed himself in that position, in the position of…Man, proud man!Drest in a little brief authority,Most ignorant of what he's most assuredPlays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,As make the angels weep.We await with interest the reply of the Secretary of State for Scotland to the hon. Member for Shettleston.
Let me turn to the subjects of housing, health and education which we arranged should be brought before the Committee to-night. I am glad that the Under-Secretary is here in person. The matter I first wish to raise is one in which he is implicated with that brilliant engineer, the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), who has told us of the things that have happened since he left the Government. He was in the Government with the present Under-Secretary, and we took him at his word when he said that he was anxious to meet the demands of the people of Scotland, in regard to overcrowding and slum clearance. We have heard him expatiating here again to-day. When Clydebank approached the Clydebank Town Council, the latter, by a unanimous vote, decided they would go in for building more houses, because of overcrowding, but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the 1008 Member for Caithness turned them down. The chief reason that I was able to extract from the Scottish Office at that time was that trade was bad and that folk were leaving Clydebank, and that therefore it would be bad business to go on with housing. That was a statement of fact and I could not dispute it. The Minister of Labour is now making capital out of the fact that there are 3,000 men—not boys—employed in Clydebank to-day who were not employed there in February last year: when we again approach the Scottish Office, I hope that the Under-Secretary will use his tremendous influence with the Secretary of State for Scotland to grant us the power to go ahead with the building of the houses that we require to counteract overcrowding in Clydebank.
The next subject is one that I have already put in the form of a question. When I came in to-day, in the midst of the Under-Secretary's speech, I intervened. I was sorry to do it, because I know how difficult it is when anyone intervenes in the middle of my speeches. I appreciated the manner in which the Under-Secretary treated my request, and I explained why I was not here at the time. In Dumbarton and Clydebank we want more houses. We are up against the position, that the people are not able to pay the rents that are demanded for the houses. We take the folk from overcrowded conditions, in which they are co-operating to pay the rent. Their room and kitchen is the only place where there is a fire. They cannot afford to have a fire in their room and the fire in the old-fashioned room and kitchen did all the cooking. In the new houses, of which I approve, the fireplace does not enable folk to cook. A gas cooker, or an electric cooker, is put in, of which again I am in favour; but that all means more expense. The rent is double what they paid in their overcrowded place, and no provision is made to enable them to pay the extra rent or to pay for the modern conveniences. The only way in which they can pay is to put less food into their stomachs. They have to starve. That is why the death-rate in Scotland is steadily going up.
My experience leads me to believe that food is more important than anything else, even than housing. These people and their children have to starve to enable them to pay the extra cost of 1009 their houses. It is not simply rent for which they have to pay, but the extra amenities. They have to have more than one fire, and they are not able to do so, and therefore they are starving and cold. Formerly, although they had only one apartment, it was warm. They were all huddled together. They only had the one bed arrangement. When we put them into new houses, they have to get furniture. They have to get bed and bedding. All that means money. The folk starve themselves in order to put up an appearance that they are getting on. In the struggle that some of these poor people make the Government ought to encourage them, instead of crushing them, as they are being crushed at the moment.
The population in Scotland, for the first time in my experience, is going down. That never happened until this Government came in. Everybody is paying tribute to the wonderful things done by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary, but, if those Ministers are to get credit for the good things, they must take responsibility for the condition of health of Scottish folk. Scotland's population is dwindling. Child-bearing is the most dangerous occupation in Scotland, and this Government, with all their pretence of being such a fine lot of men, instead of making provision and trying to make amends for that condition of things, cut down the health services, so that there is less provision being made to save the mothers of Scotland from death. My point is that the Scottish Office is far too soft. The Secretaries of State for Scotland have always been far too soft in holding out for their own in the Cabinet. There never was a clearer case than in regard to the last Housing Bill, when an instruction came from the Home Office in England as to what was to take place in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman may shake his head if he likes, but a number of things have happened since I came to this House that lead me to the conclusion that the Secretary of State for Scotland is dominated by his colleagues in the Cabinet, and he has no right to be. He ought to be able to stand on his dignity as Secretary of State for Scotland, just as any other Cabinet Minister, and I hope that he will do so.
Cutting down the social services makes things much worse in regard to child- 1010 bearing and infant mortality. The Secretary of State has told us that the death rate of children in Scotland is greater than the death rate in England. Am I to believe that the English mothers are better than the Scottish mothers? I am not going to believe anything of the kind. There are no finer mothers in the world than the mothers of the Scots, and we have to look for the reason elsewhere for the increased mortality. The Government turn to some medical authority, who says that the variability in our climate is re sponsible for the higher death rate in Scotland. You can get a medical 'authority—it is the same in every profession—to say anything to suit the occasion, and I would ask the Scottish Office not to pay any attention to such folk. My forefathers agitated to usher in a new era in Glasgow when we were afflicted with small-pox and typhoid fever, which carried off hundreds of people every year. They wanted to bring in a good clean water supply, and it was done, with the result that we have in Glasgow the finest water supply in the world coming from Loch Katrine. Previously, private enterprise had supplied Glasgow with water, and private enterprise came to London and fought against the Glasgow Corporation getting power to bring water into Glasgow. They wanted to retain control, and they got a medical authority to say that to bring water 34 or 38 miles from Loch Katrine, in lead pipes—
§ Mr. JAMIESON
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in discussing on this Vote the history of the Loch Katrine water supply? It is simply a waste of time, when other people want to speak.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
They got a medical authority to state that the lead pipe through which the water would be brought would poison the water and destroy the people, and that instead of being good for the folk it would be bad for them. That is a fact, and it ill becomes the hon. Member for Mary hill (Mr. Jamieson), on an occasion like this and on the point that I am making, to object, but there is a day of reckoning and he who lives longest will see the most. Therefore, we can place no reliance on the statement of a medical authority that the variability of our climate is responsible for the death rate. During the 'War the men in the trenches, 1011 who had never lived an outdoor life, were never in better health, under the most variable climatic conditions, without a roof above their heads, because they were well fed. The reason why there is this increased death rate amongst the children and the men and women in Scotland and the reason why the birth rate is going down and the standard of life is being lowered, is because of the lack of money to buy the necessaries of life. We have parts of Scotland that are practically depopulated. A hundred years ago the Isle of Islay had a population of 30,000 and was capable of maintaining that population, but the Isle of Islay to-day has a population of only 5,000.
I should like to know, on the question of rents, whether the Secretary of State is aware that under most of the municipal housing schemes in Scotland built under 1919 and 1924 Acts are complaining of the excessive rents, which they are unable to pay because of unemployment and low wages. Has he received a communication from the municipal tenants requesting an all-round reduction of 25 per cent. in the rents of ordinary houses, and will he consider the advisability of setting up a committee to report on the question of a reduction of rents to bring them into conformity with the income of the tenants? My last point is in regard to milk. The right hon. Member for Caithness referred to the wonderful body-building properties of milk. I am with him there. I am all for drinking more milk and giving the children as much milk as we possibly can. I find in the report that investigation into the tuberculous infections of milk showed that the percentage in 1931 was only 0.45. There is something wrong here, because the veterinary surgeon for the City of Glasgow only six weeks ago stated, and I raised the matter in the House at the time, that of the herds of cattle which supply the West of Scotland, particularly Glasgow, 14.5 are tubercular, and that they are a menace to the welfare of the people, particularly of the children, of Glasgow. There is some discrepancy and I would like it to be corrected. It is a terrible state of affairs that you should have 14.5 per cent. of the cows that supply Glasgow with milk troubled with tuberculosis.
1012 During last year there passed through the Rent Court in Glasgow 35,000 cases, and I have been asked to raise this question with the Secretary of State and to see if it would not be possible for him to appoint a poor man's lawyer to defend these people. The work has been done voluntarily, practically speaking, up to now, but there are so many cases that it is impossible to deal with them in that way. In 1920 I went into the Land Court and got from the Sheriff the right—what was called a locus standi, I, who was not a lawyer—to defend the people who were brought before the Sheriff. It was all right at that time, but it has got worse and worse, so that last year 35,000 people passed through the court. Is it too much to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland at any rate to make inquiries into this serious state of affairs? These poor people have no knowledge of the law; immediately they are summoned they become terrified; they do not know what is in front of them; they fear that everything will be of the worst. The right hon. Gentleman would be doing a good deed if he would agree to my request on behalf of these poor folk, and grant them a poor man's lawyer. It is true there is a poor man's lawyer there now, but he has too much to do. This would need a man set apart for the job. If the right hon. Gentleman would do that, he would do something to justify some of the praise which has been showered upon him from all sides of the Committee.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Captain McEWEN
I join in congratulating the Under-Secretary of State on his masterly array of the facts in introducing this Estimate. I think I can assure him, too, of the active sympathy of the Committee in the additional responsibility which the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has just sought to lay on his already weighted shoulders, namely, that of keeping up in his own person the falling birth-rate of Scotland. I only wish to make one point, and that is in connection with the capping of the certified milk bottle. This is 3 question which I have addressed on more than one occasion both to the Scottish Office and to the Ministry of Health, with singularly little result. There is a regulation which occurs in the Milk (Special Designation) Order of 1923 which requires that on the caps of all 1013 certified milk bottles there should be the name of the producer, the address of the producer and the date of production. That would appear, at first sight, to be perfectly reasonable. What is known as the milking commonly takes place twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon or early evening. So far as the morning's milk is concerned, there is no difficulty. It can be sent in to the nearest centre, Glasgow or Edinburgh, from any part of the country and sold quite freely. When it comes to the milk from the evening milking it is not possible, except in the case of certain parts of the country very favourably placed, to get the milk to these centres or to sell it.
I understand that certified milk in a bottle remains good for upwards of seven days, but the ordinary purchasers of certified milk will never believe that, and, if the bottle has "Monday" printed on the cap and if it is being sold on Tuesday, it is not bought at all, although, in fact, it is equally good as milk. The result is that the unfortunate producers are thrown upon the horns of a particularly unpleasant dilemma: either they have to lose their market or to deceive the public. It should surely be easy for the Department concerned to find some method of dating these bottles which would be more satisfactory than that at present in use. I understand that legislation would not be required. All that would be needed would be an order from the Department. In view of those facts, I ask the Under-Secretary of State to be kind enough to take up the matter.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) receives always the admiration of all patriotic Scots for the vigorous and vociferous case which he makes for his native land. The trouble with him, and especially with the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) is that they are both inclined to think that Glasgow is the centre and the whole of Scotland. Fortunately for our country that is far from being the case. There are other areas equally famous in history, equally important, and at this time equally needy and deserving of attention. The hon. Member opposite, who took such an inordinate amount of time, launched forth on an indignant attack upon an official 1014 in Edinburgh. It is not my place or my intention to deal with that, except to say that, if the hon. Member chooses to lead a column of unfortunate people from one area to another and so disorganise the whole civic organisation of that other area, he must face the consequences.
§ Mr. STEWART
He cannot expect the new area suddenly to cope with some thousands of people seeking relief. Rather than the vote of censure being on the Secretary of State for Scotland, it should be on the hon. Member for having misled and misdirected these unfortunate people and having brought misery, discomfort and disappointment to their homes.
I have risen to associate myself with those who have offered congratulations to the Scottish Secretary, particularly on the results of his housing legislation. I am delighted to find that last year we obtained a record number of new houses and that the number of houses under construction to-day is higher than before. It is a fine record and as the Secretary of State for Scotland journeys north to-night to the Royal Show to judge, or at any rate to observe, the health of another set of creatures, he can take legitimate pride in the achievement of his first year of office. I am afraid he will not be received with open arms by the owners of the livestock in Dundee. No Scottish Secretary of whatever party colour, or of whatever Government it may please heaven to appoint, could expect that from these particular gentlemen; but the right hon. Gentleman can find consolation in the thought that he has done something for the farm workers of the country and for their colleagues the workers in the town. I am satisfied that the efforts of the Department in the urban areas are likely to produce an effect and to achieve success in this great problem of housing, and ultimately to remove slums and relieve overcrowding; but I have considerable misgivings with regard to the progress of housing in country districts. I am rather sorry that the Under-Secretary of State devoted such a small part of his speech to that problem, although I understand the magnitude of the task with which he was faced this afternoon.
1015 My criticism with regard to rural housing is not against the Government, but against those who administer the schemes in the areas. During the last week we have had discussions on the means test and on the Anomalies Act. Hon. Members opposite, in the course of their own anomalising, have sought to defend the principle of the Anomalies Act but to attack the Government for its administration. In the case of rural housing, there are at the moment adequate and admirable Measures on the Statute Book, and I am satisfied that the Government Departments are acting with diligence and enthusiasm in the administration of those Measures. But I am not satisfied that the local authorities in the counties are playing their part. It is not that the county councils or the town councils are hostile, or even unsympathetic. It is so often that they are apathetic. I am not sure sometimes that this Committee is not apathetic in regard to the particular problem of rural housing. These local authorities are prepared to listen to reports brought before them, and ready to act on them. The medical officer or sanitary inspector produces a report and lays it on the table; it is a report giving evidence of terrible conditions in villages—overcrowding, damp walls, and leaking roofs. The council, with this report before them, sit up, blink their eyes, and say: "This is terrible; we did not realise that this was so; let Us do something about it." They do something—I give them credit for it— and they proceed to work the various Measures.
My complaint is that they do not make it a consistent part of their policy to search out these black spots constantly, from one week to another. These black spots have often been there for years, sometimes for generations. The local authorities do not probe sufficiently, they do not inquire: there is not the drive, the rebellious determination to rid their districts of these sores that discredit them. I am not blaming the officials in these areas; they are, in many cases, over-worked. In the Report of the Department of Health it is recommended to the county councils that they ought to employ full-time veterinary surgeons. Why? Because, according to the report, they 1016 would get better service. Somebody—I think it was the Under-Secretary of State —took credit to-day for these veterinary surgeons making three visits to farms. He said that was excellent. Three visits to inspect the cow byre, but not one visit even to inspect the house occupied by human beings. There are throughout the whole of Scotland terrible houses that have never been visited by any sanitary inspector or medical officer. In the present report it is stated that "Continuous pressure has been exercised on local authorities to expedite the submission of housing proposals." As a result of that pressure, tenders were approved for the erection of some 18,000 houses in 1932, compared with 12,000 in 1931. As a result of the pressure of the Department, these approved houses have increased by 50 per cent. I congratulate the Department on that success.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I did not want to convey the impression that no local authorities acted without pressure.
§ Mr. STEWART
That is not my suggestion. It might be that some pressure was found necessary and, as a result, there was a marked and considerable increase in the number of houses built. That is excellent, but my complaint is that sufficient pressure is not brought to bear on backward authorities. There is power now to exercise that pressure. The report contains examples of the powers in case of default that are being exercised by the Department, and I am satisfied that those powers, under the Act of 1930, should be exercised a great deal more. Wherever a local authority is financially able to fulfil its obligations and does not do so, it should be the duty of the Government, supported by Members of all parties in the House, to see that the default powers are exercised so that houses may be obtained for the people.
I have been thinking mainly of new houses—of cases where the old houses are so bad that they should be demolished and new houses built in their place; but it is only in an extreme case that an entirely new cottage is needed. The inquiry conducted by the Department in Berwickshire showed that only 20 of the 472 cottages examined, or only about 4 per cent., were beyond repair and needed abolition. The remainder were made up of those which 1017 had been reconditioned and about 56 per cent. which could be improved and made habitable by the application of the particular measure designed for the purpose. I believe that that proportion of 50 per cent. or so applies to the whole country. I believe that, if any county is taken, it will be found that about 50 per cent. of the cottages in the villages could be improved by the application of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, an admirable Measure which was supported by hon. Members opposite. I remember Mr. Johnston, when he was Lord Privy Seal, defending it and pointing out how he had doubled, trebled, and even quadrupled the number of houses built under it. The objects of the Act are sometimes forgotten. It was designed to promote the provision of housing accommodation or the improvement of houses for rural workers, and the improvements that could be carried out under it included structural alterations and repairs, and the provision of water, drainage and sanitary arrangements.
It is a matter of regret to me, and to most of us in the rural districts, that the number of houses so improved under the Act declined last year. I listened with great care and interest, and a good deal of gladness, to the remarks of my hon. Friend, but his own report shows that, while in 1931 4,000 applications were received from local authorities for assistance under the Act, last year there were only 3,000 such applications, showing a drop of 25 per cent. What is the excuse for that? The report says that the call for economy was doubtless in some measure responsible for the diminished activity of local authorities. I am no spendthrift. Nobody brought up in a typical Scottish home, and understanding the meaning of thrift and care, could be accused of being a spendthrift. I am in favour of sound economy which prevents waste, but I am utterly opposed to economy which creates waste, and I have a feeling that neglect of the opportunities that are there for remedying and improving these rural cottages must ultimately result in adding to the cost to the community in sickness and relief of one kind or another.
For the first time this report strikes, in its health section, a note of danger for the future. For the first time in a 1018 good many years, as the Under-Secretary has shown, infantile and maternity death rates are up. Infectious diseases increased last year. There was an increase in rickets—essentially a child's complaint resulting from bad conditions. There was a decrease in population. I am not saying that housing is the only factor causing these things, but I am going to say that part of the blame for that fall in the general health of the Scottish community lies at the door of those responsible for the housing of the people. The Housing (Rural Workers) Act says that local authorities may, and shall if they are required to do so, submit schemes for reconditioning. The Under-Secretary paid an eloquent compliment and tribute to the local authorities in urban areas, and I have no doubt that they deserve it. Thanks, if you like, to the "ginger" supplied by hon. Members opposite and on these benches, the local authorities in Glasgow and Edinburgh have made magnificent efforts. But I am not sure that that tribute can be offered with the same freedom to every authority in the rural districts. There are many authorities upon whom I would beg the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary to exercise further pressure, in order that they may perform their duties to their generation, and so maintain the proud place of our country in these Islands.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Captain ARCHIBALD RAMSAY
I think it would be unfair, in the interests of certain of our countrymen for whom I propose to speak for a few minutes, if a matter which they consider to be of the greatest importance were allowed to go by default because it may not be generally supposed to be a national matter. There are something like 20,000 men in Scotland who, as the Under-Secretary knows, fell out of covenanted National Health Insurance benefit in December last. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary have, I know, both been at some pains to consider this matter, but I would venture to suggest that those of us who are concerned about it, and there are a good many of us, are not entirely satisfied with the present state of affairs.
The situation, briefly, is that all the parties concerned, that is to say, the patients—these 20,000 men—the doctors 1019 who are responsible for the health and welfare of these men, and also the insurance committees who are responsible for the financial and other arrangements of health insurance, are all of the same opinion, namely, that, if it can possibly be arranged administratively, it would be in the interests of all concerned that these 20,000 patients should not be transferred to the care of new doctors, with the loss of time and money that must necessarily be involved, and the general dislocation that the patient must endure when he changes his medical officer. I suggest that, by some adjustment of either local or national machinery, or perhaps both, this difficulty can be got over. We have been told that it is a matter of transferring certain charges from the nation to the local authority, or vice versa. I would suggest that this is not really an insuperable difficulty.
If it be decided that the nation cannot continue to bear this charge, surely some system can be devised by which a surcharge can be made against the local authority. If it is said that extra expense would be entailed, I think further proof of that statement should be asked for. The fact that their national covenant expires does not make their medical treatment any more or less expensive. If they are not well, they have to be cared for. If it is decided that the nation can no longer bear this fixed charge, well and good. Let it be able to surcharge the public assistance committees. If they and the doctors come to the Government and ask that this machinery should be kept intact, I hope the hon. Gentleman will see whether this flaw in our national health scheme cannot be met and put on a satisfactory and lasting basis by some further adjustment, without further legislation if possible.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. SMITH
I raised the question of maternal mortality a year ago. The Minister has said that he was not entirely satisfied with the figures, but the Department of Health gives a very clear indication of where the trouble comes. Their own report states that:Puerperal sepsis is the most important individual cause of maternal mortality.There is an increase in the rate this year from 5.9 to 6.4, and when you look for the cause, which is in the next column, 1020 you find that it comes under puerperal sepsis. The rise of 5 per cent. is due principally to the one cause. There is a question whether it is not more common to have this infectious truble in institutional treatment than in home treatment. There is a considerable increase in the number of births in institutions as compared with preceding years. The Minister of Health must have a policy with regard to this question. There is to be a scientific inquiry on the point and a Committee is being set up. The present policy of the Department is to encourage institutional treatment of maternity cases rather than home treatment, and that is borne out by the fact that the amount provided for the training of midwives is reduced by £500. Would it not he wise at present to encourage home treatment more than institutional treatment until we are quite certain what we are doing?
With regard to infant mortality, I hope the Government will do all it can, by means of child welfare centres, to impress the necessity for the proper feeding of mothers and children, because I think we are suffering from the fact that proper food is not being given to either. I am told by those who do social work that in many cases they live on tinned instead of fresh food. The report says:There is some evidence of an increased incidence of rickets among children below school age.I have taken the trouble to look up the primary cause of rickets and find that it is bad feeding and bad air. We have improved housing conditions and yet infant mortality has not gone down. Can we not do something with regard to feeding? I would ask the Department to do all in its power to press upon maternity and child welfare centres the importance of giving their children fresh food. That will indirectly help agriculture as well. I should like this Committee that is being set up to inquire carefully and find out the class of feeding that is taking place, whether they are living on fresh or tinned food. I should also like to know whether there is a veterinary surgeon on the Committee. The Under-Secretary referred to the importance of improving the milk supply, and I think it would be advisable to have someone well up on veterinary surgery on the Committee.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. SKELTON
If there are any matters which I do not reply to fully, 1021 I shall take the course of action I took last year of going through the speeches carefully and replying by letter to any points which I have not adequately dealt with. I agree with much that the last speaker has said on the question of maternal mortality. The figures that he gave with regard to puerperal sepsis are undoubted, but I think I made it clear in my opening remarks that a most extensive form of examination has been undertaken for six months, not cases where death follows but every case of child birth, and, when the evidence of that examination is before the experts, it may be possible to trace the causes of puerperal sepsis and to tell whether it is more frequent in institutions or in home childbirths and all that kind of question. With regard to infant mortality, which I raised very specially because it is an anxious question, the medical profession and our medical advisers, not only this year but over a period of years, are not definite and conclusive as to its causes, but it seems to be the case that variability of type is a very strong factor and my own judgment, from the information before us, is that the hard times through which we are passing are a very important factor. If we had not been able to counteract these hard times to some degree, one would have expected the infant mortality figures in the last five years to be strikingly worse than they were in some period not far back when it is agreed that things were fairly prosperous. It is a difficult question and one with which, as long as I have anything to do with this office, I propose to deal very carefully, but I do not think that it is one about which anyone can speak categorically because medical officers themselves are not prepared to speak categorically. I hope that next year we may not see a rise such as we have seen this year.
I will next deal with the questions which have been raised on the subject of public assistance. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), for whose kind words regarding myself I am sincerely grateful, as he knows, raised the question of the distressed areas and produced figures which are never amiss, because they are so striking. As I said before, I cannot yet see how the sum which Scotland will get of the total amount which the Minister of Health announced this afternoon will be allocated 1022 as between districts. It would be premature to attempt to do so, but I think that I may say without raising any false hopes that it will be to the heavily hit districts that the bulk of the money will go. The hon. Member will recollect the extent of the increased sum which falls to Scotland under the new grant period. The hon. Member is familiar with the distribution of it and knows that the great bulk of it will go to, the heavily distressed areas. There is also the fact that, in the redistribution for the second grant period under the formula, the heavy incidence of unemployment, quite apart from new money, will produce an even greater weighting in favour of these particular districts. These are some of the observations which come to my mind.
With regard to housing, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) asked about the rural districts and how they were to be affected in the case of the 8,600 uninhabitable houses. These houses are dealt with by slum clearance. As the Committee know, the slum clearance subsidy is very generous and favourable, and in many cases the rate of contribution can be well below the £4 10s. which is adumbrated in the Act of Parliament. I find that there are various instances of small semi-rural places where it has been possible to deal with slum houses at a rate of contribution very much below £4 10s., and that, therefore, shows how much this generous contribution will, in fact, help some of the less rural authorities. In Carnoustie, which, I agree, is not particularly small or rural but still is not absolutely out of the picture, the rate of contribution is down to 6s. 5d. At Culross, which is small, and rural to a very high degree, the rate of contribution is only 4s. 2d. At Forfar, which, of course, is a larger town but still rather rural in character, the rate is only 8s. 5d. At Forres the rate of contribution is £l 2s. 6d. In some of these more northern places, and in towns which are not very large but which are on their own from the point of view of housing, and where a 1d. rate produces a very small amount, so generous is the subsidy that rates of contribution far below £4 10s. have been allowed. I think that that answers to a large extent that particular question.
It has been said, why not have a five-year programme? The answer is that we have always had among local authorities 1023 in Scotland a very great increase in slum clearance. I am satisfied that they are going ahead with it, but I am not going to make rash prophecies of what may be the total number of houses produced if local authorities concentrate on slum clearance and rely on private enterprise to do the rest. It is too early to make a prophecy of that sort. I am satisfied that the local authorities will not be careless on the subject of slum clearance, and that the Department of Health is given full powers of pressure and persuasion under the 1930 Act. As far as the action of private enterprise is concerned, whether under Sction 3 of the new Act or otherwise, it is too soon to draw a general deduction in view of the short time since the Act was passed. That is the only wise and sane attitude to take in the new situation, and I am not satisfied that a better programme in Scotland in a five-years plan would be desirable. I have not been able to recommend it to my right hon. Friend, nor does he feel that it would be a sound course of action. I think that I have covered to a large extent the questions which have been raised. An hon. Member asked me as to the distribution of the £3 subsidy houses. I could give him the information, but I am not sure that it would be worth while extending the time of the Committee on the point. I have the figures before me, but they would take some time to read, and I will answer him by letter.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
One of the points which the hon. Gentleman has not answered is that with regard to medical benefits.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. It is an important point and the position has been clearly and fully stated by the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members. It is a question of whether by administrative means— legislative means could not be discussed in this Debate—the intended withdrawal of medical benefits, other than cash benefits, to those who have been unemployed for a certain period can be avoided. I cannot say more on that point than this, that while it may be possible by some administrative manipulation to do it— and I am not confident that it is possible —to take such action would require the consideration of the Cabinet, because it 1024 would represent an alteration of policy from the 1932 Act. It is not for me in this Debate to make statements as to alterations in Cabinet policy, but I am sure that what has been said will be added to the representations which we have received, and the fact that the hon. Member has drawn attention to it in this Debate will mean that the question will come before those who are responsible for the policy of this country.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The Under-Secretary has not answered my point as to giving the Clydebank Town Council power to build houses, and also see that the rents are such as poor folk are able to pay.
§ Mr. SKELTON
The hon. Member will excuse me from going into the question of the decision taken by the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) and myself when the question was raised in 1931, further than to say that it was a difficult question and had to be decided after reviewing the whole situation of the burgh. If I had to review again the question under the same set of facts and circumstances I should, personally, come to the same conclusion. So far as slum clearance in Clydebank is concerned we have urged the town council to get on with those houses which are uninhabitable. If it be the case that employment is returned to Clydebank, and there are certain evidences of it, then it is in the hands of the local authority to put forward another scheme and confine it to the lower-paid wage earners who, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will agree, are suffering from overcrowding most. I do not say, and I need not say, that a 6s. rent, or a 6s. 6d. rent, is the lowest that is possible, and at some future date I shall be glad to explain to the hon. Member that as far as slum clearance houses are concerned they are often at lower rents than 6s. 6d. I should be glad to see a proposition put forward by the Clydebank Town Council in reference to £3 subsidy houses. It would have the fullest consideration.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The Under-Secretary has not answered one question I put about the reduction of the grants made for the training of midwives.
§ Mr. SKELTON
That is a technical subject which I should like to discuss with the right hon. and gallant Member personally and by way of letter rather than 1025 enter upon it now. The same applies to what has been said regarding blind pensions. During recent years an attempt has been made to standardise in Scotland what is regarded as blindness for the purposes of pension. Applicants are examined now in most districts in a clinic, where they get the advantage of the best occulists and specialists, and having the advantage of that preliminary investigation there does not seem much to be gained by a re-investigation by another occulist. I am aware of the point he has raised and have looked into it already. I will look into it again, and I do not think my right hon. and gallant Friend will expect me to say more. I am satisfied that the most scrupulous care is taken to see that no one is deprived of a pension which he should get under the Act, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that it is important that the same standard of application of the Act should obtain throughout Scotland. It may be that in the course of standardisation cer-
§ tain pensioners have not really any right to this particular form of pension.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
The Under-Secretary of State has not answered the point I put to him about the 7s. 6d. National Health Insurance allowance.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I should have said that in accordance with the arrangement my right hon. Friend is going to deal with questions connected with that topic and, therefore, I omitted to mention it in my observations. I thank all Members who have spoken for the courtesy they have extended to me, and once again express the view that when we discuss Scottish affairs all Scottish Members, however diverse in party, seem to have as their main object the improvement of things in Scotland. That is the feeling which animates all parties.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,682,165, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 29; Noes, 149.1027
|Division No. 237.]||AYES.||[8.54 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, south)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lunn, William|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mliner, Major James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts,, Mansfield)||Hirst, George Henry||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Buchanan, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Davlee, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Mr. Maxton and Mr. McGovern.|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Dunglass, Lord||Insklp, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Elmley, Viscount||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgle M.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Jamieson, Douglas|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Janner, Barnett|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Baillie. Sir Adrian W. M.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Galbralth, James Francis Wallace||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Golf, Sir Park||Lleweilln, Major John J.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Brown, Ernest (Lelth)||Gower, Sir Robert||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Burnett, John George||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)|
|Campbell,, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Graves, Marjorie||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Cassels, James Dale||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Guy, J. Cr Morrison||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hanley, Dennis A.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Harbord, Arthur||Maitland, Adam|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Harris, Sir Percy||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Cowan, D. M.||Hartland, George A.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur F.||Mason, Col. Glyn K (Croydon, N.)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)||Hornby, Frank||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Meller, Sir Richard James|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Dickle, John P.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Milne, Charles|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)|
|Doran, Edward||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Morrison, William Shephard||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Nail, Sir Joseph||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Selley, Harry R.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|O' Donovan, Dr. William James||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Both well)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Sinclair, Ma]. Rt Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Petherick, M.||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Procter, Major Henry Adam||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Klnc'dlne, C.)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Pybus, Percy John||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Spens, William Patrick||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Withers, Sir John James|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Strauss, Edward A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Ray, Sir William||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Reid, David D. (County Down)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Templtton, William P.||Mr. Womersley and Dr. Morris-|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Thompson, Luka||Jones.|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.