§ Mr. SKELTON
I beg to move,That the draft of the Order proposed to be made by the Minister of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland with the approval of the Treasury, under Section five of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, as amended by Section forty-three of the Housing Act, 1930, which was presented on the 28th day of February, 1934, be approved.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
How long is it intended that the House should sit? It is now eleven o'clock, and there are two other Orders to be dealt with.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I anticipate that hon. Members will wish to discuss the Order that I am about to propose, and that will take a little time, but I have no reason to suppose that the next Order, the Aberdeen Milk Scheme, will demand much discussion. In these circumstances, we have great hopes that we shall be able to get both the remaining Orders to-night. There is no suggestion of any elaborate or severe criticism of the Aberdeen Milk Scheme. I hope that hon. Members opposite will find, seeing that we are now so familiar with these marketing schemes, that there is not much that remains to be said, and that the next Order will not take long.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
May I point out that we took up five hours on the first Order to-day and that the Order which we have just finished has taken three hours. We are now about to deal with a reduction in the subsidy for housing, and the next Order relates to an agricultural marketing scheme. The Order which the Under-Secretary is now moving is a matter which is going to be contested and on which a Division will be taken. Therefore, I want to know whether it would not be better to take it at a more reasonable time, when the House will be in a better position to follow the arguments of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. SKELTON
It would be better if my hon. Friend renewed his question after the discussion on the draft Order.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I hope and believe that it will not be necessary to discuss it for 1172 so long a time as that. However, the sooner we get on with it the better.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Mr. SKELTON
In moving the Order, let me recall the fact that the Housing Act, 1930, provides for a periodical review of the subsidy paid under the Acts of 1923 and 1924. Practically no houses are now being constructed under the 1923 Act. Therefore, it will be better if I deal with the 1924 Act. Under the 1933 Act, in Scotland the £9 subsidy payable under the 1924 Act both to private enterprise and to local authorities was brought to an end. There remains the question of what is to be the date for the completion of houses previously approved, in order to secure the full subsidy. The House will recollect that there are periodical revisions of the subsidy, and hon. Members are familiar with the revision that is now formally proposed in this Order. The revision is as follows, that as regards houses built by private enterprise in order to qualify for the £9 subsidy, they must be completed before the 31st March of this year; but, by the decision previously announced, so far as the local authority houses are concerned, the extension to 30th June was made known to the House. This Order is formally to homologate those two decisions.
The only matter of serious import which I think it necessary to put before the House this evening is what is to happen in the case of local authority houses if they are not completed by 30th June. Some months ago this matter was taken up with the Corporation of Glasgow in a formal way. We decided to fix the date of completion at 30th June, and not to extend it, and when the Glasgow Corporation, among others, were made aware of the decision, they informed us that perhaps 1,000 houses might remain uncompleted on that date. I should say at once that even so, apart from what I am going to say, these houses would be eligible for the £3 subsidy if completed before March, 1935, a date which would amply cover all of them. It might be represented, however, that a £3 subsidy, even with present building costs, was not as ample as £9 in 1924 and, therefore, in discussion with representatives of the municipal corporation of Glasgow early in the year we considered whether it would 1173 not be possible to transfer any house uncompleted by 30th June from the 1924 Act to the Slum Clearance Act, 1930, whereby they would be secure of the subsidy which, as the House knows, is a generous one under the Slum Clearance, Act.
To-night I am in a position to announce to the House that we will most favourably consider any proposition that Glasgow or any other local authority puts forward for these houses completed before 30th June this year being passed for transference to the slum clearance subsidy. The House will realise that the Department of Health cannot by a wave of its own wand make that transference. The application must come from the local authority, and, to be quite fair and fully frank with the House, I should of course add that there may be cases where the local authority may think a particular housing scheme less suitable for the rehousing of people from slum areas than for the ordinary purposes of the 1934 Act. I have not had full information from the Glasgow Corporation on that point, but I think it is important that the House should realise that even if there are houses not completed, the opportunity is afforded to the local authority to apply for transference to be made. I think, though I do not desire to press local authorities in a matter in which the initiative is in their hands, that there is on the merits a great deal to be said for transferring to the Slum Clearance Act. The claims of those who are living in uninhabitable houses to be removed from their insanitary conditions at the earliest possible moment are claims of the greatest weight. Therefore on the merits most local authorities would feel that there is a great deal to be said for making such an application to us. On the merits yes, and on the finance still more so. The House is well aware that the slum clearance subsidy, which is given per person re-housed, works out at an average not of £9 but of £12 10s. In the circumstances I ask the House to pass the Order.
§ 11.11 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I want to be quite clear as to the point made by the Under-Secretary regarding the position in which cities or local authorities in Scotland like Glasgow, will be under this particular Order. The Under-Secretary 1174 stated that Glasgow, in consultation with him, had made known the number of houses that would not be completed by the appointed day originally set out, and had asked for some continuation of the original subsidy to carry them on until the houses were completed. The number of houses, he said, was estimated to be about 1,000.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Under the 1924 Act. Is the House to take it that the Secretary of State is prepared to consider an application from a local authority in respect of any houses that are not completed under that scheme, and to consider that application in a generous manner if the local authority can set up a good case why there has been delay in finishing the houses? Such houses, I understand, may receive the more generous subsidy paid under the slum clearance conditions. May I have a reply to that question, as the answer may save a lot of time?
§ Mr. SKELTON
To an application by a local authority to have any houses under construction transferred from the 1924 Act to the 1930 Act, we will give very favourable consideration. If it is transferred to the 1930 Act, of course it will have to be used for the purposes of slum clearance, that is to say, it will have to be used as an ordinary 1930 Act house is used, for the direct re-housing of people who have been living in a slum, or for indirect re-housing by the decanting process. The actual subsidy paid in any particular case will be based on the number of people displaced from the slum. In these circumstances the house will be a 1930 Act house for all purposes.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
That is just the objection. Personally, I am not concerned as to the people who are to be transferred from the houses. I do not want anyone to run away with the idea that either I or anyone else on the Labour benches, either above or below the Gangway, are so snobbish as to worry about the class of tenants who are going to be taken from the houses that they presently occupy and placed in these houses. These houses, however, which have not been completed, and which in many cases will be in process of construction, are at present included in schemes which have 1175 already been projected and are laid out, and if, by this process of re-naming by the Scottish Office in giving this subsidy to houses not completed by the date in 1934, you are going to have in building schemes certain houses which the Scottish Office—not the local authority—are going to label for the purpose of obtaining this subsidy as slum clearance houses, and the people who are to inhabit those houses are to be taken from some slum area in the town. That is the position as I understand the hon. Gentleman's explanation. If I am wrong I shall be glad to be put right, because it would remove some of the objections to the plan if it could be put in another way. So far as I am concerned I object entirely to houses which are presently being occupied having to be labelled as slum clearance houses in order to obtain the benefit of the subsidy that is going to be paid.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I think the procedure that is now being adopted is a little unfair. This question of the housing of the people in the cities in Scotland is one of the most important questions that have come before the House, and to bring it on at the end of the day, at 20 minutes past 11 is rather unfair. The Scottish Office are generally fair, but this is letting them down. The questions that we have already discussed were not contested, but accepted, and to bring forward a matter which raises vital issues is not playing fair. I would almost have preferred—I do not want to do it myself in my present position—that the Adjournment should have been moved on this issue. Even now I would appeal to those in charge. It may well be that we shall not discuss this matter over long, but, when it comes on late at night, we may in some way scamp the most important issue of the day in many respects.
The fact, which is not denied, is that Scotland is not housed as the great mass of the people would like, that is to say, the housing problem in Scotland is still acute. No one in Government circles has denied that. Each successive Minister has endeavoured to solve it and the problem is still acute. The Resolution says that the £9 subsidy which was granted in 1924 will be paid until 30th June. Thereafter it ceases and in place 1176 of it comes the £3 subsidy. That is a thing that should not be debated at twenty minutes past eleven. It is too serious to the teeming masses not only of Glasgow but of other places. Some of the Lanarkshire towns and villages are in some respects as bad. There was an inquiry there the other week which disclosed things even worse than in Glasgow. The Secretary of State should have extended the subsidy. I do not criticise those who took up time on illegal trawling, because it was important for them. The Under-Secretary says, if houses are scheduled as slum clearance houses, they can qualify for the higher subsidy. The Glasgow Corporation are now dealing with a slum clearance programme apart from these houses, and these houses are deliberately built to be outside the slum clearance programme. Everyone admits that the slum clearance houses must have a closer proximity to public works in the centre of the town than other houses. Secondly, it is admitted that the slum clearance house has to have a cheaper basis of rent. These houses are not scheduled for it. It is no solution to say these houses can be put under a slum clearance scheme. Some of the 2,000 houses are part of another scheme; they are merely an extension of an existing scheme. Therefore, they will not be taken as slum clearance houses.
Recently the delay has extended to the Glasgow Corporation because they are faced with a dispute in the city. Men have come out on strike, and rightly, because they think that their conditions ought to be improved and their wages ought to be of a higher standard. Circumstances have arisen over which the Glasgow Corporation have no control, and to-day they are faced with the prospect that a number of their houses cannot be finished, a much larger number possibly than 2,000. A town council which decides to build as few houses as possible and is able to complete them will receive the £9 subsidy, but the local authority, which is urged on by progressive opinion and is prepared to make an attempt to provide as many houses as possible, may, owing to circumstances over which they may have no control, be left with a certain number of houses on their hands on each of which they will lose £6 per annum. The local authorities in Scotland are at least entitled to 1177 consideration when by a certain date they submitted to the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of houses they required. Unless he can prove that the local authorities have deliberately delayed the completion of the houses, they ought to be allowed to have the full subsidy in reference to every house the Department sanctioned. I understand that no one can accuse the Glasgow Corporation of holding up their housing scheme through any fault of their own.
I am not speaking on the wider issue of the £9 subsidy as against the £3 subsidy, but I do say, seriously, that instead of making the position of housing more difficult, as he is by this proposal, the Under-Secretary should try and make the position as easy as possible throughout the whole of Scotland. This matter has been badly handled and I trust that even now the Department will not make the work of those who are looking after housing matters on our town council and devoting a lot of time voluntarily to it, more difficult than it is already. Even if 500 of the houses in Glasgow rank for slum clearance, they are left with 1,500 at £6 each, and that sum will have to be met by increasing rents or by the ratepayers. It is impossible to increase rents, and the ratepayers will therefore have to find the money. I think that the Government should withdraw the proposal in order that the Under-Secretary may have an opportunity of interviewing town councils in Scotland, large and small, and discuss the matter with them. It would be much better for him to talk things over with them during the Easter Recess, and a frank interchange of views might lead to an agreement between the local authorities and the Government on this matter.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I do not want to traverse any of the points which have already been put before the Under Secretary to-day, nor enter into the general Scottish position as he has received the observations of the Association of County Councils in Scotland, on the 26th of February last, but I should like to press upon him one or two points. It was stated that it was anticipated that the provision of houses under the 1924 Act would be provided by private enterprise. That expectation has not been fulfilled, 1178 and so far it does not show any signs of being able to cope with the problem. Hence the change which we are now discussing. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has referred to the 1,000 houses that would be required, but the Director of Housing in Glasgow on 28th November last reported that in his opinion 2,100 houses would not be completed in the period laid down.
§ Mr. LEONARD
Yes it is still going back and there is the stoppage. The point I wish to make is that it is time the Government realised that they have certain responsibilities in this matter. With regard to the 1924 houses approved by the Department of Health, the total number approved is 4,587 but while they were under construction or pending the start of construction, there were concurrent schemes for rehousing operations under the Glasgow Corporation representing 3,497 houses. That has to be taken into consideration, especially when we bear in mind that the Government were, rightly, urging further and increased activity in that direction. Added to that we have had private builders who were also attending to houses under the 1924 Act and were eager to get them completed as quickly as possible. They had under their jurisdiction 3,144 houses, so that the Glasgow problem is not confined to the corporation houses which are being built under the 1924 Act but includes all these houses to which I have referred. With regard to the urge given to the corporation to be more expeditious in the provision of houses, the manner in which it has come on and the sort of spurt that took place has caused a shortage of materials, in addition to which there has been the strike, referred to earlier. Then restrictions by the Government on timber from Russia and things of that sort have been put forward by the corporation as legitimate points. The Under-Secretary should consider more fully than he has done, the representations made to him in the weeks which have just passed. I would also remind him of his meeting with the local authorities when he said that the whole 1179 question would come up for review again in the summer of 1935, and I suggest that the full terms of the 1924 Act should be applied, until the completion of approved schemes or the date he contemplates review, whichever be the first. The attitude adopted by the corporation in Glasgow and by authorities in other parts of the country, should have more consideration and discussion than he is giving it at the present time.
§ 11.39 p.m.
§ Mr. STEVENSON
I do not think the offer which the Under-Secretary has made is nearly as valuable as he thinks. In fact I think it is of very little value to some local authorities. Any local authority can get the capitation grant for people housed under slum clearance schemes and the Glasgow Corporation, among others, can easily earn the grant which is being offered just now if they like to make use of the houses to house people taken from the slums. But we have to remember that there is another housing problem, quite as important as slum clearance in some big cities and that is producing houses to take people out of the overcrowded houses. When this scheme was approved in December, 1932, the Glasgow Corporation produced a scheme for 4,500 houses to house people, not from the slums, but rather from the over-crowded areas. If they do not get the larger subsidy, they will have to meet a great loss in rehousing such people. They will be in a much worse position even than under the offer made in this Order because it really means that they cannot from now onwards produce houses for people from the overcrowded areas except with the £3 subsidy. It must be remembered that these houses must be let at from 6s. to 6s. 6d. per week. If the grant under the 1930 Act is substituted for the subsidy to which the corporation are entitled under the 1924 Act, it will make the provision of houses for the lower-paid workers by Glasgow and other local authorities more and more difficult. The subsidy is really being transferred from the Exchequer to the local authorities and that will increase the rates. That, in turn, will mean that any subsequent houses will be built at a loss, and a snowball will be built up.
1180 I hope that the Under-Secretary will reconsider the position which he has taken up, as I do not think it will give any advantage to the local authorities, particularly the local authority of Glasgow. He has to consider that there are various reasons why these houses have not been completed in Glasgow. There was, first, the trouble in getting materials; there was a shortage of bricks and seasoned timber. Then there was the recent dispute. It may be that the corporation undertook too many houses in December, 1932, but the Department have approved of the scheme, and I should be very disappointed if the corporation did not get the full subsidy which the Government undertook to give them in December, 1932.
§ 11.43 p.m.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
I intervene with great diffidence in a Scottish Debate, but I want to ask a question which will have some bearing on future housing statistics. I gathered from the speech of the Under-Secretary that he was making a present to local authorities. I cannot understand why it is being made, because he said that the housing schemes which are sanctioned to June this year would qualify for a subsidy of £3; if they built under the 1924 Act it would be £9; and if under a slum clearance scheme £12. I cannot understand why a concession is being made, because there will not be an increase in the number of houses, but merely a difference in their classification. If the local authority accepts the offer now being made and builds houses as slum clearance houses, they will be classified as such, and this will increase the number of houses that Scotland will have built under the Slum Clearance Act.
§ Mr. BEVAN
It is suggested that we should pay out more money from public funds in order to allow the Secretary of State to say that in Scotland more houses have been built under slum clearance schemes. It means that more money is being paid in order to make political propaganda, because the houses would be built anyhow. He said to the local authorities, "If you call these houses slum clearance houses we will give you 1181 £12 10s. per house"—only in order to qualify as slum clearance houses they must designate the people, to use the remarkable phrase which has been coined, as having been "decanted." We are going to pay the local authorities not for building additional houses but in order to allow the Secretary of State to claim that more houses are now being built under slum clearance than was formerly the case. I would put this simple question. Are these houses, if they attract the £12 10s. subsidy, to be classified in future as houses built under the Slum Clearance Act of 1930 despite the fact that they were initiated under other schemes? That has a distinct bearing on the housing statistics for Scotland. It will boost up the slum clearance schemes and depress the other schemes, and tend to persuade the public that the Scottish Office is more active in slum clearance than is actually the case.
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Why is it that the Minister is going to give the local authorities a larger subsidy if the houses that are not completed by the appointed day than he would give if he were giving them the subsidies to which they would be entitled were they all completed before the appointed day? Why should the State be prepared to pay more money for a house completed after the appointed day only if the designation of the house is changed and the designation of the tenants who will occupy it? If you are prepared to do that, why not come right down to it and say you are prepared to consider the continuation of the subsidy you have been in the habit of paying—
§ 11.48 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMES REID
I should be inclined to agree with the hon. Members who have criticised the Government were it not for the fact that we know that a Bill to deal with slum clearance is to be produced shortly. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] We have been assured that there is to be a Bill for England in the immediate future and I feel certain the Scottish Office will not be behindhand in introducing a corresponding Scottish Measure. Accordingly it seems eminently desirable to bring to an end at the 1182 earliest possible moment the subsidies under the Acts of 1923 and 1924. It is plain that those Acts have not achieved their main purpose. They have built houses, but they have not contributed directly to the solution of the overcrowding problem, which is the problem alongside slum clearance to be solved at the moment. As I see it the purpose of the present Order is to bring to an end the subsidies under the Act of 1924, to clear the ground for a new and comprehensive scheme for dealing with the problem of overcrowding. We have been assured that such a scheme will be brought forward, and I have no doubt whatever that that assurance will be carried out.
The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) has criticised the transfer from the 1924 Act to the 1930 Act, of a certain number of houses, and has pointed out that it will mean an additional subsidy from the Government. A larger number of houses must be built under the 1930 Act; why should we not take time by the forelock, and, instead of building 1,000 new houses, why should we not seize upon 1,000 houses that are available?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Is the hon. Member so certain that the 1,000 houses which he thinks he is going to take over, under this new scheme and the new theory, will all be situated together? Is it not the case that the houses which are uncompleted are scattered over a number of schemes, and are in the middle of schemes which are under previous subsidy rates?
§ Mr. REID
That may well be so, but there is no compulsion upon a local authority to move people direct out of the slums into new houses. The process which has been described as "decamping" is a perfectly legitimate way of carrying out the 1930 Act. That process ought to be made far more use of. It is a proper thing to put the people out of the slums into the older houses at lower rents, and the people out of those older houses into the new houses.
§ Mr. REID
To judge from the Under-Secretary's published pronouncements in 1183 this matter, he agrees entirely. It seems only common sense to kill two birds with one stone. You have a man in the slums who wants a better house, but is unable to pay the rent of a new house; you have a man in an intermediate type of house who could afford a little better house. Put the man from the slums into the intermediate house which he can pay for, and put the man from the intermediate house into the new one, thereby solving two people's problems, instead of only solving one person's problem by putting the man from the slum into the new house. To deal in the way I suggest with 1,000 houses is to take 1,000 people from the slums to houses with comparatively cheaper rents, and then there are 1,000 houses for the urgent scheme of slum clearance earlier than under the 1930 Act. You have got rid of the 1930 Act altogether.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
These new houses in Glasgow were built to relieve overcrowding. The hon. Member says, "Use them for slum clearance." People who are in shockingly overcrowded circum stances are not to get houses. In other words, decent people who do not happen to live in a slum area but are overcrowded are not to get a house because of that. The hon. Member says: "Never mind them; just let them stay on. We will give other people the right—"
§ Mr. REID
Of course, I have not, but I happen to know a little bit about this problem, because I had the honour of sitting on a Committee which was dealing with it. The Under-Secretary will tell us, as the Parliamentary Secretary has done in England, that there is a Measure in preparation which will be introduced in the immediate future. The hon. Member for Gorbals knows as well as I do that the Act of 1924 has not had a direct effect upon overcrowding. What we want to-day is a measure which will 1184 attack the problem of overcrowding in a more direct way than the Act of 1924; and it is with the object of clearing the ground for that Measure that I support the Order which is before the House to-night. I think the Under-Secretary will be able to assure us that something on the same lines as the English Measure which we are promised for the solution of the overcrowding problem will be introduced in the immediate future for Scotland.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Are we to presume that the contemplated legislation that is to be moved in this House will carry with it a subsidy?
§ Mr. REID
My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that a Bill is now in preparation for England in which a very considerable subsidy will be allowed. Everyone in this House is well aware of the fact that the Scottish housing problem is much more difficult than the English housing problem; and therefore we are well entitled to say that we are looking forward to at least as great a subsidy as, and probably a greater subsidy than, England will get.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think we can go into that matter. I am afraid the Debate has become somewhat ragged.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Would it be in order for me, in view of the last speech, to move the Adjournment of the Debate, on two grounds: First, to get a statement how long we are to sit, and, secondly, whether we may now have a statement on the policy of the new Bill?
§ 11.58 p.m.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am under a disadvantage, as compared with my hon. Friend who has just sat down, in that I have no information as to the contents of the Bill which it is the intention of the Government to introduce.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Then the hon. Member must not expect us to take his beliefs and assumptions and surmises as a very safe foundation on which to consider the proposals which the Government have brought before the House this afternoon. Nor can I share his engagingly symmetrical conception of the slum clearance and overcrowding problem. The idea that you can take slum dwellers out of their old houses and march them to very slightly better ones and fit them in there, and go on until eventually you reach people who are sufficiently well off to be worthy of the new houses, is one to which we have grown accustomed in housing debates for 10 or 12 years past. It is an engaging theory, but somehow or other it does not work out in practice. I should like to associate myself with the protest made by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) against the situation in which we find ourselves. The Scottish Office always tries to be fair in these matters, and I make no complaint against the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary; but the procedure under these Orders is bad. Here we have a complicated Order which, as you said just now, Sir, has produced a rather ragged discussion. That is because we do not understand it or its implications. It has been brought before the House extremely late at night at a time when there is no possibility of adequate reports to inform public opinion in Scotland. Procedure on these Orders is bad and unsatisfactory, especially when discussion is begun so late. In asking us to accept the proposal contained in this Order the Under-Secretary said that the need in Scotland now is that of houses to replace slums and not to erect houses under special conditions within the terms of the 1924 Act. I would ask the House to realise the real seriousness of the situation put by the hon. Member for 1186 Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stevenson) in regard to overcrowding in our towns and cities. These houses ought not to be transferred, as the Under-Secretary gleefully contemplates, to slum clearance.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
No, but they are houses which are being provided under special conditions. They are special condition houses under the 1924 Act, and the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. J. Reid) suggested that that Act is inadequate to deal with overcrowding. These houses are to be provided under special conditions to make them available to meet the overcrowding problem, and they ought not to be transferred as the Under-Secretary desires to slum clearance. I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) that you are actually giving a premium to the authorities who delay in completing their houses, when you allow them to transfer to the more favourable terms under the Slum Clearance Act. You are reducing the number of houses that will be available, because the authorities have the duty put upon them to clear the slums. We have been assured by the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary that they are going to see that the local authorities discharge their duty. We ought to have these particular houses to deal with overcrowding and sufficient houses to clear the slums. What the Under-Secretary is doing now is to take these houses which ought to be used for relieving overcrowding and allowing them to be used to reduce the burden upon the local authorities for dealing with slum clearance. We want both. We want all the houses we can get to relieve overcrowding and the necessary number of houses to clear away the slums. Why has this difficulty arisen? We moved in Committee an Amendment which would have given the local authorities a longer time in which to complete their schemes, but it was scoffed at, laughed out of court in the Committee upstairs. We wanted extra time but the Government and their majority in the Committee refused the time. If we had been given more time we should have had proper schemes prepared and put through to deal with overcrowding and adequate schemes for slum clearance.
1187 The houses that will be affected are the houses that were approved but not begun before the 15th December, 1932. I imagine those begun must have been finished by now, and therefore the question is how many were approved but not begun and have not since been completed. The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. J. Reid) said the 1924 Act was unsuitable and inadequate to deal with overcrowding. So far from that being the case, if the programme of housing on which we were engaged in 1932 had been pushed forward vigorously, you would have broken the back of the whole problem of overcrowding in something like 6½ years. The hon. Member shakes his head, but his duty was to challenge the figures when I gave the whole calculation in detail in this House and was nowhere challenged. The fact is that we were just getting the benefit of that 1924 Act with the lower costs of housing.
In January, 1932, I summoned a conference of Scottish local authorities in Edinburgh, and we started with a great push which gained momentum all through 1932 and worked up the number of houses being constructed to 24,000 in April 1933. Since then we have the operation of the 1933 Act, which has produced exactly the consequences I foretold in the Debates, that the number of houses has rapidly fallen off until now the number of houses approved but not begun in January has fallen to 3,441—lower than in any month in 1931 and 1932. It is not the 1924 Act which is inadequate, but the 1933 Act which in the opinion of Sir William Whyte, the greatest authority on housing in Scotland is a dead letter, and has been denounced as useless by the Association of County Councils and the Housing and Town Planning Institute. The fact is that we can ill afford to lose any of these houses, and I regret that this proposal should be brought forward at this time of night. It seems to me that it must have the effect of reducing the amount of subsidy available for houses to meet this urgent problem of overcrowding, and, although the number of houses may be small—we are awaiting the figures—the principle is undoubtedly bad, and, if it goes to a Division, I shall oppose it.
§ 12.10 a.m.
§ Mr. SKELTON
With the permission of the House I should like to reply to one or two points. We have had an interesting debate on this subject. It has travelled over a rather wider ground than the terms of the Order. I want to start with my Friend the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). He made an admirable debating point, but it overlooked the fact that local authorities in all their schemes knew well that the Acts of Parliament laid it down that there would be a revision of the subsidy following 1933.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I will deal with one point at a time, and I should have thought that the hon. Member might be more interested in his own point than in somebody else's. It is part and parcel of the structure of the Housing Act that the subsidies are periodically reviewed, and every local authority in formulating its programme is well aware of that fact. That is the answer to the debating point of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). On the general question, some hon. Members seem to think that the transfer of houses from one Act to another would be our action. On the contrary it is entirely in the option of local authorities. If they prefer to leave the houses that are not completed by 30th June under the 1924 Act, they will get the £3 subsidy, but if the houses are suitable for slum clearance purposes it will be open to them to apply for transfer of the houses from one Act to another. Some hon. Members seem to think that that is an unparalleled performance. Not at fell. It very often happened under the local authority housing schemes that the Act under which subsidy was to be paid was not finally settled until the houses were near completion. The proposition does not startle me as it appears to startle some hon. Members. This Order affects only one topic, and that is the amount of money to be paid by the State on houses the maximum number of which is immutably fixed. I have been asked, Why give the bigger subsidy for the 1930 Act houses? The answer is that that is in the structure of the 1930 Act, passed by the Labour Government, which provided that for the purpose of clearing people 1189 out of uninhabitable houses a larger subsidy was given with the object of allowing the houses to be let at a lower rent to the persons displaced. Of course if it is convenient to any local authority, with regard to a number of houses which may be uncompleted by 30th June, to adopt the suggestion I have made, they will find in all probability that as they are using the houses for a new purpose they will be getting the larger sum, and that subsidy will help to make up the difference between the £9 and the £3.
I am satisfied that on all social and hygienic grounds the transfer from the 1924 to the 1930 Act is not in the least a retrograde step, but is a very valuable one. It will be of Teal value if it turns
§ "That the draft of the Order proposed to be made by the Minister of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland with the approval of the Treasury, under Section five of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, as amended by Section forty-three of the Housing Act, 1930, which was presented on the 28th day of February, 1934, be approved."1190
§ out that a considerable number of houses are not completed by 30th June. I will not weary the House by giving figures showing the numbers of houses actually concerned under this Order. It is sufficient to say that if the subsidy period ran till 31st March, so far as Glasgow is concerned, some 3,000 houses would be affected. If the period were extended to 30th June, the number would be reduced to 1,000, and, as regards the whole of the rest of Scotland, there seems to be no reason to anticipate that more than another 1,000, at the outside, will be affected.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 90; Noes, 14.1189
|Division No. 176.]||AYES.||[12.16 a.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gower, Sir Robert||Radford, E. A.|
|Agmw. Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Bal[...]lie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Hanley, Dennis A.||Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Ba[...]dwln, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Harbord, Arthur||Rankin, Robert|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Remer, John R.|
|Bateman, A. L.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Rlckards, George William|
|Blinded, James||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rcpner, Colonel L.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield.B'tside)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Leckle, J. A.||Scone, Lord|
|Burnett, John George||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Christie, James Archibald||Lleweilln, Major John J.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Mabane, William||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Stones, James|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Templeton, William P.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Milne, Charles||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Elmley, Viscount||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Morrison, William Shepherd||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Palmer. Francis Noel||Lieut.-Colonel Sir Lambert Ward and|
|Major George Davies.|
|Bevan, Aneurln (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Wilmot, John|
|Buchanan, George||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Daggar, George||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Dobbie, William||Mainwaring, William Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Edwards, Charles||Sinclair, Ma). Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)||Leonard.|