§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I rise to introduce the subject of housing conditions in Glasgow[...] which have not been so much in the public eye as the one that we have just been discussing, but on which there has been constant questioning of the Secretary of State for Scotland recently, on a number of Tuesdays. Hon. Members have no doubt watched with some interest the various duels which have taken place. The matter is one of far-reaching importance. During that constant questioning a certain amount of feeling has been aroused, to none of which I object or about which I have a single word of criticism of hon. Members of the Labour Opposition, who seem to think that we have singled out the Glasgow Corporation for attack. I am not going to bother myself to reply to most of the criticisms which I have seen written by Members of the Glasgow Town Council who belong to the Labour party, in alleged reply to me. About the so-called "names" of various kinds applying to me, I will say only that if they please those people, I have no objection. The fact that none of the names applied to me disposes of the facts.
I am much more concerned about the housing conditions of the people in Glasgow than I am with either the convener of the Glasgow Housing Department or any other man. I saw in one paper a reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) as an hon. and learned Member and to myself as not so learned. That sort of thing has been said about Labour party men over since I have known them, and if it pleases those who say it, they are entitled to all the pleasure they get from it. I represent Gorbals, and I have done so in defiance of the Labour party, who deliberately fought me, to which I have no objection. I am determined to represent my Division, and to state the facts of Glasgow housing conditions. The constant questions have revealed an appalling and ghastly situation. The fact has been brought out, that in the city of Glasgow, almost one-third of the population live in conditions which, compared with modern housing, are totally indefensible. Let me give the figures for my Division. I asked on a recent Tuesday how many citizens or householders were 2863 living in houses that had been condemned either for overcrowding or insanitary conditions. I was informed that 9,500 families, in rough figures, were living in Gorbals in houses condemned either for insanitary conditions or for overcrowding. There are 1,700 living in houses condemned for sanitary reasons. During the last two years, the total number rehoused in Gorbals amounted to 542, or 271 in each year. At that rate of progress it will take the Glasgow Corporation six and-a-half years to rehouse those who are living in insanitary conditions, and at least 20 years, if not considerably more, to tackle the problem of overcrowding in Gorbals alone.
I put it to the Labour Members: Can a man who represents a Division like that —call the Council by whatever name you like—sit quietly here and allow those conditions to continue without finding out the facts and raising his voice on behalf of those whom he represents? The conditions are appalling. I will not go into the single apartment problem in Glasgow. There are not fewer than 4,000 families housed in shocking conditions, where tuberculosis is prevalent. I visited the City with the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland a few weeks ago, and we made a fair tour, not of all the City but of typical places in the City; and I would defy any man to look on those conditions and feel complacent or easy in his mind about the matter. I know that various reasons are given why house-building is not proceeding in Glasgow, and I will say a word or two about them later. What are the facts? In the year 1929–30, fully 6,000 houses were built in the City of Glasgow. In subsequent years the figure fell, sometimes reaching almost 4,000, sometimes reaching 4,800, until this year, 1936, the figures show that the Glasgow Town Council had completed something in the region of 1,600 houses up to the end of October, and hoped to build 600 more before the end of the year. That is a total, for 1936, of 2,200 houses.
It is said that difficulties arise in connection with labour, and I would like to get from those who are running the council some kind of answer on this point. In the year 1929, I think, speaking from memory, the figure for the whole of Scotland was round about 13,000, and last 2864 year the figure for the whole of Scotland was 20,000, while for the present year the estimated figure is round about 18,000. Here you have Glasgow building 6,000 houses in 1929–30, and the figure falling to 2,200 this year, while in the same period the figure for the rest of Scotland has risen from 13,000 to roughly 18,000. If it had been merely a question of shortage of labour, if it had been a question of labour problems, why should not those labour problems have affected the rest of Scotland? Why is it that, even in comparatively small burghs throughout the country, the programme has increased, and, as a result, the capacity to produce houses has increased, while in Glasgow there is a decrease? In towns like Kilsyth and other surrounding towns outside there has been a remarkable increase in house-building, and those places have had to face exactly the same labour problems which have had to be faced by every other town, large and small, throughout the country.
When this question was raised one day at Question Time, it was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), a former Under-Secretary, that bricklayers were being dragged away from their jobs. I looked up the statement to-day, because when he made it I really wondered whether I had heard him correctly. Bricklayers are as independent and honest men and as good trade unionists as ever I knew in my life, and they do not allow anyone to drag them away. No one drags them. When bricklayers go from job to job, they go because they have a reason to go. Nobody drags them; they are free men. If they go from job to job, when did it become a policy of this House or anyone in it to interfere with the bricklayer increasing his wage and his standards like any other worker? Is it to be said that a bricklayer is not entitled to raise his wages and his standards in the same way as any other worker? It may well be that certain bricklayers have been offered inducements to leave and go to other jobs, but, if they have, they have gone of their own free will, as free men ought to go. I resent this phrase about dragging men away, as if men were chattel slaves or in some way inferior to us.
Let me say, on the labour problem, that I have yet to see a reasoned case that 2865 there is a shortage of labour, and it certainly is not admitted by the trade unions. Only the other week I gave to the Secretary for Scotland particulars of the case of a bricklayer, a good member of his trade union, who lives in my Division. He was paid off, and went to the Employment Exchange. He wanted to be put in a job near his home—on housing or anything else, so long as he could be near to his home. Where was he sent? He was sent to Busby, outside the City, to Barrhead outside the City, to Newmains outside the City. He was not sent to one job inside the City. No vacancies were registered at the South Side Employment Exchange for bricklayers for a housing scheme within the City—not one. I have supplied the name and address of the man; I have here his green card for Busby. There is said to be a labour shortage, and yet this bricklayer was not asked to go to a job in the City, but was asked to go outside the City in order to find work.
Let me say, to those who are constantly raising so-called criticisms of the Labour party in the Corporation, that for the last three years I have never raised a question about housing conditions or the progress or the lack of progress, for the reason that I thought, and still think, that the new council had a new point of view, a point of view different from that of the old council, and that the new council should at least have from two to three years to get under way with their new plans—that their new ideas should have time to show results. For three years we have waited, and, instead of an increase taking place, house-building in the City has fallen to the lowest level that it has reached for over 10 years. I am often told by so-called highbrows that something is wrong with me, and that I have no constructive plans. When Labour went into the Town Council with a majority and with full power, I understood that they would apply their minds to a new set of ideas to solve this problem.
Why is it that you cannot attract men to housing schemes? I do not think that commercial work is taking men away in great numbers. I am told that there are only two cinemas being built in the city at the moment, and the amount of commercial work is not high as compared with other great cities. I admit that 2866 the steel works have attracted a certain number, but that has happened only within the last 12 months and the fall in house-building has been going on for years. One reason why men go to the steelworks is that they have no broken time in wet weather, their employment is not so casual and they work all day long. A bricklayer starting at the steelworks gets a reasonable spell of work. He is not paid off on a Wednesday, as is often the case in the building trade, and when he is going to be dismissed he usually knows it weeks ahead. The Corporation should plan ahead. At least 70,000 houses are wanted. According to the figures of the Secretary of State, nearly 9,500 are wanted for Gorbals alone.
I cannot see why the Glasgow Corporation should not do as a Government Department does when it wants 70 ships. Let them set up a department for house-building and give every bricklayer they employ the same conditions as they give to every other Corporation servant. There is no shortage of bricklayers in the Corporation department. If the department would do building repairs and wanted a bricklayer they could get ten. The Corporation bricklayer has a guaranteed week, payment for holidays and superannuation. He has no casual employment. Give the ordinary bricklayer who builds houses the same conditions and you will get all the houses and all the men that you need. [Interruption.] It is no use telling me that you have built 43,000 houses. There are 60,000 needed and, if you go on at the rate of the last year, it will take 30 years to complete them. If the Tory party had been in the Council and had built only 2,300 houses in a year, there would have been an outcry. This year they are completing 1,600 to the end of October and they expect to build 600 more by the end of the year. [Interruption.] I am asked the total number of houses the Corporation are building.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Built and completed and ready for occupation. The total number—slum clearance, intermediate and ordinary—to the end of November is 2,100. But if the hon. Member doubles the number it would still be a scandal. The Tories built 6,000 in 1929 and you were put in because the 2867 Glasgow people were not satisfied with 6,000. I cannot understand anyone who knows the social conditions being complacent about that figure. You need a department for doing nothing else but building houses and employing the necessary labour to do it. It is no use, in a serious problem like this, depending on the whims of private enterprise, because private enterprise will go to the most remunerative field, that is common every-day life. You have to start anew with this problem and not depend upon this or that fellow taking over a contract. You have to plan, and you have to be the employers of labour and be responsible for the construction of the houses. You enter into a contract with a man to build so many houses, and, try as you may, he is, in the last resort, the only person who can hurry on the contract. If there is other work which comes in or goes out, your schemes are to that extent made difficult and are delayed. The Secretary of State for Scotland ought not merely to consider this matter from the Glasgow point of view, but from the Scottish point of view. It is time, when one looks back upon the records of the War days, when the Government set up a national housing board, that at least you should give the local authorities similar power for the purpose of co-ordinating labour and becoming the employers of the necessary labour. In this connection, Edinburgh is as bad as Glasgow.
I am surprised that the Labour Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has not raised that question. It is a scandalous position. The Edinburgh Town Council are allowing the conditions in that city to become shocking. I notice that the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Guy) cross-examined the Secretary of State for Scotland the other day about his figures and the shocking conditions in Edinburgh. In these days such conditions ought not to be tolerated. I read to-day with considerable pain, as I am sure all hon. Members did, of the crime trial in the City of Glasgow. I am not going into the question of whether the sentences are heavy or light, but it is a terrible thing. I would, however, ask those who criticise Glasgow, whether these things happen in the West end 2868 of the City or even in the more comfortable off districts where the well-to-do artisan and the civil workers live. Gang fights like that are unknown in the better-off quarters. They never take place in Pollokshiels and the West End; they take place in places where the conditions are shocking and squalid. I would tell the Secretary of State for Scotland that I know of no improvement, apart from the improvement in the incomes of the people, that would make for greater social change than the decent housing of our people in Glasgow.
Let me take the position with regard to child welfare. I have been looking at the figures of Dr. McGregor, concerning last year's death rates in Glasgow. In Gorbals, Mile End, and Calton children die four, five, six or seven times more rapidly than children die in Pollokshiels. It is an appalling death rate. The one thing that is common between rich and poor is, that everybody wants to see child life saved. Children die at that appalling rate because of the terrible social conditions in which our people have to live. In my Division thousands of people, even in the best places, have no lavatory accommodation. I visited one place in my Division with the Secretary of State for Scotland one Saturday where 70 people had to use one lavatory. A little woman living in one of the back-end houses caught hold of us by the lapels of our coats and said "Mister, have you any power, for God's sake, to get us out of this?" I was told, and quite truthfully, that this was not the worst place; that there were other places even worse. I asked myself whatever must the worst places be like. I have a letter stating that two girls of 19 and 20 when they have to change their clothes have to walk out to the stairhead in order to change them in order to give the rest of the family a chance.
Has a member of this House ever visited a "single-end" in the city of Glasgow when death has occurred and seen the coffin placed at the bed at one time and on the floor at another time, the woman of the place having to cook, wash and clean beside the body. I know that this is the product of century-old conditions and of a capitalism which has gone on for so long. We have been sent here to fight this sort of thing and to urge 2869 the need for change. Although we are told that so many houses have been built, it is no answer to the growing needs of the people. The Secretary of State for Scotland has been entrusted with a great task. I fear the consequences of next year more than I fear the consequences this year, and I will tell the House why. It is proposed to begin building an exhibition which must utilise a great deal of building trade labour which must, in the long run, interfere with the housing programme. I am worried about it. I would sooner have a decently-housed Glasgow than all the exhibitions. This exhibition is to be erected at Bellahouston Park for a few selected people but the best advertisement for the city, instead of having to read about these terrible things to-day, would be to see to it that it is decently housed. What exhibition can be successful if within a stone's throw you can go to the Plantation district and the Tradeston division and see some of the terrible conditions under which the people have to live. The town council, instead of bending their energies in the direction of an exhibition and utilising labour upon it, should bend their minds to giving the children and the womenfolk who are defenceless decent homes. If they do that they will make the city greater than all the exhibitions they have ever known.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. G. HARDIE
I am sure that no one objects to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) raising his voice at any time especially in regard to his own constituency, but the general question which has been touched upon is that of the general housing in the City of Glasgow. In dealing with that subject and in referring to the questions which have been continuously put during the last few weeks, there are certain things still to be understood. No one can object to the statements made in regard to the awful housing conditions, but these belong to a past. They do not belong to the present at all. No strength is given to a case where when you are dealing with what is the present you bring in the past and try to tack the responsibility of the past on those responsible for dealing with the present. When anyone in a movement such as our seeks to make capital out of difficulties that arise through the fact that the majority of the citizens of Glasgow chose at a certain time to give this 2870 present power to the Glasgow Town Council, ever since that date they have been pursued by every kind of reactionary mind. Every kind of difficulty has been put in the way, not only on the question of building houses, but on the question of borrowing money and in other ways, to try to make it appear that Labour was incapable in some way.
Through all these attacks that have been made, Labour has been able not only to continue but to show in many departments tremendous improvements. The greatest difficulty of all is the question of housing, because before the period came when Labour could have a say in affairs in its own city, there was very little land within the city boundaries on which to build new houses. Another difficulty that must be recognised is that where you take down a three- four- or five-storey tenement and want to make an improvement by building a two-storey tenement, you cannot replace on the same amount of land the number you have displaced. All these things, taken into consideration, make it clear that the problem is one of trying to secure land on which to build. The difficulties of that procedure are well known to the hon. Member for Gorbals, because he has been a member of the Glasgow Town Council. Those who have been engaged in this attack, not only on the Benches below the Gangway, but in other parts of the House, have been so engaged not so much to try to get something done and help on housing in Glasgow as to try and damage Labour because it happens to be in power at the present time.
§ Mr. HARDIE
It was a question of fact which I raised. When we get this kind of vendetta going on, instead of getting down to the subject, it has taken us away from what we should be dealing with. The 1930 Act is the most important still on the Statute Book. It was the first time that the subsidies were given on a basis of human need. I hope that no Member below the Gangway will think that I am being personal, but when we are being attcked we do not want to attack so much as to state the facts. The Scottish Standing Committee of that time which dealt with this important Bill 2871 began its work on 6th May, 1930, and the Committee was at work for 13 days. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) was not at one of those meetings. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) attended six meetings and the hon. Member for Gorbals attended seven.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Will the hon. Member tell us how many meetings the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston) attended?
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am prepared to do that. The bulk of the houses have been built under the 1930 Act. In 1933–4 under the 1930 Act we built 15,977 houses. There was a continuous increase under that Act. In regard to the land difficulty in Glasgow, I should like to quote from a newspaper of yesterday:Glasgow Extension Scheme. Proposal to acquire 14,000 acres for house-building. A scheme for the extension of the city boundaries so as to provide sites for over 40,000 houses was unanimously approved yesterday by a special committee of Glasgow Corporation. The Town Clerk was instructed to proceed with the minute, which will be presented to the Corporation for consideration, and to lodge a Parliamentary Order in February next. The area which it is proposed to add to the city extends to over 14,000 acres, the scheme being based on the need of the municipality for undeveloped sites to complete the programme of house-building to replace slums and relieve overcrowding. Informal negotiations on the subject have taken place between members of the Corporation and representatives of Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Dumbartonshire and the burgh of Paisley, and it is understood that a fair measure of agreement has been reached, and that it will be possible to complete the negotiations before the proposals are submitted to Parliament.All that goes to show the tremendous amount of energy that is being spent in trying to get the necessary land on which to remedy these hellish housing conditions which exist in some parts of Glasgow. The tenement versus cottage question is another question which the Secretary of State for Scotland will have to face before long. Unless the Government see that every facility is given, including finance, in order to deal with housing conditions in Glasgow there is 2872 bound to be a return to the conditions which manufacture slums out of the modern house. In regard to the shortage of labour this is much more serious than the hon. Member for Gorbals tried to make out. The day before yesterday this telegram arrived here from Dunfermline:All bricklayers leaving tomorrow. Bribed away. Bigger money. Position serious. Houses standstill.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am not saying that. Let these men go where they can get the biggest wages. Then we have a temporary agreement made and this telegram arrived yesterday:Temporary agreement made bricklayers to prevent them leaving Cowdenbeath. Compelled to grant 1s. 10d. per hour, 3d. over union rate. Seeing Department Health immediately to sanction extra expenditure. Only method keep men and prevent complete stoppage. Failure Department's sanction to arrangement means abandonment of operations for 112 houses.Those are the kind of conditions that are obtaining. Here is a quotation from an Edinburgh newspaper yesterday. Edinburgh is in the same position:Edinburgh's programme was in the lamentable position of being 1,750 houses in arrears.At this meeting which was held the day before yesterday they were trying to find out—and they have appointed a committee—why it is that this big shortage of labour should take place. I do not think that, apart from munitions work, there is any attraction that is responsible for withdrawing men from ordinary domestic building work. There may sometimes be an offer of a job for a short time at wages 6d. or 1s. an hour above the ordinary rate, but men will not leave a constant job to go to work of that kind.
Then there is the question of overtime work on municipal houses. I have had a report from the building trade union in Glasgow of a meeting last May with the convener and members of the Glasgow Corporation Housing Committee. It was suggested that, as the work was getting behind, overtime should be worked at rates in accordance with the terms of the national agreement. The Corporation were anxious to get that done, but the employers objected, and so it was 2873 out of the question. The Corporation tried also to get men transferred from one job to another, but again they could not get the employers to co-operate. The result is that the whole programme is being held up in Glasgow. It seems to me that if the thing is to be properly handled, not only the Corporation but the Government must take some responsibility. It is only to be expected that men should go to jobs where they can get higher wages, and if the Corporation of Glasgow or any other Corporation has to face competition with capitalists, say, in the armament industry, who are making big profits and can afford to offer higher wages, then the Government must take the responsibility for finding the money necessary to pay increased wages. It will not do to put that increased payment on the rates, because that only means increasing the cost of the houses and raising the rents of the houses for all time.
I hope the Government will take its full share of responsibility in this matter. No one knows the needs of Glasgow better than the Secretary of State for Scotland, and for the good name of that city which honours him with a seat in this House he at least should make every possible effort to deal with this question in order that something may be done that will reflect credit on the whole of Scotland. He can deal with the question of the distribution of material for building. I do not want to detain the House too long but I have reports here which give details of the holding up of the supply of bricks—or of the scarcity of bricks, I do not mind in which way it is put. The important point is that the bricks are not there. From personal knowledge I can say that there are people in Scotland who are ready to do all they can to prevent Labour success in this matter. They do not like Labour politics and do not want to see Labour succeed, and so they will put every possible obstacle in the way. I would put my last appeal in this way: This is not a party quarrel. It is a question of housing conditions in a big city, arising from a state of affairs which began hundreds of years ago. Conditions in Glasgow in regard to housing have always been bad. People used to come from all parts to see the slums of Glasgow. We 2874 have got rid of the worse and most degraded slums, but we still have bad conditions in Glasgow, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will be prepared to take the steps necessary to help Glasgow in this matter.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I should like to support the last speaker in the appeal he has made to the Secretary of State for Scotland to take the necessary steps to deal with the housing situation in Scotland. There is general agreement with regard to the gravity of the condition, and no apology is needed for raising this matter to-day. Having listened to the speech made by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), I must say that I am not prepared to accept his defence of the Glasgow Corporation as a really adequate defence. I know there were difficulties when the moderates were in control of the City of Glasgow, but the Labour party declared that with a majority on the city council they would be able to deal with those difficulties and to provide houses for the people. The Labour party were quite confident that if the electors of Glasgow put them in power they would be able to provide houses for the people, and that they would be able to deal satisfactorily with all these difficulties.
The hon. Member for Springburn also referred to the Act of 1930, and he gave the attendances of my hon. Friends and myself in that connection. I am quite willing to let my attendances stand against the attendances of any Labour member in this House. I think if the records are examined they will show that the members of my party have a higher standard of attendance in connection with the work of this House than the members of any of the other parties. I fail to see the importance of the statement of the hon. Member for Springburn in this connection. It was not our Government that was in office, but we were anxious to assist that Government in getting its Bill through and we gave them all the assistance we could. We did not make unnecessary speeches in Committee because we wanted to help to get the Bill on the Statute Book. We have nothing to regret with regard to the action we took.
The statement has been made that this housing condition is an outcome of misgovernment in the past. That is true. 2875 The fact is that there has been this Labour majority now for a certain period on the Glasgow City Council and that majority has not been taking the steps that it should have taken to deal with the situation. There can be no doubt about the housing figures. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) referred to the year 1929. The grand total of houses in that year was 7,819. Therefore, with all the difficulties in regard to labour and everything else, lit was possible to produce nearly 8,000 houses, and I submit that the Labour majority in Glasgow ought to have been able by this time to achieve an output figure of 8,000. With regard to the provision of labour one statement has been constantly made that the Department of Health for Scotland has turned down an attempt by the Labour majority in Glasgow to deal with this matter by providing a guaranteed wage for workers in the building industry. A very bright correspondent in the Scottish Socialist Press makes that definite statement. Accordingly, I put down a question to the Secretary of State on the 15th December asking:What were the reasons why a proposed scheme providing a guaranteed wage for workers in the building industry engaged on houses being built by the Glasgow Corporation was disapproved by his Department?I received the reply:No such scheme has been submitted to the Department of Health for Scotland by the corporation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1936; col. 2287, Vol. 318.]That is a categorical denial by the Secretary of State for Scotland of the statement that a scheme was put forward to the Department. I hope the right hon. Gentleman to-day will be able to give us more information. We shall not deal with this problem by statements being made which are not true regarding the provision of labour. This matter must be made perfectly plain to-day. At the beginning of the Session I raised a question in relation to two of my constituents who were driven out of their houses because the roof fell in during a big storm, and the Glasgow Corporation refused to do anything for their families. They were put out on the street. One family was taken to the poor-house, but rather than stay there they went back to the house, although it was in a dangerous condition. I went to every department 2876 in Glasgow about this matter, but I could not get anything done for that family. In one of the families the children are in a very bad state of health, but I have been unable to get a promise of any house for that family from the housing department.
There is in Soho Street another house to which I have called attention. The condition there is almost indescribable. I have been raising that matter ever since last June. Last June I had a definite promise that this matter would be dealt with at an early date, but nothing yet has been done. I am asking the Secretary of State to assure me that these people are going to be rehoused. Some of the houses are overrun with rats and bugs and beetles. When the man sits down to read his paper the rats come out and play about as though they were domestic pets. In one room there are a father and mother and six children. When I received the assurance in June that these people were to be rehoused I was told that there were many houses in even a worse state in the city and that with these they would have to deal first. That is a matter which must be put right. I am not asking too much when I say that these people should be given houses before the year concludes, or at least very early in the next year. I want to read a letter I received yesterday from 43, Greenvale Street, Glasgow:Dear Sir, My wife, four children and myself, live in a single apartment house which has two set-in beds. The factor was told on 2nd November that the bed next to the gable end needed repairing. He promised to see to it, but eventually waited until the wall round the bed collapsed on the 4th December. Since Friday, 4th December, all the family have more or less slept on the floor. I have written to the Dean of Guild, who referred by letter to the Master of Works, who has done nothing for me up to the time of writing you. The Sanitary Board of Health, Dean of Guild and Master of Works, of this time seem to be sleeping. Fancy any ratepayer paying a factor one month's forehanded rent for the privilege of sleeping on the floor.That is the kind of letter I am getting, and I say that the Labour majority in Glasgow, if they were functioning properly, would see that these matters are attended to at once. If they had happened under the old regime we should have had indignation meetings about it, and justly so; and I say that the Labour 2877 majority should now take proper steps to deal with them. I am asking the Secretary of State to insist that the assurance given by the corporation in regard to the houses in Soho Street shall be realised and that he will also impress upon them the necessity for setting up a housing department which will give a guaranteed wage to the workers. If they were given a guaranteed wage I have not the slightest doubt that the Glasgow Corporation would be able to get labour for its housing schemes, and that during the next year would be able to set themselves out to reach the 10,000 figure. They would then show that Labour can govern.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. Elliot)
As there are other subjects to be dealt with before the House rises I propose to make now a few observations on a subject which is of vital importance to Scotland. The argument which has been advanced to-day is an argument to which every Scotsman must give very close and immediate consideration. I leave out of account altogether a certain amount of cross fire between hon. Members below and above the Gangway opposite, for this is not a problem which concerns a class or movement. It is a problem of importance to the whole of Scotland, and it is a problem with which the whole of Scotland is not dealing adequately. If it were only a problem of the past, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), I should not be discussing it to-day; but it is a problem of the present, and worse still, a problem of the future.
The facts as stated by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) are not exaggerated. They are under-stated. The output of houses which he gave is a favourable estimate, and I do not think it will be reached. I do not think 2,000 houses will be built in Glasgow this year, because the figures of houses already completed show that, unless some tremendous spurt takes place, there will not be enough houses completed during the remaining days of this year to reach that figure. What is worse, the houses under construction do not, to my mind, indicate that the figure of 3,000 will be reached—and it may be considerably less than that—during next year. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) asked me about the houses at 18, Soho 2878 Street. Special visits have been made by the Department to Glasgow, and I have before me a report, dated as recently as the 11th of this month, dealing with the situation and pointing out that for some time past it has been the policy to restrict representations as to unfit houses until the mass of condemned houses has been dealt with. Owing to the progress now made and the number of new houses likely to become available in the next few months, it is anticipated that it will be possible within six months to resume the practice of making regular representations in regard to unfit houses; that is to say, it is hoped within six months to take up representations as to unfit houses, but it is not expected to take them up before then.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
May I point out that the Corporation made a promise last June, and surely they must be compelled to carry out the promise then made? If they made a mistake and ought not to have given the promise, it is unfortunate; but surely when a public authority have given a promise on the Floor of the House, that promise must be carried out, even if it means breaking into what has been their practice.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I beg the hon. Member for Springburn not to embroil me in the quarrel between hon. Members below and above the Gangway, a quarrel into which I am very desirous not to be drawn.
Mr. J. J. DAVIDSON
But there is no quarrel. May I inform the right hon. Gentleman, as a Glasgow representative, that personally I am very much indebted to hon. Members below the Gangway for raising this question to-day? Although rumours have been current that it has been done out of emnity towards the Labour majority in Glasgow and the Labour party, I sincerely trust that is not so.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It may be that all the argument that has gone on, between hon. Members below and above the Gangway opposite is merely the love talk of friends. It may be. But if I were to use the language which has been used below and above the Gangway opposite, it would not be so interpreted on my part.
2879 Therefore, I do not intend to use it. I am answering the question which was put by the hon. Member for Camlachie, and I say that it may be possible within six months to resume the practice of making representations with regard to unfit houses. The view at present is that these houses were not so bad as others at the time when wholesale representations were being made, otherwise they would have been included. I assume, therefore, that they were not included, and there are still 600 houses which have to be cleared off before we get round to the discussion of the houses to which the hon. Member for Camlachie referred.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
There is a definite pledge of 16th June that they were to be dealt with, and surely they will be dealt with before the year is out?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The hon. Member must realise that the Secretary of State had no power to give a pledge and did not give a pledge on behalf of the statutory housing authority of Glasgow.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I leave the hon. Member to thresh out that question with the corporation. The fact of the matter is that I do not see, on the actual position as it stands, that these houses will be dealt with in the immediate future, and I tell the hon. Member that frankly.
The hon. Member for Springburn indicated that there were great difficulties in the way of housing in Scotland and great difficulties in Glasgow. I agree that there are. He pointed out that there were difficulties as regards the acquisition of land.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I have gone into that question and I find that there is enough land in the possession of the Corporation just now for two years' building at the rate of 6,500 houses a year and for four years' building at the rate of 3,000 houses a year. The question of land is not a governing factor in the slow progress which, we are agreed, is being made.
§ Mr. HARDIE
What about the desirability of leaving open spaces? We do not want to build up every inch of Glasgow.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The estimate which I have given is based on full amenity provisions of every kind both as regards open spaces and as regards the density permitted by the Statutes now in force. I do not think it desirable to underestimate the difficulties which have arisen because this is a matter which will require all our agreement and concentration without distinction of party. There is a grave problem here which is of vital importance to the future of Scotland, not merely as regards the social conditions but even as regards the industrial conditions of the people. It is impossible to expect that the new factories can be built in Scotland or workmen brought to Scotland as long as the conditions are no better than those which have been described to the House.
The hon. Member for Gorbals said that in his view no case for the shortage of labour had been made out. I am willing to suspend judgment on that point until it has been further examined. I think, however, it is true that representations have been made from all quarters that there is a considerable shortage of labour and one which could not be dealt with merely by shifting men from one job to another or back again, from jobs to which they have gone, to Corporation jobs. Suppose they had gone to the building of shops and cinemas. The amenities of the cities of Scotland are just as important from the industrial point of view as anything else. We have to get the shops and the cinemas and to say that there are too many jobs in Scotland is surely the most arrant paradox ever enunciated at a time when we find one city in that country with 80,000 unemployed. To say that we should adopt a system of licences, that we should put a label round a man's neck in order to hold him to his job, that we should treat men like serfs or like the villeins of old times is surely one of the most reactionary proposals that could possibly be put forward. We have, of course, to consider that there is a very great difficulty going back a hundred years at least. On our industrial revolution, there was added to a population living in a condition of grinding poverty, 2881 another wave of immigration, and the two together produced these desperate conditions in the West of Scotland of which we all complain to-day.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
On top of the overcrowding of the industrial revolution was superimposed the overcrowding of immigration.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I hope hon. Members will do their best to restrain their feelings, as there is only a short time before us before the Adjournment for Christmas. The local authorities have all had a very difficult task. Some of them have done well, and some of them have completed their programmes, but the back of the problem, I believe, is not broken, arid in some ways one would say that the problem as a whole remains almost untouched. The extent to which we have got to open our minds on this matter may be seen by the fact that the Scottish Housing Commission, reporting after the War, reported that 120,000 houses were necessary to deal with the problem and suggested that if a higher standard were adopted, 250,000 would be necessary. That report was signed by, among others, the Rev. James Barr, now an honoured Member of this House. A quarter of a million houses! We have built the first 100,000 and nearly completed the second 100,000, and we are nowhere near breaking the back of this problem or even making a serious inroad into it. The conditions in Scotland, of course, are out of all comparison with those in England. The under-housing in Scotland is something to which there is no parallel in England, and even with the very low standard of overcrowding which is generally adopted, there are in Glasgow 4,638 single-apartment houses occupied by four or more persons—who are going to spend the whole of their lives with four or more to a room—and there are 9,786 two-apartment houses occupied by six or more persons. That is in Glasgow alone, and in that calculation we are taking no account at all of children under one year—and anyone who has gone on a long railway journey with a baby knows that 2882 it can occupy quite as much space in the apartment as an adult—and every two children under 10 are counted as one.
There is no parallel to that in England. I looked up the figures for cities and counties in England with equally poor conditions. I am not talking of the wealthy Southern cities or of places like Birmingham, but of Liverpool, which has had the same immigration, the same industrial conditions, and very much the same depression. In Liverpool 7.4 per cent. of the houses are overcrowded; 30 per cent. of the houses in Glasgow are overcrowded. To take the counties, in Durham, a depressed area, 12 per cent. of the houses are overcrowded; in Lanark 37 per cent. are overcrowded. For Scotland as a whole 23 per cent. of the houses are overcrowded, as against 3.8 per cent, for all England and Wales. The programmes which are being put forward at present to deal with this situation seem to be inadequate, and the performance of those programmes seems to be desperately inadequate. In the last three years, roughly 20,000 houses a year have been built in Scotland. On that basis the problem will require 10 years, and perhaps 15 years for a solution.
To ask those people to wait for 15 years before their problem is solved is a proposition I am not prepared to make. At 40,000 houses a year it would still he seven years before the problem could be dealt with, and that is a very long time to ask people to spend in some of the houses which exist both in the divisions of hon. Members below the Gangway and my own division. In the past year, not 20,000 houses were built, nor 40,000. I do not think they will top 16,000; it may not he much over 15,000. There are only some 20,000 houses under construction, and that makes it very improbable that much more than that number will be reached in the course of next year. When we adjourn again next Christmas, if nothing more is done than the present programmes, we will still be faced with a problem as bad as that which we have to deal with to-day, with the added knowledge that for 12 months more the water has run under the bridges with nothing being done.
The falling off in programmes which has been mentioned is not merely the falling off in Glasgow. There has been a 2883 falling off elsewhere. The Edinburgh figures are 730 houses in 1934, 858 in 1935, and only 350 so far this year. It is true there has been a considerable amount of private building in Edinburgh, but it does not touch the problem of slum clearance or touch the poorest people who find difficulty in paying the rents. I do not think that the drop from 700 houses to 350 is one that can be justified. Lanarkshire has a fall, although not so much. It built 1,000 houses in 1935 and 632 houses in the first 10 months of 1936. There are, however, still to be built 15,000 houses, which means that the people of Lanarkshire will have to endure another 15 years before the problem is solved. In Fife in 1934, 251 houses were built, in 1935, 275, and in the 10 months of 1936, 80 houses. That is not a record of which any Secretary of State for Scotland can be proud. I will not go over the whole conditions, although I might put on record one figure for the benefit of the English Members who are here. There are 30,000 families living in Glasgow in conditions which provide only one water closet for four families. Conceive the conditions of the sanitation of these families. It is all very well to say that it is an inheritance, but it is an inheritance that we want to sweep away, for the people ought not to be allowed to endure it a day longer than is necessary. I have records here which I will not read, but I will take one instance of a single-roomed house which has not been condemned. The room is five-sided, the clear measurements being 11 feet by 12. The window at one corner is flush with the side of a building which projects at right-angles. In the room is a box bed, and there are angles which are dark even with the gas on. The gas is required all day. The walls are damp, the woodwork decayed, and a water closet above the stairs leaks so that the water runs downstairs and along a passage and seeps through the ceiling.This may account"—says the report—for the bad smell of the houses".That house is not condemned. In conditions like that, less than 2,000 houses will be completed this year in Glasgow. None of us can regard that as a situation which is satisfactory.
I come again to conditions in Glasgow. I have here a file dealing with the ques- 2884 tion as to whether any proposal was or was not put up for Glasgow with regard to a proposed scheme for guaranteeing the wages of workers in the building industry. The answer was in the negative. No such scheme has been submitted. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has said that there is an adequate supply of labour, or that one could be secured for housing purposes. The Glasgow demand alone to carry out a programme of 6,500 houses would be equal to 33 per cent. of the bricklayers upon local authority work in Scotland. That would create a shortage in other areas, but I am certainly willing to be convinced. I am going into that matter further with Glasgow itself. It is certainly not a question of land. There is enough land for two years of building in the City of Glasgow.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is not the land system, because there is enough land in Glasgow to build 12,000 houses and more, and there were 2,000 houses built last year.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is not a question of money, because the money required to build 6,500 houses would be produced by a half-penny rate. Does anybody suggest that that is an excessive amount to put on the rates in order to sweep away 6,500 of those dens of which hon. Members in all parts of the House have given examples?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The Moderate party built 6,500 houses in a year, and I had something to do with the drive that put those houses up. When hon. Members have done as much as we did they can talk—
At the last municipal election in Glasgow, the Moderate party objected to any addition to the rates, whether for house building or any other purpose.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is idle to say that a halfpenny on the rates for building 6,500 houses is too much, and I will not 2885 take that attitude as long as I am Secretary of State. I will say more. I agree that the Government have to play their part in this. We are at present dealing with the question of the new block grants. We are re-calculating them. We are taking up proposals with the local authorities and elsewhere, and the Government are making new allocations. I can say here that the new proposals will ease the financial position of local authorities to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds in a year. If there is no excuse now there is going to be still less excuse in the future for not dealing with this problem.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Conditions are not going to be dealt with by catchwords, or by minimising the problems that we have before us. What I say is: Here we are with every third working-class house in Glasgow with more than five adults to three rooms. We have 40,000 families averaging more than three families to a watercloset and 10,000 houses condemned as unfit in Glasgow. There are 600 houses scheduled for demolition that have not been demolished, and January, February, March, April, May and June will pass before the Medical Officer can begin to deal with other houses for demolition. It is not common sense, it is not business, it is not investment. These people are paying for these dens sums which would enable them to pay rents for reasonable houses. Hon. Members must take that fact into consideration. Furthermore, there is the development of industry for which we are all looking in Scotland. Housing is not only housing: it brings with it half-a-dozen ancillary industries. It brings with it the light castings industry, the linoleum industry, the furniture industry; and these are the smaller industries which we desire to see developed in our own country. We have, too, the raw material, which no one can deny to us. The State is already providing over two-thirds of the grants in the case of housing, and in the case of slum clearance well over two-thirds. The recalculation of the block grant, as I have already said, will ease the financial position of the local authorities 2886 to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds in the year. It is time for us to get together and make a real housing drive possible, and I pledge myself as Secretary of State that I will do everything in my power to see that a real alteration is made in these conditions.
§ Mr. T. HENDERSON
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the attempt made by the late John Wheatley, in connection with his Housing Act of 1924, to bring together the local authorities, the right hon. Gentleman's Department the employers and the trade unions to solve this problem?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
There have been consultations since July, and I myself have been engaged upon them since I came into my present office. I am not likely to under-estimate the desirability of getting employers and employed, the local authorities and the State in if we are really to make an advance in dealing with this problem.