§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Elliot)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I am fortunate to have the opportunity of introducing this Bill to-day. It forms part of a policy for the countryside with which the House has had many opportunities of dealing. The whole of the agricultural policy, unless it leads to an improvement in the condition of all of those who are engaged in the industry, will fail; and this is a further attempt to bring to those most closely concerned with the industry the benefits which they deserve. This forms one of a group of several Measures which have a direct interest for the agricultural labourer. This summer the House passed legislation to secure that wages would be settled in the countryside by collective agreements. Last year insurance against unemployment was extended to agricultural workers; and to-day we are making an effort, and hope that the House will make an effort, to ensure that the agricultural worker has a decent and healthy house.
It has been known for long that rural housing was unsatisfactory, and indeed in Scotland it was paralleled only by urban housing. A vigorous attempt has been made to tackle the question of urban housing, although we all know, as questions in the House to-day have shown, that the problem of urban housing and slums is still very far from solution. Yet the pace of improvement has been faster in the urban than in the rural areas. I do not wish to minimise at all the desperate condition of the urban slums. In some respects the urban slum dweller is in a worse position than the country slum dweller can be, since he is cut off from the primary amenities of life, fresh air and sunshine, from which the country dweller can never be severed.
This Bill proceeds directly from strong representations made, in the first place, by the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills, and, in the second place, from the report of an Advisory Committee presided over by Mr. Ross Taylor. When 1628 the Housing Bill was in Committee the late Sir Godfrey Collins, who was in deep sympathy with the Committee on this subject, assured the Committee that that Bill was not the last word on rural housing. Accordingly he remitted the question to the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. That Committee began its inquiry in 1936. Its report was published only in July of this year and it aroused immediate interest and was discussed, among other ways, on the Motion for the Adjournment by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). It was discussed also on the Estimates Debate in July. There was the report of the Committee in July, and here is the legislation laid before the House of Commons in November. I trust that in all our other dealings with this problem we shall be able to show a similar expedition.
The Bill does not represent the first step that we have taken to implement the findings of the Committee. Some of the recommendations in the Committee's report can be carried out without any change in the law, and accordingly we forthwith consulted the County Councils' Association and then sent out, in July, in the very month when the report was published, a circular dealing with those recommendations. It concerned such things as better inspection of houses, special surveys of farm servants' houses and crofters' houses and action to secure that good use was made of the expenditure under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts. There was also the very important question of the planning and design of new houses.
The county councils said, however, as did the House of Commons—and the Government agreed—that without legislation or financial provision it was impossible to tackle the problem as it should be tackled. The Bill which I have the honour to lay before the House this afternoon carries out the main legislative recommendations of the Committee with the exception of those relating to the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts. Those Acts have always been United Kingdom Acts, and it would be a mistake for me to consider them separately on this occasion. I am, of course, considering recommendations dealing with the Rural Workers Acts in consultation with the Minister of Health, and an opportunity will later come to 1629 the House for considering the Rural Workers Acts and the possible amendment of them.
Here we have a Bill, which I hope will shortly become an Act, and which deals more specifically with our Scottish problems, I hope in a fashion satisfactory to Scottish Members. At any rate, it deals with them in a Measure which we shall be able to take to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills, where we can hammer out among ourselves such alterations and Amendments as may be necessary to make it a workmanlike piece of legislation. I am sure that in this matter we shall not have division along party lines, because the housing problem is one in which every section of the Standing Committee is interested. I am sure that we shall have the co-operation of all Members to make this a workmanlike piece of legislation and to place it speedily on the Statute Book.
Before I turn to consideration of the actual details of the Bill, I would like to express my appreciation of the co-operation of the Association of County Councils in considering the report. In the first place, the county councils, like other bodies, were a little sore at some references by the Advisory Committee, and desired to express their opinion upon the Advisory Committee as the Advisory Committee had expressed its opinion upon them; but after a certain amount of mutual interchange of criticism in one or two reports, such as the report of Dumfriesshire County Council, which has recently come into the hands of Members—
§ Mr. Elliot
That may well be. The county councils settled down to a vigorous cc-operation with those of us who had the task of drafting a Bill, and with the same object, that is to say, making it a wise and workmanlike Statute. We have had five meetings with the Association of County Councils, or with their sub-committees, and a number of suggestions made by the Association are incorporated in the Bill. Furthermore, we did take advantage of the County Councils' Association appointing a special sub-committee to work with us, a precedent which I very much hope will be followed on other occasions when we have close work to do with great bodies representing a group of local authorities. We all know 1630 that one of our difficulties in Scottish administration is to find a small body representative of the local authorities and able to discuss and negotiate on behalf of its members with the central departments, when we are coming down, as one might say, to brass tacks.
§ Mr. Westwood
Were all these discussions solely and wholly with the County Councils' Association and has there been no consultation of any kind with the burghs who, in many instances, have large tracts of land in their areas?
§ Mr. Elliot
We have confined ourselves to discussion with the county councils. All these discussions with regard to this problem have, both in the case of this Government and in the case of other Governments, been confined to the counties. The hon. Member will remember that although the Labour Government's Act of 1931 dealt with rural housing it affected only the county councils, and that no burghal authorities were brought in on that occasion. I do not deny that the burghal authorities are concerned in this problem although not so closely as the county councils, and, perhaps, had more time been available, I should have taken them into consultation. I hope very much to take them into consultation when we are discussing the Bill in Committee. One of the reasons for the seeming overlooking of the burghal authorities was the great pressure under which we worked to produce this Measure at as early a date as possible. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells) will agree that the Kirkintilloch tragedy made it very necessary that we should not delay our legislation.
The essence of the rural housing problem is that it requires more than one method of tackling it, and that is especially so in Scotland. Separate problems, such as the crofter problem, do not exist south of the Border. Special conditions must be brought in to enable legislation to be applicable to these questions. Part I of the Bill, therefore, provides a special Exchequer subsidy to enable the county councils to build new houses for the agricultural population. Part II deals by another method with the housing problems of certain individuals who will not be able, we believe, to have houses provided for them by the county councils, but who still are 1631 in many cases rather badly in need of improved houses. It would be a great pity for Parliament to neglect them. There are, for instance, the hill shepherds, a worthy class of the community which it would not be the wish of the House to neglect. The method by which their problem is to be tackled will be a subject for discussion. Part II indicates the line which the Government think would be best in dealing with that problem.
Part III of the Act is designed to make certain improvements in housing administration possible and to better the conditions in which the unmarried or seasonal worker has to live. That applies to burghal as well as to county councils and landward authorities; it applies to towns as well as to county councils.
The object of the subsidy under Part I of the Bill is to meet the needs of the worker who derives his livelihood from agriculture or from any of the dependent industries. We have drawn the definition of "agricultural population" as widely as it can be drawn. It includes anyone engaged in agriculture, anyone who has been in agriculture and has earned his livelihood in it and any of their dependants; it includes anyone who has retired from agriculture, and industries dependent upon agriculture such as those of blacksmith and forestry worker, and the dependants of such persons. A wider definition can scarcely be drawn.
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not know whether auctioneers would come within the scope of the Bill as laid down, and I should not like to say off-hand what classes are included and what are not. I should be most unwilling to cut out anybody. Something was said earlier to-day against those who raised false hopes. I can only say that the definition is drawn as widely as possible, and that I believe it will include every person who can legitimately be brought within the compass of such a Bill.
The new subsidy ranges from £10 10s. to £15. This Measure, taken in conjunction with the subsidy under the Housing Act, 1930, should enable county councils to proceed with schemes to remedy the acute shortage of houses in rural districts. Let me say again that 1632 this Measure is designed to supersede no Measure for the improvement of housing now upon the Statute Book or now being administered in Scotland. Overcrowding and slum clearance Acts remain; the special facilities for crofters remain; the special loans from the Department of Agriculture for the improvement of crofters' houses remain; and the special provisions for materials at cheap rates for those in crofters' houses remain. This Measure is in addition to, and not in replacement of, existing legislation.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that the Bill will solve the rural housing problem of Scotland? That is what he was saying a few moments ago, and I want to tie him down.
§ Mr. Elliot
I may use to the hon. Member language which he will very well understand:Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.Let us wait until we see the result of the Bill before we venture to say what the result will be upon the rural housing problem of Scotland. At any rate, the Bill will be a very useful tool to use in the advance upon this tremendous problem. The new subsidy is, on the average, twice as high as the subsidy to remedy overcrowding in the Act of 1935, and it will be available to remedy overcrowding in the agricultural population. The new subsidy will be available for replacing unfit houses inhabited by small families where the county council can give only a small grant under existing powers, but the county council will be able to use the 1930 Act in cases where the size of the family makes that preferable; that is to say. in cases where they will be able to earn a greater subsidy under the 1930 Act. For instance, a county council replacing an unfit house just now can get a subsidy of only £8 5s. under the 1930 Act if there were only three persons in the family. They will now be able to get, under this Bill, a grant of between £10 10s. and £15, but, if the family is a large one, they will still be able to claim the subsidy under the Act of 1930, which in that case might amount to as much as £19.
The replacement of unfit houses and the remedying of overcrowding still remain the leading objects of the Government's policy, and so there is a special 1633 provision in Sub-section (2) of Clause I of the Bill requiring the Department, before giving the subsidy, to be satisfied with the adequacy of the measures taken by the county councils towards these general ends. Let me say in passing that any house begun with the approval of the Department on or after 3rd November will be eligible for the new subsidy, so that there may be no time lag in proceeding with the scheme. In addition, so far as the Highlands and Islands are concerned, and, indeed, so far as the whole country is concerned, we are enabling the Department to increase further the amount of grant where, owing to the remoteness of the sites, the annual expenditure is substantially greater than the sum of the maximum Exchequer and rate contributions; but I do not wish to say to the House that we are going to regard that as a general provision applicable in all cases; it is an exceptional provision to deal with exceptional cases, and I am sure the House would not expect us to go beyond that.
The object of Part II of the Bill is to ensure that those agricultural workers who, from the nature of their employment, cannot be provided for by means of the county councils' grants, should not thereby be deprived of the opportunity of getting good grants. It is true that under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act grants are made for reconditioning, but we all know of cases where houses, for reasons of construction or site, are unsuitable for reconditioning; indeed, the attention of the committee was drawn to such cases in evidence, and the committee reported on them. Further, there are cases where it is only by straining the terms of the previous Statute and incorporating some feature of the house that local authorities have been able to deem that such a house is not a new house, although it is a little like the famous jackknife which lasted for ever, because, when the blade wore away, they replaced the blade, and, when the handle wore away, they replaced the handle. It is not worthy that we should be driven to subterfuges in this matter, and therefore we come out flatly and say that, where an existing house is unsuitable, it may be replaced by a different house on a different site, and a grant may be given for such a house.
The Amendment on the Paper is directed against the methods chosen for 1634 dealing with this problem, but I do not believe it is directed against any attempt to deal with the problem. I am sure that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would be the first to make that case, but they do feel difficulties about grants to private individuals. They say that a house on a farm is a tied house, and they are opposed to the system of tied houses. We have done our best in this Bill to place a bias as far as possible towards the provision of houses by the county councils, and there are restrictive provisions, to which I shall refer later, whereby the county council is enjoined to consider whether the house can be provided by itself before making a grant to a private individual. But anyone acquainted with Scottish farming practice knows that there are cases in which it is not possible for the county council to provide the house. The suggestion which has been made that the county council should provide the house on the farm seems to me to raise greater difficulties than it would solve, and I think that that will probably be the general sense of the House. The suggestion that a private individual should have the power to turn someone out of a publicly owned house on a farm would, I think, be greatly resented by the majority of Members in all quarters of the House. The essential point in this matter is that the occupant gets the accommodation. This difficulty is not unknown in other walks of life, but no one, for instance, ever considers, when there is a change of Government, that it is a terribly hard thing for the Prime Minister, in addition to losing his job, to have to leave No. 10 Downing Street, that tied house—
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not wish to stress the matter, although it is well known that there are other cases—county council road men, some policemen, institutional workers—
§ Mr. Elliot
—or caretakers in various places—I do not, for example, know what the position is at Transport House—in which the occupation determines the accommodation. I do not think it is possible to get away from that position at the present time. The fact is that, 1635 unless we have the house built on the farm, the man on the farm, in many cases, will not get a house, and it is the desire of Parliament, I believe, that these people should have the opportunity of living in a good, new, dry, clean, sanitary house. We are fortified by the recommendations of the majority of the Advisory Committee on that point, and I do not think the minority actually reported against it.
Let me go over the safeguards which are provided in the Bill to ensure that these provisions are not abused. In the first place, no grant can be given for this purpose unless the new house is being built to replace an unfit house which is to be demolished, or an unfit or overcrowded house which is to be merged in a reconstruction. Naturally, if there are two houses side by side which, if put together, will make a fit house, nobody would require that one of these houses should be demolished in order that a new house should be built. If the two are put together and one house is thereby sacrificed, the holder would have the right to ask for assistance towards building a new house in addition to these two houses which are being turned into one. Then the county council cannot give a grant for a new house on a farm if other suitable accommodation is available, nor can they give a grant for a house on a farm if suitable accommodation can be provided by the county council; and I am sure that the county councils will play their constructive part in this regard.
It should be observed that there is no question of allowing houses of an inferior type to be erected with the aid of these grants. Any house provided with this assistance is subject to conditions as to letting which will run for 40 years, and anyone who has built a cottage in the country, either for himself or for farm workers, will know that the amount of assistance given under this Bill will not nearly make up the amount of money which it will be necessary to spend. It will be an assistance, and a useful assistance, but the landlord or the owner-occupier who is about to build under this Measure will require to dip his own hand deeply into his pocket. Indeed, from the money-making point of view, it would pay a landlord to press the local authority to build a house and 1636 raise the worker's wages by the equivalent of the rent of the house, rather than build a house out of his own money with the assistance given under this Bill. Nevertheless, such are the conditions of agriculture in Scotland that I believe that in many cases the provisions of this Clause of Part II of the Bill will be put in operation and houses will be built on the farms. The local authority, of course, will have to adopt the scheme; they will have to make these various inquiries; they will have to satisfy themselves that the owner is subsequently using the house for the purpose for which the grant has been authorised by Parliament; and they will have the right to call upon the owner to make from time to time a statutory declaration that he is actually so using the house.
Part II of the Bill also provides for the needs of landholders, commonly called crofters, and other cultivators of small holdings. In the years from 1919 to 1933, the last year in which lump sum grants were available, many of them did provide themselves with new houses, and any of us going through the Highlands can see the great advantage that has been to the inhabitants of those northern counties. Under this Bill people dwelling in the northern counties as defined in the Schedule will again have the advantage of a lump sum grant; but I want to say again that the present assistance in the shape of cheap loans and supplies of materials at cost price from the Department of Agriculture will still remain. The local authorities may be reassured that they will stand as they are as regards that point. If a crofter wants to build himself a new house to replace one that is unfit, he will apply to the county council for a grant, and simultaneously he may apply to the Department of Agriculture for a loan on the easy payment terms which at present run. The county council grant, as laid down in the Bill, will not fall to be paid until the house is completed; but to finance the landholder while the building is in progress the Department of Agriculture will advance the whole of the estimated cost, on condition, of course, that the grant is paid over to them when it is eventually received from the county council. The small man in the Highlands wanting to build a house can go and apply for a grant, and, if he is told that he is to get a grant, he can go to the Department of Agriculture and borrow the 1637 whole of the cost, repaying part of the amount he has borrowed out of the grant.
Clause 4 (1) (a) (v) will enable the same kind of assistance to be given also to cotters or squatters who are members of the agricultural population, but, naturally, that can only be done if they obtain a title to the site on which they wish to build. Sub-section (2) further assists cotters and squatters by enabling them to include, in the cost of the new house, for grant purposes, the cost of obtaining a title. I hope very much that this provision will go quite a long way towards beginning to provide a solution of one of the most urgent problems in the Highlands, namely, the grave doubt as to the legal position which exists when people have houses which have no legal existence at all, and which, up to the present time, they have found it impossible to regularise in any way. I hope very much that the existence of a grant of £200 towards the building of such a house, of which part can be used for the legal expenses of establishing a title, will enable us for the first time to make an inroad into this problem. Furthermore, most of these grants in the Highlands will come within the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Clause 8, which provides specially favourable treatment for the county councils of those areas, in that the proportion of the cost borne by the Exchequer will be seven-eighths in their case, as compared with three-fourths in other parts of the country. Before I deal with Part III of the Bill—
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that subject, I should like to ask him a question. How are these cotters and squatters to prove the legality of their title, apart from the fact that they are occupying the land?
§ Mr. Elliot
I imagine that even a Scottish Law Officer of the Crown, deep as is his knowledge and broad as is his intelligence, would hesitate to dogmatise across the Floor of the House about the conditions on which a squatter might regularise his position in the Highlands. I would not like to go into that question just now. I say that a grant will be made 1638 towards the expenses which such a person may incur, but the technique and details of such matters are, as we all know, one of the most difficult problems in law and administration, and certainly I am in no position to dogmatise upon them across the Floor of the House.
I want to deal with Part III of the Bill, but, before I come to that, I should like to make a very brief reference to the important question of rural water supply. The Advisory Committee recommended that there should be Exchequer grants to enable water supplies to be provided in rural areas. I do not think that in any part of the House there will he any desire to minimise the importance of water supply and the need for a better water supply in the rural parts of Scotland; but this is a Housing Bill, and, although there is a close connection between water supply and housing, we are dealing with housing as a matter of greater urgency. The rural housing problem is common to all landward local authorities, and to most landward areas, but this is not the case with water. There are many landward authorities which have been able to provide themselves with wholesome water supplies. This is a very complicated problem. In some cases it is purely a question of finance, in others it may be a matter of co-operation, and in others there is the need for more and better water. All these things will have to be looked into and weighed before a final decision is taken. It is a task in which I am already engaged, and it will continue to receive my consideration. In that connection, the question of drainage will also have to be considered. But I think it is necessary to get on the Statute Book first a Bill to deal with the more urgent problem of housing.
The only Clauses in Part III of the Bill which need special mention are Clauses 17 and i8. Clause 17 deals with by-laws regulating the maintenance of bothies. I am pleased to see the old Scots word "chaumer" reappearing in the Statute in this connection. Some of us will remember the lines in the poet Dunbar in which he writes of James Dog, the Keeper of the Queen's Wardrobe:His gang garris all your chalmeris shog, Madam, ye heff a dangerous Dog.The "chaumer" is still a feature of Scottish social conditions on farms and it is one which, after many hundreds of years, 1639 we think we should take steps to remedy. I hope that under the Bill we shall get many of the bothies replaced by cottages, but it is right that we should have some means of ensuring decent furnishing and cleansing of them while they continue to exist. Clause 17 deals with the bothies used by regular workers, and Clause i8 tightens up the regulation for those used by seasonal workers. The recent tragedy makes it all the more necessary that provisions such as this should find a place in the Statute.
We shall have an opportunity in Committee for further discussion but I do feel that we have here a Measure in which there is much hope for the improvement of the condition of the ordinary man and of the ordinary woman, which in all these agricultural matters is half, and sometimes more than half, the enterprise of living and the enterprise of working. It is fortunate that we should be able to pass this Measure now. There are some who say that there will not be enough labour to undertake it, but we all know that there is a residual labour in the countryside which will not migrate to the town, and often does not figure on the employment register, because it is self-employing, and does not wish to submit to the conditions of unemployment registration and benefit. We all know cases of men who will work if they have the opportunity to do so, but have no more thought of moving to the other end of the town than of moving to the other side of the Atlantic. So far as the crofter is concerned, he is accustomed to work on his own house, and neglects in a light-hearted fashion nearly all the rules and regulations of the employer which are necessary for the towns. In these days, when we have so many Debates on foreign affairs, it is, I think, a relief to return, from time to time, to the needs of our own people, to get, if we can, a chance to improve the conditions of our own folk, for, unless our great policies and our great ideals are founded on the lives of the folk of the land, we shall never be able to carry them into operation.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Johnston
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: 1640this House, whilst welcoming any increased facilities for the provision by local authorities of houses for agricultural workers, cannot assent to proposals which, at the expense of public funds, perpetuate the system of tied houses under private ownership.I am sure that we on these benches sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in his task this afternoon. He is not only dealing with 200-year-old problems, which are made more difficult by crusted customs, but he is in a position where he can only introduce Measures that are complicated with cross references, such as this one to-day. I am sure every one of us found great difficulty in appreciating exactly what is meant by many of the Clauses and Sub-clauses in the Bill. I hope we shall be able, in the course of the Committee stage, to get fuller information from the right hon. Gentleman and other Members of the Government than he has found it possible to give us in his Second Reading speech. While, in general, we on these benches are exceedingly anxious to maintain the 15minute provision for speeches, we think that that is applicable particularly to Estimates discussions, but hardly so applicable on a Measure of this kind. Nevertheless, while not strictly restricted to 15-minute orations, I hope that speeches will be so short that we shall not altogether sacrifice the Scottish reputation for brevity, and I hope, so far as I can, to set a good example.
It is exactly 20 years ago that the Royal Commission sat on Scottish housing, and dealt exhaustively with Scottish rural housing. That Commission included such men as the late Dr. Leslie Mackenzie, the late Sir William Younger, a most enlightened landlord, the late Sir Henry Ballantyne and my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr). That Commission reported that the conditions of rural housing in Scotland were gruesome and terrible, and they described the terrible conditions of the bothy system for example, as such that they were not fit for housing animals. Since then we have had some areas where there have been considerable changes, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in the Outer Isles, for example, there have been great changes since the War—beneficial changes. But there are rural areas where there have been no changes, and some rural areas where conditions have actually worsened since 1917. It is literally true that in all our housing legislation 1641 the class from which Robert Burns sprang has seen the amenities of civilisation pass it by.
Twenty years after the Ballantyne Commission in 1917 we have a Scottish Housing Advisory Committee's report. They say that half of our farm servant population still have to put up with dry closets, 29 per cent. of our farm servant population have no sanitary conveniences of any kind, and in one county, in which all the farm servants' houses were inspected, 95 per cent. of those houses were certified to be unfit for human habitation in one regard or another. Since 1933, the same committee reports, building in the rural areas has been practically negligible, and prior to that year—it is a sort of mournful consolation to some of us—the only building which had taken place, so far as the working population is concerned, took place as the result of the Act for which I had some responsibility in 1931. At that time, in my own county, which was the first county to have a complete survey, we had in the rural areas villages where there were 34 houses supplied with water from four wash houses, and four dry privies supplying 17 separate tenancies. In the committee's report for 1937, we are told that the Department and the county councils have been negligent of their duties in the enforcement of the sanitary provisions which are enforced in other areas and upon other classes of workmen. We are told that they are too tender with vested interests and that they ought not to consider, on the question of whether the family ought to get drainage or water closets, whether the proprietor would thereby be financially embarrassed. There are other people who are financially embarrassed when they have to provide ordinary sanitary necessities for their tenants.
Now we are faced with this Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, and said with great clarity, if I may so compliment him, this Bill provides two main features. One is that there shall be an increase in the amount of subsidy given to county councils in Scotland for the building of new cottages in their areas. The second is, that they are giving, for the first time, public money to build houses to remain in private ownership and to be let as tied houses. Some of the provisions are exceedingly difficult to understand in the miscellaneous part and I do not propose to discuss them here 1642 this afternoon but I beg of someone on the Government Front Bench to-night to make it clear, as I think from my reading of the Bill it is clear, that a farmer who has a farm in a landward portion of a burgh gets, apart from bothies and chaumers, none of the privileges of the Bill, and that it is only applicable to county councils. The farmer in a landward portion of a burgh will get nothing, but over an imaginary line a farmer in a county council area may receive up to £200. We ought to have the fact clearly and squarely stated that there is to be a differentiation. It will be very difficult to explain and justify, but there should be no doubt left in the minds of the House before the Debate concludes.
The right hon. Gentleman said that in the main he had dealt with the recommendations of the Rural Housing Committee and that he had put their recommendations in the Bill, but that is not how I read it. I agree that there are some things that he could not put into the Bill and that he would require to put into separate Bills. But I should like to know what has been done about the regionalisation of water supplies. That is fundamental to decent housing. Some areas cannot obtain water even now and we must have the regionalisation of water supplies, which is a recommendation of the Committee. We want to know also what is to be done about sewage treatment and disposal; for example whether it is to be made obligatory—the report said that it should be obligatory—to instal a water closet in each house. The Bill says that there shall be a water closet only if it is reasonably practicable. That may be so, and it may be open to argument, but it is not what the Committee recommends. It recommends that every house that is to get a grant of public money shall have this minimum standard of sanitation. I hope also, that the right hon. Gentleman or some other representative of the Government will be able to promise that there shall be a consolidation of the housing Statutes very soon. We cannot go on as we are now with these cross references and legislation by reference; it is very difficult to understand the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman has not, as far as I can see—and I speak subject to correction—made any provision for a panel of skilled persons to take the onus off the Department of deciding when a 1643 grant should be given to the tied house-owner, nor has he provided for a panel of skilled persons to determine the amount of subsidy, whether it shall be £10, £11, £12, £15 and so on, that is to be given to particular county councils. There are first-class men available. He might make use of a man like Mr. McKinna, who was the Secretary of the Housing Department for many years, and there are any number of men who could be of great service in speeding up sympathetically the building of new houses and the carrying out of sanitary requirements in rural Scotland. As far as I can see the panel recommendation has been ignored.
I can see nothing dealing with the recommendation of the Committee on page 33, whereby occupying owners who have improved their own houses without assistance from the local rates should not have their assessment increased over that of their neighbours who have received such assistance, and whose assessments in the valuation roll are kept down by law. It is grossly unfair that the man who has built or improved his property without public assistance should be assessed at a higher rate than the man who has received public assistance. I can see nothing in the Bill to implement the recommendations of the report of the Royal Commission in that regard.
Again, I should like to know what steps can be taken in this Bill or otherwise to enforce the recommendations of the Committee that farm servants should not be evicted during their period of service unless they are in breach of contract. The right hon. Gentleman said perfectly truthfully that where there is a small number of units in a house ripe for demolition, it would be wise for the local authority to build houses under this Bill. A married couple without any children would, under the 1930 Act, qualify for only two units and a married couple with one child would qualify for three units, and so on, but the right hon. Gentleman must appreciate the fact, in every uninhabitable house on a farm which can be knocked down and replaced by a new house, it will pay the local authority, provided there are more than four units in the house, to build under the 1930 Act and not under the present Measure. I should like to hear what a representative of the Government has to say on that 1644 matter, and particularly when the Committee told us that the rural local authorities have been getting on an average from £13 to £15 per house in recent years. What benefit will they get if the subsidy, presently £13 to £15, is to be reduced to £10? We ought to know something more about that subsidy.
I beg of the right hon. Gentleman to face this fact. At Question Time—I could not take down the precise figures—he said that on the average in rural Scotland the cost of a three-apartment house had risen during the past year by some £90 or £95; that it was £400 a year ago, and that it is £493 now on the average. He attributed part of that increase to the demand under the 1935 Act for a higher standard of floor space and so on, but he said that £65 or thereabouts of the increased price was due to the increased cost of building. If the increased cost of building a house amounts to £95 in one year alone, we ought to have from the right hon. Gentleman, certainly before the Money Resolution comes before the House, the fullest possible information so that it can be passed on to local authorities. In the anxiety of the Treasury to curb and restrict the right hon. Gentleman and the Scottish Office, we must see that rural Scotland is not once more being sold a pup.
I want to say a word or two about tied houses. The right hon. Gentleman from his point of view stated quite fairly the difficulties about tied houses. A tied house is a house in which a tenant occupies his house on a service basis. It is a condition of service which he must fulfil as long as he remains in the house. That is a tied house whether it is privately owned by the farmer or a landlord or whether it is publicly owned by the local authority. The same conditions obtain. We agree that there are on a farm certain essential men who must live near or at their employment, and it would be folly to ignore the fact that the man who deals with livestock or looks after horses must live near his employment. But what the right hon. Gentleman is doing, as we understand it in the Bill, is that he is giving very considerable subsidies to farmers and owners of property to put up new tied houses in place of old, derelict ones on the farms, whether or not the tenants are actually required to be on the farms in tied houses at all.
1645 Our point of view is to encourage the local authorities in every way to build houses in the villages and hamlets under public ownership, that the houses should remain in public ownership—I will say why in a moment—and that only the very minimum number of houses for stockmen should be permitted as tied houses on the farms. If owners of farms want to have for their own convenience other men housed on their farms, let them put up the houses without public assistance. The farm worker is as much entitled to have a house in respect of 'his citizenship as is any other working man. Why we should at this time of day perpetuate the tied house in agriculture and develop it as a system in agriculture when we have destroyed it in coalmining and every other industry, passes our wit on these benches to understand. The right hon. Gentleman lightly passed over the difficulties in regard to this matter.
I am fortified here with the reports of the only three commissions or committees of inquiry which have examined the subject in the last 20 years, and none of them supports the Government. I take the committee of 1917, when Dr. Leslie Mackenzie and Sir William Younger and men of their type, signed the report. They said that there should be provision of houses for agricultural workers in the rural areas, but where proprietors or farmers had failed to provide what they called proper houses, they went on to say that:The local authorities should build such houses and let them to tenants. In any event we cannot believe that public sentiment will permit of public funds being used to erect houses whose occupation shall be in the absolute control of the employer.That is what they said 20 years ago, and they added:The public interest is served when proper housing for the workers is provided, but it cannot he expected to expend public funds in safeguarding an employer against a risk that every other employer must take. It is also only reasonable that the local authority should arrange the tenure of houses to suit the conditions of employment.That was in 1917. The Inter-Departmental Committee on Tied Cottages, which reported in 1932, Cmd. Paper 4148, stated that there are 50 to 60 per cent. of agricultural workers in England living in tied houses, and in Scotland between 95 and 97 per cent. The committee say: 1646Landowners and farmers should not continue to be responsible for housing.On page 14 of their report, in a footnote, they declare that:A witness for the Central Landowners' Association in England came before the Committee, and said that tied houses were only essential in the case of stockmen.The committee go on to say that the tied house "so far as practicable" should be abolished. The only exception should be in the case of the "men in charge of stockbreeding." The minority report, headed by Lord Lymington, on page 27 of the report says:The remedy of the evils of which complaint is made lies in the provision of cottages for the use of agricultural workers, by the State and the local authorities.The Committee on Farm Workers in Scotland, Lord Caithness' Committee, in 1936, unanimously reported in the following terms:We suggest that such houses should be retained under the control of the local authorities and should be let at a rent sufficiently small to be within the reach of the ordinary farm worker.All these reports are against the subsidising of the tied house and leaving the house in private ownership. They all report in favour of whatever tied houses are necessary being owned by the public authority. The farm worker to-day is hired at a feeing market and until he goes to it he has not seen the house in which he is to live. He takes it on trust. He hires himself for six months in the year and then finds himself living in some old contraption, without sanitation, with perhaps 1,000 yards to go to carry water, and with some old dry privy away out in the middle of a field, very disagreeable for the women folk and children, particularly when they are sick in the winter time. This old shack is not owned by the farmer who has hired the man, but by the landlord. The farm worker has no remedy, without serious trouble, in enforcing his remedy. If the house were publicly owned he would have his remedy as a citizen against the local authority, just as any other citizen has. The local authority is bound to provide water, internal sanitation and the decencies of civilised life. Why the farm worker should be denied his rights as a citizen, we on these benches do not understand.
If the local authority subsidises a tied house which is to remain in private ownership on the farm, that new tied house is 1647 going to be derated to the extent of 87½ per cent. It will be part of the farm buildings. It is going to escape its share of the local burdens, and the rest of the citizens in the county are to be compelled to make up this hidden subsidy, which will go into the pockets of the landlords. In this Bill we are going to increase the value of particular estates, the value of property, and unless the right hon. Gentleman and the Government can meet us in the Committee stage on these points, I believe most sincerely that they will be sinning against the light. They are flying in the face of the recommendations of three committees or commissions and are not providing the citizenship facilities for the agricultural workers which we believe are their right.
I do not want to horrify the House with gruesome accounts of the conditions of life in rural Scotland, but I have here an enlarged photograph of the kind of sanitary convenience which local authorities controlled by the people who are going to operate this Bill consider necessary and fitting for farm workers. I pass the photograph over to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Johnston
It is a gruesome and scandalous production and it is permitted by the local authority in that area. That is their standard. It will be particularly interesting to the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells) in whose territory it is. These county landlords have been denounced in the Committee on Rural Housing as the people who evade their obligations, and I suggest that the time has come when the public authority must own and control all the houses that are to be let in the rural areas. Certainly, new houses and houses subsidised out of public funds should be publicly owned and publicly controlled in the case of rural workers, as is the case with houses for every other worker in the community.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the conditions of which he is speaking, and which are represented by the photograph, were brought about by the local authorities?
§ Mr. Johnston
No. I am suggesting that the class which controls the local 1648 authority in pretty nearly every rural local authority in the country—
§ Mr. Johnston
I am endeavouring as best I can to answer the hon. Member's question. I say that the local authority, composed of the landlord and farmer classes who are running the show in the rural authorities, are the people who have passed or permitted this sort of thing for private owners. What we are asking is that the new standard to be set up by this Bill and in many respects in existing legislation shall be enforced by the Department, that the houses shall remain under public ownership and control and shall not be run by private individuals, landlords and farmers, for their profit.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I want to associate myself with the compliment paid by the right hon. Member to the Secretary of State for the speech in which he explained the provisions of the Bill. I should like to go further. As one who has frequently criticised the Government, the Secretary of State and his predecessors for their slowness and delay in regard to many matters of public importance, and expects to criticise them again, I ought frankly to admit that the right hon. Gentleman has shown despatch in dealing with this vital question of rural housing during the last few months. When the Act of 1935 was introduced my hon. Friends and I on these benches strongly criticised it as providing no solution whatever for the rural housing problem, and it was my hon. Friend, Sir Robert Hamilton, who moved an Amendment in the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills, as a result of which the Advisory Committee was set up to study the problem of rural housing. They produced their report in July, and we ought to pay a tribute to the Secretary of State for acting promptly on the report by circularising the local authorities and directing their attention to the steps they might take in advance of legislation to give effect to some of the recommendations of the report and, further, we ought to thank him for his prompt introduction of this Bill.
There is, however, one matter on which I must complain of the delays of the 1649 Government, and that is on a question which is vital and fundamental. I refer to the problem of water supply and sewerage. We have had innumerable inquiries followed by recommendations and promises on this subject. The Department of Health has said that water supply is a cardinal necessity of public health. Moreover, the Government in their General Election manifesto, in 1935, in the paragraph dealing with Scotland, said that water supply in the rural areas, and particularly in sparsely populated areas was a matter on which action would be taken if they were returned to power. But we are no further forward. I agree with the Dumfries County Council, which has circularised Scottish Members to-day, that the provision of water supplies is really a pre-requisite of any satisfactory housing policy. If the wealthiest county in Scotland or in England can get 75 per cent. and in some cases a higher grant for roads, surely we ought to be able to obtain a helpful grant for what the Department of Health describes as a cardinal necessity of public health.
The Secretary of State says that in his opinion the statutory powers of local authorities are adequate to deal with this matter. The statutory powers of the local authorities and all the other conditions of the problem are very nearly the same as they were when the Government proclaimed to the electors in 1935 that they were going to deal effectively with this problem of water supplies. By giving that assurance they gave the electors to understand that they realised that something more required to be done by the Government in order to provide a solution of the problem. I do urge the right hon. Gentleman to bring in a Measure as speedily as possible for that purpose. I think it was the Secretary of State or the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken who suggested the importance of regionalising water supplies. I agree that that is a vital consideration in most counties, but I doubt whether it applies in all counties, for example, in Sutherland, and whether you could make a regional scheme for the whole of that county. That is, however, an engineering question upon which I do not pretend to be able to pronounce an opinion; but there are many counties which might have a regional scheme, and on these lines or on other lines I would urge the 1650 Government to give us an assurance that the problem will be promptly tackled.
There is another omission from the Bill, and that is that there is no reference to reconditioning of existing houses under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. The Secretary of State has explained that this is rather a United Kingdom matter than a Scottish matter and has assured us that it will be dealt with in the near future. It is a very important matter for Scotland and for the Highland Counties and I would ask the Secretary of State to obtain information about a deputation which was received by his predecessor from the Highland Local Authorities in March, 1935, when the 1935 Act was before Parliament. That deputation urged that the financial responsibility of local authorities under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act should be limited to a definite poundage rate, say of 6d. in the £. They pointed out that the operation of the Act was being slowed down in many counties by the accumulation of heavy liabilities in respect of this one purpose. Another alternative would be to apply the conditions contained in Clause 4 Sub-section (2) and Clause 8 Sub-section (2) of the present Bill to the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. I hope the Secretary of State will consider these two alternative suggestions and give us an assurance that some such measures will be taken to enable greater use to be made of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act.
There arc one or two other criticisms I have to make on the Bill as it stands. Useful as I believe the Bill will be and desirous as I am of being regarded as a well-wisher towards the Measure, I am not going to be deterred from criticism by the fact that the Secretary of State has told us that he has been in close consultation with the Association of County Councils. Since the Bill was circulated I have not been able to consult the county councils of the two counties which I represent; they have not met, but I have consulted people who are concerned in local administration and I think that there are a number of criticisms to be made on the Bill from the standpoint of the local authorities. As one who is specially familiar with the problems of local administration in the Highland counties, I cannot help wondering whether the Secretary of State has 1651 had the advantage of consulting representatives of the Highland local authorities.
It is unnecessary for me to argue that the poverty of the resources of these local authorities compels the Government to make special provisions for housing in these areas. The case is admitted, it is explained in the report of the Advisory Committee on Rural Housing in Scotland, and it has been accepted by the Government in drafting their Bill so far as the replacement of unsatisfactory houses is concerned. But if the case is good, and the Government admit it is, when unsatisfactory houses have to be replaced under Part II it is no less good when accommodation has to be provided for the agricultural population under Part I. In Clause 8 Sub-section (2) the contribution of Highland local authorities to the replacement of unsatisfactory houses under Clause 4 will be substantially less than that of other local authorities, but under Clause 2 they will have to make the same minimum contribution as every other local authority for the provision of accommodation for the agricultural population under Clause 1.
Let me give a concrete illustration of how unfairly this will work out. If, for example, Caithness builds 200 houses under the Clause in order to provide for the agricultural population under Clause 1, the minimum contribution will work out at £700 per annum, or 6d. on the rate. For the same rate Argyllshire can build 1,200 houses and Invernesshire 1,400 houses, and other local authorities in the South will be able to build proportionately immensely more houses. I suggest to the Secretary of State that neither in logic nor in justice should Highland local authorities be treated less favourably under Part I than under Part II, and I suggest that either a maximum contribution should be specified and no minimum, or that the minimum contribution should be specified by way of poundage in the rates and that no local authority should be asked to contribute for the specific purpose of Part I more than 3d. in the £ on rates, or whatever might be regarded as a fair average rate for the whole of Scotland for the specific purpose of providing accommodation for the agricultural community.
1652 One great problem, of course, in the Highlands is the provision of accommodation for landholders. The Secretary of State in his speech paid a tribute to the efforts which landholders in the Highlands have made, on the basis of 1911 Act, for the improvement of their houses, and the Nairne Committee, which reported about 10 years ago, also observed what great improvement had been made in the housing conditions of Scotland by landholders as a result of the security they received under that Act from being rented and, as we have believed for the last 25 years, from being rated, on their improvements. Unfortunately, doubt has been cast upon the position of these landholders in respect of rates on their houses and I cannot help doubting whether landholders will embark on this expenditure for erecting up to date houses unless they know how much they will he rated as occupiers and owners of the houses. I hope that the Secretary of State will make it clear that the Government will protect these landholders from having their houses included in the valuation roll.
Some criticism has been made during the Debate, as in previous debates, of local authorities, but I hope the Government will realise the difficulties with which they will be faced. To one great difficulty I have already referred—the absence of water supplies, an enormously difficult thing in dealing with housing in rural areas. I hope the Government will give us an assurance that they realise their difficulties in this respect and will give them effective help. In addition there will undoubtedly he an unwillingness on the part of landholders and occupying owners, to scrap the old house, partly due to sentiment for the family house, partly due to a doubt about the rating burden for which they may render themselves liable, and partly due to a doubt as to their compensation claims. After all, they have now an old house which is worth something to them, it is of value to them for their compensation claim. They will not be able to claim compensation for two houses, and I shall be grateful if the Minister who replies will tell us what will be the position of a landholder who, now having a house in respect of which he has a substantial claim for compensation, builds a new house; what compensation he will be able to obtain and whether, in fact, the moment he decides to scrap the old house and replace it with a new one 1653 he will lose all the value which now resides in the old house as a result of his compensation claim.
As regards a landholder's house, is it quite clear that the grant is to the house rather than to the landholder, and that so long as the conditions of the grant, including of course the type of occupier, are observed, that the grant will not have to be repaid? The Secretary of State will remember that under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act when a landholder gets a grant the Department of Health say that the grant cannot continue to the incoming tenant. That has caused a great deal of hardship to landholders, and I shall be grateful if we can be informed whether this will apply to those who obtain grants under this Bill. Then it seems to me—I rather gather that the same thought was passing through the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) that Clause 4, Sub-section (2) is now out of date. Under that Sub-section assistance is to be given by way of payment on the completion of the house of a lump sum not exceeding either one-half of the cost or £160 in the case of a house containing three apartments. That Clause is based on the report of the Advisory Committee on Rural Housing, but we know that they drafted their report on the basis of figures furnished to them when the cost of a threeapartment house was only £400. Now we know that the cost of that house has risen by no less than 25 per cent., to 493, and, therefore, I suggest that these figures, £160 and £200, ought to be revised upwards by at least 25 per cent. Even this cost of £493, which is the average cost of a three-roomed house in the rural districts of Scotland, is much less than the cost of providing such a house in places where the site is very remote from the sources of supply.
Let me give some illustrations the accuracy of which the Secretary of State will easily be able to check. My information is that the cost of a small threeroomed house recently erected by the Department of Agriculture in Beauly was £480 and that the cost of a similar house erected by the Department in the Parish of Durness in Sutherland was £680. Of course bricks can be purchased in the South for 55s. per 1,000, but by the time they reach the county of Sutherlandshire they will cost twice as much, and so of course will other building materials.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
These are houses erected by the Department of Agriculture. It is for that reason that I said the Secretary of State would easily be able to verify the accuracy of my statements. I lay myself open to correction, and if the figures I have given are inaccurate, the hon. Member who replies for the Government will be able to correct them. The Secretary of State invited us to improve the Bill, and I am sure that we shall all be most anxious to help him to do so in the Scottish Grand Committee; but in that Committee we cannot move Amendments to enlarge the subsidy, so that I commend these suggestions very earnestly to the Minister for his consideration.
There are in Clause 19 two points to which I wish to draw the attention of the Secretary of State. The first has reference to the title of the Bill—"Housing (Agricultural Population) (Scotland) Bill." The Gracious Speech delivered at the opening of this Session said that legislation would be introduced on the subject of rural housing. The phrase "agricultural population" is a new one in Parliamentary parlance. I wonder why the Bill has been confined to the agricultural population, and whether it is in the public interest that it should be so confined. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling asked one or two questions about who was to be included or excluded, and the Secretary of State said quite reasonably that he did not wish at a moment's notice to give an answer as to who would be included or excluded. I imagine, for example, that a rural postman certainly would be excluded; he is merely a postman in a rural district, and I do not suppose he would come under the Bill. But why should he or fishermen be ineligible under this Clause for housing grants? It is true, of course, that many will come under the Bill as crofters, but some of them have houses and no land. Therefore I wish very respectfully to suggest to the Secretary of State that the phrase "agricultural population" should be dropped and that the word "persons" should be substituted. I suggest that it should read "Agricultural workers or persons of a similar economic position," which is the phrase to which we are 1655 accustomed in the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts. There would then be included fishermen, in particular, rural postmen, and other rural workers. The second point that I wanted to raise on this Clause was dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling, so that I will not say very much upon it. It is the exclusion of burghs from the definition of "Highlands and Islands." The Clause reads:'Highlands and Islands' means the areas specified in the Second Schedule to this Act, excluding any burgh within the meaning of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897.As the right hon. Gentleman said, there are many farms and smallholdings that come within the boundaries of burghs.
In conclusion, I would like to refer to the Amendment on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling. I find myself in great sympathy with the object of that Amendment, and I have never heard the case against the tied house put more persuasively and in a more practical way than it was by the right hon. Gentleman. He admitted that men who look after horses and stock must live on the farm, and anybody who knows the practical conditions of farm life will know that that is true; but after all, as the right hon. Gentleman said, successive committees and commissions have reported against the tied house. The Secretary of State seemed to imply—perhaps I misunderstood him—that it was only a minority of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee that reported against it, but I would point out that the majority said:The tied house system has certain real disadvantages from the point of view of the worker and his family, and the definite aim of housing policy should be to reduce it to a minimum.It also said:While we are strongly of opinion that the aim should be to reduce to a minimum the tied house system, we recommend that, in order to expedite the provision of dwellings of a suitable health standard for agricultural workers, it should be open to county councils for a period of five years, if they are satisfied that a tied house is radically unfit and must be replaced by a new house on the farm, to give the landowner assistance to replace the tied house.They recommended that it should be open to county councils to give landowners assistance to replace the tied house, because of the practical circumstances, 1656 but the majority of the committee recorded its opinion that the aim should be to reduce the system to a minimum. In those circumstances, I tell the House frankly that I am in some doubt as to how to vote if the Amendment is pressed to a Division. I have the greatest sympathy with the object of the Amendment, and I was completely in agreement with the terms in which the right hon. Gentleman moved it. On the other hand, I am not going to cast a vote for the rejection of this Bill. I want to see in what terms the Government will answer the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling. If the Government will give us the definite assurance that it is their policy to reduce the tied house system to a minimum—that they will not merely encourage, but will use their utmost powers to induce, local authorities to make adequate provision of non-tied houses—I shall certainly feel that I shall have to vote for the Bill, even if it means casting my vote against the Amendment. Unless I receive such assurances, I shall have to vote for the Amendment. In any case, I count myself a strong supporter of the Bill, I congratulate the Secretary of State upon its prompt production, arid I wish to help my fellow Scottish Members to improve it when it goes to the Scottish Grand Committee.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Sir Murdoch MacDonald
In common with the two right hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me, I wish to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland on bringing forward this Bill. I hope with all my heart that it sill have a very speedy passage through the House, that it will quickly be put on the Statute Book, and in particular, that effect will be given to it once it gets there. I am fully aware of the extraordinary change that has taken place in housing in the Highlands during the last 30 or 40 years. The change began with the 1886 Act, it was given an accelerated pace by the 1911 Act, and particularly since the War, with the additional facilities that have been placed at the disposal of the Department of Agriculture, a very great change has come over rural housing. Nevertheless, that does not close my eyes to the fact that a very great step forward will be required before housing is in anything like an adequate position in which we 1657 may be satisfied that our fellow countrymen are reasonably housed throughout the rural parts of the Highlands of Scotland, which probably I know far better than I do the Lowlands.
This Bill, in effect, gives a grant of £200 to anyone who builds a new house to replace an old, unsatisfactory house. In the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum, the houses are divided into five classes. In the first class, there are houses or other premises situated on a farm where agricultural workers are employed. In ordinary parlance that means the big farms, where farm servants additional to the farmer and his own family are concerned. The second, third and fourth classes refer to the occupiers of small farms, whether they be small farmers who do not come under the Land Court, or statutory small tenants or landholders. The effect of the grant will be very different indeed in the first case from what it will be in the second, third and fourth cases. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) said that the houses in the first class, that is to say, the houses on the ordinary farms, would get the benefit of derating to the extent of seven-eighths of the actual rates imposed in the county in which they are situated. That statement is apt to lead to a misapprehension, because in that class of farm, the houses either of the farmer or of the farm servants do not appear in the valuation roll, nor do any improvements made to them. What appears in the roll is the rent of the farm as a unit which consists of the farm, the steading and the fields. Consequently, in the case of these larger farms, no matter what changes take place during the currency of the lease, there will be no difference in the taxation imposed, because they will not appear in the valuation roll. Indeed they will not appear in the valuation roll even at the end of the lease.
Suppose that a farmer takes advantage of this Bill, and builds half-a-dozen new houses in substitution for uninhabitable or bad houses on his farm, and he or his landlord provides half the money, then when he leaves, at the end of his lease and a new lease is granted by the landlord or proprietor of the farm, only the rent mentioned in the new lease will appear in the valuation roll. No reference will be made to the alterations of the buildings themselves. All that will 1658 happen is that somebody may give a trifle more for the farm because it has rather better houses upon it than it previously had. But in that case I wish to point out that no matter how good the houses placed on a farm, no matter how good the house the farmer himself has, it will not increase the productivity value of the farm or its capacity to pay rent. What actually pays the rent is the capacity of the soil to produce foodstuffs for sale.
§ Sir M. Macdonald
The labourer helps to produce that, and what I am trying to point out is that whether the house is a first-class house or a moderate house, will make no difference as far as the rental is concerned. I desire to emphasise the point that I am making now because of the difference involved to the next class of people—the class of people to which I have been referring will not as a practical matter have their taxation increased at all. They are in an entirely different situation from the next three classes. If the hon. Member will look he will see that the next three classes are (2) small farms (3) houses occupied by statutory small tenants and (4) houses occupied by landholders. In those cases an entirely different situation arises. Those people, particularly those in classes 3 and 4, are proprietors of the houses and as a consequence when they alter their houses they run the risk—which was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition and was also referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair)—of having an assessment laid upon them of a very heavy character. The assessment in the ordinary Highland counties is something like 10s. in the £ and as a consequence if these people build new houses with the aid of this subsidy and put up £400, £500 or even £680 houses the assessor is bound to come along and value those houses at some figure comparable to the cost of building. It may be that he will value them at a very small rate of interest so that on the valuation roll the house will appear at a low figure of annual value compared with its actual cost but at what ever figure it appears, 10s. in the £ will have to be paid by the owner on account of it.
1659 In a recent controversy which occurred in regard to this matter in the Highlands and in my own constituency in particular, the Court of Session decided that all these houses should appear in the roll. The cases which the Court of Session at that time was considering were the cases of houses built on entirely new farms, which were small portions cut out of previously existing big farms and in those cases no houses had previously existed. It does seem right that in those cases where the Department of Agriculture had said, "We will charge you so much for the 10 or 12 acres of land," that the assessors should have something put into the valuation roll for the value of the house. That was objected to by the tenants and the Court of Session eventually decided that the houses ought to appear in the valuation roll. The Court of Session decision went further than the particular cases dealt with and said that all such houses should appear in the valuation roll—that is not only houses belonging to people who had built new houses where no house existed before, but houses which had been rebuilt. Those latter cases all went to the local valuation courts. They decided that it was too much to ask them to put so many thousands of houses all at once on the valuation roll, and that, as far as they were concerned, they were going to refuse to put them on the roll. But it is certain in my mind that when the case comes up before the Court of Session as it will in January or February next, the Court will reassert its former opinion, in which case these houses will all be entered in the valuation roll and the owners will have to pay heavy taxation based on the value that will actually be entered.
I suggest, therefore, to the Secretary of State for Scotland that he should deal with this matter in this Bill. He is here giving money to farmers or to proprietors of farms who will pay, as a practical matter, no extra taxation. He is proposing to give money to small people with small farms, but they will have to pay heavy extra taxation. The right hon. Gentleman may say, possibly quite rightly, that it is a rating matter and ought not to be dealt with at this moment but I think it is right to point out that the people who will be expected to take advantage of this Bill and this new grant will be very chary indeed of taking ad- 1660 vantage if it, until this other matter is cleared up and that as a consequence all the good intentions of the Secretary of State for Scotland will be vitiated by the fact that the rating matter has not yet been decided. In regard to tied houses, I have listened carefully to what has been said on the matter. It may be that my personal experience in the South of Scotland does not go far enough to enable me to judge whether the proposal made from the Front Opposition Bench could be carried out or not, but I think I can say without hesitation that it would be wholly impracticable in the Highlands in the big farming districts to take the people away from close proximity to the farms and put them into villages. The villages are generally some miles away, and it would be quite impracticable to have workmen placed at a considerable distance from the cattle and other stock and the various kinds of work which they have to carry out on the farms.
§ Mr. Mathers
I think that the hon. Gentleman should be careful not to misinterpret what was said by my right hon. Friend, who realised the necessity for certain workers being in close proximity to the farm and actually on the farm, while others were provided for in the way which he suggested.
§ Sir M. Macdonald
That is just why I intervened. I stay with farming friends in the Highlands now and again, and I can say without question that in those places which I know it would be wholly impracticable to take any of the men away to live in villages and make them come to work on the farms every morning and return to their homes, miles away, every night. That, I am sure, for the greater part of the country, would be an impracticable proposition. It is not that I do not agree that if w e could, somehow or other, reduce the number of tied houses it would be desirable. The triune system of landlord, farmer and farm servant, made it extremely difficult for the Government to decide how to help agriculture. I think the right hon. Gentleman in this Bill is taking the right line as far as the agricultural labourers are concerned. If he granted a subsidy, the subsidy might go into the pockets of the farmers or the proprietors and who knows how much of it would go into the hands of the agricultural labourers?
§ Sir M. Macdonald
At any rate, this Bill will do something for the agricultural labourer. It will make a valuable contribution to the comfort of our fellow-countrymen throughout Scotland, and I shall be very happy to support its Second Reading.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Brown
I think the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald) cannot have followed accurately the argument of my right hon. Friend who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench in regard to the question of tied houses. All of us who know anything at all about farming, must know that in many cases it would be impracticable to have the farm-workers living far away from the farms, but my right hon. Friend did not suggest anything of the kind.
§ Sir M. Macdonald
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that two or three workers out of perhaps 10 could remain on the farm and look after the stock, while the others lived elsewhere. I suggest as far as my experience goes that all the ordinary workers on a farm would require to be living there or near at hand.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not think my right hon. Friend put it in that way. He instanced certain men who would be required constantly on the farm. I am not quite sure whether the suggestion would be practicable or not, but what we want the Government to do is to go as far as they possibly can to prevent the farmers or landowners taking the benefit of the subsidies for these houses and then being able to turn these men out at a moment's notice. When I came down here this afternoon I had a speech prepared, but I have altered my mind, and perhaps it will do for some other time.Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter,so I will leave that to a later date, because I agree with the statements made that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has gone a long way to assist us in housing our agricultural workers, not before time. Anyone who understands housing in Scotland during the last 50, 60, or more years knows that the agricultural worker was never housed and that in many cases he 1662 only lived in a hovel. It is a very curious thing that the workers in the three industries upon which the greatness of this nation depends have always been badly housed, namely, agricultural workers, miners and fishermen, and I am very glad indeed that the Secretary of State has brought this Bill forward. We are hoping that, although there are some little difficulties in the way and a great many differences may exist among us, we still agree that the Bill takes a long step forward in giving houses to agricultural workers.
The conditions have slightly altered during the last two or three years. In some districts in Scotland they may be described as, comparatively speaking, good. I do not mean to say that they are really good, but that compared with some other districts they are very good. The districts, however, with which they can be said by comparison to be very good are distinctly bad, and when one reads the report on rural housing one can see how courageous this Committee was when making its recommendations, which we hope will be carried out as far as is humanly possible when this Bill goes upstairs and when we are hammering out and trying to straighten out some of the difficulties that now exist. We all know that in many districts still the conditions are so bad that a radical change is needed. I am not going into that now, because these conditions have been criticised already, and I would far rather turn my attention to what can still be done regarding some of the anomalies that exist.
We want, like the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), to build; we do not want in any way to destroy, because bad as it may stand—and I am not saying it is wholly bad—it is a vast improvement on what we have had in the past, and we want to extend that improvement and to go on to further improvements. I do not know of any class in our community who deserve better at the hands of the State than the agricultural workers. I am not for a moment saying that there are not some good farmers, and if you carefully examine and pick them out, there is an odd good landlord, but it takes some examination.
§ Mr. Brown
I exclude my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie), 1663 and I hope that he will continue to be a good landlord and become a better landlord in the future, but we do know that, although there is an odd good one here and there, there are many who are very careless indeed. There are many who argue that they have no facilities for doing these things and that, therefore, they cannot go farther, and there are some who do not trouble their minds at all about how their workers are housed. It is that class that has to be tackled. I said just now that the Advisory Committee on Rural Housing in Scotland was very courageous, and, indeed, it gives me some little hope for the future of committees to read this outstanding report. I think they go better and do better than the Secretary of State for Scotland goes, because they say, quite explicitly, that water should be taken into cottages irrespective of cost. That is one of the things that we should like to see carried out. What is the use of giving houses if there are no sanitary arrangements, and how can we have sanitary arrangements if we have not a supply of water? We want water not only for sanitary conveniences, but for people to drink, and if we are to build houses that are worthy of the name of houses for agricultural workers, then we must have water in those houses, and we are not, the Committee says, to consider in the first place what the cost is.
I think the right hon. Gentleman made a comparison, in opening the Debate, that it was better to be in the country in a bad house than in a town, and largely one can agree with that, but this very Committee deprecates the idea of not bringing water into the houses because a statement or two had been made by farmers and owners that rural workers had so much fresh air that it minimised many of the difficulties to be encountered in a town. The Committee's retort to that was that fresh air could go very much too far when it blew into a house and the house was not able to protect the owner from either boisterous weather or rain, and I think we shall agree with the Committee in that regard. A summary was issued to the Press a few days ago regarding this Bill, and I expected to say something about that summary, but I do not want to take up too much time, because there are many others who would like to take part in this Debate.
1664 Anyone reading this report does not require any further information regarding the bad conditions in many of our districts. The Committee selected three parishes from three different counties. They selected Jedburgh, from the County of Roxburgh, Inverarity, from the County of Angus, and Tarbat, in Eastern Ross. I take it that they were chosen as a kind of sample or average for Scotland itself, and anybody reading that report regarding those three districts who has any doubt of the necessity of a rural workers' housing Bill will have all his doubts removed as soon as he reads that report. We expect, in spite of any criticisms that we may level against this Bill, that it will become an Act, but we must guard against many things even when it is an Act, because the Act we may have, but we shall still have human nature, and human nature is very persistent in many things, in its acquisitiveness, at any rate. Human nature will do everything possible, where the balance is shaken against it, to prevent a great many things being done that we consider necessary to make this Bill something that will suit us, and I trust that the Government will take precautions that human nature of that character is not allowed to frustrate them in bringing about what they and we consider to be necessary for the building of proper houses for our agricultural workers. The Bill has been rather slow in coming to us, but now that it is here, we trust that the Government will bring it into operation at the earliest possible moment, and I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman state that they were anxious to press it forward.
I am not going to deal with the financial statement, nor am I going to say very much about tied houses. We know that there is a great deal of difficulty in regard to tied houses. We have experienced it in other walks of life and in other industries. It is not only agricultural workers, but miners, who are subject to the fear of instant dismissal from their houses. True, they can go to the sheriff and ask for a little time, but in the end it comes to this, that the owner, whether he be a mineowner, a landowner, or any other owner, has the man's life, heart, and soul at his disposal if he can put him out of his house. Therefore, in regard to all tied houses, we want remedies given to us at once, and when we say, as my 1665 right hon. Friend told us, that it would be impracticable for many workers on the land to be far away from their work, yet we think many of those houses could be built, and it would not in any way minimise their usefulness for the work on the farms. I am not going into that matter now, because we may have opportunities of discussing it upstairs, and I am anxious to confine my remarks within the limits set before us.
I would plead with the Government and with hon. Members opposite to be as sympathetic and generous as they can be so as to get this Bill made an Act that will remain for a considerable time as the charter for the Scottish agricultural worker. We want these houses built so that our men will be placed in conditions that will encourage them to remain on the land. Many people wonder why farm workers at the end of the year, and six months in some cases, desire to "flit," but the reason is not far to seek. Anyone who has been in an agricultural district for any length of time can see the reason. The greater part of the constituency I have the honour to represent is agricultural and sheep farming, and therefore I know what the conditions are. It is only too true that:If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottages princes' palaces.We are not asking for palaces, but for decent houses. We ask the Government to stand firm against any attempt to minimise what has been done and what they are trying to do for agricultural workers. In many districts these houses will be costly. There is no question about that, but what is a little money compared with the comfort and well-being of our workers? We accept a burden of £1,500,000,000 for armaments with a certain amount of equanimity, if not with joy, and we are doing that in order that we may have liberty and safety. Is there a better way of preserving liberty and safety than having on the land people who would fight for their country, as they have fought in the past, and who would protect our liberties as well as, and probably more willingly than, many people who would deny them any privileges.
I do not know any better safeguard to ensure the country's safety than housing conditions that will keep our people on the land. We do not grudge money for 1666 armaments which are for the protection of our nation. Why should we do anything to minimise the attempt that is being made to house our people? There are some people whom nothing will take off the land, for they are grown into it and remain there, even under severe conditions, rather than take up easier conditions in the city. They want the free open air and the life that belongs to it. What better safeguard for our country can there be than to give our workers better houses and better conditions in which their families can live a human life and be able to class themselves as members of a great Empire and a great community? But for the perverted laws that grew up in our nation long ago, those conditions would have obtained. We are trying to come a little nearer to the problem now, and it is certain that, given better conditions, we shall not only keep on the land the men who are on it now, but will attract more to the land, and many of those who have tried town life and prefer the freer life in the country. Our soil has always produced a sturdy race and will yet produce it if the opportunity is given.
While there is much to criticise in the Bill we do not utterly condemn it. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland that we do not want to jeopardise the Bill. We want it passed, but we want it to be in such a shape that we shall be able to commend it to our people. I have not time to talk of the bothy system and the conditions in which many single men and girl farm-servants live. One wonders many times how these girls escape unscathed from all the temptations that surround such a life as they are bound to live. The same applies to young single men. We welcome the Bill, and I am sure that we shall be able to get some redress on many of the points, such as water and tied houses. If we do we shall wish the Secretary of State "God speed" with the Bill and trust that he will hurry it forward so that we may soon enjoy the fruits of the sympathy and generosity of the Government in the shape of better houses for farm servants. The other parts of the Empire need not grudge us this afternoon to discuss such a Bill as this because it will do what has urgently needed to be done for a long time. I say to the Government, "God speed with this 1667 Bill, so that our workers on the land may be encouraged to remain there to be a strength to our country."
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
The subject which we are discussing is one which must of necessity interest every Scotsman because it is the general feeling that the conditions under which the agricultural workers live are far from satisfactory. One would have thought from the Amendment that there would have been a good deal said by the Opposition about tied houses, but all the speakers from that side have said, "Although we disapprove of tied houses, we are not going to say anything about them." One would naturally have expected them to talk about tied houses, when the Amendment implies that they would rather not have the Bill because it perpetuated the system. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment went further, because he said that they approved of a certain amount of tied housing—to the extent of two to a farm—but surely if it is such a wicked, reprehensible system, it is difficult to think of even two workers being condemned to live under those conditions.
§ Mr. Mathers
The hon. Member is straining what my right hon. Friend said. We agree that in certain exceptional circumstances tied houses may be necessary, but apart from that we say that, as far as possible, they should be abolished as being a wrong principle.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
The Amendment says, "perpetuate the system of tied houses." If it said "as far as possible" it would have been better.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
"System of tied houses under private ownership." understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he saw no objection to tied houses to the extent of two per farm, but if they are to be under the local authorities it would be a difficult question and would lead to a lot of trouble. Those people who know agricultural conditions will agree that the tied house system has worked comparatively well. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the position of the unfortunate farm servant 1668 when making arrangements for an engagement with a farmer without knowing what class of accommodation he would have. In my part of the country the farm servants -make inquiries about the class of accommodation they are likely to get, and most farm servants know pretty well into what class of tied house they are going. The right hon. Gentleman's part of the country may be different, but I live in a part where the farm servants are intelligent.
This question is of great importance and I am disappointed at the way in which the Government have introduced it. We had this Bill only last Thursday and we have the Second Reading to-day. When we are dealing with a matter of such vital importance as the housing of agricultural workers we ought to have a little time in order to communicate with the people concerned in order to find out what the general feeling is. The county council and the private individual come into it, and it would have been more satisfactory if we had had more time for consultations. Another point which worries me concerns water supply. I cannot see how we can deal with this question on the lines laid down in the Bill, which insists on proper drainage, sinks and baths, unless we know what is to be done about water supplies. It would have been better if we had had before us the promised Bill on water supplies at the same time as this Bill, so that we could deal with the two problems together. The question of water in the rural areas is of vital importance. I know the case of a woman who went into a house which had a cold-water tap, and she said to me, "You cannot imagine what it is to have the water laid on, because for 25 years of my life I have had to carry every drop of water for nearly a quarter of a mile." To have a tap in the scullery is an extraordinary advantage. We talk about the advantages of sinks and baths, but it should be remembered that it is not much good having water laid on to the bath unless there is hot water too. That is why I say we ought to have had the two Bills before us at the same time so that we could have gone fully into the question. On reading the Bill I found references to "the Department" doing such and such things, and my first question to myself was to ask which Department was referred to. I looked through the Bill but could not find 1669 what Department was intended. I assumed that it would be the Department of Health—
§ Sir R. W. Smith
On the first stage of the Bill? I am reading what the Bill itself says. I am told now that it is the Department of Health, but there was a good deal of doubt about it, because I asked some of my colleagues and they thought it might be the Department of Agriculture. It would have been a good thing if the Bill had stated clearly which Department was dealing with the matter. Another point to which I want to refer is one of detail, and concerns the question of costs; it arises under Part II of the Bill, the Part about which there is the most controversy. I should like to know whether, in arriving at the cost of a house, the supplying of water—the laying on of a main supply—to that house will be brought in as part of the cost, or will only the cost of the plumbing—the fitting of the bath, etc.—be included? Suppose there are two cottages on a farm with no water. In the building of houses will the cost include the cost of putting in gravitation water from a hill?
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)
Yes, the cost of putting in water for a single house counts towards the cost of the house, but if you are building 20 houses and have to have a new and expensive water scheme, you cannot divide up the cost of the new reservoir among those houses.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
If we are taking that into the cost of the house, it seems probable that by the time the cost of that water supply has been reckoned there will not be much assistance for the house itself. The whole of the £160, or £200, or whatever it may be, may be taken up in bringing the water to the two houses, and there will be no assistance towards improving the condition of the houses, the cost of which will fall entirely upon the landowner, or whoever owns the house.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
That will greatly increase the cost of the house, and I wish to point out that the owner, be he crofter or any other person, will really 1670 have to improve the house entirely at his own expense. All that he will have got will be assistance towards the cost of bringing in the water supply. We ought to have had a Water Bill brought forward at the same time as this Measure. We ought to have had a Bill giving assistance towards bringing water to the house and then have had our housing proposals once the water was there. It is a great disadvantage to people who have not a water supply that they are not going to have the same financial assistance from the Government towards improving the condition of their houses.
One other point arises on page 7 of the Bill where it says:A local authority may in any case refuse to give assistance under this section on any grounds which seem to them sufficient.Surely some right of appeal against such a decision by a local authority ought to be granted to the individual. At present a local authority may turn round to an individual and say, "We do not like your proposal" and there is no appeal for that individual, which is unfortunate. What I have said about the cost of water applies also to drainage—the provision of means for getting the water from baths and other sanitary conveniences. Those are the main points to which I wish to refer, but I must say a word on the Bill in relation to the rise in the cost of building. The Secretary of State said this afternoon that the cost of a house at present was £493, as compared with £400 in 1936. A rise of 25 per cent. in a year is very serious, and the figure of £400 in the Bill rather suggests that the Bill was drawn up at a time when the cost was £400. Now that it has risen to £493 we may want a little more money. With prices as they are we cannot expect the private owner to do much for the betterment of his houses unless we are going to help. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that a Bill was to be presented to amend the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, because much has still to be done under that Act, and I sincerely hope that one of the Amendments will provide further financial assistance, seeing how the cost of house-building has risen.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Cassells
I wish to associate myself with the remarks which fell from the Secretary of State for Scotland when he 1671 made particular reference to the tragedy in the town of Kirkintilloch some time ago. That was an experience almost without parallel in Scotland. Ten Irish lads, with very little behind them and all their life in front of them, who came to our country in the hope of earning some small pittance of wages, were compelled to live under housing conditions in the town of Kirkintilloch which, to say the least of it, were desperately horrible. Almost in the twinkling of an eye they met their destiny. As the Member for the County of Dumbarton I welcome the fact that, although such tragedies, unfortunately, do not always make one's mental acuity more alive to the seriousness of a situation, at least those young men have not died in vain. We know that as a result His Majesty's Government are introducing in this Bill two Clauses dealing with this particularly vexing problem. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he said that Clause 17 (1) had reference purely to whole-time agricultural employés, and that Clause 18 (1) had reference to circumstances similar to those prevailing in Kirkintilloch on that occasion. While welcoming those two Clauses I suggest, with respect and confidence, that between now and the Committee stage it ought to be possible for the right hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with the Department, to effect considerable improvements in both these important Clauses. Paragraph (b) of Clause 17 (1) makes compulsory the provision of ventilation, floor area and furnishing, including a separate bed and bedding for each worker. I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to Section 83 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925, which made it compulsory to provide sleeping accommodation and for the separation of the sexes, and I suggest that he should incorporate in paragraph (b) a provision that the sexes should be separated. In Clause 18 (1), too, there is still room for improvement. It states:A local authority who at the date of the passing of this Act has not made by-laws under section eighty-three of the Act of 1925''—This Section 83 was not compulsory upon local authorities, but gave them complete discretion, and the right hon. Gentleman suggests that we have an improvement in these words— 1672which are in the opinion of the Department sufficient and satisfactory, shall within six months of the passing of this Act, or within such longer period as the Department may allow, make such by-laws: provided"—It is to this proviso that I take definite exception—that, if the local authority show to the satisfaction of the Department that it is unnecessary to make byelaws under the said Section, the Department may dispense with the making of such byelaws.Let me postulate this simple case. It is an admitted fact that the housing of seasonal workers was not a common circumstance in Kirkintilloch, and no doubt that was the reason why the local authority did not consider it necessary or expedient to pass by-laws under Section 83 of the Act of 1925. I feel that we ought to guide our conduct in the future by our experiences of the present and the past, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should make this Section tighter by making it compulsory upon all local authorities in these particular burghs or other areas where agricultural employés are wont to be housed. He could make the position doubly sure in so far as safety measures are concerned by saying to all local authorities, "You have a particular duty in so far as this problem is concerned. You must meet possible emergencies in the future. Let me see what suggested arrangements you are prepared to put before my Department." In that way much good would be done.
§ Mr. Elliot
There are cases where a burgh is completely built up and no agriculture is taking place within its boundaries, and it seems to me to be unnecessary that in such a place there must be by-laws dealing with the employment of seasonal workers if no seasonal workers or other agricultural workers could be employed there.
§ Mr. Cassells
It is a well-known fact that many of these seasonal workers are taken from their dwellings in the burgh to the place of employment by motor car by the employer. I suggest that the fact that the burgh is built up is not a relevant consideration. They need not work in the burgh.
I pass from this question to deal with the question of housing generally in agricultural areas. Let me say this immediately, that the housing in the agricultural 1673 areas of Scotland is, to say the least, positively deplorable, and every Member of this House will welcome the remedial steps suggested in this Bill. If I may be pardoned for making a passing reference to my own constituency, Dumbartonshire is, to outward appearances, as far as ordinary visitors are concerned, a place of beauty and a joy for ever. We possess Loch Lomond. But the more I go about my constituency, the more I begin to pry into the little nooks and corners, the more do I begin to realise that it is just like the school boy who was sent by his mother to wash himself—he washed his face, but forgot his ears and neck. The conditions under which many of the people in the agricultural areas of Dumbartonshire live are deplorable.
At Question Time to-day I raised a question with the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the fact that at a point immediaely beside Loch Lomond there is a tent colony, a colony of no fewer than 20 families, with many units in those families, compelled under our system of society to live in tents. These people have in the past earned a livelihood from agriculture, and yet when I broached the subject with the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, and suggested to him that in his wisdom and with the power he has behind him, he should compel the local authority to deal with this problem, he was prepared to leave the local authority to deal with it in its own discretion. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke first to-day from the Opposition side produced a photograph to substantiate a point he was making. I have a number of photographs here which speak for themselves, and I will pass them over to the right hon. Gentleman's Department for his consideration.
If I may quote one typical case of housing conditions in Dumbartonshire, it is of a house to be found on one of the Loch sides. The house is tenanted by an agricultural employé, and I visited it at the week-end. It is no less than 135 years old. It abuts on the main road, and is held in position by wooden props. The roof is made of corrugated iron. The floor is made of stone. The highest point in the ceiling is 5 feet 10 inches. The breadth of the living apartment, in which seven units live, five children, the oldest 14, and a mother and father, is 5 feet, and it is 14 feet long. There is only one 1674 window in that apartment, and it is so small that there is not a sufficiency of daylight percolating into the room. The window cannot be opened and the ventilation is deplorable. I welcome the time when these unfortunate iniquities can no longer exist.
There has been reference to various surveys, and I would like to quote a statement made in the 1936 report to the county council of Dumbartonshire by the medical officer of health. He states:It is rather unfortunate that the building of houses has now slowed down so much that very few houses were completed during the year. There is, still a considerable amount of re-housing to be done, more especially as regards overcrowding, the figures for which are given in this report.I would like to refer to those figures, for they are most enlightening. They are houses surveyed 12,465; overcrowded, 2,759; percentage overcrowded, 22.3; the number required to abate overcrowding, 2,970. But I pass from that to refer to the report on Rural Housing in Scotland, page 82, and the position is even more shocking. Take, for example, the reference made to Tarbat parish:This parish contains a number of crofts with about half a dozen large farms and some smallholdings and small farms. There is also a fishing village of Portmahomack. Water supply is the chief difficulty here, only one house in seven having an inside water supply, and two-thirds of the houses having no supply within 25 yards. Over half the houses have no sanitary conveniences whatsoever and are damp. The majority have low walls and are poorly lit and ventilated.This is only a small community, yet the figures are as follow: Totally unfit, 29; no sanitary convenience, 54; damp, 57; water over 25 yards away, 63; badly lit, 34—a total in a small village of no fewer than 237.
I come to the second point made by the right hon. Gentleman who is leading the Opposition. The point which I understood him to make was this, and I entirely concur in his view; that he is wholly unprepared to permit of State money being used for the subsidising of private owners. I do not suggest that all landlords are bad. That is entirely fallacial. I agree that there are many exemplary landlords. On the other hand, there are many who are entirely the reverse. Let me put this proposition. If it could be shown that the present 1675 deplorable housing conditions in privately-owned agricultural houses in Scotland have not been associated with failure and neglect on the part of private owners, I would concur in the proposition which the Secretary of State suggested. But the truth is not that, and I do not ask the House to accept an ex parte statement from me. I refer to page 65 of the survey to which I have already referred for justification for the objection from the Opposition. It states:The evidence submitted to us, and our inquiries, as shown in this report, show that 'no section of the population is compelled to live in such consistently bad housing conditions as farm servants'. This state of affairs is not of recent origin; every investigation of housing conditions in rural Scotland for the last hundred years has given the same verdict. For this condition of affairs the responsibility must rest on the proprietors in the first place, and on the local authorities in the second place, for their failure to enforce the statutory provisions. On the evidence, we cannot agree that the owners of such houses have discharged their duties in such a manner as to entitle them to preferential treatment in grants from public funds.What more can the Secretary of State ask in support of the argument which has emanated from these benches than this statement coming from an entirely unbiassed and neutral source? When you have private owners who through the years have flouted their responsibilities as landlords and allowed their dwellings to lapse into a state of dilapidation, to ask the country to finance these people is a proposition to which no sensible human being can give any agreement. A few years ago I was faced with an issue in court under the 1923 Rent Restrictions Act, and this illustrates how unscrupulous some landlords are. In this case the landlord levied an increase under the Act for 8 per cent. in respect of structural alterations or improvements. Under the Act the tenant was bound to pay that. The case went to trial and it was admitted on all hands, even by the judge, that the dilapidated state of this particular dwelling was entirely due to the gross neglect of the landlord. Yet the tenant, who was in no way responsible, was compelled to pay that 8 per cent.
The right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston) has referred to the question of tied houses. There seems even yet to be some doubt in the minds of some hon. Members on the other side as to the attitude which we on these benches take up. 1676 We understand that there are cases where you cannot get away with the existence of the tied house at all. As the right hon. Member for Stirling pointed out, the existence of the tied house depends upon a mutual contract between landlord and employé. We have sufficient experience of this in the past to make us realise that we get better treatment given to tenants at the hands of municipal authorities as compared with the beck and call of the private landlord. An hon. Friend of mine pointed out that a miner living in a tied house would have little chance if he objected to the condition of the house. His only avenue of complaint is to go to the master and say, "I am objecting to the condition the house is in."
§ Mr. Cassells
Exactly. The immediate reaction in Scotland is, "Get out. I have no time for you. There is an abundance of unemployed men."
The only other point to which I wish to refer in this Measure is this. The right hon. Gentleman said that he and his Government were giving an increased Government subsidy. That statement is rather astonishing because on 24th June we had a full dress Debate on Scottish housing, and in that Debate the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the attitude which we took up on the question of subsidy. He pointed out, as he has done to-day, that the cost of a house this year as compared with last year had risen approximately by £100, and that £40 of it was in respect of the increased cost of materials and wages. The balance of £60 was unaccounted for. It could only be accounted for by what might be called the scramble, that is, the scramble for profits. He went on to deal with our proposition, which is the united opinion of local authorities all over Scotland, namely, for an increase of subsidy from £6 15s. to £9. What was the right hon. Gentleman's answer? He said:Take one remedy suggested. Local authorities have suggested that we should raise the subsidy from £6 15s. to £9. If you capitalise £6 15s. you get a capital value of about £150, and therefore to raise the subsidy to £9 is equivalent to adding about £70 to the capital value of the subsidy. It is our opinion that to add £70 to the capital value of the subsidy would be to throw it into the scramble. If that is true, then it is important. If we add £70 to the scramble, and the scramble goes on at the same rate as during the last 12 months, we come back at the end of the year with no 1677 advantage whatever from the £70. In fact we are back again to where we were. The request would be for another £70."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th June, 1937; col. 1407, Vol. 325.]I could use that statement for another purpose, but I use it only for the purpose of this argument. The right hon. Gentleman says in the case of housing: "I am going to give a magnificent subsidy from £10 to £15, and in special circumstances even more than £15." hope that we shall receive information as to what steps are to be taken under the Bill to see that there is no profiteering in respect of the increased subsidy that is given. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a perfectly legitimate inquiry.
The right hon. Gentleman, like myself, is a Scotsman. He loves his people, no doubt, and loves his country every bit as much as I do. In this House he is in a most responsible and powerful position, and I trust that he will realise that in his possession and control rest the destinies of many thousands of Scottish people. I hope that he will, if he possibly can, effect the most material and lasting improvement by this Measure and I assure him that, apart from any question of political bias, if by any act which he may be able to perform, he can alleviate the tremendous housing distress which now exists for the Scottish community, he will for many years have earned the love and respect of the Scottish people.
§ 7.20 p.m.
I should like to join with all the other speakers who have participated in this Debate in congratulating the Secretary of State for Scotland upon his very attractive introduction of this Bill on Second Reading. At the same time, I would wish, with the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Sir R. W. Smith), that a longer period of time had elapsed between the printing of the Bill and its being put down for Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen gave several reasons why he thought that would have been an advisable plan, and he alluded to the fact that the county councils and other local authorities in Scotland are very interested—I will not say concerned—about the passing of the Bill. In his speech, the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the circular which all Scottish Members of Parliament had received to-day from the 1678 county council of Dumfries in which it is stated that, in the opinion of the committee set up by that local authority to consider the report of the Housing Advisory Committee for Scotland, schemes for water supply and drainage should have preceded the Bill which we are discussing this afternoon. My right hon. Friend passed it somewhat lightly by and said that one fish is sufficient. At all events, he led us to believe that these complementary Measures will speedily be forthcoming. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State when he replies tonight will be able to say something on the point that will allay the fears of the local authority.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown), whose kindly reference to myself I much appreciate, said that he had come down here to make a great speech but that he was not going to make it, because, I suppose, the Amendment had soothed his wrath. The right hon. Gentleman said very little about the Amendment. He said he was not going to say much about the tied houses, but I was deeply perturbed at the horrifying picture he painted of the perils to which some farm workers might be exposed in houses where they reside. I sincerely hope that the evils of which I am led to suppose the right hon. Gentleman has had experience are not as numerous as he indicated in his speech.
A somewhat contradictory speech was made by the right hon. Gentleman who is leading the Opposition this afternoon, but some of it was very sound Tory principle, as, for instance, the concern which he showed for those who would be affected by the Bill and who dwell in what are called in Scotland landward areas, administered by an urban authority. He expressed the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would make plain to such people, of whom there must be many in Scotland, just where they stood in regard to what is proposed in the Bill. He expressed himself also—and this was equally sound Tory principle—as concerned for the owner occupiers who had put their houses right at their own expense and who might, as a result of that, have their assessed rentals made higher in the valuation. I have no doubt that the Under-Secretary of State will have something to say about that point also.
1679 The question of the tied houses, which is the crux of the opposition—in fact, it is the only point of substance that is mentioned in the Amendment, which otherwise gives a very hearty welcome to the Bill—is made a bone of contention. The Secretary of State said something in his speech about the position of the owner of tied houses, and he might have said a very great deal more. He said that the Bill did not do away with any existing housing legislation. Everything that is already in operation will continue to be so after the passing of the Bill. Owners of tied houses have for long been placed in a very difficult position respecting housing subsidies. Let me put it in this way; If the owner of a freehold untied house puts his or her house in order and takes advantage of the subsidy that the Government offer, after the necessary repairs and so on have been carried through, the rentals of those houses are adjusted by the competent authorities. In the case of the owner of the tied house, he or she is merely told by the local authority, and quite properly, what they have to do. I agree with what has been said about the deplorable conditions that exist. There is no corresponding increase of the interest on the money that has been invested or expended in this way. Surely anybody who invests in bricks and mortar, which is what this amounts to, is entitled to a fair return just as is anybody who invests in stocks, shares or land.
The hon. Member says something about the point made by my right hon. Friend with regard to derating, but I did not hear it, so perhaps he will forgive me if I do not deal with it. Whatever point was made, my argument remains valid that on the sums of money expended by owners in putting tied houses in order, or building new houses, which is the point raised in the Bill, there is no return whatsoever, just as in the case of anybody who expends money, shall I say, on building new byres or sheds round about the farm place.
A great deal has been said this afternoon about the duty of landowners, although there has been no acrimony, but 1680 nothing has been said about the deplorable financial condition of many landlords in Scotland, and in England as well. In the past six years we have had a great deal of discussion upon agricultural matters, and the position of the tenant farmer and the tenant occupier has been discussed over and over again. I have joined in it, and a great deal of remedial legislation has been undertaken in the present Parliament, especially for improving the conditions of agricultural workers, but there has been never a word until this afternoon about the deplorable financial position of many landowners. For some 40 or 50 years the mere ownership of land has been regarded as something approaching a crime. The landlords have in many instances been almost bled dry. It is said, with regard to the point I am making, that the owners of tied houses, if they desire to do so, can borrow money from the county council, but that overlooks the fact that there are many landlords whose properties are already burdened in some way, and there would be no margin whatsoever if a sale of those lands took place. I am delighted to hear the approval of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood)—
My hon. Friend cannot expect me, nor should I be allowed, to debate with him on a Housing Bill the merits or demerits of the private ownership of land, but anyhow, so far, he agrees with me that many of them are in very low water indeed, It would be impossible for owners in that position to borrow money from the county councils without causing the mortgagees who have already lent money, as a first charge on the land, including houses, to call up that money, so that the only thing possible for the owner is to go away and try to find some innocent person who is willing to advance the money as a second charge. It is not necessary for me to say any more on that point, because it will be readily seen how impossible would be the position of such an owner.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire said what a lot had been done by many landlords who were in the happy position of having their lands free from burdens, and were thereby enabled to draw a small Percentage— 1681 they would be very lucky indeed if it was 2 per cent.—on the money they had invested in the lands which they owned, and to which, in some cases, they have succeeded after many generations of ownership by the same family. I repeat that I hope that the Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, will say something about the money which the owner of the tied house is forced to expend and upon which he receives nothing in the way of interest. In this connection I might mention that the bodies who gave evidence before the Advisory Committee—and, of course, this Bill is founded upon the advice of that Committee—suggested that an increase of the subsidy under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, 1930, might have been continued to the owners of tied houses. The Committee, however, for reasons best known to themselves, rejected the evidence and advice on this point of the bodies who appeared before them, and, in consequence, nothing is said on the matter in the present Bill.
Everyone who has spoken has agreed that the principles underlying this Measure are excellent. The only question that remains is the vexed question of the tied house. The little that I have said on that question—I could have said a great deal more—will surely have shown how delighted many of these unfortunate owners would be if they could be relieved of what is in many cases an intolerable burden. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) will agree with me in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling, who showed such laudable concern for the increased cost to the ratepayers under this or any other Housing Act, will see at a glance that, if the tied houses were taken over wholesale by the local authorities, the increased cost to the ratepayers would be very much more than it is at present, or will be as the result of the passing of this Bill. I hope that even now the opposition to the Bill may be withdrawn, that it may have an unopposed Second Reading, that we may get on with the Committee stage—which we are promised will be most interesting—and that the Secretary of State for Scotland will receive from Members in all parts of the Committee all the assistance that they can give him, which is his due after his masterly presentation of the Bill this 1682 afternoon, in order that he may be able to carry out the saying of Benjamin Disraeli that the first consideration of a Minister must be the welfare of the people.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood
The House has just listened to one of the most eloquent arguments possible in favour of the Amendment which has been moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston). An eloquent plea has been made for the poor down-trodden landlord, who is in most difficult financial circumstances, who is almost, if not quite, financially bankrupt, and the Amendment seeks to relieve him of any obligation to provide a tied house. The Amendment admits the need for tied houses in certain circumstances, but makes it clear that, in the view of His Majesty's Opposition, the system of tied houses ought not to be continued under private ownership.
I said that many owners would be delighted to be rid of what is to most of them an intolerable burden.
§ Mr. Westwood
It is quite apparent that, in the interest of the landlords, the hon. Member will be going into the lobby with us when the Amendment is voted upon. We have also heard it said that one fish at a time is sufficient, and that is all right if there is not too long an interval between the catching of the different fish. Almost every speaker has complained that there is no provision in this Bill for improved conditions as regards water supplies and sanitation, and a complementary Bill ought to have been brought in with this Bill if these two problems cannot be dealt with in a Housing Bill. It is true that the Secretary of State has suggested that this is but one of a group of Measures that have already been passed, and I presume it is but one of a group that must be passed before we can effectively and efficiently deal with this problem of rural housing in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) said that the only bone of contention between us seemed to be the tied house, but that is not a bone of contention. May I remind the House of the terms of the Amendment:That this House, whilst welcoming any increased facilities for the provision by local authorities of houses for agricultural workers, cannot assent to proposals which, at the expense of public funds, perpetuate the system of tied houses under private ownership.` 1683 We on this side of the House admit that in certain circumstances it is impossible to carry on agriculture in Scotland without a tied house system, but we have no hesitation in claiming that there is no need for these tied houses to be under private ownership; they can quite well be under the control of the county councils, who, when it is found necessary to remove a particular tenant and put someone else in his place, will be in a far better position to provide alternative accommodation. They own and control houses, to the number of thousands in some counties, and it will be easier for the county council to provide in some part of its area the alternative accommodation which no farmer could possibly provide because he has only one or two tied houses on his farm. There is, therefore, no real conflict between those who have proposed the Bill and those who have proposed the Amendment on the question of the tied house as such. I repeat that there are circumstances in connection with Scottish agriculture in which it is not possible to get rid of the tied house system, but the tied house ought not to be subsidised at the cost of public funds in order to benefit private ownership when it is quite possible for the county council to carry through the necessary provision of houses of that type. I wish that the Secretary of State, in referring to the difference in progress as between the rural and the urban areas, had not said that the pace was faster in the urban areas than in the rural areas. I wish he had said that the pace had been slower in the rural areas than it had in the urban areas.
§ Mr. Westwood
It has been far too slow in the urban areas, but, slow as it has been in the urban areas, it is still slower in the rural areas. This is proved by the figures in the report on rural housing. Another point made by the Secretary of State was that the Government had forthwith consulted with the County Councils' Association, but one of the complaints of the county councils at the present time is that this Bill has been rushed, and that they have been unable to get the necessary time to study and consider the proposals of the Bill. Quite frankly, I shall not, in what I have to say, show very much sympathy with the county councils, for, if there is one body of reactionary 1684 local authorities in Scotland, it is the county councils. They require some jogging, they require some pressure upon them to compel them to carry through their statutory obligations, and while on most occasions I stand here as a sort of defender of the local authorities in Scotland, I hold no brief for the majority of those reactionary authorities in Scotland, the county councils, who ought to have been doing their duty far better than they have been in dealing with rural housing. They are as reactionary as any in dealing with this particular problem. [Interruption.] I know that my facts are right. There is one village in Fife, the village of Ceres, which, according to a report submitted to me when I was Under-Secretary for Scotland, had not a single dry house, and I have yet to learn of any pressure being brought to bear by the county council to ensure the provision of decent housing accommodation in that village.
Another point which I think was admitted by the Secretary of State as a weakness in the Bill is that the county councils are to be the authorities who will be furnished with the additional finance which the Bill is to provide. I think, however, that the Secretary of State admitted that this is a Committee point, and that the Government might at least consider extending the facilities of the Bill, be they good or bad, so as to provide equal opportunities for both burghs and counties in dealing with this problem of the housing of agricultural workers. There are burghs that include agricultural land and have agricultural workers within their areas, and there are burghs which in the very near future will, in the interests of housing, be seeking an extension of their boundaries, and in all probability will be seeking to take in for the time being farms that cannot be developed at the moment in connection with housing. Surely, whether a farm worker is within the boundaries of a burgh or the boundaries of the county, the same provision ought to be made for him so far as housing is concerned, and I ask that the Secretary for Scotland will give that favourable consideration on the Committee stage.
The Bill will undoubtedly make for improvement in dealing with the particular problem of rural housing, and there is much need for it. The Committee's 1685 report to which I have already referred shows, on page 9, that county councils have not been doing their duty in regard to housing. There are several columns of statistics proving that in the rural counties only 4.7 per cent. of the housing is now municipally or publicly controlled, as against 17.9 per cent. in the industrial counties, and 14.9 per cent. in the burghs. These facts prove conclusively that the rural county councils have not been doing their duty in dealing with the problem. That is again emphasised on page 11 of the same report. They have not been doing their duty in applying the law already on the Statute Book, empowering them to call on landlords to carry through certain improvements. In paragraph 19, on page 11, the Committee report:We have given this question very careful consideration, and we have no hesitation in saying that, with few exceptions, county councils are not carrying out adequately their duties under the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925.After the Act has been on the Statute Book for 12 years, we have that condemnation of the county councils. Unfortunately, this Bill does not provide additional powers, nor does it indicate how the Department is going to compel the local authorities to enforce the existing Acts. Their duty is imperative, or ought to be, on the facts provided for us by that report. Half-yearly reports have to be made to the Department, and they show a shocking state of rural housing. Here, again, is a brief quotation from page 12:According to the returns in the five years since 1932, roughly 29.9 per cent. of the estimated total number—33,200—of farm servants' houses in Scotland have been inspected, 15,821 have been found unfit in some respects, 10,836 have been rendered fit (8,737 of these with the aid of the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts) and 753 have been demolished or closed.These figures prove that the county councils have not been exercising the powers already there, and they, likewise, prove the shocking state of housing in rural Scotland at present. Provision was made in the 1930 Act for dealing with this particular problem, but these powers have not been used to the extent that they ought to be.
We have been told that this Bill is providing additional financial assistance, but the assistance is not equal to that which 1686 ought to be provided under Section 16 of the 1930 Act. The maximum grant except in exceptional circumstances provided in this Bill is £15 as I think I am right in stating. But these county councils have not been taking advantage of the grants for these houses. They are entitled to get a grant under the 1930 Act of £13 15s., £19 5s. and £24 15s. for a three-, four- and five-apartment house respectively, so that the maximum benefit under the new proposals is an additional 25s. for a three-apartment house, but if it is a four-apartment house under the Act they are entitled to £19 5s. per year for 40 years, and under that same Act, if it were a five-apartment house they were building, and they had condemned a house with nine units in it, they were entitled to a grant of £24 15s. for 40 years. So that the financial provisions under the 1930 Act do not seem to have been sufficient inducement to local authorities to deal with this particular problem. On page 14 of this report we find that 17 per cent. of the houses in rural Scotland are admitted to be unfit for human habitation, but under Section 16 of the Act only 1 per cent. have had notices served on them after 17 years of the operation of the Act.
I want to emphahise that unless you enforce the la wagainst county councils, the financial provisions made under the present proposals will not have any more success than the provisions under the 1930 Act. In fact, at the rate of progress made during the last seven years it will be 140 years before the county councils have even dealt with the existing unfit houses in Scotland. Under Section 14 of the Act, the owners of property can be ordered to make their property fit in all respect for human habitation. Yet in 1935 only 286 houses were dealt with. Already, as I have indicated, county councils have powers which they have shockingly neglected. Forty-eight per cent. of the houses surveyed have dry closets; 29 per cent. have no sanitary conveniences of any kind. That means that nearly one out of every three houses inspected and surveyed under the powers given by existing Acts of Parliament are proved to have no sanitary conveniences of any kind. These facts are recorded on page 19 of the report.
This shocking state of affairs may not be entirety the fault of the county 1687 council. It is possible that, because of low rateable valuations, and the refusal, up to the present, of the Government to provide adequate financial assistance to provide the houses and sanitation, part of the fault may lie at the door of the Government, or Governments, which have brought in no Bill, up to the present, for the co-ordination or reorganisation of our water supply or to provide the necessary financial assistance. As a representative of a local authority in Fife, I myself, in association with the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), have approached the Government more than once to get them to help in connection with the local water supply there. There are areas in respect of which you can put all the housing Bills you like on the Statute Book, but, until you have made provision for plain good water and proper sanitation, your Bills will be merely pieces of paper with hieroglyphics in ink, and will not help to solve the problem. This Bill is doing nothing to help us so far as these problems are concerned.
I took the trouble when I was at the Scottish Office to get certain facts in connection with housing. I am perfectly certain that the conditions are just as bad now as those brought to my notice then. A row of five thatched cottages in a part of Scotland below ground level, no damp courses, no underground ventilation, damp walls and rotten timber, were brought to my attention. Another part of the report says that 75 per cent. of the houses in a village were not up to a modern standard of habitation:Nevertheless, seldom is such a degree of cleanliness found among the inhabitants of a village of this kind. It is all to the credit of those women who belong to the rural population.Despite the almost intolerable conditions under which these people live, the inspectors of the Department would report that they were doing their best to be scrupulously clean and to keep those houses as decent as possible. A report from another village says:An old drain runs through the house, and at times water may be seen through the floor.Another report says:Gross overcrowding, single apartments occupied by ix persons, conditions existing which are hardly credible.1688 Another report from Highland Scotland:Houses with stone walls arid cast-iron roofs in a most dilapidated and filthy condition. Roof is defective and the walls are soaking wet internally. Access to upper floor not possible as stair has fallen arid kitchen floor of stone is very uneven.I could continue quoting from these reports on these rural housing conditions, but sufficient to say that while there may be difficulties in providing drainage and while there may not be a gravitation water supply, and it may be difficult to deal with that particular problem, there can be no justification for water from the heavens being allowed to pour into these houses when repairs could easily be carried out. I could go on with ever so many more reports which I have here, but I have quoted only a few to show that housing conditions are intolerable so far as rural Scotland is concerned.
While we on this side are opposed to the giving of public money in order to continue the tied house system under private ownership, whatever we can do will be done to try to improve housing conditions in rural Scotland. If only the Government will drop that Section which seeks to hand over public funds to private individuals, when it is within the power of local authorities to provide all the housing accommodation required, they can get an agreed measure. We will do all we can to improve it in Committee, and to get it through with that speed which will enable them to bring in a Bill to improve water supplies and sanitation. That will enable us, by using public moneys, to obtain control of housing in rural Scotland, and to improve the conditions of our people. The success of our land cannot depend entirely on the urban population. The two things must go together—the development of ordinary industry and the agricultural industry—and we shall never make a success of the agricultural industry unless our people are housed in decent conditions and the same provision is made for them as is made for urban areas.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) addresses the House there is no occasion on which he shows himself more happy than when he attacks the county councils of Scotland, and in particular the council of the county of which he is so distinguished a native. 1689 The hon. Gentleman has so obviously enjoyed himself to-night that I feel that I am not able to say a word about his speech, at any rate at this point. I join most gladly with hon. Members who have offered congratulations to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the presentation of this Bill. I have been engaged recently in a somewhat stiffish controversy with my right hon. Friend on another Scottish matter, and I did not feel then that his response was altogether as helpful as I had expected. To-night he has done something which is not only right, but he has done it in a generous arid thorough way, and with something of that élan which we have become accustomed to expect from my right hon. Friend. There is no doubt that the Secretary of State for Scotland feels very deeply about housing conditions, and if he would only feel as deeply about the possibilities of the Standing Committee or. Scottish Bills, I would promise never to send him another letter. The Bill which we are discussing to-night is timely. As has been said by many hon. Members, there is no subject which demands more urgent attention than that of rural housing. The conditions in our countryside are scandalous, and the tragedy of it is that it is so often in the loveliest parts of Scotland that the ugliest conditions exist and the strongest and most virile sections of our people who have to live in the meanest surroundings. How welcome is this Measure that seeks to end that evil paradox. It is an answer, too, to the criticism made by some of our friends in Scotland, that this Parliament at Westminster is niggardly in its treatment of Scotland. I regard the financial provisions of this Bill as generous, and I am convinced that they are more generous than any Exchequer in Edinburgh would be ever likely to offer.
I am expressing my view. On the various provisions of the Bill, we shall no doubt have suggestions and additions to make in the Committee upstairs. For the moment I intend to draw attention to only two points, one a provision in, the other an omission from, the Bill, which seem to me seriously to restrict the benevolent purposes of the Measure. As the Bill is now framed the assistance provided in the case of houses 1690 erected by local authorities is to be confined to a definitely limited class. That class is to be the agricultural population, which is defined quite plainly in the Bill as:Persons who are or in their latest occupation were engaged in agriculture or in an industry mainly dependent on agriculture, and includes the dependants of such persons.What does the phrase "or in an industry dependent on agriculture" mean? It is most important that we should understand what it means. I missed the remarks of my right hon. Friend during his speech when he was dealing with that point, but I am told that he said that he was not able to give any detailed list of the persons it includes. It may be that that is the reasonable view to take, but whoever replies to-night ought to attempt a somewhat fuller definition. If the definition includes occupations such as those of the village carter, the smith, the village shopkeeper, the wheelwright, the carpenter and so on, then Part I of the Bill has a very wide range, and will do, I believe, an immense amount of good. But the phrase is ambiguous. It might quite well be interpreted by the courts and certainly by some of the local authorities as covering a much wider field than that which I have just suggested. It might cover, for example, the motor omnibus companies whose principal concern and main service is for the agricultural districts. It might cover even town shopkeepers. Certainly in Cupar, in Fife, it is recognised that the shopkeepers depend very largely upon agriculture in the surrounding districts. That interpretation might indeed make a very long list of trades and professions which depend in some degree upon agriculture. On the other hand the phrase might be very strictly defined and might exclude the very people, those working folk in the countryside, whose housing conditions at the present time are no less shocking than those of the ploughmen on the farm. I hope that the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will try to deal with that point.
§ Mr. Elliot
I did give one or two examples, although I was very unwilling to give a long list. I gave some examples exactly similar to those my hon. Friend has mentioned. I mentioned the village smith, the wheelwright, and the carpenter. I do not think that the shopkeeper would 1691 come in, as it would be very difficult to say that the shopkeeper was in an industry mainly dependent upon agriculture. Although it may be difficult to define the phrase—all these phrases are difficult to define and like the phrase "persons of substantially the same economic conditions" would not be any less difficult. But I think that in practice it will work out quite satisfactorily.
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. I hope that he will include the shopkeeper. I have in mind a village of 10 houses where one person happens to keep a shop. It is nothing more than one room of a house and that shopkeeper, a woman, is wholly dependent upon the farming folk round about, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not rule that poor old lady out of the definition. In Part II the houses to be assisted are even more closely circumscribed; except in the Highlands they are confined to houses on farms and to no others. In most parts of the country that means ploughmen's houses. I have a little difficulty in appreciating the reason for that limitation. I know, and I admit it readily, that the most urgent need at the moment is for replacements on farms—farm workers' cottages; but surely it is not suggested that these are the only houses in rural districts which ought to be replaced at the present time? There must be hundreds of cottages in the hamlets in different parts of Scotland, not on farms but in little villages, owned and probably occupied by quite poor people. It may be the roadman, the postman, the railway man and such like persons; they are occupying houses which are in a very bad state of repair and which everybody agrees ought to be replaced, but which the owner-occupier cannot afford to replace and which therefore will continue to be occupied, thus perpetuating the evil conditions of which we are speaking this afternoon.
I feel that there would not be a great many applications for assistance under Part II of the Bill from that kind of person, and I beg of my right hon. Friend to consider extending provisions of Part II in that direction, that is to say, the house off the farm in the village occupied by some poor person. In the Highlands and Islands according to this 1692 Bill there is to be no such stern differentiation so as to prevent that class of house being included. Grants are to be available for houses occupied by members of the agricultural classes "in substantially the same economic condition as landholders." I think it will be difficult to justify making that wider provision for the Highlands and not making it in other parts of the country.
So much for the provisions of the Bill. I imagine that there will he an opportunity to put down the necessary Amendments in order to raise these matters afterwards. I want to touch upon an omission from the Bill referred to by many speakers this afternoon, because it is something which affects my constituency as much as, and may be more than, any other constituency in Scotland. It is the omission from the Bill of any provision for water supplies. As the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk said so truly, you may have all the housing Bills you like, but in those parts of Scotland where there is no available water these Bills remain nothing but paper. I have in my hand a letter which reached me this morning from the County Clerk of Fife. I have had no opportunity, because the Bill was presented so hurriedly, to consult with the authorities in Fife, and I wired him for such views as he had. He says:In certain villages in the county people are living in abominable housing conditions, due to the fact that the local authority cannot build new houses on account of the want of a water supply. It is extremely disappointing, therefore, to find that the present Bill makes no provision for that matter.The Secretary of State in his introductory speech stressed the fact that there is a provision in the Bill that where the house is in a remote part of the country an increased subsidy will he provided. What is the difference between the remoteness of materials for building the house and the remoteness of water supply? The one is surely as important as the other and I beg of my right hon. Friend to consider whether he cannot extend the extra subsidy to the houses which exist in parts of the country where there is no water supply and to provide which would entail very considerable cost.
There are two other points I want to mention, one of which is with regard to the cost of housing. I was astounded to hear from my right hon. Friend to-day at question time that the average price for 1693 building three apartment houses in the country districts of Scotland is £492. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) quoted figures of even higher costs incurred by the Department of Agriculture. I was so astounded that I went to the telephone and got into touch with the Land Settlement Association, which is building houses on smallholdings in England. This is what they told me, and I know that it is correct. The last tender which they let out, only a few days ago, was for the building of a number of three-bedroomed houses, with kitchen, scullery, bathroom, hot and cold water and the rest of it—they are excellent houses, in some respects better houses than we are building in Scotland—and the price was only £352 per house.
In the south. I think it is somewhere south of Bedford. There is the difference—£492 for houses in the midlands of Scotland and £352 in the midlands of England. There must be some reason for that difference other than the one we have had. I cannot believe that the shortage of materials and labour alone is responsible for that extraordinary difference. That is a penalty upon our Scottish enterprise which I find it very difficult to understand.
§ Mr. Westwood
Are the houses to which the hon. Member refers single units, are they houses in single blocks, or are they built en masse? If they are built as we do build in Scotland in some cases, 300 or 400 houses at a time, there is a difference of almost £100 per house as against building a couple of cottages or a single block of houses.
The houses with which we are concerned in Scotland are in rural districts and are individual houses. It is precisely that same kind of house which is being built by the Land Settlement Association in rural parts of England, individual, single houses on smallholdings, so that the comparison is almost exact. I cannot understand the difference in price.
I turn now to the opposition Amendment. It is surely a very serious one. 1694 It is tantamount to turning down the Bill. If the Amendment were voted upon I understand that it would mean that His Majesty's Opposition declare that they cannot accept this Bill.
I am trying to understand what the Amendment means. The Amendment says:That this House, whilst welcoming any increased facilities for the provision by local authorities of houses for agricultural workers, cannot assent to proposalsI should have thought that that means that they cannot vote for the Bill.
I will do so:which, at the expense of public funds, perpetuate the system of tied houses under private ownership.As I understand it, the Amendment means that the Labour party intend to vote against the Bill.
I understand that. It is a reasoned Amendment, but it means that the party opposite are going to vote against the Bill.
If they are not going to vote against the Bill, well and good. I should have thought that the Labour party were taking a very great responsibility upon their shoulders if, for whatever reason, they voted against the Bill. The reason they give is the tied house question. My views on that question and those of the right hon. Member for West Stirling are almost the same. He says, and I agree, that for stockmen you must have the tied cottage, but in regard to other farm workers you should aim at steadily reducing the number of tied cottages and the labourers in tied cottages. It seems to me a staggering suggestion that hon. Members opposite are going to vote against a Bill which the right hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown) described as "the workers' charter," "a vast improvement," and "a long step forward."
If the right hon. Member will look in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow, I think he will find he said, that although there was this and that wrong with the Bill, it was a long step forward, a vast improvement and the workers' charter. He repeated three or four times: "We want this Bill." That statement seems to me extraordinary when at the same time his own party have this Amendment on the Order Paper. Let us be clear about the tied cottage. If the Amendment were carried it would be tantamount to saying: "Because we are opposed to subsidising private enterprise we are prepared to leave these men, who by our own admission must remain in the tied cottages—
§ Mr. Johnston
What we object to is that the tied house shall be in private ownership. We admit that there must be tied houses, as things are, but we want those tied houses under public ownership. Surely, that is clear.
I am not surprised that the hon. Member is astonished. I am trying to clear the air, and in doing so I will quote from the Report of the Committee on Farm Workers in Scotland, the Caithness Committee. That Committee had upon it at least one very hightly accredited representative of the Labour party and agricultural labour, Mr. George Dallas. What did that Labour representative sign? He signed the report of the Committee, which contained these words:Whatever form any modification of the system"—that is, the tied house system—may take, it is obvious that the process must he a gradual one.They did not condemn the tied cottage. The tied cottage must be on the farm privately owned. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is no use trying to dodge about with words. A tied cottage on a farm means a tied cottage owned either by the farmer or by the landlord. [HON. MEMBERS; "No."] I do not accuse hon. Members opposite of quibbling, but their Amendment sounds extraordinarily like it, and I am trying to help them out 1696 of their dilemma. A tied cottage on a farm means a cottage owned by a private person and tied to the farm. If it is owned by a public authority it is not a tied cottage.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
As a Welsh Englishman, may I ask the hon. Member a question? Does he mean to say that a county council employé who is living in a cottage belonging to the county council, is not in a tied cottage? Immediately he ceases to be employed by the county council, out he goes.
That is exactly what I am contending. What the hon. Member is saying is that the cottage is owned by the employer. That is what I say. A cottage on a farm is owned by the employer, either the farmer or the landlord. It is precisely the same principle, and the hon. Member is supporting the case I am making.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not want to jump into this Scots stuff, but the hon. Member stated that it is not a tied cottage unless it is under private enterprise. I say that it can be a tied cottage belonging to a local authority.
If I said so, it was not what I intended to express. A tied cottage means a cottage owned by the person who is the employer of the man in the cottage. In this case it means a privately-owned cottage, in the other case a publicly-owned cottage. But both are tied cottages. The report of the Caithness Committee, signed by the Secretary of the English Farm Workers' Union, admits that a cottage tied in that sense cannot easily be swept away. If the Amendment is carried it will be interpreted in Scotland, as I certainly interpret it, that on account of the crime, as it is suggested, of subsidising private enterprise, hon. Members opposite cannot support a Bill which by every testimony is going to work such great things for agriculture in Scotland. On Saturday I visited a farm worker's cottage in Fife. There were two rooms and a different family in each room. In one room a man, wife and three children; and in the other a man, wife and five children.
Yes, it is a shame, but if the Amendment is carried the hon. Member is perpetuating that shame. The 1697 Bill seeks to make it possible for the farmer or landlord to knock down that house and build a new one, and you will prevent him doing so by the Amendment If it is possible for my view to be controverted I shall be glad to hear it.
§ Mr. Westwood
Is the hon. Member aware that under the 1930 Act the figures he has given of those occupying that house are such that nothing in the world could keep the county council from building two houses adjacent to the farm and making the necessary provisions for these people, and they would get more money under that Act than the amount proposed in the present Bill?
The Secretary of State said that all the legislative powers art there at present and the right hon. Gentleman opposite was the first to remark on the fact that although the legislative power was in existence it did not mean that anything was done. The hon. ember knows that things are not being done. I want to get things done, and I contend that under Part II of the Bill you will make possible an improvement to a great number of houses of farm workers which otherwise will remain in their present insanitary and scandalous condition. That is why, although I should like to see tied cottages reduced to the minimum because they undermine a man's independence, I cannot do other than support a Bill which seeks to improve all manner of rural houses, and particularly those occupied by farm workers.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I have no desire to follow the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), because I do not want to get tied in a knot, as he did. I will leave the tied house question for a moment. The hon. Member spoke of the individuals who are affected by agriculture. Everyone is in some way affected by agriculture. It is the most important industry in our country, and it is the worst-treated industry. That is the reason why I am sorry to say that I cannot follow the lead that has been given in congratulating the Secretary of State on introducing the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman knows well that there is no man in the House who respects his ability and recognises it more than I do, but, during a bitter experience of over 1698 15 years in this House, I have listened to every Secretary of State for Scotland in that time dealing with the terrible problem of housing, particularly of rural housing, and I have failed, after roaming through my native land, to find very much impression being made on the conditions which exist to-day. I can remember very well three years ago four of us, when Labour Members for Scotland, went out of our way, and did out utmost to support the Secretary of State for Scotland, then Sir Godfrey Collins, who was being forced by his own party. We were the only individuals to stand up and defend against his own party the late Sir Godfrey Collins when he believed that he was going to accomplish wonders.
That is the reason why I stopped the present Secretary of State in his introductory speech to-day and asked him point-blank if he was satisfied that the Bill would do anything to relieve the situation as far as the housing of the rural population was concerned. I have failed to find any improvement up to date. We have had illustrations given, and indeed photographs shown, of the houses which were in existence when I came into this House. I condemned them 15 years ago; they are still there. I find from the advice given to me by my friends who are expert builders of houses that most of the houses in rural Scotland cannot be reconstructed. There is only one way—condemn them. A friend took me in his car and showed me a large estate in Scotland where they had practically reconstructed a whole village. To outward appearance the houses seemed all right. As Samuel said when he had the sons of Jesse walk in front of him and Eliab appeared before him:Surely the Lord's anointed is before him,….But the Lord said unto Samuel, 'Look not on his countenance'….man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.On the outward appearance these houses were all right, but in the heart they were decaying away. That is because it is only in my day and generation that such a thing as a dampcourse has been put in houses. None of those houses has a dampcourse, and it is impossible for the walls to be kept dry. No matter how they may be underpinned, no matter whether they are replastered, no matter what is done to them, the foundations have not a dampcourse, and it is natural 1699 that the damp should go right up the walls and that the houses should be damp, which to-day we recognise is very bad for the people who live in them.
There is another general aspect of housing in Scotland which also affects rural housing. I wish I could get the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to come to my constituency, for then I should be able to show him the hellish housing conditions in which the people live there in Dumbarton, hoary with age and with a history stretching right back into the dim distance, and in the Clydebank, where the "Queen Mary" was built. I would like to show the Under-Secretary the awful state of housing in those parts of the world. What happened was that we agitated for better housing, and tried to inculcate into the Scottish people the idea of the English system of housing the people. It is from England that we got the idea.
Until the War, we always had a lower standard of life all round in Scotland in comparison with the standard of the working folk in England. The standard of housing in England was much higher. Then, after the War, Dr. Addison, who is now in another place, instituted the idea that nothing less than a three-apartment house, with all modern conveniences, would be allowed to be built in this country. That was a revolution in no uncertain fashion as far as Scotland was concerned. It was beyond the wildest dreams of our people. They thought it could not be done, they thought it was an utter impossibility, but they received the idea with gladness. Of course, there was a sad end to that high ideal. Sir Alfred Mond got on to the job, and cut all that out—but that is another story. However, the result was that we created in Scotland a higher ideal of what a house should be.
No longer is the agricultural worker—in Scotland. we call him a farm servant—satisfied with the housing conditions that satisfied his father and his grandfather. It is the same with the town-dweller. We have created a higher standard of life; we have created in the minds of the folk the feeling that they have a right to a better standard of life. We have eternally been hammering at them the idea that this country can afford—I honestly 1700 believe that this country of ours can afford—to give the people in it a higher standard of life than can be given by any country in the world. I have always believed that, and that is why I have fallen foul of every Secretary of State for Scotland whom I have had the honour to address.
My difficulty is to find the man. I know they have had capabilities. Time and again I have said in this House that I did not challenge the capabilities, the niceness, if you like the suavity, of the Secretaries of State for Scotland in my time. But I challenged their courage; and I challenge the courage of the present Secretary of State for Scotland. I know the right hon. Gentleman's Army record, I know his civilian record, I know that when he was a student at Glasgow University, he had his jacket torn off his back fighting for Keir Hardie; but with all that record, with all that power, with all the influence—I will not put it any higher—which he has in the Cabinet with those who count in Britain, I am waiting yet to see whether he will have the courage and the initiative to stand up against the powers-that-be, and give to the common people in Scotland a decent standard of housing. The man has never been produced.
I have another pet idea that I wish to mention. It is drainage. We are building new houses, new villages, but we have not made the scientific provision which we have at our disposal, but which our forefathers had not, for a drainage system. They are leading the sewage into our burns and polluting them. These burns meander through the fields in which our cattle browse, and that has a terribly bad effect. Those who are wealthy enough to do so, such as the Glasgow Corporation, put up a double fence, on each side of the burns, so as to keep the cattle from drinking the polluted water, but in all my experience of broad Scotland, it is only the Glasgow Corporation that has made that provision. That is one little thing of which the Under-Secretary of State might take note. Nobody would be more delighted than I should if I were able to congratulate the Secretary of State for "something accomplished; something done," particularly for this section of the community, for it is true to-day, as it was when it was first penned, that 1701A bold peasantry, their country's pride, When once destroyed, can never be supplied.Our Scottish peasantry are being destroyed. Year after year, Secretaries of State for Scotland report fewer agricultural workers in Scotland. Rural Scotland is becoming depopulated. In the Highland glens and straths of my native land there is no human being to be seen—nothing but bracken. I know that it is not a land flowing with milk and honey, metaphorically speaking, but I also know that it produced a hardy, intelligent race, whose sires the Romans never defeated. Given half a chance it could produce such a race again, but it is not getting even half a chance.
I wish to say this to people who do not understand the situation in Scotland. We have heard from the Front Bench to-day, praise of the womenfolk in the rural houses of Scotland. I know we are a sentimental race. I am sentimental myself—I admit it—and not only this Government, but other Governments in Britain have exploited the sentiment of Scotland. To-day we heard talk about the Irish soldiers but I stand here fearing nothing, Irish or anything else, in defence of Scotland and of Scottish men and women. Our contribution has been no ordinary one to making this great Empire of ours possible, and it is with-out doubt the greatest Empire on which the sun ever shone. In Scotland, in my opinion, is the backbone of this Empire, and the folk who live in these little humble cots have had instilled into them the idea contained in the song made by Lady Nairne:The auld hoose, the auld hoose,What though the rooms were wee.For kind hearts were dwellin' there,And bairnies, fu' o' glee.The working folk of Scotland think that song is about their own "wee hoose." They do not know that Lady Nairne made that song about a mansion—the House of Airlie. But Scottish sentiment is of such character that it has worked itself round the words of that song and the womenfolk toil late and early to make these hovels into homes. It was the late King George, father of the present King, who said that he was not out for houses in Britain, but that he was out for homes for the British people. I stand here tonight in the same position. I am not 1702 merely demanding houses for the people; I am demanding, from the Secretary of State, homes for the people of Scotland. Of course, it will cost money, but there is no use telling me that when I am also told that we are living in a prosperous age, and that this is the mightiest kingdom and the mightiest Empire on which the sun ever shone.
If it is true, and I say it is the irrefutable truth. [Interruption.] I repeat the word "irrefutable" since it seems to tickle some hon. Members. The support which I get from the Labour party passeth all human understanding. But I can support myself, and as long as I have breath to draw irrespective of party or of anybody else I will fight for Scotland. I will do all I possibly can to draw the attention of this House to the terrible conditions under which the people of Scotland live, move and have their being, because I know that those conditions need not be, and should not be. Remember that the people of Scotland now know more than they did about these matters. When I was married, 40 years ago, it was 'considered all right to get a room and kitchen—a two-apartment house.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
It was not considered bad in those days—and that was the home of an artisan, a tradesman. As for the miners in Lanarkshire, at that time they lived under hellish conditions in one-apartment houses. Everything had to be done in that one apartment. The late Minister of Health, my great friend and colleague the late John Wheatley, took me to the village of Braehead just outside Baillieston to show me the place where he had been dragged up. What a village! We hear it said, and I agree, that there are some good landlords. That is true, but the fact remains that the landlords were responsible for those housing conditions. It was the landlords, and nobody else, who built those houses. I would have forgiven them if they had not known how to build better houses, but these houses were considered good enough for the working-class. I was referring to the place where the late John Wheatley was brought up, and I ask hon. Members to try to imagine a row of a hundred single-apartment houses, and on the other side another hundred houses of the same kind back to 1703 back. And remember this was only 40 years ago. There was one apartment in which to rear a family, and those were the days of big families. No sanitary conveniences—none—not even an ashpit. I am not talking about Russia, nor about the conditions in Germany. I am talking about the conditions in my native land that I found when I arrived on the scene, that the Socialists of this country found when they arrived on the scene—no lavatory accommodation, not even, as I have said, an ashpit—two water taps for 200 families. Those were the conditions.
We have made an impression on the conditions since then, and, as I have said before to other Secretaries of State for Scotland, I say to the present Secretary of State—his representative is here, and I know he will convey it to him—that he has a glorious opportunity of making a name for himself in seeing to it, not simply in drafting a Bill like this. It does not require a genius. There are clerks and lawyers for that job. To me, they are just clerks, and I know what they are. They will draft the Bill all right for him and have it all drawn up and placed all right. Further, the Secretary of State for Scotland has at his disposal now in the Scottish Office as able a body of officials as any Department in Britain, and that is saying something. There is no excuse. They will see the right hon. Gentleman through. They know that all that I am stating here to-night is God's truth, and they will put him through if he has the courage to stand up against the powers that be, who always say, "But this is going to cost money; it means increasing the taxes and the rates." I always say it was a blessing the day that I was able to pay Income Tax, although I have never paid Income Tax yet. They have been after me before, but my commitments have always been so great that it took all my income to meet them. There are none of your thousands a year about me, and I do not want them. I want nothing that will trammel me, not even a kind smile or the respect of my comrades, if it comes to that. They can keep them all.
The Secretary of State for Scotland, if he had the courage to stand up to the powers that be, would find that the people of Scotland would stand by him, just as my constituency stand by me, irrespective 1704 of all intriguing that may go on against me. Scotland would do the same by the Secretary of State for Scotland who would "dare to be a Daniel" and "dare to stand alone." The opportunity is presenting itself again to this Secretary of State for Scotland. I know he is an able man, I know he has tremendous influence, and I know he is physically fit, which is very essential, and it cannot be said about some of the Cabinet in which he holds an honoured place. It is very essential, and nobody knows better than your humble servant how essential it is to be physically fit if you have to stand up againstthe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State for Scotland will make an honest endeavour in this matter. He can depend on the Member for Dumbarton and Clydebank to stand by him if he stands by the rural people of my native land.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Captain Ramsay
No one having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and his references to Daniel in the den of lions could doubt that, had he been in the place of Daniel, it would not have been necessary for an angel of the Lord to be present to close the mouths of the lions. If my hon. Friend in his speech did nothing else—not that I am suggesting that he did nothing else—he did one thing most clearly. He has shown to us the extraordinary achievement which in the last 40 years the parties now represented in the National Government have been able to accomplish for the working classes of this country.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, at the opening of this Debate, having referred to the need for introducing a Bill regarding water supply, remarked that one fish at a time was good fishing. I would agree with him thus far, but I would say further that to get a fish out of the water head first would be better fishing still than dragging him out of the water stern first, having foul-hooked him. If one looks at conditions in the country areas of Scotland and at conditions in the town areas of Scotland, one essential difference occurs to one immediately, and it is this. In the town areas water is cheap and easy to get, while air and accommodation are difficult to get. The converse applies in the country districts, 1705 where air and space are easy to obtain but water is very difficult. In my contention, the people who have drafted and presented this Bill to the House before making any provision for proper water supplies are people who represent the town mind as against the country mind, and I regret that in dealing with things pertaining to the country they should have been able to obtain such an ascendancy.
In the country, as the report will show, there are many areas, some personally known to me, where there are perfectly good houses, perfectly delightful villages, but they lack one essential to bring them up to these modern standards. Water! My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs in each of his references hit the nail on the head, as he usually does, in coming back every time to the water tap and the closet. It is said by some that sanitary engineers are the highest production of civilisation. I have watched women standing round a pump on a snowy day, with their aprons or coats over their heads, trying to get water out of a tap in a street which had to provide a number of houses. I have talked to these people, and I know that they would far sooner have a tap of running water in their houses than be concerned about the size of the rooms or the windows. In the case of the dwellers in the towns the difficulties of water supply, and therefore of taps and closets, is not so great because in the great towns the water supply is already efficient and abundant, while in the country districts it is neither. Not wishing to be ungrateful to my right hon. Friend for this Bill, I would observe here that the salmon, although it be pulled out of the water by the tail is just as good to taste though it would have been better fishing to take him out in the orthodox manner.
I am afraid that when this Bill becomes an Act it will accentuate one or two weak features in our rural housing policy. They are these. People who own houses in villages where there is a poor water supply tend to leave the houses derelict because the owners either cannot afford to bring the water to them or the bringing of a proper water supply to the whole village is outside their power altogether. We therefore find houses being left derelict which might well be turned into proper and decent homes in villages which are pleasant, in which the friends of the 1706 occupiers live, and in which their work is; whereas the tendency now in more than one area that I know of is for the new houses or the reconditioning to be carried on where there is already an efficient water supply. This has the effect of exporting people from their own villages to some area a little distance away or even to some other village.
I suggest that it is putting the cart before the horse to bring a Bill before the House to compel people to bring houses up to a certain standard when the essential feature, the water supply, is not only lacking and outside their financial powers, but outside their other powers to accomplish. I do not wish to appear ungrateful. I regard the Bill as an advance and as one that has the makings of a good Measure, but it is a Bill from the foundations of which one of the essential structures is lacking. My right hon. Friend is trying to cram a right-hand foot into a left-hand shoe, and the explanation is that the mentality that has drawn the Bill and presented it at this juncture, is one that is familiar with problems of the town and not with problems of the country. I would like to support what I have said by three lines from the report on rural housing in Scotland:We believe that in most areas the provision of regional schemes of water supply is much to be preferred to the undertaking local schemes and that the needs of the rural areas are much more likely to be met under the former arrangement.While thanking my right hon. Friend for a Bill which, from the constructional point of view, is an advance, I hope that unless he has ready for immediate presentation a Water Supply Bill with the essentials which are required to make this Bill workable, he will take measures to hurry on such a Bill. This Bill might be excellent granted the proper facilities for water, and I hope he will tell us that it will not be long to wait for a Bill making such provision so that the fish may be well and properly caught.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
At the close of his speech the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) entered into troubled waters. He was anxious to put those of us who support the Amendment in a difficulty. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was correct in saying that the hon. Member 1707 for East Fife had tied himself into a knot and had not put us in any difficulty at all. I would rather be charged with voting against this Bill than be charged with voting public money to enable private individuals to go on with the possession of tied houses. I agree with the general provisions of the Bill, and I am prepared to support them on the Committee stage, but I cannot support the provision with regard to tied houses. Curiously enough, I agree with the last speech. I do not often agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles (Captain Ramsay), but on this occasion I find myself in considerable agreement with him. The Government are putting the cart before the horse in bringing forward this Bill for housing before drainage and water supply have been tackled.
I have before now drawn the attention of the House to a specific scheme that has been before the Scottish Office for a considerable time. It was referred to by the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) and by the hon. Member for East Fife. During the lifetime of Sir Godfrey Collins when Secretary of State it was brought to his notice that Fife County Council had promoted two big schemes of drainage and water. These schemes were to provide for a supply of water mostly to East Fife and a considerable drainage scheme which would have affected both East and West Fife. Had they been sanctioned by the Government, as they ought to have been long ago, they could have been completed by now, and proper arrangements could have been made before the question of housing the rural population came along. I think I am right in saying that to this day the Fife County Council have no promise from the Government of any assistance for either the water or the drainage schemes, but I believe that, in spite of that, they are prepared to go on with those schemes. There is a specific instance of a local authority who are prepared to provide a water supply and a drainage scheme receiving no encouragement from the Government.
Now the Government come along with a Bill for housing the agricultural population, and the houses are to be provided with a proper supply of water and proper sanitary arrangements, but what will be 1708 the position of the local authorities when they have to administer this Measure, with no gravitation water supplies and no drainage? What are the local authorities to do if they have to make arrangements for building these houses which will be sanctioned by the Department? I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles that in this matter the Government are putting the cart before the horse. They tell us they are providing not only for the erection of new houses but for the renovation of existing houses. The local authorities will find themselves in difficulties. They will have either to await the provision of water and drainage schemes, or close their eyes to the provisions of this Measure and sanction houses without proper water supplies or proper sanitary arrangements. Then we shall be told, after a time, that owing to certain difficulties this Measure has not been as successful as the Government hoped that it would be. Once again we shall have the local authorities blaming the Government and the Government blaming the local authorities, and then there will be another Commission telling us that the county councils have not done their duty and that the Department has not done its duty. Both are roundly condemned in the report which has been so fully quoted this afternoon, and we may have the same thing repeated in six or 10 years' time when we are inquiring why this Measure has not been successful.
I can remember the discussions in this House in 1929 when the Local Government Bill for Scotland was before us. The question of derating has already been raised by the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). In 1929 we were told that as a result of derating land owners and farmers would be able to provide better housing accommodation for their workers and that there would be more workers on the land in Scotland. Everything was to he beautiful if we agreed to the system of derating in that Measure. Derating has been in operation for some years, but instead of more people being engaged on the land there are fewer, and the report to which I have referred demonstrates that nothing has been done to improve the housing of the agricultural population. The local authorities have not exercised the powers they had, and the Department has not exercised its powers over the local authori- 1709 ties. We have had landowners, the county councils and the Department of Health producing in combination the state of affairs which is described in that report. The right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland asked whether the new houses to be built and the houses to be reconditioned under this Measure are to be derated. He said that a great deal would depend upon the rates to be paid on these new houses, and seemed to be putting forward a case for the new houses, especially those built by private individuals being free from local rates, or practically free.
He raised another important point when he asked whether compensation is to be paid to the owners of the old houses. He said much would depend on the Government's answer about that. I submit that there are more important matters which we can discuss than compensation to landowners for the old houses to be condemned and abolished by local authorities and replaced by new ones, and certainly it will have some effect on the other sections of the community if they hear that, in addition to presenting farmers and landowners with money for either building or reconditioning tied houses, no rates are to be levied on them. That will be putting up a fine proposition to the other ratepayers and taxpayers in Scotland, and it will be interesting to hear the answer which the Under-Secretary will give to the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland.
One other point upon which I wish to touch has been mentioned already, but I want the Under-Secretary to take note of it, because in my view it is an important matter. I am a burgh representative, or, rather, I represent a group of burghs, so that it might be assumed that I have no particular interest in this question except that of the ordinary ratepayer or taxpayer; but one of the burghs in my constituency has a considerable area of agricultural land within its boundaries, there being a good number of farms within that burgh. I do not complain about the Secretary of State consulting the County Councils Association with regard to this Measure, and I do not make any complaint about his not consulting the burgh representatives, but I hope that burgh authorities which have agricultural land and agricultural workers within their boundaries will not be denied the benefits of this Measure. I hope that the burgh 1710 authorities are to be allowed to build houses for their agricultural population if there is an agricultural population within their burghs. I hope that the Under-Secretary has taken note of that point because that is the one thing I wished to mention in the course of this Debate. So many other things have been discussed that I have made some reference to these other matters. The point in which I am particularly interested, however, is the fact that within my constituency there is a considerable number of agricultural workers, and I maintain that the burgh authorities within that constituency are as much entitled to get the benefits under this Bill as are the county councils.
I hope that the various points which have been raised will be answered sympathetically by the Under-Secretary and when we get this Measure upstairs, if we have good will on the part of the Government, and especially on this question of the tied house, if he can find some accommodation on that, in all probability the Secretary of State and the other representatives of the Scottish Office will find that they will have little difficulty in getting this Measure through the Standing Committee and the House of Commons.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Captain W. T. Shaw
The hon. Member who has just sat down started his speech by saying that he would rather be accused of voting against this Bill than of voting for a Bill that subsidised private property. The great thing that appeals to me in this Bill—and I represent a great agricultural constituency—is that I believe it is going to help rural housing in Scotland, and anybody who knows rural housing in Scotland knows that some amendment is very necessary. I am particularly interested in Clause 17, which deals with bothies, because in my constituency we have a large number of bothies and a large number of agricultural workers living in them. I know many of these bothies and I have in mind one particular case where the bothy is at the end of the stable and the only entrance is through the stable. I am glad to see that under the Bill people living in bothies will have separate beds and that proper lighting and cooking utensils will be provided. I am glad that something is to be done to improve the position. I do not believe that there is any section of the people that is living under worse conditions, and I want this part of the Bill to 1711 be strengthened; it requires strengthening very much.
I would like to emphasise what has been said by other hon. Members regarding water supply. I am with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who spoke like David attacking Goliath. The great thing we need is to get running water in every house in Scotland. If we could achieve that we should be doing something that would be of great use and would be appreciated by all sections of the community. I hope that the Government will take this other step, and take it quickly, to ensure that we get running water in every house. We have an explanatory statement and it seems to me that we need some explanation of it. Various figures are mentioned, and there is not even a £sign in front of them. I suppose that these figures refer to pounds. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary whether he would tell us how many houses he anticipates will be built or remodelled under this Bill in the years to 1941.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers
We are coming towards the end of what, I think, will be agreed by every one has been a very interesting Debate on a subject than which there could be none of more importance for Scotland. I am glad to have an opportunity of taking part in the Debate. The Bill has not been long in our hands and therefore it has not been possible for us to get very much, if anything at all, in the way of guidance from those who are affected by its provisions. I mean those with whom we try to keep in touch, the local authorities we represent in this House. I am hoping that before the Committee stage is taken there will be a fair opportunity given for the interests which are concerned to have time to study this Bill and to let us have the benefit in this House of the consideration they give to its various provisions. I was rather surprised to find the Secretary of State saying that there had been a good deal of consultation with the County Councils Association of Scotland, because for myself I had no indication of that consultation, and as far as the county of Linlithgow is concerned I am afraid that that consultation has not reached them.
The Bill has been before us only a short time—I think it came out last 1712 Thursday—and there have been various reactions to it, most of them fairly complimentary to the Government and the right hon. Gentleman responsible for the Bill. When the Press notices appeared with regard to the provisions of the Bill I noticed one contents Bill which displayed the announcement, "Bathrooms for Ploughmen." I must say that journalism striving after an effect of that kind put my birse up. Those who made up a caption like that were trying to be contemptuous and only succeeding in being contemptible. I hope that as a result of this Bill there will he bathrooms for ploughmen with hot and cold water. When, as in that contents Bill, there is an attempt at talking contemptuously of ploughmen I wonder why it should be that there should be thought to be anything curious in the idea of providing ploughmen with bathrooms. Had we been kinder to our ploughmen and our agricultural workers in days gone by, we might not be annually lamenting the fact that one who followed the plough, who was, we are told, at the age of 15, bent with the toil of holding the plough and whom we lament every 25th January departed this life so early. Had he been able to live in the kind of house that the Bill envisages, we should probably have had him with us for very much longer and have enjoyed more of the fruits of his genius.
In framing the Bill the right hon. Gentleman possibly had our national bard in his mind and possibly thought of Burns's affection for the people among whom he was born and bred. It is well to remember that he came on to English soil to make this observation—he was on the southern side of the Tweed and looking back on Scotland when he said:O Scotia! my dear, my native soil! For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!I am sure we hope that as the result of the Bill, perhaps an improved Bill, and as a result of the work that we shall put in upon it, we shall be able to bring into the homes of the rustic people of Scotland more of "health, and peace, and sweet content."
The Bill is based upon the report which we have had upon rural housing in Scotland which staggers us with the outspoken 1713 comment that has been made upon the position of affairs in rural Scotland. My own interest in the Bill is heightened by the fact that in the county which I represent, as is shown on page 103 of the report and in the table which is appended thereto, of the houses in the landward part of that county of Linlithgow 62 per cent. were unfit for human habitation. I have been able, through inquiry, to bring more up-to-date figures in regard to the county of West Lothian, mentioned in appendix 5 on page 105 of the report. Perhaps it is well that the figures should be noted. In that county there is a total of 3,466 overcrowded rural houses. The number of overcrowded houses other than tied or landholders' houses is 2,817, of overcrowded tied houses 561 and of landholders' and cottars' houses 88. Even in an industrial county like West Lothian, close to the centre of Scotland and with every opportunity for engaging in housing development, there is thus a considerable problem to be met by the Bill. When I thank of some of the individual instances of housing in that constituency I realise how important it is that such a Bill as the should be brought forward in order to improve the position.
I remember that on one occasion the Secretary of State for Scotland declared that in the countryside bad houses could not be quilt so bad as those of the towns because there were fresh air and sunshine close at hand. I could take the Secretary of State for Scotland to some appalling housing conditions where his pre-requisites of fresh air and sunshine are available at any time when the sun is shining, where there is plenty of fresh air and a beautiful view covering most of the County of West Lothian and looking right over the City of Edinburgh to North Berwick Law and the mouth of the Forth. I would ask him to turn from that view to look, within a yard or two, at houses which are in occupation now and are reputed to be 400 years old. It is a disgrace that they should be in existence at this time of day. Indeed, it is said that the row of houses used to be a dairy and byres attached to a monastic foundation. There is a church nearby with the date 1644 upon it. The church looks much newer than these wrecks of houses that are near it, in which people are compelled to live because they have nothing better. The cottages have tiled roofs and no rones, 1714 and are picturesque enough. They have pointed windows in a style which I suppose one should call Gothic:Everything within that cot was wondrous neat and clean.Inside, one found flagged floors. In one of the houses I was shown how, under the bed, the bare earth was showing, and it was necessary to put down stones in order to prevent the damp from going up into the bed. So badly lighted was one of those houses I visited that, on a day of bright sunshine the lady of the house showed me that when she closed the door which led into the living room you could not see the food upon the table because there was only one very small window. That was the condition of affairs. There was dampness all over the walls, and the condition was very bad indeed. There was a tap outside the door giving very polluted and coloured water, and if clean water was wanted it was necessary to go 200 yards to get it for washing or such purposes. The washing of clothes was done outside the door.
I do not want to enlarge upon this. The report shows that there are many conditions of the kind in Scotland. The curious thing is that sometimes the local authorities seem to deal with far better property. Not far away from the houses I have been describing, a tenement was being demolished because it was not considered fit for human habitation. It was nevertheless very much more stoutly built, with large, lofty rooms and well lighted. I think that in matters of this kind there should be a certain responsibility on the Department of Health to see that the worst cases of bad housing are dealt with first.
With regard to the Bill itself, I think that from my point of view its title is inadequate, and in some respects, from another point of view, is perhaps inaccurate. From one point of view it might be very well described as a Subsidy for Landlords Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) also complained about the inadequacy of the title of the Bill, and the way in which it was restricted to the agricultural population. I am glad to have been able to note, from the statement of the Secretary of State, that in practice the use of the provisions of the Bi11 will not be so rigidly drawn 1715 as they appear to be in the Bill. All over Scotland, and perhaps more especially in the Highlands and Islands, the term "agricultural population" should include, not only crofters and small landholders, cottars and squatters, but also fishermen, spinners, weavers, rural tradesmen and other workers who live close to the soil, and I hope that in Committee we may be able to improve the position in that regard.
Another point that I want to make is that in this Bill better treatment seems to be provided than the Department of Agriculture themselves give to tenants who take holdings and are in process of paying for the houses on those holdings under a bond or mortgage system. I have not had much time to make the comparison, but I think examination will show that better treatment is available here for those who will get these houses than is provided for by the Department of Agriculture itself, and I am wondering whether, as a result of the passing of this Bill, there will be a revision of the conditions under which smallholders have their houses. I believe that, if the Bill is properly used, and if its scope is extended, as I have indicated, to various types of people not described in the Bill itself, it might be of very great assistance in land settlement, and we know how great is the desire for land settlement, and how many unsatisfied applications for land are outstanding in Scotland at the present time. Hitherto those who have been provided with opportunities of settling on the land could only obtain, at the most, a loan, principally in building materials, averaging about £150, for the erection of a house which could not be built for less than £400 or £500, and such loans bore interest at 3¼ per cent. I hope it will be possible to use this Bill to better advantage than that.
As regards the powers of county councils, I think those powers should be extended by the Bill so as to enable county councils to requisition the Department of Agriculture to acquire compulsorily or otherwise to place at the disposal of the county such lands as may be required by applicants for new houses and holdings, the rent of the land so acquired to be fixed by the Land Court. The Department of Agriculture, of course, has full power to acquire land for holdings. For 1716 instance, I understand that in the case of a deer forest, rather than pay the landlord a big price for his land and sporting rights, the Department can place tenants on the land, and all that the landlord can claim is the agricultural value of the land thus compulsorily rented from him, which might work out at only a few pence per acre. Then, after the acquisition of the land under this Bill, all that the county council would require to do would be to give the landholder a contribution of £200 for the erection of his house, and this, as I have said, is better assistance than the Department of Agriculture provides at the present time.
Looking at Sub-sections (3) and (4) of Clause 7, I should like to ask what about the case of a holding on which a new house has been erected, and the holding and house have become vacant? This Clause, as far as I can see, does not seem to contain anything to prevent the landlord from letting the holding at an increased rent, for neither the Department of Agriculture nor the Land Court will interfere for the first seven years of the tenancy at least. Of course, the landlord would never admit that it was on account of the house that he was charging an increased rent, and here I touch a point made by the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald). The landlord might even pass the holding and house on to his gamekeeper, so that this Bill might be found to be a very convenient way in which landlords could provide free houses for their sporting employés. Wherever a grant has been made by a county council, and the holding becomes vacant, the rent to the succeeding holder or occupier should be fixed by the Land Court, so as to ensure that the landlord does not reap advantage from the grant. The hon. Member for Inverness, in dealing with this point, claimed that no real advantage would come to the landowner. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not here, because I think he made a mistake in declaring that there was no question of rating at all on the land and buildings on the farm. I would refer him to page 52 of the Report on Rural Housing, where, I think, the point he made is refuted. It says:We understand that a farm, with its farmhouse, farm buildings and cottages, is normally one indivisible subject for the purposes of rating, and that the whole assessed rental is normally de-rated to the statutory extent of 87½ per cent.1717 The hon. Member for Inverness indicated, as I understood him, that that was not the case, but I think that this statement in the report is correct. It should be made clear in the Bill that all questions as to farm compensation, rent and so on are to be referred to the Scottish Land Court, for I am not satisfied that Subsection (4) of Clause 7, to which I have drawn attention, affords sufficient protection. It should be particularly mentioned that the Land Court only shall be the authority for assessing the value of the land at the time when the occupier of the house moves, and that nothing contained in the Bill shall be held as derogating from the rights of the landholder or of the Land Court under the existing Acts relating to small holdings. If such a provision were inserted, Subsection (4) of Clause 7 could be deleted altogether.
I am also apprehensive about Clause 16. There is no need for it if effect were given to the Amendments I have suggested. At any rate, Clause 16 seems to be rather mischievously expressed, as it tends to give colour to the arguments of Highland assessors that the crofter is the owner of his dwelling, which, of course, is not really the case, as in real effect he is a tenant. In this Bill, we have been given an opportunity—the Secretary of State has had an opportunity—of clarifying the law with regard to rating in Scotland and placing small landholders and others in the same position as the big farmer who is not assessed separately on his dwelling-house. If a clause to that effect were inserted, it would save crofters and landholders throughout Scotland a great deal of anxiety as to what is going to happen when a review of the position is made by the Court of Session, as I understand, about the month of February.
Leaving that point, I want to draw attention to a matter which has been raised by quite a number of Members, the question of water supply and, allied with that, the question of drainage. Unless we are going to set out deliberately to build slums, the questions of water supply and drainage must essentially be associated with the provision of houses. It is clearly an allied subject, and, in the Report on Rural Housing in Scotland that we have before us, it is definitely stated that the Rural Water Supplies Act, 1931, giving a grant of 25 per cent., is inadequate, and it is stressed that there 1718 is a need for considering this question not on the lines of the needs of individual houses or small localities being met separately, but of their being met on a regional basis. The provision in the Bill which would make it possible for water supply to be ruled out under certain circumstances, makes it appear that it is thought this problem is in many cases insuperable and impossible of solution. I cannot think that in a well-watered country like Scotland it is not possible to obtain the necessary water supplies, or that it would involve such a tremendous cost as some might suppose. It might be the case in other lands where water is not so plentiful. But when it is suggested that it is impossible to solve this problem in Scotland, my mind goes back to the fact that, for War purposes, the Army took the waters of the Nile, across the Sinai Desert, right into Palestine. If that could be done for purposes of war, surely it is not impossible to solve the problem of the water supply of rural houses in Scotland, when Scotland is so much better watered than certain parts of Egypt and Palestine.
I have been struck by the fact that, during the whole of the Debate, I have not heard from anyone any mention of the word "amenity." It is mentioned by the Committee on Rural Housing. It is stressed in their report that it is desirable not to destroy the amenities of the countryside, and I think that that is a point on which we should ask for some indication from the Under-Secretary, when he replies, as to whether any regulations are going to be made, in giving effect to the provisions of this Bill, for safeguarding the amenities of the countryside. I think a tremendous amount of harm could be done by the indiscriminate dumping down of brick dwellings in some of the picturesque rural parts of Scotland. I am much more in favour of stone houses, and I think we have an object lesson in how to carry through housing schemes without detracting from the essential characteristics of the district when we look at what is being done on quite a large scale by the town council of Peter-head, where not a single house is allowed to go below the standard set by the normal building in the town, and all houses are built of the native red granite which makes such a very attractive building stone. I hope we can have some reassurance on the question of amenity 1719 from the Under-Secretary. The question of the necessity for the codification of housing Statutes was stressed by the Housing Advisory Committee in their report, and that matter has been mentioned by several Members to-day. I want to ask, just in a word, is this particular task going to be carried through, and can we have any indication of when the codification is likely to be given effect to.
This Debate has ranged over a fairly wide field, and I think some hon. Members on the other side particularly, would have been very hard up for material for their speeches had it not been for the fact that we on this side had put down an Amendment on the question of tied houses and private ownership. I think that, in supporting the Amendment, what we can say, in a word, is that the principle of tied houses under private ownership is bad, and we seek, at the earliest possible moment, to reduce it to a minimum, and, as soon as may be, to end the system altogether. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. T. Johnston) frankly recognised when he was speaking that, for the use of those rural workers who must be in close attendance on the farm, houses on the farms themselves were probably a necessity. What he said definitely is that there is no overriding necessity for those houses being in private ownership. I think for myself that tied rural houses, tied workers' houses, tied colliery houses, tied public-houses if you will, are bad in principle. They take away part of the tenant's freedom; they give the owner of the house a hold over the tenant which is undesirable. I have had many instances, not at all perhaps in regard to farm workers' houses, resulting in evictions, but in respect of colliery houses, and I have had on many occasions to deplore the fact that it was within the power of an owner of a house to turn people on to the streets because the conditions under which the house was held no longer prevailed. The householder, owing to death or some other circumstances, was no longer associated with the colliery to which the house was attached. The tied house has made our farm population very migratory, and we find them moving every 12 months or six months. Where 1720 there are good houses, and I believe that if good houses were available, we should find much less of that disturbance, acting against the interests of children as far as their education is concerned, and we should find much more permanence in the service, employment and residence of rural workers in Scotland.
I am not a bit concerned about the fact that, in putting forward this reasoned Amendment, which states our point of view quite plainly and definitely, and in voting for it, it involves appearing to vote against the Bill. As His Majesty's Opposition, we are entitled to state our point of view, and we state our point of view upon an important matter of this kind in the form of an Amendment to the Second reading of the Bill. In relation to what was stated by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) with regard to the tied house question, this Bill makes provision for small tied house families, but he should bear in mind that we should not be imposing a serious penalty, even if the Amendment were to be carried upon the kind of families he described. Large families living in tied houses have had the opportunity—and I think the point was put to him—of being provided for by the county council with an even better subsidy than is indicated and provided for in this Bill. I would say to the hon. Member that a county council that will not incur a liability of £4 10s. per annum is not likely to take on liabilities of a similar kind, and, in addition, involve itself in capital expenditure.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
The hon. Member said earlier that he recognised that certain tied houses on the farm are necessary. Assuming that under the provisions of Part II 1,000 such tied houses could be abolished and new ones put in their places, would he vote against them? That is the issue.
§ Mr. Mathers
What we are demanding is the provision of publicly-owned houses. Our objection, as stated plainly in the Amendment, is to the putting of a subsidy of public money behind the private ownership of tied houses. That is quite clear, and I shall vote with a clear conscience for the Amendment. As I have already said, we, as His Majesty's Opposition, are entitled to state our views and make our claim. It seemed to be very curious that the hon. Member for East 1721 Fife had so little confidence in the support that would be given to this Bill by the overwhelming numbers who sit with him on the Government side of the House that he imagined that we put down an Amendment like this actually to defeat the Bill. We anticipate that the numbers the Government will secure in favour of the Second Reading will make it possible for the Bill to go to a Committee. We will there use our best endeavours to improve the Bill and to make things even better than are provided here for the rural population in Scotland.
§ Mr. Gallacher
May I ask a question in connection with the Bill? Is it possible, as the Bill is framed, to make proposals that will provide for water closets in every house, because I would like to make certain proposals?
§ 10.14 p.m.
I think that an Amendment of the kind which the hon. Gentleman suggests, as far as I know, would be in order. The Bill provides that water closets and bathrooms shall be put in except where it is not reasonably practicable to do so. The hon. Member will be quite entitled to move Amendments against the words "not reasonably practicable."
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to bring out the fact that it is reasonably possible to have such a water closet in every house however remote, or even where there is not a water main. There is no place where it is not reasonably possible, and I want to know whether that can be made clear in the Bill?
It is a point which, on its merits, could better be argued in Committee, but, as far as I know, there is nothing in the Bill or in the Financial Resolution to prevent the hon. Member from raising the subject in Committee where it can be discussed.
We are very grateful to the House for the generally favourable reception which has been accorded to this Bill, and for the helpful and constructive character of the speeches which have been made. The adverse criticisms of the Bill, and the requests for information which have been put forward in the Debate, can be divided into four categories. First of all, there are the omissions from the Bill of which 1722 complaint has been made; next, the important subject of water supplies; thirdly, the question of housing costs and their relation to the subsidies that are proposed in the Bill, to which many hon. Members have alluded; and, finally, the Amendment that is on the Paper. I will say a few words, first of all, about the omissions from the Bill.
The right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) wished to know whether this Measure could be applied to burghal areas, and the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) wished to know whether if that were not so it would be possible to move an Amendment in Committee to bring them in. I am afraid that the answer to both those questions is in the negative. The matter has also been referred to by several other hon. Members. Personally, I am not altogether without sympathy for their views, because I happen to own one farm which is situated in a burghal area, and I have never found it possible to obtain even a reconditioning grant from the town council; and, of course, it will not be possible for me to receive any grant for a new building under this Bill. The hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Watson), who was particularly anxious that burghal areas should be included, and was equally insistent that no grants of any kind should be made to owners of land, may perhaps console himself for the omission of burghal areas from the Bill with the reflection that I shall be utterly unable to receive any compensation for my bad houses.
§ Mr. Johnston
It is not the landowner who suffers, but the poor victim. Has the Under-Secretary appreciated the point that a farmer who has a farm inside a burghal area is not to receive benefits which are to be received by a farm just over the boundary in a rural county area?
The reason why we are not including burghal areas in the Bill is that, on the whole, the peculiar conditions which justify special treatment for agricultural houses in the more remote rural districts do not usually apply to those farms which are so close to a town as to be within the administrative boundaries of the town council. That is, no doubt, the reason why burghal areas were omitted from the Bill which was introduced in 1931 by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. Johnston
Since the Under-Secretary has referred to me, may I ask him whether he is aware that under the Act of 1931 we were giving for the relief of unemployment huge additional grants to every county council that would apply for them?
The Act to which I am referring gave larger subsidies to rural housing authorities for providing houses for rural workers, and that did not apply to the rural worker who lived within the administrative boundaries of a town council.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) was not quite sure about the position in regard to compensation under Clause 7. That Clause provides that the amount paid in grant for the improvement of a house shall not count as part of the compensation to which the outgoing landholder is entitled. He would not get a grant at all unless he demolished the old bad house, in order to replace it by a new one, so that there would be no question of his having two houses to complicate the matter. In any case, if the old house was unfit for human habitation it would, presumably, be of very little value.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) was afraid that if a house for which a grant had been received was vacated it might be used by the owner for some non-agricultural servant, such as a gamekeeper. That is provided against in Clause 8 (3), which lays it down that if there is any breach of the conditions applicable to the subsidy, one of which conditions is that the house shall be occupied by a member of the agricultural population, the grant, together with compound interest from the time at which the grant was paid, shall be refunded by the owner. The hon. Member also asked me to say whether anything can be done about amenities. Certainly the position will be, as far as the Department is concerned, exactly the same as it is under the Housing Act, 1935. In all housing schemes since then we have made the greatest efforts to persuade housing authorities to pay due attention to architectural merit, and on several occasions we have deferred approval of schemes until they have agreed to produce a design which is in keeping with the appearance of the district. The matter was also referred to in the circular sent out to local 1724 authorities concerning the Rural Housing report in July of this year, and the question of amenities is certainly one which we shall always bear in mind.
The right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, and other hon. Members, criticise the Bill for the omission of nonagricultural labourers who happen to live in rural districts. The answer to that is that the Bill is designed on an occupational rather than a geographical basis. It is specially designed to help the industry of agriculture, and, whatever political or fiscal views we may hold, everyone will agree that the industry of agriculture is one which has for a long time been subjected to peculiar economic difficulties, and its revival is very desirable on social and other grounds. The two kinds of non-agricultural labourers which the right hon. Member mentioned were fishermen and postmen. Fishermen, as a general rule, live in villages, not in scattered houses, and are in the position of being able to be dealt with by local authorities under the slum clearance and overcrowding Acts; they do not have quite the same peculiar difficulties as those which apply to the more remote rural parts of the country. As for postmen, hon. Members opposite will agree that the Post Office, efficiently conducted as it is under public ownership, is in a better position to furnish its employés with good houses than the inefficient and privately owned industry of agriculture.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite has complained that we do not give effect to a recommendation in paragraph 72 of the report to amend Section 34, Subsection (5) of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1935, which provides that houses shall not be assessed at a higher rate than the rent which an owner would be entitled to charge under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. I must acknowledge that I am a little sensitive on this point. It was I as a private Member who moved the Amendment in 1935 to the Housing (Scotland) Act providing that the assessors should not be allowed to value a house at a higher rate than would be permissible under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, and that Amendment was accepted by the Government. I must confess that I should feel some mortification if the duty were now imposed upon me of defending a Measure which repealed the only piece of legislation which 1725 I have ever succeeded in placing upon the Statute Book. The Association of Local Lands Valuation Assessors, according to this report,did not suggest that a rented dwelling should be assessed at a higher value than the rent actually paid"—I think that was very nice of them—
but they proposed that the restriction on the valuation should be withdrawn in the case of dwellings occupied by their owners.But I still remain convinced that it is flagrantly unjust that a house should be assessed at a rent higher than the rent which it would be legally possible to charge if the house were let to a tenant.
The conclusion we have come to is that we are not proposing to abolish Section 34 (5) of the Housing (Scotland) Act.
I have just stated my opinion that it would be flagrantly unjust if we were to assess a house at a higher rent than that which it would be legally permissible to charge.
A great many hon. Members have dealt with the most important subject of water supply. I entirely agree with a great deal that has been said on this subject. Anybody who is familiar with the country districts in Scotland knows that there are many areas where very little can be done either in the way of reconditioning or in the way of rebuilding, because it is not practicable to obtain a water supply. I noted that the right hon. Baronet asked whether we thought that legislation providing new grants for the provision of water supplies was a prerequisite of this Bill. I do not think it is. While I certainly do not underestimate the importance of water supplies, I think that there are a great many areas in nearly every county where a great deal of work can be done without the provision of new water schemes, and that: it is better to get on with that work now, as quickly as we possibly can, rather than to wait until it becomes known whether anything, and if so, how much, can be done in respect of helping local authorities to carry out water supply 1726 schemes. It is a very complicated matter which it might take some time to bring to a conclusion, and I do not think we should be justified in delaying the immediate benefits which can be derived from this Bill in the hope of getting some additional benefits at a later date.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Before leaving that point, cannot the hon. Gentleman give us some hope that we may get provisions regarding water supplies?
I cannot give any undertaking on that point. There is, of course, a great deal being done at the present moment in many counties. All I can say is that we do recognise the desirability in many areas of having schemes that cover a wider field than that which can be provided for by small isolated lots of buildings or by the private owners of single houses.
§ Mr. Leonard
Will the hon. Gentleman answer the point as to grants in respect of any house that could not be made suitable for the introduction of a water supply when water was made available, where a supply is not now available?
I think it is generally the practice of local authorities not to give grants in respect of houses—certainly not new houses nor, I think, reconditioned houses—unless a water supply is available. I think that is the practice now, and one of the great difficulties at present is that there are some houses where it is not possible to get a gravitational water supply of any kind. We cannot get them reconditioned at all, because the local authority would not give a grant. In any case it is doubtful whether it would be justifiable to undertake such work without being able to put in a water supply of any kind.
Let me say a word on the subject of housing costs to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite and also the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassel1s) have already referred. I think it was made plain in the two Debates on the Scottish Estimates last summer, that we regard the prices which are at present being tendered, and, of necessity, accepted, for the building of houses in Scotland as unjustifiably high. It was equally made plain what were the reasons for that increase. The main reason is the uncertainty of the present position and the overloading of the building trade, which is 1727 burdened with more work than it can carry out. It is because of that uncertainty that prices in Scotland have gone up to such an extent. Builders, if they undertake contracts, do not know when they will be able to get the work started. Still less do they know once it has been started when they will be able to finish it. It is that uncertainty which has caused the very steep rise in prices for new contracts which are now being undertaken, but on very few of which building work has yet begun.
We have always put forward the view that the only way to remedy this situation is to relieve the uncertainty by getting a more ample supply of labour. The House is already aware—the question was fully discussed on the Estimates last summer—of the steps which have been taken to that end. In some districts, not, I am afraid, a very large number but an appreciable number of new apprentices are now being taken on. At the same time I am glad to say that a very substantial increase is taking place in the number of bricks which is being manufactured. The figure which I gave last summer showed an increase of 84,000,000 bricks manufactured. We have been keeping closely in touch with the figures of the brick manufacturers, and we are now able to say that next year the increase over last year will be in the neighbourhood of 140,000,000 bricks, or an increase of more than 25 per cent. I hope that increase will continue. I think the brick manufacturers would be well advised to continue their expansion, because, as far as it is humanly possible to foresee, there seems to be no possibility of a falling off in the demand. In fact, I think the demand for bricks will continue to rise.
Those two factors—a more plentiful supply of bricks and a more plentiful supply of labour—should have the effect of diminishing the uncertainty which exists in the building trade at present, and, consequently, of bringing about a reduction in the costs at present being quoted. Certainly we regard the present figure as the peak figure, and we look forward to a reduction in the near future. We do not think that the present costs are justified by economic facts, and we have every reason to believe that they will not be maintained at their present 1728 height. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire asked whether the subsidy in this Bill was calculated on the inflated costs which now exist and, if that were so, why we should not do the same thing for the urban authorities. The reply to that is that the subsidies in this Bill are deliberately not calculated on the present inflated costs, because we feel that if they were so calculated, it would only encourage those costs to go on rising and thus prevent the fall which we think ought to come about.
The costs are not higher than they were on 24th June, though I cannot say that there has been any reduction, but I do riot think there is any reason to suppose that they will go any higher, and I think there are several reasons to suppose that there ought to be a reduction in the near future. Certainly we are not going to do anything which will encourage the assumption that housing costs will not come down.
§ Mr. Cassells
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether anything is being done by the Secretary of State to control the £60 ramp to which he referred in the Debate on 24th June?
My right hon. Friend, as far as I remember, did not refer to that £60 as a ramp. It was made perfectly plain what the cause of that £60 was; it was "scramble," which means that the building industry is overloaded with more work than it can carry out. That is the whole ca use of this increase in price.
Finally, let me come to the Amendment that is on the Paper in the name of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I should like to say that I entirely appreciate the attitude of those who have put down this Amendment. I welcome their general support of the Bill, and I do not suggest that they wish to wreck or oppose it because they happen to hold these views, which they think it right to put forward now, on the subject of payments to owners of tied houses. I was a little surprised by the attitude of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness. He began by saying that on account of the increased building costs since last year the subsidies under Part II of this Bill 1729 ought to be 25 per cent. higher; that is to say, you ought to get £200 instead of £160 for a three-roomed house and £250 instead of £200 for a four-roomed house. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that lie was so doubtful about the desirability of this being done at all that he might vote in favour of the Amendment unless he received satisfactory assurances in the Governments reply that scarcely any of these grants would be made at all. Let me try to give him the assurances for which he asked, which I think can be derived from the Bill itself. In Clause 4, Sub-section (4) (c), on page 7 of the Bill, it is provided that assistance shall not be given unless several conditions are fulfilled. The assistance cannot be given, in the first place, unless the new house replaces an unfit house, and, in the second place, unless the local authority, the county council, think it impracticable that they themselves should build the new house which is required; in the words of paragraph (c):it is not practicable for the local authority to provide such accommodation under a scheme for the provision of housing accommodation for the agricultural population of the locality.We accept the view that it is desirable to reduce the number of tied houses to the lowest amount that is reasonably practicable. That is provided for in the Bill. Moreover, the costs work out in such a way that it is financially advantageous to an owner to have a new house built by the local authority for the agricultural labourers on his property rather than that he should build it himself. In some figures I have had drawn up I have been obliged to take the present figure of £493, which I have just said is too high and ought not to be maintained, but that does not affect the argument, because I am also taking that figure for a house built by the local authority, so that it does not affect the comparison. On that basis it is expected that the local authority ought to he able to let the house at a rent of £10 10s. 9d. a year. If they built the house, the employer of the man who occupied it would have to raise his wages by that amount in order to enable him to pay the rent. He would be relieved of the cost of repairs and everything else. That would be the sole burden to fall upon the owner. If he built the house, receiving a subsidy from the Exchequer and the rates combined of £160, the annual burden for 40 years that would 1730 fall upon the owner would amount to £21 10s. 7d. It is, therefore, from a purely financial point of view, distinctly an advantage to the owner to have the house built by the local authority rather than to build it himself and to receive a grant from the Exchequer and rates together.
§ Mr. Johnston
Has the Under-Secretary included in his calculation the fact that if the owner gets the house built on his property it adds to the value of his estate?
He must have the house occupied by an agricultural labourer. If it is occupied by somebody else, he forfeits the amount of the grant he has received, with compound interest from the date upon which he receives the grant. He is adding to the comfort and the accommodation of the agricultural labourers on his property, but not in any way to his own financial benefit.
With regard to the principle which has been spoken of so much whether it is right to have any house which is occupied by a farm servant owned by the proprietor of the farm, that is a question which I have always been inclined to look at simply from the point of view of common sense. If you have, say, a fairly thickly populated agricultural district, perhaps a large village, with half a dozen farms round about it, not more than a mile or two off, there is little reason why practically the whole of the agricultural population employed on those farms should not be housed in the village, with the exception of one or two cattle men[...] That would be the most desirable thing to do, and it is our intention that local authorities in circumstances of that kind should try to house the agricultural population in the village. But if you take what is not at all uncommon in the rural districts of Scotland, say a 10-mile stretch of country road with 10 farms along it, each at a distance of a mile from the next farm, and suppose that each farm wants a new house—there is no village along that road where you can have a group of people and if you did a great many would have five or six miles to go to work—surely the most sensible thing to do is to have one new house on each of the farms. It is hardly reasonable to expect a local authority to undertake a housing scheme consisting of 10 houses scattered over a linear distance of 10 miles. There would be the greatest inconvenience in the management of those 1731 houses. They would have to add greatly to their staffs, in order to send men round every month or quarter to collect the rents and rates. If the houses are owned by the proprietors of the farms, no rates and no rents would be paid by the occupiers; and minor repairs could be far more effectively carried out by estate labourers. They would be an enormous expense to a local authority which had to look after and repair houses of that kind scattered all over the country.
There are very few sensible and practical local authorities who would undertake building of that kind without the most extreme reluctance. If we refuse such grants as are proposed under Part II of the Bill, it seems to me that we are denying to agricultural labourers in certain districts advantages which are open to all labourers in other parts of the country. It has long been the declared policy of Parliament that the lower-paid wage-earner shall be provided by the help of a Government subsidy with a house of a higher standard than he, out of his wages, would be able to afford. If we are to refuse to agree to this particular provision of the Bill, it seems to me that we are denying the benefits of that policy to a class of labourers, who are certainly not the most highly paid labourers in the country, merely on account of the geographical situation in which they happen to live.
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) in a most vigorous speech—it would seem that the longer he lives the more enthusiastic he becomes about every subject in which he interests himself—told us to our great delight that he was well enough to endure the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." But he will remember the alternative which is presented to our choice in these lines:Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?I know that would be the desire of the hon. Member, and I know that it would be his wish that we should co-operate with him to that end.
I would, in conclusion, express the hope that not only the local authorities, 1732 but also the owners of land, will determine to carry out all the building that can be done under this Act within the prescribed period, that is to say a period of five years. If you take the agricultural properties in Scotland which are not accidentally linked up with some nonagricultural source of wealth, there are very few of them that have been able out of their own resources to maintain themselves in their former condition, and still less to carry out any substantial improvements, not merely for the last seven years, since the acute depression of 1930, but for the last 60 years, ever since the great decline in agricultural values in the 'seventies of the last century, which has not yet been reversed. I doubt very much whether there are a great many owners at the present moment who are in a position to furnish from the proceeds of agriculture alone any immediate funds to carry out the purpose of this Bill. If it is to be carried out, they will probably have to borrow practically the entire cost. There are three ways in which that can be done, and I hope that any or all of them will be used to the fullest possible extent. It is possible to raise money for local authorities under the Act of 1925. It is possible to get loans from the Scottish Agricultural Securities Corporation in Edinburgh or the Lands Improvement Company.
These concerns, which are public utility concerns, have specially favourable rates of interest and capital repayments.
Then there is nothing that can be done. Whether your land is mortgaged or not, to borrow money on it for this purpose again on a large scale is a thing which may, perhaps, require some degree of faith—that, I think, is the point which my hon. Friend wishes to bring out—some degree of faith in the future of the agricultural industry. I shall not be bold enough to predict that the next generation will see the full restoration of agricultural life to its rightful place in our country, but I do suggest that the prospects of that restoration will not be 1733 diminished if the owners of land will take up now the opportunities that are provided by this Bill of maintaining on the soil a more healthy and numerous population.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 178; Noes, 109.1735
|Division No. 8.]||AYES.||[10.54 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Munro, P.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Fildes, Sir H.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Findlay, Sir E.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Fleming, E. L.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Furness, S. N.||Owen, Major G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gluckstein, L. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Goldie, N. B.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Radford, E. A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Grimston, R. V.||Ramsay, Captain A. H, M.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hannah, I. C.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Rowlands, G.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Butler, R. A.||Holmes, J. S.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hopkinson, A.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Horsbrugh, Florence||Scott, Lord William|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Selley, H. R.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Christie, J. A.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Meri[...]oneth)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Kimball, L.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Spens. W. P.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Lees-Jones, J.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cox, H. B. T.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Levy, T.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Lewis, O.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Denville, Alfred||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Drewe, C.||McKie, J. H.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Magnay, T.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||White, H. Graham|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Markham, S. F.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Marsden, Commander A.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Wise, A. R.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswisk)|
|Emery, J. F||Moreing, A. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Mr. James Stuart and Lieut.-|
|Errington, E.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Colonel Kerr.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Buchanan, G.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Burke, W. A.||Day, H.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Cassells, t.||Dobbie, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Charleton, H. C.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Cluse, W. S.||Ede, J. C.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Cove, W. G.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Benson, G.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.|
|Broad, F. A.||Daggar, G.||Frankel, D.|
|Bromfield, W.||Dalton, H.||Gallacher, W.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Lawson, J. J.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Leach, W.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Lee, F.||Shinwell, E.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Leonard, W.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Lunn, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Groves, T. E.||McEntee, V. La T.||Stephen, C.|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||McGhee, H. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-Ie-Sp'ng)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||McGovern, J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||MacLaren, A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hardie, Agnes||Maclean, N.||Thurtle, E.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Marshall, F.||Walkden. A. G.|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Milner, Major J.||Walker, J.|
|Hopkin, D.||Montague, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Muff, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Paling, W.||Williams. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Parkinson, J. A.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Ridley, G.|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Ritson, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lathan, G.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.