§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.5 P.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I am glad that this Bill, which is one of the first major Measures to be proposed this Session, is a Scottish Measure and one of which Scotland has great need. The Bill has now been published for nearly a fortnight and it has had a very good reception in Scotland. I have heard and seen a number of tributes to it. One would be warranted in thinking that "Even the ranks of Tuscany can scarce forbear to cheer," because the official Opposition Amendment gives some little, if grudging, recognition to the fact that anything in the way of increased subsidies may be helpful to the building of houses in Scotland. The Amendment goes on to refer to the absence of grants-in-aid for water supplies and drainage. But I would remind the House that this is a housing Bill and not a water and drainage Bill. There may be more said on these subjects later, but my explanation of the Bill will lie in the realm of housing and will relate to matters in which there has been a strong demand for improvement from the local authorities.
The main purpose of the Bill is to make further financial provision to enable local authorities to continue their attack on the slums and on overcrowding. The Bill has two main lines of attack. It makes adjustments in the rate of Exchequer contributions and also makes provision for attacking the housing problem in another way. That is, it authorises the payment of special Exchequer contributions to an approved housing association to enable it to build demonstration housing schemes outside the Special Areas without any cost to the local authorities. Side by side with this new arrangement the Special Areas Housing Association will extend and accelerate its housing programme within the Special Areas.
Before I explain the provisions of the Bill in more detail, it would no doubt be convenient to the House if for a few 1556 minutes I were to review the present position of Scottish housing as we see it today. I shall not give an exhaustive review, for that is generally done on the Estimates. I do not wish to weary the House by repeating figures and statistics that have so often been given in previous Debates, but there are certain figures that we must emphasise on all possible occasions so as to impress on all concerned with the social welfare of our country the gravity of the Scottish housing position and the necessity of taking special measures to deal with it. In spite of all that has been done for Scottish housing we still need a number of new working-class houses which has been given as something in the neighbourhood of a quarter of a million. I recognise that this year's quota or contribution of houses built by local authorities and by private enterprise (which I estimate roughly as about 19,000, or perhaps rather more by local authorities, and about 7,000 by private enterprise) will help towards the deficiency which I have mentioned; but it still means that we must build houses to the number of about one-fifth of the total number of houses existing in Scotland to-day, and that we still have to re house in more suitable conditions about a million of our people. I do not think there will be any disagreement, to whatever party he may belong, as to the magnitude of the task.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the figure of 19,000 completed this year. Does that include timber houses built by local authorities?
§ Mr. Colville
Yes. Not many have been completed already, but the figure would include any that have been completed by local authorities. I do not wish to minimise what has been done. In this post-war housing effort Scotland has made a great advance. Local authorities, large and small, have had a great deal of work to do, and very great efforts have been made in many districts. Nevertheless, progress has lagged behind the need. Since I took office as Secretary of State for Scotland I have made it my business to acquire first-hand knowledge of the problem. I have visited the sites of many housing schemes of local authorities in order to discuss the problem of meeting the demand for working-class houses, and I have come back with a greater conviction than ever that housing 1557 is extremely important to Scotland and that we must do what we can to help.
One of the features of the housing position that has caused us much concern has been the steep rise in building costs that has occurred over the past three years. I appointed recently a Departmental Committee to inquire into the reasons for the increase. That Committee is now busy taking evidence and I hope to have its report early in the New Year. Another of our difficulties has been a shortage of skilled labour in certain trades. To counteract this shortage in some measure we have given every encouragement to the building of houses by alternative methods of construction that make the minimum demand on the types of labour that are short and that will make the most use of the types of labour that are plentiful. This encouragement to the building of houses by alternative methods is being further developed in the Bill. By using alternative methods we not only accelerate house building, but we enable men who would otherwise be idle to be actively employed in improving the housing conditions of their fellow workers. I should explain that we do not regard building by alternative methods as anything more than a supplementary way of providing houses, and that we expect local authorities to push on with all possible speed with building by ordinary methods. I should be sorry to see recognised methods of building in Scotland falling back in any way. But we have been driven to alternative methods by the shortage of labour in relation to our housing needs, and I am glad to say that the experiments that have been carried out over the past year have shown that a thoroughly satisfactory house can be produced by methods hitherto little used in Scotland.
One of the satisfying features about housing in the past two or three years has been a marked improvement in the design of houses built by local authorities. I hope that we shall see further improvements as a result of the recent competition for designs of rural cottages. It may interest the House to know that I intend to take part in a small function in Edinburgh on Friday at which the prizes promised by the donor will be presented to the successful competitors in rural house designs. I attach importance to the securing of good designs. 1558 They do not necessarily cost more than bad designs.
The House will remember that on 29th March of this year, in a Debate on the Housing (Continuation of Contributions) Order, my predecessor at the Scottish Office stated that it was the Government's intention to continue discussions that were then proceeding with a sub-committee appointed by the Associations of Local Authorities, and that if as a result of those discussions any change in housing subsidies were found to be necessary, the change would take effect as from 1st January, 1939. This Bill gives effect to that promise. That is the reason why I am anxious to see it passed into law and placed on the Statute Book so that we can make the increased rates of subsidies available to local authorities by 1st January next. It is right that I should express publicly my indebtedness to the local authorities' sub-committee for their helpful attitude throughout the discussions with them. With the growing complexity of public administration, consultation with those who reflect public opinion is becoming more and more necessary, and I believe firmly in the policy that we have followed on this occasion in maintaining close touch with the representatives of local authorities in the preparation of legislation.
As regards the proposals in the Bill, the main interest of the House will, no doubt, lie in the new rates of subsidies. Hon. Members will be aware that the present rates of Exchequer contribution differ according to the purpose for which the house is built. The present subsidy for slum clearance is £2 l0s. per person (£2 15s. in rural areas) and the overcrowding subsidy, is £6 15s. per new house. Both subsidies are payable as an annual contribution for 40 years. The proposals in the Bill are that there should be one consolidated subsidy for these two purposes. Perhaps it is not necessary for me to justify that consolidation, but I would say that whatever may have been the case for differing subsidies in the past, I do not think there is any reason for continuing differentiation now. When local authorities are building houses, it is not necessary for them to distinguish in advance to which of the two purposes they are to be put. Indeed, it is the normal practice to rehouse in the same housing scheme some persons from overcrowded houses and some from unfit condemned houses. Nor can it be said that 1559 there is any difference in cost between houses provided for slum clearance and houses provided for decrowding purposes. In these circumstances to have two differing rates of subsidy leads to administrative difficulties without, so far as I can see, any corresponding advantage. We have, however, made provision to ensure that, as in the 1930 Act, the larger house will attract the larger subsidy.
The proposed new Exchequer contributions are £10s. for a three-roomed house, 15s. for a four-roomed house, and £13 for a five-roomed house. I feel confident that the House will accept these proposals as a generous contribution by the Exchequer for the solution of our housing problems. The contributions are considerably greater than the housing subsidy rates paid in England, but I am sure English Members realising the difficulties we are up against in Scotland and the leeway we have to make up will not in any way grudge that difference. These new rates can be regarded as having fully met the claims which have been stressed for some time by local authorities that the overcrowding subsidy under the 1935 Act should be substantially increased on account of the rise in the cost of building. The new subsidies will be payable to local authorities for all houses completed for slum clearance, redevelopment and de-crowding purposes from 1st January, 1939, to 30th September, 1942, so that local authorities can look forward to three and three quarter years of this generous rate of subsidy.
The House will wish to know how the new subsidy rates compare on average with those at present payable. At the present time there is always a tendency in this House to look every gift horse in the mouth. That is a proper procedure, and I hope to show on this occasion that the horse has good teeth and that it is a thoroughly reliable animal. At the present time the average unit subsidy payable under the 1930 Act is about £14 per house. The subsidy under the 1935 Act is £6 15s. per house. Rather more houses are being built for overcrowding than for slum clearance in Scotland, and the present average of the two subsidies together is about £10.
But this is not the whole story. Local authorities have up till now been dealing in the main with the larger families. The average size of family remaining to be 1560 dealt with under slum clearance in the next few years will gradually he smaller so that the present average of £14 under the 1930 Act would inevitably have fallen considerably during the next subsidy period if we had retained the unit system. This point was consistently made to us by the local authorities during our discussions with them. Naturally they tackled the larger families first, and are working through to the smaller families. While we have not sufficient data to make a close estimate, we think it not unlikely that the average unit grant that would have been payable over the whole of the next subsidy period might have fallen to £11.
When we look at the overcrowding position—this has an important bearing on the value of this provision to Scotland in the future—we find that about four times as many houses are required for the relief of overcrowding as for slum clearance. The proportion of houses built under the overcrowding provisions and qualifying for the lower rate of £6 15s. would inevitably have increased, because although there is much slum property in Scotland there are four times as many houses required for the relief of overcrowding as for slum clearance. Taking these two factors together, it is probable that the average subsidy that would have been payable under the present Acts would not have exceeded £8, whereas the subsidies which I have announced are £10 10s. for a three-roomed house, £11 15s. for a four-roomed house, and £13 for a five-roomed house during The first subsidy period.
Exchequer contributions for housing inevitably involve a contribution from local rates. In the past the ratio between Exchequer and rate contributions has varied considerably. The Government consider that a fair ratio for normal application for housing would be two to one, that is to say, that the State should pay two-thirds of the cost of housing. This principle has already been applied in England and Wales under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1938. It is now recognised in this Bill for application in normal circumstances to Scotland. We have, however, had in mind the special urgency of the position in Scotland and, therefore, in the first subsidy period, that is, until September, 1942, the rate contributions required of local authorities will be substantially less than those that would 1561 have been payable on a two to one basis. We hope that this concession will encourage local authorities to proceed with their housing programmes with all possible speed during the next three or four years.
The rate contributions proposed in the Bill are £4 10s. for a three-roomed house, £4 15s. for a four-roomed house, and £5 for a five-roomed house. The Bill provides that for purposes of Exchequer and rate contributions a house of less than three rooms will be regarded as a three-roomed house, and a house of more than five rooms will be regarded as a five-roomed house. In case there should be any misconception I should like to make it quite clear that the reference to houses of less than three rooms does not imply any departure from policy in this matter. It is my view—and I am supported by every committee that has inquired into the question—that there are at present far too many one- and two-apartment houses in Scotland. Only lately in answer to a question I disclosed that at the last date at which information was available there were in Glasgow 35,000 houses of one apartment occupied and 110,000 houses of two apartments occupied. I do not need to labour that point. Some say that we should go in for building a number of two-apartment houses, but I would ask them to bear in mind that, speaking generally, in Scotland there are too many one- and two-apartment houses. Our policy is therefore to approve two-apartment houses only if they are built for use by old people, and then only if the circumstances of the area justify that provision.
§ Mr. Colville
I cannot give the hon. Member geographical details, but I do know that in certain areas this provision of houses for old people is very much in demand. I know of some areas in my own constituency and other places where such houses have been put up and have been much valued. We do not propose to approve any one-apartment houses for subsidy purposes, although we shall continue to consider proposals in suitable circumstances for the provision of hostels for single persons. The Bill, indeed, makes fresh provision for hostels, and proposes that the Exchequer contribution for every part of the hostel designed as accommodation for a single person should 1562 be £5 10s., the local authority's corresponding rate contribution being £2 15s. It is one of the essential features of the hostel that there should be a caretaker's house attached to it and the Clause has been drawn so as to permit of the proposed normal Exchequer contribution of £10 10s. for that part of the hostel. For a 12-roomed hostel with a caretaker's house the present Exchequer contribution is £52 10s., but under the Bill it will be £76 10s. There is thus a considerable incentive to proceed with these hostels where they are desirable and necessary.
§ Mr. Colville
I have not added it up, but I have said that the Exchequer contribution will be £5 10s. and the corresponding rate of contribution will be £2 15s.
§ Mr. Westwood
You have to multiply the £2 15s. by 12 to get the rate contribution as against the present rate contribution of £4 10s.
§ Mr. Colville
The State contribution is also considerably improved. The hon. Member knows that there is a history attached to that rate contribution which is more than meets the eye.
The next feature of the Bill with which I shall deal relates to some rather complicated provisions for the payment of additional Exchequer contributions in certain circumstances. Under the 1930 and 1935 Acts there are provisions enabling special contributions to be paid, subject to certain conditions, where local authorities have to incur special expense in purchasing or paying compensation for fit properties in clearance or redevelopment areas. The disappearance of the unit grant provisions as proposed in the Bill makes it necessary to recast the arrangements for clearance areas. So far as redevelopment areas are concerned, local authorities have consistently represented that the additional Exchequer contribution payable under the 1935 Act, which is limited to a maximum of £4 per house, is much too low to provide adequate compensation to local authorities for the extra expense they have to incur. The Bill proposes to combine the two existing provisions relating to clearance areas and redevelopment areas and to 1563 increase the maximum additional Exchequer contribution to £15 per house.
Before being entitled to receive any additional contribution the local authority will have to show that because of the special expenditure it has to incur for the purposes I have mentioned, its loss on its housing operations as a whole is likely to be substantially greater than the normal loss. In other words, the local authority will have to show that in the absence of any special subsidy the rate charge to be borne per new house in connection with its house building as a whole would be materially higher than the amount of the statutory rate contribution. It is, of course, a corollary to this that if for any reason, such as falling costs, which I should like to see, a local authority's average rate charge per house for its ordinary house building on new sites is likely to be less than the statutory rate contribution, that advantage should be set off against any additional contribution the local authority might otherwise have obtained.
The Bill proposes two important extensions in the realm of the additional subsidies I have mentioned. One of them relates to clearance areas and the other to redevelopment areas. The additional subsidy for clearance areas applies at present only to the expense incurred in purchasing fit properties within the clearance area proper. We propose to extend this provision to include properties on land adjacent to the clearance area which have to be purchased to make the whole area a suitable shape for development. The other extension we propose is that the special redevelopment subsidy should no longer be confined to the large burghs but should apply anywhere where the conditions are satisfied. That has been welcomed by the local authorities.
Let me now say a word about tenements. Along with the new provision for clearance and redevelopment areas we have included a further provision which has not hitherto appeared in Scottish legislation. We propose to give the same additional subsidy, under the conditions I have described, for the building of tenements on expensive central sites in large burghs. This proposal is that result of our consideration of representations by local authorities that there are certain central sites eminently suitable for working-class 1564 houses which cannot be brought within the redevelopment provisions, because those provisions require as a first essential that there should be at least 50 existing working-class houses on the site to be redeveloped.
We have, I think, all been conscious that, however necessary or desirable may be the building of new houses on the outskirts of our cities, local authorities would sooner or later have to pay increasing attention to the development of their central areas. I feel confident that the new proposals in the Bill will encourage local authorities to proceed energetically with this important aspect of housing, and that the result will be not only an improvement in the appearance of our towns, but the provision of houses nearer to the places where the tenants work. I do not intend to go back on the many fine housing schemes around our cities, but at the same time there is a necessity to keep an eye on the central parts of our large cities and see that they are not allowed to get into disrepute. I should like to make it clear at this stage that the £15 to which I have referred, is additional to the normal Exchequer contributions, but that it is a maximum and that the actual amount paid will depend oil the circumstances of each separate case. In the case of clearance areas the, additional expense incurred by local authorities is not very great, and it is improbable that any additional contribution that may be payable for clearance areas will reach anything like £15 which has been designed to cover the more expensive redevelopment areas. That is a point which was fully discussed with the local authorities. In respect of any additional Exchequer contribution received by a local authority under the provisions I have described, the local authority will be required to make an extra rate contribution equal to one-half of the additional Exchequer contribution.
Let me now say a word on another aspect of Scottish housing. We have preserved in the Bill a provision which first appeared in the 1935 Act. It authorises the payment of additional Exchequer contributions where the cost to the local authority is specially heavy because of the remoteness of the building site from centres of supply of labour and materials, and because of the impracticability of obtaining normal rents. Since 1935 this provision has been of considerable help 1565 to some of the authorities in the Highlands and Islands. In reproducing it in this Bill we have found it possible to make an extension in its scope. At present it applies only to houses built to relieve overcrowding; under the proposals in the Bill it will apply also to houses for slum clearance. I do not think that there are many slums in these remote areas but there are a number of unfit houses with which we hope to deal in this way, and this enlargement of the provision of the 1935 Act has been sought by some of the outlying authorities. In passing, I should like to draw attention to the fact that this is the fifth extension of the scope of existing subsidies which I have mentioned to-day. In connection with this special remote areas subsidy the local authority's statutory rate contribution will not be increased. In this respect it differs from the other additional contributions I have mentioned.
I come now to a feature of the Bill to which I attach great importance. We propose that, without any cost whatever to local authorities, arrangements should be made under which a housing association will be able to build a number of demonstration schemes outside the Special Areas. The object of this arrangement is to demonstrate over a wide area the possibilities of alternative methods of construction. The association will be expected to experiment freely in new methods and materials and in the organisation of building. The provisions in the Bill are limited to give a statutory authority for the payment of Exchequer contributions to the association, and the House will wish to know how we propose to get this new machine going. As hon. Members are aware, the Special Areas Housing Association is already building houses by alternative methods in the Special Areas. What we propose is that the association should be renamed and reconstituted to enable it to extend and accelerate its programme and to undertake the building of houses outwith as well as within the Special Areas. It is intended that the chairman of the association as reconstituted should in future be paid and should give his whole time to the work.
It would have given me great pleasure if Sir David Allan Hay, the present chairman, had been able to continue on this 1566 new footing, but he has informed me that other claims on his time will make it impossible for him to do so. I need hardly say how much we regret his decision, and I think the House would wish me to take this opportunity of expressing our deep appreciation of the voluntary services he has given to the association. I know personally how much time and energy Sir David has devoted to the work of the association, and I feel that the preliminary work so ably done will make the enlarged programme of the new association so much the easier. I should like also to pay a tribute to the work of the other members of the association and to express the hope that we may have their continued co-operation in the new venture.
The reconstituted association will continue to operate as a housing association under the Housing Acts, that is, it will build in the area of a local authority only after agreement with the local authority, and the local authority will pass on to it the Exchequer contributions received from the Department for the houses built by the association. For houses built outside the Special Areas, the further sum required by the association, which in effect represents the rate contribution normally payable by local authorities, will be paid to the association direct by the Department under the provisions of the Bill. For houses built within the Special Areas, this part of the association's funds will be provided as at present out of the Special Areas Fund.
§ Mr. Colville
That has not been settled. We want to get the whole-time services of a satisfactory and able man. It is a matter of administration and is not in the Bill.
§ Mr. Colville
If the hon. Member has any lady in mind I shall be glad to have her name. Hon. Members will notice that in the Financial Memorandum to the Bill we estimate that by 30th September, 1942, the association will have built about 18,000 houses in the Special Areas and 7,500 outside those areas. All these houses will be built by alternative method of construction. This is an estimate 1567 which I hope will be exceeded. I shall do all I can to see that the association has every facility for exceeding that estimate, and I hope that we shall also have the assistance of those who helped in the former housing association.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Can the Secretary of State tell us something about the organisation of alternative buildings?
§ Mr. Colville
Hon. Members will see that, apart from the impetus and encouragement given to the building of houses by local authorities through the increase in the subsidies, the direct contribution by the Government towards the solution of the housing problem is to be a substantial one.
It would be appropriate, I think, if I give at this stage some information as to the progress already made in alternative construction by the Special Areas Housing Association. The association was set up almost exactly a year ago. For the first few months it was necessarily engaged on preliminary organisation work and in discussions with the various local authorities. It is now well into its stride and is actively engaged in building work and in negotiating for sites. At present 124 timber houses and 494 concrete houses are under construction and schemes are well in hand for the building of a further 2,100 concrete houses and more than 2,000 timber houses. The local authorities are also experimenting on a variety of alternative methods. Proposals for the building by local authorities of about 1,400 timber houses and over 900 poured concrete houses have already been approved by the Department of Health. Further schemes are known to be in contemplation for about 1,400 timber houses and about 1100 concrete houses.
§ Mr. Colville
I understand that they contemplate building some concrete houses. I do not know whether they propose to build any timber ones.
§ Mr. Colville
Not in the figures that have been approved, but in those in contemplation. I, myself, saw last month 1568 some of the houses being built by both methods by the Lanarkshire County Council, and I am convinced that we shall have no regrets at having encouraged the use of alternative methods in present circumstances. I was particularly interested to see the number of men without previous building experience who can be usefully employed in the building of poured concrete houses. Since then, I have had further inquiries made. These inquiries show that in a housing scheme that is nearing completion, the weekly average proportion of such workers to bricklayers was about 40 to 1. It was also ascertained that in the building of a poured concrete house the average employment obtained by such workers was about 43 weeks. All these unemployed workers were obtained from the Employment Exchanges, and most of them were miners who had no prospect of employment at their own trade for the present. Therefore, in such building a useful contribution can be made to the problem of unemployment in the mining areas in other parts of Scotland if more of these houses can be built and are found to he satisfactory. I do not think the building trade in Scotland need be afraid of this, because there is work for all to do in satisfying the housing needs in Scotland at the present time.
§ Captain W. T. Shaw
How do the costs of these houses compare with the costs of similar houses in England?
§ Mr. Colville
I cannot give the exact figures at the moment, but in general, houses cost slightly more to build in Scotland.
§ Mr. Colville
Yes, rather more quickly, because there is much more labour readily obtainable for building them. I should like now to say [...]word or two about one thing that the Bill does not contain. I am aware of the feeling which exists both inside the House and in Scotland in favour of legislation providing for State grants to assist the reconditioning of working-class property. I refer not only to the 1569 limited proposals which hon. Members opposite make in their Amendment with regard to reconditioning houses, but also to the representations made by the local authorities with regard to grants for reconditioning generally. I welcome these representations as indicating the general resolve that Scottish housing conditions must be improved with the greatest possible speed. I do not seek to minimise the case for reconditioning, but I am afraid that I cannot at present make any promise to introduce legislation on this subject. We have submitted in the Bill which is now before the House generous proposals for assisting new construction both by local authorities and by the special housing company, both by normal and by alternative methods. Last Session legislation relating to rural housing was passed which was no less generous in its terms. We believe that the result will be the putting into effect at an early date of programmes of new construction which will fully tax the available resources of the building industry. And we believe that, in present circumstances, the best we can do for the improvement of Scottish housing is to push ahead with these programmes as rapidly as we possibly can. But having said that, I should like to assure the House that I do not by any means close my mind to the idea of reconditioning at a more opportune time.
In recent years the housing problem has been one that has caused successive holders of my office more concern than probably any other subject of Scottish administration. It is a subject on which, irrespective of party, all of us are working towards a common objective—the removal of the disgraceful conditions in which so many of our Scottish people still have to live. We have met with great difficulties in recent years, but it is our aim to remove those difficulties as quickly as possible.
The main difficulties have been threefold. First, finance—and as to this, I think we have shown clearly in this Bill that great as are the demands on the Exchequer at the present time—all of us realise how heavy these are—we have not let financial difficulties hamper us in our efforts to solve our housing problems. Secondly, there was for a time a shortage of certain materials. I am glad to say that this difficulty has almost entirely vanished. I should like at this point to express appreciation of the action of the 1570 brick-makers in rapidly increasing their production in order to meet our difficulties. Apart from local and purely temporary difficulties, we have no evidence that housing schemes are now being delayed through lack of materials. I am glad to be able to say that, because a different story was told a year ago when we were discussing the same problem. The third difficulty is a shortage of skilled labour. As to this, although the position has improved—and I hope it will continue to improve—I am afraid we must admit that progress is still being hampered. We are doing what we can, as I have already said, by the encouragement of alternative methods, but we want to see, side by side with this new development, an increase in the rate of production of houses by the normal methods. We can achieve this if we have the willing co-operation of the building industry.
I am grateful to the industry for the help they have already given by authorising an increase in the number of apprentices and by agreeing to the working of more overtime, but I should like to take this opportunity of appealing to the industry—and I feel sure the whole House will support this appeal—to consider earnestly what further steps can be taken to improve progress. I feel that with the known housing programmes before us—I do not need to give the figures again to show what a big programme can be before Scotland if she sets her mind to it—with gradually rising standards, and with the necessity for replacing ordinary wastage, together with developments in the industrial field and in the sphere of the social services generally, the building industry in Scotland can confidently look forward to many years of steady employment. That is my considered opinion. It need not, therefore, feel anxious about its future position. I am sure that I have the House with me in expressing the hope that the building industry will co-operate with us to the fullest extent in increasing the rate of production, and so assist us in our task of removing quickly the reflection on Scotland's fair name that our housing conditions imply. I commend this Bill to the House. I believe it will give a great stimulus to housebuilding in Scotland, and there is no side of my work which I should feel happier to stimulate than the improvement of housing conditions. 1571 The Bill will also provide an answer, I think, to those who fear that under the stress of rearmament expenditure we intend to neglect the position of the people of Scotland.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, while welcoming any subsidy re-arrangements which may have the effect of encouraging local authorities in the building of houses for the working classes in Scotland, regrets that no provision is made for grants-in-aid to local authorities who find it desirable to purchase and reconstruct suitable house property in cases approved by the Department of Health, and further regrets that no grants-in-aid are provided for improving water supplies and drainage, without which any comprehensive drive for better housing in many areas in Scotland is virtually impossible.We have been told that this Bill, as far as its finances are concerned, is practically an agreed Measure with the local authorities in Scotland, and to that extent hon. Members on these benches do not desire to criticise unduly an arrangement which the local authorities have felt it desirable to make with the Government. But the more the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland explained this bargain, and the more he threw light on the figures in connection with it, the more perplexed and surprised I became that the local authorities should have accepted the bargain. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in the very difficult task which he had in explaining this very complex and very difficult subject. I suppose that we could discuss and dispute for hours the relative merits of particular forms of subsidies without arriving at any very definite conclusions; but I would like to put to the Under-Secretary of State, who I understand is to reply to the Debate, one or two questions concerning the finances of the Measure, to which I could not quite find an answer in the explanations given by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman told us, quite properly, that the average subsidy which has hitherto been paid in Scotland amounts to about £14 a house, taking the unit grant subsidy under the 1930 Act and the per house subsidy under the 1935 Act.
§ Mr. Colville
No, I am afraid I did not make the position clear. The subsidy of 1572 £14 is under the 1930 Act only. The subsidy is —10 when the two are taken together.
§ Mr. Johnston
For the purposes of my argument, precise figures do not matter. I take it that the average subsidy which has been paid has been about £10 or £11 per house. What the right hon. Gentleman has done as been to include in this subsidy the very favourable subsidies which have been received by local authorities under the 1930 Act, when they were picking and choosing the large families to rehouse on a unit grant basis. Naturally, when they started out under the 1930 Act, they picked the larger families in order to get a larger grant, but I understand that the larger families have now been dealt with, and that the local authorities find that the subsidies which they can get under the 1930 Act are now very much smaller than they were. Therefore, averages of the past, based on what happened in 1933 or 1934, do not assist us.
The question we have to face this afternoon is this: what subsidies can the local authorities, in November, 1938, get under existing legislation, and what subsidies will they get under this Bill? In 1938, they are able to get a subsidy with regard to overcrowding under the 1935 Act. That means a subsidy of £6 15s. per house. Under this Measure, they will get an increase from £6 15s., for a three-apartment dwelling, to £10 10s.—that is to say, an increase of £3 15s. per house. Let us consider what will be the position of the local authorities. There is to be an increase of £3 15s. for a three-apartment dwelling. Since 1935, however the cost of building in Scotland has risen, on the average, from £284 per house to £431. When the subsidy was fixed at 46 15s., it was fixed by the Government and the Treasury on the basis that £284 was the value of the house. Now we have to face an increased cost of £147 per house, and, subject to what the Under-Secretary may say later, I submit that the proposal in the Bill only meets the interest charges upon the increased cost of building since the subsidy was fixed under the 1935 Act, and that, therefore, as far as this part of the Bill is concerned, the local authorities have gained no increase whatever. I would like to see actuarial calculations showing wherein any benefits accrue to the local authorities.
1573 That, however, is only the beginning of the story. We must now consider what this Bill does in making it obligatory upon local authorities to increase the rate contribution per house. To-day the rate contribution under the 1935 Act is £35s. per house, but under this Bill the local authorities are to pay £4 10s. for a three-apartment dwelling, £4 15s. for a four-apartment dwelling, and £5 for a five-apartment dwelling. For a three-apartment dwelling the local ratepayer is to pay an increase of £1 5s. per annum, so that, apart from the apparent increase in subsidy, which I submit only meets the increased cost of building charges—interest and redemption—the local authority has now to pay an increased charge of £1 5s. per annum for 40 years on a three-apartment dwelling. I believe there are some areas in which this increase, imposed upon the local ratepayers, will tend to slow down the rate of building. I believe that, owing to de-rating and other causes, there are areas in Scotland to-day where a penny rate brings in so little money that the urge on the part of local authorities will be towards slowing down, towards reducing rather than increasing their liability, because of this added burden on local rates.
There is still another point upon which we should like further information. If I understand the Bill aright, after 30th September, 1942, the local ratepayer will have to pay not only the £4 10s. subsidy—a jump from £3 5s.—but will have to pay half the subsidy per house which the Treasury is supposed to be paying. We were told to-day by the Secretary of State that in the large burghs the cost might go up to £15 per house for additional subsidy, in redevelopment cases. What does that mean? It means that the local authority will have to pay £7 10s. per house plus £5 17s. 6d. per house, or a total, in those cases, of £13 7s. 6d. per house of local subsidy. I cannot see the local authorities rushing forward to do that. I believe many local authorities will find it financially impossible to do it, and before this House parts with the Financial Resolution, and with the Committee stage of this Measure, the representatives of all parties would be well advised to get the facts clearly, as to what kind of bargain the Treasury has driven with the Secretary of State for Scotland.
1574 I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman. I am not blaming his officials. I believe that they would struggle to get the best terms they could. But on my reading of this Measure there are certain aspects of this bargain which seem to make it a bad bargain for the local authorities, and I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that unless the bargain can still be revised in these respects the tendency will be for the present proposals to slow down and not to increase the rate of building. I am sure that some of the local authorities did not understand it. There are some of us here who have had the duty of piloting Housing Bills through this House. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) and I have had that duty and we have found great difficulty in understanding all the implications of this Measure. I discussed it with the representatives of the local authorities. At first they were quite happy about it, but when I pointed out the facts and figures which I have just indicated, they were staggered. I ask the Under-Secretary therefore to give us a straight answer to-night to this question: Is it possible under the provisions of this Bill, as far as redevelopment areas are concerned, that subsidies in large burghs may amount to £13 7s. 6d. per house after September, 1942?
§ Mr. Stephen
Surely we ought to have an answer to that question now, and not at the end of the Debate.
§ Mr. Johnston
I shall be only too happy to give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes to reply now.
§ Mr. Colville
I think it would be more satisfactory if the whole point were answered at the end of the Debate.
§ Mr. Buchanan
This is a point which we shall be debating for hours, and if it is not made clear now the whole of that. Debate may take place under a misconception.
§ Mr. Colville
I think hon. Members might allow the right hon. Gentleman to make his own speech. I think he is right, but it is equally apparent that this point was discussed with the local authorities, who were pleased to regard the arrangement which was made as satisfactory, and, after all, it is they who have to work it.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am delighted to have confirmation of my statement. At the same time I think that the right hon. Gentleman might, at any rate, have made clear to the House in his opening speech this most important fact, which I put forward with great hesitation. I could hardly believe, when I worked out my own calculations, that my figures were right, and I do not believe that you will get the large burghs in Scotland to proceed with the building of houses if it means a local subsidy of £13 7s. 6d. per annum per house.
§ Mr. Johnston
I think I have already made it clear that it is after September, 1942, but that, after all, is a comparatively small point.
§ Mr. Johnston
If I may hazard a suggestion, I think some of the local authorities' representatives, if they understood what they were agreeing to here, must have calculated that 1942 was a long time from now, and that the present Government might by then have disappeared, and that new legislation would be brought in to amend what was apparently an injustice. I do not believe that the Secretary of State himself suggested this. "Treasury" is written all over this proposal. The right hon. Gentleman asked us to examine this gift horse in the mouth. I am doing so, and I do not see that this offer is entitled to the designation of generous, if the local authorities are being asked to provide a local subsidy of £13 7s. 6d. per annum.
§ Mr. Colville
I do not like to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but since hon. Members below the Gangway have raised this matter, it is better that I should make one point clear. The right hon. Gentleman has not made it quite plain that while, according to the arithmetic which he has worked out, it might be necessary in some cases for a local authority to pay the rate contribution which he has stated, that would not be for all houses. It would only be in a comparatively small case, that is, in the case of a redevelopment area. I thought 1576 his concluding remarks rather suggested that the ultimate charge on local authorities for all houses would be increased to £13 and I must in fairness make it clear that this would apply only in the particular case which I have mentioned, and only after the first subsidy period.
§ Mr. Johnston
I have no desire to misrepresent the position, and I am perfectly certain that I did say, and indeed repeat, that it was in cases where local authorities got this "up to £15" subsidy, that the burden upon them in these redevelopment cases, after September, 1942, would be £13 7s. 6d. There is one point, however, which disturbs me even more. In the rural and fishing areas of Scotland, as a result of derating, a rate of a penny in the pound does not mean much, and it will be impossible to get the additional subsidies from local rates. As I read the Bill, there is no limit there to the extra subsidy which the Secretary of State may give. A limit of £15 is prescribed in the large burghs, but there is no limit in the rural areas.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am referring to the only distinction which appears to be drawn in the Bill. In the first part of the Bill there is a reference to £15 for large burghs. The rest is for areas other than large burghs which would include fishing and agricultural areas, and in those cases the Secretary of State has put no limit on the subsidy which he may give. Now in areas, not necessarily remote, which are fishing and agricultural areas, if you are going to give an extra subsidy of £15 or £20 per house from the Treasury you cannot get half of that subsidy back, or you cannot get the local authority to provide half of that subsidy as a contribution from the local rates, because it cannot be done. Therefore, I submit that as regards, say, Peterhead and Fraserburgh and any number of fishing villages and agricultural villages also, you will get no houses built under this Shylock agreement which the Treasury has imposed upon the Scottish Office. If I am wrong in that conclusion, I shall be delighted to have a correction made later.
There are two points concerning our Amendment. The first is, what is to be done about young couples? I am not talking about the reconditioning of property by local authorities in areas where 1577 they have done little or nothing. I take a town like Rosyth where every effort was made whole-heartedly to rehouse the population. It is heartbreaking to have girls who have been born since 1919, who have never known what it was to live in anything but a miserable dwelling where there was a water closet inside the home, girls who are going to get married now and being compelled to start their married life, not in the kind of home in which they have been raised, with a lavatory inside, but, if you please, to go away to some place where there are four or five families to a single water closet. Some provision should be made whereby young couples could be facilitated in the obtaining of sanitary dwellings, modernised dwellings, in which they can live.
For that reason we on these benches are facing up to the fact that there are properties, some of them structurally good, where we would agree to reconditioning in the interests of these young couples, if it were done by the local authority, if the properties were owned by the local authority, but we would not agree, as apparently the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to consider, to a subsidy from public funds to privately owned property for reconditioning or anything else. We are prepared to assist local authorities in the acquisition of property, here a tenement, there a tenement, with the object of providing some accommodation whereby young couples could get decent, sanitary habitations. Otherwise I am afraid that for 15 or 20 years this problem will remain with us in Scotland, and the effects upon overcrowding had better be considered by the Government. If you are not going to provide decent houses for young couples, then they will stay with their parents, rather than go into tenements where they have to scramble four or five families to the single water closet. If they get married and stay with their parents, you will increase overcrowding and make things worse rather than better.
One word about water supplies, and I have finished. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, and quite accurately, "This is a Housing Bill," and I think he was rather surprised when we on these benches said "Hear, hear." But how can you have a Housing Bill for the creation of new houses in areas where you have neither water supply nor drainage? 1578 You simply cannot do it. I have areas in my constituency where the local authorities cannot build houses now—I will give the Under-Secretary of State the details if he wants them—because there is neither water nor drainage supply. And then along comes the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, the Lord Privy Seal, and brings in a report on evacuation in the possible event of war. What does he say? He says that from Edinburgh and the East he will evacuate 193,000 persons, a part of them to Stirlingshire. Where is he going to put them? There is neither water supply nor drainage there, and the cholera and the epidemics that you will start will surprise you. As a matter of fact, you are talking of evacuating 386,000 people from Glasgow and the West, and you are going to take them into areas where there are 8,000,000 gallons of water short. What are you going to do?
§ Mr. Johnston
It is not all a joke. It will be art appalling tragedy if you take hundreds of thousands of our Scottish folk from homes where they can get water and drainage and rush them into areas where there is neither water nor drainage, or neither sufficient water nor sufficient drainage. For these reasons, among others, my hon. Friends and myself have tabled this Amendment to call the attention of the House to the fact that in a Housing Bill there is no provision made for assisting local authorities to provide the necessary water supply or drainage, without which they cannot build houses. I do not think it would be as costly as the Treasury imagine. Make a beginning. In my own area there are no fewer than six separate water supplies. Some of them are taking surface water out of puddles in periods of shortage now.
Why not bring together all these local authorities, not only in Stirlingshire but in Eastern Dumbartonshire as well, and why not bring in South Perthshire and, if necessary, part of Fifeshire? Why not get your actuaries there and see which authorities have paid off their burdens 1579 and their debts and which have not, and share the burdens out? Regionalise your water supplies, and at any rate do something to preserve the people from the horrors that will undoubtedly come upon them in the event of mass evacuation should a war come. And there will be evacuation should a war come, whether the Government organise it or not. From your crowded industrial areas the people will bolt. They will bolt into the rural areas, and His Majesty's Government in this Measure are doing nothing whatever to prepare the way for them. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, of whose sympathy we are all aware—there is no personal reflection on him at all—should forthwith go to his colleague the Lord Privy Seal and table his demands on behalf of his own folk in Scotland. If he would table his demands, he would have a united Scotland behind him, and at any rate we on these benches would give him every support in our power.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Erskine Hill
I think every Member on both sides of the House agrees about the extent of the housing problem in Scotland. It was put very clearly by my right hon. Friend in his speech. We are all agreed also with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) has just said about our wishing my right hon. Friend well in his struggles with the Treasury on this question. This is a matter on which we cannot afford to be niggardly, but I think the House will realise that a very definite step forward has been taken in this Bill and something very distinct has been done in the direction of giving housing an impetus in Scotland, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that account. There is one very attractive part of the Bill, and that is the idea of giving greater subsidies for building tenements in the centre of a town. There is scarcely anything more terrible to many families who have been accustomed to live in the centre of a town than to have to go out to far districts on the outside of the town, and I think the idea has in it the possibility of encouraging people to remain in the centre where they are accustomed to be, often close to where they are working. I think there is a widespread feeling—I know there is in Edinburg—that as many people as 1580 possible should be kept in towards the centre of the city.
On that aspect of the Bill, I congratulate my right hon. Friend, but I regret that it has apparently been impossible to include in this Bill the reconditioning of houses. I think that problem falls into two parts. There is first of all that type of reconditioning, which can be done not only by the local authorities but by the private owners of houses, which can save in many cases houses of what one might call the medium sort becoming in course of time slums, and I am strongly of opinion that there is a great deal to be said—in fact, it was said in the Whitson report—about the benefit by giving grants towards reconditioning. This is a matter of great importance. I was glad to hear that the Secretary of State promised not to close his mind to it. I hope he will realise that there is a great deal of support, certainly from these Benches, for a reconditioning grant. I do not think I can do better than read a paragraph, with which I entirely agree, from the Whitson report. Paragraph 29 contains these words:We have heard and seen evidence which satisfies us that a large proportion of fairly old houses can be reconditioned satisfactorily at reasonable cost, and we feel certain that money spent on reconditioning now will prevent these houses from becoming slums.If there is one aspect of this housing problem that stands out more than any other it is its urgency, and I think the House should consider carefully what might not be done if a great many of these houses were reconditioned. It may be that it is not the ideal solution of the housing problem, but the housing problem in Scotland is an urgent one, and something must be done at once. Therefore, I hope the Secretary of State will continue to keep in mind that particular aspect of the problem. I will go further. I am by no means ashamed to say that I should like to help the private owner and to put him in the same position as the owner of the rural house. I do not see why the owner living in his house in town should not have the same facilities for improving his house as has the man in the country, and I think that both private owners and owners of town property to be reconditioned should be in exactly the same position as owners of houses that are in the country. I know a great deal of privately-owned property 1581 in Edinburgh which is not sound, and could be vastly improved for the benefit of the occupants.
§ Mr. Westwood
The City of Edinburgh could adopt the Housing (Rural Workers) Act but they refuse to do so because they desire to keep their rates to the minimum, even at the expense of decent housing for the working class.
§ Mr. Erskine Hill
My hon. Friend must have misunderstood me. I was not referring to the grants given to local authorities, but to the grants given to private owners.
§ Mr. Westwood
That can be done under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, provided the City of Edinburgh will adopt the Act.
§ Mr. Erskine Hill
I am delighted to hear that something of that sort can be done and I will use all the influence I have to see that it is adopted if the interruption is well founded. It does not, however, make any difference to my argument that a Statute should be passed giving powers to a private owner in the town which will put him in the same position as the private owner in the country. We are much indebted to the Secretary of State for producing this Bill. It will give a further impetus to housing and should help to put Scotland properly on the map in regard to this problem. This question will, unfortunately, be with us for a long time, and if my right hon. Friend will accept my suggestion with regard to the reconditioning of houses he will save a great deal of property from falling into slum conditions. I was rather surprised to read the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite because it seemed to represent a considerable change of front. I was always under the impression that his party were against grants for reconstruction, and I hope that by the time the next Debate takes place they will so far come round that they will accept the views I have expressed.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
As the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) just said, no one is likely to under-estimate the importance of the Bill with which we are dealing. We all agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State when he said that housing was supremely important in Scot- 1582 land, and we all hope he was right when he prophesied that this Bill would give a marked stimulus to our housing programme. Those of us who have been in the House for some years look back over a long succession of Debates on Scottish housing, and it has always been agreed on all sides that housing in Scotland is a disgrace. I can remember the Debates that took place on the Bill of 1935, when the hon. and learned Gentleman who is now the Solicitor-General for Scotland made a speech in the Committee upstairs pointing out that in the matter of overcrowding the worst district in England was better than the best district in Scotland. Only a few days ago the right. hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health made a speech in which he said that we were within measurable distance of solving the slum clearance and overcrowding problems in England, and he only wished he could say the same for Scotland.
We have to consider what contribution this Bill is likely to make towards the solution, and a reasonably speedy solution, of this problem, which we all agree is the greatest social problem in Scotland. I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman made out his case when he was talking about the equalisation of the subsidies. I agree that equalisation is likely to be of advantage in the circumstances that now prevail in Scotland. I am not referring to the matter with which the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) spoke, namely, contributions of local authorities, but to the equalisation of subsidies between slum clearance and overcrowding. In the past the scales have been rather weighted in favour of slum clearance against overcrowding, which has meant that some of our local authorities have been a little chary about allocating houses which they are building to the overcrowding programme. That will be obviated by the equalisation of subsidies under this Bill.
I want to consider what progress is likely to be made when this Bill becomes an Act. We gather on page 3 of the Explanatory Memorandum that the first subsidy period is to end on 30th September, 1942, just under four years ahead. On page 5 figures are given of the houses likely to be built within that first subsidy period. The number likely to be built with normal contributions is 93,000, including 18,000 to be built by the Special Areas Housing Association. There are a 1583 number of houses under other heads. The total comes to 102,000 houses. So the expectation of the Department is that we shall have that number built with State assistance in Scotland within a period of about four years. What are the dimensions of the problem? The right hon. Gentleman made a statement about it in his speech to-day, and he made a similar statement when he spoke in the House on the 9th of this month. On that occasion he said they estimated that in Scotland we required about 250,000 additional houses in order to replace slum dwellings, and to deal with the more serious overcrowding which still exists. That is to say, the figure of 250,000 does not represent anything like the whole of the need for new houses in Scotland. It does not cover the normal needs of the population, at any rate, in those parts where the population still tends to increase. What it comes to is that in four years, if this estimate be correct, we shall have completed only two-fifths of the number of houses needed for housing, slum clearance and the relief of overcrowding.
§ Mr. Foot
We all agree that we cannot expect any great assistance from private enterprise in Scotland in dealing with this problem. It is clear that there has been for some time past, as there is in this Bill, an obvious check in our system of housing subsidies in Scotland, because there is no subsidy now to deal with the ordinary needs of the population. I have here the last report issued by the city engineer of Dundee. Because it refers to this particular question, there are two passages from which I would like to quote:No provision is being made for houses required by the increase in population. Although the population is increasing only slightly, the number of families is increasing much more rapidly, and the number of habitable houses to accommodate these families does not progress at an equal rate. Each year the number of families tends to increase 1584 and there is no prospect of those families finding accommodation in new houses, particularly in view of the provisions of the overcrowding Act of 1935.The Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925, laid upon all local authorities the duty of making provision for housing accommodation for the working classes, and this obligation has been continued under subsequent Housing Acts, although at present subsidies are available only under the Acts of 1930 and 1939. An effort should be made to secure the reintroduction of the normal subsidies under the 1924 Act, even if only on a modified scale, and a programme of building houses for new arrivals in the city and those about to be married should be approved.I appreciate that we shall do something to solve this part of the problem when we get the overcrowding Act under way and when we move a certain number of households from houses which are overcrowded. It appears doubtful, however, whether we can solve the part of the problem created by the increasing number of new households simply in that way. I have raised this question before, and when I last raised it the right hon. Gentleman, who was then Minister of Health, replied with great force that much the most urgent matter was to get people out of the slums. I agree, but when he made that reply in March this year we were simply dealing with an Order which was extending housing subsidies under previous Acts. We were dealing with a temporary Measure. On this occasion, however, we are not, so far as one can see, dealing with a Measure designed only for the next few months. This is a Measure designed to run for several years, and it seems to me rather a bleak outlook that when we are dealing with permanent legislation of this kind no provision should be made for newly married couples and for the needs of an increasing population in the cities. Something ought to be said about that before the Debate ends.
I spoke of the number of houses that are needed and the number contemplated under this Bill. It will generally be agreed that even if the figures which are mentioned in the Memorandum are realised, we shall not be anything like near solving our housing problem. I listened with great interest to the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave in introducing the Bill as to other methods of construction. He gave us the figures for wooden and concrete houses, which, I think, were 1,200 and 900 respectively already approved. We are glad to hear 1585 of that, but I hope that these methods will he used on a much larger scale. I should like in this connection to thank the Under-Secretary for the interest which he has taken in wooden houses, particularly in reference to my constituency or Dundee, and to thank him for the assistance he has given us there. I hope that these alternative methods will be used on a much larger scale, because it is difficult to see any other way in which we shall be able to make up the enormous leeway which exists and will continue to exist even if the figures in the Memorandum are fully realised.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Edinburgh referred to reconditioning. That, again, is not a new question. We discussed it fully in the Debate on the 1935 Bill. The difference between hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway and the hon. and learned Gentleman appears to he that he is in favour of subsidies or assistance to enable private owners to recondition their property, while hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway want assistance to enable local authorities to do it. That seems to me to be an issue of minor importance. I have always thought that we could make a considerable impression on our housing problem in Scotland if grants for reconditioning were available. To me it does not appear to matter two straws whether it is done through the machinery of private enterprise or public enterprise, if we can make a contribution towards the solution of our housing problem by reconditioning and reconstruction. Although we in this part of the House think that the Bill effects some improvements, and although we are glad to see the equalisation of the subsidy, and the increase of the subsidy for overcrowding, nevertheless we do not think the Bill represents anything like a complete solution in itself, and I certainly hope that it is not the Government's last word in legislation on this subject.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Thomson
I should like to join in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State upon the production of this Bill. There are only three or four points to which I wish to draw attention. The first point is that in Clause 5 there is a stipulation which says that after 1942 the ratio is to go back to two to one. I agree with the junior 1586 Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) that about 100,000 houses may be built in the next four years, but our needs are in the nature of 250,000 houses, and therefore there seems no prospect of the problem being overtaken before 1942. I understand that this Clause has been put in with the object of urging-on the local authorities in the meantime, but I suggest that certain local authorities have the idea that this provision in the Bill may easily prejudice the success of the succeeding Bill in 1942. My second point, which has been emphasised by the last two speakers, is the importance of reconditioning. I agree with the junior Member for Dundee that it is not a question of private enterprise against public enterprise, but of action against drift.
The Whitson Report recommended that some form of reconditioning should be tried, and I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that he had not closed his mind to that matter. It may be only a temporary measure, but we must have a change of policy in Scotland and a vast urge forward in face of the extraordinarily bad housing conditions, and I would recommend my right hon. Friend to consider very carefully the possibilities of reconditioning, which may well make a very substantial contribution to the solution of the problem. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) said, the middle-class houses of to-day may very well become the slums of five years hence. The middle-class people dwelling in those houses see the dwellers from the slums, with whom I have every sympathy, put into good surroundings while they are left with their higher rates and old houses and they feel that nothing is done for them. There is no money to modernise their property and in a few years time that property, whether privately-owned or not, will become slums and add to our difficulties.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the question of the improvement of the appearance and the condition of our towns. Though this is a point that may very well carry less appeal to the electorate, I suggest that if we could bring forward some reconditioning programme we might in addition save very many buildings in Scotland which are of great architectural interest. I do not know what our successors in 10, 20, or 30 years' time will think of the present generation, 1587 who have allowed practically all the buildings of architectural interest in Scotland to be swept away. Buildings such as those in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, where the facade is of value, could be kept and the inside of the buildings modernised at no very great additional expense so as to meet all possible requirements. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers), I think, there are, in South Queensferry, two sixteenth century houses. They are the first two houses in that district on the list of the National Trust. The local road surveyor proposes to have them pulled down because it will cost a few pounds more to widen a road on one side than on the other. If we had some form of reconditioning we should be able to maintain buildings which are of special interest. I could quote 50 instances. There are 30 or 40 houses in the town of Airth—there is no question of road widening there—which are to be done away with because it would cost a few pounds more to modernise them than to build new ones. Excellent specimens of architecture, houses which are irreplaceable, are to be pulled down for the sake of a few pounds.
I was rather disappointed by my right hon. Friend's statement regarding housing associations. I could not understand why their work should be limited to experimental houses, but no doubt, much of the available labour is being used elsewhere. I would suggest that by means of these associations we might get private enterprise going as it is in England, where two or three houses are being built by private enterprise to one by municipal effort. The situation in Scotland is the other way round, which is the reason, I think, why the Scottish housing problem is as pressing as it is. I was a little disappointed to hear that apparently it is proposed that there shall be only one housing association. Reading the Bill one might feel that it applied to any housing association, that any collection of individuals, if approved and taking the necessary steps, could form a housing association, but I understood from my right hon. Friend that it is only the existing Special Areas Housing Association which is to be expanded. If that be so, it will give much less scope for the return of private enterprise to the building of working-class houses in Scotland.
§ Mr. Mathers
May I ask the Secretary of State whether that is the case? Some of us do not understand that that is the position. We had better have the point cleared up.
§ Mr. Colville
Yes, the position of the housing association is as I explained it. It is certainly intended to expand only the Special Areas Housing Association, in order to enable it to build houses outside the Special Areas, with a view to demonstrating the possibilities of alternative methods of construction. My hon. Friend was right when he said that the normal building trade is fully engaged at the present time.
§ Sir D. Thomson
There is still my second point, that there is to be only one housing association in Scotland and not any number, all equally approved.
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Member will see that this Special Areas Housing Association will be assisted with very considerable national funds. The extension which is envisaged by the Bill will involve a considerable increase of money to be made available by the Exchequer. It is being done through the medium of this Special Areas Housing Association, the area of whose operation is being enlarged.
§ Sir D. Thomson
I am much obliged for that explanation. In conclusion, I would only say that the housing problem in Scotland is both shocking and acute. That is recognised on all sides of the House. I suggest that there must be not only a frontal attack upon it, but that it must be attacked simultaneously from all sides. My right hon. Friend has visited the slums in Scotland, as I have and as most of us have, and I hope that he will consider the question of reconditioning houses, which has been put forward from both sides of the House, in order to get the problem tackled from all sides. I thank him very much indeed for the introduction of the Bill, and I should like to read two lines from a resolution passed by the council of the city which I have the honour to represent:The Council should take every opportunity of erecting as many houses as possible before the expiry of the period when the subsidies are again due for revision.I think all hon. Members will hope that every town council in Scotland will take the same view as the council of that city.
§ 5.55 P.m.
§ Mr. Welsh
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his very clear exposition 1589 of his Bill, and I want to accept his offer of assistance in getting houses built. He said that the housing question in Scotland was of supreme importance and that he would assist all local authorities and housing associations in every way he could. I do not want to go over the ground which has already been covered by former speakers, and I should not have risen had it not been that I wished to put the point of view of the Special Areas Housing Association, and some of their difficulties, because there have been very considerable difficulties. It is not always recognised that the Association is a new venture, and that it had to build by methods alternative to those which have hitherto been in operation in Scotland. That was a very important point to begin with. Various alternative methods were considered and the two that appealed to us were poured concrete and timber. We decided to try those two methods, in order to see whether we could assist local authorities in providing the houses which are so necessary.
There are not a great number of people who have specialised in the poured concrete process, and those who had had already been largely bought up by contractors undertaking that kind of work. Then, as far as possible we were to employ direct labour. We got a couple of good men to supervise the work, but the bulk of the labour came from the local Employment Exchanges. The work has provided for many men a sort of new trade, and already they feel themselves quite up in that work. They comprise ex-miners, ex-railwaymen, ex-farm hands—ex everything else. Although they have been only a comparatively short time at the work we have had high tributes to their adaptability and the way they have undertaken the duties from the two experts whom we engaged to superintend the work. We could go into the Special Areas only if the local authorities had building sites to offer us, and out of 22 which indicated willingness to accept our co-operation only five had land to offer, four being county authorities and one a burgh. That was where the difficulties began.
Apart from the material and the training of the men, and apart from the fact that everything was new, our real difficulties began when we came to try erecting 1590 houses. We decided to try some in timber and two exhibition houses were speedily put up. They are very fine-looking houses and I believe that the people inhabiting them are highly satisfied with their habitation, but they were rushed up for a special purpose. Immediately it was known that the Special Areas Housing Association were beginning to build in timber, timber began to soar in price. The demonstration of those two houses encouraged local authorities to launch out in timber housing schemes, with the result that the price always mounted higher, until the Special Areas Housing Association have now decided that they cannot continue to build in timber because timber houses are now dearer than brick houses. That is our first experience with timber.
In the matter of direct labour we have given new hope to the men whom we have taken on. The new form of construction, poured concrete, is bound to be dear, but if we could get large schemes of anything from 500 to 2,000 houses they could be infinitely cheaper. The method of shuttering is one of the things we have improved as compared with previous methods. The old form of wooden shuttering was wasteful and expensive and we decided to specialise in steel shuttering, patented by one of the men who are working for the Association. Steel shuttering was much dearer to begin with, but you can use it over and over again, once your types are approved and, in the end, with a large number of houses to be built, it will become very much cheaper and will cheapen the houses. Steel was difficult to get because it was wanted for munitions, but we have now obtained a supply and are going on with the houses. I had a letter this morning relating to a comparatively small scheme of about 100 houses which are being rushed up at the rate of two blocks a week, with labour from the Employment Exchange and under the supervision of those individuals.
One can readily understand that we could get along very much more quickly if we could have a scheme of from 500 to 1,000 houses and that they would be very much cheaper to do. Contractors are now beginning to look round our scheme, and we shall be able to get contractors to take up other schemes upon which we have decided. Indeed, we have some already. We found a difficulty here 1591 at first in that the contractors were not too ready to come in because they had not done much of that kind of work, and together with the difficulty of the cost of materials this made our initial difficulties very considerable. I would like the Scottish Health Department to help us in this matter because it is sometimes discouraging and disheartening. We feel as though nobody minded. It was easy to pass the legislation but it did not seem easy to get the difficulties out of the way.
Our chief difficulty was in regard to land. It was the most important difficulty of the lot. I make the statement, and I am sure that every member of a housing association will agree with it, that had land been accessible in the last 10 months from the time we begun to operate we could already have had hundreds of thousands of houses, putting the figure at the lowest. All sorts of difficulties arise as soon as you decide to build. The association has entered into a contract with a contractor for 2,000 houses, to be built by poured concrete, and all within easy reach of a place to which he can move his plant. After some seven months negotiating we have, up to now, been able to get only part of the land, enabling us to erect 200 houses. When it is known that the houses are for the Housing Association and not for the local authority, up goes the price and you begin to negotiate. Again and again we have suggested submitting the matter to arbitration, but that is not looked upon favourably by the landowners. On several occasions we have asked the local authorities, when we have met these difficulties, to put into operation a compulsory purchase order, but for some reason we have not been able to get a local authority to do so.
The new form of housing association will meet with the same difficulties and I believe that in some cases the difficulties will be accentuated when you go out into the wider rural areas where landowners are hungrier than they are in the industrial areas. We have been negotiating for from six months to nine months for sites available in different parts of the Special Areas, and we have always met with the difficulty of price. There is a difference of as much as £100 per acre between what we are offering because we consider it to be a fair price, and the price that the landowner asks. We cannot get the local authorities to apply compulsory 1592 purchase powers and one—only one—local authority gave us a reason. It said that it would not be fair for a local authority to put that power into operation against a ratepayer in the district—forgetting that all the other ratepayers are suffering from the lack of houses.
There is a crying need for houses in the Special Areas; nobody needs to enlarge upon that. Our difficulty at the present time is that we cannot be sure of getting our land at a fair price. The new central organisation that is to be set up to assist local authorities to build houses should either give power to housing associations to demand a fair price before land is bought or should insist upon a compulsory purchase order being put into operation for the purpose. If we had been able to overcome that difficulty I am satisfied that the 18,000 houses that have been visualised and for which we have budgeted could have been almost doubled. There is no reason why we should have in Scotland the kind of houses that we have at the present time. We have plenty of material, but as soon as we begin to build a large number of houses the same thing takes place as we found in regard to timber. I ask that something should be done to enable us to get houses. We could do so, because we have the materials, the men, the labour, the skill and the will to build houses. The only obstacles are in regard to the land and the prices of materials.
One thing struck me in all housing negotiations. We were asked at the beginning to get on with house building, and we were all keen to do it. I was very glad to hear the tribute paid to Sir David Allan Hay. Once the work that he has done in that association becomes known he will be very highly appreciated. He is a driver, a skilled business man and a splendid negotiator. When you meet difficulties week after week and are trying to get over them you come to the conclusion that you are not a member of a housing association but of a nonintervention committee. If housing associations were given some power along the lines I have suggested to get quicker access to the land, so that men and material could be brought to it, we could produce houses for the Scottish people in co-operation with the local authorities. Local authorities have the same difficulties, except they have the power to put 1593 compulsory purchase into operation and we have not. Otherwise, the community is going to be held to ransom. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should devote his mind to the subject along the lines I have indicated, and Scotland will then very soon get houses.
§ Mr. Colville
I thank the hon. Member for a most helpful speech. Perhaps he will tell me whether much of the difficulty has been occasioned by getting sites free from mineral disturbance?
§ Mr. Welsh
No, we have not had a very great difficulty in that regard. As a matter of fact, there is one case quite out of the coal-mine area where 750 houses are required urgently at the present time in a fairly considerable sized town. The site that we chose is very suitable but it is owned by two brothers. One is willing to sell; the other says that although he is willing to consider the matter the land has a sentimental value. We offered what we considered a fair price, £8,000, but he said "No," and he would not sell. I cannot recall the price per acre but the land had to accommodate 750 houses. He said that the land had a sentimental value but he would sell it if we gave him £14,000. That is quite impossible.
Another difficulty in which the right hon. Gentleman can help us is that after the land has been taken, everything is settled and we are ready to begin operations—we have passed our plans, our lay-out plans and the types and that kind of thing, in which the Department of Health give us every assistance; and we have had our plans passed by them and by the local authorities—we have to get the sanction of the owner from whom we have obtained that land. He must approve the lay-out plan and the type of house. There is one case in Ayrshire at the moment. All those negotiations have gone through. We have received the approval of the Department of Health and of the local authorities, but the man to whom we had to pay an increased price for the land in order to get a site for the scheme refused to accept the plan when we put it before him. The lay-out plan and the type of building were not satisfactory to him.
In this Association we have a number of young architects, young men with good ideas, and they are putting punch and drive into the work. They are bringing 1594 something new into the houses. We want to vary the plans, not only in elevation but in coloration, but all that kind of thing has to be submitted to the whim of the man who has bled the community in order to get his price. In this case the architect has had to take back the whole of that plan and to reconsider even the type of building. He prepared new plans and put them before us, and we had to go through all that rigmarole before final acceptance could be obtained for this particular plan. All this adds to the cost and adds to the delay in supplying houses. I am satisfied that, if the right hon. Gentleman and his staff will give us assistance along the lines I have indicated, the people of Scotland will very soon have reason to be proud of the name of Colville at the Scottish Office.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
In common with the whole House, I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Welsh). The more I listen to or take part in debates on housing, the more I realise the enormous number of difficulties. One needs to be an optimist if one still continues to hope for good housing in Scotland. The hon. Member has told us that the association with which he is connected finds that the men are ready—skilled men—that the building material is ready, but that the land cannot be obtained. In other parts of Scotland which I know rather better, the land is there, but we are told that there are no skilled men and no materials. The more one studies this problem, the more one feels that with really good organisation we can solve it.
As hon. Members have already said, there is no need to stress the appalling housing conditions in Scotland. We all know the immensity and urgency of the problem. What makes me despondent over and over again in these housing debates is the fact that, while we are considering the number of houses that can be built perhaps in the next five years or so, one cannot help thinking of the people who are living now in conditions in which they ought not to be left during this coming winter. In my view, greater efforts should be made to take some of those people out of their present appalling conditions, dealing with the worst cases first, which is not always being done. In my constituency there is one case, and it 1595 is not the only one, in which, in a room 12 feet by 10 feet, a family is living consisting of the father, the mother and 10 children, the eldest above school age. Are these people to wait for four, five, six, seven, eight or nine years? The problem as it is envisaged in Dundee is to take about 30 years, and I put it down, at its lowest, at 25 or 20 years. The same sort of thing is happening all over the country, and many Members of the House have the feeling that the question of organisation is not being tackled at all, and that it ought to be tackled.
It is not merely a question of money. I am not going into the details of the particular subsidies that we have been discussing this afternoon. I want to go beyond that, because I am convinced that what we have to do, as the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Sir D. Thomson) said, is not only to make a frontal attack, not only to deal with the matter through the local authorities and one housing association, but to attack it from all sorts of angles. The Secretary of State told us the reasons why the central housing association is only to be allowed to build alternative types of construction, saying that there is a shortage of skilled men and of certain materials. But when one goes about the country and sees the amount of building that is being done of a kind which I do not consider to be as necessary as putting people into decent houses, one begins to think that there ought to be better organisation there. I am informed that in Dundee, for instance—hon. Members must forgive me for mentioning so often the place with regard to which I am best able to get to know the facts—at the present moment the corporation are only employing 14 per cent. of the building labour there on house building.
I believe that we have centralised or canalised our efforts in house building too much. I am not going to say that the local authorities have not done their best, but they have been landed with tremendous difficulties. They have been asked to tackle things that they have not always been able to tackle. In Dundee we want at least 12,000 houses now. The need is desperate. I could quote case after case, but we all know them. In the year 1937, there were completed in Dundee 376 houses. It is said that we might be able to build up to 500 or 600 per year. I 1596 know that in 1936 the present Lord Provost brought out a scheme for building 1,000 per year, but we are told that 500 or 600 could be built, and yet in 1937 only 376 were completed. Great efforts are being made. I am told that in the city engineer's office we have now a staff of 23 architects and surveyors, in addition to typists, but the result of all that work in 1937 was 376 houses completed when we want 12,000 immediately. It is not because of the need of extra money that they cannot double or treble their efforts.
Are we to wait for 20 or 25 years? Is the only thing that is offered at the present moment this one central housing association? As I have already said I believe that we are centralising and canalising our efforts too much. If people could come forward and get together and form housing associations and try to get this job done, such associations could be approved by the Department of Health. Why should they not have an opportunity of trying? They may be able to bring forward schemes of alternative construction, or to find more building labour, or to get more materials. I am convinced that, unless we can look upon this matter from a far wider point of view, we shall not be able to deal with it as it urgently needs to be dealt with. If the problem were a much smaller one, if in Dundee we wanted, say 5,000 houses and were told that 3,000 could be got in five years, that would not be quite as bad; it might be solved with the help of alternative schemes. But we need 12,000 houses now, and the dilapidated houses which are not yet scheduled as slums, but which ought to be scheduled, are wearing out. Then there is the increase in population; there are the people who are living in rooms; there are those who want to get married and cannot get houses. That makes the problem a far bigger one.
I am glad that we have got this further step forward, and that we have in Scotland this extra subsidy. That is a step in the right direction, but I believe that the problem is not simply one of money; it is a problem of organisation. Let us bring in private enterprise, let us bring in building societies, let us bring in the local authorities as far as ever we can. Our motto should be "Let 'em all come." I would have every type of houses, and I 1597 would also have every type of reconditioning. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that reconditioning should only be done by local authorities, while, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) put forward the point of view of private enterprise. Is not the problem so vast, however, that everything ought to be brought in? I am convinced that only by tackling the problem in that way shall we succeed. Those of us who have spoken on this subject over and over again, and who go into these appalling houses—damp, unhealthy dens—in which people are living and children are dying to-day, are getting desperate. I have already explained how 12 human beings are living in a room 10 feet by 12 feet. There are also one-roomed houses in which large families are living, and one or two members of the family are suffering from tuberculosis. Is it surprising that we cannot stamp out tuberculosis under such conditions?
The situation is desperate, and needs desperate remedies. Niggling little remedies, and centralisation and canalisation of our efforts, are not going to succeed, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether the matter cannot be looked at from a bigger point of view. Let us help the local authorities, let us help private enterprise, let us help, not only building by normal methods, but timber, concrete, "Herakleth," or any scheme of construction which the Department thinks is right for dwelling houses to-day. I should like also to see some of the existing houses reconditioned, and perhaps some of the bigger houses cut up into smaller houses. It might be said that the houses would not be quite so nice as many of our modern houses with gardens, but I would ask any hon. Member to ask himself, what would a decent, dry, properly ventilated and sufficiently large house of that sort mean to those unfortunate men and women who are trying to bring up their children in conditions that ought no longer to be tolerated in any civilised country?
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I think that everyone who has spoken on this Bill is agreed as to its importance, but I find some difficulty about the Amendment which has been put down by hon. Members on the Labour benches. I desire first to discuss 1598 the merits of the Bill, as apart from reconditioning or any other question. If the House is going into reconditioning, I trust that it will do so in a proper manner, and discuss the question on its merits. In the meantime, we are not discussing a Bill for the reconditioning of houses, but a Bill for the granting of certain subsidies to local authorities. As regards reconditioning, I remember that the Government set up the Whitson Committee, who by a majority decided in favour of recommending the reconditioning of property, although I would remind the House that the Labour Member of the Committee dissented from that finding and opposed the reconditioning of private property. His reason was that almost all the private property that was likely to be dealt with was built at least 40 years ago, and that, consequently, whether it was bought by private enterprise or by public enterprise, it was so far out of date that its purchase by anyone was a totally unbusinesslike proposition. Therefore, as regards the purchasing of property by local authorities, I cannot follow hon. Members above the Gangway in their Amendment.
There is one thing that I fear about reconditioning. I know that there is pressure in its favour from working-class organisations, because I found, when the Bill was previously before us, that I had letters from friendly societies, largely composed of working people who were interested in house property, to the effect that every new house that was built to some extent depreciated their own property, and accordingly they were anxious to sell their property. I fear that some such attempt may be made now. I agree with the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) that, if you go into reconditioning, the question whether it is done by public enterprise or by private enterprise will not matter very much, but the thing that will matter is that you will be reconditioning private property which has been bought with public money, and that is a thing which in my view will not aid the building of houses at all. I think that, if local authorities do this, it will be an excuse for them not to build houses, and they will go into reconditioning rather than building new houses. I am not at all keen on reconditioning.
The proposal with regard to water supply is quite good, but it has nothing to do with this Bill. This Bill is almost 1599 entirely a question of machinery, apart from the new scheme, the powers of local authorities, and the national housing trust with power to build houses. What we are discussing is, with that exception, a machinery Bill for the purpose of aiding local authorities to build houses in Scotland. Leave aside this proposition of a national housing trust; what does this Bill do to improve the building of houses? What does it do to increase the number of houses? I say frankly that the Bill does nothing to make houses more numerous. It certainly grants subsidies; but they were granted under the 1930 and 1935 Acts. It is true that here and there there has been an increase—offset, as some think, by an increase in building costs—but, be that as it may, this is merely a continuation of the same machinery which so far has failed to build houses in Scotland. I have almost given up hope of seeing houses built in Scotland.
When one goes into the question and makes inquiries the Government throw the responsibility on the local authorities; the local authorities throw it back on the Government or on somebody else. At the end, all one succeeds in doing is in finding out a hundred reasons why houses should not be built; one never finds out why they should. One can argue with the local authorities and the Government about the terrible conditions, but nothing is done. Take the figures for Glasgow. The hon. Member for Dundee has no need to apologise for talking about Dundee: she represents that city, with all its bad conditions; and I make no apology for talking about Glasgow. There, there are, roughly speaking, 250,000 or 260,000 working-class houses. Half of them are of two apartments or less. Imagine half of the population of Glasgow to-day, with all the new houses you have built, housed in dwellings of two apartments or one apartment. The average wastage in Glasgow every year is 2,500 houses on the most conservative estimate. Roughly speaking, for one reason or another, 2,500 houses go to waste every year.
§ Mr. Colville
What I said was that 1,400 were demolished each year, and a further 500 to 1000 became unfit.
§ Mr. Buchanan
There are 2,500 going out each year. What are the facts? Glasgow has built 7,000 houses in three 1600 years, and the wastage was 7,500. In other words, you are not even meeting the wastage, let alone solving the housing problem. Here you are to-day, with a population housed like that, and you are not even meeting the wastage. There is only one reason that I have heard in this House, and that is shortage of building labour. I have looked at every reason given. The Secretary for Scotland says, "We have all the land we need." He tells me, "We have no scarcity of housing sites." He says, "We have all the labour in connection with the draughtsmanship and the preparatory work of housing." But he comes down and says that labour is scarce. He now proposes to face up to that, in a limited way, by a scheme of alternative dwellings. But I have never been too sure of this scarcity of labour. Yesterday, I asked the Minister of Labour a question, and from the answer I find that there is to-day in Scotland unemployed building labour. I find, for instance, that in Glasgow—I will leave out the carpenters and other trades in which labour is not supposed to be scarce, and take the two trades in which labour is supposed to be scarce—there are 39 idle bricklayers and 31 idle masons. In the whole of Scotland there are 77 idle bricklayers and 319 idle masons. These are the figures given to me yesterday by the Minister of Labour.
Although it is said that there is no labour available, I am told, when we are in the midst of discussing this Bill, that there is actually a surplus of labour now. When I go to the Glasgow Corporation they tell me they can build no more, and when I come here I am told, "We cannot do any more in orthodox building." When I meet the building unions they say, "What is all this nonsense about shortage of labour? We can get the labour now if there is work for it." At the end of it all we find the people still living in slums, and I see no prospect of getting them out. The great mass of the people in Glasgow are imprisoned in slums for a generation. Cannot the Secretary for Scotland consider going further still. I am convinced that until you tackle the problem of housing in the same way as problems were tackled during the War you will never solve it. During the War you did not stand about discussing building this and that here and there; you built the things, and did so with great rapidity.
1601 If you can get into your minds that the housing problems in our cities to-day are as grave as the problems that arise in a war you will begin solving them. The Government should tackle it, not in petty local areas but in Scotland as a whole. If I were tackling the problem I would set up a complete State Department of Housing in Scotland. I may be told that the local authorities would resent it—that I would he interfering with the powers of local government. For 16 years I have been here, and we have tried every Bill, and at the end of that time we are less near solving the problem than we were at the beginning. You have tried the local authorities: you have given them subsidies, you have negotiated with them; and at the end, in my native city you are not even meeting the wastage, let alone solving the problem. The problem ought to be solved by a national housing board, by nationalisation. Start to manufacture your own materials, to engage your own labour to start your own men. Take your own steps, and drive on. That is the only way that I can see of dealing with this matter.
It is all very well for us to come here and talk about some kind of reconditioning. I heard an hon. Member talk about preserving some of the fine old sites. I know the fine old sites of Glasgow, and I do not want any of them preserved. I know some of them are supposed to have sonic kind of value, but the most valuable thing that could be done for Glasgow is for them to be taken away. The position now is a tragedy. At the end of all our efforts we are back here discussing what we discussed 10 or 12 years ago: people living in slums, tuberculosis, and how it has not been eased. The right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) has quite properly spoken about the plight of the young married couples. Theirs is a terrible plight; but one of the things we have to guard against in these discussions is playing off the young married couple against the person with a big family, and that kind of thing. What we must do is to meet the needs of all, and not to think of dealing with one section first.
I could give the House harrowing stories of the conditions in my division. The housing problem is actually getting worse in Glasgow. When I entered this House we were faced with what some 1602 people called the farmed-out houses in Glasgow. In brief, the farmed-out house was a block of tenements; and each house had a plate in front of it, called a ticket, denoting how many adults and how many juveniles could live in it. The sanitary inspector had the right to enter that house at any time of the day or night. It was different from other houses, to enter which a warrant had to be obtained. In the old days we looked upon those houses as being, in the words of a former Member of the Labour party in this House, dens of vice and iniquity, where people lived in the most hellish fashion. I question whether there are many of them left now, but what is happening now is this. There used to be big houses, with seven, six and five rooms. Now a man takes the lease of five or six of these big houses, and proceeds to let the rooms to unfortunate people who cannot get houses elsewhere. There was a case in the Glasgow courts the other day, arising out of a fight between the families living in one of these houses. The magistrate, a decent, kindly man, did not know what to do. He found living in a house of five apartments, nearly 50 people.
The old slums were hellish, but we have worse things in Glasgow than the slums. At least, the slum dweller can turn a key in his own door; it is his. But in this type of house a person has no privacy. He has no lavatory. They talk about a lavatory on the stairs. Here, there are five families using the one lavatory in the one house. The man, the woman, the daughters and the sons walk out of the common door and enter the common place. Someone came to me and said, "I am paying 12s. a week for a room." I was also told that people were having to pay 10s. or 12s. for a big room, and that the charges for rooms varied down to the kitchen, which might be only 8s. Some of the people were actually paying 14s. and 15s. a week. I did not believe these folk when they told me, so I went to the Unemployment Assistance Board upon whom they were chargeable. I said that I did not believe that it was possible for people to be called upon to pay 15s. for one or two miserable rooms, but the Unemployment Assistance Board found that the statements of these people were correct. There were no proper sanitary conveniences in these places, and the people were living under the most hellish conditions.
1603 When the hon. Members for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood), Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) and I first came into this House we used to speak about housing conditions and the slums. One would have thought that at the end of 16 years the slum would have gone and that something decent would have taken its place and that there would have been a new conception of housing. At the end of 16 years, I look at my native city and at my own division and I find that, instead of the housing problem being solved, we are drifting into worse housing conditions than I ever knew before. That is the picture. That is how the people have to live.
This Bill is merely another piece of machinery. The right hon. Gentleman could have continued the other Measures and have made his small allowances with regard to the areas which are thickly populated. He can tell us all about remote areas, but in the main this Bill means a continuation of things as before. There is no change and no new machinery. It is true that the Housing Association is to build these extra houses, but apart from that there is nothing new with which to face the problem. Conditions will remain much the same unless the building of houses is tackled properly. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Welsh), in which he dealt with interesting facts with regard to that division, and it is true, as he says, that the problem of land plays an important part in the question of housing. The Secretary of State for Scotland has had a great opportunity, but he has produced a Bill very much on the lines of the Measures introduced by his predecessors. There is no imagination in the Bill, and very little drive in order to solve the problem.
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Member spoke earlier on the real crux of the situation, the labour question, and I hope to hear from him some practical suggestion.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I have told the right hon. Gentleman that the only way is to start a nationalised building system in Scotland. I can see no other way out of it. I have been here for 16 years during which time you have tried the local authorities, private enterprise, and subsidy methods, and you are now driven 1604 back to the only solution, that of a national system of building houses. It is the only way.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The reason why you have never attracted building trade labour is that there has been no guaranteed continuity of employment. The payment for wet time does not solve the problem. The payment for wet time means practically that a man is dismissed. The Glasgow Town Council have no difficulty in getting building trade labour. Every time the Glasgow Corporation desire to employ building trade labour they are able to obtain it because they guarantee continuity of employment. If building trade labour was given the same guarantee of continuous employment as obtains in the Civil Service, you would immediately get all the labour you needed. Even with the attraction offered in respect of employment hi certain munition factories, engineers will not leave corporation employment, though perhaps their wages may be lower than those offered on munition work. Their employment with the corporation is usually superannuated; and they are assured of constant employment. If you start a building scheme and guarantee 52 weeks' wages to the men employed and the same conditions as are applicable in Government service, you will get all the building workers you need. People might even engage in wire-pulling in order to get in. That is what would happen. Workers will not show enthusiasm for taking part in housing schemes if they feel that they may be in work to-day and out again to-morrow. They prefer to take part in the building of cinemas where they may work overtime and obtain more money, while the builder of the cinema says, "Who is going to build houses when he can get bigger contracts?"
I have put my alternative before the right hon. Gentleman, and time will tell whether his alternative or mine is the correct one. The important thing to remember is that behind all this bantering is the fact that human life is at stake, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman really to tackle the problem. I do not believe that reconditioning will really touch the fringe of the problem, and even if it did I am not a lover of re-conditioning in 1605 Scotland. The bulk of the houses have already been bought over and over again without local authorities purchasing and re-conditioning them. I do not want to see these houses being purchased; I want to see a drive made in the erection of new houses. I want to see the same outlook it regard to houses as that possessed by the middle and upper classes in regard to motor cars. A person usually exchanges his motor car at the end of three years for a new one, so much being allowed for the old one. We should not deal with housing from the point of view of finality. Unless the Secretary of State for Scotland settles the problem in a big fashion he will end very much like his predecessors, having done next to nothing, and human beings who have to live in these places will be in the same position as before.
§ 6.55 p m.
§ Sir J. Train
I have listened very attentively throughout this Debate to various speakers. All the subjects which have arisen during the last 17 or 18 years when Housing Bills have come before this House have been discussed. We have discussed re-conditioning, and have been told of the horrible conditions in which people live in Dundee and in Glasgow. We all sympathise with these poor people. We are told definitely to-day by people who know and have seen them that they are no better off than they were before the Government started housing schemes at all. I have seen many Housing Bills introduced in this House by various Secretaries of State for Scotland, who started with great hopes that they were going to do something great in the way of rehousing the people and providing them with good housing conditions. It is horrible to he told to-day that things are worse now than when we started. I fear that the introduction of such a Bill as this may raise false hopes in the minds of the people who require houses.
I had hoped that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was actually going to criticise the terms of the Bill. He told us at the beginning of his speech that he was not going to touch upon reconditioning at all, but we have heard all about reconditioning from him, a very good description of it. We all remember the Whitson Committee being set up. I was a member of it and one of those who 1606 signed the report which recommended reconditioning. There again, I believe that false hopes were raised in the minds of certain people. We believed that there were houses which, if a little money were spent upon them, could be made a great deal better, even if we provided at least modern sanitary requirements. In the course of our meetings we were asked to go to Glasgow to visit a large building that had been reconditioned right opposite the works of the then Secretary of State. They had taken over houses of six or seven apartments such as those referred to by the hon. Member for Gorbals. They were out of condition as far as sanitary arrangements were concerned. They were modernised and the size of the dwellings reduced to three or four apartments. They were let at rents which the working class could conveniently pay. We were greatly impressed by the improvement that had been made. We learned that some of the men living there were employed at Collin's works and that they were able to come home at breakfast time and at dinner time, besides being able to work an hour or two's overtime quite conveniently, which would not have been the case if they had lived in the country in some of the council houses.
§ Sir J. Train
Well, that was their choice. We visited other houses that could have been reconstructed, but when the committee recommended a grant for the reconditioning, anybody who was reconditioning stopped. One can see the result of this recommendation of the Whitson Committee on the Scottish Office. When the Bill to deal with overcrowding was produced reconditioning was cut out except in one particular, and that was that local authorities could buy houses and recondition them. Therefore the people in these houses which could be repaired and brought up to modern requirements are still in the same position. There has been nothing done. I am a believer in reconditioning provided it is done very carefully and the structure is sound and it has a sound roof. This has been advocated for many years by people who have studied the problem. I should like the Government to bring in a comprehensive measure which will embrace 1607 reconditioning by whomsoever done—local authority or private enterprise—under proper regulations. Reconditioning is only a help towards giving people decent houses to live in for the next 25 or 30 years. [An HON. MEMBER: "It does not make more accommodation."] It does not make more accommodation, but it brings the houses up to modem requirements of public health and prevents them being a danger to themselves and to those who surround them.
There is another problem that ought to be considered by the Scottish Office when these Bills are brought forward, and that is the rating system. People ask me, knowing that I am in the building trade, why England has solved the housing problem and Scotland has not got any further forward, but, as we have heard to-night, is further back. It is because of our rating system being different from that of England. That is one of the main items that should be considered in any housing legislation, apart from water supply and drainage. These two are right in the forefront of housing and, until the Government tackle these two problems, the housing question will be with us.
§ Mr. Westwood
Will the hon. Gentleman join with those on this side, who have put down questions asking for an inquiry into the rating system and have been refused the setting up of a Commission, in bringing pressure to bear on his own side to give effect to his desire?
§ Sir J. Train
I have joined in deputations to the Prime Minister on the same subject and I also have been turned down, so I do not think there would be any more hope if I came in again. The hon. Member for Gorbals gave a very interesting history of the association that had been set up for the purpose of building demonstration housing schemes outside and inside the Special Areas. I was very interested to hear his experience as a member of that association. I know that most of the men are very earnest and very anxious to get on with the job, just as we were on the county councils and local authorities when the Addison scheme came out. I was a member of a housing committee and I had all these difficulties with landed proprietors, with local authorities and with the Scottish Board of Health that the association is having now.
1608 What amuses me in the first Clause of the Bill is that there is to be payment of contribution to an approved housing association for the purpose of building demonstration housing schemes. We are told by the Secretary of State that these are wooden and poured concrete houses. That is nothing new in the building trade. I can take you to houses that were built of poured concrete 40 years ago, and there have been many wooden sheds built. It may be that better sheds are being built nowadays than in the past but, if you have a wooden shed in your garden for shelter from the rain, after a winter or two you are constantly repairing it. Is this contribution to be given for experimenting with wooden and poured concrete houses? There are thousands of buildings all over Great Britain built of poured concrete, and very prominent buildings too. Glasgow University has been extended with poured concrete. They are paying for it themselves. There is nothing new in any of these things.
Many Members were very pleased to see the Secretary of State corning forward with an effort to do something for housing, but let us analyse it. What is behind the effort? Is it raising false hopes in the minds of the people or is it really a Measure that is worth anything at all to produce more houses? I support the Measure—it is a step forward—but it is not the step that I should like to see. I should like to see a large, comprehensive Measure taking in one or two of these things that are vital to the rehousing of the people. A Measure of that kind would do something, I am sure, but I am doubtful whether this will do more than raise false hopes.
§ 7.9 P.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
I have no very high hopes of this Measure. It may be that the Secretary of State has been able to persuade local authorities that it is going to be of considerable advantage to them, but I am afraid, after the examination that has been made of it to-day, they will not be so confident that they have got a Measure of very great importance. I was hoping that in this new Bill something really substantial would be done to solve the housing problem. When we have the Secretary of State calmly telling us that we require 250,000 houses, we require something more than is in this Measure. A few minutes ago the right 1609 hon. Gentleman seemed to be anxious to know whether, in the experience of the committee that is building houses in the Special Areas, they had any trouble with regard to undermining. My hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Welsh) was able to assure him that the association had had no difficulty in that regard.
I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman that all districts are not so fortunate as the housing associations in the West of Scotland. It may be that they have not selected sites where mining is actually going on, but the Secretary of State knows full well that many of our local authorities in the mining areas are experiencing very great difficulty in getting suitable housing sites. The Cowdenbeath Town Council is at this moment having the greatest difficulty in getting sites, just because of undermining. I should like the Under-Secretary to let us know if this additional grant over and above what is mentioned in this scale will be available to local authorities who have to buy minerals, as the Cowdenbeath Town Council have had to do in order to ensure that it was going to have a safe site for building. In at least one instance it has had to spend thousands of pounds in purchasing minerals in order to secure the housing site, and I am certain it will be good news to them if they can be assured that the additional grant will be available for them, as it is proposed that it should be for large burghs which are proposing to erect tenement houses.
The Secretary of State was rather surprised that we should have framed an Amendment in these terms, but he did not need to be surprised at that. We have in our arguments on previous Housing Bills put forward the need for adequate water supplies and drainage as a pre-requisite to the erection of new houses. We have argued on previous Bills that it was necessary for the Secretary of State for Scotland to encourage local authorities to provide water supplies and drainage before any new schemes of houses were proceeded with. I should be surprised if before the close of this Debate some of the representatives from the county constituencies have not something to say to the right hon. Gentleman on this particular point. I am expecting that some of those county representatives will point out the difficulties that their local authorities have had in going any 1610 further with the building of houses on account of the shortage of water and adequate drainage.
I should like to say a few words in reply to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) on the question of reconditioning. I am not keenly interested in the reconditioning of houses, unless the houses are of a pretty substantial character. I cannot conceive any local authority seeking to purchase houses and reconstructing and reconditioning them unless they are of a substantial character. I know houses that were built 40 years, and even more than 40 years ago, which, if given fair treatment, will be good substantial houses when many of the new houses are slums. They are stone-built houses, which will be houses when some of the new ones will be wrecks. In our Amendment we mean good substantial houses. We are not in favour of town councils buying up any sort of old houses.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The town council will be the judge of what should be bought. Can the hon. Member conceive the Edinburgh City Council, with its majority of landlords, differentiating about the sort of property he is talking about?
§ Mr. Watson
In addition to the town council the Department of Health will have a word to say. In addition to the Department of Health and the town council there will be public opinion. The public will be aware of what is going on and the town council would not be permitted by the ratepayers to buy up a lot of old property which could not be properly reconditioned. In our Amendment we have in mind good, substantial property that might be bought by a town council and reconditioned, to help us to solve the present housing difficulties. There is one part of our Amendment that has not been particularly discussed, and that is the reference to water and drainage. We say that before you can have housing schemes undertaken by local authorities all over Scotland, there must be adequate drainage and water supplies. There is hardly a county in Scotland where either water supplies or a good drainage system is not required. Every county council in Scotland, with one or two exceptions, has reported to the Scottish Office that housing schemes are held up because there is not a proper water supply or proper drainage system.
1611 The Association of County Councils in Scotland has made repeated representations to the Scottish Office on this matter. As far back as 1921 the attention of the Scottish Office was drawn to this question, and repeatedly since that time, particularly in 1934 and 1936, the same organisation has been drawing the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that housing schemes cannot be undertaken in many counties because of the shortage of water supplies and proper drainage. The Rural Water Supplies Act was passed in 1934, but I should like to know what advantage that Act has been to Scotland. What advantage, for instance, has it been to Inverness? Has that Act enabled the Inverness County Council to build houses in some parts of the county in which it was necessary to build houses? I will give a few examples of the way in which county councils are held up because of the lack of these facilities. That is why I am expecting that we shall have county representatives noting the fact that we are again raising this question of adequate water supplies and drainage, in order that the local authorities may get the maximum amount of benefit from this Bill.
We say that these essential services should be provided for in this Measure. We are not discussing a Bill for water supplies or drainage, but we say that we cannot have new houses built in any part of a county or borough unless adequate water supplies and drainage are available. I do not see the hon. Member for Forfar (Captain Shaw) present, but he has been here most of the time, and I expect that he will be returning. His own county council of Angus reported to the Secretary of State at the beginning of this year that:There are a number of villages in the county where houses would have been erected hut for the fact that water is not available and that very considerable expense would be incurred in introducing water.The report goes on to say:The cost of this, in fact, made the erection of houses at many sites out of the question.In Argyll the county council say:There are several centres where attempts are being made to obtain sites for houses under the Housing Acts of 1930 and 1935, but where drainage and water cannot be provided except at prohibitive cost.They go on to make reference to a meeting of the Property and Works Committee, 1612 who desired the county council not to go in for these schemes because the cost would be absolutely prohibitive. Then we come to the county of Ayr, which is not wholly agricultural but can be described as industrial. They say:The Government has in the past, by means of the Rural Water Supplies Act, made grants towards the provision of rural water supplies. The legislation in that connection remains on the Statute Book, but no funds are available for disbursement.That is the testimony of the Ayr County Council. They go on to refer to the fact that the Ayr county has benefited to a certain extent through the administration of the Commissioner for the Special Areas. Fortunately, part of the county of Ayr comes within the Special Areas, and they tell us that £160,000 has been got from the Commissioner for the Special Areas for a drainage scheme throughout the valley of the River Garnock. They express the hope that they will be able to get more money from the Special Areas Fund in order to enable them to carry out another drainage system. Fortunately for them they have this advantage, but outside the Special Areas no such assistance can be given to the local authority in connection with any such schemes.
The county council of Berwick say:Recently this council have had to abandon finally the installation of water and drainage to one of their villages solely because it was found that the cost would involve a much too high rate.That was after incurring considerable expense in getting the report of an engineer. Here are local authorities incurring a considerable amount of expense in getting reports from engineers on the possibility of providing water and drainage, to enable them to build houses, and after that expense they have to turn down the whole scheme because it would put too big a burden on the local ratepayers. Then there is the county of Caithness. They want houses, but they cannot build them because they have no water. They tell us that the Rural Water Supplies Act is of no use to them. They say that a 25 per cent. grant under that Act is of no use, and they ask for a grant of 75 per cent. to enable them to provide water for places where they would be prepared to build houses.
Then I come to the county of Inverness. I hope the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald) will listen to what his county council say: 1613There can be no doubt that the question of the provision of Government grants for rural water supplies is urgent, and that housing progress in rural areas is seriously hampered by the absence of adequate water supplies.Government grant available under the Rural Water Supplies Act, 1934, was, the county council say, hopelessly inadequate. It may interest the hon. Member to know that his county council do not ask for a 75 per cent. grant like the county council for Caithness; they want a go per cent. grant. In the county of Lanark there are no difficulties. The hon. Member for Bothwell has assured us that the housing committee have experienced no difficulty with regard to sites, and evidently they can provide water supplies and drainage. They are in a much more fortunate position with the assistance which the Housing Association is giving them than we are in the East of Scotland. Take the experience of the county of Peebles. The county council reported to the Secretary of State that from the engineer's estimates of the capital cost of two schemes in the county, and the annual expenditure on maintenance and supervision, the rate required for the Carlops scheme, where the rateable value is only £545, would be 9s. 10d. in the for £ water and drainage, and for the other scheme, the Eddleston scheme, where the rateable value is £500, the rate would be 8s. in the £. Is the Secretary of State surprised that housing is not being undertaken by county councils on the scale it ought to be?
The housing problem is not confined to the four great cities and the large burghs in Scotland. It is as acute in the county areas and country districts as it is in the larger burghs and cities. These are the difficulties which local authorities have to face, and they are not faced in the Bill. As to my own county, Fife, I am rather ashamed at some of the facts I have to give to the House. From the medical officer's report we are assured that in the western part of the county the difficulties regarding water supply and drainage are not so great. There are difficulties with regard to proper housing sites in the mining areas, but in the eastern part of the county the position is somewhat different. This information is also in the possession of the Scottish Office and it has also been sent to Scottish Members of Parliament, and should have been considered 1614 by the Government when drawing up this Bill. The medical officer for the eastern part of the county reporting on 19th January this year referred to the inadequacy of the water supplies and drainage in that part of the county. He draws attention to the fact that he sent a letter to the county council on 14th May, 1934, concerning the absence of proper drainage facilities in 11 villages in the eastern part of the county, and his comment is:The difference between 1934 and 1938 is that in a few of these villages an improvement has taken place.In a letter dated 6th May, 1936, there is reference to the extent to which housing and other social developments are being handicapped through lack of adequate water supplies, and in a further letter on 16th June, he refers to certain villages which have not benefited from the regional water supply scheme. They have been considering for some time the position of adequate water supplies in the eastern part of the county, but here are a number of villages which would not benefit even if that scheme were carried through. It has not yet been carried through. Some time ago hon. Members interviewed the late Secretary of State for Scotland and tried to get a grant to carry through this particular scheme, but not a single penny has been given by the Scottish Office or the Government. In regard to drainage, the report of this medical officer contains this paragraph:The steadily increasing number of renovated cottages is leading to the creation of insanitary conditions, particularly in villages through saturation of the soil with sewage effluent. In certain other villages, in some cases, there are wells and cesspools in the same gardens. As regards the absence of adequate drainage facilities, it can be said that in many communities conditions are fast being created when a halt will require to be called on the improvement of housing conditions in the interest of public safety.That is not a nice picture. The houses that are being reconditioned and the new houses that are being built are becoming a menace to public health because there is no proper water supply or drainage. And the Secretary of State is surprised that we should place on the Order Paper an Amendment drawing attention to the fact that the Government are going on with the silly old policy they have pursued of building houses without taking the first step which should be taken, that is, to provide an adequate water supply 1615 and proper drainage. This Measure may be of some assistance in large cities and burghs, in the populous centres where there is already an adequate water supply and drainage; but we have to say again to the Secretary of State what we said to him when he introduced his Agricultural Population Bill earlier this year. We raised the urgent need for providing adequate water supplies and drainage as well as making provision for local authorities to get an increased grant. I dare say that local authorities will welcome the additional grant and the merging of the two grants into one. I believe they will welcome this change, but unless the Secretary of State is going to give more consideration to the reconditioning of houses which are fit to be reconditioned, and which will be houses when many of the new houses have gone, and give local authorities encouragement to introduce proper drainage and adequate water supplies, then the expectations he expressed this afternoon will not be realised.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Hannah
Scotland has long been well known for her bad houses. During the fifteenth century an Italian ecclesiastic who afterwards became Pius II spoke of the very bad housing in Scotland, and during the eighteenth century Dr. Johnson has something to say on very much the same lines. I want to say a few words about the reconditioning of old houses. I want most emphatically to say that I want old houses reconditioned only when they are worth it, when they are really of substantial construction and, particularly, if they have any archæological interest. By reconditioning I do not mean just patched up, but properly restored, with a bathroom, modern drainage and everything of that kind adequately provided. I quite realise that reconditioning will only do a very small part of what is required. The number of houses which are really worth reconditioning in any part of Scotland is not very great. We must look mainly to the building of new houses.
I would point out that in the upper part of the High Street in Edinburgh there is a fine old early seventeenth century house, Gladstone's Land. It was condemned as a slum, and quite properly. It was in a fearful condition in every 1616 possible way, which need not be described. It has been taken over by the National Trust, thoroughly and adequately restored and has now a charm which no modern building could possibly possess. With splendid old paintings on the walls, fine old timbering of the ceilings, Gladstone's Land has a real attractiveness which I wish were possessed by my own Black Country study. Then in other parts of Scotland if you visit houses connected with Robert Burns or cottages of the same general character which have been well restored, we must all admit that they have a very real charm.
It is a libel on the working classes to say that they do not appreciate real homes. I can, at any rate speak of that because I think few hon. Members owe their position here more directly to the working classes than I do, and the working classes, especially the working-class mothers, really do appreciate houses which have some character about them, some charm, some atmosphere of the past. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that an enormous amount of Glasgow might be torn down without anyone being any the poorer. As far as Glasgow is concerned, there are comparatively few buildings which I am particularly anxious to see preserved, that is, from the point of view as monuments of the past. But when the hon. Member speaks of new houses as being in the same class as motor cars, better when they are new than when they are old, would he include Glamis or Holyrood and those substantial old cottages which are scattered up arid down the Scottish countryside? I maintain that the older houses, strongly built, show very much better workmanship than we have at the present time, and are really worth preserving for the generations to come, not merely for their architectural character, not merely for their intrinsic beauty, not merely because they so exactly suit our Scottish landscapes, but because they make better homes, better places where children can be brought up, and are more likely to preserve the old traditions of all that is best in Scotland, than these modern council houses.
Nevertheless, although I am extremely enthusiastic about preserving the monuments of the past, I want to associate myself most emphatically with those hon. Members who have spoken about this 1617 terrible reproach to Scotland, the very bad housing conditions that we all know exist in that country. I welcome this Bill, for undoubtedly it will do something. Nobody supposes, I imagine, that it is likely to solve the problem for all time, but at any rate it is a very real step forward, and undoubtedly it will lead to more houses being built where they are wanted. Therefore, I welcome it wholeheartedly, but I hope that whoever replies to the Debate for the Government will tell us why it is not opportune at the present time to make a real drive for reconditioning the monuments of the past—old houses that are worth preserving—just as much as for building new ones. I do not think it is possible to overstress that particular point.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Leonard
My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) referred to the need for co-ordinating housing requirements in Scotland, and when the Secretary of State pressed my hon. Friend for a little more explanation of what he meant, my hon. Friend said that he looked upon this problem as one that would have to be considered from the national point of view. On being pressed for a comment on the question of labour, my hon. Friend held out the hope that if the problem was looked at from the point of view of national requirements, the labour question would be considerably simplified. That is also my opinion. We have a Minister of Coordination for the purpose of supplying things which we hope will never be needed; therefore, there is no reason why we should not direct a little more coordination to the things that are urgently needed at the present time.
As to labour, my opinion is that the trade unions will not be as difficult as we are sometimes told by hon. Members, and that belief is borne out by the experience which I had immediately after the War. At that time, I happened to be a member of a local training advisory committee, which was representative of similar committees in most industries; and at that time, the unions responded to the overtures that were made by the Government in order to meet a somewhat similar problem to that which now faces us, although on that occasion it was a question of allowing the entry into industry of people who, on account of the War, had been prevented from taking advantage of 1618 apprenticeships in their younger days. Consequently, I am of the opinion that if the Government approached the labour side of the problem and placed before the unions the facts, not only with regard to overcrowding and slum-clearance schemes, but the facts of the whole problem of housing conditions as they exist at the present time, the trade unions would respond. In Scotland, the conception of housing which used to be held has undergone a considerable change, and I consider that in future most of the houses in Scotland will have to be modified. If that range of view is taken, there need be no fear, on the part of those responsible for the guidance of labour, that it cannot be made much more accessible than it is now.
The Secretary of State referred to the possibility of creating tenements on central sites in cities. I do not look very hopefully upon the creation of any more tenements, even on central sites, for that appears to me to be the least desirable type of housing on locations that are the least suitable. In those central sites there is not proper air for people, and to put people one above the other in tenements on sites of that description does not obtain my support, particularly because the effect of tenements on the health of the people of the city of Glasgow. In the last Report of the corporation, I noticed that there was an ordinary expenditure of £1,142,000, specifically connected with the health services, although I would perhaps eliminate £7,000 in connection with meat inspection. That burden which is placed upon the city of Glasgow could be to some extent modified, and an indication as to what modification could be made may be obtained by a comparison of the position of Birmingham and Glasgow a few years ago. When I was on the council a few years ago, I made investigations, and I found that there were four diseases which caused Glasgow to make a daily expenditure, but which cost Birmingham practically nothing. They were scarlet fever, erysipelas, whooping cough and measles. Although these cost Birmingham very little, they cost Glasgow no less than £60,000, and non-pulmonary tuberculosis in itself cost £40,000, so that there was a total of £100,000, which the medical officer of health of the city of Glasgow definitely laid at the door of the tenement buildings which are so prominent in that city.
1619 Much has been said about the new alternative methods being capable of meeting the requirements. I shall not stand in the way of the construction of houses that are so urgently needed, but I am rather apprehensive of what type of house will be produced sometimes by the use of concrete. During the past month, hon. Members have received splendid brochures from the Cement Manufacturers' Association, every one of them showing what can be done once cement is brought into contact with artists and architects who have some artistry about them; but I am rather afraid of what the result will be in the case of working-class houses built of concrete, plus an insistence on economy in construction. I am afraid that such houses will not meet the requirements of the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah), who desires to have in the countryside houses which will please the eye.
The position of Glasgow is one that requires special attention. In a survey of overcrowding that took place about two years ago and which gave the position as it was at 23rd April, 1936, I find that it was indicated that houses of the following types were required—three apartment houses, 24,000; four-apartment houses, 18,000; five-apartment houses, 3,400; and houses of six and more apartments 115, making a total requirement of about 46,000. In the same report, it was stated that Glasgow contemplated, in order to meet this position, the erection of 15,300 houses. However, it must be borne in mind that the figures I have given were based on the assumption that the factors and others would let their properties to families that would exhaust the capacity of every house in Scotland. The authorities of Glasgow deemed that that was too much to expect, and therefore the corporation's figure of the houses required to meet overcrowding and slum clearance was not 46,000, but 65,000. This requirement was to be met in 10 years, if their policy could be acted up to, by the erection of 6,500 houses a year. Unfortunately, that has not been possible, and I am informed that in a little less than three years, only about 6,000 houses have been built. Glasgow is not getting those houses, but I am not prepared to place the blame on 1620 a lack of foresight on the part of the local authorities, for in the report for this year, issued by the Housing Department, I find that there are in course of erection 3,336 houses, commenced but not yet completed, 4,330 houses, and schemes in preparation, 5,086 houses. It might also be permissible to include 11,000 houses which it is proposed to build on land which has been acquired. This shows that the corporation have conceived to a considerable extent what the needs are, but apparently there are obstacles which make it impossible for them to proceed as speedily as possible. To deal with this position it will be essential to have some co-ordination in Scotland, and Glasgow ought to be looked upon as worthy of special consideration by the Government.
A great deal has been said in the Debate about reconditioning, and the Secretary of State said that, although it is not provided for in this Act, reconditioning will have to be examined. That statement does not seem to me to show much faith in the alternative methods of building providing what is required. There has been criticism of that part of the Amendment which deals with reconditioning, and lest the point should not already have been touched upon, let me say that those responsible for the Amendment have endeavoured to make a distinction between reconditioning and reconstruction. We have visualised the possibility of reconditioning being directed to those houses that are rather dilapidated in character, and in using the term "reconstruction" we did not contemplate directing any money to houses, buildings or tenements that were not in such a state that the word "reconstruction" could be properly applied to them. Moreover, it is specific in the Amendment that we do not contemplate any money being directed into the possession of private individuals; the reconstruction must be done through the medium of purchase by the local authorities. Reference has been made to one of our colleagues on the Departmental Committee who signed a minority report recognising that there was no reason why there should be given to the proprietors of houses an advantage that is withheld from other private investors. He stated clearly that his objection was to the private individuals having their premises reconditioned. Having said that, I do not wish to impute to him 1621 the acceptance even of our interpretation of reconstruction.
Nevertheless, I am prepared to contemplate reconstruction, and for one reason only, the reason to which reference was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), namely, the young married couples. In St. Rollox, which I have the honour to represent, I cannot hold out any hopes of there being buildings to which reconstruction would do any good. I have seen people going from St. Rollox to the outskirts of the city and occupying new houses prepared by local authorities and others. I have heard Members in this House speak in glowing terms about the response on the part of the families who had been taken out of bad tenement buildings to these new houses where all conveniences were available for them. But I have also seen young people, who had gone with their parents from the old tenement buildings to these new houses and to these improved conditions, coming back again to their old environment, to look for accommodation for themselves when they, in their turn, contemplated marriage. Hundreds of young people who had moved out with their families to houses and to conditions, which previously they had not enjoyed, had to come back, when they were about to get married themselves and look for homes in surroundings similar to those from which they had previously escaped.
Therefore, I think that something might be done, as regards reconstruction, in order to meet the clamant need of young married couples. I agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals that we must not allow ourselves to take up an attitude of old people against young people, or of married people against those who are contemplating marriage. I think, from my personal experience of the conditions which I have described, that something could be done to meet this need and as a substitute for other measures, I would be prepared to contemplate the reconstruction of property of a character which would not be a disgrace to a local authority if they purchased it outright for public control.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Hunter
The Secretary of State informed us at the beginning of this Debate that there was a housing difficulty in Scotland, and that the purpose of the Bill was 1622 to secure increased grants in order to encourage local authorities to proceed with building at a faster pace. I think the local authorities are perfectly satisfied with the new grants and consider these proposals to be reasonable. They are also willing to accept the relative rates of contribution as fixed for the period to September, 1942. They are not, however, enamoured of the proposal that they should be responsible for half the amount of the Exchequer contribution, and they are inclined to protest against that arrangement. Otherwise, as regards the grants and the encouragement to new building they are satisfied. At the same time I have a great deal of sympathy with the proposals in the Amendment with reference to water supplies and drainage. This is not, we have been told, a water supply and drainage Bill, but there is no doubt that if a Bill to establish or extend water supplies and drainage were introduced, it would give a tremendous impetus to building, such as the Secretary of State desires to see, especially in rural areas.
I am also strongly in favour of reconstructing some of the old property. If local authorities had the power and were given the grants to purchase old properties which are capable of being modernised and reconstruct them, it would be a tremendous help in the provision of houses. What is happening is that while we are erecting new houses to take the place of slums and overcrowded dwellings, we are not increasing the number of houses in any community, and that is creating new trouble. Powers ought to be given to enable authorities to meet normal conditions and the normal growth of communities. In the city of Perth over 1,000 applications for houses are waiting to be dealt with, and the corporation is finding it most difficult to meet those requirements. That is due, in some measure, to the great change that has taken place there as in the centres of all our cities, owing to the replacement of dwelling houses by business premises. Unless we make some arrangement whereby local authorities, while dealing with slum clearance and overcrowding, can proceed at the same time with the provision of normal houses to meet the normal growth of the community, then there is a great danger of that change in housing conditions to which I have referred, becoming more rapid.
1623 The Secretary of State said that it was proposed to have two-roomed houses for old people. I agree with the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) that it is a great mistake in this matter to deal only with the old people. We must remember the need to-day of the young people. There are scores of young people living with their parents, or living in lodgings, who cannot get married because they cannot get houses at any price. I think it is a mistaken policy to take the old folk out of the old houses to which they have become accustomed and put them into new houses, while at the same time we are putting young people, who have probably been brought up under far better conditions than the older people, back into the old houses. It seems to me that that is a reversal of the ordinary natural course of events. The young people should have a chance of beginning their married lives under the best conditions, rather than under conditions which may have been thought good enough for their fathers and mothers, but are not good enough according to modern standards.
I do not think that many local authorities will favour the erection of hostels. I know one hostel which was erected by a private trust and which would, it was thought, meet the requirements of people who could not afford separate houses, but the great drawback to it is that all the residents have to use a common kitchen, and they object to the lack of privacy. I think all people desire privacy and do not wish to let the neighbours know all about their cooking, and so forth, and the hostel has been a comparative failure because of that lack of privacy. With reference to the extension of housing associations I think there is a better way than that of treating the housing question, certainly as regards many areas outside the Special Areas. There is in the city of Perth a voluntary association known as "Better Homes, Limited." I believe there is a similar association in Stirling. By voluntary efforts and by a voluntary method of raising money, they make it practicable to purchase old properties, which can be got cheaply; they spend money on reconstructing those houses, with the result that in Perth and, to an even greater extent in Stirling, they have succeeded in converting many old houses into new houses which have all modern 1624 comforts. I think it would be an advantage if it were possible for the Secretary of State to make some grant to associations of that kind in order to encourage them in improving the housing conditions of the people.
Some hon. Members have objected to the erection of tenements. I believe that in the centres of cities it would be a good thing to erect more tenements—not such as those we knew of in the old days, but modern tenements. If some of these sites were cleared it should be possible to erect tenements of a modern type with abundant air space all round them There is a desire on the part of many people nowadays to dwell in flats. Many people object to going out into the countryside to live and are not pleased at having to keep gardens in good order. They would prefer to live in the city close to their work, in tenements of a modern kind—not like those which existed in the past where there was, perhaps, only one lavatory for half a dozen families. Conditions of that kind are out of date, and tenements to-day can be constructed on much better lines. One has only to look around London to see the thousands of tenements which are springing up—great massive buildings—and we can also see that they are in great demand.
§ Mr. Hunter
I am not thinking of the kind to which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) may be accustomed.
§ Mr. Hunter
I am thinking of the kind that would appeal to people of the working class like those whom the hon. Member represents so well. I believe it would be possible, in Scotland, to erect flats of the type which I have in mind and let them at reasonable rents, because I understand that the greater part of the cost in London is due to ground rent.
§ Mr. Hunter
I am sure that, at all events in the city of Perth, they could be built and let at rents which would be reasonable and well within the capacity of ordinary working-class people. I think, on the whole however, it is the reconditioning question that the Government 1625 ought to tackle and I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State say that his sympathies lay in that direction. If he goes round the local authorities—and I am glad to see that he is doing so—and ascertains their views, he will find a very strong body of opinion in favour of reconditioning houses which, to-day, are being destroyed, and destroyed sometimes in such small groups, that it is not possible to get the space to build great new tenements. The Secretary of State has done good to the local authorities by introducing this Bill, and if he takes an early opportunity of considering the question of water supply and drainage, I believe he will find it possible to make tremendous progress in housing activity. There is, I think, a new movement in this direction which did not exist some years ago. There is a desire to make housing conditions better than they have been in the past, but that can only be done if the local authorities receive the necessary support in grants to meet the extraordinary cost of providing water and drainage. I hope we may receive from the Government the assurance that some of the suggestions made by my hon. Friends on the other side of the House as well as by myself will be the subject of another Bill at a very early date, and, if so, I am sure that this Bill will meet with a good reception in all parts of the House.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
Some of my hon. Friends have already gone over the Amendment pretty thoroughly, and I shall refer rather more to the position in the Northern areas. I rather thought that when the Secretary of State for Scotland mentioned the figure of a quarter of a million as being the housing requirement for Scotland, he was going to talk throughout his speech in terms of a quarter of a million houses in a really big and generous way, but we have no real indication in the Bill that the problem is being tackled, or that there is any prospect of its being tackled, on the scale of the figures which the Minister gave us when he mentioned the deficiencies in Scottish housing. If he waits long enough. I think he will find that the Home Secretary, with his Prison Reform Bill, will be catching up with the proposals for the reform of Scottish housing. There is more attraction in some of the proposals 1626 for the reconditioning of our prisons under the new Bill that is to be introduced than I would expect to find in many of the existing houses in Scotland under the present system and under the small changes which are being wrought by this Bill.
I remember once reading in one of Chesterton's essays a comment on how much we are moved by the ruins of an old building and how little we are moved by the ruin of a man. Chesterton may have overlooked one point, that a ruinous building in many cases produces a ruined man. After all, the home, is the first and most intimate environment of every child that is born into the community—I do not simply want a shelter, four walls and a roof; but a comfortable home, with all its associations. That makes a tremendous difference to the future of every child who is going to grow up and serve the community. Malnutrition, the housing problem, water supply, have all come to the fore recently, because the public conscience has been struck by how little has been done over the past generation for the rehousing of our people, the provision of the basic necessities and the fundamental needs for comfortable and decent living.
A quarter of a million houses is a big requirement, calling for a big effort, and success in meeting it would be a sufficient reward for a Scottish Secretary prepared really to tackle the job for the sake of getting it done. I will not criticise the right hon. Gentleman himself. He has not been long in his present position, but during the time that he has been there I am glad to say that he has come very much into contact with the Scottish local authorities, and he has done his best, I believe, to get first-hand information about housing and other conditions in Scotland—more so, I think, than most Scottish Secretaries who have preceded him. I hope that that first-hand knowledge will be applied in such a way as to leave, after he has left that position, a monument worthy of the greatest efforts of which he is capable in the form of the adequate and comfortable rehousing of the Scottish people.
I am going to deal with the question raised in the Amendment which I think is the most important one. To me, the question 1627 of the reconditioning or reconstructing of existing houses is by no means as important as the building of entirely new houses. I can sympathise with hon. Members who have expressed the desire to see the preservation of certain of our beautiful old historic buildings in Scotland for its own sake, but I cannot say myself that I should like to see the wholesale purchase of existing properties of any age by local authorities for housing with public money. I would not like to see the problem tackled mainly from that angle. But, possibly parallel with a vigorous drive for the rehousing of the people in new houses, it may be of some help to reconstruct a limited number, carefully selected, of these existing houses. I would not like to see a wholesale buying-up of old houses. I would prefer to see houses built by modern methods, with modern materials, if you like, and built in a modern style. People do not like to go into ancient buildings even in order to gratify the archaeological taste of the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah). I believe that most people in those areas where housing is really a serious problem would like to start out afresh, forgetting the conditions under which they have only too long lived and going into a modern house, furnishing it anew if possible, and really getting a fresh start by settling down into new houses with their families.
Turning to the question of water supply, I have frequently raised this matter in the House in connection with the Highlands and Islands, and the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to write encouragingly in reply to my questions on the subject. We have had assurances from the Government that they are considering the matter and that they have asked the county councils to do something about it. The right hon. Gentleman says, in the time-worn phrase, that they have explored every avenue, but those avenues always seem to lead into a cul de sac. He says they are leaving no stone unturned, but they have left sufficient stones unturned to reconstruct all the houses in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor have frequently assured us, and the present Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has repeatedly assured me, that these things in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are "under review." It is nice to know 1628 that things are under review, but in the meantime the people are without water, and without communal water supplies we cannot hope to have any planned modern communal housing, and we cannot expect to have people satisfied and comfortable in houses which have not a water supply. To start off at scratch and build a fine new house at the public expense, to ask somebody to go and live in it and be happy in it, is all very well, until he asks, "Where shall I get my water for drinking and washing?" and that question still remains unanswered.
When I ask the Government now about water supplies they look as if I had discovered a new drink and as though they were astonished at the idea of a Highlander asking for water. The Highlanders get plenty of water, but they get a perpendicular supply rather than the horizontal supply that they desire. It would be a platitude to say that you cannot have cleanliness without a water supply, but you really cannot. People, mainly our younger ladies, get extremely romantic about Arabian sheiks, but, after all, the sheik gets a bath only about once in a couple of years and cannot be a very cleanly person to deal with. He may be perfectly reconciled to that, but there are thousands of people in Scotland who have no desire to be like the sheiks and wait for the annual oasis before they take a bath. What does a bath actually mean to a dweller in the country districts? There are many places where he may have to go a quarter of a mile with a couple of pails half-a-dozen times in order to get his water, and then heat it over a fire and pour it into an improvised vessel dignified with the name of a bath. Or an honest tub. Recently the Highland rural dwellers have been threatened that if they improve their houses in order to get the accommodation which their family requirements demand, the assessor from the county council, under our stupid rating system, puts £2 or £3 on the house. This happens if an occupier thinks of putting one of his children in a room by itself instead of having his house overcrowded. If he adds a bath to the house he is also penalised in this way so that the inducement to take a bath under the Government's health policy is immediately countered by the rating system of Scotland and the failure of the Government's housing policy.
1629 My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) referred to the demand of the Inverness County Council for a 90 per cent. subsidy for water supplies in the county. I represent a part of the County of Inverness, a part which is the most neglected by the county council itself. There is good reason why an area like Inverness or Ross-shire should ask for a higher subsidy for water supplies than some of the areas which my hon. Friend described. In that area there is the highest record of unemployment in the United Kingdom. Moreover, there is a great landward derated area. It is impossible out of local rating to finance water supplies on any scale commensurate with modern needs in those districts, and to ask for that higher subsidy is only reasonable and in proportion to the rating position and the needs of the district. The problem is not one which we can afford, from a national point of view, to leave in the hands of local bodies here and there squabbling about all sorts of local and personal points of view. It is a national question and should be dealt with as such. To ask for a fairly high subsidy in a highly derated area does not appear to me to be illogical, for you have to make your claims according to the rating position. Without a water supply sanitation is impossible. There cannot be sanitation to any worth-while degree unless there is an adequate, suitable and convenient water supply. The question of seepage and contamination of the whole environment by the dry system and present methods is well known to the Secretary of State and the health authorities. The question of drainage, too, goes parallel with the questions of water supply and sanitation. When the Minister is tackling any one of these questions, he should always take into account all the facts affecting the other two.
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) dealt with the question of labour supply. He said, what was in the minds of most of my hon. Friends on this side, that if we guarantee to the workers whom we are asking to undertake an essential and important national service, security of employment and good wages, with the usual rights of paid holidays and all the other rights which they can claim by virtue of the importance of their service, we shall attract into the building industry many thousands of young people who are now unemployed or taking part 1630 in distasteful occupations. There is a shortage of building labour in New Zealand, but the reason is different from that which accounts for the shortage in this country. The reason is that under a Socialist Government they are doing things in a vigorous way and on a large scale to meet the needs of rehousing and housing reform. As the result of that great drive there is a natural shortage of building workers. They have absorbed as many as they can and they will attract more because they are guaranteeing not only a minimum wage and paid holidays, but also a certain period during which there will be security of employment.
Under the private system we cannot say that we have that, and since the Government will not adopt the other system, we cannot have its attractions. Therefore, we are faced with this position. There is a shortage of the workers. We are asked for a solution, but the Minister will not give any indication that he is prepared to accept the only solution that has been offered. We believe that this problem should be tackled as a national problem, which it is, to improve the national health and to provide for the housing of the people. It should be tackled as a national problem by the Government. The Government are ready with all the cheering support of their back benchers to demand a national effort for the rearmament of the country. When that national effort is asked for for the housing of the people, this party will give every assistance and will offer no criticism but that which is intended as constructive. When the Government are prepared to tackle it as a national problem and guarantee security of employment to the workers throughout the year, they will attract young men who are now unemployed, such as many in my constituency who have no possibility of employment for years to come. The Minister of Labour cannot indicate any prospect of employment for many of these young men. If they are guaranteed security of employment and decent wages, many of them are prepared to accept work in the building industry. I do not think the Minister has any excuse in that connection. I hope that he is not going to make excuses for himself or to avoid this solution. He may, although I doubt it, undertake to recognise this as a national problem and take a national responsibility through the Government 1631 for the security of labour which is invited into the building industry. If he does, we shall all welcome that change of method, even if it is not altogether a change of heart.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Allan Chapman
We have been given an exordium by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) and he has also taken us for an excursion. It started in the Highlands, it touched upon Arabian sheiks, we passed by G. K. Chesterton, and the hon. Member, with a facility which could come only from a Highlander, then took a cross-country journey and managed to visit what I can only call "His Majesty's compulsory tenements." Had I tried hard, I do not think I could have brought in proposed penal reform under this heading. Then we had a most interesting disquisition on the question of water supplies, what I can define only as a peroration on plumbing. It is very necessary and very desirable, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will bear those remarks very much in mind. The hon. Members quotation was, I think, "How much one is moved by old ruins." I do not know whether I took the words exactly, but they will do.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
I was quoting Chesterton—I could not quote him exactly—and said that he was surprised to find how much people are moved by the ruins of old buildings and how little they are moved by the ruin of human beings.
§ Mr. Chapman
The hon. Member and I are at one, because I cannot remember the quotation either, but I think we have both got the sense of it. In applying it to some of the centres in Scotland I desire to turn it round and to say how much the old ruins ought to be moved—those homes which are called homes but are really wrecks and ruins. That is why I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon bringing this Bill before the House with such speed. The hon. Member for the Western Isles paid a justifiable tribute to the energy my right hon. Friend has displayed since he was called to his high office, and I think that augurs well for the future of Scotland. Neither can those who are always complaining that Scottish affairs do not get full attention 1632 in the House complain on this particular score to-day. Here, in the opening days of the Session, thanks to the energy of my right hon. Friend, we have this extremely important Bill before us. Opinions on the legislative child that is being born this afternoon seem to vary. Some think it is a beautiful child, some think it is a small child, but no one seems to think it is a perfect child; but my right hon. Friend can have this consolation, that when he succeeds in bringing in a Bill which is agreed to by hon. Members in all parts of this House, he will not be Secretary of State for Scotland, he will be an archangel. He can take that to his great comfort.
More seriously, this Bill is definitely a step forward; how big a step time alone can tell. I do not want to dwell too much upon the housing conditions in Scotland, because the position has been so eloquently painted. The subsidies are being substantially increased, and the charge upon the Exchequer will be a substantial one, yet I shall have no hesitation in going to my constituents and justifying that expenditure, even at the present time, because of the shocking housing conditions. As in the constituencies of other Members, there are in my division whole streets of houses that can only be called hovels. They are hovels in which I would hesitate to kennel my own spaniels, let alone put human beings into them. As long as those dreadful houses remain we have to make a supreme effort both in the matter of planning and of finance to see that they are wiped out.
One point that occurs to me about the Bill is this: The increased subsidies, and, I presume, the time limit which has been placed upon them, are an inducement to the local authorities to hurry up their housing programmes. I am very much concerned about the question of labour, which has been touched upon by so many hon. Members. If my memory serves me correctly we have received replies that one of the reasons why, in certain areas, the number of houses going up has not been as great as we should desire has been the difficulty of getting labour, because all labour has been absorbed. I sincerely trust that my right hon. Friend, with his usual foresight, has already established contact with the trade unions, who will very naturally have a great desire to help forward this very laudable 1633 object. I trust that we shall get an expansion of the building industry in Scotland.
§ Mr. Colville
We are in close touch with the trade unions on this subject, and they have proved helpful, and I make a further appeal.
§ Mr. Hicks
While I hesitate to enter into a discussion where Scotsmen are concerned, I would say on behalf of the building trade operatives and the building trade employers that this question has been the subject of very serious consideration and that it is being examined very deeply. The latest report suggests that the position is due more to lack of organisation than to the shortage of labour, but the committee dealing with that is now awaiting a report.
§ Mr. Chapman
Those were two very useful interventions. May I say that I am sure my Scottish colleagues here heartily welcome the intervention of the hon. Member, who has such great knowledge on this subject? We are only too delighted that English Members should come in to listen to our Debates. The statement merely confirms what I said about the foresight of my right hon. Friend; he had already anticipated what had in mind. It is clear that this problem of labour is not an insuperable one, and that it has, as the hon. Member has indicated, the good will of the trade unions. What we want in this problem is the team spirit, and it is clear that we are going to get it, and that we shall make some impression upon this dire problem. We see the tremendous numbers of the unemployed, as the hon. Member for the Western Isles has mentioned, and surely we can, by training and all the rest of it, fit them into this great industry.
As I was about to say when the hon. Member opposite was good enough to give me that information, this housing problem, as I see it, is not a matter of five years or of ten years. We shall still be dealing with housing in Scotland a quarter of a century hence. As time goes on we shall want to raise the present standard. There are a great many people living in houses which do not at the moment come within the category of overcrowding or of slum clearance, but in the course of a few years we shall, possibly, desire to raise standards and those houses will then be due to 1634 be replaced. With a progressive policy like that I think there is a great future for the building industry in Scotland, and I am delighted to learn that the matter of labour has received such immediate attention.
I want to touch on a question which has been mentioned by so many Members, and which in one form is mentioned in the Amendment which was moved by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and that is the question of reconstruction or reconditioning. I am not clear in my own mind as to the exact difference between reconstruction and reconditioning, but I think Members on all sides of the House are clear that whether it is reconstruction or reconditioning, there must in the first place be the most careful examination of the property to be dealt with. It should be one which can be adapted readily and easily to make really comfortable homes, not makeshift homes; it should have a reasonable life before it when it is reconstructed; and it should be, too, a building pleasing of aspect. I believe that with the proper supervision and attention by the Department of Health reconditioning could be quite well carried out on an economic basis and with great relief to the housing problem.
It was the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) who brought up the question of the young married couples; it was mentioned also by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Hunter). I find in my own division that the difficulty of providing accommodation for young couples desiring to get married, or who have just got married and have had to join other families because of the lack of accommodation, is a very important question. I believe we are witnessing a great many tragedies; that a great many marriages have failed not because of loss of affection but because of the conditions under which young people have been compelled to start married life. If reconditioning can help that situation it will be a most desirable social move forward.
On the question of reconditioning I feel that the ultimate object must be new houses. My hon. Friend the Member for Perth alluded to the economic aspects of owning a garden. There are many people who cannot afford to own a garden, although I have not yet met anyone in my own division who would not give his right hand to have a little garden of his own. It is one of the pleasantest things in 1635 life. I cannot visualise my own existence without a garden of some sort—not that I claim to be a gardener, but that I do enjoy flowers. I am sure that it is so with people in my division, for I have seen it when they have been good enough to visit me. A garden is one of the amenities of life that lift up life and make it worth while. I want to see people with their own houses and their own gardens. But at present many are living under such terrible conditions that a reconditioned house would be a veritable palace.
Let us remember that some of the people who are living in those conditions are not young and that unless a great move is made some of them may not see their new homes. That point was brought home to me rather pathetically when I was going round some of the houses in my Division in Alpine Street, Blantyre. The buildings were put up a long time ago. I remember going into a house where there were a couple of box beds across one end of the room. The place was scrupulously clean. The good wife had a family to look after, and I believe she had to repaper the room every three or four months because of the damp on the walls, in order to keep the place pleasant. What struck me was that, hanging over the box bed and on nails in the wall was new furniture, handchairs and one or two things like that. She saw that I noticed them, and she said a little shyly: "I am afraid I was too optimistic. I bought that furniture when I heard of the possibility of the new houses; but that was seven years ago, and it is still hanging there." That brought home the point, and I must say I was quite moved. Visiting the same row I saw a little boy running about the place with a scarf wrapped across his chest. His mother said to me: "That little boy of five has just come back from a tuberculosis sanitorium to these surroundings; what chance has he got?" What answer was there, except that we must push on and get these new houses at the very earliest possible moment?
The point at which hon. Members opposite and I part company is on the question of private enterprise, in this matter of reconditioning. I believe in private enterprise, and I am not going to apologise for be-lieving in it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] An hon. Member says "Shame," but I happen to believe that 1636 private enterprise is the only system that will foot a budget of £1,000,000,000 a year.
§ Mr. Chapman
Yes, it has produced some bad houses in the past and I realise that that is one of the faults of the system of capitalism in the past, but it is up to us who believe in private enterprise to see that this fault is put right as soon as possible. That is a matter of very strict supervision by the Department of Health and we shall in time get these things put right. But that is not the main point in my case. I want to give an illustration. I received a letter from a grand old boy in my division. I think he is 91. He wrote me a long, long letter, and his writing is much more legible than mine can ever hope to be. In the course of it he told me that he had put the whole of his life savings into two or three working-class houses. He said that the houses were well built, but he was disturbed because they had been condemned under a clearance order, and were coming down. I am not debating whether those houses were fit for reconditioning or not, but I suggest that the matter is important to a great many small owners of that kind whose property could be reconditioned. We ought to be in a position to enable them to put these properties into good working order. If you cannot do it on the basis of subsidy then let them have the money on the basis of a loan on reasonable terms. I do not expect that hon. Members opposite will agree on that point, but we have to tackle rehousing on a broad front.
I want to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend a point concerning experimental house-building and I should like the Under-Secretary of State when he replies to inform us whether, under the experimental building Clauses of the Bill, it will be possible to carry out experimental reconditioning of an approved house or houses. It is a thing that has never been tried out officially, so far as I know, but I think it might be worth while trying under a Bill of this sort because we should learn a great deal from it and be able to talk with a great deal more certainty.
This rehousing is an immense task and we have to tackle it with every agency possible. I have not trotted out figures just now because 1637 I gave them in the House towards the end of last Session, but I believe it is a fact that, in proportion to the population, more municipal building is going on in Scotland than in England. Until we have a real revival of private enterprise in the matter of working-class house building I do not think that we shall overtake this problem. I do not overrate the effect of the Scottish rating system on house property in Scotland, but if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are approaching the Secretary of State with a request for an investigation or a Royal Commission into rating, and if their request is in suitable general terms, it would certainly have my support, because I devoted a large part of the last speech I made in this House to an appeal for rating reform. My final word is that my right hon. Friend should go forward with every agency in his power and wipe the dreadful scourge of bad housing from Scotland.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers
The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. A. Chapman) has treated us to a very kindly and sympathetic speech, which showed that his heart is in the right place, so far as the Scottish housing problem is concerned. He does not agree with us in believing in the system of public enterprise, as opposed to the private enterprise for which he stands; I think he must recognise when looking at the monument to private enterprise represented by the present housing conditions of Scotland, that there is great justification for us at least to question whether private enterprise is a system which can be permanently upheld. Indeed, he gave a very great welcome today to a Bill which clearly indicates the failure of private enterprise and the necessity for supplementing the efforts of private enterprise in respect of this very great problem.
To-day the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill with a happy speech, in which he used a number of similes pertaining to the racecourse and to horses. They reminded me that when he was standing for election in 1931 he described himself as a "Grand National" candidate. He, apparently, brings forward this Bill, looking upon it as a Grand National Government Bill, but the response which the Bill has received will probably have damped his ardour slightly 1638 and have caused him to question whether the Bill is as valuable as he endeavoured to make out when he described it in the first instance. It is a Bill which gives increased subsidies from the State, but at the same time demands increased subsidies from the local authorities. I am afraid that when the full implications of the Bill are recognised by local authorities—and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) has surely shown that grave doubt can be thrown upon the value of the Bill from the local authorities' point of view—the local authorities may not be quite so enthusiastic as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to indicate that they have been.
The opening speech of the right hon. Gentleman caused me to reflect upon the very great difference in the attitude of hon. Members opposite as compared with their attitude last Friday. Last Friday we were pleading a great human problem, the problem of workmen's compensation, and the argument used against us in our endeavour to get something done now quickly to relieve the position of those men who are disabled and the dependants of those who have been killed in industry, was that in the near future a Royal Commission was to be set up to inquire into the whole question of workmen's compensation, and for that reason Members on the Government side of the House voted against giving effect to the very urgent amendments in workmen's compensation law that we desired to bring about. To-day, notwithstanding the fact that an inquiry is already proceeding into the question of the increasing costs of building in Scotland, this Bill is brought forward before knowledge is obtained as to the reasons for and the possibility of dealing with those increased costs.
It may be a suspicious way of looking at the matter, but the higher subsidies that are to be provided under the Bill might be looked upon as being for the purpose of enabling those high costs to continue and to be paid for by the higher subsidies. When we look at the normal subsidies, not taking any account of special subsidies, we see that the five-apartment house is to have concentrated upon it a capital sum, in 40 years, of no less than £720. In addition, there is the rent that will come along during that period. I wonder what is to be the 1639 initial cost of those houses, and whether we are going to get the real value that is represented by the enormous amount of money that is being expended in this direction. It seems to me that, with subsidies like these from the State and from the local authorities behind those houses, the people who occupy the houses ought to be able to live in them rent-free, instead of having to pay the very considerable rents that are demanded at the present time.
The Bill, I think, errs in another direction. It is for such a short period. Here we are making another attack upon this very grave Scottish problem of housing, and there is a time limit of four years for its operation. It seems to me that it cannot be supposed by any Member of the House that the Scottish housing problem is going to be solved inside that period of four years. Indeed, the hon. Member for Rutherglen made reference to a five or 10 years period, and clearly indicated that he too thought, though he did not put it in the words I am using, that the time limit in this Bill is much too short.
I have been interested during the course of this Debate in the distinction that has been drawn between the words "reconditioning" and "reconstruction." I think there is a very definite difference between those two activities. Reconditioning, it seems to me, is simply like patching an old garment, whereas reconstruction is making a new garment; or perhaps I should more properly say, in terms of building, that it means a real alteration of an existing building, such as making three houses into two, thereby adding rooms to existing dwellings and in that way bringing them up to date. There are hon. Members who take the line that reconstruction is something which we should not look at. For myself, I have been sorry on occasion to see substantial stone buildings—and I have a prejudice in favour of stone houses—being demolished, and the stone taken away. Shortly afterwards one has seen that same stone being embodied, perhaps, in a fine new villa, built out of stone which had previously been used in the construction of a humble tenement. I think that, if we can use the buildings that are there—they must, of course, be carefully chosen, not shoddy buildings, but capable of being brought up to 1640 modern requirements—there is a very great deal to be said for wise reconstruction. In my own constituency I have seen efforts made along that line, and I am sure that many of the reconstructed houses have proved very beneficial to those who were desperately in need of houses. In the condition in which we find ourselves at the present time, with people living under shocking housing conditions, any destruction of the fabric of a building which seems likely to be capable of reconstruction on sound lines to make a sound habitation seems to be a shame. It seems wrong to destroy the fabric walls of such a building if it can be made, at reasonable expense and under good conditions, into a home for people who otherwise would be denied the opportunity of living under good conditions for a very much longer time.
Much is said about saving the old character and aspect of buildings that have some historical interest or are interesting from the point of view of period architecture, if I may put it in that way. There is much to be said for reminding ourselves of the character of the buildings in which those who preceded us have lived, and, if we can manage to retain that old character and at the same time provide healthy and proper modern conveniences inside those buildings, surely there is something to be said for reconstruction along such lines. I think the Bible itself tells us not to remove the old landmarks, and I believe that, in reminding ourselves of the past, we are giving ourselves the opportunity of learning, in a way that we cannot otherwise learn, where we have come from. In looking forward to what this Bill intends to do, whether it succeeds in it or not, we are certainly looking forward to where we want to go, and at the present time we want to go as rapidly as possible towards very much better housing in, conditions in our native land of Scotland.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Henderson
I find it very difficult, after having listened all day to this Debate, to find anything new on which to speak; but I am very sorry that the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) has left the House, because I am convinced that this Bill will be no more effective than any other Housing Bill we have produced. The Secretary of State was quite correct when he said that the greatest trouble connected with house 1641 building is the lack of skilled workmen; and I was very pleased when the hon. Member for East Woolwich, who, after all, is a big noise in the building trade, informed us that the committee was giving every consideration to methods by which work could be proceeded with more quickly than is the case just now. The Government themselves make the very same statement in reply to questions from this side. They assure hon. Members that the matters we have raised are being considered by the Government, and are having their best attention.
This question of labour can be settled only by the building operatives; and the present conditions—that is to say, the greater intensity of the rearmament programme—are going to make it more difficult still to get houses built, for, unless you get the good will of the building operatives, you are going to have the men go where the biggest wages are paid. When we discussed the Scottish Estimates we were able to show that bricklayers were leaving the building of houses to go to rearmament schemes—that is to say, leaving 1s. 7d. an hour for 2s. 3d. You will get the necessary skilled labour for the building of houses only when you get agreement with the operatives. I am sure the hon. Member for East Woolwich, as head of the bricklayers' union, has not given the Government any guarantees.
I could paint pictures of horrible dwellings, but I am not going to do it, because everybody knows all about them. I am convinced, however, that these conditions are a disgrace to a so-called Christian country, and anything which will wipe out the present housing conditions of Scotland is well worth while. I want to put a question to the Under-Secretary. It is a simple question—at least, I think it is, but I am not a financier. No doubt his experts will be able to inform him exactly what is the answer. I am going to take the economics of a four-apartment house. The right hon. Gentleman told the House this afternoon that a four-apartment house cost £430. I am going to take a four-apartment house at a cost of £450. I will be more generous than the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Henderson
You can never believe official figures on a question of housing. The State subsidy under this Bill amounts to £470 for 40 years and the rating subsidy 1642 for 40 years amounts to £190, so that the two subsidies together come to £660 on a £450 house. That is quite simple. The net rental—I take this from the Glasgow Corporation Housing returns—is £30 per annum. In 40 years a tenant will have paid £1,200. That amounts to £1,800 for a £450 house. I want to deduct from that owner's rates at 6s. 3d, in the pound, which would give us £370 or £375. Repairs would be reckoned at £80. Together, that would mean £455 to be deducted from £1,800. That would leave something like £1,350 for a £450 house. Then you deduct the cost of the house, which is £450, and there is left a sum of £900. Where does the £900 go at the end of 40 years? When you cancel out your £450 house you cancel out three houses. I have a rough idea that it is connected with interest, I am not quite sure. What I want the hon. Member to tell the House is, just how that £900 disappears from the calculation. I do not want to keep my hon. Friends any further from debating this Bill, but I shall wait here patiently until the Under-Secretary tells me where the £900 goes.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
During the discussion we had last year on this question the predecessor of the present Secretary of State for Scotland declared that housing in Scotland was a disgrace to civilisation. In view of such a statement from the Secretary of State one would have expected that the new Secretary of State when bringing in a Bill at this time would have brought in a comprehensive Measure dealing with the land, with materials, with drains, water and all the rest of it. But, instead of that, we have another makeshift, and in support of this makeshift Member after Member on the other side of the House has urged on us the necessity, not of limiting our attack on this problem but of attacking it from all sides. Yet when we raise the question of attacking it from all sides we get a very hurried retreat by those Members on the other side of the House.
We used to have in the old days of the Socialist movement a very popular slogan—"Rent is robbery; profit is plunder." This could not be applied with more effect than in connection with the particular question that we are discussing to-night. The Member for the Bothwell Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Welsh) has given from 1643 his own experience an account of what is going on when the housing association tries to obtain sites for housing. Members opposite say that we should attack this problem from all sides. All right. Are they prepared to support an attack upon the landlords? Take the land from them so that you can have at any time building sites for any scheme. I can imagine that at the present moment the landlords in Scotland and the people who control building materials in Scotland are going very carefully over this Bill and calculating how much they hope to get from the increased price of land and materials. One of the problems that face the housing authorities in Scotland is the high price of building sites and the high cost of materials of which the houses are built.
There is the question of drainage and of water that has to be taken into consideration. I am not going to deal with the general question of drainage and water, which was dealt with very forcibly by the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) from the medical officer's report. There is a village in West Fife, Donibristle, which it is proposed to wipe out of existence. It is a nice little village, although the houses are in a very bad condition. The situation of the village is really a lovely one, and it is altogether an attractive area. Men and women and their families have grown up in this village, which is now to be wiped out because of the absence of drainage. At the present time these people are living in housing conditions which are quite unsuitable. There has been a good deal of talk of obtaining a building site and of drainage, and now they are proposing to build houses in another village three or four miles away and to transfer the people there from this village. There is no proper drainage in the area which can cover such a village as that. Then take the village of Milton of Balgonie, where the people are paying a drainage rate of 11½d. but are getting no drainage. A drainage scheme is under consideration but it has been under consideration for 20 years. Goodness only knows how long it will remain under consideration but the fact remains that in this village they are paying a drainage rate of 11½d. and they have no drainage.
The question of drainage in respect of a Bill dealing with housing is most important. 1644 All these villages could do with new housing schemes, but always they are prevented from getting them because of the question of drainage. There is another village in West Fife, that of Kingseat, above Dunfermline. There is a bit of Kingseat in the constituency of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, and a bit in my constituency. It is in the happy position of being represented by two Members of Parliament, but it has no water during the day. When water is being drawn from the system of Dunfermline none comes up to Kingseat. In the middle of the night when there is no great strain on the power they can get all the water they want, but in the middle of the day there is no water. Such conditions ought to be utterly impossible in a big industrial area like West Fife. In bringing in a comprehensive Bill the land and materials should have been tackled and the question of drainage and water should have found an important place.
The problem of the young married couple has been touched on by several hon. Members. It is a scandalous thing that we should have a Government sitting here year after year with the backing of the greatest majority that any Government has had in modern times and pursuing a policy which has made it impossible for the young married couple to get a new home. There is not an hon. Member opposite who could go to any constituency and justify a policy of that kind. Newly married couples are banned from a new house. That is the policy of the National Government and of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who occupy the Front Bench opposite. How is it possible that we should have such a situation as that? Surely it should be our concern to give the greatest possible aid and encouragement to newly married couples so that they can start life under the best possible conditions. A comprehensive Bill would have dealt with the housing question as a whole and not just with overcrowding and slum clearance. There are many people affected by the housing problem who do not come in the category of overcrowding and slum clearance, and especially those who are newly married.
Another problem that should have been dealt with in the Bill—I do not know whether the Scottish Office has given any consideration to the matter at all—is the housing of the old folks. Many old folks, 1645 owing to the situation that exists in various areas, are often dependent upon getting accommodation in the way of a room or something from some member of the family. Nothing is being done, as far as the National Government are concerned, to deal with this problem. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary, or the Secretary of State for Scotland, has visited the scheme of the Glasgow Corporation at Crookston. I ask the Under-Secretary whether he or his colleague the Secretary of State has been there? I do not think so. The hon. Gentleman seems quite indifferent to my question. He does not seem to understand that there is a Debate going on. His thoughts appear to be far away, and he seems to be immune from any arguments that may take place in the House.
I am doubtful whether any hon. Member opposite has paid a visit to that scheme of the Glasgow Corporation. It is one of the most valuable experiments that have been made in this country. Every Scottish Member of Parliament, on whatever side of the House he sits, ought to make it his business to visit that scheme. It is for old age pensioners from 65 and upwards. The Corporation are building something like 600 houses. Many of them are built. I would like to see similar houses built not only for the old folks, but for the purpose of giving young folks a start during the first year or two of their married life. They have a nice sitting-room and a nice bedroom. There is a fine floor cloth, there are lovely painted walls, there are two beautiful easy chairs, one on each side of the fire. There are a table and other usual amenities, including an electric clock on the mantel piece and an electric radio, a kitchenette with all the most up-to-date cooking arrangements. Above all they have their own door into their own house. At the end of each small lot there is a fine big combination drawing room, reading room, amusement room, with card tables, magazines and the rest of it. Then there is a communal dining-room. They get supplied with the necessary food for making breakfast and tea but the midday meal is communally supplied. They hand over their old age pensions and get two shillings or half-a-crown back for tobacco, or cigarettes or a night at the pictures. The elderly couples have a splendid feeling about this new experiment; they are very happy to be there; 1646 they have a sense of independence and freedom that they never could have under the old conditions. I am certain it would repay any Member of the House to visit and inspect this great experiment, which has only been possible because there has been on the Corporation a Labour majority which has been prepared to make a stand against the old conceptions and to make a break through as far as the old folks are concerned.
I shall say no more as the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Gibson) and I have agreed to share the time that remains between us, but I am sorry that the Secretary of State at this stage did not consider the advisability, the importance, the absolute necessity of bringing in a Bill which would have covered the whole question of housing, would have faced up to every problem that arises before local authorities or housing associations, and would have made an effort to overcome these problems in a way which would have assured us housing at the most rapid possible rate. Because he has failed in this I shall with the greatest possible pleasure support the Amendment which if accepted would strengthen the Bill and make it of real value.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Gibson
I should like to acknowledge the very generous way in which the hon. Member has honoured the agreement that we entered into and has given me the lion's share of the time available for the two of us. Debates on housing in Scotland will always be important as long as the conditions which have been impartially condemned on both sides persist. The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. A. Chapman), in his reference to the presence of the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), rather emphasised the traditional characteristic of Scotsmen of being economical. His invitation to the hon. Member was to attend and listen. When we Members from Scotland are able to get more Parliamentary time, even the hon. Member for Rutherglen will, I am sure, extend his invitation and make it one to take part in the Debate as well as to listen. The sins of this Bill, everyone seems to be agreed, are sins of omission, and to that extent in substance most of the speeches to which I have listened have been in support of the Amendment.
The Amendment welcomes the Bill, but it condemns it with faint praise and points 1647 out its shortcomings very emphatically. While the hon. Member for Rutherglen was very ready to bestow encomiums on the private enterprise system of building houses, he was very quickly pulled up, partly by interruptions and partly by the very able contribution to the Debate made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers). That part of the Debate was illumined in the most interesting fashion as the result of an interpolation by the Secretary of State in the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who had an excellent opportunity, of which he took very full advantage, of expounding the advantages of Socialism from the point of view of service. The service of the country, either nationally or locally, is esteemed by workers of all grades both for the steadiness of the emoluments and for the essential dignity of the position. In the torpedo factory at Greenock there are two grades of workers. There are the established and the non-established men. The established men get a lower rate of remuneration, but their employment is assured, and it is that assurance of steady employment which makes their position a more desirable one than that of those whose remuneration is higher but is less assured. We have available a good deal of labour for building purposes, and the need for corporation building becomes more and more urgent as our building schemes go on, because even this Government is anxious at all times to encourage local authorities to proceed with building schemes at their own hand.
I want to devote the time at my disposal chiefly to consideration of the suggestion that there ought to be provision for local authorities, where they find it desirable, to purchase and reconstruct suitable houses. That allows a very wide discretion to local authorities, and the type of house that they would naturally select is the old house that is falling into disrepair, and is in danger of becoming derelict, but has a fabric which is sound and substantial and is valuable if reconstructed. When one considers such fabrics in relation to modern brick-built houses one recalls the well-known words of Burns in his poem on the Brigs of Ayr, when he figures the old brig saying to the new brig:I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn.1648 The fabric is sound, and it may be made the basis of a new erection. Another advantage of reconstructing these houses is that they are often near the places of work in the towns, and consequently when they are reconstructed the tenants are not subject to the transport charges that have to be borne by tenants of new houses on the outskirts of a town or city. Again, when we are considering questions of this sort we might well, and with advantage, make the consideration topical. We are living in the face of possible crises. These old fabrics of houses in Scotland are very strongly built and are able to withstand the shock of explosion from bombs very much better than are modern brick buildings. From that point of view, therefore, it is to the national advantage that these fabrics should be retained and the houses reconstructed.
Reconstruction follows an historical process. Every civilisation is built on the ruins of and from the ruins of a pre-existing civilisation. The hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) in his discussion of that topic went back some distance. We can go back a good deal further. The excavations of the City of Troy indicated a number of civilisations one on top of another. In our ruined border abbeys we see a similar phenomenon. We know that Kelso Abbey site has been used as a quarry for the building of houses in the modern town of Kelso. Later, only one stone was allowed from Kelso Abbey for each house, and finally the taking of the stones was prohibited. In the neighbouring Abbey of Jedburgh one can find a stone in a winding stairway the underside of which contains a Roman inscription, showing that it was taken from an old Roman camp a few miles away. Every single civilisation of which we have record in our island has some relation to a pre-existing state of affairs. Hadrian's Wall was used as a quarry at either end—Carlisle and Newcastle—and the whole thing would have gone had it not been taken out of the hands of relatively modern vandals.
The hon. Member for Gorbals, when he was dealing with this matter of new houses, was not, if I may say so, as felicitous as he usually is in the illustration he drew. He said that doctors were always wanting new cars. Doctors and other people who have means at their disposal are not always wanting to move 1649 into new houses, but they do want to move into a house which is up-to-date, and which will provide them with suitable accommodation for a much longer time to come than they have in mind when purchasing a new motor car. He rather suggested to me the story of the engineer who was in the habit of flitting into a new house every time that May, the removal term in Scotland, came along. He was unmercifully chaffed by his fellow-workers, and at length he got out of his characteristic reserve and said, in self-defence, "It is not me; it is the wife." In defence of his better half he added: "She has us all well trained. Even the hens when they hear the removal wagon coming round the corner turn on their backs and hold up their legs to be tied." That is not the position of the households of doctors, as I know them.
In order to make the best use of our resources we must reconstruct the houses that re in danger of becoming derelict. I would ask the Under-Secretary what is the alternative? These houses will become ruins, and ruins become dangerous. I have pointed out before, as emphatically as I could, and I would repeat it to-night, that there is great danger in our failure to reconstruct these houses. When a house is getting into a bad condition in Scotland, on account of our rating system, there is a strong temptation to take the roof off. Then the door becomes ruinous and it and the windows soon become open spaces, and children go in. Stones become loose, and it is a fact that where such ruined buildings are near schools there is a serious danger of children going in and bringing out these loose stones on to the footpath and the carriage way, where they become dangerous obstacles for passing traffic. It happens from time to time that cyclists meet these obstacles at night and are thrown from their cycles in front of oncoming motor vehicles, with the result that serious accidents take place.
I suggest to the Under-Secretary that here is an opportunity to deal with that particular danger arising from derelict houses that might well be reconditioned. In the event of their not being reconditioned, I suggest that the local authority should have power to compel the owners to put them into a safe condition, so that children cannot go into these ruined premises and bring out bricks and stones to the danger of other people. I do not 1650 desire to detain the House longer, but I hope that the Government will take note of the Amendment and get a bigger and more enthusiastic move on towards the removal of the conditions of housing in Scotland which we all deplore.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood
The outstanding feature of the Debate which is now nearing its end has been the fact that whilst every hon. Member who has spoken from either side of the House has welcomed the crumbs which have fallen from the Treasury table, every one, irrespective of Party, has expressed dissatisfaction with such an incomprehensive Bill, a Bill which does not seek to face up to the real requirements in housing so far as Scotland is concerned. At the opening of the Debate, the Secretary of State for Scotland stated that this is a Housing Bill, and not a water or drainage Bill. I am wondering how he can justify any attempt effectively to deal with the problem of housing in Scotland, particularly in the rural areas, unless he is prepared, in a proposal for housing, to make proposals for the provision of water and drainage. Ever since 1934 he has been supplied with report after report from the County Councils Association and from Departmental Committees that have been set up, giving adequate evidence to prove that you can never solve nor even effectively deal with the problem of housing in Scotland, particularly in the rural areas, unless you deal with the problem of water and drainage.
We have been told that, despite the efforts that have been made by every Government that has been in office, particularly since 1922, Scotland still requires at least a quarter of a million houses. From my practical knowledge of this particular problem, I suggest that that figure is nothing like the figure that will be required before we adequately house our people in accordance with a decent standard of modem housing. We have been told that one house out of five is either unfit or overcrowded and that one person out of four in Scotland is either badly housed or underhoused owing to the conditions which prevail. We have also been told of the steep rise in costs, which has meant an average rise of approximately £147 per house since 1935. The point I want to make is that no one in this House is entitled to credit the Treasury with being generous. I am 1651 satisfied that the present Secretary of State has put up quite a good fight, but he has been beaten by the Treasury, for no one who examines the financial arrangements of this Bill can say that the Treasury have been generous. The best that can be said is that the Secretary of State may have put up a good fight and has tried to get a semblance of justice so far as a housing subsidy for Scotland is concerned.
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was not keen about the reconditioning proposals suggested in our Amendment. In our view there is a difference between reconditioning and reconstructing. In our Amendment the word "reconditioning" does not appear. We use the word "reconstruct," and we believe there is a difference betwen reconstruction as we interpret it and reconditioning as it applies under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. The hon. Member for Cathcart (Sir J. Train) said that so far as Scotland is concerned it is more than possible that the regional system is one of the main causes for the disastrous lag in housing as compared with England. If that is so, then the Government stand condemned in view of an answer I received to-day. I put a question, which was answered by the Prime Minister, asking whether it was possible to set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the problems of local government and rating as they apply to Scotland, and the answer I received was that the Government were not prepared to set up such a Commission.
May I now ask the Secretary of State whether he is prepared to set up a Departmental Committee? He has the power, whereas a Royal Commission is a matter entirely for His Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Therefore I put this straight question to the Secretary of State. He knows that there is a growing volume of opinion in Scotland which blames the lag in housing partly to the rating system. I do not propose to say whether I agree or not, but surely if there is a volume of opinion which takes this view the best way to face the problem is to set up a Departmental Committee which can inquire into all the facts and make recommendations. From the Government side there is the charge that the system of rating is partly to blame, but in my view the problem of 1652 rating is not solely one of saying whether the rates shall be divided between landlord and tenant. There is also the problem of the taxation of land values and the question whether it is possible to help housing by a direct Income Tax for local government purposes. These are all problems which could be well considered preferably by a Royal Commission but certainly by a Departmental Committee so far as rating and local government are concerned.
Why have we placed our Amendment on the Order Paper? There are five reasons why we criticise the Bill. We are willing to accept the crumbs which fall from the Treasury table but we are not thankful; we want the loaf before we shall be satisfied, when dealing with the housing problem. These are the five reasons why we criticise the Bill: In the first place, it does not make provision for dealing with land purchase; secondly, it does not make any provision for assisting local authorities in the provision of water and drainage schemes; thirdly, it does not make any provision for assistance in the provision of community centres; fourthly, it does not give guarantees for the continuity of grants to local authorities, or of work to the industry; and, fifthly, it does increase—this is the positive side—the burdens which will fall on local shoulders.
Let me take first the point that the Bill makes no provision for dealing with land purchase. I will give a typical illustration of what happens in the problem of housing in Scotland. As local authorities acquire tracts of land for the purpose of meeting the demand for municipal houses, under our existing land purchase system they increase the cost of the next parcel of land they have to buy, and it is a fact that to-day, where we have agreed to arbitration proceedings for the acquisition of land, we are compelled to select as arbiters men who are engaged in private practice and who, although accepted by the local authority to-day to settle the price of land for them, may be arbiters for the same landowner to-morrow in determining the price that we have to accept. Consequently, we are not doing justice in dealing with the acquisition of land. A question was put on 21st June this year by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Kennedy) dealing with the acquisition of land. It 1653 was with reference to the purchase of 67 acres of land for housing in Kirkcaldy. My hon. Friend wanted to know the price of the land, the rental of the land, and its assessable value. The answer given by the Secretary of State was that the 67 acres—and we had to go to arbitration on the matter—cost £13,270. We were also told that its rateable value was £17 15s. per year, and that its rental was £156 0s. 10d. Therefore, the moment we wanted to acquire this land for housing purposes we were compelled to pay 85 times its rental and 748 times its valuation.
That is not the end of the story. We wanted then to acquire Overton Park, and we asked the valuer of the Department to give a value in connection with it. I will not say what that value was, arid I do not know whether even the Provost of the burgh knows the figure placed on that land by the valuer, but I can say that because of our purchase of adiacent tracts of land, the valuer of the Department put the price far in excess of that which had been paid for the adjacent land, which was better building land. My point is that in any Housing Bill in which State and rate money is involved, we ought to see that we are placed in a fair position in regard to the purchase of land. The only way of doing that would be to appoint one or two individuals fully engaged by the State, or, if that were not accepted by the Government, there would be no reason why one or other of the judges in Scotland should not be set aside for the purpose of dealing with this question of arbitration so that private interests would never come in conflict in connection with the purchase of land for housing purposes. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State may rest assured that until he is willing to set up something similar to that which I have suggested, there will he grave dissatisfaction among the local authorities in Scotland who are responsible for the purchase of land.
My second point is that no provision, is made for water and drainage schemes. Let us consider what has been said by the committees that have submitted reports to the Secretary of State on this matter. There was a report issued last year in connection with rural housing in Scotland. The committee which issued it was a very representative one, it did its work expeditiously and well in the 1654 best interests of the State, and it tried to give the best possible advice to the Secretary of State. After most exhaustive evidence had been submitted by the County Councils Association, the report was issued, and on page 24, paragraphs 48 and 49, it is stated:We have no doubt that the improvement of housing conditions in rural areas is being hindered through the want of water supplies, and we strongly recommend that the Department of Health should initiate measures at the earliest possible moment to bring about as far as possible the regional control and development of such supplies.The committee stated further:We are satisfied that general Exchequer grants are necessary.In paragraph 49, they stated:In our view the question of drainage in rural areas is closely bound up with that of housing.That is not the end of the recommendations that were made with regard to this problem. The County Councils Association carried out a most exhaustive inquiry among their constituent bodies with a view to discovering the position with regard to rural water supplies. On 21st February of this year, they submitted a memorandum to the Secretary of State, saying:The association is deeply disappointed that although two years have elapsed since the presentation of the above-mentioned Memorial, nothing has been done by the Governnment in the way of providing further financial assistance.They went on to say:The expansion of housing and the increasing demand for water for dairy and industrial purposes, etc., renders the need for proper water supplies in rural areas more clamant than ever.In view of the fact that no hon. Member has attempted to refute the recommendation that Exchequer grants are necessary for the purpose of dealing with drainage and water supplies—indeed, that demand has been backed up from all sides of the House—we have no apology to make for the reasoned Amendment on the Order Paper. It is true that, in 1934, under the Rural Water Supplies Act, there was provided a grant of £137,500 for Scotland, but that was inadequate, and it has already been used up. Even the fringe of the problem has not been touched, and there is need for something to be done now. I would remind hon. Members that very few county councils in Scotland have a majority of Labour and Socialist 1655 representatives; in the main, they are supporters of the Government. Yet this is what the County Councils Association said:It seems inconsistent that the Government should give 100 per cent. grants for roads and substantial grants for transport developments and also grants to encourage housing, and yet should deny aedquate financial assistance to essential requirements of public health, such as water and drainage schemes.They also said:The introduction of adequate water supplies in rural villages and areas must necessarily be followed in many cases and over considerable areas by drainage schemes. Without extraneous aid such schemes cannot be carried out except at costs beyond the capacity of the inhabitants of these areas.My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) quoted the position as it affects Angus, Argyll, Ayr, Berwick, Inverness and Peebles, but he did not give the whole story. He said that he was merely quoting some of the cases of inadequate water supplies and drainage. I want to supplement those cases. Let us consider what is said by the county councils. Reference has already been made to Aberdeenshire. They said:We have several areas where there is difficulty owing to a shortage of supply [of water]. At the north end of the county there is a marked shortage of water for all purposes, including agriculture, but this problem could be solved, it is believed, only by the provision of a large regional scheme.To the best of my knowledge, only one conference has been convened for the purpose of dealing with the problem of regionalisation. I admit that that conference was not very successful, because far too many of the small local authorities took too much of a "parish-pump" view and did not look at the problem of regional water supplies from the national point of view. We find that the county clerk of Berwick reported to the County Councils Association in the following terms:I have seen the Department more than once, phoned them more than once, and written them more than once, and I still await a definite reply on all the points. We intend to put up one or two houses in the villages in question, and, of course, these are being held up also.They could not go on with their housing in the rural areas without that for which we ask in the Amendment. It may be of 1656 interest to the House to know that the county clerk of Dumfrieshire reported:My council have definitely refused to commence the erection of houses or to insist upon improvement of houses in that area until assured that adequate water supplies will he available by the time the new houses or the improvements of houses will be completed.He went on to say:Water supply is so intimately bound up with housing that it is difficult to appreciate why the grant to Scotland in aid of rural water supplies should be restricted to 11/80ths of what England receives. There is no such restriction of the grants in respect of housing in Scotland.''I think that is a very good point. I now come to the county in which I live, and again I propose to supplement the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline. This is what the county clerk of Fife says:It is in the landward part of the district that water shortage is most acutely felt. The bulk of the rural population still depends for water supply on wells, springs, and burns, primitive sources of supply unprotected, for the most part, from contamination. Every drop of water has to be carried, often for the best part of a mile, in fair weather and in foul.I may remark that it is the womenfolk who have to do this carrying. It is very seldom the men who carry the water for these long distances. He goes on to state:Children educated in schools in the necessity for habits of cleanliness return home to houses where sinks, water-closets and a sufficiency of hot water are unknown.That is in the county of Fife, a county which, in some respects, has made good progress. They were pioneers in Fife in connection with education and I believe, that, in some respects, they were pioneers in housing in some parts of the county. But there are parts where, no matter how desirous they are of being pioneers, they cannot be pioneers until they have been provided with adequate financial assistance to deal with these problems of water supply and drainage. There is the further point of health. What is the use of building houses unless you have a water supply and drainage? Arid when this House is dealing, as it will be dealing next week, with the problem of milk supply, let hon. Members note what is said in the report submitted to the County Councils Association:Many dairy farmers are adversely affected by a lack of sufficient water supply. A pure and ample water supply is essential 1657 for the maintenance of the standard of cleanliness on which the safety of the milk supply rests. … For example, a keen dairy farmer with excellent premises at Kingsbarns who is on the county list of accredited clean milk producers regularly fails to produce during the summer months, a milk of the requisite standard of bacteriological purity for the sole reason that there is insufficient water even to work his milk coolers.That is a condemnation of the Government's action in bringing in a Bill which, as regards the rural areas, does not provide the necessary financial assistance to enable them to deal with those problems. My third point is that the Bill does not make any provision for assistance in the provision of community centres. It is not good enough to build houses for the working class. People cannot live by bread alone. They must have some of the ordinary amenities of so-called civilised life provided for them. I asked for a return of the number of authorities who had taken advantage of the power which they possess to provide community centres. I know that my own town is quoted as one of those which is going to make such provision, but they have not made it because their housing position will not allow them to spend the money. I understand there is a likelihood that they will not go on with the community centre project, because the finance provided by the Government, which is merely the unit grant, or the grant dealing with overcrowding, makes no provision for community centres. This Bill, while giving additional financial assistance to local authorities for the building of houses, still makes no provision for community centres.
My fourth complaint against the Bill is that it does not give a guarantee of continuity of grants to the authorities. We find the same thing in every Bill dealing with housing. The grants contained in a Bill are guaranteed for only three years and near the end of the three-year period, we always find grit getting into the wheels of the local authority machinery for the provision of houses. There is always a lag. The right hon. Gentleman said that there had been almost 19,000 houses this year. It will be interesting to know the number approved for grant next year. I think there will be a lag, because housing authorities have been waiting to know what financial assistance was being granted to them. I know that authorities have been waiting 1658 to know exactly what the grant would be. Would it not be better, having come to the decision that the grants in this Bill are required, to have said to the local authorities, "We shall let you go ahead for 10 years"? The local authorities would then have known where they stood. They would have made their arrangements accordingly, and they could have dealt with their problems, not within the limit of three years but for a longer period. But while you have this limitation then, at the end of the three-year period, you are sure to get a lag in housing.
My last point is that the Bill increases the burden upon the local authorities. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman that under the Bill, instead of the grants that are paid at present, there will be a £10 10s. grant for three-apartment or two-apartment houses, £11 15s. for four-apartment houses, and £13 for five-apartment houses. In theory that looks all right. The Treasury hand out a little assistance with a ladle, and then they hit the local authorities on the head with the ladle by applying the conditions as regards rate contribution. What is the maximum grant under the existing system for four-apartment houses? I am taking four-apartment houses to illustrate my point.
Suppose a local authority is building four four-apartment houses, one of which is allocated to the 1930 Act and that they are able to put the necessary seven units in that particular house. They are then building three four-apartment houses and allocating them to the overcrowding Act of 1935. They will receive under the 1930 Act for the one house £17 10s., based on a unit grant of £2 10s., and they will receive three times £6 15s. for the three four-apartment houses, a total State grant of £38 15s. It is true that, under the new proposals, for the same four houses they will receive £47, based on that £11 15s. now to be paid, always providing that my arithmetic is correct. That means an increase from State funds for these four houses of £8 5s., but under the rate contribution provisions for these four houses they have to pay £4 10s. for the 1930 Act houses and £3 5s. for the three four-apartment houses allocated to the 1935 Act, so that the rate charge to the ratepayers for these four houses is £14 5s. to start with. But this is only 1659 the beginning of the story. The rate charge is to be £19, an increase of £4 15s. to the ratepayers' burden, but it does not stop there. That increase is only limited until 1942. To-day, if you build a four-apartment house under the 1935 Act the rate contribution is £3 5s., but in 1942 under this Bill the rate contribution for the £13 State contribution will actually be £6 10s.; in other words, you are making the local authorities, everything else remaining the same, pay for one house the rate contribution which they pay for two houses at the present time.
It does not end there. The Secretary of State said that I knew something about State and rate contributions so far as the hostels are concerned. I admit that I do, and it was all to the advantage of the local authorities, but now let us see what is going to happen. Under the 1930 Act, if we built a hostel of 16 units, we got £3 15s. per unit in return for a rate contribution of £4 l0s. What is to be the new contribution? The Secretary of State has told us that we shall get a unit grant per room in the hostel of £5 l0s., but it is also laid down in the Bill that the rate contribution has to be half the State contribution, so that in regard to the hostels which we started building in Kirkcaldy on the assumption that we would get, I think it was, £44 from the State, or £60, under the new provisions we have been badly taken in, because now we shall be asked to receive a State contribution of £88, but in place of a rate contribution of £4 10s. we shall be asked to provide £44; in other words. while the State contribution is to be increased, I think it is by £36, the rate contribution is to be increased by £39 l0s.,[An HON. MEMBER: "What is the percentage?"] I will not go into the percentage; it is so staggering that I am sure the Secretary of State will never again be asking us to look a gift horse in the mouth. I think I have heard of a famous wooden horse which was supposed to be a splendid gift, but it turned out to be anything but a splendid gift. I think it was called the Trojan horse. I am inclined to think this is a horse of that kind. We have examined its teeth, and its teeth bite, so far as the local authorities are concerned. It will not help us in dealing with this problem.
Is there any reason against the State contribution being increased and leaving 1660 the rate contribution as it is, if you are to enable the local authorities to deal with this problem effectively? In the rural areas it is going to be a tragedy. We all know that the rateable value per head in, say, Caithness, is only about £3 15s. We know areas where a penny rate brings in less than £100. We even have housing authorities where a penny rate brings in less than £30. It will be almost impossible for some of these authorities to face this problem. I suggest that I have proved that this gift horse ought to have been looked more carefully in the mouth before the Secretary of State recommended it to the House. In our Amendment we regretthat no provision is made for grants in aid to local authorities who find it desirable to purchase and reconstruct suitable house property in cases approved by the Department of Health, and further regrets that no grants in aid are provided for improving water supplies and drainage, without which any comprehensive drive for better housing in many areas in Scotland is virtually impossible.We are not suggesting grants in aid for reconditioning, which presupposes that the house is in an unfit condition and must be reconditioned. We are suggesting assistance to local authorities in acquiring suitable good property which at very little cost could be reconstructed on modern lines. We have the power to-day to acquire such property. As a convenor of housing in one of our large burghs I convinced the local authority that it was good policy. They acquired three blocks of four houses on the recommendations of our burgh surveyor, who is responsible for reporting to us on the standard of housing. He satisfied us that the building was first-class property. It was typical of the kind we find in the large burghs in Scotland—two-apartment houses downstairs, with a close running between, and upstairs two- and three-apartment houses. They are well constructed, first-class houses which people used to struggle to get into, but they have not modern conveniences.
With little cost it would be possible to modernise the building by making the entrance from the close instead of from the main street and to turn the entrance from the street into lavatory accommodation by the use of modern equipment; then at little cost it would be possible to put in a hot water supply and a small bath. In that way that type of apartment house could be made a modern 1661 house better in many respects than the houses we are building to-day. It would enable not merely newly married couplies, but aged people for whom it is a problem to provide houses to live under modern conditions. Even if the Government will not accept the Amendment, there seems to be no reason why they should not extend the powers of the Housing Association which they propose to set up to enable it to purchase property of that kind. Carry through the experiment, see how it will work and then, if it be a success, the local authorities can benefit by it. Neither I nor my right hon. Friends whose names are attached to this Amendment plead for derelict property which ought to be destroyed. I am pleading for the well-constructed type of property which at very little cost could be reconstructed on modern lines. I trust that the House will accept the Amendment, and that even if the Government cannot accept it at the moment they will consider the suggestions I have made, first for an independent individual to deal with land purchases, and, secondly, for extended powers to be given to the new housing association to enable them to carry through experiments which I believe would be a success.
§ 10.26 p.m.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)
The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment and the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) both appeared to assume that my right hon. Friend is in agreement with their proposals to furnish State grants for the improvement of water supplies and drainage and for the reconstruction of good property which may be purchased for that purpose by local authorities, and they have suggested that my right hon. Friend's benevolent endeavours have been frustrated only by the parsimony of the Exchequer. I do not think it would be useful for me to argue that point with the right hon. Gentleman, and, indeed, I am not particularly disposed to engage in any controversy with him about the intrinsic merits of the proposals which are detailed in his Amendment. I think it is only my duty to lay before him the facts as clearly as I can. In regard to the provision of grants for water supplies it is, of course, well known, and has been obvious for a long time, that a number 1662 of local authorities, particularly those in the more remote rural districts, have experienced difficulty with housing schemes, and in some cases have been unable to proceed with them at all because they were unable to obtain a pipe water supply, and they have long ago made representation to the Government to that effect.
I dealt with this subject four months ago, when it was discussed in the Debate on the Estimates, and I told the House then that my right hon. Friend's predecessor last May had asked the local authorities to furnish him with information showing what they required in the way of water supplies, what was the existing rateable value of the areas in which they wanted those water supplies to be installed, and what the total cost of their demands would be. I said then that I thought it right to warn the House that the installation of large regional water supply schemes might be exceedingly expensive, and that the cost of such proposals would have to judged, like the cost of everything else, in relation to other items of expenditure and in relation to what the country could afford.
I therefore did not wish the House to assume, from the fact that these inquiries were going on, that the Government would be in any way committed to bringing forward an expensive scheme of the kind that might be proposed. The inquiry into the estimated means of the local authorities and the estimated cost has not yet been completed, and we have not yet received any information from the local authorities. I could not add anything to what I said in the Debate on the Estimates, but if it were possible for the Government to make any proposals on a subject of that sort I do not think that they could be included in a Housing Bill.
While we acknowledge, as everybody does, that the provision of water supplies in rural areas is very closely connected with the problem of housing, we must agree that it is connected also with other matters and with the health services in general. Probably the rating system might also arise in connection with it. At present, water rates are levied in all districts on every occupier and owner in those districts, whether they benefit from those schemes or not, but if schemes were introduced on a large scale we should have 1663 to consider whether it would not be more equitable to charge the consumers of that water on the basis of what they receive and not to charge the ratepayers who did not receive any water from that scheme. I do not think that whatever were done in this matter would be properly included in this Bill.
On the question of reconditioning I acknowledge that there is a strong case in its favour. As the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) pointed out there are considerable quantities of old houses of the most solid and durable nature in Scotland which will last a very great deal longer than some of the new houses that are being put up now, and many of them are capable of being brought into accordance with modern requirements. The strongest reason in favour of reconditioning is that large numbers of working-class families are living in houses which are not likely to be condemned as unfit and which are not overcrowded. They are perfectly habitable. Such families have no chance of getting into new accommodation in any of the new houses built under the overcrowding schemes, and they are apt to wonder why they should not be moved into modern houses where they will be able to enjoy a bathroom, a lavatory and a modern type of kitchen. They are families whose housing conditions are not bad enough for the people to be moved and they must continue to live in worse conditions than those of their neighbours who are being removed from the slums
The arguments against reconditioning at this moment I think are two. First, there is the question of labour. In a new housing scheme it generally works out that about one unskilled man is employed to every two skilled men, but on the work of renovating old houses the proportion is very different. It works out at about three skilled men to about three-quarters of one unskilled man, so that the proportion of skilled labour engaged in the work of reconstruction is very much greater than in the case of new building. It is calculated that, on the work of renovation, about 500 skilled workmen would be engaged upon work which it would take 1,000 men to do on new building, so, that if skilled labour is diverted to that purpose, it means withdrawing it from the work of new building to that extent, and 1664 we know that one of the main difficulties in solving our housing problem in Scotland at the present moment is the shortage of skilled labour. By encouraging a large quantity of reconstruction work, that shortage of skilled labour would be made more acute.
The other argument is this. In the country, when you have to reconstruct an isolated cottage, all that you have to do is to build on an additional room, together with a bathroom and scullery, to enlarge the windows and to make various interior improvements. You do not thereby reduce the total number of houses. But in an urban area, in a street of tenements or houses close together, where there is no space to expand and build on new rooms, you will probably have to convert one and two-roomed houses into three and four-roomed houses, and additional rooms will have to be converted into bathrooms and lavatories. In that way a block of 200 houses might perhaps be converted into 100 or 120 renovated houses. That would be a most excellent thing for the inhabitants, but it would mean a loss of 80 houses, and another 80 new houses would have to be built to provide for the families displaced.
§ Mr. Westwood
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that that would apply in the case which I put—a typical case in connection with Scottish housing—where there were two two-apartment houses downstairs and two three-apartment houses upstairs, and where it is possible, without reducing the number of houses to introduce a hot water supply, a lavatory and a second bathroom while still retaining the same number of houses?
If it would not reduce the number of houses, what I have said would not apply, but I think that, in general, to carry out urban reconditioning on a large scale would certainly tend to reduce the number of houses now available, and so accentuate the existing housing shortage. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers), whom we are all glad to see back in the House after his recent illness, produced a Biblical illustration in favour of his case for reconditioning, namely, that we ought not to remove our old landmarks. He will remember that it is also prescribed in the Bible that we should not put new wine into old bottles, and I think that perhaps that objection might apply to a great many of 1665 the reconditioning proposals that might arise out of the suggestions contained in the Amendment.
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk gave five reasons for not being very enthusiastic about the Bill. He referred to certain difficulties about land purchase, which I should be very glad to go into further, though I think that in general in Scotland there is no difficulty about acquiring the necessary sites for very much extended housing progress. I shall be very grateful for any assistance that the hon. Gentleman can give me in regard to any particular cases such as he has mentioned. The hon. Member then complained that there was no special provision for the establishment of community centres, an object which we all wish to see encouraged. He then said there was no continuity in this scheme; although I think there never has been any Housing Bill so far in which the subsidy has not been limited to a period of a few years and then been subject to review. He finally argued that it would increase the burden on local authorities; although, as a matter of fact, the local authorities of Scotland have joyfully accepted the financial provisions of this Bill. He claimed that they had been deceived, and compared the proposals of the Bill to the Trojan horse, putting himself in the place of Laocoon.
§ Equo ne credite, Teucri,
§ Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.
§ I hope he will remember the retribution which immediately overtook Laocoon. After he uttered this warning he and his sons were seized upon and devoured by two enormous serpents. But in this case the Trojans have been examining not only the teeth, but also the entrails of the horse, for the last six months, while the hon. Member has only been able to examine it for the last few days.
§ Mr. Westwood
May I assure the hon. Gentleman that the county councils are not satisfied, and that they have sent on to me new proposals for amendment of the details of the Bill?
If the local authorities of Scotland were satisfied with the financial details of any Bill it would indeed be a miracle. But I think their objections are confined to one or two relatively minor points. While I appreciate 1666 all these five points which the hon. Gentleman has submitted, I think the real problem we have to consider is that of how to get a very largely increased total output of houses in Scotland.
If I may say so, I thought the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) went to the root of this problem. He told us that he has been in this House 16 years, and that, after all those years, he has come to regard the housing problem with despair, feeling that, in spite of all the efforts which he and others have made during that period, we are actually slipping downhill. I have been in the House for only seven years—less than half as long as the hon. Member—and I know that many of my hon. Friends will agree with me that we have often entertained the same sentiments, if not of despair, at least of impatience, not perhaps at the actual magnitude of our achievement compared with what has been done in the past, but at the slowness of its development compared to what we wish to aim at in the future. To put the matter in its right proportion, if we take the period from the end of the War until 1931, during that time about 130,000 houses have been built in Scotland, while since then 166,000 housts have been built in Scotland. That means a very substantial increase in the annual output. That includes private enterprise houses, and only about half of them are for working-class occupation; so let me take the subsidised local authority houses, which have been built for the special occupation of the lower-paid wage-earners. Until 1931 the total built by local authorities with the aid of State subsidies amounted to 89,000; since 1931 it has amounted to 110,000.
The greatest contrast is that which applies to slum clearance. During the whole period from 1919 to the end of 1931 only 12,000 houses were built to rehouse persons who were removed from unfit dwellings. Since 1931 under the Slum Clearance Act the numbers of families removed from unfit dwellings has amounted to 55,000. I think that that is an achievement, which, although it does not solve the whole problem, is one which is very remarkable, and if I share, as I do, the hon. Member's dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs, my dissatisfaction is not as the result of comparison with the past; it is only in relation to our aspirations 1667 for the future. My right hon. Friend has already indicated what the extent of those aspirations ought to be—the erection of another 250,000 houses in order entirely to abolish slums and overcrowding in Scotland. We indicated on the Estimates last summer that, in order to achieve that result in a reasonable period of time, we would have to build 35,000 houses a year, whereas in the present year, which I hope will prove to be a record, the total number likely to be completed is only something like 19,000 houses.
The hon. Gentleman was speaking mainly for Glasgow, and I think he was right as far as Glasgow is concerned in claiming that they were not keeping pace with the normal wastage. In Glasgow they ought to build four or five times as many as they are building now. But in relation to Scotland as a whole I think I can be a little more optimistic. We are rapidly outstripping the normal wastage. But in order to finish what we want to do in the next seven or eight years we will have to double our existing programme. What are the obstacles in the way of doing it? The hon. Member for Gorbals said he was doubtful whether we were right in attributing the difficulty of accelerating our programme to a shortage of building labour, and he gave the present figure of 77 unemployed bricklayers in Scotland. The total number of bricklayers in Scotland is about 5,300, and 77 is a little more than 1 per cent. of that. Nearly all of them are unemployed because they are in the normal process of moving from one job to another. It is really a refusal to face the facts of the situation to say that there is a sufficiency of building labour to do what we want by normal methods of construction.
The hon. Member for St. Rollox (St. Leonard) told me that we ought to put the whole situation before the building trade and point out to them that the problem was one not only of slum clearance and overcrowding, but of housing of every kind. That is exactly what we did two years ago. In November, 1936, we put these considerations before the building trade, and as a result of seven or eight months of constant negotiations, they agreed to make certain relaxations in their rules in regard to apprentices and to overtime, with the result that the labour 1668 shortage is now slightly eased. I was glad to hear the interjection of the lion. Member for Woolwich on this point and I should like to say how anxious we are to have the co-operation and help of those whom he represents in solving our problem. But in order to double the existing output of houses, we should have to increase the number of bricklayers from 5,000 to 9,000. Is there anyone who would think it possible or reasonable that the trade unions should agree to such an immense dilution as that?
It is for that reason that we have for more than a year now been seeking to encourage the building of houses by alternative methods of construction, principally poured concrete and timber. It is only natural that local authorities should be inclined to be cautious, conservative, and perhaps even timid, in experimenting with unfamiliar methods of construction, but I am glad to say that some of the more enterprising local authorities have already decided on 4,000 houses by these alternative methods. One, Dundee, has given an order for 500 timber houses. We hope to encourage and advertise these alternative methods, largely by direct Government action. The existing Special Areas Association has already decided upon nearly 5,000 houses, partly of timber and partly of concrete. I was glad to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Welsh) who is a Member of that association. My right hon. Friend has taken note of his complaint that, owing to the obstruction of various persons, partly local authorities and partly others, the Special Areas Company has found difficulty in acquiring sites compulsorily. Under the Special Areas Act I think the Commissioner has power to obtain land compulsorily for any purpose that falls within the scope of the Act. He is now actively considering whether he ought to use his powers for that purpose. In any case my right hon. Friend will sympathetically examine the matter to see whether any legislative action is necessary.
Under this Bill the Special Areas Housing Association is expanded into a body whose scope and magnitude of operations will be greatly increased. In the Special Areas they will be empowered to build an additional 20,000 houses. Outside the Special Areas they are empowered to build houses for the purpose of demonstration 1669 and, in order that the housing schemes which they erect outside the Special Areas may be sufficiently conspicuous not to escape notice, the number that has been allocated to that purpose is 8,500. If you take this quantity of 28,500 houses and add it to the 5,000 which have already been decided on by the old association, you get a total of 33,500 houses being built entirely at the expense of the Exchequer without any burden at all on local authorities. That, I think, is a substantial contribution by the Government, at a time when we hear much of the necessity of economy in all kinds of directions, directed to the solution of the housing problem, for that total of 33,500 houses represents something like one-seventh of our total need.
But let me add that the purpose of this Bill will he frustrated if it is thought that the building of these houses by the Government, financed by the Government, is intended to relieve the ordinary housing authorities from any kind of work which they would otherwise have done themselves. The contribution which the Government are making is intended to be not a substitute for what ought to be done by the local authorities but an additional supplementation of the maximum achievements which they are able to perform.
Look at the figures in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. In the next three and three-quarter years 101,000 houses are estimated to be built. If you subtract from that figure the numbers that are being built by the association, you are left with only about 71,000 for the local authorities. That is not a very much higher figure than they are building now. It is no use putting an estimate in a Bill which is too sanguine, unless you have some solid reason to suppose that it will be fulfilled. But I would not wish it to be thought that the estimate in the explanatory memorandum represents the greatest achievements which we believe to be possible within the next three and three-quarter years.
We have the machinery for increasing the supply of bricklaying labour. If that is insufficient, as it certainly will be, we shall have immense potential sources of supply for concrete and timber houses. If those supplies in this country are not sufficient, there are supplies in Sweden which can be drawn upon to an enormous and unlimited extent. In most places sites are easily available and credit is 1670 abundant. I can see no obstacle to a very great acceleration of the programme that is foreshadowed in this estimate, unless it be some lack of will on the part of those who are responsible for housing, or on the part of public opinion, on whose intensity matters of this kind very often depend. If public opinion demands a national register or some other method for organising a great national effort to protect ourselves against the grave but uncertain dangers of war, I wish it were possible to organise an equally great national effort against the existing evils of peace, which are not hypothetical.
If you have to live with a large family in one or two filthy and dilapidated apartments, infested by vermin, that may not seem so sensational as the prospect of an air raid, but the mental agony which must result from it is something that can only be dulled by custom, and can never be wholly absent. If we reflect upon the deaths and the loss of health that must result from these conditions, then we must realise that they are fully comparable to the loss of life and disablement that would result from all the air raids in a major war. Only last night the House of Commons expressed the sympathy of the British public for those foreign victims of racial persecution who are now being deprived of their human rights, and to whom we wish to afford some practical assistance. I hope that every section of opinion in this country—the Government, the local authorities, all the building trades, and public opinion in general, will have no less sympathy and no less practical desire to help an even greater number of our own people in Scotland, who are not being discriminated against on account of their race, who are not robbed by authority of wealth which they do not possess or excluded from places of public entertainment which they cannot afford to attend, but who are compelled to live year after year in circumstances which must make it impossible for them to enjoy the ordinary domestic happiness which is the right of every human being.
§ Mr. Johnston
Can the Under-Secretary say something in justification of the Government's intention to insist on local authorities, already over-burdened with rates, making a larger rate contribution in respect of new houses and after three years compelling them to pay half of the total Treasury subvention?
Three years is a long time ahead, and I hope there is art inducement for them to get a move on before that time. With regard to the existing situation, I think local authorities realise that some increase in their rate contribution is justified, and that they gladly agree to the proposals of the Bill which they regard as being very favourably financially to themselves.
May I ask whether the Scottish Office have received any applications from private Scottish concerns or local authorities asking for grants for this purpose and, secondly, whether they consulted the building trades on the question of guaranteeing employment?
We could not receive any request from private concerns for grants when grants were not available.
The Under-Secretary has misunderstood me. I am asking whether any representations were made by private concerns or local author ties for such grants.
Representations were made by all kinds of people, including local authorities. In reply to the other question of the hon. Member when the predecessor of my right hon. Friend began negotiations with the building trades he brought in local authorities and presented them with an agreed programme for a long period of time; the object being to give them some assurance that if they took on large new works there would be no danger of the men being thrown out of employment in a short time. As the building programme required in Scotland is so immense I do not think there is any danger of that taking place.
§ Mr. Westwood
Two conferences were called by the Dumbartonshire County Council in which they unanimously agreed to request the Government to consider the question of making grants for reconditioning.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 194; Noes, 115.1673
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.||[11.5p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col, G. J.||Dodd, J. S.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Duncan, J. A. L.||Higgs, W. F.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn,)||Dunglass, Lord||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Eastwood, J. F.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Eckersley, P. T.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Ellis, Sir G.||Hunloke, H. P.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Emery, J. F.||Hunter, T.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B.(Portsm'h)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Hutchinson, G. C.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Kimball, L.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Everard, W. L.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Fildes, Sir H.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Fleming, E. L.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Foot, D. M.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Furness, S. N.||Levy, T.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Christie, J. A.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Lipson, D. L.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Gluckstein, L. H.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Goldie, N. B.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Grant-Ferris, R.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Macdonald, Capt, T. (Isle of Wight)|
|Critchley, A.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Grimston, R. V.||McKie, J. H.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D, W.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hambro, A. V.||Magnay, T.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hannah, I. C.||Maitland, A.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Denville, Alfred||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Rowlands, G.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Train, Sir J.|
|Munro, P.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Salt, E. W.||Turton, R. H.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Petherick, M.||Scott, Lord William||Ward Lieut-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Pilkington, R.||Selley, H. R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Radford, E. A.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Wise, A. R.|
|Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Spens, W. P.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Remer, J. R.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Thomas, J. P. L.||Mr. James Stuart and Captain Hope.|
|Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Muff, G.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Grenfell, D. R.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Groves, T. E.||Paling, W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parker, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hayday, A.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pearson, A.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Poole, C. C.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Benson, G.||Hicks, E. G.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ridley, G.|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Riley, B.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Ritson, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cape, T.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirby, B. V.||Shinwell, E.|
|Chater, D.||Kirkwood, D.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Collindridge, F.||Leach, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leonard, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G.||Logan, D. G.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McEntee, V. La T.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Day, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacLaren, A.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maclean, N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Westwood, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Marshall, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gallacher, W.||Messer, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Montague, F.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.|
Question put, and agreed to.
|Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.|