Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding,£20, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with Housing and Health in Scotland, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945, namely:
|Class V., Vote 15, Department of Health for Scotland||£10|
|Class X., Vote 18, Department of Health for Scotland (War Services)||£10|
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)
In presenting these Estimates for the Scottish Health Vote for 1944–45, I have again to intimate, as I did last year, that the printed summary of our efforts during the year up to the end of June, 1944, will be available about mid-July. In those circumstances I have been asked not to restrict myself unduly in explanation here to-day and, if it meets the wishes of the Committee, I will take a little longer time than is my custom, in presenting these Estimates.
I asked for a comparative table of the health statistics for disease after disease, health effort after health effort in Scotland during the past year, in comparison with the figures for the last pre-war year, and I may say at once that the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Scotland has been able to report that, despite the strains and 45 stresses of four years of war, by and large the health of the people of Scotland—despite a breach in the wall here and there—is better than it was in the last pre-war year. The number of live births is up by 1.2 per thousand. The death rate is up 0.7 per thousand of the population as against the last pre-war year. That will be cold comfort for Herr Hitler. Still births have been reduced since 1939. Certainly, figures were not kept in 1938, but since 1939 the figures for still births have been reduced by 6 per 1,000 of the total population, and there is a steady decline year after year.
§ Mr. Maxton
The only point I wanted to make was whether this had any connection at all with the Act dealing with the registration of live births.
§ Mr. Johnston
Personally, I think a lot of it is concerned with the regular rations of food, and a very great amount of the beneficial results are due to the regular wages which are going into thousands of homes as compared with pre-war times. As regards maternal mortality, about which the House of Commons and the country naturally has shown great apprehension, the Committee will be glad to know that, as compared with 1938 our figure is down by 1.2 per thousand living births. In 1938 the maternal deaths totalled 432. In 1943 they totalled 364, and year after year it is coming down, however slowly. 1943 was the lowest rate for maternal mortality ever recorded in Scotland—3.7 per 1,000 live births. The reduction in infant mortality—that is deaths under one year of age—in 1943, as against 1938, amounted to 4.3 per 1,000 live births. The 1943 rate is the lowest ever recorded in Scotland, as I have said, but it is still too high, and it is still nearly one-third worse than the rate for England. The Scientific Advisory Committee is now considering the high proportion of neo-natal deaths which are due to infections both at home and in hospitals. A very large proportion of the figures which are still, unfortunately, deplorable are due to infection, and the inquiry now taking place will show us the causes of that and particu- 46 larly the causes of these infections in hospitals.
§ Mr. Johnston
Infantile mortality in 1938 was 69.5 per r,000 live births, in 1943 it was 65.2 which, as I have said, is the lowest ever recorded in Scotland. As regards notification of infectious diseases, diphtheria notifications, not deaths, fell from 10,786 in 1938, to 9,255 in 1943. Scarlet fever notifications are down about 4,500. Measles and whooping-cough show a remarkable reduction. They are down from 33,000 in 1938, to 23,000 in 1943. Diphtheria deaths among children show a still more remarkable contrast. In 1938, the total deaths were 43o; in 1943, they were 195. Immunised children show only one death in every 163 cases, while non-immunised children show one death in 18. Obviously, immunisation has a very considerable figure in its support and experiments and pressure are still going on to increase the number of children immunised in schools. When I say that the total number of deaths of children who had been immunised, in 1943, numbered 10 in all Scotland, I think it will be seen that there is a very strong case indeed for further immunisation.
The notifications of cerebro-spinal fever have fallen by 55 per cent, since 1940. Here again, we expect a report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on treatment by sulphonamide drugs. The fatality rate for cerebro-spinal fever has fallen, it is alleged, by 50 per cent. as a result of this treatment by sulphonamide drugs, which, as the Committee will remember, is the group of drugs to which the Prime Minister attributed his recent remarkable recovery. In the enteric group of diseases, typhoid and paratyphoid A. and B., taken together, show that notifications are down by a half since 1938. In typhoid alone, there were 288 in 1938, and in 1943 there were 160. There were no notifications whatever of paratyphoid A. in 1943, and paratyphoid B. cases were down to 6o. There were more dysentery notifications than in 1938. Here is a problem which, apparently, is exercising the authorities in England as well. The Scientific Advisory Committee—Professor Sir John Orr's Committee—with Professor Mackie as Chairman of the sub-Committee, is reviewing evidence which is available as to the cause or causes of this increase in dysentery.
§ Mr. Johnston
We will look at anything; I am very anxious indeed to discover the cause. In 1938 there were 2,648 cases of dysentery, and in 1943 there were 3,425, an increase of about 700 over 1938.
§ Mr. Johnston
That may be. We had only one case of smallpox in 1943. As regards venereal disease, it is a very difficult subject on which there is a great deal of difference of opinion both as to methods of treatment and as to the powers that ought to be given to local authorities. The question of notification, compulsory or otherwise, covers a vast field of dispute. We are in contact with the churches and local authorities, and there is one church organisation—the Church of Scotland—which has come down strongly on the side of compulsory notification. Some of the other churches are against compulsory notification, but a large number—and I put it no higher than that—are with the local authorities, in favour of compulsory notification. We are in contact with all these bodies, and are endeavouring to reach the maximum amount of common agreement preliminary to coming to the House of Commons. There was a Committee of Inquiry on the subject, as hon. Members are aware, and their recommendations have been published and can be obtained at the Vote Office. The figures show that in 1938, new cases of syphilis, under treatment at clinics, rose from 2,990, in 1938, to 4,841 in 1943. In 1938, there were 5,133 cases of gonorrhoea, and in 1943 there were 5,437—not such a large increase there.
§ Mr. Maxton
It is only gossip, but I am told that a large proportion of these cases occur among the sea-faring population, which is not composed solely of Scottish nationals. I think it would be unfortunate if all these cases were attributed to Scotsmen, because a large proportion, I understand, are Norwegians and Frenchmen, and people of other nationalities.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am referring to persons who come to our clinics. It may be that there is something in the hon. Member's point that the increased incidence of these diseases is due to the large- number of sea-faring men who come into particular ports, but that does not remove from us the onus of doing everything we can to prevent their spread. It is exceedingly difficult and embarrassing for some people to discuss these diseases in public, and I am delighted that the Church of Scotland has faced up bravely and manfully, to this very difficult issue, whether or not one agrees with the conclusions reached.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am coming to that. Obviously it is not a subject I am going to evade to-day. On the subject of tuberculosis, the notifications both for pulmonary and non-pulmonary are on the increase, having risen from 7,565 in 1938, to 1o,o88 in 1943. During the last war the figures also showed a very considerable increase. The figures for the first quarter of 1944 show a diminution—it may be only a temporary diminution—as against the first quarter of last year. Deaths from tuberculosis in 1938 numbered 3,431, and, in 1943, 3,959, about 52o increase. The number of beds available in tuberculosis institutions in Scotland we have been able substantially to increase from our Civil Defence hospitals. They have gone up from 5,300, to 6,300, an additional 1,000 beds.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not see the purpose of that interruption. The real difficulty is not the beds. The beds we can provide and are providing. The difficulty is the provision of nurses and domestic staffs in these hospitals. As the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) knows, there has been exceptional trouble in the county of Fife. He and others came to me with a deputation on this point some time ago. 49 It is exceedingly difficult to know how this problem can be met, how to augment the available pool of nurses at a time when nurses are being taken for other services, and not only nurses but domestic staffs. Many institutions are grievously short of them. We have done everything we can to try to augment our nursing staffs by raising wages, and so on. We are exceedingly interested in adding to the number of probationer-nurses, and the number is on the increase but not sufficiently to meet the demand. We are also exceedingly anxious to augment the domestic staffs.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that in a Circular that was issued, the danger of working with this disease was overemphasised? According to Dr. Munro, you frightened away the nurses from taking this responsibility.
§ The Chairman
I suggest that hon. Members should raise these points in their speeches and let the right hon. Gentleman get on with his speech.
§ Mr. Johnston
Surely the hon. Member might give me the courtesy which I always show to him. We are short of nurses. We have taken the best advice we can get on the question from medical men and the best advice from the nursing associations, but obviously the Ministry of Labour would hesitate to direct civilian employees compulsorily into a T.B. institution. The Advisory Council were opposed to compulsion on the ground that we should not get the right type of nurses in that way, and that if we did the nurses we got would not be too friendly disposed and their presence might do more harm to the patients than otherwise. We have done everything we can to appeal for part-time volunteers. There are only two suggestions that I still have before me; it may be that they will not yield very much but they are worth trying, and I propose to try them and will consider everything that any hon. Member can suggest. There are only two additional sources which I 50 think we can tap, and one is the Women's Voluntary Service. I propose to discuss with them whether they can offer voluntary service on a part-time basis in the domestic work of these institutions. If they can, and will, that will set free other labour for, possibly, certain grades of nursing. I can only say that never since the war began have the W.V.S. failed the nation. In difficult circumstances they have always responded. Recently when there was a shortage of domestic staffs in a large mental institution an appeal was made to the W.V.S. and 40 of them volunteered to undertake part-time domestic service there and they saved that institution from rather dire consequences. The other suggestion which I can make—or rather I do not make it but Dr. Laidlaw of Glasgow—is that some empty houses should be taken and used for sleeping accommodation for men who are otherwise fit and able to go to their work.
§ Mr. Johnston
Well, there may be some houses. It is what Dr. Laidlaw suggested, and we are not going to turn a blind eye to anything. This has been tried in Russia with, I am told, some considerable success and I am prepared to try it here if houses are available.
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the subject of T.B. would he care to comment on one curious difference between the Scottish and the English figures for the year, the rise of 1,000 in the number of cases while the deaths have remained more or less steady? That is not necessarily a bad feature, it may be a good feature, but is there any explanation?
§ Mr. Johnston
I am afraid I could not give any technical opinion on that, but I hope that before the end of the Debate my right hon. Friend, in his reply, will be in a position to give an answer.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
On the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, tuberculosis is on the increase. Can he give any 51 indication of the explanation of that increase in Scotland as compared with England?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Everyone in Scotland knows that the increase in tuberculosis there has been worse than in England.
§ Mr. Johnston
Personally, I attribute this evil comparison as regards T.B. to our different housing conditions. That is my own view. How far the figures are moving against the English at the moment I cannot say. On the subject of the hospital waiting lists, since 1941 30,000 patients have been taken from the waiting lists of 36 voluntary hospitals and have received treatment in the State emergency hospitals. Then there is what started as the Clyde Valley Scheme and is now called the Supplementary Medical Service Scheme, under which any doctor who has difficulty in diagnosing what is wrong with a worker may refer the patient instantly to the State Emergency Medical Officer, who has apparatus for better diagnosis, including X-ray and blood testing apparatus. After that examination the patient is treated by regular doctors in the State hospital and if necessary is sent to a convalescent home. Since this scheme was inaugurated 8,000 workers have been successfully treated in that way. At the Gleneagles Fitness Centre, too, 910 miners have been treated.
The best evidence that one can have, I think, as to the improvement of health as compared with 1938 is contained in the reports of the School Medical Officers on the weighing and measuring of school children. On entering the school at the age of five the children are weighed and measured and again at 13 years of age. Sometimes they are weighed and measured in between, but examination at those two periods is being carried out as prescribed.
If we compare the 1938 and 1943 figures for the City of Glasgow, we find that, for children of five years of age, boys show an increase in height of .40 in. and an increase in weight of 1¼ lbs.; girls show an increase in height of .28 in. and an increase in weight of .97 lb. At 13 years of age the boys show an increase in weight of 2.90 lbs., almost 3 lbs. better; girls 2.94 lbs., again almost 3 lbs. better. 52 The boys increase in height by .75 in. and girls by .72. Similar evidence is available for the County of Lanark, the City of Aberdeen and Renfrewshire, but unfortunately not for the country as a whole because the county education authorities did not continue their weighing and measuring schemes. In Lanark County there are only two in every 1,000 children now classified under the heading of bad nutrition; in the City of Aberdeen only five out of 8,000; and in Renfrew-shire only II out of over 12,000 children examined. These figures, by and large, show, I think, that the health of Scotland is being maintained as far as women and children are concerned, although in regard to tuberculosis we go back. We have a Scottish Council of Health Education, from which I hope we will get considerable results. The object is to encourage education in the science and art of healthy living and the principles of hygiene and to assist local authorities in publicity or propaganda for health purposes.
I would like to say a word or two about housing. We have arranged with the building unions especially to train 200,000 new entrants or, as they are called, dilutees to the industry in Great Britain. (Interruption.) The industry is organised on a national basis and it is only possible to make arrangements on a national basis. In addition to these dilutees, from which we in Scotland will get at least our fair share, we are encouraging in Scotland free vocational courses. We have already about 700 in the schools, and we are giving substantial grants in aid for training for the building industry. In construction, what has been done in Scotland by local authorities and others is this. We have been able to complete dwellings started prior to the war, where construction had been stopped at the commencement of hostilities, to the number of 24,000 municipal houses, 2,000 by the Scottish Special Housing Association, and 6,700 by private enterprise. The total during the war is thus over 32,000. We have devoted the balance of what labour is available to the repair and making habitable of war damaged houses, and over 75,000 have thus been restored in Scotland. We have arranged for the starting of 2,000 new houses in specially badly hit areas. These are mostly in process of being erected now. There are 600 shops or 53 houses requisitioned and repaired as temporary dwelling houses.
There will be, although not immediately, some augmentation of the housing programme through the provision of steel houses of new and improved types. A Portal house has been put up for inspection in Edinburgh, and I hope that one will be put up in Glasgow in about a month's time. I am in discussion with the Ministry of Works and Buildings for the erection of another model house in North or North-east of Scotland. The Government are doing everything they can to arrange for the mass servicing of housing sites, providing water, drainage, roads, etc. for some 40,000 houses. We project the supply of large numbers of emergency factory built houses of short-life duration of 10 years. In a Measure to be introduced at an early date, powers will be given to local authorities to widen their options. Local authorities now may only let houses to slum clearance and overcrowded tenants. There will be a widening of the options to local authorities to let their houses for general purposes, that is, for young couples or any other tenants who require houses. Over Britain in two or three years there may be 300,000 of these houses. I am not tying myself to any precise figure, but I am doing my best to get I00,000 for Scotland.
§ Mr. Johnston
That is what I mean. What is called the Portal house is the factory-made house. It may not necessarily be of the type that has already been erected, but I hope to get for Scotland 100,000 of that type of emergency 10-year life house.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
How many houses of this type does the right hon. Gentleman expect to get each year?
§ Mr. Johnston
At best we may get an average of 30,000-odd per annum, but it may not go that way. It may be that for technical reasons we may have to do with fewer the first year and get more in the second and third years. Alternatively, it may be that, our necessities being greater, we may get more than our quota in the first year and less in the second and third.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)
Will the licence be for a life of 10 years only, or is there a possibility of raising the ceiling?
§ Mr. Johnston
We will start off with 10 years; we have enough troubles for 1944–45 without looking for 1955's troubles.
§ Mr. Johnston
That, of course, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Works, but I understand that the answer is clearly "Yes". They hope to be able to put these factories in regular weekly production at an increasing rate towards the end of the year.
§ Mr. Johnston
No, for reasons I am ready to discuss with hon. Members. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Gentlemen will really allow me to get on.
§ The Chairman
That is a matter for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman has been a little frequent in his interruptions. It is usual, not to interrupt quite so frequently as the hon. Gentleman has done, and to allow the Minister to make his statement.
§ Mr. Johnston
I can only ask for a little courtesy, and I have not had much of it to-day. I listen to hon. Gentlemen, without interruption, when they are speaking.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am entitled to the same courtesy as hon. Members. I do not want to enter into any cross-talk, but I ask for courtesy in presenting a difficult case, and I hope I am presenting it frankly and openly.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say something about the rent of the Portal houses?
§ Mr. Johnston
The Portal house has been erected for only a week in Scotland and we cannot discuss it with the local authorities until they have seen it. Immediately they are in a position to discuss the rental we shall be ready to meet them.
§ Mr. Johnston
No local authority will be compelled to take any house whatever if it does not want it. Local authorities will be perfectly free to accept or reject them. The Portal house which has been shown in London has been put up in Edinburgh for inspection, and after the views of local authorities in England and Scotland have been gathered, we will be in a position to put forward proposals to the House.
§ Mr. Johnston
My own view is that there will be such a clamour for these houses from the consumers that very few local authorities, even if they wanted to, will be able to resist the demand, and I have not heard of any who wanted to.
§ Mr. Johnston
That is a matter, of course, which remains to be seen. Now I come to the question of the long-term, the permanent houses, the 300,000 houses announced in the House of Commons of which, as has already been intimated, we have 50,000,—a sixth of them—for Scotland. These will absorb all, and more than all of the house-building labour that existed in pre-war years and will absorb all the dilutees, all the new apprentices and, in addition, large numbers of men skilled in constructional engineering and other light industries not at present employed in house building. We have to provide a proper water supply and drainage system, and as the Committee is aware, arrangements are being made to that end. But there is a shortage of young labour, and one of the reasons for the delay in the construction of the 2,000 houses which were authorised some time ago is, undoubtedly, owing to the fact that an increasing proportion of building trade labour is composed of old men and that younger men are away on war service or other work.
56 Now I come to the question of the 2,000 houses. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) raised this question recently and may want to say something about it to-day. I assure him that no delay in the construction of these houses can be attributed to any red-tape organisation at St. Andrew's House. We have taken care of that. The Glasgow city area, for example, was allocated 200 of the last 1,000 houses on the 7th of February this year. By the 15th February the type plans were approved by the Department and the layout plans were also approved on the same day by the Department, and the tenders were received on 18th May and were approved by the Department on 29th May, so that no delay whatever in the construction of these houses can be attributed to headquarters. [An HON. MEMBER: "There have been delays."] I shall be pleased to discuss with any hon. Member the reasons for any particular delay in any given area, but there are some areas where I was not in a position to authorise the acceptance of tenders, and I put it frankly to the Committee that I am not prepared to accept tenders of £1,300 odd in one county, when tenders are corning in from another county for £871 for the same type of house. I am sure that I carry the Committee with me in this. We ought not to lend our assistance in any way to the acceptance of tenders—competitive tenders obviously—where the prices are completely unjustifiable. The best tender that came in in one county was for £1,391. I insisted that they re-tender. They did so and whittled the figure down to £1,152, but I said that that figure was too high and that they would have to tender again. That kind of thing will, in the end, retard house building and I propose to do everything I can to crab it.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
How many of these 2,000 houses, of which the right hon. Gentleman has been talking, are now being erected or have been erected?
§ Mr. Johnston
The first 1,000 were approved last year and 934 have been passed, that is, tenders have been approved. Work has commenced on 870 of them and 262, and possibly a little more, have been roofed over. The others are not yet roofed over and, as I have already attempted to state, the contractors and local authorities blame the quality of the labour which is available. Of the 57 second 1,000 houses, which were authorised in February and March last, tenders have been approved for 350, 19 of which are under construction and preliminary site work is in progress, or about to commence, for the remainder. I expect to get tenders for another 350 of them this month. I am trying to get the architects to agree to standard plans, and I think they will agree. I should like to pay a tribute to the work done by my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Housing whose report on standards of post-war housing has been widely acclaimed both at home and abroad. This report is a remarkable production and over 20,000 copies of it have been sold.
May I just soy one brief word about the Rent Courts Act—sometimes called the Furnished Letting Act? The Committee has not yet been made aware of how that Act has been working, but I ought to say at once, that, in my opinion, it is working splendidly. I will give the Committee some figures which will shock hon. Members. Of the 228 local authorities in Scotland, 137 decided in favour of having the Act applied in their area and 88 decided against. That was their decision. I am trying to persuade some of those 88 to revise their decision. We are bunching a lot of these authorities together. We do not want to set up a separate tribunal for every local authority.
We have set up 26 tribunals which cover—and this may be interesting to the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McKinlay)—87 per cent. of the total population of Scotland. Another tribunal will shortly be appointed, but 87 per cent. of the population is now covered, in effect, by the Rent Courts Act.
We have had several hundred applications for revision of rent put to these tribunals so far. The rents complained of have ranged from 7s.. a week for a single room up to £264 a year for a service flat and £300 for a larger house. Out of the total of 357 cases, so far disposed of, 274 have had their rents reduced and 83 have had their rents approved. Powers have been given to two local authorities, so far, to requisition houses where the proprietors or the lessors threatened the tenants with eviction as the result of their applying for the protection of these courts. We provided immediate powers to the town clerks of 58 Glasgow and Aberdeen to requisition property and furniture in these cases. One case which emerged from these inquiries in Glasgow concerned one roam in a house. The total rent far the whole house was £37 a year. The value of the furniture in the room was £5 10s. and the electric light supplied was valued at 25s. per annum and the rent charged was 18s. a week. The tribunal reduced that to 8s. 6d. a week. Then there was another case in Glasgow where the tribunal reduced the rent by 9s. a week and, in a number of other cases, by 7s. 6d. a week. Six rooms in a house in Aberdeen—the assessed rent of which was £35 a year—were let separately at rents totalling £150 per annum. They were poorly furnished and there was no service. The tribunal very properly reduced the total rent for the six rooms to £60 per annum.
That sort of thing has been going on all over the country. In Glasgow there was the case of a room let unfurnished, with no electricity, where the rent was reduced from 15s. to 6s. 6d. There was another case in Ayrshire where the rent for a room, furnished with very indifferent furniture and with no service, was 32s. 6d. a week. This rent was reduced to 12s. 6d. a week—£1 was taken off that rent. I think that the publication of these extortions and Rent Court proceedings has done a tremendous lot in some counties to secure voluntary reductions in rent without the cases going to the tribunals at all.
§ Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is most unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, or the Parliamentary Secretary, is not here in order that England may learn something of the experience that Scotland has had in this matter?
§ Mr. Johnston
May I conclude by saying that legislation will shortly be brought before the House when other opportunities will be given to hon. Members to ventilate the matter of housing difficulties and housing requirements. But nothing that anyone can say regarding the necessity of more housing will find us unresponsive. Anything and everything that is possible for us to do to secure the more immediate provision of sanitary dwellings for our people I am most certainly willing to do. So far as our powers go now, we are doing everything 59 we can to make certain that at the earliest possible moment decent housing accommodation is provided. I hope that local authorities will sooner or later consider their powers of rent revision under the 1935 Act. There are about seven different grades of rent now for the same class of houses under the different Acts, and they all have power to equate these rents and give rent rebates out of the housing fund in cases where they think it is required. Some authorities have done it, with great success, but I hope they will further consider their powers in this regard so that we shall not later on be overwhelmed with such a variety of rents, sometimes differing by 10s. a week for the same class of accommodation, and that the future of local authority arrangements for housing will show much greater promise of regular, step-by-step fulfilment of requirements than they have been able to do in the past.
§ Mr. Maxton
While, of course, you, Major Milner, have the right to call any Member who happens to catch your eye, do I understand that the hon. Member above the Gangway is about to make the principal Opposition attack on the Minister's statement?
§ The Chairman
I have not the remotest idea what he is going to do. He caught my eye and I called him.
§ The Chairman
I do not follow the hon. Member. There will no doubt be an opportunity to call on him during the day.
§ Mr. Maxton
A Supply Day has always been regarded as an opportunity for the Opposition to challenge reckless or mean expenditure by His Majesty's Ministers. It has been the practice in most of my Parliamentary life, that a Member of the Opposition was called to open the general criticism.
§ The Chairman
I entirely agree. That usually has been the rule in normal times, but I have not had it indicated to me who forms the Opposition, if any, in the present circumstances.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
I want to follow the right hon. Gentleman, first of all—whatever I may say later—to commend him for having accepted the invitation that has been given him on numerous occasions, not to limit himself unduly in presenting his statement when bringing forward Scottish Estimates. I am sure that we who have heard him, and others outside who will read his statement, will be grateful to him for the extensive review that he has given—more extensive than we have had on some previous occasions. His main point was to give us the good news that, generally speaking, the health of the Scottish people is better. He believed that was due in large measure to good, regular wages going in the homes of the people, and to some extent to the scientific standardisation of their diet. We all deplore the fact that in certain directions the incidence of disease shows an upward tendency. Indeed, as far as dysentery, venereal disease and tuberculosis are concerned this upward tendency is very steep. But we are grateful for the fact that, owing to arrangements made by the right hon. Gentleman to use to the full the emergency hospitals, 30,000 patients have been cleared from the waiting lists, which at one time were a regrettable feature of the position as far as every voluntary hospital was concerned. I intend to adhere to the old practice of making a short speech, and I believe I shall be followed by others, but no restriction that we lay upon ourselves, is intended, in the slightest degree, to apply to Ministers. We want to have the fullest possible information from them that they can give to us and to the people of Scotland.
My remarks will be made more particularly with regard to the housing position, which in certain directions I find growing more acute as time goes by, especially where health considerations are involved, and when a tuberculous husband and father lives in one room with his wife and family. That is not uncommon and it is very regrettable. I am glad to think that the forward looking view gives us hope that that sort of thing will be ended whenever it is possible to bring these bad conditions to an end. I am glad to have seen when travelling down Clydeside proof that a certain amount of emergency housing is going on, showing clearly that the Secretary of State and those associated with him are very much in earnest in 61 seeing that some progress is made even during the difficult period of war, and it is a promise to us that, when labour and materials are more available, we shall see a really big forward move.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the publication of the report of the advisory committee which conducted its proceedings under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State. I would say with what pleasure we have studied it. It is a splendid production and very great credit goes to the Committee, and also in large measure to the printers—Scottish printers by the way—proving that they can turn out a job as good as anything that can be done anywhere. It is no wonder that girls in a humble capacity in the printing works wrote to the Under-Secretary rejoicing in the fact that they had been able to have a share in putting it before the public. The Secretary of State said that 20,000 copies had been sold. I wonder if we can be told how many have been sold in Scotland because, after all, it is the Scottish position that we are concerned about.
A great deal has been said in recent times about prefabricated houses. Many of us have seen with very great interest the Portal house, and have also seen the improvements that have been carried out in the prototype house as the result of criticisms and suggestions that have been made. My information about the two that are being shown in Scotland now, the original and the improved prototype, is that practical housewives who have seen them are accepting them joyfully as a real contribution to dealing with immediate housing difficulties as soon as it is practicable to provide the houses in the immediate post-war period, or earlier if it is at all possible. We have seen a statement from the Secretary of the Building Trade Workers who tells us that the normal house—the ordinary brick-built house I take it he means—can be provided in ample numbers by the building trade operatives. My reaction to a statement of that kind is to reflect first of all that we did not see it accomplished between the two wars and, keeping in mind that we need half a million new houses at a very quick rate, my attitude is: Let the building trade workers do their best to provide all the houses they can, and we shall still go on with the acceptance of many prefabricated houses in order to add to whatever can be produced by the 62 ordinary method. I think there is a place in an emergency for the prefabricated house and I am certain that most housewives would be delighted to have an opportunity of living in them, instead of being forced to live, as many of them would, with in-laws and suffer the inconvenience of not having a place of their own. After the last war we had a Scottish production, a steel house not intended to be a temporary house. I am wondering whether there is any possibility of a steel house of that kind being improved upon and produced now. Some people who live in steel houses have spoken to me in commendatory terms about them.
I propose to look at the needs that must be met at the present time. First, there must be no delay on the part of the Government in getting ahead with things. I am glad to see that one part of what is needed in that regard is met by the presentation of the Bill to-day by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. It is necessary that we should quickly come to a decision to get started on the B.U.S., in other words the Barlow, Uthwatt and Scott Reports. There is a need for adequate planning on the basis of those three reports. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell us what he thinks about the B.U.S. It is a commonplace to talk about missing the bus, and I am not suggesting that the Government will do so on this occasion, but I want to see the proper motive power being given to the B.U.S.—the Barlow, Uthwatt and Scott Reports which are already in existence.
We need to mobilise every means of providing houses and we should very soon come to the point of giving an indication of the cost of the proposed houses and the rent that is likely to be payable for them, as well as of the Government's share of their provision. I am thinking of the possibility of a Government subsidy. As my right hon. Friend has clearly indicated, we also require checks against the exploitation of the housing scarcity by way of high charges. We should also keep in mind that every person who provides himself with a house does a public service. He does not need to have a subsidy paid, either from national or local funds, and he ought to have tangible recognition of this. I hope that that will be seen to in the Government's housing plan for the postwar period.
63 I hope also that there will be cooperation with every agency that can give help in the provision of houses. Building societies come into one's mind; I believe their co-operation could easily and readily be obtained. We have to guard against jerry-building, as one of our prime needs, and to impose penalties against substandard work, whenever it may be discovered early or late, in the erection of a house. These are some of the needs that require to be met in our consideration of the housing problem. Robert Burns wrote:To mak' a happy fireside climeTo weans and wifeThat's the true pathos and sublimeOf human life.I am sure that that holds good for every one of us when we think about the subject. We want houses where harmonious family life can grow and blossom. I am talking not only about houses but about real homes which will be a counter-attraction to the public house and to the streets, or to the too frequent indulgence in the picture-house and dance-hall habit. In providing houses and homes we shall have an opportunity of raising not only the health standards of our people in Scotland but their standards of conduct and character as well. I have very great pleasure in commending the right hon. Gentleman for the statement which he has made and in assuring him of every possible support that he requires in furthering the object which he has in view.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
I desire to follow the precedent set by the hon. Gentleman and to open my speech by congratulating my right hon. Friend on the very gratifying report which he has been able to give to the Committee to-day. It is good to know that the health of the people is being maintained at this time, although there has been a set-back in regard to tuberculosis. I am certain that the Secretary of State is watching that position in conjunction with the medical authorities, and that it is probably only of a very temporary nature. It is extraordinarily pleasant to hear of the great improvement in the physical capacity of our school children. I am sure that the Committee welcome this opportunity of debating these twin and closely related matters of health and housing. I know of no other 64 agency on which the health of our people is so dependent as upon housing, unless it be nutrition. Since we last debated the housing question, two very momentous reports have been issued, one of which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers). They are by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee, and the Committee which was presided over by Sir John Boyd-Orr and dealt with infantile mortality. They must give every Scottish Member of Parliament very serious food for thought and a good deal of searching of heart.
I want to devote the greater part of my remarks to housing, and to congratulate, as did the hon. Member for Linlithgow, the Scottish Advisory Committee, as well as to extend my congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who presided over these deliberations of that body. The Report is excellent in character. The Committee make a realistic and practical approach to the problem and their conclusions will be of the greatest possible value. They delineated for us very clearly the enormous task with which we are confronted. I trust that we shall tackle that task as a nation with determination and energy and that we shall use every agency and every means to achieve our end. I hope that as a result we shall not slack in the very slightest until every one of our people is adequately housed. The magnitude of the problem to provide 500,000 houses to meet the immediate needs of our people is very great and it is something which might well daunt the most stouthearted Secretary of State or Member of Parliament. I cannot see that we have any need to be either despondent or to despair, because it has been done before and we can do it again on a very much greater scale.
Reference is made in the Report to the fact that, two or three generations ago, the demand for accommodation was just as acute as the demand which confronts us to-day, and that that demand was met. If it could be met then we can surely meet it, with all the additional facilities available to us. All that is required is will and determination to solve the problem that will rest on the shoulders of each one and of the local authorities. Between the wars we built some 350,000 new houses; that is at an average rate of 17,500 a year. That does 65 not compare very favourably with the results which were achieved in the past. I find that in 1900 we built 22,000 houses in Scotland, while in 1876, in Glasgow alone, we provided 5,746 new houses. The latter figure is better, with two exceptions, than what was achieved in any year between the two wars. Those results were achieved under what we call private enterprise. If we are to make the progress which we all desire I suggest that it is necessary for us to induce private enterprise to come in again and play its part.
That lesson is underlined several times in the Report to which I have alluded. We are told that England and Wales were consistently ahead of Scotland in the matter of providing houses, on the basis of proportion of population. Then the Report goes on to use these words:That was mainly due to the fact that while 30,000 houses were built in England and Wales by private enterprise, only one was built in Scotland.We have to get rid of that disproportion. We all know the reason for it. It is due to a large extent to the manner in which our rating system operates. I suggest that this mat[...] must be remedied and I sincerely trust that the Committee which was set up by my right hon. Friend to go into certain aspects of the rating problem may be able to find a satisfactory solution for it and that the Report of that Committee may not long be withheld.
In the course of his remarks, the hon. Member for Linlithgow asked for cooperation. I think it is unfortunate that politics have been allowed to enter into this matter of housing in various localities. I cannot see where on earth any principle of politics is involved at all. The problem is to provide houses for the people, who really do not care how they are provided, or what means are used, so long as houses are forthcoming. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use his great persuasive powers with the local authorities, who may be politically hidebound—I do not care in which direction—and, if necessary, to dragoon them into using every means which can possibly provide houses.
Apart from that particular prejudice, there is also the prejudice against the temporary house. I want to repeat that people must have homes and must have them now and that they will not tolerate for much longer than is absolutely necessary the conditions under which they are 66 forced to live to-day. If the temporary house can be put up more speedily, I suggest that we should accept it gratefully as meeting an urgent need and as probably being capable of filling to some extent the gap at the conclusion of the war till the time when the building industry gets into its stride. I am told that the Government-designed or Portal house can be erected by five men on sites already prepared, in the normal working week. I am very glad to hear from my right hon. Friend that active work is going on now in the preparation of sites. I am informed that skilled labour is not required. There should be little interference with the permanent building programme. Indeed, the temporary house seems to be making a contribution over and above the maximum that the building industry can otherwise provide. I am gratified that my right hon. Friend has obtained such a fair proportion of these Government houses and I suggest that in Scotland we should have the first call on them, in consideration of the fact that our housing conditions are so much worse than they are in England and that no less than 23 per cent. of our houses are overcrowded, as against 4 per cent. in this country.
I think that both the Secretary of State and the Ministry of Works are to be commended on the Government house. It is true to say that it has absolutely no aesthetic qualities and will, therefore, probably require to be very carefully sited. But the rooms are adequate in size, the whole house is a very workable proposition, it is light and airy and a very great advance indeed on conditions existing to-day. If I were to be critical, I would say that, even in the modified house, the bathroom should not be placed where it is, but rather should it be adjacent to the bedrooms. It is highly inconvenient that the only way of getting to the bedrooms from the bathroom should be through the living room. There is another point connected with the washing and drying of clothes which I do not think has been adequately studied. There is no means of drying clothes in the house except for a little cupboard with an electric heater in it, which was never meant for drying clothes which are newly washed. I was told, on being shown round the house, "Of course, the clothes would be dried outside in the open air." That may be a counsel of perfection but there are many days in 67 our country when it is not possible. Apart from that, in the evenings a mother of young children has constantly to wash some of the children's clothes. She must have some place to hang them up. It is essential that a pulley, preferably of the type referred to in the Housing Committee's Report, should be installed in the kitchen. There are many other points which probably the women folk will see. But generally I welcome this house for the purpose for which it is intended, and as meeting a need which could not otherwise be met.
I turn for a moment or two to the building of permanent homes. I presume that stonework, except in certain rural areas, is practically counted out on the question of cost. Apart from that I would prefer brick rather than these synthetic materials—foam slag or even cement or others which it is proposed to use. I think that in certain rural areas at least, the wooden house, if it is properly designed and made on Swedish lines, might well be most acceptable. As my hon. Friend said, brick houses—it is my information also—can be put up just as quickly as any other type. I am also told that a sufficient quantity of bricks could be made available, but the trouble is the shortage of bricklayers. I was glad in that connection to note my right hon. Friend's observations as to the training schemes which the Government were setting up.
Other things being equal, I do not think there is any doubt, as a result of the censuses that have been taken, that the great majority of our people would prefer the cottage type to any other. It has advantages but it has disadvantages too. If it is to be generally adopted then it will mean an extension of suburbia, so far as Glasgow is concerned, right out for miles into the country. If that occurs there will be a great expenditure of time and money in transport between one's home and one's place of work. I feel that homes must be provided in the vicinity of one's place of employment. In that connection I do not know how the local authorities can very well plan unless they have some pretty general idea as to the plans which the Government are laying for the allocation of industry. Then there are these trading estates—in particular I refer to one at Hillingdon—which are generally built right on the out- 68 skirts of the city, and as soon as they are set up immediately introduce a housing problem of their own. I hope that as we are able to clear up the central areas trading facilities will be placed there and the houses grouped round them.
The little blocks of houses we have been building are not, to my mind, enough. They completely lack character and distinction. When I see some of these old terraces in places like Bath I wonder whether something could not be done on those lines. To turn to another point I am told that, due to the difficulty of damping down the noises made by one's neighbours, quite a large number of people would rather have their houses organised vertically than horizontally. If that be so it could very suitably be incorporated in the terraced house. I wonder if housewives would long appreciate that organisation if the houses were more than two storeys high? Having spent a good deal of my life in one of these tall terraced houses I can very well remember the irritation that was caused when anyone wanted anything. They had either to run up or down stairs. I am interested and wonder whether my right hon. Friend can tell us whether any progress is being made in research ill the way of providing a better deadening for our houses. I am interested in that, because I am still very strongly in favour of the large flat on the American type for the central areas of our cities, for my own experience of that type of building is that it can provide comfort and facilities that no other type of building can possibly provide.
Health and housing, as I have said earlier, are very closely connected. The domestic fire pollutes the air of our cities more than any other agency; it is inefficient; you burn in front and at the back you freeze; it is dirty, and a nuisance to the housewife, and I would like to see it done away with. When I went to America I shuddered to think of what I would have to put up with through central heating I had been brought up to believe that it was unhealthy and objectionable. I found I was entirely wrong. I had the greatest comfort, my health was never better, and for that winter in New York I sat with my windows wide open. That system might not be applicable to the cottage type of dwelling, expense may rule that out, but it might well be adapted 69 to meet the needs of terraced houses and larger blocks of flats. I hope that my right hon. Friend will at least take steps to experiment with that system.
For many years to come we must, inevitably, suffer from a shortage of houses. There are many old houses which, with very little expenditure, could be improved out of recognition, particularly in rural areas. Could not something more be done in that direction? Could not there be some more generous financial assistance, or at least could my right hon. Friend not endeavour to obtain a concession from the Treasury whereby money spent on improvements would be added to the maintenance claim for Income Tax? I myself have lived now for a number of years since the war began in what was previously a worker's cottage. It is many years old, but the structure is every bit as good to-day as it was when it was built. It has been reconditioned, and as a result of that, having seen what can be done in that respect, I am very much enamoured with the project of reconditioning these old dwellings. There is, naturally, no damp course, but I found that that defect could be practically eliminated by installing one or two of those tubular electric heaters spoken of in this Committee's Report. If my right hon. Friend can only provide us as he hopes, with cheap electricity, these electric heaters might well solve the problem of damp.
To-day, the costs of building are altogether excessive. Part of that excessive cost is due to the fact that Purchase Tax of 33⅓ per cent. is charged on certain fittings. I refer particularly to drains. I am told that certain Government Departments, when building houses for themselves, get off that imposition, but that the local authorities do not. I think that my right hon. Friend might well take up that question with the Chancellor and endeavour to obtain from him a concession that at least so far as new buildings are concerned, all fittings should be free of Purchase Tax.
In conclusion, might I return to health for a moment? The standard of our people is far too low. There are two items which, as I said at the beginning, bear most strongly on health—housing and nutrition. We are dealing with housing; what are we doing about nutrition? I wish to say this with all 70 respect, that I think that a number of the mothers of to-day are deficient in their knowledge both as to diet and as to cooking. The blame for that I lay in a large degree at the door of education authorities. It is rather strange that my experience is that girls who have been taught cooking at school can produce all kinds of fancy pastry, cakes, etc., but coming to the more staple items they really know little or nothing about it. The cooking of a herring, in which my right hon. Friend is so interested, is quite beyond their ken. That also applies to porridge. I know my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has not a great regard for porridge, but I must say that in these days of rationing I find it fills a very considerable gap.
We all know that the Secretary of State is interested in these matters. They are very important, not only as regards the health of our people but also in regard to the economy of our country. I do hope he will continue to press education authorities to provide facilities for the younger people at least to learn to cook our native food. Nothing would be more deplorable than that the race of Scotsmen should come to be dependent on imported tinned foods, when we have such a great wealth of good native food available to us. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will persevere in that connection, and I hope we shall join with him in going forward together to see that a proper standard of housing is provided, a standard such as our people deserve, and that we will be prepared to put aside all preconceived ideas, pool our knowledge and resources to work together so that we may build that Scotland which we all desire to, see.
§ Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)
I always like to listen to the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith). He always delivers a very thoughtful and interesting speech. I have heard him both here and in the Glasgow City Chamber. If I may say so, it is very difficult to get people to depart from their life's upbringing, and the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok worships at the shrine of private enterprise, conveniently forgetting that free play of private enterprise landed us in the position we are in to-day, as far as housing conditions in Scotland, and indeed in the world, are concerned. The 71 hon. Member himself will admit that our experience when we were colleagues in the Glasgow chamber provides no advertisement for private enterprise. In 2½ years I had to dispense with the services of no fewer than nine bankrupt contractors.
§ Commander Galbraith
Was not that due to the fact that we had always to accept the lowest offer, and that the firms whose offers were accepted were not always suitable to undertake the work?
§ Mr. McKinlay
If a good and adequate reason could be given why those offers should not be accepted, the Department of Health were very helpful. One contractor was "knocked to the boundary for six," and his offer was £5,000 below that of the others. A very useful service was performed for the ratepayers by getting rid of that contractor. What stopped private enterprise from building houses? What is to prevent them building houses now? If the hon. and gallant Member is postulating that we should make public funds available to private enterprise to build working-class dwellings, I could never agree. Persons who are responsible to nobody but themselves should not get grants of public money. It is not so simple to get over the lack of a damp-course in a reconditioned old dwelling by the simple expedient of putting electric radiators or electric tubular heating inside. You will never get rid of damp by internal heating. However, this is not a debate simply between the hon. and gallant Member and myself.
Listening to the speech of the Secretary of State, I thought of the tunes one sometimes hears on the wireless. In the "Scottish Half Hour" you can hear "Loch Lomond" being played in the traditional way. Later on, you will hear some band leader who has altered the tempo, but has kept the tune. Still later, you will hear the same tune, but it has been jazzed up a little, and is known as swing. The Secretary of State, as far as housing is concerned, was playing the same tune, with the tempo somewhat altered. Alterations have been introduced. There has been the Portal house, for instance. I saw the first sample of the Portal house, but I do not propose to see any more until the final specimen is available. It proves that in the initial stages practical experience was lacking. Somebody suggested 72 that we ought to put in pulleys; but what is the use of doing that if, when the clothes are hanging, you have to crawl on your hands and knees to get from one part of the house to another? But this I will say for the Portal house. If I am not mistaken, it is a sample of the things that are to come. I can see the ghost of the Treasury pursuing Lord Portal, and, when any defects in the Portal house are pointed out, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works will have to get into touch with his Noble Friend the Minister, and, in fear and trembling, the Minister will approach the Treasury, and say, "My original estimate of £550 has been too conservative, because improvements have been made, and, if they are given effect to, the estimate will go up by some hundreds of pounds."
I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok that politics came into housing because politics could not be kept out. Now there is general agreement, and at least one wing of the politicians believe that they made a mistake in 1933 in putting an end to ordinary housing requirements. They say, "We should never have done any such thing." I am sure that nobody will quarrel with the suggestion that private enterprise should have its say: I would welcome private enterprise; but not if it is going to build houses with public funds. If public funds are provided, it is essential that elected bodies should have control over the money and over the dwellings that are erected. I find it rather paradoxical that a big portion of my constituency, the whole of the Roseneath Peninsula, should have been purchased from Princess Louise's executors. I have never gone into the question of whether the lands were placed at Princess Louise's disposal by Royal Charter, and whether it is a violation of the Charter, but the trustees from England bought the whole estate. They, in turn, sold the feus to an insurance company, and the remainder—all the arable farms—to an individual. But I presume that if the Dumbarton County Council had asked permission to purchase the Roseneath Peninsula, with a view to development in the county, that would have been more than could have been used in a year's programme.
Does my hon. Friend know whether that particular estate was offered by the executors to the Glasgow Corporation?
§ Mr. Maxton
I think the principal executor, or his heir, is an hon. Member of this House, a Scotsman sitting for an English seat, and I am almost sure that he said to me that he was endeavouring to get this estate taken over by them.
§ Mr. McKinlay
I am not aware of any such approach. There is one elephant in that constituency already. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is it a white one?"] We had a gift which has turned out to be a white elephant as far as Glasgow is concerned—and we accept white elephants as well as white mice. It is possible, throughout the whole of Scotland, for any speculator to buy up land, and the Secretary of State consoles himself by saying, "It does not matter; they will get only 1939 values." He is a wise man who can tell what the value of a particular piece of land was in 1939. On the outbreak of war the papers for compulsory purchase of 700 acres inside the Glasgow city boundaries had been lodged with the Department in Edinburgh. Because of Circular No. 124, which was issued in September, 1939, the papers were returned, and nothing further was done. This is a very desirable building site. I know, because I went over the ground before we opened negotiations. The latest information I have is that there is a possibility of private speculative builders getting control of that ground. I presume that, if they are building on it as a private speculation, they are not required to conform with the standards laid down in any Housing Act by the Central Government Department. I want to know, if local authorities were in the process of negotiating for purchase, or to exercise the powers which they had—and, as far as I believe, which were never taken away—of compulsory purchase, what is the position now? Can the Glasgow Corporation proceed with their compulsory purchase, or must they stand aside, and let private speculative builders purchase this very desirable building site, contiguous to a scheme which exists in Glasgow already? I would like an answer to that question when my right hon. Friend replies.
There is one other very acute point in relation to my constituency. My constituency, in the main, was a reception area, consisting of the most densely-overcrowded part of Scotland, namely, the Vale of Leven. Its problem was inten- 74 sified by the evacuation of people from the bombed areas into the Vale. We do not mind extending hospitality, but I object to evacuated families going into the ranks of the forgotten men, women, and children, because their own local authorities think they have no responsibility for the houses which are provided for these people in order to ease the pressure in the Vale of Leven. The first duty of a local authority, when putting up houses, either emergency or otherwise, is to provide for those people whose houses were destroyed. The local authority should not pass the burden on to an adjoining local authority. I would say this to the Government: Please do not keep the local authorities standing on one leg so long; it is tiresome. Please let them know what your post-war plans are, and under what conditions the temporary houses can be placed at the disposal of the local authorities. If local authorities do not know those conditions, it is no use servicing sites for temporary houses, because, after the temporary housing period has expired, the servicing may be useless. That would mean a duplication of work; and building sites, in the urban areas at least, are not plentiful.
Local authorities do not know under what conditions those sites are to be made available. Is it to be a gift scheme? Are the Government going to provide the whole cost? I hope that the Government will remember, and that the critics who talked about rebates in rent will remember, that there are three elements in connection with finance under the Housing Acts: the local subsidy, the national subsidy, and the rent. The rent is supposed to meet the capital cost of the undertaking, spread over 60 years, although the subsidy is spread over only 40 years. When people talk lightly of reducing the rent, or of building houses at cheaper rents, not different in one year from what they are in another, let us have the whole picture, and let the Government make a declaration showing, if there is to be a substantial reduction in rent, from which of the three items I have mentioned that reduction will be provided. Of the other two elements, is it to be the local authority contribution or the State contribution that is going to make good the loss? I am satisfied that, until such time as the local authorities get positive information on what the Government's future policy will be, although we have discussed housing until we are tired in this House 75 and in the local authorities, nothing definite can be done. May I remind the Secretary of State that, in this House in a Debate last year, an undertaking was given to the House that the Government embargo, whereby the authorities could only acquire sufficient land for one year's programme, was removed, and I think every hon. Member was overjoyed to think shat was so. But it was not removed. They substituted the figure three for the figure one, and they are still playing about, and local authorities do not know what is at the back of the Government's mind.
I think an authority which requires 5,000 houses to meet its requirements, and is anxious to acquire the land for 5,000 houses, whether it is a one-year, two-year, three-year or four- or five-year programme, should be enabled to do it. If the City of Glasgow requires 100,000 houses, my submission is that it is entitled to plan ahead to acquire control of all the land which it requires for future needs, and that this niggling about over one year should stop. Much depends upon what can be done with the labour and materials available. There may be a three-years programme to produce 6,000 houses, but the next three years would not produce 2,000 houses, because it depends on conditions prevailing at the moment. I think we ought to get some declaration on this point from the Minister when he replies.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Certainly all Scottish hon. Members were very interested in the statement of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who gave us a fairly exhaustive account of the state of health of our people in Scotland, and who made some comparisons with the state of matters in England. One thing that struck me was that, whenever you compare with England, you find that the health statistics in England are a good deal better than the health statistics in Scotland. When you compare housing conditions in England with those in Scotland, you find that housing conditions in England are a good deal better than they are in Scotland. I have wondered about that, because, when you think of Scotland alongside England and regard the material resources, mineral resources and so forth, Scotland is a richer country than England, and yet our Scottish people, from 76 the point of view of health statistics and general social conditions, are always a good deal behind as compared with England. The Secretary of State has set up a good many Committees of one kind and another to look into this and that. I wonder if he would consider also setting up now, when there is a tendency for people to look at things apart, possibly, from the hotter political outlook we usually take, a Committee to consider the future government of Scotland, with a possibility of having a plan, after the war, for devolution of government and home rule for Scotland. I put that to him as being worth while in view of the opinion—a growing opinion in Scotland—that we are dragged at the tail of England, and hence the inferiority of conditions in our country.
I want to deal, in the main, with housing conditions in Scotland. I could agree with a great deal of the speech of the hon. Member opposite if he had not dragged in the King Charles's head of private enterprise. I appreciate his courage in mentioning private enterprise in these days, when we think of the world in which we are living and we realise into what a state private enterprise has driven the nations, and when, also, we realise the housing conditions in Glasgow under the subsidy reign of private enterprise. I myself am not a great optimist with regard to future housing plans. Perhaps I have been in this House too long to be an optimist. Many of us came in 1922, and we brought the housing question very much to the fore. One of my late colleagues introduced a great housing Act, but, when it was producing houses, the hon. Members opposite began to grumble about the expense, the subsidy was reduced, and people who themselves had comfortable houses and decent housing conditions reduced the subsidy which prevented other people from getting similar decent housing conditions. Once again we were thrown back. Every time that one begins to get a little more hopeful with regard to the future of housing, there comes the economy campaign and the strong clamour that we cannot afford it, and the people are still living in their miserable housing conditions. That is one of the reasons why I am not too optimistic.
Another reason why I am not so optimistic is in regard to the statement of the Secretary of State about the 2,000 houses. 77 The right hon. Gentleman told us, regarding the second thousand, that the tenders made in that connection were absolutely prohibitive He said there had been a ramp, and I noticed afterwards that he rather sought to apologise for using the word "ramp" and to explain away that he was not blaming anybody when he told us about the figures. I would like the Under-Secretary to tell us the names of the firms who made these tenders and who are responsible for this attempt to exploit the housing needs of the people. I think they should be published. I think the people who would use the necessities of the public in a time like this should not be allowed to tender for anything. It is not good enough for the Government to say to these people "Give us another tender." Criminal proceedings ought to be taken against them for acting in the way they have done, and I ask the Government to take steps to deal with the matter.
Of course, there is a shortage of a lot of things to-day, and this is becoming an epoch of queues. There are a queue for fish, a queue for tomatoes and queues for one thing and another. In all our cities and towns to-day, there are crowds queueing up for things, but there is no doubt, at least, as far as Glasgow is concerned, that the greatest and longest queue is the queue for houses. I have a letter here, part of which I would like to quote:I have tried every way to get satisfaction from the Glasgow Housing Committee, but it seems in vain. I have written to Mr. McCrae, and I only get the same answer—'Wait.' I have had the schedule filled up for 17 years and have renewed it. I am staying in a single apartment, three by four, with closed in beds, and I have twins of six years, a girl of twelve and a baby two years old. My wife and the children sleep in the beds, while I sleep on two chairs.That letter is typical of tens of thousands of cases in Glasgow, and all hon. Members who have any acquaintance with Glasgow are just as well aware of it as I am. I myself have the utmost sympathy for Mr. McCrae in having to deal with this terrible queue. The Government will have to adopt a far more thorough going policy than they show any signs of adopting at present.
The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) mentioned rents, and that this is a question which has to be taken into account very much more than it has been up to the present by the 78 Government. I remember one constituent of mine, living in terrible housing conditions, coming to see me and saying that he had got the offer of a house from the Housing Committee, but that the rent was so high that he simply could not take it. I forget what the rent was at the time, but I think it was about 15s. per week for the size of house that he required. I remember telling him "Let the question of rent be dealt with subsequently, but do not let the chance of the house go." When hon. Members remember the great period of unemployment, when people had to live on their unemployment benefit, they will realise how important is this question of rent.
I am also disturbed because so little is said about the rents of these temporary houses. I interrupted the Secretary of State on the point, and he said they were ready to discuss it with the local authorities. When so many hopes are being raised in regard to these temporary houses, I think he might have given us some indication of the rents at which these houses are likely to be let, because that will have a great deal to do with whether the people will be willing to accept them or not. I have seen somewhere the statement that they would be able to pay £1 a week for them. Well, it simply cannot be done. If there is any idea that people are going to be charged £1 a week for these houses, I say to the Government that many of my constituents will never be able to face up to that situation.
The Secretary of State gave us disturbing figures with regard to tuberculosis. Many of those who have been treated, have to come back and live in slums, and it is only a question of months before they need further treatment in one of the hospitals. The right hon. Gentleman also gave figures with regard to diphtheria and the importance of immunisation. I have submitted a good number of very desperate housing cases in my Division to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I have found that he is always willing to take them up with the Glasgow Housing Committee to see if anything can be done. But at present I am thinking of a case in which the whole family, one after another, have gone down with diphtheria because of the shocking housing conditions. The children recover, then they are down again and back in hospital with some other trouble. Those are the conditions under which our people are living, and I am 79 convinced that we shall have to produce far more houses than are contemplated in any of the programmes.
The Government might have shown far greater care in the way in which building labour has been taken away into the Forces. Everyone has probably had the same experience as I have had. Men in the building industry have written to me from the Army in disgust, because of the work to which they were being put when they might have been far more properly employed for the good of the country if they had been allowed to remain in the building industry. The Government should bring back a lot of these lower-grade men who were in the building industry, and utilise their services in producing houses for the people. I am sure that many thousands of people in the Camlachie area will be ready and willing to take Portal houses, provided the rent is at all reasonable and within their scope. I hope that the Government will show far more energy and efficiency in this matter. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire put his finger right on the spot when he complained of the Treasury coming in and upsetting the possibility of a good local authority, like the Glasgow local authority, getting on with housing schemes in the way that they would like to do, You have to plan well ahead and the Government ought to give far greater opportunities to local authorities. They should be willing to face up to the financial difficulty in a way they have not done in the past, so that a house will be available for every family at a rent that that family is able to pay.
§ Sir Henry Fildes (Dumfries)
It is clear that we are largely pushing at an open door, as it is recognised on all hands that the housing conditions in Scotland are a tragedy and a national rebuke.
§ Mr. Maxton
Does the hon. Member know that we have been pushing at that open door for 22 years in my experience, and for some considerable time before that, and somehow or other we never get through it?
§ Sir H. Fildes
I had the honour and privilege of voting in the same Lobby as the hon. Member when this question was raised some time ago, but I think that it is conceded that the situation must be recognised and that the difficulties have 80 to be removed. There are one or two points I would like to make on this question. I hope that the Secretary of State, or the Under-Secretary, will explain how it is that a state of affairs happens in which you can take a man into a clay pit to dig out some clay, which is pressed into the form of a brick, which is fired and then put on to a lorry and brought to London to the foot of the scaffold, where the bricklayer and his labourer will charge more money for laying a thousand of these bricks than it costs to make them. These things really require investigation. It is said that there is a shortage of labour, yet it has been stated on the Floor of this House that a bricklayer averages something like 240 bricks in a day, when he might well, in view of the distressed condition of affairs, lay 1,000 without undue difficulty. I sympathise to the full with the remarks of the hon. Member on the question of cost, which is very essential. The fixing of an economic rent of something like £1 a week is the way to social disaster. I would like some investigation to be made by the Scottish Office, to see whether we could not all get together with the object of increasing the output of bricks laid. If we could only do that, it would have an influence on the question of rental. I remember in this House 20 years ago drawing attention to the fact that the South African Government——
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Member, but this is a matter of health and housing. As an illustration, the hon. Member can quite well mention the difficulties with regard to bricks, but it is not right to enter into a very complicated argument on the subject of labour. That must have some effect on housing, but that does not entitle the Committee to go deeply into the labour problem. The hon. Member can deal with it as a matter of illustration, yes, but he must not go too far.
§ Major McCallum (Argyll)
I will not detain the Committee as long, I hope, as the time limit of our gentlemen's agreement. Except the last hon. Member who spoke, I think that everyone else has exceeded the limit by quite a few minutes. I would like to follow the subject of rural 81 housing—housing in the landward areas of Scotland, and more particularly in the Highland areas. When the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) spoke I thought that he was going to follow this line, but he rather went back into the urban areas again. As I see it, the problem has one or two facets. There are the temporary solution, and the permanent solution of what is admitted by everybody to be the bad housing conditions in Scotland. I do not propose to deal with it by going into the long old story of the dreadful conditions. They are terrible. Let us see if we can contribute something towards making them better.
As regards the Portal houses, although they may be very satisfactory in many parts of the country, the house on exhibition in London has a roof which is far too flat for such a wet part of the country as the West Highlands. I hope that by the time it gets to Edinburgh or Glasgow, we shall find the roof of the Portal house has a much greater slope on it, and, incidentally, that the ceilings inside have been raised to a certain extent. But there is no doubt that it is a temporary solution of an increasingly acute position, and though I am sure there will be societies like that for the preservation of rural Scotland and amenity committees, who will look with horror on the placing of Portal houses in the glens and on the hills of the Highlands, still, after all, those people will not have to live in them. The people who will have to live in them are those who, at the moment, are crowded up, 14 in one small cottage, and who will be only too pleased to live in these houses whether they are made of pressed steel, or of wood, or of whatever material. Let us have them, and as large a number as possible.
From the temporary solution point of view, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the question of Service camps. When the Service Departments have finished with them they will go, I presume, as they did in the last war, to a Disposal Board for the purpose of getting rid of the camps and their equipment. Local authorities in which I am interested feel very much that, if possible, the Service Departments should be prevented from pulling down these camps, taking out the water supplies and simply wasting what are good sites, good equipment and machinery, so that they may be used for temporary houses even if not 82 for permanent ones. Perhaps he would be able to come to some arrangement with the Service Departments, that they should consult local authorities and give them the opportunity to take over sites, camps, buildings, water supplies, machinery and so on. One local authority feels, and I daresay others do too, that before the Disposal Board—or whatever organisation is established to get rid of these Service camps—disposes of anything to a private individual, the local authority should be given an option first. Then, if they propose to sell a hut, or a part of a camp to some private individual for re-erecting in some part of that local authority's area, the local authority should be consulted before such re-erection is allowed. It might, in fact, be feasible for the Service Departments or the Disposal Board to seek the advice of the local authorities before disposing to private individuals of any of these fitments or buildings or equipment in camps.
There is one other matter, partly temporary, partly permanent, the question of repairs to damaged houses in what are called battle training areas. For security reasons, although we hope these are fast dying out now, I cannot name the particular areas. However, we all know of a fairly considerable amount of destruction which has had to be caused, inevitably, by shell-fire and by schemes carried out with live ammunition. This has destroyed quite a large number, not only of cottages, but of farms and farm buildings. Could my right hon. Friend urge the Departments concerned to assist him or the Scottish Office in having those buildings put into habitable order again? Quite a number, in areas of which I could tell him, are absolutely uninhabitable at the present moment, although only a few months ago they were well-cultivated farms.
There are three requirements to be met for the permanent solution of our housing problem in the Highlands. There is the requirement of replacing what are, definitely, unfit houses. Hon. Members have spoken so far, of the housing conditions in the urban areas, but alas, there are also in the landward areas of Scotland housing conditions which are equally bad and, in many ways, worse than you will find in the urban areas. Therefore, the unfit housing must have first priority in the planning for permanent housing. After that, there is this frightful overcrowding 83 in villages, and in particular, in the county boroughs, which in some instances is really appalling. An hon. Member quoted the number of people living in one room in a house in Glasgow. I could tell of a family of 14 people living in a cottage in Argyllshire consisting of one room only, with no conveniences of any sort, which is simply deplorable. My right hon. Friend said in one of his previous statements, that he would consult the local authorities with a view to developing his housing projects throughout the landward areas. I would like to put in a plea that in dealing with particular areas—shall I say the more out of the ordinary areas such as the West Highlands and the Islands?—he should consult with those county councils in particular, and not necessarily with the Association of County Councils. My own division of Argyllshire has two or three representatives on the Association of County Councils, and when a matter comes up for discussion with my right hon. Friend their little "voices in the wilderness" are outvoted time and time again. Yet conditions to be found in Argyllshire might not be found in the large majority of counties. I ask, therefore, if he could see his way on any particular part of the major problem to consult individual county councils where necessary.
Then in the construction of permanent houses for the West Highlands of Scotland, I suggest—and I am sure all hon. Members will agree with me—that the flat-roofed house, the concrete-floored house, and the concrete-staired house is really not the type of house that will suit the climate of the Highlands, and the West Highlands in particular. I believe, having had many years' experience of living in Moslem countries in the Middle East, and so on, that flat roofs can be weather-tight when they are properly made, but I know of one or two examples in the Highlands which I call atrocities. You might just as well have no roof at all as a flat roof in a climate of that sort. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that, in framing the plans for houses in those areas, in the wetter parts of Scotland, he should not compel local authorities to build these flat-roofed houses or houses with concrete floors. One other small point I would like to bring to his notice. I am told that in the building of these houses there is a very satisfactory method of overcoming damage caused through dry-rot. There is 84 made in England, I believe, a very good reinforced concrete truss for roofing which has been on exhibition either in England or somewhere in Scotland. We might see concrete used thus in a house but we do not want to see concrete flat-roofed houses. I hope my hon. Friend and his advisers in the Department will be able to consider these points which I have put forward from a purely constructive point of view.
§ Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline)
I listened with great interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend. We all want to know how the health of our country is progressing, or otherwise, and in his annual review of health in Scotland we get a picture of what progress we have made during the 12 months that have passed since the last review. The Secretry of State had some little improvement to report to-day but he had also a little retrogression to regret. We are worse in some respects although a little better in others. I hope the improvement in the one direction in reducing infant mortality will be maintained and that we shall have a greater improvement during the next 12 months. We regret the increase in the tuberculosis rate, and I hope that something will be done within the next 12 months to reduce the mortality rate in that direction. Tuberculosis is a very great scourge, and it is regrettable that we have to report from time to time any increase in the number of cases coming up.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that in our area we have a splendid sanatorium built by the joint local authorities in Fife and in Kinross. It stands on a very fine site just above Loch Leven but it is an out-of-the-way place, and part of the remedy which the Secretary of State outlined to-day will I fear be of little value so far as that institution is concerned. They have had difficulty in that institution in getting not only a supply of nurses but domestic staff as well, and I fear that his chance of getting someone from the Women's Voluntary Services to undertake domestic work in such an out-of-the-way institution will not be very great. When you have an institution right out in the country practically miles away from any place of consequence, there is always difficulty in getting labour to staff it. I agree with him that it is a most obnoxious thing to compel women, and young girls especially, to take up work in an 85 institution of that type. Whatever their reasons may be, they have a feeling against it, although the doctor declares that the place is just as safe as any other institution, either for nursing or for domestic work. Certainly the doctor himself has been there since that institution was opened. I was a member of the local authority when he was appointed. He is a very capable and efficient man, with advanced ideas regarding the treatment of tuberculosis.
I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give that doctor, and the local authority, assistance in the staffing of that institution. It serves a very wide area, it is an institution of which the local authorities have every reason to be proud, but if the doctor and his staff are handicapped because they cannot get the nurses and the domestic staff necessary, then undoubtedly a serious situation arises. In fact, during the last 12 months there was a period when the local authority threatened to close part of the institution. They had no option, they could not get the services of the girls required either for nursing or for domestic work, but that was overcome. However, during the whole year practically there has been difficulty with the staff at this institution. Now if we are going to have conditions like that, in addition to the difficulty which the local authorities have in getting patients to go to these institutions the situation becomes impossible. It is no secret that cases are held back. Individuals suffering with the early stages of tuberculosis make no complaints, and cases are never reported. As a matter of fact, in some cases they are not reported until the patients are so far gone that there is little hope of their recovery, no matter when they go into that institution.
I hope the day will arrive when we shall have, not only sufficient institutions and institution staffs, but a proper medical service that will diagnose tuberculosis at an early stage and move patients to an institution where, with proper treatment, there will be some hope of their recovery. In the great bulk 'of the cases that are taken into these institutions the doctor does not get a chance to effect a cure because the cases have gone too far before they are reported and treatment can be given. Consequently, the medical staff have no chance of doing the remedial work that they could do if the cases were reported at an earlier stage. So, I hope that my 86 right hon. Friend will endeavour to keep these institutions properly staffed, although I agree that the one I have mentioned is out of the way.
Most of the Minister's speech was taken up with the question of housing. The last time I spoke in a Debate on the Scottish Estimates I committed myself to the statement that I was prepared to accept anything in the nature of a house, provided I could get it in sufficient quantities to meet the immediate needs of my constituents. That was rather a rash statement to make, and I am not quite sure that I would be prepared to accept anything to-day, because I have seen the Portal house since then and that is a lot better than many other buildings that might be offered to us. I would say to-day that if my right hon. Friend cares to put up 500 of these houses in Dunfermline Burghs tomorrow, before the week-end every one will be occupied even although the ceiling is only seven feet high. [An HON. MEMBER: "Seven feet, six inches."] I am talking about the original house. The ceiling has been heightened by six inches since the first house was shown, and another six inches may be put on before we get the final supply to local authorities. I have no objection to having an eight foot ceiling in a Portal house.
There is another matter I want to raise with the Minister, a matter I have raised before and one with which I hope he will deal. We are told that after the war we shall have a big development in the East of Scotland in the mining industry. I hear that the Fife Coal Company intend to put down two big new pits in Fife. Well, if these pits are to be anything like the Connie Pit which the Company have put down I want to know what will be done with regard to housing the miners who will be employed. There are certain dangers which I hope my right hon. Friend and his Department will keep in mind. In the past, when new collieries were opened, it was the custom not only for the colliery company but for individuals who could afford it, to build houses near the collieries. In a number of areas in Fife, not only in my constituency, we have had many houses—in some cases whole villages—destroyed by underground workings, and I hope that in siting the new colliery villages my right hon. Friend's Department will keep a very strict eye on the matter to 87 make sure that streets and villages will not be undermined within the course of a few years. I do not think the Department will be doing anything unreasonable if they ask to be assured that any houses which are to be built in connection with colliery undertakings will not be ruined by underground workings. One of the burghs I represent has had every street more or less destroyed by these workings. I do not think there is one street in the whole town that has escaped damage. I had the experience of living in a house for nearly 30 years, in which I used to lay in bed and feel the vibration of the shots that were being fired below ground. That happened every time a seam was being taken out.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I do not think this matter comes within the province of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Watson
That may be, Sir Charles, but I think it does in regard to the siting of new villages that are to be erected, by, or in connection with, colliery undertakings. I was drawing the attention of my right hon. Friend to the fact that new houses might be wrecked in a short time by underground workings, and I was suggesting that the Department of Health for Scotland might keep an eye on the matter. In my constituency a considerable number of privately owned houses were destroyed and in the adjoining village, where the houses belonged to the colliery company, they, too, were destroyed to some extent. Yet nothing stood in the way of the colliery company working their mine, and what I am asking my right hon. Friend to do is to see that sites will be carefully selected for new colliery houses which we may get in Fife after the war.
There has been some discussion, not only to-day but previously, on the question of temporary, as apart from permanent, houses. So far as I am concerned, I would like to see all houses built of stone, because there is nothing finer than a stone built house. At the same time I should not like to see stone houses such as we had many years ago, with no damp-proof course and which, although the walls were 18 inches to two feet thick, were destroyed by damp. As I have said, I would prefer stone houses 88 if they could be obtained, but there is no question of that now because local authorities could not afford them. But there are brick houses which can be made very attractive, and I hope the permanent houses to be erected in the future will be brick built. We do not want the concrete houses which we have had to accept during the war. I, and other people, much prefer brick houses to concrete houses.
A fine point arises in connection with permanent houses. Are we to build them in such a way that they will be as completely out of date, some years hence, as some of the houses that have been built in the past, and which are still in use, although they should have been demolished long ago? We built too well in the past and we are suffering from that to-day. We should not build houses that will last for 60 to 100 years. We have houses in Scotland that were built over no years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "300."] Something less substantial would do, even for our permanent houses, because our ideas change from time to time, as we have seen during the last 20 years and, more recently, in connection with the Portal houses. If we agree to these temporary houses we fear that they will be kept on beyond their time. So long as somebody wants accommodation they will be used. I have in mind the experience we had in Rosyth. When the dockyard was built a perfect tin town was erected to accommodate Irish workmen. The idea was that as soon as permanent houses were built the tin town would disappear, but that did not turn out to be the case. They were kept on for a long time afterwards, and that is one of the dangers we have to face. If a temporary house is built to last 10 years its allotted span should be 10 years and no longer. If it is in a habitable state after that time and there is a demand for houses, you can depend upon it that it will be occupied.
I do not want to keep the Committee more than a minute or two longer, beyond the time which we have voluntarily agreed on, as being sufficient in which to air our grievances. I hope my right hon. Friend will take note of the points I have raised with him both as regards the Sanatorium, which is a serious matter so far as Fife is concerned, and new sites for houses that may be erected, either of a temporary or permanent nature.
89 I want to express my thanks to the Secretary of State for having given two burghs in my constituency 20 houses each of the 2,000 that he has been scattering about Scotland. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the local authorities are very pleased to have them, and I want to know when the next allocation will be made. We want more houses. In spite of the fact that we have had some new houses during the period of the war, there is still an enormous demand for houses, and, in fact, you cannot get even lodgings, let alone houses, in my area, and that is the reason I say that even if the Portal house is not all that could be desired, we could do with some hundreds of them in my constituency. If we had them every one would be occupied as speedily as furniture could be got into them. Whether it is to be the temporary or the permanent house, I hope the Secretary of State will go on along the line on which he has been going so far and try to make our country even better than it is now.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)
During the year which has elapsed since we last discussed housing and health in Scotland we have had laid before us a number of very important official papers such as the White Paper on the National Health Service and the voluminous Report of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. It would be churlish to deny that the Report of the Scottish Housing Committee is one of the most attractive and readable official papers ever published, and I offer my congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State upon its production, although I would Eke to add the warning that we have now had enough literature and what people want are the houses—and that with as little delay as possible.
I want to impress upon my right hon. Friend that fact by mentioning a little personal story. One Saturday afternoon, a few weeks ago, I was seeing constituents when a party of ladies descended upon me and explained that they were the employees of the printing firm in Edinburgh which had produced the Report of the Advisory Committee and, moreover, were actually the operatives who had been doing the printing and the binding of the Report. They said they had studied it carefully and approved of its contents 90 very much indeed, but were afraid that the various plans and proposals made therein might never come to fruition and. might be pigeon-holed, and they asked me to do my best to see that that fate did not overtake them. I readily and heartily gave that assurance, and now I am asking my right hon. Friends at the Scottish Office to make sure that they lose no time in going ahead with the practical and constructive side of our housing policy.
There are just two points I want to touch on briefly which relate to housing policy, and neither of which has been mentioned so far in the course of this discussion. The first concerns the question of the owner-occupier. I believe that many hon. Members opposite believe that the State or the local authorities should own all houses and should let them out to people. I take an opposite view. I should like to see as many people as possible in this country owning their own houses with possibly a little piece of ground for a garden, or something of that nature.
§ Mrs. Hardie
Is my hon. Friend aware that a man must have some security before he can buy a house and that workers often have to change their homes in order to be near their work?
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison
I quite agree. This is an ideal policy and one we could not hope to see achieved 100 per cent., but it is one we ought to encourage. I say that because we should then have a large part of the nation as small independent proprietors. There are two very good reasons why we should encourage the ownership of houses. The first is that, human nature being what it is, the man who owns his own house will probably take better care to keep it in good condition than would a tenant and, therefore, the house will have a longer life than if it belonged to a landlord and was transferred from tenant to tenant. That would mean that there would be some economy by the preservation of the house itself. Secondly, the ownership of any property, perhaps more especially house property, brings with it a sense of responsibility which is in turn a source of stability to the State itself. As I have just said, we are nowhere near the ideal of everybody owning his own house, but I believe the Secretary of State is as interested in this point as I am, and. I 91 think his Advisory Committee is at present looking into it, but I would ask him, or the Under Secretary of State, to go into the question of the operation of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts. I should particularly like to see these Acts being operated to a greater extent than they are at present, and, furthermore, I hope he will maintain close contact with the building societies who, I am sure, will be willing to co-operate with him in achieving this end of having more owner-occupiers.
The second point I want to mention is one which I have raised in this House on previous occasions. It concerns the modernisation of tenement property and is one which I believe the Advisory Committee is also looking into at the present time. Of course, a great deal of tenement property, unfortunately, is very dilapidated, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) has pointed out, and much will have to be demolished in the post-war years, but I think there are considerable blocks of tenements in the cities and larger burghs which could be saved and made serviceable if drastic internal improvements were made to them. I hope that my right hon. Friend's Advisory Committee will go into this matter and will pay due regard to the findings of the 1933 Whitsun Committee which studied the subject very closely, because it is my personal belief that if the suggestions made by the Whitsun Committee had been embodied in legislation a good many buildings might have been saved for future use which will now, in all probability, have to be scrapped.
Many hon. Members have touched on the question of health and some more will doubtless do so, and, therefore, I do not propose to go into that to-day beyond stressing this one most important point. The most essential single factor in the health of the nation, in my opinion, is the provision of better housing conditions. That point is brought out very strongly by the British Medical Association in the paper that they issued about the National Health Services. Paragraph 7 runs:Health is not mainly a question of medical services. The public must not be misled into believing that good health depends chiefly on hospitals, or clinics, or doctors or bottles of medicine, or indeed upon organisation. Among the principal factors which determine the people's health are sanitation, provision of public water, housing, nutrition, conditions in 92 factory and office, facilities for recreation and education. Here is ample room for improvement, and for action by the State.I do not believe that any amount of organisation or reorganisation of medical services will by itself bring about any material improvement in the nation's health unless and until we have as a foundation stone good sound houses, fitted with modern sanitation and proper water supplies available for the mass of our people. I hope, therefore, that in the coming year the Secretary of State will do everything possible to advance the housing programme, both long term and temporary, and that he will keep close touch with the Minster of Labour to see that the necessary building operatives, or at least as many as possible, are forthcoming to carry out the task of building in the coming year.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
The Minister has made a very frank and a very terrible statement on housing and health. I have visited several sanatoria and other institutions during recent years and I know the difficulties exist in regard to staffing and very special efforts must be taken to overcome the difficulties and to make it possible to utilise all the beds that there are. It is almost incredible that in such a country as Scotland we should have such infantile and maternal death rates and such a high incidence of tuberculosis. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) says we should all be prepared to pull together in order to overcome this terrible attack on the health of the community and, in pulling together, get rid of preconceived ideas. I have heard that so often, but hon. Members will not get rid of preconceived ideas. Why are not our medical men organised? They are very valuable. They can make a great contribution if organised so that we can get the best results from them. But hon. Members opposite say there must be private practice. If private practice is such a desirable thing, why is it not operated in the Army? I want to warn the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Renfrewshire (Major Lloyd). Two or three young people were sentenced at Newcastle yesterday for inciting apprentices. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is carrying on a deliberate policy of inciting doctors to oppose being organised in order to get the best results for 93 the health of the people. If these lads should go to gaol, the hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to go to gaol.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Is it not the case that the hon. Member is now discussing forthcoming legislation, and is doubly out of Order in also suggesting that there is anything disorderly about desiring to draw attention to the dangers of a forthcoming change, which is a different thing from attempting to stop a change that is being made? I am warning him that he is also in grave danger of arrest.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am not anticipating forthcoming legislation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is anticipating it and is already inciting to disobedience.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I hope to have an opportunity of visiting the hon. and gallant Gentleman in a Scottish gaol. It will give me great pleasure to go and see him there. The important thing is that the medical services, just like the nursing services, must be organised if we are going to tackle this terrible question of infantile and maternal mortality and the high incidence of tuberculosis. How is it possible to deal with it unless we have organisation? There is another matter in which we do not get rid of preconceived ideas. Someone has been to a sanatorium and come back to the slums or crowded streets. No proper arrangements are made for accommodating these people when they go to a clinic and there is a tendency for the disease to come back. Every large house in the country districts should be taken over and used for rehabilitation or cure. Not a large house in the country should be left at the disposal of any single family.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Does the hon. Member suggest that people should be compelled to live in them and be arrested if they go out? A previous speaker complained that he could not get domestic staff to live in a large house.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The question of domestic staff will be gradually overcome as the days of war pass by and in many of these cases there might be a measure of cooperation which would eliminate the need 94 for any great domestic staff. Every one of these houses should be used for the health of the people.
§ Commander Galbraith
Most of these big houses have been already surrendered or taken over by the Government.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Many may have been taken over for military purposes, but the owners are eagerly waiting to regain possession. I know that the people at Gleneagles are eagerly waiting to get it back from the very valuable service it is giving now for the use of the parasites who will occupy the golf course. All that the Minister can say is, not that we can keep Gleneagles as a rehabilitation centre, but that if he does not keep it he will seek a building equally suitable. The health and well-being of the people should be the first consideration. The Minister says he is anxious that some financial assistance should Toe given to make it possible for more building workers to be trained, but one of the things which we should consider is more financial assistance to ensure a great procession of young people passing through the medical courses in order to provide sufficient doctors and nurses. If there were the necessary financial assistance so that any young lad could get training as a doctor, whether he had the money or not, it would help very much from the point of view of organising the medical profession.
The big question, of course, is that of housing. Here again, are we all going to pull together? The basic trouble in the housing problem is land and materials.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We will get the labour as the clouds of war pass. Labour is organised and, through an understanding between the unions and the Government, it can be and will be directed. It is not labour that has been the trouble in the past.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Surely the hon. Member will not deny that there were vacancies in the building trade for labour that was urgently needed for the whole year and every year before the war, and that that is the reason houses have not been built in Scotland.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There were any amount. It was not building workers who were responsible for holding back houses: it was land and materials. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I will make a proposition to Members opposite if they want to pull together, if they will get rid of preconceived ideas. If they will agree to the compulsory taking over of the land and the compulsory controlling of materials, I will agree to any proposal with regard to building labour.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Is there anybody who has been unable to build houses because of the inability to get land?
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is because of the difficulties with land and materials that you get the price of £1,800 which the Minister mentioned instead of £900.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Is the hon. Member denying that the main reason for that £1,800 is a shortage of labour? I tried to get a cottage built, and the main difficulty was that the contractor could not get the labour to build it. That is why the price is put at that figure.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot get rid of preconceived ideas, no matter what arguments are used. The scarcity of labour has nothing whatever to do with such a price.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Will the hon. Member believe me when I say that the land was there for nothing, the services and material were there for nothing, and yet the house was going to cost £1,800?
§ Mr. Gallacher
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman tells me that the land is there for nothing and the material and services are there for nothing. You get me these conditions for the main house-building in Scotland, and I will guarantee to get the labour.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Will the hon. Member get it for one house? I have got the site. I shall be only too glad to have it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Nobody can build one house for himself because of the special conditions laid down by the Ministry. You get me in Scotland the land, materials and other services cheap or free, 96 and we will get the labour and the houses at rents the people can afford to pay. Unless we get rid of the right of anybody to charge big prices for the land or to hold up materials and charge big prices for them, we must expect the high prices mentioned by the Secretary of State.
We want at the earliest moment the greatest possible number of permanent houses. I could cite the most appalling cases of the conditions that exist and of people with large families packed into one or two rooms. When the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) spoke about 14 in a one-roomed house, an English Member said to me, "This is not true, is it?" I said that it was true and that it was not uncommon in Scotland. I told him that the housing conditions in Scotland were simply appalling, and that unless one had had experience of it one could not believe that such conditions could exist. The English Member said, "What is the matter that Scottish Members should tolerate such conditions?"
The matter is that Members on the other side continually talk about pulling together, but they cannot give up their preconceived ideas, and so they pull against each other. That is why we do not get the housing problem solved in Scotland. We are up against big difficulties with Scotland being operated here from London. That is why there is a demand that there should be a Legislature in Scotland. If we could only pull together we could get things done, but we can never pull together because the Tories are determined to hold on to private property and private enterprise and private profits. These are their gods, and the health of the people is sacrificed to them. The sacrifices are infant and maternal mortality. I say to the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok and others, that day after day they are laying on the altar the Scottish mothers and children and doing them to death in the interests of private landowners, private enterprise and private property.
I want as many of the temporary houses as we can get in Scotland because they can be of great value in the housing conditions that exist. The second Portal house, with the modifications that are introduced, is a big advance on the first 97 house. It is not so much to look at from the outside. When I was at school we had a sentimental verse which went something like this:The cottage was a thatched one,The outside old and mean;But everything within that cotWas humble, neat and clean.The outside of the Portal house is not much to look at, but inside the conveniences and the rooms are attractive. By comparison with the tenement houses in Glasgow, Greenock and other centres and the dreadful conditions under which the housewife has to work in the scullery, the kitchenette in the Portal house is a housewife's dream. For the relief of those who are packed in the slum tenements and in the terrible streets of our cities, we should get as many Portal houses as possible. There are people in Greenock who are fighting to be allowed to remain in condemned property rat-ridden and disease-ridden because it is the only place for them, and for such people the Portal houses would be very valuable.
I would like to say something about the terrace house. I made a suggestion to some of the Glasgow councillors and provided them with drawings, showing that one of the, vilest slum areas in Glasgow could be made into one of the most beautiful terrace housing schemes anywhere in the country. Because of the character of the site there was an opportunity of making that slum area into one of the most attractive areas in the city. I say to the Secretary of State for Scotland, "Get the Department driving ahead for houses." "Houses" is the cry of the people everywhere. Have great plans prepared. We read the other day that the Prime Minister spoke about the possibilities of early victory. Have the plans prepared, and labour will be available. I say to the Minister and to the Government, "Take control of the land, the materials and of the medical services, get all the resources of our country of Scotland and organise them. Do not leave them to anarchy. Organise them and direct them, in the best interests of the health and well-being of the people."
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The Debate is greatly improving. There was a certain danger of its falling into the sort of apathy which is perhaps the most fatal of all the things which can happen to a Scottish Supply Day. We are indebted to the hon. Member for West 98 Fife (Mr. Gallacher) for having livened things up a bit. I do not think we are indebted to him for his main contention that we should get rid of what he called preconceived ideas, by which he meant other people's preconceived ideas, while his own remain absolutely untouched and unshaken. He kept on repeating, as if it were a sort of incantation: "Get us the land, and the labour will be there." Did he not listen to the proposals and the arrangements which have been made for labour by the Secretary of State for Scotland?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I imagine that the Secretary of State should be as keen to provide finance for doctors as he is keen to provide finance for other projects.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
It is because of the preconceived ideas of the hon. Member, rather than the preconceived ideas of other people. It is a. dangerous thing that the Secretary of State has said. He said there were going to be 200,000 extra building workers. We can all work out the figures for ourselves. Instead of having 1,200,000 workers we are to have 1,400,000 workers; how many extra building days' work does the hon. Member for West Fife think that will mean? Does he think that the solution of the Scottish housing difficulty is to be found in putting seven men to work at building where six were at work before the war? He was commending to the Committee an arrangement with the trade unions, and telling us to go and commandeer the land and the materials and put Acts on the Statute Book so that anybody who wanted land for building could get it without the slightest difficulty. Has anybody ever known public housing held up in Scotland for the want of land?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I was the Minister responsible for Scottish housing in this House at one time, and no local authority ever came to me and said it could not get land for housing, or I would have put an Act on the Statute Book right away. I am talking of things which happened years ago in Scotland, when the shortage of housing there was not being eaten into at 99 anything like the rate it was being eaten into in England. Why was that? One answer is that in England they built by private enterprise and public enterprise, while in Scotland we build only by public enterprise. In England there were men enough to handle the materials while in Scotland there were not. There were vacancies on the Scottish employment exchange registers for plasterers for years on end. They are absolutely indispensable workers. You cannot paint a house that has not been plastered. You cannot put furniture into raw brick walls. You must have the house completed before the housewife can go into it. No workers came forward to do that job.
Did I not go down to Scotland with the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and did we not have a conference to try to get a supply of labour? Did we not say to every trade union in Scotland that there would be five, .10 or 15 years' permanent work? Could we get it? No. Could we get them to build houses for the workers to get our people out of these rotten, disease-infested hovels that every Secretary of State for Scotland has deplored on the Floor of this House? No.
§ Mrs. Hardie
Why did not the Government of which the right hon. and gallant Member was a Member, start to train some of the unemployed workers that were hanging around?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that great luxury building was taking place all over England and big money was being offered? Is it not due to the ramp of private enterprise working for people who had made piles of money out of the war and who were building palaces for themselves and thereby preventing the housing of the workers? If the labour had been controlled, organised and directed, there could have been plenty of labour for Scotland.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Really the hon. Member continues in his preconceived ideas. He is a member of a trade union. Does he think that rates are not arranged? Does he not realise that these things are fixed by negotiation? What does he 100 think the unions would have said if it had been suggested that we should stop down on luxury building in order to turn to cottage building? Time and again we considered that suggestion after the last war, but it did not work. The structure of a trade is very much more complicated than that. You simply cannot say: "Let's stop this and turn everybody on to that." I repeat that cottage building in Scotland was very gravely impeded for the lack of plasterers, that there were for years vacancies on the books of the employment exchanges for plasterers offering them trade union rates and conditions, and that no plasterers came forward to take those jabs.
§ Mr. MacLaren
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously suggesting that the rotten condition of housing in Scotland, that is equal to the worst in Europe, has been caused by lack of plasterers?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I am suggesting that the lack of plasterers contributed to those rotten housing conditions. The only way to remedy those conditions is by building new houses, and if there is not someone to plaster the houses that means the lack of an indispensable link. I want to call attention to the fact that these conditions will not be remedied under the present proposals. To get seven men at work instead of six is not going to be the end of the housing shortage in Scotland at anything like the rate that any of us want. We talk of the steel houses. I have had something to do with steel houses. I have commended the auxiliary housing programme to the people of Scotland, of this country and the Committee of the House of Commons time and again. I only wish they had taken my advice. I only wish they had gone in to a much greater extent than they did for an auxiliary housing programme, especially when I see the Portal house. I am no advocate of it as an oil painting. I believe that the Weir house was ten times as good to look at. [Interruption.] I did not get anybody to say that at the time.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
What world are they living in when they talk of these as temporary houses? We talk of getting 100,000 of these in Scotland. How long 101 will it be before we can pull down 100,000 houses? The proposal is that there shall be 100,000 houses and that we can pull down those 100,000 houses. We shall all be in our graves before that happens. [Interruption.] I am sure I have been saying in the mildest and most harmonious way, in an attempt to promote harmony, in the most anodyne fashion, platitudes which I thought would commend themselves to hon. Members on the other side of the Committee. I want briefly to say that the programme for permanent building is not enough. The proposals for the labour supply to handle the materials are not adequate. Seven men instead of six will not solve the Scottish housing difficulty. As to the temporary programme, that programme in Scotland is something, and must be something, to be considered on a different basis from the way in which it is being considered in England.
It may be that in England we shall get housing sufficient to allow these to be treated as temporary houses, to be torn down in 10 years or less. It may be, but I do say that the date in our country when we can pull down 100,000 houses is a date somewhere in the Greek Kalends. Therefore, I put to the Secretary of State these two practical proposals in connection with steel housing. I would suggest, first of all, that the type is not a type which could be put down in great numbers in Scotland with any reason to be pleased with the resulting amenity. I think there are two points on that. First of all, a simple practical point. The flat roof makes it look like a coal shed. My hon. Friend opposite was speaking of the danger of a flat roof in a wet and snowy country such as ours, where there is a great chance of the accumulation of water, either from heavy rain or melting snow, running down the inside of the house and ruining the property of the people inside. It may be that they have dealt with that problem. The flat roof is a thing which is all very well in a temporary house which you are going to get rid of in a few years, but in Scotland, I make this prophecy, we shall have to live with these houses for 20 years, a period which will see most of us out.
I beg the Secretary of State to put the point of view to Lord Portal and those who are dealing with this that in Scotland it is a quasi-permanent house and must be treated on that basis. The other 102 thing I would say to him with all the seriousness I can urge is to make one, two, 10, 20 of them, make them with chisels and saws and hammers, make them by hand, but make them, and put a housewife into them to live there. It is only by somebody living in a house that one finds the advantages and disadvantages. This is a prototype. We are accustomed now to flow production of the practical prototype. No one ever takes a prototype aeroplane and looks at it, even at a full size model, and says "We will put this into flow production and commit our whole resources to the making of such a thing." The Portal house is only a full-sized model until it has been used for the purpose for which a house is intended, which is not to be inspected by local authorities or Members of Parliament, but to be inhabited. Until a house has been inhabited you cannot say that the whole of the resources of the engineering of this country ought to go into its flow production. Of course, a prototype will cost a great deal more. It may well cost several thousand pounds. Your early specimens might cost several thousands of pounds apiece, but that is nothing to committing flow production to an unsatisfactory article. To put that straight costs hundreds of thousands of pounds. I do say now that to-day somebody should be set to work, some small squad, to make a few, a dozen, two dozen, of these houses by hand.
These houses, of course, are not in flow production just now. They cannot be until the gates of the factory are drawn open for the staffs to come in and the stations are open to bring the materials of every kind that are needed there. But it is not an engineering solution to a problem to take a prototype model and say, without testing under service conditions, "We shall put this into flow production." The Portal house ought to be lived in. Until it has been lived in I do not think it is safe to say it is a suitable house to put into flow production. These are simply two ideas. There are a great many others I should like to put but there are many who have ideas they would like to put before the Committee and who have not had a chance of speaking yet. I should have liked to say a word on health, which is of very great importance. I refrain from that because I want to hammer home my two points; the first that 103 a long-term building programme of seven men as against six will not eat into our difficulty in Scotland. The other is that the short-term building programme is something which in Scotland is utterly different from England; in Scotland it is semi-permanent, in England it may well be temporary.
§ Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy)
I do not propose to follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), except to say that I have always understood that the Portal house was a temporary house, to meet immediate needs. If one were to follow his suggestion, it would mean turning out one of those houses, putting a tenant in for 10 years, and then deciding whether it was suitable. It would be better to get on with our permanent housing programme. Let me get back to the picture which was painted by the Secretary of State when he spoke about health conditions in Scotland, and compared those of 1938 with those existing at present. He proved conclusively that health, with one very serious exception, has been on the up-grade since 1938. I think it is more than a coincidence that, during that same period, wages have been at their best and there has been a fairer distribution of the most necessary foods. There are definite reasons why tuberculosis is on the up-grade. For the first time in many years, the health machinery has had an opportunity of being tested. Much has been said about infant mortality. The constituency which I represent now has an infant mortality rate of 46 per thousand, which is the lowest in Scotland, although I agree with the Secretary of State that even that is far too high. I have come to the conclusion that this is a result of better wages, a fairer distribution of food, and the extension of hospital services, with the opening of emergency hospitals.
I should imagine that, before anything is done to alter the health services, as run by the local authorities, serious consideration would be given to this fact. A division in the maternity services has been suggested, with maternity hospitals being taken away from the local authorities, and the domiciliary midwifery service, at the same time, remaining in the hands of the local authorities. I have never known a case where splitting anything has made it 104 better or stronger. I should imagine that the conditions now existing in the maternity services should be taken seriously into consideration before those services are disrupted. The same thing applies to the services relating to infectious diseases. It is proposed that the service for treating infectious diseases should be taken over by the hospital boards, while the investigating side is to remain in the hands of the local authorities. I suggest that these services should come entirely under one wing or the other. Serious consideration should be given to the matter before anything is done to interfere with the improvement which has been shown during a period when wages have improved, unemployment has been practically nonexistent, and food has been distributed on a fairer basis. I think that the closest collaboration between the medical services, including the welfare service, should be maintained. It is essential that an early and up-to-date diagnosis should be made of diseases to prevent them becoming acute. It has been proved conclusively by the Secretary of State that prevention is better than cure. The Department would be well advised to spend much more on preventive measures, so that it may be able to spend much less on curative measures.
Much has been said about housing, and about the temporary houses in particular. I think that the idea is a good one, and the Department should be commended for making this house available for public inspection and sounding public opinion. The advantage of that is shown by the fact that during the exhibition of the house some improvements have been suggested, and, no doubt, others will be suggested. I would suggest, respectfully, to the Secretary of State that consideration should be given to the type of permanent homes that people will have after the war. We must see whether the type of house which was subsidised by the Government in the past will stand up to the criticisms which the Portal house has had. In the locality where I reside, the houses have a much better appearance outside than the Portal house has, but inside they have no privacy. They are usually built in blocks of four, and the voices of people next door or on a different floor can be heard clearly. In fact, a single wireless set would do for each block of four houses. One thing that people desire is complete privacy. The 105 houses built by the Government, or with the help of subsidies, should be homes, and not a sort of community hall, where on a wet evening, when everybody is at home, you almost need to appoint a chairman before you can carry on an intelligent conversation in your own home. That may sound exaggerated, but the voices of people, speaking in an ordinary tone, on the other side of a wall can be heard in these houses.
There is a tendency in rehousing schemes to build everything in the centre of the community, without considering the people on the fringes, who also desire the amenities which are usually enjoyed. Provision should be made for community halls, where people can meet socially without having to take long journeys. The same consideration applies to playgrounds for children. It is not a good thing removing children from slums to the outskirts of a town, and giving them no other place to play in than the streets. In many instances now, owing to extensions of towns, housewives have long distances to travel for shopping. Full provision should be made for community halls, playgrounds, and shopping centres.
Another important matter, which was mentioned by the Secretary of State, is rents. In a district which I have represented in the past, pit-head workers were earning 33s. a week, and were called upon to pay 10s. a week in rent. No matter how good a house may be, no one can enjoy decent health if a third of his wages goes to pay rent.
Even on the low scale of the rents in the district in which I live, a man had to pay, out of half a working week of 32s., 10s. for rent and rates, and a man in that situation could obviously look forward to no measure of health. It meant that, to keep him family, he had approximately £1 a week.
I welcome the statement made by the Secretary of State in regard to building houses for letting. It is true that in the past a subsidy has only been granted for slum clearance, though that was a very desirable thing, and we cannot eradicate these slums too quickly. At the same time, overcrowding was considered as being a fit subject for subsidies, but, as a result of that policy, there has been no housing for general letting purposes. Therefore, I welcome the Minister's state- 106 ment that such a thing will be possible, and I think that housing for all should be the idea, in spite of the fact that all of us are anxious to get rid of the slums and overcrowding. I hope that that is something that will be carried out to the fullest possible extent. Meantime, I would again suggest that the closest possible collaboration with existing local machinery carrying out health measures should be fully explored before any alteration is made, because, in many cases, local authorities have already established services under a single control and it would be a backward step to split them up.
§ Sir Edmund Findlay (Banff)
May I first congratulate the Committee, and, if I may without being out of Order, this House, on the speech which the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Hubbard) has just made? I am sure we all welcome him to this House, and I hope we shall hear many more speeches such as that which he has just made. I agree, I would say, with almost too per cent. of what the hon. Member said, and he gives me a point with which to continue. Be asks that there should be the closest possible co-ordination of the machinery in the health services, and I would ask the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary that further discussion should take place between them, the local authorities and the voluntary associations. Maybe I am pre-judging the issue. Maybe fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but I would hope to prevent a crisis in heaven. I believe that, particularly in the rural districts, there is a danger that the gap which presently exists between the Queen's Nurses, the Maternity Service and the services which are given by the health visitors militates against the health of young children. At present the maternity services of the Queen's Nurses or of the doctors usually last only about twelve days, and it may be some six months before the district or health visitor is able to pay her call.
As a layman it is a little difficult for me to make any pronouncement, and, therefore, I would like to quote from the Boyd-Orr Report that this first six months is the time in which serious trouble in regard to nutrition may occur, and that 43 per cent. of infant deaths are due to faulty nutrition. I hope that, as a result of the better services, better employment and better conditions, faulty nutrition 107 may be reduced, but at the same time, in a number of cases, faulty nutrition is due to ignorance. Women are obstinate people, with all deference to the hon. Lady opposite, and a mother is much more likely to take advice on nutritional problems from the nurse who has brought the baby into the world and in whom she has confidence resulting from a successful birth than from someone who arrives later. I want to make it quite clear that this is a purely psychological problem, and not in the least an attack on health visitors. It would be most unfair to attach health visitors, but I would like the Secretary of State to do his very best to see that these services are not kept apart. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy hoped they would not be, but that closer relations between them would be brought about. If you can do that without overlapping—with children, I am not so interested in cash as in efficiency—you could provide a much better service. I would like to see a combined, easy-working service which would carry that child into school, so that, when the school inspection was made, there would be people there who would be able to give the case history of the child and its condition, so that easier diagnosis could be made. I impress upon the Minister that he should go as far as he can to get agreement between the various people who are, in their own way, doing their very best to combine to give a complete service.
When you have got your child at school, there is a feeling in the country districts that it is not necessary to provide meals for it. I would ask the Minister for his good offices in this respect. This might require legislation, and, therefore, I must be careful, but I think he should insist that even country children should get a mid-day meal. There is an old-fashioned idea about sandwiches. I have been fishing a thousand and one days, and you go down to the river and eat half-a-dozen sandwiches and get half-filled with bread and nothing else. It is quite cheaply done. If you could give the children soup, I have no doubt the local farmers could provide them with kale and potatoes, and, occasionally, fish. They could also provide rabbits. The children could thus get a good hot stew. I do not see how you can teach children on jammy pieces.
I notice particularly in the Boyd-Orr Report, which no hon. Member has yet 108 mentioned, that the doctors have learned a great deal about illness, but nothing about health. It should be impressed upon the "powers that be" that finding out the diets which can keep children in health is a subject which is, in the words of the Report, "lamentably neglected." My own doctor told me—and I do not say that it is only doctors; sometimes it is nurses and sometimes wives—that he found so few people who were able to cook an invalid meal, that he went through a cookery course himself so that he could teach the people who were looking after the patients. Attention to the dietics of healthy people is in many ways almost as important as curing them, because, if they are healthy, they will not need curing.
There is another problem which also has worried me, in particular, in Banff, which is a widely scattered county. We have very little transport for sick people. It is going to be the policy of the Government, and rightly, to regionalise hospital service so that you can have your real experts concentrated, but you must provide ambulances. There is in this report a suggestion of 900 ambulances, which—and I am open to correction—are chiefly for war casualties due to enemy activity. If you are to run an efficient hospital service, you must have good transport facilities, and in many parts of the rural districts of Scotland I do not believe there is an ambulance within 50 or 60 miles. A case occurred recently when one of my constituents had to go into Aberdeen 60 miles away for an operation. He paid the £5 in order to go there. I got the petrol after argument with the Minister of Fuel and Power, because there is no petrol for ambulance purposes. That must be put right. It is no good having transport unless you can summon it. As speed is so essential in a great hospital service, you will need, in the rural areas of Scotland, speedy communications. I put this forward as a new idea, that the Secretary of State might come to an agreement with the Postmaster-General so that certain telephones might be allocated to districts where they can be used so that an emergency summons can be sent for a doctor or a district nurse.
There is only one other point I want to make and it relates to a question which I am not certain that the Under-Secretary may be able to answer. It has been worrying a lot of farmers, both large and small, in the north of Scotland. The 109 Secretary of State will announce a housing policy very shortly, and the local councils will draw up plans, but the point arises whether you are to build your farm workers' houses in colonies or in single units. There are a great number of arguments in favour of each point of view. Any county council will say, if you build them in colonies—I do not like to use the word "village" as it is a word which to all intents and purposes applies to existing communi-ties——
§ Sir E. Findlay
Yes, except that I do not come from the Highlands. In a clachan you would have the advantage of a much cheaper water supply, and much cheaper buildings, because you can build in blocks, provided the houses are comparatively sound proof, as all people do not like the same wireless programme at the same time. There would be electricity, water, sewerage and to a certain extent community services. All that is important but, on the other hand, farming is a 24-hour job. You want to be near your beasts, particularly if you are doing mixed farming. You never know when a beast may become sick. There is the problem, particularly in the northeast of Scotland, of cold and wet early mornings. If you are going to make your farm worker cycle half way across Scotland in a howling gale, he will not do as good a job of work and also he will not be able to get his mid-day hot meal. Most important of all, in my very humble opinion, you want to get his family living in close contact with the beasts, which eventually it will be his privilege, when his boy grows up, to look after. It is not too easy. Farming is to a certain extent a vocation, as well as a trade, and all I ask the Secretary of State, before he finally decides whether he is going to build these houses in colonies or as single houses, is that the policy he brings forward shall not only produce good houses, but good farmers.
§ Mrs. Hardie (Glasgow, Springburn)
I always regret, when Scottish Estimates are to be discussed, that we have not the Report of the Health Department before us when we discuss the position in Scotland. I listened carefully to the statement by the Secretary of State for 110 Scotland and found that it was rather a mixed report. We are told that the birth rate is up and that the death rate is also up. The maternal mortality rate, I was thankful to learn, was somewhat down but the infant mortality rate, although down, is still very high, higher almost than that of any other country. These are conditions which we can hardly say are very satisfactory. Tuberculosis is considerably up, and the terrible position we must face is that, while infant mortality is very sad, the position is even worse when you get increases in the death rate between 15 and 25 or 30, which is the case in Scotland at the present time. After the care and time spent in the bringing up of a boy or girl to adolescence, it is very sad that later he or she should be killed by tuberculosis. There is no mystery about what causes tuberculosis. As a rule it is due to bad housing conditions, to under-nourishment, and so on, and also of course owing to war conditions—something over which the Secretary of State for Scotland has no control. Many of the young people today are working far too hard and far too long hours.
Instead of labouring the point about sanatoriums and not having enough nurses I think we should try to concentrate on removing the causes of this terrible disease, and there we come back again to the housing conditions. It is not only the infants who suffer from these. You find people stuck in a small house consisting of a room and kitchen and so on, and the family grow up but they do not get moved to houses where there is space, and so these young people suffer very badly. In fact, some of the worse cases sent to me about bad housing conditions are those in which boys and girls are growing up and there is no proper accommodation for them. People write to me telling me of such things as a boy who sleeps in a chair in the same room with somebody else sleeping in a bed. Fancy a boy of 15 or 16 sleeping in a chair at night in a closed kitchen, with four or five other people sleeping in it, and then doing a day's work.
I do feel for the Secretary of State for Scotland that he has come in under war conditions and is asked to make up all the arrears due to the neglect of Governments in the past. There is no doubt about it. As far as 40 years back, I have been agitating for better houses. Not only be- 111 cause of reaction in the Government but because of the reaction of the local authorities, those questions were never solved. Now we are trying to face up to all this lack of proper housing accommodation and the deplorable state of health in the middle of a war. It just cannot be done. The only thing we can hope is that when war ends we shall tackle this subject in a better way than we have ever done before.
While the maternal mortality rate has gone down, it is still far too high, and I am convinced that, because of the bad housing conditions, we shall have to push on to provide more hospital accommodation. There again we are up against the question of nurses. Here I say, quite candidly, that the reason why we have this nursing shortage is because of the deplorable conditions to which women in the nursing profession have been subjected for years and years. Only during the war do we offer them fair and reasonable standards. But you cannot train nurses in a day and you cannot get people to go into the nursing profession suddenly and to be prepared to sacrifice their lives as they did in the old days, simply because they were possessed by some idea that that was what women should do. The young woman to-day is not prepared to sacrifice her health and life in the way that some of the elder women were. They are demanding better living conditions. When one hears some suggestion about directing women into tuberculosis hospitals, I think that that is a very great sacrifice to ask of any young woman.
I wonder if something could not be done to train men to be nurses in some of those hospitals. After all, a very big proportion of patients are men and I do not see why certain types of men should not be trained. For instance, there is the Royal Army Medical Corps. Something might be done to train them to take up this kind of nursing. Some men are good nurses; I have never met any, but I have heard that is so. Anyway there is no reason why they should not share this great and noble work that is being talked about as suitable for young women. While I have every sympathy with the patients, and every desire to have them properly nursed, I want other measures taken. There is no reason why, 112 if you have reasonable conditions for the mass of the people, this terrible thing should continue.
So far as the maternal nursing services are concerned, I am not asking the Secretary of State or the local authorities to do impossibilities but I do think something more could be done than is done at present to provide hospital accommodation, in view, particularly, of the very bad housing conditions. If a woman has a decent home and can be properly attended to there is no reason, unless she is a very difficult case, why she should go into hospital. But where the conditions are bad, as many of them are, the position is different. I have been informed of cases in which the family live in a single apartment, and they have to go into the close, if the baby arrives through the night. Are we civilised when we allow conditions like that?
§ Mrs. Hardie
We have heard a lot about improvement in the health and conditions of the school children and I am very thankful about that. I started my public work. on the Glasgow School Board when the conditions among the children were deplorable indeed. By giving them extra milk and food, and cod-liver oil; a great deal was done to remedy conditions, at all events as far as rickets were concerned, but I am still not satisfied with the position when I see that such a small proportion of the school children are being provided with mid-day meals. Milk is all very well, so far as it goes, but it is not a sufficient diet for older boys and girls. Therefore, I think the Secretary of State should press still further, and not only in the towns My own town does not show up too well. Only some 23 per cent. of the children in Glasgow receive a mid-day dinner, and the rural areas, of course, are in a worse plight because it is even more necessary that those children should receive a midday meal. More particularly is it important during the war, when there is such a scarcity of food at home and where it is less likely than ever that they get a decent mid-day meal. It is true that many women do not understand dietetics. We were never taught. As a matter of fact many doctors did not know very much about dietetics until lately. I believe if you gave all the children a good 113 mid-day meal, properly balanced, it would be one of the greatest health measures you could possibly introduce. A good deal is said about bad cooking, but as a matter of fact, a doctor told me that, very often, men suffer from bad health because their wives are good cooks. I am not accepting the statement about bad cooking, but I do think there is a great lack of knowledge about food.
One thing in passing. The Secretary of State referred to the growth of dysentery and seemed to think that it was mysterious and needed some special inquiry. But dysentery is caused mainly by food poisoning. I do not want to criticise another Minister, but a good many of the health measures administered by local authorities, regarding the quality of food, are in abeyance during the war, and a certain amount of food on the market is anything but healthy. You have only to look at some of the shop windows and see the piles of sausages—they just look like dysentery. I am giving this as an illustration to show why a proper midday meal should be given to the children good wholesome food. The same thing applies to girls in the factories. However that is the business of the Minister of Labour and I will not press the point.
I congratulate the Under-Secretary on the Housing Advisory Committee's Report. I must say that they have a very great variety of houses, and as I understand that local authorities have a choice as to the particular type they would like, there is no reason why I should go into that. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Hubbard)—who gave such a very able maiden speech, on which I congratulate him—that some of the houses built by local authorities are very unsatisfactory indeed. I saw a foam slag house which the Glasgow Corporation is building, and my only objection to it was that instead of building what I think is the ideal house for a certain size, a semi-villa with the up and down each side, they are building a house below with somebody on the top. I never think that is very satisfactory. Of course that will be for the local authority to decide, but I think there are some objections, unless they are very well-insulated, and houses very seldom are. I do not think that is a very satisfactory way to build a house, but that has to be decided by the local authority.
114 I am pleased to see in the Report that the standard of rehousing is to be raised to the English level, because it is deplorably low in Scotland. We are still obsessed with the idea that people should not have too much space in which to move about. It is deplorable that unless there are five and a half adults, you cannot get a four-roomed apartment house. Therefore, I hope that the Secretary of State will insist upon a higher standard. There is a danger, when we are so desperately in need of houses, that we may be glad to accept almost any substitute. I went to look at a Portal house although not with an over-critical eye because we are so keen to get houses built quickly. It is all very well for women to enthuse over the kitchen equipment but there is danger in being carried away by a nice draining board and a refrigerator and all sorts of gadgets, while forgetting the size of the house and its construction. I would say to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) that we cannot afford to wait——
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Surely, the houses are not going to be put into production before the end of the war. Therefore, we have from now until that time, in which to do what I referred to.
§ Mrs. Hardie
If that is what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman meant then I am with him. I remember that my late husband was opposed to steel houses, but these may be different. I do not know. I agree that it would be better for the houses to be lived in and tested, to see whether any condensation takes place and so on, but apart from that, we shall be glad to accept houses of that type, if they can be built at a reasonable price and let at reasonable rents. We cannot get any information from any Department as to what the cost of these houses will be, what the rents will be, whether they will be subsidised or whether the tenants will be expected to pay the cost of houses which are supposed to last for only ten years. If the houses are likely to cost £550, which is about the minimum, and are to be paid off in 10 years, the rents will be very high indeed. It is feared that we shall not get a fair return for our money.
There are conflicting statements as to whether we can build temporary houses or not. I have heard speeches made by people in the building trade, and by 115 others, who say that by mobilising labour, and by training certain people, we could build permanent houses quickly. If we could do that, it would be much more satisfactory than building temporary houses. Personally, I think labour could be mobilised. It was a shocking thing for the right lion. and gallant Gentleman for Kelvingrove to say that no attempt was ever made to train unemployed workers. I am not criticising the right hon. and gallant Member individually——
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Is not the hon. Lady slightly in error? Schools were built under the Ministry of Labour, and although it seems incredible it is true, that before that building labour could be absorbed in Scotland, it had to be sent to England first, because people in Scotland were unwilling to employ it.
§ Mrs. Hardie
That was the fault of the building contractors in Scotland. It is true that many workers had to go to England for employment, because Scottish builders had higher standards and were not prepared to accept these workers. I believe that by mass production methods a good many people could be trained. Women, especially, could be trained to do the lighter jobs. Working-class women have often done painting and decorating; I used to do it myself when I was younger. It was a common thing for women to whitewash ceilings and walls, and to do painting. That kind of work could be done by plenty of women. I do not want the Secretary of State to neglect the possibility of building a large number of permanent houses by accepting these temporary houses. I was glad to note that in the Portal house the design had been altered to allow entrance into the living room without going into the kitchen. My main objection was to the low ceiling. I felt that I was in a box. I would not like to cook in such a kitchen; it would be like an oven. I think an 8 ft. or an 8 ft. 6 in. ceiling should be the minimum. I went to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works who is a builder himself—I cannot believe he is very happy about these houses—and asked him why the ceilings could not be 8 feet high. He said that the walls would not carry a ceiling so high. It seems to me, therefore, that they cannot be very reliable.
116 On the question of smoke abatement, I do not think the Secretary of State can congratulate himself too much on the lower death-rate among young children, because I think it is due to the fact that we have had a mild winter. For two years, we have had mild winters, with little fog to choke grown-up people and children in our cities, through the amount of smoke that is vomited into the sky. I would not allow anyone to burn coal. We have inspectors to see that food is clean, yet we allow people to be choked by chemicals, dirt and smoke because somebody says, "I like a coal fire." Wherever it may be necessary; I hope we are going to develop stoves and fireplaces for smokeless fuel, electricity or gas. I was surprised to see that, in addition to recommending a fireplace in the living room, there is a recommendation that there should be fireplaces in bedrooms, because a ventilator could not ventilate a room. What do we have windows for? Anyone who sleeps in a room with a shut window is a fool. To suggest that it is necessary, in order to ventilate a bedroom, to have an open fireplace shows a type of mind which is far behind the times.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
I thought the Secretary of State's speech was a model of explanation of the situation in Scotland. He did not try to stress unduly any of his achievements and he did not try to diminish any of his failures. He presented, as I saw it, a very unbiased and objective picture for us. I hope I shall spare the blushes of my two hon. Friends, when I say that he has a very good team. They are men of enthusiasm and capacity and, what Members of Parliament appreciate more, courtesy. I hope they will long continue to display those admirable qualities.
I will limit myself to one or two definite features of the right hon. Gentleman's report. It is rather a significant fact that the first recommendation of Sir John Boyd Orr's Committee on infant mortality dealt with housing. I do not make any excuse for returning to this question. It is one about which I certainly receive more correspondence than anything else, and I should imagine that is the experience of all other Members. We in Ayr Burghs, anyhow, suffer possibly next to Glasgow from some of the slum tenements which still exist. Although the Secretary of State gave us many comforting figures, I 117 have here a report showing what we still need. In Ayr itself we still need 2,000 houses. If you take one house as accommodating three to four people, there are 7,000 or 8,000 houses still deficient in Ayr alone. The same thing applies in proportion to other burghs in my constituency. There is no time to be complacent, and there is no question of being satisfied, when conditions like that exist. It is not alone that those houses are needed but there is the question of the kind of houses which at present exist.
Sir John Boyd Orr said in effect that the position was so desperate that some form of immediate temporary housing must be adopted while the long-term policy was taking place. We are all agreed about that now, and indeed the energetic Minister of Works and Buildings and also the right hon. Gentleman have shown us ideas of a practical nature regarding this so-called Portal house. I admire that house, but there is one thing which I hope will not take place. I have seen and heard numerous recommendations that it should be improved in its amenities. I am not sure that that is wise, because, if you improve too much on the amenities of a house, which is obviously destined for a short existence, it may be that it will develop into a permanent house, and therefore into a slum. To my mind it is very much better to concentrate your amenities on your permanent housing which is going to last. rather than on these makeshift temporary houses, which should have a definite life. I think the Government should lay down definitely a life for these temporary houses, after which they should be pulled down, but at the cost of the State. It is not fair that the local authorities should have to bear the cost.
The second point I want to make concerns the time lag in regard to the erection of these houses, whether short or long term. As the Secretary of State is involved with the Ministry of Works and Buildings in this matter, he must bear the brunt of any criticism. I should like to make a suggestion, which I am astonished has never been pressed by Scottish Members, that the Secretary of State should be a Member of the War Cabinet. Until he is, I do not think we shall ever get our views properly brought home to the powers that matter. [Interruption.] He is in the Cabinet, but not in the inner War Cabinet. After all, every question of great urgency and im- 118 portance has to be decided by the War Cabinet.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The decision to stop building for the duration of the war was a decision of the Cabinet, but not of the War Cabinet.
§ Sir T. Moore
The War Cabinet decide priorities. That is an essential responsibility which they have accepted, and which they carry out, and priority is where the Secretary of State comes in. He should be in a position to sit at the table of the War Cabinet and to press for the priority of housing for Scotland, which is a far more urgent matter than it is in England.
Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that, in a matter vitally affecting Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman would be consulted whether or not he was a Member of the War Cabinet.
§ Sir T. Moore
Of course he would be consulted. That goes without saying. He would be a poor mouse if he allowed himself not to be. Where a man is carrying out the functions of about ten Cabinet Ministers, he should, by virtue of that fact, be on the highest level and in the War Cabinet.
I have here a book, probably the most remarkable tribute ever written to the most remarkable country ever known, called "What Britain Has Done." It is an exciting story of marvellous achievement. But there is not a word in it which refers to the homes to be provided for those who have made those achievements possible. That is my complaint to-day. There seems to be no sense and feeling of urgency in this matter of housing. I am not sure that there is even a sense of direction. According to reliable information, which no doubt my right hon. Friend may criticise, we shall need about 500,000 houses in Scotland by the end of the war—and I am assuming, as the Prime Minister has hopefully indicated, that the war may end in a reasonable time. I think that that figure is a conservative estimate. If we take into consideration the known shortage of houses before the war, the destruction by enemy action, the restriction of war-time building and the failure to carry out any repairs during the war, I think that that figure would be higher, but for the purposes of my argument will accept it.
119 My next consideration is the Prime Minister's declaration, in his own classic English, that "our post-war domestic policy is to provide food, homes and employment for all." There will be very little difficulty as regards food and employment, and in this country all the labour and material that are available will be absorbed in meeting all the reconstruction that will become essential. I was, however, gravely disappointed at my right hon. Friend's statement about houses. He said that he had a hope—a hope only, or an aspiration—that we in Scotland would build in the three years following the war l00,000 temporary houses and 50,000 permanent houses. How does that compare with the 500,000 houses that have been indicated as being required for Scotland and the Prime Minister's statement that our domestic policy was to provide homes for all? It does not make sense. I get tired sometimes and I express myself a little strongly, but when you go to some of the slum houses and see the conditions under which some of our people live, you cannot help getting a little hot. The one platitude that always comes as an answer to criticism on this question, and, I am afraid, too often from the Front Bench, is that the difficulty is one of labour and material. We can always find labour and material when we need them. We have found them for thousands of American huts and camps, and yet, apparently, we cannot find them to house the men who built the huts and camps. There is something wrong. I am not sure that the labour and material used are properly used. That may be the cause of the shortage. It may be that they are not directed into the proper channels and that we have absorbed too much skilled labour and material in the Forces.
This again is a matter at the highest Cabinet level where only a Minister in the War Cabinet can properly represent the position and make his weight felt. I sometimes feel ashamed, when I enjoy my own comfort, cleanliness and sanitation, to know that men far better than me are condemned, and will be condemned on their return home from victory, to live in some of the grimy, congested and insanitary conditions that exist in Scotland. I do not think we have any right to sit here talking about labour and material when those who are 120 protecting our comfort, cleanliness and sanitation are only likely to be able to look forward to a considerable amount of squalor unless greater efforts, greater enthusiasm and greater speed are manifest in building.
There is a further point. Is there cooperation between the Service Departments and my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Works and Buildings? Is there any directing hand to ensure that demobilisation will follow the erection of houses and not precede it? We must have houses waiting for the men and not men waiting for the houses. If that is not done, if there is not that complete integration of effort and constant association of view between the Service Departments or the Minister of Demobilisation and those who are providing the houses, there will be a chaos which I would prefer to avoid. I know, as the Secretary of State explained, that there are difficulties. I know that he is faced with a great many difficulties and that he has to put the best face on the position. He may find obstruction from his Cabinet colleagues, from local authorities, and even from us here. Then there are always the questions of town planning, the location of industry and provision of roads, water, sewerage, schools and electricity.
§ Sir T. Moore
I am referring to them in connection with the erection of houses. It is one of the supreme necessities in the plans for erecting houses to get in train all the preparatory arrangements, such as I have indicated. I appreciate all these difficulties, and I am not criticising my right hon. Friend for not having overcome them. He has tremendous guts and force of character, and I think that if it is humanly possible, he and his colleagues will succeed. If they do not, this House and the country will be unworthy of the race from which we have sprung.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I propose to deal with only two points, although there are many others on which I would like to have touched had time allowed. The first is the Government's present performance in the housing field, and the second is their plans for the future. I approach the first problem primarily as a country Member. I recollect the pleasure that was felt throughout the House when it was announced that 121 the Government intended to build some houses, even during the war, and to ensure that a proportion of them went to agricultural parts of the country. I see my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the Front Bench. When he was Minister of Health, he suffered a good deal of criticism because the farm cottages with which he was associated took a long time to appear in England. It seems now, however, looking back over the last 12 months, that his work was miraculous compared with the paltry results of our work in Scotland. In England under that scheme 1,535 farm cottages have already been built. In Scotland there have been only two.
I want an explanation. I am asking why those whom I represent in East Fife, who need houses in the countryside, have got none at all, and why, throughout Scotland, only two families have been provided with cottages, whereas in England 1,535 have been provided. I hope that the Under-Secretary can give a reason. I was not satisfied with the explanation given by the Secretary of State to-day. His suggestion was that some of the tenders were rather high and that there were a good many old men working in the building industry. This same problem must have faced the Minister of Health in England. The same problems of costs arise South of the Border and North of the Border. The same types of men are available for building. I am bound to say, looking at two sets of figures so extraordinarily different, that something seems to be seriously lacking in our housing organisation in Scotland, and I want to know the answer here and now, publicly, on the Floor of this House.
We have heard much about housing conditions in the urban areas of Scotland. There have been one or two references to the rural situation, but let me remind urban Members that our needs are as great and as urgent as theirs. Of course, I am not going to exaggerate the situation, 'or to suggest that a house containing a family of 14 living in a single room is normal. It is not. It is extraordinary. It happens only in the most exceptional cases in Scotland, but far too 122 many people, like ploughmen and their wives, are suffering the most intense agony because they are confined to a miserable, wretched, condemned house. I do not know how many cases I have had to deal with in the last year or two, of ploughmen's wives revolting against staying on a particular farm because their house was impossible to live in. I plead, and I demand, that the rural situation shall receive the same attention as the urban situation.
Now about the Portal house, the postwar house and the proposal for temporary houses. I am not at all persuaded of the wisdom of the principle of the temporary house. I have great doubts. I will tell the Committee why. The Minister, at one point where he was interrupted, said that there would be no pressure upon local authorities to build this Portal house. He said that the Government would consult the local authorities, and, thereafter, would consult with the House. That was an assurance of very great importance and I shall note it with great care when I see the OFFICIAL REPORT of this Debate. There is to be no pressure put upon local authorities, or action taken, until the Government have consulted with the local authorities and, thereafter, with this House. The Minister went on to suggest that, even then, pressure would not be brought to bear upon local authorities to agree to the Portal house or to some other kind of steel construction.
I think that my right hon. Friend was not giving us the whole story. I believe that the compulsion will be of the most extreme kind. Unless the towns in my Constituency, for example, undertake to build so many of these Portal or other selected houses, they will not get the labour and the materials. That will be the compulsion, and it will be the most crucial compulsion. I am not satisfied that we are not here being committed to this type of house without proper consideration. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) said that if 500 Portal houses were offered to his constituency, every one of them would be occupied. He seems to suggest that, therefore, they are very good houses. That is not a fair test. If you had a house half or a quarter as good as the Portal house, it would be occupied to-day, but surely that is not to be our test. The test must he whether it is the kind of dwelling to offer the British people. In the Portal house 123 we are offering a small, fiat-roofed dwelling that none of us would ask out -women in normal times to live in. The Government is "putting it over" on the people that it is temporary. I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) that that is "boloney."
If we put up some hundreds of houses in Fife, I would not commit myself to saying that the occupiers would be put out 10 years hence. You could not put people out of their houses by order of this House, or by Regulation of the Government, and I shall not stand for people being hounded out of their houses because someone in Whitehall, or in this House, says it is to be done. That may be the present intention, but I do not believe it will happen. If we introduce this Portal house, I believe we shall never see the end of it in our lifetime, because people will need these houses and we shall not succeed in building enough alternative houses of a permanent character. Why must we concentrate upon this very temporary house as a policy? I agree that, in the present pressing circumstances, we must use the prefabricated method—or what my right hon. Friend calls the factory-made method—but there are many alternative factory-made houses on the market to-day, and more are being introduced every year. There are two or three types which make an infinitely better house than the Portal, and not necessarily much dearer. They make something that would look nice, and be comfortable to live in, as well as being more permanent.
Why cannot that kind of house be considered? Why is all the propaganda but upon this Portal coal-house? I ask the Government this question: "Why do you concentrate all your eggs in one basket?" There are many better schemes than this Portal house among the prefabricated houses, which would make it possible to build a house with great speed and unskilled labour—a house pretty to look at, comfortable to live in, and lasting, a house we should be proud to see. I challenge the whole policy of the temporary house. I do not think it is sound. The longer the Government, the country and this Committee examine my point of view, the more, I think, they will come round to it.
§ Sir E. Findlay
Does he propose that the returning soldiers should live in the open, or in a temporary house, which would be much better than some of the awful slums in Glasgow?
I am glad that my hon. Friend has asked that question, because it makes it clear that I have not made myself understood. I say that I want houses to be ready for the soldiers when they come back, but they need not necessarily be these 10-year coal-houses. The prefabrication method can provide much better houses, probably much more cheaply, and I suggest that before the Government commit themselves or the country to one type of house, they should give the nation an opportunity of seeing other types and of considering different methods. I should be very sorry to see East Fife spattered with these Portal houses, even for five years, let alone 10 years. I should be very sorry if all that I had to offer to those whom I represent was a series of these pretty, little, coloured, coal-houses. Must better can be, and must be, done, if we are to be worthy of the men who are fighting for us to-day. I make the plea that this committee should take great care before it allows the Government to commit themselves, or the country, to a course which they might greatly regret as the years pass.
§ Mr. Sloan (South Ayrshire)
It is such a long time now since the Secretary of State spoke, that his speech is almost fading into the background. He dealt for some time with the health position. I do not think he painted what might be termed a rosy picture, but he certainly did the best with the material at his command. Had he been a window-dresser, he would certainly have put his very best stock in the window far exhibition, and relegated to the background those items that were not in prime condition. He was at pains to explain to us the slight fall in some figures, the infant death rate, for instance, which, he tells us, has fallen from 69 in 1938 to 65 in 1943. I do not think it can be said that there has been Inv effort on the part of his Department 125 that has been in any way responsible for the slight decline, any more than there is any credit attaching to his Department for this very slight fall in the ordinary death rate. He rather disclosed that the prime reason is that since 1938 there has been no unemployment, that people have been fully employed, they have been earning wages and have been able to have their share to a certain extent of the amount of food, etc., going.
If there is a fall in the death rate, if there is an improvement in the health of the people, that can be attributed to the fact that they have more regular food now than they had in the very flat period between the two wars. If we have a guarantee that that improvement will continue, if there is a guarantee that, even after the war, people will be fed and clothed and housed, then there will be a tremendous improvement in these figures. We have nothing whatever to boast about in the infant mortality figure. We had that appalling report that was placed in our hands some time ago, which told us that our figures were among the worst in Europe. That is an appalling state of affairs and requires more drastic treatment, more effective remedies, than anything that has been postulated by the Secretary of State for Scotland. He has been unable to relieve our minds in regard to the question of tuberculosis. That is still one figure he cannot reduce because the facts are against him; it is still on the increase. We should surely know what reason there is for this continual rise in tuberculosis. It is quite true that housing has a tremendous lot to do with it. I remember during the last war when the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in one of his "never again" speeches, said:When I looked at the medical record during the war what did I find? Page after page of tuberculosis, tuberculosis, tuberculosis. And I asked myself, What is the cause of tuberculosis? And I found it was overwork, under-feeding, bad housing, and bad sanitationWe have been able, to a certain extent, to remove at least one of the causes—under-feeding. With all the difficulties of shopping to-day—the Minister of Food has of course played quite a decent part in it—what with all the difficulties that have been encountered, people who are working to-day are still able to get better food than those who were unemployed 126 between the two wars. Their standard of nutrition is not high. The hon. Lady the Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) spoke of some commodities that were on sale, and the less one sees of them the better. Nevertheless, it is demonstrably true, that people in employment and earning wages to-day are better fed than were the unemployed in the period between the two wars, when there was an abundance. Therefore, to that extent, we can say we have partly removed one of the causes. Overwork is still with us, although nobody attempts to prevent people from overworking to-day as much as they possibly can. There are certainly many people who are overworked.
The causes of bad housing and bad sanitation are still with us, and remain among the most serious difficulties we have to overcome. I wonder how it is to be faced. I wonder whether, in all this post-war planning, all these blue-prints, all these reports, all these White Papers, there is any real attempt to rehouse—and not only rehouse but house, to give houses to people who have never had a house in their lives. In my own county we have young married people—they are not so young now—who for 10, 12, or 13 years, have never been able to secure homes of their own, who are dependent still upon friends or relatives or strangers.
§ Mr. Sloan
I heard the other day of a young man, who had a family of three, living in a small room where they can scarcely pass the table which stands in the middle of the floor. That is the position with which we are faced. We are asked to believe that this Portal house will help us to solve the difficulty, and people say, "Give me a few hundred of these Portal houses." The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) said "Give us 500 of these houses and I guarantee they will all be occupied next week. "Give them 500 pig-sties and they would be occupied next week, because people would rather live in a pig-sty than under the horrible conditions they are living under now on top of other people. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) has just gone out. If he gets an opportunity in this Debate he will doubtless tell—the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has already mentioned it—of some dozen families, who are being 127 evicted this week, in the town of Greenock, because they have gone into houses condemned as unfit for human habitation. The original tenants left them because of the conditions, but these poor creatures are snapping at the opportunity of going to live in those condemned houses. Let them have a condemned house and they would live in it. If there were hundreds of this type of house in Greenock people would say "Give us 500 or 5,000 or 10,000 of these houses, and we will see they are all occupied." That is no answer at all to the housing question in Scotland. I do not think that you can meet housing needs in Scotland by this temporary method. It is only a makeshift. This great country can spend £16,000,000 a day to fight the war; and I saw a very intelligent letter in one of the newspapers this morning, pointing out that we are not spending £16,000,000 in money, but that we are spending £16,000,000 in human endeavour, £16,000,000 in labour, £16,000,000 in effort. The expenditure of £16,000,000 in effort to-day, in regard to housing the people of Scotland, would go a long way.
I have had a look at both models of this Portal house, and I say, quite frankly, that it would not at all suit the climatic conditions of Scotland. It is only a toy; it is not a house at all. It is only a sort of doll's house: It looks very nice in a picture on the wall, but for housing the people it is just sheer, absolute, unadulterated nonsense. We are told that the original price was £550, but that improvements which are now being effected will cost another £100. That does not take into account the foundations, the roads, footpaths, fences, sewers, and water, gas, and electricity mains. Before you have the house ready for people to go into it will cost a great deal more than £750. The Secretary of State said that they visualised 100,000 of these houses as our share for Scotland. We are always looking for our share—that is the position of Scotland in the House of Commons. First of all, you set the standard of England. You have a certain amount to spend. Then, when it comes to the needs of Scotland, we have to look for our share. Now it is visualised that we shall get our share of this Portal house; and 100,000 of them, at £750 apiece, will cost £75,000,000. If hous- 128 ing was dealt with in a proper fashion, £75,000,000 could go a long way towards meeting the situation.
I have been in a county council for 25 years, and I have never found that the building of the shell of a house, the building of the brickwork, the building of the walls, has been a cause of the delay. I have seen housing schemes commenced, and the houses run up in a very short time; the walls built and the roofs put on; and then there is a stoppage because of the very thing which the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) mentioned, the lack of skilled work inside the house. Plasterers were always the cause of the hold-up.
§ Mr. Sloan
Yes, it was the plastering and plumping that held up the houses, at a time, very often, when, despite what the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove has said, unemployed building operatives were signing on at the labour exchange. If it is possible to prefabricate the inside of the Portal house, what is the difficulty about prefabricating the inside of the brick-built house? The whole point in this machine-made house is that it is factory made. I do not imagine that there should be any difficulty whatever. To throw away, not money but the labour of the workers of this country, in building these things, which are expected to remain for 10 years, would be a crime, a shame, a scandal, and an indictment of the intelligence of the Members of this House. Scotland will require to be housed. It can be housed. It would have been housed if Members of this House had been as anxious about it in the past as they seem to be about it to-day, and if local authorities had been as anxious about it in the past as they seem to be to-day.
Take the history of the proceeding. I remember that, when you started in 1919, despite the disclaimer of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, there was tremendous difficulty in securing sites. It is true that ultimately you could get a provisional order and secure the site, but it cost endless delay, local authorities shifting from side to side before they could get going; and when they did get going, how often were they held up because of the machinations of the people 129 inside this House? The most prolific period of house building was between 1924 and 1931.
§ Mr. Sloan
I am not concerned, and I am not going to argue, about whether it was a Conservative Government or a Labour Government. I am sure that the schemes were those brought into operation by the late Mr. John Wheatley, but I am not arguing that question. I am trying to be factual. The most prolific period for housing was 1924 to 1931, and then you had your economy election. You had a Tory Government then. You had the Labour Party wiped out of existence. There were only some 50 Members of it left, and, with that stupendous majority, you should have been able to build all the houses that were required in Scotland. What happened? Building operations were stopped. You need not shake your head, dear Lady——
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
I am not shaking my head. I am sorry if the hon. Member thinks I am, because I agree with him, but, after that, the biggest number of houses built was built in the last six years before the war, beating everything before, both in England, Wales and Scotland.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
It is a National Government, and I think we should all be friendly.
§ Mr. Sloan
The point I was making was that it was the action of people inside this House that prevented the people of Scotland being housed, because the building operations were brought to a standstill. When war started, local authorities were allowed only to complete schemes in hand and to build no more. The result was that there was this tremendous lee-way to be made up. We were making progress before the war, and then we were hindered, and we are getting back into the 130 same thing. Ayrshire alone, requires 10,000 houses. It cannot be done under the old method, and I am not at all impressed with the statement of the Secretary of State in regard to the fillip he is giving to the building trade by pre-vocational classes. They are not providing building trade operatives, and, if the right hon. Gentleman created that impression in the Committee, he was creating an entirely wrong and false impression. All that the pre-vocational classes are doing is to assist the apprentices already in the industry. They are quite small, and the number attending the classes is infinitesimal in comparison with the needs of the building trade.
What has to be done is a hefty job,' and it must be tackled in an entirely new spirit. It may be necessary to have some temporary houses. I do not know. I cannot think along the lines of building a house to-day that is to be pulled down to-morrow. I cannot think along the lines of using labour and materials, Using up good building sites and taking in all those necessary services that I have already mentioned, for the purpose, at some future period, of scrapping all the work that has been done. If you are going to build houses, you ought to build them upon a fixed and permanent method, so that, in Scotland, we shall at last escape from these tremendous difficulties which have caused us to become practically the worst-housed country in Western Europe.
§ Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
I would have liked to have followed the line which so many other speakers have followed in this Debate and to have continued the discussion on this extremely difficult, complex and most serious problem of housing. But as I have been listening to the Debate, I have come to the conclusion that everything that could possibly be said on the subject has been said, and that no really useful purpose could be served by continuing the discussion.
I would, therefore, turn the attention of the Committee to the first part of the speech of the Secretary of State, in connection with the health of the people of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman closed the first part of his report, if I remember aright, with words to the effect that he could give this Committee the assurance that the health of the people of Scotland was well maintained. That is in spite of the fact that he had frankly to 131 admit that, in several serious respects, there was a growth of tuberculosis; that infant mortality, although better than it was, is still certainly nothing to be proud of, but, on the other hand, in my judgment, everything to be ashamed of; and that this unfortunate war-time scourge of venereal disease is said to be growing in certain parts of our beloved country. In spite of all these things—and there is much of which we know which the right hon. Gentleman, in a short report, had not time to refer to—there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the people of our country are in a good state of health. I am concerned to talk for a few minutes about those who are not.
We talk a lot about health services and of the Ministry of Health and, indeed, it is right that we should, as a nation, do what we can for the health of our people. But, for a moment or two, I want to talk about those responsible for treating the sick. The hon. Lady the Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie), who is not in her place at the moment, made reference to the question of nursing services, and the Secretary of State himself frankly admitted this year, as he did last year as well, that one of the greatest difficulties in connection with the treatment of the sick to-day, is a desperate shortage of nurses. We have been analysing our minds and we did the same thing last year, to try to find what is really the cause. There are numberless causes, but there is one which I do not think has been mentioned, because it is a difficult and delicate subject to mention. I have had some association with the nursing profession, indirectly, for a number of years, and I believe that one of the difficulties in the minds of young girls whom we are looking to join the nursing service, is not so much bad pay and conditions. I recognise that there have been difficulties for a long time, but those conditions and, to some extent, that pay, are not due to the authority, or the Department of Health for Scotland, or to Members of this House, past or present. They are due to the fact that the senior officers in the nursing profession are persons who have gone through from the bottom, and who have completely lost sympathy with the little girls at the bottom. They are the people who are saying to-day, "We had to endure those conditions, we had to suffer that pay, we never got these evenings out and this 48 132 hours." I should think that it is that spiteful spirit which, unfortunately, prevails among those responsible for hospitals to-day, which has done at least something to make these young girls reluctant to enter the nursing profession.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
Would that not be removed if hospital staffs were allowed to have their own trade union organisation?
§ Major Lloyd
Very probably, there may be something in what my hon. Friend says. I do not want the Committee to think that I am exaggerating this point. I recognise that there are many other causes, but I wanted to get that off my chest, because it has never yet, as far as I know, been said in public that to some extent the seniors in the nursing profession are responsible for the reluctance of young girls to enter the nursing profession today. There was certainly a very considerable reluctance before the war, and a shortage, and I gather that it is not easy to get them at the present time.
When we are discussing the treatment of sickness, it would be foolish if we were not to mention the effect upon the health of the people of Scotland as a result of bad teeth. The dental profession is doing a splendid job of work, but I am told, and I believe it is the fact, that in our Armies to-day we have the largest number of individuals who have completely lost all their teeth and have had to have artificial teeth put in than any other country in the world. That statement has been made publicly and not contradicted. If that is so, it is a very unfortunate state of affairs. It means that the teeth of so many of our people in this country—and I believe that in Scotland it is quite as bad as in any other part of Great Britain—leave a very great deal to be desired. To some extent it may be due to the fact that the dental profession was very largely depleted after the last war and that the qualifying period for dentists who can preserve teeth and help to keep them in the head is a long and difficult one. It is infinitely easier to pull out teeth and give the patient a plate than it is to preserve the teeth already there. This problem of the dental health of our people in Scotland is a very important one. I believe it is very nearly as much the cause of ill-health and sickness as any of the causes anybody has mentioned to-day.
133 The Secretary of State interested me very much when he said that it might be possible for the W.V.S. to be enlisted for use in the hospital services, which are so desperately short of assistance. I was delighted to hear his warm, cordial and sincere praise of that grand movement. The people of Scotland ought to be, and are, deeply indebted to the splendid services voluntarily given, often to the exhaustion of many ladies, through that great organisation the W.V.S. Although I know, as does the right hon. Gentleman, that vast numbers of them are greatly overworked to-day, taxing their strength, many of them no longer young, if he appeals to them in this great emergency to staff hospitals, and in some way to relieve the tremendous shortage of domestic and other workers, I do not believe that he will make that appeal in vain. In recent months through various circumstances—the great Report of Sir William Beveridge including Assumption B and other factors—the interest of the people of Scotland has been deeply aroused in the whole question of good health and the administration and treatment of sickness.
There are many to-day qualified to speak upon the plans for the future and deeply interested in getting their views across. There has been large discussion between various groups of people who are deeply interested—in the sick visiting and nursing services, the medical profession itself, the dental service, the specialist service, the hospital service, all are aroused to a pitch of enthusiasm and interest with regard to the immediate future.
I ask the Secretary of State whether he will, before committing himself in any way to any future plans which he or others others may have in mind, take the opportunity to gather together and consult those who are best qualified to speak upon the whole question of the medical, hospital and allied services and their future administration and treatment, and hold a convention in Scotland to discuss not only the present state of health of Scotland but the whole question of the future so as to make Scotland a healthier and better place. There are few more vital subjects. A vast number of people are interested and many are highly qualified to talk. They want to know if they are to have a say in the plans now being 134 prepared for the future? May I ask this final question? Would he give me and many others the assurance that he will not participate in or give final consent to any specific plans until such time as all the interested parties concerned, who have a right to be consulted—whom his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has promised shall be consulted—have been fully consulted?
§ Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
Like my hon. and gallant. Friend the Member far East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), one rather feels that everything has been said that can be said, and one might almost throw in one's hand and give it up as a bad job. But I have risen to put one or two points before this Debate ends. I listened with more than usual interest to the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I would like to pay my warm tribute to him not only for the work he is doing now, but for all the work he has done for Scotland during a very difficult term of office. It is not any exaggeration to say that, through his hard work, he has earned the respect and confidence of all sections of our people irrespective of party or anything else, and I would like to pay him that tribute.
But this problem of housing is so grave and urgent that I do not think there is anything that the Secretary of State can ever do that will satisfy us. It is by far the greatest of all the problems with which he will ever be confronted. A good many speakers have stressed the needs of the urban areas. Only two speakers have mentioned the word "rural" in their speeches, and when the Secretary of State was making his speech, I was astonished that no reference was made to the needs of rural areas. I hope that I may be forgiven if, in balancing up the' picture, I add something to show that slums do not exist in the cities only. We cannot separate housing from health; neither can we separate housing from food. As long as we have ploughs and cows, we shall have to have places in which the ploughmen and cowmen can live, and as long as we are producing food we shall have to have our villages and exchange that food in our market towns.
The greatest need to-day in our country districts is that we must somehow or other build up a position from which we can stand the impact of the towns. We can- 135 not do that unless we raise the standard of housing and amenity in our villages and market towns, not necessarily up to the level of the market town, but up to the level on which the people on the land ought to live. Until we can do that, there does not seem to be the slightest hope of arresting OT reversing the prewar tendency of rural de-population with which we are all familiar.
As for the phrase "healthy and well-balanced agriculture," it will remain a meaningless phrase, indeed a mockery, unless we attend to our housing. I feel that if this task is properly handled, it will employ all the architects and all the builders that we are likely to possess in all the years to come. I am not a housing expert, but anyone can see, as was pointed out by one hon. Member, that with the suspension of building, with the destruction of homes, with the need for new construction as well as reconstruction, the system of priorities, with which we are all now only too familiar, is bound to go on after this war.
My chief object in rising, however, is to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply. Where, on the list of these priorities, does rural housing come? Are the people of the country to be given the same chance as the people of the cities? We want to know if they are to be given homes worthy of the land they serve, and we want to know if the voice of the city, the great vote of the urban population, is once more going to press us out. I think that is a perfectly legitimate question to put to the right hon. Gentleman. Are we all ashamed—I cannot think of a better expression and I hope I will be forgiven for using it—of the howling muck we have made of our housing development in the past? I do not think it is much good to go back and try to find the reasons——
§ Mr. Snadden
We have heard criticisms of the private owner. The right hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who looks after agriculture, if he were on that Front Bench now, would confirm that I went recently with him to one of the best blocks of houses built by the much-criticised public owner. I hope that in the post-war legislation due encouragement will be given 136 to this person, who is given very little credit to-day. We have to admit that most of our housing throughout the country is really bad, and I want to point out that our country districts—and even the district which I represent—contain real slums. I think the reason why we do not think there are slums in the country is because, very often, cottages are camouflaged by nature itself. A little while ago I had occasion to go to a very beautiful part of the country to see a group of cottages, the sort of cottages you would expect to see in "Country Life." They looked very pretty, they were surrounded by trees, and they had a background of hills. When I went into one cottage there was no beauty at all there—the walls were running with damp, the ceilings were bulging, there was no sanitation. But the house was tidy and I, personally, felt ashamed, because the wife told me that her husband was serving in the Merchant Navy on the Russian convoy route. So I hope it is not necessary to go into very great detail to prove that we have shims also in the country.
I would like to mention one other point. When notice of this Debate was given, I pulled out a report which I have here, on Rural Housing in Scotland, by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. I believe that is the only authoritative report we have. It was published in 1937, since when practically nothing has been done, and one assumes that conditions prevailing then, must therefore, prevail to-day. I do not want to quote from the report at any length. I would only draw attention to a sample survey, carried out over three typical parishes chosen at random. This survey shows that, on an average, no less than 75 per cent. of the working-class houses surveyed, were unfit for human habitation. In the chapter dealing with farm servants' houses, it is stated that 40 per cent. were damp, 35 per cent. had no sanitary conveniences, 14 per cent. were completely beyond repair, and 70 per cent. had major defects. The Committee went on to say that no section of the population is compelled to live in such consistently bad housing conditions as farm servants. That was in 1937, since when conditions have, if anything, deteriorated. That is a terrible picture. I would put a point to the right hon. Gentleman that may have been forgotten by some, in looking to our rural needs. When this war is over, masses of Italian 137 prisoners, who are to-day helping us very greatly, especially in Scotland, to grow very large crops will have gone home. After that, we shall still be required to maintain an extremely high tillage area, because we shall have to grow so much of our own food. I hope the right hon. Gentleman realises that, as well as rebuilding existing houses, he has to build new houses for agricultural labour, which were never there before, because of the fact that the Italian labourers will have gone home.
I hope I have proved that the needs of the country are, at any rate, no less urgent than those of the town. I would like to congratulate the Joint Under-Secretary on the excellent Report he has turned out which deals with lay-out and design. There is not time to go into that, but there are two points on which I would like a reply. Something has been said to-day about costs. I think costs are extremely important. Prices in the country have soared enormously. The cottage which, before the war, one could build for £600—I have done it myself—I am told to-day is well over £1,000. That is going to strike the smallholder. There are many smallholders in my constituency and their existing cottages could not be reconstructed under the Rural Workers Act, also it would be a waste of money, so that new houses must be built. If the costs are too high, or if the landlord or the owner happens to be hard up, it is simply going to mean that the smallholder will not have a house. I hope that point is being looked into. I do not think we have had any definition from the Government of their actual line of policy in relation to this question of costs which is so very important.
My last word is on the temporary house. I think to-day's Debate has done a very great deal of good in bringing forward ideas which I, at any rate, had not thought about, in regard to the temporary house. I, personally, dislike the idea of a temporary house. I do not fancy the steel house in the country, and I would ask the Secretary of State if it is his intention to send those houses out into the country. Also, has he abandoned the idea of the wooden house, because it occurs to me that the wooden house would be much more suitable for country districts than the steel house? Another point that occurred to me only a few moments ago, and about which I may be right or 138 wrong, is that, if we are to have steel homes in the country, it may be that we shall require special skill for repairing them.
§ Sir E. Findlay
May I interrupt the hon. Member? I lived in a wooden house in a battery in Edinburgh. I lived in a steel house in Iceland. There was no difference.
§ Mr. Snadden
The point I had in mind, was that the craftsmen in the village, the joiner and the plumber who repair ordinary roofs, might not be capable of repairing the new houses. That must be looked into, otherwise you would require a pool of special people to cope with repairs to these new houses. In any case I think the wooden house is the one for the country, rather than the steel house.
Finally, I would ask if any plan is in the mind of the Secretary of State to dispose of what was in pre-war clays the main reason, in my locality at any rate, for the delay in getting houses going. Prior to the war, the central authority in Edinburgh had to be consulted at every conceivable stage by the local authority. Masses of correspondence passed between the local authority and the Department in Edinburgh, and I am informed that in many cases, housing schemes were held up for months and months, because of the fact that letters were acknowledged and passed backwards and forwards. Surely, after this war, if we are to get on with this job, we must have a better plan to get over these tremendous delays which take place in correspondence? I will not keep the Committee any longer. I have had my innings and I would close by saying that I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Pollak (Commander Galbraith) that this is a job we shall all have to tackle together. I believe we require a combined operation on this housing scheme, and I would plead with the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to frame his great plan to remember what we have said about the country districts, as well as the cities and give us a fair deal.
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
At the end of a rather varied day it is tempting to pick out points made by various speakers, but I want to confine myself fairly closely to the subject, which has of course been the main burden, not of our song but of our complaint. It is this question of housing. 139 Let me assure the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden), the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) that there is no one on this side of the Committee, even although he sits for an urban division, who is not aware of, and concerned about, the housing problem in rural Scotland. Indeed, some people have suffered politically for reminding rural constituencies of their obligations and problems on this subject, when it was not policy to remind anyone that there were slums in the countryside.
We have listened to a good deal about what is to be done for Scotland. We were told that we were to have 150,000 houses in three years. I will not make any reservation about Portal houses, or any other type of emergency dwelling; my concern is to get more than 150,000 houses. This Committee would be running away from the facts, if we did not consider what evidence there is of how this job is to be done. I mean by that, that we now have in Scotland two emergency programmes for houses, totalling 2,000. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) has already made reference to this point. The figures of our accomplishment in these two programmes are most distressing and inexplicable. When I asked, two months ago, for the tale of our progress, I was told that four out of 1,000 houses had been completed. That figure has now risen to 12, and means that we have actually managed to erect 12 houses in 14 months. We cannot run away from that figure.
We must have an explanation of this delay. Frequently we have been told, as we were told again to-day, that in Scotland we have erected 32,000 houses since the beginning of the war. Of course, that smoke-screen is not quite sufficient. We are glad that we have completed that number of houses, but it is completion not erection. The figures for erection, given to me in answer to a Question, are that after 14 months 12 houses have been completed, 258 have been roofed over and that for 66, tenders have not yet been approved. For the second Loop houses, tenders have been approved for only 350.
Let me deal first with the 56 houses authorised 14 months ago, upon which 140 work has not yet started. I say to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that that is criminal negligence on the part of his Ministry. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State came to the House some time ago and told us of his difficulties in getting acceptable tenders and criticised as a ramp, the price of £1,815. Of course, this Committee will give my right hon. Friend powers to smash such a ramp, if he wants any powers, but I suggest, levelly, but most firmly, that the job of my right hon. Friend was to utilise his existing powers and direct that these houses should be built by the Special Areas Housing Association. Let us try to find out why we have only 12 houses after 14 months. I am fairly satisfied that one of the big contributory causes is the procedure to which the hon. Member for West Perth made reference just now, namely, the leisurely method of approval and acceptance of tenders. I see that my right hon. Friend shakes his head. He said to-day that plans of houses which had been authorised in February had been approved in that month and that in May tenders had been submitted and approved by his Department within seven days. But there is a delay of four months between authorisation of the houses and the first piece of work on the site.
These methods may have been acceptable in peace-time, but I argue most vigorously that they are not acceptable now nor are they relevant to the situation we are discussing, and I will try to explain why. The reasoning behind this method of competitive tender is really twofold—first to secure against corruption, which is very uncommon, and, secondly, to get a competitive price for the job. A competitive price will only be offered when there is a surplus capacity of contractors. Is not that quite clear? If there is no surplus capacity, there is no incentive to find what is the actual and competitive price. Therefore, I suggest that here is a sphere in which my right hon. Friend must be prepared to experiment. If I am wrong, and there is a surplus of directing capacity, then the position is dreadful and the negligence and responsibility of my right hon. Friend is even greater. But if there is no surplus capacity, would it not be possible, at this stage, to group contracting capacity and apportion it to the jobs to be done in 141 various areas, indeed, to direct such capacity as there is?
Of course, I appreciate that, even if you achieved a method of direction like that, you would not cut out the lag between authorisation and approval of tender unless you substituted another method of arriving at the price. I think it is not impossible to substitute another method. If we are pooling, it should be possible to arrive by agreement at what we may call the mean price by taking the 1938 average figure and adding 65 per cent, and say to the contractors, as we have done in every other sphere of building, "Get on with the job at that mean price and we will argue afterwards as to any conditions or amendments that must be made." We have not allowed four months to elapse between authorisation and the starting of work in other fields. If at the end of 14 months any other Ministry came to the House and said that only 1.2 per cent, of the programme had been accomplished in 14 months they would be put out, and properly so. It may be said that that refers to war contracts and that this is not a war contract. There we differ sharply. This is a job which, in my opinion, must have a high priority.
There are three factors—land, material and labour. I assume that there is: no difficulty about land and no great difficulty about material, but, of course, there are difficulties about labour. I asked in my division what were the largest number of tradesmen employed, and I was told that the largest number at any time was 68 and the smallest 16. That meant that there were only eight bricklayers on this emergency programme of 200 houses. My right hon. Friend says he cannot get labour. I invite him to tell that very plainly to the House because, if this is an emergency programme which has the authorisation of the Government, I assume that it has also the authorisation of a relevant portion of labour. That is either so or this is a piece of cruel deceit. There is no point in saying to any part of Scotland, "Your needs are so great that we will make an allocation of houses," if, 142 after that authorisation, the necessary amount of labour is not made available. My right hon. Friend referred to the quality of labour. I rather wish he had developed that. I am not quite sure what he means by the deficiency of quality in the labour. I do not pretend that this scheme will necessarily work, but it is clear that it cannot work less well than the methods we have been adopting for the last 14 months. I am told that the rule-of-thumb calculation tends to be that a building tradesman produces a house per annum.
§ The Chairman
Is not the hon. Member getting rather far away from the point at issue? He is discussing the quality of labour. It may be incidental to housing——
§ The Chairman
It is true that he mentioned it in passing. The hon. Member, as I understand it, is beginning to enter into details, which is rather different.
I do not feel at all certain that it will work, but we cannot do worse than we are doing and, plainly, if we are to tackle this programme of 350,000 houses in three years, we must do some experimenting, and we must produce new methods of fixing prices, of servicing and of building in suitable areas. The old methods of peace-time will not do for this job. War-time methods have to be applied to it. I hope we shall have an assurance that these disgraceful and, to me, almost inexplicable figures have been given every consideration, and the proper conclusions drawn from them, because those conclusions, alone, can efface this miserable 14 months' production.
§ Mr. Francis Watt (Edinburgh, Central)
I think it would be difficult to find a more popular exhibit than the Portal house has been in Edinburgh during the last week. I understand that thousands of people, not merely in Edinburgh, but in the whole of Scotland, are desirous of seeing it and I doubt if the arrangements will permit of them doing so. The erection of temporary houses is, in no sense, a cure of Scotland's housing problem, but it is plain that, from the public point of view, it is realised that the housing problem cannot be cured, except by a 143 combination of temporary houses on the one hand, and a long-term programme on the other. Many kind things have been said about the Secretary of State, and his colleagues, and Lord Portal, with regard to these temporary houses, but those nice things should not make those gentlemen forget that what Scotland needs is not a temporary programme, but something permanent. It may very well be that, at present, we see a shortage of labour and material, and many other difficulties, but I am optimistic enough to believe that, in spite of the uncomfortable surroundings in which we find ourselves, and various other temporary difficulties, not so very many months will make a big difference.
This temporary business is wasteful. It should be pursued only in a case of urgent necessity, The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) pointed out what the cost of these temporary houses is going to be. We have to add to the construction of the buildings the cost of laying out roads, the cost of drains and many other items. All that would be saved if it were possible, with a little skill and ingenuity, to erect permanent buildings. Accordingly, while the Portal house may have been favourably received, I feel that we should plan ahead and not be too hasty in committing ourselves to these temporary schemes, which will not satisfy the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland want a permanent housing scheme. No doubt there are difficulties. No doubt the location of industry is closely interwoven with the placing of rehousing schemes, but I have sufficient belief in the ability, care and ingenuity of my right hon. Friend and those associated with him, and the experts he may bring into consultation, to believe that they will be able to place their houses in such a manner as will meet the possible needs of industry in the future.
If we are to erect temporary houses, that will cost about £650, plus the cost of drainage, light and many other things, and then, in 10 years' time, pull them all down, and put up other houses, it is not a satisfactory way of dealing with the problem. A good many people will be coming home from abroad in the near future, and no doubt a roof has to be got over their heads. But let us look upon that as something which has to be done to the minimum possible extent, and let us look at the stone, brick and solid construction as 144 the type of house at which we are really aiming. While I commend the care which my right hon. Friend has shown in this matter, and agree that he has a house which, as far as I can see, reasonably meets the wants of the public, I would say that, speaking for my own constituents and for my hon. Friends here, we regard this house merely as a temporary expedient. We can assure my right hon. Friend that we look to him to use every power he has to bring about a permanent solution of Scotland's housing difficulties.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)
This Debate on health and housing has followed the usual lines of Debates on Scottish Estimates. It has been a Debate packed with good meat, and with innumerable suggestions for improving our health services, and for helping us to deal with Scotland's housing problem. It has been a very interesting Debate, and has been taken part in by many doughty fighters in this Committee, such as the right hon, and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and the newest recruit to our Debates, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard), who contributed a very able speech. We shall welcome his intrusion into our Debates in the future if his speeches maintain that high standard which he has set for himself and the Committee. He gave of his experience in local administration in health and housing, and brought that experience to bear on national problems. All the suggestions that have been made in the Debate will be carefully considered. Wherever it is possible to give effect to the suggestions for improving the health of the people, and for dealing with the problem of housing, they will be given the fullest consideration.
We have heard a lot to-day about the temporary house, and everyone who has dealt with housing has had something to say about the Portal house. The temporary house is not meant to take the place of the traditional forms of building. It is not in substitution of the permanent type of building. It is in supplementation of that building, because of Scotland's urgent need. If I know the people of Scotland, particularly the young men who are now serving so faithfully in Italy and France, and if I know the young women who have entered the Forces, and who 145 desire to get married and come back to a home of their own, I know that they will not wait 10 or 12 years for permanent houses. We must do something for them now. We must be prepared to supplement the traditional forms of housing and methods of building. That is the purpose of the temporary house. It is to try to provide a decent standard of shelter for our people—not the huts that were erected at the end of the last war into which many of our people were glad to go, but a temporary form of building, with a higher standard of equipment than is to be found in any municipal house. I have always boasted that the town to which I belong has built the finest municipal houses in Scotland, and I still make that boast. Not one of these houses, however, has equipment equal to that of the temporary house which is now on exhibition in Edinburgh. To enable the maximum number of housewives and others, who would desire to get these separate dwellings, to pass their criticism on the temporary house, a prototype will be erected in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Why should it be confined to the Portal house, when there are many other types of prefabricated houses, which some people think better than the Portal house?
§ Mr. Westwood
We are not confining our attention to the Portal house, but, at the moment, I am dealing with the house that has created most interest in the Debate. We are not ignoring other forms of temporary houses or other experiments in connection with houses. Experimental houses are being built in Scotland of varying materials by varying methods of construction, and we are trying to get the maximum amount of advantage and advice from any one who is willing to put into the common pool, their thoughts, ideas, plans and schemes to enable us to deal with Scotland's greatest problem. We do not want to rule out any of these experiments. There are several prototype houses that are being built in the Clydebank area——
§ Mr. Westwood
I am merely pointing out that there are these prototype houses. There are also the recommendations made in the Report which was issued by my Committee in connection with the design, lay-out and planning of houses. All these experiments are being made for the purpose of enabling us to obtain the largest amount of knowledge to help us to deal with this great problem.
The Debate has proved conclusively that the Prime Minister's programme is absolutely essential. Work, food and housing; you must have that combination to get a healthy population. It has been pointed out by many speakers to-day that we cannot have good health without proper and adequately cooked food for our people. Two or three speakers made reference to the experiments in connection with the feeding of school children. Undoubtedly, if we are to have a healthy population, it must be built up on healthy children getting at least one balanced meal per day. I am proud of what we have done there. We have increased from 3 per cent. to over 20 per cent. in the feeding of school children.
The Department have been encouraging local authorities to get on with housing. We are definitely planning for the future. I know there are some who say "Planning is all right, but it's houses we want," but we cannot build unless we plan. One of the weaknesses after the last war was that there were no plans. I hope that such a charge will not be levelled against the Secretary of State and myself in connection with our work. Committees have been set up to inquire into and report on the planning, lay-out and design of houses. That Committee, to which reference has already been made, has submitted reports to the Secretary of State. The first deals with design and supply of furniture. Many recommendations have been made, but the main point is that there shall in long-term planning be more bedroom and living room accommodation and better equipment in the kitchenette or scullery to make less labour for our womenfolk.
Another report has been submitted dealing with the distribution of the 500,000 houses. In other words, it is a plan for Scotland, not merely dealing with design 147 and lay-out but the areas in which the houses should be built and the manner in which they should be distributed. I can assure hon. Members that we have not overlooked the rural areas in this matter. The Committee of which I have the honour to be the chairman—and no one could have a more loyal or hard working body of men and women—which is inquiring into these serious problems has prepared these reports and has made it clear that the needs of workers in the rural areas are just as great as in the urban areas. We have also laid it down that the standard of housing shall not be lower than that which is accepted for urban areas. Many of the rural areas ought to have some form of priority in building, especially if we are to have a prosperous agricultural community. It has been pointed out that some of the slums in the rural areas are just as bad as the slums of the urban areas. We have tried to give the best advice to the Secretary of State in connection with all these matters. Our problem is not merely one of materials or of finance, although both have to be considered; it is a problem of labour supply.
Let us see what the position is. We cannot tackle this problem unless we have the facts before us. It is all right to say that all we have to do is to build houses, but you cannot build without labour. The number for the whole building industry in Great Britain prior to the war was approximately 1,050,000, and the figure for Scotland was 108,850. The figure for Great Britain was divided roughly, into 525,000 craftsmen and 525,000 building labourers. In July, 1943, the last date for which we have figures, the total labour force in the building industry in Great Britain was in the region of 400,000, of whom only 38,896 were in Scotland. The industry shrunk to about one-third its pre-war dimension. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where are they?"] They are in the Army, Navy and Air Force, and if they were not making sacrifices there, I very much doubt whether I should be able to discuss this subject in the peace and quietness of this assembly. [Interruption.] I am quite serious; they are making it possible for us to discuss this problem.
§ Mr. Westwood
Probably some Members do, but I had better tell the whole Committee. The Government are increasing the labour in the building industry to enable us to tackle this problem. The Secretary of State pointed out that we have come to an arrangement with the building industry to bring in dilutees, to the number of 200,000. That is the figure for Great Britain, and we hope to get 20,000 to 24,000 of those dilutees for Scotland.
On that basis—and, incidentally, that makes a proportion slightly higher than that referred to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot)—it really means an increase of building personnel by, approximately, 20 per cent. Over that, you have the encouragement we give now to bring a larger number of apprentices into the industry by prevocational training, which was referred to by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan). We are hoping to bring 50,000 additional trainee apprentices into the industry, so as to enable us to increase the total figure in the industry by approximately 250,000.
§ Mr. Westwood
Because we are negotiating with the building trade industry, with a view to reducing the years of apprenticeship, following on that improved training and education which they are to get in our schools.
§ Mr. Westwood
Every authority has not done it. We are doing our best to encourage education authorities in Scotland to follow the lead of some of the more progressive authorities, to enable us, by dilutees and apprentices, to bring into the industry approximately 250,000 more men than at the present time. If we can get 24,000 dilutees for Scotland, it will mean—this is all administration, which does not require legislation——
§ The Chairman
But does it come under the Department of Health or Housing? Does not this question of training come under the Ministry of Labour?
§ Mr. Westwood
I admit that so far as the training of dilutees is concerned, it will definitely come under the Ministry of Labour. But we have to get that labour, and I am trying to explain to the Committee what it will mean in the way of housing. I will get on to housing. If we can get an additional 24,000 from these dilutees, on the basis of building one house per man per year in the intdustry, that will increase our production of houses by approximately 24,000 a year. [Interruption.] It will take time, but if we do not train them, we will not get houses. Do let us be reasonable and face the facts. If we have not the labour, we must get it. If we have got it, we must train it. Without that, we cannot get the permanent houses which we in this Committee are all desirous of getting. That is the reason we aim, by our administration, at the production, in the first 10 years after war, of 500,000 houses.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Might we have it clearly understood that the Under-Secretary considers that the whole of these 20,000 men will go on to housing? The whole building industry in Scotland was not, of course, engaged on housing before the war. Will all these supplementary people go on to housing?
§ Mr. Westwood
I am grateful to my right hon. and gallant Friend for putting that point. We are aiming at the 24,000 additional men being employed on first priority work—the building of houses. That is the reason why I used this figure and said it would mean approximately 24,000 a year. The best figure we had in the pre-war years was approximately. 26,000 houses. We are trying to double that so far as our plans are concerned, based on a 10 years' programme immediately following the end of the war.
I want to make special reference to some other points that have been raised in the Debate. It has been suggested that we ought to examine what can be done in connection with, shall I say, the last war steel house. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) who drew attention to that. Lord Weir has been carrying through experiments with what might be termed the Weir house. I understand they have been fairly successful. He has improved insulation by approximately 75 per cent. I am advised that, so far as deafening is concerned, it is now a better house than that built with 150 the ordinary 11-inch brick cavity wall. There, again, that house will be on exhibition. That is not a temporary house. It it an alternative method of building with alternative materials as a permanent structure. That house is also to be on exhibition in Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Westwood
I understand that Glasgow does sometimes like to come to the East, to get the freshening breezes.
§ Mr. Westwood
By wise combination we shall make a success, if the East and the West work together. It is rather a strange coincidence that it is a man who has lived at Eastwood, who has best helped Westwood in this way. We are grateful not only to Lord Weir, but to those who are carrying through these experiments at present. It is by pooling all our ideas, by combined effort, by action, shall I say, irrespective of politics in dealing with this, particular problem, that we shall be able to solve this problem of housing. As I say, experiments have been carried through with the Weir house, and I understand they have been very successful.
A point was raised about the possibility of using war time hostels and buildings for the purpose of housing our people. The position is that there are owned by the Department up to the present, seven hostels; the Ministry of Fuel and Power own 15 in Scotland; the Ministry of Supply one, the Ministry of Works, one, the Admiralty, one, the Ministry of War Transport, one, and the Post Office, one. We are advised, as a result of putting our officers on to this, that these hostels are generally suitable for conversion. Two of these hostels at Milngavie and Balloch have been, or are being converted into houses. It is estimated that, exclusive of the miners' hostels which are being built at the present time, some 700 or 800 houses could be provided from these hostels. Army camps, prisoner-of-war camps and agricultural hostels, include about 10,000 huts. We have these figures as a result of a survey in Scotland. We find that only about one-third of these appear to be potentially suitable for conversion into about 6,000 houses. The remainder are defective as regards drainage 151 of water facilities, or are in unpopulated localities. The exact number available for housing purposes can only be ascertained by inspection. Consultations are now proceeding with the War Department, to ascertain whether any war-time structures, suitable for temporary housing purposes, can be released before the end of the war. We are also trying to meet our housing needs by carrying through a fairly extensive scheme—which, I think, has been fairly successful—for war damage. That has taken up a good deal of our building labour which was made available by the Ministry of Labour; and the local authorities have also done their bit in carrying out the scheme.
The total number of houses damaged in Scotland is, approximately, 80,000. I am not including houses which had only broken glass or minor defects. All the slightly damaged houses have been made habitable, as have all but 250 of the seriously-damaged houses. These 250 are mostly large houses, which would be costly to repair, or sub-standard houses, which are not worth repairing. For the purpose, again, of enabling the local authorities to get on by stages in dealing with the problem, we framed a scheme in October, 1943, to enable them to carry out essential works of repair, adaptation, and conversions, costing up to £250 in the case of a single house, and £200 per dwelling in the case of flats and tenements, without the approval of the central Department. These minimum figures were raised in 1944 to £500 and £400 respectively. At the same time, local authorities were informed that the Secretary of State was prepared to consider, in special cases, proposals from them to grant certificates for higher expenditure. All work carried out under this scheme is termed certified work, and it is arranged that the Minister of Labour will not withdraw labour from such work until other sources have been exhausted. This is all done to minimise the hardships from which our people are suffering because of the terrible housing conditions which are the lot of the Scottish people at present. We intend, if it is at all possible, to have our plans completely ready for the word "Go" when the peace bells ring, so that we can tackle that problem of building 500,000 houses in the first days after the war. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) 152 and the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) referred to the delay in the building of the first 200 houses.
§ Mr. Westwood
No, there were 2,000 houses, of which the first 200 were allocated to the rural areas. Those 200 were to be part of the first 1,000 allocated to Scotland. The position is that, of those 200 houses, eight have been completed and 102 are under construction. For twenty-four, tenders have been approved but building has not begun, mainly because of site difficulties; and 42 have not been begun because we had to reallocate them to other authorities. As the Secretary of State has pointed out, we were not going to be parties to the excessive prices that would result from the charges to be made by the contractors, based on the schedules which had been submitted.
§ Mr. Westwood
I cannot give the names, because, so far as I know, the names of the contractors do not come to the Department, unless we make special requests for them. [Interruption.] If I can get the information, I will see if it is possible to send the names out. All I can say is that it is the local authority which sends out the schedules, and which takes in the offers by the contractors; and I cannot say, at the moment, who the contractors are. As I said, 42 were not begun because they were re-allocated to other authorities, and 24 were not begun because the local authorities failed to receive reasonable tenders; but they are still hoping to do so. That is the 200.
The reasons for the failure to begin are, first, difficulty in some areas in getting satisfactory tenders—I feel perfectly sure that neither of the two Members who raised this point would desire us to pay up to £1,700 or £1,800 for four-apartment houses. [Interruption.] Secondly, there are difficulties in certain cases in obtaining access to sites, besides other site difficulties. Thirdly, there are labour difficulties, and the delay necessarily resulting from the withdrawal of houses from the areas where satisfactory tenders have not been obtained, and the reallocation of these houses to other areas, which means that we have to start 153 all over again from scratch, in getting schedules and so on. That is briefly the explanation. I would appeal, not merely to this Committee, but, through this Committee, to the housing authorities in Scotland, to get on with the servicing of sites. We will not compel anyone to take these temporary houses. We will ask them to pass their verdict on them, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have no doubt that when our housewives see that type of house, even though it is only a temporary house, our difficulty will not be to induce the local authorities to build them, but to provide police protection to guard the queues of people wishing to take them.
§ Major Lloyd
I was not here at the beginning of my right hon. Friend's speech, and if he has answered my questions, I humbly apologise. But I put two important questions, first, if he will consider a convention of all interested in the medical, health and allied services; and, second, whether he will give an assurance that he will not put his signature to anything in the way of embryo legislation until a conference with all concerned has been undertaken?
§ Mr. Westwood
At the very outset I made it clear that every suggestion which had been made by any Member, in any quarter of the Committee, would receive serious consideration, and that we will go over these suggestions, and see whether anything can be done.
That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Mr. A. S. L. Young.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.