§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I am particularly pleased tonight to have this opportunity of ventilating a side of the great human problem of Scottish housing which is perturbing many of us on all sides of the House, as hon. Members are having complaints increasingly because of the rapid deterioration of certain types of buildings in their constituencies.
I do not want to be misunderstood on the opposite side of the House. I am not in any way criticising the Government for not getting on with the job. As an individual I am intensely dissatisfied at the large proportion of homes still necessary in Scotland, but I am aware of the difficulties in labour and material and in getting the full co-operation of the local authorities, that confront our Scottish Department. I am aware that in my county of Ayr there have been many thousands of houses and homes provided, and that, four-and-a-half years after the war, more houses had been built and occupied in the County of Ayr than were built in 17½ years after the first world war by Conservative Governments in power over that period. I do not want to dwell too much on the past, as I feel that can be overdone. I want to deal with the future and to confine the problem within the orbit of unfit houses and how best we can approach a more rapid solution of the problem of replacing bad homes.
We know the Government have been making special allocations to certain types of workers and certain communities throughout Scotland. Miners and agricultural workers have had extra allocations of houses, but I want to draw attention to a particular problem which arises in a grave manner in my constituency. It has as its basis the fact that at one time it was an intensely active coal-mining district. I am referring to the landward area of Dalry in the County of Ayr. Owing to the fact that it was a coal producing area many years ago, many 2001 colliers' houses were built there by the colliery companies of that time. We refer to them in our country as "miners' rows." I am convinced that many of these miners' rows are well over 100 years old.
They are rapidly falling into disuse because coal is no longer being produced there. However the houses have been kept on and rents are still collected from them regularly. I visited these places last Saturday and had a most distressful time going through some of them. Of the 20 or 30 I visited, however, I was impressed by the good type of tenant and family residing in them. The houses were scrupulously clean, showing an active attempt on the part of the tenants to keep a good roof over their heads.
What has happened? Not long ago these miners' rows have changed ownership. An individual has come along and bought the houses from the old mining interests for their salvage value. They are not yet condemned although, in my opinion, they are certainly not fit for human habitation. This individual is collecting the rents but, unfortunately, is collecting more than the rents. Recently he has sent along workmen who have stripped from the rooftops the heavy lead cleadding which was keeping out the rain and making the houses tenable for the people residing them. This material was stripped off for its monetary value and has been replaced by some shoddy, light material. Because of its nature the workmen cannot fasten it to the old boarding in the roof, and in practically every home I visited, the ceilings were down. The result is that in wet weather the tenants have put out receptacles to collect the water dripping from the ceiling, they have to put covers over the beds, or remove these into a dry corner in order to have some place to sleep. Mostly the houses are of the but and ben type, some of them single apartments. In some both ceilings are down.
I have asked the Ayr County Council this week to do what they can to get this individual to face his legal responsibility of keeping these houses wind and water tight as long as he is collecting rents. I hope that some pressure can be exerted by the County Council and, if necessary, by the Department of Health in order that this individual will not be allowed further to strip these dwellings to get some monetary reward for the 2002 small expense he has incurred in acquiring them. I do not mind what he does with the houses after we re-house the tenants, but he must leave these good, honest, hard-working people there until the County Council are able, through their housing arrangements, to house them properly.
There are other aspects of this problem. I know there is great sympathy in the Department but, in the nature of things, during the past five years local authorities have been forced, because of the need for homes as a result of the very few dwellings provided during the six years of total war, to concentrate in the main on two specific types of families requiring houses. The first are people in overcrowded dwellings and the second are sub-tenants. The third type of housing need is provided by persons residing in unfit houses. These have had to be left alone in many cases because at least they have had some kind of home, while the sub-tenants were liable in many cases to be thrown out on to the street with their few belongings because of some form of landlordism in the sub-tenancy.
So in many instances, the local authorities being aware of that particular circumstance, have concentrated on the sub-tenants and on the overcrowded families. That has been all very well and I believe it to have been good. But we are now faced with a situation where we have many of these unfit houses, or houses which could be scheduled as unfit, are deteriorating so rapidly that there will be a culmination of deterioration.
What I have described as happening at Dairy in a more acute form, has happened in many more places, and I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland if he would be prepared to consider this particular problem. I know he has to consider it in relation to various other facets of the housing need in Scotland. But I hope he will be prepared to consider it sympathetically in order that some review may be made of the areas which have this heavily weighted problem of unfit houses compared with other areas that have not; so that if possible they get an extra allocation of houses because of their particular need.
I am impressed by the necessity for this because of a recent action taken by the county council of Ayr. I understand that this problem is pressing so heavily 2003 on that county council that, because of the position of many of these unfit properties and of miners rows in particular, in their next allocation of houses they propose to take 100 and set them aside, apart from the special allocation to the whole of the landward areas, and give them to the areas which are suffering especially because of this unfit house problem. I understand that of that 100, possibly 12 may go to the Dalry area. I know of hundreds of unfit houses in that area and the same thing applies to Beith.
I feel that no matter how the county council may draw from their allocation to meet this problem, their action will be ineffectual because the total allocation will be too small for their current needs. The Department ought to consider this problem because we have local authorities in Scotland who are not using their current allocation of houses. We have some local authorities who have not started on their 1950 allocation, far less have they asked for the 1951 allocation. There are many progressive local authorities who are now asking for the 1951 allocation. But if we have laggard local authorities who are not facing up to their responsibilities, or who think that their housing needs are not sufficient for them to take some action, the Secretary of State ought to be prepared to see that their allocation of houses will go to those areas which are so badly in need of a bigger allocation.
The other type of problem, about which we are receiving distressing complaints, is the unfit house of fairly recent age. I am referring to the army-hut type of house which at the most is only seven or eight years old, and which has been occupied by local authority tenants for only five or six years. Many of these dwellings are rapidly deteriorating. I have two fairly large areas in which there are these Army-hut type of houses; one in the Burgh of Stewarton and the other in the Burgh of Irvine. Every week I get letters from families subjected to distressing conditions because of the deterioration of these army huts. While I know, as I have talked with my hon. Friend about this, that there are difficulties—and I do not wish to over stress the position—I feel I would not be doing my duty to my own people and to these two particular areas, as well as to other areas where 2004 there are these Army huts, if I did not ask him to give more consideration to how and when he can ease the problem confronting those local authorities throughout Scotland.
I hope I have not tried to cover too much ground, but I am particularly pleased at having this opportunity to say what I have said; and I hope that what in getting rid of the problem which I I have said will have some urgent effect have tried to illustrate.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
I enter into this Debate principally because of the final remarks made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) about army huts. I have already approached his right hon. Friend in connection with some of these huts which exist in my own constituency at Patterton Camp. Like the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire I have recently inspected these huts and I was perfectly amazed at the conditions which there exist. What amazed me more than anything was to be told that those who are collecting the rents for these huts were representatives of the Department of Health for Scotland.
I discovered huts which could be made perfectly habitable under the conditions existing today—not at all good conditions—but which could be made very much better than they are. Many have never been divided at all, and those which have are in a most deplorable condition. There is no light in them whatsoever except by paraffin oil. Officially there are 60 families here; unofficially perhaps more. There are four water taps for the people living in this camp, and some have to proceed 60 or 70 yards to some of the taps. That should not exist, particularly if the Department of Health has any responsibility whatsoever. I have taken this up with the Secretary of State, and he has undertaken to have a look at it. Some of these people have been there for five years. After five years we find this camp with 60 families with only four water taps. They have no other conveniences. That is a state of affairs which should not be allowed to exist, and in my opinion, it could quite easily be put right with very small expenditure.
On the other matter of which the hon. Gentleman spoke, he has the sympathy of 2005 the House. He spoke of houses which today are falling into a state of disrepair which should never have been allowed to reach such a state. The hon. Gentleman mentioned some things happening there which it would be very difficult indeed to excuse, but I should have thought that there was a legal remedy available, whereby those tenants could take proceedings against the landlords to see that the houses were watertight. They should never have been allowed to remove all the material which was essential to make them watertight.
The hon. Gentleman has our sympathy in all these things, and the families who are compelled to live in those houses also have our sympathy. I hope this Debate will draw the Government's attention to the fact that we have to build more houses in Scotland, where the need is so much greater than it is in England. I am not going back on the recent debate which we had on housing. A greater effort must be made in Scotland, and I hope the Government will make that effort.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I am very interested in what the hon. and gallant Member has said about the general housing situation. The Conservative Party have set themselves a target of 300,000 houses for the whole of the country. Could the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us how many of these houses are going to be allocated to Scotland?
§ Commander Galbraith
That is a very pertinent question, and in reply I would say that no decision has yet been arrived at. We appreciate this that in our global figure of 300,000 something more ought to be done for Scotland than has been done in the past in view of the fact that housing conditions in Scotland are very much worse than England. We think that we have a greater claim for houses than in England.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes rose—
§ Commander Galbraith
No, I cannot give way. I told the hon. Gentleman that I was not going to go over the whole housing debate which we had last month.
There is one other point to which I should like to draw attention. It will interest the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and the hon. 2006 Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). Notices are being issued by the County Council of Ayr at the present time—and quite rightly so—to owners of property, asking them to bring their property up to date by installing running water and those other conveniences which are laid down by Act of Parliament. The difficulty that arises is that when these notices are sent out and the landlord is willing to do even more, and submits plans which are approved and applies for licences, the same gentleman who issues the instructions to have this work done says that no licences are available. That surely is a most improper state of affairs.
The second point which arises in this connection, and which is most important and merits consideration, is that in many of these localities there is the labour and materials available to get on with these small jobs. Yet the licences are refused. I hope that the Under-Secretary will look into that matter of instructions being issued seeing that work has to be done, and when the owner expresses his willingness to do it and takes the initial steps, he is told that no more licences are available.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether these licences are for work which comes to more than £100, because according to my knowledge repairs are not being executed though licences are not required for work up to £100?
§ Commander Galbraith
I am not dealing with repairs, but with improvements. As the hon. Lady knows, a w.c. and a bathroom cannot be added to a house, nor can a kitchenette be provided for the sum of £100. It is a matter of £200 or £300. I hope the Under-Secretary will look into that point. In the matter of repairs, I know perfectly well that one can spend up to £100, and I hope many people are doing it. These are the points to which I want to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary. I hope he will look into them, because the housing conditions in Scotland and a great many of our cities are deplorable.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I would not in any way fall short of the sympathy which the hon. And 2007 gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) expressed for the people who are living in army huts. I think that no hon. Member of the House would disagree with him in saying that they should be maintained by responsible public bodies and Ministries in the best possible state of repair, and that as soon as possible they should be provided with electric light and water supplies.
I confess, however, that I was rather disappointed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in that he did not extend his lecture on these deficiencies to private properties as well as those under Governmental control. I knew that he would say something about licences, but I am thinking of the type of property mentioned by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). Many of these houses are 100 years old, and were built when there were no licensing restrictions. They were not kept in proper condition, but were allowed to fall into dilapidation and become the slums that we are now being asked to rehabilitate. They had no electricity and no water supply. There was no attempt made to provide these amenities in them, and there were also no licences and no restrictions preventing the landlords from doing it.
The army huts which have been mentioned are only a small part of the total of unfit houses. In my own constituency of the Western Isles, in the Island of Lewis, which has a population of 28,000, the county council has made a survey showing that about 50 per cent. of the houses are unfit for human habitation and should be demolished. Most of them could not in any circumstances economically be put in a condition fit for human habitation. The difficulty was not that the Government—certainly not this Government—would not do it, but that we could not get the private contractor to come in and quote a reasonable price within which these houses could be made fit for occupation. The lowest tender one used to get was round about £2,700 per house, and if that is a reasonable tender, I do not know by what standards the private contractors and their supporters on the Front Bench opposite are judging these things.
This is not an Ardrossan problem, or an Ayrshire problem; it is a country-wide problem, not confined to Scotland, but to 2008 the whole of Britain. The problem which has been left to us is the inheritance of 100 years of neglect and dilapidation, and is by no means confined to the small section covered by those who have spoken about people living in army huts. Some of the army huts are indeed disgraceful places in which to expect people to live, and I should like to see some action taken by the Ministry of Civil Aviation about the numbers of people living in different parts of the country, including my own constituency, on airport sites. A great deal could be done, and a little is being done now, to reduce the exorbitant rents which have been charged up to now—in some cases, the full economic rent—to people who are compelled to live in huts.
There are other points in this problem. I know that, in connection with the long queues of applicants for houses which we saw at the end of the war, we found some people coming out of one type of property and transferring to army huts, against the wishes of the Government and the local authorities, and thus creating an unfair dilemma for the local authorities. In some cases, the living conditions of these people and their families were actually worsened in the hope that they might be given a prior claim to those people who had been longer on the waiting lists than themselves. There has been much jumping of the queue. I am not criticising the appeal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite for doing what we can to bring these amenities of water supply and electric light to these huts. I am objecting to it being narrowed down to army huts.
I know the problem of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in this matter and I can sympathise with him. Is this appeal going to be met out of the total allocation for Scotland? Within the limitations placed upon him and upon us, due to causes beyond our control, is he going to be asked, within that Scottish allocation, to go to the local authorities and say. "Some of these houses are wanted in the Western Isles, in Ardrossan, in Glasgow, the Gorbals and so on," and expect other local authorities on that account to give up their own allocations or part of them?
I know that my hon. Friend for Central Ayrshire has this very much in mind. The obvious answer to that is that we cannot do it by that method alone. We must add to the total if that is practicable, and if it is not practicable—well, it is not 2009 practicable, and that is the only answer that one can get for the moment. I am afraid that we shall have to go further and suggest constructive ways and means by which we can add to the total of houses, because the only effective answer to the housing shortage is to build more houses and not re-allocate a few here and a few there.
This can be a very poignant problem to anyone with a family. I know that the hon. Member would be the first to say that he is not asking that the allocation for Glasgow or Edinburgh or the Islands shall be altered against the wishes and needs of the local people in order to satisfy the needs of Lewis. I know that he does not suggest any such thing. That throws us back again on to the difficulty of expanding our minimum or possibly maximum allocation for this year.
Do not let this discussion be merely an attack on the Under-Secretary or those responsible for the immediate housing conditions. It is much wider than that. This problem goes back not five, but 100 years, and I could wish that those opposite who were responsible for the housing policy had done more to build more houses when there were no licensing restrictions and to improve houses then by providing water supplies and electrification, which is now slowly but surely coming into the remotest homes in Great Britain.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
This is a very tragic problem which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). It is a problem indeed that threatens to overwhelm Scotland, where an enormous proportion of houses are daily becoming unfit for use. It is a problem for which private enterprise is not entirely without responsibility because in those happy, halcyon years when there were no Socialist planners in control at Westminster the book-keeping technique of property owning was entirely irresponsible.
I think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollock (Commander Galbraith), if I may call him so, who is on the Front Bench opposite. would admit that there has never been in our accountancy a more scrupulous record of amounts set aside for depreciation, so far as property owners are con- 2010 cerned than there has been in business circles, in ship-owning and in the motor car industry, when year by year the balance sheets show a certain amount set aside for depreciation. I know that it is a great temptation for the owner of property just to take all that is left and not to set aside anything for depreciation, but I think it is inexcusable that in the inter-war years, when a previous Government laid down that there should be an increase of 40 per cent. given to property owners, 25 per cent. of which was in respect of increased cost of repairs, those repairs were never carried out.
§ Commander Galbraith
The hon. Lady does realise, does she not, that often the amount left over, to which she was referring, was a minus quantity, and has been for many years?
§ Mrs. Mann
It is very difficult to say. It really depends upon the age of the property, because the financial returns, as shown in the "Investor's Chronicle" do reveal, and did reveal for quite a number of years in the '30s, that property was giving a 5 per cent. overall recovery. But it can always be argued with quite a lot of truth that a great many property owners are finding they are getting no return at all.
If I have inherited property from my grandmother, doubtless I shall be spending more than I am getting, because of the book-keeping technique or lack of book-keeping technique which failed to point out that property was a diminishing asset, and because of the common acceptance of the practice of looking on property as an ever-continuing investment, which it is not and can never be. The result is that now we have property owners in very real difficulty and yet, at the same time, a great many property owners whose property would have been demolished 20 years ago, if local authorities had been as anxious about housing as they might have been.
We are confronted with a problem which, very soon, will be well-nigh overwhelming to Scotland; and I hope that those in the Scottish Office well know that we in Scotland will not stand for a reduction of the housing output. We will not stand for any diminution of the housing figures, under any circumstances. We shall press for an increase.
With regard to the housing problem raised on this Adjournment Motion, with 2011 specific reference to unfit houses, these houses would have been closed long ago but for the war. They are still open, and I find that local authorities in my own constituency have rehoused people from these unfit dwellings only to find that, because we have not closed the property or demolished the building, others are coming into these vile houses. In my constituency these houses have no flooring, they have no walls, or, at any rate, no plaster on the walls. They have paraffin lamps and no water supply indoors. Water outside in the street serves the whole streetful of houses. My local authority remove the people and then find the houses are rapidly filled up again with other people. Those people come to me and tell me all about the condition of houses from which I have already had the tenants removed two years ago. Now I am asked to remove them again. I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland if he could not try to get the local authorities to close and demolish such houses. They are a disgrace to Scotland. They are a disgrace to civilisation. I would hesitate to bring anyone to look at them. Why should they not be closed up entirely?
It is only recently that the Secretary of State for Scotland has agreed that our local authorities should have an allocation against general needs and that general needs should be interpreted as including slum clearance. The present situation is hardly fair to the local authority which has a very big population in uninhabitable houses, because most local authorities are working on a points system, giving a certain amount of priority for cases of T.B., priority for overcrowding, priority for being homeless or for living with a mother-in-law—which is almost worse than being homeless.
If my local authority decided to close down 50 houses, then all these deserving people with T.B., and similar cases, would be put back on the list, because if they close down houses, they must give priority to the tenants who are being removed. There is this hesitancy on the part of Scottish local authorities to do this bit of cleaning which is so much needed and which would be to advantage later, particularly when we remember that these slums are already serviced for sewers, 2012 streets, roads and so on. Instead of concentrating on that, we are putting our people further out into the suburbs and housing is becoming more costly. My right hon. Friend should encourage local authorities to go in for a little bit—I should like to say a great bit—of slum clearance. At any rate, he should make a start and have these houses demolished.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) represents a very distinguished constituency, one in which Robert Burns lived and in which he wrote "The Cotter's Saturday Night," the poem which was written about humble houses—houses which had not the sanitation and the ideal conditions of which the hon. Member dreams today, although they brought a larger measure of human happiness than has been obtained by the endeavours of the present Government. The Joint Under-Secretary of State must be quite clear, from what has been said by his own supporters, about the deep and profound dissatisfaction of all representatives of Scottish constituencies with the Government's housing policy. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire deplores that lead is being removed from the roofs of houses and that the occupants are finding themselves exposed to the inclemency of the weather.
§ Mr. Manuel
I hope I was not misunderstood. The hon. Gentleman supports private enterprise completely, and this action of removing the lead from the roofs of these houses was private enterprise at its worst—not concerned about housing but concerned to make some money on the side. I certainly do not want it to be suggested that my speech was blaming the Government for those circumstances.
§ Sir W. Darling
I well understand that the hon. Gentleman does not want to be placed in the invidious position of not being a supporter of the Government, for his slavish loyalty to the Government is well known in the constituency he represents. In his eyes they can do no wrong. Nevertheless, implicit in his speech was the urgent clamour and knowledge that his constituents are badly housed and have no prospect of being better housed. If that is not an indictment of His Majesty's Government, then I do not 2013 know in what terms to couch one, should I desire to do so.
Sometimes we talk about housing in this House and elsewhere as if the housing of the human race began only in 1945 and that up to that time we wore skins and lived in the woods or under turf roofing. That is the picture which His Majesty's Government and their supporters would like to place before the House and the country. Nothing has been more evil than the ceaseless propaganda of denigration which has come from the Socialist benches about the housing of the people of Scotland. Despite its disadvantages, this great race has housed itself for many centuries and produced men and women who not only made their own country great but who circumscribed the whole of the civilised world. Yet on the lips of Socialist speakers for 25 years we have had nothing but denigration of the housing position of Scotland. How can it be possible that out of such evil so much good can come? The Joint Under-Secretary wants to intervene.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)
Does the hon. Gentleman not remember the housing survey of 1935 and what it disclosed? Does he not remember that [...]t disclosed under what dreadful conditions the people of Scotland had to live by comparison with the people of the Southern Kingdom? His party were in power in those days. My party criticised his party for the little they did in those days. His party did not seem to realise that there was a serious shortage of houses in Scotland. It is they who have discovered, since 1945, that there is a housing problem.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Gentleman's intervention is in keeping with his sentiments and his feelings. None the less, I re-assert that the blackening of the Scottish housing position was the prelude to the enjoyment of the power and office which His Majesty's Government now possess.
The houses which, in the opinion of Robert Burns at any rate, were capable of producing happy families, who had a fuller and happier life and as much of the culture of life as we have today, had not water-borne drainage—the new idea of the Socialist legislature. In these days they have that priceless boon, the indoor 2014 closet. The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann), tells me that society can never be happy if it draws its water from a well. She tells me that these things are essential to good housing. I would point out that a great people was born and grew to its mature stature in conditions of housing which have been denigrated by His Majesty's Government.
No greater evil has been put before the people of Scotland than this pursuit of the unattainable ideal. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) said in a remarkable speech, the best has been the enemy of the good. This pursuit of the unattainable by the Government has produced an insufficient number of houses and has increased the discontent of the persons who are inadequately housed and are now denied what they see their fellow citizens enjoying elsewhere. The policy of the Government, by continued criticism of the standards of housing, has created a problem which is now so considerable they cannot hope to solve it.
In every other department of our lives we find a lowering of our standards. Our clothes are not so good as they were. The standard of our food is not so good as it was. The liberties of the subject are less than they were. The whole of life has narrowed and contracted after five or six years of Socialism, but the Government still hold aloft the unattainable ideal of perfection in housing. The Government still believe that they can attain a standard of houses which is beyond their financial resources, beyond the labour resources, beyond the material resources of our country, and they still plead—the plea is on the lips of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire and the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie—the case which they themselves know is unattainable. They plead it for party political purposes. This is the dilemma in which they have placed themselves. The setting of a high ideal is a very comforting thing for those who set it, but it is an extremely uncomfortable thing for those who have to listen to it and know it is unattainable.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Lady poses me a very simple question. In the sanity and frankness of her mind, and a charming innocence the years are not able to dull in her, and which is still with her, she asks me how it is that I am able to talk with confidence of 300,000 when those, of whom the Joint Under-Secretary of State is the very adequate representative here tonight, whose main object is 200,000 cannot contemplate more than 200,000. She asks me how we dare, we feeble creatures, to talk of 300,000, when they can talk only of 175,000 or 200,000. The reason is exactly what I have endeavoured to state it to be—that one can have 300,000 quite suitable shelters in accordance with our means, and one cannot have 150,000 houses with five or four or three rooms and with two bathrooms and with an indoor and outdoor lavatory. The idealism of the Socialist Party has been their downfall—they lack realism. The eyes of the fool are on the ends of the earth.
Yet they continue dangling—and it is, in my opinion, a cruel thing—they continue dangling in front of the eyes of the homeless the suggestion that people are unhappy because they are living with their mothers-in-law. My mother-in-law for four or five years enjoyed my society and still enjoys it today. It is only Socialists who cannot be sociable. The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie and her colleagues have committed themselves to this wicked thing—to dangle in front of the homeless the fact that, as they say, they must live with their mothers-in-law and elsewhere; and they continue to dangle in front of the homeless numerically impossible numbers of houses with five rooms, which they can never have. They ask people to vote for the party opposite in order that they can have such houses. How much more realistic are the Conservative Party in saying: "What we want in this emergency is adequately decent shelter. From shelter we will pass to houses. From the houses we will pass to the mansions of the blest dreamed of by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie and those who share her ideals."
§ Mr. Manuel
I want the hon. Gentleman to realise that the gravamen of my charge was that in my own constituency—and not for political purposes—lead was being stripped from the roofs of old miners' rows, and flimsy material was being placed there instead. That is something that can be stopped. I do not think you should try to gull the people of Scotland merely to carry on Tory hypocrisy.
§ Sir W. Darling
The suggestion is made, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you are gulling the people of Scotland to carry on Tory hypocrisy. I make no charge of that character against you. You will, however, observe, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman is a little nettled in this matter. The Government and the Minister of Supply have, apparently, been unable to control, the price of lead. They have made lead more valuable than gold, and criminally intended persons apparently, to a limited extent, in the constituency of Central Ayrshire take the lead from roofs in order that they can sell it for undesirable profits.
I would inform you, Sir, and the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire that this scandal of lead is found not only in Central Ayrshire. Let me take the hon. Gentleman's mind—as he will shortly be taking his person to King's Cross Station—to Bloomsbury which he will traverse on his way to King's Cross. He will find that in Bloomsbury there is an institution which is correctly described, from his Scottish nationalist viewpoint, as the British Museum. Two or three days ago lead was stolen not from miners' rows in Central Ayrshire but from the British Museum, and not from the roof, but from coffins and sarcophagi of ancient Egyptians. So this crime he protests about here, and so annoying to the Joint Under-Secretary of State—a gentle and well-meaning young man—is being committed in Bloomsbury as well as in Central Ayrshire. This stealing of lead, which has now become more valuable than gold, is the direct consequence of the hon. Gentleman's support of the Socialist Party, because they have failed through the Minister of Supply in controlling the price of this commodity, the result of which is that it cannot be procured except by theft. The thing of which he complains is not really a matter about which his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can help him. This stealing of lead Is a widespread 2017 national crime which does not, even in Bloomsbury, respect the coffins of the dead.
If that is all about which he had to complain concerning the housing of his constituents in Central Ayrshire his speech was of little moment, but he knows, and I know, that he has much more serious complaints than the taking away of lead from the roofs of some 30 miners' homes——
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Gentleman committed himself to the figure of 30 houses, and, with an eye on his votes at the next General Election, he said that, in spite of the lead being taken away from the roofs, the houses were scrupulously clean—scrupulously clean there are votes there. The complaint is about an unknown, unspecified stealer of lead from roofs who is now apparently operating not only in Bloomsbury but also in Central Ayrshire.
If I had made his speech for the hon. Gentleman—I could have made it much better than he did—I should have complained about more serious things in Central Ayrshire than that. The housing conditions of Central Ayrshire are no different from those in other parts of Scotland, where houses are held up because of lack of materials and lack of capacity to organise labour and by every possible restriction and limitation that human ingenuity can conceive. What the hon. Gentleman said, in effect, was that the housing of Central Ayrshire under the Socialist Government of the last five or six years has been deplorable. Before Socialism came into power people really lived. They had a modicum of happiness. They may have drawn their water from wells in buckets and not had main drainage, but they lived. Looking at hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who come from Scotland, I should say that their parents lived fairly well because they have produced some fine sons and some not unprepossessing daughters.
§ Sir W. Darling
I hope I shall not flatter the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie if I say that she has maintained a certain comeliness even after many years of political activity. She was the product of these conditions.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Lady tells us now that, whatever the housing conditions in Scotland were, there was one good house, the house from which she emerged. Her parents, with greater wisdom than most people, thought that money spent on a good house was worth while. They were right. If many more people in Scotland had given the same attention to the desirability for a good house, the standard of housing would be better in Scotland than it is today.
§ Sir W. Darling
The English, for whom I have nothing but good to say, recognised many years ago that a quarter of one's income would be well spent on housing and the standard of housing in England is better today because of it.
To return to my central theme, this is a painful experience for the Under-Secretary. It is not new, but it is still painful. He is deeply concerned with housing in Scotland. He has heard again tonight, factually and eloquently put, the views of the constituents of South Ayrshire and Coatbridge and Airdrie. I only hope—it is no more than a hope—that he will do two things. The first is that he will accelerate as far as his Parliamentary capacity enables him to do, the improvement in the maintenance of houses in Scotland and the building of new houses. I admit that in this field he is well intentioned, but he is not likely to be very effective, because houses are not built by Parliamentary Secretaries.
The second thing he can do is to stop his colleagues continually denigrating the houses which we already have. They are not good enough, I know, for angels, but good enough they have been in the past for good men and good women to bring up fine families, and until people can get better houses it is shameful and cruel to pretend that they can shortly be supplied by a piece of political jugglery of which he is the master. That is the mind of the Socialist Party, unable to provide better houses, but still continuing to offer water to men and women who are dying of thirst. They pretend that some inadequacy somewhere, the Korean war 2019 or the recent illness of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer—anything, in fact—prevents them from realising these great needs. It is only they who can realise them. Let them trim up their attitude towards public affairs.It's an ill bird that files its ain nestMany Parliamentary Secretaries and Secretaries of State for Scotland have "filed their ain nest": and that nest is the noble land of Scotland.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mrs. Cullen (Glasgow, Gorbals)
In past debates it might have been difficult to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), but I do not find it so difficult tonight. When there is a housing debate in the House, I do not know how there comes to be so much hilarity on the benches opposite, for it is a terrible tragedy to see people living in the misery they are suffering today. I have listened to hon. Members speaking tonight particularly of their own constituencies, but there is no constituency in the whole of Scotland with conditions worse than the Gorbals. When I go to the Glasgow Corporation and plead with the convenor of housing to do something about the clearing of slums, I am told that St. Andrew's House is responsible, yet when I go there to the Secretary of State at St. Andrew's House, I am told that the local authority have full powers.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, talks of the houses in the old days. Does he mean to say that an ideal home was one which had no sanitation, no bathrooms, and no convenience of any kind? Is he prepared to say that a home of that kind was a decent home for any working person in which to live? My grandfather had six sons, who were all miners in the pits. They had a "but and ben." Those six men had to have water every night with which to wash. They had no gas stove, and no cooking facilities to provide decent meals, no conveniences of any kind, and they never saw daylight except for a few hours in the week. Were those conditions ideal for miners?
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Lady was saying that I believed the conditions under which six persons lived in two rooms and without sanitary conditions as we know them today, were desirable. I was not saying so. What I said was that it was wrong and cruel to pretend that one can supply ideal conditions to everyone at once. That is what the Socialist Government have been doing, and that is the root cause of the dissatisfaction in housing today.
§ Mrs. Cullen
The hon. Member was saying, however, that people who lived under those conditions were very happy. Since 1945 the Socialist Government have done everything in their power to house the working people at rents which they could afford.
My complaint is that in the Gorbals constituency, the most congested there is, where seven and even eight families—as many as 78 people—use the same lavatory, nothing has been done. When my constituents read the Press in the morning they will say, "Another debate on housing in the Gorbals, but nothing is being done." I have not often risen to speak in this House, but whenever I have, I have always tried to plead for something to be done for the constituents I represent in the Gorbals.
I have listened to hon. Members talking about the prevention of tuberculosis. I could give an instance of a man in his thirties who died not long ago in a single apartment house where he had lived with his wife and four young children. When his family were X-rayed, they were all found to be suffering from infection, yet he had been unable to get either a home or a bed in a hospital. I ask the Secretary of State to make a special effort, to appeal to the housing committee and to the convenor in Glasgow, to do something for the people in the Gorbals.
I hold a "surgery" every Friday night which is attended by 60 or 70 people, the majority of whom have complaints about housing. A woman who came to see me recently brought with her a child aged eight who had nine rat bites over her body. Those are the conditions in which people are living. We do not blame the Labour Government, for they have done everything in their power for housing. The property owners are responsible for the slums, for the simple reason, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coat- 2021 bridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) pointed out, that when there were plentiful supplies of material and labour nothing was done. In consequence, buildings have deteriorated, and to such an extent that people will not go to the expense of the major repairs which are now necessary. There are dwellings which are not even windproof or waterproof, and the tragedy is that their occupants must continue to pay the rent.
§ Mrs. Cullen
We had a Socialist council in Glasgow since 1933, but we have had the legislation of a Socialist Government since only 1945. The hon. Member must admit that the folks on the other side of the House are responsible for the deplorable conditions in Glasgow and, I suppose, in Edinburgh. I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do as I have asked so that tomorrow people will not say, "Another debate on the Gorbals. They will be sitting on it for another three years." We must clear the sites and clear away the slums and the rats. There is only one way of clearing the rats and that is by demolishing the buildings, but that cannot be done until we find somewhere to house the people. They do not want to be moved miles away and have to pay big fares to get to work. We must build the houses where there are the services already, in the Gorbals.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett (Glasgow, Woodside)
It is admitted in all parts of the House that housing in Scotland is deplorable and that something must be done but I cannot understand why hon. Members want to go back 100, 50, or 20 years ago. The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) was convenor for housing in Glasgow Corporation and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen)——
§ Mrs. Mann rose——
§ Mr. Bennett
I will give way in a minute. The hon. Lady was a member of the Glasgow Corporation for many years and, from 1933 to 1949, there was a Socialist council in Glasgow which had all the authority and all the power to build all the houses they could with unlimited materials. I wish to ask one 2022 question and I will allow the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie to answer. How many houses have they built in the Gorbals?
§ Mrs. Cullen
Although no houses have been built in the Gorbals the hon. Member must admit that 1,200 families have been re-housed from the Gorbals. But that is not solving the problem.
§ Mr. Bennett
That is what I am coming to; we are not solving the problem and we have not even told the Scottish Office what they ought to do. We heard from the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) about conditions 100 years ago. I wonder if he really knows the history of Scotland. One hundred years ago in his part of the country they built their own houses——
§ Mr. Bennett
When a man was getting married he told his friends and they all came round and helped him and he did the same for others. It is true to say that private enterprise created those conditions, a very fine type of private enterprise and they were satisfied with the conditions——
§ Mr. MacMillan
There are excellent books and reports on the subject, but I made it clear that when the county council were responsible for houses and asked for tenders they could not get anything at a reasonable rate. The sum of £2,700 was the only tender they could get and no help came until the State came in with Swedish houses—prefabricated houses from Sweden.
§ Mr. Bennett
There must be a tremendous amount of enterprise among hon. Members opposite, but none of them seem to have the ability to get into the house building industry. We have heard from the Minister of Health that anyone can enter that industry and that all the incompetents are there. I wonder that some of the competents on the other side of the House do not enter it and see what can be done.
We heard this afternoon that the responsibility was entirely that of the local 2023 authority. But what is the case in Glasgow? Glasgow has now completed the 1951 programme. They are ahead of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and it is no good asking Glasgow to provide houses for Central Ayrshire. They have actually borrowed on next year's quota. I agree that they have been diligent and successful enough to have been promised part of the 1952 quota when they get started. The hon. Member for Western Isles is complaining that they did not have electricity there 100 years ago——
§ Mr. Bennett
The crux of the question is that we in Glasgow—and I will stick to something I know something about—get 5,000 houses per annum. That is, roughly, five out of 200,000, which is a fortieth of the population, but with conditions in Glasgow we ought to have one out of every 10 which are built. I consider it the duty of the Scottish office, knowing the conditions which prevail in Scotland today, to provide one in 10 at least and not to be satisfied with one in 40. If they did that——
§ Mr. T. Fraser
For what class of needy person in Glasgow would the hon. Member make the houses available?
§ Mr. Bennett
The class I represent, the class the hon. Member represents, the renting class. If the Government build houses for the letting class, and face up to their responsibilities, we shall get somewhere.
We are far too prone here to go back into the past and talk about our grandfathers. Go round Holyrood Palace. There was no bath there in the time of Queen Mary. There was no wash-hand basin there then. If hon. Members go to Westminster Hall they will find one or two things there from the time of Queen Mary. Do not let us go back to the time of our great grandfathers. Philosophy may triumph over past and future misfortune, but present misfortune triumphs over philosopy. Hon. Members opposite are suffering from a Fabian philosophy and, if they would forget it for a moment, they would get somewhere.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
To some extent I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Bennett) that we can go too far back into the past and that it is our duty to look towards the future.
I would like to try to find an answer to the question I put to the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith): exactly what is the programme of the Tory Party in Scotland? Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) can answer that question, which his hon. and gallant Friend failed to do. We all know what has taken place in England. At Blackpool, the Conservative Party had a great conference. The rank and file said, "We are not getting a lead from the platform. We want another 100,000 houses." There was no revolt in the Scottish Tory Party Conference and we still want to know what target our Conservative friends envisage for Scotland.
§ Sir W. Darling
Does the hon. Gentleman anticipate so early a return of the Conservative Party to power that he is so anxious to know their programme for housing?
§ Mr. Hughes
That is irrelevant to the debate. Certainly, if the ideas of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) were to be taken seriously by his own Front Bench Members the return of the Conservative Party to power would not be very swift. When the hon. Member spoke recently in the debate on the Gracious Speech, he urged us to do away with all subsidies, including the housing subsidy.
§ Sir W. Darling indicated assent
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman nods, so we can say that here is a leading member of the Conservative Party in Scotland who is anxious to remove the housing subsidy. But if we remove that subsidy, what incentive is that to the local authorities? I am glad to have it indicated authoritatively in this House that the Tory Party stands for abolishing the housing subsidy.
§ Mr. Bennett indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Hughes
No? So there is a split within the Tory Party already. The Tory Party does not know where it stands on 2025 the housing policy. In passing, let me suggest to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, that if he were elevated to the position of Secretary of State for Scotland and proceeded to abolish the housing subsidy, his would be a short life and a gay one——
§ Mr. Hughes
—because the abolition of the housing subsidy in Scotland would immediately send up rents by £20, £30, £50 a year and the immediate result would be that every local authority in Scotland would say, as it did in the years when I was a member of a town council, that the people simply could not afford to pay the rents. The only suggestion I have ever heard the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, make is to abolish housing subsidies, which would undoubtedly stop housing altogether.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Gentleman has twice said that. I am opposed to subsidies. If he would do me the honour of reading my speech he would find that what I said, speaking for myself, was that I believe that he who is helped is hindered. Subsidy may not be a sovereign remedy. The American Loan is a subsidy. Housing is subsidised. It would be better for brave men to stand up to trouble without being propped up with housing, or any other subsidies. Subsidies are a complete anathema to me, but I can understand the hon. Gentleman, who has been propped up all his life, being unsympathetic to me, who does not desire propping up.
§ Mr. Hughes
I would not like to try to explain that intervention except to say that the hon. Member has produced a remedy for the housing situation which none of his colleagues will accept for one moment. But perhaps the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove will do something to elucidate this problem. because he was very eloquent earlier in the evening on the housing grievances in the constituency of the hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Miss HornsbySmith). The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove is entitled to enlighten us as to whether the Scottish Tories are going to increase the target by 33⅓ per cent.——
§ Mr. Hughes
—because that was the attitude of the Conservative Party at Blackpool. They said, "We will increase the housing target by 33⅓ per cent."
§ Mr. Hughes
Well, by a considerable percentage. Now we would like to know how this is to affect Scotland. When I put that question to the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok a few minutes ago he said, "We have not decided upon it yet."
§ Mr. Hughes
So here we have a member of a party who is so keen about the housing problem in Scotland that he has not an idea of its target. I suggest that when this party tell us that we have not devoted sufficient attention to the housing problem, they are doing what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, said, and exploiting this situation before us. I suggest we should get from some Conservative Member the answer to the question: How will they increase the output of houses in Scotland? Would they increase the labour force? If so, how? Would they increase the supply of building materials? If so, how? What exactly is their attitude towards houses for let? Are they proposing to allow the building trades to become free? Are they proposing to remove controls? Are they going to give the speculative builder the right to take on whatever building jobs he likes? What positive contribution have they to make to the housing problem?
I know exactly the contribution made by the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove when he was Secretary of State for Scotland. He reduced the housing subsidy. In the present financial state of the country if the Tories were returned to power, they would, to meet the great financial problems before them, once again resort to what they did before—those of us who were members of town councils remember it so well—and reduce the housing subsidy. I submit that we ought to have from any other Conservative Members who speak in this debate, a clear, positive, constructive proposal as to how to increase the building army. Exactly how many more houses are they going to build over and above those 2027 planned for by the Government? What exactly is the Scottish attitude to the Blackpool housing crusade?
I want to say one or two constructive words—
§ Sir W. Darling
Before the hon. Member reaches his constructive words will he answer this? How many of his constituents in Scotland—if he knows—are anxious to build houses for themselves without a subsidy? Can he give anything like the figure? I have been told there are tens of thousands of persons who, if they were permitted to do so by the Government, would like to build houses for themselves without subsidy. Is not that an important element from the non-subsidy point of view?
§ Mr. Hughes
It is not an important element at all in the constituency I represent. The position in Ayrshire is that there is a great demand for municipal houses; and I do not see that even if we said to everybody who needs a house. "You can build a house if you wish," any practical solution of the great housing problem would be likely to be achieved on those lines.
I am very anxious to know what is likely to be the effect of the rearmament programme upon housing in Scotland. I do not see how we can proceed with a rearmament programme, which will, presumably, take away workers from the building industry, and yet have more houses at the same time. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who are pressing on the Government a rearmament programme are pressing on the Government a policy which is likely to mean the withdrawal of further building workers from the building labour force. I am very anxious to get assistance from hon. Members opposite——
§ Mr. Hughes
—for the proposal that I have made that we should give priority to the building industry and exempt from military service people who are needed for work on housing schemes. Conscription has been increased from 18 months to two years, which means that for a further six months the young plasterers, carpenters and bricklayers are left in the Army, which results in a withdrawal of a certain percentage of the building force 2028 from the industry which is engaged in providing houses for the people. I managed to convert one Tory Member to that idea, but he happened to be an English Member. I have not yet made any impression on the hard core of the Scottish Conservatives.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am hopeful. I am supremely optimistic that one day I will convert the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South, to my view.
What is likely to be the effect on the building industry of the air raid shelter scheme announced last Thursday? How is it possible to catch up with the housing needs, which are everywhere apparent—from Central Ayrshire to Coatbridge, from Edinburgh to Glasgow and in all the other Scottish constituencies—if workers are to be taken from housing schemes and put on air raid shelters?
I submit that we must look upon the housing programme in its relation to the capital investment programme. All Members who are interested in housing in Scotland should support me in the campaign which I have been conducting for some years in this House to ensure that there are made available a greater number of workers in the industry as well as a greater supply of building materials. In the crisis which will come during the next few years, when there is a pull by the people who want more money spent on armaments and more workers turned into that industry and those who want more workers in the housing industry, I hope that the majority will be in favour of Scotland's housing needs.
Unless the Conservatives are prepared to support me in that campaign, and unless the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, is prepared to come along with me in his political dotage, I do not think that the Conservative Party will be able to put forward any constructive proposal to this problem. I join with other Members in agreeing that the Government have done a great job, since the war, in Ayrshire.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
We do not say so on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Hughes
In Ayrshire we see all around us housing schemes being pushed forward at a very gratifying rate. We have seen a lot of miners old houses dis- 2029 appear and new housing schemes undertaken. The hon. Member for Hillhead (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith), who lives in my constituency, knows of the progress that is being made. In Ayrshire generally great drives have been undertaken to produce houses. Hon. Members opposite should not regard this matter just as something in which they can outbid the Labour Party and exploit the difficulties of the people. They should come forward with constructive proposals, show where the Government have failed, and help forward a great social scheme. When such hon. Members as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, come forward with constructive proposals, I will say that they have been born again.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
I am particularly glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), since he happens to represent me, if not my ideas, in this House. It seems to me that of late what he has been saying has moved a long way from the problem which was raised by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). We should be grateful to the hon. Member for giving us the opportunity of discussing the housing problem in Scotland, because it is very much more serious there than it is in England.
Hon. Members on the other side of the House do not do a great deal of good by harping on the past. The trouble with people who criticise the past, is that they look at those things from the standard and the standpoint of the present and that is a great mistake. When one criticises something built in the past, one wants to criticise it by the standard existing at the time it was built and not the standard of today.
One of the reasons why the situation in Scotland is not as good as it might have been was the existence in the past of our present rating system. That must be faced, and hon. Members opposite should realise the difficulty in which the Conservative Government of those days was placed, in suggesting any alteration in that system. Such a step would immediately have raised an outcry from Members of the Labour Party to the effect that additional burdens were being placed upon the tenants.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Could the hon. Gentleman say which Conservative Government proposed to deal with the rating system and what Labour Members of this House objected?
§ Mr. Galbraith
But I have heard it said, and I think that anyone viewing the problem honestly would realise it, that had the Conservative Party, which is wrongly regarded as the party representing the landlords, introduced a measure of reform like that at that time, it would have been an extremely difficult political manœuvre to carry it out, faced with the natural opposition which would arise from the Labour Party.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Royle.]
§ Mr. Galbraith
I think the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) was a little unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling). We were not laughing at the housing conditions in Scotland when we were following his speech, but at the very astute criticism which he made of the hon. Lady's own party, and I would remind the hon. Lady that, in our housing debates, when the Minister of Health is opening or replying for the Government, most of his remarks are entirely irrelevant to anything to do with housing.
The problem that was actually raised by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire was, in the main, the problem of the deterioration of building in Scotland. It seems to me that three things can be done about that. First of all, we can try to repair existing buildings as they are, which means that more money must be spent upon them. I say that it is for the Government to discover how that money is to be procured. There are various ways by which it can be procured. It is not for me to suggest them, but for the Government to discover them and then take the steps to see that the money so secured is spent upon the repairing of these houses which are worthy of repair.
Secondly, and I think the hon. Member for Gorbals would agree with me, 2031 areas in the centre of towns should be cleared. Houses should not be allowed to fall into disrepair and new houses built in their places to create a tremendous transport problem in large towns. I am thinking particularly of the city of Glasgow, one of the constituencies in which I have the honour to represent, and which is in a position of extreme difficulty because of the transport problem in a city which is divided by a large river with too few bridges across it.
The third point, and the one to which I really want to address myself, concerns not the repairing of houses in their existing form, but altering them while retaining the existing structure. As an illustration, where there are two houses, one on each side of a staircase, the two should be knocked into one. I believe that a great advance could be made in this way in Glasgow, where there is an appreciable number of houses which, structurally, are perfectly adequate but which have too many people living in them.
Now I want to make my constructive suggestion. It is that a number of the new houses built in each area should be set aside to house people from good but overcrowded houses, so that these good but overcrowded houses may be restored and repaired, and, perhaps, after repairs, they could be used to house only half the number of people living in them previously. I believe that to be very much better than allowing them to remain as they are and ultimately to be wasted.
Finally, I would refer to one very interesting remark of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, who said that many people wanted to live in municipal houses. I think the reason for that must be perfectly obvious. It is that those houses are subsidised, and, of course, they are the only houses. Here there is a tremendous difference between hon. Members opposite and myself. I am not satisfied that it is a good thing to encourage all people to live in municipal houses, or, indeed, to live in privately-owned houses. I myself believe that renting a house, instead of owning a house, is a bad thing.
We want to do the very opposite to what the Government are doing. The Government are making it absolutely impossible for people to own their own houses unless they happen to be extremely rich. I believe that this is a wrong ten- 2032 dency, and that what we ought to be trying to do is to encourage and make it easier for people to own their own houses. I believe that it is only when people own something themselves, and thus have a personal interest in it, that they really look after it.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Lady is really too simple. Of course, there are these houses, and, of course, the price is exorbitant, for the very good reason that the supply is limited. That is another thing which I can never understand about hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. They say that houses should only be for people who are in need; yet one has only to look at the newspapers or the magazines to see the vast number of houses which are for sale today, and which can be bought by people if they have the means. I believe that is wrong. I believe that it should be open to everyone to have an opportunity of acquiring a house of their own.
I would end on this note. However much sympathy we have for people who are in need—and I have the very greatest sympathy for people who are in need—I do not believe that need should be the only criterion in getting a house. There ought to be some scope, so that people who have the merit and the energy to save should be able to build houses for themselves.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I apologise, as a mere Englishman, for intervening very briefly in a Scottish Debate, but I do so in order to take up and to emphasise a point made by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) and, by implication, by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen), namely, that by delaying the commencement of slum clearance we are building up a whole mass of new houses on the peripheries of our cities.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith) drew attention to the present consequences of that with regard to transport. I want to draw atten- 2033 tion to the consequences for the future; a problem which we are laying in store for ourselves which falls both on English cities and Scottish cities. It is this: When we eventually do come to slum clearance, we shall find that our cities have a dead heart and are surrounded by a ring of new houses, and the entire centre of the city or town is dead. When that has happened we shall not merely have exported the people from the hearts of our towns but we shall have lost something which we cannot ever re-create; we shall have lost the texture of the community which these towns once had.
There are people in my own town who have gone out to housing estates on the periphery whose second generation come back to be married and have their children baptised in the parish church of the slum area from which they came. That texture does still exist, but if we go on much longer exporting the population without rebuilding in the centres of our towns, we shall have destroyed it for ever. Lord Simon of Wythenshawe in his book of 1944 on reconstruction criticises the pre-war administration for having started on slum clearance too early and for having destroyed accommodation units while there was an absolute shortage in existence. Mathematically that may be correct, but socially and psychologically I am certain that it is wrong.
For other reasons which have been given in the Debate and also having regard to the town planning consideration to which I have ventured to draw attention, I urge the Government to take their courage in both hands and to allot a much larger number of houses per year—whether out of 200,000 or 300,000 does not matter—to the replacement of slum housing in situ by properly constructed and properly planned accommodation.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)
I do not know whether we have been quite fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) tonight. It is usual, on these Adjournments, for a private Member to seek to raise with the Minister a matter of particular interest to himself and his constituents, though it may be a matter of wide public and national importance.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
My hon. Friend, spoke to me only a very short time before he was able to address the House and said that he would like very much to discuss with me on this Motion the problem of unfit houses and ex-Service camps in his constituency. Since then, this Debate broadened out into a debate on housing in Scotland at first and then—and I do not complain about this—the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) discussed the question of town planning generally. The hon. Member for Hillhead (Mr. T. D. G. Galbraith) said we had got a little away from the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire. But I do not think he got anywhere nearer to it when he went on to discuss the rating system.
May I invite the hon. Member for Hillhead to do a little research in the next day or two? I should be very interested if he came to me to tell me that, in consequence of his research, he had been able to discover the occasion on which the Conservative Party, when in power, wanted to deal with the rating system problem and the Scottish Socialists would not permit them to do so. I believe the rating system in Scotland is faulty and, for that reason, I have made pretty full inquiries into it. I have taken the trouble to read all the reports we have had for the last 50 years on the rating system in Scotland. Of course, we have never had any alternative from any representative body that has made any inquiry into it.
Let me say a word about unfit houses and the ex-Service camps. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire asked that, where there was a high proportion of unfit houses, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should consider the allocation of houses preferentially to that area to enable the local authority to begin to pull down unfit houses and to begin to deal with what he regarded as the second phase of the housing problem in Scotland. We do consider it, and we do have this matter in mind when we allocate houses from year to year.
He will know that there are unfit houses throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. Each year, when we allocate to the local authorities of Scotland houses for the ensuing housing year, we have in mind the needs of each area. 2035 They disclose themselves by reference to the number of families on the waiting list, the number of families living in overcrowded conditions, and the number of families living in unfit houses, and so on. But we also have to have in mind the ability of the local authority concerned to build houses.
It is no good having in mind merely the need for houses in a particular area, if experience shows that the local authority in that area is unable to build the houses.
§ Mr. Fraser
If the local authority, the chosen instrument in the area represented by the hon. Gentleman, as an example, are unable to build the houses allocated by the Secretary of State, it is no good making representations and saying "Please give us more." If, after saying that, we discover that they do not build the number we have already given; if the chosen instrument in those circumstances is unable or unwilling—and I rather suspect unwilling—to build the houses for the people in that area, it seems to me and to the Government that it is not a bad thing for the Government to allocate to another authority some of the houses which would, in other circumstances, go to the first authority, so that the resources may be employed in order to build houses for the people who most need them.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Gentleman referred to the "chosen instrument." If the chosen instrument has broken down, as in the City of Edinburgh, can he blame the City of Edinburgh for not finding the chosen instrument quite so useful as he finds it?
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Gentleman knows better than I do the reasons for the chosen instrument having broken down in Edinburgh. As far as I know, we have no unemployed building trade workers in Edinburgh. Presumably the hon. Gentleman has in mind that if another instrument were found in Edinburgh for the provision of houses, they would be able to recruit building labour in order to build houses, and I think he is probably right.
§ Mr. Fraser
It would take the building labour from the Government's chosen instrument, the local authority, and from the contractors who are building houses for the local authority, and would use it to build houses for people who could afford to buy them. Those houses would not be of the one or two apartment kind, with no water and no bathroom. They would be houses of five or six or seven apartments, with two bathrooms, or with one bathroom and two w.cs., as one hon. Member mentioned in his speech. The hon. Member imagined local authorities building houses with five or six apartments, with two bathrooms and a w.c. outside. That does not happen. But the people the hon. Gentleman wants to obtain houses, are people who want houses with two bathrooms.
I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong. His hon. Friend the Member for Woodside (Mr. Bennett) said he wanted to see four times as many houses being built in Glasgow as are being built, and he wanted to see houses being built for letting. I am sure the hon. Member for Woodside believes that sincerely. It is a great pity that he is so much out of accord with the thoughts of his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South.
§ Mr. Fraser
It is such a great pity that he cannot get any leadership from the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) in his campaign. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) who spoke a little earlier in our discussions, seems to agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, because he wanted to have houses built by any agency which could be found, if the newspapers reported correctly the speech he made at Blackpool. He said that he would strive towards 300,000 houses by a several-point programme, and the first point was that he would abolish all licensing controls. After the bracing air of Blackpool the Conservative Party came back to the House of Commons and we had a debate on housing during the debate on the Address. They did not then say they would abolish licence controls. 2037 They intended to have more of them. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was going to give local authority housing the same priority as that which it has at present—or so he said. We are not at all sure. We still do not know.
In any case, when we were discussing housing last week we had the impression—those of us who sat throughout the debate—that the feeling in the House generally, and certainly the feeling on the opposite side of the House, was in favour of taking the building labour force of this country and our building resources generally away from other activities and turning a larger part of them to the building of houses. That was the whole tenor of the debate.
Tonight, however, our attention has several times been called to the deterioration of existing houses and the need to repair them. It is right, of course, that we should have in mind the need for repairs, because it would be the height of folly to take building trade workers away from essential repair and maintenance of existing properties in order to turn them to the building of new houses. That would be false economy in the use of labour. At the same time, it would be the sort of economy which was being pressed upon us last week from hon. Members opposite.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) talked about the need to clear the areas in the centre of a city and to build houses there. I entirely agree, but the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, will agree that the appeal should be made more to the local planning authority than to His Majesty's Government. I agree that we ought to plan and to execute the clearing of areas within the centre of many of our cities and to use the existing services so as to build houses and blocks of flats, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to appreciate that we cannot hope to house adequately within the boundaries of the existing cities all the people who live there at the present time. That is certainly the case in Glasgow and I strongly suspect it is the case in Wolverhampton, too.
§ Mr. Powell
Is not the consent of the Minister of Health or the Secretary of 2038 State for Scotland required before a house can be demolished by a local authority?
§ Mr. Fraser
That is not so. It certainly is not so in Scotland. I cannot speak for the Ministry of Health. Indeed. before I came across to the House—and I did not know we were going to have this discussion at all—I was discussing with advisers of ours at the Department of Health for Scotland the problem in Glasgow, and I asked only this evening that one of my principal advisers should go to Glasgow to consider with the officials of the Corporation whether they could not proceed with the demolition of some properties in the centre of Glasgow and proceed with the building of some modern flats within that city.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith
The hon. Gentleman asked how he was going to induce the local authorities. Am I not right in saying that before the war there was an inducement through a subsidy for slum clearance, but no subsidy for other building? Would not some additional subsidy—a differential subsidy—be the answer?
§ Mr. Fraser
We should, of course, require legislation for that, but I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has a passing acquaintance with the Labour Government's Act of 1930, which his right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove knows something about, too, because he did a little bit of whittling during his term of office at the Scottish Office.
I do very much regret the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling). He asked us to lower our sights. We were aiming far too high. We ought not to think of houses with three or four or five rooms. We must not fool the working people of Scotland into believing that one day they could occupy two-bedroomed houses. We must be realists. They could not have two-bedroomed houses, these working people of Scotland.
§ Mr. Fraser
Of course, not all at once; but the hon. Gentleman said that we ought not even to hold out the hope that they would ever get them.
§ Mr. Fraser
He said that in Burns's time Scotsmen—good, healthy, vigorous, 2039 enterprising Scotsmen—were born and brought up six or eight in a single room. He did not say that what was good enough for them was good enough for us, but that was the only inference to be drawn from his speech. But it is not good enough for this day and generation at all. We are delighted to think that not many, if any, hon. Members on his side of the House agree with him in what he said in that regard.
§ Sir W. Darling
Is it the hon. Gentleman's point that it is right that we should have first-class housing for a minority and leave the majority unhoused? Is it not better to give a lesser standard of housing for all, until we can have better for all?
§ Mr. Fraser
That is exactly what the Labour Government have done. They have insisted that houses with 10 and 12 and 14 rooms should not be built, and that only houses of reasonable dimensions should be built, and that they should be built for those who most need them. The Opposition have constantly been asking us to get rid of licences and controls, and to allow those who employ the building resources to build houses of any size they like, and with any frills they care to spend the money on.
§ Mr. Fraser
One word about ex-Service camps. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire made a plea about ex-Service camps which he had in mind, saying they should be treated as unfit houses. What I said about unfit houses applies to Service camps. We do have in mind the needs of local authorities, including the need that may have been made manifest by their having a great number of families living in ex-Service camps. What we have to be a little careful about is that we do not—the local authorities are very conscious of this—make new houses available to persons just because they happen to have occupied an ex-Service camp without the permission of anybody at all. They must not be allowed to lump the queue. That is what the local authorities themselves say, and I think the Government must support the local authorities in that. However, that does not absolve the local authorities or the 2040 Central Department from the necessity to have in mind the needs of those people, and from striving to see that those people are better housed than they are at the present time.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire and my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie talked about the need to maintain our output of houses. I would just say that we do not contemplate that there will be any diminution in the number of houses built in Scotland. Indeed, we very much hope that the number of houses in Scotland will steadily increase. Opposition Members say, "Please do not look to the past," although they have been doing a bit of that themselves tonight. Before the war we in Scotland had very bad housing conditions, as everyone will admit. Before the war we were building one house in Scotland for every 13 houses built in England and Wales. Today we are building twice as many houses, relatively speaking, as before the war—one house to every six and a half built in England and Wales; and the same number as in the best years of the Conservative Party before the war—about 10,000 more than the average they were building before the war.
What we want is more output from the existing labour force. We must have incentive schemes. I am sure we must have them. The local authorities tell me they want them; the master builders tell me they want them. Somehow, however, we do not get them on any scale. I would appeal to all those concerned—the local authorities and the masters and men in the building industry—to give us incentive schemes, to give the workers incentives to remain in house building and not to go away to less necessary work. In that way I think we can increase very considerably the number of houses to be built in Scotland. If we do that, we shall all of us better serve the interests of the people of Scotland.
§ The Question having been proposed at Ten o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Half-past Ten o'Clock.