HL Deb 10 July 1935 vol 98 cc246-72

Debate on the Motion for the Second Reading resumed.


My Lords, on the objects of this Bill, which has been so lucidly explained by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, there can of course be no two opinions. This Bill is a most admirable one in its intentions, but unfortunately its intentions are by no means adequately carried out by its provisions. It has a number of omissions and blemishes, some of which are reparable in your Lordships' House, some of which unfortunately are not. Some of your Lordships may not be aware that when this measure was considered by the Scottish Grand Committee it occupied what I believe is the unprecedented number of twenty-four days, on several of which the Committee sat morning and afternoon, and a great volume of protests was received, not merely from private individuals and associations representing property owners, but also from many public bodies. There are, indeed, so many defects in the Bill as at present drawn that I should take up an absolutely unreasonable amount of your Lordships' time if I attempted to do more than mention quite briefly a few of the most serious.

The Bill, in the first place, takes no account of three factors which at present are operating very unfairly in Scotland. The Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, said at the end of his speech, makes no provision for reconditioning grants in urban areas and, frankly, I cannot accept the reasons given by the noble Lord for the non-inclusion of this provision as in any way valid. The Rural Housing (Scotland) Act has been of the greatest possible benefit, to such an extent that I should have thought it would have been well worth the Government's while to show a more sympathetic attitude towards those who are pressing for a similar measure in regard to town property. I myself speak with a perfectly open mind as I am not in any way personally interested in town property, because I do not possess any. The second question is that of the increase of rent which was allowed to Scottish urban landlords after the War. That increase amounted on paper to 40 per cent., but while the Government of that day gave that with one hand, they took it away with the other, for they passed an Act whereby it was impossible, and has been ever since, for property owners to recover from their tenants any increase in local rates which occurred after 1920. In many areas there have been considerable increases of rates. In a number of instances these have practically devoured the extra 40 per cent., which of course was given with the idea of making it possible to bring properties up to date after the War. This position is likely to become worse, especially in the City of Glasgow, whose finances are now being sadly mismanaged by a Socialist Town Council.

The third great omission is in regard to rating of unoccupied property. In Scotland unoccupied property is rated. The rating is shared as a rule between landlord and tenant equally in the country areas, and in the proportion, I think, of 54 per cent. paid by the tenant and 46 per cent. paid by the landlord in urban areas. Where there is no tenant, naturally the landlord has to pay the whole amount, and when an unfortunate small proprietor, the whole of whose property consists perhaps of a row of small houses, has one or more of them empty in a heavily-rated district and has to pay the rates which the tenant would have paid had there been a tenant, this condition of things inflicts an undue burden upon the small proprietor, and one which this Bill might well have removed. But unfortunately all these three matters are out-side the scope of this Bill. It was not found possible in another place, and would not be found possible here to remedy these serious omissions, and we can only regret them. There is also an omission to deal with the position of the grants given in the crofting counties under the Rural Housing (Scotland) Act to a certain type of landholder. Into this somewhat complicated subject I do not propose to go at length to-day, but this is a point where your Lordships' House may, I think, remedy another glaring defect.

The next respect in which this Bill is by no means what it might be concerns the standard of overcrowding and the size of houses mentioned in the Bill, which are drawn entirely by analogy with England. Anyone who has a knowledge of both Scottish and English houses will know that there is a very great difference between the housing conditions of the two countries. It has been laid down that not more than two persons may occupy any one room if that room is of 110 square feet of floor space or larger. That may be a very wise provision as far as England is concerned, but there are very few houses in Scotland where the rooms are of such exiguous dimensions. In Scotland there are few cases in which the floor space of a one- or two-roomed house is less than 160 square feet, and there are a great many in which it approaches 200 square feet. At the same time, whereas the normal height of an English room is assumed to be in the neighbourhood of nine feet, the vast majority of Scottish rooms are ten or eleven feet high, and even, in some cases, twelve feet. Taking all in all, I think it would be a very great improvement if at least one extra half person were permitted in rooms where there were 130 or 150 square feet of floor space. I suggest it is very unwise to assume that what is suitable for England is naturally suitable for Scotland as well. The two countries are different in many respects. We have in Scotland our own laws and our own conditions. That, I think, has not been sufficiently taken into account by the Government in framing this measure.

There is also another very important point in regard to the right of appeal of an owner who is being forcibly dispossessed of his property. At the present time, although some sort of Committee has been vaguely promised to consider these cases, there does not seem to be any appeal to the Courts but only to some Government Department or official. That, I submit, is a very undesirable state of affairs, and I hope that in the course of the passage of this Bill through the Committee stage your Lordships will press, and the Government will accept, Amendments making an appeal to the Courts possible in all circumstances. Then there is a question of the basis of compensation. Into this again rather complicated question it is not my intention to go deeply, but merely to assure your Lordships that, in the view of many authorities, the present proposed basis of compensation is usatisfactory, unfair, and inadequate.

Another point which, although it cannot be incorporated in a Bill, ought to be borne in mind, is that a very great deal of the overcrowding, especially in the urban districts of Scotland, is due to the fact that we have in many areas, especially in the South-West of Scotland, a problem which does not affect. England, save possibly in Liverpool—that is, the presence of many hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants who have come there in the past fifty years, and whose presence, with their extraordinarily large families, renders conditions infinitely more unsatisfactory than would be the case if the persons living in these areas were all of Scottish origin.

In regard to the question of rural houses, if this Bill is passed, I am afraid that one of the most worthy and deserving members of the Scottish nation is going to be very hard hit. I refer to the ploughman or other agricultural worker who has a large family. If the present standard is to be accepted, it will mean that the man who has anything from four to eight children, either of school age or living with him and hoping to obtain agricultural employment on the farm he himself is working on, will find the utmost difficulty in obtaining fresh employment should he lose his present situation. It is going to be very difficult for any farmer, whether a tenant-farmer or an owner-occupier, to employ a ploughman with a large family, no matter how excellent he knows the man to be, if he is going to render himself by so doing liable to prosecution.

There is also this other point, that surely the conditions of overcrowding and of air space which are applicable to crowded industrial areas can scarcely be compared with the conditions in the rural districts of Scotland. To compare a slum or, at any rate, a densely populated area in Glasgow or Dundee with isolated cottar houses, it may be in Galloway, Perthshire, or Sutherland is surely rather absurd. Surely in cases where we get the complete system of ventilation which these isolated houses in fact enjoy in rural areas, there might be some relaxation of the standard which, justifiably or not, is sought to be imposed in the urban areas.

It is not my intention to take up more of your Lordships' time, nor have I any desire to ask your Lordships to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, for, obviously, a Bill which, seeks, however unsatisfactorily, to improve the housing conditions of the working classes of Scotland, must have your Lordships' unanimous support. At the same time I trust I have said enough to show that this Bill does, in fact, possess many defects, and I hope your Lordships will support those of us who have intimate knowledge of Scottish conditions in our attempt during the Committee stage of this measure to rectify many of these glaring errors, and make the Bill in fact, what it is in theory, a great advancement in the conditions of life of the working classes of Scotland.


My Lords, first of all may I congratulate the noble Lord who has introduced this Bill on the fact that this is his maiden effort in introducing a Scottish Bill, or indeed any Bill, in your Lordships' House? I am glad to feel that Scottish matters are not only in capable hands, but in those of one who is anxious to be of service to Scotland. Those who are interested in the Bill have, I think, some reason for complaint at the very short time that has been given us to examine it. The Bill was only available on Monday and, as your Lordships know, we have, thanks to the Government of India Bill, had no time even to look at it since then. I am not, however, blaming the noble Lord personally, but rather the methods of the Government in general in crowding in important Bills at the last moment, across which we can almost see printed: "Take it or leave it." I certainly feel that this last five-months-old Government baby is a distinct case of overcrowding, and might have waited a little longer.

Now the Government advocate this Bill on the grounds of the very serious overcrowding in our big cities. As Lord Mansfield has pointed out, no one denies that this evil exists, and everyone wishes to see it ended at the earliest possible moment. The local authorities are steadily dealing with this problem in their slum clearance campaigns. The figures of the Whitson Report show that, as a result of a great housing drive in Scotland under successive Acts, there has been a steady diminution of one- and two-roomed houses and a great increase of three- and four-roomed houses. The problem of overcrowding, as far as it is injurious to health—and that is the main point—is not only gradually, but swiftly, on its way to a final solution, and the Government, we know, are setting before themselves the commendable aim of getting rid of all slums within three years from now. In my opinion, this Bill is not really necessary and, like all other measures, will probably be extremely expensive and, in the end, will have to be paid for by a great number of the very people who come under its provisions. I believe that the best way to get rid of overcrowding is to have more houses. This, and reconditioning, which is ruled out, can be, and is being, done under other Bills. Further, I believe, if we had had no big towns, this Bill would never have been introduced, or, in other words, that it is quite unnecessary for the rural areas and that therefore—without detriment to the urban population—the rural population need never have been burdened with it.

Subject to what I may say later on, I believe that there are quite sufficient local by-laws, health, police, and otherwise, to deal with the whole problem as far as these rural areas are concerned, and in a much more happy, less expensive, and less inquisitive way than is suggested by this Bill. At this juncture I would say that these are my personal opinions, and probably, having gone so far as we have, the Bill will at least have to come into being for the urban parts of the country. But I do hope the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will consider, before we reach the further stages, whether it might not really be wiser not to have it as it is, because to a great extent it is unsuitable in rural areas, but, possibly, have some other regulations later on to strengthen the existing regulations for urban areas. I would ask your Lordships to realise clearly that the aim of the Bill is not merely to get rid of overcrowding that is injurious to health, but also to fix the exact number of persons who will be in any house up to a rental of £45—that is to say, the great majority of houses in Scotland—the number of persons being based on the number and the size of the rooms. It is not necessary to point out to your Lordships that families are not static in the lives of most married couples. If the Bill be properly carried out, it will inevitably mean constant and irritating inquiry as to the number and ages and so forth of children, and frequent moves on the part of the families, all of which, naturally, would be troublesome to the mothers especially, and, with the constant moves that are adumbrated, fatiguing and also expensive to the family income.

Moreover, with the cheapening of travel and increase of trade-holidays, people even of small means visit each other much more than formerly, and particularly in country districts. Local authorities are to be allowed to permit the standards to be exceeded for four months in the year in places which are holiday resorts. For the concession with regard to holiday places which was made in another place, people who criticise this Bill in other respects are grateful. In other cases, by granting licences in exceptional circumstances the permitted standards can be exceeded, but the authorities are to prescribe the limit within which the standards may be exceeded. This will inevitably restrict the letting of rooms to summer visitors on which the great majority of persons in the Highlands depend for their income, and may become a very serious matter. It is also bound to restrict the visits which relatives may pay one another. Take the case of a boy at the University, for instance. The maximum exemption allowed of fifteen days would not cover his summer holidays, and as he might become technically a cause of overcrowding, I presume his father would have to get a licence to have his son home at that time. I might instance another case. Supposing a relative was asked to a place where they were just able to get one more in, say, a sister of the wife. The sister might be a married woman, and perhaps have a small infant which she could not very well leave at home. Because of the baby she would be unable to visit her sister. That kind of thing does seem absurd and stupid when you are dealing with the country side of the question.

I firmly approve of the idea of separating the sexes, but I would point out that, as the Bill does not seek to lay clown how many persons are to sleep in any one room, this separation may not, in actual fact, be achieved. Although, for instance, not mote than three people may sleep in a two-roomed house, it does not seem to matter in the least whether all the three sleep in one room or not, according to the Bill. Supposing the house contains two rooms. Only three people will be allowed to sleep in such a house, though the two rooms are of the same size, but there are no provisions to say that three people may not sleep in one room and no one in the other, or two people in one room and one in the other or vice versa. Both rooms are exactly the same size. Why, therefore, cannot two people sleep in each of them at the same time? All this may seem a little narrow-minded, but I am not suggesting that the Secretary of State for Scotland is narrow-minded, because he puts in a special clause that in a one-roomed house two people may sleep, provided they are living as husband and wife, but there is no suggestion that they must show marriage lines to the inspectors who may come round to visit them from time to time.

Now I come to another question. The custom in England is, I believe, for the farm workers to live in villages. In Scotland, certainly the ploughmen, and probably most of the farm workers, live upon the farms. Shepherds, and keepers especially, have to live in out-of-the-way places on the ground of which they are in charge. A very great number of these men's houses have two rooms and a sort of bed closet facing the back which is too small to be counted as a room under the provisions of this Bill. This means that only the couple and one child over ten years old can be allowed to live in such a house. The children of these people, who live healthy outdoor lives, are nearly always numerous and certainly the most healthy in the whole country. I admit that possibly the space may be rather cramped, but the results achieved are not those which the Bill is trying to prevent. In the case of keepers and shepherds their families gradually leave home as they grow up, because the father's work is of the type that can be continued in old age, and they can stay in their occupation quite a long time. But it is different with the ploughmen, who, on account of the severity of their work, have to be in the prime of life and have, therefore, probably got young and growing families.

Inevitably, if the Bill passes in its present form, farmers will be very chary of engaging men with families, and this very important class of worker will be seriously handicapped in obtaining employment. The result will, I think, be that the ploughmen will be either unmarried, or will exercise some form of birth control. At this very day farmers' sons who are working on their fathers' farms are finding it more convenient to live at home unmarried, with the result that there is considerable reduction of the rural population, and we surely do not want this extended to the potential farmers of the future, the ploughmen. We have to remember that the ploughman is a migratory man, and naturally, if he leaves one place, he is not likly to get employment in another if he has a large family, as the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, pointed out. If, on the other hand, all the tied houses are to come within the scope of the Bill, it will take years for most estates to make the necessary additions to their cottages, more especially as the Bill only prolongs the Rural Housing Act for three more years. All houses are not suitable for additions, and no funds are now available to enable proprietors to build new ones.

I know it is impossible in this Bill, hut. I hope something may be done to extend the period of the Rural Housing Act, which is one of the best and most useful Acts we have ever had. It is impossible for the local authorities to build these new houses under the conditions of employment of those principally concerned. Further, it is difficult at the present moment to see how either the proprietors or the farmers themselves, who are all on their last legs financially, can afford the necessary additions or new buildings. As I have said, ploughmen are a very migratory class; frequent difficulties will arise, and those with families are likely to get left out. Therefore I do feel that tied houses of this sort should be exempt from the Bill, and I think it is easy to give exemption without impairing the Bill. It can be well justified because the surroundings of these rural houses are, as has already been pointed out, so open and so airy. In this connection may I put in a plea for the house known as the "but and ben," with its bed closet. It is not the size of the latter that matters, but that it should be properly ventilated. The regulation of fifty square feet may cut out a very large number of these small cubicles which are in some ways the best room in the house for the purpose for which they are used.

To my mind in these localities it is far more important to see that the roofs and walls do not leak and that the house is generally sound and free from damp. That is not a matter which comes under this Bill at all. I have met many town clerks and provosts of small burghs and expert officials in Scotland. Politics did not enter into the question. I was really anxious to find out the extent of overcrowding in these rural areas and how far it was possible to deal with it. We always had a free discussion and all the pros and cons were very carefully gone into. The constant opinion was not only that the Bill is not wanted but that in many directions its provisions would be against the interests of the rural areas. The view held was that if passed it would only bring in a lot of fresh regulations whereas the existing powers of local authorities, with possibly some small additions, were quite sufficient—and in fact better suited—to deal with such areas as we have that are injurious to health and to morals.

As time is short I have not said a word with regard to compensation to owners or overcrowding in the big cities because I feel that those matters will be better dealt with by other speakers. There is little more to be said on the subject, but I would like to refer noble Lords to what was said by Sir Robert Horne in another place. I hope noble Lords will take the opportunity of reading what he said, and I should like to support it.


My Lords, as the noble Duke has indicated, this Bill is in effect a premium on small families and indirectly on birth control, but I am not quarrelling with it on that ground. I think the Bill is on the whole a good Bill, though it will cause hardships in many instances, especially in the agricultural districts where, as has been pointed out, the agricultural labourer with a large family of young children will have great difficulty in obtaining employment. Thanks to the great boon of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, innumerable cottages, mostly of the "but and ben" type have been reconditioned with the addition of a third room and other conveniences, but I am bound to say that in my experience the third room is often not used and that the whole of the family insist on sleeping in the room where there is a fire, generally in the kitchen, the agricultural worker not having the means to light a second fire. No Act of Parliament can prevent that sort of thing happening. As to the standard of overcrowding, I do not altogether agree with my noble friend the Earl of Mansfield. I do not think it would be possible to have a worse standard in Scotland that has been already decided upon for England. There is only one real argument in my opinion, for a worse standard in Scotland than in England and that is the more rigorous climate. We do not like to stress that point too much for fear of frightening the Sassenach from visiting our delectable country.

I alluded just now to the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, which has been an enormous benefit to Central and Southern Scotland, but that Act has broken down in the Highland counties and the crofter counties, notably Inverness-shire. In those districts, you come across people called squatters who build their houses themselves on the crofts of friends or relatives. They pay neither rent nor rates and the crofters themselves only pay rates on one-eighth of the value of their land and nothing on their cottages. That means, of course, that they pay an infinitesimal sum. It is not surprising, therefore, that more substantial ratepayers through the county councils decline to go halves with the National Exchequer in providing grants up to £100 per house for these people. The question of housing in the Highlands and crofter districts and in the Islands of the Hebrides is a real and very difficult one, but I think that question should be tackled by an entirely separate measure. I wish the Government had agreed to help certain landlords in the towns who have good houses, net quite up to modern standards, but which could be quite easily reconditioned. I think the Government might have treated them on the lines of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act.

As has been pointed out, this Bill has been subjected to minute examination in another place and it is a far better Bill now than it was when it was first introduced. Many of your Lordships must have been struck by the knowledge and ability displayed by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh" a Scottish Representative Peer, when the House was in Committee on the English Housing Bill. I was hoping that he would have the details of this Bill also at his finger ends and help us in Committee. This Bill will doubtless cost money. It will cost money to the ratepayer and to the taxpayer, but I think that experience teaches that all reforms, whether they are for the better or for the worse, cost money. When Bills are introduced into Parliament promises of economies are rarely, if ever, fulfilled. I instance as an example of that the Local Government Act, 1929, which was introduced with promises of great economies through centralisation. Those economies have not materialised up to now, and I am afraid they never will. There is little pretence about economy in this Bill. As I have pointed out, it will be expensive, but the cost will be worth while if it is to relieve and mitigate the great evil of overcrowding in Scotland, which, no doubt, is undermining the health of the people.


My Lords, may I, as one who—if a personal allusion be forgiven—was responsible for six years for housing administration in Scotland, be allowed, despite what has been said in criticism of this Bill, to offer it a very warm welcome in your Lordships' House and to congratulate respectfully the Secretary of State for Scotland and those who are associated with him upon their success in piloting their legislative ship in another place, despite the heavy weather which it occasionally encountered, safely into harbour? The need, the urgent need, in Scotland of a Bill to deal with the crying evil of overcrowding does not really require stressing in your Lordships' House. I think it has been conceded by those noble Lords who preceded me, but I should like, without wearying your Lordships, to supplement the figures which were given by my noble friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill by adding one or two more which I think present, in more graphic form than I in any words of mine can hope to do, the state of matters in Scotland to-day. I give round figures.

At the present moment 9 per cent. of all the houses in Scotland are houses of one apartment, and 36 per cent. of all the houses are ho-.uses of two apartments Seven per cent. of the population in Scotland live in one-apartment houses, and 36 per cent. live in two-apartment houses. The persons who are living more than two in a room in Scotland are equivalent to 35 per cent. of the population; the persons who are living more than three in a room are equal to 14 per cent, of the population. These. last figures which I have cited, when you compare them with England, show that the state of matters in Scotland is ten times worse at least than it is on this side of the Border. I venture to think that the figures which I have cited are arresting, are staggering, are indeed shameful figures, and that therefore neither argument nor eloquence on my part or on the, part of any other noble Lord is required in order to demonstrate that a remedy for such a, state of matters is urgently required.

When one considers whether the remedy proposed by the Bill is an appropriate remedy, I am well content to leave the measure to speak for itself. On Second Reading, as I conceive it, one, is remitted to a bird's-eye view, so to speak, of the provisions of the Bill and to discussion of the basal principles upon which it is founded. Questions of whether the provisions which it contains are suitable for particular circumstances; questions with regard to the cheeks and the safeguards which the Bill contains, are also questions winch I venture to think are more appropriate to the Committee stage of the Bill than to its Second Reading. I have little doubt, although I have no right to speak for the Government or for anybody representing the Government, that the instructed and informed criticism to which the Bill has been subjected by several noble Lords, speaking with expert knowledge, will be fully and sympathetically considered at the Committee stage, where that is possible.

Of course I quite recognise that, with regard to certain points relating to finance, the Financial Resolution is an end of the matter, but many of the points—I think I should be correct in saying most of the points—which have been mentioned by noble Lords are points which can quite properly and appropriately be dealt with, and which I hope will be dealt with, in the Committee. At this point let me say that I do hope that the Government will see their way to give adequate time for the Committee stage of the Bill, because it appears to me that then rather than now is the time at which the real fight, if there be a fight, must come off.

One thing which emerges from the welter of housing legislation by which we are confronted is that to-day some sort of national standard of accommodation is essential, if you are on the one hand to remedy the overcrowding which prevails now, and on the other hand to prevent the recurrence of that overcrowding. I concede that the national standard which is proposed by the Bill is a novelty. I understand that it has never been done before. But this Bill provides such a standard, and that standard is based, as I think has been pointed out, on two considerations which public opinion today requires. The first of these is the separation of the sexes, and the second is the superficial space which should be adequate both for living and sleeping conditions. The Bill lays down the standard. It is a minimum standard, and, I venture humbly to think, from any knowledge which I possess of Scotland, a practicable standard, but it is not necessarily, I should have thought, a final standard. It is, on the other hand, not an ideal standard, but a very real one. The point is this: that the standard, whatever it may be, must be such as to ensure without undue delay an adequate and definite improvement in housing accommodation for the working classes in Scotland; and it must also be fenced with statutory sanctions which can be applied, if need be, at the appropriate time.

May I say a word about another matter? It seems to me that, asso ciated with the policy of decrowding, necessarily must be a policy of redevelopment—that is, of replanning congested areas. To decrowd houses and to leave static, so to speak, the areas in which they are situated would not solve the problem, whether it be regarded from the social point of view, from the public health point of view, or from the industrial point of view. Accordingly it is essential that small houses should, if possible, be replaced by larger houses. That is the object, I apprehend, of the redevelopment scheme in the Bill—namely, to replace the congestion of unfit and crowded houses by houses of sufficient size to meet the needs of the working class population, in healthy and open environment. I was glad to hear what the noble Lord said in moving the Second Reading of the Bill that it deals with the question of amenity. There is no doubt at all that our houses in Scotland, unfortunately, in the poorer districts, are of a dreary and bleak character—mere units of housing, so to speak; and I gather from what the noble Lord said that the Bill will propose to deal with these questions from the point of view rather of architectural beauty, where that is feasible, following the Continental lead, in which we can see many exemplars which might afford a lead to us in Scotland in this matter, and recognising, as everybody must, the immediate and the profound effect of environment upon the life and character of the individual.

Just a word, my Lords, in conclusion. The working-out of this scheme which the Government propose is to be, as I apprehend, by a partnership between the State and the local authority. If one is asked the question: "Why not leave this to private enterprise?" I am afraid that the answer is only too plain—namely, that private enterprise, because of the cost of building, particularly since the War, has been quite unable to cope with the demand for small houses for the poorest section of the community. Accordingly, subsidies, and adequate subsidies, are necessary, and are provided in the Bill. For myself I have an optimistic view with regard to the working of this partnership between the State and local authorities. I had experience of local authorities in Scotland during the six years that I had the honour of occupying the office of Secretary for Scotland, and I am here to say without fear of contradiction that they are well fitted to be the instruments of reform under this measure. As regards the State, all I can say is that the subsidies provided are adequate, almost to the point of generosity, and I would take this opportunity, as a patriotic Scot, of publicly thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the manner in which he has recognised the special and urgent needs of Scotland, relying, no doubt, as he does, upon a social and national up-lift in return, which will be well worth the expenditure of public money.

The Bill, I venture to think, whatever its defects may be, and however capable of improvement it may be, is a statesmanlike imeasure—comprehensive, challenging, courageous in its provisions. It is designed to achieve, and I hope it will achieve, the result of removing what is a. black stain upon the national life of Scotland. It is in that sense—by no means representing the Bill as a perfect instrument, but hoping that, if necessary, Amendments may be made in Committee, by which the instrument which has been forged by the Government will be rendered even better fitted for its purpose—that I welcome the measure, and I am glad to think that your Lordships' House is to give it a Second Reading.


My Lords, the ground has been so well covered that I would not wish to detain your Lordships for more than a few seconds, and in rising I do not wish to appear at all antagonistic towards this Bill in principle. I believe it is a measure that is intended to deal with one of the greatest evils that we have in the land. That it, is to deal with it drastically is, I suppose, under modern conditions, right, and the sooner it is dealt with the better; but it must be remembered that it is a measure which may have very far-reaching and serious effects. I am not an owner of land in the towns, and therefore I cannot speak with authority; but it is claimed that it is giving a very serious set-back to real estate-owners and others in such large Cities as Glasgow and Dundee, and is tending seriously to reduce the value of real estate. This is one of the occasions when I presume we should endeavour to take the broadest and most far-sighted view we can, but I equally agree that it is not quite so easy a course to take when one is deeply concerned in the subject. One of the greatest difficulties, from the Scottish point of view, in this housing question, is the fact, of the Irish invasion. Until you are able to deal with that to a. great extent I cannot see how you will get great amelioration of the problem. On the whole, I believe the principles of the Bill are sound, but what I am anxious to know is what effect the provisions of this Bill will have upon rural areas.

I do not wish to speak long on this point, but T would like to say this, that you will find in the Bill, and I understand that it was also given effect to in another place, that it is intended that questions of housing should be investigated by a Committee. I hope and trust that it will be discussed and dealt with from two points of view—namely, the urban and the rural. If that is able to be done, I hope all these difficult cases which have been mentioned by noble Lords will be considered, and also one to which I wish specially to draw attention: that is, the effect on those men who, after the appointed day, wish to move of their own free will—it is called "flitting "—to another job, and who may find it exceedingly difficult to find work, for the reason that they cannot get a house because the housing accommodation is not according to the standard of the Bill. It is true there is a three-years extension of the rural housing subsidy, but I submit that that is not sufficient, because although we have this Rural Housing Act which has been of the greatest help to us all—I am grateful for it—you must remember that the ground which has to be made up in housing in rural areas is very great. If we are able to get some satisfaction that this matter will be regarded sympathetically, not only by the Government but by the Committee which sits on the subject, I, for one, will feel hopeful with regard to the present situation.


My Lords, at this rather late hour I do not wish to detain your Lordships long, but I cannot help rising to congratulate the Government on the courage they have shown in introducing this Bill. I agree with the Bill in its main principles and general clauses, but I have some criticisms which I hope to develop on the Committee stage. This Bill has been long wanted in Scotland, especially in dealing with urban areas. Any one who knows the conditions in Glasgow and Dundee, and other large towns in Scotland, is 'aware of the awful conditions which exist there, and Lord Alness, who knows so much about this, developed the point. The statistics of the awful conditions of overcrowding in some of the dark back streets in our larger cities show that the time when it should have been remedied has long passed. Again and again we have had Scottish Housing Acts of Parliament. We have been full of hope, those of us who want to improve the housing conditions of the people in Scotland, that they were going to give us at last what we wanted, but every one of those attempts has failed us. Every one of them has brought some amelioration, but not one of them has really tackled the root of the problem. I regard this Bill as giving us renewed hope that at last this overcrowding is going to be efficiently tackled.

Of course there are weaknesses in this Bill. No reforming Bill like this can fail to tread on the toes of vested interests, but we have got to look at a much wider field than the small vested interests which come in the way. I am glad indeed that this Bill constitutes an Advisory Committee, which is going to add ginger to the various authorities who are going to act under this Bill and push along the necessary reforms so needed in the Scottish housing problem. I do not take the view that the standard laid down in this Bill is too high. If anything, I think it is on the low side. At all events some will say it is too high and others that it is too low, but I am very glad indeed that a standard has been laid down which will gradually get the housing of our people up to a better level.

I do hope that in the reconditioning of the older section of our town property the matter will be looked at in two aspects: first, the totally derelict and hopeless property that ought to be pulled down; and secondly, the properties that can be reconditioned and used. Undoubtedly in some of our areas there are very fine buildings, with sufficient light in those buildings, which would repay the expenditure of money on them in reconditioning, and I think that the Advisory Committee set up under the Bill could very well look into that problem of divid ing the sheep from the goats. Money would be well spent, not only in reconditioning these houses, but in helping property owners to carry out improvements in these properties which the owners have not the capital to carry out themselves. You would thereby provide better houses for the poor at a much quicker rate than by any other means.


Does the noble Lord realise that that is cut out of the Bill?


I realise that it is not in the Bill and that an Amendment ought to be inserted. That reconditioning, which did an immense amount of good in the rural areas, would certainly be of great value in the case of certain urban properties. The other point I would like to make is the question of the development of new areas, and here I hope that the very greatest care will be taken that sufficient ground is provided for the various adjuncts of a collection of houses—not just houses thrown down in rows, but the proper development of a Scottish village, with a hall for the amusement of the people, space for a church room, and for the various playgrounds that are so necessary for the better life which we hope our people will have in future. All that sort of thing must be planned.

I was much struck in my sojourn abroad, especially in Germany, by the foresight shown in the development of new areas for building. In some of our larger villages, where we have been encouraging the local authorities to build houses, it is quite hopeless to expect them to build unless you have a decent drainage and water supply. In the development of these smaller villages, therefore, the first requirement is that the Government should come forward and offer a large proportion of the money required for the provision of the amenities of life in the form of drainage and water before the building of new houses. In many parts of Scotland, especially in Dumfriesshire, for example in the towns of Moffat and Beattock, the local authority is entirely crippled in its desire to build new houses which are badly wanted, owing to an excessive level of rates, which prevent their developing the necessary drainage systems. Money spent for this purpose would help the rehousing of those areas. This Bill, of course, depends en tirely on the energy and the enterprise and the amount of money devoted by the local authorities to the purpose. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has shown great courage in producing this Bill, will see that the Advisory Committee follows it up, and that the local authorities really carry out what the Government have set out to do. This Bill has been long wanted. In general terms I am delighted to give it support on Second Beading, reserving the right to amend it in Committee.


My Lords, I am no less a believer in the necessity for this Bill than my noble friend who has just sat down and other Lords who have spoken. We have all felt for a long time in Scotland that such a Bill was necesary. It has been perfectly obvious that the time is long past when we ought to have removed our people from some of the slum dwellings in which they live, or rather exist, in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and other large cities in Scotland, or to have made provision with that object.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Alness, in his very admirable speech, said he was glad that this Bill was being placed entirely in the hands of the local authorities and not of private enterprise. I cast my mind back to the years 1919 and 1920, when my noble friend and I were members of another place, and he introduced and passed a Bill which provided for the rehousing of the people in Scotland entirely through the local authorities. At that time I suggested that private enterprise should be given an opportunity under that measure, and what actually happened was that at a later date that was found necessary, because it was not possible for the local authorities to cope with all the housing that was required will the resources at their disposal. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, might consider during the Committee stage whether it is possible to introduce some provision enabling private enterprise to undertake part of the duties imposed in this Bill on the local authorities. I believe that if this work is left entirely in the hands of the local authorities the three years which it is supposed to take to carry out the provisions of the Bill will not be enough.

With regard to reconditioning, I regret that more account has not been taken of the difference of conditions as between England and Scotland. Everyone in Scotland is perfectly aware that the houses in our large cities in Scotland are of a more solid and more durable type than houses in England, and consequently many of them are capable of being reconditioned and put into a more modern condition so as to enable them to tide over the time until the new houses are built. I understand that it is not possible to-day to incorporate in this Bill provisions to enable these houses to be reconditioned. I suggest to the noble Lord that if we pass the Second Reading and the subsequent stages of this Bill, the Government should consider immediately the preparation and passing of a Bill for the reconditioning of houses in Scotland which are capable of being reconditioned. If full advantage of this Bill is to be obtained within the time laid down, I can see no other way of obtaining it. I urge on the Government, as I think other noble Lords have done, perhaps not with the same emphasis, the necessity of bringing in immediately a Bill supplementary to this Bill on the question of reconditioning.

One other point I should like to mention is that of compensation. It is a matter which one always approaches with some diffidence, because one is apt to be accused of belonging to the class which is always trying to obtain compensation out of everything. I do not ask that anything more than reasonable and fair compensation should be paid under this Bill, and I suggest that under the clauses which provide compensation in this Bill such compensation will neither be reasonable nor fair. Let me put this point to your Lordships. Urban property in Scotland is of a more solid and enduring character than property of a similar type in England. Consequently, mortgages have been made on these properties of a very much larger character, involving higher figures, than would be made on the same class of properties in England. There is another reason for that. A property in England is almost invariably on a leasehold basis. In Scotland it is held on a feuing basis, or what may be termed a perpetual lease. Consequently, financial houses or institutions which are prepared to lend money on these properties have lent more money on properties in Scotland than they would be prepared to lend on similar properties in England.

What is the position to-day as the result of this Bill? Let us assume that a certain property is valued at £2,000. There is a mortgage on it of £1,200, about two-thirds of its value. Under this Bill the compensation that will be paid upon that property would be only the site value. Consequently, mortgages of that character in Scotland to-day have descended to a value of probably half the amount raised on the property, not £1,200, but £600. Who is going to be the loser of that difference? The unfortunate property-owner, if he can pay it. Cases of that kind are in existence to-day and are probably multiplying every day as this Bill is coming into force. I suggest to the noble Lord that the question of compensation should be reconsidered by the Government, not because it is for Scotland, but because the conditions in Scotland vary to such an extent from the conditions in England. Those are the two principal points which I wish to bring before your Lordships' House. There are others, but at this late hour I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer. I only ask once more the noble Lord in charge of the Bill to bring to the notice of the Government these two points which I have raised, and which I regard as of the utmost importance, in the hope that we may get something out of them.


My Lords, the noble Lord in charge of the Bill and other noble Lords have referred to the position of local authorities. I confess I am not quite clear as to what is the definition of a local authority so far as this Bill is concerned. I understand it to mean a. county council or a town council; but does it include small authorities? The only reference I see is in Clause 29 where it refers to a. "town council of a large burgh." That seems to me to exclude the town councils of small burghs; it seems to me to exclude district councils; it seems to me to exclude ward councils. I think that for the efficient working of this Bill it is highly desirable that the words "local authority" should include small bodies working in a restricted area, because they understand better than anyone else the conditions of housing within their area.

Those of your Lordships who live in the Islands will understand the importance of the suggestion that the words "local authority" should mean the island authority for public purposes. The noble Lord himself will understand that those of us who live in the Islands are not enamoured of having our affairs managed by big authorities on the mainland who do not understand our conditions. Therefore I suggest that in the "definitions for purposes of provisions relating to this Act" the words "local authority" should be defined, and the definition should include district councils and town councils of small burghs, if not ward councils.


My Lords, I think it is fair to say that every noble Lord who has spoken this afternoon is agreed that he is individually desirous of seeing the very great overcrowding in Scotland put an end to. The only differences which have manifested themselves are really differences of method. This Bill has been subject to criticism, but I think not even the noble Lords who have criticised it would differ from the view that we all want to see a remedy by one means or another for the overcrowding problem in Scotland. We have this position. It is admitted that overcrowding in Scotland is worse than it is in England. It is evident from the figures given by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill and by the noble Lord, Lord Alness, that we have got to admit that overcrowding in Scotland is more intense than it is in England. A Bill to deal with England preceded this Bill. What were the Government to do?

Were they to say: "Overcrowding in Scotland is so bad that it is impracticable to bring in a Bill now"? Were they to say: "Overcrowding in Scotland is so bad that even this low standard, the penal standard we are applying in England, is too high to be enforced and therefore we must have a different standard for Scotland than for England"? I think the Government were right in rejecting both these courses. The only remaining alternative was to introduce a Bill with the same standard for Scotland as for England. I think that, in spite of the criticisms of one or two of my noble friends, the Government were right in taking that course. I think that some of the apprehensions of my noble friend the Duke of Atholl are just a little bit exaggerated.


Would the noble Lord say what my apprehensions were?


My noble friend's apprehensions were, I think, that it was impracticable to apply this standard in numerous cases which he gave, such as the but-and-ben and the cottar houses. I shall come to them in a moment. I think these difficulties may be overcome.


I said I thought it was unnecessary.


I think, possibly, these difficulties may be overcome by the application of the powers in Clause 4 and Clause 5 of the Bill. It is quite clear that if the appointed day is to be an early day, these powers will have to be very freely used. But, on the whole, I do not think that he would have liked it in Scotland if a lower standard had been put into the Bill than the standard for England. I think it is better to have the standard and reconcile ourselves to the more belated application of it than may possibly be the case in England. I think it is quite possible that other conditions which differ in Scotland from those in England have not been given sufficient weight by the Government in considering this Bill. There are numerous other conditions. There is the condition of the materials of which many of the houses are built. I so well remember as a boy, going home for the holidays, how glad one was to see brick houses giving place to stone, as one got nearer home.

It may well be that this may require special consideration. There is the very urgent case which has been very ably stated by noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, of the rural areas. I think there there is a case for special consideration, but it does not alter the fact that the problem is there and has to be dealt with. After all, the standard is too low in those isolated cottages, and we want to see the standard raised. There are difficulties. People do not want to sleep away from the fire, as my noble friend suggested. Those difficulties require special consideration. Another very important point, which may have a bearing on the compensation question, is the difference in rating. So far as the English Bill is concerned, I am quite satisfied that the property owners now are being given an answer to all their grievances. The English Bill has removed, I am satisfied, in a generous way the grievances of property owners, whether that be the case in Scotland or not. I am not so familiar with the details, either of the legislation or the conditions possibly in urban areas in Scotland as I am with those in England, and it may be that there is a case for greater consideration owing to the difference in the two rating systems. But be that as it may, the Government are right to introduce the Bill, and I therefore support the Second Reading.

I will only add one or two words upon the question of private enterprise. I am afraid it is true that private enterprise cannot fill this need for low-rented housing for the working classes, for the simple reason that such housing does not give a sufficient return. To provide housing at the standard which public opinion now demands will not give a yield over the life of the houses of, say, eighty years, of more than two and three-quarters or three per cent., and private enterprise is not satisfied with that. If the site value is higher it will not even yield that return, and that is why it is necessary to depend so largely on the action of the local authorities. I regret that one form of private enterprise, that represented by the housing association, is not given greater encouragement under the Bill. I think it is a pity that the Government have decided that all these new houses should be the property of the local authorities. I think the ownership by the local authorities of a great mass of low-rented property will, in future, be a source of great difficulty, and I would have preferred to see the accommodation provided through the medium of housing associations, which really are a form of philanthropic private enterprise. That movement has been more developed possibly in England than in Scotland, but there are housing associations in Scotland, and it may be that some Amendments will have to be proposed to bring this Bill into line with the concessions which I hope are going to be given in the English Bill.


My Lords, this Bill has been greeted with a mixed chorus of congratulation and criticism. I am grateful to noble Lords for the measure of their congratulations, and, in the other ease, for the moderation of their criticism. I fully realise the amount of criticism that has been raised by this Bill in another place, and I would only assure those noble Lords who have mentioned the matter that it is my intention to ask that we should have as much time as is required to go thoroughly into all the points raised by noble Lords to-day on the Committee stage of this Bill. I do not intend, at this very late hour, to inflict another speech upon your Lordships, or to endeavour to answer all the points which have been raised by various noble Lords, a great many of which will. I think, be more suitably dealt with in Committee. The whole of the criticism of this Bill has turned out to be, as I foreshadowed in my speech in moving its Second Reading, upon the two questions of reconditioning and the conditions in the rural areas. On the question of reconditioning I would only say now, in addition to what I have already said, that that will not, in the opinion of the Government, really deal with the question of overcrowding. It is the firm opinion of the Government that the one thing to do is to get new houses built, and get rid of those congested areas to which I have already referred.


May I ask the noble Lord, does that mean that the Government will not consider the questios of reconditioning in any form?


Not under this Bill. No doubt the Government are considering it in another form, and I have taken note of the noble Viscount's suggestion, which on a suitable occasion will be taken into consideration. With regard to the question of rural areas, the majority of the critics of this Bill to-day have brought their broadsides to bear on the question of the difficulties in rural areas. I have no doubt that is a matter which also can properly be dealt with in Committee. But I would like to point out to your Lordships one fact. We have made inquiries, and we have found, contrary to what many noble Lords think, that the average size of families in rural areas is not very much larger than their size in urban areas. Just because they see one big family in one particular house noble Lords are apt to think that every occupant of a house in a rural area has a large family. The actual figures show that about 4.8 is the average size of families in the country, and about 4.4 in the towns.

As I have said, the standard of the penal provision under the Bill will not apply until the greater part of the additional accommodation, as we hope, has been provided—not until after the appointed day. There are various other provisions which, I hope, will make it not so difficult to deal with the rural problems. I think the noble Duke (the Duke of Atholl) suggested the example of what would happen to young men at the Universities when they were on holidays staying with relations or friends. I would only refer him to subsection (3) of Clause 3, which says that the student is entitled to stay for sixteen days, and after that it is only a question of getting a licence in order that his stay may be further extended.


I do not want to interrupt, but it seems rather hard that every time you want your boy to come home from the University, you have to get a licence, as if for a dog.


We are not dealing so much with young men from the University as with overcrowding in Scotland in this Bill. The noble Duke asked me for a definition of "local authority." I understand that a local authority under this Bill is simply an urban, town or county council. One or two noble Lords lamented the fact that no subsidy was given to private enterprise in this Bill. The Government decided that could not be done. On that point I would also refer noble Lords to Clause 27, to which I made reference in my previous speech. This shows that various voluntary agencies not only are being encouraged to proceed with rehousing, but that a great many have already begun to do so. A great many other points which have been raised will no doubt be gone into in Committee. I think I have dealt generally with the criticisms made by noble Lords this afternoon and I ask your Lordships now to give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.