HL Deb 30 May 1946 vol 141 cc632-47

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill is the Scottish counterpart of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which received its Third Reading in this House, followed by the Royal Assent, before the Easter Recess. The main object of both measures is to provide for increased Exchequer and rate contributions to enable local authorities to carry out their post-war housing programmes at rents which those who now require homes can reasonably be expected to pay. It is also the object of these measures to adjust those contributions in such a way as to take into account the special financial problems raised by building on expensive urban sites and in rural areas.

It is the policy of the Government to concentrate for the present on the building of houses by public authorities for letting purposes. By way of supplementation, private enterprise may build houses within certain limits of size and price, corresponding roughly to standards of size and price in local authority housing; and, as I shall explain later, this Bill provides for increased lump sum grants in aid of private house building for agricultural workers. This Bill, however, is primarily a financial one to assist local authorities to build houses for the vast number of families who have at present no homes of their own or who are living in unsatisfactory conditions. May I say that I use the term public authorities deliberately, because I wish to include, not only the 228 local authorities in Scotland, but the Scottish Special Housing Association, for whom a large post-war housing programme is contemplated. I shall have something to say about the Association shortly.

As I have indicated, the main provisions of the Scottish Bill follow the lines of those in the Act recently passed for England and Wales. The provisions of that Act were described with admirable lucidity by my noble friend Lord Henderson in moving the Second Reading in this House on April 9. Accordingly, I shall not deal with the Scottish measure in detail. I propose rather—and I trust noble Lords will find it convenient for me to do so—to concentrate upon those features of the Scottish Bill which are of special significance to Scotland and have special relation to Scottish conditions.

The first provisions to which I wish to refer are the standard subsidies for houses erected by local authorities for the general working class population. In England and Wales, the standard subsidies, which will run for sixty years, consist of an annual contribution of £16 10S. from the Exchequer and an annual contribution of £5 10S. from the rates—a total of £22 applicable to all approved houses whatever the number of rooms. In Scotland the standard subsidies proposed in Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill vary with the number of rooms in the house. For a typical four-roomed house for example a living room and three bedrooms, the figures are £23 from the Exchequer and £7 from the rates—a total of £30 In both Scotland and England, the new subsidies are based on an assumed average rent of 10s. a week exclusive of rates.

A word of explanation is probably desirable on the differential subsidy in Scotland for houses of different numbers of rooms. We have far too many houses of one, two and three rooms in Scotland, and the local authorities have themselves added an excessive proportion of small houses to the existing number. Between the wars, 73.7 per cent. of the houses built by local authorities in Scotland were of three rooms or less. In England and Wales 80.3 per cent. of such houses were of four rooms or more. We have asked local authorities in Scotland to concentrate primarily in the immediate future on houses of four rooms with an appropriate number of five-roomed dwellings. The higher Exchequer contribution for houses of larger sizes will furnish an inducement to local authorities to provide them. In making this recommendation, of course, we have not lost sight of the need for a limited number of new smaller houses for ageing people.

I shall not detain your Lordships with an account of the various proposals for additional subsidies contained in the Bill, which follow fairly closely those in the English measure. These additional subsidies are designed to assist local authorities who incur abnormal expenditure in their housing operations as the result of building in clearance or redevelopment areas, on expensive central sites, or in areas liable to mineral subsidence. There is also provision in Clause 1 for additional subsidy for the provision of lifts in blocks of flats of at least four storeys.

Further there is prevision in proviso (c) to Clause 1 of the Scottish Bill for additional Exchequer subsidies for remote areas. Under this provision, no additional rate contribution is payable; and there is no maximum fixed for the additional Exchequer contribution. It is proposed to leave it to the Secretary of State, with the sanction of the Treasury, to fix such annual amount for a period of 60 years as seems to him to be just and reasonable. This provision is intended to give the Secretary of State discretion to vary within a considerable range the amount of additional assistance which he feels should be given to low-rented housing schemes in areas where costs are substantially enhanced as a result of remoteness from centres of supply of labour and materials.

The additional subsidies to which I refer apply to houses erected by local authorities for the general working class population. I am sure your Lordships would wish me to say something of the special provisions in the Bill for houses built for the agricultural population. There are two provisions which deal with this matter. Clauses 3 and 4 cover houses provided by local authorities, and Clause 9 covers houses provided by private persons to replace unfit houses.

If there is to be a revival of rural life, and if we are to get the number of workers on the land that we need for food production, we shall have to see that a great many more new houses are built for agricultural workers of all kinds. I am aware that there are some who regret the expiration of the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts at the end of last September. Under these Acts over 32,000 existing houses in Scotland had been reconditioned since 1926, when the first Housing (Rural Workers) Act was passed. Much of the work done under these Acts was, however, of a makeshift character and made the house little better than before. This was the conclusion reached by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee who were opposed to the indefinite continuance of these Acts.

A reconditioned house is not so good as a new one, and rural workers must be treated on the same footing as their brothers in urban areas. Besides, reconditioning does not add to the total number of houses in a country district. We need large numbers of new houses, and for the present the limited amount of skilled labour available in rural areas can best be used in the building of new houses. The Secretary of State is expecting to receive shortly a report of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee on the modernization of existing houses, including houses in rural areas. When he receives this report he will be in a position to consider how and when such a policy of modernization may be carried out.

The subsidies proposed in Clause 3 for houses for the agricultural population provided by local authorities are substantially greater than the standard subsidies. The Exchequer contribution may vary between £21 and £35 per annum for 60 years; and for remote areas, there is provision, as in the case of ordinary housing, for an additional Exchequer contribution beyond £35 of an unspecified amount. The annual rate contribution under Clause 4 is a fixed amount of £6 10s. per annum for 60 years. We intend to keep a close watch on housing progress in rural areas. The high cost of building at present puts a heavy burden on both the Exchequer and the local authority. An undertaking has been given in another place that, when the subsidy arrangements fall to be reviewed in December of this year, the most careful consideration will be given to agricultural housing.

I now come to the provisions in Clause 9 for increased lump sum grants for houses built by private persons in rural areas. Such grants are available from county councils with Exchequer assistance for replacing unsatisfactory houses occupied by agricultural workers and others in circumstances where they cannot easily be replaced by new houses provided by the county councils themselves. The existing amounts are £160 for a house of three rooms and £200 for a house of four rooms or more. The grant of £160 will be increased by the Bill to £240 and the grant of £200 to £300. If I may be permitted to remind your Lordships, these grants are available for new houses only, not for reconstruction work.

Now may I deal with the provisions in the Bill about the Scottish Special Housing Association. This Association is a non-profit-making public corporation, financed wholly from Government funds. It was originally set up in 1937 by the Commissioner for Special Areas in Scotland to build houses in these areas. From time to time since then, the activities of the Association have been expanded. The Association, for instance, rendered invaluable service during the war in providing five excellent camps for evacuated school children, and several hostels in Clydeside for bombed-out families and essential workers rendered homeless by enemy action. The Association has now been asked to make plans for a large post-war housing programme to supplement the housing operations of local authorities in areas of the greatest need. The Association is at present being reorganized under a full-time Chairman and is engaged on the preliminary stages of their first instalment of 10,000 houses in twenty-nine different areas which have exceptionally heavy housing burdens.

Under existing legislation, the Association receives from the Secretary of State not only the normal Exchequer contribution, but also the equivalent of the normal rate contribution. Houses erected by the Association are thus in the nature of a free gift to the district of the local authority where they are built. No rate contribution is payable by the local authority. Under Clause 12 the Association will receive the new subsidies to be made available for local authority housing.

It is also proposed under Clause 13 that the Association shall develop a strong direct labour organization to build houses as contractors for any local authority in any part of Scotland where it is difficult for the local authority to make satisfactory progress through the ordinary system of tenders by contractors. These difficulties may arise from shortage of labour, or from high prices resulting from the remoteness of the site, or from transport difficulties. Houses erected in this way will be the property of the local authority. To carry out this work of contracting on behalf of local authorities, the Association will require working capital, and Clause 13 enables the Secretary of State to advance money, with appropriate safeguards, for this purpose. I should like to make it clear, as has been made clear in another place, that there is no question of the Association supplanting local authorities in their housing work. The Association will continue to work in the closest co-operation with local authorities. We expect it to play an important part in Scotland's post-war housing programme.

Clause 15 of the Bill deals with the important matter of permanent houses of non-traditional forms of construction. If we are to get all the houses we need in the next 10 to 12 years, we shall have to make use of methods of construction which make a diminished call upon traditional building labour and material. In addition to 1,500 Weir steel houses and 1,500 Atholl steel houses ordered last year, the Government have recently placed an order for Scotland for 5,000 steel houses to be manufactured by the British iron and Steel Federation. In addition, arrangements are now completed for the manufacture in Scotland of 3,000 Cruden houses of steel frame and concrete block construction for erection in small groups in small towns and rural areas. During the early stages of production, the cost of factory-made houses is apt to be high. It is desirable, however, that local authorities should not have to pay substantially more for such houses than for traditional houses of the same type and size. Provision to that end is made in Clause 15, to which I have referred.

Lastly, there are two miscellaneous provisions in the Bill, of a non-financial character and of purely Scottish significance, which I shall mention briefly. The first relates to the powers of County Councils to build houses. Under existing legislation all local authorities, with the exception of county councils, can build houses outside their own districts. No parallel exception is made in England and Wales, and it is proposed to remove this exception in Scotland through Clause 18 of the present Bill. It is particularly desirable, in the interests of planning, that county councils should be unfettered in this matter. It sometimes happens, for example, that a housing scheme has to be built astride a boundary between a county and a burgh, or between two counties; and it is desirable that either authority should have power, by arrangement with the other, to undertake the whole scheme.

The second provision deals with disposal of land for the erection of church buildings. When the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1945, was before Parliament, a Government amendment was included, on the suggestion of the Churches, to the effect that where land was disposed of for the erection of a church or other building for religious purposes, the disposal should, unless the parties otherwise agreed, be by way of feu. The purpose of this was to enable the Churches to have reasonable security of tenure for the erection of worthy buildings. It is only right that a corresponding provision should be included in Clause 19 of the present Bill, to cover disposals of land under the Housing (Scotland) Acts. I feel that noble Lords will appreciate the importance of this provision.

May I add only a word or two in conclusion. The Government have taken powers under other legislation to deal with such matters as the supply of materials and the cost of house-building, and they are resolved to do everything that possibly can be done to ensure that houses are built in sufficient numbers, and as rapidly as possible, for ad who need them. There are many difficulties in the way to be overcome and the public are keenly interested in the progress which is being made from month to month. The Government have nothing to hide, and the monthly Progress Reports which are now being issued by the Secretary of State will enable noble Lords, together with the general public, to measure the success of the housing programme. The Bill which I now commend to your Lordships will provide the financial means by which this housing programme may be carried out. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Westwood.)

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill has been discussed in principle along with the English Bill, and, in many ways, does not vary a great deal from it. It provides certain advantages for Scottish housing more advantageous in some aspects than those being provided for England. But it cannot be too frequently or too strongly stated that the position of housing in Scotland is infinitely more serious than it is in England, and the provision which is made will only be in a small measure commensurate to the urgent requirements which now exist. I am bound to say, as the noble Lord has said, that there is very great regret that the Housing (Rural Workers) Act has been allowed to lapse. It is true that there was a report which in some measure was partially adverse, but as the noble Lord knows, the improvements in houses have to be approved by the local authorities, and if they were unsatisfactory in certain cases, as must inevitably happen, a measure of responsibility must rest on the local authorities who are now to bear such a very heavy burden in the whole housing programme.

We have in Scotland a large number of stone houses. We are not building in stone to-day, because it is too expensive, and we shall probably never be able to do so again. If we do not use the existing stone houses by making renovations and bringing them up to date, they will lapse forever into disuse. I very much hope that on further consideration it will be possible, particularly in agricultural properties, to allow improvements to be carried out with some form of assistance.

The Special Housing Association is an organization with which I have a very particular association. In a sense, it was my baby when it was first put into operation, but it has gone a long way since then. I am bound to say that its work is not giving the satisfaction to-day that it ought to give. It has been charged in very general terms with ten per cent. of Scottish requirements. Its product since last July is 200 finished houses, although more than 200 houses had been already begun last July. It is a most ridiculous output in the period, and must in some measure be due to bad administration. I would, therefore, ask the noble Lord to have that point very carefully examined. I would particularly ask him for an assurance that its accounts will be made public so that it can be seen whether it is running at loss or profit, and can be compared with other similar associations working elsewhere. The importance of this Association is primarily in the location of new areas, a subject with which I will deal in one minute. The main point with which it is concerned, is the redistribution of the population in areas where industry justifies it and requires it.

I am bound to say that I rather hope this is only a temporary Bill, because I do not think it goes to the root of the whole trouble. The burden of rates in Scotland is getting so heavy that the whole country is becoming completely immobilized. That has been said often before, but it cannot be said too often. The rates have roughly doubled in twenty-five years. They have gone up since the war started about 1s. 6d. to 2s. in most districts. This year they have risen again in most areas 2s. and in some areas 2s. 6d.

This Act imposes a heavier burden of rates per house than any Act has ever done before, with the exception, I think, of the 1919 Act. It puts a heavier burden on all Scottish local authorities per house than it does on comparable rich local authorities in England, such as St. Albans, or Staines, or other places of that character. £7 per house is a very heavy cost. If we are to build 500,000 houses, it means that an annual charge of £3,500,000 for sixty years would have to be paid by the Scottish ratepayers. This will further increase the rates to the extent of ten per cent., and the rates cannot stand it. The next step must be taken with the object of reducing the burden of rates, and enabling local authorities to carry on without being completely swamped by the rates which they have to levy. I think it is a great pity that we should speak of subsidies in this matter of housing. These grants which are to be made are not really subsidies. They are drawbacks or rebates, because in effect all they do is to replace the burden on rates by payments from the central Exchequer.

If that were not the case, the houses would be run on very nearly an economic basis, and I hope the time may come when we will be able to regain an economic basis for houses. Western civilization has lost the ability to build houses for itself. To-day in Scotland we cannot even afford to pay other people to build houses for us. That is not because of the rate of wages, but because we are taxing houses to-day at the rate of 100 per cent. We have drifted into this position over many years. If someone proposed to-day that clothes or food were to be taxed 100 per cent. there would be an outcry in the country, and yet this primary commodity remains with the heavy burden of nearly 100 per cent, taxation of its annual value. I look forward to the time when that may be removed, and it will not then be necessary to pay subsidies from the central Exchequer.

I want to add one further word on the question of location. I am not clear how under this Act location is to be operated. It is a complex problem, and one which will cause great difficulty. But I cannot think that with the heavy burden of rates the county of Fife for instance will be willing to build houses for Lanarkshire men. One of the main problems facing the coal industry in Scotland to-day is the transference of miners from one area to the other. There will be very considerable reluctance on the part of the receiving authority to pay a heavy rate contribution for houses which will be used by men coming from a different area. It is hardly proper to deal with that at present, but I hope this point will be borne in mind, because it is on the re-allocation of population and redistribution of houses that in the main the new housing programme will succeed or fail.

I would add one word with regard to what we are seeing in the way of results. The noble Lord referred to the monthly reports which are published. It is true that one is beginning to see signs of temporary housing appearing, but there are still very grave and unsatisfactory signs of slow development. For instance, half the houses under construction in July, 1945, have still not been completed. Of the houses under construction in July, less than half are now finished—a rate of progress that is quite ridiculously slow.

What I think is even more important is that this Act throws the whole burden of new houses on the local authority. Nearly one-third of these local authorities have not yet got a single tender approved. A burden imposed on local authorities which in many cases they are ill-equipped to carry. The burden of local work is becoming so great that the elected members rind it difficult to find the time to carry out their duties in the efficient manner in which they like to do. When one-third of the local authorities have not yet got tenders, there must be great slowness in developing in certain areas. This Bill is a step forward in the sense that we now know how we stand, but I do not think that it goes to the root of the problem. I think the noble Lord himself recognizes that it can and will be only an interim measure.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I would like to say one word from the rural aspect in respect of this Bill. We were greatly interested in the figures which the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading gave us as regards the progress of housing. We are glad to hear of progress of any kind in housing. I can assure your Lordships however, that in Scotland there is very grave disquietude about the progress of housing. We are very short of houses indeed. Most of the figures to which the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, referred are, I think, connected with urban buildings. I have seen signs of houses being built round about the municipalities and towns, but there is very little sign at present of houses actually going up in the country. If there is an urgent need anywhere for houses, it is in the rural areas. The lack of houses there is holding back food production to an enormous degree. Many times you may want to put a key man of agriculture or forestry into a house in order that he may carry on your work. Under the Rent Restrictions Acts, however, you cannot get out the people who are already occupying that house, and because of the lack of houses you cannot find a place into which to put your key man. Until we have more houses on the land we cannot make the progress in agriculture that we would wish to do.

It was lamentable that the operation of the Housing (Rural Workers) Amendment Act, 1938, was discontinued. I know that landed proprietors were taking advantage of that Act before the war, and had we been allowed more time to turn over from war conditions to peace conditions I am sure many more landed proprietors would have been building houses than in 1938. The rapidity and progress of building by private estate management would far exceed anything done by local authorities. I think it is also lamentable that there is no provision in this Bill for treating more generously expenditure on improvements in existing houses. There are financial restrictions, and expenditure is limited in some cases to £10 and in others to £100. What we want in the country are financial facilities to put in a bathroom or bring in an internal water supply. How can we do that when we are restricted to-day to an expenditure of under £100, or something like that? You cannot buy baths and kitchen ranges and piping and instal them for a small sum like that. Yet making an improvement of that kind means all the difference in the world to a man living in a cottage; it represents the difference between living comfortably and living uncomfortably. Some provision ought to be made to allow more generous expenditure on improvements or on extensive repairs to existing houses. However, the Bill, imperfect as it is, is welcome, because anything connected with housing progress must be welcomed in the shortage that exists. The best thing we can do is to support the passing of the Bill.

4.44 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to take part in the debate, but in view of the importance of the subject perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words, first of all with regard to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, and taken up by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. The position in those areas where houses have to be provided for miners because of the development of a mining field in the County of Fife was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. I understood Lord Westwood to say that some special provision was being made to assist local authorities in dealing with sites where there might be mining subsidence, and I should be very glad if he could give a little further explanation. It is a subject which is agitating authorities like those of the County of Fife where developments are required and where it is exceedingly difficult to find a site which is reported as being absolutely safe. If under this Bill some further help can be given it will be very welcome.

The second point I should like to mention has already been stressed, both by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and by the noble Duke—that is, that the tendency of this Bill, unfortunately, will be to give the whole weight of development to urban areas rather than to agricultural ones. A point which has not been fully emphasized so far, although it was mentioned, is the enormous programme which is to the credit of Scotland under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. Such a large amount of work was done that I feel it should be the duty of the Government to see now whether it could not be further developed, and whether further encouragement can be given to it.

As the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, said in introducing the Bill, the tendency will be to concentrate on housing schemes. He indicated that it might be possible under a later clause of the Bill to provide grants for the building of houses in agricultural areas. But will that really operate, in view of the lack of labour and the difficulty of putting up a single house? The whole weight will go in favour of the larger scheme. We are left with the prospect that we cannot improve those houses in agricultural areas which could be improved and brought up to date, because the Act has been killed; and we cannot build new houses, because the whole tendency of this Bill will be in favour of housing schemes in large areas. Therefore I would urge, with the two noble Lords who have already spoken, that further consideration should be given by the Government to the provision of further help for rural areas, either by means of the resuscitation of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, or by some other means.

Finally, there is the point which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, that the whole burden is being placed upon local authorities who, in many cases, are ill-equipped. That is only half the question. The local authority of the County of Fife—and I say this with some humility—is well-equipped. The difficulty we are experiencing at this moment is that although we have an architect, although we have a planning officer, although we have a medical officer and everybody qualified to deal with those plans, although we have contracts before us, at every stage we are held up by further supervision from headquarters. Therefore I would plead that in the carrying out of this Bill, latitude may be given to those authorities who are fully equipped to get on with the job, and that they should not be eternally held up by further survey of the plan by another authority, be it a good one or be it a bad one. It is delaying the work and therefore I plead that those authorities which are equipped to do so may have an opportunity of getting on with the job.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate because I spoke two or three months ago at considerable length on this exact topic. The noble Lord, Lord Westwood, did not happen to be in the House then and, if the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, remembers, he replied by saying that he knew nothing whatever about Scotland and was therefore unable to give any answer to my question. That, of course, rather disconcerted me, and I hoped that my noble friend, the Earl of Selkirk, would be able to get a better reply from the Government. I would like to reinforce what he has said, what the noble Duke has said and what the noble Earl opposite has said. This Bill is very largely an urban Bill and is not going to help us very much in the agricultural districts. It is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, to say that under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, there were certain houses that were not reconditioned in the way in which they should have been, but, as my noble friend, the Earl of Selkirk, has pointed out the blame for that does not lie on those who reconditioned those houses but on the local authorities which passed the plans.

If we are not to have the help we used to have under the 1938 Act, we shall not be able to deal with any of these remote villages in Scotland. That Act was very largely used in Scotland because our villages lie in remote areas, but it was very little used in England because the villages in England are very easily accessible and houses can be built in them with much greater ease than they can be reconditioned. We in Scotland have been sacrificed to bring ourselves into line with England. If we do not get something of this kind, then, as the noble Duke said, agriculture is bound to suffer. We cannot possibly at the present time build houses in the remote districts—which I have no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, has never visited. It would be a matter of very great difficulty to build houses there, whereas the reconditioning of houses, subject to the approval of the local authority, would be a comparatively easy matter. We want more people to work on the land and we want those people who are on the land now to remain there. The noble Duke said that if only you put bathrooms and other amenities into these cottages, not only would you get men to come there but you would also get those who are there to stay there instead of going off into the towns.

In his remarks to-day the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, has killed most of our hopes in that regard. It is all very well for him to laugh, but this is no laughing matter. We are talking about agriculture and not about the towns. The noble Lord is much more interested in the towns, and of course more people live in the towns than in the agricultural districts. Agriculture is going to be a vital thing, and is now a vital thing, for Scotland. If we are not to be able to build house for our people, then we are not going to have our fields properly cultivated and we will go back to ranching. The only way in which we can keep our farm labourers there is to recondition these cottages. It is quite out of the question to think you will be able to build a large number of houses in the country districts of Scotland; you could not get the material there at the present time.

In some localities which I know, and which are not far from Edinburgh, not one sod has yet been turned in places where permission has been given to build houses. In a place not far from me men are building busily for the Navy, which I understand is shortly going to vacate this place, but no effort is to be made to build cottages for the rural people. It is not so necessary at the moment to build cottages if you can recondition others. To blame the people who have reconditioned these cottages, and whose reconditioning plans were passed by the County Council, and not to blame the County Council seems to me to be utterly wrong. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, will pay some attention to noble Lords on these Benches who have spoken on this subject. They know the facts; they are deeply interested in and concerned with the welfare of the agricultural labourer. I hope something will be done to help, and nothing will help so much as giving back to us the 1938 Act.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with considerable interest to what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, and the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery. In my statement I have said very definitely that reconstructed houses do not add to the number of houses, but nothing I have said means that we are not going to continue to reconstruct or to recondition houses. What I have said is that we are going to build new houses as well as to recondition houses. A reconditioned house is not quite as satisfactory as a new house.


It is better than no house.


I quite agree. I would like to say to the noble Lords that I am quite prepared to accept their criticism and to pass it on to the right quarter, but I feel quite confident that in this case a little patience (I am quite sure that some will say they have been quite patient enough so far as housing goes, but that does not only apply to Scotland) is a virtue. I am quite confident that the near future will shatter all doubts and undue pessimism.

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