I beg to move,
That the Bill be now read a Second time.
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I feel I am absolved from the necessity of unduly pressing either the urgency or the importance of the housing problem. Now that the clangour of warfare has died away, other sounds and other voices are making themselves heard. They remind us that there are enemies to be conquered at home as well as in the field—that waste, wretchedness and want are foes as insidious and formidable in their way as was the Prussian Army. Of these voices none is more insistent and compelling than that which urges the claim—I should rather call it the right—of the people of this country to healthy houses worthy of the name of homes. If the danger and disgrace of our housing conditions in the past was unknown, or, at any rate, unappreciated, then I think the Report of the Royal Commission on. Housing must have served to establish both beyond all challenge and all controversy. I desire, if I may, in passing, to pay a warm, if a tardy tribute to the wholly admirable manner in which that Commission discharged its duty. The Report is one of the most comprehensive, one of the most thorough, and one of the most impressive State documents which has ever been penned. My right hon. Friend opposite knows well the work of the chairman and the secretary of that Commission. While not derogating from the work of any single member of the Commission, a special meed of thanks, I think, is due to those two gentlemen. At the same time, the Report is such a damning indictment of the existing state of matters that one can only wonder that it was tolerated, or indeed, I had almost said accepted, for so long by a country which claims to be civilised and religious.
The Report, no doubt, is familiar to hon. Members of the House, and, in particular, to the Scottish Members. I want, however, to say one or two things about it before I pass from it. It reveals a condition of things which is at once a menace to health and an affront to decency. Its findings are startling, and indeed well-nigh incredible. It finds, for example, that in 1911 there were 129,730 one-roomed houses in Scotland—in other words, 12.8 per cent. of the total number of houses there, and 439,354 two-roomed houses, or, in other words, 40.4 per cent. of the total number of houses. Of the population 8.4 per cent. dwelt in one-roomed houses, and 39.3 per cent. in two-roomed houses, as against 1.3 per cent. and 5.8 per cent. respectively in England. In many of these houses there was neither sculleries, sanitary conveniences nor water. The situation is bad enough under normal conditions. What, however, it must be in child-birth, in illness, and in death hon. Members can no doubt figure for themselves. As might be expected, the death-rate in these houses is extremely high. In one-roomed houses children under one year old die at the rate of 210 per 1,000, and in two-roomed houses at the rate of 164 per 1,000. Of the existing one-roomed houses in Scotland, 50 per cent.—so the Commission tell us—are unfit for habitation, and of two-roomed houses 15 per cent. are unfit for habitation. Two hundred and thirty-six thousand new houses, the Commission say, are to-day required in Scotland. It must be added that the inquiry of the Commission was largely a pre-war inquiry, and that the conditions are infinitely worse to-day than at the date when the Commission reported.
We must all agree that, vast though the problem is, delay in tackling it can neither be excused nor defended. This Bill makes an honest attempt to grapple with the problem. Though it does not embody all the recommendations of the Report, it is not too much to say that this Bill, like the English Bill, is permeated and saturated by the recommendations of that Report. If it be asked why all the recommendations of the Commission are not included, the answer is simple. To do so would be to overload this measure; it would require not one but many Bills. Moreover, this is a Housing Bill. The Report contains many recommendations which affect the Public Health Act, the Burgh Police Acts, which are not strictly germane to this measure. But I do claim that, after full consideration, the most important proposals, in so far as they relate to the principal object of this Bill, which is the early production of houses, find a place within its four corners. Other proposals of the Royal Commission are given effect to in the Acquisition of Land Bill and in the Board of Health Bill, while further proposals in particular those which relate to rural housing, would be more appropriate in the Land Settlement Bill, which I hope soon to introduce. It is surely better to press forward a Bill which gives effect to the most important proposals of the Commission—those securing the early erection of the new houses which are so urgently required—and to leave over for supplementary measures other proposals, which, important though they be, are not strictly relevant to the immediate purpose of this Bill.
The social importance of housing is obvious. It is obvious that it makes for the health and contentment of the people, but its industrial value is scarcely less important. The building trade is a pivotal trade, and its allied trades—those which concern themselves with the equipment and the furnishing of a house—will receive a tremendous stimulus according as the building trade revives and prospers. The inevitable unemployment incidental to demobilisation may thus, up to a certain extent, be met. For the house is a focus of many trades. Masons, carpenters, bricklayers, slaters, plumbers—all are required. Roads have to be made, sewers have to be constructed, and a water supply laid on. The house, too, has to be furnished. The aid of the curtain maker, the carpet maker, the blanket weaver, the linen weaver—all have to be invoked. And so the industrial effect of a generous housing policy is, like its social value, important and widespread. It tends, in other words, to release the springs of industry. This Bill, like the English measure, assumes the form of amending the Housing Acts already on the Statute Book. It may be convenient, therefore, that I should remind the House, in the most general way, of the provisions of those Arts that are being amended. There is, first, the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, which in this Bill is termed the Principal Act. It is divided into three parts. Part I. deals with unhealthy areas. Part II. with unhealthy dwelling houses, and Part III. with the provision of what are called lodging houses for the working classes. Part I., that is, the part which deals with unhealthy areas, applies, at present, under the Act of 1890, only to burghs. It en- ables local authorities of these areas to deal with large unhealthy areas, or slums, which can be made the subject of an improvement scheme. Part II., the part which deals with unhealthy dwelling houses, as compared with unhealthy areas, deals, first of all, with houses which are unfit for human habitation. In the next place, it deals with what are termed obstructive houses, houses which, though not in themselves unhealthy, by their proximity cause other houses to be unhealthy; and the last part deals with small unhealthy areas which can be made the subject of a reconstruction scheme. Part III.—I am still dealing with the Act of 1890—gives local authorities power to provide houses for the working classes. The point to remember about Part III., as compared with this measure, is that Part III. is permissive in the Act of 1890. Again, if one looks for a moment at the Act of 1909, that Act amended and extended the powers contained in the earlier Act, and that Act (the Act of 1909) deals with two matters, housing and town planning. If the form of the Bill be criticised, it follows largely the form of the English measure. The alternative would have been to codify housing law—a task of colossal difficulty—and while it is most desirable that the law should be codified, it would have unduly delayed both the preparation and the passing of a Bill through Parliament if one had presented a measure which would be free from some of the blemishes which may be pointed out in this measure. It would have involved great delay, and to that extent would have prevented the early erection of houses which are so much required. Therefore, I put it to the House that the best method was selected on both sides of the Border.
I now come to deal with the provisions of the Bill itself. Its primary object is to secure that as many houses as possible conforming with a decent standard of accommodation, sanitation, and comfort, shall be built at the earliest possible moment. To secure that end, the ungrudging aid of local authorities is required—that is to say, town councils in burghs, district committees in counties which are divided, and county councils in counties which are not divided. On them the main burden of this measure must fall, but I hope that burden will be lightened by the help of public utility societies. Private enterprise has, I fear, been shown to be unequal to the task, but I hope the services of individual builders will be utilised by the local
authorities in the execution of their schemes. The Bill is divided into five parts. The first deals with the housing of the working classes, the second with town planning, the third with the acquisition of small dwellings, the fourth with the improvement of housing, and the last is a general and more or less formal Section. With regard to the housing of the working classes, the first two Clauses provide that it shall be the duty of a local authority to consider the needs of its district with respect to the provision of houses for its working classes, and, within three months of the passing of the Act, to submit to the Local Government Board for approval a scheme for the provision of these houses. Any scheme approved by the Board must be carried out within such time as the scheme provides, or within such further time as the Board may allow. These Clauses make mandatory what is now merely permissive in the Act of 1890—a vital change, as the House will agree. For the "shall" of this Bill takes the place of the "may" in the Act of 1890, and progress, therefore, we may hope, will be much more rapid. To compare these two Clauses with the recommendation of the Royal Commission Report is really to turn from proposition to enactment. The Royal Commission Report says this:
The State itself, through the local authorities, is alone in the position to assume responsibility…The local authority must he plaoed under an unmistakable obligation…to undertake themselves, with financial assistance from the State, the necessary building schemes. Without such a definite obligation exercised under the direction of the central authority, we are satisfied that by no administrative machinery known to us can the necessary houses be provided.
So far the Royal Commission Report. That is exactly what the Bill, in the Clauses to which I have referred, purports to do, and does. I assume that the vast proportion of local authorities will be found to be willing helpers in this matter. But should there be any recalcitrancy or delay on their part, then Clause 3 of the Bill empowers the Board to carry out a scheme and to recover the cost of carrying it out against the local authority. Clause 4 gives the Board the same power with regard to local authorities who fail to comply with an Order of the Board to carry out improvements and rehousing schemes under Parts I. and II. of the Act of 1890. So that with
regard to each of these Parts the Board has power to step in, should the necessity arise, and, if the local authority fails to carry out its duty, the State, by means of the Local Government Board, can perform that duty for and on behalf of the local authority and charge it with the cost. It is not unimportant to remember that the Board has, in point of fact, during the War carried out great housing schemes for the Admiralty, the Ministry of Munitions, and for others who were directly or indirectly employed in connection with the output of materials for war on sea and land. For the Admiralty the Board constructed 2,238 houses, and for the Ministry of Munitions 900–3,138 in all. I mention that because not only have these schemes of the Board relieved the shortage of houses but they have also demonstrated what the Board can do in the event of default being made by local authorities
Clause 5 is a highly important Clause. It gives statutory authority to the financial arrangements which are proposed to be made. These arrangements have provoked a good deal of discussion outside, and I desire once more to make quite clear what is intended. The Board issued a Circular last February to local authorities, explaining the financial provisions proposed. Briefly stated, they are that the immediate liability of the local authorities is limited to the produce of a 1d. rate. Any deficiency in excess of that amount on schemes for houses which are presented within twelve months and carried out within two years of the date of the Circular—February last—is to be defrayed by the Government. The Local Government Board is authorised, in exceptional cases, to grant an extension of the latter period. At the end of that period of two years the whole situation will be open for review and reconsideration. The object of fixing this two years limit is to ensure that as many houses as possible shall be built at the earliest possible moment, and also, quite reasonably, as I think, to protect the Treasury against an unlimited liability. The Local Government Board is giving all the assistance in their power to local authorities to ensure the expeditious preparation and carrying out of housing schemes. For that purpose they have already largely increased their staff, which now includes a Director of Housing, Housing Commissioners, inspectors, architects, and engineers of ability. Under a competition which was carried out at the expense of the Government, with that assistance of the Institute of Scottish Architects, a panel of architects has been appointed from whom local authorities are recommended, although in no way compelled to select architects for their schemes. A most instructive Report has been obtained from a committee of women, including working women, who were appointed to consider and report upon the best type of house required from a housewife's point of view.
Suitable arrangements have also been made with the Ministry of Supply for the provision of building materials to the local authorities. The Building Material Supply Department, which is a branch of the Ministry of Munitions, is entrusted with this work, assisted by a director and an Interdepartmental Committee. Prices have been arranged for the purchase of bricks, cement, lime, slates, soil and waste pipes, rain pipes and rhones, sanitary work, ironmongery, etc. Price lists are being issued to local authorities, giving details and information as to how materials are to be scheduled in the bills of quantities purchased and paid for. The Director has a representative in Scotland whose duty it is to see that the local authorities are fully apprised as to the availability and suitability of the material they need. The Board have appointed an officer, acting on their behalf, to co-ordinate the work between the local authorities, the Building Material Supply Committee, and the Board itself. They are about to issue a circular giving full details of the scheme. Meantime, the arrangements are working with great smoothness, and the local authorities with whom the Board has been in touch avow that the scheme will be most helpful to them in their work.
Local authorities have responded very well to the invitation contained in the circular. The following was the position on the 1st May. We have already approved sites which have been submitted by twenty-three local authorities. The number of those sites is forty-six, and the number of houses to be erected upon them is 13,219. As regards the general type plans, fourteen authorities have already submitted these, and they provide for the erection of 10,523 houses. Lay outs have been approved at the instance of sixteen authorities, and twenty-seven sites of that character have already been approved by the Board. Accordingly, certain progress has already been made, and is still being made, and I hope that it will be greater in the future than it has been up till now.
Returning to the Bill, Clause 6 extends the borrowing powers of county councils for the purpose of housing their own employés. I need not delay any longer over that quite useful Clause. Clauses 7 to 14 deal with the acquisition of land by local authorities for housing purposes, and their powers of dealing with such land once it has been acquired. In this connection I would like to appeal to landowners to give every facility to local authorities for acquiring land for this purpose upon reasonable terms, and what is equally important—in fact, it is almost more important—that there should not be any unduly restrictive covenants. This latter condition is really vital. I know that in many cases the landlord cannot help himself, because he is bound by certain conditions which he must pass on, but in certain cases it may be possible to convey the land without these restrictive covenants, and where this can be done I hope it will be done.
It is to be observed that the Clauses with regard to acquisition do not contain a new code for the acquisition of land. They must be read along with the provisions of the Acquisition of Land Bill. I invite particular attention to Clause 7—the Slum Clause—which is designed to cheapen the acquisition of house property which has fallen into a bad condition—an object which was urged upon us by the Report of the Royal Commission. That Clause provides that where land is acquired compulsorily for improvement and reconstruction schemes the compensation to be paid for such land and the houses upon it which are in an in sanitary condition is merely to be the value of the land as a site cleared of buildings and available for devolopment in accordance with the building regulations, in force in the locality. We mean, if we can, to sweep away the rookeries of our great cities to-day, and to let in a flood of God's light, sunshine and air to the inmost recesses of these fœted areas as they exist to-day. Clauses 8 and 9 facilitate the acquisition of land. Local authorities will now be in a position to take possession within fourteen days after notice to treat has been given of land to be compulsorily acquired—the question of compensation Under the proposals of this measure being left for future settlement. This will save much valuable time.
Clauses 10 and 13 enable a local authority to acquire and to put into order houses so as to make them available for habitation, and to lease or feu land acquired by them to other persons—that is, persons other than the local authorities—for the erection of houses for the working classes, and also to lay out and construct public streets and so on upon the land. Clause 11, which echoes the Report of the Commission, empowers local authorities to acquire land in advance for improvement and reconstruction schemes, even though such schemes may not have been made by the local authority or confirmed or sanctioned by the Local Government Board. I would invite the House also to notice Clause 12, which is a purely Scottish Clause. This Clause further facilitates the acquisition of land by providing that an heir of entail may sell or feu land for housing purposes, subject to certain conditions, without obtaining the consent of the next heir. This is a provision which again follows the definite recommendation of the Royal Commission.
I hope that the operations of public utility societies will considerably lighten the strain placed upon local authorities, more especially in connection with the provision of houses for miners and other employés. This is an important part of the Government housing policy, clauses 14 to 16 contain appropriate provisions in this matter. The terms of Government assistance to public utility societies have been recently issued to the local authorities. Briefly stated they are these: that where a scheme has been approved, the Treasury will advance 75 per cent. of the capital, the society finding the rest, and also 40 per cent. of the loan charges necessary to secure the repayment of the Treasury loan. In other words, 30 per cent. of the whole expenses will be given as a grant by the Treasury. I venture to say that these are very generous terms indeed. This assistance must, of course, be subject to certain conditions, and these have been specified in the Circular which has been issued to the local authorities. The Clauses in question provide for local authorities promoting and assisting public utility societies, and for greater facilities in obtaining loans from the Public Works Loans Commissioners.
Local building restrictions have often had a hampering effect upon building, and accordingly it is proposed by Clause 17 that, with the approval of the Board, these conditions may be relaxed. Such restrictions are often statutory, and while they are necessary no doubt under normal conditions, they seem to be inappropriate for the present emergency, and the necessity for building houses both quickly and economically. A precedent for this provision, if necessary, is to be found in the Rosyth Dockyard Act of 1915. Clause 18 prohibits the letting of any house which has been made the subject of a closing order, and Clause 19 enables the Board to arrange with any other Government Department to exercise any of its powers under the Housing Acts. Under the existing law, improvement schemes under Part I. of the Act of 1890 can only be carried out in burghs. Power, however, is given by Clause 20—and this is, again, a Scottish Clause following upon the Report of the Commission—to a local authority of a district other than a burgh, to apply to the Board for sanction to have Part I. of the Act applied to their particular district. The House will probably agree, for example, that it is desirable in an area like the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire, where the conditions very nearly approximate to those in a burgh, a local authority should have this power.
May I say a word or two about the town planning section of the Bill. Experience has shown that the present procedure in town planning schemes involves delay and expense, and even unnecessary delay and expense, and accordingly Clauses 23 to 27 of this measure, which give effect to urgent representations which have been received from various local authorities, are intended to simplify and cheapen procedure. They provide for the abolition of one of the principal stages at present necessary in passing a town planning scheme, namely, the obtaining of authority to prepare a scheme, and also of the necessity for laying a scheme when approved before Parliament. These Clauses further provide for concerted action by adjoining authorities: for power to make regulations for expediting procedure, and for permitting the development of estates with the approval of the Board, pending the preparation of schemes. This, of course, avoids too long a period of what might be called the sterilising of land from a housing point of view.
Part III. deals with the acquisition of small dwellings, and on this point I can say all I have to say in a very few words. Under the Act of 1899, which is being amended, local authorities are empowered to advance money to enable persons to acquire the ownership of small houses in which they reside. Any such advance under the Act of 1899 must not exceed four-fifths of the market value nor£240, and an advance cannot be made where the market value of the house exceeds£400. Unfortunately that Act has proved to be a dead letter in Scotland. Section 28 of this Bill, which again follows out a recommendation of the Royal Commission, extends the limit of advances to be made to persons wishing to purchase their dwellings from four-fifths to 85 per cent. It abolishes the£240 limit, while the value of the houses in respect of which advances may be made, is raised from£400 to£500. These changes, it is hoped, will enable many more persons to purchase their houses, and that seems to have been the view of the Royal Commission in its Report.
I now come to the last part of the Bill, entitled "Improvement of Housing." I regard this as a vital part of the measure. It is peculiar to Scotland. Clauses 29 and 30 apply to districts other than burghs certain statutory provisions which exist in burghs to-day as regards, first, the supply of water to houses, and, secondly, the provision of proper sanitary appliances. Again, the Report of the Royal Commission receives effect. The absence of any such powers is, as the Royal Commission points out, one of the chief causes of the bad conditions which prevail to-day in miners' houses. Clause 31 aims at the same evil, by enabling county local authorities to frame by-laws as to the houses in their areas on the same lines as those which exist in burghs to-day. Again, the Report receives effect. Clause 32, which contains a drastic provision peculiar to Scotland, deals a death blow to the one and two-roomed houses which have been a curse to the country in past years. It prohibits, unless in exceptional cases, the erection of houses of less than three a apartments, and provides for the regulation of the occupancy of such existing houses. Here again the Royal Commission's Report receives effect. The accommodation supplied for seasonal workers, such as potato-diggers, gives rise every year to grave scandals in Scotland, and forms the subject of animadversion and recommendation by the Report. Clause 35 enables local authorities to make by-laws ensuring that proper sani- tary accommodation shall be supplied for these workers. In order to ensure that agricultural and fishing interests shall not be injured by any undue stringency in these by-laws, the Board, before approving of them, is enjoined to consult both with the Board of Agriculture and with the Fishery Board. The fifth part of the Bill is general, and that part and the Schedule, being more or less formal, while suitable for discussion in Committee, are of such a character that I do not think I should be justified in detaining the House by discussing them on Second Reading.
Such, then, is this Bill. Almost every operative Clause, as I indicated as I went along, including those which follow the English Bill, is in the direction if not on the lines of the Report of the Royal Commission. That Report is at once the source and the inspiration of the measure, and also, I think I might say, of the English measure. The obstacles which are enumerated in the Report to housing reform are removed, or at any rate much diminished, by the provisions of this Bill. I present it to the House as a carefully considered attempt to deal with a tremendously difficult problem. A few may think that it goes too far. Many may think that it does not go far enough. I am quite willing to consider any Amendments to be moved in Committee for the purpose of improving or strengthening the measure. Of course, I do not present it to the House as perfect. Indeed, I am well aware that it is not perfect. But I venture to appeal to the House that criticism should be constructive rather than destructive, and that no provision should be thoughtlessly opposed unless a better alternative can be suggested. I appeal to the House to join in producing a worthy and effective measure which shall help to usher in a new and brighter era in our national life.
We are very much indebted to the Secretary for Scotland not only for the very lucid and comparatively brief manner in which he has opened a very difficult subject, but also for the note of warm human sympathy which ran through the whole of his remarks, and which, we trust, may not only find an echo but an abiding place in those local authorities which in Scotland will have the power and duty of administering this Bill, which we hope will shortly become an Act. Without that, the finest Act in the world
will be of little or no avail to meet a problem which goes deep to the roots of the whole thing, not only in Scotland, but in the whole of the United Kingdom. I therefore gladly welcome the recognition which my right hon. Friend has paid to the work of the Royal Commision. As he has said, the chairman and secretary of that Commission are personal friends of both he and I, and while recognising the work of all the other members of the Commission, I most gladly join with the right hon. Gentleman in recognition of their long, arduous, unselfish, and, we hope, successful labours. The question in Scotland is of special acuteness. We heard a great deal, when the English Bill was going through the House, of the conditions which obtain in English rural and urban areas, and also in great English cities, but there are no conditions in England and Wales which do not at present exist in Scotland in a more intensified form. Scotland is far behind England and Wales in the matter of houses. I need only supplement what my right hon. Friend has already said by one or two statistics. In England there is assumed to be overcrowding where there are more than two people in one room. The Report assumes that there is overcrowding in Scotland where there are more than three people in one room. Taking that standard, very nearly one-quarter of the whole population of Scotland is living in overcrowded conditions, but if you take the English standard of more than two people in one room very nearly half the total population of Scotland is living in overcrowded conditions to-day. The condition of things which obtained when the Census was taken in 1911 is worse to-day, and particularly in Scotland, for this special reason: From no part of the United Kingdom, except Ireland, was emigration so widespread and so numerous before the War as from Scotland, and latterly it almost approached the dimensions of emigration from Ireland. That has been, stopped during the War, and, taking the existing conditions combined with the fact that there has been no emigration, the need for houses in Scotland to-day is far more intense than it would have been if there had been no war. That is the situation with which we have to deal. Under a good housing scheme the density of population is supposed to be not more than sixty to an acre. In certain congested areas in Edinburgh it rises to 667 per acre, in Dundee to 664, and in Glasgow to 700. At the risk of
wearying the House, I am going to read one or two statements from the Report showing what overcrowding means in a large area like that of Glasgow and in a small area, almost a rural area, and I shall give one instance of what happens in a seasonal trade:
Of all the children who die in Glasgow before they complete their fifth year, 32 per cent. die in houses of one apartment and not 2 per cent. in houses of five apartments and upwards. There they die—
say the. Commissioners, quoting from the Medical Officer of Health of that city—
and their little bodies are laid on the table or on the dresser so as to be somewhat out of the way of their brothers and sisters who play and eat in their ghastly company. From the beginning to the end their short lives are a continual tragedy.
Take the evidence given before the Royal Commission of the general inadequacy of one-roomed houses. Dr. Huskie, speaking from a long experience of medical practice in a small town in a rural area—overcrowding is not confined to the big cities—gave it as his view that the one-roomed house was altogether hopeless. This is his statement:
You sometimes find in the case of two rooms that there is a lack of decency, and repeatedly in the case of one room, when you have a case of confinement. It is very awkward. You have either to put the people out on to the street in the middle of the night or you have to get a screen drawn and separate it from the rest of the room as well as you can. Well, it is not a very nice thing, and it is bad morally. Sometimes there are lodgers in the same room. The worst case that I had was a case of one room where there was a widow with a son and daughter and a lodger. The daughter was being confined. The two beds were head to foot; in the one bed the lodger and son slept, and my assistant was attending the daughter in the next bed. This was all in a little bit of a room. Then apart from confinement work, how can they dress? One is dressing and another is dodging back and forward, and there is no chance of decency. It is a hopeless state of things.
Then the Commission go on to add:
The circumstances here detailed must be repeated, with variations, thousands of times a year in the one-room houses of Scotland. They serve to bring into striking relief the inconveniences, discomforts and indecencies that are normally inevitable where over-crowding occurs.
I will just give one more quotation with regard to the difficulties in a seasonal trade. This is what the sanitary inspector of Blairgowrie found in July, 1913, in one house in a terrace:
I visited a place at midnight and found in a two-roomed house twenty men and two women in the living room and twenty-three women in the adjoining room. They were all lying on the floor, with the exception of two women, who
were cooking food in the living room, and three young women who could find no floor space to lie on, and were seated on a box in the centre of the room. Some of the men had their boots off; none of the men or women had their clothes off.
This document to which my right hon. Friend referred is a marvellous Report in its wide sweep of survey of the history of housing in Scotland, in its wonderful draft of the legal aspect of the case, and in the accuracy with which it sets out its facts. But the most striking thing about it is the official revelation that tens of thousands of people in Scotland are living under conditions which no farmer who has any respect for his cattle would keep them in even for a single day. What a condemnation of our civilisation! But there the fact is, that here we are at the end of the War, just beginning in a modest way to realise what the condition of the people is. I do not wonder at the outbreaks of labour unrest. What I wonder is at the patience of the people, at how they have stood it for so long. That is the marvel. They are now awakening to those conditions. If they did not awake, who is going to be awakened? The Government and the public authorities only awake when they see the red light. The red light is shining to-day, and it is accompanied, I am glad to say, by awakened human sympathy. Fear is no real instrument of reform. It is not only fear that has actuated the Government to-day. It is, I hope and believe, a genuine understanding of the needs of the nation. The one point I want to make especially with regard to this Bill is this—the need of something being done quickly. It will not be of the slightest good setting up a lot of new Government Departments, unless through them swift action can be taken. I do not think existing conditions will be tolerated for more than a limited period; something must be done, and done very quickly.
Let me turn for a moment or two to the Bill itself. I welcome the clear exposition by my right hon. Friend of this Bill, to which, in so far as it goes, I give for what it may be worth my most hearty support. Anything we can do to assist my right hon. Friend in response to his appeal will certainly be done. I am sure he will agree, however, that we are entitled to exercise to the full any criticism which we can honestly tender to mate the measure better and stronger than it is in its present form. I welcome the mandatory Clauses of the Bill. It is no good saying the local authorities may do this or that. They have simply got to do it, and unless there is a strong driving force at the centre, you will never get the high standard of local administration which is necessary to carry such a Bill as this into anything like effective operation. One knows the difficulties of the small authorities. I have a good deal of sympathy with them. But unless there is this compelling power we shall get very little done. I hope that as soon as this Bill is on the Statute Book my right hon. Friend will get the law codified. There is no reason why that should not be done. If such codification is necessary in any legal system, may I with all the respect that comes from the fact that I have an English law training, suggest it is more necessary in Scotland than anywhere. One of the reasons why Scottish lawyers have done so well at the English Bar is that once they get over the difficulties of Scottish law everything else must be easy to them. I am quite sure it would be really useful. There are advocates in Parliament House who would undertake to deal with it promptly and efficiently as soon as this Act appears on the Statute Book, and we can have the law codified, so that it may be placed within a small compass, and be readily understood by the ordinary man, as well as by competent and experienced lawyers.
Let me ask my right hon. Friend this question while I have the matter in my mind. There is in connection with this question of housing, the question of water supply. Is there any Bill already before the House, or is there any Bill in contemplation which deals with this question of the conservation and proper parcelling out of the great water-sheds? If you are going to give to the smaller country areas these great powers, they must have a proper water supply. What is happening now is, that you give great authorities, like Edinburgh or Glasgow, where they have the money and the brains, general powers to secure a grip on the national watersheds of the country. At the same time you are placing on these smaller authorities the duty of providing housing. But what is the good of having houses unless there is a proper water supply? We know that the smaller authorities have to fight it out with the greater authorities, and that in the end the long purse wins. Is it in my right hon. Friend's mind to take some steps to back up the smaller authorities in their reasonable demands upon these greater authorities? Of course, I understand Glasgow and Edinburgh authorities say, "We do not know how big we are going to be years hence." But the fact remains that what the smaller authorities can get, they only get at the point of the bayonet. I think the central authority, through the Government, ought to have this clearly in mind, as, a matter that is of real importance in dealing with this important question of housing.
There is another point which my right hon. Friend mentioned, and that is the difficulty arising from the restrictive covenants in feu charters. There is no power in this Bill to wipe these restrictive covenants out. There ought to be. Many of them were put in twenty-five or thirty years ago, and they are utterly out of sympathy with modern conditions. Why should the parsimony, selfishness and meanness of the dead retain their paralysing hand on the living community to-day? I do not see any reason for it, and when these restrictive covenants are right against the public interest, let the public sweep them out of the way. If my right hon. Friend would take, his courage in both hands, and deal with them in the way the Royal Commission recommends, I can promise that we will support him. Then, again, there is the question of finance and payment; that is wrapped up with another Bill. What is the position of that other Bill? Here we have land, as in Scotland, as in England, Wales and Ireland, the interest in which have been subsidised for the necessities of the War. The price and value of the land has gone up. We heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day that what the Government propose to do is to sweep on one side all the work that has been done in regard to land valuation under the Budget of 1910. I do not know how far the process of valuation has gone in Scotland, but at present the land has much increased in value owing to the War, and it is going to be taken at market value. I say again for the third time, and I shall repeat that as often as may be necessary, "it will not do." The people of this country are not going to pay the value of the land for necessary communal decent existence. The Government had better make up its mind to that. The land will have to be acquired. It will be acquired sooner or later, but it will have to be acquired at a proper and reasonable value for public purposes, and that can be done by finding out what the Inland Revenue authorities value it at, or what the landlord values it at for purposes of rent. It is upon that simple basis that, it must be acquired. Nobody wants confiscation. We will give the value, whatever it is, on some such basis as that.
There is another matter which at present stands in a thoroughly unsatisfactory position, and it will have to be cleared up, otherwise we shall find difficulties. We are told that nothing more than a penny rate is involved. That sounds all right. But who is going to find the money? The ratepayers and taxpayers of the locality will really have to find their share of the money. Some people seem to imagine that these subventions are going to fall down from heaven in no unrestrained manner on the just and the unjust alike. But when we come down to the tax-collector, he does not talk about the State; he wants the money of the individual. Therefore we shall have to see that the land taken for these purposes is secured on a reasonable basis, because the public authorities must know quite well that the balance over and above the penny rate will have to come out of the pockets of the individual ratepayer, and if the State taxation becomes too heavy, the ratepayers will not be able to pay the ordinary rate. It is all within a vicious circle. There is a tremendous out cry for Government and individual economy all round. It is the individual who has to pay sooner or later. Call it by the State or anything else as you like, that is the only way it can be done. The welcome which we give from these benches to this Bill is a hearty one. Anything we can do to further its progress or to improve or strengthen its provisions will be most heartily done. If I remember aright, John Bright finely said that a nation does not dwell in great mansions or princely palaces; the nation dwells in humble cottages. Unless we can make our statesmanship reflected in these cottages and in the lives of the people who live in them, we have yet to learn the first principles of that great art.
As this is the first occasion on which I have spoken in this House I must ask the indulgence of hon. and right hon. Members. May I explain that I am particularly interested in this Bill for the reason that for the last twelve years I have been associated with the working classes in Glasgow and I am most heartily in sympathy with their desires and ambitions in respect of their housing. There were three outstanding features in the statement of the Secretary for Scotland; first, that he deeply appreciates the most urgent need for improvement in housing; secondly, that he is laying himself out to do his utmost to meet it; and thirdly, that his great ambition is to get on. I am sure that every Member in this House agrees that the great object is to get on. The best way to get on is not to look back. I refrain, therefore, from making any comments on the present state of housing in Scotland, or the causes of it. We in this new House of Commons are not responsible for the past. What we are responsible for is the future and to get corrected as quickly as possible the damnable state of affairs that at present exist. I am sure that every hon. Member, more particularly every Scottish Member, will do his utmost to assist the Secretary for Scotland in undertaking the heavy burden which this Bill entails, for it is a very heavy undertaking. If the thing is to be carried out thoroughly and completely, it means the provision of upwards of 200,000 dwellings of some sort or another, of which upwards of 50,000 are required in Glasgow alone. That is a very huge undertaking, not so large, of course, as that for England and Wales, but huge enough. The whole success or otherwise of the undertaking depends upon the Government officials who form the driving force behind it. They must be sufficient in point of numbers and thoroughly competent to criticise schemes effectually, economically, and practically, and they must have immense energy to push the schemes forward as soon as they are approved. Commencing at the top of the tree, it appears to me that the Secretary for Scotland—I speak absolutely impersonally, of course, and I mean his office—is inadequate for this great work. He is already overburdened with the multifarious affairs of Scotland; in fact, he appears to have to be a sort of Jack-of-all-trades, carrying in his pack forestry, fisheries, health, and small holdings, and now he is to add to his burden this gigantic undertaking of houses. He requires Parliamentary assistance, and so do we. We want every representative sitting on the Treasury Bench to keep us closely in touch with what is going on. I suggest that the first thing necessary towards getting this Bill into completion is additional Under-Secretaries for the Secretary for Scotland. I am aware that in the Health Bill which recently passed through this House there is provision made for one, but that is quite insufficient. This is a gigantic undertaking, and the work requires at least one additional Under-Secretary to properly supervise it.
I did not quite understand from the statement of the Secretary for Scotland whether Commissioners are being appointed in the various districts of Scotland, in the same way as they are being appointed in England and Wales. Whether it is arranged or not, I desire most strongly to enforce the point that these Commissioners and their staff will have to be most carefully chosen, for not only is this a very large undertaking, it is also is tremendously complex one. There is such a tremendous variety of classes of people to be considered. Apart from the non-manual workers—we do not hear much about them, but they ought to be considered just as much as the manual workers—there are among the manual workers in a city such as Glasgow the comparatively rich skilled tradesmen, who desire not to live in the town itself, but in the suburbs amid more rural surroundings, and to have a garden round his house. There are others of the same class who prefer to live in the town, but they want a better house than they have at present. There is the unskilled man and the labourer, who cannot afford such superior housing as his richer skilled brother worker. There is the single man and the single woman, for whom, perhaps, hostels make the best form of home; and there is the casual labourer, married or not, who at present is probably the inhabitant of these slums that we have to clear away. That shows how complex the question of urban housing is. In addition to that, there is rural housing, which has its complexities. There are the miners' roads, the villages, the dwellings of the farm labourer, and of the small holdings man. Perhaps the most important of the rural housing problems is that of the farm labourer. If we are going to develop agriculture, as we hope to develop it, by an increase in the rural population, the housing of the farm labourer is, perhaps, the question that should receive first consideration. I do not gather that in this Bill any provision is made for assisting landowners in providing houses for farm labourers. I should like to know if the Secretary for Scotland will tell us who is to be the local authority, if not the landowner; who is going to look after that most important point?
The requirements of the whole of these different classes must be considered in respect to their capacity to pay rent. Therefore, the Commissioners appointed to carry this undertaking through must be people who have a broad knowledge of the working classes generally and be able to decide what rents should be paid by them. The question of rents is in a very unsettled and unsatisfactory state. It is a question of the very first importance what rent should be paid for these new houses. I gather from the pamphlet on financial assistance recently published by the President of the Local Government Board that it is intended at first to fix the rents at the figures which are now being paid by the different classes of people, plus such sum as is permitted by the extension of the Rents Restriction Act. Assuming that one of the new houses was 20 per cent. better than that in which a man is living at present, I gather that in about six months' time the man will have to pay 35 per cent. more rent than he pays at present. That is quite permissible and reasonable for the better house. But I saw reported in the "Times" recently that the City Council of Manchester intend to fix the rents at 100 per cent. more than the pre-war amount. That, I think, is utterly impracticable, and I should certainly not recommend that any such proposition be put forward for Scotland. Even with 100 per cent. increase in the rent, it is obvious that a very large subsidy will have to be forthcoming from public funds. As we in this House are responsible for expenditure, I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will within some reasonable time be able to inform the House what this Bill is going to cost. I have only one other point to make, but it is also a very important one. I take it that the main reason for this Bill being brought in is to promote the welfare, happiness, and contentment of the working classes, and that no one else will benefit by it. From those working classes there come the skilled tradesmen who are essential for building the houses. Those skilled men—plasterers, slaters, bricklayers, and so on—are all subject to unfortunate restrictive trade rules, which so restrict building that probably only 100 houses will be built in the time during which 200 at least ought to be built. If it has not already been done by the President of the Local Government Board, I suggest to the Secretary for Scotland that he should approach the trade unions concerned with a view to their relaxing their restrictions for the purposes of this Bill. That suggestion should receive the sympathy of the representatives of Labour in this House, and I trust that they will support me in it. I shall have the utmost pleasure in voting for the Second Reading of this Bill, and I hope we shall do our utmost to bring it into action.
I desire to associate the Scottish Labour Members with the tribute which was paid to the statement made by the Secretary for Scotland. I desire also to pay our tribute to the work of the Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland. To some extent at least that inquiry was inspired by the interest of the Scottish Miners' Federation. In introducing a Bill of this kind it is altogether impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to include one-tenth part of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. It formed one of the largest and in many respects most important studies of economic and social history in Scotland within recent times. But while we agree that nothing like the full number of these recommendations could possibly have been incorporated, it should have been possible to include, at least in broad outline, some of the more important recommendations which have been omitted. Our criticism from the Labour Benches is offered in no spirit of hostility. All criticism of a measure of this kind should be constructive in character, but the problem is so vast, so urgent, so acute and even terrible that we have not time, as Scottish Members, to wrangle over points of nicety or etiquette or anything else. It is our business, if we differ, to make a constructive contribution, and I am going to try to make such a contribution based on the lines of the Report of the Royal Commission itself, which is the foundation and the inspiration of this Bill. One would like to see incorporated in any adequate measure of housing reform in Scotland something resembling a policy which will meet the peculiar needs North of the Tweed. Our housing problem, from the point of view of the materials we use, of the length of life of the house, of the conditions of the feu on which the property is erected—indeed from every point of view—is quite different in Scotland from what it is in England. We require, therefore, an advanced, a drastic and certainly a democratic policy in Scottish housing, and I think it is not impossible so to amend this measure as to include some of the leading and the most important recommendations of the Royal Commission which are now omitted.
First of all, on the question of public utility societies, the right hon. Gentleman has indicated that the Government intends to rely, apparently to an appreciable extent, on the activities of these bodies. I have no desire to misrepresent the public utility societies, but probably hon. Members will not dispute this description of them, that they are a kind of half way house between private enterprise on the one hand and full-blown public responsibility on the other, as expressed or discharged by the local authority. The public utility society has its fixed distribution. It has a large measure of publicity. Apparently it is going to get Grants from the Government directly or through the local authorities. But the central difficulty lies in the fact that when we begin to trust our housing problem and its solution to the public utility societies we expose ourselves to at least two dangers. The first is the danger of a divided or dual responsibility. The housing needs of Scotland are so acute and urgent that we cannot afford to run such a risk. The second point, and in some respects the more important, is that you have not in the public utility societies that direct association of all the people of the locality, as ratepayers, with the use of their money in the solution of a problem which affects every one of them in all the departments of their lives. I have no desire to close the door on any body outside the town councils, the county councils, or the local authorities, but in this matter, more particularly in the light of the history of some of the public utility societies in Scotland—not a large number—it is very important indeed to concentrate full responsibility on the local authority, as is done in this country and see that it is carried out to the last degree.
We in Scotland have a system of housing which is not represented to any very large extent in England, namely, the tenement system. The first constructive criticism I would offer—and this, again, is based largely on the recommendations of the Royal Commission—is that we might well have incorporated in this measure a definite policy regarding tenement property. There is widespread division of opinion in Scotland. I hope I am honest and frank enough to admit that in no section of Scottish society is the division of opinion regarding the benefits, advantages, or disadvantages of tenement property more acute and more real than among the working classes themselves. A very large section of Scottish labour is absolutely opposed to tenement property, and a considerable section of Scottish labour is strongly in favour of it, and the ultimate solution will probably be, something resembling a modification of the existing too high and too congested property of the tenement type as we find it more particularly in the large communities. The right hon. Gentleman, may say that very much we are asking now is proper material for the local authorities, for local by-law and regulation. You have a great deal of delay in getting many of these by-laws passed, but quite apart from that you have a great deal of conflict in point of view. Much unnecessary difficulty emerges because we do not put down in an Act of Parliament a line of policy which would guide the local authorities to begin with and eliminate or prevent delay. The Royal Commission suggested three or four very important points as regards tenement property. They said, first of all, tenements shall not be more than three storeys in height. That has already been adopted in the case of Edinburgh and in some other of the larger localities. They said, further, that you are not to build tenements on the continuous system on which they are erected now, you are not to build them in the form of hollow squares, and in the last place there is to be provision for a type of tenement which will include open spaces for the recreation and the health of the residents, more particularly the children. Is it too much to ask, in considering this Bill, which must vitally affect a very large amount of tenement property, that these plain and definite recommendations should be included and should not be left to the conflict, and it may be very often to the indifference, of the local authorities?
In the second place, this measure takes no cognisance of the very large amount of farmed out property, more particularly in the large urban areas. There, again, it may be contended that local by-laws or municipal regulations will meet the case, but I will give a very plain illustration to show that that is not proved, to say the least of it. We in Edinburgh and other large centres were supposed to have far-reaching regulations regarding farmed-out property, but in an inquiry which some of us interested in social and economic problems made a few years ago into certain classes of this property in Edinburgh we found that very large tenements, including probably eighty or a hundred one- or two-roomed houses, would be bought up at comparatively low rates, often by some wealthy resident in the suburb. The property would then be farmed out at£250 or£300 per annum, or some figure of that kind. The tenant would let these one-roomed houses not once or twice, but often three or four times per night to different tenants, obviously for immoral purposes, and if they were not to let they were let as furnished houses, with a table or a chair or a grocer's calendar or two by way of decoration for the walls, at 5s. or 6s., and in some cases 7s. 6d. per week. In the course of that investigation we asked the tenants why they paid such exorbitant prices for one-roomed houses while they could obtain houses unfurnished for 2s. or 2s. 6d. per week in the same locality, and their invariable reply was that they were hiring a furnished house, although the furniture would not cost in all probably more than 10s. or 15s. at any sale in the same locality. Not only were these houses let under that system a very grave danger to public health and morality, but the inquiry showed that they brought£500,£600, and sometimes more to the people who farmed the houses at£250 or£300, from the people behind the scenes who were the real owners. This danger is much more real than many of us imagine. It is quite true that the local authority in Scotland has the power, as we have in Edinburgh, to close many of these houses under the Closing Order, but where you have very great pressure in districts of that kind, or men in casual or temporary employment, where you are trying to make provision for workers at Rosyth and other areas within ten or eleven miles, all these regulations break down in practice and the mischief of ill-health and immorality continues. We require, therefore, some provision in this Bill to deal specially with that class of houses. Attention is directed very closely and very searchingly to it by the Report of the Royal Commission, and I am only asking that a leading recommendation of that Commission should be incorporated, as far as possible, in the Bill.
Again, the Royal Commission emphasised the urgent need for the establishment of a standard of overcrowding, and it was specially emphasised that that standard was not to apply merely to houses which were small or were let to the working classes, but was to be applied to house property at large. Experience during the War has taught us that there is a very considerable amount of overcrowding in quite large houses. Unless we have throughout, the whole structure of this part of our social problem in Scotland something resembling a uniform rule or principle in the light of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, then I feel that the large expenditure of our public money on public health and on houses and other measures of reform is more or less thrown away or wasted.
I do not wish to detain the House at any length by references to the rural housing problem in Scotland, but the right hon. Gentleman is hardly entitled to say that that will be included and dealt with under a Land Facilities or Settlement Bill. There can be no doubt that the county council as the local authority in the rural districts must be responsible, whatever happens in further legislation, for the housing in those localities, and under this head the Royal Commission laid down several; I think six altogether leading recommendations of the highest importance. First of all, they emphasised the call for a standard. In the second place, the Commission said that the county council must be responsible for making the existing rural property habitable; and in the third place, that there should be an immediate survey of all rural houses, also that the proprietor of an estate should be responsible for the rural housing on his estate, and that the farmer should be eliminated as a factor in this part of this problem, and, above all, that the proprietors of land should not have power to so far as their estates were concerned. That seems a very elementary and reasonable precaution, that we should be able to fasten responsibility in that matter. Over crowding is much more acute in some of these rural districts than it is in even the crowded part of many of our largest cities. In the matter of rural housing in Scotland there were no fewer than thirty-one recommendations of the Royal Commission, recommendations which do not find a special place in the paragraphs of the measure now under discussion. That, I think, is a reasoned, and I hope, a constructive criticism of this measure. We are entitled to some special consideration for rural housing in Scotland in the light of the Report of the Royal Commission.
In connection with the solution of the housing problem in Scotland, the Royal Commission drew attention to the fact that there existed in pre-war times, and there still exists, something resembling a combine or trust influence in the supply of raw material. All who have even an elementary knowledge of the Scottish building trade will admit that a very large proportion of building materials North of the Tweed are supplied by a comparatively small number of firms, and if the investigation is carried a little further it will be found that these firms are working in association, and there is a very great danger that in our tackling the housing problem after the War, or when peace is signed, or under the terms of this Bill, when there may be tremendous demands for all kinds of raw materials, we shall find that the price of material is forced up, the ultimate rent of the property is increased, and the burden which the taxpayers will have to pay through the operations of influence of that kind will be increased unless we take steps to prevent it. The Report of the Royal Commission was drastic and far-reaching. It is perfectly idle for anyone to suggest the contrary. They made a definite recommendation that it would be necessary in the solution of this problem to take some steps, however much we may object to control in these cases, to control or regulate supplies and prices of raw materials for houses, that we were here confronted with a tremendous public need, and that we were entitled to protection against monopoly or combine or trust influence in such a matter.
No Scottish Housing Bill will be complete unless it includes a clause which will deal with the problem of mutually-owned property. The part of the Bill which refers to the reconstruction of existing property in Scotland will not travel along ten yards in its future experience North of the Tweed unless it handles that problem. Experience has shown, where tenements are owned by a comparatively large number of people, that there is, first of all, a difficulty in getting agreement with reference to repairs, even where these are urgently necessary. Some of the more enlightened proprietors proceed to the local sanitary inspector or to the borough engineer, and get notices served upon the other proprietors, including themselves. When notices have been served, the proprietors must execute the repairs or get the work done within, a certain number of days after the service of the notice, and then the difficulties of the proprietors, even where they are well intentioned, begin: They very often find it difficult to get their fellow-proprietors to agree. A local builder, or tradesman, or firm, who may be quite willing to do the work, canvasses so many of the proprietors of the property, and gets their consent, and when he has obtained the sanction of a majority of the proprietors, he is entitled to start the work of repair if he is prepared to take the risk. This happens in a very large number of cases. Not very long after, he has to recover the money for the cost of the work which he has executed. I agree that he has the remedy of the Sheriff Court, or other tribunal, but where the amounts included are small when they are portioned out over the various proprietors, while the aggregate sum involved may be large, there is obviously a very great difficulty in recovering that expenditure, and many builders will not now touch this class of work in Scottish building operations. That, obviously, is a state of affairs in the reconstruction of house property in Scotland which calls for remedy immediately.
Finally, there is the problem of the economic rent; indeed, the whole problem of rent in Scotland. It is now conceded on all hands that private enterprise is no longer equal to the task of providing houses for the community, and that if the present conditions continue it seems to many of us that there will not be much inclination on the part of private people to erect house property, and building must be done to an overwhelming extent by the State through the local authorities. It is conceded at the same time that they are not going to be in a position, having regard to the cost of materials and to the cost of labour and everything else, to charge what can in any sense or shape or form be regarded as an economic rent. I remember a chief sanitary inspector, at a very important Congress at Glasgow, dealing with this question, made the suggestion that the proper way was not to subsidise the uneconomic rent of house property in Scotland, but to raise the whole level of wages in the community so that the would be tenants would be able to pay an economic rent for the property. That raises a very large issue, and I have not heard his views supported by many speakers on this question. They prefer to embark upon a State subsidy of houses on an uneconomic rent basis, rather than to give their sympathy and support to the trade unions and the Labour movement, in securing a general increase or rise in wages. In dealing with this aspect of the problem in Scotland we shall require to fix rents through local authorities, particularly in the larger centres, which are within the ascertained means of the great body of workers to whom this measure applies. How is that to be done? Is the local authority to be the judge of the incomes of these people? Is the local authority to be the judge in the rival claims and interests of the tremendous number of applications which will immediately emerge when any house property is erected? In Edinburgh we have reconstructed one or two old properties in an historic part of the city, and when these houses had been reconstructed there was a tremendous rush of applicants. The houses could have been let hundreds of times over. That experience will be repeated at least in the early years of reconstruction in Scotland, and my contention is that that is so important and means so much in the industrial areas and also in the country parts that we must have some method under this Bill or otherwise for dealing with it.
There can be no doubt that the time has arrived when we are entitled to regulate tenancy to an appreciable extent. It should not be possible for large numbers of people with quite considerable incomes to live in certain types of houses when they could quite well occupy better property. On the other hand, apart from preventing that, there is the question of injury to their own health and the health of their children. There is no doubt whatever that a very large section of the industrial population is penalised by disease which is not amenable to institutional treatment. It may not be definite tuberculosis. It may not be definite infectious disease, such as would entitle the party to remove into an institution, and it means over a stretch of years occupying larger houses for a man and his family whose income is very often not equal to that task. It should be possible, through a system of Fair Rent Courts or other Regulations, to see that the needs of that class in every community, a by no means inconsiderable class, are met, otherwise their conditions are a great danger to public health and to housing reform. I trust that I have said sufficient to prove that, taking the basis of the Report of the Royal Commission itself, we are entitled to a much more generous measure than the right hon. Gentleman has introduced. I welcome the Bill in every way, and will support him both in Committee and in this House, but we reserve our right to extend this Bill, to propose healthy and constructive Amendments, so that at the end of the day we shall be able to face our constituents North of the Tweed and say that we have made some contribution to a solution of a problem of the utmost gravity and of far-reaching effect to our native land.
As representing one of the Divisions of the County of Lanark, I desire to give this Bill a welcome. There is no question more acute or one which excited more attention during the election campaign than that of housing. The people were told that the housing question would be dealt with by Parliament as soon as it re-assembled, and I am glad that the pledge is being honoured. Housing is short, and the quality of the houses requires to be improved. We rejoice that there is a promise of houses of not less than three rooms. That means a higher standard of family life, family conditions and family comfort. I am not much concerned as to whether these houses are one storey, two storeys, or three storeys. The concern is that we should have better houses, that there should be round each house plenty of fresh air, that there should be more enjoyment and comfort in the homes, so that there will be a chance of better health, better decency and better morality. From our Scottish homes, some of the very smallest in our land, there have come forth men who have risen to great fame and eminence. We rejoice that Scottish character has overcome such great difficulties, but we do not know how many lives, who might have become great, have been lost owing to the inconveniences, discomfort and ill-health of their surroundings. It is our desire to see Scotland in this respect better than it has ever been before.
While I welcome this Bill, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that it is not economically a sound Bill. It is born of circumstances arising out of the War, and of expediency, and such Bills are certain to cause trouble later on. They belong to the same family as the ninepenny loaf, and unemployment donations. It is, however, needed, and we mean to make the very best of it, even though it will cost the Treasury a considerable sum of money. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said that when some of these war measures, such as the unemployment benefit, came to be stopped it would cause trouble, there might even be bloodshed. But even with some risks we must go forward. The trouble may arise when other people, wanting larger houses, have to pay for them out of their own pockets, without any State subsidy. But that is not the question at the moment. We feel in these days—and I am glad that it is a general feeling—that the labourer is worthy not only of his hire, but is worthy of a better home; and this Bill is doing something to provide better homes for the working classes throughout Scotland, and we give it welcome.
There are one or two matters which, if dealt with, would render this Bill more popular and more readily acceptable to burghs in Scotland. On the second page of the Bill, Clause 5, there is a provision by which two authorities interested in the same scheme can have the expenses apportioned. But there is no provision for another kind of case which is not uncommon in Lanarkshire and in other parts of Scotland. Some burghs have absolutely no land available on which to build houses, while outside the burghs there is plenty of land. These burghs are asked under this Bill to assess a rate at Id. in the£to build houses, but if a burgh has to go outside its own area to build houses, there ought to be in the Bill some provision by which that adjoining land should be annexed by a simple, ready process to the burgh area for administration. The burgh will not spend money in building houses to be rated by another authority, and there ought to be some method of dealing with this matter. I am aware that land adjoining a burgh can be annexed by application to the sheriff, but before this can be done it must be a populous place, and it cannot become a populous place until the land is built on, and when it is populous there will be a different scale of compensation. Some Clause might be added, providing in a simple, easy, and inexpensive manner that the mere act of purchasing ground for building will annex it to the burgh for rating purposes. In that way the money spent by the burgh would to some extent-come back. Some burghs in Scotland are halting in this matter because they cannot see their way to go forward spending the rates on supplying the need in an outside area. The convention of Royal Burghs passed a resolution strongly in favour of the suggestion I now make, and I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will give it his attention, and if, possible, meet the difficulty.
There is another point as to the terms on which financial assistance should be given. These are stated in a Circular issued by the Local Government Board. Formerly the Treasury was to bear 75 per cent. of the cost, and the local authority 25 per cent. That has been changed, and I think, on the whole, the change is to the advantage of the local authority. After a penny rate has been spent the Treasury steps in, but there is a condition that this applies only to schemes approved of in one year, and carried through within two years. I know that there is a provision that that term can be extended. But these provisions cause doubt in the minds of people anxious to make arrangements, and I would like to see the period extended to three, four, or five years. It is quite impossible to build anything like the number of houses that are wanted within two years. We should require to go on building at about three times the pre-war rate in order to accomplish this, and that is quite impossible. If the period is extended so that schemes approved of and carried out within four years, come under the provisions of the Circular, it would, I think, give more general satisfaction. I notice that in Edinburgh last week there was a meeting of local authorities which came to a unanimous decision that not less than four years is necessary in order to give them a chance. If these little points are dealt with I think that the Bill will be acted upon all the more quickly.
I do not need to say a word about the difficulty as to land. It is a question which is always with us, but I know one particular burgh which has been negotiating for several months, and has not yet come to terms as to the price to be paid for the land. I have a great deal of sympathy with a reference made to the 1910 valuation. Why should not that be the maximum, whatever else is arranged for? This is a question for the Treasury to look after, because there is not the slightest doubt that every extra penny paid for the land will come, not out of the local authority, whose contribution will be exhausted, but out of the Treasury. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will step in and see that a very moderate price is paid for land required for housing. These houses are required, and required as quickly and as cheaply as possible, and I hope that every obstacle will be removed that stands in the way of carrying this policy into effect. The Scottish Members and those in authority in Scotland will do their very best to push the matter forward, and f these little difficulties can be removed out of the way there will be nothing to hinder its progress.
I desire to say a few words of welcome for this measure, although I agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down that it is not quite economically sound. It is, I take it, an emergency measure caused by the shortage of houses due to the War and other causes, and if it were even more unsound economically than it is it would be our duty to welcome it and give it all the assistance in our power. Now a few words from the point of view of my own Constituents. I have the good fortune to live in one of the healthiest parts of the United Kingdom. Everybody who knows my Constituents knows that they are not only round in body but sound mentally. Mr. Asquith used to tell them that they were the best educated, most intelligent and. most discriminating body of electors in the United Kingdom. I did not agree with him at the time he said that, but I have no reason to disagree with him now. Health is not entirely a matter of housing. It is our fresh north-east winds I think, and our habit of living out in the country that have contributed to the good results to which I have alluded. I had the pleasure of a conversation not long ago with a very distinguished general in France. He was on lines of communication, and he was very much taken up with the bad physique of many of our own soldiers. On lines of communication you get the weaker men, the men who are not considered fit for service at the front, and he told me, what was rather a surprise to me to hear, that the physique of our men was worse than that of the French. The French are not particularly distinguished for good sanitary arrangements as everybody knows. What he said was, that if you raise a million men in England and a million men in France, in the first instance our men will be greatly superior, but if you continue the process and raise a second or a third million, the French will continue to raise men of as good physique as before, and our physique will rapidly deteriorate. He put that down to our habit of living in large towns, and working in factories, and what I wish to point out is that the secret of good health for the people is to get them to live, not in big towns but in the country, and to work in the country, and if they have got to live in a town, let it not be in a big town like Sheffield or Glasgow, but in a small town like, say, St. Andrews, out of which you can get easily in order to enjoy the fresh air.
If that is a correct principle we ought to do all we can to encourage people to lives in the country and work in the country and not in these towns. I do not think that this Bill does very much in this direction. I am a county councillor in my own constituency, and I had the opportunity of being present when a gentleman from the Local Government Board came up and explained the provisions of this scheme to our district committee. I am sure that the Secretary for Scotland will be interested to hear what I am going to say on that subject. That gentleman had rather a warm time of it. The scheme was very, very hardly criticised. It was criticised from the point of view of economics, and think that the criticism must be admitted to be sound. What the members of the district committee said was, here you are forcing a scheme upon us, and making us pay a penny in the pound out of the rates, and over and above what we have to pay in rates at present, we shall be forced to add a penny, and not only that, as that will only provide a small amount of the expenditure the Treasury is going to furnish the rest of the money, and therefore it will so happen that the ratepayers will have to pay first of all as ratepayers, and in the second place as taxpayers, toward this scheme of providing houses for a certain class of people. That is to say, the man who is to get the house, and who, I believe, will occupy it at a non-economic rent, will be occupying it very largely at the expense of the ratepayers, who will be mulcted not in one way only, but in two ways, in order to provide him with the house. I think there is no gainsaying that that is a sound criticism of the situation. Another criticism is this, that we have got very few slums in the small towns in my Constituency, and the effect of this Bill, so far as I can read it, will be that the houses built will all be in the towns, and I do not see that it is going to provide for any new houses being built in the country. It is true that the local authority will have power to build for its own employés. Take the parish in which I live; if this Bill comes into force, the local authority may build a house for the roadman and the policeman and perhaps for the postman. No doubt it will be very nice to have very superior houses for those three people, and it may be said with truth, that those three houses being built in a very superior style as contemplated, will be a sort of pattern for other people to build their houses like them, but that does not go very far, and this Bill will not help in the erection and construction of houses in the country. A few moments ago I laid down the principle that if you are going to go in for housing schemes at all, you must try and induce the people to live in the country, and not in the towns, and therefore, I think this Bill falls short in that particular respect.
There are three ways to get houses built. The first and best way is for every man to build and live in his own house. That is what I did myself, but there are very few people, unfortunately, in this country who can do that. What they do is, they go and lure a house and abuse their landlord, and it would be far better if they were to go and erect houses of their own, and live in them, and then they would know how much it costs to keep a house in order. The second way, is to encourage private enterprise, and to allow people to build houses for other people to live in, and to make a profit out of it. There has not been, I think, a single good word said this afternoon with regard to that particular method. But it was a very good method as long as it was allowed to work freely by itself without interference. It was killed, I think, by the Land Tax of 1909. I know districts in which a great many houses were built from year to year, and as soon as that legislation came into force, the building of new houses stopped entirely from that very moment. The third and worst way, is for the State to provide houses. I do not consider that that is one of the proper functions of the State at ail, and it has never been considered so up to the present time. The State's first duty is to protect us from our foreign enemies, and it does not always do that very satisfactorily. The second duty of the State is to administer the law and justice, and to protect our property in our own country, but it is something quite new, and opposed to the old ideas of economics, that the State should be called upon to build houses for people to live in, because the result of that inevitably will be that the people who live in those houses will be living partly at the cost of other people, and if they misuse the houses then the State or local authority will be called upon to put the houses into repair at the expense of other people than those living in them. I think that those are quite sound criticisms of this Bill, but, as I said at the start, although it may be criticised from an economic point of view, we must accept it. There is a necessity for it, and I am going to give it my most hearty support. I am not only going to support it by voting for it, and by speaking in favour of it, but I have also, I think, done something to help it along otherwise. Within the last week, I have had an application for two plots of land, amounting to about ten acres in the aggregate from the local authority, which they desire to take up with regard to a scheme under this very Bill, and I have agreed to let them have those two plots of land at very favourable circumstances, and I have in my possession a letter from the local authority, thanking me for the action which I have taken. With those words, I beg to support the Bill.
I have to ask that indulgence which the House so generously extends to those who address it for the first time. I need hardly say that, like all other hon. Members who have spoken, I heartily welcome this Bill, and after what has been said there is really little reason for my intervention at all. I intervene because, in the first place, when I elected to support this Coalition Government, I did it very largely on the strength of the social programme which they put forward. I intervene also because the subject matter of this Bill touches very closely upon, and is inseparably connected with, a department of work in which my life has so far been mostly passed. I do not mean in any way to enter into the details of this Bill now. It is a long Bill, and a complex Bill, and that makes it the more necessary to be clear as to the means by which the object of the Bill is to be secured, and as to the principles to be observed in carrying it out. I take it that the purpose of this Bill is, to some extent at least, to redeem the pledge contained in the words of the Prime Minister, that this country should be made a country fit for heroes to live in. I should be at least among the last to cavil at the Prime Minister's superlatives. I gratefully recognise that very often we have found his imaginative superlativity quite a tonic in our national life, when the tone was rather low. I think this part of it will be satisfied by means of this Bill if it makes this country a country fit for decent people to live in, and gives a chance to the people of the country to be decent. Whether this Bill will accomplish this object, or even that part of it, which it is intended to accomplish, will depend I think upon three main considerations. Those considerations are, first, the provisions of the Bill itself, second, the methods by which those provisions are carried into effect, and third, the accompanying schemes of social amelioration, because a housing Bill by itself cannot bring about that betterment in the conditions of the people, which we all wish to see. It must be accompanied by measures of health such as we have already dealt with, of temperance, of education, and of, I hope and believe, a minimum wage like what has been referred to by an hon. Member opposite, because I do believe that nothing gives more self-reliance to the people than the payment of sufficient money to deal with for themselves. If we do not. carry out this proposal of a minimum wage, then these houses which are given over at less than an economic rent, will morally be little better than glorified poorhouses.
As to the method of the Bill, we have heard of the arrangements whereby the State, as represented by Parliament, is to work by a Department, and in connection with the local authorities. I do hope that it will be kept in mind that while it is permissible for the State to make use of the local authorities, the sole and final responsibility for the housing of the people rests with the State, and of that responsibility the State cannot divest itself. Therefore, I hope that in this Bill ample powers will be taken, and if necessary later on exercised, to make certain that no local authority which is backward will be allowed to remain backward, but will be either forced to go forward or have the work taken out of its hands altogether. With regard to this whole matter of housing, we are all agreed in Scotland. Scotland has many traditions, of which it is justly proud, but as has been indicated here this afternoon, her record in connection with housing is by no means fragrant. Thomas Carlyle, who is not quite so much read now-a-days as he used to be, and perhaps will be again, brought an indictment against Scotland in his "Past and Present." Things have improved since that, but the present conditions are still sufficiently appalling. I believe that this country at the present time is determined that the Government shall fulfil to the utmost the pledge of better social conditions upon which it came into power. We have had housing schemes before now, and little has come of them. We have had before now the West End craze to go to the East End slums, but that craze passed away while the slums remained. We wish to make sure that is not going to happen again. I will not enter into details of this Bill, but I should say meanwhile, something drastic is necessary, if we are to have a really stable State. And for this among other reasons.
The War, among many other things, has given us a new plutocracy, a plutocracy that to some extent, at least, is founded upon the plunder of the nation in its time of need, and it is not to be expected that the people in this country will stand aside and see one limited class able to live in a riot of luxury while others are left without the bare necessaries of life. And, therefore, I believe that in its own interest the State must make this Bill a real Bill, a Bill which may break economic laws but will, at least, house the people properly. We have heard a good deal about the economic law, but I think that some of the laws which have been regarded as sacrosanct for a long time are really requiring resetting and some Christianising. It may be that the housing scheme is in some senses uneconomic. That being so, still it is not for this Parlament to cavil at it on the ground of uneconomics, when it is being invited by its Chancellor of the Exchequer to discard Adam Smith, Cobden, Gladstone, and all the others.
I wish that the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken a wider sweep and that he had devised some means for getting back those war profits for the good of the nation, and particularly for this matter of housing. I said at the beginning that I intervened on this question on two grounds, and the second was that it touched upon the department of work with which I had been all my life connected. I mean the department of education. Last year, under the pilotage of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland, we got a Bill which restored to Scotland that supremacy which Scotland, without doing violence to its modesty, had always claimed for itself, a supremacy which had been challenged by the Education Act of England of that year. But I think that the right hon. gentleman will agree with me that that Bill cannot be really made operative until we have radically changed the housing conditions of our people in this country. We have raised under that Act the age from fourteen to fifteen. That in itself is all to the good, but unless we make the condition of the home such that that year of additional schooling will really be beneficial the Act will not certainly accomplish the purpose which it has had in view. We bring the children to school. We teach them, or try to teach them, the Ten Commandments, and then we send them back to homes where it is almost impossible to keep a single one of those Commandments, and therefore I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will add to the great services which he has already rendered to Scotland by forcing this Bill as far as it can possibly be forced. We are very proud of the record of our youth and our manhood in the late war, but I think a feeling of humility will mingle with our pride as we remember that many of those who died were in their days of helplessness the waifs and strays of our streets, and that they died for the ideal of a homeland in which they never knew a home; and I do hope that in the memory of those whom the poet has called "the rich dead," who were rich not by reason of what they received but by reason of what they gave, we will do what we can to make this Scotland of ours, this Britain of ours, this Empire of ours, something better and nobler for the generations that are to come than it has been for the generations that are gone.
If he will allow me, I would like to congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down on his very excellent contribution to the Debate, and I am going to try to take the advice of another hon. Member who spoke, the hon. Member for East Fife (Sir A. Sprot), who gave us such sound advice. I should not have chosen to be born in a bad house, and if I am able I will try and take his advice and build those houses which he thinks everyone ought to build in order that they may know the expenses of the upkeep of a house. The task on my party to-night is very considerably lightened because everybody who has spoken has blessed this Bill, and they have condemned the existing state of housing in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman characterised the Scottish Royal Commission Housing Report as being very impressive. I think he gave several adjectives, but to my mind none of them was equal to the occasion, and it was only when the hon. and gallant Member for Shettlestone (Rear-Admiral Adair) used a particular word that I felt happy. He said it was a damning indictment, and it is the only word that is applicable to the state of housing in Scotland. The people, and especially the working classes, are blamed by many for living in bad houses. Indeed, I have a report here of a very large county district committee in which it says that the working classes do not desire houses of three or four apartments. There never was such a lie uttered, and if one or two here and there have no desire for better conditions, that is not to say that the great mass of the working classes are not very desirous of getting better houses, so that, as His Majesty has declared in a speech recently, they can be made into homes. For after all we have not had homes. The working classes have only had some places in which they could breathe, and hardly breathe at that, and we welcome the Bill, and will do everything in our power to help its becoming an Act, with, of course, due reservations and with that constructive criticism that the right hon. Gentleman desires.
I am not going to say very much regarding the condition of the working class houses in Scotland. The Report stands for itself and I think no Scot can read that Report without a sense of shame, and I think it ought to stir every one of us to try to get as speedily as possible better conditions in our country. It is on that side that I should like to say a word or two—the urgency of the case, the desire expressed by everybody for better housing, and the danger that will result if this scheme is too long delayed. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke after the Secretary for Scotland (Sir D. Maclean) spoke very warmly to-night, and I could almost have congratulated him on being a convert to our party. He knows the conditions, in Scotland, and he also, if I remember rightly, said that Governments seldom acted until they saw the red light. The red light is being flashed now, because I do not know anything in this country that will bring about a revolution, that everybody desires to see very far away from our shores, so much as this lack of houses amongst our working classes. It does not matter where you go. I speak chiefly of the conditions that I know best, the condition of the great mining communities. I think I know as well as anybody in this House the conditions under which the miners of Scotland are housed. It was my painful duty to take part in the investigation over a very large area of Scotland in preparing the Report for that Royal Commission, and I know the conditions, and I know that not only is the quality of the houses very bad indeed, but the lack of housing accommodation is one of the greatest sources of discontent that I know of in Scotland to-day. As I said it does not matter whether you go into a miners' district or into the rural hamlets, or visit the fishing villages, you will find the very same thing and the same discontent and the same despairing cry, "When is the Government going to move to give us houses in which we are able to live?" I know numbers of families in almost every village in my Constituency with sons who have come home from the War, who have been compelled to take their wives and families into the houses of their parents. I thought that that existed only in the mining districts, but I discover as I go on that it exists everywhere. I was in a very pretty little village on Friday night last, addressing my Constituents, and I discovered that the same thing existed there, more than half-a-dozen families having to take in their sons and their wives, and in some cases two or three of the children, in order to prevent them being thrown into the street. How can we prevent discontent? And how is the Government going to prevent the working classes from demanding very angrily when this sort of thing is going to cease?
In spite of all the urgency, in spite of all the danger that I see ahead—and I trust that every hon. and right hon. Gentleman here appreciates the very grave danger indeed that will arise if housing is too long delayed—in spite of everything that we can say, we have our great district authorities refusing to move, or, at least, when they are compelled to move, only moving part of the way. In this Report you have not in any single instance in one big district—and I take it it is a reflection of all other districts in Scotland—you have not one parish getting the half of their demands. They asked for 100 houses, and they get something like twenty-five. In one district they asked for 400, and they are offered 150. In another district, they asked for fifty, and they were told that, because they had no drainage scheme, they could not get a single house at all. I should have thought that the very lack of drainage, the very lack of sanitation necessary for the upkeep of life, should have proved to these people that better housing was needed. I do not blame most of these men, because I know most of them, and individually they are gentlemen whom anyone could trust, but whenever they seem to get together, and it is a case of a sum of money being required, they refuse to do their obvious duty. I do not understand how any Member of this House can make expense the excuse of keeping back any great housing scheme. In the time of need, did not the nation give gladly everything—trade union conditions, everything that was dear to the working man—nay, give up their sons and themselves—in order that this country would be able to face the enemy on the field? I am not claiming a monopoly for the working class in that respect, but they at least did their share, and whenever expenditure is asked in order to carry out any scheme of reform under which the lives of the working classes would be improved, the expense stares them in the face. Though we spent for some years something like £7,000,000 or £7,500,000 a day on the War, are we to refuse to face housing schemes when an expenditure which a month of war would have incurred would easily give us a great scheme for our country of Scotland?
I trust that the Government in carrying through this measure will not only accept
helpful criticism, as the right hon. Gentleman has already said he will, but that they will strengthen the Bill so that there will be no loophole for local authorities to escape. We know what has happened in the past with local authorities, and again I say I do not blame them altogether; but we know we have had legislation in plenty. Laws have been made in this House, but those laws were, not administered in the country, and what we are trying to impress upon the Government is that this Bill shall emerge in such a way that there will be no loophole for local authorities to escape, but that they will be compelled to go on with their housing scheme, and to build the houses which are necessary to the health of the community. The Report which I hold in my hand is not an old one. It is for March of this year. I only enumerate one or two districts, but it was the same all over. They were refused even a half of what the parish councils want. Houses were condemned years ago, but, from the exigencies of the War, were allowed to stand in the hope that so soon as the War was over, or even during the course of the War, something would be done. Many people thought the Report of the Royal Commission on Scottish Housing was exaggerated and overdrawn. There could be no exaggeration. No one could have overdrawn or overstated the state of things that was found in that country. Here was a Report given on 18th of March last:
Plaster work broken; plastered on the hard inside affected with dampness; floors mostly of flooring tiles laid on the ground surface, defective and affected with dampness; window sashes un-hung, defective and time-worn and let in rain-water; the woodwork, doors, windows, facings defective and time-worn; roofs defective, allowing rain-water to percolate on to the ceilings; most of the rhones are a wanting. The drainage at the rows is by open channels, defective and foul, discharge into cesspools, thence to an open ditch at the lower end of the rows; privies and ashpits foul, insanitary and defective construction and inadequate; court-yards defective, foul, unpaved; no wash-house accommodation, except a few erections provided by the tenants. The houses No. 36 to 83 are in an advanced state of disrepair, and the sanitary inspector recommends that this lot be closed against human habitation.
This sort of thing could be multiplied, and I do beseech the Secretary for Scotland to see to it that the people who are in charge—the men and women who have been appointed by the ratepayers to carry through this necessary work—shall be compelled to carry it through, or that else very drastic action will be taken and all
the machinery that is provided in the Bill will be put into operation, and even strengthened, so that this necessary work may be done. Allusion has been made to the land. I trust that the Government will have no qualms in getting sufficient land for building purposes. We are blamed as a party for wanting to confiscate the land. I do not know that anyone of our party wants anything of the kind, but we do not want landlords to enrich themselves by the necessities of the poor. We want land to be taken at a fair valuation, but whether the land is at a fair valuation or not, land must be given by the people who own it to the nation for the nation's purposes. You damn your Housing Bill at once if you are going to make the rent such as people cannot pay.
I want again to warn the Secretary for Scotland regarding some erections that have already been put up by the Local Government Board. A great many houses have been erected at a place called Glengarnock, in Ayrshire. Even employers of labour say those houses have been flimsily built. They are cold in winter and inadequate for the purpose desired. These unsuitable, cold houses are rented at £27 10s. a year, which is a prohibitive rent for most of our working classes. I am glad to be able to say that some of our working-class houses are decent, and many of our employers are anxious to do the best they can, and when opportunity has offered they have done it; but even those people do not ask half the rent that is under the sanction of the Local Government Board. I do, therefore, utter this note of warning. I do trust that this Bill will not only be carried, but that, after due constructive criticism and Amendments that I am sure many hon. Members will be anxious to make, it will be carried through, and that it will be the beginning of better times for the working people in Scotland. The working-classes have never had the chance they ought to have had. I do not say our people are immoral, but I do say they have never had very much opportunity to be anything else, and it is due to the inherent virtue of our people that they are what they are to-day. For God's sake, let us see that our people get a chance of sweet surroundings, and do not fall into the idea that, because the man is a miner or a ploughman, or a mason, he does not desire a good house, for he does, and he wishes to do the best for the children he is bringing up. Without a good house you are very seldom able to bring up a child that will be a benefit to the State and the pride of the home. I ask the Secretary for Scotland to do everything he can to urge on the local authorities the desirability of pressing on these housing schemes, and I ask him to take no excuse that will be offered, but to force them, and, if necessary, to take the work in hand themselves, and make the local authorities bear the expense.
Mr. GIDEON MURRAY:
First of all, I should like to welcome the Bill, especially as representing a constituency in Glasgow which contains probably some of the very worst slums in that city. What has struck me particularly about the Debate this afternoon is not only the unanimity of opinion that we must have this Bill even in its present form, but that we must have this Bill quickly, that there is a great urgency, a vital necessity, about bringing into operation this Bill for housing and rehousing the people of Scotland. Let us take the conditions in Glasgow to-day. At the present moment there is a lack of 46,709 houses. It is suggested, or rather indirectly suggested, in the Bill that these 46,709 houses can be erected within the space of two years. I regard that as one of the greatest defects of the Bill. I feel sure that it is absolutely necessary for local authorities to have a much longer period than that in which to prepare and get their plans in operation. Another point which struck me in this Bill is that whilst it is necessary to proceed with all celerity, and to get ahead as quickly as possible, there is nothing provided for permitting private enterprise to proceed with building to-day. The Secretary for Scotland has informed us that there is one reason why this has not been possible—that is, that private enterprise has shown itself unequal to the occasion. But has private enterprise had any opportunity of taking any part in this housing scheme? I wot not! For the past four years private enterprise has been held up. There has been no possibility of getting labour, material, or anything else In order to increase the houses in our cities.
May I interrupt for a single moment, for the purpose of correcting what would appear to be an erroneous impression on the mind of the hon. Gentleman? When I said private enterprise could not, or had not, undertaken the task, I was not referring to the period of the War. I was referring to the period of very many past years. The Report of the Royal Commission shows that private enterprise, during that long period of peace, had proved unequal to the task.
I accept that; but I would say, in spite of that, there is no reason why you should throw over private enterprise altogether in connection with this Bill. It seems to me the principle of this Bill contains the principle of the nationalisation of housing in this country. I believe that hon. Members who sit on the Labour Benches desire to see that nationalisation. The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh informed us that he did not believe that the public utility societies, who under this Bill will be permitted to proceed with housing, would be able to carry out their undertakings. Further, he objected to that from the point of view that it would set up dual responsibilty. I cannot see where the dual responsibility would come in. As I understand this Bill public utility societies will be responsible to the local authorities, and these latter will have to approve of their schemes. Therefore any question of dual responsibility seems to me to be a matter of misconception on his part. But let us agree that the local authorities should have power under this Bill to promote housing to the greatest possible extent. I thoroughly agree with that proposal. Although I am against nationalisation of housing in this country, and against nationalisation generally in this country in so far as it is possible to maintain private enterprise, at the same time I do admit that there is a strong case for nationalisation of housing up to the extent of putting the housing in the hands, so far as possible, of the local authorities. Do not, however, put it there altogether. It is possible through these public utility societies and the housing trusts which are suggested in these Bills—and I submit through private enterprise—to promote housing, to accelerate housing, and to get the housing problem settled in this country far more quickly than is proposed under the Bill.
What reason is there against giving loans on easy terms to private individuals, to firms, or even to landowners, so long as they are prepared to submit themselves to certain rent restrictions, and so long as they are able to put up good security If they are able to do that, and if that is a way of assisting to accelerate the housing scheme of this country, it ought to be incorporated in the Bill. In making this proposal I am not going altogether outside the confines of that excellent Report of the Royal Commission on Housing, to whose labours I should like to pay a tribute, as incidentally providing information which it would have been impossible to obtain, and which, as the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh said, has been an inspiration and the foundation of the Bill presented to us to-day. That Report is accompanied by a minority Report, signed by four or five gentlemen in Scotland, who have proved their public spirit and have shown in every way that they are able to come to a conclusion on matters which come within their ken. In that minority Report we find it recommended that money should be provided on cheaper terms to private individuals and firms and to landowners in order that they may be able to deal with the question of housing on their own properties or for their own employés.
I hope, when the Bill comes to Committee, that the question of enabling employers, firms, and landowners to have the same facilities as the local authorities in this matter will be considered. I rose to intervene for only a short while, but I do say that it is absolutely necessary—it is, indeed, a vital necessity—to get on with this housing. We must "get a hustle on," as they say in America, because if we do not there is trouble ahead of us, far greater trouble than we have gone through during the past four years or during the past box months. I speak as one who stood up night after night during the election and listened to heckling questions and interruptions chiefly on account of the housing conditions. I know that, so far as Glasgow is concerned, the people are determined that this question shall be dealt with and as quickly as possible. Incidentally, I should like to pay a tribute to the Glasgow Town Council for the manner in which its members have already coped with this matter. Within the past few years, I know, they have spent a million on improving, reconstructing, and building certain houses. They have already got a scheme which, if I understand them, has been submitted to the Secretary for Scotland. I know that they will take every measure they can and do the utmost in their power to promote housing in Glasgow, and of improving some of the more disgraceful conditions which there exist.
Mr. J. TAYLOR:(Dumbarton Burghs)
As a representative of the local authorities I should like to contribute my quota to the discussion. I represent one of the most crowded constituencies in Scotland. It has been my good fortune to see that town grow. I have had the pleasure in presiding over the Dean of Guild Court when the plans passed for developing the town. In 1866 the population was 5,000. When the Census Returns were published for 1901 the population had risen to 10,000. In 1911 it was 18,000. The next figures were 37,000, and to-day we have a population of 50,000. I have had the honour of seeing all these houses that have been put up erected. When I entered the town council we had something like 1,000 houses. We have now over 10,000 houses. While these houses may not be all that could be desired they are the best that could be built under the regulations. Local authorities have been blamed for the type of house that has been put up by them. But they have been hampered. They had regulations to administer. Beyond these they could not go. We very often had great objection to the density of the population that was placed on the land. But we had no means of preventing these houses being built. We had great objection to the houses being erected four storeys high. We had no means of preventing that. These were the conditions under which we had to build the town, and the town has been built. Notwithstanding all that has been said about the tenement system we consider that we have had exceptionally good houses in the borough over which I have presided. In the Dean of Guild Court we wish to have drastic improvements. We wish to limit the number of houses per acre. We wish to limit the high buildings. We wish to increase the number of rooms in each house. All through the years we have persistently advocated a principle of that kind. It has been my privilege to be a member of the Executive of the Housing and Town Planning Committee in Scotland. Much has been said to-day as to what this Bill owes to the Report of the Scottish Housing Commission. I do not by a single word wish to underrate what has been said in regard to that Report. But the Housing and Town Planning Committee also have their proposals before the Secretary for Scotland, and before the President of the Local Government Board of England. Many of the proposals that were thrashed out by the Housing and Town Planning Committee are embodied in this Bill. It has, therefore, been my privilege to preside over a municipality and see the town grow up under the shadow of the Housing and Town Planning Committee. I have taken an active part in trying to shape the policy of housing in Scotland. And I welcome to-day this Bill as being the outcome of much spade work which has been done in the years that are past. The houses that were erected in the burgh over which I presided were all erected by private enterprise. Private enterprise, as long as things could be made to pay, did not object to build houses, but the time came when it was seen to be impossible to make houses pay, and then private enterprise stopped and no more houses were built. One of the firms in our district, to their great credit, when housing stopped in 1911, erected for their workmen a large number of houses, close to their own works, and let them not at an economic rent, but at a rent which the men were able to pay. The firm bore the loss, expecting to recoup themselves by the better health of the workmen, by their being nearer to their work, getting home to their meals, and not losing time. Local authorities have been blamed for not taking advantage of the previous Housing Acts, but that is not to be wondered at. In my district, about eighteen years ago, we erected, under the first Housing Act, some twenty-seven houses. We had to pay for the land and the houses in thirty years. The result was that, if we kept the rents at the same rate as other houses of the same nature, we were bound to lose, and all through those eighteen years we have lost from £100 to £150 a year. Therefore, there was no great inducement for a local authority to go on with a housing scheme. That was the reason why local authorities and town-planning committees advocated that the Government should come to the assistance of the local authorities and help to bear the burden. I welcome the provision in Clause 1 of the Bill, which makes it obligatory on local authorities to have a housing scheme, and which also lays down that if a local authority does not proceed with its housing scheme the Local Government Board themselves will come in and do the work. I do not think any local authority in Scotland that is at all responsible to public opinion will object to this Clause. As far as I know local authorities in Scotland, every one is willing to do its part and get on with housing as quickly as possible; and they have done so. Before this Bill was ever thought of, many local authorities in Scotland had housing schemes prepared. They had land secured, and if it had not been for the War they would have gone on with those schemes, expecting to get some return from the Government that was then in power, to recoup them for the loss. My own town had a housing scheme, and we had land provisionally fixed; we did not buy it, but we paid the feu duty on it from 1911 until to-day. We had the plans prepared and we were prepared to go on, but the War came in, and, of course, building was stopped. When the Local Government Board asked for plans we were able to state that that was our scheme, those were our plans, and we were prepared to go on with them at once if the Local Government Board would give us power to do so. Many other local authorities in Scotland are in exactly the same position. They have their schemes ready, and if there is any delay in the matter of going on with building it will not be on the part of the local authorities, and I hope it will not be owing to the Local Government Board putting obstacles in the way of local authorities going on with their schemes.
I also welcome Clause 5. The first proposals of the Local Government Board were that the Government was to pay 75 per cent. of the difference between the economic rent and the rent obtained—that is to say, 75 per cent. of the loss. The local authorities were to pay the other 25 per cent. The Local Government Board and the Secretary for Scotland have been blamed by some for altering those conditions, and I saw that during the discussion on the English Bill the same objection was taken. As one of the executive of the Housing and Town Planning Committee in Scotland, I remember that that was the proposal which we placed before the Secretary for Scotland, and the same proposal was also placed before the English Local Government Board. Local authorities wanted to know what was the utmost of their liability. They said that they were not willing to go on with a scheme that was going to cost them a penny, twopence, or threepence. I heard it said in Glasgow that if they went on with housing, and bore the loss, it would mean to Glasgow something like 1s. in the £. Other local authorities thought it might be twopence, threepence, fourpence, fivepence or sixpence. Therefore they said, "Let the Government say that they will bear the loss beyond a penny rate, and we are quite prepared to go on with the scheme as soon as our plans are approved of." I am glad that the penny rate is put in, and that the local authorities know the amount of their responsibilities. That provision, however, only applies to local authorities that have their plans lodged within a year and complete the buildings within two years. Speaking as one who has been connected with the building trade for the last forty years, I say that it is physically impossible to complete those schemes within one year. I know something about the preparation of plans. I know something of sending those plans to the Local Government Board, of the obstacles that are sometimes put in the way, and how the plans have to pass backwards and forwards. When the plans are accepted, estimates have to be sent out to tradesmen to draw up. When those estimates come back they have to be considered by the local authorities, and if they have to get the approval of the Local Government Board they have to go back to the Local Government Board for that. If all that procedure is to be gone through and it is not accelerated any more than it has been in the past, it will take months before a brick is laid or any work is done in connection with those housing schemes. We know what the climate is like in Scotland If that is the case the winter will be on us, and nothing will be done. I plead with the Secretary for Scotland that when the Bill goes upstairs he will alter that Clause and raise the time limit from two to three or even four years. I quite appreciate the motive, which is to give driving power to compel local authorities to erect those houses as quickly as possible, but it must be remembered that there is a scarcity of building material. We have heard from the Secretary for Scotland that he has made arrangements and has prices of building materials available, but even supposing there is all the building material in the world, you have not the men at the present moment to carry out the work within two years. I know of schemes at the present time which are being held up—the Secretary for Scotland knows them, and the officials of the Local Government Board know them—because there are not a sufficient number of men to carry out the work. Every effort has been made to get men, but they cannot be got. It is no use having bricks and mortar, wood and windows, if you have not men to erect them. Therefore I plead with the Secretary for Scotland to extend the time. In the Report of the Housing Commission seven years is given as the time to erect those houses, and that was really before there was any shortage due to the War. If it took seven years then, surely it is not going to take any less now. With regard to the question of costs, we have had a good deal of discussion about economic rents, and the reason has been given that the increase in the cost of building has been caused by the increase in wages. That is so. Wages have gone up to more than double what they were. The cost of material has doubled, and in some cases even trebled. But, in addition to that, houses that used to cost something like £350 are now costing—I am speaking now of a scheme which we have going on at the present time for a hundred houses of the same type which could have been built for £350—and I am quite certain that when we have finished the houses that are being built to-day they will not cost one penny less than £700. Now one thing that has not been touched upon in regard to the increase of rent is that before the War money could have been borrowed on those houses at 3½ per cent., but to-day, by the Government's own action in raising the rate of interest—I do not object to it—the interest has been increased be 5½per cent., and I do not think any local authority will be able to borrow money at less than 5½ per cent. to-day. That means, on that basis of £700, a difference in interest of something like £14 per house. That is the reason why the Government should come to the aid of local authorities, and help them to pay the difference between the economic rent and the ability rent of the workers in our midst. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Shettleston (Rear-Admiral Adair) when he said that the red light had compelled the Government to bring forward this Bill. It was their intention to do so long before the red light became so brilliant, and I am quite certain that if by the erection of these houses the red light can be extinguished we shall all be glad.
I welcome also the power given to help public utility societies, and I only wish that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland would extend that to building societies. In the burgh of Dumbarton something like 500 or 600 houses of the cottage type have been erected by building societies, and they are very anxious that the same privilege that has been given to public utility societies should be given to them. When the Bill goes into Committee I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will try and see if it is not possible to include building societies within the scope of the provision which the Bill now applies to public utility societies. I welcome also the acquisition of small dwellings, but here again I wish that the Secretary for Scotland, with the knowledge that he now has of the cost of building these houses, would raise the limit of £500 to something like £700. He can easily see from the figures which have been given, and from the figures which he himself has, that it is utterly impossible to get a house that a man would buy for anything like £500.
I hope that when the Bill goes upstairs the right hon. Gentleman will raise that figure to something like £700. There is another aspect of this question which has not been touched upon. I welcome the provision for the simplification of town-planning procedure. For many years I have been pleading and fighting for this simplification in Scotland. In 1911 we brought forward a town-planning scheme which passed its first and second stages, and then it was held up because another local authority came in with another town-planning scheme, with the result that ultimately a joint town-planning committee was formed, and my experience of that joint committee has caused me to alter my opinion altogether about joint committees. Town planning has been arranged on the outskirts of Glasgow, by a combination of the local authorities concerned, and it has been very successful. We have provided a plan showing a great arterial way, with subsidiary roads, and a drainage scheme for the whole area, with the necessary sewers and everything else connected therewith.
I am glad the Local Government Board, under the Secretary for Scotland, have agreed to the simplification of these schemes, because at first the scheme I have mentioned would have cost something like £16,000,but by fighting against the proposal to send down every detail of the plan, and by only providing a skeleton plan, we got the cost reduced to something like £2,000, and that will satisfy all our needs. As to who carries out these particular schemes is a matter of indifference. I welcome the simplification and the expediting of these plans by the Local Government Board. I congratulate the Secretary for Scotland upon the able way in which he introduced this Bill, and also upon the concilliatory way in Which he spoke of the Amendments, and if he follows the example which he set in regard to the Public Health Bill, I am quite sure he will see the reasonableness of these Amendments that may be proposed. They are not intended to condemn the Bill, but out of our own experience, we want your help to make this measure more workable and to build houses as quickly as possible. Scotland has gone a long way in the direction of preserving these provisions that there should be no houses with less than three apartments, and I hope that will not be the limit adopted by the Secretary of Scotland, but that three will be made the minimum, and that many of these will be houses of very much larger dimensions. I wish the Bill every success, and a speedy passage into law.
With all that has been said about the necessity of building a large number of houses and doing it quickly I quite agree, and I shall not enter into that question at all. I should like, however, to make a few remarks from the health side, and that leads me to the question—what do you mean by housing for the purposes of health, and more especially the question where are you going to put your houses? At first sight you would almost think that the essential difficulty is overcrowding, and I know that has a good deal to do with the sickness which follows. But that does not seem to be the essential point from a health point of view. No doubt for full health you require a certain amount of cubic space, and you run the risk of spreading disease if you have overcrowding, but still if you remedy that, and leave the other conditions alone you would not gain your end.
Another point of view is sanitation. You provide good sanitary arrangements and proper sanitary drinking water and so forth, and still you find matters are not as you expected. I think it will be generally admitted that towns are not the only places where you have one-roomed tenements and overcrowding to a very great extent. We know that in the villages there are similar bad conditions, but the mortality in towns and villages differs very much indeed. The average rate of mortality in children is from forty to sixty per 1,000, while the average town mor- tality in industrial towns is between 120 to 140 per 1,000. In industrial towns you do not reduce the mortality materially with your model buildings. If you leave the industrial towns and take the towns which are not typically industrial they approximate more to the country mortality than to the industrial towns, although in those towns I fancy there is a good deal of overcrowding.
Take, for instance, Bournemouth, where you have a mortality of seventy-two per 1,000. Bath has a mortality of fifty-nine per 1,000, while the rate in St. Albans is fifty-two per 1,000, Tunbridge Wells seventy-nine, and so on. In another set of statistics in France the matter was investigated in 1912, and it was found that towns of 5,000 had a mortality of 111 per 1,000, while in the smaller places the mortality was fifty-seven per 1,000. Consequently, besides all the things that have been mentioned it is a very interesting point to consider what is probably the cause of this mortality in addition. I am not saying that bad sanitation and overcrowding will do no harm, but what is it that is the chief cause of this very great difference between rural and urban districts? The general opinion come to is that it is due to smoke and not merely to the particles of smoke, but it is the obnoxious elements in the smoke that causes the trouble. To prove that there are obnoxious elements in smoke you have only got to try and grow plants in the crowded parts, and you will find that nothing will grow there as it ought to do. Even if you look in those districts at the stones they are wasting away, not by the weather, but very often to a great extent by the chemical substances and solid materials which fall from the smoke. You can form some idea as to the extent of the injury done by these obnoxious elements in smoke by their effect on growing vegetables, and what happens to the vegetable world will naturally happen to some extent in the animal world. We know that persons who are largely exposed to the inhalations of these solid particles develop trouble in the lungs. There is the disease known as stonemasons' phthisis, in which the lungs become full of particles which set up a change resembling a tuberculous disease. Then we have miners' lungs. We have only to examine the lungs of town inhabitants to see that they are black and hard with dense particles; and the great prevalence of lung diseases in children in the towns is often the cause of disease, and these particles have a good deal to do with the illness.
I also found a very interesting statement as to the calculated amount of solid particles that fall in various towns. In Greater London, including the suburbs, it has been stated that 440 tons of solid material fall from the smoke in the course of a year. In Glasgow it amounts to 1,332 tons per square mile, and in Coatbridge 1,939 tons per square mile. One can easily imagine that that, apart from the chemical substances contained in it, must cause a great deal of trouble. The point I wish to bring forward is that the very first thing you should consider in your housing scheme is that you must get your houses away from such a deadly state of matters as is present in our industrial towns. If you clear the slums and build other houses in the slum areas, you will not make any material difference from a health point of view, and either the houses must be put up in the country or the factories must be taken out of the towns. I presume that the easiest thing to do is to take the houses into the country; and as regards the areas in the immediate vicinity of the factories, they should be used for open spaces or warehouses. I want to emphasise that one point, namely, that in your housing schemes you must bear in mind that the position of the house will be more important from the point of view of health than any other condition.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir JOHN HOPE:
I wish to congratulate the Secretary for Scotland not only upon having introduced a separate Bill for Scotland, but upon having done so soon after the Health Bill, and I hope that with the general co-operation of Scottish Members we shall be able to catch up the English Bill. I was somewhat surprised at the attitude taken up by the Leader of the Opposition, who stated that he wondered at the patience of the people of Scotland, and he could not understand why this Bill had not been introduced before. I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that he is almost the only remaining member of the pre-war Government who is now in the House, and that the Housing of the Working Class Bill which was introduced in 1914 just previous to the War, had in it the very Clause by which the Secretary for Scotland sets such store in this Bill. It contained the same power of making it compulsory upon local bodies to provide housing schemes, and also gave the Local Government Board power itself to take action if the local bodies failed to do so. That was the principle of the Bill which was introduced in 1914, and with which the then Government would have nothing to do. The Bill now before the House is practically framed on the principle of that Bill, and the Leader of the Opposition is the last person in the world to cavil at the action of the present Government and to say that it is a modest step. It is in any case a great advance on anything that the Government of which he was a Member ever thought of doing. No doubt conditions have changed since the War and the housing problem has become more acute, but it existed, especially in Scotland, long before the War, and I hope now, in spite of the delays caused by the War, that we are within measurable distance of seeing the worst of all the grievances of housing in Scotland removed. One speaker expressed the hope that there will be an Under-Secretary for Scotland who will deal with housing. Under the Ministry of Health Bill, which has not yet been passed into law, I imagine that all the powers of the Local Government Board are to be transferred to the Ministry of Health. Under that Bill there is an Under-Secretary to be appointed expressly for the purposes of health, and, as I read it, he will also be the Under-Secretary to deal with housing. Perhaps the Secretary for Scotland will correct me if I am wrong. It is just as well that the point should be cleared up.
There are only two questions to which I wish to draw attention. There is, first, the question of the rent of these houses. I notice that at the Housing Congress of Local Authorities held in Edinburgh last week several representatives of local bodies were most anxious to have something definite as to the rent that was to be charged, and they pressed the representative of the Local Government Board for Scotland to give them some information. He said that it was a matter of policy for the Government, and he could give them no information. The rent that is to be charged is most important. Rules CMD 127, "Financial Assistance to Local Authorities," have been published, and I presume that they will apply equally to Scotland and to England. The rules with regard to rent, however, are not very definite. The question whether the Director or Commissioner of Housing is to deal with the rents of these houses which are to be erected with public money or whether it is to be left practically entirely to the discretion of the local authorities must, however, be faced. A speaker on the Labour Benches quoted a recent case in Ayrshire where the local authority proposed to charge £27 per year for some houses erected under the Local Government Board proposals. It is obvious that is a rent far above what should be paid by those who are most in need of houses at the present time. As far as I can gather, it is the intention of the Local Government Board that the rent should be between £10 and £15 per year, which would probably involve an economic rent of from £20 to £35 per year, according to whether the houses cost £500 or £700 to build. I think something definite should be laid down, and that it should be clearly understood whether the Local Government Board, through their Directors or Commissioners of Housing, are to fix the proportion of economic rent that is to be charged, and, if so, they should let the local authorities know. A good deal depends upon it. It is quite clear that the rents must be such that those who are earning even the lowest wages can afford to pay them. Who is to occupy these houses? Who is to have the first right to occupy them? I asked the representative of the Scottish Housing Commission whether any arrangements had been made under which the houses were to be allocated, and he said that the question had not been gone into. It is an important point that should be dealt with either now or in Committee. To my mind, there should be definite rules laid down, and it should not be left entirely to the local authorities to do what they think fit, or to let the first applicants slip into these houses which are to be paid for by the Government. It seems to me that those who have continuous work in the district, and are occupying insanitary houses which have been condemned, and which they must quit, and those who have served their country in the Army or Navy, should have first claim to these houses when they are built. There should be some rule to ensure that the people who secure them at an uneconomic rent are the people for whom it was most desired that this housing scheme should be brought forward. It is not the intention of this House or of the country that houses should be let at uneconomic rents to those who are well able to pay economic rents. I hope that some of these houses which are to be let at from £10 to £15 will be better than many now let at £20. It certainly would be quite wrong that a man earning £500 per year should live in a house the economic rent of which was £40 per year and for which he was only paying £15. I suggest that it might be a security if the Housing Commissioner or Housing Director or the local authority had the right to offer intending tenants the houses at an economic rent or one-tenth of their income, if there were any doubt whether they were the people for whom it was the intention of this House or the country to provide houses at the public expense. Both on the question of rents and the question of allocation, the Local Government Board and the Secretary for Scotland should intimate to the local authorities the intentions a little more clearly. I cordially welcome and support the Bill, and I hope that all Scottish Members will co-operate in getting it through Grand Committee with as little disagreement as possible.
I wish, on behalf of the Labour Party, to point out one or two very serious defects in this Bill. In the first place, it provides that the houses are to be of not less than three apartments. The English Bill states that the accommodation is to be of not less than five apartments. Why should it be considered that Scottish people are able to live with smaller accommodation than the English people? Why should they be looked upon as the only section in Great Britain who can live in smaller houses? If a five-apartment house is the least necessary to provide health and comfort in England, then we in Scotland are not going to be content with fewer rooms in a, house than are provided for in the English Bill. That is one defect which I trust will be removed in Committee. Then there is that part of the Bill which refers to the giving of grants and loans to public utility societies. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that private enterprise has proved unequal to the task of providing houses for the people. If private enterprise has proved unequal to the task, then it is high time that the Government stepped into the breach and saw to the building of these houses; and to single out public utility societies and give them grants of public money with which to construct houses is, I submit, merely handing over to private enterprise money in the nature of a subsidy to enable them to carry on their experiments. If private enterprise has failed in the past, there is no reason to-day why Government money should be used to subsidise private enterprise for any further experiments. We know what the housing accommodation is in Scotland. We have heard extracts read to-day from the Housing Commission's Report, and we have heard of the squalid conditions which exist not merely in the large industrial centres, but in the rural parts of Scotland as well. We have had this pointed out to us probably in a more graphic manner even than the sentence used by the Prime Minister at Manchester and so often quoted: "An A1 Empire is not possible with a C3 population," the C3 population being due to the housing conditions. These housing conditions must be swept away. The evil housing conditions to-day are monuments to the failure of private enterprise and the appalling death rates that were quoted here an hour or two ago, the death-rate of children under five years of age, constitute another standing disgrace to private enterprise, which has attempted to solve the housing question in the past. I submit that to subsidise public utility societies is merely to accentuate the trouble you are trying to escape from by this Bill, and consequently that particular Section of the Bill ought to be deleted.
There is another matter which affects us. Public bodies like town councils have to submit their schemes to the Local Government Board. What guarantee are we going to have that if their plans are thorough-going and strike at the root of the problem, and are therefore likely to alleviate the evils of bad housing, what guarantee have we that the Local Government Board must accept those plans and see that they are put into operation? Looking at this Bill one would imagine that the Local Government Board is free from blame. But so far as Glasgow is concerned, Glasgow requires approximately 50.000 new houses. The corporation have submitted plans for 7,000 houses to the Local Government Board, and that body, in spite of the horrible housing conditions which obtain in that city, decided that the number of houses which would be permitted to be erected under those plans should be only 200. Is that the way to solve the housing problem? Is that going to get them out of the ditch? Is that speeding up the matter as it ought to be speeded up? Is it going to solve the housing problem in a year or two if only 200 houses are to be allowed to be erected when a scheme for 7,000 is put forward? I submit there is something more required in the Bill. There should be something to speed up the Government Departments that are standing in the way of those bodies and of those people who are striving their best at the moment to overcome this horrible evil which everyone is clamouring against to-day.
The Secretary for Scotland in his speech incidentally referred to the question of restricted covenants. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen know quite well there are certain districts in the great cities where restrictions are laid down with regard to the building of houses. It is not merely the price of the land one is asked to pay. It is not merely the price of material for the houses to be built. But there is a restriction imposed with regard to the style of architecture and that of itself has in many instances stood in the way of men who have just sufficient to build for themselves a plain accommodating house; but as they have been asked to have the house built in a certain architectural style, they have found the cost was too great and the building of the house has had to be abandoned. These are restrictions which I hope and trust the Secretary for Scotland will remove by a Clause to be inserted in the Bill, so that no individual may have the right to say that a certain style of building must be erected, and the only bodies which shall have a right to decide the class of house to be built or the style of architecture shall be either the local authority or the Local Government Board. I submit these are Sections of the Bill which require attention. The public utility society Section should be deleted, because in a most insidious manner it seeks to enable to be done by them what private enterprise, we have been told, has failed to do. It gives these bodies financial assistance. If the Government has money to spend upon building, let it be spent on houses that the Government and the local authorities are likely to own for themselves.
Some people are against State housing. Some declare that private enterprise is all that is necessary. I have already pointed out that State enterprise has failed. We see it in Glasgow, we see it in Dundee and in Edinburgh, and even in rural parts of Scotland. Private enterprise, too, in housing, as in many other things, has broken down completely, not because of the War, as some hon. Members seem to think. The Housing Commission was appointed before the War. These evil housing conditions were in existence before the War. The death rates in the slum areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh were just as high in pre-war days as they have been during the four and a half years of war. The housing problem is not a war problem. The building of the houses required to-day is not a war measure, except in that it is a measure of war against poverty and ill-health. So far as ordinary war measures are concerned, housing schemes for both England and Scotland have been hung up during the period of four and a half years of war, and the problem has become accentuated because of the lack of building. We claim that these things that the Government propose doing shall be done without private enterprise, shall be done by the Government advancing the money and holding the local authorities responsible for the expenditure of the money and for the erection of the houses that are required for the people residing in those localities. I am convinced of this, if that is done in Scotland that country will become, to use the words of the Prime Minister, a country fit for heroes to live in.
I should like, in the first place, to thank my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir D. Maclean) and other Members of the House who have spoken for the very warm and friendly reception which they have given to this Bill. It renders my task in speaking at this stage of the discussion very much easier when I remember that there has been practical unanimity in the House and among all sections of the House in regard to the actual proposals which this Bill contains. There are certain matters in dispute which have arisen during discussion, as to the merits or demerits of private enterprise. Into that topic I do not propose to go. I certainly do not think that either the local authorities or the builders can be held to blame for the appalling housing conditions in Scotland which have been so eloquently described by my right hon. Friend, because, as the Report of the Royal Commission points out, there were certain land conditions and conditions of feu charters which rendered it practically impossible for many builders to make a living out of their speculations unless they huddled the houses closely together. They had to borrow money on loan, and these and other charges really controlled the necessities of the situation. But still, as the Report quite clearly shows, the housing conditions in Scotland are probably the worst in Great Britain, and the suggestion which is contained in this Bill is to make it imperative on local authorities to place working class housing in a thoroughly healthy and satisfactory state. The principles of the Bill were not challenged; they were scarcely criticised, but a number of points have been mentioned with which I propose to deal. May I say, first, the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. M'Lean) was mistaken in supposing that the accommodation required for English houses was five rooms, while that for Scottish is only three. The Section of the Bill to which my hon. Friend referred was, I take it, Section 32, which contains a provision preventing any person from building a house which has less than three rooms. But that is a totally different thing from saying that the particular houses which the working classes in Scotland are going to have are only to contain three rooms.
I understand that the accommodation which is to be insisted upon in England is to be five apartments, while in Scotland it is to be only three. I wish it shall be five in both countries.
I repeat I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension in regard to this matter. I am not fully acquainted with the English Bill, but my information is that he is mistaken on that point. My hon. Friend offered some criticism on public utility societies which are given certain privileges under this Bill. Of course, the administration of those bodies depends very largely on the question by whom and how they are to be controlled. The scheme of the Bill is to place them under the control first of the local authorities, and to subject them also to the regulation laid down by the Local Government Board. My hon. Friend also referred to certain facts connected with housing schemes in Glasgow. I am not able to give him the actual figures in regard to the number of houses, the plans for which have already been passed by the Local Government Board. I had no notice that this subject was going to be raised, but my information is that my hon. Friend has rather underestimated the number passed. This, I think, exhausts the points mentioned by my hon. Friend, but I wish to say a few words upon some other matters which have been referred to in the Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Graham) made some very valuable suggestions in regard to future tenements in Scotland—as to their size, construction, height, number and shape. All these matters will be considered very carefully by my right hon. Friend in Committee, and it will be for the Committee to decide whether it is better to lay down rules on these and cognate matters or whether the local authorities shall not be allowed a wide discretion in regard to all such matters of detail. The next general question that was discussed was that farmed-out houses were not dealt with in the present Bill. The statement is not quite accurate, because, in so far as the farmed-out houses are dwelling-houses, of course they are subject to the provisions of this Bill. What I understood my hon. Friend to point to was that certain recommendations contained in the Report were not given effect to in the Bill. The reason for that is that these were recommendations which affected the police administration of the particular districts. The Housing Bill is complicated enough as it stands at present, but it would make it much more complicated if one introduced Amendments to such a code of legislation as the Burghs Police Acts or the Public Health Acts. For that reason we have not dealt with that particular phase of the Royal Commission's recommendations. Another general point raised was why we were not taking power in this Bill to deal with the restrictions which appear in feu charters. That is a very important topic. Although I know there are many restrictions which are antiquated and useless, it has to be remembered that there are some restrictions which are of some public utility. It is impossible, therefore, to deal with this question unless we deal with it in some detail. But I wish to point out that as regards building restrictions which would restrict town-planning schemes, the Local Government Board, by their Regulations, can deal with them. Furthermore, the local authority, if they find building restrictions as regards a particular area in their way, they may acquire them under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, and, of course, by acquiring them, sweep them away altogether.
If ray right hon. Friend refers to the Act, I think he will find it there. My recollection is that the words are "any interest in the land," and I believe that in the view of the law those words would include such a restriction as one of this kind. It is not to be supposed that either the local authorities or the Local Government Board have not some substantial power to deal with restrictions of that class when they appear to militate against either a housing scheme, a town-planning scheme, or even some local improvement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles also referred to the question raised in the Report of the Royal Commission of the necessity of safeguarding the interests of the smaller localities in the water supplies of the country. I should like to explain that that matter is dealt with now by the Local Government Board. In the case of every Provisional Order under which a water supply is desired the Local Government Board present their Report under the Statute on that particular subject, and this topic has always been kept in view. I am not sure that there have been any complaints with regard to the administration of the Local Government Board on that particular topic.
We may hear of them, and perhaps we may change our view about them. These do not appear to be points which affect the vital part of this Bill, and they can all be raised in Committee. I am sure hon. Members will agree that there is no one more willing to consider suggestions than my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland. A further topic of some importance was raised—namely, the question of how long the local authorities were to have to erect their houses in order to earn the benefit of the State subvention. My right hon. Friend has listened to the arguments of hon. Members on that particular topic, and he authorises me to say that he will reconsider the whole matter with very great care. That is all that I can promise in regard to that important subject. Looking at this scheme as a whole, it is important that we should, as far as possible, get back to economic conditions, and this must be kept in view when you deal with the contributions which are made from the State to these particular schemes. I should like to remove, so far as I can, two rather important misconceptions which have arisen as regards the effect of this Bill. In the first place, the Bill does expressly provide that housing schemes or town-planning schemes may be made jointly by local authorities. That is the effect of Sub-section (5) of Clause 1. In the next place, I should like to point out that this Bill places the working-class houses, both in rural areas and inurban areas, in exactly the same position The Bill applies to all working-class houses in Scotland, whether they exist in urban districts or in the rural districts. Clauses 31 and 32 add to the powers of rural authorities in making by-laws with regard to the erection of houses. Therefore, so far as working-class housing is concerned, this Bill is a Scottish national Bill. It proceeds on broad lines, no doubt, at the present moment, but the main provisions of it are imperative, and cannot be evaded, and local authorities now can be compelled to act. It is true that the Bill does not provide for inspectors, about which a question was asked by the hon. Member who represents one of the Divisions of Glasgow in his very interesting maiden speech. There is no question of inspectors. That is not required. The Local Government Board officials are always alert, and they know, even now, the housing conditions in the various districts of Scotland. No doubt the Local Government Board have their own inspectors at headquarters, but it not expected that special local inspectors will be required. That being the nature of this Bill, and the attitude of the House towards it being so friendly, and my right hon. Friend being so accommodating to hon. Members in his desire to meet them on all matters which will improve the measure, I venture to suggest that it should now be read a second time.