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Orders of the Day — Housing and Town Planning (Scotland) Bill.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 5th May 1919.

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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.